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Introduction to Alethea In Heart Ministries


[From The Oberlin Quarterly Review ARTICLE LXIX. May 1848.]


The question, whether or not the Christians of a given locality or region of country should "come out" of the churches with which they are connected, must be decided in view of the answers that shall be given to two other questions: namely,—(1.) What is the distinctive and essential idea of a christian church? (2.) Do the particular churches in question, answer to that idea? Are they churches of Christ?

The word church means assembly. A christian church is an assembly of Christians. The character of the church, in a moral and spiritual view, is nothing distinct from the character of the members of whom it is composed. No creeds, nor forms of worship, nor of organization, no regular succession from pious ancestors or predecessors can make an assembly a christian assem- bly, unless the membership, for the time being, are Christians.

A church, or assembly cannot claim the character of Christian, on the ground that some of its members are Christians. In the darkest period of the Romish church, and at the present time, some of its members were, and are, Christians. So, probably, of most heretical and semi-skeptical churches. But this does not prove the churches, as such, to be Christian. Churches disowned by God contain some Christians, otherwise there would be no place for the admonition--"Come out of her, my people." Yet most persons seem to take it for granted that a church is not to be abandoned, so long as a portion of its members are Christians, a sentiment which condemns the Protestant secession, as well as those of the Waldenses and Puritans.

Under the former dispensation, God saw fit to set apart the family of Abraham, in the line of Isaac and Jacob, of whom he made a great nation, and constituted it his church, in a sense, until the time of the Messiah. Godly men could not come out of that church, as thus organized, however corrupt it might be, until the new dispensation arrived, and hence their responsibilities differed, in this respect, from those of members of christian churches. It was no expression of religious fellowship with wicked Israelites to belong to the same family and nation and national church, along with them. The case is otherwise, now. Under the New Testament polity, the ties of family, of nationality, and of location, give no claims to the privileges of Church membership. Trite as these truths are, they need to be borne in mind, but are often overlooked.

In the distinctive and essential idea of a christian church, namely, that it is an assembly of Christians, it is implied that the members of these churches do mutually recognize and fellowship each other as Christians. Otherwise, church discipline and excommunication would be unmeaning and worse than frivolous. The idea of a Christian church implies a distinction between the Church and the world, a distinction which denies church membership to all who do not give creditable evidence of christian character. To admit or to retain a member, is to say by acts more significant than words, that we give credit to the religious professions of that member, and hold fellowship with him, as a Christian. Were it not for some remaining consciousness of this truth, the churches would feel no sense of shame, before the world, in view of the characters of their members, however disreputably they might conduct themselves. A denial of this truth would be equivalent to a denial of any essential distinction between the church and the world, and the propriety of setting up any barriers between them. And if this be not "disorganization," and "no-church-ism"--by what marks shall they be distinguished or made manifest? Not only the honor, but the very existence of christian institutions hangs suspended on the practical preservation of this idea. Admit that christian churches may knowingly receive or retain ungodly men in their membership, and the distinction between the church and the world vanishes at once. In other words, the Christian church disappears.

We have said that a church is not proved to be christian, because some of its members are Christians. We now advance a step farther, and say, as Paul does, most emphatically and eloquently, in I Cor. v. that a church that knowingly retains an ungodly, unrepentant member in its fellowship, becomes itself contaminated and corrupted by the process. In direct reference to the incestuous person whom he admonished the Corinthian church to exclude, he demands "Know ye not that a little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump?" that communion and fellowship with one "wicked. person" taints and destroys the whole body?

Thus it must be, if fellowship with wickedness be wicked. Blot out this feature of church organization, and you disband the whole. The constructive principle is violated, the barriers are broken down, and the church no longer, "discerns between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not."

A christian church or assembly, is a church, or assembly, that, as a body, is engaged in doing Christ's work, in which, thus much, at least, is included, the work of "binding up the broken hearted, setting at liberty them that are bruised, proclaiming deliverance to the captive," and "destroying the works of the devil." As all Christians are doing Christ's work, so all christian churches are doing the same work; not merely tolerating in their membership some who are doing it.

If any one thinks this rule a stringent one, let him consult, with the help of any commentator he pleases, such passages of scripture as Isaiah, chap. 1; chap. 5: 1-7; chap. 58; and Jeremiah, chap. 7: 1-16. Let him notice what class of sins were the occasion of these declarations, and then ask whether New Testament church polity requires less than the practical application of this. Then let him listen to the Savior, when he says--"Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt hath lost its savor, it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men." "Down with the churches," comes then, as a matter of course.

Christian churches are assemblies of Christians, associated together on the principles of equal brotherhood. Whenever that equal brotherhood is essentially perverted or violated the constructive principle of the organization is violated, of course, and it ceases to be what it professes to be. To remain in such assemblies is not to remain in the assemblies instituted by Christ and his apostles. To remain in such churches is to make it impossible for us to honor Christ's institutions by becoming members of them. Now, suppose a church violates this equal brotherhood, and sets up a hierarchy contrary to God's word, or comes under such an anti-christian yoke, does it remain a christian church? And, if not, may a Christian remain in such a church? Did the Puritan seceders err in taking the practical negatives of these questions? Yea? or nay? Or suppose a church sets up other tests of church membership besides creditable evidence of christian faith and character, thus shutting out those who are acknowledged to be Christians, separating Christians from each other, and authoritatively perpetuating the schism: is not this an essential violation of equal brotherhood? And if so, has a Christian who sees and knows all this, a right to participate in the violation, by remaining all his life long, a member of such a church? Can any man or body of men, effect a schism between Christians, establish usages perpetuating the schism, and thus bind Christians, for centuries afterwards, to perpetuate the schism by remaining in such churches? May they not "come out" for the purpose of organizing christian churches, instead of sectarian churches, (Methodist, Baptist, or Presbyterian,) without being justly charged, for so doing, with the sin of schism? Are we shut up to the necessity of sustaining schism by retaining membership in schismatic churches, or else of incurring the charge of schism, by coming out of them to re-organize churches on christian principles? What authority is it, that thus ties up our hands, and places us under a necessity of sinning? Can sect makers, (as some dream of our first parents,) compel all their posterity to sin?

To meet the case as it is, in this country, (as understood by thousands of Christians,) we must bring these suppositions together, along with some additional features. Suppose most of the churches virtually disorganized, so far as the original and essential idea of church organization is concerned, by the known admission or retention of ungodly and worldly members, not merely the "little leaven" of one member in a church, but in sufficient numbers to cripple the church and control it, at their pleasure--a membership unsound, not on the slave question merely, but on other vital questions, and scarcely distinguishable from the world around them in any important particulars--suppose these churches, for the most part, to have come, in some shape, under the control of hierarchal arrangements, and with scarce an exception, to maintain usages which violate the equal brotherhood of Christians, compelling them to hold ecclesiastical connection with some of the very worst of men, while shut out from church fellowship with many whom they consider the salt of the earth.

The problem for solution is, what is the duty of conscientious Christians, under circumstances like these? And holding these views, are they to be held back from organizing christian churches on admitted Christian principles, by the dread of "an inharmonious name," by any clamor against "come-outism and come-outers" that may be raised?

As for "come-outism in a modified form"--separating from an acknowledged christian church, on minor issues, and not for the preservation of christian freedom, and the essential and distinctive idea of a christian church, we leave the vindication of it to those who better comprehend its propriety, and who "have no controversy with it." By most of that class of "come-outers" whom we would hope to vindicate such secessions, except when houses are over crowded, or local inconveniences are to be avoided, would be accounted of doubtful propriety, and savoring of schism. It is on no such light grounds that they have been driven to secede, nor until all rational hope of relief has failed.

Nor have we occasion to vindicate that "species of come-outism which rests upon hostility to all organizations, even that of the local church." The disorganization that denies the propriety of any church organizations; springs so directly from that which consents to let the world into the church, for want of strict church discipline, excision, or withdrawal, and carries with it so many of the same moral features, that we repudiate them together, scarcely discriminating between them. The one, only says in words what the other says in deeds; namely, that a wicked world cannot be distinguished and separated from the christian church--that they are essentially one and the same--that men habitually guilty of the "highest kind of theft," are good enough to hold spiritual union and co-operation with Christians! Devoutly repudiating the sentiment, we take the position of "Come-outers" from all, whether in the sects or out of them, who express the sentiment, either in word or in practice.

The distinctive and essential idea of a christian church, settles the question of membership--the question of ex-communication--the question of withdrawal, or secession. The three questions are but one. Those who give and continue to give creditable evidence of christian character, by their faith, piety, and good works, these, and these only have a right to come into christian churches, or to remain in them. With such, and with such only, have Christians a right, by the laws of Christ, to hold church relations. Sweeping as this doctrine may seem, it is the doctrine of the Puritan seceders, of consistent Protestants, and of the great body of those who have withstood the Man of Sin, in past ages.

Christian churches are assemblies of equal brethren, mutually recognizing each other as such. The responsibilities of church discipline, rest on each and on all of them. Christ never gave them liberty to transfer these responsibilities to a church session, to a Presbytery, to a Synod, to a Consociation, to a Conference, to an Association, to a General Assembly, to a Bishop, to a Cardinal, or even to a Pope. Each Christian is himself responsible to God for the Church relations he holds, and for the discharge of the duties growing out of these relations. It was to the "church of God, at Corinth"--"called to be saints"-"when gathered together" in the local assembly, that Paul addressed the admonition to "put away from among themselves that wicked person," extending the rule to "any man that is called a brother," and who was nevertheless "a fornicator, a covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner," "not to keep company with such an one, no, not to eat!" Here was no proviso that the offender had sufficient light! No implication of a moral distinction between the sin and the sinner, the act and the actor, to the condemnation of the one, and the excuse of the other: no discussion whether or no the sinfulness of the act were self evident--whether a man might commit an act without knowing it, might claim property without knowing that he claimed it, nor whether the sin lay in the character of the relation or in "other considerations." For such a critical "analysis of character" the tent maker appears to have had no technics and little taste. Perhaps he agreed with John, that "he that doeth righteousness is righteous," that "he that committeth sin is of the devil," or with the modern Come-outers, that, as the act is, so is the actor, as the deeds are, so is the doer, as the fruit is, so is the tree, "as slavery is, so is the slaveholder," as extortion is, so is the extortioner. Perhaps he might have gone as far as Jonathan Edwards the younger, had he lived in our times, and in the use of equally offensive language, in making the statements which other theologians "affirm" to be "fundamentally false."

Be this as it may, he did not invite the attention of the Christians at Corinth to the question whether "the character of the relation" held by the Corinthian offender to his "father's wife" could, "exclusively of other considerations, determine the character of" him who " held that relation." Nor did he intimate that his "character was determined by the light which he had or might have, and also by his having or not having reason in exercise." Educated as the offender had been, in the depths of heathenism, Paul seems to have taken for granted that he must have had sufficient light. And many now are fanatical enough to believe, as Edwards evidently did, that the sinfulness of slaveholding is as self-evident as the Declaration of Independence makes it to be as self-evident and as aggravated as that of licentiousness. Nor did Paul intimate that the offender was not to be "put away" until it was ascertained that he was in a state of "irreclaimable corruption"—"hopelessly corrupt"--"delivered over by God to fierce plagues"--one "whose cup of iniquity had long been full." Of most impenitent sinners this is not to be ascertained nor affirmed, but they may not therefore have a place in the church, in the vague hope that they will be fit subjects for church membership, some time or other! It was sufficient for Paul to know that, with more or less light, and with more or less guilt, he had "done this deed"--that he had not repented of it or forsaken it--that the church, instead of mourning over the sin and putting away the transgressor, was "puffed up" with the vain notion that the "lump" could survive the presence of the "leaven." Paul knew that while impenitent, the offender could give no creditable evidence of being a Christian. He therefore directed that he should be "put away"--not because God had "irrevocably" doomed him, but in order that he might, peradventure, be snatched from that doom, by the startling and humiliating reproof, and his "spirit saved in the day of the Lord." And it would seem, from the second epistle to that church, that the process succeeded in that instance, though "judicious reformers," it is said, have preferred the policy of remaining in fellowship with transgressors to reclaim them. This may be "only a question of policy" with some; but Paul's language towards the Corinthian church shows, that with him it was a question of life or death--of the preservation or ruin of the church.

This is the process of excommunication, and the whole of it; a work that belongs to each individual church member, whenever the proper occasion occurs.--The process of excision, secession, coming out from a transgressing and impenitent church, is precisely the same thing. It is nothing more. It is nothing less. The occasion is the same, the work is the same, and the object and effect are the same. It bears the same testimony for God, for Christianity, and for Christian institutions. There is no more room for delay and indefinite procrastination in the one case than in the other. The mere incident of minorities or majorities, of official or private members, does not alter the matter. It demands little if any more time for a minority or for an individual, to determine the fact of transgression, and to ascertain whether the transgressors are penitent or impenitent, on a representation of their wickedness, in the case of large numbers of transgressors, banded together, than in the case of a single individual. And the case is vastly more urgent. If a little leaven soon leavens the whole lump, how promptly must the little fraction escape, when the whole lump itself, has become corrupt!

If it be said that extensive and complicated ecclesiastical connexions increase the difficulty of this action, beyond that encountered in the simple local church, then we demand--What right have Christians to be bound down and hampered with these obstacles to Christian duty, which Christ and his apostles never instituted, nor authorized any body else to institute? An additional ground of necessity for secession is found in all cases of this sort.

A careful examination of the New Testament will corroborate our identification of secession, or "come out-ism," (if people choose thus to term it,) with the process of church discipline. Quite as frequently, if we mistake not, occur such terms as "withdraw"—"come-out"--&c., as such expressions as "put away."--There is no intimation that numbers or official station alter the position of the parties, at all. So Luther understood it, when he excommunicated the Pope and his adherents. The messages to the churches of Asia, show the same thing. Christ reproved some of them, for their continued fraternity with evil doers, without any reference to minorities or majorities, and reason and common sense commend this view of the case.

It is truly marvelous that at this late day, it should be claimed, among American Protestants, that the policy of remaining in fellowship with transgressors in the church to reform them, has generally succeeded best.--When, where, and with whom, did it ever succeed? Was it in the old Jewish church in the times of the Apostles? Was it in the christian churches of the second, third, or fourth centuries, while corruption was gradually creeping in? Was it with the Romish church a few centuries afterwards, when she was "foolishly" deserted by the Paulicians, the Albigenses, the Waldenses? Was it in the Lutheran period? Or in the previous age of Wickliffe, of John Huss, of Jerome of Prague? Was it witnessed in the Church of England; in the times of the Puritan Seceders? Were these, and their predecessors, already mentioned, and so back to the time of Novation and his fellow sufferers in the middle of the third century, so many specimens of the superior wisdom of remaining in the bosom of worldly and declining churches to reform them?

"The presumption"--says Prof. Thome, "is in favor of the course--[that is, "of remaining in a body to reform abuses in it,"] since mankind universally pursue it, and since, especially; it has been the uniform policy of the most distinguished and judicious reformers of every age, the exception, if any, being very rare."

"Mankind universally" are not much famed, we believe, for pursuing the wisest course in religious matters. We venture, however, to reverse the statement, so far as "the most distinguished and judicious" and successful reformers are concerned. From the age of Notation, A. D., 251, to the present hour, Christianity and christian institutions have survived the general apostasy, mainly by a series of secessions. During the whole period the process of "Come-out-ism" has been going on, in response to the command--"Come out of her my people." Secession churches, under various names have existed, all that time. The "succession" has been unbroken. The Novationists reached on to the Donatists, these to the Paulicians, these run into the Albigenses and Waldenses, these into the Wickliffeites, the Lollards, the Lutherans, and so into the Puritans. Among these last, the seceders alone retained their integrity. The rest were absorbed and lost in the corrupt body to which they adhered. And New England Puritanism expired in the act of going back into fellowship with the Church of England.

A few bold reformers have indeed suffered martyrdom without a formal secession. But did they do any thing towards reforming the old church? Was their object reached by their successors, without secession? Whitefield left his converts in the old churches--and what became of them? Did they purify the church of England--or the churches of New England? Wesley organized a church within a church. His successors were obliged to complete the secession. Baxter, among the Puritans, did not secede, and lived to take a part in the persecution of the Puritans, reproaching Cromwell for his having tolerated the seceding Independents, the progenitors of the Plymouth Rock church. Such are among the best specimens we can recall to mind, of "distinguished and judicious reformers of every age," who did not secede. Along with these, we must place the thousands who, for sixteen hundred years past have remained in the Romish and Episcopal churches to reform them. Who are they, and what and where are their trophies?--the wiser ones, who retrained in the old church to reform it, while Novation and his successors, the Waldenses, the Albigenses and the Protestants seceded?

D' Aubigne has preserved the names and characters of some of these "most distinguished and judicious reformers"--such as Erasmus-- Briconnet, bishop of Meaux, and many other prudent gentlemen who might be named? What became of them, and where are the fruits of their wisdom? They saved themselves much persecution. Some of them saved their lives. But did they save the church--or even themselves? Some of them we may hope were "saved, yet so as by fire."

Perhaps, along with Baxter, Whitefield, and Wesley, we should have mentioned Fenelon, Massillon, and Thomas a Kempis. Well, add them to the catalogue, and let them have all due praise. But, were they more "distinguished and judicious reformers," remaining in the Romish church, than Luther, Calvin, Zuingle, Melancthon, Lefevre and Farel were in coming out of it? No marvel that "Tendimus in Latium" (We are moving towards Rome) is inscribed on the banners of every Protestant sect, when sentiments like these prevail and are issued from all the high places of Protestant learning. If it be true that the "most distinguished and judicious reformers of every age, the exception, if any, being very rare," have followed the "policy of remaining in a body in order to reform abuses in it," then Puritan secession, Protestantism, and the previous kindred secessions, are very likely to have been sad mistakes. How, in fact, could it have been otherwise? By these movements, the question of secession or of "remaining in a body in order to reform abuses in it," has been presented to the friends of reformation "of every age" and the statement says that the "most distinguished and judicious reformers "have chosen the policy of "remaining," "the exceptions being very rare." Of course we are to look for these "most distinguished and judicious in the bosom of the Anglican and Romish Communions. And the present state of religion in those "bodies" vindicates the sound wisdom of their policy.

But Prof. Thome could not have intended to include these? We presume he did not. Of course, we must seek for his "most distinguished and judicious reformers" some where else. Whoever they may be, they are not the Puritan or the Protestant seceders--nor those of the Albigenses, the Waldenses, the Paulicians, the Donatists, the Novationists. And consequently they must be, (if not Romanists nor Anglican Episcopalians,) a very lean minority of "reformers" of any description--"from age to age."

Marvelous, we have said, is all this. The marvel vanishes, when we consider, that the writer had undertaken the task of persuading men to "do no such wicked and foolish thing" as to "come out immediately, and have no more connection with churches" and ecclesiastical bodies "called pro-slavery, because they are composed in part of slaveholders" If, after a fourteen years' agitation of the subject, it is not time to come out of such bodies, where else, but to the Romish and Anglican Churches can we look for the right kind of "distinguished and judicious reformers" to guide us? And, since it will not do for Puritans and Protestants to look exactly there, we are left to hunt after our exemplars where we can best find them! Shall we recognize them, in the scores of prominent anti-slavery clergymen who have so long "remained in pro-slavery bodies to reform their abuses" as to swim down the current with them, to cease pleading for the slave--to apologize for the slaveholder?

That bad men, eluding detection, might "creep into" Christian churches, and hide themselves there, we do not deny. A Judas was among the twelve, and Christ did not then, any more than he now does, supersede the vigilant watch-care of his disciples, by revealing to them miraculously, the character of their associates. He means they shall learn to know the tree by its fruits--the man by his deeds--(not by what they think his deeds would be, if he only had as much light as the heathen!) Had Judas survived his apostasy, and had the brotherhood still retained him in their fellowship, with the divine sanction, a precedent adverse to excommunication and secession might have been made out from his case, (so often cited for the purpose,) though it would have been in harsh discord with the rest of the New Testament. "The tares and the wheat" might be cited to the same end, more plausibly than they now are, if Christ had said--"the field is the church"--instead of saying, "the field is the world." That "Judas and the tares," so available to the Romanists in Luther's time, and to the church of England, in the times of the puritans, should be called upon for similar services now, seems a matter of course. We miss them from the argument of Prof. Thome. He did not mean probably, to occupy exactly the ground of those who daily adduce them. Yet without a passing notice of them, in this connection, we should fear our readers, or some of them, would suspect us of incivility to those potent champions of the churches--"Judas and the tares." Rid us of these, or let it be understood and felt that Christians have no right, with their eyes wide open, to sit down quietly at the communion table with these, and there will be no further trouble with the naughty "Come-outers" and their "Come-outism." These will have done their work, or rather, the only species, we care for will have quietly taken possession of the field, and that without resorting to any "ex post facto laws." The Christian's statute book was completed eighteen centuries ago, and no church member should be arraigned for any thing not prohibited therein, nor tried by any other court than is there constituted, or by any other rules than are there laid down, or ascertained by reported precedents, in the same volume.

With these views of the doctrine and duty of "Come-outism" as ascertained in the light of New Testament church order, and the essential idea of a Christian church, let us next approach the churches of this country, in general, and ask how they compare with that constructive principle, that essential idea? Are they in the main on the model? Or so near it, that they can be made to square with it without a breaking up and re-organizing? If so, very good. We shall thus be saved no little labor. If not, we must either "come out" of them, and re-organize or contrive to do without Christian churches, the best way we can. The question is that of church or no church. To cling to bodies that are not Christian churches is to be out of Christian churches. It is to occupy "no church" ground. Many who retain a nominal connection with their old churches understand this to be their position. They say they have no confidence in their churches. They expect no benefit from them. They understand that whatever they do for God, for humanity, or for their own souls, must be done against the influence of their church; and in spite of it. They do not pretend that, morally or spiritually speaking, they have any church.--Nay, they feel it incumbent on them perhaps, to protest that the connexion is a mere nominal one--that they have no religious fellowship with those to whom they are ecclesiastically bound! And thus is their excuse for not being "come-outers." This is the case with many professedly anti-slavery ministers over pro-slavery churches—"personally devoted to the interests of the slave," but most uncharitably charged with being "ex relatione pro-slavery," and contending in defense, that "ecclesiastical connection will never, in a sane mind, be construed into sympathy with the body on the question of slavery, or any other, when sympathy is disclaimed." Such an one, if he knows his own position and is an honest man, understands that for the time being, he occupies a "no-church" position, in practice. He has only to continue in that position till practice ripens into theory, (the way most theories are formed,) and he comes out an open and above board "no church" man. Thus it comes to pass that our most prominent and zealous apostles of "no-churchism" are commonly men who have been antislavery ministers or church members, attempting to stand up straight, in pro-slavery churches. We know a number such, and have in our mind's eye many more, who are in the process of training, and making progress. In conversation, a year or two since, with one of the strongest and most faithful and influential anti-slavery ministers in the country that can be found, (as he is,) pastor over a pro-slavery and part antislavery church--a man far enough from favoring our ideas of secession and re-organization, we found him, unconsciously to himself, perhaps, very far over, in his feelings, and habits of thinking, towards the "no church" ground. He thought there was little use in attempting to maintain any church discipline--did not care to know exactly who among the members of his congregation belonged to the church, and had entirely given up the idea of ever having the church become a reformatory or even a reformed body. The work of human progress must be done up by the voluntary societies, composed of Christians and worldlings, and by political action! An hundred ministers, perhaps, and thousands upon thousands of laymen, are nearly on the same ground. Political abolitionists, connected with churches not actively anti-slavery, raising a higher moral standard for the state than they attempt or expect in the church and seeking to christianize politics without any help from the institutions of religion, what can these men be preparing themselves for, but "no-church" men? The minister, unconsciously influenced by his support--the layman dreading the odium of secession, or not knowing how to meet the expenses and sacrifices of a new church organization, may hold on to their old church organizations for a time, and in many cases till the bad example before them constantly, has led them to look on all religious institutions in an organized form, with more than indifference--with distrust. This process has been going on, rapidly for the last three years, especially in regions where secession and re-organization have not been commenced or in contemplation.

This question of "church or no church" has got to be met and settled in some way. Only three alternatives present them- selves to our mind. Abolitionists, ministers and lay-men, may continue in their pro-slavery ecclesiastical connections and thus be led to give up all their abolitionism, as so many thousands have already done. Or they may hold on a while, and come out of "no church" abolitionists. Or they may promptly secede and honor christian institutions by re-organizing. We see no other possible course, so far as abolitionists are concerned.

As for retaining anti-slavery principles or activity much longer, in the bosom of pro-slavery churches, it is out of the question. Equally futile is the notion now, of staying in pro-slavery churches and ecclesiastical bodies to reform them. Those who exhort us to that measure, should be respectfully informed that all that ground has been gone over long ago--that the experiment has been tried, in thousands of instances, and has almost uniformly failed--that the prospect in that direction has been growing more hopeless, for four years past--that thousands and thousands who three years ago, were prosecuting that experiment, have given it up in despair--that, of these, large numbers have now ceased to manifest any activity for the slave, that many others, either with or without retaining nominal church connections, are in reality becoming "no church" men. No arguments from any man living, can convince them that churches not actively engaged in the work of reformation and the cause of freedom, are christian churches. The mass of the community, pro-slavery as well as anti-slavery, rum drinkers as well as temperance men, do not and cannot believe it, in large sections of the country. The time for earnestly believing this, with thinking men, is rapidly going by, if not already gone. What is to be done, by such Christians? And what is to be done for such a community? That is the question. Churches or no churches is the problem.--Those who most hate abolitionists and most dread antislavery churches, have no confidence in pro-slavery churches. Their consciences and common sense will not suffer them to be thus deceived. While learned ministers are just beginning to discuss this question, the community, to a greater extent than is commonly understood, have decided it already in their own minds. The Report of the American Board, its defenses of "organic sin"--the "least of two devils" system of ethics--the common consent of the churches to one or both of these, or the like of them have been rapidly educating the public mind. All men who have Bibles, may know, and most, who ever read them do know, that such churches are not christian. They would lose, of necessity, their respect for Christianity, could they think otherwise.

The very idea of a christian church involves a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. And here are slaveholders and pro-slavery voters in the church. Are these righteous men? Who believes it? The majority of proslavery voters, perhaps, out of the church do not. Ask them to vote for just rulers, as God bids them. They will tell you that they do not pretend to be Christians. If they did, they could not vote for a slaveholder. Hundreds of times has this been said, and thousands of times thought, but not said. The public conscience is vastly ahead of the position of the churches.

It is said that secession, on the ground of anti-slavery, and nothing else, is the "fabricating a new religion," that its Christianity has nothing but "devotion to the slave"--that its two tables of the law are love to the slave, and hatred to the slaveholder. Thus is "anti-slavery come-out-ism" described by Professor Thome.

But it does not follow, of necessity, that secession on the account of any one sin in the church, be it intemperance, licentiousness, or slavery, or sheep stealing, would imply a new religion founded on nothing but hostility to that one form of sin! As one sin indulged in, and unrepented of, will destroy the soul of the sinner, so one known sin cherished, unrepented of or sheltered, in a church, will destroy the spiritual life and christian character of the church. For he that keepeth the whole law, and yet offends in one point, is guilty of all. The Corinthians might as well have urged this objection to Paul, and on equally good ground. Excision and secession are the same. If a majority of that church, or all but one, had been guilty of licentiousness, and refused to repent, the one faithful disciple would have had to secede. Would that have been fabricating a new religion on the one command against licentiousness? Surely not. What would be thought of a minority of a church who should decline to secede from a majority of habitual and incorrigible sheep stealers, on the ground that sheep stealing was only one sin--and that secession, on that ground only, would be the fabricating of a new religion, with one sole commandment against sheep stealing?

Or why should it be taken for granted that those who for conscience' sake, secede from men stealers and their supporters, are their enemies, and "hate" them because they thus tell them the truth, which they must receive in love, or lose their souls? How is it--that it betrays so much worse a "spirit" to excommunicate pro-slavery sinners than it does to excommunicate any other impenitent sinners? What special immunity may this sin claim, over profane swearing or any other sin?

The Come-outers in Luther's time, had their eye on certain specific sins. Suppose Doctor Eck had drawn up a list of prohibitions of those particular sins and said, "On these commandments hang all the religion of the Lutheran Come outers"--Would the inference have been logical? Would the representation have been just?

But, so far as we know, it is not true that secessions from pro-slavery churches, and the organization of new churches by the seceders, as a general fact, have been solely and exclusively on account of the pro-slavery position and character of the old churches. That has been only one of a number of kindred derelictions, all indicating something else, lying back of them as their cause, and revealing by their several yet concurrent testimony, the spiritual death that reigned within. Wherever there is spiritual vitality in a church it will be made manifest by christian inquiry, activity and vigilance, and these will secure, among other things, some approximation at least towards a creditable standard of morality, "in the sight of all men." Christians and christian churches have as much moral light as Mohammedans and Infidels. They have more. And they have the light of holy love. It follows that christian churches will promote moral reformations, in some way. At least they will not perseveringly and habitually set themselves against reformation, and discountenance it, when attempted by the virtuous portion of the community around them, by their own pernicious example, and for a long series of years. The application is easy. The adverse position of most churches, at the present moment, on the Temperance question, is too well known to be misunderstood. "Resolutions" of churches and ecclesiastical bodies can not rebut the accusation. "The road to the pit," as said the old divines, "is all paved with good resolutions." The PRACTICE determines the CHARACTER. When church members may sell rum, grant licenses to sell it, vote for those who license it, and who make or sustain license laws--when they raise grain for the distiller, and prefer a vile compound of logwood and alcohol to the unfermented fruit of the vineat their communion tables--to say nothing of the frequent use as a beverage--what progress can be made by the friends of temperance except in opposition to their influence? We know of no instance of secession from pro-slavery churches, in which there was not ample grounds for a secession on the single score of intemperance alone, to say nothing of other vices.

When an indignant community roused itself to shake off the bloody cable tow of Free Masonry, with its names of blasphemy and its rites of obscenity, where did the monster find shelter but in the sanctuaries of these same pro-slavery churches, while it bade defiance to the laws of the land, ruling senates and courts of justice at its pleasure? And now, when similar angels of darkness are rising up anew, in our midst, as in mockery of the recent struggle, where, more successfully than among the members and ministry of these same churches, do they find their willing dupes, and bola and subtle impostors? The influences that crushed McDowall-the presses, the Grand Jurors that attempted the suppression of his testimony, whence came they, but from the high places of the same churches? Pray tell us, against what vicious practice can we bear testimony without encountering the frowns of the churches in general, of the principal ecclesiastical bodies, and the leading clergy that control them? Is it gambling? Ask those who have labored to suppress lotteries. Is it Sabbath-breaking? Let Harmon Kingsbury, if still living, answer that question. Who expects (with few exceptions) more honesty from church members than from the mass of citizens in general? Who expects more magnanimity--more benevolence--more self denial? First imagine the persecuted "troublers in Israel" to have "come out from among them," as God bids them, and then answer these questions, with those that follow.--What proportion of lawyers, of merchants, and of politicians, belonging to churches, will even profess when catechised on that subject, to be governed by any higher or holier maxims in their traffic, their business or their politics, than prevail among lawyers, merchants and politicians in general? Do they rise, in fact, above the ordinary usages of the Counting House, the Law Office, the Court Room, the Exchange, the Legislative Assembly, in their activities, as there exhibited? Who that moves among men will pretend to believe it? Go to our commercial towns and cities. Go, to Washington, to the seats of our State Legislatures, to our, county towns--make inquiry, and read the answer in the eyes that stare at your rusticity or simplicity.

The spiritual attainments of churches may be low, while their outward morals may be exemplary. But while their groveling ethics make them a by-word among moralists, while their corrupting example makes them the dread of prudent parents, and their vices a stench in the nostrils of a decent community, it is vain and absurd to inquire after their spiritual condition! A spirituality that can quietly nestle down in such churches and deprecate disturbance, comes under suspicion. The Protestant assailants of Romanism, in this country, were once in the habit of adverting to the proverbial licentiousness of the Catholic priesthood, in proof of the corrupt character of the Romish communion. That weapon of attack has now to be used more cautiously. And no marvel. To a Protestant Judicatory was it reserved, to shield a prominent clergyman charged with open debauchery on the plea of moral, (in distinction from mental) insanity, when, in no other respect was it alleged that there was any apparent derangement of his powers. The gentleman's conscience was unfortunately seared! When such an ecclesiastical body, connected with an entire denomination (the Presbyterian,) can publish its doings without ecclesiastical rebuke or loud demur from any quarter, it is time to "come out" from such a communion, or cease glorifying Martin Luther for his exposure of John Tetzel and subsequent secession. It was the corruption of morals in the Romish Church that first arrested the attention of Luther. When he saw the priesthood apologize for the corruption, he denounced them. When he saw the "highest court of appeal" sustain the priesthood he anathematized it--he withdrew--he excommunicated the Pope--he "came out" of the Romish church. Had Luther been an American Presbyterian, hating slavery as all good men do hate it, would he not have excommunicated the General Assembly, and come out from its Presbyterian church, or ceased to be Martin Luther?

"Not for a reason of faith, but on account of impurity of manners, and because the church in general had corrupted itself by unworthy members, and was no longer a body of godly persons"--was the flag of christian secession raised by Novation, A. D. 251, and just there and for that reason chiefly, has it been floating, ever since, in obedience to the divine mandate, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." Let us listen to Thomas Scott's Commentary, on this passage.

"This summons calls upon all persons, in every age; they who believe in Christ, and worship God in the spirit, should SEPARATE from so corrupt a church, and from all that copy her example of idolatry, PERSECUTION, CRUELTY, AND TYRANNY, and avoid being partakers of her sins, even if they renounced her communion, or else they may expect to be involved in her plagues."

In the same connection, Scott alludes to the human souls "adverted to in the sacred text, in with the foregoing mandate, and adds:

"It would be gratifying if we could say that this traffic has been peculiar to the Romish Anti-Christ." . . . .

"The vengeance of heaven is coming upon Rome, not for gestures, garbs, and ceremonies, though multiplied, ridiculous, and of bad consequence in themselves, but for idolatry, OPPRESSION, cruelty to the people of God, imposture, AVARICE, licentiousness and spiritual TYRANNY, These are the sins which have reached to the heavens, the iniquities which God remembers, and the evils FOR WHICH we must STAND ALOOF from her communion, and THAT OF ALL OTHERS RESEMBLING HER, or we shall be involved in her destruction."

There are no neutrals in religion and morals. "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." The "church north," so long as she persists resolutely in holding ecclesiastical affinity with the "church south," or religious co-operation and fellowship with her, is part and parcel of her in the sight of God, and of all seeing men. Thus we judge of the Romish church, as a whole, and condemn it as a church, whatever exceptions we may make in favor of individuals. We do not say a part of the church is corrupt, and a part is not, because there are some good men in it. We take the body as a whole, and describe it by its general and prevailing character. Thus we judge of the Greek Church, the Sect of Universalists, the Mohammedans, the Mormons, or any other religious community, and determine the character of the body accordingly.

The pro-slavery churches of this country, northern and southern, are persecuting churches, and refuse to repent. Their church members, in Ohio, and all over the country, at the polls; in the State Legislatures, and in the National, enact and sustain the "black laws" in the Federal District and in the States, by which their brethren of the same religious faith are bruised and crushed. They do this without church remonstrance or rebuke. When the State Legislatures or Constitutional Conventions are asked to cease from these persecutions, they reply that they cannot do it, so long as the churches continue to maintain their "negro pew" arrangements: and they tell the truth!

For two long centuries "the souls under the altar" have been crying, "How long?" Members of the body of Christ sold, for the most beastly purposes, babes wrenched from their mothers, the Scriptures withheld, promiscuous concubinage enforced, and all under laws framed by members of the church--apologized for and defended by her Doctors of Divinity, especially and primarily those of the North: mob-law invoked by her leading religious journalists and without remonstrance except from the intended victims--riots raised by inflammatory harangues from titled dignitaries of the church--our Lovejoys murdered--our Torreys incarcerated and sacrificed by these means: and yet, it is not time to secede. Not quite long enough have we lent our influence to these persecuting churches by whom the principles we profess to honor are denounced, and fidelity to them accounted an offense. The first clamor against any agitation of the slave question came from the high places of the Northern churches, the Congregational, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Presbyterian--by their leading Journals was the "popular indignation" invoked--by these were the first inflammatory false charges circulated--by these and by their grave quarterlies was legislative as well as ecclesiastical proscription invoked, "the highest civil penalties and ecclesiastical censures," and all without church admonition or rebuke.--That mobs have grown unpopular, that legislative proscription has failed, we owe to the fact that the mass of the community was not corrupt enough to carry out the measures of the controlling influences of the church. It has not been owing to any change in the leaders of the church. No note of repentance or of retraction has come from that quarter. The "ecclesiastical censure" has not been wanting, nor has it yet ceased. The little finger of ecclesiastical proscription has been heavier than the loins of the legislators and the mobs. While the latter have tired, the former have only been gathering freshness and vigor. The ecclesiastical proscription and excision of such men as Lewis Tappan, Le Roy Sunderland and E. W. Goodwin, at an early period, was only the forewarning and the signal of the work that has been going on, ever since. Scarce a county, perhaps, in the middle and Eastern States, could not number its victims--obscure men, to be sure, most of them--and not always, nor frequently, perhaps, has the public heard the sound of the bow-string. In most cases a threat has sufficed to silence the offender. When leading abolitionists, among the clergy, decry secession, it is no time for rustic laymen to have tongues. The terrors of excommunication have had power to crush thousands of generous hearts. How few, even of those who, for a time, have seemed to breast the torrent of proscription, or have narrowly escaped the torture, have manifested signs of courage since!

If within two or three years, there have been fewer church persecutions, it is because there is little left in the churches to be subdued. In whole regions where the monthly concert of prayer for the enslaved was once well attended, where vigorous anti-Slavery activity was witnessed, where anti-Slavery minorities in churches had influence, all is now silent as death. "Order reigns in Warsaw," and all is in quietness now. The majority of anti-slavery church members have known little of all this. The burden was not upon their backs. The masses of abolitionists were not, in deed, to be overborne by intimidation. That experiment would not do. They must be cajoled and wheedled. On a few ring-leaders and turbulent men only did the inquisitors pounce--and that, not for their abolitionism. Oh, no! "We are all abolitionists." Some vexatious and lying pretext has been used, and thus the sympathies of the mass of reformers withdrawn from their most faithful and sharp-sighted associates. Thus it has been in "all ages." The masses of "judicious reformers" who stay in the corrupt churches to reform them, "partake of their sins" by participating in their persecutions, and "receive of their plagues" by becoming insensibly blinded and hardened. While more than twenty thousand anti-slavery church members in the single State of New York, as we estimate, who "remained in their churches to reform them," have ceased even the profession of abolitionism, in any distinctive sense never vote for the slave, nor are heard to pray or plead for them--not a single church, that we know of, has yet been reformed. And how should they be reformed by reformers who continue to endorse a pro-slavery religion? What reformatory power is there in the process? How strangely do these deluded men think they have reformatory power when their fellow church members are saying, among themselves, (as our leading religious journalists said, years ago,) "If these ranters were sincere in their tirades against slavery, they would have long ago quit the churches that they say are supporting it! If they hated the "sin" as they say they do, they would cease to walk in company with it!"

Aside from all these reformatory topics, what evidence do the majority of these churches give, of having any spiritual life? Twenty-five years ago, our revival evangelists called them "dead churches," and the pastors of them "dumb dogs." Have they improved any since? One of the most prominent of these evangelists, not unknown nor unappreciated at Oberlin, has said in print, within three or four years past, if we mistake not, that the majority of converts, in times of revivals, apostatized in the very act of becoming members of churches. Is the support of such churches a Christian duty? Is it not murderous towards immortal souls?

If any credit at all is to be given to the statements of ecclesiastical bodies, continuously promulgated by the same leading minister, of whom we have spoken so freely, their churches contain very little spiritual life. They say so themselves, and certainly they ought to know. If they think this to be the fact, is it likely that they have drawn too gloomy a picture? If, by their standard, this is true, how much more so, by the standard of the "ultra reformers!" Among their standing, complaints and confessions, the general prevalence of a worldly spirit is a stereotyped one. But "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." If any church loves the world, the love of God does not reign in and control it. If the love of the world prevails in the churches of this country, in general, as the principal ecclesiastical bodies of the country say it does, then all the specific charges we have brought against them are not only credible, but inevitably true. The love of the world could not characterize the churches, under their present circumstances, without producing just such manifestations. How much merit was intended to be manufactured out of the sorrow and humility put into these confessions, we cannot say. But we do say, that unless they are all to pass for mere cant, unless they are grossly slanderous and abusive, then the churches thus described can have but a very dubious claim, to say the least, upon the character of churches of Christ.

A more reliable testimony is at hand. Lay aside all thoughts of modern and agitating questions. Begin back thirty or forty years ago, before any of these exciting topics were broached, and come along down to the present time. Run your eye, through the churches, and single out, of male and female, the best specimens of unobtrusive, humble, prayerful, devoted piety they contain. Could you ask them, in the intimacy of private friendship, one by one—"What portion of the members of the church you belong to, and of the churches around you, so far as your acquaintance extends, do you really think, in the judgment of a wide charity, should be accounted Christians?"--to such a question, what response, do you judge, would have been commonly given? What would probably have been the answer thirty or forty years ago? Twenty or fifteen years? What would it be now? Unless we greatly mistake, unless our reminiscences and observations are very erroneous, the common response of the most pious portion of the churches, by common consent admitted to be such, however reluctantly drawn out and tremblingly and tearfully given, would scarcely leave us the tythe, the tenth, as the estimate of real Christians. How can such churches be Christian churches? How can it be a duty to sustain them? Or why should these lambs of Christ be penned up in such dens of wolves? Should the question be asked in respect to ministers, the proportion, probably, would not much vary.

Now we protest against being construed as prescribing secession as the sole or chief remedy of all this spiritual death. We know that mere secession neither proves nor secures spiritual life. It did not, in the time of Luther. It has not in any age. But we do insist, that a separation from the world, a separation from the ungodly, in church relations, is the condition--the sine qua non of spiritual life and holy progress. So the nature of the case teaches. So church history proves. So the divine mandate admonishes us. Be it ours to obey God, implicitly, whenever He speaks clearly, and leave it for others to find out, by their estimates, more correctly, if they can, "what policy will be best"—"what course will accomplish the most good." "Be not deceived." "Evil communications corrupt good manners"—"Can a man take coals in his bosom, and not be burned?" Shall we cling to the church, as to the "fold of Christ" when we see it under the control of its enemies? Can we afford to exchange the christian watch-care of the disciples for the contaminating influence of the worldly? Can we pray, "Lead us not into temptation," and run into it and continually remain there? What seductions can be more ensnaring than those of a worldly church? If we consent to be led by the blind, shall we not fall into the ditch? Are we stronger or more sharp-sighted than the millions, who in this way, have been wrecked?

There are exceptions to these sweeping representations, it may be said. Then treat the exceptions as exceptions, and remember the general fact. And see to it that the exceptions are exceptions and remain such, if you cast in your lot there. Can a church remain faithful that holds fraternity with unfaithful churches, and thus endorses their christian character? Are ecclesiastical ties merely nominal and unmeaning? Then ask that they be severed or laid aside as of no value. You shall then find whether or no they are unmeaning! It would be so "uncharitable" to break away from them! What does this mean if the connection does not contain a profession of religious fellowship? If there be sincerity in the profession, it does identify the religion of the two bodies. If it be insincere, in the name of common honesty, let it be abandoned. The truth is, all men know, and can not help knowing that ecclesiastical connection does imply and express religious fellowship. Thus the world understands, and must of necessity understand it. Were it otherwise, we should see no palliations nor excuses for delinquent bodies, on account of their want of light.

One church holds fellowship with another church "by exchanging letters of dismission and recommendation." No one can dispute this. The usage, as commonly witnessed, amounts to even more than this. It determines the membership of one church, its identity, its character, by the character and standard of another church. Those whom one church adjudge to be Christians, another church must receive as Christians! And this is necessary to the preservation of "comity" between the churches! A wide stretch for comity when I must see with my neighbor's eyes instead of my own! Why not take our creeds as well as our members, at the discretion of other churches? Were there no pro-slavery churches in the land, the usage could not be a safe one. As it is, the practice must place a professedly antislavery church in an awkward position. It might as well erase antislavery from its creed, if it be there, unless it would receive members on recommendation from Roman Catholic churches in the same manner.

If Churches and Church members, in this country, do not know that "He that ruleth over man must be just, ruling in the fear of God"--if they have not learned the duty of choosing such in all their gates, to "rule the people with just judgment"--nor the impiety of setting up the workers of inqiuity--if they have not learned that slave-holders are not "just men," and do not rule with "just judgment"--to what teachers shall they go for "more light?" Christian Churches are not only the salt of the earth, but the light of the world. Shall reformers, with a "loveless light," and a "Christless zeal," be invited as brethren to "come down" and teach them? If they have Christian Churches deserving confidence and support, why not find light and instruction from them? Is the light of the world waiting for light from the world before it can get out of darkness? From the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth, our American clergy have been politicians, especially the Congregational and Presbyterian, and the politics of Church members, nay, of the country, mainly, have been shaped and moulded by them. In political sermonizing they have been great proficients. That ministers must have nothing to do with civil affairs, that politics have nothing to do with religion, has been no doctrine of theirs, till recently asked to plead the cause of the enslaved. Up to that moment they had abjured all such dogmas as infidel. Their Beechers and Waylands had been eloquent in exposing the folly and atheism of the sentiment. Whence comes the change? And where, if not to Christian churches and ministers, are the community to look for the needed light? If such a Church and ministry are apt in the field, is it not high time to set about the work of obtaining them?

Either the religious community have the necessary light on these subjects, or else the want of that light betrays the utter incompetency and untrustworthiness of the institutions they have been confiding in, as Christian. True Churches are the depositories of Christian truth, and do not wait to be enlightened by voluntary associations, standing outside of the Church. This, the existing Churches and ministry understand, for the most part, and therefore maintain their pretensions by refusing to be thus taught.

The Churches are either sinning against light or else they are in the depths of moral darkness, without "the light that must precede love." How can such churches be Christian? Or what can the support of them be, but "empiricism and charlatanry?"

If responsibility be in proportion to light--if the South, and if the darker portions of the North are to be borne with, because they lack light, how great must be the responsibility resting on those who have the most light! And why should it then be incredible that the Northern Church member who casts a pro-slavery vote, especially if his church belongs to the "light of the world," is more guilty than the slave-holder--that the anti-slavery Church that maintains pro-slavery relations, notwithstanding all its light, is as guilty as even some slave-holding Churches may be, that enjoy so little light? This doctrine, so much insisted on, that the want of light is an excuse or palliation, is a two-edged sword to be handled carefully by those who are confident of walking in the light. Those can already see that the time has now come to withhold religious fellowship from slave-holders, and that the time will come to withhold fellowship from those who hold ecclesiastical fellowship with slave-holders, and they should be careful (walking in their own light, and not in the darkness of others,) to hold no ecclesiastical fellowship with ungodliness, now.

"Come-outers" who read the last page of Prof. Thome's article will be likely to congratulate themselves with the prospect that since, "reforms are progressive"--that which is "purely a fanatical and a disorganizing movement" now, will be altogether warrantable and proper, by and by. The admonition--"Be patient, friends, and kind"--the invitation, "Come down and teach us," will strike them as quite remarkable, when addressed to persons "impelled by hate," and sustained by "Christless zeal!"

But we must hasten forward. Many other things we had intended to say. We wanted to inquire on what principle so many abolitionists are insisting on anti-slavery Churches abroad, on missionary ground, while they can sit down in, pro-slavery Churches at home. On the doctrine that there must be so much forbearance towards those who have so little light, we should like to know why the Choctaw, and Cherokee Churches are required to come up to a higher standard than Churches among ourselves, not excepting many of the Churches to which those belong who are insisting on this high stand among the Choctaws and the distant heathen?

We should like to inquire into the probability of success, in sending an anti-slavery gospel to the heathen while sustaining ecclesiastical relations or holding religious co-operation, with a pro-slavery gospel at home? And whether the logic and ethics of the far famed Report of the A. B. C. F. M. are any the less fallacious and unsound, when worked over again and applied to professors of religion in this country, than when applied to new converts in foreign lands?--If there may be Christians and Church members holding slaves, or casting pro-slavery votes, for want of more light among ourselves, why not be "patient," and allow the same privilege to members of the mission Churches, as the American Board exhorts us?

Another thing we are puzzled about. We must be patient with those who want light. Shall we carry out this maxim by concluding that abolitionists in fellowship with pro-slavery Churches lack light?

To lack light--what is it, but to lack the knowledge of Christian principles--or to lack holy love?

Would it be "charitable" to imply that our brethren lack these? As to the facts, the objects that the light must shine upon, we suppose they are sufficiently understood, already.

We know of no abolitionists who account infants and minors to be slave-holders. The community--the laws--except prospectively and by anticipation, do not so consider them. What then is gained to Prof. Thome's argument, by proving the absurdity of condemning these?

What if it be so, that "new accessions of light are new revelations of unsuspected depravity?" What if "self-progress be the signal for self-proscription?" What if "one point gained, the preceding one be lost?" Or as Paul hath it--"Forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth to the things that are before?" Is it not wise to pray--"Cleanse thou me from secret faults?" Is Christian progression in holiness to be otherwise made?

Prof. Thome's allusion to the progress of the Temperance cause, was an unfortunate one. The facts were the reverse of what he supposes them to be. The first pledges, in 1823-4, were against "all intoxicating liquors." "By great management" (but not "wisdom,") the standard was lowered down to "only distilled liquors." The pioneers found themselves in the minority and a "hard struggle ensued." Not an inch did they gain, but lost almost everything, till the dwindling remnant of "anti-wine men formed a party, on the principles of come-outism," and from that moment the movement went forward. Until the "old Temperance Societies" were shaken off, nothing could be done. We speak of the local Societies, in which the battle was fought and won. The State and National Societies were only the spectators, and weather vanes of the contest. In regions where the "old pledge" had never been carried, the anti-wine pledge went better than where the old Societies had operated. It was harder work to displace the old error, than to introduce the truth on entirely new ground.

"Truth is progressive." "Reforms are progressive." But this is because true men live up to all the knowledge they obtain. There is no occasion to lag behind our knowledge, for fear Reforms will not be sufficiently gradual. Nor may we walk in the darkness of others, instead of our own light, in order to keep company with them. In order to "draw" communities, we must be careful to keep before them, a maxim sadly forgotten by most of the ministers of our times. A half-truth can never have the power of a whole truth. Half-truths are the parents of the most mischievous errors.

We had intended to press more directly the inquiry--"What peculiar circumstances should make American Christians so much more excusable than all other people on the face of the earth, on the score of their destitution of light! In our former article we asked why they were more excusable than the Egyptians? We demanded whether the most ignorant among us would not know the duty of others, if he were himself enslaved? We asked how good men could be content, without "searching out" the cause "they knew not?" We have since asked whether or no they have reliable Christian institutions to educate them, and if not, what is the remedy? We add, why, if they hated not the light, because it revealed their evil deeds, do they so resolutely reject the light, and silence and persecute those who would bring it to them? Was it for want of light that the Presbyterian Church, in 1818 blotted out her own testimony against slavery? The Methodist--the Congregational Churches, with the testimonies of Wesley, of Edwards, of Hopkins, the most disagreeable truths of "modern abolitionism"--are they also without light? Compare the means used to enlighten them, for the last sixty years--nay for only the last fourteen, with the means used to enlighten the Egyptians during, probably a few months before their terrible overthrow. No miraculous plagues have been employed, to be sure. But did these convey more light than the Bible and all our religious teachers? The Egyptians had neither printing presses nor mails. Nor were hundreds of lecturers sent into all accessible parts of the kingdom. Were the families who shrieked at midnight, at the loss of their first-born, in possession of more light than is now found in our Churches? Are our communion tables shrouded with deeper moral darkness than covered the minds of the hosts of Pharaoh, when he entered the Red Sea? Have the wonderful Providences of God, for the last fourteen years, shed no corroborating light on the testimonies of reformers? What further testimony, short of secession, can they give? Be it so--(and who disputes it?) that all slave-holders and pro-slavery voters, are not involved in the same degrees of guilt, as the perishing Egyptians were not--how does that consideration affect the decision we are now called to make?

We cannot be confident of having, at all points, or even in respect to the main drift of his argument, apprehended correctly, the position of Prof. Thome. It may be, that he would differ from us less than would, at first, seem to be the case. He probably had partly, in his eye, a class of "Comeouters" whom we have no occasion nor desire to defend--the class who would "down with the churches" for their corruption, but would organize no better, nor other, churches in their stead, some of his remarks could apply only to these. Yet he was led into a course of argument that seems sweeping enough, in some portions of it, to overthrow the "Come- outism" we defend--the very same that in some of his paragraphs, he admits to be scriptural. It would be easy to select from his two articles, concessions enough, if we may call them such, to warrant substantially, our conclusions.

1. " There cannot be strictly, a lightless love."

We infer that the churches and their members cannot be defended, or excused, or held in fellowship on the ground of their want of light, without convicting them of a want of love. And what sort of Christians are these?

2. There is a "Scripture doctrine of Come-outism" that is "holy, just, and good" Let us be cautious then, and discriminating in our satires upon "the kingdom and dispensation of Come-outism."

3. "Slavery is the sum of all villainies." What then is the character of the determined and impenitent slaveholder?

Of Churches composed of such? Of Churches that cannot be dissuaded from religious fellowship, fraternity, and co-operation with them?"

4. "The pro-slavery spirit exists, extensively throughout the free states, and is, if possible, more shameful, more diabolical than slavery itself." Then "Come-outers" ought not to be derided for acting accordingly.

5. "The churches are the bulwarks of Slavery." Then they are not the bulwarks of Christianity--"the pillar and ground of truth."

6. "An intelligent pro-slavery minister, in a free state, is a pre-eminently wicked person." "He is a pro-slavery minister who writes Bible arguments in favor of slavery." [Who? Hodge, Graham, Stuart, Spring, Hedding, and Wisner?] And "he is a pro-slavery minister who shields such an one from ecclesiastical discipline." What can, or does shield them, if holding continued ecclesiastical connexion with them does not? The spirit and pith of this concession extended to laymen as well as ministers, and applied in New England and the Middle and Western States, would make a broad sweep among the churches, including their anti-slavery members. We almost shrink back, ourselves, from the seemingly inevitable conclusion!

7. "There is now light enough upon the main question of slavery, to warrant us in withholding fellowship from the slaveholder."1 (pp. 187.) "The time will come, and come soon," when "voting for a slaveholder must be deemed an immorality of such a nature as to exclude a person from the Church?" (pp. 177.)

We may then ask--"What man or set of men is authorized to announce to the world that the day has" NOT "dawned?" And who shall deny to those who are convinced that it has, the right to express their convictions, and act in conformity with them?"

If "Come-outism" be perceived, by its opponents, to be so nearly correct, now, and destined to be altogether correct, so very soon," perchance it may be, altogether correct now; at any rate, a truth that is to be; a truth in the future tense, and rapidly hastening to be present, should be treated with a good degree of toleration if not respect, by the advocates of "light and love," and the friends of "progressive reform."

In conclusion, this is a great, a momentous subject, and the prayerful and earnest consideration of it should be no longer postponed. The friends of evangelical religion, of an elevated standard of christian holiness, of trustworthy christian institutions, not less than the zealous, and possibly, sometimes extravagant or impatient advocates of specific "one idea" reformations, have an interest, deep and broad as eternity, in the proper settlement of this question. The times require and must have, the RESTORED NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH. For this, the work of a world's renovation is lingering, while Atheism and the Man of Sin, are stalking over Emmanuel's promised possession, unrebuked. The whole creation groans, and travels in pain, until now, for the deliverance that is to come through the instrumentality of a pure church.

1 But bow is this to be done, if it be "foolish and wicked" to "come out immediately, and have no more connexion with churches and ecclesiastical bodies, called pro-slavery because they are composed in part of slaveholders?"

Printed for tract distribution by Alethea In Heart Ministries 02/2002.
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