網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

25

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ces.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

gregations from the pulpit, and using all legitimate means, for averting this threatened calamity of war between America and England. Now, I would ask them only to go a little further. I would ask them, in reference to the matter of slavery, to reconsider their principle. They seem to me to apply it to this extent, that it is the duty of the church and of Christians, in regard to civil and domestic institutions, sanctioned by law, which the church therefore, as such, cannot directly control—to abstain from active opposition to such institutions, and simply take the practical alternative-either to obey, if the word of God permit, or just to disobey and take the consequen

They do not seem to recognise, at least to such an extent as we would do, the duty of interfering to get domestic and civil institutions amended or abolished. Perhaps, in this respect, after all, it is a mere question of degree, as to the extent to which Christian churches and Christian men, as such, ought to interfere. I daresay they will think us too meddling-grasping too much at every opportunity that presents itself to influence national affairs. We, on the other hand, are inclined to think that they are too supine. It seems to me on this point, that they have just carried a little further than they intended, the principle of what is called here Voluntaryism. It seems to me that they have run to an extreme of Voluntaryism, as if the state had nothing to do with the church, and the church had nothing to do with the state, (hear hear.) We, on the contrary, testify that the state has duties to discharge towards the church, and that the church has duties to discharge towards the state. I simply indicate that they seem to act somewhat on the principle of extreme Voluntaryism. I could not go into this principle; aud I am clearly of opinion that it is our duty to testify against it, and to state before our brethren in America the extreme on which they seem to have acted in this respect, (hear, hear.)

It is right to say, however, that while they do not act so much, perhaps, as we would like and expect them to act, against the system of slavery; yet in their letter they assure u3—and we are bound to believe them—that they do regard as proper subjects of discipline all who treat their servants as if they were mere property, and not human beings, rational, accountable, and immortal, (hear, hear.) This is expressly stated in the letter. They also say that every Christian and philanthropist should seek, by all possible lawful means, the repeal of unjust and oppressive laws, in respect to slavery, (applause.) They notice also, with satisfaction, that ministers and churches in slaveholding states hold it sin to deny the slave population the means of grace; and, moreover, they say that they will, by no means, countenance the traffic of slaves, and the separation of families, for the sake of filthy lucre. This is their statement. I do not mean to say that it goes far enough, but it is much. In point of fact, this is nearly all that, in theory, the evangelical abolitionists can well ask; for even Mr Phelps, in his letter already referred to, admits that the mere legal relation of a master to a slave is not sinful, and he seems to reduce himself to this, in which we would all concur, that every one now placed in that relation, who treated his slaves as if they were mere property, and not as rational and accountable agents, should be visited with the severest discipline.

Let me state some particulars to illustrate what it seems to me must be the working of this practical system of non-interference. Let me take, for example, the hinderances in the way of the education, the marriage, and the emancipation of the slaves. First, then, take the obstacles in the way of the education of the slave : it being made a crime, in the slave states, to teach

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

26

the slave children. How are churches and Christian men to act in such circumstances ? I say at once, and emphatically, whether they think it right to obey the law or to break the law, which prevents slaves from being educated, it does seem to me that it is impossible for them to evade the duty of seeking, with the most indefatigable earnestness, to get the law repealed, and the system it upholds abolished, (hear, hear.) If they obey the law, the duty of getting it repealed is most incumbent on them. If they break the law, then, still on that account, for their own protection, as well as for the good of the slave population, they are bound to testify against it, and never to cease from testifying and acting against it, till this atrocious law and the atrocious wrong

it is meant to perpetuate, are swept from the statute-book for ever. Then

in regard to marriage. I do not know how they act in this particular. But, I own, it does seem to me monstrous that a church should exist, having any of her ministers and members living in a population among which there are bars to the holy state of marriage; in which marriages are to be celebrated not for life, but for a time, subjecting to the power of man to divide what God has joined together, (great applause)—that a church should have any of her ministers living in such a population, and yet consent to be supine or inactive, seems to me incredible. · Then, further, in regard to emancipation. This, I may observe by the way, is the precise point of difference between American slavery and that which existed in the old world. It is known to all the readers of history that, as regards the slavery which existed in the old world, and in apostolic times, it was such, that no obstacle whatever lay in the way of the emancipation of the slave. Masters were free to emancipate their slaves. Nay, under the Roman law, there were very considerable facilities for emancipation; and it was no unusual thing for a master to emancipate summarily, by his will, all his slaves. There was therefore no hinderance, but great facilities, for the emancipation of slaves; and it was in and through these facilities that the influence of Christianity told in procuring the emancipation of the slaves, and ultimately the abolition of the system, (loud applause.) The influence of Christianity had here, if I may so speak, fair play; so far, at least, as civil institutions were concerned. It was then, if I may so speak, a fair battle between slavery on the one side, and Christian principle on the other; and, as might be anticipated, by the blessing of the Great Head, Christianity won the day, and slavery was defeated, (cheers.) But in America it is far otherwise. It is the same battle, but it is not waged fairly. And why is this? Through the fault and folly of the nation boasting to be freest of all in the world. The obstacles interposed in America, in the way of the private or public emancipation of the slaves—I mean their emancipation either by their own masters, or by efforts that may be made to purchase their freedom—do seem to me to constitute the most grievous aggravation of this accursed system of bondage, (hear, hear;) and that the Christian church there should be for a moment supine in these circumstances, is to me incredible. If the people of America were free to emancipate their slaves, the church might say, we shall trust to the influence of a growing Christianity. Give us but a few years, and every fetter will be struck from the slave. But when these hinderances and obstacles are such as to render almost, in all cases, the emancipation of the slave, either by the private act of the master, or by a public effort to purchase him, impossible," I say that for the church, in these circumstances, to remain inactive, is a plain and obvious dereliction of duty,

upon which we can lay our hand, and against which we are bound to protest, (ħear, hear.)

Let me just say, that if the Christian churches of America, or Christian men, or humane men,- for ( shall not ask for any thing more,—if men of humanity in America, members of Christian churches or not, shall come to us and tell us that they have adopted a plan for procuring the immediate repeal of the laws that hinder emancipation; or if, while prosecuting their design of a direct attack upon slavery in the legislature, they shall come to this country and say to us, we want you to do what you

did before,-we want you to buy the freedom of our slaves, that will not otherwise be conceded;—if any body of men shall come across the Atlantic, and say to us, we want money to purchase that freedom of our slaves which the law will not otherwise give—sir, I pledge myself, and I pledge my church, and I pledge the whole country of Scotland, that thousands upon thousands will be poured into America, (loud applause.). Yes, sir, I take leave to say, that if twenty millions are needed to emancipate the slaves in America, as they were needed to emancipate the slaves in the West Indies, we shall bear, by voluntary effort in Scotland, our full share of the whole of these twenty millions, (renewed applause.) Every fraction, every penny of the share that was taken from us by our legislature to compensate the West India proprietors, will be contributed, and that right heartily, and with our prayers for a blessing on it, to emancipate the slaves in that country which so foul a system still degrades, (loud applause.) Let no man say that we are disposed to look on with indifference on such a monstrous iniquity as this of American slavery, (hear, hear.) Our efforts, our voices, our means, our men, our money, are at the service of the great cause of emancipation, (enthusiastic applause.)

Sir, let me just state, in a single sentence, the sort of principles which, 1 think, we ought to bring out in regard to slavery itself, and the mode of dealing with it that should be adopted by Christian churches. I am glad to find that there is no difference of opinion, so far as I can see, among tho Christians of America on the point that slaveholding is prima facie to be viewed as a sin, requiring it to be made clear where the sin lies, and whether the slaveholder is doing all that he can to keep himself clear of the sin, and not be a partaker of the sin of another. I say at once, in regard to the discipline of the Christian church, the safe principle upon which to proceed is this, that slaveholding demands explanation. Slaveholding ever involves sin. The only question is, where does the sin lie, and has the individual slaveholder done all his duty in reference to this sin ? Never, never let this church or this country cease to testify that slavery is sin, and that it must bring down on the sinners, whether they be in Congress assembled, or as individuals throughout the land, the just judgment of Almighty God. Slavery is sin ; and if I find a man a slaveholder, I roll upon him the burden of making out to me that he is not a sinner. And, sir, it is on this principle, and this principle alone, that we can ever maintain that a man may sometimes be a slaveholder in circumstances in which he cannot possibly help it, in which he has no alternative but just to protest against the evil, and to seek, as we did, for its removal, (applause.) Why, cases have been put in reference to America, which I suppose will be admitted and acknowledged even by some who take other views on this point,-cases in which men are in the position of slaveholders in such circumstances that to get out of it would

28

are you

be to commit sin against God, and sin against these very slaves. But still the onus probandi lies with the slaveholder. To him it belongs to make out that he is not a sinner; and prima facie, on the first blush of it, a slaveholder presenting himself for Christian communion is to be dealt with, to be asked why he is a slaveholder, and he must satisfy the church that he is a slaveholder against his will,--because he cannot help. it,-because God, in his providence, has been pleased to place himn in circumstances in which he has no alternative but to continue a slaveholder or to sin.

I say further, in the second place, it is another obvious principle upon this point and perhaps I have been dealing too much with general principles ; but really it seems to me that this subject having been brought before a Christian church and this Christian Assembly, it would be idle and childish if we did not go into it very fully and frankly, (hear, hear.) I say it appears to be a clear principle of Christian duty, I am not going to quote texts of scripture, although I could do so if necessary,—but it seems to me to be a plain principle of Christian duty, that for men, whatever be their legal right of property in another, to treat him as if he were a slave, is a positive sin, contrary to the mind and will of God, (hear, hear.) If a man first shows, with satisfaction to my mind, as a Christian minister, that he is in cir. cumstances in which he must be a slaveholder, or else sin against God, then I say to him further,—you may be a slaveholder in the eye of the law, but what in

your own eye,—you may be a slaveholder so far as legal relation is concerned, but what do you think yourself to be?-do you regard yourself as a slaveholder ? (applause.) Do you sin against God by making your brother a piece of your goods and chattels? (hear, hear.)

These are intelligible principles-principles of plain common sense and Christian morality. If a man tells me that he is a slaveholder by a legal relation, of which he cannot possibly get rid without sin—if he tells me that he is in the painful position of being the master of a slave, entitled by law to treat his slave as if he were a piece of property—then I say to him, when he comes to seek admission into the Christian church, it is not my business to ask you what you are in the sight of the law, but what do you consider yourself to be in the sight of God most high? The law may have imposed difficulties, of which you cannot get rid. You may be in the legal relation of a master to a slave; but, as in the sight of God, do you consider yourself to be in that relation, and do you act upon it? If so, you sin, and discipline must stand in the way of your admission.

Once more, if, in the first place, it has been made out that slaveholding is, prima facie, a thing necessarily involving sin somewhere; and that the man in that condition must clear himself from that sin; and if, in the second place, it be perfectly clear that the man who, whatever his legal rights may be, has treated his slaves as part of his goods and chattels, undoubtedly must be visited with discipline; it remains to be stated, lastly, that if he be indifferent to the moral and religious improvement of his servants—if he have been negligent of opportunities of emancipating them—if it appear that he might on some occasion have got rid of the relation—if it

appear

that he was negligent in any of these particulars-he is to be told also that he is sinning, and the church which tolerates him, and is negligent of rebuke to him, is sinning too.

Now, these are principles which, if we make them intelligible to our

29

brethren across the Atlantic, may be expected to result in much good, coming, as they do, from friends calmly looking at the evil from a distance, who have not been driven, in circumstances of temptation, to take up an extreme position against them, but who sympathize to a large extent with the difficulties of the American churches, and simply, in a spirit of affection, testify as to what is the duty of these churches in dealing with a monstrous and anti-Christian social enormity, and with those who live in connexion with it.

I think I have exhausted the subject sufficiently for my purpose; and I will just in conclusion say, that throughout the whole of these statements and this discussion—nothing has more pressed upon my mind than just this thought ;-while these questions are needlessly raised—while, I say, the church of the living God is thus needlessly troubled—while men on one side are making such demands, and putting forth such views, as necessarily come into collision with principles regarding church-fellowship, which they do not even profess to understand or sympathize with ; and while, on the other hand, the men who are assailed with vehement denunciations are tempted to assume too apologetic a tone, and to be too mindful of defending themselves—oh, sir, does it not grieve every Christian man—does it pot grieve any man with a spark of humanity in his bosom, that meanwhile the poor slave is left to perish! Should it not be enough to make some men pause, if they would just reflect upon this consideration. One thing, at least, is true -they cannot deny it—that never before has this battle been fought upon the same ground, and with the same weapons that are now resorted to, (loud applause.) Sir, the anti-slavery battle has been fought before, and won before; but never has it been either fought or won upon the ground that is now assumed, and with the weapons that are now employed, (renewed applause.) Is not this enough to make some of the friends of abolition pause and reconsider their situation? Sir, will these individuals say that they cannot help it? Is it indispensable, in point of conscience, on their parta scruple of conscience that they cannot get rid of_that they must continue to raise this question, though they cannot but see that it involves principles in reference to Christian churches and Christian men, which, I venture to say, they did not anticipate when they began to take their ground. May they not, at least, be tolerant, and exercise forbearance, as to the new principle they would force upon Christian churches, in reference to their mutual fellowship? Is that principle necessary to the advocacy of the great cause, in which some who repudiate the principle are surely as hearty as its most vehement assertors ? (loud applause.) Oh, sir, if it be not a matter of conscience with them, I would appeal, if my voice could reach across the Atlantic, I would say, might not men be found on that vast continent to come forward and proclaim boldly-We will hold no principle that will force us to raise these new and nice questions of church friendship or church fellowship -We are contented to fight the old battle upon the old ground—we ask no new weapons—we ask no new mode of warfare- —we will stand on the old paths —and we will thus get rid of and cast away from us the miserable entanglements and embarrassments in which this high enterprise has got involved, (loud applause.) If some half-dozen men in America, with the spirit of Wilberforce, of Clarkson, and of Thomson, could be found rising far above all these agitations, saying, in plain English, we will go back to the olden times for the old arguments, and raise again the voice which in this very city was raised for complete emancipation, and that immediate-oh, sir, if such men

« 上一頁繼續 »