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them from the association ; next, by refusing to acknowledge them as Christian ministers; and finally, by breaking up the harmony of their parishes, and destroying their peace, usefulness, and reputation. Will the community allow such usurpation of ministerial and congregational rights much longer? No. Let them utter their opinions on this subject with distinctness and authority, and loud as seven thunders. In this way they may put down this unboly combination of orthodox leaders to regulate the exchanges of their brethren; a combination oppressive, tyrannical, and unchristian; a combination subversive of free inquiry, religious liberty, and the principles of congregationalism.
4. Concealment. Look at the concealment which has been practised by orthodox ministers in relation to ministerial intercourse. I allude particularly to those cases, in which orthodox candidates have obtained settlements over comparatively liberal societies, by concealing their real theological sentiments, and their real views respecting exchanges with unitarians. So many cases of this nature are at hand, that it is difficult to make a selection. I will refer to an instance of late oc. currence in Middlesex county. The circumstances are briefly these. The society was small in number. They occupied a house of worship owned principally by unitarian proprietors. A large majority of the voters were of unitarian sentiments. They were scarcely able of themselves to support a minister properly. A wealthy orthodox individual in the neighbourhood offered to contribute a generous sum annually, provided the society would settle a man of orthodox views; but was perfectly willing he should exchange with unitarians. Such an one was at length obtained, who preached practical discourses principally, and manifested a willingness to be liberal in his ministerial intercourse. The call was given and accepted. The council was invited from unitarian as well as orthodox churches, and parts as. signed indiscriminately to ministers of both denominations. Before the vote was taken to proceed to the ordination, one or two unitarian ministers wished to know distinctly, whether the pastor elect would exchange with persons of their opinions. One or two orthodox minisers objected to his giving an answer to such a question. At length, one of the council from Andover rose and observed in substance, that he was well acquainted with the opinions and wishes of the society, and that the pastor elect was also perfectly informed on this subject; that he likewise understood the different views of the members of the council, and was authorized by the pastor elect to say, that he should pursue such a course in relation to exchanges as would give satisfaction to every member, and that he was present and would signify if he dissented from this statement. A unitarian delegate observed, that bé presumed the Andover preacher had authority for what he stated, as the pastor elect was present and confirmed it by his silence; and
that if he was sincere in the declaration, he supposed it would be satisfactory to the whole council. With such an express understanding he was ordained. He continued for a year or more to preach practical sermons, and to exchange occasionally with unitarian ministers. But a new system of operation was commenced, by altering the covenant of the church, and by treating on doctrinal and controversial subjects. Then a refusal to exchange with unitarians was given to one and another requesting the same. At length the following memorial was addressed to him by about thirty of his parishioners; a very important portion of his society, since but six individuals voted for his settlement and seven for bis salary; not but that the others were satisfied with his discourses and his promised liberal course of exchanges, but they feared the concealment which had been so often practised by orthodox ministers in similar circumstances.
“Rev. and Dear Sir, “We the subscribers, members of your society, would respectfully represent, that we feel disappointed and aggrieved by the course pursued by you in respect to the exchange of ministerial labors the year past. We had fondly hoped that you would have extended that Christian charity which characterized the commencement of your pastoral labors. And we sincerely hope you will, upon consideration of the situation of the society, so far gratify us, as to resume the course in that respect which you pursued at your settlement. The object of this request is, to keep our little society united; for we fear a different course will produce divisions among us, which will weaken and disturb the harmony of the society. With sentiments of respect, we are your friends and parishioners. January, 1830."
And what kind of an answer do you suppose one of your pupils returned to this respectful communication? The most jesuitical letter I ever read. One of the most distinguished legal gentleman in this country observed on reading it; “This document might have been written by a lawyer, but should never have come from the pen of a minister.” As it occupies four closely written pages, I shall have room only for the conclusion. Here it is. “You will perceive, gentlemen, that I have given four distinct answers to the memorial which you have presented to me. First, that I cannot understand from the language of the subscribers the real cause of their dissatisfaction, nor the remedy which they wish me to apply. Secondly, upon supposition that they wish me to exchange with unitarians, a compliance with their wishes would not prevent the division which they fear. Thirdly, that individuals have no right to alter the contract which the church and society entered into with me at my settlement. And, fourthly, that no one should presume to control my exchanges, until he can share with me the weight of my responsibility.” Now this very document furnishes much evidence of this man's concealment of his real intentions when ordained. And one further fact will confirm this conclusion. It is this. Just before this memorial was presented, he was asked by a Baptist clergyman, what success attended his labors. He replied, that he now considered himself as firmly settled over an orthodox church as any minister in the region. Do not all the facts in the case seem to indicate an artful and deep-laid plan, to bring a unitarian church and society upon orthodox ground? I verily hope this is the last instance in which a liberal society will have their expectations disappointed by orthodox preachers.
5. Orthodor Reasons for not exchanging with Unitarians. Look at some of the reasons assigned by the leaders of the orthodox party for not exchanging with unitarians. This system of exclusion was commenced in Connecticut as early as 1806. That year the general Association of the state recommended to the ministers to withhold fellowship from any clergyman who should deny the divinity of Christ or the atonement. This was probably done in reference to the Rev. Mr. Sherman, who embraced unitarianism about that period. But no reasons were assigned by the association for this exclusive measure. In this commonwealth various reasons have been assigned. One small class pretend that their consciences will not permit them to exchange with unitarians. Now it appears to me, that if I had embraced Calvinism, and really believed a portion of my hearers must be inevitably damned, my conscience would have come to an opposite decision. I should have felt so much pity for those who were foreordained to endless torments, that any thing I could do for their happiness during their few remaining days, would have been cheerfully performed. And if they had desired to hear a preacher, who should declare to them that God was a Father of all his children, my conscience would have prompted me to comply with their wishes. But there is no accounting for the decisions of conscience; and therefore I will not attempt to reason on the subject.
Another class pretend that they cannot exchange with unitarians, because they are responsible for the sentiments delivered from their pulpits. I can inform such how they may easily rid themselves of this heavy burden of responsibleness. One of their number has set the example. A minister in Barnstable county informed his people, that he would comply with their request to exchange with unitarians, provided they would take all the responsibility on their own shoulders. They called a parish meeting, and voted to take the responsibleness of their minister's exchanges with unitarians on their own heads. This is a happy expedient. I advise all those ministers who give this reason for continuing in the exclusive system, to make the same proposals to their parishes the approaching spring ; and I have no doubt they will be relieved of their weighty load of responsibleness.
A third class pretend that their societies are opposed to their ex
changing with unitarians. If a majority are opposed, no fault can be found with the minister; for he is accountable on this question only to his God and his people. But if one or a few bigoted individuals undertake to control the minister, it becomes the majority to assert their rights. I would certainly wish every people to act their pleasure on this subject. I have no wish to dictate to any minister in relation to his exchanges, and I surely am not to be controlled in mine by any minister or body of ministers. What I am contending against, is this unhallowed combination of a few orthodox leaders, by which many ministers of their own sentiments are brought into utter servitude. This is felt and understood by some among themselves; and a few are bold enough to expose the iniquity of the leaders. As a specimen, I will give you a paragraph, written by the Rev. Mr. Withington, of Newbury, a distinguished orthodox divine. Had it been published by a unitarian, I have no doubt you would have pronounced it gross slander. But it will confirm all my statements under this division; and coming from high orthodox authority, must be unanswerable.
“To illustrate our manners, if ever this book should fall into the hands of a foreigner, let me mention in a note, a circumstance which is certainly unworthy of a place in the text. In Massachusetts, for a few years past, all ecclesiastical measures have been prepared in a certain conclave, nobody knows who they are, or where they are, invisible beings, congregational cardinals, to whose decrees every orthodox clergynan and church is expected to pay unlimited deference and submission. But as they are wholly destitute of power, they have found out a singular way of executing their laws. The clergyman, who hesitates, OR DARES TO THINK OR ACT FOR HIMSELF, suddenly finds himself surrounded by the whisper, that he is becoming an UNITARIAN. It is not easy to conceive the horror and dismay, that this suggestion occasions. It is caught from mouth to mouth, and whispered from ear to ear, and every ghastly relater increases the terrors of the tale. The poor, affrighted victim must either return to the bosom of the church, the popular measures of the day, or be denounced a heretic, worthy of all the flames that detraction can kindle; for, in this country, we burn heretics in no other. I will only add, that this state of society is rather amusing ; to say nothing of the magnaninsity of the GREAT MEN, who condescend to use such weapons, it is singular enough to see to what useful purpose the unitarians may be put; they not only serve as whetstones, on which staunch polemics may sharpen their weapons, but they make excellent bugbears to keep naughty boys in order. O the follies of the wise !”
Now this is a truly wonderful paragraph as coming from one of the orthodox ministers of this Commonwealth ; and true to the very letter. It also confirms every statement I have advanced, and must receive the confidence of all independent orthodox Christians. What then must be our conclusion ? Do not the facts I have stated fully prove, that the mcasures adopted by the leaders of the orthodox party to prevent ministerial exchanges with unitarians, are oppressive, tyrannical, and unchristian? Do they not also fully prove, that these measures are subversive of free inquiry, religious liberty, and the principles of congregationalism? I must conclude that both propositions are perfectly demonstrated.
III. ECCLESIASTICAL TRIBUNALS.
In the third place, I wish to direct your attention to the various ecclesiastical tribunals of the leaders of the orthodox denomination. I believe the facts I shall adduce under this head will prove the two following propositions. First, that the leaders of the orthodox party have attempted to establish, and in several instances have actually established, ecclesiastical tribunals, so that the supposed errors and mistakes of ministers and private Christians might be tricd and punished as heresies; that is, as crimes. And secondly, that such tribunals are subversive of free inquiry, religious liberty, and the principles of congregationalism. My limits will permit me to notice but five different classes of examples of this description.
1. Consociations established. Look at the consociations of churches in Connecticut. In each county, all the churches so disposed form themselves into a consociation. The power of settling all ecclesiastical difficulties is thus surrendered by the individual churches into the hands of the consociation. Delegates from county consociations form a general, State consociation, to which appeals may be made, in certain cases, from the county consociations. These consociations claim the right of calling ministers and private Christians to account for their honest opinions, and of punishing them for their religious sentiments. I will mention one of the many cases, in which a consociation has exercised its usurped, tyrannical, and unchristian power, in trying and punishing a most exemplary and devoted Christian minister, for his supposed mistakes and errors.
Take the case of the Rev. Abiel Abbot. In 1795, he was ordained over the church and society in Coventry. After fifteen years' happy and successful ministry, he was visited by a majority of the male communicants, because a few of them had expressed dissatisfaction with his peculiar religious sentiments. Like an honest and innocent minister of Jesus Christ, he gave them an explicit statement of his views of the gospel ; and expressed a willingness, if they were dissatisfied with his ministry, to have his pastoral connexion dissolved. On the thirteenth of September, 1810, the church voted, that as their pastor neither preached nor believed certain doctrines, which they allowed were incomprehensible, and could not be expressed in Scriptural language, it was expedient to apply to the association of ministers in their county, for advice. The association advised them to take the regular