Page images
PDF
EPUB

answered it in the negative. But it is a question which will have to be asked, and that with tears and prayers and many a strong struggle, by many a Christian preacher, before this great and perilous question is put to rest. For our part, we think it wise to meet it and examine it with candor, deliberation, and a reliance on the same standard of morality which Christianity alone can give. And the case before us offers a fit occasion for suggesting a few thoughts in relation to it.

Brother Simmons finds himself at the South, surrounded by an institution new to him. He sees its inconsistency with the first principles of Christian duty, and its evil influences on manners and morals. He may have reasoned thus with himself: "I am a Christian preacher. As such I am commanded to rebuke all sin. I must warn the wicked man lest he die. If I do not warn him, his blood will justly be required at my hands. My commission charges me to call sinners to repentance, and it makes no exception in favor of popular or fashionable sins. On the contrary, these are the very ones which I ought to rebuke the most plainly, most forcibly, and most frequently; for on these points the conscience is the most insensible. True, it may be said, that I shall do no good-that I shall only exasperate without convincing. But that is no concern of mine. It is not my business to calculate consequences but to do my duty. I cannot tell, no one can tell, the consequences of any action or word. The first consequences may appear evil, but the remote ones may be good. It is true that I may driven away or killed, but afterward those who now are offended may reflect on what I say and be convinced. The truth will remain after I am gone. Christianity would never have had a martyr, if the truth had only been preached where people liked to hear it."

Now I can easily imagine that by such a course of reasoning as this, a young man, earnestly desirous of doing his duty, might be led to think that he ought to denounce slavery, and preach abolition to slave holders. But is this reasoning really satisfactory as applied to such a case? We think not. We have endeavored to state the argument in favor of Brother S. as strong as possible; but yet we believe that it will not prove his course a right one. We frankly confess, however, that we should scarcely know how to meet it, except by arguments drawn from the teachings and example of Christ and his apostles. But these are with us paramount and enough. The following are some of the reasons which induce us to believe that a Christian Minister in a slave holding State, ought not, under present circumstances to preach on the subject of slave-holding.

VOL. VIII.-24

1. Christ says (Matt. vii. 5.) "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." This language is figurative; but "the swine" probably indicate those who are too sensual, stupid, or worldly, to comprehend or attend to Christian truth. They trample it under their feet. But "the dogs" who "turn again and rend you," probably signify those who are prejudiced against the truththat it only excites their indignation against him who speaks it. But whether this be so or not, the verse plainly teaches that there are some persons to whom it will do no good to communicate truth, and to whom we are commanded not to give that which is holy.

Again, (Matt. x. 23.) in Christ's charge to his disciples, he says, "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another;" and (verse 14,) "Whosoever shall not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet." Here again the Saviour shows that there are cases in which we are not to persist in speaking the truth to unwilling ears.

2. The example of Christ and his apostles shows that they did not themselves continue to preach the gospel or work miracles where men were unwilling to hear them. Matt. xiii. 58; Matt. xiii. 13; John vii. 10, 19, 25; John viii. 59; John x. 39, 40; Acts xvii. 10; 2 Cor. xi. 33. These passages, and similar ones show that the Christian preacher should not continue to strive to force people to receive the truth when they are opposed to it.

3. Jesus enjoined wisdom to his disciples, and showed himself eminent wisdom, in adopting his mode of address to his hearers, and their state of mind. Witness his conversation with the captious Pharisees and Sadducees. He did not consider it proper to preach right on, in one way, always. His conduct at Jerusalem, up to the time of his death, shows great prudence in avoiding the enmity of the Pharisees. What judgment and skill did not Paul display in adapting his arguments to the prejudices of those who listened. See for example, Acts xxiii. 6.

4. If then there are some cases, as the above passages plainly shew, in which we are not to continue to preach truth to those who will only be exasperated by it, I ask, whether the case before us is not certainly one of these. In the state of feeling which prevails at the South, the subject of slavery cannot be handled in any way, without producing instant and violent excitement. As regards this matter the public mind

is in a diseased and irritable condition; at present, nothing can be done concerning it.

When, in addition to all this, we remember that slavery existed in the time of Christ and his apostles, in a worse form than among us, and that neither he nor they ever rebuked it, we may be convinced-not indeed that slavery is right, for then war and despotic government would be proved rightbut that it is one of those complicated and difficult subjects which may be approached indirectly. Certainly, if Christ and his apostles were justifiable in omitting all direct appeals on this subject, and in attacking it by spreading a spirit of religion of an opposite character, we may be justifiable in doing the same. And we ought to do the same, when to the best of our judgment we shall, by preaching directly against this institution, be only giving "that which is holy to the dogs, who will turn again and rend us."

We understand that our friends in Mobile were extremely distressed by the course taken by their Pastor, to which they were generally opposed. They feel as if their Society was nearly broken up, and had become identified with Abolitionism in the minds of their neighbors. We trust, however, that things cannot be as bad as this. A Society will not certainly be held accountable for the doings of its Pastor, if they do not approve of them, and if this be generally understood. We trust they will recover from this injury, and flourish as before.

J. F. C

LIBERAL CHRISTIANS OUGHT TO BE LIBERAL

It is always easier to preach than to practise. It is much easier to point out the duties of others than to perform our own. It is not difficult to see the beauty of toleration, when it is our own heresies which are to be tolerated. Charity certainly never appears so heavenly as when we wish it to be exercised toward ourselves. Then we very plainly see how much superior it is to both faith and hope. Accordingly Unitarians having been all along the party whose opinions were new and strange, and opposed to those of the whole whole Christian community, and being denounced, and misrepresented, and persecuted on this account, have been loudly singing the praises of charity and liberality. They have

scarcely ever had an opportunity of trying whether they could be liberal, and tolerant, and charitable themselves. They have laid down the maxim that every one should be received and treated as a Christian who professed to believe in Jesus as the Christ, and whose moral character was good. When they said this, however, they only thought of one application of the principle, namely, to themselves.

But now here comes Mr. Emerson, and utters some doctrines which sound strange to them-which have an air of Pantheism, and which seem to oppose some of their views of miracles and historical Christianity. Mr. Emerson they know and acknowledge to be a singularly pure-minded, devout and conscientious person. But what do some of them do? They cry out more loudly against him than ever they were attacked by the orthodox. They scruple not to call him an ATHEIST, -him, whose life, if the tree be known by its fruits, is the life of one walking with God. They denounce him, and all who are supposed to think with him; and they get up a popular excitement, and a terror of dreadful heresies, and talk about the "latest form of Infidelity," and ask indignantly or sorrowfully," what we are coming to?" using, in short, the same means to create a vague terror which have been used about themselves.

Are we always to go on in this round? Shall we never learn to tolerate any heresy but our own? In my opinion, if any persons ought to be liberal, it is those who have all along been taking, some what arrogantly, the name of Liberal Christians.

J. F. C.

MONTHLY RECORD.

FOR AUGUST, 1840.

THE BOOK OF MORMON.

We republished in the Messenger, a year since, a letter purporting to be from Mrs. Spaulding, tending to show the Mormon Bible (as it is called) to be a forgery. We now, in justice to the Mormons, republish the following papers tending to show that letter to have been a forgery:

To the Editors of the New Era:

SIR:-In your paper of the 25th inst. there is an article copied from the Boston Recorder, headed" Mormon Bible," and signed "Matilda Davidson," which, justice to our society and to the public requires me to answer, and 1 trust that a sense of justice will induce you sir, to give your readers both sides of the question.

I am one of the society who believe the "Book of Mormon," and as such I am assailed in the statement professing to come from Matilda Davidson.

The piece in your paper states that "Sidney Rigdon was connected in the printing office of Mr. Patterson," (in Pittsburgh) and that "this is a fact well known in that region, and as Rigdon himself has frequently stated. Here he had an ample opportunity to become acquainted with Mr. Spaulding's manuscript (Romance) and to copy it if he chose." This statement is utterly and entirely false. Mr. Rigdon was never connected with the said printing establishment, either directly, or indirectly,

sons of truth and veracity before they

and we defy the world to bring proof of any such connection. Now the person or persons who fabricated that falsehood, would do well to repent, and become perexpress such acute sensibility concerning the religious pretensions of others. The founders of the said religious sect is also incorrect.

statement that Mr. Rigdon is one of the

The sect was founded in the state of New York while Mr. Rigdon resided in Ohio, several hundred miles distant. Mr. Rigdon embraced the doctrine through my instrumentality. I first presented the

Book of Mormon to him. I stood upon the bank of the stream while he was baptized, and assisted to officiate in his ordination, and I myself was unacquainted with the system until some months after its organization, which was on the sixth of April, 1830, and 1 embraced it in September following.

The piece further states that "a woman preacher appointed a meeting at New Salem, Ohio, and in the meeting read and repeated copious extracts from the Book of Mormon. Now it is a fact well known, that we have not had a female preacher in our connection, for we do not believe in a female priesthood. It further says that the excitement in New Salem became so great that the inhabitants had a meeting and deputed Doctor Philaster Hulburt, one of their members, to repair to Spaulding's widow, and obtain from her the original manuscript of the Romance, &c. But the statement does not say whether he obtained the manuscript, but still leaves the impression that he did, and that it was compared with the Book of Mormon. Now whoever will read the work got up by said

« PreviousContinue »