January 24, 1895
THE New York Presbytery at its last meeting was the scene of a struggle between truth and error, between one man and a multitude, which vividly recalls the historic description of Martin Luther’s experience at the Diet of Worms.
The occasion of the struggle was the introduction of resolutions indorsing Dr. Parkhurst’s well-known methods of reform. Steps to this end had been taken at the preceding meeting, but Rev. Francis P. Mullally, D.D., had vigorously opposed them as contrary to the constitution of the Presbyterian Church, and contrary to the gospel; and inasmuch as most of the members of the Presbytery had already left the meeting, the matter was postponed until the next meeting. Following the postponement of the matter the daily press announced that the New York Presbytery had failed to indorse Dr. Parkhurst’s reform methods. This enraged the members, as it brought upon them the denunciation of the church crusade, which is in a fever of enthusiasm over the work of Dr. Parkhurst. Then followed published statements from the members of the Presbytery in which Dr. Mullally was shamefully abused.
In the meantime Dr. Mullally was not idle. He mailed to each member a statement of his position with quotations from the constitution of the church, expressly forbidding it to take action upon any but ecclesiastical questions, with arguments against the proposed action, based on the jurisdiction of the Church of Christ. The agitation of the matter filled the assembly room at the regular meeting of the Presbytery held Jan. 14. As an instance indicating the temper of the assembly, when the moderator had announced the order of business for the day, and before he could finish his sentence, the aforetime dignified clerk of the meeting jumped excitedly to his feet and moved to make the matter of indorsing Dr. Parkhurst the first matter of business instead of the last, which motion was carried with a thundering affirmative.
This much of an introduction is necessary to explain why the assembly room was crowded last week, and to give the reader an idea of the temper of the audience which the doctor faced when he arose to oppose the resolutions.
Dr. Lullally stands six feet four inches high, with broad shoulders and a voice in proportion with his powerful frame; but better than all, he had the consciousness of possessing the truth, and the courage of his convictions, which enabled him to look with a steady eye into the faces of his audience whose only expression was that of mingled pity and disgust.
Dr. Mullally began his address by showing from the minutes of the last General Assembly that members of the New York Presbytery who were present before him had expressed at that time, touching other questions, sentiments in favor of the very same principle for which he was contending. He also read from the church constitution which explicitly confines the jurisdiction of the church to ecclesiastical questions, and then summarily but logically disposed of the claim that Dr. Parkhurst’s work involved morality and was therefore within the scope of the Christian minister and within the realm of the legitimate work of the Presbytery; after which he continued as follows:—[Reproduced by Dr. Mullally for the SENTINEL by request. Italicized by the Editor.]
“The end of the Church is regeneration, not reform, to resurrect, not merely to embalm the spiritually dead, not to stay the process of corruption, but to give a new transforming life.
“The only means appointed to the Church, and which it is competent for her to use, is the Word of God; but Dr. Parkhurst’s appeal is to the sword of the civil magistrate.
“There are but three opinions touching the nature of Church power,—the Erastian, the Romish, and the Evangelical. The first makes the Church the mere agent of the State; the second makes the Church the substitute for Christ, and teaches that she may do or declare anything which Christ could do or declare were he still here in the flesh; the third holds that Christ is the head of the Church, that without him acting in her, she is a headless, impotent corpse, and that he exercises his headship only by his Word. Hence, when this stops, the Church must stop. If this Presbytery indorses the reform work of Dr. Parkhurst, it will be imitating Rome and assuming an authority as the substitute of Christ, when the legitimate function of the Church, as a Church, is only to voice the mind of Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures.
“But I object to the proposed resolutions on another ground. In reference to this, I will observe the utmost delicacy and reserve. Nor is it necessary to enter into detail or description, even if such a course were permissible in open court. The very gentleman who has zealously urged the taking up of this matter out of its order on the docket said, after the close of our last meeting, in the hearing of several brethren, that no member of the Presbytery approved Dr. Parkhurst’s detective work. The member alluded to is our permanent clerk, and ought to know whereof he affirmed. I content myself with saying, that in view of Dr. Parkhurst’s methods, this Presbytery cannot identify itself with him in his reform enterprise without virtually accepting and approving the pernicious principle that we may do evil that good may come, or, that the end justifies the means.
“My third objection is, that the action proposed would be utterly inconsistent with the overture for organic union with our Church, made to the Southern Presbyterian Church, by our last General Assembly. The distinctive characteristic of the Southern Church is, fidelity to, and insistence upon, the importance of the legislation of our confession touching the purview of judicatorial jurisdiction; and the adoption of these resolutions by the large and influential Presbytery of New York, will widen the breach between the two churches, and put back their union at least a hundred years.”
And now, that the reader may get an idea of the character of the speeches made against Dr. Mullally’s logical, scriptural, Protestant, protest, we print two speeches  characteristic of the arguments(?) adduced. Dr. Henry M. Field, editor of the Evangelist, a leading Presbyterian paper of this city, said:—
I do think that we owe something to ourselves…., we are told, was pointed … to the streets of Florence as the man who had been in …. Dr. Parkhurst has been down into … to drag up some of the poor unfortunates from it. I knew that at the beginning of his work a great many clergymen passed by on the other side. But his work was necessary, and it was splendidly down. I asked Commissioner …, the only honest police commissioner—whether Dr. Parkhurst’s work was needed, and he replied, “Dr. Parkhurst did exactly right.” [What an argument!]
I say that Dr. Parkhurst not only … within his duty, but that never did he perform his duty so well as in this. He has done more to purify the city of New York than all the rest of us put together.
This childish attempt at argument, by an editor of a representative Presbyterian paper, was greeted with loud applause on the part of the gray-haired and proverbially conservative members of the Presbytery, as was also the following speech by Dr. Shiland:—Christ went among publicans and sinners to bring them under the influence of his gospel. we must not forget that. I may not approve of all that Dr. Parkhurst has done, but I believe that his work should have a monument higher than the Egyptian obelisk in the Park.
It would be indelicate, as Dr. Mullally intimated, to refer to some of Dr. Parkhurst’s methods for the purpose of contrasting them with the association of our Saviour with publicans and sinners and his methods of saving them, by way of replying to Dr. Shiland.
At the conclusion of the discussion, the following resolutions were put to vote, and received a roar of “ayes,” while the negative received Dr. Mullally’s single but firm, clear, resonant “no”—
Resolved, That the Presbytery of New York express the gratitude for, and its pride to, the persistent, noble and successful efforts of our fellow-Presbyter, Rev. Charles H. Parkhurst, D.D., in the interest of greatly needed municipal reform.
Resolved, That we rejoice in the success which he has had in arousing the Christian young men of the city to a realizing sense of their moral and religious duties as citizens, and in binding them together in efforts for the purification of our civil and social life.
Resolved. That we recognize the gospel of Christ as the supreme remedy for every form of evil, and the Church of Christ as the agency by which the world is to be regenerated and saved, and, therefore, we believe that the moral teachings of Christ must be applied to every sphere of life, and that the Church should bear her testimony for righteousness and purity in all human affairs.
We heartily commend Dr. Parkhurst for the faithful, heroic testimony which he has borne. We thank God for the favor which has made his efforts for reform successful. And we implore God’s blessing upon them, that they may be permanent and completely triumphant.
Immediately upon the passage of the resolutions, Dr. Mullally entered a formal, written protest involving the points of his address which will be recorded on the minutes of the meeting. After the protest was entered the moderator, Dr. Robert R. Booth, who by his impartial rulings and respectful attention to Dr. Mullally’s speech and protest evinced the only sympathy for his position, then asked if it was desired to enter the customary reply to the protest. The question was answered by a chorus of disdainful “noes.” One Presbyter added, “It answers itself,” which was followed by loud laughter.
We will not have space in this issue to comment upon these resolutions. Suffice it to say that they completely unite the Presbytery of New York, both as to functions and methods, to the civil government of New York; and besides, they indorse the immoral methods of Dr. Parkhurst, and petition for the blessing of God on the immoral methods and the unholy union.
The writer has witnessed many scenes involving the fall of the Protestant churches from the exalted platform of Protestantism to the theory and practice of papal methods, but never one so complete and impressive. Verily the apostate Protestant “image” of the papacy, as predicted in chapters 13 and 14 of Revelation, is fast preparing to accomplish its predicted work.