The Church and Slavery.
It seems to puzzle some well-disposed professing Christians to understand the propriety of churches, synods, associations, conferences, &c., "agitating" the slavery question. They claim that it is "mixing religion and politics," and on this theory they fight against "agitation" often with a zeal, which, more wisely directed, would accomplish great results.
The error of these good people consists in classing slavery as a political question. It is political only in its economic aspect. That part the clergyman is justifiable in letting alone, always and ever, on the same ground that he does not preach for or against tariffs, or "banking laws on a specie basis." His business is with the spiritual, and that is the business of the church. Any calling system of custom whose influence is necessarily opposed to the welfare of man's spiritual nature it is the church's business to set its face against firm as a rock. This granted — and few will gainsay it — the question recurs, "is slavery immoral?"
We are spared the labor of showing that American slavery is contrary to the spirit of religion because we never met a professing Christian in the Free States who would take the opposite of this question. The nearest they approach it is to say that it is best not to "agitate" it, because it is "an exciting question," and it will offend somebody." Offend whom? Who will be offended in a community or a church which holds no slaves and whose direct pecuniary interests are supposed to be all in favor of free society? Who is offended when the pastor launches his thunderbolts against theatre-going, card-playing, or even dancing — as perhaps most pastors do at times — although it is usually conceded that these amusements are immoral only from their associations. When some one is offended the pastor says, "I am sorry, sir, but I can't help it; I preach what I think is truth, and what will please God rather than men." And if slavery should be denounced because it does not recognize the 'Divine maxim, "Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you" because it has raised its bloody hands against the government which great Washington founded, or because it incites to man-stealing, adultery and barbarism, shall the minister keep silent because brother So-and-so always votes the slaveholders' ticket, or half a-dozen other brothers have business or social connections with the slave States? He would be indignant at the idea! And yet, suggest kindly that he is rather tender of the country's great crime and shame — of that which has brought war upon us and is trying to put both Government and Church under its feet — and he will say, "I must not — it will offend some of the members and divide the church!"
"Politics and religion ought not to be mixed," says one. That depends on how you attempt to "mix" them. Pure water will lose its character and purity by a very small admixture of other fluids, but filthy water will not be harmed by an admixture of pure, be the proportion ever so great. In fact, it will be bettered. So with "mixing religion and politics." The former is pure (or it is not religion) — it needs no admixture, and can have none. But your politics — the more religion you introduce into it the better. The more you let your conscience and the teachings of the Gospel decide the character of your vote, the better. Many political questions are purely temporal or worldly, for instance, tariffs, internal improvements and banking systems, but slavery, though possessing, as already conceded, some phases relating to political economy, is besides a great moral question which to studiously ignore as such naturally enough excites apprehensions as to the motive prompting it.
Do you Christian voter, disclaim to understand how American slavery can be a moral question? — We are careful to say American slavery, because there is nothing else like it in all the world, and probably there never was. The slavery you find spoken of in the Bible, to which it is such a consolation for anti-agitation people to refer, was altogether of another kind — it was white slavery, or at least of the same color as the masters. If you wish to prove slavery right by the Bible, then of course you assent to white slavery. Besides history shows that Roman and Jewish slavery did not ignore all rights, as our slavery virtually does. Families were not torn asunder on the auction-block, daughters and wives were not forced away from fathers and husbands to minister to some rich man's beastly passions. This American slavery does — does every day. It recognizes marriage, not for its holiness, but because it increases the planter's stock of slaves, and that "stock" is treated just as cattle are — separated any day when interest prompts. You talk sometimes about the licentiousness of France — the South has about as many mulattoes as slave owners. Who are their fathers? And when a straight-haired, fair-skinned girl, with Caucassian features is put up for sale, why does she bring $3000, $4000, or $6000? You tell. You turn away and say, "I have nothing to do with it — I am not responsible." So Pilate said when he washed his hands, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person." You have a voice in a government which has long encouraged this most infernal system, and when you vote men into office who give all their influence to uphold this system, and when you try to hold back Conferences, Associations or individual churches from action against it, and to close the mouths of clergymen against this worse than Babylonian shame, by what theory do you hold yourself not consenting thereto?
Did you ever stop to think, reader, from whence this long drawn howl against "slavery agitation" originates? Why, it comes from political leaders and slaveholders. They want the community to be silent while their infernal schemes are carried out. They wish no note of alarm sounded. They wan't no man's conscience appealed to. They wish their filthy politics mixed with your religion into it — that is "shameful!" And when they have thrown off the mask and shown by their treason that their whole aim for thirty years has been to reduce all this land to pro-slavery vassalage, how do you expect to be counted much of an "anti-slavery" man (as you say you are) if you still allow yourself to play in the hands of pro-slavery men?
Another day we may have more to say on this topic.