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Christianity and the American Commonwealth

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Christianity and the American Commonwealth

Introduction

By Gary DeMar

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Charles Betts Galloway (1849–1909) was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, September 1, 1849. His early schooling came by way of private tutoring. At fourteen he attended a school for boys in Canton, and at sixteen he entered the University of Mississippi as a sophomore. He became a Christian during a revival at the university and later felt called to preach the gospel. His first pastorate was in Jackson. After serving four years in Jackson, he began a four-year pastorate in Vicksburg in what was the strongest church in the Mississippi Conference at that time. The character and pastoral heart of Charles Galloway became evident during a yellow fever epidemic in 1878.

Galloway and his wife remained in the city and daily served the sick and the dying. Contracting the disease, both became desperately ill, and the physician, believing that Galloway was near death, permitted friends to bring his wife on a mattress to his side for their last words together. When the kindly neighbors returned to the room, Galloway said, “I am willing and ready to go, but I cannot think I will go at this time. I have much work yet to do.” [1]

Galloway recovered and continued to pastor and take on the additional responsibility of the editorship of the New Orleans Christian Advocate. At the age of 36, he became the youngest man ever elected a bishop in American Methodism. In his ministerial capacity, he made so many official tours of the Orient and South America that he earned the title of “missionary bishop of Methodism.” He was also a popular preacher, lecturer, and a famous temperance leader in his day.

Galloway spoke out on racial relationships in a time when there were few reasonable and passionate voices on the subject. His address on The South and the Negro” was delivered at the seventh annual conference for education in the South, at Birmingham, Alabama, on April 26, 1904. During his speaking tour through Mississippi, Booker T. Washington mentions in his book My Larger Education that Galloway was in attendance at one of his meetings:

Everywhere, I found the greatest interest and enthusiasm among both the white people and coloured people for the work that we were attempting to do. In Jackson, which for a number of years had been the centre of  agitation upon the Negro question, there was some opposition expressed to the white people of the town attending the meeting, but I was told that among the people in the audience were Governor Noel; Lieutenant-Governor Manship; Major R. W. Milsaps, who is said to be the wealthiest man in Mississippi; Bishop Charles B. Galloway, of the Methodist Episcopal Church (South), who has since died; United States Marshal Edgar S. Wilson; the postmaster of Jackson, and a number of other prominent persons. [2]

Bishop Galloway understood the importance of Christian higher education. He was a trustee of the University of Mississippi from 1882–1894 and served as President of the board of trustees of Vanderbilt University from 1905 until his death in 1909.

Galloway’s world travels brought him into contact with other cultures and their worldviews. He saw the effects of false religion on whole civilizations. His arguments in Christianity and the American Commonwealth, although written more than 100 years ago, are persuasively modern and need to be heeded by today’s church. He counters the mistaken notion that God’s Word is a one-dimensional devotional guide:

They fatally undervalue the mighty mission of Christianity who limit it merely to “the assertion of moral principle,” without any care for its social and political results. It contemplates the sanctification of the home, the redemption of the nation, the purification of commerce, and the exaltation of civic virtue. When our Lord announced that his kingdom is not of this world, he meant not to say that it had nothing to do with the things of this world. His mission was to adjust human relations; and the enthronement of his gospel is the life of society that will right all social wrongs and bring in a new heaven and a new earth. The teachings of Christ are the perfect solution of all the problems of society. [3]

Galloway was forward thinking enough to understand how the media impact society. In a speech to the National Editorial Association, meeting in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1899, Galloway declared of the press: “Along with the family, the church and the state, and not inferior to either because affecting each, it ranks as a dominant force in all civilizations….The press is ‘the mightiest of the mighty means, on which the arms of progress leans….What the eloquent tongue of Tully was to Rome, and the impassioned periods of Demosthenes to Athenian patriotism, the modern press is to American citizenship.” [4]

The five lectures that appear in this new edition of Christianity and the American Commonwealth were first delivered in the Chapel at Emory College, Oxford, Georgia, in March of 1898. The purpose of the series was “to promote the cause of Christian education and to advance the theological literature of Methodism.” The lecture series was funded by W. F. Quillian and came to be regarded as “The Quillian Lectureship.”

Galloway’s book is one of the best summaries of the impact of Christianity on America. He leaves no stone unturned in his historical and logical arguments to demonstrate that without the gospel and the application of all of God’s Word to all of life, civilizations turn despotic and crumble. His closing words are as true today as they were in 1898: “Correct principles sown in the soil of the young mind, cultivated by wise, well-equipped teachers, and ripened by the sun of a gracious Providence, will produce a manhood and womanhood that will sacredly preserve the past and guarantee the glory of the future.” [5]

In order to enhance the narrative, American Vision has added subheads and more than 100 images from its extensive image library.

Christianity and the American Commonwealth

  1. J. B. Cain, “Charles Betts Calloway,” The Encyclopedia of World Methodism, ed. Nolan B. Harmon, 2 vols. (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 1974), 893.[]
  2. Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page, & Co., 1911), 196.[]
  3. Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth; or, The Influence of Christianity in Making this Nation (Nashville, TN: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1898), 13 (American Vision edition, 3–4).[]
  4. Quoted in Hodding Carter III, “Giving New Life to a Free Society,” American Society of Newspaper Editors (April 12, 2004).[]
  5. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth, 213 (American Vision edition, 169).[]
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