« ElőzőTovább »
Art. VII.–The Delegation to the Southern General
Assembly. VERY early in the recent session of the General Asseinbly Dr. Adams moved the following resolutions, and advocated their adoption in a few remarks breathing the warmest Christian love toward all parties concerned. They were adopted at once, cordially and unanimously, by the Assembly. As the proceedings and results thus far consequent on this action are of great historical and ecclesiastical significance, and pregnant with momentous future consequences, we have concluded to gather up into a distinct article the more important documents involved, and the few comments we propose to make upon thern, both for convenience of future reference and the better comprehension of their import. We begin with the original resolutions of our Assembly :
" Whereas, This General Assembly, believing that the interests of the kingdom of our Lord throughout our entire country will be greatly promoted by healing all unnecessary divisions; and
" Whereas, This General Assembly desires the speedy establishment of cordial fraternal relations with the body known the 'Southern Presbyterian Church,' upon terms of mutual confidence, respect, and Christian honor and love; and
" Whereas, We believe that the terms of re-union between the two brauches of the Presbyterian Church at the North, now so happily consummated, present an auspicious opportunity for the adjustment of such relations ; therefore be it
Resolved, 1. That a committee of five ministers and four elders be appointed by this Assembly to confer with a similar committee, if it shall be appointed by the Assembly now in session in the city of Louisville, in respect to opening a friendly correspondence between the Northern and Southern Presbyterian Churches, and that the result of such conference be reported to the General As. sembly of 1871.
Resolved, 2. That with a view to the furtherance of the object contemplated in the appointment of said committee, this Assembly hereby reaffirms the 'Concurrent Declaration of the two Assemblies which met in the city of New York last year, viz.:
" That no rule or precedent which does not stand approved by both bodies shall be of any authority in the re-united body, except in so far as such rule or precedent may affect the rights of property founded thereon.'
" Resolved, 3. That one minister and one elder of this committee, appointed by this Assembly, be designated as delegates to convog to the Assembly now in session at Louisville a copy of these resolutions, with our Christian salutation."
Pursuant to these resolutions, the following gentlemen were appointed this committee: W. Adams, D.D., Chancellor H. W. Green, Charles C. Beatty, D.D., William E. Dodge, P. H. Fowler, D.D., James Brown, H. J. Van Dyck, D. D., Governor D. Haines, J. C. Backus, D. D.
Drs. H. J. Van Dyck, J. C. Backus, and Hon. William E. Dodge were appointed a sub-committee to proceed forth with to Louisville and communicate these proceedings to the Assembly in session there. This mission they inmediately executed. They telegraphed their coming in advance to the Louisville Assembly. On their arrival they were received with a courtesy and dignity, and with extensive manifestations of warmth from individuals, which indicated a cordial welcome. They were called by the Moderator upon the stage, and their words of Christian love and tenderness were heard with attention and cagerness by the Assembly, and called forth a fraternal response from the Moderator. The whole subject was then referred to the committee on Foreign Correspondence. This committee soon made a report which was adopted by a vote of some five-sixths of the body as its formal and official answer to the peaceful and conciliatory overture of our Assembly. This report was drafted by Dr. B. M. Palmer, of New Orleans. A single meinber offered a minority report proposing the appointment of the committee requested without the impracticable conditions and offensive charges contained in the paper actually sent to our Assembly as a response to its overture. This paper is in the words following:
"The Committee on Foreign Correspondence, to whom were referred the overture for re-union from the Old School General Assembly North, of 1869, at its sessions in the city of New York; and also the proposition from the United Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church, now sitting in Philadelphia, conveyed to us by a special delegation, respectfully report:
“That the former of these documents is virtually superseded by the latter; because the body by whom it was adopted has since been merged into the United Assembly, from wbich emanates a new and fresh proposal reflecting the views of the larger constituency. To this proposition, then, that a committee of five ministers and four elders be appointed by this Assembly to confer with a similar committee of their Assembly, in respect to opening a friendly correspondence. between the Northern and Southern Presbyterian Church'- your committee recommend the following answer to be returued:-
"Whatever obstructions may exist in the way of cordial intercourse between the two bodies above named, are entirely of a public nature, and involve grave and fundamental principles. The Southern Presbyterian Church can confidently appeal to all the acts and declarations of all their Assemblies, that no attitude of aggression or hostility has been, or is now, assumed by it toward the Northern church. And this General Assembly distinctly avows (as it has always believed and declared) that no grievances experienced by us, however real, would justify us in acts of aggression or a spirit of malice or retaliation against any branch of Christ's visible kingdom. We are prepared, therefore, in advance of all discussion, to exercise toward the General Assembly North and the churches represented therein, such amity as fidelity to our principles could, under any possible circum. stances, permit. Under this view the appointment of a committee of conference might seem wholly unnecessary; but, in order to exhibit before the Christian world the spirit of conciliation and kindness to the last degree, this Assembly agrees to appoint a committee of conference to meet a similar committee already appointed by the Northern Assembly, with instructions to the same that the difficulties which lie in the way of cordial correspondence between the two bodies must be distinctly met and removed, and which may be comprehensively stated in the following particulars :
"1. Both the wings of the new United Assembly, during their separate exist. ence before the fusion, did fatally complicate themselves with the State, in political utterances deliberately pronounced year after year; and which, in our judgment, wore a sad betrayal of the cause and kingdom of our common Lord and Head. We believe it to be solemnly incumbent upon the Northern Presbyterian Church, not with reference to us, but before the Christian world and before our Divine Master and King, to purge itself of this error, and by public proclamation of the truth to place the crown once more upon the head of Jesus Christ as the alone King in Zion. In default of which, the Southern Presbyterian Church, which has already suffered much in maintaining the independence and spirituality of the Redeemer's kingdom upon earth, feels constrained to bear public testimony against this defection of our late associates from the truth. Nor can we, by official correspondence even, conseut to blunt the edge of this, our testimony, concerning the very nature and mission of the church as a purely scriptural body among men.
“2. The union now consummated between the Old and New School Assemblies of the North was accomplished by methods which, in our judgment, involve a total surrender of all the great testimonies of the church for the fundamental doctrines of grace, at a time when the victory of truth over error lung long in the balance. The United Assembly stands, of necessity, upon an allowed latitude of interpretation of the standards, and must come at length to embrace nearly all shades of doctrinal belief. Of those failing testimonies we are now the sole surviving heirs, which we must lift from the dust and bear to the generations after us. It would be a serious compromise of this sacred trust to enter into public and official fellowship with those repudiating these testimonies; and to do this expressly upon the ground, as stated in the preamble to the overture before us, 'that the terms of re-union between the two branches of the Presbyterian Church at the North, now happily consummated, present an auspicious opportunity for the adjustment of such relations.' To found a correspondence profitably upon this idea would be to indorse that which we thoroughly disapprove.
"3. Some of the members of our own body were, but a short time since, violently and unconstitutionally expelled from the communion of our branch of the now United Northern Assembly, under ecclesiastical charges which, if true, render them utterly infamous before the church and the world. It is to the last degree unsatisfactory to construe this offensive legislation obsolete by the mere fusion of that body with another, or through the operation of a faint declaration which was uot inteuded, originally, to cover this case. This is no mere 'rule' or 'precedent,' but a solemn sentence of outlawry against what is now an important and constituent part of our own body. Every principle of honor and of good faith compels us to say that an unequivocal repudiation of that interpretation of the law under which these men were condemned must be a condition precedent to any official correspondence on our part.
* 4. It is well known that similar injurious accusations were preferred against the whole Southern Presbyterian Church, with which the ear of the whole world has been filled. Extending, as these charges do, to heresy and blasphemy, they cannot be quietly ignored by an indirection of any sort. If true, we are not , worthy of the 'confidence, respect, Christian honor, and love' which are tendered to us in this overture. If untrue, 'Christian honor and love,' manliness and truth, require them to be openly and squarely withdrawn. So long as they remain upon record they are an impassable barrier to official intercourse."
After this document had been laid before our Assembly, Dr. Adams subunitted the following paper from the committee appointed to confer with the Southern church :
“ Resolutions in regard to Southern Assembly. “Whereas, this General Assembly, at an early period of its ssions declared its desire to establish cordial fraternal relations with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, commonly known as the Southern Assembly, upon the basis of Christian honor, confidence, and love; and with a view to the attainment of this end appointed a committee of five ministers and four elders to confer with a similar committee, if it should be appointed by the Assembly then in session at Louisville, in relation to the amicable settlement of all existing difficulties, and the opening of a friendly correspondence between the Northern and Southern churches,' and for the furtherance of the objects contemplated in the appointment of said committee, and with a view to remove the obstacles which might prevent the acceptance of our proposals by our Southern brethren, reaffirmed the concurrent declaration of the two Assemblies which met in New York last year, to the effect that .no rule or precedent which does not stand approved by both the bodies shall be of any authority in the re-united body," except so far as such rule or precedent may affect the rights of property founded thereon;' and as a further pledge of our sincerity in this movement sent a copy of our resolutions together with our Christian salutation to the Asseinbly at Louisville, by the hands of delegates chosen for that purpose;
And whereas the Southern, Assembly, while receiving our delegates with marked courtesy, and formally complying with our proposition for the appointment of a committee of conference, has nevertheless accompanied that appointment with declarations and conditions which we cannot consistently accept, because they involve a virtual pre-judgment of the very difficulties concerning which we invited the conference; therefore,
“ Resolved, That the further consideratiou of the subject be postponed and the committee be discharged. At the same time we cannot forbear to express our profound regret that a measure designed, and, as we believe, eminently fitted, to promote the establishment of peace and the advancement of our Redeemer's king. dom in every part of our country, has apparently failed to accomplish its object. We earnestly hope that the negotiations thus suspended may soon be resumed under happier auspices, and hereby declare our readiness to renew our proposals for a friendly correspondence whenever our Southern brethren shall signify their readiness to accept in the form and spirit in which it bas been offered."
This report, after some discussion, chiefly consisting of a speech by Rev. Dr. Henry J. Van Dyck, was adopted.
The action of our own Assembly speaks for itself, and is its own vindication before all Christendom. In the kindly but considerate and cautious original proposition to the Southern Assembly, in the character of the committee deputed to bear it, in the acceptable presentation of the matter to that body by this committee, and in the final disposal of the subject responsive to the reply given to its proposal, our body has made an admirable exhibition of Christian charity, magnanimity, and forbearance, nor has it uttered a word to close or obstrụct the way to future negotiations, whenever the Southern church shall be willing to open them on terins of equality. They have refrained, as they could so well afford to do, from every word of self-defence or retaliatory accusation, which might embitter old antagonisms, or cause fresh exasperations. The following extract from Dr. Van Dyck's speech, every word of which is a credit to him (and for a permanent record of the whole of which we wish we had room), is quite conclusive, and we think will cominand the assent not only of the whole Northern church, but of the whole Christian world, outside of our former slave States :
“And now, sir, I wish to express my profound mortification and regret at the temporary and apparent failure of this effort to make peace. It has failed. The terms and conditions which you have just heard read are manifestly impracticable. How can your committee meet their committee with this terrible indietment flung across the threshold of our conference? If it were all true, there is no propriety in putting it there. The things complained of and decided in the paper adopted by the Southern Assembly, are among the very questions concerning which we proffered the conference. When men enter into negotiations for the settlement of existing difficulties, it is not for either party to prejudge the caso