|Welcome to the speech, "A Discourse on The Divinely-Appointed Freedom of the Pulpit, The Senate, and the Press, For The Preservation of Freedom to Mankind" (June 1856).
Prior to the 1861-1865 War, Christian abolitionists opposed slavery. Nowadays, their Biblical-based reasons are generally unknown.
This series of websites educates by making the text of their writings accessible. Whether or not you agree with their position, it is at least a good idea to know what it was!
This site in the series reprints a June 1856 anti-slavery extension speech by Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D. (1807-1890).
It was delivered in Hew York in June, 1856, and repeated in Brooklyn, Williamburg, Flushing, Newport, R.I., Providence, R.I., and Salem, Mass.
A Discourse on
Freedom of the Pulpit,
The Senate, and the Press,
For The Preservation of
Freedom to Mankind
Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D.
|I. Proscription of Truth||4
|| Freedom of the Church||7
|| Duty of the Ministry||9
|| Danger of Concealment||11
|| Boldness and Plainness||13
||II. The Ventilation of Truth||15
|| Outrage in the Senate||17
|| Government Reversed||19
|| Political Prejudice||20
||III. Power of A Free Press||23
|| The Senate and the Press||25
|| Bones of St. Quietus||28
|| Obey Your Marching Orders||31
|| Examples of Courage||32
|| Peter, John, and Stephen||35
|| Paul and Polycarp||37
|| Historic Radiances||38|
Deliver me from the oppression of man, so will I keep thy precepts.—Psalm cxix. 134.
Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make ye free.—John viii. 32.
The answer of these two texts, one from the Old and one from the New Testament is as if from different qnarters of the heavens we heard the morningstars chanting responsively across the firmament. How beautiful, how glorious, how divine!
Deliver me from the oppression of man, so will I keep thy precepts. Keep God's truth, and you shall be free, and no oppression can harm you.
We praise God for these texts, and for the celestial experience of men, and, to some degree, even of nations, in which they have been illustrated.
And here we remark, by the way, before entering on the discussion of that freedom of thought and speech which God has made our birthright, that in this grand old prayer put by divine inspiration into the heart of the psalmist there is contained an argument of irresistible annihilating power against the sophistry that seeks a sanction of slavery and tyranny in the word of God. God himself teaches us to pray for deliverance from human op-
pression, that we may keep his statutes. And is it to be imagined that God would install the worst of all oppressions under the sun as a divine institution, and at the same time teach us to pray against it, as the grand enemy of our piety?
Men that deal thus [falsely] with the word of God do their [vile] utmost to set their fellowmen in the high road to infidelity [see Rev. Patton's Infidelity]; by reason of whom the way of truth is evil spoken of, and through covetousness vith feigned words they make merchandise of you [2 Peter 2:2-3].
Let us now consider the necessity of the freedom of truth for the permanence of our free national existence. If the knowledge of truth is essential to man's freedom, then the freedom of truth is essential to man's knowledge. If the truth be hidden or suppressed, freedom can not exist; the very nature and essential elements of freedom will remain unknown.
In proportion to the preciousness of truth will be, at times, the danger of its announcement. In all ages men [people] have been imprisoned, tortured, fined, beheaded, burned, martyred, for possessing the truth, and for speaking it to others. A free Bible, the very beginning of all freedom, has been gained only at the cost of incessant strife, and blood, and martyrdom. Men have waded to this prize through seas of suffering, through centuries of persecution. The English Scriptures were translated and published [whhile] in continual danger and frequent experience of imprisonment and death. John Wickliffe's own pen came near being
dipped in his own heart's blood [by persecution]; and the noble [William] Tyndale's types, and fair-printed pages, by which he fulfilled his promise to bring God's word within reach and reading of every plow-boy in his native country, cost him his life, and his last prayer [while being burned] at the stake went up that God would open the eyes of the king of England.
So, what is to-day our commonest and yet most priceless treasure, is baptized, almost every letter of it, not only in the blood of Christ that bought it first, but in the suffering and blood of dear chosen followers in almost every age, in whom the remaining afflictions of Christ for his body's sake, which is the church [1 Cor 12:12-20] are filled up.
At this day, in our own country [U.S.A.], there is a more gigantic, deadly, and iniquitous proscription [banning] of the truth, and conspiracy against it, and persecution on account of it, in one particular form, than in any other country under heaven.
Truth in regard to freedom, as opposed to slavery, truth in regard to that which is the very object of truth, is not permitted to be promulgated, and if promulgated, it is at the cost of misery and death. Under these circumstances, it is high time to look into our authority for the free publication of the truth, and to see how far duty to God and man commands us to speak out or to be silent.
I affirm, and it can not be contradicted, that the permanence of our free national existence depends not on the concealment or repression of the truth, but on
its universal freedom. Let us see what fixtures of truth and freedom have been given us of God, and how they form the foundations of our country's worth and greatness, and how the unimpaired, unrestricted freedom of truth is essential to them all.
God has given us a Free Bible, a Free Church, a Free Pulpit, Free Suffrage, Free Schools, a Free Judiciary, a Free Legislature, and a Free Press. These gifts of God, these gradually-perfected gifts of his providence and grace, constitute our vaat estate of freedom, that magnificent and priceless heritage received from our fathers, and which we are bound to transmit unimpaired to our descendants. And any thing that goes against any of these agencies and elements of liberty, goes against the freedom of mankind.
Now, then, let us mark in this matter, first, the divinely-appointed authority and duty of the church and the ministry; second, of the Legislature; and third, of the press; to sustain, defend, and practice this freedom, as the essential, if not the only security of our very existence as a nation; our existence, at least, on any terms, in any manner, on which existence is worth having. Better, a thousand times, that all Horth America should be obliterated by a concurrence of the Atlantic and Pacifie oceans, as a dead, revenging sea over buried cities, than that we, after all our light and liberty, should live only by renouncing the truth that gave us being, or should set the example to a terrified and struggling world of a na-
tion claiming and daring to oxist only by sustained and sanctified oppression.
I say, then, first of all, if the freedom of the word of God is essential, the freedom of the church and of the ministry is necessary in publishing and proclaiming it. The whole truth must be published, without respect to persons [Acts 10:34], and no part of it kept back [Isaiah 62:1, 6; Jeremiah 4:19; Acts 18:9; Romans 1:18; cf. Matthew 20:31; Luke 18:39; Luke 19:40].
For this very purpose, for the freedom of the church in this her work, Christ Jesus has constituted the independence of the churches in the New Testament.
these are some of the descriptive forms under which the mission of the church is presented.
If men [people] are to be made free by the truth [John 8:32], it is necessary that the truth be made free [available] to man [people], and come in living and experimental freedom to their hearts and consciences. The church of Christ, for this purpose, is made up of those who have the word of God living by the Spirit in their hearts, and are set on fire by it, to set on fire others. You can not conquer or shut up a church that thus lives in Christ, and has his word abiding in it.
When the Philistines barred the great gates of Gaza upon Samson, they thought they had securely imprisoned him; but he carried away the gates, bars and all, upon his shoulders [Judges 16:2-3]. There is no limiting the Holy One of Israel [Ps 78:41] when he pleases to pour down his
Spirit, and when his people trust in him, and are faithful to his word. His word must convince men of sin, if they are ever to be made free from sin. [Titus 1:9; Jude 15; Acts 18:28; James 2:9; Romans 6:18, 22].
And for this very purpose his church must be a testifying church against sin, and the more proud and imperious the sin, the louder the testimony.
To deny this characteristic object [purpose], mission, and duty of the church, is to deny its very essence; for that which keeps men in bondage, is error and sin, nothing else. All forms of error and of sin are therefore to be exposed and rebuked, and especially those forms that prevent obedience to God's law and take from other men their freedom to obey God.
If, therefore, oppression in any form whatever keeps man from spiritual freedom, the light of God's word is to be turned upon [against] it, and the thunderings of God's word are to be directed against it, and the church is to maintain that testimony. The light of God's word is to be turned on [against] all forms of iniquity, in law as well as custom.
The church and the ministry are God's appointed court to bring both law and fact in the works of men under examination at the bar of his word.
devil for those vho are taken captive by him at his will.
For this purpose, then, both the church and the ministry should be a perpetually testifying activity and power, breaking down Satan's stratagems of lies, and tearing away the vail of his delusions. They are to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to rebuke them [Ephesians 5:11]. No church and no ministry can throw off [refuse] this responsibility; neither do difficulty and danger in bearing it constitute a release from it.
On the contrary, the more alarming and critical the juncture becomes, the more earnest and instant the church and the ministry must be to meet it.
The [Bible] law for the publication [and preaching] of the gospel forbids all concealment of it, and all minglings of a selfish expediency with it. The law for the publication of the gospel requires openness, fullness, freedom, impartiality. It is laid down by Paul in two great passages. Not
not to every man's sense of convenience,
or custom, or business, or employment, or plans of gain but, “to EVERY MAN'S CONSCIENCE,” and to conscience not in the light of human opinions, or statutes, or governments, or compulsions, or judgments, or moralities, but “to every man's conscience IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.”
No man can truly preach this gospel, and no church truly hold it, or truly preach Christ crucified [1 Co. 1:23], and at the same time shield any form of iniquity from the searching light of the law and the gospel, condemning all sin. If they shield or favor any form of iniquity, or conceal it from the light, it is a conspiracy against the souls of men; for the object of the gospel is to bring men out of darkness into light, and out of sin into holiness, and if they continue in sin and darkness they perish.
Hence the terrific woe against those who pervert the gospel, and put darkness for light, and light for dark-
ness; evil for good, and good for evil. [Galatians 1:7] Hence the command,
For, indeed, you can not hate a man more infernally, more malignantly, than by concealing his guilt from him; that is the devil's own hatred; that is Satan's own game. If you know your enemy to be in the prosecution [doing] of courses [deeds, acts] that will certainly lead him to ruin, the greatest injury you can do him is to conceal from him the sinfulness and danger of those courses. If you let him know, if you dispelled the delusion of his innocence, you would give him some chance of escape; but by concealing from him the wickedness of his career [lifestyle], and encouraging his passions and his sins, you hermetically seal him with his crimes for perdition.
You could not preserve a rattle-snake in spirit with more certainty for dissection. And thus are men often sealed up, and nations also, and the air of truth excluded. Thus are men and nations buried in falsehood, wound round with grave-clothes. And hence the tremendous adjuration [principle],
If any church or any minister dare thus pervert or conceal the light of God's word in regard to human guilt, it is just as if they put out the light; it is just leading men to perdition.
They [vile clergy] may be tempted to do this [evil] by vast and mighty bribes, by the pressure of a nation's
anger, by popular fury in behalf of cherished sins; but they [clergy] had better incur the wrath of all mankind than the wrath of God.
And therefore the Lord Jesus was ever telling his disciples,
Pain, agitation, wrath, fury, persecution, are no excuse for concealing or perverting the messages of God's word. If men persecute you in one city, that gives you no commission to cut out [delete] or withhold that part of the gospel that goes against their sins; but you may flee to another city Matthew 10:23], and preach the whole gospel; but you must preach the whole wherever you preach, for you are not at liberty to diminish a word. [Deuteronomy 4:12; Deut. 12:32; Revelation 18:19.]
When Jeremiah was charged with God's messages [Jeremiah 1], their very tenor made him a man of strife and contention, and the object of wrath and cursing, but that gave no permission to Jeremiah to cease preaching, or to choose for himself what he would preach, and what not. He tried the experiment of silence, but it would
not do; he could bear the wrath of men much better than the indignation of the Lord. [Jeremiah 4:19].
Now, these faithful and fearless old Hebrew prophets were, by the Lord Jesus himself, set before the preachers of the gospel as an example of courage and of faithfulness. Our blessed Lord never intimated that the gospel could be preached with any less opposition than the law, nor that his disciples could escape persecution, and still be faithful to the truth.
Wherever ye are, therefore, speak the truth, no matter where; before kings, governors, councils, before synagogues, rulers, mobs; fear not, and keep not back the truth, but proclaim it. Living or dying, proclaim it. Men die, but principles live.
Boldness is the rule, not timidity; and plainness [clarity and completeness] is the rule, not sophistry; and sympathy with the poor and oppressed is the rule, not with the despot and the oppressor. Men may pervert the word of God by sophistry, and they may consent to keep back [suppress] part of its instructions for fear of rousing men'a prejudices. But this is fearing men, and not God; this is being ashamed of Christ and of his words; and this process, in particular junctures, may involve the guilt of moral forgery, and of being accessory to the ruin of a nation.
There is a great authority in navigation, whether plain-sailing or otherwise, an authority of world-wide
reputation and confidence. It is Bowlitch's Charts and Navigator.
Now, suppose that any person could get these [navigation reference books] into his own hands, with the power of keeping [publishing] or of perverting [re-publishing] the information at his pleasure [choice]; and, suppose there were lying on a coast a dangerous sunken reef, and that a great company of wreckers on that coast made a vast annual revenue by decoying vessels upon that reef;—what should we say of a proposition, backed with wrath and threats on one ride, and enormous bribes on the other, to expunge all notice of that reef in the Navigator and Charts, and to make the world believe tbat, though to be sure there is a splintered, ragged ridge there, just as there is a bottom to the ocean everywhere, yet there is also depth of water enough for the biggest ships in the world to ride over in safety?
Suppose the expounder [publisher] and keeper of the charts should consent to this fraud, and excuse himself by saying, that the people in that coast and country would not suffer him to tell the truth, that they would not bear it; does this mitigate his villainy?
Or, suppose he could prove to you that great good was done by the money obtained out of those shipwrecks, would that sanctify the wrong?
Now, whensoever any church, or minister of God's word, conceals the truth, or by sophistry turns it into a lie, or into the support of unrighteousness, there the very life of men and of nations is attempted attacked, endangered, placed at risk]. If watchmen upon towers, and sentinels at the gate of nations, and God's appointed heralds of salvation do
this [fraud, misrepresentation], then will men and nations not only go to ruin in these indorsed and sanctioned ways of oppression and of crime, but the example of such double and false dealing by the guides will be imitated by the people in all things, till church and nation perish in their sins.
Nation after nation has been ruined by such abominable sophistry, and by following such sophists, as are even now at work in our own country, endeavoring to make us believe that the jagged reef of slavery is only a righteous ridge of God's constituted bottom for the ocean, only an element of necessary permanence, over which there is deep and smooth sailing into the harbor of eternal rest, and out of which comes the highest good of the race, and glory of God forever.
But by such sophistry we perish, and if we hold [suppress] the truth itself in unrighteousness, there is no hope for us. [Romans 1:18].
There must be truth, and not sophistry—the truth as the truth is in Jesus. It is as essential to our existence as the air. And there must be free ventilation of the truth; if not, tben all the wasting, the weakness, the destruction, the morbid secretions, and the active miseries, of atrophy, marasmus, consumption, and a lingering death.
more pernicious, ours being a government of laws.
How true is this of our republic! How solemnly true applied to such execrable laws, such diabolical tyranny, under pretense of law, as that which is being enforced with fire and murder in Kansas. And hence the necessity of the most unlimited freedom of examination, disputation, and conflict of opinion, sacred and inviolate, or the life of liberty is gone. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
The very argument for patience under oppressive legislation, is the assurance that our representatives will look into it, and redeem us from it. But, if despotism can bring the terrors of assassination into the arena of public debate, there is no longer any possibility of legally resisting it, and a reign of terror is inaugurated all over the country.
If anywhere under heaven there should be perfect freedom of deliberation and discussion in the light of divine truth, and for the sake of equity and liberty, it is here. Any attack upon it, any outrage against it, any attempt to set up the reign of dueling, murder, and violence [Southern traits], is a repetition of the worst wickednesses of the  French Revolution.
In the annals of English history, never has there been such an instance; never were bullies with bludgeons pitted against the nation's noblest orators. Chatham, Pitt, Lord Erskine, Burke, Curran, Mackintosh, Canning, and others, have let loose their storms [words] of withering sarcasm and invective, and from the days of Chaucer and the Duke of Lancaster down to the time of Lord Brougham, the centuries have witnessed conflicts [debates] of angry eloquence, but never was the British Parliament disgraced by such a mode of worse than savage warfare.
The criminals in Newgate [prison] would have been ashamed of such poltroonery.
That a man [Senator Charles Sumner] of courteous manners and classical attainments, an eloquent scholar, an orator on the side of freedom, not a man pleading for oppression, not a man prostituting his talents in support of usurpation, or to sustain a fraudulent monopoly, or to make the worse appear the better reason, but advocating the cause of the oppressed, and the claims of liberty and humanity against violence and fraud; that such a man, in such a cause, should be attacked and struck down, unawares, helpless, writing at his desk, in the feeling of perfect security, without the least warning or challenge, merely because of the freedom and power of his argument and sarcasm against slavery, is an atrocity, which, up to the time
of its perpetration [22 May 1856], the whole world would have said is impossible. The possibility of such an outrage in the Senate of a free country, and of the criminal going unpunished, and the Senate renouncing their own power of punishment, and refusing to condemn the crime, on the plea of not finding a precedent, will need to be accompanied, like the most incredible ghost [fiction] story, wth affidavits, or it will not be believed in history.
Is this [assault against persuasive speakers] the inauguration of a policy that the people will submit to? Shall the renewed [Southern] attempt to install murder as a law of honor [duels], and bludgeons and pistols instead of argument as the rule of legislation, be successful?
It is rare that public attempted assassination, and open glaring usupation and murder, find advocates and apologists. A man in public life [a congressman!! Preston Brooks of South Carolina], under all its accumulated bonds and responsibilities for good behavior, has committed an outrage on the life of a senator, that, done against any citizen in private life, would instantly, have brought him to prison to be tried by the laws of his country; but the Legislature [corrupt U.S. Congress] sanction the crime! Not only the man's public bonds and responsibilities, but common law for the protection of common society and life, are defied and disregarded, and the Senate and House of Representatives, in refusing the demanded retribution, and letting the criminal go at large, sanction the crime. They infect the air of our common justice, by such impunity, with taint and poison. How long can any
country stand such an infusion of evil principle? When God says,
how long will it be  before they [the American people] discover that when the "powers that be" [politicians] do themselves sanction [approve of] wickedness, and by shielding it from punishment, sustain it, they are among the highest and properest objects of the curse of God and man?
How madly is a government digging down the foundations of its own reverence, and destroying its only claim to obedience, when it pursues such a policy, acts upon such maxims, legalizes such iniquities, and protects such sinners, that, reversing the very terms of God's appointment and sanction of the magistracy [government], it becomes a praise to evil-doers, and a terror to those who do well [reversing the Romans 13:3 concept].
And here I must say that I fear we are chargeable before God—the church and the ministry are chargeable—for not doing all in tbeir power to prevent that corruption and violence which have been so rapid in their progress.
They [clergy] have suffered themselves [chosen] to be deterred, by fear of the reproach [being accused] of carrying [mixing] politics into religion, from the just and righteous work of carrying religion into politics.
Mark what I say; we are guilty for not carrying religion into politics. The carrying politics into religion is the devil's work, and the union of Church and State, and all ecclesiastical despotism and corruption spring out of it. The carrying religion into politics is Christ's work,
and he will go on with it, till he makes all men his freemen by the truth; and the kingdoms of this world shall become his kingdom [Revelation 11:15], for he has promised that those who keep his truth, and the freedom that rests on it, shall have power over the nations. [Revelation 2:26].
And in this effort to conquer the world by the truth, the first requisites after a sincere reliance on him, are boldness and thoroughness. We need always to bear in mind the great remark of [Edmund] Burke, that
Suffer [allow] me to illustrate the manner in which some persons force their politics into religion, who are nevertheless very wrathful if religion be carried into politics. The anecdote was related to me by a venerable aged man now living, whose father-in-law was a distinguished minister of the gospel in the days of our [American] Revolution [1776-1783]. The charge of preaching politics was one day brought against that minister by a prominent parishioner. The person to whom he was vent-
ing his complaint declared that it was not true, and demanded of him to point out any instances. Well, said he, if he does not preach politics he prays politics, which is just as bad. Again it was denied, and demanded to show instances. Why, said the man, I heard him say last Sabbath in his prayer that when the righteous are in authority the people rejoice, but when the wicked beareth rule tbe people mourn. [Proverbs 29:2]. Well, said the otber, I don't see any politics there; how can you make politics out of that? Plain enough, said the man, for I know who he meant; he meant Jefferson.
This is a very good example of the manner in which politicians sometimes see and hear through the medium of their own prejudices, and torture the least pithy application of truth into an attack against their own opinions.
But these difficulties form no just apology for keeping back [censoring, suppressing] God's truth. That must be spoken, let it strike where it may; for though the clamor and the strife of tongues sometimes produced by it is evil, the withholding and concealment of it would be a greater evil. Christ's own gospel, he himself declared, would set households at variance [Matthew 10:5-36], and there are few evils greater than such strife; but yet the withholding of the gospel would have been a greater evil.
The proclamation of the gospel set households at variance indeed, but it saved some, in tho very fact of such variance. The withholding of the gospel kept households indeed in the unity of sin and Satan, but
carried them together in that unanimity down to hell. It is better to have dissension and salvation, than an icy politic stillness and death.
It is not to be expected that the fearless proclamation of truth, when it comes against grand and gainful cherished and organic [institutionalized, soceity-wide] sins, intrenched and citadeled in men's hearts, men's purses, men's business, men's interests, families, hereditary revenues, national enactments, and powerful oligarchies, can be maintained with the shouts of popular applause, and all men cheering you on, and speaking well of you.
As easy as a summer's Mediterranean sail in Cleopatra's barge, or Vanderbilt's steam-yacht, would be the preaching of the truth, with the soft breezes of a personal popularity always fanning your temples.
Men like to hear the truth in pleasant and eloquent essays, and even in stormy harangues, so long as you do not trouble their own preferred private or public investments in pleasurable and profitable sin. Easy enough it is to preach with all your congregation in full sympathy; but the moment you come to close quarters, making your applications in such wise that irritated consciences wince and fret under unexpected exposure, and your hearers begin to cry out, He means me, away goes all your popularity.
There is a region of rhetoric like Paradise itself, where everlasting spring abides, and you may lead your hearers up and down in such green pastures, and beside still waters, and never trouble any man's conscience in so doing. But whether such
preaching can be always faithful to the truth, and saving to the soul, is quite another question.
For the freedom of the press, both habit and statute are requisite, for until it began to be known [exist], the rulers of the darkness of this world made it [a free press] to be dreaded as an unmitigated evil. It was regarded as a monstrous and dangerous abuse, until an example was seen of it. It was to be chained like a wild beast; a quarantine was to be maintained against it, as against the pestilence. It only got on step by step, under a heap of indexes Expurgatorius, Admittiturs, Imprimaturs, stamps by authority, fines, imprisonments, and battles against power.
The freedom of thought and speech have been invaded by the tyrants of the world even in unfinished and unpublished manuscripts; and the noble Algernon Sidney [1622-1683] lost his life for written arguments in favor of freedom, the contents of his ransacked private closets.
The freedom of publication is essential to the freedom of thought. There are abuses of all these blessings; but the abuses are rather to be endured than the blessings annihilated. Let the war of thoughts and
words go on [dissemination of varied views], and the world is safe; for never yet was there a fair field and fair encounter, and never will be, between truth and error, freedom and slavery, but truth and freedom must prevail.
Truth is the natural ally of freedom, and freedom of truth; but if you repress free thought, and its free interchange and expression, you produce apoplexy, or the bursting of arteries, you explode the machinery, you break up the best constituted society and state.
If you introduce violence instead of truth, if you apply the tyrant's plea, expediency, and the oppressor's argument, power, you have, in the long run, the constitution [expressive traits] of the [human] race against you, as well as the edict of God's righteousness. And you insure earthquakes if you keep down all volcanoes.
The messages of truth are like the lightning on your telegraphic wires, beneficent while you let it flow freely, but streaming with angry and electric fires the moment you set yourself against it. The freedom of truth belongs to our constitution, as that electricity to the air we breathe; explosive only when you force it under a posse comitatus, or imprison it in company with fire-damp. The element and agency of life in freedom, it is destruction and death if you keep it pent up.
Agitation, the conflict of opinion, the freest comparison and battle of thought, is what we need. But if every thing is to be kept close and quiet, it may be a stagnant despotism, but never a LIVING STATE. If evils are to be met, they must be
examined. If festering wounds are to be cured, they must be probed. The preventing power of truth, in its utmost freedom, is better than the penal power of imprisonment and capital punishment. If the licentiousness of the press is sometimes causative of crime [revolts, as with the American Revolution], its perfect freedom is much more preventive.
The Legislature and the press are both, [responsible] under God, [and] the possession of the people; and the freedom of truth is essential for both; they must speak out, responsible to God. The Senate is the people's tongue by their representatives; the press is the people's tongue by themselves. The Senate is always in danger of pressing to an extreme the rights of government; the press is the defender of the rights of the people.
The Senate is the people's heart under [presumed] deliberation, but too often under political management; the press is the people's heart under impulse; and oftentimes, when the heart under political intrigue was going wrong, the heart under impulse may step in and carry it right.
This is always likely to be the case, in proportion as the press is in more immediate contact with the altar and the fireside, the Bible and its living truth; and hence the press, made free by the truth and for the truth, may be dcscribed as tho most important co-ordinate branch of a free government. It is important for its powerful action on all the otbers; an action vhich is felt even from the judiciary to the ballot-box; important for the instruction of the people and the utterance of the people's voice, during the in-
tervals, sometimes long and critical, because of the rapid plunges of the government toward despotism, between the appointed occasions wben power constitutionally returns to the hands of the people, by the great foundation machinery of free voting.
These efforts and advances toward the increase of executive patronage [federal employees] and authority, and the consolidation and preponderance of governmental power, by which, gradually, government is changed from a servant of the people to a despot over them, have been continually going on, and every year more rapidly. The sovereignty is being taken from the people, and held in the government for its own sake, and not for tbeir sakes.
And were it not for the wondrous frame-work of our State and general governments, by which there is such a constitutional, biennial, triennial, and quadrennial return of power to the real sovereigns, the elective commonwealth, the freedom of our government would not last twenty years. Every thing would be sacrificed to power.
And therefore it is that I have called the press a co-ordinate branch of our free government, and therefore it is that perfect [full-time] freedom and eternal vigilance are necessary in it by day and by nigbt from year to year. It is our great safeguard. It is [in that pre-conglomerate corporate media era], of all the branches and forms of our government, the least liable to corruption, and the most open to direct instantaneous control by the people. Through it the people may make the most despotic government feel their
power, and tremble at it; may make even its tools [employees] hesitate and falter in the execution of its edicts.
Now, in view of these inestimable franchises and blessings, these agencies and powers of truth and freedom, which we have received from God through our fathers, and are bound to transmit unimpaired to the generation to come, what is our one grand duty?
It is to speak out, and to act out, freedom and truth, as given us of God. It is to love the truth, and to contend for it [Jude 3 allusion], and to send it forth in its freedom and purity, tbrowing ourselves for success on his grace who gave it, and gave us the commission to stand by it and to spread it. If the truth prevails, we prevail, and are safe. If the truth prevails, freedom prevails, if not, tyranny and slavery. That which thou hast already, hold fast till I come. [Rev. 2:25 allusion]. In the hour of danger stand firm. [Eph. 6:13 allusion].
If you contend that your only lawful and Christian weapon is the truth, tben use that weapon. If you abjure Sharpe's rifles, let us at least see the flashing of the sword of the Spirit in your hands. When a great sin is like to swamp us, we are bound to testify against that sin.
But there are not a few, whose only talk is against the rebuke of sin, and against Sharpe's rifles.
If it is the truth only that can make us free [John 8:32 allusion], then are we bound to proclaim the truth for such freedom. The church of Christ, far from shrinking away behind paper constitutions to evade this testifying obligation, far from alleging the letter
of limitation in constitutional power as an excuse for not speaking out when the Spirit demands it, when equity demands it, ought gladly to embrace every such juncture, to utter a voice that should ring through the world like a trumpet on the field of battle.
Here in this Book of God is the constitution of the church, commanding her to testify, and to keep the tabernacle of this testimony wide open.
It is when the enemy cometh in like a flood, tbat the Spirit of the Lord lifts up the standard against him, and this standard is not made out of the old reiterated rags or relics of the testimony of former generations. As well might the Jews claim heaven on the ground of being the children of Abraham, as we claim to have done our duty in a great and difficult emergency by referring back to a testimony of our fathers in 1818, and ourselves maintaining a politic silence.
The word of God is ever new, ever young, fresh, living, and no second-hand utterance of it will answer for [meet] our [present] duty, nor are we released from the duty, nor defrauded the privilege of applying it anew, because our fathers applied it fifty years ago.
some church that believes in the efficacy of old bones, with the pope's benediction, rather than in the proclamation of fresh living truth from the word by the Spirit of God. For people who think that the adoration of old bones may atone for new sins, this was all natural.
But for Protestant churches that have tongues of their own, on a question of difficulty and in a crisis of danger, to evade a present burning utterance by referring back to the relics of old testimonies, to the skeleton forms of past resolutions, is just making a St. Quietus out of them, just exhuming and glorifying them by way of apology for their own silence.
We all have our own responsibility of fresh testimony in every age, and can not avoid it. A singular spectacle it would be if the oppressed freemen in Kansas, instead of uttering their own indignations [protests] in thunder-tones at the usurpation forced upon them, should get together, and gravely reaffirm the resolutions of the old continental Congress in regard to the righteousness of resisting tyrants, or the declarations in Massachusctts, in regard to thc old Boston Port Bill.
A mute reference to a church assembly's records of forty years ago, may be a very convenient mode of giving a quietus to the conscience in shrinking back from the duty of an outspoken boldness; but even St. Quietus' bones will fail to convince the people tbat there is no occasion for life, no need of any thing but bones.
We are bound by the gift of God's truth to keep
the love of freedom in men's hearts sanctified, Christianized, and to see to it that it be not crucified or put to shame by a Christian desertion. The love of freedom for others, as well as for ourselves, needs eternal vigilance to be kept burning in our hearts. It is a Christian grace, a Christian duty, and to be without it, or afraid of it, is an unchristian baseness and cowardice, that God abhors.
The enthusiastic, energetic, unceasing defense of freedom is a thing that belongs, by the right of blood, bought truth and liberty, to Christian souls. Events full of tyranny and outrage have been just now stirring men's minds for a season, so that the coldest were roused; but the danger is great of sinking back into lukewarmness and apathy, and Christians must speak and act boldly as well as pray, and keep up these fires and this salutary alarm and excitement, from a holier altar than any mere demagogue ever visits.
Every Christian man, everywhere, should speak out, should show his colors; every church should do it, every preacher should do it. We have a trust for others.
We [U.S. Christians] have no right [no excuse] to renounce or relinquish the defense of others. We might, perhaps without blame, lay down our own necks, and permit the oppressor to ride over them without resistance; but we can not innocently keep silence or refuse help, when tyranny and slavery are forced on others, who cry to us for protection, and claim to be defended under the same Constitution that shields ourselves.
It is an interesting and characteristic anecdote of the Duke of Wellington [aka Arthur Wellesley, 1769-1852, conqueror of Napoleon], that on one occasion in India, when the country was full of disturbance and violence, a deputation of English missionaries came a long way to wait on [ask] him for counsel and advice as to whether they could do any good by advancing to their post and occupying it in the then state of the country, and whether it was not too dangerous an enterprise to undertake at a time of so much terror and confusion. When the deputation presented their case for consultation, the Duke's only answer was, Gentlemen, what are your marching orders? They had but just one, Go, preach. Well, then, gentlemen, I can do nothing for you. I can not interfere with your commander's orders.
So with us, What are your marching orders? When God gives the truth, he gives it to be spoken, and the consequences of it he takes upon himself.
The time has come, even in our own country, when God is looking round for Ezekiel's gap-men, to stand in the gaps, and make up the ranks in the day of battle. [Ezekiel 22:30 allusion].
Every generation to the end of the world will continue to need them, and the country is lost when they can not be found.
Of all the [courage] illustrations [examples] in history; of such grand and noble patriotism, none is more thrilling and impressive than that of the Swiss patriot, Arnold Winkelreid, throwing himself [at Sempach] on the spears of the Austrians [Army], to make a gap in the otherwise impenetrable phalanx [military unit], through which his [otherwise retreating] countrymen might rush to victory. [Poet William] Wordsworth [1770-1850] has shrined it in immortal verse:
It is most interesting and solemnly instructive to look back through the whole history of the world, and to see how often the whole fortunes of truth and liberty have been thrown of God upon single decisions and courses of such noble soldiers, and sometimes single acts of heroism. It is solemn to think how often the whole cause of truth and righteousness
must have failed by the failure of one man's courage and faith in such perilous junctures.
Where would have been the principles of righteousness and liberty, and wbat would have been the fate of trutb, and what the state of the world, if men appointed of God for the conflict had conferred with flesh and blood [Gal. 1:16 allusion], instead of enduring as seeing him who is invisible? [Heb. 11:27 allusion].
Where would have been God's truth, or any grand decisive trutb, and the examples of its fearless utterance in danger, examples so much needed, if these men had acted on the principles of expediency, conservatists of their own property, peace, and reputation?
with the truth, to lay aside all fear of man, and all respect to persons and to sins, and to stand, if need be, against the whole world, with a thus saith the Lord, as their only argument and weapon?
A new era of divinest liberty and light, and new triumphs of boldness and faith, were thus inaugurated.
Was the freedom of Stephen's indignant heart and tongue to be restrained, lest it should wake up the angry passions of his hearers? Was he to stop in the fierce career [middle] of his eloquence, and carefully meas-
ure the form and manner of his invectives, and usher in his terrible [truthful] accusations with courteous apologies, with honeyed palliatives?
And when the church heard of his death, or angels saw it, think you there was one creature so mean; on earth or in heaven, as to excuse the murderous revenge of his enemies, by alleging the imprudent and fiery severity of his own speech?
Ask, if you will, that Divine Spirit,
whose truth he spake, and that ascended Redeemer, under whose eye he acted. And if you judge his temper on these tremendous denunciations, judge it also by his dying prayer of forgiveness for his murderers. [Acts 7:60].
life with its least denial; and
And to this day that light is burning; and from that time onward, all English history and literature is consecrated by it. This is by the grace of God.
And now if I were to add to these words only a few similar testimonies, even from the natural heart of man in its noble enthusiasm for truth and freedom, notices scattered in the history of all countries and in all times, it would be a volume.
And these martyr words and sayings, wrung out from human hearts and consciences by suffering, and danger, and death, are
the very life-blood of history. There is that element in suffering for truth, which embalms the truth forever and forever. These lights are set as stars in the firmament; all history besides might perish, but many of these battle-words and martyr testimonies would still lighten the traditional memory of mankind from generation to generation. They are the intensest historic radiances of humanity itself. They are as great lights let down behind a vast transparency; and lighting up the whole surrounding scenery, which otherwise would be chaos and darkness.
The disciples and the church of Christ must have lost not only that Christian savor, which should make them the salt of the earth, but even the common spirit of that love of freedom native to our race, if they renounce and disown the opportunity and responsibility of kindling such lights.
If they refuse to bear testimony to the truth, when the truth is in danger, and its defenders are stricken down in blood, and will venture a timid utterance, only where it is all applause and security, where can men turn for hope, or where on earth can they look for refuge?
Let us then esteem it one of the noblest of all privileges to be engaged in such a service. Let us hold up the banner of truth and righteousness, and fling its folds to all the winds of heaven. Let us hail the opportunity of the defense of freedom on religious grounds.
Let nothing drive us from our citadel in
God's word, and our refuge in prayer, and nothing need terrify us, nor can any thing overcome us, for the cause of truth and freedom is God's cause, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.
Related Books by Rev. Cheever
Extension of Slavery (30 October 1856)
God Against Slavery and the Freedom and Duty of
the Pulpit To Rebuke It, As a Sin against God (Cincinnati:
American Reform Tract and Book Society, 1857)
Responsibility of the Church and Ministry Respecting
the Sin of Slavery (Boston: J. P. Jewett Pub, 1858)
The Curse of God Against Political Atheism: With
Some of the Lessons of the Tragedy at Harper's Ferry:
A Discourse Delivered in the Church of the Puritans,
New York, on Sabbath Evening, Nov. 6, 1859
(Boston: Walker, Wise, 1859)
Related Writings by Other Authors
Roman Catholic Anti-Slavery Material
T. Weld's Slavery Conditions
J. Fee's Anti-Slavery Manual
P. Pillsbury's Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles
W. Patton's Pro-slavery Interpretations
of the Bible: Productive of Infidelity
H. B. Stowe's Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin