Chapter V a

New Brunswick Presbytery’s Disregard of Acts of Synod

In order properly to understand the origin and causes of the schism which in 1741 divided the Presbyterian Church, it will be necessary briefly to recapitulate some of the facts recorded earlier in this history. It may be remembered, that in 1737 an act was passed by the Synod, which prohibited the members of one presbytery preaching to the congregations under the care of another presbytery, without a regular invitation. In the following year this rule was somewhat modified, and unanimously reenacted. It was not the design of this rule to prohibit itinerant preaching; a service which its advocates every year commissioned men to perform. It was intended to prevent the irregular intrusion of one minister or presbytery upon the acknowledged bounds of another. Under ordinary circumstances, such a rule would have excited no opposition. It is not surprising, therefore, that it was twice unanimously adopted. When, however, the revival had fairly begun, and a number of ministers had devoted themselves to preaching from place to place, they were unwilling to be trammelled by such rules, or to abstain from preaching in a particular congregation because “a graceless minister” or lukewarm presbytery might take offence. They urged that, under extraordinary circumstances, such rules should be laid aside.

A more serious difficulty arose from the passage of another act. In 1738, the Synod resolved that, in order to prevent the admission of uneducated men into the ministry, every candidate for the sacred office, before he was taken on trial, should be furnished with a diploma of graduation from some European or New England college, or with a certificate of competent scholarship from a commit­tee of the Synod. The same year the Presbytery of New Bruns­wick was formed. It met for the first time August 8, 1738, and on the same day application was made by Mr. John Rowland to be taken “on trial, in order to his being licensed to preach the gos­pel.” “The presbytery thereon entered on a serious consideration of the act of last Synod, appointing that young men should be first examined by a commission of Synod, and obtain a testimony of their approbation, before they are to be taken on trials by any presbytery belonging to the same ; and, after much reasoning on the case, the Presbytery came to this unanimous conclusion, viz.: That they were not, in point of conscience, restrained by said act from using the liberty and power which presbyteries have all along hitherto enjoyed; but that it was their duty to take the said Mr. Rowland upon trial, for which conclusion they conceive they have several weighty and sufficient reasons.” The Presbytery, accordingly, entered upon his examination, and assigned him the usual exercises to present at their next meeting. On the 7th of the following September, the Presbytery having sustained his examination, and heard him profess “the Westminster Confession of Faith, to be the confession of his faith,” granted him “free license and liberty to preach the gospel of Christ.”

The following year, 1739, when the records of the Presbytery of New Brunswick came to be reviewed by the Synod, that body declared the licensing of Mr. Rowland “to be very disorderly, and admonished the said Presbytery to avoid such divisive courses for the future; and determined not to admit the said Mr. Rowland to be a preacher of the gospel within our bounds, nor to encourage any of our people to accept him, until he submit to such examina­tions as were appointed by this Synod for those that have had a private education. This overture,” it is added, “was carried in the affirmative by a great majority.”

The Presbytery seem to have anticipated this result, as they came prepared with their “Apology for dissenting from two acts or new religious laws passed at the last session of the Synod.” This was a long argumentative paper, containing not merely the specific objections of its authors against the two acts in question, but a formal statement of their principles as to church government. They premise, therefore, 1. That there is a parity or equality of power among gospel ministers. 2. That a presbytery, or the smallest association of ministers, has power from Christ to ordain. 3. That consequently they have authority to judge of the qualifications of candidates for ordination. In the further exposi­tion of their sentiments, they state, 1. That presbyteries are bound to inquire into the fitness of candidates for the sacred office, and admit or refuse them according to their best judgment. 2. That they have power to deny church communion to such as by plain scriptural directions are unqualified for it. 3. In cases of con­science, or in cases regularly brought before them from particular congregations, they ought to give their deliberate judgment, with their best counsel and advice. 4. They have liberty to agree among themselves upon such things as appear to have a good ten­dency to advance religion, and to engage themselves voluntarily to the observance of these things, provided they do not encroach upon the liberties of the people, nor pretend to bind their dissenting members to observe their agreements, who may have a different view and apprehension of them. 5. That it is reasonable and useful that synods consisting of several presbyteries meet together, when matters may be brought by appeal or reference from particular presbyteries, in order to obtain the judgment and sentiments of a greater number upon them. And accordingly, it is no doubt their duty to take such cases under their consideration, and to give their best advice on them ; but we think that they should not proceed with any further authority, except in such cases wherein God has given particular obvious directions in his word, which are to be exactly followed; and even then they do no more than show from Scripture, what are the mind and direction of God in such cases, and declare their own resolution to act according thereto, as far as they are concerned.

The rule relating to itinerants, as it then stood, forbade any minister belonging to one presbytery to preach to a congregation belonging to another, if warned by a member of the latter presbytery that his preaching would be likely to cause division. This prohibition was to operate only until the presbytery to which the congregation belonged, could consider the case and give the itine­rant liberty to preach or not, as they saw fit. To this rule the authors of this apology objected, that it had no foundation in Scripture; that it was at variance with the command which re­quired ministers to be instant in season and out of season ; that it deprived ministers and people of privileges which Christ had given them ; that the exercise of the ministerial office might be suspended for a time by one man, and that not for any fault; that any minister by the aforesaid act is invested with a power to lord it over his brethren, and to inflict upon him the most grievous church censures, and that upon mere conjecture; and finally that it was in­consistent with the right which belonged to ruling elders to invite a regular member of another presbytery to preach among them one Sabbath on his travels. This remonstrance led to a modification of the rule, which was so altered as to direct that complaint should be made to the presbytery, in case any one thought the preaching of the stranger productive of evil, and that it should be left to the presbytery to decide whether he should continue to preach. In this form it passed unanimously. These brethren, however, were no better satisfied than before, and the next year the rule was repealed.

To the rule relating to the examination of candidates, they ob­jected, 1. That it was unscriptural; there being no direction in the Scriptures, that a candidate should be examined by a committee of synod, before being examined by a presbytery. 2. That it was uncharitable, inasmuch as it supposed insufficiency or unfaithfulness in the presbyteries. 3. That it was anti‑scriptural, as it hin­dered or impaired the exercise of the power of presbyteries in the examination of students, a duty enjoined upon them in the Scriptures. 4. That it was unjust, as it impaired a power given by Christ, against the will and conscience of its possessors. 5. That it was unnecessary; presbyteries having tried young men ever since the synod was formed. 6. That it was anti‑presbyterial, and by taking from presbyteries their proper business, tended to make them useless.

Not satisfied with these specific objections, they attacked the general principle on which, as they supposed, these rules were founded. They say, “We humbly conceive that the aforesaid acts, in their present form, are founded upon a false hypothesis namely, that a majority of synods or other church judicatories have a power committed to them from Christ to make new rules, acts, or canons about religious matters, on this ground, viz.: That they judge them to be either not against or agreeable to the general directions of the word, and serviceable to religion, which shall be binding on those who conscientiously dissent therefrom, on certain penalties, which are to be inflicted upon those who judge the acts they enforce to be contrary to the mind of Christ, and prejudicial to the interest of his kingdom. This is, in brief, a legislative, or law‑making power in religious matters, and this we do utterly dis­claim and renounce.”

Against any such power as that here described, they argued, 1. That Christ has not given such authority to church judicatories, or required his people to submit to it. 2. It is an invasion of Christ’s kingly office. 3. It involves a reflection on the perfection of the Scriptures, as though they did not contain a sufficient rule of duty. 4. It is inconsistent with Christian liberty. 5. It is incompatible with the rights of conscience and of private judgment. 6. This power supposes either that the church is infallible, or that she can make what is wrong in itself, right by commanding it. 7. If such a power belongs to the church, then the reformation and dissent from the Church of England must be condemned. 8. Such reli­gious laws are superstitious and uncharitable. 9. The power com­plained of would open a door for an intolerable bondage, and ex­pose men to be persecuted for conscience’ sake.

It will appear in the sequel, that as to this latter point, viz.: the power to make laws to bind the conscience, there was no dispute between the two parties. Such a power was never claimed by any presbyterian. Still this apology greatly widened the opening breach. It made the difficulty, to all appearance, one of principle instead of detail. It was no longer a question, whether a particu­lar rule was just, but whether a church judicatory had, on any occasion, the right to bind its dissenting members. This paper seemed to allow, even in cases of appeal, nothing beyond advisory power either to synods or presbyteries. It was therefore regarded as a formal renunciation on the part of its authors, of the funda­mental principles of presbyterianism. It is true, they did not so intend it, yet it was so understood, and that according to its most obvious meaning. The unfortunate character of this apology was no doubt due to Mr. Gilbert Tennent, whose impress it very distinctly bears. As a controversialist he had two prominent charac­teristics. The one was the habit, on all occasions, of recurring to first principles. He was not contented to object to the thing in debate, but was sure to attack the hypothesis, as he termed it, on which it was founded. This habit often got him into difficulty; for his mind, though vigorous and on many subjects well furnished, was neither discriminating nor logical. Hence, in the statement of his principles, be rarely attended to those qualifications which he him­self soon found to be necessary. His controversial writings, there­fore, are full of inconsistencies and contradictions, so that his au­thority may be fairly quoted on either side of almost every ques­tion in the discussion of which he was engaged. Another of his characteristics was a fondness for exaggeration. Every thing was stated in extremes. This was remarked by his opponents, who complained that he could not say a thing was uncharitable, but he must needs call it “a bloody, murderous charity.” Thus in the present case, he could not deny that church judicatories could bind him to what he considered unscriptural and sinful, without appear­ing to deny that they could bind him to any thing.

The opposition of the New Brunswick brethren led to a modification of the rule respecting the examination of candidates. In­stead of this examination being conducted by a committee, it was determined that it should be performed by the Synod itself or its commission. As thus modified it was adopted by a great majority. The dissentients among the ministers, were William Tennent, Sen’r, Gilbert Tennent, William Tennent, Jun’r, Charles Tennent, Samuel Blair, and Eleazar Wales. As Mr. G. Tennent declared that he believed the rule was designed to operate against his father’s schools, his opponents retorted that the opposition to it was a mere family concern. Of the six dissenting or protesting brethren, as they were commonly called, four were Tennents, the fifth a pupil and friend, and the sixth a co‑presbyter and neighbour. Whatever unworthy motive may, on either side, have mingled with better feelings, there is no doubt that the majority, which included almost the whole Synod, were influenced in the adoption of the rule in question, by a sincere desire to secure an adequately edu­cated ministry, and the minority by an equally conscientious belief, that the operation of the rule would be inimical to the progress of religion in the church.

The New Brunswick Presbytery having taken its stand, con­tinued to disregard the above‑mentioned rule. In the course of the year 1739, they ordained Mr. Rowland sine titulo, which was then a very uncommon thing; and licensed Mr. McCrea. In 1740 they licensed Mr. William Robinson and Mr. Samuel Finley; and in no one of these cases did they comply with the requi­sition of Synod.

In order to a proper understanding of this period of our history, it is obviously important to have a clear idea of the merits of the controversy between the New Brunswick Presbytery and the other members of the Synod. Was that Presbytery justifiable in disre­garding the rule respecting the examination of candidates? It will be seen that all their objections to the rule in question, as pre­sented in their apology, resolve themselves into one, viz.: That since Christ has given to presbyteries the power of ordination, the rule was an unwarrantable interference with their privileges. To call this interference, under so many distinct heads, anti‑scriptural, uncharitable, unjust, and anti-presbyterial, does not make so many separate arguments. The single question is, was there any unwarrantable interference, on the part of the Synod, with the rights of the presbyteries ? Mr. Tennent disposes of this question in a very summary manner. He thought the case was settled by saying, that, as the presbyteries had the right to ordain, this involved of necessity the right to judge for themselves of the qualifications of the candidate. He seems, however, to have overlooked the obvious consideration, that the powers of a presbytery acting by itself, are necessarily and justly limited, when it comes to form one body with other presbyteries. The question was not, what a presbytery considered in itself might do, but what a presbytery making a constituent part of a whole church might properly do. Among Episcopalians the right of ordination is held to belong to bishops, and that by divine right. Yet no bishop can spurn the canons of his church, which prescribe the qualifications of priests or deacons, as anti-scriptural, uncharitable, and unjust, because they interfere with the free exercise of his power to ordain. If he chooses to act with other bishops, and form a part of an ex­tended church, he must exercise his power in submission to general agreements, and all complaints of limiting his authority are unrea­sonable. If he wishes to be untrammelled, he must act by himself. The case is much stronger with regard to presbyteries; be­cause when a man is ordained in our church, he becomes not merely a member of presbytery, but of the synod also. He is authorized to exercise jurisdiction over his brethren ; he is one of those to whom they promise subjection in the Lord; he is entitled to sit in judgment on their character, orthodoxy, and conduct. Every member of the synod, therefore, has a right to know that he is properly qualified for such an office. If to secure this object, the synod agreed that all who are admitted to this sacred trust should have certain qualifications; all the members are bound to submit or to leave the body. It would be a strange usurpation to allow a small minority to force into membership and authority, men whom two‑thirds or four‑fifths of the body were unwilling to receive. Yet this was precisely what Mr. Tennent and his associates insisted upon. They claimed the right of making men members of the Synod, and thus judges of their brethren, to whom they were unwilling to be subject. The Synod had agreed that none but graduates of colleges, or those who had an equivalent education, should be allowed to sit as members. They believed such an education requisite in order to the proper discharge of the duties of the ministry and of synodical membership. Those who thought differently, had a right to oppose the adoption of the rule ; and if they were unable with a good conscience to submit to it, they had a right to withdraw and to act on their own plan ; but they assuredly had no right to insist that their brethren should admit to membership, and submit to their authority, men whom they did not think qualified, or who refused to give the stipulated evidence of their competency. This would be to make the minority rule the majority. It was in this light the matter presented itself to Mr. Tennent’s opponents. They therefore accused him of a determination to domineer over his brethren, and to have his own way in matters which concerned the whole Synod as much as the Presbytery of New Brunswick. The unreasonableness of this course was so obvious, that the Ten­nents stood almost alone in their opposition. This is not merely inferred from the fact that the rule respecting candidates was adopted three times by “a great majority;” but it is distinctly stated that the New York Presbytery, and especially Messrs. Dickinson, Pierson, and Pemberton, sided with the majority on all these questions.

It must be borne in mind that, at this period, the synod was not only the highest judicatory of the church, but it included all the presbyteries. Its determinations or acts, therefore, were of the same nature with our constitutional rules when adopted by a ma­jority of the presbyteries. They were the expression of the will of the whole church. In the particular case under consideration, all the presbyteries, without an exception, sanctioned the rule in question, because it was adopted before the organization of the Presbytery of New Brunswick. And when that presbytery objected, there were four presbyteries for the rule and one against it. The conduct of the New Brunswick Presbytery, therefore, was precisely analogous to that of the Cumberland Presbytery, at a later period of our history, who refused to comply with the constitutional provisions as to the qualifications of candidates; or to that of any presbytery who should insist on licensing and ordaining men destitute of a knowledge of Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, or such as refused to adopt the Westminster Confession. This may indeed often happen, but when it does occur it is an obvious breach of faith; it is a violation of the compact which the presbyteries have bound themselves to observe. And when any presbytery ordains any man who has not the constitutional qualifications as to learning, orthodoxy, or experimental religion, a positive and grievous wrong is inflicted on all the other presbyteries.

It will hardly be denied that any number of presbyteries have a right to meet together and fix their terms of communion; to agree upon the rules to be observed in admitting men to the ministry, and thus investing them with a joint authority over all the members of the body. This is a right exercised by every church in the world. The Episcopalians have their canons; the Methodists their book of discipline; and even the Congregationalists their Cambridge and Saybrook Platforms. It was, therefore, no unusual or unrea­sonable proceeding on the part of the Synod, embracing all the presbyteries in connection with the church, to agree on the terms on which men should be admitted to the ministry. They had exer­cised this power before, and they continued to exercise it afterwards. Neither Mr. Tennent nor any of his associates objected to the act of 1729, requiring the presbyteries to make the adoption of the Westminster Confession a preliminary to ordination. Yet the presbyteries had as much reason to complain of that act, as en­croaching on their prerogative to judge of the orthodoxy of their candidates, as they had to complain of the act of 1738, as interfering with the right to judge of their literary qualifications. It is a decisive proof that there was nothing in the latter rule which transcended the acknowledged power of the Synod, that when the Synod of New York was formed in 1745, it was made one of their fundamental articles of agreement, that all determinations of the Synod should be obeyed, whenever the body thought fit to insist upon them as necessary to the well‑being of the church; and that those who could not conscientiously submit, should peaceably withdraw. A similar provision was unanimously adopted by the two synods at the time of their union in 1758. What is still more to the point, in the way of acknowledgment, is that, at the first conference between the commissions of the two Synods with a view to the union, held in 1749, this very contested rule was proposed for adop­tion as one of the conditions, and assented to by every commissioner from the Synod of New York; Mr. Gilbert Tennent alone objecting to synodical examination of candidates, though he assented to their being required to produce a college diploma. With this the Synod of Philadelphia were perfectly satisfied.

There was, therefore, no more interference with the rights of pres­byteries in this case, than must ever take place, when several presbyteries unite and agree on what terms they will constitute one, body. There was no greater interference than had been exercised by the Synod on previous occasions, or than takes place under our present constitution, which in so many ways limits the presbyteries in the exercise of their prerogatives.

This rule, however, has been objected to on another ground. It has been said that it was founded on the unwarrantable assumption on the part of the Synod of the right to exercise presbyterial powers. To this two answers may be given. In the first place, the right of the Synod to exercise such powers was then univer­sally recognized. The Synod was regarded as a larger presbytery, and possessed of presbyterial prerogatives. There was scarcely one of the functions of a presbytery which it did not exercise, whenever occasion called for it. It received, installed, and ordained men without the slightest objection from any quarter. This was done by the old Synod before the schism, by each of the two Synods during the separation, and by the united Synod after the union. However inconsistent this may be with our present views and habits, it is evident that the objection just stated could not have been consistently urged at that time by any party in the church. In the second place, this examination of candidates was not considered a presbyterial act. It was not performed by the Synod in its character of a presbytery, but as the substitute of the officers of a college. After this synodical examination, the candidate was examined by his presbytery, just as he was after his reception of a college diploma. He might be as freely rejected, if in the judg­ment of the presbytery incompetent, his synodical certificate not­withstanding, as he could be notwithstanding his diploma. The Synod did not propose to take the examination of candidates out of the hands of the presbyteries, but simply to provide something which should have the same general significance and value for the whole church, that the evidence of graduation in a regular college possessed. Hence the defenders of the rule said, “The debate is neither in whole nor in part, who are intrusted with the power of ordination ; but whether the right of choosing professors for colleges, or tutors for academies, belongs to the higher or lower church judicatures; and in case there be no professors, to take the regular examination of scholars privately educated, whether the right of choosing examiners to supply the room, or want of professors in examining scholars in the useful parts of academical learning, should be entrusted to synods or presbyteries.”

We cannot but think, therefore, that the New Brunswick Presbytery, at least at this stage of the controversy, were in the wrong. The Synod laid claim to no power either unreasonable in itself, or inconsistent with the uniform practice and acknowledged constitu­tion of the church, as it then existed. The claim to inordinate power was all on the other side. It was a claim of a right to act in direct opposition to the will of a society regularly expressed, and yet to continue a member of it. It was in short a claim of the minority to govern the majority.

The controversy on this subject was not confined to the floor of the Synod; it soon produced difficulties in the congregations and presbyteries. In March, 1738, a portion of the people of Maiden­head and Hopewell, dissatisfied with the preaching of Mr. Guild, who was not at that time settled as their pastor, applied to the Presbytery of Philadelphia for liberty to hear some other candidate. This permission was readily granted. In the fall of the same year they applied to the newly‑erected presbytery of New Brunswick, “informing them they had liberty granted them by their presbytery to invite and receive any regular candidate from any other parts to preach among them, which also appeared by a writing from Mr. Andrews, which they adduced, and supplicating that Mr. Rowland might come among them;” and the Presbytery “granted him liberty of so doing.” As soon as this fact came to the knowledge of the Philadelphia Presbytery, they entered on their records the following minute: “The Presbytery being informed that Mr. Rowland has not complied with the order of the last Synod, relating to the examination of students by a committee of Synod appointed for that end; that he was hastily passed over in his trials by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, in direct oppo­sition to the said order of Synod; and that Mr. Rowland had information from Mr. Cowell of the irregularity of his licensing, advising him not to preach at Hopewell at the said time; and he not attending Presbytery, although he knew of this time of its meeting; upon which consideration, the Presbytery unanimously concluded they cannot accept of Mr. Rowland as an orderly licensed preacher, nor approve of his preaching any more among the said people of Maidenhead or Hopewell, or in any other of the vacancies within our bounds, until his way be cleared by complying with the order of Synod aforesaid.” This prohibition had no effect upon the dissatisfied portion of the people, nor upon Mr. Rowland, who continued to preach with the full consent of his own Presbytery, as though it had not been made.

In order to free themselves from restraint on this subject, the people applied to the Presbytery of Philadelphia to be formed into a distinct congregation. This the Presbytery agreed to do upon condition that, in case they could not agree with the other portion of the congregation as to the site of the new place of worship, that matter should be referred to the decision of the Presbytery. To this the people assented, declaring “that they acknow­ledged the authority of the Presbytery, and would submit to its determination.” They were accordingly constituted a church by themselves, whereupon they immediately requested to be allowed to join the Presbytery of New Brunswick. To this the Presbytery of course replied, that they must first fulfil the engagements into which they had just entered. Of this decision the people complained to the Synod in 1739, who “judged that the people had behaved with great indecency towards their Presbytery, by their unmannerly reflections and unjust aspersions, both upon the Synod and Presbytery, and that they had acted very disorderly in approving Mr. Rowland as a preacher among them, when they were ad­vised by the Presbytery that he was not to be esteemed and approved as an orderly candidate of the ministry. And the Synod,” it is added, “do wholly disallow the said complainants being erected into a new congregation until they do first submit to the determination of the place for erecting a new meeting‑house to their Presbytery, as was formerly agreed upon as a condition of their being a separate congregation. This overture was approved by a great majority. And it is further ordered by the Synod, that when the Presbytery of Philadelphia meet at Maidenhead and Hopewell, to fix the place of a new meeting-house, they shall call the following correspondents: Messrs. John Pierson, John Nutman, Samuel Blair, Nathaniel Hubbell, and Eleazar Wales.” There is evidence in this decision of a desire on the part of the Synod to have full justice done the complainants; as all these correspondents were members of the Presbyteries of New Brunswick and New Fork. A further proof that there was no disposition to thwart the reasonable wishes of the people as to their ecclesiastical connections, is found in the fact that, in the following year, the request of the two congregations of Newtown and Tinicum, to be set off from the Presbytery of Philadelphia to that of New Brunswick, was “readily granted.” The decision of the Synod respecting the congregation of Hopewell produced no effect. The people, Mr. Rowland, and the Presbytery of New Brunswick, all disregarded it. Here, again, it must be acknowledged that the Brunswick brethren were in the wrong. The congregation of Hopewell was not within their bounds ; the Presbytery to which the people belonged, and whose authority they formally acknowledged, disapproved of their employ­ing Mr. Rowland; the highest judicatory to which they appealed confirmed this decision ; and yet the Brunswick Presbytery went on as though no such decision had been made, and as though the congregation was regularly under their care. It was not that these brethren denied the authority of the Presbytery or Synod, for they uniformly acknowledged and exercised this authority; but it was that, in extraordinary cases, ecclesiastical order may be safely dis­regarded ; or, in other words, as the Presbytery of Philadelphia, was indifferent to the spiritual interests of their people, the Presbytery of New Brunswick was authorized to take the charge off their hands. In thus assuming the incompetency or unfaithfulness of their brethren, and acting as though they had forfeited their usual rights as ministers or judicatories, they unavoidably occasioned alienation and contention.

The Presbytery of Philadelphia had another difficulty about Mr. Rowland. When met at Neshaminy, September, 1739, a complaint was brought before them by some members of that congregation against their pastor, the Rev. William Tennent, senior, for having invited Mr. Rowland to preach for him. “Upon which Mr. Ten­nent was desired to say what he thought proper with relation to his conduct therein, which he accordingly did, and acknowledged that he did invite Mr. Rowland, as before mentioned, and withal justified the action, and disclaiming the authority of the Presbytery to take cognizance of the matter, he contemptuously withdrew. After which the Presbytery had much discourse with the people who had joined with Mr. Tennent in the aforementioned action, admonishing them of the irregularity of the said conduct, and exhorting them not to encourage or consent to any like conduct for the future. They came then to consider what to do with regard to Mr. Tennent in this affair, and concluded they could not do less than condemn said conduct of Mr. Tennent, in inviting Mr. Rowland to preach as aforesaid, as irregular and disorderly, and especially when aggravated by justifying the said action, and indecently withdrawing from the Presbytery.”

The opposition of the New Brunswick Presbytery to the two acts of Synod, relating, the one to itinerant preaching, and the other to the examination of candidates, had produced so much uneasiness in the church, that when the Synod met in 1740, a general anxiety was felt to have the difficulty arranged. The former of these two acts was therefore repealed ; and various efforts were made to effect such a modification of the second, as should meet the views of the New Brunswick brethren. Mr. Dickinson, as mentioned in a former chapter, proposed that the matter in dis­pute should be referred to some ecclesiastical body in Scotland, Ireland, or England, or to the ministers of Boston. To this Mr. Tennent objected, principally because it would be difficult to draw up a statement of the case in which both parties would agree; because he and his friends had the smiles of God on the course which they were pursuing; and because of the low state of piety among those to whom the reference was to be made. After speaking of the Presbyterians in Scotland, Ireland, and England, as having little of the life of religion among them, he added, “By the best information we can get, a dead formality prevails too much in Boston, and many other places in New England. Indeed, we are of opinion that the majority of church judicatories almost every where, are dead formalists, if they have got even that length; and, therefore, we incline to make no more application to men in the affair aforesaid.”

It was proposed by a member of the New Brunswick Presbytery “that the Synod might appoint two of their number to be present at the examination of candidates for the ministry; who, if they found them, (the Presbyteries,) guilty of malconduct, might accuse them to the Synod.” When it was asked, whether, in the case these delegates objected to the competency of the candidate, his licensure would be put off and the question referred to the Synod, the Brunswick brethren declined. So that overture came to nothing.

Mr. Gillespie proposed “that every Presbytery should keep a full record of the trials of candidates in the several parts of necessary learning, and exhibit the same to the Synod for their satis­faction, at the time of their admission into membership in the Synod. Now this, at the first reading, was like to take, for it seemed to cut off all colour of plea about infringing the rights of Presbyteries, and promised to the Synod, at first view, the right of judging the qualifications of their own members. But in order to come to a right understanding in the matter, Mr. Dickinson proposed, whether, in case the account given of the trials of candidates should give just ground to the Synod to judge that said candidates were really deficient in some material parts of useful learning; or in case the candidates should somehow be found out to be deficient, or upon rational grounds suspected to be so, would Mr. Tennent and his party submit such candidates to the trial or censure of Synod, to receive or reject them, as they, upon a fair trial, should form a judgment of their fitness or unfitness? To this Mr. Tennent replied, that he should be willing that the Presbytery should be subject to the Synod’s censures, in case of maladministration in the matter, but would not consent that the young men should be produced, or be subject to the Synod’s censures, when, or if found to be defective. On which the Synod dropped the overture, as insufficient to secure the end aimed at in our act; for it now appeared that nothing would content Mr. Tennent, unless the Synod would give up the right of judging of the qualifications of their own members.”