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and formed another, and, as they claimed, the only true Assembly. This was but the commencement of the division. A process of separation and reconstruction, necessary to some extent in both schools, at once began, which was not completed throughout the two for several years. Most of the component parts of the former church took up their positions definitely and finally, at once, on this side or that; but some small portions remained for a while undecided; while a few made a decision at first to which they did not ultimately adhere. The whole process, though not carried through without much heat and friction, produced less of either than might have been anticipated. Appeals to the civil courts for the settlement of church disputes were not of very frequent occurrence. Here, a synod, presbytery, or congregation, without division or serious difference of opinion, declared for the Old School or the New; there, such a declaration was submitted to by some persons under protest. Minorities in many cases seceded from majorities, and frequently claimed the true succession, yet in general without open strife. Ecclesiastical records were usually retained by the bodies whose adherents happened to have them in hand. Legal right, real or imagined, often assumed at first an attitude of defiance, yet in the end yielded to the spirit of Christian forbearance. As usual in such circumstances, adherence to one side or the other was not always determined by a full, or even predominant, approval of the views or measures by that side adopted.
The Old School have always claimed to have made full provision, in 1837 and 1838, for the proper read
justment of the ecclesiastical relations of all sound churches, ministers, and judicatories involved in the disowning acts; and, by several measures adopted in the latter year and the next, they provided further for the minorities left in synods, presbyteries, and congre gations, in the church at large, by the withdrawment of the New School. Before any suit at law had been commenced, they recommended, in regard to property questions, "great liberality and generosity" on the part of all their adherents. And after the main suit had resulted in their favor, they more than intimated their readiness to stand by the terms, as to temporal interests, which had been proposed and both parties had approved in their negotiations for an amicable division.
The exact relative strength of the two, when they separated, cannot be easily determined. By the statis tical tables of 1837, the whole number of ministers in the yet united church was twenty-one hundred and forty, of congregations twenty-eight hundred and sixtyfive. Several years elapsed before all these ministers and congregations determined definitely their respective positions, and the numbers of the two sides could be clearly ascertained. Moreover, the New School, in 1840, commenced the experiment of a triennial Assembly, their supreme judicatory not meeting again till 1843. At the latter date, they reported twelve hundred and sixty-three ministers, and fourteen hundred and ninety-six congregations; the Old School, fourteen hundred and thirty-four of the one, two thou sand and ninety-two of the other. By comparing these numbers, and allowing for the natural increase of both
bodies in six years, we shall perhaps come nearer to their relative strength at the separation than we can in any other way.
It is an interesting fact, that the years of most earnest controversy, pending the division, were years of special religious prosperity in the Presbyterian Church. From 1829 to 1838, inclusive, the statistical reports exhibited an unusual number of additions upon profession, though the reports of 1836, 7, and 8 were less favorable than those preceding. And after the division, there was in this respect no appreciable falling off, in the Old School communion, from the exhibit of the years last mentioned.
The New School, to test their claim to the true succession, and their title to the funds and institutions of the Presbyterian Church, commenced a suit in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the state by which the Trustees of the General Assembly had been incorporated. Three other suits by commissioners from within the bounds of the disowned synods, who had been denied seats in the Assembly, were also instituted, to test in a different way the principles of the case. The one first mentioned, however, was the only one brought to trial, the decision therein being regarded as finally settling, so far at least as the courts of Pennsylvania were concerned, the whole controversy. This trial, involving as it did great interests, drawing together a number of the most distinguished men of the Presbyterian Church, and being conducted by eminent counsel on both sides, excited profound attention,' and was watched throughout its progress by many anxious minds all over the United States. Early in
March, 1839, it commenced before Judge Rogers and a jury at nisi prius. Most of the time during its continuance, the court-room was crowded by eager spectators and auditors. One after another called upon to testify, a number of them venerable clergymen, put aside "the Book," with Puritan conscientiousness, and swore with the uplifted hand, a form of oath particularly solemn and impressive. In the crowd the question was frequently asked, "What is the difference between the Old School and the New?" Perhaps a tipstaff would assume for the nonce the gravity of a theologian, and attempt to satisfy the inquirer. "The Old School hold that whatever is to be will be," he said, but broke down in trying to reverse the proposi tion plausibly. Under the judge's charge, sustaining the New School in every important point, the jury gave a verdict in their favor. From outside the bar, in the densely packed courtroom, rang forth a warm burst of applause, which the judge instantly and sternly suppressed.
A motion for a new trial was afterwards presented and argued, and on the eighth of May an anxious throng were again assembled to hear the decision. Chief Justice Gibson delivered the opinion of the court, Judge Rogers only dissenting. The judgment at nisi prius was entirely reversed, a new trial granted, and the whole case really settled in favor of the Old School.. In silence the crowd dispersed. Three years and some months later, the New School quietly discontinued the suit.
This triumph at law, and consequent retention of the general property of the church, have not uncommonly
been regarded as a signal advantage to the Old School, and a chief cause of their subsequent prosperity. They were beyond doubt gainers, in character and influence, by being declared thus judicially the true Presbyterian Church. But the funds secured were a mere trifle comparatively, not amounting to half a million of dollars, and not equalling the aggregate of missionary and other charitable contributions of the whole church for two years alone prior to the division. Moreover, they were the funds, mainly, of the Old School theological seminaries; and three seminaries, with their endowments, out of seven, the New School retained; as likewise, in all but a few cases, the property of their individual congregations. They had in fact agreed, in the Assembly of 1837, that an equitable division of the only general funds, to any part of which they could lay just claim, would give them less than fifteen thou sand dollars.
But advantages more important the Old School really enjoyed. The separation was not their act, and no effort to rend the body asunder gave them an impulse in any divergent course. They went on in the even way of the standards, to which, in fact, they were ac cused only of adhering with too much strictness. Their orthodoxy has been scarce questioned, however they may have been charged with putting undue restraints upon liberty. With them, much the greater part of the period of separation has been one of steady progress in the old Presbyterian orbit, with only the slightest perturbations. Though not quite all approving of the acts of 1837, they have been united, in an unusual degree, in doctrine, spirit, ecclesiastical policy, earnest effort to