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“We now, in the presence of the heart-scarching God and before this assembly, profess our belief in the Christian Religion. We believe in One only living and true God; who is the wise Creator, the kind Preserver, and the righteous Governor of the universe. We believe bis Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Redeemer and Saviour of the world; and that through him we have access by one spirit to the Father. We acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the word of God, and the rule of life; and in deep contrition for our offences, we humbly ask God's forgiveness and mercy, through the atoning blood of Christ. In this profession and belief, we now devote ourselves to the Lord Jehovah; sincerely choosing God the Father for our God and FATHER; the Son of God for our Redeemer, Lord, and Saviour; and the Holy Ghost for our comforter, guide, and sanctifier; that for the residue of our lives, we will take the Gospel of Christ for the rule of our faith and practice; that we will earnestly strive to forsake every false way, and will carefully guard against the occasions of sinning ; that we will endeavour to make continual advancement in Christian knowledge and virtue, and to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, as it does, or as, pon careful inquiry, shail appear to be our duty ; and we promise that we will walk orderly as members of this church, that we will submit to its discipline, and that we will do our best endeavour to preserve its peace, to promote edification, to extend the knowledge and influence of the Christian religion, and at all times to walk worthy of our holy vocation.”
This creed trinitarian and orthodox! Would to God we had thousands of such trinitarian and orthodox covenants! Why did Mr. Stone change it in 1825 for a very different one? I ask every honest man, if I did not utter the literal truth, when I called this creed so liberal, that Christians of different religious opinions could honestly give their assent to its requisitions. Letters, p. 51. Review, pp. 31 — 79.
Thirdly. I asserted that Mr. Stone was dismissed, and a unitarian settled in his place. This you deny outright. You expect to escape from the charge of falsehood by declaring that he has not been dismissed from the orthodox seceders of the second church. I said nothing about the church ; and Mr. Stone admits that his civil contract with the parish was dissolved. And why was he not dismissed from the church? Because he violated a written agreeinent. The following vote was passed by the congregation. “ Voted, that whenever the church shall unite with the parish in settling another pastor, he (Mr. Stone) shall have his pastoral relation to the church dissolved according to ecclesiastical usage.” To this proposal Mr. Stone assented in writing. After the church and society had united and settled a pastor, he abandoned the church, and would not fulfil his contract; and now declares he has never been dismissed, because he induced a majority
of the communicants to follow him to another place of worship. Let the public look at this management. Letters, p. 51. Review, pp. 31 - 78.
Fourthly. I asserted that the male members of the church who remained were excommunicated by the seceders; and that they were charged, among other things, with a breach of covenant engagements. You assert that one was excommunicated for absenting himself from public worship previous to the secession of Mr. Stone, and the other for immural conduct. I wish to ask a few questions on this statement, and I ask for an honest answer. Were not these gentlemen in good and regular standing at the time of Mr. Stone's secession? Yes. Were they under any church censure at this time? No. Had they followed Mr. Stone to his new place of worship, would they have been excommunicated ? No. How long did Mr. Stone wait to see if they would join his feeble party, before passing sentence of condemnation ? Some eight or nine months. Has not Mr. Stone any member in his church now, whose conduct he knows to be immoral, much more deserving of censure, than that of either of the unitarians ? I put the question to his conscience. If so, why is not church discipline admin. istered? Because he adheres to the seceders. Is it not then plain as daylight, that these two gentlemen were excommunicated for their adherence to unitarian preaching? But you say that one was ex. communicated for breaking covenant engagements. You have the covenant before you. Did he covenant to follow a fallible man from the house where his fathers worshipped ? Did he ever covenant to adhere to the orthodox doctrines? Did he ever covenant to become no wiser on religious subjects? How then did he break any covenant engagements ? Letters, p. 51. Review, pp. 31 -- 79.
Fifthly. I have defended my statements respecting the Brookfield case. But Mr. Stone has made a complaint, which requires a brief notice. He brings a charge against the unitarian church in this note. “In February, 1828, the unitarian minister, and those associated with him, calling themselves the church, passed a vote of ExcLUSION against the whole church which had left the parish, pastor and all.” Now this is not true, as I will prove by the votes themselves. Here you have a true copy from the records.
“ February 3, 1828. After service in the afternoon a meeting of the church was held, at which documents were laid before the church, from which it appeared, that brothers John Murray and Jason Walker had been dismissed with censure, by Rev. Mr. Stone and other seceders from the church, styling themselves the second church in Brookfield, from the church of the Evangelical Society; whereupon the pastor, and brothers Stebbins and Murray, were appointed a committee to report what measure should be adopted in relation to this subject; to report in what relation Rev. Micah Stone and other seceders, who had joined the Evangelical Society without a dismission, stand to this church; and to report what measure should be adopted in regard to the church plate. Feb. 10. At an adjourned meeting of the church, at which all the brethren were present, the committee appointed at the last meeting reported, that it is expedient the following votes be passed by the church, and communicated to those whom it may concern. Voted, that we regard the act of Rev. Micah Stone, and other seceders (eight in number) from this church, pretending to pass ecclesiastical censure upon two members of our church, (who were recognised as a regular church of Christ by an ecclesiastical council, containing some of the most distinguished divines and jurists in our state, and who, with others since added to their number, are recognised as the second church in Brookfield by the laws of the land,) as a violation of Christian charity, and as tending to excite party spirit and unsocial passions, rather than advance the cause of Him, who came to promote peace on earth and good will amongst men. Voted, that we regard Rev. Mr. Stone, and all those former members of this church, who have become legal members of the Evangelical Society, AS HAVING DISSOLVED THEIR CONNEXION WITH THIS Church by deserting it, refusing to act with it, and becoming members of a new society, and that we do not hold ourselves bound to watch over them. Voted, that we regret that Rev. Mr. Stone has not seen fit to fulfil his promise of having his pastoral relation to this church formally dissolved according to congregational usage ; nor even to fulful his promise of returning an answer to those, who thought themselves bound by a vote of the parish to make him the offer of such a formal dissolution of his connexion with them. Voted, that we regret that the seceders from this church, who have joined the Evangelical Society, have not, according to congregational usage, asked a regular dismission from this church, which would have been regularly granted them, as this church does not covet dominion over the conscience or faith of any disciple of Christ, remembering the words of an Apostle : Why dost thou judge thy brother, and why dost thou set at nought thy brother, for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.'”
You thus see for yourself the incorrectness of Mr. Stone's statement. You see that the unitarians neither admonished, ercluded, expelled, nor excommunicated the orthodox seceders. Could they have consistently done otherwise ? If you cannot see the difference between such a vote, and a damnatory sentence of expulsion, I envy neither your head nor your heart. Letters, p. 51. Review, p. 80.
2. Waltham. In illustrating some of my positions, I referred to certain transactions of the orthodox church in Waltham. You have denied the truth of some of my statements. I will examine your insinuations and assertions, and defend my original positions.
First. I stated that only fifteen votes could be obtained from more than one hundred voters for the continuance of Mr. Harding. The truth of this statement you virtually deny. For you ask, how many of his friends were denied the privilege of voting, and how many of his enemies from other societies and a neighbouring state were allowed this privilege? Now what do you mean by these vile insinuations ? Will you pretend that one legal voter was deprived of his right of suffrage ? No. Will you pretend that one illegal voter was allowed to cast his vote into the ballot box? No. Will you pretend that Mr. Harding's dismission was illegal, or contrary to his written contract ? No. Did not an ecclesiastical council, of which Dr. Holmes was moderator and Dr. Wisner scribe, sanction the dissolution of his connexion with the society? Yes. Why then do you throw out base innuendos, when you have no just cause of complaint ?
Secondly. You also ask, how many hundreds, including females, petitioned to have Mr. Harding remain ?" And why did you not openly state the whole truth? I know that a petition was presented to the council ; but how was it got up? How were the names obtained ? Were there twenty males who signed the paper? How many of the females have uniformly attended the unitarian church? How many hundreds, including men, women, and children, with all the additions from other towns, now belong to the society? Do you wish for the whole truth on this subject? If so, declare your wish, and it shall be gratified.
Thirdly. I asserted that Mr. Harding left the church with five male members. This you do not deny ; but you think I ought to have said the whole church. Very well. I say that all who had subscribed his human creed followed their leader. And I also say, that a larger number of men, who were already members of unitarian churches, and whose Christian characters the Reverend gentlemen himself will not dare to pronounce inferior to those of his own disciples, came forward to the cominunion, as soon as his unscriptural confession was fairly removed ; and that one of this number was a member of an orthodox church, and had uniformly worshipped with the seceders, and was regarded by them as orthodox.
Fourthly. I asserted that the seceders took away the Bible which had been purchased by a subscription among the ladies. This you deny in the following words. “ They did not take it. It was taken by the original purchasers, or so many of them as still resided in Waltham, whose property it was, and by them given to Mr. Harding's church subsequent to the separation." You have here committed as many errors, as your sentences contain ideas. I will therefore give you a brief account of the whole business. About the time the Second Society was organized, a subscription paper with the following caption was circulated among the ladies. “Being desirous to obtain a large
Bible and Hymn Book for the desk, and wishing all may have an opportunity of expressing their benevolence for the promotion of so laudable an object, it has been thought advisable to do it by subscription. We therefore, the undersigned, agree to pay for the above object the sums affixed to our names. Should more than is necessary be subscribed, the overplus shall be remitted to the Missionary Society.” To this paper, ninety-four names were attached, and seven contributors with- . held their signatures. The sum subscribed was thirty three dollars and four cents. Now I wish to ask all people of common sense a few questions. Was not this money given for a specified object? Was not this object the purchase of a large Bible and Hymn Book ? Were not these books for the desk? Had these contributors any control over this property, any more than over any benefactions to a Missionary Society ? Suppose a hundred people subscribe a thousand dollars to purchase an organ for the church. Suppose it is placed in the church, and there used for years. Suppose a few of these donors should secede, would they have a right to carry away the organ? After I have given my money to any object, I have no further control over the donation. After I have specified the object to which my gift is appropriated, no one has a right to alter that designation. So in this case. The donors gave the Bible for the desk. And on that desk it should have remained unmolested, according to all the laws of man and God.
But during the week after the seccders had taken their leave of the church, one of the male members obtained the key of the meetinghouse from an apprentice of the sexton, and at the hour of dusk, took the Bible from that desk to which it had been originally destined. The proprietors of the church immediately made a noise about this proceeding, and the seceders circulated another paper with the following caption. “Whereas a division has taken place between the Second Church and the Second Religious Society in Waltham, we the subscribers who five years ago purchased a large Bible and Hymn Book for the use of the desk, as they were never formerly given to either church or society, but have been used by both together, do now give to the Second Church said Bible and Hymn Book, to be used by them wherever they may publicly worship God.” This paper contains the names of but twentyseven individuals ; several of whom uniformly attended the unitarian meeting ; one of whom was never presented with the paper nor her liberty asked to put down her name; and another of whom expressly forbid their writing her name on the paper. And above all, this twentyscyen did not include all who were then residents in Waltham. The amount of their contributions is nine dollars and eighty-seven cents. Now I leave it to yourself to say, if they had any lawful claim to this property.