Sunday, May 14, 2006

A.C. Osborn's Second Explanation

Sometime after the GSRR scandal broke in the press, Rev. Osborn received a request from a member of his church to preach from the following text: "he that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him." Osborn accepted the challenge. He did not address the charges leveled by Hamilton, but instead justified his own participation in the railroad to his congregants by sermonizing on the compatibility of the accumulation of wealth and Godliness.
The Eagle interpreted the message of Osborn's sermon as "that in making haste to be rich, he was doing a good thing - a wise, Scriptural, moral, and pious thing; and it may be reasonably assumed that he believes that all his clever scheming in the building of the railroad in Florida resulted in the edification of the church in Brooklyn." Osborn, in the view of the Eagle, announced the obsolesence of "the old notion that wealth is a dangerous possession, and its pursuit apt to be disasterous." Rather, "riches are not only quite compatible with godliness, but are among God's best gifts to man." Riches, according to Osborn "must be sought 'not for their own sake but to better enable us to do God's work.'" The Eagle dryly observed that "the reluctant Congressman Hamilton, in refusing to cooperate with Osborn, actually mised a chance of aiding in the evangelization of Southern Brooklyn through the agency of the Tabernacle church." The Eagle commended Osborn sarcastically for speaking this time, unlike his during his previous statements in his own defense, with no "futile attempt at evasion, equivocation, and misprepresentation. By boldly justifying what he has done in hastening to be rich Osborn at last honestly confesses what he has done." [Brooklyn Eagle, May 15, 1871].
Over the next few months, the Eagle took several swipes at Osborn and expressed its disbelief that the Baptist church had failed to take any action against him: "Why do not the Baptists [of the Long Island Baptist Association]...let us know whether they really believe that railroad-presidency and legislative jobbery are consistent with the pastoral profession?" [Brooklyn Eagle, June 16, 1871]. In late June, the Eagle could hold back no longer and made its most direct attack on Osborn's church for retaining him: "Aside from the charge of bribery, or attempted bribery of State legislators and Congressmen, the mere fact of [Osborn's] connection with railroad land lobbying schemes should disable him as a clergyman. It is the disgrace of the Tabernacle Baptist Church that it intrusted the official cure of souls to one who was confessedly engaged in a business which subjects even worldly men to grave suspicion, and which almost always involves corruption. What right has a minister of the Gospel, one avowedly set apart from grosser things and consecrated to a spiritual and religious work, to be running railroads and engineering appropriations bills?" [Brooklyn Eagle, June 23, 1871]. Osborn left the Tabernacle Church for another church in Manhattan in 1873.

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