Secession Era Editorials Project

Anti-Slavery Blasphemy.

Concord, New Hamphire, New Hampshire Patriot [Democratic]

(7 December 1859)

It no form and under no circumstances are there striking and painful exhibitions of the fanaticism now prevalent, on the subject of slavery, as those from the pulpit by the professed ministers of religion. In the head of political discussion by unscrupulous partisans, on the stump, it is not surprising that there should be expressions which men of the least sense and patriotism would, in more sober moments, consider with alarm. But from the sacred desk, with the spirit of truthfulness and soberness, and more than all of peace and good will, which should characterize every act and word in it, better things should be expected. And yet from no quarter are there, in these times, expressions of more temper and violence -- of sentiments more abhorrent to our sense of morality as well as of good order and patriotism -- than from it. Blasphemies, even, at which from the lips of Garrison, Foster and others, but a few years since, all were struck with horror, are now not only tolerated but even "applauded" from those not merely in regular but also of high standing in the church. This is an alarming fact, because it indicates a state, almost fearful for our country, of that public mind to which any one of the least discernment would think of addressing such sentiments with any expectation of favor.

These thoughts are suggested by recent exhibitions from the pulpit in relation to the late tragical affair at Harper's Ferry. The events of that affair are too recent to need recital. -- Twenty-one lives were destroyed at the time, the leader has since expiated his crime on the gallows, and others are soon to suffer the same well deserved penalty. It has met with the general condemnation of good men, as most abhorrent to law, justice and the peace of society as well as to humanity. The most favorable construction which the greatest charity has suggested to put on the conduct of John Brown, the instigator and leader, has been to characterize it as the work of insanity and madness. But at a recent meeting in Boston the Rev. Rollin H. Neale, in a prayer even, ostensibly, at least, addressed to "God the Eternal, Immortal, Invisible," thus refers to this same melancholy affair: --

"We pray, oh God, that thou wilt be with us on the present occasion; guide us in the proceedings of the present meeting. We pray especially for him who has so extensively excited the public sympathy and approbation. We render thanks to thee for the noble spirit of generosity and of fidelity and of bravery which he has manifested, and his deep sympathy with the oppressed. We thank thee that he is sustained in the present trying hour by a consciousness of having acted in accordance with his sense of obligation to God; and we pray that he may be sustained to the last. May he enjoy the light of thy presence and thy sustaining power, and a hope full of immortality, looking forward to a world where there is no sin, no suffering, no oppression of any kind."

And after him, the Rev. J.M. Manning thus blasphemously characterized the same affair, not as the work of "crazy" or even erring man, but as the special act and "providence" of God: --

"I could not have advised him to it, and yet, not that the event has taken place, I stand before it wondering and admiring, [applause,] remembering that it is something which he has been revolving in his mind for years, until his soul has become possessed with this idea. He says he is not insane. I believe he is a good man, and has been doing that which he thought was right; and the only explanation I can give now is that he has been the instrument of Providence in this. The distinguished speaker who is to follow me would call it destiny; I should prefer to call it God, my Heavenly Father, who has used this man, John Brown, as his sword, to inflict a wound on the slave power. Whatever we may say of it, he has been possessed by some higher power than man's power. As I view it, he is God's finger going forth in the halls of the great modern Belshazzar, and writing over against the wall those mysterious and appalling words, at which the monarch trembles and turns pale on his throne."

We have no doubt that the majority at least of the clergy of this State would now repel with indignation the charge of any sympathy with the blasphemous sentiments we have quoted above. Be we do not think they are so entirely without guilt in this matter as they may wish to be considered. Have they not by their action and preaching during the last few years fanned and inflamed that feeling and spirit in the public which now calls for and receives with "applause" such sentiments? When and where has an act been done or a word spoken by them to moderate or check it? And now, is there any public condemnation by them of these sentiments? When or where, in any pulpit in this State, has a single word been uttered in condemnation of the affair at Harper's Ferry? A few years since when the assault was made on Senator Sumner, which however outrageous at least was not fatal to a single life, no time or opportunity was wanting in the pulpit or out of it for condemnation of that act. But now, several lives, of unoffending victims, are without the least provocation and most wantonly taken away by lawless violence, yet not a word of reproof is heard from our pulpits. And during the troubles in Kansas the wrongs, whether real or imaginary, of John Brown and his associates ever remembrance in sermon, exhortation, and prayer; but of the wrongs and murders by the same John Brown at Harper's Ferry the pulpit now is silent except for "approbation" and "admiration" by such divines as Neale and Manning. Why this change? Is it because the doctrines of Garrison and his associates have been adopted -- the God and Bible of our fathers dethroned and set aside, and an "anti-slavery God" and an "anti-slavery Bible" set up and adopted in their stead -- as they blasphemously resolved? It would seem so, in effect, when, as now, no word of pity or mercy is heard from the pulpit for those who happen to live where slavery exists, and no word of condemnation or reproof for violence, bloodshed and murder if only such are the victims.


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