UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
FROM A. D. 1821 TO A. D. 1835 INCLUSIVE.
PRESBYTERIAN BOARD OF PUBLICATION.
No. 265 CHESTNUT STREET.
The Minutes of the General Assembly from A. D. 1821 to A. D. 1835, inclusive, have for many years been entirely inaccessible to the great body of ministers and people who desired to possess a consecutive history of the proceedings of the Supreme Judicatory of the Church. As no second edition had ever been published, and the first was wholly exhausted, it was impossible that deficiencies could be supplied, and hence but few complete sets of the Minutes were to be found among the members of the Church. To supply the frequent and earnest calls for the Minutes of the period above designated, the Board of Publication determined on the preparation of this volume, which, excluding the voluminous Statistical Tables, and many of the documents usually occupying the Appendix for each year, embraces in full the minutes of proceedings, which are chiefly desired for purposes of reference. Instead of the full statistical tables, which it should be understood were only published for a part of the period embraced in this volume, a general summary has been subjoined to the minutes of each year, which was partly made up from the imperfect files of the Assembly. After the volume had gone through the press, the summary for the year 1821, which had escaped previous searches, was found, and is inserted on the next page, it being concluded that it would be better to have it out of its order, than to have it wholly omitted.
WM. M. ENGLES,
Editor of the Presbyterian Board of Publication.
Editor’s Preface, April 28, 2000
This document is scanned from an original copy of the Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. We have included the Title page, and the Advertisement page, which are descriptive of the original source. The heading includes the year in brackets [ex.1832.] and the page of the original selection featured below.
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Featured subject in this document : A Pastoral letter regarding the state of religion (Biblical Christianity, as understood by this body,) and the signed by order of the General Assembly, 1832, with James Hoge as moderator. This letter is a matter of significant import, as the signs of Revival being observed in the U.S., and consequent results are dissected and discussed, so as to enlighten the established congregations concerning this all important matter.
[1832.] MINUTES OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. 377
Resolved, That this Assembly be dissolved, and that another Assembly, chosen in the same manner, be required to meet in the Seventh Presbyterian Church, in the city of Philadelphia, on the third Thursday in May, 1833, at 11 o’clock, A.M.
Concluded with prayer, singing, and the apostolic benediction.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States to the Ministers and Churches under their care.
DEARLY BELOVED BRETHREN:
You will perceive by the narrative, of the state of religion which we this year publish, that the God of all grace has been pleased, during the last year, to tour out more copiously of his blessed Spirit on the people of our denomination in this land, than perhaps in any period of equal extent hi former times. For this signal and ineffable benefit we desire that you may unite with us in ascribing humble and fervent thanksgiving to Him from whom we have received this transcendent mercy, and "from whom cometh down every good and every perfect gift."
And suffer us to remind you, dear brethren, that one of the best and most acceptable expressions of gratitude to God for the unspeakable favour we have received is, to be exceedingly careful not to abuse it. It is of more importance than we know how to express that we should, together with much prayer for direction and aid from on high, use all our influence, and put forth our best efforts to preserve the glorious revivals of religion with which we have been blessed, from all that may mar their beauty and prevent their extension; and where anything of an injurious tendency has already taken place, that we should labour to correct the evil as speedily as possible.
Let it not be supposed, however, that we would willingly say anything that might encourage or countenance those who condemn all revivals of religion— condemn them because they may be attended by some errors and irregularities, which, it is readily admitted, ought to be deplored and avoided. Far, very far, be this from us. Those who cherish an aversion to revivals of religion, because they are accompanied by imperfections and are liable to abuse, should recollect that there is nothing with which the human powers and passions have to do, whatever be its general excellence, that is not open to the same objection. In revivals of religion in which there are confessedly some things to be lamented— as there was in the abuse of the miraculous gift of tongues in the primitive church of Corinth—there may still be numerous and sound conversions of sinners unto God; and "what is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord ?". There remain in our land, and in our beloved church, many congregations, ~i11~ which formality and a Laodicean spirit are mournfully prevalent. Little reason have they to felicitate themselves, that they are free from all the extravagancies which they censure in others, and which it is not denied do exist in certain places, and to a limited extent. Let them rather remember, that a congregation in which many souls are born into the kingdom of God, although some false ‘pretensions to piety and some censurable practices appear, is on the whole, in a . state infinitely preferable to that of a congregation in which hundreds are going quietly down to eternal perdition, and in which the. wise virgins are slumbering and sleeping with the foolish. Let congregations of this latter description be
 MINUTES OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 378
exhorted to rouse themselves from their spiritual lethargy, make use of the means and efforts which God is wont to bless, and cry
mightily to him, that they may partake in those gracious visitations with which others are so remarkably blessed. and distinguished—partake of them, purified from all that is justly offensive either to God or man.
Having thus endeavoured to guard against a misconstruction of our purpose, we desire, with parental solicitude and affection, to caution and warn the ministers and churches of our communion, against some of the most common errors and improprieties, to which revivals of religion are exposed, and from which, we grieve to say, some of the congregations within our bounds cannot plead an entire exemption.
1. In a time of the revival of religion let it be remembered, that while all proper means are to be used to deepen and cherish serious impressions, and to awaken and alarm the sinfully secure, an undue excitement should be carefully avoided. Here is the fruitful source to which may be traced nearly all the abuses which so often mar, and deform, and bring into disrepute, the work of God, when sinners are awakened in clusters, and led to inquire with great anxiety what they must do to be saved. If, instead of distinguishing between deep, and genuine, and salutary convictions of sin, and the mere effusions of animal passions and nervous sensibility, the latter are encouraged and stimulated, as leading to a desirable issue, the most baneful effects are likely to ensue—effects, multiform in appearance and character, but in all, deplorable and pernicious. Therefore,
2. We advise, that with tenderness, but yet with unshaken firmness, all bodily agitations and noisy outcries, especially in worshipping assemblies, be discouraged, and as far as possible prevented. Inculcate the truth that every appearance of this description is a weakness, or an error, which, so far from promising anything beneficial, is likely to lead to the most disastrous results—so far from deserving to be cherished and applauded, is to be discountenanced and depreciated, and as speedily as may consist with Christian kindness and forbearance, entirely suppressed.
3. Guard against every species of indecorum in social worship—sucb, particularly, as is manifestly apparent, when several individuals pray, or exhort, or converse, at the same time. This is an irregularity pointedly rebuked and forbidden by the apostle Paul, in the xiv. chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians; and his summary and repeated injunction is, "Let all things be done to edifying—Let all things. be done decently and in order." But besides the particular irregularity specified, we would dissuade our brethren in the ministry and the eldership of our churches, from introducing or countenancing any practice in their public religious assemblies which savours of ostentation, or which may have a tendency to ulterior evils, that they would themselves deprecate and seek to avoid. We designedly leave this as a general but important monition; the application of which to particular instances or cases, our brethren must judge of for themselves.
4. There may be, in a revival of religion, an excess c/social meetings and exercises. That such meetings should be frequent in the time of a revival, we not only admit but recommend. Yet it ought not to be forgotten, that they may be carried to a hurtful extreme; and such an extreme they certainly reach, when they encroach, to any considerable extent, on the ordinary duties of life; or when they leave very little time to the thoughtful and inquiring for private meditation, self-reflection and examination, secret prayer, reading the Holy Scriptures, and other books of instruction, direction, and serious exhortation, which, as they have opportunity, they ought to peruse.
5. Meetings of /pious women by themselves, for conversation and prayer, whenever they can conveniently be held, we entirely approve. But let not the inspired prohibitions of the great apostle of the Gentiles, as found in his epistles
 MINUTES OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. 379
to the Corinthians and to Timothy, be violated. To teach and exhort, or to lead in prayer, in public and promiscuous assemblies, is clearly forbidden to women in the Holy Oracles.
6. Let not the settled order of churches be disturbed. Let official elders be respected, and in the absence of pastors or other authorized ministers of the gospel, let the elders, or deacons, or other Christians of standing and experience, rather than young converts, take the lead in the social exercises of religion.
7. Listen to no self-sent or irregular preachers, whatever may be their pretensions to knowledge, piety, and zeal.
8. Let no doctrine, inconsistent with the sacred scriptures as explained and summarily taught in the doctrinal standards of our church, be promulgated and favoured in any of our churches. That the word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice, is a sacred principle which we steadfastly maintain. But when almost every description of persons who profess any regard to Christianity, are ready to declare their adherence to the same principle, it becomes indispensable for Christians who would walk together in peace, and order, and comfort of the gospel, to state in what manner they understand the great truths of Divine revelation. This has been done by our church, in our Confession of faith and Catechisms; and he who teaches any doctrine plainly and palpably inconsistent with the evident meaning of these excellent forrnularies, should be regarded by Presbyterians as an errorist, whom they ought not to encourage, but to discountenance, reject, and avoid.
9. Let not apparent converts be hurried into the church, and brought to the table of the Lord, without a careful examination; nor, ordinarily, without a suitable period of probation, by which the reality of their religion may be better judged of than it can be by any sudden indications, however plausible.
Nothing is more directly calculated to injure ultimately the cause of God and the credit of our holy religion, than urging or permitting individuals to make a public profession of religion, as soon as they have experienced some serious impressions, and flatter themselves that they have been renewed in the temper of their minds. All experience shows that such persons often and speedily dishonour the profession, and not unfrequently become open apostates, and sometimes avowed infidels. We know and admit, that after all possible care which the churches can take, instances of deception will occur; for it is the prerogative of God only to search the heart. But to use all proper means to preserve the purity of the church, and save religion from reproach, is a sacred duty, incumbent on all church officers; and it is a duty which, when faithfully performed, will, to a great extent, secure its object—the church, will rarely be disgraced by self-deceived hypocrites, and eventual apostates. As well might men pretend that no care should be taken to preserve their health, because disease cannot always. and certainly be avoided, as that no care should be taken to preserve a sound state of the visible church, because its members and its ministers do in some instances, and in despite of all precaution, become profligates and a public scandal. Let the church do its duty, and leave the event to God. [ Bold face added by Willison Center ed. As was the case in the times of the Great Awakening of Jonathan Edwards time, and the Second Awakening occurring in this time period, the same lessons were learned in regards to "apparent" converts, with the caution noted here, and corroborated in Edwards writings. Perhaps we should apply this accumulated wisdom today, and avoid the problems our esteemed ancestors in the faith defined, and made appropriate administrations to solve.]
10. Finally—let no measures for the promotion of religious revivals be adopted, -which are not sanctioned by some example, or precept, or fair and sober Inference, drawn from the word of God. This is a safe general rule, applicable to numerous particular cases, which we have neither time nor inclination to specify. Some variety of opinion will exist, and may lawfully and properly be indulged,’ in regard to the measures which are best calculated to produce revivals, and to conduct them, where they exist, to a happy result. But we earnestly counsel, that for every measure contemplated, a warrant be carefully and ‘impartially sought in God’s unerring word. If such a warrant can be fairly made out, let the .measure be adopted; but otherwise, let it be promptly abandoned; for it must be remembered that the Bible contains not only a safe, but a complete rule of duty.
[1832.] MINUTES OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 380
Thus, beloved brethren, we have raised our warning voice, to caution you against certain things, by which those displays of God’s special grace which we denominate revivals of religion, may be clouded and counteracted; and the incalculable benefits which might otherwise be derived from them, may be finally and irretrievably lost. Let us receive instruction from past times—let us for a moment turn away our attention from all that is now passing in our country, to what was witnessed in the days of the celebrated evangelist Whitefield, and at a still later period, in the southwestern parts of our land.
In both these instances there was certainly a most powerful and promising religious awakening; and for a time the happiest effects were experienced. Numerous conversions of a solid and lasting character took place, and many and most desirable additions were made to the Church of Christ. But through the subtlety of Satan, and the inflamed and misguided passions of men, doctrines’ were at length taught and measures adopted—with a view, as it was loudly proclaimed, to promote and extend the revivals—which were speedily followed by the most disastrous consequences. The Holy Spirit was grieved away; excesses which shocked all sober minds succeeded; every form of fanaticism and religious error appeared; soon the passions, which had been raised to their highest tone, subsided into apathy and carelessness in regard to all religion; a season of the most lamentable spiritual declension and deadness followed; infidels multiplied, and infidelity proclaimed its triumphs; revivals of religion were reproached and ridiculed, and a deep prejudice against them was excited and fostered, which, in some places, and in many minds, has not yet been removed.
It is, dear brethren, to prevent the recurrence of such evils as these, that with great solicitude for your welfare, we entreat you to be on your guard. Think not that vigilance, caution, and prayer, in relation to the abuse of revivals, are superfluous. Hear, on this subject, the eminent and justly venerated President Edwards. lie remarks, that in a time of revival the chief exertions of the great adversary will be likely to be made with the friends and promoters of the work, to drive them into such excesses and extravagances as shall ruin its credit, and ultimately bring all religion into disgrace. And in this his success will be rendered the more probable, if be can first persuade such persons that they are in no danger on that side. It was "while men slept" that the enemy came and "sowed fares ;" riot w bile they were in a state of indifference, but while they were not watching against his devices. It is not while men are in a state of indifference that the false conversions, represented by the tares, are brought in; but while men are asleep in a far different sense—while their passions are in such a state of excitement as blinds their minds to the danger. Then the great deceiver can work to the best advantage, both in promoting false conversions, and in leading into dangerous extremes those who are zealous promoters of the work.
Such is the monitory language of at once the most powerful defender of revivals of religion, and the ablest corrector of their abuses, which our country has ever seen. Let us hear and regard his voice, uttered as it is in concert with the voices of men the most distinguished for wisdom, piety, and prudence, from the period of the Protestant reformation to the present hour. Doing thus, and looking earnestly to our covenant-keeping God to crown our endeavours with success, it is scarcely too much to hope, that revivals of religion will spread throughout our whole land; and that their heavenly influence and lustre will continue and increase till they mingle with the noon-tide splendour of the millennial day.
Signed by order of the Assembly, JAMES IIOGE, Moderator. 1832.