A Concurring Response To A British Baptist Letter
In 1833 W. H. Murch, a British Baptist leader wrote a letter to American Baptists on the topic of slavery, denouncing the institution and calling upon American Baptists to fight it. Toward the end of May 1835, over 50 Baptist pastors and ministers gathered together in Boston, Massachusetts and signed a letter in response to Murch. The full list of signers, which includes John Newton Brown, is provided at the end of this post. The signers heartily agreed with Murch, their response was cordial and fratneral. They regretted that they didn’t see Murch’s letter earlier. They regarded it as “excellent,” and a “sacred influence” on their hearts.
The signers agreed with Murch that “negro slavery” was a heinous sin, “a sin to be abandoned, and not an evil to be mitigated.” They accepted that America was blameworthy for upholding slavery, “a guilty nation before God.” In fact, they saw slave-holding as “the most heinous and prominent sin” which America was guilty of. They also said that America can not be exonerated from the sin as long as “the laws of the nation hold, or allow to be held in bondage, a single slave.” “Neither,” the letter continues “can the non-slave-holding states be exonerated from the charge of upholding slavery, so long as they aid in restoring to the their masters the slaves who escaped from them.”
Reciprocating Counsel Between Nations
The letter then continues to say that, while Christians certainly have a particular love for their own country, the gospel breaks down barriers with other nations as well. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour” is “as true of nations as of individuals.” The letter goes on to speak about relations between Great Britain and America. “We believe,” the letter continues, “that frequent intercourse between Christians of different nations, by literary correspondence and personal representation, is a wise and efficient means for accomplishing the prophesies of millennial peace. If Great Britain and America shall never again dash against each other in mortal conflict, it will be owing to the gospel being understood, felt, and obeyed alike by both nations.” One duty of this relationship, it observes, is “reciprocating counsel.”
It is within this framework, that the letter acknowledges Murch’s letter as such a “reciprocating counsel,” a “strictly proper and benevolent exercise of moral power.” And, as such, the signers accepted Murch’s (and, by connection, Great Britain’s) rebuke on the subject of slavery.
The Mandate To End Slavery
The signers shared with Murch an insistence that there was a sacred duty to denounce “negro slavery,” an institution opposed to the law of God. Even for the individual believer, there was a mandate. They agreed with Murch that it was “a high crime against the Majesty of heaven, for the suppression of which, every believer in Christ is bound strenuously and prayerfully to labour.” “The broad plough-share of gospel truth and moral influence ought to be thrust deep beneath the foundations of all unsound principle and all wrong practices.”
The letter exhibits an optimism that America will “not long persist” in the course of slavery, which could lead to America’s “disaster and ruin.” And the signers saw Murch’s letter as an important tool in opening the eyes of Baptists on the issue and turning them towards the “holy cause of emancipation.” The signers did, however, balance optimism with realism, and acknowledged the presence of a great deal of ignorance and apathy among Baptists.
The signers then asked for sympathy, co-operation, and prayer from the British Baptists. The letter concludes: “And now, dear brethren, we commend you to God, and to the word of his grace; and pray that the Father of lights will pour his light on your future path–and that he will bless your country, and our country, and every nation, and all people, with the special influences of his Holy Spirit; that his way may be known in all the earth.”
A Full List of the Signers (by state)
MA: Samuel Adlam, John Allen, Henry Archibald, Francis Baker, James Barnaby, Avery Briggs, Isaac Briggs, Asa Bronson, Jeremiah F. Bridges, Jeremiah Chaplin, Daniel Chessman, Isaac Child, John O. Choules, Henry Clark, James M. Coby, Thomas Conant, Daniel M. Crane, Otis Convers, Simeon Crowell, Elisha Cusman, W. H. Dalrymple, Ambrose Day, Robert B. Dickey, Thomas Driver, Joseph M. Driver, Seth Ewer, Lysander Fay, Hervey Fittz, P. B. Fisk, Jonathan E. Forbush, Joseph Glazier, John Greene, Richard Griffin, Cyrus Pitt Grosvenor, Silas Hall, William Heath, Nathaniel Hervey, Alonzo King, Silas Kingsley, Stephen Lovell, E. C. Messenger, Charles Miller, Winthrop Morse, David Pease, Silas Ripley, Silas Root, Amasa Sanderson, Conant Sawyer, Isaac Sawyer, Edward Seagrave, Baron Stow, TImothy C. Tingley, William G. Trask, Henry Tonkin, John Walker, George Waters
ME: Joseph Ballard, Benjamin Buck, Arthur Drinkwater, Edwin W. Garrison,, James Gillpatrick, Benjamin Lord, Wilson C. Rider, Richard Y. Watson
NH: George W. Ashby, John Atwood, Oliver Barron, James A. Boswell, J. Newton Brown, Lewis E. Caswell, Moses Cheney, Samuel Cooke, Charles Cummings, Ebenezer E. Cummings, George Daland, Joseph Davis, George Evans, Samuel Everett, Charles Farrar, Andrew T. Foss, Abner Goodell, Elias McGregory, Noah Hooper, Benjamin Knight, Asaph Merriam, John Peacock, Edmund Petterson, Stephen Pillsbury, John Richardson, Phineas Richardson, Jairus E. Strong, Lenoard Tracy, Oren Tracy, Lewis Walker, Bela Wilcox, Gibbon Williams, Enoch T. Winter, Edmund Worth
VT: Nathan Ames, Alison Angier, Mansfield Bruce, James Ten Brocke, Anthony Case, Samuel Fish, Simon Fletcher, Martin Luther Fuller, J. M. Graves, Amzi Jones Jr., Zebulon Jones, Amherst Lamb, O.S. Murray, William W. Moore, Frederick Page, Joshua Vincent, Samuel B. Willis
RI: John Blain, Benjamin F. Fainsworth, Abial Fisher, Peter Simonson, Silas Spalding
CT: Augustus Bolles, William Bowen, Gustavus F. Davis, Isaac Dwinnell, Jonathan Goodwin, Thomas Huntington, Russell Jennings, George Phippen, Gordon Robins, Orson Spencer, Henry Stanwood, Levi Walker, Henry Wooster
NY: William Arthur, William Barret, Ira Bennet, Isaac T. Brown, Bartimeus Bramin, E. W. Clark, Ichabod Clark, C. W. Crane, Emory Curtis, Charles W. Denison, Daniel Elridge, S. A. Estee, Joseph Elliot, Abraham Ennis, Jesse Elliot, Henry B. Ewell, Samuel W. Ford, John T. Fulton, Solomon Goodale, Francis Greene, Elon Galusha, Horace Griswold, Ebenezer Hall, George B. Ide, Henry V. Jones, Samuel Jones, Philemon Kelsey, B. N. Leach, Warner Lake, Jonathan Middleton, Harley Miner, A. J. Mosher, Simon G. Miner, Absalom Miner, H. Monger, Joel W. Ney, Calvin Phileo, John B. Potter, Joshua Packer, Rufus D. Pierce, L. I. Reynolds, Hiram K. Stimpson, John Southwick, John W. Smith, George W. Warren, Elijah Weaver, William Wisner
PA: C. Sacket, S. Williams
OH: J. Morris, M. Phillps, J. Williams
Source: The Baptist Magazine (1836), 28:289
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