Project Canterbury

Mankind and the Church
Being an Attempt to Estimate the Contribution of Great Races
To the Fulness of the Church of God

Edited by H. H. Montgomery

London, New York, Bombay and Calcutta: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907.

II.The Special Influence which the African or Negro Race May Exercise on the Future Developments of Christianity
The Most Rev. E. Nuttall, D.D., Archbishop of the West Indies

Chapter II. Characteristics of the Negro

The Negro population of the West as influenced by Christianity--In the United States--In the West Indies--In Jamaica--Characteristics of Negro religion--Realization of a personal God--The "emotional" character of Negro religion--This has been exaggerated--The Negro's love of music--Hymns--The social element in the religious life of the Negro--Christian charity--Loyalty and respect for law--The Negro mind is practical rather than ideal--Summary,

1. The next step in our inquiry must be an endeavour to form a reliable estimate of the extent to which the negro population in the countries of the West has been brought under direct religious influences. It is difficult to do this satisfactorily. There are different ways of reckoning membership in Churches, and classifications of various sorts are adopted in different countries. It is probably best to avoid attempts at minute statements of detail in an article like this, and endeavour to get as accurately as possible at the main facts.

2. The black and coloured population of the United States, as set forth in the census table given above, amounted in 1900 to 8,840,789. The following statement, according to Dr. Carroll, represents the membership in the various ecclesiastical organizations for the year 1903:--

 Denominations Ministers. Churches. Membership.
 Baptists 10,729 15,614 1,625,330
 Union American Methodists 180 205 16,500
 African Methodists 6,500 5,800 785,000
 African Union Methodist Protestants 68 68 2,930
 Congregational Methodists 3,386 3,042 551,591
 Coloured Methodists 5 5 319
Cumberland Presbyterians  450 400 39,000
   23,477 26,631 3,228,393

A number of coloured people are connected with separate Churches not in association with organized bodies of coloured Christians, but which form an integral part of those larger denominations which are chiefly composed of the white people. These are estimated as follows:--

 Denominations. Ministers. Churches. Membership.
 Methodists (Methodist Episcopal)     245,954
 Congregationalists 139 230 12,155
 Episcopalians 85 200 15,000
 Presbyterians 209 353 21,341

This statement, however, is defective in two respects. It does not specify any members of the Roman Catholic Church, and it does not mention the number of coloured people, which must be very considerable, who are members of local Churches chiefly composed of whites, and who are in no way distinguished from the rest of the membership in the statistical returns of such Churches. Besides these, there are perhaps nearly half a million coloured people distributed over the Northern States, [90/91] including the towns; and it may be assumed that a proportion of them (as large as in the South) are connected with different Churches. The most probable estimate I can form, putting all the facts together, is that there are four and a half million Church members in the United States. This means that about half the entire black and coloured population is definitely attached to some Church or religious organization.

Statistics in accordance with the above classification are not obtainable in detail in reference either to the West Indian or African Churches. This is mainly owing to two causes. First, the endeavour in most of the British possessions is to avoid emphasizing differences of race and colour among British subjects. Secondly, Church work in many places is a mixture of missionary and ordinary congregational or parochial work, and it is often not possible, in dissecting the returns, to separate these two. But it may be estimated with some confidence that in the West Indies and such sections of Africa as are somewhat similarly circumstanced (for example, Sierra Leone), the proportion of the black and coloured population definitely attached to Churches is much the same as shown in detail above for the United States--namely, one-half.

3 We have, as a necessary preliminary, considered some important facts of a general character bearing on certain phases of the main problem we are considering. We have realized what a large section of the population of the world the black African race constitutes; that the race is likely to continue and to increase; that under various conditions, where it has had the opportunity, it has responded to the claims of Christianity and accepted membership in the Church of Christ on a large scale, proportionate to the numbers brought within reach of Christianizing and civilizing influences. Many matters [91/92] of importance have not been touched in reaching these general facts. But we have seen enough of the history of these negroes, who have been transplanted from West Africa to the United States and the West Indies, to enable us to judge of the details which must now be considered, and to estimate the total result in its bearing on the main theme of this article.

I have no personal knowledge of the black races in Africa, but have considerable knowledge in regard to them of the kind to be obtained from books, and from intercourse with many persons well acquainted with African life. In addition to book-knowledge respecting the American negro, I have some personal acquaintance with the facts of his general religious history and condition; and also a considerable personal knowledge of the black people throughout the West Indies; and an experience extending over more than forty years in Jamaica during which I have been in constant touch with them.

It is worth while considering how far this state of knowledge and experience is an advantage or disadvantage in attempting to reach just conclusions on the subject of the present article. A considerable personal knowledge of the black races, as they exist at present in various parts of Africa, would undoubtedly influence opinion and affect judgment as regards the black people; but this would be, in the main, opinion and judgment regarding the raw material. It may be surmised that only in isolated cases, in Africa itself, are facts furnished which may fairly indicate, as the result of experience, the possibilities of the negro and his influence as a developed Christian in the direction to which this article refers. Even in the Southern States of America it may be questioned whether, notwithstanding the efforts of the various Churches and societies, the black man has had [92/93] opportunities, proportionate to his numbers, of coming really under the influence of an intelligent Christianity. On the other hand, it may be fairly claimed that in the West Indies, and speaking particularly of Jamaica, for two generations the black people have been so far under the influence of various forms of Christianity, that in the case of those who have yielded to that influence and become active members of Christian Churches, there is evidence of the more permanent traits of Christian character and life which will be exhibited by negro people on a large scale, when they become subject to the influences of Christianity and Christian civilization.

In countries where there are not the advantages of the British rule, or some equivalent representative of true justice and of modern civilization, the development of the black man may be expected both to proceed more slowly and to exhibit characteristics which do not manifest themselves in Colonial communities under British rule. Where the number of white people is large in proportion to the negro community, the development of negroes may have the tendency to be artificial. But in places situated like Jamaica there is, on the one hand, enough scope for the manifestation of the true tendency of the race in the exercise of individual freedom; and there is, on the other hand, the guidance and leadership of the white and educated coloured people, while yet their numbers are small in proportion to the total population. Out of a population of about 800,000 in Jamaica, only about 15,000 are white. The proportion is much greater in Barbados; and about the same in other British West Indian Colonies. It may therefore be taken for granted that what is observed in the West Indies in general, and in Jamaica in particular, should be accepted as a fair indication of what the negro will become in the course of several generations, where he is aided in his development [93/94] by just laws, a stable government, and the general leadership of white men without artificial conditions, but combined with the direct influences on a sufficient scale of effective Christian teaching and organization.

In a later section of this article it will be necessary to show that the negro has great need to learn many things in religion which are emphasized in the Christianity of other races, especially on the ethical and moral sides of Christianity; but here we proceed to consider some characteristic features of the Christianity of the Negro race which appear to be worthy of the notice of Christians belonging to the more advanced races of mankind.

1. One characteristic feature of negro religion which, when purified and developed on spiritual lines, would be a strength to Christendom and corrective of the vague ideas of other races, is the strong realization by the negro Christian of a personal God, and His immediate connection with the events of human life--physical and spiritual. It may be that this will be greatly modified by education and the trend of modern thought; but it seems to be an essential characteristic of the race.

It is fitting here to note the features in the native African negro's religion which correspond with this Christian development; for they will serve to indicate that this is a race characteristic. There is a mass of evidence or testimony available, and I have read much of it. It is therefore, perhaps, permissible for me here to say that, while the thoughtful and observant traveller in an African country may learn much concerning visible facts and circumstances as he passes from place to place, he is not likely to learn the true inwardness of things, or to get at the real mind of the negroes with whom he comes in contact. It requires a prolonged residence among them, and a large amount of real sympathy which will win [94/95] their confidence, before their real views and opinions and feelings can be ascertained. To any one wishing to pursue this branch of our subject in further detail than the limits of this article will admit, I commend the recently published book, "Fetichism in West Africa," by the Rev. Dr. Nassau. I am not personally acquainted with him; but I understand that, as a medical man and a missionary, he has had forty years of close contact with West African negro life, and has thus had special and prolonged opportunities of knowing thoroughly many African tribes, including some of the most debased.

It is quite easy to see that the reports of some travellers, including such as had no prejudice against Christianity or missionary work, to the effect that native Africans whom they met have confessed that they had no idea of the existence of God could be made in all sincerity. Such travellers, passing through a country with only a few days in which to make the acquaintance of any particular tribe, must have been unable to converse fluently, or to secure a reliable interpreter, and, not being in touch with native modes of thought and speech, could not make their questions intelligible. Moreover, the natives, unaccustomed to analytic thought, must answer vaguely on the spur of the moment, and, when not in antagonism, their obsequious tendency would lead them to give whatever answer they thought would best please their inquirer; and they would, in accordance with their habit, naturally assume that a confession of ignorance would be the most acceptable answer. And if even some missionaries, when first realizing the depth of native degradation, should have concluded that the African with whom they came in contact was without the knowledge of God, this would not be surprising. But whatever may have led, in any case, to such a conclusion, it is a profound [95/96] mistake. The following paragraphs from Dr. Nassau's book are worth pondering over, and to condense them would be to mutilate them:--

"After more than forty years' residence among these tribes, fluently using their language, conversant with their customs, dwelling intimately in their huts, associating with them in the varied relations of teacher, pastor, friend, master, fellow-traveller, and guest, and, in my special office as missionary, searching after their religious thought (and therefore being allowed a deeper entrance into the arcana of their soul than would be accorded to a passing explorer), I am able, unhesitatingly, to say that among all the multitude of degraded ones with whom I have met, I have seen or heard of none whose religious thought was only a superstition.

"Under varying names, such as Anyambe, Njambi, . . . Ukuku, and Suku, they know of a Being superior to themselves, of whom they themselves inform me that He is the Maker and Father. . . .

"If suddenly they should be asked the flat question, 'Do you know Anyambe?' they would probably tell any white visitor, trader, traveller, or even missionary, under a feeling of their general ignorance and the white man's superior knowledge, 'No. What do we know? You are white people and are spirits; you come from Njambi's town and know all about Him.' ... I reply, 'No, I am not a spirit; and while I do indeed know about Anyambe, I did not call Him by that name. It is your own word. Where did you get it?' 'Our forefathers told us that name. Njambi is the one who made us. He is our Father.' Pursuing the conversation, they will interestedly and voluntarily say, 'He made these trees, that mountain, this river, these goats and chickens, and us people.'

"That typical conversation I have had hundreds of times, under an immense variety of circumstances, with the most varied audiences, and before extremes of ignorance, savagery, and uncivilization. . . .

"The name of that great Being was everywhere and in every tribe, before any of them had become enlightened; varied in form in each tribe by the dialectic difference belonging to their own, and not imported from others.". .

[97] Miss Kingsley says, concerning the African negro--

"In every action of his daily life he shows you how he lives with a great, powerful spirit-world around him."

It may be considered quite certain that the negro mind, even in his original savagery, is strongly imbued with a belief in the existence of a great Creator and Ruler.

In keeping with the original bent of the negro mind, but modified and developed by Christianity, the negro Christian is especially strong in the habit of realizing the presence and power of God in all nature, in all life, in all circumstances. He sees God in everything. In all the providences and events of human life the negro Christian realizes not the working of some abstract and far-off Deity, but the hand of a loving, living, ever-present Divine Father. And this is exhibited in a willing, cheerful acceptance of sorrows and casualties and every form of trial, as being so many expressions of the Divine will; and so, being things that work for good. And with them prayer is not only a form to be observed, but a method of asking for things which may be expected to be obtained if the good Father thinks it wise and kind to bestow them. Within a year of my writing this a negro child, in a Christian family that I know, who had the race feeling on this subject, was in great sorrow because she had lost her dolly. No one could find it for her. She knelt down and shut her eyes, and reverently said this little prayer: "O God, comfort me and help me to remember where I lost my dolly." In weariness she fell asleep. When she awoke, she said, "I have dreamt of my dolly. I know where it is;" and she went and found it where she had lost it, and believed that God had heard her prayer; and then on the spot she knelt down again and offered this thanksgiving prayer: "O God, I thank Thee [97/98] for showing me where to find my dolly." That illustrates, in a simple form, what may be taken as a characteristic of a good negro Christian. It is a phase of Old Testament religion exhibited in modern Christian life.

To the negro mind, calamities, earthquake, hurricane, pestilence, accident, are to be ascribed definitely to the action of a personal God, the wisdom of whose working is not to be questioned. Sickness is God's sickness. In the case of a thoughtful negro Christian, overtaken with some great personal or family trouble or bereavement, there will be outbursts of sorrow and strong demonstrations of grief, accompanied perhaps by the piercing, though sometimes formal, wailing of friends who have come to fulfil the neighbourly duty of comforting; but the real and chief mourners make strong and successful efforts at self-control, maintaining an attitude of reverent submission. One is constantly reminded in such cases of the Psalmist's statement: "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it." And in like manner prosperous occasions, and what would be commonly spoken of as fortunate circumstances and lucky events, are directly ascribed to the goodness of God. Uncorrected, this tendency leads to fatalism and the absence of human effort to secure good and avoid evil. But qualified and modified by intelligence, Christian knowledge, and personal experience, it still leaves an attitude of the mind towards outward circumstances which is markedly different from that which almost or altogether misses the influence of a personal God in human events, and leaves everything to the operation of fixed law, or to chance, or to the control of a distant God. This strong realization of the personal element in the Divine government of the world is one in which the faith of Christendom as a whole needs strengthening.

2. There is one very commonly accepted view of negro [98/99] religion which needs to be more carefully considered and expressed than is usually the case. It is said to be very emotional. In some of the senses in which this word is used, my experience does not support the view. For example, while great crowds of ignorant negroes, who have got some knowledge of the primary truths of religion, would probably be worked upon very strongly by a preacher who knew how to appeal to their emotions at that stage of development, and the result might be all sorts of frantic and hysterical manifestations, I should look upon that not as a fundamental characteristic, but as an incident resulting from a certain stage of knowledge and culture. I have not had the opportunity of seeing the effect upon the second generation of fairly educated negro Christians of a powerful emotional preacher of their own race. Personally, I have witnessed greater emotional results of my own preaching upon the working classes in various parts of England, than among the negroes of the West Indies; and I have seen much more excitement as the result of preaching and speaking by others in England, than I have ever seen as the result of any preaching or speaking in the West Indies. There are certain forms of emotional excitement, and various manifestations thereof, in connection with some types of religious teaching and enthusiasm of a very elementary character; but these belong to a different category. I am at present trying to estimate the emotional condition of the intelligent and moderately well-educated negro Christian. Intelligent black people are not to be put off by sermons which consist mainly of appeals to the feelings and have no real instruction in them, and are lacking in matter calculated to inform and influence the judgment. They will gladly listen to and appreciate a teaching sermon, and will follow the preacher with care throughout a long discourse of the kind if it is delivered with [99/100] clearness and force. Yet it is also true that, apart from what may be expected as suitable to a special occasion, a preacher who appeals to the intellect only will fail to be appreciated. There must, in order to satisfy, be that in a sermon which is sometimes called "unction," when looked at from the spiritual side, or which may be spoken of as emotional, because it is fitted to touch and move the affections and emotions. Some years ago, after removing a devoted and able clergyman to a fresh and important sphere of work for which I believed him to be well qualified, I had a wish to ascertain why he had not been as acceptable as I thought he should have been in his former cure. On my next visitation I sought to ascertain the facts about the matter. In accordance with my expectation, there was no complaint of any neglect of duty, and it seemed for some time unlikely that I should learn anything of what I wanted to know. But eventually an elderly negro, who was also a ripe and earnest Christian, ventured to give expression to his own feelings and those of his brethren, by the statement that "there is nothing the matter with the parson except that his sermons are too lean." This was to express the idea that they were appeals to the intellect, but not to the heart. Is it not possible that throughout the Church a stronger emphasis is required to be put upon that method of presenting Christian truth which, besides satisfying the intellect, also moves the heart? Is it not possible that the demands of the Negro race in this particular are such as would help the spread of Christian truth and life in other communities if the conditions were observed? Mere appeals to the feelings soon lose their influence for the negro, as they would for other races; but presentation of the truth in a form which includes both, informing the mind and moving the affections, ought to be an essential element in Christian preaching generally.

[101] 3. "It is curious what a stirring effect the sound of the tam-tam has on the African. It works upon him like martial music does upon the excitable Frenchman."

"They are passionately fond of music, and it exerts a very great influence upon their lives."

These quotations refer to the African in Africa in his uncivilized condition. They are indications of the natural bent of the race. Educated negroes are not incapable of appreciating music in its highest forms. They are able to take a full and effective share in the vocal and instrumental presentation of the great oratorios; and among the mixed audiences in the West Indies a large and appreciative section will always be the black people. It has long been a part of the fixed arrangement of my duties for the year that I should share in the great service, and preach the sermon, in the forenoon of Easter Day at the parish church, Kingston, Jamaica. Among the incidents of that service, again and again I have been deeply moved and touched by the careful rendering, by the mixed choir, of some fine anthem suitable for the day. And that anthem has often included a solo, sung by a black member of the choir, with a correctness, grace, and sweetness, and power of voice, which held the attention and expressed the devotional feelings of the vast congregation, made up of large numbers of black and coloured people, and also many educated persons of various races, and tourists from England and America--the latter at first surprised and then gratified, and finally forgetting, under the influence of the sacred feelings stirred within them, that she who thus expressed in sacred song the great Easter truth was a black woman. But it is also the fact that a type of music, which I shall most lucidly describe to the general reader by saying that it finds its characteristic expression in the plantation songs of the [101/102] Southern States, is peculiarly representative of negro taste and feeling. The following quotation from Sinclair's book, "The Aftermath of Slavery," brings out this fact in connection with the thought and feeling of the negro of the Southern States in his time of bondage and sorrow:--

"They learned how to use the title of one of their sweet melodies to "Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus," and find strength, comfort, and sustaining help in every time of need. They seem also to have demonstrated that liberty is an instinct of the human heart; for in the blackest hour of the long night of their gloomy bondage, they sang most gleefully, and with joyous, hopeful hearts, another of their soul-inspiring melodies--

"'One of these days I shall be free,
When Christ the Lord shall set me free.'

"This song was forbidden by the slave-owners, because its spirit would tend to keep alive the thirst for liberty. It is but another illustration of the wisdom of the man who said, 'Let me write the songs of a people, and I care not who may write their laws.'

"The negroes hoodwinked the master class by humming the music of this particular song, while the words echoed and re-echoed deep down in their hearts with perhaps greater effect than if they had been spoken. These melodies were to them the Incarnation--God with them; and to their keen and simple faith He seemed to be visible and tangible, ever present and ever blessed. These songs had a meaning and power which all men may appreciate, but which the negro alone could fully comprehend. Songs are the heart-language of a people; and as the negro heart-language, it is not surprising that these melodies should touch and melt human hearts the world over. Queens, emperors, and potentates of the Old World, the President in the White House, the most cultured and fashionable audiences everywhere had been moved and melted to tears by their rendition. Of a truth, as a heart-language they are at once the interpretation and exemplification of that wondrous touch of nature 'which makes the whole world kin.' In them was the [102/103] secret of the sustaining power which enabled the negroes to weather the storms of their bitter afflictions and sing--

"'I'm sometimes up and sometimes down,
Oh! yes, Lord!
Sometimes almost to the ground,
Oh! yes, Lord.

"'Nobody knows the trouble I see,
Nobody knows but Jesus;
Nobody knows the trouble I see,
Glory in my soul.'

"It was this glory in the soul that enabled them not only to withstand all the grinding experiences, tribulations, and beastialities of the slave system, but even to flourish and multiply." . . .

So fond are negroes of music that even out of scanty wages they will manage to buy some sort of musical instrument. In digging yam-hills and other field-work, the hoes descend in regular time to the "song without words," which echoes from mountain to mountain in pleasing harmony--solo and chorus, and also extra parts added (at their own sweet will) which never seem to mar the melody or jar on the ear. They appear to possess an intuitive knowledge of harmony, and they have a remarkable capacity of adding impromptu parts, or single notes which emphasize the melody and produce no discord, in such simple rhythms as a music-loving but uncultured people naturally furnish; though some of their tunes are not lacking in dramatic effect at times.

It is probable that music of a kind fitted to appeal to the sympathies of the negro at numerous stages of his mental growth, and adapted to the development of his tastes rather than aiming to supplant them, may do much towards promoting his mental and moral elevation; and all who have at heart the interests and advancement of this race should ever keep this important factor in their recollection, and make the fullest use of it.

[104] The natural musical taste of the negro when chastened and developed, as it is in some of the best words and music of modern sacred songs, must be allowed full opportunity of use in public worship, or a large element of the negro taste is not satisfied and finds no expression. Congregational worship must include hymns and tunes which meet this need. One only has to hear a congregation of a few hundred or a couple of thousand persons joining as with one voice in a familiar and popular hymn, set to such music, to realize that herein is an element of feeling and taste which must be provided for and encouraged to find full scope for its expression; and it needs to find its legitimate and recognized place in the hymnody and music of the Church Universal.

It is worthy of remark here that the Roman Catholic Church has, among other things, shown its power of adaptation to circumstances in the West Indies, by a large use of tunes actually associated with Protestant worship, and hymns and sacred songs to correspond; also by making arrangements for the conduct of popular services by laymen in the absence of the priest, of which these hymns form a conspicuous portion.

4. The negro manifests his religious social instincts in his love of religious services in which he can take a share. This element is provided for among the non-liturgical Churches in prayer-meetings and other gatherings in which he takes an active part. It is probably this element which, contrary to what is sometimes supposed or asserted, makes the educated negro specially appreciative of, and at home in, services furnished by the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. In every form of Christian worship this social instinct has opportunity to manifest itself in the hymn-singing, which is usually joined in with great fervour. As regards the Church of England, both the responses in the prayers [104/105] and litanies, and the canticles and hymns, are joined in with an earnestness and a fulness seldom realized in other communities. This same characteristic makes guilds, unions, and societies of various kinds for religious and secular purposes popular and necessary. Isolation in Church life is repugnant to the negro.

The extent to which the social element is developed in the religious life of some of the Amerioan negroes shows how largely it is expressive of negro character, and at the same time what need there is of keeping this element in check, so as to restrain its manifestations within such bounds as will minister to edification and not develop irreverence.

"The negro Church is the peculiar and characteristic product of the transplanted African, and deserves special study. As a social group the negro Church may be said to have antedated the negro family on American soil; as such it has preserved, on the one hand, many functions of tribal organizations, and, on the other hand, many of the family functions. Its tribal functions are shown in its religious activity, its social authority, and general guiding and co-ordinating work; its family functions are shown by the fact that the Church is a centre of social life and intercourse; acts as newspaper and intelligence bureau, is the centre of amusements--indeed, it is the world in which the negro moves and acts. . . . Without wholly conscious effort the negro Church has become a centre of social intercourse to a degree unknown in white Churches, even in the country. All sorts of entertainments and amusements are furnished by the Churches--concerts, suppers, socials, fairs, literary exercises and debates, cantatas, plays, excursions, picnics, surprise parties, celebrations. ... In this way the social life of the negro centres in his Church; baptism, wedding and burial, gossip and courtship, friendship and intrigue--all lie within these walls." [Du Bois.]

There can be no doubt that this social element may [105/106] easily be exaggerated in the religious life of the people, because it is so fully in the direction of their tastes and feelings. But where the Church organization is well compacted, and the people generally are under the control of the more intelligent and spiritually advanced, the exaggerations in this direction will not obtain permanent sway. I am the more convinced of this because not only have we no difficulty of this sort in the Church of England in Jamaica, but I have reason to believe that in the Baptist and other communities in Jamaica, more largely consisting of black people, these social demonstrations seldom take an exaggerated form.

This social characteristic which we are now discussing has also its bearing on forms of Christian charity. The readiness with which help is given to poor persons in cases of real necessity is very marked. It is perhaps a characteristic of the poor everywhere to be more ready than the rich to help their neighbours; but it is specially marked in the negro. So the hungry man will often share his scanty meal with the poor neighbour; and not only that, but a poor workman on the road, sitting on the bank to eat his breakfast, will never fail to offer a little to the passer-by who stops to say good morning. In this connection I am reminded of an incident which struck me at the time as a vivid illustration of the way in which the social and religious habits of a people exercise a far-reaching influence, not only on the character and conduct of the individual, but on the development and destiny of the race. In the course of a long journey I had stopped to rest and feed my horses under a tree by the roadside, and the driver and myself had each our own breakfast. Guided by the habit acquired during many years of such journeys and intimate connection with the people, I offered to share my meal with two or three wayfarers who were resting near by [106/107] in the friendly shade, and who gladly accepted the courtesy, and at the same time entered into conversation; they were well clad, intelligent black men on a journey to a distant town. As we talked there came up an East Indian labourer, weary with his walk in the hot sun, but not with the burden of the dress of a Western traveller, for he had on only a loin-cloth and a puggaree. After the usual salutations and inquiries concerning his welfare, I offered some food to him also. But he refused it, and shrank from the hand that offered it with gestures that looked like expressions of mingled feelings of loathing and of contempt. My food, including the touch of the hand that had cooked it and the method of its cooking, would have contaminated him, and he would not accept it; for though he was a half-clad hungry sojourner in this island of the West, was he not a Brahmin, into whose mouth nothing common or unclean had ever entered? There was, by virtue of his training and the habit of his caste, a great social gulf between us. I felt rebuked for my presumption, sorry for my thoughtlessly attempted infraction of a social law to him dearer than life, and saddened to think that I could not begin my intercourse with this stranger on the footing of a man and a brother; and then my thoughts went off to India, and to the noble band of men and women--messengers of Christ, who are trying to break down the great walls of partition, and to make it easier for people of all the castes to come, into the brotherhood of Jesus Christ; and with a prayer for these my brother missionaries in the far-off Eastern lands, and a thanksgiving that I had not this difficulty to contend with in my ministrations here, I started afresh on my journey. The Church which does not exhibit the brotherhood of Christians will have little prospect of real progress among black people.

As illustrating the aptitude of the negro to respond [107/108] and enter into the social element of religion, I quote the following from the London Times of September 9, 1905. Its American correspondent wrote concerning the Annual Convention of the National Negro Business League which had been recently held in New York:--

"This Conference, attended by delegates from local leagues in all parts of the country, gave remarkable evidence of the progress made by the 'coloured man' in commercial activities of many types. His successes in literature, art, and the professions were for the moment ignored, and attention was concentrated on his achievements in business pure and simple. The most interesting sessions of the Conference were those in which firsthand accounts were given of individual struggles and successes. Many who were present were accustomed to the [religious] experience meeting, and they felt no more diffidence in giving their 'testimony' in business matters than in religious. Some of these life histories were striking examples of the conquest of difficulties."

The point in the above quotation which strikes me as bearing upon the special purpose of this article, is the contrast which it presents between the average negro and the average Englishman. In a conference of Englishmen on religious subjects, it might have been stated that many of the speakers had been accustomed to interchange opinions in business experiences, and that this had fitted them for speaking clearly and without reserve on religious experiences in a religious assembly; in the case of the American Negro, the reverse was the fact. It was his habit of expressing and discussing spiritual experiences in social and religious gatherings that had prepared him for discussions of a similar character in regard to business.

There may be missions among the negroes--and even successful missions--in which this social element finds little scope for manifestation. It is probable that if from [108/109] the very beginning of a mission in a negro country a form of religious service were adopted and used which allowed little or no opportunity for the people sharing in the public expression of prayer and praise, or in semi-public religious exercises in which the social element found adequate scope, the converts could be trained to the acceptance of such a form of service and of such a type of religion. But my impression is, that whenever or wherever a different form, which gave them the opportunity of sharing in the worship, came under their notice, the bulk of them would desire to use it, and would not be contented till they secured the opportunity. This would be the case because the congregational worship and the social element in subsidiary forms of service appeal to their nature. Whether the emotion to be expressed be one of joy or of sorrow, it must be openly expressed: they must share it with others. Similarly as regards the actual work of the Church, there is a natural tendency to wish to take a personal share in it. Unfit persons often have this wish: they feel called to preach even to large congregations; but a wise administration gives them the opportunity of exercising their gifts in a humbler sphere. But it is not only unfit persons who have this wish to be publicly useful. It is a very general feeling; and by judicious selection, and with a due amount of training and preparation, the lay people in a well-ordered Christian community give considerable aid in the functions of the Church--in guilds and unions and associations; in managing the local business affairs; in conducting mission services and the like, and including often an important and effective share in the preaching. The growing spiritual influence of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew in the Church of England in Jamaica is a striking example of this.

This social idea is manifested also in the readiness [109/110] of black people to realize responsibility for the maintenance of the Church, and to exercise self-denial for that purpose. This quality is strongly exhibited in most intelligent and really earnest black Christians. It shows itself both in money gifts, which are large in proportion to their small earnings, and in the giving of materials for Church buildings and of days of free labour. As illustrating this part of the subject, it may be here stated that the clergy of the Church of England in Jamaica, numbering about one hundred, and the whole machinery of the Church and its various organizations, are maintained principally by the voluntary contributions of the black and coloured working folk; and this is largely the case as regards Moravians, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists.

This social religious element in its due proportion is a true expression of the Christian spirit, and is capable of strengthening the forces of Christianity and its effective influence both upon the nominal or unattached sections of the community in Christian countries, and upon the non-Christian populations of the world. It is a fine product of the fundamental teaching of the Church, which exhibits it as a family, a brotherhood, with a common Father.

5. The negro has a strong appreciation of the authority of law. This manifests itself in civil affairs. He not only makes a loyal subject, but readily admits his responsibility to obey the law of the land. Even in things in which he fails to obey, he does not dispute the authority, but makes the best excuses he can for his non-obedience. This is in accordance with the characteristics frequently manifested in native African life.

"It has been noted in many instances where the white man has firmly asserted an ascendency over a few personal attendants or employees, and followed every delinquency with swift and unerring discipline, that the [110/111] natives instead of becoming sullen and cunningly vindictive, come to have the greatest respect and attachment for him, and exhibited a fidelity to his interests never otherwise secured among West Africans. Du Chaillu found that as long as he was merely kind and considerate with his porters, they cared less for him and his fate than when he assumed an attitude of despotic power, asserted his will with decision, and brooked no dilly-dallying or deception, on pain of death on the spot. They then seemed to have a sort of pride in their master, boasted of the very qualities in him which compelled their obedience, and parted from him with sorrow at the end of a tour. It is always the strong-minded, uncompromising, governor or officer along the coast who becomes the most popular with the natives, and is most heartily sustained by their public opinion." [Du Bois.]

This trait of the negro character is often brought into evidence in his Church relations. There are, of course, small Christian sects in which the authority of the bodies from which they secede is repudiated. These small sects exist for the reason which has brought into existence various sects in other countries and ages, namely, to give special expression to some religious opinion, or to carry out some special religious observances. But even within these small sects, so long as they exist, the duty of submission to authority is recognized. In the corporate life of the large denominations, and the well-established Churches, this is a strong feature. Not only is discipline submitted to, but, while wrongdoers everywhere are glad enough to avoid disciplinary authority, the general sense of the community unwaveringly supports the recognized lawful discipline; and there is a sense of ignominy in belonging to a congregation or Church in which order and discipline are not maintained. And so it comes to pass that in all the religious denominations in Jamaica, and not least in the Church of England, there [111/112] is generally maintained a firm discipline in morals which leads to the suspension of offenders, and often their public suspension or exclusion from Church privileges. This is expected and appreciated by the .membership generally; and the clergyman or minister of any denomination who vacillates, and is weak in the administration of discipline, does not thereby in any way add to his popularity and general acceptance, much less to the strength of his organization. On the whole, a firm discipline which errs on the side of severity is more appreciated than a discipline which errs on the side of weakness, provided that there is no favouritism or inequality in the administration. They like to be led by a firm hand, and ruled by clear and strong law which they can understand. In these qualities Christianized sections of the race may assist the growth in the Christian community generally of sound ideas as to due subordination to wise ecclesiastical authority.

The survey furnished throughout this book of the characteristics of the larger divisions of mankind will probably be thought by many to warrant the conclusion that the fundamental differences between races in the matters herein discussed are only two; that there are divers and important variations; but that in essence they represent two sides of human nature--the philosophical and the practical, the idealistic and the realistic, the abstract and the concrete. It is, however, perhaps important to remember that part, at least, of this fundamental difference is the result of culture, or the absence of it, and that all special race tendencies will eventually be modified by time and culture. Yet within any period that we can realize the differences will abide which are best expressed by the words East and West, or Hindu and Englishman. The Negro race falls under the class practical rather than the class ideal; the concrete facts of religion alone appeal [112/113] to the negro mind. To a certain extent, this (as in the case of the Englishman) has its variations resulting from culture; but the boundary line is not crossed. The negro conception of Christianity cannot become that of the Asiatic.

Let us here take note of the fact that what each race contributes to the sum of Christian thought and practice includes action and reaction. What one emphasizes and another neglects will, as time passes and intercommunication increases, tell upon the whole body of Christian thought; defects will be remedied and excrescences be removed, and Christianity will tend more and more to become a perfect expression of the whole of the Divine teaching as interpreted by the thoughts, experience, and needs of the whole human race. But there will still be the fundamental differences arising from mental construction, and the tendency to appreciate matters in the abstract or the concrete.

To sum up, therefore, the indications resulting from the various facts discussed in this article, the subjects, the habits of thought, and the modes of action in which the Christianity of the Negro race will, to a considerable degree, affect the sum-total of Christianity in the future, may be stated under the following heads:--

(1) Realizing the personality of God and the objectivity of Divine manifestation. Cheerful acceptance of all providential arrangements as the acts of a wise and loving God. Old Testament religion in a Christian form.

(2) The emotional element generally in the presentation of truth, and the experimental realizing of it.

(3) Musical tastes of a particular kind, and the emotional expression of religious ideas in music, in song, and in worship.

(4) The social element. The sense of brotherhood in the Church. Taking an active personal share in the [113/114] services of public worship, and in the actual work of the Church. Supporting the Church financially. Community in service and sympathy in affliction and in joy as well as sorrow.

(5) A strong appreciation of the authority of the Church, and recognition of the value of its disciplinary arrangements.

Project Canterbury