Imágenes de páginas

nor in anticipating our concurrence and sympathy when you deny the moral right of any human being 'to make another his chattel.' We should be slow to yield to any body of men in the strength with which we hold this conviction. We agree with you in the fact that a great moral and social evil exists in the United States; that like other evils of the same nature, it grows chiefly out of the sins and selfish passions of men; that like other moral evils, it is a fit subject for moral and religious effort; and that it calls for appropriate action from us as ministers of religion.

"There would seem, then, to be no peculiarity in regard to this subject, which calls for a warning thus solemnly and formally given, unless our minds, as you suggest, have been reconciled to inaction, because inconvenience or sacrifice has happened to lie in the way of active and immediate endeavors to give effect to our inward convictions' in other words, that we have been unfaithful stewards, sacrificing our sense of duty to a love of ease, or from moral cowardice and the fear of disagreeable consequences to ourselves.

"These are serious charges, which should not be lightly volunteered. If such be the impression on your minds, -a result to which we know you could not have arrived without the greatest grief,- we gladly avail ourselves of this occasion to disabuse you of it. We are sensible as individuals, and as a body, of great deficiencies, but we utterly and conscientiously deny that there is any sin of which we feel that we have reason to be afraid or unwilling to speak. If there were any such, it would be those, -(about which we are not commonly charged with delinquency) which are more personal to our hearers, and most assuredly not the subject of slavery, with which they have comparatively so little to do. We say this to brethren, who address us in a Christian spirit. To an enemy or a scoffer, we will not say we should scorn, but we may say at least that we should not feel called on, to make this claim to common honesty.

"Now permit us to add that the intimation in your letter, gently and sorrowfully conveyed, seems to proceed upon some misapprehension of the facts in the case. This is not the occasion for entering into a defence or explanation of the course which any of us have seen fit to pursue. It is sufficient to say, that if you would form an intelligent and just judgment on the subject, it will be necessary for you, if you have not already done it, to inform yourselves of the relations that exist between the several States of this Union, of the powers of the General Government, - and of the degree of control which one State has over the internal affairs of another.

"It will be equally necessary for you to remember that hostility to this or that particular measure, is not hostility to the cause of human freedom; and that disagreement as to the modes best adapted to the removal of slavery, indicates no disagreement as to the nature or degree of reprobation in which we hold slavery itself.

"So far as this last point is concerned, the feeling of opposition to slavery throughout New England and in the parishes with which most of us are connected, is in general as strong and as religiously held as we suppose it to be in any part of England. We know of no Unitarian pulpit in the Northern States in which, and no Unitarian preacher by whom, all Christian condemnation of slavery might not be freely uttered, without suspicion that he was likely to assume the appearance, or share the fate of a martyr. We treat this as we do

other sins and evils, according to the relative place and importance which we think it holds among the various subjects on which we address those to whom we minister. If we have not occasion to speak of it as frequently as we do of some other evils, it is because our hearers have no connection with it, except so far as they are citizens of the United States, acknowledging allegiance to its Constitution. There are those among us, doubtless, who under other circumstances might become slaveholders; but they are not so now. The passions which would permit them to become such, now and among us manifest themselves in other ways; and we think it proper to speak more of these passions and of the sins to which they actually lead, than of slaveholding with which our hearers have so little to do. "As to the general subject; the mass of sin and misery around yourselves, the existence of which you are often compelled to witness and lament, has given you, undoubtedly, sad experience of the inefficiency of religious instruction suddenly to remove an enormous evil from the midst of a community; and you can determine how far the continued existence of slavery in some of the States of this Union is to be charged to the negligence of the Unitarian clergy, when you consider, that, with the exception of five or six of our number whose fields of labor are in slaveholding States, it is hundreds of miles removed from us, - that we have no opportunity of personally addressing the holders of slaves that for all useful purposes, they are as far removed from the sphere of our influence as from yours, and that from the nature of the bond which unites the several States, the people of Massachusetts have as little right or power to control the action of the Legislature of Georgia or Alabama in relation to the subject of slavery within their boundaries, as the citizens of Manchester or Liverpool.

[ocr errors]

"We know that you will take comfort in the assurance, that we have done or are doing upon this subject what we think a sense of duty calls upon us to do; and we know you will pardon us for saying, that of what we can or ought to do we must of necessity be the most competent judges. You may well suppose that to a subject of such surpassing moment to our country, we have given our most serious thought, and that the course which any of us has seen fit to adopt, has not been adopted lightly. Every community has its own peculiar evils to deal with -every minister must distribute his exertions over the whole field of his labors according to the exigencies of his peculiar situation; he has the best means of knowing where his duty calls, and if others have confidence in his honesty of purpose, it seems to us that it requires great and intimate knowledge of the circumstances of his situation, to warrant a rebuke, however tenderly and however honestly given, for his supposed unfaithfulness.

"This communication expresses, as you will perceive, the views of but a few individuals respecting the position which Unitarians hold in relation to slavery. It has not had the advantage of being circulated for signatures like the letter which it will accompany, and it is not written because of any dissent from the general principles of that letter. If it answer no other purpose, it may perhaps be an additional means, though a most slight and unimportant one, — of showing how closely we feel connected with our brethren in England, and how deeply we value their sympathy.

"Yours in the bonds of the Gospel. "BOSTON, September 30, 1844."





MARCH, 1845.

S. 02900 d.


ECCLESIASTICAL assemblies have of late held a place among the most interesting and important events in the land. Newspapers have been eager to report their proceedings from day to day, and politicians have often anxiously watched their result as to its bearing upon great national questions. Regarding slavery, no debate has ever taken place in our country more important than that of the last session of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This large and interesting assembly possesses a wider jurisdiction upon this subject than the national Congress; and if its Northern and Southern members continue their union, its future deliberations will be of vast consequence to the cause of emancipation. No fact speaks more for the change of public opinion upon this topic than the contrast between the votes of this body at Cincinnati in 1836, and at New York in 1844. The little band of fourteen members, who stood up for the slave at the former time, has grown into a majority during the interval, and the future movements of the General Conference will be watched with great solicitude by all parties. VOL. XXXVIII. 4TH S. VOL. III. NO. II.


The deliberations of the two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church- the Old School and the New - are not so interesting, both on account of their frequency and the recent quietness of their proceedings. Their debates merit attention at present chiefly for their bearing on important theological questions. A few years will show how far the rigidity of Calvinism is to be softened in its strongest holds, by showing which of the two Schools will be ready to take the first steps towards reunion. It is evident that the attention of both is very much occupied now by the great question of Church government which Episcopacy has started, and that they are disposed to waive their favorite notions about the doctrines of grace, and unite for the common defence of Presbyterianism against Prelacy.

The deliberations of the late General Convention of the Episcopal Church have occupied a prominent place in the attention of the public, on account of the unusual topics acted upon. The result does not appear to have satisfied either of the leading parties, although the High Church party has come off the better, and succeeded in preventing an expression of opinion against the Oxford doctrines. If we are to form our opinion from recent movements in the Episcopal Church, and from the evident tendencies of the young ministers of the denomination, the High Church doctrines will prevail. Already, before many an enthusiastic mind rises the vision of a splendid hierarchy, whose priests and altars shall control the land by a ritual that shall awe the senses and the soul, and by a discipline that shall rule over the home and the State, guard the child and control the magistrate. How far this vision will be realized, a century will show.

We have spoken of the conventions of these three denominations, because, with the exception of the Roman Catholics, they are the principal bodies which possess authoritative sway over the churches which they represent. Their deliberations are of great importance, from the fact that they are so little under extraneous control, being neither fettered by inexorable precedent, nor overruled by civil power, as is the case with similar bodies in the Old World. Public opinion is the only check upon ecclesiastical ambition here, and if only properly guided, may act with far better effect than any regal prerogative, or parliamentary

restrictions. As the spirit of combination is increasing among the hierarchal bodies in this country, it becomes an important question, what course shall be taken by the friends of religious liberty to resist their encroachments, and vindicate the Gospel alike in its freedom and its order. The spirit of combination is also showing itself anew in the British Church, and there is a general call for the revival of the Convocation that has been dormant more than a century, or else for the restoration of the ancient Synod of Bishops that has slumbered for six centuries in England. To meet the forces of the hierarchy alike in the Old World and the New, the disciples of a simpler Christianity have felt called upon to make new efforts, and act more effectually by acting together.

It is worthy of note, that of late, in Germany there have been many signs of new life among the clergy, and a disposition to come out from their libraries, and in conferences discuss the essentials of doctrine, and seek for the true foundations of Church order. Threatened on one side by Rationalists, and on the other by Papists, the clergy who believe in the divine mission of Jesus and in a Church of fraternal union, are taking a bolder stand, and repenting of the error by which they have so often merged the minister in the scholar.

The Orthodox Congregationalists of our country are. awakening to new life. Matters of Church government and of social reform have given fresh interest to their associations. They are troubled by the inroads of prelacy and of liberalism, and are evidently conscious of their exposure to new modes of attack. The Baptists, also, notwithstanding their love of Independency, are carefully reviewing their measures, and in their periodicals and conventions showing themselves aware of their dangers from two quarters, and seeking to entrench themselves by asserting a definite Church order against too democratic license and their adult baptism in opposition to the baptism of infants, which they deem so fatal to Christian liberty.

Our own community of Liberal Christians have felt a new impulse towards social union, that has shown itself in the increase of devotional meetings, and a fresh interest in the regular assemblings of the denomination. It is a very important question, what turn shall be given to the demand

« AnteriorContinuar »