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 31 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 31 of 51)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sessed of superior knowledge of our ecclesiastical forms ; and quite as
natural that they should wish the public to be informed of their high
attainments, — especially upon so good authority as their own convic-
tions. We do not undertake to deny, that the gentlemen may be pecu-
liarly distinguished for their knowledge of the ecclesiastical system of
New England ; and when they will bring other and better evidence of
their claim, than the pamphlet under review furnishes, we will endeavor
to give it the most candid attention, and allow it all its just weight.
They must permit us to say, however, that arguments which filled of
producing conviction, before the subject was submitted to the Council,
appear no stronger when put in the imposing form of a Result, —
accompanied with strong asseverations, and expressions of unmitigated
disapprobation of the alleged new doctrines, which they stigmatize
and attem^pt to overthrow.

In all their proceedings, Mr. Goss, of the Tabernacle Church —
whose alleged grievance was made the occasion of this Council — was
in reality of but little importance. It is only necessary to know, that
he left Salem for California, a few days after the assembling of the
Council, December 4th ; that the Council, with the full knowledge of
his purpose to leave, recommended an enlargement of their numbers,
by a new edition of his Letters Missive; and that they voted an
adjournment to December 18th, — at which time, Mr. Goss himself
was in raid ocean, between New York and Chagres. Of this fact,
however, the Result has given the public not the least intimation !

The Council voted Mr. Goss to be in good standing in the Taber-
nacle Church, " so far as" they were "advised," — and yet at least
one half of them had never asked him a (|uestion, nor had ever seen
his face I They advised him to apply again for a letter of dismission
from the Tabernacle Church, — and if a letter of dismission in good
and regular standing be not granted, those at Howard Street are ad-
vised and authorized by the said Council, to receive him as a worthy
member of their body ! Thus have they, as if a High Court of
Appeals, absolutely adjudicated upon the standing of a member of the
Tabernacle Church, in utter disregard and disallowance of the known
views and opinions of that Church ; — that member being, also, at the
very time, far away on the high seas, — in the expectation of a long
absence on the other side of this North American continent !

We ask now, in solemn earnest, of our Congregational brethren
generally, if the like has ever been known among us, from the begin-
ning hitherto? And we have also to ask, whether, if these things are
so, it would be very difficult for the Tabernacle Church to convene, at

an early day, a much larger Council ; and whether it would be alto-
gether extraordinary, if such Council should pronounce an unanimous
and unqualified disapproval of such proceedings of their brethren?

Some explanation of these proceedings, which many will consider
most mysterious, may be furnished in the sequel of our review. But
if we were at liberty to relate in full all that we might, there would be
very little of mystery left.

Of the "Result" in general, it may be truly said, that it gives very
great satisfaction to those who prepared it, as well as those for whose
immediate pleasure, and in conformity to whose will, it was prepared.
It first very briefly disposes of the case of Mr. Goss, so far as relates
to his standing in the Tabernacle Church, but distorting and misrep-
representing it, in every essential point; and then proceeds with a
detailed and very carefully prepared statement of reasons for con-
demning and disallowing the vote of the majority by which the How-
ard Street Church was declared to be dissolved. In the Appendix,
we find most of the documents in the case, both in general and par-
ticular, — except the Letter Missive of Mr. Goss. There were some
proceedings and votes also of the Tabernacle Church, which the
Council did not happen to have before them ; but which they may be
more surprised than gratified, to find in this review of their doings.

No one appeared as a witness before the Council, except those who
were personally committed, by opinion and action, on the side of Mr.
Goss or of those at Howard Street. All questions, however, pertain-
ing to the majority, or the minority of the original Howard Street
Church ; — to the Council which advised the disbandment of that
Church ; — or to the Essex South Conference, which denied the dele-
gates of the minority a right to a seat in the Conference ; — or to the
Tabernacle Church, in recognizing the validity of the act of the ma-
jority of the Howard Street Church ; — or to the incidental claims of
Mr. Goss to good standing in the Tabernacle Church and to a letter
of dismission ; — all questions upon these points, to say nothing of
others, this Result of an Ex parte Council assumes to have been
considered, adjudicated, and settled finally and forever, — most easily,
most wisely, most perfectly, and triumphantly !

This, we are free to say, is a little beyond what the public had ex-
pected of them, — and, as we think, quite as much as they have
accomplished. We must also be allowed to add, that the course pur-
sued by two previous Councils, did not altogether encourage us to ex-
pect, that, as a body, the brethren of the new Council would, in any
proper manner, investigate the facts or apply the principles, which
are so important to a correct judgment upon the Howard Street ques-
tion, or upon the incidental or secondary matter of Mr. Goss. The
proceedings have been far more objectionable, than we could have
allowed ourselves to anticipate. It is on this account mainly, that we
shall present a full statement of the case of Mr. Goss, with particulars
which we should have been glad to omit; in order that the disinter-
ested and impartial in our churches may see what an encroachment
upon their independence and rights of discipline has been attempted,
if not perpetrated, under the plausible pretence of vindicating the lib-
erties and privileges of an individual. At the very least, it will be
seen from our exhibition of the true standing of Mr. Goss, and the ac-

tion of the Tabernacle Church, that it is but small confidence that
can safely be reposed in the Results of Ex parte Councils.

According to the designs of the founders of our Congregational
system, an ex-parte Council was to be called, only in the last resort,
and in a very obvious case of urgent necessity. About thirty years
since it had become so common to have recourse to such Councils, —
that the subject arrested the very special attention of some of our
most intelligent and judicious ministers. And the General Association
of Massachusetts, in 1823, passed a vote, — That it he recommended
to the 7innisters connected with this Associaton, not to attend ex-parte
Councils, without much deliberation and obvious and urgent necessity.

Of late years, this wise and wholesome recommendation would seem
to have been entirely forgotten, and by those too who might have been
presumed to be well aware of it, and to be ready always to fulfill its
purpose to the very letter. We are amazed, that some at least of the
older members of the late Council should not have better remembered
the above vote of the General Association. We wish always to regard
the brethren of this Council, with most cordial respect and esteem.
And therefore it is, that we feel the more intensely mortified, that they
should have suffered themselves to be so deceived and misled, or should
have so deceived themselves, as to have given the enemies of our sys-
tem of Church polity, one of the most palpable of all occasions ever
Zi^otde^ fur reproach and railing accusation. If the pastors and lay
brethren are not more vigilant in regard to ex-parte Councils, the day
is near, when it will be true beyond dispute, — that such Councils may
be so chosen at any time, be so constituted, and be so controlled, as to
issue any kind of result whatsoever, at the will of any disaffected
member, or of any pestilent faction in our churches.

§ The true standing of Mr. Goss, in the Tabernacle Church.

Mr. Ezekiel Goss joined the Tabernacle Church in 1S32. He was
then a very young man. His disposition appeared to be amiable and
his Christian profession truly sincere. In a few years, he began to ex-
hibit very unequivocal indications of a mode of thinking and speaking
upon various important subjects, religious, moral, and political, — which
awakened very serious apprehensions, relative to his Christian stability
and usefulness. In a church which in no respect has given counte-
nance to the spirit of ultraism, he found himself at times quite dissat-
isfied and uncomfortable. He was not always " slow to speak," and
to attempt to express his sentiments impromptu, upon any question,
however new to him, or however difficult ; very much as if he had
reason to claim an intuitive and unerring perception, both of what is
true and what is scriptural. And so intensely were his thoughts ab-
sorbed by the subject of slave-holding, that he was sure to give it the
greatest prominence, whenever he led in prayer, let the place or the
occasion be what it might.

He had, however, concluded to say no more to the Church, in
speeches on this subject, just about the time when a case of discipline
arose, growing out of the infatuation of Mi/la-ism. An individual,
who had withdrawn from the Church, and had desired no longer to be
considered a member, was found to be irreclaimable, after all appropri-

ate efforts had been made to restore him to his place. It was hoped
in charity, that he had not forfeited his title to be thought a Christian,
although he was the victim of a gross delusion. Mr. Goss, without
the smallest assistance from any member of the Church, most deter-
minedly opposed the action of the Church in withdrawing all watch
and care from that member. The established rules of the Church,
and the most convincing arguments for withdrawal from those " walk-
ing disorderly," he resisted and denounced as if wholly unscriptural
and unwarranted. He contended, also, that if the Church passed a
vote of withdrawal, as proposed, it would be the same, as to exclude
the member from the kingdom of heaven ! And in maintaining such
views, he occupied the time of the Church, for the greater part of two

He was greatly displeased with some of his brethren, and particularly
oiFended with the pastor. He immediately left the weekly meetings of
the Church, which he had been accustomed to attend with a most ex-
emplary punctuality ; and attended them no more. This was in May,
1846, nearly a whole year, it should be noted, before the act of disso-
lution of the Howard Street Church. Very soon after this act he not
only absented himself from the weekly meetings, but also from the
house of worship and from the communion of the Church to which he
belongs. In the winter of 1S47-S, he was rarely seen at the Taber-
nacle ; and early in the ensuing Spring, if not earlier, he was at the
communion of the Church, for the last time.

Meanwhile, during all the period which followed his abandonment
of the Church meetings, he had been perfectly open in his complaints
of the pastor, and of the Church generally. He was conversed with
kindly ; — was reasoned with ; — and was solicited to return to his place ;
— in short, every suitable means was used to convince him that he was
wrong in his views of the pastor and the Church, and wrong in his
feelings. Much tenderness and forbearance were exercised towards
him, on his own account; and also from regard to his family, and par-
ticular friends in the Church.

He became more and more untractable, — the more he associated
with the minority at Howard Street, and the more he identified himself
with their controversy. Very severe reproaches against the Church
have fallen from his lips, — when vindicating his absence from the
Church, — although the brethren to whom he spoke, were among the
mildest in manner, and most worthy of his love and respect. Very
wide from the truth is the intimation of the Result, (p. 9) upon his
authority, that he had never been " admonished in covenant fidelity,"
t as one that was " doing wrong."

Repeatedly had his absence from the Church, and his wrong feel-
ings, been a subject of remark, in the private deliberations of the
oflicers of the Church. And the question had been discussed, whether
in the regular mode a process of discipline should be commenced, for
"disorderly walk." It was on the whole thought expedient to delay
somewhat longer, for reasons just mentioned ; and, also, lest, as the
Howard Street Question had become so •' vexed " and irritating, the
true motive of the discipline should not be appreciated, and the case
should be embarrassed by entanglements with other issues than its


But the case would have been brought to the notice of the Church,
by a formal process, — in a very short time, — and measures were
already in contemplation, — when his request was handed to the pas-
tor, that he should " be dismissed and recommended to the Howard
Street Church."

The request was communicated, August 24. A brother of the
Church, who, as one of the officers, had known of the case aa it had
been viewed in the private deliberations referred to, and who himself
was ready, as complainant, to proceed at a proper time,— immediately
arose, and stated his objections to a compliance with the request. He
spoke at some length upon the spirit and the feelings, which his
brother Goss had manifested, — in conversations which he had had with
him, — and of which he had heard from others. He mentioned also,
that the long absence of brother Goss from the Church was in his view
of it a sufficient reason why his request could not then be granted.

Another member of the Church added, that beside what had been
said, there would be an objection to the request, because of the stand-
ing of those at Howard Street. There would be an inconsistency in
the doings of the Church, if brother Goss should be recommended in
the manner requested ; for the Tabernacle Church had considered the
Howard Street Church as having been dissolved. Much less, how-
ever, was said upon this point, than upon the manner in which brother
Goss had left the Church, and the feelings of alienation from his breth
ren, which he had appeared to cherish.

One member of the Church, who from the first had taken a different
view of the Howard Street question, expressed an opinion, that the
Church ought to be perfectly open and undisguised in acting upon the
request of brother Goss. To this the pastor responded his entire con-
currence ; and stated, that in his judgment the course of brother Goss
had been such, that he could not, at the present time, be recommended
to any church. He said that, although it was very common in churches
to recommend persons, as in good and regular standing, when in fact
they were not in "good" standing, — and in one or two instances he
believed the Tabernacle Church had so done ; — yet he had long since
determined, — as he had already more than once avowed the determi-
nation in their hearing, — that he would never consent to a mode of
procedure, which he could not but regard as a breach of good faith
towards sister churches.

He also stated, that such had been the proceedings of the Church,
particularly in receiving members from Howard Street, as if the Church
had been dissolved, — that it could not be consistent for the Church to
dismiss brother Goss, according to his request, even if there were no
difficulties arising from the manner in which he had left the Church.

When the pastor closed his remarks, it was moved and voted,

" That under existing circumstances the request of brother Goss can-
not he granted."*

* The late Clerk of the Church made a record, that " after some discussion in a
kindly manner, it was voted not to grant the request, in view of existing circum-
Btances." But his note to Mr. Goss, as published in the Appendix to the Result of
the Council, reads as follows :

Salem, Mg. 25, 1849.

To Mr. E. GosB,— At a meeting of the Tabernacle Church last evening your

These were the exact words of the vote, according to the remem-
brance of the pastor, and the Minutes also, which, in anticipation of
certain contingencies, he thought best himself to keep. And from
what has been developed, in the progress of the case, it seems very
providential, that he should have kept such Minutes.

It is here important to notice distinctly, that the objections to
brother Goss's request, — which related to him personally, — were not
offered as accusations, or cJuirges. It is not the manner of the Taber-
nacle Church to put any of its members on trial, or to entertain any
charges against its members, until a complaint has been presented,
according to the model in the 18th of Matthew. The prescription of
the Saviour, relative to private offences, has, for many years, been very
rigorously observed, in all cases whatever.

What was said of Mr. Goss, was said from the occasion which he
had himself created. Objections, on the ground of his manner of
leaving the Church, and of his long absence, with the accompanying
circumstances, — in a word, his irregular and clisorclerly ivalk, — were
offered, just as objections would have been, if he had been known, or
was supposed, to be guilty of an act of immorality. He had no right
to claim to be in good standing, simply because he had not been
*' dealt with" in a disciplinary manner. Most assuredly a member
may be obnoxious to discipline, — and may be a most flagrant offender,
— although the "first step" may not have been taken, to bring his
case before the Church for adjudication. And we demur, altogether,
at the " opinion of the Council, that when a member applies for let-
ters of testimonial and 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
discipline in respect to it. Otherwise a member could never secure
his rights, so long as either the pastor or any other brother saw fit to
say, that perhaps hereafter he should commence discipline." — Re-
sult, p. 10.

The brethren of the Church have some " rights," as well as the
petitioner ; and among these the right to determine when, and in what
manner, they will proceed in a case of discipline. Most inexpedient
might it be, to " take immediate steps.^' There is no one thing, in
regard to which more wisdom is necessary, than in choosing or fixing
the time for a process of church discipline.

If the petitioner for a letter of dismission should be informed, that
there are objections in the way, he ought, as a Christian brother, to
submit patiently to the delay of the Church, until such delay is clearly
unreasonable. And to say, as the Council do, that " he is entitled to
receive letters of testimonial and dismission, if no process of disci-
pline is pending, or unless some brother declares that he is offended,
and will take immediate steps of gospel discipline, in respect to it," —
would seem to us to be about as pure Congregationalism, according to
the "Platforms" and the " Fathers," as it would be for the pastor of
a church to go into the meeting of another church, and, in the very

request was presented, and after some discussion in a kindly vianner, the following
vote was passed*:

" Viz. — Tliat in view of the circumstances in the case, the requ«st be not
granted. Humphrey Cook, Ch. Clerk"



face of the pastor of that church, assist in an effort to compel him to
ask a dismission.

September 7th, or two weeks after the request of brother Goss had
been refused, — a letter was received from him, asking for a statement
of the reasons why it was not granted. Without any discussion what-
ever, it was immediately voted, that two of the deacons of the Church
should be a Committee to wait upon brother Goss, and state to him
the reasons.

No instructions were given them. The simple object was, to con-
verse with brother Goss, in a kind, fraternal manner, and answer any
questions which he might be disposed to ask. It may also be added,
that an interview with him would very soon have been had, without
any vote of the Church.

One week afterwards, or September 14, in the known absence of
the pastor, and at a meeting, which was also known to be not the reg-
ular meeting for business, a communication was presented to the
Church, purporting to be an answer of Mr. Goss to the statements of
the Committee of the Church, who had waited upon him, the evening

After some remarks, a brother of the Church earnestly moved the
following resolution: — '' Resolved, That the explanations of brother
Goss, in regard lo his leaving the Church with unkind feelings, be
accepted by this Church as perfectly satisfactory P

Strenuous effort was made by the mover to obtain a vote upon this
resolution. The Committee in regard to whose statements Mr. Goss
had sent his communication, reminded the Church, that they had
neither reported their doings, nor did they intend to report that even-
ino-. The communication and the resolution were laid upon the table.
Such was the statement of facts, which was made to the pastor, on his
return home ; and of which there can be no contradiction. It was
now apparent, that influences out of the Church were not withheld, in
an attempt to coerce the Church to recede from the ground, which
had been intelligently and deliberately taken, and " in all good con-

September 28, at the regular meeting for business, the Committee
appointed Sept. 7, made their report.

To the Tabernacle Church.

The Comaiittee appointed to explain to Br. Ezekiel Goss the reasons why
the Church could not grant his request to be dismissed and recommended to
the Howard Street Church, so called, have attended to the service.

Agreeably lo what was stated at the time his request was acted upon, the
Committee informed Br. Goss that it would not be at all consistent for this
Church to grant his request, because the standing of those with whom he
desired to be connected is considered by this Church to be irregular.

The Committee also stated to Br. Goss that his own walk had been irreg-
ular ; they reminded him that he had not fulfilled his covenant engagements,
inasmuch as he not only absented himself from the meeting of the Church
which he used to attend very constantly, but has not for a considerable time
worshipped with the Church or been present at their communion season.
This absence appeared to be in consequence of some offence which he had
taken, or some alienation of feeling which ought not to exist, and therefore it
would not be proper to grant his request, even if there was no objection in


regard to the standing of those to whom he has requested to be dismissed

and recommended.

Ira a. Brewster, ) ^-i •«
T„„. T> } Committee.


Salem, Sept. 28th, 1849.

This Report was accepted. The letter of Mr. Goss was then read.

Salem, Sept. Uth, 1849.(
To the Tabernacle Church.

Dear Brethren : — Deacon Perley and Brewster called on me last evening
as a Committee of the Church to explain the circumstances in the case why
you voted not to grant my request for a dismission and letter to the Howard
Street Church.

The first reason they gave was, That the course the Church had taken in
regard to the Howard Street Church, in receiving her members was, that the
Church is broken up, and therefore to be consistent with that course could
not grant my request. The second was, That the Church apprehended that
there might be ill feelings towards some members of the Church. Whether
that apprehension was well grounded they knew not, except my long absence
from the communion.

In reply to the first, I will inform the Church, that the brethren and sisters
that remain at the Howard Street Church sought counsel and advice of
sister churches (with which you are in fellowship) in their trials and
difficulties, and have acted in accordance with that advice, and since then
they have settled a pastor by Council of sister churches, to which you have
and are accustomed to dismiss and receive members, and to which you also
were invited. You cannot therefore expect me to surrender my rights and
privileges to such a plea. I therefore renew my request.

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 31 of 51)