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Article Index


Other societies, national in their scope and constituency, the origin of which belongs in this organizing period, are the American Education Society (1815), the American Sunday-school Union (1824), the American Tract Society (1825), the Seamen's Friend Society (1826), and the American Home Missionary Society (1826), in which last the Congregationalists of New England coöperated with the Presbyterians on the basis of a Plan of Union entered into between the General Assembly and the General Association of Connecticut, the tendency of which was to reinforce the Presbyterian Church with the numbers and the vigor of the New England westward migration. Of course the establishment of these and other societies for beneficent work outside of sectarian lines did not hinder, but rather stimulated, sectarian organizations for the like objects. The whole American church, in all its orders, was girding itself for a work, at home and abroad, the immense grandeur of which no man of that generation could possibly have foreseen.

The grandeur of this work was to consist not only in the results of it, but in the resources of it. As never before, the sympathies, prayers, and personal coöperation of all Christians, even the feeblest, were to be combined and utilized for enterprises coextensive with the continent and the world and taking hold on eternity. The possibilities of the new era were dazzling to the prophetic imagination. A young minister then standing on the threshold of a long career exulted in the peculiar and excelling glory of the dawning day:

     "Surely, if it is the noblest attribute of our nature that spreads out the circle of our sympathies to include the whole family of man, and sends forth our affections to embrace the ages of a distant futurity, it must be regarded as a privilege no less exalted that our means of _doing_ good are limited by no remoteness of country or distance of duration, but we may operate, if we will, to assuage the miseries of another hemisphere, or to prevent the necessities of an unborn generation. The time has been when a man might weep over the wrongs of Africa, and he might look forward to weep over the hopelessness of her degradation, till his heart should bleed; and yet his tears would be all that he could give her. He might relieve the beggar at his door, but he could do nothing for a dying continent. He might provide for his children, but he could do nothing for the nations that were yet to be born to an inheritance of utter wretchedness. Then the privilege of engaging in schemes of magnificent benevolence belonged only to princes and to men of princely possessions; but now the progress of improvement has brought down this privilege to the reach of every individual. The institutions of our age are a republic of benevolence, and all may share in the unrestrained and equal democracy. This privilege is ours. We may stretch forth our hand, if we will, to enlighten the Hindu or to tame the savage of the wilderness. It is ours, if we will, to put forth our contributions and thus to operate not ineffectually for the relief and renovation of a continent over which one tide of misery has swept without ebb and without restraint for unremembered centuries. It is ours, if we will, to do something that shall tell on all the coming ages of a race which has been persecuted and enslaved, trodden down and despised, for a thousand generations. Our Father has made us the almoners of his love. He has raised us to partake, as it were, in the ubiquity of his own beneficence. Shall we be unworthy of the trust? God forbid!"[260:1]



[247:1] "Life of David Bacon," by his son (Boston, 1876).

[249:1] Compare the claim of priority for the Dutch church, p. 81, _note_.

[250:1] J. H. Allen, "The Unitarians," p. 194.

[250:2] "Autobiography of L. Beecher," p. 110.

[252:1] "Herzog-Schaff Encyclopedia," pp. 2328-2331.

[255:1] "The Baptists," by Dr. A. H. Newman, pp. 379-442.

[255:2] I have omitted from this list of results in the direct line from the inception at Andover, in 1810, the American Missionary Association. It owed its origin, in 1846, to the dissatisfaction felt by a considerable number of the supporters of the American Board with the attitude of that institution on some of the questions arising incidentally to the antislavery discussion. Its foreign missions, never extensive, were transferred to other hands, at the close of the Civil War, that it might devote itself wholly to its great and successful work among "the oppressed races" at home.

[256:1] It may be worth considering how far the course of religious and theological thought would have been modified if the English New Testament had used these phrases instead of _World to Come_ and _Kingdom of God_.

[258:1] The colored Baptists of Richmond entered eagerly into the Colonization project, and in 1822 their "African Missionary Society" sent out its mission to the young colony of Liberia. One of their missionaries was the Rev. Lott Cary, the dignity of whose character and career was an encouragement of his people in their highest aspirations, and a confirmation of the hopes of their friends (Newman, "The Baptists," p. 402; Gurley, "Life of Ashmun," pp. 147-160).

[260:1] Leonard Bacon, "A Plea for Africa," in the Park Street Church, Boston, July 4, 1824.

Source: A History of American Christianity chapter 15, by Leonard Woolsey Bacon etext available at the Project Gutenberg website