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whole population,* and expended over twenty millions of dollars, not including what was paid by towns and individuals; of which, however, the general government refunded something less than two and a half millions. No colony was more influential in the general government than Connecticut, and none furnished an executive officer more relied on by Washington in great emergencies than her own governor, Jonathan Trumbull.
Such, in the early years of our national existence, was the practical relation of the Congregational ministers and churches of Connecticut to the civil government.
These churches constituted the "standing order" in the State, were recognized and supported by law, and their influence in civil affairs was all-controlling.
Towards the close of the century, when churches of other denominations began to multiply, and in the low state of religion, infidelity and irreligion became more bold and widespread, there arose a strong opposition to the dominant party. The feeling against the Congregational ministers was bitter. It was claimed that they designated the men to fill the offices, that those outside of the standing order were excluded from office, and that even before the courts they had not an equal chance for justice. The controversy waxed more and more fierce, until the different interests in the opposition became united in what was called the Toleration Party, which, in 1817, carried the election. The next year a constitution was adopted, which placed all the churches alike upon the voluntary principle for support.
* This does not include a large number in the service who remained at home to defend our own towns.
“The male population of the Colony, in 1775, from sixteen to fifty years of age, were subject to military duty, and may be estimated, from a careful examination of the census of 1774, to amount to about twenty-six thousand persons. Of these there were nearly one thousand beyond the Delaware, and near two thousand disaffected persons, so that the whole military force in the compact settled part of the colony, that could be relied on for its defense, did not much exceed twenty-three thousand men.” (Connecticut in the War of the Revolution, by Royal R. Hinman, p. 12.)
Can it be possible that Connecticut furnished for the war a greater number than all the male inhabitants from sixteen to fifty years of age ?
This was lamented by many as destructive of the very foundations of religion, and as opening wide the flood-gates of iniquity. Dr. Lyman Beecher afterwards said, “The injury done to the cause of Christ, as we then supposed, was irreparable. For several days I suffered what no tongue can tell for the best thing that ever happened to the State of Connecticut. It cut the churches loose from dependence on State support. It threw them wholly on their own resources and on God.” The prosperity of the churches and their power for good have been vastly increased.
The influence of the Congregational churches, as of those of other denominations, on the civil government is now indirect. They teach what they believe to be the whole range of Christian duty. They endeavor to inspire men with a sense of justice, reverence for law, a regard for the rights of individuals, and a feeling of responsibility to God for all human actions, and to lead them to purity of heart and life in the sight of God. They aim to secure a right government by making the people right.
And if, under the doctrine of equal political rights and universal suffrage, Roman Catholics, Pagans, Mohammedans, Jews, and Infidels, should come to be a majority, there would still be the mighty Christian influence of these churches to uphold the right. And any political demagogue who should desire to carry his selfish ends by appeals to the ignorance or passions, or prejudices of the people, or by any corrupt methods, would have little success among such people as are trained under the influence of the Congregational churches of Connecticut.
Whether our civil government is, or ought to be a Christian government in form or not, the influence of the churches ought to make it the government of a Christian people.
To provide for the education of the children has ever been regarded by our churches as of prime importance. To secure the safety of our free institutions, it is recognized as the duty of the State to see that all the children are sufficiently educated to enable them to act as intelligent citizens. Precisely how far the State should carry this education is still an open question. And whether, with such varied religious sentiments among the people, it should attempt more than a strictly secular education, is one of the difficult problems yet to be solved. But a high degree of moral culture, and not unfavorable to religion, may be secured in purely secular schools.
Wherever Congregational churches have been planted and have taken root, there public schools have never failed to spring up and flourish. Sectarian schools for primary education have not been in favor with the people of our congregations.
But the influence of our churches in the line of popular education is first and most powerfully felt in our Christian homes. Here, in the tender care and sympathy and prayers of a mother's love, in the firm but gentle guidance of a father's hand, in the daily worship, in the commingling of joys and sorrows, in the examples of wisdom and patience, and the needed counsels and self-denials of life, in an atmosphere allpervading and high-charged with love and intelligence, work silently and ceaselessly those powerful forces that bring out the blessed results of Christian nurture. In our Christian families, in connection with our schools and churches, are formed those traits which characterize the people of New England, and especially of Connecticut, wherever they go. The world will never know how much it owes to the New England mothers for training the noble men and women who have been benefactors to the race.
Turning now to the spiritual condition of the churches, we find that from the time of the great revival, about 1740, to near the end of the century, there was a continual decline. For many years the people were occupied with the burdens and vexations of the French and Indian war. Soon after commenced the troubles with England which led to the Revolution, and it was nearly eighteen years before peace was declared. During all this period little could be thought of but the political agitations and the terrible scenes and fearful uncertainties of the protracted conflict. The churches and all the people felt the demoralizing effects of the war, for, however necessary or just, war is always demoralizing. French infidelity became fashionable, especially among people of culture and influence. Intemperance, licentiousness, and profanity, were common, and the people, harassed by debts and heavy taxation, and eager to avail themselves of the commercial advantages that followed the war, gave little heed to the interests of the soul.
Meanwhile, death had made inroads upon the churches, until there were but few members, and these mostly advanced
Another prominent cause of the religious decline was the practice of receiving members upon the half-way covenant. The effect of this was to bring into the churches numbers who would rest contented in that half-way attitude, short of the renewal of their hearts by the Holy Spirit. A further effect was to lower the standard of admission, so that whether it was believed that unrenewed persons might become members of the church, and come to the communion as a converting ordinance, or not, many churches fell into the loose practice of receiving members without inquiry respecting their religious experience. Some pastors deemed such inquiry improper. Thus it happened that of the few aged members of the churches, a portion, probably, knew nothing of a saving change. And possibly some of the ministers were in the same condition. Is it strange that in such circumstances spiritual religion should almost die out ?
And yet it did not die out. During all that dark period, there was probably not a spot on earth where spiritual religion was more alive than in the Congregational churches of Connecticut.
The theological controversies in these churches during the period we are considering, deserve notice here. And I refer to them, not to give even an outline of the discussions, but as illustrating, first, the educational effect of such discussions, awakening thought, and making theologians of all the people ; secondly, the fact that good men, equally intelligent and loyal to God and his truth, will inevitably differ in relation to some points of doctrine; and thirdly, the tendency in these good men to magnify the differences, and to denounce each other as teaching dangerous error, and therefore being dangerous men.
The religious indifference that prevailed in the early part of the last century, the general feeling that men could do nothing but use the means of grace and wait for God to convert them, demanded a fresh examination and re-statement of theological truth in connection with the principles of sound philosophy. Such examination and re-statement were made by Jonathan Edwards ; and thus arose what was called the Edwardean Theology, or New Divinity, or, as termed in after years, New England Theology. Some of the leading preachers of the New Divinity were President Edwards, Samuel Hopkins, Joseph Bellamy, Stephen West, John Smalley, Nathaniel Emmons, Samuel Spring, Levi Hart, Jonathan Edwards the younger, Nathan Strong, and Timothy Dwight, all, except Dr. Spring, Connecticut men, either by birth or by having exercised some portion of their ministry in the State. Hopkins wrought out a system of divinity, introducing some peculiarities of his own. Emmons was an advocate of the “Exercise Scheme," in opposition to Asa Burton, also raised up in Connecticut, a leading advocate of the "Taste Scheme."
The New Divinity men did not generally adopt all the peculiarities of Hopkins or Emmons, yet they were often indiscriminately called Hopkinsians. They were Calvinistic in doctrine, earnest men, friends of revivals, and characterized by the distinctness and pungency of their preaching, making prominent the Divine sovereignty, and the free-agency of sinful man, and pressing men with the duty of immediate repentance; or, as some of them preferred to put it, submission to God. These were the men who stood firmly for spiritual religion, --for the life of Christ in the soul which is born only of the Holy Spirit, in distinction from all kinds of outward observances. Their preaching prepared the way for the revivals that commenced near the close of the century.
As to the number of such ministers, and the prevalence of