« ElőzőTovább »
LIFE OF PRESIDENT EDWARDS.
cannot be fit to adjust matters of equity between two parties, if all the previous weight is in one scale. And is it not equally evident that a Council, who are all on one side in the controversy, are not in the middle between the two parties, as mediators to reconcile them. And since a Council cannot in this case be obtained, that is impartial as to individuals, because all the members are chosen, and chosen with reference to their opinions; it is plain that the consistory ought to be so constituted, that one part may balance the other. If we cannot find a balance, which has no previous weight in either of the scales, yet surely we should seek one which has not all the weights in one scale, but equal weights in both, that the balance may be even.
"I need not remark again, that mankind in general, both the wise and unwise, are liable to the strongest prejudices against the persons and conduct of those around them, who differ from them in matters of religion; that this is as true with regard to points not fundamental, as with regard to those which are; that it is especially true, when the controversy is at the height of agitation; that it is pre-eminently true with regard to those, who are the movers and managers of the controversy; and that nothing, from age to age, has been found to excite prejudices equally strong with this. These points are too clear to admit of denial or doubt. Hence, if the future Council be all on one side, as to the main controversy between me and my people, it is an apparent and sensible defect of impartiality; and of course, it is most unrighteous to confine the other party to such a Council, and oblige him to be judged by them and no other.
"As to the other question, Will a Council, taken wholly from the County, have this defect?-it is a fact perfectly known, that the ministers and churches of the County are almost universally against me on the point, which now divides me and my people, and makes us two parties. Perhaps there may be one or two ministers who are partly of my mind; but then their churches are all of a contrary mind, and on the same side with my people. I suppose that there is not more than one minister fully of my mind, with respect to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and not one church Of course, a of my mind with regard to either of the sacraments. Council cannot be obtained wholly from within the County, without the forementioned essential defect.
"It having been thus established, as I humbly conceive, that the future Council cannot be qualified for the business which will be laid before it, unless it is strictly impartial; that an impartial Council cannot be chosen, unless I am permitted to select from beyond the limits of the County of Hampshire; and that to deny me this liberty, would therefore be direct and palpable injustice; I shall proceed to remark on some of the objections which are brought against this measure.
"It was urged at the former sitting of the Council—“That if there actually is a jurisdiction over particular churches and ministers, established in a vicinity, the reason alleged cannot be a sufficient reason for an exception; and that, if there is no such jurisdiction actually established by agreement, yet if there ought to be, it alters not the case. For, if it ought to be established, we may fairly look upon it as really established in the law of reason; and, if so, this case has nothing in it to require an exception from such a jurisdiction, any more than a case growing out of any other error, fundamental or non-fundamental. If a church should complain of its minister for turning Arminian, and all the ministers and churches of the vicinity were Calvinists, it is said he ought not therefore to be allowed to go from the vicinity, to get half of the Council of his own opinion, in order that it might be impartial."-In answer to this objection, I would observe,
"1. That in order to judge of its force, the business of the future Council must be kept in mind. And I hope it will be remembered, that the business of the Council will not be, to try me with regard to my opinion respecting the qualifications for communion, to find me guilty or not guilty, or to justify or condemn that opinion. The fact, that a difference of opinion, on this point, subsists between the pastor and church, will indeed be taken into consideration, as well as the question, whether on the whole it is best that we should be separated: but doubtless they would regard it as useless and impertinent, to try me on the question, Whether this opinion is Heresy or not?-In such a case, they would be called to try a minister as a delinquent; to examine the fact; and openly to censure the doctrine.
"If this were the business of the Council, it might make a great difference as to the manner in which it ought to be constituted; for the case of such a minister would be like the case of a person accused of some crime for which he was to be tried. In such a case
the impartiality requisite is impartiality as to the fact, but not as to the nature of the crime. Thus, if a man were accused of drunkenness, the judges ought to be strictly impartial as to the question, -Whether he was guilty of the Fact? but not as to the question, Whether drunkenness be a Crime? The crime they ought to abhor, and such abhorrence renders them not the worse but the better judges. Virtue of course prejudices men against vice; and the more virtuous judges are, and the more zealously opposed to vice, the fitter are they to be judges of vicious persons. Hence in such a case, it would be ridiculous for the accused to insist that half his judges should be men who approved of drunkenness and that, whether there were any established jurisdiction or not. And it would not alter the case, whether it were proposed that his judges should be of the vicinity, or brought from some other continent. From whatever places collected, they ought all in strict justice to
be men, who had an entire abhorrence of the crime of drunken
"The seeming force of this objection, arises from a confusion of thought in those who urge it, in losing sight of the real point in question, in forgetting the proper business of the future Council, and inadvertently supposing it to be like that of judges who are called to try a criminal. The question of Fact, Whether I hold a given opinion?—will not come up before them: It is admitted beforehand. Neither will the question, Whether that opinion be Heresy?-no man pretends it. That opinion will not be presented to them as a crime or fault to be judged and punished; but merely as the ground of an alleged difference of opinion between pastor and people. It is not on the merits of the cause, i. e. of my opinion, that they will decide, but on the case of difficulty, growing out of a difference between that opinion and the opinion of my people; and, as was observed before, they will be called to act as mediators between the disagreeing parties, to settle matters of equity between them, and to judge of the character and conduct of the pastor with regard to the controversy. And with regard to all these points, it has been shown, that to be on either side, has a most obvious and powerful tendency to bias the mind against the other.
"That the seeming force of this objection, in the minds of those who urge it, arises from losing sight of the true state of the case, and the proper business of the Council, is obvious from the very example adduced by way of illustration, viz. That in a civil action, it is no valid objection against the justices of the vicinity, who have an established jurisdiction, that their opinion on a given point of law is already known :-because in the present case, the business of the future Council will not be, to try the merits of the cause, or to judge whether my opinion be agreeable to the Law, that is, the word of God, or not. And with respect to this example, I would further observe the following things.
"1. If it were really so, that the proposed Council were to judge the very merits of my cause, that is, the soundness of my opinion, the instance adduced would not be at all parallel, or of any force in the present argument. Let the case be put thus: Suppose a man has done something towards a given individual, which many regard as a breach of law, exposing him to be disfranchised; and the question turns on a point of law, which has long been matter of warm controversy among judges and jurists; and suppose there is no stated tribunal, but it is the custom of the country, in cases of controversy, for each party to choose half of the judges; and it is known that there are as many jurists on one side, in the controverted point of law, as on the other; and there is no appeal from the tribunal chosen, but their judgment will be final;-Would it not be reasonable in this case, if one party chose half of the judges favourable to his side of the question, that the other should
choose the other half favourable to his side; and that, although all the jurists of the immediate vicinity were opposed to him. If one party had actually chosen his half of the judges who were all on his side, would it not be mere mockery to tell the other party that he also might have the liberty of choosing half of the judges, as well as his adversary, but only he must choose all of them from the side which were opposed to him. Now this is precisely my case. Councils are elective, and to be appointed by joint or mutual choice, according to uniform practice. This has been the practice of both parts of this county. It was pursued in the lower part of the county, in the case of Mr. Allis; and in the upper part of the county, in the case of Mr. Rawson, in the Council of May 3, 1737, of which I was the Scribe, and have the original papers now by me, as well as in the subsequent Council convened at the same place. My people too, do not pretend that any stated Consistory exists, or that the Council is not to be elective. They offer me a choice of one half of the Council, but only would confine me to Churches and ministers of their opinion.
"2. In civil affairs, appeals are allowed from the justices of the county, to others, who come from a distance, appointed without any regard to vicinity; and the determination of those more remote. judges supersedes and sets aside that of the judges from the vicinity. Indeed, many important cases are carried directly to those more distant judges, without suffering the judges from the vicinity to meddle with them, any further than to refer them to the judgment of the distant judges; and that too, on account of the great importance of the case. And so it would be here, in our ecclesiastical affairs, if we had regular inferior and superior tribunals, like those of Scotland.
"3. Difference of opinion on a mere point of law, has very little tendency to prejudice the mind against the persons and conduct of others, compared with difference of opinion in matters of religion. No one will dispute the fact, that the latter has in all ages excited the deepest prejudices in mankind, against each other. But who ever heard of such prejudices and alienations in individuals, in parties, and in nations, merely because they differed in opinion on a point of law.
"4. Civil tribunals are not appointed to act the part of mediators between contending parties; except in cases of arbitration, in which each party has equal liberty of choice. Their office is to see that the laws be executed; and there is not therefore the same necessity that there should be some of the judges on each side, as in the present case.
"But to return to the objection itself. It is asked, If a minister should be complained of by his people, for embracing Arianism, or any other heresy, or for turning to another denomination, for example to the Church of England; and a Council should be required to
adjust the difficulty; why might he not in such a case, as well as in the present, insist on the liberty of going out of the county, to get half of the Council who embraced the same heresy, or who belonged to the Church of England, that they might be impartial? To this I answer,
"1. In such a case, the Council would not come together to consider the question, Whether the individual, if he had embraced the alleged heresy, or had changed to another denomination, might be lawfully continued as the minister of a Congregational Church? This point is settled before hand. They would come simply to find, Whether the charge against him was true, or false? Hence I suppose, that the following will be found, on the most careful enquiry, to be the reasons, and the only reasons, why he could not claim to have some of the judges of his own side.
"(1.) Because, in the case of acknowledged Heresy, those who are on his side are not fit to be members of the Christian Church. Fundamental errors are scandalous; and the Church cannot therefore, consistently with their own profession, call such, as constituent members of a Christian Council, and leave their ecclesiastical affairs with those who embrace them. For they, who are not duly qualified to be members of the Christian Church, cannot be fit members of a Christian Council, to direct and manage the affairs of the Christian Church. Or,
"(2.) Because in the case of turning to a different denomination, that of the Episcopalians, or the Anabaptists, the individual is now statedly of a different communion. For, although christians of these denominations may occasionally and transiently join with Presbyterians and Congregationalists in some parts of worship; yet, as to what is stated, there is a division openly established. It is a point perfectly settled, that, as to their stated worship, and their ecclesiastical proceedings, they must act apart. And there would be an obvious inconsistency in a Church employing those, who are already of a distinct sect, and have no ecclesiastical connexion with them, to order and settle their ecclesiastical affairs.
"These I suppose to be the only reasons, why it is not proper that a minister, who embraces heresy, or joins another denomination, cannot choose from his own side half of the Council; which is convened, not to judge of his doctrines, or to mediate, or do justice between the parties, but to investigate an alleged fact, and on finding it, to vacate the office; unless, in such a case as that of embracing Popery, there might be this additional reason against Papists being allowed to sit on the Council,-That Papists are bound to injure, persecute and destroy the Protestant Church, as much as in them lies; and we cannot be bound to entrust our affairs to those, whose avowed design it is, before hand, to injure and destroy us.
"2. The reason, why a minister in such a case may not go out VOL. I.