FROM J. J. SHIPHERD-PASTORAL LETTER.
NEW YORK, Jan. 27, 1835.
TO ALL THE BELOVED IN CHRIST JESUS, whom I have gathered, not only at Oberlin, but in my heart; "Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ." I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making request with joy for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. That you may be thus perfected, "I pray that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Jesus Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God." And for this, beloved, I not only pray but now write touching a few of the many things which concern your peace, your usefulness, and the glory of God our Heavenly Father. Trusting that you reciprocate my Christian love and confidence, I speak freely as unto my children, my brethren and my sisters in the Lord.
And first I thank God for the revival of his precious work among you, and say with emphasis, "Quench not the Spirit." Oh, " Grieve not the Spirit of God." That you may not, ponder with much prayer the scriptures on brotherly love and Christian union found in Eph. iv. I-16; Phil. ii. I-17; and other kindred scriptures. Also that you may not faint, "Search the scriptures, feed upon and digest them till you feel their nourishment in your hearts and their controlling influence in your lives. By much prayer also, drink in of the Spirit largely. Yet, beloved, "Watch unto prayer," lest in an evil hour the world overcome you. If you will do your duty the revival will never cease; but the fountains which the Spirit has graciously opened in your souls will rise and overflow till they form a sea of glory. If you will do your duty, Oberlin will be a living fountain whose waters will refresh the far-off, thirsty, dying Gentiles and wretched Jews. "Be vigilant," therefore, dearly beloved, "watch and pray," and never sleep, as do others.
In the second place, dear brethren and sisters, permit me to exhort you to be "the Lord's peculiar people, zealous of good works." I would not have you needlessly singular, but I would have you actually singular, even among the churches if they continue as they now are. Far better to be unlike them and all on earth, than to be unlike Christ. Instead of taking the blessed Son of God as their pattern, the churches have measured themselves by themselves, and compared themselves with themselves unwisely, till the image of Christ is so lost that God will not instamp their image upon the world. I believe that it is because we are so unlike his Son that he delays to give our likeness to pagan nations. Why should God give a spurious Christianity to the nations yet to receive the gospel? No, beloved, the Church must put off her earthly attire and put on Christ before she can receive to her millennial embrace a regenerated world. It must be so. When the people of God do this they will be peculiar in their diet, dress, and all that appertains to them. The simplicity of Christ will characterize them. This, dearly beloved, you have acknowledged in your "colonial covenant." "Now, therefore, perform the doing of it." That you would, there were pleasing indications when we parted. Oh, how sweet that last meeting that we held in relation to our colonial covenant! And how delightful to see even the aged members of our body crucifying the flesh that Christ might be glorified. My heart's desire and prayer to God has been that they might be steadfast and gain the victory. Let me beseech you all to be thorough in excluding from your diet, dress, and all pertaining to you, everything which in the least hinders your sanctification or the conversion of the world. This subject is magnified in my estimation as one which pertains to salvation, and I pray that it may be in yours. In these respects may you be a "peculiar people." Moreover, brethren, be peculiarly fervent in your charity toward all saints, not merely of your distinctive name, but of Christ's dearer name. Let the door of your church be as wide as the door of heaven, but no wider, and strive to unite the dear people of God under "one fold and one shepherd." To your virtue "add knowledge," for "knowledge is power." And permit me here to request that you enter early upon the system of colonial education, which I recommended last spring, and which the brethren then on the ground resolved to adopt. Reflection and conversation with intelligent persons have confirmed my opinion that the system proposed is one peculiarly worthy of Christ's disciples, not only on account of its intellectual but its moral bearing also. And as property is convertible into moral power, look well to the state of your farms, shops, and all your temporal interests. " Be diligent in business," remembering Pastor Oberlin's plea that good roads be made for Christ's sake.
Peculiar excellence in these respects will commend your religion, and aid in casting up a highway for the Lord. Let me also exhort you, beloved, to be peculiarly zealous and liberal in sustaining the Institute. This is expected of you abroad, and reasonably too. You may through that institution preach by proxy with great power. Let it live then in your prayers, your contributions, your efforts to board its pupils and promote its various interests, and do all this as unto the Lord. The peculiarity which I desire in this case is, that you do all this, not like most communities surrounding literary institutions, for secular gain, but for Christ's sake. Furthermore, lest you become alienated in your minds, keep up an open, frequent intercourse, of a truly Christian character. I have deeply regretted that through the cares of the world we were last season so estranged from each other. Do, beloved, set aside everything which hinders you from know ing each other as members of one body in Christ our Lord. Let religion be your theme, and praise and prayer a portion of your employment in all your social visits. Also strive to keep up a kind of Christian intercourse with your neighbors around Oberlin. Let not those dear brethren who labor in Sabbath-schools and otherwise for the salvation of those about you be weary in well doing, but may others join them till no neighborhood is left. Moreover, let me exhort you, as the Lord's peculiar people, to be zealous in finding out and employing those means by which the world is to be converted. Fear not, brethren, to lead in doing right. There must be a mighty overturning before He whose right it is shall rule overall nations, and the servants of God will have to turn much upside down, as Paul did, before all will be right. There must also be many inventions of moral as well as physical machinery before Satan's throne will be demolished. Who should be forward in these overturnings and inventions if not my dear people at Oberlin? You know, beloved, I would not have you rash or inconsiderate in changing a single custom; but I would have you study and pray out the mind of the Spirit and execute it promptly, without asking how the world or even the Church would like it. Nothing is more impolitic as well as wicked than to substitute expediency for duty. This is now a prevalent sin of the church, which nullifies her power. It is so prevalent in all the churches that I fear some of you, beloved, if not all, will yield to its paralyzing influence. My fears are excited by your recent expressions of unwillingness to have youth of color educated in our Institute. Those expressions were a grief to me, such as I have rarely suffered. Although I knew that with some of you the doctrine of expediency was against the immediate abolition of slavery, because slaves are not qualified for freedom, I supposed you thought it expedient and duty to elevate and educate them as fast as possible, that therefore you would concur in receiving those of promising talent and piety into our institution. So confident was I that this would be the prevailing sentiment of Oberlin in the colony and Institute that about a year ago I informed eastern inquirers that we received students according to character, irrespective of color; and, beloved, whatever the expediency or prejudice of some may say, does not duty require this? Most certainly.
For, 1. They are needed as ministers, missionaries, and teachers for the land of their fathers, and for their untaught, injured, perishing brethren of our country. 2. Their education seems highly essential if not indispensable to the emancipation and salvation of their colored brethren. 3. They will be elevated much more rapidly if taught with whites, hitherto far more favored, than if educated separately. 4. The extremity of their wrongs at the white man's hand requires that the best possible means be employed, and without delay, for their education. 5. They can nowhere enjoy needed education unless admitted to our institution, or others established for whites. 6. God made them of one blood with us; they are our fellows. 7. They are our neighbors, and whatsoever we would they should do unto us, we must do unto them, or become guilty before God. Suppose, beloved, your color were to become black, what would you claim, in this respect, to be your due as a neighbor? 8. Those we propose to receive are the "little ones" of Christ. We must "take heed how we offend one of these "little ones." 9. The objection to associating with them for the purpose of thus doing them good is like the objection of the Pharisees against our Saviour's eating with publicans and sinners. 10. Intermarriage with the whites is not asked, and need not be feared. 11. None of you will be compelled to receive them into your families, unless, like Christ, the love of your neighbor compel you to. 12. Those who desire to receive and educate them have the same right to do it that Christ had to eat with publicans and sinners. 13. Colored youth have been educated at other institutions for whites. 14. They will doubtless be received to all such institutions by and by, and why should beloved Oberlin wait to do justice and show mercy till all others have clone it? Why hesitate to lead in the cause of humanity and of God? 15. Colored youth cannot be rejected through fear that God will be dishonored if they are received. 16. However it may be with you, brethren, I know that it was only the pride of my wicked heart that caused me to reject them while I did. 17. If we refuse to deliver our brother now drawn unto death, I cannot hope that God will smile upon us. 18. The men and money which would make our institution most useful cannot be obtained if we reject our colored brother. Eight professorships and ten thousand dollars are subscribed upon condition that Rev. C. G. Finney become Professor of Theology in our Institute, and he will not unless the youth of color are received. Nor will President Mahan nor Professor Morgan serve unless this condition is complied with. And they all are the men we need, irrespective of their anti-slavery sentiments. 19. If you suffer expediency or prejudice to pervert justice in this case you will in another. 20. Such is my conviction of duty in this case that I cannot labor for the enlargement of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, if our brethren in Jesus Christ must be rejected because they differ from us in color. You know, dear brethren and sisters, that it would be hard for me to leave that institution which I planted in much fasting and prayer and tribulation, sustained for a time by only one brother and then for months by only two brethren, and for which I have prayed without ceasing, laboring night and day, and watering it with my sweat and my tears. You know it would be hard to part with my dear associates in these labors. And as I have you, as a people, in my heart to live and die with you, you know, beloved, that it would be heart-breaking to leave you for another field of labor; but I have pondered the subject well, with prayer, and believe that if the injured brother of color, and consequently Brothers Finney, Mahan and Morgan, with eight professorships and ten thousand dollars, must be rejected, I must join them; because by so doing I can labor more effectually for a lost world and the glory of God&emdash;and, believe me, dear brethren and sisters, for this reason only. The agitation produced by my request forwarded to the trustees, some weeks since, was unexpected. I was sorry that it occurred, but happy that you fasted and prayed it down. I trust that season has prepared the minds of all who devoutly observed it for this communication, which I w ould have suppressed till my return had I not been under the necessity of communicating the same to the trustees for immediate decision, because our professors and funds are all suspended upon that decision, and myself also. May God of his infinite mercy grant that in this, and all things right, we may be "perfectly joined together in one mind." For two weeks after I left Oberlin I was quite unwell with a cold; but the Lord has since blessed me greatly with health. I have here been some four weeks upon the Graham system of diet, which is nature's system, and my health is essentially improved. Last Sabbath morning I preached in the old Chatham Theatre, now Chatham Chapel, which is immensely large, and more than an hour, and to the Fourth Free Church as long in the afternoon, and yet felt well on Monday morning. I now Indulge sanguine hope that through this system of diet and the blessing of God I shall be able to reengage in pastoral labor. And if on my return in April next, God willing, you, beloved flock, should still concur in desiring me to be your pastor, and concur in doing good to our oppressed brethren of color, I shall bless God for the privilege of wearing out as your servant for Christ's sake.
As ever your affectionate brother,
JOHN J. SHIPHERD.