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Methodism had a reputation, in its early days, for unleashing wild emotions, and for a characteristically American disdain for the intellectual. Peter Cartwright may or may not have said "our divinity ain't sick and it don't need doctoring". In his autobiography he said of himself that once, when a somewhat better educated minister of another sect quoted Latin to him, and acted superior, he (Cartwright) strung together some bits of German he'd learned from immigrants and the convinced the other that he was speaking Greek.
A HISTORY OF THE
METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
By Nathan Bangs
[NEW-YORK: PUBLISHED BY T. MASON AND G. LANE, FOR THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, AT THE CONFERENCE OFFICE, 200 MULBERRY-STREET, J. Collord, Printer,1839]
Volume IV -- Book V
From the close of the General Conference of 1828 to the beginning of the General Conference of 1832
In Issue # 8: March 4, 1997 (From the Roanoke to the Cumberland; Reuben Ross and Family Go West), a party of Calvinistic Baptists fell in, along the western immigration trail with a family named Long, and:
Bangs, in this excerpt, tells of slights to the Methodist church, such as being denied access to printed matter to distribute by the "Young Men's Bible Society", an inter-denominational organization, "merely because, as was stated by the secretary of that society, we were sectarians, and therefore came not within the legitimate range of their charities."We soon learned they were Methodists, a kind of people we young Predestinarians knew but little about.
The first night we encamped together the Long children joined us in our plays; and after things began to grow a little dull the oldest daughter, a lively girl ten or twelve years old, proposed that we should have a campmeeting, and all get happy. Then she began to sing a lively song, in which her little sisters joined her, clapping their hands, shouting "glory! glory!" and swaying their little bodies backward and forward in a way that astonished the rest of us greatly. Their parents did not seem to think this at all improper; but ours looked grave and shook their heads, thinking it a kind of mockery.
One evening the little Long girl and another got up a discussion about religion, in which the former remarked that her papa said everybody had a spark of grace in his soul, which, if he would blow and fan it, would kindle into a bright flame, and make him a good Christian. To this it was replied, "If one was not of the elect he might blow and fan a long time, before he would see any bright flame make its appearance." This subject was discussed more or less frequently for several days, among the larger children and indicated the hardshell and soft shell elements very clearly.
But the main subject matter of this issue concerns attacks, especially by "The Christian Spectator, a Quarterly Review conducted by an association of gentlemen connected with Yale College", on Adam Clarke's commentaries on the Bible, and "Wesley also was accused of mutilating the sacred text in such a glaring manner as to make 'nonsense of some of the plainest texts in the Bible,' and several instances were adduced to sustain this heavy charge."
Bangs then presents the "several instances" and argues the case that Wesley was rescuing some texts from distortions which particularly tended to favor the predestinarian doctrine.
was left out of the previous issue, and inserted here, because it only applies to the following text.[Transcriber Note: The Greek word spellings were accomplished using the Symbol font. Thus, when the Symbol font was changed into the ASCII font the phonetic spelling in English was not necessary preserved. However, all that is required to convert these ASCII font characters back into Greek characters is to highlight the letters of the word and select the Symbol font for them. Make sure, though, that you are applying this procedure to Greek words, and not Latin or French words. -- DVM]
We have before alluded to a controversy which arose between us and some other denominations of Christians; and as it came to its height during this and the two following years, that the reader may have a clear and full understanding of its character and results, it is thought expedient to give a short account of it in this place. It has been before remarked, that for a long time after our establishment in this country, very little was done to enlighten the public mind from our press, except the republication of some of Wesley's and Fletcher's sermons, Checks, and tracts, and the biographies of a few eminent servants of God. But in 1818 the Methodist Magazine was resumed and in 1826 the Christian Advocate and Journal made its appearance. The extensive circulation of these two periodicals, and the publication of numerous tracts, of a doctrinal, experimental, and practical character, and the continual augmentation of books on a variety of subjects, together with the prosperous state of our missions in various parts of our country, seemed to awaken the attention of others, and to call forth strictures upon our doctrines and general economy, of such a character as called for defense on our part.
Another thing seemed to put us in somewhat of an awkward position before the public. The organization of a separate sabbath school for the Methodist Episcopal Church made it necessary to provide means to supply our schools with suitable books. This led to the preparation and publication of sabbath school books from our own press; but as Bibles and Testaments formed the principal basis of sabbath school instruction, and as the American Bible Society was an institution in which all denominations were supposed to have an equal interest, it was thought that we had a right to claim a share from that society, in Bibles and Testaments, for the use of our Sunday schools. We accordingly petitioned the "Young Men's Bible Society" of the city of New York, which had been constituted for the express purpose of supplying sabbath schools gratuitously with the Holy Scriptures, and to which the Methodists, as well as others, contributed, for a supply of Bibles and Testaments for the use of our sabbath schools but our petition was rejected, merely because, as was stated by the secretary of that society, we were sectarians, and therefore came not within the legitimate range of their charities.
This rejection of our petition compelled us, either to suffer our schools to languish for want of suitable books, or to devise ways and means to supply them from our own resources; and hence a proposition for forming a separate Bible Society was submitted to the General Conference of 1828, and the conference recommended its organization in the city of New York. In conformity with this recommendation, the Bible Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed, with the view of obtaining a supply of Bibles and Testaments for our sabbath schools, and for the poor members of our own congregations. This separate organization, together with the steps which led to it, provoked no little opposition from various quarters, particularly from writers in the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches, by whom our motives, being misunderstood, were misrepresented. These things tended to keep alive the spirit of controversy. And as religious newspapers were now very generally patronized by the several Christian denominations, and agents employed for the several societies now in operation were traveling extensively through the country, each one zealous for his own sect, many things were written and published in those periodicals, implicating our character, impugning our motives, denouncing our doctrines and usages, and calculated to bring our institutions into contempt.
As Dr. Adam Clarke's Commentary had obtained an extensive circulation, and Wesley's translation of the New Testament, accompanied with his notes, was also published and circulated by our Book Concern, an attempt was made by a writer in the west, and his efforts were seconded by several editors of the periodical press, to bring these two writers into disrepute, by endeavoring to prove that they had altered, with a view to sustain their peculiar tenets, the sacred text, and thereby corrupted the word of God. As this was a heavy charge, and, if sustained, must impeach their moral character and Christian integrity, it was considered no more than a sacred duty we owed to their characters, and to the Church which delighted to honor them, to rescue their memories from this undeserved reproach.
Indeed, we had reason to suspect that there was a combination among certain sects, if possible, to destroy our influence. This we inferred from the fact, that the presses under the control of Calvinistic editors, in different parts of the country, almost simultaneously uttered the same language against Methodism, without at all mitigating the severity of their censures by an acknowledgment of the good we had been instrumental in accomplishing. The Christian Spectator, a Quarterly Review conducted by an association of gentlemen connected with Yale College, in a "Review on the Economy of Methodism," commenced a rude and unprovoked attack upon our doctrine, discipline, and general economy, which was copied into other papers, accompanied with remarks as hostile to our Church, as they were untrue and unkind. This systematical and simultaneous attack upon us as a church was conducted with unsparing severity, and led us to conclude that a war was commenced upon our economy, as unjustifiable as it might be injurious in its results. Indeed, it was by no means confined to argumentative assaults upon our doctrines and usages, but the character of our ministers was assailed, their motives impugned, and they were represented as even hostile to the civil institutions of the country, and also of exercising a lordly despotism over the consciences of our own people.
Let us, however, classify these objections, and notice the answers to them.
COMMON VERSION: -- But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
WESLEY'S ALTERATION: -- But there are some of you who believe not. (For Jesus had known from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who would not betray him.)
ACTS 4:27, 28
COMMON VERSION: -- For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel. were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
WESLEY'S ALTERATION: -- For of a truth both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and people of Israel, were gathered together against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel before determined to be done.
COMMON VERSION: -- For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and Our Lord Jesus Christ.
WESLEY'S ALTERATION: -- For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were of old described before, with regard to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
COMMON VERSION: -- And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
WESLEY'S ALTERATION: -- And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part of the tree of life, and the holy city, which are written in this book.
1 PET. 1:19, 20
COMMON VERSION: -- But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot; who Verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
WESLEY'S ALTERATION: -- But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot; who verily was foreknown before the foundation of the world. but was made in the last times for you.
"Now whether Wesley's translation be more in accordance with the original or not, we believe it is at least equally plain, and easy to be understood.
"In respect to the first cited text, the chief difference is in the last clause, 'and who would not betray him,' though even this is very far from making 'nonsense.' Having never noticed this variation before we saw it produced in the Charleston Observer, we were not a little surprised that it should exist. To ascertain whether Mr. Wesley so translated the passage -- knowing that the original would not admit of it -- we searched the different editions of his Testament, with notes, and the result is that it is a mere typographical error. In the English edition, printed in London in the year 1795, the negative particle (not) is not found. Neither is it found in the American edition, containing his notes, which was printed in the year 1812 -- three years before the Testament which contains the error was printed.
"In regard to the second and following passages, we wonder not that our Calvinistic friends are offended at the version made by Mr. Wesley, for some of them strike at the root of the peculiarities of their creed. To be satisfied whether Wesley can be justified in his translation, it is necessary to examine the original Greek text.
"In the first mentioned text, 'For of a truth both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and people of Israel, were gathered together against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel before determined to be done,' although the difference is very considerable, we think Mr. Wesley is fully sustained by the original text. The Greek verb "poiasai" is in the infinitive mood, and therefore may agree with either Herod, Pontius Pilate, &c., or with the singular, thy holy child Jesus. Allowing this to be correct, it does not follow that the inspired penman meant to say that those wicked people were gathered together to do what the hand and counsel of God before determined should be done; but that it was 'the holy child Jesus whom God had anointed to do' what he had before the foundation of the world determined he should do, for the redemption and salvation of mankind.
"The whole context requires this interpretation, we will not say to prevent its speaking 'nonsense,' but from speaking blasphemy. According to the present rendering and the Calvinistic interpretation of the text, it is brought to prove that Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the people of Israel who clamored for the life of Christ, in all their wicked and blasphemous conduct, did nothing more than fulfill the eternal and unalterable counsel and will of God! The reader may now see the reason why our Calvinistic friends are so exceedingly displeased with John Wesley, merely because he has so rendered this text that we need not necessarily infer that all this evil conduct of the persecutors and murderers of Jesus Christ was according to the predetermination of God -- although in doing so he has only followed the Greek text, by preserving the infinitive form of the verb "poiasai," to do; -- whereas had he done otherwise he might justly have been accused, as we shall presently see Beza may be, of corrupting the text. Although it does not appear from his comment on the passage that Wesley made the transposition from a conviction that it materially affected the sense, yet the zeal of his opposers seems to be kindled into a flame whenever such an interpretation is given, however fairly, which goes to question their favorite theory respecting God's having determined, and as now influencing, men to all their sinful actions.
" We said that the context requires that the text should be so construed as to attribute the works which God had before determined should be done, to Jesus Christ, and not to Herod and his wicked associates. Those who 'lifted up their voice' on this occasion said, quoting from the second Psalm, 'The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord.' Now if those infatuated people were acting against the Lord, how could they at the same time be fulfilling his counsel and will? Do people fulfill the counsel of the Lord in acting against him? And must they be consigned to eternal burnings for thus acting? This would be a hard case indeed.
"Look also at the 29th and 30th verses, -- 'And now, Lord, behold their threatenings; and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.' The true state of the case appears to be this: God had ordained that when Jesus Christ should be manifested in the flesh, in addition to his dying for the sins of the world, 'signs and wonders should be done' by him; that he should 'stretch forth his hand to heal' the sick, to restore sight to the blind, raise the dead, &c; for this purpose he had been anointed, that he might do the things thus before determined in the eternal counsel should be done; and hence the apostles, after stating that Herod and his wicked associates had gathered together to oppose the Lord's anointed, and to frustrate this gracious determination of God, pray that as their malevolent attempts had been so far defeated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that even now 'signs and wonders' may be done; that thus a full demonstration may be given to all that Jesus is the Christ, the true Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
"It is probably on account of the manifest absurdities involved in the contrary supposition, that led Episcopius and many other commentators to adopt a similar construction to that of Wesley's. And to show that Wesley is by no means singular in his translation, we may observe that the French version of the New Testament, 'printed from the London stereotype edition, and according to the edition of Paris for the year 1805, said to be 'reviewed and compared with the Hebrew and Greek texts,' and 'printed under the inspection of the New York Bible Society, renders this text precisely as Wesley has done. The following is the translation
"'Car en effet Herode et Ponce Pilate, avec les Gentils et le peuple d'Israel, se sont assembles contre ton saint Fils Jesus, que tu as oint, Pour faire toutes les choses que ta main et ton conseil avoient auparavant determine' devoir etre faites.' It will be perceived by those who understand the French, that the translators have transposed the sentences in the same manner that Wesley has done, preserved the infinitive form of the verb "poiasai," by rendering it 'pour faire,' to do, and connected it closely with the nonn, 'ton saint Fils Jesus,' "thy holy on Jesus," thereby allowing us to refer the works to be done to Jesus Christ, and not necessarily to his enemies who were gathered together against him.
"The Latin version of Montanus follows the common English version, and preserves the infinitive form of the verb, Facere quaecumque, "to do" whatsoever, &c.
"It is somewhat singular that Beza, to whom we referred in our former number as having been accused by the indefatigable Macknight of corrupting the sacred text to support his own contracted Calvinistic views, in the translation of the passage under consideration, has changed the form of the verb from the infinitive to the subjunctive plural, (facerent,) with a view to make it agree exclusively with Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the people of Israel!
"Beza also introduces a clause -- which, to be sure, is not of much consequence, either way -- into his version not found at all in the common Greek text, in hoc civitate, 'in this city.' The following is his translation of the two verses under consideration . --
" 'Coacti sunt enim in hac civitate vere adversus sanctum Filium tuum Jesum quem unxisti, Herodes et Pontius Pilatus cum Gentibus et populis Israelis, Ut facerent quaecumque manus tua et consilium tuum prius definierat ut fierent.' By thus rendering the verb in the plural number, making it to agree only with a plural nominative, Beza's translation amounts to a comment on the text, which, to those who understand no other language than the Latin, is a manifest deception. We grant, indeed, that the grammatical construction of the sentence, as the infinitive mood of the verb may agree with either a singular or plural noun, does not necessarily require our interpretation or the contrary, but leaves the reader to adopt that which from the context appears most agreeable to the analogy of faith; and this consideration makes the conduct of Beza the more censurable; it is the same as if any one on the opposite side should render the passage thus -- Thy holy child Jesus, whom thou host anointed that he might do the things thy hand and counsel before determined should be done; -- and although we believe this is the genuine sense, we are far from thinking ourselves warranted in taking such liberties with the sacred text. However Calvinistically inclined our English translators may have been, they did not feel themselves authorized to follow Beza's translation, but have given a literal rendering of the verb "poiasai," to do.
"Now could Wesley be convicted of such rashness as Beza was guilty of, his enemies might well triumph. But Beza was a Calvinist. and therefore, in the estimation of his followers, who approve of his translation, he may be considered guiltless. Perhaps they may think that, being of the elect, God did not 'behold iniquity in' him; but poor John Wesley, being an Arminian reprobate, must have his name blotted from the book of life! For what, think you, gentle reader? For altering the sacred Scriptures? No, surely. This he never did; but for abjuring Calvinism -- for taking off the mask by which its modest friends had endeavored to conceal its haggard visage. This is his sin -- the offense for which he is now so severely castigated.
"But whatever corrections Mr. Wesley may have introduced in his version, we are persuaded that they do not affect, in the smallest degree, any fundamental doctrine of Christianity. To this sentiment we think all will subscribe except those who believe that the distinctive feature of Calvinism, namely, unconditional predestination, comprehending unconditional election and reprobation, is a fundamental doctrine.
"And although some have affirmed, in the heat of controversy, that unless we believe that doctrine according to the Calvinistic interpretation, we cannot be in a state of grace, yet we can scarcely persuade ourselves that any one, in his calm and sober moments, I say that all who demur at receiving this doctrine, thus explained, must inevitably be condemned at last. If any should assume such a position, we should despair of reasoning with him with any hope of success.
"When we speak of fundamental doctrines, we mean those by which the Christian system is eminently distinguished from all other systems of religion; but more especially the fall and depravity of man; the redemption of the world by the atoning merits of Jesus Christ; the necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit; holiness of heart and life, and all those collateral truths which are connected with or necessarily accompany these doctrines. Now if any man will show us a single text in Wesley's translation which invalidates, or in the smallest degree weakens any one of these essential truths of Jesus Christ, or strikes at his real Godhead, or at the unity in trinity of the Deity, we will in that particular abandon him as our leader; we will believe in that instance he was under a mistake, and that he deserves the severe criticisms and censures of his adversaries.
"Believing that we shall not be called upon to controvert this point with our polemical friends, we proceed to notice the other texts which have been produced to prove that Wesley has made 'nonsense of some of the plainest texts of the Bible.' The first in order is,
COMMON VERSION -- For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
WESLEY'S TRANSLATION -- For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were of old described before, with regard to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
"Now we presume that the material words in Wesley's translation to which our opponents in this controversy object, are, 'of old described before,' which Wesley has substituted for 'of old ordained,' in the common version; which is much nearer the original than the other.
The Greek text reads, "oi pulai progegrammenoi," the most literal translation of which would be, 'of old before written;' for the word "progegrammenoi" is derived from "pro," before, and "grapho," to write, or "gramma," a letter or character of writing; though some have supposed that it means here, before proscribed, believing that the apostle meant to say that the ungodly characters he was about describing assimilated in their character and conduct to those ungodly persons who had long since, in the sacred writings, been proscribed and condemned. Whichever of these meanings may be put on the word here, it cannot be made to mean foreordained, as the word justly so translated has an entirely different meaning, and comes from a totally different root. The word which the lexicons and our translators have rendered foreordained, comes from "proopizw," and this from "pro," before, and "opizw," to bound, limit, or decree, and hence the compound word signifies to limit, bound, or decree beforehand, or, as very properly translated in the sacred Scriptures, to foreordain, or before appoint.
"Macknight, whom we have before quoted, and who was a professed Calvinistic minister in the Church of Scotland, gives the following translation of this passage: 'Who long ago have been before written.' His comment upon the passage is thus: 'Jude means that those wicked people had their punishment before written, that is, foretold in what is written concerning the Sodomites and rebellions Israelites, whose crimes were the same as theirs, and whose punishment was not only a proof of God's resolution to punish sinners, but an example of the punishment which he will inflict on them. According to some, the words have an allusion to the ancient custom of writing laws on tables, which were hung up in public places, that the people might know the punishment annexed to breaking the laws.'
"To this rendering of Macknight the French version agrees: 'Dont la condemnation est escrite depuis longtems,' -- whose condemnation has been written a long time since.
"The Latin version of Montanus, which usually accompanies Leusden's Greek Testament, translates -- 'Olim praescripti in hoc judicium,' the literal English of which is, "of old before written, or described," which is a faithful translation of the Greek, and a justification of the version of Wesley.
"It is somewhat of a singular coincidence, that in this passage Wesley and Beza exactly agree in their translation; so that if Wesley has had his name blotted from the book of life for altering the sacred Scriptures in this place, he will be in the company of one of the leading champions of the Calvinistic forces. Beza translates, 'prius jam olim descripti ad hanc damnationem,' 'before of old described to this damnation.'
"None of the versions, indeed, to which we have had access, except our English translation, have rendered the word in question ordained; and we may say with Dr. Adam Clarke, that it is as ridiculous as it is absurd to look into such words for a decree of eternal reprobation, &c., such a doctrine being as far from the apostle's mind, as that of Him in whose name he wrote.'
"As to the text in Rev. xxii, 19, the only material deviation from the common version is, that Wesley translates, 'his part of the tree of life,' and the common version, the 'book of life;' and how this can affect the meaning at all we are at a loss to see, as the person who has not his part in the tree of life, will hardly have his name in the book of life. Wesley, however, is sustained by Griesbach, who gives the word "xulon," tree, as the true reading, referring to the margin for the word "biblon," as being according to the commonly received text. We trust, therefore, that neither justice nor candor requires Wesley to be condemned for this emendation, especially as it does not at all affect the sense, and is justified by so high an authority as Griesbach.
"The only remaining text to be examined is 1 Peter i, 20, where Wesley translates the word "proegnwsmenou," foreknown, instead of foreordained, as it is in the common version. On this we need not say much, as the merest tyro [beginner, novice] in the Greek language knows that this is the literal, grammatical meaning of the word; and that there is no more authority for rendering it foreordained, than there is for saying that because I know that this rendering of Mr. Wesley is accurate, I therefore decreed it; for the radix [origin] for the above word, "ginwskw," signifies to know, and can never be made to mean to ordain, or decree.
Is it not a little strange, that those Calvinists who contend that there is so slight a difference between foreknowledge and decree, that the one necessarily implies the other, should so vehemently reprimand Wesley for giving the literal translation of this word? If there be no difference between knowledge and decree, as they contend, how has Wesley altered the meaning of Scripture, even allowing that the original word here had been "proorizw", which it is not, by translating it foreknown?"
We had other objections. This society, by assuming a national character, was contrary to the genius of American institutions, which acknowledged no national religion. It seemed, therefore, like an effort to force public opinion to recognize the existence of a national church, in direct opposition to the declared intention of all our civil institutions.
This assumption of a national society, together with the avowed intentions of some of the reports of the American Sabbath School Union, respecting the circulation of their books, and the influence which it might have upon our state and general elections, excited an alarm in some minds, lest comprehensive plans were forming to secure the patronage of the state for the support of those denominations which were committed for the support of this society. And though this might have been a groundless alarm. it tended to awaken attention to the subject, and led other denominations to look about them, and watch over the welfare of their own institutions. And it is somewhat remarkable, that the very measures which were taken by this society to combine so many discordant materials in the range of their operations, and to make an impression abroad of the nationality of its character, should have led eventually to the dissolution of the union of the Presbyterian Church; for there can be no doubt that the Plan of Union," by which that church permitted Congregational principles to become incorporated into their judicatories, was the entering wedge which finally split that church asunder; so that the means adopted to make themselves great, and to impress upon the minds of others that they represented the religion of the nation, were the very means of lessening their number and influence, and of creating one other instead of combining three into one sect.
But the means used by those missionaries who were sent out by this society to enlist the sympathies of the church and the public mind in favor of their vast project gave great and very just offense. At the time of the organization of this society, a periodical was commenced, under its immediate patronage and control, called the "Home Missionary and Pastor's Journal," in which the reports of these missionaries were, from time to time, published. These reporters very often gave such a description of the moral wastes and religious destitution of the countries where they traveled, as was truly alarming to the real friends of the country and of Christianity. On examination, it was found that many of those places which were thus represented as entirely destitute of the gospel, had been regularly supplied for years by our ministry, and that there existed in them large and flourishing societies. The fact was, that our ministers had penetrated every part of that country, had kept pace with the progress of the new settlements, had gone to the Indian tribes, hundreds of whom had been converted to the Christian faith, and had carried the glad tidings of salvation to the black population of the south and southwest, entering every open door, and preaching the gospel to all to whom they could have access. Yet these were represented as being totally destitute of the gospel and of Christian ordinances. These things were thought to be unjust and unchristian, as well as unwise and impolitic. We therefore considered it a duty which we owed to ourselves to expose them, and to enter our protest against them. This was done, principally, through the columns of the Christian Advocate and Journal, both by the editors, and those correspondents who were on the spot, and who therefore spoke from what they had seen and felt. And so palpable were the facts, that few undertook to justify the proceedings of these missionaries. Indeed, their own friends became convinced of the impolicy of such statements, and advised them to refrain; and hence, instead of saying that there were no ministers, they afterward reported that there were no Presbyterian ministers in such and such a place. To this manner of reporting there could be no objections.
The following extract from the Christian Advocate and Journal for this year will show how these objections were met and refuted: --
"Every year, from the time that Schemerhorn and Mills made their missionary tour to the west and south, and published their famous journal of observation, the thrilling note of complaint has been heard echoing from one end of the continent to another, about the paucity of 'educated ministers,' 'competent ministers,' &c., and the people have been called upon in no ordinary strains of mournful eloquence to exert themselves to replenish the funds of education societies, that the number of these ministers might be speedily increased; that the nation, to adopt the language of the Rev. Dr. Beecher, might 'arise and save itself by its own energies.' To keep up the stimulus thus excited, -- to continue the language of the last cited author, -- 'the trumpet must sound long and press must groan,' and utter in the ears of our countrymen the story of their miseries, or the 'nation is undone.' And from the time this note of alarm was sounded by Dr. Beecher, it has continued rolling through our country, until the doleful ditty of the 'moral desolations of the vast valley of the Mississippi' has reverberated from hill to valley, with a sickening repetition. Yes, this fertile numerous, valley, where, besides the Baptists, who are the Protestant Episcopalians, and other denominations, we have no less than seven annual conferences, composed, according to the Minutes for 1829, of 516 traveling preachers, and probably more than twice that number of local preachers, and 128,316 church members, has been, and is still, represented as being in such a fearful state, that unless mighty exertions are made to replenish the funds of the national societies, it is apprehended that such a swelling tide of immorality will flow back, and cross the Alleghenies, as to sweep away pure religion from the Atlantic states and every succeeding year, from that time to this, our ears are stunned with the deafening cry, 'The treasury is empty!' 'the committee are in advance' for so many hundreds or thousands of dollars. To add energy to this voice of distress, all other ministers are deposed as 'incompetent,' 'uneducated,' 'inefficient.' To say nothing respecting the truth or falsity of these statements, we would ask whether it is becoming in gentlemen who utter this doleful cry of distress, with a view to replenish their exhausted treasuries, while it would seem that their funds are already so great that some think that the people ought to be warned against lavishing any more into their hands, to accuse us of accumulating funds dangerous to the state?"
It is by no means intended to say that there was no call for additional laborers either here or elsewhere. No doubt there were many moral wastes, both in the west and in the east, in the populous cities, in the villages, and country places, which needed the reforming influence of the gospel, and more active laborers to effect it. We could therefore have no objection to an increase of zealous and holy ministers. Our objections were to the unwillingness manifested to acknowledge the gospel character and labors of others, and to recognize the good which had been most evidently effected by them, and particularly by the self-denying exertions of our ministry in the western country. Indeed, in many of these reports there seemed to be a desire manifested to depreciate those who had long since planted the gospel in those very places now represented as destitute, and where our preachers had labored with great success, amid hardships and privations to which few were willing to submit; and these things are here recorded, that those who shall come after us may know to whom they are indebted for the first promulgation of the gospel in our western wilds.
It is believed that this discussion did good. At any rate, it tended
to enlighten the public mind on these subjects, to make our doctrines,
usages, labors, and success, more generally known and more justly appreciated,
and thus strengthened the hands and cheered the hearts of the members and
friends of our Church. It tended likewise to convince our opponents, that
if they presumed to misrepresent or to slander us, we had the means of
self-defense, and an ability and disposition to use them; and that when
the facts were clearly stated, our doctrines and manner of propagating
them fully explained, we should not be considered such dangerous heresiarchs
as we had been represented to be. We are glad know, however, that these
days of strife are past, and that a more friendly and amicable spirit prevails.
We hope, therefore, that hereafter we may mutually strive only to provoke
one another to love and good works."
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