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Rev. E. M. Lewis, Nebraska ; L. P. Fisher, Esq., California ; Rev. G. H. Atkinson, Oregon; Rev. W. Crawford, Colorado.
Committee on the Declaration of Faith – Rev. J. 0. Fiske, Maine ; Prof. D. J. Noyes, D. D., New Hampshire; Rev. N. Gale, D. D., Massachusetts; Rev. J. Eldridge, D. D., Connecticut; Rev. L. Swain, D. D., Rhode Island ; Dr. A. G. Bristol, New York; Rev. J. C. Hart, Ohio; Dea. S. S. Barnard, Michigan; Rev. G. S. F. Savage, Illinois.
Committee on the Communication from the Massachusetts Convention of Congregational Ministers Rev. A. H. Quint, Massachusetts; Rev. W. T. Eustis, Connecticut; Asa Freeman, Esq., New Hampshire.
Committee on the Platform of Church Government — Rev. J. P. Gulliver, Connecticut; Prof. S. Harris, D. D., Maine ; Rev. N. Bishop, Vermont; Prof. E. A. Park, D. D., Massachusetts; Rev. J. G. Davis, New Hampshire ; Rev. E. F. Burr, Connecticut; Rev. J. Leavitt, D. D., New York; Prof. S. C. Bartlett, D. D., Illinois; Rev. J. Guernsey, Iowa; Rev. C. C. Salter, Minnesota; Judge Lester Taylor, Ohio; Rev. J. S. Hoyt, Maryland ; Rev. J. D. Liggett, Kansas.
Committee on Response to Foreign Delegates Rev. L. Bacon, D. D., Connecticut; Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, New York; Rev. J. M. Sturtevant, D. D., Ilinois ; Rev. Rufus Anderson, D. D., Massachusetts ; Hon. J. B. Walker, D. D., Michigan.
The Committee on the Evangelization of the West and South reported by Mr. Currier, of Missouri, as follows:
EVANGELIZATION IN THE WEST AND SOUTH.
The subject on which this committee is required to report presents itself to their minds under two distinct aspects, each of which will properly and almost necessarily, in a greater or less degree, engage the attention of the National Council. Foremost meets us the great fact, which has been a sublime characteristic of our
as a people, that our population is always spreading itself over vast regions hitherto unoccupied by civilized man, and requiring the unceasing activity of all Christian people to accompany the emigrant to the wilderness with Christian instruction, and make the institutions and influences of the religion of Christ coëxtensive with our physical civilization.
To this fact, at the moment when we are called together to consider the greatest crisis in our nation's history, is added another of a still more solemn and momen
that over one-halfof our hitherto peopled territory, Christian institu
once existing in a greater or less degree of purity and efficiency, have been corrupted by slavery, and well-nigh obliterated by the ravages of war connected with the slaveholders' rebellion.
Regions of country larger than a great European empire are thus left in moral desolation, imposing on the Christian people of our nation the imperative and most urgent duty of building again in these waste places the institutions of a Christian
In this view of the home missionary work now devolved upon us, there is nothing denominational. It appeals to the whole American Church, and to every American
as such. But there is another aspect of the subject, which is not without its importance, and which we believe the National Council cannot altogether disregard.
We are as sure that God chose and called the early fathers of New England to
tous import, tions, though
be the founders of this nation as we are that he chose Abraham to be the founder of his ancient people. They were men whom he had trained and qualified for the work to which they were appointed. And it ought not to be assumed without proof, that the peculiar conception of the Church which they brought with them to the shores of New England, and which was the seed from which have sprung all the churches represented in this Council, had no value in the estimation of the Divine Architect of our national edifice. This Council is bound by the most solemn obligations rightly to estimate the value of that unique conception, and to recommend to the churches such a system of home evangelization as shall fully recognize its importance as a universal and permanent element of American society.
During a considerable portion of our history, our home missionary arrangements have been such as apparently to concede that the Congregational idea of the Church was of no especial value, - well enough in New England, where it was already established, but, west of the Hudson for the most part inapplicable and impracticable. If that view was sound and just, then all effort to plant distinctively Congregational churches in the new regions of our country is worse than useless. If Congregationalism has no mission except to add one to the number of religious sects which divide and distract the household of faith, then far better confine itself within the limits of New England, and consign at once all its emigrant population to the care of those centralized Church governments which always stand ready to receive and assimilate them. But if the Congregational conception of the Church is true and precious, - if it is as well fitted to all latitudes and longitudes as to New England and is really an important element of American civilization, and of the brighter and better ages of the promised future, — then these Congregational churches are bound to be true to their fundamental principles. In this system of home evangelization they are bound to put forth their strength not only to accompany our emigrant population with the gospel of Christ, but to plant the Church, after the conception of the Pilgrim Fathers, wherever they make their home on the borders of the wilderness.
We trust the Council will have in view both these aspects of the case, in all the advice it may give to the churches.
In order to present a survey of our home missionary work with as much clearness as possible, we shall divide it into four parts.
First. Those portions of the West and North-west in which numerous churches have been already planted by our missionary efforts, many of which are still dependent, in part, on missionary funds for their support.
Second. Certain districts of the same States in which our missionary efforts have hitherto been attended with little success, and in which few churches are now receiving our aid.
Third. The new States and Territories of the West and North-west, toward which the tide of emigration is now setting, and is likely to flow in the immediate future.
Fourth. The States of the South and South-west which have been the principal theater of the great rebellion.
Of the first of these divisions the committee have little to say; not because the work of evangelization in that section of our field is complete, nor because what remains to be done is not vastly important, but only because the condition of other sections of the field is so critical and their claims so urgent. In respect to these more favored parts of our home missionary field, it should not be forgotten that there yet “ remaineth much land to be possessed.” The prominent centres of influence are for the most part occupied. The towns and villages along the thoroughfares of travel and traffic are generally supplied with gospel ministrations. But in the wide intervals between the railroads, and remote from the villages, a great majority of the population is beyond the influence of the churches we have planted, and is very inadequately supplied with religious privileges. Unless this rural population is brought more directly under gospel influences, and their children and youth are furnished with better opportunities for Christian education, we have great reason to fear the results which must follow. These wide fields, neglected, will become moral wastes, whose population will have no sympathy with the sentiments and institutions which have been the glory of our land.
To meet the wants of this part of our field, Sabbath schools, prayer meetings, family visitation, and colportage, ought to be sustained by the voluntary efforts of the self-denying men and women of adjacent churches. But, in addition to this instrumentality, we need a class of missionaries who go forth, not to seck eligible settlement in a community that is prepared to welcome and support them, but who, in the spirit of Paul, are willing to build where no man has yet laid a foundation.
There is scarce a county, even in the most favored portion of the North-west, that does not contain waste places which would repay the best religious culture we could bestow upon them.
The second division embraces large portions of Southern Illinois and Indiana, and probably, also, important districts in other States, with which the committee are less acquainted.
In these districts, so far as the knowledge of the committee extends, our home missionary efforts in the past have been crowned with little success, and at present, and for several years just past, we are scarcely attempting anything. They are passed by as fields for which, at present, little or nothing can be done.
But they are not passed by because there is no need of doing anything for them.
It may be said that other denominations have the ground, and therefore for us, as Congregationalists, there is no room.
If other denominations do have the ground, they occupy it most inefficiently and unsatisfactorily. The people are not taught. The Sabbath is not made a day of religious rest and instruction. Ignorance, both of things secular and divine, widely prevails. In all these respects a state of things exists which cannot extensively prevail in our country, without disqualifying us to continue long a free people. The truth of the case is, that the districts in question are not in such a sense preoccupied by other denominations as to relieve us from the obligation of further effort, until, by a fair experiment, it is proved that there is nothing more which we can do.
If our home missionary effort must be limited to the organization of churches from materials found ready to our hands, and to the aiding of churches so formed till they become self-sustaining, then it is difficult to see what more can be done for these districts than we are now doing. But why must our efforts be circumscribed to such limits? Why should we wait till some Church or community is ready to invite a missionary to labor with them, and to assume a part of the responsibility of his support ? Why should we not rather send forth into such districts devoted men, with their support fully guaranteed, to labor where they can find a field, and to preach Christ where they can find hearers, – leaving it to their judgment to bestow their labors where the best results are to be expected, and to organize churches where there is promise of permanence and usefulness? That in this way sinners can be couverted to Christ, and churches founded and multiplied which will prove blessings to generations yet unborn, no believer in the adaptation and power of the gospel is at liberty to doubt.
In this section of which we are speaking, there are certain points of great and growing importance, where the population is already large and is rapidly increasing; but religious people are few, and religious privileges scarce and meagre. At such points, the committee believe, missionaries should at once be stationed and sustained, till they can gather around them congregations able to support them. Houses of worship should also be provided in such fields, either wholly by the Congregational Union, or partly by them, and partly by such contributions as liberal men on the spot are willing to make.
Enterprises thus commenced should be adequately sustained till they can stand alone. It would perhaps be invidious and unwise to name particular places which should be thus occupied. But the committee are of the opinion that places may be found in these districts where enterprises of this sort have already been delayed years too long. Until such efforts have been made and have failed, it is the judgment of the committee that the conclusion is premature, that nothing can be done for these districts. Till such attempts are made, the few brethren now scattered over these regions, and struggling almost alone against prejudice and abounding wickedness, will not cease to feel and to lament their lack of the earnest and efficient coöperation of the churches in more favored scctions of the country.
Our third division of the field consists of those new States and Territories toward which the tide of emigration is now setting in great force.
It will be no easy matter for the members of the National Council to bring their minds up to a conception of the vastness and urgent importance of this field of Christian effort.
North of the south line of Kansas extended to the Pacific, and west of the Mississippi, excluding Missouri, there is an area of territory belonging to the United States of one million three hundred thousand square miles. Embraced in this area are the States of Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Oregon, Nevada, and a part of California, and the Territories of Nebraska, Dacotah, Colorado, Utah, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Within these limits are four-tenths of the entire territory of the United States, equal to twenty times the area of New England, twenty-six times that of the State of New York, and one hundred and sixty times that of Massachusetts.
In 1860, the above States and Territories had a population of one million three hundred and eighty-five thousand one hundred and fifty three, which now undoubtedly exceeds two millions. Until 1859, the population was confined mostly to the States on the Mississippi and the Pacific, and those parts of Kansas and Nebraska contiguous to the Missouri River. The whole mountain region, aside from the Mormon settlements in Utah, was uninhabited, and to a great extent unexplored. Since that time many thousands have made houses, either temporary or permanent, in the mountains; and four new Territories have been organized since 1861 along the mountain ranges. The great Platte Valley, stretching eastwardly from the mountains to the Missouri River, a distance of five or six hundred miles, has become an immense thoroughfare of travel and transportation to the mountain territories and Pacific States. This results, in a great measure, from the discovery of the precious metals, in various localities, over a large extent of country. This first caused the settlement of California, and is now with equal rapidity peopling the fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains. Wherever gold has been found, cities and villages are springing up with marvellous rapidity. There is no longer any doubt as to the
richness and inexhaustibleness of the gold deposits in these regions. And as gold has always proved a mighty motive power, we may infer with certainty, that with increasing facilities for reaching the mining localities, with improved machinery for obtaining the precious metals, and with the aid of the surplus capital of the Eastern States, the tide of emigration will increase in volume from year to year. The vast agricultural regions of Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa, will find a remunerative market for their productions in this mining region. Thus the one will help the other, and both will develop together.
Such are the elements of growth and progress which this wide region contains within itself; and we cannot doubt it will soon be occupied with a multitudinous population. The foundations of those future States are now being laid, and their character and influence will, to a great extent, be determined by these early beginnings.
Another very material fact, in its bearings on the growth of these new States and Territories, is the construction of the great Union Pacific Railroad. Chartered by Congress, and liberally endowed by the General Government, this road is to connect the Missouri River with the Pacific Ocean, carrying the facilities for travel and commerce through all the vast interior. This work is actually in process of construction at both ends of the line. And such is the influence of railroads in developing the resources of a country, in stimulating enterprises, increasing the value of property, and contributing to the growth of towns and cities, that we doubt not the completion of this road to the mining region will, in a brief period, quadruple its population, while at the same time it will add greatly to the population and wealth of the Missouri and Mississippi Valleys.
Emigration to the mountains tends strongly to concentrate in cities, thus affording greater facilities for preaching the gospel, and rendering delay in sending it more perilous. This population is enterprising and energetic, and ready to aid liberally in the support of the gospel and in building houses of worship. And yet they are exposed to many and peculiar temptations, and without the influence of the gospel they are exceedingly exposed to the worst vices which corrupt society.
Among the inhabitants of these new States and Territories are not a few members of Congregational churches, and many sons and daughters of New England, who love her simple Church polity, and ieve it better fitted to develop and elevate man than any other. From the “ Congregational Quarterly” of January, 1865, we learn that these numerous States and Territories, with their two millions of people, had, one year ago, two hundred and seventy Congregational churches, with an aggregate membership of a little more than ten thousand. They had also one hundred and eighty-two ministers, either supplying these churches, or laboring in new settlements where churches were not yet organized. In the four mountain Territories and the State of Nevada we have, by report, but three churches and an equal number of ministers. Yet the population to-day probably exceeds two hundred thousand, with the certain prospect of a very large increase.
It seems to the committee that this portion of our home missionary field ought to be most seriously considered by all the churches represented in this Council. Here is a call for new zeal and increased efficiency in the prosecution of the home inissionary work, in order to carry it forward upon a scale commensurate with the vastness of the field to be cultivated.
The other portion of the home missionary field, which demands our attention, embraces the States that have just been redeemed from slavery, and are thus opened to a pure gospel, and to churches founded on the principles of Congregational freedom.