Sidor som bilder

world is such-that, in the absence of any authentic denial of their truth on the part of those churches, the question, What ought we to do in this matter ? must come up in all the ecclesiastical bodies with which those churches are in correspondence. It is well known what arrangements are in progress to urge this question effectually upon the notice of the Triennial Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, now soon to meet. It is equally well known that the same question will be introduced again—as it has been heretofore under one form and another-in those Congregational bodies of New England which are in correspondence with the two divisions of the Presbyterian Church. This question ought not to be evaded or postponed; nor can it be much longer.

Those who have favored me with letters, anonymously or otherwise, proposing particular points for my consideration, will probably find their inquiries answered, either formally or informally, before I close. Every communication which in any way helps me to know how far I am understood or misunderstood, is thankfully accepted, though it may not be in my power to make any other than this general acknowledgment.



The idea of communion among Christian churches, or between confederacies of churches, implies some degree of responsibility in regard to the maintenance of church discipline. Much more is this

implied, where communion takes the form of a settled correspondence and regulated intercourse. Such mutual responsibility, necessary as the basis of mutual recognition, is not inconsistent with mutual independence and mutual equality of powers. In the language of the Cambridge Platform, (ch. xv. $2,) illustrating this principle, “Paul had no authority over Peter, yet when he saw Peter not walking with a right foot, he publicly rebuked him before the church. Though churches have no more authority one over another than one Apostle had over another, yet as one Apostle might admonish another, so may one church admonish another, and yet without usurpation.” I quote this not as “ authority," but as good common sense well expressed.

I need not, then, spend any time in showing that the churches in the free States have a right to concern themselves with the manner in which discipline is administered, or not administered, in the Southern churches. The only questions are, whether there is in existing facts an occasion for the exercise of this right; and if so, in what form and by what procedure shall the right be exercised?

To the first of these questions, the existing facts are a sufficient answer. A "common fame” has spread through this land, and has been sounded out to the ends of the world, which charges upon the southern churches, indiscriminately, a scandalousneglect of Christian discipline. It is charged upon those churches that members in full communion, office-bearers, ministers, commit, uncensured, and habitually, crimes which cause the name of Christ to be blasphemed. It is charged upon them that

communicants, elders, pastors, preachers of what pretends to be Christianity, are tolerated in treating their servants, whom barbarous laws have put into their power, as mere property, to be bought and sold for gain, or at the convenience or caprice of the buyer and seller. It is charged that masters in the communion of those churches are tolerated in governing their servants and dealing with them, not as human beings having human rights, but as cattle driven to their labor with the whip, moved by no human impulse to industry, and having no more interest in their own labor than the muzzled ox that treadeth out the corn.” It is charged that the servants of such masters live and die without the knowledge of God's illuminating and quickening Word ; with no advantages or means for the development of their nature as intelligent beings created in God's image; borne down under an oppression heavier, in this most vital respect, than that which degrades the subjects of Russian or Austrian despotism, more unchristian than even that which keeps down the slaves of Antichrist himself within the immediate civil jurisdiction of Rome. It is charged that servants of such masters, when their masters might protect them, are robbed of God's primeval institution of marriage; that instead of being permitted to live together, husband and wife, in a relation which can be dissolved only by death, or by crime on their part, they live, male and female, in a temporary pairing unsanctioned by religion, unprotected by power, and liable to be dissolved at the convenience of the master. It is charged that the chastity of female servants, under such masters, bas no protection

against the frauds or the violence of licentiousness. It is charged that by the authority of such masters, children are torn from the fathers and mothers to whom God gave them, and are sold as merchandise. I do not make these charges against the southern churches ; nor do I take it for granted that these charges are all true. What I say is, that these charges are uttered by common fame -are believed by millions-are carried abroad to the farthest outposts of civilization in every quarter of the worldhave never been disproved—have never been met by those churches with anything like an adequate and authentic denial.

In the existence of such facts there is, beyond controversy, an imperative occasion for the exercise of that right of inquiry and admonition on the part of other churches, which is inseparable from the idea of communion. If these charges, so widely published, and so widely believed, are not a sufficient reason for putting the churches of the slaveholding States upon their defence, nothing can be. The imputations against their Christianity are not less serious than if they were charged with tolerating in their communion the rationalism of Germany, the fooleries of Oxford, and the impostures of Rome and of Nauvoo. In some way they should be summoned, as churches, to answer for themselves whether these things are so. And if they refuse to meet the inquiry, or fail to vindicate themselves ; or if, admitting that the matters of fact alleged against them are true, they do not repent under admonition, then the communion between those churches and the churches of the north and of the west must end.

The right of every northern ecclesiastical body to withdraw communion, in such a case, from the southern churches, would be too manifest to be questioned.

In what form, then, and by what course of procedure, may this right of inquiry and of ultimate non-communion be most advantageously exercised? On this point, it will be sufficient to advert to the established relations and formal correspondence between the southern churches of various denomina tions, and those churches in the free States with which they agree in the forms of doctrine and of worship.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian church exercises, by the terms of its constitution, a general superintendence over all the affiliated synods, presbyteries and congregations. Every subordinate judicatory is responsible to the assembled representatives of the whole communion, for all its errors or deficiencies in respect to the administration of discipline, and is, accordingly, liable to be admonished or instructed by the General Assembly. Such being the fact, can there be any doubt as to what the General Assenibly-whether Annual or Triennial -can do, and ought to do, in reference to the fama clamosa' of which I have spoken ? Let the General Assembly take notice of this crying fame' which so dishonors, not only the Presbyterian church as a great confederacy of Christian congregations, but also the name of Christ himself; and by that supreme judicatory let it be enjoined on all presbyteries and church sessions, to inquire whether any of the ministers or members under their care are guilty of the sins thus charged upon the Presbyterian

« FöregåendeFortsätt »