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because they involve a virtual pre-judgment of the very difficulties concerning which we invited the conference; therefore,
* Resolved, That the further consideration of the subject be postponed and the committee be discharged. At the same time we cannot forbear to express our profound regret that a measure designed, and, as we believe, eminently fitted, to promote the establishment of peace and the advancement of our Redeemer's kingdom in every part of our country, has apparently failed to accomplish its object. We earnestly hope that the negotiations thus suspended may soon be resumed under happier auspices, and hereby declare onr readiness to reuew our proposals for a friendly correspondence whenever our Southern brethren shall signify their readiness to accept in the form and spirit in which it bas been offered."
This report, after some discussion, chiefly consisting of a speech by Rev. Dr. Henry J. Van Dyck, was adopted.
The action of our own Assembly speaks for itself, and is its own vindication before all Christendom. In the kindly but considerate and cautious original proposition to the Southern Assembly, in the character of the committee deputed to bear it, in the acceptable presentation of the inatter to that body by this committee, and in the final disposal of the subject responsive to the reply given to its proposal, our body has made an admirable exhibition of Christian charity, inagnanimity, and forbearance, nor has it uttered a word to close or obstruct the way to future negotiations, whenever the Southern church shall be willing to open them on terms of equality. They have refrained, as they conld so well afford to do, from every word of self-defence or retaliatory accusation, which might embitter old antagonisms, or cause fresh exasperations. The following extract from Dr. Van Dyck's speech, every word of which is a credit to him (and for a permanent record of the whole of which we wish we had room), is quite conclusive, and we think will command the assent
not only of the whole Northern church, but of the whole Christian world, outside of our former slave States :
" And now, sir, I wish to express my profound mortification and regret at the temporary and apparent failure of this effort to make peace. It has failed. The terms and conditions which you have just heard read are manifestly impracticable. How can your committee meet their committee with this terrible indictment flung across the threshold of our conference? If it were all true, there is no propriety in putting it there. The things complained of and decided in the paper adopted by the Southern Assembly, are among the very questions concerning which we proffered the conference. When men enter into negotiations for the settlement of existing difficulties, it is not for either party to prejudge the case
according to their convictions, and demand that their decisions shall be conditions precedent to the settlement.
But, sir, I cannot stop here. I think it due to you, to this Assembly, to that Assembly, and to myself, to say the imputation laid there is not true in the form in which it is laid. (Applause.) Mr. Moderator, there are some at least in this Assembly who firmly believe that during the heat of passions excited under civil war, the Assembly with which I was formerly connected did pass acts and make deliverances inconsistent with the headship of Christ and the constitution of the Presbyterian Church. Our votes, our protests, are on record on that subject, and I am not here to take back one word in regard to them; but, sir, that this Assemblr, that the Christian men and women with whom God has cast my lot, have taken the crown from the head of Jesus Christ, and chained his bride to Cesar's chariot wheels; that these two Assemblies, by their re-union, have totally cast aside all their former testimonies for the doctrines of grace; that this reunited Assembly stands necessarily upon an allowed latitude in the interpretation of the standards of the church, such as must ultimately result in bringing in all forms of doctrinal error-this I strenuously deny. (Applause.) And I say frankly, affectionately, and sadly to you—and, if it shall reach their ears, to our Southern brethren--if they wait for us to stultify ourselves by admitting such things as these before we enter into negotiations, we shall all have to wait for the settlement of these difficulties until we get to the General Assembly of the first-born in heaven.” (Applause.)
We quite agree, too, with Dr. Beatty, Dr. Van Dyck, and others, who hold that this labor of love will not be lost, and that, as “kind words never die,” so, in due time, the kindly attitude of our church will be most appreciated where now it is least reciprocated.
We cannot disiniss the subject without expreesing our amazement, as well as grief, at the charges brought and the humiliating demands made by our Southern brethren, as conditions, sine qua non, of cɔnference through committees. The deliverances or declarations of any Assembly not ratified by the Presbyteries are no part of the constitution of the church. They are simply the recorded opinions of that Assembly. The idea of undertaking to erase from the records of past Assemblies all that is offensive to us or to others with whom we may hare friendly relations is impracticable and absurd. Have our Southern brethren, claiming to be “the sole surviving heirs of the failing testimonies" of our church, expunged or abrogated the testimony of 1818 on the subject of slavery, which affirms that it “creates a paradox in the moral system,” and that the voluntary enslaving of one portion of the human race by another is a gross violation of the most precious
and sacred rights of human nature, utterly inconsistent with the law of God ?
Moreover, was not every pretext for such a plea removed by the express and emphatic assertion of our Asseinbly that no “rule or precedent,” such as the special action to which our brethren object is now of force? With what desperate and infatuated ingenuity do they try to neutralize this, and to embarrass the removal of what they esteem barriers to renewed fellowship? But who are they that stigmatize us as having “taken the crown from the head of Jesus Christ and chained his bride to Cæsar's chariot wheels," and, under the lead and by the pen of Dr. Palıner, charge us with a “sad betrayal of the cause and kingdom of our common Lord and Head," and summon us “to place the crown once more upon the head of Jesns, as the alone King of Zion?” Is not their leader the same Dr. Palmer whose great sermon in advocacy of secession for the conservation and expansion of slavery, more than any one immediate exciting cause, “ fired the Southern heart” for that fatal plunge which precipitated the country into a war that exterminated slavery, drowning it in seas of blood? What of the Synod of South Carolina bestowing its benediction upon the legislature of that State in its initiation of secession ? What of the repeated declarations of sympathy with the Confederate Government and armies by this same Southern Assembly that now hurls its denunciations at us as having “disowned the crown and kingdom of our Lord,” and disdains to "hold official correspondence with the Northern church unless the Saviour is reinstated in the full acknowledgment of his kingship?”* Do they think it enough to say of all this,
"No ingenuity of sophistry can transmute into political dogmas the scant allusions to the historical reality of a great struggle then pending, or the thankful recognition, in the middle of a paragraph, of the unanimity with which an invaded people rose to the defence of their hearthstones and the graves of their dead; or the pastoral counsels addressed to the members and youth of our own churches, passing through the temptations and perils of the camp and the field; or the balf-hour spent in prayer for a land bleeding under the iron heel of war; or
* See Pastoral Letter of the Southern Church, in defence of their response to our deputation, written by Dr. B. M. Palmer.
even the incidental declaration in a narrative to stand by an institution of the conntry, a traditional inheritance fronı our fathers. Even though, from the ambiguity of human language, these chance references may not have been always discreetly expressed, the most that a just criticism could pronounce is that they are inconsistent with the judicially prouounced principle upon which the Southern Assembly entered upon its troubled career. And when exaggerated to their largest proportions by all the prejudices of bitter partisanship, they dwindle into motes and specks by the side of those elaborate and colossal deliverances, repeated each year through formal committees, and exalted into solemn testimonials co-ordinate with the doctrines of religion and of faith, which disfigure the legislation of both the Northern Assemblies through successive years."
How dare they affirin that the war votes of our Assemblies were made “co-ordinate with the doctrines of religion and faith?”
But still more astounding is the charge that the union of the two Presbyterian bodies “involves a total surrender of all the great testimonies of the church for the fundamental doctrines of grace," and "must come at length to embrace nearly all shades of doctrinal belief!” We bave nothing to say in regard to the doctrinal basis of the united church which we did not say a year ago, and have no room now to repeat. This we dcem a sufficient refutation of all such charges as the foregoing. We now only add to these the argumentum ad hominem: whoever else might venture such a charge, the Southern church cannot, without tabling the like charge against itself, for it has done the same thing. Some years ago it coalesced with the New School Synod South upon the doctrinal basis of the standards pure and simple, receiving all ministers and churches of that Synod to the precise standing they had anterior to the union. “Therefore, thou art inexcusable, Oman! whosoever thou art that judgest; for wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself'; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”—-Rom. ii. 1. This is so palpable that it was emphatically objected to this part of the report in the Sonthern Assembly, in the debate preceding its adoption. The venerable Dr. F. A. Ross, of Huntsville, Alabama, in whose church the Assembly is to meet next year, said, and as convereant with the facts from intimate personal knowledge :
“The second point I would notice is, that an objection to the consideration of the question of correspondence is that the Old School North and the New School North have united. But the Old School South and the New School South have done the same thing. Dr. Barnes is the front of New Schoolism; still I believe he would have agreed to the basis of union determined upon in Lynchburg in 1863. That arrangement has not changed the preaching of any one. Every member of the United Synod has the right to preach just as he preached before ; every member of the Old School has the right to preach just as he did before. Where is the difference between the union of the two branches in the North and those in the South? In both cases there was some preliminary discussion as to terms, but finally in both cases they united on the basis of the standards pure and simple. Why, then, should we object to corresponding with them on the ground that they have effected just such a union as we had done before ?
"I am sorry to use the words Old School and New School in this body. We are not the Old School Assembly; we are neither Old School nor New School, but the Presbyterian Church in the United States. It has been said that the members of the United Synod were Old School men. I mentioned one, a leader among them. He was further from the views of many here than even Albert Barnes."
Dr. Rice said:
"We must do no act that will for a moment ruffle the calmness and peace resting upon us. It is for this reason, sir, that I objoct to that report of the committee which speaks of the union of the Old and New Schools of ihe North as one reason why we cannot hold intercourse with them because we are the only heirs of the truths which have fallen to the ground. You know very well, Mr. Moderator, that I am an Old School man; that I was one of the very last to consent to the union of our church in the Synod which was consummated in 186 1. Now, having agreed to that union, and these New School brethren hav. ing come among us we are called upon to maintain the doctrines of God's house, and we are bound to stand by those brethren and regard them as integral portions of our church. And therefore it is not right for us to say we object to holding intercourse with the Northern Assembly because they received the New School. It is true that there is a wide difference between the two positions ; but we have accepted these brethren as a part of ourselves, and I trust that you will do nothing that will make it appear that we are not one, for we are one."
IIow can all this be gainsaid? And what had Dr. Palmer to say in reply? We extract from the Christian Inquirer and Free Commonwealth, of June, from which we have copied all our extracts from this debate :
“Dr. Palmer then stated that he was very much impressed with Dr. Hopkins' remark, that Dr. Lyon had assumed that all this opposition to a correspondence with the Northern church proceeds merely from hatred. This idea he combated, and then proceeded to notice Dr. Ross's remarks about union of the churches