« ElőzőTovább »
nock, then a place of far humbler pretensions than now. His settlement was an era in the cause of common-school education, to which he gave himself with a special zeal. It was shown by the preparation of several popular treatises or textbooks in its aid; by a steady and vigilant personal supervision of the teachers and the taught in the districts of his cure; by creating, in fact, (since in that day the name was hardly known,) a Sabbath-school library, whose spreading fame made it the prototype of institutions of the sort, and the number of whose volumes distanced everything of the kind near or far. The much more than average intelligence of Dublin was con
ceded on all sides, and became a sort of proverb. -2-2016, Dr. Leonard was the successor of a gentleman who was un
married, not dependent on his salary alone, while his wants, naturally enough, were very circumscribed. The end of his ministry found him, therefore, in easy, one might almost say, for a retired country pastor, affluent circumstances; his property then rating at five to six thousand dollars. His affections were wrapt up in those for whom he labored; there were none, by legal title, or the sentiment of society, to divert his bounty elsewhere; and the Congregational Society became, almost as a thing of course, his only legatee.
For very many years Dr. Leonard built up in the faith and order of the Gospel an undivided township. But in our age, and especially in this land, who expects such a condition to be enduring ? The wonder now is at the rare examples, of which that spoken of was one, of its lengthened date. Discontent based on doctrinal grounds made entrance at last; though it is past all doubt that their unity would have held unbroken much longer, if their convictions and sense of duty had been left in their own keeping. But those faithful overseers of a man's flock, his brethren around, are seldom wanting to their supposed duty in the case; and here, as elsewhere, those who had been taught they were aggrieved, were allowed no rest till they found it in secession and a new altar. But their numbers were few; their fortunes certainly at no time bright; and the pulpit changed its incumbent with a most discouraging frequency. All at once a happy remedy to meet the exigency, and revive the dying-out light in this candlestick of true
gold, was started by somebody, — by whom we know not, but where that credit rests, should by all means be traced out. The bequest of which we have spoken had been made to “ the Congregational Society of the place"; and now the quite original idea was, to dispute the title of the mother society to be styled “ Congregational” at all. Who could have encouraged these hopes, that were (or rather, should have been) competent to advise, remains in the dark; but the hopes themselves waxed stronger, till they issued in the final appeal — to the law. The trial came on last winter, and before a full bench : the hearing filled many days; and seriously, the plea most strenuously insisted upon for the transfer of the property to the new claimants was, that the keepers of it did not accept the Assembly's Catechism! Certain points technically legal, and which waited for a law term to be fully considered, deferred the final decision almost to the month of July, now just passed. It was the unanimous judgment of the court, that the plaintiffs had wholly failed to establish their position ; and, we ought to add, that four of the five judges were kindred in theological relations with those whom they thus dismissed. The Chief Justice incidentally spoke of himself as a member of the old (Orthodox) Church at Concord (Dr. Bouton's).
The documents comprising this case are just published, and their extent causes one to break out in wonder over the subtilties of a science, by which a proposition, to common view so simple, can become so complicated. The opinion of the presiding judge took up three hours in the delivery. The testimony of the Rev. Dr. Lamson of Dedham, whose ministerial experience, on its very threshold, was such as to be fruitful of questions pertinent to the point in hand, kept him on the stand the larger part of a week, inflicting on the outer man what, in homely dialect, is often called a siege. We regret that in the limits of this article we cannot notice the pamphlet in any detail, or admit of quotation from it.
Our remarks began with calling this decision “interesting.” But if this be understood as tantamount to important, many will doubtless be prompted to ask, Wherefore? They see nothing intricate in the whole matter, and are puzzled to know
VOL. LXVII. — 5TH S. VOL. V. NO. II. 19
what it is that has been disputed. It may seem calculated to provoke a smile, that we announce so gravely, and so exultingly too, that the great arbiters of life and property in New Hampshire have settled forever — what ?' That the term Congregational has relation to nothing but the order and polity of the churches. Every smart child, in a well-instructed Sabbath school, would justly think itself equal, not in precise phrase perhaps, but in substance, to defining it as well. And yet the fitness of sending this forth with something of that flourish of trumpets, which has become, with certain publishers, (as the land knows,) a stereotyped fashion, whose seal is found on every new issue, has its apology in the fact that this truth is in such fair way of being wholly disguised, mystified, overlaid with things foreign, as any well can be; and soon one may feel little surprise in hearing it flatly contradicted. There may be those to whom this is a new discovery, now learned from our pages; but they must have been strangely unobservant of the way, both in action and writing, not only of a part of the religious world among us, but almost equally of the secular press, whom the spirit of imitation has leavened with the like characteristics. The spirit of imitation, say we; for with the last, for the most part, as we cannot but think, it has its source in stupidity and carelessness. With the former, it is quite plain that systematic artifice and stealthy cunning alone will solve it.
Examples to our purpose even embarrass us, in selecting, by their number and variety. They come to us from new books on the counter, new institutions set up, and from almost every week's issue of the journal-sheet. Editors, or their local correspondents, have a paragraph on the affairs of this or that village ; “the Congregational Society” perchance is mentioned, obviously enough in the narrow, party sense, and as if there were no other entitled to the name. The uninitiated reader has to see through the deception as he can. Then we have the term Congregational in all sorts of combination, with the Quarterly, the new review commenced the last January; with the Library, of some years standing, and from the first under the keepership of Mr. Felt; with the Year-Book, the current directory of the party ; with “ The Union”; with a
hymn-book, and many more, too numerous, in the shop phrase, to particularize. Not one of these has relation to the whole body whom that broad word describes. They are essentially sectarian in every instance. Let no Congregationalist outside that line make advances, in his innocence, to the benefits of the “ Library,” or think of becoming a member of the “ Union." All these multiplied applications of the term seem, as they doubtless are meant, by flooding the common speech, to sink its legitimate sense. Eight or ten years since, a Gazetteer of the United States appeared, under the joint editorship, as we think, of Messrs. Haskell and Smith,— both of them, it is believed, divines, and the first certainly President for a time of the University of Vermont at Burlington. It is permeated by the peculiarity in question. Of the ten thousand articles on individual townships, the shape of the statistics of one will serve as a sample for the whole: “Religious Societies, – Congregational, 1, Unitarian, 1,” &c. The winter before the last, the preacher at the Pitts Street Chapel (under the auspices of the Unitarian ministry at large), invited a half-dozen divines of this city, representing as many leading denominations, to preach, on consecutive Sunday evenings, upon a given text of vital and pregnant import. A well-known Orthodox firm, directly after they were finished, announced their publication collected into a volume. The fashion of the titles respectively, it is amusing to read. Subject and text being given, — By the Rev. N. Adams, Trinitarian Congregationalist. Turn a few leaves onward, and what do we find ? By the Rev. Orville Dewey, Unitarian. The compound term given to Dr. Adams indicates to the reader, at a glance, that there must be some other phase or phases of Congregationalism, — pray, Mr. Publisher, what are they? The threefold query presents itself, — Was the ignorance of the bookseller so profound that he really did not know that the same category included both preachers ? would he stoop to call this gross blunder an accidental one? or, finally, did he take his cue from the spoken hint or silent example of his theological patrons, that no opportunity was, by any means, to be suffered to let slip, of debauching the language ?
The very earliest illustration of the subject matter of these strictures that arrested the eye of the present writer of these lines, must not be forgotten. The American Quarterly Register, a respectable journal, devoted to the cause of education, was suspended in 1843, the series having reached fifteen volumes. Among its statistics were tabular lists of the ministers and churches, especially of New England, embracing, either by counties or the entire State, this whole section of country. That of the “ Congregational ” societies of Maine, united in one notice, is found within the last two volumes of the work. It was prepared by the well-remembered Dr. Gillett of Hallowell, whose rule of classification, as it was quite unique, sliould be given to the world. Having occasion to look to this authority for some Unitarian minister or church in that State, of past time, and confounded, by so singular an omission, in seeking it in vain, we tried the same experiment with another name, and with no better success. Curiosity thus fairly aroused, we were led to a closer sifting of the article, when lo! it was found that the most ancient churches of the State, holding to the Unitarian faith, such as the First, of Portland, those of Kennebunk, Biddeford, and a few others, which could not well be ignored, had maintained their place. The generality, which were more modern, especially if secessions from existing Orthodox parishes, were very coolly set aside. The denomination was thus rent in twain, to be found here or found elsewhere, as it chanced. What, historically, is the value, to any publication, of such a document?
The article which we have named in the New Cyclopædia is a memento that brings to mind another specimen in kind (the last we mean to give); for which, if anything, less apology is to be found than for any of the preceding. Better things were to have been hoped from a scholarly Cyclopædia. This is not the place to criticise it in the general; our concern now is only with one drawback on its complacency. This author, who is allowed to teach us ex cathedra what Congregationalism is, gives “as its essential peculiarity, that it maintains the independence of each particular congregation of Christians, and their sufficiency to perfect and maintain their own organization, to elect and inaugurate their own officers, and with and through these officers to perform all needful ecclesiastical