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led to interesting consequences. The brethren of Mr. R. were strictly watched, and every unguarded expression in their sermons was carefully noted against them. Mr. Mellen delivered an eloquent series of discourses in the year 1756, addressed to Parents, children, and youth, which contained sentiments highly obnoxious to many of his brethren in the ministry. These were published, and were extremely well received by his people. After the condemnation of Mr. Rogers, these sentiments were never urged in public but with much caution and a greater regard to the spirit of the age. In the unguarded hours of social conversation, Mr. M. was less reserved, and it was well understood by his parish that he rejected many of the articles of popular faith. Nor were bis people disaffected with him on this account, but rather for publicly cooperating in the censure of those doctrines,which it was supposed he embraced as the truth of the Gospel.* It was now understood by some
* These facts are well authenticated by indisputable tradition, as well as from the occasional publications of the day. The few survivors of those memorable years, have related to us many interesting anecdotes illustrative of the temper of the times, as well as of the characters of the principal actors. We forbear a narration of them, lest it should awaken animosities that ought long since to be buried in oblivion.
Our principal informant of the transactiops of this olden time, was the Widow Elizabeth Kendall, recently deceased, a venerable matron of intelligence, of virtue, and of exalted piety. She died April 30, 1825, at the advanced age of 86 years. Our respect for the memory of this interesting woman, would not permit us to close the history of this town, without a bricf notice of one, in whose sympathies, in sorrow and in joy, we have so often participated.
She was born in Lexington, in the year 1740, of a respectable family, by the name of Mason. Being eminently qualified as an instructress of youth, she came to this place in early life to teach a school. Here she remained the residue of her days, having been united in marriage at the age of twenty five to Maj. James Kendall, a respectable citizen of Sterling, whom she sur. vived sixteen years.
Possessing by nature a vigorous mind, highly improved by extensive reading, and an accurate knowledge of character, her judgment was correct and her perceptions were rapid and discriminating. Her imagination was lively, but it was held in control by prudence and reason. She was a communicant of the Church of Christ for nearly 70 years, and the principles of christianity directed her actions and regulated her powerful sensibilities, Amid the trials of varying lise, she bore prosperity with moderation, and adversity without repining. She was cheerful without levity, pious without bigotry, and grave without repulsive austerity. Her conversation was peculiarly interesting and instructive to the young, and even the aged bowed to her with reverential deference and respect. She was a safe counsellor, a prudent guide, and a valued friend. Exemplary in all her moral and social relations, her neighbors venerate her memory and her children call her blessed. In her last illness she was patient and resigned to the wili of her Creator. Supported by that faith, she had so long prosessed, in the full exercise of her mental powers, her exit was tranquil and full of hope. Her posterity are not numerous. She left two sons, one is a physician at Sterling, and the other is the eminent theologian who presides over the ancient Church at Plymouth. Of her two daughiers, the eldest married Capt. John Porter of Stering, and the other, Rev. Mr. Mason of Northfield, who died in early life.
ef the most intelligent of the parish, that their minister was verging towards doctrines that he had publicly disclaimed. In the year 1765, he 'published a volume of Sermons upon the doctrines of Christiani:y. They contain a learned system of scholastic theology, maintaining a middle course between the two opposite schemes of Calvin and Arminius. Upon some of the controverted points it is not easy to ascertain, which side bis speculations favor the most. The volume is bighly creditable to his memory as a scholar and a theologian, and when published was considered an acquisition to the literature of the country. When his people produced their allegations against him in 1773, they urged but few instances of false doctrine, and of them he fully exculpated himself before a Council. The principal charge of this character was, that he had said that “God was the author of Sin.” The sermoo was produced, where it was said to be contained. He stated that he never held the doctrine in its gross sense, but only that sin was by permission, as in the instance of hardening Pharoah's beart, and for the truth of this he appealed to the whole tenor of his preaching. On the whole, the councii declare, that they have all the evidence they can desire that he never believed the doctrine, but that he holds the sentiment in as much detestation as his opposers. He had been previously exonerated by his church from this charge.
In 1770 complaints were made against the pastor, concerning some innovations in the mode of singing, which were highly offensive to a majority of the brethren. The church passed some singular votes upon the subject.
Before this period, the mode of performing this part of public worship, was offensive to people of refined taste. The New England version of Psalms and Hymns was the only sacred poetry that was allowed admittance into most of our Churches. These were read, line by line, by one of the Deacons, when another set the tune, in which the wbole congregation were expected to unite. This practice became sacred from its antiquity, and was difficult to be assailed without lessening the dignity of the officers employed in the service. A strenuous effort for a reformation was, about this time, generally made. Mr. Mellen was among the most active of these reformers. In a Sermon preached at Marlborough, at a singing lecture, in 1773, he states that the object in reviving the spirit of Psalmody bas reference to the poetry as well as the method of singing it. He suggests that the practice of reading the line by the Deacons is a modern innovation.
In 1771, the church at Bolton, alledged various complaints against their pastor the Rev. Mr. Goss. A council was called, who exculpated him from the charges. A great controversy ensued, when the church finding they could obtain no relief from the advice of sister churches, proceeded to dissolve the pastoral relation between them and their minister. The neighbouring Clergy, considering this a high handed assumption of power upon the part of the laity, proceeded in council to pass censures upon the Bolton Church, in their corporate capacity ; to deprive them of Covenant privileges, and to exclude them from all communion and fellowship with other Churches. The people being thus put upon the defensive, made a common cause of their troubles through all the towns in the vicinity.
1772. Nov. 1. Six of the Bolton brethren presented themselves at the communion, in the Sterling Church; the pastor declined administering the ordinance, while the proscribed members remained. The brethren voted that the Bolton men should not withdraw. Mr. Mellen availing himself of an obsolete article in the Cambridge platform, wbich was predicated upon the ground of a plurality of elders, assumed to himself the whole power of eldership, and declared his negative upon the vote of the Church, as he non-concurred. The brethren strenuously insisted upon their right, when a contention arose highly derogatory to the meekness and forbearance of the Christian character. The pastor, to avoid further confusion, withdrew from the meeting house, leaving the sacred emblems of brotherly love, of peace, and of humility. The communion was now suspended, and the contention greatly increased.
The aged people who recollect this transaction, represent it as one of the deepest interest. The passions of men were wrought to the highest state of excitement. The struggle for civil liberty had commenced; the people had examined the subject, and had taken sides upon all great questions that concerned the rights of
Unlawful power was to be opposed, to be sternly resisted in all cases whatever, under the most solemn circumstances, even to the horns of the altar. To desecrate the boly hour of sacramental communion, strikes every reflecting mind with horror. But the high resolve was taken, and our fathers would have been false to their trust, they would have violated the principles of their ancestors, and have betrayed the ioterests of posterity, had they yielded on this occasion. We have no apology to offer for those brethren who went upon this crusade for liberty, nor for those who
invited them. Their conduct must be censurable, because more suitable opportunities for testing their patriotism frequently occurred.*
1773, Sept. A respectable ecclesiastical council was called, whereof the Rev. Mr. Dunbar of Stoughton was moderator, and the late Rev. Dr. Lothrop, of Boston, was scribe : they held a session of two or three days, during which time, they went into a patient investigation of all the charges and specifications made against the Pastor and brethren. The result exonerated Mr. Mellen and his friends from any severe censures; it was of course adopted by them, but rejected by a small majority of the brethren. The Church soon after called an exparte council, who advised to a mutual council, which met, but being much divided, they separated without coming to any result. Other councils assembled, whose deliberations terminated much in the same manner. The brethren concluding theirs was a case where the advice of neighboring Churches could not be had, boldly resorted to first principles, called a church meeting of their own accord, Nov. 1774, when they proceeded to dissolve the pastoral relation, and in this the Parish concurred.f
* The council very properly exculpate Mr. Mellen from any blame in the transactions of that day. He undoubtedly acted conscientiously; the error was in the council, for an attempt at arbitrary power, in regard to the Bolton Church. It is believed this was not a new exercise of ecclesiastical prerogative. It was usually styled, the third process. It is allowed by the Platform, Chap. xv. but is circumscribed, and to be preceded by admonition, and other previous steps, and is only to be exercised “when a Church be rent with division, or lies under open scandal,and refuses to consult with other Churches for healing or removing the same.”
+ The articles alledged against Mr. Mellen were of a three fold character : mal-administration, erroneous doctrine, and false speaking. Under the first head, the most prominent charges were for a supposed abuse in exercising bis power as the constituted elder or presiding officer of the Church. He had declined putting questions to vote when proposed, had neglected to call Church meetings upon request, had arbitrarily dissolved them when called. But the principal charge under this head, avd indeed the main cause of all the difficulties, was his exercise of the power of negativing or non-concurring the votes of the brethren. The councils apparently disclaim this right, and Mr. M. in his defence before them, gives it such an explanation as could not be objected to. He claims no power other than that of any brother by voting in the negative. In examining the various documents, it is difficult to ascertain what were his distinct views upon the subject, for immediately after this Council, he directs the communion table to be set, against the vote of the brethren, partly on the ground that he had negatived their vote. He afterwards claims the power in full and absolute terms, and attaches consequences to it, that never before had been 'understood. He considered the Pastor, Church, and Parish, as analogous to King, Lords, and Commons; that no vote could pass concerning their political relation, without a concurrence of the three branches.
Several of the brethren considering this measure altogether unwarranted and unprecedented, invited a respectable council,
In examining the Bolton proceedings, the same difficulty occurs of ascertaiping with precision the extent of power claimed by the advocates of this measure. The question was referred to the Provincial convention of Congregational Ministers, held at Boston in the year 1773, and they gave their approbation (it is said) to a certain extent. We have not been favored with a reading of this result, but it was protested against, most vehemently by the friends of religious liberty. It was manifestly an assumption of power, not clearly understood by most of the disputants on either side. We here subjoin some of the votes from the Sterling Church records, to shew its absurdity.
“ Voted, Not dissatisfied with Josiah Kendall, in regard to his saying to the Pastor in Church m«eting, you are a deceiver, you have deceived me, and tried to deceive the Church, and if possible would deceive the very elect. Pastor non-concurred."
“ Voted, It is not constitutional for the Pastor to act as moderator, when the complaints are against himself. Pastor non-concurred."
Mr. M. states the vote of the Church is not a perfect act, according to the platform, without mutual consent. The government in Christ's Church must not be desiroyed because there is not a plurality of elders, although the power of a single pastor may not be every way equal to that of a Presbytery.
There are some to rule, as well as some to obey, according both to Scripture and Platform ; but if one has no more power than another, or has no check upon others, then we are required only to obey ourselves without any control," &c.
As connected with the political controversies of the day, it was a subject of great interest, and it resulted like all other similar questions; when an intelligent people will a right, they invariably obtain it.
Under this head of grievances, was put that of not administering to the Bolton brethren, according to the vote of the Church. This was a preconcerted trial of strength between the people anrt the ministers. Bolton men considered their pastor had forfeited his office by immorality. They resorted to the communion of Churches for a remedy. Their wishes were overruled by the influence of the Clergy. The people, considering the authority of Councils pot judicatory, but merely advisory, rejected their advice, as they lawfully might do, and stood upon their right. For this a council excommunicated them. Now, the power was to be brought to the test. If the Government of the Church was republican, a major vote of a sister Church would entitle them to communion, and thus defeat the will of the Clergy. The ministers resorted to the negative power for their protection, and in this way lost their offices.
The charges of this character were various. The brethren yielding to the temper of the times, wished to introduce a more democratic spirit into Church government, than had been practiced. Mr. Mellen, from his principles, strenuously and obstinately opposed all these innovations. He insisted upon his constitutional prerogatives, as ruling elder, to call Church meetings at his pleasure, and to dissolve them at his will: to put votes as be pleased, and to negative them when they passed against his wishes: to administer the Communion at the regular time, against their vote, and to withhold it when he thought proper. In fact, he manfully contended for what he says was the ancient order of the New England Churches. It was a great crisis in Church as well as in State affairs, and he manifested none of that accommodating disposition, which was imputed to him in the Arminian controversy. There is no ground to believe that he did not act conscientiously upon this occasion, for the consequences to him and his family were in full view before him. The council examined every charge, and although they do not appear fully to justify all his measures, yet they find nothing worthy of censure, but much for praise.