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calling as conservators of whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report. Whatever may have been the need of social reform," in one department of morality and another, a hundred years ago, we may challenge the world to show anywhere else, at that time, a people equally numerous, whose moral sentiments and moral habits were nearer to the Christian ideal, than were those habits and sentiments which the people of Connecticut had learned under the influence of Congregational churches. We trust that in some things we are better than they were. Oh, that our descendants, a hundred years hence, may be in all things as much better than we are !
P. S. On page 161, the difference between Puritanism and Congregationalism is adverted to. In illustration of that difference, see “Genesis of the New England Churches," chapters v and vii. The allusion, on page 164, to “the Martyrs under Queen Elizabeth,” is explained in chapters viii and ix of the same work.
DELIVERED AT NEW HAVEN, NOV. 15, 1876.
GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES
BY REV. MYRON N. MORRIS.
At a meeting of the General Conference at Norwich, Nov. 9, 1875, the Standing Committee recommended, in relation to the national Centennial, among other things,
“That at the General Conference of 1876, two historical discourses be delivered, on successive evenings, referring, in part at least, to the relations of the Congregational Churches of Connecticut to the civil government, and to popular education and social reforms. One of these discourses to cover the period preceding the Declaration of Independence ; the other, the period subsequent to that event;—and that the appointments for these services be made by ballot during the meeting of this Conference.”
In accordance with this recommendation, Rev. Leonard Bacon, D.D., was chosen to deliver the first of the centennial discourses, and Rev. Myron N. Morris to deliver the second.
The Ecclesiastical system, and the system of civil government which our fathers adopted, were the natural outgrowth of the deep sentiments of their hearts. They thoroughly believed that God was the supreme Ruler of men, that he was the source of all rightful authority among men, and that civil government, ordained of him, derived its just powers from his sanction.
They believed that every individual was personally responsible to God, and consequently had an inalienable right to worship and serve him according to his own convictions of duty.
They held that in the formation of churches, the conferring of good upon individuals was sought, and not upon the organizations themselves as an end, and that all church authority was vested in the brotherhood, to be exercised, with their consent, by the officers appointed by themselves.
They recognized also, in a general way, the universal brotherhood of man, the fact that Christ died for all men, and commanded his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
In the application of these principles, they were influenced more or less by the ideas that prevailed in the age in which they lived.
Our fathers, holding such ideas, naturally adopted a civil government that was in accordance with them. So that their ecclesiastical and their civil polity, having taken form from the same ideas, were closely related to each other, almost blended in their design and sphere of action. The ministers were regarded as sustaining a quasi official relation to the divinely sanctioned government, and the civil rulers, knowing that religion was essential to the welfare of society, considered it their proper function to 'exercise a care over the churches. The civil authority convened councils to settle difficulties in the churches, and the assembled ministers consulted and gave counsel as to the best methods of managing the affairs of state.
One hundred years ago, most of the people of Connecticut were Congregationalists, and this was the leading denomination in the country. In 1774, the inhabitants belonging to the Colony were 198,010, of whom 6,562 were colored. Deducting 1,922 living in Westmoreland, Penn., then claimed as belonging to Connecticut, we have 196,088 within the present limits of the State. There were one hundred and eighty-eight Congregational churches, not including the Separate, or Strict Congregational churches. According to an estimate made in 1774, by the Rev. Elizur Goodrich of Durham, about one to thirteen in the colony were Episcopalians. There were a few Baptist churches, but the first Methodist church was not formed till 1789.
In those days, more exclusively than now, the meetinghouse was the center of intellectual culture and general information. In all the country there was not a single daily newspaper, and but few weeklies, and not more than seventyfive post-offices. By a recent mail arrangement (made in 1774) a Bostonian could write to Philadelphia and receive an answer in three weeks, the year round, whereas formerly, in winter, it had required six weeks. In the scarcity of books and periodical literature, and the absence of scientific and literary lectures, the people gathered at the sanctuary, to look upon each other's faces, talk over important matters, and to be instructed in things pertaining to this life, and that which is to come, by the minister, who, almost without exception, was a man of liberal culture, wide intelligence, and high authority in all matters of opinion and practice.
In the struggle for independence, therefore, in which the colonies were then engaged, the Congregational ministers of Connecticut were prominent. With them it was a matter of more than patriotic interest,-it was a sacred cause. The grand object for which hardships, and perils, and losses had been endured in settling these shores and maintaining the settlements – the establishment of civil and religious liberty, the setting up of the kingdom of Christ in this land, was at stake.
See then, in 1765, when the people of Connecticut seemed too inattentive to the dangers which were likely to follow the Stamp Act, and the magistrates were almost inclined to yield obedience, the Rev. Stephen Johnson of Lyme, publishing vigorous essays to arouse them to a sense of their danger. Gordon says: “The Congregational ministers saw further into the designs of the British Administration, and by their publications and conversations increased and strengthened the opposition. See the Rev. Levi Hart of Preston, a man full of the spirit of missions in that early period as well as of patriotism, in 1774, preaching “ on liberty to the Corporation of Freemen in Farmington," taking occasion also to strike a blow at the African slave-trade. And the same year, the Rev. Ebenezer Baldwin of Danbury, also full of missionary zeal, publishing an address to arouse the people in the western part of the Colony, and preaching on occasions to the same end. See the Rev. Jeremiah Day of New Preston relinquishing a part of his small salary, “ being willing," as he says, “to contribute my proportion towards the public expenses, and to encourage the glorious cause in which we are engaged." Hear the Rev. Elizur Goodrich of Durham, with impassioned eloquence, urging the sacrifice of property and life as a most imperative religious duty. And the Rev. Judah Champion of Litchfield, in his Election sermon, May, 1776, from Gal. 5:1–“Methinks we may this day well-nigh see the ghosts of our departed progenitors; and hear those blessed worthies, in solemn accents, through the vast of heaven, addressing us, saying, 'Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free. At the inestimable price of his blood, the glorious Redeemer purchased these blessings for his people. Through rivers of blood, and great tribulation, we have been made the instruments of handing these down to you.
Nor can you wantonly throw them away without incurring Jehovah's most tremendous indignation and curse. God, angels, and saints in glory all looking on.
Trust in God, and firmly defy every danger. Let the blood of Christ animate you.
Heaven demands your most vigorous exertions."
Such was the spirit of the Congregational ministers throughout the Colony. Pastors in large numbers went into the army and served as chaplains, or in other capacities, for longer or shorter periods.
And the people were ready to respond. From long practice in the war with the French and Indians, they had become very efficient in military service. In securing the independence of the colonies, Connecticut did her full share. She furnished 31,959 regular soldiers, nearly one-sixth of the