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every case to make use of, and submit, to the neighbouring ministers, and them only. Yet their Associations and Consociations have much stronger claims to be regarded as an establishment, than any thing of a like nature among us.
“ 2. It is not merely on this occasion, when I myself am concerned and my own interest touched, that I have insisted that there ought to be exceptions in extraordinary cases from this general rule; for I insisted on this in that very controversy respecting Mr. B There is abundant evidence also, that I expressed the same opinion long ago, before the controversy between me and my people was begun. Some of the ministers here present are my witnesses, that I expressed the same opinion, on occasion of the transactions of some of the associations in Connecticut. And this whole church are my witnesses to the same point : They know that I signified as much publicly in word and deed, when the Separate Society in New-Haven sent to this Church to assist them in Council, by their pastor and a messenger. And the Church themselves did, on that occasion, publicly consent to a departure from this general rule, without any objection made by even one individual ; and accordingly a messenger was actually chosen by them, to go with me as a member of the Council at New-Haven.
“3. Suppose it could have been made to appear, that, in what I wrote fourteen years ago in that controversy, I expressed myself in universal terms,—That I declared it to be my opinion, that there ought to be no exception in no case whatever,—and that I could not prove that I had ever changed my mind until now, when it comes to be my own case; yet, even in that case, the question to be decided by this Council, as I humbly conceive, would be,-not what my opinion once was; but-what is really just and right in its own nature. The judgment is the Lord's, and the rules by which the judges are to proceed are the Lord's, and not mine, nor any other man's. They are to decide, according to the rules of reason and the word of God, what are God's rules; and not by what once was, or now is, my opinion. If a man had a cause depending before a civil tribunal, and it could be proved that, this man fourteen years ago had given it as his opinion, in another man's case, that such a thing was according to law; which opinion, if now adopted as a rule by the judges, would operate against him; I conceive that the judges ought not to be determined, even if he expressed himself in an unqualified manner, by what he then declared to be law, in his opinion; but, as they are to judge for the King and country, they must judge according to what they themselves find to be law, which is the rule they are to go by.
“ If any shall say that it is but just, that I should be paid in my own coin, that I should be dealt with myself as I have dealt with others; I need not inform this venerable Council that the christian rule is, to deal by another, not as he hath dealt by me, or by his Vol. I.
neighbour, but as I would that he should have dealt by me, and as he ought to have dealt by his neighbour. But if any should insist that this is but a proper punishment for my dealing in that manner with Mr. B-; omitting many things that might be said concern
Bing the difference of the two cases, I would only say, that my crime in that case, if there was any, for which I deserve to be punished, was not doing or acting any thing whatever, in opposition to Mr. B's being settled by ministers from a distance. I had no hand at all in opposing these ministers, in any thing they did ; for all that was done of that nature, was done when I was not in New England, and when I was totally ignorant of any thing that was done until all was over. My crime was merely defending what others had done, at their request. What I wrote, was at the desire of my honoured uncle, Mr. Williams of Hatfield, and other ministers who had been concerned, to justify what they had done. So that, if what I then wrote, even supposing that I had expressed the opinion that there should be no exceptions to the rule, would hardly justify this Council in proceeding with me, in this case, on principles, which otherwise would not be righteous; it must be, because the Council esteem it a sufficient reason to depart from what is just and equitable in itself, in their dealings with me, to do according to an opinion which I expressed many years ago, in the vindication of others. Far be it from me, to entertain so low an opinion of the wisdom and justice of this reverend Council.
“ Having made these observations, there is no need of my saying any thing further concerning a practical agreement of the churches of the County, to manage their ecclesiastical affairs among themselves. I would only briefly observe, that what I say of this, in what I wrote relative to the case of Mr. B., obviously had reference to the Ordination of ministers. That was a case of ordination, and I do not remember that I ever knew or had heard any thing of a Council of ministers in this County, on any other occasion but the ordination of ministers. But had my meaning been different, the preceding remarks are sufficient to show, that nothing could have been inferred from it, which ought to govern in the present case. If there has rarely been a Council of Churches in the County, in cases of controversy in particular churches; then the instances do not amount to an established rule for all cases, both ordinary and extraordinary
And if the instances had been ever so numerous, yet custom can establish nothing contrary to Christ's own rules—the rules of reason, and the rules of natural righteousness and equity.
“ It is also objected, that to allow ministers to go out of the County for a Council, in cases like this, will open a door for error which cannot be closed; and that I assert the same in what I wrote concerning the ordination at Springfield. To this objection a very brief reply will be sufficient.
"1. What I assert in the communication referred to is this
“ That to allow one party to elect all his own judges, will be to open a door to error.”—And it is very true that when that is done there can be no security to the other party against any injustice, or any thing else that is bad. But I never asserted that to call an Impartial Council, was the way in which either truth or justice could not be defended. Had I done so, I should obviously have asserted the grossest absurdity.
“ 2. If it had so happened that half of the ministers in the county had been of my opinion on the Qualifications for communion ; according to this argument, it would as effectually have opened the door to error, to choose my part of the Council from within the County, as it will now to choose it from without ; and if so, it would have been, in that case, a good argument against my having any choice at all. And this is in effect saying, that there ought to be no judges allowed in the controversy, except the people themselves, who constitute one of the parties; because, for them to have all their judges of their own choosing, is one and the same thing as to be their own judges. And if it had happened that the churches in the county had been almost all of my opinion, as now they are of theirs; then the argument would be just as strong for their going out of the county, as now for confining me to it. Can this Venerable Council lend their sanction to a rule which works such manifest injustice?
“3. This rule will no more defend truth than expose it. If a particular church is in the right, and the rest of the county happens to be in the wrong ; then that church, in summoning a Council, receives, by adhering to this rule, just as much disadvantage, as they would receive advantage, if the reverse were the fact. And we all know that there are as many churches, and counties, and countries, which are erroneous, as orthodox-nay, many more.
“4. The objectors, in making this objection, implicitly admit, that those who are on one side in the original controversy, are not likely to be impartial, and therefore not likely to do justice to the other side. Otherwise, how would the cause of truth be exposed by a Council, though they should all be on my side, much less by one half of them being so. And if their being all on my side, will naturally bias them in favour of me and my conduct; then, by parity of reason, their being all on their side will naturally bias them in favour of them and their conduct. If this be so, it proves cessity of a balance in the Council, to bring the whole, taken together, to an equilibrium.
“ I will now take notice of an objection which may possibly arise in the minds of some of the Council, viz. That if I am allowed to go out of the county, on the ground that this is an extraordinary case, it will be a bad precedent, and others will insist on the like liberty, and will, on some pretence or other, claim that their case is also ex
traordinary; and thus it will be difficult to maintain any rule or keep any bounds in any case. To this I would reply,
“1. If this be a case of such character, that righteousness plainly requires that I have this liberty, the fear of others claiming the same without reason, ought not to prevent justice from being now done to me. It is a very common thing, because exceptions and peculia liberties are granted in extraordinary cases, to demand them in others where they ought not to be granted; but surely this is no good reason for not granting them in a case where it would plainly be the grossest injustice to refuse them. But, not to enlarge on this point, I observe
“2. That in this case, as it now stands, there can be no possible danger of a bad precedent, in allowing me to go out of the county, on the ground that justice imperiously requires it; because I have first submitted the decision of this matter to a Council of the neighbouring churches, who are to determine whether this be a case, which requires this liberty to be granted or not. So that, instead of its being a dangerous precedent, it is a precedent which will tend rather to screen the churches from all the inconveniences feared ; because it is not an instance of going abroad for a Council, in neglect and contempt of the churches of the neighbourhood, but the churches of the neighbourhood are first applied to, and they themselves are made the judges whether the case is extraordinary or not. If we could actually form as strict and firm an establishment, with regard to a limitation of Councils to a neighbourhood, as any of us could desire, I should think no man could desire a greater strictness than this—that no minister or church should depart from such a strict consistory, even in extraordinary cases, but with the approbation and by the allowance of that consistory. If we wished to contrive a method, which should effectually prevent the mischief of extraordinary cases being made precedents for ordinary ones, we could not contrive one more effectual than this That the churches of the neighbourhood themselves should be the judges of those extraordinary cases. In this way the neighbourhood has all the opportunity for self preservation, which it can possibly desire.
“I ask the pardon of the Rev. Council for being thus particular in my argument on this subject: the case being one, as may easily be seen, of vast consequence to me and my family. I hope notwithstanding, that every thing which has been said will have its due weight with the Council; and that, since I have submitted this question, so deeply interesting to myself, to judges who are all of a contrary opinion from me, in the main controversy between the two parties, between whom you are to judge, that I shall experience the happy effects of your steady and unshaken integrity, in your righteous determination of this important point."
WHEN the agents for the church had said what they thought
proper, in reply to the preceding remarks, Mr. Edwards presented to the Council the following considerations on the question,-Whether the state of things was then ripe, for a Council being called to judge, whether
he should be dismissed from his pastoral office or not ? “I suppose the state of things not ripe for the calling of a Council to decide on the question of dismission for the following
“I. It is very apparent that my people have never yet given me a proper hearing on the great question, which is the origin of all our present debates and difficulties, and which must be the ground of their rejecting me from being their pastor, if ever this be done in the issue of the present controversy. say the ground of their rejecting me—for if I am removed from being their pastor, they must reject me; they must first vote for my being removed. Though this alone will not dissolve the relation between me and them, yet, as a precedent step, it is indispensably requisite.
“But if any rules of reason or religion are to be regarded, this cannot be done, until they have first given me a fair hearing on that point, which is the cause of their demanding such a dissolution. In the solemn transaction of my ordination and settlement as their pastor, I on my part took the charge of their souls; and they, as in the presence of God, solemnly committed the care of their souls to me; and thus the relation which now subsists, was established between me and them by mutual covenant. Hence, if ever they reject me from being their pastor, and are active in withdrawing themselves from my
ministerial it must be on one of these two accounts; either, i, Because they suppose me obviously unfit to be a minister; or 2, Because they suppose that I fail of performing some of the essential duties of a minister, such as are made essential by Christ's appointment. The former of these reasons has not been insisted
If they suppose that I fail in the latter respect, and that I neglect to perform some of the essential duties of a minister; and I insist on my own justification, and plead that what I do is agreeable to the word and institutions of Christ, and therefore my duty as a minister of Christ; they are bound to give me a fair and full hearing, before I can be rejected by them, or they released from their sacred obligations to me as my people. Especially is this true, if the point, on which they insist, was never so settled in the Church of Christ, as to be regarded as indisputable, and still more, if a very great proportion of those, who have been universally esteemed orthodox christians and divines, have without dispute been on my side. In such a case as this, what pretence can a people have for bursting the sacred bonds of their covenant with their pastor, without hearing him.
“If the determination of no such important public act of theirs depended on their judgment of the matter, but I merely offered to