Volume 1. Discussions:— Evangelical and Theological.


Vol. 2.33. A Thoroughly Educated Ministry.

posted 27 Mar 2014, 13:12 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 13:13 ]


At first thought we are surprised to find that the best established principles should need reconsideration and resettling in every age. Yet the explanation is not difficult. Some new pressure of circumstances, or some trait of mind in a part of the new generation, gives renewed prominence to the old objections against the settled principle, and temporarily overshadows the more weighty reasons for it. For every practical question has two sides, contras as well as pros. Then, it is forgotten that those objections were as maturely considered as they now are by us, when our fathers determined the system for us, and were properly overborne by the affirmative considerations. We are tempted to think that the contrary reasons have never been regarded as they deserve to be, and that we have a new light on the subject, until our innovating experiments, by their failure, teach us again that our predecessors had really looked more thoroughly around the subject than we had. Such a process-has been for some months engaging a part of our church, as to the general requirement of a thorough and classical education of our ministers. The two awakening essays which appeared in the October and January numbers of this Review, entitled “An Inquiry into the Aggressiveness of Presbyterianism,” are not the only outgivings of this movement. The overture of the Bethel Presbytery, pleading for a ministry without any classical acquirements, and other declarations, evince the unsettled mind of many. Our discussion, therefore, does not derive its whole importance from the wide attention which the brilliancy, force and plausibility of those essays are exciting.

The most of the points, so well made in them, we concede. Aggressiveness ought to be a prime trait of every church, and test of its fidelity; for what else is her great commission from her Lord, except a command to be aggressive until she has conquered the whole world? She ought to be able to reach the poorest and lowest. Presbyterial supervision ought to be wiser and more effective. There is a startling lack of ministers, calling in trumpet tones upon Christian men. Looseness in examining candidates, false and deceptive verdicts of a scholarship which does not exist, and literary indolence in the applicants, are painfully inconsistent with our rules and professions. The practical relations of our seminaries to our Presbyteries are most anomalous and mischievous. Our constitution, though of well proved wisdom, is not inspired, and therefore its betterment is not impossible. In our author's pungent presentation of these points, we heartily rejoice. The one point on which we take issue with him is his proposal to revolutionise our system of training ministers, in order to overtake our aggressive work more rapidly.

The argument for this proposal is drawn from a comparison of our numbers in the four Southern Atlantic States with the numbers of the Baptist and Methodist Churches in the same regions. The allegation is that they, no older than we on this ground, have each made fivefold progress over us, in number of ministers and members. This fivefold growth is ascribed mainly to the facility and speed with which they multiply ministers and cheapen their labour, by reason of their not requiring classical education of them. The inference is, that we must imitate those denominations, so far as to cease to require—though we shall still invite—such training of our candidates. The author thinks that we need ministers whose grades shall differ in this sense, to perform the different kinds of missionary and pastoral work.

First, the fact assumed needs inquiry. Is it true that each of these denominations has done five times as much real work for Christ and souls as our own? Our author claims this, and rather dogmatically forbids us to go behind their statistics, or to deduct any more from them than from our own, for inaccuracies. It is impossible for sensible men, acquainted with stubborn facts, to submit here. Our own statistics may be loose; but theirs are doubtless far looser. This could not but result from the independency of the Immersionist churches, and from the notorious facility with which the Methodists demit or resume their church membership. Are all the hundreds of their “local preachers,” in any continuous sense, labouring in the ministry? Is not the country notoriously sprinkled over with members who have not been to the Lord's table for years, whose families frequent no church or Sabbath-school?

But both denominations have become far more numerous than ours. We freely admit it; yet we do not admit that this has been the result of the inferiority of our system of rearing our ministry. Twenty other solutions of their success are listed; and but little influence seems to be assigned to any of them—none at all to the most—by our author. The really influential causes of their comparative numerical growth do not appear in his list.

One is, the broad scriptural catholicity of the Presbyterian Church, It is the most liberal of all churches, receiving all true penitents to membership, of all shades of doctrinal opinion, having no shibboleth, communing with all, unchurching none, who teach the essential rudiments of salvation. Now, everybody condemns other people's bigotry; yet every carnal man is naturally a bigot as soon as he ceases to be a mere indifferentist. Hence, this wide catholicity of our church is an obstacle to her popularity with the carnal, because she firmly refuses to give them this gratification of pride and dogmatism, or to allure them by any partisan bait; but holds out only the pure and enlightened love of the holy truth of the gospel. It is well known, indeed, that this adverse world is in the habit of calling the Presbyterian the most bigoted church, at least next to the Popish. People think so, because she sternly refuses to cater to their secret bigotry.

But a second influence is more potent:—our church presents to the world the humbling doctrines of the gospel with faithful candour:—man's death in sin and inability for all spiritual good; his entire dependence on efficacious grace; the demands of a perfect law; God's eternal and essential punitive justice; the worthless-ness of man's works and sentiments for his justification; the everlasting doom of contumacious sin. These are the doctrines which carnal man hates. He also dreads perdition. Yes, with a selfish dread. And therefore is he charmed with any theory of redemption which takes off any part of the edge of these hated truths, and yet makes plausible promise of escape. The Methodist church is avowedly Arminian, and the Immersionists are partially so; the independency of the latter has borne its usual fruit, the partial relaxation of the old Calvinism of the denomination. Arminianism is semi-Pelagianism, repolished and reconstructed. There are a few modem improvements. These were probably intended by Mr Wesley to make a compromise between the Arminianism of Episcopius, Grotius, and Whitby, and Calvinism. But there is no compromise. The attempt to patch the old garment with new cloth only results in a lack of consistent juncture in the “Wesleyan theology,” which gives occasion, in that church, for all the shades of preaching, from moderate Calvinism down to almost blank Pelagianism, according to the personal impulses of the ministers.

Again, in competition with the Immersionist churches, Presbyterianism meets a capital disadvantage in scripturally refusing to countenance any shade of ritualism. She does not permit her sacraments to be misunderstood on that point by any one. Everybody comprehends, as to her, that she sternly rejects every plan for manipulating sinners into a state of salvation by a ceremony; that she refuses to allow any process less arduous than that of a living faith, a deep repentance, including “the full purpose of and endeavour after new obedience,” and a holy striving in duty and life-long watchfulness. It is true that all better Immersionists profess to discard ritualism also in their dipping; but in spite of their disclaimers, the inordinate importance given to that form, with their close communion, practically encourage both a ritualistic and an exclusive temper. To the carnal, and even the partially sanctified heart, it is very seductive to find one's self exalted by a shibboleth and a ceremony into a spiritual aristocracy, sitting nearer God's throne than other Christians. This powerful attraction Presbyterianism will not and cannot use.

But doubtless the chief cause of the numerical spread of the other churches, and especially among the ruder classes, is the employment of “new measures.” These, the anxious-seat, the altar of penitents, and others, known as “revival measures,” have hitherto been almost universally used by Methodists, and generally by Immersionists. They are as influential as they are deleterious. They cater to the strongest passions of the sinful heart. By parading in public the vivid, and often the hysterical, emotions of penitents, and especially of females, they offer to the populace that spectacular excitement which is as fascinating to them as bodily intoxication, and draws the gaping crowd as powerfully as a hanging, a horse-race, or a pugilistic battle. These measures also engage the passion of sympathy, a passion, as universal as it is misunderstood. They allure the awakened carnal mind, by flattering it with the permission, yea, the direct encouragement, to adopt a gust of sympathetic excitement, a fit of carnal remorse, with the calm of the natural collapse which succeeds it, and a shallow, spurious hope, in lieu of that thorough work of mortifying sin and crucifying self along “with Christ, which, we teach, alone evidences a title to heaven.” No -wonder that these “measures” have been found a prime enginery for religious self-deception; the patent process for building wood, hay, and stubble into the fabric of the visible church, instead of precious metals and stones. If our consciences would permit us to resort to these measures, we could burn over wide surfaces, as others do, leaving them, as they do, blighted and barren for all more scriptural methods. Thus this unhealthy system works against us, not only by sweeping the multitudes, by unsound means, into these other communions, but by searing and hardening what is left, so as to unfit them for our sober but safer methods.

These are the differences which account, so far as merely natural means are concerned, for the greater facility with which these denominations gain popular accessions. It may be said that, in urging these points, we are guilty of making “odious comparisons,” and of insinuating, at least, disparagement of sister churches. If our reasonings on these points are untrue, then we are thus guilty. But if we are correct, then loyalty to truth requires us, in studying the comparison of results to which we are challenged, to state the true solutions. But we state them in no spirit of arrogance or insolence towards others; for we accompany these points with deep and sorrowful confessions of the imperfections of our own household. The nominal membership of all the churches, including our own, is, doubtless, deplorably mixed. Witness the prevalent worldly conformities; the incursions of dissipating amusements; the decline of family religion and discipline; the Sabbath-breaking by communicants, and even ministers; the loose and unscrupulous methods of “making money;” the indifference of multitudes to the obligations of old debts; the practical prayerlessness of countless families and individuals. The correct inferences to draw from all these corruptions are:—that any conclusions whatever from these hollow numbers, as to the methods of a real and spiritual efficiency in God's work, are mainly out of place, and untrustworthy;

that the number of counterfeit coins among our supposed gains. are too large to leave much place for prudent counting up; that the church of Christ at this time is called to study genuineness much more than numerical increase.

If the question be raised, why the church does not grow faster? we are persuaded that the real answer, which most needs looking at, is the one which our author dismisses most hastily:—that the fault is not ecclesiastical, but spiritual. The real desideratum is not new methods, but fidelity to the old, a true revival in the hearts of ministers and Christians themselves, a faith that “feels the power of the world to come,” a solemn and deep love for souls. What we most need is repentance, and not innovation.

We are persuaded, however, that the Southern Presbyterian Church is contributing to the general advancement of Christ's cause, along with sister denominations, in ways of her own, which are not to be measured by numerical results; and it is not arrogance, but truth, to view these contributions. In the natural “body there are many members, yet one body, but all the members have not the same office;” and it is so in the ecclesiastical body of the visible church-catholic. Presbyterian Ism is providentially fashioned and employed to do for Christendom her own peculiar part. It is the conservative branch of the family of churches, checking the departures of all the others from sound doctrine. It is the exemplar of scriptural organisation. It is the sustainer of the more thorough education of both ministry and laity. And we assert that, constituted as poor human nature now is, it is entirely reasonable to expect that Presbyterianism cannot, in the nature of the case, both perform all these her peculiar precious functions, and also compete successfully for the largest and most promiscuous numbers. The two results may be now incompatibles. And hence it may be justifiable that Presbyterianism should make the practical election, and pursue these vital results which are peculiarly assigned to her in providence, though at the cost of resigning the more promiscuous numerical greatness. The normal school cannot have as many pupils as the popular school; to do so it must cease to be normal.

The issue raised, then, is this:—whether it is not now our duty to give up our constitutional requirement of a classically learned ministry, and provide another grade of ministers, equipped only with piety, seal, and an English training, in order to gain these numerical accessions, like our Immersionist and Methodist neighbours. It is not proposed that we shall lower the standard of learning in our Seminaries, or discourage such as have taste for it from acquiring classical training; but that there shall be another wide door into our ministry, by which a large number of ministers of another grade shall be permitted to enter, -with only an English education. On the other hand, we hold that our present theory of preparation should be left unchanged, and only more faithfully executed. The extent of this is, not to make classical learning so essential to the being of a ministry as to refuse the character of a valid minister to those who are without our training, but to assert that it is a true source of increased, efficiency; and hence, inasmuch as every one who avouches the obligation to serve Christ ought to feel obliged to serve him the most and the best possible, we conclude it to be our duty to gain that increase of capacity for service.

The first reason we urge against innovation is, that it opposes the deliberate judgment of the wisest and best of our fathers, when viewing and deciding the very same problem. Is it said that the tremendous emergency arising out of our growth of population has put a new face on the question, in the presence of which they would have decided otherwise? No. Dr John H. Rice, for instance, foresaw precisely this increase and this emergency. He looked full in the face the figures disclosing the slow relative growth of Virginia Presbyteries. And in the presence of these express facts this is what he did in 1825:—he devoted his great powers to pressing these two points, the evils of an uneducated ministry, and the equipment of Union Seminary. Never, for one moment, did the facts sway him and his co-workers to favour the hurrying of a single partially educated man into the field; their only idea of the remedy was, to provide means as speedily as possible to give the most thorough. education to the largest number of ministers. The same thing was true of the fathers who began the creation of Princeton Seminary in 1811, Ashbel Green, Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, and their comrades. The same was true also of Moses Stuart in New England, and the men who created the Congregational (American) Education Society. They saw the solemn emergency; they appreciated the church's slow progress in overtaking it; they refused all other remedy for it than the one to which they devoted their energies; means for the thorough education of more numerous men to reap the perishing harvest.

But it is suggested that there is substantial difference in the case now, because we now have a rich and profuse literature in English, covering all the departments of theological learning, whereas, when the Presbyterian constitution was first devised (say 1649-1651), all was locked up in Latin. We are told that, even at the day of Albert Barnes, he had nothing in English to begin with, save Doddridge's Family Expositor.

This greatly misrepresents the facts. We must remind readers, first, that the dates of the creation of our constitution, as an American church, are not those of the Westminster Assembly but are 1729, 1758, 1789, and especially 1820. At the last date which marks the real establishment of our polity, the English works on all the branches of divinity bore as large a ratio to the Latin then accessible to American scholars, both in quantity and value, as at this day. To make it much otherwise, indeed at the epoch of the Westminster Assembly, one must strangely forget the works of the great English Reformers a century before, from Cranmer onward, many of which were in English He must forget that the age of the Westminster Assembly was adorned by such writers as Lightfoot, Richard Baxter, Manton John Owen, the prince of expositors, Joseph Caryl, Sir Robert Boyle, Bishop Hall, Matthew Poole, the Scotchmen Baillie Henderson, and Rutherford, the evangelical prelates Usher and Leighton, the poet and divine John Milton, and a multitude of others. These men illustrated every part of biblical learning by works which, to this day, are mines of knowledge for the more pretentious moderns, and that, not only in Latin dress, as Poole's “Synopsis Criticorum,” but also in English, as the same author's “Annotations.”

Now, when we add to this noble catalogue of English biblical lore of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the yet more profuse works of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth, how much is the trivial assertion of Barnes worth? Not to dwell on the profound works of the scholars of the Anglican Church, such as Dean Prideaux, Bishops Hammond, Bull Stillingfleet, Warburton, Waterland, Pearson, we remember that age witnessed the critical labours of a Bentley and a Mill, the Hebrew Grammars (in English) of Bayley, Fitsgerald, Joseph Frey; the Lexicons of Parkhurst and Frey, the publication of Dr George Campbell's Gospels, the vast and unsurpassed work of Dr Lardner (Credibility), the prophetic studies of Sir Isaac Newton and of Bishop Newton and Dr Faber; ministers had possessed Doddridge from 1740; McKnight from 1756; Dr Benson from 1735; Paley's Horæ Paulinæ from 1790; Blair on the Canon from 1785; Lowth's critical works from 1787; Whitby from 1761; Dr Gill from 1763, unsurpassed, perhaps unequalled, by any commentator since, who wrote on the whole Bible;

Matthew Henry from 1706; Scott from 1790; not to dwell on the long line of American divines from Drs John Cotton and Cotton Mather down to Jonathan Edwards. No, the framers of our constitution did not require learning of their ministry because the stores of information were then locked up in Latin, but because they knew that knowledge of the originals of the Bible was essential to make a competent teacher in the church. Nor are the English books of this age on divinity more learned, or accurate, or useful, than the former; they are more frequently feebler rehashes of the very materials already gathered by those admirable old scholars.

We have, then, the battle to fight over again for the utility of thorough education, and a knowledge of the “dead languages,” to the pastor. Let us again define the ground we assume. It is not that the Christian ignorant of the classics may not get the rudiments of redemption out of English books, or may not so teach them to another as to save his soul. It is not that this plain man's ministry is invalid, because he is no classic. It is not that such a man, if greatly gifted by nature and grace, may not do more good than many weaker good men with their classical training. But we 'assert that this training will be, to any man, gifted above his fellows or not, an important means of still greater efficiency, correctness, authority, and wisdom, in saving souls, and that the lack of it will entail on any pastor a considerable (comparative) liability to partial error, mistakes, and injury of the church and of souls. Now it is each minister's duty to love God, not with a part, but with all of his heart; and to serve him, not only as well as some weaker brother is doing, but with the fullest effectiveness possible for him, he being such a man and in such circumstance as he is. It should be with each minister as with the faithful and devoted bondsman. He may be gifted by nature with a giant frame, so that with a dull and inferior axe he cuts more wood for the master in the day than another with his natural feebleness who has the keenest axe. By “putting to more strength,” he may even cut the average day's task. But if, by grinding his axe thoroughly, he is enabled to cut even two days' task in one, if he loves the master he will grind it. And even if his day is advanced towards the middle of the forenoon, if he finds that an hour devoted even then to a thorough grinding, will result in a larger heap of wood well cut by nightfall, he will stop at that late hour to grind.

Now, as to the high utility of classic culture to the educated man, the arguments which have convinced the majority of well-informed men for three centuries, have by no means been refuted by the multiplication of books in English. Latin and Greek are large sources of our mother tongue. No man has full mastery of it until he knows the sources. Translation from language to language is the prime means for training men to discrimination in using words, and thus, in thought. There is no discipline in practical logic so suitable for a pupil as those reasonings from principles of syntax, by processes of logical exclusion and synthesis, to the correct way of construing sentences. As a mental discipline, this construing of a language, other than our vernacular, has no rival and no substitute in any other study. And if the language to be construed is idiomatically different from the vernacular, with its own genius, collocating thoughts and words in its own peculiar order, as is the case with the “dead languages,” this fits them best of all to be implements of this discipline. It is the best way for teaching the young mind to think. We do not dwell on the culture of true taste, and the value of the fine models presented in the classics. It may be retorted that there is fine writing in English too; why may not this cultivate the taste? We reply; these English models are moulded after the classic, if they are really fine. Is it not better to take our inspiration from the prime source than the secondary? Moreover, they are usually so imbued with classic allusion and imagery that only a classic scholar can understand them. True, Milton wrote in English; but the reader needs to be as much a Latin and Greek scholar fully to comprehend him as to read Virgil and Sophocles.

But the prime fact which determines the question is, that the Bible was given by God in Greek and Hebrew. The Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament alone are God's word. No translation or commentary is infallible. No man who must needs “pin his faith” as to the interpretation of a given phrase upon the “say so” of an expositor that “this is just what the Greek means,” can be always certain that he is not deceived. Does one say, this is all the laity have? Just so; and therefore no such layman is entitled to become the authorised teacher of others. “The analogy of the faith” may give the intelligent English reader practically a certainty that his translators and expositors do give him the more fundamental and obvious truths of redemption without any substantial error, and that he may be sure of his own salvation. But it ought to be the aim of the religious teacher, who undertakes to lead others, to attain accuracy also on the lesser points. No atom of revealed truth is useless to souls. The lesser error may perchance be the means of leading some soul to the greater, even to the destructive, mistake. The duty of the pastor to go himself to the fountain head of the exposition may be illustrated thus:—an author offers to him his English commentary on Scripture designed for the English reader. The pastor receives it and says, “That is well. But, Mr Expositor, you yourself tested your own expositions by the light of the original Greek?” “No,” he answers, “writing only for English readers, I myself stopped at the English version!” That pastor would throw the commentary from him with indignation. But the pastor is the commentary, of his charge; they have the same right to require of him that he shall not stop short of testing his expositions to them until he gets to the infallible standard.

Again, it is often the pastor's duty to defend the correct exposition of the truth against impugners. How can he do this successfully unless he is able to argue for the translation he assumes, when he is always liable to be assailed with the assertion:—“I deny that the original means what you say.” Shall he meet assertion only with bald assertion, while confessing that he himself is not qualified to judge whereof he affirms? This would be a sorry polemic indeed. For instance, the pastor ignorant of Greek has declared that the word rendered in the Scripture “justify,” does not signify an inward and spiritual change, but only a forensic and declarative act of God in favour of the believing sinner. The Roman priest rises and says:—“Holy Mother Church teaches the opposite; how do you know what the word signifies?” “I read what I asserted in Dr Hodge's English Commentary on Romans. He says so.” “But Holy Mother Church is inspired. Is your Dr Hodge inspired?” “No.” “Do you know Greek, so as to assure us, yourself, that he may not be mistaken?” “No.” “But” the priest adds, “the church is not only infallible, but knows Greek perfectly; and she asserts, of her knowledge, that you and your Dr Hodge are mistaken.” In what a pitiful attitude is this “defender of the faith” left, although he is, in fact, on the right side, with nothing but an assertion and a confession of ignorance to offset a more confident assertion.

It is worth remarking also, that an incomplete knowledge of the original languages is not to be despised in the pastor. A tolerable knowledge of the rudiments, which would not suffice him to originate independent criticism, may enable him to judge intelligently of another's criticism of the original. Or it may furnish him with the weapons to overthrow completely the arrogant assailant who knows no more than he does and yet boasts much. A young pastor in Virginia was once debating, during a series of days, the “Thomasite” creed with its founder a man of boundless dogmatism and pretension. He, like the Anabaptists of Luther's age, denied the conscious existence of the soul apart from the body after death. He boldly asserted that he knew Hebrew; that the Hebrew Scripture gave no countenance to the idea of separate spirit in man; for that the word currently translated soul in the English version meant only a smelling bottle! The young pastor related that when Dr Thomas began to parade his Hebrew he began to tremble, for he had the guilty consciousness that the dust had been gathering on his own Hebrew books ever since he left the Seminary. But the intervening might gave him an opportunity to examine them, and his Lexicon at once cleared up the source of the impudent assertion by giving him under Heb. ____, (“breath,” “soul”) the phrase from Isaiah 3:20:—Heb. ____; “smelling bottle” (bottles of odours). All, therefore, that was necessary was to take this Lexicon to the church next morning, read the extract, challenge all competent persons—of whom there happened to be none present—to inspect his citation, and show the absurdity of reading “smelling bottle” wherever Heb. ____, occurred. Thus, as he humorously stated, he hewed Dr Thomas to pieces with his own smelling bottle. Here a small tincture of Hebrew answered a valuable purpose:—without it, our advocate would have had nothing bat assertion to oppose to assertion. It should also be admitted that a critical knowledge of the Hebrew tongue is less essential to the pastor than of the Greek, and its lack less blameable. For the New Testament résumés and restates all the doctrines of redemption contained in the Old Testament. Hence, he who can be sure that he construes all the declarations of the New Testament aright, cannot go amiss as to any of the doctrinal statements of the Old Testament, though he has only the English version. But even this admission cannot be extended to the historical statements of the Old Testament; and as they have an interesting, though subordinate, value for illustrating the plan of redemption, the minister who knows Greek but not Hebrew cannot be fully on the level of him who knows both. For, in general, there is a sense in which the best translation cannot fully represent its original. Pope's Homer shows us Pope rather than Homer; Dryden's Virgil, Dryden fully as much as Virgil. There are shades of thought, connections of words and ideas, idiomatic beauties and aptitudes of expression, which a mere translation does not reproduce. These points, lost in any modern version, are not essential to the getting of the fundamentals of redemption; but they clothe the teachings of revelation in a light and consistency which he that undertakes to teach others ought not to slight.

There is a practical testimony to this argument. It is found in the example of some of the best of those excellent and useful men who have found themselves in the Baptist or Methodist ministry without classical knowledge. They, seeing its vital necessity to the guide of souls, have given themselves no rest until they have acquired, often by unassisted study, a competent knowledge of the New Testament Greek at least; many also of the Hebrew. Their consciences would not suffer them to remain without it.

This position is also sustained by this very simple and natural view. 1 Timothy 3:2, requires of the presbyter-bishop “aptness to teach.” This cannot mean less than didactic ability to explain the gospel correctly; and we may grant that this would be sufficiently conferred by fair general intelligence, perspicuous good sense, the gift of utterance, familiarity with the Scriptures of the New Testament, and a personal experience of gospel grace. The intelligent tradesman or mechanic in Ephesus might possess these. But ought not the modern pastor to possess this minimum, qualification? Should he not be abreast, at least, of the Ephesian mechanic? Let it be remembered that this Greek, now the classic “dead” language, was then the vernacular. The educated Englishman must be no mean Greek scholar to have that practical mastery of the idiom which this mechanic had, granting that the mechanic had not the knowledge of the elegancies of Greek which the modern student may have sought out. But more than this:—the events, the history, the geography, the usages, the modes of thought, the opinions, which constituted the human environment of the New Testament writers, the accurate understanding of which is so necessary to grasp the real scope of what they wrote, all these were the familiar, popular, contemporaneous knowledge of that intelligent mechanic in Ephesus. He had imbibed it in his daily observation, reading, and talk, as easily and naturally as the mechanic in Charleston has imbibed the daily facts about current politics, cotton shipments, familiar modern machinery, or domestic usages. But to us now all this expository knowledge is archæologic! It is gained accurately only by learned researches into antiquity. This imaginary picture may help to put us in the point of view for understanding our argument. We may suppose that the chasm of eighteen centuries is crossed, so that an Ephesian scholar—not mere mechanic—appears in Charleston now, audit is made his duty to instruct his Greek fellow-colonists in the municipal and state laws. But they are printed in English, a tongue strange to him, antipodal to Greek in idiom. Well, this difficulty may be surmounted by learning English, or, as our opponents think, simply by purchasing a translation of South Carolina laws into Greek; though how this translation is to enable him to guarantee his clients against error in their legal steps passes our wit to see. But this obstruction out of the way, he begins to read. He finds enactments about property in “cotton!” What is cotton? The wool which old Herodotus reported grew on trees in Nubia? And property in steam engines! And in steamships! And in steam cotton-compress engines; and in stocks of railroads, and in banks, and in government securities! And of buying and selling cotton futures! And of valuable phosphate works, etc., etc. What a crowd of surprises, of mysteries, of astonishments! How much to be learned, after the knotty, sibilant, guttural English is learned, before the book has any light to his mind!

We thus see that the plain Ephesian mechanic elder had immense advantages over us, inuring directly from his epoch, contemporary with the events of redemption, from his vernacular, from his providential position for understanding the sacred books. But we again urge the question. Are we “apt to teach,” unless we make up our deficiencies to a level somewhere near his? The modern who has become a learned Greek scholar and archaeologist has not done more than reach the level of this Ephesian elder. It were well for us if we had reached it.

Only one other point in this wide field of argument can be touched. The great apostasy of prelacy and popery was wrought precisely on that plan of a partially educated ministry which is now urged on us. As time rolled on, antiquating the language and the facts and opinions of the apostolic age, the church forgot the argument illustrated above, and vainly fancied that she would find the requisite “aptness to teach,” as Timothy found it, in pious men taken from the mass of society. Men read church history now under an illusion. When they hear of the pastors and fathers of the early church, as writing and preaching in Latin or Greek, because these are the learned languages now, these must have been learned men! But it was not so; these languages were their vernaculars. True learning was not the requisite for the ministerial office in the patristic ages. A few, like Jerome, had biblical learning; the most were chosen without it, precisely on the plan now recommended to us. The Latin pastor knew no Greek nor Hebrew, but read his Bible from a translation, precisely as our author wishes his new evangelist to do now. The Greek pastor knew no Latin nor Hebrew. The result of that experiment is indelibly written in church history the result was the gradual development of popery; the “dark ages;” the reintroduction of idolatry; the mass, bloody persecutions, and the corruption of Christianity. This lesson is enough for us; we do not desire to witness the repetition of the experiment. It was by just such expositions, founded on a translation, for instance, that the great Augustine, ignorant of Hebrew, and nearly ignorant of Greek, but energetic, eloquent and confident, introduced into the theology of the Latin church those definitions which it took all the throes and labours of the Reformation to expunge; which made μετανοια mean penance (pœnitentia); δικαιωσιν mean conversion, and faith (fides) a derivative of the verb fit, “it is done,” thus representing faith as work. Shall we be told that Protestants have now learned that lesson so well that there will be no danger of their being again misled on those points, even by uneducated guides? Perhaps not on those points. But who can foresee on what other unexpected points? The ingenuity of error is abounding.

Reference is made to a literary revolution which is to extrude the study of the classics from their place, and substitute other (modern) languages for them, or modern sciences; and it is claimed that this revolution has gone so far, and is so irrevocable, that in making the classics a requisite for preaching we narrow our field of choice to one-fifth of the fully educate young men of the country. We see no evidences of such revolution as permanent. We see, indeed, a plenty of rash innovation; but there is no sign that the educated mind of Christendom will submit to such a change in the methods of liberal culture. The business school is relied on, indeed, to make architects, engineers, and clerks; but real education, in it:—higher sense, still resorts to the classics as the foundation Germany, for instance, “the school-mistress of the nations,” has her “real-schulen” for the training of the men who are expected to devote themselves to the “bread and butter sciences;” but her gymnasia, where her youth are prepared for the professions. hold fast to the most thorough teaching of the dead languages. The plea that we limit ourselves away from four-fifths of our young men by requiring classical training, is refuted by this simple view. The educated, in any mode or form, are a small fraction of any population. Suppose, now, we retort, that by requiring that sound English education in divinity, which is described to us as so desirable and sufficient, we preclude ourselves from the whole field of choice except that small fraction; wherefore we should require no education, classical nor English, but ordain the common mass-ignorance. The reply to this our sophism would be patent:—that while the church will not ordain ignorance, she does not preclude even the most ignorant, because she proposes to educate (in English) and then ordain all worthy applicants. But if classical training is essential to the minister's best usefulness, as we have shown, the very same reply avails for us. The church does not exclude the four-fifths of the cultivated English scholars, by requiring of all classical knowledge; because her call is to come forward and accept a classical education, and then be ordained. The man who is fit for a minister will not refuse the additional labour for Christ, when he learns that it is requisite for his more efficient service of Christ. But it is said, the man whose heart God hath touched, may have no Latin, and may be middle-aged, and may have, moreover, a family on his hands. The classical process is too long for him to attempt. To this the answers are two. Very few men at middle age ought to be encouraged to take up the clerical profession. They must be men of peculiarly good endowments of nature and grace, or both they and the church will have to repent the unseasonable change of profession. And second, for those peculiar cases our system already makes full provision. To any fit man's plea, that the preparation required of him by the church is hopelessly long, she has this answer:—no such man, however behindhand in his training, ever fails to receive, among us, the aid and encouragement to carry him through the desirable training, Her answer is, to point to that noble and honoured class of her ministers represented by the explanter, James Turner of Bedford; the ex-carpenter, Dr J. D. Matthews; the ex-ship captain, Dr Harding; and to say to all like-minded men, if Christ gives you the will, we pledge ourselves to give the way.

It is urged that, by our requirements, we actually limit God's sovereignty. He may have elected the devout man without Latin, while we practically refuse to have him. That this is a “begging of the question,” appears from one remark:—suppose it should be that God's election and call are to a thorough education, and then to preaching. But whether this is God's purpose is the very question in debate. To assume the negative is to beg that question. Should the affirmative be true, then our requirements are not across, but in the very line of God's purpose.

We are pointed to the inconsistent execution of our system to the perfunctory examinations of Presbyteries, the shameful ignorance of some candidates, the practical setting at naught of our own constitution; and we are told that we have just enough of the old system, in name, to drive off from us the good men who make no pretence of classical knowledge, and yet not enough to keep out other men as ignorant, and less honest. Now, on this we remark, first, that this charge is not brought by us, but by others; and it is not our mission at this time to affirm it. But, secondly, if it be true, the inference drawn from it, that our slow growth and small success mainly are caused by a lack of this class of less educated ministers, will find its complete refutation in the facts charged. For surely no other solution of our scanty success need be sought, if those discreditable facts are true. If courts of Christ's church thus trample or their own profession and their own rules; if they thus dishonestly certificate ignorance as scholarship, assisting such impositions on society; if the young men who become our pastors have no more conscience than to contemn and waste the precious opportunities for learning provided them by the church, so as to come forth from them pretentious dunces; if such grovelling laziness in the season of preparation is the measure of these young men's energy and devotion in their ministry, there is a mass of sin at once abundantly sufficient to insult our God, grieve his Spirit, and effectually alienate his help. Our quest is ended. There is no need for our looking one step farther to find out what is the matter. Such a ministry cannot be blessed of a truthful God, and cannot succeed. The one work which remains for us is, not to change our constitution, but, with deep repentance and loathing delinquencies so shameful, to return to it, and live up to it. Let us try that first. If these charges are true—which it is no task of ours to affirm—let us execute our righteous rules in examining and licensing in such a way that God's truth shall be honoured, real merit recognised, and dishonest indolence shamed and banished from among us. Then perhaps, we shall find that our ministry will be efficient, without innovating on the wisdom of our laws, approved by the experience of centuries.

It is argued that since society includes various grades of taste, culture, and possessions, our church is suffering for the lack of different grades of ministers. But we thought that the parity of the ministry was one of the corner-stones of our constitution. Methodists, or prelatists, can consistently have different grades: for they retain some features of hierarchy. Our church, in its very essence, is not a hierarchy, but a republic, Now, there is one sense in which, with an equally thorough education, we shall have, not grades, but sorts of ministers endlessly various, and adapted to all the various parts of our work. No two minds are exactly alike; no two temperaments. God, who bestows the different shades of nature, provides for this variety; that is enough. All we need is to do as our author so well inculcates in his January number—allot the right man to the right work by our Presbyterial supervision. This is entirely compatible with parity. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” But when we begin to make a substantive difference in the educational privileges of ministers, to train them for different grades, these will soon be virtually marked as higher and lower grades. “Ultimately, the forms will be moulded to the virtual facts, and we shall have, like the Methodists, the beginnings of a hierarchy.” And whereas it is supposed that the more cheaply trained preachers will be specially adapted to the plainer and poorer congregations, our knowledge of Presbyterian human nature makes us surmise that these will be the very charges to insist most upon having the fully trained minister, and to resent the allotment of the less learned to them as a stigma and a disparagement. It is much to be feared that the new grade will be obstinately rejected by the very grade of hearers for whom they will have been devised.

The desideratum claimed is, that there shall be a way, like the Methodist mode, for giving many ministers their adequate training without the expense and delay of segregating them for years in scholastic institutions, along with a useful occupation in parochial labours. Now, we are struck with the thought that our constitution provides expressly for just this way. It nowhere makes a college or a seminary an essential. All that it stipulates for, in the way of means, is a two years' training under “some approved divine.” This, of course, throws the door wide open to the incoming of the very ideal painted. The young man may join any experienced, pastor, assist him within or without his field of labour, pursue his studies under his guidance, in connection with these evangelistic labours, present himself before Presbytery, and, if his “parts of trial” are adequate, demand his licensure with the full sanction of the present' constitution. Now, if such a mode of training is so desirable, is so strongly a “felt want,” how comes it that none enter into this open door? Why has there been such a rarity of such cases in our church since 1825? Why are not many learned and wise pastors—of whom we have so many—thus bringing on many godly candidates? The obvious reply is, that the good sense of the church tacitly perceives this training unsuited to the times. Pastors practically feel this, churches feel it, and the young men feel it. It is the same feeling which is to-day operating in the Methodist Church to make them substitute this method of training, long so peculiarly their own, by one more nearly like ours. In a word, the door is already open. If the Christian community felt its need of this way, it would use it. It does not use it; and the inference is that really it does not want it.

We have been told that by this way we should get a cheaper ministry for our new fields. Men thus trained, not having spent so much in their training, would work on smaller salaries. Now, the only experience we have does not support this hope. Most of the Methodist evangelists were trained thus; but they really receive better salaries than the Presbyterian. When the various allowances are added up, theirs is found a better paid ministry than ours.

The urgent comparisons made between our method and that of Methodists and Baptists cannot but suggest another thought:—that we, if we make the proposed change, shall be in danger of “putting on their old shoes just when they are throwing them away.” If these denominations are good exemplars for us, then it is to be presumed that they understand their own interests; their fine results indicate wise management. Now, it is significant that both these denominations are now expending great effort in making certain changes in their methods of rearing ministers, and that these changes are in the direction of the way we are now advised to forsake. They have tried, and are trying, two different ways. They are in a transition state. Before we make their way our guide, it will be well to wait and see which of their two ways they are going to approve finally for themselves. If we are correctly informed by those who are in closest intelligence with their influential men, these are yearly less and less satisfied with their old species of training, and more and more desirous to have all their ministry improve the advantages of the excellent seminaries of theology which they have founded. Hear, for instance, the testimony of Mr Price in the Southern Presbyterian:—“And, in proof of this view, it is a remarkable fact, that those very causes to which this writer ascribes their more rapid growth, are becoming more unpopular every day with those denominations.” While he and others in our church are advocating a lower standard of ministerial qualification, that we may keep pace with the Baptists and Methodists, these denominations are directing the most intelligent energies of their respective churches to raising their grade of scholarship; their uneducated men are losing caste and influence; the ministers coming forth from their theological schools are establishing a public sentiment and a more rigid rule of systematic theology, and of clear and accurate statement in doctrine, before which the loose and extravagant discourses of a class of preachers that once exercised. a powerful influence fall under sharp censure, and are even occasionally exposed to ridicule.

“There are unlearned men in these churches, and such may be licensed and ordained in ours, under our provisions for extraordinary cases, whom the most intelligent are bound to respect as called of God, and whose usefulness none can deny; but when our Baptist and Methodist brethren are casting off certain methods, which they have weighed in the balance and found wanting, it becomes us to consider well before we take up that which they throw away, especially when they are free to confess that our example, and the evident fruits of our more thorough training, have powerfully impelled them towards change.

“The writer in the Review has heard of the Cumberland Presbyterians. If he has been correctly informed, he will find that no branch of the Presbyterian Church has, in proportion to its numbers and resources, more colleges, universities, and theological schools. If he attends their General Assembly, he will be impressed by the distinct and painful line of demarcation between their learned and their unlearned men. And when he sees and hears some of the latter, though he may find much to admire in the vigour of their speech and the vigour of their labours, he will not wonder that, as a people, our Cumberland brethren are making, perhaps, more vigorous effort”, than any other Presbyterian body to educate their ministry, and thus obliterate one of the distinctive features upon which they went out from us. When the Revelation Dr Lyon brought into our General Assembly, some years ago, a report against certain proposals of union with the Cumberland Presbyterians, he did not hesitate to present, as one of the arguments of the committee that he represented, that, by such a union, our church will be brought under the control of an overwhelming majority of uneducated men. If some of the theories now in vogue among us are put into practice, we may reach this alternative without uniting with the Cumberlands; and they, in turn, by raising their standard, as they now seem determined to do, may be in a position, by and by, to raise the same objection to a union with us.

“We are reminded that our system now requires a longer and more expensive preparation than the other liberal professions. And why should it not, when our professional tasks are infinitely more responsible? But facts here argue on our side again, in that society is steadily demanding a raised standard of preparation from lawyers and physicians. Is this the time to lower ours? The well-furnished young physician, for instance, gets, in his youth, a pretty fair classical education; then he reads medicine a year with some doctor; then, if he graduates in one year (most have to spend two) in a good school of theoretic medicine, like that in the University of Virginia, he does remarkably well; then he goes into a New York or Baltimore hospital one or two years, to get the clinic instruction. And even the plainer country neighbourhoods are now requiring so much of training of their doctors! The other professions are advancing largely; it is no time for ours to go back.”

It has been often and justly remarked that it requires more mature training and ability to teach unenlightened minds accurately than cultivated ones. It was considered by discerning persons the crowning manifestation of Dr John H, Rice's trained capacity, that he could not only preach to the edification of General Assemblies in Philadelphia, but could go then to the Bethel Seamen's chapel and preach with equal effect to the rough sailors. If we are to bring poor and rude communities into our denomination, then they will need the best trained, not the inferior, minds, to inculcate on them our logical and profound system. And as regards the frontier communities, there is no greater mistake than that of concluding that, because their exteriors are rough, the ill-furnished minister will suffice to instruct them. The testimony of Dr N. L. Rice, for instance, in the Assembly of 1857, was wholly the opposite; and he spoke of his own knowledge. Said he:—“The garb of the frontiersmen may be rough; their dwellings may be cabins; but they include the most independent, active, inquiring minds anywhere to be found in America. It is the fact that their minds and temperaments are such which has made them emigrants; the plodding, the slow, the minds that like to lean on precedent and prescription, and are content to be led—these stay in the old neighbourhoods. It is the adventurous minds who seek new fortunes. A very large portion of them are men of thorough education. The educated emigrant is most often a 'free-thinker,' so-called; for one main impulse which pushes the man of culture to brave the roughnessess of the frontier is, that he has broken all intellectual trammels, if not all sound restraints of orthodox thinking. Hence we find these frontier societies seething with most eager speculation, questioning all old foundations. To suppose that the good man of slim intellectual resources can control these minds is the most fatal mistake. The man who is to command them needs to have the most mature resources of learning at the readiest possible command. He needs to be a walking library, of the most advanced learning, not only in divinity, but in all connected studies.” This witness is also true of our Southern frontiers. You shall see the “cow-boy” of Western Texas, sometimes reclining on his greasy blanket to read a pocket edition of Horace or Moliere. In their “shanties,” alongside of the whiskey-jug, will be found the writings of Huxley, Bradlaugh, and Büchner, with the Westminster Review, and the works of Renan. Our evangelists confirm Dr Rice's testimony, and tell us to send none but thoroughly furnished men to the frontiers.

It has been supposed that great gain-would result from the alternative of an “English course” in our seminaries for such candidates for the ministry as could not find time or means for mastering the original languages of Scripture. A manual of church history might be taught, it is supposed, without involving Latin or Greek; and the exegetical and doctrinal studies would be founded on the English version alone. Were the teachers in these seminaries entitled to any consideration in this discussion, their friends might perhaps raise an embarrassing question on their behalf. Their time seems to be already fully occupied in the teaching of the fuller course to their classical students and the exposition of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, which alone are the ipsissima verba of God. Shall they cease to give this course, in order to do justice to the other class of their students? Or shall they give the latter class a light, perfunctory. Sabbath-school course, such as they will have time for? Would such a little sketch be a worthy training for a Presbyterian minister?

It will behove the advocates of this system to consider three consequences which are very distinctly involved in it.

One is, that it will admit the imperfect education of a great many more men than should be entitled, according to the new plan itself, to enter the ministry upon it. Men's over-haste, or indolence, or ill-considered seal, or self-confidence, will prompt many of the candidates to plead that they also are poor enough, or old enough, or gifted enough, or married enough, to claim to enter through the English door, of whom the judgment of our innovators themselves “would be, that they had no grounds for claiming that easier way.” The pressure of churches and Presbyteries for more labourers to be speedily gotten will assuredly second their pleas. The result will be the general breaking down of our standard. The majority of our ministry will be the uneducated, the minority the educated, as it was in the other denominations in those old ways from which they are striving so hard to escape.

The second will be, that the students of the English course will be much at the mercy of the professor for their doctrinal and exegetical opinions. When the teacher gives his construction of the text, if the English pupils attempt to say that the English version, or the commentaries thereon, seem to sustain another meaning, he has only to reply:—“I assure you, young gentlemen, that the original supports only my construction; and if you understood that language, you would see it to be so.” That is, to those students, an end of debate. Or else they must learn to hold their teacher in suspicion and disesteem, as a man capable of imposing on their ignorance. There will be one caste of minds which will resent this mental domination, the self-sufficient and crotchety. The consequence will be, that to this class their teacher will be no guide; but this is the class to whom influential guidance will be most necessary. Now, we surmise that this sweeping power in the professors of our seminaries will not be very agreeable to that large class of our presbyters who cherish along with us a well-grounded jealousy of seminary dictation, and all other forms of centralisation. It may be said, our present professors may all be trusted. But they cannot remain always. Unhappily, such things have been known in seminaries as heretical professors, and yet oftener as crotchety professors, fond of riding exegetical hobbies. Shall we arm these with this dangerous power of leading off the English students after their error?

The third consideration is, that if the new plan of training is to be carried on to any successful extent, we must reconcile our minds to become a “broad church.” We must lose our doctrinal unity. Again, we advance the experimental evidence as the most solid. All the denominations which practice the methods of training ministers proposed become broad churches. The Immersionists are a broad church; we have ourselves heard Calvinism and Arminianism preached in it from the same pulpit. The Cumberland Presbyterian is a broad church. The Methodist is a broad church. As we remarked, the Wesleyan theology receives from Methodist ministers various interpretations, from moderate Calvinism down to Pelagianism. There are ministers and presiding elders who hold the perseverance of the saints, just as we do. The church of Alexander Campbell is a broad church; he himself declared that in it “all sorts of doctrine were preached by all sorts of men.” In this we are not reproaching these denominations. We use the phrase “broad church” in no sense offensive to them, but as a ready and familiar phrase to describe a condition of things among them on which they congratulate themselves, namely, a tolerance in the ministry of the same body of different schools of theological opinion, “within the scope of the fundamental doctrines of salvation.” But we only point to the fact that it has been the conscientious fixed policy of us Presbyterians not to have these doctrinal diversities and contrarieties among our official teachers. We receive all shades of opinion, compatible with true repentance, to our communion; but we require the voice of our official body to give one sound as to revealed theology.

Now, the experience cited above proves that if we are willing to lose this doctrinal harmony and unity, the chief glory of a church of Christ, we have only to imitate these other denominations in their method of training ministers. The explanation of the result is easy. Human minds are imperfect instruments of thought, and their opinions naturally tend to variety and diversity. Again, the religious world teems with competing clashing doctrines, each striving for recognition and pressing itself on others with its utmost ingenuity of argument. The proposed method of training, by reason of its comparative brevity and imperfection, must leave its pupils more pervious to the injurious religious errors which obtrusively meet them. These different “grades” of preachers will not have the unifying bond with each other of a complete esprit de corps. The result will be doctrinal divergence; and our church must either submit to become a “broad” one, or be again rent by schism. We are aware that there is no patent infallible process, in fallible men's hands, for transmitting a doctrinal homogeneity from age to age. But the means which comes nearest, the only means of any tolerable efficiency is, under the grace and light of God's Spirit, the thorough education of ministers in an orthodox theology, and that by similar methods for all. Thus not only is the competent knowledge of the divine science acquired by all, and the practical skill in moral reasoning and exposition, which detect error and sophism in false doctrines, but all imbibe, so to speak, the Presbyterian and orthodox idiosyncrasy of mind The doctrinal affinity in the correct creed is propagated through the whole body. Now, he who really doubts whether the Presbyterian theology is right, may also doubt whether it is proper to employ these influences for unifying and stereotyping men's belief in it. But those who, with us, are sure that our theology is right, will also feel that it is not only allowable, but our duty to wield those influences for making our theology permanent in our ministers' minds. It is the only human way to avoid the tendencies to “broad Churchism.”

In conclusion, we most emphatically affirm all the regrets expressed at our lack of a holy aggressiveness, and every ardent aspiration for a remedy. But this remedy is not to be found by innovation upon our system, but in the reformation of the persons who work the system. What we need is not a class of imperfectly educated ministers, but repentance, holy yearning for souls, prayer, and more abounding labour by educated ministers; more family religion and true Christian training in households, which is, after all, the Presbyterian's main lever; more self-consecration in our laymen; and especially our employment of the “dead capital” now lying unused in our eldership. The elder need not be a “local preacher,” after the pattern of the Methodist “local,” but the intelligent elder ought to be something much better; active in spheres of work which the church needs much more than sermonising or formal “preachments,” vis., catechetical instruction, teaching the gospel from house to house, oversight, social meetings, exhortations. Sabbath-schools. Do we feel a “crying need” in our out-lying destitutions for such work as this, and for labourers to do it more cheaply than the educated evangelist? This is precisely the work which intelligent ruling elders ought to do. All the elders in Scripture, ruling and teaching, were required to be “apt to teach.” Our conception of the New Testament organisation of the congregation would not pull down a part of the ministers to an uneducated level, but lift up all the elders, including the ruling elders, to the level of official teachers. Each congregation was governed and taught, not by a one-man power, a sort of local prelate, but by a board, a plurality of elders, all of whom were teachers, though not all of equal teaching authority, learning, or gifts. But, to ensure full intelligence and permanent orthodoxy, we should require the presiding elder in this board to have the full equipment of well attested theological learning. One such man, thoroughly furnished, presiding over the board, and regulating and harmonising their joint instructions, would give a sufficient guarantee of soundness in the faith. The others under him, in their less authoritative teaching sphere, would safely fill in the details of the work. The ruling elder would not act as catechist as though he were an independent integer, but as a member of the board, under its direction, and especially under the direction of the president, who is fully trained and tried; even as he, in his public work as authoritative herald of salvation, does not act independently, but under the control of his Presbyterial Board, the Presbytery. Thus the didactic work of each congregation would assume a largeness, occupying several men's hands; while the thorough theological furniture of the one man at the head would guarantee doctrinal safety in the whole. Such was evidently the apostle's conception in the pastoral epistles.

Vol. 2.32. The General Assembly of 1881.

posted 27 Mar 2014, 13:09 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 13:10 ]


This Assembly, it is surmised, has left an extremely pleasant impression upon the minds of its members. The little “Mountain City” of Staunton, Va., as its inhabitants love to call it, is at all times a pleasant place to visit. Situated in the middle of the “Great Valley,” midway between the Blue Ridge and North Mountain, it presents the tourist, in its bold and rounded hills, endless undulating surface and distant but majestic mountain ramparts, a landscape to whose perfect beauty nothing is lacking, except the contrast of the level assure of a Swiss lake As though to greet the great convocation with a cheerful welcome, the country clothed itself in all the glory of summer verdure, combining the greenness of the North of England with the brilliancy of an Italian sky. Nor were the good people behind their country, in the hospitable reception extended to the visitors. The doors of the beautiful homes of all denominations were thrown open without distinction. All that a cordial, by unpretending, hospitality could do, was combined with mountain air and propitious weather to make the season of the Assembly's sittings enjoyable.

A representation absolutely full would have given one hundred and forty-eight commissioners. Of these there were present on the first day one hundred and sixteen; and during tin whole sessions, one hundred and thirty. Precisely at 11 A.M. of May 19th, the Moderator, Dr Thomas A. Hoyt, of Nashville ascended the pulpit. A great audience filled the spacious and commanding church. The text of the opening sermon was Galatians 1:6, 7., and its subject was the duty of preaching only that system of truth known as the “doctrines of grace,” as the only one revealed in the gospel. This glorious system was unfolded in constant contrast, as the text suggested, with the other schemes of religion erroneously deduced from the gospel. The “doctrines of grace” exhibit their supreme excellence in these four respects:—

I. In that they alone do full honour to the Holy Scriptures, asserting their full inspiration in consistency with the personality of their writers; and thus claiming for them supreme and absolute authority; while admitting the beautiful adaptation of their humanity to the human soul. The “doctrines of grace” also recognise the distinction between natural and revealed religion, and between the general contents of Scripture, all of which are authoritative, and the special truths of redemption, while they alone recognise all the declarations of the word, and successfully combine them into a compact and logical system.

II. The “doctrines of grace” cohere fully with the revelation God has made of his own essence and personality. They convert the mystery of his Trinity in Unity from an abstraction into a glorious practical truth, by connecting man's redemption essentially with the several persons and their relations and functions. And while all lower theories of redemption must needs mutilate God in some of his perfections in order to permit man's escape from his doom, the gospel plan not only permits, but requires, the highest exercise of all the attributes which make up God's infinite essence.

III. The “doctrines of grace” portray our fallen nature in colours exactly conformable to human history, and the convictions of man's guilty conscience. And they propose to deal with the fallen soul in the way most conducive to its true sanctification and salvation, by enforcing the holy law, in all its extent, as the rule of the Christian's living; while they quicken into action the noblest motives of love and gratitude, by bestowing an un-bought justification. Thus.

IV. These doctrines embody the only salvation suited to man's wants and worthy of God's perfections. It is a salvation righteous, holy, honourable to God, which yet bestows on sinners an assured, ineffable, rational, and everlasting blessedness. Hence the high and holy duty, enforced as much from the tremendous necessities of lost souls as from the rights of Jehovah, to know no other gospel than this, and to preach it always and everywhere.

The preacher, evidently furnished with the advantages of a thorough preparation and untrammelled by notes, delivered this great body of vital truth in language elevated, classic, and perspicuous, supporting his words by an utterance and action of graceful dignity. As he expanded side after side of the glories of the true gospel, the hearer's soul was raised higher and higher towards the level of the angelic anthem, “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace, good will to men!” Our Redeemer-God was brought near in his full-orbed glory; his severer attributes harmonised, but undimmed, by his benevolence and mercy. Man fallen was placed in the dust and ashes of humility. Man redeemed was lifted to a hope and bliss as honourable to God, the giver, as precious to the receiver. “Mercy and truth met together; righteousness and peace kissed each other.”

The new Assembly then proceeded to organise itself, by the unanimous election of Dr Robt. P. Farris, of St. Louis, Mo., as Moderator, an honour well earned and skilfully and worthily borne, and of the Rev Geo. A. Trenholm, of South Carolina, as Temporary Clerk.

The body quickly gave an earnest of its purpose of work, by resolving to proceed at once, in the afternoon, to hear the reports of the Executive Committees. These exhibited advancement, except in that work of fundamental importance, Home Missions. It is safe to take the money given by the churches to “these evangelical agencies as an index of the interest and prayer expended on them. Instead of the $40,000 which the previous Assembly found to be the least measure of the urgent wants of the Home Missions' work, and which it asked the churches to bestow, the committee receive for this cause $18,526. If the contribution to the kindred work of the Evangelist's Fund, $10,958, to the Invalid Fund, $10,248, and the sum of about $4,000 supposed to be spent in Home Mission work by Presbyteries not in connection, be added, we get, as the aggregate devoted in our church to home work and charities, …


The gifts to Foreign Missions were …


An encouraging increase of … $11000

The gifts to the Publication Committee …


The gifts to candidates for the ministry …


The gifts to the Coloured Institute …


And those to coloured evangelists …


Thus the total of these contributions was …


This is less than an average of one dollar from each of our reported communicants.

For some years past, the General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church, which also meets by precedent on the third Thursday of May, has sent to ours a simple greeting in the form of a telegram. To this our Assembly has usually responded in the same terms. On the second day of the recent sessions, Dr Adger, the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence, proposed that our Assembly should take the initiative, by sending, without delay, the usual message. This, to his surprise, evoked one of the most animated debates of the session. No opposition seemed to be made to the intercourse itself, while kept within the bounds of a simple recognition and expression of good wishes. But it was argued that the injuries and detractions put upon Southern Presbyterians by that Assembly, and never yet withdrawn or repaired, made it improper for us to take the initiative in such messages. Our commissioners to the Baltimore Conference in 1874, sustained by our Assemblies, had declared that the withdrawal of false accusations was an absolute prerequisite to the resumption of any fraternal relations. But the action proposed to-day was a departure from that righteous and self-respecting resolution. Moreover, it would be misunderstood as indicating a purpose in us, of which it is presumed no Southern Presbyterian could for a moment dream, to retreat from that position, and to approach a dishonourable and deceitful reunion made at the expense of truth and our own good name. It was urged that the separate independence of the Southern church was a great boon, mercifully bestowed on her by God at an opportune time, when that laxity of discipline and doctrine now so prevalent began to invade the Presbyterian Church of the North and of Scotland. This independence, then, is not to be regarded as an expression of our pique or revenge; but as a holy trust, in a solemn and unexpected way bestowed on us by the divine Head of the church, as a necessary bulwark for his vital truth among us. Its jealous maintenance by us, therefore, is not to be treated as a prompting of ill-temper; for this is an odious and slanderous travesty of the facts. The line of action hitherto pursued by our church is, rather, the simple performance of a solemn duty to God and his church and truth. And the slightest tendency towards the betrayal of this independence is to be deprecated.

It was replied by the other side:—that our Assemblies had never, on account of the unatoned injuries of the other church, refused all official intercourse with it; but from the first had responded to such civilities as might pass between us and any other denomination; that the ground taken in 1870, when an exchange of delegates was asked, was, that this especial mark of community of church-order and affection could never be extended, until false accusations against us were withdrawn; that the only question here raised, whether our Assembly shall send the first telegram, instead of answering theirs, is really a very trivial one, having no significance except that which would be given it by a refusal under existing circumstances; that our church's separate independence was indeed a priceless trust bestowed on her at an opportune time, as the protestants have well said; and that we and they are altogether at one in not tolerating the slightest thought of its surrender. Our church stands now where she has always stood; we take no step forwards, and none backwards.

The latter views prevailed, and the Assembly authorised the Committee on Foreign Correspondence to send the usual formal greeting to the Northern Assembly sitting in Buffalo, N. Y., only thirteen dissenting. In due time, the usual response came from the other body, and so the matter ended. But Dr Mullally, of Lexington Presbytery, and a few others, entered their protest, stating in substance the above arguments; to which the Assembly replied with the views advanced by the majority.

The transaction for which this Assembly will probably be most remembered was the final disposition made of the two counter reports on ”Retrenchment and Reform” in the Assembly's committee. On the third day these were taken up, and the Rev A. C. Hopkins, from Winchester Presbytery, chairman of the committee, was heard on this and a subsequent day, at great length, in defence of the majority report. The Rev S. T. Martin, the author of the minority report, also spoke in defence of his suggestions, in an excellent spirit and with great ingenuity and-force. That he had prejudiced the success of the few practical amendments in our methods, which he really urged, by taking too wide a range of discussion, and by asserting other doctrines and changes which the great body of the church dread as revolutionary—this had now become obvious to the amiable speaker, as it had all along been obvious to his friends. He now attempted to parry this adverse effect, by pleading that, when called by the Assembly to lay his whole mind before the churches for their discussion, he had but acted conscientiously, in speaking out the whole system of thought on our church-work, which honestly commended itself to his judgment. But now, when he was come to proposing amendments in that work for the church's adoption, he should limit himself to those few changes which were generally obvious and confessedly feasible. And he claimed that members ought now to weigh each of these proposals on its own merits, and unprejudiced by other unpopular speculations—as others might deem them—in which he might be nearly singular. This claim evidently was no more than just. But it was equally evident that members were unable to rise to the dispassionate level of this equity, and that the hearing of Mr Martin was prejudiced by the previous opposition to his more extreme views, even when he urged his most reasonable proposals.

These he now limited to two:

1. As to aiding education for the ministry, he proposed that an Assembly's Committee of Education should be continued, but that it should perform its brief duties without a paid secretary. These duties should be only to receive remittances from the stronger Presbyteries, and distribute them among the candidates of the poorer and weaker. As for the rest, the selection of candidates suitable to be aided, and the raising of money to aid them, should be left, where the constitution places it, with each Presbytery. But the Assembly should advise Presbyteries which have, for the time, no candidates, and those which have wealth, to contribute to the weak Presbyteries, through the Assembly's committee.

2. As to the work of Evangelism and Home Missions:—that there shall be, as now, a committee and secretary of Home Missions. But each Presbytery shall collect its own funds, and manage its own Evangelistic and Home Missions' work. The Assembly, however, shall enjoin all the older and stronger Presbyteries to send to the central committee a given quota of all their collections for this work—say one-tenth, or one-fifth—that this agency may have abundant means to aid and push the work of church-extension and missions in the weaker and the missionary Presbyteries.

The chairman, Mr Hopkins, on the contrary, moved the Assembly to resolve, that the present system “was substantially perfect, and needed no modification, except in slight details of exact responsibility.” After long debate, resumed for several days, the Assembly finally voted under the previous question against all amendments by a great majority—only eight adhering to Mr Martin.

The current discussion on this matter has been made so familiar to Presbyterians through their newspapers that it will not be again detailed here. Another great question was unavoidably mingled in this discussion, by the report of Dr Girardeau's committee on the Deaconate, also made, by order of a previous Assembly, on the morning of this third day. The whole contents of that thorough report will not be stated here; the readers of the Review have already seen the substance of it in the articles of Dr Girardeau, in our January and April numbers. Of course, all in the Assembly were ready to admit that the deacon is a scriptural officer; that every fully organised congregation should have deacons; that his office is distinguished from the presbyter's by its functions, which are, not spiritual teaching and rule, but collection and distribution of the church's oblations. But the positions of Dr Girardeau's committee excited the opposition of many on these following points, which are the points especially involved in the discussion on ”Retrenchment and Reform”:—The committee held that, in the fully organised church, the distinct separation between Presbyterial and diaconal functions was obligatory and proper, not indeed for the true being, but for the best being, health, and ulterior safety of the church. Many others held, that presbyters are also ex officio deacons, and may always assume, in addition to their proper teaching and ruling functions, diaconal functions, if convenience and policy seem to dictate it. But especially, the committee held that diaconal functions extend beyond the concerns of a single congregation, when many congregations are acting concurrently in matters of oblation and distribution; even as the local presbyter assumes rule over the church at large when he sits in a superior court. But the opponents of the committee held that the functions of the deaconate can never extend beyond the local concerns of a particular congregation. Hence it follows, that when many congregations, or the whole church, engage jointly in oblation and distribution, not a deacon, but a minister, shall perform this general diaconal work. Of course, the doctrine of the committee contains the corollary, that these treasury-ships and distributions also should be, like the congregational, in diaconal hands, where the church is fully and correctly organised. Then, qualifications and functions will be properly connected. Presbyters, supposed to be qualified and called of God to spiritual functions, will not be diverted and perverted from their proper duties to financial affairs—for which they are notoriously often disqualified. Financial affairs will be put into the hands of men not called of God to the higher and heterogeneous work of preaching or ruling, but specially selected for their experience in handling money. This is the point of connection between Dr Girardeau's report and the views of the minority on Reform; for one of the strong points of the latter had been, that the treasury-ships of the Assembly's Committees ought to be committed to deacons.

The Assembly, moved by pressure of business and an evident distaste for the discussion, resolved formally to postpone the consideration of the deaconate to next year; but none the less, the argument on these points was unavoidably mingled with that on Mr Martin's resolutions. Dr Girardeau, finding his positions assailed by high authority with the most technical weapons of logic, deemed it necessary to defend them technically as well as popularly and scripturally, in his report. He did both with eminent success. But as his written argument will be given to the church, and as we now only attempt a brief review of the Assembly's own debates, we shall not follow Drs Lefevre and Girardeau in their formal printed arguments. The opponents of the report placed much stress on the fact that the apostles continued to perform diaconal functions (as Paul, Romans 15:25, 26), after the appointment of deacons in Acts vi. A venerable member amused the house by saying that Judas, an apostle, was treasurer of the apostolic family by the Saviour's own appointment, and denominating him “St. Judas,” he asked why he was not as well entitled at that time to the prænomen as St. Matthew? If we ascribe to this citation of Judas's treasurer-ship the value to which alone it was entitled, that of a pleasant jest, then its sufficient repartee would be in saying, that this jumbling of spiritual and diaconal functions turned out wretchedly; as the money was stolen, and the officer disgraced. So that the example weighs on Dr Girardeau's side. But if the instance be advanced as a serious argument from precedent, then the answer will be, that Judas, when treasurer of the Saviour's family, was not an apostle, but only an apostle-elect. He was only in training for that high office.

In arguing from the example of Paul, that the minister's office includes the right to diaconal functions in the settled state of the church, it was strangely forgotten that the apostles were purely extraordinary officers of the church; they could not have any successors. The very reason for the temporary existence of such extraordinary offices was, that the frame of the new dispensation might be by them instituted when as yet it was not. From this simple fact follow two consequences. One is, that these founding officers must, initially, exercise all the organic functions of all necessary church officers. The other is, that when they had once established the full organism, no other officers could regularly claim to do the same from their example. Thus, in order that there might be a regular order of priests in the church under the dispensation of Sinai, Moses, the great prophet, must for the nonce exercise the priest's office in consecrating Aaron and his sons. But after Aaron and his sons were consecrated, Moses never presumed to sacrifice again. Nor did David. And when King Saul dared to imitate the argument of our brethren, by engrossing the inferior office of priest, he was cursed of God for the intrusion. (1 Samuel 13:8-14.)

Again, when it is argued that the Presbyterial office is still inclusive of the diaconal, there is a strange oblivion of the third chapter of 1st Timothy. There the apostle is, plainly, ordering the frame of the church for post-apostolic times. He provides for equipping the church with two distinct orders of officers, elders and deacons. As the qualifications are distinct, so the functions. There is no more evidence here that in a fully developed church an elder may usurp diaconal functions because he has been made an elder, than that a deacon may usurp Presbyterial functions because he has been made a deacon. The result of a scriptural view is, then:—that in the forming state of a given church, the officers who are properly commissioned to initiate the organisation must for the time combine in themselves their own and the lower functions. But the very object of their instituting the lower organs is, that in due time the functions may be separated, and the anomalous mingling may cease; that the church may have its orderly and safe ulterior growth. Thus, an evangelist, preaching the gospel in partibus infidelium, must, at first, exercise the function of examining and admitting adult converts as full members in the visible church. Strictly, this is a sessional, not a ministerial, function. But there cannot be a session until after there is a membership; so that the evangelist is obliged to do it. But now, does it follow that every pastor, who has a session, may properly usurp this sessional function? By no means. There is not an intelligent session in the land which would tolerate such systematic intrusions.

In the next place, that Christ and the apostles designed diaconal officers not only for the local, but the combined functions of oblation and distribution of larger parts of the church, follows naturally from the truths conceded to us. The apostles did institute the diaconal office. They did assign especially to them the official management of oblation and distribution. They did assign to the presbyters the distinct functions of spiritual teaching and rule. They did command the churches to exercise the “grace of giving” statedly. And it is admitted that whenever a given congregation, as a body, exercised this grace, the receiving and distribution went naturally into the deacons' official hands. But now, both Scripture and providence call the many congregations to joint exercises of this grace of giving. Why does it not follow, that the receiving and distribution should still fall into diaconal hands, representatives of the joint congregations? How does the circumstance that many congregations, instead of one, are now exercising this grace, make it right to break across the distinction of offices, which was so proper in the single congregation, and to jumble functions which were there so properly separated?

But this is not a human inference. The New Testament unquestionably gives instances of general deacons, other than the twelve, who managed this duty of oblation and distribution, not for one church, but for many. A member did, indeed, attempt during this debate to argue from 2 Corinthians 8:18-23, that a preacher of the word was intrusted with the diaconal function as soon as the oblation was a general one of many churches; but his argument was a mere begging of the question. He assumed that this “brother … chosen of the churches to travel with” Paul and Titus, “with this grace,” was a preacher. This was the very point he should have proved. But no man can prove it. On the contrary, it is obvious that this “brother” was a general deacon. Not a single trait or title of evangelistic or preaching office is given him by Paul. He is ”chosen of the churches” for the express purpose of “travelling with this grace;” that is to say, to collect and disburse the general oblations. He is not a presbyter, but (2 Corinthians 8:23) a “messenger” of the churches (a commissioner, ajpo>stolov.) The use of this title catches our brethren in the jaws of this sharp dilemma:—either they must hold with us that ajpo>stolov is here used of these general deacons in the lower and modified sense of financial commissioners of the churches; or else they must open wide the door to the prelatic argument, by admitting many apostles (in the full sense) besides and after the Twelve. The Twelve are always “apostles of Christ;” these general deacons are “apostles (commissioners) of the churches.” We have another example in Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:25; 4:18, unquestionably a deacon of that church, and called their “apostle” and λειτοθργον to Paul's necessities. We also have probable cases in the Romans, Andronicus and Junta (or Junius), Romans 16:7. Thus, the fact that this alms-receiver-general for the churches enjoyed “a praise throughout all the churches,” instead of proving that he must have. been a noted preacher, only shows how much better the primitive churches understood and honoured the general deacon than the Christians of our day do.

The form remissional of the discussion of Dr Girardeau's report to a future Assembly produced one result which it would be discourteous to charge as premeditated. His powerful voice was silenced in this debate, inasmuch as he was not a regular member of the Assembly. Hence but little of the truth was heard on his side, which, if advanced with clearness, would have given a very different aspect to the debate.

It would be exceedingly erroneous to suppose that the vote of almost the whole Assembly against a minority of eight, is an index and measure of the unanimity of our church in the position that our methods of committee action need and admit no amendment. Many side influences concurred particularly against Mr Martin and his propositions at this time. The discussion of desirable betterments is by no means ended, as time will show. This was made perfectly obvious to the observer by such facts as these:—that' some of Mr Martin's principles were and are openly advocated by many men of the widest experience and influence; that after the vote, very many -who voted with the majority were heard to admit that there is room for amendments, and that they should and must be introduced in due time, and each upon its own merits.

Dr Adger, for instance, announced himself, not as a revolutionist, but as one who desired to conserve and improve. He disclaimed all sympathy with the cry for retrenchment; he wanted more liberal expenditures. Our church can give and ought to give every year one million of dollars. His position was equally removed from that of the rash innovator and from the arrogant and fulsome assumption that all our present methods are too near perfection to be amended. Against adopting that egotistical position, there rise in protest these great, solemn, and sad facts:—that by present methods we only succeed in drawing from all our churches $123,000 for all the Lord's work, outside of pastoral and church support, which is less than one dollar for each member; and that our present agencies yearly afflict our hearts with the complaint that half our congregations neglect all cooperation! Is this so satisfactory? Is this to remain our best attainment? And whereas all criticism has been deprecated, as tending to destroy confidence and utterly cripple existing agencies, it turns out that this year of sharp criticism has shown a considerable, though still an inadequate progress! No; free discussion is the healthy atmosphere of a free church. The surest way to arrest effort and paralyse confidence is to choke down the honest questionings of Presbyterians by a species of bureaucratic dictation, and to leave an angry mistrust brooding in silence. But our churches cannot be so dealt with; they will think and speak independently.

Power conferred on our agencies is not a subject of dread. Power is efficiency. Power is life. Power is work. But the thing always to be watched is combination, or centralisation of power. Our present methods, notwithstanding all the safeguards of our former wisdom, suggest grounds of caution in these three particulars:—First, That they transfer so much of the church's home work (Education, Home Missions, etc.,) to the Assembly. It is the Assembly's agencies which must do everything. True, they are, by their rules, all required to act in concert with the Presbyteries; yet they are the Assembly's agencies; to the Assembly they are responsible; from it they derive their existence; to the extension of its prerogatives they instinctively lend all their practical weight. Hence, the Assembly has rolled over upon it too many of the functions which the constitution assigns to Presbyteries. There is too much blood in the head, and not enough in the members. Financial and executive work, which should be left to its proper local agencies, when thus drawn into the Assembly disqualifies this supreme court for its higher and more spiritual duties of conserving the doctrinal and moral purity and spiritual life of the church. So preoccupied is the Assembly with these engrossments of executive detail, that it has no time nor taste for other questions touching the very life of the souls of its people. But if our system hinders the efficiency of the Assembly, it likewise damages all self-development in our lower courts. The work of the Presbyteries being assumed by the Assembly, those bodies will not and cannot be expected to take its responsibility on them. Why need the Presbytery bestir itself to raise funds for its candidates or its own. Domestic Missions, when there is a great central committee of the Assembly anxious to do all that for the Presbyteries which cooperate, and ready to its power, and almost beyond its power, to meet every call properly made upon it?

But secondly, the fellow-feeling natural to these executive agencies, as children of a common mother, results in a combination of influence for each other and to resist criticism. It is not meant to charge the conscious formation of any corrupt “ring-power.” The honourable disclaimers of secretaries and committee-men are fully allowed, when they declare that they have made no overt compact to defend each other. Doubtless this is perfectly true; but the tendency to combination is uncalculated and unconscious; and therefore the more a subject of solicitude. It is not the fault of the men; they are good men and true, honourable and incapable of calculated usurpations; it is the fault of the system. Yes, you have an established system of central agencies, all of which have a common life, and when you touch one of them, all of them feel and resent it. What is there in the nature of the case to make it certain that your Education work, for example, is arranged in the best possible way? And yet, if it is proposed to make any changes therein, your Secretary of Foreign Missions, and every other secretary, will be found quick to come forward in defence of the established system.

But thirdly, while power is good, and while our powers might be acknowledged to be all right in themselves considered, surely it cannot be maintained that it is well to concentrate so many of them in one corner of the church. Last year at Charleston a strong effort was made to separate two of them; but to every observant eye there was a rallying of the forces which effectually prevented it. Now, do you imagine that the church is satisfied, or going to be satisfied, about this? Let this Assembly vote that all shall remain as it is, and will that prevent the church from repeating, in due time, her dissatisfaction with this concentration of so much power in so few hands, or in one corner of our territory?

The history of the discussion against “Boards” in the old Assembly (at Rochester, in 1860, and previously), might be instructive to us now. All of us admit that the old Board system was vicious; even unconstitutional. Yet all amendment was resisted, when urged by Dr Thornwell and others, by just such arguments as we hear to-day, against admitting even the smaller modifications prompted by the lights of experience. Dr Thorn-well was voted down, as we shall be to-day, by a very large majority. But only a few years elapsed, when lo! the Northern Church adopted his very principles. The old Boards of one hundred members were swept away, and Executive Committees of fifteen put into their places, but wearing still the name of Boards. The vanquished became the victors. It may be so, to some extent, again; For our present methods still retain some of the evils which Dr Thornwell then objected against the old ones:—too much tendency to centralisation; the atrophy, through disuse, of those smaller limbs of the spiritual body, the lower courts; and the transfer of diaconal functions out of diaconal hands. Dr Adger then advocated the two measures moved by Mr Martin.

The Rev Mr Quarles, of Missouri, in a long and able speech, also urged, in addition, these points:—That it seems almost farcical to send a Presbytery's Home Missions money to Baltimore, in order to send it back, at that Presbytery's demand, to pay its home-missionary; and to expend the church's money in providing for this useless migration of money checks, and in paying treasurers to do such business as this. But unless the Presbytery's will, which the rules of the Home Missions' Committee seems so fully to recognise, is to be resisted, such seems to be the useless nature of our proceeding on our present plan. Nehemiah, when he would arouse the householders in his defenceless town of Jerusalem to contribute to the building of a common wall, combined general patriotism with personal affections, by calling each man “to build over against his own dwelling.” The Assembly should imitate his wisdom. The way to do this is to leave local enterprises more to local agencies and affections. Christians will give more to help this known destitute church, in their own Presbytery, than they will give for that vague impersonal thing, “the general destitution,” a thousand miles off. Hence, it was claimed that Presbyteries acting for themselves have usually acted with more vigour, and raised more money, than those connected with the Assembly's Committee; while they have been prompt to contribute a certain portion to that committee for its frontier work.

The advocates of the majority were frequent in characterising Mr Martin's motions as visionary, as grounded in mere theory, and as unsupported by experience; while they claimed that theirs were sustained by the experience of seventeen years' success. This boast laid them open to a pungent rejoinder, from the damaging effect of which they seem to have been spared mainly by the forbearance of their respondents. It might have been answered:—that the desire for these betterments was in the fullest sense practical and experimental, being grounded, namely, in very melancholy and pointed experiences. For instance:—under the present boasted system, contributions to Education had fallen from fourteen or fifteen thousand dollars, gathered under another system, and that in the days of the church's poverty, to nine or ten thousand now. Last year the Assembly solemnly told the churches that Home Missions must have not less than $40,000 this year, or most critical losses would result. The excellent secretary afflicted us by telling us that the churches only gave him $18,000 for Home Missions. But these same churches have given $59,250 for Foreign Missions. It is impossible to ascribe to our people an ignorance of the plain truth, so eloquently put by Dr Hoge in his Home Missions address:—“That this cause cannot be second to any other, because the home work is the very fulcrum of the levers by which all other agencies seek to work for the world's salvation.” Hence, their failure to respond, their seeming depreciation of the home work under the foreign in the ratio of 18 to 59, must be ascribed to the defects of our present method. And especially did the history of the Publication Committee give us a most awakening experience. For there we saw an important and costly interest committed precisely to our present boasted methods, and utterly wrecked. An eminent divine was called to usurp the diaconal functions of an accountant and distributor, for which events proved him wholly unfitted, while he sunk into abeyance those preaching duties for which he was so richly fitted, called, and ordained. The result was the total insolvency of an agency which should have been profitable and prosperous, an insolvency which was only prevented from becoming flagrant by renewed and onerous special contributions exacted from the churches. And the most significant part of this experience is in the fact that, while our present methods, claimed to be too near perfection for criticism, were maturing for us this astounding calamity, the voice of faithful warning, uttered for instance by the excellent elder, Mr Kennedy, of Clarksville, was rebuked by precisely the arguments appealed to by the majority of to-day!

“Oh! fault-findings were mischievous. They repressed contributions. They hampered meritorious officers. They impaired confidence. They should be rebuked by the actual censure of the Assembly.” One would think that such an experience, so recent, should have inculcated more modesty in the majority.

There are a few more instructive thoughts bearing upon our present modes of aiding candidates for the ministry, which were not uttered in the Assembly. The Education collection is confessedly the unpopular collection with the churches. This every pastor experiences; and the scantiness of the returns attests it. But, on the other hand, we find that there is no object of philanthropy for which it is so easy to elicit liberal aid as to educate a given and known deserving youth for usefulness to his generation. The two facts, when coupled together, show that we have not yet gotten hold of the wisest method. Our present method makes it hard to do what, supposing our candidates to be really meritorious, the generous Christian heart of our men of wealth would make exceedingly easy. The money which, in all proper individual instances, comes easiest, we now make to come hardest. The mistake is obvious. Instead of presenting to the Christian heart the known concrete case of the highly deserving young brother, we present that impersonal and suspected abstraction, the unknown body of “indigent candidates.” In fine, the aid rendered should, in each case, be grounded, not on the candidate's indigence, but on his merit. It should be given him as the well-earned reward of diligence, self-improvement, and self-devotion. It would then stimulate and ennoble the beneficiary, instead of galling him.

We venture to predict that the church will finally concur in these conclusions, as to the various subjects agitated:

1. That unpaid committees without paid secretaries can never maintain in their vigour our various agencies for the world's conversion. There will be too strong an application of the old. maxim:—“What is everybody's business will be nobody's business.” Such an attempt would be too wide a departure from that ordering of human nature and providence which fits the energetic few to lead and the many to follow.

2. To direct and energise one of these works as executive head of its committee, is a work neither prelatic in its claims, nor derogatory to the ordination-vows of a preacher of the word. But the mere diaconal functions attending these agencies should be transferred, as fast as practicable, to the more suitable hands of deacons and deaconesses; the latter furnishing the church the most quick, intelligent, and economical service, probably, in this direction. Thus the secretaries will be released from pursuits heterogeneous from their calling, to devote their energies to their proper evangelistic tasks in organising the spread of the gospel by tongue and pen and press.

3. Some of these works, as that of Foreign Missions, will always be mainly under the control of the Assembly, by its committees. But those home enterprises in which the Presbyteries can act directly should be remitted to them. This will economise expense, prevent undue centralisation, and leave the hands of the secretaries, who will still be needed, free to do work more useful to the church than the engrossment of functions belonging to the Presbyteries.

4. An economy which would prove “penny wise and pound foolish” would be the poorest economy. Yet, it is a sacred duty of the Assembly to see that working-expenses are reduced to the lowest safe ratio, because the money handled is sacred, in most cases the gift of poverty and self-denial, to God, and every dollar needlessly diverted to the mere expenses of administration is so much taken from the salvation of perishing souls.

The Assembly of 1881 was happy in having but one judicial case before it. This was the appeal of Mr Turner, of the Central Church in Atlanta, against the Synod of Georgia. He had been cited by his session to answer to charges of fraud and un-truthfulness in the prosecution of his secular business. The testimony adduced did not substantiate these charges. But the session deemed that there was such proof of heedlessness as justified a serious admonition. In this admonition Mr Turner acquiesced. A few days after he asked his dismission to join the Methodist communion. The session refused tins, on the ground that he was not “in good standing,” inasmuch as admonition leaves the admonished member somehow in a species of probation with the session as to his standing, to be continued virtually at the session's option; and that even a member in good standing cannot demand dismission to another communion as a right, but must ask it of the option and courtesy of the session. These were the points raised by the appeal. In both the Assembly properly decided against the lower courts. It held that a mere admonition is a species of church censure which completes and exhausts itself when administered, if received with docility. To hold the contrary virtually raises it to a higher grade of censure, that of indefinite suspension, at the option of the session. But this is a distinct and a graver censure. To construe an admonition thus would punish the culprit twice under the same indictment, and the second time without trial. As to the second point, the Assembly decided, with those of 1839 and 1851, that no member of the Presbyterian Church can claim, as of right, a “letter of dismission” to another communion; but a member who is “in good standing,” is always entitled to a “certificate of good standing,” whenever he asks it. If he is found to have used it to institute membership in another denomination, then his name is simply to be removed from our rolls. And this is not an act of resentment or censure; but simply the logical sequel, with us, of his own exercise of inalienable private judgment, in electing another church connection.

The interests of Columbia Seminary filled a large place in the attention, and a larger in the heart, of the Assembly. The important points in the Directors' report were:

1. The request that the immediate government of the Seminary be remanded to the Synods of South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, the Assembly retaining its right of review over its proceedings, and a veto over the election of professors and teachers. This was unanimously conceded.

2. The Directors propose to reopen the Seminary in the autumn, with at least three professors. They brought the gratifying news, that a large part of the endangered or suspended investments have been regained, that thirty thousand dollars have been actually paid in for new investments, besides numerous subscriptions still outstanding; so that the institution will have the use of a cash endowment of $  … . …  from this date; which, besides the Perkins foundation, will liberally support three other professors. The Assembly, of course, cordially encouraged the Board to go forward, and reopen the institution at once.

3. The Directors, in conjunction with the Presbyterian Church in Columbia, now vacant, have formed and do now submit to the Assembly the purpose of recalling Dr B. M. Palmer from the First church in New Orleans, to the professorship of Practical Divinity in the Seminary, and the pastorate of his old charge. The Board regards these as essential parts of their own plan. Everything, in the first place, cries aloud for the immediate reopening of the Seminary, chiefly the great and growing destitution of ministers in the South and “West especially; but also the progressive loss of influence for the Seminary as long as it remains closed; the dispersion of the students of divinity of those sections, and their resort to institutions without the bounds of our Church; the evident use made of this season of suspension to undermine the independence of our beloved Church. It is, therefore, vital that the Seminary be restored to activity.”

But, in the second place, the same considerations demand that it be restored to a vigorous activity. A feeble existence would prove wholly inadequate to gain the vital ends in view. Hence it is for the highest interests of the church, that her best men and best talents be devoted to rehabilitating this school of pastors. But from this point of view, every eye and every hand points naturally to Dr Palmer, the former professor, the ex-pastor of the Columbia Church, as the one man who is able to give the necessary impulse to the Seminary. He has laboured long and hard in the most onerous pastoral positions; his experience is ripe; his age has reached that stage when his bodily vigour, adequate to many more years of efficiency in the more quiet academic walks, may be expected to flag under the enormous strains of a metropolitan charge such as his. This consideration goes far to counterpoise our sense of his great importance to New Orleans and the Southwest, and our sympathy with the grief of a bereaved charge there.

These views, eloquently advanced by the representatives of the Seminary, Drs Girardeau and Mack, proved so influential that the Assembly approved the action of the Board in electing Dr Palmer, by & large majority; the dissentients being the immediate representatives of the city and Synods which would lose him. But while the Assembly cordially sanctioned Dr Palmer's return to the Seminary, should his own sense of duty lead him thither, its courtesy towards his church and immediate associates in the Southwest prevented it from applying any urgency to his mind.

Two other topics claimed the attention of the Assembly, in connection with theological education, which were despatched during the later sessions of the Assembly. One was the report brought to that body by the representatives of Columbia Seminary, touching the resort of many of the candidates to seminaries without our bounds. Drs Girardeau and Mack stated that, when compelled to close the Seminary for a time, they had urgently exhorted their pupils to resort to Union Seminary in Virginia, as their natural and proper place, and as offering them the most efficient instruction, until their own school was reopened. Six had done so, but fifteen had resorted to Princeton Seminary. Indeed, adding those in other Northern and Scotch institutions, we find this anomalous state of affairs:—that about one-third of all our candidates in their theological course received last winter their tuition from institutions of the denominations which have chosen to take the positions of accusers of our church and opposers of its cherished principles!

It appeared also, that in every case, so far as known, inducements had been held out to these candidates, in the form of money assistance, to leave their own institutions. A very specious explanation was given, indeed, of this measure. It was said that several of the scholarships in Princeton Seminary had been endowed, in more prosperous times, by Southern donors, and that it seemed magnanimous for the North, rich and powerful, to offer the incomes of these foundations to the children of the South, in their poverty. This offer was coupled with no condition whatever, nor requirement of adhesion to the Northern Church.

Of the latter fact there can be no doubt; the managers of this measure are too adroit to commit so useless a blunder. They understand too well the force of Solomon's maxim, that “a gift blindeth the eyes of the wise.” They appreciate the silent, steady, but potent influence of association on mind and character,' and expect that the young, ill-informed, as the young men and women of the South already are, of the historical facts, the rights, the injuries, and the true position of Southern Christians, will surely absorb all the contempt for those principles they desire, during a three years' immersion in a sea of unfair and erroneous literature, preaching, and conversation. It is a safe calculation that, if we are stupid enough to allow the enemies of our church to train its leaders, we must be soon undermined and destroyed. Some who have acted in this matter may warmly disclaim such views; and their disclaimer may be candid. We are far from surmising that there are no men in the church of our assailants and conquerors really generous and magnanimous towards us. But various shades of motive may mingle. A professor naturally desires the éclat of numbers. Princeton naturally desires to retrieve her prime position in her own church, now eclipsed by her New School rival, Union Seminary in New York; and as Princeton's commanding numbers were largely recruited, in the days of the Alexanders, from the South, she desires to gain the land now, by drawing students from the same fields. But that Northern Presbyterians do approve and practice these seductions of our candidates from the more insidious motives, we should be silly indeed to doubt, in the face of such proofs as these:—that we find officers of our own church, disaffected to us, furnished in advance with these bids for our candidates, and authorised to buy, in the open market, any comer; that we hear Northern ministers openly profess the purpose, and boast that five years of such success as the last will seal the overthrow of the Southern Church; that those who are labouring to reinstate Columbia Seminary have actually met opposition to their pious and holy enterprise, inspired from this source, and by the undoubted motive of undermining our church through the final destruction of this institution. The insolence of this latter tactic, especially, inspires in every right mind nothing but indignation; and we profess none of that unchristian hypocrisy which pretends to make a virtue of suppressing its honest, manly expression.

Now it might appear at the first view that there is a remedy for this counterplotting, which is of the easiest possible application. This would be to advertise all our candidates that they have no earthly occasion to go abroad in order to receive any such assistance as they ought to desire in paying for a theological course. Their own institutions are abundantly able to give this assistance to all comers. No young man who deserves to be helped has ever found it necessary to leave a Southern seminary for lack of suitable pecuniary assistance. The boards and faculties stand pledged that none such shall ever go away from this cause. If, then, money is the inducement, the church might say to all its candidates who need this species of help:—“Here is the money ready for you at home; there is no occasion to go abroad for it.”

Why does not this suffice? For two reasons:—our church wisely places a limit upon the amount of aid given to each one; because, regarding the candidate's exercise of personal energy, independence, and self-help, as essential criteria of fitness for the ministry, she ordains that her candidates shall be assisted and encouraged, but not bodily carried. Her own officers, professors, and directors are bound to obey this excellent rule. But these bidders for our candidates from without disregard it, and offer larger pecuniary inducements. Thus the double injury and insult is wrought of breaking down a rule which our church has wisely established, and of interfering between her and her own children. The other reason is suggested by the whisper that the student who goes abroad also gains a much easier time; he reads easier text-books; less research is exacted of him; slighter examinations await him; looser scholastic and ecclesiastical restraints are held over him. Thus, after a course of light and superficial study, he can return to his mother-church—unless a fatter salary and more distinguished position invite him to desert her wholly—and still pass for a learned theologian, in virtue of that peculiarly Southern tendency to esteem omne ignotum pro mirifico.” Now, we avow that, to our mind, the latter inducement appears more degrading and mischievous than the former. Thorough study, diligent labour in the theological course, righteous responsibilities—these mean, simply, more efficiency in the pastoral work and in saving souls. The man who has a desire to evade these in order to secure an easier life with more superficial results, proves by that desire that he is not fit to preach Christs' gospel. The man who really desires to glorify him, desires to glorify him much; and he will never pause to barter away a portion of his Saviour's honour for this ignoble self-indulgence.

It was, therefore, with a timely wisdom that the Assembly took action on this matter. It did not advocate the narrow spirit which, pronouncing our own culture in every case all-sufficient for ourselves, refuses the aid of the learning of other peoples and countries altogether. But it declared that, as to those who may properly go abroad to complete their culture the suitable time is after they have grounded themselves in the principles and scholarship of their own land. The Assemble therefore urgently requested the Presbyteries not to allow any candidates to go abroad into the schools of other denomination! until they have completed the course offered them in their own Seminaries.

A most important modification in our theological education was also proposed in a strong memorial from Bethel Presbytery, S. C. This proposed, in substance, that while the present curriculum of preparation should be retained, and even extended for such students as desire and have time for it, an English course of theology, exposition, and history, shall be taught for others, without requiring either Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. This, of course, contemplated the licensing and ordaining of ministers upon this English course. The main plea urged was from the extent of the harvest and fewness of reapers. The comparatively slow growth and small numbers of the Presbyterian body were ascribed to the difficulties our system imposes on the multiplication of ministers; while the rapid growth of the Immersionists, Methodists, and others, was accounted for by the facility with which pious and efficient men can rise to the ministry in those communions. It was urged also, that such an English course, added to piety, seal, and good sense, would suffice to give us thoroughly respectable and efficient pastors. There was even a virtual attack upon the more learned training; where it was charged that it led the students rather around about than into the Bible, which should be the pastor's great text-book, and that our classical candidates, while well posted in the languages, were often found by their Presbyteries more ignorant of their English Bibles than intelligent laymen.

The committee on Seminaries, to whom this overture was sent, could not but find that it proposed a virtual change in the constitution. It therefore recommended the Assembly to answer, that the object of Bethel Presbytery could only be gained by moving the Presbyteries, in the orderly way, to change the constitutional rules for trying candidates for licensure and ordination. The friends of the overture, in order to evade this fatal objection, then moved the Assembly in due form to send down the proposition to the Presbyteries for their vote. This the Assembly, after debate, declined to do, by a vote of 55 to 37.

To the aspiration for a more rapid way to multiply ministers no pious heart can fail to respond; it is but the echo of our Saviour's words; “Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest.” But to multiply them by encouraging those who feel the call to content themselves with an inefficient and shallow preparation is another thing. In making a comparison between the growth of our church and of those who permit an uneducated ministry, large allowances must be made for the instability of a very large part of the accessions counted, and even of the congregations organised; the heterogeneous nature of those large communion rolls; and the mixture and incorrectness of the doctrinal views held. If these deductions were made, it would not appear so plain that the solid growth of these denominations is so much more rapid than of our own. Again, the change proposed would place us substantially in the attitude, as to a learned ministry, held by the Cumberland Presbyterians. It is, then, the plainest dictate of practical wisdom, that we shall ask ourselves whether “we should gain by exchanging our present condition for theirs.” Again, the standard of devotion set up by Christ for every Christian, and especially every minister, is that he shall not only purpose to serve his Lord, but serve him his best. Hence, the preliminary question for every man called of God must be whether the classical and biblical training prescribed in our constitution is really promotive of a minister's best efficiency. If it is, the same devotion which prompts him to preach at all must prompt him to desire this furniture for preaching better; and if it is attainable, must prompt him to acquire it. But the position taken by our church is, that to every man called of God to preach it shall be attainable. She will help all who are worthy of help. Nor has her pledge to do so been yet dishonoured. Here, then, is the ideal which we would present, in place of the one so graphically painted in the Bethel overture:—that aspirations of good men to preach should be as frequent and as readily multiplied among us as among Immersionists or Methodists; but that the teeming crowd of aspirants should be led, not to a rash and ill-furnished entrance on their public work, but to this best preparation; while the unstinted sympathy and help of their brethren should make their entrance into a learned ministry just as practicable for every one of them, as the entrance into an unlearned ministry is to the Immersionist; that is, supposing in all the aspirants a true seal and devotion; and without these, their aspirations would prove deceptive under every system.

The contrast between the candidate pretending classical training, but ignorant of his Bible, and the plain man of God, mighty in his English Scriptures, contains an illusion. How comes that classical scholar to leave the seminary ignorant of his Bible? Is a knowledge of the languages of inspiration, in its nature, obstructive of Bible knowledge? Surely not! Then the imperfect result must be due to the fact that this classical man has indolently neglected his better opportunities to know his Bible. Now, will the offering of another man worse opportunities ensure him against indolence? Suppose the student of this two years' English course infected with a similar negligence to that detected in the classical student, where will the former's line of acquirement be? When his indolence shall have sunk him relatively as far below his lower standard, will not his acquirements be contemptible? In a word, the expectation claimed is founded on a tacit assumption that, while many candidates pursuing the learned course are unfaithful to their better opportunities, and so exhibit inferior results, all the candidates pursuing the lower course will be models of exemplary fidelity and industry. Does the church see any guarantee of such superior spiritual principles in these men, in the fact that they have deliberately elected a less perfect way of serving Christ in the pulpit? We confess we do not.

A similar illusion harbours in the argument so often drawn from the primitive preachers ordained by the Apostles. These, it is said, were but plain, sensible, business men, soundly converted, taught of the Holy Ghost, and set apart to preach without other qualifications than these, with Christian experience and “aptness to teach.” They were required to study no foreign language, no curriculum of science We grant it. Let us represent to ourselves such a good plain man, in Ephesus, ordained during Timothy's days there; probably like Alexander, a mere coppersmith. But this plain good man had as his vernacular the Greek language, one of the languages of-inspiration. He was, by his own experience, practically conversant with that whole set of events, of miracles, of religious ideas and institutions, pagan and Jewish, which are perpetually involved in the explication and illustration of gospel truths in the Scriptures. Here, with his long experience of divine grace in his own heart, his reputation for devout piety and integrity, and his forcible gift of utterance, was his sufficient furniture for the pastoral office.

But now, let us remember that to us of this nineteenth century that Greek language is a dead, a learned language. All those facts and ideas which constituted that man's practical, popular intelligence, are to us now archaeology! They are the science of antiquity. How much study of the classics and history will it require to place a sprightly American youth simply on a level, in these respects, with that plain Ephesian? We may find an answer by asking, were that Ephesian raised from the dead among us to-day, only furnished with his Greek language and ideas, how much study “would he have to undergo to become equal to this American youth in his mastery of the English language and our contemporary knowledge? Does the most thorough seminary course put its graduate on a level with that good. Ephesian brass-smith, in his Greek and his Asiatic archaeology?” We wish it did. “We devoutly wish we could reach that level.”

But does the apostolic example, in ordaining a plain Greek artisan, permit us to fall below it?

One of the most responsible tasks of the Assembly was to receive and digest the remarks of the Presbyteries upon the Revised Directory for Worship. It was found that sixty-six Presbyteries had complied with the last Assembly's order to examine and amend it. A few had expressed their wish that the work should be dropped, and their preference for the old Directory. Evidence appeared that some of the sixty-six judged the same, but examined and amended the revision only out of courtesy to the Assembly. All the reports of Presbyteries having been referred to the Revising Committee, that body, with commendable diligence, immediately digested them, and made the following report:

“The Committee appointed to revise the Directory of Worship hope that they are able now to present the Revision in a much improved form. Their effort last year was, of course, only tentative. They were well aware that all they could produce of themselves must only serve as a basis on which it must be for the Presbyteries to build—a skeleton into which they must breathe life, and which they must cover with flesh and clothe with beauty. A number of the Presbyteries have devoted themselves with seal and ability to this business; and the work under their skilful manipulations will be found, the Committee trust, much more acceptable to the church.

“The changes made at the suggestion of the Presbyteries are numerous. The chief ones are an alteration in the order of the last four chapters, and the omission of all forms, except the one prepared for a funeral occasion where no minister is present. All forms having been omitted, your Committee do not think it necessary to retain the Note about forms, which many Presbyteries desired to have inserted in the body of the Directory. As the Committee has left out the forms, it has left out the note.

“We have to report that a copy of the Revision, as it now stands, is ready for the Assembly to dispose of as it may judge best. The Committee very respectfully suggests that if this body can afford the time necessary, and consider it advisable, the Revision in its present form be now read aloud, that the Assembly may judge of the improvement. But if, on the other hand, this be not the pleasure of the body, your Committee would then suggest that the Revision be recommitted to be printed, and one copy sent to every minister, one to every session, and two copies to every clerk of Presbytery; and that the Presbyteries be directed to take up the work again for a fresh examination, and report the results to the next Assembly.

(Signed) JOHN B. ADGER, Chairman.






The Assembly gave the Revision this direction.

The Committee of Foreign Correspondence reported:—

1. An overture from Holston Presbytery asking that appointments to the General Presbyterian Council be distributed more equally through the church, at least one to each Synod; and that Synods make the nominations.

The committee recommended the Assembly to answer that it had no power to regulate the action of the Assembly of 1883 which has to make these appointments; but might express the opinion that they should be distributed so as to represent our church, and that Synods might be invited to nominate.

2. A request from the Council aforesaid for a small standing committee, with which clerks of the Council could correspond. The Assembly appointed its two clerks.

3. An overture from the Synod of Texas asking the Assembly to appoint a committee to confer with a similar committee of the Northern Assembly so that the two churches might avoid conflicts in their labours in Texas.

The committee recommended that the Assembly express its earnest desire that brethren of the Northern and Southern churches in Texas should endeavour to avoid such conflicts, and cultivate peace; but refer all such questions back to our Presbyteries in Texas, to whom they properly belong; at the same time recommending the Synod of Texas, in a way merely advisory, to seek to promote the ends of charity and edification.

4. The committee nominated for principal delegate to the General Synod of the Reformed Church the Rev Miles Saunders, and for alternate delegate the Rev John A. Scott.

5. A telegram being committed to this committee from the Young Men's Christian Association of the United States and British Provinces conveying Christian greeting to the Assembly, and referring to Ephesians 1:3, the committee reported an answer conveying to the Association the Assembly's Christian salutations and referring the Association to Ephesians 1:4; 5. Objection was made to the answer, as likely to prove offensive, and it was recommitted. Subsequently the committee reported, that on further reflection, it had grave doubts whether the Assembly ought to exchange formal salutations with any other than ecclesiastical bodies; but that as in this particular case, the matter had gone so far, it recommended that the Assembly should reply by “commending the Young Men's Association to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Upon the subject let us remark:—

1. That the doubts of the committee appear to us to have a good foundation. If we are to go outside of ecclesiastical bodies with this exchange of salutations, where is it to stop?

2. It seems to us that if an answer were to be given to the greetings of the Association, none could have been more apropos than what the committee prepared at first. The objection to it was, that a Calvinistic passage of Scripture could not be quoted to a body in which there might be some Armenians without offence. To this the answer is pertinent:—

a. That the Association is not a body of Methodists;

b. That Methodists receive that passage of Scripture as not contradicting any doctrine held by them, having their own way of expounding it, and that in fact, for the Assembly to signify by its action that a Methodist body could not tolerate two verses of one of Paul's epistles, was to be indeed offensive to those Christian brethren;

c. That if the committee of correspondence had gone about to hunt up that passage, the objections made might have applied; but that as the young men had quoted only the first verse of the passage, stopping short where there was no period, there could be fairly found no ground of complaint for our merely completing the quotation, and returning them the remainder of the passage with our salutations.

We must add, however, that this whole business of shooting off passages of Scripture at one another is not to our taste.

Our readers know that certain deliverances of the Louisville and Charleston Assemblies, respecting cases in thesi, led to some discussion in the Synod of South Carolina, out of which grew an overture to the Assembly. This asked the supreme court, substantially, to declare that propositions drawn “by good and necessary consequence” from the constitutional law of the church by our supreme court have the binding force of law until constitutionally repealed. On this overture, the Committee on Bills and Overtures made a report on Friday night. On Saturday morning the Rev Dr Palmer offered the following paper in place of that acted upon by the Assembly the previous night, regarding the overture from the Synod of South Carolina. It was fully discussed by Rev Drs Lefevre, Mullally, Hoyt, Pratt, Molloy, Armstrong, Davies, and Shanks, and was adopted by an almost unanimous vote. The paper reads as follows, vis.:

“To the overture from the Synod of South Carolina the Assembly returns answer that all just and necessary consequences from the law of the church are part of the same in the logical sense of being implicitly contained therein. The authority of this law is, however, twofold. It binds all those who profess to live under it as a covenant by which they are united in one communion, so that there is no escape from its control, except by renouncing its jurisdiction; and it binds because it has been accepted as a true expression of what is revealed in the Holy Scriptures as infallible truth.

“The consequences deduced from it cannot, therefore, be equal in authority with the law itself, unless they be necessarily contained within it, as shown by their agreement also with the Divine Word.”

This debate showed that harmony of opinion has not yet been reached on this vexed question. The paper finally adopted is a compromise, and is still ambiguous. It says, consequences deduced from the constitution must be shown to be necessarily contained in it, by their also agreeing with the Divine Word. But the question whether the deductions so agree is itself a question of construction. The difficulty reappears. Its obstinate reappearance, after the almost unanimous compromise, indicates that a church government at once free and Presbyterian, as opposed to the mere advisory action of congregational associations, cannot be excogitated without admitting the principle claimed by the South Carolina Synod. Let us, however, glance at the debate. The side opposed to the overture cannot be better set forth than in the remarks of Dr Lefevre.

Dr Lefevre, in several short speeches, fully admitted that a just inference from given propositions was truly involved in the propositions themselves, but denied that logical inferences from the laws of the church, as contained in our standards, were themselves laws, and binding on the ecclesiastical conscience with the authority of the standards themselves. He affirmed that it is the doctrine of our Confession, and of all Protestant churches, that nothing can be made law in the church but the Scriptures themselves, and immediate consequences justly derived from them. He contended that our standards were indeed a system of propositions justly derived from Scripture, and adequate for their purpose—that is, to be a bond of ecclesiastical union—and therefore binding the consciences of all those who have covenanted together on this basis, so that their only escape from the obligation is by withdrawal from our communion. But he contended that the standards were, by universal concession, not pure and complete truth, like Holy Scripture, but necessarily somewhat deficient and disproportionate, and therefore unfitted to serve, in turn, as satisfactory premises for new conclusions having the authority of law. These new conclusions not only might be, but in many cases would be, more deficient and disproportionate and far less conformable to Scripture than the propositions from which they were drawn. The full and strict authority of the law must stop with the law itself, or we shall have an endless concatenation of logical inferences, at each successive step farther and farther removed from Scripture, until at last we are as far from the Bible as Rome herself.

In this there is unquestionable force. This right of construing a constitutional covenant may be abused; it may be so exercised as to infringe the spiritual liberty of members. But the compromise admits, even Dr Lefevre admits, that the power to construe is unavoidable, to some extent. Where, then, is the remedy? Where the ultimate protection for the member's rights and freedom? In his privilege of seceding whenever he feels himself vitally aggrieved, seceding without molestation or persecution. This is the principle, too much neglected in the discussion. The principles of our constitution are:—that we acknowledge our Synods and Assemblies, like all others, to be uninspired and fallible; that each man's entrance into our particular branch of the church-catholic is his free act, and that he has an inalienable right to go out of ours into some other branch, at the dictate of his own conscience; for we never held that our branch is the only valid one; that when a member exercises this right of secession, we have no right to restrain him by any civil “pain or penalty whatsoever, nor to revenge his departure by any excommunication from the church catholic, nor by any denunciation even. Hence, if a church, in the exercise of its unavoidable power to enact and interpret its own constitutional compact, should” err in making the terms of communion too narrow; yet, even in this case, they would not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only make an improper use of their own.

That the safeguard of the member's liberty is here, and not in the denial of a right of construction to the supreme court, appears very simply from this fact. All admit that the express propositions of our constitution have the binding force of law on us, while we remain Presbyterians. But it is just as possible for a fallible church court to err in enacting a proposition as in stating an obvious corollary. This is indisputable. Suppose the former error committed, where is the shield of the member's liberty? Ultimately, only in his right of unmolested secession.

But that the supreme court must possess a power of construction of the articles of the constitutional compact, whether liable to abuse or not, may be made exceedingly clear. The only alternative is Congregationalism. The constitution itself gives this power:—“to decide questions of doctrine and order regularly brought before it.” The strictest opponents of the validity of “in thesi declarations” admit it; for they concede that when the Assembly sits judicially and interprets an article of the constitution in hypothesis, its decision is law. But surely, the Assembly's passing into its judicial functions has no influence to make -its logical inferences infallible. It may also err in hypothesis; yet, it is admitted its conclusions in hypothesis are law. This granted, the admission that the Assembly may err in thesi is not sufficient to prove that such conclusions cannot be law. Again, it is an admitted maxim, that “the meaning of an instrument is the instrument.” “Who shall deduce that meaning?” Each one for himself, or that court which the constitutional compact has set up as the common umpire? Again, that the Assembly must have some such power of construction appears thus:—the propositions set down expressly in any constitution, however detailed, must be limited in number. But the concrete cases of human action to be judged thereby are almost infinite in number, and endlessly diversified in their particular conditions. Hence there must be a process of construction, to be performed by some court, in order to show whether these varied cases come under the principle of the law. Again, in point of fact, our constitution, in the fullest details of the Larger Catechism, fails, to mention many actions which no church court Christendom would now hesitate about disciplining. Under the Sixth Command, it does not prohibit duelling nor obstructing the passage of a railroad car. (The Westminster Assembly had never dreamed there would be railroads.) Under the Eighth it does not mention forging bank checks, nor trafficking in “futures” in a stock or cotton exchange, under the head of “wasteful gaming.” Yet rumour says, that in one of our church courts a member was censured for buying “cotton futures.” But our book does mention “usury” as against the Eighth Commandment; and every church court allows its members to take usury up to six per cent! Now, it may be replied, that in all the cases it is perfectly clear to every mind the actions named are or are not breaches of the principles of the commands. This is true. Yet they are not expressed in our constitution; whence it is clear that some constructive process of logic is employed to bring them under it. It is a constructive process which is obvious and conclusive; and therefore it gives a valid la Just so. But every court, exercising its power of construction will hold that its process is equally logical. So that we come again to the inexorable issues:—that this right of construction must be conceded to the supreme court, and yet that it may be abused. Well, what does this mean? Simply, that no institution, not even our Presbyterianism, can become a perfect machine in human hands; but that this Presbyterianism, liable possible perversion, is better than Congregationalism; and that if the “worst comes to the worst,” the scriptural safeguard for our spiritual liberty is to be found, not in the corrupting licence of Congregationalism, but in the individual right of withdrawal.

The Assembly signalised its close by creating a new Synod, that of Florida. Let us hope that this measure will give all that impulse to the cause of Christ in the “flowery land” which its advocates hope from it.

At 2½ o'clock p. m. Saturday, the sessions were finally close and the members began to disperse to their homes. The next Assembly meets in Atlanta, Ga.

Vol. 2.31. The Sabbath and the State.

posted 27 Mar 2014, 13:05 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 13:06 ]


This infidel association has been for three years vexing the public horizon as an evil portent. The publications note below are its authoritative exponents. The moral and religious complexion of the society may be seen in these facts:—that Col. Robert Ingersoll, of Illinois, is the manifest coryphæus of the whole crew; that D. M. Bennett, the chosen publisher of these and all their other documents, is at this time in prison, under a conviction of the not too scrupulous courts of the United States for violating their statutes against sending blasphemies and obscenities through the United States mails; that the most impious and blatant atheists in the country are members; that the foulest impieties seem always to have been most applauded in their “congresses;” and that their first professed object is to drive the Bible and the Sabbath out of the land.

Another instructive feature of this agitation is, that the survivors of the original anti-slavery society, of Garrison and that ilk, now reappear in this atheistic movement, like uneasy corpses airing their unsavoury persons from the grave. These, like Parker Pillsbury, and the President, Elisur Wright, expressly connect the present movement with the past, and claim for it the same success by the same means, thus verifying the truth that the abolition movement was and is essentially infidel and disorganising. This “League” scarcely disguises its communism and it assault on property. Its arguments are the very same by which the original abolitionists assaulted the constitution and law; which protected the property of the South. Thus again is illustrated the fact that abolitionism is virtual agrarianism. The new progeny of the old heresy will, in due time, convince the antislavery plutocracy of New England and Britain of their folly by showing them that the same arguments which were suited to overthrow our right to the labour of our lawful bondsmen, are equally good to destroy their rights to their lands, factories, mines, ships, warehouses, and incomes.

Another lesson impressively taught by the new movement is the perilous and destructive nature of the political philosophy now in the ascendant in this country. The philosophy of this atheists' league is precisely that briefly described in the number of this Review for October, 1879, as underlying the demand for the ecclesiastical and social equality of women. It seeks authority by perverting those “glittering generalities” to which the Declaration of Independence has familiarised the American ear, that “all men are by nature equal, and inalienably entitled to liberty,” etc.; that “all just government is founded in the consent of the governed;” and that taxation and representation should go together. In our last number the distinction was drawn between the sense in which these propositions are true—in which they were held by the founders of our republic—and that in which they are false. There is a sense in which men are naturally entitled to liberty; that is to say, to the privilege of doing, unimpeded by civil law, all those things which they have a moral right to do. But in the sense of these radicals, with whom “liberty” means absolute independence of will to do whatever they please, no creature of God is “born free”; but all are by nature subject to his sovereign will, and to the civil, domestic and ecclesiastical authorities under which his providence has placed them. There is a sense in which all rational men are equal, which is, that, however different the specific personal rights assigned by God and the laws to the superior and inferior ranks in civil society, the inferior has an ethical title to his smaller circle of privileges, identical with the title of the superior to his larger privileges. But it is not true that, in the sense of these radicals, men are by nature equal; but they are made by God endlessly unequal in their strength, ability, energy, sex, providential position, and consequently in their natural rights. All just government is founded in the consent of the governed, in this sense, that the commonwealth as a whole has an inalienable right to choose its own political connections, rulers, and forms of administration; that when these are imposed against the will of the commonwealth in all its orders and forms of expression, this is conclusive of their injustice. But the radical notion is, that allegiance originates in a “social contract” of individuals, so that it is unjust for a ruler to govern any soul who has not had an opportunity to vote for him. “Whereas the simple fact is, that every soul is put under civil government by the ordinance of a sovereign God, without any option of his own. Radicalism holds that no one can be righteously taxed who does not vote. The founders of our states only asserted that maxim of the British constitution, that a parliament in London ought not to tax commonwealths in America” which were un-represented in it in any form.

Now, the two facts deserving of solemn attention from every thinking man are these:—such is precisely the political philosophy which this “League” lays down as the basis of their whole structure, and on which they logically rear conclusions, the establishment of which would imply the utter and anarchical overthrow of American institutions; but such is also identically the philosophy of abolitionism, the philosophy implicitly held by the editors and politicians and party which have been dominant in the country for nineteen years, and which is everywhere expounded as the doctrine of Republicanism. It is the philosophy of the frantic “leveller” Lilburn, whom the enlightened founders of English liberty in the days of the Commonwealth themselves put in the pillory and the prison, while they had his book burned by the common hangman, which is now everywhere preached and accepted in this country under the name of liberty What can come of such inculcations? Whither must the people drift who receive them without question? This radical league tells us. From this philosophy they deduce women's suffrage agrarianism and an atheistic social order.

Another observation will strike the reader of these documents that these abolitionists now with one mouth declare the condition of the Northern hireling labourer as far more oppressive than that of domestic slaves. Thus, p. 85, their condition is that of a “wages' slavery,” under which they are “poor and down-trod den.” P. 88. “The labouring classes are working under a despotism far more tyrannical than that of the slaves of the South.” “The Republican party was grand enough to unshackle for millions of Negro slaves; but now it is cruel enough to put these working classes under chains far more torturing than those borne by the blacks.” P. 99, “On the one hand, the bonanza or railroad king of six millions of dollars a year, bribes corrupt politicians to keep his twenty or thirty thousand white slaves in subjection by the aid of unjust laws and bayonets; and on the other, the half-starved wage-slaves exist on an average of one hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars a year.” If, then, the special friends of hireling labour and apostles of abolition may be believed, all the truths uttered by Southern defenders are confirmed:—that our system of labour was more humane than the hireling system substituted for it, and more promotive of the labourer's welfare; that domestic slavery was not the only form for subjecting the labourer to the will of his employer, but only one form among many, and perhaps the most philanthropic; and that the overthrow of Southern institutions would prove to be very far short of the real abolition of bondage.

But, in justice, it should be added, that the labouring classes in the United States have doubtless real grievances. Not only is it inevitable that human nature, being what it is, greedy and selfish, shall view the enormous disproportion of conditions which has grown up in this country with discontent:—it is, in a certain sense, just that it should. In an ethical point of view, the disparity is illegitimate. The gains of the great capitalists are inordinate, and the luxury and waste of their living mischievous and wicked. Legislation ought not to be so framed as to make these enormous accumulations, and this more than regal luxury easy. Certain it is, that this condition of extreme inequality is not consistent with a permanent republican constitution of society. The communistic remedy will doubtless prove more fatal than the disease, especially to the poor, for whom it is pretended to be offered. But none the less does the fearful truth remain, that the present organisation of society and business is impossible as a permanency, and that this vast, festering, suffering proletariat, sinking ever deeper and deeper into vice, hatred, and destitution, and sundered more and more widely from every domestic tie with the employing class, by the hireling system, is not going to coexist peaceably beside this ruthless plutocracy, ever wresting the legislation of the country to pile up their invidious wealth higher, and to lavish it before greedy, starving eyes, more selfishly. The wealthy class in the North will be wise to read the handwriting on the wall, to moderate their aims, and to use the wealth already acquired more wisely and humbly. Else the reign of terror will come. It will not stay, indeed; for riches and intelligence, though cautious, and in appearance cowardly, while the deadly issue is forming itself, yet always defend themselves successfully and conquer, when once it is inexorably joined. But how shall the fever-fit of communism pass? By the bayonet hired by riches? Or by a Christian, patriotic use of wealth, and a return to honest, equitable legislation and administration? History answers; probably not by the latter way. Then it must be ended by the former; and that means also the end of free and equal institutions, not only for the crushed proletariat, but for the whole society.

The Liberal League, while coquetting with the most outrageous communists, yet announce their “general object to be the total separation, of church and state.” They ground their movement in these facts:—that the Constitution of the United States formally neither names nor recognises any God or religion as its basis of right, and that it forbids any establishment by the government of any religion; that the most of the state constitutions are similar in this respect; and that the spirit of American institutions makes men of all religions, and of no religion perfectly equal before the law. Hence they demand—

That all church property shall be taxed like other property.

That education shall be committed to the state's control, shall be compulsory and universal, and shall be absolutely secularised; and every species of religious worship and inculcation excluded from all state schools, high and low.

That the religious oath shall be utterly banished, and replaced by a simple affirmation under the penalties of perjury.

That all Sabbath laws shall be absolutely repealed, and that no restriction shall exist preventing any act of government or secular pursuit of citizens on the holy day as on any other day. And the League ostentatiously employs Sunday as the day of its most noisy meetings.

That no government, state or federal, shall concur in any religious act whatsoever, recognising any divine government, nor have any chaplaincy, nor appropriate any money to any pious use.

That the right of free utterance, by speech and publication, and through the United States mails, shall be restored to atheists and blasphemers, under the plea of liberty of speech and the press.

That women be invested with all the rights of voting and holding office possessed by men.

The League asserts, as its fundamental principle, that natural morals are a sufficient basis for secular society, and guarantee of public order, prosperity, and righteousness; that is to say, it proposes to reconstruct society on. a merely atheistic basis,' and claims that the sacred name of religious liberty authorises their doing so.

It is evident that the issue will be practically joined with this atheistic party, first upon these two points:—the secularisation of all state schools, and the repeal of all Sunday laws. Our subsequent discussion will be limited, for lack of space, to the Sunday question. This, however, will raise the main principles as to the nature of free civil government, upon which the whole movement turns. The public has been familiar with the infidel argument against Sunday laws of the state. Its whole force is in the assumption that Sunday is solely a Christian institution, and should therefore be left, like baptism and church-going, to the conscience and optional preference of those who desire to observe it. They say that as the state is a purely secular and non-Christian organism, and as state and church are declared independent, and the Constitutions of the United States and the States forbid that any citizen shall be prejudiced in any way, in person or estate, on account of his religion or his non-religion, it is as unjust for the state to prevent any man's amusements or work on the Sabbath, when he believes in no Sabbath, as to fine or persecute him for his religious opinions.

This audacious argument has aroused a multitude of answers. from the Christian side, some of which have not been either discreet or logical. It is obvious, at a glance, that with the atheist, the rationalistic Jew, the German infidel, and sometimes even the European Lutheran, any pious declamation concerning the reverence of our Christian fathers for the Lord's day and its supposed; glories and sanctities count for nothing. If these assailants are to be silenced, it must be by other arguments than these. Some have reasoned, that the majority is entitled to rule; and because-Sabbatarians are in the majority in the United States, they are entitled to make the minority respect their Sabbath. On this ground, whenever a state shall show a majority of atheists, it will be right for that government to abolish the Sabbath. Sometimes it is argued, that there is no injustice, because the Sabbath laws lay no restriction on the doings of the infidel but such as are laid on all the citizens. If the Protestants who use this sophism lived in a popish state, where the laws compelled them to desist from legitimate labours and amusements on all those “saints' days” which we Protestants thoroughly disbelieve and despise, they would see little solace in the fact that their superstitious popish neighbours all were idle on the same days. These Protestants would find the intrinsic injustice in this, that the religious superstitions of others were made a pretext to restrain them, who believed them false and groundless, from acts to which they were naturally and morally entitled. This is precisely the ground assumed by our infidels against Sabbath laws of the state. “We hear the argument, again, put thus:—although church and state are independent, yet the American is a Christian people.” The country was settled by Christians. The great majority are Christians now. Hence it is right that the dissentient or the immigrant should submit to the Christian features of the society whose hospitality he receives. If he does not like them, let him go away. But unfortunately for this argument, it is the state which enforces these Sunday laws; and the state declares itself non-Christian, and it invites these dissentients to become citizens, covenanting with them solemnly that as citizens they shall incur no inequality or loss of civil right by reason of their religious views. Now, if a man has a natural and secular right to live without a Sabbath, this objection is formidable. Once more:—it is argued, Christians have a civic right to observe the Lord's day, if they believe it their duty; and hence it is a merely secular duty of the state to stop all such employments and amusements of the unbelievers as would disturb the Christian observances. The infidel answers, that it is at least as much the business of the worshipper to take his pious assembly out of the way of the worldly one, the military band, or the clanging factory, as it is the business of the worldling to take his band or factory out of the way of the pious assembly. And this the more, because the infidel believes that the Sunday work and amusement are reasonable and useful, and the worship foolish and vain.

A more tenable plea is found in the laws of nature, as exemplified from social experience. It can be experimentally proved that the bodies of men and domestic animals, and the social affections, habits, mental health, virtue and domestic welfare of human beings, call for a hebdomadal rest. Hence, even if we take the restricted view of the commonwealth which makes it the institute for realising only secular order and justice, this truth authorises the state to enforce a Sabbath rest and secure its blessings for the dependent classes of human beings and the helpless beasts. It is a prerogative as proper and righteous as when a state abates a nuisance hostile to hygiene, or forbids the working of minor children and servants beyond a humane number of hours per day. But this step brings us, in fact, to the threshold of what is the true argument for Sunday laws by the state.

While the American state is not positively Christian, no state can rightfully be atheistic. The doctrines of redemption are not the necessary basis of the validity of a state:—witness the fact that the Bible recognised the validity of the authority of Rome, a pagan empire; and that every sound jurist in Christendom recognises the validity of Mohammedan states. But theism is essential as the basis of civil government. Atheism, if prevalent, would leave civic authority logically baseless. The legitimate state exists only by virtue of the will of God as Maker and providential Ruler; and therefore can ground its authority only in its recognition of him. But the Sabbath, while in its special aspect a commemorative institution of redemption to the believer, is also, in its prior and general aspect, an ordinance for man, as a moral creature, instituted for the race in all times by God, as Maker and Ruler. The truth which is overlooked by both parties, and which is vital to our argument, is this:—that the Sabbath now serves two purposes; with the believing part of the race included in Christ's spiritual kingdom, it is a gospel means of grace; but none the less is it to mankind at large what it was first given for, an essential institute of that natural theism and that personal, social, and domestic righteousness, on which civil society rests as its foundations. How fair and consistent this view is will appear when we show that the Sabbath was ordained for man before he needed any redemption. This purpose of its original institution remains immutable, through all ages and dispensations. After man fell, and God in his mercy set up the spiritual kingdom of redemption, the other use of the Sabbath, as a redemptive ordinance, “was superadded. Hence it will follow, that no human being has a natural or civic right either to atheism or to live without a Sabbath.” These are simply natural iniquities, subversive of social morals as really as incest or murder, though not so greatly. Here, then, is the cardinal sophism of the infidel plea against Sabbath laws, that he has assumed the privilege of neglecting the Sabbath to be, so long as he professes no Christian conscience, his natural right, unjustly restricted by another's erroneous conscience, like the natural right to labour and to recreation; whereas it will be shown that Sabbath observance is, for every human being, a moral obligation of natural theism and social order.

First, then, it is to be shown that theism is essential to the grounding of the state as a valid authority over men. Here we come directly into collision with the prw~ton fseu~dov of the infidel party:—that natural morality and intelligence are the “basis of secular government, and the adequate guarantee of public order, prosperity and righteousness.” This is expressly denied. It is asserted, on the contrary, that the fear of God and the san was of his law are the only adequate basis and guarantee.

The first proof advanced is one which carries little weight with men who glory in despising the lights of history and experience, but which all sensible men appraise at a prime value. There never has been a permanent civilised order in the world founded on atheism. The only notable experiment was that made during the French Revolution, when for a short time, at the darkest period of the “Reign of Terror,” atheism was in the ascendant. The result is too well known for comment. It was too bad even for Robespierre, who found it necessary to cut off his atheistic comrades' heads. All the thinking men of all ages and schools, pagan and Christian, have usually judged atheistic principles inconsistent with any moral order. All the best ethical writers, of all ages and schools, have grounded their moral systems in man's responsibility to God. So essential is religious belief to any moral order, that erroneous belief has always been better than none; theism, under the form of polytheism, was always a cornerstone of such heathen commonwealths as ever became civilised or great, like Egypt, Tyre, Rome, Athens; and in these, when belief declined, the national virtue and greatness went down with it. If our modem destructives would find actual instances of societies founded according to their ideal, they must look among the miserable human herds of the Hottentots or Australians. Experience offers no other verification of their theory.

Secondly. Civil government cannot be safely based without theism, because there is no explanation of the origin of the civil ruler's moral right, or of the moral obligation of allegiance, or of the right of property, without a God and his ordinance. Let the jurist begin without a God, with any theory of “a social contract,” or any such invention as prevailed from Hobbes to Rousseau, his logical structure proves an absurd card castle, demolished by the first touch of reason. There is no way in which the duty of allegiance and obedience to the civil magistrate can receive a moral foundation, save from the ordinance of God, the Maker and Sovereign Proprietor, instituting it. There is no tenable account of the right of property, except in God's gift of the earth and its goods to man as his rational tenant. For the well-informed reader there is no need of repeating the proof. He will recall, for instance, Paley's demolition of the theory of social contract.

Thirdly. A practical argument is found in our experience of human nature. It is corrupted from its origin. Man is naturally a sinner, selfish, unjust, heedless and passionate. It requires all possible restraints to prevent his breaking out into such disorders as are destructive of social well-being. Take away the restraints of the divine authority, the fear of future penalty, the hope of reward, and the average man becomes an uncontrollable rebel against duty. There have been self-controlled virtuous atheists? Perhaps. Still the principle holds that “one swallow does not make a summer.” The exception does not destroy the rule. Your average atheist, from the Hottentot up to Tom Paine, is not noted for morals. The decent atheists are usually men who are shielded from temptation by a careful rearing, comfortable wealth, and wholesome surroundings. But the majority of human beings for whom governments legislate, are exposed to poverty and strong temptations; and the general result is, that then moral principles, unsustained by religious convictions, give way.

Fourthly, and chiefly. The species of atheism which prevails in our day involves also materialism. In this it is consistent. The argument which banishes spirit from the human person must also, if carried out, banish the infinite Spirit from the universe. The history of human opinion shows that this is a true maxim:—Nullus spiritus in microcosmo, nullus Deus in macrocosmo. But it is simply impossible that materialism can sustain any theory of real moral obligation, virtue, or merit. The popular and practical argument for this assertion—than which there is none more conclusive—is, that beasts have no ethics, and can have none; and materialism makes man an improved beast. The sound philosopher reaches the same conclusion in a more analytic way, by observing that if all of man is material, then no motives in man can be generically different from animal instinct. Rational free agency is impossible, because man acts only from animal impulse; and there is consequently no room for a true moral responsibility. The history of opinion proves the same fact; for materialists, when they attempt to write ethics, always resolve the moral motive into selfishness, desire of applause, or some lower appetency. If there is no God, then of course there can be no responsibility higher than the social; for there is no one to whom responsibility can bind. There can be no imperative standard of duty or obligation asserting any moral supremacy over the individual will, because the only other intelligent will is that of the fellow-creature, which is no higher than, and just as fallible as, the will to be regulated by it. Of course there can be no future responsibility, and every moral restraint arising from it is broken. There can be no sacredness about the human person or life; but the murder of a man would be as the killing of a beast. It is indisputable that the apostle expresses the legitimate ethics of atheism:—“Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” Is not this precisely the philosophy of Elisur Wright, the president of the League? P. 83:—

“The perfection of human nature is when the spiritual in man has the profoundest reverence for the physical; worships it in fact with every offering that can contribute to its highest health and the perfect development, in their due time and order, of all its marvellous faculties and functions. Every such act of worship reacts on the conscious mind itself, and fills it to overflowing with good will This is virtue; this is the highest happiness. There is no charity which does no begin at home. Charity is like gravity, which acts inversely as the square of the distance. Who wrongs his own body will wrong everything and everybody else.”

It has been said by Christian moralists that even the atheist if he would make a correct analysis of the facts of consciousness would be led to recognise the moral distinctions and obligation. This may be admitted conditionally. If it could be that the atheist should so analyse the functions of conscience as to recognise these truths:—that the simple judgments of right and wrong are primary and necessary intuitions; that they are rational; that they are immutable; that the judgment of obligation attending this intuition is no mere modification of association, or of self-love, or of the love of applause, or of sympathetic harmony, but is itself an integral part of the necessary truth, then indeed he might be both atheist and recogniser of morality. But it is. certain that no consistent atheist will ever make this correct analysis of the moral consciousness; there is an inevitable reason in his theory why he will not. Obligation, implies an, obligator. Who; where is he? The shortest and simplest examination. shows that it cannot be merely the fellow-creature, nor civil government. Let a man deny that there is a God, and he finds no obligator. Then, it is logically impossible he should construe obligation aright. It is unavoidable that in his blind analysis he shall pervert this intuition of obligation, which points essentially to a God, into some imagined modification of some lower feeling. And let it be repeated, the consistent atheist is always a materialist. If man is only material, then this other feeling which is transmuted to simulate what the atheist calls judgment of obligation, be it what it may, cannot be anything higher than an. animal sensibility. Thus the very possibility of moral, rational obligation is gone. Atheism cannot be moral, save by an utter inconsistency. Our writers, when asserting that even the atheist. would find a basis for morals if he would analyse consciousness correctly, supposed that they were thereby paying an honourable tribute to the value of these moral intuitions. Their motive was good, but their words were none the less misleading; they gave us but an imaginary, hypothetical dictum, whose condition is impossible to be realised.

Much of the unbelief of our age is pantheistic. The same charge must be made against the pantheism which now prevails:—that it is virtual atheism, and cannot have a consistent morality. One reason is, that it denies a personal God. But man's common sense always views obligation as binding to a personal will. To say that there is no personal God is practically to say that there is no obligator. And secondly, if pantheism is true, then it is idle to talk of any standard of right and wrong controlling any human will from evil, for that evil will is God's will. The divine will, being identified with all other wills, embraces and sanctions all the evil, as truly as the good. In this form also, atheism cannot be moral.

Thus the prime error of these infidels is refuted which asserts that “natural morality,” unsustained by either natural or revealed religion, is adequate for the purposes of society. This is positively false, as is proved by experience and reason. But the state is a moral institute. Its law professes to be a rule of moral right. Its legitimate ends are to protect the well-being of society, by upholding moral right between men. Hence the state cannot be atheistic and exist safely. It must seek its foundation in theism, with its doctrines of responsibility to God and divine rewards and punishments. It must derive its warrants from God, or else it retains no valid power over the conscience.

It follows from this truth, that he who assails the being and -moral government of God thereby attacks the very existence of the state. He should no more have the privilege of doing his atheistic work than of attacking the family, which is the secular or earthly foundation of civil society. Both state and federal governments claim the right to ordain monogamy as the only wholesome condition of the family institute, and to uphold it by punishing bigamy with pains and penalties. In doing this, the government rightly scorns the pretext of the Mormon, that polygamy is one of his religious tenets, and that, therefore, his religious liberty is infringed if he is restrained by corporeal penalties from practicing it. The state has an equal right to restrain the public propagation of atheism and the blasphemy of Almighty God Of course, we all recognise the inviolability of the rights of conscience, and the irrelevancy of corporeal pains as an agency to propagate truth in the love of it. But while assigning the widest possible scope to liberty of thought, and removing the limit of it to the outermost place consistent with beneficial existence of society, we can say no less than this:—that the right of the state to exist must imply its right to preserve the essential conditions of its own existence; and that to this the narrower claims of individuals must, so far, give place. For instance:—private creditors of a commonwealth have a right to be paid the just amounts of the debts due them. Few personal rights can be plainer. But if circumstances arise, as foreign invasion or domestic insurrection, in which the whole possible revenues of the state are necessary to maintain its own organic existence, then the jurist says that the right of the private creditor to payment must lie in abeyance. Because, if the state betrays its own existence, for want of those revenues, the creditor loses his right forever by the annihilation of the very personality of his debtor. In like manner, if the propagation of atheism destroys the foundation of the state's existence, this pretended right to freedom of thought in teaching atheism is superseded by the state's right to exist. She has the civil right, as a secular institute, to suppress this personal license. Hence it appears:—so far from the Federal government's being guilty of any oppression, in refusing to permit her mails to be used to carry blasphemous or atheistic documents, or attacks upon the purity of domestic life, this is the minimum of duty she owes to herself and her constituents. The only debatable question is, whether she ought not to do more. But, they cry, the government may, under pretext of this duty, carry her intrusions farther, and invade the proper liberty of thought of the citizens. If she does so, she will go wrong; and that will be the proper time to protest. If just and necessary powers are to be withheld because they may be abused, then no power whatever could be conferred on the state.

It has thus been shown that the maintenance of theism is the essential foundation of civil government. The constitution of the United States was, therefore, wrong, in that it omitted all reference to Almighty God as the source of its powers; and that of the late Confederate States was right in doing so. The reader is now at a point of view whence he can understand the concern of the commonwealth with Sunday laws. The observation deserves to be repeated:—that the Sabbath was first given to man before he needed any redemption, by God as his natural Creator and Ruler. As such, it is an institution of God's natural dominion over mankind, an institution of natural theism and social morals. In this aspect the Sabbath belongs to the race, under all ages and dispensations, and is as obligatory on Pagan and Moslem as on Jews and Christians. Man fell:—and God was pleased to institute, in the hand of his Son our Messiah, a spiritual kingdom of redemption, for the justification and sanctification of believers:—a kingdom independent, under the new dispensation, of civil governments; and he was pleased also to employ the Lord's day, in this spiritual kingdom, as an ordinance of grace and redemption to saints. This latter application has in no sense superseded the primeval one. This is the truth which the assailants of Sunday laws, and even the Lutheran theology, overlook. The whole plausibility of their argument comes from this omission. If, then, it can be repaired by the establishment of our thesis, their sophism is exploded.

This error has, unfortunately, borrowed no little strength from the mistake made by the early Reformers, and especially the Lutheran, concerning the Lord's day. They taught (see Augsburg Confession) that the Sabbath had never been anything more than a Jewish, positive, and typical command; whence it passed away, of course, at the vanishing of the old dispensation like all other Jewish shadows. The Lord's day therefore, if observed under the new dispensation, can have no other basis of authority than the ecclesiastical recommending a seemly holy day, and the secular law ordering a wholesome police regulation It is easy to foresee how infidels, attacking the divine authority of the day, would avail themselves of this theological error. In fact, a mass meeting of infidel anti-Sabbatarians in one of the great American cities, exhibited the monstrous alliance of a Lutheran minister of the gospel joining his false exegesis with their license to overthrow God's day. Now the proof of our thesis corrects this theological error as well as the infidel argument. By proving that the Sabbath command was anti-Levitical, was moral, was universal, and was perpetual, we effectually dispose of the false position, that it was abrogated with the shadows of the old dispensation. This Review (Oct. 1857) contained an exhaustive discussion of this phase of the question Referring our readers to that number, we shall now touch the heads of the argument as briefly as our object permits. And our thesis as to the original institution of the Sabbath will be established by three proofs:—ancient tradition, sacred history and the physiologic and psychological testimony of man's nature itself.

The oldest of the traditionary testimonies is that latest discovered by Assyrian research. The cuneiform writings, along with their history of the flood, distinctly testify that primeval men observed the seventh day as sacred time and by divine appointment. The oldest of the Greek poetic theologians is Hesiod. He is quoted as saying (Dierum, line 6th):—“The first, the fourth also, and the seventh is a sacred day.” And again:—“The seventh day once more, the splendid dawn of the sun.” And Homer:—“The seventh day then arrived, the sacred day.” Again:—“The seventh was sacred.” “The seventh dawn was at hand, and with this all the series is completed.” Thus also writes Callimachus the poet:—“It was now the Sabbath day, and with this all was accomplished.” Again:—“Yea, the seventh is the parent-day.” Again:—“The seventh day is first, and the seventh day is the complement.” The elegies of Solon, the Athenian legislator, also proclaimed the seventh day as more sacred than the rest. Josephus against Apion (II. 40), says:—“There is not any city of the Grecians, nor any of the Barbarians, nor any nation whatsoever, whither our custom of resting on the seventh day hath not come.” Allowing for the exaggeration of the controversialist, we still find evidence here of a widely spread usage. It must have been rather the remaining effect of primeval custom and law than recent imitation of the despised Jews. Philo, the learned Jew, pearly contemporary with the Christian era, calls the Sabbath eJorth< pa<ndhmov. To such testimonies as these should, in justice, be added the numerous proofs of the observance of stated holy days, such as the new moons, among the most ancient pagans. These, though not in all cases coincident with the Old Testament Sabbath, still confirm its original authority in two ways:—they are evidently inaccurate imitations of it lingering among the growing twilight of polytheism; they are practical admissions of the truth that, in order to continue such a creature as man religious, he must have a stated religious day.

Let it be understood that we, of course, do not advance this traditionary proof as sufficient, by itself, to establish the divine authority of the Sabbath. Slut it raises a strong probability. Taken with the proof that follows, it shows that God, in creating man, appointed him a sacred day. The appointment was for a long time observed as a world-wide institution. The separation of apostate parts of the race from the church in the lineage of the “sons of God” did not by any means terminate their observance of the day. But the decline in the proper observance of the day evidently hastened the spread of idolatry. And when the observance of the sacred day was totally lost in any tribe, then monotheism and the knowledge of the true God were also lost. The necessity of Sabbath observance, as the great school of natural theism, is thus illustrated by the state of the whole pagan world in this historical fact. Wherever there has been no weekly sacred day, there has been neither pure monotheism nor a single instance of a civic order combining civilisation and constitutional liberty. Let the instance be produced. Paganism has presented us a certain degree of civilisation, with despotism; or a certain rude freedom, with savagery, as among our Teuton ancestors described in Tacitus' Germania:—that is all. Our modem infidels vainly flatter themselves, that if they can banishing the Sabbath, they will have a reign of rational atheism. They know very well, that by banishing the Sabbath they will destroy Christianity. But they are utterly mistaken. “That which hath been is that which shall be.” Human nature is still human nature. The condition they will inevitably have, will be, no' rational infidelity enthroned, but rank superstition, fetishism polytheism, pagan hierarchy; and their Sabbathless society will prove itself capable, not of republican freedom, but only of the species of gigantic despotism which ruled in Egypt and Chaldea and which cemented the stones of the pyramids and the hanging gardens of Nebuchadnezzar with the blood of the “proletariat.” The commonwealth taught by history claims that she has a right to maintain the Sabbath, because she has the primary right of self-preservation, and God and his Sabbath are the corner-stones of her being. She sees that constitutional liberty has only beer made possible for modern ages, as reformed Christianity has given back to the European races the theism and the holy day which God gave the race at its beginning.

The civil legislator, in appealing to the Bible as his second witness to this fact, uses the book, not as the gospel of redemption, but as the authentic and inspired history of God's original constitution of human society. It is not forgotten that it is the trick of our opponents to set this witness aside with the easy assertion that the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, is mythical. This is no place to go into the full argument for its authenticity, nor is it necessary. The assaults upon its historical credit we simply denounce as impertinences. That battle has been long ago fought and decided. The true history of the race, the real scholarship, the intelligent virtue, are with the Bible. These renewed pretences, that it is discredited by any later researches, are shallow and unwarrantable. They are especially unworthy of respectful treatment at this day, when the marvellous results of Egyptology and the Assyrian explorations have shed a flood of confirmatory light on the sacred history, and when the proud waves of sceptical physical science are retreating from its bulwarks of truth in confessed defeat.

Authentic history is the chief guide of legislation, next to the eternal principles of right and wrong. The Old Testament is the most authentic of ancient histories, and it is, for the legislator, of most fundamental importance; because it is the only history in the world that gives the foundation facts of God's organisation of human society. No commonwealth can be safely reared, save on these foundations. If it be built on others, it must fall, because the very laws of nature and Providence are against it. Now, the sacred history tells us that the Maker founded human society on obedience to himself; and he being essential righteousness, this was to found it on righteousness. He raised two buttresses for it in Paradise, the family and the Sabbath; and man's lapse from that first state did not supersede, but only enhance, the necessity of these two supports. The family was to provide moral nurture for the members of society; the Sabbath was to perpetuate that theism and knowledge and fear of God which are the essential condition of all social welfare, as well as future salvation for sinners. Thus, the Sabbath was originally no Jewish or Levitical ceremony; but the institution of the race, given to them in their first parents, even before their need of redemption had emerged. “The Sabbath was made for man.” (Genesis 2:2, 3.) God blessed and sanctified the seventh day, at the end of the very first week. For whom did he sanctify it? Evidently, for Adam and Eve. (Genesis 4:3, margin.) The seventh day was evidently observed for religious worship and oblation by the human family, when we next hear of them as sinners. (Genesis 7:2,10, margin.) God enabled Noah, even in the awful crisis of the approaching deluge, to complete his entrance into the ark against the sacred day. (Genesis 8:10, 12.) Noah observes the seventh day's division of time, while still shut up in the ark. (Genesis 17:12.) The male child must he circumcised one week after its birth; showing that this division of time by the sacred day still prevailed in Abraham's time. (Genesis 29:27.) The usual length of a wedding-feast in the days of Jacob was a week, which shows that the Sabbath was still in use, at least as a division of time, in Mesopotamia, after it was becoming idolatrous. In Genesis 1:10, we find that a week was the duration of a funeral mourning in the days of Joseph; and that for the Egyptians, as well as the Hebrews, Exodus 12:15 teaches us that before the Sabbath commandment had been given on Sinai, a week was the length proper for a solemn religious festival. In Exodus 16:25, still before the giving of the Decalogue, two supernatural exceptions weekly were made to the regular ordering of the manna, to insure Israel's keeping the Sabbath. It fell on six days regularly; but none fell on the seventh. That which was kept over for a day, uniformly putrefied; but that which was kept over from the sixth for the food of the seventh, did not putrefy.

So, when we come to the Mosaic legislation proper—Exodus 20:8-11—the command to sanctify the Sabbath begins:—“Remember the Sabbath day,” showing that it was no new institute, but an old one, only requiring more faithful observance. So, while the ritual commands have often a reason assigned for them from some particular event in the Hebrews' own history, as the Passover, from the sparing of their first-born in Egypt, the reason assigned for the Sabbath is as universal as the race of man. But the conclusive evidence is, that foreigners and pagans being among the Hebrews were required also to observe the day. Indeed, it was made the Hebrew magistrate's duty to enforce the observance of it on the “strangers that were within his gates.” See also Nehemiah 13:16 and 21. This is most significant, because foreigners were not only not required to observe the ritual ceremonies peculiar to the Hebrew religion, but were forbidden. No pagan could participate in the paschal feast until he had become a Jew. Thus God teaches his church to teach the world that the Sabbath is not only obligatory on believers, as members of the kingdom of redemption, but also on men simply as subjects of the kingdom of nature. This evidence of sacred history is crowned by the fact that when the coming and sacrifice of Christ has superseded all the merely ceremonial reasons for the observance of the Sabbath as a type, still the apostolic Christians did not cease to sanctify the holy day. It was, indeed, moved forward to the first day, the commemoration of the resurrection and Pentecost; but the whole moral obligation of the Sabbath was, by inspired precedent, transferred to the “Lord's day.” And the authority of the last of the apostles, John (Revelation 1:10), consecrated this as the sacred day of the Redeemer of the world.

Now, a cavil may be attempted from this change, thus:—the Sabbatarians have conceded that the spiritual kingdom of redemption and the secular commonwealth are independent. Then this cardinal event in redemption should have no effect in changing the usage of the state. The latter, if it retains any Sabbath, ought to cleave to the seventh day. Indeed, since the Christian church believes that the completion of Christ's sacrifice has superseded the typical reasons for the seventh day, the correct conclusion would be that the state also should cease to regard the seventh without taking up the first. This is the answer:—that typical reasons for sanctifying the seventh, even during the typical period of the church's history, were only a part of the reasons. Hence, though these were satisfied, the others remained, and men in all ages still have the same reasons to keep God's original Sabbath which the man in paradise had, and which the men before Abraham and Moses had. Hence, all that could be fairly inferred would be this:—that while the church moved over its observance to the first day, the state should retain its original day. But why should this discrepancy be kept up? Why embarrass the obligatory observance of all Christian citizens, by making that first day secular which their Redeemer compels them to make sacred? Church and state are independent, but they are not hostile. The state, the organ of earthly righteousness, need not be so jealous of the church, the organ of spiritual salvation, as to refuse to act with her in this one non-essential point, when that God, who is both Creator and Ruler, and also “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” honoured his risen Son by transferring the original Sabbath to his resurrection-day.

The third proof of our proposition is that presented by man's body and spirit themselves. The experimental science of physiology has evinced that man's body and nerves were created by their Maker a seven-day clock. To secure their best endurance and working, they must be “wound up” weekly by the Sabbath rest. Yea, God has written the same law on the constitution of the very brutes which he has given to man for servants. The wayfarer who rests one day in seven progresses farther than he who presses on seven days. The army which rests on the Lord's day marches farther, in the long run, than the one which moves seven days in the week. The team which does its task on the Sunday is worn and broken down, while that which is permitted to keep the Sabbath rest continues fresh and healthy. The body of the human being who observes the rest is, other things being equal, more healthy, efficient, and long-lived than that of the Sabbath-breaker. The same rules hold of the health of the spirit. Let the tension of worldly care and business, of study, or of executive tasks, be continued through the seventh day as well as all the six, and the poise of the faculties is lost, the spirit becomes feverish, the emotions are exasperated, the soul wears itself out by its own friction. For the intelligent and candid reader these facts need only be intimated. He knows that they are too numerous and authentic to be disputed. It is thus seen that he who “made the Sabbath for man,” made man for the Sabbath. The creature and the institution are fitted to each other. This is a perfect proof that our thesis is correct in asserting the Sabbath rest to be an institution coeval with the race, and designed for a whole race, under all dispensations.

But when we come to the moral argument, we find it yet more conclusive. Let the reader again be reminded that we claim it, not as it might be constructed on the higher ground of man's redemption and sanctification, but only from the position of man the rational, moral member of the secular but moral institute, the commonwealth. Let us resume the points established, that civil government is moral, and founded in moral obligation; that the only basis of morals and obligation is theism, the knowledge and fear of the true God of creation and providence, of his will as the prime rule of right, and of his righteous rewards and punishments; that a holy day reserved to him is the only sufficient means to preserve among men, especially as fallen, that knowledge and fear. The last point might be powerfully argued from experience alone. Where has there ever been a people who, after wholly deserting the Sabbath, have retained (not to say Christianity, but even) a healthy monotheism? History tells of none. Islam is monotheistic, and hence the Moslems have ever been more effective, civilised, and triumphant than the polytheists near them; but this is because Islam has a quasi Sabbath, its Holy Friday recurring weekly, and devoted to the worship of God and the study of the Koran. Again do we remind our destructive “progressives” that there is no safe guide for legislation outside the law of righteousness, save experience. The experience of all ages is against them. Man's nature remains the same. “Like causes produce like effects.” Hence, when they demand that we shall discard the sure light of experience, and plunge into their perilous novelties, they are guilty of an impertinence whose arrogancy can only be equalled by its injustice.

But the least modicum of practical wisdom shows us that our proposition cannot but be true. Man is a finite creature and a creature of habits. Hence he never does anything effectually, save as he has stated times for doing it. Life is full of homely instances of this rule. Savages eat such food as chance brings them at irregular times. But it is presumed that no people ever dined well who did not have a regular dinner hour. Courts of justice must have their court days. Merchants must have their hours of exchange. Banks must have their “discount days.” So, if there is to be any instrumentality to keep alive the knowledge of God, it must have its stated, season allotted to it, or it will be forgotten. Thus it comes about that, when the Sabbath. is lost, true religion is lost. There is also a vital connection between the family, that other bulwark of society, and the Sabbath. A day of rest from secular pursuits is necessary to enable the parental and domestic influences to come into effectual play. While the working-day world flows on, it absorbs parents and children in its stream, and, indeed, usually separates them by their avocations, so that they are almost strangers to each other. In every civilised community the majority of the people must be toilers. But the wealthy and self-indulgent are in most cases. equally absorbed by the equally exacting demands of pleasure. To bring parents and children together, this turmoil of work and amusement must be bidden to cease. A sacred leisure must be provided and protected from the temptations of gain and pleasure, in order that parents and children may be truly reunited around the hearth, the true altar of well-ordered society. There the sacred influences of parental love may play effectually, and the virtues of a moral and pious home be diffused. Nowhere is there a better and more truthful statement of this connection than in the “Cotter's Saturday Night” of Burns. Without a Sunday there would have been no such Saturday night, with its blessed humanising and restraining influences.

To sum up, then:—it is admitted that every man ought to enjoy the fullest liberty of thought compatible with the ends of government, and that the secular state ought to be separate from, and independent of, the church, pursuing as its proper object the protection of the earthly rights of the people. If the Christian Sabbath were nothing but an ordinance of the spiritual kingdom and means of redemption, then the state should leave its enforcement, as it properly does that of the Christian worship and sacraments, to the persuasions of the church. But while the day is this, it is also another thing:—the necessary support of that natural theism, domestic virtue, and popular morality, which are the foundations of the state. The state is from God, exists by his ordinance, holds its powers by delegation from him, and has no other basis for the righteousness it seeks to enforce between man and man than his will. On the basis of atheism there can be no stable structure, either of ethics or government. Hence the state's right to exist includes her right to protect these essential conditions of her existence, and to enforce that outward observance of the Sabbath rest which alone makes the inculcation of God's fear and of public and private virtue practicable, through those distinct, but friendly, cooperative agencies which God has ordained to keep men in his fear, the family and the church. Every true statesman knows that, unless the suitable conditions of public and private morality exist in the people, no statecraft, no constitution-making, can create or preserve a prosperous free commonwealth. In this sense, the statesman alone cannot make a state. Divine providence must contribute its essential cooperation, through those other institutes which are as truly ordained of God, as original and as independent as the state itself, the family and the church. Wise statesmen have learned from experience that the state's tinkering with these, in the way of persecutions of heresies, state endowments, and such like expedients, only cripples their ability for good. But this is no reason why the state should rashly overlook or deny the vital value of their training work to its ends, or should so wield its secular power as to deprive them of the suitable means and opportunities for doing their all-important functions. On the contrary, the state is bound so to enforce outward rest and quiet, and the cessation of secular labours and public amusements, as to honour God's natural ordinance, and to give the allied institutes, the family and the church, their proper opportunity for doing their work on the people.

Vol. 2.30. The Dancing Question.

posted 27 Mar 2014, 13:01 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 13:03 ]


Modern society, while condemning sternly many things which the ancients tolerated or even applauded, countenances some things -which they utterly rejected. It is very pleasant and natural for us quietly to assume that ours is the advanced and civilised age. But when men reason thus, “A given usage cannot be improper, because Christian opinion and society allow it among us,” they reason in a circle. If the propriety of the usage is in question, then there are two hypotheses to be examined, of which one is, “Ours is a pure state, and therefore what we tolerate must be pure;” but the other is, “This tolerated usage being impure, it proves our state corrupt.” Now, the decision between the two hypotheses cannot be made by a self-sufficient assumption. Oriental, Greek and Papal Christianity justifies many things which we think excessive corruptions by just such an assumption. It is no more valid in our case than in theirs. Indeed, the very tendency to such self-sufficiency is, according to the Bible, one of the strongest symptoms of corruption. The matter must be settled by a fair appeal to Bible morals. These remarks are made because many relaxed Christians now virtually settle the dancing question by this short and easy sophism. They see numerous persons who claim Christian character tolerate or advocate dancing. They assume that all these are a very proper kind of Christians. Thus they “jump to the conclusion” that, in spite of the opinions of the “old fogies,” dancing must be a very proper thing. Now, in opposition, no charge is here made as to the character of our fashionable Christianity, but this obvious thesis is asserted that, should the dancing usages of fashionable Christian society be found in fact corrupt, then their easy tolerance among us is a sign, not of their innocence, but of a fearful and unsuspected corruption of our state.

Circumstances now give this matter a peculiar importance, The discussion involves not only the wrong or right of dancing, but many other vital questions, such as the extent of church. power, the nature of the church's didactic function, Christian liberty, with its “metes and bounds,” the obligation of Christian charity to avoid causeless offence, and the social morality proper for God's people. These all-important questions need exposition and reassertion from time to time. It is evident that such a need now exists.

It is expressly admitted in the outset that there are acts which are sinful, and yet are not such offences as are properly reached by church discipline. (Book of Discipline, Chap. I., Sec. 5.) Hence the proof that dancing is sinful would not suffice to demonstrate that it is disciplinable, and each proposition requires a separate discussion.

On the question whether dancing is an innocent recreation for Christians, it must be remarked that the act must be considered in the concrete, with its usual circumstances, adjuncts and consequences. Practically, these determine the question of moral propriety. No one affirms that there is sin per se merely in the rhythmical motion of human members to music. Just as some killing is the sin of murder and some is not, some beating is the sin of assault and battery and some is not, so the attendant circumstances give the moral character to this form of motion. It is proposed first to state the judgment of past ages. The classic heathens of antiquity ever regarded dancing for amusement, even of a male solus, or of males with males, as contemptible in a free-born adult, and inconsistent with manly dignity and self-respect. In a religious ceremonial, the afflatus of the divinity was supposed to authorise this extravagance of motion, and make it excusable at least, if not compatible with a freeman's dignity. The dancing of females with males for social amusement would have been regarded as an act so inconsistent with decency that an instance can scarcely be heard of in reputable society. Greek and Roman gentlemen, whose amusements in their symposia and cœnce, with no lady present, were certainly far from strict, found much interest in the evolutions and pantomimes of professional dancers, male and female. But the actors were usually slaves, and the profession was regarded as worse than menial. Such is a fair digest of the testimony of antiquity. The earliest witness cited is that of Herodotus, the “father of history.” In Book VI., 139, he relates that Kleisthenes, the chief magistrate of Sicyon, having a marriageable daughter, collected many of the chief men of Greece as her suitors. Among these, the favoured suitor was Hippocleides, son of Tisandros, from Athens. At a male entertainment, after the drinking had proceeded far, this young man, calling on the auletes to play for him, danced first some Laconian and then some Attic figures. Herodotus proceeds:—“Kleisthenes, while he was dancing these, though loathing the thought of having Hippocleides as his son-in-law, by reason of his dancing and indecency, still constrained himself, not wishing to break out on him. But when he saw him gesturing with his legs, he was no longer able to hold in, but said:—'Well, son of Tisandros, thou hast danced away thy bride.' The daughter was given to another.”

The eminent and accurate Greek scholar, Becker, in his Charicles, says (p. 103):—“Though the art of dancing was so highly prised, though it served to give éclat to the festivals and shows, and though the guests of the symposia delighted to see the feats of a skilful artist; still, in private life it was little practiced, and there seems to have arisen almost a prejudice against it … it seems to have been considered incompatible with the dignity of a man … Indeed, it was usually looked upon as a preliminary symptom of intoxication.”

As to the opinion of the Romans, Dr Wm. Smith (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, p. 852), concludes thus:—“Dancing, however, was not performed by any Roman citizens except in connection with religion; and it is only in reference to such dancing that we are to understand the statements that the ancient Romans did not consider dancing disgraceful, and that not only freemen, but the sons of senators, and noble matrons practiced it. In the later times of the Republic we know that it was considered highly disgraceful for a freeman to dance; Cicero reproaches Cato for calling Muræna a 'dancer.'“ Dr Smith then quotes a part of the famous passage in the Oratio pro Murœna, c. 6:—“Saltatorem appellat L. Murænam Cato. Maledictum est, si vere objicitur, vehementis accusatoris; sin falso, maledici conviciatori … Non debes … temere consulem Populi Romani saltatorem vocare, sed conspicere quibus præterea vitiis affectum esse necesse sit eum, cui vere istud objici posit. Nemo fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit, neque in solitudine, neque in convivio moderate,” etc. “Tu mihi arripis id, quod necesse est omnium vitiorum esse extremum.” The Oratio in Pisonem, c. 10, 22, may be compared, Forcellini and Facciolati, in their Latin Thesaurus, define thus:—Saltator:

mollis artifex et probrosus. To one who knows antiquity this statement will appear perfectly moderate and reasonable:—that had the daughter, not only of a rigid Cato, but of a flexible Cicero or Julius, done precisely the thing which is currently done by Christian females at modern dancing parties, Roman opinion would have such a sense of the disgrace that on the following morning the father would have consulted the leading parents of his “Gens,” and, with their full moral support, would have exerted his autocratic domestic authority to consign the disgrace of his house to an imprisonment, which she would have not a little reason to submit to thankfully, as the alternative of a capital penalty. “Roman opinion was not an infallible ethical standard?” No. But it gives us the estimate of one civilised age. And if Roman morals were in many points deplorably relaxed, and yet judged this amusement thus, there is yet room for the question, whether a sounder standard of morals might not condemn it even more clearly.

But let us now look at the verdict of Christian antiquity. Chrysostom (court preacher at Bysantium), expounding the history of Herodias' daughter in Matthew, says:—“Where dancing is, there is the devil. For God did not give us our feet for this end, that we might demean ourselves indecently; but that we might walk decently, not prance like a parcel of camels; but that we may exult with the angels. If even the body is disgraced, which perpetrates this indecency, much more the soul … Dancing is the devil's invention.”

The councils of the early Church frequently condemned the practice. The fifty-third Canon of the Synod of Laodicea enacts, “Christians when coming to weddings must not caper or dance; but dine or sup decently as becomes Christian people.” The same synod forbids clergymen when attending marriages even to witness dancing exhibitions. The Synod of Agatho says (A. D. 450):—“Dancing to songs or music of an amatory or loose character are absolutely inhibited to all Christians.” So enacts the council of Illerda, A. D. 515. The eighth universal Council of the church (in Trullo) (A. D. 692) enacts:—“We also forbid and. expel all public dances of women, as producing much injury and ruin.”

We now hasten to modern Christian judgment and legislation. Presbyterianism has uttered, no uncertain sound. Calvin insisted on the discipline of dancing in Geneva. The Westminster Assembly Larger Catechism, Question 139, declares “lascivious dancing and. stage-plays” breaches of the Seventh Commandment. The Scotch Assembly of 1649, “finding the scandal and abuse that arises through promiscuous dancing, do therefore inhibit and discharge the same, and do refer the censure thereof to the several presbyteries,” etc. So the Scotch Assembly of 1701, “do revive the acts of the General Assembly of 1648, discharging promiscuous dancing,” etc. If recent use has allowed these acts to fall into such desuetude as to justify the assertion that Scotch Presbyterianism does not now discipline for dancing, the comment made on the neglect, by its manifest influence on the morals of the Scotch peasantry, is the best demonstration of error.

Let us now hear the testimony of American Presbyterianism, The Assembly of 1818 pronounced dancing in “its highest extremes” as admitted by all to be of “fatal consequences.” (Round dances were then unknown in America.) The Assembly “apprehends danger from its incipient stages;” and requires church members to “heed on this subject the admonitions of those whom you have chosen to watch for your souls.” The Assembly of 1827 virtually repeats this action. In 1789 the Synod of North Carolina, in reply to an overture, requires that persons guilty of dancing, horse-racing, etc., must be “dealt with by their spiritual rulers.” This action, being allowed tacitly by the Assemblies which reviewed the Synod's proceedings, becomes of authority as expounding the law.

The existence, and consequently the action on this subject, of our Southern Assembly, are recent, and should be familiar to us. Hence only the main points are recalled. In 1865 our Assembly decided, 1st, That while no church court “has a right to make any new rules of church membership, different from those contained in the constitution,” all courts, including church sessions, have the undoubted right “to make deliverances affirming their sense of what is 'an offence' in the meaning of the Book of Discipline. Chap. I., Sec. 3.” 2nd, That our church courts have hitherto “probably been too tolerant of dancing,” etc. 3rd, That “it is the duty of every judicatory to enforce the teachings of our standards on this and other fashionable amusements.” Those teachings “repeatedly” uttered by the supreme judicatory and now reaffirmed at large, are that dancing is “in direct opposition to the Scriptures and our standards,” is indisputably a “worldly conformity,” and is liable to “excesses.” “What species of enforcement” this Assembly enjoins the church courts to employ is thus explained at the end of the enactment:—“Instruction from the pulpit,” prudent “admonition;” but when all other means fail, then “such methods of discipline as shall separate from the church those who love the world and whose practices conform thereto.”

In 1869 the Assembly “heartily responds” to a similar question by “earnestly and solemnly enjoining upon all sessions and presbyteries under its care the absolute necessity of enforcing discipline … against offences; under the word offences including … theatrical exhibitions and performances and promiscuous dancings.”

In 1877 the Presbytery of Atlanta asked the Assembly to interpret the law of the church, as set forth in 1865 and 1869, as to these points:—whether it forbade dancing, or only “promiscuous dancing.” And if the latter, to what accident of the dance the word “promiscuous” referred. The answer of the Assembly is in these words:

“1. The Assembly has uniformly discouraged and condemned the modem dance, in all its forms, as tending to evil, whether practiced in public balls, or in private parlours.

“2. Some forms of this amusement are more mischievous than others—the round dance than the square, the public ball than the private parlour; but all are evil and should be discountenanced.

“3. The extent of the mischief done depends largely upon circumstances. The church session is therefore the only court competent to judge what remedy to apply; but the Assembly, being persuaded that in most cases it is the result of thoughtlessness or ignorance, recommends great patience in dealing with those who offend in this way.”

When this is viewed in connection with the previous enactments—which are not repealed here, but virtually reaffirmed—its meaning is obvious:—that while all dancing is against the law of the church, yet, as some forms are more mischievous than others, and attendant circumstances largely qualify the mischiefs, church sessions should use great patience in dealing with offenders, But the law of the church clothes the sessions “with discretion as to” “what remedy” should be applied, mere remonstrance or judicial discipline. That the Assembly, notwithstanding its tenderness towards offenders, clothes the sessions with the power of judicial discipline, and designs its exercise in all the “worse cases, is manifest.” Why else do they authorise sessions to “judge what remedy to apply,” and speak of their “dealing” I with offenders? Again, the body clothed by the Assembly with the discretionary power is not the didactic agency, the pastor, nor even the individual elder, but the judicial body, the session—The Assembly indisputably authorises judicial action in all such cases as are “mischievous” and cannot be curbed by didactic means, and that at the discretion of sessions.

The views and law of the great Wesleyan body may be gathered, first, from “Wesley's own words. In his works, Vol. VII., p. 224, he says of square dances (round dances were then unknown in England):—It seems God himself has already decided, the question concerning dancing. If dancing be not evil in itself, yet it leads young women to numberless evils.” So in Vol., II., p. 271, sermon on “The More Excellent way.” “So (evil tendencies) undoubtedly have all public dancings. And the same tendency they must have, unless the same caution obtained among Christians which was observed among the ancient heathens. With them men and women never danced together, but always in separate rooms. This was always observed in ancient Greece and for several ages at Rome, where a woman dancing in company with men would have been at once set down as a——.” Wesley's classical attainments authorised him to speak of the ancient usage and opinion. So Adam Clarke:—“Let them plead for it who will; I know it to be evil, and that only.” Let the enactment of the Methodist Church South be taken as a specimen of Methodist law on this subject. The General Conference of 1874:—added to their Book of Discipline, as an appendix, the Pastoral Letter of the Bishops. This, speaking of worldly amusements, says:—

Their multiplied and insidious forms are a source of perpetual temptation and damage, and are denounced by the word of God and by that part of our general rules which forbids 'the taking of such diversions as cannot be used in the name of Jesus.' This denunciation is explicit and comprehensive. 'The name of the Lord Jesus' in this connection is a decisive test; and “we are content to leave the issue to its sovereign arbitrament. Amongst those indulgences which cannot stand this solemn teat is the modern dance, both in its private and public-exhibitions, as utterly opposed to the genius of Christianity as taught by us. When persisted in, it is a justifiable ground of judicial action by the church authorities.”

The Protestant Episcopal Church has been sometimes unjustly called a “dancing church.” But the tenor of its verdict against dancing may be seen in the following:—

Bishop Hopkins, speaking only of square dances:—“No ingenuity can make it consistent with the covenant of baptism.” Bishop Meade:—“Social dancing is not among the neutral things which, within certain limits, we may do at pleasure, and it is not even among the things lawful but not expedient; but it is in itself wrong, improper, and of bad effect.” This Bishop Meade spoke of “social dancing”; what would he have said of round dances? The latter, Bishop Cox pronounces “enormities and “lascivious.” Bishop Johns calls round dances “lascivious” and a “demoralising dissipation.” “This scandal is not to be tolerated in the church of Christ.” “If all such efforts (as remonstrances and instructions) prove unavailing, … and it becomes necessary to resort to the exercise of decided discipline, it must be done.”

It may be said that these opinions, though the views of bishops, are not Episcopalian law. Let us then to the law. The general canons of the “General Convention,” enjoining discipline for irregular living, in the hands of the minister, subject to an appeal to the bishop, remits the providing of detailed rules to the different diocesan conventions. (Digest of Canons, 1878.) The canons of the Virginia Diocese may be taken as a fair specimen. Canon nineteenth, after authorising the minister of the parish to repel from the Lord's table any professed Christian “conducting himself in a manner unworthy of a Christian,” adds:—“And gaming, attendance on horse-racing or theatrical amusements, witnessing immodest and licentious exhibitions of shows, attending public balls, etc., … are offences for which discipline should be exercised.”

But Bishop Whittle, of Virginia, wishing for still more stringent and imperative legislation against round dancing, speaks of it thus:—“I adopt his” (Bishop Johns') “language as my own.” Round dancing is a “dreadful evil.” “Judging the tree by its fruit, our wisest and best people, ministers and laymen, have become, alarmed lest its effect shall not only be to injure pure and undefiled religion in the church, but even to sap the very foundations of all social virtue and morality. I will not discuss its character and consequences. For while St. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus that it was a shame even to speak of those things which were done by some in secret, I should feel ashamed even to speak, as the truth would require, of this thing which is done openly before all.”

The council of 1878, in response to the bishop's request, unanimously resolved that it is the “solemn duty of every communicant to abstain from round dancing; and that every minister be requested to use every effort to arrest the practice of round dancing by admonition, and discipline.” Legislation, rendering this absolute by an additional “canon,” is now on foot and referred to the next council.

The Papal body has not had the character of being at all a strict guardian of morals. But even American popery cannot away with the abuse. The pastoral letter of the Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops in council in Baltimore in 1866 speaks thus:—They consider it “their duty to warn their people, … especially against the fashionable dances, which, as at present carried on, are revolting to every feeling of delicacy and propriety, and are fraught with the greatest danger to morals.”

The same council adopted the following Canon C. Choreæ dictæ “round dances” in scholis nec tolerandæ nec docendse. “Cum PP. Conc. Bait. Plenarii II. in Literis Pastoralibus ad Populum, omnino improbarint choreas, quæ vulgo nomine 'Waltses' et 'round dances' veniunt:—statuimus illas uon esse doeendas efc ne tolerandas quidem, in Collegiis, Academiis, et Scholis hujus Diocœseos, etiamsi recreationis tantum causa inter personas ejusdem sexus habeantur.”

And the archbishop, with a nerve which shames the timidity of many a protestant, ordered the parochial clergy to withhold absolution from all such as refused to forsake these amusements.

It may be rejoined, that all the witnesses cited are human, and therefore none of them is Lord of the Christian's conscience. Let this be granted. But what shall be the presumptive estimate of the humility, modesty, and docility of that temper which sets itself up arrogantly against this concursus of all religions, all ages, all civilisations, to decide, in its ignorance and inexperience, in favour of what the wise and good of the ancient and modern world have condemned? In the face of this array, the charge that the condemnation of dancing is only puritanical or self-righteous is simply silly. Whether this opinion of the virtuous of all ages be sound or not, it is clear that the self-sufficiency and arrogance of mind which rejects it under the plea of asserting its Christian liberty, is the farthest possible from that righteous and reverent. God-fearing, and humble temper which should animate the champion of the holy rights of conscience, especially when constrained to contend against God's own church.

But it is by no means conceded that this condemnation of public dancing is without scriptural warrant, and sustained only by ecclesiastical opinion. Few practices, which have become current since Bible, days, are so fully and expressly condemned by the Bible as is this. No competent archaeologist will risk his credit by denying the following facts:—that modern dancing, i. e., the dancing of free males and females together for amusement, was unknown in the decent society of the Jews (as of the ancient heathen); that the only dancing mentioned with allowance in the Bible was religious, choral movements, in which the sexes always danced alone, and that the dancing of females for amusement in a male presence, like that of Herodias' daughter, was uniformly recognised as too notoriously indecent to need any new condemnation. Hence all attempted use of the Bible cases as precedents for modern dancing are simply preposterous. And that the canon of Scripture should close without any additional prohibition, in express words, of our modern dancing, is exactly according to that plan by which God has legislated for his church in all other points of modern sin. Why is it that no church session, if called to discipline a man for the trespass of wantonly cutting a telegraph wire, or the crime of displacing a railroad bar in front of a passenger train, would expect to find a prohibition in express words against these forms of sin? Every child knows the answer:—because telegraphs and railroads had not then been invented, and God's uniform plan is not to place on the page of the Bible, in Bible times, precepts which must be wholly unintelligible to the generation to which the Bible was given. But his plan was, so to prohibit sins which were current in those generations as to furnish all honest minds parallels and precedents which would safely guide them in classing the sins of later invention. The position here assumed is, that the Bible has condemned the modern dance as expressly as the plan of its revelation made possible for it. For—

1. The Bible enjoins on Christians sobriety; the dance is an act of pronounced levity. The Bible morality is not ascetic, but it is distinctly sedate. It summons us to regard ourselves and our fellow-men as invested with the dignity of immortality; as engaged in a momentous struggle for our own salvation and for the rescue of a perishing generation of fellow-men; as bought for God with divine blood; as at strife with spiritual adversaries of mighty power; as waging this warfare in the presence of a world of men, of angels, and of God. The Bible commends cheerfulness, but forbids frivolity and levity. It allows recreations but it limits them to such bounds as refit the powers for the serious duties of life, or such as are compatible with the solemn warfare we wage. Let any obedient mind, from this point of view, compare the numerous places where this σωφροσυνη is positively enjoined. To appreciate the meaning which the Spirit meant to put into this precept, we must consider the meaning which the usage of the age attached to the quality. According to that usage, all such levities as the dancing of a virtuous free-born man for amusement were outrages on that αιδων, that sense of dignity and decency of person, the absence of which was a shame and disgrace.

2. The Bible enjoins on Christians strict economy. They are stewards of their riches for God. They must use their superfluity to do good in the spirit of that Redeemer “who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor.” But the modern dance is a wasteful and expensive amusement, wasteful of time:—of money, of dress, of equipage and furniture, and most mischievously hindering industrial pursuits. Is it said that modern Christian society indulges in many other expensive amusements besides the ball? This is deplorably true; but the answer is that “two wrongs do not make a right.” All of those expensive amusements are unscriptural and unchristian; God calls for the retrenchment of all. But it would be a sorry method to pursue that important result by sanctioning one of the most obtrusive and fruitful sources of this sinful waste. He who looks around and comprehends the vast destitutions appealing to Christian charity, he who sees our young missionaries detained from the open doors God has set before them among the perishing heathen, he who hears the imploring but vain appeals of our committees for aid, and then sees God's money, in the hands of his stewards, lavished on the mischievous prodigalities of balls and other fashionable pomps, can appreciate somewhat the greatness of this element of sin. It is as expressly anti-scriptural as the word of God can make it.

3. It has been already remarked that a practice must be viewed in the concrete and with its usual adjuncts in order to make a just moral appraisement of it. The modern dance is anti-scriptural again, because it dictates usually mode of dress in females which the word condemns. Paul expressly requires Christian females to “adorn themselves in modest apparel” (εν καταστολη χοσμιχω). How much this meant, this raiment seemly and decent for woman, must be learned from a proper understanding of the meaning which virtuous opinion in Paul's day attached to the words. The unlearned Bible reader may see what this was from 1 Corinthians 11:4-10. We there see that, according to that standard which is enjoined on the Christian female, she who appeared in public unveiled—not to say with parts of her person exposed which delicacy should have most jealously guarded—disparaged the honour of her sex by an unnatural transgression.

4. The Scriptures expressly forbid the modern dance, in that they enjoin the strictest purity in the intercourse of the sexes. Here we approach very delicate ground. But as our citations showed, it is one which the church and its pastors have always and everywhere felt constrained by duty to assume in resisting the sin. Its defenders not seldom resent this objection to their practice as an indelicate and libellous assault. They endeavour to cry shame upon the construction which experience places on their indulgences. But one thing is clear; if the candid and plain description of the adjuncts of the modern dance would demand words whose utterance would be an outrage to the decencies of debate, then this is the strongest possible proof that the doing is still more an outrage upon the decencies of Christian morals. We have seen above a Christian, as pure as he is brave, confess that the personal modesty he cherished as a man disqualified him for expressing in words the adjuncts of the fashionable dances. He could have selected no words which implied so severe and just a censure of them. The Christian physician is sometimes obliged to uncover a fatal ulcer in order to exscind it. But he may do it with a hand as chaste as that which lays his benediction on an infant's brow. So the spiritual surgeon may be under obligation to probe, and in probing expose, the moral impurity which his sanctity would fain hide. But the duty may be performed with sanctity. It may be modestly claimed that if any place is suitable for such exposure, it is especially the page of a professional journal which is designed for the teachers and rulers of the church, and not for the popular assemblage of families.

The attempt has been often made to break the force of the precedents cited from sacred and secular antiquity, by saying that the usages of those days were dictated by that jealous seclusion of women which Christianity has banished as a remnant of barbarism. And we are reminded that, as there is a legitimate union of the sexes, there may be a legitimate scope in social intercourse for the disclosure of the emotions which approximate them to each other. Such is the intimated plea. Now it is conceded that Christianity has elevated woman, in freeing her from that ancient state in which she was, while unmarried, half a slave and half a prisoner. It is conceded that the intercourse of the sexes in domestic society refines both, as long as it is retained within scriptural bounds; and that it is necessary to found Christian marriage in the mutual knowledge, respect, and friendship of the parties. It is admitted that God, in his laws always assigns somewhere a legitimate scope to those affections which, in his creative handiwork, he made constitutive of our nature. But since man's fall he teaches us that every one of these affections must be restrained. Now it is the clear teaching of Scripture that the special emotions which approximate the sexes can have no innocent or lawful existence, except between those who desire to be united by them in that sacred union which makes of the twain one flesh. That union is the institution ordained by God in paradise as the means of “seeking godly seed,” consecrated to the high and holy purpose of surrounding young immortals with the safeguards which will fit them for heaven. It is the selected type of the eternal union of Christ to his ransomed Church. Hence its affections must remain unique, and must be sacredly directed towards or confined. to the enclosure of the consecrated type. Anything else than this is pollution. From this scriptural position it follows that in the common social intercourse of the unmarried everything is to be retrenched which has a regular tendency to develop, promiscuously, sentiments which can have lawfully but one single direction. Clear as this deduction is, we are not left to deduction, but have the sure word of Scripture. The rule enjoined on Timothy, 1 Timothy 5:2, is:—“Treat the younger women as sisters, with all purity.” Now, first, while it is conceded that a breach of propriety by a young minister would carry heavier aggravations of guilt, it is false and absurd to allow to the young layman a different rule of morals. The rule then is, that young Christian males and females are, in their general social intercourse, to exclude all the peculiar sentiments of the sexes, just as completely as they are excluded between virtuous brothers and sisters. The apostle teaches us the stimulation of those sentiments towards the common female acquaintance is, while less criminal, as distinctly unlawful. See also for confirmation, Proverbs 5:17-18; 1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:2-5; Matthew 5:28.

Does any one exclaim that our Christian society is exceeding far below this standard in many other things besides dancing:—in modes of dress, in manners and intercourse? And that therefore we cannot justly condemn dancing while we allow the other departures? If the statement is true, then it proves, not that we are to legitimate dancing, but that we are to reform all the other licenses along with it. Our Saviour's word concerning such reform of a prominent abuse is clear:—“This ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone.” Again, should the averment be true, then the state of facts proves, not that the standard laid down above from the Scriptures is unreasonable, but perhaps it may prove that we are, indeed, far gone from that high Christian state on which it is so pleasant to plume ourselves, and that we may be, in God's eyes, in a deplorable state of decadence and corruption. What way is there for safely settling this question except a comparison of our ways with God's word?

The impulses of human acts are usually complex. To the less objectionable dances of a former generation, young people may have been prompted in part by the mere animal love of motion which leads the lamb to skip and the school-boy to leap. Some found another impulse in the love of music. Many were impelled by the tyranny of fashion, by the fear of being taunted as “wall flowers,” or of being reproached as puritans. Many moved under a love of excitement which they did not stop to analyse. In some at least, less innocent emotions prompted the exercise. In the modern dances it is simple folly to deny the presence of a stronger tendency towards the evil elements of attraction. Now, the complexity of the impulse could not but deceive, especially the inconsiderate and inexperienced dancer, as to the nature of his own emotions. He felt, but did not analyse. This admission may on the one hand greatly palliate the error of the inconsiderate dancer, and may give us the pleasing ability to exculpate him personally from conscious corruption. But on the other hand, it only places the practice in a more objectionable light by so much as it shows its deceitful and treacherous as a stimulus of evil. From this point of view, one easily sees how futile it is to quote the declarations of a few inexperienced dancers as to their innocency of evil sensations, in proof of the lawfulness of the amusement. Over against this partial testimony must be placed a fearful array. It is notorious that the introduction of the walts, less objectionable than the more recent round dances, excited in England and America the general condemnation of the world and the universal reprehension of the church. To those who are old enough to remember the verdict of the healthier sentiment, it is self-evident that any change in that verdict since is due to the sophisticating of the general conscience by the tolerance in society of the evil. Those whose experience is more recent may see a fair picture of the earlier and healthier disapprobation in Byron's poem, “The Walts.” It is replete with his keenest and bitterest satire. The amusement is by innuendo charged with the worst possible tendencies. He intimates that nothing but the deplorable relaxation in the fashionable world, resulting from the example of the fourth George when Prince Regent, and the force of his personal example, could have made it possible to domesticate the abominable innovation in British society. In his view the waltser had tarnished all the purity and delicacy which make woman attractive:—

“At once love's most enduring thought resign,
To press the hand so pressed by none but thine;
To gaze upon that eye which never met
Another's ardent look without regret.
Approach the lip which all, without restraint,
Come near enough—if not to touch—to taint!
If such thou lovest, love her then no more.”

Byron, it is well known, was far from a saint. If even his gross mind was thus impressed by the new amusement, what is the judgment which Christian purity must pass upon it? And if we may receive these verses of Goethe as an expression of German sentiment, the walts was no more justified in the land of its origin than here:—

“What? The girl of my heart by another embraced?
What? The balm of her lips shall another man taste?
What? Touched in the whirl by another man's knee?
What? Panting recline on another than me?
Sir, she is yours:—from the plum you have brushed the soft blue;
From the rose you have shaken its tremulous dew—
What you touched you may take; pretty waltser, adieu!”

He must be verdant indeed who can defend the round dance from the charge of impurity, after he is made aware of the feelings avowed by its unblushing male votaries. Let the participants of the other sex be as innocent as a vestal of the infection, that innocency does not remove the loathing which the delicate mind should feel for the unconscious association. Nor, in view of the fact that God forbids our making ourselves unnecessarily the occasions of sin to others, does it remove the guilt. Again, it is well known that men who join in these dances with females for whom they care nothing, usually express the greatest repugnance to seeing their own sisters imitate their example. Why is this? Because these men know the true nature of the amusement. The argument is trite but just, that the real secret source of the excitement is disclosed by the fact that round dances of men with men, and women with women, possess no attraction. In view of these stubborn facts, and the fearful testimony of the police of our large cities as to the sources whence the denizens of the house of her whose “feet go down to death and whose steps take hold on hell” are recruited, the denial of evil tendency in this practice can appear as only the blindness of prejudice and folly. Should any reputable father detect a man, who had no ether rights than those of a stranger or at most of a common acquaintance, in such relations to the person of his daughter in the parlour as attend the round dance, he would unquestionably regard it as an outrage upon the honour of his house, which, if Christian forbearance did not hold his hand, would be washed out in blood.

But now we ask, first, how does publicity modify an indecent act except by aggravating it? Second, can such an act intrinsically immoral, be changed in its character by the attachment of any frivolous adjunct? Would a judge at law, for instance, in a commonwealth which made duelling by its laws a crime, dream of justifying the duellist because the perpetration of his murder was accompanied with a graceful Pyrrhic dance' With what scorn would the righteous magistrate dismiss so impudent a plea! Why then shall the Christian moralist modify his reprobation of that which when done without accessories would be condemned by all as unchaste; because, forsooth tyrannical fashion has attached to it her frivolous adjuncts of music and rhythmical motion? The demand is an insolence.

It is therefore without a shadow of ground that a lack of express law for applying the corrective of discipline is asserted either of the Bible or of our constitution. Let any church session bring charges, not against the music and motion, but against postures of the round dance, and they would find express authority in the Larger Catechism, Questions 138, 139. The impropriety which would be admitted by all, if perpetrated without those adjuncts, cannot be excused by them. Hence if the court should, in tenderness to the offender, refrain from stating its charge in terms fully equal to the grossness of the real act, and speak of it as “round dancing,” it is hard to see how a culprit otherwise clearly condemned by our law can acquire any rights of justification from this undeserved forbearance.

5. The Scripture has virtually included the modern dance in an express prohibition in three places, Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3., where it sternly inhibits the kw~moi of the heathen. In the first text it is rendered “rioting,” and in the other two “revellings.” These words now fail to convey to the English reader the real nature of the sin. “Rioting” suggests some such violent insurrection against law as is put down by reading the riot act, or by an armed police; while “revellings” suggest lavish and intemperate amounts of eating. The kw~mov of the Greeks was wholly another matter:—the comissatio of the Latins. This was a general frolic or jollification, following the dei~mov or cœna, usually pursued within the house of the host. Its spirit and nature may be inferred from the “walking honestly,” ευσχημοσυνη, of Romans 8:13, with which the κωμον is contrasted. ευσχημοσυνη was that sedate dignity and seemliness which the gospel requires of the Lord's freedmen, the same dignity, exalted and spiritualised, which the Greek ethics exacted of the free-born citizen. The κωμον was condemned, partly because it was in contrast with this dignity. Cicero, in the place cited, describes the comissatio as an excess considerably short of dancing, and a milder preliminary usually preceding, before dissolute people got to the dancing pitch. His defence of Muræna against the infamous charge of being a dancer is that Cato could not catch him in any of these previous excesses, which alone could lead a freeman down to the final shame of dancing for social amusement. “Tu mihi arripis id, quod necesse est omnium vitiorum esse postremum:—relinquis ilia, quibus remotis hoc vitium omnino esse non potest. Nullum turpe convivium, non amor, non comissatio, non libido, non sumptus ostenditur.” Now if Paul and Peter sternly inhibit the xcdw; or comissatio, a priori they inhibited the dancing which contemporary opinion regarded as still more unworthy. No female was usually present in these jollities. But their presence and participation, had it occurred, would unquestionably have made the condemnation of the apostles just so much the sterner, because it would have outraged their moral sense in another point. But add to the ancient comissatio the presence of women participating as agents in the frolic, and we have precisely the modern ball, as it appears in its full fledged dissipation. The conclusion of the whole is, that in forbidding kw~moi the Scriptures did still more forbid the modern dance.

None will be so hardy as to deny that the light of experience may properly be invoked in interpreting the preceptive principles of Scripture and applying them to existing practices. For instance, it is agreed that the Sixth Commandment forbids suicide as truly as the murder of a fellow-man; and that therefore practices destructive of mental and bodily health are criminal (Larger Catechism, Question 136). But now the modern drug “chloral” is introduced, and it is found to be a fascinating sedative and nervine. May we then indulge in it causelessly—when not really necessary is an anaesthetics—for our gratification? It is said, that when habitually used it fatally impairs the brain-tissue, tending to induce mental imbecility and premature death. If this be true, its causeless, habitual use is clearly a sin under the Sixth Commandment. What is to settle the question? Now, every one will say in this case, the light of experience must settle it:—and the experience must be chiefly that of medical observation. Now, should, some caviller in this case object:—“No; for that would be to clothe the doctors with power over my conscience, which is a species of popery;” it would cost no person of common sense any trouble to explode the cavil by saying:—God's word has decided the principle of the duty of abstinence; the doctors are merely referred to as to question of fact. And if what they state is a fact then the rash fool who persists in saying, against the light of a sufficient experience, “I don't believe that any amount of chloral will hurt me; these doctors shall not make my conscience for me,” must even bear the penalty of his own sinful obstinacy. This parallel receives an easy application. There is no question but experience proves the tendencies of modern dancing to be, not in every case, but in ordinary oases, unhealthy for body and soul. Medical experience has lately been cited, from the over-pampered and luxurious society of one of our cities, to testify that it was not unhealthy. Of such subjects this may be relatively true, that is, even so ill-judged an exercise as that of the ball-room may be found not as bad for the health as the pampered indolence in which such people would otherwise exist. But this admission does not at all detract from the truth that the practice is of unhealthy tendency. Other and more trustworthy medical authority testifies that modern dancing is most deleterious. “Unseasonable hours, an atmosphere over-heated and vitiated, the glare of lights, the imprudent and unseasonable raiment, the unhealthy food, the excessive social excitement prompting over-exertion, all indisputably concur to make it anything but a safe recreation.” An old physician, looking on a gay dance, said:—“This will be worth ___ dollars to me.” The prediction was exactly verified, with the addition of the death of two young people from pneumonia. It is a vain attempt, in the presence of experiences like these, for thoughtlessness to dismiss the warning of prudence.

Experience proves the tendency of the modem dance to be yet more unhealthy for the soul. Is one and another “dancing Christian” obtruded as an instance of lively religious seal? The answer is:—“One swallow does not make a summer.” These facts are well known:—that it is not usually the spiritually-minded people who are the dancing members; that a dancing minister would shock even the most worldly sentiment; that at the approach of a revival dancing always ceases; that the world claims the amusement as its own. What is the meaning of these facts? The familiar association with the ungodly on their own ground, the levity, the intoxicating excitement, the bustle and glare, cannot but quench the holy and silent motions of God's Spirit and exhale the dew of his graces.

It has been conceded that all evil acts are not properly disciplinable by the visible church. Advantage is taken of this admission to argue that dancing should be disapproved, reasoned against, and admonished, but not disciplined. One plea for this untenable position is, that it is admitted that there are forms of dancing which are innocent, and since the different kinds shade off into each other by nice gradations, and since the Bible has not drawn a line between the tolerated and the disciplinable forms of the practice, all the church can rightfully do is to remonstrate and instruct. The answer is, that by the same logic one might prove that no breach of any commandment is disciplinable. The lesser and greater breaches of all of them shade off into each other. Who doubts that a plain breach of the Third Commandment by cursing or swearing should be disciplined? But there are expletives and exclamations heedlessly uttered by truly good people, which are against the spirit of that commandment in that they depart from our Saviour's law:—“Let your yea be yea, and your nay nay, for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” Breaches of the Ninth Commandment are certainly disciplinable. But a Christian youth might, in a thoughtless moment, utter a quis. Now to make these faults grounds of judicial censure, without other provocation, might be neither wise nor just. Shall we argue thence that the rod of discipline cannot reach lying and profanity? No one claims this. Then the existence of such gradations in dancing cannot prove that the grosser forms of the practice may not be disciplined.

The reader has a right to ask this objector, who says he wholly disapproves dancing but does not deem it disciplinable, how he found out that it is to be disapproved. May not a church session ascertain its evil in the same valid way in which he has? He stickles much for the principle that none but God can make an act a sin. How then did the objector convince himself so clearly that dancing is to be disapproved? Has he committed the error which he is so jealous of in the church court, that of judging his fellow-creature's conduct by some merely human standard?

When men plead that there are other sinful amusements than this, and that a pharisaic professor may not dance, and yet may commit much greater sin by tattling, censoriousness, covetous-ness, the answer is too plain to need restatement. The conscientious Christian should forsake dancing and also these other forms of evil. If it be charged that church courts are partial, even though dancing be conceded to be evil, in directing their discipline so exclusively against this, while much greater sins go unwhipped of justice, then all that can be inferred is, not that the court erred in exerting its authority in the one case, but that it erred in failing to exert it in the many other cases. It needs to go, not backward, but forward; not to begin conniving at this one form of evil, but to cease conniving at all the other forms.

But there is a truth usually overlooked which justifies special watchfulness and jealousy touching these worldly and sinful conformities. It is that they practically lie so near the dividing line between the penitent and the ungodly. When two rival kingdoms touch each other geographically, the boundary line is but a mark. A portion of the territory of the one, although as really foreign soil to the other as though it were in the centre of its own realm, must be within a single inch of the line, and so within an inch of the other's ground. However sharply the boundary may be defined and established, this remains true. One result is that the king of either side takes much more pains to defend his frontier than his interior; his fortresses are built and his guards paraded almost exclusively along the outer edge, next his foreign and hostile neighbour's territory. By the same reason, it is unavoidable and right that in Christ's kingdom the frontier ground which borders upon the territory of Satan's kingdom, the sinful world, should be more jealously guarded. Practically, that is the region where the citizens of the spiritual kingdom suffer incursions and are exposed to danger. The officers of that kingdom would be derelict to their duty if they did not bestow special watch at these points. Thoughtless people suppose that the noise made by presbyters of the church against cards and dancing is prompted by nothing but their puritanical prejudice; that being determined from censoriousness and pride to be “righteous overmuch,” they pitch on these practices as their “pet horrors.” But that this is entirely short-sighted appears from the simple view just given. Since the rival kingdoms are both together in this one world, this nearness of the conterminous domains must always exist, it matters not what may be the practices prevalent. It must be so in all ages and states of manners. Were the world to agree so utterly to desert cards and dancing that its votaries and worldly Christians should both forget them, the general truth would recur. The contest would inevitably revive about other questionable worldly practices, and the same jealousy and watch would become obligatory upon the guardians of the church.

Another truth follows from this view:—that however sharply the boundary line may be drawn between the hostile kingdoms, practically, the belt of land next the frontier must be “debatable land” as to its perils. Hence the man who desires to pay a righteous regard to his own safety will avoid occupying the space very near the boundary, even though he may believe that it belongs to his own king. His actual peril is about as great as though he were over the line. Let us suppose that a western cattle farmer should insist that he knew exactly where the line between the territories of the United States and Mexico ran, even to an inch; that he was legally entitled to “pre-empt” any “United States lands; and that therefore he should claim his rights and place his farm-house within an inch of the Mexican line. All this might be very true; and yet when the lawless Comanches harried his home, he would become convinced that he had been very foolish and criminal.” The analogy is just. The Christian who is successfully assaulted by Satan is the one who causelessly ventures near his boundary line. Usually men do not backslide by suddenly falling into some large and clearly acknowledged crime. Nemo repents turpissimus. To change the figure:—Satan does not attempt to rend a soul away from Christ by inserting the blunt of his wedge between them first. The thin edge is insinuated. It is because it is thin, because the crevice first made by its introduction is very narrow, that it is adapted to do its deadly work. Because this is generally true, Christians are morally bound to guard themselves most against the smaller sins lying next the debatable some; and those -who watch for souls are bound to be most wakeful and strict in the same points.

This conclusive argument would hold thoroughly upon the ground asserted by the pollinators of dancing, that it is a slight sin. But that ground is by no means admitted, as to all forms of the practice. We believe that round dancing, at least, is a sin of a very grave character, and a flagrant breach of morals, such as cannot but rapidly debauch the conscience and choke the spiritual life.

The reasonable inquirer will now be ready to concede that if some forms of dancing have been proved sinful by the former part of this discussion, then such dancings are clearly disciplinable offences. They have every mark by which disciplinable sins are discriminated from the un-disciplinable. They are public sins. Their commission is overt. The acts may be clearly defined. They are, notoriously, attended by scandal. They have regular tendencies to other sins. Above all, if the testimony of pastors and elders may be believed, the milder measures of instruction and remonstrance fail to restrain the irregularity of many. In such a state of the case, when the purity and authority of the church are wantonly provoked and defied by the continuance of a practice confessedly needless and non-obligatory, in spite of her solemn and tender entreaties, the claim, that the offenders may not be touched with the rod of discipline, savours more of sinful audacity than of righteous seal for freedom of conscience. Our Assemblies, in 1869 and 1877, have distinctly declared that some forms of dancing are not only reprehensible, but disciplinable. We have seen that the authorities of all the other denominations, even those farthest from Puritanism, treat the practice as disciplinable.

It has been argued that a session may not discipline any form of dancing, no matter how gross, because the records of our church courts contain no precedents of such cases. Is it demonstrated that they do not? When the statute law exists, as in the decisions of 1869 and 1877, no precedents are necessary. The demand for a precedent is absurd. The first precedent could only arise by the legitimate exercise, by some church court, of the power to discipline in some first case. But this preposterous argument would require a precedent before the first precedent to justify the use of the power! Let us suppose that when railroads were first constructed, our Assemblies had seen a stolidity and perversity of conscience among the people, such as required a declarative enactment to this effect, vis., that the displacement of a rail for the purpose of throwing a passenger train off the track is a breach of the Sixth Commandment, and must be disciplined as such. According to this notable argument, this moat clear and righteous rule must remain a dead letter until after a precedent had arisen, which, on the terms of the argument, could never arise. Should it then prove the case, that the declarative enactments of Assemblies have made gross forms of dancing disciplinable? that such forms do prevail, and yet no precedent of their discipline exists? the only reasonable inference is, that our church courts have been too long derelict to solemn duty, and that they should reform their delinquency at once.

It has been supposed that the rights of conscience are involved in this discipline. Some have taken the ground that nothing can be justly disciplined except what is expressly condemned by God; others, assuming a less extravagant ground, say, that the interpretative powers of church courts can never inhibit any practice, under any circumstances, which cannot be proved by Scripture to be forever and under all circumstances malum, per se. And it is further claimed, that whenever an individual judges that his own church courts have in any thing exceeded these restrictions, it is his right and duty to assert his freedom of conscience by doing the thing inhibited. To separate the error mingled with the truth here, let this series of statements be considered, which all Presbyterians will accept without cavil:

“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrine and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his word, or beside it in matters of faith or worship.”

“All church power  …  is only ministerial and declarative;  …  and all decisions should be founded upon the revealed will of God.” (Gov., Chap. 1, Sees. I. and VII.)

“The whole counsel of God concerning  …  man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” (Conf. of Faith, Chap. 1, Sec. VI.)

“Every Christian church is entitled to declare the terms of admission to its own communion,” etc. “In the exercise of this right they may, notwithstanding, err, in making the terms of communion too lax or too narrow; yet even in this case they do not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only make an IMPROPER USE OF THEIR OWN.

If the erroneous term of communion forbids a positive permanent duty, or commands an act which is sin per se, then the conscientious dissentient has no discretion:—he must resist it at once and utterly. But if the act in question is only “beside” and not “against Scripture,” then his course is to be modified by circumstances.

The adult member seeking admission to a Christian church is responsible for informing himself as to that understanding of scriptural terms of communion on which its previous members have expressly agreed among themselves as their known constitution; and he is justly presumed, when he voluntarily applies for membership therein, to have approved those terms, and to covenant with his brethren to keep them. He is therefore bound, as for himself, by his own act to keep all those rules unless he afterwards discovers any of them to be unscriptural in such sense that he may not righteously comply with them. But in this case also, his voluntary covenant binds him to vindicate his conscience, not by remaining in the communion and disobeying its agreed rules, but by peacefully withdrawing to some other church, whose terms he believes scriptural. Should he wish to exercise his right of seeking, inside the church of his first choice, the amendment of the rule which he once covenanted to observe, but now finds to be unscriptural, common honesty requires him to promote that amendment, not by the breach of the rule while it yet subsists, which is factious and of bad faith, but by moving and arguing for the change in the ways provided by the church constitution. If the dissentient is an officer in the church, such factious conduct is a still more indecent breach of faith.

Each man must be his own judge, in the fear of God, on every question, whether a church rule is scriptural or not; and on that question the courts of the church must not come between his conscience and God by assuming to decide for him that the rule is scriptural.

But neither has this dissentient a right to come between the consciences of the majority and God, when they decide that the rule he regards as unscriptural is scriptural, and that it shall therefore remain the rule of their communion. He has his inalienable right of withdrawal; but he has no more right to dictate his judgment to them, against their conscientious judgment, than. they have to punish his conscientious dissent with fine or imprisonment. In this case, even if it be conceded for illustration's sake, that he is right and the majority wrong, “they have not infringed upon” his rights, “but only made an improper use of their own.”

In such case, where the majority make a term of communion, though not sinful yet too strict, and insist on its observance by those who voluntarily join them, they do not commit the sin of popery, neither do they make a papal assault on liberty of conscience. This appears from two differences:—they do not claim any right to coerce acquiescence in what they judge according to the mind of God, by civil pains and penalties; neither do they declare submission to and communion with them essential to salvation. The nature of their error is only this:—that they blunder in their interpretation of God's will on the point involved in their rule, and impair causelessly the comfort or edification of their brethren who judge with and adhere to them.

Actions which the Scripture does not make sins per se, either by expressly setting them down as such, or by good and necessary consequence, may, by reason of circumstances, be not for edification. Then the law of love should prompt every Christian to forego those actions for his weak brethren's sake. But of the duty of foregoing these acts, or of the call uttered by the law of love, each one must judge, in the fear of God, in his own Christian liberty. For, were the church court to usurp that de-and. enforce their view of it by church discipline, as a universal obligatory rule on their members, they would thus indirectly attain that power of making a thing to be sin which God did not make sin; which Christ has inhibited to all human authorities.

But once more:—the maxim, that “circumstances alter cases,” has an ethical application. That is, actions which, under certain circumstances, were morally neutral, may, by a change of circumstances, become truly sins. Seth's marriage to his own sister must have been allowable. In the days of Moses the changed conditions of the human race made such a marriage the sin of incest. Under the Mosaic manners, a “bill of divorcement” to a newly espoused wife was in a certain case allowable; in our Saviour's and our times, it would be the sin of adultery. If this is so, then for a Christian to claim his liberty of conscience to continue that act, now become actually sinful, would be license, and not spiritual liberty.

May a church then, after the completion of the canon of Scripture, assume to declare that circumstances have now made some act sinful in itself which Christ or his apostles had left allowable? No; this would be a violation of spiritual liberty, and a claim of an uninspired and fallible body to change his infallible legislation. That a church may justly prohibit a practice as evil by reason of newly arising circumstances, it must be able to prove from Scripture, either by express declaration of good and necessary consequence, that God regards the practice thus circumstanced as evil. An instance in point may be imagined. Our Assemblies, while scripturally condemning drunkenness, have scripturally refused to make temperate drinking an offence. Hence, no presbytery may enforce total abstinence on its ministers, by the plea that their temperate drinking may become a temptation to excess to others. But here is a town, in which is a drinking-hell that is proved to be a regular occasion of drunkenness to many. A Presbyterian minister residing in that town habitually exercises his right of temperate drinking in public in that drinking-hell; and it is duly proved that this his example does occasion the fall of unwary persons into the sin of drunkenness, and the name of Christ into scandal. Can the presbytery restrain that minister by its ecclesiastical authority? Every man's common sense answers at once that it can. By what rule? Not by enacting that temperate drinking, which Christ had left allowable, has now become sin; but by enforcing Christ's own rule, that Christians must not “let their good be evil spoken of.” The presbytery would leave him his Christian liberty of temperate drinking under other circumstances, but it would teach him. to distinguish between this right and the sin of causelessly misleading souls. (See Conf. of Faith, Chap. XX., Sec. 4.)

But the Scripture furnishes us with a better instance. About the fifty-second year of Christ, Jewish Christians felt themselves scandalised by several things which were seen among some Gentile converts to Christ. One was, that they entered the church without circumcision; another, that they ate articles of food which had before been offered to idols; another was, that they ate flesh with the blood, as things strangled; and another, that some continued to practice un-chastises which pagan morals had long justified. The apostles and elders met to settle the dispute. See Acts 15; 16:4; Romans 14:2, 17; 1 Corinthians 8:8; 10:25; Titus 1:15. They decided, with the authority of the Holy Ghost (Acts 15:28), that circumcision was not incumbent on the Gentile believers; that all forms of fornication must be jealously avoided; and that two practices, in themselves indifferent (see Romans 14:14; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 10:25)—eating things which had been before offered to false gods, and eating the flesh with the blood—must be temporarily forbidden and forborne. The propriety of this latter part of the rule is grounded on these circumstances (see Acts 15:21):—that Gentiles were almost everywhere united in Christian communion with believing Jews; that these Jewish Christians were still observing the Mosaic ritual and synagogue worship of the seventh day, just as they had for ages; that during the transition stage from the old to the new dispensation this was legitimate for Jewish believers (see Acts 21:20-24); that according to the Mosaic point of view, blood was sacredly set apart from all common uses to the sacrificial, and whoever “ate of a sacrifice [1 Corinthians 10:18] was partaker of the altar;” whence the indulgence of Gentile brethren in these must unavoidably scandalise Hebrew Christians, and break the peace of the church. For this reason it was necessary to enforce the two prohibitions temporarily, so long as the transition stage lasted.

It has been attempted to argue, that these two points were not enjoined by apostolic and Presbyterial authority, but only recommended. The plea is, that Paul, notwithstanding the decision, circumcised Timothy; and that in the Epistles he gave the Gentile converts full liberty to eat if they saw fit. Of the latter, we shall enquire anon. To the former, it is a sufficient reply to distinguish between enforcing circumcision on Gentiles and permitting the circumcision of one who was half a Jew by blood, and who had been reared as an orthodox member of the old dispensation in all else than circumcision. When Pharisaic men demanded the circumcision of Titus, a Gentile—the very thing forbidden by the synod at Jerusalem—Paul had scrupulously anticipated the Synod's subsequent decree, and refused the exaction. But to grant circumcision to Timothy, from prudential reasons, was not a transgression of the synod's decree. They had only forbidden the exacting of it of Gentiles. The attentive reader of the history will hardly doubt but that these other points of duty “were positively enjoined. The Apostle James says (Acts 15:19), “My sentence is” (εγω χρινω); Acts 15:28, “It seemed good (εδοχεν) to the Holy Ghost and to us to lay upon you” this “burden.” The burden is “these necessary things.” Acts 16:4:—Paul himself “delivered them” (the Gentiles) “the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders” (τα δογματα τα κεκριμενα). Acts 21:25:—The apostles remind Paul—after the Epistles to the Romans and First Corinthians had been written, in A. D. 60—“As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded,” etc., (ημειν επεσττειλαμεν χριναντεν, etc). How could more authoritative terms be used? It is incredible that Paul should have set himself to infringe a rule which -was thus legislated by the apostles, in His presence, with his concurrence, and to meet a state of facts reported by himself as brought about chiefly by his own labours. Hence the exegesis of the Epistles must be erroneous which represents him as authorising his converts to disregard a δογμα κεκριμενον, a “necessary” obligation “laid on them” by God's Holy Spirit, with his own concurrence.

From the historical point of view, the true exposition of those passages is very obvious. It is not necessary to detain the reader with citations and verbal criticisms; he can compare the three passages (Romans 14:14; 1 Corinthians 8 and 10.) for himself. He will see that the apostle, in thorough consistency with the Synod of Jerusalem and with himself, asserts all along these points:—that the Jewish law of meats being positive and ritual, any food was, per se, indifferent; that idols, being nonentities, no real effect could be wrought on the flesh which had been on their altars, so that to the believer who understood this fact, it was, per se, as any other meat; that yet, if a man indulged his appetite, while himself doubtful of the lawfulness of his indulgence, it would be sin to him, not because the meat was defiled, but because his act was a tampering with possible sin according to his own judgment; that if the man's own mind were clear, and no scandal arose, such eating would be lawful. But if such eating were attended with scandal, then it became unlawful, not because the food was defiled, or the act sin per se, but because self-indulgence in a needless gratification was preferred to a brother's safety and salvation. On this last point Paul dwells. It is evidently the turning-point of the duty of abstinence. It is evidently on this point that he justifies the Synod of Jerusalem—whose “dogma” he had himself given to the churches “to keep”—in forbidding, under certain circumstances, what they admitted to be indifferent. Romans 14:20:—“But it is evil to that man who eateth with offence” (kako>n). 1 Corinthians 8:12:—“But when ye sin so against the brethren and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ,” Romans 10:32, “Give none offence.” It is the προσκομμα attending the act, otherwise indifferent, which makes it sinful., It should be observed that the “offence” arose in this way:—the “weak brother” who witnessed the eating, not comprehending the eater's more enlightened view, really regarded him as in the act doing homage to an idol. Had the “weak brother” understood that the eater only considered himself as doing the allowable act of satisfying hunger, the former could not have seen in it a just occasion of offence. When that result is experimentally ascertained, the precept is as positively, “Eat not,” as any other Christian precept. But this scandal is precisely the ground assigned by the Apostle James for his vote in the Synod.

We thus have an unquestionable instance of a church court which, under the teachings of the Holy Spirit, declared that the moral character of a concrete act, the form of which might be, per se, indifferent, may be changed, at least for a time, by circumstances. It may be said, the canon was not then closed; and they had the infallible guidance of inspiration in thus declaring. The just reply is, that a supreme church court still has the infallible guidance of the Bible principle—“It is evil to that man who doeth the indifferent act with offence”—to direct it in parallel declarations; and unless that principle clearly sustains it, it should not venture on them.

But, supposing a well-informed believer had persisted in eating, and had declared that he did so regarding an idol “as nothing,” and had urged the question:—“Why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?” Would Paul have disciplined him for this act alone? We suppose not; the man would have been left to his own conscience, with the warning, “Now walkest thou not charitably.” He is clearly sinning; but there are clear sins which yet are not proper subjects for human discipline. Should that man prosecute his selfish act under circumstances which proved demonstrably that he was not defending his conscience, but acting selfishly and mischievously of deliberate purpose, then he would come under discipline, not merely for eating, but for wantonly doing mischief.

The establishment of these views, is not really necessary to prove round dances unlawful and disciplinable in Christ's church. For they are never per se indifferent, but essentially contrary to the permanent precepts of Scripture, as has been shown. But it was judged best to settle these points of exposition, because the misconception of them has tempted some to push the claim of Christian liberty much farther than Scripture allows.

To one who places himself in the point of view of the Westminster Assembly, and of the American General Assembly which adopted our constitution, there is no doubt whatever, but that they would have included the modern round dances under the forbidden term “lascivious dances.” But “the meaning of the law is the law.” In their day, the society which these holy men considered worldly and unchristian had not gone farther than minuets, reels, and quadrilles. When the round dances were at last introduced, in our generation, the estimate of a worldly opinion even was that they were lascivious. If the decent part of the world now wavers in that judgment, it is only because the abuse, “unwhipped of justice,” and weakly connived at by Christian tribunals, has already had such disastrous power to debauch public opinion. The claim that these dances shall be acquitted of prurient tendency on the testimony of some females that they do indulge without any such consciousness, is preposterous. For, in the first place, we have shown that when the impulse is so complex, consciousness will probably fail, amidst the haste and excitement, to detect the prurient element. And second, such ambiguous testimony is fatally counterpoised by the candid declaration of the coarser sex, avowing the prurient excitement as the prime attraction to them. There is no offence against decency, save the most extreme, which might not be cleared of blame by so absurd a plea, because it is supposable that a rash and reckless person might still aver, without conscious falsehood, that in his own case his mind was preoccupied in the perpetration of it, by the fun, or the novelty, or some accessory excitement. No; church courts are both entitled and bound to judge practices by their overt forms, and by the tendencies which experience shows usually inhering in them. Tried in this way, round dancing certainly falls under the ban, both of the principles of Scripture and the express words of our constitution, by which we have all voluntarily covenanted to walk.

Seeing that the practice of our sessions is still timid, we are persuaded that it would be well for our next Assembly to speak out still more explicitly, and order categorically the discipline of all church members who are found contumacious in round dancing as practiced between men and women, or who dance in public and promiscuous balls, after any fashion of the mixture of the sexes. The latter prohibition should rest on the facts that, as the world now goes, round dances do prevail at all public balls; and also, that the free access to them of persons disreputable, profane, intemperate, or utterly frivolous, renders them sinful places for Christians; unless, like their Saviour, they go thither to carry the warnings of the gospel. And this declarative legislation the Assembly should rest squarely on the words of our Catechism, and the principles of the Bible. As to the milder forms of domestic and social dancing, we would have the presbyters of the church rely, for the present at least, on dissuasions and instructions.

No man is fit to be a presbyter in Christ's church who is capable of being intimidated from the performance of covenanted judicial duties by the strength and rampancy of an abuse. No presbyter should need to be reminded that, as a question of mere policy, it is far wiser to have a small church expurgated of worldly corruptions and clad in the beauty of holiness, than a large one weakened and crippled by dead members. But there is, we fear, reason that we should all have “searchings of heart” for our moral cowardice, in the presence of the worldly conformities which now so deface our Sion.

It is justly remarked, that a merely repressive policy, where no innocent substitute for vicious amusements is offered, may more probably repel than reform the youth of our church. There is a trait of human nature which the wise pastor should study. We usually speak of a man as “a social being.” The mass of human beings scarcely deserve so elevated a description, and should rather be termed gregarious. The gregarious instinct in them is potent. They shun solitude, and earnestly crave the presence of their kind; but not converse with their kind. For, in fact, ordinary people have not intellectual resources enough to furnish anything that deserves the name of conversation, except for a small fraction of the hours they crave to spend together. To be compelled to keep up intelligible conversation the whole time would be to them more irksome than the solitude from which they flee. Here is the true source—so far as the impulse is not vicious—of all the non-intellectual amusements. People need something which does not tax their ill-furnished minds, which they may do together, so as to provide for the instincts of gregariousness. This solution is verified in the case of the old housewives, who spend a long summer's day in each other's presence, with little social communion save the community of their occupation of knitting. It was verified around the planter's fireside in former days, when children and servants pleasantly spent the long winter evening in the common task of “picking cotton.” It is verified in the long sederunts of whist-playing old ladies and gentlemen. The communion in the mild excitement of their game gives play to the gregarious appetency, without taxing their vacant minds for any other contribution to the mutual intercourse. The same solution accounts for a large part of the interest in the more decent dances of our fathers. Often have we seen young fellows, at social gatherings, with minds too unfurnished for sustained converse, detained in the parlours in part by good manners, and in part by the unsatisfied gregarious instinct, yet insufferably “bored.” But at last the music enters, and they are immediately revived. Here now is something which they can do in common; a social occupation which brings them into a gregarious union, to which their heels are competent, if their heads were not.

The problem for the wise parent then should be, not overlooking this trait, to find social occupations which may satisfy it, and yet may be innocent; and which, instead of aggravating the incapacity, and leading downwards, like the dance, to deeper mental vacuity and positively vicious sentiments, may instruct while they please and unite. Might not a holy ingenuity find a sufficient variety of such gregarious occupations? One suggestion is that of parlour vocal music, both social and sacred. Another is the time-honoured usage of reading aloud. Let the selections vary from “grave to gay,” while never coarse or demoralising; and let “them who are strong bear the infirmities of the weak,” by yielding their attention in turn to the simple matter which may interest without fatiguing even the juvenile and the vacant mind. Thus the temptation to less safe amusements may be obviated, and the social hours of the young be made enjoyable, without being made dangerous.

Vol. 2.29. The Southern Church and the Presbyterian Alliance.

posted 27 Mar 2014, 12:58 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 12:59 ]


I Have good a reason for wishing that your paper were read by every Presbyterian in the Southern States. It is this:—I wish to reach them with a few plain views touching that “passage” in the last General Assembly at Knoxville, in which the majority refused to define the presence of our church in the Presbyterian Alliance at Edinburgh. If I may judge by appearances at Knoxville and since, I have little chance of being allowed to speak to my brethren on this subject, except through the columns of our newspapers. At least, that chance appears so “slim” that I do not intend to run the risk of refusal by asking for it.

The facts of the case are contained in the Minutes of the Assembly of 1878. This is the outline of them:—That the churches composing virtually the body and weight of the Presbyterian Alliance, namely, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the New School Presbyterian Church of America and the Old School Presbyterian Church of America (now fused into the great omnibus church of the North), had at different times reviled and condemned us for having slaves as virtual “men-stealers,” as worthy to be classed with “murderers of fathers,” as having on us a “dark and deadly stain,” as being morally bound to the immediate duty of emancipation in all cases and as being guilty of “heresy and blasphemy” in our doctrine about slavery. To these the two Northern Presbyterian Churches added the accusations of “treason” against the best and noblest of our brethren, because they exercised their right of conscience in obeying their State governments as to the Confederacy; and those churches formally and earnestly demanded of the conquerors the murder of these beloved brethren of ours on the gallows.

The next important fact is:—that the Assembly of 1848, then including all the Old School Presbyterians in the North itself, almost unanimously resolved that these libels were so unjust and unscriptural that our church never should, and never could, have anything more to do with the bodies making them, until they were withdrawn. The Assembly of 1845—two-thirds of it in the North—had meantime made that decision, which will forever remain impregnable truth, that while the church has no business to legislate either for or against civil institutions not sin per se, and while it should always rebuke the abuse of any relation by cruelty or injustice, it could not scripturally make mere slave-holding a sin per se, or a bar to communion, because God allowed it to his people in the Bible.

The next important fact is:—that our Assembly in 1865, after the fall of the Confederacy, declared that, while on the one hand-it was the duty of Southern Christians to submit peaceably to the act of the conquerors, in depriving them of their lawful property in the labour of their bondsmen; yet, on the other hand,. the success of violence could not affect in the least the right or the wrong of the relation, and that the truth was just what it was before.

The next important fact is:—that in 1866, the Northern Presbyterians in their Assemblies, while fiercely renewing their libels, expressly touched upon the declaration of our Assembly; declared that this made our position just as wicked as if we still had the slaves; that our being kept from holding them merely by Federal bayonets did not make us one whit less wicked; and that consequently we are not to be forgiven until we had taken this position back, and professed repentance for uttering it. Now, had the relation ever been sinful, the Northern Presbyterians would have been obviously right in this; for a church is a spiritual commonwealth; has concern with opinions and principles as well as overt acts; and ought to require sinful men to give up the love of sin in their hearts, as well as hold back their hands from it when compelled.

The next and all important fact is:—that our Assemblies did, from 1870 to 1876, in various ways, and with the most perfect uniformity and unanimity, declare that, while we ought to try to be forbearing, patient and forgiving under wrong, our duty to truth and to ourselves made it impossible for us to enter into formal relations with these accusing church-courts until these dreadful libels were withdrawn. Is there a man in the South, worthy of the name of a man, who did not say that our Assemblies were right in this?

But between 1875 and 1877, the project of a Pan-Alliance of Presbyterians was ripened, and its projectors, and its authorities, as soon as it came to have any, volunteered an invitation to our church to enter. It saw fit to do so in July 1877, through the Assembly's appointed commissioners, in the first council of the Alliance in Edinburgh. But the churches, so lately our accusers, did not retract their charges of “men-stealing,” “heresy,” etc., nor did they make any allusion to them.

Remembering that the invitations to us to enter the Alliance came from them, I could only see two possible constructions of their conduct:—they extended this invitation with a, perfect knowledge of our unchanged defensive position; hence, the construction honourable to them and to us is, that in doing so they tacitly, but by distinct inference, withdrew so much of their former denunciations as attacked our fair name and decent reputation as a body of Christians.

The only other construction of their unsought advances to us. is so insulting to them that I am unwilling to ascribe it to any body of Christians. It would be to charge them with embracing, for mere policy, men whom they believed they had hitherto righteously rejected for odious sins, only because force had estopped the further perpetration of them, while the sinners' hearts were as foul as ever. Hence I believe that our church is fairly entitled to assume the more charitable and honourable construction, and thus improve a happy juncture to reinstate our good name and heal a lamentable scandal and schism. Hence, I ventured to move the Assembly to declare, in most courteous terms, that it was upon this construction, honourable to all parties, it appears as a member of the Alliance. And whilst I drew up a statement and resolution, I expressly said to the members that this was only done as an expedient for presenting the case distinctly, and was in place of a speech, (for I made almost none). I invited them to consider the proposal, to disregard my statement of it, and to shape any action which would be just to the truth and our church in their own way, and not in mine.

The Minutes of the Assembly will show the result. The majority determined that they would not listen to our proposal, would not confer with us about this point of our common church's right and good name, would not debate it and would not permit the Assembly to act upon it. Hence, when we, with generous courtesy, waived all debate in order to get a simple expression of the Assembly's mind on the proposal, the majority choked the request with the un-debatable motion to “lay on the table” by a vote of 69 to 41. We, of course, protested. The majority first raised a committee to prepare an answer to this protest, and then, by formal motion and vote, actually forbade it to attempt to answer the argument of the protest, except upon a trivial technical point! It is surmised that this is the first time in the history of our Assemblies that such a wonderful thing was done.

The plain reader will doubtless have this obvious question in his mind:—If the arguments of the paper and protest were so unanswerable that the majority had actually to forbid their own able committee from attempting the perilous task, would it not have been better to accept them? If personal triumph had been the object of the protestants, instead of the honour of the church, they certainly had enough to satisfy them in thus reducing the majority to the helpless condition of the Israelites before the expostulation of Elijah, “And they answered him not a word.”

Now, what I affirm is that this majority erred; that the next Assembly ought to retrace the fatal misstep, and that the church ought to speak so as to put necessary nerve into the commissioners of the next Assembly to ensure their doing so.

1. I assert this, first, because that majority sacrificed their friends to their recent enemies and slanderers. The only motive which could be gleaned from their unfraternal refusal even to advise with us about the honour of our beloved Sion, was the fear of giving offence to their newly formed allies in the churches so lately reviling us. But they were willing to wound our most loyal and sensitive affections for the truth and good name of the church, and to refuse us a precious right of self-defence—“us, who are their brethren, who have been for long and weary years standing shoulder to shoulder with them, in defence of what they profess to hold as true and right.”

2. I assert it, because their action involves an insult to these new allies of theirs, such as I, no friend to this Alliance from the first, could not find it in my conscience to fling at those accusers of my beloved church. It is this:—the only ground of objection which could be extracted from the majority was, that our Assembly's adoption of any such action would certainly provoke the anti-slavery churches, now quiescent, to flame out again into denunciations of us as bitter as the old ones, and thus the present “happy” fraternisation would be all spoiled. That is to say:—the majority think so much more meanly than I do of these new allies of theirs—whose feelings they consult in preference to their own old friends—that they believe all their advances and their courtesies at Edinburgh to be hollow; they believe that those new allies, for policy's sake, were guilty of the moral obliquity of doing honour to men lately “men-stealers, heretics,” etc., under the disgraceful pretext that just now we are forcibly estopped from overt men-stealing! A “happy” fraternisation this, indeed! which its own artificers suspect to be thus hollow.

3. I assert that the majority did wrong by this ad hominem argument. That if this uncharitable suspicion of theirs were just, then our affiliation with such hollow allies would be degrading to our church, inconsistent with its whole past testimony, and a criminal betrayal of truth. We resolve invariably, ever since 1848, that we cannot lie under such a libel, and then we go to Edinburgh in 1877, and lie down beside the men who, as the majority suppose, have the same libel in their hearts.

4. I object to this action, because it forfeits a happy opportunity to assert the good name of our afflicted church, so long slandered, and of settling, honourably to all parties, a long-pending schism in Presbyterian Christendom. I do not think so ill of our recent accusers as to ascribe to them the animus imputed to them by the majority. In 1848, when the Scotch and Irish churches so foully slandered Southern Christianity, they knew nothing about it. Now they know us better. In 1866 our Northern accusers were burning with passion, and had sectional ends to win by blackening us. That passion has subsided; those ends are secured. Neither the European nor the Northern anti-slavery men really think of us as they once did. Time is a great teacher. This potent teacher is rapidly opening their eyes to the deadly affinity between abolitionism and communism They are rapidly learning how absolute a failure their own once boasted hireling society is as an organisation of labour. We have, therefore, no call now to cower before this once-arrogant Phariseeism. The time is rapidly approaching for truth to assert its victory and our vindication. Our timidity at such! time is gratuitous; it is short-sighted. Our wisdom, as well as our duty is, at this day especially, to stand boldly to our colours, renew the assertion of our good name, and thus aid tin-triumph of truth. Hence I lament this action, because it deprives our church of an easy vindication. The Alliance will no be so blind as overtly to reject the construction I tender them; so honourable alike to us and them, when the alternative is the avowal of a moral obliquity disgraceful to themselves. The Alliance will tacitly allow our construction, and that will be our vindication. They will not profess to like slavery; they will still say they think it a bad system, liable to many abuses; they will say that the British and New England governments never ought to have forced either Africans or slavery upon Virginia against her perpetual protest (so say I); they will still denounce all cruelties upon the helpless, committed by evil masters. Let them do so; no Southern man objects. But they will not repeal the charge that the mere holding of bondsmen is malum per se for they know it is in the teeth of the Bible; or that Southern Christianity was polluted with a “dark and deadly stain,” for they know that it was and is as creditable as any other Christianity. We have an impregnable vantage ground in now assuming the position I advised, that they tendered the invitation to us to enter the Alliance. They tendered it knowing our position and unchanging testimony. This entitles us to assume that they proposed to meet us at length as equals, and not as polluted with a “dark and deadly stain.” They cannot gainsay it without disgracing themselves.

5. I lament this action, because it is unjust to our honoured commissioners in the first council. The present attitude of the Assembly leaves their presence in Edinburgh ambiguous, and exposes them to the charge—which is actually made—that by appearing there, they did virtually utter a “peccavimus” un-authorised, and thus subjected us to all those enormous accusations.

Now, if our commissioners did this, they did a great wrong; one which should justly excite the hot indignation of Southern Presbyterians. Let the reader notice. It is not I who say they did us this foul wrong; But the assembly would not let them say they did not, and this, when adversaries are publicly charging that they did! In this the Assembly is unjust and cruel to their own commissioners, who tried to serve them faithfully.

6. I object that the present attitude of the Assembly is wrong, because our accusers are perverting it to our defamation. I forewarned them in Knoxville that their course would be thus interpreted, and that to all hostile minds the interpretation would appear forcible. Thus, the Assembly is respectfully asked to say, by those who have a right to ask, whether or not it sent commissioners to Edinburgh to make an implied confession of judgment to the foul charges of their Edinburgh allies against their own constituency. The Assembly is silent—refuses to answer. Thereupon hostile minds will of course conclude “silence gives consent.” They will infer the Assembly is silent, because it knows that the appearance of its commissioners was a confession of judgment; but it is ashamed to say so “out aloud” as yet. “We abolitionists must not be too hard on the sinners, but give them time to eat dirt.”

Two newspapers among us said they thought the declaration needless, because they presumed the attitude of our church in the Alliance was not misunderstood. But the answer is demolishing—it is misunderstood. The construction shameful to us is publicly asserted. Before I had finished reading my prophetic protest in the house, a fulfilment appeared in the morning papers of the town, expressly and insolently asserting that construction. As soon as the New York Evangelist's reporter could get home, that paper published the same construction boasting over faithful consistent supporters of the Southern church. It actually argued that the Assembly's position was unquestionably a surrender and confession of judgment, because otherwise “Dr Dabney's paper was unanswerable.” The same construction has been taken up by other Northern papers (I know not how many), with insolent expressions of triumph, and a hurling of obloquy against the faithful defenders of the Assembly's professed principles—obloquy from which a just government is bound to defend its own servants.

Here is a literal statement of the position into which the reputation of us and our forefathers is thus thrust:—I had a venerable father and mother, whose good name was as “ointment poured forth” among all, white and black, who knew them. They are now “with the Lord.” They were born, lived and died slaveholders. Accusers charged that they were “men-stealers, worthy to be classed with murderers of fathers and mothers, heretics, profane, making a dark and deadly stain” on their profession. The -Assembly of 1848, composed of a majority of Northern men, know that the slander was so wicked that they felt it their duty to protect my father's and mother's good name, and Bible truth, and did it by declaring that they would not hold ecclesiastical intercourse with the slanderers. Our Southern Assemblies all did the same up to 1874. But now the Assembly pursues a certain course, which some of the accusers say means a sanction of the charge. That is, these men publicly say that they understand our Assembly as virtually saying, with them, that my parents were men-stealers, etc. And with this assertion ringing in the public prints, the Assembly proposes to remain obstinately silent! How near does this come to allowing themselves to be made voluntary accessories to these foul slanders on my sainted parents? It is not becoming, perhaps, for me to give the answer. This view of the position is so ugly that an effort will, of course, be made to say, “There is exaggeration in it.” Wherein? I challenge correction! No; it is the plain and unvarnished statement of fact. Instead of brethren indolently saying, Oh! there must be exaggeration!' they had better open their eyes, brush away the dust of prejudice and timidity, and look their position honestly in the face. And now, here is the strength of this view:—not that these slandered saints, “of whom the world was not worthy,” were my parents, but that the honour and good name of the humblest man's parents in the Southern church are justly as dear to him as mine are to me. Mine were not the great of this world, but they were not blots on Christianity. No. And never shall this voice be silenced, by Assembly or abolitionist, from their righteous defence, and the defence of their Southern equals, until they and their slanderers appear with me before that unerring bar to which I appeal.

7. I object to this position of the Assembly, because the charge under which our church has been lying is not one about which men can honestly “agree to differ.” There are accusations such as to necessitate, not strife indeed, but righteous self-defence. Henry VIII. charged that his Queen, Anne Boleyn, was guilty of infidelity to him. She asserted her innocence. In such an issue it would have been criminal for them to “agree to differ” and continue together. If the charge wag true, he ought not to have remained a party to the infamous union. If it was false, it would have been treason to her good name and the honour of her sex to remain passive under it, and reward the criminal slanderer with her love. This difference between our anti-slavery accusers and us is equally inexorable, and there are but two ways to solve it without sin:—one is our conviction, confession and reformation, if we are guilty of the charge; the other is its withdrawal, if we are innocent. There ought not to be a middle way; there cannot be, without criminality on one side or the other. If those churches were correct in formally charging me with “men-stealing,” etc., and I am still unrepentant and unreformed, then they ought not to admit me to their communion. But I have declared that I am not repentant. The forcible confiscation of my property by others does not change my guilt. Were I left to myself, I should doubtless be holding my servants to-day (and a blessed thing it would be for them if I were). If this charge is not just, then it is a slander inflicted on me under the most formal and aggravated circumstances; and I cannot surrender my own vindication without treason to my good name and the credit of Christ's people among whom I am numbered. The issue is inexorable. The obligation of charity does indeed require me to forbear retaliation and revenge, and to render “good for their evil;” but to make it a pretext for betraying truth and righteousness merely because I happen to be one of the persons in whom they are assailed, is worse than confused logic; it is moral obliquity.

Last:—I solemnly declare to the brethren of the majority that, in thus throwing away this critical and fortunate juncture for asserting our good name before the Presbyterian world, our church will be apprehended in all future history as having virtually fallen from its testimony, fatigued with the labour and insulation, and as having submitted to the foul charge fixed on it by the major number of voices. The verdict of history will doubtless be that the loud and arrogant majority have triumphed; that our voice has been silenced by a tardily-awaking conscience, our testimony surrendered, and the infamous sentence of abolitionists submitted to. If we are silent now, we shall never again have a hearing at the bar of history. The protest against the unjust condemnation which I would have the church perpetuate is not only the minimum of defensive action which truth and manliness in us ought to tolerate, but it is the only protest which can be effectively uttered at all. While we sit silent, the traducers of us and our noble dead are still filling the ear of the world with their enormous slander. At the very hour when the representatives of these accusing churches were “wining and dining,” psalm-singing and speechifying so unctuously with our commissioners in Edinburgh, their abolition partisans were still telling the world, in every form, in newspapers and political speeches, in histories and philosophies, in theological treatises and commentaries, in geographies and school histories, in novels and tales, in dramas and farces, in translations in thirteen languages, of the lies of Uncle Tom's Cabin; that Southern society was barbarous, Southern Christianity a blot, Southern Christians men-stealers, and our Lees, Davises and Johnstons indebted only to the magnanimous mercy of abolition Christianity for not ending their ignominious career on a righteous gibbet. Who is to speak effectively for us if our own church, “the pillar and ground of the truth,” is silent? They say:—“Let individuals of Dr Dabney's sentiments write in reply.” Have I not written? There stands my “Defence of Virginia and the South,” whose arguments, founded on Scripture and facts, are as impregnable as the everlasting hills. But who reads it? The self-satisfied insolence of the pharisaic slanderers makes them disdain it—they never condescend to hear of it. I have no audience. But when our church appears in that Alliance, she has Christendom for her audience. Her circumstances compel the ear of the Christian world. It is her duty to her dead, to her children, to God, to speak. Her long-suffering dignity may forbid her to wrangle. It may even prompt her to appeal her cause to a higher judgment. But she is bound still to remind the accusers that she does not admit the infamous indictment nor confess judgment. This is the least that self-respect or duty permits. Less than this will be the occasion of helping to fix on us and the men who died for our defence a historical estimate similar to that which we form of the Druse and Koordish masters and Arab slave-hunters.

But the error of the majority of Knoxville need not be like the law of the Modes and Persians, which changeth not. There is still time to save our duty and credit. Let the people at home, the eldership, all whose plain honest sense is not debauched, speak out, and say to the next Assembly:—“Our good name is not to be betrayed by its own guardians.” The next Assembly may “say, in a few plain words,” to Presbyterian Christendom, what is true and right, and our honour is still saved. Let the Assembly say it in its own words:—not in mine.

I do not conceive that in giving this advice, I am estopping myself at all from exercising my independent judgment touching the Alliance, of which our Assembly has made itself a member. I did not approve of it. I did not believe it was constitutional, or safe, or useful, or prudent. But I am not factious. The Assembly resolved by a majority to go into it, and far be it from me to seek to obstruct their rights as a majority. An honest subaltern, present in a council of war, advised against a projected expedition. He argued that it was neither lawful, nor strategically wise; but he was overruled. He did not become factious, nor did he desert. He stood faithfully in his obscure lot; and when he saw his countrymen entangled in the consequences of their misadventure, he pointed out the best way to extricate themselves, and to gain, even from the unwise expedition, the best results for his country which righteousness permitted. Having done this, must he therefore suppress his honest judgment that the adventure should never have been made? I think not.

Vol. 2.28. "Pan-Presbyterian Alliance."

posted 27 Mar 2014, 12:55 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 12:56 ]


The smoke of the conflict has now had time to clear away from the debates of our last Assembly upon its external relations sufficiently to allow a moderate spectator to estimate the conditions and results fairly. This the writer would beg leave to attempt as to the proposed “Alliance” of all Presbyterians. The numbers and vigour of the opponents to this project in all the earlier debates gave evident promise that the Alliance, in its first posture, would either have been rejected by a majority or relinquished by its friends out of respect to the minority. The seeming unanimity reached at last was procured by apparent concessions near the close of the meeting. One of these was the resolution adopted, that the funds of the Assembly shall in no case be taxed with any expenses of its commissioners to the Alliance. The other was Dr Hoge's resolution that “the Alliance is not to be regarded as another and a higher court, but as an assemblage of committees, for the purpose of joint conference and joint report,” etc. As for the rest, it cannot be said that the debate in the Assembly had modified the points of objection so strongly made by the opponents before and during the discussions. All that had been effected, by the advocates up to this time was to predict some supposed possible gains from the Alliance, which remained uncertain and indefinite in their nature, and to stimulate an enthusiasm of taste in those whose temperaments were of a kind to be fascinated by this species of pious junketings. The great constitutional argument was virtually admitted by the majority in their adoption of Dr Hoge's explanatory resolution.

To the argument that the Alliance must be broad-church, unless it is to be unfair and one-sided, because it had so much broad-church constituency, no effective answer was made, and the attempted answer was nugatory.

The point so clearly put by Dr Dabney, in the interests of our own self-respect, was not even mentioned by the majority, so far as the reports of debate show. They seem to have adopted the only discreet course—a prudent silence; for, in fact, that point is, to the calm and independent mind, unanswerable. Every constituent body to the Alliance, save one or two of the smaller, have bitterly, and even contemptuously denounced the position actually and still held by the Southern church as to slave-holding, and have made it a ground for refusing to us communion and alliance. Meanwhile slavery in the United States has been destroyed by violence, so that no Christian among us is now formally a slaveholder. But, as a matter of doctrine and morals, our church really holds identically the position these proposing allies have always anathematised. Thus both candour and common honesty towards them and decent respect for ourselves and our fathers obviously require that we shall come to an understanding with our new comrades how it is that they now propose to embrace us, whom they lately rejected. Will any one say, No! because slavery is now a thing of the past? The resistless answer is that with us, as a church, it is not, for we to-day refuse to confess and retract as to our doctrine; and it is for this doctrine touching slavery we are, as a church, responsible. The only solution of this knot which had ever been spoken “out aloud” was one of so offensive a nature that it seemed amazing any gentleman in the South could fail to regard it as a positive affront. It was that proposed by Dr McCosh, the actual inventor and main promoter of this Alliance, in 1866, in the Central Presbyterian Church, Baltimore. Dr Dabney stated it thus:—“That Dr McCosh, then speaking for the 'Evangelical Alliance,' said the American churches had been properly excluded for their complicity with slavery; but that that Alliance was now willing to receive them, because slavery in America had been abolished.” This extraordinary statement raised, to every Southern mind, these questions:—Are we, then, to be whitewashed before the Christian world from this asserted black and damning stain by the mere fact that material force keeps back our hands from the act—our principles remaining the same avowedly? And if this is the idea, does it not reveal, first, a moral profligacy and deceit in the inviters, such as to cure us effectually of all desire for their embraces? And, second, are Southern gentlemen, conscious of rectitude in this matter and justly aggrieved by a long train of gratuitous libels and insults about it, to accept this as amends sufficiently full for their self-respect and the good name of sainted fathers? Now, the attitude of Dr McCosh, and of most of the Northern, British and Continental churches, is to-day such as to renew the point of these questions, as to this second Alliance; with irresistible force. “We do not see how the majority could have looked each other in the face and attempted to argue these questions without blushing.” They did well to be silent about them—well for their weak cause! It was all they could do. The Central Presbyterian did, indeed, make a sort of vacillating attempt to break the fatal point of the questions by professing to doubt the authenticity of the incident in Baltimore. But there are here two remarks:—one is, that if Dr McCosh did not put it thus, it does not seriously modify the case, for the essential facts remain. The other is that we understand Dr Dabney cites Dr Thomas E. Peck as express eye-witness of the facts stated, and that he considers himself warranted to refer publicly, if needful, to his authority.

In the second place, the concession which the Assembly made touching the travelling expenses really concedes the argument founded by the opponents upon the unwarrantable cost. The Assembly resolves that she will not pay a penny of the expenses for her own commissioners. But why not? If it is right for her to send them, it is right for her to pay. If she actually does delegate the duty of representing her to certain brethren, then she is morally and scripturally bound to pay their expenses. Who “goeth a warfare at his own charges?” Why, then, does the Assembly claim the right to send, and yet shirk her duty to pay? It is because her conscience tells her, that this is not an errand on which it would be righteous to expend God's revenues. Then it follows, that it is not an errand on which she can righteously expend the time of God's servants. The plea is put in, that if it does not suit the feelings of the commissioners to pay their own expenses, some liberal persons or churches will produce the money. But the objection is:—that these commissioners should not represent these liberal persons, as they virtually do on this indirection; they should represent the church, and be paid by the church. And again:—The Assembly ought to instruct these liberal persons that it is their duty to feel concerning their money devoted, to pious uses just as the Assembly feels about hers, vis.:—that this “religious picnic” is not an object to which God's revenues may be righteously perverted. We are compelled, with pain, to admit that the unanswerable force of this argument against the Alliance has been the occasion of the Assembly's taking an attitude just such as our British neighbours characterise by the word “shabby.”

But the main argument against the Alliance is the constitutional one. If it is a new court, our adhesion is a revolution of our constitution. If it is not, it is a “voluntary” association; a human invention which our church has always refused to meddle with in any official capacity, regarding all such recognition as both unconstitutional and un-Presbyterian. This inexorable demonstration the Central Presbyterian endeavoured to evade by a pleasant, story, whose fun was very good, but whose logic was very bad:—An Irishman heard a debate, whether a given adjective was to be pronounced “Neether” or “Nyther.” He, demurring to both proposals, said it was “Nayther.” So saith the Central Presbyterian. The Alliance is neither a new court, nor a voluntary association; but a bundle of committees. This was the resort adopted by the Assembly, under the guidance of Dr Hoge. Such a view could never have prevailed in an Assembly of ours, had time and circumstances allowed its thorough examination. But the Assembly had, on the motion of Mr Grattan, of Virginia, already committed the anomalous disorder, of allowing Dr Hoge to speak ad libitum and to amend, after it had passed, what was, as to all other members, the previous question! So that the real discussion of this committee-plea is yet to be undertaken.

The very word sufficiently shows the nature of “committee.” It is the passive past participle of an old French verb (modernised). It is the set of members of a legislative body, to whom is committed some matter by the body. The essential, the rudimental idea of a committee then is, that it discusses only what is committed to it by the body which appoints it. And it only reports back the results it has reached to the same body. In Jefferson's Manual, Sec. 11, are the following principles:—“Nor can a committee receive a petition but through the house.” “As soon as the house sits … the chairman (of the committee) is in duty bound to rise instantly.” In Sec. 26:—“No bill shall be committed (referred to a committee) until it shall have been twice read.” “The report being made, the committee is dissolved, and can act no more without a new power.” In our Assembly, all the “standing committees,” the number and importance of whose duties require something of a constitution, have their rules and by-laws always framed for them by the house. Thus, the true nature of a committee, as a mere creature of the Assembly, is distinctly maintained.

But how does this Alliance appear fore us? Did it originate in a free action of our Assembly. Or, indeed, of any Assembly? No; it is the handiwork of irresponsible persons; who having first developed the creation in all but its details, bring it to sundry supreme courts—ours among others—and demand their adhesion. The Alliance makes its own constitution; made it last July in London; and then comes to our Assembly, saying in substance, “If you like it, you may adhere; and if you don't like it, you may let us alone.” Does this wonderful cluster of “committees” wait to have business committed to it? Not at all. It assumes its own lines of business, of its own discretion. It has been demonstrated in the most literal manner that it is not committees. The whole precedent is utterly revolutionary and pregnant with danger and usurpation. Are we consoled with the plea that its determinations will “carry only a moral power?” This is the only kind of power carried by the Assembly itself; yet is the Assembly a spiritual court, and, if uncontrolled by a constitution, capable of fearful aggressions on Christian liberty. The truth is, that this Alliance, in the mode of its inception a voluntary association, must be, in its virtual working, a church court, or else a nullity. The most practical hope of the friends of Southern Presbyterianism is that the good sense and native independence of our people will defend them from the usurpation implied in the former character, and that the Alliance will therefore become the latter—a serious but useless farce. The action of our Assembly, in claiming to treat the Alliance as a mere cluster of committees, is so clear a change and rejection of the real character which it has selected for itself that the natural result would be our exclusion. The Alliance, if consistent in its adhesion to its principles, should say to our commissioners:—“The thing to which your Assembly proposes to accede is wholly another thing from what we propose.” “We cannot submit to have our whole structure thus coolly transmuted at the bidding of one of the lesser applicants. You cannot enter on your terms.” “So mote it be!” But we apprehend that no such consistency rules in the Alliance. Their appetite is for accessions and éclat on any terms, consistent or inconsistent. Provided they can get numbers, names and a virtual power unknown to our constitution, they will not boggle at an inconsequent action or an impertinence.

Vol. 2.27. The Pan-Presbyterian Alliance.

posted 27 Mar 2014, 12:52 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 12:53 ]


The writer once inquired of General R. E. Lee whether it was his purpose to attend the meeting of the Education Association of the Teachers of Virginia. He replied:—“If I could see that they were going to effect anything except talk, I might think of attending.” This seems, to the plain mind, the most obvious objection to the project of a Pan-Presbyterian Alliance. In order to avoid being dangerous, it finds itself compelled to limit its functions to “talk.” Such pious reunions may be as pleasant as Dr Robinson seems to have found the tentative meeting in London; but if this is all, evidently the churches have more urgent and useful applications to make of their time and money than to these ostentatious and costly prayer meetings.

But are there not more serious difficulties in the way of Southern Presbyterians mingling in these meetings? The writer cannot forget an event, of which present advocates of this Alliance seem strangely oblivious, that advances from us were, at a very recent date, repelled by the very people with whom we are now invited to associate ourselves. Do gentlemen recall the appointment of Drs Palmer, Girardeau, and Hoge, by the Memphis Assembly, to go abroad as its commissioners, to explain the position of our church to the Presbyterians of Great Britain, and conciliate some moral support in the day of our need and insulation? But these commissioners, fortunately, were so discreet as to write letters of inquiry before they went, whether they would be received in a manner consistent with their self-respect. The answer they received was, that they would not. Because they were the representatives of a church which refused to array itself upon an anti-scriptural abolition ground, they were informed that they would not be received as equals; and they at once concluded that respect for themselves and the Assembly absolutely forbade their going. Like sensible men, they stayed at home. Have our brethren also forgotten that the “Evangelical Alliance,” so called, also excluded, ministers from the American Presbyterian Church, because it had not placed itself upon their abolition platform? But these are the churches on whose fraternal embraces we are now asked to throw ourselves! If the self-respect of Drs Palmer, Girardeau, and Hoge forbade such an act then, why does it not forbid it now? Which of the parties has changed? Have the Southern Presbyterians at length adopted the infidel abolition creed? Or have the Northern and the European churches forsaken and repented it? It is very well understood that the latter are now more mad on this idol than at any previous time. It is equally well understood that the entrance of our church into their fraternity is permitted only as it is construed as a tacit surrender of our position, and a silent acceptance of theirs. The proof of this is very easy. Let our commissioners simply remind the next Assembly that we still stand immovably upon the position of our Assembly in 1845, and that if they embrace us, it must be on this express understanding. Candour will, indeed, requires no less of us. We shall see a tempest of fanatical excitement, which will effectually estop our entrance. Dr McCosh is usually regarded as the author of this Pan-Presbyterian movement. Preaching in the Central Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, he said that Southern Christians, once justly excluded from the Evangelical Alliance for slave-holding, might now be admitted, because slavery had been removed by Providence! But has the question been. settled? The institution has been unlawfully and violently overthrown. True. Does that remove the question from between honest men? An invitation to us to a fraternity from which we were once excluded for slave-holding, now tendered on this ground, can only mean one of two hypocrisies:—either that we shall consent to be construed as forsaking and repenting and confessing acts which we have neither forsaken nor repented, or that Dr McCosh shall feign satisfaction with sins in us unrepented, which his conscience abhors, because its overt perpetration is prevented by force. At neither of these hypocrisies can we connive. The pickpocket shall be held, forsooth, a very proper gentleman, not because he has repented his thefts, but because there are iron bars between his fingers and other people's pockets, and because he is sufficiently a sneak to be silent now about his former exploits! If Dr McCosh is satisfied with such a basis of fraternity, we presume Southern Presbyterians are not. “We scarcely think they are ready to be construed into a desertion of the time-honoured testimony of their fathers, and. into the concession that these holy and venerated men were men-stealers.”

But, proceeding in our inquiries, we ask:—

1. Whether our representation in this Alliance will not be a step towards a dishonest compromise with the Northern Presbyterian Church? “We have charged upon them that, in a critical time, they abandoned their covenanted constitution, and usurped popish powers of perverting the spiritual authority of the church, to override the secular rights and liberties of its members; thus assisting to precipitate upon us and our neighbours the horrors of invasion, rapine, bloodshed, and subjugation.” We have charged upon them a foul slander of our good name, which has been industriously published to the very churches with which we are asked to ally ourselves. If these charges are erroneous, we cannot too soon retract and repent them. If they are just, then we have done right in requiring the disavowal of the slanders, and a return to the sacred principles of the constitution, before we can, with any respect for truth or for ourselves, enter into fraternal relations with them. They will neither retract the slander, nor repair the disastrous usurpation. Meantime, it is now proposed that we shall meet them abroad, on the very footing on which we refused to meet them at home! If this is not a stultification of our testimony, it is hard to see what would be! We say to their glozing invitations:—“No.” We can wish you well; we can forbear retaliation; we can render, not railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing; we can endeavour faithfully to exercise all the graces of Christian charity towards those who injure us; but with this slander and this usurpation un-redressed, duty forbids us to meet you in fraternal correspondence. “And then we go incontinently across the water, and meet them in fraternal correspondence!” When we enter the assemblage of those whom they made the sympathising auditors of their burning slander against us, what do we see? The representatives of the slanderers sitting “in the chief seats of the synagogue,” most numerous of any delegation, and most honoured.

Let it be noted here, also, that the advocates of this measure among us greatly misrepresent the true position of our church. They now say that the popish usurpation and violation of the constitution committed by the Northern Church would be no just barrier to fraternal correspondence, if they would only retract their slander against us. This is not what our Assembly of 1870 said. That Assembly expressly declared that both wrongs must be amended before fraternal correspondence would be possible. It declared that while this fatal usurpation stood un-confessed, we could not break the force of our obligatory and righteous protest against it, by any fraternal correspondence. But now, these brethren would have us recede from half of our stronghold.

Is it not very clear to any plain mind, that this will soon lead to the betrayal of the other half? If we go into the fraternal correspondence across the water with the Northern Presbyterians, with whom we refuse to correspond on this side of it, will not the stultification of ourselves be so complete that the loss of our position must follow? In a few years the absurdity will become irksome to us, and we shall be betrayed into a dishonest compromise and a forsaking of the testimony which Providence has called us to bear. Dr Girardeau foresaw this, and with his clear, honest, good sense, pointed it out to the last Assembly; but amidst the special pleadings which prevailed, he was unheeded.

But Dr Robinson does not think that such will be the result. He thinks our position will be rather strengthened by meeting the representatives of our usurpers and slanderers on that common ground. It is hard for a plain man to see how we can strengthen our position by inconsistency, by “blowing hot and cold” on the same parties. He says that if a neighbour in a city has wronged a sensible man of business, he does not exclude himself from the bank or exchange to which his business and his rights lead him, because he meets the injurer there. This illustration presents a false analogy. The scenes to which our business and our duties call us are our own pulpits and charges. These are our banks and counting-houses. Well will it be for us if we stick to them. If the slanderer intrudes there, we will meet and resist him as we may. The just analogy to our position would be the case where a wealthy host invited us to a social entertainment, such as a dinner-party, and also invited the man; who had injured and slandered us; to whom we had sent word that honour forbade our social recognition of him until he made amends. Now, could that invitation be accepted by an honourable man? He would not seek to make a disagreeable parade of the unfortunate quarrel at the table of the host, who probably designed the invitation, however ill-considered, as a kindness. He would not endeavour to implicate the host or the other guests. He would keep his grievance to himself, with dignified quiet. But he would certainly not accept the invitation. He would feel that to accept it would be as senseless an outrage upon the host as upon his own self-respect, for he could not extend social recognition to that slanderer as he met him at the host's table without degrading and stultifying himself, and he could not refuse it without a discourtesy to the host and the other guests. So, if he were a man, he would politely, but firmly, decline the invitation. In the Assembly Dr Robinson urged that, since we had the true Presbyterianism, we should go to the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance to proclaim it. The answer is, that this was the very place where he could not proclaim it. He found himself in the very position in which the injured citizen of the parable just drawn would have been, had he been so unwise as to accept the invitation to the feast. Dr Robinson found himself an “invited guest” of European Presbyterianism. He also found present, as invited and especially honoured guests, the very men whom our proclamation of our pure Presbyterianism would have assailed and indicted. Consequently his mouth was sealed. It was no place to bear his testimony, because the courtesies of the occasion forbade. So it will ever be.

2. It has been argued that, if we stay out of this Alliance, we shall be considered “sore-heads,” “sulky,” etc. All we can say to this plea is, that it seems to betray an astonishing oblivion of our true position as witnesses for righteous principles; and that if the argument should ever be verified by any act of the outside Christian world, the sensible Southern Presbyterian will regard it with the contempt due to a low insult. These terms, if they mean anything, suggest the idea of a wrong-headed person, sulking over an imaginary injury, or of a perverse school-boy, who has gotten a part of the drubbing which he deserved, and is still too insubordinate to submit to it. Do those who use this argument intend to present this as the attitude of the Southern Presbyterian Church? “Were our wrongs imaginary?” Are we like the insolent boy who has only gotten a part of the drubbing he deserves, and whom the other part, soundly laid on, would probably bring to his good humour? If this is their appreciation of the position of the Southern Presbyterian Church, then we think their proper place is not only in the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance, but in the bosom of the radical church. If their estimate of our position were the just one, then the thing we ought to do is to confess our evil temper, and to ask pardon of those who have wronged and slandered us, before we presume to ask admission to the Presbyterian fraternity. To any one who has the head and heart to appreciate the height of the great argument to which God has been pleased to call the Southern church, this charge is unspeakably grovelling. Have these gentlemen no other conception of fidelity to right trampled down by unjust violence, than “sulking?” It is to be presumed that, in their eyes, the “witnesses for the truth” throughout the middle ages were but “sore-heads,” because they stood aloof from the corrupt church whose errors they were called by God to oppose! “Yea, the apostles were 'sore-heads’” when they separated themselves from the opposers of God's truth! In a day when truth has fallen in the streets, it becomes her friends to have sore hearts, which shall be too full of righteous grief for the wrongs done to her, to truckle and compromise.

3. It has been argued that we must go into this promiscuous Alliance in order to get out of our insulation, in order to be better understood and appreciated by Christians abroad. But suppose it should be that this insulation is the very position assigned us by the Head of the church, in which to perform the high duty laid on us. Then to get out of it is a sin. If he has assigned us a particular testimony, in which other churches will not join us, in respect of which they are misunderstanding and neglecting their duty, then a state of insulation is precisely the one we should occupy. There is something else far more essential than “appreciation” by foreigners, and this is the appreciation of our Almighty Head. But so far as we may legitimately desire just appreciation from others, the way to win is “to mind our own business.” Let us preach a pure gospel, purify our own charges, extend the gospel with power, present the fruits of righteousness; and then, if these outside Christians have anything of the mind of Christ, they will appreciate us as much as will be good for us.

4. We would also request brethren to consider whether another very serious objection to our entering this Alliance will not emerge from the nature of the representation which we shall unavoidably have in it. The meetings will usually be at a distance, and often across the ocean. Attendance must always be expensive, and often lavishly so. Such a journey to and from Europe as a delegate would wish to make must cost between $700 and $1,000. The Alliance proposes to allow us twenty-eight representatives. Has our Assembly between $20,000 and $28,000 to expend upon sending delegates to this useless convention? But it will be said, “All the twenty-eight need not go.” We remark, first:—Then what will our ratio of representation avail us? But second:—If six or eight go, has the Assembly the $7,000 to waste in this useless journey? Has it even $2,000? Though it is obvious that the good sense of the Assembly will never consent to the abstraction of even this smaller sum from the urgent and sacred uses of our missions and other works for such a mere waste; and the church would cry shame upon the Assembly if it did commit the perversion. Then the commissioners will have to furnish their own expenses. But it is very well known that, to the great bulk of our ministers and elders;

such an expense is about as much out of the question as a journey to the moon. The result, then, must be this:—that when a selection of delegates is to be made, the Assembly, instead of electing the representative men of the church, the men who art worthy to be trusted with her honour, must appoint a committee who will seek out the men who have a trip to Europe in view on their own account, or who have private fortunes, or bad throats coupled with rich and generous congregations. In other words the selections will be determined, not by fitness, nor wisdom, nor experience, but by some mere irrelevant accident or advantage of money or leisure. This point alone is enough to betray the unsuitableness of the whole scheme for us and the impossibility of our deriving any good fruits from it.

5. Another fatal objection is, that this Alliance will only expose our church to additional peril from that which is the great evil of the times, the spread of a latitudinarian spirit. The leading bodies with which we are invited to ally ourselves are all tainted with broad-Churchism. That this charge is true as to the radical Presbyterian Church in America none among us can deny. The fusion of the two branches made it avowedly a broad church, as was demonstrated, not by our writers, but by the Rev Drs Hodge and Van Dyke and the Rev Samuel Miller. As to another leading denomination represented in the Presbyterian Alliance, it Was the fortune of the writer to hear the following sentiments publicly uttered by one of its prominent ministers, and applauded to the echo:—“We have no right to require uniformity of doctrine or ritual within any of our own borders. We are bound to recognise all the variety in our own church that we recognise in others.” That the same latitudinarian spirit is leavening the Presbyterian Churches of Great Britain is but too plain from their church journals. They no longer have the true ring of orthodoxy. The Presbyterian Church of Prance has, lately been rent into two bodies. One is Rationalistic and Socinian; the other, the comparatively sound one, did not dare to readopt the Gallican Confession and enforce its teachings upon all its officers, but only adopted, in general terms, an evangelical creed. The broad-Churchism of the Alliance itself is clearly disclosed by its ambiguous doctrinal basis. This is the “consensus of the Reformed Churches.” Who shall state this consensus? Does it include the sense in which Drs Beman and Barnes professed to hold the Westminster Confession? This is to be supposed. Again, according to the uniform classification of church history, the Congregational Churches of New England belong to the reformed branch of Protestant Christendom. Lately the highest convention known to this body of Christians. formally cast away their doctrinal standards. Drs N. Taylor and Bushnell are probably the accepted exponents of the larger part of their ministers. We presume that this consensus may embrace this type of the reformed theology also. We repeat, the associations into which this Alliance will introduce us will be found broad-church. Now, as long as the words of Scripture hold true, that “evil communications corrupt good manners,” the association will inevitably be found unwholesome to our own soundness in the faith and doctrinal unity. But that watchman upon the walls of Sion, who “has knowledge of the times, to know what Israel ought to do,” is aware that the peril to truth and righteousness, from this latitudinarian spirit, is so fearful, that to expose our beloved church to it causelessly, is little short of madness.

Dr Palmer, in his unanswerable argument at St. Louis, foreshadowed another influence which must make this Alliance a broad-church one. Its creed, as to doctrine and order, must be the result of concessions. Whatever is obnoxious to the convictions of any of the constituent bodies, must be eliminated from the common platform. One point must be conceded to one party, and another to another, until there is left, as the common doctrine taught by the Alliance, only the most emasculated Presbyterianism.

6. But there are more grave objections to this movement than those already unfolded. It contains the egg of a monster. The principle on which it is demanded is anti-Protestant and anti-Presbyterian. The first development may appear but harmless and, trivial; indeed, the first organisation is so trivial as to be nugatory and useless; but the principle which dictates the alliance will be sure to unfold itself with logical consistency, and the “King Log,” which is now tendered to us silly frogs by this Jupiter Tonans of Nassau Hall, will in due time be replaced by the “King Stork.” Dr Blaikie, of Scotland, may be accepted as a good exponent of the movement. He tells us that the need of this Alliance is to supply a defect of Presbyterianism, which is an ecumenical Presbyterial court at the apex, of our constitutional system of Presbyteries and Synods. He declares that without such a visible centre of unity, our system is incomplete and weak; that Christ evidently did not design it to remain so; and that the true significance of this Alliance is, that it is the germ of that ecumenical court having supreme jurisdiction over all the churches in the earth. Do they propose to claim such jurisdiction for it? Oh! no; not now. This, says Dr Blaikie, “would wreck the whole scheme.” But yet he is discontented with the Evangelical Alliance, because its meetings “have avowedly been meetings, not of church representatives, but of individuals associated only in a private capacity.” He desires that the delegates to the Pan-Presbyterian Council shall be representatives appointed by the Assemblies of the several churches, either directly or through committees. He says that we are as yet “unripe,” indeed, for such a council as would have authoritative jurisdiction. “But the idea is of course not excluded.” “Whether the council proposed will work towards such a result,” is a question which he does not decide. But that it ought to work towards it, he very obviously believes and expects; since he declares it the “natural crown of an edifice which has never yet been brought to completion.”

Such are the desires and theories which underlie and prompt this Alliance. They involve one of the essential elements of popery. The cardinal doctrine of the Reformers concerning the church was, that only the spiritual and invisible church could be catholic or ecumenical. They taught that the only unity designed by Christ among the several branches of his people on this earth was the spiritual unity. It was only on these premises that they were able to refute the pretensions of popery. If the edifice “is not brought to completion” until this visible ecumenical bond is provided, then it is still incomplete until a universal unity of the whole visible church. Reformed, Lutheran, and Episcopal, is formed; that is to say, a pope, either singular or plural. That such a papal head will need infallibility, and all other papal attributes, to decide correctly all the multifarious interests and differences of the Christian world, is very evident. Citations might easily be made from the soundest Reformed divines proving this point. Turrettin denies that such an external unity in a visible centre is any mark of the true church. Principal Cunningham (Hist. Theol., p. 24, of Vol. I.,) says there is “no warrant in Scripture for alleging that the unity there predicated of the church of Christ necessarily implies that all the societies claiming to be regarded as churches of Christ must be included in one external visible communion, and subject to one external visible government.” And in other places he intimates pretty clearly that this demand contains, in his view, the foundation principle of popery. Let the notions which the advocates of this Pan-Presbyterian Alliance desire, through it, to propagate, once become current, and we shall soon learn practically that there is little difference between a pope in the singular and in the plural number. The essential doctrines of popery will reappear:—the necessity of outward uniformity; the damning nature of outward schism (so-called); the confounding of the attributes of the visible and invisible churches. Again, the same argument which demands that the Presbyterian churches must be unified in a visible centre, will necessarily be extended to all others recognised as true churches, though non-Presbyterian—such as the Wesleyan, Lutheran, Congregational. Thus will come about a still wider confederation, not Pan-Presbyterian, but Pan-Protestant; and the necessary conditions of its existence will be precisely that combination of loose, unfaithful, doctrinal broad-Churchism, with tyrannical enforcement of outward union and uniformity, which now characterises popery. The Protestant world will be soon educated to set inordinate store by that of which God makes least account—formal union; at the expense of that which he regards as of supreme value—doctrinal fidelity. He who does not see that the Evangelical Alliance has already begun to produce this disastrous result must be blind indeed. It is obviously the “tidal wave” of modem sentiment, the “Zeitgeist” of our day, as truly as it was of the days of Leo the Great; and it is as vital to the life of Christianity now as it was then, that it be exposed and resisted.

The theory of real Presbyterianism is as plain as it is scriptural. It recognises the subordination of courts and of a smaller part of one communion to the whole thereof (in the Lord), as represented in the higher or highest church court. It proposes to extend the communion thus united, so far as hearty and thorough agreement upon the doctrines and church order extends, and no farther. This subordination, affected beyond this, can lean only to tyranny or latitudinarianism, or both. Our fathers gave a notable illustration of this scriptural view in 1837. Finding under the nominal jurisdiction of our Assembly two schools of conviction as to both doctrine and order, they persistently destroyed the pretended unity and compelled a separation into two communions. Did they attempt to exclude the new school from the pale of the visible church catholic? Not at all. They continued to recognise their ordination, sacraments and church-rights. But they insisted that it must be a separate church order—so separate that they would not even enter into a “fraternal correspondence.” This was the Presbyterianism of the Bible—of the Reformers. Now, so far as a real and hearty unity of doctrinal belief and church order extends, so far may a supreme Presbyterial court extend its common jurisdiction. Does such a real unity exist among the Presbyterian Churches of the world? Will it ever exist this side the millennium? Differences of race, language, geographical position, national customs and interests will inevitably perpetuate such differences as will render it impossible to unite them all in one jurisdiction until “there shall be no more sea” and until the curse of Babel shall be repaired. Would the old Assembly, in the glorious days of 1845, have permitted the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland and Ireland, then so much sounder than they are now, to legislate for us, or even to claim the moral force of their recommendations over us? Nay, verily! Even to the latter our Assemblies sternly demurred—and rightly. They refused to allow the abolition diatribes of the Scotch and Irish to be obtruded on our people, knowing that the local and national differences of Great Britain disqualified them from understanding or handling our rights and duties in this matter. Our Assemblies did right. Slavery has been violently and wickedly abolished, partly through the mischievous influences of those very diatribes. Have all the grounds of social and national difference in the future been abolished? He must be a soft and childish Utopian indeed who flatters his hopes with this. “That which hath been is that which shall be.” But men exclaim:—Is not Christianity to make these things better? We reply:—Yes; in that unknown future day when Christ shall, by his own secret power, by that kingdom which is within us, and not by men's exclaiming, “Lo here, and lo there,” have made the churches “first pure, then peaceable.” But the writer, for one, confesses that he fails to see a single hopeful sign that this blessing is to be brought to man by the hands of a generation of Christians who are now generally dominated by a truculent and infidel abolitionism; who confound with the Protestant theory of constitutional republican right the insane leveller's theory of the frantic Lilburn of Cromwell's day or the atheistic radicalism of the Reign of Terror, and impudently call them by the same name; who immerse modern society in the most lavish and luxurious sensuous indulgences ever known to any age; who revel everywhere in an atmosphere of ritualism and will-worship, and whose evangelical reign is signalised by this modern outbreak of social and political corruption, threatening, according to their own confession, to dissolve our social order in general moral putrescence.

7. The crowning objection to our representation in this Alliance is, that our own constitution forbids it. We hold that, -according to that constitution, our Assembly had precisely as much right to appoint commissioners to such a body as to appoint a Grand Lama for Tibet. “The Assembly only appointed a committee, with powers to appoint delegates.” This evasion serves no purpose; for what the Assembly did by its committee, it virtually did per se; and if the connection between us and the Alliance is to subsist, future appointments must, of course, be made on the floor of the Assembly, or confirmed there. Now, either these councils are to be judicatories exorcising church-power over the Assembly, or they are not. If they are, then representation in them is substantially a new feature, outside of our constitution. That instrument calls our Assembly our supreme court. In it all appeals and references stop; from it emanate the highest instructions, under Christ. But here is a higher court, and another source of authority. It is difficult to see how any moral truth can be plainer than this:—that, if it is right for us to be represented in these councils, then the imperative step for us to take beforehand is to procure an amendment (or rather a revolution) in our own constitution, by an orderly reference to the Presbyteries. But gentlemen will take the other horn of the dilemma:—they say the councils of this Alliance are not to be church courts. Very well; then they are private and voluntary meetings of Christians. From this point of view, the Assemble has neither power nor business touching an appointment to them. And precedents show that the Assembly has always understood its powers, as well as the proprieties of the matter thus. The Assembly approves the Temperance cause. Has she ever condescended to appoint a commissioner to represent her in a Temperance convention? If such a thing were moved, any Assembly would rise up as one man and resist. But we have a case still more in point:—The Assembly never consented by her authority to appoint a commissioner to the Evangelical Alliance. If any of her ministers went, they went on their own responsibility as private individuals. “When the Alliance was about to meet in New York, and the Yankee heavens and earth were moved about it, our Assembly at Little Rock was not jostled from its course one minute—not a vote was cast in favour of its prostituting its authority to such an appointment. Now, this case is exactly parallel—this Presbyterian Alliance, according to this second branch of the dilemma, is precisely an Evangelical Alliance of smaller extent.”

We may be reminded of the clause in the Form of Government which clothes the Assembly with the power of “corresponding with foreign churches on such terms as may be agreed upon by the Assembly and the corresponding body,” and of our Assembly delegates annually sent to the (Dutch) Reformed and the Associate Reformed Churches in America. We reply with the question:—Is this Pan-Presbyterian Alliance a church? Has it ecclesiastical powers? If so, let it be spoken out. Again, the correspondence to be lawful must be between the Assembly and the churches represented in the Alliance. Is this so, or not? When Dr Grirardeau charged that our appearance in this Alliance brought us into correspondence with our detractors and injurers, the radical American Church, with whom we had so solemnly said we would not correspond, gentlemen said. Oh, no! Now, which is it? If we do not, in this Alliance, correspond with the churches represented in it, and that directly, including this one with which we refuse to correspond, this article gives our Assembly no right. Once more, the terms are to be arranged between, the churches corresponding—not with a nondescript tertium quid. When Alexander of Macedon was asked to run a race at the Olympian games, he answered:—“Yes, provided kings are my competitors.” So, our Assembly deigns to treat, provided spiritual queens treat with her:—she does not stoop to place herself on a level with any voluntary association of private persons which offers itself. Her acts are and must be authoritative and responsible. She demands a responsible party to treat with, and that not a superior, but an equal. Finally, who dreams that, under the modest word, “correspondence,” the framers of our constitution ever designed to confer all these vague legislative powers? Their meaning in the constitution is the constitution. They doubtless chose the word correspondence, because correspondence is not alliance. My correspondent is not my business partner. The relation which our Assembly assigned to itself as to “foreign churches,” was carefully chosen so as to repudiate that common visible centre of unity at which this Alliance aims, and to leave the manifestation of Christian unity, where the Bible leaves it, in community of principles, spirit, and affections.

It was with good reason, then, that Dr Palmer warned Dr Robinson, in the last Assemble, that in going into this Alliance! he was launching into a disastrous revolution. The step which the Assembly has been betrayed into is but as “the letting out of waters.” If the chasm be not speedily closed, we shall find ourselves upon a flood, which will strand us far from our proper moorings, and amidst the wreck of the precious interests which the Head of the Church has committed to our care.

Vol. 2.26. The Atlanta Assembly and Fraternal Relations.

posted 27 Mar 2014, 12:49 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 12:50 ]


To the Editor of the South- Western Presbyterian:—

I Desire to review calmly, but firmly, the proceedings of our late General Assembly at Atlanta in instituting new and more intimate intercourse with the Northern Assembly. This review I must preface with a few points:

1. To the plea that “it is an impropriety for any one to reopen this question after the Assembly has settled it, and unanimously,” “I give place by subjection,” no, not for a moment. With what face can those use this plea who have themselves just unsettled and reversed the more unanimous position of every Assembly since 1870? I say, “more unanimous,” for the unanimity of the last action was only on the surface; and, as I shall show, was not a real consent to the action taken, but a sort of helpless accord in the conviction that the Assembly had entangled itself in the meshes of its own indiscretions. The members who voted for the action are not satisfied with it. Dr Brown, its defender, is not; certainly the church is not:—as is evinced by the fact, that of our six weeklies, four, without concert, promptly dissented. To assume, in the face of this fact, and of the great, broad, solemn ground-swell of disapprobation now pervading our church, that he who respectfully dissents is a disturber of the peace of our Sion, is a statement I cannot assent to.

2. To stigmatise old and honest servants of the church as “wranglers,” because they choose to do their duty to her in the advocacy of her vital principles, is a trick rather too stale, and too frequently connected with the tactics of deserters of their own principles, to deter such as me. Nor do I permit any one to represent my position as one of unforgiving bate, in contrast with their new departure as Christian love and charity. With what seemliness can this come from men who, some years ago, professed to stand by us in defending the independence, the principles, and the honour of our church? They may if they choose paint themselves as then acting from mere spite; they must not paint me so. I then made the distinction clear between the resentment naturally awakened by Yankee persons and civil powers, assailing my personal property, civil rights, life and family—and their outrages did justify the highest resentment—and the moral opposition, required by duty, to the attacks made by their church courts on Christ's truth and church. The former sentiment we sought to suppress, in the 'exercise of the duty of Christian forbearance. The latter resistance we neither had, nor have now, any more right to suppress than we have to expunge a precept out of the Decalogue. Let this be remembered!

3. Nor shall I, for one, be deterred by the indecency of being called one of the “old war horses,” as though the quarrel were ours only. If age, if a fidelity to the Southern church, which has imposed many toils, cares and sorrows; it long experience in her history and service, have deprived us of those common rights of free speech and argument possessed by all elders, and even members, then this taunt may be proper.

4. In view of the high principles involved, the argument that “since the politicians have come together, and the business men coalesced, it is high time the churches came together,” is almost too thin to require answer. It overlooks several essential points. Our subjection to the same government with our former assailants is the result of force; our religious affiliations must be voluntary, or else are worthless. Business relation! imply no sanction of; or responsibility for, the other party's theological or moral principles. In arranging with Brown or Jones to sell boots, or tallow, or calico, I should not endorse either his politics, or his theology. The kind of affiliation now required of us with Northern Christians does imply such endorsement of their doctrine and ecclesiastical principles; and without this, is dishonest.

5. Our Assembly and Presbyteries ought not to have taken the initiative. It was derogatory to their own self-respect, consistency, and good name. Take Dr Brown's constant showing which is that on which the Assembly professed to act:—that the Northern Assembly had foully libelled us; that ours, acting with the extreme of Christian forbearance, had disclaimed retaliation, but made an amende for the libel the sole condition of restored confidence, and had said, whenever you are ready with this, here is our hand. That the defamer should distinctly refuse this simple amende and abide stubbornly in this refusal; all this leaves for us one only attitude, which is to wait, and be silent. For us to go farther, and initiate another request for the amende so insultingly withheld, is more worthy of a spaniel than of a Christian. It implies a falsehood, as though it were we, the injured, who were responsible for the scandal, instead of them, the injurers. It converts our position, before so Christian and manly, at once into one cowardly and cringing. It was in the worst possible taste and judgment for any Presbytery to overture the Assembly to this step; and it was n, great faux pas in the Assembly to take it.

But a greater one was the “concurrent resolution,” so-called, which makes our church hypothetically confess a sin which she never committed, and which she has always held she never committed. She is made to say that, provided, she has defamed and libelled the Northern church, she withdraws it; provided the Northern church, if it has defamed us, will withdraw her slanders. One thing is plain to any honest mind, that a manly individual, in the parallel case, would scorn such a basis of adjustment. The parable is analogous. For Dr Brown says emphatically that our assertions of wrong action against the Northern church were true, and not libellous. He quotes Dr Humphrey as declaring that we have never libelled or reviled his Assembly. It is vain for one to attempt to cover the crookedness of this action by pleading that our “if” does not specificate any particular libel of which our Assembly was guilty. If it does not imply some sin of that sort in our Assembly, it is insincere. If it does, it is a sinful libel of our past Assemblies. This pretended brotherly reconciliation is vaunted as very Christian and lovely. What sort of a reconciliation is that to which insincerity and false accusation of our own brethren is the essential step? The apostle's plea was, “First pure, then peaceable.” This new-fangled love makes itself impure, in order to be peaceable.

6. It was my privilege and honour to oppose the deceitful entanglement of our church in the “Pan Alliance.” The events at Atlanta show that I was right; for it is very plain to the clear-headed observer, that all those who were involved in that affair have found themselves embarrassed and “handicapped” now, in their efforts to adjust the new relations with this slandering “ally.” But this by the way.

Fraternal Relations.

Approaching now the centre of the subject, let us disentangle “fraternal relations” from the confusion designedly thrown around it by our Northern assailant? For twelve years they have been pleading for the “restoration of fraternal relations.” The plea is deluding; because fraternal relations have been all the time existing on our part towards them, except as ruptured by them. “What are” fraternal relations? The relations existing between Christian brethren not in the same denomination—as between us and Lutherans, us and Southern Methodists, etc. These we have never withdrawn from Northern Presbyterians. They consist in ministerial and Christian communion, Christian charities and hospitalities, recognition of their sacraments, and, in general, of their standing as a valid branch of the church catholic. Hence the reply we should have made to the demand, “Restore fraternal relations,” ought constantly to have been:

“You have them already, unless you please to rupture them on your side.” And in restoring fraternal relations, in full form, to the Northern Presbyterians, without any amends or reparation, the moment they stopped cursing us, our Southern Assemblies showed a Christian forbearance and Christ-like spirit never surpassed on this earth; a spirit which I, for one, shall never hear disparaged without protest; a charity which, with any fair mind, would forever acquit them of the charge of spite in maintaining their righteous attitude on a wholly different-point.

Correspondence By Delegates.

That other point, wrapped up under the foreign name of “fraternal relations,” is the demand that we shall enter into a special intercourse with the North, by annual delegates. This is wholly another matter. It has a perfectly distinct, historical meaning. The Old School Assemblies, before the war, maintained fraternal relations with every valid, however imperfect, branch of the visible church. It kept up the particular intercourse by annual delegates with very few—only the most orthodox Calvinistic Congregationalists, the Dutch Reformed, and the Secession churches. And the recognised meaning of the intercourse was this:—it testified to a special harmony of doctrine and ecclesiastical principles between that church and ours. It was a badge of virtual unity of principle. Thus, for instance, when the New School Assembly seceded in 1838, our Old School Assembly, while recognising her valid church character and all the duties of fraternal charity toward her and her people, absolutely refused to keep up this special intercourse by delegates with her. To do so would have traversed our righteous and obligatory testimony against the partial errors of New Schoolism. It would have been a criminal self-contradiction, or else betrayal of the position of truth in debate between us and them. So now. This special intercourse by delegates if not deceitful and dishonest, should mean virtual unity of principles.

But the Northern church chose to destroy that unity, both in doctrine and church order. By the Spring resolutions of 1861, she saw fit to introduce into her church government a principle of spiritual despotism essentially popish—the invasion of the right of members to follow their own consciences in questions wholly extra-scriptural and merely political. (Thus defined by Dr Hodge himself). This was dreadfully aggravated by the circumstances, which showed it an attempt to pervert the sacred powers of Christ's church for dragooning free citizens into the support of what history will stigmatise as an aggressive, revolutionary, partisan faction, with the most lawless and mischievous aims. This popish element of church order was signalised, moreover, by such mournful events as the persecution of the sainted McPheeters; the virtual sanction of the invasion of their own St. Louis Presbytery by a provost marshal; the ipso facto—orders, this invasion of the rights of the Kentucky Synod. And the fundamental departure from Presbyterianism is jealously retained and asserted by them to-day, as we shall see.

Next came the corrupting of their doctrinal record, by their fusion with the New School. The amount of this mixture was, that the Westminster standards, while held as the symbols of the amalgamated body, might be so explained in it as they had been actually explained in either body. The meaning of this is, that any New Schoolism, which was countenanced or permitted in the New School body, should be entitled to tolerance in the mixed body. So, Dr Hatfield construed it at once, and the Fusion-Assembly at once endorsed him by making him one of its most important officers. This has made the mixed church responsible for all the doctrinal errors for which our wise fathers of 1838 separated themselves from the other branch, and for which they inexorably refused the special recognition of correspondence by delegates for thirty years. So that I now stand precisely where the Old School fathers—Miller, Alexander, Baxter, Hodge, Breckinridge, Plumer, Thornwell—stood on this matter. It was of this surrender of doctrinal purity that Dr Hodge said, “If the truth be lost, all is lost.” “But,” one will say, “Dr Hodge stayed with them!” Yes; inconsistently he did; he felt he had nowhere else to go. But we are in possession of a precious and blessed independence, given by the special favour of Providence. We have somewhere else to stay than in this “broad church.” Does any one dream that Dr Hodge would have left such a position as ours to go into a mixed body of which he intimated that, in losing pure truth, she had lost all?

But, it is said, this mixed church has become marvellously Old School and orthodox. See how it disciplined Prof. Swing, and Dr John Miller, and Mr F. Moore, etc., etc.! True; because these bold, candid men compelled the result, by attacking propositions held as fundamental to their theology by New School men as by Old School men. That means nothing. Is there a Presbytery in that mixed church which will dare to do what a Presbytery in the Southern church (Columbia Presbytery) has just done—mark the New School theory of effectual calling with judicial censure? They would as soon blow up their Assembly hall with dynamite! When I see pronounced New School men professors in their seminaries; when I see a known Socinian lecturing on doctrine by the invitation of another; when I hear the prevalence of merely negative preaching in their churches, I cannot stultify myself by according them orthodoxy. No! their body exists by the tolerance of doctrinal errors, which our fathers could not tolerate. Hence, it cannot be righteous for us, under a pretext of fraternity, to make that special recognition of them which, if it means anything historically, means, we avouch, unity of doctrinal and ecclesiastical principle.

Iniquitous Legislation.

Once more. Their assemblies—not individuals only—formally legislated against us libels, than which none more extreme, malicious and unfounded were ever uttered against Christians innocent of them; of rebellion and treason against our most honoured members; and of heresy, schism and blasphemy against our church itself.

“Oh! but these are virtually matters of the past,” it is said. “The Northern church does not now believe any of these libels, nor hold these tyrannical principles in earnest. They were the incidents of a time of intense excitement—excitement which made us Southern men say pretty hot things too.” And when we reply, “Then let them simply withdraw and disclaim,” the answer is:—“Oh! it isn't Christian and generous to insist so stubbornly on their openly eating their humble pie; since we know that in their hearts these violences are disclaimed, we should not stickle.”

To this I reply:—there is no man who would more cordially assent to this than I would, if there were a word of truth in it. Were there any secret sorrow for the libels, or rectification of the un-Presbyterian theory of church power, no one would be further from stickling for a mere form of amende. But while there may be, as we hope, a great softening of anger, there is no change of theory and tyrannical principle. And this is the saddest part of the history—the one most solemnly necessitating our continued testimony against their error of principle, that now, seventeen years after the end of the war, now, amidst the calmness of assuaged passion, this powerful church stands to its obnoxious principles more unanimously than in May, 1861, when these principles compelled our separation. This I prove.

1. By their cautious, tenacious refusal of any disavowal, when pointed to it.

2. By their embodying in their own Church Digest, as a rule, of the popish and tyrannical decision of the United States Supreme Court in the famous Walnut Street Church case. The amount of this decision was, that all lay Christians shall, like lay papists in popish countries, hold their rights in ecclesiastical property at the mere will of a usurping ecclesiastical head authority, without any appeal to the courts of justice in their country. This ruling, so essentially popish that the very civil courts of the country have refused to conform to it, the Northern Assembly greedily embodied it, and it stands to-day as their church-law.

3. Their recent Assembly at Spring field unanimously declared, that the usurping principles of their Spring resolutions, and their successors, must stand. The usurping Assembly of 1861, whose action necessitated our protest, lacked sixty-six of being unanimous. Here, now, are the plain, stubborn facts. Let no man attempt to pooh! Pooh! them away. It is little short of moral obliquity to do this. Do we ourselves adopt the tyrannies, the virtual union of church and state, enacted in the Spring resolutions? Do we now approve them? Or have we become simply fatigued with the duty of defending God's truth and the church's rights? There is no other explanation. Let no one say, “Oh! this is raking up an antiquated dead issue.” The Springfield Assembly unanimously! assures us of their purpose to keep it alive! Let no one say:—“Oh! but the Confederacy is dead, and this doctrine, though tyrannical, can never again have a practical application.” I reply, first, who knows whether it cannot, except the Omniscient. All church history teaches us that it is not for man to say, “This truth of God, henceforth, has no more practical use.” It is profane; the church's only duty is to testify, and keep on testifying for all the truth God has given her.

But, again, there is no truth more likely to have a burning application again—not probably is the south, but in some other part of the United States—at an early day, than the truth over thrown by the Spring resolutions. He is a shallow man indeed who deludes himself with the thought, that political revolutions are completed and settled here, when everything shows that we have but passed the first act of the tragedy; that, in seventeen years two Presidents have been violently murdered in time of peace; one forcible coup d’état has been carried through, setting aside the elective will of the nation; chronic corruptions of suffrage and administration exist all the time, absolutely inconsistent with settled, constitutional government. Why, a revolution is liable to blasé out any day, and, then, the true conservatives who wish to stand by the constitution are liable at once to be coerced by another General Assembly, which shall again choose to assume that the new usurper is “the power of God to us for good.” For instance, at the late coup d’état alluded to North-western (not Southern) Democrats were within a hair's breadth of asserting their right to uphold the people's election against force. Suppose they had done so? Then the General Assembly of the day would, we presume, have declared, in their infallibility, that for free citizens of sovereign States to resist the coup d’état, though in defence of the people's rights in a legal election, was the “wicked rebellion” prohibited by the apostles. And, then, the North-western Presbyterians would have been compelled, like us, to preserve their rights, and we should have had a third Presbyterian Assembly, and a third division; and the fiery contributions of bitterness, hate, and bloodshed made again, by Christ's usurping church, to another unfortunate civil war. And all this the country actually “grassed” six years ago; missing it by a hair's breadth! A dead issue? It is the most living issue that exists, and the most pregnant with mischief and woe, and the loss of the spiritual liberty of Americans.

I sum up my position, then, as being exactly what the position of the Old School fathers, Alexander, Miller, Plumer, et al., was from 1838 and onward; except, that where they had one valid and imperative reason for declining this special correspondence by delegates I have three. I have, first, the same ground of doctrinal discrepancy they had, vis.:—the connivance at New Schoolism. I have, second, the departure of the Northern Assembly from spiritual liberty by the popish usurpation of the Spring resolutions and their sequels, which I have shown to be of the gravest and most fundamental character. I have, third, a fearful indictment of rebellion and treason, unjustly hurled at our Assembly. And now, let it be noted, that this reasoning disconnects itself wholly from the rise and fall of the late Confederacy and all its interests and passions. It was the rise of the Confederacy—with which our church, as a church, had nothing to do—which was made the occasion and pretext of the usurpation of spiritual power by the Northern Assembly. That was all. Whether the Confederacy was a good or a bad thing, it does not here concern us to argue. It was an earthly institution, with only secular interests and concernments. It is with the spiritual rights of Christ's people in his spiritual kingdom that we here have to do. It is the invasion of them we have to resist conscientiously. This duty has no connection with the institution, whose rise happened to be the mere pretext and circumstance of the usurpation.

Usurpation Maintained.

It has been argued by our recent innovators:—“We find the sentiment of our church has correctly settled down on this position:—that, when once the obloquies thrown at us have been withdrawn, differences of doctrinal and ecclesiastical principles, conscientiously held by the Northern church, ought to be no bar to the resumption of these closer and more special relations by interchange of delegates.” This is supposed to be very clear, Christian and conclusive. I assert that it is utterly erroneous and illogical. The fact that the erroneous principles against which we conscientiously feel compelled to testify are sincerely held by the other party, is the very reason for refusing, instead of granting, this special intercourse. If his assertion of them were a mere whiff of petulance, this would render the assertion of them comparatively trivial; we could the better tolerate it. But it is because this powerful church does seriously, earnestly, conscientiously (with misguided conscience), calmly, assert these grave departures from Presbyterianism as we devoutly hold it; it is for this very reason the case assumes the gravity, solemnly necessitating our denominational protest and testimony. That is the common sense of it. And this is confirmed by the whole historical attitude of the Old School church. Thus, with the German Reformed, the Lutheran, the Moravian, the Protestant Episcopal, the Methodist, the Immersionist branches of the visible church catholic, our Assemblies always maintained fraternal relations; but they never did, and never would have maintained with them that special intercourse by annual delegates which they kept up with, for instance, the Dutch Reformed Church. Now, did we decline this interchange with the great Methodist churches, for instance, because we held that they were not sincere in holding that modified Arminianism which separated them partially from us? What an infinite absurdity is this? Did we thus statedly insult our Methodist brethren with the innuendo, that their honest doctrinal testimony was a pretence? No; it was because we knew that their modified Arminianism was, and is, honestly held by them, with all the sincerity of a pious—though, as we believe, erroneous—conviction; it was for this very reason we felt, and now feel, bound to keep up our testimony by withholding from them this special intercourse. And they understand this. And they honour us for it. And they are too much Christian gentlemen to be guilty of teasing and worrying our Assembles to enter into a special intercourse which would express a falsehood, in symbolising a doctrinal unity which both parties know has no existence. But is this any rupture of real fraternal relations between us and the Methodist brethren? None whatever. “We bear our testimony in this mild, forbearing form.” They bear theirs against what they, with equal honesty, believe to be our hyper-Calvinism. But on all other points we are brethren; and we can press our congregational enterprises side by side, in the same towns and neighbourhoods, without strife, each doing good in our own way. Why cannot Northern Presbyterians, near or among us, if they still feel bound in conscience to maintain their anti-Presbyterian principles on these grave and momentous points dividing us, behave in the same way, and let us alone? That would be good manners. In a word, they have chosen, they say conscientiously, to disrupt and destroy that unity of doctrine and order of which the interchange of delegates is the emblem. Then we can't help it; only we have our duty to perform as a witnessing church, which we propose to do in the mildest form possible. To destroy the unity by their own deliberate action, and then ask the badge of it, is neither good manners nor morals.

Another argument for changing the righteous attitude of our Assemblies has struck me with astonishment. It is in substance, “that the old men who were actors in the separation of 1861 are nearly all dead and gone; that the new men who will soon govern the church were not actors in that division; and, therefore, it is time, or will soon be time, to drop the old testimony.” I ask myself, What absurdity is this I hear? Does truth grow old? Do vital principles become antiquated? If these men would come out and say out aloud, that the popery of the Spring resolutions, the semi-Pelagianism of New Haven theology, the legislated slander of an innocent church, are all sound Presbyterianism; that the men of 1861 were wrong in testifying against these vital departures, then I could understand. But when our opponents assure us unanimously that their church asserts two out of these three departures to-day, just as before, I see not what on earth the coming of a new and the going of an old generation of the friends of truth have to do with the cessation of our testimony. I thought that God's Word promised, “In place of the fathers shall be the children,” that the performance of the interesting duty was a part of the sacred inheritance of believers, until God is pleased to terminate the

witness-bearing by converting the errorists. According to this notable argument, as soon as Luther and Calvin, on one side, and Eck and Leo X., on the other, were dead, the Protestants and Papists ought to have gone into “fraternal relations.” As soon as John Wesley on the one side, and Whitefield and Lady Huntingdon on the other, were dead, all the Evangelicals in England ought to have flowed together and declared that Arminianism and Calvinism came to the same thing. The truths at issue were Whitefield's truths, forsooth, instead of God's truths! Equally absurd is the argument now.

The Assembly of 1875.

My next remark is, that our Assembly is now realising the bad consequences of its erroneous position assumed in 1875, it then, under the guidance of its commissioners to the Baltimore Conference, compromised the two stronger thirds of its basis of action, when it declared that the errors of doctrine and order perpetuated by the Spring resolutions and their sequels, and by the unguarded recognition of New Haven theology, should be no barrier to the resumption of the more intimate relations, hut only the un-retracted libel on our church. The sophistical argument for this unfortunate position was as follows:—that for any betrayal of the principles of Christ's kingdom the Northern church was not responsible to us, but only to Christ; that they were responsible to us only for their libel of us; that hence, if they would only withdraw that, it was no business of ours to deal with them about the other defections.

But it is the simplest solution in the world, that this is the true statement:—“Both Northern and Southern churches are responsible, in all things, to Christ their Lord, and not to each other; we, as a witnessing church, are responsible to Christ for bearing our testimony, in appropriate ways, against all error; just as they are responsible to him, not to us, for teaching any error.” The argument I criticise is refuted by every usage and act of the older and sounder Assemblies. “Why did they always withhold correspondence by delegates from the Lutheran, the Methodist, the Immersionist churches? Because they had libelled the Assembly?” Not at all. But because they marred, in some particulars, Christ's truth. Again, the position of our Assembly in 1875 had an aspect of great unseemliness about it. It seemed to say, that we cared much about our personal repute and little about the honour and principles of Christ's kingdom and the spiritual liberty of his children. We said to the assailants of Christ's rights, we will condone all that, without any reparation or rectification at all, provided you will restore our personal good name. This was unseemly and unfaithful to our Master. We are now reaping the deserved chastisement in the pitiable entanglements of the hour. For once more, we ought to have foreseen that, by waiving our two clearer and more disinterested bases of action, we were exposing ourselves to be entrapped at any time by a partial or deceitful withdrawal of personal obloquies. I warned my brethren, from my obscure position, of these dangers, but nobody listened to the warning. Our church might have been solidly placed like a man on a good three-legged stool; our Assembly of 1875 saw fit to throw away two of the legs, and leave the church in an unstable equilibrium, like a man attempting to poise himself on one leg; just as I foresaw, this subsequent Assembly, acting on this partial, sophistical basis, has met this cruel embarrassment. It finds itself seemingly committed, pledged in advance, to accept any sort of amende for the personal obloquies that professes to be sincere, and to restore the special intercourse by delegates. But yet the personal obloquies are, and always were, so logically related to the ecclesiastical usurpations of principle that the two must inevitably go together. If the Spring resolutions are Presbyterianism, then General T. J. Jackson and I are rebels. The two are inseparable, premise and conclusion. Hence it was always a logical solecism for our Assembly of 1875 to say:—

The Northern Assembly may hold the former, if she will disclaim the latter, and we are satisfied. She cannot hold the former and disclaim the latter without falsehood. Thus our Assembly prepared for itself the pitfall in which it is now writhing; pledging itself to accept an amende which was necessitated to be deceitful as an amende. Thus the way was prepared for all the tortuous involutions of the “concurrent” and the “explanatory” resolutions. We are taught by this experience that we should have stood squarely on the three bases, where the Assembly of 1870 placed our church. It was, in substance, this:—no injuries of our persons, however real, justify in us any retaliation or revenge. That is all out of the debate. We, of course, extend fraternal relations to all branches of the church which can be recognised as valid branches of Christ's catholic, visible church. As such we hold the Northern Presbyterian. Church; for though we are sorrowfully necessitated to regard it, as an erring, we do not hold it as an apostate church. But as to this special correspondence by delegates, historically expressive of substantial unity of principle, we cannot go into it, for three, reasons; of which the two foremost and more weighty ones are, that the church has admitted some serious doctrinal license, and has invaded the spiritual liberty of Christ's people in a vital point; and the third, less cardinal, but still sufficient reason, is that she has formally slandered the good name of our church which it is our duty and right to defend—at least by this the mildest form of protest. That was the sound, consistent, Christian position where the Assembly of 1870, through the able hand of Dr Palmer, placed our church. “Well would it have been for her had she stayed there, until God's Spirit and providence had blessed her testimony, as the means of teaching all American Presbyterians to come sincerely back to the right. That was the mission given her by the orderings of Providence and the Word of God.”

What it Means.

And this leads us to the well-known manner of the amende, wherein the Northern Assembly first agreed to call itself a slanderer—which it had been—on condition we would call ourselves hypothetically slanderers—which she and we knew we had not been. And this avowal, thus purchased, was then modified by an “explanation” which did not “modify,” that whereas five separate charges—disloyalty, treason, schism, heresy, blasphemy, had been first laid against us, the amends shall extend to the last three, but shall not extend to the first two! Now, there are sundry unhandsome traits of this action, which, were our people clear-eyed, would render it entirely nugatory. First, It was to be “concurrent action,” saying the same thing for us, mutatis mutandis, which we had said for them. But our Assembly had appended no pendant. Second, This Assembly made official communication only of the first resolution, which, without its fatal pendant, sounded satisfactory; thus leaving our Assembly, so far as they went, ignorant of what followed, and liable to act generously, and adjourn in ignorance of what they had really done and really pledged to us. It was to the chance action of a person, action unofficial and unauthorised, that our escape from that trap was due. Third, In withdrawing the withdrawal they really left the grievance of the unrestricted libel substantially unmitigated. It will be said, the charge of “blasphemy,” for instance, is and remains squarely retracted. Yes; but that was a part of their railing which never did mean anything—which nobody believed to be true when uttered—which always was harmless to our reputation. Everybody knew that it was the mere foam on the angry lip. It was the charges of rebellion and treason—which had meaning and practicality in them—which really had (false) power to shade our good name—which endangered our necks and our estates, and our franchises; which those Assemblies “explained without modifying,” by the amiable recommendation to the Federal government to hang us. And it is these charges, which we are now informed, in the good year 1882, are not withdrawn! Let us state a little parallel. My Christian neighbour gets angry with me, and publishes two charges on me:—one, that I, being an officer of that institution, had embezzled a trust fund belonging to Union Seminary; the other that I had, witch-like, ridden to Presbytery on a broomstick above the moon. I have been for years dealing with him precisely as our Saviour directs in Matthew 18., but he has always refused any amende. At last he sends word that he is ready to join me in a general, square retraxit and reconciliation. After I have honestly shaken hands on this, he says, by way of “explanation without modification,” “Now mind, my retraxit is to be understood as extending only to that tale about the broomstick.” Well, this practically ruins it all; for the charge left against me was the damaging, and the only damaging one. Unfortunately it has not been found impossible for a parson to embezzle trust funds, and the charge that I had done so is not intrinsically incredible, apart from my known reputation. But the charge of riding on a broomstick nobody had ever credited; it had always gone for nothing and been understood as meaning nothing more than that my neighbour was “blind-mad” when he said it. In just such a state this Springfield action leaves us:—the charges of heresy and blasphemy never were nor could be credited. The men “who made the charges were all along concurring with the rest of the Presbyterian world, to which they made them, in saying, that Southern Presbyterians are well known to be the most conservative doctrinally, and most exemplary and strict, of the Presbyterian family of churches.” But it was their representation of us as rebellious, insubordinate factions which had power of damaging our good name. It is these which are, expressly, not withdrawn. Fourth, The saddest part of the story is the obvious motive which caused the Springfield Assembly to attach the fatal pendant to their amende. It was very clear that the motive was secular and political; the fear to offend the political sentiments of their constituents at home by-even seeming to surrender or modify the tyrannical and popish principle of the Spring resolutions. And now the New York Observer tells the plain truth, though by the use of those euphemisms which the Observer so well understands. In plain English, that Assembly passed the “Herrick Johnson resolution” because it believed that the home people of their church still hold that deadly usurpation so passionately as to be indignant with even a seeming relaxation of it, even to gain the coveted reconciliation. And that Assembly passed it unanimously! This tells the sad story—that politics still rule in that church; that really the breach of principle is not healed at all; that the very central error which disrupted the church at first is still unanimously held in that Assembly; that the same reason exists for our maintaining our conscientious testimony, and our ecclesiastical independence. Well, it is sorrowful; but it is not our fault. The last way in the world to remedy this state of things is for us to waver in our right position, and thus sophisticate and mix the truth with the error.

Mr Calhoun once said to a brother senator, when the Senate was proposing to act on a statement made known only by a dispatch, “Never act on a mere telegram; it gives only the central fact, without any background by which to construe it.” “Well would it have been for our Assembly if it had observed this wise caution!” The unhealthy animus which prevailed in the Assembly is betrayed by the fact that it did so unhesitatingly take this critical action on a short telegram!

Much has been said of the marvellous unanimity of the Assembly. If we may believe the statements we hear, the real amount of this unanimity was, that the members were, indeed, nearly unanimous in the conviction that they were hopelessly entangled in their own indiscretions, and so saw no way to help themselves. But very few seem to be really satisfied with the result.

The Pecuniary Question.

We are told that much was also said about the necessity of our conciliating the help of Northern Presbyterians, to overtake the work of meeting the incoming immigration into the South with our Presbyterian gospel. Glowing references were made to the influx into Texas, the mushroom growth of mining and manufacturing towns in the South, and to the prospect of a larger influx in the near future. Then, it was exclaimed, that here was a huge work for our weak, poor, Southern church to do; that it was utterly Utopian, hopeless, impossible, for her to do it unaided; that she must gain the help of Northern Presbyterianism, in men and money, or make a disastrous failure in the task; and that, in order to get these, we must establish these intimate relations. One writer exclaims:—“We have but one seminary open, with forty-five students and eleven or twelve licentiates for the year. It is simply out of the question for us to do it unaided.”

Let us look intelligently at this. If Presbyterianism is to be built up in our fields with Northern resources, the first question to be asked is, Which Presbyterianism? Do we ask our “Northern brethren” to give all this money, and these men to build up the Presbyterianism which they persistently and conscientiously denounce as rebellious and treasonable (now no longer blasphemous)? They are a shrewd generation. This it seems is the hope, that the “miller will turn the water off his own mill-wheel.” The emptiness of that hope is sufficiently obvious, and, indeed, the impertinence of our pressing it. “Good. Brother, Northern Miller! our wheel grinds for a different concern from you; our aim is to get all the grist in this part of the neighbourhood away from your mill. So, good brother, turn your water off your mill-wheel on ours!”

But again, this plan of engaging the Northern help professes to approach that church in the equitable and loving, instead of the rival spirit. Then it is impertinent and unfraternal, in demanding of them that they shall do all their own work and a part of ours; while, in fact, we are better able to do all of ours than they are to do all theirs. We are indulging a lazy hallucination here, unjust to them, degrading to ourselves. We have talked about the impoverished South and the “great and rich North” until we are blind to plain facts. The Northern church is more powerful than ours, in number of ministers, churches and communicants, and in wealth—perhaps five or six times more powerful. But she has far more than four times the influx of new population to evangelise on her hands. Has she not eight times as much? If she, with six-fold strength, is able to do her six-fold—or eight-fold—work, why cannot we, with our smaller strength, do our smaller work? If she is not able, then, in calling her to do ours, we are causing her to neglect her own, which is a sin. This is the healthy view to take of our duty, to imitate the energy of the Northern church, if indeed she does overtake her vast work; and not to seek, in this lazy, cowardly way, to divert her resources from the places they are so needed, to supplement our stinginess and laziness. The singing of this song is the sure way to emasculate our church. Experience has also proved, as I shall show, that just in proportion to our independence of Northern help and control has been the fruitfulness of our church in doing its own work. We are in danger of cheating ourselves into a criminal apathy, by thus talking as if the North had everything and we were helpless beggars. Here are two sons, one four times as large and strong as the other. The father has given the small one, because he is small, twenty pounds to carry. But he has also given the other more than one hundred and twenty pounds. And now the little fellow cries that he is so little he cannot carry his twenty pounds, but must have his big brother to “tote” for him, “because he is so big.” What he needs is a sharp taste of the birch, to make him do his work and stop whining. For shame! Let the Southern church reopen her seminaries, and give her sons to the ministry, and give the money for her Home Missions. She is more able to do it this day than the Northern church is to do all the larger work God lays on her hands.

In this connection, it is instructive to note how this paralysis of our own resources and lagging behind our own tasks synchronises with this relaxation of the spirit of honest independence in our church. When was it that the promising impulse and progress of our work received its first check? Precisely at the time when we began to “let down” our testimony, to tamper with entangling “alliances,” and to “bill and coo” with our unrelenting accusers. It is precisely since then that our number of candidates began to decline, and the expansion of our tasks to outgrow our energies. What else would any one expect who understands human nature? To cry, “Oh, we can't do it,” “Oh! the work is too large for us;” “Oh! we must have Northern help!”—this is the sure way to drug the consciences of our own people, and to enervate their Christianity, by encouraging them to lean on other people's crutches.


One more topic remains:—the tendency of this special intercourse to undermine the very existence of our church, and prepare the way for a fusion with the Northern Presbyterians. Some (as Dr Brown) exclaim that this apprehension is visionary; he does not know of even a “scouting-party” in favour of it. Others cry, “Sh-sh! The subject is too ticklish to handle. The very way to precipitate fusion is to talk about it.” Now, I reply:—is the loyalty of our ministers to their own church, is its independence and existence, thus precarious? Then is this head of my argument more fearfully true than any, even the most apprehensive, had argued! But I mean to speak, on this head, the words of truth and soberness; the truth can never be mischievous.

First, Our late accusers, now comrades, all cry, with confidence, that a long step toward fusion has been taken; that the last step is now near and easy. See the Interior, New York Observer, etc., etc. They are shrewd people; they are “cute.”

Second, They make no bones of saying “out aloud” that they intend to use this now intercourse diligently and solely as a means to bring about fusion. When Dr Brown says, “No! it is merely the establishment of decent, pacific relations between two churches, which are, and are to remain, independent,” our “Northern brethren” utterly flout and fleer this. They snap their fingers at him. They assure him that they will show him the other result, and that very soon. Now, I do not remark on the manners or morals of this declaration. I merely ask, what is the infatuation, in view of the known pertinacity of these people, of our establishing this intercourse, of our opening to them this door, unless we desire and design fusion? I had, let us suppose, a neighbour, whose character I never considered safe. He has been teasing me for a social access to my family, to which he is not entitled. He has kept up a complaint that I am a bad neighbour in this matter. At last I give way weakly, and establish the social interchanges, as I say, “solely to show good neighbourhood; nothing more, Oh no!” Yet I know that the fellow habitually and openly boasts of his purpose to marry my chaste, innocent daughter; declares to his boon-companions that this is his sole end in demanding social relations with my family; and that he designs to use them for this alone 1 And yet, knowing all this, I give him the chances he desires. And, by way of explanation, I publish to my neighbours this resolve of myself and family:—“Resolved, That Blank is not to be allowed, in any event, to marry our daughter.” Certain it is, my neighbours would only judge me in my dotage.

Third, This intercourse may, honestly, not have been intended to lead to such fusion; and yet its logical result is fusion. So the Northern papers have already expounded it. I have shown that the historical usage and meaning of correspondence of delegates is a recognition of virtual unity of doctrinal and ecclesiastical principles. If this unity does not exist, the intercourse is dishonest. If it does, why not fuse? That is their argument. Grant the premise, and the inference will tell, even on reluctant minds. It is the premise which is erroneous and perilous, and, should not have been granted.

Results of Fusion.

Thus this matter derives its gravity, not from its intrinsic importance, but from its tendencies and consequences. In itself it would be trivial, and would merit little discussion. If this interchange of delegates was what Dr Brown understands it to be, only “for the nonce,” to be followed by no usage, to be done as an end of debate, and not repeated, then it would remain trivial, and I should not have troubled the church with any caution. But knowing perfectly well that Dr Brown is “reckoning without his host” in this thing, that the Northern Presbyterians, and his own brethren, who have pressed him to this acquiescence, mean it otherwise, I am bound to utter that caution. I must, then, beg every thoughtful friend of Christ's cause and truth, and of the salvation of souls in the Southern half of the United States, to pause, and remember what fusion would mean.

It means, then, in the first place, the division of our once happy and harmonious church. For, let every man rest assured, that there will be a large body of our eldership and membership, clear-eyed, self-respecting, loyal to Old School Presbyterianism, immovable, who are never going to be traded off to the corrupters of American Presbyterianism and slanderers of their fathers' virtues. [And this suggests the crowning argument against this Atlanta movement; that, under pretence of ending contention with the errorists—whom it is our duty to contend with—it makes strife with our own brethren, with whom we should be at one as we profess.]

It means the unobstructed triumph, among American Presbyterians, of the virtually popish and tyrannical principle of the Spring resolutions, and consequent usurpations, with the mischievous and inflaming applications it is likely to receive in future political collisions.

It means that we surrender our tenure in all our church-property to that new, popish rule, devised by a radical Supreme Court, and greedily embodied in the Digest of the church.

It means that we acquiesce in becoming doctrinally a “Broad Church,” to the extent of tolerating, in the same communion, both the extremes of strict Calvinism and New Havenism, to such extent as the two “branches” of the Northern church tolerated either, between 1838 and 1869.

It means that we surrender our new Book of Church Order, with all its improvements, and go back to the old book which we had so resolutely discarded.

It means that we surrender our well-considered committee system of evangelism, and go back to that old board-system, which Dr Thornwell refuted in 1860 at the Rochester Assembly.

It means that we admit a “rotary eldership,” thus surrendering our scriptural doctrine of the qualification and call of the ruling elder by the Holy Ghost, and his true ordination by his Presbytery, and placing ourselves at this half-way house of Congregationalism.

It means the immediate collapse of our seminaries and evangelistic agencies, under the alien management of a great omnibus church:—so that, in place of the $75,000 for Foreign Missions, and $58,000 for Home Missions, etc., which we gave last year to these enterprises, in the trusted and beloved hands of Drs Wilson and McIlwaine, we should give the year after the fusion, to the mistrusted, alien, abolitionised, sectional agencies in New York, about $20,000 and $15,000 respectively, with a tendency towards a farther annual decline. In 1860 the Presbyteries now enrolled in the Southern church are credited by the Assembly's Minutes as having contributed to Domestic Missions $48,264, and to Foreign Missions, $39,348. In comparing these amounts with the present contributions to these objects, two things must be remembered. One, that the Southern churches, now generally poor, yet contributing $75,000 to Foreign Missions, were then exceedingly rich. The other is, that many churches, as in Kentucky, East Tennessee, etc., then connected with the South, are now Northern Presbyterian. These figures illustrate the progress made by the Southern church in virtue of its independence.

It means, of course, that we must imitate the church which absorbs us, in the ecclesiastical amalgamation with Negroes; accepting Negro presbyters to rule white churches and judge white ladies; a step which would seal the moral and doctrinal:

corruption of our church in the South, and be a direct step towards that final perdition of Southern society, domestic amalgamation. And the time would come in the South—yea, in the North also, as it found itself encumbered with this gangrened limb—a mulatto South, when all who had lent a hand, under the prompting of a puling sentimentalism, to this result, would, incur the reprobation of all the wise and good, in terms as just, and as bitter, as those visited on Benedict Arnold.

For, let any man look on the Negro character calmly, and he will see that the introduction of any, the smallest, element of Negro rule into our church, means moral and doctrinal relaxation, and ecclesiastical corruption, poisoning the life-blood of our churches, just in degree as it is extended. The sentimentalist may exclaim; Why cannot a Negro be converted? Cannot a Negro become learned? Yes; possibly he may; but, if converted, he will not be perfect; and as sure as nature, one of his remaining imperfections will be his race feelings. Sentimentalists may shout that “Christianity knows no castes;” that “all caste-distinctions are unchristian”—which I here denounce as scripturally and historically false—but whether we will or not, the Negro is going to keep himself a caste, as to Southern Presbyterians. And in every issue where the rival and opponent of white Southern Presbyterianism is going to attack principles dear to us, the Negro is going to side with that assailant. Witness the fact that, in all secular issues, he infallibly sides with the assailant of all vital Southern interests, even when the Negro is thereby hurting his own interest. And this he does, usually, with a regularity exactly proportioned to his professed “culture.” Once more, Negro Christianity may foster in them personal virtues in individual actions; but I observe that never yet has Negro religion elevated the best of them to that stage of conscience so vital for a ruler in a free, constitutional, spiritual commonwealth like our church, which prevents wrong-doing in, associated actions, where the responsibility is veiled by forms of law and combination of many agents. I know some very good Christians among them—sincerely devout, prayerful, diligent, chaste, charitable, educated, intelligent, wholly above individual larceny. But I have invariably seen the best of these, as partisans, concur actively, without qualm of conscience, in the foulest and most putrescent party actions by which the South has been disgraced. Such is the average, Christianised intelligence and conscience of that race at this time. Merge our churches with the North, and at once we poison the noble Synods of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia with the infusion of the black “Synod of Atlantic;” with the prospect of the similar corruption of our whole Southern church.

Once more, fusion with the North would mean our betrayal of our righteous testimony against the rationalistic and sceptical features of modem abolitionism—a testimony which is now faithfully sustained by our church alone in Protestant Christendom. This abolitionism the Holy Spirit has expressly condemned in 1 Timothy 6:1-5, characterising it in the sternest language as arrogant, perverse, mercenary, slanderous and false; and he has expressly legislated, “From such withdraw thyself.” Many, if not the majority, in that Assembly defiantly profess that abolitionism; and the only legislation the Assembly itself has taken about them was to denounce us for protesting against it as Paul required us, as “heretics and blasphemers.” So that such fusion would be a flying in the face of God's express command.

A Suggestion.

“What plan, then, do I propose? I say, first, Hold fast to our independence, as our sheet-anchor from ecclesiastical shipwreck.” And, to this end, repudiate every entangling alliance that endangers that independence. Next, let Dr Brown, as he has been appointed to go, go to the next Northern Assembly. But let him first stop at our Assembly in Lexington, and fortify himself with strong instructions. And let these instructions be such as these:—that he is to say to the Northern Assembly, “I am here according to the agreement of 1882, Not to establish that intimate annual intercourse by delegates, which historically signifies a unity of principles which you have yourselves disrupted, but to signify, what has been true ever since 1865, that there is an end of strife between us, except as you make it; that we have no revenges; that we recognise you as a church of Christ; that as such we wish to observe fraternal relations; which are, the exercise of Christian charities, the interchange of ministerial and Christian communion, and the recognition of your church order. That this declaration made for the nonce suffices, and will not be followed by annual delegates.” Dr Brown might also very well intimate to them that we perceive the crooked-ness of their Springfield action; but that, desiring to give the above testimony, we have chosen, in a spirit of magnanimity, to pass it by for this time. But by no means let Dr Brown ask for an explanation of their explanation. The only result of this would be confusion twice confounded. For these skilled adepts at the art of “explaining without modifying,” retracting and then taking back their retraxit, would be sure to find words which would plunge Dr Brown and us into a perplexity worse even than his present. No, we have had enough of that; we have been badly enough bitten; we had better not try to find out whether the animal meant to bite, by putting our hand into his mouth again.

Then, for the rest, we should go on our way, minding our own business. We should observe precisely the same relations we do towards the Southern Methodists or Lutherans. If any Northern Presbyterian ministers or elders wish to come to us, who personally hold that sound position held by Dr Charles Hodge as to the usurpations of their Assemblies, and as to New School defects of doctrine, we should receive them, though in their secular opinions anti-Confederates like Dr Hodge. If their laity choose to come to us, even uninstructed and blinded as to these defects of Northern Presbyterianism, we should charitably receive them, provided they will cooperate peaceably; just as we would receive a layman with Arminian opinions, under the apostolic rule:—“Them that are weak in the faith receive ye;” hoping to win them to our truer Presbyterianism. If some, ministers or laymen, who are ex animo dissentients from our truer Presbyterianism, go about organising churches on Southern soil, of their faith, let them do it. The responsibility is theirs. We have no more mission, as true Presbyterians, to prevent it than we have to prevent semi-Armenians from organising Methodist churches beside ours. We are sorry they do not see and teach the whole truth. But it is no business of ours to prevent their proceedings. That belongs to God.

Thus I have “shown mine opinion.” It is only the judgment of one single presbyter, with no right of dictation to his brethren; but it is honest. And I am confident every impartial reader will see that it is logically consistent, scriptural, and therefore safe.

Vol. 2.25. Fraternal Relations.

posted 27 Mar 2014, 12:44 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 12:45 ]


If we are able to understand and appreciate the feeling today prevalent in our church, it is similar to our own, that the last Assembly has unintentionally managed to leave our relations with the “Omnibus” Presbyterian Church in a greater muddle than ever. Having -watched this matter intelligently and earnestly from its inception, at our Louisville Assembly, in 1870, until now, we cannot but feel that our management of it has been blundering. It is not charged that any action of our side has been dishonest, unrighteous, or aggressive. The truth would sustain us in all of them. But they have often been inexpedient, and the result has been that we have continually been over-reached, or have over-reached ourselves. Consequently our interests in this matter have now drifted into an exceedingly untoward condition.

Historical Review.

A brief historical review of the diplomacy concerning “Fraternal Relations,” “so-called,” will be useful. We would refer to the statement of the original usurpations, which compelled us into an attitude of ecclesiastical independence, published by Dr Dabney in the Southern Presbyterian Review, in May last. He has presented the case, as it lies before us, justly. Our first grievance, then, was this:—that when a providential current of secular events had imposed on Southern Presbyterians the necessity of deciding, in the exercise of their own Christian liberty, a secular, legal, and political question, vis.:—whether the Federal or State government had the prior claim to their civil allegiance; the Philadelphia Assembly, in 1861, did assume to decide that our deciding for the State was the “sin of rebellion” forbidden in the sacred Scriptures, and that thus the constitution of the church was outraged and a usurpation, prompted by factious, worldly motives, attempted over the consciences of God's people, of an essentially popish nature. And the cruel and monstrous tyranny was illustrated by this fact:—that while the right of the Assembly to pass any such act depended solely upon its right and ability to entertain and decide the historical question, “Which was the prior allegiance, the State, or the federal?” that Assembly did refuse to permit that foundation question to be entertained; and Southern members were estopped of their just right to have it entertained by the threatened penalty of being murdered by a Philadelphia mob! The usurpation was further illustrated by the temper and acts of subsequent Assemblies, New and Old School, annually repeating this tyrannical assumption over free consciences; first inventing and urging upon the civil authorities the theory not before assumed by political partisans, that “secession is treason,” and thirstily clamouring for the blood of Southern patriots as “traitors.” By their hounding on of the already frantic coercion party of the North to a more atrocious war, by their inciting the civil magistrate to that usurpation, the robbing us of the labour of and property in our servants, which had been declared by Mr Lincoln, and the solemn joint resolution of his own Congress, to he beyond the constitutional power of the Federal government, either in peace or war. Such, we sorrowfully repeat, were the acts, not of Presbyterian persons only, infected with the popular madness, but of formal Assemblies, sitting as spiritual courts of the Prince of Peace, yet perverting his kingdom to ends unhallowed in temper and utterly unconstitutional in character. Then followed the famous acts of 1865-'6, declaring the doctrine of the Bible as established by their own predecessors in 1845, concerning the lawfulness of slaveholding, to be heresy, and denouncing us as “traitors,” “rebels,” “miserable sinners,” and “blasphemers;” excommunicating us from the pale of the visible church catholic (for such was the obvious effect of their resolves discarding our denominational rights and existence, and providing, as the only mode, for our entering Christ's church by repentance and confession, like other profane persons), and punishing their equals, the signers of the Declaration and Testimony, for exercising their constitutional right of dissent and remonstrance. This review is absolutely necessary for the understanding of the remarks which are to follow.

Against these monstrous proceedings. Southern Presbyterian defended themselves in the only righteous way left them, by withdrawing and assuming their ecclesiastical independence This they did with the utmost dignity and Christian forbearance. The Assemblies abstained from all denunciation and retaliation, and scrupulously allowed and respected all the church rights of, and all the obligations of charity towards, their violent assailants and detractors.

The Louisville Assembly.

Well, after the lapse of a few years, the Northern Assembly moved by policy, and undeceived by the quiet firmness of the Southern people, retracted so much of their own action as had sought to exclude us from the pale of the catholic church, ant made a grudging recognition of our denominational existence and church-rights. But they still practiced and encouraged at the annoyances they could, by grasping our church-property dividing our congregations and egging on the minorities therein usually contemptibly small, to seek to govern the majorities It must also be remembered that the Assembly itself has since formally committed itself to the partisan, illegal and unconstitutional decision of a faction in the Supreme Court, designed to provide for the unlimited plunder of the weaker party.

But still, all the factions in the omnibus church eagerly craved to absorb or reconcile the Southern church. They all desired to silence our testimony against their usurpations. As the temper of the American people remained, after all the stimulants applied by clerical zealots, adverse to persecution and violent suppression, the only way to effect that end left them was to absorb us. The strict Old School men desired to gain the support of the Southern churches, known to be soundly orthodox, to their side in the coming doctrinal strife. The “progressives” longed to carry out their ambitious, carnal passion for an e-pluribus-unum church, “national” in its material grandeur, and yielding to them, the conscious majority, all its revenues of power, wealth and distinction, from all parts of the continent. This party, conscious of their irresistible ascendancy in the omnibus body, and of the timidity and real helplessness of the Old School party, and confident of their own ability to neutralise and silence our Old Schoolism, as they had so thoroughly done that of the Northern orthodox, were not the least reluctant to see the latter receive the apparent accession of Southern Presbyterians known to be Old School. Then, there was a multitude of pious people carried away by the sentimental and goodish cry for “union of Christians.” And last, there were doubtless some people who cherished an honest respect for us, and an honest desire to do us justice, and to have a more intimate Christian communion with us. This last class we gladly recognise; for we rejoice to believe that true piety is not extinct in those bodies, so unfortunately dominated by clerical radicals.

In 1870, the omnibus Assembly sent to our Assembly in Louisville an able and dignified committee, requesting that we should appoint a number of commissioners, to meet similar ones on their part, for the adjustment of grievances, in order to the resumption of seemly relations, not discreditable to Christian charity and the honour of Christ. The writer was a member of that Assembly, and thoroughly conversant with its feelings. The almost universal sentiment prevalent in our Assembly, as in our church, was this:—that Southern Presbyterians did not desire amalgamation, or mixture with this omnibus church. There was an ocean of blood between them; and they and their country was (and is) still writhing and bleeding under wrongs of ingenious and exquisite cruelty, which were (and are) ardently abetted by the most of Northern Presbyterians. They had repudiated the noble doctrinal testimonies of 1837-38; allowed themselves to be absorbed by the New School; to be abolitionsed; to be made a “Broad-church.” Their doctrinal and ecclesiastical tendencies were manifestly unsafe. Thus we felt that all entangling alliances with them would be as unwise and perilous as distasteful; and that, as we were entitled to protect our own self-respect and comfort, so we were solemnly bound to God to protect his truth, by maintaining our separation. But, then, it was felt that this move from the omnibus Assembly was most adroitly planned to put us seemingly in the wrong. They, although the real and only aggressors, designed still to appropriate the credit of taking the initiative step towards peace! They would have the éclat of tendering the olive branch! They fully “calculated” (to use the Yankee provincialism) that our feelings and principles would both compel us to decline it. And then they could turn to the Christian world, and say, “See, now, these unchristian rebels, how they spurn even the olive branch!” We surmised correctly, that the ignorance and contempt of a prejudiced world, always misjudging Southern principles, would be sure to concur. The embarrassment imposed by this adroit measure was acutely felt by our Assembly. They saw the snare; they did not see very clearly how to escape it, and yet escape the designed odium.

At the first blush, many in the Assembly inclined to yield, though reluctantly, and appoint the commissioners requested. Another party, led by the manly and vigorous spirit of Dr Palmer, inclined to refuse, and to re-assert the grounds of our independence boldly; that is, to “save our meat,” and let the manners take care of themselves. As chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, he drew up his own views in writing, at the request of his committee, as a suggestion for their consideration. In this noble paper he roundly re-stated the grievances of Christ's cause, and told the omnibus Assembly that there was our ground for declining more intimate correspondence with them, until they undid their misdoings. But it was impossible to carry either his committee or the timid Assembly with him. The result was an awkward compromise, in which our Assembly agreed to send commissioners, and yet appended Dr Palmer's statement of grievances, as published instructions to them what to demand of the other side. This compromise, like so many others, forfeited all the advantages, and incurred all the disadvantages. The omnibus Assembly bad just what the “wire pullers” plotted for—a pretext to say, “Lo! these rebels spurn the olive branch.” They cried out that we, while pretending a willingness to treat, had flung a new indictment in their faces—a calculated insult. So that our answer, while really sustained by truth and righteousness, pleased neither our own people nor our enemies. This was the beginning of our regular series of blunders, repeated ever since.

Another Plan.

There was not wanting, in the Louisville Assembly, a clearer perception of the way “to save both our manners and our meat.” The advocates of that way proposed it in conference, and even formulated it in writing; but, being insignificant in influence, gained no effective hearing. Their plan would have expressed itself substantially thus, replying to the committee of the omnibus Assembly:—

That an overture made professedly in the interests of peace, and in decent terms, should of course receive from us a consideration and reply thoroughly courteous. That, therefore, we now even allude to “grievances” only because the overture alludes to them, and only to the extent of the virtual inquiry-raised by that reference of the other side. Now, therefore, whereas they invite us to send commissioners to discuss and settle those grievances, with a view to instituting closer relations, less discreditable to Christian charity than now prevail, we say that our view of those grievances is already stated, (see acts of the Southern Assembly, December, 1861, etc., etc.), as perspicuously as words of ours can state them. That we wish especially to say that we have no prosecution nor persecution to wage against their church for its past actions. That while we cannot but believe the amendment of whatever has been erroneous will do themselves much honour, we recognise in full the duties of Christian forgiveness and charity, and the wrongfulness of any retaliatory measures on our part. Hence we have no demands to make in order to the exercise of due Christian charity towards others. That the attitude we now hold, and purpose to hold, is best illustrated by the facts of our past, which facts are historically and literally these, vis.:—that we have all along been conceding and now concede to their churches everything which goes to make up real fraternal relations between the distinct branches of the catholic body of Christ, without stopping to ask whether the like rights and courtesies have been equitably conceded to us, namely:—Full recognition of their church-character as a part of the visible church; of their orders and sacraments;

of their church rights, properties and endowments, in every congregation or school voluntarily adhering; the offer of ministerial and Christian communion to their individual ministers and members among us, according to the merits of each personal case, and last, the offices of hospitality and mercy to all persons of theirs who are in need or distress in our reach. So that we now and here do for them more, and more liberally, than they ask through their respected committee. Whereas, they ask us to extend these fraternal relations on condition of certain difficult preliminaries, we say:—You shall have them without any preliminary as in fact you have them, and have had them, on our part, all along. That in view of all the above, and of the fact that attempted explanations often result in inflaming old differences, we, acting in the interests of peace as sincerely as they, deem it wholly unnecessary to send commissioners for the proposed debates, inasmuch as we have already all along granted what is proposed, so far as is consistent with our distinct independence as a denomination. For we must respectfully say, that this independent attitude, assumed under conscientious conviction, we propose to maintain from the same sacred motives. And any complimentary exchanges, other than those subsisting between us and all other branches of the true church, we shall continue to regard both as not convenient nor edifying to us, nor at all needful to the maintenance of substantial “fraternal relations.” But we say in fine, that as their overture refers to the discredit done religion by our “going to law before the unbelievers,” we do cheerfully agree to appoint commissioners to meet Northern commissioners, for the express and single purpose of taking all such controversies from those about a house or manse, up to those for a seminary-endowment, out of court; by referring them to impartial and Christian arbiters, binding our- I selves irrevocably to stand by the award, provided the other side does the same.

This view, embodied in words as Dr Palmer would have so well known how, would have been the best possible. So far as the Northern overture expresses real and honest Christian desires for charity, as it doubtless did on the part of some, it would have met them in the like spirit. And so far as this overture was the plan of diplomatists to put us seemingly in the wrong, it would have been perfectly “checkmated” by this answer. Without seeming to meet a pretended friendly advance with the language of accusation, it would have unmasked the fact, all-important to the question, that all the aggression was on their side. Their game of “making capital” would have been effectually spoiled; and that without our compromising our “manners” in the judgment of the most captious. The profession of a desire for just peace would have been brought to the touchstone, by proposing to settle all the property-claims justly:—the very thing the plotters among them never meant to do. Thus “the tables would have been turned.” Last and chiefly, this answer would have been strictly and historically true; and would have set in a glorious light the wonderful forbearance, charity and justice maintained by our church under the fiercest provocations.

Our next blunder was to go into regular complimentary intercourse with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. And our next was the closer alliance with the Reformed (Dutch) Church. These annual interchanges are impractical, useless, fulsome, and often insincere, in bad taste, unnecessary to the real maintenance of Christian relations, and increasingly obnoxious to sober minds. But our special point is:—that it was very rash in us to be thus needlessly complicating our external relations with anybody, when we had before us a dangerous and troublesome question of relations with our former associates. The next and worse blunder was the appointment of commissioners to the Baltimore Conference, as it was foreshadowed. Then, at least, we should have given the answer which we have described, and should have refused to send any commissioners, save for the purpose of taking all property-suits out of court. The worst blunder of all was the pledge given by our Assembly of 1875, at St Louis, that we would enter into the annual exchange of complimentary delegates with the omnibus Assembly as soon as they should do one thing—retract their libels on us as schismatic, heretics and blasphemers, in “a few plain words.” This pledge our Assembly gave in sanctioning a statement to that amount, made by our commissioners at Baltimore. These had divided our gravamina, against the omnibus body into two groups:—the one containing all those terrible usurpations by which they had violated the constitution of Christ's church and crushed the liberty of conscience; the other containing all the insults and slanders heaped upon Southern Christians. Our commission argued that, were the question one of fusion, it would be necessary to require as a prerequisite the amendment of those usurpations; but while the question was one of fraternal correspondence, it was proper for us to require only the retraction of the slanders. This is a grave mistake. It appears thus from this thought:—Historically, the meaning of this “fraternal correspondence” is to express a special harmony of doctrine and order, and a special confidence and approval, singling out the beloved object even from among the rest of our brethren of the visible body of Christ. Now, then, this position of our commissioners places us in this. most unhandsome attitude, vis.:—that while a wrong done to our personal good name and feelings is an insuperable obstacle, the gravest wrongs done to the rights and honour of Jesus Christ out Lord are not regarded by us as any obstacle at all to our professing special harmony of sentiment, confidence and approbation for the doers. Let only the libel that galls us personally be withdrawn, and then we seem to have no objection to testify, by these historical, typical and solemn formalities, our especial love and approval for those who thus wound our Master, singling them out, even among the rest of his servants, thus to honour them while they dishonour their and our Lord! That is, we seem to care much for our own, little for Christ's, credit.

Secondly, We ought never to have made such a pledge, because common foresight would have taught us that it would be sure to be entangling. The past should have taught us what use our omnibus Presbyterians would make of it, just the use they have made of it. It was certain that they would pass some “deceptive action, seeming to make us amends, and yet not doing it,” which would “keep the word of promise to the ear, and break it to the hope.” And thus it was certain that our discussion of vital principles would be degraded into pitiful logomachies and word-splittings, which would soon become sapless and void of interest to manly, serious minds among us, and would throw the apple of discord among ourselves. All this has been verified, and it shows that it was on an ill-starred day our Assembly made this conditional pledge.

But, thirdly. The main reason against it is this:—We ought to be withheld by solemn, conscientious obligations to Christ and Ms people, from going into any special correspondence with those Presbyterians, on any terms whatsoever, or at any time. Hence we ought candidly to have told them so at first and ever after. But our third point is the one which will meet most dissent, and hence it must be fully sustained.

If we are not much mistaken, every intelligent Southern man secretly sympathises with the sentiment we here candidly avow, that we ought to have as little as possible to do with Yankee Presbyterians, except rendering them good for evil in the offices of mercy toward suffering. But many are still hag-ridden by the feeling that they cannot “save their manners and their meat.” They feel that, somehow, Christian decencies must force them into this distasteful and perilous connection. They are timid, and afraid to “face the music” of a one-sided and arrogant opinion, in the unfriendly Christian world. Now, the drift of our argument shall be to re-assure and undeceive all such minds, and to lift this question up to the height of the grand moral obligations on which it should be decided.

Good men are deceiving themselves with this view:—that past grievances ought not to prevent “fraternal relations” with those whom we recognise as, notwithstanding the wrongs they have done us, Christian brethren. This seems almost self-evident:—that we should not be unfraternal towards admitted fraters! But we ask:—What are “fraternal relations”? It is a singular fact, that in all this tedious debate, we have never had that question carefully answered; fraternal relations have never teen defined! And here has been another of our blunders. We have allowed the Northern Presbyterians, without question, to beg the whole question; and to assume that “fraternal relations” are nothing else than a certain very questionable, useless and fulsome custom of interchanging annual compliments and flatteries by dignified delegates. Thus, we permit them to prepare the way for charging us with unchristian conduct, should our convenience, taste or safety prompt us to decline that ensnaring usage. It has been a shrewd trick on their part; and we have suffered it, with a simplicity singular to behold. The spectacle will appear the more amazing when it appears, as we shall show, that the true fraternal relations have all along been, maintained on our side, and are already in full force on our side, notwithstanding intense provocations. The truly catholic doctrine concerning Christian unity and charity is this:—that the catholic church of Christ exists in several denominations, necessitated by geographical, national, linguistic, and social distinctions, and the unavoidable infirmities of human thought; that no other general unity exists, or is possible, between these parts, than a spiritual unity of beliefs and sentiments and obedience to a common Head, Christ; that each denomination, while managing its own affairs independently, should respect the rights of other denominations, and recognise their valid existence.

Hence, fraternal relations between distinct churches consist in this recognition; in admitting the validity of each others' ordination, sacraments and disciplinary verdicts; in respecting each others' church-rights, institutions, property, and enterprises for evangelising the world; in holding ministerial and Christian communion in individual cases, according to the individual merits thereof; and in suitable acts of Christian hospitality a alms-giving, when needed by persons journeying from home, or destitute, or afflicted. These Are Fraternal Relations. When high prelatists scout our ordination as invalid; when immersionists ignore our baptism and exclude us as unbaptised from the Lord's supper; when either proselyte our members and treat our disciplinary acts against offenders as null and void they violate fraternal relations. But that very questionable and sycophantic usage, the mutual interchange of compliments, not fraternal relations. In importance, it does not bear a larger ratio to the real and the important fraternal relations than the paring of a man's finger-nail does to his living body. Now, the important fact is, that we have maintained these real fraternal relations (and are maintaining them now), towards the omnibus Presbyterian Church, during all the times when they were unchurching us, usurping our spiritual liberties, hounding on., civil faction to seek our blood, anathematising us, arrogantly nullifying our church rights and existence, grasping our property, and dividing our congregations. And is it not a cod proceeding that they, the only parties who have ever interrupted fraternal relations at all, should, in the face of these facts, come to us and pertinaciously exact of us that we shall restore fraternal relations or else be charged as uncharitable? Verily, it is enough to take a plain man's breath away! And is it not a strange thing that we should have endured this wit! an amiable verdancy unsurpassed among victims? Verily it is a match for Ahab's coolness in charging that Elijah was “troubling Israel.” It is high time for us to assert what is the truth, that we have done all, and more than all, which charity and fraternity require. It is high time we had the candour and clearness to say to our accusing wooers:—“Amend your own aggressions and then fraternal relations will be perfect, without our doing anything at all.”

Dangerous Alliances.

Some brethren hoodwink themselves with this argument:—“these Presbyterians were formerly our associates;” they bear the same name with us; they profess to hold the same doctrines and constitution. Hence, as soon as they make the amends required by our self-respect, we shall be obliged, for decency's sake, to enter into relations or special intimacy with them.

The proper inference to be drawn from their premises is exactly the opposite. Because they do bear the same name, profess the same creed, and were lately our associates, therefore they are the very people whose intimacy would most endanger our doctrinal and moral purity; and for that very reason, we should have least to do with them. It is not from Yankee Congregationalism, or Methodism, or Immersionism, or even Northern Popery, that the present danger to our orthodoxy, moral purity, and Presbyterian order arises! How many of our members ever read their journals, or frequent their institutions of learning, or, indeed, hear or care anything special about those parties? No; the peril of having our principles sophisticated—an imminent peril—is from these former associates; and it is because of the former intimacy that the peril rises thence. A very plain parallel will evince this. A parent, returning from a journey, learns that small-pox is somewhat prevalent in his city. Where? Well, more in certain remote suburbs, where it is quite prevalent and deadly; but it has also infected the family of a near neighbour, equal and intimate. Does not this parent then say:—I do not regard the disease in those distant suburbs, for my children never frequent them; but the point of danger is “this friend's family near me, because his children and mine have mixed so familiarly.” As a sensible man, he says little or nothing about the distant infection, but he straightly charges his family to maintain an absolute non-intercourse with their late neighbour. Now let us suppose that this neighbour had lately outraged him by sundry gratuitous insults and injuries; and that this parent, therefore, begins to reason:—“I profess to be a Christian. Christians ought to be forgiving. My late intimate, now my very uncharitable injurer, stands ready to brand me as being uncharitable, if I betray even a just resentment. There-lore it will be necessary for me to abstain from every appearance of coolness towards him, and to have my children keep up all their former intimacies, even if they do catch the pestilence.” Is this Christian charity, or quixotry?

For, in fact, Southern Christianity is in imminent peril from any and every association with this omnibus church. Again, we find ourselves under a necessity to make room for a fair hearing, by putting in a caveat against the quixotic charity, and fear of compromising our manners, in our own brethren. Some of them will recoil from the idea of grounding a line of policy on an assumed superiority of our own. They will ask, is not this too much like the Pharisee who says, “Stand by thyself; come not nigh me, for I am holier than thou?” Our reply shall be stubborn facts. We can easily hold our position, without arrogance. We may put the matter thus:—we are a set of miserable,, sinners, we Southern Presbyterians, so that we have so many spiritual diseases and corruptions, that, for that very reason, we cannot stand the addition of the few others we shall imbibe from those excellent people, the omnibus Presbyterians. So leaky a ship as ours cannot afford to risk any more lading. But more seriously:—if God, in his sovereign grace, and by means, in large part, profoundly afflictive and humbling, has indeed honoured our unworthy church with a knowledge of and value for orthodoxy, scriptural church order, and moral purity, dare we proceed, under the pretence of a lazy, cowardly, sham humility, to compromise that sacred charge by groundless alliances with those who have. betrayed those gifts and will corrupt them in us? We ask this question with a solemn emphasis; we lay it on our brethren's consciences. We challenge them as guardians of the “church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood,” to gainsay or evade these facts:—that Southern Presbyterianism, with all its faults (and they are many), yet has some things peculiar to it:—a simpler and purer social morality, not yet so corrupted by enormous aggregations of commercial and manufacturing wealth; a secular periodical literature less tinctured with evolutionism, materialism, and atheism; a more scriptural and earnest style of preaching; a sounder orthodoxy, and a more Presbyterian church order; and that these things are worth, preserving. That the whole drift and aim, intentional and unintentional, of Northern effort, is to Yankeeise the South; in which process, if effectual, the South, while it may gain certain secular advantages of money-getting, must lose these religious blessings; and while we, as guardians of the church of Christ, have no business either with procuring or hindering these secular changes, it is our right and solemn duty to watch over and preserve these spiritual advantages. That since the overthrow of the States and their independence, there remains no other bulwark against the flood of Yankee innovations in religion and morals, save our ecclesiastical separation and independence. Hence it appears, that it is not a matter of privilege and preference, but a matter of solemn duty and responsibility, that we must preserve our separation and independence jealously, for Christ's sake, and especially against our former associates.

For, we repeat, it is in part the fact that they were our former associates which makes their intimacy especially dangerous to us. And now that we may know what sort of intimacy this would be, it becomes our positive duty to inquire dispassionately, but faithfully, into the present status and tendencies of this omnibus church. Let us “nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice.” First, then, must be considered the attitude of the church as to its usurping, tyrannical and popish claims, from the “Spring resolutions” of 1861 onward, to legislate against the secular rights of opinion of its own members, and coerce their consciences in matters not ordained of God. This resolution against Presbyterianism is to-day asserted and held. by them, as witness their absolute refusal to disclaim it, their embodiment of the tyrannical decision of the supreme secular court in their Digest, and the declarations of all their leading men. Next comes the thorough abolitionising of the whole body. It now stands, on this matter, precisely in that false doctrine which, in 1837, helped to decide our fathers and us to separate from them; and which, in 1858, constrained the “United Synod” (now a part of ourselves) to shake off the dust of their feet against them. This Abolitionism, born of French Jacobinism, Socinianism and infidelity, with its deadly consequences of denying the Mosaic inspiration and the integrity and morality of the apostles, the omnibus church has expressly made its own. Next came the reversal of all the glorious doctrinal testimonies of 1837-38, and the embracing again of the New School errors, which our fathers then condemned and cast out; by their unconditional fusion with the New School. The attempt is vainly made to cover this defection/by saying that they received the New School on precisely the same terms on which the Southern Assembly received the United Synod. But “circumstances alter cases.” We did, indeed, receive the United Synod on “the Confession pure and simple;” but it was because, upon express examination and comparison of doctrinal views, it was ascertained that the United Synod and we understood the Confession in the same sense. The omnibus, Assembly fused itself with the New School notwithstanding, although it had made a similar comparison of doctrinal views, awl had ascertained that the Confession was not held in the same sense.' We and the United Synod met on the old Confession, because we knew we were agreed; these parties did it when they knew they were not agreed. It was the New School Assembly, sitting at Harrisburg, Pa., which expressly triumphed, compelling the other to surrender its Old Schoolism in order to fusion. It was virtually stipulated that every phase of doctrine which the New School had tolerated should be accredited in the omnibus church, For instance, Dr Hatfield loudly and ostentatiously announced this as the claim he meant to stand by, and the omnibus Assembly rewarded him by making him its stated clerk, as he today continues to be.

This fusion manifestly makes it a broad church. Let the following symptoms of a diffusive and all-penetrating license of doctrine be noted. A few years ago, Mr H. W. Beecher, by invitation, delivered the commencement address to the divinity students of Princeton Seminary, at the close of which Dr Charles Hodge extended to him a formal handshaking on the public rostrum. To understand the significance of this transaction, let it be set over against a previous one at the same place. In the ante-bellum days of old Dr Alexander, when Princeton was still Princeton, the students proposed to extend an invitation to the Rev George Bush, to deliver a similar address to them. He was an alumnus of Princeton, once a prime favourite and protégé of Dr Alexander, and then tinctured with some Swedenborgian crotchets about the resurrection and prophecy; but still a man of blameless sanctity, of a devout life, and of true erudition. But when Dr Alexander heard of the proposal be sent for the students and forbade it, saying that the Seminary was a church-school, and an exponent of her doctrinal purity; and he therefore could not permit such an honour to be paid to a man of defective theology, lest the reputation of the Seminary for orthodoxy should be tarnished. Let the two pictures be compared.

Another evidence of latitudiriarianism is seen in the preaching of laymen and women in that communion. The performances of the Rev Miss Smiley in the church of T. L. Cuyler will be recalled, and the great difficulty with which his presbytery partially restrained the innovation for a brief season. Since then we have seen the “church papers” ostentatiously parading appointments of women, including a Negrees, who aspired to be preachers. The public appearances of officers (females) in the women's mission societies tends in the same way. Of the extent to which the ministers of that church commit themselves to encouraging the innovation of lay-preaching, nothing need be said.

Another symptom may be found in the invitation of a Socinian, Dr, Peabody, to give formal instruction in a branch of theology to its students, by the Union Seminary in New York city. What else can any one expect but that every young minister of that church will feel himself authorised by that precedent to invite Socinians into his pulpit? It will be impossible for the authorities to object. Thus, the worst abuses of New England's looseness are transplanted into a church calling itself Presbyterian.

Another thing, which was not done in a corner, was the election of Dr Patterson to a chair in their theological seminary near Chicago. In the famous “Swing trial,” where an attempt was made to curb a heretic who audaciously flouted almost every characteristic of our creed. Dr Patterson both spoke and voted for his acquittal. He was soon after promoted to the responsible post of an instructor of the future pastors of the church. It is said that when some Old School members of the omnibus body indicated a reluctance to confirm such an appointment, they were challenged by the latitudinarians in the Assembly to refuse, with the threat, that if they dared to withhold confirmation on this ground, it should be a casus belli in “the happy family;” whereupon the valiant defenders of orthodoxy recoiled, and availed themselves of an indirection to avoid the collision. Dr Patterson, the justifier of Swing, is now a teacher of the teachers of this church.

Once more, a Mr McCune, near Cincinnati, in regular membership in that presbytery, took in hand to form a new, creed-less, broad church, upon the precise theory of the great heresiarch, Alexander Campbell, leaving out the immersion. In organising his project, he committed flagrant irregularities, actually enrolling in his unlawful assemblage members of the Presbyterian Churches of his own presbytery. At his instalment, Dr Morris, professor of the Lane Seminary, and moderator of the omnibus Assembly, presided and preached the sermon, and bade good speed to the enterprise. He has never;

been called to account for this extraordinary act by the church. The attempt of Dr Thomas Skinner, his co-presbyter, to do so, was rejected in a disorderly and tyrannical manner, and a storm of obloquy plucked down on the head of the defender of righteousness.

These things have been done in high places. Time would fail to tell of the unhealthy signs manifesting themselves in a multitude of churches of less note; of the flood of negative preaching in which the unpalatable, old fashioned truths of depravity, predestination, eternal punishments, are silently but systematically pretermitted; of ruling elders who never read the Confession they swore to uphold, and who flout its distinctive doctrines with disdain; of the torrent of worldly conformities, lascivious dances, theatre-goings, and often dissipations which have come into nominally Christian families.

The most ominous feature of that church is a general one; the fearful neutralising and solvent power which its ecclesiastical radicalism has over the conservative men in it. They go in seemingly orthodox, Old School, staunch:—they proclaim as they enter, that they are going in to combat for orthodoxy. But somehow, after a little, their orthodoxy is practically silenced, and their influence for truth somehow neutralised. This radical giant easily carries, in its all-digesting maw, the most solid and refractory lumps of Old-Schoolism, and goes gaily on its path of radicalism and innovation, with scarcely an intestinal qualm. It is evidently its consciousness of this well tried power which makes it so willing to swallow Southern orthodoxy also.

Now our point is, that such company is not safe for those who love God's truth; and that if we mean to be faithful to our charge, we must avoid entangling alliances with it.

The Reason Why.

Two cavils will be raised against this our statement. Nobody can gainsay the facts, any more than he can dispute their ominous gravity. But it will be said that it is uncharitable to parade the faults of our neighbour when he is making friendly overtures. We reply, that it is his indelicate forwardness in pressing those overtures which justifies and necessitates the statement. If he is exposed in a way he does not like, he has himself to blame for it. Let us suppose that there was a virtuous father of daughters, who had a very fussy and obtrusive neighbour of worse than doubtful morals. The father knows his discreditable antecedents, but, like a charitable Christian, covers them with the vial of silence. Meantime his neighbour frequently demands the privileges of a social intimate and equal in the father's house, and is met with a civil but firm reserve. At length the fellow has the folly to insist, in the presence of the neighbourhood, on admission to intimacy, and to demand the reason, why he is not entitled to it. Can he complain, then, if the father, thus driven to the wall, speaks in self-defence, and says, “I am justified in declining your intimacy, because I know your habits are vicious. That is my reason, if you will have it”?

The other cavil will be this:—Good brethren will say, “All these statements and charges would be very timely if we were proposing 'organic union' with Northern Presbyterians. But we only propose 'fraternal relations.'“ To this, there are two crushing answers:—this complimentary intercourse, erroneously named “fraternal relations,” will lead to that calamitous fusion. It will be as distinct a complicity with the errors and corruptions charged, though not so criminal, as fusion itself. Let the latter proposition be illustrated first. The reader cannot be too often reminded of the historical significance of this usage in our church. It was a very emphatic type and pledge of an especial harmony of doctrinal and ecclesiastical views, of especial confidence, and especial affection. Thus, the Old Assembly never extended those compliments to any, however evangelical, except the orthodox Congregationalists, in a day when they were wholly Calvinistic and semi-Presbyterian, and to the strict Presbyterian bodies, like the Associate Reformed and the Reformed Dutch. The Cumberland Presbyterians departed from our creed, retaining our government. The Old Assembly did not maintain this correspondence with them. The New School departed from us in 1838. The Old Assembly never consented to this species of intercourse. [And it is worthy of the most serious reflection that when it did begin, since the war, fusion came close on its heels!] Now, if we extend this complimentary intercourse to the omnibus Presbyterians, we shall be understood by the Christian world, by them, and by our own people, as professing just what the usage always meant—especial approbation, harmony of views and unity. Is it not obvious, then that to enter into this relation will stultify our conscientious testimony against then errors, and involve us in a guilty complicity? It is proposed that we shall extend to these people a mark of intimacy which we do not extend to the Southern Methodist Church. Yet the latter has never bowed to Caesar! nor defiled its records with murderous war—resolves aimed.! against our throats. It is in theory Arminian; and yet is there I heard in its pulpits more gospel, and more distinctively sound doctrine, than is uttered by the effete Calvinism of the Northern Presbyterian body. And it is, finally, virtually Presbyterian in; its present church order. Yet, by this fulsome intercourse with the omnibus Assembly, we should solemnly declare to all that | we are in fuller harmony with its principles than with our Southern Methodist brethren, of whom so much good can be truthfully said.

And, second, because the former charge is true; therefore such an intercourse will be the harbinger and the sure means of our disastrous fusion with this corrupt body of nominal Presbyterians. It is sufficient proof that these intending allies and devourers are candid enough, for once, to tell us, “out aloud,” that they design to use the intercourse to effect a fusion, and that this is the only use they have for it. Witness the declaration of Dr Talmage:—“We don't mean to stop at fraternal relations; we mean to have conjugal relations.” Witness the testimony given in the Southern Presbyterian newspaper. Now, is it not almost fatuity, in view of this declared purpose, and of the endless pertinacity and obtrusiveness of the Yankee nature for a Southern man, professing not to desire fusion, to crave this intercourse? Solomon said, “In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird.” He also thought there was nothing new under the sun. But is not this a novel verdancy with which the Southern birds walk into the nets, while the very fowler shows them how he expects to snare them! And here, an independent mind cannot but see the indecency of this urgency for such intercourse on the part of Northern men, after we have told them, in solemn legislative acts, that we wish to preserve our independence. Still to press this intimacy, and to persist with the avowed design of undermining that independence which we have told them we cherish, comes very near to an affront. It does not mend matters that the pressure is veiled as a courtesy.

But these men are “wise in their generation;” they know how they expect this intimacy to work. First, they will perpetually ply the argument:—“this fraternal intercourse is a confession of Southern Presbyterians that they are one with us in principles. So, then, there is nothing between us but a remnant of anger; and it is clearly the duty of Christians to quench that.” This pretended argument will mislead thousands, and paralyse our defence. Second, these astute schemers know that the intercourse will work thus:—on the one hand, it will gain, annually, for two or three of their most plausible men an excellent opening for a week's electioneering among the members of our Assemblies, which these commissioners will not fail to use diligently. And on the other hand, it will enable them annually to propitiate two or three leading Southern men attending their Assemblies, by glowing professions of love, hospitalities in their palatial mansions, nice hack-rides, sumptuous dinners with a temperate display of champagne, compliments, and gifts. These leading men will be expected to come back and work at home. But, third, the diplomatists “calculate” that each batch of delegates will, of course be restrained by the courtesies due to hosts, in their public addresses, to such topics and allusions as are complimentary. All differences and uncomplimentary charges must be sunk out of sight on such occasions:—it is very bad manners for an invited guest to allude to his host's “skeleton in the closet” while sitting at his board. The annual speeches will be spread through the whole land in the papers. The consequence will be, that all our younger members will be so fed. on this flattering pabulum of mutual laudations, that in five years there will not be a suspicion among them that the Southern Assembly thinks any less of the omnibus Assembly's principles than it does of its own. For do not they meet, at considerable expense annually, for the express purpose of telling what exceedingly pretty fellows they think each other? How far off will fusion then be? '

And let those who wish to tamper with these risks consider what this fusion will practically mean. Even though every darker trait of Northern doctrine and order be denied, and the poison of doctrinal and moral corruption which we fear be only a dream, yet every sober mind must know that fusion would. mean this:—the convulsing and rending of our churches upon the question of Negro equality in our church courts—a question lately so critical among us, though now happily settled by us for ourselves—and by the omnibus Assembly in exactly an opposite perilous sense; the crippling of our periodicals by the intrusion of Northern religious papers, pressed by large capital, cheap prices, and all invading agents; supplanting our worthy editors among their own home patrons; the successful candidating of Northern ministers in all our lucrative and prominent congregations and professorships—successful, because our Southern people, in their generosity, are so prone to believe that other people's wares are better than the home article, he-cause they come from afar, and supplanting our most promising men in their own legitimate career; the partial emptying and crippling of our seminaries and other schools, by the attractive offers of the Northern seminaries; the collapse of our publishing agency, with all the fruits of the money and toil expended to build it up; and the unchecked influx into our Sunday-schools and families of a semi-infidel, abolition, political literature, which will mingle insults of our dead patriots and our sainted fathers with pious platitudes; the crippling of our Mission and Sustentation works, now such a blessing to our Sion, by misconception, neglect and financial difficulties in Northern Boards, so that the fair, reviving, blossoming fields of our church, now so fast ripening to a glorious harvest, will shrivel again, as under a blighting frost. So far as human sagacity, reading the lessons of experience, can see, the Southern church, in compromising her independence now, would occasion the loss of thousands of souls whom she may reasonably hope, while independent, to bring to Christ. We plead the cogent argument of facts. Her separation and independence have inspired her with new energy, purity, peace, and efficiency for good. Must not the sacrifice of that independence be at the cost of all this increase? If there be any who would tamper with this danger, we would solemnly lay upon their consciences the blood of all the souls, in all the succeeding generations, whom this collapse in our activities will cast out into Satan's empire.


“But if we stand out stiffly, the Christian world, and the world's world, and the secular editors, and the polite politicians, will revile us as uncharitable, and will say that we, pretended followers of the 'Prince of Peace,' persist in keeping strife alive after everybody else is reconciled. The commercial people are reconciled, and radicals and ex-Confederates traffic together. The very politicians are reconciled, and radical and conservative congressmen can take their juleps, and crack their jokes, and gamble together, with perfect harmony. All the faultfinders will cry shame upon us, for that we are the last to stand aloof.” Such is the plea.

To this cowardly argument, one answer is to ask whether it becomes guardians of God's truth and of the interests of immortal souls to truckle to the clamours of an unfriendly or a sordid worldly opinion. Dare we sacrifice duty thus to timidity? And it does not much become us, who are contending for the sacred principle of the independence of Christ's spiritual kingdom, us who refused to let the legislation of that spiritual commonwealth be tampered with in the interests either of federal Government or Confederacy, now to subordinate the purity and peace of Christ's church, and the safety of immortal souls, to the interests of a political combination. Christ's church has no mission to look to the making or unmaking of a president, or of a successful political combination; her business is to watch for souls.

Another answer is to point to the contrasted principles and aims of worldly associations and of spiritual communion. The objects of traders and politicians are selfish and sordid. They only ask, touching their commercial alliances, “Will it pay?” Of proposed, commercial allies they only ask, “Are they solvent? Are they in trading credit? Can money be made out of them?” If so, the ends of the alliance are gained. So, the only questions asked with a view to a political alliance are similar. But the meaning and end of church communion are wholly different.! This spiritual alliance, if it is not an unholy hypocrisy, is a declaration of conscientious, moral unity and approbation in high and holy principles and character, and of a community of holy purpose to glorify God and bless souls, through the manifestation of these pure and sacred truths. It is, therefore, right and, intelligible, and an imperative duty, that Christians shall refuse this pretended alliance of unity where the harmony of principles does not really exist; refuse it to the people to whom we extend Christian forbearance and charity. This result was predicted and justified at the beginning of the war, in a very apt illustration, by one who may possibly be loath now to hear his' own argument repeated. In May, 1861, when the “Spring resolutions” had just been passed by the Northern Assembly, Dr Nathan L. Rice, then pastor in New York, was talking with, Dr William J. Hoge, then also associate pastor with Dr Spring in the Brick church. Both of them deplored the resolutions; and Dr Rice lamented them especially, because he foresaw that they laid the foundation of a separation more permanent than the political disunion. “Nations,” said he, “cannot fight always; this war must end, after some campaigns, either by some composition or the conquest of one party by the other. Then convenience, self-interest, will speedily bring the people of the belligerent sections into peaceable business relations. But this church division, so mischievously made by these resolutions, will continue because it will involve a question of unchangeable principle. It will be as when some earthquake has rent a yawning fissure across a tract of country, cleaving alike the soil of the meadow and the rocks of the hill. One of those geologic 'subsidences' then comes on of which scientific men tell us, and brings the edges of the chasm into contact again. The earth of the meadow easily adheres, and obliterates the cleft, because it is earth, dirt, yielding, unsteady, sordid. The granite of the hills cannot weld, even when the parts are brought together, because it is rock, solid, imperishable.” The analogy is just. Traders, politicians and bankers can easily homologate with the men who, a little while ago, were seeking their throats, because their motives are only selfish or sordid. All they want in the association is gain or serviceableness. No approbation or confidence is involved. The sordid, ductile mud can easily weld. But Christian unity and association must be founded in genuine confidence, moral approval, and a heartfelt sympathy in the same holy affections, and love for the same holy principles. If they are not thus founded, they are a hypocrisy, all the more odious to a God of truth, because they deceitfully ape affections so sacred and amiable.

If the actions of a part of the visible church catholic are such that we cannot justly feel this approval and moral confidence, what is our duty towards it? The scriptural reply is clear; our duty is forbearance; not an oily and odious pretence of affections which are neither real, nor possible, nor right, in the case. This duty, we firmly assert, the Southern church has been enabled to fulfil towards her persecutors and detractors to an admirable degree. To God's grace be all the praise! We have been graciously restrained from every act which overpassed “the judgment of charity”—from unchurching, anathematising or assailing them—from invading their rights, intruding into their congregations, or grasping their property. We have not made any slimy pretence of unconsciousness of the frightful wrongs we have had to endure-—a pretence which usually betrays, not charity, but the intensest malice; but we have virtually said, like David to the persecuting Saul, “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee; but my hand shall not be upon thee.” We repeat, the duty of Christians towards grievous injuries is not an affectation of fellowship and confidence, but forbearance and forgiveness. The Scriptures, which usually give us both precepts and precedents exactly suited to every emergency, furnish us a guide here exactly fitted to our case. When the persecutor Saul of Tarsus, after his reported conversion, came to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-28), and assayed to join himself to the disciples, they strictly declined his communion. We do not read that they sought in any way to retaliate on him the blood he had shed. But they withheld their confidence. And it was not until his profession of repentance was attested by the good Barnabas that they received him into their fellowship. We do not read that the widow of the murdered Stephen felt herself constrained by Christian charity to enter into “fraternal relations” “with Saul the Pharisee. Had she affected this, we surmise that the robust and healthy Christian conscience of that apostolic church would only have disapproved her deceit. Saul had professed repentance, however. But this did not satisfy the good. sense of those primitive saints. They waited for evidence that Saul's profession was sincere. The omnibus Presbyterians have never even professed repentance.” When they have done that, and have also evinced the sincerity of their repentance in a sufficient manner, it will be time enough to talk of “fraternal relations” We freely say that we are not concerned to be more charitable than Christ's inspired apostles and the flock they guided; there example is good enough for us. |


This discussion cannot properly close without some notice of the unjust and sophistical and uncharitable charges which some among us have made against this righteous Christian sentiment in the Southern people. It has been most unjustly confounded with malice and revenge. Their steadfast attitude of disapprobation towards wrong has been set in an insulting contrast will the professed love of these gentlemen for our insurers—a profession which is an index either of a lack of candour, or of an immoral indifference to wrong-doing. They have declared that they have no patience with a church whose separated attitude “is founded only in spite.” They represent the duties of charity are such as to require, because we happen to be the sufferer under enormous injuries, the stultification of our conscience and the confounding of good and evil, light and darkness. The say that they should be ashamed of themselves if they could not concede to these Presbyterian destroyers of the South “much sincerity in their political course as they claim for themselves in theirs.” They so work on the generosity and susceptibility of Southern Christians as to produce almost the feeling that they must outrage every moral instinct of their hearts, escape a petulant charge of “sore-headedness” from insole oppressors. And by a climax of logical confusion, they would have us conclude that we must not estimate the greatest breach of Christian obligation as reprehensible, because, forsooth, they happen to have been perpetrated, in so large part, in the sphere of our political rights, lest we should be found guilty of departing from that “non-political character of the church” for which we contend so stoutly. These perversions cannot be tolerated.

As to the last point, we wonder whether these persons ever apprehended the difference between aggressive and defensive action? By this wondrous logic it may also be argued, that because it is unchristian to assail the life of a neighbour, therefore it is equally unchristian to make forcible resistance against that neighbour. And because it is very un-clerical for one of those ministerial swindlers, with whom the North has been blessed, to steal our money from the bank, therefore it is un-ecclesiastical for us to pursue him at the law to get back our own. The boldest cheat put upon us by a professed brother in a horse-trade could not justify us, on this logic, in either withdrawing our Christian confidence, or bringing charges against him before his church-session, for horse-flesh is non-ecclesiastical. No rogue could ever be disciplined for theft, because a session is not a county court, unless he stole a pulpit Bible, or something of that sort! The answer to these absurdities is very easy. The church has no commission to make moral rules; but it is expressly her commission to administer the moral rules God has made, whether the breach of God's rule be in a matter ecclesiastical or secular. However secular the thing may be which was the subject of the transgression, the transgression itself is within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction if it breaks a law which God has enjoined on Christians. The horse-flesh was most thoroughly non-ecclesiastical, yet the discipline of a theft of horse-flesh is most thoroughly ecclesiastical, if the theft was committed by a church member. Had it been true that God enacted that the secession of a sovereign commonwealth from a confederation to which it had sovereignly acceded was the sin of rebellion, then, notwithstanding that confederations of commonwealths are secular things, it would have been competent to the Assembly of 1861 to declare us rebels. In short, this miserable sophism is precisely the counterpart of that by which papal Rome supported her licentious and wicked claim to exempt the clergy from civil jurisdiction, even when they broke civil laws.

Secondly, we expose the misrepresentation of Southern feeling by the practical question:—What manner of Christians are those among us who feel these sentiments of moral disapprobation for; our injurers most profoundly, and who are most reluctant to enter a fellowship which their consciences do not sustain? Are 'they the captious, the spiteful, the worldly? No; it is well known that these sentiments prevail most profoundly among our best Christians—our purest, most unselfish, most beneficent Christian women, whose lives are a ministration of self-denying love, and who have borne with angelic patience a long discipline of affliction and injury; among that home-eldership who are the true bulwark of our ecclesiastical structure; among the most steadfast and the least sophisticated, of our people. We protest against the injustice which paints this righteous principle as mere spite and stubbornness. It is a libel against those of whom “the world is not worthy.” In fact, the reason why this best class of our people feel these sentiments most strongly is this:—that they have the firmest principles of right, the most honest consciences, and clear, healthy, moral discrimination, unsophisticated by worldly policy and latitudinarian indifference, is it said that our injurers were as sincere in their political course as we in ours, and therefore we should extend the same charity to them we claim for ourselves. The first answer is; that we do not claim from them a charity which is to embrace us in “fraternal relations,” they meantime “sincerely” believing us to be “rebels,” “traitors,” “miserable sinners,” “heretics,” and “blasphemers.” The claim would be preposterous. “We want no such charity on such terms. The offer of it to us on such terms is an inevitable hypocrisy, or else a criminal indifferent-ism to truth and righteousness.” Were the Northern Presbyterians entitled to hold us as such, it would be impudence in us to ask of them any other charity than forbearance and mercy.

Our memory goes back far enough to be aware what comes of this unnatural mingling of imputations of crime and professions of love in the same breath. Instead of seeming to us amiable, it has an air of ghastly unwholesomeness; it smells of blood. The old Assembly once sent a venerable minister from our Synod of Georgia upon one of these “fraternal” missions to the abolitionised Congregational Association of Vermont. He made it known that he held slaves. But the meeting still rung with denunciations of slavery; and the favourite illustration of the orators was to equal it to the sin of polygamy, which, as they said, was also legalised by Moses. When our venerable brother was invited to speak he made this point, with the straightforwardness of a man of sense and honesty:—“You say slaveholding is like the sin of polygamy. I told you that I hold five slaves. Yet me you call' brother,' and you invite me into the bosom of your families, and you heap kindnesses upon me (for which I am very thankful.) Now, were I a Mormon missionary with five wives in Deseret, instead of five slaves in Georgia, you would not thus countenance me. Hence I am obliged to see that there is insincerity, either in your condemnations or in your civilities. The two contradict each other. And I beseech you, cease this language of extravagance before it results in mischief.”

This plain dealing was very offensive. The clerical demagogues wished to ventilate their seal in these fiery invectives; but were willing that our good brother should take it all in a “Pickwickian” sense on that occasion. The result of this nauseous compound of hypocritical love and hypocritical indignation we have seen in a sea of blood and woe. We have had enough of it! The “fraternal relations” so courteously maintained did not at all prevent the libels and slanders of abolitionists against their “very dear brethren” from educating a generation of invaders to cut our throats.

But the second answer is, that this sophism overlooks the fact that there are two kinds of sincerities. One is that of the murderer, Saul of Tarsus, when “he verily thought that he did God service” by persecuting his saints; the other is that of the Apostle Paul, who, enlightened and sanctified “as of sincerity, as of God, in the sight of God,” spake in Christ. We believe that the difference between “mercy, judgment and truth” on the one hand, and flagrant wrong, usurpation, cruelty, bad faith, on the other, is not ambiguous. We cannot so blaspheme that God, who wrote his law in men's hearts, in the form of conscience, as to admit that Christian men can innocently mistake the one for the other with God's Bible in their hands.

We shall be asked again:—“What, then, is to be the end of this difference? Are Northern and Southern Christians to quarrel forever?” We reply:—first, the question implies a libel; for in fact, Southern Christians have not sought to quarrel for a day. Had they been let alone, the “quarrelling” would have been all on one side, and even the one-sided quarrel would have ended as soon as our oppressors satisfied their desires of usurpation, We should have suffered in silence. But, second, the honest attitude we recommend would lead at once, not to an endless quarrel, but to immediate forbearance, with separate independence; and this is the only righteous, and the least unseemly attitude possible where such differences exist and are irreconcilable. And, thirdly, if we have reason to suspect that we are j the original criminals in this opposition, then the one and only way for us to end it is by repentance and public confession. But if we have no such reason, then the terminating of the difference is no concern of ours. That is God's prerogative. He must end it when and as he chooses; our part only is to see to it that we do not inflame it by “rendering evil for evil.”

In conclusion, we assert, that our attitude of forbearing separation, instead of being unchristian or uncharitable, is precisely the one which the Christian sense of every good man, and every prudent church court, provides for the peace of the visible church, and the personal comfort and edification of injured Christians. Here, for instance, are two men, formerly Christian brethren, the one of whom is fixedly convinced that he has been cruelly injured by the other. Let us suppose that the session is either unable or unwilling to right the wrong effectually. Let us suppose, also, that the injured man is a thoroughly good, conscientious and charitable man. He will go to his pastor and speak substantially thus:—“I feel that I am cruelly injured, and my injurer will give me no adequate redress. I do not desire to avenge myself. I have no wish to blazon his wrong-doing. But I cannot, without stultifying myself, feel or profess the former pleasing confidence. Now, then, I claim that the session should do one of two things—either right this wrong themselves, or else allow me to consult my own comfort, and the peace of the congregation, by giving me a letter of dismission to another Presbyterian church convenient to me, where I can worship God without this unpleasant contact with a man to whom it is impossible to exercise cordial confidence.” We surmise that there is not a pastor, nor a session, nor a presbytery, in all the land, who would resist so reasonable and Christian a claim. But this is just what we wish to do as to our Presbyterian oppressors.

Returning now to the point from which we set out, we find that this desirable course is beset with entanglements, by means of the false moves already made by our own Assemblies. How may these mistakes be retrieved? This is a difficult question; for it is much easier to make blunders than to repair them. We seem to stand committed by the promise of our Baltimore Commissioners to send the complimentary delegates, provided the omnibus Assembly will retract their slanders. There is no likelihood that they will really retract them. But our peril is here:—that they will make pretended amends, and thus introduce a. quibbling, pettifogging contention into our own Assemblies; where some will contend that the amends proposed are virtually satisfying, and others will say that they are not; and the two parties will bandy verbal distinctions between each other. For our part, we stand prepared to assume the admitted Presbyterian position—that a mere administrative resolve of a previous Assembly does not bind a subsequent one, “We would candidly say, next spring, that we have thought better of our position, and that we withdraw the conditional promise made by the Assembly of 1875, especially as our overture was not frankly met by their cotemporaneous and their next Assembly. This change should be explained as not implying any belligerent policy on our part, or any purpose to refuse a reasonable overture for adjustment of property questions, which are the only ones, after all, where any adjustment is, humanly speaking, likely to occur.” We should accompany our change with the manly declaration that it infringes no vested right of anybody, and that we are entitled to consult our own peace, comfort and self-respect, by making it. Another legitimate policy would be quietly to abide the result of the pending overtures between the two Assemblies of 1876, and—if the omnibus Assembly does, in good faith, retract their accusations—appoint delegates to exchange salutations, and instruct them to require explicitly that the newly instituted fraternal intercourse shall at once be utilised to settle all property questions between the two denominations, and all their congregations and schools, by amicable reference. For it is these, and these alone, which really mar the Christian relations, and do discredit to religion. If they accede fairly, the intercourse may be continued until all such adjustments are complete, and then terminate itself with mutual civilities, on the? ground that all its practical ends are realised. If they refuse the hollowness of their overtures will be manifest to all, and our emancipation from the whole entanglement easy and plain., There is a third solution, which would be eminently acceptable. to us, and, we are persuaded, to many of our people. This would be courteously, but firmly, to discontinue all our annual, interchanges of delegates with all other denominations, as a usage inconvenient, entangling, unnecessary to the maintenance of true fraternal relations, in bad taste, sycophantic and wholly fruitless of any useful results justifying the outlay of time and money. This is the solution we should altogether prefer. We should then await the result of pending overtures; and if they lead to a square retraction of the accusations against us, we should respond by sending, for the once, a single set of special commissioners, to attempt a settlement of the property questions. These adjusted, the intercourse should at once cease; and the tact that we had ceased to maintain it with any would take away the very pretext of offence.

Vol. 2.24. Fraternal Correspondance.

posted 27 Mar 2014, 12:40 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 12:41 ]


Certain Northern Presbyterian prints are still bent upon persuading us to consort with their church, by arguing that we are involved as deeply as themselves in the sin of political usurpations. Their argument seems to be, that we should come together, because we are alike bad! To this “soft impeachment” we beg leave to demur. But the continuance of this pertinacious effort evinces the importance of reminding our people of the real issue of principle between ours and the Northern Presbyterian Church. It is often misconceived. The true nature of the usurpation committed by that Assembly was this:

The Federal administration at Washington had created a political issue against the Southern States, which, in the dispensation of an offended providence, became irreconcilable. With this issue the Southern Presbyterian Church, as a church, had nothing to do, save anxiously to deprecate it; and individuals of our church, even when engaged in the civil service of their fellow-citizens, usually did the same, standing, as the South did, upon the defensive, and earnestly desirous to escape aggression. But the providential result, precipitated chiefly by the ruthless refusal of the triumphant faction to listen to any terms except abject submission, was, that a personal question between two competing allegiances, that between the claim of the Federal government—the creature of the States—and the claim of the original States themselves, was forced on individual Southern Christians. We had no option about meeting the question. But when this imperative claim was forced on us, nearly all honest Christians here decided that the right of their States to their allegiance was the prior and superior one. That their decision was at least not consciously wicked may be argued from the historical facts, that Virginia, the oldest of the Southern States, and their leader, had expressly reserved this right in 1788, in the sovereign act in which she acceded to the Federal compact, and had been cheerfully hailed as a member on these express terms; that Mr Jefferson, the founder of the Republican party, and Mr Madison, “the father of the constitution,” both expressly taught it; that this superior claim of the States as against the Federal government to the allegiance of their own citizens was also admitted by the Adams party, the opponents of the old Republican party, by the mouth of their elected exponent. Gen. Harry Lee (Light-Horse), the father of Gen. R. E. Lee; that it was expressly claimed by the ablest of the New England statesmen in 1814; that it was the avowed doctrine of both the political parties, and of nearly all the States, in the interval between 1815 and 1860; that it was expressly taught by Mr Wirt, the legal member of Gen. Jackson's cabinet, even in the midst of the heated opposition of that administration to Mr Calhoun; that it had been roundly asserted by Chief Justice Chase, while governor of Ohio; and especially, that it was enounced almost unanimously as the right doctrine by all that was virtuous, learned, patriotic and prudent, in the Southern bench and bar.

Well; in April, 1861, by the dispensation of divine providence, and by no act of my own, this inexorable issue was forced on me for my personal decision. Mr Lincoln claimed my allegiance and aid against my own State. Virginia declared him a usurper, and claimed my allegiance and aid against him. I had to decide between them, as conscientiously as I might. This was evidently a case for the exercise of the right of private judgment, so far as ecclesiastical control was concerned. The question did not turn on any spiritual principle of duty to Christ, but on historical and political facts. The question was not at all one between lawlessness and subordination, between rebellion or obedience to “the powers that might be.” No Southern Christian dreamed of electing lawlessness and insubordination to constituted human authority. The sole question was between two rival authorities, which had come in a very peculiar and complicated form of government into competition:—the older and prior sovereign-State authority, and the newer and derived Federal authority. This was precisely the point:—Which must I, a Virginian, obey? I decided as the fathers of the Federal constitution, as New England, as Chief Justice Chase, had decided:—I obeyed my State.

Well; in May, 1861, the Presbyterian General Assembly in Philadelphia took upon itself to decide that this my Christian act, so anxiously, prayerfully, and piously performed, was the sin, of rebellion, prohibited by the apostle in Romans xiii. and 1 Peter 2. They did this, though warned expressly that, in order to reach such a conclusion logically, the Assembly was bound to entertain ecclesiastically, to examine and adjudicate, this prior historical and political question—if it dared to say it- had a right to do so. For obviously, the whole decision turned upon it. But the Assembly tyrannically refused to have this vital question argued; refused to hear evidence upon it; cut off every word of defence; and the well-known penalty upon any Southern member for exercising his sacred constitutional right in this behalf would have been to be torn in pieces by a frantic mob of those Philadelphians, who are now busy going through the sham of celebrating the centennial anniversary of the principles which they hate and have trampled down in mire and blood. Here was a usurpation, equalling in bald and ruthless spiritual tyranny, and in mischievous perversion of moral order righteousness, and liberty, anything ever done by the Popes Gregory VII. or Innocent III.

Of course, all of that Assembly, except the ignoramuses, knew better. They knew that, ecclesiastically and spiritually, they had nothing to do with the question, unless they had had the righteousness and moral courage, in the exercise of their pastoral function, to speak up for the rights of conscience, and advise moderation and conciliation to their own aggressive people. Even Dr Hodge instructed them, timidly, of their usurpation. But they would not hearken. What was their motive? It was to grasp that influence which, they supposed, the edicts of a powerful spiritual court so long venerated would exert over the consciences of Presbyterians, to aid and strengthen the greedy political faction to which these usurping ecclesiastics happened to be attached by their passions and supposed interests. Such was the real nature of the war legislation from 1861 to 1866.

Now, the Southern church, in fidelity to Christ, had no option but to resist. And as. the radical Assemblies had perpetrated the wrong by invading the sphere of political rights, our church could meet and resist the usurpation only by following them, for defensive purposes, into the same sphere. This is very simple. But hence has arisen a miserable quibble, which seems to have deluded the whole North, and to have embarrassed not a little many Southern minds. It has been argued that, if the radical Assemblies went out of their sphere in pronouncing the decision of Southern patriots to be the sin of rebellion, the Southern Assembly has gone equally out of its sphere, in pronouncing that it was not the sin of rebellion. “You,” say they, “are as deep in the mire as we are in the mud.” To a fair mind the answer is very clear. The one intruded into the secular sphere for the purpose of invading a right of private judgment, which is one of the rights all churches are bound to protect. The other only followed them, as far as their invasion necessitated, for the purpose of defending this sacred right. In fact, this clear distinction was faithfully observed by the Southern church. Never once did her Assembly say to any one:—You shall go with the Southern patriots into the support of the Confederacy, or be adjudged guilty of the sin of rebellion. This would have been the exact, formal counterpart of the usurpation of the Northern Assembly. But the Southern Assemblies steadily held that the decision of this political question was a right of each Christian's private judgment; involving, of course, the inference, that he who decided for his own State could not be charged with ecclesiastical offence, where the same immunity was guaranteed to him who decided against his own State. This distinction has received a thousand illustrations. But there happens to be one so just that we cannot do better than present it. In the Old School Assembly of 1859, some enthusiasts memorialised the body to adopt the precept that the temperate use of anything alcoholic is sin per se, and to make total abstinence therefore a term of communion. The Assembly wisely, and almost unanimously, refused to do it. But in order to ground this refusal logically, the Assembly was obliged to hold and teach, that the temperate drinking of any alcoholic liquid is not sin per se. Of course. Now, did the Assembly mean, that it was one of her legitimate spiritual functions to countenance temperate drinking? Not at all. Let us suppose that some fanatic had said:—“This decision carries an incidental encouragement to temperate drinking, in its implied sanction; it will be gleefully quoted by distillers and whisky-sellers. This Assembly has therefore, to say the least, gone out of her sphere on one side, as far as the Delavan-Christian has gone on the other. If he is wrong, she is wrong.” This nonsense would have embarrassed nobody; the answer would have been plain:—that the Assembly was legislating aright, not in the positive interests of temperate drinking; but in the interests of Christian liberty, which it was her proper spiritual function to define and protect. The aggression attempted by the Delavan fanatic had made it necessary for the Assembly to follow him into the social question, for defensive purposes.

But your radical is a pertinacious animal; and this wretched sophism, thoroughly stuck to, and continually repeated to this day (see Presbyterian and Princeton Quarterly, April, 1876) seems to have confused some men's minds among us, until they are almost afraid to stand to the truth. For myself, as an ecclesiastical ruler, I clearly saw my duties to Christ and the spiritual rights of his people; and as a private citizen, I was not ashamed of that secular cause which was made glorious by the most intelligent, disinterested and heroic devotion to principle and liberty ever displayed by any people, and by such blood as that of Sidney Johnson, Jackson, and Polk. This clear distinction between the aggressive attitude of the Northern, and the defensive attitude of the Southern church, also justifies me in my references to the history of the political question, in what I design for an ecclesiastical discussion.

But again:—as the Confederate struggle went on, slavery happening to be the incidental occasion (not the cause!) of the collision, the same usurpers in the Radical Assemblies bethought themselves of the expedient to strengthen their political faction still more, and to inflame the horrors of war against their

“Southern brethren,” by declaring slavery a sin per se, and the justifying of the relation of master and bondsman a “heresy” and a “blasphemy.” True, they thus contradicted at once the word of God, the law of their own church as settled for all parts of it by their own Assembly of 1845, and the constitution whose integrity alone could give the North any pretext of right to rule or judge in the South. But these were no obstacles, when they saw this opportunity to heat up the declining fires of hatred and warfare. To these two usurpations, and to this heresy, and to this libel against our fathers and us, they still adhere in this year of grace, 1876, while busily pretending to celebrate the centennial of those acts of the fathers embodying precisely the principles of State sovereignty, secession and liberty, which these men fiercely destroyed in 1865. These are the grounds not for our malice and revenge, but for our conscientious testimony and resistance. As to the civil government which has for eleven years, under the solemn and chastening ordinance of God, been permitted to establish its usurped authority irresistibly over my State, I submit peaceably, as to the “ordinance of God,” just as Paul and Peter and Christ commanded private Christians to submit, in all things not unlawful, to conquering pagan Home. I know what the chastising will of God is, in this particular, and bow to it. But as to the rights of conscience of my brethren and my children, I have no option to concede anything, any more than Peter and John had to conceded when commanded “not to preach in the name of Jesus.” The principles of Christ's kingdom are sacred and unchangeable—they are not antiquated with the lapse of eleven, or eleven hundred years.

But there seems to be an impression, that the true meaning of this issue has somehow passed away for us; that the overthrow of the constitution and the revolution in the government are complete and irrevocable; that these usurpations by the Radical Assemblies upon our rights of conscience, provoked by the dead Confederacy and dead slavery are wholly things of the past; and that therefore it is time for us to drop our testimony, and “let by-gones be by-gones.” The answer to this feeble talk is that, unfortunately, the aggressors will not let by-gones be by-gones. What has happened since 1866, and what is now happening? We saw how the usurping ecclesiastics greatly inflamed and aggravated the horrors of war, hounding on the fiercest spirits of the invaders. They have steadily supported and encouraged the acts of oppression which are now filling many parts of the South with misery and destitution, and crushing several States under their own slaves. They are to-day wielding their whole influence in support of a system which destroys the liberties of the South, and which will probably destroy American institutions both North and South. I see these ecclesiastics, after eleven years, still glorying in all these iniquities, revelling in the spoils of the invasion, just as they did in the hour of the first spoliation, and to this hour refusing to retract a single libel upon our sainted fathers and ourselves, whom they pronounced heretics, sinners, and blasphemers, for daring to defend the relation in which the “Father of the faithful” lived and died. It is by their sanction and eager advocacy that our widows and orphans, who in many cases were incapable of exercising even an active sympathy as non-combatants with what these men are pleased to call “rebellion,” have been subjected, and are to-day subjected, eleven years after the end of the war, to spoliations and oppressions of murderous cruelty. I speak deliberately:—these helpless victims, absolutely innocent even from the conquerors' point of view, have literally perished, and are now perishing under these cruelties. In all this I fail to see any ground for silencing our righteous protest. But especially is, this false cry of peace preposterous in view of the distinct and clear declaration of the Radical Assembly at this time, that they do not mean to retract the usurpations of 1861-66. They expressly retain the claims. Doubtless this is done for a purpose intensely practical; and if there is to be any healthy struggle in American politics, not for State sovereignty, but for a return to sounder and better usages in the newly formed, consolidated empire, it will be found that these popish claims are reserved for the purpose of being used in the service of a political faction. Let us suppose a case, that may very naturally arise. Every honest and intelligent person. North and South, believes that universal Negro-suffrage was a deplorable blunder, and is an experiment fraught at this time with peril to the whole country. Nine out of ten of the freedmen are wholly unqualified for the trust. Experience has given us a complete demonstration, that they abuse it to the advancement of men utterly unfit for public trust, selfish, unpatriotic, and designing. Who doubts it? Thoughtful men everywhere were greatly misdoubting whether universal white suffrage had not already extended the privilege of voting into too many incompetent hands:—and the integrity of American politics was staggering under that load. But now the addition of hundreds of thousands of barbarous, alien, ignorant voters, where the case was already hazardous, makes the experiment fearful. Such is the state of this matter. Now let us suppose that many secular leaders at the North, far less rabid than these ecclesiastical factionists, should concur with many public men at the South, who, notwithstanding their enormous wrongs, truly seek the best possible future for the whole of the consolidated empire, in inquiring after a remedy for this fearful peril. The only practical or practicable remedy would be what is known as “impartial suffrage.” Nothing in the terms imposed by the conquerors of the South, or in the last so called “amendments” to the constitution, forbids our thinking of this. “Impartial suffrage” would make no difference between the Negro and his former master, on the score of “race, colour, or previous condition of bondage.” Whatever were the qualifications enacted, it would exclude the unqualified white as much as the unqualified black. But let us suppose that when this remedy was proposed, it should suit the views and plans of your Mortons, Colfaxes and Blaines, to raise the howl, that the ascendancy of the Radical party was imperilled by “impartial suffrage,” and to raise the cry:—“Parsons, to the rescue!” Is it not everyway likely that the Radical Presbyterian Assembly would again draw the sword of this popish usurpation, which they are preserving so carefully for future use? We should probably have them at their next meeting telling all the good people, by authority of the divine Head of the church, that “manhood suffrage” was involved in the Christian creed, and that this “rebel” invention of “impartial suffrage” was clear “sin, heresy, and blasphemy.” It is not the least uncharitable to surmise this. For did they not deal just thus with the equally secular questions of Abolition, Free-soil, and State-rights, in past years? And has not a Radical Assembly, sitting in the name of Christ and speaking by his authority, already decided that righteousness demands the universal extension of suffrage to the freedmen? “That which hath been is that which shall be.” Indeed, in the view of sagacious men, this Radical Presbyterian Church, with the Northern Methodist Church, are the two most serious and dangerous obstacles to the ascertainment of some safe and tolerably equitable basis for the government of the new empire; and if the formidable mischiefs which are now threatening the freedom and civilisation of both sections alike remain unremedied, and finally work out their catastrophe, these two perverted religious bodies will be more guilty for it than any avowedly secular party in the country. It thus appears that, both in the spiritual and the civil aspect, their usurpation is a “living issue,” as real as it is dangerous.

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