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Authentic history informs us that for hundreds of years a peculiar people have existed in the British Isles called "Society People." In the seventeenth century their faith and patience were tried by persecution: and for the twofold purpose of preserving their own unity and protecting themselves from spies, they adopted rules to secure a select fellowship.
John Howie, author of the Scots Worthies, mentions a certain Walter Smith, who was contemporary with Donald Cargil, as among the first to frame such rules. The Reformed Presbytery probably built upon this foundation cemented by martyrs’ blood.
Although more than one edition of this document have been published in the United States, the present demand cannot be supplied; and this is the special reason why the Reformed Presbytery in May last appointed a committee "to revise and publish another edition of the Rules of Society." Other reasons, however, may readily occur to the intelligent reader why this faithful and authoritative document should be brought out of its comparative obscurity.
The R.P. Synod of Scotland in the earlier of this century, while professing to re-exhibit the Testimony of the church, did in fact materially change all her subordinate standards. "A Guide to Social Worship" was framed, from which every distinctive feature of the witnessing church was eliminated. There followed from the same source some crude but very piously expressed regulations for what have been since known as "Union Prayer-meetings." To this project the COVENANTER (Belfast) offered some feeble resistance at the time: but fellowship in the Evangelical Alliance followed, leading to identifying with the Presbyterian Alliance, and ultimately into the Free Church of Scotland. Thus did the Guide to Social Worship effectually supplant the Rules of Society. Against this dangerous counterfeit when republished in America. the Reformed Presbytery gave solemn warning in the year 1840.
REVISION is a comprehensive term, and hitherto not very accurately defined: and although the Committee under Presbytery’s instructions might have both remodeled and abridged this ancient and faithful document, they have judged it better for the edification of those for whom it was designed, to let it reappear in its original dress, although it now appears to modern eyes somewhat antiquated.
Apart from anything local or temporary, the intelligent arid faithful witness will easily discern in this treatise some of the footsteps of the flock of slaughter—some of the waymarks set up by those heroic patriots who "loved not their lives unto the death," while in adhering to their solemn vows, they nobly contended against the dragon and his angels for the covenant rights of God and man. There is not now upon earth a man in the possession and exercise of these rights, nor shall there be until Antichrist be destroyed. Rev. 13:17; 2 Thes. 2:8
That the Lord God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our covenant fathers, may give their successors the same spirit of faith to contend earnestly and strive lawfully for these precious rights, is the earnest prayer of the Presbytery’s Committee.
August 10th 1881.
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