The result of the Rev. Council.
At a meeting of an ecclesiastical Council, convened it nor folk, December 12, 1780; pursuant to letters Mrs., from the church in Barstow, requesting their advice insert matters of difficulty, subsisting in said church.
Daniel Farrand. John Keep.
Cotton M. Smith, David Perry.
Samuel G Mills
Dea. John Whitney, Dea. Ebenezer Smith,
Mr. John Everett, Daniel Kateland Esq.
Dea. Nehemiah Gaylord,
The Rev. Mr. Ferrand was chosen moderator, and Mr. Smith, scribe.
The Council convened at the meeting house and was opened with prayer by the Moderator. The following charge was laid before the Council, and their advice requested on a by the church, viz.
To the church of Christ in Norfolk, cometh Asahel Case, and complains of Dr. John Miner, a brother in said church, and chargeth said Miner of heresy; in that the said Miner hath for some time past, and still doeth, openly and avowedly maintain, that it is not inconsistent with the word of God, for men to marry a plurality of wives; but that it is right and lawful in the sight of God for men and professors of Christianity to marry more wives than one, and have two, three, or more at the same time; any thing in the word of God to the contrary notwithstanding. Which principle said Case, looks upon corrupt and abominable, and repugnant to the revealed will of God, and of very dangerous and pernicious tendency both to church and state.
Dr. Miner appeared; but in as much as he had no voice in the choice of the Council, so he did not submit the matter to them for their advice; but yet consented to offer before the Council, the reasons he had for the support of his opinion; that the Council might be under better advantage, as he said, to give their advised the church.
After hearing at large, what the parties had to say, at the house of the Rev. Mr. Robbins, where both the Council and church adjourned, and maturely taking the matter into most careful, candid and serious examination, came to the following result, after meeting according to adjournment, in the morning. 8 o'clock.
The Council are unanimously of opinion, that the matter under consideration consists of two particulars, viz.
1st. whether Polygamy, or a plurality of wives, be repugnant to the will of God or not.
2nd. Whether, provided Polygamy be contrary to the will of God, it ought to be deemed heretical and censorable for professor to maintain that doctrine; tho' he should not reduce it to practice, nor think it advisable under the present situation and circumstances of things.
This counsel are unanimously of opinion that Polygamy is contrary to the will of God, and very hurtful and dangerous to society.
That it is contrary to the will of God, appears to be very evident, not only from the laws nature, but the light of divine revelation.
1st. The law of nature points out the propriety of one man and one woman uniting in the marriage state; inasmuch as that there was but one woman created at first, even at a time when God designed to provide an help meet for man and when, if ever, there a was need of a plurality of wives for the population of the earth.
2. Furthermore, when the whole human race were destroyed for their impiety and wickedness, Except for the family of Noah, there was but one woman to one man, to begin the population of the New World; when if a plurality of wives was lawful, it should seem that this was a, which God, if ever, would take the occasion to manifest his approbation and make some provision for it.
3. Again, if it be considered that the sexes are nearly equal as to number, that of the men being rather the greatest, it appears to be the will of the author of nature that one man should have but one woman. As to the revealed will of God there can be no dispute but that Polygamy is forbidden, especially in that text Gen ii. 24. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh. Here it is evident that marriage in its original divine institution, limited one man to one woman, and institution that has never been repealed, altered or changed. This original institution was referred to by our blessed Savior with approbation Mat xix 4,5. And he answered and said unto them; have ye not read, that which made them in the beginning, made them male and female? And said for this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh. The same original institution quoted by the apostle Eph v 31. For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall be joined unto his wives and the two shall be one flesh: Which was referred to as an emblem of that union which subsists between Christ and the church which is but one and called his wife, his spouse, his bride: and therefore a conclusive argument against Polygamy. Moreover the doctrine of Polygamy is virtually if not expressly forbidden in these texts, Lev xviii. 18. Mal ii. 14, 15. Matt xix 9. 1 Cor vii. 2,3,4. 1 Tim iii 12. Titus i. 6. and many others that might be mentioned.
These texts in our opinion need no comment, and not withstanding all that is been said to invalidate their evidence, stand in full force against the doctrine of Polygamy.
Why is it tolerated under the Old Testament dispensation, is as easily to be accounted for, as that a man should put away his wife, or the Abraham, Jacob and David, should be guilty of lying and yet never be particularly reproved for it.
It would be very unfair in our opinion, to maintain that lying and deception were lawful under certain circumstances, and produce the example of those good men to support it. For the examples of good men were never designed for imitation, any further than theirs was agreeable to the word of God.
Moreover if we attend to the sad consequences in families where plurality of wives have existed, it will stand in our opinion, as an irrefutable argument against the doctrine of Polygamy, and will serve to convince the world that the toleration of it, never was designed for the peace and happiness of society, but for a punishment of those (who unwilling to refrain themselves within those bounds which the law of nature and revelation pointed out) gave a loose to their passions, and an unbridled reign to their lusts. And if we attend to the admonitions of Solomon to his own son, after he had seen the inconvenience and folly of a plurality of wives, it will be a conclusive argument against the doctrine of Polygamy Prov. v. 11. Let they fountain be blessed and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
The sad divisions in the family of Jacob, which finally involve them in cruel bondage and slavery; the tragical scenes of murder and rebellion, in the family of David, in a great measure originating in the folly of those good men, in attending to the gratification of their own lusts, rather than the dictates of reason, in a plurality of wives, will serve to convince every rational mind of the absurdity of the doctrine, and it's unhappy effects in the social and religious life.
The doctrine of Polygamy being considered as repugnant to the divine will, and hurtful and dangerous to the happiness of society, and especially destructive of family government, this counsel are unanimously of the opinion, that the doctrine is heretical, and that it is inconsistent with the rules of Christ, for church to tolerate any of its members, in opinions so hurtful and dangerous; and that whoever belonging to the Christian church, advances and adheres to such a doctrine, ought to be treated as a heretic, and in case of obstinacy, after first and second admonition, rejected. And the more plausibly such opinions are introduced, under the vain pretense of inexpediency of reducing them to present practice, when if the principle be once established, the practice may soon follow, is the way in which all dangerous errors have been introduced, and is by so much the more mischievous, as it is the more secret and disguised.
It is, in our opinion, or matter of astonishment, that it doctrine so unreasonable in its nature, and so pernicious in its consequences, should be believed in advanced by any person of tolerable understanding, in such a day of light and knowledge as the present. We therefore advise this church to proceed with firmness, at the same time with Christian love and candor, to bear testimony against such dangerous errors, and to withdraw from any brother that walks disorderly, and so repugnant to the holy mind and will of God.
We lament that offenses, of this kind especially, should come upon you, but rejoice to find such zeal for the cause of Christ, as to appear so unanimous in the opposition to the doctrine, so generally, if not universally condemned by the Christian church.
Test. COTTON M. SMITH, scribe.
A true copy of the original,
COTTON M. SMITH, scribe of said counsel.
Remarks on the foregoing results, &c.