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A due observance of this institution of our holy religion, is the characteristic signature by which God has distin guished his people, and which he has instituted as a covenant sign of their relation to him. His institutions, it becomes us to remember, are not useless forms. They have their foundation in the nature and constitution of things; we cannot, therefore, give up the sign without renouncing the blessing thereby signified. Were this grand pillar of the Christian fabric removed, the whole building would soon fall to the ground. The powerful influence of that day is even now scarce sufficient, as we have many melancholy proofs, to support the cause of truth and vital piety; who then can but foresee the direful consequences of being deprived of its privileges!
These considerations receive a peculiar weight at the present time from existing circumstances. It is doubtless well known to many members of this body, that great exertions are making in various parts of the Union, and particularly in the Eastern States, for promoting the due observance of the Christian Sabbath. To these efforts there are many adversaries; and if this opposition remain armed with national authority, and this Assembly, who first raised the standard of truth, and invited their brethren to the glorious struggle, also forsake them; the prospect is, that the flood-gates of iniquity will be again forced open, and a far greater inundation follow. These circumstances imperiously urge to the measure stated in the petition. But what encouragement, some may say, can we have to renew our application after such a refusal? Your committee are of the opinion, that the very act of petitioning will have no small effect, both to animate the friends, and to weaken the enemies of this cause. But this is not our only hope. Shall we forget that God has the entire controul of the hearts of men, and that those who faithfully pursue the path of duty may, with confidence, rely upon his aid? Nay, we are encouraged to the re-application, by the terms in which the refusal of our former request was given. The reason having ceased to exist on which that refusal was predicated, as far as we have confidence in the sincerity of our rulers, so far we may extend our confidence that they will now give due weight to our remonstrances.
How indeed can we doubt the countenance of those in this cause, who declare it to be their belief, "That public policy, pure morality, and undefiled religion, combine in favor of a due observance of the Sabbath?" However weak the practical influence of this truth may be found, we cannot doubt but that it is the language of conviction. The grand experiment by which God has been demonstrating to mankind the destructive nature of infidelity, with regard to society, must force open the eyes even of the blind, to see the fatal tendency of sin, especially in republics, which are founded on the principle, that the law is the supreme power. A free government, therefore, in which existing laws have lost their efficacy, presents to view a government in which the supreme authority lies prostrate under the feet of the lawless and disobedient. In producing this most unhappy state of society, the first effects of iniquity will be exerted to silence those laws and regulations which most powerfully counteract the depraved feelings of the heart; which tend to strengthen the moral sense; and which remind men of their accountability to that tribunal from which there is no appeal. If, therefore, the main spring of moral instruction and moral feeling, is found in a due sanctification of the Sabbath, to destroy its influence, to them so irksome, will be the first effort of the sons of Belial. The spirit of infidelity, which united itself with the French revolution, intuitively pursued this course. Her first and most fatal blow was directed against this sacred institution. By a successful effort here she silenced at once the batteries of truth, and opened the way for the unrestrained practice of her future enormities. To suppose that our rulers will not be influenced by truths so plain, and of which they have avowed their conviction, is to suppose them destitute, not only of the fear of God, but of political wisdom, and even willing to plunge themselves, their friends, and families into all the horrors of anarchy, and unrestrained licentiousness. Wherefore,
Resolved, 1st. That the General Assembly recommend to all the churches and societies in their connexion, to petition the Congress of the United States, that such arrangements may be made as may prevent the
transportation and opening of the mail on the Sabbath day.
2ndly. That it be, and it hereby is, earnestly recommended to all the Presbyteries under the care of the General Assembly, to adopt speedy measures to induce the Societies within their respective limits, to circulate petitions on the subject, and having circulated them for signature, to transmit them to Congress by the first day of January next.
The committee appointed to prepare a draft of a petition to the Congress, on the subject of the transportation and opening of the mail on the Sabbath, reported the following, which was adopted: viz.
The undersigned, inhabitants of
and state of beg leave to represent to the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled, That, in the opinion of your petitioners, the transportation and opening of the Mail on the Sabbath Day, is inconsistent with the proper observance of that Sacred Day, injurious to the Morals of the Nation, and provokes the judg ments of the Ruler of Nations. We perceive, from the report of the Post-master General, at your last session, on this subject, that it is his opinion, that when peace shall arrive, the necessity of carrying and opening the Mail on the Sabbath Day, will greatly diminish. While, therefore, we congratulate you on the return of peace, we approach you with confidence, and beseech you to take this subject into your serious consideration, and enact such laws as you, in your wisdom, may deem necessary, for the removal of this evil. And we, your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray &c.
A petition of the Synod of Ohio, praying an alte ration of the line dividing that Synod from the Synod of Kentucky, so that the Ohio river shall be the line dividing the two aforesaid Synods, was overtured. The pray er of the petition was granted; it being understood, that the connexion now subsisting between the congregation
of Cabin creek and the Rev. William Williamson, shall not be thereby affected, agreeably to the petition of the elders of said congregation, which had been forwarded to the Assembly and read.
The Committee to which was committed the report of the committee to which the petition of some elders, who entertain conscientious 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: viz.
The General Assembly have repeatedly declared their cordial approbation of those principles of civil liberty which appear to be recognized by the Federal and State governments in these United States. They have expressed their regret, that the slavery of the Africans and of their descendants still continues in so many places, and even among those within the pale of the church; and have urged the Presbyteries 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 may be prepared for the exercise and enjoyment of liberty, when God, in his Providence, may open a door for their emancipation. The Committee refer said petitioners to the Printed Extracts of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, for the year 1787 on this subject, republished by the Assembly in 1793; and also to the Extracts of the minutes of the Assembly for 1795; which last are in the following words: viz.
"A serious and conscientious person, a member of a Presbyterian congregation, who views the slavery of the negroes as a moral evil, highly offensive to God, and injurious to the interests of the Gospel, lives under the ministry of a person, or amongst a society of people, who concur with him in sentiment on the subject upon general principles; yet, for particular reasons, hold slaves and tolerate the practice in others: Ought the former of these persons, under the impressions and circumstances above described, to hold Christian communion with the latter ?" 1
"Whereupon, after due deliberation, it was Resolved, that as the same difference of opinion with respect to slavery takes place in sundry other parts of the Presbyterian Church, notwithstanding which they live in charity and peace, according to the doctrine and practice of the Apostles; it is hereby recommended to all conscientious persons, and especially to those whom it immediately respects, to do the same. At the same time the General Assembly assure all the churches under their care, that they view with the deepest concern any vestiges of slavery which may exist in our country, and refer the churches to the Records of the General Assembly, published at different times; but especially to an overture of the late Synod of New York and Philadelphia, published in 1787, and re-published among the extracts from the minutes of the General Assembly of 1793, on that head, with which, they trust, every conscientious person will be fully satisfied."
This is deemed a sufficient answer to the first petition; and with regard to the second, the Assembly observe, that, although in some sections of our country, under certain circumstances, the transfer of slaves may be unavoidable, yet they consider the buying and selling of slaves by way of traffic, and all undue severity in the management of them, as inconsistent with the spirit of the Gospel. And they recommend it to the Presbyteries and sessions under their care, to make use of all prudent measures to prevent such shameful and unrighteous conduct.
Resolved, That the Rev. Messrs. Isaac V. Brown and William C. Schenck, be a committee to dispose of the ́interest on monies in the hands of the Trustees of the College of New-Jersey for the ensuing year, and report on the subject to the next Assembly.
"An error of some importance having occurred in the printed extracts of last year, by which it was stated,