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174CIVIL WAR HISTORY Modern Revivalism and Nye's Fettered Freedom. Use of primary sources is equally narrow. The reader wonders how Meredith knows that Beecher personified a certain type of inner religious struggle and what Beecher's relation to the abolitionist movement was. Those sections of the The Politics of the Universe that explore Beecher's mind will, however, be highly useful to other specialists in nineteenth-century American intellectual history. ArLEEN S. KRADITOR Sir George Williams University Presbyterians and the Negro: A History. By Andrew E. Murray. (Philadelphia : Presbyterian Historical Society, 1966. Pp. xiv, 270. $6.00) This is a book with a mission. The author, a Presbyterian minister and theologian, was writing during the hopeful and exhilarating days when black and white ministers and people of all denominations were joining hands in the face of fire hoses, dogs, imprisonment, and even death, singing "we shall over come" for "the Lord is on our side." At that point in history, the Christian minister could see the goals of the civil rights movement almost in reach. Racial prejudice, the barrier to racial justice, would be removed and the civil rights movement transformed into "a prophetic movement in social reform" when white Christians became genuinely repentent. The author perceived the "key" to this redemption to be "a new and deeper awareness of the past." He intends that his book serve as a part of the key to this redemption for his fellow Presbyterians. In spite of this lofty mission, the author writes sound history. This book is neither a polemic nor a tract for the times. Murray has examined the white Presbyterians' attitudes toward and involvement with their fellow black Presbyterians and other Negroes from Colonial times to the 1960's. Presbyterianism seems to have had little or no liberalizing affect on the racial views of its adherents. During the Colonial period, few efforts were made to bring slaves into the church. Those ministers who did evangelize among the slaves took the position of other denominations in the British colonies that conversion to Christianity would not affect the slave's status. Moreover, like their fellow Christians, Presbyterians considered the institution of slavery to be ordained by God. Individuals such as William Livingstone, Elias Boudinot, and George Bryan fought slavery, but they were the exceptions. Murray found that the church as a corporate body reflected the views held by the great majority of its individual members. Even under the influence of the liberal revolutionary philosophy on the eve of the American Revolution, the highest body of the Presbyterian church, the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, would not condemn slavery as a moral wrong. BOOK REVIEWS175 Even the somewhat favorable image the Presbyterians have enjoyed with respect to abolitionism suffers under Murray's reassessment. He considers the defrocking of ministers strongly opposed to slavery—such as George Bourne—more characteristic of Presbyterianism than the pious resolution passed by the General Assembly in 1818 condemning slavery in principle. Furthermore, contrary to the impression of the antislavery work of Presbyterian divines that may come from reading Dwight L. Dumond, Murray concludes that the "total Presbyterian contribution to abolitionism was modest and should not be exaggerated ." Charles Grandison Finney, Theodore D. Weld, and James G. Birney were among that small minority of indomitable idealists and crusaders to be found in any denomination or group. The author found the Presbyterian ministry to the freedmen more enlightened than that to the slave. Education was the most significant form of this ministry. Schools and colleges for Negroes supported by Presbyterians were among the best in the country. Church polity, however , was not changed to raise black Presbyterians to first-class membership . Until 1954, the Presbyterian organization was segregated, with black members excluded from important boards and agencies. A recurring question and the major theme in this book is why did so few Negroes become Presbyterians. Surprisingly, the author's attempts to deal with this question form the weakest sections of the book. His general conclusion is that Negroes typically were attracted to churches which were free of white control. On the other hand, "Presbyterianism seemed to be suspicious of Negro religious life which stressed emotion over reason." Unfortunately...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 174-176
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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