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- Contemplations: June 11, 1885
Christian Recorder: June 11, 1885
At our last General Conference an effort was made by some, in the most pathetic appeals, to induce the General Conference to elect a Bishop for Africa. But no argument, no logic, no order of heaven and no impulse of the Spirit could so incline the members. They were in the main too busy abusing Bishop Brown for daring to take a position which was somewhat novel, it is true, but which no man present could answer, and what could not be refuted by replies, had to be answered in abuse---rather a strange way to make converts, I confess, yet it was done to perfection. The Methodist Episcopal Church, however, did go a step further—just a step. They elected a Bishop in the person of Rev. William Taylor, D. D., the greatest man on earth to-day, equal to any three Bishops in the M. E. Church, and made no provision for a cent of support. He gets no salary, no missionary appropriation, no recognition in their list of Bishops, and even his Bishopric in the M. E. Church is denied by some of their leading men. He is an outcast so far as his church is concerned to all intents and purposes. Thank God, however, scores of thousands of their best members are at his back, and say he shall succeed. Had our General Conference done the same, how much more grandly would we have appeared before the world. I do not commend the M. E. Church for her treatment of Bishop Taylor. She will yet be ashamed of it. Nevertheless she did what we might have done at least, and what would have stirred the sympathies of the globe and brought to our aid men of large hearts and large means.
It is maintained in our Church that nothing can be done for God without a gold mine. It has got so that if you give a man an appointment he will halt to ask you what is there, and if you tell him God and people are there and a great field for work and labor, he will ask you what he has done to be thus punished. He will in addition tell you he has been in the ministry five or six years, and every place he has been the minister before him had ruined the work, and he could do nothing, etc. He thinks it time he was sent to a place where he could have rest for one year. There is a sentiment extant that somebody else must raise a bushel of money before we can ask a soul to come to God and be saved from sin and death. Trust in God is a thing of the past; the old folks did that way, but we can’t. They were fogies anyhow, and had no better sense than to believe God would send them help from on high; but we know better. This is no age of ignorance and superstition. Now I ‘repeated, this sentiment is nearly all through our Church, and it is paralyzing our work at home and abroad. Men seem to have no idea they are to venture on God, pitch in, preach day and night, sing, pray, fast, and work till Christ sends the increase. The ministry is about reduced to a vicarage is in the minds of many.
Bishop Taylor is now in the heart of Africa with thirty or forty preachers and teachers, living upon the products of the soil and driving the work of the Church like the hero he is. The Christian world stands before him with uncovered heads as they deserve, while he is writing his name upon the scroll of fame of fame in honoring God and complying with the behest of heaven. Had we elect a Bishop for Africa, as some of us so laboriously urged and persistently tiled, our Church to-day would have had a notoriety and been exerting an influence that would have given her the sympathies of earth and heaven. We are too narrow, too contracted, too little, too much disposed to live by sight and not enough faith. I heard a great lecturer say the other day that a knowledge of mathematics was dangerous to the exercise of faith, unless unaccompanied by sanctification for the reason that if predisposed man to mathamaticalize the works of God in his Church. Possibly that is our trouble. But enough of this for the present.
It appears to me that the time has arrived in our career when it would be well to resurrect the custom of our fathers, and where there is more than one minister present let the other give a hot, burning exhortation. The spirit of exhortation is the spirit of the Church. God has employed it in all ages for the advancement of his kingdom on earth. There are so many insipid sermons preached in our day that exhortations should be revived. Besides, it is the most effective way to call sinners. These systematic sermons are not in harmony with the Bible nor the ways of God. The Bible is not systematically arranged, nor should preaching be, unless it comes spontaneously, the mere outgrowth of a train of thought, which should never be the result of labor. I am aware that I am taking issue with a host of cultured men, but not very effective men. The most effective preachers are those who throw into their sermons the greatest latitude of thought. Pulpit eloquence and flowery diction that does not involve the salvation of souls, is simple both, a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol.
The soul has as much for it as it has for written sermons, which have done more to blight the power of the pulpit than anything else conceivable. I do not refer to special occasions, when some doctrinal subject is being treated. But what does a man look like standing in the pulpit, calling upon sinners to come to God, with his eyes upon a sheet of paper, and his head hanging down as though he was afraid to face the people? He is relying about as much upon the aid of the Holy Spirit as he is upon a petrified fossil. Moreover, it is all intellect and no soul, and no man can preach affectively through intellect alone. I repeat, it is time to revive exhortational service in our Church, and the sooner the better for thousands, if not millions.
There is another thing we had as well let engage our attention at once as to defer it. There is too much tyranny in the Church; it is in all quarters, in every department the colored race is inclined to be despotic any way. He seen the White man rule on that line only among the colored, however, and he is largely given to the same. He thinks it something big to be abrupt and gruff, not to be conciliatory and kind.
A colored man told a white man the other day, if he did not take the law in his own hands and rule his church with an iron rod, the negroes would run over him. Nice language for a man whose weapon of warfare is only to be mighty through God and not through carnality. This man belongs to a white denomination, however, and had possibly seen white men rule churches in the same way among his people. At all events, I do here now sound the bugle blast and warn all concerned is our Church that the days of absolutism and one man domination are past. People must be conciliated, must be reasoned with, must be treated with respect and generosity. Besides the Bible demands it, the times demands it, education demands it, the peace and harmony of society demands it.
That infamous conclave in the city of Washington called the Supreme Court of the United States, which hell is waiting for with eager intensity, and where every member of it will soon be, except one, is receiving the contempt of more Southern whites than they expected. A United States democratic senator told me a few weeks since that he said to one of them, “You have unsettled the country, you have opened an old wound that will omit a disagreeable odor for years to come. That is the thanks they are receiving from the very party they expected would canonize their memories. The member of the Supreme Court from this State walked by me yesterday and refused to speak; after hurling at me all frown his face could manufacture. If it was meant to express contempt for me, I am exalted to the highest point, for he certainly has my contempt and will have until God justifies him, which I do not believe he will ever do, yet, as a Christian, I intended to treat him with usual courtesy. I know that a number of these colored weather-cocks, who dog-like, are ready to fawn before any power, are trying to excuse and palliate the enormous crime of the Supreme Court in its act of declaring the Civil Rights Bill unconstitutional. But they, too, will go to their graves shaded by estimated ignorance or meanness: people will never credit them with wisdom or race loyalty, yet in a country where white is God and black is the devil, I know it is rather difficult for the negro to be true to himself or his race, but he should not give away the common sense with which the Almighty has crowned him. Theory is one thing and practice is quite another. In point of practical application the colored race has no more civil rights to-day than a tiger. Each one has the rights he may fight or die for, and if he is too cowardly to fight for them, he gets none. A pretty condition in which to leave seven million of people. Death to such a country.
It appears to be the most difficult thing in the world to get our ministers to organize the Literary, Historic and Educational Association in their churches. As long as they had no constitution and by-laws to guide them they were excusable; but since Dr. Arnett has published everything in his great Budget and scattered them broadcast over the land, where is the excuse now? Theses associations might be made the greatest engines of power for good in our churches that were ever conceived. Not only do they bring strangers and persons of all denominations to our churches where they are kept in operation, and thus give character and influence to the preacher and church and pave the way for them to come again and again, but they are great mediums of general enlightenment to the minister, members, and community at large.
I am perpetually told by pastors that people will not come out to these associations, if that be true in any instance it shows that the people are desperately ignorant and the Association should be held up before them; from week to week and from month to month, till they learn some sense. The pastor should organize it and run it, if it has no members but himself and wife. And when they have exhausted their intellectual cabinet do as the constitution provides for, invite in doctors, lawyers, editors, judges, merchants and farmers to lecture upon their respective professions or business occupations. Our people need all that kind of knowledge and will come to hear it if they are the least encouraged. But I do not believe one half of these reports about people won’t do this and won’t do that; show them the good of a thing and you will always find a portion of them that will follow. I find that some ministers have excellent associations out on circuits in the woods, while others again can’t raise one in crowed cities where they can get white speakers and lecturers by the dozen to help keep up an interest. And hundreds of white gentlemen and ladies, too, would be glad to have the opportunity. One minister writes that two-thirds of his literary associations are white people. He says they delight in it and help his church financially. The truth is wherever there is a will there is a way.