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REMARKS OF THE EDITORS
ON THE FOREGOING STRICTURES.
We insert the preceding Strictures, notwithstanding their length and severity, with the utmost readiness. Our object was to bring a subject, which we deem of vital importance, before the churches, with the desire, that it might be candidly and conscientiously considered. As we have no party nor sectarian objects to promote, we are desirous that every thing that can be said in behalf of the A. E. Society, may be fairly and fully presented. We have read these Strictures with the attention due to the subject, and to the source whence they come. We cannot consent, however, to allow them to come before our readers without making such remarks, as we deem necessary for our own justification, and for presenting the subject in its proper light.
The first point, to which we would call the attention of our readers, is the propriety of bringing this subject before the public. Our reasons for taking this course may be very briefly stated. We hold it to be an incontrovertible principle, that public discussion of public measures is essential to the well-being of any community, civil or religious. As this will not be doubted, we shall not argue the point, but simply show, that the course which we saw fit to pursue, is justifiable on this ground; and that, if the friends of the A. E. Society do not mean to put down all discussion, and all examination into its principles and measures, they have no just cause of complaint. What then is the state of the case ? Here is a Society proposing for its object the responsible work of preparing young men for the ministry. In the prosecution of this object, it addresses itself to the Christian public for support; it urges its claims with zeal and constancy in every part of the country, not merely in the section where
it originated and where it is located, but within the bounds of the Presbyterian church, organizes societies in a large portion of our congregations, and bids fair, in a short time, to get the whole of this important business under its sole direction. Now, supposing that there are a number of men, or
, any one man, who conscientiously believes, that the plan of this society is injudicious, that its principles are of evil tendency, that its organization is peculiarly dangerous, is he to be debarred the privilege of saying so? Is the mere fact that others think differently, to prevent him from presenting, in a fair and Christian manner, his difficulties for the consideration of his fellow Christians? We trust not. We trust that the time is far distant, when any society will either wish, or be able, to prevent public discussion or public scrutiny. But it seems that in this instance, it is regarded as matter of just complaint : not because the Society orits friends are afraid of public discussion, but because they consider, that the proper course for any such individual to pursue, would be to present his objections to the Society itself or its Board of Directors. We thought differently, and think so still, for the following reasons : 1. The appeal of the Society is to the Christian public ; to the Christian public therefore belongs the right of judging of its merits; and to the Christian public should be addressed, in our judgment, all the arguments for or against it. 2. We had good reasons for believing, that our objections would produce no effect upon the minds of the Directors. We knew that they had often considered the subject, and had frequently expressed their confidence in the wisdom and excellence of their plans. Where then could be the use of presenting our objections to them? What good could reasonably have been anticipated from such a course? None at all, as the result has proved. The author of these Strictures, who, it may be presumed, speaks the feelings and views of the Board, differs from us entirely in opinion, pronounces our objections of no weight, and is far from supposing that the whole system of the Society should be revolutionized, in order to render it worthy of public confidence. We might, therefore, as well have placed our objections in the fire, as presented them to this Board. The same reasons, with nearly equal force, apply to the idea of bringing them before the Society itself. Its annual meetings, even those for business, are not suitable seasons for the discussion of questions, which involve so many principles and have so many important bearings, immediate and remote. Besides, the only probable method of operating effectually on the minds either of the Board or of the Society, was to bring the matter before the public ; to have the reasons for and against, fairly presented; and time given for matare deliberation. The Society could not change its plans, after all that it has said and done, unless a change had previously been wrought in public sentiment on the subject. Now supposing, with such prospects, in case of an appeal to the Society or its Directors, we conscientiously believe (which is in fact the case), that our objections are of deep and solemn weight; that they call for the serious attention of the churches, are we to be denied the privilege of speaking out? Never.
Besides, we knew that these objections, or the most important of them, had been presented again and again to some of the leading members of the Society without effect. It matters not whether the representations were made orally or in writing; the subject was thus brought up, and that too, not merely by those who stood aloof from the Society, but by its own members and friends, some objecting to one feature and some to another. The matter of permanent funds has been more than once strenuously urged on the attention of the excellent Secretary of the Society, without producing any alteration in his views. The whole plan of the loaning system has been objected to, and argued against formally without effect. Now we ask, under these circumstances what good could have been expected from doing what had virtually been done so often, and by so many individuals, before? We think none.
But finally, our object demanded that this appeal should be made to the Christian public. This object was to prevent those of our fellow Christians, who should think with us, when this subject was once fairly presented to their minds, from committing themselves in this business; and to effect if possible through public sentiment, (the only way in which it could be expected), a change in what we honestly consider the objectionable features in the Society. This is an object, which we are neither afraid, nor ashamed to avow, and which, thinking and feeling as we do, it was not only proper but our bounden duty to pursue. We object to this Society, that its system tends to degrade the character of its beneficiaries; that it is inconsistent with the liberty of ministers of the Gospel; and that it gives the Society a power over the destinies of the church, which no set of men on earth ought to possess, and which we are utterly unwilling to submit to. We should object as strenuously to this systein, were it pur- . sued by the General Assembly's Board, as we do in the present instance. Now, if these objections are well founded, the Christian public should feel them; for they are deeply interested in the result; and if they are destitute of foundation, the minds of those on whom they operate should be sct to rest. Our object, therefore, demanded a public discussion. We are perfectly willing, that any one and every one, who upon careful and proper consideration, approves of the loaning system, of voluntary societies rendering themselves independent of public opinion by permanent funds, and election by ballot of their voting members, &c. &c., should join this Society, be he Presbyterian or Congregationalist, and press on its views and interests with all his heart. But we are, at the same time, desirous that those who with us, solemnly believe that these principles are fraught with evils to the best interests of the church, should not be borne on by the current, and brought to cooperate with a system, of which on maturer consideration, they would seriously disapprove.
We deeply regret that the Society or its friends should be grieved at the course which we have taken, but their complaining " loud and far and wide," we must think is not only unfounded, but amazingly injudicious. If we have misre. presented facts, we are open to conviction, and ready to make acknowledgment. If our objections are of no weight, let them be answered ; but do not let us be condemned for appealing to the same tribunal to which the claims of the Society were submitted, and which alone is competent to decide in the case. We are glad, that the author of the Strictures does us the justice to admit, that we have avoided all personality and all imputation of improper motives; and we trust that if this discussion is to be continued, the same forbearance may be observed by the writers on both sides of the question. He complains, however, of our having sounded “the tocsin of alarm.” If by this is meant presenting to our readers, a calm and dispassionate statement of our objections to the A. E, Society, then indeed have we
sounded such an alarm. But let it be remembered, that the rousing character of the appeal depends entirely on the force of these objections. If they be of no weight, we have done the Society no harm, and have excited no apprehension. For it cannot be asserted, that we have dealt in mere insinuations, or empty declamation. As to his opinion (p. 600), that those members of the Presbyterian church, who approve of our former remarks, may have reason to regret having set such a precedent; we would only say, that when they appeal to the Christian public for the support of any of their institutions, they will never complain, that any individual (especially if he belong to the body of Christians to whom they apply for patronage,) should make a calm and Christian statement of his objections to their projects. If we have done more than this, we have done more than we intended; and we fear no reprisals in the spirit of the review complained of. The deep feeling, therefore, which the author confesses on the subject of an appeal to the Christian public, and which he says he entertains in common with many of the friends of the A. E. Society, we would do nothing to aggravate ; while we earnestly maintain, that we have done nothing more than exercise a right, which we, in common with every other member of the Christian community, possess, and which we are persuaded, he would be one of the last men to wish to trammel in this free country. Such is our defence of the course which we have pursued.
The second point to which we would call the attention of our readers, is the minute details required of the beneficiaries of the Society, as to their receipts and expenditures. Though we consider this subject of importance, and are decided in our convictions of its inexpediency, it is the least prominent of all our objections. Our author, however, has devoted nearly ten pages to the defence of this part of the system. We object to it, because it is unnecessary, because it is injurious in its influence on character, and because it is exceedingly painful to young men of delicate and ingenuous feelings.
It is unnecessary, because all the information which it conveys may, as far as requisite, be obtained by less objectionable methods. It is argued, that as the Society is bound to ascertain the pecuniary circumstances and charac