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Re: Oliver and Joseph Diggins in CT
Posted by: Gordon Ralls, Jr (ID *****5571) Date: June 21, 2002 at 14:42:44
In Reply to: Oliver and Joseph Diggins in CT by Marilyn Zimmer of 240

A 'little' long, but here you are....

Was involved in church "scandal" - see "A Narrative of the Troubles in the Second Chruch in Windsor from the year 1735 to the year 1741," a manuscript of Gov. Roger Wolcott in the possession of the CT Historical Soc. at Hartford.


PG 570-2


The next case which disturbed the Church was a similar one, wherin
Mr. Edwards for a considerable time debarred one Joseph Diggins from
owinging his covenant and having his child baptized, unless he would
politickly confess himself guilty of a scandalous offence Mr. Edwards
had charged him with," viz.: his marrying Mr. Wm. Stoughton's daughter
contrary to her father's wish. Joseph Diggins asserted his innocence
and claimed a trial by the church. This Mr. Edwards refused, claiming
that he had a negative on the church, and that therefore, until his
opinion was altered, it was useless for the church to trouble themselves
about the matter. Thus the case rested (although Mr. Edwards was often
importuned by the elders and brethren to allow a trial) until October.
1738, when a council was called which decided in favor of granting
trial to Joseph Diggins. Some time after this, Mr Edwards entered a
formal protest against Diggins, charging him with having broken the 5th
and 8th commandments.

The case was tried, and Joseph Diggins was pronounced not guilty. From
this decision Mr. Edwards and two of the brethren dissented, and called
a council. The council met June 12 and 18, 1739, and their decision
sustained the previous action of the Church. They, however, commended
Mr. Edwards for his "tenderness, prudence, faithfulness and caution" in
the matters and if he cannot without seriously ??????? himself (missed
part of bottom of pg 570)

recommended to apply to some other minister for church privileges and
baptism for his child.

After this, Diggins again applied to and was denied by Mr. Edwards. The
kindly importunities of the deacons of the church in his behalf met
the same fate from the unrelenting pastor.

Then an affectionate, plain-spoken and earnest letter from the church,
in behalf of Joseph Diggins, praying for his admission, and asserting
their rights, as a Congregational Church, was handed to Mr. Edwards.
Again he refuses their request, on a plea of conscientious scruples, as
he does not wish to countenance such marriages as that of Joseph

Finding the pastor thus disposed, the church moved that Diggins be
allowed to seek elsewhere for church rights. To this he demurs: 1st, on
the ground of its great inconvenience; and, 2d, because "it is safest
for me to be here under the watch of this church, where my brethren are
about me to observe my behavior and direct me."

The aspect of things was now decidedly bad, and the deacons, "fearful
and loth to have the affair drove to extremity," requested their pastor
to call a church meeting. This he flatly refused to do, whereupon
the deacons called one on their own responsibilty. At this meeting (Oct.
1739-40), Joseph Diggins made formal charge against Mr. Edwards of
maladministration. Finally, the pastor was induced to call a council,
which met April 22, 1740.

To them the church propounded four questions for their consideration.

1st. Concerning the power of the pastor to appoint messengers.
2d. Concerning the pastor's power to negative the action of
the church.
3d. Concerning the pastor's power to judge and determine
what complaints shall come before the church.
4th. To determine the case of Joseph Diggins.

Involved with this was the still pending charge of maladministration
against the pastor. But the council, like most councils, was too
thin-skinned to manage the matter. It contented itself with declining
to entertain any discussion on the first three propositions, but
professed its willingness to adjudicate the case of Joseph Diggins.
This, however was but of secondary importance to the church. Deeply
interested as the majority were in the case of their aggrieved brother,
they could not but feel that it involved principles of vital importance
to themselves and the church at large. For thirty-two years they had
firmly maintained the inalineable rights of a Congregational church to
govern themselves...........(missed bottom line of pg 571).

which excites our surprise and admiration. Councils had but added to
the difficulties of the case. That of 1738 had wholly omitted to
pronounce the duty of Mr. Edwards to submit Diggins's case to the
church. That of 1739 had given advice contradictory to itself, or liable
to misconruction. The last council had utterly refused to adjudicate the
very points upon which the welfare of the church depended, and had,
indeed, required them to renounce those principles.

"We desire," said the church, as they recounted their grievances, "no
new thing, but only what were the principles and practices of our
fathers; yea, the principles of the first Puritans, as may appear from
the Order of Church Government drawn up by Mr. Cartwright, the father of
the Puritans in Queen Elizabeth's time." Furthermore, they stated their
convictions that the real controversy was whether the church or the
pastor should have the power of nominating their elders. Finally Mr.
Diggins, having "upon importunity of some of the brethren," withdrawn
his complaint, a considerable number of the church presented their
pastor with the following letter:

Rev'd Sir: Windsor, August 11th day, 1741.

It would have been a great satisfaction to us if you had granted our
motion to you (the last time you called us together) to call a
Congregational Council to advise us in our controversies respecting our
church order which was offered to the council that met, which they
refused to hear and give their opinion upon. We are still of opinion
that a Congregational Council would have been the properest way to have
led us into peace in that matter. But since you have declined this and
we are denied benefit of such a council, we hope you will suffer us
withough offence, to declare that we are still a Congregational Church
and that in our opinion it is not with our Pastor to debar us from any
privilege belonging to us as such, but we are ready to receive any
evidence from the Scriptures or reason to convince us that the
Congregational Church-order is unscriptural or unsound. We are further
of opinion that merely the different understanding between us about our
church order is not a sufficient cause to hinder our Communion, and Mr.
Diggins having withdrawn his complaint, we see nothing in the way but
we may sit at the Lord's Table together.
To the Rev'd Mr. Timothy Edwards

Hez. Porter Josiah Rockwell
Joseph Skinner Mathew Rockwell
Roger Walcott Daniel Skinner
Job Ellsworth William Wolcott, Jr.
Sam'l Bancroft William Ellsworth
Jeremiah Bissell Joseph Osborn
Joseph Newberry James Pasco
Richard Skinner Jacob Munsel
Abiel Abot Samuel Ellsworth

Upon receipt of this letter the pastor " propounded the Sacrament,
which was attended by the Brethren without objection."

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