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But here arises the question: Why should sober, respectable New England mix itself up with such men ? New England does not usually give something for nothing. It is not reckless of its endorsement. The answer is patent. We give it in the words of the Editor of the Evangelist, who was present at the Convention, and marked its spirit carefully:
One of the first effects of the Convention, we think, will be to consolidate our Congregational brethren into a distinct and separate denomination, There was the ready fraternization of brethren, on the ground, not of moral sympathy, but of denominational name and relation; and the cordial endorsement of the West by the East-the resolve uttered by the oldest and most considerate, as well as by the most ardent-to stand by their Western brethren ;-these and other evidences of a denominational esprit du corps, were as striking as we ever beheld in any ecclesiastical body."**
Hinc illæ laudes ! The spirit of sect rides the air. As in the high party times of the Presbyterian church from 1833 to 1838, almost any man was orthodox who would vote right, so now Congregationalism is very lenient to her own children.
II. The Albany Convention passed resolutions on the subject of the Plan of Union, which were equivalent to an abrogation.
Mr. Zebulon Crocker, who was a delegate from the General Association of Connecticut to the General Assembly of 1837, on his return from that remarkable “ecclesiastical gathering," (as the organ of the American Home Missionary Society called our last Assembly) pondering many things, wrote his experience in a book, called “the Catastrophe of the Presbyterian Church.” We attach no very special importance to the testimony of Mr. Crocker per se, but it will answer as well as anything else as an exponent of the feelings almost universal in New England at that time. “The waste places,” he says, “were built up, the Plan of Union, for thirty-six years, being a bond of fellowship between Congregationalists and Presbyterians in the new settlements, and the source of peace and harmony to the infant churches of the West. Those that were organized under it, from the Hudson to the Mississippi, appreciated its blessings, and not a murmur of complaint was uttered against it by those who had
speculations in theology, his power over the hearts and consciences of men was almost unequalled. It is with regret that we ever feel compelled to expose the errors of men whom God has, at any point of their career, greatly blessed.
* N. Y. Evang. Oct. 14, 1852.
seen its operations, and experienced its effects.” The reasons offered for its abrogation “are a mere subterfuge; a plausible pretext for the measures pursued. If the operation had been to increase the power of a particular party, the harmless plan might go on, accomplishing the good for which it was designed."* So far Mr. Zebulon Crocker, whose “ Catastrophe ” was written, not only to defend New England but New Haven, and we must insist that it do not forget its old friends. It is a bad rule that will not work both ways, and all we ask is that these remarks be made descriptive of the second abrogation of the Plan of Union at Albany.
The action of the Convention, adopted unanimously, was as follows:
Whereas, The Plan of Union, framed in 1801, by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church and the General Association of Connecticut, is understood to have been repudiated by the said Assembly before the schism in that body of 1838, though this year acknowledged as still in force, by the General Assembly which met last at Washington, D. C., and
Whereas, Many of our Presbyterian brethren, though adhering to this Plan in some of its provisions, do not, it is believed, maintain it in its in- , tegrity; especially in virtually requiring Congregational ministers, settled over Presbyterian churches, and Congregational churches having Presbyterian ministers, to be connected with Presbyteries; and,
Whereas, Whatever mutual advantage has formerly resulted from this Plan, to the two denominations, and whatever might yet result from it, if acted upon impartially, its operation is now unfavorable to the spread and permanence of the Congregational polity, and even to the real harmony of these Christian communities :
Resolved, lst. That in the judgment of this Convention, it is not deemed expedient that new Congregational Churches, or Churches heretofore independent, become connected with Presbyteries.
2d. That in the evident disuse of the said Plan, according to its original design, we deem it important, and for the purposes of union, sufficient, that Congregationalists and Presbyterians exercise toward each other that spirit of love which the gospel requires, and which their common faith is fitted to cherish ; that they accord to each other the right of pre-occupancy, where but one Church can be maintained ; and that in the formation of such a Church its ecclesiastical character and relations be determined by a majority of its members.
3d. That in respect to those Congregational Churches that are now connected with 'Presbyteries, either on the above mentioned Plan, or on those of 1808 and 1813, between Congregational and Presbyterian bodies in the State of New York, while we would not have them violently sever their existing relations, we counsel them to maintain vigilantly the Congrega. tional privileges which have been guarantied them by the Plans above mentioned, and see to it, that while they remain connected with Presby
• Catastrophe, pp. 44-5.
terians, the true intent of those original arrangements be impartially carried
In explanation and vindication of this action, the New Eng. lander gives us an argument in favor of this virtual abrogation, of which we furnish the heads :
lst. The Plan was essentially unequal in its provisions.
2nd. The relative spirit and strength of the two elements, were such in all the earlier operations of this Plan, as to certify that its workings would be to Presbyterian ends.
3d. It was inevitable, in any other condition than that of the total abandonment of Congregationalism in the West, that this Plan of Union should result in bitter embroilment and worse disunion. * ** The Plan is now, in effect, withdrawn. For the peace of the Churches, it should have been withdrawn long since.
4th. But there was concealed in this Plan, a power of mischievous re-action, on both the parties to the contract.t
We presume this is plain enough. Our action in the General Assembly, last May, was as follows:
Resolved, That in the view of this Assembly, the Plan of Union of 1801 has been, and still is, in full force in the Presbyterian Church; that its pretended abrogation, by the Assembly of 1837, was part and parcel of the Excinding acts; that as the said acts were unconstitutional, the Plan of Union was not in the least affected by them.
We regret to find that the spirit of ultraism and violence should thus infect our Presbyterian and Congregational brethren. Even if it is unavailing amidst the din of warring elements, we must lift up our voice for moderation. The priceless value of the orthodox faith, the sanctity of law, and the binding obligation of contracts, we cherish as vital and fundamental principles, and however our more rash and aggressive brethren may rush into extremes, we hope always to be found abiding in that“golden mean” of truth and peace, which the experience of ages has taught to be safest and best. The sober and respectable portion of the community, we are sure, will not like the removing of old land-marks, and the entering in this way upon new and untried schemes.
* Proceedings, pp. 19, 20.
† New Englander, pp. 79–84. # Minutes of the Assembly, pp. 165, 176.
III. The Albany Convention and the New Englander take distinctive ground, and intimate plainly their wish to stand, as a denomination, entirely separate from the Presbyterian Church.
The action of the Convention, already quoted, shows their opinion on this subject. In the third Resolution, on the Plan of Union, while they do not exhort the Congregational churches “violently” to “sever existing relations,” it is plain enough that they wish it done, if it can be, without violence. The Review is very plain and explicit, being apparently anxious lest there might be some mistake:
“It would have been well had the parties (to the Plan of Union) addressed themselves at once to the task of learning to walk in their own parallel paths, in the union of separate but fraternal churches, working in their own best ways, the same great work, in the same great field. This they are now fast learning.” “The two systems (Congregationalism and Presbyterianism) are not, as it pleases some to represent them, almost the same. They stand on broad and radical characteristics of principle, that refuse to blend. An octagon is not almost a circle, and no mingling can make the two identical. We gladly admit the higher unity of these denominations, in their Christian faith and work; but as systems of ecclesiastical polity, they can never amalgamate. After all possible compromises and accommodations between them, one must cease to be itself, and simply become the other, or they remain incompatible.” “The difference lies deeper than in modes and usages; and the attempt to ignore the radical diversity of principle and spirit, in the two polities, and form a unity by their aggregation, was only entangling the issue the more.” “ Such have been the results of attempting to combine two radically diverse systems. ** New cloth was put to an old garment, and the rent is made worse. Incapable of amalgamating, the two should have learned from the first to stand each on its own ground and character," &c.
Bodies which could not coalesce, and whose systems could have no fusion, but a confusion."*
Now see how the frigid icicle melts when it turns toward the sun of Congregationalism:
The Churches have already told us how consonant to their judgment and their wish, was the plan for raising a fund of $50,000, for aiding in the erection of church edifices at the West. How noble is this benefaction! And its price and worth lie not merely in the much needed help so rendered, but in cementing the heartfelt fraternity of our Churches there and here. These many sanctuaries, which will soon rise by this aid at the West, will be so many visible pledges of unity. It is fitting that we set up these stones as a memorial of our passage through the waters that divided us, and as a sign between us and them and between our children and theirs.t
We do not think the position of the New Englander ambi
• New Englander, p. 82, sqq.
+ New Englander, p. 91.
guous. It contrives to make itself understood. It prepares us for what we have to present under our next and last head.
IV. We invite attention to the very extraordinary language used by the Albany Convention and the New Englander, in relation to the Presbyterian Church.
“If any apology,” says the New Englander, “seem needful for our freedom in thus dealing with the relations of this matter, it lies in this, that only plain speech is suited to plain facts.” Be it so. We never felt any concern about this matter, so far as our interest as Presbyterians is concerned, except that our people should know the facts. The most efficient way we can think of, to raise the temperature of American Presbyterianism high enough to fuse the whole into a perfect fervor of union, would be to furnish a copy of this Article in the New Englander, to every minister, ruling elder, and member of a church and congregation throughout our borders.
But it is deeply painful, not merely to recite the statements of the New Englander, but to analyze the resolutions of the Convention, concerning the Plan of Union. Compressed into that narrow space, are three insinuations against our Church.
1. In Preamble No. 2, it is stated, that many Presbyterians, “it is believed," do not maintain the Plan of Union in its integrity; an implication of unfair dealing.
2. In preamble No. 3, the whole Church is involved, for it is implied that the plan is not acted upon by our Church “impartially.”
3. In resolution No. 3, Congregational churches are exhorted to watch the Presbyteries “vigilantly,” as long as they are connected with them; implying that our Presbyteries will still go on dealing unfairly unless they are watched. Add to this the fact, that when American Presbyterianism was named in the Convention, no man had a word to say in its favor, though one venerable father did speak of the good accomplished under the Plan of Union. Not even the reproaches of ultra-men, who seemed to delight in vituperating our Church, brought a man to his feet to repel their charges. Hundreds of ministers, a large portion of whom had preached in our pulpits, sat in our Church courts by courtesy, stood by our side on the platform, or in more precious seasons of revival in our churches, listened