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

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12. Rockport.—Rev. W. Gale, Pastor ; Dea. Thomas Giles,


13. South Reading. — Rev. R. Emerson, Pastor; Dr. Poland,


14. — Park Street, Boston. — Rev. A.L. Stone, Pastor ; Rev.
Louis Dwight, Delegate.

15. Hopkinton. — Rev. J. C. Webster, Pastor; Bro. J. A.

Fitch, Delegate. ^

16. — Middleboro\ — Rev. Israel W. Putnam, Pastor ; Bro.
Zechariah Eddy, Delegate.

Rev. Mr. Crowell resigned his seat as Moderator of the Coun-
cil. On motion, the resignation was accepted, and Rev. Reuben


Emerson was chosen Moderator. Prayer was offered by Rev.
Mr. Putnam. The Minutes of the last session of the Council
were read by the Scribe. On motion, Voted, That a committee
be appointed to wait upon the Pastor of the Tabernacle Church,
and inform him that the Council were ready to hear any commu-
nication from him m reference to the case under consideration.

Rev. Mr. Putnam and Rev. E. N. Kirk were appointed such

Voted, That Rev. Mr. Wilder have leave to appear before the
Council, and present the case of Mr. Goss.

Documents were read, presenting to the Council the matters
submitted to the Council at its last session. Voted to adjourn to
2 o'clock this afternoon. Adjourned accordingly.

Council met at 2 o'clock. Rev. Dr. Ide offered prayer. The
Committee appointed to wait upon the Pastor of the Tabernacle
Church reported, that they had had an interview with Rev. Dr.
Worcester, and that he was ready to converse with them; that he
declined appearing before the Council or taking further action in
the case at the present time ; that he urged, as reasons for the re-
fusal of Mr. Goss's request of a letter, the considerations — 1.
That Mr. Goss was Hot' in good standing ; 2. That the Howard
Street Church was not in good standing.

Voted, That we hear the doings of the council that advised to the
dissolution of the Howard Street Church. Testimony was also
called for in regard to the action of the church upon this " advice ;
also the doings of a council called to consider the action of the
church in voting to dissolve ; also the action of the minority sub-
sequent to the vote to dissolve.

Voted, That the Council be by themselves.

The following resolution was moved :

Resolved^ That, so far as this Council is advised on the subject,
Mr. Goss has done nothing to forfeit his standing in his own church.

The Resolution was adopted.

Moved, That it is the opinion of this Council that the vote of
a majority cannot dissolve a church against the consent of a minor-
ity, and it appearing that the Howard Street Church has not been
otherwise dissolved, and that the minority claim membership there-
in, and have acted, and still act, as that Church, and sustain its meet-
ings, the ordinances and ministry, this council advise that that church
has not been dissolved, but still exists on its original foundation.

The question was taken by ayes and noes ; when it appeared
that there were 24 ayes and 2 noes, and the Resolution was adopted.

Voted, That Mr. Goss be advised to renew his application to
the Tabernacle Church, for a letter of dismission, and of recom-

mendatjon to the Howard Street CJiurch ; and if his request be
refused, that he be advised to offer himself for membership to the
Howard Street Church, and that the Howard Street Church be
advised to receive him.

Voted, That a committee be chosen to prepare a Result of
Council. Rev. Dr. Beecher, Bro. Z. Eddy, Rev. R. Crowell,
Rev. Dr. Storrs, and Rev. A. L. Stone, were appointed this

Voted, That we adjourn, to meet at 7 o'clock this evening.

Council met pursuant to adjournment. The commhtee chosen
to prepare a Result of Council reported progress ; whereupon it
was voted. That when the Council adjourn, it adjourn to meet on
Wednesday, January 16th, at 10 o'clock, A.M., at the vestry of
Park Street Church, Boston to hear the report of the committee,
appointed to prepare a Result of Council. Voted to adjourn.
Attest, A. L. Stone, Scribe.

The council met by adjournment, January 16, at 10 o'clock,
m the vestry of Park Street Church, to hear the report of the
committee appointed to frame a Result.

There were present the following churches by their Pastors and
delegates :

1. South Reading. —Rev. R. Emerson, Pastor.

2. West Medivay.~Rev. Jacob Ide, D.D., Pastor.

3. Braintree.~Rev. R. S. Storrs, D.D., Pastor.

4. Randolph.— Rev. Calvin Hitchcock, D.D., Pastor; Dr.

Ebenezer Alden, Delegate.

5. South, Ipsioich.~Rev. Daniel Fitz, Pastor; Bro. Daniel

Cogswell, Delegate.

6. Rockport.—Rev. W. Gale, Pastor; Dea. Thos. Giles,


7. Mt. Vernon, Boston.— Rev. Edward N. Kirk, Pastor;

Dea. Daniel Safford, Delegate.

8. Salem, Boston.— Rev. Edward' Beecher, D.D., Pastor;

Dr. Ephraim Buck, Delegate.

9. Park Street, Boston.— Rev. A. L. Stone, Pastor; Rev.

Louis Dwight, Delegate.

10. MiddUhoro\~Rev. Israel W. Putnam, Pastor; Bro.

Zechariah Eddy, Delegate.

11. Hopkinton. Rev. J. C. Webster, Pastor; Bro. J. A-

-titch. Delegate.

12. Cambridgeport.—Rev. J. C. Lovejoy, Pastor.


Rev. Mr. Emerson in the chair. Prayer was offered by Rev.
Mr. Putnam. The minutes of the last meeting of the council
were read by the Scribe and approved.

Voted, That the Council be by themselves.

Rev. Dr. Beecher, chairman of the committee to prepare a
Result, presented the report of the committee.

Voted, That the report of the committee be accepted.

Moved, That the report be adopted as the Result of the Coun-
cil. Carried with two dissenting votes.*

Rev. Dr. Hitchcock presented and read a remonstrance against
the action of the Council.

Minutes approved. Voted to dissolve.

Attest, A. L. Stone, Scribe

* One of these dissentients expressed his conviction that the Howard Street Church
was not dissolved in fact, and his accordance vi^ith the main principles of the report,
but for particular reasons he declined voting for the result as a whole.


The questions of principle concerning which this council is called
to advise, grow out of the refusal of the Tabernacle Church in
Salem to grant a letter of dismission and recommendation to one
of their members, Mr. Ezekiel Goss, to the Howard Street
Church* on the following alleged grounds:

1 . That that church was dissolved by a vote of a majority of
the Church in accordance with the advice of a mutual council.

2. That die Essex South Conference had sustained the vahdity
of the action of the aforesaid majority.

3. That it is not consistent with the principles of order and
fellowship in our Congregational churches, nor promotive of the
best interests of the community, to recognizes the claims of those
who now assume to be the original Howard Street Church, as vahd.f

It was also made manifest to the council, that these were the only
grounds on which the letter was refused, no other cause being
assigned in the documents of the church.

It was indeed reported by the committee of the church, that
they had intimated to him that his absence from church meetings,
public worship and the sacramental seasons of the church, was irreg-
ular and contrary to his covenant, and seemed to proceed from alien-
ation of feeling, and that on this ground it was improper to grant
his request.:]: But he was expressly told by the pastor that the
church did not adopt or sanction this report. § Mr. Goss stated in
a letter to the church, Sept. 14, 1849, " I know of no unkind fsel-
ing to any member on my part; if there is or has been, I wish their
forgiveness, as they would be foro-iven."j| In Oct. 12, 1849, he
said concerning his absence, in another communication addressed
to the church, " I acted in good faith, supposing that I was in order.
I was doing as others had done without reproach. The pastor
knew of my course and my feeling." He then states that if the pas-
tor and others thought that he was doing wrong, they ought in cove-
nant fidelity to have admonished him, "but as it is, I did not know
that I was guilty until I asked to be dismissed, and now I cannot see
it. I repeat that if any have been grieved with any of my wrong do-
ing, I humbly ask them to forgive, and when I am sensible what
the wrong is, I will endeavor to make all suitable reparations."

This communication however the pastor and church refused to
allow him to read — and when he desired to speak on what the com-
mittee had said to him, they refused to hear him. The reason as-
signed for this was: the church had not adopted and thus endorsed
the statements of the committee, and that the church had neither

* Appendix No. 1. t No. 2.

tNo.3. §No. 4. II No. 5.



charges nor charge agamst him. It was repeatedly said to him, " we
have nothing against you,"* and therefore he was not allowed to
speak. Here then a brother had come before the church desirous
to see his offence, if any there were, desirous to confess and make
rej)aration when convinced, desirous so to explain his conduct as to
give satisfaction, and yet was not allowed to speak, on the ground
that they had nothing against him. Is it right now in such a case
to hold back grounds of grievance, if any there are, and to refuse
to hear any explanations or receive any confessions or satisfaction
that might have been made, on the oft repeated ground that they
had nothing against him; and yet to reixise him a letter, and then
when he asks rehef of an ecclesiastical council, to throw in an
intimation that he Vv^as under an unfinished course of discipline?
Or even to intimate that they were about to commence a course.''
But even this last intimation was rebutted by direct testimony.
For when it was suggested to the church to begin to deal with
him, the pastor objected and they refused so to do.f

We therefore are satisfied that the brother w^as not under a process
of disciphne, but is in good and regular standing. Moreover, as he
expressed sorrow and asked forgiveness if he had grieved his breth-
ren, disclaimed all intention or consciousness of doing wrong, and of-
fered to do all in his power to make reparation when convinced of
wrong, he did all that he could, and of course all that any one
could reasonably demand to give satisfaction to his brethren. If
then the pastor and church refused to receive satisfaction when he
desired to give it, it is no part or province of Christian discipline
to reserve offences for future consideration, and to intimate to him
or to the council, that perhaps, hereafter, they may call him to
account. To do this is rather to abuse discipline as a means of
impeding him in securing his rights, than to follow the law of
Christ, if thy brother say unto thee I repent, thou shalt forgive him.

The council is of opinion that when a member appUe^ for letters
of testimonial and of dismission and no process of discipline is pend-
ing against him, he is entitled to receive them unless some brother
declares that he is offended, and will take immediate steps of gospel
disciphne in respect to it. Otherwise a member could never se-
cure his rights so long as either the pastor or any other brother
saw fit to say that perhaps hereafter he should commence disciphne.

As a council, therefore, we are not called on to interfere with
an unfinished case of discipline. No process of discipline had
been commenced. On the other hand, the brother is in good and
regular standing in his church.

We are therefore called to consider simply the alleged dissolu-
* Nu. 6. t No. 4.


tion of the Howard Street Church, and the action of the Essex
South Conference with respect to it, as the reasons for denying to
Mr. Goss a letter to the Howard Street Church.

It was also made clear to the council that Mr. Goss had proposed
to the Tabernacle Church to call a mutual council to advise with
reference to the validity of these reasons,* and that they had re-
fused to accept his proposal. f The reasons assigned by the church
for refusing to unite in calling a mutual council are in substance,
that their own action with reference to Howard Street Church, was
taken with much carefulness, and under a constraining sense of
dut)^ to vindicate and support the fundamental principles and ac-
credited usages of our Congregational order, as affecting the inde-
pendence of each church respectively, and the inahenable rights of
majorities in each church, and that there is no existing occasion to
submit its doings to the revision of a council, neither is there any
sueh occasion apprehended in the changes of the future.

We suppose that whenever an individual feels his rights invaded
by the action of a church, similar reasons might be assigned by the
church for refusing to unite in a mutual council. A church will of
course be satisfied that they have acted carefully, and under a
sense of duty, and it ic natural to feel that no advice is needed or
is likely to be. But suppose that the individual difters from the
church as to what are the fundamental principles and accredited
usages of Congregationalism, and believes them to be violated,
and not defended by the church.^ Has he no remedy?

If such reasons for refusing a mutual council are valid, then in-
dividuals have no possible mode left of vindicating their rights, and
nothing remains but universal and unconditional submission to
whatever the church shall see fit to do. But it was the express
design of our ancestors in establishing ex parte councils, to avert
such a result, and thereby prevent our churches from becoming
irremediable despotisms. It is therefore plain to the council that
a sufficient ground for convening us has been made out, and that
duty calls on us to consider the questions at issue, and to give such
advice as has been requested.

In entering upon the discharge of this duty, we cannot but be
deeply affected with the importance of the principles involved.
We are well assured that a case similar to the one in question has
rarely, if ever, occurred in the history of our churches. The
principles on which it was attempted to dissolve the Howard
Street Church, and by which that act is defended, are not only
novel, but in our judgement would, if carried out, effect an entire
revolution in our churches as it regards the import and sacredness

* No. 7. t No- 8.


of the covenants by which they are bound together; and furnish
a new instrument of destruction, to be used in every case of diffi-
cuhy and division in a church. Great, therefore, as is the re-
spect and affection with which we regard the brethren who have
introduced and are attempting to defend these new doctrines in our
churches, we feel constrained to do all in our power to subject
them to a thorough scrutiny, and to call on our churches decidedly
to reject them, as at war with the fundamental principles of our
system, and the obvious dictates of truth and righteousness.

And inasmuch as the Tabernacle Church has seen fit to appeal
to "the fundamental principles, and accredited usages," of our
churches, and the Essex South Conference has inimated that
"precedents" sustain their decision,*" we shall commence our
investigations by the inquiry, what these "fundamental principles
and accredited usages," and "precedents" are, in the present
case ?

It will, therefore, be seen at once, that the present enquiry is
not. Are our Congregational principles and usages right, and can
they be defended by an appeal to the bible.'' but. What are they
in fact.'' If our brethren shall ever see fit, professedly, to repudiate
them, then it will be time to defend them. But, so long as they
appeal to them for support, it is only necessary to inquire what
they are.

It is obvious, also that the principles, usages and precedents,
which we are called on especially to consider, are those which
relate to the covenant, by which believers in our churches are
bound to God, and to each other.

We proceed with the more pleasure to consider our fathers'
views of the church covenant, because it is a point on which the
founders of our system were perfectly agreed, and to which they
attached the highest importance. With them the covenant was
not only a fundamental principle of the system, but, as they held
it, it was the fundamental principle of the whole Congregational
fabric. Davenport, in his defence of Congregationahsm against
Paget, speaking of the "formal cause " that is, the organizing
principle of the church, says, " this holy society, the Church of
Christ, arises from the coadunition or knitting together of many
saints, into one (body), hj a holy covenant, whereby they, as
hvely stones, are built up a spiritual house. 1 Pet. 2: 4, 5.
Though a church covenant be common to all churches, in its gen-
eral nature, yet there is a special combination, which gives a pecu-
liar being to one Congregational church and its members, distinct
from all others; else how could one church have that power over
its own members, which another hath not.''

* No. 9.


In Hooker's Survey, Pt. 1., chap, iv., the inquiry is raised,
' What is that which makes the church to be that which it is ? The
reply is, not invisible union and communion with Christ, put "mu-
tual covenanting and confederating of the saints in the fellowship
of the faith, according to the order of the gospel, is that which
gives constitution and being to a visible church." Of this their
antagonists were fully aware.

Rathband charged on the Congregationalists, as an error, that
they made " what they call the Church Covenant, wereby all the
members of the Society (Church) are united to Christ, and to
one another," "absolutely necessary, essential, and constitutional
to and of the true Church." Welde admits that this is their view
of "a pure Congregational Church, as it is refined according to
the platform of. the Gospel."

For this principle, as held and applied by them, they were
attacked both in England and elsewhere, by the opponents of Con-
gregationahsm. In 1637, certain ministers in England undertook
to call the New England brethren to account, for opinions and
practices deemed by them "groundless and unwarrantable," and
forwarded nine positions of this sort to them, on which they de-
manded their judgement. Of these, the sixth stated what they
deemed the unwarrantable claim that no church member could
withdraw from a church, ^vithout leave first obtained from the
church. The New England ministers admitted the principle,
and defended it, on the ground that the church covenant, of necess-
ity, imphed it. This called out a full statement of their views of
the covenant.* This, according to them, consists in four par-

1. " Every member, at his admission, doth openly profess, and
solemnly promise, that, by Christ's help assisting, he will not only,
in general, give up himself, — as to the Lord, to be guided by him,
so to the church according to God, to be directed by it;" but
also, in particular, that he will perform all duties of brotherly love
and faithfulness to the body ; as of dilligent watchfulness over all
his brethren, thereby to prevent sin ; so of faithful admonition,
after their falls, to regain them to the Lord from their sin."

2. " The engagements are not made only by the members ad-
mitted into the church, but by the church back again to the mem-
bers. So that, thereby, the whole church in general, and every
member in particular, stand as well in conscience bound, to per-
form all duties of love and watchfulness to him, as he doth to

3. " These promises, thus lawfully and mutually made, that

* Written, in all probability, by the celebrated John Cotton,

14 ,

members, as also the whole church, are bound, not only every one
for himself actively to perform them, but passively also, to suffer
his bretlii-en to do these offices upon and towaids himself. If he
neglect the former, he shall falsify his covenant, so solemnly, be-
fore God, angels and men, made ; and so not only break his
promise to his brethren, contrary to Ps. 15 : 4, but also, in some
sort, commit the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, in lying against the
Holy Ghost, condemned and severely punished by God's o\^m
hand. If he fail in the latter, he shall not only be guilty of the
same sin of breach of covenant with God and man, as in the for-
mer, but shall also be guilty of this folly of despising council, so
much condemned, and shall also proclaim this his folly and pride,
by showing to all the church that he is wise in his own eyes, and
leans to his own wisdom, both reproved in Prov. 3: 7, and 23: 4."

4. From all these things premised, it appears that we can do no
less — and yet we do no more than, first, require a member, before
he depart, according to our covenant, thus lawfully, deliberately,
and mutually made, to express to his brethren his desire of depart-
ing, and the place and society to which he tends — whether to a
godly church, where he may be edified, or to some corrupt assem-
bly where he may be destroyed! and, secondly, require his
grounds and reasons which moved him so to do." All of these
particulars are sustained by an appeal to the word of God. Thus
did New England, in a clear and eloquent testimony, utter to Old
England her deepest and most settled convictions as to the nature
and effects of a church covenant. And it here deserves especial
notice how clearly they enforce the truth, the mutual covenant be-
tween member and member^ is not separable from the cove7iant with
God, but is a part of it ; so that, to violate it, is to lie to the Holy
Ghost, as did Ananias and Sapphira. In short they covenant with
God, not only to serve him, but also to enter into a church state
v/ith each other, and to fulfil the vows made to each other, in
coming into that relation, so that the covenant with man cannot be
broken without breaking the covenant with God.

It was charged upon our fathers as an offence, that they held such
views of the covenant. In 1644, Rathband endeavored to set forth
in an odious light, the principles of our New England fathers — to
whom Welde, of Roxbury, replied. And it is very striking, that,
among other things, Rathband quotes, for this purpose, the cove-
nant of the Church in Salem, as follows: "We whose names are
hereunder written, members of the present Church of Christ, at
Salem, &c., solemnly, in the presence of God, &c., renew this
church covenant, which we find this church bound unto at their
first beginning, viz., we covenant with the Lord, and one another,


and do bind ourselves in the presence of God, to walk together in
all the ways of God, according as he is pleased to reveal himself
unto us in his word ; and after many specifications, 'we promise to
walk with our brethren and sisters in this congregation (church),
with all watchfulness and tenderness.'" Here the covenant with
man is included in the covenant w^ith God, — "We covenant with
God, and with one another, to walk together in a church state,"
is its import. This same view, as will appear elsewhere, is found
in Cotton Mather's Ratio, in 1776, and was then the common form
of the churches. We shall also show in another place that it is incor-
porated at this very day in the covenant of the Tabernacle Church in
Salem. Moreover, this view of their assailants charged on them as
an error. Rathband says, that in their definition of a covenant, it is
included, "that they bind themselves to the Lord, to walk in all
such ways of holy worship to him, and of edification, one towards
another, as God himself hath required of every church, and the
members thereof." — Apol. p. 5; Discov. of Gov. p. 3. This
Welde concedes.

Such were the views of our fathers on this most momentous
theme. Nor were they heedlessly formed ; for holding ihem they
were subjected to severe and long continued attacks, and deep
study and earnest prayer was needed to sustain and vindicate their
truth. Burton in his defence of Congregationahsm, against Bast-
wick, 1645, says: "Now the very name of covenant is become a
bugbear to many," and again, "you tell us that our gathering of
churches hath no example in Scripture." Rathband says, that
"the Apostles went a shorter way to work — because the Holy
Ghost had given them no such direction, nor was this matter of a
church constitution (by a covenant) then hatcht. "

In Hooker's Survey, the whole of the 7th chapter of Part I. is
devoted to answering the arguments against their views of the
church covenant alleged by Rutherford and various others.

Finally, the same doctrine is embodied in the Cambridge Plat-
form, ch. 4: sec. 1, 2, 3, where the following words are worthy
of particular notice. After stating that particular charches can be

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 24 of 51)