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“ The above written was voted to be proposed to the first Church in Northampton, for their acceptance, at a meeting of the Committee of said Church, on Monday, Nov. 27, 1749, provided the proposals of the Committee, respecting a Council for advice previous to endeavours after a separation, should not be agreed to by Mr. Edwards; or there be nothing else agreed to, by Mr. Edwards and the Committee, respecting said Council, and the ends for which they are to be called.
“Voted further by the Committee, That, provided the Church desire a separation, they should consider and determine upon choosing a Council, to dismiss Mr. Edwards from this Church, and dissolve his pastoral relation thereto."
“The papers containing these votes, were delivered to me by the Committee, at a meeting of theirs at my house, the Wednesday following ; (Nov. 29,) and, I desiring time for consideration, they consented that I should have time, and appointed another meeting of the Committee, on Tuesday the week following, at the house of Major Pomeroy, to receive my answer in writing. It was agreed, , that it should be put to vote in the Church the next Sabbath, that the church-meeting, which was adjourned to the next Monday, be put off a week longer.
“ To the appointed meeting, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, I sent the following letter :
6 DEAR BRETHREN,
“I would now lay before you some reasons, why I think that your votes at your late meeting, on Nov. 27, are not to be approved of; which I would do in the spirit of meekness, and desire that they may in the same spirit be weighed and considered :
«I. It is manifest that in these votes, you are in various instances very inconsistent with yourselves :
“1. Your votes imply that it is your mind, that a Council should be called, previous to any endeavours after a separation between pastor and people, and also previous to what you call a Definitive Council: that is previous to a Council, which shall determine whether pastor and people shall be separated or not: and yet, in your seventh vote, you have voted that it shall be proposed to the first Council, u hether the Church shall not use means immediately for a separation : which implies that this first council should pass their judgment, Whether minister and people ought not to be speedily separated; which is the very business of the last council, who, as you yourselves suppose, are to determine that matter. If the first council are to have no power to determine it, then why should they take it upon them publicly to enquire, and judge, and give their voice, how it ought to be determined? If there be a certain consistory, to whom it does not belong to decide a matter, and it is also
determined beforehand, that they shall not decide it, but that it shall be decided by other judges; I think they would but do the part of busy-bodies, to meddle with it so far as publicly to take cognizance of it, and pass their judgment init.-According to Congregational principles, on which this church seem to insist, the utmost, which any Council under heaven has to do, is only to give their judgment, without laying any proper obligation on those whom they advise.
* 2. In your concluding vote in your second paper, you have given your voice, That, if I do not agree to what you shall finally insist upon, or to that purpose, it shall be proposed to the Church, immediately to call a Council to dismiss me. And surely such a Council, if they have any thing to do as Counsellors, will have to judge-Whether I ought to be dismissed, or not; and, Whether it be consistent with the interests of religion, and the peace of the Town and Church, that I should be continued here. And yet, in the same vote, you have voted to propose it to the church, to take this work of the Council into their own hands, and to determine themselves, in the first place,-Whether my continuance here is consistent with the interests of religion, and the peace of the Town and Church; and, Whether a separation ought not to be sought :which is first judging the very thing, which they are to call a Council to judge of, and direct them in. Herein you are inconsistent with yourselves; and, if you persist in such a vote, will be inconsistent with the rules of decency and order, and all usual methods of proceeding.–In so great an affair, as the separation of a pastor and a people, it is by no means proper for a people, whatever their private thoughts may be, to proceed to declare their judgment in public votes and acts, until they have had the voice of a Council to lead and conduct them.
“ 3. You yourselves, the gentlemen of the Committee, have taken it upon you to do that, which is properly the business of what you call the Definitive Council,—in your third vote; wherein you vote, That, if I persist in my principles, I ought not to continue the Pastor of this Church. This vote, you have passed, as a Committee of this Church; and, if you persist in it, it must be a part of your Report to the Church, intended for their direction; nor can such a vote of yours be of any
And so herein you give your judgment and direction to the Church directly, in that very matter, which the last Council is to judge of, and direct the Church in.
“4. You vote that a Council should be called, previous to any endeavours after a separation; and yet, in this third vote, you yourselves do at the same time, before any Council is called, immediately proceed to that which is properly and directly of the nature of an endeavour, that I should be separated, provided I do not retract my opinion. For it must be supposed, that you had some VOL. I.
end in it, and passed this vote as a means to some public effect; and the effect directly looked at, is no other than a separation in such a case.
“5. The only proviso made in the said third vote, wherein it is voted that I ought not to continue the pastor of this church, is“If I continue of the principles which I have advanced;" without adding—Or the Church be brought to be of my mind, or any thing of that nature; whereby it is plainly supposed, that it is a thing already determined, and out of the question, that the church never will be of my mind. And yet you afterwards vote, That a Council shall be called for that very end-to judge whether the church shall take any longer time to study and peruse my book which, if they do advise to, it must be as requisite in order to a proper trial, whether the church, on proper information, will not be brought to be of my mind. So that, putting both these votes together, it comes to this,—that you would call a Council to judge, Whether there has already been a fair trial, whether the Church, on proper information, will be brought to be of my mind ; and yet, you tell them, at the same time, That you have decided this matter already, and have determined, that it is no longer worth the while to make a question of it, and that it is clear enough already, to be taken as a ground of public votes and acts. And this is, in effect, to tell the Council, at the same time you call them, That you do not need them; having thoroughly determined the matter already yourselves, in which you have called them to advise.
“II. You are not only inconsistent with yourselves, but I think several of your votes are very inconsistent with reason and justice.
“1. Your votes imply, that I should be allowed to choose none who live out of the county of Hampshire, to be members of any Council, which shall have any thing to do in judging of our affairs, either in giving advice for our conduct, or to determine and finish our controversy; which, as the case stands, is contrary to plain reason, and universally established maxims of equity, and inconsistent with the most acknowledged rights of mankind. For it is apparent from your own statement, that the matters of difficulty, concerning which the judgment or advice of any Council is needed or proposed, are wholly things appertaining to a controversy between me and the church, concerning qualifications of candidates for christian ecclesiastical communion; and it is well known, that the ministers of the county are almost universally on one side, and against me, in this controversy. And I desire you impartially to consider, whether, if you should persist in these conclusions, it would be doing, as you would be done by ? Supposing that it had happened on my side, as it has on yours, that the ministers of the county had been as generally and as fully on my side, in the original controversy, as now they are on yours; would you have thought it reasonable, if I should in that case have insisted upon it, that you
should not be suffered to go out of the county, to bring ministers for any Council, which was to have any hand in judging, advising or determining in our affairs ?
“2. If I understand your Vote, you have determined, That the Council, which shall be called to advise us what course to take under our present difficulties, shall be so limited, that they shall have no liberty to judge of our circumstances in general, and so advise to proper expedients for our welfare as they shall think requisite ; and That particular care shall be taken, that they shall not give any judgment or advice, with regard to some things, which have been matters of difficulty and controversy, between me and the church. And, I think you, in effect, have voted, That they shall be limited to that one single thing, viz. Whether the Church shall take longer time, to study or peruse my book? For, as was observed before, the other things which you mention, cannot belong to the business of the Previous Council, but are the proper business of the Last Council. Now against this, I object the following things :
“ (1.) To call a Council, and limit them in this manner, does not at all answer the present circumstances and exigencies of this Church. The present sorrowful state of the Church greatly requires a Council, which shall have liberty to look into the whole state of our case, without keeping some parts of our difficulties out of their sight, that they may give us advice what course we shall take for our welfare. If ever it was requisite that the whole case of a patient, under a most terrible and threatening disease, should be laid before physicians, it is requisite that our whole case should be laid before a council, for their advice with regard to our difficulties in general. What we need a Council for, if we need any at all, before a Council comes to determine whether we shall be separated or not, is if possible, to find out a remedy for our broken, confused and perplexed, circumstances; so that, either pastor and people may walk together in peace, or, at least, that things may be so regulated, that there may be some peace while we are continued together. And, if finally, there should appear a neces
, sity of a separation, that things may be prepared for an equitable and peaceable parting. But to tie up a Council to such a single particular, as is mentioned in your votes, is utterly to disable them from answering these ends.
“(2.) It would be very absurd, in itself, for the Church to come into such a determination. It would be for the Chursh to set itself up in a sort of supremacy and self-sufficiency, as above all controul and advice. It would be in effect to say,— In these and these parts of the controversy between us and our pastor, we need no advice, nor will we allow a Council to give us any.'-And it would be indecorous treatment of
any csrcumstances, thus to tie them up. The language of it would be — We, in these
, things, are not willing to trust your judgment, esteeming ourselves
wiser than you."-If you say that those parts of our controversy, which the Council are tied up from meddling with, are very clear and plain ; then so much the less reason have you to fear leaving them to the determination of a Council; unless you are confident that you are wiser than they.
“ For you to insist on these limiting votes, will be very unequal and unfair dealing with me. As the Council is to be called to advise in matters controverted between you and me, one party has no more right to limit the other party, as to the controverted points which shall be referred, than the other party has to limit the one. If I should claim a power to decide in this matter, and should single out a particular point, such as I thought would best serve my purpose, and say,—'I will have this matter, and this only, judged of by a Council; and as to other matters, which you desire that they should advise in, I will not suffer it:'-would you hearken at all to it, or bear such treatment?
“One thing more I think it my duty to observe to you, before I conclude. After your other votes, you conclude all with this, as an enforcement of the whole "That, provided the proposals of
“ the Committee, respecting a Council, etc. should not be agreed to by me, and there should be nothing else agreed to respecting said Council, and the ends for which they are to be called; you will propose it to the church to vote my principles so and so pernicious, and to manifest a desire of separation, and to call a Council to dismiss me.” I think that this Vote, with these circumstances appended, is properly of the nature of a Threatening.–That if I do not comply with what you, the Committee, shall finally insist upon, you will propose to the church to deal thus with me. As you are a Committee chosen to confer with me concerning a method of proceeding, I might reasonably expect that, as you are christians, and christians to whom I stand in the relation of a Pastor, you would first have seen, Whether, by friendly conference, we could not have amicably agreed on measures to be taken. If you had thought it proper to pass any such vote at all, and to let me see it; one would have thought that at least it should have been forborne, until you had found, by conference, that I would agree to nothing reasonable, and that this should have been the last thing you did. But, at the very first interview, to come with such menaces to terrify me into a compliance with you, before a word of conference between us; is indeed carrying things with a high hand; of which I entreat you calmly and seriously to consider.
“On the whole, I desire you would not persist in the votes you have passed, and that you would consider again, Whether the proposals, which were agreed to by me and the former Committee of the church, are not just and reasonable ; and the measures therein proposed such as our circumstances require. But if not, if you can think of any other measures, wnich are equitable, and have any ten