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when in doing this they indulged a spirit of triumph over the true worship, their sin was the greater, because the very work in which they were employed gave them better views of the greatness and moral excellence of that God whom they still neglected. Hence their own punishment was the more awful. When the Assyrians besieged Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah, they brought no more distress and suffering upon the city than had been deserved; but when in their profane insolence they began to defy Jehovah himself, of whom their very invasion of Judea gave them greater knowledge, the destroying angel was sent forth into their camp, and the monarch himself was hurried away to his ignominious and miserable death.

Not to dwell too long on a principle which no intelligent reader of the Bible will call in question, we cite but one more instance in its confirmation. By the prophet Zephaniah, the Lord says: “I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people. Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah. This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of Hosts."

For a long succession of years, Moab and Ammon had enjoyed many favorable opportunities for gaining the knowledge of the true religion. They had been familiar with the history of God's people, and the remarkable manifestations of the divine perfections through them. When, therefore, they set themselves against the Israelites and their worship, the cup of their iniquity was full, and the terrible wrath of the Lord was sent forth against them. Their punishment was proportioned to the increased light against which they sinned. The Lord had already made himself known by the judgments which he executed among them; and now he was about to magnify himself still more, by overwhelming vengeance poured upon them, because they had not properly regarded his previous corrections.

The accumulation of judgments, and the more aggravated forms in which they were continually appearing, were constantly making the great Jehovah known in the earth. More and more was the prophecy extending, “ The Lord will be terrible unto them, for he will famish all the gods of the earth, and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen."


It is quite natural, that persons so peculiarly situated as ministers, - having common cares, troubles, sorrows, joys, labors, and difficulties, with which none but themselves can have an experimental acquaintance, – should associate themselves for the purposes of mutual consultation, counsel, improvement, and encouragement. Though they may disclaim all power over churches, or over individuals not of their own body, yet, like all other voluntary associations, the common law allows them to decide what shall be the terms of membership, and what persons shall be admitted under those terms.

So long ago as 1576, such stated meetings were held, chiefly for study of the Scriptures, by zealous ministers belonging to the Church of England. As these associations had a strong relish of Puritanism, though at that time there were almost no dissenters, Queen Elizabeth resolved to suppress them. The pious Grindal, archbishop of Canterbury, in a letter to her majesty, warmly vindicated their usefulness. For this she harshly rebuked him; and the “ Prophesyings," as they were termed, were put down in 1577. Under Cromwell, associations of Congregational ministers were formed in most of the counties, and flourished greatly till the restoration of the Stewarts. They were then mostly discontinued, until the revolution in 1688, when they again recovered their vigor. During the melancholy decline of religion in England, in the next century, these associations died away. But within thirty or forty years, they have been resumed with great energy, and with the happiest effects on the interests of religion. They have ever been most active and useful, when piety has been most efficient and prosperous.

In New England such associations are almost as ancient as the country itself. The first was formed by the ministers of Boston and vicinity in 1635; and met, once in two weeks, at the houses of the members in succession. The usual business was the discussion of some important question in theology. It appears by Governor Winthrop's Journal, that Roger Williams and Mr. Skelton, then ministers at Salem, regarded the measure with jealousy, lest it might become an entering wedge for Presbyterianism, and so put in peril the liberties of the churches. The VOL. III.


experience of more than two centuries has proved that these fears were groundless. The Associations of New England, both local and general, have been highly useful and influential; and the independence of the churches is greater than it was of old. In Salem itself, an association " for mutual help in discharging ministerial duties,” was organized in the year 1716.

Through the kindness of a friend, an ardent and liberal antiquarian, we are enabled to give the following document, which has never before appeared in print.

“At Charleston, in N. E., Oct. 13, 1690. It is Agreed by us, whose names are underwritten, that we do Associate ourselves for the promoting of the Gospel, and our mutual Assistance and furtherance in that great work. In order thereunto,

“1st. That we meet Constantly at the College in Cambridge, on a Monday, at nine or 10 of the clock in the morning, once in six weeks, or oftener if need shall be.

“ 2d. That in guch meetings one shall be chosen Moderator pro tempore, for the better order and decency of the proceedings, which Moderator is to be chosen at the end of every meeting.

“ 3d. That the Moderator's work be, 1. To end the meeting wherein he is chosen, and to begin the next, with prayer. 2d. To propose matters to be debated, and receive the suffrages of the Brethren. 3d. To receive, by Consent of the Brethren, the subscriptions of such as shall joyne with us, and to keep all Papers belonging to the Association. 4. To give and receive notices, and appoint meetings upon Emergent occasions.

4th. That we shall submit to the counsels, reproofs, and censures of the Brethren so Associated and assembled, in all things in the Lord. (Eph. 5: 21.)

5th. That no one of us shall relinquish this Association, nor forsake the Appointed meetings, without giving sufficient Reason for the same.

“ 6th. That our work in the said meeting shall be, 1st. To debate any matter relating to ourselves. 2d. To hear and consider any Cases which shall be proposed to us from Churches or Private persons. 3d. To answer any Letters directed to us from any other Associations or Persons. 4th. To discourse of any Question proposed at the former meeting.”

This document bears the signatures of Charles Morton, James Allen, Michael Wigglesworth, Joshua Moody, Samuel Willard,

John Bailey, Nathaniel Gookin, Cotton Mather, Nehemiah Walter. Those who are familiar with the early ecclesiastical history of New England will recognize these as the names of those who were “men of mark;” and who, in this associate capacity, were likely to leave their mark” very distinctly upon the opinions of their time. A curious evidence of this now lies before us in a small volume, entitled “Thirty Important Cases, Resolved with Evidence of Scripture and Reason. [Mostly,] By several Pastors of Adjacent Churches, meeting in Cambridge, New England. [With some other memorable matters.] Now Published for Gen. eral Benefit. Boston in New England. Printed by Bartholomew Green, and John Allen. Sold at the Book-sellers Shops. 1699.”

This rare work opens with an “ Advertisement,” by Cotton Mather, which, like every thing from his pen, is replete with information. He tells us, that the number of members in the Association was then seventeen ; that the meetings were held in the library of Harvard College, on the first Monday of every month, except the three winter months ; that numerous cases of discipline or of conscience were, from all parts of the country, referred to them for advice; and that, as many times the same question was submitted to them for their opinion, by different churches or persons, it was thought best to make public this selection from their most important recorded determinations, together with the reasons of them. “Behold," he says, “ the methods observed by an Association of ministers, who, without assuming the least authority unto themselves over any others in the world, have been willing this way, as well to strengthen them. selves in the great work of glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, as with the best of their studies to oblige all others that may see cause to make use thereof." He also

says :

“ While our famous Hooker lived, the meetings of pastors in their several vicinities, were maintained and cherished in the colony of Connecticut, and managed with no little advantage to all the colony.” One of Mr. Hooker's last and emphatic sayings was: “We must agree upon constant meetings of ministers."

Among the questions briefly discussed, in this little volume of Reports, were these : “Whether the Church Covenant used in the Churches of New England, be of divine institution ?” -- Affirmed. “ Whether to drink healths be an usage lawful for a Christian ?” - Negatived. “Whether instrumental music may be used by the Churches of Christ in his public worship and service ?" -Negatived. “ Whether it be lawful for a man to marry his wife's own sister ? ” — Negatived. “Whether, and how far, the discipline

” of our Lord in our Churches, is to be extended unto the children therein baptized ?” “What loan of money upon usury may be

? practised?” On a proposition “concerning the power of elders," the doctrine of the Platform is maintained, namely, that the elders have a negative on the votes of the brethren ; though the elders, in matters relating to the duties of the fraternity, such as elections, admissions, and censures, can do nothing without the concurrence of the lay brethren.*

These items may serve as a small contribution toward the history of our ministerial associations. The time draws nigh when such histories will be written. Indeed some, as we learn, are already in preparation for the press. The memorials of these bodies, and of the learned and pious members who composed them, must have much to interest the historical reader. It is, beyond computation, how much of influence has been wielded by these quiet and unobtrusive assemblages; how much they have helped to raise the standard of ministerial efficiency and usefulness; and how much they have subserved the interests of truth, piety, and benevolence, in our free and prosperous churches.

OBSERVATIONS ON MEN, BOOKS, AND THINGS CREEDS RETURNING INTO FASHION. The July number of the Christian Examiner contains the annual Address read, last May, before the Conference of Unitarian Ministers in Boston. This Address was delivered by Rev. Dr. Gannett, and relates to the nature and importance of theology. It contains many matters on which, if we touched them at all, we should be obliged to make some severe strictures. But, for the present, we confine ourselves to the most prominent feature of the Address, which affords us much satisfaction as indicating a change for the better among our Unitarian neighbors. It is well known, that, for a long time, they have been bitterly opposed to creeds in every shape and form; and have used the whole of their literary and religious influence to bring them into odium and contempt. The results of this opposition, however, have been chiefly confined to themselves; and are mostly seen in that laxity of belief as to the

Most of these matters are incorporated by Mather into the Fifth Book of his Magnalia.

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