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be contemplated. Why not dissolve the Assembly as well, since it contained the same elements? Why not rather take measures to eject the unsound and alien elements, carefully preserving such as were sound and constitutional? Why break up these large organiza tions, the conservators of large and widely extended interests, simply for having followed rules of action adopted for them by the General Assembly? So they reasoned. We say this, not to vindicate their position, but only to state it. The other side took a different view, and their arguments are on record. But these were theirs, and must be considered, if we would understand their action. They held the act of exclusion to be unconstitutional, and felt bound, not only in justice to their brethren, deprived, as they thought, of rights sacredly secured to them, but in justice also to the church itself, and to their own constitutional pledges, to make common cause with those brethren, and organize the General Assembly on what they deemed the only true principles. This they did; and by the subsequent course of events, particularly by the final decision of the court in Bank, found themselves, against their wishes and expectations, a separate body.
It has been a matter of surprise to many, that the New School party, immediately upon the disruption, should have exhibited so little strength and so great a lack of decision. Up to that time they had been a strong, compact, and steadily advancing party. They claimed to be the majority, and no doubt included in their ranks a large share of the aggressive activity of the church and a large proportion of the young men. In numbers, the two parties were nearly balanced, and
every year there was a sharp struggle for the ascendency in the General Assembly. But during seven years, from 1831 to 1837, inclusive, the New School held the majority in that body five times, and their rivals of the Old School only twice. It might naturally have been expected, that in case of a division, the advantage in respect to efficiency, organic life, and growth would have been on their side. Why the result was otherwise will be seen when we consider the obstacles.
Unquestionably the blow which severed them from the legally recognized Presbyterian church was to them a stunning blow. Its decisive character, partly because of its unexpected occurrence, they failed at first to understand; to use a modern military phrase, it quite demoralized them. It loosened all the bonds of their organic union. Their membership began at once to fly apart. Many who adhered to the body lost their interest in it. For many years they scarcely knew whom they could rely upon as permanently of their number. It crippled their resources. It separated them from their strongest institutions. It threw suspicion, not only on the soundness of their faith, -the alleged defects of which had been assigned as one of the chief motives of the acts of excision,- but the genuineness of their denominational standing. It even raised the question of their right to exist as an organized body. Indeed, scarcely had the disruption occurred, when the standard of another denomination was openly raised within their own camp, among those who had professed to be of them; and from the highest watch-tower of the New School citadel, as it then regarded itself, rang out the cry of revolt, "To your tents, O Israel."
The disadvantage was increased by the policy which the other party, awakened to new life and organic energy by the separation, saw fit to adopt in regard to them; the policy of "absorption," so called. In their view, the separation was final. Considered as an organized body, they did not know the New School; they did not suppose it could live. But its elements, of which a large part were still held in esteem by them, they desired to recover. Hence, immediately on the withdrawal of the New School, they adopted a resolution which operated, during the whole period which fol lowed, as a standing invitation to churches, ministers, presbyteries, and minorities of presbyteries, to disconnect themselves from the New School and become united with the Old School Assembly. Taken from their own point of view, this was an affectionate invitation to all sound Presbyterians, unhappily separated from the true Presbyterian fold, to return, with an assurance of welcome. Taken from that of the New School, it was an invitation and encouragement to unfaithfulness, disturbing and disintegrating their ranks, and so a source of irritation and distrust.
In the light of recent events over which we all rejoice and thank God, it will be held as an honor to the Christian spirit of the New School, though it delayed the consolidation of the body and the settlement of their denominational plans, that, for several years, amidst those troubled scenes, they did not give up the hope or effort to bring about a reunion of the church. In a convention held just before the disruption, they resolved, and sent the resolution to a convention of their brethren, "that we are ready to co-operate in any ef
forts for pacification that are constitutional, and which shall recognize the regular standing and secure the rights of the entire church." The day after the separ ation took place, their General Assembly resolved as follows: "That this body is willing to agree to any rea sonable measures for an amicable adjustment of the dif ficulties existing in the Presbyterian Church; and will receive and respectfully consider any propositions that may be made for that purpose." In 1839, they proposed a "plan of peaceable division," "designed only," as they say, "to secure our constitutional privileges as Presbyterians," while it relinquished to the other body "all the chartered rights, institutions, and funds of the Presbyterian Church." It was not till the year 1840, as the Assembly say, that they relinquished the idea of reunion, and, "coming reluctantly to the conclusion that union was impracticable, corrected their roll, and dropped from it the names of those brethren in deference to their feelings." One more proposition, though only for a mutual recognition of each other as bodies of Christian brethren, by communing together at the Lord's table, was made during the session of the two Assemblies, in the same city of Philadelphia, in 1846. None of these proposals were successful. No doubt they were all made, as the Assembly declare, "in good faith, and with the earnest desire and hope that they might be met in the spirit that prompted them." No doubt the one last named raised, in the Old School Assembly, an embarrassing question. Most of them would gladly have accepted the invitation, had they regarded it as expedient to do so. And they rejected it, although decisively, yet kindly. The result served to convince
the New School, of what perhaps it would have been better for them to have understood earlier, that, however desirable union might be on general grounds, the time had not come for them to be pressing proposals to that effect on the consideration of their brethren; and that the best thing they could do in existing circumstances, was to go about their separate work, and build up as best they might, their own particular section of the fortifications of Zion.
This independent action, necessary to their growth and vigor as a denomination, was still further checked, and that growth and vigor hindered, by the very unsectarian - we might say undenominational-spirit that pervaded the body. Many of them were New Eng land men, born and educated in another denominatiou ; and though, by conviction, they had heartily adopted the Presbyterian system, they did not regard their own section of the church as the only true church, and shrunk sensitively from even the appearance of proselytism. This was manifest to a considerable degree in their relations to the Old School, bitterly as they remembered the acts of excision; and still more as res pected the Congregationalists, among whom were the near relatives and fellow-students of many of them, for the sake of whose fellowship and co-operation they had incurred in their own denomination the evils of suspic ion and disruption. Some may ask here, Why, with these views, did they insist on keeping up their distinct organization? Why not rather abandon it, and allow its elements to fall off, on the one side and the other, to their natural affinities, the strong Presbyterians to the Old School, and those who had little objections to Con