The Doctrine of Caiaphas by Rev. David Murdoch D.D.
The spring of 1856 was chiefly remarkable for a series of meetings held in the Bank of Chemung, called together as usual, agreeable to the desire of Dr. Beadle, and at the notice of O. Robinson. Whenever Dr. Beadle asked for counsel of parties, it was given. Wonderful tenderness was felt all round, lest it should be said, “Dr. Murdoch’s friends are afraid to meet with us. We are forbidden to meet.” So the well was kept roily. This spring it was a protracted meeting of four nights. Both sides fully represented. My friends reported to me, of course, what was said, as in duty bound; and I have notes of these sayings in my hand. They said, as usual, “We must have a ‘revival man.’ We ought to have a large new church here, in this Queen city of the Southern tier, equal, if not superior, to any on the Erie Road. We cannot have it in this, our present divided state. Five thousand dollars will come out of our pockets if a change be made.” At this period Mr. Beecher was at the very acme of his fame, and it was necessary to meet him with a new man; “the stubbornness of the present incumbent of the brown church, showed that he meant to live on here during his lifetime.” “He was getting old, and a young man was wanted for this active place.” Such were the arguments, and they were having their effect, though the main part of my friends stood their ground, and beat down all the assertions made, by stern facts produced upon the spot.
One instance will show the manner of both sides in these desultory debates, Dr. Beadle in every instance taking the lead. My advocates, always numerous and able, were well prepared with figures to meet every assertion. The great prosperity of other churches, compared to ours, was the subject. The churches of Geneva and Utica were specially brought up. It so happened that I had made an estimate on this point of numbers, in ten churches of Western New-York, of about the same size; and having collated those numbers from five previous Reports of the General Assembly, I gave the schedule to H. B. Smith, who produced it in the way and manner in which he can bring up such a fact. The paper showed that at the time Elmira was ahead of all western churches, including even boasted ----. The same thing was done in regard to benevolence; so that not a timber was left of the fine scheme that had been rearing for months. The Doctor, so my reporter said, put his face on his hands, and his elbows on his knees, and actually cried, saying, “If it were not for the institution below, my standing would be ruined!”
That settled matters till September, when the annual meeting again came round. Mr. Woodward, who had been elected as my supporter, resigned on the spot, without previous warning; and Dr. Beadle was slipped into the vacancy. He had been dropped for three years, and more direct influence was needed, as there were evidences of a new effort being made. By the way of preparing the people, a resolution was put upon the books, calling for a public meeting, in November, to consider the state of the society. The majority, always obedient to these calls, said nothing to the contrary, being ever willing to accommodate these uneasy spirits.
Connected with this last resolution was an event which had a contrary effect from the object designed. In October, I was invited to preach in Brooklyn, as a candidate for a pulpit; and, to all appearance, would have been the man of their choice. The trustees of said church were to meet on the following Monday, and arrange for a meeting of the congregation, when it so happened that one of them came in contact, that very day, with one of the ‘FOURTEEN,” who stated the fact above noticed, and other things derogatory to my ministerial character. The effect was as might have been expected. I lost that opportunity of moving; and, as a consequence, was saddled on to the very minority who would have sacrificed their month’s wages to get rid of me. The wise were caught in their own craftiness. My friends were roused to indignation, when they saw that I would neither be suffered to remain in peace, nor allowed to go blameless in name. Their head fell in dismay, but only for two months, for the threatened meeting must be held. For some reason, an opinion was again cherished that a change had come over the congregation.