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LIFE OF PRESIDENT EDWARDS.
sures to be taken by the Church, in order to issue the dispute between the minister of the Precinct and the Precinct, which I think is not proper. If the Church call a Council, it will doubtless be in order to be assisted, with regard to some controversies or difficulties of its own, and not to remedy the disputes of the Precinct. The business of a Precinct-meeting is to manage the affairs of a Precinct; and the business of a Church-meeting is about the affairs of a Church, and not about the affairs of civil societies. It is not yet certain, that there is any dispute or difference between the Pastor and the Church, for this has never been properly tried.
"2. If I do not misunderstand the Report of the Committee, it is therein proposed, that the Church-meeting should, in the warning, be limited to a particular method of managing the business they meet upon, viz. To consider, whether to call a Council of neighbouring ministers, to advise to measures, etc. I am not against warning a Church-meeting, if you desire it, to consider of proper measures to be taken, to secure and promote the interests of religion, and the Church's own welfare, under its present cirBut I do not know, why the Church should be limited to any certain method of proceeding, which the Precinct has thought of. The Precinct has no more business to limit or direct the Church to a certain method, in managing its affairs, than the of Church has to direct and limit the Precinct, in the management its affairs. It is not yet known, that the Church will not themselves agree on some measures, to bring their own difficulties to an end, or that they will not think proper to choose a Committee of their own, to this end, who may be successful in contriving a method, to which the Church may agree, which may supersede the need of a Council.
"My purpose, in sending in this writing to you, is, not to perplex you, nor clog any reasonable proceedings, but to do my duty to you, as your guide in religious matters, and that I may do what is proper, to prevent any just blame, that you, or I myself, might hereafter fall under; and therefore, I hope that what I have said, will be taken in good part, from your affectionate pastor, who desires that you may go in the way of your duty, and in the way of God's blessing, and may be a people happy in his favour. "JONATHAN EDWARDS.
"Northampton, Nov. 9, 1749."
"The Precinct, notwithstanding this, at this meeting accepted the Report of the Committee, and passed the following vote:"Voted, That Deac. Noah Cook, and Deac. Ebenezer Pomeroy, wait on Mr. Edwards, and desire him to call a meeting of the first Church in Northampton, to determine by a vote in said meeting, 1st. Whether there be not a dispute, between Mr. Edwards, Pastor of the Church in said Precinct and the Church, respecting the ques
tion he hath argued in his book last published; and if it shall appear, that there is a dispute between him and them, respecting the question aforesaid, then, 2d. To see if the Church will apply to some neighbouring ministers for advice, as to what course the Church shall take."
They also added ten more to the Committee of the Precinct, chosen at their former meeting; so that the Committee for managing this affair for the Precinct, now consisted of nineteen. Those, who were added, were, Col. Dwight, Capt. Baker, Jonathan Strong, Capt. Roger Clap, Josiah Parsons, Capt. John Lyman, Increase Clark, Lieut. James Lyman, Lieut. Hunt, and Eleazer King.
"This meeting was still continued and adjourned for four weeks. The next day, Deac. Cook and Deac. Pomroy came to me, as they were directed, and brought a copy of the Vote of the Precinct, desiring me to warn a meeting of the church, etc. as aforesaid.
"The Sabbath following, Nov. 12, I warned a meeting of the church in the following general terms:-"I desire that there may be a meeting of this church, in this place, to-morrow, at one o'clock in the afternoon, to consider, What course ought to be taken by this Church, under its present difficulties, with respect to the admission of members into the Church."-The church accordingly met the next day, Monday, Nov. 13th. The meeting was opened by prayer. And after some things were said, as much blaming me for warning the church meeting in such general terms, and not in the manner I had been directed by the Precinct, and being told that, if I still refused, the Precinct would warn a church meeting themselves, without me; I gave the reasons why I did not, when I warned the meeting, specify in the warning those particulars on which the Precinct insisted: As 1, That I judged it would be a bad precedent, and a thing of hurtful consequence, for a church thus to allow itself to be subject to the prescriptions of a Precinctmeeting; and said further to this purpose, that it was an unreasona ble way of managing church affairs, to bring them first into a Precinct-meeting, and there to consider, and debate them, and come to a conclusion what should be done ;- and all this in the absence of the Pastor, he being designedly excluded; and then, after all things are settled, and ripened for execution in the Precinct-meeting, to send their orders to the Pastor, to call a church meeting, to pass those conclusions of theirs into church-acts, and execute what they had before determined should be done. It appeared to me a way, that had a tendency wholly to make void all the power of churches, and to render church meetings a mere nullity, and to set the Pastor aside altogether as a cypher, so that he shall not so much as be present, when ecclesiastical matters are debated, and
LIFE OF PRESIDENT EDWARDS.
ripened, and brought to a determination, to have any opportunity to speak his mind, or say one word as attempting to enlighten the church with regard to what is to be done; but is only made their organ, or an instrument in their hands, and subject to their will, to bring things to execution, which they have settled and resolved on wholly without him.
"2. That as to the latter thing, for which I was directed to call a church meeting, viz.-To see whether the church will apply to the neighbouring ministers for advice, as to what course the church shall take-I looked upon it unreasonable; because all the neighbouring ministers, except one, were professedly on the side of my people, in the controversy between me and my people. And though it was only to give advice what course to take, yet their advice might be such as might, in effect, finish the whole affair. Such a foundation might be laid by previous advice, as might very much determine what remains.
"But I told the church that I would not dispute about the former of the particulars, and stood ready now immediately to put it to vote and accordingly put the vote in the following terms :-"I desire that those, who have a dispute or controversy with the Pastor of this Church, respecting the question he hath argued in his book last published, would manifest it."-The major part of the church hereupon manifested that they had such a dispute.
"Then, instead of the other thing proposed by the Precinct to be put to vote, viz. Whether the Church will apply to some neighbouring ministers for advice, as to what course to take; I insisted,
"That a Council should be called, mutually chosen, to consider of the present circumstances of this Church, relating to the controversy subsisting between the Pastor and people, concerning the Qualifications of communicants; and to give their advice, what course we shall take, to bring this dispute or controversy to an issue, and, in general, what is to be done, in our present circumpeace and prosperity."-After stances, in order to the Church's much debate upon it, the meeting was adjourned for a week, and a Committee of five persons chosen to consider of the matter, and confer upon it with the Pastor, and report their opinion to the next meeting. The Committee were Major Pomroy, Col. Dwight, Increase Clark, Lieut. Noah Wright, and Mr. Joseph Hawley.
"The Committee, on consultation and conference with me, wrote their report on the backside of the paper, wherein I had written my proposal, as follows:-"The Committee of the first church in Northampton appointed, by the church to consider the within proposal, and report to the church what is best to be done, report as follows, viz. That the church do join with Mr. Edwards, according to the within proposal of choosing a council; and the Committee agree to the number of five, and would not be against a greater number, if the church think fit, to be mutually chosen, and
to be appointed to meet in this town, four weeks hence from next Thursday.
"Timothy Dwight, Joseph Hawley, Increase Clark, Noah Wright."
"Major Pomeroy refused to sign the report.
"On Monday, Nov. 20, the church met, according to adjournment; and, after prayer, Major Pomeroy stood up, and observed to the church, that his name was not to the report, and gave these two reasons why he did not sign it:-1. "That my proposal was in general terms, and, it being apparent, that I regarded my own temporal interest more than the good of the church, the church had reason to think that I designedly laid a snare, to ensnare the church by those general terms, and therefore warned the church, that they had best by all means to beware and see to it, that they were not ensnared ;" and said much more to this purpose: 2. "If the report was complied with, there would be room for the council to give advice, with respect to the admission of those persons, who stood ready to make a profession of godliness, and might possibly advise that they should be admitted with such a profession; which would be giving me great advantage, contrary to the rights of the church, of which the church had better not run the risk; and, though the advice of the council would not be binding, yet if they should advise to their admission in this way, it might lay the church under great disadvantage."
"These things seemed greatly to alarm the church, and the church refused to vote the report of the Committee; and, after much discourse and debating, it was determined to add ten to the Committee of the church, so as to make the whole number fifteen, that they might consider what was to be done, and report to another meeting. And then, inasmuch as some had found fault with my appointing sacraments of the Lord's Supper, and some had turned their backs on the sacrament since this controversy, and the usual time for a sacrament being come, it was proposed to the church, Whether it was their mind that the administration of the Lord's Supper, should be continued or not? and after considerable discourse it was put to vote and passed in the negative. Then the meeting was adjourned for a fortnight.
"The persons now added to the Committee were the following: Messrs. John Baker, Jonathan Strong, Roger Clap, Deac. John Clark, Deac. Pomeroy, Joseph Wright, John Lyman, James Lyman, Gideon Lyman, and Eleazar King. The whole Committee, excepting Col. Dwight who was gone to Boston, met on the next Monday, Nov. 27, 1749, and passed several votes which were drawn up in writing; and the next Wednesday they all came together to my house, and showed me the writing they had drawn up containing the said votes, as follows:
"At a meeting of a Committee of the first church of Northampton, on Monday, the 27th day of November, 1749,
"Voted, That a council be chosen, previous to any endeavours after a separation, to advise on the articles hereafter mentioned:
"The first question that was put after some conference was,Whether any members of a council to be chosen either by pastor or people, to advise us to what course we shall take, previous to any endeavours after a separation, shall be those who live out of the County of Hampshire? Voted in the negative.
"2. Whether any members of a definitive council, if finally there be need of such council, should come from any parts out of the County? Voted in the negative.
"Whether, if Mr. Edwards shall continue of the principles he has advanced in his late book, the Committee judge he ought to continue Pastor of this Church, or not? Voted in the negative, nemine contradicente.
"4. That, if there be a Council called to give advice, at present, previous to endeavours after separation, the particulars or articles upon which they are to advise, shall be determined and proposed to them.
"5. Voted, That one article which the Council shall have proposed to them, shall be-Whether the Church shall take any longer time to study or peruse Mr. Edwards' late book?
"6. It was put-Whether it shall be proposed to the Council, to advise whether Mr. Edwards should preach on his late principles ? and it passed in the negative.
"7. Voted, That another article to be proposed to the Council, shall be―That, inasmuch as there is so great opposition, in the Church and Precinct, to Mr. Edwards' principles, advanced in his late book, whether the Church shall not use means immediately for a separation?
"8. Voted, That, if the Council shall think it best to use means for a separation, the question shall be proposed to them, What means shall be used therefor?"
"On another paper, which at the same time they delivered to me, was written the following vote, viz.
"Whereas our Pastor, the Rev. Mr. Edwards, having separated and departed from the principles which the great Mr. Stoddard brought in and practiced, and which he himself was settled upon, and a long time practised, with respect to the admission of members in complete standing into the visible Church, whether it be not the opinion of the Church, that those principles are inconsistent with the principles of religion, and the peace of the Church and Town, and therefore desire a separation, he continuing in his principles.