Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

ing” to all intelligence,—hoping therehy, as they claim, to effect her reform; but, as we fear, and we think not without evidence, her final overthrow.

The same principle of proscription is carried out in a variety of resolutions, at their various meetings; one of which was the remote cause of this essay, and which in substance, if not verbatim, was as follows :

Resolved, That the churches that retain slaveholding are the greatest barriers to freedom, or bulwarks of the system; and that, in so doing, they yield the supremacy of the law of God, and substitute measures of human policy and interest.”

Now to the principle involved in this resolution, namely, that the reception and retention of persons in the relation into the Church, all things else being right, is a measure of human policy, in contravention of the Divine law, and brands the church so practising as pro-slavery, we enter our solemn protest, and shall proceed to give the reasons that govern our faith in this matter, particularly in reference to the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which we have had the honour to be an unworthy member since the days of our boyhood.

The reader will first indulge us in the statement of a principle, or discrimination, that appears to us to lie deep at the foundation of this momentous question; one that, so far as our reading is concerned, has been entirely overlooked, and is of superlative importance to its correct understanding; namely, that slavery in its incipiency, and slavery as an element of organized society, are different things; or, in other words, the relation of the parties thereto, in its different stages, involves widely different degrees of moral turpitude. The man who kidnaps or steals a man,

and the man who buys him when thus stolen, and thus robs him of all his rights, justly deserve the execration of all upright society; human language hardly furnishes adequate terms with which to express the deep enormity attaching to such conduct. And we think it was principally to this stage of the business that Wesley, Clarke, and others referred, when they denounced it in such unmeasured terms.

Such a construction is due them, as it harmonizes that which would otherwise appear inconsistent in the views of these great and good men: of which in the sequel. But in a state of organized society, as in the United States, where the parties who are now connected with slavery had no more to do with the original act of kidnapping, or man-stealing, by which it was first introduced, nor in the enactment of those statutes which authorize, guard, and begird it with all the solemn forms, intricacies, and sanctions of law, than the man in the moon,—their relation thereto, as it appears to us, and must, as we think, so appear to all reasonable men, is widely different. In vain will it here be urged, that the retainer of the stolen goods is equally guilty with the original thief: the circumstances are so widely different, that no sane mind capable of comprehending the question, and appreciating an argument, but will see and feel its fallacy.

Now it is important to keep this discrimination in view, in order to understand properly the Scriptural and anti-slavery bearings of our ecclesiastical law.

The subject of slavery comes up first in what are called our General Rules, where the positive and negative qualifications of persons applying for iembership among us are set forth in detail. Among them is the following :-“ The buying and (or) selling men, women, and children, with an intention to enslave them,”—which prohibits the person or persons so practising from a place in our communion. This is slavery in its incipiency,--the commencement of this diabolical business,—where we think the greatest guilt attaches. And how a law which lays the axe at the root of this tree of iniquity --which strikes at the very foundation of the whole matter, and cuts off all persons so offending from a place among us—can be regarded as a pro-slavery measure, we cannot understand.

In the second place, the Discipline pronounces upon the general character of slavery, whether in its incipiency, or as an element of organized society, as a “great evil.” And by what process of reasoning we can arrive at the conclusion, that a statute thus fixing its veto upon slavery, as a "great evil,” is pro-slavery, we cannot perceive.

Next comes that part of the law which treats especially of slavery as an element of organized society; and which bars any slaveholder from official station in the Church, where the laws of the State in which he lives will admit of emancipation, and permit the liberated slave to enjoy freedom; and works the forfeiture of the ministerial character of any travelling preacher who in any way becomes the owner of a slave or slaves, unless he execute, if practicable, a legal emancipation, conformably to the laws of the State in which he may reside; and, further, makes it the duty of the preachers to enforce on our members the necessity of teaching their slaves to read the word of God, and allowing them time to attend to the public worship of God.

These regulations, like the preceding ones, surely breathe an anti-slavery spirit, and cannot, by any fair construction, be tortured into any other meaning. It may be objected, first, that these laws have not been faithfully administered; and that the action of certain annual conferences, and some acts and doings of the General Conference, have not harmonized with them. To these objections we, for the present, make no reply, not being sufficiently posted on these points to give a matured opinion; and having never claimed anything further, than that the Church, in her organic law, is opposed to slavery. It is objected, in the second place, that the Church is too obsequious to the State the spiritual to the civil power-in regard to slavery. This objection will furnish matter for our next section.

SECTION II.

OBJECTIONS CONSIDERED THAT THE CHURCH IS TOO OBSEQUIOUS TO THE

STATE-THE SPIRITUAL TO THE CIVIL POWER.

PURSUANT to promise, we will now examine the second objection :-“That the Church is too obsequious to the State---the spiritual to the civil power," in conforming her practice to the laws of the State, in receiving and retaining in her communion persons connected with slavery, on account of the difficulties interposed by the civil power in the way of emancipation. This, in a country like the United States, where the constitution of the general government protects the several slaveholding States in their right to hold slaves; and where the laws of such slaveholding States, to guard and protect this interest, have thrown impediments around it, rendering it almost, if not, in many instances, entirely impracticable for the citizens of those States to liberate them, by requiring the master, who may not have the means, when he would emancipate, to remove them to a free State; and rendering the slave thus emancipated, for want of such removal, liable to be taken up the next week, month, or year, and sold into perpetual bondage to a worse and more cruel master, is a grave subject, and requires our most serious attention. In examining it, we feel our want of more general reading; nevertheless, we will venture a few thoughts, showing our opinion.

From the constitution of human nature, it is manifest that man was intended for society. His weakness when born into the world, and for several years thereafter, amounting to entire helplessness; his wants, which that helplessness can in no measure, not even the least, supply, clearly indicate a social existence to have been the design of the Creator in his forma

tion.

His love of society, seen from an early period of infancy, and which continues unabated throughout the entire period of his earthly existence, is also in proof of the above proposition.

The constitution and attachment of the sexes, one of the strongest impulsions of our nature, and which in itself leads to society, is declarative of its truth.

His capacity for mental and moral improvement, which can only be brought to any tolerable perfection in a social state, and which would be greatly retarded, if not totally defeated, on the anti-social principle, is in evidence that society is a prominent and essential principle of our nature.

Thus his incapacity to provide for, protect, and

« FöregåendeFortsätt »