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Having in a previous letter shewn Mr Beecher's discrepancy between his published sentiments in America, and his explanation given at the Tabernacle meeting, London, we shall now call attention to what he calls “ distorted reports of remarks of mine years ago, taken out of their connective and qualifying circumstances.” The occasion of his remarks was the following resolution, submitted at the annual meeting of his church in January 1860.
“Resolved, that this church contribute no more money to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions."
The above resolution was not only submitted but sought to be maintained by a small band of abolitionists in Mr Beecher's church, from the following considerations
1. From the beginning they have allowed slaveholders in their Cherokee and Choctaw churches. 2. They expressly admit that they “have given no instructions to the missionaries in relation to slavery." 3. By a unanimous vote, they rejected a resolution offered by one of their members, “that slaveholding is a practice which is not to be allowed in the Christian Church.” 4. After having allowed slavery in the Choctaw mission from its very commencement, they discontinued the mission in 1859, to get rid of "embarrassments” and “perplexities.” 5. They continue to support the equally slaveholding Cherokee mission, without rebuke to its slaveholding church members, or to its pro-slavery missionaries.
Mr. Beecher, however, felt a stronger love to the American Board of Missions than to freedom, whilst in the face of the above great historical facts, he defended the American Board in an address of two hours' duration, when he maintained that "it was the proper depositary for the contributions of Plymouth Church," that to "an unparalleled degree it had kept pace with public sentiment on the subject of slavery,” and “was clean, clear, and pure, in its record,” referring to doctrine, discipline, and action.
In this address he gave utterance to the strange propositions referred to in a previous letter, and which he now calls " distorted, and taken from their connective and qualifying circumstances.” There is, however, the same unvarying testimony in the columns of the press, both secular and religious, against Beecher. The anti-slavery “Standard” remarked, “The speech has not been reported in full, but we give what we suppose to be a fair sketch, partly from The Tribune,' and partly from 'The Express.
MR. BEECHER'S SPEECH.
He intended to maintain to-night, first, that the American Board was the proper depositary of the contributions of this church of those funds by which it is desired to preach the gospel in foreign lands; secondly, that, while he was entirely and perfectly willing that the American Missionary Association should have a collection, he could not do it at the expense of the American Board ; thirdly, that the American Board had to an unparalleled degree keptp ace with public sentiment on the subject of slavery, and now held anti-slavery doctrines, and had faithfully and consistently applied these doctrines to missionary work, and that it was clean, clear and pure on this subject. This society was to be preferred because it had a position in nearly every quarter of the globe. The American Missionary Association gave you no chance to preach the gospel in Western or Northern Asia or China, where they have not a missionary, nor a native helper. True, the Missionary Association might say, “Give us the money and we will establish missionaries in all these places.” This would be like a small firm saying to buyers, Don't go to the large houses, to Claflin and Mellen, or Bowen and M‘Namee, or Stewart's ; come to us, and if we haven't got the stock you want, when we are rich enough, we'll keep on hand all that you want. He preferred the American Board, also, because it was old, and was hallowed by association. It was objected to the American Board that it was a close corporation. He compared its action with that of the American Tract Society, an open corporation, much to the disadvantage of the latter. On the question of slavery, he proceeded to defend the Board. These Indian Missions went back to the time when there was no agitation against slavery. And the churches then established were in
. dependent; their independence, like that of all other churches under the American Board being carefully guarded.
Mr. Beecher read from the report of 1854 of the American Board taking the ground that it was not necessary to exclude the slave-holders from communion. They denounced slavery, but would consider the circumstances of those who, without their own action, had been made slaveholders. One of the missionaries, viewing slavery in all its bearings, denounced its baleful effects upon both masters and slaves. This was the feeling in 1845, and they had not yet learned the doctrine of discrimination between the selfish and unselfish slaveholder. He held that a man might hold a slave and not do wrong.
This must be the case until time is annihilated. There might be formalities, and whether they took seconds, days, or weeks, time must be consumed. Such a thing as immediate emancipation was impossible.
He did not believe that slaveholding was necessarily sinful. There was no such thing as a thing being bad per se, or good per se. That was a scholastic subtlety. Nothing was bad per se, and nothing was good per se, A thing that was bad in its results was bad, and a thing good in its results wasgood. The question with regard to slavery was, whether it was baneful in its influence or not. The American Board has taken this ground: That selfish slaveholding was reprehensible; but if a man were put in circumstances where he could not help it, he was permitted to do so. If a man could not emancipate his slave, he fellowshipped him, and would sit down to table with him, and so would Christ. He would go through fire and water to stand by that man. The Board had done all that they could to enforce these doctrines. But it was not reasonable to ask that the churches among the Choctaws should become anti-slavery before Dr Spring's or the Mercer Street Church became so, or half the churches in Brooklyn. Mr. Beecher reviewed the course of the American Board in regard to slavery among the Choctaw churches. He thought the books of Corinthians the best adaptation of Christian principle to the actual state of things. And next to them he placed Mr. Treat's report on the American Board and Slavery in the Cherokee and Choctaw Churches. Mr. Beecher presented the history of the Board's action in regard to slavery, and read at length from Mr. Wood's report, accepted by the missionary churches as their guide in matters pertaining to slavery. If by their vote they withdrew their sympathy from the American Board, they might just as well withdraw it from their pastor, and vote that they would not hear him preach any longer, for he held just such views. Because the missionaries said that they could not bring the Choctaw churches up to this agreement, the American Board had cut off these churches. When we looked at the course of the churches contributing to the American Board, in regard to slavery, we were surprised that the American Board had taken such ground as it had. If there was one form of slavery which he utterly abhorred, it was bigotry for liberty. In the advanced anti-slavery movements of this country, there was a bigotry which equalled any papal intolerance (applause and hisses)