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WITHDRAWMENT OF THE PRESBYTERIANS FROM THE
Mr. Editor,—The following document is too curious to pass without notice. For * Presbyterian" read “ Socinian," and the mystery is cleared up. Yet this exaction of something fixed and definite in doctrine, this laying restraint upon the freedom of inquiry, and all the other fine things in which dissent consists, is evidently a proof that the Dissenters are abandoning their principles.
Resolutions on the withdrawment of the Ministers and Deputies of the
Presbyterian Denomination, from the General Bodies of Ministers and Deputies of the Three Denominations.
At an Aggregate Meeting of Ministers and Deputies of the Presbyterian Denomination in and about London and Westminster, and of the Committee and other Members of “ the Association of English Presbyterians and others, holding the right of the free and unlimited exercise of private judgment in matters of Religion, and of full Christian Com-' munion on the great principle of the Divine Mission of our Lord, without any other Doctrinal Test whatever,” held at Dr. Williams's Library, Redcross-street, London, on the 5th day of March, 1836, RICHARD Potter, Esq. M.P. in the Chair, the following Resolutions of the Body of Ministers of the Presbyterian Denomination, in and about London, were read :
At an Extraordinary Meeting of the Body of Presbyterian Ministers, especially convenied to take into cousideration the necessity of this Body withdrawing from the two other of the Three Bodies constituting the General Body of the Ministers of the Three Denominations, residing in and about the Cities of London and Westminster, held at Dr. Williams's Library, Redcross-street, on the 4th of March, 1836, the Rev. Joseph Hutton, LL.D. in the Chair,—
Resolved,—That this Body, being one of the three Bodies which constitute the General Body of Protestant Dissenting Ministers of the Three Denominations in and about the Cities of London and Westininster, feels itself impelled, at the present crisis, to take prompt and decisive ineasures for the assertion of its independence, and the preservation of its rights and privileges,
That the Three Bodies of Protestant Dissenting Ministers formed themselves into an United Body, upwards of a century ago, for the maintenance and extension of civil and religious liberty, upon the understanding and engagementii that the Bodies should not call in question or interfere with each other's religious opinions and doctrines; the only terms of association, with regard to individual members of the respective Bodies, being their standing “accepted and approved" in their several denominations.
That, notwithstanding known differences of judgment in religious matters. between the Three Bodies, and, in some instances, between the members of the same Body, the Catholic principle of the Union was, for a very long period, sacredly observed, and the United Body consequently proceeded in peace and harmony, and by their cordial co-operation rendered eminent services to the cause of religious liberty; the Presbyterian Body being certainly not behind the two others in zeal and exertion.
That we lament that, within these few years, the Catholic principle of union has been infringed, by allowed references, at general meetings, and in public
proceedings, to doctrinal ditferences subsisting between the Bodies, and the members of the same Body, accompanied by reflections and insinuations to the prejudice particularly of the Presbyterian Body.
That we record with pain, that at the last election of the Secretary to the General Body, a most valuable and universally respected member of this Body, who had, by the suffrages of the United Body, filled the secretaryship for seven years, with such punctuality, diligence, and ability, as procured for bim tho warm thanks often repeated of the whole body, was set aside, on the ground openly alleged, and even declared in print, of his religious views on points of doctrine, and those of the Body to which he belongs, not being consonant to those of the majority of the Three Denominations.
That we perceive, with feelings of deep regret, the same spirit of intolerance and exclusion in the resolution of the Antipædo-Baptist Body, not to admit to membership hereafter any ministers, though bitherto eligible, who shall not profess certain articles of religious belief; and in the subsequent determination of the General Body, upon the appeal of the aggrieved party, to take no measure tor the relief of ministers who may be thus proscribed for conscience sake.
That our serious attention has been also, and of necessity, drawn to various public proceedings of individuals and parties of the two other denominations ; proceedings notoriously assisted by certain leading ministers of one at least of those denominations, -openly applauded by others,—and approved, it is apprehended, by the greater part of them, the object or sure tendency of which is to degrade the English Presbyterians in public estimation, to deprive them of rights and privileges until this period never disputed, and even to revive against them, by means of legal technicalities, the penal statutes, which the wisdom and justice of the legislature had repealed, to the satisfaction and joy of all enlightened men in the nation, and so far to thrust them out of the pale of civil protection.
That, contemplating these proceedings and various indications of the disposition of the majority of the Members of the United Body of Ministers, we cannot entertain a doubt that it is the wish and purpose of such majority eventually to exclude the Presbyterian Body from the Union, or to make its relative position such as no religious body, alive to its own dignity, could consent to occupy.
That, therefore, we feel it to be an imperative though painful duty,-imposed upon us equally by regard to our own character as Protestant Dissenting Ministers, who hold it to be one of the inalienable rights of conscience, that no man shall, without his own consent, be answerable to another for his honest judgment upon the sense of the holy Scriptures, by respect for the memory of those that went before us, and laid the foundation of our freedom, and by regard to the welfare of those that shall come after us,-to withdraw as a Body from an Union, the compact of which has been violated, and in which we can see no prospect of equal and peaceful co-operation, or of real and effective service to the interests of religious liberty: our regret, however, is lessened by the pleasing reflection that the original purpose of the Union has been, in great part, accomplished by the extension of the liberties of Protestant Dissenters, under the sway of the august Family now upon the thone of these realms, and by the conviction that, for what remains to be desired for the complete emancipation of conscience, we are justified by recent experience in placing entire confidence in his Majesty's present enlightened and liberal Government, which voluntarily proffers from the throne concessions to religious freedom which our fathers prayed for with faint hopes of success.
In declaring, as we now do, the Union of the Ministers of the Three Denominations dissolved, and in resolving to proceed bereafter in our single capacity as the Presbyterian Body of Ministers, unless an alteration in the spirit of the Bodies with which we were lately associated should make reunion practicable and desirable,- we disavow all angry and hostile feelings ;-we tender to the two other denoininations, with some of whose members we, as individuals, are and still hope to be united in the bonds of Christian esteem, our sincere wishes for their usefulness in the cause of freedoin, truth, and virtue ;---we preserve our sincere disposition to co-operate individually with the members of the other denominations iu works of charity, in so far as doctrinal distinctions are kept out of sight, and all parties meet on terms of equality and amity;-and, conscious that we have done nothing as a Body to provoke this unhappy separation, but, on the contrary, have attempted every thing in our power to resist and retard it, we are willing to abide by the judgment of moderate and candid mnen in the two other Bodies of the Protestant Dissenters throughout the kingdom, of our countrymen at large, and of posterity, upon this our deliberate and solemn act.
And the following resolutions, received from a Meeting of the Deputics of the Presbyterian Denomination, were also read:
At a Meeting of the Deputies of Congregations of the Presbyterian Denomi. mation, (appointed in January last to form part of the general Body of Deputies of the Protestant Dissenters of the Three Denominations in and about London,) held the 5th day of March, 1836, James Gibson, Esq. in the Chair,
RESOLVED, -That the Union of ibe Body of London Ministers, and that also of the Deputies of the Three Denominations of Protestant Dissenters, were formed more than a hundred years ago, and have, till lately, been uniformly considered to be based and conducted on the footing of the perfect independence and cquality of each denomination,—to have for their object the promotion of the broad and acknowledged principle of nonconformity,—and to bave no reference whatever to doctrinal opinions, distinctions, or qualifications.
That before, and at the time of the formation of these voluptary associations, the Englisli Dissenters of the Presbyterian Denomination bad publicly asserted, and have ever since maintained the principle of perfect freedom of investigation in matters of religion, and of resistance to every species of restraint upou or interference with a complete liberty of action upon the results of such investigation.
That, in the earliest period of these associations, and down to the present time, the result of this principle of action among the Presbyterians bas been, that many of their Ministers and Laymen bave, from tiine to time, adepted doctrinal opinions differing more or less widely from the Calvinistic standard.
That, notwithstanding such known diversity of opinion, and the departure of the English Presbyterians in many particulars from those forms of Church discipline in which their name originated, the identity and succession of their ministers and congregations have been, on all occasions, formally and officially recognized by the other constituent parts of the Bodies with which they have been connected,
That this Meeting laments to have witnessed, within a short period, (and particularly since the establishment of the civil and social rights of Protestant Dissenters by the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts,) a continued and obvious disposition on the part of many Members of the other Denominations to act upon exclusive distinctions,—subversive of the equality and independence of such portions of the aggregate Dissenting Societies as do not coincide with the doctrinal creed of the majority,-hostile to the principles on which they have combined their efforts and contributions,--and constantly tending to the depression and degradation of the Presbyterian Denomination in particular.
That open challenge has of late been repeatedly and publicly made of the title and identity of the ministers and congregations hitherto invariably recognized as composing the Presbyterian Denomination; and that legal proceedings have been successfully instituted by Dissenters, founded on the denial of such title and identity, and seeking to inflict the forfeiture and transfer of the endowtments now beld by Presbyterians, as the penalty for the exercise of their conscientious privileges as Christians and Protestant Dissenters.
That this adoption of proceedings operating as restraints upon the christian liberty of congregations of another denomination, is, in the opinion of this Meeting, wbolly at variance with the principles which occasioned and justified the separation of Nonconformists from an established church ;—that such proceedings are mainly founded on inferences drawn from penal laws long since repealed, and wbich it is the duty of every consistent Dissenter to condemn and disregard ;-that the consequences of their successful prosecution are personally vexatious and oppressive, in the highest degree, to those who have, for a long course of years, peaceably occupied the foundations of their ancestors; and that the injury is deeply aggravated by the attempt thus made to fix upon those ancestors exclusive intents, repugnant to their known principles of action, and opposed to the honest and consistent tenor of their lives and characters.
That the establishment of the legal principles thus invoked against Dissenters by their brethren, strikes at the root of that Protestant liberty, for the attainment of which their forefathers made their noblest sacrifices to conscience; and tends to convert every chapel, though founded for free and independent worship, into a petty establishment, more objectionable than one connected with the State-both in principle, because it is the work of men who profess to be free, and in practice, because the State possesses the power and means of improvement in its institutions, while, on the other hand, the dissenting trusts are to be doomed to continue perpetual and invariable.
That the community of feeling and principle which has been formerly assumed to characterise the Associations of Protestant Dissenters being thus disturbed,— the freedom for which the Presbyterians have sought protection in such associations being attacked by those with whom they associated for mutual protection ;-and it being plainly necessary that they should direct their energies and resources towards their own defence, not provided for elsewhere;—this Meeting cannot but consider it useless and undesirable that the body to which they belong should continue outwardly to maintain a connexion which has ceased to have a common or consistent object, and which tends rather to strengthen an ivfluence that experience shows may not improbably be directed against themselves.
That the Deputies present, therefore, while they respect the characters and principles of many of those with whom they have so long cooperated, and while they greatly lament the necessity for the present proceeding, feel themselves imperatively called upon,-in conformity with the example of their respected Ministers, and with the prevalent feeling of their country brethren,to withdraw from the Deputies of the other Two Denominations; and, in so doing, to cooperate in the formation of a new Union, founded Yon enlarged and consistent views, and directed to the maintenance of the great essential principles of Protestantism.
That this determination be forthwith communicated to the Chairman of the General Body of Deputies, and to the Aggregate Meeting of English Presbyterian Dissenters, now about to be beld.
And it was thereupon resolved, in and by the Aggregate Meeting, That this Meeting approves of the separate Resolutions of the Two Bodies of Ministers and Deputies of the Presbyterian Denomination now read, and of the determination which those Resolutions convey and explain.
That the existing Associations of Ministers and of Deputies of the Three Denominations being so far dissolved by the withdrawments communicated to and approved by this Meeting, it is expedient that such Ministers and Deputies should concur with the English Presbyterian Association in maturing an effective Union, which shall have for its object the protection and promotion of their civil rights and interests, and shall be open to all those who are desirous of concurring in the consistent practical assertion of the great principles of Nonconformity.
RICHARD Potter, Chairmun.
The following facts relating to the amiable Bishop of Clermont seem to have escaped the notice of his biographers. They are translated from a topographical work,* published in 1789, by his fellowtownsman, M. Dulaure, and will doubtless be acceptable to the readers of the Christian REMEMBRANCER :
Of all the prelates who have presided over Clermont, the Bishop who has conferred the greatest honour upon the see, whose memory is most fondly cherished, and most justly revered, was the illustrious Massillon. A commoner by birth, his was not the nobility which is conferred by patent, but that which is engendered in the soul ; nor was it by intrigue, but by his talents and his virtues, that he was placed at the head of the diocese of Clermont. Massillon is known as one of the greatest orators which France has produced, -as one who was endued, above all others, with that eloquence which springs from the heart. But however great were his acquirements and his learning, the celebrity which he obtained in his diocese was mainly owing to his virtues.
At Beauregard, where he almost invariably resided, he was far better known by his benevolence than by his talents.
During three successive years violent storms of hail had desolated the surrounding country, and reduced the inhabitants to a state of the most abject misery. The worthy prelate afforded relief in every direction. He secretly remitted the sum of 25,000 francs to the Hôtel-Dieu of Clermont, which was overflowing with poor and sick. At Beauregard, the poor were supplied with nourishment immediately from himself. The food intended for them was prepared daily at his residence; and he always tasted it himself, in order that his design might not be frustrated, and the poor suffer from the negligence of his servants. Nor was this all. He established at Beauregard a cotton-manufactory, which is still in full work, and maintains many industrious families in competency. One member of each family was taught to spin at his expense; and he gave to each a spinning-wheel and several pounds of cotton-wool, so that their first endeavours should be all profit. Most of these wheels are still preserved by the inhabitants, as monuments of the good Bishop's munificence.
Nor was his paternal anxiety confined to his immediate vicinity. So fearful, however, was the dearth in Auvergne, that it was impossible to relieve all the sufferers from his own individual resources; and their cruel condition, which affected him deeply, induced him to outstep in some degree the limits of his ministry. The case was urgent, and he took upon himself the duty which would more properly have devolved upon the governor of the province. In 1749, he addressed a petition, in the form of a letter, to Cardinal Fleuri, the prime minister, of which the original, written with his own hand, is now in the possession of the Curè of Beauregard. I cannot resist the temptation of subjoining a few extracts from this letter, which has never been published; exhibiting, as it does, a sad picture of the misery of the district, portrayed with
* La Description des principaux licux de France.