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numbers, until they form an efficient and valuable portion of the American religious community.
Several years now elapsed, and the strong man armed kept his goods in peace. The Methodist Episcopal Conferences had partially relaxed in their overbearing demands, and they were all chanting lullaby,' when a storm suddenly burst upon them, the effects of which will not speedily pass away:
In the year 1833, some of the New England Methodists, both preachers and members, began seriously to inquire into the consistency of the testimony and practice of their church concerning slavery. The American Methodists, in their book of doctrines and discipline, from 1784 to the present day, declared that all persons who hold or traffic in slaves, all slave-drivers, and slavedealers are sinners who by their practice evince that they have no desire to flee from the wrath to come, and that every
member of their societies shall exhibit his Christian solicitude by not buying, selling, and holding slaves. In addition to these requirements, their standard volume of faith and rules announces
We declare that we are as much as ever convinced of the great eril of slavery.' Notwithstanding this unequivocal announcement, vast multitudes of Methodists, with hundreds of their preachers, are slave-holders; and the enormities of that system, in their utmost atrocious form, are constantly perpetrated and connived at by the Members of the denomination in the North American States, without remorse, and with perfect impunity.
The ministers and laymen, who in 1833, commenced the investigation of this heart-rending theme, speedily discerned that the discrepancy between their professions and their acts was scandalous and criminal. Instantly on the discovery, they sounded an alarm throughout their Zion. For a brief season their voice was unheeded; but their blast was so long and loud, and became so dread, that the resolutely deaf at length were startled, and the affrighted oppressors having rallied, returned the threat of defiance and extermination,
Almost all the religious denominations in the United States have a miscellany devoted to their peculiar interests. The Christian Advocate, issued in New York, is the chief official journal of the Methodist General Conference. This paper became the opponent of the enemies of slavery; and for the last five years has demonstrated the peculiar fitness of its conductors for the cause which it maintains. Misrepresentation and concealment of facts; vituperative charges and insinuations against the friends of liberty; malevolent attempts to disgrace and injure the antagonists of slavery; and ruthless persevering contrivances to criminate and to silence all Methodist preachers who will not basely aver that man-stealing is Christian, have almost continuously marked its disgraceful course.
The collision, however, extended, until that paper evinced a determination to crush all the ministers who contend for the expulsion of slavery from their church. A ceaseless stream of calumny was effused against their character, and every opportunity to refute that injustice was denied. No alternative existed, but submission to the galling yoke of ecclesiastical bondage and proscription, or to justify their measures and demonstrate the truth of their principles, and the rectitude of their claims. Another paper consequently was established in New York, called "Zion's
Watchman, and Solomon's doctrine has been verified—the fire does not go out for want of wood. The belligerents arrayed themselves for war, and the dissension will not end until slavery has ingulfed the church, or the church óby prayer and fasting' has cast out the incarnate fiend.
This controversy has elicited some almost incredible specimens of prelatical arrogance and chicanery. The Methodist General Conference of 1836, permitted individual slave-drivers in that body most offensively to bully and vilify the advocates of emancipation, and actually censured some ministers for praying at a public meeting. The narratives of this fact which we have read, reminded us of the “Shaver's Sermon,' upon the expulsion of six young men from the University of Oxford, for praying and reading the Scriptures. At subsequent annual Conferences, the Methodist prelates who ex officio preside, have usurped the authority to refuse petitions which have been presented. They have rejected reports which were prepared by order of the Conference. Resolutions proposed in due form have been indignantly repelled, so that they have not been read. Even after debate upon a topic which has been introduced, the lordly master of the assembly has refused permission, that the motion should be propounded for decision. Thus, in truth, arresting all business, silencing free discussion, and defrauding the members of their right; the prelate scoffs at the responsibility of his brethren, perpleses their consciences, and renders the Conference a mere servile tool to sanction his anti-christian compliance with the mandates of slave-holders.
In this agitation the Methodist Episcopal church in the United States is now involved, and except in isolated portions, no efficient and extensive good to the souls of men can be achieved. The spirit of sectarian proselytism may increase their nominal members, and secure them the plaudits of the wicked, but they have cause to anticipate the dread denunciation which the prophet Hosea pronounced against the ancient idolaters: * I will be unto Ephraim as a moth.'
At the late Conferences avowals have been made, and measures have been adopted which evince that a radical change is essential throughout the whole confederacy. They have exemplified two of the most useful characteristics which were unfolded by the ancient Israelites. They have openly denied and denounced the self-evident truths of their own authorized standard of faith and practical piety; "they have changed the truth of God into a lie,' by perverting the right ways of the Lord, so as to contend that the most flagrant iniquity is an inherent part of Christian morals.
Not content with thus desecrating pure and undefiled religion during more than two years, they have wantonly and systematically persecuted, maligned, and cast out of their synagogues, the unimpeachable servants of Christ, for no other cause than this— those followers of Jesus have asserted the truth of their own articles of religion, have been anxious to disconnect their church from slavery, and will not solemnly deny their own ordination vows, and betray the kingdom of light and liberty to the minions of corruption and darkness. This ungodliness is fast extending. In all these things we see the downward course of backsliders from the truth; so that unless divine mercy interpose, Christians, and especially ministers of the gospel who wilfully and pertinaciously distort the sacred oracles, to the sanction of oppression, fraud, and licentiousness, may justly and fearfully anticipate that the time will come when “judgment must begin at the house of God.'
II. PRESBYTERIANS. Speedily after the termination of the war in 1783, the scattered Presbyterians began to combine their efforts, and to re-establish their churches. In 1788, on account of their wide dispersion, it was deemed requisite to subdivide their large Synod into smaller bodies, who should annually meet by delegation in a General Assembly, after the Scotch prototype. They experienced, however, a difficulty in the subject of slavery. The Presbyterians of New York, Jersey, and Pennsylvania who then constituted the immense majority of their churches, not willing to have an open collision with the few congregations in Virginia, were induced, from mistaken and delusive notions of expediency, not to make slave-holding a barrier to communion; having been intimidated by the threats of separation, and by the hopes which the slave-holders encouraged, that if they would • let the delicate subject alone, the evil would soon * cure itself.' Fascinated by that syren song, the majority consented. The subject was introduced to their consideration a few years after, but the viper which in its primitive weakness could have been easily destroyed, was now become too strong to be expelled from his domicile, and the General Assembly proclaimed that although slavery was inimical to Christianity, it must be tolerated, and they implored the anti-slavery Christians and the slave-trading professors to live in peace and harmony after the example of the apostles. At the same time there was blazoned in their Confession of Faith, the impressive testimony that all men who keep, sell, or buy slaves are stealers of men, sinners of the first rank, and guilty of the highest kind of theft.' During the following twenty years nothing of importance occurred. The Presbyterians were constantly receiving large accessions by migrations from Europe, and from the Congregationalists of New England. Such, indeed, was their anxiety to increase their body, that in 1801, and in 1808, they held out the lure to the Congregationalists, that they should preserve all their forms of church government and discipline, provided they would receive Presbyterian ministers, and become nominally united with their Presbyteries. They all acknowledged the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as their doctrinal creed. For the sake of the communion of saints, the Congregationalists assented; and the Presbyterians rapidly attained a very influential rank among the larger sects; which was greatly increased by the facility with which opulent and distinguished citizens were admitted to official stations in their churches. Their boundaries were thus enlarged with little comparative effort; for the missionary labour at home was then almost a nonentity, and the perishing condition of heathen nations that sit in darkness, was searcely adverted to, except by a few individuals who were in advance of that cold and formal generation.
The slavery question was agitated among them from 1815 to 1818, and to allay the irritation of the slave-trading ministers and churches, they expunged the previously quoted definition from their Confession of Faith ; and having condemned one of their preachers, Mr. Bourne, for preaching against slavery, to propitiate the professors whom they had denounced as men-stealers, they relapsed into their boasted' ORDER.' The missionary spirit, however, had expanded. Information constantly disseminated through the Bible Society awakened attention, and excited a longing for additional novelties; whence many Christians in America put on strength, and shook themselves from the dust.
The Presbyterian Churches were governed ostensibly by their General Assembly, but in reality, a small junto of persons in Philadelphia and New York, and their immediate vicinities, controlled all the funds, and every other matter connected with the executive department of the ecclesiastical fraternity; and to them there seemed to be no disposition to object even as recently as the year 1824. But about that period, circumstances transpired which elicited collisions, and produced the existing alienation and severance among the Presbyterians. A prodigious excitement concerning religion diffused itself with almost electric velocity through the north-western part of the state of New York, then settled principally by Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Amid the impressions wrought by divine grace on the hearts of vast multitudes, a deep solicitude for the conversion of sinners was developed, and it became a general conviction that more energetic measures must be adopted for the redemption of the • world that lieth in wickedness.' In the powerful emotions which were thus excited, other denominations participated ; but our direct reference now is to the Presbyterians. Zeal for the glory of the Redeemer led to the formation of the American Tract and Home Missionary Societies, with the Society for the education of pious young men for the ministry, and also to incalculably augmented exertions for the dissemination of the gospel among the nations who are in the shadow of death. In these societies, the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Reformed Dutch were the chief parties, with a few Calvinistic Pædo-Baptists. Some Episcopalians, Baptists, and Methodists took part in the Tract Society, otherwise the members of these denominations had no connexion with the institutions in question.
Speedily after these societies had commenced their operations, it was discovered by the rulers of the Presbyterian body, that a system was established which virtually grasped the sceptre they had wielded with so much complacency, and without a murmur from their unconscious and timid vassals. Envy and ambition took the alarm, and resolved, if practicable, to recover the endangered supremacy. A loud outcry was instantly raised from Dan to Beersheba, respecting fanaticism and heresy, two bug-bears invented to frighten the thoughtless and ignorant, and to enlist the formal and bigoted. In consequence, a large and protracted meeting of ministers was held to discuss the questions involved in the generic terms -- new light; new measures ;
and revival efforts,' with their collateral topics. A temporary quietus was however given to the clamour; and it became necessary to devise other schemes to excite alarm, and to regain their ascendency.
The subtle notion was then advanced, that the church alone ought to have the control of all institutions and measures which are adapted to extend the gospel of Christ, and to promote the salvation of the world. Men who propagate this truism must well comprehend the marvellous stupidity of mankind, or they would not mystify truth as clear as sunshine, until bigotry, sectarian prejudice, worldly-mindedness, and obstinacy, are substituted for gospel love and Christian fidelity. By an equivocal use of the word church, and the restricted application of it to their own community, they hoped to repossess their plenary
Thus began the strife in the Presbyterian household. It is melancholy to survey the last seven years of American Presbyterianism. The first contrivance was this—to persuade their members to transfer their donations from the Home Mis