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should induce us to "remove the ancient land-marks which our fathers have set up."

In a body so numerous as the Methodist connection, embracing twenty-eight annual conferences, extended over these United States and territories, and connected with different civil and domestic institutions, it is hardly expected that all should see “eye to eye” relative to the meaning and administration of the Discipline of the church, or the fitness and expediency of measures which may be adopted in con. formity to such a state of things.

It has been the constant aim and united endeavor of your general superintendents to preserve uniformity and harmony in these respects; and as far as practicable prevent conflicting action in all the official bodies in the church. But, although we record with unfeigned grati. tude to the God of all grace and consolation the general peace, and harmony, and prosperity of the body, since your last session, it be. comes our painful duty to lay before you some exceptions to this happy and prosperous condition.

At the last session of the General Conference the subject of slavery and its abolition was extensively discussed, and vigorous exertions made to effect new legislation upon it. But after a careful examination of the whole ground, aided by the light of past experience, it was the solemn conviction of the conference that the interests of religion would not be advanced by any additional enactments in regard to it.

In your pastoral address to the ministers and people, at your last session, with great unanimity, and, as we believe, in the true spirit of the ministers of the peaceful gospel of Christ, you solemnly advised the whole body to abstain from all abolition movements, and from agitating the exciting subject in the church. This advice was in per. fect agreement with the individual as well as associated views of your superintendents. But had we differed from you in opinion, in consideration of the age, wisdom, experience, and official authority of the General Conference, we should have felt ourselves under a solemn obligation to be governed by your counsel. We have endeavored, both in our official administration and in our private intercourse with the preachers and members, to inculcate the sound policy and Chris. tian spirit of your pastoral address. And it affords us great pleasure to be able to assure you that our efforts in this respect have been very generally approved, and your advice cordially received, and practically observed in a very large majority of the annual conferences, as will more fully appear to you on the careful examination of the journals of those bodies for the last four years. But we regret that we are com. pelled to say that in some of the northern and eastern conferences, in contravention of your Christian and pastoral counsel, and of your best efforts to carry it into effect, the subject has been agitated in such forms, and in such a spirit, as to disturb the peace of the church. This unhappy agitation has not been confined to the annual conferences, but has been introduced into quarterly conferences, and made the absorbing business of self-created bodies in the bosom of our beloved Zion. The professed object of all these operations is to free the Methodist Episcopal Church from the “great moral evil of slavery," and to secure to the enslaved the rights and privileges of free citizens of these United States. How far the measures adopted, and the man. ner of applying those measures are calculated to accomplish such an issue, even if it could be effected by any action of ecclesiastical bodies, your united wisdom will enable you to judge.

We cannot, however, but regard it as of unhappy tendency that either individual members, or official bodies in the church, should em. ploy terms, and pass resolutions of censure and condemnation on their brethren, and on public officers and official bodies over whose actions they have no legitimate jurisdiction. It requires no very extensive knowledge of human nature to be convinced that if we would convert our fellow-men from the error of their ways, we must address them, not in terms of crimination and reproach, but in the milder language of respect, persuasion, and kindness.

It is justly due to a number of the annual conferences in which a majority, or a very respectable minority of the members are professedly abolitionists, to say that they occupy a very different ground, and pursue a very different course from those of their brethren who have adopted ultra principles and measures in this unfortunate, and, we think, unprofitable controversy. The result of action had in such conferences on the resolution of the New England Conference, re. commending a very important change in our general rule on slavery, is satisfactory proof of this fact, and affords us strong and increasing confidence that the unity and peace of the church are not to be mate. rially affected by this exciting subject. Many of the preachers, who were favorably disposed to the cause of abolition, when they saw the extent to which it was designed to carry these measures, and the in. evitable consequences of their prosecution, came to a pause, reflected, and declined their co-operation. They clearly perceived that the success of the measures would result in the division of the church ; and for such an event they were not prepared. They have no disposition to criminate their brethren in the south, who are unavoidably connected with the institution of slavery, or to separate from them on that acount. It is believed that men of ardent temperament, whose zeal may have been somewhat in advance of their knowledge and discretion, have made such advances in the abolition enterprise as to produce a reaction. A few preachers and members, disappointed in their expectations, and despairing of the success of their cause in the Methodist Church, have withdrawn from our fellowship, and connected themselves with associations more congenial with their views and feelings ; ánd others, in similar circumstances, may probably follow their example. But we rejoice in believing that these secessions will be very limited, and that the great body of Methodists in these States will continue as they have been, one and inseparable. The uniformity and stability of our course should be such as to let all candid and thinking men see that the cause of secessions from us is not a change of our doctrine or moral discipline—no imposition of new terms of communion-no violation of covenant engagements on the part of the church. It is a matter worthy of particular notice, that those who have departed from us do not pretend that any material change in our system, with respect either to doctrine, discipline, or government, has taken place since they voluntarily united themselves with us. And it is ardently to be desired that no such innovation may be effected, as to furnish any just ground for such a pretension.

The experience of more than half a century, since the organization of our ecclesiastical body, will afford us many important lights and land-marks, pointing out what is the safest and most prudent policy to be pursued in our onward course as regards African slavery in these States, and especially in our own religious community. This very in. teresting period of our history is distinguished by several characteristic features having a special claim to our consideration at the present time, particularly in view of the unusual excitement which now prevails on the subject, not only in the different Christian churches, but also in the civil body. And, first, Our general rule on slavery, which forms a part of the constitution of the church, has stood from the beginning unchanged, as testamentary of our sentiments on the prin. ciple of slavery and the slave trade. And in this we differ in no respect from the sentiments of our venerable founder, or from those of the wisest and most distinguished statesmen and civilians of our own, and other enlightened and Christian countries. Secondly, In all the enactments of the church relating to slavery, a due and respectful regard has been had to the laws of the States, never requiring emanci. pation in contravention of the civil authority, or where the laws of the States would not allow the liberated slave to enjoy his freedom. Thirdly, The simply holding or owning slaves, without regard to cir. cumstances, has at no period of the existence of the church subjected the master to excommunication. Fourthly, Rules have been made from time to time, regulating the sale, and purchase, and holding of slaves, with reference to the different laws of the States where slavery is tolerated; which, upon the experience of the great difficulties of administering them, and the unhappy consequences both to masters and servants, have been as often changed or repealed. These important facts, which form prominent features of our past history as a church, may very properly lead us to inquire for that course of action in future which may be best calculated to preserve the peace and unity of the whole body, promote the greatest happiness of the slave population, and advance generally, in the slave-holding community of our country, the humane and hallowing influence of our holy religion. We cannot withhold from you, at this eventful period, the solemn conviction of our minds, that no new ecclesiastical legislation on the subject of slavery at this time will have a tendency to accomplish these most desirable objects. And we are fully persuaded, that as a body of Christian ministers, we shall accomplish the greatest good by directing our individual and united efforts, in the spirit of the first teachers of Christianity, to bring both master and servant under the sanctifying influence of the principles of that gospel which teaches the duties of every relation, and enforces the faithful discharge of them by the strongest conceivable motives. Do we aim at the amelioration of the condition of the slave? How can we so effectually accomplish this, in our calling as ministers of the gospel of Christ, as by employing our whole influence to bring both him and his master to a saving knowledge of the grace of God, and to a practical observance of those relative duties so clearly prescribed in the writings of the inspired apostles? Permit us to add, that although we enter not into the political contentions of the day, neither interfere with civil legislation, nor with the administration of the laws, we cannot but feel a deep

interest in whatever affects the peace, prosperity, and happiness of our beloved country. The union of these States, the perpetuity of the bonds of our national confederation, the reciprocal confidence of the different members of the great civil compact-in a word, the well being of the community of which we are members, should never cease to lay near our hearts, and for which we should offer up our sincere and most ardent prayers to the almighty Ruler of the universe. But can we, as ministers of the gospel, and servants of a Master whose kingdom is not of this world,” promote these important objects in any way so truly and permanently as by pursuing the course just pointed out? Can we, at this eventful crisis, render a better service to our country than by laying aside all interference with relations authorized and established by the civil laws, and applying ourselves wholly and faithfully to what specially appertains to our " high and holy calling;" to teach and enforce the moral obligations of the gospel, in application to all the duties growing out of the different relations in society? By a diligent devotion to this evangelical employment, with an humble and steadfast reliance upon the aid of divine influence, the number of * believing masters" and servants may be constantly increased, the kindest sentiments and affections cultivated, domestic burdens lightened, mutual confidence cherished, and the peace and happiness of society be promoted. While, on the other hand, if past history affords us any correct rules of judgment, there is much cause to fear that the influence of our sacred office, if employed in interference with the relation itself, and consequently with the civil institutions of the country, will rather tend to prevent than to accomplish these desirable ends.

But while we sincerely and most affectionately, and, we humbly trust, in the spirit of the gospel of Christ, recommend to you, and to all the ministers and members you represent in this body, to pursue such a course in regard to this deeply exciting subject, we think it proper to invite your attention in particular to one point intimately connected with it, and, as we conceive, of primary importance. It is in regard to the true import and application of the general rule on slavery. The different constructions to which it has been subjected, and the variety of opinions entertained upon it, together with the conflicting acts of some of the annual conferences of the north and south, seem to require that a body, having legitimate jurisdiction, should express a clear and definite opinion, as a uniform guide to those to whom the administration of the Discipline is committed.

Another subject of vital importance, as we apprehend, to the unity and peace of the church, and not unconnected with the foregoing, is the constitutional powers of the general superintendents, in their relations to the annual conferences, and in their general executive ad. ministration of the government, and the rights of annual and quarterly conferences, in their official capacities. In the prosecution of our superintending agency we have been compelled to differ in opinion from many of our brethren composing these official bodies; and this difference of opinion, connected with

a conviction of our high responsibility, has, in a few cases resulted in action, which has been judged, by those specially concerned, to be high-handed, unconstitutional, tyrannical, and oppressive. In all such cases, we have given the


most unequivocal assurances, that we should, with unfeigned satis. faction, and the kindest feelings, submit the whole matter in contro. versy, with all our official acts in the premises, to the enlightened deliberation, and final judgment of this constitutional tribunal. And we cannot but indulge the hope that those who have differed from us will cordially abide the decision of such a judicatory, should it not accord with their views. We have no disposition to enter into an extensive examination of the merits of the case, which, we regret to say, has been a matter of prolonged discussion in self-created conven. tions, and in some of the religious periodicals of the day. But our object is to lay before you the simple points involved, and leave the issue to be settled as your united wisdom shall determine, requesting liberty, at proper times, if occasion should require, to correct erroneous statements, and remove improper impressions, having reference to our course of action. In presenting this subject to your consideration, it is due to a very large majority of all the annual conferences, and to the members composing them, individually, to say that the utmost harmony, and confidence, and affection exist between them and the general superintendents. The geographical bounds of the controversy are very limited.

The whole subject may be presented to you in the following simple questions :—When any business comes up for action in our annual or quarterly conferences, involving a difficulty on a question of law, so as to produce the inquiry, What is the law in the case ? does the con. stitutional power to decide the question belong to the president, or the conference? Have the annual conferences a constitutional right to do any other business than what is specifically prescribed, or, by fair construction, provided for in the form of Discipline? Has the presie dent of an annual conference, by virtue of his office, a right to decline putting a motion or resolution to vote, on business other than that thus prescribed or provided for? These questions are proposed with ex. clusive reference to the principle of constitutional right. The principles of courtesy and expediency are very different things.

As far as we have been able to ascertain the views of those who entertain opinions opposite to our own on these points, they may be summed up as follows:- They maintain that all questions of law arising out of the business of our annual or quarterly conferences are to be, of right, settled by the decision of those bodies, either primarily by resolution, or finally by an appeal from the decision of the presi. dent: " that it is the prerogative of an annual conference to decide what business they will do, and when they will do it:" that they have a constitutional right “ to discnss, in their official capacity, all moral subjects :" to investigate the official acts of other annual con. ferences of the General Conference, and of the general superintendents, so far as to pass resolutions of disapprobation or approval on those acts. They maintain that the president of an annual conference is to be regarded in the same relation to the conferences that a chair. man or speaker sustains to a civil legislative assembly : that it is his duty to preserve order in the conference, to determine questions of order subject to appeal, and put to vote all motions and resolutions, when called for according to the rules of the body: that these are the settled land-marks of his official prerogatives, as president of the

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