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be their pastor ? -I have never given this Church the least reason
“But, if I mistake not, the business of that Council will consist chiefly in the following things :
" 1. In determining whether the pastor and church ought to be separated, they must have liberty to do what they can towards effecting an accommodation. It will be unreasonable to call a Council, to decide on the question of separation, and yet so tie up their hands, that they shall be obliged to proceed on the supposition, that the disease is desperate, without allowing them to judge of that matter for themselves, or to use any means or endeavours for a
The separating of pastor and people will be an important event—an event followed by great, extensive and very unhappy, consequences, and ought not to be done without obvious and irretrievable necessity. That necessity ought not to be determined, merely by the parties at variance; but by the Council, which judges whether we must be parted, or not. The desperateness of the disease should not be determined by the patient, but by the physician. That Council must have our whole case laid before them, and then they must judge, Whether it will be worth the while to use any endeavours for an accommodation. And, if they judge that it is worth the while, then they must have liberty to use their best skill, in order to effect it. For my part, though I confess there appears to me no probability of our difficulties ever being adjusted; yet I feel that I am not infallible, nor able certainly to determine that they cannot. I cannot certainly say that a Council cannot enlighten me, so as to make my conscience easy as to any point of practice, so as to proceed in it with a good conscience. Nor can my people, as I apprehend, certainly determine that no Council can ever satisfy them, as to any point on which we are now divided. It is worth the while to try the skill of some of the ablest divines in the land; and indeed it is necessary that it should be done, before we proceed to an act, fraught with such important consequences, as the separation of pastor and people. And here the question arises, What sort of a Council is proper to be employed in such an attempt ?-a Council wholly consisting of divines on one side in the controversy or a Council consisting of some on both sides?
“ 2. If they conclude that there is no hope of an accommodation, they will then be called upon to decide-Whether the parties are
now ripe for a separation. And the grand point here presented to them will be, What justice demands, with regard to each party. The claims of both parties must be weighed by them, as in a bal
On the one hand, they must determine what are the just claims of the people, and whether my continuance here can be consistent with their rights. On the other, they must consider, what I can claim by virtue of my relation to the people as their pastor, whether the steps which ought to be taken previous to a separation have actually been taken; whether they have given me a hearing on the question in dispute, and have done me justice in this controversy, so that nothing remains which I can fairly demand of them, before they can fairly demand a release from all their obligations to me as their pastor. The case presented to them for their decision will therefore be a case of simple justice and equity, between two parties at variance. And here the question again arises, What sort of a Council is proper to be employed in deciding such a case?-a Council wholly consisting of divines on one side in the controversy? -or a Council consisting of some on both sides?
“ 3. If the future council should decide on an immediate separation between pastor and people, they must also set forth to the world, in their result, the reasons of their decision. They must explicitly declare, Whether it is for any thing blame-worthy and scandalous in the pastor, which renders him unfit for the ministry, and worthy to be dismissed from it? or-Whether he is innocent in the affair 2–How far he has conducted himself well, and treated his people justly? and, How far they can recommend him as fit to be employed elsewhere in the work of the ministry? This is what is usual in such cases, and what the very nature of things renders just and necessary. But the state of the present case renders it necessary in a peculiar manner, and that on several accounts. One is, the well known fact, that many reports have been industriously circulated through the country, relative to my conduct in this affair, which are greatly to my disadvantage. It is continually asserted by my opposers, that I wish to Lord it over God's heritage, that I am contentious and quarrelsome, that I am obstinate, stiff and inflexible, and that I would not yield an ace in my opinion to save myself and my family from ruin.—Another is, that my people themselves, have rendered it absolutely necessary, in that, from time to time, I have been publicly blamed and highly charged, with regard to my conduct.
As this appears evidently the prevailing disposition of my people, to cast blame upon me, and they do it here openly and publicly from time to time, I have no reason to think that they restrain themselves abroad. And as there is a great multitude of them, many mouths, to reproach me, and they are very much abroad in various parts of New England, and I have only my own single voice to defend myself with ; so there seems to be no other way for my defence, than by the enquiry and judg
ment of an impartial Council. And then, besides the reproaches
. of my people by word of mouth, their public conduct towards me is such, as casts a reproach upon me. The whole series of their conduct has this language, uttered too with a loud voice, that I am most insufferably criminal. This is particularly true of their openly refusing, once and again, to receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper at my hands. It has this look—that I am a scandalous person: this is the language of it: it has this appearance to the world. Of course this future Council will unavoidably have to judge between me and my people, in this matter. And here again the same question presents itself—What sort of a Council is proper to be employed, in deciding on my conduct and character ? -A Council consisting wholly of those, who are known to be against me, and to side with my opposers; or a Council consisting of some on both sides?
“ These three things, it is plain, will constitute the main business of the future Council; and the question—What kind of a Council is requisite to judge in such a case, and to decide on these points, -cannot, I humbly conceive, be a matter of any difficulty. It must be evident to every man of the least reflection, that an Impartial Council is indispensable, or at least, a Council so constituted, that it may be as near to impartiality as may be. This will appear, if each of these three points, on which the Council must judge, is duly considered.—If they are to attempt an accommodation, or to bring the two distant parties together; surely it is proper that the Council, which is to do this, should be themselves in the middle, and not all on one side, or with one of the distant parties. If they are to decide,-Whether the Church have done me justice in this controversy, as to what I can demand of them, before they can demand a separation ?-need I ask, whether the tribunal which is to decide a simple point of equity, between two parties at variance, in a case deeply interesting to both, ought to be impartial? And, if they are to judge between two parties, one of which blames and condemns the other in a very open manner, and it is their duty to decide, whether these accusations are just, and whether the accused is innocent, or guilty ; does this venerable Council need an argument from me, to prove to them that impartiality is an essential qualification in the tribunal, which is to judge between two such parties, and that the members of it ought not, all of them, to be on the side of the party, which lays the blame and brings the charge ; but a part of them on the side of the party blamed in the original controversy? Since, in this case, we cannot expect to obtain a Council, which shall be impartial in the most proper sense—in the sense that each member, taken singly, shall be impartial—but all must be supposed to be on one side or the other in the main controversy; there ought therefore to be that, which shall be in some measure an equivalent--there ought to be a balance in the CounVol. I.
cil-so that, putting both parts together, the whole Consistory may be looked upon as it were impartial ; and, if one of the parties choose those who are on their side in the main controversy, the other should also be allowed to choose such as are on his; and neither party tied up to such limits in his choice, that all opportunity of any tolerable degree of impartiality in the Council, should be precluded.
“ Hence it must be reasonable that, in the choice of the future Council, I should be allowed to go out of the limits of this county, for some of the members; it being a fact perfectly well known, concerning the ministers and churches of the county, that they are almost universally on one side in the original controversy. And this is the point now to be determined by this reverend Council. I would endeavour therefore, in the first place, to show that it is reasonable and necessary that I should be allowed this liberty, as impartiality is to be sought in the Council; and in the second, would mention several circumstances, which render it highly expedient.
“ I freely own that it is a good general rule, that Councils, which
“ are to judge of difficulties arising in particular churches, should be constituted of neighbouring churches. But to say, that this is a rule so established by the word of God, or the reason and nature of things, and made so universal, that it never will or can admit of any exception, and never, in any case whatsoever, ought to be dispensed with, is carrying the matter to such an unreasonable length, as no one of the members of this reverend Council would sanction. Let us suppose a case, which is not impossible, that a whole neighbourhood of ministers were nearly related to one of two parties, between whom a Council was to judge; would any one say, in such a case, that they, and they only must be the judges, because they live in the neighbourhood? Would any one imagine, that the mere circumstance of vicinity, or of county limits, as fixed by the civil power, ought to outweigh such an essential circumstance as consanguinity; however the ministers of the neighbourhood might be men of wisdom and great integrity? Now, though perhaps it may be disputed, whether unity of sentiment, in matters of religion, has an equal tendency to prejudice the mind, in favour of particular persons and their behaviour, with consanguinity; yet I suppose it to be a point beyond dispute, that it has a powerful tendency; and that diversity of sentiment has an equally powerful tendency to prejudice the mind, not only against the doctrines which are opposite to those we embrace, but against the persons who introduce and maintain them. In all ages and nations, diversity of religious sentiment has occasioned uncharitableness and censoriousness in mankind, one towards another; and the strongest prejudices, which have appeared among men, have been owing to this cause. Very often has this been true, where the difference has been in things not fundamental. Such is the weakness of human nature on this
point, that few men get the mastery of this temptation. Here and there, an eminently great man appears to have conquered its influence. Yet, even among great men, such instances are rare.
How evident is it, that men of distinguished learning and talents, and of eminent piety, are often powerfully influenced by this prejudice, and that insensibly to themselves. And if we examine the history of ages past, we shall find abundant evidence, that even consanguinity itself does not render us more liable to powerful prejudices, than this very cause.
“ The prejudices, to which we are thus exposed, are not merely against the persons of individuals, but against their conduct; especially against that part of their conduct which is immediately connected with their opinions, in avowing and maintaining them, and in endeavouring to introduce and propagate them. How greatly have the members, and especially the ministers, of the Church of England, even those among them who are great and good men, been prejudiced against the persons and conduct of Dissenters; and how have they accused them of bigotry, blind zeal, and per
And how fully has our liability to prejudices of this nature, been exemplified of late in New England, in persons of opposite opinions, respecting the late extensive Revival of Religion; how strong have been the prejudices occasioned thereby against the persons and conduct of many individuals. Especially is this true, when the controversy about the opposite religious opinions is in the height of agitation. Above all is the temptation great, with respect to the individual, who is the first and main occasion of the controversy, and appears as the head and spring of the whole debate, as moved and maintained in the given time and place; which is precisely my case in the existing controversy. * And the influence of this cause to bias the minds of
has been strikingly exemplified, in this very case, in ministers of good character, and such as in other respects have been very friendly to me. Since this controversy has existed at Northampton, I have had occasion to converse with many gentlemen in the ministry, on both sides of the question ; and I find a vast difference, between those on one side and those on the other, in regard to their charity with respect to me and my conduct. Those on one side are more apt to give heed to reports, which they have heard to my disadvantage, and to be enquiring with concern into such and such parts of my conduct. They receive, with hesitation and difficulty, the explanations which I give, and the reasons which I offer, and entertain surmises and jealousies of my design, and of the motives by which I am governed. But with the ministers of the other side, I find nothing of this natnre.
“ It is very obvious, that the members of this church themselves are perfectly aware of the tendency of religious opinions to bias the minds of men in this very controversy.
When one of the brethren