The Oberlin Evangelist
April 27, 1859
Cleveland Congregational Conference.
The Semi-annual Meeting of this ecclesiastical body was held at East Cleveland on Tuesday and Wednesday, 19th and 20th inst, commenced with public religious service at seven and a half o’clock P. M., in the Congregational Church. The opening sermon was delivered by Rev. O.W. White, of Strongsville. His text was Jno. 6:63; his subject, as announced – The transforming Power of the Gospel. – Brothers Clisbee and Baldwin assisted in the services.
The Moderator, Rev. J.A. Thome, took the chair after the religious exercises, and the Scribe proceeded to call the roll of churches and ministers. There was an unusually full attendance of delegates, and also of pastors.
Revs. J.P. Bardwell and A.D. Barber were received as members of the Conference. Revs. J.C. Hart and W. T. Torrey, of the Puritan Association, and Robert Page and Thomas Adams, of North East Conference, were invited to sit as corresponding members.
At eight o’clock there was a meeting for prayer, in which our brethren in bonds were fervently remembered.
A report ordered at the last meeting to be presented at this on the ordaining powers of Conference, being called for, it was announced that the Chairman of the Committee to whom that subject was referred, was Prof. Peck, now in prison at Cleveland. The subject was recommitted, and Bro. Thome was put instead of Prof. Peck on the Committee.
Conference proceeded to the selection of a place for the Annual Meeting, and Laporte, Lorain County, was chosen.
Bro. Wm. N. Briggs applied for the approval of Conference as a preacher of the Gospel, and after a thorough examination, which was sustained to the satisfaction of Conference, the approval of the body was universally accorded. Bro. Briggs is now laboring at Laporte, where he is highly esteemed.
The Committee on Missionary Supply for feeble churches within the bounds of Conference, appointed at the last meeting, reported that nothing had as yet been done; continued with additional instructions. This Committee consists of Revs. F. Shipherd, E.H. Fairchild, and C.C. Baldwin.
Bros. H. Cowles, A.D. Barber, and P.P. Pease were constituted a Committee on systematic efforts for enlisting pious youth in a preparation of r the ministry. This subject was discussed for some time and with great interest, and many valuable suggestions were made that should come before the churches.
The narrative of the state of religion occupied most of the afternoon. Among the encouraging facts stated, none was perhaps more cheering than that of the increasing thirst in the churches for a higher spiritual life. It was gratifying also to learn that by several of the churches, from two to five Sabbath Schools are sustained in their respective regions. The critical condition of the church at Berea, without a pastor, feeble, divided, and discouraged, elicited the anxious sympathies of Conference.
A Committee, consisting of Bros. O.W. White, H. Cowles, and G. Dana, was appointed to report at the Annual Meeting on the relations of the American Board to slavery.
Before closing the afternoon session, a Committee was raised to draft resolutions on the Rescue Trials, to be presented to Conference in the evening, in connection with the addresses arranged to be had on that subject.
The evening meeting was introduced with the usual devotional exercises, in the presence of a large audience. Addresses were delivered by Bros. C.W. Torrey, J.A. Thome, W.T. Torrey, F. Shipherd, J.C. Hart, and H. Cowles; all bearing on the prosecutions now pending before the U.S. District Court, and earnestly advocating a Christian adherence to the law of God at whatever hazard of sacrifice. Bro. F. Shipherd, who has a son among the prisoners, spoke like a father warmly, and like a man of God boldly, for the higher law. His address produced a marked sensation. At the close of the address a written declaration of sentiments and sympanthies was read by Bro. Cowles and adopted by the Conference, and afterwards put to vote to the congregation, and nearly the entire audience rose in token of approval. This was followed by a contribution taken up for the prisoners, which amounted to $14. the declaration of principles is given below. Father Keep, the venerable patriarch of the Conference, said it was destined to be part of the history of our eventful times. We trust, at least, it will not be without its present effect. It was ordered to be published in the Cleveland papers, in the Independent, Tribune, and other papers, at the discretion of the stated Scribe.
RESOLUTIONS on the recent enforcement of the Fugitive Slave act against certain citizens of Oberlin and Wellington, passed unanimously by the Cleveland Congregational Conference at their Semi-Annual sessions, East Cleveland, April 20, 1859.
Whereas, Several members of churches in our connection and one beloved member of this Conference, together with several other worthy citizens of Oberlin and Wellington, have been recently indicted, arrested, imprisoned and put upon their trial, for the alleged crime of rescuing a fugitive slave from his claimants; we deem this a proper occasion to declare,
1. That in our judgment so far as the testimony has yet transpired, it does not convict
these brethren an fellow-citizens of “knowingly” violating the Fugitive Slave Law, inasmuch as the colored man was seized stealthily, after the manner of kidnappers, and the papers shown as authority were supposed to be legally defective.
2. That even if the case had been an open violation of the Fugitive Slave Law of
1793 and of 1850, it would not have been a violation of the higher law of God, but rather a case of heroic Christian obedience thereto, and the more clearly so inasmuch as the rescue was made without violence.
3. That the voice of the Christian world does, and ought to, sustain those who, at the
call of suffering humanity and of divinely revealed duty, dare to “obey God rather than men.”
4. That we sympathize deeply with our brethren, suffering under the oppressive
action of this Fugitive Slave Law, and deem it our privilege to “remember them while in bonds as bound with them, commending them to the loving care of Him who, eighteen hundred years ago, “endured grief, suffering wrongfully.”
5. That we call the attention of all our Christian brethren and fellow-citizens
throughout the nation, to the present case as developing the utter, inevitable antagonism of Slavery to the dictates of humanity and to the demands of the law of equal, impartial love, and as developing also the natural oppressiveness of the Slave Power towards, not the bond only, but the free – developments which show that a system of Slavery like our own is not fit to be tolerated anywhere among the common offspring of our one Father, and least of all, in a nation which claims to be not only civilized but Christian.