Index
PAGES 110-155:
CHAPTER 4

CIRCUMSTANCES RELATING TO HIS THEOLOGICAL STUDIES, AND TO THE CHURCH OF NEW-YORK.

The state of the Dutch Church in America, at the time when Mr. Livingston thought of entering upon the study of Divinity (exhibited in the last chapter), was not such, it must be confessed, as was likely to excite in him the least inclination to become one of her ministers. The great schism that existed, the hatred and turmoil so prevalent in consequence, the difficulty of obtaining ordination, his ignorance of the language then used in divine service in every part of the Church, excepting only a single congregation for, owing to the education he had received, he was not at all familiar with it, these were discouragements which, it is natural to imagine, would have determined him, without hesitation, to join some other denomination of Christians. But he did hesitate, notwithstanding: and he decided, eventually, to continue in the Church.

And, let no one suspect there was any bigotry in this decision. There was some magnanimity, but no bigotry in it. His heart glowed with Christian charity. He detested the spirit that regards any ecclesiastical line of demarcation as the boundary, beyond which the operations of saving grace must necessarily cease, or that blind zeal, which debars from a participation in the benefits of salvation, all who are without the pale of a particular Church. He believed that the exercise of that faith in Christ, which is the effect of a divine influence upon the heart, and not the mere fact of belonging to a Church, however pure its doctrines, or primitive its government might be, secured heaven to a sinner; and, therefore, that all of every name, having that faith, and worshipping in spirit and truth, were of the number of God's precious people, and would be saved. Still, as he observed some difference in the distinctive peculiarities of the several denominations, whose standards included substantially the same articles of faith, he deemed it proper, before making any positive arrangements for his future studies, to satisfy himself which Church was, in every respect, the most comformable to the model presented in the word of God, and in which he would have the fairest prospect of usefulness. The inquiry was one of great importance; and the result showed, that he had sought in it only the testimony of a good conscience. Those very circumstances, which almost any other youth similarly situated, would have viewed as conveying in the Dutch Church, he viewed as laying him under an obligation, in some measure, to remain in it; or so far from having a discouraging effect, they had, on the contrary, a powerful influence in producing the resolution which he finally adopted. This fact ought to be known in the Church. In the manuscript, from which extracts have already been made to some extent, he thus relates the reasons of this preference.

"When the main question respecting my engagement in the ministry was decided, another of no small magnitude arose, upon which it was necessary, with caution and good conscience, to determine. This was, to what denomination of Christians duty prompted an attachment, or in which Church I ought to minister. The Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Dutch, were the only three among which a selection was to be made. In regard to the Episcopalians. I considered them as very respectable, and supposed their doctrines, as expressed in their articles of faith and liturgy, to be sound and excellent; but I was under the impression that those doctrines were not cordially maintained, certainly not generally preached by the ministers of that Church, and that I could not, therefore, hold a cheerful communion with them. Besides, their ceremonies, repetitions, and what I thought to be an unmeaning and improper parade in worship, lessened my admiration for them: while their popish bigotry in favour of a monarchical government of their Church, with their frivolous affectation of superiority above other denominations, to whom, in many respects, they were vastly inferior, exceedingly disgusted me. To their own master I left them, but I did not wish to join them."

"In the Presbyterian Church, I had been often instructed and edified. Their doctrines were pure, and their preaching was evangelical and practical. Their mode of worship appeared to be consistent with the spirituality, simplicity, and dignity of the New Testament Dispensation: and their form of government was founded upon that principle of equality which the Lord Jesus estabhshed among the ministers of his Church. I could have joined the Presbyterian Church with great freedom, and would have done so, had not motives occurred which induced me to prefer the Dutch Church. My parents were members, in full communion, of the Reformed Dutch Church; I was baptized in that Church, and thus a member of it, although not yet in full communion; and, in my estimation, the doctrines, worship, and government of the Church, were pure and evangelical. This decided the inquiry, and convinced me, that as I already belonged to a Church, which was equal in its purity to any in the world, it was my duty to remain in it, and consecrate my future service in that connexion and denomination."

"There was another motive, which imperceptibly yet powerfully inclined me to this determination. An unhappy schism and controversy had, for several years, subsisted in the Dutch Churches in America, which, unless soon suppressed, threatened the annihilation of that whole denomination. The precise grounds of the dispute, or the best means for reconciling the contending parties, I had not then completely surveyed. The existing facts, however, were notorious and afflictive; and I understood enough to convince me of the inevitable ruin which was impending, and must soon be experienced, if those dissensions were not healed. For the restoration of peace and prosperity in this distinguished portion of the Lord's vineyard, I felt an ardent desire; and it was powerfully impressed upon my mind, that God would render me, however unworthy and unfit for that arduous work, an instrument in his hand to compromise and heal these dissensions, and raise the reputation, and establish the dignity and usefulness of the Dutch Church in America. In what way these great objects were to be effected, or how the Lord would prepare, and afterwards employ me, for that purpose, I did not know, nor did this excite any diffidence or uneasiness. The point was settled in my mind, and I was fully persuaded it would be accomplished. This removed all further hesitation, and fixed my determination to abide in my own Church. The posterior dealings of Divine Providence, and the gracious fulfilment of my expectations, have afforded me abundant evidence that my choice has been crowned with the divine approbation."

The impression which it appears he had, that he would be made in some way instrumental in restoring peace to the church, and which was so strong as to fix his determination to abide in it, some probably would pronounce "the baseless fabric of a vision," or a mere whim of self-importance; but it was neither, and a single remark will be sufficient to make this evident, without adverting to the result. It would have been little less than perfect idiocy in him, if under the influence of ambition and conceit, to have selected for pursuit an object of such precarious attainment; something more obviously practicable, something environed with fewer difficulties, and not quite so contingent in its nature would have been aimed at. He would rather have fixed his eyes upon the plain pathway to comfort, usefulness, and honourable distinction, then presented in either the Presbyterian or Episcopal Church. The impression, it is believed therefore, was from God; and the determination he formed, was, all things considered, an evidence of genuine humility, and of a sincere desire to promote the divine glory in the work to which he was about to devote himself. The jeering sciolist may smile, if he pleases, at the sentiment just expressed; and even some rational Christians may not be altogether pleased with it. The fact, however, is indisputable, that an extraordinary impulse has often given rise to a series of conduct, which was connected in the last result with some important event or events, and these showed such impulse to have proceeded from a special interposition of God.

Mr. Livingston having now (in the spring of 1765,) in a good measure, recovered his health, occupied much of his time in reading historical, poetical, and other works, calculated to improve him in general and polite literature. Among the authors that engaged his attention was the celebrated Shakspeare; but he had no relish for dramatic writings, or theatrical performances. And it will not be amiss, perhaps, though it be a slight infringement of the continuity of the present narrative, to insert here his sentiments upon the subject of the Theatre. They are exceedingly just and to some who may happen to peruse these pages, they may administer some seasonable and salutary counsel. The Theatre is a place to which it is but too fashionable for persons of every age to resort; and, as a certain Poet once expressed himself

"It is a golden, but a fatal circle,
"Upon whose magic skirts a thousand devils,
"In crystal forms, sit, tempting innocence,
"And beckon early virtue from its centre."
"I was early convinced," he says, "that the Theatre, whatever modifications it might promise, and how innocent soever it might prove to some, who, burdened with business, seek a relaxation at the playhouse, was, in fact, in its very scope and natural influence, the nursery of vice, and ruinous to youth: that it produced dangerous temptations; dissipated the mind from serious exercises; and, in its whole apparatus of show, drapery, noise, and insinuating scenes, was inimical to that rigid virtue, that strict industry, and those sober and prudent sentiments and habits, which every youth ought to study and maintain. I was confident that the frequent, and vain, and wicked invocation of the Divine name; the irreligious, indelicate and even obscene insinuations; the avowed provocatives to unsanctified passions; and, at best, the vulgar and foolish subjects with which the Drama, especially the Comic, abounds, render it unworthy the approbation of a well-informed, and especially of a pious mind, and wholly improper to be honoured with the presence and countenance of a real Christian. He whose heart is renewed, who loves a holy God, and trembles at his word, who is devoted to the Saviour that died to redeem him from a world which lieth in wickedness, and who prays daily to be kept from temptation, will not go to the playhouse. Unconverted men, even those who have the form of godliness but are destitute of its power, may think it strange that the Lord's people do not run with them to the same excess of dissipation and amusements. But, if it should ever please God to bring those men to a correct knowledge of their own vile and deceitful hearts, and make them anxious to be saved from their sins, through a crucified Redeemer, they will readily know and acknowledge that a playhouse is inimical to their devotion, and fatal to their peace. They will cordially unite with all sincere penitents in disapproving the Theatre; and, without being swayed or overawed by the interested or deluded sons of pleasure, will pronounce the playhouse to be the most pernicious institution that exists in civilized and polished society. They will condemn it as the greatest enemy to the religion of the Holy Jesus, and wonder that it is suffered to prevail, or meets with patrons, in nations who are called after the name of Christ."

"My early aversion to the Theatre has increased and been corroborated by painful observation. I have known several hopeful youths of respectable connections, who might have been an honour to their families, and a blessing to the community, to be totally ruined by their early attachment to the playhouse. Their corruption commenced with their attendance at the Theatre. There they formed an acquaintance with low and unworthy characters; there, under its baneful influence, they grew indolent and dissipated, impatient of study and close application to any business; and, in the issue, they became some of them insipid and useless drones and coxcombs, many of them final victims to intemperance, and all of them a grief to their parents."

The truth of this testimony to the pernicious effects of theatrical exhibitions, will not be called in question by any who were acquainted personally with the witness, or know the pure and elevated character he sustained; and it is earnestly desired that it may prove the means of turning the feet of some from a house which is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

To return to the narrative. Mr. Livingston, it was stated, as soon as he found himself convalescent, to increase his stock of general knowledge, engaged in a pretty extensive course of reading. Nothing occurred after this worthy of particular notice, till he had his first interview with the excellent Laidlie, which took place some time in the following summer, and proved the commencement of a cordial, unreserved, and lasting intimacy between them. At this interview, it is presumed, he disclosed his purpose to consecrate himself to the ministry of reconciliation. Whether the disclosure was made then, or afterwards, the good Doctor, knowing the labours connected with the sacred employment, and perceiving his young friend to be in feeble health, rather at first seemed to doubt as to the advice it would be proper for him to give in the case; but he did not doubt long. Mr. Livingston soon convinced him that the purpose was not to be abandoned on the ground of the present state of his health, that he had fully made up his mind to attempt the prosecution of it, leaving the event with God and, at the same time, cherishing a confident hope that health would be given, and whatever else he might need. Upon the appearance of such piety, and zeal, and trust in God, Dr. Laidlie at once encouraged him to make the attempt, and suggested that it would be to his advantage to go to Europe, and to prosecute his theological studies in one of the celebrated Universities of Holland.

The suggestion was received with due respect. He had wished to visit that country, before this conversation took place, that he might attempt the removal of the grievances which had produced the unhappy breach in the churches here; being persuaded that if he could inform the ministers of Amsterdam of the precise state of these churches, something would be done for their benefit; and now, that another inducement to go there was presented, he thought, if there should be such a concurrence of circumstances, as to show him that Providence approved it, he would undertake the voyage.

In July, he took the degree of master of arts; and the succeeding winter, he spent in the city of New-York, The society of Dr. Laidlie, and other pious friends which he daily enjoyed; the religious meetings he frequented; the accurate and extensive knowledge he acquired of the affairs of the church during this season, rendered it both a pleasant and useful winter to him, and the sojourn was highly necessary in reference to the important object in contemplation.

Finding, in the spring, his health considerably improved, and his father having cheerfully consented to his receiving a foreign education for the ministry, as also to defray all the charges which might attend it,* he resolved to cross the Atlantic, and prepared accordingly.

[This is particularly mentioned, because it has been said that he was aided in the prosecution of his theological studies by the Church of New-York. Alluding to the gratuitous assertion, he remarks, "Whether the Dutch Church of jNew-York refunded what I had paid for my passage in the packet from England to America, when I came over upon their call, as is usual in such cases, I do not now distinctly recollect. If they did, it is, certainly, all that they or any others ever paid, for any expenses while I was abroad." As his father was abundantly able, and perfectly willing to discharge all expenses, there was no need of any assistance.]

On the twelfth of May, 1766, every suitable preparation being made, he bid adieu to relatives and friends, and set sail for Amsterdam. He was now within a few weeks of the twentieth year of his age; and his youth, his delicate health, the object which he had in view in venturing upon the voyage, and other circumstances, imparted to the event, in the eyes of many, a peculiar and touching interest. Some of the New-York congregation already cherished the hope that he would, at a proper time, return to labour among them in holy things. The intercourse of a few months had given them a favourable opinion of his piety and talents, and he departed with their fervent prayers to Heaven in his behalf.

He had a tolerably pleasant voyage. That Almighty Being, who holds the winds in his fists, and the waters in the hollow of his hand, protected his young servant from dangers, and conveyed him safely to his particular destination. Once, indeed, the vessel, when sailing up the British Channel, was in quite a perilous situation. The captain had been unable, owing to cloudy weather, to take an observation for several days; and, mistaking the part of the Channel where he was, unwittingly got on the coast of France, very near the shore. The danger, at the moment it was discovered that the vessel was upon the coast of France, of her being wrecked, was considerable; but just then, a kind Providence sent a favourable wind, which wafted her in a few hours abreast of Dover.

On the twentieth of June, or in thirty-nine days after leaving New York, he arrived at Amsterdam. The attentions he now received from the several individuals, to whom he had brought letters of recommendation, were of the most gratifying kind. To Mr. J. Chabonell, on the Keyser's Graft, whose house, on his arrival, at the particular request of that gentleman, he made his home; to Mr. Daniel Crommelin and his sons; to Mr. Van Haerlingen; and to Mr. Anthony Van Rensselaer, with whom he afterwards abode whenever he visited Amsterdam, he felt himself much indebted. The kindness of these generous Hollanders, especially of the family of Mr. Van Rensselaer, he could never forget.

Almost immediately upon his arrival, he endeavoured to learn where he could most advantageously settle himself, to pursue his theological studies. This was naturally a primary subject of inquiry, as he had left his native land in quest of the best instructers; and the information given him by the intelligent persons with whom he conversed, very soon determined the question in favour of the University of Utrecht. The universities of Leyden and Groningen had a high reputation; but the preeminence in public opinion, he found, belonged to the one at Utrecht. Here was a man who, in the department of theology, had no compeer in the country Professor G. Bonnet, For piety, eloquence, and learning, he was decidedly the most distinguished professor in Holland; and, when Mr. Livingston became satisfied of the fact, he did not hesitate to fix upon Utrecht as the place of his future residence.

In all the Universities of Holland, it is customary to have a long vacation (from May to October), and it being now the season of the vacation, he did not proceed immediately to the University, but tarried a few weeks in Amsterdam, cultivating an acquaintance with a number of godly persons. The time was well spent. He was introduced into just such society as suited his taste that of warm-hearted and intelligent Christians, and he derived from it important spiritual benefit. These strangers proved, indeed, helpers of his faith and joy. They received him with much Christian frankness and love, and their conversation was pleasing, spiritual, and instructive. But it will readily be supposed that, unaccustomed to speak the language, he would be unable to maintain a conversation in it. This was the fact at first. He had a friend, however, who could act the part of an interpreter, that accompanied him in his visits for a while; and having often heard the Dutch spoken in America, he soon acquired a knowledge of it sufficient for a little pious discourse.

In a village called Tienhoven, not far from Amsterdam, there lived a venerable servant of Christ, whose name was Schorelenburgh, greatly beloved, and much talked of as a person of more than ordinary experience in religion. He had been more than fifty years the minister of that place, and such was the respect in which his character was held that, from far and near, many who were asking the way to Zion, or walking in spiritual darkness, came to him for counsel.

Mr. Livingston had a great desire to see this aged and celebrated disciple; and, one day, Mr. Frans Van Haerlingen, the interpreting friend alluded to, went with him to Tienhoven, and introduced him to Mr. Schorelenburgh. He was highly gratified with the excursion. The judicious, agreeable, and affectionate conversation of the matured saint, who seemed prepared to depart at any moment, "with hands fastened on the skies," had a happy influence upon his mind, and he left him with mingled emotions of veneration and love, feeling that he had found a father, to whom in seasons of gloom and dejection he could freely repair for advice and comfort.

At a suitable time, he went to Utrecht. Upon his arrival here, he was introduced to an American gentleman, Mr. Henry Peterson, an established and respectable merchant of the city, who politely invited him to his house, and hospitably entertained him until he could provide himself with convenient lodgings.

Professor Bonnet gsve him a very friendly reception. This distinguished person, with official dignity, appears to have united great suavity of manners; and his deportment to the young stranger was so condescending, so kind, so paternal, that it excited in him much filial affection and confidence.

Mr. Livingston regarded his professor as a sincere friend, which he truly was; and, having such a friend to consult, he evinced, at the very commencement of his university career, a prudence that is rarely met with in a youth but twenty years of age. He would form no intimacies; nay, he carefully avoided all advances made to him for acquaintance, until he had the advice of the Professor, or knew from him the character of the persons who sought his company. This was a wise precaution. It had the effect which he desired it should have. It kept him a stranger to those whose companionship could not fail to injure the character of a stranger; and it was the means of leading him into some of the most respectable society, both of the city and of the university. The prudence discovered in this fact, constituted in after-life, as all who knew him will acknowledge, one of his most prominent characteristics.

While he was preparing to attend the lectures of the approaching session, a circumstance occurred, which, as it shows how the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and how the smallest incidents, though deemed scarce worthy of notice when they happen, are often subsequently, under the Divine blessing, connected with the richest and happiest experience of the Christian, must not be omitted.

During his voyage and stay in Amsterdam, Mr. Livingston had enjoyed a very comfortable frame of mind. His spiritual exercises had been lively and pleasant, and he had cherished a confident hope that the Lord would preserve his health, and enable him to pursue, with vigor and diligence, the studies upon which he designed to enter. But, a short time previous to the commencement of the lectures, he became much dejected, owing to the return, with some severity, of the old pain in his breast. Finding himself again afflicted with a complaint, which had once menaced him with an early death, and, apprehending its continuance, he began to think that he would be compelled to abandon his object, and to feel very sensibly the loneliness of his situation, in the midst of strangers. The depression of his spirits in consequence was very great; and that he might open his heart to a friend, who would probably say something to comfort him, he determined to make another visit to the venerable Schorelenburgh. Accordingly, he rode one day to Tienhoven. Soon after he had entered the good man's dwelling, and the usual salutations had passed between them, Mrs. Schorelenburgh, who was trulv a mother in Israel, with an air that showed much affectionate solicitude, made some inquiries concerning the state of his health. He told her, in reply, that "he was in constant pain in his breast, with much weakness and dejection of spirits, and that he feared he had come three thousand miles from home in vain." Upon hearing this, the old lady rejoined, in a few pious and appropriate remarks, and then to close, giving him as she spoke a very earnest and impressive look, she said, "Do you not know that your Lord Jesus is the physician of the body as well as of the soul? Apply to him. Bring your body to him in prayer, and pray that he will heal you." He heard her with respectful attention, of course; but there was nothing very striking at the moment in her counsel. It, however, left an impression upon his mind; and such, in a little while, were his exercises under its influence, that he found it necessary to take a premature leave of the excellent couple, and hasten back to Utrecht. As soon as he had returned, he entered into his closet, and approached the Throne of Grace. It was a solemn hour with him. The wrestlings of his soul with the Lord were peculiarly lively and strong, blended with the exercise of a good degree of filial confidence. He felt that he prayed in faith for the Lord to heal him; and when he retired from the Throne, he had a comfortable persuasion that his prayer was heard. "Nay," he says in his own recital of the interview, and of what followed it, "I believed that I was then healed, and my confidence was so strong, that I wrote immediately in the journal I kept, that my God had granted me my petition, and that I was actually healed, and would never be prevented by that pain in my breast, from prosecuting my studies, or proceeding in my public work. And it has been so. To the praise of his truth, his grace, and his power, I record that he is the healer of the body as well as of the soul. He is the hearer of prayer."

About the same time, he received a letter from a much respected friend [Abraham Lott, Esq.] in the city of New-York, detailing the proceedings which had taken place within the last year, relative to the introduction of English preaching; and leaving him to complete his arrangements for a university-life, the writer, presuming that no apology can be required for such an interruption of the tenor of the biography, will conclude the present chapter with a brief account of the progress and termination of the controversy upon that subject. The controversy between the Coetus and Conferentie parties will also be again noticed in another place.

It has been mentioned that a law-suit was commenced against the Consistory of the Church of New-York, for rejecting the vote of a member of the Church at a consistorial election, held Oct. 1763, or rather for refusing to receive his suffrage. This suit was undetermined yet in October, 1766.

At the request of some neutral members of the Church, as a report was in circulation that the Dutch party had proposed, but without success, terms of reconciliation, which, however, had no foundation in truth, the Consistory met about the beginning of the month to consider whether any, and if any, what means beyond those they had already tried, could be adopted to restore peace in the congregation. The result of the meeting was, the appointment of a committee to propose to Mr. H, the person who had sued the Consistory, an amicable settlement of the pending litigation. This proposal was not accepted. He said, "the Church must be all Dutch, and not English: "and when asked what would become of the children who were unacquainted with the Dutch language, replied, "that they might go to the Church of England, or any where else." Failing in this overture, the Consistory authorized two of their body to have an interview with Mr. Lefferts, an aged person highly respected by both parties and considered a neutral in the dispute, to inquire if he thought an accommodation could be effected, and assuring him of the earnest desire of the Consistory to do all in their power towards one, to request him to consult the leaders of the Dutch party upon the subject. The request was made, and complied with; and it was understood that the party wished for a composition of the difference; but, upon inquiry, it was found that they had fixed upon terms as the basis of a reconciliation which were wholly inadmissible. The terms were substantially these: that they should have the government of the old Church, and retain all the property belonging to it; that the English preacher should not be present at any of the meetings of their Consistory; that their Consistory should be a distinct body, with whose discipline and other matters, the Consistory of the New Church should have no right to interfere, and in whose election all those that communed with the English party, should have no voice; that there should be English preaching but once on the Sabbath in the New Church; and, moreover, that when Dutch was preached in that house, the Dutch Consistory should occupy the pews appropriated to the elders and deacons.

These propositions were considered unfair and humiliating. They were calculated, it was supposed, if acceded to, to produce a separation of the Churches; or, rather, to effect ultimately the entire exclusion of Dr. Laidlie and the English service from the Dutch Church. And it was obvious, that their acceptance would at once give to the party greater advantages than they could possibly acquire by gaining their suit in law, allowing it should be decided in their favour; for, in that case, they would acquire only the right of voting individually, if members in full communion, for the officers of the Church; and being, with respect to such members, much weaker than the English party, the exercise of the right would avail nothing in reality. As the day for the election drew near, that they might then come forth in all their strength, in support of their favourite principle, or to claim the right in question, they industriously circulated a paper for subscription, which was so drawn up as to obligate every signer to appear upon the occasion, to make a tender of his vote, and if that vote should be refused, immediately to seek redress in a court of law.

To defeat the purpose of this compact, which was to change finally the mode of election, another paper addressed to the Consistory, and praying them to adhere to the ancient practice of the Church, in the choice of their successors, was speedily prepared and handed about for signature. This petition was signed by a majority of the communicants of the church. It was in the following words:

"To the Rev, and Worthy Consistory of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the city of New-York.
"The Petition and humble Request of us the underwritten, communicants of the said Church, sheweth, That the Petitioners have been credibly informed that several of the communicants of the said church intend, on the day appointed by the Charter or the said church for electing Elders, Deacons, and Church-masters, to come and vote for Elders, Deacons, and Church-masters, contrary to the old invariable usage and custom of the said Church, before, and since obtaining the said charter: That we judge an election by the communicants as an infringement on the constitution of our church, and tending to raise heats, controversies, and animosities among the members thereof, contrary to that love and esteem which ought to subsist among the professors of Christianity. Our earnest request and desire therefore is, that the Reverend and Worthy Consistory will by no means deviate from the old constitutional method of electing Elders, Deacons, and Church-masters, but proceed therein as usual, not-withstanding any attempt contrary thereto, and we do hereby promise and engage personally to attend on the day aforesaid, at the old Dutch Church, there to agree to the election, nomination and appointment, that shall be made by you, according to the usage and constitution aforesaid. We pray God to heal the unhappy breach in our church; and are, with great esteem, &c."

The promise to attend and approve of the choice of the Consistory was made to leave their opponents no room to cavil to bar all possibilty of exception.

In the hope that the controversy might yet be settled in a friendly way before the election, the Consistory adopted a paper, containing what were very justly styled Articles of Peace, which was submitted to the consideration of the Great Consistory; and, being approved by that body, was put into the hands of the neutral father aforementioned, (Mr. Abraham Lefferts,) to be by him laid before the Dutch party. Overtures so liberal as those now made, it was hardly to be supposed could fail of restoring peace. The preliminary article required that Dr. Laidlie should be treated as one of the ministers of the Dutch Church, or be received into the fellowship and communion of the Church. Then followed an offer to pay the whole of the Doctor's salary by contributions from the English party; an offer to bind themselves and their successors to use, neither directly nor indirectly, any property which had been given for the support of the Dutch ministers, to maintain the English service; an offer so to form the Consistory that the two parties should, in point of numbers, be equally represented in it or, in other words, to choose out of twice the number of each class to be nominated by the Dutch party, four Elders, four Deacons, and two Church-masters, who, with the two Dutch ministers, would make its numeral representation the same as that of the English party.

And but two very reasonable requests were made, besides the one already mentioned, to wit: that there should be a morning and evening service in the Enghsh language, in the New Church, every Sabbath; and that the suit in law should be abandoned.

[The paper contained three or four articles more, of minor importance, but of an equally pacific character with those stated above; and the writer would observe further here, that, as all the propositions that passed between the parties, are given in Dutch, in Mr. Lett's letter, to obtain the sense of them, he has availed himself of the kindness of two worthy friends, well acquainted with the language. He trusts there is no material omission or inaccuracy in the representation he has made; and of the contents of any Dutch papers which he shall have occasion to use hereafter, or of so much of them as will be necessary to his immediate purpose, it will be his endeavour, with the assistance of the friends referred to, to present a fair account.]

These generous overtures, however, were rejected.

On the fifteenth of the month, one day previous to that of the election, the Consistory was informed that the Dutch party had deputed certain persons to make some proposals, and a committee was accordingly appointed to have an interview with these deputies. The interview took place in the evening of the same day, at the house of Mr. Gelyn Van Gelder; but the proposals, which, from the circumstance of their being ten in number, as also from the air of authority running through them, were afterwards pleasantly called by the other party "Ten Commandments," as they contained offensive insinuations, as well as unreasonable demands, tended rather to widen than to heal the breach. The deputies were informed the next day, that the Consistory could not agree to them.

Before the hour fixed for the important contest had arrived, nearly all the communicants, of both parties, were assembled in the Old Church, with a considerable company of strangers, or persons of other denommations, who had come, as they said, "to behold the Dutchmen quarrel together."

The Consistory now made yet one more attempt to produce a reconciliation. They tendered anew the "Articles of Peace," and endeavoured, for some time, to prevail upon their opponents to accede to them; but their efforts proved fruitless. These misguided, or mis-judging brethren, were inflexible to the last moment. After the election was over, the names of those who would constitute the new Consistory, were publicly read, and (before two notaries public, present by request, to note the transactions of the day,) the members of the church were asked, if they approved of the choice of the Consistory, and of continuing the old mode of election; and a majority was at once discovered, "in favour of both,", of more than one hundred and thirty.

This was a signal triumph; but the discomfitted party were still very unwilling to yield. Chagrinied at the result of this proceeding, which completely precluded the opportunity they had sought and expected, of disputing the legality of the election, and of suing the Consistory, they put into the hands of the Rev. Mr. De Ronde, the minister that presided upon the occasion, and their great friend and champion, a paper naming certain persons for Elders, Deacons, and Church-masters.

[Mr. De Ronde pursued a course of conduct throughout the controversy which was much blamed, and made him many enemies. His colleague, the Rev. Mr. Ritzema, was more prudent, and uniformly acted as the friend of the English party.]

As this paper was not addressed to the Consistory, they, of course, paid no attention to it; but, after their business was concluded, the rev. gentleman took notice of it, and invited those who thought they had a right to vote, to come forth. The invitation, however, they being by this time either ashamed of their cause, or convinced that for them to make any election woidd only expose them to ridicule, was not obeyed. No one offered to vote.

The important law-suit, it was now expected, would be shortly decided; and the appellant in the matter, with his friends, confident of gaining it, judged it necessary to present, in season, a protest against the late election, supposing probably that this measure would put it in their power to set the same entirely aside, as soon as the decision anticipated should be obtained. Before, therefore, the Elders, Deacons, and Church-masters elect, were inducted into their respective offices that is, on the Friday immediately preceding the Sabbath appointed for the performance of the ceremony, they laid before the Consistory a paper called a Protest, and superscribed to the Unlawful Consistory, in which they declared that the election had been conducted contrary to the Word of God, to the Charter, and to Church Orders. [The protesters were "Abel Hardenbrook, William Elsworth, Teunis Tiebout, Johannis Hardenbrook, Henderecus Brevoort."] This paper was treated with the contempt it deserved; and the very next day, to the no little mortification of the whole Dutch party, the suit was determined infavour, of the Consistory.

Abstract of Trial

A determination so unlooked for, and obliging the plaintiff to pay costs to the amount of about three hundred pounds, as will readily be supposed, very soon allayed the zeal for continuing the quarrel in a court of justice; and it did more; it went far to subdue the quarrel itself. Those who had been most averse to the authority and measures of the Consistory, gradually became more tame, while the Consistory, on the other hand, showed a kind, conciliatory spirit, conceding all that could be reasonably asked; and the Church, which had been for a long time a spectacle to surrounding denominations, put on consequently, at length, a more pleasing and inviting appearance. That the reader may know what confidence was to be placed in the Communication, from which the facts presented in the foregoing statement have been taken, the following brief extract from a letter of Dr. Laidlie to Mr. Livingston, dated November 3d, is inserted for his perusal: "Thanks be to our blessed Lord, for all that experience he has given you of his love and faithfulness. Trust in him at all times; none that trust in Him shall be ashamed. I am truly glad you have settled at Utrecht, and that you find Professor Bonnet a gentleman so much to your mind. I had proceeded far in another letter for you, and begun an historical account of Church affairs since you left us; but having heard that this was the province of our friend, A. Lott, and he having shown me a very particular journal of every thing worthy your hearing on this subject, I dropt it. But I cannot omit calling upon you to bless the Lord with us, and to exalt his holy name, for the remarkable interposition of his kind providence in the behalf of his cause and people. How many proofs of his being the hearer and answerer of prayer." But it must not be understood from any thing said above, that the congregation was brought at once into a state of perfect harmony and peace. It was not to be expected that all opposition would instantly cease; and though such as had been the most openly and violently hostile, were a good deal humbled by what had now occurred, yet they still cherished a vindictive temper; and having failed in law, tried, for awhile, other means of annoying the friends of English preaching. One of the pitiful means employed for the purpose, was the invention and circulation of little stories tending to vilify or injure the character of the excellent Laidlie: and of this unworthy conduct, he thus speaks in another letter to Mr. Livingston, of a later date: "Notwithstanding, blessed be God, I have of late felt more of that comfortable stayedness of trust and establishment of heart, than I ever felt before; and in this, I observe not only the great goodness of my Lord and Master to my soul, in the way of edification or upbuilding in the divine life; but that this fills and prepares me for storms, and supports me under the reproach and calumny thrown out against me on every side. The great disappointment the Dutch party have met with, instead of reclaiming them, has added fury to their rage; they think to revenge themselves upon me, though, by their own confession, I am not the cause; yet they find to reproach me is the surest way to vex my friends, who are so kind as never to mention these things to me, though all with whom I am obliged to converse have not that prudence, so that I must hear many a spiteful lie. But, blessed be God, He not only keeps me from laying things to heart, but gives a meek, humble, forgiving temper of mind, so that I can pray for, and freely forgive the worst of my enemies among men. Though the Dutch party have now entirely given over coming to Church when I preach, and hear only Mr. De Ronde, whom they call their wettige predikanty [Lawful minister.] and whom I have reason to suspect to be at the bottom of their obstinate opposition; though he has begun of late to speak uncommonly favourable of me and my sermons; though said party use every method to make me uneasy, yet Jesus makes me triumph, and enables me to rest in Him, only desiring to be found faithful and in all things to approve myself to him in well-doing. I have enlarged too much on this."

In spite of all they could say or do, Dr. Laidlie was beloved and useful, and the Church was in a prosperous state; nay, so much had the congregation increased under English preaching, that it was found necessary to erect another, or a third place for public worship.

[By a letter of Mr. Lott, dated Oct. 22, 1767, this building, (now called the North Church,) it appears, was then considerably advanced. The foundation was laid probably in the spring of the same year.]

The indications evident to every one, and daily multiplying, of the popularity and utility, under the Divine blessing, of the change which had been effected, served only to heighten their unfriendly feelings; and another expedient, which they tried to regain their lost influence or to make fresh trouble, was the presentation before the Governor and Council of a formal complaint against the Consistory, This was their dernier resort: but here their expectations were sadly disappointed. The Governor and Council ordered a copy of the complaint to be given to the Consistory, and recommended that the same be answered. An answer was, accordingly, prepared and submitted; and the reader may learn the result of this affair from a paragraph in another of Dr. Laidlie's letters, dated December, 1767. It is as follows: "You know how strangely poor Mr. De Ronde has behaved for some time past. He strongly supported, or rather has kept alive the otherwise dying dissensions in our congregation; but the Dutch party having brought the affair before the Governor and Council, and the Consistory being desired to give in an answer to several complaints lodged before said Board by the Dutch party, the Consistory accordingly gave in an answer, out of mere complaisance; and the Governor and Council decided the matter by declaring it was not cognizable by them, a declaration not very honourable for the Board who made it, and by which the last finishing blow was given to all the hopes of the Dutch party. This has made them all very calm."

The liberty has been taken to present the preceding extracts from the private letters of Dr. Laidlie to his young friend, to confirm the representation which has been made of this unhappy dispute. The truth of such testimony cannot be questioned.

The dispute was now settled. The vanquished party were treated with tenderness, and for many years after, or until the number remaining became very small, they maintained service in the Old Church, in the language for the preservation of which they had so long and so strenuously contended; but English preaching was no more opposed.

It need scarcely be added, that the influence of these occurrences was felt in many congregations, and led, at length, to a general disuse of the Dutch language in the public worship of God; and, if the dispute be viewed as having had ultimately so extensive and important an influence upon the Church at large, the narrative which has been given of all that related to it, will not be thought, it is hoped, to have been too protracted or minute.

The introduction of the English language into the Dutch Church in this country, was so closely connected in its consequences with all her best interests, that no person can hesitate to admit it was one of the most auspicious and remarkable events which can be found recorded in her history.



ABSTRACT OF TRIAL
[Three of the judges, Messrs. Jones, Smith, and Livingston, were in favour of the Consistory; one, Mr. Horsmanden, was in favour of Mr. Hardenbrook. The reader will probably be gratified to see an abstract of this important trial. It is given from a copy which was made and duly authenticated, for the use of the late Dr. Westerlo, of Albany, and his Consistory. Mr Theodore Van Wyck, of New-York, the gentleman who procured the copy for Dr. W. observes in the letter which accompanied it, that the arguments or pleadings in the cause occupy no less than forty-eight pages, (folio) written in a small hand. The counsel for the plaintiff, were the King's attorney, Mr. Duane and Mr. Kissam; and "the chief of their arguments was, that the members had a right to vote by" the "Charter, and that, in depriving them of that privilege, the Consistory had forfeited their Charter." The counsel for the defendants, were William Smith, Whitehead Hicks, William Livingston, and Mr. Scott, whose "arguments run upon the Constitution of the Church, and the invariable way of choosing Elders and Deacons. They proved by several eminent authorities, that if even a people had had a right to elect officers by virtue of a Charter, ****** by suffering such officers by themselves to elect others for a long time, that the said people had forfeited and lost their right of voting. They likewise proved, that in such a case the law supposed there might have been By-Laws made with consent of the people, to invest the election only in the Corporation, which law might be lost or forgot; but, in either case, the people, by not annually attending the election, lost their privilege."
"Abstracts of the Trial between Abel Hardenbrook, plaintiff, (in behalf of the Dutch party so called,) and the Elders and Deacons of the Beformed Protestant Dutch Church of the city of New-Yorh, defendants, commenced upon the said Elders and Deacons refusing the other members of the said Church" a "vote for Church officers.

"Supreme Court in the city of New-York,
"April Term, Friday 26, 1765. "At eleven of the clock in the morning came on the trial of Abel Hardenbrook, plaintiff, against John Bogert, Esq. and others, defendants, when the following jury, out of the panel which was struck the 19th inst, appeared upon call, and were sworn to try the cause, viz:

Samuel Verplanck, Thomas White,
John Starry Cruger, John Shoals,
David Clarkson, William Bedlow,
Robert Griffen, John Provoost, Esq.,
Lawrence Kortright,     Lewis Paintard,
Beverly Robinson, Walter Rutherford

"After a trial of twenty-one hours, in the course of which many evidences were examined, the judge gave the following charge," (omitted) "to the jury, to bring in a special verdict upon matters of law, to be determined by solid argument before the court, but recommended to find three matters of fact upon evidence, viz:

"1st. That the plaintiff had made a lawful demand of his vote by Jacobus Stoutenburg.

"2d. That the majority of the members assembled on that day, appeared to have been on the side of the plaintiff to vote.

"3d. That the minister of the Dutch Church had a vote in the election for Elders and Deacons.

" All which the said jury brought in accordingly, as will appear by the following notes, which are exactly transcribed from a copy of Mr. Bangor, taken from the original verdict of the jury.

"New-York Supreme Court.

Notes of special verdict.
"Abel Hardenbrook against John Bogert, jun. Esq. and others.

"The jurors upon their oath, on the trial of the issue aforesaid, do find

"1st. That King William the Third, by his letters patent, under the great seal of the province of New-York, bearing date the 11th May, in the eighth year of his said Majesty's reign, in the year of our Lord 1696, did grant unto the Minister, Elders, and Deacons of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the city of New-York prout:

"2d. That the Lieutenant-Governor, the Council, and General Assembly of the province of New-York, by a certain act made and passed the 12th of December, 1753, entitled an act to enable the Minister, Klders, and Deacons of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the city of New-York, to sell and dispose of their lands, tenements, and hereditaments, in the county of West Chester, commonly called and known by the name of the Manor of Fordham, and also for granting unto them some farther liberties and privileges for the better management of their affairs, and the well ordering of their said church, did enact prout:

"3d. That his late Majesty King George the Second, by his confirmation under seal, dated 25th February, 1755, did confirm the said act prout:

"4th. That the defendants were the major part of the Elders and Deacons of the said Church in the city of New-York, on the third Thursday of October, 1763, one of the days of election of Elders and Deacons appointed by the said charter, and so, being Elders and Deacons, on that day were assembled at the said Church to proceed to an election of Elders and Deacons for the said Church for the then ensuing year,

"5th. That the plaintiff, on the said Thursday of October, 1763, and long before, was a member of the said Church and Corporation, duly admitted, and also a member in communion of the said Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, and an inhabitant of the said city of New-York; and so being a member and inhabitant, did on the same day personally attend at the said Church, before the election, nomination, or appointment; did then and there demand and require of the defendants to permit him, the said plaintiff, to give his voice for electing Elders and Deacons for the said Church for the ensuing year, to be chosen pursuant to the said charter.

" 6th. That the said defendants did then and there, upon such demand and requests so made, refuse to take, receive or allow the voice of the plaintiff to be given, and did then and there prevent, obstruct, and hinder the plaintiff from giving his vote at the said election, for the electing, nominating, or appointing the Elders and Deacons of the said Church for the year ensuing, or any of them.

"7th. That the said defendants did, then and there elect, nominate, and appoint Elders and Deacons of the said Church for the year ensuing, the plaintiff being present at the said Church, without taking the plaintiff's vote in the said election, and without previously, or at any time that day, proposing or naming to the members or the plaintiff attending at the election, the persons nominated by the defendants for Elders and Deacons of the said Church for the ensuing year.

"8th. That of the members in communion of the said Church, and inhabitants within the said city, then and there attending at the said Church, the majority attended to give their voices as members for electing the Elders and Deacons of the said Church for the ensuing year." [The reason of this was, that the members on the side of the Consistory, did not then attend in a body as they did the following year, to approve of the election.]

"9th. That the Dutch Churches in Holland are governed by the rules established in the national Synod of Dort, held in 1618 and 1619.

"10th. That the said Synod of Dort, by the 22d article of the said rules, did establish prout:

"11th. That the said Synod of Dort did at the same time establish the national rule or confession of faith, the 31st article whereof is prout:

"12th. That the usage of the Dutch Churches in Holland respecting elections of Elders and Deacons has long been for the Elders and Deacons, and every Minister present at their election, to elect their officers by the majority of their voices, without the vote of the other members; and not to propose the persons to be elected Elders and Deacons to the members of the Churches respectively before, nor at the time of the election, nor until the Sunday next following such election, when it is the usage to publish their names to the respective congregations, and on the two next succeeding Sundays; each Sunday calling on the people to object against their being admitted and confirmed, if they have cause; and the usage also is, that if any good objection be made and supported, the Elders and Deacons so objected to, are not admitted to the office; but the Consistory judge of the validity of the objections, and if they conceive them sufficient, proceed to a new election.

"13th. That if no objections be made by the members, by the third Sunday after the elections, the Elders and Deacons so chosen, are confirmed in and admitted to their respective offices, and that they are not Elders and Deacons until such confirmation and admission.

"14th. That the usage and practice with regard to the proposing, confirmation, and admission, objecting against and setting aside of Elders and Deacons respectively, in the said Dutch Church at New-York, has hitherto been conformable to the usage and practice of the Churches of Holland last mentioned, and that the Elders and Deacons of the said Church in New-York, agreeable to the regulations of the Churches of Holland above-mentioned, are not admitted to their respective offices until such proposal, made for three successive Sundays after their election, and confirmation thereupon.

"15th. That this province was conquered by the Dutch, and afterwards, in _, was yielded by treaty to the crown of England.

"John Bogert, jun. and others,
Ads. Abel Hardenbrook.

"And the jurors aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do further say, that the province of New-York is part of the country formerly called New Netherlands, and was, before the surrender of the same to the crown of England, subject to the States General of the United Provinces in Europe, and was settled by subjects to the States General.

"2d. That antecedent to the said surrender, there were Churches in the said province, and that all the Churches in the same were supplied with ministers from the United Provinces of the national established Church there, sent out by and subject to the ecclesiastical government of the Classis of Amsterdam.

"3d. That the Churches of the national establishment of the said United Provinces in Europe, and especially those within the district of the said Classis, have always had a succession of Elder and Deacons, chosen from time to time by the majority of the Elders and Deacons of the said Churches respectively, and Ministers present, without the voices of the other members of the same churches.

"4th. That the Dutch Churches in this country, antecedent to the said surrender, were governed in a manner conformable to the practice and usage of the national established Churches of the United Provinces in Europe, and the offices and places of the Elders and Deacons of the same have always been, upon every vacancy and avoidance, supplied by the election, nomination and appointment of the majority of the Elders and Deacons in office, without the voices of the other members of the same.

"5th. That the same government, usage, and practice, was continued from the said surrender, in the Dutch Church of the city of New-York, until the same was incorporated by the letters patent above-mentioned.

"6th. That for above sixty years past, after the grant of the said letters patent of incorporation, there had been a constant succession of Elders and Deacons in the said Church, so incorporated, chosen by the majority of the Elders and Deacons of the same Church for the time being, without the voices of any of the other members of the same, in the nomination and appointment of Elders and Deacons.

"7th. And the jurors aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do farther find the articles of capitulation at the surrender of this province in the year 1664 prout;

"8th. And the jurors aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do farther say, that, according to the constitution and directions of the Reformed Churches in Holland, approved and instituted by the national Synod of Dort, the Elders and Deacons of the said Churches do, with the Ministers present, annually nominate and appoint the next succeeding Elders and Deacons, without the consent, approbation, voice or election, of any of the other members of the said Churches, then had in the said nomination and appointment.

"9th. And the jurors aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do farther say, that the plaintiff in this action, since the date of the said charter, has been nominated and appointed three several times to the respective offices of Elder and Deacon of the said Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the city of New-York, by the then present Elders and Deacons of the said Church, without the consent, approbation, voice, or election of any of the other members of the said Church, then had in the said nomination and appointment, which respective offices he did accept of, and act in the execution of; and that he has, since the date of the said charter or letters patent, at three several times nominated and appointed, together with the Elders and Deacons of the said church, then in office with him, and without such consent, approbation, voice or election as aforesaid of the other members of the said church to succeed in said respective offices.

"10th. And the jurors aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do farther say, that it was the practice, usage, and custom of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Churches in the United Netherlands, before and at the time of the said articles of surrender, and of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in the said letters patent of incorporation mentioned, ever since until the day of the exhibition of the plaintiff's bill, for the respective Ministers for the time being of the said Churches, on the three Sundays next succeeding every respective nomination and appointment of the Elders and Deacons of the said respective Churches, to notify and declare such nomination and appointment to the several congregations in which the said Elders and Deacons were respectively nominated and appointed, in order to know whether any of the members of the said Churches do dissent from or disapprove of such nomination and appointment, and in default of such dissent and disapprobation, to set apart, confirm, and ordain such Elders and Deacons in and to their respective offices.

"If the law is for the plaintiff, we find for the plaintiff, and five pounds ten shillings damages.

"If the law is for the defendants, we find for the defendants. Filed 26th April, 1765.

New-York, April 30th, 1765. "The preceding, wrote on eight pages in folio, is a true copy of the original special verdict given in the cause Abel Hardenbrook, against John Bogert, jun. and others.

Examined by _ _.

Signed - Geo. Banyard, D.C.C.C."
(Copy.)

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