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at best the testimony of but a meagre majority; shall we run the risk of marring the unity of our church; of driving off our Southern brethren who love us, and whom we love in the faith; and of becoming a spectacle to the world? Will such a result be as likely to accomplish good, as our dwelling together in the unity of the Spirit, preaching Christ crucified, and in our several allotments at home, exerting our influence, according to our own views, on any and on all subjects of interest to the church and the world ?
On the other side it was contended, that although slavery is a political institution, and emancipation on the soil prohibited by law, Christians are not blameless, because they are part and parcel of the people, from whom the statutes proceed, and by whose representatives they are enacted. They voluntarily profess allegiance to the government, knowing its enactments on the subject of slavery, and do not, as the martyrs did, lift up their voices to testify against the iniquity of the laws. They ought rather to suffer wrongfully, being willing to be persecuted for righteousness' sake, and even to see the pillars of society shaken, than by silent acquiescence, help sustain those pillars when evidently resting on bases of error. Grant that the system is interwoven with all the relations of society, authorized by legal enactment, and enforced by judicial decision, can this justify the Christian in holding his fellow-man in bondage, under a system of law, whose every enactment is a violation of divine prerogative and human right? Can he, with a clear conscience, live and move, and have his being voluntarily, where he is under a necessity of sanctioning a system which is diametrically opposed to the first principles of the gospel, which Jesus died to promulgate!
Nor could any one, under any circumstances, it was argued, be justified in buying his fellow-man. Let it be allowed that he is suffering the torments of a cruel master, that he is about to be torn from his family and sold into distant bondage; that he comes imploringly and casts himself at your feet, begging your interposition by purchase, and promising to serve you faithfully all the days of his life ; still you cannot do the deed, because in so doing, you recognise the right of ownership in the master; you contract for that which is not property as property; you make the man a chattel; you recognise as alienable, that which is inalienable, life and liberty; you sustain the iniquitous system of slavery; you act on the principle of doing wrong, that SECOND SERIES, VOL. X. NO. 1.
good may come, and of choosing, between two moral evils, that which is the less, and, whilst prompted by feelings of compassion for the wretched, you disregard ultimate results and the greatest good of the whole, in consulting the present, temporary welfare of a few individuals.
In reply to the second argument of the opposite side, it was said, that although slavery existed under the Roman Empire, in the days of the Apostles, it differed from the slavery of our Southern States in several particulars, and was by no means so heinous; that although the Apostles did not directly assail the system as then legalized, but only proclaimed principles which they knew must ultimately undermine it, it does not follow that an Assembly of Ministers of the gospel, in this day of light and of farther advancement towards a full appreciation of the lofty humanities of the gospel, are not bound to testify against a system worse in some of its features than that of Rome, and, from the organization of the union and of the church, throwing a weighty responsibility, in respect to it, on the members of that Assembly
It was further contended, that those passages of the Scriptures adduced in proof of the recognition of slavery as justifiable by the Apostles, were misunderstood and misinterpreted ; that while the relation of master and servant was recognised as existing, the Apostles by no means justified it, when they exhorted Christian slaves to be obedient and patient, and to exhibit in their lives all the graces of the Spirit, that they might thus show forth the praises of Him
that had called them out of darkness to light, and convince a gainsaying world of the power and efficacy of the religion of Jesus. Just so should we now exhort Christian slaves in this land, who have unbelieving masters, not forgetting either the exhortations of the Apostles to the latter, and reminding the slave, too, if he could obtain his liberty, to use it rather, as a better state. If the Apostles' exhortations to servants to bear and forbear could be rightly construed into a justification of compulsory servitude; then, on the same principles of hermeneutics, would the Savior's exhortation, when smitten on the one cheek, to turn the other, justify assault and battery, and His direction when the cloak is taken, to give the coat also, justify robbery. These exhortations to servants, which undoubtedly recognise the relation of master and slave, could never be meant to justify the system, because the fundamental principles and the entire spirit of the gospel are manifestly and totally opposed to
it. No man can read the gospel of the kingdom, and imbibe its spirit, without sensibly feeling that slavery, as legalized in this land, is founded on principles directly counter to it, and encourages practices which it positively condemns.
In reply to the other principal and probably most influential argument, it was contended that, however important the unity and harmony of this part of Zion, it could never be as important as testimony against the evils of the day. Indeed, peace was desirable only on the basis of truth and holiness. First pure, then peaeable. Whatever, then, might be our aspirations for the unity of the brotherhood, those aspirations could only be breathed out in connection with higher aspirations after the purification of the church from the evils existing in its bosom, and corroding its vitals. We should regret deeply to see our brethren of the South go out from us because we testify against an evil which they cherish, and of which they ought to repent, but we cannot suffer sin on our brother, without admonition, nor can we avoid feeling deeper sorrow that they should uphold, by their countenance, a system of so flagrant iniquity. Let our brethren of the South be brought to feel that they are the chief pillars in this temple of abominations, and that as soon as their support is removed, the temple itself will begin to crumble, and soon be levelled with the dust. Neither should it be forgotten that there is danger of division in the North, if this Assembly persist in its determination to bear no testimony against the sin of slavery. Which would be the deeper wound to Zion? Would it not, on the whole, be better, if division must occur, which we deprecate, as much as our brethren who differ from us,—that the North should be united, and the South form a separate organization, than that the North should be rent asunder, and but a small portion of it remain in union with the South ?
We propose no interference with slavery as a civil institution; we do not set ourselves in opposition to civil law; we only ask a testimony as to the iniquity of the system ; only express an opinion as to its moral evil and contravention of the divine law. And why, if we believe it a sinful system, should we hesitate so to pronounce it? Shall we bear our solemn testimony before the world, against the sins of Sabbath-breaking and dancing, and pass by on the other side, as if we saw not, this legalized iniquity, which is depriving God and man of their rights ? Never ought it to be : never can it be with some of us. Brethren are mistaken, if they presume that we shall go with them, in the passage of resolutions, which leave this flagrant sin untouched by the Assembly.
The discussion of this agitating question was conducted in the true spirit of free inquiry, and proved, to a demonstration, that the community will bear the discussion, when conducted in a Christian spirit, and with a desire only for the triumph of truth. The whole issue is infinitely better than if the subject had been indefinitely postponed. As it was, all had an opportunity of fully declaring their sentiments, and although not satisfied with the result, have the pleasure of reflecting that their individual testimonies will go out, through the press, to the ends of the earth.
For ourselves, we felt that the spirit of love reigned in the Assembly, and, although in favor of mild yet firm action, on the subject of slavery, we are satisfied that members sacrificed their own preference to a conscientious conviction that, under the circuinstances, more good, both present and ultimate, would be thus accomplished.
We are of opinion, however, that this question cannot be put to rest, and that ecclesiastical organizations, as well as individuals, will be obliged to form and to express their opinions either affirmatively or negatively, as to the sinfulness of the system of bondage established by law in this land of liberty. And the day is probably not far distant when men will feel, with Dr. Hook, that“ every Christian man, whether laic or cleric, is in duty bound to consider, not what is expedient at the moment for the sake of peace, but what is beneficial to the cause of truth ;” and with Bishop Wilson, that“ if for fear of offending men, or from a false love of peace, we forbear to defend the truth, we betray and abandon it." The great problem then, is, What is truth? We cannot persuade ourselves that it is other than true, that the legalized slavery of the United States is a system at war with the fundamental principles of the gospel, and that it can never be defended but by a perverted view of the system of Christianity. Can it be else than sinful to enact laws providing for the regular sale of human beings, even the sale of free colored debtors, to satisfy the claim of a white creditor? Can that be justifiable, and consistent with the will of Christ, which tends to the severance of those ties, of which Jehovah has said : “ What God bath joined, let not man put asunder ?”
Is not that love of liberty which burns in the bosom of the slave, a part of our common nature, and a high gist of Heaven ? Then to quench the spark cannot be right. In the language of Gov. McDowall, of Virginia, “It is allied to his hope of immortality; it is the ethereal part of his nature which oppression cannot reach ; it is a torch lit up in his soul by the hand of Deity, and not to be extinguished by the hand of man.” In that of Mr. Preston: “ Happiness is incompatible with slavery. The love of liberty is the ruling passion of man, and he cannot be happy without it."
Does not slavery, in as far as it can, nullify the relations between God and his creatures ? Does it not take away from man his right to life, liberty, and the regulation of his actions, responsible only to his Maker, and thus interfere with his accountability and his duty ? Oh, it grates upon our ears to hear grave divines say: " Slavery is not forbidden by the Divine law, so it is left to our own judgment, whether we hold slaves or not.” -Dr. Dalcho. “ Slavery as it exists at the present day, is agreeable to the order of Divine Providence."-Rev. Mr. Freeman.
“ Earth is sick,
That slavery is a wrong, an injustice, we doubt not for a moment; and we hail the day, when every shackle of mind and body shall be broken; when the poor slave, that now bows humbly at his oppressor's feet, shall lift himself up in the attitude and dignity of humanity, and shout I am free; when the doomed spirit, which now groans under its bondage, shall burst all its fetters, and, unmanacled, drink in the living waters of God's truth, to its own refreshment and recovery, until it put on the very semblance of humanity redeemed, and join in the chorus of the skies: Peace on Earth ; good will to man!
Then the question returns, granting the system of slavery to be sinful, shall we as a church, through our highest ecclesiastical organization, bear our testimony against it? There would seem to be no difficulty whatever, in answering this question in the affirmative, having once determined that slavery is sinful. Yet there are unquestionably peculiar difficulties surrounding this subject. The fact that it is, in many cases, an involuntary state on the part of the masters, a responsibility devolved on them by no choice of their own,—that it is a part of the civil constitution of the States in which they live, and manumission prohibited by law,—that action by the church might be interpreted as an un