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In August, 1810, a combination of circumstances wholly providential, being unsought and unexpected by all concerned, led the third Associate Reformed Church in the city of NewYork, then recently formed under the ministry of Dr. John M. Mason, to hold their assemblies in the house belonging to the church under the pastoral care of Dr. John B. RoMEYN, a minister of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in North America. As the hours of service were different, the one congregation succeeding the other in the same place on the same day, the first effect of this arrangement was a partial amalgamation of the two societies in the ordinary exercises of public worshipthe next, a mutual esteem growing out of mutual acquaintance with each other, as united in the same precious faith ; and, finally, after a very short time, invitations on both sides to join in commemorating, at his own table, the love of
that Saviour who gave himself for them, an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling
The invitations were as cordially accepted as they were frankly given. The bulk of the members of both churches, as well as some belonging to correlate churches, mingled their affections and their testimony in the holy ordinance. The ministers reciprocated the services of the sacramental day; and the communion, thus established, has been perpetuated with increasing delight and attachment, and has extended itself to ministers and private christians of other churches.
Such an event, it is believed, had never before occurred in the United States. The Presbyterian Church in North America sprang immediately from the established church of Scotland. The Associate Reformed Church, Presbyterian also, was founded in the union of ministers and
people from the two branches of the Secession in Scotland, and from the Reformed Presbytery.
When they emigrated to this country, it was not to be expected that the esprit du corps,
their characteristic feelings, should perish in the Atlantic. All experience justifies the poet's remark,
Cælum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt ;
and accordingly, like the mother-churches, they maintained not only separate communions, but much of the old reserve and distance.
Portions of two denominations thus situated, laying aside their party distinctions, coming together on the broad ground of one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one “God and Father of all,” and embracing each other in the most sacred and tender offices of Christian fellowship, presented a scene of no common or feeble interest. Its very novelty roused attention; and gave birth to speculations various as the temper, character, and condition of their authors. Rumour, with her “hundred tongues,” was active, as usual, in bespeaking the public ear. Intelligence, announcing the truth, and more than the truth, but yet not the whole truth ; and accompanied, occasionally, by surmises and comments ill calculated to make a favourable impression, was forwarded, with industrious celerity, to distant parts of the land.
The Associate Reformed Church, generally speaking, had been strict, and even exclusive, in her communion. The jealousy naturally entertained by her toward the General Assembly, was, to say the least, not diminished by the collisions which had taken place between many of their members, especially in the western and southern parts of the United States. All things, therefore, considered, we are not to wonder that the report of what happened at New-York was received, by very many, with dislike and alarm. This effect is so perfectly analogous to the laws which govern feeling in masses of men, that it could not have been hindered but by a miracle, or something very like a miracle. They are startled by nothing so soon as by encroachment upon their habits : and will rather permit their understanding to be unfruitful, than the routine of their thoughts and conduct to be broken up. Let us not complain of this propensity, although it may be, and often is, indulged too far. It is a wise provision in the economy of human nature, without which there would be neither stability, order, nor comfort. Remove it, and the past would furnish no lessons for the future: Intellect would be wasted on premises without conclusions, and life on experiments without results. Therefore no principle is more firmly established in the minds of all who think correctly and act discreetly, than this that wanton invasion of social habits is of the essence of folly. Yet there is an extreme of caution as reprehensible and hurtsul as the extreme of rashness. Till human opinions become infallible, the practices which grow out of them cannot be always right. In many cases, as every party acknowledges of every other, they are 'decidedly wrong. It is thus settled by common consent, and for the best of reasons, that whatever be the courtesy due to public habit, we are not to bow before it with superstitious reverence, We should treat it as we are to treat our civil rulers, with unfeigned respect, but with a reserve for the obligation to obey God rather than man. At no time, and upon no pretence, must it be allowed to usurp the right of controling conscience in matters of scriptural principle; nor to exert the pestilent prerogative of abetting the cause of errour by arresting the progress of inquiry after truth. Unless we accede to this proposition, the rock is swept away from under our feet. The doctrine of Reformation is the worst of heresies; and every attempt to enforce it a profligate insurrection against human peace. “ Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself ?” When there exist serious doubts, and those not hastily admitted, whether certain practical opinions, i. e. opinions which influence habit, among Christians, are really serviceable or injurious to the interests of pure Christianity, an opportunity of bringing their propriety to the test, instead of being lamented as an affliction, should be welcomed as a benefit. Such doubts have been long entertained, and, as it is conceived,