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(title page) Africa and African Methodism.
Rev. Alfred Lee Ridgel, A.B.
Franklin Printing and Publishing Co.
Call number 287.8 R436A (University of Texas at Austin)
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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
BISHOP H. M. TURNER, D.D., LL.D., D.C.L.,
Presiding BISHOP of Africa.
Also a host of other friends of African Missions, whose names I cannot recall at this distance.
And to my devoted wife, Mrs. Fannie Ridgel, is this little volume most sincerely dedicated as a faint expression of gratitude for their devotion to the cause of humanity, and advancement of the Church of God. AUTHOR.
The present age is not famous for deeds of dare and adventure; cheap notoriety, evanescent popularity and temporary honors appear to satisfy the ambition of the present generation. Inordinate selfishness has such a grasp upon the men of to-day, that one is rarely found who is willing to sacrifice his own ease and comfort for the good of others or for a name that will go down to coming ages. Merit, pure and simple, holds a secondary place in these times of scheme and artifice. If we look among statesmen, we find United States senators who have succeeded in getting rich through the issue of bonds upon imaginary stock and futures--actually buying up legislatures for a seat in that grave and venerable assembly, when they know they will not be able to make a speech upon any important question until they have hired some professional speech-writer to manufacture one for them and type-print it, so they can read it as any newspaper article.
Among the members of the lower house of Congress a dozen men, out of three hundred or more, make all of the speeches that have the tinge of statesmanship. The remainder are mere political harangues, made up of wit, humor and sarcasm. The judiciary of the country in the main are composed of failures in the legal profession, for the few able jurists are in such great demand that they are often able to make more out of a single case before the bar than the pay of the judge will amount to in a year, and sometimes in two years. A like imbecility and intellectual and literary impotency run through every grade of juridical and statesmanic scale till we reach the ordinary justice of the peace.
Our authors are more numerous than in any period since time began, but the trashy literature imposed upon the public shows to a demonstration that nine-tenths of them would be better employed reading books than in writing them. Great scholarship, deep reading, profound thought,
synthetical and analytical power and systematization is too largely an adjunct of the past, for the reason that social intercourse with the giddy and the gay and the toddy-glass must be denied, and protracted application, as well as burning the midnight oil, is an essential prerequisite to literary excellence and distinction.
The same condition of things aptly applies to the ecclesiastical sphere. Ministers of the gospel in the main no longer hunger and thirst for a profound knowledge of the Bible and a thorough familiarity with theological lore. The chief aim is to squeeze by the committees on examination and get to be deacons and elders, regardless of the necessary qualifications to meet the requirements therewith connected. And if they can flaunt a diploma from some third-class institution of learning, they feign to be insulted if a committee should subject them to a reasonable examination; and when once admitted into the ministry, study and protracted meditation cease to be a virtue. A large majority appear to be ignorant of the fact, that true education requires a lifetime of hard study, and that wit, anecdotes, florid sentences and a few rhetorical embellishments are no test of profundity, either in a literary or an intellectual aspect. Thousands of gospel ministers seem to think they can trick and cunning their way to the hearts of the people, or to their attention at least, and finally to a seat in heaven, without half of the proficiency required of a blacksmith, or a carpenter, or in any other mechanical profession, because it involves talk, forgetful that when talk is defective, or trivial and light, that the people will fully realize it and grade their intelligence and ability accordingly. I know of ministers carrying the title of D.D. who will go to bed at the earliest opportunity and lie there till ten and eleven o'clock next day and complain about not having time to read. Such moral sluggards God never intended to be the directors of His people. Ministerial fitness and fidelity call for industry, patience, endurance, invincibility and consecrated devotion, as well as the sacrifice of self, in all the phases that involve the individual himself, or his family and domestic relations. And in as much as his calling is infinitely more lofty than the statesman, the jurist, the warrior, the explorer, the inventor,
the discoverer, or any other pursuit or profession of a secular nature, so his sacrifices heroism, adventures and risks should be infinitely more stupendous and mighty, especially so as Christ Jesus our Lord has promised to be with him till the world shall end.
Among the ministry of African descent in the United States, where they are found in the largest numbers outside of Africa proper, profundity, thoroughness, self-abnegation and the spirit of sacrifice, are at a discount that is alarming, especially in the light of divine revelation. Few of the American Africans, or negroes, if you prefer the term, are willing to make any sacrifice in a physical or secular manner for the amelioration of our condition. No one appears to be willing to sacrifice life, money, or even risk any bodily comforts for the betterment of the masses. No self-protecting organizations exist, no secret pass-words, or forms of expression have been agreed upon as a call to rally to each other's defense when the bloody lynchers are doing their work of death and destruction among our people. And even when one would dare to enter a protest against existing evils, they will fly to the North and play the scullion through the day and write a tissue of abuses at night which is of no practical benefit. It is useless, however, to draw a picture of existing things in a material and moral point of view. The American black man is without a single hero. Indeed, the bulk of them have no proper conception of the meaning of the term.
Churchiologically, the same condition of things exists. The only aspiration for fame, honor and immortality that exists to an insignificant exception is at the expense of others. Many of the pastors will build large churches on credit and have their names engraved on the corner-stone, and hasten away for another minister and the congregation to pay the debt. Those who aspire to distinction in the ranks of the ministry, do so almost invariably through the votes of others, seeking to be elected to the Bishopric, or to some general office, instead of aspiring to distinction by writing hymns or learned works on Theology, Astronomy, Geology, Geography, Chemistry, Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, or delivering a series of lectures on Ancient History, or delving into the labyrinths of Archaeology and
establishing the claims of nature to the primitive color of man, and showing through it that all men started black and remained so till God said, "Let there be white," just as He said "Let there be light."
No honors conferred can equal those that come through merit, but meritorious honor and distinction are at a low ebb among negro ecclesiastics, because it involves, as we have said before, an amount of labor, patience, self-abnegation and sacrifice, which is foreign to the age, and especially to the American black man.
Rev. A. L. Ridgel, A.B., Presiding Elder of the Liberia Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, however, is one of the amazing few who has had the courage and the dauntless invincibility to break through the lethargic environments and proclaim himself a hero, not by words, but by works and noble deeds. Nearly four years ago, single and alone, amid discouragements and the condemnation and jeers of his brethren, he surrendered his pulpit at Newport, Arkansas, and turned over a splendid congregation into the hands of his presiding elder for him or the Bishop to fill, and began to travel and collect money and means to enable him to go as a missionary to Africa. I need not describe what he had to contend with, for the book you will read, after glancing at this introduction, will describe it too well for our credit and the honor of our common Christianity. Elder Ridgel stands without a peer among the young men, not only in the A. M. E. Church, but of any church manipulated and managed by members of our race. Since he has been in Africa he has had to battle with poverty, look starvation in the face, fight with maladies indigenous to a strange country, contend with a tropical fever, and bear the abuse, misrepresentation and villification by those behind from whom he expected sympathy, prayers, support and words of comfort and cheer. But, like a man of valor and a hero as he is, he bore it all and stood like an impregnable wall, preached the gospel with a power and eloquence that has enabled him to take hundreds into the church and enlarge the boundaries of the connection, and at the same time write scores of letters for the press of the country describing the resources of Africa and the possibility of our church; also
preparing booklets for publication, editing a paper with an extensive circulation, which is read upon three continents, and now he gives the world a decent volume, which for size, diction, rhetoric, thought, logic, philosophy and learning will be read and admired by tens of thousands. There are chapters in this volume, the subjects of which are treated with an ability that would not reflect upon Lord Macaulay himself. This production alone will immortalize the name of Elder Ridgel, should he never write another. Not only for its chaste diction, terse and pointed sentences, wide reading and commendable learning, but the question will rise in the future, how he could command himself, utilize the severe ordeal through which he has passed and concentrate his intellectual powers to discuss such grave questions as he has raised and treated with such consummate ability. The reader will find a vein of philosophy in his treatment of the dissimilarity between the African autochthons and the African Americanized, which, we venture to say, has never been brought out by any of the writers of the present generation. He shows beyond question that none of the proletaneous divisions of the Africans can equal in manhood instincts those upon their native soil, for the reason, as we have said a thousand times, their environments tend to dwarf them and in every instance they will be successful. Subjugation begets degradation, and degradation begets treachery and racial infidelity, as is verified in the treachery of the Irish and Polanders, which abound with traitors toward each other, and will as long as they are the victims of subjugation by other nationalities.
We are glad that Dr. J. M. Conner was kind enough to furnish a sketch of Brother Ridgel's life, for if he is true to himself in the future, as he has been in the past, the world will need this information when he shall have paid the debt of nature; for the history of Sierra Leone and of Liberia with their religious achievements can never be written up without incorporating the name and labors of Rev. A. L. Ridgel. And yet his career has virtually just commenced; where it will end can only be determined by that God who can read the future. Trusting that this book will be an inspiration to the men of the present day and millions
who are sleeping in the womb of the future, and that its contents may evolve great and mighty men and women from the descendants of Africa, we ask upon this effort the blessings of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
H. M. TURNER.Atlanta, Ga., U. S. A., March 20, 1896.
In this little volume will, no doubt, appear many things already given to the public concerning Africa, her people, their customs, etc. However, I have been moved to yet enlarge upon the subject, not for name, nor to get myself before the reading world, but for a much higher and infinitely grander purpose--a purpose or cause in which the interests of millions of my kinsmen are involved.
Designing individuals have both written and said many things which tend to place Africa in a false light before the world.
Many have strongly denounced the country and have held up her people before the public for ostracism, which, to say the least, is more due to prejudice and race-hatred than anything else.
Others have overrated the possibilities, especially when certain classes of persons are included. Therefore, having a personal knowledge of the situation of West Africa, I feel it my duty to give others the benefit of my experience, etc.
In this little volume the reader will have the honest convictions of a close observer of the affairs of West Africa and the advisability of migration, a subject of so much importance to those of our brethren in exile.
We do not claim for it literary merit, but I do claim for it the embodiment of truth, presented in a spirit of meekness and fear toward God, and a sincere devotion to my oppressed race.
In this age, when mighty volumes are flooding the land; when men of title and ability draw so heavily upon the public mind, we cannot expect but a secondary place for this feeble effort.
However, we do hope some good will accrue from what may be gathered from facts herein written.
Trusting that the God of heaven has directed me in all that I have written upon these pages,
I am, your humble servant,
ALFRED LEE RIDGEL,Edina, Grand Bassa County,
The subject of this sketch was born in Bradley county, Arkansas, August 10, 1861. He is the eldest son of Alfred and Charlotte Ridgel. His parents were devout Christians and members of the A. M. E. Church. Rev. Alfred Ridgel was a minister of considerable notoriety.
Young Ridgel can best tell his own story concerning the death of his mother, and also of his conversion.
Here is what he says:
"My dear mother was an exemplary Christian woman. She would often walk four miles on the Sabbath to hear the gospel preached. It was under the preaching of my father that I was aroused to a sense of my soul's salvation. This was in the month of June, 1876, in the fifteenth year of my life. I have always desired to be a Christian. I cannot remember the time when I did not pray and beg the Lord to convert my soul. I was converted while a penitent at the altar begging for mercy, but was not wholly satisfied as to the genuineness of my conversion until two weeks later, when I heard a voice, saying, 'You are free indeed.' Since then I have never, in any way, doubted my conversion.
"My dear mother died January 1, 1875, at 5 o'clock, A.M. Her last words were these: 'Husband, raise my children right, teach them to be Christians. I am going home to glory. You all must meet me over there.' Ah, my best earthly friend died that morning! Oh, how my tender heart did ache that morning, when I heard the doctor say, 'She can't live.' Oh, how my infant soul throbbed while she bade us adieu.
"Five motherless children were left behind--one of whom was a baby.
"Dear mother is gone, but I shall see her again some day. Oh, yes, some day my journey will be done, the battle will be fought and the victory won. The Lord has been good to us.
"We have all reached manhood and womanhood. My
eldest sister, India, is a devout Christian woman, but my poor brother, Haywood, is yet out of Christ, yet exposed to the wrath and vengeance of a just God. Sisters Tenny and Della are both married and trying to live Christian lives.
"My father died August, 1885. He left a glowing testimony as to the future welfare of his soul. I was not at home when he breathed his last, but reached home shortly after his death. Oh, God, help me to meet my sainted parents in the better land.
"A few months ago, September 16, 189-, I visited his grave, and dropped a tear upon that sacred spot."
Our subject was sent to a country school at an early age, where he laid the foundation for an education. His educational advantages have not been by any means good, but by dint of courage, perseverance and a determination to fight down hindrances and come to the front, he has acquired a splendid education.
He was licensed to exhort by Rev. D. Wilson, when but eighteen years of age. Four years later he was granted local preacher's license by Rev. R. A. Sinquefield. After serving in the capacity of local preacher some years he was recommended to the Annual Conference, which met in Helena, Arkansas, November 16, 1884, Rt. Rev. H. M. Turner, D.D., presiding. He passed a splendid examination and was admitted on trial. Bishop Turner appointed him to the Walnut Lake Mission, where he found a handful of discouraged members, and a half-completed church edifice.
Our young itinerant had not long been on the scene before he matured plans, marshaled his army, and pitched battle against his enemy. During the year souls were converted, members received, the church structure improved, and the best dollar-money report in the history of the charge was made.
Listen to what one of his members says:
"Brother Ridgel is a grand, young man. We all love him and hate to give him up, but our little mission is not able to maintain so worthy a young man."
The year 1885 found our young giant on the Sheridan Mission, with four places of worship, sixty members scattered over a whole county, and he, with no horse to ride,
when some of his members saw fit to loan him one. His first experience in borrowing mules came near proving very serious. Having to meet an appointment some fifteen miles distant, good old Brother Hayman volunteered to let him ride his mule, "Mike." Of course the kind offer was thankfully accepted. Mike was soon saddled, and our young divine, with well-stuffed saddle-bags, containing two suits of clothes, a Methodist hymn book, A. M. E. Discipline, and a copy of the Sacred Word, was well on his way to little Macedonia Church, when "old Mike" became excited at a bunch of hogs by the way, and began pitching at such a rate, that the gospel messenger was landed about fifteen feet from the more furious than excited beast, with the bags thrown squarely over his back, which, when examined, were found to be unharmed. Old Mike soon re-traced his steps homeward, with the young clergy following hard upon his heels. So great was his success on this mission, that a strong petition was sent to the Annual Conference begging his return, which was granted, and the second year was no less successful than the first. But let old Brother Hayman speak: "I just tell you, Brother Ridgel is the very best preacher that we have ever had on this work. Even the white folks are talking about what a preacher he is. If our work was able to maintain him we would ask his return, but it is a shame to keep such a young man in the woods."
Eighteen hundred and eighty-six found our subject at Swan Lake. This was his first year on a circuit. His administration on this work was highly commended by all of his official members, while the laity of the church simply idolized their young pastor. During the year sixty members were received into the church, money was raised for the erection of a new church edifice, and a good dollar-money report was made.
Eighteen hundred and eighty-seven found Rev. Ridgel bolding forth on the Pastoria Circuit, one of the largest circuits in the South Arkansas Conference. Here he distinguished himself as a financier and revivalist. A great revival of religion broke out, near a hundred souls were brought into the church and the work so greatly enlarged that the circuit was divided at the conference into two self-sustaining
charges; the dollar-money report was one hundred dollars, the largest that had ever gone from that work.
Hear what Mr. W. E. Pennington says of our subject:
"Rev. A. L. Ridgel is by far the ablest pastor that we have ever had on this charge. We shall do all in our power to have him returned. Our church has flourished as never before. Our prayers shall follow him wherever he goes."
Brother Ridgel writes as follows concerning his labors on the above-mentioned charge:
"Never in my life did I spend a more pleasant year. The people were generous, kind, and progressive. They never refused to oblige me in any way possible. Their homes were places of comfort, and their conversations enjoyable. God bless them."
In 1888 Bishop R. R. Disney appointed Rev. Ridgel to the Forest City Station, a charge of importance, but quite difficult to hold. So turbulent were the elements of dissatisfaction, that some years as many as four pastors had been sent to this charge. Some of them were men of ability, experience, and great pulpit powers. Our young divine forsook his home conference, accepted a transfer, bade the dear brethren of the good old South Conference adieu, and was soon off for his new, but difficult, post of duty.
Soon the city was captured by his devotion, untiring zeal, and burning eloquence. The congregation increased with each succeeding Sabbath. The young people were gained for the church and Sunday-school. For years, pastors had endeavored to renovate the church edifice but failed. Brother Ridgel asked the brethren to follow him. He pulled off his coat, got his tools and went to work himself, and very soon the church was a thing of beauty.
The first year at Forest City closed with a glorious revival of religion in which sixty persons were happily converted to God; eighty were added to the church, and the old church debt nearly wiped out of existence. At the conference of 1889, which convened in Forest City, a strong petition was made to Bishop Disney for the return of Rev. A. L. Ridgel which was granted. The second year was one of wonderful success. The debt was paid, an organ was purchased for the Sunday-school, the membership was doubled, and the best dollar-money report ever sent from that station was made at the conference of '90.
In addition to his pastoral duties, Rev. Ridgel published the Forest City Enterprise, a six-column folio weekly newspaper. He soon became distinguished as an editor. Often his editorials were copied by the leading papers of the State. He was pastor in Forest City during the great riot in which A. M. Neely, one of the leading colored men of the State of Arkansas, was murdered. He did more to reconcile the disturbing elements than any minister of the city, which was due to his popularity as an honest, straight-forward servant of God, who had no time or inclination to bother with political affairs.
Hear what Prof. Wm. Erwing, of Forest City, says concerning the labors of our subject in that place:
"Rev. A. L. Ridgel has accomplished more for our church and community than any pastor that we've had for years. He is a young man of which the church and race should feel proud. He has been with us two years and we want him longer, but he deserves a more lucrative and prominent position. We commend him to the people among whom he may labor as a worthy young man, full of zeal, scholarly, eloquent and profound."
At the conference of '91, Rev. Ridgel was appointed to the Newport Station. His beginning in this very important charge was auspicious, but ere six months had passed a serious trouble arose which caused the pastor to resign. The remainder of the conference year was spent in traveling in different parts of the State with a brief pastorate on the Cherry Valley Circuit.
The year '92 was spent in the pastorate of the Brinkley Station. Here, as elsewhere, he had wonderful success. The church was remodeled and painted, an organ was purchased for the Sunday-school, and the membership greatly increased.
We have given you a brief account of the life and labors of Rev. A. L. Ridgel, one of the most promising young men of the African M. E. Church. I trust his life and success will give impetus to some struggling young man, and cause him to succeed.
Yours for the race,
JAS. M. CONNER.
Having fully decided, after much prayer and meditation to go to Africa, to engage in missionary work, and not having the requisite means to defray my expenses, I began a soliciting tour November 9th, 1892. I attended the West Tenn. Conference, which met in Memphis, Tenn., Bishop John M. Brown, D.D., D.C.L., presiding. After making known my mission, the good Bishop kindly consented to assist me in every way possible.
He gave me a special meeting, at which time I presented my cause to the dear people, and they gave me a liberal collection. Rev. C. S. Smith, D.D., was present and made an eloquent speech, as did Rev. C. O. H. Thomas, A.M. Sunday morning, Nov. 13th, I left Memphis for Brinkley, Arkansas, where I spent a few days and proceeded to Newport, Arkansas, the seat of the Arkansas Conference. Here I met that noble man, Bishop B. W. Arnett, D.D., who, like the sainted Bishop Brown, gave me a warm reception and much encouragement in my undertaking.
A special night was granted me, a tremendous congregation assembled, and I made known my intentions, whereupon I was given thirty dollars to help me on to Africa. Drs. C. S. Smith and T. H. Jackson were present and made able speeches.
From Newport I went to Little Rock and spoke in "Old Bethel" on Sunday night.
The dear friends gave me five dollars and many words of encouragement.
November 29th found me at Hope, Arkansas, the seat of the West Arkansas Conference.
I was accorded the usual hospitality by Bishop Arnett, and the noble brethren of the West Conference. A special
collection was raised in my behalf, amounting to $20.00. Sunday was a great day in Hope. Bishop Arnett preached a powerful sermon at 11 o'clock A. M. and Rev. C. S. Smith, D.D., surpassed himself at 3 o'clock P. M.
December 4th found me at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the seat of the South Arkansas Conference. The conference was largely attended; the reports were good, and the sermons, speeches, etc., were excellent. Ex-Senator Bell was introduced to the conference, and delivered a thrilling address, as did a young minister of the Lion Church.
The Bishop selected Dr. Thomas H. Jackson to respond, which he did in the most able manner. Dr. Jackson is, beyond doubt, one of the very ablest men of the race. I was given a special night to speak for dear Africa, which I did to the best of my ability. As this was my home conference, where I had served for several years, and had many warm friends, the occasion was quite a solemn one. Many tears were shed, and many "God bless you's" were showered upon my poor soul.
Dr. Smith followed in a most powerful, logical and touching speech. Dr. Smith is one of the most eloquent speakers of the church, and has been styled the "coming Douglass." The dear people gave me fifty dollars to assist me on to Africa. Bishop Arnett and the conference received an invitation from Mr. Wiley Jones, the colored street railroad magnate, to accompany the managers of the road over his extensive line. The invitation was accepted, and the Conference in a body, headed by the Bishop, Dr. Smith, and the presiding elders of the conference, marched down and took passage on a negro street railroad car.
Oh, what a change twenty-seven years prior to this event. Mr. Jones was a chattel slave. He was sold as a horse, but thank God, and all honor to Mr. Jones, to-day he is worth two hundred thousand dollars.
December 6th found me at Monticello, Arkansas, the home of my two dear children, Lenora and Mattie. After spending a few days with them and Aunt Catherine Allen, in whose care I had intrusted them during my expected stay of three years in Africa, I left for Greenville, Miss.
En route to Greenville, I passed through Arkansas City, a small but important town on the banks of the great Mississippi
river. After a few hours' stay in this busy town I crossed over the largest river in the United States, and proceeded direct to my destination, which I reached in safety, but cold, ah, my--whew!
Here I spent seven days. I visited the public school, under the management of Miss L. A. Williams, one of the most talented young women that I ever met. She received all of her school training in the State of Mississippi, and is one of the acknowledged educators of the race. On Sunday I spoke twice to large congregations in the A. M. E. Church, of which Rev. E. W. Lampton was pastor. The kind people gave me five dollars and sent me on my way rejoicing. I found many well-to-do Colored people in Greenville. The churches were all in splendid condition, spiritually and financially.
From Greenville I went to Vicksburg, the metropolis of the State. On arriving I was conducted to the A. M. E. Church, where I met Bishop Arnett; Rev. J. I. Lowe, and Rev. S. J. Campbell, of Liberia, Africa. On the next day we left for Port Gibson, the seat of the Mississippi Conference. The session was pleasant. On Sunday Bishop Arnett preached one of the ablest sermons that I ever heard. It was a high day in Israel. Everybody seemed to enjoy the services. Here, as elsewhere, I spoke in behalf of Africa, and received a liberal collection. After four days I returned to Vicksburg, and spoke for Dr. O. P. Ross, to an immense congregation. The dear people gave me ten dollars. Dr. Ross is a grand man. Such men are not often found. As a preacher he is logical, eloquent and profound.
God bless him and his good people.
In company with Bishop Arnett and Professor Arnett I left Vicksburg, bound for Atlanta, Georgia. We passed through Meridian, Jackson, Miss., and Birmingham, Ala. At the last-named place I parted with the dear Bishop, and his noble son, they bound for Cincinnati, and I for Atlanta, Ga. On account of my own foolishness I failed, to get a palace car at Vicksburg, for which I suffered. I was on the car all night and until in the afternoon of the next day. I was unable to lie down or to get a mouthful to eat during the entire trip. It being Christmas week, the cars
were crowded with a set of half-drunken men and women, who conducted themselves in the most shameful manner. I complained to the conductor, but he seemed inadequate to the task.
Just before reaching Atlanta a man came aboard with a basket of nice fried chickens, one of which I purchased at an enormous price and soon devoured it.
December 20th found me in the "Gate City," the guest of Bishop Turner, 30 Younge street.
The Bishop was at home, fat as you please, and hard at work. He bade me welcome, introduced me to the family and off upstairs we went to the Bishop's spacious study. Books, books, books, I never saw just such a library as the Bishop has, unless it is that of the late Bishop Campbell's. I spent more than a week in the city; preached at the "Old Bethel" and Allen Temple. Allen Temple is a structure of exquisite beauty and neatness. All honor to Rev. J. G. Yeiser, the builder, and Rev. R. R. Downs, who came so near cancelling the debt during his two years' pastorate.
Rev. L. Thomas was hard at work on his Master's building--New Bethel. When complete it will be one of the finest A. M. E. Churches in the South. Atlanta is a great city. Great in numerical strength, great in wealth, great for educational institutions, and great for African Methodism. Morris Brown College, Gammon Theological University, Clark University, Atlanta University, and other schools of importance are all found in Atlanta.
I left Atlanta for Savannah, Ga., making a short but pleasant stop at Macon, where I met Rev. L. H. Smith, Rev. W. C. Gaines, and other noble men of God. I found Sister, Gaines a model Christian woman, ever ready to do her Master's biddings. Rev. L. H. Smith gave me a copy of his valuable book, titled "Earnest Pleas." I am pleased to say that I have found it to be, as Doctor Coppin says, "worth its weight in gold."
On reaching Savannah, I was conveyed to the splendid hotel of Mrs. L. Baker, where I remained during my stay of one week in the city.
It was my good pleasure, while in Savannah, to meet that broad-hearted, scholarly gentleman, Rev. J. B. Lofton, A. M., also Revs. R. R. Downs and T. N. M. Smith.
I preached twice and lectured once in St. Philip's, the leading A. M. E. Church of the city. I found Rev. Smith, the pastor, a Christian of the highest type. His church gave me more than forty dollars to help me on to Africa.
Savannah is a city of considerable importance. There are many well-to-do negroes among her population and several professional men of note.
There are five A. M. E. Churches within the city limits, with any number of suburban places of worship. I found the race prejudice to be very great; much greater than I had expected to find in a city containing so much wealth and intelligence among Afro-Americans. As an evidence of this statement, I will relate a personal experience during my short stay there.
One day, feeling very hungry, I dropped into a depot lunch room and called for luncheon. The attendant, giving me a rather mean look up and down, gruffly replied: "We don't serve colored folks here, but I will give you a cup of coffee and you can go there to the window and drink it." I indignantly refused it and left the room. Oh, prejudice; what a monster thou art! How deep-seated in the American white man's heart! Shame upon the American white man's civilization, to say nothing of his pretended claim to Christianity. A free colored citizen can not drink a cup of coffee at one of your depot lunch counters.
From Savannah I went to Charleston, South Carolina. I arrived in Charleston one cold afternoon and was driven to a hotel, but did not stay there long, for when that heroic Christian gentleman, Dr. L. R. Nichols, learned that I was in the city, and had gone to a public hotel, he was astonished at my audacity, and ordered me to come at once to his magnificent residence, where I remained during my stay in the city.
Dr. Nichols differs broadly from the majority of our ministers in this respect, for my experience is that our brethren don't want to be bothered with visiting preachers when a collection will be in demand.
I spent more than a week in Charleston; preached at Mt. Zion, Morris Brown and Emanuel.
I found Rev. J. H. Welch, D.D., and Rev. J. D. Lites affable Christian gentlemen; also Rev. W. W. Becket. On
Wednesday evening we held a missionary meeting, and speeches were made by Dr. J. H. Welch, Rev. W. W. Becket, and other distinguished ministers. More than forty dollars was realized, which amount was given to help me on my African trip.
Charleston is a great African Methodist centre. Emanuel alone has a membership of two thousand, besides probationers. Dr. L. R. Nichols is pastor of this great church. He was putting forth strenuous efforts to complete his spacious new church, which, when finished, will be a marvel of beauty and grandeur.
I left Charleston for Washington, D. C., calling a halt at Columbia, S. C.; Charlotte, N. C., and other points along the way.
On my arrival in Washington I met that noble-hearted man, Dr. J. W. Becket, who made me welcome to his comfortable home, and had me preach to his people in the great Metropolitan Church. I also called to see the late Bishop Brown, who was at that time very feeble, but no one surmised the end so nigh. I loved Bishop Brown. He treated me as a father would treat his son. I can never forget the afternoon that I left him.
After helping me to adjust my wrappings, he laid his trembling hand upon my head and said: "My son, you are going to Africa; you will have it hard over there, but be faithful. We will pray for you, and help you in every way that we can. Don't expose yourself while you are North. God bless you." I left him. He died before I reached Africa; but I shall see him again.
Washington is a beautiful city. The streets are broad; the buildings are large, substantial and artistic. Toward the east the national Capitol lifts its dome heavenward. In a northerly direction the famous Howard University is conspicuous by its towering spire and streaming flag. Here can be seen prominent persons from all parts of the globe. Westward is the Washington Monument, which resembles a great snow-covered shaft, glittering five hundred and fifty-five feet in the sunlight.
I stood upon the spot where the immortal Garfield fell, a victim to the assassin's bullet. Oh, what strange emotions ran through my soul as I stood on that sacred spot.
I thought of the noble dead on the battlefield, in the college halls, in the Senate chamber, and in the Executive Mansion. His, like the death of the immortal Lincoln, "shook the universe."
I left Washington for Baltimore, Md., one cold afternoon. Before reaching my destination, the snow began falling at a fearful rate, and cold--heavens, me! I did not stay in Baltimore long. While there I met Rev. Jas. H. A. Johnson, who was then pastor of Bethel Church, one of the largest churches in the connection, and the doctor said times were so very hard in Baltimore that I soon decided that I would proceed at once to Philadelphia.
It was ten o'clock one bleak Saturday night when I arrived in the "City of Brotherly Love." The snow was deep, and a stiff, cold blizzard was blowing from the north. I secured a cab and was driven to the Gilbert House, where I obtained good accommodations. Sunday morning came and I trudged my way through the deep snow to "Old Bethel" Church, where I heard Rev. W. D. Cook, the pastor, preach an interesting sermon.
As I sat on that historic spot, made sacred by the tears, prayers and labors of Richard Allen and his coadjutors, my soul became so full of the Holy Spirit that I could not restrain my tears.
It was a happy day with me. Everything seemed touched with heavenly beauty and sacredness. The upper choir seemed to lend their voice to song, and God seemed to inspire every prayer.
Oh, what a precious time. It was truly a day of great feasting to my poor soul. At 7:30 o'clock I tried to preach to an immense congregation in "Old Bethel." The Holy Ghost came down and took possession of me, and I stood before the élite and gigantic intellect of that great city without fear or dread.
It was not me; but the Holy Spirit that took dread fear away. Of myself I can do nothing. Oh, God, give me thy Holy Spirit whenever I attempt to preach thy blessed word. Philadelphia is a vast city. There are many places of interest in and around Philadelphia. The great Zoölogical Garden, the Government Mint, the public buildings, the Penn Statue, the great parks, etc., are all places worth seeing.
I spent more than a month in and around Philadelphia preaching, lecturing, and working in behalf of my African trip. I visited Camden, Trenton, Princeton, N. J.; New York. At the last-named place I met that grand, philanthropic, Christian gentleman, Dr. John Miller, who gave me $200 to assist me in my African trip. Dr. Miller is growing old, but is nevertheless vigorous, especially intellectually. He has written several books which rank high in the literary and theological world. While Dr. Miller is white, educated and rich, yet he is free from prejudice, for which his race is so characteristic.
In Trenton I found a warm friend in the person of Rev. Seth D. W. Smith. Bro. Smith and his good people gave me $8.00 to help me on to my distant field of labor.
While in Philadelphia I formed a correspondence with a young lady who was at the time teaching in the public schools of Maryland. Several letters were exchanged, an agreement made, and in a short time I was on my way to Pocomoke City, Md., to see Miss Fannie M. Worthington, of Washington, D. C.
On my arrival I found her at the depot awaiting my coming. I spent several days in Pocomoke. After some serious questions had been propounded and satisfactorily answered, we set February 7th as the time for our marriage.
I returned to Philadelphia to await the date of this important event. True to her promise, she joined me in Camden, N. J., where our marriage took place in the residence of Rev. A. H. Newton; Rev. A. H. Newton and Rev. H. T. Johnson, Ph.D., performed the sacred matrimonial rites.
A few days before our leaving for Africa, my wife's mother, Mrs. Rachel A. Piles, came from Washington to Camden to see us off. She is a woman of fine parts. I love her as though she was my own dear mother. February 17 we bade mother and friends adieu, and left for New York City. Soon we were in the great metropolis, and proceeded to Sullivan Street A. M. E. Church. Here we met Bishop Turner and several brethren from Philadelphia, Camden, and Princeton, N. J. Dr. Derrick gave the Bishop a farewell reception, which was poorly attended, owing, possibly, to the severity of the weather. Oh, my! How cold it was!
We spent the night with a dear old sister, near the church. God bless her!
Thus ends a brief account of a three-mouths' tour through the United States of America.
For most part, the entire trip of thousands of miles was pleasant and profitable.
Our cause seemed to be the people's cause, hence wherever presented we received a hearty response. It is true, here and there we met those who seemed to look upon us with suspicion, and treated us coolly, but so rarely was such the case that we gave the rebuffs but little or no notice. Strange to say, but wherever we seemed unwelcome the ministers were directly or indirectly the cause of it. The people of various congregations were always open-handed and warm-hearted. Not one exception to this rule can we remember.
But truly we have some narrow brethren holding high positions in our churches.
Personal gain seems to have absorbed all their higher and nobler senses.
Of all narrow, conniving and self-important men, those under the garb of the ministry are the most detestable.
However, we have many reasons to feel proud of the signal success that attended our labors during such an extensive tour. We feel duty bound to make personal reference to the unmeasured kindness that we received at the hands of Rev. I. W. L. Roundtree and Dr. H. T. Johnson while in the East. They seemed ever ready to lend us a helping hand. In their homes we were made welcome and shared as a member of their families; in Rev. Roundtree's church we were accorded every ministerial courtesy that could be wished.
Father of all mercy,
Thy name be praised
For the great protection
Thou hast granted a child
Of such sinful disposition,
And such wandering ways.
Wednesday morning, February 22, 1893, we embarked on that grand steamship "Majestic" for Liverpool, England. Our ship steamed out of port at 10 o'clock a. m. Revs. H. T. Johnson, D.D., editor Christian Recorder; W. D. Cook, A. H. Newton, W. H. Davis, I. W. L. Roundtree, A.M.; J. B. Standsberry, D.D., and W. B. Derrick, D.D., came down to the pier to see us off. It was a very sad parting with me, as wife and I were to be gone for four years to labor in the wilds of Africa as missionaries, perhaps never to return. However, we bore up as best we could. We gazed at our friends ashore until they were lost in the distance, then, going to our rooms, quieted down, put all in the hands of a just God, and began to behold the grandeur of the great ocean. At times the ocean was very rough, tossing our great ship as though she had been a mere bubble in the midst of a terrific storm. Often the wind blew so hard that the waves could not rise high, but, oh my, after the winds abated, what giant waves would lash our ship; the angry billows would pile up mountain high as far as the eye could behold; white-crested, they resembled mountains covered with snow. There is nothing that causes the soul to revere and humble before the Almighty more than a careful examination and study of the mighty ocean. I mean nothing in nature.
I have seen many grand--yes, exquisitely grand--and charming scenes, but I must confess that the most soul-inspiring, the most sublime, the most glory-like scene that my eyes ever beheld was sun-rising on the ocean.
"Old Sol" mounted his chariot in all his regal splendor, chasing away the mist as he shed a flood of light upon the placid ocean with becoming dignity to his royalty; each ray reflected upon the ocean with such astonishing brilliancy that one might imagine the mighty waters strewn with diamonds.
Who would not bow before such a God as He who created the great ocean so pregnant with wonders? I love Him more than ever for allowing me the privilege of seeing this wonderful display of His mighty power.
The sane mind that, after seeing this stupendous ocean, would say "there is no God" deserves to be classed among brutes and not among human beings.
Another most delightful sight is "sunset at sea." It is also full of serious reflections and valuable consideration. It is the unfailing sign that another day is gone, that we are nearer our eternal home; that time does not wait, but is ever hastening on and is lost in eternity. As the light of the "master of day" is lost behind the western horizon, the once sparkling waters are transformed into a dark blue hue, and as the receding rays are being replaced by darkness the evening of our days are plainly pictured to the mind's eye; then with the imagination we see ourselves receding from time to be lost in eternity.
But one of the most solemn, reflective, and death-like occasions that I have ever experienced is "night at sea." It affords an opportunity for earnest thought and serious meditation. The deep thunder-like roar of the irritated waters, the mournful whisper of the weeping winds, the struggling vessel forcing its way through the angry billows, are all lessons from which much can be learned. But often the melancholy scenes of "a night at sea" is transformed into that of grandeur and solemnity. We gaze with admiration at the distant stars; the "silvery queen" of night (if not obscured by wandering clouds) often breaks the monotony of "a night at sea." Sometimes a lighthouse is espied in the far distance, the flickering light is only seen now and then until the "good ship" comes nearer and nearer, leaving distance behind, then it is that we realize the lines of the immortal Sankey, "Let the lower lights be burning," to express the sentiment of our souls.
One day while out on mid-ocean it was whispered that one of the shafts of the propeller had broken and the ship much disabled. Wild consternation prevailed until the master mechanic stated "the breakage has been repaired and the ship will reach port all right." Oh, what an alleviation to our troubled minds.
We reached Queenstown early one beautiful morning. Several small crafts came out to our ship to take passengers and cargo to Ireland. The sight of land was quite a relief, for it was the first we had seen since leaving New York.
The remainder of the voyage was uneventful. Soon we were anchored in the dock at Liverpool. After satisfying the demands of the custom house officers, we were conveyed to the St. George Hotel, where we were well provided for during our stay. Liverpool, as is well known, is the greatest shipping mart in the world.
The city presents quite an "old-time" appearance. The houses for most part are crude, the streets rough and well thronged with nearly every species of mankind. I never saw such an array of beggars and infirm people as I saw in England. There was great excitement prevailing on account of the starving condition of thousands of people who could not obtain work and who threatened an uprising unless the avenues of labor were opened. Twice a day hundreds of hungry and enraged men assembled at the Wellington Monument where inflammatory speeches were made, necessitating a strong corps of officers ready for any emergency. I spent nearly two weeks rambling about the great cities of this famous country. While in Liverpool I visited the most important public places.
The museum, however, fell far below my expectation. It does not begin to compete with those of Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and Cincinnati in the United States. It was my privilege to meet many distinguished men, speak to several large congregations, meet the Young Men's Christian Association, and interview the secretary concerning their great work in different parts of the country. I also had the privilege of dining at the great Northwestern Hotel, in company with Bishop Turner and Hon. Sando, a millionaire of London.
One thing to the everlasting credit of England, she is free from color prejudices:
Color is in no way a barrier in Europe, but seems rather a blessing. Everybody appears interested in the colored brother.
I did not go to London in company with Bishop Turner and my wife, preferring to wait until my return from Africa,
when I would have more time to see the wonders of that great city.
Bishop Turner relates some funny things in connection with his trip to London. Of course, while there the Bishop was anxious, among other places, to visit the British Museum. On entering this most wonderful place of the kind in the world, the Bishop's attention was turned to a rather dignified looking gentleman, quietly reclining in a chair, smoking a cigar; very naturally the Bishop saluted the gentleman, "Good morning, sir," but received no response; feeling quite sure that his salutation was not heard, he addressed the gentleman in a much louder and more excited tone of voice, but again received no response from the objective point, but was informed that this gentleman was a "wax figure only," and not a human being. This more laughable than grave mistake somewhat nonplussed the good Bishop, but he queeringly passed on; however, in the course of his perambulation he passed a beautiful young lady sewing, with a pleasant smile upon her face; the Bishop paused, and likewise saluted her, but received no response; feeling sure that he was not mistaken, he saluted her the second time, and to his great surprise, was once more informed that she, too, was "wax."
Very much annoyed, but with a step of independence, the Bishop pursued his course, to be soon confronted by a gentleman, sitting at a small table, writing; feeling the embarrassment of two repeated deceptions, the Bishop was determined not to fall victim to a third one, and before saluting the gentleman in the usual manner, he said, "Say, mister, are you living or dead?" The gentleman being no doubt aware of the fearful ordeal through which the Bishop bad passed, laughed and said, "Sir, I am living."
My visit to London and other English cities will appear in another chapter.
I found the English people to be very progressive, especially in church work. Various societies are operated at Liverpool in behalf of mission work in India, Africa and other foreign lands.
The Wesleyan Methodist Church is very strong in England. I visited many of their fine churches, and formed the acquaintance of a number of their most eminent men.
But I must say I found England a somewhat difficult field for missionary contribution. We were much surprised at the suspicion of the preachers. This, however, in our case, might have been largely due to overstrain of the country financially as well as to the great sums of money expended in Africa by the English churches. I was everywhere received as a brother and gentleman. Not a sneer, to my knowledge, was given me anywhere in all that great land. God bless the English people. England has already been the seat of philanthropy, religion and education. On her historic shore Frederick Douglass, the great American orator, attained his freedom; her people were first of foreign lands to express indignation at the heinous deeds of the American white people perpetrated upon defenseless Negroes; and it was "Old England" that with bateless breath listened to the plaintive cry of Ida B. Wells, the heroine of her race. Long live her pious queen; long wave her imperial flag, and long live her noble people to assist in behalf of the oppressed of mankind.
We embarked on the steamship Teneriffe Saturday, March 18, at 10 o'clock A. M., for the west coast of Africa. The accommodation on this small vessel was poor compared to that given on the great Majestic. On account of our lateness in securing passage, Bishop Turner, Rev. Vreeland and myself were all packed in one small room, while my wife and a young lady from Liverpool occupied another equally as poorly furnished.
The voyage was long, the ocean rough, and the scenes varied and attractive. After three days' sailing we were all out on the dreadful Bay of Biscay. This is the most boisterous part of the ocean, hence the most dreaded.
On Sunday night a most terrific storm raged all night long on this "ocean graveyard." The winds blew with such tremendous force that every moment seemed the last. Great excitement prevailed among both crew and passengers. Possibly no man on board was more calm than Bishop Turner. Rev. Vreeland came near being carried overboard by a monster wave that swept over the promenade deck. Brother Vreeland was so thankful for his escape that he came down in our state-room and offered a most earnest prayer. All night and well up in the next day this dreadful storm raged. Very few passengers were able to take their meals.
The following lines were suggested to my mind after we had passed through this most trying ordeal. I give them as I penned them down, feeling sure that they will be of interest to some one who may read them:
Thou dreadful Bay of Biscay,
How cruel thou hast been;
For in thy bosom sleepeth
Ten thousand made thy prey.
Thy waves are dark and angry,
Thy billows rough and wild,
And kindness to the travelers
Thou always hast denied.
I know thee, Bay of Biscay,
From treatment done to me;
'Twas only through my Saviour
I escaped from being thy prey.
Oh, cruel Bay of Biscay,
God looketh down on thee,
And least when thou expecteth,
Hell set thy captives free.
For years thou hast held them captive,
In a dungeon dark and cold;
But when their Saviour cometh
He'll wrest them from thy fold.
One dark and starless night
My heart was made to ache,
While tossed to and fro
Upon thy angry waves.
Thy furious billows roared,
The wind shrieked shrill and loud;
Our struggling vessel groaned
Beneath the angry cloud.
The terror of that night
I never can forget,
And always shall my Saviour thank,
That my poor life was spared.
Our first call was at Grand Canary Island. This island belongs to Spain, hence the place is largely composed of Spaniards, a dark-complexioned people, and the women are very pretty. The whole island is supposed to be a volcanic eruption that took place possibly thousands of years ago.
Bishop Turner, who is quite a philosopher, declares this to be a fact. One of the most mysterious features connected with this island is the formation of a sand-bed, when the entire place is free from sand otherwise. Some suppose the sand to be brought to the surface by minute insects; others claim the cause due to the winds sweeping over the great Sahara desert, which is only eighty miles away, bringing, so to speak, great showers of sand upon their wings and depositing them at the base of the Canary mountain, where this bed of sand is formed. However, no well-founded solution has as yet been advanced upon
this phenomenon of nature. Coming scientists will doubtless find the reason why, and publish it to the world. It was here that Bishop Turner saw the mirage of a ship, or an "optical illusion," which is caused from an unequal refraction in the lower strata of the atmosphere, and causing remote objects to be doubly inverted, suspended in air, approximated or changed, or as if reflected in water. The object is a novel one and may only be seen once during a lifetime.
A number of savage-looking Spaniards came aboard of our ship with cigars, fruits, canary birds, and many other things to sell.
My wife looks very much like a Spanish lady, which caused these rough-looking Spanish men to give her special notice, which was not at all pleasant to her.
Grand Canary, to say the least, is a beautiful place, and a great health-resort for invalids from Germany, France, England, and Africa.
Our next call was at Goree, a small French town of no particular importance other than its traces of war with Great Britain and other powers in years gone by. Here a number of native Africans came aboard; also many Mohammedans from the Sahara desert took passage for Sierra Leone. I was much amazed at these Mohammedans on account of their peculiar dress. They all wore loose garments carelessly thrown about their persons. The men and women were so nearly dressed alike until it was difficult to tell them apart. They were very devout. Each morning and evening they gave the most profound reverence to God, according to their belief. I found them to be very superstitious and extremely averse to Christianity. Our stay at Goree was short and uneventful.
From Goree we sailed direct to Bathurst, an English town of considerable importance. Here we went ashore, wandered over the town, made some few acquaintances, attended the Wesleyan church, where Bishop Turner preached an eloquent sermon. Oh, the singing was more angelic than human. The great organ pealed forth in solemn tones, carrying the soul back more than eighteen hundred years, to the scene of the crucifixion of our blessed Saviour. It was Good Friday, and an enormous
congregation had assembled to celebrate the most memorable event in the history of the world.
I never heard such soul-inspiring singing in all my life, except in the great Metropolitan Church in Washington, D. C.
Having crossed over into the tropics, we found Bathurst very hot indeed. We sailed from Bathurst to Sierra Leone without stopping at any of the small ports by the way, arriving in Freetown, Sierra Leone, April 4, 1893.
On account of a death that occurred on our ship between Liverpool and Bathurst, we were not allowed to disembark until late in the afternoon, and as the night was very dark we remained on board all night and disembarked early next morning. Oh, my! how warm it was. How strange everything appeared.
Thus ended a journey of more than fifteen thousand miles, seven thousand of which was on the bosom of the great Atlantic ocean. I had wandered all through Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
When I look back over the immense journey, fraught with dangers on every hand; when I remember how sinful and worthless I have been compared with others of God's servants, and then find myself here on the shores of our fatherland with health and strength, trying to preach the gospel to my dear kinsman, who are bound by the strong cords of heathenism, I can but exclaim in the language of the Psalmist: "Praise the Lord, O, my soul, and forget not all His benefits." I here, on this, the tenth (10th) day of October, 1893, reconsecrate myself to my Saviour and His great work.
Oh, Lord, have mercy upon my poor soul, and spare my life to accomplish some good among these poor heathen souls.
"Guide me, oh, thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land,
I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Be Thou still my sword and shield."
The hope of my life has at last materialized. I have been spared and privileged to stand upon the free soil of Africa. I now know what it is to be a free man. I feel that life is worth living. But, oh, my mind runs back to the blood-stained soil of America! Ten millions of my fellowmen loom up before me; the dismal reign of terror that there prevails pains my very soul.
However, the future affords some light. Education and exalted manhood will doubtless actuate thousands of young men and women to leave the haunts of American slavery and pitch their tents on the free and sacred soil of Africa, and assist in the establishment of a mighty negro empire.
We hope to see such a period. God knows our condition is awful. Only divine interposition can ameliorate it. Perhaps the fearful catastrophe that has swept down upon the race is a divine visitation to stir up the American negro and drive them home.
Moral cowardice, God despises; slavery is an abomination in His sight. All men are equal before Him, since He created all.
First we shall present a few facts and pass upon some of the many things that have come under our observation in West Africa, and especially in the Colony of Sierra Leone.
Freetown has a population of 40,000 civilized and semi-civilized people.
The town contains many well-built houses in a good state of repair, though adjoining them there is a string of wooden shanties of various shapes and sizes.
In addition to the numerous well-to-do stores, many of them owned by natives, every African is possessed with the praiseworthy ambition of becoming a householder, and to accomplish this end he will live for years in the strictest economy, until the happy day arrives when he can blossom into a full-fledged landlord. To such an extent does this feeling prevail, that it is looked upon as a reproach for any native in a comparatively well-to-do position not to own one house at least.
The principal part of the town has therefore a clean and bright appearance, enhanced by the broadness of the streets, laid out on a regular plan. The appearance of these is much improved by a pathway of grass on each side, which affords a pleasing relief to the hard, red earth, baked by the all-powerful sun. There is a spacious fruit market close to the wharf. Here, early in the morning, may be seen a wealth of tropical fruits; bunches of plantains, bananas and large size pineapples are jostled by green and brown-skin oranges, while custard apples, avercardo pears, melons, mangoes, guavas, limes and other tropical fruits, besides a profusion of vegetables are scattered about on the clean stalls. On most of these small articles of personal vanity, and cheap mirrors and knives, are exposed in tempting juxtaposition to the necessaries of life, and probably encourage the native servants to make a slight difference in
their accounts of their purchases in order to obtain whichever of these luxuries that may excite their envy.
Surely in no tower of Babel could more noise have been made than is heard here on a busy morning, while the gaudy print handkerchiefs and gowns of the women enliven the ever-changing scene. The services of policemen on duty are seldom required to enforce order, everything is conducted good humoredly.
Yet the shouting, gesticulating, gleaming ivories and glistening eyes would lead a stranger to believe that a never ending battle of arms and tongues is proceeding. Close by the market place the Cathedral is situated, with its large windows which, unfortunately, only open in one or two absurd places, and consequently let in too much garish light, and far too little air. The structure is devoid of architectural beauty. The next building of considerable importance is the Wilberforce Memorial Hall, a monument to the honor of that philanthropic gentleman for whom our great Wilberforce University is named. Many of the churches are large and well arranged. The military headquarters are situated on the very top of the great Sierra Leone mountains. The sweet music of the well-disciplined orchestra rolls down the mountain sides in the most soul-inspiring tones. The wharf presents a grand aspect when a number of vessels from all parts of the world are lying in port. The most salubrious breeze sweeps over the gentle waters, which sparkle under the radiance of a tropical sun.
Freetown is a beautiful African town. The sanitary regulations are fairly good; the city hospital is commendable, as is the other benevolent institutions of the colony.
We regard the British Government a godsend in Africa. Thousands of the people, who, had it not been for Great Britain, who are now educated and in easy circumstances, would have been savage heathen. In all of the government departments are progressive, young men employed as clerks, etc., at good salaries. The leading lawyer of the town is a colored man. He has won high honors, not only in his own country but in England as well. The queen's advocate is a native African. Time and again he has filled the high and responsible office of "chief justice" of the colony with honor and dignity.
Africa, according to accepted history, once stood at the head of all other countries in commercial and architectural greatness. Ancient Egypt, we have no doubt, was the abode of native Africans. We are not unmindful of the many futile efforts that have been put forth to prove that the ancient Egyptians were not Africans. Prejudice and hatred for the negro race have actuated modern historians to use their utmost endeavors to rob the sons of Ham, not only of Africa, but of every other laudable achievement which they have gained.
But we cannot expect more from a people who are blinded by prejudice, and ignorant of the real facts in the case. However, we are often disgusted at those of our own nationality, who should do all in their power to defend the race from furious assaults, joining in with our race enemies, and likewise endeavor to disprove our relation to the ancient Egyptians. We can but look upon such persons with contempt and brand them either with the most profound ignorance or the basest race hypocrites.
It is not that opposition from without that injures the negro race so much, but those continuous collisions, revolts, and warfares within. We, as a race, have not as yet learned the importance of unity and race love. I am sure that many who pose as race leaders and wiseacres upon the negro question, have not studied the subject sufficient to arrive at intelligent conclusions. We are too willing to grant the requests of our enemies and accept what they say concerning the past, present and future of the race as true. This is wrong. Let us weigh matters and examine statements before we concede to them truth and recognition. I remember some years ago hearing one of our most fluent orators laboring to convince his hearers that the negro race had no history; that all this talk of the negro's past greatness in Egypt was foolishness; that the Egyptians were white folks, etc. Of course those who heard this tirade of false statements, for most part, were ignorant of the facts in the case, and accepted what they heard as true, hence deafening applause time and again went up, bidding the enthusiastic speaker to lie on. Our people must learn to spurn with indignation anything that reflects discredit upon the race. I do not wish to convey the idea here that we should
palliate the wrongs of our people, but there is a more judicious and corrective manner by which such wrongs can be adjusted. I fear we are too ready to give sanction to things of which we are totally ignorant.
Why should the negro despise Africa?
Why should he join the enemies of the race and heap a mountain of abuse upon the country, and help rob a despised and oppressed people of their just rights?
Despite all criticism, impediments, prejudices, strife, and hatred, Africa is steadily rising in the estimation of the civilized world. White men, women and children from all parts of Europe and America are continually flocking to her borders. Her gold, silver, diamonds, rubber, and numberless other valuables have a charm that mankind cannot resist.
I mean that class of mankind that has the ability to grasp the situation and reap the harvest. The European imperils his life in search of the hidden riches of Africa. He climbs her mountains, swims her streams, penetrates her forests, confronts her natives to enrich himself and his posterity. They come to this country as missionaries, teachers, merchants, mechanics, explorers, and generals; large companies conduct immense business in every available section of the country; they soon amass fortunes and return home and spend their remaining days in ease and luxury.
Young white men and their wives come here, brave the climate, exclude themselves from society for twenty, thirty and forty years, in order to grow rich and leave a legacy for their children.
But, alas, for the poor negro! Every country is better to him than Africa.
He will extol negro-hating America to the skies; he will boast of her railroads, telegraphs, schools and churches, which mean nothing on earth to him; but turning to Africa, his ancestral home, the land of fruits, gold, silver, and diamonds, and best of all, the land of freedom--I say the negro turns to Africa with a frown, and contemptuously exclaims, I'M NO AFRICAN!
The negro seems to think that Africa is the most debased, shameful, and worthless country on earth. He seems to feel himself humiliated and outraged when associated with
Africa. He seems to forget that Africa furnished civilization for the world, and hence stands to-day as the mother of art, science and civilization. Four thousand years have not produced a people whose architectural genius has measured up to that of the ancient Egyptians. The grand old pyramids stand as everlasting witnesses of the negro's past greatness and future possibilities.
What rational, cool and thinking people would be ashamed to own kinship with such a country and such a people?
The modern historians, especially, have been busy trying to rob the negro of Africa's greatness. They are proud of the most remote relation to African civilization and greatness. Among the earlier historians, however, such was not the case. Let us here examine a few of the most celebrated historians of the world, and see what their views were of Africa and her people. In "Christianity, Islam and the Negro," a book written by Rev. E. W. Blyden, L.L.D., the following appears on page 175: "The secular poets and historians of those times also bear witness to the excellence of Ethiopian character. Homer, the prince of poets, and Herodotus, the father of history, both speak in praise of them.
"In the earliest tradition of nearly all the more civilized nations of antiquity, the name of this distant people is found. The annals of the Egyptian priests were full of them; the nations of inner Asia, on the Euphrates and Tigris, have interwoven the fictions of the Ethiopian with their own traditions of the conquests and wars of their heroes; and at a period equally remote they glimmer in Greek mythology. When the Greeks scarcely knew Italy and Sicily by name, the Ethiopians were celebrated in the verse of their poets; they spoke of them as the 'remotest nations,' the 'most just of men,' the 'favorites of the gods.' The lofty inhabitants of Olympus journey to them, and take part in their feasts; their sacrifices are the most agreeable of all that mortals can offer them. And when the faint gleam of tradition and fable gives way to the clear light of history, the lustre of the Ethiopians is not diminished. They still continue the object of curiosity and admiration, and the pen of cautious, clear-sighted historians often places them in the highest ranks of knowledge and civilization."
History is pregnant with the most favorable references to the negro in his primitive stage of life. The negro, under the light of an impartial civilization, shone brightly amidst the national constellations.
His standing as a man, a citizen, and nobleman, was never questioned until his exile and enslavement. Slavery, the most direful evil of which a nation can be the victim, is the source from which all our national and social troubles sprung. When a people has been subjected to years of cruel bondage, among strangers in a foreign land, and yet maintain the moral courage that characterizes the African ex-slaves, we need not doubt the ability of such a people to rise to a wonderful height in religion and civilization.
With all the lamentable defects of the ex-slave, with his apparent non-interest in his native land; with the powerful tendencies toward white men absorption, in principle, habit, etc.; when we consider the extreme low depths from which the race has come, we can but acknowledge that they have displayed a wonderful amount of tact and heroism.
Doubtless no people have surpassed them under similar circumstances.
But notwithstanding all this to the credit of the race, there are many among the dominant races who argue the inability of the negro to attain national greatness.
Just here I wish to say, that to my mind the negro in foreign lands must return home and become renegroized, if you please, before be can fully appreciate himself and his people. For nearly three hundred years the American negro has been away from home; two hundred and forty-seven years of this time he served as a slave, subjected to the most inhuman treatment; whipped, sold, terrorized in numberless ways; in every instance he was reminded of his inferiority, as reckoned from the white man's stand-point. He was taught as a slave that the most commendable thing he could do was to be an honest, obedient negro to the laws of master and mistress; everywhere he turned the white man was lord and ruler; finally, with such strong environments, many of the weaker minds succumbed to the almost inevitable and formed the opinion that God created the white man to rule and the negro to serve. Such convictions are dangerous to the race, for when the negro
becomes satisfied to occupy a secondary position in the affairs of the world, his aspirations will never rise higher. Under such conditions we would virtually be a slave. Voluntary slavery is far more dangerous and destructive than compulsory slavery. One controls the mind, while the other controls the body.
In one state, the individual is content to eke out a miserable existence, while in the other state the outraged individual resents the blow and wrestles to throw off the burden.
Freedom is a great blessing. Freedom brings on responsibility, responsibility gives rise to necessity, necessity gives birth to industry, industry begets wealth, and wealth begets independence, and independence demands recognition, and will have it. So it is plain that a race can never fully develop under such restrictive laws and regulations. Such is the condition of the American negro. Freedom has been fought for and gloriously won, but has never been thoroughly established and vindicated. He is forced in every department of life to occupy a secondary position. His color is looked upon with scorn and contempt. His very presence is obnoxious in white society. Separate cars, hotels, barber-shops, churches, etc., are provided for his accommodation. No degree of qualification fits him for lofty position. He is placed below the most worthless of white society. His skin is a badge of inferiority with Europeans or white men.
Now tell me that a race can fully develop under such conditions!
Now what are some of the most discouraging features of the American negro's existence and history to-day?
First. As a rule he regards the white men as being supreme, which is an indirect concession to the false theory that the negro is constitutionally inferior to the white man.
Second. The strong and ever-pressing unwritten law, born and established in the days of slavery, "that America is a white man's country," and that the negroes have no rights that white men are compelled to respect," has been virtually conceded by the American negroes; hence the mob violence, the impositions upon unprotected negro women,
and various other calamities inflicted upon the race, without even the appearance of resentment. What do we see? White men have no fears whatever to insult our wives, our daughters, and murder our men in the most shameful manner. To-day every negro woman is a subject for insult and debauchery for lustful and unprincipled white men.
Who in the South have not been pained to behold the moral ruin of our most beautiful girls who have become the concubines of white men, and seem to regard it as an honor? In America, to be white implies all the greatness and graces of the universe. Almost every negro is trying to get white. Nobody wants to be black. Even black ministers are rejected by negro congregations.
These things show the drift of public sentiment. One of the most distinguished colored ministers of the United States was asked to resign the pastoral supervision of his church, not long since, wholly upon the ground of his dark complexion.
In more than one of the large American cities can be found negroes who have separated themselves from those of their race in whose veins the blood of the proud Caucasian does not flow.
I certainly regard such race divisions as omens of dreadful consequences to the race.
But we must reason from cause to effect. There is a cause for every effect. As we have said elsewhere, to be white in America, is an incontrovertible evidence of superiority. Man being of an ambitious nature and wishing to be associated with all supposed greatness (the negro being no exception to the rule), he is willing to sever all his race relations to gain the most remote and deceptive relations with the dominant race. The negro, daily suffering from the effects of colorphobia, when not endowed with great race proclivities, will resort to the most unnatural means to ameliorate his condition. To the thoughtful mind such tendencies betoken an unhealthy state of things for our future as a distinct race of people. Negroes, irrespective of the amount of Caucasian blood that may course their veins, are regarded as negroes in the fullest sense of the word, and are treated as such.
The octoroon can come no nearer social equality than the pure-blooded African.
All negroes are placed in the same category. They all suffer the same direful evils. They all meet the same barriers in the path of human greatness.
But there seems to be a selfish pride roaming the bosom of many mixed-blooded negroes. Their conclusions are based upon the grounds of divine preference to white, a doctrine conceived in sin and born of iniquitous parents, and dates its birth to the introduction of American slavery. Such a spirit should be checked. It will, if continued, entail indescribable disgrace upon the race. It will put a club in the hands of negro-beaters to pound our race's heads with.
Again, this subject has a moral feature of great importance. As has already been said, hundreds of negro women think it an honor to be the mistresses of white men. Why is this? Nothing less than the universal eulogy lavished upon the haughty Caucasian, and the endless denunciations, criticisms, and misrepresentations heaped upon the poor black man. It was my unpleasant privilege to hear a woman of light complexion hurl the daring epithets in the face of her husband, that she was sorry that she was identified with the negro race, that she would have married a white man had her grandmother not been so black, etc.
No woman can be a true wife who deplores the complexion of her husband.
It is said that a race can never rise above the mothers; hence, if this impure and unnatural blood is continually being poured into the veins of our women, how can we entertain hope for the race under such conditions?
So we hold that the negro can never develop into gigantic manhood under the stultifying influences of American caste.
Such is not the case in Africa. Here the sentiment is just the reverse. The natives cling to their traditions just as tenaciously as does the proud Caucasian to the history of England or America. He sees something great in negroes. He sees God as a great controlling principle looking upon all nations with the same degree of respect, and according to each and all sacred rights that demand recognition binding with equal importance.
However, before we further proceed along this line, let us refer to the primitive history of this great continent and her native inhabitants.
The following occurs in that remarkable book written by Dr. Blyden, on page 176, in the form of a quotation:
"But no one who has traveled in Northeastern Africa, or among the ruins of the banks of the Nile, will for a moment doubt that there was the connection, not of accident or of adventitious circumstances, but of consanguinity, between the races of inner Africa of the present day and the ancient Egyptians and Ethiopians. To get rid of the responsibility of brotherhood to the negro, an American professor, in an elaborate work, claims for the tropical African pre-Adamite origin, and ignores his relationship with Ham. His argument, however, is as yet beneath the level of scientific criticism. The expressions of Volney, the great French traveler, after visiting the magnificent ruins of Egypt, are expressed as follows: 'When I visited the Sphinx I could not help thinking the figure of that monster furnished the true solution of the enigma; when I saw its features precisely those of a negro, I recollected the remarkable passage of Herodotus in which be says: "For my part, I believe Colchi to be a colony of Egyptians, because, like them, they have black skins and frizzled hair, that is, that the ancient Egyptians were real negroes of the same species with all the natives of Africa." This historical fact affords to philosophy an interesting subject of reflection. How are we astonished when we reflect that to the race of negroes, at present our slaves and the objects of our extreme contempt, we owe our arts, sciences, and even the very use of our speech.'"
Here we have substantial evidence of the past greatness of the African in his primitive state. He was remarkable for learning and wealth. Powerful in war, yet congenial and liberal.
But even members of the race have contradicted the statements of eye-witnesses of the past glories of negroland, so afraid they are that something "good will come out of Nazareth." As we have said before, it is astonishing how many, who pretend to be race lovers and advocates, will shut their eyes to every good and noble phase of negro history
and seize with greed every deplorable feature connected thereto.
Nothing can be plainer and more convincing of negro greatness than the rapid progress the race has made in America since emancipation. Turned loose, as they were, ignorant, poor, handicapped, and despised; turned out as an old worn-out horse to die, they have struggled onward and upward, until to-day the race controls millions of dollars, churches, colleges, etc. Now, if a people can succeed so admirably under such adverse circumstances, what might we expect of them under more favorable circumstances.
But I must say just here, that I do not favor wholesale emigration to Africa.
After a careful study of the subject, I am convinced that it is not the best.
First. I oppose it on the grounds of race, poverty and ignorance.
It must be remembered that as yet there is a large percentage of ignorance among our people. Twenty-seven years is not sufficient time to educate and prepare millions of people who have spent two hundred years in bondage for the great work of governmental responsibilities. There is not sufficient experience in governmental affairs among our people at present for such an arduous task.
In addition to this, we have not the means. As a race, we are poor. We are not only poor, but we have not learned to unite our finance and conduct extensive business enterprises; there is a lack of confidence in each other, which has hindered our race progress in various ways. If such is the case in America, where the race is surrounded with the most experienced financiers, it is unreasonable to expect more in a heathen country where no examples are to be had from other races.
Again, the majority of negroes in America have become so absorbed in white men's rule, that they are not willing to risk their chances in a country where a white man is not. Such people would be a menace and curse to the country. Very soon they would grow weary with the struggles incident to a heathen land, would begin to complain, censure, and long for the land from whence they came. Time and again have I heard prominent negroes say: "I would not live under a negro government."
What is most needed along the line of emigration to Africa is a number of progressive, self-reliant families to emigrate here who have the country and its people at heart; who believe in the possibility of the negro to succeed; who are willing to suffer for a season to plant deep the precious seed of national progress and independence. Two millions of such families would be a godsend to Africa. But to deport the millions of ignorant, helpless, and non-progressive negroes from America to this country would plunge the land into a state of conflict and poverty such as the world has never seen.
Persons coming to Africa should study well the situation; thoroughly prepare themselves; have a natural love for the land of their fathers, then come on.
I disapprove of the excitable manner that many of our "African emigration" advocates go before the public. They simply preach emigration without presenting any feasible plan to execute the desired ends. There should be some well outlined policy adopted for the benefit of such persons as may wish to migrate hither. Africa presents an inviting field for the future greatness of self-reliant negroes. I especially insist upon those of our people who live in the mob-inflicted districts of the South to avail themselves of every opportunity to come to Africa, where they can have peace from the inhuman whitecaps and lynchers.
The condition of negroes in those sections grows more and more precarious. Our women of the South, especially, have gloomy surroundings. They have no protection whatever from capricious white men, who seem to have a burning desire to destroy their virtue. Colored husbands are not able to suppress these demons of colored society. I have seen colored ladies insulted on the streets in the very presence of their husbands, who were not courageous enough to retaliate the insult. These and many other evils equally as enormous are more than sufficient causes to force the people of color to hunt a more congenial clime.
Dr. C. S. Smith, D.D., in a sermon in Bethel A. M. E. Church in Chicago, during the "Great Fair" of 1893, fully expressed my feelings as regards the negroe's situation in America, and his relation to Africa, etc. We here quote just a few lines of that wonderful sermon:
"Some people turn up their noses and say: 'Africa! I am not going to Africa.' What does Africa care? Africa would be impoverished by such people going there. Africa don't need me one thousandth part as much as I need Africa, and this is why I am going there on a tour of observation. Why do I need Africa? Why for the enlarged opportunities it will afford me; for the air of freedom which I can breathe there; for the privilege of going in and out among men and feeling that my color is no bar to me; and when I take their rough, black hands into my own, I will feel the touch of a brother."
I fully indorse every word Dr. Smith says. He has many advanced ideas upon the subject. But of all, he is coming to Africa and see for himself.
Dr. Smith further said:
"The man who simply goes with the gospel in his hands to any heathen land is a failure. If a man wants to be a power in any heathen land, let him go with the Bible in one hand and a hammer and saw in the other."
How true. What is needed in Africa is a moral, intellectual and industrial redemption. The gospel must be accompanied with all the essential elements of real progress or it will fail to accomplish the desired ends. The vast riches of this great continent are to be developed by trained heads and trained hands. The African youths must be given a practical education to enable them to perform well their part in the civilization of the continent. We have already mentioned the inexhaustible treasures hid away in the bowels of this giant continent. Her treasures of gold, silver, iron, etc.; her ivory, rubber, diamond, cam wood, and hundreds of other valuables. Her towering mountains, spacious plains, placid waters, luscious fruits, all of which await the return of her children in exile.
After all, Africa has a blessed history.
Dr. Blyden writes as follows concerning this old historic land:
"If we come down to New Testament times, we find again, Africans and their country appearing in honorable connections. When the Saviour of mankind, born in lowly circumstances, was the persecuted babe of Bethlehem, Africa furnished the refuge of his threatened and helpless infancy.
African hands ministered to the comfort of Mary and Joseph while they sojourned as homeless and hunted strangers in that land. In the final hour of the Man of Sorrows, when his disciples had forsaken him and fled, and only the tears of sympathizing women followed in the distance, showed that his sorrows touched every human heart; when Asia, in the person of the Jews, clamored for his blood, and Europe in the Roman soldiers was dragging him to execution, and afterward nailed those sinless hands to the cross and pierced his sacred side, what was the part that Africa took then? She furnished the man to share the burden of the cross with the suffering Redeemer.
"Simon the Cyrenian bore the cross after Jesus. Fleecy locks and dark complexion thus enjoyed a privilege and an honor, and were invested with a glory in which kings and potentates, martyrs and confessors, in the long roll of ages would have been proud to participate.
"Africa, bleeding Africa, so long enslaved by despotic creed, will again take her place among the nations of the earth. When her children in exile, like the despised man of Galilee, will find no continual habitation, when they shall have been convinced of the love of a mother and shall return home, Africa, phenix-like, will arise from her long slumber and become the scene of indescribable glory and power. Historians, travelers and explorers may deride her; enemies of her children may scorn and laugh, but God has His own time to re-establish this land and redeem her people."
In our imagination we can see a second Hannibal controlling mighty armies; a second Constance with treasures of gold, and others of authority that none dare dispute.
Bishop H. M. Turner, one of the most learned and progressive men of the race, advocates the establishment of a negro government in Africa where the genius of the race can be displayed.
He claims for the race the most miserable existence in the United States of America.
For years Bishop Turner has exposed the dastardly crimes perpetrated upon the race by unprincipled members of the dominant race.
In the national convention of colored men which met in
Cincinnati, November 28, 1893, in his opening address the Bishop used the following very pertinent and forcible language:
"But through some satanic legerdemain within the last three or four years the most fearful crimes have been charged upon the members of our race known to the catalogue of villainy, and death and destruction have stalked abroad with an insatiable carnivoracity that not only beggars description, but jeopardizes the life of every negro in the land, as any one could raise an alarm by crying rape, and some colored man must die whether he is the right one or whether it was the product of revenge or the mere cracking of a joke.
"The United States Congress and Supreme Court both have dumped the negro.
"Our supposed constitutional rights have been nullified, and the President of the United States can do nothing but give us a few second-hand positions, and those of us who are not dead are simply living by the grace of our respective communities, and we had as well realize our situation and pander to no sentimentality but that which involves our honor and manhood.
"Congress can legislate for the protection of the fish of the sea and the seals that gambol in our waters, and oblige its men, its money, its navy, its army, and its flag to protect them; but the 8,000,000 or 10,000,000 of its black men and women, made in the image of God, possessing $265,000,000 worth of taxable property, with all their culture, refinement and in many instances, noble bearing, must be turned off to become the prey of violence, and when we appeal to the general government for recognition and protection, Justice, so-called, drops her scales and cries, away with you."
We feel free to say no man living is better acquainted with the true condition of the American negro, than Bishop Turner.
Hence the views of such a man deserve reflection and consideration. When a man of Bishop Turner's invincibleness comes to the point that he is forced to raise the alarm, we should heed the warning.
However, many think to the contrary. They fear no evil. They apprehend no danger of more serious race conflicts,
but predict smooth sailing and bright sunshine ahead. Surely they are hopeful prophets. We should be pleased to have such faith but spurn such profound blindness.
However, many of those who appear to entertain hope under the present crisis are not true to themselves, for no man or woman in a perfect state of mind can fail to realize a serious state of things without a radical change. Many who pretend to see glorious things awaiting the negro in America refer to the primitive state of the Celts and Gauls, whose condition, according to the report given of them by Julius Cesar, was that of the basest barbarism. They claim that those people survived Roman oppression and finally rose to honor and distinction.
But it must be remembered that Rome never completely subdued the Britons. They always resented Roman oppression. Thousands of Roman soldiers fell before their arrows. While the Romans held some tribes as slaves, others fought, burned, and scattered devastation broadcast. Finally Rome, tired of war with those barbarian tribes, withdrew and left them alone.
Again we must remember that this was not a conflict based upon race prejudice and caste, but Rome, crazy to extend her dominion over the world, commissioned Caesar to visit Briton and conquer the inhabitants.
But vast are the differences between the conditions of the Britons under Roman oppression and that of the negro under American slavery. The Britons as slaves, if you please to regard them as such, were a much more free and independent people than the American negro living under the pretense of American citizens.
What resistance did the negro as a race ever offer his owner during his two hundred years of bondage? What effort did we make to escape from an oppression that was enough to insult the devil himself? Even while the Union soldiers were losing their lifeblood upon the battle-field hundreds and thousands of negroes were so completely unmanned and were such absolute slaves and cowards, that they remained at home, served their mistresses with apparent indifference as to the result of the war.
Why was this? Was it because the negro was a born coward? No!
The history of the negro in Africa where he has retained his manhood proves to the contrary.
A braver people never lived than the Ashantees, Dahomians, Mandingos, and Kroos of Africa to-day.
But this cowardice is due to slavery. It shows the effects of complete subjugation. It proves that men under severe treatment can be reduced to a state of beastly indifference as to their most vital interests. The fragments of slavery yet linger in the negro's bosom.
He dreads the white man even after thirty years of freedom. He trembles before his ex-master. Who is to blame for this great sacrifice of moral manhood? Can we blame the negro who, forced as he was into bondage, could but submit to whatever come upon him? As a slave he was not to blame; as a freeman he is much to blame, for there is yet a shameful indifference upon the part of the majority of negroes relative to their own interests and the interests of the race.
We cannot afford to pander to nonsense longer. Already this "smoothing over" policy has done us great harm. Let us stand or fall upon our merits or demerits, as the case may be.
We are confronted with a great evil. Our rights have been taken--not stolen. Our manhood, if we ever had any, has been crushed; our lives have been blown out with but little concern; our women have been seduced, outraged and brutalized at the pleasure of human demons; we have no redress before the courts of the land. What must be done to ameliorate the condition of 10,000,000 negroes in America surrounded with such conditions?
My fellow-men, we point you to Africa. Free Africa; rich Africa; negro Africa.
Come home where you can rest from near three hundred years of persecution. Come out from among your enemies and come among your friends.
Let every negro who is prepared come without delay. Your mother longs to take you in her bosom. She has gold, silver, diamonds, ivory, rubber, fruits, and everything you need. Come home!
Here you can have peace, prosperity, and fully enjoy the rights and privileges of citizens. Prejudice, caste, and race hate are unknown.
Possibly there is no church in existence that has grander possibilities for a glorious success among the heathen of Africa than the A. M. E. Church.
First, our church is preferred because it is controlled by members of the race. The African, as all other races, has strong race proclivities. He believes in those enterprises governed by his own people. The past record of Europeans as missionaries cannot be commended in every particular. As a rule white men go to Africa to make money rather than to save souls. White missionaries have been repeatedly charged with carrying the Bible and whisky to convert the heathen with. Africans are by no means fools. They are endowed with powerful natural abilities. They are indeed perceptive. They watch with vigilance those who claim to be representatives of a higher principle than that in which they believe. With all their heathenism they know that whisky and Christianity are incongruous. Hence they have great reasons to question the sincerity of European missionaries in many cases.
However, I do not wish to underrate the labors, sacrifices and philanthropy of the great Anglican, Wesleyan and Episcopal Churches. Had it not been for white philanthropists and Christians the light of civilization would not have reached Africa even at this late date. We are pleased to say that those churches are doing great good for native Africans. Churches have been built; schools erected; natives have been sent to England, educated, and returned as teachers, preachers, doctors, etc.
The Church of England and the British Government have done more for the moral, social, intellectual and industrial development of the country than all other instrumentalities combined. The African should always keep such noble
deeds before him, and ever cherish the memory of such noble benefactors.
I beg to differ with those who claim that God has reserved Africa's redemption for Africans only. I believe that the propagation of Christianity is binding upon all Christians alike, and that white men and women are just as much responsible for the christianization and civilization of Africa as colored men and women. "God is no respecter of persons." While we must admit that climatic severities debar the active personal efforts of Europeans in African mission work, this does not lessen by any means their obligations, for those who cannot go can send others who by nature are adapted for the work.
If African mission work is to be restricted to her indigenous agencies I fear very much that Africa will remain yet many centuries in heathenism.
We are pained to witness the woeful indifference of colored professors as regards our great African mission cause. What are the various negro churches doing for Africa to-day? Comparatively nothing.
Those who are willing to go under the auspices of colored churches almost invariably are left to eke out the most shameful existence. Not a few have been left to die paupers. Hundreds have suffered for the absolute necessaries of life.
Our churches are not as a rule willing to make the most insignificant sacrifice for the cause of foreign missions.
We are conscious of the fact that we are not able to compete with the rich white denominations of the world in our financial contributions for the maintenance of foreign missions; as a race we are poor; we have done well in many respects, especially for our home work, but it is plain that we have not utilized the various opportunities to build up and extend our work in distant lands.
The A. M. E. Church, with her 600,000 members, is well able to expend $25,000 annually for foreign mission purposes and not neglect her home interests in the least.
What we most need is a will to do. We have not as a whole realized our heaven-imposed duties to Africa. Hence we cannot well afford to discourage those who are willing to help us in this great work. We cannot afford to be selfish.
I often hear colored persons say white men have no business in Africa. White men have as much right to say negroes have no business in England, France, Germany, Belgium or America.
Again, Africans often thoughtlessly say God has walled Africa in with a wall of fire to protect her from the invasion of white men. White men with equal propriety might say that God has walled North America in with a wall of ice to protect her from the invasion of negroes. "Of one flesh and blood hath God made all the nations of the earth to dwell together in peace."
What would we know to-day of Africa had it not been for white explorers and historians? Who, white or black, living or dead, has shown more love and devotion for Africa and her people than Livingstone?
Who has spoken in more complimentary terms of the "Dark Continent" than Mungo Park? Numbers of other celebrated white historians have shown the highest degree of love for Africa and her millions of heathen. So we cannot afford to shut our eyes to such noble deeds and say the Europeans have no business in Africa.
The negro is not able to redeem Africa were he ever so willing. He, perhaps, could furnish the majority of workers but from whence the means? We must invite every legitimate agency, whether indigenous or exotic; whether homogeneous or heterogeneous. God has invited all mankind into the work, either directly or indirectly.
But let us return more directly to the subject claiming our consideration at this time. We claim for the A. M. E. Church great possibilities in Africa.
Nothing is more evident to my mind at this time of our success with the numerous fields opening on every side, and the most cordial invitations to come and bring the bread of life.
During the seven years of our existence in Sierra Leone the most encouraging results have been produced.
We have four churches in the city of Freetown, with five hundred members; two progressive day schools with an average attendance of four hundred pupils. Besides, we have organized fine mission schools in the interior where schools are being taught and new opportunities opening for extension.
Rev. J. R. Frederick, who came here alone, almost moneyless, has accomplished a work that will stand to his eternal credit when his body shall be sleeping in mother earth.
Bishop Turner, the pioneer African Methodist Episcopal Bishop to Africa, has done a work here that challenges the admiration of God and angels; a work that will live, grow and develop into gigantic proportions; a work that will bless millions of our fellow-men in this benighted land. However, this work has not been accomplished without great personal efforts and tremendous individual sacrifice. Brother Frederick has had stubborn opposition, and that from members and ministers of his own church.
Bishop Turner has been bemeaned, opposed, criticized and rejected because he dared work for the redemption of three hundred millions of human beings. In order to give a mere hint as to the sentiments of the leading ministers of the A. M. E. Church, with regard to our mission work in Africa, I will here give the personal remarks of one of her favorite Bishops. Referring to my going to Africa, he said:
"Ridgel, you are foolish. If I had my way I would recall every missionary we have in Africa, and stop the whole thing. As a church, we have no business in Africa."
I cannot express my surprise and disgust at a Bishop who was so ungodly; so blind; so non-progressive; so infamously narrow as to oppose the salvation of souls.
In the same city the pastors of the various churches, in council assembled, declared that they would not bring my interest before their people as they were opposed to our missionary modus operandi. The reader will be more astonished when informed that such was the sentiment of our church and ministry right in the very city that gave us connectional life, and on the hallowed spot where sleeps the ashes of the sainted Allen. In justice to the pastor and members of Old Bethel, we must say that they gave $20.00 towards the cause of Africa.
Oh, how my heart did ache! What bitter and painful emotions ran through my soul!
I wept as a child. I wanted to leave the place whose ministry had vowed to check the very work that Christ
Jesus commanded his ambassadors to do. Two years have failed to restore lost confidence in such vile, unchristianly emissaries. God bless these poor souls! With such weights, hindrances and conflicts, Bishop Turner has succeeded grandly in his African work. He is loved as a father in Africa. If here, he would soon be the instrumentality of African Methodism sweeping this vast continent.
The people of Africa prefer our church government to that of the other churches here. They regard our polity more in keeping with genuine Christianity and better suited for a people just emerging from heathenism.
Again, they like the Methodist fire. It gives joy, peace, happiness and consolation to the soul. The African is naturally enthusiastic. He has a soul that can be touched by gospel magnetism. Forms and ceremonies, robes, supplices, are not his ideal of the gospel ministry. Hence he approves of African Methodism.
Along the west coast of Africa are several colonies where our church would doubtless prosper beyond the most sanguine expectation. We have no organization at Lagos, Niger, Gold Coast and in the great Congo Free State. At each of those places we have been cordially invited to come and organize. However, we have not been able to go, for want of means. Other denominations have gone there and brought the most flattering reports of the country and people. God hasten the time when African Methodism will join the procession.
If our church could or would expend ten thousand dollars annually in Africa for five years, we would have ten annual conferences, fifty thousand members, thousands of dollars' worth of churches, coffee farms, schools, and a self-sustaining work. I have in my mind the very plan by which it can be accomplished. Why not launch out in the deep waters of missionary enterprise? Why not catch the spirit of the other Christian churches? Why not do valiant service for the Lord? We have the materials, we can get the means, we can accomplish the work.
It must be remembered that the civilized world has its eyes upon Africa. The rush is simply awful. Foreigners are taking possession of every available spot. They come with the government, gospel, school, industry, and with
their armies. They mean business. Unless the negroes in foreign lands bestir themselves, soon Africa will be gone, and they will be left without a national home beneath the canopy of heaven. Two-thirds of Africa is gone now, and the remaining one-third is a bone of contention between Great Britain, France, Germany and Belgium. These master powers have been fought back by nature for many years, but climatic barriers are rapidly disappearing and Europeans are flocking to Africa in large numbers every year in quest of gold, silver, diamonds, rubber, and the articles of great value. Just why Afro-Americans have such an antipathy for Africa I cannot understand.
The kings around Sierra Leone have welcomed Rev. Frederick to their country saying, "We like your church because it is a black man's church."
These kings control thousands, yes millions, of people; their countries are large, rich and worthy of consideration. Suppose we could embrace these opportunities? Suppose we could send a half-dozen enterprising missionaries to these countries, and these missionaries could persuade these several kings to become Christians, why, who knows but by such powerful instrumentalities thousands, yes millions, of these poor, heathen brethren would be brought within the folds of our church.
I am sure much good could be accomplished upon similar plans. The African Methodist Episcopal Church, especially, has a great opening along this line. She can immortalize herself here in the fatherland. She can be a mightier lever in the elevation of this mass of degraded humanity. The cause of missions is the true spirit and mission of Christ. Our Saviour was a wonderful example of missionary sincerity. He went among the people preaching, teaching, healing the sick, raising the dead, thus laying the foundation for great missionary operations.
The church that loses the genuine spirit of missions has lost the spirit of Christ and cannot survive. The Greek Church became obsolete because it was devoid of the spirit of missions. The denominations that have given the most attention to its missionary interests have been the most successful in all the departments of Christian operations.
When a church comes up to the true standard of missionary zeal; when the ministry is imbued with missionary enthusiasm; when the membership utilizes every opportunity to enhance the gospel of Jesus Christ, to promote the interest of moral, social, intellectual and spiritual life and activity, such a church, such an organization, such a ministry and such a people have advanced a long way on the road of real success. But when a church is dead and deaf to the plaintive cry of thousands, millions and hundreds of millions of human beings; when a ministry becomes indifferent to the spiritual life and moral welfare of the people over whom they are set as moral guides and spiritual teachers, such a church, such a ministry and such an organization is a long way back in the quagmires of sin, and extinction must ultimately follow.
Now, what we need in the A. M. E. Church is a true missionary spirit; such a spirit as characterized the pioneer ministers of Methodism. We want hundreds of such men as Wesley, Whitefield, Bishops Allen, Morris Brown, Quinn, Campbell, Brown, Handy, Cain, Turner and others. We want men at the head of our department of missions who are imbued with the missionary spirit; men that can sympathize with their missionary brethren who are suffering on the field; men who can devise plans for raising money for the great cause of missions.
We do not wish to be understood as anyway referring to the present administration of our missionary affairs. I am sure that no man within our church limits is more interested in the spreading of the gospel and the civilization of Africa and the heathen world than Bishop Henry M. Turner.
Oh! may God hasten the day when our churches everywhere will be truly awakened to the great cause of Christian missions; when the name of our God shall be known in every land, and his name praised by all people; "When the songs of Satan will be succeeded by the songs of Jesus, and blasphemies will be turned into praise." I fully believe in the final triumph of Christianity. I believe that the Koran, Kalee, Juggernaut, Confucius, will all yield to the blessed old Bible; the day will come when Mahomet will be exchanged for Jesus, the Saviour of the world, and
the nations of the earth will bow at the sceptre of the cross of Christ. Oh, let the kingdom come! Let the gospel notes ring out in every land! Push on the mighty victory of the cross until China, Japan, India, Africa, shall each exclaim: "The Lord, He is the God, He is the God!"
A brief reference to this religion, its devoted advocates, as seen in West Africa, will be the object of this chapter.
Every reader of Church history doubtless remembers the bloody record of Mohammedan reign in Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Asia Minor.
The following account of the terrible enemy to Christianity occurs on page 79 of Dr. Barth's Church history:
Mohammed was originally a merchant, who traveled to neighboring countries for the purpose of traffic, and thus became acquainted with the religious peculiarities of Jews and Christians. Being from a nation descended from Ishmael, the son of Abraham, he easily found, both in Judaism and Christianity, many materials for his own new doctrine.
He taught that, as there is but one God, so Mohammed was his greatest prophet, greater than Moses and Christ; that everything which comes to pass is foreappointed by an inevitable fate; that after death good is rewarded and evil punished. Frequent prayer at certain fixed hours, beneficence to the poor, circumcision, fastings, pilgrimages to Mecca, and abstinence from wine, are the chief rules of his religion. On the other hand, he allows polygamy, made divorces easy, and represented the future state as a perpetual enjoyment of sexual pleasure; hence, it is not surprising that he found so many followers.
In the fortieth year of his age, after having come forward with the assertions that the Angel Gabriel had appeared to him, and had revealed all this to him, he gained over a number of his countrymen, whom he confirmed into the persuasion that his doctrines were from God, by relating to them many pretended miracles of his own, and by appearing to work others, equally pretended.
Nevertheless he met with much opposition, and being expelled from Mecca, in the year 622, he fled to Medina. From this period the Mohammedans date their era, which they called the Hegira, that is, "The flight of their prophet."
At Medina the number of his followers so increased that in 630 he led ten thousand men to Mecca and took the city; after which he required all kings and emperors by special embassies, which he sent to them, to acknowledge him as the apostle and prophet of God, and resolved to propagate his religion by the sword. But, before he could proceed any further, he died at the age of 63, in the year 632.
After his death, his doctrines were collected in a volume, which is called the Koran, "or reading," and which is regarded by his followers as their sacred code. It is full of improbable, foolish tales, mixed up with some particulars taken from the Bible, principally relating to the patriarchs. His successors, the caliphs, conquered in a few years all Syria, Palestine with Jerusalem, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Asia Minor. Whoever resisted them was put to the sword. Temples and cities were destroyed, and Mohammed's doctrine imposed upon the oppressed inhabitants. We could wish that what is told were overstated, namely, that in a short space of twelve years after his death, thirty-six thousand towns and castles were taken by the Arabians, and four thousand Christian churches destroyed; but it is quite certain that their victorious marches must have been like the flight of locusts, and that the devastation they occasioned must have resembled the calamities wrought by these devouring insects. The whole coast of Northern Africa, which was covered with a large number of Christian churches, became their prey; and on that coast they so entirely subverted Christianity, that not a trace of it was to be found.
Only in Egypt, the Coptic Christians maintained their footing, as did the Nestorians in Persia, and a few smaller Christians elsewhere; but they lived under severe punishment, which gradually reduced them to a very low and deplorable state. The Arabs quarreled among themselves about the choice of their Caliphs, and this quarrel made demands on their attention and strength for about thirty years, which gave the Christians a little respite. By these contentions the Mohammedans became divided into two parties, called Schutes and Sunnites.
The former, who are chiefly found in Persia, regard the
Koran alone as the book of religion; but the latter received also the traditions of the first four caliphs.
It was not till the year 668 that they renewed their attacks upon other countries and besieged Constantinople seven years; but they were forced by a powerful means of defense, called Greek fire, to withdraw their troops. At the beginning of the next century, having pursued their victorious march along the north coast of Africa to the very shores of the Atlantic, they were able to cross the Straits of Gibraltar, and to pour into Spain. They purposed to traverse the length of Europe, and to attack Constantinople on the land side. The King of the Visigoths, to whom Spain was then subject, lost his life in a long, bloody battle with them, and the Arabs now marched without opposition through Spain, crossed the Pyrenees and reached Lyons and Besancon: and as three centuries the Western Church had been threatened with ruin by the deluge of the Huns from the East, so was she now reduced to most imminent danger by this raging torrent of Arabs. "Germany trembled." Such is a brief hint of the terrible record of the followers of Mohammed. They left blood, death and ruin in their wake; Christians were not spared; thousands went to the stake; churches, temples and cities went down before them. Men, women and children suffered a like fate. Christian women were put to death in the most shameful manner. They were burned, flayed, disjointed, hung, and put to death at the edge of the sword. While we must admit that there are some good features connected with the Mohammedan religion, but, as a whole, we see nothing in it worthy of commendation. Their uncompromising advocacy of polygamy is, of itself, sufficient to make the religion detestable to all Christians and civilized persons. I know men among them who have twenty and thirty wives. Their highest ambition seems to be the gratification of their sexual propensities.
I agree with Dr. Barth, that their base practice of polygamy is the cause of their rapid increase. I regard Mohammedanism as being one of the greatest foes to the Christian religion, especially in Africa, where the greatest part of the inhabitants are the victims of paganism and the basest superstition.
However, the pagan is in much better condition than the Mohammedans; the pagan does not combat Christianity on the grounds that he has something as good, like the blind Mohammedan, but, when convinced by the light of the gospel that he is wrong, accepts Christianity as his "all in all."
Not so with the Mohammedan. He believes the dead prophet--rather the false prophet--to be greater than the risen, triumphant Saviour; he regards the Koran greater than the old chart which has guided millions into the Beulah land. The Mohammedans are a wofully deluded people.
I have no great reasons to be astonished when I hear of Mohammedans accepting the Christian religion; because by so doing they are advancing, they are getting something better, they are getting all and giving nothing; but when pretended Christians throw down the Cross and take up the Crescent, exchange a blessed Saviour for a lifeless, false, and debased prophet, I must say, such an action defies the majesty of heaven and hurls the most daring and far-reaching epithets in the face of a just God.
To disregard the divinity of Jesus Christ, to reduce him to the common level of a mortal man; to worship the name of a sinful, degraded and blood-thirsty human ingrate, rather than extol the name and sacred memory of a holy, eternal, and omnipotent Jehovah, is a sin of alarming magnitude.
Dr. E. W. Blyden, the learned negro, the eminent linguist and traveler, to whose book we have time and again referred, has the following to say in behalf of Mohammedanism:
"West Africa has been in contact with Christianity for three hundred years, and not a single tribe, as a tribe, has yet become Christians. Nor has any influential chief adopted the religion brought by European missionaries. From Gambia to Gaboon, the native rulers, in constant intercourse with Christians, and in the vicinity of Christian settlements, still conduct their governments according to the customs of their fathers, where those customs have not been altered by Mohammedan influence. The Alkali of Port Lako and the chief of Bullon, under the shadow of Sierra Leone, are quasi-Mohammedans. "
The above statement by no means adds to the Mohammedan any commendable qualities; but rather show them to be, as we have said elsewhere, a people almost unsusceptible of the Christian religion.
A people living under the shadow of the Christian church where the gospel is being preached, entreaties made, not only by European agencies, but also by the indigenous agencies of the soil, and yet remained untouched, unmoved and unconcerned as to the religion of Christ Jesus; what does it show but the most stubborn resentment and self-satisfaction in the direful doctrine to which they cling.
If Mohammedans are more susceptible of the Christian religion than pagans, why is it that more progress has not been made among them along the evangelistic line?
There are many reasons why we might expect pagans to more readily lay hold of Mohammedanism than Christianity.
First. Mohammedanism is a kind of a first-grade paganism. To be a Mohammedan the pagan only has to go a short way out of his old path. He can cling to most of his superstitions, have his old number of wives, practice sorcery, etc., all of which makes Mohammedanism preferable to Christianity.
Second. Christianity demands of the pagan a complete surrender and entire change of life, both out and in; it compels him to forsake all practices and become a new creature.
Ignorance, centuries in heathenism, make this new doctrine a mystery and hard for the pagan to accept. The mystery seems to be how has Christianity succeeded so well under the circumstances; how has its influence made any visible effects upon such a blind, superstitious, and sinful people? We repeat it, that Mohammedanism is paganism in disguise. So far as spiritual advancement is concerned, an exchange is hardly possible. Christians should be praised rather than criticized for their devotion, success, and sacrifice in this dark land.
When you meet the Mohammedan convert and present to him Jesus, he in return presents to you Mohammed; if you offer him the Holy Bible he offers to you the doctrines of the "Blessed Koran." The evangelist invariably finds
in the Mohammedan an uncompromising foe and antagonist of the Christian religion.
The Christian cannot expect any advantageous channels to open through the fallacious system of Mohammedanism. While here and there he may gain a convert, now and then he may have opened to him a mosque, but such events are few and far between. But, on the other hand, hundreds of pagans have embraced the Christian religion at a single service. They have brought forth their devils and fetishes and surrendered in the presence of hundreds of people. Evidence and circumstances all along the lines will show that pagans are far more friendly towards Christians and more anxious for the truth than Mohammedans.
Dr. Blyden again says:
"A Mohammedan writer taking the same superficial view of the effects of Christianity, and with the same love for epigrammatic terseness, might say Christianity has consecrated drunkenness; it has consecrated negro slavery; it has consecrated war; and he might gather ample materials for sustaining his position from the history of Christianity during the last three hundred years, especially in the western hemisphere."
The doctor does not well sustain himself in the above position from a fundamental standpoint. He seems to forget that Christianity does not indorse such conduct, and those who are guilty of such crimes have no right to be styled Christians.
They may be attached to the Christian church in a formal manner but they are not Christians in the true sense of the word. Christianity condemns all forms of sin. Pious Christians have enacted the most rigid codes of law for the punishment and exclusion of persons who violate the word of God.
Not so with Mohammedans. They admit and indorse crime from a fundamental standpoint. Their church is founded upon the doctrine of polygamy, a crime positively forbidden in the word of God. They teach their blinded followers that such a course of life is right. They take no steps to condemn those baneful sins that are frowned upon by all true Christians.
Again, Mohammedanism denies the divinity of Jesus
Christ. It styles Mohammed as the superior of the Son of God. They dispute the biblical account of the fall of man aboriginal sin; they deny the redemption of the world by the death of Christ; they dispute the plan of salvation, which is the only assurance of eternal rest and happiness. What doctrine could be more erroneous, more detestable to a Christian than a doctrine that disregards the Saviour of the world.
No word of censure is too severe for Mohammedanism. Should not Christians shun a doctrine based upon the very sins that God has commanded them to flee "as from an adder"? We are indeed sorry for those poor deluded persons who are following in the dark paths of ruin--Mohammedanism.
Every Christian should be on the alert and spare no pains to wage incessant war against Mohammedanism. We see in it a gigantic evil. An evil that threatens our very existence in Africa and other Mohammedan countries. Every day we see the effects of this monster evil upon the Church of God. Our missionaries find the doctrine deep-seated in the people among whom they are called to labor; our churches are chilled from the effects of it.
Let us pray Almighty God to forever blot Mohammedanism out of existence.
I found in Sierra Leone a great tendency toward Mohammedanism, which is due largely to the complex state of that colony, and the public espousal of several influential men of the Mohammed doctrine who had previously claimed Christianity. A long and spirited controversy was carried on through the columns of the Weekly News, the official organ of Freetown, in which the editor of said paper maintained that polygamy was excusable, especially in Africa, owing to the hot climate, which caused the sexual propensities to run higher than in colder climes.
Such a position is erroneous from the fact that women have the same nature as men, and if a plurality of wives is necessary to gratify the natural propensities of men, then a plurality of husbands is necessary to gratify the sexual propensities of women, which the advocates of polygamy and Mohammedanism most ingloriously fail to accord the fair sex.
Africa can never be civilized under the influence of Mohmmedanism because the compromise between that doctrine and paganism is too great. It is true, the Mohammedans have schools, mosques, etc., but water cannot rise above its source. Since their very faith is defective, it holds that their teachings and education are also defective. Those countries where Mohammedan doctrines have gone for centuries uncontradicted, holding entire control of all religious teaching, stand as greatly in need of Christian civilization as does the pagan in his heathenism.
Christianity only has produced peace, prosperity, and general development among the nations of the earth. England, the greatest civilized country on earth, owes her elevated position in learning, wealth, commerce, and matchless influence more to Christianity than any other agency.
America, with her many defects, clings tenaciously to the Christian religion, hence her wonderful progress in all the higher pursuits of life. France was the scene of revolution and blood until the magic tread of Christianity eclipsed the doctrines of her noted infidels. And notwithstanding the large percentage of Catholics in France the Christian religion scatters its benign influence over that Republic, and the past and present condition of the country is contrasted by the words peace and war, prosperity and decay, which is due to Christianity. If there is any one principle in the Mohammedan religion that merits consideration and recognition, it is its freedom from caste, race prejudice, etc., so largely indulged in by pretended Christians. So far as we have been able to see, there is no difference on account of color. Every one enjoys the same untrammelled rights. But we might say, and truthfully, too, even as much for the devil. No one can accuse the devil of colorphobia.
Underlying all external phases must be a grand principle, unimpeachable, such as is peculiar to Christianity. It matters not what the devotees of the cross may do, no one can truthfully charge it to Christianity. Not so with Mohammedanism.
The very doctrine is rotten. The very foundation is faulty, and whatever external pretensions of safety may appear are as deceptive as the beautiful yet destructive icebergs that float down the northern seas. If the heart is
diseased the whole body is in momentary danger of death. The whole human system depends upon this one small but vital organ for life. Just so with religion. The whole superstructure depends upon the foundation. If the foundation is rotten the building is unsafe, and the occupants stand in momentary danger of a collapse, and death may follow.
We have shown that Mohammedanism was unsafe from a fundamental standpoint. First, because Christ is rejected. Second, the sexual passions of men have control of the higher senses. The Bible, the only book of inspiration, is exchanged for the Koran, and whoredom, so strictly forbidden by our Saviour, tolerated.
But the Christian church rests upon a sure foundation. That foundation is Christ, the mighty arm that upholds the universe. Nineteen hundred years she has bravely weathered the gale of winter and heat of summer. Rome, with her imperial armies, could not stop her; Greece, with all her learning, could not confound her; the iron hoof of Romanism could not crush her, and all the demons in the "infernal regions" cannot defeat her. She has carried peace in one hand and bread in the other; from the broken fragments of long fallen empires she has brought forth mighty nations, and ere long Africa will spring forth under her magic touch and take their place among the nations of the earth.
We often hear persons who profess Christianity criticizing ministers of the gospel who put life and enthusiasm in their sermons. "Oh," they say, "we want more classical love, we want more theory, we want more science and history." I often think such persons need more of the grace of God. Political speakers, congressmen and legislators pour out their eloquence with such force, such power that great audiences are moved to uproarous applause; men stand to their feet, women dash their handkerchiefs to the air, and even children join the universal ecstasy, but when ministers of the gospel dare show the emotion of the soul while discussing the most vital, the most important subject that ever engaged the human mind, we frequently hear a number of classical "fops," educational dudes expressing disgust and describing the scene as a "monkey show." Such soulless mortals are to be pitied.
Preaching not characterized by the Holy Ghost is no preaching. Preaching of a mere theoretical nature is not the preaching that the world most needs to-day. "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up a standard for the people," God speaks in thunder tones. His chariots shake the earth and sky. He is heard in heaven, on earth and in the grave. God has given us voices to use, and not to hide away; we have no faculty worth saving from God's service; we should put soul, mind and body in the work.
Bishop Turner, one of the ablest preachers and one of the most profound and classical scholars of the age, says: "We learn from one of the Hebrew Talmuds that when the jubilee trumpets were blown, announcing the great year of freedom from debt and freedom to the slave, that the trumpet blast waxed louder and louder, till the sound was heard through the land, and the echo returned the shouts of the people. So God meant for his ministers to proclaim his word louder and louder till the people respond in shouts of salvation."
As we have said elsewhere, many persons can see great reasons why they should be jubilant, shout and encourage, until it comes to the house of God. They are always willing to eulogize Washington, Lincoln, Grant, Gladstone or Bismarck, but never willing to eulogize Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the world.
The ministry, to a great extent, have yielded to the whims of a few literary nincompoops, and instead of pouring hot gospel truths upon the people till those unregenerated pests were brought to their knees and converted to God, have turned aside to theory, science and manuscript preaching, which can never accomplish the mission for which it was sent forth.
Let us here quote Bishop Turner again: "The silent forces of nature; let us repeat it, the silent forces of nature --nature has no silent forces. Let us see: rivers rise, roar and drive everything before them, even to the great granite boulders; old ocean lifts her waves sky high and dashes mountains to pieces; winds in cyclones sweep the land and make continents tremble; electricity sounds her battle gongs in the heavens, till man and beast and earth itself seem affrighted; the sun, the god of day and dispenser of innumerable blessings, shoots out fiery billows to the distance of two hundred thousand miles, and if it were not for dead ether the roar would resound through space for billions of miles; the internal fires of the earth roll in angry floods and hurl up mountains higher than clouds ever float; the planets in space, while riding on their orbits, generate a music which makes the universe a literal orchestra. Let the preacher go and do likewise, preach till he stirs the universe of human hearts, the universe of immortal souls." I fully indorse every word of the above quotation. Bishop Turner has possibly brought more people to Christ than any other man within the church of his age. How on earth can the preacher expect the people to be moved when he manifests no earnestness in his own message?
We do not wish to convey the idea that there is not even the possibility of pulpit extravagance. I have seen much of it myself. I am not in sympathy with a vast deal of idiotical gestures, genuflections, etc., that are indulged in by ministers of the gospel.
We have always indorsed an educated ministry, but not a dead ministry. Education and religion are not antagonists, they are closely allied; the former is auxiliary to the latter. There are no reasons why the hebraists should not be as enthusiastic as the common English scholar. The philosopher should be as zealous Christian as the peasant. Metaphysics, astronomy and philosophy should all be subservient to the religion of Jesus Christ.
A congregation grows and develops into greater spiritual activities in proportion as it receives spiritual food from the pastor. " Like priest, like people." A great responsibility rests upon those who are in charge of the flock of Christ. Much of the spiritual lethargy of our congregations is due to the spiritual indifference of the ministers. Too often pastors manifest no concern whatever for the salvation of souls. Money-gathering, festivals, etc., are all more prominent, in many of our churches than revivals of religion. For years I have been impressed with the importance of putting forth some effort for soul-saving at every service. By all means, the doors of the church should be opened at every service. Bishop Grant has followed this plan with most gratifying results. In the year 1893 he received thirteen thousand persons into the church.
When we look over the field to be cultivated by the Christian church, when we look at Africa with her two hundred millions of pagans and sixty millions of Mohammedans, and then see how little we are doing toward the accomplishment of the work, we are almost made to exclaim, as did the old prophet: "Oh, that my head was water, mine eyes a fountain of tears, etc." "We are doing comparatively nothing," says Bishop Turner.
Our young people have more pleasure in horse-races, theatres, circuses, card-playing, social amusements, than they have in the church of God. Many of those who do attend the churches, go as miserable critics, to ridicule the preacher should he happen to misplace a verb, or fail to give the correct pronounciation to every word through the sermon. The poor old people, who have enough religion to say "glory to God," or possibly shout now and then, are often laughed at and called "old fogies," hence the meetings are growing cold; sinners are going to hell, back-sliders
are lost, and the outlook is gloomy indeed. Other defects too numerous to mention are obvious to the casual observer. I really believe that the church will have to undergo another reformation during the twentieth century. Another Wycliffe must blaze forth and shower a flood of condemnation upon the formal tendencies of the church and corrupt practices of the people everywhere. Another Luther must confound the trashy theoretical essay reading, so largely indulged in by those who claim to have a "message from the Lord" for all people. Another Huss must sacrifice his life for the maintenance, propagation and defense of pure and undefiled religion. We have wandered far from the path of our fathers. Men are no longer willing to suffer for the gospel of Christ. Every brother wants an easy place. Many want to be bishops, general officers, etc. Few, few want to be humble pastors or humble missionaries. All want to go with the multitudes. Public sentiment seems inevitable. We have few Joshuas who dare bring in a "minority report."
Oh, God wake up the ministry! Wake up the laiety! Wake up the sinner! What will become of the world at this rate of Christian progress? Give us faith, perseverance, patience and hope. Give us the victory in thy name.
Another baneful, demoralizing and wicked spirit has assumed undue proportions among ministers of the gospel in the form of ridicule upon the uneducated portion of the people.
We have known such masters to actually forbid shouting within the churches built by those who felt free to praise God aloud.
Any Christian has a God-given right to shout when moved to do so by the Holy Spirit.
Even a bishop would transcend the bounds of ecclesiastical authority to enter a protest.
God himself has not laid down prescribed rules by which Christians should give vent to their feelings, but has accorded every one the untrammelled right to be their own judge in the matter. Negroism, "fogyism," and like epithets are too often directed to those who become animated, or rather happy, under the sound of the gospel. It is a poor, worthless and pitiable church where from Sabbath to
to Sabbath, from year to year, no one becomes happy. It is strange that men will get down and pray for God to send the "Holy Ghost," send the "fire from on high," and when it comes abuse those who are moved by it. Why don't they pray for God not to send his Holy Spirit? Why don't they pray for a religious death in the church? Such a course would be far more consistent. I sometimes wonder what these silent Christians, who are afraid of a shout or a revival, will do when they get in heaven, if they are so fortunate as to get there. Heaven, we are told, is a place of mighty shouting and rejoicing.
Saints and angels will join in one long, loud acclaim of honor to Him who sitteth upon the throne. Ten thousand times ten thousand will join in the chorus. Yes, "a number that no man can number" will raise their tuneful notes, swelling out in thunder tones. Heaven's mighty orchestra will peal out in loud notes of praise to Jesus who is "crowned Lord of all."
This will be mighty unpleasant company I should think to our "silent-force" Christians.
When you rob our old mothers and fathers of the sacred privileges of enjoying heart-felt religion, you deprive them of all the church is to them. We should be very careful how we invade the sacred domain of Christian rights and prerogatives, for the Saviour said while on earth: "It would be better to have a millstone hung about the neck, and cast in the depth of the sea, than to offend one of these little ones of mine."
Perhaps we have a faint conception of the high estimate placed on the Christian by the Saviour of mankind. Jesus has given us as a church of very broad latitude in the exercise of religious worship and fellowship.
Again, it should be remembered that the old people are the most stable, trustworthy and important factors of the church. Take away the mothers and fathers and our churches would soon be as the Roman temples were in the days of the apostolic fathers.
What we need is the "Holy Ghost from on high " to arouse men and women to flee the wrath to come.
We may reach the mind with our intellectual powers, but we can never reach the soul through that medium.
No man can understand God merely with the mind. The Grecian philosophers endeavored to find out God by reason. What was the result? They could never settle on any particular god. They had gods many. They gave various names and accredited various qualities to their gods. But when the light of Christianity burst through the darkness of the ages, men and women through the spirit settled upon the one true God.
We are not more learned than were the Grecian philosophers, therefore we must have the Holy Ghost to teach us, to guide us, for we have "principalities, powers and devils to war against."
Christ Jesus was always ready to help, encourage and cheer up the poor, the needy and the disconsolate.
We should emulate our Lord and Master. We should do all in our power for the alleviation of humanity, and the salvation of poor, dying souls.
In order to check the mad rush of iniquity that sweeps over our land, it requires more than human power; hence to check sin, arouse men to "flee the wrath to come," advance the church and honor Christianity, requires indeed the power of Almighty God.
We need never fear revivals of religion, enthusiastic congregations, a living, burning and experimental religion, but we have great reason to fear religious dearth, dead church, formal Christianity. Oh! yes, we should feel serious apprehensions when such conditions exist.
Let us each day of life strive to obtain more of the "Holy Ghost." Let us ask God for that religious fervor that characterized the early Christians.
When we can feel the blessed spirit each day as we journey through life; when the "amen corner" of our churches is filled with warm hearts, pulsating under the powerful influences of the Holy Ghost; when men who expound God's word, will be directed in the delivery of a sermon by the Divine Spirit, and not by manuscripts, then we may expect a rich religious harvest, and not until then.
"In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and rested the seventh day, therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it."
We are commanded to "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." It is to be a day of respite from all secular employment, and wholly devoted to God. But how many pretended Christians take the blessed Sabbath as a day of earthly pleasure; a day to visit, to give big dinners, discuss politics, and buggy driving rather than visit the house of God? Others excuse themselves from church by saying: "We read the celebrated sermon of Dr. Talmage; we read our Bible at home and learn more than if we were to attend the services." We agree that Dr. Talmage's sermons are grand, we all love to read them, but they are not intended to keep us from church. We have six days to read Dr. Talmage's sermons, and should be more than willing to dedicate one day out of seven to the service of our Heavenly Father, who gives us all we have.
Moreover, persons who merely go to God's house to hear a sermon have but a poor conception of their religious duty. They should go to church to sing, to pray, contribute to the collection, and participate in the various services of the occasion.
Our young people have almost abandoned the morning services. I have gone into numbers of our largest churches for morning services where a young man or lady could scarcely be seen. Where are the young people? Some have gone visiting, some have gone courting, some have gone on excursions, some have gone out for a drive.
Oh! mother, I warn you against allowing your daughters to plunge headlong into sinful pleasure. Bring them to church. Your heart will ache some day when it's too late. Look at the immoral deluge that is sweeping over our land to-day, especially in our great cities. Look, if you please, at the thousands of our fairest young maidens going down under the billows, never to rise again. Put a Bible, hymnal and prayer-book into your daughters' hands instead of a dime novel.
Bring them to church rather than carry them to the theatre, or Sells' Bros. great circus, if you please.
Fathers, keep your sons from the haunts of vice; warn them against Sabbath desecration.
Christians, go to some church every Sabbath when you are able, and stop your Sabbath desecration by giving big dinners, ice-cream parlors, etc.
Thousands of you know you are criminally guilty.
Again, we see hundreds of parents attend church and leave their children at home. Such is sinful. You know it is. Where is the sweet little Mary or Johnnie; yonder they go down some dark alley to play; jump the rope, throw ball, play marbles; after awhile they fall into bad company, they have no love for the church, they want to go everywhere else; finally Johnnie learns to drink and gets drunk, stabs his friend or his foe. Mary is seduced and goes to the assignation house. You are all disgraced, your heart breaks, and you, by your own conduct, meet an untimely grave.
Be careful how you desecrate the holy Sabbath. Beware of your children beforehand, lest they fall into the tempter's hands. Every child should be brought up under the direct influence of the church. They should be regular church-goers. See to it that they are.
Money gathering is another form of Sabbath desecration in many of our churches. Preachers and stewards resort to the most niggardly means to induce the people to give money. We want the money--yes--must have it at any cost, seems the order of the day. Such scenes are often witnessed during revivals of religion over poor sinners who have come forward for salvation.
Oh, how my heart has ached while witnessing such baneful form of desecration. God and angels looked down with righteous indignation upon the scene. We are not unmindful that church officials, as a rule, claim this to be the only successful way of raising means to carry on the financial department of the church. But we know to the contrary.
Our most financial churches will not tolerate such desecration. They adopt more reasonable and more successful plans to gather money. They have their financial committee
to meet during week nights and report their finance. I tell you, God is displeased with such Sabbath desecration, and as Christians we ought to stop it. It can be done without losing one dollar on the part of the church. Thinking people are disgusted at the evil practice. Let us lift our voices against it.
Another form of Sabbath desecration is witnessed at "basket meetings" where everybody must bring a basket of food for distribution after religious services are over.
Hundreds of people come simply to "fill their bellies." Of course, some must watch the baskets while the others worship. It often happens that a thief steals a basket, or a cake, sometimes a shoulder of meat, which causes a consternation. I have also seen men fight, women quarrel, horse-races run, and all sorts of Sabbath desecration carried on at such meetings.
With my whole heart, I oppose such forms of worship. If we want a "picnic", let us have it some other day, and not pollute, debase and desecrate the holy Sabbath. Let the ministry raise their voices against it.
But the most detestable, daring and God-insulting form of Sabbath desecration, to my mind, is the "Sunday excursion." They have as an excuse money gathering for the church. Thoughtless preachers, as a rule, head them. They close their church doors, call their members from their God-imposed duties, to participate with them in desecrating the holy Sabbath. The church does not always see the money. Often men are shot and killed while on these errands of hell.
Prostitutes are put on the same seats with ladies; drunkards curse in the face of respectable society (if such society ever goes on such missions). All kinds of sin are carried on, which the ministry should condemn and not tolerate.
There are thousands of legitimate ways for raising money, and it is useless to argue to the contrary.
The Sabbath is a day that should be observed with the most profound and solemn devotion and reverence. It is a day when all persons, saints and sinners, rich and poor, statesman and President, king and queen, should all assemble to pay tribute to a kind, indulgent, yet just and strict Heavenly Father.
David once said: "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord." "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord, than to dwell in the tents of the wicked." "Thy feet shall stand within thy gates, oh! Jerusalem, for a day within thy courts is better than a thousand years spent in sinful pleasure."
I would to heaven that such was the universal sentiment of Christians to-day. If so, we would not have half as many empty churches on the Sabbath. We would not have half as much crime committed in the world. Our jails would be empty, convict farms would be known as a relic of a barbarous age; assignation houses would be converted into happy homes, and drunkards, gamblers, and sports would all be changed, and contribute to the common cause of Christ.
Our General Conference should enact some law by which church members who willfuly and persistently desecrate the Sabbath, by either giving or going on excursions, could be expelled from the church. Then pastors and presiding elders should have the moral courage to respect and execute such laws. Our Bishops should also use their power to crush out such flagrant sin.
Often our churches are completely emptied on Sundays by excursions. How many young women have been forever disgraced on such occasions? How many wives have brought disgrace upon their family circle by such association? Men have been lead into lives of dissipation by allowing such allurements to control their higher senses. We lament the loss of so many valuable jewels to our race, victimized by excursions. More than this, there is a just and awful God who takes cognizance and will some day bring the transgressors to account. Behold the long list of desecrations! Look yonder! at the thousands of immortal souls tumbling down the awful precipice of night! Oh, mothers, your sons are there; some of you have daughters there. Every excursion train is freighted with immortal souls, madly rushing on to hell; every Sunday excursion conductor is a demon to hell, paid to carry on a human traffic for the devil.
Let us, as Christians, lift up our prayers, voices, and energies against it. Let us form a solid phalanx against the
monster evil that stalks our land and robs our church, stains our character, dishonors our God, and deprives our families. Far should it be from any Christian to support such a base, vile, and race-sacrificing institution.
In conclusion, we shall notice briefly another form of desecration, that, where practiced, has reduced our churches to the common level of amusement halls. I have reference to church parties or festivals.
I certainly oppose such parties being given in the church of God, which has been solemnly dedicated for religious services only. I must confess that I have time and again, contrary to an honest conviction, allowed churches over which I had the pastoral charge, to be disgraced and desecrated by such parties.
But for several years past, I have withstood the sweeping current of this popular sin and routed it from my charges. These parties, with no such design upon the part of those who give them, destroy the sanctity of God's house and reduces the sacred rostrum to the level of the political platform. They make the church a public amusement hall, where all kinds of wicked propositions are made by those, who, other than on similar occasions, never enter a church.
I have seen drunken men, using all manner of vulgar and nonsensical language, occupying a prominent position at such parties. We have actually seen beer and hard-cider, either capable of producing intoxication, sold by stewards within the walls of churches. These same brethren, on Sundays, would pour out a tirade of abuse upon those who did not advocate temperance.
Again, concert-giving is another very unbecoming and humiliating practice indulged in by the majority of our churches. At these concerts love-songs, negro-ministrel pieces, etc., are sung. Such songs should not resound through houses dedicated to Almighty God for His divine worship. There are hundreds, yes thousands, of halls where such secular entertainments could be held, and not disgrace the house of God with them.
Our church law forbids members to attend theatres, circuses, etc., when we give a far lower grade of entertainment within the church walls. Such inconsistency is too
glaring. God's house is a house of prayer, and not a den of thieves.
The most rigid laws have been enacted by the various State Legislatures for the protection of churches and religious services, but we who call ourselves Christians have but little regard for our churches when a few dollars are in question.
May the time soon come when every church will be free from these debasing, vile and sacrilegious gatherings, which scatter their baneful influence to the moral ruin of so many promising young men and women who could be a blessing to mankind.
When we reach the period of our Christian life that each member will have one grand object, the glory of God and the salvation of man, we will then, and not until then, be free from the corrupting influences that we have briefly narrated in this chapter.
No interest should be paramount to that of saving souls. If we take care of the spiritual work, the finance will be a matter of little or no burden. But when money seems to be the all-important issue, even good people are inclined to question the motives, with now and then a solemn protest.
By all means we should, as Christians, entertain that high regard for the church that its sanctity and importance demands.
I was deeply impressed with the profound reverence entertained by the Mohammedans for their church. Each worshiper removes his sandals before entering the edifice. They repeatedly kiss the ground as an acknowledgment of the blessings that they have received from Almighty God. They sit on mats spread on the ground as a sign of humiliation. But we, self-righteous Christians; we, the best people on earth; we, who love Jesus so much, that we hate the name of Mohammed, half of us will not stand to sing or kneel to pray.
We sit straight up in our fine pews, beneath our feet fine carpet is spread, and we are so proud, so unthankful, that we will not even bow our knees on fine carpet, while the Mohammedans bow and kiss the earth.
Let us consider and profit thereby.
The subject of African migration is one of the living issues of the day. It is now engaging the minds of our greatest men, both in Church and State.
Shall the Afro-American return to his "fatherland"? is a question asked by many who are desirous of getting light on the subject, for say what you please, the American negro, as a whole, is not satisfied with his present treatment, and thousands are anxious to leave the land of their "curse."
We are conscious of the fact that hundreds of thousands of American negroes had rather remain where they are; they cannot bear the idea of going to a country not ruled by white despots; they cannot think of leaving the cook-pots of negro-hating white people, who will tell those very negroes that all they (the white people) want with negroes is to perform the hard labor and keep their sons and daughters in ease and luxury.
Surely the American negro is the most unconcerned person on earth.
Far more so than the most interior African. Slavery left the American negro, with rare exceptions, entirely divested of moral courage.
What people beneath the sun would daily submit to such indignities as are heaped upon the American negro but a people divested of moral stamina?
We feel safe in saying "the negro has no future in the United States of America." Many brand such an assertion with falsity and deception, nevertheless, we shall hold our position until our opponents present a more feasible way by which we can throw off the American yoke and enjoy the freedom for which our fathers fought, labored and prayed.
Africa, and especially that portion known as Liberia, lying along the west coast, presents a grand opportunity to the oppressed negro in exile. Liberia is an independent negro government, and despite all opposition she has maintained
her position and stands to-day among the recognized nationalities of the world.
Those who best know the odds against which this infant Republic has had to contend only express surprise that she has been able to exist until now.
The lands of Liberia are rich, and crops can be planted and grown at almost any season of the year. The climate is not so dangerous by far as often represented.
Here in Liberia are thousands of acres of virgin soil awaiting the arrival of our people in distant lands, who could soon grow rich and independent if they would embrace it.
The Liberian territory extends more than three hundred miles along the coast of West Africa, and penetrates forty miles back into the interior, taking in and constituting the most fertile and desirable section in West Africa.
The country has been much coveted by European countries for years. Some years ago England fraudulently obtained possession of valuable lands on the east coast-- Sulamah, Lavanah and Manoh. In 1893 the French resorted to the most inhuman means and gained possession of the great "Ivy Coast," and even raised the French ensign at Cape Palmas. However, they were defeated in this last attempt to rob an honest and weak nation, and were driven from Palmas, one of the healthiest and most desirable towns of the Republic.
Again, the Liberians have had infinite trouble with a native tribe known by the name "Greybo." Possibly no native tribe along the coast is better educated than the Greyboes. For years they have had access to the Episcopal schools at Cape Palmas.
We often see among them Greek, Latin and Hebrew scholars. Several are able preachers, and not a few are teachers and catechists in the Protestant Episcopal Church. But, strange to say, this tribe seems determined to disrespect and violate Liberian laws. It seem that some foreign nationality has conspired with this powerful tribe to destroy, if possible, the very government of Liberia.
The Greyboes acknowledge that their white tutors in school taught them to look with disdain upon the Americo-Liberians, who had been slaves. Such teaching is very unchristianly, but very peculiar to white Americans especially.
We might expect such infamous doctrine from a set of pretended Christians just from the hotbeds of American slavery and race caste, etc. However, the gallant Liberians defeated their entrapped foes and forced them to sign the treaty of peace and submission.
Notwithstanding all the perils, privations and national conflicts through which this little "Black Republic" has passed, she still presents an open door for her brethren in the land of oppression. With all the invasions made upon her territory by rival powers, she yet has land sufficient to give ample room for millions of our fellow-men, who are yet wearing the yoke of voluntary bondage in America.
Back from the great St. Paul river are vast tracts of rich lands, uncultivated. The country is high and healthy; the natural scenery is delightful to behold. In Grand Bassa County, up the St. John, Benson and Mechlin rivers, are lands sufficient to furnish homes for hundreds, yes, thousands, of families.
In all of my life, I have never seen a more flattering opening for emigrants.
The government has offered every inducement to encourage migration, which, as all know, is more than other governments are doing.
Those of our people who elect to remain on American soil, in the face of such an opening as we have described, deserve the punishment inflicted upon them by the haughty white American.
Let it be remembered, however, as we have stated elsewhere in this work, that we do not favor the "wholesale deportation" of African-Americans to this country. Great care should be exercised in the selection of emigrants.
As a rule, young and vigorous persons should be selected. Self-reliance, race pride, and a desire for independence, should be distinguishing features and indispensable prerequisites visible in those who are advised to come.
Those of our people who are merely hunting fame and personal promotion on a selfish basis, are unfit for a new and undeveloped country. Centuries of submission have made visible marks of moral and social imperfections on our brethren in exile, and have sorely unfitted many of
them for anything but a career of servitude, which they seem to enjoy. Freedom to such a people would be bitter and unappreciated. They, like the ancient Israelites, would soon long for the "flesh-pots of Egypt."
An indomitable will and courage, an elevated manhood, with a hatred for subserviency will alone be sufficient pillars on which to stand during the rigors of pioneer life.
Hundreds of our people believe that white men only can succeed in national affairs. They maintain that the time has not yet come for negroes to seek and strive for national independence; they claim that the white men should be given full sway, and his system of tyranny and blood-shed should be indorsed. This school of teachers, as a rule, stand at the head of our race in America. Those of them who have the moral courage to condemn the bloody reign which has placed America among the most barbarous nations that ever existed, will oppose any feasible plan to relieve their fellow-men of the tortures of sword and fire. It is painful to note the inconsistency of Mr. Douglass, the leading orator and statesman of the negro race, who, with nervous and burning eloquence, will condemn the Americans, North and South, but will in the very next breath, and with equal zeal, denounce African migration in any general form, which is at present, the only "solution of the race problem."
What is true of Mr. Douglass is true also of nine-tenths of our leading men.
These distinguished divines and zealous advocates of a quiet submission to American tyranny recommend prayer and patience as the only alternative in the premises.
Well, we admire their faith, but question the logic of their position or argument. We might, with equal propriety, recommend that Africa be Christianized by recalling all the missionaries and taking away all the Bibles. What man with common sense would get and pray for God to redeem Africa, or any other that only those of our race, who, by geographical limitations, are free from the infernal slave system of America, herald forth the doctrine of patience and resistless submission. Well, perhaps a few Southern negroes, who have either been paid or influenced to decry freedom for their brethren, can be found here and there,
but they constitute a very small minority of the great mass of suffering humanity in the Southland.
Strange to say, but the greater part of our leading men, especially those of the East, oppose even missionary operation in Africa. Every effort has been made to make Bishop Turner's labors in Africa a failure.
The work has not only been criticised but abused in very severe terms. Undue measures have been established and operated to abuse the public mind, for the express object of disgracing and impoverishing the cause.
Why such vituperations, such high-handed treachery, such malicious designs have been resorted to, we cannot account for, unless from a hatred for Africa.
But it is my candid belief that our people are throwing away grand opportunities, for which they will lament, but too late.
God will not respect the petitions of such recreants of their most sacred interests.
We must act as well as pray. When Providence opens to us a door, we must not be too cowardly to enter into that door.
Israel was not freed in Egypt, but was commanded to cross the Red Sea, pass through the wilderness, conquer the enemy, and find freedom in Canaan.
Such a history is of peculiar significance to us as a race to-day. We may treat these suggestions with contempt; we may spurn with indignation the very idea of such a thing; but, heathen land, without agents to carry on the work?
Why, common sense would at once say, get up off your knees, put your hands into your pockets, and help to pay the expense of a thousand missionaries to carry the light to Africa.
Now, our dear deluded brethren are down praying for God to open an effectual door through which they can pass to escape the awful calamity that has befallen the race, when common sense says to these great apostles, "Behold! an open door in Africa. See that wide open gate in Liberia. Hear your brethren calling you from across the sea." But these doctors of the law seem to regard it the voice of Satan, and run away, with their ears, stopped crying: "How can we leave these white folks?" "How can
we stand the genial rays of freedom's light?" "How can we leave this gloomy prison?" "How can we bear the idea of having a negro president, negro judges, negro senate, etc.?" "How can we live in a land where negroes are not burned, flayed and disjointed?"
Such is the evident course of their reasoning. Poor philosophers, poor logicians, poor race leaders, and worse gospel trumpeters.
Bishop Turner, Dr. C. S. Smith, Prof. W. H. Councill, A.M., with a number of others, take quite a different position, and say: "Let us go up and possess the land. We realize the profound ignorance of our people when they are induced to remain in bondage, surrounded with death, when freedom's fair land lies just over the sea. We are also confronted with a cold, illogical personal selfishness on the part of those of our race leaders, who, on account of their own more favorable situation, advise their bleeding kinsmen to continue to wear the galling yoke of bondage, for we cannot more appropriately title the present condition of Afro-Americans. It must be obvious to the casual observer, mark well the 'signs of the times'."
Europeans are flocking to Africa, and not a few to Liberia, in quest of wealth. The natural resources of the country place it at the front column, from a commercial and mercantile point of view. Steamships are hugging the African coast by the hundreds. Traders soon grow vastly rich by exchanging rotgut whisky for golddust, ivory, cam-wood, fibre, kola nuts, palm kernels, palm oil, etc.
The country abounds with tropical fruits of every variety; valuable animals roam the forests of Liberia without fear of molestation.
Nature has done everything necessary for the happiness of those who dwell in this free land.
Again, we repeat it, that we oppose wholesale emigration. We favor a gradual influx of industrious negroes from abroad to continue a healthy state of the country, that each succeeding exodus may have less difficulties against them. But to empty the ten million American negroes into this country within five, ten, or a dozen years, would be a dire calamity to the country.
Let us have a gradual migration of those persons who are tired of bondage, and those who are self-reliant. Such persons would be a godsend to Liberia, and Liberia would prove an asylum of peace to them.
Education is an essential element in ministerial qualification. However, let us first examine the term in its literal sense.
Education--"act or process of drawing out, etc.; tuition, nurture, teaching, breeding"; such is the definition of Mr. Webster.
--training, education, learning, science.
Educo, ere, duxi ductum--to lead out or forth.
It will be observed that the English, Greek and Latin definitions all have similar meanings, in the development of the moral, mental and industrial faculties, which vary according to the law of intuition. That is to say, that the developing process must be governed by the intuitive resources for development. There are persons who can never be educated, from the fact they have no intutive endowments, and cannot therefore comprehend the difficult problems involved in what we denominate an education. In other words, they have nothing "to draw out"; while there are others whose minds have been so heavily charged with natural ability or intuition that they scarcely need peruse the long and tedious list of books recommended in the curriculums of colleges to enable them to grapple with the most intricate subjects. Such a person was the late Henry Highland Garnett, one of the ablest orators that the race has ever produced.
Such persons are rare exceptions, and even they should pursue some definite and high branch of study, otherwise they will be superficial, having an overflowing vocabulary with no logic, profundity and precision. As Bishop Turner once said, "A diarrhoea of words and constipation of thoughts."
Education does not consist of merely completing a college course and obtaining a diploma, but it embraces a development of all the higher senses or qualities of man. The subject rightfully should be considered under three heads,
intellectual, moral and industrial. Here let us consider the mind which is the seat of thought, the intellectual or rational faculty in man, the understanding, the entire spiritual nature, soul, etc.
Mr. Webster, the great American lexicographer, is very confused and unsatisfactory in his discrimination between the soul, the mind, and the spirit. In fact, he virtually makes the three to mean the same thing.
From his explanation we get but little information, so far as the real difference or distinction of these three correlative terms.
But let us say, that the mind is the essential faculty of man, so far as time and things are concerned, and is a reciprocal treasure, both receiving and imparting knowledge. Of course it must receive before it can impart. Now, the mind must deal with the things of nature. The mind has been able to tell the difference between a star and a planet; it has devised plans to measure the distance to far-off worlds; it conceived the great law of gravitation and directs the electric currents; it has invented an instrument (spectrum) for reading light, by which means we learn some of the properties of the sun's composition; it has comprehended the great sun-storms or fiery tornadoes sweeping over the sun's disc; it has found the composition of water and described the minute animalcula that inhabit it; the mind has produced many grand and wonderful things, but the mind can never comprehend the spirituality of man nor the infinitude of God.
To prove this assertion, we have only to quote ancient history, or heathen mythology, which would consume more space than we had alloted for this chapter; however, we shall adduce a few instances.
"Cadmus, one of the earliest of the Greek demigods. He was the reputed inventor of letters, and his alphabet consisted of sixteen letters. It was Cadmus who slew the Boestian dragon and sowed its teeth in the ground, from each of which sprang an armed man."
"Cneph, in Egyptian mythology, was the creator of the universe, a god of great power, wisdom, and excellence."
"Cybele, the mother of gods, hence called Magna Mater. She was the wife of Saturn. She is sometimes referred to as
Ceres, Rhea, Ops, and Vesta. She is represented as riding in a chariot drawn by lions. In one hand she holds a sceptre and in the other a key. On her head is a castellated crown, to notify that she was the first to protect castles and walls with towers."
"Gabriel, in Jewish mythology, is the prince of fire and thunder, and the angel of death to the people of God."
"Mercury, the son of Jupiter and Maia, was the messenger of the gods and the conductor of the souls of the dead to Hades. He was the supposed inventor of weights and measures, and presided over the orators and merchants. Mercury was accounted a most cunning thief, for he stole the bow and quiver of Apollo, the girdle of Venus, the trident of Neptune, the tools of Vulcan, and the sword of Mars, and he was therefore called the god of thieves."
"And there without the power to fly,
Stands fixed a tip-toed Mercury."
"Then fiery expedition be thy wing,
Jove's Mercury, and herald for a king,
Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels,
And fly like thought from them again."
"Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance or justice, was one of the infernal deities. Her mother was Nox. She was supposed to be constantly traveling about the earth in search of wickedness, which she punished with the greatest severity. The Romans always sacrificed to this goddess before they went to war, because they wished to signify that they never took up arms but in the cause of justice."
"Forbear, said Nemesis, my loss to moan
The fainting, trembling hand was mine alone."
Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, war, and the liberal arts, is said to have sprung from the head of Jupiter, fully armed for battle. She was a great benefactress of mankind and patroness of the fine arts. She was the titular deity of the city of Athens. She is also known by the names Pallas, Parthenos, Tritonia, and Glaucopis. She was very generally worshipped by the ancients, and her temple at Athens, the Parthenon, still remains. She is
represented in statues and pictures as wearing a golden helmet encircled with an olive branch and a breastplate. In her right hand she carries a lance, and by her side is the famous aegis or shield, covered with the skin of Amalthea, the great goat which nourished Jupiter; and for the base of the shield is the head of Medusa. An owl, the emblem of meditation, is on her left, and a cock, the emblem of courage, on her right.
"The Elgin marbles in the British Museum were brought from the Parthenon, her temple at Athens. Pandora, according to Hesiod, was the first mortal female. Vulcan made her of clay and gave her life. Venus gave her beauty, and the art of captivating was bestowed upon her by the three Graces. She was taught singing by Apollo, and Mercury taught her oratory. Jupiter gave her a box, the famous 'Pandora's box,' which she was told to give to her husband, Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus. As soon as he opened it there issued from it numberless diseases and evils which were soon spread over the world, and from that moment they have afflicted the human race. It is said that Hope alone remained in the box.
"Among the Egyptians the soul of the departed was described as making long and perilous journeys in the under world. Instructions were given by which it could vanquish the frightful monsters that constantly assailed it before reaching the first heaven. That passed, it entered upon a series of transmigrations, becoming successively a hawk, lotus flower, heron, crane, serpent, and crocodile, all being emblems of deity. Meanwhile it maintained a mysterious connection with its mummied body, and was at liberty to come and go from the grave during the daytime, in any form it chose.
"At last the body, carefully preserved from decay, joined the soul in its travels and they went on together in new dangers and ordeals. The most dreadful of all encounters was the trial in the great Hall of Justice before Osiris and his forty-two ancestors, where the heart was weighed in the infallible scales of truth, and its fate irrevocably fixed.
"The accepted soul was identified with Osiris and set on a series of ecstatic journeys in the boat of the sun, the
final glory being a blissful and eternal rest. The rejected soul was sent back to the earth in the form of a pig or some unclean animal, to suffer degradation and torture.
"As suggestive of Egyptian morals, it is interesting to find in the soul's defense before Osiris such sentences as these: 'I have not been idle; I have not been intoxicated; I have not told secrets; I have not told falsehoods; I have not defrauded; I have not slandered; I have not caused tears; I have given food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked.'"--Barnes's Ancient History.
We have not space to deal with the vague notions of the Greeks and Romans respecting the souls of the deceased. I think what we have presented is sufficient to prove the inability of the mind to fathom the great mystery connected to our spirituality and to the infinitude of Almighty God, hence the need of a moral or spiritual education. I prefer to use the term spiritual education, from the fact that it better implies our meaning.
Some years ago the learned Bishop Turner stated in the columns of his paper (Southern Recorder) that there was no such thing. A prelate of our church took grave exceptions to the statement and answered in a series of elaborate articles, which I regarded foreign to the subject at issue.
I agree with Bishop Turner and repeat his statement: "There is no moral religion." Morality, we grant, is a part of religion, but it is not a religion, or rather, a Christian religion of itself. Just here is where we often blunder; we call Mr. So-and-So a good moral Christian, because he happens to pay his debts, go to church, don't get drunk, don't tell lies, etc., so far as we know; yet Mr. So-and-So has never made an open profession of conversion; he knows nothing of heart-felt religion and is just as ignorant of salvation and the operation of the Holy Ghost as the heathen philosophers were of the true God.
Intellectual education, or book learning, is an important factor in the great work of the church, but is not a substitute for regeneration.
A man may acquire all the learning that books can give, or the mind is capable of receiving, and yet be a miserable fool to the spiritual department of the kingdom of grace.
Take the Grecian poets, historians, philosophers and orators, who were the most learned men of that age, and see what vague, erroneous, and fanciful ideas they entertained of God, the final abode of the spirit, and other things which the finite mind cannot approach.
Their gods were almost as numerous as their ideas. They worshiped serpents, crocodiles, things terrestrial, things celestial, and things infernal. Were they ignorant so far as the cultivation of the mind was concerned? No. The poems of Homer, the immortal blind Grecian poet, though near three thousand years old, stand at the head of classic poetry.
Demosthenes' Oration on the Crown has never been surpassed by mortal man; though it has passed through the intellectual crucible of near three hundred centuries.
Cæsar, Cicero, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Epicurus and other master minds of Grecian and Roman literature were victims of the most superstitious practices, which shows conclusively that man has yet a higher principle that connects him to his Maker. The principle is the soul, or the spiritual part of man.
Spiritual education is often neglected and frequently ignored. That it is infinitely more important than intellectual education, needs only the comparison of time and eternity, a never-ending somewhere, either in bliss or woe.
Now, what is moral education? What we call moral man is one who observes the laws of his country. This very man may never bend his knees to God: he may never put forth any effort for the salvation of poor souls; his own heart may be as hard as a stone, yet, if he pays his debts, obeys the civil laws of his country, he is called a good moral man. I claim that no human being can live a moral life when they have never known Christ in the pardon of their sins. Christ is the great moral teacher; he commands us to repent of our sins and receive the Holy Ghost; and yet many who have never repented, know nothing of the efficacious influence of the Holy Spirit, around boasting of their morality. Shame on such deceit and hypocrisy.
Moral and spiritual teaching has a salutary influence over those who sit under the sound of it; nine-tenths of those whose lives are in direct opposition to its directions will
concede that it is a good doctrine, but what do they know about it? What practical knowledge have they of its workings?
Such persons know just about as much about spiritual education as a school boy who has never seen inside of a book of geometry, yet hearing others demonstrate geometrical propositions, knows about the general principle of that science. Moral influences may have a good effect from an external source, but must be actuated by internal motives; must become a part of the individual life; must be realized through the operation of the spirit upon the soul, before a sure basis for time and eternity can be formed. Hence moral education should be taught by one who is able to comprehend the subject in all of its correlative parts and not by an individual who has simply obtained a theoretical knowledge of morality by the study of moral ethics. We see the effects of this "modern-day school" of "moral religionists." They preach a doctrine that the spiritual man will not accept. They try to cram this "simply-do-religion" down our throats; they, having never been converted, despise religious enthusiasm. They can't bear to see any one shout; they want profound quietude; they argue the silent forces of nature; they do all this hard labor rather than go and get converted; rather than have the new birth in Christ. Hundreds of churches are suffering spiritual death to-day, under the pastorate of moral theorists and unconverted preachers. But, let us see; we want an educated ministry; a ministry well abreast the times; a ministry that can grapple with the great scientific and theological issues of the day. But, we don't want that class of educated preachers that will crush out the religious life of the church. We must here notice the opposite divisions of our ministry. I have reference to those who claim that a man does not need any intellectual training to enable him to explain the word of God. They hold that God will fill the mouth with arguments at the proper time. This class of preachers constitute the bane of our ministry. They appeal to the ignorant passions of the people; they bray like a mad jackass for hours at a time; they use the lowest grade of comparisons, and use the coarsest language; they abuse education just as some educated fops abuse emotional religion; they
stamp the floor and beat the Bible. I have seen them come down from the rostrum and preach up and down the aisles of the house. I have seen them sit down and preach, stand up and preach, run and preach, lay down and preach, run around the church and preach--I say preach, it was simply a lot of snorting and acting the fool.
Such profound ignorance and "tom-foolery" should be frowned down by an intelligent public.
We need a ministry that will operate between these two extremes. Not the high-toned philosophical theorist, pouring out a flood of difficult extract terms which only the educated mind can grasp; nor the ignorant fanatic, yelling, bellowing and stamping, depending upon his stentorian lungs and musical voice to raise a religious excitement in the congregation. We want a ministry full of the evangelical spirit that characterized the apostles and apostolic fathers, men like Luther, Wycliffe, Wesley, Whitefield, Allen and Brown. A ministry while learned and philosophic, yet spiritual and simple; a ministry awake to the great cause of Christian missions, and every other department of the church.
We shall close this chapter by entering our most solemn protest against the wholesale conferring of titles upon unworthy individuals. The titles D.D., LL.D. and Ph.D. carry with them no importance in our church and among our ministers. Our leading institutions have dealt with a liberal hand along the line. I know D.D.'s in our church who cannot speak a half dozen correct English sentences during the delivery of a sermon two hours long. Almost anybody is a doctor of divinity among us. It is not so in England. When a man has D.D. conferred upon him there, it means something. I know Englishmen who could swallow a half dozen of our pretentious D.D.'s in America, that would not accept D.D. under any consideration.
It is sickening to hear the long list of D.D.'s at our conferences, etc. It is doctor this, and doctor that, and doctor the other, and if half of those doctors were put on examination they could not pass the examination for local preacher's license. My God, the thing is disgusting!
I am astonished at such schools as Wilberforce, Paul
Quin, Allen and Morris Brown titling so many uneducated men, who will ultimately disgrace those institutions that represent the intelligence of the A. M. E. Church.
It is true we have a number of men who merit the title D.D., Ph.D. or LL.D. We might mention Bishops B. F. Lee, B. T. Tanner, H. M. Turner and others of our Bishops; also Drs. Embry, Coppin, H. T. Johnson, T. H. Jackson, J. S. Flipper, W. D. Chappelle, and a number of others whose names we cannot recall.
But there is an array of bobtail D.D.'s who should dispossess themselves of the titles for conscience sake.
We must close this chapter without touching "a progressive ministry," which is due to space, and not for a want of argument. While we have been plain, possibly too much so for our own good or popularity in dealing with this subject, yet we have been governed by no selfish or personal motive but by one grand sentiment and object, and this is to do justice by all.
There is too much of deceit and flattery extant for our good as a church or a race.
We have experienced great difficulty in getting data and facts regarding the origin and development of the African M. E. Church on the shores of Africa. We are pleased, however, to give publicity to what have been obtained from time to time.
The A. M. E. Church was organized in Sierra Leone by Rev. John R. Frederick, in 1886, in the city of Freetown. Zion Church, which formerly belonged to the Lady Huntington connection, was the first legal transfer to our connection and is, therefore, the mother church of our connection in the Colony of Sierra Leone, West Africa.
Brother Frederick experienced great difficulty in properly getting the church and her interests before the people. Support was hardly expected, other than from abroad, which was very meagre. However, the work continued to grow until very soon additional workers were needed. From Zion, in Freetown, sprang up several missions interiorwards. At the first Annual Conference held by Bishop H. M. Turner, D.D., in November, 1891, the following missions were reported:
Thus it is seen that November 3, 1891, we had a membership in the Sierra Leone Conference of 323 full members, eight thousand dollars' worth of church property, one thousand dollars' worth of school property and four traveling preachers, J. R. Frederick, H. M. Steady, D. B. Roach, M. Newland.
At this conference the work received new life. Rev. G. A Decker, an experienced, well-educated minister of the Wesleyan Church, was received into the connection, and entered upon active ministerial duties, to the great delight of all. Brother Frederick, whose labors and drawbacks had been great, felt that God had smiled upon his
efforts; the members rejoiced that their eyes were permitted to behold a Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church was put on a permanent basis, and many friends were made for the struggling church work.
Bishop Turner enjoyed fairly good health during the conference session, but was afterwards seized by African fever, which lasted him until he had gotten out on the mighty deep. Rev. T. R. Geda, who accompanied the Bishop to Africa from the United States of America, was of great value at this conference. His sermons, songs and various efforts met the hearty approval of all.
Here we have a lapse of two years before another episicopal visit is made to this distant work. During this time Brothers Frederick, Decker, Roach, Steady, Newland and Sclienker are hard at work toward the great interior. Soon we see two other missions spring up, with an increase of interest all along the line.
April 3, 1893, Bishop Turner arrived at Freetown, Sierra Leone, with Rev. G. G. Vreeland, A. L. Ridgel and Mrs. Fannie M. Ridgel, as missionaries from America.
Rev. J. R. Frederick, P. E., tendered a most cordial welcome to all, and expressed himself as being more than hopeful for the future prosperity of the church.
The conference session was pleasant and the reports were far in advance of the previous conference. While we are unable to give figures and definite facts as reported at this conference, owing to the non-publication of the minutes, yet we feel safe in saying that a grand work had been done. Since the last conference Rev. A. L. Ridgel was added to the work and assigned to Payne's Mission, where, after experiencing much difficulty and stubborn opposition, he accomplished a good work. Mrs. Ridgel gave general satisfaction as a teacher.
The appointments at this conference were as follows:
Zion, Rev. J. R. Frederick; East End, George D. Decker; Payne Mission, A. L. Ridgel; Magbelly, Joseph Coker; Scarcies, D. B. Roach; Educational Work, H. M. Steady; --, M. Newland; Evangelist, H. Russell.
We feel safe in saying that our church property in Sierra Leone will amount to $15,500, with a membership of 700, besides probationers. Rev. H. M. Steady, a well educated
young man, has charge of the educational work, and has been wonderfully successful along that line. This grand work has been accomplished with but little foreign aid. Notably among those who stood by the work was the late Bishop Daniel A Payne and the Sisters of the Mite Society.
There is great hope for our church in Sierra Leone. Native kings have come all the way to Freetown to invite Rev. Frederick to their kingdoms. They seem to love the A. M. E. Church. Zion, the mother church, has a liberal and loyal membership. They contribute more for missionary purposes than any church of the connection. Brother Frederick is a noble church worker and is much beloved by all his membership.
We wish we could give a more elaborate and definite account of our Sierra Leone work, but it is utterly impossible to do so under the circumstances.
Somehow our people do not believe in written history. When we began this work we begged the late Sister Sarah Gorham for a biographical sketch of her life. Sister Gorham thought we were hasty in trying to write the history of our church work in Africa, and we never got a line from her. Very soon she passed away, rich in experience, boundless in graces, and not a page of authentic history.
We also begged several of our Sierra Leone ministers for a sketch of their lives, which was treated with indifference, hence we cannot give a vast amount of valuable matter that we had hoped to give.
There must be an awakening along this line. Too many valuable lives pass unnoticed. As a race struggling for recognition we cannot afford it.
We will now briefly notice our Liberian work, which, like that of Sierra Leone, has but little from which to draw information.
Rev. S.F. Flegler is the honored founder of this work. He came out some time in 1878, under the authority of Bishop John M. Brown, and began operations on the St. Paul river, where we now have the following missions: Brewerville, Arthington, Johnsonville, Royaville, White Plain, Cape Mount, and Eliza Turner Mission.
Brother Flegler was associated in the work with Rev. S. J. Campbell, who has since withdrawn from the A. M. E.
connection. Rev. Flegler remained in Liberia three years planting and advancing African Methodism under many difficulties that would have made an ordinary man succumb. However, he bore up manfully and acquitted himself like a man of God. Among the zealous, persistent, and indefatigable coadjutors in those dark and inauspicious days was Rev. C. Irons, who is no less devoted and active now, though advanced in age and greatly reduced in physical strength.
Rev. Hagin came to take up the work where Rev. Flegler left off, and succeeded in organizing in Grand Bassa, where we now have the following stations: Lower Buchanan, Upper Buchanan, Center Buchanan, Edina, Hartford, Little Bassa. Rev. Hagin was soon called from the work, which virtually left the church without a leader. Very soon we see the Rev. S. J. Campbell at the helm marshaling the little band of African Methodists.
Dark clouds overspread the connectional sky, opposition pressed hard upon them, scornful fingers were pointed at them, enemies rage, but the little bark that Allen launched survived the waves and kept up her sails.
At present the work is in a most hopeful condition. We have at present in the Liberia Annual Conference seventeen missions and circuits, twelve traveling preachers, and one industrial mission school.
If the connection will succor this little plant soon abundant fruits will be gathered from West Africa.
We shall not enter into minute details in this brief delineation of the life of Bishop Turner, who is such a familiar character to even the ordinary reader of American history. We do not mean to impress the reader that the history of our subject is confined to the narrow limits of the American continent, for the life, labor, and genius of Bishop Turner has gone forth to help make up the history of the world.
The birth, education, and early history of Bishop Turner has been beautifully given in "Men of Mark," a book written by Dr. W. J. Simmons, of Kentucky.
We shall, however, notice the leading events in the life of our distinguished prelate.
First, let us see him as chaplain of the United States army, commissioned by the illustrious Lincoln to go on the field amidst the smoke and fire of contending armies and do service for his country, his God, and his race. Did he shrink, and say, I can't go? No. Such words never fall from the lips of Bishop Turner.
He regards no sacrifice too great, no peril too dangerous, no enemy too hostile when duty calls. He has answered to every emergency during his eventful life. The race has found him a leader, indeed. Braver than Douglass, more heroic than Payne, superior to Langston, Bruce, Lynch, and Bassett in intellect and moral courage, he easily takes a place at the head of the race column.
After the brave Union soldiers had whipped the slave-dealing rebels of the South, when four million poor, homeless, ignorant, and depraved negroes were turned loose to die, when the reconstruction period opened, we see Elder Turner, as he was then known, among the first to espouse the cause of his fellow-men, whose wounds were yet bleeding and whose hearts were aching over the very thoughts of the cruel bondage through which they had passed.
He was active, brave, and honest as a politician; he was
fearless and eloquent on the legislative floor; he made his opponents fear and honor him as but very few men could do.
Second, let us notice Dr. Turner as a preacher, organizer,
etc., during the early history of African Methodism in the
State of Georgia. He was the leading spirit in all the
great movements of the church, he received thousands*
of members into the connection, erected numbers of places of worship, and is to-day regarded the "founder of African Methodism in Georgia." He was once Presiding Elder for the entire State of Georgia, where to-day we have four Annual Conferences, hundreds of traveling ministers, and thousands of members. Georgia is prolific for African Methodism. As a preacher, Dr. Turner had but few if any equals; as an organizer, he was the very embodiment of success.
His whole soul went out for his God, his church, and his race.
Third, we see our subject at Philadelphia, at the head of the "Book Concern," one of the most difficult departments of the connection. Possibly the Christian Recorder was never so extensively circulated as when Dr. Turner was manager. This was mainly due to his prestige and influence throughout the connection. No man in the A. M. E. Church has so great influence over the masses of our church membership and race as Bishop Turner. He says just what he pleases, and everybody rushes to hear what he has to say. He was very successful as manager of our "Book Concern," from which position be was elected to the high, sacred, and responsible office of Bishop, in the city of St. Louis, Mo., May, 1880.
As a Bishop, he is the most interesting man on the bench.
Educationally, he is not the superior of Bishops Tanner and
Lee; as an orator, he is not the equal of Bishop Ward*,
*Bishop Ward, the great orator, passed away June 10, 1894.
the most eloquent orator of the church; as a revivalist, he is not the superior of Bishop Grant; but as a parliamentarian, organizer, church extender, writer, lecturer, and author he is in advance of any man within our church circles. More people, white and colored, seek his company, ask for his opinion on church and race issues, than any man of the race. While he is greatly beloved, most sought,
most idolized by his friends, he is also the most berated, most criticised, and most hated by his enemies. Bishop Turner, however, has but few enemies among the progressive and race-loving people. His opposition comes from those who are narrow, deceitful, and treacherous.
As an editor, Bishop Turner is first-class. His name at the masthead of an organ is a true signal of success.
This fact was more than demonstrated during his editorial management of the Southern Christian Recorder. That paper was rapidly gaining grounds, and was destined to be the great mouth-piece for the Southern division of the church.
The late Dr. M. E. Bryant kept the paper prominently before the public until his untimely demise, when alas! it began to wane, and to-day is more of an air-castle than a real church organ.
That wonderful book, "Methodist Polity," alone would immortalize Bishop Turner. It is by far the most valuable production given the church. What book within our church limits met such a warm and universal reception.
What publication has brought the same amount of revenue to the church coffers? What book can fill its place? None. "Methodist Polity" is a work that even Bishop Turner's persecutors must bow before and acknowledge its greatness.
We are not unmindful of the other splendid works produced by our ministers, such as "Apology for African Methodism," by the scholarly Bishop Turner; "Digest of Theology," by the erudite Dr. Embry; "Divine Lagos," by the classical Dr. Johnson; "Relation of Baptized Children to the Church," by the profound Dr. Coppin; but even these authors will give Bishop Turner the palm.
One of the most important chapters in the history of
Bishop Turner's life was his visit to Africa, and organizing
the Sierra Leone and Liberia Annual Conferences.
For years the church had manifested a desire to organize
work on the shores of our fatherland; as an expression of
that desire Rev. J. R. Frederick had been duly commissioned
and sent to Sierre Leone to organize there and elsewhere
in the country. The late Bishop R. H. Cain*
*Bishop R. H. Cain was a great man.
preparing to visit Africa, but was called from labor to reward before he could execute his desires; hence it was left for him, who had contributed to all the measures of the church to mount the high seas and organize two Annual Conferences in Africa. Bishop Turner's presence in Africa was hailed with shouts of ecstatic joy; his success was a signal one; he at once received one of the ablest men of the Wesleyan Church into our connection, which of itself gave new impetus to the work.
During this episcopal visit Bishop Turner wrote a series of letters which were published in the Christian Recorder. These letters furnished more information on Africa than had ever been known by the church before. His letters at once became famous; men and women, white and black, church members and sinners, all rushed for Bishop Turner's letters.
The energetic Dr. Smith, of the S. S. U., compiled and published the entire series in pamphlet form and has sold hundreds and thousands of them.
Bishop Turner is regarded by the English and African people as being the greatest man of the race.
This fact was evidenced in part when the Liberia College conferred upon him the degree of D.C.L.
The Bishop enjoyed reasonable health during his first African trip. When we consider the immense amount of work that he accomplished with but little help, we are astonished. He was accompanied by Rev. T. R. Geda, who did not survive until the Bishop reached the shores of America.
The organization of African Methodism in Africa constitutes a very important chapter in the history of our great connection and will stand as an ever lasting monument to the memory of Bishop H. M. Turner.
We are sorry to note, however, the woful indifference our church has manifested toward the distant branch of her own planting in Africa.
But God who rules the destiny of nations will protect, succor and advance our church in Africa until she can stand alone and take her place among the great denominations of the world.
While Bishop Turner is great in learning; great in heroism;
he also has a great big, warm heart that cannot harbor deceit, hatred and kindred sins. A greater humanitarian never breathed the breath of life.
He is free from pomposity, self-importance, so peculiar to men of high standing in Church and State. No one need fear to approach Bishop Turner. He accords every right and honor upon those who stubbornly oppose his cause; to crush an unfortunate brother is too small a thing for this great man to do. His hand is always extended toward the weak and fallen. If obedience to the Golden Rule: "Do unto all men as you would have them do unto you," make men great of heart, warm with love, exemplary and noble, Bishop Turner is one of the noblest men of the world. Who will charge Bishop Turner with being despotic, even when despotism might be excusable? Who will dare charge our subject with usurpation, or anything along that line? Instead of being guilty of the foregoing crimes, he is guilty of unmeasured indulgence, often using prayer, patience, advice, exhortation, to save an offending brother, when the discipline would appear to be the only means of adjustment. Along this line of Christian dealings, many have attempted to brand Bishop Turner with recklessness as to the moral interest of the church. Such allegations fall to the ground for want of scriptural support. What man can be too forgiving? Our very nature is revengeful. We crave to retaliate every personal insult, and nothing but God's spirit can control our wicked passions.
In these particular graces Bishop Turner seems to have excelled.
Externally, Bishop Turner is a rough man. Unpretentious, always in a hurry, but never leaving before the time; plain of speech, piercing voice, somewhat tremulous; large in stature, presenting at once the appearance of a master intellect, a brave leader, a mighty champion for the right. Short acquaintance, however, does not develop the many admirable elements or graces in the make-up of Bishop Turner. The longer the acquaintance, the more familiar and intimate the life and dealings with this great man, the greater will be the love and reverence for him.
It has been our good pleasure to attend him on three continents--America, England and Africa. He retains
his individuality everywhere. He is strictly himself. I have seen him in America amidst his persecuted race, pouring out an avalanche of denunciations upon those who were guilty of their (his race's) innocent blood. I have seen him amongst the crowned heads of England pleading for the same oppressed people; and whether in negro-hating America, or strolling through the graveyard-like Westminster Abbey, or investigating the mysteries of the British Museum, or trudging beneath the tropical sun of Africa among his heathen brethren, he is the same common, plain, persevering, polemic Bishop Turner.
Bishop Turner is to the A. M. E. Church what Julius Caesar was to the Roman Empire. Caesar carried the Roman ensign where none but him could have carried it. He swung up the brazen eagle where none but Caesar could have defended it. He gave to Rome territory, dominion and wealth as no other man did. Returned to Rome amidst pomp and splendor, to see all that mighty Empire rejoice over his splendid triumphs. But alas! Jealousy, hatred, murder began brewing in the hearts of those who claimed to be his friends, and soon we see mighty Caesar losing his life blood at the foot of Pompey's statue in the Roman Senate, caused by a thrust from the swords of Cassius and Brutus.
But we do not compare the great A. M. E. Church to the wicked Roman Empire; we cannot believe that our good Bishop has such a dreadful foe as Brutus; but we do believe that ere long a mighty host of young African Methodists will arise and vindicate the course of Bishop Turner. Two continents will join in the great acknowledgment of his wonderful deeds--Africa and America. Native Africans with six hundred thousand African Methodists will shout the grand acclaim, Henry McNeal Turner, the dauntless pioneer Bishop, has conquered despite man and devil.
P. S.--Since writing the above Bishop Turner has made his third visit to Africa, looking the very picture of health. He preached and lectured with uncommon power during his stay in Africa. His presence was hailed with extreme delight by all.
May God bless and preserve him yet many years to push forward the work of the church.
The object of this sketch was born in Vicksburg, Miss., U. S. A., June --, 1870. Her father and mother, Jas. M. Worthington and Rachel A. Worthington, were in easy circumstances and could afford to lavish every necessary advantage upon their only child.
Mr. Worthington was educated in Paris, France; hence was highly cultured. He entered politics in Arkansas, and filled some of the most important positions in Chico county.
Mrs. Worthington (now Mrs. Piles) is a woman of extraordinary parts, easily taking a front position among the leading women of Washington, D. C., where she now resides.
Soon after the death of her devoted husband, Mrs. Worthington moved to the State of Mississippi, where Fannie was put in school. After her marriage to Mr. John W. Piles, a gentleman of high standing and education, she moved with her husband to St. Louis, Mo., where Fannie enjoyed the best society, and all the educational advantages of that great city. Some ten years ago the family moved to the "National Capital," where Miss Worthington continued her studies with great proficiency and rapidity. At the age of eighteen she began as teacher in the public schools of Maryland and New Jersey. As a teacher she has always given satisfaction.
Her information is broad and varied, which is largely due to her studious habits. Of course she has enjoyed superior social advantages which add much to the bulk of information obtained in so few years.
February 7, 1893, she was united in holy wedlock to Rev. A. Lee Ridgel, A.B., in the city of Camden, N. J. On the 22d day of the same month she sailed with her husband and Bishop H. M. Turner, D.D., D.C.L., for Africa. While in England Mrs. Ridgel accompanied the
Bishop to London and visited many of the most important places of that great city.
On reaching Africa she at once began teaching a private school which grew to such size that an assistant teacher had to be employed. After one year in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Mrs. Ridgel sailed with her husband for Liberia, where they were hailed with great joy, and she was soon placed at the head of the Edina Female Institute, which position she now fills with ability and acceptation.
Mrs. Ridgel is a noble young woman, of an amiable disposition, a true heroine, a loving wife, and true friend.
Perhaps she is the most important female adjutant to the Missionary Department of the A. M. E. Church.
We have done our best to give our readers an elaborate account of Rev. Vreeland, but alas! nothing was accomplished on that line. Our acquaintance begun in Liverpool, England, March 4th, 1893, where he was awaiting our arrival in order that we all might proceed to Africa together. I found Bro. Vreeland to be a kind-hearted, Christian gentleman. He was the life of the company on our eventful voyage. Elsewhere in this work we mentioned his narrow escape on the dreadful Bay of Biscay.
Rev. Vreeland preached a splendid sermon one Sabbath night just before our arrival in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He did not tarry long at Freetown, but proceeded with the Bishop to assist in the session of the Liberia Conference. I never saw him again after we passed on board the steamship Teneriffe in the harbor at Freetown. Somehow I felt that we would never meet again on earth; I turned away and wept. Soon the Teneriffe steamed out of the port and my dear friend and companion was lost in the distance. On the Bishop's return from Liberia he reported Bro. Vreeland in reasonably good health and expressed a great hope of his future labors and success.
I felt somewhat relieved, but by no means could I dismiss the sad impression of our never meeting again on earth. However, I felt sure that I would precede Vreeland to the Beulah land. The fever seized my poor frame with the fury of a mad lion. Two weeks I wrestled with death, and finally I decided to just throw myself in the hands of God, bid my wife adieu, write a father's dying message to my two sweet babes across the sea and go up and join father and mother in glory. But ah! God said, "No, you must stay a while longer; you must bear scorns, abuses, slanders and sufferings before you go. I shall take Vreeland, he is ripe for harvest."
Bro. Vreeland fell bravely at his post Oct. 8th, 1893, in
Grand Bassa County, Liberia. I can almost see his grave from where I write. It is an humble grave, a poor missionary's last resting place; not a stone slab to mark the point; poor Vreeland sleeps there; poor, yet rich, rich in blessings.
Rest on, my comrade, rest,
I'll join you by and by.
In sweet communion's bliss
We'll spend eternity.
Elder Vreeland was an able preacher. When I say able, I mean able in doctrine, language, thought and research. I soon found out after our acquaintance that he was by far my superior. In fact I was startled at the scope of his information. He was deep, profound and sometimes he bordered on eloquence. However, his voice was not touched with musical sweetness that reaches the soul and fills the whole being with ecstatic joy. He dwelt with the more difficult faculties--the mind and its subdivision. He confounded his hearers with logic, poured out from a born logician. He carried his hearers through the fields of science and then swept through the cosmos like a blazing meteor. History was his delight. He was especially efficient in ancient and medieval history. It was astonishing how accurately he could recount historical events. In Greek and Roman histories he was almost perfect.
Elder Vreeland found a warm place in the hearts of the Liberians. His demise was bemoaned by a host of friends whose devotion was exemplified during his long illness. He suffered awfully. A combination of complaints developed after he took the fever. We have the happy satisfaction to know that he died a Christian. While his life may not have been free from errors, while his critics may hurl hot words of denunciation at many of his actions, yet all must admire and commend his devotion.
Who is free from error? Who is it that can boast of perfection? Whose life can we mention that has not been stained by some voluntary or involuntary sin? Many who derided poor Vreeland, who laid down his life for his church, his race and his God, if He who knows all things would swing back the covering and garb under which they
hide, would stand in a thousand times worse condition than Vreeland. I am sure that Vreeland stands a hundred degrees higher in the sight of God and just humanity for the sacrifice of his life than his red-mouthed accusers do, who would find fault of Christ if he was on earth.
Brother Vreeland left New York for Africa by the appointment of Bishop Turner, in December, 1892, but remained in England till we reached there in company with the Bishop. Before his departure for Africa, he was a member at different times of the Ontario, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Pittsburg Annual Conferences, and when he left, he carried the smiles and blessings of the late Bishop Payne, with whom he has met in the better land. When he left for Africa he was a member of the Pittsburg Conference.
Peace to his ashes. Let others say what they please, but I write him down as having been a hero, a minister of the Word, a Christian and a martyr.
The best of men are criticised,
It was our Saviour's fate
To bear the bitter scorn of men
That hell itself would blush to take.
Let such a mass of rebels rage
And vent their angry spleen;
Before a just and awful God
They, naked, must appear.