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before the congregational society in Bridgewater in 1831, soon after the death of their pastor, says, that the father of Dr. Reed preferred Yale College, “ both on account of his intiinate friendship with some of its officers, and because of the soundness, in his view, of the theological doctrines there maintained.” That an intimacy existed between Mr. Reed and President Daggett, is without doubt true; but that there was at that time any difference in the theology of the two colleges, generally recognized, it would be difficult, as we think, to produce any clear contemporary evidence. Some other students at this period may have come to Yale College from the same quarter of the country, under peculiar circumstances, as Samuel Wales, afterwards professor of divinity, from Raynham, who graduated in 1767; but their number was too inconsiderable to indicate that this was in consequence of any excitement about orthodoxy, or heterodoxy.
President Quincy goes on to say: “In the year 1752, the clergy of Connecticut, with the co-operation of the Calvinistic sect in Massachusetts, sedulously began the task of " settling and securing orthodoxy in the college at New Haven, and to preserve it, in all the governors thereof, upon the best foundation that human wisdom, directed by the general rules of God's word, could devise.” The author refers to “ President Clap's “ History of Yale College” as an authority for this statement; but neither at the page noted, nor in any other part of the work, do we find that support, which it so much needs. The fact, probably, which he had in his mind was this ; that in 1753, public worship began to be held in the college chapel, and the reason assigned for separating from the congregation in town was, that the college was“ in danger of being infected with errors.” It is said, moreover, by President Clap, that this measure was adopted, agreeably “ to the advice of the General Association." That a part of the clergy of Massachusetts had any thing to do in this matter, is something new. No such information is found in President Clap's history, nor do we know of any source from which it could have been derived. We are next told that in November, 1753, the president and fellows of that seminary passed votes declaring that the students should be established in the principles of religion, according to the Assembly's Catechism, Dr. Ames's Medulla and Cases of Conscience, and should not be suffered to be instructed in any different principles or doctrines.” This is incorrect. In the preamble to the resolves passed at the time mentioned, it is stated historically, that these regulations were made by the founders of the college, but in the resolves themselves, the whole is omitted, except the “ Assembly's Catechism.” The account which follows is more conformable to fact : that the president and fellows resolved, “ that the Assembly's Catechism, and the Confession of Faith, received and established in the churches of this colony, (which is an abridgment of the Westminster Confession,) contain a true and just summary of the most important doctrines of the Christian religion, and that the true sense of the sacred Scriptures is justly collected and summed up in those compositions, and all expositions of Scripture pretending to deduce any doctrines or positions contrary to the doctrines laid down in these composures, we are of opinion, are wrong and erroneous; and that every president, fellow, professor of divinity, or tutor in the college shall, before he enter upon the execution of his office, publicly consent to the said Catechism and Confession of Faith, as containing a just summary of the Christian religion, and renounce all doctrines and principles contrary thereto, and shall pass through such examination, as the corporation shall think proper in order to their being fully satisfied, that he should do it truly, and without any evasion or equivocation.” To this account President Quincy subjoins the remark : “ These measures for perpetuating Calvinism in the land were highly approved by all of that faith; and an accession of students to Yale College about this time, greater than at Harvard, was regarded as an omen of the advantages to be derived from a close adherence to Calvinistic doctrines." Before noticing this remark with the particularity which it seems to call for, we have a few suggestions to make respecting the resolves of the president and fellows of Yale College in 1753.
The times immediately succeeding the preaching of Whitefield in New England were marked by numerous theological controversies and violent religious dissensions. This certainly was true of some parts of Connecticut. In New Haven, where there had hitherto been but one ecclesiastical society, and with which the officers and students of the college were accustomed to worship, there arose a long and fierce contention, partly from a difference on points of doctrine, and partly from personal dislike of. the minister, the Rev. Mr. Noyes. This contest terminated in the severance of the society into two, ip both of which, whatever Christian virtues were in exercise, those of long-suffering,
meekness and charity were far from being very conspicuous. It was the opinion of many of the friends of the college, that its best interests required it to be separated as far as possible from this controversy; and in consequence the plan of having the students worship by themselves in the college chapel was devised. The advocates of this new scheme urged, among other reasons for its adoption, that the students needed better preaching than they were in the way of hearing from Mr. Noyes; whose orthodoxy likewise was called in question. The friends of Mr. Noyes were offended, opposed the projected measure, and threatened to prosecute the officers and students of the college for meeting in a religious assembly not recognized, as they maintained, by the laws. Parties on this subject existed through the state; the college was the object of constant attacks; efforts were making to subject it to a legislative visitation; and among other reasons alleged for such a proceeding was this, that the orthodoxy of the college was in great danger, as there was no adequate security for its continuance. The college was fast losing public favor; and some extraordinary efforts seemed to be called for to save it from ruin. It was in this state of things, that the resolves referred to, and in part quoted, by President Quincy, were passed by the president and fellows. It was a measure of peace, an attempt to reconcile parties, and to recover, if possible, the public confidence, which, through a course of untoward events, was nearly lost. The project was attended with some plausibility. Among all the parties into which the religious community was divided, the Saybrook Confession of Faith was treated with respect; at least, it was publicly renounced by none. All retained the name of Calvinists; for though some were called Arminians, this name was voluntarily assumed by few, if any. There were not only“ strict Calvinists,” but “moderate” Calvinists, “charitable” Calvinists, and catholic” Calvinists; for all these designations were in use. It was supposed, that if the religious instruction in the college should be conformable to the Westminster Catechism and the Saybrook Confession, that hostility would in a good degree cease, and the public mind be quieted.
But the consequences of any important measure, especially of one bearing upon religious controversies and prejudices, can hardly be foreseen. In the present case, the result of the introduction into the college of the new test, was far from answering the expectations of its friends. There were those, who thought it unnecessary, and preferred that the college should remain on its original foundation; and among these were individuals whose Calvinism was undoubted. Others did not object to the test, except as it was so worded, as, in their opinion, to make the Catechism and Confession superior to the Scriptures; which they held to be the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Whether the college, upon the whole, gained or lost by this measure, may be doubted ; the probability is, that at first, the number of its friends was considerably diminished. However this may have been, it is certain that the institution never was in the enjoyment of so little public favor, as from 1753 to 1766, in which latter year President Clap resigned his office. The controversy about this time with the British government began, which led to the Revolution ; the attention of the public was turned to other objects, and the college as a subject of contention was lost sight of. In 1782, when the Rev. Dr. Wales was inducted into the professorship of divinity, an important change was made in the test. He, at his inauguration, declared the Scriptures to be “the only sure and infallible rule of faith and practice," assented to the Westminster and Saybrook Confessions, “as containing the most essential and principal doctrines of Christianity," gave in a creed expressed in his own language, and instead of renouncing all doctrines contrary to the Confessions, renounced only such as were contrary to what he had assented to, that is, all opinions contrary to his own. Time is a great soother of discord; few recollected much of former disputes, still fewer noticed the change; there were no religious periodicals eager to herald the news, and little was said or thought of the matter. Other modifications of the resolves were subsequently made, till the whole were abolished; it being supposed that the time had come, when, if the test was ever of any use, that use was no longer perceived. The college was left on the basis where its founders placed it; the care and vigilance of the president and fellows; especially in selecting proper persons to fill vacancies in their own body, and in the several offices of instruction.
There is no reason for entering here on the question, whether the acts of the president and fellows, in 1753, were expedient or inexpedient, wise, or foolish. The historical sketch now given of these proceedings and their consequences has been furnished only to make manifest, how greatly misinformed President Quincy must have been on several important parts of
this subject. According to his representation “ these measures for perpetuating Calvinism in the land, were highly approved by all of that faith ;” which, as appears from what has been said above, is very wide from the fact. They were “highly approved of” by' hardly any ; they were acquiesced in by a considerable number. The manner in which these resolves of the president and fellows were received by the stricter class of Calvinists, is well illustrated by some of the public proceedings of the times. When an effort was made to procure a professor of divinity for the college, who at the same time should be the college preacher, the means for his support, as a very important part of the concern, were to be provided. In this exigency, application was made to the legislature ; and this body was approached with the more confidence, as the “new-light” party had increased of. late in numbers and strength, and the orthodoxy of the college was thought to be now indisputable. “ To engage the house to a compliance they were told that Arminianism, Socinianism and Arianism were greatly prevailing in the country; and that Mr. Noyes was not only a poor, but a dangerous preacher.” Such was the language of the advocates of the college petition before the house. They said, likewise, that Mr. Noyes completely neutralized his own instructions; for he would “preach Calvinism one part of the day, and Arminianism the other.”
But all this was to no purpose. The legislature, especially as money was asked for, were incredulous. Those who called themselves moderate Calvinists, but were called by their opponents Arminians, were either adverse to the petition, or lukewarm. The “new-light party recollected that the college had for a long time been believed by them to be Arminian, that Whitefield had been opposed, and that violent measures had been pursued in the institution to check the progress of what in their apprehension was pure orthodoxy; and in fine, the conversion of the president and fellows was thought too sudden, to pass even in the view of“ new-lights” for genuine. The petition was of course denied ; and not only so, but the annuity of a hundred pounds, which had been paid by the legislature for the encouragement of the college from its foundation, was discontinued about the same time. This was alleged to be done on the ground of the great expenses of the French war; but there was incredulity on this subject likewise ; especially, as not far from the same date, on the application of the Rev. Aaron Burr,