« AnteriorContinuar »
the people, “the common people.” It takes no cognizance of rank, station, authority, but regards man as man simply. Hence the energy and success with which it is conducted, and the anxiety and alarm wbich it gives to principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places.
Since the last annual meeting of this Society, a war of extermination has been waged against it, not less unnatural than extraordinary ; but, happily, with very little success.
The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society is the parent of all the other kindred societies in the land. It has ever been hated, therefore, with peculiar intensity, by the enemies of the colored race. From the first hour of its existence to the present time, it has pursued the same fearless, uncompromising, straight-forward course, deterred by no danger, disheartened by no opposition, wearied by no effort. Various have been the attempts to cripple its influence, to limit its action, to destroy its life. The evil spirit of sectarianism has, from time to tiine, summoned all its strength to crush the Society, or to transfer its management to other hands. In several instances, direct efforts have been made to supplant it by the formation of a rival Society. Foremost in this crusade have been the colonization, pro-slavery clergy of the Commonwealth. Convicted of sin for refusing to plead the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction in our land — rebuked before all the people, without fear or favor, as though they were indeed like other men—stripped of their pharisaical guise, and exhibited in all their time-serving abjectness - conscious that the colonization imposture which they had palmed upon the people stood fully revealed - perceiving that a gradual yet mighty change was taking place in public sentiment favorable to the anti-slavery movement, and knowing that they must at least seem to be the opponents of slavery, without materially changing their position, or they would ere long be swept away by a whirlwind of popular indignation — they rallied together and organized a society with the sounding title of " The American Union for the Relief and Improvement of the Colored Race." Like the Union of the States, it was composed of the most incongruous materials, based upon the shifting-sand of policy, and cemented with selfishness. It was a sad specimen
of clerical hollow-heartedness and duplicity: yet so much did it appear like the Angel of Emancipation, some abolitionists were deceived by it for a time among them, one of the most conspicuous in the anti-slavery ranks. It had a hot spirit, but a stony heart. Its real object was to crush abolitionism universally, and especially the Massachusets Anti-Slavery Society, that old irreverent pioneer of all manner of heresy and fanaticism in Church and State! The hand of the LORD was against it, and it dissolved away “like the baseless fabric of a vision.” It was of the earth, earthy — without life or vision — and now lies buried in the tomb of ignominy. The mourners do not go about the streets : there is none so poor as to do it reverence.
The next attempt made to subvert this Society, and give the control of our anti-sectarian enterprise into the hands of a sect, was by five orthodox clergymen, all claiming to be “abolitionists in the strictest sense" - two of whom had lectured extensively on the subject of slavery, and one of whom was the na member of this Board. That they were not actuated by a spirit of brotherly kindness was at once apparent from the fact, that they preferred the most flagrant charges against those with whom they were associated, through the medium of the press, instead of first seeking a private interview, and endeavoring to convict them of wrong-doing. That they were not prompted by any regard for the integrity and success of our cause was evident, because tbey volunteered to shield from merited censure ‘certain pro-slavery clergymen, and to endorse almost every false accusation and malicious innuendo against "leading abolitionists," which had been coined by the implacable enemies of immediate einancipation. That they were governed by a manpleasing, and not a God-fearing spirit, - by a desire to conciliate a body of clergymen, who had distinguished themselves for their violent hostility to abolitionism, - by selfish and sectarian purposes, - was inanifest from the language and spirit of their memorable : Appeal” and “Protest," and from their subsequent conduct. The individual who was foremost in this desection was the Rev. Charles Fitch, then a preacher at the Marlboro' Chapel, in Boston, and now located in Newark, N. J. He was, for a time, “a burning and a shining light”
among abolitionists, and distinguished himself for the ardor of his zeal, the boldness of his invective, and the severity of his denunciation. But, alas ! in an evil hour, he forgot the claims of pleading humanity, and took sides with a corrupt priesthood in traducing the character and conduct of those who stood prominently forth as the advocates of righteous emancipation. The light that was in him became darkness -- and how great was that darkness! It was ala mentable, a surprising change. What are his present views and feelings respecting his participancy in the “Clerical Appeal,” and how he now regards a movement which was started ostensibly to promote the glory of God, but which inflicted very serious injury upon the cause of the perishing slave, may be learnt from the following letter addresssed to the Corresponding Secretary of this Society :-
NEWARK, Jan. 9, 1840. MR. W. L. GARRISON:
DEAR SIR Herewith I attempt the discharge of a duty, to which I doubt not that I am led by the dictates of an enlightened conscience, and by the influences of the Spirit of God. I have been led, of late, to look over my past life, and to inquire what I would think of past feelings and actions, were I to behold Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven, coming to judge the world, and to establish his reign of holiness, and righteousness, and blessedness, over the pure in heart. From such an examination of my past life, I find very much, even in what I have regarded as my best actions, deeply to deplore; but especially do I find occasion for shame, and self-loathing, and deep humiliation before God and man, when I see in what multiplied instances the ruling motive of my conduct has been a desire to please men, for the sake of their good opinion. In seeking the promotion of good objects, I have often acted with this in view; but I feel bound in duty to say to you, sir, that to gain the good will of man was the only object I had in view, in every thing which I did relative to certain writings called 'Clerical Appeal.' I cannot say that I was conscious at the time, certainly not as fully as I am now, that this was the motive by which I was actuated; but as I now look back upon it, in the light in which it has of late been spread before my own mind, as I doubt not by the spirit of God, I can clearly see that, in all that matter, I had no true regard for the glory of God, or the good of
I can see nothing better in it, than a selfish and most wicked de. sire to gain thereby the good opinion of such men as I supposed would be pleased by such movements; while I can clearly see, that I did not consult the will of God, or the good of my fellow-men, in the least, and did indulge towards yourself and others, and toward principles which I now see to be according to truth, feelings which both my conscience and my heart now condemn; which I know a holy God never can approve; and which I rejoice to think he never will approve.
I send you this communication, because my conscience and my heart lead me to do it; because I think the truth and the spirit of God approve it, and influence me to do it; and not because I expect or wish thereby
to secure the applause of man, or even to regain any good will of man which I may have lost, by actions which I now wholly disapprove. I trust I have learned higher principles of actions ; at least, I know I must learn them, or be in fearful circumstances in that day when "every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit must be hewn down and cast into the fire.”
The acknowledgement which I now make, I expect to approve when I appear before God with my final account; and this is reason enough to induce me to make it. I believe it is according to the will of God, and that will I fully approve.
You are at liberty, sir, to do with it what you please. If God can be honored, and good done thereby, I would like that the confession I make be as public as the sin I committed. I believe that I should do what I now have done, if I knew I should be despised for it by the whole world. There is one by me who searches my heart, and there is a judgment seat before me, where I must stand. There is, also, a despised, cast out and crucified Saviour, who was none other than God manifest in the flesh," whom I wish to please and honor. If you can make any use of this communication, that you think will be an honor to Him, or a service to the cause of truth, dispose of it at your pleasure. The Lord strengthen you to do His will.
It is not with any spirit of personal exultation that this magnanimous, this noble, this christian confession is incorporated into this Report, but solely to help repair the mischief which this erring but repentant brother has done in time past, and to vindicate the cause of those early and tried friends of the slave, who were falsely accused in the "Clerical Appeal.” To publish it is an act of simple justice to all parties. Full liberty is given by the author to make any use of it that may be thought “ an honor to God, or a service to the cause of truth ;” and this furnishes strong proof of his sincerity. As there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance ; so there will be more gladness diffused through the anti-slavery ranks by the return of our wandering brother, than by a large accession of
The manner in which Mr. Fitch has humbled himself, must greatly exalt him in the eyes of all good men, and restore him to full communion with all genuine abolitionists. Let him receive the right hand of fellowship, as of old. Let the remembrance of his abolition misconduct be obliterated, and no evil thought be treasured up against him.
Let him be honored more than he has been censured. Let thanks be given to God, that sight has been restored to the blind, and the
lost found. There is no attempt at sinful palliation : he condemns himself in strong terms, — such as befit genuine repentance,- and finds occasion“ for shame, and self-loathing, and deep humiliation before God and man;' and now perceives in the “ Clerical Appeal” movement, "nothing better than a selfish and wicked desire to gain thereby the good opinion of such men as he supposed would be pleased by that movement." Having abased himself, he shall be exalted. May he continue faithful unto the end, that he may at last receive a crown of life!
What a blaze of light is shed by this letter upon the conduct of the other signers of the “ Clerical Appeal”!—True, it does not necessarily follow, that they were actuated by the same improper motives as those which influenced Mr. Fitch: but it does not come within the scope of christian charity to believe that they were a whit more honest. The "Appeal” gives prima facie evidence, that its authors had ceased to “remember those in bonds as bound with them”; that their spirit was sectarian, and not Christ-like ; that they thought more about the reputation of pro-slavery clergymen, than about the unutterable wrongs of the perishing bondman; that they were disposed to lower the standard of eternal truth, to accommodate those who refused to be measured by it; that they were not sincere in their pretences; and that they indulged feelings toward individual abolitionists, " which a holy God never can approve." If their own consciences condemn them not, then they may feel justified in the schismatical course they pursued. But let them imitate the example of the repentant Fitch, and look over that portion of their past life, and make solemn enquiries what they would think of past feelings and actions, in reference particularly to the anti-slavery cause, if they " were to behold Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven, coming to judge the world, and to establish his reign of holiness, and righteousness, and blessedness, over the pure in heart." Let them not deceive themselves, through that fear of man which brings a snare. Let them not be afraid to “ witness a good confession." It is in their power, by a frank acknowledgement of their error, to do immense service to the anti-slavery cause, to rescue their