“The Bond of Union”: The Old School Presbyterian Church and the American Nation, 1837-1861

CJay has previously (here and here) noted the difference between European and American reformed thought as it relates to political philosophy (in many nuanced ways). For those interested in the topic, Dr. Peter J. Wallace (OPC) wrote a 700+ page dissertation on the theological changes that slowly developed in American Presbyterianism as a result of disestablishmentarianism. I’ve only read snippets thus far, but I read another historical essay by Wallace that was very nuanced and informative. Here are some quotes to whet your appetite.

There are several interwoven questions that this dissertation will seek to answer. One set of questions involves the problem of disestablishment: given that the United States rejected the concept of an established church, what would church/state relations look like? The transformation in identity from “church” to “denomination” took time. The older understanding of the unity–or catholicity–of the visible church could not help but be eroded as “liberty of conscience” began to trump catholicity.

Abstract

The Protestant Reformation did not reject the idea of catholicity. It simply claimed that the Pope was a usurper, who had arrogated to himself power that did not rightly belong to him. The Reformers insisted that each regional church should be allowed to establish its own creed, church order, and liturgy, maintaining fellowship among regional churches, without requiring organizational unity… At least through the seventeenth century, the principle of catholicity remained theoretically intact. The ideal was to have one orthodox church in any given region… It was in America that this older understanding of catholicity utterly disintegrated… The old idea of catholicity–one church per region–had broken down.

But American Protestants were not willing to surrender the idea of catholicity. When Roman Catholics accused them of being divided and divisive, Protestants replied that they were still united in doctrine and fellowship… If the older understanding of catholicity maintained a tenuous existence in the early nineteenth century (experiencing gradual erosions from the middle of the seventeenth century), the concept of conscience had been undergoing a revolution of its own. “Conscience” referred to an understanding of the right of the individual to decide what he or she believes on any given subject. The nineteenth century saw conscience gradually become a more central symbol than catholicity in defining religion and morals, resulting in the inward and outward fragmentation of Anglo-American Protestantism…

It was only in 1789 that Presbyterians revised their Confession of Faith to become the first Christian confession to make denominational pluralism an article of faith [23.3]… This new section, added in 1789, had the effect of altering the meaning of the Confession’s statement on the catholicity of the visible church (25.2-5), rendering the older concept of one church per region untenable… While this distinction between catholicity and conscience is an explicitly theological one, the implications for politics and culture are significant. As had been the case for millennia, religious thought and political thought were intertwined. The shift from catholicity to conscience signaled a change in the symbolic world paralleled by the trends in political thought toward democratization, and in economics toward the individualism of the market.

CHAPTER ONE: CATHOLICITY AND CONSCIENCE: THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF 1837 AND THE FRAGMENTATION OF BRITISH-AMERICAN PROTESTANTISM

Here is the table of contents:

CONTENTS

FIGURES        vii

ABBREVIATIONS     ix

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS       x

INTRODUCTION      1

            1. Thesis           2

            2. The Geography of Old School Presbyterianism          11

                        A. The Presbyterian Location in the American Mainstream        12

                        B. Presbyterian Ethnicity: From Scots to Americans (and back again)    16

                        C. Presbyterian Conservatism   21

                        D. Institutional Geography         22

                        E. Regional Geography 28

                        F. The General Assembly          31

                        G. Intellectual Geography          41

            Conclusion       46

CHAPTER ONE. CATHOLICITY AND CONSCIENCE:

            THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF 1837 AND THE FRAGMENTATION

            OF BRITISH-AMERICAN PROTESTANTISM        48

            1. The New “Catholicity”          52

            2. The New “Conscience”        55

            3. Catholicity, Conscience, and the Division of 1837      61

                        A. Catholicity and the Plan of Union      62

                        B. Orthodoxy and Catholicity    65

                        C. The Role of Slavery in 1836 85

                        D. The General Assembly of 1837 and the Question of Division 90

                        E. The Role of Slavery in the General Assembly of 1837           99

            4. The Response to the 1837 General Assembly            106

            5. The General Assembly of 1838         111

            Conclusion       113

CHAPTER TWO. FEMINIZATION, THE MARKET, AND PRESBYTERIAN

            ECCLESIOLOGY: THE RULING ELDER     115

            1. Background  116

                        A. The Feminization Thesis       116

                        B. The “Tranquilizing the Laity” Thesis

                                    and the Declining Status of the Minister 122

                        C. Presbyterians and the Market           129

                        D. Providentialism and Its Critics           138

            2. The Rejection of Reaction: R. J. Breckinridge and the Elder Question            146

                        A. The Response to Breckinridge          152

                        B. The General Assembly of 1843        163

                        C. The Quorum Question          167

                        D. Thornwell Picks Up the Gauntlet      176

            Conclusion       187

CHAPTER THREE. ANTI-CATHOLICISM, BAPTISM AND THE LIMITS OF

            CATHOLICITY          189

            1. The Underlying Issue: Where Was the Church?         193

            2. Catholicity vs. Rome: the Re-emergence of Anti-Catholicism, 1835-1845      199

                        A. The Pulpit and the Press       201

                        B. The Debates            205

                        C. Milly McPherson and Mr. Maguire:

                                    the Trials of N. L. Rice and R. J. Breckinridge   209

                        D. The Rise of the Protestant Associations        213

                        E. The Explosion of Anti-Catholic Periodicals, 1844-45            216

                        F. Religious Riots and the Rise of the Know-Nothings   221

            3. The General Assembly Debate          228

                        A. Debate at the Assembly       229

                        B. Hodge Versus the Assembly 236

                        C. The Response to Hodge       244

                        D. Thornwell’s Reply to Hodge 247

                        E. Hodge’s Manifesto   252

            Conclusion       255

CHAPTER FOUR. WINE, WOMEN AND THE LIMITS OF CONSCIENCE         259

            1. Temperance 260

                        A. Temperance and the Question of Wine in the Lord’s Supper 262

                        B. The General Assembly of 1843        282

                        C. The Political Turn     288

            2. A Brief Excursus on Tobacco           295

            3. The Marriage Question         296

                        A. The General Assembly of 1842        297

                        B. The General Assembly of 1843        303

                        C. The General Assembly of 1845        311

                        D. The General Assembly of 1847        313

            Conclusion       317

CHAPTER FIVE. PAROCHIAL OR SECTARIAN?

            THE OLD SCHOOL ALTERNATIVE TO SECULARIZED EDUCATION   318

            1. Background  322

                        A. The Role of Rome    322

                        B. The Example of Scotland      329

                        C. Regional Discussions before 1846    332

            2. The General Assembly of 1846         336

            3. From Theory to Practice: Hodge’s Sermon on Education       339

            4. The Rise of Opposition to Parochial Schools 346

                        A. The Education Debate of 1854         359

                        B. Educational Debates in the mid-1850s          365

                        C. Virginia Again          369

                        D. The California Radical          385

            Conclusion       387

CHAPTER SIX. WHEN SCHISM IS NOT AN OPTION:

            THE PROBLEM OF SLAVERY, 1818-1849 390

            1. The Old School Center: Breckinridge and Hodge      400

            2. South Carolina and the Charleston Union Presbytery 410

            3. The Northwestern Debates, 1841-1845        415

            4. The General Assembly of 1845         423

            5. The Brief Comment of 1846 433

            6. 1849: The Last Gasp in Kentucky     439

            Conclusion       446

CHAPTER SEVEN. THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PRO-SLAVERY CONSENSUS

            IN THE SOUTH          448

            1. The Growth of Sectionalism  449

            2. The Defense of Slavery         463

                        A. The Mission to the Slaves     473

                        B. The Reform of Slavery         478

                        C. The Problem of Race           484

            3. Slavery and the Breakdown of Ecclesiastical Relations

                        with other Denominations          491

            4. Van Rensselaer, Armstrong and the Deepening Chasm          500

            Conclusion       516

CHAPTER EIGHT. “CONFIDENCE IN HIS BRETHREN”:

            THE ANTISLAVERY MOVEMENT AND THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION

            IN THE NORTHWEST, 1848-1859   517

            1. A Feud Begins (New Albany Seminary, 1848-1849)            521

            2. The Establishment of the Cincinnati Theological Seminary (1849-1853)         526

            3. A New Seminary for the West?

                        (Danville Theological Seminary, 1853-1856)     531

            4. J. G. Monfort, the Presbyterian of the West

                        and the Rise of a Vocal Anti-Slavery Movement in the Northwest          543

            5. The Synodical Northwestern Theological Seminary (1856-1859)       552

            6. The Theological Seminary of the Northwest

                        and the General Assembly of 1859        570

            Conclusion       589

CHAPTER NINE. COVENANT AND CONVERSION:

            THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE CONTROVERSY      593

            1. The Status of Baptized Children        600

                        A. Profession and Discipline: the Edwardsean Background        604

                        B. The Creation of a New Ritual: Public Profession       614

                        C. The Decline of Infant Baptism?         617

                        D. The Debate  620

            2. “But What If I’m Not Converted?”   624

            3. “Caesar Is No Model for Christ”      633

            4. Later Developments  636

                        A. Northern Discussions           636

                        B. Southern Presbyterian Canons of Discipline (1866)   639

            Conclusion       641

CHAPTER TEN. CONSTITUTIONAL CONSTRUCTION AND PRESBYTERIAN

            BOARDS: LAW, EQUITY, AND THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE CHURCH            642

            1. Strict Construction and the Spirituality of the Church  647

            2. The Boards Controversy       657

                        A. Thornwell and Smyth           661

                        B. Missions and Slavery in South Carolina         669

                        C. The Response of the Boards            674

            3. Variations on the Spirituality of the Church    676

                        A. Stuart Robinson and the Presbyterial Critic   680

                        B. William A. Scott in San Francisco     685

                        C. The Spirituality of the Church and Constitutional Construction           691

            4. The Spirituality of the Church and the General Assembly        694

            5. The General Assembly of 1860         701

            Conclusion       712

CHAPTER ELEVEN. THE COLLAPSE OF THE CENTER

            AND THE END OF OLD SCHOOL PRESBYTERIANISM  714

            1. The Political Climate of 1860            714

            2. The Election of 1860 and Its Aftermath         719

            3. Hodge on the State of the Country    728

            4. Fort Sumter and the General Assembly of 1861        739

            5. The Spring Resolutions         743

            6. The Southern General Assembly of 1861      765

            Conclusion       767

CONCLUSION. THE REALIGNMENT OF AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANISM    774

APPENDIX 1: OLD SCHOOL PERIODICALS         780

APPENDIX 2: OLD SCHOOL RULING ELDERS    812

APPENDIX 3: SEMINARIES AND THEIR STUDENTS       825

APPENDIX 4: ACADEMIES AND COLLEGES       828

            Part 1. Old School Presbyterian Colleges          834

            Part 2. Academies of the Presbyterian Church   837

            Part 3. Other Academies          844

APPENDIX 5: ETHNIC CHURCHES IN 1860          859

APPENDIX 6: CHURCH FINANCE  865

BIBLIOGRAPHY        871

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