Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση


sufficient to convince candid minds that certain orthodox prayers are subversive of free inquiry, religious liberty, and the principles of congregationalism.

3. Withholding Patronage. Look at some of the orthodox measures for depriving unitarians of the means of subsistence. Orthodox ministers have urged their people to vote for none but orthodox Christians for public offices. They have advised parents to take their children from well conducted schools, because their instructers attended unitarian meetings. Orthodox laymen have withdrawn their patronage from mechanics, merchants, physicians, and lawyers, because they embraced unitarian sentiments. So many instances of this kind now occur to my mind, that I know not where to begin the selection. I will, however, take a case which involves many principles as well as individuals. The circumstances are briefly these. A high school was established in Geneseo, New York. Three young men, graduates of Harvard University, entered into written engagements to take charge of the institution. The simple circumstance of their receiving degrees at Cambridge was sufficient to arouse the enmity of orthodox leaders. Accordingly the minister of the place drew up the following circular, and endeavoured to obtain the names of the influential inhabitants of the county.

“A memorial of sundry inhabitants of the County of Livingston, addressed to the stockholders of the Livingston County High School. — We, the undersigned, inhabitants of the County of Livingston, having been informed that the board of directors of the Livingston County High School have employed as instructers in said school, three young men from Harvard University, beg leave respectfully to represent, that, coming as they do from a college which has long been known to the Christian community as the fountain of the most destructive heresy, with professions of neutrality in relation to the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, which facts are accompanied with a train of circumstances which renders it extremely probable, if not morally certain, that they are deeply imbued with, and highly in favor of unitarian sentiments, we cannot, consistently with our duty to God, to the community in which we live, and to the youth of our country, either directly or indirectly support or encourage the school, while under their auspices; as we conscientiously believe, in so doing, we should be instrumental in disserninating principles which strike directly at the root of the faith, as held by all the Christian denominations of this country.”

You perceive that the writer speaks of a “train of circumstances." To what does he allude? He wrote a letter to the Rev. Dr. Wisner of Boston for information on this subject; and the reverend gentleman returned a very full answer. I have not a copy of the letter by me; but if I should meet the author, I should ask him the following questions. Did you not intimate that unitarians in this region were designing to introduce unitarianism into the western part of New York ? - that these young men were doubtless the tools of the leaders ? - that it was the duty of the orthodox to oppose their coming ? — and that if they could not effect this object in any other way, they had better open an opposition school? An affirmative answer to these inquiries will explain the train of circumstances. And what was the object to be effected by this memorial ? It was to awaken the zeal of the stockholders, so that they might assemble and choose a new board of directors, and thus break the written engagement of the old board. But it was generally known in that region, that one of the three young men was orthodox in his opinions; and but few names could be obtained. A new memorial was therefore circulated, with the word two inserted in the place of three ; and to this a large number of signatures was attached. But instead of presenting that to the stockholders, they took the names and placed them on the one I have copied. It seems they could not, consistently with their duty to God, have young men from Cambridge ; but they could practise a gross deception in perfect consistency with this duty. I will not add one word to this plain statement of facts; for this alone is sufficient to awaken the indignation of all honorable minds. I will merely say, that I hope the time will speedily arrive, when these persons can exhibit an example of old-fashioned honesty, consistently with their duty to God.

4. Convention of Congregational Ministers. Look at some of the proceedings of orthodox leaders in the Convention of ministers. A few words of explanation seem necessary to render my statements intelligible to the community. The churches of this Commonwealth were originally of the congregational order. Their pastors were early accustomed to assemble at Boston in Election week, and to consult as equals and brethren on the interests of religion. They now have considerable funds at their disposal, which were obtained in the following manner. A donation was made by one Judah Monis, a converted Jew ; large sums were afterwards received from benevolent individuals ; and there is an annual contribution immediately after the convention sermon. The proceeds of these funds were first bestowed on indigent clergymen; afterwards on their widows and children; but are now confined to the indigent widows of congregational ministers. By looking over the list of donors, you will perceive that no small amount of the property of the convention was given by unitarian or liberal Christians.

The Convention seldom, if ever, assumed any ecclesiastical authority or jurisdiction ; although orthodox leaders occasionally attempted such measures. The elder clergy will doubtless recollect the speech of the Rev. Mr. Allen of Pittsfield, which openly exposed the iniquity of Drs. Morse and Lyman. In 1804 it was proposed to convert the Convention into a General Association, and confer upon it the powers usu

ally assumed and exercised by that body. But public opinion prevented the success of this attempt, although the committee reported in favor of such a measure. The most daring attempt was commenced in 1821, and frustrated in 1823. In 1821 an application was made to the Convention, by three ministers, calling themselves the Old Colony Association, for an answer to the following question: "What is a congregational church, with which we may have fellowship, as such?” The request was scarcely noticed. The next year the North Worcester Association proposed the following question: “What is a Christian church, with which we ought to hold communion, as such?” The whole business had been planned and concluded on with intended secrecy in Park Street vestry. The committee which had been previously selected was chosen, consisting of twelve orthodox members and one unitarian, and authorized to report at the next annual meeting. Exertion was made to have the report printed and circulated during the year, but was frustrated. Your friend, Dr. Woods, was chairman of this committee; but he did not find all the other members so tractable as he wished. He wrote a dictatorial letter to the Rev. Mr. Stearns, of Bed. ford; and received in answer a few homely but wholesome truths. However, the report was finished, and at the meeting in 1823, was read to the Convention. A motion was made by yourself to have it printed. But you mistook your men. No notice was taken of your desire ; but the following vote quickly passed : That the Convention will take no FURTHER order on the subject." And what was the substance of this famous report. Simply this. That a Christian church, with which we ought to hold communion, must subscribe the orthodox creed.

Now, Sir, what was the design of your leaders in this most daring attempt? What objects did you expect to accomplish? Five. First, you wished to learn what portion of the orthodox ministers were prepared to take up arms against the sacred rights of unitarians ? Secondly, you wished to ascertain what portion were ready to adopt a human creed, instead of the Bible, as their standard of religious truth. Thirdly, you wished to drive the liberal clergy from the Convention, either by adopting a doctrinal test, or by a direct vote of exclusion. Fourthly, you wished to know how far public sentiment would support you in withdrawing ministerial intercourse from unitarians. And fifthly, and especially, you wished to obtain complete possession of the funds of the Convention. As you will probably admit the correctness of my first four assertions, no reasons need be given in support of their truth. But as the fifth implies a very serious charge, you may wish for proof. The evidence, which was perfectly satisfactory to my own mind, is this. At that time I was pursuing theological studies with an orthodox clergyman, and from various sources obtained not a few of the secrets of your denomination. That very week I was in company with a member of your Seminary, one of your favorite pupils. I asked him

what object was to be gained by the adoption of Dr. Woods's report, the character of which we then knew. His answer was simply this: " To erclude the unitarians, and obtain possession of the funds.The answer made a deep impression on my mind, and aided essentially in opening my eyes to the policy of the orthodox leaders. I soon repeated the statement to others, and have continued to do the same thing whenever occasion has since required. I do not say that your pupil had any authority to make this assertion; but I do say, that I then believed he uttered the literal truth; and that this evidence has ever been perfectly satisfactory to my own mind.

And by what means was this bold and unprincipled measure frustrated? The community were awake to the question. On the day for reading the report, the court-house was early filled to overflowing by distinguished laymen from all parts of the Commonwealth. Their appearance had considerable effect in intimidating your leaders. But much had previously been done by ministers of orthodox sentiments. Perhaps more credit is due to the late Dr. Parish, than to any other individual. He openly asserted that certain orthodox ministers wished to introduce religious tyranny, and that the Professors at Andover were among the foremost of this number. And to prevent the success of your attempt, he sent nearly a hundred letters to clergymen in all parts of the State, urging their attendance at the Convention, and their opposition to your designed intolerant measure. In this way, all the secret consultations, and artful inaneuvring, and laborious exertions, of the leaders of your party were overruled, and by producing a strong reaction only served to injure the cause they were intended to promote. I need not add one word to impress upon the public mind the illiberal character of such an undertaking.

5. Andover Theological Seminary. Many of the proceedings in your Institution appear to me illiberal and unchristian. Faithful records of several exclusive measures are now in unitarian hands. I am prevented from making use of the existing documents on account of one or two unavoidable circumstances. They will doubtless be published in due season. I shall not therefore be so definite and full under this head as I expected. I will merely ask you five questions. And, first, have you not declared, that you care not what opinions the young men entertain when they enter your Seminary ; but that you shall exert all your influence to make them embrace orthodox sentiments; and that if you are not successful in this particular, you shall withhold from them your approbation when they leave your institution ? I know you are bound to this course by your solemn obligations. But is such a proceeding consistent with free inquiry and religious liberty ? Ought not your influence to be exerted for the discovery of truth; and to preserve the minds of your pupils from prejudice ? Ought they not to have both sides of every question candidly stated, and be left to decide for them

selves on which the argument preponderates ? Ought they not to be rewarded for an honest and fearless examination of the Scriptures, and a rigid adherence to what appears to be the real meaning of the sacred writers, rather than punished for departing from the human standard of orthodoxy ? How very different the measures adopted by you and by unitarian Professors. Look simply at the introductory remarks of Dr. Taylor's Theological Lectures. Here they are. “I do solemnly charge you, in the name of the God of truth, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, and before whose judgment-seat you must, in no long time, appear ; that in all your studies and inquiries of a religious nature, present or future, you do constantly, carefully, impartially, and conscientiously attend to evidence as it lies in the holy Scriptures, or in the nature of things, and the dictates of reason; carefully guarding against the sallies of imagination, and the fallacy of ill-grounded conjecture. That you admit, embrace, or assent to no principle or sentiment by me taught or advanced, but only so far as it shall appear to you to be justified by proper evidence from revelation, or reason of things. That if, at any time hereafter, any principle or sentiment by me taught or advanced, or by you admitted and embraced, shall, upon impartial and faithful examination, appear to you to be dubious or false, you either suspect or totally reject, such principle or sentiment. That you keep your mind always open to evidence; that you labor to banish from your breast all prejudice, prepossession, and party zeal ; that you study to live in peace and love with all your fellow Christians; and that you steadily assert for yourself, and freely allow to others, the unalienable right of judgment and conscience.” This divine was not afraid to trust either himself or his pupils with the use of their reason or the study of their Bible. But how very different must be your charge to your students. In substance and reality it can amount to nothing more than this. “Unless you believe all the articles of the human standard which I have sworn to defend, I will not give you my approbation when you leave my Seminary. And I do from the heart believe, that your eternal salvation is connected with a hearty assent to the fundamental principles which I avow.'

And, secondly, are you not in the common practice of speaking against unitarians before your pupils? Do you not often attempt to ridicule and sneer at their opinions, criticisms, and arguments ? Do you not aim to make them appear contemptible as scholars, critics, and Christians ? Do you not strive to prevent your students from becoming acquainted with their writings, or characters, or persons ? Do you not labor to excite and increase their enmity to the denomination ? Have you not carried this measure to such excess, as to cause one of your devoted students to declare that you were “really too bad.” I know you are bound to this course by your solemn oath ; for this is one of the easiest ways in which you can oppose the unitarian heresy. But how

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »