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ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1842, by
TYLER AND PORTER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Connecticut.
The General Association of Connecticut, at New Milford, in 1837, appointed a committee of one from each district association, “to collect from the different associations and consociations the various rules and usages which modify the application of the Platform; and to report to the next General Association a summary or digest of the same, which may be incorporated with a new edition of the Platform.
By the labors of that committee, a beginning was made in the work now completed. But the contemplated edition of the Saybrook Platform having been published without the proposed "summary or digest,” the committee supposed that they were released from the service; and by the General Association at Norwalk, in June, 1838, they were, at their request, discharged from the further consideration of the subject.
The design, however, was felt to be too important to be abandoned; and at the same meeting, the subscribers were appointed a committee “ to collect from the different associations and consociations, their various rules and usages, and to report a digest of the same to the next General Association."
At Danbury, in 1839, and at New Haven, in 1840, this committee reported the progress they were making in the work, and were directed to proceed. At New Haven, in 1841, they made a final report as follows:
“That in attending to the duty assigned to them, it seemed proper to inquire, first, into the origin and history of the associaLions and consociations, --secondly, to inquire how far the several articles of the Saybrook Platform are now observed by those bodies and by the churches,--and thirdly, to combine and arrange the existing rules and usages in the form of a Digest.”
“The committee further report, that it seemed to them convenient to distribute these three parts of the work among the three members of the committee; and that, accordingly, the Historical Account of the origin and progress of our ecclesiastical confederation has been prepared by the Rev. Dr. Field,--the account of the degree in which our ecclesiastical order is now conformed to the principles of the Saybrook Platform, has been prepared by the Rev. Mr. Gillett,--and the Digest has been drawn up by the chairman of the committee.”
This report, and the accompanying documents, having been received and accepted, the Rev. Edward R. Tyler and Mr. Samuel Porter immediately made liberal proposals to the General Association, for the publication of the work thus prepared. Whereupon the following resolutions were adopted.
“1. That the documents presented to this body by the committee on rules and usages, be published under the superintendence of the committee.
“2. That the committee be authorized to make corrections and additions as upon further inquiry, they may find requisite ; and that to this end they be requested to cause a copy of the Digest at least, to be sent to one or more ministers in each district, before publication, for their revision.
“3. That the publication include the Confession of Faith, assented to by the synod at Saybrook, with the Heads of Agreement and Articles of Discipline, and also the Cambridge Platform.
“4. That the committee be authorized to append to the Cam. bridge Platform any notes and illustrations which may be in their judgment expedient.
“5. That our delegate to the general association of Massachusetts, be requested to inform that body, of our intention to publish the Cambridge Platform, in connection with our own rules and usages, and that they be respectfully invited to render to our committee any assistance in their power, which may make the work more complete, and more extensively useful.
“6. That the proposals of Rev. E. R. Tyler, and Mr. Samuel Porter be accepted, it being understood that the said proposals refer to the volume as described in the preceding resolutions."
The General Association of Massachusetts, at Westfield, in June, 1841, adopted the following resolutions :
“That we approve of the publication of the Cambridge Platform, in its simple form, in the volume about to be published by that body (the General Association of Connecticut,) consisting of the Saybrook Platform, with notes, and a Digest of rules and usages, and that this resolution be communicated to the committee of the Connecticut Association."
In completing their task, the committee have thought best to include, in an appendix, some account of the origin, constitution, and rules of the General Association of Massachusetts, and of similar bodies in other states.
We may add, that while each member of the committee has devoted his chief attention to his own particular task, he has been aided by the suggestions of his colleagues; and the entire work has been repeatedly and carefully examined by the whole committee.
From this statement, the reader will learn, not only the character of the work, and the manner in which it has been produced, but also the nature, and degree of its authority in respect to the opinions, and practice of the Congregational churches and ministers. It is a work undertaken at the appointment, and crowned with the favorable acceptance of the General Association of Connecticut. It proceeds from no legislative or judicial power. The General Association cannot prescribe to the churches, or to the ministry, either opinions to be maintained, or rules to be obeyed. Each church, each consociation of churches, each association of pastors, acts for itself in its own sphere, and will continue to do so hereafter. Among ministers and churches, there always have been, and will still continue to be, different opinions, and different practices. Unity without uniformity, is better than uniformity without unity.
But if this book has no legislative or judicial authority, what is it good for? We reply, the immediate design of the work is simply to present an outline, as complete as possible, of the actual polity and usages of the Congregational churches
of New England, and particularly of Connecticut. Such an outline is hardly to be found in any other work ; and our ex. pectation is, that the work now offered to the public may
1. To furnish that sort of knowledge, for the want of which the transaction of business in churches and in other ecclesiastical bodies, is often retarded and embarrassed, and which Congregationalism makes it necessary, not only for every church officer, but for every brother in the church, to acquire :
2. To be a convenient text-book for theological students, who may wish to become acquainted with the details of the Congregational church order.
3. To guide those in other parts of our country who may wish to organize churches, and other ecclesiastical bodies, on the Congregational model either of Connecticut or of Massa. chusetts; and to afford some of the benefits of our New England experience where such churches have already been formed.
To our brethren in the ministry, to the Congregational churches, and above all to Him who hath said, that so trivial an offering as a cup of cold water given to a disciple in the name of a disciple shall not lose its reward, we present this result of our united labors.