I. The Synod of Kentucky and Slavery.
It is stated on page 119 that “the Synod
of Kentucky adopted
a report on Slavery which condemned slaveholding broadly and thoroughly,” etc. That statement is not literally accurate.
met at Danville
, in the Autumn of 1835, and appointed a Committee of ten — five ministers and five elders — who were instructed to “digest and prepare a plan for the moral and religious instruction of our slaves, and for their future emancipation,” etc. The Committee did its duty faithfully, and the report in due time appeared — its character being such as is indicated in the text.
The result was duly submitted to the Synod
at its next meeting, at Bardstown
, in 1836; but no action was taken thereon, beyond noting on the Synod
's records the reception of the report, which had meantime been printed, and had excited some feeling among the slaveholders.
New school Presbyterians condemn the institution.
The statement on page 120, respecting the attitude of the New School Presbyterian Church toward Slavery, is held by members of that Church to require qualification, in view of its more recent action on the subject.
The material facts are as follows:
At the session of the General Assembly at Cleveland, Ohio
, for 1857, a report on Slavery of the Committee
on Bills and Overtures, after having been debated with great animation for the better part of a week, was finally adopted (June 3d), by the decisive majority of 169 yeas to 26 nays.
This report is largely devoted to a recital of the former testimonies of the Presbyterian Church on the general subject, and is leveled at the new Southern doctrine that Slavery is essentially beneficent and just — a doctrine notoriously at variance with that originally maintained by this Church.
The Report says:
We are especially pained by the fact that the Presbytery of Lexington, South, have given official notice to us that a number of ministers and ruling elders, as well as many church-members, in their connection, hold slaves “from principle” and “of choice,” “believing it to be, according to the Bible, right,” and have, without any qualifying explanation, assumed the responsibility of sustaining such ministers, elders, and church-members, in their position.
We deem it our duty, in the exercise of our constitutional authority, “to bear testimony against error in doctrine, or immorality in practice, in any church, Presbytery, or Synod,” to disapprove and earnestly condemn the position which has been thus assumed by the Presbytery of Lexington, South, as one which is opposed to the established convictions of the Presbyterian Church, and must operate to mar its peace and seriously hinder its prosperity, as well as bring reproach on our holy religion; and we do hereby call on the Presbytery to review and rectify their position.
Such doctrine and practice cannot be permanently tolerated in the Presbyterian Church.
May they speedily melt away under the illuminating and mellowing influence of the Gospel and grace of God our Saviour!
We do not, indeed, pronounce a sentence of indiscriminate condemnation upon all our brethren who are, unfortunately, connected with the system of Slavery.
We tenderly sympathize with all those who deplore the evil, and are honestly doing all in their power for the present well-being of their slaves, and for their complete emancipation.
We would aid, and not embarrass, such brethren.
And yet, in the language of the General Assembly of 1818, we would “earnestly warn them against unduly extending the plea of necessity; against making it a cover for the love and practice of Slavery, or a pretense for not using efforts that are lawful and practicable to extinguish this evil.”
Upon the announcement of this vote, Rev. James G. Hamner
, of the Synod of Virginia
, presented the protest of twenty-two Southern members of the Assembly against this doctrine of the Report, saying:
We protest — Because, while past General Assemblies have asserted that the system of Slavery is wrong, they have heretofore affirmed that the slaveholder was so controlled by State laws, obligations of guardianship, and humanity, that he was, as thus situated, without censure or odium as the master.
This averment in the testimony of past Assemblies has so far satisfied the South, as to make it unnecessary to do more than protest against the mere anti-Slavery part of such testimony.
We protest, then, now, That the present act of the Assembly is such an assertion, without authority from the word of God, or the organic law of the Presbyterian body.
We protest that such action is, under present conditions, the virtual exscinding of the South, whatever be the motives of those who vote the deed.
We protest, that such indirect excision is unrighteous, oppressive, uncalled for — the exercise of usurped power — destructive of the unity of the Church — hurtful to the North and the South--and adding to the peril of the Union of these United States.
From the date of this action — which seems to have been but a more explicit reaffirmance of the older testimonies of the Church
against Slavery, and to have stopped far short of declaring slaveholding inconsistent with the Christian
character — the New School Presbyterian Church had hardly a foothold in the Slave States