John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

An address to the Christian public, especially to the ministers and members of the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch, and Congregational churches, throughout the United States : on the subject of the proposed union between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the United Foreign Mi online

. (page 1 of 31)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottAn address to the Christian public, especially to the ministers and members of the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch, and Congregational churches, throughout the United States : on the subject of the proposed union between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the United Foreign Mi → online text (page 1 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




„Ko ^S 31. 3



a.i^.c.y: j>i.

ItkX^ ci2ljLa.vv.ce o \x e

osTON Public Library

^_,L ^ !


— <-•-» —

. 1

: 1



1 . 1





^^T^^r^^^ /^


^^^f:^^^^:^^^^^^rf<^i<?t,<^^ ^f^y















UNITED; I^QlJl^ilC^iiT; M^^^jpi^ itRVl ■ ^QCIETY.



Dutch Church, which cannot take place before the meeting
of tliose bodies In May next, the American Board of Com-
missioners for Foieig;n Missions on the one part, and the
Commissioners of the United Foreign Missionary Society on
the other part, agree to these five preliminary articles, viz.

*'l. A document shall be issued jointly by the Pruden-
tial Committee of this Board, and by the Directors of the
United Foreign Missionary Society, as soon as it can be
conveniently prepared, stating and explaining in what sense
the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
is a National Institution; how it is organized; the reasons
for hoping and believing, that this organization will continue
to receive the confidence of the Christian community; and
the reasons which have had weight in promoting the contem-
plated union.

"2. During the interval, which must elapse between the
present time and May next, the Directors of the United For-
eign Missionary Society will make all practicable exertions
to replenish its Treasury; so that, should the proposed union
take place, the engagements to be assumed by the American
Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions may be as few
and as small as possible.

"3. The Directors of the United Foreign Missionary
Society will correspond with the missionaries under its care,
explaining to them the proposed union, and advising them,
if the measure should be adopted, to transfer their relation
to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mis-

"4. The Directors of the United Foreign Missionary
Society will direct the missionaries of the several stations,
not to enter upon any new measures involving expense, and
generally to practice the strictest economy, till the result of
this proposed measure shall be known.

"5. As the Directors of the United Foreign Missionary
gociety contemplate sending an agent to visit the stations
west of the Mississippi, the Prudential Committee will, if
practicable, send an agent also to accompany him, and ascer-
tain from personal inspection, the condition of these stations.''

Permanent terms of union. — "The following principles
are adopted as the basis of the proposed union, which princi-
ples, when consented to by the United Foreign Missionary
Society, and the judicatories above referred to, shall thence-
forward be binding on both societies:

"1. The missionaries now in the employment of the
United Foreign Missionary Society shall, if their character
and standing remain unimpeached, be received as missiona-
ries of the Board; and, if any of them should be unwilling
to enter into this new relation, they shall be at liberty to
retire from the stations which they now occupy.

"'2. The property , of every kind, belonging to the United
Foreign Missionary Society, whether at the missionary sta-
tions, or elsewhere, shall be transferred to the American
Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, on the ratifi-
cation of this union.

"3. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
Missions will assume all the engagements of the United
Foreign Missionary Society, as they shall stand at the time
of said ratification; it being understood, however, that the
fourth preliminary article shall have been complied with.

"4. In the election of members according to the provis-
ions of its charter; in the appointment of missionaries, occa-
sional agents, and other functionaries; and in the adminis-
tration of all its concerns; the American Board of Commis-
sioners for Foreign Missions will endeavor to merit the high
character of a truly National Institution, and to acquire and
retain the affections and confidence of all classes of persons,
who have heretofore aided either of these societies, and of all
others who may wish to promote the salvation of the heathen.
"5. As the American Board of Commissioners for For-
eign Missions has heretofore consisted, with few exceptions,
of persons belonging to the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch,
and Congregational churches: and as its national character will
always ensure the election of a competent and satisfactory num-
ber of persons from these religious communities, the Board
will send to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church,
the General Synod of the Reformed Dutch Church, and the

several General Associations in the New England States, as
many copies of its Annual Report, and other printed docu-
ments, as shall be sufficient to furnish each member of these
Bodies with a copy; not only as a token of respect, but that
means of information may be afforded in regard to the meas-
ures of the Board and its missionaries, and to any success
which God may grant to its exertions.

"6. The highest judicatories of the Presbyterian Church
and of the Reformed Dutch Church will recommend the
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, as
a National Institution, and entitled to the warm support and
efficient patronage of the churches under their respective

"7. The periodical publications of the Board shall be sent
gratuitously to all societies and individuals, now entitled to
the periodical publications of the United Foreign Missionary
Society; and, on the ratification of this union, the Missionary
Herald shall take the place of the Missionary Register."

According to the stipulation contained, in the first of the
preliminary articles above-recited, the Prudential Committee
of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mis-
sions, and the Managers of the United Foreign Missionary
Society, now issue these pages, as the common document
there described. Pursuing the plan of the article, they pro-
ceed, without further introduction, to inquire,

I. In what sense the Board is a National Institution.

It was a prominent design of the public spirited men, by
whom the foreign missionary enterprises of this country
were commenced, that the institution, which they formed,
should be truly national in its character. The first election of
members, under the act of incorporation, was made with this
design full in view. The Board previously consisted of eleven
members. At the election here referred to, thirteen addi-
tional members were chosen. These thirteen, taken collec-
lively, resided in seven states of the union, and belonged to
all those religious denominations, from which a general co-
operation in missionary efforts, conducted under one organi-

zation, could be expected. In subsequent elections, during
a period of thirteen years, the same object has been reg;arded.
Of the forty-two members, who now compose the Board, one
resides in India, and the rest in nine states of the union; viz.
in five of the New England states, with New York, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

At the annual meeting in 1819, gentlemen were elected, in
nearly all the remaining states, as well as in Europe and the
East, to act as Corresponding Members, whose counsel and
patronage might promote the common object; and, two years
later, a provision was introduced, by which persons are ad-
mitted as Honorary Members, on their making a specified
donation to the Treasury of the Board. Both these classes
of members, though they do not form a part of the corporate
body, are invited to join in the deliberations of the annual
meetings. In these ways, a fair representation of the friends
of missions is obtained, the advice of intelligent men is re-
ceived from a distance, and a suitable respect is paid to
others, whose conduct has evinced their deep interest in the
welfare of the institution. With regard to the future, there
is nothing, either in the act of incorporation, or in any decis-
ion of the Board, to prevent the election of as many mem-
bers from difierent parts of the country, as the interests of the
missionary cause may require.

Thus designed to be national, in its reliance upon the expe-
rience, wisdom, and tried character of eminent individuals in
all parts of the country, the Board has acquired the same
character, to a remarkable extent, in the patronage which it
has enjoyed. Though much the greater part of its resour-
ces has uniformly been derived from New England, many
liberal benefactors have been found in the middle, southern,
and western states.

If the contemplated union should receive the sanction of
the ecclesiastical bodies to which it is referred, the patronage
from many parts of the country will be greater, it may safely
be presumed, than at any previous time.

It cannot be expected, however, that this institution
will receive the patronage of all the denominations of


Christians in our country, in the same manner as the
Bible Society does. It will be considered rather as under
the direction and peculiar patronage of those denomina-
tions, from which both institutions have hitherto derived
their principal support. From these religious communities
the missionaries will be selected as heretofore; and to these
communities must the public look for directors, executive
officers, missionaries, assistant missionaries, and agents of
every kind. Individuals of other denominations may prob-
ably hereafter make this Board the channel of their benefi-
cence to the heathen, as they have done in time past; though
without any expectation of altering the general plan of its
operations, or interfering with its management. One of the
earliest contributors to the funds of the Board, and, consid-
ering his circumstances, the most liberal contributor who has
hitherto appeared, was a Baptist. The present venerable
President of the American Bible Society, and the generous
agent of the Board at Calcutta, though Episcopalians, are mem-
bers and patrons. The latter has cheerfully and spontaneously
rendered very essential services to the American missions in
the east. Quite recently an association has been formed in aid
of the Board, by Episcopalians belonging to St. Paul's church,
Boston; with the express reservation, however, that they
will be at liberty to send their annual contributions to a Mis-
sionary Society of their own denomination, whenever they
shall think proper to do so.

With these explanations, considering that Congregat'ional-
ists and Presbyterians of diflerent names constitute a large
part of the inhabitants in almost every cit}^ and populous town
in the United States; that they are a great majority of all the
inhabitants in many large districts; that, taking the whole
country together, they are probably the largest denomina-
tions of Christians, both in regard to numbers and wealth;
and that, if the proposed union should be consummated, they
would look upon this Board as their only organ of sending
the Gospel to the unevangelized world; and considering,
also, that many zealous and public spirited individuals, of
other religious denominations, will avail themselves of the


ikcilities afforded by this Board for conveying their contribu-
tions to reclaim the earth from moral desolation; it can
hardly be thoug;ht presumption by any one, to speak of the
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions as a
National Institution.

II. The subject of inquiry next in order is, In what man-
ner the Board is organized? This question will be answer-
ed by the following; statement.

In the month of June 1810, it was announced, that four
young men, who were then members of the Theological
Seminary in Andover, seriously contemplated devoting them-
selves to the service of Christ, as missionaries to the heathen.
This interesting fact was stated to the General Association of
Massachusetts, then in session, and the young men were in-
vited to appear before that body. They appeared according-
ly; explained their views; and, in effect, if not literally, im-
plored of Christians in our country, the means of obtaining
access to the pagan world.

After deliberating on the subject, the General Association
appointed a Committee of five gentlemen in Massachusetts,
and four in Connecticut, to take charge of this great concern;
and 'to devise ways and means, and adopt measures, for pro-
moting the spread of the Gospel in heathen lands.' To this
Committee the present name of the Board was given.

In September of the same year, the nine persons, who had
been thus selected, were invited to meet. A majority con-
vened; a constitution was formed; and the Board was organ-

The General Association of Connecticut, at the next meet-
ing, which was in June 1811, approved of these measures;
and appointed the same gentlemen in that state, as had been
first appointed by the General Association of Massachusetts.
This latter body repeated the appointment of five persons;
and it was then supposed, that the Board would be perpetuat-
ed by annual appointments made in these ecclesiastical
bodies. The institution was then in its infancy. There
had been no developement of its powers. The donations


actually received into its Treasury amounted to but a small
3um. No missionary operations Iiad been commenced.

In the mean time, a legacy of thirty thousand dollars
had been left to the Board, by the late Mrs. Norris of Salem,
who died in April ISll. As the Board was not incorporat-
ed, an expensive lawsuit of four years duration was necessa-
ry, before the legacy could be recovered; all which time the
money lay unproductive in the hands of the executor, who
could neither pay it, nor make any use of it, till the question
was legally decided. The fact that so large a legacy was at
hazard, merely for want of an act of incorporation, made the
friends of missions very desirous that similar embarrassments
should iTot exist in futui*e. Application was therefore prefer-
red to the legislature of Massachusetts for a charter, by
which the Board inight receive and hold property, under
the protection of law. Such a charter was obtained in the
month of June 1812, and served to increase that public con-
fidence in the Board, which had already been expressed in a
very unequivocal manner.

In so important a measure as framing an act of incorpora-
tion, very able legal advisers were consulted. It was appar-
ent, that the form, which the Board at first received, could
not be preserved under a legal organization. The General
association of Massachusetts is merely a voluntary associa-
tion, not known to the laws. The same is true of the smaller
associations, which are the constituent bodies, whose dele-
gates compose the General Association. The appointments
of such merely voluntary associations, could not be legally
recognized, unless the associations themselves were first
legally defined; or, in other words, unless all these constitu-
ent bodies were first incorporated. This was not desired by
any one; and, if it had been desired, there is no reason to
think it would have been practicable.

But had it been practicable to obtain an act, which should
have given a legal form to all these ecclesiastical bodies,
and should have prescribed tliat the members of the Board
should be annually elected by the General Associations of

Massachusetts and Connecticut; it may be doubted whether
the Christian public would have deemed it suitable, that all
the members of such a corporation, which was designed to
act in behalf of multitudes residing in every part of our
widely extended country, should be annually chosen by two
independent bodies, composed of men who reside in only
two States of the Union. It is to be remembered, that these
independent bodies are composed of clergymen only, and are
changed almost wholly every year, being the representatives
of numerous other independent bodies, composed only of

When the Act of Incorporation was obtained, there seem-
ed to be but three ways, in which the members of the cor-
porate body could be designated; viz. either by enacting thart
all persons, who might subscribe a certain constitution, or
compact, should be members; or that all, who should pay a
certain sum of money to the Treasury, should enjoy this
privilege; or that individuals, named in the act, should be
authorized to elect associates and successors, who should in
the same manner perpetuate the Board. The last of these
methods was adopted, for the following reasons.

1. This organization is analogous to that, which was first
chosen by the promoters of missions from this country to
the distant heathen. The prominent design, so far as relates
to the ybr??z of the Board, was, that these ^interesting con-
cerns should be committed to the management of a compara-
tively small number of men. Hence the epithet ComTnis-
sioners, which, however inconvenient as an appendage to
the name, clearly denotes, that the persons who bear it,
were appointed to act for others. As the charter does not,
and could not, provide for this delegated character, by recog-
nizing it in form, all that remains for thie Board is, to secure
it in fact, by electing such associates, as will be a fair rep-
resentation of the friends of missions.

2. The present organization of the Board, renders that body
a real representation of the Christian community. If mem-
bership were acquired by subscribing a constitution, or
making a small pecuniary donation, the members present at


an annual meeting would consist principally of the inhabit-
ants of the place, where the meeting was held. If it were
held from year to year in the same place, the Board would
be regarded as the missionary society of that place, and not
of the country at large. If the annual meetings were held at
different places in rotation, the members actually present at
any one of the meetings, would, with few exceptions, be ab-
sent from the succeeding meeting; so that there would not
be even the appearance of indentity; and the Board, in-
stead of being a virtual representation of the Christian com-
munity, would be one year a small part of that community,
assembled in one place, and the next year a distinct part
of the same community, assembled in another place. Mem-
bers, residing at even a moderate distance, would not feel any
obligation to be present, or any responsibility for measures

3. The constitution of the Board is such, that a real super-
vision of the doings of the executive functionaries is exercis-
ed annually, and an efficient control is held in regard to
every important measure. But it is obvious that a large so-
ciety, assembled to hear parts of a Report and listen to ad-
dresses, could not enter into details of business, or give any
advice on doubtful or difficult subjects. The great use of
annual meetings in such a society would be, to awaken
benevolent feelings, and prompt to corresponding exertions.
But the members of this Board assemble once a year, exam-
ine the doings of those whom they have appointed to manage
its concerns, and, after deliberation and discussion, fix upon
certain great principles, which serve as landmarks, in future
plans and movements. Residing in different parts of the
country, and knowing the wishes and feelings of contributors
to the Board, in their respective vicinities, they can make
any inquiries, or propose any measures, which the state of
things may render expedient. The number of members not
being large, the meetings are held from day to day, as long
as a majority think expedient, and always till the important
business has been transacted. f

The next general subject of inquiry is,


III. The reasons for hopins^ and believing, that the
present organization of the Board will continue to enjoy
the confidence of the Christian community.

Some of these reasons are the followinsf:

1. If, as is thought to be the case, the constitution of the
Board is eminently fitted for the superintendence of mission-
ary concerns, the religious public will not be ignorant of it.
The mass of the people, so far as they are favorably inclined
toward the object of missions, wish simply for the most
convenient channel for the communication of their benefi-
cence to the heathen world. Modes and forms of association
are immaterial in their view; and, if they see the manage-
ment of missionary concerns entrusted, systematically and
permanently, to men of experience and known character,
they will repose as much confidence in the Board, under its
present organization, as they would repose in a body, whose
members were annuallj'' elected by the votes of all contribu-
tors, (were such an election practicable,) and as much as
should ever be reposed in any institution merely human.

2. The principles, on which members have been elected
hitherto, are calculated to sustain the public confidence. A
considerable proportion of the members were Presidents of
Colleges, or Professors in Theological Seminaries, at the
time of their election; and more than one fourth part of the
present members sustain one or the other of these relations.
It need not be said, that gentlemen in these important and re-
sponsible stations, are extensively known and highly esteem-
ed. They are also more likely, than any others, to be inti-
mately acquainted with the character of the missionaries.
Another class is composed of venerable men, both among
the clergy and laity, who have arrived at an advanced period
of life, have discharged numerous public duties, and are not
even suspected of valuing the little distinction, which is
implied in a selection to these services, except as it may-
enable them to serve God in their declining days, and to
bear a distinct testimony to the excellence of the missionary
cause. A small number, of middle age, residing near each
other, have been selected to manage the executive business


of tlie Board; and others, in the same period of life, distin-
guished for their active exertions in behalf of charitable ob-
jects, and residing in diflerent parts of the union, have been
associated in this body.

It is to be understood that the Board would not think of
electing a member, whatever his standing or influence, who
was not supposed to be a warm friend of missions, and of ex-
perimental religion, and a believer in those cardinal doc-
trines of the New Testament, which are sometimes called
the doctrines of the Reformation.*

3. The same causes which have led to the selection of
such members, as were thought likely to be acceptable to
friends of missions generally, and to require and retain their
confidence, will always exist, and will almost necessarily
produce the same effects. It was once well observed by
Dr. Worcester, whose memory is greatly to be honored^
that the support of missions is "wholly a matter of
CONFIDENCE." There must be confidence on the part of
the public, in the Board and its functionaries, at home and

* During the fifteen years and a half since the Board was formed, fifteen mem-
I)ers have died. Their names, arranged according to the States in Avhich they re-
sided, are as follows:
Maine. Rev. Jesse Appleton, D. D., President of Bowdoin College.
New-Hampshire. Hon. John Langdon, Governor of the State.
Rev. Seth Payson, D. D.

Hon. Thomas W. Thompson, Senator in Congress.
Massachusetts. Rev. Samuel Spring, D. D. a Member of the Prudential Com-
mittee from the origin of the Board till his death.
Rev. Zephaniah Swift Moore, D. D., President of Williams College, and sub-
sequently of Amherst Collegiate Institution.
Rev. Samuel Worcester, D. D., First Corresponding Secretary of the Board,
in which office he continued till liis death.
Rhode Island. Hon. William Jones, Governor of the State.
Connecticut. Gen. Jedidiah Huntington.

Hon. John Treadwcll, Governor of the State.
Rev. Timothy Dwight, D. D., President of Yale Collcgr.
New-York. Col. John Lincklaen.

Divie Bcthunc, Esq.
New-Jersey. Hon. Elias Boudinot, L.L. D., First President of the Arncncau

Bible SocietjK .
■District or Columbia. Elias Boudinot Caldwell, Esq. Clerk of the Supreme

Court of tl'c United States.

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottAn address to the Christian public, especially to the ministers and members of the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch, and Congregational churches, throughout the United States : on the subject of the proposed union between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the United Foreign Mi → online text (page 1 of 31)