The Oberlin Evangelist
June 22, 1859
Ohio State Congregational Conference.
This body held its Seventh Annual meeting at Sandusky City, June 9-12. Rev. S.P. Fay, Moderator, and F.D. Parish Esq., Scribe. An excellent spirit pervaded the meeting throughout. The morning hour for devotional exercises was refreshing. Correspondence with other bodies occupied the attention of Conference during the first half day. Reports were heard from Rev. C.W. Torrey, of his visit to the General Association of Massachusetts from Rev. S.P. Fay, of his visit to the New Hampshire Association; from Rev. J.A. Thome, of his visit to the Association of Illinois; of Rev. H. Cowles of his visit to the Association of Michigan; Rev. H.L. Hammond reported from Iowa; and full letters embracing many facts of interest, were received from our Congregational brethren in Kansas, Oregon, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The Association were favored with the presence of Rev. Mr. Chapman, representing the general Association of New York; of Rev. N.C. Dunn, representing Illinois; and of Pres. A. Mahan, representing Michigan. By these reports and letters the Conference were brought into direct communion with our Congregational brethren I nearly all the States and Territories West of us, and with several in the East. Without exception these reports reveal a state of gratifying prosperity among the Congregational churches. Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas, expressed their deep sympathy in the great struggle against the Slave Power now manifesting itself in the “rescue cases,” under which several of our Oberlin brethren and friends still suffer imprisonment.
The brethren of Iowa passed the following resolutions, accompanied with a donation for the relief of those in bonds, amounting to forty dollars.
Whereas, the effort to carry into execution the Fugitive Slave enactment, is constantly producing excitement and collision, and subjecting Christian and humane men and law-abiding citizens, to prosecution, pains and penalties; - and whereas, a number of citizens of a Western State, some of whom we take pleasure in recognizing as our brethren in Christ, are thus harassed at the present time; Therefore
1. Resolved. That we extend to these our brethren and fellow-citizens our hearty
sympathy, and say to them – Be courageous in enduring wrong, for the cause of right. We believe the results of your case will not terminate with you alone, who are immediately and directly concerned in it, but will have important bearings on the cause of liberty throughout our wide country.
2. Resolved. That we recognized the Providence of God which is using the
enforcement of this unchristian enactment to call out and increase the humane and Christian opposition of our fellow citizens and fellow Christians to the whole system of American Slavery, with all its attendant evils, whether established by enactment of the General Government, sanctioned by the Supreme Court or enforced by Federal Officers.
Iowa reports 150 churches in connection, of which 20 have been added during the year; 110 ministers now laboring in the State; 5,000 comunicants, of whom nearly 1,000 have been added during the past year. Many churches have been greatly blessed during the year; several have enjoyed interesting revivals, and more sound conversions are reported than during any other year.
Our Kansas brethren report an earnest and effective effort in the cause of Temperance and a vast amount of pioneer work in organizing churches, gathering congregations, erecting houses of worship and not least in laying the foundations of a College.
It was refreshing to hear from Oregon. Our brethren in that remote land are toiling on in their pioneer work, and make a touching appeal to us in these more favored fields, for our sympathy, prayers and aid.
The Reports from our own local Conferences on the state of religion were far too brief and imperfect. The rule requiring them to be made wholly and only in writing seems not to have wrought itself into the practical business of the local bodies; consequently, no provision is made for it in season, and no suitable reports can be had.
Central North Association reported that all its churches, save Bucyrus, were supplied with preaching at least half of the time, and were mostly making advances.
Cleveland Conference reported a degree of religious interest, effort and success, somewhat less than in the year next proceeding, but greater than the average for five years past. No very powerful revivals, but precious refreshings and hopeful ingatherings, manifest growth, are reported from Collarner, East Cleveland; Plymouth Church, Cleveland; Cleveland West-side; Oberlin and Pittsfield. In these churches, the additions by profession during 1858 were 341. Many of these were fruits of the interesting revivals enjoyed during the early part of the year, and prior to June 1858. The College at Oberlin has been prosperous, the number of students having been greater during the past spring than ever before. The teachers have borne peculiarly heavy burdens of labor in teaching in consequence of the temporary absence of President Finney and of the imprisonment of Prof. Peck for full nine weeks, already. Yet the report recognized the hand of the Lord in pressing the great conflict of the age – between Christianity and the Slave Power of our country – upon the hearts of so great a mass of youth in their course of education, and upon the friends of the College throughout the land. It may be hoped that this force of youthful mind will be trained and consecrated to the struggle in which their generation seems destined to wield a decisive agency.
Form the Grand River Conference, we were gratified to learn that the power of Spiritualism in their bounds seems to have been broken.
Marietta Conference reported revivals in two churches, resulting in 30 hopeful conversions. Other churches seem barren, and smitten as the frost has smitten many fields, past, which their delegate traveled.
Plymouth Rock Conference (North East Ohio) reported refreshing revivals in two of its churches.
Puritan Conference has enjoyed no powerful revivals, yet some lesser blessings. A large part of the population do not frequent the house of God on the Sabbath. Great need is felt of the work of the Divine Spirit.
Miami Conference has grown to the size of 9 churches and 11 ministers, but reports much land yet to be possessed, and hopeful openings for missionary labor.
The Tract Societies, located respectively at New York, Boston and Cincinnati came under consideration whereupon the Conference strongly disapproved the policy of the former, and commended that of the two latter, as will be seen in the following resolutions, passed unanimously.
1. That we regard the course of the American Tract Society of New York, for two years past, on the subject of Slavery, and recently of the Slave Trade, as an abandonment of Christian principle, and a departure from the objects of its organization; and we are more than ever convinced of our duty to with hold from it our support.
2. That he have entire confidence in the principles and management of the American Reform Book and Tract Society of Cincinnati, and regard it as having special claims upon the churches of Ohio and the West.
3. That we cordially approve of the position recently assumed, and the plan of operation proposed by the American Tract Society of Boston, and cheerfully recommend it to public confidence and patronage.
These resolutions express almost unanimously the voice of the West.
On the “Rescue Cases” the following Resolutions were adopted unanimously:
Whereas, certain citizens of Lorain County, some of whom are brethren in Christ, have been arrested by the authorities of the United States, simply for attempting to protect the rights of an alleged fugitive from Slavery, and
Whereas, all of them have been indicted and imprisoned, some of them put upon trial and convicted and sentenced to fine and imprisonment, and others are awaiting their trial; therefore,
Resolves 1. That we sympathized deeply with our brethren suffering under the oppressive action of the 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.”
2. That we call the attention of our Christian brethren and fellow-citizens to the present case, as developing the utter antagonism of the laws which sustain Slavery, not only to the dictates of humanity and to the claims of conscience generally, but to the rights and interests of free men in the Free States; and, consequently, as showing that duty to the bond and to the free – to God and to posterity – require that united effort should be made to guard against those evils which invariably arise from attempts to execute the Fugitive Slave Law.
3. That no law requiring an immorality, or prohibiting acts of benevolence, is binding under any government, - and under a professedly free and Christian government such a law is odious and abhorrent; that attempts to enforce a statute against humanity and justice, can be made voluntarily by bad men only, and that in every age all real progress made is due to men who have chosen to resist demoralizing laws, and to suffer their penalty rather than do wrong.
4. That the responsibility of forming the conscience of the nation with respect to slavery rests with the church and the ministry; and that the ultimate end to be sought, and which the gospel is designed and adapted to secure, sit the total abolition of Slavery.
5. That personal responsibility can never be transferred – that bad precedents can never lead to sound principles – that bad becomes worse by repetition – and that a concurrence in known wrong against personal conviction, can be yielded only by the sacrifice of the first principles of morality.
6. That we approve of the spirit manifested, and the course of action adopted by our imprisoned brethren at Cleveland; that we have the fullest confidence in their integrity and manly devotion to truth, freedom and humanity; that we do not feel competent to give advice as to the future, and can only commend them to the matured decisions of their own minds, guided by God’s Spirit the leadings of his Providence.
These resolutions and the general subjects they embrace were discussed with thrilling interest and effect on Saturday evening. Every speaker showed that the subject had taken hold powerfully of his very heart.
By resolution of Conference, a collection, in behalf of the imprisoned, was taken up on Sabbath afternoon, which amounted to fifty dollars.
The Constitution of Conference was so amended that all ministers in the local Conferences, are henceforth members of the State Conference, and that each church in our connection may send two delegates.
The next meeting is to be held in Cincinnati, on the second Thursday of June, 1860. Rev. S.C. Leonard, of Mt. Vernon, O., is chosen Register, and Rev. J.C. White, of Cleveland, Statistical Secretary. H. C.