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On motion of Rev. I. P. Langworthy, of Massachusetts, it was
Voted, That the Moderator appoint a committee (to be composed of one member from each State represented here) of nomination for permanent officers of the Council.
The Moderator appointed that committee as follows:
Massachusetts — Hon. Linus Child; Maine — Rev. George E. Adams, D. D.; New Hampshire - Rev. B. P. Stone, D. D.; Vermont – Rev. B. Labaree, D. D.; Rhode Island — Hon. A. C. Barstow; Connecticut Rev. S. W. S. Dutton, D. D.; New York — Rev. J. P. Thompson, D. D.; New Jersey -- Rev. J. M. Holmes; Pennsylvania – D. R. Barker, Esq.; Delaware — Abner H. Bryant, Esq.; Maryland— Nathaniel Noyes, Esq.; Ohio – Judge F. D. Parish; Indiana – Rev. N. A. Hyde; Illinois Hon. C. G. Hammond; Michigan — Hon. W. I. Cornwell; Wisconsin — Timothy Dwight, Esq.; Iowa - Dea. John Porter; Minnesota - Rev. C. C. Salter; Missouri – Warren Currier, Esq.; Nebraska — Rev. R. Gaylord; Kansas — Hon. S. C. Pomeroy ; Colorado — Samuel Cushman, Jr., Esq.; Oregon — Rev. G. H. Atkinson; Tennessee — Rev. T. E. Bliss ; California — Jacob Bacon, Esq.
On motion of Rev. J. M. Sturtevant, D. D., a committee of three was appointed to report rules of order for the use of the Council, and the following gentlemen were chosen to constitute that committee; viz., Rev. J. M. Sturtevant, D. D., of Ill., Rev. J. P. Gulliver of Conn., H. C. Bowen, Esq., of New York.
On motion of Rev. W. W. Patton, D. D., a committee of five was appointed to receive the credentials of members, and report who are entitled to membership in this Council, consisting of Rev. W. W. Patton, D. D., of nl., Jacob Haskell of Mass., Rev. E. Beecher, D. D., of ni., Dea. A. Fish of Mich., Dea. D. Putnam of Ohio.
On request of this committee, it was subsequently enlarged by the addition of Rev. R. C. Learned of Conn., and Rev. S. Wolcott, D. D., of Ohio.
The committee on a permanent organization reported as follows:
That the permanent officers of the Council consist of a moderator, two assistant moderators, and five scribes; and that those officers be the following; viz.,
Moderator — His Excellency Gov. W. A. Buckingham of Conn.
Assistant Moderators Hon. C. G. Hammond of Ill., Rev. Joseph P. Thompson D. D., of New York.
Scribes - Rev. Henry M. Dexter of Mass., Dea. Samuel Holmes of New York, Rev. Philo R. Hurd of Michigan, Rev. Alonzo H. Quint of Mass., Rev. E. P. Marvin of Mass.
Rev. Alonzo H. Quint of Mass. declined being a candidate for the position of scribe, and Rev. M. K. Whittlesey of Ill. was nominated in his place.
It was Voted, To accept and adopt the report of the committee; and the Council was permanently organized by the choice of this moderator, assistants, and scribes.
Hon. Linus Child of Mass., and Rev. Dr. Dutton of Conn., conducted the moderator to the chair, when he briefly addressed the Council.
On motion of Rev. Dr. Dutton of Conn., it was
Voted, That the opening sermon be delivered in the Mt. Vernon Church, in Ashburton Place, to-morrow morning at 9 A. M.
On motion of the temporary scribe, it was
Voted, That, until otherwise ordered, the sessions of this Council be from 9 A. M. to 1 P. M., and from 3 P. M. to 5 P. M.
On motion of Hon. Linus Child of Mass., it was
Voted, To adjourn to to-morrow morning, at 9 o'clock, to meet in the Mt. Vernon Church, in Ashburton Place.
SECOND DAY; THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 9 A. M.
The Council assembled in the Mt. Vernon Church at 9 o'clock, A. M.
The sermon before the Council was preached by Rev. Julian M. Sturtevant, D. D., of Illinois ; the preliminary exercises being conducted by Rev. Dr. Vaughan of England, and the concluding prayer being made by Rev. Dr. Kirk of Mass.
Jeremiah vi. 16. Then saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where
is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
It would perhaps not be difficult to find circles of opinion, in which the selection of such words as these for the theme of discourse would be thought to require an apology. Indeed, judging from some of the givings-forth of the periodical press, I deem it not improbable that there may be such a circle in this goodly city of Boston. There are, I fear, not a few persons among us who, though by no means deficient in natural gifts or generous culture, are greatly wanting in reverence; men who would regard the exhortation of our text, when applied to our own times, with something of indignation and contempt, as though it were a suggestion that the enlightened present should disown her wisdom, and go to school to the blind and stupid past. Such men seem to have forgotten that the past is ever the parent of the present; that other men have labored, and we are entered into their labors; that, whatever superiority we may have attained over those who have gone before us, we owe to the principles which our fathers established, to the institutions which they founded, and the lessons which they taught.
But I am fairly entitled to assume, that no such apology is necessary in addressing the representatives of the Congregational churches of the United States, assembled here around the old hearth-stone, and the cradle of our political and religious institutions; not only from the hills and valleys where the New England fathers sleep, but from the basin of the lakes, the banks of the Mississippi and its branches, the glens of the Rocky mountains, and the shores of the Pacific.
Nor this alone. From beyond the St. Lawrence, brethren beloved are here, and from that beautiful island of the ocean which is the mother of us all, a revered and honored mother, who, though in these late years she hath chided her eldest American daughter with a little unmerited severity, will yet honor her ancestral bravery, and her fidelity to her precious inheritance of liberty.
This audience, assembled on this spot, surely needs not be told that there are principles coeval with the founding of these New England colonies, which sustain such a relation to our whole social and religious life, that we can never have any sound and healthful growth except by their free and natural development — principles which sustain the same relation to our entire nation, however great it may become in future ages, which the little germ enclosed in the acorn does to the sturdiest monarch of the forest.
I am sure of the hearty sympathy of this audience, in “standing in the ways, to ask for the old paths.” Our fathers were but men. We claim for them no exemption from the errors and follies to which all this poor humanity is ever subject. But God was with them, and did guide their feet into paths of wisdom, which led them to the attainment of a condition of freedom and social order, which richly compensated them for all the danger and sufferings of the wilderness, and is destined to confer untold blessings on their descendants forever. And it is well worthy our most earnest endeavor to trace out those same paths, through all the intricacies and sorrowful confusions of the present; and perfectly safe for us to walk in them. They conducted our fathers to prosperity and happiness in circumstances seemingly the most unpropitious and forbidding, and they will not fail to conduct us to the same.
We propose no servile imitation of the fathers. We will adhere to no principle and no custom because it was theirs. “ Prove all things, hold fast that which is good,” shall be our motto. We intend to look backwards, not because we think innovation a crime, but because we know that all true national growth is the development of first principles ; and that the principles of any nation's life are to be learned, not from the agitations of the passing moment, but from the study of its history. We think it wise to ask the fathers what is the seminal principle of our national life, by the development of which we may attain to the growth and strength and beauty and productiveness of which God hath made us capable.
Nor am I wrong in looking to the early history of New England for the seeds of our national life. The French De Tocqueville, not a Puritan, not a Protestant, says :
“The two or three main ideas which constitute the basis of the social theory of the United States were first combined in the Northern British colonies, more generally denominated the States of New England. The principles of New England spread at first to the neighboring States; they then passed successively to the more distant ones; and at length they imbued the whole confederation. They now extend their influence beyond its limits over the whole American world. The civilization of New England has been like a beacon lit upon a hill, which, after it has diffused its warmth around, tir the distant horizon with its glow.”
What, then, are the principles of social life which are indicated in the early history of New England ? In the fore ground of the picture meets us the fact, that our fathers believed in their heart of hearts that God had revealed himself to the soul of man, and that it is the privilege and the duty of every man to receive and obey for himself that revelation. With clear and mighty conviction they rejected, as unsatisfactory and untrue, that interpretation and social expression of the divine will which kings and nobles and bishops had imposed with tyrant power on every foot of English soil. That they might find some spot of earth on which - some arch of sky beneath which — they might individually and socially worship God according to their own understanding of his will, not only brave and strong men, but timid old age, and delicate womanhood, and helpless infancy, dared encounter the ocean, the wilderness, and the savage. This is certainly the foremost fact in the history of New England, nay, of North America.
Next meets us the fact, that, when they reached their desolate home on these ice-bound shores, they were as far removed from the gorernment which should have protected their persons and their rights, as from the step-mother Church that would impose on them her ceremonies and her superstitions. If under those stern winter skies they were free to worship God, they were also under a necessity of providing for their own protection from cold and famine, and the violence of bad men.
It needs no argument to show that from such a history must necessarily have been born a “Church without a bishop, and a State without a king." The family with all its God-given authorities, sacred subordination, and delicate dependencies, had been transported across the ocean, and stood unimpaired and unshaken on the shores of a new world. And never has it been more rerered, or more honored, than by the fathers and mothers of New Englınd. But all else of the religious and political authorities of the Old World had been left on the other side of the ocean. The individual man, the family tie, and the golden chain that binds each individual man to “ the throne and monarchy of God,” were all that remained of the organic forces of society. These men are social beings, and therefore they will reconstruct religious and political society. But they will construct both only for the protection of individuals and families, in the enjoyment of their God-given rights, and to aid them in performing their divinely appointed duties and achieving their allotted destiny. The recognition of the rights, the duties of individual human beings, as the direct subjects of the government of God, will, must be, the germinant principle of all social arrangements. The principle will become recognized and crowned and enthroned, that every individual has rights which God gave him when he made him in his own image, and owes an allegiance to the Supreme Ruler which is superior to all human enactments, and which rights and duties no earthly power can over-ride in the smallest degree, without incurring the righteous displeasure of God. If from these feeble beginnings a nation shall grow up which shall stretch from ocean to ocean, and cover a continent with the emblems of its power, that nation must rest on this simple principle, as its mountains rest on their foundations of everlasting granite ; and if at any point in its future history, in the pride of its prosperity and power, it shall violate this sacred principle, an earthquake will shake its strongest structures, and volcanic fires will burst up from beneath its foundations, and like Sodom of old it will be consumed with a storm of fire and brimstone, unless it repents in sackcloth and ashes, and puts away the national iniquity.
That this principle must be seminal to our national life, no thoughtful man surely will deny; and in searching for the true pathway of our progress, we are only to seek for the just and rational development of it. Is it not, then, equally obvious, that, in constructing society on this principle, the largest amount of liberty will be reserved to the individual which is consistent with provision for his social wants; and that, in all social arrangements, local provisions will be preferred to the provincial, the national, or the imperial, except in cases where the latter are found to be essential to the general welfare? The individual will not commit to a society what he can better take care of as an individual; and local communities will not commit to general societies what they can better understand and better provide for than any more general society can do it for them. Individuals will enjoy the largest liberty, local communities will surrender the smallest portion of their independence, consistent with the general good; and imperial power will only be permitted to meddle with those interests in which all the millions of a great nation are alike concerned. I need not argue before this audience to show, that as this results directly and necessarily from our national history, so it is a true enunciation of the characteristic principle of American institutions as they exist in fact; and that the more perfectly this principle is carried out, the more harmonious and beneficent is the working of our social machinery.
What, then, is the development of this principle in the direction of religion ? I need not prove that earnest faith in the gospel must and always will have a social develop ment. It follows inevitably from the nature of the religion, and the social affections to which it is largely addressed. Persons living in each other's neighborhood, reading the Bible in the same mother tongue, and believing with the heart its revelations of God and Christ, and redemption and forgiveness, and the life everlasting, will find themselves drawn into social relations by irresistible attractions. They will organize themselves into a religious society for mutual sympathy, edification, instruction, and coöperation, as naturally and necessarily as the loving pair unite in marriage bonds, or as beings possessed of human nature unite in civil society.
And, consistently with the conditions which the Pilgrim Fathers brought with them to the shores of New England, consistently with the fundamental principles of our social life, they will organize those societies, independent of all dictation or control in discipline, worship, and doctrine, except that of the one divine Head of the Church of God. Had not our fathers accepted a home in this great and terrible wilderness, that they might enjoy the doctrine, the discipline, the worship, which they approved ? And should they now construct any authority of bishop, or council, or presbytery, empowered to interfere with their enjoyment of this dear-bought privilege? And why should any society of Christian men and women, associated for these religious purposes, subject themselves to any such control of human power and invention ? They want religious teaching : are they not competent to select their own religious teachers, in the fear of the Lord? They want to exclude froin their society the irreligious, the unbelieving, the scandalous, the profane: are they not better qualified to estimate the character of the men and women among whom they live than any distant church authority? They want a doctrine and a worship conformed to the divine word: must they not themselves prove all things, and hold fast that which is good? Can they delegate the judgment of these matters to other fallible men like themselves? Does not their individual allegiance to God imply their individual right to try the teaching they hear, and the worship in which they engage, by the standard of God's revealed will, and themselves to judge what is right ? What bishop, council, presbytery, synod, can decide for them ?
While thus claiming that the doctrine of the independency of the local Church was a most natural result of the circumstances and the religious convictions of the fathers of New England, I do not forget the fact that the Pilgrims of Plymouth had been instructed in the principles of Congregational independency by that truly great and good man, John Robinson, before they left the mother country, and during their residence in Holland, and were therefore rooted and grounded in them before they embarked for America. Nor do I forget the still more weighty fact, that Robinson hiinself was but the humble pupil of the Apostles themselves; that the churches which Paul and Peter and their fellow Apostles founded from Jerusalem to Rome were, by the agreeing judgment of the ablest writers on ecclesiastical history, independent local churches; and that, whatever other men may say of the fathers, independency is sustained by the uniform practice of the Apostles.
Such were the churches which our fathers planted amid the primeval forests of New England ; such were the churches of Plymouth and Salem and Boston; and as their settlements encroached farther and farther upon the domain of the oak, the pine, and the fir, they covered the territory which they reclaimed from the wilderness with a complete net-work of such churches. It was the function of each of these churches to care for the intellectual and religious culture of the entire population within their respective boundaries. Thus, at every step of their advance, the Christian teacher and the schoolmaster, accompanied them, and every child was taught the rudiments both of secular and of divine knowledge. This was a true development of the principle of our national life; and we may well challenge any intelligent denial, that in application to such a State as Massachusetts only, and as it actually exists in practice at the present moment, it is a grand development; and that applied in its entireness to a great nation, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it would be as sublime and glorious as it is free and simple. If it would have been as quiet and tranquil as sunshine, it would also have been as potent and life-giving.
Such was the conception of the fathers of New England; and that conception they
* The author of this discourse is quite well aware that the Congregationalism of our fathers recognizes two principles as fundamental, – the self-government and the fellowship of the churches; and if, in advocating the former as against ecclesiastical centralization, he has given it chief promi. nence in this discourse, it is not because he does not hold, or undervalues, the latter.