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“ 2. If in the new settlements, any church of the Congregational order shall settle a minister of the Presbyterian order, that church may, if they choose, still conduct their discipline according to Congregational principles, settling their difficulties among themselves, or by a council mutually agreed upon for that purpose : But if any difficulty shall exist between the minister and the church, or any member of it, it shall be referred to the presbytery to which the minister shall belong, provided both parties agree to it; if not, to a council consisting of an equal number of Presbyterians and Congregationalists, agreed upon by both parties.
“ 3. If a Presbyterian church shall settle a minister of Congregational principles, that church may still conduct their discipline according to Presbyterian principles; excepting that if a difficulty arise between him and his church, or any member of it, the cause shall be tried by the Association to which the said minister shall belong, provided both parties agree to it; otherwise by a council, one half Congregationalists and the other half Presbyterians, mutually agreed on by the parties.
“4. If any congregation consist partly of those who hold the Congregational form of discipline, and partly of those who hold the Presbyterian form; we recommend to both parties that this be no obstruction to their uniting in one Church and settling a Minister ; - and that in this case, the Church choose a standing committee from the communicants of said Church, whose business it shall be to call to account every
member of the church who shall conduct himself inconsistently with the laws of Christianity, and to give judgment on such conduct; and if the person condemned by their judgment be a Presbyterian, he shall have liberty to appeal to the Presbytery; if a Congregationalist, he shall have liberty to appeal to the body of the male communicants of the Church ; in the former case, the determination of the Presbytery shall be final, unless the Church consent to a further appeal to the Synod, or to the General Assembly; and in the latter case, if the pariy condemned shall wish for a trial by a mutual council, the cause shall be referred to such council. And provided the said standing committee of any church shall depute one of themselves to attend the Presbytery, he may have the same right to sit and act in the Presbytery, as a ruling elder of the Presbyterian Church."
Our author reviews this “Plan of Union" at length, and shows that it was a plan solely for the new settlements that it was confined to new settlements composed of inhabitants in connection with the General Assembly and the General Association of Connecticut. “It did not embrace Congregationalists from the rest of New England. Congregationalists from Massachusetts were no more embraced in it than Quakers from Rhode Island;" etc.— Its object was to promote union and harmony between individuals of the two sects in certain circumstances, while it was not intended to affect the meinbership or ecclesiastical connection of clergy or laity in either denomination. From all this our author concludes that neither its existence nor abrogation could affect the integrity of the Presbyterian church in the slightest degree. He adds :
" It was essentially a missionary plan-an evangelizing scheme, and entirely within the power of the Assembly to recommend. (What may they not recommend?) The Assembly of 1801 was as competent to make it as the Assembly of 1837 to unmake it; and both were entirely competent to do so. It was not in any sense a contract. Neither the Assembly, nor the Association, nor the two sects, nor any individuals or bodies of men, thereby agreed to do, or to omit to do any act, or to exercise or to waive any right. It was not a standing rule or a constitutional rule, to be submitted to the Presbyteries. It is an abuse of language to call it either the one or the other. It was no rule at all. It prescribed nothing, commanded nothing, required nothing. It asked for no obedience, contemplated no responsibility, inflicted no punishment. It neither restrained nor constrained any man or body of men. How idle then, on the one hand, to contend that it could not be made by one Assembly, and on the other, that it could not be rescinded by a succeeding Assembly! It was clearly, in any just view of the nature of the Plan itself, liable to be abandoned or rescinded, at pleasure.
“ It was subject to be rescinded also for a higher reason. The General Assembly has no perpetuity of mind or body. Each Assembly is independent of another. In all matters of advice, recommendation, and general action, -as a Council, -one Assembly has no constitutional right to bind another Assembly. What one Assembly can do, another can undo, with the exception of judicial decisions. One Assembly cannot reverse the judicial decision of another Assembly; but it is its clear right to decide a precisely similar case in a directly opposite manner.
The Assembly then had abundant power to abrogate the Plan of Union, and by their resolution passed on the 23d May, 1837, it was abrogated. It was thereby abrogated. It was then abrogated. It existed till that time, and no longer. And the only consequence that could follow from rescinding the Plan would be, that from that day, there would be no longer any Plan of Union between Presbyterians and Congregationalists in the new settlements, in the support of the Gospel. Each sect must stand alone, and bear its own burdens. · Whether its operation brought any one into the church or not, its abrogation could turn no one out of the Church : members are not thus turned out of the Church. Then its abrogation would draw after it no such consequences as the disunionists supposed, and by their
resolutions of exclusion declared. It could by no possibility have a retroäctive effect, or an expulsive effect."*
The declaration of the resolutions in question, therefore, was absurd. They declare certain Synods to be “no longer a part," "an integral portion" of the Presbyterian church! A Synod is not a part of the church, but a local court, created by the church, for the convenience and protection of a portion of its members. The church is composed of its members, and not of its courts.
“If, by any means,” says our author, “ there should be neither Assembly, nor Synod, nor Presbytery in the whole Church, still the Church would be as perfect and complete, and as large as evernone of its parts would be gone, and it would be entirely competent to create and organize anew all its judicatories. Here lies the great fallacy of these resolutions : they seem to consider a Synod, and those individuals who sit in it, and all those who live within the circuit of its jurisdiction, as the same idea. can have been nothing but this confusion of ideas, and the sweeping, uncertain, and indistinct character of these resolutions, that blinded the eyes
many who voted for them.”
Again. No man can be affected by such resolutions as these, unless he can be identified. The resolutions, therefore, are clearly void for uncertainty, in regard to individuals. Nor can the disowning of Synods by the General Assembly, in any manner affect the existence and integrity of Presbyteries, because the Presbyteries and they only are represented in the Assembly. These and several other points of importance to bis argument, our author urges with great force and directness, in most of which we doubt not bis correctness, though, in regard to some of them, we have been accustomed to entertain different views. In the general conclusion to which he arrives, however, we entirely concur, viz: “ That in every view of the case, the constituency of the General Assembly remains the same, as in former years, and that great judicatory of the church is itself untouched and unimpaired by these resolutions." Notwithstanding the unconstitutional acts of the General
* In the foregoing positions our author is fully sustained by the legal opinions of G. Wood, Esq. and Chancellor Kent of New York, excepting that the latter was inclined to treat the “ Plan of Union” as a contract between the Gen. Assembly and the Gen. Association.-Ed. Vol. XII. No. 31.
Assembly of 1837, all the Presbyteries were as competent to form, by their commissioners, the General Assembly of 1838, as they had ever been to form any previous Assembly.
“ What, then,” says our author, “ will constitute the General Assembly of 1838? It must be chosen in the same manner as the last, that is, it must be chosen by all the Presbyteries, which choose to be represented. “The General Assembly shall represent in one body all the particular churches of this denomination.” “ It shall be denominated the General Assembly.” “ The General Assembly shall consist of an equal delegation of bishops and elders from each Presbytery.” The delegates or commissioners are appointed by all the Presbyteries “to consult, vote and determine, on all things that may come before that body.” They are all equal in power and right—all are appointed in the same manner, and bring the same evidence of it
. If any have superiority, whence do they derive it? etc. It is not necessary that they should all be present, but none must be excluded who bring the proper evidence of their appointment. If some are excluded, it is not a judicatory of the whole Church-it does not represent in one body all the particular Churches”—it is not “the bond of union, peace, correspondence and mutual confidence among all our Churches”—it has no right to “superintend the concerns of the whole Church”—it is not the “General Assembly,” etc.
Any fourteen or more of these commissioners, one half of whom shall be ministers, being met, on the day and at the place appointed, shall be a quorum for the transaction of business." Any number, “ being met,” are necessary to form a quorum. Fourteen are not a quorum, if there be more there. No business can be transacted unless there be a quorum. It is not the General Assembly till there is a quorum competent to transact business; and there cannot constitutionally be a quorum for the transaction of business, if any of “ fourteen or more, being met,” are excluded or debarred from their participation in the transaction of business. On any other construction, there might be a dozen quorums of the General Assembly competent to transact business, which is absurd. These principles are so universally received and acted on in all the transactions of public affairs, that it is believed that the whole history of deliberative bodies, no matter with what factious zeal or unprinci. pled party-spirit they may have been characterized, does not furnish an instance, in which it was ever before pretended, that a part of a body of directors, trustees, managers, representatives, of any sort could exclude their associates, and legally exercise the authority of the whole, except such were the express terms of their association.”
These are the principles which are maintained in the Essay besore us. They were brought before the public in several pewspapers, and in the pamphlet under review, a few weeks before the meeting of the General Assembly in May last. They were not new. Most of them had been urged in other essays, speeches and publications, but they were here combined and clearly stated, and supported by an array of arguments which left no longer any ground of doubt or hesitation as to their substantial correctness. They were accordingly adopted and acted on with great unanimity, by almost the entire number of the commissioners to the General Assembly of 1838, who were opposed to the exscinding acts of the Assembly of 1837.
As was expected, the clerks of the former Assembly, in obedience to the order of that Assembly, and in fulfilment of their pledge or promise to the same, made out a partial roll of the Assembly of 1838, declining to receive the commissions and to record the names of the commissioners from all the Presbyteries within the bounds of the disowned Synods. The names of the said commissioners were then tendered to the Moderator, and a motion made and duly seconded that that roll be completed by their insertion. The Moderator declared the motion out of order. The member proposing it appealed to the Assembly from this decision. The Moderator declared this also out of order, and refused to put the appeal. This was regarded as a palpable refusal of the Moderator to discharge the duties of his office, and, as, by virtue of his having been the Moderator of the last preceding Assembly, he was by constitution declared to be the Moderator of the present Assembly only “until another should be appointed in his place,” a commissioner present, whose name was already enrolled, nominated another commissioner to be now appointed Moderator of this Assembly. This nomination being duly seconded, was put to vote by the individual who made the nomination, and carried in the affirmative by a large majority, very few being heard to vote in the negative; whereupon the Commissioner named was declared to be duly elected Moderator of the General Assembly for the time being. The Clerks, who had refused to receive and record the names of certain commissioners, were then superseded by the appointment of others in their place, the roll was completed by adding the names of all the commissioners present, which had been omitted, and the General Assembly was organized, as is claimed, in all respects, according to the Constitution.
In the mean time, that portion of the Commissioners present, who approved of the exscinding resolutions of the General As