The Change to Presbyterianism
A committee, consisting of Dea. William Lane, Dea. John Fogg, Capt. Caleb Tappan, Lieut. Cotton Ward and Lieut. Benjamin Shaw, was then chosen, to communicate these votes to Mr. Brown.
Before the meeting of the Presbytery. at which the votes were to be considered, seventy-two of the legal voters of the town, including a large majority of the brethren of the church, chose a committee to repair to Londonderry and appear before the Presbytery, to oppose the petition of the town.
The committee represented to the Presbytery the improbability -- not to say impossibility -- of the petitioners being conscientious Presbyterians, as the change had been so sudden, and evidently designed to carry a point; and they portrayed some of the evils that must necessarily result from the petition being granted.
The church, meanwhile, desirous of a reconciliation, asked for a mutual council to settle their difficulties; but failing to obtain the assent of the minority, they then offered to allow them to select the whole of the council themselves -- one half of the number to be Congregationalists, and the other half Presbyterians — provided that they would agree to abide by the result.This proposition was at once rejected.
The Presbytery regarded with favor the request of the town to be received under their care, but thought it not judicious to place Mr. Brown in the pastoral office, under existing circumstances.
The next candidate was Mr. Abraham Moore, who was introduced by the Presbyterians, and might have been, if they had desired it, settled according to the Cambridge platform, since the church would have consented to his settlement, as he was a very acceptable preacher. But this favorable opportunity for effecting a reunion, was neglected. Mr. Moore was soon after settled in Newbury, where he remained till his death.
Mr. William Pidgin was the next candidate. After he had preached a few times, a town meeting was called to act in relation to his settlement. The warrant for this meeting is very unique, and its language is such as makes it evident, that it was with the selectmen, by whom it was signed, a foregone conclusion that the town would be in favor of his settlement. Immediately following the article for choosing a moderator, we read:
"Whereas, at a full town meeting held in December last, there was a considerable majority in favor of adopting the Presbyterian form of church government, yet as there is a number of our brethren in the church and congregation, that cannot see their way clear to accede to that form, and as we think there is no essential difference, as it relates to the essence of Religion, between that and the Cambridge Platform; and being willing to do every thing in our power for [the] peace and harmony of this town, we are willing to agree with our brethren to adopt the old Cambridge Platform of church government, and at this meeting to give Mr. William Pidgin a call to settle with us in the work of the gospel ministry; and if we should be so unhappy as to be opposed by our brethren in the above proposals, we trust they will not take it unfriendly, if we pursue our application to be adopted by Presbytery, and govern ourselves accordingly, and give Mr. William Pidgin a call to settle with us in the Presbyterian form of church government at this meeting, if the foregoing case should not be agreed upon."
Two of the selectmen refused to sign the warrant.
After the meeting was organized, October 19, 1795, it was adjourned to the 27th of the same month, at eight o'clock in the morning. At the adjournment, the following vote was passed:
"In case the church of this congregation shall vote to give Mr. William Pidgin a call to settle in the gospel ministry in this town, that the town will accord with said vote & settle & ordain him as minister of this town, agreeably to the Cambridge Platform of church government, any former vote or votes to the contrary notwithstanding."
The meeting was then adjourned one hour, probably for the purpose of giving the church a final opportunity to unite in the call. At thegovernment close of the hour, the business of the meeting was resumed, and the town voted "to adhere to their former vote, & give Mr. William Pidgin a call to settle according to the Presbyterian form of church government." A poll being demanded, sixty-three persons appeared in favor, and twenty against -- the meeting not being fully attended.
The salary offered to Mr. Pidgin was £100 per year, to be paid out of the interest of the fund belonging to the town, and the parsonage rent, and in addition, to keep for him on the parsonage annually, three cows, six sheep and one horse, summer and winter, said Pidgin to be at the expense of cutting the hay for their keeping; also voted to give him the use of the Parsonage house, out houses and barn, orchard and garden, belonging to the town (the buildings and fences to be kept in repair by the town), so long as the said Pidgin should remain their minister.
It was also voted: "that Mr. Cotton Ward, Den. William Lane, Daniel Philbrick, Den. John Fogg, Capt. Jonathan Marston, Capt. Benjamin Shaw & Capt. Caleb Tappan he a committee to lay the proceedings of this meeting before the Presbytery at their next meeting, & to pray their adoption agreeably to former votes of the town; and to present the call given to Mr. William Pidgin, in behalf of the town." The meeting was then dissolved.
Early the next morning the •committee set out for Londonderry, to urge the Presbytery to receive them as Presbyterians. Their request was granted -- those opposed to the proceedings being denied a hearing. Being thus denied, their next recourse was to endeavor to dissuade Mr. Pidgin from accepting the call. A remonstrance was accordingly sent to him, signed by seventy-eight legal votes including more than two-thirds of the brethren of the church, and some who were not members, in which they gave their views of the case and set forth some of the evils that they feared would result to the town, if he should accept the call and be settled in the ministry.