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the religious people of this Commonwealth, who know anything of the circumstances-indeed, we may say all, unless it be the few, whose particular views were met and gratified—the church which separated from the first parish, ever has been, and is, and will be, considered and denominated the first and original church in Dedham, the determination of the court to the contrary notwithstanding. Much as the good people of this Commonwealth are disposed to respect the decisions of their Judges, they have too much respect for their own common sense to believe, when a church votes, by a large majority, to withdraw from a parish, and, by a large majority, does withdraw, that still it leaves itself behind!
And what has been said of the church in Dedham, may be said of all the similar cases which have occurred since. The views of the court have not been acquiesced in, neither as it respects the name and style of the afflicted churches, nor as it respects their rights and interests. To be sure there has been, and we trust there will be, no violent resistance; but between a mere abstaining from such resistance, and cordial acquiescence, there is, it will be remembered, a very wide difference. And it is high time that our honorable Judges were given distinctly to understand, that, however much professing Christians throughout the State are disposed to respect them as magistrates and as men, and however ready they may be to sustain them in the distribution of justice, still they cannot look on, and see church after church, which the Pilgrims planted, and which God has blessed, stripped of its natural rights, and its just inheritance, without deep emotion. We ask no more for the churches than what most obviously belongs to them, the right of self-preservation, of self-organization, of controlling their own property, and managing, generally, their own appropriate concerns; and when this is refused them, whether under the color of law, or in face of law, (though we can keep the peace.) we cannot, without treachery to Him whose are all the churches, we cannot cordially, acquiesce. And in saying this, we are confident that we speak the sentiment of thousands, and of tens of thousands, among the most pious and respectable citizens of this Commonwealth.
In his conclusion, Chief Justice Parker endeavors to console the churches, in view of the “inconvenience," as he terms it, which they may be called to suffer, in consequence of his decision. But, unhappily, the consolation he administers is as unavailing to us, as his arguments are unconvincing. “The condition of the members of a church is thought to be hard, where the minister elected by the parish is not approved by them : but this can only be because they are a minority, and it is one part of the compensation paid for the many blessings resulting from a state of society."* Were the members of a church mere members of the
* Mass, Term Reports, vol. xvi. p. 521.
solemn vore effects, bebiduals, and youre not suites is
parish, sustaining no other relation, as it is here implied, they would not speak of hardship, although they might be in the minority. But they are more than mere members of the parish. They do sustain another and higher relation. They are members of the church, an institution of Christ; an institution which they love and prize. And their complaint is, not that the parish exercises its own rights, but that the church is stripped and plundered of hers; not that the parish elects its own minister, but that power is given it to elect a pastor and ruler for the church, to place him over her, to force him upon her, and to seize her property for his maintenance.
"It is true," as Chief Justice Parker says, "dissenting members of the church may withdraw; may join any other church or society; or may institute a new society.” But how may they withdraw? May they go as a church? May they go with all their rights and effects, and institute worship by themselves? If this were granted, in case of irreconcilable disagreement between church and parish, this would be all we ask. But this is not granted. You, church members, if you are not suited here, may go; but then you go as individuals, and you leave the church, with all its rights and effects, behind you. Yes, you may all go, and go by solemn vote; but you die as a church, in the moment of your departure, and then your inheritance is ours.
" It is true," says the Judge, “ if there are any parish funds, they will lose the benefit of them by removal." But why talk of parish funds? What if there are church funds? Must they not lose these also, by a removal? The church has no control of parish funds, and she asks for none. She merely asks the liberty of doing what she will with her own.
“But an inconvenience of this sort,” arising from the loss of funds, says the Judge again, “will never be felt, where a case of conscience is in question.”* Yes, may it please your Honor, it will be felt; for church members, as well as other people, have sensibilities, and can feel. Not felt because “ a case of conscience is in question !” It will be felt the more tenderly. The primitive Christians felt “the spoiling of their goods,” when “a case of conscience was in question;" and so must Christians now. “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you please us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not"
- , we had almost written another of Shakspeare's words; but we forbear. No, we will not “revenge," if you do wrong us : for our great Teacher hath said, “Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath. Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
In closing, we express the hope, that this subject may be kept continually before the public mind, until it is well understood, and
* Mass. Term Reporte, vol. xvi. p. 522.
val: The churchemoval.", any parish
deeply felt. Conscious of the goodness of our cause, we shrink not from close and thorough investigation, but demand it. Let the truth come out, and let it shine, whoever may find himself reproved or condemned. The public can be made to understand this subject, and must be.* Let every thing calculated to throw light on our early history, such as the records of towns and churches, the colony and province laws, ancient journals, annals, memorials, and manuscripts, be diligently searched, and let the result be published to the world. From whatever source relief and a restoration of privileges may come to the churches, whether from a change of opinion on the part of the Judges, or from the Legislature, or from the silent abandonment of the odious work of oppression, the public mind must be first enlightened, and the work of oppressing and crushing the churches must be exhibited in its proper colors.
We have only to say further, that nothing here written is to be interpreted as impeaching the professional ability of the Supreme Judges of this Commonwealth. We believe them all, and the Chief Justice especially, to be men of talents, of learning, and of general good qualifications for the stations they occupy. But still we believe them to be men, and, as such, liable to be insensibly biassed, or to mistake the truth. Nor need it be thought strange, is, on a subject such as that liere discussed,—a subject which they are seldom called to consider, and with which their ordinary professional duties have no tendency to make them acquainted,-if, on such a subject, they should mistake the truth. We expect soon to hear from another quarter the sound of angry denunciation, for having audaciously presumed to call in question the judicial decisions of the Commonwealth ; but it would be injustice to the venerable Judges to suppose, that they can frown on a fellow citizen, who honestly believes them to be mistaken, and who is endeavoring earnestly, though, he hopes, candidly, to expose their error. And should our humble page ever fall under their notice and perusal, we would affectionately entreat them to look at this subject again. We would ask them to review it, not in the spirit of judicial infallibility, but with a willingness to find the truth, if they have mistaken it; to retract opinions, if any shall be discovered to have been prematurely formed; and to make just reparation to the churches of Christ, if it shall appear that they have injured them.
* This subject has commonly hitherto been treated as though it were interesting merely to Congregationalists. We see no reason, however, for confining the influence of the late decisions to the churches of a single denomination. Indeed, we are confident that it cannot be thus confined ; but the saine principles which are employed against Congrega. tionalists, will hear with equal force against Presbyterians, or Bapusts, or any churches, which are connected with parishes in the support of public worship.
To the Editor of the Spirit of the Pilgrims.—Sir,
I hope the subject of Ministerial Exchanges will soon be thoroughly discussed in your Magazine. When evangelical and heretical ministers are found in the same denomination, it is of immense importance that the principles, by which the practice of the friends of truth in this particular, ought to be regulated, should be well understood. There are still in Massachusetts some ministers professing to be orthodox, who exchange with Unitarians ! And renewed efforts have lately been made by Unitarians, to press evangelical ministers, who have Unitarians in their parishes, on this subject. Let some writer, then, who is competent to the task, take up the subject, and shew, as I think may be shown, most convincingly, that both duty and expediency utterly forbid an orthodox minister, in any case, to exchange with a known Unitarian. In the mean time, I send you for publication, the following estract from a letter on this subject, written in 1810, by a distinguished clergyman in one of the Middle States, to a clergyman of Massachusetts.
“ Exchanging with ministers of known or suspected heterodoxy, appears to me inconsistent with fidelity to our Master in heaven. With the principles which we hold, we should not dare to preach to our people a false gospel. We should consider ourselves, in this case, as falling under that awful denunciation of the apostle, Gal. i. 9: If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye hare received, let him be accursed. But, if we dare not preach another gospel ourselves, can we innocently be accessory to this sin being committed by others? And is not deliberately sending a man to our pulpits, whom we suspect, or more than suspect, of heresy, fundamental heresy, something very like being accessory to the propagation of that heresy? It is by no means a sufficient answer to this argument to say, that the persons thus sent to our pulpits may not openly preach their peculiar sentiments. Even if the fact were so, it by no means relieves the difficulty ; because the very circumstance of our people seeing us receive a heretic, and practically bid him God speed, will tend exceedingly to diminish their abhorrence of his heresy, and to make them suppose, either that we consider it as a very small evil, or that we are very inconsistent, if not dishonest men. But the fact is not commonly so. These men generally preach in such a way, that attentive hearers may readily perceive, that they reject every fundamental article of evangelical truth. They are not only betrayed by their omissions, but also, at every turn, by their
phraseology, by their theological language; so that, in fact, they seldom enter our pulpits without holding out to our people, false grounds of hope. And is this a small evil? I must conclude, that the minister who views it in this light, has not well considered the subject.
“But, solemn as this consideration is, there isanother, which appears to me, in every respect, equally solemn. It is, the tendency of the system of exchanging with heterodox ministers, to banish the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel from our own sermons, and our own pulpits.
“I assume, as the basis of this argument, that preaching the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, in a plain, pointed, pungent manner, is the duty of every Christian minister; and that, without this, he cannot expect the divine blessing on his labors, or hope to see real religion flourish among the people of his charge. I verily believe, that if an orthodox minister could, in conscience, leave out of his sermons all the peculiar and fundamental doctrines of the Gospel,-is, without preaching anything contrary to them, he were silent respecting the entire depravity of our nature, regeneration, the divinity and atonement of Christ, &c. &c., or if, to put the case in the most favorable light, he sometimes advanced these doctrines, but always did it in a concealed, wrapped up manner,—I verily believe, that pursuing this course for twenty years, would banish religion from his church, and prepare his people for becoming Arminians, Arians, Socinians, Deists, or anything that the advocates of error might wish and endeavor to make them. If I wished to banish religion from my church in the most effectual manner, I certainly should not come forward openly, and preach heresy; this would excite attention, inquiry, and opposition :—but I would endeavor to lull my people asleep simply by withHOLDING TRUTH; and should expect to succeed by this method, with the least trouble, and in the shortest time possible.
“Now this negative, spiritless, smooth kind of preaching, is precisely that which frequent exchanges with the heterodox is calculated to produce. The most pious and faithful minister living, when he goes to the pulpit of an heretical brother, is under a strong temptation, if not absolutely to keep back truth, which he supposes would be offensive ; at least, in a considerable degree to soften and polish it down, that it may be received with as little irritation as possible. Accordingly, he will be apt to take with him to such a place, a discourse prepared upon this plan. If his exchanges be frequent, he will often prepare such discourses. If they become habitual, he will habitually preach thus. The consequence is as evident as it is dreadful! To expect that a man who prepares many such sermons, will preach none of them to his own people, is an expectation not to be entertained; and to hope that