Rev. Marshall Reinstated--The Troubles Continue--His Church Back under the Supervision of the White Baptist Church.
There can be no doubt but that the committee was mistaken in saying that the First African Church had renounced the government of the Baptist denomination. Rev. Marshall was a veritable Baptist. But he was just such a Baptist as his white brethren. He believed that the same spirit of freedom and independence that was in the white church ought to be in the colored church, and for this he contended just as an intelligent Baptist should have done. In this he was right, and God crowned his labors with the most signal success. That he had no disposition to isolate himself and church from the association of Baptists is clearly seen in the following petition, which was read before the Savannah Baptist Church (white), October 27th, 1834:
"The First African Church of Savannah reposing confidence in their brethren, the Savannah Baptist Church, and believing that they are willing to impart Christian advice to them in the circumstances under which they are placed, now throw themselves upon the friendly and Christian aid of their brethren for this purpose. Believing what they will advise will be consistent with the spirit and dictates of the Gospel, they will cheerfully comply with the advice which may be thus given. That good may result from this measure is the humble hope and prayer of, in behalf of the church,
"ADAM W. DOLLY, "Clerk."
The Savannah Baptist Church sent the First African Baptist Church the following reply:
"OCTOBER 26th, 1834.
"The Savannah Baptist Church has been applied to by the First African Baptist Church for its advice in relation to its present situation and future conduct, with the spirit, they hope, with which the Christian should be actuated; and with the best wishes for the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the members of this community, submit the following as their advice:
"The course which they recommend to be pursued, they look upon as the only one that can be adopted, with the well grounded hope of their being reinstated in the full enjoyment of their privileges and the Christian fellowship of their brethren. It is not to be understood that the Savannah Baptist Church, in giving the advice which is asked, take upon themselves the right to dictate what course shall be adopted. They would only be understood as advising as Christian brethren who are influenced by a lively interest of the First African Church. Our advice will seem to bear heavily upon an individual, but in advising the course herein stated, that individual's best interests are contemplated. It is considered as unquestionable that most if not all of the difficulties of this church have chiefly arisen from the imputation of their holding sentiments which are believed adverse to the fundamental truths of the Gospel; and the conduct which has grown out of an adherence to these sentiments is due to the individual who has propagated them. And here, it would be remarked, that this statement is not made with the view of criminating, but simply to express the cause of the existing difficulties. Andrew C. Marshall, who has filled the office of pastor of this church, and who has always exercised a controlling influence over it, is considered the organ through which these sentiments have been propagated. Besides preaching objectionable doctrine, which it is believed he has done, his conduct in other respects has been such as to have excited against himself strong prejudices at least, which still continue, and which it will require a long and continued series of entire propriety of conduct so far, indeed, as it is compatible with the frailties of human nature to maintain, in order to have them removed. Under these circumstances, therefore, we would advise the withdrawal of Andrew C. Marshall from the pastoral office as the first step which we think necessary to bring about a settlement of difficulties and a restoration to fellowship.
"In the next place, the disavowal of the doctrine imputed to the church should be unhesitatingly and fully made.
"Thirdly, and lastly, we would advise as an indispensable step to the settlement of the difficulties and differences between this and the other colored churches in this city in which is involved the removal of all the obstacles which interpose to prevent the attainment of this end--and here let it be remembered that we are bound to make mutual confession and concession which do not call for the relinquishment of principle in order to bring about a good understanding and state of things among Christians--to forget the past and exercise forbearance for the future. If this course be pursued, there can be very little doubt but that all is desirable will be effected. And how delightful it is to see brethren dwelling together in unity; should Andrew C. Marshall feel himself aggrieved by the advice herein given, which indeed is made necessary from the circumstances under which he has brought himself, or by the opinions and feelings entertained towards him, not only by a large portion of the religious community, but by others also, he can appeal to the association which it is believed will readily appoint a committee of investigation in relation to his case, and which will unquestionably act towards him as the circumstances which may be developed will justify and demand. In conclusion, it will be remarked that if a course of conciliation is not pursued the prejudice already created will be so riveted as not to be easily, if at all, removed, and it therefore behooves the church to act advisably and with caution. This is suggested in relation to its temporal condition and prospects, but surely its spiritual interests should be the object of paramount solicitude. If any other advice should be desired the church will readily and cheerfully afford it so far as it lies within their power to give.
"J. S. LAW, "A. HARMON,
"H. H. FURMAN,
"W. W. WASH,
Rev. A. C. Marshall was again in his church but it seemed that the trouble continued--these (white) brethren were still of the decided opinion that he ought not to be pastor, and as often as they were appealed to, they gave the same advice that Rev. Marshall should not be pastor. But in spite of them Rev. Marshall was reinstated pastor of the First African Baptist Church. In every advice asked by the First African Baptist Church, they always reserved the right to do as they thought best. They insisted upon the right of the church to refuse whatever they considered not to be after the dictates of the gospel. This teaching the committee (white) knew to have come from Rev. Marshall. Hence they always advised to get him out of the way. They feared that such independence as the gospel taught was "extremely dangerous" for the negroes to take in, being slaves. The First African Baptist Church soon after this came under the supervision of the Savannah Baptist Church. Peace did not long continue in the Third African Baptist Church. In the Conference of the Savannah Baptist Church (white), held August 24, 1835, a committee was "appointed to examine into the difficulties existing in the Third African Church." This trouble grew out of the fact that John Simpson and family, William Munger and family, and Arthur Stevens had become dissatisfied with the inability of the pulpit to edify them and wished to leave the church, but were refused letters of dismission. They applied to the white church for admission but were rejected. Doubtless, they now regret that they had left Rev. Marshall, an able preacher of the New Testament. Surely, if the shepherd is smitten the sheep will be scattered.
The Reformed Reader Home Page
Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved