JOIN CHURCH AND MAKE NEW ENDEAVORS TO KEEP SABBATH.—AGE, 15.
In the year 1800, the Covenanter church of this country said in her synod: “Slavery and Christianity are incompatible,” and never relaxed her discipline which forbade fellowship with slave-holders—so I was brought up an abolitionist. I was still a child when I went through Wilkins’ township collecting names to a petition for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Here, in a strictly orthodox Presbyterian community, I was everywhere met by the objections: “Niggers have no souls,” “The Jews held slaves,” “Noah cursed Canaan,” and these points I argued from house to house, occasionally for three years, and made that acquaintance which led to my being sent for in cases of sickness and death, before I had completed my sixteenth year. In this, I in some measure took the place long filled by mother, who was often a substitute for doctor and preacher.
Looking back at her life, I think how little those know of Calvinists who regard them merely as a class of autocrats, conscious of their own election to glory, and rejoicing in the reprobation of all others; for I have never known such humble, self-distrustful people as I have found in that faith. Mother, whose life was full of wisdom and good works, doubted, even to the last, her own acceptance with God. She and I believed that “a jealous God,” who can brook no rivals, had taken away our loving husband and father; our strong and brave son and brother, because we loved them too much, and I was brought up to think it a great presumption to assume that such a worm of the dust as I, could be aught to the Creator but a subject of punishment.
During the spring of 1831, mother said to me:
“Sabbath week is our communion, and I thought you might wish to join the church.”
I was startled and without looking up, said:
“Am I old enough?”
“If you feel that the dying command of the Savior, ’do this in remembrance of me’ was addressed to you, you are old enough to obey it.”
Not another word was said and the subject was never again broached between us, but here a great conflict began. That command was given to me, but how could I obey it without eating and drinking damnation to myself? Was mine a saving faith, or did I, like the devils, believe and tremble? I had been believing as long as I could remember, but did not seem to grow in the image of God.
The conflict lasted several days. Sleep left me. The heavens were iron and the earth brass. I turned to Erskine to learn the signs of saving faith, but found only reason to suspect self-deception. I could not submit to God’s will—could not be willing that William should be lost—nay, I was not willing that any one should be lost. I could not stay in heaven, and know that any one was enduring endless torments in some other place!