” To the Ecclesiastical Council, expected to convene in the North Parish in Wrentham, Oct. 20,1830.
Fathers And Brethren,
We, the undersigned, members of the church in the North Parish in Wrentham, consider it due to ourselves, and to the pastors and delegates convened in council, respectfully to state :
That we have, as we think for good and sufficient reasons, dissented from our brethren in convening this ecclesiastical body. These reasons, so far as we have time and opportunity, we feel ourselves bound frankly and explicitly to state ; that the eyes of the council may be fully enlightened, in whatever course they may hereafter pursue ; presuming also, that, if the churches represented in this body had been acquainted with all the circumstances which have attended this case of discipline, they would not appear in this place, on this occasion, by their pastors and delegates. We make this statement with all due deference both to the churches themselves, and to those who represent them. Here also it may be proper to premise, that we do not protest against the convention of this council, because we have any objection to the churches or pastors selected. Indeed, those churches and pastors would be the very ones which we should readily select ourselves, did we deem a council expedient and necessary.
Nor do we object to a council, because we have any doubt, that those who represent the churches, in this body, would judge impartially and right, in view of evidence. It were, perhaps, unnecessary to say this, because it is fully implied in what we have just stated. But, among other reasons why we have protested, and still protest against a council, in the present case of discipline, we would respectfully submit the following :—
1. This church has ever been, and still is, a Congregational church. It has always intended to act, and still intends to act upon Congregational principles. As a Congregational church, we consider it fully competent, and authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ, to decide in its own cases of discipline. We neither know nor acknowledge any higher authority, save the Great Head of the Church himself. Nor do we know of any body so capable of judging in respect to the character and conduct of a brother in the church, as the members of that body to which such brother belongs. We consider it a very delicate and dangerous thing, for the members of one family, or of any number of families, to enter into another, and even advise how the discipline of that family shall be conducted. Although, therefore, we have no suspicion, that this council is in the least disposed to assume a dictatorial air; yet, we firmly believe that the frequent and unnecessary convocation of councils, in cases of discipline, has a natural and direct tendency to lower the authority of the church, and to leave the strong impression that the church is incompetent to maintain discipline, according to the plain and irrevocable laws which Jesus Christ has given to govern his own house. Let it not be understood, however, that we are opposed to taking the advice of council in difficult cases. The church, we conceive, may be involved in difficulties, in which it is altogether wise and expedient to take advice of an ecclesiastical council. In such circumstances, we would as cheerfully unite in calling a council for advice, as any of our brethren. This is precisely in accordance with the Articles of Discipline adopted by this church. But,
2. Although we would not object to taking the advice of a council in difficult cases; we cannot consider the present case of discipline as one of such cases. We cannot perceive that the present case of discipline is either complex or perplexing, in the least possible degree. Indeed, we believe it to be one of the plainest cases that ever came before this church. Brother Mann stands convicted of ” violating the covenant of this church, and the rules of the gospel,” in charging the pastor with ” writing and publishing atheism.” It was fully proved to the church, that the language of brother Mann was harsh and abusive, and that the pastor felt himself abused and insulted, in presence of his family. Even if nothing had been stated or proved, respecting his manner of expression, we cannot conceive how any brother in the church could go into the house of his pastor, and, in the exercise of a proper spirit, in presence of his family, charge him with publishing atheism; any more than he could, in the same circumstances, in the exercise of a proper spirit, charge him with stealing. It seems to us, therefore, that the question intended to be submitted for the consideration of this ecclesiastical council, is substantially this;—Is it in accordance with the rules and spirit of the gospel, for a brother in the church, to enter into the house of his pastor, and abuse him before his family ? But we think that, to submit such a question as this to an ecclesiastical council, must be trifling with the decisions of the church, with the rules and spirit of the gospel, with the council itself, and with common sense.
3. Another reason why we protest against a council, is, that it is intended, in the present case of discipline, to present for the consides a of the council, only half the difficulty. Brother Mann stands convicted, as appears from our church records, of violating the covenant of this church and the rules of the gospel, ” in giving the sanction of his name to a false, slanderous, and libellous publication.” This was admitted by the church ; and the vote of the church decided, that this article of charge ” is substantiated.” It was also clearly and fully proved to the church, that brother Mann was dealt with, in the first and second steps of discipline, respecting the matter contained in the ” Report,” together with its nature and tendency. It was so managed, however, by those who seemed determined to clear brother Mann, that a vote was passed and recorded, that ” brother Mann is not criminal for signing said Report, as Secretary of St. Alban’s Lodge ;” and on this ground they affect to consider brother Mann as acquitted. The undersigned, however, consider this vote as altogether irrelevant; and, on this ground, the most of us did not act at all, when the motion was submitted. Nowhere in the complaint is brother Mann charged with signing said Report ” as Secretary of St. Alban’s Lodge.” It does not appear from the Report itself, that he signed it by order of the Lodge, but, by ” order of the Committee.” It was taken for granted, therefore, that brother Mann acted as Secretary of the Committee, in preparing the slanderous items which constitute the ” Report,” and that we would not have been so engaged, had he not cordially approved of the work itself. Brother Mann, likewise, did not deny,-but acknowledged, in presence of the church, as he had before done in presence of individual brethren, that he did approve of the ” Report” itself, and intended to maintain it. To submit merely the proposed article of charge, respecting brother Mann’s abuse of the pastor in his own house, for the consideration of the council, even could that be amicably settled, would be touching only a small part of the difficulty.
4. It cannot be made to appear that a fair majority of even the male members of the church have any desire for a council. Of male members in this church, we number but twenty four residents, including the pastor. Of these, one is under church censure, and of course could not act both for himself and for the church; and another has been absent from this place during the whole of the trial. By numbering the signatures to this document, therefore, the council can at once ascertain the sense of the church, in respect to their convocation. It is likewise a painful truth, which we feel bound to state, that a majority of those who have appeared from the beginning determined to clear brother Mann, have had the principal management in preparing the way for this council. It would also be criminal in us to dissemble, that, in our firm conviction, masonic influence, and opposition to the pastor, have induced a determination in those who have been the most Strenuous for a council, that brother Mann shall be acquitted. It has been truly affecting to us to bear witness, that the masonic brethren in the church, with one exception, have uniformly, in every instance, voted to acquit brother Mann. This may appear incredible to those who are unacquainted with masonic engagements ; but to others, it is not surprising. We are fully aware, that such a course of conduct is in exact conformity with the following clauses in masonic oaths :— ‘ Furthermore do I promise and swear, that I will not speak evil of a brother master mason, either behind his back or before his face, but will apprise him of all approaching danger if in my power.’—’ Furthermore do I promise and swear, that I will aid and assist a companion royal arch mason, when engaged in any difficulty, and espouse his cause, so far as to extricate him from the same, if in my power, whether he be right or wrong.’
Under such circumstances, fathers and brethren, we cannot conceive how this council can proceed to examine this case of discipline, without acting ex parte. We are obliged to consider those who insisted upon the convocation of this council, as identified with brother Mann in one party, and that we must necessarily be considered and treated as the other. This simple circumstance must make the council, to all intents and purposes, an ex parte council. But, against this, we respectfully, though earnestly protest; and we would as respectfully and earnestly remonstrate against the council’s proceeding, under existing circumstances, to examine and result upon this case of discipline.
DAVID HOLBROOK, ELISHA ROCKWOOD,
JARED WILSON, BENJ. ROCKWOOD,
JOSEPH WARE, JOSIAH CODDING,
SALMON MANN, SMITH POND,
ASA WARE, GEORGE FAIRBANK.