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Entered, according to an act of Congress, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of Maine, by Daniel C. Weston, in the year eighteen hundred and forty one.
Tuis volume is not designed to thrust upon the public, private griefs, or to excite its sympathy; but is published at the earnest solicitation of friends and others, who have become interested in the “antic tricks,” recently played before "high heaven,” by the South Parish Congregational Church in Augusta. The misrepresentation of the facts, by the chief actors on the part of that church, persevered in even to the present moment, together with the impossibility of verbally explaining to each, anxious to know the truth of their statements, the history of the affair, are the principal reasons inducing to this disclosure.
That minuteness of detail which will give additional value to this report, in the estimation of those already interested, will perhaps be wearisome to others.
But though this volume possesses more of local than general interest, and will be more valuable to friends than to others, yet it is, in the opinion of the reporter, worthy the attention of the curious, as opening a new field of observation, and as giving the "outside barbarians,'' a view of the celestials” but seldom enjoyed. There is no report of this kind, of anything like a modern date, before the public. The tyranny practised in certain churches, over isolated people, whose feeble voices are lost amid the roar of affiliated bigotry, is little understood. The results are known by the annual reports in the official organs.” And now and then, a letter of admonition from some clergyman, consigning a member of his flock to outer darkness, for attending other preaching than his own, finds its way into the papers. But the system of tactics, the arcana of the process, are almost wholly unknown.
At the “preparatory lecture” when the "complaints” were filed, the reporter did not take minutes, but immediately afterwards made a report from recollection, which, corrected by the memories of several present, is substantially correct. During the trials of Mrs. Weston and Mrs. Fuller, he was furnished with a table and writing materials, and, having considerable skill in the business, took down at the time what was said and done. He can therefore vouch for the entire accuracy of his report.
The speeches delivered during the trials, are of course not so long as spoken, but the abstracts given contain the pith of those delivered, no important idea being omitted.
The votes, resolutions, reports, &c. passed and accepted by the church, are taken from certified copies.
The phraseology of the various speakers, is generally preserved, and the reporter is therefore not responsible for an instance now and then, of bad grammar.
The report against dancing, and the reply to it, entitled the “Vindication,” &c. in the 1st and 3d chapters, ought perhaps to have been placed in the Appendix. The volume would have been incomplete without these pamphlets, from which the difficulties arose ; and yet any one, to whom they may be uninteresting, can pass over them, and find no difficulty in understanding the rest.
One word as to our title. It may be necessary, for the information of those not accustomed to the now common meaning of the term, in some parts of New England, to say that by a misnomer, Vestry, here (and this is the sense in which we use it,) means a place in, or near the meeting houses of Congregationalists, and some other denominations, where lectures are delivered, schurch and prayer meetings” held, and where sometimes Inquisitorial Tribunals sit in solemn conclave.
The term “Vestry," borrowed as we are aware, from the church, is defined in the older dictionaries, as it is now every where used, except in some parts of New England.
“VESTRY [vestiaria, Ital. of vestiarium, Lat.] a room adjoining the church, where the Priest's vestments, and the sacred utensils are kept; an assembly of the heads of the Parish, usually held in that place." Bailey, 1761.