466 Jeremiah Allen on MacSparran Affair

    London April 29th 1740

    Dear Sir,

    I have wrote Dr. Colman and several Gentlemen upon the Affair of Dr. Mcsparran;299 but considering the present Situation of Affairs in New England and the natural Tempers of some Gentlemen, I thought it would not be prudent to write them so freely upon this important Affair as is absolutely necessary. I have therefore (knowing your firm Attachment to our best interest and confiding in your Prudence in not exposing those parts of this Letter which may be excepted to) thought proper to write you a minute Account of every step already taken and my opinion what is proper further to be done that so you may confer and consult about this last Stake of our Churches with Messrs Foxcroft, Cooper, Welsteed, Gee, Chauncy, Hooper and those other Gentlemen who are proof against Fear or Flattery.300

    Upon my Arrival in London I soon waited on Mr. Holden301 who made great Professions of Friendship to N. England, but blames us much for our obstinacy, by which he said we had incurred the Displeasure of the Ministry. This is the old Cant of our avowed Enemies and pusillanimous Friends who term every honest opposition to any tyrannical Encroachments on our Charter, obstinacy, for want of which, by accepting our explanatory Charter, we have paid very dear: he seemed very cool with Regard to the Affair of Macsparran. I therefore said little to him upon it, not thinking it proper to fling Coals of Fire into Water. I soon after waited upon several Gentlemen in the Dissenting interest but particularly Mr. Chandler;302 to whom I represented the state of the case, urging the Hardship of the case and the importance of it to our Churches; nay, that it will greatly affect in its consequences our civil Privileges; Church Power being ever an Enemy to Liberty in any Shape, and that it was a cause in the Event of which the dissenting interest was in general concerned. In this opinion are all the Gentlemen I have as yet conversed with. In a short Time after this I received a kind Letter from Mr. Prince303 accompanied with a Number of the Answers to the Rhoad Island Letter, which I distributed agreeable to his Directions and sent one to Mr. Chandler on whom I soon after waited to know his sentiments, who told me he looked on it as an errant Piece of Knavery and a Matter of the last Consequence to the Churches of N. England, and that (therefore) he would do us all the service in his Power. I then waited on the Bishop of London304 with one of the Answers agreeable to Mr. Princes Desire and had a long Conversation with his Lordship. After asking his Lordships Blessing which I received upon my Knee (this is a Complement paid a Bishop by two sorts of People vizt. the Polite and the Ignorant) I told his Lordship I had the Honour to wait on him at that time and present him from the Clergy in N. England an Answer to a Letter (which I supposed his Lordship had seen) from Rhoad Island stating the Dispute between Dr. Mcsparran and Mr. Torrey305 in favour of the Dr. and that the Clergy in N. England depended wholly upon the justice of their Cause and doubted not but his Lordship (for whom they bore the Reverence due to a Christian Bishop) and the other Fathers of the Church would when they were acquainted with the whole cause be so far from patronizing it that they would disavow it as derogatory of the Honour of the Church and detrimental to the interest of Religion. He replied that he feared that there had been too much Party spirit on both sides. I told him I knew of no Party Spirit, that Mr. Torrey and his Friends had shewn upon this occasion that it was as much the indispensible Duty of all Bodies of Men whether Civil or Religious to defend their Property when invaded as of individuals, that the People of N. England had done no more than that in this Case and that they were not the People they had been represented to be. He answered they had been guilty of Persecution. I told him with Regret I must acknowledge they had and I was at a Loss to know what Church at some Time or other had not which only proved that that Church had departed for that Time from one of her Cardinal Principles and that such is the Weakness as well as natural depravity of human Nature that it is never to be trusted with that terrible Thing called absolute Power. His Lordship looked very earnestly at me but before he could make me any Reply I proceeded to say that I could assure him of one Thing which I doubted not would give his Lordship great Pleasure and that was that the New England People disclaimed all Persecution and prosecuting Principles as antichristian and contrary to the Genius and Spirit of the Gospel but that that true Mark and Characteristick by which to know a Disciple vizt Love and Charity was more evident and prevalent in N. England than perhaps any where else which is owing in a great Measure to the generous Education of our youth at our College and for Practices consonant to these generous and Christian Principles I beg’d to give his Lordship an instance of one of a publick Nature which was a Law enacting that every Collector of Taxes should pay to the respective Episcopal Ministers the Moneys he collects from Persons attending the Worship of the Church of England. This I told his Lordship must convince all Mankind that we not only disavowed all persecuting Principles but repented of the Persecutions which they had been guilty of and was a Proof of our having brought forth Fruit meet for Repentance. He replied, The People of the Church of England ought to be free and pay nothing but be upon a Footing with you. I told him they were upon a Footing with us in every Respect and sure it could be no cause of Complaint that they paid to the Support of their own Ministers for the Labourer was worthy of his Hire and that this Law was the greatest encouragement we could give the Church especially now the Fund for the Mission in N. England was exhausted because it was but curtailing the stipends of those Missionaries who received Money from the People and that would so augment the Fund as to enable his Lordship to send Missionaries where he thought they were wanted. He then asked me if the Missionaries had received any Benefit from that Law? I told him they had and if his Lordship pleased I could produce certificates from some of the Collectors, that they had paid them. He again replied, But the Episcopalians ought to pay nothing, and added that we had affected to set up for the established Church and had accordingly worded several of our Acts of Parliament agreeable to that opinion and contrary to the Charter which they could have got set aside if they had pleased but they were told they were such as had been in Practice ever since King William’s Time and so they forbore getting them repealed. I asked his Lordship if he could remember the title of those Laws for I knew of no such. He told me he did not just then remember them but he knew there were such. I told him as to our being the established Church it was most certain that we were so if the End of the Settlement of the Country and an infinite Disproportion of Numbers would give any Title. He then said We had gone off from the Principles of the first Settlers for they were Independants. I told his Lordship I thought we had not for I believed the first settlers were Congregationalists who held the Communion of Churches but if they were not but were only Dissenters from the Church of England as were all the People who went to that Country for the first thirty years (a few Banditi excepted who settled at a place called Weymouth which on Account of their ill Husbandry and Vicious Lives they were soon obliged to quit) then strictly speaking we can never be said to have departed from the Principles of our Ancestors so long as we do not conform to the Discipline and Ceremonies of the Church of England, for from them only do we as did our Forefathers dissent, perfectly agreeing with her in Doctrine and that this Mr. Torrey whom Dr. Macsparran would represent as not orthodox was so orthodox that he was ready if he had not already done it to subscribe the thirty nine Articles which in my opinion must wipe off all Aspersions of Hetrodoxy because I apprehended Orthodoxy was applicable to Points of Faith only. His Lordship said we had Synods and Councils. I told him as to Synods we had not one for many years. It was true he said but they were forced to send over orders from hence to forbid it. As to Councils we had them which I told him I thought were most salutary Things in order to advance the interests of Religion That these Councils did not pretend to enforce their Determinations by the Help of the secular Arm but kept to the Directions laid down in the Scriptures. Yes, says he, but you withheld Communion which is excommunication and a severe Persecution. I replied it is true my Lord we do withdraw Communion for which we have the best Authority vizt. that of the Scriptures: And then proceeded to give him the following Account of our Councils. That whensoever any Dispute or Uneasiness arose in our Churches that then the contending Parties sent their Letters to the Churches in the Vicinity acquainting them that a Difference had arose among them and therefore requesting them to send their Minister with some of the Brethren of the Church to be joined with the Delegates from some other Churches in order to settle Peace among them. The respective Delegates from the several Churches being met after imploring the divine Aid and Assistance in Prayer, they proceed to hear the Allegations on both sides which when they have done they then determine which is in the Wrong and having drawn up said Determination in Writing together with their Advice what is to be done for the interest of Religion they leave a Copy of said Result of the Councils with each Party and if either Party refuse to comply with this Result of the Councils after having been duly admonished for their contumacy and remaining still incorrigible then the Churches who so admonished the offending Contumacious Party send a Copy of the Result of the Council together with a Copy of their Admonition to every Meeting of the Congregational Churches in the Province (for I told his Lordship we called the Members the Church and not the Place of Worship). The respective Churches having by themselves taken the said Result and Admonition into consideration and having approved of the same proceed by Vote of the Church to declare they will not communicate with those disorderly Brethren. All which I imagined was according to the Scripture Rule from such withdraw. This I told his Lordship I conceived was an Exercise of a natural as well as religious Right for that every Man had a natural Right to chuse what Company he pleased and this withdrawing Communion was no more than that for they never pretended to give over to the Devil the incorrigible Brethren or deprive them of the Benefit of Communicating among themselves but stood ready upon their Repentance to receive them with open Arms at the same Time continuing instant in Prayer in their behalf which is the utmost any Christian can do. And if your Lordship said I think this Persecution, what must that Excommunication be which not only deprives the Excommunicated Person of the Privilege of disposing of his Estate but consigns him to the Devil after having exposed him naked and defenceless to be plundered and abused by the whole World. To this his Lordship made no Reply. But said it would be best if there was an Uniformity in Religion. As to Uniformity in Religion I told his Lordship there was Danger of its being attended with many ill consequences such as Ignorance and Superstition arising from Indolence Sloth and a Neglect of a noble Berean like search of the Scriptures all which were great Enemies to Religion and Truth. But if his Lordship was of opinion there ought to be a Uniformity in Religion in all Countries then I hoped he would think it very wrong considering in what Account our Ancestors settled N. England for any Episcopalians to endeavour to break our Uniformity. He making me no Answer we then proceeded to some Talk about Mr. Commissarys Petition which I told his Lordship I had been informed was signed by divers People who were so far from being Inhabitants of Hopkington that I believed they never had nor never would see the Place: And as to the Peoples being without the Light of the Gospel and being in Danger of returning to the Idolatry of the aboriginal Natives of the Land that I know was so far from Truth that there were more than thirty Peasants in that Town daily following the Plough Tail who would be an overmatch for Mr. Commissary in any Theological Dispute and whatever Excuses might be made by some for such Management yet People who thought impartially would brand such an Action as Villainous if done by a Layman which must therefore give all good considerate People great Concern as it gave a most sensible Wound to Religion it self. My Lord said that there had been some Complaints sent against the Petition and that Mr. Price had sent Home a Vindication but that the Fund was exhausted so they could appoint no Missionary. Upon that I could not help replying with some Warmth that I was very sorry to hear his Lordship assign that as the only Reason why the Petition was rejected for I was in hopes it was as I had heard because the Petition was found to be a most notorious Abuse of the Society by a scandalous Misrepresentation of Facts. He then asked me whether there was any Preaching in Trinity Church. I told him I believed there was though there had been a Dispute, Mr. Commissary having hindred or endeavoured to hinder Mr. Davenport306 from preaching there because he was not paid as much as he demanded by 1s.6d or 2s Sterl. a Sunday. The Bishop shook his Head and immediately began a Talk upon Politicks. By this Conversation which I think I have given you almost Verbatim we may easily see the Designs of the Church upon our ministerial Lands as also that his Lordship is throughly convinced (as every Man of common Understanding who knows his Missionaries must be) that the Church of England can make no Progress in N. England unless her Members be entirely free from all Charge which I believe they think is good Policy until they can be strong enough to swallow up all our Privileges Religious and Civil and then the poor deluded People will pay dear enough for this present imaginary Advantage. Soon after this I breakfasted at Mr. Chandlers with him and Dr. Avery307 (who is a Chairman of the Committee of the Deputation of the Dissenters) in order to confer upon this Affair when Dr. Avery assured me that he and Mr. Chandler would do all in their Power to serve the Cause but Dr. Avery said he could now only act in a private Capacity but if the associated Ministers of Boston would write the Deputation desiring their Assistance then the whole Body of the Dissenters would appear as a Body and espouse the Cause with those concerned for Mr. Torrey. Notwithstanding the Length of this Letter I must give you a short Account of the Rise of this Deputation. Against the last Election of Members of Parliament the Dissenters at a general Meeting of their Deputies from all Parts of England agreed to apply to the Ministry for their Countenance in an intended Application to Parliament for a Repeal of the [Test] Act. At this General Meeting they chose a Committee to wait on the Ministry of which Committee Mr. Holden was Chairman. The Committee waited on the Ministry who gave them many Promises which remain good to this Day being unperformed and upon their Application to Parliament they failed which they attribute to no little double Dealing of Mr. Holden’s, being as they say an absolute slave to the Ministry; upon this he has lost all his interest with the Dissenters and the Dissenters immediately elected for the Management of their Affairs a Number of Lay Gentlemen who are called the Deputation. This Deputation make all Applications to Parliament in Behalf of the Body of Dissenters, constantly keep retained an Attorney and Council learned in the Law to appear and solicit any Affairs that concern the Dissenting Interest, that if any Dispute arises in the Country in which the Dissenting Interests are like to be affected the Deputation immediately take their Defence. This Deputation has been of so much Service to the Dissenting Interest that when an Act of Parliament has been engrossed for building a new Church which Act has obliged all living within the Bounds of the Parish to bury in the Church Yard in order to encrease the Revenues, the Deputation being informed of it have immediately applied and have got an exception inserted in Behalf of the Dissenters dwelling in said Parish, which they could not obtain till very lately. I therefore would earnestly recommend it, as putting the Cause beyond a Probability of miscarrying that the associated Ministers write Dr. Avery a Letter setting forth the Hardship of the Cause and the important Consequences attending the Success of it and desiring the Assistance and Countenance of the Deputation with their utmost interest which being done they will immediately engage and with such Advantages at this critical Season as to make them an overmatch in this case for any Power on this side the Water. And it is worthy consideration that such a Body of Men have not only greater Weight than any one two or three private Gentlemen let them be never so great but are not so liable to be either intimidated or corrupted. And it is quite immaterial to us whether a Man give up our Cause through Fear or Corruption in short Sir this Cause is a Matter of the greatest importance we ever had on this side of the Water for it will in Time destroy our Civil as well as Religious Privileges. Further our Ministers may if they please have one or two they’ll recommend to represent the Dissenters in N. England in this Deputation which I take it will be a great Security against the restless Attempt of the Episcopal Clergy and I think I may expect that compliment from them as one, and for the other I know of no Gentleman who better deserves his Country’s Respect on every Account than Mr. Eliakim Palmer.308 This I believe will be a very serviceable Thing as it will be engaging the most powerful Friends we can expect and which are made more so on account of the ensuing Election of Members of Parliament: for the Ministry will not care to offend the Body of the Dissenters especially as they have not granted them the Repeal of the Test Act. This must be acknowledged to be a considerable Advantage in our Favour and must be pushed Home with Vigour for this Reason. I waited on a Gentleman of great Figure in the Court interest who is concerned in more elections than any one Man in England and gave him one of Mr. Prince’s Answers to the Rhoad Island Letter and at the same Time told him if this Dispute should be determined in Favour of Mr. Mcsparran that I could assure him upon good Authority That the Ministry are not to expect the Dissenting Interest in the next Election because they will make a Point of this Affair and will construe any ill success as a Persecution of their Brethren who settled a Wilderness upon the alone condition of enjoying their religious Privileges and Properties. The Ministry are very anxious about the next Election; I therefore hope this is the opportune Season to try our Cause. I assure you I am so heartily engaged in the Affair that I can say with St. Paul I am ready to spend and be spent. I hope my zeal in this most important Affair will be sufficient excuse for this very long Letter. I am convinced it is a vain Thing however People may amuse themselves to expect our Civil Privileges can continue long after the introduction of the Hierarchy. I have not to add save my service to all our Friends not forgetting the honest Deacon Corporal Beauchamp, those worthy and best supports of Church and State, and that I remain

    Dear Sir

    Your assured Friend and

    Most humble Servant,

    Jer. Allen

    Copy per Mr. John Green

    College Papers, 1. 80 (No. 166). Jeremiah Allen (A.B. 1729) writes to a friend (not identified) about interests of the Dissenters in England and the Colonies. Someone has underlined words and made a few marginal notes. Quotation marks, scattered indiscriminately, have been omitted.