A Colored Canadian to Frederick Douglass, April 22, 1854
TORONTO, April 22nd, 1854.
MR. EDITOR:—Among the doings, last month, of the Baltimore Annual Conference, consisting of some three hundred ministers, I read, in the Baltimore Weekly Clipper of March 18th, the following: "Baltimore, March 15th, 1854. The conference met pursuant to adjournment, and was opened with prayer by Rev. Wm. Hamilton." And after "prayer," they "unanimously Resolved, That this Conference disclaims having any fellowship with abolitionism. On the contrary, while it is determined to maintain its well-known and long-established position by keeping the travelling preachers composing its own body free from slavery; it is also determined not to hold connexion with any ecclesiastical body that shall make non-slave-holding a condition of membership in the church; but to stand by and maintain the discipline as it is[.]" That is, they abjure the principles upon which their own government is founded. They no longer "hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Nay, more, in this cowardly disclaimer, they declare that they have no fellowship with the doctrines and precepts of christianity, as taught by our Lord and his apostles, and which they affirm they have been divinely called to enunciate, namely, "if ye have respect to persons ye commit sin. Honor all men. Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them." All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is abolitionism, and the Conference knew it when they uttered their traitorous disclaimer; but they had not the manliness, nor the honesty to define the thing which they so indignantly repudiated. They calculate largely upon the gullibility, or moral obtuseness of the people, if they think they can pursue much longer, with impunity, a course so dishonoring to the cause of God; or without at least, provoking a most searching analysis as to the true import of the term abolitionism. But if abolitionism is an evil so greatly to be deprecated, why have these ministers resolved upon "keeping their own body free from slavery?" Do they not thus unwittingly pay a compliment to abolitionism? And if slaveholding is a sin, how dare they license the members of the church and the local preacher to traffic in the bodies and souls of their unoffending fellow-creatures for whom Christ died. Have they so little of the fear of God before their eyes, or have they gone so far into infidelity, at the bidding of the slave power, as to be unaware of the fearful responsibility which they have thus assumed? This Conference also say they are determined not to hold connexion with any ecclesiastical body that shall make non-slaveholding a condition of membership in the church. Sir, what should we think,—after stretching charity to its utmost tension,—of a body of Methodist ministers, the regular successors of those whose avowed mission to America was to reform the continent and spread scripture holiness over these lands, shamelessly declaring, in the nineteenth century, that they are determined to hold no fellowship with any church which, from christian principle, keeps its members free from the blood of the slave. Is this a practical illustration of the holiness of heart which
these preachers are remarkable for expounding and enforcing? How they could, with
the broad eye of christendom flashing upon them, thus identify themselves with the "despisers of those that are good," while they are singing, "the temple of the Lord are we," is inexplicable on any other principle than that given in the langauge of the evangelist: "they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." In this infamous resolution the Conference have taken a bold stand for slavery, and have given a fair warning to the Northern Conferences of the condition on which church fellowship will be continued wit[h] them. Will they tacitly, meanly, and criminally acquiesce in the condition announced, or be equally decided to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them." We shall see. The adoption of the resolution may also be regarded as a sign of affiliation with thoroughly pro slavery Conferences, such as the Georgia Conference, which unblushingly declared, by a public vote, some time ago, "that slavery, as it exists in the United States, is not a moral evil, but it is a civil and domestic institution, and one which, as Ministers of Christ, we have nothing to do, further than to ameliorate the condition of the slave, by endeavoring to impart to him and his master, the benign influences of the religion of Christ and aiding both on their way to heaven." But what have the ministers of the Baltimore Annual Conference done with the bible? They have practically nullified its inculcations, and adopted a more congenial and flexible substitute,—the work of their own hands,—as their standard of morality in regard to what their illustrious founder styled "the sum of all villanies." They say, with singular frankness, that they intend "to stand by and maintain the discipline as it is." By which, I understand, they deliberately intend to make void the law of God through the tradition of their Elders.
Sir, let us take another extract from the doings of this fallen Conference, in reference to the buying and selling of human beings, many of whom are the members of their own church. "Bishop Ames handed the following paper to the Conference for its action: At the session of the Troy Annual Conference of the M.E. Church, held at Schenectady, N. Y., commencing May 11th, A. D. 1853, the following resolution was adopted, to wit: Resolved, That the General Superintendent be requested to present to the several Annual Conferences for their approval preparatory to the action of the ensuing General Conference, the following rule on slavery, viz: The buying or selling of human beings except with a view to their emancipation and the voluntary or mercenary holding of them in bondage. After the reading of the paper it was moved that the Conference do not concur, which motion was unanimously carried by a rising vote. The number of ministers voting was 202." I understand, Sir, from the reading of this resolution and the action of the Conference upon it, that 202 Methodist ministers were so eager to propitiate the slave power;—that so far forgot the dignity of their high vocation;—that they were so reckless of the consequences of their vote to the cause of God and to the interests of suffering humanity, that they unanimously and obsequiously spring to their feet and virtually declared, by their vote, that the buying and selling of their fellow-
creatures, and the voluntary holding of them in bondage for mercenary purposes, is not a sin against God. Will these men have, hereafter, the effrontery to preach against infidelity? "Thou which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?" Mr. Editor, I speak advisedly when I say that the colored population of the United States have much more to hope from the avowed infidels of the land than they have from the tender mercies of these recreant divines.
But to show the glaring inconsistency of these men I will copy two of their resolutions against the rum traffic, a subject much more popular. "Resolved, That the rum traffic is an abomination which, in this age of light, is without the shadow of an excuse—Resolved, That the present is no time for the pulpit to be silent in regard to this traffic, or to the iniquitous legislation by which it is vitalized. Sin in high places ought to be exposed, and by the Lord's help we will do it; imploring those to whom we minister as they fear God and regard man to unite and secure such action as shall rid our statute of the odious provisions by which this abominable traffic is perpetuated; rid our State revenues of the price of blood and secure the most prompt and decided prohibitory enactments for the safeguard of society." It will be obvious to every right-thinking man that all which is here said and determined upon, should have been said and resolved upon in regard to the traffic in the flesh and blood of their fellow-creatures, especially in their very neighborhood—nay, in the slave prisons of the "monumental city," in which the Conference held its sessions. But no; a system that essentially nullifies every divine precept growing out of the most sacred relations of life; that reduces a being, created in the image of God, to a level with the brute; that legalizes the selling to the highest bidder husbands and wives, parents and children, and thus remorsely, and in utter violation of the law of God, sunders the dearest ties of humanity, is, to the moral preceptions of these Rev. gentlemen, a mere "peccadillo," "a civil and domestic institution," with which the church has little or nothing to do. So much, to say the least, for their inconsistency. A word in regard to their hypocrisy. "The Rev. H. W. Monroe moved that the first Friday in June and October, be set apart for fasting and prayer for the prosperity of the church.—
Adopted." "For the prosperity of the Church!" What infatuation! What solemn mockery! What disbelief of the word of God! "If I regard iniquity in my heart," says David, "the Lord will not hear me."—"The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them, even to the least of them. And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way," and He sent them prosperity. If this Conference would be equally successful, they must imitate their example, otherwise, their fasting will be but "a form of godliness without the power," and their prayers but "a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." The great Head of the church has most clearly indicated to this Conference, and every other ecclesiastical body, similarly circumstanced with reference to "the peculiar institution," the heaven-appointed means to obtain the desirable "prosperity:" "Is not this fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke, &c Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily, &c." —Isa. lviii. Sir, I most firmly believe that if any minister of this Conference dare read, on the days set apart for fasting and prayer, the 58th ch. of Isaiah, and insist upon a compliance with the conditions required by the Almighty, he would not only be stigmatized as a disturber of the public pease, a fanatic, and madman; but if he escaped the hand of violence, on the part of the people, he would, to a certainty, be ecclesiastically lynched by his ministerial brethren.
We tell these men that if they think they deliberately ignore, in advance, the conditions upon which the God of the oppressed has assured them their success is suspended, and obtain the favor and blessing of Heaven, then they are judiciously blinded, having wilfully closed their ears to "the word of the Lord," particularly, as recorded in the first chapter of Isaiah: "When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you—yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash ye, make you clean: put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless; plead for the widow."
And now, I have a word to say in reference to the politics of this Conference; but having already trespassed too far upon your columns, what I have to say in this regard may be the subject of a future communication.
A COLORED CANADIAN.