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the following standing rule of the Chapel-street Church, which was adopted at his instance.
“This church does not recognize any ecclesiastical court, except a particular church, as of Divine appointment. When our Savior gives the law in the case of private offences, he says relative to an offending brother, “but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to thee as a heathen man and a publican.' As Christ has not commanded or authorized any appeal to a higher court in this case, and as he has mentioned no such court, this church considers all such courts to be of human appointment, and their acts not binding on the conscience of any Christian ; yet, as advisory bodies, they may be, and are in many cases useful.”
A prominent minister in the eastern part of the State, wrote to Mr. Dwight desiring particular information about the nature and ends of the Conference. The censorious tone of the letter indicates the deep prejudice against the Conference, and against Mr. Dwight as one of its leading advocates, which existed in the minds of those who were misinformed upon the subject. The reply of Mr. Dwight is a satisfactory vindication of the Conference and himself. There can be no impropriety in publishing this correspondence for the sake of acquainting the reader with the entire subject, especially as the name of the clergyman referred to will be withheld.
, May 21, 1828. Dear Sir, I take the liberty to address a few lines to you, as you are at least acquainted with the Church Conference in your region, if not the prime mover of the engine. We have heard much of it here, and many are anxious to know its character. I know not whether it is compatible with your principles to have communication with any of the clergy on this subject, but if it be not deemed inconsistent, it would be gratifying to me and to my church and people, to understand the terms of your union. What do you enjoin upon any church as pre-requisites to the favor of a visitation? What is the established and indispensable order of exercises ? and in what form and degree do you hold the churches in your connection subject to your discipline and control ? Is a church once visited considered permanently attached to the Conference? What rules have you for the government of the Conference, or haz'e you no system of regulations? Is a church allowed to secede, or what is the penalty of secession? What is the present extent of the Conference, and what are to be its limits, or may it extend indefinitely? How often are meetings held, and in what order of place and time? Are delegates, and how many from each church, expected and required to attend every meeting? Is there any established rule or order as to the assignment of parts to the delegates at the successive meetings? If public admonitions or charges are given, how are the persons to perform these duties chosen ?
These are points, Sir, of great interest with us in this place, and on which I hope you will have the goodness to give us early satisfaction. We wish to be instructed in our duty, and I trust you would not have us act blindly. If you will have the goodness to give a full and open answer to these inquiries, and state whatever else pertains to the Conference important to be known, you will confer a special favor on your obedient servant.
P. S. If you would enjoin as a preliminary to union, that the church should as such take a public stand on the side of temperance, make the sale of ardent spirits by their members disciplinable, and pledge themselves individually to entire abstinence from spirituous liquors, and to banish them from their houses, we might feel ourselves drawn by additional motives to approve and join you.
I will now add one or two more queries, and beg explicit answers. What is your mode of communicating with distant churches, or have you any appointed organ of communication? In what manner are they expected to hold communication with you, or to make known their wishes to unite with you ? : Is it requisite, and do you require evidence that their pastors concur with them? Or is it deemed sufficient and agreeable to your scheme, that the churches proceed without the concurrence of their pastors, and in
dependently of them and without their knowledge, or without consultation with them, or in opposition to their known views and wishes ?
New HAVEN, May 26, 1828. Dear Sir-Your letter of May 21, has been received. I read it over two or three times before I could make up my mind what was the intention of the writer. When I cast my eye on such passages as these ; " is it compatible with your principles to have communication with any of the clergy on this subject;" “in what form and degree, do you hold the churches in your connection, subject to your discipline and control ;" “is a church allowed to secede, or what is the penalty of secession,” &c., &c., I was at a loss, Sir, whether you intended to treat me with the civility customary in the intercourse of gentlemen, with Christian courteousness, or with sarcasm and rebuke. But when I recollected the long, and intimate, and affectionate intercourse between my father's family, and your father's, I concluded that whatever appearance of asperity was found in the letter, it could not arise from any thing which I had said or done, and must therefore have been owing to some extraneous cause. With this understanding, I proceed to reply to the letter, and I shall try to give " explicit" answers to the inquiries. • Your first remark is, “ I take the liberty to address a few lines to you, as you are at least acquainted
with the church Conference, in your region, if not the prime mover of the engine.” I am somewhat “acquainted with the church Conference,” but I am not the “prime mover of the engine.” If I am rightly informed, the church Conference as constituted in the western and northern district of this state, originated in Berkshire county, in 1826. I believe in the summer of that year, visits were invited, and actually made, to twenty-one out of twenty-two churches in that county, and revivals of religion commenced and spread in twenty of those churches, the Holy Spirit blessing the labors of Christians, and converting the souls of about two thousand persons. When the visits were completed in that county, the brethren in the towns bordering on the north line of Litchfield county agreed among themselves to hold a Conference in one of the towns nearest to them in Connecticut. That meeting was held ; the brethren waked up and were animated to establish the Conference among themselves. It soon became so large and was extended to so many churches, that it was divided into two, the eastern and western. The eastern continued a few months and expired, in consequence, as is believed, of a want of firmness in the brethren to resist alterations in the original constitution of the meetings. The western has gone on, blessing and being blessed, until most of the churches in Litchfield and Fairfield counties, have been visited, and all in the western district of New Haven county,