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The complainants were deacons in the church, of long-tried fidelity.
Of the result of this painful process of discipline there is on record a full account, of which the following is a copy :
" At a meeting of the church in Hadley, held on Tuesday, August 26, 1828, the wife of -, appeared before the church, on citation grounded on a complaint, regularly presented by Dea. Jacob Smith, and Dea. Timothy Hopkins, from which it appeared that she bad been twice privately admonished, agreeably to the rule contained in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew; and she acknowledged that, as was declared in the complaint, she did disbelieve some of the doctrines maintained by this church, as the basis of their union, namely, the doctrines of the Trinity, and the supreme Divinity of our blessed Saviour, and that she had withdrawn herself from the communion of the church. Mr. requested in her name that she might be dismissed with a certificate, of which he presented a form. It was mani. fest to the church, that, as her errors were of several years standing, and seemed to be deeply fixed, and as, moreover, ali effort for her conviction had hitherto proved unavailing, it was their immediate duty to guard their own purity by some public act, expressing their disapprobation of such dangerous sentiments as hers, and their tender regard to the honor of their Divine Redeemer. Whereupon,
“ Voted, Unanimously, that the church cannot give Mrs. the certificate desired by her.
Voted, Unanimously, to withdraw from her our watch and fellowship.
* Voted, Unanimously, that the act of withdrawment be publicly expressed by the pastor, in a written form, previously adopted by the church."
Such a form was adopted by the church, and publicly read Lord's Day, September 7, 1828. It was as follows:
* Agreeably to the above rotes, I now proceed, in the name of the church, to execute the paintul and important duty assigned me.
"Whereas, by persisting in a denial of the great doctrines of the Trinity, and the supreme deity of our adorable Saviour, and by withdrawing herself from our communion, has gone out from us, because she was not of us; we, therefore, declare her connection with us as a sister in the church to be at an end, and withdraw from her our watch and fellowship, till such time as she, renouncing her errors, shall return to us by repentance."
The reader will observe that this is the lower form of excision; and that nothing less could have been done by the church, without the virtual opening of the doors of their communion to errorists of every
If Unitarians, as such, are to be received, why not all others who assume to themselves the name of Christian? Did not the petitioners virtually ask the church to break down their whole platform for the sake of accommodating such respectable personages as themselves? This was asking rather too much; and savored a little of that dictatorial spirit and claim to infallibility for which the petitioners
blamed the pastor and the church. The church never interfered with the rights of others; they merely desired to maintain, unmolested by others, the doctrines which they regarded as fundamental to the scheme of salvation, revealed in the Gospel. Would it be deemed very modest or respectful in an Orthodox man, to urge communion with a Cnitarian church, with the understanding that said Unitarian church was thereby to express her approval of Orthodoxy, or at least her indifference to the peculiarities of her denominational belief? Besides, what harm is done to a Unitarian by treating him as a Unitarian, and therefore not in fellowship with Trinitarians? If he is wronged by this, it is merely because it limits that influence which, if honest in his professions, he cannot fail to exert for the overthrow of those doctrines which he opposes. The church is commanded to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; but where is she required, or allowed, to receive the avowed enemies of that faith, however amiable in their general demeanor, and however loud in their professions of charity, to her maternal bosom?
DR. WOODBRIDGE'S PLAN OF STUDY WITH THEOLOGI
In the spring of 1826 I commenced, together with three other theological students, a course of study, preparatory to entering upon the Christian ministry, under the instruction of Dr. Woodbridge. I have always regarded it as one of the most profitable years of my life.
As a teacher of theology the attention of Dr. Woodbridge was not confined, as I have been told the attention of most private teachers of theology formerly was, to what is termed Didactic Theology. Didactic theology he aimed carefully to teach; but it was in connection with exegesis, or biblical criticism, the composition and delivery of sermons, and the pastoral duties. To carry out this course of instruction, he put into our hands a system of questions, embracing all the essential points in a theological course, on which we were expected to read, reflect, and write. We met in his study at a stated hour almost every day. We first read a chapter in the Greek Testament, giving at the same time a brief exposition of each verse. At each recitation some one read a dissertation, and another read the outline of a sermon. On these compositions cach student was requested to express his opinion. Then Dr. Woodbridge would give his, pointing out excellences and defects; and he
always showed himself to be a good critic and an able teacher. It was not his fault, but that of his pupils, if they did not make proficiency in their studies. He always seemed greatly desirous to make us thoroughly acquainted with that system of doctrines revealed in the Bible, and to be earnest and faithful in inculcating the duties which these doctrines involve. And his conversation and preaching contributed largely to promote this end.
The more deeply to impress this private instruction, and give it all a practical turn, each student had a portion of the parish assigned to him, where he was expected to attend, at least, one religious meeting each week, visit the sick, and become personally acquainted with all the families. In this way Dr. Woodbridge transferred a large amount of pastoral labor to his students, and was thus enabled to devote a considerable time to them in the recitation-room. Besides, there are advantages to young men under this system of instruction which theological seminaries cannot furnish; and the loss of which, I have often been told, young men from the seminaries seriously feel as soon as they enter the ministry. It is almost a trite remark, if you wish to teach a young man to swim, it is not best to take him to a blackboard, and chalk out a river, and then tell him just how to move his hands and feet, but put him into a real river, and thus let experience and teaching be intermingled.
My field of labor was the North District (now North Hadley), where we enjoyed a precious revival; and which, some few years afterwards, became a separate parish, and has now for thirty years enjoyed the stated ministrations of the Rev. Warren H. Beaman. The recollections of my weekly meetings there, in connection with my theological studies, remain vividly and pleasantly impressed on my mind to this day. And Dr. Woodbridge, as a revered and beloved teacher and friend, will ever live in my grateful remembrance.
VOTING ON THE QUESTION OF LICENSING AND ORDAIN
ING CANDIDATES FOR THE MINISTRY.
The question thus stated is one of much importance, and cannot be regarded as trifling by any man who credits the Scriptural testimony concerning the duties and immense responsibilities involved in the sacred office. A minister is a watchman for souls, a professed guide to the heavenly mansions, a co-worker with God, or with infernal spirits,
to save or destroy beings made for immortality; an under-shepherd, under Jesus Christ, the chief shepherd of that flock which he hath purchased with his own blood. Much stress is laid in the sacred volume on the qualifications of those to whom are committed the high trusts of ambassadors for Christ, heralds of the cross, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Evidences of a renewed nature, aptness to teach, well-disciplined and furnished minds, soundness in the faith, and a general þlameless demeanor, are indispensable prerequisites to the great work of the evangelical ministry. To prevent the intrusion of the incompetent, examinations of candidates by associations and ecclesiastical councils have been deemed highly useful, if not absolutely necessary; and to preach and assume the authority of a pastor without the approval of evangelical ministerial brethren, would, in well-regulated communities, be viewed as an offence against order, destructive of fellowship, and hostile to the general purity, peace, and prosperity of the church. Even those who are most loose in their notions of order are obliged, at length, to acknowledge the importance of some rules, some visible bonds of union, concession, and demand among themselves, that they may enjoy each other's confidence, and walk together with any degree of comfort and peace.
The power intrusted to associations and ecclesiastical councils, supposes, of course, that each member is responsible for his own opinions and acts, both in his individual and associated capacity. Each must give an account of himself, both of his doings and of his motives, at the tribunal of God. These are little less than self-evident truths, mere axioms, which cannot be made plainer, or more certain, by any amount of argument. He, therefore, who violates his own conscience for the sake of pleasing, or joining with others, must be self-condemned, as well as incur the displeasure of that awful Being wlio will “ bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” All that is necessary for each individual is to look with perfect impartiality, and with the best light which he is able to obtain, for the evidences of his duty; and, having made the discovery, to act as duty dictates, whatever pain or loss he may bear as the consequence of his firm adhesion to the right. No popularity, no worldly good or evil, can have any weight in the estimation of him who views things as they are, against the demands of duty and the approving smiles of the Most High.
Will it be arrogant in me to say that, if I am not entirely ignorant of my motives, I have endeavored to regulate my conduct, as a public man, hy the principles now asserted? I have not seldom had occasion to differ in judgment from the majority of my brethren with whom I have acted in council, and have not unfrequently been severely censured by some for my determined dissent from the popular voice.
I refer particularly to the course I have felt constrained to adopt in opposing the licensure or ordination of men for the ministry, on account of their doctrinal errors, or ignorance of what I regarded as some of the important truths of the Gospel. I became, perhaps, the more strict in this regard in consequence of the changes on the side of laxity which I observed to be going forward in the popular theology of the nominally orthodox portions of New England and the Western States. I had eren assisted in the installation of those whose influence, I had afterwards reason to think, was employed in bringing into disrepute some of the most vital articles of faith, as they were understood by the Reformers, the Puritan founders of our churches, and the Edwardeans and Hopkinsians of fifty years ago. Some, who reckoned themselves peculiarly revival preachers, used such language, in reference to these subjects, as would have disquieted, if possible, the sleeping dust of Joseph Bellamy, Nathan Strong, Samuel J. Mills, Sen., and their associates. Such then living men as Hyde, Perkins, and Tyler, shuddered at it, as if listening to the scoffs of blasphemers and infidels. Efforts were made to drive away from many a pulpit all that is most humbling, and heart-searching, and soul-reviving in the Gospel. Native depravity, decrees, election, divine sovereignty, and effectual grace in regeneration, as they had been explained by the soundest divines of a former age, were declared to be false, and the adherents of them were, in many instances, even held up to derision, as too weak and prejudiced to deserve a sober hearing from the enlightened juvenile disciples of a later day. The tendency of all this, in its connection with the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom and the salvation of men, was but too painfully apparent. It was clear that something should be done to arrest the tide of error and delusion. But who would move in the work of reformation? Should the watchmen in Zion fold their arms in apathy? It became with me a question of personal interest and duty: Shall I aid in giving ministerial authority to those wlio teach, in various important respects, a scheme of religion entirely different from that which I believe to be inculcated in the Gospel? In other words, shall I destroy with one hand that which I have endeavored to build up with the other? Shall I eradicate what I believe to be good seed, sown by myself, for the sake of giving to a stranger the opportunity of filling the ground committed to my charge, with tares? If we can descend far below our actual creed, in introducing men into the sacred office, is it not probable that those thus introduced will descend still lower, and their successors lower still, till at length the ministry become utterly corrupt? Is this fidelity in the appointed guardians of the purity of the church? Was it not by such a process that the degeneracy of the primitive churches, and the apostasies of the Reformed in Europe, took place? Was it not in the same way that Unitarianism achieved its conquests,