Narrative of the Anti-Slavery Experience of a Minister in the Methodist Church, Who was Twice Rejected by the Philadelphia Annual Conference, and Finally Deprived of a Licence to Preach for Being an Abolitionist (XHTML)
MINISTER IN THE METHODIST E. CHURCH,
WHO WAS TWICE REJECTED
BY THE PHILADELPHIA ANNUAL CONFERENCE
DEPRIVED OF A LICENCE TO PREACH
FOR BEING AN ABOLITIONIST
BY LUCIUS C. MATLACK.
MERRIHEW AND THOMPSON, PRINTERS,
No. 7 Carter's Alley.
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In the year 1827 I became connected with the
At the expiration of this time, on application to the proper authorities, license as a Local Preacher was unanimously voted me by the last Quarterly Conference for Union charge for 1837, signed by John Potts, Presiding Elder of the South Philadelphia District. At the same time, a unanimous recommendation was given me as a suitable person to be received into the Philadelphia Annual Conference, as a travelling preacher. This was nearly three months previous to the sitting of the Conference.
During that time twelve persons members of the M. E. Church, met together and formed a Wesleyan Anti-Slavery Society in
This act identified me with the Abolitionists, then more despised than feared, and, with almost a unanimous voice, declared of Christian fellowship, or common courtesy. Before the Conference met, in April, 1837, I had frequent interviews with the preachers, who endeavored to prevail on me, merely to withdraw my name from the Anti-Slavery Society.
Previous to the Conference I met with my pastor, Rev. Samuel Keppler and Rev. Wm. Wiggins. "Well," said my pastor, addressing the other clergyman, "this young man is an Abolitionist to be sure." Emphasizing the obnoxious term. Then drawing near, he sat down, and the following conversation ensued
"So you attended at the formation of the Abolition Society the other night."
"Yes sir, I was present with others."
"And you was Secretary, I understand."
"Well, were not all those persons members of an Anti-Slavery Society already?"
"I am not aware of the fact."
"Why, were they not members of the M. E. Church?''
"They were, without an exception."
"Is not the
"Perhaps it is. So it is a Temperance Society, but all admit the propriety of forming Total Abstinence Societies, and joining with them."
"Well, a set of Thomsonian quacks have as much right to get together and form a Society, and call it the Medical Society of the Methodist E. Church."
"Being all members of the M. E. Church, we thought we wronged no one by calling the Society after our own name."
"Well, if you are determined to be an Abolitionist all I have to say is, that though I have been your friend, I will be so no longer. I will oppose you on the Conference floor, and I am much mistaken if you can be received as an Abolitionist."
This was startling and unexpected. The impression on my mind from the last remark suggested a train of thoughts entirely new. "Will this connection with anti-slavery views and feelings prevent me from engaging in the blessed work of the ministry? Will I therefore forfeit the confidence and sympathy of the ministers in our Church?" These inquiries pressed weightily upon my mind. The effect was observable to the pastor, who renewed the conversation in a different strain, as follows:
"Brother Matlack, I desire your success in the ministry. I want to see you a member of the Conference. Now, I advise you to go to these abolition friends, and say that you wish your name withdrawn from their Society, as you find it will prevent your admission to the Conference, and embarrass your prospect of usefulness?" To all this a candid hearing was given, and a determination formed to meditate and pray, and act with reference to the single question of duty.
Returning home, it was made a subject of prayer. The favor and friendship of those whom I had ever looked upon as good and holy men—opportunities of extensive usefulness—an honorable distinction in the Church—the prosecution of along cherished design of devotion to the Redeemer's kingdom—with the presumption that these good men could not be wrong, and that I might be, and probably was; all conspired to induce an abandonment of my recent connection with the Abolition Society. On the other hand, an honest conviction of the truth, and a plain sense of duty, with the prospect of the friendship and confidence of the few despised brethren in the same Society, though less potent in array, was more powerful in fact, and the decision was formed accordingly. The following note announces what it was.
To the Rev. Samuel Keppler.
"Beloved Pastor,—The conversation I had with you on Wednesday last, has led me to make the subject of our remarks a matter of mature and prayerful deliberation, nor could I forget the assurance that my being an abolitionist would forfeit your friendship
and favor, and also prevent my admission to the Conference as a minister of Christ. I have in view of all the light I could secure in answer to prayer, come to the conclusion of the whole matter which is this—Abolitionism and truth are identical, therefore I am an Abolitionist. And much as I prize your friendship, I am willing to forfeit it if necessary. And if my fathers and brethren of the Philadelphia Annual Conference will not receive me as an Abolitionist to labor with them in the vineyard of the Lord, I am content to labor in an humbler sphere.
March, 1837. Lucius C. Matlack."
After receiving this communication, the Pastor apologized for his hasty declaration of enmity, and declared that he would be my friend and represent my case as favorably as possible, regretting at the same time the necessity he would be under of declaring to the Conference that I was an Abolitionist.
A short time ensued before the sitting of Conference. When my name was announced, Rev. S, Keppler rose and addressed the Conference in a few remarks, highly commendatory, closing with the following significant remark: "But in justice to Brother Matlack and this Conference, I am constrained to say, he is a modern Abolitionist." This announcement was electrical in the effect produced on the Conference. James Smith, Presiding Elder of the North Philadelphia District, assured the Bishop that the Abolitionists were radicals—"and this young man is a radical. These radicals deny your authority and the authority of the General Conference. He has been spoken of as a young man of talents and piety. If he were pious as
Much sensation was produced for a short time, but it soon passed away. Few looked with an intelligent mind upon the principle embodied in this rejection of a man from the work of the ministry for declaring "the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." And yet fewer saw the consequences following such arbitrary exercises of ecclesiastical prerogative. The sympathy of many was excited by this event, and they began to look at the principles which called forth from a young man such an unequivocal expression of confidence. though associated with ecclesiastical martyrdom. The Rev. Charles Pitman expressed privately to the writer his disapprobation of what the Conference had done, and advised him to go to the New Jersey Conference, where there would be "no such foolish question asked about abolitionism." Individual friends belonging to the Conference assured
me that at the end of one year I would be received, doubtless, in an honorable manner.
Immediately after the adjournment of Conference, the preacher appointed to
The difficulty of being received on account of abolitionism, I supposed to be removed, and was surprised to be convinced to the contrary soon after arriving at the Conference. When the first name, recommended to travel, was brought before them for action, he could not be received until the following question, proposed by Father Rider, was satisfactorily answered; "Is there any abolition about him?" From this I knew that my fate was sealed in that body. When my name was read, the old objection was started. My presence was called for to make known plainly what my views were on this "vexed question." President Durbin was opposed to this, and recommended the appointment of a committee to confer with me and report what my views were out the subject of slavery. This was agreed to, and the Rev. President J. P. Durbin, Rev. Charles Pitman, and Rev. Matthew Sorin were appointed.
At the interview between us the following ensued:
Pilman.—Brother Matlack, the old question has been mooted respecting your abolitionism. We wish to know your views on that subject at the present time.
Matlack.—My views on all particulars respecting that matter would be a lengthy story and uncalled for. Please specify what you deem obnoxious, and I will be honest and plain in my denial or approval.
Durbin.—We have not come to discuss the matter or determine that your views are right or wrong, but simply to learn what they are. A few questions will inform us. Do you believe that slavery is a moral evil under all circumstances?
Matlack.—I do. I believe that no circumstance or combination of circumstances can change its moral character.
Durbin.—Do you believe that all wise and prudent means should be used, with a view to its immediate abolition, regardless of consequences?
Matlack.—I do; believing, however, that the consequences would be only beneficial, and in no way disastrous as some fear.
Durbin.—Do you believe that it is right to form societies in the Church—edit, publish and distribute papers, and deliver lectures on the subject.
Matlack.—I think all this is perfectly justifiable.
After this conversation, a brief report was made out by the committee and presented to Conference, which stated briefly that Brother Matlack acknowledged himself a modern abolitionist, and approved of the measures of the abolitionists.
On presenting this report, Rev. C. Pitman declared that although
he had supported this brother, "yet now because of his avowed abolitionism I can no longer stand by him." After remarks by several in opposition to my reception, the vote was taken, and a unanimous rejection was announced. One of the Presiding Elders then offered a resolution, authorizing my being employed on any district during the year. This was voted by a large majority; many, however, consistently voted against this, arguing that it was as manifestly improper to have me employed by the authority of the Presiding Elder, as by the Annual Conference.
One of the preachers, James Flannery, I believe, announced to me the latter vote. I enquired of him the reason, why this was probably done. He assured me that it was thought by himself and others, that I would "be cured of" my "abolitionism by the next Conference." I merely replied to him that I deemed myself an incurable case, and, proceeding to my boarding place, prepared at once to leave for home. Arriving in
The persons speaking are the Presiding Elder, Pastor and members. The usual question was asked:
P.E.— Is there any thing against Bro. Matlack?
Pas.—Nothing against Bro. Matlack.
P.E.—Bro. Matlack; will you tell us how you are getting on in religion? Have you faith in Jesus Christ, and a good hope through grace?
[I now rose, but before I commenced speaking a member of the Conference speaks.]
Mem.—There is one thing I consider objectionable to Bro. Matlack's passing the Conference, which is, his being or having been engaged as a lecturer on behalf of a cause which is agitating this church, other churches, and the community at large. I wish to know if it be a fact, and why he conducts himself contrary to the wishes of the church, and in direct opposition to the General Conference.
P.E.—Do you bring a charge against Bro. Matlack?
Mem.—I do not wish to consider what I have said a charge against Brother Matlack's moral character. I know of nothing against his moral character. Yet I mention this as an objection to the renewal of his license.
P.E.—If he be guilty of any criminality that would exclude him from the kingdom of grace and glory, the Discipline points out the proper course in such case. I will read the article in the Discipline.
[Reads the article on page 68 of the book of Discipline.]
Bro. Sorin, I presume you have not taken these preliminary steps in his case?
Past.—There have been no charges preferred, that I know of.
Mem.—I do not wish Brother Matlack to consider me his enemy—nor suppose me influenced by personal hostility to him, but I wish him to inform us concerning this matter.
Mem.—I would enquire, does Brother Matlack attend his class?
Past.—He is generally absent from the city.
Leader.—Brother Matlack does attend his class, when he is in the city.
[I then resumed.]
"The brother need have no fear of my considering him my personal enemy. I know he has no reason to be my personal enemy, and therefore cannot imagine him such. Yet I am well aware of his opposition to my sentiments on abolitionism, and to the course I have pursued on this question, as also the opposition in the minds of other brethren in the Conference. To the charge of acting as a lecturer and agent for the A. S. Society, I plead guilty, and therefore deem a defence unnecessary. I have lectured on the exciting subject, and shall feel at liberty, at any convenient season, when requested, to lecture again. I suppose that answers the brother's question clearly."
Mem.—I would ask Brother Matlack if it is not his design, if his license is not renewed, to go to
[To this I answered:]
"The renewal of my license is not necessarily connected with a return to
"Previous to leaving this city for the East, a brother acquainted me with the fact that a report was in circulation to the effect, that it was designed to object to the renewal of my license because of abolitionism. With this impression I went to Lowell and when requested by some of the brethren to come there, I suggested the great probability of ceasing to be a Local Preacher at this Quarterly Conference, and consequently would be prevented from coming, though I might desire it: whereupon they (the preachers) assured me that if so, still they would receive me gladly, and license verbally until the session of a Quarterly Conference, when doubtless a regular license would be realized by me. From this you may be assured that the renewal of my license is no necessary part of my future plan of procedure, as the way is open for my return to
"I have never designed anything respecting this matter beforehand, but have attempted to follow Providence, nor made an opening for myself—but ever have, and do now stand ready, if Providence prepares the way, to go North, South, East or West. I presume I have answered Brother Gilder's question."
Mem.—I would ask Brother Matlack, in case his license be renewed, if he designs using it to further the cause of Abolitionism?
[To which he replied.]
"I do not know how it is possible for me to make such a use of my license. Perhaps I understand the brother to inquire, will I use the influence I shall possess, in consequence of sustaining the office of Local Preacher? I would reply, that this influence is in my case totally destroyed (if it ever existed,) which was evident to me in a late tour through the country. Wherever I came in contact with the Methodist people, their minds were previously prejudiced against me, by unfounded reports of alleged immorality at the late Annual Conference, the members of which it was said, out of kindness, made the charge of Abolitionism the ostensible objection, and thus rejected me—whose kindness I had abused by representing their rejection of me as a consequence merely of my abolition sentiments, and thus endeavoring to secure the sympathies of that class of the community styled Abolitionists. Indeed so completely was my influence destroyed, that even at houses where I preached last winter, (and not unacceptable in the general,) and where some of the
people requested me to preach again, the minister interposed and prevented it.
[Here one rose to say, he wished Brother Matlack would be more brief in answering his question.]
"I will answer it now, as perhaps I may have digressed unnecessarily. I never have used my license to further the cause of Abolition, but I have ever felt at liberty to speak in behalf of that cause, and shall continue so to do, whether my license is or is not renewed. I mean to say, I have used the functions of body and mind which God has given me, and I shall continue to use the same functions in advocacy of the self some cause.
[Other questions were asked respecting matters disconnected with abolition entirely, and replied to satisfactorily.]
P. E.—If there are no more questions to be asked of Brother Matlack, will he tell us how he is getting on in religion? Are you as zealous as you was? Have you a good hope through grace?
[To this I replied.]
"I do not know that my zeal is abated, but am as desirous of doing good as I ever was, and believe I can say that a consciousness of the approving smile of God is present with me."
[I then retired.]
What transpired after I retired, I know not, but by report. They proceeded to canvass the question of my license being renewed, and brought into view—1st. That immediately after my rejection at the Annual Conference, I proceeded to
A brother wished to know if the principle was fixed that a Local Preacher was bound to refrain from every professedly benevolent action, other than the actual preaching of the gospel. A brother replied that he could not vote to renew the license of a local Preacher who would run after Abolitionism or any other ism.
The Presiding Elder and Brother Sorin added some additions to what had been said, after which, the question was presented, "shall this brother's license be renewed"—some one called for a rising vote—Brother Pepper asked for the yeas and nays, which was not agreed to. The vote was taken and Brothers Pepper and
Williams voted in the affirmative, and eight voted in the negative, eight or ten not voting-so the case was disposed of.
To corroborate what was stated in the Quarterly Conference, respecting an arrangement for removing to
Dear Brother Matlack,—I have ascertained since I arrived here, that the last quarterly meeting, on our district, will be on the 26th and 27th of this month, at Eastham. The distance to Eastham from this place is about 65 miles, 20 of which you can go by steam boat and the remainder by stage. Should you conclude to come, you will take steam boat from
The following, from the venerable Timothy Merritt, will also confirm the remark about my being welcomed to
Rev. L. C. Matlack,—My dear Brother, I suppose you. have been informed that the project for a "Free congregation," in this town, has failed. But if you are at leisure, and at liberty to go where you please, there are several places in this immediate neighborhood, where you could labor to advantage till the next Annual Conference. I have just had a conversation with Brother Bonney, and we have agreed to invite you to come on. If you were here now, there is no doubt the Presiding Elder would employ you immediately, as he is in want of a preacher to go to Edgartown, on the Vineyard. But if this place should be supplied, there is one or two other places where you might get immediate employment, that is when your labors are wanted. Should your license not have been renewed, you would do well to take a certificate of membership, and get your license here.
I hope you are in good health atid spirits. We must not expect to go to Heaven "on flowery beds of ease." If you are called to suffer persecution for righteousness, that is for abolition sake, "rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in
Heaven." In hope of soon seeing you I subscribe myself your affectionate brother in the bonds of the Gospel.
P. S.—We, that is, Brother Bonney and I, will give information to the Presiding Elder that we have written to you, and the probability is that he will wait a letter from you before he supplies Edgartown. You will therefore write to one of us as soon as you get this.
After being refused authority to preach by the Quarterly Conference, I continued to preach, however when opportuuity offered; and believing that the action of the Conference was unconstitutional, I supposed it was only necessary to point it out to secure redress. Accordingly, I prepared the following appeal to the next Quarterly Conference, held April 23, 1839.
To the President and Members of time Quarterly meeting Conference
for Union Charge,
Dear Brethren,—Permit me to address you by letter at this time, and respectfully request a re-consideration of the vote taken at your last meeting, January 2nd, by which my license as a Local Preacher in the M. E. Church was withheld. The reasons for such request, with your permission, I will now present.
1. I am persuaded that it was not properly the action of the Quarterly Conference, as but a minority of the members present voted against the renewal of my license, (eight if I mistake not) and I do not believe that you will, on reflection, admit, that the determination of the Quarterly Conference was made known when only a minority acted. Such is not the usage of the Methodist Episcopal Church; for the President of this Conference will remember, that Bishop Hedding decided in the Annual Conference of 1836, that unless a majority of the Conference united, it was a vote in no case.
2. But had the vote been unanimous, the alleged cause of withholding my license was insufficient, judging of the matter, according to the Discipline. You know that the objections made are not recognized therein, and nothing is contemplated as sufficient cause of action, except conduct criminal, in words, tempers, or actions, which would exclude a person from the
The objection to me was made in these words: "He has delivered addresses on a subject that is agitating this church, other churches and the community at large." It was not alleged that I had promulgated untruths! or that I had taught heresy accord-
ing to the standards of the Church! And surely the fact of lecturing and even causing agitation in the Church, abstractly considered, ought not to be sufficient cause for withholding my license, if the subject lectured on, and the kind of agitation produced, be not in themselves wrong or sinful.
Yet I have no controversy with the principle of condemning the act, without reference to circumstances, believing it correct. Nor would I have appealed at this time to your deliberate judgment, if the act had been declared sinful either by the laws of God, or of the Church, but this was not assumed. Some reference was made to the advice of the General Conference, "wholly to refrain," but that allows of action in favor of abolition if it be done in a Christian manner, and that I have acted in a Christian manner is indisputed, so long as it is not in the power of the Conference to convict me of any improper words, tempers or actions, which has not been attempted.
There being then no charge made against my moral character, and no alleged want of other necessary qualifications for the office of a Local Preacher, may I not respectfully claim from you, as a matter of right, based upon the discipline, a renewal of my license to Preach the Gospel.
3. But dear brethren, there are other reasons why I press this matter; the Q. M. Conference, to which I now appeal, and of which I was lately a member, represents the interests of the Church that embraced me in her arms when I was yet a child; and has reared me, as I believe, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, until the present hour. Two years since, she recognized my authority from God to preach the gospel to the poor, deliverance to the captive, and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound, by giving me a license so to do.
In discharging the duties thus assigned me, I have felt a pleasurable consciousness of God's approving smile, and have not doubted for a moment but that this was what the Lord would have me do. And I am this hour conscience-bound, and feel that "wo is me, if I preach not the Gospel." Nor am I unwilling to acknowledge, that frequently, even subsequent to your last meeting, I have heard from various places and responded to the call "come over and help us" And further, I may say, that God has not withheld the unction of his Holy Spirit, but assisted me to preach his word with freedom and effect. And now, I ask, will your body persist in withholding a recognition of that higher authority which has not been disputed by them? I trust that you will not; but if so, then not on me, the Lord being my helper, not on me shall this responsibility be laid in vain; for, knowing that every man must give an account of himself to God, I shall endeavor to act with a wise reference to that dread hour, when it shall be required of me to give an account of my stewardship. I have now done. My mind is at ease, having performed as I believe a
solemn duty. Nor am I anxious for the issue, believing that duty is mine, but that results belong to God.
Yours in Gospel fellowship,
Lucius C. Matlack.
April 23d, 1839.
This appeal was placed in the hands of the Presiding Elder and read to the Quarterly Conference, but no mention of it was allowed in the Minutes. The Presiding Elder, Solomon Higgins, decided that this Session of the Conference could not reconsider the doings of a previous session. Thus it ended.
Being thus denied my request, having no authority from man to preach, I nevertheless continued to exhort sinners to repentance and faith in Christ, in the several large congregations of colored people in the city. For this my pastor, M— S—, reproved me, as manifesting a disregard of the church authority, which had determined I should not preach. I justified myself by the "General Rules," p. 79 book of discipline, where it is made obligatory upon all to "do good of every possible sort to all men—to their souls by instructing, reproving and exhorting all we have any intercourse with." He "advised" me to cease my public exercises, as he would be compelled to charge me with insubordination. I promised to think of it, and inform him soon. The next week I informed him more positively, that I was conscience bound, and felt that "Wo is me if I preach not the gospel." I heard nothing more of this matter from him.
The following letter is expressive of my feelings at this time. It was the last intercourse between us.
Dear Brother Sorin,—Having quite recently conversed will you freely, and having exchanged views fully respecting a matter, that is supposed by you to involve, on my part, a breach of implied law, I do not consider it necessary to discuss the mattes further. But having promised to reflect upon it, and in view of your advice, counsel and exposition of the law, determine my future course, I now desire to present you with the result. Permit me to say, as you have expressed a regard for me as a brother, that for you, as a minister, I entertain the highest opinion; and have frequently said in the presence of those who assume lightly to esteem your ministrations, that I am more profited by your instructions from the pulpit, than I am by the preaching of either of the brethren in this city; consequently I give all that deference to your opinions and advice that are due to superior knowledge and experience. But my dear brother, there is another to whom I pay more regard; it is what I believe to be the Spirit of God. And the persuasion of my mind is, that "the spirit of the Lord God is upon me," and that I am appointed to preach the Gospel to the poor. Plainly then, my purpose is to pursue the even tenor of my way, feeling that "Wo is me if I preach
not the Gospel." I wish you to bring the matter to an issue speedily, that if I am to be cut off from the Church Militant, it may be done by yourself and not by the hand of a stranger. Whatever the result of this peculiarly unpleasant state of things may be, you may rest assured of my regard and esteem, and wherever your lot may be cast for the future, you may, if you will, number me among your friends."
It can easily be imagined by the reader, what my feelings were at this time. I had been trained up in the Methodist E. Church from my infancy. In the city of
Dear Brother Matlack, Your letter came safely and in due time, but I did not hasten to answer, because I wished to see the end of the N. York Conference first. The conference closed its session on Saturday last. Not much was done out of the ordinary course of business. Abolition was several times before the Conference; but that body seemed desirous to get rid of it, as soon and as easily as possible, when connected with the old men; but their whole course was adapted to impress the young men that they are not to touch, taste or handle it. Two preachers withdrew from the connexion after the last Conference namely C.W. Turner, and David Plumb. The former was allowed to "withdraw," a year after he had actually withdrawn, and the latter they "suspended," I believe, for three months.
Now as to your own case. My opinion is that you had better
be still till after the N. E. Conference; and then, should there be vacancies to be filled by the Presiding Elders, which is most probable, you can come on as soon as convenient, and take steps to renew your license. I will write to you again immediately after the N. E. Conference. I wish you had come on in season to get your license renewed before the Conference will set; but this is now too late, and the only course will be for you to take a certificate of your membership, and then join the church in N. E. The way will then be open to obtain license. If the Bishop gets information of this he will defeat it if possible. If no other way offers, he will, perhaps, take all the Presiding Elders from the anti-abolition ranks, and thus block up your way, if possible, in the quarterly Conference. There is now but one abolition Presiding Elder in the Conference.—Every thing will now depend on your getting your license. I will watch the movement of matters, and do all that I can for you. Should your way be hedged up in one direction, it will be open in another.
I would beg a remembrance to the little flock of abolitionists in
Ever your's, T. Merritt."
Before receiving this reply to my letter the following from Orange Scott addressed to a friend was placed in my hand, the next day after I had written to Timothy Merritt. The reader can imagine my pleasure on reading it.
Dear Brother Pepper,—The Methodist Society in this place, wish to engage brother Matlack's services as a preacher for five or six months. Our house on
I replied to the above, declaring my readiness to come if the church renewed their request for my services in view of my present circumstances. To this I received the following answer.
Dear Brother Matlack,—The contents of your letter have been laid before the Board, and it was unanimously resolved that the call be repeated, and a Committee was also appointed to procure you a boarding place.
They want you by the second Sabbath in June, if you can come so soon; and they will probably want you till November, perhaps longer—and I have no doubt you will be wanted in the vicinity through the year—and then we shall expect you will join the Conference.
Write me immediately on the reception of this when you will be here. If you could start from
In compliance with the above we left
To President Durbin.
"Much respected Sir,—It may seem presumptuous in me to address a communication to you, without previous acquaintance, but the circumstances in which I am placed, will, I trust, be sufficient excuse for my forwardness. It is not necessary to remind you of my case in the P. A. Conference of 1838, as you was Chairman of the Committee appointed to ascertain my views of the principles embraced, as well as the measures pursued by the modern abolitionists. Subsequent to that interview, and I have supposed in consequence of some developments made at the time by me, respecting modern Abolitionism, my application for admission was rejected. Some evil disposed persons, however, have more than insinuated that something worse was the real cause of my being rejected, that being the ostensible objection merely.
Presuming that you are acquainted with the real cause of my rejection, and being desirous successfully to repel such insinuations, I have written these lines to request that you would inform
me if any thing else was laid to my charge, and what; which will oblige your afflicted, though unworthy brother."
To this I received the following prompt and satisfactory reply.
Sir—I have received your letter of the 19th inst. I am not sure that I was in Conference
when your case was decided. But I am satisfied that I did not hear, (or if I did, I do not remember,) any thing urged against you, except your connection with Abolitionism. I supposed then, and suppose now, that this was the cause why you was not received. If there were other causes, I do not recollect them.
Soon after the Quarterly Conference at which my license was withheld, Bro. H. J. Pepper obtained the signatures of several of the members of the Conference to a declaration that the only reason alleged was my abolitionism, as it was called. He solicited the names of Solomon Higgins, Presiding Elder, and Matthew Sorin, Pastor of the Church. They said the statement was true, but they did not give their names, lest some improper use should he made of the paper.
The undersigned being members of the Quarterly Meeting Conference of Union Charge, Philadelphia, and being present at the session of said Conference, January 1, 1839, when the license of Brother Lucius C. Matlack as a local preacher was withheld deem it an act of justice to him to state that the only allege cause for withholding his license, was his having delivered public lectures in support of "Modern Abolitionism," with his avowed intention to deliver such lectures as occasion might offer, and being in favor of getting up Anti-Slave Societies in the Church.
Wm. Williams, Local Preacher.
A. Ludington, " "
Thomas Taylor, Leader.
Henry J. Pepper, "
Sam'l Y. Monroe, "
Mitchell Bennis, "
Thos. K. Peterson, "
Philadelphia, May 29, 1839.
In addition to the above letter, I was favored with an introductory written by Thomas T. Mason, and signed by the President and Secretary of the Wesleyan A. S. Society. Two of these, Messrs. Mason and Thompson, are now class leaders in the Union Church.
"Philadelphia, May 29, 1839.
Dear Brethren,—Having understood from Lucius C. Matlack, that he has been called to preach the Gospel in Lowell, Mass., and that he has accepted said call, we wish to bespeak for him your kind attentions and best sympathies.
We have known him as a Sabbath School Teacher, a Sabbath School Superintendent and Preacher of the Gospel, and also as a firm friend to the poor and oppressed. In March, 1837, a few of the Members of the M. E. Church, formed themselves into an Anti-Slavery Society. Of that small number, Lucius C. Matlack was one. He has since that time acted as one of our Secretaries, and has always been willing and ready to open his mouth for the dumb, both in public and private. Many have been led to see the evils of slavery, and many, no doubt, through his instrumentality have been brought to the foot of the Cross for pardon. His preaching days are ended here for a time. God said to him "Go preach the Gospel;" God said "Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them; but his brethren in the Philadelphia Annual Conference and in the Union Church Quarterly Conference said no, he shall not preach the Gospel!
His mouth has been shut, and here he cannot preach. But from New England the voice of welcome is heard, "Come! Here you can preach the Gospel of Christ; here you can plead the cause of the oppressed; here you can raise your voice as a trumpet and show the people their sins."
He is going to the place from whence the call proceeded and may the blessings of Almighty God attend him; he goes with the blessings of his brethren and he has their prayers and tears.
Receive him as one who has been tried and not found wanting. He has passed through the fiery ordeal and come out unscathed.
And we trust that neither the assaults of his enemies, nor the coldness of his professed friends, nor proscription, nor adversity, nor prosperity, nor life, dear as it may be, nor the prospect of death itself, nor any other creature can cause him to cease to labour for the good of man and the glory of God.
Signed on behalf of the Board of Managers of "The Wesleyan Anti-Slavery Society of the M. E. Church of Philadelphia."
Lewis Beebe, President.
L. Thomson, Secretary,
To our Brethren of the New England Conference.
It will be well here to present the successive licenses, signed the proper authorities, recognizing me as a preacher of the Gospel.
Know all men by these Presents, that Lucius C. Matlack is authorized to preach, as a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church, provided that he continues in subjection to the Discipline of said Church and his conversation is such as becomes the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
J. Potts, P.E.
Done at the Quarterly Conference, for Union Charge held at Philadelphia, the 10th day of January, A. D. 1837
S. Sappington, Secretary.
To be renewed in twelve months.
This was my first regular license to preach. At the same time I was recommended to be received in the travelling connection in the Philadelphia Annual Conference.
Know all men by these presents, That Lucius C. Matlack is authorized to preach as a local preacher, in the Methodist Episcopal Church, provided that he continues in subjection to the Discipline of said Church, and his conversation is such as becomes the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Solomon Higgins, P.E.
Done at the Quarterly Conference, for the Union Church, held at the Church the 2d day of January, A.D., 1838.
John Wilmer, Sec'ry
To be renewed in twelve months.
This second license was the last I received in Philadelphia. In 1839 it was withheld. I removed to New England, and there received the following:
"This may certify that our brother Lucius C. Matlack, by a vote of this Quarterly M. Conference, is licensed as a local preacher of the M. E. Church.
Signed in behalf of the Q. M. Conference of the M. E. C. for the Lowell St. Paul's Station. B. Otheman, P. Elder
Lowell, Sept. 10, 1839."
"This certifies that the license of Lucius C. Matlack, as a local preacher in the Methodist E. Church, is hereby renewed.
Signed by order of the Quarterly Meeting Conference of the Lowell St. Paul's Church Station, held this twenty-seventh day of June, A. D. 1840.
B. Otheman, P. Elder of the Providence District."
At the same time I was recommended to the New England Annual Conference, which set in Lowell commencing July 1, 1840.
Between November of 1839, and May of 1840, I was employed at Haverhill, Mass., which is within the bounds of the New Hampshire Conference. Having some inclination to join that Conference, I obtained a recommendation thereto, which is here inserted.
"We the official members on Haverhill Mission, having been acquainted with the ministerial qualifications and usefulness of Bro. Lucius C. Matlack, judge him to be a suitable person to be received on probation, in the New Hampshire Annual Conference. Done at a Q. M. Conference holden for Haverhill Mission, March 17th, A. D. 1840. Schuyler Chamberlin, P. Elder.
I concluded finally to join the New England Conference, and was admitted in the summer of 1840.
It was not without some embarrassment even then, that I was admitted to the ministry. The experience of a few years had led me to depend less upon the example of others, than on my own convictions of right. I had learned from the Bible that "Great men are not always wise, neither do the aged understand judg-
ment," (Job xxxii. 9.) What was deemed wrong I hesitated not to condemn at any risk. Just about this period, July 1840, the Quarterly Conference of St. Paul's Station, Lowell, Mass., took into consideration the infamous resolution on colored testimony, adopted by the Methodist General Conference at Baltimore, 1840, but which was rescinded in 1844. It reads thus.
"Resolved, That it is inexpedient and unjustifiable for any of our preachers to admit the testimony of colored persons, in any church trial where a white person is concerned, in those States where the laws make such testimony illegal in civil actions."
The general reprobation of the North was pronounced distinctly against this resolution. At the last Session of the Quarterly, previous to the Annual Conference, certain resolutions condemning it were read. The Presiding Elder, who is appointed by the Bishop, and in no way responsible to the body over which he presides, refused to put them to vote, and declared the Conference adjourned and then retired. The authority thus exercised was conferred by the same General Conference, and was condemned also in the resolutions referred to, as inconsistent with the rights of the laity. The pastor was called to the chair and the resolutions adopted unanimously by more than thirty persons.
Such was the excitement against the Quarterly Conference, that the Presiding Bishop Joshua Soule, called a meeting of that body, and tried to induce them to revoke or explain their former vote. But it was in vain. With others I stated to the Bishop distinctly my unalterable adherence to the sentiments advanced.
On the following day, however, after much opposition I was admitted by a vote of 65 to 23.
In the summer of 1841 I was elected to orders and ordained by Bishop Hedding; of which fact the following copy of my credentials will testify.
Know all Men by these Presents,
That I, Elijah Hedding, one of the Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in the United States of America, under the protection of Almighty God, and with a single eye to his glory, by the imposition of my hands and prayer, have this day set apart
Lucius C. Matlack for the office of Deacon, in the said Methodist Episcopal Church; a Man who, in the judgment of the New England Annual Conference, is well qualified for that work; and he is hereby recommended, to all whom it may concern, as a proper person to administer the ordinance of Baptism, Marriage, and the Burial of the Dead in the absence of an Elder, and to feed the flock of Christ: and he continueth to hold fast the form of sound words, according to the established doctrines of the Gospel.
In Testimony Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Fourth day of July, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and forty one.
Done at Worcester, Mass.
Subsequent to my departure from Philadelphia, and after my admission to the ministry, I returned home on a visit. And such was the change of popular sentiment in my favor, that individuals, unsolicited, prompted the pastor of Union Church to ask me to preach in his pulpit. And I had the pleasure of looking upon the same men, who had deprived me of license to preach, and pointing them to "The way of escape"—"The hope set before us in the Gospel."
In 1842 I was appointed to the pastoral charge of a church in the city of Boston. My labors were begun in that city by a public avowal in my pulpit, that the anti-slavery cause should occupy an equal share of my attention, with all other benevolent objects.
While I was resident in Boston, the movement which originated the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion, was commenced by the withdrawal of Orange Scott, Jotham Horton and La Roy Sunderland. The pro-slavery character of the church—the listlessness then prevalent among abolitionists—the duty of refusing Christian fellowship to slaveholders and the anti-slavery influence of secession, were argued in justification of their course.
Surrounded as I was by a host of friends, with a present competent support, and every prospect of future advancement, there were no inducements of personal interest to sway my mind in their favor. The influence of this movement on my course, will be seen by the following communication which was published in "The True Wesleyan," the organ of the New Connexion, January, 1842.
"To withdraw from the Methodist Episcopal Church, is in the opinion of many, a crime of no ordinary magnitude. With such the following announcement will be considered as conclusive evidence of a bad heart. But it is the result of serious and prayerful deliberation. It is prompted by the dictates of my best judgment, and could not be avoided by me, without offending against the clearest light respecting my duty to God and my fellow men.
An earnest desire and a fixed purpose to oppose slavery has long been rooted and grounded in my very nature. Realizing the embarrassments which our economy threw in the way of efficient action, I sincerely desired some modification thereof. But the history of the Church assured me, that no change could possibly be effected in her economy that would materially aid in the more rapid advancement of the anti-slavery cause. Hence the conclusion was forced upon me, that the best I could do, was to use those "means consistent with our ecclesiastical institutions to remove slavery from the church," and be content.
Thus had I purposed, and thus was I engaged, when the announcement was made, that certain brethren had withdrawn from the Church, with the design of forming an anti-slavery Wesleyan Methodist Church. I was surprised, armed, and dissatisfied yet the more thought I bestowed upon it, the less obnoxious it appeared, until finally my judgment approved, and a verdict full in its favor was pronounced, without having consulted those brethren by word or letter.
Soon the question was started, "Can I sympathize with this
movement, and honestly remain in the Church whose interests will be unfavorably affected by its promotion?" Conscience, reason, Scripture, all said "You cannot!" To their unanimous decision I submitted. The immediate result was a letter to the preachers in the city, informing them of my design; and one to the Presiding Elder, communicating the fact of my withdrawal. Instead of an array of reasons leading to this result, which would be but a repetition of what has been published already, the result itself is submitted to the reader, in a copy of the letters above mentioned.
1. To the Presiding Elder of Boston District.
"Dear Brother Kilburn,—The course of duty being now plain on a subject of perplexing interest, I hereby respectfully inform you of my withdrawal from the Methodist Episcopal Church: and by returning my name to the next annual conference as withdrawn, you will oblige one who with feelings of respect and esteem would subscribe himself," &c.
Boston, Dec. 26, 1842.
2. To the Preachers in the city of Boston.
"Dear Brethren,—The reading of this will inform you of my withdrawal from the Methodist Episcopal Church. This step is taken from a sense of solemn duty. My reasons at large you will not care to hear. Allow me to mention the main one.
I could not be an honest man, or have a conscience void of offence, and remain in the connection with my present views and feelings. For, after serious and prayerful consideration, I am fully persuaded of the propriety and necessity of the 'new movement.' In the integrity of those brethren I have the fullest confidence. Their views are mine. The results they professedly aim to accomplish, have been fondly cherished objects with me. Hence the only consistent course for me is to withdraw peaceably from your communion.
In bidding you farewell, as ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and as brethren sincerely beloved, permit me to express the pleasure I have enjoyed in your company, and the high esteem I place upon your friendship. I leave you without an unkind feeling, sensible of many personal obligations. I entertain no bitterness of feeling toward the Church or the authorities of the Church from which I now withdraw. Whatever influence I may believe she has exerted and does still exert to the injury of others she has never seriously injured me.
In the providence of God, I have been called from sin to holiness by her instrumentality. To that God whose instrument she was, I am under the greatest obligations. To Him I owe my all. And in return, I am resolved to live to his glory, and in the work of saving souls expire.
Dear brethren, adieu!
Yours in Christian fellowship.
Boston, Dec, 26, 1842"
The ties thus severed, have long and closely entwined around my heart. The friends thus separated from, are much endeared and nothing less than an attachment to the cause of truth, an inveterate hatred to slavery, an honest conviction that this step will be instrumental in stirring up to vigorous action those who continue in her communion, and afford me an opportunity of giving the most efficient testimony against slavery, and at the same time enable me more vigorously to oppose it,—I say, nothing less than these considerations would induce me to leave the M.E. Church, and bid adieu to friends I love so well. But having counted the cost, I throw myself out, relying on the merits of the cause to which I henceforth devote my all.
Lucius C. Matlack."
From this date my connection with the M. E. Church ceased. I had not then—I have not now, any disposition to reproach those from whom I have separated, with whom I differ. Nor has this narrative been prompted by any unkind feeling. It would have been an easy task to have indulged freely in severe censure upon many acts here noticed. But I have forborne. The facts speak for themselves. I leave the conclusions to be drawn therefrom, to the reader. As the pastor of a small company of Christians worshipping in this city, in Clarkson Hall, Cherry above Sixth street—whose terms of membership require total abstinence from all intoxicating drinks—and non-fellowship for all slave-holding, I am more than content with my lot.
To those who may have honored this unpretending narrative with a perusal, I tender my best acknowledgments for the favor conferred, and now withdraw my claim upon their attention.
Lucius C. Matlack.
Philadelphia, June 21, 1845.
Why was this narrative written? may be asked by some. I answer briefly. That from my first rejection by the Conference in 1837, there have been those the M. E. Church who have dishonestly insinuated that objections affecting my moral character were the cause of my rejection. And since I have left the Church, the Christian Repository a paper published in this city, by Orrin Rogers, and patronized by the Methodists mostly, has published to the world, the following statement about me, by name.
"The truth is,—the M. E. Church never found much of a help when she had him; and in fact, as a minister, she would not have him at all, at least in this section. And it is presumed that if she would not trust him as a watchman before turned traitor, that her membership will not be more ready to trust him now."
In reply to this, Thomas T. Mason, a member of the M. E. Church, published in the same paper a reply, calling upon the editor to "name a single individual in the Union M. E. Church, that had not the most unbounded confidence in him at the time he was proscribed, or even now after his multitude of offendings. His whole course then and since has been calculated to inspire confidence in him." The editor in his reply re-affirms the former statements with additional severity of language, but attempts no proof.
At this time I was residing in New England. Now my home is in this city; I had purposed for the entertainment of my friends and my own vindication to prepare the narrative now issued, but deferred it until I should be where I was best known, and where it could be denied, if untrue. My time has been so fully occupied, however, that until now, no opportunity has offered. It is now accomplished. And I design circulating it as widely as possible in vindication of my course. It is due to my old friends in the M.E. Church, to myself, and the Church of which I am pastor in this city.