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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sense of the importance of uniting for the security and promotion of the common
cause had come to be so extensively and so clearly felt, that a plan, such as we
then thought proper to propose, would commend itself to general acceptance and
favor. Hut by the trial which has been made of the state of feeling, I am con-
vinced that the plan is not feasible ; at least it will cost more than it is worth," &c.



119

power by union with Associations, Consociations, and Ecclesiastical Gouncila.
When any Church gives up its independence to any other ecclesiastical
body, it gives up all its power. But Christ has given no power to Churches,
which they may give away. Congregational Churches, at this day, ought to
be on their guard, and strenuously maintain their independence.

It appears from the very nature of church-government, that there is no ap-
peal from the authority of a particular Church to any higher ecclesiastical
tribunal. Every Church have a right to transact all their ecclesiastical mat-
ters, independently of any other Church. When they undertake to disci-
pline a member, they have a right to pursue the steps which Christ has
pointed out, and continue the process until they have brought the matter to a
final conclusion.

Would it be a very difficult problenn to determine, what the " Sage of
Franklin" would have said of such "adjudication" as that of the
first Ex parte Council at Howard Street, or of the archiepiscopal de-
crees, under the name of " advice," which have been sent forth by the
Council of December, 1849? And as our brethren seem so perfectly
assured, that they have settled the Howard Street question and the case
of Ezekiel Goss infallibly, — we commend to them Samuel Mather's
" Apology for the Liberties of the Churches of New England," and
more particularly his proofs, " that whole Synods and General Councils
are as liable to deceive and be deceived, and imposed on, as particular
Churches."

While reasoning against the danger to be apprehended from an
abuse of power by Conferences, we should have supposed it would
have occurred to our brethren, that there were some things which could
be said of Ex parte Councils, not very flattering to their self-compla-
cency. If we do not entirely misapprehend them, they regard an Ex
parte Council as one of the happiest of all provisions or instrumental-
ities, for promoting the order of our system. They seem to have a
conception of it, very analogous to that of the Tarquins at Rome, in
respect to imperial power, — rei inter Deos huminesque pnlcherrimce.

Ex parte Councils were suggested by difficulties, for which in
extreme cases, if properly regulated, they may furnish some relief
But our brethren should not have quoted Mather, Upham, or
Punchard, after violating every cardinal principle and rule advocated
by these writers, relative to such Councils. The last writer would
entirely reject the doctrines of their Result. We know not the opin-
ions of Prof Upham, At the very highest point of value, an Ex parte
Council is but one or two degrees above a choice of sore evils. And
a more disastrous, if a more detestable scourge, could hardly be let
loose upon our Congregational system, than the frequent and reckless
gathering of such Ex parte Councils, as those at Howard Street,

The reference to the Third Way of Communion, as if by this
method the Churches ought to deal with " the questionable Church,"
and the Conference do nothing, unless they would unite in a Mutual
Council, is another very notable lesson to us from the wisdom of this
Result. Why did not some of our brethren try the experiment them-
selves upon the Church in Reading? We should like to see whether
the Salem Street Church, Boston, could now lead off against the Tab-
ernacle Church, as did the "Second Church," in the case of the First
Church in Salem, of which the Council probably knew but little, and



120

the like of which it would require some " original investigations " to
find. It is almost " solitary and alone," and ever will be. We can
scarcely imagine, that the Council were serious in what is said on this
subject. If it had not been for the aid of the civil authorities, which
could not now be had in any case, enforcing the excision of a major
part of the First Church in Salem, in 1735, the Result of the Council
would doubtless have been an entire failure.

Increase Mather, in his little work, "The Order of the Gospel,"
alludes to a certain case, in which a church-member complained of
hard treatment, and appealed to " Neighbor Elders."

The pastor and major part of the Church were not willing the case should
have a re-hearing before the Elders and Messengers of other Churches.
Upon this, great clamors were raised, and prejudices taken up against the
Congregational discipline. Mr. Caivdrey got this story by the end, and in
his Epistle to the Dissenting Brethren, he says that a minister in JV. E.
writes over to England, that this injured person would have no remedy until
the Churches in J\'eio England ivere become Presbyterians, and that if Inde-
pendency does not break all the Churches in JVew England excepting afeio
semi- Presbyterian, some are deceived. Who the minister was that wrote thus
to England, Mr. Cnwdrey tells us not. But it is a great wrong to the
•Churches of JVew England, and to the way Congregational, to represent
them, and all that are of that way, as being of such Independent and unac-
countable principles, which they utterly disclaim.

It is evident to us, that our brethren, in all which they have said of
the proceedings of the Essex Conference, "got this story by the end,"
like " Mr. Catvdrey " ; and " it is a great wrong " to represent us to
the world, as holding " unaccountable principles," which we " utterly
disclaim." But whatever they may think of us, or say of us, they may
he assured, that we shall endeavor to stand fast in the liberty where-
with Christ hath made us free.



From the manner in which the Result comes to its " conclusion," it
is a moral certainty, that the writer or the writers must have been pro-
foundly ignorant of the history of Howard Street Church, and of the
actual position, reputation, resources, and ecclesiastical prospects of
those now claiming to be that Church. And a greater mistake could
hardly have been committed, than in representing a part of the minis-
ters and Churches of the Essex South Conference, as wishing to crush
the Howard Street Church, — a representation which is made in the
same breath with the statement, that, " it is admitted by all, that a
Church, and the worship [?] and ordinances [?] ought to be sustained
in Howard Street." But when it is said, "it seems to the Council
that all the Churches must feel interested to keep this Church in their
community, and that scarcely a greater cloud of grief could come over
them than would come by the extinction of this light," — we must re-
spond in truth and soberness, that, if they had deliberately intended a
solemn burlesque of the whole subject, they could not have taken a
more effectual method to accomplish their design.



121

In conclusion, so far is this Council from yielding to the reasons assigned
by the Tabernacle Church for denying the request of brother Goss, founded
on the objectionable standing of the Howard Street Church, that it considers
this Church, if not primus inter pares, as an ancient Church, yet, at least, an
equal, entitled to the sympathies and the affections, the help and the encour-
agement of all the Orthodox Churches in this community. And more espe-
cially should they have our sympathies and our prayers, if not our thanks,
for the stand which they took in favor of the holy covenant, — not consenting
to 6rea A;, but contrariwise inflexibly determined to keep it, "to hold it fast
and not let it go," thus setting an example of integrity and fidelity in the
midst of trials, " perils of [?] brethren," and formidable opposition without
and within, holding up, as a standard, the ancient covenant of our fathers,
and calling upon all the Churches to look at it as the great charter of all the
Churches of our order throughout the Christian world.

Leaving our right of remark upon the " primus inter pares,'' and
the oblique admonition to the Tabernacle Church, as if claiming too
much deference, because the most " ancient " of the Orthodox
Churches in Salem,— we are not a little perplexed by that " ancient
covenant," which is " the great charter of all the Churches of our or-
der throughout the Christian loorld." What do the Council mean by
that "ancient covenant," which those now at Howard Street have
been " holding up and calling upon all the Churches to look at ? " We
have conjectured that they must have had in mind the covenant of the
First Church in Salem, commordy published as the first covenant, or
that of sixth of August, 1629, — but which was a special covenant
adopted in 1636, — mainly, it would seem from internal evidence, in
view of the disorders occasioned or caused by Roger Williams. Are
any of the Council sure, that they ever saw the first covenant of that
Church? And would they indeed have the Churches give "thanks"
to the minority at Howard Street, "for the stand they took in favor of
the holy covenant," while yet if they had simply concurred with the
majority — the Council themselves being judges — then there might have
been an " extinction of this light," without the least degree of
alarming apprehension of that " cloud of grief," a " greater " than
which " scarcely " could now " come over all the Churches! "

" What possible interest," the Council also say, " or valid reason
can there be, that the Church there should not stand on its ancient
foundation, and preserve and show forth its ancient name and its an-
cient covenant ? Do any covet its name 1 " We respond to our
brethren, and inquire of them, if they know any thing at all of the
import of these questions? And if not, was it wise to " utter that"
which they " understood not ? "

(X?^ "Its ancient foundation"? The only " ancient foundation "
of which the inhabitants of Salem ever heard, as connected with a
Church in Howard Street, was laid, — we would inform our brethren,
— not in the seventeenth, nor yet in the eighteenth century, but on the
twenty-ninth day of December, 1803 !

The Council speak of the "ancient name" of Howard Street.
And " do any covet its name?" " We are not so advised," they tell
us. We presume, that they are correct. They do not mean, we sup-
pose, the name of " Branch," or of the "First Presbyterian Church,"
but that of " Howard Street." And how " ancient " is this ? Verj/i
16



122

" ancient." On the fourth of May, 1847, it was exactly eighteen years
and eleven months " ancient," or one score, minus one year and one
month !

And what shall we say of " its ancient covenant" ? On the twenty-
fifth of March, 1815, the Church, which at the first was Congrega-
tional, like the Tabernacle from which the founders had proceeded, by
way of the First Church in Rowley, became Presbyterian, and
adopted a new covenant accordingly. This, we think, — this second
covenant of the members, in less than twelve years, — would hardly be
recognized by the late Council, as "i/ie ancient covenant of our fath-
ers" We have no reason to doubt, that the first covenant was taken
as solemnly, as any other similar covenant ever was. But not one of
the members could ever have had an idea of its being "the great char-
ter of all the Churches of our order throughout the Christian world."
So the living would testify.

The Church, of course, was the same ecclesiastical organization —
the same identical body of believers — under the Presbyterian, as under
the Congregational form of administration. It was called the Branch
Church ; until, with a hope of neutralizing, if not burying some un-
toward associations and injurious popular impressions, the members, in
1824, took the name of the " First Presbyterian Church in Salem." *

In April, 1828, the Presbyterian covenant, with all, in general, that
pertained to the peculiarities of Presbyterianism, gave place to a third
covenant, and that a new Congregational covenant.

We have said, that the Presbyterian covenant of 1815, which
lasted about thirteen years, with all, in general, that pertained to the
peculiarities of Presbyterianism, gave place to a new, and a Congre-
gational covenant. We have thus said, — because of " a significant
fact." There was a minority which strenuously contested the pro-
posed change. And they remained in the Church, by a special pro-
vision in their behalf, which, in case of disciplinary process affecting
any of them, secured to them and their families the right of trial, ac-
cording to the rules and method of Presbyterianism ! If they could,
by any possibility, they would have prevented the change from Presby-
terian government and connections. Ought the majority, or the minor-
ity, to have prevailed 1

But there have been some more covenants at Howard Street. The
covenant of 1828, gave place to a new covenant, very carefully pre-
pared during the ministry of Dr. Cheever. And this was thought to
be so defective by his successor, Mr. Torrey, that it was "fit only for
the burning ; " and by him the only copy in existence was BURNT UP ! !
This was in 1838. For some days, at least, the Church had no cove-
nant, to which they could refer, as the bond of their brotherhood and
fellowship. A new and the fifth covenant was prepared. And this,
according to the Council, must have been their " ancient covenant."
Very " ancient," truly. It must have been adopted nearly or quite
nine years, previous to the dissolution of the Church in 1847 !

* It was probably forgotten, at this time, that the Tabernacle Church had been
Preshyterian, from 1769 to 1784; though not connected with any Presbytery, until
the suiiimcr of 1774. The coincidence of an interregnum, or rather, a rcgnum of
Presbyterianism, in both these Churches, is somewhat remarkable. A similar ex-
ample is furnished in the history of one of the Newburyport Churches.



123

Do any covet its property ? We know not ; we suppose it is not rich in
this world's goods, but hope it is " rich in faith," and if it is a trustee for its
poor, we hope "they will not be sent empty away."

Did the Council know what they were saying ? Whence their oc-
casion for such suggestions respecting " property " ? Did they mean
to insinuate, that the majority of Howard Street Church wished to de-
fraud the minority? If not, what did they mean 1 They had before
said ; " having seceded [?] and not continuing to worship with the
Church, they had voluntarily abandoned all right to its property,
whether it continued, ecclesiastically, to be a Church or not." " Vul-
untarily abandoned all right to its property" ! And that too, " wheth-
er it continued, ecclesiastically , to he a Church or not" ! Is this truth,
and is this the morality of the Council 1 Let no one of them again
ever open his mouth, on the subject of the wrongs of the '• exiled
churches " of Massachusetts.

In a corporation of five persons, if four agree to dissolve, is the
fifth entitled to hold all the property ? By what law of righteousness
or of Christ, then, can the Howard Street minority claim the church-
furniture; or as proprietors, owning a sixth part of the whole number
of pews, how can they be entitled to occupy the house of worship,
against the voice of all the rest? One individual alone, of those who
agreed to the dissolution of the Church, owns as much in that house
of worship, as all the minority together ! And do the Council think,
that he and the others, owning forty-five pews out of sixty, which were
held as private property, ha.ve forfeited all right and title to that prop-
erty ? So it must be, if the minority can justly claim the church-
furniture. And is it said in reply, that it is competent for proprietors
to sell pews, upon which taxes have not been paid ? Be it so. But who
are the proprietors, and ivho have the authority to assess taxes upon
the pews in the Howard Street house of worship ? We may be
thought to speak too freely, but we are willing to say to all the world,
that for ourselves we are completely shocked at the sentiments of the
Council, in relation to the right of property at Howard Street ; and
should as soon have expected from them an open vindication of em-
bezzlement or burglary.

" Trustee for its poor " ? The Howard Street Church, on the day
of the vote of dissolution, did not own a dollar of property ; and never
did own a dollar of property, as " a trustee for its -poor." There was a
legacy given to " the Corporation of Proprietors of the Branch Society,"
amounting to upwards of five hundred dollars, the interest of which
was to be given to the poor of the Congregation ; and for that legacy
the Proprietors of the house of worship, and not the Church, are ac-
countable.

A new organization, under a different name, it has been pretended,
would expose those now at Howard Street, to a suit for damages, from
heirs of legatees. The legacy to which we have referred, was given,
it will be seen, when the Corporation and Church were called
" Branch," and not " Howard Street."

"Trustee for its poor" ! If there are any "poor," whose relief or
solace is dependent or contingent upon funds now in trust at Howard
Street, they may as well receive the contributions as the written sym-
pathies of the late Council.



124

We would deal both " kindly and truly " with those, who affirmed
before the late Council, as we are told, that by some effort and per-
sonal sacrifice, there would be not the least difficulty in sustaining
themselves as a Church, — and impliedly, at least, an efficient organ-
ization. To most persons in Salem, such a statement is proof conclu-
sive of absolute presumption and infatuation. A man who has not a
dollar in the world that he does not owe, beside owing hundreds
which he has no visible means of paying, might just as well say, that
he can support a family with entire ease and perfect honesty. And
those who derive a material part of their maintenance from subscrip-
tions or gifts of charity, however fraternal or genteel, or who depend
largely upon creditors, whose just demands they have no ability to
cancel, — are not ordinarily regarded as in very flourishing or very
desirable circumstances.

Of one thing, however, we are very certain. Those at Howard
Street will need something more substantial, than the aid afforded
them by Ex parte Councils, however imposing in numbers. So far
is it from being the truth, that " it is admitted by all, that a Church
ought to he sustained in Howard Street," the sober fact is, that if all
those in Howard Street were to leave the place to-morrow, and the
house of worship there, with the vestry, and all that belongs to the
original Howard Street organization, in the form of church-plate or
any other property, were advertised to be given up, without money
and without price, to any new Congregational Church of twenty
respectable male members, who would " covenant " to sustain worship
there, and never to use the property for their private advantage, —
there is not the slightest good reason to suppose, that the first ten, if
the first one, could be found, who would be willing to accept the gift !
And as things now are, there is as little of probability, after all that is
said in the " Result," that a single lay-brother of the late Council
would join himself to the existing organization, — were every one of
the fifteen to remove to Salem, with a purpose of there residing until
the last hour of life !

It certainly ought to be considered a question of some importance,
whether an organization for the purposes of a Congregational Church,
has the means, present or prospective, for a permanent support. If
there had been a Council called, to organize a Church out of the
minority at Howard Street, — and that Council could have been made
to know the simple, undisguised truth of facts, — there is not one
probability in a thousand, that such an organization would have been
deemed expedient or suitable ; unless that Council had been composed
of men, in whose judgment the Churches generally would be very slow
to confide.

The innuendo, or implied accusation, that there are some, who wish
to " cruah " those at Howard Street, could never have been written
with a true knowledge and a just application of facts. And it is some-
what too great an imposition upon ordinary patience, that they who
have acted in honesty and uprightness, with the certain consequence
of being traduced and maligned, should be so injuriously represented
by respected and beloved brethren abroad, from whom a different
treatment ought to have been received. Even some in Salem, whose
names have undoubtedly had the greatest influence in sustaining the



125

course of the Howard Street minority, have not hesitated to say, that
the Church at Howard Street ought not to be dissolved ; because such
an organization is of great advantage to the peace of other Churches
in the city !

For several years previous to the vote to dissolve, the apprehension
had been felt, and was frequently expressed by some of the worthiest
members, that the inevitable result of such violent proceedings and
speeches as those of a portion of the minority, would be the dissolu-
tion of the Church.* And if the public knew but a very small part
of what might be told of the scenes which have been witnessed in
many church-meetings, and of the language used in respect to the
pastor, as well as to brethren of the Church, they would not marvel at
such apprehensions ; but would rather account it an amazing mystery
of endurance, which enabled so many to persevere as long as they did,
in their self-sacrificing exertions to sustain the order of the gospel at
Howard Street.

§ Concluding Remarlcs.

Our examination of the views of the late Council, as it respects the
proceedings of the Tabernacle Church, and the right of a majority
to disband a particular local Church, has occupied much more space
than we had anticipated. But one line of error may require many
pages, or even a volume, for a suitable correction. We should have
been glad to say less of the case of Mr. Goss. Much easier and a far
more pleasant labor it would have been, to present our own views
affirmatively, instead of defending ourselves and refuting the argu-
ments of our opponents. We feel that we have been injuriously
treated, and really aspersed. We have been held up to the public, as
" radical reformers ; " as inventors of " a new instrument of destruc-
tion " to the Churches, — and as advocating " the right of a majority
not only to destroy their own rights, but also to plunder others of

THEIRS."

These are a part of the charge against us. And now what have we
done? What sentiments do we hold, that should " fill" our brethren
" with undissembled wonder and astonishment " 1 In the foregoing
pages, the reader has the means of judging, whether, as Congregation-
alists, we have any " new doctrine " or " novel theory ; " or whether
we have committed any thing " worthy of death " to our ecclesiastical
reputation and our ministerial influence.

Most of our examination of the question, whether a Church has a
right to disband by vote of a majority, has been conducted upon the
principle of argumentum ad hominem. And we think that we have
effectually shown, that, upon the admissions of the Result of the late
Council, all the objections which they have urged against our claim of
right for majorities, and which are of any weight whatever, lie with

* We allude to such, for example, as will be remembered by those, who were
present at the meetings in April, 1844, when such an effbri was made and repeated
to obtain a vote of the Church, — " that the Collectors chosen for Foreign Missions,
take subscriptions of all who may be disposed to contribute to the Union Missionary
Society, and forward the amount contributed, to the Treasurer, in the name of
the Howard Street Church."



126

equal force against the method of extinguishing a Church, which they
themselves consider the only proper method, according to our Con-
gregational system. We assent to their method of causing a Church
to cease, as being strictly Congregational ; but we also maintain, that
it is equally Congregational for a majority to dissolve a Church.
We contend, nay more, we do know, that the former method is no
more prescribed in the Platform, or in any " Ratio Disciplinse," than
is the latter.

The Scriptures, as we understand them, are silent, as to any express



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 47 of 51)