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without any requirement that masters should emancipate their slaves or be cast out of the church. It is unnecessary to say more. It is perfectly plain from the whole facts of the case, that Philemon was a slaveholder; and that the apostle, notwithstanding his being a slaveholder, recognised him as a Christian and a brother, and entitled to all the ordinary privileges of the Christian church. And even when the apostle had occasion to advert to the fact that Onesimus was his slave, and that he was a slavehoider while he recognised him as a Christian, he did not impose on him the obligation of manumitting his slave, in order that he might still continue to enjoy his position as a member of the church of Christ, and as a personal friend of the great apostle, (hear, hear.) Now, that is perfectly plain and unanswerable. It is clear in the New Testament, that the apostles admitted slaveholders to the Lord's table, and recognised them as Christians. This proves that there must be some distinction between the sinfulness of slavery as a system, and the sinfulness of individual acts of slaveholding. And, of course, a difficulty arises here can you reconcile these two positions? Now I am not going to enter at length into an exposition of the grounds on which they are to be, and can be, reconciled, as this would lead to a lengthened and complicated discussion ; for it is well known to every one who has paid any atten. tion to the subject, that there is not a more difficult class of cases in the whole range of moral theology, than the bringing out the whole bearing of the different parts of Scripture that have reference to the obligations of the social and domestic relations, (hear, hear.) But the Word of God shows us that there is somehow or other a class of cases intermediate between those, on the one hand, which are characterised by eternal and immutable morality, and those, on the other, which are merely expedient, proper, and becoming, or the reverse-a class of cases in regard to which there are some moral considerations bearing on their general character, and affecting the general duty of men regarding them, but respecting which you are not at liberty to look upon them as involving in every instance direct and immediate obligation I venture to say, that this is, and must be, the case withi slavery; and whatever difficulty may be found in explaining the matter in detail, we are forced into this belief, that both these positions are true. Mr Macbeth endeavoured here to thrust us into a dilemma. He said that if you assume that the New Testament sanctions slavery, then we are not entitled to aim at its abolition. Now, this has no force. It is not contended that the New Testament sanctions slavery, as a thing right and lawful, but only that it sanctions the position that mere slaveholding is not always, and in every instance, irrespective of circumstances, to be regarded and treated as a crime; and men may feel themselves warranted and, called upon to struggle for the abolition of slavery, even though they might hesitate about calling it in any sense sinful. I think I can establish the position that the system of slavery is sinful; but not sinful in such a sense as that every slaveholder, simply as such, is to be regarded and treated as a sinner, (hear, hear.) These things, I think, can be both established;' and men, according to their circumstances, may be placed in a position tempting them to lean, in their inferences or conclusions, too much to the one side or the other. Now, the tendency of men in the southern states of America, is to attach undue weight to the fact that the apostles admitted slaveholders to the Lord's table, and thereby to adopt soft and modified views of what the system of slavery really is. And the other tendency is to give undue exaggeration and prominence to what slavery is, and refuse that just and reasonable inference which the apostolic example warrants. The right and proper course is, that we should take the whole of the information which God gives us on this matter—and submit our hearts simply and implicitly to all that may be learned from the sacred Scriptures, even though the recognition of the different positions which they sanction may be attended with some difficulty. I shall not go to either extreme. I shall hold both positions, and not allow myself to be run away with by an extreme view on either side ; and I rejoice to think, that in the Free Church of Scotland, this scriptural question is now in the hands of men competent to look at it in all its aspects, who will not be frightened or influenced by any outward demonstration or popular clamour, who will not go beyond the conscientious convictions of their own minds, as based on the word of God, and who will not be prevented from discharging, in an enlightened and comprehensive spirit, the duties which they owe to the other churches of Christ, (great cheering.). Let me just very briefly advert to the alleged ground for abandoning our friendly intercourse with the American churches. We do not defend the maintenance of this intercourse on the ground that there are Christian men among slaveholders, though that is unquestionable. We do not even profess to defend our intercourse with them, on the mere ground that they are churches of Christ, though that too is unquestionable ; for a church of Christ even may act in such a way for a time that it might be warrantable and expedient to abandon friendly intercourse with it. But let it be distinctly kept in view, that there is an important difference between being actually members of a church, and holding friendly intercourse with it. Mr Macbeth, by an extraordinary assumption, always puts the case as if we were members of these churches, so as to be identified with them in every thing, and responsible for all that they are doing, and upon this principle he bases the alleged inconsistency of our forsaking the Erastian church of Scotland, and yet holding intercourse with the Erastinn churches of America, (hear, hear.) Now, we could not remain members of the Church of Scotland ; and possibly there may be circumstances in the American churches to prevent us being members of them; but then it must be kept in view, that this is quite distinct from the fact of our holding friendly intercourse with them, (cheers.) This very obvious distinction between identification with a church as members, so as to be in some sense responsible for all its teachings and actings, and mere friendly intercourse with it notwithstanding what we may regard as its errors in doctrine and practice, at once disposes of his hit about Erastianism. There are churches which we regard as holding serious errors, with which, notwithstanding, we hold friendly intercourse, though, of course, we could not be members of them. Dr Duncan has justly observed, that there are three distinct questions connected with this matter, and it is important that they should be kept distinct, for they are often confounded; or rather it is commonly assumed, that the settlement of the first settles also the other two. The first question is, What is the duty of a nation in regard to slavery? The second is, What is the duty of a church in a country where slavery exists, and is maintained and established by law? And the third is, What is the duty of other churches, not connected with slavery, towards those churches which are-supposing that the churches in a slave country come short in the discharge of their duty in the matter? It is only with the third of these questions that we have directly and properly to do, for the settlement of it determines our duty as a church of Christ, in the circumstances in which we
are placed. It was the first of these questions, and that alone, which was discussed in this country during the agitation for the abolition of West Indian slavery; and I have not, and never had, any hesitation about answer. ing this question, as it was answered by those who were then called abolitionists ; viz. that it is the duty of a nation to put an end to slavery, upon the ground of its general character and tendencies, and its bearing upon the temporal and spiritual welfare of men. The second question, as to the duty of the church in countries where slavery is established by law, is attended with more difficulty, and does not admit, perhaps, of so precise and definite an answer. I have no doubt that the church is called upon to aim, in every right and competent way, at the abolition of slavery, and at the mitigation of all its evils while it lasts; and I do think that the American churches come somewhat short of their duty in this respect, (applause.) But I deny that it is according to the word of God that these churches should expel every slaveholder from communion, or should carry on a constant and open war against slavery, when the effect would, to all appearance, be that of losing their existing opportunities of Christian usefulness, and of increasing rather than diminishing the oppression. I think they should do a great deal more in this matter than they have done, or than they do ; but I decline the responsibility of laying it down as a position, that any thing is universally and imperatively incumbent upon the church of Christ, which it is plain the apostles, in similar circumstances, did not do. * The apostles did not expel slaveholders from the church; they did not carry on a constant and open war against slavery; and when opportunities did occur of speaking of it, they did not lay it down as an immediate and imperative duty that slaves should be manumitted, (hear, hear.)
I think the American churches are far from manifesting so much zeal and activity as they might do, and should do in this matter. But I know of no grounds sufficiently strong and specific for warranting, and much less requiring, us to come to the conclusion that we ought to hold no friendly intercourse with them. We must guard against extravagant and unscriptural extremes, and seek to ascertain what really and truly is the mind of God in this matter ; and we must not forget that it is not very practicable to prove that there is any thing universally and imperatively incumbent upon the church in this matter, as a duty, which the apostles manifestly did not discharge. When you see that these things require to be distinguished, you must also see at once the unfairness of inferring from any general statement about slavery, a man's precise views on the question now before us. There is nothing whatever in the extract quoted from the opinions of Dr Andrew Thomson to afford the shadow of a ground for saying that he gave, or intended to give, a deliverance on the specific questions that are now raised ; and it is notorious to all the world, that these questions were not present to his mind that in fact they were not considered, and were not decided upon by him, (hear.) This is too plain to admit of the slightest doubt; and when you see the necessity of attending to such distinctions as these—a necessity
* I do not wish to be understood as disapproving of the conduct of churches which may have adopted the rule of excluding all slaveholders from sealing ordinances. I am dis. posed to think that there may be circumstances in which this would be warrantable; and if any church thought fit to adopt the rule, I would be very loath to censure it. But as the apostles did not act upon this principle, and have left no precept to the church to act upon it, no man is entitled to prescribe the rule as a binding law to the church univer. sally; and no church is entitled to require as a condition of friendly intercourse, a mode of acting which the apostolic churches did not exhibit.
evidently imposed on us by our obligation to take in the whole Word of God, and to submit our understandings to all that it contains bearing on this point, you will at once see the utter unfairness of attempting to found any thing on general declarations as to the sinful nature of the system of slavery. That is the sum and substance of Dr Thomson's statement, and in that statement I concur, (hear, hear.) I have just been labouring to show that the sinfulness of the system of slavery does not necessarily involve the sinfulness of mere slaveholding in all circumstances, and that the position of the universal and essential sinfulness of mere slaveholding is contradicted by the plain dictates of common sense, and is contrary to the procedure of our Lord's inspired apostles, (applause.) On those who come forward to say that, as a matter of duty, we should abandon all intercourse with American churches, lies the onus probandi. I say they are bound to prove it. The churches of America stand forth to the world as having all the ordinary characteristics and outward marks of respectable and useful churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Presbyterians they agree with ourselves in discipline, and in holding the Westminster Confession of Faith. They publicly profess as high and as pure a standard both of doctrine and practice as the churches of this country; and they exhibit just as good evidence of their enjoying the presence and blessing of God. But that some parties in America have their views and sentiments in regard to slavery corrupted by their situation and circumstances, is too manifest ; and that I have never attempted to dispute. There is a very considerable amount of corruption of moral sentiment upon this subject engendered by their circumstances. I believe that slavery has a more powerful tendency than any other condition of the social system to bring out all that is corrupt and depraved in the human heart. Of that I have not a doubt; and, therefore, for the sake of the nations and churches affected by it, it is my earnest desire and wish that it should be utterly abolished. This, then, I believe, is the sum and substance of the only charge that can be established against these churches, and it applies only or chiefly to a limited portion of them. But I am not able to see any thing like proof from the New Testament, that you can lay your hands upon any positive and important heresy which they are maintaining, or any distinct and indisputable sin, which they are practising (hear, hear.) You can see certain erroneous and one-sided notions on some points connected with this matter; and this has been fully and ably brought out by Dr Candlish, that they are yielding far too much to the difficulties of their position, and the force of the circumstances in which they are placed. In other words, you see plain traces of those common infirmities which are more or less visible in all churches; and from which the churches in this country, including the Free Church of Scotland, are not free, (hear, hear.) We have not, therefore, against them a charge of heresy or sin, but simply a charge of short-coming, a charge of not fully pre. serving a right frame of mind and feeeling on this matter, and keeping apart from, and rising superior to, those corrupting and depraving influences which their condition brings to bear upon them—a delinquency, be it observed, more or less chargeable upon us all. This is the sum and substance of the whole matter. But when men call upon us to cut connexion and abandon all intercourse with these American churches, they must produce something more specific, more important, and more tangible, than they have yet done. It will not do to wrap up the whole watter in indefinite and ambiguous phraseology, or attempt to convict them on the vague charge of
being slaveholding churches, or churches which countenance and sanction slavery, without distinguishing between the duty of the nation and of the church in the matter, or specifying precisely the heresy or sin of which the church is alleged to be guilty. You cannot convict them of any heresy in regard to their abstract opinions respecting slavery. Even amongst themselves there are differences of opinion as to the right wayof stating this ques. tion. I say that there are differences of opinion amongst themselves on these points, and we agree much more in the opinions expressed by the churches in the northern states, than we do in those of the southern states. are not entitled or prepared to charge them with heresy in this matter on that account. We are called on, certainly, to point out the erroneous and pernicious bearings of some of their views upon this subject; but this surely is no adequate and sufficient ground for casting them off altogether(applause)—for placing them beyond the pale of our friendly regard-beyond our warning voice, and thereby depriving us, as this would undoubtedly do, of the opportunity of being useful to them which we still enjoy. I would again say, in conclusion, that I concur entirely in the general views expressed by Dr Candlish and Dr Duncan. We are all of one mind; there is, as I have said, in reality no difference of opinion amongst us. The only fair question here is the question of the lawfulness of our continuing to maintain a friendly intercourse with the Presbyterian churches of America. There is no other question worthy of notice-nothing except this which is entitled to the consideration of Christian men and Christian churches—that involves the whole matter. Intercourse with churches may assume a variety of forms. Giving and receiving is one of the recognised modes of Christian communion between individuals and churches; and if you recognise any church as a Christian church, with which it is lawful and right to hold friendly intercourse, there can be nothing wrong in interchanging the duty of giving and receiving with them. All that is involved in our receiving a portion of our contributions from some of the churches of the slave states of America, and it was only from churches that we asked or received contributions, is this, that we recognised them as Christian churches, and had no objection to occupy their pulpits, preaching there the gospel just as we had preached it at home, stating our case therefrom, and requesting them to aid us in the difficulties in which we were placed. Now, you cannot convict them of heresy in respect to slavery; you can only say there is much that is erroneous and defective in their impressions and mode of action. You have expressed your mind openly against that--you continue openly to do so—and I believe that by pursuing that course you will do more real good to the churches and to the slaves themselves, in America, than you would be able to do were you to take up the extravagant and unscriptural views of which churches of Christ cannot approve. The worst feature of this question, as it has been recently discussed in America, is this, that, on the one hand, certain men, not having, and many of them not professing to have, any regard for the authority of God's Word, have taken up extreme and extravagant views, which, on the other hand, the churches in that country, acting according to God's Word, have been obliged to repudiate ; and the controversy in this form and aspect, is attended with grievous mischief; for, on the one hand, these ultra-abolitionists, finding their views repudiated by the piety, intelligence, and good sense, of America—for there is much piety, intelligence, and good sense in America, (immense cheering)-slavery is not the only thing to be found in the United States, as many men seem to imagine-these men, I say, finding