Congregationalists a denomination of Christians (generally Calvinistic in theology) holding to:a system of church government which embraces these two fundamental principles, viz., (1) that every local congregation of believers, united for worship, sacraments, and discipline, is a complete church, and not to be subject in government to any ecclesiastical authority outside of itself; and (2) that all such local churches are in communion one with another, and bound to fulfill all the duties involved in such fellowship. The system is distinguished from Presbyterianism by the first, and from Independency by the second. It involves the equal right of all brethren to vote in all ecclesiastical affairs; and the parity of all ministers, the ministers being set apart by the churches, and not possessed of any power of government as ministers, but only of official power in the churches by which they may be chosen pastors. In England they are often, but not quite accurately, styled Independents. Several denominations in the United States are congregational in practice, but bear other names than that of the denomination known distinctly as "The Congregational Churches of the United States."
I. HISTORY. — Congregationalists claim that their system is only a substantial return to the order and practice of the apostolic churches, which had been corrupted by the tendencies that culminated in the papacy; and that traces of dissent from the episcopal power are found in every age (see Punchard's History of Congregationalism). The origin of modern Congregationalism is seen in the early stages of the reformation in England. From the beginning of the protest against Romanism, some of the main distinctive views after. wards developed into Congregationalism, especially the identity of "bishop" and "presbyter," and the independent right of each congregation to choose its pastor and exercise discipline, found decided adherents. While Henry VIII, after throwing off the Romish supremacy, clung in the main to the Romish theology, and in part to the Romish polity and practices, the progress of thought continued in the opposite direction. When the reforms carried on by Edward VI were peremptorily stopped by Mary, dissenting congregations, in substance Congregational, came immediately, though privately, into existence in various places, as in London in 1555. Their existence is learned: almost entirely from the persecutions to which their members were subjected, and but few particulars in their history are preserved. Among the Congregational martyrs were Barrowe, Greenwood, and Penry, executed in 1593. Of the Congregational church formed in London in 1592, of which Francis Johnson was pastor, and John Greenwood teacher, fifty-six members were seized and imprisoned. Many of them eventually found their way to Amsterdam, where they reorganized under the same pastor. Robert Brown's publication, in 1582, of "A Book which showeth the Life and Manners of all true Christians," etc., presents the earliest full development of the Independent side of Congregationalism. While at first only Puritans, many became Separatists, in despair of securing complete reformation in the Church of England. About 1602 a church was organized at Gainesborough, in Lincolnshire, Rev. John Smyth pastor. In 1606 another was formed at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, Richard Clyfton pastor, which met at the house of William Brewster. Of that church John Robinson was a member, and afterwards associate pastor. In 1606 Mr. Smyth and his friends removed to Amsterdam. In 1607 Mr. Clyfton and many of his church, after great persecution, also escaped to Amsterdam, and in 1608 most of the remaining members of the Scrooby church followed. After about a year the church removed to Leyden. Owing to the disadvantages of residing in e country of different language and customs from their own, they resolved to emigrate to America, and a portion of the Leyden church, with elder William Brewster, after many trials landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, Dec. 21, 1620 (N. S.), while Robinson, with a part of the church, remained at Leyden. In 1616 a Congregational church was established at Southwark, London, under the care of Henry Jacob, who had been confirmed in Congregational views by conference with John Robinson at Leyden. This church, organized after Mr. Jacob had conferred with leading Puritans, probably gathered together some of the scattered members of Mr. Johnson's church. Though sometimes called "the first Independent church in England," there had been the secret congregations in the reign of Mary, and the churches of Gainesborough and Scrooby, and, it is said, one at Duckenfield, Cheshire Co. About 1624 Rev. John Lathrop became pastor of the Southwark church; he was, in 1632, imprisoned, with forty-one other of its members. In 1634 Mr. Lathrop, obtaining release, removed to America, with about thirty of his flock, and in that year organized the church in Scituate, Mass., where he continued until 1639, when the majority removed to West Barnstable, where that church is still existing.
1. American Congregationalists. — The Plymouth settlement was distinct in origin and government from that of Massachusetts Bay, the Pilgrim settlers being distinctively known as "the Pilgrims." The persecutions under Laud led many Puritans to the resolution to emigrate. Endicott and his company began the colony at Salem in 1628, and in 1630 John Winthrop, their governor, with other emigrants, occupied Boston and the surrounding towns. Settlements were made at Hartford and Saybrook, in Connecticut, in 1635, and in 1638 Davenport and his associates founded the New Haven colony, while in 1633 a distinct company re-enforced the colonies on the Piscataqua River. The Plymouth church had come out fully organized; in the other settlements churches were immediately formed. None but the Plymouth people had come over as Separatists; the others declared that they did not separate from the Church of England, but only desired to remove its corruptions. But, gathered in a new land; away from all ecclesiastical establishments, and searching the Scriptures for their ecclesiastical order, they all fell into the Congregational order. Their ministers had almost all been regularly ordained in the Church of England. and were highly educated men, as (e.g.) Cotton and Wilson, of Boston; Mather, of Dorchester; Hooker and Stone, of Hartford; Davenport and Hooke, of New Haven.
Congregationalism proper received substantially its form in the early history of New England. If traced to the writings of any one person, it would be to those of John Robinson, of Leyden; those of John Cotton and Thomas Hooker, in America, being next in importance. Robert Brown was never acknowledged as a leader, he being a strict Independent, and finally returning to the communion of the Church of England; but his writings undoubtedly aroused many minds to examine and reject the claims of episcopacy. The system cannot, however, be traced to any one man, but rather to the united sentiments ox the early emigrants, who agreed in carrying into practice the opinion that every church is, according to the Scriptures, confined to the limits of a single congregation, and must be democratic in government; while all churches are in fellowship with one another. Hence the term "the Congregational Church" is never used to denote the denomination, but "the Congregational churches."
Church and State. — From the earliest settlement of New England there was a definite but peculiar relation between the churches and the state. It was neither that in which the State rules the Church, nor that in, which the Church rules the State, but rather a peculiar blending of the two. Townships were incorporated with a view to the ability to maintain a settled ministry, and to the convenience of the people in attending public worship. Provision was made by law for the support of pastors, and for all necessary expenses. The choice of a pastor belonged to the church. A peculiar feature of the connection was established in 1631, in Massachusetts Bay, and later (in substance) in the Connecticut colonies, and, by the authority of Massachusetts, in Maine and New Hampshire, that "no man shall be admitted to the freedom of the body politic but such as are members of some of the churches within the limits of the same." This was in no respect a principle of Congregationalism, but grew out of the objects of the emigration from England. As the population increased the rule was modified, and by-and-by abandoned. Ministers, although their influence was great, had no voice as ministers in public affairs. The laws taxing all persons for the support of the ministry were first ameliorated by allowing persons to contribute to whatever church they might prefer; and the whole system of compulsory taxation was abolished in Connecticut in 1816, and in Massachusetts in 1833.
General Synods. — The history of the denomination is rather the history of distinct churches than of an organized body. Yet the fellowship of the churches has always been maintained, and all "matters of common concernment" have been decided by the common consent of the whole body, and sometimes embodied in the pronounced opinions of general bodies convened for the special occasion. Denying the authority of any standing judicatory, Congregationalists recognize the necessity and desirableness of occasional synods for deliberation and advice on great public interests. Only four such general synods have been held. The first met in 1637, at Cambridge, Mass., to deliberate on the doctrinal speculations of John Wheelwright, Anne Hutchinson, and others. It consisted of "all the teaching elders through the country" and of "'messengers from the churches;" Rev. Peter Bulkley, of Concord, Mass., and Rev. Thomas Hooker, of Hartford, Conn., were moderators. The second synod met at Cambridge in 1646, and dissolved in 1648. It declared its approval of the Westminster Assembly's Confession of Faith, and set forth an elaborate statement of Church polity, known as the "Cambridge Platform," which has always — though latterly with modifications — been regarded as an important standard. The third synod, or "Convention," met at Albany, N. Y., in 1852, composed, like the preceding, of pastor and delegate from each church. Its main business resulted in the formal dissolution of the "Plan of Union between Presbyterians and Congregationalists" agreed upon by the Presbyterian Church and the General Association of Connecticut in 1801. The fourth synod, styled "National Council," met in Boston, Mass., in 1865, composed of a minister and delegate from every group of ten churches; William A. Buckingham, governor of Connecticut, was its moderator. It was called to deliberate upon the exigencies of religious duty growing out of the circumstances of the country in its emerging from the war of 1861-65. Among its important acts were a Declaration of Faith and a revised Platform of Church Polity. Partial synods of importance have been held — of Massachusetts in 1662, which recommended the disastrous, and now long since abandoned" Half- way Covenant," by which baptized persons might "own the covenant" of the Church, but without coming into full communion; — of Massachusetts in 1679-80, called the "Reforming Synod:" that synod readopted, with some alterations, the Confession agreed upon by the Congregational Synod which met at the Savoy, in London, in 1658, which was itself that of the Westminster Confession, with slight alterations, the variations of the three documents being carefully shown in the Congregational Quarterly, Boston, 1866; — and the Synod of Connecticut, which met at Saybrook in 1708, and framed the "Saybrook Platform" of Discipline, which established the "consociation" system in that state. All of these synods disclaimed authority over the churches to impose either a platform of polity or a creed; they declared only what were the sentiments and usages of the churches in their understanding of the Scriptures.
Other Organizations. — In each state and territory where Congregationalists exist in sufficient numbers, there have been formed General Associations or Conferences, which are without any ecclesiastical authority, and not allowed to hear causes or give advice in any ecclesiastical affairs. All are now composed of both ministers and lay delegates, except the General Associations of Massachusetts and Connecticut, which are purely bodies of ministers; but that of Massachusetts voted unanimously in 1866 to unite with the Conference of the same state, and admit laymen. The General Conference of Maine, where the "Conference" (including laymen) system originated, was organized in 1826; New Hampshire, 1809; Vermont, 1796; Massachusetts, Association in 1803, Conference in 1860; Rhode Island, 1809; Connecticut, 1709; New York, 1814; Ohio, 1852; Indiana, 1858; Illinois, 1843; Michigan, 1852; Wisconsin, 1840; Minnesota, 1855; Iowa, 1840; Missouri, 1865; Nebraska, 1857; Kansas, 1855; Oregon, 1853; California, 1857; Canada, 1853; Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, 1847. These bodies all held annual meetings. In addition, a "Convention" of the Congregational ministers of Massachusetts has met annually since near the beginning of the 18th century of which Unitarians are a component part, which holds funds, mainly contributed before the division, for the relief of widows and orphans of ministers of either denomination. A "Triennial Convention of the Northwest" was formed in 1858, mainly to supervise the affairs of the Chicago Theological Seminary. Local Conferences of churches covering groups of (usually) from ten to thirty churches have been voluntarily formed, and embrace nearly all the churches: they generally meet semi-annually for religious conference, and are denied every power of jurisdiction. Nearly all the ministers are grouped in local associations of convenient size for purposes of mutual improvement, but with no ecclesiastical authority; but the churches look to them to examine and recommend candidates for the ministry. These associations began in' the 17th century. "Ecclesiastical Councils" are occasional bodies, which will be noticed under "government." "Plan of Union" with Presbyterians. — Congregationalists and Presbyterians, holding the same doctrinal views, have always had more or less intimate relations. When Western New York and the territories beyond were becoming rapidly settled, a formal "Plan of Union" was adopted by the Presbyterian General Assembly and the General Association of Connecticut in 1801. To prevent division into small and weak churches, it was arranged that Congregationalists and Presbyterians in any locality could unite in one church, its character to be settled by the majority; and, if Congregational, the church could, while retaining power of internal government, hold a qualified relation to Presbyteries. The result was that large numbers of Congregationalists and of Congregational churches were finally absorbed in the Presbyterian Church, The Plan grew into disfavor, and was abrogated by the Congregational Convention of 1852. Many churches which still hold that abnormal relation are now dropped from the Congregational statistics.
Unitarianism. — Owing to various causes — particularly the "Half-way Covenant," the connection of Church and State, and opposition to the great revivals of the middle of the 18th century — there grew up in some of the churches a dislike to the doctrines of the denomination, which developed itself into Unitarianism. The first church to become such, however, was the Episcopal church of King's Chapel, Boston. Sharp controversy ensued, which resulted in an entire separation. The division was going on from about 1810 to 1825 by the steady withdrawal of fellowship from the churches and ministers which had become Unitarian; The change of doctrine was chiefly confined to Massachusetts, and, in a great degree, to Boston and vicinity. In 1825 there were found to be 95 Unitarian churches (a part of which were new churches organized as such), and 310 Congregational; while in the other states the defection was hardly known. Many churches were deprived of their property by adverse majorities in parishes, and were forced to begin anew. The trials of the churches awakened a vigorous life in the denomination, which added 146 new churches in Massachusetts in the following 25 years, and increased the number of communicants from 37,987 in 1830 to 64,830 in 1850. The terms "Unitarian Congregational" and "Trinitarian Congregational" have been sometimes used in Massachusetts; but the latter title has never been allowed by the denomination, while the Unitarian National Conference has refused to insert the term "Congregational" in its official name.
Benevolent and Missionary Operations. — In the earliest history of American Congregationalism efforts were directed to the conversion of the Indians, of which the work of John Eliot is the most noted. Later, when the country became settled westward, missionary societies, of which those of Connecticut were perhaps most important, sent ministers to the new settlements of New York Ohio, etc. In 1825 an American Home Missionary Society was suggested by Congregationalists, and was organized to embrace the several state societies and the Presbyterians. In Home Missions, the efforts of the denomination have been made through this channel, which has now really become Congregational by the withdrawal of the Presbyterians since 1860. Foreign Missions have been carried on through the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which was formed by the General Association of Massachusetts in 1810, but through which the New School Presbyterian Church also does its mission work. An impetus was given to assisting Congregational churches in building meeting-houses by the Albany Convention, under whose recommendation a large amount was immediately raised. That work is successfully carried on by the American Congregational Union, which was organized at New York in 1853. The American Congregational Association has collected a fine and rapidly-increasing Congregational Library in Boston, and a large fund to be devoted to the erection of a Congregational House. Large amounts of money have been collected through cooperative societies for ministerial education, Sabbath-schools, tract and other religious publications, seamen, temperance, education at the West, etc. The denomination, from its polity, has no Church Boards. Its benevolent operations have been carried on through such channels as the churches preferred. The National Council, in 1865, recommended the American Board, the American Home Missionary Society, the American Missionary Association, the American Education Society, the Society for promoting Collegiate and Theological Education at the West, the American Bible Society, the American and Foreign Christian Union, the Congregational Board of Publication, the American Congregational Association, the Massachusetts Sabbath-school Society, and the objects of the American Tract Societies. While cooperation is still adhered to, there is an evident drift in the denomination towards separate methods of work, due undoubtedly to an increasing conviction of the scripturalness, importance, and efficacy of the denominational polity.
Progress. — The denomination, while always predominant in New England, was retarded in its growth beyond the Hudson River partly by the "Plan of Union," and partly by the advice of theological instructors to their pupils going westward to become Presbyterians. The result has been that the Congregational churches have given a large number of ministers to the Presbyterian Church, and furnished the material of many of its churches. Not a few of the early New York churches became Presbyterian, and Congregational associations were disbanded lest they should interfere with harmony. But the gradual increase of ministers who, removing to the West, refused to give up their ecclesiastical fellowship, and a growing conviction that the Congregational polity demanded its own preservation, has changed the current. The oldest church in Ohio was founded in 1796; in 1866 the number was 166. Commencing in Illinois about 1830, the churches numbered in 1866, 221. Commencing in Michigan about 1827, the number in 1866 was 150. The oldest in Minnesota dates from 1851; in 1866 there were 58. In Iowa, from the first in 1839, the number increased to 166 in 1866. In Missouri, from 2 in 1864, they increased to 41 in 1867. In Kansas, from I in 1854, to 33 in 1866. In California, from 10 in 1859 to 32 in 1866. In the Southern States the denomination had no foothold prior to the war of 18615; but beginnings have since been made in Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, North and South' Carolina, Louisiana, and Tennessee; and Congregationalists have planted the first church, other than Mormon, in Utah.
2. In the British Islands. — The removal of Robinson and others to Leyden, and the large emigration of Puritans to America, left many others in England whose views coincided with theirs. The Southwark church, organized in 1616, continued. In the latter part of Mr. Lathrop's pastorate, the Baptists, hitherto mingled with the Paedo-Baptists, by the cheerful consent of those remaining, withdrew and organized the first Baptist church in England. Mr. Jacie succeeded Mr. Lathrop, and, with his congregation, suffered much persecution. Another church appears to have been organized in Southwark in 1621, which soon emigrated to Ireland to avoid the severities under which they suffered; but it returned to England, and chose Rev. John Canne as pastor, who, with others, was soon driven to Holland. In 1640, sixty-six of that congregation were imprisoned at once, who, on trial, boldly declared that they could acknowledge no other head of the Church than Jesus Christ. From these roots grew the denomination which came to exercise potent influence in England. Its adherents increased, and might soon have had comparative quiet but for the opposition of the Presbyterians. In the Westminster Assembly were a few Congregationalists, who steadily upheld their views, such as Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye, Jeremiah Burroughs, William Bridge, and Sidrach Simpson; but they were overpowered by a vast majority of Presbyterians. The five named issued, during the session, "An Apologetical Narration," in which they asked for toleration, and set forth their distinctive views of polity. "We do here publicly profess," said they, "we believe the truth to lie and consist in a middle way betwixt that which is falsely charged on us, Brownism, and that which is the contention of these times, the authoritative Presbyterial governmnent, in all the subordinations and proceedings of it." During the Commonwealth they stood on an improved footing, Cromwell being an Independent, with many of the men who overthrew the tyranny of Charles I. Eminent Congregationalist ministers were appointed chaplains, or placed in leading positions in the universities, among whom were John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, Gale, Howe, Charnock, Bridge, Nye, Caryl, and Greenhill. While steadily increasing in the subsequent reigns, Congregationalists resolutely opposed all union of Church and State. The most important early public proceeding was the meeting of elders and messengers at the Savoy, in London, in 1659. They then issued "A Declaration of the Faith and Order owned and practiced in the Congregational churches in England." The declaration of faith, known as the "Savoy Confession," was a modification of the Westminster Confession, changing doctrinal statements only slightly, but excluding everything Presbyterian in polity, and changing the Westminster theory of the relation of the Church and State so as to deny the authority of magistrates to interfere with ecclesiastical liberty. This Confession is the one which, slightly amended, was adopted by the American Synod of 1680, and reaffirmed by the American National Council in 1865. The "Toleration Act" of 1669 gave shelter to the Congregationalists, but — at that time they, as well as the Baptists, were few compared with the Presbyterians — the three leading denominations of Dissenters. The Congregationalists had increased considerably at the date of the accession of George I, in whose time that defection from orthodox doctrine appeared which so greatly involved the Presbyterians; from that the Independents were free, to which the labors of Watts and Doddridge were greatly conducive. In 1727, on the adoption of a rule by the Congregational ministers of the metropolis for making up their list, there were found to be fifty ministers in that city. In 1734 a writer says that all the Independent ministers were Calvinists. In 1831 was formed the CONGREGATIONAL UNION OF ENGLAND AND WALES, "on a full recognition of their own distinctive principles, viz. the Scriptural right of every separate church to maintain perfect independence in the government and administration of its own particular affairs." This Union meets annually. "Protesting against subscription to any human formularies as a term of communion," the Union declares the "Principles of Religion" as held by their churches. The English and Welsh churches are associated in local unions or associations. The Congregationalists forming the CONGREGATIONAL UNION OF SCOTLAND trace their immediate origin to the enterprises of Robert and James Haldane (q.v.) in 1798 and subsequent years. Originally having no idea of forming churches, when God blessed their labors their converts instinctively drew towards each other. Places of worship were built in several of the largest towns, in which churches were formed. The Union was organized in 1812. The oldest Congregational churches in Ireland date respectively from 1760, 1787, 1793, and 1796. The churches are united in a Union. In the British colonies there are churches forming the following Unions, viz. Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Natal, besides those of Canada, and Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, which are regularly reported with the statistics of the United States churches.
3. Continental Europe. — L' Union des Eglises Evangeliques de France, which was formed in August, 1849, shortly after the secession from the Eglise Reformee of the late Frederick Monod and those who acted with him, though not denominated Congregational, holds to the essential principle of that polity in this constitutional declaration: "Each church which enters the union preserves the liberty of determining for itself its own constitution, according to its conviction and necessities... Every church must be constituted on the principle of individual confession of faith, with a guarantee of discipline being exercised by the church itself." It is a union of self-sustaining churches, and hence is small; but a large number of churches dependent on aid are in sympathy, and are represented at the biennial meetings. In SWITZERLAND the free churches of Vaud are united on a basis which, though Presbyterian in form, secures the independence of each. There are also independent churches in Neufchatel and Berne. These all, with the Free Church of Geneva, the independent churches of the north of France, compose the alliance of Free or Independent Evangelical churches founded in 1860, admitting all churches free of state control which accept the simple Evangelical Confession of Faith adopted by the Alliance, practice a scriptural discipline, recognize the ministry as a divine institution, and engage in the propagation of the Gospel. In ITALY evangelical communities are being formed, since the establishment of the kingdom, upon independent principles, but no definite statements can be given at present regarding actual organization into churches.
4. Other Parts of the World. — Missionary churches exist in all parts of the missionary world, established by missionaries of mainly the London Missionary Society, the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, and the American Missionary Association.
II. DOCTRINES. —
1. In America. — The Congregational churches are "orthodox" in the general sense of Christendom, holding that the Scriptures are the only rule of faith and practice, and that no creeds may be imposed on any; yet it is the duty of the churches to set forth declarations of the understanding of the Scriptures in Confessions of Faith. Alleged erroneous opinions are to be tested, however, not by the Confessions of Faith, but by the Scriptures. They are, in their views of human nature, Augustinian in distinction from Pelagian, and, as regards the method of the divine government, Calvinistic in distinction from Arminian. While no power can impose a creed on the churches, and each Church adopts its own formulas, yet the principles of fellowship, in which a council of churches is called for the recognition of a new Church, secures a geneial agreement in doctrine. For a more general standard, the Westminster Confession was adopted by the synod of 1648; that of the Savoy (a slight modification) by the synod of 1680. The General Association of Massachusetts, comprising 600 ministers, declares the Westminster Catechism to be its standard of doctrine. The National Council of 1865 declared, nem. con., "our adherence to the faith and order of the apostolic and primitive churches held by our fathers, and substantially as embodied in the confessions and platforms which our synods of 1648 and 1680 set forth or reaffirmed." The study of theology has been pursued with great earnestness by Congregationalists, and, as a consequence, many shades of opinion are held, while as a body they stand within the lines indicated. Very many theological writers of great power have published systems or criticisms upon points in divinity, from which has arisen a view of Calvinism often styled the "New England theology," which has many adherents, and which doubtless affects the views of those who do not adopt it as a whole. Its origin is ascribed to the works of the first Jonathan Edwards, who, from his sympathy with the 'great revival," directed his powerful energies to such explanations of truth as should remove obstacles supposed to be found in the then understanding of Calvinism. The views which he promulgated were subjected to the scrutiny of his son, Dr. Jonathan Edwards; and those of both were developed or modified by a school of writers, among whom may be named Hopkins, West, Smalley, Bellamy, Emmons, and Dwight, and, later, Taylor, of New Haven, and Park of Andover. While not all of these agree in all points, and while the later views are considered by many ministers and churches to be materially differ. ent from those of the elder Edwards, yet the Calvinism thus explained is wide-spread. The great problem of this "New England theology" has been to harmonize the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man, and from that center peculiarities in explaining other doctrines have proceeded. The result of these efforts has been a view of Calvinism of which the following may be called distinctive features. The doctrine of original sin is held as involving the hereditary corruption of men's nature, but not as involving the guilt of men before actual transgression. The doctrine of depravity is held as indicating a moral inability, or such an unwillingness and aversion as render it certain that man will not comply with God's demands without the regenerating grace of God, but not as involving a natural inability. Of the Will, the doctrine is held that it always chooses the greatest apparent good, but with a power of contrary choice. The doctrine of the regenerating grace of God is held as involving the certainty of its accomplishing its object, but not as irresistible. The doctrine of Decrees and Predestination is held in the sublapsarian sense, and not in the supralapsarian sense. Of the Atonenment, the "governmental" theory is held. In regard to the Trinity, the Incarnation, the mode of the Divine existence, etc., the "New England theology" has no peculiarities differing from the general view of the Christian Church. This system is by no means held by all Congregationalists. Very many pastors and churches class themselves among the older Calvinistic schools, and all are held in general conformity with the early Confessions. The Congregationalists are Psaedo-Baptists; as to mode, while "sprinkling" or "affusion" is the general custom, adults are held entitled to choose the mode they conscientiously prefer. The doctrine of the Lord's Supper is variously held, although rarely debated; but only persons professing a change of heart are admitted to the communion, and members of all evangelical churches are freely welcomed. The Declaration of Faith set forth by the National Council in 1865, adopted on Burial Hill, at Plymouth, Mass., declares (1) the doctrinal standards of the denomination, and (2) the principles of its recognition'of fellowship with all the evangelical bodies. It is as follows:
"Standing by the rock where the Pilgrims set foot upon these shores, upon the spot where they worshipped God, and among the graves of the early generations, we, elders and messengers of the Congregational churches of the United States in National Council assembled, like them acknowledging no rule of faith but the Word of God, do now declare our adherence to the faith and order of the apostolic and primitive churches held by our fathers, and:substantially as embodied in the confessions and platforms which our synods of 1648 and 1680 set forth or reaffirmed. We declare that the experience of the nearly two and a half centuries which have elapsed since the memorable day when our sires founded here a Christian commonwealth, with all the development of new forms of error since their times, has only deepened our confidence in the faith and polity of those fathers. We bless God for the inheritance of these doctrines. We invoke the help of the Divine Redeemer, that, through the presence of the promised Comforter, he will enable us to transmit them in purity to our children.
"In the times that are before us as a nation, times at once of duty and of danger, we rest all our hope in the Gospel of the Son of God. It was the grand peculiarity of our Puritan fathers that they held this Gospel, not merely as the ground of their personal salvation, but as declaring the worth of man by the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son of God; and therefore applied its principles to elevate society, to regulate education, to civilize humanity, to purify law, to reform the Church and the State, and to assert and defend liberty; in short, to mould and redeem, by its all-transforming energy, everything that belongs to man in his individual and social relations.
"It was the faith of our fathers that gave us this free land in which we dwell. It is by this faith only that we can transmit to our children a free and happy, because a Christian commonwealth.
"We hold it to be a distinctive excellence of our Congregational system that it exalts that which is more above that which is less important, and by the simplicity of its organization facilitates, in communities where the population is limited, the union of all true believers in one Christian Church; and that the division of such communities into several weak and jealous societies, holding the same common faith, is a sin against the unity of the body of Christ, and at once the shame and scandal of Christendom.
"We rejoice that, through the influence of our free system of apostolic order, we can hold fellowship with all who acknowledge Christ, and act efficiently in the work of restoring unity to the divided Church, and of bringing back harmony and peace among all 'who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.'
"Thus recognising the unity of the Church of Christ in all the world, and knowing that we are but one branch of Christ's people, while adhering to our peculiar faith and order, we extend to all believers the hand of Christian fellowship upon the basis of those great fundamental truths in which all Christians should agree. With them we confess our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the only living and true God; in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, who is exalted to be our Redeemer and king; and in the Holy Comforter, who is present in the Church to regenerate and sanctify the soul.
"With the whole Church, we confess the common sinfulness and ruin of our race, and acknowledge that it is only through the work accomplished by the life and expiatory death of Christ that believers in him are justified before God, receive the remission of sins, and through the presence and grace of the Holy Comforter are delivered from the power of sin, and perfected in holiness.
"We believe also in the organized and visible Church, in the ministry of the Word, in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, in the resurrection of the body, and in the final judgment, the issues of which are eternal life and everlasting punishment.
"We receive these truths on the testimony of God, given through prophets and apostles, and in the life, the miracles, the death, the resurrection of his Son, our Divine' Redeemer — a testimony preserved for the Church in the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments, which were composed by holy men as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
"Affirming now our belief that those who thus hold 'one faith, one Lord, one baptism,' together constitute the one catholic Church, the several households of which, though called by different names, are the one body of Christ, and that these members of his body are sacredly bound to keep 'the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace,' we declare that we will co-operate with all who hold these truths. With them we will carry the Gospel into every part of this land, and with them we will go into all the world, and 'preach the Gospel to every creature.' May he to whom 'all power is given in heaven and earth' fulfill the promise which is all our hope: 'Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.' Amen."
2. In Europe. — The doctrines of the English Congregationalists were set forth in 1659 in the Savoy Confession. As now stated, they are presented in the declaration of the Congregational Union, in articles of a Calvinistic type, but not presenting" a scholastic or critical confession of faith." While able writers have vigorously maintained the great doctrines of the evangelical churches, speculations upon doctrine do not seem to have been carried on as extensively as in the American churches, and the peculiarities of the "New England theology" have not been prominently discussed.
III. GOVERNMENT. —
1. In America. — The whole administration of Congregationalism grows out of the two cardinal principles of (1) the completeness of the local church for its own government, and (2) the necessary fellowship of the churches. In all matters concerning the individual church alone, no other body is necessary to complete or sanction its action, and none has power to revise or overrule it. But in all matters concerning the churches in fellowship as a whole, those churches properly convened express their opinions and determine their course; and although their decision is of force only in such churches as adopt it, yet the moral weight of such decisions generally secure acquiescence. The two principles mentioned limit each other.
(1.) Of the local Church. — The church is composed only of persons supposed to be regenerated, united biy a covenant which recognizes duty to God and to each other, meeting for worship, sacraments, and discipline. The government is strictly democratic, so far as giving the right of voting to all adult males, and with no power of veto in the pastor. By vote of the brotherhood members are admitted or dismissed, alleged offenders tried, and censures passed, and all officers elected. The permanent officers are pastor (or bishop) and deacons, with clerk and such committees as the Church finds desirable. The pastor is necessarily an ordained minister or elder, and, from his position, "bishop." He is chosen by the Church, and may be dismissed by the Church; but the usual alliance of the Church with an incorporated civil society gives the pastor a legal relation to that society (by which he has also been chosen in concurrence with the Church) which the Church cannot touch. This alliance is a variation from pure Congregationalism, which some churches do not practice; but inasmuch as members of the Church usually compose the far larger part of the civil corporation, harm seldom ensues.
(2.) Of the Fellowship of the Churches. — All churches stand in a sisterly relation to each other, and are bound to fulfill its duties. This communion is manifested in mutual recognition; in admitting members of one church to the communion of another; in temporary interchange of ministers; in the dismissal and reception of members; in giving and receiving advice; in giving and receiving help; in consultation and cooperation in the edification of a particular church, or matters of general welfare; and in giving and receiving admonition. These principles limit the independence of the local church, and are embodied in the decisions of councils, which are the churches of a greater or less locality, represented each by pastor and delegate, and convened for special occasions. The limiting effect may be seen thus: believers in a given locality may organize a Church, but it is not recognized as in fellowship until a council of churches has examined the need of it, its material, and its doctrine, and approved of its recognition. A Church may settle a pastor, but he is not in fellowship with other: churches until those churches in council have considered and approved his doctrinal and religious fitness. A Church may excommunicate a member, and no power outside can replace him in that Church; but inasmuch as the effect of that excommunication is to cut him off from the communion of all churches, the other churches have a right (and under certain circumstances it is their duty) to examine the case, and if the Church appears to have erred, recommend his restoration; in default of which they determine that his fellowship with them ought to continue, and they advise any Church to which he may apply to receive him. A Church may become erroneous in doctrine, or scandalous by its conduct, and no power can reverse its actions; but inasmuch as the scandalous conduct injures all the churches, they have a right to remonstrate and admonish, and, if that fails, withdraw fellowship from the offending Church. The general principle, therefore, is, that while no external power can interfere with any act of a Church whose result is confined to itself, yet if that act, in its effect and influence, goes beyond and affects the body of churches, those churches have full right to consider such external effect and influence. The practical result of the working of these principles has been to secure both the rights of local churches, and the harmony, stability in doctrine, and united action of the denomination.
(3.) Of the Ministry. — "The ministry," says the National Council of 1865, "includes all men called to that work, and orderly set apart by ordination. When ordination of a pastor is to be performed, the church in which he is to bear office invite a council to examine as to faith, grace, and ability, that, if he be approved, they may extend the hand of fellowship. If the ordination be in view of any other sphere of labor, the request for a council ought to come from the church of which he is a member. A pastor dismissed does not cease to be a minister, but he cannot exercise any official act over a church until orderly replaced in office, except when particularly invited by a church." Congregationalists acknowledge but one grade of ministers; regarding the apostolic office as extraordinary, and to have ended with the death of those mentioned in the Scriptures. In the early history of American Congregationalism no ministry was recognized except that of a pastorate. But when it became necessary to preach the Gospel where there w re no churches, as in missionary work, "evangelists" were ordained, but with no distinction in permanent character or authority from other ministers. A further modification of the original view has taken place. Until "now, all the Congregational churches," says Dr. Leonard Bacon, "acknowledge the difference between a minister of the Gospel and a pastor of a church. The former has no official power in any church or over any Christian. He is only a man set apart to preach the Gospel where God in his providence may call him." In the ordination of a pastor a distinction is now generally recognized between (1) the act of setting him apart as a minister of the Gospel, and (2) the act of his installation as pastor of the particular church. Ordinations without pastoral charge are now frequent, but never except in view of some particular sphere of labor.
Synods and Councils. — There are no standing bodies to hear appeals, give evidence, or declare the opinions of the denomination. But bodies to hear, determine, and advise are held to be involved in the fellowship of the churches, and are always called when the occasion is seen to demand them. They are more or less extensive, according to the number of churches affected by any matter to be considered. In all cases they are meetings of the churches, represented, however, by pastor and delegate. Only four general synods, as stated above, have been held in the United States. Matters affecting only a limited territory cause the convening of a limited council, as in Connecticut in 1709; while matters of merely local interest are the occasion of local councils, or those made up of a few contiguous churches, such as for the ordination of a pastor or the hearing of a case of alleged grievance. All are convened on the motion of a Church or churches, but no Church is obliged to participate. The proposal of the National Council of 1865 was first made in a local association; was recommended by the "Convention of the North-west;" was submitted to in the state bodies, and approved by all save one, which afterwards, however, was represented; and was called, in behalf of the various churches represented in the state bodies, by a joint committee composed from each body assenting. Local councils are frequent, being called to advise upon the recognition of new churches, the ordination or dismissal of pastors, the complaint of alleged grievance, and for advice to any Church desiring it. In calling a council, a Church must always be a party; the only apparent exception being that wherein, on complaint of injury to a member, the Church ought to be a party by assenting to his request for a council, but unreasonably refuses. In the latter case the member may call one himself, with a statement of the grounds and of the unreasonable refusal of the Church, in which case the council is known as ex parte, but is entitled to all the respect of a mutual one. If the Church and member (or, in similar circumstances, the Church and pastor, if there be differences between them) unite in the call, it is a mutual council. A council is composed of those churches invited, a list of which is given to every Church called, and cannot add to or diminish the number. It can act only on the matters presented in the document calling it, which is known as the "letters- missive." When it has examined the case, it puts its opinion in a "result," which is communicated to all parties, and then dissolves. Refusal to adopt the result does not prejudice the standing of a Church; if the refusal is a grave offense, and such as should affect fellowship with that Church, as in cases of doctrinal error, then new proceedings would be necessary for admonishing the offending Church. But the adoption of the results of council by one party in difference is held to justify that party, and in legal matters, such as relate to the contract of a pastor and parish, will be sustained by courts. The legal decisions on ecclesiastical matters have been numerous in Massachusetts. But the courts merely declare what the usages of Congregationalism are in reference to any contract in dispute, and they refuse to go behind the declaration of facts made by a council properly convened and properly conducted. The system of occasional councils is varied from only in Connecticut, where most of the churches are united in local consociations, in which system all matters which could elsewhere be referred to a special council, originated for the purpose, are referred to a fixed and recorded list of churches united in the consociation, which have bound themselves to constitute a mutual council whenever needed. Any Church may withdraw from a consociation without affecting its standing.
Customs and Usages. — Persons desiring approbation to preach apply, for convenience and fitness, to local associations of ministers, who receive his credentials of Church membership and of theological study, examine him as to his religious experience, his doctrinal views, his knowledge of scriptural learning, and his general fitness. Their approval, given in a certificate, merely commends him to the churches as a candidate for the ministry. In ordinations or installations of pastors, a council of churches makes similar examinations. Ordinations are accompanied by a sermon, an ordaining prayer (in connection with the "laying on of hands" by ordained ministers), charge to the pastor, the hand of fellowship, and an address to the Church. In the celebration of the Lord's Supper there is no prescribed liturgy. Persons applying for membership in the Church on profession of faith are examined by the Church or a committee, publicly propounded for a reasonable time prior to the vote on reception, are voted for or against by the whole brotherhood, and are received in public on adoption of the Church covenant, and (generally) assent to the doctrinal confession of the Church. Persons are dismissed from one Church to another, on their application, by vote of the Church dismissing, which takes effect on the reception of the person by the Church to which he is dismissed, which also votes on his reception Public worship is conducted in the form any Church prefers, although there is a very general similarity; but a few churches use a more or less extended liturgy, which is entirely within the control of every Church. In cases of the discipline of alleged offenders, the rules given in the 18th chapter of Matthew are required to be followed. If the first and second steps have been properly taken the alleged offender is summoned by the Church to appear at a time reasonably distant, and is entitled to a copy of all charges, and an unprejudiced and fair hearing: all the brotherhood vote upon the case. Church censures are of two kinds, admonition (which is often accompanied by suspension from Church privileges) and excommunication. If a member claims to have been unjustly suspended or excommunicated, his remedy is in asking the Church for a mutual council to consider and advise in the matter, and, in case of unreasonable refusal, to call a council himself, with the effect already described under Councils.
2. In Great Britain. — The general principles of Congregationalism are held in England precisely as in the United States. In the doctrine of the ministry, Church completeness, fellowship, and discipline, there is no particular variation; but in administration the Congregationalists of the British Islands make far less use of synods and councils. The above explanations, therefore, are in great degree inapplicable to that country, so far as they relate to such bodies. At this time (1867) the subject is attracting attention and causing discussion. There are, however, associations or unions of churches similar to those in the United States, as well as associations of ministers The English Congregationalists have also organized benevolent religious societies, either alone or with others, on the voluntary principle, for missions, religious publications, church building, education, etc. Among the Congregational societies are the Home Missionary Society, the Colonial Missionary Society, the Irish Evangelical Society, the Congregational Board of Education, etc. Foreign missions are carried on by means of the London Missionary Society, established in 1795, which is undenominational. The British and Foreign Bible Society, the Religious Tract Society, and others, receive the cooperation of the Congregationalists.
IV. STATISTICS. — The statistics of the American churches are given annually in the Congregational Year-book (Boston, Mass.), as well as those of the British Islands and Colonies. As published in 1890 (collected in 1889), they are as follows, to which, for the American churches, the figures collected in 1857 (the first completely to be relied upon) are prefixed for comparison
1858 (for 1857). 1890 (for 1889). Churches.................. 2,479 3,765 Members .................. 232,549 491,985 Numbers in Sabbath-schools. 128,772 597,351 Ministers .................. 2,414 4,640
Of the above, the churches in the United States, in 1889, were 4569; members, 475,608; numbers in Sabbath-schools, 580,672; ministers, 3300. These figures do not include over 200 churches, independent, or still connected with presbyteries on the "Plan of Union." Charitable contributions in 1888-9, excluding all cost of churches or repairs, or support of the ministry, or of endowment of schools, colleges, or theological seminaries, amounting to $2,205,563.
Great Britain and Colonies. County Associations, or Unions. Churches. Ministers. England.......... 36 3413 2010 Wales.......... 15 1006 700 Scotland......... 8 101 103 Ireland.......... 1 29 28 Colonies........ 8 435 217
Channel Islands ... — — 5 Foreign lands..... — 207 204
Total ....... 68 5191 3267
Other Parts of the World. — The number of Congregational churches established by missionaries is very considerable, but has never been reported. The number of ministers is included in the English and American reports.
Summary. — Including the churches on the European Continent, and also the missionary churches, and likewise the requisite number for Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, which are included in both the English and American reports, there are found in recognized and formal fellowship: Total churches, 9398; ministers, 6141; communicants (estimating the whole from the proportion of members to churches in the United States), about 1,000,000.
INSTITUTIONS OF LEARNING. — United States. — A large number of academies are controlled by Congregationalists, but no record has ever been made. Of colleges, though none are conducted on any exclusive principle, or require any denominational test, the Congregationalists control Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Vermont University, Middlebury, Williams, Amherst, Yale, and partially a number in the Western States, which they have helped liberally to endow. Theological schools in 1887, with the number of professors, lecturers, etc., and students, were as follows (one in San Francisco, California, was also chartered in 1866; and has 3 professors and 14 students): Professors. Lecturers, etc. Students, Bangor, Me .......... 5 — 35 Andover, Mass ...... 10 2 61 Yale, Conn........... 9 5 95 Hartford, Conn ....... 8 5 42 Oberlin, Ohio ........ 6 5 50 Chicago, Ill......... 6 6 112
Colleges in the British Islands and Colonies.
British Islands ....... 15 Victoria .......... (illegible) British North America. 1 Sydney,.. ....... (illegible)
Theological Colleges in the British Islands and Colonies. Schools. Students. England ........................ 11 346 Wales.................... 2 81 Scotland....... ................ 1 16 Colonies .... .......... 3 2 Private Seminaries in England...4 (?)
PERIODICALS. — United States. — No periodical call properly be called an organ of the denomination, inlasmuch as none are controlled by either the churches or any body representing the churches. But the following are published in their interests: Quarterlies — Bibliotheca Sacra, Oberlin, O.; New-Englander, New Haven, Conn.; Congregational Quart., Boston, Mass.; Congregational Review, Boston, Mass. Religious (weekly) newspapers: Congregationalist and Boston Recorder, Boston, Mass.; Christian Mirror, Portland, Maine; Vermont Chronicle, Windsor, Vt.; Religious Herald, Hartford, Conn.; Advance, Chicago, Ill.; Pacific, San Francisco, Cal. The Welsh Congregational churches in the United States have their own publications. Many other periodicals — missionary, tract, Sabbath. school, etc. — are mainly or wholly conducted by Congregationalists, but without distinctive denominational character.
England. — Year-book, etc. (annual). Quarterlies — Journal of Sacred Literature; British Quarterly Review. Eighteen monthlies. Newspapers — Nonconformist, English Independent, Christian World, and The Independent.
Scotland. — Congregational Magazine (monthly).
Ireland. — Congregational Magazine (monthly).
Wales. — Dyddiadur Annzibeynuyr (annual); Beirniad (quarterly), and five other periodicals.
Canada. — Independent, Toronto (monthly); Montreal Witness (weekly).
V. LITERATURE. — The American Congregation: 1 churches have required from the beginning ministers of liberal education and extensive learning. From this culture large contributions have resulted to general as well as denominational and religious literature. Of the very many authors in each department of the fatter, the following may be mentioned as the most prominent:
In Church Polity, in the 17th century, John Cotton, John Norton, Thomas Hooker, Richard Mather, John Davenport, Increase Mather (Pres. Harvard College). In the 18th century, Cotton Mather, Samuel Mather John Wise, Ezra Stiles (Pres. Yale College). In the present century, John Mitchell, Thomas C. Upham, Nathanael Emmons, Leonard Bacon, Preston Cummings, George Punchard, Henry M. Dexter. The work on "Congregationalism" by the last named, which is the latest American work, is also the fullest and most exhaustive, and is generally received by the churches as a safe and comprehensive guide.
In Denominational History, in the 17th century, Gov. John Winthrop, Nathaniel Morton, William Hubbard. In the 18th century, Cotton Mather, Thomas Prince, Jeremy Belknap. In the present century, Leonard Bacon, Bela B. Edwards, George Punchard. The History of Congregationalism by the latter, though not yet completed, is a work of thorough research and peculiar value.
In Theology, in the 17th century, Cotton, Norton, the Mathers, Thomas Shepard. In the 18th century, Samuel Willard (Body of Divinity), Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan Edwards the younger, Joseph Bellamy, Samuel Hopkins, Stephen West. In the present century, John Smalley, Nathaniel Emmons, Asa Burton, Jesse Appleton (Pres. Bowdoin College), Leonard Woods, Enoch Pond, Timothy Dwight (Pres. Yale College), Edward D. Griffin (Pres. Williams College), Nathaniel W. Taylor, Bennett Tyler, Lyman Beecher, Edward Baecher, Charles G. Finney (Pres. Oberlin College), Asa Mahan (Pres. Oberlin College), Mark Hopkins (Pres. Williams College), Edwards A. Park, Horace Bushnell, George P. Fisher.
In Biblical Literature, Moses Stuart. The missionaries of the American Board have made vary extensive contributions in the languages of the world, as well as to general science; among these, Myron Winslow is specially prominent.
In various relative Studies and in Religious Works, Edw. Hitchcock (Pres. Amherst College), Jas. Marsh, Joseph P. Thompson, Richard S. Storrs, Jr., Austin Phelps, Henry Ward Beecher, Augustus C. Thompson, Nathan W. Fiske, Nehemiah Adams, Ray Palmer (hymns and other religious poems), Lowell Mason (in sacred music), Hubbard Winslow, Joseph Haven, Rufus Anderson (sec. A. B. C. F. M.), Noah Porter, Jr., John Lord, Samuel C. Bartlett, Leonard Bacon, Thomas C. Upham, Leonard Woods, Jr., James B. Walker.
In England, after John Robinson, Whose writings in Leyden began strictly Congregational literature, are found the names of Milton, Goodwin, Nye, John Owen, Charnock, Watts, Doddridge, and, later, Wardlaw, Davidson, Newman Hall, Robert Vaughan, John Angell James. Hanbury's Memorials is a work of great historical value.
VI. AUTHORITIES. — As Congregationalists admit no obligatory standards of human devising, there are properly no authorities for government or doctrine; but their principles are stated in Declarations, in which they are agreed, and which carry great moral force. The principal on doctrine are the Westminster Confession, as revised by the Savoy Synod in 1659, and again by the Boston Synod of 1680; the "Principles of Religion" of the Congregational Union of England and Wales; and the "Declaration of Faith" set forth by the American National Council in 1865. Of ecclesiastical polity, the principal are the Savoy "Order of the Churches" in 1659; the "Cambridge Platform" in 1648; the "Saybrook Platform" in 1708; the "Principles of Church Order and Discipline" of the "Congregational Union of England;" and the "Platform of Church Polity" of the National Council in 1865. The works of many writers are also considered of great value, as showing what Congregational principles and usages are. The volumes of the Congregational Quarterly (Boston) also contain careful discussions on the several points of polity as well as history, and furnish full statistics. The English Year-book furnishes such statistics as are collected in Great Britain.