Index
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CHAPTER 3

THE STATE OF THE REFORMED DUTCH CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA, ABOUT THE YEAR 1765.

The Reformed Dutch Church in this country, at the time that Mr. Livingston resolved to seek preparation for the service of the sanctuary, was in a very unhappy and critical state. Before proceeding further in the account of liis life, that some things to be stated in it, may be fully understood; that his disinterested and useful offices in behalf of this church, which will be described in course, may be seen in a proper light, the peculiar difficulties then existing, so inimical to her peace and prosperity, must be unfolded.

It will be necessary to take a cursory retrospect of the Church from her rise, in order fairly to exhibit the nature and influence of these difficulties.

Nova Belgia, or New Netherland, as the part of America claimed or settled by the Dutch was originally called, comprehended a considerable The Reformed Dutch Church in this country, at the time that Mr. Livingston resolved to seek preparation for the service of the sanctuary, was in a very unhappy and critical state. Before proceeding further in the account of liis life, that some things to be stated in it, may be fully understood; that his disinterested and useful offices in behalf of this church, which will be described in course, may be seen in a proper light, the peculiar difficulties then existing, so inimical to her peace and prosperity, must be unfolded.

It will be necessary to take a cursory retrospect of the Church from her rise, in order fairly to exhibit the nature and influence of these difficulties.

Nova Belgia,, or New Netherland, as the part of America claimed or settled by the Dutch was originally called, comprehended a considerable extent of country. The earliest settlements they made, however, of any consequence, were at the head of the navigation of Hudson's river, and on the south-west point of the island Manhattans, in the State of New York, where they established them selves in the beginning of the seventeenth century.

The first emigrants were men of a bold, enterprising turn, whose chief motive for leaving their native land was, no doubt, the acquisition of wealth. They came under a patent from their High Mightinesses the lords States General of the United Netherlands, and a few years after (in 1621) were placed under the care of the Dutch West India Company, to whom the States General, for the purpose of promoting the settlement of a colony here, had then made a grant of the country.

Having been educated within the pale of the national Reformed Church, they brought with them a strong attachment to its doctrines, worship, and government; and, however deeply interested they were in secular pursuits, it is certain, that very soon after their arrival, they took measures for enjoying and preserving among them, in its purity, the religion of their fathers.

The authentic records of the Church of New-York commence with the year 1639; but there is some reason to believe that it was organized as early as 1619. -

[Among the manuscripts of Dr. Livingston, there is one containing a few observations upon the Dutch Church, in which he says, "documents of a private nature render it certain that a considerable church was-organized in that city, as early as 1619." In another, he affirms, that a document "is still extant, containing the names of members, in full communion, of the Church of New-York, dated 1622."]

Whether or not, in the infancy of this settlement, a house was built expressly for the celebration of public worship, the writer is not informed. There was one erected, in 1642, at the south end of Fort Amsterdam, and another, before 1664, on the farm (now called the Bowery) of Governor Stuyvesant, which was built at the Governor's own expense, and in which his remains were afterwards interred.

[Having noticed above, the first Dutch Churches in New-York, it may not be amiss to present here, a description of those in use in the year 1756.

Judge Smith, who wrote his History of New-York about that time, says, "There are still two churches, in which religious worship is performed in that language. The old building," (in Garden Street,) "is of stone, and ill built, ornamented within by a small organ loft and brass branches. The new Church," (what is now called the Middle Church) "is a high, heavy edifice^ has a very extensive area, and was completed in 1729. It has no galleries, and yet will perhaps contain a thousand or twelve hundred auditors. The steeple of this Church affords a most beautiful prospect, both of the city beneath, and the surrounding country."]

The first minister of New-York was the Rev. Everadus Bogardus; and, as he was succeeded by another before the Dutch Government ceased in the colony, it is more than probable that he either came over with, or soon followed, the first emigrants.

[He was succeeded by the Rev. John Megapolensis. Samuel Megapolensis has also been represented as one of the ministers of this Church; but in a letter of Gov. Stuyvesant, addressed to Col. Nichols, at the time of the surrender of the Colony to Great Britain, upon which occasion he acted as one of the Governor's deputies, the only title given him, is that of "Doctor of Physic." See Smith's Hist, page 42. The ministers following in succession until the year 1693, were the Rev. Messrs. Samuel Dresius, William Van Nieucnhuysen, and Henry Solyns.]

The precise time when a church was formed at Albany, or who was the first minister there, cannot now be ascertained; but it scarcely admits of a question that the inhabitants of that place, almost from the moment of its occupancy, enjoyed the regular ministrations of the Gospel:

[In one of the Historical Sketches of the Reformed Dutch Church, published in the Christain's Magazine, the author says. "The Church at New-York seems to have been first organized;" but, in the manuscript of Dr. Livingston, before referred to, speaking of the Albany settlement, he observes, "It is very certain they had ministers there as early, if not before, any were at New-York."]

and nothing can be more evident than that, prior to the surrender of the colony to the government of Great Britain, Churches were established in several other parts of New Netherlands.

[At Flatbush, New Utrecht, Flatlands (then New Amerafort) and Esopus. Between the year 1664 and 1693, a Church was formed in the City of Schenectady; another on Staten Island; three or four in different towns on the Hudson; two or three more on Long Island; and several in New-Jersey. Chris". Mag.]

These facts show, indisputably, that the original colonists were, in general, men of great moral worth, who did not, upon being transferred to a new and distant country, or when far removed from the notice of pious friends, cast off the fear of God, and abandon themselves to licentious habits of life: but, sensible of the importance of an early, public observance of the worship of God, and cherishing a high regard for the doctrines of the Reformation, as they had been taught them in Holland, at once so constituted themselves in a religious, as well as civil respect, as was best calculated to preserve them from degeneracy, and to promote both their temporal and spiritual welfare. It was, in their estimation, a measure of no little consequence to the best interests of the colony, to settle among them, as soon as possible, pious and faithful ministers of the Gospel, who should instruct them and their children in divine things, and maintain among them all the ordinances which appertain to the service of God. And whether accompanied or not in their emigration by those of their own choice, subsequent circumstances soon rendered it necessary for them to depend altogether for a supply of such men upon the choice of others. In these circumstances, as they had no connexion with any particular Classis in the mother country, they very naturally availed themselves of their connexion with the West India Company, whose influence was likely to obtain for them suitable pastors, or at least to secure them against impositions: and this Company, the greater part of whose Directors resided in Amsterdam, as naturally, whenever applications for clerical supplies were received from the colony, availed itself in attempting a compliance of the advice and assistance of the Classis of that city. This way of relieving the exigencies of the churches here, the best, no doubt, if not the only one practicable at the time, ultimately reduced them to a state of ecclesiastical vassalage, of no short duration, and fraught with the most serious evils. Uniformly receiving their ministers from the Classis of Amsterdam, these Churches, though not at first formally connected with it, were very easily brought to consider themselves subject to its authority. Gratitude for services rendered by the Classis, independent of any influence on the part of their ministers to this end, would dispose them respectfully to submit to its oversight and controul; and the result was in the lapse of time, that, either from gratitude or ministerial influence, or both combined, together with the necessities of their situation, submission was yielded as a matter of solemn duty. That it was the interest of the ministers to inculcate and endeavour to secure such submission, must be obvious; but it seems strange, that the Classis encouraged it after a number had been sent over, sufficient of themselves with their several congregations to be formed into a Classis. It seems strange, that the Classis of Amsterdam were willing to retain any responsibility in relation to men, whose moral and ministerial conduct they could not inspect, or that they did not take measures, as soon as they were warranted by circumstances, with the Synod of North Holland, to have a Colonial Classis constituted. The formation of such a Classis, subordinate to the Synod, would certainly have relieved them of a great deal of trouble, and might, in reason, have been judged necessary to the peace and welfare of the colonial Churches. And it seems yet more strange, that these Churches, suffering as they did, many inconveniences from their servile dependence upon a foreign judicatory, were not prompted, at a very early day, to apply for a local organization with classical powers. But this expedient was not thought of, and for more than a century, they continued to receive their supplies from the Classis of Amsterdam, to refer their controversies to it for decision, and implicitly to obey all its commands. And that Classis, having long had the exclusive management of these foreign concerns, with the approbation or tacit consent of the other judicatories in the Netherlands, or without encountering any interference, was at last supposed to possess a sort of paramount authority. It acquired unlimited power over its American charge. It was invested with an imaginary infallibility, to which almost the same respect was paid that Catholics are wont to show to that imputed to his Holiness the Pope. The opinion obtained with some, that it was the only legitimate source of ministerial authority that no ordination was valid, except it had been performed, or approved, by the Classis of Amsterdam.

An instance of this kind of extravagance occurred in Albany, in 1675. It is thus related: "In the year 1675, Nicholas Renslaer, a Dutch Clergyman, arrived here. He claimed the manor of Renslaer Wyck, and was recommended by the duke (of York,) to Sir Edmond Andross, for a living in one of the churches at New-York or Albany, probably to serve the Popish cause. Niewenhyt, minister of the Church at Albany, disputed his right to administer the sacraments, because he had received an Episcopal ordination, and was not approved by the Classis of Amsterdam, to which the Dutch Churches here hold themselves subordinate." [See Smith's History, page 63.] The controversy excited a good deal of interest at the time, and in the end, was referred to the determination of the Consistory of the Dutch Church at Albany. Opposition to the settlement of Renslaer, under the suspicions entertained of his character and designs, was perfectly justifiable upon the ground of those suspicions, but not upon that of the supposed invalidity of his ordination. This, if not thought to be derived from quite so good a source as the Classis of Amsterdam and such an opinion would probably find some advocates at the present day, provided he showed a willingness to adopt the standards of the Church, and to put himself under its government, could not fairly be viewed as barring his reception; much less, could it be viewed as in itself wholly inefficacious, or conferring no right to administer sealing ordinances. The claim, however, which Niewenhyt, [The writer has no means of ascertaining, though it would gratify him to be able to present, the names of the ministers who preceded Mr. Niewenhyt in the Church at Albany. In the Christian's Magazine, the Rev. Messrs. G. Schaats and Godefridus Dallius, are represented to have served the same Church prior to the year 1693.] in his zeal, set up in favour of the exclusive validity of Holland ordination, was not more chimerical and absurd than that which in modern times has been advanced, and somewhat strenuously maintained, in favour of the exclusive validity of Episcopal ordination; and though urged, on the occasion, in contravention of a suspected nefarious design, the fact that it was urged, clearly evinces the influence which it was believed the argument would have; and hence, may be seen the ascendency then of the Classis of Amsterdam, in the Dutch Churches, in this country. This ascendency continued unimpaired, and without even the semblance of opposition, until the year 1737, when, for the first time, an attempt was made to form a local convention, to have some general superintendence of ecclesiastical concerns. A few ministers [The Rev. G. Dubois of the city of New York; the Rev. G. Haeghoort, of Second River; the Rev. B. Freeman, of Long Island; the Rev. C. Van Santvoort, of Staten Island; and the Rev. A. Curtenius, of Hackensack.    C. M.] met in the city of New-York, and agreed upon the plan of a Coetus, or an assembly of ministers and elders, to be subordinate to the Classis of Amsterdam. The plan was submitted to the consideration of the churches; and the following year, at a meeting of ministers and elders held in the same city,

[Present The Rev. Mr. Dubois, with two elders, Anthony Rutgers and Abraham Lefferts; the Rev. Mr. Freeman, with two elders, Peter Neviiis and Dirk Brinkerhoof; the Rev. Mr. Van Santvoort, with one elder, Goosen Adriance; the Rev, Mr. Haeghoort, with one elder, F. Van Dyck; the Rev. Mr. Curtenius, with one elder, Zabriskie; the Rev. R. Erickson of Nauwesink, with one elder, J. Zutveen; the Rev. J. Bohm, of Philadelphia, with one elder, Snyder; the Rev. Mr Schuyler, of Schoharie, with one elder Spies; and the Rev. T. J. Frelinghuysen of Raritan, with an elder, H. Fisher. The names of the persons constituting this meeting are taken from the Chris. Mag. in which the last-mentioned clergyman is thus spoken of in a note: "He was a great blessing to the Dutch Church in America. He came over from Holland in the year 1720, and settled on the Raritan. He was an able, evangelical, and eminently successful preacher. He left five sons, all ministers; and two daughters, married to ministers." To this, may be added the testimony of that eminent servant of Christ, the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, respecting Mr. Frelinghuysen. In a letter to Mr. Prince, of Boston, he says, "The labours of Mr. Frelinghuysen, a Dutch minister, were much blessed to the people of New Brunswick, and places adjacent, especially about the time of his coming among them. Then I came there, which was about seven years after, I had the pleasure of seeing much of the fruits of his ministry: divers of his hearers, with whom I had opportunity of conversing, appeared to be converted persons, by their soundness in principle, Christian experience, and pious practice: and these persons declared that his ministrations were the means thereof. This, together with a kind letter which he sent me, respecting the necessity of dividing the word aright, and giving to every man his portion in due season, through the divine blessing, excited me to greater earnestness in ministerial labours." Prince's Chris. Hist.]

it was formally approved. A copy of it was at once forwarded to Holland, for the approbation of the Classis; and though perfectly inoffensive in all its features, not intended to weaken, in the least, the authority of the Classis in its operation, but merely to afford the brethren opportunities of giving and receiving advice, in cases of difficulty, and of cultivating a good understanding with each other, it seems to have been received with some little presentiment of its future important results. Whether such was the case or not, no answer was returned to the communication for the space of eight or nine years. When the answer came, however, it was a gratifying one to the friends of the plan; and accordingly, in the fall of 1747, the Coetus was constituted.

The body now formed, it will be recollected, had no power of ordination. Ordination was indeed sometimes performed here, but not independently of the Classis of Amsterdam, their permission to perform it, in any case, must first be obtained. The Coetus was not competent to proceed, upon its own motion, to an act of the kind; and for it to have done so, would have been considered a usurpation of power, or high rebellion against the authority of the Mother Church. The Coetus, in fact, possessed none of the rights or powers which essentially belong to a Classis; and it was not long, therefore, before many who looked with the deepest solicitude at the wants of the Church, and faithfully consulted her best interests, became convinced of the necessity of having a more efficient judicatory. This conviction grew stronger daily, and, in the end, induced a proposition to form a regular Classis. The proposition was first made in Coetus, in 1753. It gave rise naturally to considerable discussion, but was approved; and the next year, due measures were taken to ascertain the sense of the different Churches upon the subject.

The historian, whose words have been more than once cited, who wrote about the time of these occurrences, and upon the spot, speaking of the Low Dutch congregations, says,- "With respect to government, they are, in principle, presbyterians, but yet hold themselves in subordination to the Classis of Amsterdam, who sometimes permit, and at other times refuse them the powers of ordination. Some of their ministers consider such a subjection as anti-constitutional; and hence, in several of their late annual conventions, at New York, called the Coetus, some debates have arisen among them, the majority being inclined to erect a Classis, or ecclesiastical judicatory, here, for the government of their Churches. Those of their ministers, who are natives of Europe, are, in general, averse to the project. The expense attending the ordination of their candidates, in Holland, and the reference of their disputes to the Classis of Amsterdam, is very considerable; and with what consequences the interruption of their correspondence with the European Dutch would be attended, in case of a war, well deserves their consideration." [Smith's Hist, page 292.]

Reasons, other than those enumerated by this author, had their influence in favour of the establishment of an independent Classis. It was not a little mortifying to several friends of the Church, that congregations should still be compelled to send to Holland for ministers, when the few who had been ordained here, were found to be quite as acceptable, and quite as useful, as were their European brethren, and when others, of undoubted piety and sufficient talents, stood ready to become candidates for the ministry, as soon as the way should be fairly opened to a domestic ordination. Besides, the foreign Classis, not knowing exactly the character and circumstances of every vacancy, was not always the most happy in the selection of a supply, nor, indeed, always the most promptly attentive to a request for one. It often happened that, after the transmission of a call, a vacancy remained for years without the regular ministrations of the Gospel. The proposal now under consideration, was, therefore, very popular in many parts of the Church. The idea of throwing off a yoke, which both they and their fathers had long been unable to bear, and of governing themselves, was no sooner suggested than it suddenly spread, and arrayed in the support of itself, a number of congregations and of ministers, both European and native, who cherished a proper sense of their own rights, and a disposition to promote, at all hazards, the welfare of the Church.

The measures pursued to carry this new plan into operation, and the patronage it received, alarmed the adherents of the Classis of Amsterdam, and they speedily commenced a course of the most determined and active opposition.

They met first in 1755; and, to be distinguished from the friends of an independent Classis, who retained the old name of COETUS, they called themselves CONFERENTIE. [The ministers of this party were the Rev. Messrs. Haeghoort, Curtenius, Ritzema, De Ronde, Van Der Linde, Schuyler, Van Sinderin, Ruhel, Freyenmoet, Kock, Kern and Rysdyck.]

In point of numerical strength, the parties were about equal to each other: in other respects, there was a marked difference between them, the former excelling in "practical preaching, zeal and industry," the latter having the greatest share of learning. The two bodies, now completely organized and prepared for war, took their stand against each other, with evidences of resolution and feeling, which foreboded a long, obstinate, and dreadful conflict; and such, in fact, it proved. "The peace of the Churches was destroyed. Not only neighbouring ministers and congregations were at variance; but, in many places, the same congregation was divided; and in those instances in which the numbers, or the influential characters on different sides, were nearly equal, the consequences became very deplorable. Houses of worship were locked by one part of the congregation against the other. Tumults on the Lord's day, at the doors of the Churches, were frequent. Quarrels respecting the services, and the contending claims of different ministers and people, often took place. Preachers were sometimes assaulted in the pulpits, and public worship either disturbed or terminated by violence. In these attacks the Conferentie party were considered as the most vehement and outrageous. But, on both sides, a furious and intemperate zeal prompted many to excesses, which were a disgrace to the Christian name, and threatened to bring into contempt that cause which both professed to be desirous of supporting. [Christ. Mag.]"

For about fifteen years, this unhappy controversy was maintained with all the virulence of party spirit, producing, in many places, the most disastrous effects. "The more moderate and prudent members of both parties, were greatly grieved to find matters carried to such extremes. They perceived the mischief which this violence was daily producing, and foresaw the ruin to their Church which was impending; but were at a loss for an adequate remedy. To allay the bitterness of prejudices, which had been cherished for many years, and had become deeply inveterate; to heal a breach which was now so wide, and was daily growing wider and more unmanageable, required a combination of concurring causes, which were not easily produced nor brought into action. Each party tenaciously held its own principles, and refused to yield or compromise. No umpire could be found who was competent to decide, or who could expect obedience to his decision. The separation appeared to be without remedy; hope was expiring; and many valuable members, who abhorred discord, and could no longer sustain the evils wliich it produced, now left the Church and joined other denominations [Chris. Mail.]."

Such was the distracted and perilous state of the Dutch Church, under the baneful influence of this dispute, at the time when Mr. Livingston, after much serious deliberation, and earnest prayer to God, for direction, believed it was his duty to commence the study of theology.

And the reader is requested to bear in memory, the alienation, bitterness, and open violence, now so prevalent; the ruin, the utter extinction of the Church, which it was feared would inevitably follow, ere long, as the effect of this unholy strife; and he will see, in the course of the ensuing narrative, how wisely, and how kindly, and how wonderfully indeed, after the lapse of a century nearly, God, in his providence, recompensed the Christian sympathies and attentions of the Church of Holland towards the pious John Livingston, of Ancrum, whom it received and cherished, when exiled from his own country for his orthodoxy and zeal, by rendering a descendant of his an invaluable blessing to a portion of the same Church, when tossed with tempest, and apparently upon the brink of destruction. And, as it is likely that this portion of the Church, though in a distant country, comprehended within its pale some of the lineal descendants of the particular Dutch friends of that persecuted and holy man, it will not be unreasonable to imagine, that in return for the friendship shown him, such descendants were some how personally benefitted, through the honoured instrumentality of his descendant. Bread cast upon the waters shall be found after many days. A cup of cold water given to one because he belongs to Christ, shall not lose its reward. But there was another event of the day, which, as being connected with much that will appear in a subsequent chapter, and forming a signal epocha in the annals of the Church, deserves to be brought distinctly under the notice of the reader; and that was, the introduction of the English language in the service of the sanctuary. Until 1664, while the Colony was under the Dutch Government, the Dutch language was, of course, the only one in general use; but long after it was in the possession of Great Britain, as the Dutch inhabitants were by far the most numerous, their language still continued to prevail. They used it in their schools in their public worship in transacting their ordinary business: and, in fact, for more than a century, when the English was quite familiar to them, such was their attachment to their mother tongue, they spoke it habitually in their families. But, notwithstanding their pains to preserve it, by the combined influence of many agents and circumstances, it began at length to decline, and the consequence, at last, was its entire discontinuance. The causes of this decline, and of the final predominance of the English language in the province, can be easily traced.

"As the greatest part of this province consisted of Dutch inhabitants," says Judge Smith, "all our Governors thought it good policy to encourage English preachers and schoolmasters in the colony. No man could be more bent upon such a project than Fletcher, a bigot to the Episcopal form of church government. He, accordingly, recommended this matter to the assembly, on his first arrival, as well as at their present meeting. The house, from their attachment to the Dutch language, and the model of the Church of Holland, secured by one of the articles of surrender, were entirely disinclined to the scheme, which occasioned a warm rebuke from the governor, in his speech at the close of the session." At the next meeting of the assembly, in September 1693, a bill was passed in compliance with his wishes, "for settling a ministry, and was sent up to the governor and council, who immediately returned it with an amendment, to vest his excellency with an episcopal power of inducting every incumbent, adding to that part of the bill, near the end, which gave the right of presentation to the people, these words, and presented to the governor to be approved and collated. The house declined their consent to the addition, and immediately returned the bill praying, that it may pass without the amendment, having in the drawing of the bill, had a due regard to that pious intent of settling a ministry, for the benefit of the people,"

According to this act, a certain number of vestrymen, and church-wardens, must be annually elected in the city and county of New-York, and in the counties of West Chester, Queen's, and Richmond, to choose "a good and sufficient Protestant minister" for each district; and, for the support of the minister so chosen, they were authorized to levy upon each district a certain sum, to be paid by the inhabitants, of all denominations. The act itself made no invidious distinction between mmisters of different denominations; but it was interpreted as allowing of the choice only of those of the Episcopal Church. A construction, so disingenuous and unwarrantable, naturally provoked much dissatisfaction in the community; and in April, 1695, a petition having been presented upon the subject, the assembly declared it to be their opinion, "that the vestry-men and church-wardens have power to call a dissenting Protestant minister, and that he is to be paid and maintained as the act directs. The intent of this petition," adds the historian, "was to refute an opinion which prevailed, that the late ministry act was made for the sole benefit of Episcopal clergymen [See Smith's Hist, pages 137 143 and Chris. Mag,]." The popular discontent was not quieted, however, by this manoeuvre: it was a mere piece of finesse; for, whatever was the power of vestry-men and churchwardens in the matter, under their auspices the operation of the law was sure to be what it had been, and what, no doubt, the crafty governor intended it should be, solely in favour of such clergymen; and thus the Episcopal church was established and supported for near a century, in the counties above mentioned.

Before this law was enacted, the Dutch Church was by far the most distinguished of any in the colony. In numbers, in wealth, in respectability, it unquestionably occupied the first place; but as soon as the Episcopal church was made so prominently an object of government-favour, it lost some supporters, as a natural consequence of the inducements then held out to defection; and a character and reception were at once, by that means, in connexion with others employed for the same purpose, secured to the English language, which, in their influence, in process of time, produced a considerable change in its relative situation, and for a while, indeed, very seriously affected its peace. To cultivate an acquaintance with this language, soon became necessary and fashionable among the people; and it is not improbable, that a view to the object, prompted several at first to frequent the Episcopal Church, who afterwards found it convenient to connect themselves fully with that Church.

The civil courts performed their business in the English language: English families multiplied: English schools were established: the trade with English merchants increased: a friendly intercourse with the adjacent English provinces was maintained: intermarriages with the English inhabitants occasionally took place; and all these circumstances, in united operation, soon brought the language greatly in vogue. Such was its predominance after the lapse of some years, that many of the young people, particularly in the city of New-York, who had grown up in the constant use of it, could no longer sit with profit under Dutch preaching, and, therefore, desired that it might be adopted in the public worship of God. Unwilling to leave the Church of their fathers, the Church in which they had been baptized, and to which, for that and other reasons, they felt much attached, they ventured to urge, pretty strongly, the propriety and necessity of a substitution of the English for the Dutch language in the Church service.

This request produced contention in the Church of New-York, which was not without its mischievous effects, and was of no short duration.

" The Dutch congregation," says the forecited historian [See Smith's Hist. p. 291], "is more numerous than any other, but as the language becomes disused, it is much diminished; and, unless they change their worship into the English tongue, must soon suffer a total dissipation." Some respectable families had already left it on account of the language, and united with other Churches: but still, so infatuated were many, especially of the aged part of the Church, with the notion, that its very existence depended upon the continuance of the language, that the request now made was received with indignation, and resisted to the utmost.

They feared that the proposed suppression of the language, if effected, would necessarily involve, in time, the loss of the doctrines, the mode of worship, the government, the very name of the Church: and there is reason to believe, that the opposition to it was fomented by the interference of the Dutch ministers, who, as they could not officiate in the English language, were not a little uneasy at the prospect of its introduction. The opposition assumed, at length, a malignant and violent aspect, which induced more of the congregation, that had no relish for scenes of animosity and discord, to go over to other Christian societies; and at this important juncture, when it was evident that something must be done to gratify the friends of a change, and also, if possible, to terminate the unhappy dispute, or the congregation "suffer a total dissipation," the Consistory resolved to call a minister to preach in the English language.

This was a decisive measure, a measure teeming with the most momentous consequences to the future welfare of the Church, a measure which, though it had to encounter a warm and determined hostility, was agreed upon with singular moderation and prudence. The Consistory had been accused of unfriendliness to the Dutch Church, in meditating such a measure, or in showing any disposition to favour the views of the English party; and, as they knew that there were English Churches in some cities of the United Netherlands, in connection with the national Established Church, to evince their attachment to the Church, and hoping by this means to restore peace, they resolved, not merely to call a minister to preach in the English language, but to call one from Holland through the medium of the Classis of Amsterdam. Accordingly, they prepared a blank call, and enclosed it in a letter to the Classis, requesting that the call might be properly filled up, and put into the hands of the individual whom that rev. body should deem qualified for the station. Upon the receipt of this letter, the Classic very promptly complied with the request it contained, and sent the call to Mr, Archibald Laidlie, then a minister of the English Church, at Vlissingen, (or Flushing), in Zealand, and a member of the Classis of Walcheren.

A more judicious and happy selection could not have been made; and it was made under the special guidance of the Great Head of the Church, as the event proved.

Mr. Laidlie was a native of Scotland, and received his education in the University of Edinburgh. In 1759, he settled at Flushing; and, during his ministry in the Church of that place, which continued a little over four years, he was highly esteemed for his enlightened and active zeal in the service of his Master for his extensive attainments in theology and general literature and for his warm attachment to all the doctrines of grace. He received and accepted the call from New-York, in Nov. 1763; and arrived at that city the latter part of the March following. A fortnight after his arrival, April15, 1764, having been duly recognized as one of the ministers of the Dutch Church, he preached his first sermon, the first ever delivered in the English language in the Dutch Church to a very crowded and devoutly attentive auditory. The text was 2 Cor. 5. xi. Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. The wishes of a large majority of the congregation were now accomplished. God, in mercy, had heard their prayers, and granted them English preaching; and, what rendered the boon peculiarly gratifying, there was good evidence that the preacher, who had been sent to them, was truly a man after God's own heart. It was, therefore, a season of thanksgiving and praise in their habitations, long gratefully remembered.

It has been said, and the anecdote is repeated, simply to show the warm and kindly feelings with which the ministrations of this eminent servant of Christ were regarded, that some pious aged persons gathered around him at the close of a prayermeeting one evening, when he had been fervently addressing the Throne of Grace, and said to him, "Ah, Dominie! we offered up many an earnest prayer, in Dutch, for your coming among us; and truly the Lord has heard us, in English, and has sent you to us." [Mag. of the Reformed Dutch Church.]

The venerable subject of this Memoir, in one of his private papers, thus speaks of Mr. Laidlie: "He was a very acceptable preacher; bold and authoritative, commanding respect, fear, and love. The wicked trembled when he announced the terrors of the Lord, while the lambs of the flock were nourished and comforted, when he displayed the grace, care, and faithfulness of their divine and good Shepherd. He was much delighted with, and attached to, the Church Catechism; he had studied it with great diligence, and prepared excellent lectures upon every section of that precious standard of evangelical truths. By this study he became a learned and sound divine, and recommended himself greatly to the Church. In his labours, preaching, catechising and visiting the congregation, he was indefatigable. He was the first who was called expressly to preach English in the Dutch Church in America. A revival of religion then commenced; the Church prospered, and the blessing of the Lord was abundantly experienced under his ministry."

The writer has often heard an aged saint, who recurred with evident satisfaction to the hours she had spent under the preaching, or catechetical instructions of this man of God, tell of the revival alluded to in the above extract; and, from the representation given of it, it must have been a powerful and glorious work of the Spirit. From traditionary and other accounts, it appears, that Dr. Laidlie (now made a Doctor in Divinity by the College at Princeton) was a man not only of ardent piety and remarkable pulpit talents, but also of more than common discernment and prudence; possessing precisely those qualities, the exercise of which, in his difficult situation, was indispensably necessary to the enjoyment of much comfort, or to extensive usefulness.

Coming into the Church at a time when the collision of opinions and interests between the two great parties, the Coetus and Conferentie, was at its height; and connected with a congregation, which was in a state of very excited dissension, in consequence of his settlement among them as an English preacher it behooved him to look well to his goings: and he did so look to them. He was plain and affectionate in all his deportment: He complied with the existing practice of the Church in the most trivial things: He treated with the utmost respect the patrons of the Dutch language: He studied peace; and made it evident to all, in his public ministrations and private conversation, that his predominant desire was to win souls to Christ. It was his happiness, therefore, to enjoy, in a very high degree, the esteem and confidence of the congregation which he served, and of the Christian community at large. But beloved as was Dr. Laidlie, and successful as had been his ministry, in the city, from the moment of its commencement, there still remained those, whom a blind and invincible attachment to the Dutch language, incited to a course of conduct exceedingly blame-worthy in itself, and, in no small degree, vexatious to the Church. They 'were not to be reconciled to the innovation; nay, seemingly the more chagrined, the more popular it appeared to be, they were incessant in their efforts to obtain such a preponderance of their party in the government of the Church, or such a triumph over the Consistory in a civil suit, which had been instituted against that body for a supposed illegal act, as would give them the power of exploding it.

The nature of the suit alluded to, which, though commenced nearly two years before, was yet undecided, and which must be noticed a second and a third time in the succeeding pages, as involving the final settlement of the question relative to the language, it is proper should be here briefly but distinctly stated.

Soon after the blank call was sent to Holland, the principal opponents of the measure concerted among themselves a plan for turning out of office those that had given it their support, and putting in men, who would endeavour, at once, to nullify all the proceedings in the case. In order to carry these designs, it was proposed that, at the next election, the members in full communion a majority of whom they believed was on their side, should choose the new Consistory, in contravention to a long immemorial practice of the Church, or, at least, assert their right to do so; and, in the event of its being denied, immediately seek redress in a court of justice. Accordingly, in the ensuing October, when the election was held, the right was claimed, in due form, by a Mr. Abel Hardenbrook, who offered to vote upon the occasion. The vote was of course rejected, and that rejection was made, without any delay, the ground of a judicial process.

The English language ought, in reality, to have been introduced into the Dutch church fifty years

[Dr. Livingston thought it should have been introduced an hundred years before. Mr. P. V.B. Livingston, a respectable relative of his [MVD: Peter Van Brugh Livingston, the brother of Dr. Livingston's wife Sarah], in a letter dated Feb. 1769, writing on the subject says "Had this been done in this city, thirty years ago, the Dutch congregation would have been much more numerous than it is now. The greatest part of the Episcopal Church consists of accessions they have made from the Dutch Church." He adds, that though the Dutch was his mother tongue the first language he had been taught, and was still spoken by him with ease he could not understand a Dutch sermon half as well as he could an English one, and that as for his children "there was not one that understood a sentence in Dutch."]

sooner than it was; and would have been introduced, if the future prosperity of the church had been properly consulted. And, though the fathers of the Church, some of whom were truly pious and excellent persons, were excusable for opposing the change, prior to the adoption of any measures to settle an English preacher, honestly believing that it would lead, if tried, to deplorable results, it may seem strange, that after a call was actually sent to Holland, they should try to break down an old established custom, and show such a determined purpose to maintain the stand they had taken; or that, apart from other motives, which ought to have had some influence upon them, the spiritual welfare of their children, who understood, as was admitted, very little of Dutch sermons, did not constrain them to acquiesce, without even a murmur, in the decision of the constituted authority of the Church. But, the conduct of the best of men is sometimes unaccountably inconsistent with the principles they profess: and great allowance must certainly be made for such folly, as prejudice, not reason, governs them; and there are ever those, whose interest prompts them to take advantage of the prejudice of others, to inflame their passions, and to provoke them to deeds which, it requires no prophetic ken to foresee, will issue in shame and regret.

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