« AnteriorContinuar »
them men of eminence, and for some of whom all have cherished most profound respect. All that I have said proves that they did not. In their Report itself much of which is valuable, they show that they did not. For they throw upon the executive officers the solemn responsibility of acting upon their suggestions 'only so far as the widest and best usefulness of the society could be promoted throughout our WHOLE country.” Several other remarks limit and qualify, and neutralize what they did say so as to make it impossible to do what, by a wellmeant desire to harmonize all parties and preserve the greatest efficiency to the society, they did seem to recommend. And that such was the spirit of the Report is further evident from the fact that it was so interpreted by Southern gentlemen on the platform when it was read, and by many readers at the South afterwards, until a portion of the Report was falsely printed as the whole and heralded as an Abolition triumph.
While then part of this Report is objectionable this does not alter my views of the society itself or of the officers, or of our duty to hold on to both; and while heartily sustaining those noble and devoted men, at the same time to avail ourselves of this powerful instrumentality for diffusing among our millions of unevangelized population the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as the only means under heaven for securing to them, and to our communities, and to our country, vital godliness, sound morality, and pure and abiding liberty.
And, hoping that all will be lead with me still to love and labor for the American Tract Society, and with the noble and devoted and FAITHFUL officers of the American Tract Society, I will reserve some further observations to another and final article.
III. Why I STILL LOVE THE AMERICAN TRACT Society. "Ever since I have had a heart to understand and love the truths which your Society is bearing on its myriad wings alike to rich and poor, to the high and the low, to the bond and the free, I have admired the greatness of its object and the simplicity of its means, the richness of its treasure, and the freeness with which it is given. And every year's observation and experience serve to heighten and deepen my admiration. I love the great principles by which its elements are unite I love the noble spirit with which they are animated ; and I love the blessed work which each separately and all unitedly are laboring to promote. May God preserve the Society, and make it useful so long as there are sinners to be won to Christ, or saints to be fitted for heaven.”—The Rev. John C. Lord, Baptist Missionary to Ningpo.
I still love the American Tract Society, because I find that all evangelical christians at the South, and the great majority of them elsewhere, unite in loving it for all the reasons I have before given. There is but one opinion among them all, as to the christian character and invaluable importance of the Society.
The Reverend and truly venerable Dr. De Witt, one of the Vice-Presidents at the last anniversary—the only occasion when any thing was done to grieve its friends at the South"spoke of his early connection with the Society, and of the interest and even solicitude with which he had ever since watched its progress. He had great love for such an institution, uniting as it does members of all christian denominations on a common platform, for the diffusion of evangelical truth among men. God's blessing, he said, had rested upon the Society; and although some of its friends may have felt and feared for it; although clouds and storms may have arisen, yet he could now see the bow of promise—the emblem and pledge of peace and security. He thought that the scrutiny which had been made into the business affairs of the Society would serve only to commend it to the increased confidence of the christian community. He well remembered that, as he and the lamented Summerfield, both of whom were permitted to take part in the hallowed exercises at the formation of this Society, sat beside each other, Mr. Summerfield said to him that he believed God would bless this institution as a powerful means of cementing the hearts of his people of every name and in all parts of our beloved country.” Another eminent clergyman, the venerable and beloved, and now sainted, Dr. Knox, Chairman of the Executive Committee, in the statement read at the last anniversary, and already quoted from, said, “God has singularly owned and blessed its efforts. In the great southern section of our country especially, the labours bestowed have never been greater, nor the evidence of spiritual results more cheering, than during the last year."
"This institution, (said another venerable and life-long friend of the Society, Dr. Milnor,) commends itself to all of us, fellow-citizens, in our civil no less than in our religious relations in the community in which we live.”
“It is a noble enterprise, deserving the hearty encouragement and support of all who seek to promote the cause of Christ's religion among the destitute of our country,” says the Hon. Simon Greenleaf, a Protestant Episcopalian.
"I doubt whether in the world, at this time, there exists an organization, the christian ministry excepted, which is more effective in diffusing a knowledge of the truths of the gospel among all classes of people," said the Rev. A. Alexander, D. D., another venerated founder.
In these sentiments evangelical ministers in South-Carolina concur. In the Report and Resolutions of the South-Carolina Branch, in reference to the action of the last annual meeting, adopted though they were under much public excitement, all cordially united in the affectionate language in which the American Tract Society is spoken of: “Their publications have hitherto received the cordial sanction and approval of evangelical christians in all parts of the country United together in bonds of mutual love, christians of various names have devoted their means, and contributed their efforts to promote this great and philanthropic work, and the blessing of God has always rewarded, in a very remarkable degree, their self-denying and charitable labors.”
And, again, that Report says: “They feel the profoundest unwillingness to destroy, or even hazard the existence of an organization, which has accomplished so much for the souls of men, and the spread of christian truth. That Satan and his emissaries should achieve a triumph like this, is hateful to their minds, and they earnestly desire to be, in no degree whatever, responsible for such a result. It is their hope and prayer, that the Society which numbers in its ranks so many of the truest servants of God, when made aware of Southern sentiment upon this matter, will in the same spirit of christian forbearance and candour, withdraw from its recent position, and return in good faith to that platform of the Constitution, from whence the affairs of the Society have been so peacefully, happily, and successfully administered for the last thirty years."
I cannot, therefore, help loving the American Tract Society, because in loving it I love all evangelical christians, and all evangelical efforts to do good, and to win souls to Christ. I can, therefore truly say with the Rev. Dr. Peck, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, "I love the Tract enterprise, because it is a cause in which all evangelical christians can unite."
I can also say with Dr. Schmucker, of the Lutheran Church, that “No benevolent institution can be nearer my heart;" and with the Rev. Baron Stow, of the Baptist Church, I can eloquently, and yet truly say, “Over all lands this Society has poured, by the press, millions of streams of light and love. I know of no institution doing so much to fill the vials of incense in the hands of the angel standing by the altar."
2. But, secondly, I still love the American Tract Society, because its Constitution, which "embodies the object and principles which all evangelical christians (to use the language of the Hon. William Jay, an Episcopalian) peculiarly love”-can never, as I have shewn, be changed, so long as evangelical christians at the South, hold on to the Society. Such a change cannot possibly be adopted, except by two-thirds of all the lifemembers present at an annual meeting, and after having been proposed at a previous annual meeting. And even were such an alteration of the Constitution proposed by two-thirds of one annual meeting and adopted at another, the Society would be interdicted from violating its catholic principles, and its national and unsectional character, by a legal appeal, which, when necessary, would be sustained by a large majority of evangelical christians at the North, East and West.
And, it is still further to be considered, that as the Society has no invested capital, beyond its character and the confidence and yearly support of those who love it as it is, were it—let us imagine-even altered, it would be found like the destroyed city of Moscow, the grave, instead of the asylum of its victors.
3. I will, therefore, still love the American Tract Society, because by still loving and laboring with it, I will defeat the very end which abolitionists have for many years, and by every kind of strategy, been endeavouring to secure, and that is to induce evangelical christians in the slave-holding States to withdraw from this Evangelical Union of the United States of America, and thus leave it more dangerously exposed to their fierce opposition. This has been unquestionably the policy of the abolitionists.* They have, for years, employed every possible effort to compel the officers of the American Tract Society to issue tracts on the subject of Slavery, tender the threat that if they did not they should be displaced by others willing at the sacrifice of moral obligation and religious duty, to violate its Constitution, pervert its funds, and convert this holy instrumentality for diffusing vital godliness and sound morality into an abolition society. That this has been, and is their object is evident from the open avowal, made on their behalf by Dr. Wayland (whose past writings, however, would exculpate him from any sympathy with such views.) For in his reply to the objection “that the usefulness of the Society will be impaired in the South," Dr. Wayland very calmly says, “the South if it please will form a society of its own for the teachings of which we are not responsible.” Thus they coolly calculate on the withdrawal of the South. Their sentiments and intolerant spirit would drive off Southern christians, and they anticipate that then the control of the Society and the management of its funds would fall into their hands."
*By Abolitionists I do not mean those who in any proper Constitutional and Christian way would be glad to see Slavery either abolished or limited to its present boundaries, but those who are politically disunionists, and morally and, christianly, a law unto themselves higher than the law of the land, than the common laws of sound morality, and than the almost universal interpretation of the laws of God.
Now this is a very important fact, and as it gives a coloring to the whole action of the officers and their published statements, and also to the Report of the Committee of Fifteen, and as it ought to be our stand-point in judging them, and deciding our own course,-I will quote what is said upon it, in the Report of the South-Carolina Branch, adopted in June last: "For some time past, Southern christians have been aware of the fact, that the same restless faction, whose untiring agitations against Slavery have introduced confusion and division into every body which has allowed their influence, were also at work in the American Tract Society, striving to intimidate its officers, and pervert the principles upon which the Society's operations were based, with the hope of converting it into an engine for the promotion of their franatical and mischievous designs."
This then makes it plain, that as the officers and friends of the Society at the North and elsewhere have been for years endeavouring to prevent the abolitionizing and perversion of the Tract Society, and have prevented it; and as the continued co-operation and hearty zeal of Southern christians can make such a perversion impossible, I will still love it, and invite all around me to do so.
4. And ought I not still to love the Tract Society, when I find its officers and its friends at the North--including some of the first Judges and leading Journals, are prepared to stand with us in vindicating the true character of the Society, the limited object of its Constitution, and the equal privileges and rights of Southern Evangelical christians;* and when I hear them calling upon us not to be driven away from them, but to come up to their help, and to the help of the Lord, and of our whole country, by a liberal and laborious employment of its tracts
*That Southern christians have any rights in, and under the Constitution of, the Society, Dr. Ray Palmer seems to have never conceived. To him it is a New England Society, and of “bad and unchristian and purely selfish men" at the South, he says “it is our high duty to disturb them."