Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
What Do You Fear?
Erv Streng is a retired Lutheran pastor who was part of a group which, for several years, I met weekly for study and prayer. One day, Erv told our little group: “The problem with the Church is that we’re afraid of the Holy Spirit.”I have said it so many times on this blog that I think everyone is tired of reading it. Real faith in Jesus Christ changes us - precisely so we can be indewlled by the Holy Spirit. It makes us different, and I think that is what we are really afraid of.
I’m not talking about things like speaking in strange tongues or touching people to bring instantaneous healing, both of which God gifts some Christians to do. But I am saying that the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity Who never calls attention to Himself, may sometimes cause us to do things to call attention to Jesus Christ which we’d rather not do.
Have you ever thought about what it is you really do fear in life? Not the trivial stuff like snakes and heights, but genuinely fear. The things you don't even want to talk about because you do not want to contemplate it.
If you ever cold bring yourself to make a list of those things they would all involve change and the unknown. My deepest fear would be losing my wife. Despite having lived alone for 20 years before we met, I would not know what to do with myself should she be gone for whatever reason. I cannot picture a life without her. Big change, and unknown circumstances thereafter.
No wonder it is so hard to get people to really come to Jesus. BIG change, and an indistinct outcome. And so, Mark is right, we do not talk about the Holy Spirit, because as the agent of such change. We figure if we ignore Him, maybe we can hold to salvation without change.
But here is the thing. The outcome is not nearly as indistinct as we would make it out to be. We know God, at least as best as we can, and we know that He is good. And because He and the Holy Spirit are one and the same, we know that whatever the Holy Spirit asks of us is good.
Big changes, perhaps - but they are for the good. I did not fear marrying my wife, though it was a huge change - I know that it was for the better. So are the changes the Holy Spirit brings about in us. Nothing to fear.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
It is like walking on ice. When you shall see an attentive congregation hanging upon your words: when you shall hear the well-meant, but often injudicious commendations, of those to whom the Lord shall make you useful: when you shall find, upon an intimation of your preaching in a strange place, people thronging from all parts to hear you, how will your heart feel? It is easy for me to advise you to be humble, and for you to acknowledge the propriety of the advice; but while human nature remains in its present state, there will be almost the same connexion between popularity and pride, as between fire and gunpowder: they cannot meet without an explosion, at least not unless the gunpowder is kept very damp. So, unless the Lord is constantly moistening our hearts (If I may so speak) by the influence of his Spirit, popularity will soon set us in a blaze.And then:
Beware, my friend, of mistaking the ready exercise of gifts for the exercise of grace.Those are very wise words indeed. And they do not apply just to preachers - what about those gifted with music? Churches make "stars" of them so fast nowadays.
And then there are the people that have told me all about their gifts of tongues and how it made their life so much better than any other Christian's.
It seems like our giftedness, our success is always the source of our greatest potential pride and downfall. It is so easy to forget the source of our success and grace. I personally think success, in any field, may be the hardest thing to manage for a Christian. The root of our sin is our desire to "replace" God in our lives. It is just so easy to take credit for what He has given us.
Sometimes I wonder if it is not worthwhile to aim low - that way when we do achieve success, we know it is not of our own doing. But aiming low so often leads to doing nothing and that is not good either.
I think gratitude is the key. Are you thankful for what you have? Are you even aware that virtually everything we have in America is an extravagance? I heard someone say on the radio the other day that ours in the only society in history where obesity was a symptom of poverty. Stop and consider that for a moment - we are so successful that our poor still have too much to eat. Have you ever thought about thanking God for that fact.
Thankfulness reminds us that we are not the source of what we have.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Nature of Leading
Self-Promotion Isn’t LeadershipFred Barnes observes:
Let’s stipulate that President Obama is a wonderful speaker, vigorous in promoting his policies and even eloquent at times. But there’s a problem: He’s not persuasive. Obama is effective at marketing himself. His 64 percent job approval (Gallup poll) is a reflection of this. But in building public support for his policies, Obama has been largely unsuccessful.
As Barnes and others have noted, there is a significant gap between Obama’s personal popularity and the popularity of his policies. On Guantanamo, spending, bailouts and even his Supreme Court nominee the public doesn’t “take Obama’s word for it.” They are making independent judgments and don’t like a significant portion of the agenda. Or they like it a lot less than they like him ( and largely along party lines).
I love the title, I think it so much reflects what is happening in so any churches right now - promotion versus leadership. It raises all sorts of interesting question I think. We have gotten very good at promoting church, building momentum, filling pews, but are we producing anything? I think most people would answer "Yeah," but I wonder if we are producing it with a long term view. Are we leading people anywhere or are we just "capturing" them in the moment?
Further, what are the ramification of how the church is doing things now? Later in the piece, Rubin says:
In short, if you are selling what voters aren’t predisposed to accept, and you don’t give them well-argued reasons to change their minds, they likely will remain wary of your policies.Which is an excellent point, I am wondering if the church in all its efforts to promote church, and maybe the gospel is not creating less fertile soil for the gospel, ala Elmer Gantry. We may be doing it with the best of motives, but we are still doing it.
Genuine leadership is a difficult thing. I want to list just a few things to consider:
Where are we leading people? Most people would say we are leading people to Christ, but are we? I think in most cases we are leading them to church an hoping they find Christ there. That may not be an all bad strategy, if the church is concentrating on making Christ evident there, but most are just concentrating on bringing in more people.
So, if the key is changed lives, the last question should be:
How do we lead people to change their lives? Well, one thing is for sure, we need to have been there first. We need to present hard evidence that this stuff works. The church needs to be something unique and substantively different in the world.
I am struck by how the Reformation was sparked becasue the church was little distinguishable from another kingdom in Europe. People longed for Christ, not just another potentate. People are longing now, right now, for Jesus, not just another self-promoting institution.
How come we do not want to give Him to them?
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Are We "Called" To A Standard Of Living?
Do we expect our professional clergy to have a lower standard of living than the average parishioner? I don't think so. This concept strikes me as very old (read: 1950s)church.It is difficult to know how to put this. I have no problem with anyone, pastors included, making a good living. Lord knows that by His grace I am currently making a very good one. What I have a problem with is the expectation of one, and I have a serious problem when clergy expects it.
My hunch is that congregations want to be led by someone who lives like they live. But if you happen to be the pastor of a church in Potomac, Maryland or McLean, Virginia, that's usually not possible, unless there's a rectory or manse and even then, a person needs a small fortune to keep up in terms of furnishings and wardrobe. And people will make comments if the pastor drives a nicer car than anyone else.
I want to be lead by someone that is totally, completely, and utterly dependent on Jesus Christ. I want someone to lead me where I think I am supposed to go, and I want them to be at least a few steps ahead of me. That utter dependence means finances as much as it means anything else.
Are we not called to gratitude for the blessings that God has given us? (I Thess. 5:18) Has God not promised to provide sufficiently for us? (Matt. 6:25-34) This is what I expect from my professional clergy, and from myself - reliance on these promises.
Thus if I have plenty, I am grateful, if I have but enough, and somehow I have always had enough, I am also grateful, and I know that what I have, I have because of Him who gave it to me. Is it graceful or full of gratitude to argue that leadership somehow demands a standard of living? It strikes me more as petulant than anything else. (Understandable petulance in the light of the anecdote described in the underlying post, but we are also called to control such outbursts.)
I believe that most congregations will provide for their pastors in a fashion similar to how they live, but such is NOT what a pastor is called to. They are called to minister in His name. In fact that is what we are all called to.
I currently enjoy a standard of living far better than most of the nation, and certainly the world. Such has not always been so, nor do I expect such will always be. God blesses us profusely for seasons, and other times He has provided only enough. In the lean times, I have sought to be grateful for what I did have, and in the times of abundance, I seek always, though confess to failure, to remember the source of that abundance and to handle what I have as His resource, not mine.
I can say that at this juncture in my life, God has been with me through all of it. And that has made it all good.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I Hate This
After all, surveys show that church-affiliated populations are older than the national population as a whole -- and in many Protestant congregations, overwhelmingly so. Many churches do have plenty of classes and groups for older members.This is an interesting viewpoint - there are limits to the whole "Church as service organization" thing, yes, the church provides a lot of things, but that is not it's raison d'etre. We respect the elderly because there is wisdom there - maturity, things we as Christians should really need. But this pullquote:
Yet many churches have paid so much attention to attracting the young that they may be overlooking the needs of those in their midst, United Methodist blogger Missy Buchanan said.
Twenty-three percent of such "mainline" Protestants are 65 or older, as are 19 percent of evangelical Protestants such as Baptists.
Catholics and members of historically black churches are right at the national average, according to Pew's categories.
While many statistics about high numbers of elderly members can be seen as an ominous sign for a denomination's future, the numbers also represent a big constituency.
But reaching young people doesn't have to conflict with reaching the elderly, Buchanan writes.from the person that is advocating for the elderly is so narcissistic and so patronizing that I had to grunt out loud when I read it the first time.
She cites the example of her grown daughter, who, attending a funeral, was drawn to a conversation with several elderly men who she realized reminded her of a beloved grandfather.
I have been sitting here pondering a while why this upsets me so. Simply put, it is dehumanizing. Younger people are reduced to consumers and the elderly are reduced to a burden, The church reduces people to constituencies. Somehow it all just misses the point. People are valuable because they are valuable, not because of what they can bring to the church or what they remind me of - it's not about me or the church - It's about them!
If there is a challenge for the church today it is to learn to value the individual for themselves. If there is a challenge for us as Christians today, it is to learn true sacrifice - to truly count the other as more important.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Sermons and Lessons
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pil¬low: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. – Matt 4:35-39
At the close of a laborious day, our Savior entered a ship, upon the lake of Gennesaret, to cross to the other side. Wearied by his great tasks of mercy, which had filled the day, he fell asleep. Meantime, a sudden and violent wind, to which that lake is even yet subject, swept down from the hills, and well-nigh overwhelmed them. They were not ignorant of navigation, nor unacquainted with that squally sea. Like good men and true, doubtless, they laid about them. They took in sail, and put out oars, and, heading to the wind, valiantly bore up against the gale, and thought nothing of asking help till they had exerted every legitimate power of their own. But the waves overleaped their slender bulwarks, and filled the little vessel past all bailing.
Then, when they had done all that men could do, but not till then, they aroused the sleeping Christ and implored his succor. Not for coming to him, did he rebuke them; but for coming with such terror of despair, saying, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? He outbreathed upon the winds, and their strength quite forsook them. He looked upon the surly waves, and they hasted back to their caverns. There is no tumult in the heavens, on the earth, nor upon the sea, that Christ’s word cannot control. When it pleases God to speak, tempestuous clouds are peaceful as flocks of doves, and angry seas change all their roar to rippling music.
This nation is rolling helplessly in a great tempest. The Chief Magistrate in despair calls us to go to the sleeping Savior, and to beseech his Divine interference. It may be true that the crew have brought the ship into danger by cowardice or treachery; it may be true that a firm hand on the wheel would even yet hold her head to the wind, and ride out the squall. But what of that?
Humiliation and prayer are never out of order. This nation has great sins unrepented of; and whatever may be our own judgment of the wisdom of public men in regard to secular affairs, we cannot deny that in this respect they have hit rarely well. Instead of finding fault with the almost only wise act of many days, let us rather admire with gratitude this unexpected piety of men in high places.
This government is in danger of subversion; and surely, while the venerable Chief Magistrate of this nation, and all the members of his Cabinet, are doubtless this day religiously abstaining from food, according to their proclamation and recommendation to us, and humbly confessing their manifold sins, it would ill become us to go unconcerned and negligent of such duties of piety and patriotism. Nor need we be inconveniently frank and critical. What if some shall say that fasting is a poor substitute for courage, and prayer a miserable equivalent for fidelity to duty? What if the national authorities had not only appointed the Fast, but afforded sufficient material in their own conduct for keeping it? It is all the more necessary on that account that we should pause, and humble ourselves before God, and implore his active interference.
But however monstrous the pretence of trouble may be, the danger is the same. Government is in danger of subversion. No greater disaster could befall this continent or the world; for such governments fall but once, and then there is no resurrection. Since there is no famine in the land, no pestilence, no invasion of foreign foe, no animosity of the industrial classes against each other, or against their employers, whence is our danger? from what quarter come these clouds, drifting with bolts of war and destruction? Over the Gulf the storm hangs lurid! From the treacherous Caribbean sea travel the darkness and swirling tornadoes!
What part of this complicated Government has at last broken down? Is it the legislative? the judicial? the executive? Has experience shown us that this costly machine, like many an¬other, is more ingenious than practicable? Not another nation in the world, not a contemporaneous government, during the past seventy five years, can compare, for regularity, simplicity of execution, and for a wise and facile accomplishment of the very ends of government, with ours. And yet, what is the errand of this day? Why are we observing a sad Sabbath? a day of humiliation? a day of supplication? It is for the strangest reason that the world ever heard. It is because the spirit of liberty has so increased and strengthened among us, that the Government is in danger of being overthrown! There never before was such an occasion for fasting, humiliation, and prayer! Other nations have gone through revolutions to find their liberties. We are on the eve of a revolution to put down liberty! Other people have thrown off their governments be¬cause too oppressive. Ours is to he destroyed, if at all, because it is too full of liberty, too full of freedom. There never was such an event before in history.
But however monstrous the pretence, the danger is here. In not a few states of this Union reason seems to have fled, and passion rules. To us who have been bred in cooler latitudes and under more cautious maxims, it seems incredible that men should abandon their callings, break up the industries of the community, and give themselves up to the wildest fanaticism, at the expense of every social and civil interest, and without the slightest reason or cause in their relations to society and to the country, past or future.
Communities, like individuals, are liable to aberrations of mind. Panics and general excitements seem to move by laws as definite as those which control epidemics or the pestilence. And such an insanity now rules in one portion of our land. Cities are turned into camps. All men are aping soldiers. For almost a thousand miles there is one wild riot of complaint and boasting. Acts of flagrant wrong are committed against the Federal Government. And these things are but the prelude. It is plainly declared that this Government shall be broken up, and many men mean it; and that the President elect of this great nation shall never conic to the place ap¬pointed by this people. Riot and civil war, with their hideous train of murders, revenges, and secret villainies, are gathering their elements, and hang in ominous terror over the capital of this nation.
Meanwhile, we have had no one to stand up for order. Those who should have spoken in decisive authority have been - afraid! Severer words have been used: it is enough for me to say only that in a time when God, and providence, and patriotism, and humanity demanded courage, they had nothing to respond but fear. The heart has almost ceased to beat, and this Government is like to die for want of pulsations at the center. While the most humiliating fear paralyzes one part of the Government, the most wicked treachery is found in other parts of it. Men advanced to the highest places by the power of our Constitution, have employed their force to destroy that Constitution. They are using their oath as a soldier uses his shield - to cover and protect them while they are mining the foundations, and opening every door, and unfastening every protection by which colluding traitors may gain easy entrance and fatal success. Gigantic dishonesties, meanwhile, stalk abroad almost without shame. And this Puritan land, this free Government, these United States, like old Rome in her latest imperial days, helpless at the court, divided among her own citizens, overhung by hordes of Goths and Barbarians, seem about to be swept away with the fury of war and revolution.
If at such a solemn crisis as this, men refuse to look at things as they are; to call their sins to remembrance; to confess and forsake them; if they shall cover over the great sins of this people, and confess only in a sentimental way, (as one would solace an evening sadness by playing some sweet and minor melody,) then we may fear that God has indeed forsaken his people. But if we shall honestly confess our real sins; if we propose to cleanse ourselves from them; if we do not make prayer a substitute for action, but an incitement to it; if we rise from our knees this day more zealous for temperance, for honesty, for real brotherhood, for pure and undefiled religion, and for that which is the sum and child of them all, regulating liberty to all men, then will the clouds begin to break, and we shall see the blue shining through, and the sun, ere long, driving away the tumultuous clouds, shall come back in triumph, and like one for a moment cast down but now lifted up for victory.
1. It is well, then, that every one of us make this day the beginning of a solemn review of his own life, and the tendencies of his own conduct and character. A general repentance of national sins should follow, rather than precede, a personal and private conviction of our own individual transgressions. For it has been found not difficult for men to repent of other people’s sins; but it is found somewhat difficult and onerous to men to repent of their own sins. We are all of us guilty before God of pride, of selfishness, of vanity, of passions unsubdued, of worldliness in manifold forms, and of strife. We have been caught in the stream, and swept out into an ocean of thoughts and feelings which cannot bear the inquest of God’s judgment-day. And we have lived in them almost unrebuked. Each man will find his own life full of repentable sins unrepented of.
2. We should take solemn account of our guilt in the great growth of social laxity, and vice, and crime, in our great cities. We have loved ease rather than duty. Every American citizen is by birth a sworn officer of State. Every man is a policeman. If bad men have had impunity; if the vile have controlled our municipal affairs; if by our delinquencies and indolence justice has been perverted, and our cities are full of great public wickedness, then we cannot put the guilt away from our own consciences. We have a partnership in the conduct of wicked men, unless we have exhausted proper and permissible means of forestalling and preventing it. And I think every citizen of such a city as this, looking upon intemperance, upon vice, upon lewdness, upon gambling, upon the monstrous wickednesses that ferment at the bottom of society, should feel that he has some occasion to repent of his own delinquency and moral indifference.
3. We may not refuse to consider the growth of corrupt passions in connection with the increase of commercial prosperity Luxury, extravagance, ostentation, and corruption of morals in social life, have given alarming evidence of a premature old age in a young country The sins of a nation are always the sins of certain central passions. In one age they break out in one way, and in another age in another way; but they are the same central sins, after all. The corrupt passions which lead in the Southern States to all the gigantic evils of slavery, in Northern cities break out in other forms, not less guilty before God, because of a less public nature. The same thing that leads to the oppression of the operative, leads to oppression on the plantation. The grinding of the poor, the advantages which capital takes of labor, the oppression of the farm, the oppression of the road, the oppression of the shop, the oppression of the ship, are all of the same central nature, and as guilty before God as the more systematic and overt oppressions of the plantation. It is the old human heart that sins, always, North or South; and the nature of pride and of dishonesty are universal. Therefore we have our own account to render.
4. There is occasion for alarm and for humiliation before God, in the spread of avarice among our people. The intense eagerness to amass wealth; the growing indifference of morals as to methods; the gradual corruption of moral sense, so that property and interest supersede moral sense, and legislate and judge what is right and wrong; the use of money for bribery, for bribing electors and elected; the terrible imputations which lie against many of our courts, that judges walk upon gold, and then sit upon gold in the judgment seat; the use of money in legislation; and the growing rottenness of politics from the lowest village concern to matters of national dimension, from constables to the Chief Magistrate of these United States is this all to be confessed only in a single smooth sentence?
Such is the wantonness and almost universality of avarice as a corrupting agent in public affairs, that it behooves every man to consider his responsibilities before God in this matter. The very planks between us and the ocean are worm-eaten and rotting, when avarice takes hold of public integrity; for avarice is that sea-worm, ocean-bred, and swarming in¬numerable, that will pierce the toughest planks, and bring the stoutest ships to foundering. Our foundations are crumbling. The sills on which we are building are ready to break. We need reformation in the very beginnings and elements of society. If in other parts of our land they are in danger of going down by avarice in one form, we are in danger of going down by avarice in another form.
Our people are vain, and much given to boasting; and be cause they love flatteries, those deriving from them honor and trust, are too fond of feeding their appetite for praise. Thus it comes to pass that we hear the favorable side of our doings and character, and become used to a flattering portrait. Men grow popular who have flowing phrases of eulogy. Men who speak unpalatable truths are disliked; and if they have power to make the public conscience uncomfortable, they are said to abuse the liberty of free speech - for it is the liberty of fanning men to sleep that is supposed to be legitimate: the liberty of waking men out of sleep is supposed to he license! And yet we shall certainly die by the sweetness of flattery; and if we are healed, it must be by the bitterness of faithful speech. There is tonic in the things that men do not love to hear; and there is damnation in the things that wicked men love to hear. Free speech is to a great people what winds are to oceans and malarial regions, which waft away the elements of disease, and bring new elements of health. And where free speech is stopped miasma is bred, and death comes fast.
5. But upon a day of national fasting and confession, we are called to consider not alone our individual and social evils, but also those which are national. And justice requires that we should make mention of the sins of this nation on every side, past and present. I should violate my own convictions, if, in the presence of more nearly present and more exciting influences, I should neglect to mention the sins of this nation against the Indian, who, as much as the slave, is dumb, but who, unlike the slave, has almost none to think of him, and to speak of his wrongs. We must remember that we are the only historians of the wrongs of the Indian - we that commit them. And our history of the Indian nations of this country, is like the inquisitor’s history of his own trials of innocent victims. He leaves out the rack, and the groans, and the anguish, and the unutterable wrongs, and puts but his own glozing view in his journal. We have heaped up the account of treachery and cruelty on their part, hut we have not narrated the provocations, the grinding intrusions, and the misunderstood interpretations of their policy, on our part. Every crime in the calendar of wrong which a strong people can commit against a weak one, has been committed by us against them. We have wasted their substance; we have provoked their hostility, and then chastised them for their wars; we have compelled them to peace ignominiously; we have formed treaties with them only to be broken; we have filched their possessions. In our presence they have wilted and wasted. A heathen people have experienced at the side of a Christian nation, almost every evil which one people can commit against another.
Admit the laws of race; admit the laws of advancing civilization as fatal to all barbarism; admit the indocility of the savage; admit the rude edges of violent men who form the pioneer advance of a great people, and the intrinsic difficulties of managing a people whose notions and customs and laws are utterly different from our own, and then you have only explained how the evil has been done, but you have not changed its guilt, nor fact. The mischief has been done, and this is simply the excuse. It is a sorry commentary upon a Christian nation, and indeed, upon religion itself, that the freest and most boastfully religious people on the globe are absolutely fatal to any weaker people that they touch. What would be thought of a man who, when he became converted to Christianity, was dangerous to the next man’s pocket? What would he thought of a man who, when he became perfect, was a swindler and a robber? And what must be the nature of that Christianization which makes this Republic a most dangerous neighbor to nations weaker than ourselves? We are respectful to strength, and thieves and robbers to weakness. It is not safe for any to trust our magnanimity and generosity. We have no chivalry. We have avarice; we have haughty arrogance; we have assumptive ways; and we have a desperate determination to live, to think only of our own living, and to sweep with the besom of destruction whatever happens to be where we would put our foot.
Nor is this confined to the Indian. The Mexicans have felt the same rude foot. This nation has employed its gigantic strength with almost no moral restriction. Our civilization has not begotten humanity and respect for others’ rights, nor a spirit of protection to the weak.
It is quite in vain to say that the land from which we sprung did the same as we are doing. A wicked daughter is not excused because she had a wicked mother. We boast of the Anglo-Saxon race; and if bone and muscle, an indomitable sense of personal liberty; and a disposition to do what we please, are themes for Christian rejoicing, then the Anglo-Saxon may well rejoice. There are sins that belong to races; there are sins that belong to peoples; there are sins that belong to generations of the same people; and the sins that I have enumerated, are sins that belong to our stock, to our kind.
But God never forgets what we most easily forget. Either the moral government over nations is apocryphal, or judgments are yet to be visited upon us for the wrongs done to the Indian.
6. But I am now come to the most alarming and most fertile cause of national sin - slavery We are called by our Chief Magistrate to humble ourselves before God for our sins. This is not only a sin, but it is a fountain from which have flown so many sins that we cannot rightly improve this day without a consideration of them.
In one and the same year, 1620, English ships landed the Puritans in New England, and negro slaves in Virginia - two seeds of the two systems that were destined to find here a growth and strength unparalleled in history. It would have seemed almost a theatric arrangement, had these oppugnant elements, Puritan liberty and Roman servitude - (for, whatever men may say, American slavery is not Hebrew slavery; it is Roman slavery. We borrowed every single one of the elemental principles of our system of slavery from the Roman law, and not from the old Hebrew. The fundamental nature of the Hebrew system was that the slave was a man, and not a chattel, while the fundamental feature of the Roman system was that he was a chattel, and not a man. The essential principle of the old Mosaic servitude made it the duty of the master to treat his servants as men, and to instruct them in his own religion, and in the matters of his own household; while the essential principle of Roman servitude allowed the master to treat his servants to all intents and purposes as chattels, goods) - it would have seemed, I say, almost a theatric arrangement had these oppugnant elements, Puritan liberty and Roman servitude, divided the land between them, and, inspiring different governments, grown up different nations, in contrast, that the world might see this experiment fairly compared and worked out to the bitter end.
But it was not to be so. The same Government has nourished both elements. Our Constitution nourished twins. It carried Africa on its left bosom, and Anglo-Saxony on its right bosom; and these two, drawing milk from the same bosom, have waxed strong, and stand today federated into the one republic. One side of the body politic has grown fair, and healthy, and strong: the other side has grown up as a wen grows, and the wart, vast, the vaster the weaker. And this nation is like a strong man with one side paralyzed, but nourished and carried along by the help of the other side.
We who dwell in the North are not without responsibility for this sin. Its wonderful growth, and the arrogance of its claims, have been in part through our delinquency. And our business today is not to find fault with the South, I am not discussing this matter with reference to them at all, but only with reference to our own individual profit. Because the South loved money, they augmented this evil; and because the North loved money, and that quiet which befits industry and commerce, she has refused to insist upon her moral convictions, in days past, and yielded to every demand, carrying slavery forward in this nation. You and I are guilty of the spread of slavery unless we have exerted, normally and legitimately, every influence in our power against it. If we have said, “To agitate the question imperils manufacturing, imperils shipping, imperils real estate, imperils quiet and peace,” and then have sacrificed purity and honesty; if we have bought the right to make money here by letting slavery spread and grow there, we have been doing just the same thing that they have; for they have held slaves for the sake of money, and we have permitted them to hold them for just the same reason - money, money. It has been one gigantic bar¬gain, only working out in different ways, North and South. It is for us just as much as for them that the slave works; and we acquiesce. We clothe ourselves with the cotton which the slave tills. Is he scorched? is he lashed? does he water the crop with his sweat and tears? It is you and I that wear the shirt and consume the luxury. Our looms and our factories are largely built on the slave’s bones. We live on his labor. I confess I see no way to escape a part of the responsibility for slavery. I feel guilty in part for this system. If the relinquishment of the articles which come from slave labor would tend even remotely to abridge or end the evil, I would without hesitation forego every one; but I do not see that it would help the matter. I am an unwilling partner in the slave system. I take to myself a part of the sin; I confess it before God; and pray for some way to be opened by which I may be freed from that which I hate bitterly.
But this state of facts makes it today eminently proper for us to confess our wrong and sin done to the slave. All the wrongs, the crimes of some, the abuse of others, the neglect, the misuse, the ignorance, the separations, the scourgings - these cannot be rolled into a cloud to overhang the South alone. Every one of us has something to confess. Those who have been most scrupulous, if God should judge their life, their motives, and their conduct, would find that they, too, had some account in this great bill of slavery. The whole nation is guilty. There is not a lumberman on the verge of Maine, not a settler on the far distant northern prairies, not an emigrant on the Pacific, that is not politically and commercially in alliance with this great evil. If you put poison into your system in any way, there is not a nerve that is not touched by it; there is not a muscle that does not feel it; there is not a bone, nor a tissue, nor one single part nor parcel of your whole body, that can escape it. And our body politic is pervaded with this black injustice, and every one of us is more or less, directly or indirectly, willingly or unwillingly, implicated in it. And when it comes to the question of confession, we have a great deal to confess before we cast reproaches upon the South. And while I hold Southern citizens to the full and dreadful measure of their guilt before God, and would, if I were settled there, tell them their sin as plainly as I tell you your sin, it is for us today, and here, to consider our own part in this matter; and to that I shall speak during the residue of my remarks.
Originally, we were guilty of active participation in slavery. It seems very strange to take up the old Boston books, and read the history of slavery in Boston. Not that they have not slaves there now; hut they are white! Once they were African and involuntary: now they are political and voluntary. We of the North early abandoned the practice of holding slaves. But it is said that ours is a cheap philanthropy; that having got quit of our slaves by selling them, we turn round and preach to the South about the sin of holding theirs. There is nothing more atrociously false than such a charge as that. There is nothing more illustrious in the history of the state of New York, and of the Northern states generally, than the method by which they freed themselves from slavery. This state decreed liberty at a certain period, and then passed a most stringent act making it an offense, the penalty attached to which no one would willingly inherit, for a man to convey away, or in any manner whatsoever to sell out of the State, a person held as a slave; and if a man, anticipating the day of emancipation, wished to make a journey to the South with his slaves, he had to give bonds for their return before he went away, and had to give an account when he came back, if they did not come with him. Nothing could have been more humane than the provision that the slave should not be sold out of the state of New York, but should be emancipated in it. And what is true of New York in this respect, is true of the States generally that emancipated their slaves.
But we of the North participated in the beginnings, and we are in part guilty of the subsequent spread of the system of slavery. When our Government came into our hands, after the struggle of the Revolution, we had gone through such a school in order to assert our political independence, that the head, the conscience, and the heart of this nation, in the main, were right on the subject of human liberties. And at the adoption of the Federal Constitution, nearly seventy-five years ago, it might be said that, with local and insignificant exceptions, there was but one judgment, one wish, and one prophetic expectation - namely, that this whole territory should be dedicated to liberty, and that every compliance or compromise was not to he made in the interest of oppression, but was to be made only to give oppression time to die de¬cently; and that was the spirit and intent of every compliance or compromise that was made.
The schools, the academies, the colleges, the intelligence, the brain of this nation, at that time, were in the North - and in the North I include all the territory this side of Mason’s and Dixon’s line. We were then the thinking part of this country. The church, the religious institutions, the moral elements that never parted from the posterity of the Puritans, were then, also, in the North. When our Constitution was adopted; when the wheels of our mighty confederacy were adjusted, and the pendulum began to swing - at that time the public sentiment was in favor of liberty. All the institutions were prepared for liberty, and all the public men were on the side of liberty. And to the North, because she was the brain; to the North, because she was the moral centre and heart of this confederacy, was given this estate - for in the first twenty-five or thirty years the North predominated in the counsels of the nation, and fixed the institutions, as the South have fixed their policy since. What, then, having this trust put into her hands, is the account of her stewardship which the North has to render? If now, after three-quarters of a century have passed away, God should summon the North to his judgment-bar, and say, “I gave you a continent in which, though there was slavery, it was perishing; I gave you a nation in which the sentiment was for liberty and against oppression; I gave you a nation in which the tendencies were all for freedom and against slavery; I gave you the supreme intelligence; I gave you the moral power in a thousand pulpits, a thousand books, a thousand Bibles; and I said, ‘Take this nation, administer it, and render up your trust’ “ - if now, after three-quarters of a century have passed away, God should summon the North to his judgment-bar and say this, what would be the account which she would have to render - the North, that was strongest in the head and in the heart, and that took as fair a heritage as men ever attempted to administer? Today, liberty is bankrupt, and slavery is rampant, in this nation. And do you creep out and say, “We are not to blame”? What have you been doing with your intelligence, your books, your schools, your Bibles, your missionaries, your ministers? Where, where is the artillery that God Almighty gave you, park upon park, and what has become of this nation under your care, that were provided and prepared for that special emergency? I take part of the blame to myself Much as I love the North - (and I love every drop of Puritan blood that the world ever saw; because it seems to me that Puritan blood means blood touched with Christ’s blood) - I take to myself part of the shame, and mourn over the delinquency of the North, that having committed to it the eminent task of pre¬serving the liberties of this nation, they have sacrificed them. For today there are more slave states than there were states confederated when this nation came together. And instead of having three or four hundred thousand slaves, we have more than four millions; instead of a traffic suppressed, you and I are witnesses today of a traffic to be reopened - of rebellion, treasonable war, bloodshed, separate independence, for the sake of reopening the African slave-trade. So came this country into the hands of the North in the beginning, and so it is going out of her hands in the end. There never was such a stewardship: and if this confederacy shall be broken up; if the Gulf states shall demand a division of the country, and the intermediate states shall go off, and two empires shall be estab¬lished, no steward that has lived since God’s sun shone on the earth, will have such an account to render of an estate taken under such favorable auspices, as the North will have to render of this great national estate which was committed to her trust. It is an astounding sin! It is an unparalleled guilt! The vengeance and zeal of our hearts toward the South might be somewhat tempered by the reflection that we have been so faithless, so wicked, and that our account must stand before God in the end, as it does stand, for delinquency in our duty.
That is not the worst. That is the material side. The next step is this: that we have stood in the North with all the documents of power, boasting of our influence, and really swaying, in many respects, the affairs of this continent; and yet we have not only seen this tremendous increase of slavery, but we have permitted the doctrines of liberty themselves to take paralysis and leprosy. And today, today, TODAY, if you were to put it to the vote of this whole people, I do not know as you could get a majority for any doctrine of liberty but this: that each man has a right to be free himself. The great doctrine of liberty is concisely expressed by the Declaration of Independence; and it is this: that all men are free; born with equal political rights, of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And there is no true right that is not founded on this doctrine: “That liberty which is good for me, is indispensable for everybody.” A right love of liberty inspires a man to say, “I will have it, and everybody shall have it.” That is a poor love of liberty that makes a man a champion for the liberty of those that are capable of asserting their own liberty. But I doubt whether, so corrupt are the times, you could get a popular vote for the liberty of all men. Why should you? I am ashamed of what I must speak. The pulpit has been so prostituted, and so utterly apostatized from the very root and substance of Christianity, that it teaches the most heathen notions of liberty; and why should you expect that the great masses of men would be better informed on this subject than they are? Do you believe that George Washington, were he living, would now be able to live one day in the city of Charleston, if he uttered the sentiments that he used to hold? He would not. He would be denounced as a traitor, and swung up on the nearest lamp-post. I)o you suppose that one single man that signed the Declaration of Independence, if living, could go through the South today, repeating the sentiments contained in that document? The lives of the signers of the Declaration of Independence would not be worth one day’s lease in Alabama, Louisiana, Carolina, or Florida, if they were there to say the things plainly which they said when they framed this government, so utterly have the South vomited up their political views; so radically have they changed their notions. Was this country committed to our care? and is such the lesson that we have taught our pupils? Shall the schoolmaster render back the scholars that he undertook to teach, with their minds debauched, and say that he was not responsible for what they learned? And if any part of the country was responsible for the education of the whole, it was the free¬schooled, million-churched North. And the result of our instruction is this: slavery has spread gigantically, and the doctrine of liberty is so corrupted, that today nothing is more disreputable in the high places of this nation, than that very doctrine. And at last, when the sleeper, long snoring, having been awaked, raised himself up, and like all new zealots, somewhat intemperately made crusade for liberty; the land was so agitated, and with such surprise was this expression of the public sentiment of the North received, that the Chief Magistrate of this nation declared that we were the cause of all the trouble!
But this is not all. The most serious, the most grievous charge, is yet to be made upon the North. So far have we been delinquent in the trust that God committed to us, that the very center of hope and expectation of success for humanity has been burned out; that from the very fountain out of which flowed, as from the heart of Christ, the first drops that were to cleanse men from oppressions, has been extracted in our day, and in our North very largely, the whole spirit of humanity which breathes freedom.
It ill becomes, I think, one profession to rail against another, or the members of the same profession to rail against each other. I have no accusations to make against any; but I will forsake my profession, for the time being, and stand as a man among men, to lift up my voice, with all my heart and soul, against any man who, professing to be ordained to preach, preaches out of Christ’s Gospel the doctrines of human bondage. When the Bible is opened that all the fiends of hell may, as in a covered passage, walk through it to do mischief on the earth, I say, blessed be infidels! Where men take the Bible to teach me to disown childhood, where men take the Bible to teach me that it is lawful to buy and sell men, that marriage is an impossible state, that laws cannot permit it, and that customs cannot permit it; where the Bible is held as the sacred document and constitutional guarantee of a system which makes it impossible that a man should go upon the path of development; where the Bible is made to stand and uphold one man in saying to another, “You are good for me in that proportion in which you are able to use the spade and the hoe, and I forbid you to read and expand your mind because knowledge will render you unmarketable, where, according to the Bible, men, women, and children are legal tenders in the market, and anything that lessens their value there is an impediment, so that marriage and its sanctities are regarded as over-refinements; where a man takes the Bible and lays it in the path over which men are attempting to walk from Calvary up to the gate of heaven - I declare that I will do by the Bible what Christ did by the temple: I will take a whip of cords, and I will drive out of it every man that buys and sells men, women, and children; and if I cannot do that, I will let the Bible go, as God let the temple go, to the desolating armies of its adversaries. And I do not wonder that after so long an experience of the world, men who bombard universal humanity, men who plead for the outrage of slavery, men who grope to find under crowns and scepters the infamous doctrines of servitude - I do not wonder that they are pestered with the idea of man’s individuality. Why, that minister who preaches slavery out of the Bible is the father of every infidel in the community! I tell you that the most intelligent people in the world are infidels. In Germany I will pick out nineteen out of every twenty democrats who are infidels. And why? Not because they do not believe really in the Bible, but because the priests that the kings ordain in Germany have built up the whole kingly fabric and the archiepiscopal throne on the Bible; and when the democrat sees the oppression of the king, and feels the yoke of the priest, and protests against them, they stop his mouth by sticking the leaves of the Bible into it! So he comes to hate the Bible, not for what it is in reality, but because it is made the bulwark of oppression; and he spurns it that he may answer the call of God in his own nature - for to be free is a part of the sovereign call and election that God has given to every man who has a sense of his birthright and immortality. And in a community where the minister finds reason in the Bible for slavery, you may depend upon it that one of two things will take place: either there will be an inquisition to redeem the Bible from such abominable prostitution, or else the Bible will be spurned and kicked from under the feet of men, as it ought to be.
“I came to open the prison-doors,” said Christ; and that is the text on which men justify shutting them and locking them. “I came to loose those that are bound;” and that is the text out of which men spin cords to bind men, women, and children. “I came to carry light to them that are in darkness, and deliverance to the oppressed;” and that is the Book from out of which they argue, with amazing ingenuity, all the infernal meshes and snares by which to keep men in bondage. It is pitiful.
A hunter scorns a pigeon-roost; because he would fain have some reward in skill and ingenuity; and he feels that to fire into a pigeon-roost is shocking butchery. But for that feeling I should like no better amusement than to answer the sermons of men who attempt to establish the right of slavery out of the Bible. It would be simple butchery! A man must be addicted to blood who would fire a twenty-four pounder into a flock of blackbirds or crows!
Now what has been the history of the Book but this: that wherever you have had an untrammeled Bible, you have had an untrammeled people; and that wherever you have had a trammeled Bible, you have had a trammeled people? Where you have had a Bible that the priests interpreted, you have had a king: where you have had a Bible that the common people interpreted; where the family has been the church; where father and mother have been God’s ordained priests; where they have read its pages freely from beginning to end without gloss or commentary, without the church to tell them how, but with the illumination of God’s Spirit in their hearts; where the Bible has been in the household, and read without hindrance by parents and children together - there you have had an indomitable yeomanry, a state that would not have a tyrant on the throne, a government that would not have a slave or a serf in the field. Wherever the Bible has been allowed to be free; wherever it has been knocked out of the king’s hand, and out of the priest’s hand, it has carried light like the morning sun, rising over hill and vale, round and round the world; and it will do it again! And yet there come up in our midst men that say to us that the Bible is in favor of slavery. And as men that make a desperate jump go back and run before they jump, so these men have to go back to the twilight of creation and take a long run; and when they come to their jump, their strength is spent and they but stumble!
It is in consideration of this wanton change which has taken place (and which ought never to have been permitted to take place, in view of the instruments that God put into our hands, and in view of the solemn responsibility that he has put upon us) - it is in consideration of this change which has taken place in the material condition of the country, and in the opinions of this people respecting the great doctrine of liberty, and the worse change which has corrupted in part the church at its very core, that I argue today the necessity of humiliation and repentance before God.
I shall first confess my own sin. Sometimes men think I have been unduly active. I think I have been indolent. In regard to my duty in my personal and professional life, I chide myself for nothing more than because I have not been more alert, more instant in season and out of season. If sometimes in intemperate earnestness I have wounded the feelings of any; WI have seemed to judge men harshly, for that lam sorry. But for holding the slave as my brother for feeling that the Spirit of God is the spirit of liberty; for loving my country so well that I cannot bear to see a stain or a blot upon her; for endeavoring to take the raiment of heaven wherewith to scour white as snow the morals of my times, and to cleanse them to the uttermost of all spot and aspersion - for that I have no tears to shed. I only mourn that I have not been more active and zealous, and I do not wish to separate myself from my share of the responsibility. I am willing to take my part of the yoke and burden. I will weep my tears before God, and pray my prayers of sincere contrition and penitence, that I have not been more faithful to liberty and religion in the North and the whole land. And you must make this a day of penitence. You must do your part.
But be sure of one thing: He that would not come when the sisters sent, but tarried, has come, and the stone is rolled away, and he stands by the side of the sepulcher. He has called, “liberty, come forth!” and, bound yet hand and foot, it has come forth; and that same sovereign voice is saying, “Loose him, and let him go!” and from out of the tomb, the dust, the night, and the degradation, the better spirit of this people is now emerging at the voice of God. We have heard his call, we know the bidding, and Death itself cannot hold us any longer; and there is before us, we may fain believe, a new lease of life, a more blessed national existence. That there will not be concussions, and perhaps some garments rolled in blood, I will not undertake to say: there may be some such things as these; but, brethren, this nation is not going to perish. This confederacy is not going to be broken and shivered like a crystal vase that can never be put together again. We are to be tested and tried; but if we are in earnest, and if we stand as martyrs and confessors before us have stood, bearing wit¬ness in this thing for Christ, know ye that ere long God will appear, and be the leader and captain of our salvation, and we shall have given back to us this whole land, healed, restored to its right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Love God, love men, love your dear fatherland; today confess your sins toward God, toward men, toward your own fatherland; and may that God that loves to forgive and forget, hear our cries and our petitions which we make, pardon the past, inspire the future, and bring the latter-day glory through a regenerated zeal and truth, inspired by his Spirit, in this nation. Amen, and amen.