Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

favor to any agitation on this subject which they had set up, have had the desired effect of subduing or driving off the malcontents. At the Diocesan Convention of New York, held last September, Mr. JOHN Jay, again brought up the case of St. Philip's Church, and the Church of the Messiah, the Rectors and delegates of which have been excluded from conventional privileges on account of their complexion. Mr. Jay distinguished himself by a cogent and eloquent speech in vindication of the rights of wronged Churches. But it was impossible to push the question to an issue in the face of the unanimous opposition of the Reverend and Honorable pillars of the Church. It fell to the ground, but the case is one of such obvious justice and canonical regularity that we hope, as we are sure, that Mr. Jay will persevere in a course so honorable to his humanity and Christianity.

The Compromise movement of Mr. Clay, Mr. WEBSTER's speech, and more recently the passage of the “Peace Measures,” including the Fugitive Slave Bill, have furnished unerring tests of the character of the American Clergy. We are happy to say

that
many

individual ministers and some associations and conventions, principally of the smaller sects, denounced these measures, and especially the last, as immoral, wicked, and to be disobeyed and trampled under foot. Such were the Resolutions passed by the New York Evangelical Congregational Association, at Poughkeepsie, which, after a preamble reciting the reasons why, went on as follows :

Resolved, That while we recognize the obligation to obey the laws of the land, we make an exception in the case of all such provisions as contravene the “higher law” of God.

Resolved, That we advise all persons to render every needful aid and comfort to Fugitive Slaves, just the same as if there were no law in the land forbidding it.'

And those of the Informal Meeting of the Delegates to the New York State Baptist Convention, at Blockport, which run thus:

Resolved, That as free citizens of the United States, and as lovers of equal rights, we repudiate the said law as contrary to the spirit of our glorious Declaration of National Independence, and as opposed to the direct grants of the Constitution to every citizen, and to the law of God.

Resolved, That we will not voluntarily aid by any means whatever, in giving effectiveness to this unjust and oppressive act of legislation.

Resolved, That in all suitable ways we will labor to secure a speedy repeal of the said · Fugitive Slave Law;' and that until such repeal shall have been effected, we will in all suitable ways, express our sympathies with its oppressed subjects.”

But such we grieve to say has not been the tone of the oracles of the great sects, in the responses they have vouchsafed on this question. The head of Massachusetts Orthodox Theology, Moses Stuart, blesses the Defender of the Constitution, for having recalled him to a sense of his Constitutional duty of catching Slaves, and fulminates a bull of interdict upon that Conscience which presumes to condemn the Constitution. The heresiarch of New Haven, Dr. TAYLOR, does suit and service to the Supreme Law of Slavery under the very droppings of the Sanctuary of Yale. Dr. Hawks answers for the fidelity of the Anglican Churchmen, and Dr. DEWEY, the leader of the hosts of the Unitarian Secession, who sits in CHANNING's seat, vies with those of the Elder Faiths in the humility of his homage and the servility of his allegiance, to the Demon that we serve.

It is no uncommon subject of complaint that the old reverence for the Clergy is on the wane, and various causes have been suggested to account for it. A favorite theory is, that it is owing to the systematic attacks which the Abolitionists have made upon them ; - a charge, false as far as the authority of the clerical office is concerned, but true in the sense of a constant watching and exposing of their shortcomings in this direction. It is our opinion that the present position of the American Clergy, as a Class, is not owing to Abolitionism, or Infidelity, or any

other extrinsic cause, but to themselves. The mass of men do not approach their doctrinal opinions through the gate of Abstract Reflection, when they find themselves dethroning them and setting up new Sovereigns; it is by the avenue of Experience and in the clear light of Facts that they enter into the Adytum of their thoughts, and lay iconoclastic hands on their idol ideas. We admit that the experience and the facts which have shaken men's faith in this class of their ideas, have been largely and closely related to those of the Anti-Slavery Movement; but they are not to blame for the use, or misuse, that the American Clergy have seen fit to make of them to their own disadvantage and derision. The agitation of the Slavery question by Mr. GARRISON, the compulsion irresistible, though only moral, which forced the attention of the American people to the condition of the Slave, and their own guilty relation to him, was the sure and fatal test of the character of their religious teachers. The thoughts of men being

irresistibly directed to this giant sin, they naturally turned to their religious teachers, to gather instruction from their lips. The Clergy of Boston were the first men to whom GARRISON applied when he entered on the work of his ministry. But they sent him away empty. And what has been the course of the Clergy as a Class, with honorable exceptions, who ask not to be named, from the beginning of this Movement? Has it been such as to conciliate the esteem and command the admiration of the truly religious world? Let us see.

In the early days of the enterprise, they derided the idea that Slavery was a Sin against God, and to be repented of and abandoned as such. The Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Apostles, the Messiah himself, were made to prove the innocency of Slavery by their examples, their words, or their silence. The worst, as well as the best, of the people knew better. They knew that the fundamental principles of Republicanism and Christianity, if applied to Slavery, would annihilate it at a touch. Even when they laid hands on the Abolitionists, and persecuted them even unto strange cities, they inwardly knew that the doctrines they held were right, and their very violence was a proof of their knowledge. For the broadcloth Mobs of 1835 knew that an Absurdity and an Untruth might be safely left to themselves. How many of the ministers of high rank in the great Denominations had a word to say in defence of Freedom of Speech stricken down in their streets, or of rebuke to the pro-Slavery fanaticism of that attempted Reign of Terror ? And so onward. Who have been the bitterest revilers of the Abolitionists, even when the influence of their labors had made the former gross wickedness of Clerical pro-Slavery unwise and inexpedient? Who the readiest vehicles of defamation and lies ? Men in pulpits, and having the control of the Religious Press. And, now, who is it that justify the Abominable Slave-catching Law, that stand ready to bless Slave-catching meetings, and preach passive obedience and non-resistance to wicked laws and wicked rulers, but the great leaders of the Denominations? Calhoun, and Clay, and hangman Foote, shine as moral teachers when contrasted with the black infamy of such men as Drs. SPRING, Hawks, and DEWEY. For they do not pretend that Slavery or Slave-catching is a moral duty — but a political necessity.

The fact is, that the politicians and the world are in advance of the ministers and the churches on this and many other points of practical morality. And this is fatal to the prestige of religious authority. The men who now profess to admire and applaud those very clerical

favorites of their own bad passions, like all tyrants, despise them in their hearts. And the class which have been led to question and reject the authority of the Clergy, by their conduct in these directions, are not now, as once their antagonists were, the worst portion of the community, but the best. Not the Infidels, but the practical Christians; not the debauched and profligate, but the pure, the devout, the benevolent. There is much in both these facts to account for the change that has come over the American mind in regard to the Clergy. Their professed admirers, in their course as to Slavery and AntiSlavery, are their secret foes. The lives and actions of the men who openly rebuke and walk not after the clergy because of their sins, bear witness to them that they may be believed. But their worst enemies are those of their own household. Such men as Professor STUART, Dr. SPRING, Dr. DEWEY, and the many ministers who have borne their testimony to the religious duty of Slave-catching, are they that stab their profession under the fifth rib. The life of a priesthood is its character, and this these men have taken away. The occasional exceptions ask not to be excepted. Take away the great Denominations and their leaders, and the men who acknowledge the Christian character of those leaders, and the remnant will be small indeed. This is the great cause of the decline of the influence of the Clergy. Repentance and Reformation is the only possible way of regaining it.

It is an old complaint against the Abolitionists that they are the enemies of God and of Christianity. In every successive stage of their progress, they have met the priests drawn up in battle array, brandishing their Bibles and discharging their sermons, to check their progress. Barricades of pulpits and communion tables have had to be carried over and over again before the flanks of the vanguard of Slavery could be turned and the rank and file entrenched behind them reached. They have pushed on, however, but they have not as yet silenced the fire of the ghostly comforters of Slavery and Slaveholders. From the beginning, the whole counsel of God, as expounded by these holy fathers, seems to have been the degradation of a certain portion of his immortal children into the beasts of burden and the household stuff of another -- though for what possible merit on the part of the spoiled children, it is hard to say. The Mission of Christ, like that of his Unitarian disciples according to Dr. GANNETT), appears to have been “Silence” on this subject and the truth the Apostles and Martyrs sealed with their blood, the righteousness of Slavery and the Christian duty of sending back Onesimuses to Philemons to the end of time.

Now, if these be true views of the character and nature of God and of Christianity, the Abolitionists make no complaint of being called Infidels. They acknowledge no such God ; they recognize no such religion. They hold that the Common Father of Mankind knows no distinction between his children. That the king upon his throne and the beggar at his gate, are equals before Him, and that his loving kindness extendeth equally over them both. That Dives in purple and Lazarus in rags are alike in those pure eyes, as far as the accidents of their condition are concerned. That he has no prejudice of color, and knows no difference between his images carved in ebony and in ivory. That the rights, privileges, immunities, and sovereignties which he bestows upon any of his children when he appoints them their lot upon this earth belong equally to all. That there must be differences in external condition, arising from differences in natural ability and willingness to apply these powers to their rightful purposes, they admit; but they brand as the highest crime, as the deepest guilt, the attempt to wrest these royalties from any of the vicegerents of God on earth, and to degrade them into “beasts that lack discourse of reason. They are loyal and they abhor treason. But the loyalty they owe is to the King of Heaven as the Lord Paramount of the Earth, and the treason they detest is that which would overthrow His government and set up in its stead a system of force, fraud, lust, and cruelty, which His soul hateth.

Here is where the Abolitionists take issue with the Rabbis and Chief Priests of their times. We hold that the laws of God are immutable and unchangeable, and that it is not in the power collection of men, calling themselves by whatsoever name, to abolish them and enact laws in direct opposition to them ; that all such attempts are impious, vain, and ridiculous, and must come to naught. They accept, with their antagonists, the fundamental laws of American Christianity and Republicanism — that "we should do unto others as we would that they should do unto us,” and “that all men are born free and equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe these to be everlasting truths, as immutable as the Being from whom they emanated. We infer from these premises, common to us both, that every attempt to rob a man of any or all of these inalienable rights, is a crime of the deepest dye against God and Man, and that no agreement among the guilty parties to call it by some other name, and to strengthen one another's hands in committing it, in any

of any

« AnteriorContinuar »