Christian Recorder: February 20, 1873
Mr. Editor—In my last, I promised to say something more about the Georgia Annual Conference. I think I can safely say, this body of divines are second to none in the connection. While there may be a few superior men in some of the other conferences, yet, in the aggregate, none in my opinion will surpass it. I do not think there are a half dozen preachers in the Georgia Conference, numbering some two hundred and sixty, who, when preaching have any cant phrases, sing-song hobbies, useless jargons, or foolishly assumed gesticulations. I am certain there are none among either, the first or second class preachers, such as bellowing out, “glory to God,” every minute or two when the heart don’t feel it, and other like nonsensical farrago, too often employed as a kind of learning past; nor do I recollect of any who study and labor, to always generate a shout, feel they have done mighty things, when they arouse the passions of the ignorants. Let any one visit our quarterly and camp meetings, where they can see Georgia ministers in their natural colors, or true light, and you will see from the oldest to the youngest of them trying to grapple with choice language and mighty thoughts not only in theological love, but in the many abstruse of science, the majority of them seem to understand that the head is to be operated upon, before the heart can be reached. There is no attitude in which a preacher can appear to more grandeur, than when he is struggling to throw off the gloomy mantle of ignorance, and stand out in the majesty of Christian intelligence; however, tenacious the coils of ignorance may hold him, and strive to paralyze his intellectual energies, and thus smother the soul that is ablaze with desires to be freed. Get there is an indescribable grandeur in the contest, which sets a great mind on fire , and covers defects, faults, and mistakes with the shingling robe of charity, while self conceited fools look on, only to find something to grin at, and, advertise their own narrowness of hearts.
A man has a right to think himself as great as he chooses, and then work to have his acts or words correspond with those thoughts. No man is justified in writing himself down as an ass, and then remain an ass, because he said he was one. Such a man is a fool. A great man first concludes he is great, then he reaches after great things, tries to do like great men, and measure his greatness by the standard of the great, and not by catering to the ignorant masses, or to the whimsical plaudits of is inferiors.
What would you think of a lion, taking roaring lessons from a grunting hog? Or a steam engine pacing behind an ox cart, to learn the velocity of locomotion? There would be about as much consistency in either, as there is in a preacher, with all the deep truths of a Holy Writ before him, with all the examples of the Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, and primitive fathers, not to mention those world renowned theologians and reformers, religious and scientific, who stand as beacon lights along the receding ages of the grand by-gone; and not withstanding all this, he screams, bellows, whines, grins, gesticulates, bends, genuflects, brays, and raises, or saturates the house with his mellifluous odor, merely to extort applause, under the misnomer of a shout. And then sits down with the satisfaction of having performed a marvelous feat, when really not a solitary moral sentiment has been touched. This mania I am happy to say, has not and I hope never will become an epidemic among our Georgia preachers. And more, if they continue to improve as they have the last seven years, seven more years will present our church with some of the finest pulpit orators in the country.
I would like to say something about their capacity to govern churches, but I have only time to state, all things considered, it is no plus ultra. Our connection is also rapidly acquiring church property in this state. The churches in Savannah, Macon, Columbus, Atlanta, and Sparta, Americus, Marietta, Tolbalton; and scores of other places, while in the main are not finished, yet are monuments of negro genius, economy, and industry. While one of the churches of Columbus is somewhat under question, as to our right and title; we have Elder Noble and two thousand members there, and brother Noble has already rose to a point of order, and intends to have unquestionable titles, or build the finest church in the state. Whenever Noble raises his bristler, something has to be rooted up, if its nothing more than the debris for a new church. Notwithstanding our financial pressure, by virtue of having to build so many new churches, I know of no city church in the state, that has no organ. I felt strange while in Israel Church, Washington, and Big Bethel Church, Philadelphia. There stood the choirs singing without a solitary sweet note of an organ. I had to whisper to myself, We are ahead of you.
No man had ever hated church music more than the writer, at one time, but he never expects to pastor a church again, that is void of some kind of instrumental music, if it is nothing more than an accordion or a violin.