of the General Association of Massachusetts
to the Congregational Churches under Their Care
June 28, 1837
(Note: The historical information is not
Brethren and Friends,
1 Having assembled to consult upon the interests of religion
within this commonwealth, we would now, as Pastors and Teachers, in
accordance with the custom of this Association, address you on some of
the subjects which at the present time appear to us to have an important
bearing upon the cause of Christ.
2 I. The first topic upon which we would speak, has respect to
the perplexed and agitating subjects which are now common amongst us.
3 All that we would say at present with regard to these subjects,
is this: They should not be forced on any church as matters for debate,
at the hazard of alienation and division.
4.1 Once it would have seemed strange even to hint that members
of churches could wish to force a subject for debate upon their Pastor
and their brethren of the same church.
4.2 But we are compelled to mourn over the loss, in a degree, of
that deference to the pastoral office, which no minister would arrogate,
but which is at once a mark of Christian urbanity, and a uniform
attendant of the full influence of religion upon individual character.
4.3 If there be a tendency in zeal upon these subjects to violate
the principles and rules of Christian intercourse, to interfere with the
proper pastoral influence, and to make the church into which we flee
from a troubled world for peace, a scene of "doubtful disputations,"
there must be something wrong in that zeal or in the principles which
4.4 If any are constrained to adopt those principles, and to use
that zeal, we would affectionately and solemnly caution them not to
disturb the influence of those ministers who think that the promotion of
personal religion among their people, and the establishment of
Christians in the faith and comfort of the Gospel, is the proper object
of their ministry.
5 II. We would call your attention to the importance of
maintaining that respect and deference to the Pastoral office which is
enjoined in Scripture, and which is essential to the best influence of
the ministry on you and your children.
6 One way in which this respect has been in some cases violated,
is in encouraging lecturers or preachers on certain topics of reform to
present their subjects within the parochial limits of settled pastors
without their consent.
7.1 Your minister is ordained of God to be your teacher, and is
commanded to feed that flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made him
7.2 If there are certain topics upon which he does not preach
with the frequency, or in the manner that would please you, it is a
violation of sacred and important rights to encourage a stranger to
7.3 Deference and subordination are essential to the happiness of
society, and peculiarly so in the relation of a people to their pastor.
7.4 Let them despise or slight him, and he ceases to do them
good, and they cease to respect those things of which he is at once the
minister and the symbol.
7.5 There is great solemnity in those words: "Obey them that have
the rule over you and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls
as they that must give account."
7.6 It is because we desire the highest influence of the ministry
upon you and your children, that we now exhort you to reverence that
office which the ascending Redeemer selected from all his gifts as the
highest token of his love and care for his people.
8 III. We invite your attention to the dangers which at present
seem to threaten the female character with wide spread and permanent
9.1 The appropriate duties and influence of women, are clearly
stated in the New Testament. Those duties and that influence are
unobtrusive and private, but the sources of mighty power.
9.2 When the mild, dependent, softening influence of woman upon
the sternness of man's opinions is fully exercised, society feels the
effects of it in a thousand forms.
9.3 The power of woman is in her dependence, flowing from the
consciousness of that weakness which God has given her for her
protection and which keeps her in those departments of life that form
the character of individuals and of the nation.
9.4 There are social influences which females use in promoting
piety and the great objects of Christian benevolence, which we cannot
too highly commend.
9.5 We appreciate the unostentatious prayers and efforts of
woman, in advancing the cause of religion at home and abroad:--in
Sabbath schools, in leading religious inquirers to their pastor for
instruction, and in all such associated effort as becomes the modesty of
her sex; and earnestly hope that she may abound more and more in these
labours of piety and love.
9.6 But when she assumes the place and tone of a man as a public
reformer, our care and protection of her seem unnecessary, we put
ourselves in self defence against her, she yields the power which God
has given her for protection, and her character becomes unnatural.
9.7 If the vine, whose strength and beauty is to lean upon the
trellis work and half conceal its clusters, thinks to assume the
independence and the overshadowing nature of the elm, it will not only
cease to bear fruit, but fall in shame and dishonour into the dust.
10 We cannot, therefore, but regret the mistaken conduct of those
who encourage females to bear an obtrusive and ostentatious part in
measures of reform, and countenance any of that sex who so far forget
themselves as to itinerate in the character of public lecturers and
11.1 We especially deplore the intimate acquaintance and
promiscuous conversation of females with regard to things "which ought
not to be named;" by which that modesty and delicacy which is the charm
of domestic life, and which constitute the true influence of women in
society are consumed, and the way opened, as we apprehend, for
degeneracy and ruin.
11.2 We say these things, not to discourage proper influences
against sin, but to secure such reformation as we believe is scriptural
and will be permanent.
12 IV. We would set before you, as specially important in the
present times, the cultivation of private Christian character, and
private efforts for the spiritual good of individuals.
13.1 If every Christian will faithfully endeavor so to live and
act, so to discipline his natural disposition, and to make such
attainments in goodness as to receive a testimony like that which Enoch
had before his translation, that he pleases God, true piety will be
universal, and pure religion will prevent the incursions of doctrinal
and practical errors.
13.2 We should remember that while we strive to do good, it is of
the first importance that we be good.
13.3 The improvement of his individual Christian character,
should be the first and great object with every one.
13.4 To exercise the feelings of which the Savior has set us an
example, to be like Him in the spirit and temper of our minds, is the
surest way to secure the approbation and love of God.
13.5 Without this, our public efforts in the cause of God and
man, however extensive and successful, will profit us nothing.
14.1 If Christians will labor privately to form individual minds,
especially those of the young, to virtue and religion, they will hasten
the universal prevalence of religion by the most effectual means.
14.2 We commend the Sabbath School, and the Bible Class to the
members of our churches as opportunities of extensive and enduring
15.1 The regular, uniform discharge of the duties of our stations
in the fear of God, the influence of faith, hope, and charity, upon the
heart and conduct, a growing acquaintance with the Bible as a means of
true and safe zeal, an increasing knowledge of the way of salvation by
Christ, as a matter of personal experience and hope, should be the aim
and end of every member of our churches.
15.2 That we may be examples to you in these things, pray for us
15.3 And may grace, mercy, and peace be upon you and yours, and
upon the whole Israel of God, Amen.
Adapted from "Pastoral
Letter," in American Rhetorical Discourse. 2nd ed., Ed. Ronald F.
Reid, Waveland Press, 1995, 363-367.