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“ The Integrity of our National Union vs. Abolitionism : An Argument from the Bible in proof of the position that believing masters ought to be honored and obeyed by their own servants, and tolerated in, not excommunicated from the Church of God: being part of a speech delivered before the Synod of Cincinnati on the subject of Slavery, September 19th and 20th, 1843, by Rev. Geo. Junkin, D. D., President of Miami University."
We have just received, through the politeness of the printer, a pamphlet of some 80 pages, bearing the above title. Abolitionists have frequently been compelled to exclaim, in the language of Job, “O that one would hear me!
and that mine adversary had written a book!” Accustomed to meet in deliberative, legislative, and we are sorry to add, in ecclesiastical bodies, no other opponent than a silent but overwhelming vote; and to find all opportunity of advocating the truth cut off by the paltry trick of raising the question of reception, or the man-trap of the Previous Question, they cannot but hail it as an omen of good, and rejoice as in a sure presage of final success, when the defenders of slavery are compelled to meet them in debate; and especially, when they are willing to stamp their thoughts on the enduring page. Certainly we rejoiced, (though our joy was mingled with regret for the mischief it would occasion, when first we heard that the notorious synodical speech of the President of Miami University, was in the hands of the printer. We regard its publication as an important step toward the thorough and universal investigation of the slavery question, in the Presbyterian Church. Truth loses nothing by free inquiry. The ultimate result of discussion on this subject, the friends of freedom cannot fear. We shall endeavor to pre
sent to the christian public a complete dissection of the pamphlet before us. Of the soundness or unsoundness of our subject, that public must decide.
And first, a single remark in reference to the individuals to whom Dr. Junkin's pamphlet is dedicated;—the Rev. Dr. J. L. Wilson, Rev. J. C. Barnes, Gen. Robert B. Milikin, and C. K. Smith, Esq. That the venerable and esteemed fathers in the ministry, first named, should feel deeply interested in a Bible argument in defence of slaveholders, and that they should request the publication of a synodical speech containing such an argument, is not so singular as lamentable. They believe the Bible; they love the Church of the Redeemer; and however erroneous we may consider their opinions in regard to slavery, we must admit their sincerity, and purity of motive. Of the two last named gentlemen, we cannot refrain from saying that their anxiety for the publication of a Bible argument as to the propriety or impropriety of excommunicating slaveholders from the Church, must strike their numerous acquaintances in this region as somewhat marvellous. Had Dr. J. endeavored to prove that certain characters should not be excommunicated from the great Church, as the phrase goes, their concern might have been more easily accounted for. We do not intend, however, to impugn their motives, nor to question their sincerity. We are pleased to learn that cven the assaults of abolitionists upon“ believing masters," and the fear that these assaults may distract and divide christians, have led these gentlemen to “ grieve for the affliction of Joseph.” We earnestly hope that their new-born zeal for a biblical argument upon any subject, and their recently discovered interest in the welfare of the Redeemer's kingdom, may lead them a step further in the path of duty, namely, to connect themselves with some branch of the visible Church, and to avow, publicly, their faith in that Divine Word whose doctrines concerning slavery they seem so anxious to disseminate.
Will Dr. J. permit us, in this connexion, to ask him two questions? First, Is it conceivable that the situation of one of these gentlemen in a certain Board of Trustees should have had any influence in inducing the worthy President to select him as god
father to his first western bantling? And second,—Would it not have been singular, if St. Paul, having published his speech before the Synod at Jerusalem, had dedicated it to Peter, John, Burrhus and Seneca? We mean no offence to Burrhus and Seneca by the inquiry.
A second remark upon the matter contained in the preface. We are sorry that the author has had the unfairness to present, in a dozen lines, a tissue of groundless and ridiculous charges against English and American abolitionists;—what he is pleased to style, his “ aggressive movement upon the abolition camp.” (p. 4.) Unsustained by the slightest attempt at proof; and therefore unlikely to meet, as they are unworthy to receive, an answer, they go forth with all the weight of his authority, to produce their effect upon the credulous and unreflecting. If not intended, these gross slanders, (for they deserve no better name,) are admirably adapted, to excite the basest passions of the mob. Had they formed a part of his speech, and had he pretended to support them by the shallow arguments and idle assertions which he brought forward in Synod, the antidote would have accompanied the poison. He would then have convinced his readers, not, indeed, of the truth of his charges, but of the bitterness of his prejudices, the weakness of his judgment, and the strength of his imagination. Should these remarks appear unnecessarily harsh, to any one, let him remember that Dr. J. hąs not scrupled to accuse hundreds and thousands of American citizens and christians, of deliberate treason, and of leaguing with foreigners for the destruction of our republic!
We pass now to the Discourse itself. Dr. J. complains of having been bantered into this discussion. “Sir, we have been bantered into this subject. We have been told that we are afraid of the light-afraid to meet the argument—that it would soon
the vote to take up, who were afraid of the truth.
What was the effect of this banter upon the house?
* The reverend father upon my left could no longer look down with indifference upon the gauntlet at his feet. He would no longer be bantered by the boys.” (p. 6.) 6 You have seen them in this Synod, daring, and braving, and bantering us.” (p. 67.) It was, indeed, asserted upon the floor
be seen, upon
of Synod, that those who refused to take from the table, at any time, the resolutions of Dr. Bishop, should be regarded as afraid of the light. Alas! that such a remark, such a banter, if you please, should have been rendered necessary! Alas! that members of Synod, deeply convinced of the unspeakable importance of discussion and ecclesiastical action in regard to slavery, should be driven to such a resort in order to secure the investigation of a great and momentous subject! When was that remark made? Not until repeated efforts to bring the subject of slavery before the house, had been met, first by a refusal on the part of the Committee of bills and overtures, of which Dr. J. was a member, to report a paper; secondly, by frequent motions to lay on the table, or postpone indefinitely, the paper of Dr. Bishop; then, by a large vote refusing to take it from the table, at a suitable period; and lastly, by labored attempts to prove that when Synod had refused to consider a paper at one time, a majority of two-thirds was necessary to call it up at another. No wonder that after so many shifts and turns to avoid a calm and honest examination of so weighty a matter, a member should assert that he and his friends would regard such conduct, if persisted in, as an acknowledgment of inability to meet the facts and arguments by which anti-slavery principles are sustained.
The author of this speech assures us that it was not till “left in a lean minority of four,” that he buckled on his armor for the contest.“ He had been threshing his wheat by the wine presses, to hide it from the Midianites; and being often urged to go forth to battle in this war, he had still declined; nevertheless he had put a fleece of wool upon the floor, to obtain a sign from the Lord. And now, that there seems to be no longer any evasion," (very true—all manner of evasions had been tried in vain,) "he takes it to be the Master's will that he should discuss this subject,” &c., (p. 6.)— The worthy Doctor's high pretensions to special divine assistance, and almost to absolute inspiration, more modestly asserted in his printed, than in his oral speech, shocked the feelings of his hearers, and provoked audible expressions of disgust. It is somewhat remarkable, that after such professions of divine guidance, and
after ascertaining, by his woolly fleece, that it was the Master's will he should discuss this subject,” he should occupy much precious time of the synod, and some eight pages of his printed speech, in endeavoring to prove that neither he nor the Synod had
any business to engage in the discussion! He reminds us, not of Gideon, but of a certain other divine messenger, who, when commanded to go to Nineveh, and cry against it, rose up to flee unto Tarshish!
Let us examine these weighty reasons by which the learned President would convince the Synod that it has nothing to do with the subject of slavery.
61. Eclesiastical courts, in a free State, have no jurisdiction over slavery. This Synod has no original jurisdiction at all, when viewed in a judicial capacity.” *
In a restricted sense, Synod has legislative powers—such as the devising and recommending of measures of benevolence, &c. which are more legislative than judicial. But here, as before, Synod cannot easily come into collision with slavery, provided it keeps within its own constitutional limits. then should we spend our time in discussing, in the abstract, a subject over which we have no jurisdiction in the concrete?” (pp. 7. 8.)
What are the duties of a Presbytery, and Synod? for a Synod is but a larger Presbytery. (Form of Gov. B. 1. c. 11.) It is the duty of Presbytery, “in general, to order whatever pertains to the spiritual welfare of the churches under their care.” (Form of Gov. B. 1. c. 10.) “ The Synod has power, generally to take such order with respect to the Presbyteries, Sessions, and people under their care, as may be in conformity with the word of God, and the established rules, and which tend to promote the edification of the church; and finally, to propose to the General Assembly, for their adoption, such measures as may be of common advantage to the whole church.” (F. Goy. B. I. c. 11.)
Suppose, now, that the Doctor is right; that abolitionism is of the devil; that the Bible does tolerate slavery, and allow slaveholders to remain in the church untouched by discipline. Suppose that abolitionists actually are, as the Doctor confidently