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tion, by which the practicability of any future alteration of the Constitution, in any of the slightest particulars, is made very difficult.
That article, up till May, 1857, was
"ARTICLE XI. This Constitution shall not be altered, except at an annual meeting, and by a vote of two-thirds of the members present."
That article—the matter not affecting any fundamental object or principle-was unanimously altered so as to read
“ARTICLE XI. This Constitution shall not be altered, except at an annual meeting, and by a vote of two-thirds of the members present; notice of the proposed alteration having been given at the previous annual meeting."
4. Nor was this the only point in which the members of this Society present at the last Anniversary, including two general agents and probably others from the South, manifested their conservative spirit and their love to the Constitution and approval of the course pursued under it by its various officers in years past.
At that meeting, the Rev. Nehemiah Adams, D. D., of Boston, author of "The South-Side View of Slavery," was re-elected on the Publishing Committee, by a very large majority
The other officers, including the Secretaries, the Publishing, Executive and Finance Committees, were also re-elected.
The Reverend John M. Stevenson, D. D., from the Old School Presbyterian Church, whose conservative character is well known, was elected as a Corresponding Secretary, in the place of Mr. Cook, who on account of health had resigned. In his letter accepting the appointment, published in the Messenger for August, Dr. S. gives assurance that while he was chosen and elected by the Society at the North, he holds views and principles touching the constitutional sphere and limitations of the Tract Society which commend him equally to the kind welcome and confidence of Evangelical christians at the South.
"My heart, says Dr. S., has ever rejoiced in this beautiful exemplification of the oneness of Christ's body, the Church. And while I do not and cannot relinquish my relations to a branch of Christ's Church whose doctrine and order I esteem conformable to the divine model, yet I see a wide field for evangelical effort still unoccupied by distinctive church organizations, to the occupancy and cultivation of which your Society seems to me admirably adapted; especially if it shall continue to be governed by wise counsels, and guided, in its issues, so as not to exclude its numerous colporteurs from the wide wastes of our extended country. Far distant be the day when the American Tract Society shall, from a man-fearing spirit, either shrink from publishing the truth that is in Jesus, or violate its admirable constitution by plunging into the vortex of excited parties, and becoming implicated in questions upon which many of the most devoted christians in the land yet differ widelyalmost irreconcilably."
Nor was even this all that was done at the last Anniversary to demonstrate the prevalent spirit of love for the Constitution, and the catholic spirit and unsectarian, unsectional objects of the Society. The Rev. Dr. Knox, Chairman of the Executive Committee and one of the original founders of the Society, and now upon its roll of departed worthies, read from a statement made in the name of the near twenty officers composing the Executive Committee:
“They are compelled ever to remember that the object of the association is specific, and its sphere restricted. This sphere is nevertheless ample, eminently important and is practicable. Our prescribed constitutional office is, to issue and circulate religious truth in which evangelical christians are agreed; embracing, therefore, whatever is most fundamental to salvation, and most vital in the common christianity, but excluding every topic of a purely denominational character, and besides whatever else is matter of strife and distraction among evangclical christians."
"Its single object is to accomplish a work not otherwise to be so well done, if done at all, and which requires inward harmony and the confidence and co-operation of christians around of every section and every name. If either this harmony or this confidence fails, it is shorn of its strength."
Nor were these sentiments only received, they were confirmed by the unanimous adoption of a resolution-"That thanks be rendered to God for the harmony which, for thirtytwo years, has prevailed in the councils of the Committee," &c.
Now, when it is remembered that all this was done on the eve of the recent and most excited political election through which as a country we have ever passed; when an anti-slavery candidate was prominent, and when anti-slavery excitement had inflamed every association of men of whatever kind, the emphasis and importance of these facts, as proofs of the conservative spirit of the friends of the Tract Society at the North, and their devotion to its constitutional principles and limited object, must be apparent.
The sentiments quoted above are repeatedly, and, if possible, more emphatically stated in many official documents of the officers of the Society—as for instance, in the "Circular" and "Card,” re-published in the Report for 1856. Thus to give one quotation from the Circular:
“These principles have been understood and acted on as fundamental in the Society's Constitution by all the committees and executive officers, and all agents and colporteurs employed, from the foundation of the Society to the present hour. What is calculated to receive the approbation of all evangelical christians,' has been practically held to be as fundamental in this Society's charter, as in that of the Bible Society to issue the Bible 'without note or comment;' or that of an Orphan Asylum to devote funds to the good of the orphan, or the obligation of any other corporate body to adhere to the principles of its charter."
And after enumerating many of the distinguished men who have labored with the Society, it is added: "From the lips of these deceased devoted founders and toil-worn laborers, connected as they were with five great evangelical communions, no intimation that the Society could rightfully, by any act whatever, give offence to evangelical christians of any name or locality, is known ever to have fallen, nor any such intimation from the lips of any member of the Committees; and no act of either Committee has ever been carried into effect, that was not unanimous.”
The reiteration of these views led to the anti-slavery political excitement against the Tract Society, charging it with having become unconstitutionally a pro-slavery Society. This charge was sustained by the alleged "sympathies of the officers—by the fact that they had actually omitted from some works, offensive passages against slavery—that they had dropped works in which it was alluded to altogether, and that they had never published anything against it.”
And what was the reply made by the twenty officers constituting the Executive Committee? They reply, in a paper published in the same Report, by asking—“How far, then, can the Society go, in showing the evils of slavery?
"We answer, its Constitution allows it to go so far as evangelical christians in the Northern and in the Southern States can approve the publications it may issue, and no farther. The question is not now, at the end of thirty years, how the Society ought to have been, or might have been formed, but how it was formed. In May, 1825, christians from the Northern and the Southern States united publicly and solemnly before God in adopting this Society's Constitution as the basis of a national catholic Society, to receive the prayers, co-operation, donations, and legacies of the whole country, for issuing such publications, and such only, whether of 'vital godliness,' or 'sound morality,' as should be approved by all evangelical christians,' North, South, East, and West. No sophistry, evasion, or collusion, can change this historical fact. They acted from a belief that evangelical christians do agree in the great essential truths by which men are blessed and saved, and unanimously bound themselves to each other, to the christian community, and to God, to employ the Society's means only in publishing those truths; believing that if one class of evangelical christians be trespassed against, so might another, and the bond of union be dissolved. This compact has been so understood by all our beloved associates, the dead and the living. Never have we heard from one of them an intimation that it could have any other import. Every act of the Society to this day has been based on this understanding. In our labors to fulfil this sacred compact, we feel we can bear to be misrepresented or censured; that if smitten on the one cheek, we can, by the grace of God, 'turn the other also,' ‘until seventy times seven;' but we cannot violate this solemn trust; the laws of God and the laws of the land forbid it. Nor can we virtually say of our brethren of different evangelical denominations south of Mason and Dixon's line, that they are not evangelical christians in the sense of the Society's Constitution; for we know that, in the letter and spirit and intent of that document, they were and are included as fully as christians north of that line. God has led the Society into a great work for the destitute, bond and free, in our Southern and South-western States, and we hear no call from Him to relinquish it.”
This surely is enough, and more than enough, to satisfy every Southern Evangelical christian. The men who said this meant all they said. They are now DOING and not doing all they said; all the Constitution required; all we have ever wished. They are now enduring all of prejudice and misrepresentation, the enemies of the Society can inflict upon them. But they are also sustained both in what they have done and in what they have not done, by nine-tenths of all Evangelical christians, and
among them by some of the ablest judges of our country, both at the North, the East, and the West.
Of course, it is to be expected that while thus speaking and acting as it regards Evangelical christians and slavery at the South, these officers were required to justify themselves to Evangelical christians and to anti-slavery at the North, East and West. This they were bound to do, and this they were therefore right in doing. As officers of the American Tract Society they ought to have no sympathy for either slavery or anti-slavery. As such they represent and act for All EvanGELICAL christians and are in good faith required to represent and act for them all—North and South, slavery and antislavery-in carrying on the one and only object for which such christians are united in "The American Tract Society." This they have done, and this is all that they have done. And whatever they have said which is, or has been considered, offensive by some at the South and by others at the North, has been said in the wish to assure all Evangelical christians that, as officers of the Society, they had no other object or principle before them than those laid down in the Constitution as the one and only object and principle of the American Tract Society.
Let the Reports and Statements of the officers be looked at through this, which is the only true and charitable medium, and I feel perfectly confident that christians at the South and at the North will find that they have endeavored to the very utmost of human wisdom and caution to act and speak impartially, and that where they have failed to make this impression, it has been through an error of judgment and not through an intentional identification of themselves with any party or opinion whatever.
These remarks will not apply, except in part, to the Report and Resolutions presented by the Committee of fifteen at the last Anniversary, and so unaccountably adopted by it. So far as that Report alluded to slavery it is unjustifiable, and was certainly extra-constitutional, and therefore null and void, since the Tract Society is a body corporate to do a specified work, by prescribed and carefully limited means, and TO DO NOTHING ELSE.
Neither do I believe that Committee of Fifteen had any intention to contravene the constitutional object of the Society or to injure the rights and feelings of their Southern brethren, as these are secured by the constitution. Far from it. That Committee was composed of high-minded christian men—all of