Document 10: "Rev. Antoinette Brown's Discourse at Metropolitan Hall," New York Daily Tribune, Sept. 5, 1853, p. 5.


   The Tribune carried this detailed account of the religious service, led by Rev. Antoinette L. Brown, at Metropolitan Hall the preceding Sunday. It is of substantial interest for several reasons. One is that it provides an introduction to the sort of Christian belief and practice favored by many reformers. Their opponents often relied upon Scripture in defending slavery, drinking alcohol, and keeping women "subject" to their husbands. As a result, reformers had to develop forms of Christianity hospitable to the changes they sought.[40] Another reason is Rev. Brown's ability to fill the hall. Some might have attended merely out of curiosity. Their presence too testifies to her renown.

   The next morning Rev. Brown returned to Metropolitan Hall to seek her place on the speaker's platform at the World Temperance Convention.

[p. 5]

Rev. Antoinette Brown's Discourse at Metropolitan Hall, Sunday Sept. 4

   At an early hour the great Hall began to fill with a most respectable and intelligent audience, and the inevitable noise made by the hundreds of moving feet absolutely compelled a postponement of the opening services till nearly 11 o'clock. Comparative quiet being at length attained-—the Hall being entirely filled on the ground floor, nearly so in the lower, and with quite an assemblage in the upper gallery-—Miss BROWN appeared on the platform attended by a few friends, among whom LUCRETIA MOTT, LUCY STONE, CHARLES C. BURLEIGH and other eminent champions of Anti-Slavery were prominent. Mr. GEO. W. CLARK, the well-known Anti-Slavery vocalist, who acted as chorister, had already invited all Clergymen and other friends who saw fit to do so to take seats on the platform, which was very soon filled. A few Hymn-books having with difficulty been procured, she announced and read Hymn 466 of the Wesleyan Collection, which, to the familiar tune of Aulanville, was sung with spirit and power by the choir and congregation. Miss BROWN then proceeded to read with signal clearness and impressiveness, chap. xiiii. of I. Corinthians, and then led the congregation to the Throne of Grace in a prayer wherein she recognized and insisted on Christ and Christian Faith as the corner-stone of all true Reform-—love to God and Man being the essential basis of each. Next followed Hymn 551 of the Wesleyan Collection, sung in congregational style to the tune of Hebron: and then Miss BROWN arose and said-—

   My text it found in Jeremiah, xliv., 4:

"O! do not this abominable thing, which I hate."

   Many deeds have been noble in the eyes of all men; for example, Generosity, which has had, like the music of the spheres, an all-pervading quality to delight. It has been equally appreciated by the Indian in, his forest, the volatile Frenchman, the German, the Englishman, and the American. There is another class of deeds, which are viewed according to the caprice of fashion, and in this way, things, intrinsically right are made disreputable by custom; and again, things intrinsically wrong are sanctioned by the same unstable rule. But the real character of any act remains unchanged, whether condemned or upheld by popular opinion. There is a higher standard than that opinion, namely: the motive, and the unchangeable moral law. When the Jews fell into idolatry, they exalted the worship of idols into something praiseworthy; but God sent prophets, exclaiming, as in the text,--"Do not this abominable thing which I hate!" Sin may become honorable in the eyes of men, but its nature is low and groveling; its essence is baseness; it grows out of an inordinate love of self-gratification; it forgets God in over remembrance of self; and all this is to advance the petty interests of the little pigmy, whose rights and happiness he wantonly destroys. Thus, God is wronged through the wrongs done to his children, and the violation of his good and impartial laws: men would dethrone Jehovah to enthrone "I," with all its guilt and littleness. The name of the miser has become a by word and a hissing among men; his habits are caricatured, and himself drawn out in effigy by many a one who is basely avaricious of some other good than money, on which he has set his heart. All sin, under whatever Proteus shape it may conceal itself, is despicable. It may be gilded by custom till it looks almost like genuine gold, but whose [sic] takes it as such is made its victim. Persons traveling on railroad cars are often arrested by a boy, who whines, almost verging on tears, "Buy this gold pencil-—I "found it." But this vendor of gold pencils which are always lost to be found, is ready to cock his eye knowingly at a hint from you that you understand the trick; he walks away, and seeks another customer. So with all the sins of the day: they are of base metal and surreptitious origin, and cannot bear the test of an understanding scrutiny-—look at them steadily, and they fade into the domain of vice.

   Our subject, then, is the mean and abominable nature of sin. We shall illustrate this by examples of specific sins; and, for contrast, shall dwell on the exalted character of holiness.

   While sin looks honorable and genteel, men will embrace it; but let its true nature be known, and they will as soon take toads and lizards for companions as harbor it. Thousands will indulge in fashionable sins which are just as wicked as stealing, who would not, for their right hand, be found thieving. Public opinion, as well as law, condemns the latter; but tear off the silver veil of any sin, and you will equally see its Mokanna face. Slander is in vogue. Ladies can sigh over the story of a sister's failings, but while they sigh, weave another small place into the web of defamation; and men, in speaking of the faults of a friend, add ever a little more, until the offense grows to an enormous stature. Slander is a gentlemanly and lady-like sin! But look at it as a wanton moral theft; look at the small cowardly satisfaction it affords to the thief of his neighbor's good fame. Look at the effect on the listener, whose heart is covered by slander as by a plaster, till pity has no opening to issue from; whose sensibility is poisoned as effectually as an application of poisonous Spanish flies stings the quivering flesh, while the poor victim perishes, even by those who might have helped him to outlive his fault. "It is worse to purloin the fragments of a character already shivered, then to steal our neighbor's goods. However, there is always this comfortable assurance, "I am sorry! Mr. Somebody was my informant, but I cannot give his name; I am very sorry." This is no amends, besides being pitiful. The slander has taken flight, and it will not droop till its pinions fail, and it shall have scattered its venom everywhere. The common thief may steal to buy bread and meet an animal necessity; but the slanderer gloats over the weakness of others to gratify a moral depravity to which, though nauseous, he returns, as a dog to his vomit.

   All sin may be made to resolve itself into the one crime of theft, for all sin consists in taking away good from some source, and appropriating it. The liar steals truth, and gives to the world a counterfeit. The avari[ci]ous man robs the poor, hoarding up treasures which should be scattered like dew drops over a multitude of thirsty souls. The glutton devours more than belongs to him, and gorges his own stomach, forgetful of the starving crowds who have a right to enough of God's food to sustain their fainting natures. A covetous disposition would steal the moisture from his neighbor's fields in time of drouth, would pilfer his neighbor's sunbeams rather than gather his own from the great fountain of sunlight. In his heart he has already stole[n] his neighbor's wife, his man servant and his maid servant, his ox and his ass. The murderer steals life, the tyrant liberty. Every sinner steals something, and all are no more than thieves.

   Sin, whether in the palace or the cot, is low lived; it debases the worship which humanity owes to virtue with the mean idolatry it pays to self. Oh! give us light to see the nature of sin, and strength to resist the tempter, who would lead us to destruction! How beautiful the darkest abomination can be made to appear! It is a gentlemanlike thing to drink wine. Kings and Presidents have ennobled the custom by their august patronage. Wine is the sparkling type of the aristocracy of manhood. Men drink, and think themselves Gods, not remembering that, piece by piece, they immolate whatever of godlike is in them.

   Were a sinless angel to be told that men were making a beverage of the distilled elixir of madness, he would turn away incredulous. Happy angel! If he knew the true meanness of sin, he would know that wine drinking is of a piece with all the rest-—that there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrid sores.

   Again, look at the spirit of caste; aristocratic pride in any form is as utterly devoid of good sense and refined taste as a block of stone. Poetry is far removed from it, and true virtue would hide its face in its presence. Look at the petty popular prejudice against color, steadily in the face. A quaint old writer speaks of five hundred angels dancing on the point of a cambric needle: of the same size must be the soul of him so prejudiced, a grain of mustard seed in that mammoth pumpkin, his great body. Let this mass of flesh be wrapped up in a white skin, ever so thin, (so that the real animal breaks through it.) the owner of it thinks himself one of nature's aristocracy; and the little soul it envelops, borrowing a pair of fleas wings, hops up to a light whence it scornfully looks down upon the whole colored race. You will be sneered at unless you weigh mind against a little coloring matter. Sin shows its smallest aspects in our peculiar prejudices. May Heaven alleviate our unmitigated stupidity!

   Let us now turn to contemplate the pure character of holiness, let us pass from the mire of sin into the sunshine of God's presence, where our souls appear to be made pure by being purely shone upon. The essence of all holiness is unselfishness; and through the life of a pure man, unseen angels stand ever around him. He kneels at the deathbed and hears the wretch's cry of horror, "Can I die so?" Draw near to the comforter, forgiveness glows upon his countenance. Neighbors may have been wronged, but the good man seems to take all these wrongs to himself and promises forgiveness. God has been wronged, but the good man seems to have entered into the heart of the Deity, and promises pardon where there is true repentance. Virtue stands unmoved amid human insults, for here is heavenly gain. The holy man draws nourishment from the vine of life, while the sinner is a parasite on the tree of darkness. The one is bathed in dews from above, the other in fogs from the vile earth. There are but two classes, the holy and the sinful, and to the sinful there is but one resource, the Throne of Eternal Virtue.

   The preacher concluded with a brief but most eloquent and touching prayer.

   Mr. CLARK then sang Montgomery's sacred poem

"A poor way-faring man of grief,"

founded on the saying of Christ, (Matthew xxv., 45.)

   "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, my disciples, ye did it unto me." and then, with a brief benediction, the congregation was dismissed, and its leviathan bulk gradually melted away.

back to top