John Ireland.

A second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author online

. (page 14 of 51)
Online LibraryJohn IrelandA second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author → online text (page 14 of 51)
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The next insinuation is an attempt to cast a slur on the fairness of
Mr Jones, by saying that he appeared (that is to three or four of
these ministers) disposed " to wander from everything relating to
the cause, merely to make Mr. M. appear ridiculous." If Mr. M.
had by his conduct rendered himself ridiculous, why should this
Council who pretend to be engaged in investigating his conduct as a
clergyman, complain that these improprieties in his behaviour and
conversation were disclosed ? Surely they are not afraid of the truth,
and unwilling that the conduct of so celebrated a preacher, should in
every particular, connected w«th his character as a minister, be fully
investigated ? But this is merely another attempt to discountenance



20

the testimony of Mr. Jones, even where if they succeeded, it could not
in the least support Mr. Maffitt; and shows how hard the authors of the
pamphlet were pushed for materials to make out a plausible story.
Mr. Jones was particularly questioned as to instances of loose and
light behaviour and conversation in Mr. Maffitt, and among other
things he mentioned what Mr. Maffitt had told him of an occurrence
in Connecticut. It is not very difficult to determine the probability
that " a young lady of a respectable family" would conduct in the
way represented by Mr. M. towards any man, much less a clergyman,
without any intimation on his part that it would be agreeable. The
most abandoned female would not, uninvited, be guilty of such con-
duct, and Mr. Jones might well say to Mr. M. at the time, that he
doubted it. This is what he stated he did say, and not as this Coun-
cil pretend in the present tense, " I do not believe him."

But Mr. Maffitt did not deny this story in his testimony, therefore
the Council on their own ground, have no right to disbelieve that he
told it to Mr. Jones. We must be permitted to believe that the
counsel for the defendant, knew what matter " related to the cause"
rather better than these reverend gentlemen, and as they proposed
the questions in relation to Mr. M.'s loose behaviour and conversa-
tion, we do not see how Mr. Jones, under his oath, could avoid telling
what he knew of this nature. If the story is to Mr. M.'s advantage,
the Council ought to be obliged to the witness for relating it. For
ourselves we can only say that clergymen are not in the habit of
meeting ^vith or recounting such adventures, and we hope Mr. M. is
the only one who ever exposed himself to so disagreeable a tempta-
tion.

As to Mrs. Merritt's statem.ent, there was evidently a misunder-
standing. Mr. Jones previous to this conversation, had related to Mr.
Crocker and Mr. Prentice, many things he knew of improper conduct
and conversation in Mr. ft3affitt, and could not have said " he knew
nothing except from report." Mrs. Merritt was busily engaged in
household affairs, and must have misapprehended or misapplied what
Mr. Jones said, especially as Mrs. Turpin who was present beard no
such remark. If this had been of much import at the trial, the coun-
ty attorney, who conducted the cause with great ingenuity and abil-
ity, and urged objections against Mr. Jones, much more adroitly than
the authors of this pamphlet, would have availed himself of it, and yet
he did not allude to the circumstance. The reporters of Mr. Maffitt's
trial, with their usual unfairness and disregard to facts, here state that
" if they mistake not, Mr. Jones' own story shows he had previous to
this conversation related by Mrs. Merritt, disclosed Mr. Maffitt's confi-
dential communications." On the contrary Mr. Jones declared that
he neverrevealed the only two things Mr. Maffitt ever told him in
confidence, until after having been urged to a private conversation
with Mr. M. — he (Mr. M.) on joining the family of Mr. J. declared
with a soi't of bravado, that Mr. Jones had nothing against him ; upon
which he, as would any man, felt at liberty to state what he knew, and
did r^o in Mr. W.'s presence. But even admitting Mr. Jones did betray
confid«uce, does it at all excuse Mr. Maffitt for making such improper



21

confidential communications ? A witness on oath is bound and com-
pelled to disclose the most confidential secrets, and these of Mr. Maf-
fitt were such as Mr. Jones had no property in. If Mr. M. had con-
fessed his hypocrisy, the person to whom he intrusted such confes-
sion was bound, as a good member of society , to disclose it for the pub-
lick good. If A. enjoins secresy on B. and then tells him he is about
to burn his neighbour's house, is not B. bound to disclose such a com-
munication however confidential ?

The sixth and last reason assigned for discrediting Mr. Jones is,
that after he had stated Mr. Maffitt was in the habit of saying, God
bless brother A, or sister B., and then ridiculing them as soon as ab-
sent ; he also said that when Mr. M. observed to him God bless
brother Alexander, he replied, ironically, " God bless brother Maf-
fitt." Mr. Jones declared he did so, believing that when he was absent
Mr. M. would i-idicule him as he had done the rest of his friends. It
was therefore designed as a reproof to Mr. Maffitt, who must have in-
ferred from the manner of Mr. Jones what was intended to be con*
veyed, that he, Mr. Jones, had no confidence in the sincerity of Mr.
Maifitt's wish, and believed him to be trifling. In this point of view
it was a proper reproof to remind Mr. M. of his former false pro-
fessions. And yet on this ground the Council do not hesitate to as-
sert, Mr. Jones is not to be believed on his oath !

This remark is extremely injudicious on the part of Mr. M.'a de-
fenders. They believe Mr. Jones when he states he himself said
ironically God bless brother Maffitt, and then make this admission of
the truth of what the witness had testified, the grounds of their asser-
tion, that he is not to be believed in any thing he says ! But if they
believed Mr. Jones in this declaration they must also believe him
when he says in connexion, that Mr. M. was in the practice of saying
God bless brother A. &c. and then ridiculing the person when
absent! Neither did the '■^ witness for the State''' when under oath
deny this, so that again the Council by their own estimate of evi-
dence, are bound to believe it, there being no contradiction. Well
then, Mr. M. has himself been grossly guilty of perverting " a form
of prayer, and taking the name of God in vain," and consequently
this Council, by their own declaration " can put hut very little confi-
dencein any thing he says, let him say it in -what form he will .'"

We have thus followed these advocates of Mr. Maffitt (for they are
his connsel not his Couna7) through the reasons they assign for
discrediting the testimony of Mr. Jones. Not because we deemed it
necessary formall}' to refute such sophistry, it refutes itself, but to
allay any prejudice which may arise against this witness, with per-
sons unacquainted with the circumstances connected with his testi-
mony, from the f dse and partial statement, which these gentlemen
have condescended to make for the honourable purpose of deceiving
the publickintoa favourable opinion of Mr. Maffitt, even at the ex-
pense of the reputation of a fair and unimpepched witness, against
whom they have nothing to produce except insinuations and trifling
quibbles ; for be it remarked, in the whole of their insinuations there is
nothing that directly disproves a single fact stated by Mr. Jones. They



22

might all be true, and yet he as a witness stand conapletely unimpeached.
They would only affect his character as a clergyman ; and this we are
sorry to say, appears to have been the deadly and deliberate aim of the
authors of the pamphlet called Mr. Maffitt's trial. Such is the " spirit'^
that pervades the whole of this pamphlet ; where the desire of con-
demning others seems to predominate even over the ardent longing to
acquit Mr. Maffitt — a spirit, which for the honour of the methodist cler-
gy as a body of christian men, we trust is only chargeable on those who
were engaged in preparing this " Report" for the press, and not attri-
butable to the whole of the reverend gentlemen who composed the
Council — a spirit that savours much of sophistry, irritation and unholy
zeal, but which bears no marks of that christian temper and uprightness
that becomes all men, and most of all, the disciples of Christ.



It next follows in course, to examine the manner in which this
Council without any evidence before them (except what was recol-
lected of the trial by three or four of their number,) have taken up
the several charges proved against Mr. M. and summarily acquitted
him of each, by merely saying, " we believe Mr. Maffitt not guilty
of this charge."

But it would really take a volume rather than a pamphlet to ex-
pose all the sophistry and misrepresentation compressed into this lit-
tle " Report" of some thirty pages. We shall therefore only glance
at a few of these absurdities in their examination of the charges as
classed by the judge".

The first is the ttvo specifications under the charge of falsehood;
The Council could not escape from this, even had they succeeded in
their earnest endeavour to destroy the reputation of Mr. Jones.
Whatever that witness states respecting Walker's sermons, is fully
corroborated by his father, and by Mr. M. himself. Mr. Maffitt
admits, because Mr. Jones, senior, had previously sworn to the same,
that he had preached parts of two sermons from Walker, and that he
had used in preaching the sentiments, language and mind of sermons
from Walker. He declares in his own testimony that he had always
stated he took only the skeletons, the divisions and subdivisions of
Walker's sermons,* and yet in the next breath he admits he had, at
the time alluded to in Mr. Jones testimony, committed and preached
two pages from Walker, that he had used the principal part of one
of these sermons on a charity occasion in Connecticut,! and yet that
he had been thus intimate with the sermons of Walker without ever
having read one of them in his life ! If this Council can devise a
method by which a man may extract and use in preaching the *' skele-



* See the deposition of Rev George Taft, as to the manner Mr. M. made this
assertion to bim. '' So^ne'''' of their number we are informed, having read this and
several other important depositions, the Council came fo the conclusion that they
contained nothing " worthy of notice.'''' It is thns confidence and assertion supply
the place of impartiality and reason.

tSee the depo itions of Jonathan Barnes and John Soutbmajd, which the
Council passed over as " unworliiy of notice I"



23

ton, divisions and subdivisions, sentiments, language, two pagei, mind"
&c. of a sermon without et;er having read such sermon, they are at
liberty to acquit Mr. Maffitt of this charge, .vir. Jones, jun. did not
say as represented by the " Report," that he thought " he discover-
ed a resemblance, between Mr, M's. and Walker's sermons, but that
he " thought the sermons were the same, verbatim !" Is this col-
ouring honest on the part of these Reverend gentlemen ?

The mode the Council adopt to get rid of the second«specification
of falsehood, is still more absurd. The testimony of Mr. M. is suffic-
ient on this point. He admits he told Mr. Jones, jun. he had never
been a '■''journeyman tailor" (not simply " tailor.''''') He says too
he had '■'■always publickly aiJotweJ he worked at the trade," and yet
he" determined to conceal''' that fact when he went to Providence.
He then admits his working at the trade in New-York for hire, and
in a way that to all intents constituted a journeyman tailor. This
Council will not pretend it takes seven years to make a journey-
man. Working at any trade for hire constitutes a journeyman of that
trade. The mz/or therefore and the manner in which Mr. A1. may
understand that term, is nothing to the purpose. He admits the
whole charge against him of denying he was ?l journeyman tailor and
then confessing he had worked in thai capacity. This was all that
was alleged and this Mr. M. admits.

Now as to motives, we can judge of them from these facts, as well
as the Council. A falsehood is an intent to deceive. Mr M.
must have known that by his statement to the Messrs. Jones', Mr.
Wood, and others, and by his evading all explanation on this subject
until driven to it, he induced those persons to believe he had never
in any way been connected with the business of a tailor, and such
was the belief of his friends at the time.

The only way the Council can get over the second charge, of in-
fidelity, is by accusing the judge of falsely reporting the testimony
in his charge to the jury ! The Council say " We believe Mr.
M. never allowed he used the words Mr. Jones says he did, viz.
I have no belief in Christianity." We believe,the judge who states
this confession of Mr. M. better understood the testimony than the
three or four members of this Council who were present and do
not pretend they took any notes at the trial. It is therefore clear
Mr. Viaffitt, did not contradict Mr. Jones as to the fact of what he
had said. He merely puts a different and absurd construction on the
meaning of those words. He should have explained them to Mr.
Jones at the time. It was too late when he was called in question
for the words themselves. It then belonged to the jury to interpret
their meaning. But further Mr. M. declared he told iVlr. Jones " he
had doubts of the experimental effects of religion on the heart ! 1"
These were his precise words, and here is a full confession ofprac-
tical as well as speculative doubts and unbelief, proving not merely
that " he was not a learned divine," but that his heart as well as un-
derstanding was not convinced. There needs nothing more on this
point. Mr. Jones' testimony is not wanted ; and it seems almost an
interposition of Providence that Mr M. was thus left io convict himself



24

of this charge. The Council need no longer wonder he was "so
great a ibol" as to make this confession to Mr. Jones. That folly is
forgotten when we see him confessing in a court of justice that he
had m?/de such an avowal.

The Council, yes, even the Council convicted Mr. Maffitt of the
third charge, betraying confidence ! But it seems this is not an " im-
moral act" in him, though it might be in another person. Thus
they condemn and acquit in the same breath.

If the former charges, particularly the two first, are proved as
above, it clearly shows Mr. M. is not entitled to any credit wherein he
denies what is stated by Mr. Jones. The charge therefore of his rid-
iculing his converts, can on this ground readily be believed, though
denied by himself.

It is somewhat singular that christian ministers should consider
" light, loose and lascivious behaviour" more detrimental to the char-
acter of a clergyman, than falsehood, infidelity and hypocrisy. We
do hope that either of them would be enough to exclude a man from
the methodist connexion, and we can but admire at the Council in
laying so much stress on this charge. Much more was made of it at
the trial than was warranted by a fair inference from the supposed
libellous article. The substance of the charge of this nature was
proved. The jury inferred it from facts before them, and from the
general character and conduct of Mr. Maffitt.

The circumstance of Mr. Jones, being " permtttecV as these gen-
tlemen sneeringly term it, to allude to the song, arose from the cross
questioning of the prosecution, in which much greater latitude is al-
lowed than in the examination in chief

Mr. Jones was asked what grounds he had for suspicions of Mr. M.
and whether any one had complained to him of his conduct ? To
v.rhich he replied that one of his sisters had so complained to him
respecting the song. This was not hearsay evidence, as the Council
learnedly aifect to call it ; but the reason given for the formation of
an opinion, which opinion the witness has previously stated. Such
testimony is of every day practice in courts of justice, and is not ac-
counted hearsay evidence, howbeit this Ecclesiastical Council may
have adopted a different course.* The Council unabie to conceal
their exultation at finding one charge not literally proved, put in
italicks, " of this Mr. M-aSit\. is not guilty r'' They here refer to
the statement of Miss Jones, but take care not to allude to that of
Mrs, Chace.

We are at a loss for the grounds on which the Council convicted
Mr. Maffitt of " mournful evidences of want of judgment and pru-
dence," in these matters. They fully acquit him of every charge
except one, which they say has nothing immoral in it, and yet he is
partially condemned and " seriously admonished to take heed !"



*Look at Mrs. Turpin's deposition. She was permilled to swear to what Mrs.
King, had lold her, she (Mrs. King) had said to Mr. Prentice. And this is not
hej^rsay evidence i" An admirable conjnaentary on the doctrine so boastfully
laid down bj the Council!



25

This is manifest injustice in his judges, and as they do not show any
of these •' mournful evidences," they are guilty of great indecorum
and severity in condemning a man without producing the least proof
to authorize such a condemnation !

Mr. Maffitt is now triumphantly acqtiilted of every charge, and we
should suppose the Council would of course suifer the prisoner to
go without day and dissolve the Court. But not so. They seem to
be aware that though convinced themselves, the ^' clamorous pub-
lick'''' may not credit their decision ; and they adjourn to Providence
to examine the depositions taken to be used in the trial at Boston.
Here they find a deficiency in four of the Court which is supplied by
tales men who hear half of the cause and decide upon the whole mat-
ter at issue.

Their proceedings here, and their wanton attacks upon private
character by means of witnesses under the sanction of an illegal and
nugatory oath, are marked by unfairness and daring, unequalled in
any similar transaction.

After some discussion, it was voted that the witnesses should
swear to their statements, because, as was urged in the argument, the
stories ubout the sea serpent and such matters, gained more cred-
it with the publick for being told under oath. For this purpose
William H. Smith, Esq. was called in, a gentleman warmly attached
to Mr. Maffitt, and who had written in his favour even while the tri-
al was pending at Boston. In consenting, under such circumstances,
to take depositions, he incurred the risk of compromising his char-
acter for impartiality, and his dignity as a magistrate. He ought to
have considered there was great danger in his situation, of warping
the testimonv of the witnesses, and the rather conducted as did two
of his brother magistrates, who declined taking the depositions in Mr.
Buckingham's trial, on the ground that they had freely expressed
their opinion against Mr. Maffitt.

Nor had he any authority, as a magistrate, to put these persons
under oath in a trifling matter, when no cause was pending in a court
of justice, and the depositions were neither taken rfe bene esse nor in
perpetual memory ; the only way depositions can properly be taken
when no cause is pending for trial.

The law does not expressly prohibit, but it clearly discountenan-
ces such a proceeding : and these oaths were completely nugatory
and without any sanction, for the witnesses might have sworn as
falsely as possible, and yet they could not be punished for perjury.
The doctrine of law as laid down in Blackstone's Comm.vol, 4,p. 137,
is explicit on this point. " The law takes no notice of any perjury
but such as is committed in some court of justice having power to
administer an oath ; or before some magistrate or proper officer in-
vested with a similar authority, in some proceedings relative to a ciV'
il suit or a criminal prosecution ; for it esteems all other oaths un-
necessary at least, and therefore will not punish the breach of them.
For this reason it is much to be questioned how far any magistrate is
justifiable in taking a voluntary affidavit in any extra-judicial mat',
tery as is now too frequent upon every petty occasion ; since it is
4



S6

more than possible that by such idle oaths a man may frequently m
foro conscientiae incur the guilt, and at the same time erade the tem-
poral penalties of perjury."

For this plain reason, we have not forced a nugatory oath upon the
persons whose statements are hereinafter published. They are un-
der the same moral and legal obligations to tell the truth as were
those sworn by justice Smith. Their characters are a sufficient
pledge to the publick, and they are ready when properly called upon, a

to support what they have stated under a legal obligation. 1

The certiticate of justice Smith looks more like the statement of a
deponent than of a magistrate. He calls depositions taken to be used
in a case, regularly pending in a court of justice, (where all the requi-
sites of notice enjoined by law were literally complied with,) " cer-
tain EX PARTE depositions published to the world against the charac-
ter of the Rev. John N. Maffit." Does he not know that depositions
taken after regular notice, are not ex parte, whether the party chooses
to be present or not ? Now whether these depositions could be
used or not in the trial, a point that was to be argued before the
court, does not affect the question as to their ex parte character.
The only thing to determine is, whether legal notice was given of the
taking of such depositions. Neither does the pretence of these de-
positions being given " voluntary" affect their nature. The wit-
nesses were not strictly compelled by law so to depose, but they
were bound as good citizens and by the common usages in all cases of
depositions taken out of the State, in whose Courts the cause is lo be
tried, to state what they knew relative to the matter at issue. Nor
was it for these deponents to decide whether their depositions would
be used at the trial. Were matter's of testimony governed by the
principles laid down by the Council and their Justice, and no wit-
nesses residing out of the State, allowed to testify in any of its courts,
justice would always be defeated whenever the trial was in one State
and the witnesses resided in another. It comes rather awkwordly
from this council, all of whose witnesses, both at the trial in Boston
and before themselves, were right voluntary, to set up this pretence
about " voluntary and swift witnesses."

But neither the authors of the Council's " Report" nor their Jus-
tice, seem to know any thing about the legal definition of terms. Thus
after sneering at the Rev. Mr. Crocker for having, as they call it,
'■'volunteered to make oath in the absence of the party implicated,"
the}' turn round (when driven into a corner by the certificate of Justice
Aplin, that John N. Maffit was duly notified of the taking of the de-
positions, but was not present,) and ask, with great simplicity " what
if he were not present, he was not a party in that cause .'" That is,
according to their law logick, the witnesses against Mr. Majitt, were
the ^' party implicated" and the " State" the '^ party in that cause .'"
It is, therefore, very plain that no deposition or testimony taken in
any possible way against Mr. M., could have been agreeable to these
gentlemen.

After they convened in Providence, some of their number were at
the pains of soundmg the opinions of the witnesses they proposed



27

examining, previous to^snch examination. The statements of Mrs.
Wooel and Mrs. Chase, will shew the course that was pursued to in-
duce them to appear before the Council. We are astonished they
admitted the statement of Mrs. Chace in their " Report," as they
might have excluded it in the same way they did those of Rev. Mr.
Wilson and Mr. Prentice ; and this statement is the only one in the
least against Mr. Maffit, they have permitted the publick to see. We
presume, however, this was done because it offered an opportunity for
an appearance of fairness, and they relied on the testimony of Miss
Jones as a complete set off. The parade the Council make about
the Rev. Mr. Crocker not appearing at their bidding, is another at-
tempt to throw dust into the eyes of the publick. In the first place,
that gentlem-'n was under no obligation to obey their summons, and
was himself the only proper judge of the course he should take —
though there is no doubt he would have attended, had he been as-
sured their object was a candid investigation. Bat he was aware
that he had already been misrepresented by some of the members of



Online LibraryJohn IrelandA second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author → online text (page 14 of 51)