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When to this was added the alarming fact, that in examining the children of his parish in the Westminster Catechism, he omitted the question, What are the Decrees of God? he was looked upon as one far gone in those "ways and paths of error which lead towards the Church." Nor were their fears altogether without reason, for within a year from this time he announced to his people, from the pulpit, that after a serious and prayerful examination of Holy Writ and Primitive Antiquity, he was convinced of the invalidity of his ordination, and of the unscriptural mode of government practiced by the Congregationalists-that he was satisfied of the lawfulness and propriety of conforming to the Church of England, and that he could not continue longer to administer the ordinances of the Gospel with a safe conscience, without Episcopal Ordination. He also informed them that if it was their desire, he would procure ministerial services for them while he went to England, and upon his return would continue with them. The congregation at first seemed satisfied with this, but news of the affair getting abroad, the discontented ones were stirred up to call a council of Congregational ministers, who, when assembled, proceeded at once to dissolve the connection between Mr. Beach and his parish, and to forestall him by inducing the people to call another man in his room.
Mr. Beach immediately proceeded to England for Orders, and on his return as a missionary of the venerable Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts, was stationed at Newtown and Reading, where he arrived in September, 1732. At the time Mr. Beach declared for the Church, there were but some half dozen families of Churchmen in the place; but six months after his return, he had the happiness to report forty-four communicants. An incident occurred about this time which served to increase the number of families attached to the Church. A member of his congregation, on his return from Church, lost his Prayer Book, which was picked up by a Congregationalist, who had never seen a book of the kind. It was read with considerable avidity, as a curiosity, until it was discovered to be designed for the use of the Church of England, when it was pronounced a mass book, containing
it the following expression of this "enlightened age." We quote from the Quar. Chris. Spectator, Vol. VIII, p. 257, where it is said, that "the LORD's Prayer is not strictly a Christian prayer. Had CHRIST given a form of prayer after His resurrection, we doubt not it would have been essentially different." And more recently still, the language of a "Congregational Pastor" within the limits of our own town:-"This form does not meet the requirements of Scripture."-Forms of Prayer. New Haven, 1849.
many wicked and dangerous things. The circumstance becoming known, and a matter of general conversation, the owner was enabled to find his book, and the way was prepared for the ready distribution of some Prayer Books Mr. B. had brought with him from England. The addition of eight families to his flock, within a year, was the result of this apparently trifling incident. In 1734 they erected a Church, and in 1736 he reported one hundred and five communicants at Newtown and Reading. In 1751 the ordinary congregation, in each place, was between two and three hundred, and the communicants between ninety and one hundred; and in 1762 he was able to report that the Churchmen at Newtown had become more numerous than all the dissenters; and they have continued to be so most of the time to the present day.
Mr. Beach was eminently practical in all he said and did; far more disposed to labor faithfully and diligently in the direct duties of his profession, than to enter into discussion and controversy. Yet, in the midst of his laborious career, he was called to buckle on the armor of the militant soldier and do battle in defense of the Church, her doctrines and discipline. In 1736, the Rev. Jonathan Dickinson of Elizabethtown, N. J., published a sermon, entitled, The Vanity of Human Institutions in the Worship of God, in which it was asserted that the Church of England, Pharisee-like, taught for doctrines the commandments of men; that forms of prayer were not Apostolic; that the Book of Common Prayer was nothing but the Romish Mass Book re-modeled ; that the Conformists to the Church in this country were dissenters, guilty of schism, rending not merely the government but the very body of CHRIST. The high standing and commanding talents of Mr. D., coupled with the confident assurance of his statements, rendered the sermon extremely popular, and copies of it were widely circulated. Mr. Beach found them in his own parish and among his own people-given them with the polite intimation that it was a work Mr. Beach could not answer. Under the circumstances, there seemed no alternative, and Mr. Beach immediately replied, in A Vindication of the Worship of the Church of England, published the same year. To this Mr. D. replied the next year, (1737,) and was again answered by Mr. Beach the same year. The controversy was ably conducted on both sides, and sustained by arguments similar to those with which we are now familiar. In one respect, however, the points in dispute have changed. It was then agreed on all hands, that separation from a Church
without lawful cause, was schism; and that schism was not to be regarded as a blessing, but to be looked upon as a heinous sin. The modern notion of men being at liberty to connect themselves with, or withdraw from, any Church, as fancy or interest may dictate, had not then been heard of. Both parties, also, agreed in the necessity of an uninterrupted succession in the ministry-one deriving it through the line of Presbyters, the other through the line of Bishops.
That Mr. Beach had the advantage of his opponent in this discussion may be fairly inferred from the fact, that Mr. Dickinson, in his answer to Mr. Beach, published the next year, (1738,) shifts his ground somewhat, and instead of making the direct charge of schism against Churchmen, is satisfied to maintain, The Reasonableness of Non-conformity to the Church of England in point of worship. At this time, Mr. B. published a sermon under the title of The Duty of Loving our Enemies, which, though not directly an answer, appears to have closed the controversy.
In 1745, Mr. Beach published a sermon On the Freeness and Fullness of Salvation, from Rom. vi, 23; to which Mr. Dickinson replied in 1747, in A Vindication of God's sovereign free Grace. Mr. Beach replied the same year, vindicating the doctrines of the sermon, to which Mr. D. replied the year following, (1748;) to which Mr. B. soon rejoined. The same year the Rev. Mr. Hobart, the Congregational minister of Fairfield, published A serious Address to the Members of the Episcopal Separation in New England, in which symptoms were manifested of a disposition to give up the doctrine of Apostolic succession. Mr. Beach replied to this early in 1749. About 1750, Rev. Mr. Dickinson of Norwalk renewed the discussion concerning Decrees, etc., to which Mr. Beach replied in such a clear and convincing manner, developing the consequences involved in the Calvinistic doctrine of decrees, with such force and precision, that Mr. Dickinson confessed in his reply, "that if GoD's decrees do influence the event, I must acknowledge his [Mr. B.'s] consequences just, and his arguments from God's decrees unanswerable." Mr. Dickinson escaped this dilemma, however, by denying that the decrees of GOD do influence events; whereupon Mr. Beach affirmed, that the real ground in dispute was conceded; that a decree which did not render the event necessary, was no such decree as Calvinism taught, and that Mr. D. himself was approximating Arminian ground.
In 1760 he preached a sermon before the Clergy in attend
ance upon a Convention held at New Haven, containing a vindication of the fundamental articles of the faith, afterwards published with a preface from the pen of Rev. Dr. Johnson. In 1765 he published an answer to a thesis proceeding from some one connected with Yale College, entitled, "Obedientia personalis non est necessaria ad Justificationem." His other publications, so far as known, were, 1758, An Inquiry concerning the State of the Dead, which, being misunderstood, was misrepresented, and which he therefore regretted publishing; though the doctrine itself seems to have been sound and orthodox. Mr. Beach also published three sermons at Boston, without date, with the title, Discourses, Casuistic and Practical, on 2 Kings ii, 23, 24; Matth xx, 16; and Luke xxi, 28. Also a sermon on the death of Rev. Dr. Johnson, in 1772. There is also one other publication of Mr. Beach, deserving notice. In 1762, an anonymous pamphlet was published, entitled, Advantages of Conforming, purporting to be Letters from a Clergyman of the Church, personating Rev. Mr. Beach,* to a young man, who is represented as of dissolute habits. For some time, Mr. B. refused to take any notice of the scandalous thing, but some persons believing, or pretending to believe, that they were genuine letters, Mr. B., under the advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury, addressed A Friendly Expostulation to the authors and abettors of the work; which, considering the provocation, is written in a spirit of great moderation and calmness. The work, which was attributed to the pen of one or more Congregational ministers with whom Mr. B. had been engaged in controversy, represents the Church as a convenient rendezvous for gentlemen of other persuasions, who meet with difficulties in their doctrines, but especially in their discipline; intimating that the clergy of the Church were good livers, sparing neither punch nor Madeira, and that they were particularly attentive to the ladies. The writer then says: "I have dwelt the longer on these temporal advantages of the Church of England, because I think the hinge of the whole controversy turns upon them; since I have good grounds to believe that there are ten times as many converts made by them, as by all other arguments put together." It is hardly possible to conceive of such diabolical practices in any Christian man, but especially in one
*We have seen a parallel to this in our day. In 1819 a scurrilous pamphlet was published at New Haven, without name or date, with the title-" À Serious Call to those who are without the pale of the Episcopal Church: By a consistent Churchman ;"--which pamphlet was got up by three Congregational ministers, two of whom are now living and hold prominent places among their brethren.
who calls himself a Christian minister; and it must be regarded as proof of a mastery over the spirit rarely attained, that Mr. Beach could bring himself to treat the authors with ordinary courtesy. He mildly meets the infamous charges-denies their truth; boldly challenges inquiry into the minutest circumstances attending the conformity of the clergy; defies the authors to make good any of their wholesale charges; and finally inscribes his work to the Governor of the Colony, himself a Congregationalist, as a judge and arbiter between them. When we consider the time, place, occasion, and manner of this publication, it must be regarded as a triumphant vindication of the general purity of motive and Christian character of the Churchmen of those days.*
This was not the only annoyance experienced by Mr. Beach from the same quarter. Upon the publication of his sermon concerning the state of the departed, which has been already mentioned, they made garbled quotations from it, representing him as a heretic, to which accusations of immoral living were added, and the whole transmitted to the Society of which he was a Missionary. When these were received in London, copies of them were transmitted to Mr. Beach for his answer, when he was able to meet and reply to them to the satisfaction of his employers; thus defeating and putting at naught the counsels of his enemies.
The asperity of feeling thus produced and kept active by this species of warfare, rendered Mr. Beach's situation peculiarly uncomfortable during the entire period of the Revolution. Believing that hostility to the Church was one of the chief causes of the civil dissentions and troubles in the Northern Colonies, he not only refused to participate in them, but resolutely continued to pray for the "King and Royal family," until the close of the war, being, it is supposed, the only clergyman in New England who did it. This caused him and his parishioners to be, to use his own language, "the butt of general hatred ;" and of necessity led to many annoyances, the particulars of which have not been preserved.
The amount of labor performed by Mr. Beach was immense. For nearly half a century he filled a cure extending twenty miles in length and twelve in width, besides performing service in numerous other places, on a great variety of occasions. At the end of forty years he had preached twice
* A copy of the Advantages of Conformity, &c., was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said of it: "It is written in a ludicrous manner, yet with strong virulence, and seems likely enough to do great mischief."