HAS THE SOUTHERN PULPIT FAILED?
WHO has been practicing upon the credulity of the Rev. David Swing? or how in the name of common honesty has he become possessed with the idea that the Southern pulpit has failed? He does not produce a scrap of evidence to lay a foundation in fact for his strange hallucination. His paper would not have been more astounding in its audacity, if it had been an effort to account for the failure of the Southern soil, or to explain the failure of the Southern sun to longer quicken and mature the cotton-plant!
He is content with no middle flight—he would be profound and philosophical; and so he summons at once the manes of Francis Bacon. How strange it is that men may admire and extol the "Novum Organum," and yet fail to understand, or wholly misapply, the simplest doctrines of the inductive philosophy! It would have been reasonable to suppose that one so enamored of the scientific method would have begun with particulars, and thus ascended to the enunciation of a proposition so astounding—one, so far as we know, never before sprung upon the world; but, instead of this, he has given us a brilliant example of the dogmatic method of the schoolmen which he so much abhors. If the story were not somewhat stale, we should like to recite for his benefit the artifice which, it is said, a certain monarch practiced upon his savants when he called upon them to explain why it was that a vessel of water does not weigh more with a live fish in it than it does without the fish! Sure it is, that he assumes for granted a proposition singularly at variance from fact, and then coolly sets himself to work to explain the absurdity.
This is itself such a remarkable phenomenon that we are impelled to look for some explanation of it; and where better can
we look than in that authority which he so heartily commends and so strangely offends? In the "Novum Organum" we read: "The
human understanding resembles not a dry light, but admits a tinc-
ture of the will and passions, which generate their own system accordingly; for man always believes more readily that which he prefers." And, by way of corollary, we find in the "De Augmentis": "Another error is an impatience of doubt and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients—the one plain and smooth in the beginning and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even: so it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he will end in doubt; but, if he will be content to begin with doubt, he shall end in certainties."
The dogmatic stride of the distinguished author of the paper under review is not a little marred by the limp in his logic. At one moment he pathetically exclaims, "How are the mighty fallen!" and the next he is tempted to abandon the inquiry with the reflection, "It never was well." But, whichever way he will have it, since we are quite ready to exonerate him from any malicious intention to misrepresent the Southern clergy, we must conclude that his information is very limited. The earnestness and power of the Southern pulpit have always been an admitted fact, as well in the North as in the South. Its representative men have always enjoyed the generous and hearty applause of their brethren in the North. There must be many people in New York who remember a remarkable scene at the old Tabernacle in that city in 1844. Dr. Bascom was to preach at night. Long before the time, the immense building was thronged so that not another soul could find room. The preacher began, and at once carried the vast concourse up to the highest pitch of tension. At three several times the proprieties of the place were quite forgotten, and the whole congregation burst forth in long and loud applause! Henry Clay declared him to be the "greatest natural orator in America." Marvelous things are told of his preaching. Entire congregations would rise unconsciously, and press toward the pulpit in uncontrollable excitement. On one occasion he produced such a frenzy of excitement by a morning sermon at a camp-meeting that nobody could be heard all the day through.
On another occasion in Kentucky Mr. Clay was in the congregation. He listened for some time to the daring sweep of thought,
the electric and impetuous declamation, the searching appeals to conscience, until at last he was carried beyond all bounds
of propriety, and gave vent to his excitement by exclaiming: "Well done,
Bascom—give it to them, give it to them!" When Dr. Bascom was chaplain in Congress, General Jackson was carried away in a similar manner by the vividness of a picture he was painting, and exclaimed aloud, "My God, he is lost!"
The South has always been full of men noted for their pulpit eloquence. How could it be otherwise among a people of open and generous impulses—in the land of all others in the world given to the freest and most open interchange of opinions in public assemblies? The South is the home of natural oratory, and from the days of Patrick Henry every hamlet has had fluent and forcible speakers.
Nor has the style of pulpit-speaking been at all confined to the rugged and exciting type of oratory. The South has produced, and still has, men of smoothest periods and most polished diction. Who that ever heard the great Dr. Hawks can forget his polished accents and his irresistible logic? How all who were present at his trial in New York delight to describe the matchless power by which he held that vast assembly in a thrill of excitement for days together! The people of New York will not soon forget this great master of eloquence and logic. Few men could have maintained the position he did through the stormy scenes of the war, when he refused either to withdraw or bend before the torrent of excitement.
And, again, in all the catalogue of eminent clergymen, what name is there which to this day will call up a deeper sense of reverence than that of Bishop Elliott, of Georgia? Dignity and culture, piety and power, were so wondrously blended in him that, with all the gentleness of a woman, he possessed the strength of a giant. His carriage and manner were inimitable. He was one of the committee appointed by the House of Bishops to adjust the unfortunate and vexatious Onderdonk difficulty. He presented and read the paper containing the concessions of Bishop Onderdonk. After it had been accepted and the case dismissed, Bishop Meade, of Virginia, who was not a little incensed at the action, approached the Bishop of Georgia, and said: "Elliott, that was all your doing. Your sympathetic tone and soft accents in reading that paper carried the House out of their senses. They never would have accepted it if anybody else had read it." Truly, the fame of this great Bishop is in all the churches. When shall we look upon his like again?
And then, again, that other Georgian whose life ran parallel with that of Bishop Elliott's through so many years—Dr. Lovick
Pierce, so late fallen asleep. When great preachers are mentioned,
his name can not fail to rise to the lips of all who knew him, and who did not? The celebrated Dr. Olin bore testimony to his wondrous powers in the strong emotion, even to tears, which he is known to have shown under the effect of his preaching, as well as in the deliberate declaration that, "if left to choose among all the preachers in America the one under whose ministrations he should sit for years, Dr. Pierce would be the man of his choice."
And then there was Dr. William Capers, of South Carolina. In what enthusiastic terms the English bore testimony to the simplicity, and purity, and fervor of his preaching when he visited England in 1828, as the representative of the Methodist Church in America! When asked how he had acquired his pure Saxon style and simple earnestness, he replied that he did not know, unless it was in preaching to the simple-minded blacks upon the rice-plantations of Carolina.
In the memorable debate in the General Conference in New York in 1844, upon the case of Bishop Andrew, and which led to the unfortunate separation of the Methodist Church into North and South, the speaking of the Southern men was of the most brilliant type, as any one who remembers will bear witness, and the accounts given at the time will fully show. Dr. Winans, of the Mississippi Conference, opened the debate on the Southern side—"an impetuous speaker, after the Greek model. His massive strength, put in motion by a glowing spirit, furnished a mighty momentum which struck like the swell of the sea when stormy winds rule the waters." Remarkable speeches were made by Dr. William A. Smith, of Virginia; the Pierces, father and son; and Dr. Longstreet, of Georgia, Mr. Stringfellow, of North Carolina, and Dr. Green, of Tennessee. Dr. Capers spoke last. His bearing was marked by the highest refinement of manner. Though speaking at the close of a prolonged and exciting debate, his perfect command of voice, his easy flow of words, and his clear and vigorous thought held that weary body with a freshness and power which belonged rather to an opening effort. We speak of these things because they are historical, and because there must be many who can bear witness to their faithfulness.
The Presbyterians have had their full share of eminent preachers. There was the celebrated Dr. Thornwell, so powerful in controversy,
so thorough in scholarship, so eloquent in manner. Where can we look for greater purity of character, sounder learning, or
greater pulpit powers? The venerable Dr. Plummer, too, still with his
harness on, ranks with the foremost preachers in any land. With these men comes up the memory of the world-distinguished Dr. Bachman, of the Lutheran Church in Charleston, the associate and collaborator of Audubon. The stalwart blows he dealt the materialists, as the modern tide of infidelity came in, must be fresh in the memory of all who know anything of such matters. His reputation was not confined to this continent; he was a corresponding member of nearly all the learned societies of Europe. The Andrews, of Virginia, so intimately associated with Princeton, are too widely known to require more than a mere mention. Dr. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, was a man of Herculean mold.
Of the many eminent men among the Baptists we barely mention Jesse Mercer, of Georgia, who has given his name to Mercer University; Richard Furman, after whom Furman University is called; Andrew Broadus, a peerless pulpit orator, sometimes called "the Robert Hall of America"; Richard Fuller, of South Carolina, pastor for more than a quarter of a century in Baltimore; and Jeremiah B. Jeter, a writer and speaker of transcendent powers. The list could be prolonged indefinitely.
Some mention has already been made of the Episcopal clergy, but we can not forbear a reference to Bishop Ravenscroft, of North Carolina; Bishops Meade and Johns, of Virginia; Whittingham, of Maryland; Otey, of Tennessee; Cobbs, of Alabama, and Wilmer, of Louisiana.
The Roman Catholics have also had men of eminent parts in the South, such as Archbishop Kenrick, of Baltimore; Bishops England, of Charleston, and McGill, of Richmond. Surely, the past of the pulpit in the South teems with men of gigantic stature.
If we do not speak much of the present, it is not because there is not much to be said. If there has been any decadence in the pulpit, nobody in the South has yet discovered it. Where are there finer pulpit orators than Drs. Palmer, of New Orleans; Hoge, of Richmond; Dagg, of Georgia; and Robinson, of Kentucky? Bishop Beckwith has an immense reputation, as well in the North as in the South. Bishop Wilmer, of Alabama; Quintard, of Tennessee; Garret and Elliott, of Texas, are all superior preachers. The number of distinguished men who come to mind is so great that it is an embarrassment to decide whom to name.
But to return to Mr. Swing's paper. If his proposition were not "the baseless fabric of a vision," but a substantial reality,
he would still be singularly unhappy in every point he advances as an ex-
planation. He says, first, "All will at once affirm that the institution of slavery laid low this organized eloquence....under a political and social philosophy which stole labor, all intellectual pursuits declined on account of the well-known principle that mind is brought out by action, just as the luster of the diamond is brought into existence by the polishing process of the lapidary."
It is certainly neither generous nor honest to charge the South with having stolen labor. We have no mind to go over the old question, which we had hoped had gone to rest, as to who was originally responsible for American slavery. Mr. Swing knows, everybody knows, that the British Government imposed slaves upon every one of the original colonies, and that, when the American Government was formed, slavery existed in every one of the original States. He knows that not one of those States declared slavery a sin against God, or a violation of sound morals; and that no State ever passed an act liberating her slaves, ipso facto, that they were mere acts of limitation, interfering with no vested rights; that, with small exception, the slaves were sold into the States farther south, and the money duly paid to Northern men, who were far from suspecting that they were committing a crime in receiving it. He must know further that the South never was engaged to any considerable extent in prosecuting the slave-trade; that the most serious objections to that traffic came from the South, and that Northern interests maintained it. We ask, then, is it generous, is it honest, to say of the South, "while she stole labor, Nature in dreadful equity was stealing away her intellect and sentiment"?
But laying apart the ethical complexion of this fearful charge, is it true that Nature was stealing away her intellect and sentiment"? Whatever intellect and sentiment the South ever had, was reared under the slavery régime, and has she never shown "intellect and sentiment"? Shall we have to go over the long list of her statesmen, her soldiers, and her men of letters? Shall we begin with the "Father of his Country" and go down the list of Presidents; go through the cabinets and look for the leading names in both branches of Congress! Are Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson, Chief Justice Marshall, and William Wirt, Clay, Calhoun, and Pinckney, and all the rest forgotten?
Is no account to be taken of such men as Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor, Washington Allston, and Commodore Maury? Are the
people of the North prepared to go back upon the memory of the gallant men who have helped to shed luster upon their
arms—men like Farragut and Thomas? And can any man forget that pure, grand soldier and Christian gentleman—who, when his columns had been hurled back, shattered and bleeding, at Gettysburg, could say to his sobbing general, "Never mind, it was all my fault"—Robert E. Lee?
Lack of space forbids us to go even hastily over the list of Southern names distinguished in literature and science, poetry and the arts; but a candid public will admit that she has not been wanting, even in science and the humanities.
But what an idea Mr. Swing must have of Southern life as it was, or as it is! He seems to think it a sort of dolce-far-niente existence—a dreamy state of inanition, only varied now and then by a whack at poor Sambo! Why, laziness was never any more admired, and little more practiced, at the South than at the North. Manliness and energy of character were always demanded, and as a rule expectation in this regard was not disappointed. When was it that enterprise and courage were required in her sons that they were found wanting? And, besides, only a small part of the people were slaveholders, and in point of fact there was really less dawdling or femininity among the sons of planters than is found among the sons of wealthy men in other parts of the world. They lived on horseback, engaged in field-sports, and all manner of outdoor exercises. Their surroundings were highly favorable to both intellectual and physical development. Without claiming that there were not serious faults in the general type of Southern character, there never was a land in which true manliness was better understood or more commonly found.
But, as a second reason to explain his gratuitous assumption, Mr. Swing tells us: "To the intellectual sluggishness which
the prevalence of substitutional labor entailed upon all the forms of mental activity in common, slavery added a special shape
of misfortune to the lot of the Southern clergyman. It divided society into three castes, and made him the pastor of only
one division. In a slightly modified form, caste holds, or held the South as firmly as it held India before it was subject
to British rule. Three shapes of humanity lay before the parson of the cotton States—the slaveholders, the poor whites, and
the slaves. Immense merit attached to the first class; the last class lay far over toward the animal world, and salvation
followed this law of decrease, and was offered with some zeal to the first families, was often suggested to the poor whites
as being desirable, and died away wholly before it reached
the ears of those whose complexion was of a dark or mixed character. Prevented thus by political interests and prejudices from dealing with those who most needed the teachings and pity of Heaven, compelled to harden his heart against the cries of those in bonds, and often in torments under the lash, the herald of Jesus Christ slowly became a dealer in intellectual abstractions, or an apologist for a shameful institution and its attendant personal vices. Without doubt the situation was peculiar; the slave was too contemptible to merit any salvation, the master was too great to need any."
We do not think Mr. Swing can be at all conscious of the dreadful misrepresentations contained in this amazing paragraph. He betrays at every point the most stupendous ignorance of the South; but surely he ought not to have brought such an indictment without careful consideration. We are utterly at a loss to understand how even his knowledge of human nature failed to tell him that in "the eternal fitness of things" this could not be true in a land where—somehow he has learned—"the people are so warm-hearted." He must surely have read "Uncle Tom's Cabin "—which, it is to be presumed, we may quote as canonical—and he must remember the sterling piety which Uncle Tom learned in the Shelby family—a family intended to represent a large part of the South, and all that must have come somehow from the pulpit. There were many thousand Bibles as curiously marked as Uncle Tom's, and his religion was not an isolated case. We have the witness of the trader Haley for that: "I know there's differences in religion. Some kinds is mis'rable: there's your meetin' pious; there's your singin' roarin' pious: them ain't no account, in black or white; these rayly is; and I've seen it in niggers as often as any, your rail softly, stiddy, honest pious, that the hull world couldn't tempt 'em to do nothing that they thinks is wrong."
But let us go a little further back in these wild assertions of Mr. Swing; let us look at his theory of Southern caste. No
doubt it seems very plausible, to one who knows nothing about the South, that in the days of slavery there should have been
the threefold stratification which he so dogmatically assumes; but, incomprehensible as it may seem to him, the history of
modern society may be searched in vain to find any land in which there was such an entire absence of caste as in the old slave
States. We can confidently appeal to all who have ever lived in the South in support of this fact. Nor is the explanation
difficult. It was due to the presence of that very institution which he so sadly misreads. The
fact that there was a broad line of race and color which no man could fail to recognize, went far toward keeping down all mere artificial lines of man's devising. It gave the white man, however humble his lot, a prerogative which he nowhere else enjoyed on the face of the earth. There was no menial class among the whites, but every man held himself to be the peer of every other. Let any man, who knows the facts, say if it was ever the custom in the South to send the poor man by the back way to find scraps in kitchens when they had need of food. White men, just because they were white, entered at front doors and were received in parlors with a politeness and hospitality which were a constant source of surprise to people of other lands accustomed to what are called social distinctions. The table and the drawing-room knew no such distinctions as are found everywhere in societies founded upon the pitiless conflict between labor and capital.
And here, again, it should seem that Dr. Swing might have caught some glimpse of this extraordinary fact in that (take it altogether) faithful delineation of Southern life, "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The book opens with the scene of "two gentlemen sitting alone over their wine." Mrs. Stowe uses the right word gentlemen, according to Southern parlance, though she at once goes on to explain that one of them was not a gentleman at all, but a coarse, illiterate, despicable slave-trader—a character thoroughly despised throughout the South. Grotesque as it all was, every white man called himself, and it was at his peril if anybody failed to call him, a gentleman. It is changing now, more's the pity, and class distinctions are rapidly showing these hideous outlines.
In a community organized upon this broad plane of social equality, how improbable on the face of it is the satire that "[salvation] was often suggested to the poor whites as being desirable"! Why, in simple truth, it was from the non-slaveholding class that the communicants of the Church were chiefly drawn. It was too often the case that the larger planters were content to encourage others to be religious, but stood somewhat aloof themselves. Thus, there never was anything more out of joint than the charge that the nonslaveholding class was neglected or contemned in the ministrations of the clergy of the South.
And now with regard to the slaves. It would be the gravest error to suppose that this equality among the whites was at their
expense. The white man, protected as he was by the difference in race, had no room to fear that his respectability would in
suffer by any proper contact with the slaves; and, accordingly, the colored people were admitted to the freest intercourse whenever their presence was proper.
Now, we have no mind to deny or minimize the great evils attendant upon slavery. There were brutes and madmen in the South, as there are in all quarters of the world, and wherever they have power they are sure to be guilty of atrocities. Mrs. Stowe's human monster, Legree, did, no doubt, exist now and then; and the frightful scene she paints was possible at rare intervals; but the bond of master and slave was not the cause of such outrages—it was the result of the diabolism of certain human hearts, and slavery offered but one out of many relationships in this world for its manifestation. Nobody can seriously deny that like horrors are often witnessed from the hold men have upon their wives, and parents have upon their children. The difference is this—and we concede it freely—the bond of master and slave was not a necessary one, and could be dissolved; while that of the others is of nature, and therefore can not; or, rather, we should say, in view of the present state of the divorce question, ought not to be.
We are glad, the whole South is glad, that the bond of slavery is forever severed. But let there be fair dealing. Slavery was not all bad; indeed, there were beautiful features in it. Mrs. Stowe could see this with perfect distinctness. She says, speaking of Kentucky: "Whoever visits some estates there, and witnesses the good-humored indulgence of some masters and mistresses, and the affectionate loyalty of some slaves, might be tempted to dream the oft-fabled poetic legend of a patriarchal institution, and all that"; and it is not a little remarkable that the but she interposes is not founded upon personal abuses, but upon the abstract principle that the law regarded the slaves as things. But, while this was true by the theory of the law, a very different rule obtained in fact. The personal relationship was rarely forgotten, and that higher law which binds soul to soul found constant expression.
We venture to give an incident which will serve to illustrate this, in the case of a representative man—Leonidas Polk, Bishop
of Louisiana. He had caused a negro man to be punished for stealing. A few days after, he discovered that he had been misled
by false information, and that the man was really innocent. He could not undo the punishment, but there was something that
he could do. He called the man a little apart in the woods and made him sit by him on a fallen tree. He told him that he had
that he had done him a great wrong, and that he had brought him there to tell him so, as his fellow man and brother before God. After he had explained how he had been misled, he said, "And now I want to tell you how sorry I am, and to beg your forgiveness"; and the strong, proud man bowed himself before the lowly son of toil, while with hand clasped in hand the slave and master wept together.
There was, indeed, a genuine affection and respect subsisting between the whites and blacks, almost universally, supported by that surest of all guarantees, mutual interests; and there was, therefore, the freest intercourse one with another. It was this phase, so hard for people who have never lived in the South to understand, which constantly presented itself, and caused true men—tender-hearted men—to conclude that, upon the whole, the best thing was to let it alone. And even now, glad as we are that, by the inscrutable hand of Providence, the whole business has been cleared away, if we held the mere happiness theory of life, we should seriously doubt if the negro as a class has been the gainer by the change. His life was so free from care, his wants so fully met, his affectionate nature so stimulated and sustained by his patriarchal surroundings, that, notwithstanding the abuses to which he was sometimes exposed, there is room to fear that freedom is proving a dear boon to him. There was, perhaps, no class of laborers in the world whose life exhibited more light-heartedness, or was more enlivened by merriment and jollity. Now, the cares which have come upon him, the constant strain to provide what before gave him no concern, the absence of the sure if not affectionate hands in sickness, are telling seriously upon him; and we may look almost in vain for the old songs and dances, the hearty laugh and ready jest.
But we do not hold that mere temporal happiness is the true end of man; and, therefore, we cheerfully concede that it is better that the negro should be called upon to try the higher and rougher path of personal responsibility. Many of the race have already reached a higher plane, and we trust, in God's name, that the whole race will rise to better things. But, if Mrs. Stowe were to draw a true picture of Southern life in the altered condition of affairs, she would be compelled to leave out much of the grotesque fun which made it possible for people to read the pathetic but frightful scenes she portrayed in her wonderful book; while, on the other hand, she would find room to add much in the way of individual enterprise and true manliness in the Southern freedman.
If we have succeeded in any manner in putting the true condition of the slaves before the reader, it will be perceived at once that the Southern clergyman could never, in the nature of things, have been indifferent to the religious education of the blacks. As a matter of fact, there was scarce any clergyman in the South whose work was not largely among the slaves. Not only was provision made for them in the churches where the white people worshiped, but they everywhere had churches of their own. By all odds, the largest churches in Richmond and New Orleans were for the negroes exclusively, and they everywhere had commodious buildings. They were served by white clergy, assisted by men of their own color.
In Tuscaloosa, for example, of which we happen to have some knowledge, the distinguished Dr. Summers had a large negro society belonging to his pastoral charge. This was in 1844, when it was still the capital of Alabama. He spent much time in training colored preachers, exhorters, and leaders among them. He had an immense Sunday-school, and among the teachers were Chief Justice Collier, afterward Governor of the State, Senators, and other distinguished citizens, assisted by accomplished ladies. All through the South there was work of a corresponding character.
The negro membership in the church was often equal, sometimes much beyond, the whites in numbers. As an example, in Charleston District, in the Methodist Church, as reported in 1828, there were three thousand four hundred and ninety-two whites, and five thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven colored.
Nor were the efforts to reach the black population confined to towns and cities. Regularly organized missions were established upon the plantations. The planters themselves applied for missionaries, and promoted their work. The honor, perhaps, of the first systematic work in this way is due to Dr. Capers, of South Carolina. In 1829 he established missions to the colored people exclusively on the Ashley and Santee Rivers. These rapidly spread until, before the war, plantation missions were coextensive with the South. Catechisms and other necessary books were printed and distributed by the hundreds of thousands. At the breaking out of the war the Methodist Church alone had more than two hundred thousand colored communicants, besides many thousands of catechumens and hearers.
The work of the Baptists was not at all behind that of the Methodists. Their missionaries were in every direction, and they
bered their followers by hundreds of thousands. All other Christian bodies were heartily engaged in this great work—the glory, we may say, of the South.
As an example of the sentiment and feeling on this subject in the Episcopal Church, we give an extract from a memoir of Bishop Elliott, published shortly after his death in 1866: "He was earnestly devoted to the duty of preaching the gospel to the negroes of his diocese. He summoned his whole people to the work, as the great mission to which they were called, the special field of Christian labor to which they were dedicated. Some of his most eloquent and impassioned addresses were devoted to this theme. He spoke often and plainly, earnestly and solemnly, on this subject. He held his people to a strict responsibility for the spiritual and eternal, as well as the physical and temporal, welfare of those over whom they ruled. He sent missionaries and established missions wherever he could. He led the way by his personal labors. He founded St. Stephen's Church for colored people in the city of Savannah. He placed its secular affairs under the charge of a colored vestry. They, looked upon him as their firmest, wisest, and noblest friend. At his burial they gave a touching and beautiful evidence of the love and reverence they bore him. The colored vestry of St. Stephen's asked to have the honor of carrying him to the grave; and it was granted to them. It did honor to them and to their Bishop. Considering the peculiar and momentous issues of the time, we think it was the grandest and most instructive spectacle, amid all the solemn, mournful, and agitating ceremonies of that day, on which the city of Savannah was hushed to listen to the footfalls of those who thus bore their Bishop to the tomb."
The colored people of the South are not unmindful of the work done for them by the clergy in the days of slavery and since.
From a remarkable speech made by the Rev. William D. Johnson, one of the fraternal delegates from the African Methodist Episcopal
Church to the General Conference at Atlanta, in 1878, we make them following extract: "In the name of the African Methodist
Episcopal Church—and I declare the true sentiments of thousands—I say that, for your Church and your race, we cherish the
kindliest feelings that ever found lodgment in the human breast. Of this you need not be told. Let speak your former missionaries
among us, who now hold seats upon this floor, and whose hearts have so often burned within them as they have seen the Word
sown by them in such humble soil burst forth into abundant harvest....It was as
one of the nations included in our Lord's inheritance that we were sent to you over two hundred years ago for instruction in the government of the Prince of Peace, that the little leaven might be hidden within the true and trusty hearts of the chosen representatives of a mighty race; and right well have you performed your duty.... Mr. Chairman, we can never forget the magnanimity of your organization to us in the dark days succeeding the close of the war—bow your ministers recognized our divine commission, in many cases turning over to us the property as well as the people, with prayers and benedictions. We remember, also, how helpful have been the kind words you have spoken to us both in our pastorates and annual sessions; how, also, you have so cordially thrown open the doors of your metropolitan churches to our bishops and preachers, thus declaring in the midst of doubts and fears, no whit behind the chiefest, that character and ability, and not the mere accidents of color and clime, entitle mankind to respect. And to-day you have set the seal upon it."
We think it must be admitted that Mr. Swing is in error when he says that "the slave was too contemptible to merit any salvation"; and it may well be gathered, from what has been already said, that he is equally in error when he says, "The master was too great to need any."
See to what pitch his preconceived ideas of Southern society carried him: "Nero was so illustrious as emperor that he might carry on any form of revel or crime, and might put out of the way his own mother if she gave signs of living too long, or was too full of personal thought and opinion. The planter was some such a piece of human absolutism, and did not need much rebuke for sins, nor much instruction in the line of common morals, inasmuch as his position in society made him a natural heir of the good things of the two worlds."
Now, whatever fault the Southern pulpit had before the war, it was not cowardly and skulking. Earnestness and directness have
always been its special characteristics. The duties and responsibilities of masters necessarily occupied the fore-front as
a theme. Can any man in his senses dream that the work which we have seen among the slaves could have been accomplished without
the active cooperation of the planters? The pulpit did not let them forget that their people had souls, and that they would
have to answer in their own souls for the results of their action toward them. As an example, take this from a series of letters,
published in a New Or-
leans paper, by Bishop Andrew, in 1856. Speaking of the master's responsibilities with regard to the religious instruction of his slaves, he says: "I will suppose you feed them well and clothe them well, and lodge them comfortably; and all that is very well. But this is not enough. Do you not bestow the same care upon your mules? Believe me, though you may ignore this, God will remember it; and, if you neglect your duty in the premises, your remembrance of it in coming time will be bitter. You can not—no, you can not neglect your duty on this subject, and escape. God has a thousand ways even here to bring home the curse of disobedience to you, in your soul and body, in your habitation, in your children; and this curse has very often fallen upon the transgressor in this world. The chain of connection, it may be, has not been noticed; but the woe, the bitter curse, the ruin, has been patent to everybody. But even supposing no such curse to manifest itself here, the day that cometh shall reveal it. The careless master and the neglected slave shall meet and confront each other face to face, and the recollections of that day shall bring out your mutual delinquencies, with the motives, ends, and aims which have actuated you in every instance. Thoughtless, prayerless, godless master, you will, you must meet this responsibility!"
Let any one glance over a little book on the "Duties of Christian Masters," originally written for a prize offered by the Baptist Convention of Alabama, by Dr. (now Bishop) McTyeire, and he will certainly see that there was no effort to spare or shield the slave-holder. Public sentiment everywhere expected and supported the most direct and personal appeals in this matter. A cowardly, fawning parson could not be tolerated in a region where bluntness and plain speaking was the rule.
The clergy insisted that the planters should provide proper church accommodations for their people, and that they should not
be compelled to use the barn, the cotton-shed, or the sugar-house for religious purposes. It was urged that these had too
many work-day associations, and that servants should not be led to look upon the minister as a part of the plantation police.
We remember an incident which shows that the clergy were not easily put off with "anything that would do" in this regard.
A Bishop of one of the Gulf dioceses had brought a rich planter to build a church for his people. When the Bishop came to
see it he was much displeased at the shabby way in which it had been put up. The planter asked him how he liked it. "I don't
like it at all," was the reply; "it is
more like a stable than a church." "Oh," said the planter, "it is good enough for niggers!" The Bishop turned upon him with a look that pierced him through, and replied, "We do not build churches for 'niggers,' we build them for the glory of God!" After the planter had recovered his breath, he ventured to ask, in a humble voice, "Well, Bishop, what shall we name the church?" The indignation of the Bishop was too great to be appeased in a moment, and he said: "Name it? I don't know, unless we call it the Church of the Holy Manger."
The census of 1850 shows that out of the whole Church accommodations in the United States, of Methodists, nearly one half were in the slave States; of Baptists, about four sevenths; Presbyterians, about one third; Roman Catholic, one fourth; and Episcopal, about two fifths. Of these accommodations fully one half were for the colored people.
We hazard little in saying that in no part of the country is what is technically called "the cloth" more respected than in the South. The roughest and most godless, as well as the most refined and cultured, have always shown the clergyman the profoundest deference, because he was a clergyman. It was a part of the old social code, and many instances might be related to show it in men of the highest distinction—men like Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson. We venture to give an example from the rougher side of humanity in that rugged, rousing character, Sam Houston. He was, at the time, President of the Republic of Texas, and was traveling on a steamboat, talking and swearing vehemently. One of the company saw Dr. Summers, who was then a missionary in Texas, standing within ear-shot. He called the Texan President's attention to the fact. Old Sam turned at once, and, walking up to the missionary with ceremonious bow, said: "I beg your pardon, Mr. Summers, I beg your pardon, sir; I was very much excited, and my language was very unbecoming." "Yes, sir," replied the other, "very unbecoming so distinguished a man." The next Sunday Mr. Summers preached, and General Houston and other dignitaries of the republic were present. His sermon was on public vices; and he treated the subject in no mincing way. After it was over, one of the General's suite, in view of the occurrence of the previous day, began to assure him that the preacher could not have meant anything personal 'to his Excellency. The reply was: "He did just right—just right, sir; it is the business of the pulpit to be outspoken, whoever it may hit."
Of the third and last charge which Mr. Swing brings to support his unwarrantable hypothesis, namely, that the Southern pulpit has always been too (what is called) "orthodox," it will not be necessary to say much. The South has ever had a whole Bible, and has too well understood the doctrine of the Incarnation—the indissoluble union of our humanity with the Divinity in the person of the "Man of Sorrows "—ever to forget that the temporal and eternal must go together. If her pulpit has, therefore, ever pointed to heaven, it has never forgotten that "that was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual." Her clergy have faithfully preached the two tables of the law and of the gospel—the love of God and the love of man. They have not known—we are happy to think they do not yet know—a better gospel. That in accordance with this they have not failed to preach of life and manners, must sufficiently appear from what has gone before. We submit that in no part of the world has the truth been more clearly seen or more faithfully taught that "a twofold world must go to a perfect cosmos—natural things and spiritual."
We have no purpose or desire to institute comparisons; but, if our voice could be heard, we would fain warn certain of our brethren in the North lest they "put asunder what God hath joined together," in their intense effort at the sensational and temporal.
A word seems to be required upon the attitude of the pulpit in the South upon the subject of slavery before the war. We do not know how to set this forth better than by quoting from the action of the South Carolina Conference as early as 1836. They say:
"We regard the question of the abolition of slavery as a civil one, belonging to the State, and not at all a religious one, or appropriate to the Church—though we do hold that abuses which may sometimes happen, such as excessive labor, extreme punishment, withholding necessary food and clothing, neglect in sickness or old age, and the like, are immoralities, to be prevented or punished by all proper means, both of Church discipline and civil law, each in its place."
In this regard, we submit that the Southern clergy stood just where the early Church and the Church throughout the world stood
through so many ages. The canons of council after council could be quoted to this end, if space and the occasion warranted.
We are amazed that there can be any difference of opinion upon this point. It was the position of St. Paul in sending Onesimus—a
Christian, but a white slave—back from Rome to his Christian
master at Colosse. Let us take the words of one of the greatest modern authorities in England, Bishop Wordsworth, speaking upon this point. He says: "The Divine Founder did not tempt the vast multitude of slaves, with which the Roman Empire then swarmed, to receive the gospel by promising them liberty. He canceled no existing rights, but Christianized them all. He broke no bonds of service, but he dignified and hallowed them. He addresses the slave by the voice of St. Paul: 'Art thou called, being a slave?' (Art thou baptized into Christ being a bondsman?) 'Care not for it' (let not thy slavery afflict thee). 'Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. But if thou mayest be free, use it rather'; that is, seize not liberty with force, but embrace it with joy. By the mouth of St. Paul, our Lord reproved those false teachers who excited the passions of slaves, and drew them to themselves, by promising them freedom. 'Let slaves count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed, and they that have Christian masters let them not despise them because they are brethren; but rather do them service because they are brethren beloved.' Thus he dignified the service of the slave."
And now are the Southern clergy to be accused and contemned because they did not violate the teachings of the apostles and the Primitive church, as well as the example of the Divine Master?
But it is all over, and we say again, we are thankful. All we ask is, that our brethren of the North may try to understand
us better. If Mr. Swing would only come and live among the Southern people, he would learn how impossible such things as he
thinks really were. The Southern people believe in—have the liveliest interest in—the General Government. They have no dream
or hope in any possible prosperity but through the Union wisely administered. The South, of all other sections, believes in
it with all her soul and strength—wrought in her, let it be granted, by a bitter experience. But we think it sound theology
that there can be no repentance when there has been no consciousness of sin. The South may have been wrong in the war, as
she certainly was unfortunate; but it was not a conscious wrong, and why, therefore, should she be called to repentance? No,
she may regret, but she can never have a feeling of remorse; nor, while she thankfully recognizes that the Almighty had in
store for her better things than she knew, she does not feel called upon to forsake the memory of her glorious dead, nor contemn
that sad story of disappointed
hopes. Integrity of action can have no fellowship with shame and confusion of face.
Glorious things are in store for our Southern land. The harvest is not yet; but if the seed so plentifully sown—the dearest blood of a people—be any augury of future yield, there shall be a mighty ingathering in the end. What generous heart can blame her, even now, if she look back into the past with proud satisfaction? Already Time begins to throw his mellow tints upon past terrors. The tramp of many feet, the hearty cheers, the rattle of musketry, the impetuous charge, the dull booming of far-off guns, the groans of dying men—all come back blended and shadowy, like the scenes in an old romance. Ah! who does not still behold those glorious legions, silent and shadowy, as they march forth in "war's magnificently stern array"? Has any ever charged that they fought not as men who believed their quarrel just, or that they threw down their arms ere the day was lost? But, having failed, they yielded in good faith, saving honor always. Yes, they failed, and yet failed never that brilliant heroism—that patient endurance—that pure devotion, which elevates and expands humanity. None may yet measure the reward of the heroic dead, nor balance the pain of a mother's heart, riven with anguish for her fair-faced boy who came not home again. Deep has been the suffering; but it is the inexorable law of progress. There is a mighty Hand which gathers the little and the great. Never do the actors at any stage of the world's progress know the results to be attained through their trials or triumphs. What great ends in government, in chivalry, in religion, shall be wrought out for our united land through the glory and the suffering of the late war, none may yet presume to say; but let us not doubt that in time to come the philosopher and historian shall point to those terrific scenes and cry, "Behold the fruit!" And then, when mercy and truth have met together, then shall the glorious story of the heroic deeds of the soldier in gray, as well as in blue, cause the hearts of the brave and good in all lands to thrill with generous admiration and applause.
F. A. SHOUP.