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936
CONGREGATIONALISM


was followed by nearly half a century of lethargy, during which the chief interest centred in the gradual growth of doctrinal controversy. Two new theological schools began to emerge from the old Calvinistic theology of the early settlers. The first owed its origin to Jonathan Edwards (the elder) and was carried on by Samuel Hopkins (1721–1803), Joseph Bellamy (1719–1790), Nathaniel Emmons (1745–1840), Jonathan Edwards (the younger) and Timothy Dwight (1752–1817). This system of thought, known as the “New England Theology,” rapidly became predominant, and by the beginning of the 19th century was generally adopted. An equally important school, though numerically smaller, came into existence in eastern Massachusetts under the leadership of Charles Chauncy (1592–1672) and Jonathan Mayhew (1720–1766). During the events which led up to the Declaration of Independence this school, known as the “Liberal” school, was not prominent though the number of its adherents steadily grew. Subsequently, however, largely owing to the activity of men like William Ellery Channing, it acquired great importance. As early as 1805 it was recognized as predominant in Harvard College, and in 1815 it had become a distinct denomination under the new title “Unitarian” (see Unitarianism).

When the excitement caused by the Revolution had subsided, Congregationalism entered upon a new period of energy. From 1791 onwards revival work again became prominent with results which far surpassed those of the Edwardean period. The number of church members steadily increased, and activities of wider and more lasting importance were undertaken. The loss of Harvard College compelled the provision of new seminaries, and missionary work both home and foreign was vigorously carried on. The following are the seminaries founded since 1800: Andover (1808), Bangor (1816), Hartford (1834), the theological school of Oberlin College (1835), Chicago (1858), Pacific (1869; now at Berkeley, Cal.), and Atlanta (Georgia), 1901. In 1822 a special theological department was organized at Yale. Up to 1810 missionary work had been carried on at home by several local societies, but in that year the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was organized. Other societies undertook various departments of work at home: the Congregational Education Society, for assisting candidates for the ministry (1815); the American Missionary Association (1846), founded by the anti-slavery party for the conversion of the negroes, which subsequently devoted its energies to work among the Indians of the west, the negroes of the south, the Chinese of the west coast and the Eskimo in Alaska; to aid in the building of churches and mission rooms the American Congregational Union was formed in 1853 (now called the Congregational Church Building Society). To these last societies is largely due the growth of the Congregational body in the west. In the early days of this expansion Congregationalism and Presbyterianism worked hand in hand, but the so-called “Plan of Union” (1801) was successively abandoned by the Conservative Presbyterians in 1837 and by the Congregationalists through the “Albany Convention” in 1852. It was this decision which for the first time gave to Congregationalists a true feeling of denominational unity (see below).

The 19th century was a period of considerable progress for the Congregational body, and on the whole the same may be said for the first seven years of the 20th century. On the other hand, the numerical increase had not kept pace with the increase of population. The English Congregational Year Book for 1908 said, in reference to the United States: “In spite of phenomenal increase of population Congregationalism in the states, as here in London, is only marking time. If other sister churches were reporting progress, or were simply keeping abreast of the population, these facts would not be so ominous as they undoubtedly are. But we hear no good news of that kind, and gather small comfort from the mere fact that Congregational churches are holding their own as well as any of their neighbours.” It must, therefore, be admitted that the great expansion which marked the first half of the 19th century has not been proportionately maintained. None the less, Congregationalism has through its leading representatives taken an increasingly important part in theological controversy and scholarship generally. Among the followers of Jonathan Edwards the more prominent have been N. W. Taylor (Yale) and Edwards A. Park (Andover). A new statement of the doctrine of the Atonement, proposed by Horace Bushnell (1802–1876) about 1850, provoked great controversy, but during the later years of the 19th century was widely accepted under the title of the “New Theology.” It has not, however, caused a serious division within the denomination.

Congregationalism in America has thus spread from New England, its primitive home, over the West to the Pacific, but has never had more than a slight foothold in the Southern states. The remarkable junction or fusion of the Independents or “Separatists” who emigrated from Leiden to Plymouth, Massachusetts, with the Puritan Nonconformists of Massachusetts Bay, modified Independency by the introduction of positive fraternal relations among the churches. This gave rise to Congregationalism in the more proper sense of the term. Beyond the limits of New England the progress of the denomination as such was, as we have seen, a good deal hindered for a long period by the willingness of New Englanders going West either to join the Presbyterians, with whom they were substantially agreed in doctrine, or to combine with them in a mixed scheme of policy in which the Presbyterian element was uppermost. It was not until about 1850 that American Congregationalists began to draw more closely together, and to propagate in the Western states and territories their own distinctive policy. Meanwhile, without giving up the main principle of the autonomy of the local church, they have developed in various ways an active disposition to co-operate as a united religious body. This tendency to denominational union is manifest partly in the work of the various educational and missionary societies which have been enumerated, but more strikingly in the institution of the National Council, which is convened at intervals of three years, and is composed of ministers and lay delegates representing the churches. The council, like the minor advisory councils which have been from early times called together for the guidance of particular churches on occasions of special difficulty, is each time dissolved at its adjournment. It is possessed of no authority. Its function is to deliberate on subjects of common concern to the entire denomination, and to publish such opinions and counsels as a majority may see fit to send forth to the churches. The first of the National Councils (held at Boston in 1865) issued a brief statement of doctrine (the “Burial Hill Declaration”), descriptive of the religious tenets generally accepted by the denomination. Later (1883) a large committee, previously appointed, framed a more full confession of faith (the “Commission Creed”), with the same end in view. Of course neither of these creeds was in the least binding upon ministers or upon churches, except so far as in each instance they might be voluntarily adopted. The movement in the direction of union has been still further promoted by the International Councils referred to above (section on British Congregationalism ad fin.), in which the American Congregationalists have met the representatives of their brethren in Great Britain and its colonies having the same faith and polity. In the different states, conferences, composed likewise of representatives of the several churches and their pastors, have sprung up. These meet at stated intervals for the consideration of practical subjects of moment, and for the promotion of a religious spirit. There is a tendency, moreover, to accord to the conferences the function of determining the tests of ministerial standing in the Congregational denomination. In some of the states the licensing of preachers, which was formerly left to the voluntary associations of ministers in the different localities, has been made a function of the state conferences. At the very first, in New England, the theory was held that a minister, on ceasing to be the pastor of a particular church, falls into the rank of laymen. But the view was very soon adopted, and since has universally prevailed, that a minister in such cases still retains his clerical character. In later times the measure of authority conceded to a pastor as the shepherd of a flock has been much diminished in consequence of the gradual