George Bourne.

Man-stealing and slavery denounced by the Presbyterian and Methodist churches online

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'At a meeting of Delegates to form a
National Anti-Slavery Society, convened at
Philadelphia, 4th December, 1833:

^Resolved, That George Bourne, William
Lloyd Garrison and Charles VV. Denison
be a committee to prepare a synopsis of
Wesley's Thoughts on Slavery ; and of the
anti-slavery items in a note formerly exist-
ing in the Catechism of the Presbyterian
church of the United States; and of such
other similar testimony as they can obtain,
to be addressed to Methodists, Presbyteri-
ans, and all professed Christians in this
country, and published under the sanction of
this convention.'

In conformity with this appointment, the
committee have selected from the records
of the Presbyterian church every article of
general interest which adverts to this mo-
mentous subject. They have also combined
with those discussions, all that is universally
admitted as obligatory in the Methodist dis-
cipline, with every thing material in the tract
of John Wesley respecting slavery.

The general ignorance not only of the
citizens at large, but also of the Presbyte-
rian and Methodist churches, and their im-
mediate adherents, of these autiientic docu-
ments, renders their republication indispen-
sable. The persons who are actually enu-
merated as in the communion of those two
churches, with other attendants on their
worship, who are directly influenced by
them, probably comprise one million of the
adult population of these States. The vast
moral power which is thus wielded over our
republic, combined with the inconceivable
responsibility of those who manage machi-
nery productive of such unspeakably influ-
ential results, demands that it should be ex-
ercised legitimately, and for the holy pur-
poses of human improvement according to
the authoritative prescriptions of the Chris-
tian relio'ion.

In reference to slavery in the abstract, both
those churches agree. They join in une-
quivocally condemning the whole system as
most corrupt in origin, of the vilest charac-
ters and as accompanied with the most dire-
ful effects upon its victims, and with ever-
lasting punishment to the impenitent work-
ers of that iniquity. Now, only let us sup-
pose that an overwhelming majority of this
million of adults would simultaneously de-

clare, that within their moral and religious
communion and influence, man-stealing
should instantly terminate ; and that every
man among them who would not immedi-
ately cease, as John Wesley characterizes
them to be a ' lion, a tiger, a bear, and a
tvolj','' should be excluded from their church-
es ; and that henceforth no slave-driver
should be acknowledged as a Christian —
slavery in the United States would be smit-
ten in the fifth rib, so that it would require
not the second stroke; but would speedily
expire, amid the hallelujahs of Christians,
who would witness and hail the last strug-
gles of the infamous and odious dying mon-

The ensuing extracts thfreforo, from the
authentic standards of the Presbyterian and
Methodist Episcopal churches, are earnestly
recommended to the deliberate examination
of all persons who are anxious to remove the
evil of slavery from our republic ; and es-
pecially to the serious and prayerful scrutiny
of all Christians of every denomination.
They afford abundantly instructive matter
for careful reflection. They teach us that
Christian professors will solemnly and re-
peatedly avow in the most public forms, their
belief and adherence to Christian truth ;
and at the same time, that they will wilfully
and constantly violate all its sublime com-
mandments. They exhibit ecclesiastical
bodies in a very mournful aspect, as assert-
ing undeniable verities ; and then obliterat-
ing their own creed; as proclaiming the
mandates of divine revelation to be obliga-
tory, and yet themselves practically nullily-
ing them; and instead of manfully uphold-
ing Christian truth, as shifting, shuffling,
time-serving, and turning about, just as the
demands of worldly wisdom and covetous-
ness, the clamors of carnal policy and sen-
sual indulgence, and the schemes of diabol-
ical expediency, urge them to deny equity
and justice ; and to extenuate or sanction
every diversified crime which flows from

No documents upon slavery of equal im-
portance, it is believed, can be exhibited to
the American churches and citizens. These
are not the ebullitions of modern controversy
drawn forth by the recent excitements.
They are the grave, cold, and almost un-
feeling declarations of men. who were gov-

Preshyteriamsvi and Slavery.

erned in their expressions eviwi by the crim-
inals whose actions are condemned, and
against whom their regulations only could
be enforced. Yet no modern anti-slavery
partisans, not even the Convention wiio
formed the American Anti-Slavery Society,
have exceeded the Presbyterian General
Assembly in hideousness of display, and the
Methodist Conferences in unequivocal con-
demnation. Tlie most powerful passages in
the declaration of the American Anti-Slave-
ry Society equal not John Wesley, tlie ora-
cle of Methodism, in pungency of censure
and reproachful epithets. It is therefore
essential to recur to fundamental principles;
and to make known to all classes of citizens,
the sterling doctrines, the indignant denun-
ciations, and the authoritative injunctions of
the Presbyterian and Metliodist churches
upon this grave topic; with the genuine
spirit and effects of man-stealing, and the
true character and doings of all slave-hold
J^eW'York, January 11, 1834.


Opinion of the Synod of .Yew-York and
Philadelphia in regard to Slavery, and ils
abolition, in 1787.

'The Synod, taking into consideration the
overture concerning Slavery, came to the
^following judgment:

I The Synod of New- York and Philadel-
:phia do highly approve of the general prin-
ciples in favor of universal liberty that pre-
vail in America, and the interest which many
of the states have taken in promoting the
abolition of slavery. They earnestly recom-
mend it to ail t!ie members belonging to
-their communion, to give those persons who
are at present held in servitude such good
education as to prepare them for the better
enjoyment of freedom. And they more-
over recommend that masters, wherever they
find servants disposed to make a just im-
>provement of the privilege, would give
them a poculium, or grant them sufficient
time, and sufficient men ns of procuring their
own liberty at a rnoderafn rate ; that thereby
they may be brought into society wjtii those
habits of industry tlint miy render them
useful citizens. And finally, thny recommend
it to all their people to use the most pru-
dent measures, consistent with the interests
and the state of civil society in the countries
where they live, to procure eventually the
final abolition of slavery in America.

This 'judgment' was also republished as
the decision of the Genpral Assembly of the
Presbyterian church in 1793.

The second annunciation of the senti-
ments of the Presbyterian church upon the

subject of slavery, was made in the year
1794, when the ' Scripture proofs,' notes,
<Sic., were adopted by the General Assem-
bly. Their doctrine at that period is stated
in the iiote b, appended to the one hundred
and forty-second Cluestion of the larger Cate-
chism, in these words :

' 1 Tim. i. 10. The law is made for man-
stealers. This crime among the Jews ex-
posed the perpetrators of it to capital pun-
ishment, Exodus xxi. IG ; and the apostle
here classes them with sinners of the first
rank. The word he uses, in its original im-
port, comprehends all who are concerned in
bringing any of the human race into slave-
ry, or in retaining them in it. Jiominum
fures, qui servos vel liberos abducunt, reti-
nent, vendunt, vel emunt. Stealers of men
are all those who bring off slaves or free-
men, and keep, sell, or buy them. To steal
a freeman, says Grotius, is the highest kind
of theft. In other instances, we only steal
human property, but when we steal or retain
men in slavery, we seize those who, in com-
mon with ourselves, are constituted by the
oriofinal grant, lords of the earth. Genesis
i. 28. Vide Poli synopsin in loc'

The subject was also introduced into the
General Assembly, in 1795, but without
any effect and without producing any im-
pression. From that period, twenty years
elapsed before man-stealing was again no-
ticed in that ecclesiastical body. The fol-
lowing extract is found in the Digest, page
339 ; and it partially illustrates the views of
those who constituted the majority of the
Assembly at that period.

Advire given by the Assembly, in relation to
Slavery, in 1815.

' The committee to which was committed
the report of the committee to which the
petition of some elders, who entertain con-
scientious scruples on the subject of holding
slaves, together with that of the Synod of
Ohio, concerning the buying and selling of
slaves had been referred, reported ; and
their report being read and amended, was
adopted, and is as follows : —

'The General Assembly have repeatedly
declared thfir cordial approbation of those
principles of civil liberty which appear to be
recognised by the Fefferal and State jjov-
ernments, in tliese United States. They
have expressed their regret that the slavery
of the Africans and their descendants still
continues in so many places, and even among
those within the pale of the church ; and
have urged the Presbyterians under their
care, to adopt such measures as will secure
at least to the rising generation of slaves,
within the bounds of the church, a religious
education; that they maybe prepared for
the exercise and enjoyment of liberty, when

Presbyterianism and Slavery.

d, in his providence, may open a door for
iir emancipation. Tiie committee refer
d petitioners to the printed extracts of the
nod of New York and Philadelphi;!, for

year 1787, on this subject, republished

the Assembly in 1793; and also to the
tracts of the minutes of the Assembly for
95; which last are in the following
)rds : —

' A serious and conscientious person, a
mber of a Presbyterian congregation,
10 views the slavery of the negroes as a
ral evil, highly offensive to God, and inju-
us to the interests of the gospel, lives un-
rthe ministry of a person, or among a so-
ty of people, who concur with huii in sen-
lent on the subject upon general princi-

s; yet, for particular reasons, hold SlaveL-:,

d tolerate tlie practice in others, — Ouglit

former of these persons, under the im-

ssions and circumstances above describ-
, to hold Christian communion with the
' Whereupon, after due deliberation, it


Resolved, That as the same difference of
inion with respect to slavery takes place
sundry other parts of the Presbyterian
urch, notwithstanding which, they live in
arity and peace, according to the doctrine
d practice of the apostles ; it is horeby
commended to all conscientious persons,
d especially to those whom it immediately
spects, to do the same. At the same time
3 General Assembly assure all the church-
under their care, that they view with the
epest concern any vestiges of slavery
tiich may exist in our country, and refer
e churches to the records of the General
ssembly, published at different times ; but
pecially to an overture of the late Synod
New-York and Philadelphia, published in
'87, and republished among the extracts
3m the minutes of the General Assembly
' 1793, on that head, with which they trust
ery conscientious person will be fully sat-

' This is deemed a sufficient answer to the
St petition ; and with regard to the sec-
id, the Assembly observe, that although in
n3 se^'Aiin-! of our country, under certain
rcumstances, the transfer of slaves may be
lavoidable, yet they consider the buying
id selling of slaves by way of trafSc, antl
1 undue severity in the management of
em, as inconsistent with the spirit of the
■)spel. And they recommend it to the Pres-
,'teries and Sessions under their care, to
ake use of all prudent measures to prevent
ich shameful and unrighteous conduct.'
It is worthy of remembrance, that during
10 debate upon the petitions referred to in
le above unintelligible advice, the note sub-
'ined to Question 142 of the larger Cate-
liam was first publicly introduced upon the

slavery question, in the General Assembly.

The reading of it astonished all j)artics.
The friends of equal rights and of (Jliristian
truth were surprised that they had over-look-
ed or forgotten so authoriltitive a testimony ;
and the preaching slavites were exasperated
with indignation, and immediately began to
conspire together for the erasure of that
note, and of the doctrine which it proclaims,
from the standards of the Presbyterian

The answer of the Synod to Ohio and the
petitioning elders satisfied no persons; es-
pecially as it did not encourage church olH-
cers to fulfil their evangelically prescribed
duty. It was opposed upon these principles :
— Conscientious men cannot hold commun-
ion with those who are always practising
that evil which is 'highly offensive to God
and injurious to the interests of the gospel.'
'It was maintained that all the records of
the General Assembly had been totally una-
vailing ; that preachers, elders, and cimrcli
members bought, sold, worked, starved and
flayed their slaves as much, and even more
grossly than their infidel and irreligious
neighbors: and that to talk of living in
Christian 'charity and peace ' with men who
always exhibited a direct inconsistency with
the spirit of the gospel, and who Avere ever
truilty of 'shameful and unrighteous con-
duct,' is voluntary delusion, and openly crim-
inal. It was also avowed, that by the Con-
fession of Faith, and the prior decisions of
the General Assembly, every slaveholder
who pretended to be a Christian, was a
staunch In/pocrite, who ought de furio to be
Gxclud"d from the church : and a protest to
this effect against the preceding deceptive
and two-faced declaration, was presented to
the Assembly; every argument in which
protest, the history of the subsequent nine-
teen years has verified beyond dispute.

One result of the above discussion was an
exhibition of as extraordinary a specimen of
ecclesiastical chicanery as probably can be
found ill the annals of the Protestant church-
es ; thereby proving tlie truth of Article III.
Chapter 31, of their own Confession of
Faith: 'AH Synods or Councils may err,
and many have erred ; therefore they are
not to be made the rule of faith nr practice.'
Whether the decisions of the General As-
sembly of 1816 ought to be a rule of faitli or
practice, can be easily doterminod by a con-
sideration of these two facts, in reference to

The following question was propounded
for the decisionof that Assembly. ' Ought
Baptism, on the profession and promise of
the master, to be adminislcred to the children
of slaves T A more complete iturlesque
upon sound theological doctrine, and a more
base desecration of a Christian ordinance
can scarcelv be conceived. Wliat did the

Presbi/kriamsm and Slaveri/.

General Assenibly answer to this absurd in-


'It is tlie duty of masters wiio are mem-
bers oftlie ciiurch to present the children of
parents in servitude to the ordinance of Bap-
tism. It is the duty of Christ's ministers to
baptize all children of this description, when
presented to them by their masters.'

In other words, it is the duly of preaching
slave-drivers to baptize the stolen children
of American citizens upon the Christian pro-
fession of the criminal, who lias kidnapped
both the parents and their offspring!

The second fact is still more outrageous.
It is found in the 'Digest of the General
Assembly,' page 12l), thus entitled : —

^Resolutions in regard to the Scripture
proofs and notes hj the Assemhlxj, in 181G.'

' The Presbytery of Philadelphia proposed
an inquiry to the Assembly " relative to the
notes found in the book containing the Con-
stitution of the Presbyterian church." To
this demand the Assembly replied. The
minute is extended to a considerable length,
and contains a variety of other matter to-
tally irrevclant to our present discussion.
Those parts only are quoted which unfold
their " mystery of iniquity." Speaking of
the notes they thus announce :

'These notes are no part of the constitu-
tion. The notes which now appear in the
book were approved by the General Assem-
bly, and directed to be printed with the
proofs in the form in which they now appear.
These notes are explanatory of some of the
principles of the Presbyterian church. The
notes are of the same force while they con-
tinue with the other acts of that judicature,
but subject to alterations, amendments, or a
total erasure, as they shall judge proper."

Disregarding the flat contradictions in
these sentences, it is only necessary to re-
collect, that the notes are scarcely any thing
else than texts of Scripture, with a very
few concise explanations ; and yet accord-
ing to that Assembly of 18K), they were au-
thorized to alter, amend, or erase those notes,
that is, 'the oracles of God,' as they judged
proper. This was their anti-christian as-
sumption ; now watch their act.

No Christian will have the hardihood to
contest the scriptural accuracy of the note
to Question 142 of the larger Catechism. In
truth, it is nothing more than a ^ew senten-
ces, to show that the Lord's gift to man. at
creation, is utterly abrogated bv that crime
which the law ofMo-^es punished with death ;
and which the apostle Paul enumerated with
the most atrocious wickedness. Had that
Assembly nuUiJied fifty or one hundred other
notes, whatever migflit liave been thought of
their piety, at least they would have been
consistent. This was not their design, all
their object was to erase that part of the
^vord of God which denounces vicn-strnlers

\and man-stealing. This was their decisi'
omitting a clause which has no Conner
with the subject of slavery :

' Resolved, That as it belongs to the Ge
eral Assembly to give directions in rega,
to the notes which accompany the constit
tion, this Assembly express it as their opii
ion, that in printing future editions of tl
Confession of this church ; — the note coi
nected Avith the Scripture proofs in answi
to the question in the larger Catechist
" What is forbidden in the eight commani
ment?" in which the nature of the crime
men-stealing and slavery is dilated upon,
omitted. In regard to this omission, the A
sembly think proper to declare, thai in c
recting it, they are influenced by far othi
motives than any desire to favor slavery,
to retard the extinction of that mournf
evil, as speedily as may consist with the ha]
piness of all concerned.'

Upon this proceeding of the Assembly
181G, it is only requisite to observe, that tl
Assembly 'thought proper to declare' th
which is notoriously untrue. Every perse
who was present at the General AssembI
of 1816, knows that the erasure of the abov
note was done avowedly to ^ favor slaver
and to retard the extinction of that mournf
evil.'' The resolution was adopted express!
to propitiate those confederated kidnapper
who arc nominal Christians ; and also to n
move an insurmountable barrier to the coi
demnation of a minister, who, in his publ
discourses had exhibited the total contradi
tion between Christianity and man-stealinj;
and maintained that every professor of r(
ligion who is a slave-driver, is an open d(
ceiver. Tliis most important topic was alt
discussed in the General Assembly of 181/
and to prove the infallibility of Councils, the
virtually decided in flat opposition to the
predecessors of 181G, and also to their in
mediate successors of 1818.

It thus appears that the subject of Amer
can slavery engaged the attention of th
General assembly in different forms durin
four years in succession, 18J5, 1810, 181'
1818. Since which period the whole of th
Presbyterian church have been sound aslee
upon the 'highest kind of theft' — and whil
the 'sinners of the first rank' have multipl
ed and extended their man-stealing on ever
side. Presbyteries, Synods, and General As
semblies have been 'silent as death, an
still as midniirht!' except when to gratit
the Christians! who wish to transport t
their own countni ! the ' feeble, diseaset
aged, or worn out slaves,' they have ndopfe
some two-tongued minute respecting th
Colonization Society.

Circumstances in 1818 imperiously re
quired that the General Assembly of thn
year should contrive some uiode to concea
their erasure of their own Ion"' announce.

Presbylcrianism and Slavery.

eed of faith, and tlieir servile compliance
ith the clamorous demands of the unusual
»rde of men-stealers, who for special pur-
ises of iniquity were gathered together on
at occasion.

The following article, except a kw imnia-
rial omissions, was finally issued as their
t. Having accomplished all their design,
ider ecclesiastical forms, and witii the nom-
al sanction of the whole Presbyterian
lurch, the slavites tacitly permitted the en-
ding phillipic to be placed upon the records,
|id to be published to the world. They well
iiew that by the southern churches it would
;)t even be noticed, much less practised.
;any Presbyterian ministers and myriads of
[Gir members have never heard of the ex-
;:ence of such a document — while among
,6 eastern and northern churches, they only
tended by it to blind their eyes to the true
laracter and wickedness of slavery, and to
lence their outcry and disquietude respect-
g their being participants with their guilt,
connivers at their man-stealing. Their
iject has been attained. From that period,
ose sinners have pursued their man-thiev-
g with additional alacrity, and to jin indefi-
te extent; and the churches, until very re-
mtly, have scarcely noticed their increased
id continually aggravating tmpitudc. Nev-
•theless, the General Assembly of 1818
us unequivocally execrated slavery, and all
3 adherents. At the same time they most
iminally then acknowledged, as they still
) admit, these flagrant transgressors to
eir communion, and to fill every oflice in
eir churches. This act is found in the
Digest of the General Assembly,' page 341.
k\v unimportant sentences only being

i full expression of the AssemUifs views of
Slavery in 1818.

' The general Assembly of the Presbyte-
an church, having taken into consideration
le subject of slavery, think proper to make
lown their sentiments upon it.
'We consider the voluntary enslaving of
le part of the human race by another, as a
•oss violation of the most precious -and sa-
ed rights of human nature ; as utterly in-
msistent with the law of God, which re-

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