WILLIAM H. FURNESS, D.D.
Among the Abolitionists of Pennsylvania no man stands higher than Dr. Furness; and no anti-slavery minister enjoys more universal respect. For more than thirty years he bore faithful witness for the black man; in season and out of season contending for his rights. When others deserted the cause he stood firm; when associates in the ministry were silent he spoke out. They defined their position by declaring themselves “as much opposed to slavery as ever, but without sympathy for the abolitionists.” He defined his by showing himself more opposed to slavery than ever, and fraternizing with the most hated and despised anti-slavery people.
Dr. Furness came into the cause when it was in its infancy, and had few adherents. From that time till the day of its triumph he was one with it, sharing in all its trials and vicissitudes. In the operations of the Vigilance Committee he took the liveliest interest. Though not in form a member he was one of its chief co-laborers. He brought it material aid continually, and was one of its main reliances for outside support. His quick sympathies were easily touched and when touched were sure to prompt him to corresponding action. He would listen with moistened eyes to a tale of outrage, and go away saying never a word. But the story of wrong would work upon him; and through him upon others. His own feelings were communicated to his friends, and his friends would send gifts to the Committee’s treasury. A wider spread sympathy would manifest itself in the community, and the general interests of the cause be visibly promoted. It was in the latter respect, that of moral co-operation, that Dr. Furness’s services were most valuable. After hearing a harrowing recital, whether he would or not, it became the burden of his next Sunday’s sermon. Abundant proof of this may be found in his printed discourses. Take the following as an illustration. It is an extract from a sermon delivered on the 29th of May, 1854, a period when the slave oligarchy was at the height of its power and was supported at the North by the most violent demonstrations of sympathy. The text was, “Feed my Lambs:”
“And now brothers, sisters, children, give me your hearts, listen with a will to what I have to say. As heaven is my witness, I would not utter one word save for the dear love of Christ and of God, and the salvation of your own souls. Does it require any violent effort of the mind to suppose Christ to address each one of us personally the same question that He put to Peter, ‘Lovest thou me?’ * * * And at the hearing of His brief command, ‘Feed my lambs,’ so simple, so direct, so unqualified, are we prompted like the teacher of the law who, when Christ bade him love his neighbor as himself, asked, ’And who is my neighbor?’ and in the parable of the good Samaritan, received an answer that the Samaritans whom he despised, just as we