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The religious objects of the colonists claimed attention immediately after their arrival. The planters at Plymouth had no new scheme of church order to devise. Theirs was the scheme of the English Independents, alone lau, ready put in practice and amended by them...to selves at Scrooby and at Leyden. It was imitat. ed in Massachusetts by Skelton and Higginson, was adopted by the immigrants of the following year, and was carried to Connecticut and New Haven by the founders of those Colonies. A church was a company of believers, associated together by a mutual covenant to maintain and share Christian worship and ordinances, and to watch over each other's spiritual condition. The covenants — remarkably free, in the earliest times, from statements of doctrine — were what their name imports: they were mutual engagements, “in the presence of God, to walk together in all his ways, according as He was pleased to reveal himself in his blessed word of truth.” JA church, it was held, “ought not to be of greater number than may ordinarily meet together conveniently in one place, nor ordinarily fewer than may conveniently
to say nothing of higher purposes.— “One may live there from year to year, and not see a drunkard, hear an oath, or meet a beggar.” “As Ireland will not brook venomous beasts, so will not that land vile persons and loose livers.” (New England's First Fruits) —“I thank God I have lived in a Colony [Massachusetts] of many thousand English almost these twelve years; am held a very sociable man; yet I may considerately say, I never heard but one oath sworn, nor never saw one man drunk, nor ever heard of three women adulteresses, in all this time, that I can call to mind.” (Simple Cobler of Aggawam, &c., by Theodore de la Guard, 67. The last part of the author's pseudonyme represents the surname of
the author of the Body of Liberties;
and the Greek compound Theodore is similar in construction and equivalent in sense to the Hebrew name Nathaniel. Aggawam was the Indian name of Ipswich, where Ward lived.)
* The covenant of the First Church of Salem contains no statement of doctrine (Upham's Second Century Lecture, &c., 67), nor that of the First Church of Boston (Drake, History of Boston, 93), nor that of the Second Church of Boston (Robbins, History of the Second Church, 209). I do not remember a material deviation from this catholic character in any of a considerable number of early covenants which have come under my eye. See, to this effect, the “Declaration of the General Court,” in Hutch. Col., 215.
carry on church work.” Persons so pledged and asso
ciated were church-members; and they, and no others, were entitled to come to the Lord's Supper, and to present their children for baptism. Each church was an independent body, competent to elect and ordain its officers; to admit, govern, censure, and expel” its members; and to do all other things properly pertaining to ecclesiastical order. A church fully furnished had a pastor and a teacher, whose duty it was to preach and to administer the ordinances, the distinctive function of the former being private and public exhortation, of the latter doctrinal and Scriptural explanation. Each church had also one or more “ruling elders,” who shared with the “teaching elders” the province of discipline; and deacons, who had the charge of prudential concerns and of providing for the poor.” But the office of ruling elder was not uniformly kept up; the offices of pastor and of teacher were not long discriminated from each other,” and the practice of maintaining two preachers in each church, often departed from in the early times, went gradually into general disuse. The ruling elders and deacons, as well as the teaching elders, were consecrated to their trusts with religious solemnities. At the time of the confederation there were nearly eighty ministers' in New England,” or one minister to about three hundred of the population. These were generally men who had been trained in the best learning of the time, as well as educated for vigorous action in the stern school of those persecutions which had driven them from their home. As many as half of the number are known to have been graduates of Oxford or Cambridge, the greater part being of the latter University. Some, prominent in their sect, had been sharers in the counsels and the conflicts of the Puritan leaders in England, of Leighton and Hildersham, of Preston and
* Platform of Church Discipline, Chap. III. § 4.
* “The excommunicate is held as an heathen and publican. Yet it hath been declared at Boston in divers cases, that children may eat with their parents excommunicate; that an elected magistrate excommunicate may hold his place, though it were better another were chosen [comp. Cotton's letter to Lord Say and Sele, in Hutchinson, I. 438]; that the excommunicate person may come and hear the word, and be present at prayer, so that he give not public offence by taking up an eminent place in the assembly. But at New Haven, where Master Davenport is pastor, the excommunicate is held out of the meeting, at the door, if he will hear, in frost, snow, and rain” (Lechford, 13); —an eagerness for the word which one does not always see now-adays to call for such strong measures
VOL. II. 4
of repression, even in persons more
Not seldom they were men of good property.
The consideration in which some were held was the greater on account of their being highly connected.” At first, ministers were provided for by voluntary contributions made every Sunday in the churches; and in Boston this method was kept up for considerably more than a century. But soon “the churches held a different course in raising the ministers' maintenance; some did it by way of taxation.”
* When in this work “ministers” of religion are spoken of, teaching elders (pastors and teachers) are intended. They are generally called elders by the early writers. But this term, in this sense, is not familiar to modern ears, and it is equivocal as belonging also to an inferior rank in church office.
* Holmes (I. 266) places the number at seventy-seven in 1642. —Mr. Savage says (Winthrop, I. 265) that in 1638 “there were probably forty or fifty sons of the University of Cambridge in Old England—one for every two hundred or two hundred and fifty inhabitants— dwelling in the few villages of Massachusetts and Connecticut. The sons of Oxford were not few.” And again: “If we include the clergy, who surely
had as good a share of letters as their
A church officer, of whatever degree, was an officer only in his own congregation. The primitive doctrine of New England was, that no man was a clergyman in any sense, either before his election by a particular church, or after his relinquishment of the special trust so wo. conferred; and that, even while in.office, he was lation of
a layman to all the world except his own congregation, and had no right to exercise any clerical function elsewhere.” In the earliest times a minister was ordained, not by other ministers, but by officers of the church which had elected him, or, when it had no officers, then by some of its private members.” This absolute mutual independence of the churches was in principle equivalent to universal mutual toleration; and, if the original scheme of an ecclesiastical constitution had been carried out, there could have been no interference on the part of the whole community, as represented by its government, with the belief or practices of any single congregation. It has been seen how in Massachusetts the practical exigencies presented themselves, which induced great practical deviations from this theory. As soon as, for supposed reasons of public necessity, church-membership and political power were associated in the same persons, it became necessary for the public to look after the qualifications of church-members; and thus Church and State
became insensibly united." In Massachusetts, a meeting I
* Winthrop, I. 295, II. 93. Comp. which indicates a growing doubt, in Hutch. Col. 287 – 309; Hubbard, 412. 1642, about the earlier practice. Comp. * Cambridge Platform, Chap. IX. Cambridge Platform, Chap. IX. §§ 3–5. §§ 6, 7; Cotton, Way Cleared, 16. * See Vol. I. 432–434. * See Winthrop, (II. 91) for a case
of the whole body of freemen in a General Court was the same as a convention of members of all the churches. In the General Courts of Magistrates and Deputies, none but church-members could sit, or have a voice in choosing others to sit;—in other words, the whole Church of the Colony was represented in the aggregate of that board of Magistrates which church-members had elected; the lower house was a convocation of the several churches of the Colony, represented by the Deputies of the several towns. Thus, when the General Court took cognizance of ecclesiastical affairs, it was but the whole body of the Church legislating for its parts; and this, with the important peculiarity, that all the legislators by whom the Church exercised its supreme power were of the laity. The system had no element of resemblance to prelacy or presbytery. It was pure democracy installed in the ecclesiastical government." In the Colony of New Haven a similar state of things existed. In Plymouth and Connecticut, where the association between church-membership and citizenship was not by law made definite and indispensable, there was less action of the government upon church affairs. A few particulars may be mentioned of the manner of conducting public worship. It took place in what was called the meeting-house,” where assemblies for transacting the town's business and for other purposes were also held. In most of the congregations — bells being obtained but slowly — the assembly was summoned by beat of drum.” At the religious service,
* It is curious to see in the “Body of Liberties” (Article 95, “Of the Liberties the Lord Jesus hath given to the Churches") how, in the mind of the author, the original doctrines of Independency were struggling with considerations of the necessity which in Massachusetts was considered to
have grown up for a control of the whole Church over the churches.
* “There is no just ground from Scripture to apply such a trope as church to a house for a public assembly.” (Mather, Ratio Disciplinae, 5.)
* Wonder-Working Providence, &c., 103.