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desiring a fraternal recognised connexion between the Union and the Colonial Society.
Still it is not correct to represent the Colonial Missionary Society as “entirely governed, as to its officers, and the administration of its funds, by the Congregational Union." The funds of the Colonial Mission are administered, and all its affairs are managed, exclusively, by its own committee and officers, with whom the committee and officers of the Congregational Union no more interfere than those of the Bible or Tract Society. The committee and officers of the Colonial Missionary Society were, in May last, appointed by the free and open suffrage of the subscribers in public meeting assembled, as are those of all our great religious institutions. The “ Layman" may be assured that the gentlemen who direct the affairs of the Colonial Mission would, on no account, solicit and administer public funds for any religious or benevolent object, except as chosen to that stewardship by the contributors, and rendering clear accounts to them of their fidelity in it. There are no gentlemen engaged in similar public services and trust, more fully impressed with the necessity and reasonableness of this arrangement, than they are. It is true that the annual assembly of the Congregational Union approved the list of officers for the Colonial Missionary Society before it was submitted to the public meeting of subscribers. This was done to preserve an acknowledged conneciion and fraternity belween the two bodies; not as a medium for the domination of one over the other: for the subscribers to the Colonial Mission are no more compelled to accept the list of officers thus approved and proposed, than any other of our greai institutions is obliged to receive the list prepared and submitted by the committee which has arranged the proceedings of the public meeting to which it presents its report, and resigns its functions. This endeavour to retain in lasting connection the Union and the Colonial Mission, was not made for the purposes of domination, nor can they be promoted by it. The maxim on which those who contended for this connexion of the two kindred bodies was, “Uute whenever it is practicable," not “ Separate whenever division is possible.” The sole effect of the arrangement is, that the committee and the officers of the Colonial Mission are twice popularly elected instead of once; and enter on their trust with a double sanction. Were so improbable an occurrence to take place, as that the body of subscribers should reject any of the names approved by the Union, their election would be of course void; but prudence and right feeling have in other institutions prevented the rejection of names recommended by committees; and the Colonial Society has just the same, and no other, security against such disastrous collisions that all our public religious bodies have, namely, prudence and right feeling. Yet I dare venture to add, unauthorized as I acknowledge. I am, that if the friends and conductors of the Union, and its associated mission, have failed in respect to either of the societies, or in regard to the connexion of the two, to give whatever security the case admits of, or the public may require, for effective popular control over the administration of funds voluntarily contributed ; then they have failed in what is their owo sincere intention and earnest desire, and will be found willing to correct whatever is mistaken, and 10 supply whatever is deficient; and no false pride, that scorns to acknowledge a mistake, or self-will, that must persist in a course once adopied, however wrong, will, I am persuaded, deter them from using the best, aod wisest, and most conciliatory means lo accomplish their own cherished object of uniting their brethren for love and peace, for energy and usefulness.
The “ Layman” is quite satisfied with the constitution of public societies for the spread of the gospel, founded on the basis of a money qualification conferring the right of suffrage in the choice of officers, and so of control in the management of the institution. Such bodies and associations he deems quite free from any danger of domination. All our modern societies are built on this principle, wbich has received the sanction of the best and wisest men; bas successfully borne the test of experience for nearly half a century; derives, at least by analogy, support from apostolic precedent; and seems to be an essential in the constitution of a society receiving and administering the voluntary contributions of numbers, Against this I can have nothing to allege. But it is worthy of remark that if our societies were mere affairs of money, they would be very inappropriate instruments of propagating the gospel. There silently but necessarily mingle with the source of influence in our great societies many others to hallow and spiritualize the whole proceeding, which without them would be but a carnal and worldly arrangement. The contribution of a guinea qualifies the donor to be a member and voter in a religious society, much more by being a test of his affectionate interest in the object for which it is given, than by the amount of money interest he obtains in the joint fund by his donation. Could these things be separated, were the money given by parties indifferent to the object, their gifts would not qualify them to choose the officers and influence the affairs of a society contemplating spiritual and holy objects. It is the beauty and safety of the voluntary system that this separation between freely giving to an object and feeling an interest and affection for that object, is, when applied to great numbers and long continued efforts, in imagination all but an impossibility, and in practice can never be realized. These brief remarks on a subject which deserves a full discussion, were, however, ibrown in to introduce the observation that there may be other ways of so testing attachment to great principles and objects, as to render it obvionsly quite safe to entrust those who have endured the trial with the management of great confederations for religious objects. It is plain that many who can give but litile are by various other tests of character ascertained to be far beller qualified for office in our religious societies, than those who can and do give vastly greater sums; and they are preferred and chosen accordingly. Nor surely in promoting his cause who said, “ My kingdom is not of this world,” will ii be contended that the only test by which is to be ascertained who shall elect, or who shall be elected to office in great confederations of his servants, is to be found in the fact or the amount of money given. I shall therefore venture to assert that the constituency of the Congregational Union of England and Wales is as safe and unexceptionable as that of any of our public institutions based on money qualifications. Here is a union of churches and their pastors for common objects, disclaiming in the very front and commencement of its declared constitution all interference whatever with the affairs of any individual church. A constituency must be created for choice of officers, and to be the ultimate, and, in fact, the only authority in the association; for its committee and officers are altogether subordinate and executive. Of whom is this constituency composed? Of all the officers, without exception, of the associated churches. The Union admits to perfect freedom of speech and vote at its annual assemblies, every pastor and every deacon of the whole associated body of churches. If, therefore, a thousand churches were connected with the Union, probably four, certainly three thousand pastors and deacons, would stand equally and fully entitled to influence, by vote or speech, every decision of the body. It seems to me that such a constituency, both by CHARACTER and by POSITION, is as worthy of confidence in every thing that respects the interests or liberties of our churches, as any constituency of guinea subscribers can be, in respect to the sacred objects of a Bible or Tract Society. I am not questioning or depreciating the constituencies of our great institutions. I am satisfied with them, and feel assured they may be most safely trusted; but I contend that the constituency of the Congregational Union is at least equally entitled to confidence. By MORAL CHARACTER it is. I shall make no vain glorious boast of the high and religious character of the pastors of the Congregational churches of England and Wales, for it is not called into question ; and the “ Layman,” I am sure, acknowledges and rejoices in it, as much as I can do. But of the deacons of our churches, I, as a minister, may be pardoned for a parenthesis, which I cannot suppress, to bear humble testimony to the worth of that honoured body of excellent men and invaluable servants of ou
churches, and friends of our ministers. With such exceptions as in so nume. rous a class must be found in personal character they are enlightened, generous, hospitable, faithful, and devout; in official labour they are gratuitous and un. wearied, in a service which brings heavy demands on their time and on their purse; and in religious sentiment they are known to be firm to our Congre. gational principles, the friends of the pastor and his just influence of the people and their just rights. The “ Layman," at least, will not blame me for this honest and spontaneous testimony to our church officers of his own order. To me it appears that it would be a needless and excessive jealousy which should deem the righis and liberties of our churches, the opinions and principles of our body, unsafe in the keeping of a constituency of all the pastors and all the deacons of the associated churches, even if the position in which the sup. posed constituency were placed, did present some templations to acquire or abuse authority. The virtue and fidelity of so many excellent men would be a stiong security against general defection and universal conspiracy. But I am well aware it will yield far greater satisfaction to the mind of the ". Layman," and to others who with him entertain alarms of possible encroachments and usurpations on the part of the Union, wo show that the wide and open constituency of excellent and trustworthy men it has created, will be by positiin as well as by character worthy of confidence- that they can, in this association, the sole authority of which is vested in them, have neither interest nor opportunity to grasp at dominion, or to lord it over their brethren. For if it be priestly power and assuinption that is dreaded, for every hundred ministers ihere will be found two hundred and fifty or three hundred Jaymen entitled to suffrage. If it be a joint attempt of ministers and deacons to assume dominion that creates alarm, let it be remembered that every one of these voters, minister or deacon, is himself elected before he can become an elector. He became minister or deacon of the associated church, by free and popular election. He continues so by the tacitly continued suffrage of the people who at first chose him to his office. He can continue a voter in our Congregational Union only because the church of which he is an officer continues to believe him sound in his principles and worthy of confidence. In point of fact the constituency of the Congregational Union of England and Wales is both more select in character, and rests on a wider ultimate basis of popular election and control, than that of any other existing public society with the constitution of which I am acquainted. If we trace the whole arrangement, from the committee and officers to the constiluents by whom they were elected from the qualification of the constituents to the source in which it originates—we shall find the constitution and proceedings of the Congregational Union of England and Wales rest upon, and are influenced by the votes of every member of every church associated in the Union.
If it be still urged that large associations necessarily generate great power, and that this power must come into the hands of their committees and officers, and be exercised by them; I can only reply, I do not know what, on this subject, may be the result of the experience or observation of others; but the conclusion to which my own limited acquaintance with the management of public voluntary institutions has led me is, that their committees and officers are indeed the servants of the public, not its masters. That, in order to the success of their labours for the attainment of the great and noble objects on which the hearts of these generally devoted and excellent men are fixed, their whole course must be governed by a watchful care to conciliate public opinion and favour, not, certainly, by unworthy compliances and mean arts of popularity, but by convincing the public that their bands and aims are pure, their objects great and worthy, their means unexceptionable and consistent. They must cautiously avoid even offending the prejudices of the people, much more invading their rights of violating their principles. They know themselves jealously watched, and sometimes uncandidly blamed. Their objects, their characters, their professions—every thing forbids their making a hopeless appeal to the bad passions of men, or their employing the unscrupulous means of worldly policy. A fair reputation and an honest course is their only path to success. They cannot * command, therefore, they must convince. Their very policy is to act on prin
ciple. All the elements of power they employ are in the hands of the people, pot in their own; and they can obtain the continued supply of them “ de die in diem," from day to day, only by the confidence and approval of a clear and quick-sighted public. Say I this as matter of regret and complaint? Not at all. It is my satisfaction and joy. I seem to see in this state and posture of things the safeguard and perpetuity of our great modern enterprises and combinations for the good of the church and the world. At least it satisfies nie that they cannot survive their character and efficiency; that when they cease to deserve support, they will cease to obtain it. But then it also satisfies me that committees and officers of public institutions on the voluntary system, whether they be Bible Societies or Congregational Unions, can never engross or abuse power. They must ever be, what they ever ought to be, the servants, not the masters, of their constituents.
Yet to all this, let me further add, it would be to me no matter of regret or complaint if the immediate constituency of the Union were further enlarged, and rendered more open and popular by the addition of a money qualification for private members of our churches, and even that a low one. That a qualifi. cation to vote at all the annual assemblies of the Union should be acquired by every member, of an associated church on an annual subscription, I do not think necessary. I am not sure that it would be quite consistent with the ecclesiastical constitution of the Union, but it might remove prejudice, open the proceedings of the annual assemblies of the Union to the public more fully, and improve the funds, which urgently need to be augmented.
The “ Layman" asserts ihat the Union “ ought never to be forgiven," for preferring the term Congregational 10 that of Independent as the designation of our churches. In this he is quite at fault. The historic glory of the name Independent I had always associated with the courage, consistency, and liberality of sentiment of the party (partly religious, partly political,) which in the days of the English Commonwealth were the firm friends of toleration and liberty of conscience, in opposition both to prelatical and Presbyterian persecution. But in ecclesiastical history I read that the great fathers and founders of our churches uniformly, and with one consent, objected to the designation “ Independent," as not truly descriptive of their opinions and practice in respect to church order. They preferred and employed the term “ CONGREGATIONAL” for the very same reason for which the founders of the present Union selected it; because they thought Christian churches not so independent of each other, but that they ought to unite for communion, counsel, and common interests. Their objection to the word “INDEPENDENT" was, that it seemed to imply in those designated by it, an opinion that every Christian church is not only complete in itself for all purposes of self-government by gospel rules, but that each church would stand alone, without any federation with other churches, for purposes and objects common to them all. In fact, the fathers of our Congregational faith entertained opinions respecting the obligation of sister churches to unite, commune, recognise each other, subinit to each other's counsels in cases of difficulty, very much stronger than are held by any advocates or promoters of the present Union. We are more Independents than they were. Now, the founders of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, intended to build up on the foundations laid by their fathers, a religious body, and therefore they adopted the proper theological designation for their Association. If parents may give names to their offspring, certainly our fathers in the faith have named the churches they planted “ Congregational.” Complete historic proof of this fact could easily be exhibited. The limits of the present letter, already too long, do not admit of this; and its design does not require it. Suffice it to say, that the Dissentient or Independent divines, in the Westminster Assembly, styled themselves in their VOL. I. N's.
memorials, ConGREGATIONAL brethren. The Savoy Assembly in 1658, a which Dr. Owen assisted, published a declaration of the faith, order, and prao tice of the “ CONGREGATIONAL churches in England." In 1690 there were “ heads of agreement assented to by the united ministers formerly called Presbyterian and CONGREGATIONAL." And again, in 1699, a declaration of the “ CONGREGATIONAL ministers in and about London against Antinomian errors.” Our churches and brethren in America, Scotland, and Ireland, densminate themselves CONGREGATIONAL. Aud I doubt whetber from the time when churches of our faith and order began to take root and multiply in this country, now two hundred years ago, to the present period, there can be found a public document issued by the divines of our denomination, in defence or explanation of their opinions and practices, in which they fail to describe thesselves by the term CONGREGATIONAL, except one in 1644, entitled, “ Apologetical Narrative of the INDEPENDENTS."* So little ground is there for the “ Layman's" fact on this point, or for his ominous commentary upon it. The founders of the Congregational Union of England and Wales are, on the cobtrary, in theological opinion and ecclesiastical discipline, not less Independents, but more so than their fathers in the faith of former generations. And certainly, in seeking a designation for the Union, it was more appropriate to consult the documents solemnly set forth on repeated public occasions of great moment by the fathers of our denomination, than the trust-deeds of our modern chapels.
The length of this letter needs apology, but the subject is after all most imperfectly discussed. I can but hope it may engage the services of some ablet pens than that of,
Your's, with great respect, 15th September, 1837.
A Layman's Second Letter. Sir,--It is with a somewhat trembling hand that I venture to ask your kind permission to say something more on the important subject of my last commonication. The ably written, though, in many respects (as I shall be obliged to contend), irrelevant reply of the esteemed secretary of the Union, you have already commended as a fully meeting the objections raised against the desig. nation and objects of the Union;" and I fear lest some of your admiring readers should consider that any rejoinder, in your paper at least, will be a presumptuous liberty taken not only with you, but with themselves.
It is admitted that in applying the word “ denominational" to the Eclectic and the Patriot, I may have been less strictly accurate than is desirable; but as the matter in question was one of Independency or Congregationalism, which has always been the profession and practice of our esteemed friends, the Baptists, in common with ourselves, and as the able publications referred to, have, from the beginning, professed and advocated similar doctrines ou this subject the epithet seemed not quite inapplicable. That either of those
Certainly Mr. Wells has not exhausted the historical evidence in favour of the name. We supply a few additional facts. In 1695, The Congregational Fund Board was formed io Lant under the auspices of the Rev. Matthew Mead, and other eminent Independent ministers, contemporaries. From that period to the present day, the most ancient and influential Indes pendent churches of the metropolis have been connected with it.
In 1727, Dr. Watts, Mr. Thomas Bradbury, and the Independent ministers of London at th period, united to form The Congregational Board, an association which continues to the present day, and includes more than a hundred pastors of our churches in and about the metropolis.
in 1730 commenced « The Monthly Exercises for Prayer, and a Sermon, which has been generally denominated “The Monthly Association of Congregational Ministers and Churches, and has included the most honoured names of which the churches of the metropolis could boast bar the past century.
In more recent times, we have seen the establishment of The Congregational School, by the venerable John Townsend; and by the munificence of an honoured friend, yet living, the formatie of the Congregational Library.
With these facts before him, we trust the Layman is prepared to retract ibat hard saying, that the Union ought never to be forgiven, for adopting in its title the term Congregational, rather than Independent,