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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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 33 of 51)
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that the Church may receive him in faith, and not be corrupted in
receiving deceivers and false brethren. Until the person dismissed be
received into another Church, he ceaseth not by his letters of dismis-
sion to be a member of the Church whereof he was. The Church
cannot make a member no member, but by excommunication."

We shall prove, that a Church can make a member no member, in
other ways ; yet all this, in the true sense of the Platform, we fully
maintain. And by consequence, we say that Ezekiel Goss had vio-
lated his covenant engagements; and that the Ex parte Council have
noiv justified him. in doing as he did.

They have also exerted themselves to the utmost, to " make him no
member " of the Tabernacle Church, by " an example," in him and
in themselves, " which," in words of the Platform, " if many should
follow, would threaten the dissolution and confusion of Churches."

After the meeting of September 28th, it was hoped, that the case
of Mr. Goss would, for a time at least, not require the action of
the Church. The purpose was to treat him affectionately, and en-
deavor to persuade him to pursue such a course, as would preclude


the necessity of a complaint against him, and an adjudication in the

There was no good reason, as was felt, for any haste or urgency of
movement. It was indeed reported, that Mr. Goss had thoughts of
going to California. If so, it was considered by some of his brethren,
a very strong reason why he should not press the Chvrch to grant his
request. And so excited had he become, — so aroused was his spirit
of opposition to the Church, — so pertinaciously and determinedly, in
conversations with brethren and others, did he insist upon having his
request granted, — that he was in no proper state of mind, to encourage
hope of very early and satisfactory acknowledgments to the Church,
for withdrawing as he had. Neither did it seem advisable to under-
take immediately the work of regular discipline. There may have
been a mistake in this, on the side of lenity and brotherly kindness.
But may tiie day never come, when the Tabernacle Church will do
business, as the Council say that they ought to have done, in the case
of Mr. Goss.

But why did not the Council complain of the Church, for not
having proceeded faster, — when Mr. Goss might soon wish to go to
California? Was it because, that they did not think it well to inform
their readers that they themselves took their own time to attend to
his desires, and that while some were "6?<S3/ here and there, he was
gone ? " *

- At the very next meeting of the Church, October 12, Mr. Goss
appeared in person, and wished to read a communication. Objection
was made, that as his case now stood, it was not in order for the
Church to give him a hearing. He then immediately retired.

October 26th, it being the regular monthly meeting for business, he
again appeared, and wished to present a written communication. Ob-
jection was again made. Brethren, who opposed the reading of the
document, expressed an entire willingness to hear any statement from
their brother Goss, relative to his feelings or position — provided he
did not intend to criminate the Committee of the Church, as was fully
believed that he did ; and that he did not intend to argue the Howard
Street question, upon its general merits. Questions which had been
already considered and settled by final action, they could not then
consent to reconsider. Neither could they deem it proper for him to
address the Church, as if he were on trial, and defending himself
against charges which had regularly come before the Church. No
charges had as yet been brought, and no accusation had been preferred
against him — in any such form or mode — as rendered it suitable for
the Church to listen to any such communication, as they understood,
from his own words and appearance, he was purposing to make. By
a most decided vote, he was not allowed to read his communication.

He then asked if he n)ight be permitted to make a speech to the
Church. The same objections were made, as before, and a similar
vote was passed. There were remarks, it was suggested, which he
could make, that would be in order, and would also be gratifying to
his brethren. But if he wished to occupy the time of the church, in

* See Result, &c. p. 60. — Any time needed for " original investigations" ^



the manner which he gave occasion to anticipate, it would neilher
be according to the established rules of business, nor for the edifica-
tion of the Church, that he should be heard.

The Result says : " This communication the pastor and the
Church refused to allow him to read — and when he desired to speak
on what the Committee had said to him, they refused to hear him.
The reason assigned for this was that the Church had not adopted and
thus endorsed the statements of the Committee, and that the Church
had neither charges nor charge against 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 reparation 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." (p. 10.)

This passage may have been written very easily, but we suspect that
it required some labor. Like too many others of its kind, in the
Result, it has just enough of truth to exempt the writer from the
charge of intentional or conscious misstatement; and much more than
enough of error to make the whole representation utterly fallacious.
How could any of our brethren so far impose upon themselves, as to
give their sanction to such a tissue or complication of improbabilities
V and absurdities ? *

After the refusal of the Church to hear his speech, Mr. Goss showed
himself to be much excited. In a hurried, agitated tone, and as if
trying to suppress his feelings, he said : — " If the Church take such
action in regard to me, I am glad to know what sort of persons I am
among, and what kind of company I have been in. And I therefore
now leave the Church !" V
.^^ He went out, immediately. We have here a question, in respect to
-^ hisleaving the Church, in this manner. If this procedure aloue were
considered, would there not be reason enough for the Church to de-
mand satisfaction ? Could a metnber, aTter such an exhibition of him-
self, justly expect testimonials as in "Jwtt? standing "?■/,• r , ■• / <y /

In a letter from a late member of the Church, to one of the Council,
it is said : " After the Church had refused to hear brother Goss and he
had retired, iit was suggested by some one, that his long absence from
the communion of the Church was wrong, and was a fit subject for
church discipline. Thereupon I immediately rose in my place, and
stated that I hoped a course of discipline would now be commenced
with brother Goss forthwith. The pastor stated in reply, that there
were cases, which, for certain reasons, ought to be delayed ; and inti-
mated that this was a case which ought to be deferred to a future

* In reading some parts of this Result, we have had our patience restored to
good humor, hy rememberinop a remark of a late dislinp;uished counsellnr of Con-
necticut. In one of his profound, but luminous and splendid ]eg;al arguments, he
was repeatedly interrupted by one of those judg;es, who, from the circumstances
of their appointment and their intellectual "darkness visible," were callet) the
" midnight judges." "The office of a counsellor," said one of these to Roger
Minot Sherman, "is to enlighten the Court; not to confuse and perplex them by
abstract discussions and minute distinctions." " Your Honor," — replied the coun-
sellor with a most courteous obeisance, — "is little' aware how hard a task he imposes
upon us " .'

,./y .(.(^-rz.t'A 4~ jo-^^^ ca<^^ /^


time." The letter was written, more than two months after the meet-
ing referred to ; and when in the lapse of time, a very calm and un-
^y^ biassed memory might not recall the precise words which were used at
a given moment, — nor the immediate antecedents, occasions, or sug-
gestions. Words and occurrences may be placed in close or simulta-
neous connection, when, in fact, they were separated by intervals, not
only of minutes or hours, but of weeks and months.

According to the Minutes of the pastor, written out in full, the
third day afterwards, — " As soon as Mr. Goss had retired, the Church
engaged in prayer." And after the prayer, according to the same ^ -^

Minutes, and the distinct recollection of the pastor and that of others, v^" m<^ '
the writer of the letter just quoted arose, before a word was spoken
by any one else, and expressed his opinion, — " that the pastor and
two of the deacons ought to take measures early to bring the case of
brother Goss before the Church, in the way of complaint for walking
disorderly ; for," it was said, " he is now placed in an anomalous situ-

This proposal was " anomalous," and without any precedent or
warrant in the doings of the Church. It was as unexpected, as would
have been a serious motion by that brother, that Mr. Goss should at
once be excommunicated. The hour of closing the meeting having
come, the pastor waited for no one to respond, but briefly expressed
his own views of the duty of the Church.

" Jf any brother thought it suitable to commence a process of disci-
pline, he could do it. But there were times and circumstances, when,
either as it respects the individual himself, or his family, or the
j(r Church, or the community, it is not expedient to move in a case of
-discipline. And such at present was the evident excitement of feel-
irfg, in regard to brother Goss, and in regard to the ecclesiastical rela-
tions of Howard Street Church, so called, that, in the judgment of
the pastor,, it was best for all concerned, that there should be some
, lapse of time, during which, influences might operate to prepare the
K ^v ay for a more calm and judicious attention to any new view of the
1' case which might be presented. The pastor also indicated' his opin-
» ions, in re.-^pect to the course which it became brother Goss to pursue,
when his request was refused ; and the course, which, as a Christian,
simply desiring to do what is right and best, he ought now to pursue."
Such are the Minutes of the pastor, word for word,— two days
only having intervened between the meeting and the time of the record.
But the Result says, — that " when it was suggested to the Church
to begin to deal with him, thr. pastor objected and they refused so to
do!" — p. 10. Was it thus? Are the Council sure ? For authority,
they refer to the letter from a member of the Church, which, we
humbly submit to the Council, is, in some parts, materially defective,
and in others, erroneously interpreted.

Very true it was, that Mr. Goss was not on trial ; and that a process
of discipline had not been commenced ; and that no one had signified
to the Church his intention to commence such a process. But it was
as well understood as any fact could be, that the Church as a body
considered Mr. Gossjms//?/ liable to discipline. The member of the
Church, whose letter appears in the " Appendix " of the Result of


the Council, knew all this ; and therefore could never have designed
to testify any thing to the contrary.

But we have to inquire of the Council, whether, in another respect,
they have made proper use of that letter ? Did they not actually pass
their votes the afternoon hefor-e the conversation between the writer
and Dr. Beecher, in respect to which the letter was written? And
yet a letter of January 8lh, 1850, referring to a conversation, Decem-
ber 19^/i, 1841), — is adduced as the reliable " direct testimony" to a
point, which the Council had decided, December ISth? Whether this
is any better than to make the writer say much more than he said, or
could have intended to say, we leave for others to decide.

On Monday, after the meeting October 26, the pastor sought an in-
terview with Mr. Goss, for the purpose of explaining to him more fully
the reasons, why it was not proper for the Church to hear him in the
manner which he had proposed. He freely admitted, that he in-
tended to argue the question of " the right of a Church to be dissolved,"
and to consider all the points which were connected with his case.
As to the Committee of the Church, he said, that he " meant to prove
that they had violated their engagements with him ; " referring to
what, as he said, was understood by him to be their advice or consent,
in respect to the manner in which he should meet the objections that
had been stated to him, in their interview of September I3ih. And
what he alleged to be true of them, it must here be remarked, they
themselves have most positively denied !

He was asked by the pastor, whether he insisted upon having a let-
ter of dismission to the Howard Street Church, — i. e., a dismission as
if the Church had never been dissolved. He said, that he did; for
there was "a sacred principle involved as to the rights of churches."

When told, that, if the brethren could be satisfied in regard to his
present feelings, they might consent to give him a letter to the South
Church, for example ; — he repelled the suggestion, as if inadmissible.
And yet he said, that when he applied for a dismission, he did not in-
tend to make trouble; and that he did not know but " the Church
might contrive some way to get round the question of Howard Street
Church, without acknowledging it to be the old Church." " We don't
care," said he, " what your opinion is, as to its being the old Church."

He was reminded of the course which he had pursued, and which
certainly appeared as if he was willing to make trouble. And he was
reminded also, that he very loell kneio, that his sympathy with those at
Howard Street loas not the cause or the original occasion of his leav-
ing the Tabernacle Church. To this he made no answer, but turned
the conversation.

He was asked whether he would like to have his case brought before
the Church, in the way of discipline. To this he answered with sur-
prise ; " You cannot do any such thing ; for I have asked a dismission."
He was informed, that any brother of the Church could proceed
against him at any moment. He then said that " he should not like
to be brought before the Church as for a misdemeanor."

From all that occurred in an interview of an hour and a half, during
which not a word was spoken as if from excitement, or any unfriend-
liness, the pastor was more than ever satisfied, that it was most wise


in the Church to refuse, as they did, to hear the communication
which Mr. Goss had intended to make, on the Friday evening previous.
The plain truth is, beyond a question, that he had not the smallest idea
of making any confession or concession, which the Church, in any cir-
cumstances, could have received ; and all that he intended to say, as
''''if" he was sorrij,— ^' if any had been grieved with any of" his
^' wrong doing," — was but a drop in the bucket. He had come pre-
pared, by aid of some, it is believed, who have had far too much to do
in his case, to inflict upon the Church an outpouring, which, if he
could have inflicted upon the late Council, we are quite inclined
to think they would have forgiven him, if he had first gone to Cali-
fornia, without honoring them as he did by his letter missive ; and
without giving them, as he has, the rare opportunity of such an enviable
immortalization, through the " document," which, as the " Congrega-
tionalist" (March 8th) assures the world, — " will go upon [?] the ar-
chives of our ecclesiastical history, as a permanent document bequeath-
ed to the future."

The next day after the interview just described, he called upon the
pastor. " I called," said he, " to see how this would do. Since you
said there are no charges against me, — can't I have a letter to any
Church where in the providence of God my location may be cast?"
" No charges ? " said the pastor ; " I never said that there were no
charges against you. There are no charges before the Church, as if
you were on trial! But you are liable to discipline at any time.
There may be no charges before the Church ; but that is a very differ-
ent thing from saying that there are no charges which can be brought."

" Are you really intending to go to California ? " '' I don't know,"
he replied ; " I have thought 1 should, but J. don't know how it will
be." " If you are intending to go," continued the pastor, — " and you
can satisfy the feelings of the brethren, who certainly are disposed to
deal kindly with you, we can give you a letter to a Church of Christ
in San Francisco, or to any other sister Church ' where in the provi-
dence of God your location may be cast.' But, brother Goss, it
would not be consistent with my ideas of truth and fairness, to give
you such a letter as you have named, — with the understanding, that
you can take it, and go directly down to Howard Street! "

After some further remarks, he said to the pastor, — "Well, then,
there is no other way for me, but I must ask for a Mutual Council.
And I will leave this request with you."

To the Tabernacle Church.

Dear Brethren : — I have repeatedly requested of you a dismission and
recommendation to the Howard Street Church in this city. My request has
as often been refused. I do not now wish to present further reasons for
my request, for I am assured by your pastor that there are no charges
against me, and still my request cannot be granted. I therefore respectfully
request that you will unite with me in calling a Mutual Council according
to the usage of the Congregational Church, to consider and advise with
reference to the following questions, viz :

1st. Was I in good and regular standing as a member of the Tabernacle
Church on the 25th of August, 1849 ?

2d. Has any thing taken place in reference to the question of my request


for a dismission, since that time, that renders it improper that I should have
letter in the usual f. rm ?

3d, Is the standing of the Howard Street Church such that the Tabernacle
Church ought not to recommend menibers to its communion?

I would propose that the Council should be composed of Churches whose
ministers have never been called to act in the case of the Howard Street
Church during its last difficulties.

I will be ready to meet your Committee at any suitable time on a few
hours' notice, for the purpose of selecting the Council and preparing the
letters missive. From your brother in Christ,

EzEKiEL Goss.

Salem, Oct. 30th, 1849.

N. B. On account of business arrangements I would earnestly request
that the Church would act on it on Friday evening next, at the close of their
preparatory lecture.

The above request, it will be noticed, was vi^ritten before the sec-
ond interview with the pastor, afier the meeting of October 26th; and
contains the misstatement concerning the "charges." November 9th,
without any discussion, the Church passed the following vote :

Whereas, our brother Ezekiel Goss has requested this Church to unite
with him in calling a Mutual Council, to consider and advise with reference
to the following questions, viz: —

1st. Was I in good and regular standing as a member of the Tabernacle
Church, on the 25th of August, 1849 ?

2d. Has any thing taken place in reference to the question of my request
for a dismission, since that time, that renders it improper that I should have
a letter in the usual form ?

3d. Is the standing of Howard Street Church such, that the Tabernacle
Church ought not to recommend members to its communion ?

Therefore, voted. That the following answer be given to his request, viz :

In regard to the first of the questions, which it is proposed to submit to a
Mutual Council, the Church has not taken action in a judicial manner, and
the hope has been cherished, and still is, that both the expediency and the
necessity of such action may be entirely precluded. If, however, the long
absence of brother Goss from the communion and meetings of the Church
previous to Aug. 25 should ever be brought before the Church, in the regu-
lar process of discipline, the Church has no reason to anticipate any such
difficulties in the case, as would give occasion, in the smallest degree, for
the advice of a Council.

Upon the second question, which it is proposed to submit to a Mutual
Council, the Church has taken no action whatever, neither has any been
contemplated, so far as is known to the Church. As, therefore, the subject-
matter of neither of these questions has been adjudicated in the Church,
nor even introduced into the Church for the purpose of adjudication, there
can be no propriety in calling a Mutual Council in such circumstances "to
consider and advise with reference" to them.

In relation to the third question, it is true that the Church has taken ac-
tion, and such action as may be inferred from the language used in the letter
of brother Goss. The action of the Church, however, by which the disso-
lution of the Howard Street Church, May 4ih, 1847, has been recognized,
was taken wiih much carefulness and under a constraining sense of duty, to
vindicate and support the fundamental principles and the accredited usages
of the Congregational order, as affecting the independence of each Church
respectively, and the inalienable rights of majorities in each Cliurch. Until
those who now profess to be the original Howard Street Church, as if no


dissolution had ever been voted, shall take a different ground upon which
they will urge their claims to recognition and fellowship as a sister Church,
— the Tabernacle Church cannot, with any consistency or propriety, acknowl-
edge their title to such recognition and fellowship ; so far as known to the
Tabernacle Church, there is no existing occasion to submit its doings, in
respect to this subject, to the revision of a Council ; neither is there any
such occasion apprehended, in the changes of the future. While, therefore,
the Church has none other than the kindest feelings towards brother Goss,
and there is not the least desire to prevent a removal of his relation of mem-
bership to some sister Church, whenever it can be accomplished in an orderly
and satisfactory manner, the request of our brother Goss, that the Church
should unite with him in calling a Mutual Council, must be declined.

This vote was in accordance with the IXth of the Church_ f' Artk.
c]^J' i[) respect to "discipline and government:" — " That, in cases^
of difficulty, wBicTi cannot be settled satisfactorily in the Church, the
advice of sister Churches, by their pastors and delegates, shall be
requested ; and when obtained, be complied with by all parties con-
cerned, unless in their Judgment they have weighty reasons to dissent;
which re isons shall be offered to the Council, when time and circum-
stances will admit of it, and, if otherwise, to the Church, previous to a
dissent, agreeably to Acts xv , Platform, chap, xvi. But in all cases
within the contemplation of this article, a Council is to be regarded
as advisory onli/, without any paramount control over the decisions of
the Church."

§ The Proceedings of the Ex parte Council.

It was, of course, supposed, that an Ex parte Council might be
called. But it was not believed by the pastor of the Church, and by
others, that, if Mr. Goss should send a letter missive to " Churches
whose ministers had never been called to act upon the case of the
Howard Street Church," there would be any that would comply with
his request ; — if he should make known the questions which he had
proposed to submit to a Mutual Council, and the answer of the Church
in declinmg his proposal.

It was also supposed, that there would be some correspondei5ce with
the Tabernacle Church, by the Churches receiving a letter missive
from one of its members, — before any of them would vote to attend
such a Council. And it was confidently presumed, that a very brief
statement of the other party in the case, wouid suffice to convijice any
sensible man, — whether clergyman or layman, — that Ezekiel Goss had
as yet no just ground to ask for a Mutual Council, and much fess t©
■call an Ex parte Council.

*' As the request is made against the opinion and wishes of a major-
ity of the Church," says Uphara in his very valuable work, (the
" Ratio Disciplinae," pp. 195, 6,) " it becomes the Churches, that

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 33 of 51)