Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

prepared to carry out the great mission of freedom and religion opening before this nation, we pledge ourselves to maintain the right of the Word of God to a place in the schools as in the sanctuary, and to resist steadfastly any and every encroachment on that wise provision of our fathers which carried the Bible into the daily education of the people.

A further resolution was presented, as follows:

Resolved, That, in the gathering of new churches in the West and South, the National Council recommend that only those essential doctrines of the gospel in which evangelical Christians generally are agreed should be made a condition of Church fellowship.

The resolution was accepted, and referred to the Committee on the Declaration of Faith.

The following question was proposed for the action of the Council, viz.:

Is it according to Congregational principles for a minister, who is not a pastor, to represent a Church in an ecclesiastical Council ?

Accepted, and referred to the Committee on “ Church Polity.”

His Excellency Governor Andrew came in, and was welcomed by Rev. Dr. Thompson in the name of the Council, and made fitting reply.

The following resolution was introduced, viz. :

Resolved, That a committee be appointed to consider, and if they deem expedient to report, upon the relations and duties of our denomination in reference to religious tracts and books.

Accepted, and referred to a special committee of three.

Rev. Dr. Thompson read a letter of address to the Council from the Free Evangelical Churches of Italy. Rev. Dr. Wolcott also read a letter bearing upon the Waldenses, as follows:

The Synod of the Waldensian Church of Italy to the Christians of the United States.

BRETHREN IN CHRIST:- The Synod of the Waldensian Church, lately assembled for its annual session at San Giovanni, Piedmont, has felt it behooved it, as a Christian body, to record in their acts their sympathy for you in the loss you have sustained by the death of your late President, and has directed me to convey to you, in writing, an expression of their feelings.

Need we say, brethren, with what horror we received the news of the atrocious murder which deprived your nation of its chief magistrate ?

We had watched the course of that great and good man; we had seen him raised, in the providence of God, to be the liberator of an oppressed race, and, after years of war, preparing to be the pacificator of his country, as full of clemency in the hour of the triumph of his cause as he had been steady in carrying on the deadly struggle. We were rejoicing with him and with you that at last peace was dawning again on your country, when suddenly we were called to mourn and weep with you.

May God sustain you in this national bereavement, and make all your afflictions fruitful of good for your people !

As to Abrahan Lincoln, he neither lived nor died in vain. A Christian life like his, humbly devoted to the right and to humanity, made great by great and good deeds, and crowned with a martyr's crown, adds to the moral wealth of mankind, is an immortal honor to your nation, and an evidence of the truth and power of our common faith, such as no words could ever give. By order and in the name of the Waldensian Synod.

LEON PILATTY, the President. May, 1865.

The letter was ordered to be referred to a special committee.

The Nominating Committee presented the following for the Committee on the subject of Ministerial Support, who were appointed :

Hon. E. D. Holton, Wisconsin; Rev. H. Elmer, Michigan; Rev. E. N. Lewis, Illinois ; M. S. Scudder, Esq., Massachusetts ; Dea. Selden M. Pratt, Connecticut; Rev. W. Salter, D. D., Iowa; D. S. Williams, Esq., New York.

Also for the Committee on systematizing Benevolent Contributions, the following, who were appointed, viz. :

Rev. W. A. Stearns, D. D., Massachusetts ; Rev. J. H. Linsley, D. D., Connecticut; Rev. Wooster Parker, Maine; Rev. J. Butler, New York; Rev. C. B. Cady, Vermont; Martin Wright, Esq., Illinois ; Rev. H. A. Miner, Wisconsin.

Rev. A. H. Quint reported from the committee to whom was referred the communication from the Massachusetts Convention of Congregational Ministers, as follows:

REPORT.

The committee to whom was referred a communication from the Massachusetts Convention of Congregational Ministers respectfully report as follows:

“ The Massachusetts Convention of Congregational Ministers” requests this Council “ to use such language in their proceedings as a Trinitarian Congregational Council as shall recognize the fact that there are Unitarian and other Congregational churches in this Commonwealth.” In addition to this communication there has appeared in the public prints, though not laid before this body, a protest against the terms of the call for the assembling of this Council, as imperilling interests valuable to the members of a body styled a “Ministerial Conference” in whose behalf it is signed. The eminent standing and character of the persons who sincerely feel that a real grievance would be occasioned by the course against whịch they protest, as well as the respect due to the denomination which this Council represents, requires a just and deliberate avowal of the grounds upon which we use the title of “ Congregational Churches of the United States.”

Our denomination is the same with that of the first churches of New England. We trace back our lineage in an uninterrupted line to that period. The same fellowship has been perpetuated, based upon a particular system of doctrines and polity, to which we now hold. The denomination which we represent has thus had a distinct and recognized existence, as clear as history can make any historical fact, by all requisite limitations and declarations.

This ’denomination has always had the distinctive name of “Congregational churches.”

It is needless to quote authorities; for, from the days of John Cotton, the name Congregational was used to designate a particular denomination, of a faith well defined and now unchanged, as well as a peculiar polity. Nor did any others, so far as we can learn, though holding the same polity, assume that name while not belonging to this denomination. This distinctive denominational name is still our heritage from the Fathers.

It is true that some other churches now hold the same polity, in a greater or less degree of strictness, while differing from us in points of doctrine. In addition to some Unitarian churches, Baptists, Free-Will Baptists, and Universalists, hold similar views of Church polity. But it is an historical fact, that in America these denominations came into existence after the denomination which we represent had acquired an undisputed right to the title which we still hold.

Some of the churches formerly in our denomination became separated from it early in the present century, by reasons of convictions which led them to renounce the doctrinal principles which were and are essential to the fellowship of this denomination, as declared by our platforms, and established by uninterrupted practice from the days of our fathers. But the separation of a section in Massachusetts, where its chief strength lay, which, in 1820, numbered, so far as can be learned, but a small portion of the churches of the denomination, does not, it seems to us, deprive the old and recognized denomination of its ancestral name. That some separating churches may retain the same kind of government does not affect the fact that they do not belong to the denomination which has always kept its distinctive title. Nor does such a secession or separation render it at all necessary that the denomination should either give up its old name, or add any distinctive prefix. When the Wesleyans left the Church of England, the latter was not called upon to modify its title. When the Protestant Methodists separated from the Methodist Episcopal Church, that Church took no new name. When several bodies of Presbyterians were separated from the Presbyterian Church in the United States, that body retained unquestioned its old designation, although the seceding bodies held the same views of Church polity. The separating portion might well adopt a new title ; but the denomination remaining needed no change, nor could any be rightfully demanded.

We find it also to be a fact, that the churches in whose behalf complaint is made, have, as a denomination, deliberately adopted a new title. In their official capacity, a recent convention, representing the Unitarian churches, wholly ignored the term Congregational, and, as “ Christian churches of the Unitarian faith," organized a permanent body styled " The National Conference of Unitarian Churches.” It is thus evident that there can be no conflict whatever to cause confusion or misunderstanding between the two denominations.

We are also unable to find that the Unitarian churches require adherence to the Congregational platform as a condition of denominational fellowship. Many of their churches are said to be Independent, not Congregational. In some places Church organizations have been utterly abandoned, as seems to have been recognized in the call for their recent convention, which asked delegates from societies as well as churches.

While stating that as a denomination we hold a denominational name to which no other lays claim, and which the parties complaining do not assert belongs to any other denomination, we are far from denying that there are other particular churches which maintain the same polity with ourselves, This fact was distinctly recognized in the call under which this Council is assembled. That call was addressed to “ those Congregational churches in the United States which are in recognized fellowship and cooperation through the general associations, conferences, or conve ntions, in the several States." How far this may extend, it is clear that it recognizes that there are Congregational churches other than these. We do not see how any doubt could exist as to what churches were intended. It would be idle to say that any churches are in recognized fellowship through the Massachusetts Convention of Congregational Ministers. Indeed, the fact that only those of our denomination have appeared shows that the call was sufficiently understood.

We see no reason, therefore, why we should prefix the term Trinitarian to the name of our denomination. We are no more Trinitarian than we are Unitarian. If we prefix Trinitarian to distinguish us from Unitarians and Universalists, we must take some other prefixes to distinguish us from Baptists and Free-Will Baptists. We see no need of either.

But inasmuch as it appears that some of those who protest, have particularly in view a fear lest, if they adhere to the name of their denomination as recently officially promulgated, and we adhere to the name of ours, some rights of theirs to property, held under the name of Congregational, may be jeopardized, we do now declare that we should deem it dishonorable and unchristian to interfere with any of their present rights to funds or other property under whatever name their holders act, or to attempt to pervert funds given for one kind of religious doctrine to the use of another, whether in colleges, churches, or other bodies. And we distinctly put on record, that, from our retaining our old name of “Congregational," without any modification or prefix — as we intend to do — there should be no inference whatever drawn to the legal prejudice of any bodies not in our fellowship, as to any funds or other property to which those bodies lay claim.

We are happy to know that so many of these churches still retain the old polity. And whenever their convictions of duty will allow them to stand on the old platform of faith, of their and our fathers, gladly will we feel that we are one again. Respectfully submitted.

ALONZO H. QUINT,
W. T. EUSTIS, JR., Committee.
ASA FREEMAN,

The report was accepted and adopted as the deliverance of this Council, and a copy ordered to be sent to the Massachusetts Convention.

The following resolution was presented by the committee to whom the subject had been referred, and laid on the table until to-morrow, viz. :

Resolred, That the Trustees of the American Congregational Union be advised and requested to take into consideration the importance of a well-sustained Congregational Church in the city of Washington, D. C., and having ascertained what facilities there are for the establishment of such a Church, and what aid will be necessary, to institute arrangements, according to their best judgment and discretion, for building or purchasing a suitable edifice in the national capital, in which a Congregational Church may maintain the preaching of the gospel and the public worship of God.

Rev. Dr. Post, of Missouri, from the Committee on the State of the Country, made report as follows:

Whereas, In the beginnings of our national history, the God of our fathers brought them the confessors of civil and religious liberty to these shores, and gave to them to plant the germs of a free Christian civilization for a new world; and

Whereas, After the lapse of more than two centuries, during which that civilization has extended over vast regions, and to the shores of the Western ocean; and at the close of a terrible civil war, we, the representatives of churches adhering to the religious faith and order of those fathers, and witnesses in our times of the marvellous judgments and deliverances of God, have been gathered by his hand, from the breadth of a continent, to this cradle of our national life, as a national ecclesiastical council, in a crisis of solemn moment for the future of our country and the kingom of God: we, therefore, feel it befitting the capacity in which we are assembled, and the hour in which we stand, to make the following utterances in regard to our country in this juncture of its history.

First of all, humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God in contrite acknowledgment of the righteousness of his awful judgments afflicting our entire people, we yet record our grateful trust in his infinite mercy and everlasting truth, and we do in his presence this day, thus

Resolre, First, That for the deliverance of our nation from the insurgent and anarchical power that treacherously and remorselessly sought its life; for the preservation of our Union and of the integrity of our territory; for the triumph of right over wrong, of liberty over slavery, and of lawful government over usurpation; for the redemption - though at a terrible cost-of our country from the curse of slavery, and for the emancipation of four millions of our fellow-men from bondage ; for the faith and hope, the intrepidity and endurance, given to our people in the days of calamity; for their patient and unstinted sacrifice of blood and treasure for the right, and their unwearied labor and liberality in works of Christian sympathy and beneficence; and for the final, crowning victory granted to our arms; we do this day ascribe praise and glory to the Lord of hosts. We also render thanks to the Lord that he has given to the members of our government--administrative and legislative-a faith that has never despaired of the Republic, and a patience, courage, and sagacity that have not only triumphantly upborne us in the agonism of this rebellion, but guided us safely through complications threatening us with foreign war.

We offer thanks to our brave defenders, by land and sea, whose heroism has, through the hand of the Lord, achieved for us the victory; and we invoke for them, living or lying with the glorious dead, the love and honor, and, for the widows and orphans of those who have fallen, the generous protection and fostering care, of a grateful people, and we regard the rendering of this in the light of a most sacred debt of the Republic.

Resolred, That we profoundly sympathize with the grief and horror of the nation at the assassination of its late beloved Chief Magistrate, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, and with that sentiment of our country men and of the civilized world which now places him among the foremost in the ranks of the martyrs for liberty and humanity in the history of mankind.

Resolved, That we extend to his honored successor, President Andrew Johnsox, assurances of our earnest sympathy and hearty co-operation in the momentous and arduous work devolved on him, by God, of the restoration of order and tranquillity to the country after the shock and ruin of this war, and of reconstruction, where needed, on the eternal principles of truth, liberty, and justice; and of so closing up the bloody gulf of this rebellion that neither treason nor ambition shall ever re-open it.

Resolved, That we regard rebellion against a government so just, benign, and beneficent as ours; so incorporate with the essential rights of man and the hopes of human liberty; so created and administered by the people for themselves, and sheltering a prosperity so vast and so brilliant; as a crime transcending the enormity of treason recorded in the history of other countries, or of conspiracy against other forms of political order; as a crime against freedom, civilization, and human nature itself; and we feel that it is due from our government in its final adjudication upon this highest of crimes, that, while blending mercy with justice, it shall so deal with treason that the sense of its guiltiness be not impaired, and that of the majesty of law and the divine sanction of legitimate government be sustained in the mind of the nation.

Resolved, That wrongs committed against our people and our soldiers, beyond the measure of the laws of war, - such as assassination, arson, introduction of pestilence, the massacre of captives, and the deliberate and systematic slow murder of tens of thousands of prisoners by exposure and starvation, - are crimes that can find no shelter under the pretext of being “political offences,” and are beyond the pale of amnesties, challenging upon their authors, whenever and wherever lawfully convicted, justice from our own government as well as the wrath of Heaven.

Resolved, That we regard the late civil war as the judgment of Heaven upon slavery, and upon a nation in complicity with its mighty wrongs; a judgment punishing our practical infraction of our social and political life-principles, and demonstrating that such infraction is national suicide.

Resolved, That justice, honor, the maintenance of loyal control in the lately revolted States, and the safety of the nation, and gratitude for their eminent military and other services rendered during the war, imperatively require that we deal in a spirit of Christian sympathy and charity, and of a generous humanity, with a race held by this people two hundred years in bondage, and now thrust upon the perils and trials of new liberty; and that we see to it that they be protected and fortified in their new status by intellectual and religious culture, and the rights of the elective franchise, and all the privilege of freemen.

Resolved, That while we hail with gratitude the fact, that, by the removal of slavery, and the social and ecclesiastical conditions allied with it, vast regions are newly opened to a pure and free gospel, we, moreover, believe that by this war the mind of the nation at large, having been stirred to its depths by passion and suffering and the manifest tokens of a present God and a divine government in human affairs, has been thereby prepared for profounder convictions of Christian truth, and larger effusions of the Holy Spirit, and for a vaster religious movement than in the past.

« VorigeDoorgaan »