Images de page
PDF
ePub

ry of Albany to take cognizance of the slanderous assertions [the oaths) of the Rev. Messrs. Campbell and Martin, and also of Messrs. Geery and Duncan, Mrs. Wright, Dr. Buckham, and of all the other persons under their jurisdiction who are chargeable with having committed the same offence—that these persons inay be called upon either to retract or to prove their assertions, [the things which they testified as witnesses under the solemnity of an oath,] that by so doing confidence in the Presbytery may in some measure he restored ; and then the subscriber will hold himself ready to yield that court all due honor and obedience.” The testimony of the witnesses here named bore very hard on the ministerial and moral character of Mr. Stark and in the opinion of many entirely destroyed it; but the way he takes to evade that testimony is to charge the witnesses with slandering him, and even to demand that they be called on either to retract their testimony or to prove it by other witnesses ! And when the witnesses are made to do this, he will honor and obey the Presbytery as in duty bound! The reader, then, will per ceive in this extraci a distinct admission, that Mr. Stark had ceased to yield obedience lo the Presbytery, or what is the samne thing, had declined their authority, aye and until a certain impossible condition was performed : and he very plainly declares, what is likely to prove true, that not till “THEN would he hold himself ready to yield that court all due honor and obedience." How perfectly absurd, ihen, is it to represent Mr. Stark as ulways denying ihat he had declined the authority of the Presbytery. Are the above declarations at all consistent with an acknowledgment of submission to their authority ?

We only add here, that the communication just quoted from, was by order of Synod sent down to the Presbytery-in connection with the paper of Declinature, and certain Reasons of Protest relating to another malter, that Mr. Stark might be called to account for the same. This communication is now in our hands, and on examination we find that it winds up with a pretty distinct hint to the Synod, that if they did not take good care, Mr. Stark might decline their authority also :-“The conclusion to which he [the subscriber) has come, after fully considering the matter, is neither to abandon the profession of religion which he has made, nor yet to submit to acts of oppression, tyranny and injustice, which are alike inconsistent with truth and righteousness and with the whole tenor of our religious profession. Andrew Stark, New York, 20 Muy, 1836."

But the Remarker next states, that “the Presbytery did not regard Mr. Stark's letter as a declinature,” otherwise “they would have dealt with him” about it and “deprived him of a seat.” (p. 19.) This reasoning is very inconclusive, because Mr. Stark was not present at the time to be deal with and to be deprived of his seat. However, the very first time that he afterwards made his appearance in Presbytery, that court did deal with him and deprive him of a seat. But let us consider this point a little more fully. At the meeting of Synod in 1836, the Presbytery was highly blamed, in the remarks of members, especially those who took an active part in Mr. Stark's favor, because they had not suspended him for having declined their authority in the aforesaid leiter. Messrs. Hcron and Brown will reinember this. But the Presbytery did not attempt to justiły their conduct on the ground that Mr. S. had not declined their authority, but on the ground of “the peculiar circumstances," in which they were placed, and also because it was thought safer to be found on the side of lenity. Though they have since seen and acknowledged that their lenity on that and some other occasions was sinful, and for which they, as a Presbytery, have received severe chastisement in the dealings of Divine Providence. It is true, that the Presbytery, as such, did not on the reception of the paper in question, make any formal decision that it was a declinature; but it is not true that the members did not consider it in that light. However, it was not long afterwards, that they published, as a Presbytery, their judgment concerning it, in the following terms :-" This paper, though not in form, was yet virtually a declinature of the authority and com. munion of the Associate Presbytery of Albany. This consideration, together with the fact that it abounded in vituperative and slanderous assertions and insinuations, would have justified the Presbytery in suspending him instanter.—But knowing the prejudices they had to contend against, and being desirous of exercising as much lenity and forbearance, as was consistent with duty to the Head of the Church, they were willing to wave the exercise of their own powers, to overlook his contumacy, to brook, for the time being, his insulting and contemptuous language, and refer the libel entirely to the adjudication of the Associate Synod.” [See Narrative, pp. 13, 14.]

The Remarker next states, that, “even the Synod of 1836, which consisted chiefly of the libelling party, did not consider Mr. Stark's paper to be a declinature.” (p. 19.) This is the very opposite of the truth. That Synod did consider Mr. Stark's paper to be a declinature : For on Saturday, May 28, 1836, they adopted a minute containing these words:

.“ To ihis course, [accepting the reference of the libel from the Presbytery of Albany,] Mr. Stark himself can make no reasonable objection. Having declined the authority of the Presbytery, there could be no other court but the Synod to try him.”. (See Minutes, p. 29.)

The Remarker thinks that Mr. Stark's admission to a seat in Synod on

Tuesday, May 31," and without any objection from the Presbyte1y of Albany settles the matter. But surely his admission to a seat in Synod, three days after the adoption of the above minute, could not be a reversal of the decision then made. Nor could his taking his seat without any objection from his Presbytery be considered as any evidence that he had not declined their authority; especially when it is recollected, that his taking his seat was in pursuance of a notice served on him by order, that his trial was appointed to take place that day; and also that he retained his seat only about the space of two hours; for when he found that the Synod could not be baffled by hiin to put off the trial till the next year, he withdrew and afterwards sent in a paper declining their authority also. (See minutes, pp. 25, 40.)

How much truth the above statement of the Magazine contains in another respect, when it represents the Synod of 1836 as “consisting chiefly of ihe libelling party,” may be learned from the fact, that the "libelling party” was composed wholly and exclusively of members of the Presbytery of Albany. And from what has now been made to appear, the reader is left to say how much truth is contained in the following assertion. (p. 20.) “ These statements, [respecting the declinature] are fully confirmed in every particular by the Minutes of Synod"!!!

We have ihus examined the several reasons adduced by the Remarker to establish his position, that “Mr. Stark had not," as the Synod al. lege in their decision, “ declined the authority of the Presbytery of Albany," and they are found to be utterly groundless. We are pained, indeed, to think, that reasons, so false in fact, should lead the Remarker to draw such a sweeping conclusion, expressed in such indecorous terms as the following: "The assertion made in this preamble, (which the Synod adopted] therefore, that Mr. Stark had declined the authori. ty of the Presbytery of Albany, is a sheer fiction, is entirely fallacious and deceptive." (p. 20.)

But after all, it is a matter of little consequence, whether Mr. Stark's paper be denominated a declinuture or not. The paper speaks for itself. And she main question is, could the Presbytery admit Mr. Stark to a seat as long as that paper, call it what you please, lay on their table? To say nothing about a declining of the Presbytery's authority, was it consistent for them, was it right to admit a person to Presbyterial fellowship with them, who had charged them, in ihe paper referred to, with the most villainous conduct, and some of them even with perjury? Let the reader turn back and examine the extracts before given from the said paper, and then let him answer, whether the Presbytery did not act most justly and scripturally in refusing the writer a seat with them in their deliberations, and especially as he refused to withdraw an instrument which was so well calculated to interrupt and mar any thing like brotherly love and christian fellowship between him and his breth. ren ?

But it is pretended that the Presbytery had nothing to do with that paper, and that it was an act of insubordination in them to refuse Mr. Stark a seat on the ground of it, inasmuch as the Synod of 1837 by removing his suspension left him precisely where he stood“ on 31st May, 1836, before the Synod began to try the libel against him.” (pp. 14. 19.) It is fully admitted, and the Presbytery never thought of "denying ii, that the removal of the sentence of suspension did leave Mr. Stark where he was the day on which the Synod of 1836 commenced the trial of the libel against him. But where did he then stand? The Synod had on the preceding Saturday decided that he had declined the authority of the Presbytery of Albany, and had, in accordance with the reservation made by said Presbytery, transmitted to them the paper containing that declinature, together with two other papers, viz: certain Reasons of Protest, and a communication to the Synod itself, which we have before noticed. Thus the Presbytery had in their hands,“ before the Synod began to try the libel against Mr. Stark," three different papers which were deemed actionable, and had also authority from the Synod “to deal with him respecting them." (Minutes of Synod, p. 32.) Was it not the duty of the Presbytery then, io deal with Mr. Stark for his paper of declinature, the very first opportunity ? And how, we demand, could they be chargeable with “insubordination to Synod,” in calling up that paper, when in fact they were acting in obedience to an injunction of the Synod? We do maintain, therefore, that the Remarker's charge against the Presbytery of “insubordination to Synod,” is wholly devoid of truth, and can be made for no other purpose than 10 stigmatize the innocent with the same crime for which he himself stands branded before the community. On the whole, then, we feel perfectly safe, in leaving it to any man of common sense, who understands the matter, to say, whether the Presbytery did not act both dutifully and righteously in refusing Mr. Stark a seat on the ground of his paper of declinature; and especially as he refused to withdraw that paper ?

That Mr. Stark refused to withdraw his declinature is also asserted in the preamble, which the Synod adopted, as containing the leading grounds of its decision in the case of the Albany Presbytery ; but the Remarker states, that this is not true. His words are : "It is equally untrue that Mr. Stark refused to withdraw this fictitious declinature. In fact the Presbytery never required him to withdraw any declinature.' And is it indeed untrue that Mr. Stark refused to withdraw his declinature? All who were present at last Synod cannot fail to remember, that it was distinctly admitted on all hands, that two members of the Presbytery (their names were mentioned, Messrs. Graham and Martin) did ask Mr. Stark to take back the offensive paper containing his declinature, but that he refused to do it. And it will also be remembered, that this refusal was, by Rev. H. H. Blair justified on the ground that Mr. Stark had not been Presbyterially requested to withdraw his paper, that is, as he explained it, the Moderator, who was himself, had not formally presented the request to Mr. Stará. But all who know any thing about deliberative bodies, know that questions put by members to one another, are supposed to be put through the presiding officer. If the presiding officer does not arrest such questions, it is taken for granted ihat they have his sanction. Our own impression however is, that the Moderator, on the occasion spoken of, did reiterate the request, started first by Mr. Graham and afterwards renewed by Mr. Martin. But it is imma. terial whether he did or not. It is sufficient that he and the other members all acquiesced in it. And even on the supposition that they did not, the faci that one or two of the brethren desired the withdrawal of the offensive paper, rendered it obligatory on Mr. Stark, if he were come claiming a seat in good faith and with the christian desire of cultivating peace and harmony in the Presqytery, to take back the obnoxious document, which, on account of its cruel, unjust and slanderous statements," must continue lo irritate the feelings and turn from him the countenance of his brethren Accordingly, his refusal to withdraw the paper in question, even in this view of the case, not only justified the Presbytery in refusing him a seat, but is also sufficient to justify the Synod in the assertion made in their preamble. Now all this was well known to the Remarker and yet he deliberately tells us that the Synod has voted what was untrue, when it voted that Mr. Stark refused 10 withdraw his declinature. Iu bringing such a charge against the Synod, the Remarker has, we think most wantonly violated the truth. For it is a mere quibble and worse thau a quibble to say, that "the Presby. tery never required Mr. S. to withdraw any declinature."

But what is more suprising still, is the representation that the declinature was not assigned as a reason for Mr. Stark's exclusion from a seat in Presbytery and was not even thought of at that time. The Magazine says:-“For this course of proceeding the Presbytery did not assign any reason. But they have since asserted untruly, that they excluded Mr. Stark because he had declined the authority of the Presbytery and still refused to withdraw his declension.” (p. 14.) Again, " The Presbytery, as will be seen by their own minutes inserted above, merely decided that Mr. Stark had no right to a seat, in direct opposition to a decision of Synod declaring that he had a right to a seat. When they found it might be difficult to justify their conduct, it would seem that somebody helped them out of their embarrassmeni, by contriving the story of ihe declinature.” (p. 20.) It is not usual for church courts to embody in their minutes, the reasons of their votes. It is a rare thing indecd, if ever done, for them to record their reasons for rejecting a motion. But as the rejection of the motion, by Dr. P. Bullions, to put Mr. Stark's name on the roll," was protested against, the Presbytery recorded and sent up the reasons of their vote to Synod in their Presbyterial Report, where this affair of the declinature will be seen to be mentioned as one.

But the editor of the Magazine knows, that the declinature" wus mentioned on the floor of Presbytery as a reason for Mr. Slark's exclusion; he knows that it occasioned a long debate; he knows that we read certain portions of Mr. Stark's paper and commented on them, in order to show, in opposition to the position he took, that it was a declinature; he knows that Mr. Smart took the ground, that to admit Mr. Stark, with that paper lying between him and the Presbytery, would be lo destroy presbyterial parity, and that for his part he would sit with no man there except he came as an equal; and he also know's that when he stated that Presbytery could only call Mr. Stark to account, according to their own reserve, for “the offensive matter" contained in that paper, Mr. Smart replied that Mr. Stark's declining the authority of the Presbytery, in that paper, was “offensive matter," and for that ihe Presbytery had the right, in virtue of their own reserve as sanctioned by Synod, to call him to account. Does the Doctor then publish the iruth, when he says that “the story of the declinature was contrived by somebody afterwards, to help the Presbytery out of their embarrassinent ?" But if any doubt yet remains as to the Docior's vera. city in this matter, it will be completely removed by the following extract from his Reasons of Protest, which were written within ten days after the meeting of that Presbytery: “ The ground,” says he, “taken by some members of Presbytery, who voted with the majority, viz: that Mr. Sturk formerly declined the authority of Presbytery, is wholly untenable in support of this decision.” What will the reader now think of the “story of the declinature's being contrived by somebody afterwards, to help the Presbytery out of their embarrassment”! But besides all this, the editor, as if conscience-struck for doing such open violence to the truth, faintly concedes in a foot-note, that something was said by somebody, on that occasion, respecting the declinature; but in making this concession, which directly contradicts what is stated in the text, he commits as great an offence against the truth as any thing we have noticed. His words are: “A member of Presbytery, indeed, on that occasion, remarked, that if Mr. Stark would withdraw his declinature and submit to any thing the Presbytery might do, without appealing to Synod, he would be for admitting him to a seat.” (p. 20, note.) A statement so absurd and barefacedly untrue needs no refutation.

The Remarker's conclusion in relation to the Synod's decision respecting the declinature is drawn in these characteristic terms: “ This decision of Synod, then, so far as it relates to Mr. Stark, rests wholly on misrepresentation and falsehood.” (p. 20.) Bul from what has now been made to appear, we leave it to the reader to say, whether this conclusion does not rest where its author, by a usual mistake, has put to rest the Synod's decision?

Respecting another item is the Synod's decision, the Remarker gravely says: “ The late Synod, it seems, has given as its opinion, that if a Presbytery once make an unlawful decision, it has no right to review or reverse it.” (p. 21.) The Doctor's warrant for making this strange inference, is simply the statement made in the preamble adopted by the Synod, that the

protesters had no right to review or reverse the deed of Presbytery," against which they had protested. And who ever, VOL. XV.

26

« PrécédentContinuer »