« PreviousContinue »
policy in the reunited church, and against a censorship of "all reasonable liberty in the statement of views and the interpretation of the standards not impairing the integrity of the Calvinistic system," and especially against a disturbance of the ecclesiastical status of any particular individual who had retained a good standing in the New School branch of the church, notwithstanding his peculiarities in minor articles of faith, and his philosophy of doctrines and facts. The sensitiveness on this subject grew out of the intemperateness of speech, amounting to threats, which had been indulged in here and there by Old School brethren disaffected towards the Reunion, and not from zeal for the views in question, or even concurrence in them, and still less because they were presumed to prevail in the New School body. The speeches were simply a notice in advance that the tolerance of immaterial diversities was expected and would be claimed, and that acceptable members of either branch of the church must hold an unquestioned place in the two combined.
All who desired to speak having been satisfied, the voting in the New School Assembly was preceded by silent prayer, and these were deeply impressive moments. The thronged house was motionless and still, as if transfixed and hushed in looking to God. The question was then taken by rising, and every Commissioner stood up in the affirmative! Nothing like tumultuousness succeeded, nor was there the faintest applause, and yet the joy was rapturous. Thanksgiving and praise were the universal impulse, and the venerable Dr. Thomas H. Skinner most fittingly led in this act. A hymn was then sung. With thrilling force the
grand old words of that inspiring song rolled upward from that vast Assembly of strong, earnest, resolute Christian men, standing there in a solid body—
"Let Zion and her sons rejoice,
Behold the promised hour;
Her God hath heard her mourning voice,
And comes to exalt his power.
"The Lord will raise Jerusalem,
"This shall be known when we are dead,
That nations yet unborn may read,
The Assemblies met at Pittsburg with a very dif ferent spirit from what prevailed at their opening in New York. All was exhilaration now. The Presbyteries, it was known, had affirmed the overture submitted to them, and after the reception and announcement of their answers, the proclamation of the Reunion was to be made; and as the Commissioners exchanged greetings their faces beamed with smiles, and they grasped hands closely, and shook them vigorously, and their voices rang out cheerily. On calling the roll in the New School Assembly, the gayety of the hour was subdued by the disappearance from it, through death, of the names of one minister and two elders: the Rev. Frederick R. Gallaher, D.D., of the Presbytery of Coldwater, H. G. Torbett, M.D., of the Presbytery of Utica, and Loring Danforth, of the Presbytery of Buffalo. Reports of Committees on Amusements, on the Bible in Schools, and on State Appropriations to Sectarian Schools,
on the Report of the Delegate the preceding year to the General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and of the Free Church of Scotland, and on the relations of the General Assembly to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, were adopted by the New School body, and few other matters were disposed of there. The answers of the Presbyteries to the overture sent down to them were examined and declared and reported to the other Assembly, and its report of the answers of its Presbyteries was received, and thereupon the Assembly was dissolved.
A sentiment of anxiety and sadness predominated in the act which finally merged the two bodies into each other. The attention was naturally turned to previous relationships that had been greatly enjoyed, and which, if not broken up, were to be henceforward modified. If old associates were to be retained, many new ones were to be introduced into the company, and the character of the intercourse held might be changed. There was the risk, too, attending all decisive deeds, however commended and approved. The die was cast, and while great good was confidently expected, evil might ensue. I am best informed, of course, about the New School brethren. They could hardly be more consentaneous and affectionate. Leaderships, parties, cliques, animosities, strifes, rivalries, jealousies, envies, were unknown among them. There were frequent differences of opinion and earnest discussions, but no disputes and dividing lines. Their method of conducting ecclesiastical proceedings was exceedingly fraternal. They were family conferences rather than legislative and judicial
assemblies. Superior wisdom exerted superior influence, but no lording it appeared, and voting was a means of ascertaining the judgment and wish of a body, and not the triumph or defeat of contestants. The least possible appearance of authority was exhibited. An attachment thus so bound them together, and a sympathy thus so identified them, that it is not strange that they took the step with moistened eye and trembling limb, which, though it did not part them, added associates to them that might jeopard their fellowship. This foreboding was quickly composed. In private conferences, in committees, in ecclesiastical meetings, there has been no consciousness on either side of any change in the character of former association and intercourse. Every individual has felt perfectly at home in his new relationships. None, indeed, have seemed aware that they were new in the least. If the numbers connected with them have increased, it is not perceived from an abatement of familiarity and freedom.
The Jubilee Convention that followed the dissolution of the Assemblies gave the key-note to the reunited church, and started it on its career. Jubilation and congratulation and thanksgiving were irrepressible, but the sense of duty and its pressure superabounded. Every speaker was burthened by the work to be per formed, and intent on securing faithfulness and effi ciency, and the immense audience, packed into a single body, lifted its shoulders and stretched out its arms to undertake it. "We must dare and do," the one soul throbbed. A million of dollars as a thank-offering will not suffice. It shall be five millions, at least. Enthusiasm proposed the sum to be presented, but the
resolute purpose to raise it seconded the motion and adopted it. Thus setting out with liberality, and committed to enterprise, the reunited church must be destined to large prosperity and rapid and extensive progress. Let "achievement" be its motto, with benevolence as its spirit, and beneficence as its work.