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ANOTHER INGENIOUS BUT FALLACIOUS ARGUMENT.
Dr. Wayland feeling perhaps insecure in this first attempt to sustain his momentous conclusion that the Society must publish on Slavery even at the hazard of "abandoning the whole Southern field,” erects another and a still more ingenious argument. It is this: As "all evangelical christians" can be known to the Publishing Committee only as members of different denominations, and the opinions of each individual can be known only “by the FORMULARY OR ARTICLES OF FAITH AND PRACTICE to which he affixed his name when he became a member of that particular communion, and as "the christian lawfulness of Slavery is not affirmed in the formularies or confessions of faith of any evangelical denominations,” and Slavery "is not one of those subjects of denominational difference on which the Society is forbidden to publish,” it is therefore (?) one the treatment of which comes fairly within (because it is without) the objects for which the Society was constituted; or in other words, whatever is not forbidden is required.
Now let any one examine the terms of this argument, and he will at once perceive that it is not an argument. There is no necessary connection between the premises and the conclusion. We deny the assumption on which the argument rests and the conclusion drawn, even were the assumption granted, and we affirm that the point in question is left by the argument just where it was found, and where it still stares us in the face. The Constitution knows nothing of "formularies of faith." Subscription to or explicit adoption of formularies of faith is not required of private members by any denomination. In some denominations such creeds are not recognized as fixed and obligatory at all. In others where they do exist, different interpretations are known to prevail. To constitute, therefore, the officers of this Society judges of the existence, authority, and true interpretation of the formularies of all evangelical denominations, and upon such judgment to decide who are and are not evangelical, and what is or is not, consistent with the various evangelical creeds, in all their variations, this surely is preposterously absurd.
But the argument is not only based upon the assumption of facts which do not exist, of powers never conferred, and of duties impossible to be discharged; it is suicidal. It does not prove what was intended by it and it confirms what it was intended to overthrow. Dr. Wayland allows the binding force of the catholic principle of the constitution. He says: "It is intended that no tract shall be published on subjects on which the sects are at variance, but only on the subjects on which they are agreed.” If, then, members of the Society are known only through church formularies, and those formularies are silent on the subject of Slavery, does it not follow that no member is to be known as either approving or disapproving anything on the subject; and that the Society, not finding in those formularies any article on the subject of Slavery, is not at liberty "to go behind," or beyond, or beside, what is in those formularies? And as the denominations are known to be at variance on the subject of Slavery, and as they are agreed in excluding it from their formularies, is not the Society therefore bound to exclude the discussion of that subject from its publications? Is not this a logical and inevitable conclusion from the premises assumed by Dr. Wayland?
We reverse the argument of Dr. W. There is not a formulary of faith adopted by any prominent evangelical denomination, north, south, east or west, in which Slavery is denounced as a heresy or a sin, or in which the abolition of Slavery is held forth as a dogma of faith or a duty of practice, either among its credenda or its agenda. Slavery is thus regarded by all the formularies of christian faith and duty as lying beyond, in the territory of political and social economies. Even if the Tract Society were based upon the platform of evangelical denominational creeds, it would therefore be confined to a field of operations from which, in the wise and gracious providence of God, Slavery has been excluded.
Suppose the Publishing Committee attempt practically to apply Dr. Wayland's theory to the subject of Slavery. They find that no church formulary has any article on that subject to guide them. They find that those who are, and those who are not, opposed to Slavery, have the same formulary. They find denominations at the North, and at the South, with the same creed, and yet divided and having no communion with each other as denominations. They find that correspondence and the interchange of delegates, which had long subsisted between different denominations holding essentially the same creed, is now terminated. They find that all this was the result of attempts to “go behind and beyond” the creed, and to agitate and legislate on Slavery. Must they not then conclude, that as Slavery is a dividing wedge to denominations, an apple of discord even among brethren of the same ecclesiastical family, it is necessarily excluded from discusstion by the Society?
But Dr. Wayland's theory is not only suicidal, and absolutely incapable of application, but it is contradicted by indubitable historical facts. The framers of the constitution, several of whom are still active officers of the Society, testify that they intended no such thing, and did not suppose it possible that its plain and explicit language was susceptible of such an interpretation. In the formation of the Society, the convention unanimously adopted the phrase "all evangelical christians," instead of the phrase "Christians of all evangelical denominations," which had been proposed, thus making it a union of christians, and not of denominations, a christian and not a denominational Society, for christian and not denominational, or political, or party, or sectional purposes.
And it is evident that it is only on such a basis and in such a view of the Society that any sincere and conscientious denominationalist can unite in it. As a member of his denomination, he is, if an officer, bound to maintain its creed, its discipline, its forms and rites, in short, its differences and peculiarities, that is, the whole will of God as that denomination understands it, and hence if the Tract Society is to be made a union on a denominational basis, he cannot join the Society; it is impossible.
We ask then, what does this theory gain? and what difficulty does it remove? The answer is, nothing—not one.
But suppose it were otherwise. Let us suppose that the subject of slavery was embodied in any or all evangelical creeds. Suppose further that its abolition was included by them among the requirements of vital godliness and sound morality, still the union of all evangelical christians for evangelical purposes, dear to them all, would be just as proper and just as practicable as it is and has been in the Tract, and Bible Society, and Sunday School, and Missionary Unions, and Young Men's Christian Associations, and many others. In all these, differences are left to denominational zeal, and all labor together for the advancement of some common and specific principles and ends.
We are brought, therefore, by every aspect of the Society, to the conclusion that the Investigating Committee were right in not concurring with the object or the argument of Dr. Wayland's paper, since its argument is as inconclusive as the object is foreign to the special and specified end of the Tract Society. That Society cannot discuss the subject of slavery if it would, and it ought not to do so if it could.
The new theory is like new wine put into old bottles. It bursts the bottles. And to our taste, “the old wine,” which has become mellow with age, and flavored with the fragrance of venerated men of God, by whom it has been preserved for our use, “is better."
But Dr. W. like many sound orthodox evangelical christians, is opposed to Slavery, and anxious to see it, and all the evils they believe to be inseparable from it, removed. Be it so. Evangelical christians at the South can love and honor them, as they do Dr. Wayland, none the less on this account. They would not restrain or hamper their opinions or philanthropic christian exertions. But as they cannot unite with them on this subject, they would unite heart and hand in promoting the interests of all that is dear to them in common as evangelical christians—and such is our union in this Society.
The Society is not denominational but christian. Hallowed be the thought, an olive branch from THE ARK of our “common salvation," a tender branch plucked from the mountains of hope, emerging above the waste and howling waters of our envyings and strifes and carnal divisions—let us cherish thee, and plant, and nurture and water thee with the tears of joy and the prayers of exultant anticipation, until the night is past and the Dayspring from on high shall usher in the day of millennial glory.
Based on that divine principle of association, which christianity originated, the Tract Society is the demonstration and the living proof that the tribes of Israel are one Israel, and that amid all sectional and political and denominational differences, holding the Head, calling upon the name of one and the same Lord, loving Christ in their heart of hearts, and loving all who love Christ, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS ARE ALL ONE. Bound together in this Society in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace they have for more than thirty years awakened joy among the angels of God, diffused peace and good will on earth, and proclaimed glory to God in the highest.
DR. SMYTH, OF CHARLESTON, S. C., ON DR. WAYLAND's
LETTER.—(CONCLUDED.) The American Tract Society cannot therefore become either sectional in its sphere of operations or anti-slavery in its principles. All evangelical christians in the slaveholding States holding evangelical creeds and belonging to evangelical denominations are and ever have been to as great an extent perhaps as at the North, members of the Tract Society. They love it. As far as their means permit, and corresponding efforts have been made to interest them, they have contributed to its funds and have otherwise sustained it. Its books have found their way to every family. Its colporteurs and its agents have labored in every community and among the bond as well as the free.
Now the evangelical christians in these slaveholding States are riot willing to abandon their connection with the Tract Society, and they are equally unwilling to be driven out of it. The sacred compact into which, in the persons of Dr. Alexander, and other venerated fathers, they entered, they are not willing to dissolve. The contract then formed no power on earth can dissolve. God was one of the partners to it; it was signed, sealed and delivered in God's presence and handed over, for a perpetual covenant that shall not be broken, to the archives of heaven. Its engagements will follow them and all represented in it, through time, and accompany them to the judgment seat. Evangelical christians at the South and Southwest may be excluded from their inherited reversion in this Society ; evangelical christians at the North and West may add to, alter, and by "going behind" may so change the constitution or practically pervert it, as to oblige those at the South and Southwest to withdraw; and the State of New York may be induced to authorize the perversion of its charter, and the misappropriation of chartered funds, and the abuse of a long established name and character and power for evil or for good. But in no event do evangelical christians at the South and Southwest draw back from their plighted faith, or abandon their vested interests, or consent to the violation of the bond of union.
Such are the views and feelings of all evangelical christians in the South and Southwest as members of the American Tract Society, and to these they tenaciously cling from no selfish,