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 40 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 40 of 51)
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discerned by the eye. The Council seem to belong to that class of
persons, who, instead of endeavoring to persuade themselves that there
is no ghost, most devoutly believe in the spectre and undertake to
show why it has appeared to them ! They account for the phenom-
enon in the following manner. " Whenever good and intelligent men
go thus far astray, it is not commonly under the influence of absolute
error, but of some important truth, either partially apprehended, or
applied out of its proper sphere. So in the present case, the advo-
cates of these new doctrines profess, and we do not doubt with sincer-



69

ity, to be swayed by a supreme regard to the great principle that, in
a Congregational Church, it is the right of the majority to administer
the government according to their will. — But all who attempt to defend
the proceedings in question by this principle, err in both the particulars
above specified. In the first place they do but partially apprehend the
principle to which they appeal, and, in the second place, they apply it
out of its sphere."

In regard to the first alleged error they say, that " although the power
of government undeniably resides in the majority, yet they can exercise
that power only within given limits, and in accordance with certain
fixed principles." To what is said on this point we in general accede.
We agree that there are moral rules within which a majority should
govern their proceedings ; and that most commonly there are, and
always ought to be, regulations to restrain and guide their action, and
to prevent their becoming despotic and oppressive in the exercise of
their authority. We however do not believe, that any act of a majority
is necessarily invalid, because it is morally wrong; and we think that
the Council commit a great mistake, and show a great want of dis-
crimination in regard to the principle, which they lay down without
any qualification, — that, whenever the majority of a Church comes to
an erroneous conclusion in the management of its affairs, the act is of
course null and void. We cannot, therefore, receive the reasoning on
this topic without some modification.

But when the Council assert, that we do but partially apprehend
the right of the majority to govern, because, as they imply, we admit
no restrictions upon this right, they say what has no foundation at all.
We adtnit the principle of limitation to the will of majorities as really
as they do ; but we have contended that the majority are not prohibited
from disbanding Churches by the nature of Congregational covenants
or any of the principles of our ecclesiastical system. We have shown,
that the dissolution of Churches in this manner, in certain cases, is
the inevitable result of the operation of the provisions of the Platform
and the acknowledged principles of our church-polity ; that the prin-
ciple of right in the majority to govern is in the system ; that it must
be there ; that no received provisions have been made to restrict its
operation to particular cases ; and that, therefore, the majority have
an ecclesiastical right to apply their power to all those cases, to which
in the exercise of their discretion it properly extends. The Church
may improperly exercise this power ; and so they may all other powers
which they possess. But the question is, do they possess this power
at all? The Council contend, that it does not exist in any form or
degree ; and that it can never be exercised in any manner, without a
most palpable violation of the rights of church members, and the prin-
ciples of Congregationalism. We think that the Council have but a
partial apprehension of the principle which they undertake to discuss,
and they have utterly failed of showing that any law of God, any cove-
nant or natural right, any principle or usage of our system, is incon-
sistent with the right of a majority to disband a Church, where it has
ceased in a great measure to answer the ends for which it was organ-
ized. It is not necessary to repeat in this place the course of reason-
ing which we have pursued on this subject.



70

7. The Council further say : —

But even if it were possible to admit the idea that a bare majority could
disband the Church against the wishes and protest of a minority, still in this
case the facts are such as to show that it has not been regularly and properly
done. Much weight has been attached to the fact that a Council advised the
dissolution. But in reply to this it should be said, that the question was
never properly brought before a Council. There was no vote of the Church
to submit such a question to a Council. No one even pretends that such
was the fact when the Church decided to call the Council. They voted to
call a Council solely for the dismission of their pastor, Rev. Mr. Mann, and
appointed a Committee to prepare and send out the letters missive. That
Committee, unauthorized by the Church, and on their own responsibility
solely, inserted the clause, "and to advise them on other difficulties." The
Church, therefore, did not call the Council to advise on this matter, and no
opposition was made to calling the particular Council which met, because it
was supposed that they would act solely with reference to the dismission of
the pastor. Of this the Council were informed. It was therefore out of or-
der for them to recommend a dissolution of the Church, and their advice
ought to have no weight.

Suppose now, it should be admitted, that, in a technical or strictly
parliamentary sense, it may have been "out of order" for the brethren
who dismissed Rev. Mr. Mann, " to recommend" as they did " a dis-
solution of the Church." Would it follow that "their advice ought to
have no weight ? " We have supposed, that, both in respect to indi-
viduals and to associations of individuals, very good and the very best
advice may be given, by those who have the opportunity or the occa-
sion, although such advice may be neither requested nor desired.
And we do not see how the desire or the request, in any case, can of
itself determine the quality or value of the advice, which may be given.

The presumption may be, that when advice is sought, more of care-
ful consideration is likely to be bestowed upon the case submitted.
But if there be evidence, that those who give advice, have particularly
attended to the subject, or were entirely familiar with all the essential
facts and principles involved, then may their advice be as judicious
and seasonable and important, — as if it had been asked with the great-
est formality and importunity. And it may be sheer impertinence or
gross discourtesy to treat it, as our brethren in the Result before us,
seem too plainly disposed to treat the " recommendation" above-men-
tioned.

But we must now say, that the whole statement, which this Council
have adopted, and sanctioned, in reference to this part of the Howard
Street case, is evasion and prevarication, at the very best. What are
the facts? In February, 1847, a Mutual Council assembled to con-
sider the expediency of dissolving the pastoral relation of Rev. Joel
Mann. It was well understood, that serious difficulties existed ; and
for local reasons, the Tabernacle and South Churches in Salem de-
clined taking part in the Council. Those who did attend, however,
were all from the immediate neighborhood. None others were invited.
And we believe, that it would be impossible to convene a more candid,
impartial body of ministers and laymen, who, at the same time, had a
general, and, in the circumstances, very necessary acquaintance, with
the history of Howard Street Church, and with the ecclesiastical affairs
of Salem and vicinity.



71

Two parties appeared before the Council ; while a portion of the
Church belonged to neither. A very decided majority were opposed to
the proceedings of those few individuals, who were resolved, at all haz-
ards, to compel the pastor to take a dismission. And it is but justice
here to say, that no one of his predecessors had secured a more general
respect in Salem, as a Christian and a gentleman, or is now believed
to have exerted a happier influence.

The house of worship had recently been repaired, and rendered
was subscribed by the minority, from whom so much was then heard,
more attractive, at an expense of $3,000 ; — of which about a sixth part
and by whom so much has since been said and done. This expense
was borne chiefly by a few individuals, with a hope, that, from the in-
crease of population, particularly in South Salem, the Society might
be greatly enlarged. And those who sustained by far the heaviest part
of this outlay upon the house of worship, were ready to make still
greater efforts and sacrifices, if the minority opposed to Mr. Mann,
would quietly retire, or would entirely cease from their violence of
opposition. Still it was the conviction of the most, that the prosperity
of the Church was, in any event, extremely doubtful. And in the
judgment of many, not connected with the Church or Society, it would
have been wholly impracticable for the majority, if not also for all to-
gether, to have much longer supported the organization at Howard
Street, with any reasonable warrant to anticipate an effectual deliver-
ance from existing embarrassments and discouragements.

There has never been the time when a minister has been, or could
be supported, by a tax on the pews of the house of worship in Howard
Street, as has been done in other congregations in Salem. The Soci-
ety there was far the strongest and most flourishing, during the ministry
of the Rev. Mr. Williams, and just before the secession which led to the
formation of the Church in Crombie Street, in 1832. But his very
moderate salary could never be obtained promptly. A few individuals
were always obliged to make extra contributions to sustain the worship
of God and the ordinances of the Gospel, in that house of worship
in Howard Street. And what was the prospect before the Society, at
the time of the Mutual Council, in February, i847, may be inferred
from the fact, that the avails of taxation on the pews of the house
were only about $400.

The minority would make no terms whatever, which included the
continuance of Mr. Mann, at Howard Street, They would neiiher
retire, nor would they remain content, leaving him in his place. They
thought, as some of them informed the Council, that, if the majority
should retire, the minority, aided by friends in Salem and Boston,
might be able to sustain a pastor, who should be the right kind of man
for the place and the times ! !

Two days were spent in hearing the statements of all persons, who
wished to be heard. The utmost latitude of remark was allowed. No
restriction was laid upon any one, which could possibly hinder a dis-
closure or presentation of any important fact, in its true coloring and
its legitimate bearings. Dr. Cooke was the moderator ; and at the
close of the meeting of the Council, thanks for his impartiality and
indulgence were spontaneously and warmly presented to him, by some
of the most active and resolute of the minority. And this should have



72

been remembered by those, who have since pursued him with such vir-
ulence of vituperation and invective.*

Tlien it was, that the real extremity of the affairs at Howard Street
was freely and fully disclosed. It was admitted by all, that there was
little reason to expect any better state of things if the pastor should
not be dismissed ;— and whether any better state of things would
follow his dismission was as intricate a problem, as any Council would
wish to be called to solve. And here let it be noted by any, who,
prejudiced or unprejudiced, are willing to know the truth,— that the
whole subject of difficulties in the Howard Street Church was most
thoroughly examined. Urdess an investigation could be had, as in a
question before a legal tribunal, where witnesses should testify under
oath, there could never be a better opportunity afforded of reaching
the absolute merits of a controversy, than that which was presented to
the Council, which was called to decide upon the expediency of the
dismission of Mr. Mann. .And as the investigation was really con-
ducted, the minority may be challenged to name a single fact or cir-
cumstance, which would be of any weight in the premises, and which
was not in some way made known or implied, during the protracted
and unrestricted deliberations of the first Mutual Council, — that of
February 7, 1847.

Beside spending two days, and no small part of a night, in laborious
attention to the difficulties at Howard Street, this Council convened
again, after an adjournment, and spent a portion of another day. It
was during this adjournment, that the conclusion was forced upon the
tnind of the Moderator, that the best method of disposing of those
difficulties might be to disband the Church, as well as to dismiss the
pastor. The suggestion was therefore made, accompanied by a
written argument, at the adjourned meeting, in private session. But
no vote was taken upon the point, nor did it occupy much of the time
of the Council.

When the Council, in private session, took an informal expression
of opinion, it appeared that the major part were inclined to vote for
the dismission of the pastor. " But," as some of themselves have
related,

After deliberation it was found, that this naked question could not be
•settled separately from its adjuncts. It was seen that Mr. Mann's dismission,
on the ground of a necessity so created, would give an unreasonable advan-
tage to his opponents, without leaving the Church in any better condition —
would add another to the numerous examples of the power of small minor-
ities to drive out a minister without good cause. Hence, though his inte-
rests required a dismission, and though the prospect of good to the Church
in any issue appeared to be small, the Council thought best not to sanction
the dismission, but to apply to the minority a practical test, and to throw on
them the responsibility of standing before the world, after a thorough show-
ing of the facts, the sole cause of the expected dismission, and the sole hin-
derance to the life of the Church. It was thought at least, that the public
influence would be better, if dismission should have its date after the

* Have not the late Council given their sanction to the personal abuse, which has
been inflicted upon him, as if not only " the orif^inator and advocate of new doc-
trines," but as if his connection with the affairs of Howard Street had really been
unprincipled and malignant .' It so appears to us.



73

pastor's opponents had had an opportunity to act on the declared willingness
of the majority to support him. This seemed the more desirable, since more
than three- fourths* of the ablility to support the pastor were with the major-
ity, and since they had made the most sacrifices to sustain the Church. It
was thought that if after time had been given, to see how the minority would
act in the case, they still persisted, the dismission would, in the public eye,
rest upon its true grounds. The delay was prompted, in other words, by a
desire to see if some way would not open for the peace of the Church,
by a peaceful retiring of the hostile party. Accordingly the Council con-
cluded their Result, by exhorting them " to study the things that make for
peace." f

But the minority became still more unyielding. Every week only
added to the evidence of the entire hopelessness of any union between
them and the majority, upon any such conditions as the latter could
consistently adopt. Hence another Mutual Council, consisting of
Churches, all of which had been members of the Council in February,
was convened in April. To all intents and purposes, this second
Council were the same as if the first had met by adjournment. They
ought to be regarded and identified, in every respect but in name, as
the same Council. Incomparably more should they be so regarded,
than the late Ex parte Council, at the meeting of December 18th,
should be considered the same Council, as met December 4th. And
if all the Churches of the first Council had been assembled in the
second, there is not the least reason to suppose, that there would have
been any different Result.

The Letter Missive proposed the dismission of Mr. Mann, and
asked advice to the Church. By a mere oversight, the Church did
not pass an express vote, in regard to advice. The Committee
appointed to prepare the Letter Missive, felt the importance of advice,
and had conference with the pastor on the subject, and the conclusion
unhesitatingly was, that they were authorized by usage, or a common
understanding in such cases, to insert a specific request for advice.
This accordingly they did, and without the least intention or imagina-
tion of exceeding their powers, or encroaching upon any one's rights.
Beyond a question, if the Committee had delayed the issue of the
Letters Missive, until a vote upon the point could have been taken in
the Church, a vote for precisely such a letter as was prepared, would
have been carried by an overwhelming majority.

When the Council came together, some slight objection was raised
by a member or two of the minority, on the ground that the Commit-
tee had exceeded their instructions. But so little was said upon the
point, that four or five out of six of the clerical members of the
Council were afterwards wholly at a loss, in determining, not only
what was actually said, but whether any thing at all was said, which
could have engaged the distinct attention of the Council. We sup-
pose the same to be true of the delegates. Certain it is, that the
objection in question had no prominence whatever before the
body, — notwithstanding what would be inferred from the unquali-
fied, vehement, and many times reiterated declarations, which have

* The amount was here very much underrated,
t Congregationalist, Dec. 7, 1849.

10



74

since been made by individuals of the minority and by those in their
interest.*

The business of the Council was delayed by it a few minutes only, at
the farthest. The Church never disowned the doings of the Com-
mittee. On the contrary, earnest desires were expressed, that the Coun-
cil should give advice, according to their best judgment, in view of
the deplorable state of alienation. And it never entered the mind
of any one of the Council, that they would be " travelling out of the
record," or be taking cognizance of matters foreign to their commis-
sion, if they should give the advice which they did. It seems to us,
therefore, neither accordant with truth, nor with Christian fairness, to
state, as so often has been stated, that this second Mutual Council
had no right to attend to any other business, than simply to dismiss
the Rev. Joel Mann.

With a " full history of the other Council in mind, this Second
Council began their hearing of facts." And for any one to say, that
this Council had not the facts before them — all the. facts necessary to
be known — can be explained only by an inexcusable ignorance of their
proceedings, or by the allowance of a species of fiction, in which
Christian men cannot honorably indulge.

There were no new facts lo be investigated, except in regard to the
course which had been taken by the parties, since the members of
Council, in the February previous, heard all their details of the diffi-
culties between individuals of the Church, and between individuals
and the pastor. Those difficulties began several years before. But as
brought before the Council they were specially connected with a con-
flict or strife between members of the minority and of the majority,
respecting an alleged omission of the pastor to do what it was said that
he had pledged himself to do, at the time when Mr. Lovejoy was
desired by some of the minority to repeat, at Hov.'ard Street, his fune-
ral eulogy upon Mr. Torrey. If any indiscretions or mistakes had
been committed, by the pastor or his personal friends, which we think
should be acknowledged, there was yet evidence most palpable, that
both the pastor and his friends had received much " provocation," be-
side that which leads " to love and good works." And, in general,
the proceedings of members of the minority admit of no justification
or excuse, even if they had been entirely in the right — as we cannot
concede that they were — at the beginning of the conflict. But what-
ever might have been the origin of the existing state of dissension, —
whatever occurrences or influences had aggravated or complicated the
points in controversy, — the Church as a body appeared to the Council
in the condition of a paiient, whose physician finds him in a most
critical or fatal extremity ; and who must administer to the disease as

* It was remarked by the Moderator, that it was competent for the Council to
give advice to a Church, if they saw fit, even though the Letter Missive had not
specifically requested it. Some time afterwards, when, at successive meetings of
the Conference, he wa? charged, not very courteously, with having said, " tliat it
■made no sort of difference, whether advice was asked or notj" — he twice repelled the
charge, by an emphatic denial. He understood the speaker as repoiling him to
have said, or to have implied, that it was not necessaiy in calling a Council to
specify the business of the Council ; and besides, he had entirely forgotten what he
did say upon the competency of a Council, in regard to advice.



76

it now is, whether the patient is, or is not, chargeable with any known
imprudence or criminality in the management of his health.

We make these statements and comments thus freely and ingenu-
ously ; for our aim is, not to write a single line, which is suited to
convey an impression against the real truth of facts. And we are not
conscious of the slightest wish or temptation to conceal any thing, for
the sake of more effectually vindicating either the advice of the Coun-
cil to disband the Howard Street Church, or the dissolving act by the
majority.*

It is most important also to consider, that the difficulties of the
Church had not been out of mind, in the intervening period between
the two Councils ; but divers circumstances had led some of the mem-
bers in particular, to ponder with much solicitude the questions of ex-
pediency and of duly which had been suggested. And if the brethren
associated in that Council could not be trusted to give advice, on any
subject whatever, pertaining to our ecclesiastical order, there has yet
been no Ex parte Council, and never can be, whose members can
claim any title to be trusted, in a revision of their proceedings.

The minority were present in full strength and fearlessness, to urge
their measures and pretensions. They were as " swift" to " speak"
as "slow" to "hear." They fought for their positions as if the
brethren on the other side were personal enemies, with whom there
never could be peace. There was excitement among the majority ;
and, with all the effort which was used to let " moderation be known,"
it was now more than ever made manifest, that the two parties, which
so confronted each other, could not be reconciled, so as to be " breth-
ren beloved," without a marvellous change.

" Can you not be reconciled and go on together in harmony," was
in substance the question put to the foremost speaker of the minority.
The prompt and vehement answer was "No. Unless there should he
a miracle from heaven ! " And, " No," was the answer of the same
individual to the question, " Whether in any case the minority would
leave ? " " What if the majority should say the same ? " " We will
stay and burn out, as toe have done, for the hist nine months ! " May
" the spirit of Christ" save other Churches from the fanaticism — the
" DEVOURING FiKE " of abolitiouism !

Both parties agreed, that their covenant had been violated,f and
that proper discipline, under present and prospective circumstances,
was wholly impracticable. It was not that the majority were
averse to the discharge of duty, in this respect ; but because of
the various difficulties which were liable to be encountered, and

* Any more minute particulars, we think, it would not be proper to ^ive. From
what we have now stated, our readers may perceive, that the difficulties were of
that lamentable character, in which crimination and recrimination are most abun-
dant ; and in regard to which the fi'iends of either party are liable to be misled and
unintentionally to deceive themselves and others. And that the public have need
to know nothing of the details upon this part of the subject, appears to have been



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 40 of 51)