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“The Society People," and not the “Indulged," preserved, in perilous times, true Presbyterian principles; and though he blames them for maintaining extreme sentiments, and for extravagant practices, he admits that among them were the honest and faithful martyrs at the period which was significantly designated “The killing time.” Hetherington, a much more candid and impartial historian, freely acknowledges the eminent advantages reaped by Scotland's suffering Church from association in prayer-meetings, and the obligations under which the nation lies to the example of faithfulness and heroic self-devotion exhibited by “The Society People." The following testimony is alike honorable to the head and heart of the writer :
“While Cargill perished on the scaffold, that determined band of Covenanters who had adhered to him were left without a minister--no man for a time daring to take up a position so imminently perilous. In this emergency, those fearless and high-principled men resolved to form themselves into a united body, consisting of 'Societies' for worship and religious intercourse in those districts where they most abounded; and for the more effectual preservation of their opinions, and security against errors, in the absence of a stated ministry, these smaller societies appointed deputies to attend a General Meeting, which was empowered to deliberate upon all suggestions, and adopt such measures as the exigencies of the times required.
“From the fact that these people, in the absence of a stated ministry, formed themselves into societies for mutual religious intercourse and edification, they came to be designated the Society People'-a term frequently applied to them by Wodrow, as that of 'Cameronians' has been generally given to them by other historians. Superficial readers are liable to be misled by names, of the origin and application of which they have no accurate conception. But the affixing of a new name to a party is no sure proof that it has taken new grounds. That'persecuted Remnant,' as they called themselves, had, indeed, taken up no new principles. The utmost that they can be justly charged with is, merely that they had followed up the leading principles of the Presbyterian and Covenanted Church of Scotland to an extreme point, from which the greater part of Presbyterians recoiled; and that, in doing so, they had used language capable of being interpreted to mean more than they themselves intended. Their honesty of heart, integrity of purpose, and firmness of principle, cannot be denied, and these are noble qualities; and if they did express their sentiments in strong and unguarded language, it ought to be remembered that they did so in the midst of firm and remorseless persecution, ill adapted to make men really cautious in the selection of balanced terms, wherein to express their indignant detestation of that unchristian tyranny which was so fiercely striving to destroy every vestige of both civil and religious liberty. (See 'Hetherington's Hist. Church of Scotland, Vol. II., pp. 122–124.)
“The Reformed Presbyterian Church in those countries, which claims to inherit the principles, as it occupies the position, in relation to the civil and ecclesiastical establishments of the land, of the Society People, has carefully maintained, to the present day, the institution of Fellowship Prayer-meetings. Under the Divine favor, this has been to this section of the church a means of safety and extensive blessing. During the eighteenth century, when in these countries, and throughout Continental Europe, evangelical religion everywhere declined, and purity of religious ordinances was generally undervalued, the Covenanting Body held aloft a standard for the truths of the gospel-maintained a faithful discipline and the lives and conduct of its members were exemplary. These attainments were reached, not only in a state of complete separation from corrupt civil and ecclesiastical systems, but often amidst the positive hostility of persons in authority, and the apathy and opposition of the community, bent on backsliding and defection. The 'Societies' in the Reformed Presbyterian Church have all along seemed to fan the flame of genuine piety among her members, as they have united them in fraternal bonds—been the birth-place of souls, and seminaries for the godly training of the young--and as the beds of spices' where the Beloved feeds, and holds delightful communion with his people."
From an intimate acquaintance with this people, whose Fathers were called “The Society People"--a people in compact organization now found in England, Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Nova Scotia, Canada and Syria, of whom we are well satisfied, their very existence, their distinctive principles, the compactness of their organization, and their influence among the evangelical churches, are indebted to their systematic and persevering adherence to the letter and spirit of the prayer-meeting more than to all other instrumentalities beside. This is not saying too much. For, like the Waldenses, who, when their beloved and devoted “Barbes” were cut off, or exiled, had recourse to their prayer-meetings, these "Society People" in Scotland, for eighteen years, firmly bound together organically, mul. tiplied and grew without a single pastor to break to them the bread of life. So, in Ireland, often, for long periods, destitute of public ordinances, they were held together by their well organized social meetings—their youth well trained and preserved in the church, taking the place of their fathers; and of their entire membership scarcely ever one abandoning his profession. With a tenacity and perseverance unparalleled in the history of churches of modern times, they have, for two hundred years, retained their organization, their distinctive principles, their established usages, and their exemplary lives as professed Christiansand, perhaps, above all, the religious intelligence and
vangelical training of their youth and the masses of their people.
For six generations, this people have preserved their organization, with its time-honored distinctive features, amid revolutions and trials that would have disintegrated almost any other people in less than one generation without this ever-present principle and bond of organic unity-their prayer-meeting. It is this that, in the tides of emigration, so deeply draining the energies and members of other denominations, preserves their strength intact. Families migrating and settling in the far West are seldom lost to their communion. They carry with them the principles and practices, ingrained in their religious natures by the prayer-meeting; and wherever even two families can be found together, they organize the prayer meeting, and rally around it with their children-form at once a nucleus for a congregation--gather in from the society around them and from immigration, and in a reasonable time either secure stated supplies of public ordinances, or migrate elsewhere with hope of better success. To such a people emigration is not to scatter numbers and diminish strength. It is to lengthen their cords and strengthen their stakes— to scatter seed with broader cast in hope of more abundant harvest gathering. Expansion is their very life.
How many thousands of members, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, might larger churches save to their organic strength, if they firmly believed their profession, and loved and exemplified its practice—and especially here, if they carried with them the love and practice of the prayer-meeting!
FROM THE CLOSE OF THE 17TH CENTURY TILL THE GEN
ERAL DECLINE OF RELIGION TOWARD THE CLOSE OF
Wesley and his followers-Whitefield-Revival in Wales-Reynolds, Har.
ris, Rowlands, etc.-Prayer-Meetings and Revival Identified-Revival and Prayer-Meetings in the English Army-Soldier's Letter from the Army-Cambuslang Revival-Its History Closely Idertified with the Prayer-Meeting—History of the Second Cambuslang CommunionLessons of this Revival-Extends to other Parishes--Reports of Presbyteries on Revivals and Prayer-Meetings—Prayer-Meetings Among Chil. dren-Lessons of this History–Baxter's Times, etc--Lessons-Fletcher, Romaine, Berridge, etc.--American Colonies-Edwards' History of Revivals-Reflections.
ning of the eighteenth, as acknowledged by all historians, the whole kingdom of England was tending rapidly to Infidelity and licentiousness. In the Established Church, and to some extent even among the Dissenters, religion was at a very low ebb. Of the state of things then existing, Bishop Butler says:
“It is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted by many persons that Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry; but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious; and, accordingly, they treat imas if, in the present age, this were an argument among all people of discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were, by way of reprisals