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REPORTED BY GERRIT SMITH
JERRY RESCUE CONVENTION, HELD IN SYRACUSE OCTOBER 1, 1857
The rescue of Jerry! What a preacher of righteousness! To tell what is right is good preaching. But to do what is right is better. The best of pulpits preaches but in words. The rescue of Jerry preached in deeds. The abolition school teaches the lesson that the slave should be delivered. The rescuers of Jerry put the lesson in practice.
And then what a touchstone of character is the rescue of Jerry! Not a man can disapprove that rescue, and yet be a christian. For not a man can disapprove it, and yet be honest. But honesty, in its comprehensive sense � in the sense of doing unto others as we would have others done unto us � is the soul and substance and total sum of christianity. Since there lives not the man who, if in the circumstances that poor Jerry was in, would not like to be delivered from them, then lives there not the man who can be a christian, and yet be opposed to his deliverance. We do not deny that there are christians who disapprove what has been imposed upon their credulity as the rescue of Jerry � who disapprove their own false conceptions of it. But the reality � the thing itself� no man can disapprove, and yet be a christian. If we admit that a man can be a christian, who defends what he mistakenly deems to be slavery, it nevertheless does not follow that we admit him to be a christian, who justifies the reality of slavery, and indorses the very thing which is the highest crime against God and man.
A great touchstone of character did we call the rescue of Jerry. Wherever there is a Church which refuses to sanction that transaction, there we may be sure is not a Church of Jesus Christ. Dishonesty, and not honesty, is its chief characteristic. An honest man in such a Church is entirely out of place, and he should hasten to betake himself to better company.
The question often arises whether the Methodist church at the North; the New School Presbyterian Church; the Freewill and Seventth Day and Close and Open Baptist Churches at the North; the Unitarians and Universalists and Lutherans and Congregationalists at the North are right in regard to slavery. Not a moment need be wasted in finding an answer to it. Are they right in their regard to the rescue of Jerry? The answer to this question involves the answer to the other. If they are willing to identify themselves openly with the rescue, that is enough. If they are not, nothing else not all else can be enough.
The Episcopal and Old School Presbyterian Churches, like the American Tract Society, are past all need of being tested. Their great pride is to have no heart for the slave, and to keep their sensibilities so high up in the region of everlasting snows as to be quite out of reach of all these vulgar agitations in behalf of humanity.
The Roman Catholic Church seems not yet so much as to have heard the four millions of tortured American slaves. Now, however, since it has settled the great question about a dead woman, it may perhaps find time and heart to open its ears to the cries of living women and living men also.
All American clergymen should be tested with the question whether their piety has risen up to the "Jerry level." None are ambassadors of Jesus Christ whose piety falls below it.
Compared with the rescue of Jerry, all the boasted tests of doctrine are of no value.
"I believe," says one, "in the Bible." But do you believe in humanity? Vain Is all your faith in the Bible, so long as the poor Jerries of earth fail to touch your heart. To tell us that you believe in the Bible, whilst yet you can look unmoved at the slave, is but to tell us either that the Bible is wicked, or that your interpretation of it is false.
"I believe," says our orthodox brother, "in original sin." Yes, good brother, but do you believe that the kidnapping of Jerry was sin, and that his rescue was righteousness? If you do not, then however far you may go back to get to the origin of sin, and even though you believe in the very teetotalism of total depravity, your faith is but a guilty delusion.
"I believe," continues our orthodox brother, "in Jesus Christ." Yes, good brother, but if you do not see Him in every poor Jerry, and feel a faith, that impels you to help rescue him, then is your belief in Jesus Christ but superstition or hypocrisy. The Christ who was crucified more than eighteen centuries ago, is reproduced in every despised Jerry� in every oppressed and crushed brother. The common impression that it suffices to let our hearts flow out to the "ma of sorrows" in Judea is but a common delusion. The Jerry of to-day is the Christ of to-day: and if we have not the anointed vision to discern it, then w are we still blind to the original Christ, and all out faith in Him is vain. Not to recognize the Savior of the world when we meet Him in His suffering ones and in His "least" ones, is to prove that we never knew Him, and never felt the significance of His life or death. Rarely, alas, how very rarely! Is He known either within or without the churches, Never did they know Him, who can pass His poor by.
"I believe," adds our orthodox brother, "in vicarious sacrifice." It is right that you do. But do you not, if you cannot consent to give up ease, and reputation, and wealth, and social and political advantages, and to risk even liberty and life for the sake of helping a Jerry out of the hands of his kidnappers. Belief in the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ is on the lips of the millions. But it is in the hearts of none who are not willing to suffer for others � yes, and in the place of others. The readiness of men on the night of the first October, 1851, to put themselves in the place of Jerry, and lose their own liberty for the sake of restoring his, was of its single self a far greater evidence of the likeness to Christ than it was possible for any man to give, however full of professions and prayers as he might be, if nevertheless he refused to sympathize with Jerry, and to suffer for his sake.
Is there a political party that is unwilling to put the seal of its approbation upon the rescue of Jerry? � then has an honest man nothing to do with such a party but to oppose it. Until American slavery is abolished, a Resolution indorsing the rescue of Jerry should be brought into every political meeting in the land, Republican, Democratic, Native American, or of whatever name.
|Title||Address Reported by Gerrit Smith to the Jerry Rescue Convention, held in Syracuse October 1, 1857|
|Collection title||Lysander Spooner Papers, 1844-1886|
|Date of original||1857-10-01|
|Creator||Smith, Gerrit, 1797-1874|
Spooner, Lysander, 1808-1887
Jerry Rescue Convention
|Institution||New-York Historical Society|
|Description||Three-page printed "address" by Gerrit Smith presented at the Jerry Rescue Convention in Syracuse [New York]. On back, addressed to Lysander Spooner in Boston, Massachusetts, in Smith's hand.|
Jerry Rescue Convention
Antislavery movements--United States
|Material type of original||Folders (printed matter)|
|Publisher of digital||
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
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