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Monday, April 6, 2015

John M. Cunningham  d. 1872

Rev. John Cunningham was a licentiate of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.  He had acted for a time as assistant to the Professor of Natural Philosophy in Glasgow.  The Senate of the University of that city conferred on him the degree of LL.D.  He labored as the Synod's missionary to the Jews in the eastern part of London for thirteen years beginning in October 1846.  Year after year he patiently prosecuted his work, but without any apparent result.  He was a man of very strong denominational convictions, and had written a book on "Covenant;" and being dissatisfied with certain Resolutions on the franchise, adopted by the Synod in 1858, he tendered his resignation as missionary in 1859, and withdrew from all connection with the Church.  He was particularly dissatisfied with the third Resolution, as not being so clear and decided on the question of discipline as it ought to have been.  Its effect, he says, will "be really and truly to surrender, first slowly and then rapidly, in practice, the chief and distinguishing badge of adherence to the Covenanted cause, namely, a practical protest against the British Constitution by refusing to vote and take the Oath of Allegiance."  He felt that the terms of the third Resolution did not necessarily involve the continued exercise of discipline on voters, but rather countenanced a falling away in practice on that point.  The opposite of this was maintained in the Synod in 1859, and by those who a year before consented to the withdrawal of the Resolution enjoining discipline.  At that meeting Dr. Cunningham was present, and formally separated himself from the fellowship of the Church.  Till his death in 1872 he continued to labour in London, and to minister to a small company of like-minded Reformed Presbyterians.  [*Dr. Cunningham and the London congregation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church were later to identify themselves with a remnant group of ultra-Covenanters in south-west Scotland, the 'Societies of the Old dissenting Presbyterians of Wigtonshire,' and the equally rigorous 'Reformed Presbytery' in North America (the 'Steelites').]  They were to remain aloof even from the post-Disruption Minority after 1863. He was a man greatly beloved, and retained to the last the esteem of many who could not sympathize with the grounds of his separation.**

* The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Disruption of 1863. I. Disruption and Recovery - by Gordon J. Keddie (see page 40)
**See some biographical information in "The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland: Its Origin and History, 1680-1876" - 1893 - Matthew Hutchison  (page 306-308 and 330)

The Ordinance of Covenanting - 1843 - Cunningham, John
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Here is the link to the free Kindle edition... The Ordinance of Covenanting eBook: John Cunningham: Kindle Store

From "Treasury of the Scottish Covenant" - 1887 - edited by John C. Johnston

Description of this book from Still Waters Revival Books

This book is considered by many as the classic work on covenanting. "The theology of Covenanting is here unfolded with a richness of scriptural research and a maturity of intellectual strength which would have made the grey eye of Peden glisten with delight. The treatise is a valuable addition to that solid theological literature of which the Reformed Presbyterian Church has produced repeated and enduring specimens, and stamps Mr. Cunningham as a distinguished disciple of the thoughtful and scriptural school of Mason and the Symingtons" (Presby Rev., (1844) as cited in The Treasury of the Scottish Covenant by Johnston). The author himself notes that "Prayer and the offering of praise are universally admitted to be duties of religion. The Scriptures announce a place among these for the exercise of solemn Covenanting... What the word of God unfolds concerning it, is addressed to the most resolute consideration of all, and is capable of engaging the most extensive and prolonged investigation. And yet, though none have found this subject, like all God's judgements, else than a great deep, still in meditating upon it, the ignorant have been brought to true knowledge, and the wise have increased in wisdom. 'The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant' (Ps. 25:14)... Mutual federal engagements, concerning things religious and civil, whether entered into merely by simple promise, or confirmed by the solemn oath, have been made from the highest antiquity to the present. The hostility to some such engagements, and also the proud disregard for their obligation, which have been evinced by some in all ages, demand a most careful examination into their nature and design... Furnished with the key of Scripture, approaching the subject, we are enabled to open the mysteries in which ignorance and prejudice had shut it up; and equipped with the armour of light shooting forth its heavenly radiance, in safety to ourselves we assail the darkness thrown around it, and behold the instant flight of the spirits of error which that darkness contains. Standing alone in beauteous attractions descended from heaven upon it, this service beckons us to approach it, and engages to connect extensive good with a proper attention to its claims. The observance, under various phases, is described in Scripture as an undisputed and indisputable reality." In this book Cunningham exhaustively covers the subject of covenanting in over 400 pages. He deals with the manner, duty and nature of covenanting (including personal and social covenanting), the obligation covenanting confers, how covenanting is provided for in the everlasting covenant, how it is adapted to the moral constitution of man and how it is according to the purposes of God. Numerous Divine examples are cited from Scripture and covenanting is shown to be one of the great privileges of the Christian life. An interesting chapter covers "Covenanting Enforced By the Grant of Covenant Signs and Seals;" which touches on circumcision, baptism, the Sabbath, the Priesthood, the new heart and the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this book demonstrates how God's approbation rested upon Covenanters in formers ages, how covenanting is predicted in prophecy, how it is recommended by the practice of the New Testament Church and at what seasons it is appropriate. The appendices touch on the relationship of covenanting to immoral and unscriptural civil governments, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the British constitution and the apostasy of the Revolution settlement. Additionally, Cunningham acknowledges that the true church is "bound by the obligations of the Church of God is past times" and is still obligated to pay what it has vowed to the Lord in those magnificent attainments of the second Reformation (the epitome of these attainments being embodied in the Solemn League and Covenant and the Westminster Standards). If you are interested in the ordinance of covenanting this is the most extensive treatment you will find in one book. It is a gold mine of Scriptural references and should be read at least once by everyone who calls upon the name of Christ.

Reformed Presbyterian Magazine for 1855
  Dr. Cunningham's Letter (page 374)
  Dr. Cunningham's Abstract of Labors Among the Jews (page 196)
  Dr. Cunningham's Journal Extracts Concerning His Labor Among the Jews (pages 71, 135, 278, 375, 406)

Reformed Presbyterian Magazine for 1856
  Dr. Cunningham's London Congregation (page 198)
  Dr. Cunningham's Abstract of Labors Among the Jews (page 202)
  Dr. Cunningham's Journal Extracts Concerning His Labor Among the Jews (pages 134, 278, 342)

Reformed Presbyterian Magazine for 1857
  Dr. Cunningham's London Congregation (pages 60, 190)
  Dr. Cunningham's Abstract of Labors Among the Jews (page 201)
  Dr. Cunningham's Journal Extracts Concerning His Labor Among the Jews (pages 62, 167, 302, 410)

Reformed Presbyterian Magazine for 1858
  Dr. Cunningham's London Congregation (page 271)
  Dr. Cunningham's Abstract of Labors Among the Jews (page 168)
  Dr. Cunningham's Journal Extracts Concerning His Labor Among the Jews (pages missing)

The Reformed Presbyterian, Volume XXIII for 1859
  Dr. Cunningham's Journal Extracts Concerning His Labor Among the Jews (page 31)

"Dr. Cunningham of London and Adherents to the Scottish R.P. Testimony" -  The Reformed Presbyterian, Volume XXV - 1861 - (page 310)

The Reformed Presbytery, Volume XXVI - 1862
  Dr. Cunningham's Journal Extracts Concerning His Labor Among the Jews (page 179)

The London-Scottish Reformed Presbyterian Magazine for 1868-69, Volume 1
  See various entries on Dr. Cunningham's reports of his work among the Jews in London.

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