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draw from their Marine, and aided by a great number of blacks at their laborious employments--the garrison at this time (exclusive of sailors) but little exceeding two thousand five hundred men, part of whom had thrown down their arms-the citizens, in general, discontented the enemy being within twenty yards of our lines, and preparing to make a general assault by sea and land many of our cannon dismounted, and others silenced by the want of shotma retreat being judged impracticable, and every hope of timely succour cut off-we then were induced to offer and accede to the terms executed on the twelfth.”
AN ESSAY ON ECCLESIASTICAL TRIBUNALS.
PIECE was published in the Panoplist for July, 1812, with the following title : A few remarks on the want of Ecclesiastical Tribunals in Massachusetts for the trial of offending ministers.” The writer expresses his feelings and wishes
upon this subject in the first sentence, which is as follows" It is a deplorable fact that there is no tribunal in our churches competent to try an offending minister without his own consent.” After saying that the present customary mode of removing such differences as may exist between ministers and their churches, viz. by councils, is inadequate, because it is not in the power of a council to punish the offender by depriving him of his ministerial character, and because if some will not employ him others may,” and “ he can gather a church and administer sacraments," and thus, “ however depraved, he attaches to the ministry all the reproach of his future immoralities," the writer asks, " is there not something horrible defective in this state of things?” He afterward observes, that the defect of our present system is still more apparent in the case of heresy. Here a minister is absolutely invulnerable.” He thinks that there are no means whatever of punishing an heretical clergyman, especially when his church professes the same opinions with himself, but that it is a duty
* First published in the General Repository, for October, 1812. vol. ii p. 288.
established in scripture as incumbent on Christian communities, to call ministers as well as people to account for heresy; and thatA solemn question, interesting to every man that has a part to act for God, is then brought before us: Ought not such a tribunal to be erected without delay ?” Three things are stated to be necessary to render this tribunal competent to its proposed objects. 1. That it should have power to de pose from office, and to ordain. 2. That it should be a permanent body. 3. That ministers should voluntarily submit to its authority. The purpose of this tribunal is not merely to judge those heretical and immoral ministers who may have submitted to its authority, but to direct and strengthen the orthodox in adopting a uniform mode of treatment toward those heretics who are not immediately under its power. A method of forming the proposed tribunal is suggested ; and among other advantages to be gained by it, is mentioned the promotion of brotherly love.
We confess that we have read this piece with some feelings of surprise and mortification. We were aware that there were men among us to whom it might be supposed that such establishments would be pleasing ; but we were not prepared to see so open and public a proposition for their institution. It is somewhat humiliating to those who are interested in the intellectual character of our country, that such individuals should suppose that their influence is sufficient to execute a design like this; or that they should think that the state of public feeling is such that the suggestion will be tolerated. That these and similar feelings should have been excited in us by this piece, will not, we think, be surprising to any who will consider, what it is in the existing state of things which has probably produced this proposal ; with what principles and feelings it must be connected ; and to what consequences the adoption of it would lead. We shall notice these things, and we shall notice also some of the arguments which the writer in the Panoplist has adduced in support of his proposition.
... The Essay on which we are remarking is itself an indication of something in the present state of things, peculiarly unpleasant to the writer ; and it is explicitly implied, that there are some reasons at the present time for the establishments he advises, other than have always existed. To something now existing hostile to his own views, the writer certainly alludes, when he laments, with a warmth almost lúdicrous, that those means which are favorable to their promotion have not beer' before adopted. “ Ecclesiastical domination," he observes " is of all things, that which we have least reason to fear in New England. The bent of the age is to the opposite ex. treme. We are much more in danger of anarchy ; it can never be sufficiently impressed on the public mind, that the thing which we have most reason to fear, is a dissolution of all eccles siastical government and discipline, leading the way to an apostacy, greater than that of Rome. Has not this apostacy already begun to appear? What do we behold? Let any ortho dox man lay his hand upon his heart, and then say, whether, if sufficient responsibility had been attached to the ministerial character fifty years ago, things would have come to their present pass.” The principal evil which such a tribunal as that proposed would have prevented, can be no other than what it is now intended to remedy-the existance and prevalence of what are stigmatized as heretical sentiments. The pride of opinion, which is in no case so strong as on religious subjects, reverence for antiquity, and the fondness for the countenance of numbers, will always render those who dissent from the commonly received notions, objects of aversion-especially to men, whose influence or power is lessened by the diminishing numbers of such as think with them. It was natural therefore that the change, which for a long time has been slowly taking place, and which of late years has been so manifest, in the feelings, the opinions, and the habits of study of many of our theologians, should excite much odium and opposition. In our view however this change is the honest index of the
increase of learning, and the prevalence of habits of thought. and investigation. The introduction of the science of biblical criticism has made a new era in the ecclesiastical history of our country. "To a taste for this study, to the greater, and continually increasing facilities which are afforded to students for obtaining theological learning; and to the diffusion of general literature among us, we attribute the enlarged views and liberal feelings of a great portion of our community. The young theologian does not now search in stale bodies of divint ity, or in collections of catechisms and confessions, or in the professed system of a popular leader or of a powerful partý, for the tenets he will embrace. He would be ashamed to be suspected of admitting any authority but the bible, or any interpreter but his reason. That a diversity of opinions on spec . ulative subjects should be produced by this noble freedom, is the natural and inevitable consequence of the diversity of human faculties.
Another result, which we think natural and necessary, is the prevalence of different, and, in our opinion, far more honorable and more correct views of our religion, than those which we believe were originated and matured in that superstition and ignorance, which at last deepened into the darkness of the middle ages. But to hold our own sentiments with meekness, as the sentiments of an individual, and to be willing to allow to others the same liberty of judging which we ourselves claim, and to believe that each man has a greater interest in being right than another can have in making him so, are the dispositions which generally do, and always ought to accompany such freedom. This tolerating and catholic spirit is extensively diffused through this part of our country. It is indeed much opposed and suppressed, as far as their influence extends, by some, whose narrow, but honest minds, have been too long contracted to be capable of enlargement, and who are instigated most zealously by others, whom their own passions and interests have driven into opposition.