« ПретходнаНастави »
the colony; and masters of vessels importing them, were put under obligation to export them or to be fined twenty pounds. No persons could " in any wise imbody themselves into church-estate, without consent of the general court, and approbation of neighbor churches.” No ministry or church-administration could be entertained or attended, separate from that of the approved minister of the place, without approbation of the general court, and neighbor churches, under penalty of five pounds. Froin tenderness to the consciences of those who differed in sentiment, it was decreed by the legislature, that, as the Congregational churches bad been approved of, they should be countenanced and protected till berter light should appear,—yet as there were sundry persons of prudence and piety, presbyterially inclined, it was ordered, that all such persons, being approved according to law, as orthodox in ibe fundamentals of the christian religion, should be allowed in their persuasion and profession of church ways or assemblies, without disturbance. Laws were enacted to punish such as should revile the preached word, or interrupt the order of religious assemblies, or absent themselves from public worship. For the purpose of mainlaining the peace and prosperity of the churches, it was declared, that the civil government had power to see, that the peace, ordinances and rules of Christ be observed in the churches, and to deal with any church member in the way of civil justice, and not in an ecclesiastical way; and for the purpose of maintaining the rights and liberties of the people, it was declared, that no church censure should degrade or depose any man from any civil dignity, office or authority. Care was taken, that the ministry of the gospel should be established in every town and plantation; and in case of a neglect on the part of the inhabitants of any parish, the county court was to make provision for the support of a minister. ["Laws of Connecticut Colony." Review of 1672, pp. 9, 21, 22, 28, 52.]
Such was the legislation of Connecticut, on the subject of religion, in the early days of our history as a colony. Many errors of the times were incorporated into the laws of the young Puritan community; but even then, the difference between the churchand-state system of the colony, and that of the mother country was wide as heaven. True, the formation and order of churches was regulated by law, yet there were no tests to exclude men, of any denomination or opinion, from public offices or employments. True, every man was taxed for the support of the ininister chosen by the majority of his townsmen, and was obliged to attend on public worship, yet every man had a vote in the choice of the minister and in laying taxes for his support. True, the government claimed the power to superintend religious institutions, yet the distinction was clearly recognized between the functions of the church and those of the magistrate ; no court of law could touch a man's
church-membership, and no church-censure could impair his civil rights and privileges.
From the date above referred to, soon after the incorporation of New Haven and the river-towns into one colony, to the year 1784, immediately after the close of the revolutionary war, ihe legislation of Connecticut, on religious subjects, was little else than a series of changes for the relief and advantage of dissenters from the approved and established system of church order. In the year 1706, the law against heretics was repealed, so far as it relaied to the Quakers. In the year 1708, it was "enacted and ordained,” that " such persons as soberly dissent from the way of worship and ministry established by the laws," might, at the county court qualify themselves according to the English act of toleration, and should thereupon enjoy the liberty of maintaining public worship in their own way ; still, however, being held to the payment of taxes for the support of the established religious instruction and worship.t
In the same year (1708) the Synod of Saybrook baving performed its work, presented 10 the general court the “Confession of faith, heads of agreement, and regulations of church discipline,” now commonly known by the name of the Saybrook Platform; and it was ordained, " that all the churches within this government, that are or shall be thus united in doctrine, worship and discipline, be, and for the future shall be, owned and acknowledge ed established by law.” It was provided, however, that nothing should be construed to hinder any society or church, soberly dissenting from the thus established churches, and allowed by law, from exercising worship and discipline in their own way according to their own consciences. This was only bringing the established churches under stricter legislative regulation and mutual dependence, and opening a wider door for the coming in of dissenters.I
In the year, 1723, a new law was passed to restrain and prevent assemblies for public worship not conformable to the act of toleration. In other words, persons not dissenting from the way established by the government of the colony, were forbidden 10 hold separate meetings on the Lord's day for public worship and the administration of ordinances, under severe pecuniary penalties. The invasion, in this instance, was not upon the rights of other denominations, but upon the rights of persons still retaining their connection with what Mr. Colton calls the standing order."
It was soon discovered to be inconsistent with religion and with natural right, that persons "soberly dissenting" from the established churches, and voluntarily contributing to the support of public worship and instruction in another form allowed by law, should be compelled also to support the religious system from which they conscientiously dissented. In the year 1727, the Episcopalians, who had first begun to appear in Connecticut only within a few years before, made application to the legislature, setting forth, that they were "under obligation by the Honorable Society (for propagating the gospel,) and Bishop of London, 10 pay for the support of the established," that is, the Episcopal "church," and praying that they might be relieved “ from paying to dissenting," that is, congregational “ministers, and from building dissenting meeting houses,” that is, houses of worship for Mr. Colton's “standing order.” The language of their inemorial, in wbich they thus claimed to be not merely the true and apostolic church, but “the established church," in the free colony of Connecticut, and in which they insolently called the clergy approved and established by the laws, " dissenting ministers," showed clearly enough what inanner of spirit they were of, and that they were ready 10 pick a quarrel, that might end in the subversion of the chartered liberties of the colony; but, so far as appears, this was the first application for such relief, which had ever been brought before the legislature, and the argument being urged by the memorialists' counsel, that it “ had been always esteemed an hardship by those of the profession established by this government, to be compelled to contribute to the support of the church of England, where that is established by law,” it was enacted, that the money collected of Episcopalians for taxes laid by the societies should be paid to the Episcopal ministers, if there were any, on whom such persons altended. It was furthermore enacted, on the suggestion of the memorialists, that if the money thus collected was not sufficient in any society of Episcopalians to support the incumbent, such society might levy and collect taxes for that purpose, at their own discretion. Episcopalians attending on the worship of their own church, were by the same act excused from paying taxes for the building of houses of worship “ for the present established churches."* What had been at this day the “religious state of the country” in England, if an act of parliament had been passed one hundred and nine years ago, directing that all tithes paid by persons attending on the worship of the Congregational churches in that kingdom, should go to the support of the pastors of those churches; and that no tax should be collected of such Congregationalists for the erection of Episcopal houses of worship?
* Laws of Conn. ed. 1718, p. 129. t Ib. p. 134. Alb. p. 141. § Ib. Ap. p. 200.
In May, 1729, the higher indulgence of not paying taxes at all for ministers or churches, was conceded to the Quakers; and in October of the same year, the Baptists, on their petition, obtained the same exemption.f As for other denominations, there were none in the colony.
From this time onward, the dissenters in Connecticut, namely,
the Episcopalians, Baptists, and Quakers, enjoyed a perfect religious freedom,--all the freedom which they enjoy at this hour. Congregationalists, on the other hand, were continually curbed and oppressed by the power of the legislature. That great invasion of religious liberty, in the year 1742, on which Dr. Trumbull expatiates with so much indignation,* touched not one of the rights of other sects, while it brought Congregational ministers under painful and servile restrictions. Any minister or licentiate going to preach and exhort in a parish not under his own charge, without an express invitation from the minister, and the majority of the church and society, was disabled from collecting bis salary, and all contracts between bim and his own people were made void. Any Association presuming to act in any matter, that by the Platform belonged to some other Association, brought the same disability upon its members individually. Lay exhorters going about " to stir up the churches," as in Mr. Colton's contemptible story about the shoemaker, (pp. 36, 37.) were to be bound over to their good behavior, “ in the penal sum of one hundred pounds lawful money.” And itinerants from without the colony, presuming to thrust themselves upon the churches, were to be sent as vagrants from one constable to another, out of the bounds of the colony. This act was passed in view of what was then " the new and extraordinary religious state of the country.” The conscript fathers of the colony felt very much as Mr. Colton now seels, and like him they judged, that something extraordinary must be done to meet the exigency ; but it never occurred to them to take shelter from the storm in the bosom of Episcopacy. The act, however, was not long in force; it was omitted in the revision of the statutes in 1750, the legislature having got over their fright, and not having committed themselves, as Mr. Colton has done, irretrievably.
Still, however, the neglect of public worship, “in some lawful congregation,” and the forming of "separate companies in private houses” for worship, in other words, the meetings of separating Congregationalists, were forbidden in form, though the law against such separations was not executed. In the year 1770, universal liberty of christian worship was expressly established, by a law providing “ that no persons in this colony prosessing the christian religion, who soberly and conscientiously dissent “from the Saybrook Platform," and attend public worship by themselves, shall incur any of the penalties” formerly enacted against them.
This we believe is a just summary of the church-and-state legislation in Connecticut, while Connecticut continued to be a colony.
In making it out, we have been guided partly by Swift's
System of the Laws of Connecticut,* and partly by a Manuscript entitled, “Extracts from the charter and laws of the Colony of Connecticut, in New-England, that relate to religion and ecclesiastical affairs.” This Manuscript is endorsed as having been “ laid before the General Convention at Stanford, on the first Wednesday of September, 1773.” It is from the pen of the Rev. Elizur Goodrich, D. D. of Durhain, who was in his day, pot less than any other man, the leader of the Congregational ministers and churches of Connecticut. It is a document of much interest, as showing the spirit of " the standing order” in those times; for it is obviously of the nature of an official document. The reader cannot but be interested to see what ideas of religious liberty were entertained by the Congregationalists of Connecticut three years before the declaration of independence.
The author of the Manuscript having described the exemptions from taxation allowed to the Quakers and the Baptists, and having spoken of the appropriation of taxes paid by Episcopalians, adds,— what we should not have learned from the statute book,that on particular application the General Assembly had sometimes been pleased to grant special exemption to individuals by name. All the other inhabitants of the Colony were at that time obliged by law to pay for the support of the established Congregational churches. “ This,” says Dr. Goodrich, "may seem to bear hard upon some number, I know not how great, of people, commonly called separates, who, though prosessing themselves Congregational in principle, yet for some reasons that to them appear sufficient, have separated from the standing churches, and formed themselves, in several towns and parishes, into distinct churches and worshiping assemblies.” The sufferers were not of other denominations, but of the established denomination. Where their churches have not become extinct, they are now regularly acknowledged as Congregational churches. The North Church, in New Haven, was originally one of them. The South Church, in Middletown, at the date of Dr. Goodrich's remarks, was one of them. The oppression of the church-andstate system, before the revolutionary war, had utterly ceased as it respected other denominations, and came down with all its weight upon schismatic and irregular members of the denomination for which the system was originally framed. Yet even upon them the burtben was no longer so oppressive as it seemed ; for, says Dr. Goodrich, “ as the matter is now circumstanced, I believe but few towns or societies insist on collecting rates from those who are separates, though the law enables them to do it. Besides, all such may apply to the Assembly for relief, where they
* Swift's System, vol. i. pp. 136, 147.