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tions of Christian ministers, which have taken place in different ages, or the multiplied advantages which have resulted from them. What efficacious; resistance has ever been made against the rising power of Christ's enemies, or what great reformation has ever been set forward and completed, without such a measure as we now recommend.
recount the numerous associa- advocating. But I shall place, them, as arguments on the oth-,, er side. The friends of error would not have been so fond of forming themselves into societies, had they not known the peculiar 'advantages of union. In order to execute their plans more readily, and to secure those advantages, which they have deemed necessary to their triumph, they have joined themselves together in an unnatural league. By acting in union, they have vastly increased their influence. The enemies of Christianity have for many years seemed peculiarly sensible of the importance of combination. The uncommon boldness which they display, and the strength and success, which they have obtained, are in a great measure consequences of their union. Though they differ in many respects; yea, though they have no natural bond of amity; yet they are so wise, as to lay aside their differences, and to combine together for the advantage of their cause. Nor is there any way, in which we can effectually oppose their influence, but by zealous co-operation. Their union calls for union in us. A holy confederacy among ministers and Christians would soon weaken their growing power. If the Congregational clergy in this state would form themselves into a harmonious body, their influence would be sensibly felt. Their adversaries dread light, which would shine forth from an assembly of faithful ministers convened for consultation and prayer. The Christian cause has a remarkable superior ity over the cause of impiety. For whereas there necessarily
Notice might here be taken of the general assembly of Presbyterian ministers in the United States; of the general association in Connecticut; of the general convention in Vermont; and of other forms of general union among Episcopalians, Baptists, Moravians, Methodists, &c. who all secure their respectability and perpetuate their existence by similar means. On careful inquiry it will appear, that the Congregational ministers in this Commonwealth are in a state of singular disunion. There are, indeed, smaller associations, which are held in esteem in every part. But every argument, which favours these, may be urged in support of a general association. If it be suitable, that a small number of ministers in the same circle should meet to deliberate on the great concerns of religion; why is it not suitable, that a larger number, belonging to different circles, shouid meet for the same purpose?
Popish councils, assemblies, consistories, &c. which have contributed so much to the propagation of error and the injury of the true church, are mentioned as objections against such associations, as we are now No. 11. Vol. II. RRT
How much has Zion already suffered for want of agreement among her sons! Let, then, her watchmen come together, con sult for her safety and prosperity, and unite in action and prayer, or her desolation draweth nigh.
exist among the wicked radical disunion and perpetual interference; there is among Christians a real foundation for the most cordial and entire harmoný. Remove those wrong af fections, which stand in opposition to their prevailing disposition, and persuade them to feel and act as Christians, and they will show that they are one. As far as this union exists, and takes a proper direction, the church becomes an army with banners, which its enemies can not subdue.
The grand principle, on which my reasoning rests, that is, the advantage of well regulated union, is recognised in the constitution of all societies. Why do men unite themselves together in the social compact, except for the manifest advantages which arise from it? The necessity of coalescence is especially felt in times of danger. When the alarm of an approaching enemy is sounded, men, how divided soever before, immediately form themselves into a body, so that their power, which in a disunited state is nothing, may be increased and rendered invincible by union. What could men do against a potent, bloodthirsty foe, should they continue in a separate, unformed state, and each fight at his own door, and according to his own discretion? Without a better mode of defence than this, a whole nation must fall before an inconsiderable host. But when, or in what circumstances is union more needed, than among ministers and Christians at the present day? How great the strength, how alarming the success of the ungodly!
How do men recognise the advantages of union in all branches of business. They join together to promote their success in their mercantile, mechanical, and literary pursuits. In all, the benefits of association are incalculable. But no where can union be of such eminent advantage, as in religion. Because no where else is there a foundation for such perfect agreement in the great object of pursuit, and in the means of obtaining it.
My second argument in favour of a GENERAL ASSOCIATION arises from the circumstances of the times. The gospel ministry in this commonwealth is unhappily in a very broken, dismembered state. In many instances those Christian teachers, who are united in the love of divine truth, and fervently engaged in the cause of the Redeemer, are estranged from each other in affection, and filled with mutual prejudices. Now let each party flatter themselves as they please, this must be recorded to the shame of the ministers of Massachusetts, as long as the gospel abides in the land. Their discord is productive of aggravated evils. It bars them from the comfort and advantage of mutual intercourse and confidence. It weakens their hands, and contracts their usefulness. In their present state of separation and estrangement, what power have they to prosecute any measure
for the general interest of Christ's kingdom, or even for each other's edification? People take notice of their variance, and not only deride them, but become hardened against religion.* Their minds are unsettled respecting Christianity, by the disagreement of those, who are authorized to teach it.
Now how desirable it is, that the scattered fragments of the Congregational ministry in this state be collected & joined together in the bonds of Christian love? Who that has the spirit of Christ, does not devoutly wish it? What a serious attempt for union ought the present state of the ministry to excite ?
The state of our churches will add to the strength of the argument. When the whole number of professors is compar⚫atively so small, and even among them the spirit of piety is sunk so low; what can be more reasonable, or promise more extensive good, than for ministers, who have the interest of religion at heart, to meet together in the name of Christ, and deliberate on measures for Zion's welfare? Is it not plainly necessary, that something be done to advance the cause of holiness, and to avert impending judgments? And can it be expected, that God will save and prosper the church, without employing the wisdom and diligence of his servants? If they were agreed among themselves, and would perform as much as possible of God's work, with unanimity; they would possess far greater ability to do good. Their instructions would have a sacred influence with the
• See Baxter's Reformed Pastor.
This argument for a general association will be still further strengthened, when we attend to the number, skill, and activity of Zion's enemies. How are they multiplied, who rise up against the truth? Was there ever a time, when the foes of Christ were more numerous, or when they showed more resolution and boldness, assumed a greater variety of shapes, or were more elated with success? With them it is a day of exploits. They have had famous leaders, and obtained signal victories. They seem inspired with unyielding courage and perseverance. If unsuccessful in one way, they still repair to another, and are never weary of exertion. When eyery other method fails, they know how to take advantage of division among the servants of Christ. Animated by so much appearance of this at the present day, as well as by other circumstances which fire their zeal, they have taken a most daring posture, and appear resolved, by open and by secret means, to make one great effort for general and final triumph. Behold the enemy thus coming in like a desolating flood upon us. Let us throw away all prejudice and strife, combine our influence and lift up the standard of the Lord against them.
I argue, thirdly, from the genuine spirit of Christianity. This
argument, addressed to the piety They often met together to en. of Christ's ministers, calls for joy free conversation, to seek a attentive and prayerful conside. more perfect acquaintance with ration. All those Scriptures, each other, to mingle their joys which require ministers to love and their sorrows, and to proone another, to live in peace and mote, as far as possible, each unity, and to seek each other's other's usefulness and comfort. edification and the general inter. If we are governed by the Chris, est of the church, implicitly re- tian spirit, we shall studiously quire attention to all the means, imitate the conduct of the primiby which their love, edification, tive saints. and unity, as ministers, and the Christianity is the religion of general interest of the church candour and forbearance, Under may be advanced. And if it ap- its benignant influence, gospel
pear, that a general association ministers will compassionate of ministers in this State is one each other's weaknesses; and of those means; who can hesi- will endeavour to correct each tate with respect to duty ? other's errors, to improve each
But this argument may be other's knowledge and grace, considered in a different view. and to walk together as far as they Christianity is the religion of are agreed. love. Love to God, which is the Christianity is the religion of “sum of Christian goodness, nat- peace. Though it is made the
urally excites in his people, es occasion of kindling a fire on the pecially in his ministers, a pious earth; it must surely be exs solicitude for his glory and cause. pected to promote peace among Governed by that affection, they its friends. If gospel ministers will frequently and earnestly in- do not perfectly agree in sentiquire, how Clirist's church pros, ment; let them lay aside their pers in different parts, what are envyings and jealousies, and the measures and instruments af come together with conciliating his enemies, and in what way hearts, consulting how to man. his friends can best subserve his age their differences so as not to glory and the welfare of his king- injure the Christian cause, nor dom. Such was the practice of discredit the great truths, which the apostles. Their care and la- they all profess to own. It is bour were not confined to one not to be expected, that Chris. place. The general interest of tian ministers will give up their the church constantly occupied opinions any farther than an en: their thoughts. Wherever they lightened understanding and were, they never lost sight of conscience direct. But it is to this object. They sent to the be expected that those who love churches to know their faith. the peace of Jerusalem, will They travelled to distant parts, meekly and kindly explain their that they might learn what was sentiments to each other, and the state of the saints, and might endeavour to discover in what, join with them in consultation and how far they can harmonize. and prayer for the success of Although they are in earnest to their common cause. Primitive defend their own peculiar sentiChristians loved one another. ments by fair reasoning ; they
must prefer the whole of Christianity before a part, and be care ful not to hinder the common canse. Peacemakers reject and abhor that conceit of unquiet spirits, that the interest of religion depends wholly on those opinions, which distinguish them from others. They weep over the wounds of the church, and long for its healing; and will, therefore, most cordially encourage every pacific measure. The real mother is not willing that her child should be divided. The real Christian pastor ardently desires the common peace and prosperity of the church, and would not have the whole building en dangered rather than that one nail or pin should be driven otherwise than he chooses.*
Christianity is the religion of humility. They, who possess its spirit, will not entertain undue confidence in their own opinions or goodness. They prefer others before themselves. In difficult cases, they wish for the advice and assistance of their breth ren. The servants of Christ feel their need of one another. Young ministers might derive special advantage from an association with those, who are more experienced. And few minis
• Reformed Pastor.
that very consideration may be urged to show, that their brethren need them. Let them, there fore, come forward, and furnish their supply of gifts for the good of the whole.
In reply, I would ask, what more valuable purposes can be mentioned, than those, which a general association is calculated to accomplish? What more im portant objects can be sought, than the union, the improvement, and the usefulness of gospel min. isters, and the prosperity of the churches? Who can charge with excess the most vigorous efforts to obtain these objects? In such a cause, what expense of time and labour, what fervency of prayer can be thought extrava gant?
2. It is said, that the discordant opinions, which prevail among the clergy of Massachusetts, preclude the possibility of happy un
ters have such inconsiderable tal-ion and useful cooperation; and,
therefore, that it is best they should continue as they are, and be content to do what good they can in their own circles.
ents, that they may not some times improve the wisest. They who are endued with the most shining parts, if they are humble, will not think themselves above the need of assistance, but will earnestly desire the counsel and friendship of others. If any consider their knowledge and virtue so eminent, as to raise them above the need of their brethren,
Before closing this paper, justice seems to require, that the principal objections against a GENERAL ASSOCIATION in this state should be briefly noticed.
1. It is asked, What valuable purpose can it answer? What object can be attained sufficiently important to justify such a meas. ure?
Reply. It is by no means expected, that the GENERAL ASSOCIATION will embrace the whole Congregational clergy in Massachusetts. It is not to be disguised that those, who have laid the foundation of the proposed union, have voted, that the doctrines of Christianity, as they are gener