N.Y.) First Free Congregational Church (Lockport.

Manual of the First Free Congregational Church of Lockport, N. Y online

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Usages of (fongregattoitttttsm.

A Christian church is a body of Christian believers,
fonnally organized and worshipping together. In the
New Testament the word "church" is always used with
reference either to the general company of the redeem-
ed, which is tJtc church, or to an association of believers
in some particular town or city, which is a church.
The word never occurs in the Bible in the sense of an
external, centralized organization, embracing and ruling
a number of associated congregations. (See Eph. 1 : 22;
5 : 23-32. Acts 8:1; 9 : 31. Gal. 1 : 22. I. Cor. 1:2;
II. Cor. 8 : 18-19.)

Congregational churches recognize but two perma-
nent and divinely-instituted orders among church olli-
<-<ts — pastors and deacons. The olh'ce of pastor (or
shepherd) has a variety of designations in the New Tes-
tament, and is the same as bishop (or overseer) and
presbyter (or elder). That these termsjare used Inter-
changeably to describe the same office may be Been by


comparing Acts 20:17-18; Tit. 1:5-7: I. Pet. 5:1-5.
The office and duties of deacons (or servants) are clearly
set forth in Acts 6 : " Glorious humility of the Christian
church, which knows no higher titles than those of
'servant,' 'elderly-man,' ' over-looker ' " !

The term "Congregational" is applied to our churches
because in them all ecclesiastical povjer resides in the
congregated body of believers or members of the church,
and not in the officers of the church, nor in ecclesiastical
bodies distinct from, or above, the church. The power
belonging to the church is, of course, purely ecclesias-
tical. The principal powers exercised are : 1st. The
power of electing its own officers. 2d. The power of
admitting to or excluding from its own membership.
3d. The power of forming its own confession of faith.
4th. The power of regulating the details of its own wor-
ship. 5th. The power of exercising discipline on its own
members. (See Acts i. : 15, 23-26 ; vi. : 1, 2, 3, 5 ; xv. : 2-1,
22, 23, 30 ; Mat. xviii. : 17 ; I. Cor. v. : 4, 5 ; II. Cor. ii. :
16.) In the exercise of these powers a Congregational
church is independent of all external authority. It holds
its charter of life from the Lord Jesus Christ and is ac-
countable to him alone for the mannerin which it fulfills
its solemn trust. We read of no ecclesiastical bodv in
the New Testament, exalted above the local church and
placed between it and its divine Head, to exercise judi-
cial authority upon it. (See Mark x. : 42-4-1.) At the
same time churches of Christ are to come into fellow-


ship with each other, and are to live in close fraternal
union, mutually giving and receiving that recognition,
encouragement, sympathy, advice and admonition which
the law of Christ demands. And all this is to be the
result of mutual confidence and affection, not of en-
forced obedience to superior power. The Congregational
church, therefore, that adopts a creed or persists in a
course of action radically opposed to the belief and
practice of the other churches, must expect to surren-
der its claim to their confidence and approval.

It may be disfellovvshipped ; but it cannot even then
be coerced. If such a church still believes itself to be
acting in obedience to the teachings of God's word it
may claim to be a church, though it has lost its stand-
ing as a Congregational church.

Gibbon describes the early Christian churches in the
cities of the old Roman Empire as being thus " united
only by the ties of faith and charity." " Independence
and equality," he says, " form the basis of their internal
constitution." This was but the extension of the spirit
and practice of the churches in New Testament times,
and we believe that this establishes a sufficient basis for
union among churches now.

The practical working of this theory may be seen in
the Congregational churches of New England and in
other parts of our land. For harmony of faith in all
the essentials of evangelical religion, for purity of die
ciplint , for Christian activity and missionary zeal, while


our churches fall far below the standard of the Gospel,
they do, nevertheless, compare favorably with bodies of
Christians organized under other forms of government.
In so far as w T e lack, therefore, the fault must be in our-
selves ; it cannot be charged to our polity. The methods
by which Congregational churches come into fellowship
with each other are various ; conspicuous among them,
however, is the use of councils, conferences and asso-

An Ecclesiastical Council is an advisory body, called
into existence by the " letters-missive ' of the church
desiring its assistance. Such a church invites other
churches to be present at a certain time and place by
pastor and delegate to advise on certain matters men-
tioned in the letter-missive. When the business on hand
is transacted and its advice or assistance is given the
council adjourns sine die. Councils are most frequently
called for advice with regard to the organization and
recognition of churches, the ordination and installation
of pastors or their dismissal, and the administration of

Any church, however, that desires the advice of the
churches in any other matter may call a council to their
aid. When there is division in a church and the two
parties are unable to unite in calling a mutual council,
either party is at liberty to invite an ex parte council.

Associations are societies of ordained ministers, formed
especially for ministerial improvement and usefulness.

The pastor of this church is a member of the " Ontario

Conferences are assemblies of neighboring churches
for mutual conference and co-operation. Each church
within certain prescribed limits is entitled to representa-
tion by pastor and delegates. Every conference has its
stated meetings. This church is connected with the
" Ontario Conference," which holds its meetings annu-
ally in the month of December.

The General Association is a union of all the local
conferences and associations in a particular state.
When the churches in the state are numerous, as in
New England, it is composed of delegates appointed by
these local bodies. But when the cl lurches are fewer
in number, as in this state, it embraces all the members
of the local ministerial associations, together with one
delegate from each Congregational church in the state.
Tli is body meets annually and hears reports, and sug-
gests advice on all matters connected with the spiritual
prosperity of the churches, their mutual relations and
their general work of benevolence and evangelization.

The meeting of the General Association of the state
of New York with this church in October, 1870, will be
remembered in this connection.

The National Council is the Latest development of or-
ganized Congregationalism. It meets triennially and is
composed of delegates Prom the local bodies. It does on
a national Bcale what the General Associations are doing
in their several .-tales.


It will be particularly noticed that all these bodies are
simply advisory, and that none of them possess any
ecclesiastical authority. Another bond of union between
our churches is our great benevolent societies. These are
organizations working in different directions toward the
evangelization of our country and of the world. They
are as follows : " The American Board of Commis-
sioners for Foreign Missions," " The American Home
Missionary Society," " The American Missionary Asso-
ciation " (where the work is among the foreign races in
this country, African, Indian and Chinese), " The Ameri-
can Congregational Union" (which assists weak churches
in building houses of worship), " The American College
and Education Society," " The Congregational Sunday
School and Publishing Society," " The New West Edu-
cational Commission " and " The Ministerial Relief Fund
of the Congregational Churches." These are dependent
for the prosecution of their work upon the voluntary
offerings of Congregational churches.

They are the almoners of our gifts, and by them the
churches are accomplishing grand results, which, with-
out them, it would be impossible to attain. Thus the
independence of Congregational churches is neither dis-
cord nor isolation. On the contrary, they live in close
fraternal union ; thev ask and receive advice and assist-
ance from each other, often admonishing one another as
brethren, and the more than three thousand Congrega-
tional churches of this land unite voluntarily together


in carrying forward a general scheme of missionary
operations in which considerably over one million dol-
lars is expended annually. But in all this only fel-
lowship on the basis of equality is recognized. No
Congregational church admits any authority superior to
itself, save the one Lord and Master Jesus Christ, who
lias revealed himself in His Holy Word, and who, by
His Spirit, is constantly present in the church to sancti-
fy and guide.

Though preferring these principles of organization, on
what are known to be scriptural grounds, and grounds
of wisdom and expediency, Congregational churches do
not fail to recognize with fraternal fellowship all socie-
ties of believers, who love our Lord Jesus Christ in
sincerity, as Christian churches, and to esteem them
very highly for their works' sake. As Congregational-
ists, we have an open communion; we give letters to our
own members to join churches of other evangelical de-
nominations, and receive members on such letters from
them ; and we seek to co-operate heartily with Christians
of whatever name in endeavors to promote the common of our divine Redeemer.


Congregational is ta differ from Presbyterians princi
pally in church government. Presbyterian churches

have each a body of lay elders, who, with their pastor,

compose the . ion by whom the government <»)' the


church is exercised, members being received or excluded
by their vote alone, who also keep the church records
and make their report to the presbytery, which approves
or condemns. The presbytery has power to control the
session and reverse their proceedings. Over the presby-
tery is the synod, composed of several presbyteries, and
above the synod is the general assembly, formed by
delegates from all the presl)} 7 teries in the land. These
delegates are appointed by the presbyteries, and are al-
ways ministers or elders. A case of discipline may be
carried up successively through all the judications to the
general assembly. The people have no voice in the
system except when the elders are first elected.

Congregationalists differ from Baptists with regard to
baptism and church communion. Baptists hold that
immersion alone is baptism; that none but adult be-
lievers should be baptized, and that none but immersed
professors should be admitted to the Lord's table, while
Congregationalists admit the validity of any baptism in
which water is applied to the person in the name of the
Trinity, and believe that baptism should also be given
to the infant children of believers, and welcome to the
Lord's table all evangelical Christians.

Congregationalists differ from Methodists chiefly in
church government, the latter governing their churches
by bishops and conferences, who legislate for the whole
body and appoint and remove ministers.

Congregationalists differ from Episcopalians in cere-


monies of worship and in church government. The
Episcopalians hold to three orders in the ministry, and
confide the admission and exclusion of members to the
pastor and the diocesan bishop, who is set over the
churches and ministers of a particular district, and
alone has power to confirm members and ord- in minis-
ters. Among Congregationalists every- pastor is a
bishop, as among the New Testament churches, and all
ministers are equal in office.


Congregationalism, desiring to be free from any nar-
row sectarianism, insists upon no denominational pecu-
liarities as the condition of fellowship. This principle is
carried out in intercourse with other denominations. At
their seasons of communion, Congregational churches
invite all church-members, who are in regular standing
in any evangelical denomination, and who are honoring
their profession by a godly life, to sit down with them at
the table of the Lord. If any of their members wish
to unite with churches of other evangelical denomina-
tions letters arc given to such churches ; or if any come
from such denominations and there is no evidence against
their Christian character, they are received as from sis-
ter churches.

The principles of the Congregational polity arc thus
Been to be accordant with the Scriptures, and with the
practice <»i the firsl and apostolic ages <>l Christianity.


A commission of twenty-two ministers, appointed
under the direction of the National Council of the Con-
gregational churches of the United States, to " prepare
a simple and comprehensive exposition of the truths of
the glorious gospel of the blessed God for the instruction
and edification of the churches," reported December 19,
1S83, and as a brief exposition of tliG creed of Congre-
gational churches, there is here given the


1. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth, and of all tilings, visible
and invisible ;

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who is
of one substance witli the Father, by whom all things
were made ;

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life,
Avho is sent from the Father and Son, and who, together
with the Father and Son, is worshiped and glorified.

2. We believe that the providence of God, by which
he executes his eternal purposes in the government of
the world, is in and over all events ; yet so that the free-
dom and responsibility of man are not impaired, and sin
is the act of the creature alone.

3. We believe that man was made in the image of
God, that he might know, love and obey God, and enjoy
him forever ; that our first parents, by disobedience, fell
under the righteous condemnation of God ; and that all


men are so alienated from God that there is no salvation
from the guilt and power of sin, except through God's
redeeming grace.

4. * We believe that God would have all men return
to him ; that to this end lie has made himself known,
not only through the works of nature, the course of his
providence, and the consciences of men, but also through
supernatural revelations made especially to a chosen peo-
ple, and above all, when the fulness of time was come,
through Jesus Christ, His Son.

5. We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and
New Testaments are the record of God's revelation of
himself in the work of redemption ; that they were
written by men under the especial guidance of the Holy
Spirit ; that they are able to make wise unto salvation ;
and that they constitute the authoritative standard by
which religious teaching and human conduct are to be

6. We believe that the love of God to sinful men
has found its highest expression in the redemptive work
of His Son, who became man, uniting his divine nature
with our human nature in one person ; who was tempted
like other men, yet without sin ; who, by his humilia-
tion, his holy obedience, his sufferings, his death on the
cross and his resurrection, became a perfect Redeemer,
whose sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world de-
clares the righteousness of God, and is the sole and suffi-
cient ground of forgiveness and of reconciliation with him.


t. We believe that Jesus Christ, after lie had risen
from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, as the one
mediator between God and man, he carries forward his
work of saving men ; that he sends the Holy Spirit to
convict them of sin, and to lead them to repentance and
faith ; and that those who, through renewing grace, turn
to righteousness and trust in Jesus Christ as their Re-
deemer, receive for his sake the forgiveness of their sins,
and are made the children of God.

8. We believe that those who are thus regenerated
and justified, grow in sanctified character through fellow-
ship with Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and
obedience to the truth ; that a holy life is the fruit and
evidence of saving faith, and that the believer's hope of
continuance in such a life is in the preserving grace of

9. We believe that Jesus Christ came to establish
amoncr men the kingdom of God, the rei^n of truth and
love, righteousness and peace ; that to Jesus Christ, the
head of this kingdom, Christians are directly responsible
in faith and conduct, and that to him all have imme-
diate access without mediatorial or priestly interven-

10. , We believe that the Church of Christ, invisible
and spiritual, comprises all true believers, whose duty it
is to associate themselves in churches, for the mainte-
nance of worship, for the promotion of spiritual growth
and fellowship, and for the conversion of men ; that


these churches, under the guidance of the Holy Scrip-
tures and in fellowship with one another, may deter-
mine — each for itself — their organization, statements of
belief and forms of worship ; may appoint and set apart
their own ministers, and should co-operate in the work
which Christ has committed to them for the furtherance
of the Gospel throughout the world.

11. We believe in the observance of the Lord's Day,
as a day of holy rest and worship ; in the ministry of
the Word ; and in the two sacraments which Christ has
appointed for his church ; baptism, to be administered
to believers and their children, as the sign of cleansing
from sin, of union to Christ, and of the impartation of
the Holy Spirit ; and the Lord's Supper, as a symbol of
his atoning death, a seal of its efficacy, and a means
whereby lie confirms and strengthens the spiritual union

- and communion of believers with himself.

12. We believe in the ultimate prevalence of the
kingdom of Christ over all the earth ; in the glorious
appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ ;
in the resurrection of the dead, and in a final judgment,
the issues of which are that the wicked shall go away
into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life


OK Tllli

jftrst |ree jfoitgregaitunttt j$l{ard{,


This church was organized on Thursday, June 7th,
1838, in a hall in the Boughtou Block.

The record of the proceedings reads as follows: A
meeting for the purpose of constituting a " Congrega-
tional church ' was called in the village of Lockport,
June 7th, 1838. After a sermon by the Rev. William %
Bacon, of Troy, the meeting was organized by the ap-
pointment of Rev. II. G. Nott, of Buffalo, as moderator,
and Oliver Parsons, as clerk.

Rev. Mr. Sherwood, of Wilson, present and assisting.
Prayer by Rev. Mr. Sherwood.

A letter of dismission from the First Presbyterian
church, of Lockport, was presented by Marcus Stickney
and forty-three others. Alpheus Phelps also presented
a letter from the Presbyterian church, of Ogden, Mon-
roe county, whereupon it was resolved that these persons
be constituted into a church to be known as " The First



Free Congregational Church of Lockport." The first
article of the constitution then adopted reads as follows:

Art. 1. This church shall be called the First Free
Congregational church of Lockport, and the Society
connected therewith known as the " Society of the First
Free Congregational Church of Lockport."

The word " free " was used to express the deep con-
victions which the church held in regard to the evil of
slavery ; and for the reason that the word condemns every
form of sin, it has doubtless caused the members of
the church to remember the duty of earnestly opposing
other evils which threaten society.

Alter its formation the church worshiped for a season
in what was known as the Boughton block, on Canal
-freet, the north side and a little west of the I>ii» Bridge.
From thence they moved into the hall in the Moyer
'block, now occupied by the u Grand Army of the Re

The first meeting-house was dedicated on Thursday,
July 23d, 1840, occupying the site of the present build-
ing. It Was struck by lightning May 22d, 1853, when
Luther Crocker was killed and some others injured. The
edifice was burned November 2d, L854, in the great lire
which consumed nearly all the buildings occupying the
block bounded by Transit, Main, Canal and Niagara


Rev. William Bacon Borved the church in a minis-
terial capacity fro mil organization t«» August 24th,


1S41. Rev. Washington Rosevelt supplied the pulpit
from the dismission of William Bacon to May 1st, 1842.
Rev. William F. Curry acted as minister of the church
from May 1st, 1842, to August 6th, 1844.

Rev. Edgar Perkins commenced his ministerial labors
with the church on the first Sabbath in December, 1844,
and was ordained its pastor June 25th, 1845. He was
dismissed at his own request June 3d, 1849, and Rev.
Edward W. Gilman ordained his successor December
4th, 1849. Edward W. Gilman's connection with the
church continued until June 17th, 1856, when it was
dissolved by mutual consent. From which time the pul-
pit was supplied by Rev. J. D. Potter, Rev. F. W.
Brauns and others, until the installation of Rev. Joseph
L. Bennett, on the 15th of October, 1857. That day
was made still more memorable in the history of the
church by the dedication of their house of worship,
built in the place of the former, which had been con-
sumed by tire. The present structure is of stone, in the
Norman style of architecture.

The pastorate of Rev. Joseph L. Bennett continued
until the 12th day of January, 1871, when, at his own
request, the pastoral relation was dissolved by the aid of
a mutual Ecclesiastical Council, to enable him to become
pastor of Plymouth Congregational church in the cit}'
of Indianapolis.

The pulpit was then supplied by different clergymen,
until the 24th day of May, 1S71, when Rev. James W«


Cooper whs . tendered a call to become pastor of the
church, which lie accepted, and commenced his labors
June 10th, 1871, and was installed pastor on the 23d
day of June, 1871.

Mr Cooper continued pastor until the 21st day of
February, 1878, when, at his own request, that relation
was dissolved to enable him to become pastor of the
South Congregational church in the city of New Britain,
in the state of Connecticut.

After the dismission of Mr. Cooper the pulpit was
supplied by different clergymen until the 13th day of
August, 1878, when Rev. Ezra Tinker was engaged as
stated supply for one year. He supplied the pulpit un-
til the 7th day of May, 1879, when he resigned to take
charge of a new church in the city of New York.

July 10th, 1879, a call to become pastor of the church
was extended to Rev. Edward B. Furbish, of Potfsdain,
N. Y. lie accepted the call, commenced his labors with
the church on the 20th day of September, 1879, and
was installed pastor on the 23d day of October, 1879,
which pastoral relation still continues.

.(institution tif % (flturclj.


The name of this church shall be the u First Free
Congregational Church of Lockport, N. Y."


The object of this church is to unite true disciples of
the Lord Jesus Christ in the observance of the ordi-
nances of the Gospel, in the development of Christian
character, and in tie work of saving men.


The government of this church is vested in the body
of believers who compose it, whose majority vote is final.
It is amenable to no other ecclesiastical body. It ac-
knowledges the Lord Jesus Christ as its only Head, and
receives the Scriptures as its only infallible guide in mat-
ters of faith, order and discipline.

This church, while it will control its own affairs ac-
cording to its own understanding of God's Word, will
yet recognize the obligation and the privilege of the
communion of churches, by seeking and extending that



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Online LibraryN.Y.) First Free Congregational Church (LockportManual of the First Free Congregational Church of Lockport, N. Y → online text (page 1 of 9)