POLYGAMY AND CHRISTIAN MISSIONS. The Independent, of February 21, noticing a work on India, by Rev. D. 0. Allen, D. D., for twenty- five years a missionary of the American Board in that country, introduces a quotation from the work with the following remarks:
"The following emphatic declaration of Dr. Allen establishes the position of the Independent in our discussion with the American Missionary on the subject of caste. We do not doubt that that journal will render to the missionaries of the Board, the simple justice of reprinting Dr. Allen's testimony—
" 'American missionaries in India have always required a renunciation of caste from their converts before admitting them to a profession of Christianity. And if at any time afterwards the spirit of caste became apparent in any of them, as it sometimes did, the missionaries have treated such members in the way of instruction, admonition, suspension, and excommunication, according to the nature and aggravation of their offences. The American missionaries in India can no more be justly charged with admitting and tolerating caste in their churches, than the ministers of Boston New York and Philadelphia can be justly charged with admitting and tolerating drunkenness.' "
The Independent certainly does not need to be reminded that a more full statement from Dr. Allen was published in the American Missionary more than twenty months ago. It may not be amiss to add, that all we have ever written relative to the admitting and tolerating of caste in the mission churches, has been based on the oft- quoted language of the missionaries and officers of the Board, the writers of its reports, stated and special, and the editors of its official publications. Nothing that we have said, or could have said, unsupported by those quotations, could have half the force of the quotations themselves, seen in their natural order and relations. Having thus long since given our authority, we have ever been quite willing to leave to others the interpretation of the documents from which we quoted. Whatever may be said relative to the correctness of the statements given in them, our conclusions, we think, were logically drawn.
By the publication of Dr. Allen's book a new importance will be given to the question of polygamy, and the reception of polygamists into mission churches. We copy the following extract as given in the Independent: " ' Now what shall be done in respect to such persons (polygamists) when they give credible evidence of personal piety, and seek admission into the Christian Church ? No case of this kind occurred in my own missionary experience. But some cases have occurred in India, and this difficulty will occur in numerous instances in the progress of the Gospel. The subject will also have the consideration and decision of the highest authority, ecclesiastical and judiciary, in India and England. My opinion is that the general practice in missions in respect to such cases will be as follows : — When any man who has more than one wife to whom he has been legally married, wishes to be admitted into the Christian Church, he will be required to make a free and full statement of his domestic relations. He will be permitted to retain his marital connection with all his wives, and his parental relation to all his children, subject to the discipline of the Church for the proper government of his household Whether he may or may not cohabit with his different wives will be left, I believe, entirely to him and to them, to act according to their views of duty. At the same time the nature of the married relation, according to the Christian dispensation and the usage of the Church, and the reason why such cases are for a while tolerated, will be fully explained. No man thus admitted while a polygamist can be ordained a Christian teacher. In this way polygamy will have the testimony of the Church against it ; and as no Christian man can ever become a polygamist, all such cases will cease with the lives of those thus admitted.' " This view is for substance that which was adopted by a general conference of missionaries at Calcutta, the result of which is given by Dr. Allen in an appendix, and has been published through various other channels. The Conference decided: " ' If a convert, before becoming a Christian has married more wives than one, in accordance with the practice of the Jewish and primitive Christian Churches, he shall be permitted to keep them all but such a person is not eligible to any office in the Church.' "
We rejoice in the intimation that this subject will be discussed in the editorial columns of the Independent. An error so fatal to the purity of mission churches should be thoroughly examined. The bold assumption contained in the quotation from the Calcutta Conference, " in accordance with the practice of the Jewish and the primitive Christian churches, he shall be permitted to keep them all" is very much akin to the assumptions made by the apologists for slavery for the reception of slaveholders into the church. There is not in the New Testament even a shadow of foundation for such an inference. There is not a particle of instruction given by Christ or his Apostles relative to the marriage state, or the duties which arise from it, which recognises poligamy as allowable for the convert from either Judaism or heathenism. All that at our Saviour taught relative to the marriage relation, or to divorce, can be consistently explained, only on the supposition that no one man was to have more than one wife. If " he that putteth away his wife and marrieth another, committeth adultery," ' it clearly follows that he who, having not put her away, marries another, must be guilty of the same crime.'*
Any argument drawn from the instruction of Paul to Timothy, in which he says a ' Bishop must be the husband of one wife,' to favor the idea that none but Bishops were forbidden more wives than one, would be equally valid to prove that none but Bishops were prohibited from drunkenness, extortion, & c. The argument drawn from the silence of the New Testament on the subject of polygamy, is thus effectually met by Paley, as quoted approving'y by Buck ( Theo. Dic.) and others: " The state of manners in Judea had probably undergone a reformation in this respect before the time of Christ; for in the New Testament we meet with no trace or mention of any such practice being tolerated. For which reason, and because it was likewise forbidden amongst the Greeks and Romans, we cannot expect to find any express law upon the subject in the Christian code.'
We are glad to see that political papers are beginning to discuss the tendencies of this position of the Calcutta Missionary Conference; we hope religious papers will not be behind them. The New York Tribune, in commenting on this doctrine, says of those who may directly or indirectly show any approbation of it, that —" they do not seem to be in a very favorable position for opposing, on the ground of polygamous practices, the admission of Utah into the Union, or the recognition of Mormonism as one of the religious sects of the country, with all the rites, privileges and immunities claimed by these sects and conceded as appertaining unto them. If polygamy, and the continual practice of it, affords no ground for refusing to those who give other ' credible evidence of personal piety' admission into our missionary churches, how can it be made an objection to admitting Utah and the Mormons into our political and religious fellowship and brotherhood ? If this converted Mahommedan and that converted Hindoo may still keep with safety to their souls and without scandal to their brethren, their ten or twenty wives a-piece, on what principle is the same privilege to be denied to Brigham Young or Parley Pratt ? As to the restriction that ' such a person is not eligible to any office in the church,' that might not go down in Utah ; but we apprehend that here in New York, the ' Free Lovers,' if they can only obtain the endorsement of the churches and admission into them, will readily, by way of affording some unction to the troubled consciences of their indulgent and accommodating brethren, forego for the present all claims and pretensions to the offices of ministers and deacons.
It will, however, doubtless be alleged by those who adopt and defend the decision of the Calcutta missionaries, that a clear distinction exists between temporarily tolerating an admitted evil with the design and intention speedily to get rid of it, and the reintroduction of that evil where it has once been abolished. And these same persons will also be likely to insist that for the sake of making converts and extending the area of the church, some things must be put up with for a while in India, that cannot for a moment be allowed in America. There is a certain plausibility in this reasoning. Yet how loud have been the outcries raised against the Catholic missionaries for having fallen in with and honored the heathen ideas and habits of their converts, with a view of using those ideas and habits as a stepping- stone to Cristianity? At the same time, is it not the fact, that however far in this matter the Catholic missionaries may have gone, yet never have they gone so far as to sanction polygamy in their converts ?
Nor is the Church here in America, in a case quite parallel, at all favorable to the view entertained by the missionaries that polygamy, once recognized and sustained as compatible with church membership, is, by virtue of the simultaneous testimony of the Church against it, going to ' close' with the lives of the first convert'. What, we beg leave respectfully to ask has been the experience of the American churches under a precisely similar operation— that of uttering the testimony of the Church against Slavery, and at the same time admitting slaveholders, ' when they gave credible evidence of personal piety,' to seek and to obtain ' admission into the Christian church'
Take the case of the Methodists for example. Wesley began by denouncing Slavery as the ' sum of all villanies,' and by the early discipline of the Methodist Church slaveholders could not be admitted into that communion. Before many years, however, influenced doubtless by much the same sort of reasoning relied upon and the same sort of hopes entertained by the Calcutta missionaries, slaveholders did get admission into the Methodist Church— though some rule or usage still existed, by way of testimony against Slavery, that no slaveholder should be a preacher or a bishop; and what has been the result of this temporising policy ? Did slave-holding in the Methodist Church die out under it l Every body knows on the contrary, that slaveholding has split the Church into halves— that the slaveholders indignant at the Church's testimony again- t Slavery, have seceded and set up a Church of their own, by which no such testimony is uttered, and in which to be a slaveholder is no disqualification for the highest eccesiastical preferments. The experience of the Presbyterian Church is precisely similar. The recent attempt in the Cherokee Nation, defeated only by the veto of John Ross, to silence the testimony of the missionary churches there against Slavery, is precisely in point. ls it not reasonable to expect that similar results will happen in India, and that polygamy, from being tolerated in the churches as an admitted evil, will become in the end, as slavery now has, to be recognised as a positive good, expressly sanctioned by the word of God?"
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