July 6, 1862: Rev. Joseph P. Thompson on emancipation

New York Times

Dr. Thompson on Emancipation.

At the Tabernacle, last evening, Rev. Dr. THOMPSON delivered a sermon in favor of Emancipation. The passages of Scripture upon which the discourse was founded are the 22d chapter of Exodus, the 21st verse: “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt;” — and Jeremiah, the 21st chapter and 12th verse: “O, house of David, thus saith the Lord: Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”

The graphic account which Mr. THOMPSON gave of his recent visit to the Shenandoah Valley, cannot be reproduced save by himself. It is gratifying to learn from so high a source of the enthusiasm of our troops in the cause in which they are enlisted, and that frightful wounds, and even the near approach of death, cannot stem the ardor of the brave fellows. “And when such men suffer, shall I be silent!?” asked the minister of his hearers.

Mr. THOMPSON spoke with fervor, and did not forget to pay his respects to the meeting held last week at the Cooper Institute. He was glad to know that Mr. COOPER had not countenanced it, and hoped that he would fumigate his basement. We can deal with traitors in Virginia, said he, but not with these in our midst. A graceful tribute was paid to the energy and wisdom of President LINCOLN, and the sermon closed with a glowing picture of the happiness and prosperity which awaits our country when the war shall have annihilated Slavery.

A collection was taken for the benefit of wounded soldiers. In conclusion, “God Bless Our Native Land” was sung by the choir and congregation.

Rev. Joseph P. Thompson was the second pastor of the Broadway Tabernacle Church in New York City, then a Congregationalist church, now United Church of Christ. He and the church were well-known for their abolitionist and egalitarian views.

Joseph Parrish Thompson, The Second Pastor, 1845-1871

One of the most notable achievements of Joseph Thompson’s pastorate was the impetus he generated in the growth of congregationalism, not only in and about New York City but throughout the country. In his era, Thompson’s Tabernacle played a major role in the development of nearly 20 Congregational churches in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Dr. Thompson was influential in convening the first national synodical meeting of Congregational churches in Albany in 1852. Nearly 500 ministers and delegates from 17 states took part in this historical gathering. One result of the synod was the formation of the first national council of the denomination. Agendas for this council and other instrumentalities of the denomination were developed at meetings held in the Tabernacle.

As the city’s population expanded northward in the mid-1850s, Dr. Thompson urged members of the church to find a more suitable location for the church’s future growth. A site was selected at the Northeast corner of Broadway and 34 Street, and in April 1859 the new Tabernacle was dedicated.

With the approach the Civil War, Dr. Thompson continued to echo the Tabernacle’s adamant anti-slavery convictions. He invited black preachers to the church’s pulpit and was a frequent visitor to Washington, DC, where he conferred with President Lincoln on concerns related to the war. At one Sunday service, when a serious shortage of regiments was plaguing the Union Army, he convinced the congregation to contribute the $30,000 needed to finance a new regiment. One of the Tabernacle’s prominent laymen, Major General Oliver Howard, served with distinction in the Union Army. Following the war, Howard became involved in establishing a university for black in Washington, DC. For his efforts, Howard University honored the major general by taking his name.

Exhausted by the tremendous energies he had extended on behalf of the war effort and his ministries in the Tabernacle, Dr. Thompson found it necessary to submit his resignation in late 1871.

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