« PoprzedniaDalej »
The smallness of the sum advanced is the only means of limiting his expenditures. We see that this is the fact with men in all kinds of business. Are not merchants and mechanics who transact business on borrowed capital generally more extravagant than any other class of men in the same line of business? If they have money in their hands, they seem not to think how it came there, or that it will one day be called for. The ruin brought on thousands of families by the accommodations afforded by banks, is a proof that loans will not teach all men economy. There is another class of persons: prudent, calculating, afraid of incurring responsibilities in money matters; these do not need to be restrained in their expenditures by the weight of a loan resting upon them. Indeed it often damps their spirits, and paralyzes their faculties, when they look at the heavy load which is daily accumulating. This may be called pride, but when we see young men, as we have seen them, give up their studies, engage in teaching school, or return to a laborious occupation, in order to earn something to enable them to avoid placing themselves under bonds to the American Education Society, we could not call the feeling which led them to adopt this course by so hard a name. We repeat it, we have seen this course preferred when every assurance was given that the directors of the American Education Society would not oppress or injure them. We must say, candidly, that instances of this kind first led us to doubt of the propriety of the system adopted by this society, and to examine more minutely than we had previously done, the tendency and bearings of the whole plan. That it promotes the strength and energy of a young man's character to bring him to submit entirely to the direction of other men, to bind himself so that he must be subservient to their wishes, however wise and good they may be esteemed, we must still be permitted to doubt.
Enough, we think, has already been said in our former remarks, to show that bonds resting on a man after he enters the ministry, can have no very happy tendency.
We cannot think, as seems to be suggested in the last part of the extract from the eleventh annual report, that giving money in the way of loans is the most effectual method of preventing men of ambitious or worldly minds from entering the church; and in this way endangering her purity and safety. There are men of grovelling minds, mean enough
to submit to any thing, in order to accomplish their object. We should think that the door was not opened very wide, and that no very strong temptations of this kind were held out, when Judas entered. Caution, watchfulness, and the pressing continually and solemnly on the consciences of men wishing to enter the holy ministry their responsibility to God, is, in our opinion, a much greater security for the purity and safety of the church than loans secured by bonds.
Near the bottom of page 39 the writer commences his answer to the objections which we have made to the American Education Society, on account of its organization, and the power which, in consequence of its permanent funds and system of loans, this mode of organization is calculated to throw into the hands of a few. His first remark is, that much which we have said under this head depends for its effect upon our objections to the loaning system. And "that if these fail of being supported, the remarks growing merely out of them can have no weight."
It is true, the power of the society is very intimately connected with the system of loans. In one respect, also, we admit, these loans are less formidable than they were three months ago, in consequence of the resolution of the board of directors, that the monies returned should be pledged to the branch societies from which they were originally derived.
This was indeed a most alarming feature of the system, but our other objections to the loaning system, and they are not a few, remain unremoved. We have stated them elsewhere, and we shall not now repeat them.
But without intending to excite sectarian jealousies, or intimating any want of confidence in the integrity and benevolent intentions of those who have the management of this concern, we must be permitted to remark that the bonds of ministers aided by the American Education Society are in the hands of the parent board; that they can demand and compel payment when they think proper. Now, is it safe, is it proper, that the temporal interests of any one church should be in the hands of those who have no connexion with that church, or who, at least, are not responsible to her tribunals? We put this question, not from any want of confidence in the board of directors. Our opinion of them is not changed since we published the first article on this subject. Let it be considered coolly and answered candidly: would the gentlemen concerned like to be themselves dependent, or to
have their brethren of the same theological opinions and ecclesiastical connexion dependent, as to their worldly interests, on a board of episcopalians or baptists, or reformed . Dutch or presbyterians? It can hardly be denied that a board of intelligent, liberal and pious men might be selected from any one of these denominations. Why should we be charged with exciting sectarian jealousies, if we lay before those of our own communion objections to a union with the American Education Society? Why are our congregations invited and urged to form such a connexion? Why be grieved and offended if any one say that these bonds may one day become a snare, and at the same time explicitly declare that he believes those who now have the management have no such intention? But the money returned is now pledged to the branches from which it was originally derived, and this "removes even the semblance of an objection." But is there not another way by which the parent society, consistently with the constitution and rules, may have the distribution of this money returned? The branch may draw for it, and it goes into their contingent fund, and consequently increases the sum for current expenses, and renders it probable that there will be a surplus at the end of the year. This surplus goes to the parent board at least once a year. The branch may ask for aid when needed, and the parent board may determine whether it is convenient to grant it. See Art. 13 of the constitution. In page 40 several facts are stated with a view to show that there is no danger of "the accumulation of power in the hands of a few in consequence of monies refunded, and the income of permanent scholarships." The first fact is, "that all moneys refunded form part of the contingent, and not of the permanent fund: and they are therefore expended as fast as received. Of course there can be no accumulation from this source, any more than from any other contingent fund." From this declaration we understand that it is and has been the practice of the board to place into the contingent fund mor.eys refunded, yet we have no document in our possession which shows that this is a fundamental and permanent rule.
It will be recollected that we have not undertaken to show that the board had abused their power; but merely that, consistently with the constitution and rules, the board, as the organ of the society, had immense power, and that they might increase their permanent funds to an indefinite extent
by adding to them the money returned, and that received from other sources; and so become independent and carry on their operations in defiance of the whole christian community. And unless we greatly err, the second article of the constitution gives the directors this power. It is as follows, viz.
"A permanent fund shall be formed of bequests, legacies, donations and grants thus appropriated by the donors, and of any other property of the society, as the directors may think best calculated to promote the object in view."
Here we see no limitation to the accumulation of permanent funds. And if the directors have not thought fit to exercise the power given them, what is there to prevent them or their successors from doing so at some future period?
In the same connexion the writer states the comparative smallness of the present permanent funds of the American Education Society. We have no information on this subject, except that given in the pamphlet before us. We have made some efforts to find the treasurer's last report, and also that of the directors, but have hitherto been unsuccessful.
In the comparison instituted between the amount of money belonging to scholarships in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, and the money in the hands of the American Education Society for the same object, we think an error has been committed. It is taken as certain, that all the money pledged to the seminary has been actually paid, and is productive, which is not the fact; while only the money received by the treasurer of the American Education Society is estimated. If, in both cases, the calculation were made in the same way, the result of the comparison would be very different. The funds of the seminary would appear less, and those of the American Education Society greater than they now do. In May 1828, besides permanent funds, sixty-eight permanent and about an hundred temporary scholarships were reported as held by the society. It is supposed that some additional subscriptions have been obtained since that time. But these matters are unimportant. It is from the provision made in the constitution for increasing the permanent funds and scholarships to any extent, together with the fact that the bonds of all the ministers in the United States educated by that society and its branches are in the hands of the directors, and may be put in suit whenever they please, that we apprehend danger.
In the course of this discussion the comparative safety of funds in the hands of the General Assembly, and in those of the American Education Society, has been brought into view. This point is discussed in pages 42, 43 and 44, of the Postscript and the writer, by an analysis of the constitution of the Presbyterian church, endeavours to show that the congregations, composed of all who hold pews and contribute to the maintainance of divine service in any way, i. e. the world, do virtually elect the General Assembly. We must be permitted to say, that in arriving at this conclusion, the writer left entirely out of view one very remarkable feature in the constitution of the Presbyterian church in the United States. It is this: every presbytery judges of the qualifications of its own members; and what is the result? If a congregation choose a pastor, who, in the opinion of the presbytery, is heretical, or otherwise unfit for his office, the presbytery refuses to ordain or install him: and if the congregation persist in its choice, they must become independent, and consequently have no influence in the judicatories of the Presbyterian church, and cannot be members of the Assembly. And farther, if a presbytery become corrupt, it is amenable to its synod, and to the General Assembly, and may be cast off as easily as single members. These provisions are not a dead letter. They take effect every year to a less or greater extent. It generally, indeed, happens, that when a presbytery refuses to receive a pastor elect, the congregation, confiding in the more enlightened judgment of the presbytery or synod, desists and chooses another pastor; but if not, they cease to have any connexion with the presbytery. This, also, is a provision which no civil legislature can touch, until they are prepared to say that we shall not worsh God in our own way. It has no connexion with secular interests, as was the case in Massachusetts, when the legislature took from the church her ancient right of choosing a pastor, or of having a veto on the vote of the congregation.
We do not contend that the General Assembly or its Board of Education is incorruptible; like every thing managed by human hands, the admirable organization of that body may be destroyed. Still we think that funds, according to human probability, are much safer in the hands of a body thus organized, than with a corporation where eleven corrupt men may, consistently with its constitution, get the management of the whole concern.