網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

45

their views deliberately and decidedly repudiated, have made it their great business to abuse and calumniate the American churches; and, on the other hand, the churches have fallen into the snare of being too easily satisfied with merely answering the extreme abolitionists. They find that they can answer them—that they can put them down, beyond all reasonable doubt, from the Word of God and thus they are too apt to rest satisfied. “ These are extreme and unscriptural notions,” they say: we can have nothing to do with these men-we have no concurrence with their views.” And thus they are too ready to lie upon their oars, and sink into unwarrantable and improper apathy and indifference in regard to this great and gigantic system of evil-an apathy and indifference fraught with the most injurious consequences to the temporal and spiritual welfare of themselves and their fellowmen. Still, it must not be forgotten, that upon the churches of Great Britain and America depends, under God, the Christianity of the world. Upon the labours and exertions of the churches in these two countries depends, humanly speaking, the highest welfare of the human race. Great Britain and America are undoubtedly the two countries where the largest amount of Christianity exists, God has given to them the largest amount of Christian knowledge and Christian piety, and the fullest development of his church according to his Word. Surely then, when it is proposed that we should at once cut off all intercourse with the Christian churches of America, and draw an impassable line of demarcation between us and them, so as to shut out the churches in the Old World and the churches in the New World from each other, and prevent that mutual influence of each upon the other which might tend to the improvement of both--surely we should have some very strong ground upon which such a proceeding can be based and defended, (hear, hear.) It is not enough that these churches have sunk into inexcusable apathy in regard to a great practical evil-it is not enough that we differ from them in some of their views, and think that in others they are defective—it is not enough that in some of their practices they are manifesting the perverting influence of their outward circumstances, the common imperfections and infirmities attaching more or less to all churches—there must be, on their part, a denial of some fundamental portion of God's truth -some perpetration of gross, and open, and heinous sin-something that will force itself on our attention and our consciences, as indicating great guilt on their part, and involving us immediately and directly, if this friendly intercourse is continued, in all the guilt of it. The absolute unlawfulness of continuing further intercourse with them must be indisputably shownclear and undeniable proof must be adduced that we, by continuing in brotherly intercourse with them, are necessarily involved in the guilt of all that they are saying and doing; and that what they are saying and doing is plainly and palpably inconsistent with the maintenance of God's truth, and the duty of a Christian church— before such a conclusion is adopted. It is our duty to seek to preserve intercourse with them for the sake of their welfare and our own; and I believe with Dr Candlish, that our present circumstances are peculiarly favourable for doing good, and that by prosecuting, in a faithful and affectionate spirit the course we have adopted, we may be instrumental in promoting much more fully than we could in any other way, the general welfare of the catholic church of Christ over the world. Þr Cunningham then sat down, amidst the warm and repeated applause of the Assembly and the public.

46

í Me SHERIFF SPEIRS said, that the subject had been so entirely exhausted by the speeches of Dr Candlish and Dr Cunningham, that it was impossible to add one word more of argument or illustration. In now rising to address the house, he only wished to vindicate his own consistency in the matter. He was happy to bear in mind, that to the extent of his power and ability, he took an active part in promoting the measure for the emancipation of British slaves. He was sure that none rejoiced more sincerely than he did at the passing of that great and glorious act of legislation, though, along with others, he had suffered by it in a pecuniary point of view. But he thought the question now presented to the judgment of this house was one which certainly the abolitionists with whom he was accustomed to act never raised. He did not see any very material difference between the statements made, he thought with great moderation, by Mr Macbeth, and the conclusions come to by all of them. All of them would concur in condemning the system of slavery as an accursed and abominable system; but it appeared to him that there was a wide and grave step between the affirmation of their opinion in that respect, and the conclusion to which Mr Macbeth came, in condemning, and condemning unheard, the whole slaveholders of America, (hear, hear.) He was not prepared to go that length, nor to give up intercourse with the American churches, because, in a slaveholding country, they did not feel it to be their duty to excommunicate every slaveholder; and he was not prepared to say that every man who is placed in that unfortunate situation ought to be excommunicated by that or any other church. He was not prepared to come to that conclusion, nor could his conscience allow him to act towards an individual in that position otherwise than he would wish to be treated were he in the same circumstances himself, (hear.) He could figure many circumstances in which an American slaveholder might be placed, in which he might not be responsible for the sin of slavery. Reference had been made to a standard to which they would all bow; and he thought they were bound, in looking to the New Testament on the subject of slavery, to observe not only what it does say, but what it does not say on that subject. Now, it is an undoubted historical fact that at the time when our blessed Saviour came into the world, slaveholding was an institution of society in the Roman empire, and in all its dependencies, like Judea, where the gospel was first proclaimed. He (Mr S.) concurred with Dr Cunningham's interpretation of that passage in the epistle of the apostle of the Gentiles, which had been referred to. But assuming, for sake of argument, that Mr Macbeth's interpretation of that text was the more correct one, then it must be admitted that slavery is a subject on which the New Testament is altogether silent. Now he (Mr S.) apprehended that was a most expressive silence. Here was a sin, a deadly sin-one which, according to Mr Macbeth's view, must then have required, as he says it does now require, the excommunication of all those who are guilty of it—a sin, therefore, which, if not repented of, and not forsaken, must bar the entrance to the kingdom of heaven ; and yet in regard to it and the mode of dealing with it, the New Testament Scriptures say nothing. Could Mr Macbeth point out any instance of any other deadly sin which prevailed as extensively as slavery did in those days which is not denounced and condemned in the inspired writings. It is plain that he cannot. We all know its fearful denunciations against some of the prevailing sins and vices of society in those days. But Mr Mr Macbeth sets down slavery in the very same category with them, and, as it appeared to Mr S., without any Scriptural warrant whatever : even giving

47

Mr Macbeth the benefit of his own interpretation of the passage referred to. It appeared, therefore, to him (Mr S.) that as there is no positive direction on the subject in Scripture, it was the right and the duty of this church, both in regard to the end and to the means, to deal with this question in the spirit of Christianity, and not by assuming a power which the New Testament has not expressly given ,and which is without any Scriptural warrant. The views entertained by Mr Macbeth, were, to say the least of them, extremely harsh and inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity, (hear.) He (Mr Sheriff Speirs) would like to deal with slaveholders on this subject with all kindness, and in the spirit of Him who did not come to break the bruised reed or to quench the smoking flax, (hear.) How did Wilberforce and his friends proceed against the slaveholders of their day? Not in the cruel way of visiting a national sin on individuals who might be innocent. The sin of slavery is not the sin of individuals, so much as it is a national sin.

It was not the sin of the proprietors in the West Indies, but the national sin of Great Britain, that slavery was tolerated in our colonies. And instead of excluding slaveholders from Christian privileges, the abolitionists of those times went to the source of the evil—they went to Parliament—and their efforts were ultimately successful in putting an end to this national sin. He (Mr Sheriff Speirs) was persuaded that at present we should not take a different course, unless satisfied, on the strongest and most decided ground, that some other course was necessary. He did not think that any such ground existed. He was satisfied that they must have the most positive Scripture command to warrant them in pursuing the course which had been recommended against the American churches in the slaveholding states of America. But he believed such was not the way in which Christianity made its way in the world. It made its way silently but forcibly-gradually removing every antichristian obstacle to its progress, and finally establishing itself on their ruins. He trusted that such would be the effect of Christian influence brought to bear upon America, without resorting to the extreme measure of excommunicating men who have the misfortune of being in the situation of slaveholders, (cheers)--and who, it is to be observed, cannot cease to be such, while the law of the United States on that subject is unaltered, without placing these very slaves in a worse position, and without incurring the responsibility of producing a state of anarchy and confusion throughout the union--without, in short, doing present evil in the hope of an ultimate good. If there were a positive divine command to liberate the slave, or to excommunicate the slaveholder, then he, for one, would say, let it be done, and trust the consequences to God, whose command it is. But, as there is no such command, to do so rashly would be not an act, of faith, but one of presumption and of folly, (cheers.) On these grounds he would support Dr Candlish's motion ; but he would, notwithstanding, look with much anxiety to the further progress of their negotiations with the churches in America on this painfully interesting question; for this church may have to act in regard to them in a different spirit than that she is now required to manifest, (hear, hear.)

Mr Bonar said he would not like it to be thought that the Assembly was pledged to continue indefinitely the same line of conduct towards the churches in America. He thought the position the Assembly had taken was a right one-that of remonstrance and counsel ; but if this was to be met, on the part of the American churches, with continued apathy, or opposition, or frivolous excuses, then the church might find it necessary to take

48

a more decided position, (hear, hear.) And whenever this was necessary, he had no manner of doubt that it would be done in a definite and distinct way.

After a considerable pause

Dr Candlish said,—Presuming that no one is disposed to second the motion made by Mr Macbeth, I take leave to move the adoption of the report which I have laid on the table. I shall not detain the house long with

any additional observations, concurring, as I do, in all the remarks of preceding speakers ; but as I took the liberty of interrupting Mr Macbeth in a statement he made, in which he misrepresented my meaning—not intentionally, of course, I think it right to explain, that what I did say was, that there might be, and in America there are, cases in which a man could not get rid of his position of being a slaveholder, or, to use Dr Duncan's distinction, a slave-haver, without committing sin. He might find it impossible, by the obstacles interposed by the law of the states, to get rid of his slaves without committing sin. That was all I said. Now, I believe, if it were necessary, I could give instances of this—such instances as that which has been repeatedly told by my excellent friend Mr Chalmers of London, of an individual to whom a large number of slaves came by inheritance ; who, finding it impossible to manumit them, on account of the obstacles interposed by American law, devoted his whole life to educating his slaves-slaves in the eye of the law, but not in his—for he treated them as brethren, with a view to their being converted to the faith of the gospel. Many other instances might be given, (hear, hear, and cheers.) All that I meant to say was, that if such a case occurred as was put by Dr Duncan, of a man being absolutely unable to emancipate a slave, without his instantly falling into the hands of the state and being sold again—or any other similar case of necessity or mercy-his emancipation in that case might be morally and scripturally impossible, and the attempt might be sinful, (hear, hear.) I have only to say, in reference to the allusion to the Evangelical Alliance, that I think it almost needless to observe, that it was by no means the same question which was then determined that we are now considering; and I think it right to state that I am not aware, in the three hours' discussion in the committee of that body, when men of different opinions were present, any statement was made, so as I could judge, involving what Mr Macbeth has affirmed. There were many there who adopted the principle that they would not, if slaveholders came to this country, admit them to the communion ; but I am not sure if any held that persons belonging to slavehold. ing churches, not themselves slaveholders, were not to be received, (hear.) Now, what are we asked to do? We are asked to abandon, at once, our friendly connexion with the churches of America, because in these churches are to be found some slaveholders or slave-havers. I am not aware that the Alliance adopted any thing like that principle; and the fact, that the whole body present unanimously acquiesced in a resolution waiving the consideration of principle, and simply putting the matter on the ground of expe. diency, and determining nothing more than this, that we shall not, as a voluntary association, where different views prevail among the members, embarrass ourselves by the inviting of those who are actual slaveholders—the fact of all the members having come to this resolution, with this qualification of the resolution, “ those who by their own fault or otherwise may be in that

position,” seems most manifestly to indicate any thing rather than the interpretation put upon it it by Mr Macbeth. In reference to the views of the late Mr Wilberforce, I will read a note which a friend of mine has received from his son, the bishop of Oxford, in answer to a question put to him respecting the opinion of his late father on the point now under discussion. It is in the following terms:—“In reply to the inquiry as to my late father's judgment on the case you submit to me, I am able to inform you that he was in the habit of expressing freely his opinion, that in many cases it was a great misfortune, and not a crime, that he possessed property in slaves ; and consequently, that the mere fact of such possession could be no sufficient reason for his exclusion from church privileges. Of course this judgment does not imply a tacit acquiescence in any of the enormities which were the general attendants of a system of slavery.” (Cheers.). I think it unnecessary to detain the house longer, and simply move the adoption of the report.

The MODERATOR having asked if any one seconded Mr Macbeth's motion, and no one having been found to do so, the motion of Dr Candlish, approving of the report, was then unanimously adopted.

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »