|Welcome to the book, God Against Slavery (1857), by Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D. To go to the "Table of Contents" immediately, click here.
Prior to the 1861-1865 War, there were a number of Christian abolitionists who opposed slavery. They included Rev. John G. Fee, Harriet B. Stowe, Rev. John Rankin, Rev. Beriah Green, Rev. Stephen S. Foster, Deacon James Birney, Rev. Theodore D. Weld, Rev. William W. Patton, Rev. Parker Pillsbury, etc. Nowadays, their Bible-based reasons are generally unknown.
This series of websites educates by making the text of their anti-slavery writings accessible. Whether or not you agree with their position, it is at least a good idea to know what it was!
“It is not enough to know the past. It is necessary to understand it.”—Paul Claudel (1868-1955).
This site in the series reprints a book by Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D. (1807-1890). The book contained a number of his anti-slavery sermons.
Anti-slavery clergymen were being told to 'shut up' about slavery, with claims that slavery was solely a political issue, not one with Biblical implications; and, contradictorily, that the Bible was 'for' slavery!
In reality, slavers knew that the Bible by multiple principles condemns slavery (kidnaping, murder, extortion, rape), and that if clergymen were allowed to preach these Bible principles, such exposés would tend toward ending slavery, by impacting people's voting, leading to voting for anti-slavery candidates.
Pro-slavery clergymen, supporting slavery (e.g., adultery, fornication, rape, family splitting, torture, genocide, etc.) were by 1841 excommunicated by Rev. Parker Pillsbury. But they ignored that action, and refused to repent. They continued pretending to be Christian, continued leading, corrupting, the churches and the nation.
Rev. Cheever rebuts pro-slavery “eisegesis” (imposing a predetermined meaning on words) as opposed to “exegesis” (deducing word meaning from context) with respect to the Bible. Pro-slavers did “eisegesis,” i.e., imposed their pre-determined 'minds-made-up-in-advance' pro-slavery views on the Bible. Such fraud is also known as "tergiversation."
Rev. Cheever is further doing a proper analysis, i.e., defending and establishing the “exegesis,” finding the Bible words' meaning. Doing “exegesis” reveals the Bible actual anti-slavery meaning.
The South had caused a war of aggression against Mexico, to steal Texas and California for slavery, after Mexico for religious reasons, had in 1829 banned slavery there.
Most slaves were killed, about 2/3 - 3/4 of them, 35-45 million or so. The tobacco lobby was primarily responsible.
Congress in 1850 passed a law, the Fugitive Slave Act, that
Rev. Cheever is explaining why the FSA law is morally wrongful. [See also constitutional-law analyses by Messrs. L. Spooner and L. Tappan.]
Moreover, there was a state of war and violence in Kansas, under pro-slavery Presidents Franklin Pierce [1853-1857] and James Buchanan [1857-1861]. Southerners were trying to violently force slavery into what would soon be a new state, Kansas. Slavers were attempting to expand slavery territory.
Senator Charles Sumner in May 1856, gave a speech against slaver violence attempting to expand slavery into Kansas. In reprisal against his exposé, a Southerner savagely, violently assaulted Sen. Sumner on the Senate floor.
Earlier, Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy had been murdered for printing anti-slavery writings.
In this context of violence against anti-slavery speakers, Rev. Cheever is bravely refuting slavers' claims, by using Bible examples and details from the laws and recorded history of Ancient Israel and Judah.
Slavers, fake "Christian" clergymen, opposed citing details, preferred generalities, "love" and "grace," so as to allow gross sins and evils.
Note especially chapters 7 and 10, on God punishing Judah for establishing slavery P. 77 tells why penalty comes on a later generation.
God Against Slavery
Freedom and Duty of the Pulpit
To Rebuke It,
As a Sin against God,
Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D.
(New York: Joseph Ladd, 1857; Cincinnati: American Reform
Tract and Book Society, 1857; and reprinted, NUP, 1969)
|Before the War (1861-1865), activists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote anti-slavery materials in short-story form, e.g., Uncle Tom's Cabin. Others did sermons, e.g., Rev. Theodore Parker, The Chief Sins of the People: A Sermon Delivered at the Melodeon, Boston, on Fast-Day, April 10, 1851 (Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1851). Others, for example, Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D., wrote scholarly treatises and delivered them as sermons. Here is one such treatise.|
FOR the privilege of having been permitted to deliver these discourses without interruption, and with a cordial answering sympathy on the part of the public, I thank God and take courage. Seldom have I found a heart more thirsty for divine truth, more attentive under it, and more manifestly responding to it, and grateful for it, than in the great congregations whom God in bis good providence brought out to listen to these sermons.
I commenced them, much questioning as to the result, but determined to leave consequences to God, and to proclaim, out and out, the whole truth in his word in regard to the great reigning and destroying sin of our country. I endeavored to do this to the best of my ability.
The event was, that instead of driving men away in anger, the assertion of the freedom of the Pulpit, and the proof of it from the prophets and apostles, and the use of it in demonstrating the sinfulness of slavery, brought thousands on thousands to hear. They came, desiring to learn what God had really said in His word in regard to slavery. The church could not contain the multitudes that thronged, mght after night, to listen to a simple, plain exhibition of God's own truth, in regard to the guilt of this Iniquity in His sight, and the inevitable consequences of it, if persisted in.
Undoubtedly, Old Testament truth is a strange thing to many; they are not aware how it burns, how it cuts, how it probes and pierces, as a discerner and reprover of sin, and how the mighty Hebrew prophets, ever living, ever new, seem to hold a grand inquest over our organic [systemic, routine, institutionalized] iniquities, and to walk among us with the writers ink-horn, and the measuring plumb-lines of the Mosaic laws.
The people, generally, are glad to witness these operations. The people love to hear God's word demonstrating and rebuking the Iniquity of slavery; and it is only crooked politicians, and political Christians, and preachers standing in awe of them, who cry out against it [Bible-preaching], and call it political preaching. This vulgar watchword is losing all its terrors, and begins to be, as it deserves to be, thoroughly despised.
The people prefer freedom, and are glad to find that God's word not only does not sanction slavery, but is against it, wholly and utterly, from beginning to end.
But those men who prefer slavery along with freedom, slavery for others and freedom for themselves, and whose plan is to combine both, and give them the same sanction and the same rights everywhere, would be glad to find some support of slavery, some shield for it in God's word; and, if any one could demonstrate from God's word that slavery is right, he might do that from the Pulpit ad infinitum and they would not regard it at all as political preaching, but as simply the genuine meekness of wisdom preaching peace by Jesus Christ, and the very perfection of gospel conservatism.
There are many who, without the least wincing, will hear you preach about the slavery
of sin, but not one word will they endure about the sin of slavery.
I have been delighted to find a great enthusiasm among young men, for the freedom of God's word in dealing with the Iniquity of oppression. They feel that it is no necessary part of religion to put down, or conceal, or crucify, our native impulses in behalf of freedom, or our native sense of justice against cruelty and wrong. They have but little sympathy with those who make political or commercial expediency, in regard to great Questions of right or wrong, the Urim and Thummim of their divinest consultations.
The series of discourses began with an examination of the dreadful influence and consequences of UNRIGHTEOUS LAW, as illustrated in the history of the Hebrews, under the light of the prophets.
Now, in consenting to throw several of them into a volume, I have taken the liberty of breaking them up into twenty chapters, both for the sake of introducing some details into the argument, which could not be condensed in speaking within compass of the time given to a sermon, and also to relieve and sustain the attention of the reader, and give greater prominence to the principles developed in the discussion.
I am more than ever convinced of the right and duty of every preacher of God's word to preach on this Subject, as contained in His word, and to show the people how He regards it; and the providence that directs and overrules all things is manifesting more clearly than ever the wickedness of the attempt to shield slavery from the reprobation of God's word, by denouncing every mention of it as
political preaching. That outcry is more likely to cover up a jealousy against religion in politics, than any real hatred of politics in religion. To the law and to the testimony: should not the people seek unto their God? And if their leaders speak not according to His word, it is because there is no light in them [Isaiah 8:20].
THE VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY AND RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED TO THE YOUNG MEN OF MY OWN CONGREGATION, AND TO ALL LOVERS OF FREEDOM AND TRUTH IN ALL PLACES.
SHALL THE THRONE OF INIQUITY HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH
THERE are plenty of answers to this question in the Word of God; but the most startling and overwhelming is the answer by divine judgment, in the destruction of the thrones and kingdoms of Israel and Judab. We have but to trace a few steps in the Jewish history, and we find lessons that, for the closeness of their application to our own period, and people, and country, and the terror of their warning against our own legalized and cherished sins, are absolutely appalling. Would to God we might lay them to our heart!
The time from the beginning of the Hebrew kingdom under Saul to its division under Rchoboam, the son and successor of Solomon, was not much longer than that which has elapsed from our revolutionary war to the present day. And the progress of the nation had been about as rapid and mighty as our own. What a prodigious difference between the state of the people and the extent of the kingdom at the beginning of Saul's reign, and the close of Solomon's!
In this brief time, cities rose as by enchantment [magic], and territories were added, and brought under the one great confederation, till the fame of its prosperity, and the fear of its greatness, filled the world.
But in the midst of all this, the causes of ruin grew on with frightful rapidity: luxury, aristocracy, grandeur, riches, pride, family-wealth and rivalry, insolence, commerce with Egypt and with foreign countries, bringing in alliances, intermarriages, the imitation of foreign vices and customs, and at length the open, undisguised, and heaven-defying establishment of idolatry for Solomon's pagan concubines and wives.
The wisest of kings had grown the maddest in his rebellion against God, and his iniquitous example before his people. By his own vices he had conducted the country from the climax of power and greatness to the verge of ruin. In the greatest apparent grandeur of its prosperity, none but God knew the precipice on which the kingdom tottered, nor how soon its proud union was to be dissolved forever. There it was, strong and mighty in appearance, yet instantly to be riven, as when the frost splits a rock, or one last blow upon the wedge rives the oak asunder.
The blow descends from God, the kingdoms separate, and thenceforward, what a career of warning to all the nations of the earth is theirs?
The lead in wickedness was assumed by Israel under [King] Jeroboam, as one of the separate and rival kingdoms; the first great national step in open sin
By what he considered a master-stroke of policy, but which proved his ruin, he set up the two golden calves, to serve for the uses of his kingdom, in place of the worship of the Temple at Jerusalem. The one he inaugurated at Bethel, and the other at Dan, and proclaimed to all the people, with the semblance of the kindest consideration for their wants and fatherly compassion for their burdens, it is too much for you, too irksome and too great a task, to go up to Jerusalem at the times appointed in the service of the temple; these will answer for your gods, O ye people! [I Kgs 12:28] These shall be to you the representatives of the gods that brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and here shall you rejoice in your worship!
The appointed ministers of God's worship, who would not subscribe to these decrees of the king and his government, were ejected from their offices, and in their places Jeroboam appointed an idolatrous priesthood from the riff-raff of the people [I Kgs 12:31]; whoever was willing so accept a devil's chaplaincy under his government, him he set to work in the ministration of oblations and of incense before those golden calves; and so the people, the king, and Baal, were all served and glorified, flattered and cajoled, at one and the same time.
And so the thing became a stately sin, a systematized organic iniquity; and the people went to worship before one or the other of these calves, even unto Dan.
The topography of these places is the best
illustration of the passage, and for want of the consideration of that matter, the force of the history is nearly lost. One of them, Dan, was at the extreme north; the other, Bethel, at the extreme south, on the borders of Jeroboam's kingdom.
The whole of Jeroboam's kingdom lay north of Judah. If he had set up both calves at Dan, it would have been too far north to attract his subjects of the south; if he had set them up in Bethel only, the people of the north coming down so far as that for worship, would have been tempted to continue their journey a few miles further to Jerusalem itself.
But up at Dan he caught in the snare all the population of the north, and down at Bethel all the inhabitants of the south. And by setting at the heart of Bethel the whole circle of his priesthood, and making the ceremonies of the worship there both gorgeous and attractive, he caught as in a great Vanity Fair nearly all unstable persons, whose consciences might have startled them on a pilgrimage for the Holy City, to engage in the worship of the Temple itself.
Passing through Bethel, they would stop to gaze at the golden calves, they would enter into conversation with the worshipers there, they would be met by temptations and seductive bribes, and in the state of moral debauchery to which the conduct of Solomon had reduced the nation, it was not difficult to make any, except the most truly conscientious of the people, believe that they could serve both God and Mammon.
Jeroboam must have sounded [polled, studied, analyzed, realized] the heart [low moral state] of the nation, and must have known that he could calculate on the idolatrous disposition of the people, otherwise he never would have dared to propose such a measure.
But he ]Jeroboam] had watched the passions of men, and he knew well how deeply the examples, and the idolatrous shrines, made so familiar by Solomon, had corrupted the people, and how far he could himself rely upon them.
Besides, he is supposed to have set guards on the borders of the kingdom between Judah and Israel, at the feast times especially, to prevent his subjects from crossing the line, and going up to the Temple in obedience to the law of God.
And so, between allurements and force, between his lies and compulsion, between the power of law, unrighteous [law], and the examples of the great multitude obeying it as righteous, he succeeded in quieting the most troubled and audacious consciences, and induced his people to believe that inasmuch as this worship at the altars of the calves was commanded by law, and they were bound to obey magistrates, and not to set themselves against the government, it might and must be considered a permitted substitute for the Temple worship.
Moreover, the payment of tithes seems to have been done away, when Jeroboam turned the Levites out of office, and put in a set of his own priests to do his bidding; and that was an exemption which would please the covetous multitude greatly. The king well knew how to make up for the loss; he could extort
from them in other ways double what the willing support of the true worship of God would have cost them.
Now this whole mighty revolution, first, in the establishment of Jeroboam's authority and kingdom as foreign and separate from that of Rehoboam, and second, in the impious establishment of a new and separate religious worship, the commixture of idolatry and the divine law under one and the same form, would necessitate new laws, and would bring about, in many points, inevitably, a conflict between the statutes of the kingdom and the statutes of God.
But the people chose to obey man rather than God. They agreed, as men do now, when they blasphemously set the laws of a human government higher than God's law, that the law of the land, right or wrong; must be obeyed at all hazards, and that to teach otherwise is to teach rebellion.
They said that the statutes of the king and his government must be obeyed, and “they willingly walked after the commandment [politician law],” as the accusation is brought against them for doing this by the prophet Hosea [5:11]; so that the characteristic description of this monarch, up to the time of Omri and Ahab, who each set new iniquities a going, and framed laws still more infamous, was that of “Jeroboam the son of Nebat, WHO MADE ISRAEL TO SIN.”
The obedience of the people to such a monarch and government in such commanded sins, was rebellion against God; and rebellion against the monarch and
government would have been obedience to God.
And God by his prophets plainly denounced vengeance against the nation, for thus preferring to obey man's laws rather than God's. Your very blessings shall be blasted, said he, and you shall be swept with desolation, delivered up to captivity and the sword, because you have kept the statutes of Omri, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels [Micah 6:16]. Ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock [Amos 6:12].
Through the impious policy of Jeroboam, and the consent and submission of the people, it thus came about that the separation of the ten tribes was as the building of a vast reservoir of iniquity in Israel; a fountain of atheism and licentiousness, of which the people continued drinking to the latest generations, forsaking God, and the cold-flowing waters of his sanctuary, and hewing them out cisterns of Satan, and springs of the vilest abominations.
THE PREVALENCE AND POWER OF UNRIGHTEOUS LAW, AND THE
HERE we have come upon a marked and mighty era. The separation of this great Hebrew kingdom into two, and the establishment of these regal and governmental dynasties and machineries, not only constituted the most important revolution since the deluge, and the greatest event of all the history of empire up to that time, but it had consequences, and it set in motion tides of principle and courses of action, that made a stratum in men's morals and character; it was a dispensation, a period of social and governmental theory of life, as distinct as any period in all the formations of geology.
The periods of granite primordial foundation, and of fossiliferous rocky strata, and of alluvial deposits, are not more strongly marked and demonstrated, or more important as demonstrations in themselves of the mighty changes in the globe. The thing not justifies only, but commands our careful study; it ought not to be passed over with a superficial view.
For here began the wide, germinating, sweeping
It is in this respect a most prominent and awful era; a period marked, as you will see, all along the record of the history, down to the time when the kingdom was swept from existence, as the period of the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, WHO MADE ISRAEL TO SIN. The first book of Kings ends [I Kings 22:52-53], as its course has often been signalized, with that stigma, that scar, that trench of God's wrath, and of moral infamy in the cause and subject of it.
Ahab and Jezebel were the next grand incarnation of such wickedness. And as upon the surface of the globe, when a roaring cataract or deluge has passed over it, there are left huge mountain cliffs, frowning over the country in front, and behind them a sloping trail of land where the soil has gathered and held on, indicating which way the convulsion and the torrent rolled forward, so stand these monarch forms, rent, blasted, blackened, the leaders of the people's apostacy from God, and the landmarks of His vengeance.
And from one to the other, it seems as if you could still hear the thunders roar and reverberate. Look back to the 21st chapter of the first book of Kings, and mark the interview between Elijah the prophet
And look back still further to the 16th chapter, 25th and 26th verses, to the person and character of Omri, who
And then, before him, look back to Baasha, and before him, to Nadab, the immediate successor and son of Jeroboam. The voice of every peal of thunder, and the sentence trenched by every flash of lightning, is the same dreadful accusation, Thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and HAST MADE MY PEOPLE ISRAEL TO SIN.
And how was it? What does this repeated phrase in the indictment cover up? How could the man carry all Israel with him in his wickedness? Mere example could not have done it; permission could not have done it; bribes could not have done it, nor persuasion, nor the inherent temptations of devil-worship.
No! But in league with all these influences, law could do it; the State power could forcibly persuade, and if the people would yield up their conscience, the
It was thus that the king, the princes, the government, by their unconstitutional and infamous legislation, by new enactments, framed on purpose, MADE ISRAEL TO SIN. You gather this demonstration from the history and the prophets together; and this is one of the points in which you see the usefulness and importance of a close comparative study of tbe prophets by the history, and the history by the prophets.
It was a usurpation, under color of law, thus forced upon the people, and the experiment being once successful, then, in giving up their conscience, and renouncing their allegiance to God, they surrendered all their liberties. They should have resisted at the outlet; but there are never wanting those, who affirm that law is to be obeyed at all hazards, the moment it is law, no matter of what character. So,
For because of the original majesty, the awfulness, the reverential glory, the transcendant importance of law, even its perversion wears the semblance of its authority; even bad law, wicked law, accursed law, appears not less than archangel ruined, and men bow down to it, and worship it, and range themselves under its banners, especially when popular and profitable sins are protected by it. Sometimes, under its pressure, men must have the firmness of Abdiel to stand up against it, and nothing but God's word and His righteousness in their hearts will enable them to do it.
This usurpation began in Israel. But you are not to suppose this kind of wickedness was the exclusive property of that kingdom. You might have imagined that after such a divulsion of the tribes, the separation between Israel and Judah would have been so wide, and the enmity so mortal, that certainly the torrent of these devilish iniquities could not have crossed the gulf, and rolled over the house and kingdom of David. But where the heart is not right with God, occasion can easily be found for any wickedness. There was a mine of Satan's combustibles in the bosom of Judah ready to be fired; and there was
"In the fifth year of Joram, the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Jeboram, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began to reign in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab; for the daughter of Ahab was his wife, and he did evil in the sight of the Lord."Here you have the bridge, the telegraphic wires, the sympathies. And running on to the 26th verse you have another step, the son of Jeboram reigning in Jerusalem, and his mother's name was Athaliah, the granddaughter of Omri, king of Israel. And he walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, as did the house of Ahab; for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab. And in 2 Chron. xxii. 3, 4, it is added, that his mother was his counselor to do wickedly; wherefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab; for they were his counselors after the death of his father to his destruction.
The singular intensity of wickedness, the eminent and inveterate profligacy and malignity accumulated in this family, as the force of galvanism collected in a complicated battery, will be better understood, if
These related and confederate families of Israel and Judah threw over their kingdoms a net-work of the same diabolical statutes; and to these enactments, and the terrors used in their enforcement, the sacred historian refers, when it is recorded, as in 2 Chron. xxi. 11, that the king of Judah caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled them into all this wickedness.
So this mighty sin passed into vogue in Judab, and from Ahab and Jezebel's families, in connection with Jeroboam's, it ran on, till in the kingdom and house of David itself, Manasseh went far beyond even Ahab in the form, the magnitude, and the monstrousness of bis sins. And of him it is said in 2 Chron. xxxiii. 9, 10, that Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the Lord spake to Manasseh and to his people, but they would not hearken.
And in 2 Kings xxi. 9, 11, God declares that Manasseh seduced the people to do more abominable and horrible wickedness than even the Amorites, and made Judah to sin with his idols, besides filling Jerusalem from one end to the other with innocent blood.
COMPULSION BY THE GOVERNMENT, ENACTING WICKED LAWS
Now in this account we have the fact of a compulsion laid by the government upon the people, to drive them into sin, to constrain them, and force obedience to the statutes of an idol worship. But this compulsion was no other than the choice of obeying other statutes than God's.
Being compelled to disobey either God's law or the king's, they chose to disobey God's, alleging, perhaps, that whatever laws the government enacted, they were bound to obey, God's law to the contrary notwithstanding.
Sometimes the princes took the lead, and proposed the enactment of mischief by a law, according to the references in Hos. v. 10, and xiii. 2, the princes removing the bound, and enacting that those who sacrificed shall kiss the calves.
So in 2 Chron. xxiv. 17, 18, after the death of Jehoiada the priest, we have the princes coming, and making obeisance to the king, and the king hearkening to them, and all together leaving the house of the Lord God of their fathers,
Now it is impossible to find any thing in all history more terribly instructive than all this.
If there be a lower deep in hell than any other deep, such men will, beyond all question, occupy it, along with those who have put out or concealed the light of God's word, and have put up false lights to lure men upon the breakers.
It is such as those, whom God gives judicially over to a reprobate mind, to be filled with all unrighteousness; who, knowing the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them [Romans 1:28-32].
Nothing can go beyond this wickedness; it is a fountain sin, a germinating sin, an accumulating and multiplying sin, a sin that causes and compels others to sin, a sin that enlarges from generation to generation all the way into the eternal world.
If it brings a million under its power this year, it may bring two millions the next; this generation ten, the next generation twenty. Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way; and all the people shall say, Amen! [Deuteronomy 27:18]
But he that strikes out the eyesight of a whole nation, that obliterates the law of justice and humanity, and sets in its place statutes of injustice and inhumanity, and thus compels a nation so blinded, to wander in iniquity, what shall be said of such a monster? What curse is heavy enough for such an incarnation of malignity, or what curse can measure in retribution the dreadful consequences of such crime?
Of all evil things, law, that embodies in itself the example of wrong, the instruction, the authority, sanction, justification, and command of injustice and oppression, in principle and in act, is the highest and the worst. It is worse than arsenic in the fountain; it is poison for the souls of men, poison for the great heart of society, running through all the veins, and corrupting the whole system.
Well did Edmund Burke [1729-1797] say, that of all bad things, bad laws are the very worst, and that they derive a particular malignity from the good laws in their company, under which they take shelter.
If a system of wicked laws be deliberately contrived, and fastened on a people for the purpose of consolidating and rendering immovable the governmental despotism, and if, under those laws, a system of immorality and cruelty is inaugurated as the central fountain of the country's policy, to enter into both the domestic and civil life of the people, to regulate all their institutions, to impose conditions on the gospel itself [banning providing Bibles to slaves], to compel men in every sphere of society, every branch of commerce, every agency of active business, to swear faithfulness to that immoral interest; and if the word of God itself, for the sake of shielding all this iniquity, is either suppressed or perverted, what really is the attitude of such a people toward God, and what their character in his sight?
Can any thing cover up this wickedness?
But suppose that, along with such a system, there
All these ingenious elements of evil were in the diabolical statutes, with which Jeroboam and the like kingly instruments of Satan, subjected the people to his sway.
And all these ingenious elements of evil are in those execrable laws now being enforced at the point of United States bayonets in Kansas; laws acknowledged to be an utter usurpation, publicly demonstrated as such by the House of Representatives in Congress assembled, and therefore unconstitutional, null, and void. And yet the people commanded to obey them [under evil President James Buchanan (1857-1861)]!
Can any professions of religion induce God to wink at such wickedness, or to connive at the prostitution of religion itself for its support? God's own voice shall answer; you shall have his own judgment from the prophets:
"Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed, to turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people. Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? He shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off." [Psalm 94:20-22]
If a man could take the
Is not the country where this wickedness is perpetrated the very place, and the generation in which and against which it is perpetrated, the very time to rebuke it, and in the name of God declare his testimony against it?
And on whom rests the responsibility of doing this, and who have the right and authority from God to do it, but his own appointed preachers of the word? And will any man dare to call this political preaching?
It is indeed the bringing of religion into politics, according to God's command, and the application of the instructions and principles of God's word to the conduct of the nation and the people, and such application the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah were commanded to make, and our Lord Jesus conjoined upon the preachers of the Gospel the same faithfulness.
"Cry aloud; spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet; show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, is a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God. They take delight in approaching to God." [Isaiah 58:1-2]And yet, besides the delineation continued in that chapter, here is their character by the same
"A rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of tlic Lord. Which say to the seers, See not, and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things; speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits. Get ye out of the way; turn aside out of the path; cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. Wherefore, thus saith the Holy One of Israel, because ye despise this word, and TRUST IN OPPRESSION and perverseness, and stay thereon, therefore THIS INIQUITY shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly in an instant." [Isaiah 30:9-13]
And every one of the prophets corresponds in his testimony with this description; and you will find in
Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in the broad places thereof if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth, and I will pardon it.
And the prophet Ezekiel, writing and speaking of precisely the same period and people, declares,
"The people of the land have used oppression and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy; yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none." [Ezekiel 22:29-30]The offer that God made by Jeremiah was unavailing. The prophet could not find a man in Jerusalem to stand in the gap before God; that he might pardon the city and the people; and God bears witness to this fact by Ezekiel, even at the very time of the punishment of the people for their sins, especially the sin of oppression.
The iniquities practiced by the people were sanctioned by statute, defended by false prophets, and
"A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so; and what will ye do in the end thereof?" [Jeremiah 5:30-31]
What will ye do indeed? They soon found out that the end thereof was death.
"I have not sent these prophets," said the Lord God, "yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings."How amazingly solemn and impressive is this testimony as to the responsibility and power of the ministry in reference to the sins of the people and the nation! They are able, at their pleasure, to mold the character of the people for good or evil, and to direct their course for heaven or hell. They may lead them either to obey or disobey God, both in their public policy and their domestic life; they may, if they choose, proclaim the law and policy of the government to be higher than the law of God, and sacred from rebuke for its wickedness, and they may make the true word of the Lord to be de-
Behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they can not hearken; behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it. For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to coveteousncss; and from the prophet even unto the priest, every one dealeth falsely, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace. And when God said, Walk in the old paths and in the good way, and ye shall find rest unto your souls, they said, We will not walk therein. And when God set watchmen, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet, they said, We will not hearken." [Jeremiah 6:10-17]Such was their obstinate refusal to hear God's word in regard to their own iniquities.
And then comes the great appeal of God to the whole world to take note, and bear witness for him, against this people of his wrath, and to mark the wickedness that is going on among them, and especially this exasperating and aggravating impiety of refusing to have the light of God's word turned upon their national, governmental, and social policy.
"Hear ye, O nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, 0 earth!' Behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my
words, nor to my law, but rejected it." [Jeremiah 6:18-19]God then proceeds just as in Isaiah, to denounce with utter scorn their formal pretenses of his worship, along with all their wickedness. He had said by Isaiah, I hate, I despise your solemn feast-days, and your rites of pretended religious service are an abomination to me. And he asks of Jeremiah,
"To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt-offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me; therefore, fathers and sons, the neighbor and his friend shall perish together." [Jeremiah 6:20-21]
And the conclusion of this tremendous sermon is impressive beyond measure for its inculcation of the necessity of discerning between the righteous and the wicked, and separating the latter with their abominable maxims, from the former, in the policy and government of a people, in order that the agencies appointed of God for the good of the people may work, and may be able to accomplish his purposes. God describes the character of the people, in their acceptance of, and submission to, the oligarchy of evil counselors and wicked governors and laws, by whom they consented to be led to destruction, following them as sheep for the slaughter.
"They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders; they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters. The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed
of the fire; the founder melteth in vain; for the wicked are not plucked away. Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them." [Jeremiah 6:28-30]
God distinctly informs us, that if his ministers had spoken as they ought in regard to all this wickedness, it might have been prevented, and the ruin which it brought would have been averted. The nation's destruction was in consequence of their concealment and perversion of God's word; and hence the solemnity and appropriateness of these historic records, as applied for our own guidance at the present time.
DAN AND BETHEL IN NEW YORK, AND THE WORSIIIP Of THE
THERE are some practical instructions from this history of great importance. As we go forward in it, we cannot help being astonished at the very little use made of it, and the very little light poured from it, when it is certainly one of God's great suns of radiance for Christian nations, one of the orbs in the planetary system of His word; and distinctly in the New Testament, as well as the old, He declares that much of this light was given as a warning, a forewarning, and that it should be poured upon our own consciences, our own habits of thinking, and our own courses of action. It is light that cost more than any thing in the world ever did cost, till the light from the cross and sufferings of Christ, the light bought by his death, came down upon the world. The light from the carcasses of dead empires, the light from Israel and Judah in their crimes and final sufferings, and dreadful death, the light from their captivities before the crucifixion, and the destruction and desolation like a whirlwind after the filling up
But here you may possibly say that the great sin for which the nations and generations now under our examination were destroyed, was the sin of idolatry, and we are not guilty of that, and in no danger from it. Examine the record, and you will find, besides the idolatry, the great sin of oppression, occupying as large a space in the indictment; and we shall discover, as far onward as the 34th chapter of Jeremiah, the deliberate establishment of slavery in the nation to have been the one climacteric cause and occasion of the wrath of God coming down upon the whole land and people without remedy.
And we ourselves may be guilty of things as bad as the idolatry of the old Israelites, and may be quite as unwilling as they to have the light of God's truth
And the forced concealment of truth on this very subject, the voice to the seers, See not, and to the prophets, Prophesy not, the ban upon the light, the ostracism of opinion, the repression of freedom in the pulpit, the accusation and the outcry of political preaching, if the light of God be turned upon it, the extreme fastidiousness and fear in our fashionable congregations, sit like a night-mare on the genius of the gospel. It is a mountain of despotism, and of the fear of man thrown upon the truth. The preacher is like the fabled giant under the volcano. If the giant
Tell me not that this is an exaggerated description. Almost every time the light of God's word has been turned directly upon this subject it has been followed with tumult Again and again have faithful and beloved pastors been driven from their pulpits, just barely for giving a single utterance of God's word against the sin of slavery. At the South a man has been driven from his church, simply for refusing to add his name to a commendation of the dastardly and murderous outrage in the Senate of the United States. In Washington, a pastor has been recently dismissed for one single sermon against slavery. In Philadelphia the people have demanded and accomplished the resignation of a paator for the same offense. Everywhere, almost, there is this attempt to muzzle the pulpit, this impious refusal to listen to God's word on this one sin.
Now I should insult the moral sense of the congregation, if I should ask them (as though there were a doubt in their minds as to such iniquity) whether this is right in the sight of God; and God perhaps has
The conservatism that would prevent the utterance of God on this subject is a conservatism that stands in the way of righteousness, and yet it makes great pretensions to sobriety and uprightness. It reminds one of Jeremiah's satirical description. They are upright as the palm-tree, but speak not. It preserves a sober and dignified silence, when God commands a fearless outspoken rebuke of cherished sins. It imputes the violence of men's passions in defense of such sins to the rashness and impertinence of those who have dared to rebuke them. It is always saying to those who open the batteries of truth, when noise and fury follow the cannonading, Had you kept silence, there would have been nothing of all this agitation; you are stirring up nothing but contention and wrath. This was the very accusation brought against Jeremiah himself, when he proclaimed the Word of God in Jerusalem and Judea against sins
"Woe is me," exclaimed Jeremiah, "for I am become a man of contention and strife. I love peace, and I love my people, and I love my country, and out of love I speak to them this word of the Lord. I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury, yet every one of them doth curse me." [Jeremiah 15:10]Ah, Jeremiah, there are other ways to touch men's pockets, and irritate their avarice, besides charging twenty per cent. for your money. Lay the tax of the word of God upon their profitable, legalized, and cherished sins, and instantly they cry out violence and spoil, and the word of God itself will be made a reproach unto you and a derision, daily.
"Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words. [Jeremiah 18:18] So I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying peradventure he will be enticed, we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him." [Jeremiah 20:10]And all for what? Had he injured them, betrayed them, slandered them, defrauded them? Simply and
When he said that the city and the people were wholly given to oppression, and that God would desolate the land, and deliver up the city to its enemies, because of this wickedness, they said no, he will not deliver it, but Jeremiah is teaching rebellion against the king, the government, and the nation.
So between the word of the Lord on the one side, and the word of these false prophets on the other, between the word of the Lord burning as a fire in his own soul and in his very bones, and making him weary with forbearing, and compelling him to cry out, like a lion in his anguish, and the lies, threatenings, and outcries of rebellion and treason, by prophets, priests, and people, the faithful preacher of God was almost distracted.
"Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the word of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness. [Jeremiah 23:9] For both prophet and priest are profane, and their ways shall bo unto them as slippery ways in the darkness. [Jeremiah 23:11-12] I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing."
"They walk in lies, they strengthen also the hands of evil-doers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants as Gomorrah." [Jeremiah 23:14]Nothing could be more expressive of the burning anger of the Lord against those who stood against his word. They were looked up to for examples and guides as the conservatists among the people; but they conserved the people in their sins, crying out all the while against this agitation and strife that Jeremiah was producing with the word of the Lord.
There could hardly be a more offensive and deliberate wickedness against God, than the example of such resistance against his word, and such denial of its application.
Therefore saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets, Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall; for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.
These sneering questions of blasphemy and unbelief, this daring denial of God's word in the face of his divinely-commissioned prophets, addressed by the false prophets, and believed by the people, filled up the cup of their sins, and insured the divine vengeance.
And instantly its assertion follows:
That everlasting reproach, that perpetual shame, that living destruction! We see it with our eyes, for where is the nation on whose soil some of these cinders out of the furnace of God's wrath have not fallen? And still the Jews, like half-burned shingles from the great conflagration, darken the air of prophesy. And how is it possible that men anywhere can read these burning denunciations of the wickedness by which they fell, and repeat the same wickedness, the same oppression, and the same daring defiance, and resistance, and perversion of God's word in regard to it?
God sent Jeremiah with such messages, even toTophet, sent him on purpose, and gathered a congregation to hear him, even on the borders of that smoldering; smoking image of the world of woe; sent him to preach there in order to give a more
And after he had finished that sermon, he came into the city again, and repeated its application to all the people in the court of the Lord's house [Jeremiah 19:14-15], and instantly upon that, the sermon being reported to the authorities, they lashed the prophet with stripes, and put him in the stocks, as their descendants afterward did with Paul and Silas, the New Testament preachers of the same Gospel.
Never did the malignity of man, and the instant retributive power and majesty of the word of God come into more graphic and instructive conflict. Will you listen to the recital, for it is brief and pungent:
It was thus that God preserved Jeremiah, and, according to his promise, made the terror of his words to sink in the hearts of his opponents, made his words fire and the people wood, to be kindled by them. And all around in the region of bis native place, where wicked and scornful men beset and plagued him, Jeremiah was charged with similar messages.
Now if ever there was what is now falsely called political preaching, it was this preaching of Jeremiah. It was the preaching of religion in politics, God's word as the only authoritative and right guide of politics, God's word forbidding a nation's sins. And God sustained the prophet in this preaching through a ministry of forty-three years' duration.
Now mark my words, It was the preaching of religion in politics which is God's own command, both in the Old and New Testament, but the preaching of politics in religion is quite another thing, the work of intriguing politicians and of Satan, seeking to blind the minds of men, and keep God's light and God's authority away from their hearts and consciences. If religion be not preached and practiced in the politics of a nation, that nation is on the high road to perdition; for the nation and kingdom that will not serve God shall perish; and if politics be preached and practiced in the religion of a nation, which is the case when religion is not applied to politics, then both church and people perish in their sins.
OBLIGATIONS OF THE PULPIT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD—
THE Jesuitical habit of apologizing for sin, and of covering it up, runs into every thing; he that is unfaithful in much will also be unfaithful in a little, and he that is unfaithful in a little is unfaithful in much. He whose corporate conscience is debauched in a society, will lose all tenderness and acuteness of conscience in private life, and in his own piety. He will lie, steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods, and then come and stand in God's house, which is called by his name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations. [Jeremiah 7:9-10] Politics in religion will not only lead to the practice of such abominations, but will justify and sanctify them; but religion in politics pours the light of God's word upon men's corporate as well as individual crimes. It is impossible for the individuals of a nation to support the nation's sins, or apologize for them, or ward off the light of
Already, over more than half the pulpits in our land there hangs the ban of excommunication, if a single page of God's word be applied against slavery; the thing must not be mentioned, and a politic silence prevails. The drums of God'a word are muffled, and they beat a funeral march instead of a Gospel onset. Our conservative Christians have turned sextons—they are for burying the truth instead of publishing it. Their whole terror is against the living truth; dead men's bones and all uncleanness have less that is repulsive for them, than rousing, cutting, and exciting truth, the truth of God, that brings religion into their cotton speculations and their politics.
"My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their stuff declareth unto them. [Hosea 4:12] Ephraim is a merchant; the balances of deceit are in his hands; he loveth to oppress, yet he saith, I am become rich, I have found me out substance; in all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin." [Hosea 12:7-8]There may be iniquity in the abstract, but nothing is sin per se if there be great profit in it; and when the pecuniary interest of any wicked system becomes vast, there are prophets enough to justify Ephraim in its preservation.
Now, then, let such dead as these bury their dead, but the Gospel is not to walk as a mourner, at the grave-digger's bidding. Preach thou the kingdom of
To those who conceal or sell the truth for a present expediency, and handle God's word by profit and loss, God gives in receipt a whirlwind; ye shall be ashamed of your revenues, says he, because of the fierce anger of the Lord. And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter, Should not a people seek unto their God? Will they dare to seek for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony! If your leaders speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. [Isaiah 8:19-20]
And if you follow such teachers, hear ye what is in reserve for you, even in your very passage through the word of God, and what it means when the Lord says, that if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. [Matthew 15:14] For, says the living God, If they speak not according to my word, they shall pass through it hardly bestead and hungry; even through this land of glory, this place of living streams, green pastures, and cold flowing waters, and
That is the fate of any political party that will not obey God's word, but chain themselves to platforms that abjure it, and trust in lies.
Nothing can possibly be more hypocritical, than the outcry about political preaching. The truth is, that the moment any sin passes from the individual to the nation, and is sanctioned by law, and becomes what is called organic, then instantly the speech against it is branded as political preaching; so that, if you wish to take all manner of sin from the touch and control of the pulpit, if you wish to shield it from that rebuke which God has appointed to be thundered against it, you have only to make it legal and national, and you have given it a tabernacle, a pavilion, you have enshrined it as a Dagon, before which you must put off the shoes from your feet, and approach it only to bow down and worship. If a man has two wives, you may preach against polyga-
And it is most instructive to see the blundering power of political prejudices, and the distortions of men's vision. The Rev. Dr. Richards, settled in Morristown during the administration of President Jefferson, preached on one occasion a sermon on the prevalence of infidelity, applying the principles of the gospel to the duties of the nation; and the sermon happening to fall in with the opinions of the hearers, it was greatly admired. No one thought of calling it a political sermon. Several years passed away, bringing, in many respects, a great change in the political views of the congregation. But divine truth is always the same. Dr. Richards, thinking he perceived a train or habit of opinion and feeling in the congregation or community, which called for it, took up the same sermon, and preached it again as before. Not an individual remembered it, but a great portion of the congregation were very much offended by it, as being what they called political preaching. They went to the length of appointing a committee to wait upon the preacher and remonstrate with him against
The committee of remonstrance listened with astonishment; they took the manuscript into their hands, and sat gazing at one another, and at Dr. Richards, in silence. At length Dr. Whelpley, the chairman, turned to them and said, Gentlemen, I think we had better go! And after that, there was no more criticism in the congregation concerning the preaching of politics.
But at the present time, the simplest announcement of divine truth, in regard to national guilt, is asserted to be an invasion, forsooth, of the political rights of the congregation, and an unwarranted intrusion of
But what is it to truly preach Christ and him crucified, except to pour the light of a Saviour's sufferings and death upon men's sins, that in that light they may see and feel "the exceeding sinfulness of sin [Romans 7:13]," their own sins, and the sins of the community, and be led, out of love to Christ, and for bis sake, to renounce them? Many person may be willing to preach nothing but Christ and him crucified, who are not willing, like Paul, to know nothing among men save Christ and him crucified; a very different thing it is, merely to preach that doctrine speculatively, from applying it practically.
Many are very willing to hear about Christ being crucified for them, who will not listen for a moment to the proposed crucifixion of their sins for him, especially those sins which they call organic, those that have the sanction and protection of human law, those that are regarded and maintained as domestic institutions, and those that are defended by a strong party, so that it becomes an unpopular and a hazardous thing to assail them. But for what purpose was the gospel given, but to turn men from their iniquities, disclosing and condemning them in the light of the cross?
And what is the gospel, with its infinite majesty of thought, and its burning motives, and its countless applications, and its sublime combinations of thunder-
I tell you, no wonder that the modern pulpit has lost its power, when men are afraid of the application of that power, and tremble at the consequences. The gospel is not to be perverted as a political lullaby, and shall not be muzzled at the mandate of intriguing politicians and oppressors. There is nothing, from the beginning to the end of the alphabet, connected with moral issues, and bearing on men's duty, which may not, at the proper time, be made the subject of
Just so with every dear, cherished, fashionable evil. If the probing of it occasions agitation, anger, strife, that very thing is proof of the necessity of so dealing with it; and if it is warmly contested not to be an evil nor a sin, that itself just clearly shows the danger and ruin of letting it alone, and the pressing necessity of pouring the light of God's word upon it. If it be interwoven with the politics of the state and of society, so much the worse; so much the more hazardous to meddle with it, but so much the more necessary. Idolatry was thoroughly interwoven with the fixtures and statutes of the Roman empire, but
Think of any man undertaking to tell Paul that he must not bring his religion into politics! It was only vagabond Jews a [Acts 19:13], and that only of the lower sort a [Acts 17:5], and Demetrius the silversmith, the maker of silver shrines for Diana [Acts 19:24-28], that cried out politics, and the turning of the world upside down with agitation [Acts 17:6], and sounded the alarm that the apostles were persuading men to worship God contrary to the law [Acts 16:21 and 18:13]. That was the accusation; and where the law was all on the side of sin, death, and Satan, how could there but be incessant conflict and strife, till God's law got the uppermost?
I sometimes think I see, with the clearness of a death-bed vision, that the spirit of gain, and of a commercial expediency, and of an indolent love of ease and prosperity, even in spiritual things, has taken fast hold of the people. And I do know that there may be a self-deception, even in the hearts of men who think they are going on wisely and smoothly in the way to heaven, and a secret leaven of supreme
There are those who have asked themselves, again and again, May we not keep silence? Is it not best? Why is it necessary to speak on this subject, though it be in God's word; or, if necessary, why necessary for us, and why now? But we are answered by conscience, by God's word, by the examples of the prophets and apostles: and so answered, how can we forbear speaking out?
By the help of God, I, for one, mean to speak freely, fully, on this subject, at this most solemn juncture in our history. It is not from curiosity, merely, but by constraint, that we have to seek the light of God upon our present path of duty, personal and individual, in regard to this thing. It is no mere abstraction, and never was, but it has come to every man's door, every man's own soul, asking what shall be done? what course are we to pursue, what opinion shall we maintain, and what would God have us to do, in such a crisis? Here, then, we must consent to come humbly to the word of God, and learn what is His judgment in regard to the right way; for now, at this very time, we are making, as a nation, our final decision upon it, and every man takes part in that decision.
I proclaim the right and the obligation of a minister of God's word to preach on the sinfulness of
And if, after some seventeen years' ministry in the city of New York, I could not dare to speak, or might not be permitted or sustained in proclaiming the whole utterance of God's word on this subject, where or when could I? Could I do it at the South ? where, not only no man is allowed to speak, but if he be even suspected of thinking unfavorably to the system of slavery, he must be expelled from society, the safety of which is declared to be imperiled by his presence.
Or, should a minister go to India or Siberia, and there proclaim the word of God against the sin of slavery, in a country five thousand miles distant? That was Amaziah's advice to the prophet Amos, when, at God's bidding, he proclaimed the iniquities of Israel in Israel. O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there, but prophesy not again any more at Bethel, for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court. [Amos 7:12-13]
But why speak here, and why now? Because the time has come, and the occasion, and the demand, and the personal moral necessity. It is worth a seventeen years' ministry to come to such a crisis, and be permitted of God to speak out. Never before has the extension of slavery been made a personal responsibility, at least not directly, but now it is. It is put to you and to me, as individuals, to say, Shall slavery and oppression, or freedom and justice, be the rule of this nation? This, then, is a crisis in which, with the word of God in trust to proclaim for God, we can not be silent; and as to our hearers, whatever part of God's word you reject, the same shall judge you in the last day.
Now, it is no easy matter to proclaim the word of God on this subject; it is not a pleasing or a popular theme. And as to position, as to prosperity, as to popularity, are not all inducements over on the side of ease, quiet, and silence? Why endanger your position, influence, the welfare of your church, by an obstinate conscience, that makes you think, forsooth, that you must proclaim the messages in the word of God on this subject? Truly, my friends, you must see that it is nothing of ease, or self-indulgence, or the seductions of popular applause, that can constrain a man, in such a case, to give utterance to his convictions. I can but ask your prayers, as Paul did, that I may open my mouth boldly, that I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. [Ephesians 6:18-19] But speak I must. If
And of the two lines of mistake in regard to eternity, that of self-indulgence in the way of timidity and love of ease, taking that for a conservative piety, and that of boldness, and a constitutional love of liberty and truth, taking that for conscientiousness;—a man may be mistaken in regard to his motives in either way. But if one must go to perdition by one of these errors, he had better go by mistake of boldness in the truth, than shame and fear of it. And sure I am, that more will be lost in this age by not confessing God and his truth before men, than by imprudent or fiery zeal in the proclamation of any part of God's messages.
O that God may work in us all, by his own grace, a most entire and hearty love of his truth. Remembering that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live [Matthew 4:4], may we be enabled to say with Jeremiah, Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. [Jeremiah 15:16]
GLORY AND FREEDOM OF THE WORD OF GOD IS ITS UNIVERSAL
IT is the glory and the freedom of the Word of God, that it is for all ages, times, circumstances, men, and sins, without respect to persons. What would it be worth, if it were not? It would grow old, it would pass out of date, it would vanish away, it would be like the first Egyptian covenant which decayeth and waxeth old, and is suspended. But now, forever, every word of God is settled in heaven, every orb hung up in that divine firmament, the same faithful light unto all generations. Its very historical records are like the milky way, a galaxy of stars, disclosing new worlds with the application of every new comprehensive prayerful investigation by instruments of greater power. And its very nebulosities, that like the cloudy fleeces of the starry universe, have sometimes furnished hopeful clinging-places for the bats of infidelity, are resolved into clusters of perfect worlds, arranged from the outset by him who made them at
The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. There is no dross in it; there is nothing to be thrown away; and the historical portions are especiully precious for this, among many essential uses, that they teach us, beyond all possibility of doubt, the freedom and fearlessness with which God will have every portion of his Word applied. They set in a divine illumination the precedents, in which the statutory parts of the divine law are illustrated, with such demonstration, as to give their meaning new clearness and power.
And the same is the case with the illustration of the promises, so often made to shine in the chapters of personal experience, and in the beautiful and various recountings of God's providence.
Now it can not be denied that in whatever age of the world any sinful practices or principles prevail, to the condemnation of which any part of the word of God is applicable, or for demonstration of the wickedness of which any part of the word of God can be used, that part of the word of God is meant for that age and that iniquity, was given in reference to it, was prearranged for such application, and is as directly revealed from God to that age, for the purpose of being proclaimed as his immediate message, as it was for the very first age, and the very first occasion. For this is the ever-living power and freshness of the word of God. When God revealed it first, he gave it
And God will have it applied; he gave it, he prepared it, he made it profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [2 Timothy 3:16] God will have it applied by living preachers, according as men's conditions, dangers, miseries and sins, sins and miseries, require; will have it divided rightly [2 Timothy 2:12], that every man, and every generation, and every community, may receive their portion in due season. Like the sun in the heavens, there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. [Psalm 19:6]
And there is nothing, in individual or national life, at the door of which, as at a forbidden or sacred citadel, any man, or government, or society, may stand and fend off, or expel, the word of God from entering and applying its judgment. It has the scrutiny and freedom of omniscience and omnipresence, breaking
Whatever there be in the laws or policy of nations, tainted with moral infection, under the condemnation of God's righteousness, or adapted, or designed, to lead men into, or protect them in pursuing courses of sin, on that the word of God comes down, to that it is to be applied, and that is the province over which it has indisputable dominion, and on which it is to be marched without fear or apology, without hindering or halting. If unrighteousness in law is carrying men in iniquity headlong, God's word is to be planted in the face of such law, in defiance of it, as a park of artillery to thunder against it, and shield the people from its dreadful sway.
Of all partisan claims or theological hallucinations, the idea that the science of government, the conduct of rulers, the political creeds and practices of men, the administration of parties and of nations, the whole domain, in fine, of what is called politics, is sacred from the application of God's word, and stands aloof on ground which the very nature of the preacher's vocation forbids him to invade, is the maddest. A greater
The idea that men commissioned with the word of God are desecrating their office, or transcending its limits, when they undertake to bring the nation's laws and transgressions under the judgment of God's law; or that they are in any manner or degree going out of their own proper sphere as the teachers of God's word, is a creation only of pride and impiety; and for the ministers of that word themselves to echo such an opinion, is itself a desecration of their office and a treason against God.
And here let me say, in regard to the historical teachings, and all other teachings in the Old Testament; that they are not only not superseded by the New, but confirmed and strengthened, and of just as great importance to be applied as ever. The New Testament is an addition to, and perfection of, the revelations of God's will in the Old, but it takes not
And in this history, the career of nations, and of the Jews especially, is full of blazing light and practical instruction, both in regard to our duty, and in illustration of the divine Providence and word. The Hebrew people, in their own country, and in their national life, were a perpetual beacon-light amid the darkness; and in their living death among the nations they still serve a mighty purpose for the demonstration of anatomy and disease, as God's subject of dissection, for the scrutiny of deadly moral poison, and the instruction and the warning of all empires. And in these historical pages the providential government of God is revealed and illustrated as we never
As it was with Jonah and Nineveh, and the warned and instructed, and yet ruined cities and kingdoms of old, so again in the ever-recurring tides and destinies of rising, flourishing, sinning, and falling nations. There they lie, the ruins of those cities, and in solemn silent eloquence proclaim God's wrath; and Nineveh and Thebes, in their wonderful disentombment and material anastasis bear witness to the truth.
The dispersion of the Jews among all nations, and at the same time God's most wonderful providential preservation of them from becoming lost and indistinguishable, or merged and denationalized, constitute a perpetual flaming miracle, in fulfillment of the prediction in Amos,
These demonstrations cover the course of all time, and they are [warnings, precedents] for all ages, and they reach to all possible circumstances and questions in their application, with their
But this light has never been applied to the affairs of nations, the administration of governments, the political life of the people; and almost half of God's word has remained a dead letter, and an unknown power. When John Robinson told the pilgrims that he was confident God had much more truth to unseal and let it break forth out of his living oracles, than they had any of them then gazed at, he might, or he might not, have had in his mind this application of divine truth to human politics; but certain it is, that by such application and guidance alone can our country be saved from going down into a deeper gulf of ruin than any nation was over buried in.
This country is the battle-ground of religious principle against a wicked political expediency, and of God's authority in national affairs against the spirit of conquest, covetousness, oppression, and diplomatic fraud and selfishness. Never, anywhere else, has principle had the field; it has been shut out and abandoned, as an interloper, an intruder, out of place in politics, and so the world has gone on without it. But here we have
Heretofore the conscience-battle has been merely as a skirmish in a narrow mountain gorge, where not a thousandth part of the troops could be engaged, or it has only been an ecclesiastical engagement, as of the Free Church of Scotland, moving from the government and patronage of the State. Now, at length, we are down in the plain, room enough for all the forces and for every evolution, and the whole world are gazing at us, as if they occupied the mountain sides, and suspended all their interests for the issue of this conflict.
It is principle, battling by the word of God, that here must contend against policy, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places [Ephesians 6:12]; must enter into policy, conquer it, guide it, shape it, inspire it, transform it. It is principle in the hearts of the people that must reclaim and govern the government, that must wrest it mightily from the possession of men who are subverting its fundamental laws and elements, and put it in the hands, and keep it in the hands, of men who will not do what God abhors.
There is but one way to accomplish this: God's
The government of religion by politics has been very common; this has been the rule where church and state have been united; and between both the truth of God's word has been crushed and silenced, where it could not be perverted. But now comes a time when every thing must be brought into the light, and determined not by state or ecclesiastical power, as formerly, but by conscience, which God's truth first sets at work, and then arms with a might that is irresistible. Now, over all this domain, God's word has a park of mighty batteries to move, hitherto masked and silent, but now to be unmasked and thundering. There is a hidden fire never yet revealed, but which is to break forth in triumphant majesty and power.
God's Wrath Against [Judah's] Slavery in Jeremiah XXXIV. l7—
These words constitute one of the most tremendous thunderbolts of God's wrath against a nation's sins ever issued from the quiver of the Almighty. It came down with the suddenness of a peal of thunder in a clear day.
The cause and occasion of it [the abolition of Ancient Judah] were the attempted establishment of slavery in the land [of Ancient Judah], in place of free voluntary paid labor.
There had been, from time to time, great and gross transgressions of this benevolent constitution; and God had incessantly
This dreadful revolution and usurpation [sin] they [the people of Judah] now [in the King Zedekiah era] resolved upon—king, princes, priests, and the whole oligarchy of masters [in defiance of God and warnings by Jeremiah].
They [the people of Judah] had hesitated, had relaxed their grasp from the subjects of their oppression, when Jerusalem was threatened by the invading Chaldean army; but the moment the troops drew off, and the immediate pressure of fear and danger was removed, they returned to their impious project; the gain in their wealth, by making their servants property instead of hired servants was too vast, and the temptation of wielding an irresponsible despotism too dazzling for their cupidity and love of power to resist [Jeremiah 34:8-11].
They [the people of Judah] had been going on in an immoral, sensual, proud, vicious training for this final, daring, culminating iniquity, for centuries; but they did not expect to be reined up and blasted by so sudden a destruction.
It [Judah's permanent national destruction] came like a whirlwind; it was all over with them; there was no more reprieve, no more forbearance [by God]; the choice of slavery instead of freedom, and oppression instead of justice and humanity, as the
Now, the transaction of this marked and mighty sin, and God's tremendous, almost instantaneous, wrathful judgment against it, were, for the sudden illumination of wickedness and justice in our fallen world, like a sun shot into chaos.
If I had time to examine, and you the patience to contemplate, the previous steps of transgression, that led to this colossal guilt, and prepared the way for it,
the recital would be full of instruction and of thrilling interest.
We have already dwelt upon several important points; and I can now only, as it were, take the quadrant, and, getting this orb of light in the firmament of God's word in the right line and reflection, bring it down exactly to our position, to calculate our course of duty and of safety. It is only by such celestial observations, as that great writer, Mr. Coleridge, once remarked, that terrestrial charts can be constructed: such charts, at least, as can be relied upon
Let us, then, in the first place, secure an observation as to God's method in a nation's probationary trial, and as to the solemnity of the criais to which we have been brought, and the similarity between our position and that of the Jews, from the lifted lid of whose sepulchre there comes such an awful voice of wailing and of warning. We shall then be prepared to go into the argument as to the iniquity of slavery, and as to our own guilt and ruin, if we consent to its extension.
And here I beseech you to remark [notice], that this mighty precedent of national injustice, and of God's vengeance against it, being once set, and blazing out with lurid fire, like a burning planet, in God's word, it settles into certainty the judgment of God with any other nation that shall dare to take to its embrace a similar injustice as to its policy.
It settles another matter also, that God will never again have patience with any other nation as he had with the first; but the wrath that with the first was restrained for ages, while the injustice was rolling on, will come down upon the last, because of the despised light of the first example, with overwhelming rapidity and power.
If men neglect the examples and the warning in God's word, so much the worse for them, and worse still if
But there burns the light, the fire, the wickedness, the warning, the thunderbolt: you can almost hear it hissing and detonating anew, as you open those sacred pages.
There stands [in the Mideast of 1857] the scorched, scarred, transfixed, and blasted form of a nation [Israel, Judah] once chosen and beloved of God, but now a monument to the universe [majesty, power, permanence] of his [God's] inexorable justice [to remain abolished until the Messiah returns, Ezekiel 37:21-28].
Dear to him [God] once as the apple of his eye, engraved in covenant mercy on the palms of his hands, yet for the crime [repeated sin] of trusting in oppression and staying themselves thereon [pp 72 et seq.], plucked from his own finger as his signet ring, and whirled in scorn into the gulf of retribution [national abolishment]!
We [in America] may be sure, if we do not mark this example, and take heed to the warning, there will be no such patience and forbearance of God toward us, as for a while reined in his wrath from riding as a whirlwind over his ancient people.
Nations have their time and scene of probation as well as individuals. They form character, habits, and fixed principles of conduct, that, in the end, however things may seem to move for a season, come out according to eternal justice.
If that be violated by a nation, to secure a present seeming temporal prosperity or power, there will be a divine vengeance and retribution. The course of crime [sin] strikes back, and that which was pleasure, luxury, and power, in the forward career, is wretchedness, ruin, and death in the reaction.
The time must come; it can not wait for
the stroke of vengeance is not lightened, but falls with a renewed and accumulated, as well as original righteousness and force, the present actors
That upon you may come all the righteous blood, from that of Abel down to the last man murdered for his principles. [Matthew 23:35, shortly after the Matthew 21:33-44 parable of the vineyard and similar punishment principle.]
It [God's national judgment] all comes, and comes righteously, for the last act challenges all the preceding, as adopted, legitimated [ratified]; and the fate that, like the whirling of a sling, has been swinging round and round for generations, to gather force and swiftness, at length descends, as with the speed of lightning, in the concentrated fury of a vengeance long scouted and defied.
Ages of expostulation and rebuke, of compassionate delay and warning, throw themselves into the blow. The spirits of retribution awake and hurry onward from a thousand quarters, where the moans of the injured have been going up to God.
When the time comes, when the books are open for settlement, as in the time of vengeance on the French monarchy for ages of oppression, every outraged principle; and every agonized class, presents its account. The universe seems but one uproar of
The race of men in Sodom, overwhelmed with the storm of fire from heaven, were perhaps no worse than the generation that preceded them; but the vengeance long delayed all came down upon them. [Genesis 19:24-25, 28.]
The vengeance due for past crimes, which might have been prevented by repentance and humility, is condensed, pointed, and brought down, by impenitence and hardness of heart, as when a lightning rod is lifted to the clouds.
There is always a last drop of insolence and cruelty that fills up the measure of a nation's iniquities, and then the edict goes forth, Actum est de te: periisti. There was, in the case of Belshazzar and Babylon; there was, in the case of Israel; there was, in the case of Judah; there was, in the career of Jerusalem, when incarnate Deity, in person, warned and expostulated.
There are awful unseen junctures, unseen, because men choose to be blinded, and there are days of unknown visitation, unknown, because men scoff at the thought of being thus under the judgment of a present God.
There are seasons of deliberate choice forever, where two ways meet, and nations, as individuals, come to the point, decide, and from that step, go steadily downward or upward, according to that decision.
We ourselves, [the U.S.A.] as a nation, have come to such a point. We are to choose for an empire between
It is a point, in which all the characters and wills in this country come to a convergency, one side or other, good or bad. It is a point where the choice will be determined by individual adopted opinions and preferences, under motives and principles which in every case God unerringly traces and judges, as he alone can do.
It is a spectacle, and a national issue, such as there never was before in all the world; a decision affecting at present and in prospect, more millions of men, and greater varieties of interest in this world, and more solemn eternal results, than any movement of any nation's policy ever on record.
All such issues, heretofore, have been made up by the few in power, by consolidated governments and councils, in regard to whose determinations the people have no choice, and whose edicts are only to be registered and executed, unless the people have bad the virtue to resist them.
So the world has gone on, amid the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in provinces; the place of judgment, and iniquity there, the place of righteousness, and iniquity there; oppressors making wise men mad, and the few assuming, by robbery and tyranny, the responsibility of many, defrauding them almost of moral agency.
But out of this condition of the world there has been great progress; it is given to our country to see
It is a new, vast, unexampled step, that of a question of morality for hundreds of millions and for ages, committed to a whole people to determine, by the expression of individual judgment as responsible as if the whole decision were thrown upon each one's own mind.
The question of duty with us is therefore not merely national, and corporate, but INDIVIDUAL, inasmuch as every man is called to vote, and to vote freely, according to his own opinion and choice. It is his highest moral responsibility, and most solemn action, as connected with the state.
In forming his opinions, justly or unjustly, and in selecting his representatives or agents, with reference to those opinions, and in voting for his rulers, he is himself the actor of the justice or the injustice.
What a man does by his agent, he does himself. Qui facit per alium, facit per se. If a man orders a broker to buy, he buys; if a man hires an assassin to murder, he murders. If a man votes for Senator, Representative, President, or Governor, pledged to pursue a particular line of oppression and iniquitous policy, he votes for that iniquity, he sustains it, he transacts it himself, he will have to stand before God in judg-
We do not preach to the government, but to the people, the government being merely their agent. We do not preach to the people on a question of mere expediency, or diplomacy, or profit, or political economy, or statesmanship, or even of what is best, but of what is right, of what God allows.
The question of slavery is not a question of power or revenue, but of RECTITUDE; and, since God's will is plainly expressed upon it, a question of obedience to God's law.
Beyond all contradiction therefore it is a legitimate, appropriate, authoritative subject for the pulpit; and if the course proposed for the nation is that not only of sanctioning and sustaining the system of slavery, but of enforcing it as the policy of a new state, the system to be set at the heart of a virgin society, and men who religiously hate and abhor it to be driven into an endurance of it and submission to it at the point of the bayonet, then no true embassador for God can avoid speaking out.
On the plain and pungent principles laid down in Ezekiel, he is bound to proclaim God's denunciation of such an iniquity.
OBJECTIONS URGED AGAINST THE MENTION OF THIS SIN—
BUT here again I hear the stale, accustomed outcry of political preaching; and perhaps you say, it produces noise and agitation, dispute and disturbance, in the churches, to have the sluices of God's word opened on this iniquity, and revivals of religion will be stopped, and every thing will go to ruin.
But, we may be sure every thing will go to ruin by sin, and not by the efforts to put a stop to sin.
It produces a dreadful noise, to have the safety-valves opened on board a steamboat racing with such reckless speed and pressure of steam, that the boiler is about bursting. And suppose a party of men on board, engaged in a religious conversation, should run and jump upon the safety-valve, to prevent that noise, declaring that they could not converse while the noise continued. Would that be piety or wisdom? Suppose they asserted that all the danger was from the noise, and not from the racing. Your fire-engines make a great noise, tearing through the streets to put out a confla-
Ludicrous as it may seem, I have absolutely had the charge brought against my preaching, that it excites the nerves to such a degree that the man could hardly sit still under it.
A man complained to a friend who brought him to church one Sabbath evening, that he never was so excited in his life, that he did not come to church to be excited, but quieted, but that he never found himself under such excitement of mind anywhere, and he would not stand it. Poor man, just as if the word of God were nothing but carpenter-work, to make sound sleepers! He did not consider that there are sleepers enough in our churches any day, strong timber, and no danger of disturbing them; and that the very thing we need is excitement by the truth, excitement in the mind, excitement in the heart, excitement in the conscience.
But you can not have it all one way; and when there are snags in the mind, there will be a ripple where the current of truth sweeps over them. Hurlgate itself could be kept smooth, by widening the channel, and blowing up the rough rocks at the bottom.
Between the mealy-mouthedness of preachers, and the mealy-heartedness of the people, with the motto,
The fashionable and time-serving congregations can not endure plain truth. The flour of the gospel itself must be so finely and exquisitely bolted, that all the strength is excluded, all that goes to make bone and gristle, and between that and the evil mentioned in God's word (Ephraim is a cake not turned [Hosea 7:8]) you get nothing from the gospel-oven but dough-faces.
And the same monstrous inconsistency is visible now, in the profession and life of Christians, as was in the character of the people of God of old, when in one verse he described them aa a people making great ostentation of seeking God, and delighting in his ordinances, and parading their oblations, and in the next as a rebellious generation, a lying people, who would not listen to the word of the Lord, when it condemned their own cherished and defended sins.
They fasted, but refused to break a single yoke. [Isaiah 58:2-6] They prayed, they made long prayers, and then turned and gave their influence against all preaching and all effort to establish freedom instead of slavery, which was quite equivalent to making long prayers, and then devouring widows' houses [Mark 12:40].
Just so now, men pray for
If slavery be in any way referred to, they remark upon the injudiciousness of such preaching, how certain it is to put a stop to revivals of religion, and drive away the pious praying hearts that long for the outpouring of God's Spirit.
Now is it to be supposed that God does not see to the very bottom of such hollow professions, or that his indignation against such hypocrisy is any less at this day than it was when he told his people of old, that all their oblations and their approaches to him, were a smoke in his nose [Isaiah 65:5], instead of gaining his approbation, and that even when they burned incense to him, it was no better than if they blessed an idol?
Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations; I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them. [Isaiah 66:3-4]
Love your neighbor as yourself, and thus prove that the love of God is in you. [I John 4:20-21]
A deplorable, sickly, hypocritical fastidiousness is in danger of settling down on our congregations,
There are plenty of gentlemen with kid gloves in our pulpits, but no brawny blacksmiths with sledge-hammers; or if by chance a sledge-hammer ever does come into play, it must be garlanded with silk and flowers, or cased in India rubber, to accommodate itself to the elastic conscience with which it is to come in contact; and even then, though it may be used advantageously to pound all in pieces the sin of dancing [!!], it can not preserve a conservative reputation if brought down upon any organic [national] iniquity.
But God's description of his word as a fire and a hammer [Jeremiah 23:29] certainly smacks of the blacksmith's shop rather than the parlor, and looks as if burning thoughts and hard blows were more acceptable to him than fastidious elegances.
Our young men look in vain to our pulpits for that sympathy with the oppressed, and affinity with the native impulses of the human heart for freedom, which true religion always possesses, and which the true gospel cultivates. They are repelled by the cold, sanctimonious caution with which all enthusiasm for freedom is banished from the sanctuary.
I have but just received a note from a brother minister in which he says, after inquiring as to Jeremiah's positions, "The pro-slavery sentiment here has spiked so many guns, that they expect to spike mine without much difficulty. I only wish it was of a larger caliber."
Now it is rather hazardous business,
Spike the guns of the gospel against men's sins?
Try the experiment.
And this is the effect which outrages upon truth and justice always will have, and ought to have, upon faithful and noble souls; it will only make them still more earnest and resolute.
Certainly, when truth is fallen in the street, and equity can not enter, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey [Isaiah 59:14-15], it is time for gap-men [Ezekiel 22:30], time for the duke's guard, time for Cromwell's invincibles, time to storm the enemy with greater energy than over, but not to compromise our principles or spike our guns.
The truths that have been outraged are to be reproclaimed in the spirit of outraged truth, at the behest of conscience, in the service of the God of
"Such," says Coleridge, "are in our own times the agitating truths with which Thomas Clarkson [Ed. Note: English abolitionist who got Parliament to take action against slavery] and his excellent confederates the Quakers, fought and conquered the legalized banditti of men-stealers, the numerous and powerful perpetrators and advocates of rapine, murder, and of blacker guilt than either, slavery. Truths of this kind being indispensable to man, considered as a moral being, are above all expedience, all accidental consequences; for as sure as God is holy, and man immortal, there can be no evil so great as the ignorance or disregard of them."Both the duty and the privilege of bearing such testimony, and of rebuking such wickedness, especially in high places [Ephesians 6:12], has been defended and demonstrated with illumination so dazzling, on occasions so illustrious, in a manner so noble, and with consequences so grand, that the instances are the most impressive and instructive chapters of history.
I have seldom met with a prouder and more fearless averment of the grandeur, solemnity, and imperious necessity of such testimony in the teeth of tyranny, than that of Lord Erskine, when the minions of the British crown, and a cringing, tyrannical judiciary were endeavoring to force the guilt of constructive treason upon innocent men, and to compel a jury to bring in a charge of guilty, just as they are now doing with innocent men in Kansas, but in that Territory in a manner more outrageous, more defiant of
"Gentlemen," said Lord Erskine to the jury, "this is such a horrible proposition, the imputation of treason to men whom we know never designed it, and the proposition to hang them by law on account of it, though they could have been indicted only by perversion of the law, that I would rather, at the end of all these causes, when I had finished my duty to their unfortunate objects, die upon my knees thanking God that for the protection of innocence and the safety of my country, I had been made the instrument of denying and reprobating such wickedness, than live to the age of Methuselah for letting it pass unexposed and unrebuked."
The religious sacredness and nobleness of testimony against oppression were never more grandly illustrated; but if such be the convictions and exalted sentiments of an advocate at an oppressive earthly tribunal, surely, they who occupy the place of ministers of God's truth in God's own sanctuary ought to be animated by impulses not less sacred, ought to glory in their testimony with an ardor not less sublime.
But why do we refer to mortal instances, when we have the example of divine? In the judgment-hall of Pilate, Christ Jesus himself transcendently glorified and illustrated the duty of bearing testimony to oppressed and persecuted truth, by declaring that his own object, even in becoming incarnate, was to give
Now when we hear God declaring that the throne of iniquity, which frameth mischief by a law, shall not have fellowship with him [Psalm 94:20], and when we hear him saying Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and write grievousness which they have prescribed [Psalm 94:20-22]; it is beyond all possibility of doubt that the denunciation from the pulpit, of such vast, creative, germinating, and accumulating wickedness, is pleasing in his sight. It is one object for which he has established the pulpit, and given it a sacredness in the opinion and a hold upon the hearts and consciences of men.
But let ministers beware how they lose that reverence, by yielding up the freedom of the pulpit to the fear of man, and suffering the hypocritical outcry of political preaching to prevent them from pouring the light of God's word on political sins.
Lord Erskine denounced the wickedness of the imputation of treason to men who wore known to be true lovers of their country and of freedom, and the infamy of the proposition to hang them up by an indictment which itself could not be framed except by perversion of the law. But the wickedness that Lord Erskine was called to battle against might almost boast of sanctity in comparison with the complicated villainies transacted in Kansas, and enforced by our government. For we have there the unrivalled
I defy all history, from the foundation of the world, to show any usurpation to be compared for atrocity, with this unparalleled wickedness, for it is a usurpation entered into and sustained for the extension and perpetuity of slavery.
And if the people of this country tamely submit to such shameless and monstrous prostitution of law and complication of injustice, their liberties are dead and buried from this time and forever. And yet, the Executive [Ed Note. President James Buchanan (1857-1861)] of this undeniable and enormous tyranny remains unimpeached; and there are not wanting
This could never be, if we, as a people, had kept the word of God in view, and had not forgotten or denied its principles. We need to return to them, and to examine this iniquity, and our conduct and position, in their light. Even as politicians, in regard to this matter, we must take our stand on God's word, and square our policy, our platform, according to it, or we shall surely perish as a nation, and with such a destruction as the world never beheld.
I invite you, therefore, in the first place, to a calm investigation of the judgment in the word of God in regard to the system of slavery.
In the second place, it being proved to be a sin in the sight of God, I invite you to consider the defiant iniquity, the daring and abominable impiety, of making it the great, chosen, and perpetual policy of the nation, a system not only tolerated, but to be protected, defended, extended, and enforced.
DEMONSTRATION OF THE SINFULNESS OF SLAVERY—ARGUMENT
THAT the system of slavery is sinful in the sight of God, is capable of demonstration by several distinct lines of proof. We take the simplest first, and from that ascend to a broader induction.
The evolution [elaboration] of the argument on any one of these lines would be enough for conviction; the forces marched upon them all, are overwhelming, irresistible. I restrict myself to the word of God, and even thus, much brevity will
First, we take the Law of Love. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;" and, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Neither color nor race puts any man out of the category of my neighbor. You would not yourself be made a slave. You can not, in conscience, say that you would, under any circumstances, be so treated, be deprived of your natural liberty, and held as the property of another. You feel that you are a person, and not a chattel, and that to be treated as a person and not a chattel, is your right, by the law of common reciprocal justice and benevolence.
If you had been stolen and sold, or your father before you, and had passed through forty different hands, called your owners, you would still feel that no theft of your father, grandfather, or most remote ancestor before you, could pass by transmission into honest ownership, or could give to any human being any right of property in you, and that no money whatever could purchase such right. Applied to yourself, as a man, to yourselves as men, you know, you feel; that these principles are undeniable, impregnable; by the law of God, then, you are bound to apply them to others, as yourselves.
On this ground, the command in the New Testament, specific as to duty, "Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal," would strike the fetters
Now, then, the law of love demands in you the same treatment, the same award of justice, to your fellow-being; and any relation in which you hold him, subversive of these natural rights and claims of love, is sinful. The compulsory relation itself, as your work, is sinful. It is sin per se, and can not possibly be otherwise.
I might trace and demonstrate this sinfulness, in other infractions of the law; but the worst of all, and the most prolific, is the robbery of children from their parents, the moment they are born into the world, and the claiming, as your property, what was the gift of God to those parents, what you never paid a farthing for, what you never made a contract for, what you never received from any trader even in human flesh, and over which you
I might rest the whole argument here; but I pass to a second demonstration of the sinfulness of slavery in the various laws enacted against oppression, which are indeed necessary conclusions from the law of love. If slavery is not oppression, nothing under heaven can be. It is the violation, in every particular, of every one of the statutes of God against that wickedness.
When God says, Cursed be he that oppresseth his neighbor, in whatever respect: that curse comes, in every possible shape, upon the man who claims property in man; because that claim gathers up into itself every conceivable exaction and exasperation of tyranny, cither as essence or result.
When God says, Thou shalt not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, the widow, the servant, the hireling; and when be teaches us to pray, Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts; every one of these statutes and instructions demonstrates the system of slavery to be sinful; because its fundamental claim of property in man is the sum
All the laws against oppression, all the manifestations of God's abhorrence of it, go to show the divine sentiment and sentence in reprobation of slavery, God's hatred of it, God's intense feeling and judgment against it.
When God says, "If a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him, but the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself:" and when He names the counts in His indictment of the nation for its sins; "In the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the stranger; the people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy; yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully:" the just moral application of these sentences can not possibly be made without the condemnation of slavery as sin.
There was never, at any time, in the Jewish statutes, or authorized by them, any such thing as slavery in the Hebrew nation; never any claim of property in man. When they fled out of Egypt, there were no slaves with them; the census of souls is that of free souls only; not a creature went out of Egypt on compulsion.
And the laws promulgated by Moses, in regard to the obtaining and the treatment of servants, were in no respect what is called slave-legislation, but legislation against slavery;
The obtaining of a servant [employee] by such a contract was called the buying of him [modern term, hiring]; it was simply and solely the buying of his time and service for such period as might be specified in the contract; and, to prevent the possibility of such service running into slavery by long possession, the period itself of such contracts was limited to six years; and if in any case extended to a longer time, only by solemn mutual agreement, and in no case, on no consideration, nor with any party, could such contract hold beyond the jubilee. Every fifty years, every servant in the land was free.
And children were never servants because their parents were; no claim upon the time or service of the parents created any claim to that of the children. Servitude was not transmitted by birth, and never could be. Every instance of service, whether of the Hebrews or the heathen, was by free voluntary contract.
The same phraseology is used of contracts with the heathen as of those with the Hebrews, and the one is no more a possession than the other. Whether Hebrew or heathen, when a man entered into a contract with a servant, he was said to have bought him (as, when he married a wife, he was said to have bought her) and as to the obligation to fulfill the contract, and perform the work paid for, the servant was described as his money, his possession, for
There is no such idea as that of property in man recognized, except as a wicked oppression; and the whole Mosaic legislation guarded the people at every point against such oppression; and was admirably contrived to render it impossible.
In consequence of these careful and humane statutes, both the spirit of the Hebrew constitution and the letter of the law, so effectually secured freedom as a personal birth-right, that the idea of slavery, in our sense of the term, was never embodied in the language. There is no word to signify what we call a slave, a human being degraded into an article of property.
And the laws were minute and specific in regard to the treatment of servants [employees], and their rights, to such a degree, with such explicitness and exactness, in order that there might never be any temptation to introduce or establish slavery [a job-hiring system of working for others] in the land, it being from the outset made so impossible, that without direct defiance of Almighty God no man could intend such a thing, and no tribe could accomplish it.
And accordingly, notwithstanding all the oppression of which the Jews were guilty, and the instances and forms in which they evaded the law, and at length attempted to establish slavery itself instead of the system of voluntary paid service prescribed by law, yet never, at any time in Palestine, was there any slave-mart or public
Babylon and Tyre, Greece and Rome, all nations of the earth, indeed, out of the land that was under the teaching and discipline of these laws of God, maintained the slave-trade; and never a philosopher, unenlightened by God's word, rose high enough to see its wickedness; but in Judea its violation of the first principles of justice and humanity were so manifest by the law of God, and so many statutes combined to render it impossible, that though the idol altars of the heathen world were at length naturalized in Israel, and in the seductions of idol worship the people were carried headlong, yet the slave-traffic and the slave-mart never once obtained a footing.
Your pretended title to curse them is not in this deed; your pretension to a right from heaven to lay this curse upon them, and hold them as your property, is the wildest, vastest, most sweeping and diabolical forgery ever conceived or committed. You pretend to be, by charter from heaven, the min-
Now, then, come into court, and show your own names in this instrument. God himself is the Judge of Probate, and all those who ever defrauded or oppressed the widow or the fatherless will find it so to their cost forever, except they repent of their wickedness.
Where is the sentence in which God ever appointed you, the Anglo-Saxon race, you, the mixture of all races under heaven, you, who can not tell whether the blood of Shem, Ham, or Japhet mingles in your veins, you, the assertors of a right to traffic in human flesh, you, worse Jews, by this very claim, more degraded, more debased in your moral principles, than the lowest tribe of Jews who were swept for their sins from the promised land.
Where is the sentence in which God ever appointed you, four thousand years after Noah and his children had gone to their graves in peace, to be the executors of Noah's will, with the whole inheritance given to you, as your property, for your profit, the reward of your faithfulness in fulfilling God's curse? Where is God's
Where is the gift of property at all? Where is the designation of the race whom you pounce upon by this mighty forgery, and where the designation of the race commissioned to pounce upon them? You might as well go to Russia, and take the subjects of the Czar. You might as well go to England, and take your cousins of the sea-girt isle, the descendants of your own great-grandfathers. You have no more claim upon the Africans than you have upon the aborigines of the Rocky Mountains.
The whole thing is a more frantic forgery than madness itself, unless it had the method of the deepest depravity, could have ever dreamed. But then again, if God devoted Ham to perpetual slavery, he also devoted strangers to perpetual freedom. All the strangers in the land were to be treated as those born in it, to be loved and treated as brethren; and you are God's executors for this law of love, and not for any law of vengeance to accommodate your own selfishness. There is no article in God's will giving you all strangers as your property, or allowing you to buy and sell strangers.
Again, there is an infamous contradiction of a graver kind, in the logic applied in support and sanction of this wickedness. You say that God subjected Ham to bondage, and that you are God's appointed instrument to fasten the chains upon him, the curse, the vengeance of perpetual slavery. But then, in another breath, in order to excuse yourself for this
But did God ever put that in the will? We thought he appointed you, as residuary legatees, to execute his curse upon Ham, and in default of any other heirs direct, to take the blackest colored skins upon the earth four thousand years after all Canaan's posterity had died out of existence, and lay the cursed inheritance upon them, and sell them as your property.
Now you can not get the curse and the blessing out of the same will. If a man leaves a hundred thousand dollars to endow a hospital, you can not, by law, take that and apply it to the endowment of a vast distillery. And if a man left a million to be spent in exterminating rats or wild beasts, you could not, by law, take that and endow a Trinity cathedral with it. And if you were named, for example, as executor in a man's will, who had given five hundred thousand dollars to be spent in making a descent upon Cuba to establish perpetual slavery there, you
And no principles or precedents of human custom or equity would ever permit men to deal by subtlety, sophistry, and perversion, with any human instrument of policy or conveyance, as the advocates of slavery deal with God's word. No court, hardly even Jefferies's, would have suffered such palpable distortion and misinterpretation of the king's statutes.
The claim set up by Americans, eighteen hundred and fifty-seven years after Christ, to hold the African race as their chattel property, by reason of the curse pronounced on Canaan two thousand three hundred and forty-seven years before Christ, exceeds in the extravagance of its impudence and madness any Christian or pagan hallucination ever assumed by any nation under heaven. You will say it is too ridiculous to receive a sober notice; but I have had to meet it as a grave and serious claim, put forward by a professedly religious person, who deliberately urged it as a proof that slavery could not be sinful in the sight of God!
Shall we or shall we not make God's word our guide, God's law our standard? Time is like an
They [evil people nationally] may say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways; but the voice comes, Woe unto them when I depart from them, and their whirl to ruin is like a wheel of fire.
The atrocities in Kansas have roused up very many who would not have been aroused by the claims of simple truth and justice. There are those who can not be made to see that our liberties are endangered, or are worth keeping and defending at the cost of painful effort and expense, unless there is actual, intolerable, and continued outrage.
And some men are more affected by fire, thunder, and fury, than by quiet truth, and power. An unpretending man or principle passes with them for nothing; but a man full of swagger, ferocity, and profaneness is your great man. Any thing done in a quiet way seems to them not done at all, or not worth doing, and certainly not worth praying for.
One is reminded of the man who came to a skillful dentist to have a tooth pulled, and when it was done in an
THE WRATH OF GOD AGAINST THE JEWS FOR
This passage was written with reference to precisely the same generation, and precisely the same iniquity as the tremendous passage on the 34th chapter of the prophecy of Jeremiah.
To those who have not examined the subject, it may seem strange that not the sin of idolatry, but the sin of slavery, the violation of the law of freedom, should have been marked of God as the one
But the wonder ceases, when the nature of the crime is taken, into consideration. Being a crime concocted and determined by princes, priests, and people, together with the king, it was really making the whole nation a nation of men-stealers; and man-stealing was a crime whose penalty was death [Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7]; so that the adopting of it by the government and the people was an enshrining of the iniquity in public and glaring defiance of God's authority, in the form of their state policy.
They thought themselves secure against punishment, as a corporation of usurpers, under guilt which they could not have committed as individuals without exposure to the penalty of death. But the sword of God came down upon them in the very midst of this appalling crime; as swift, almost, as the lightning.
They were deliberately inaugurating an iniquity, as their chosen state policy, which they knew would increase in a numerical ratio from generation to generation. If it could have been restricted to the first persons stolen, and deprived of their liberty, the iniquity would have been comparatively small. But for every two immortal beings forced into this chattelism, there would be five others stolen and forced, in like manner, by the next generation; the guilt of oppression on the one side, and the sufferance of
Now to set going such a system of injustice, which was to branch out like the hereditary perdition from the depraved head of a race, increasing as the Amazon; to set a central spring of thousand other springs of domestic and state tyranny, coiled and coiling on, in geometrical progression; and a central fountain of thousand other fountains of inhumanity and misery; and to do this in opposition to the light of freedom and religion, and of laws in protection of liberty, given from God, and maintained by him for a thousand years, was so extreme and aggravated a pitch of wickedness, that it is not wonderful [no wonder] that God put an instant stop to it, by wiping Jerusalem and Judea of its inhabitants, as a man wipeth a dish and turneth it upside down. [2 Kings 21:13.]
The evil of such a crime was the greater, because, while it is enlarging every year, both in guilt and hopelessness, it seems lessoned in intensity, as it passes down into posterity. The sons of the first men-stealers would, with comparatively easy consciences, take the children of those whom their parents had stolen, and claim them as their property, being slaves born. But in fact we find that the guilt is double; because, while the parents may have been stolen only from themselves, the children are stolen both from the parents and from themselves. The stealing and inslaving of the parents could create no claim upon the children as property, nor produce any
In pursuing our demonstration of the sinfulness of slavery, and consequently of the guilt of its extension, we come next to the laws against man-stealing, man-selling, using men as servants without wages, and bringing them into bondage against their will. Slavery is forbidden of God, and condemned as sinful, by every one of them. HE THAT STEALETH A MAN, AND SELLETH HIM, OR IF HE BE FOUND IN HIS HAND, HE SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH. [Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7]. God be praised for this law! It strikes through and through the vitals of this sin.
Man-stealing and man-selling are almost the sole origin of slavery; and in the Old and in the New Testament, these things are condemned as sins, worthy of death. But if neither stealing a man and selling him, nor holding him, nor conveying him in any way to another, could make him the property of another, neither could the buying of a man, so stolen, take away his right of properly in himself, or convey it to another. The sum of fifty thousand dollars might be paid for a man offered to you by a slavetrader, but you would have no more right of property in him after you had paid that sum than before, or than if you had paid but one farthing.
The common law lays down this principle, in regard to a horse,
Now a stolen man may have been passed through five hundred hands, and the five hundredth may have paid more for him than all the four hundred and ninety-nine put together; but the last purchaser has no more rightful claim over him, no more right of property in him, than the first stealer.
And if he purchased him with the knowledge of his being originally stolen, he is himself also a thief, a conspirator, a pirate, on the principles of common law and righteousness. And if he had not that knowledge, but made the purchase ignorant of the original theft, his ignorance can not change right into wrong, can not take away the man's indefeasible and inalienable right of ownership over himself. The price of a world might have been paid for him, but he is still his own.
When Joseph was sold by the Ishmaelites into Egypt [Genesis 39:1], the purchase of him by Potiphar did not take away, or diminish one iota, his indestructible right of freedom in himself. Not the wealth of all Egypt could have given any purchaser the least right of property in him.
He that stealeth, and selleth, or if he be found in his hands; stealing, keeping, trading, all forbidden on pain of death. [Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7]. It is impossible by transmission to convert this crime into an innocent transaction.
No man can innocently buy a fellow-man as property, or acquire any right of property in him, though ho should give for him the cost of the whole solar system, if that could be weighed in God's balances and put into his hands.
Now the main origin of all the slavery on our globe has been violence and theft. An unrighteous predatory war is theft; such wars as the barbarous tribes in Africa wage against each other, and then sell their captives, are thefts. A man violently taken from his family, and thrust into bondage by such violence, is a stolen man, no matter whether ten men did the deed, or ten thousand.
But the captives of the African race, the origin of the body of slaves in this country, were brought in as the prey of kidnappers, slave-traders, the most abandoned, degraded, infernal miscreants, on the face of the earth, hovering on the coast, stealing up the creeks and rivers, prowling about the unguarded hamlets, and, like vultures, grasping their victims in their talons, or with stratagems and lures, bribing others to entrap them.
The slave-ships, and the slave-pens, have been crowded, and are still, for still the accursed traffic rages, with such outraged and down-trodden human beings, bought and sold, and the slave-property, so called, on this whole continent, is the result of bloody violence and theft. So that, though you may talk as much as you please of your slaves as being inherited, or as having been the property of your father, or grandfather, or
The quality of crime, the taint of theft, the essential element of man-stealing, is in the very title by which you claim any creature of that race as property. It is a brand that no art can efface, no file of sophistry can rasp it out, no machinery of law can erase it.
The brand of ignominy which you put upon the slave, when you call him a chattel, and treat him as such, is the brand burned deeper in your bargain, in your complicity with robbery, in the immorality of your legal title, than in his soul; and generation after generation can not cover it up, can not eliminate it; can not so vulcanize it, but that the fires of the last day itself will only bring out more clearly its essence of oppression and iniquity.
But we must apply the argument still more directly and definitely to the children of the slaves, and the title of the slave-owner, so called, to the children born on his estate, under his jurisdiction.
Suppose, then, that the stolen slave has children, born to him while under the compulsory dominion and ownership, so called, of his master. Do those children belong by right to the master? Has he any better title to them than to their father, whom he bought knowing
And if his children take those children as their property, and claim their children of the next generation as the same, they, in their turn, become men-stealers. And here we have, in brief compass, the very essence of slavery; at every step downward, in its progression, it is man-stealing.
There is no escaping from the logic of this argument. The facts, the principles of natural and revealed justice and law, and the reasoning from them, hold you with a grasp as inexorable as death. All the generations of mankind to the last day, and all the complication of their interests, can not alter the nature of right and wrong.
What can be a greater violation of natural right and justice, than to determine before-hand that the beings born shall be born your property, and that this is righteous law? What claim have you? Where did it begin? You say, perhaps, that you bought the parents, and paid for them. But you never bought the children; you have paid nobody for them, no master, no slave-dealer; if they are property, you have got it without an equivalent; it
Time can not sanctify the claim, but only increases the iniquity, for the more the slave's faculties are developed, and the more precious they and his rights are to himself, and the more profit you make out of them, the greater becomes the theft. Transmission can not sanctify it.
You might as well argue that because Adam sinned, and you were born of sinful parents, it is therefore right for you to sin. Original sin has produced inherited righteousness! What was original sin, by being inherited, becomes propagated holiness!
DOING EVIL THAT GOOD MAY COME—THE GOSPEL OF SLAVERY—
IT is thus that the support of this iniquity requires and effects the perversion of all the principles of morality. This is one of its greatest evils. It sanctions the principle, Let us do evil, that good may come. Because a few savages brought from Africa have been taught Christianity here, therefore the robbery by which they were brought is itself changed into piety! The evil, out of which God brings good, is asserted to be good. Because some native Africans, stolen from their country, have been taught the gospel here, therefore, instead of giving them their freedom here, let their posterity itself be enslaved, that slavery may be to them the means of redemption from a more barbarous state!
But the millions born in this country are not born in Africa, nor in barbarism, but under the light of the gospel, and have no need of slavery to redeem them. So that, even if the original iniquity of stealing men in Africa and making slaves of them in order to make them Christians, were right, it does not make it right to
make slaves of their children, who are born, not in heathenism, but in Christianity. It is not slavery that redeems them, but slavery that prevents their free enjoyment of the light and civilization under which they were born.
Their fathers may have been born in heathenism, and slavery may have redeemed them from it; but their children being born in Christianity, slavery plunges them into a state below it, and deprives them of its privileges. Their parents being made slaves are the cause, not of their being made Christians, but born slaves, and continued as such.
Our [white] forefathers being persecuted [in Europe] was the cause of their coming to this country as freemen. Is persecution therefore the just inheritance and law for their children, the normal state of their descendants?
It is this propagation of evil, this germinating power of sin, that fastens the curse of God inherent in the system. Every generation of this property, so called, is not only stolen, but the theft and impiety are enormously increased.
In proportion as it travels a greater distance from the fountain, its volume is enlarged, till it rages like the sea. It becomes the domestic policy of a nation. It enters into all their system of justice and of law, corrupting and perverting it. It has a reflex influence on society and character, sweeping the morals as with a pestilential wind, or a tide of impurity.
The proverbs directed of God against the unjust accumulation of riches,
strike into the heart of this iniquity, and work the retribution there.
This germinating and perpetual quality and power of sin, inhering in slave property as it does in no other kind of riches, it is no wonder that God, in his legislation for mankind, condemned it at the fountain, and affixed to the crime of stealing a man, and using him as property, the penalty of death. The condemning moral power of that penalty runs on with
the propagation of the crime; the condemnation does not die out, as if the crime itself died out by being propagated, or as if it were diluted instead of being increased, in passing to the next generation.
On the contrary, whereas, to a wicked and remorseless man, bent on self-interest only, and accustomed to this wickedness, there may seem to be some actual claim of property in a man whom he has bought as a thing, and paid for as a thing, from another man who claimed the right to sell him as a thing, there is no shadow of such claim in taking the children of that man, whom he grasps as his property, without ever paying a farthing for them, or consulting a creature in regard to them. So, supposing the slave-father to beget two children, the slave-owner, so called, multiplies the iniquity just in that ratio of increase in every generation: where he bought one, he steals two.
It is partly for this reason that, coming down near two thousand years from the publication of these Mosaic statutes, Paul, in effect, republishes them under the authority of the gospel, and, in the Epistle to Timothy [1 Tim. 1:9-10], includes man-stealing specifically among the other forms of sin forbidden by those statutes, and, accordingly, to be condemned by the gospel.
But, to such a depth of corruption and blindness have the practice; the profit, and the legalization of slavery, sunk men's minds, that there have not been wanting creatures who, to evade the prodigious power of the
argument against slavery drawn from the terms of the divine law, have contended that, not a man, as a man, but merely a Hebrew man, was signified in the statute against stealing a man and selling him; so that, to steal a man, as a man, might neither be unlawful or unchristian, but only [sin for] a Hebrew man.
This attempted evasion of the universality and power of the first statute is founded on the specification in Deut. xxiv. 7:
"If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and making merchandize of him, or selleth him, then that thief shall die."But this latter statute was passed forty years after the other, without any mention of the other, or connection with it, which proves that the other was never abrogated; and if the other had referred solely to the Hebrew man, the latter had been perfectly superfluous, being neither a statute of limitation nor interpretation.
It having been found, in the course of forty years, that the first and general law might have been claimed as applying only to the stranger or the heathen, and not to the stealing of a Hebrew, whose servitude, even if stolen, could not last more than six years, it was found necessary, for greater security and definiteness, to add the second enactment, specifying the Hebrew man.
But any limitation of the first statute by the second is forbidden by the application of verse 14, of the same chapter:
"Thou shalt not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy
strangers, that are in thy land within thy gates."
Now, if a hired servant, that was not a Hebrew, could not be oppressed, any more than a native, much more could not such a one be stolen with impunity, or the thief escape the penalty. He could not be permitted to plead that because there was a law against stealing a Hebrew, therefore the law against stealing a man was null and void.
But now, you perceive, the Apostle Paul has set this point forever at rest, by himself referring to the first law as applying not to Hebrew men, but to men, any man, a man. The word he uses in quoting the law is a word meaning MEN-STEALERS, not Jew-stealers, not stealers of Hebrew men. Stealers of MEN he specifies, and his reference to the law there is no possibility of mistaking, and this sets the matter beyond dispute.
Just so with reference to the other evasion (for there is no end to the quibbles and quirks with which men have struggled to prevent the crushing and annihilating power of these statutes) by which some have endeavored to restrict the application of the law against man-stealing to the stealing of slaves, as if this statute were merely a law for the protecting and rendering more sacred a man's slave-property, making it, in fact, incomparably more sacred than any other property.
They say that, indeed, to steal a slave from his owner is worthy of death, but not to steal a man, as a man, from himself, and from God his Maker. You may steal a free man, and make
him a slave, and that process, in certain cases, in these latter days, may be just a Christian process for his good, the providential mode by which he is to be taught religion!
But the moment you have stolen him from himself, and made him a slave by selling him, then you have converted him into a sacred piece of property! then, to steal him from his master, is a sacrilege worthy of death!
Is the human mind capable of contriving a more diabolical or a meaner palpable resort of lying villainy than this? Can Christian men believe that men could be found willing to descend to such bareness, or smit with the capacity of such detestable wrigglings and twistings of sophistry!
How much better to come out boldly, and deny that there is any guilt at all in stealing a man anywhere, if your interests, or the interests of your state, demand it.
Unfortunately for this argument, or rather this make-shift in the place of argument, the Apostle Paul, in quoting and applying this law against men-stealers, does not speak of servants, but of men, and uses a Greek word of perfectly well known and unquestionable meaning, as applied to men, and not to slaves, so that this settles the matter, even if upon the interpretation of the statute there had rested the slightest cloud of uncertainty.
SACREDNESS OF THE PARENTAL RELATIONS—VIOLATION OF IT BY
IN the fourth place, the inviolable sacredness of the parental relation, by which the children of the parents belong to them, and them only, a thing acknowledged even by the most barbarous tribes, all the world over, but settled by the legislation of the Hebrews, demonstrates slavery to be sin.
For, the denial, the utter disregard, and ruthless violation of the parental right and claim is one of the essential elements of slavery, so that one of the most valuable considerations of this kind of property is its life-power of reduplicating itself by propagation, through the very prostitution and perversion of the family and parental relation for the breeding of slaves.
And it is wrought into slave-law in terms that might make the air redden with wrath at such a lie against immortality, and such a theft of body and soul in the very instant of birth, that the thing born follows the condition of the womb that bore it. The mother being the property of her master by law, the child born is, without any pretense of purchase, or
equivalent paid, or bargain contracted, or permission, or consent asked or given, the property of the same master. This claim is in itself, and as wrought by law into the system of slavery, and set at its foundation, a criminal violation of the parental claim and authority as established by the Creator; in every generation it is stealing from the parents.
Even if there were a bargain [contract] with the parents, that could not wipe out the guilt, or change the moral essence of the transaction. For no parent has any authority or right to sell his child. A man can not abrogate the responsibility of the parental relation for his child's own good, can not sell him to another for a price.
A man can not sell what he does not own to sell. This it is, that vitiates the claim to the children as property, and beyond all possibility of contradiction demonstrates the system to be sin per se, that maintains such a claim as its essence.
Now it is just here that the shoe fatally pinches; the argument cuts to the quick. There is nothing at all that rouses up such anger as to be told that slave-holding is man-stealing. But the logic will have its way; you can no more stop it than you can stop the lightning. And you can no more, by noise and fury, prevent the truth of this conclusion from being truth, or from being evident, than by drums and kettles you could call up an eclipse, or hang a vail over the solar system.
Your exceptions are honestly and frankly admitted. It is the case that under an inherited
compulsion some become slaveholders in law, who are not such in gospel; that is, they hold their slaves not as property, not as owners of them, but as humane beings who own themselves, and to whom they owe for their services, whatsoever is just and equal, and over whom they maintain their legal claim, not to sell them, but as masters and guardians for their good, as well as for domestic service, to preserve them from oppression, till the providence of God may open a door for all parties out of the whole evil.
Less than this can not possibly consort with the phrase that which is just and equal, nor with the law to do to others as you would they should do to you [Matthew 7:12].
But whosoever claims them as his property, to sell for money, as a horse is sold or a wheelbarrow; or whoever takes their children, born God's immortal sons, and says,
that person is, by impregnable logic, a man-stealer. He may say,
He may keep out of the light, may refuse and scorn with great indignation to hear the argument [Bible evidence] from God's word; but that makes no difference in the truth itself, or its application.
If he might see, and refuses to see, God is the judge why he will not see; but his keeping away from the light does not change the nature of the sin, any more than a man's commit-
ting robbery at midnight, without a lantern, when he absolutely could not see whether what he stole was bank-bills or brown paper, prevents that act from being sin.
But when a man says, I see, and with his eyes wide open goes into this wickedness as a sacred right, or if God sees that he loves darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil, and that he hates the light, and cometh not to the light lest bis deeds should be reproved [John 3:19-20]; then God must take him in hand and will administer judgment, for man can not do it. But O! the solemnity of that declaration in regard to any part of God's word that you will not hear, but deny,
Men are apt to think, if they put away God's truth, and deny its application, or keep out of its light, that what they do in their imagined innocence, because they do not see or acknowledge its iniquity, they will not have to encounter in the judgment, under God's word, in God's interpretation, and not their own. But if they say,
that is, they who declare that they see, and cannot and will not be taught by a greater light than their own opinions, even the light from heaven, they shall justly and judicially remain in blindness, and go on presumptuously and confidently sinning in consequence.
A man's keeping out of the light does not release him from responsibility, though the Romish casuists excuse the most enormous crimes in this way. A man has but to avoid or evade the truth, or to restrain himself from examination and reflection, and thence-forward for things done in ignorance he is not to be held to account. A Roman Catholic theologian, writing concerning the quality of human actions, says,
That may be logic on earth, but it will never do in heaven. A man may abide by it here, but it will abide by him hereafter, to his cost, if he does not repent of it. There are degrees of sin, according to degrees of light, but they who keep out of the light, in order that conscience may not plague or prevent them in the indulgence of sin, every degree of darkness into which they succeed in sinking themselves does but add to their guilt.
They who deliberately sanction oppression, and live in and by the approval of the claim of property in man,
maintaining slavery to be right as a divine institution, can not do it and keep up to the profession of a Christian hope, but by violence and stifling somewhere.
Like divers, they have to put weights upon their feet, and armor over their bodies, to get down into such depths, and not die there; and all the air they do get is but just enough to keep them from suffocating, and they get that in the most constrained, torturous, artificial way. And the fact that people can live and breathe at all in such darkness is not to be taken as a proof that darkness is as good as light, or the sea as good as the air to live in.
Just so, there is an abstract possibility, perhaps probability, and actuality of there being slaveholders, who are such in the eye of the law, but not in the eye of God, because they abjure before God all claim to any of their fellow-creatures as property, and consider their slaves as servants simply, to whom they are bound to give that which is just and equal.
But one such case, or a dozen such, can not change the nature of the system, nor take away its sinfulness, nor excuse the wickedness of treating a man as a thing, nor shield slavery from being declared to be what it is, with the claim of property in man, sin per se.
The crime of murder, considered simply as the killing of a man, is no more sin per se, than slavery; there may be exceptions in the same way, but the exceptions do not destroy the rule. If a man kills another, as Moses did, in defense of his brother,
the fact of such killing not being sinful does not prevent murder from being sinful per se. Just so, the fact of one man holding a slave under a State law that compels him to do it, by making it impossible for him to set him free, does not prevent another man's holding a slave as his property from being sinful in itself and absolutely.
The claim of property in man is in itself and absolutely, by demonstration of the divine law, sinful. But when a man holds a slave by slave-law, not as his property, but to protect him from the iniquity of such law, that is not claiming property in man, but denying it, and defending the victim of such claim.
There is an infinite distance between that and slavery. It is not benevolence, but oppression, against which we contend. It is a very convenient mode of covering up the enormity from exposure and reprobation, to say that some men may hold slaves for their good.
Very well; and if all would do it, there would be no more slavery, and no more need of slave-law; but this possibility does not change the nature of the system. By wranglings about per se, some men succeed in putting their own judgment and conscience at sea, and sinking their moral discernment in the sea, of sophistry and falsehood.
Can they imagine that God will excuse them, when they stand at his bar, and plead as their reason for not opposing the wickedness of slavery, that they could not accept the doctrine of its being a sin per se?
As if that were a talisman [magic device] to protect you from God's judgment! You, who resort to such apologies to shield you, and hide yourselves from your duty and your country in the hour of peril, the hour that demands an outspoken boldness, are like the bewildered prophet fleeing to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. The mighty tempest is now about you, but you are all Jonahs sleeping in the sides of the ship, as if a snug berth could keep you from ever knowing what a storm is raging. But by-and-by, in bare self-defense, the very shipmen will haul you out, and throw you overboard, as the only means of quieting the tempest.
And God perhaps will teach us, out of our own misery, how to pray for the inslaved, and by our own anguish will open our mouths for the dumb under oppression, if we refuse to do it in our churches.
THE COMPOUND INTEREST OF CRIME—THE 8LAVE'S NOTE-OF-HAND
COMPOUND interest is a terrible thing. A man shall steal five dollars from his neighbor, or take a piece of property from him by fraud worth a hundred, and in a course of years shall make what he thinks an honest fortune, having possibly forgotten the wrong done to his poor neighbor. But at length the fraud is proved, and what was a hundred dollars at the outset shall take his whole fortune to redeem. Compound interest runs with money; and do you suppose it can be separated from crime?
It holds on, it runs on, and a man's mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate. It makes no difference by what gentle name he baptizes his robbery or cruelty, nor by what specious apologies of law, or custom, or inheritance, he excuses it. God sees through all his sophistries.
God's conscience does not wait upon his; nor will God's justice be turned aside by his willing self-delusions, nor is God's righteousness to be defined, or its operation paralyzed, by his igno-
rance. The great accountant will not stop casting up the columns against him, because, when he incurred the items, he never considered the interest; nor will the presentation of the bill for payment be prevented, because he has nothing to pay.
The slave holds, under God's own hand, a note against you, with compound interest for the crime committed against his father; and when you lay your grasp upon his children, and take them as your property, the note is more than doubled against you, and the interest runs on. The man was stolen originally, and now tell me, if you dare, where did the guilt stop? Did that theft convert two immortal beings, not then born, into just property? Did the man who bought the slave, knowing him to have been stolen, convert him into just property by paying the price of blood?
When the High Priests gave thirty pieces of silver to Judas, did they buy a right of property in Christ? Or, if the man bought the slave without inquiring as to the title, does that willful ignorance take away the ownership of a stolen man from the man himself, and convert him into property? And when the buyer, in addition to that injustice, claims the man's children as his property, without ever even going through the pretense of giving one farthing for them, does that clear his conscience, and still further establish his claim?
Ah! there is a God in heaven that looks on, and his justice takes account of these transactions. The
man, by that claim of property, indorses the original guilt as his own, and the compound interest of crime waits for him. As the persecution of the prophets came down from age to age unavenged, but held their possession, their cluim for retribution, not only undiminished, but accumulating with every repetition of the sin, no quit-claim ever given, nor action of ejectment by delay, nor outlawry by lapse of time; but when the bill came in, all the columns were footed up, all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, to the blood of Zacharias, to be paid by that generation [Matt. 23:35-36; Lk. 11:50-51], so runs on the guilt of slavery in a nation that sanctions and sustains it.
The souls under the altar count up a vast difference in the dates of their respective bills of retribution, as they cry out still, How long? [Rev. 6:9-10] But the oldest of them is as fresh in the justice of the living God as the latest. The cry loses none of its power; but gathers it, by age. Indeed, there is not a moral issue in the universe but increases by procrastination. The mournful wailing voice of Zacharias [2 Chron. 24:20-22] had the same earnestness and claim of vengeance with that of Antipas, the last martyr catalogued by name in the New Testament [Rev. 2:13]; and Polycarp's is as fresh as Latimer's, and Latimer's as Lovejoy's. For one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day. [2 Pet. 3:8] As long as the iniquity is not repented of, but indorsed and repeated, so long the voice of thy brother's blood
crieth unto me from the ground. [Gen. 4:10] No injury is ever outlawed, and some injuries perpetuate themselves in more than geometrical progression, having a side increase in ten thousand channels and directions, in the way of moral corruption, beside the direct onward reduplication.
And this is the case with slavery. Who shall take account of the millions of white men lost by it, defrauded of their birthright in Christianity itself, by the debauchery of conscience and the habits of pride, cruelty, licentiousness, and unrighteous gain and power fastened on them, by the antagonistic gangrening energy of this domestic system, as a dead corrupting carcase, hung round the neck of their Christianity itself, and made a part of it by the law of the land?
And who can compute the amount of infidelity nourished, if not produced, by such a caricature of Christianity thrust upon the anguished soul? What horrible perversion of truth, and confusion of principles, to read in the Old Testament how all God's attributes burn as a consuming fire against every form of oppression, and then be called on to believe that the same divine revelation sanctions, as the most just and perfect form of domestic society, the greatest possible oppression under the sun!
OWNERSHIP IN MAN NOT POSSIBLE—FORBIDDEN IN THE SCRIPTURES
To this branch of the argument, as to every other, belongs the fact that never in the Scriptures is the idea of ownership in man admitted, nor the possibility of selling man, woman, or child, as property, without the guilt of an enormous crime. The owner of a servant or slave is a phrase never known. The owner of a horse or an ass is spoken of, but of a man, never. The cases of selling men, of trading in them, are marked with abhorrence, as cases for God's wrath.
In the whole history of the Hebrews there is no instance recorded of any man's soiling a servant or child, and no trace is to be discerned of any such transaction. It is indeed mentioned, but mentioned as sin, mentioned to receive God's curse as criminal.
"Thus saith the Lord, For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment, because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes."*And the selling of
*Amos ii. 6.
children by the heathen is expressly marked for God's vengeance.
The crime is plainly denounced as a crime, whether committed by any miserable, degraded, avaricious singers among the Hebrews, who well knew how abominable this iniquity was in the sight of God, or by ignorant and abandoned pagans, according to the custom of their own country, and permission of their own laws. The examination and comparison of these cases shows with what infinite abhorrence God must look upon the enormities, abominations, cruelties, impurities, and diabolical practices of the slave-trade, as kept up by a Christian people such as we.
The internal, domestic, horrible iniquity of slave-breeding, and the known and open existence of slave-marts, slave-traders, and slave-trading, sanctioned and maintained by custom and law, are, beyond all comparison, worse than any thing of the kind in the land of Judea, that ever called down the curses of God on those who dared to engage in it.
Yet in this Christian land, this indescribable and most atrocious abomination is maintained, and as of old, when the word of God is directed against it, those guilty of it maintain not only its legal innocence by unrighteous law, but its sacredness in the very sight of God, as part and parcel of the great missionary system.
This searedness and stupidity of conscience is no excuse for crime, but rather, under the light of God's word, an exceeding great exasperation of it. That men could so torture, and blind, and petrify their moral sense as not to be able to blush at such abominations, just shows how completely their iniquities are their masters; they are holden of the cords their own sins, and love to have it so. They are like those condemned in Zechariah xi. 5; the oppressors of God's sheep, the destroyers of men;
The same crimes are alleged against heathen when they oppressed the captive Jews.
Such passages cast a powerful incidental light upon the wickedness of selling human beings as property, whether men, women, or children. It is plain enough how God regards it.
And this is a thing we are to bear in mind in turning to the New Testament, and examining the instructions given both to masters and servants there. When it is there commanded,
what think you is the standard of equality and justice by which measurement is to be made? Was it left to the option or judgment of the master, or even to the contract between master and servant?
Nay, these very Old Testament Scriptures, these laws before us on this very subject were the sole and the authoritative guide.
There was no need, at any time, of denouncing slavery in the New Testament, for it had been rendered impossible by tbe Old Testament for any man to practice it, to claim property in man, and preserve a conscience clear from wickedness.
There was not a creature in existence who knew the teachings of God's word in the Old Testament, who did not know that the claim of property in man was a crime in God's sight, and that no man could give to his servant that which was just and equal, and yet treat him as a chattel, or hold him as a slave.
There was not a creature who knew God's statutes on this subject in the books of Moses, and God's wrath for the violation of them, as recorded in the histories and the prophets, and was capable of reasoning at all, who did not know that for him to take a young child, and claim that child as his property, because the father and the mother had been his slaves, was to make him-
self a man-stealer, to incarnadine his conscience with the stain of that crime, denounced in God's word with the penalty of death.
There was no need to repeat these precepts, but to comprehend them in the law of love, and to turn every man's conscicnce in regard to all the duties specified by them back to them, under the power of the gospel, for definition and detail. It is as plain as the day that no man could submit to the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, and yet maintain the iniquity of claiming property in man.
No Restoring of Runaway Servants—The Hebrews Forbidden
THE consequence of these safeguards for the freedom of the servant was such, that there is no such thing ever known, ever intimated in the history of the Jews [of the Ancient Israelites], as that of any master seeking to recover a runaway. There are cases of men going from Dan to Beeraheba to recover an ass or an ox that had strayed from its owner, but no instance of any man going after, or sending after, a stray servant.
The first and only instance of a slave-hunter figuring in the sacred pages is that of the condemned liar, hypocrite, and profane swearer, Shimei, "whose servants ran away to Achish, King of Gath [I Kings 2:39]"; and no wonder that they fled from the service of a man who threw stones at David, and cursed him by the wayside [2 Samuel 16:5-6], if that was the way in which he treated his domestics at home.
The Jewish law [Bible law] strictly forbade any one from ever returning unto his master that servant that had fled
from his master to him. If an ox or an ass had strayed from its owner, any one finding the boost was commanded to restore it to its owner, as his property; but if a man's servant had fled away, every one was in like manner forbidden to restore him; demonstrating in the strongest manner that a servant was never regarded as property, and could not be treated as such. A man's ox belonged to him, and must be restored to him as his property; but a man's servant did not belong to him, and could not be his property, and if he chose to take himself away, was not considered as taking away any thing that belonged to his master, or could be claimed and taken back by him.
It is not possible for an incidental demonstration to be stronger than this. If the possibility of property in man had been admitted, if servants [employees] had been regarded as slaves, and masters as owners, then the law of God would no more have permitted any two-legged property to run away from the owner, to steal itself from the master, than a four-legged property; a biped would have no more right of property in himself than a quadruped; and the law would no more have permitted any man to secrete, protect, and keep back from the owner a strayed or runaway biped in the shape of a man, than a strayed or runaway quadruped in the shape of an ox or an ass.
"Ox, ass, sheep, raiment, or any manner of lost thing which another challengeth [alleges] to be his, the thing shall be judged; if stolen, thou shalt make restitution
to the owner; if found, thou shall bring it back to the owner.*
But a servant is not a lost thing, not an article of property, and there is no such thing as an owner of him recognized. "If thou meet even thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again."†
But "thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which has escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in any one of thy gates where it liketh him best; thou shalt not oppress him."‡
He is a freeman, as any of you, free to choose his residence, free to go and come as he pleases, free to stay unmolested, in whatever place he may prefer, and there is no owner to him, no creature that has any power to interfere with his liberty, no law binding him as any man's property, but an explicit, divine law, recognizing, guarding, and establishing, beyond possibility of denial or interference, his sole right of property and ownership in himself.
Now, I maintain that it is not possible for language or thought to present a stronger incidental demonstration than this, of the impossibility of a creature of the human race being property. The demonstration is absolutely all the stronger for being incidental. It never entered into the mind of the sacred writer, it never entered into God's heart, to set forth, in a formal proposition, that the claim of property in man
Just so, there was no need of saying, as an abstract proposition, that the act of murdering is sin, because the law said, Thou shalt do no murder; and, The murderer shall be put to death.
But when we find, side by side, in the catalogue of statutes defining and illustrating the sin of stealing, and commanding the restoration of stolen or lost property, with the appellation of owner bestowed on those to whom such property is to be restored, a commandment, not to restore to his master the servant that has fled from his muster to thee, the forbidding of such restoration, and the avoidance of the term owner, are intensely significant.
This is the thing to be borne in mind, also, in reading the Epistle of Paul to Philemon. This is the thing that accounts, in the first place, for his sending back Onesimus to Philemon at all; which he would not have done, and could not conscientiously have done, with the statute in Deuteronomy staring him in the face, had he not known that he was sending him back to a Christian, perfectly aware of that statute, and acquainted with God's whole reprobation of the crime of oppression, and the iniquity of claiming property in man. And, hence he says to Philemon, "Whom I would have retained," would have done it, and could have done it, conscientiously, by the law
of God; but, perfectly confident in Philemon's Christian integrity, he would not impose that detention upon him, and compel him by the law, but would give him the sweet privilege of yielding up the man to Paul, on gospel grounds, and willingly. And hence, also, he says, Thou therefore receive him, as I have sent him, not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved.
Not now as a servant. It is impossible to understand this, or any part of this remarkable Epistle, indeed, except under the light of all these statutes against slavery, which we have been considering. But the moment you bring this phrase under the convergency, the focus, of this light, the brilliancy is glorious; it is as if a diamond had burst into a blaze. Paul would not, and could not, have returned Onesimus at all except to a man who, as a Christian, well knew God's judgment against slavery; nor to him, unless he had had perfect confidence in his Christian integrity, that he would receive him as no longer a servant, a slave, even if he had been one before. Paul would never have sent back Onesimus to any doctors of divinity who proclaim slavery a divine institution, nor to any one who could have stood up and said, as doctors of theology since his day have done, We accept the system of human slavery, and conscientiously abide by it.
In the whole history, from that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, down through the whole line of their de-
scendants, not one instance is to be found of the sale of a man, whether as servant or slave.
The only approximations to such a thing are treated and denounced as criminal. When they obtained servants, or purchased them, as the phrase was, they purchased [hired] their time and labor [services] from themselves; but if they attempted to sell them, it could not be done witliout stealing them; it was making articles of property out of them; it was asserting, and violently assuming, ownership in them; it was MAN-STEALING.
Accordingly, in the transaction of the selling of Joseph, which is described as the crime of stealing [Genesis 40:15]; and no person in Judea could ever have sold any human being, no matter by what means in his power, without the conviction of doing what was forbidden of God. Man-selling was no more permitted than man-stealing.
It was on the ground of the impossibility of property in man, that made the selling of him a crime, that the statute was enacted forbidding any man to return the escaping servant to his master. It was on this ground: that every servant belonged to himself and not to his master, and that if his master undertook to treat him as property, he had a perfect right to flee from him, and no man had any right to stop him, but every man was bound by God's own law to assist and defend him. This most beneficent statute was a key-stone for the arch of freedom which, by the Jewish legislation, God reared in the midst of universal despotism and slavery; it formed a security
for the observance of all the other many provisions in favor of those held to labor or domestic service; it opened a gate of refuge for the oppressed, and operated as a powerful restraint against the cruelty of the tyrannical master. There might be cruelty and tyranny in the land of Judea, but there was a legal escape from it; the servant, if men attempted to treat him as a slave, could instantly quit his master, was not compelled to abide in bondage, was not hunted as a fugitive, nay, by law, was protected from being so hunted, and everywhere, on bis escape, found friends in every dwelling, and a friend and protector in the law.
In this statute, and in all the others on this subject, we see how shameful is the libel on the word of God, how impious, how blasphemous the charge against it, of sanctioning the system of slavery. They are, in some respects, the meanest and the wickedest of all human moles, who go burrowing among the Scriptures, and twisting and distorting its passages, in the hope of finding some shadow of an excuse for this wickedness. Their work is, as far as in them lies, to make infidels; for they do what God denounced, with his extremest vengeance, the false teachers of old for doing; they belie the word of the Lord, and cause men to turn from it with the feeling that a book that teaches iniquity can not be God's word. But we throw off and denounce their perversion, and we challenge all the world to find any-
where so great a security for human freedom, and against the possibility of human slavery, or so deep a fountain and. assurance of benevolence and justice, as in these laws. They constitute, beyond all comparison, the most benign, protective, and generous system of domestic service, the kindest to the servants, and the fairest for the masters, ever framed in any country or in any age. The rights of the servants are defined and guarantied as strictly, and with as much care, as those of the employers or masters. Human beings could not be degraded into slaves or chattels, or bound for involuntary service, or seized and worked for profit, and no wages paid. The defenses against these outrages, the denouncement and prohibition of them, are among the clearest legal and historical judgments of God against slavery. The system in our own country, even in the light of only these provisions, holds its power by laws most manifestly conflicting with the divine law, and stands indisputably under the divine reprobation.
JUBILEE STATUTE OF UNIVERSAL FREEDOM—ITS APPLICATION TO
THE great crowning statute, which secured all the others on this subject, was the Jubilee Statute, of universal personal liberty for all the inhabitants of the land. The Hebrews were permitted to obtain servants from the heathen on a contract lasting till the Jubilee, but at every recurrence of that time of release all were free, and every contract was voluntary. No heathen, no creature, of any name, or race, or residence, could be forced into it; it was at any heathen servants's option to make a contract to the Jubilee, or not.
If, rather than make such a contract, he chose to return to the heathen country, he was at perfect liberty to go; and if he staid in Judea, and could find any master to take him as a hired servant, and not as a servant of all work, till the Jubilee, there was no law against that; he was at liberty to hire himself out on the best terms, and to the best master, that he could find. So much is
indisputable, and so much is absolutely and entirely inconsistent with slavery.
And had it not been for the arbitrary translation of the word servant into bondman, by our English translators in the 25th chapter of Leviticus, where the Jubilee contracts with the heathen are treated of, no semblance of an argument could have been found for the existence of any kind or degree of involuntary servitude for them. The same word is used of procuring heathen servants as Hebrew, and in neither case, nor any case, can it mean bondman, but simply and only servant.
In the 46th verse of the 25th chapter of Leviticus, the word bondman is inserted in our English version, where there is not only no such word, but nothing answering, to it, in the original Hebrew. The service of the heathen was not bondage, and made no approximation to slavery; and the law of heathen servitude until the Jubilee was simply a naturalization law of fifty years probation, of those who had previously been idolaters and slaves, for freedom.
It was a contrivance to drain heathenism of its feculence. The heathen slaves were in no condition to be admitted at once to the privileges of freedom and of citizenship among the Hebrews. They needed to be under restraint, law, and service. They were put under such a system as made them familiar with all the religious privileges and observances, which God had bestowed and ordered; a system that ad-
mitted them to instruction and kindness, and prepared them to pass into integral elements of the nation.
It was a system of emancipation and of moral transfiguration, going on tbrough ages, the taking up of an element of foreign ignorance, depravity, and misery, and converting it into an element of native comfort, knowledge, and piety. And the Statute of the Jubilee, the statute of liberty to all the inhabitants of the land every fifty years, was the climax of all the beneficent statutes, by which the sting was extracted from slavery [having a job vs managing own farm], the fang drawn; and by this statute, in conjunction with all the rest, the Hebrew system constituted a set of laws and causes to prevent the introduction of slavery and render it impossible, and at length to break it up, all over the world.
The system of Hebrew Common Law would, by itself, have put an end to slavery everywhere.
The Hebrew laws elevated and dignified free labor, and converted slave labor into free. The service of the heathen being a voluntary apprenticeship, and not involuntary servitude, it was, by reason of the privileges and instruction secured by law, a constant elevation of character, and preparation for citizenship; and then, every fifty years, the safety of complete emancipation was demonstrated. The Jubilee Statute can not be understood in any other light [way].
But, when the vail of prejudice is taken away, it is especially by the tenor of the Hebrew laws, in regard to slavery, that the beauty
and glory of the Hebrew legislation, its justice, wisdom, and beneficence, become more apparent than ever.
It is from the misinterpretation, misrepresentation, and perversion of those laws, that the advocates of slavery have contrived to draw some shadow of pretense for its existence and divine sanction among the Hebrews; although it was never slavery, but free voluntary service [jobs], concerning which the whole system of jurisprudence was established.
Some men [people and vile clergy] really [do] have the [un-Biblical] idea that the heathen were given to the Hebrews for slaves, in such wise that they might, any time that it pleased them to make a foray, go forth and snatch up any men, women, and children, whom they chose to take [kidnap], and keep them in perpetual bondage!
And this, notwithstanding the repeated statutes enacted, and staring them in the face, commanding the Hebrews to treat all strangers in their land as brethren, and on no account, nor in any way, to oppress them. The heathen were strangers, and there were no strangers in the Hebrew country but heathen; so, if the heathen had been given to the Hebrews as slaves, here were two sets of laws right against each other, directly and violently conflicting. But there never was any such gift, nor any such permission, nor could heathen
servants be oppressed, nor brought into bondage any more than Hebrew servants, nor made slaves, nor treated as property.
Even the term forever, applied to the longest possible contract for service, is used both with reference to the Hebreu and the heathen. It is this fact which renders null and void the pretence alleged by some, from Leviticus xxv. 46, that the heathen were perpetual slaves; for, if the heathen were, then the Hebrews were; precisely the same declarations being made in regard to the Hebrew, in the same case: namely, the longest contract, that he shall serve his master forever; whereas, it is admitted on all hands, without a single denial, that the Hebrew could not be a slave, and, if he had made the forever-contract, that is, till the Jubilee, then in the Jubilee he was free as ever.
The cases are precisely parallel, the form of language used is the same in the Hebrew original, both in Exodus xxi. 6, of the acknowledged freeman, and in Leviticus xxv. 46, of the pretended slave, but who was, just as truly as the Hebrew, a freeman, having made his own contract voluntarily with his master, till the Jubilee, and no longer. Then, in the Jubilee, by the great standing appointment [Jubilee law] in the Hebrew Constitution, ALL THE INHABITANTS OF THE LAND, whether of Hebrew or heathen origin, that had been bound for any term of service whatsoever, long or short, were FREE.
Let us read the two passages together. The first
is in reference to the Hebrew servant, with his wife and cbildren, apprenticed to serve his master [employer] for the ordinary service-term of six years. At the end of that time, he is as free as his master. But he had the privilege, by law, if his situation pleased him, if he loved his master, and liked his service, to enter then into the longest engagement with the same master [employer], even till the Jubilee, and his master [employer] was compelled to agree to it, and could not compel him to quit. The law reads as follows:
Now, several things are here to be considered.
the first passage, they shall serve you forever, or, ye shall serve yourselves with them forever; meaning, just as in the first passage concerning the Hebrews, till the Jubilee. The first passage might just as properly have been translated, he shall be his bondman forever, as the last.
For it is pretty clear that the money was always paid down [in advance], or a great portion of it, in this bargain, and the servant [employee] had the privilege of trading with it, and making the most of it he could, and thus, if he chose, he might at any time, if successful, buy back his whole contract. But, if the money was thus to be paid beforehand, some idle rascally servants might possibly be so wicked, so imitative of the more respectable swindlers on a grander scale, as to take advantage of this, and having received a considerable sum for the con-
tract, then deny that they had entered into any agreement longer than a renewal of the ordinary six years' term. To guard against that, if the servant [employee] insisted on staying with his master [employer] till the Jubilee, the desire must
forty-three years to come. Now, suppose the master to die ten years from that time, then manifestly the time and service of the Hebrew servant would belong to the family as their inheritance, it would belong to the children, as their possession after their father; and again, if they all died within the next ten or twenty years, and the servant lived, then ten or twenty years of the unexpired service would still belong to the grandchildren, as their possession; and so on till the Jubilee.
It [the employment contract] would be an inheritance for the master, and his children after him, to inherit a possession; inasmuch as his death, ten years after a contract made and paid with a servant for forty years, did not and could not release that servant from his obligation to complete the service, for which he had been paid, in part at least, beforehand.
Let us now read, along with this, the passage in Leviticus xxv. 46, relating to the heathen servants, or servants coming from the heathen nations into Judea for employment, and engaged under the same Jubilee-contract, the forever-contract, as in the preceding instance of the Hebrew servant so engaged. It reads thus:
As we have said, the phraseology is almost exactly the same in the last clause, defining the extent of the contract with the heathen servant, as in the clause in Exodus xxi. 6, which defined the extent of the contract with the Hebrew servant; the word forever being used in
both cases, and used with the same meaning, that is, of a contract extending till the Jubilee.
The word bond-man or bondmen is not used in either passage, though our [falsifying] translators have chosen to put it in the text, in the passage applying to the heathen, but without the least authority or reason for so doing. Instead of saying, they shall be your bondmen forever, the passage simply says, just as concerning the Hebrew servant in Exodus, they shall serve you forever; that is, they shall be your servants for the longest period admitted by your laws for any service or any contract, even till the Jubilee.
And as engaged by such contact, and paid on such terms, ye do take [hire] them, and may take them, as an inheritance for your children after you, for any part of the term of service unexpired, when vou, the head of the family, are taken away from your household. Then, these servants, by you engaged and paid for an apprenticeship till the Jubilee, shall be for your children to inherit as a possession, the possession of their time and service, which, by your contract with them, as rightfully belongs to your children as to you, until the stipulated period come to an end. That is the Jubilee-contract, the forever-contract. The passage in Exodus xxi. 6, is absolute demonstration in regard to this matter.
And thus are all the refuges [false claims] of [pro-slavery] lies swept away, by which the advocates of slavery, asserting that the heathen were slaves to the Hebrews, or could be held as such, endeavor to make men believe that slavery is sanctioned by the law of God.
THE JUBILEE-CONTRACT OF SERVICE FOR THE HEATHEN—EVERY
Now taking the 44th and 45th verses of the same chapter in Leviticus in the original, the meaning is perfectly plain, according to the law of Jubilee, with reference to which they were written. It is the long contract, the Jubilee contract, called, with reference to the Hebrew servant, forever, which is under consideration in these verses, as in Ex. xxi. 6; under which contract, namely, the servants taken from among the heathen were to be engaged, and were to be for a possession according to the engagement, up to the time of Jubilee, voluntarily assumed by both parties.
No Hebrew could compel any heathen to serve him; no Hebrew could buy any heathen servant of a third party, as an article of property. No such buying or selling was ever permitted, but every contract was to be made with the servant himself. The 44th verse reads thus: "Both thy men-servants and thy maid-servants which shall be to you of the
heathen that are round about you, of them shall ye buy the man-servant and the maid-servant," that is, of the men-servants and maid-servants themselves that have come into your land, of them, shall ye procure, shall ye obtain, your man-servant and your maid- servant, on the Jubilee-contract.
And the 45th verse reads thus: "Moreover, of the children (descendants) of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be to you for a possession." Of the children of the strangers shall ye buy; that is, ye shall take the children (the descendants) themselves, as many as are willing to enter your service on this contract, not from a third party, but from themselves, by their own free choice, and from their families, begotten among you; and those so taken, so engaged, shall, as to their time and service for the period for which they engage themselves, belong to you, be to you for a possession, a fixture of service, up to the period of Jubilee.
The English word buy convoys, of necessity, to an English reader, the idea of traffic and of property; but such was not the idea attached to the word in the original, which is the same word used of marrying a wife, as when Hosea bought his wife;* and Jacob bought Rachel and Leah his wives, and paid for them seven years' work each to Laban.† Just so,
Boaz bought Ruth.* And just so God is said to have bought his people.†
And corresponding with this, we have in Jeremiah the expression "every man his brother a Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee," in the original, which hath sold himself; ‡ that is, engaged as a servant in contract for six years.
Just so, in Lev. xxv. 47, after considering the cases of heathen servants engaged till the Jubilee, there follows the consideration of Hebrew servants engaged to the stranger till the same period, and the case is, if he, the Hebrew sell himself to the stranger, or to the stock of the stranger's family. But in the 51st verse this Hebrew servant is said to have been bought for money, which money was paid to himself, and the contract a perfectly free and voluntary [employment] contract.
So in the 39th verse, If thy brother be sold unto thee, that is, in the original, sell himself; the same free contract. And the expression, the stock of the stranger's family, is just precisely, a paraphrase or explanation of the expression in regard to heathen servants taken for an inheritance for you and your children after you; that is, heathen servants who have sold themselves to the stock of your family, engaged themselves by contract, for which you have paid the money to them, to serve you and
your children till the Jubilee, thus constituting a fixture, a possession, as to time and service paid for, in the family stock. This was done by Hebrews themselves, who nevertheless were perfectly free, and in no sense slaves; it was done in exactly the same way by the heathen, on a contract exactly as free, and they were nevertheless in no sense slaves.
It is from the misinterpretation [tergiversation] of the words buy and sell that much of the perversion of Scripture on this subject has originated and been maintained. A fair examination clears away all the [pro-slavery] sophistry, and leaves the case as plain and open as the daylight.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PROPERTY IN MAN PERMITTED OR SANCTIONED IN THE SCRIPTURES.
GOD'S JUDGMENTS AGAINST SLAVERY PROVE IT TO BE SIN—THE
IN the fifth place, the recorded judgments of God for the attempt to hold and use servants as property are another demonstration of slavery as sin. The great foremost instance is the one recorded in the 34th chapter of the prophecies of Jeremiah. It was the last crowning and exasperating crime of the nation, this attempt to establish slavery, in perpetuating the servitude of their servants, at the will and pleasure of the masters, who, by such usurpation and oppression, claimed and treated them as property.
They had been guilty of oppression in many ways before, and in this way at intervals, but now they made it a national act and establishment, and it was a fundamental violation both of the letter and spirit of the constitution and of God's law. The princes of the nation and the lords of the capital, the holy city, Jerusalem, and the priests, and all the people, conspired and combined in this iniquity together; and if God had let their existence as a nation be prolonged,
they would thenceforward have had slavery instead of freedom, as its ruling fundamental law. But the wrath of God came down so instantaneously, that they hardly had leisure to begin the working of the system.
And nothing can prove more clearly God's abhorrence of it; for, as a thunderbolt from heaven, the fierce anger of the Lord transfixed the nation. The sword, pestilence, and famine, captivity, fire, and desolation, consumed the people, and destroyed the cities of the land. There is no possibility of mistaking this record.
"The people of the land have used oppression and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy; yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God." [Ezek. 22:29-31]This passage, and the whole 22d chapter of Ezekiel from which it is taken, were the testimony of God by his prophet in Chaldea against the very same wickedness, on account of which God had declared, by Jeremiah, that the whole nation should be swept from the land.
For every other iniquity forgiveness had been offered, and space granted for repentance; but there was none for this. God had endured the idolatry of
the people, for that was not an iniquity established and defended as an organic [institionalized, systemic, society-wide] sin, nor had the attempt been made to subvert the constitution given to them from God; and while many were guilty of idolatrous abominations, there were also many who resisted and abhorred them.
But this attempted establishment of slavery was a glaring national trampling upon humanity and justice, and defiance of God, in which all classes were combined. Strenuous for rites, but not for righteousness, for sacrifice toward God, but not for mercy nor common honesty toward man, they would kill an ox for worsbip, and steal their neighbor's wages, and slay his freedom in the same breath. They
and these are crimes, the lurid light of which burns in the pages of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and others, in such a manner, that we see how the nation went into the establishment of slavery against the reiterated and long-continued warnings and denunciations of God's messengers in every faithful free pulpit all over the land.
And slavery being the subversion of the constitution [Bible Society Management Laws], to make it an engine of oppressing and crushing the free servants in the land, instead of protecting and blessing them, the moment they attempted to shield and establish tbis sin under the guardiansbip of the constitution and the laws, making themselves a nation of men-stealers, the extremest wrath of God came down upon them.
The sixth branch of this argument is the providential demonstration in the manifestation of God's curse upon the system, by its practical workings among men, and the ruin of states and empires under its influence. Its [slavery's] path has gone over the earth in an infinite train of iniquities and miseries, sins of oppression and cruelty, licentiousness and avarice, suggested and produced by its temptations and its gifts of opportunity and power, and finally concentrated in its essence; the corruptions of manners and morals, the decay of commerce, arts, manufactures, learning, and literature, the destruction of industry and intellect, the blasting and emasculation of the eartb itself under its curse and blight.
Then there is the effect upon the moral sentiments and feelings, the habits of immoral reasoning induced, the monstrous sophistry admitted and maintained, and the consequent insensibility of the conscience, and blinding and darkening of the understanding; a thing predicted in the prophets for those who would not be guided in their policy by the word of God, but trusted in oppression, and in the lying that was necessary to sustain it, and fulfilled in [for example] the judicial blindness of the Jews; and again declared in the New Testament, as the consequence of rejecting God's testimony against our own sins, and changing the truth of God into a lie, God himself giving such over to a reprobate mind, and to the all-deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish. For this cause God shall send
them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, since tbey would not believe tho truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. [2 Thess 2:11.] Just so in that psalm so vividiy descriptive of the character of unjust judges, and of the effect of habits of injustice in putting out the eyesight of the mind. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness, all the foundations of the earth are out of course. [Psalm 82:2, 5.]
The most abandoned [depraved] principles are openly maintained; the most ancicnt and revered landmarks are swept away, the most sacred compacts disregarded; the institutions of mankind, the wisdom of history, and the nature of eternal justice, alike perverted and defied.
The doing of evil that good may come is justified and applauded [by pro-slavery clergy contrary to Romans 6:1-2]; a selfish expediency is proclaimed as the right rule of the exercise of state [government] power; all the theories of moral sentiment [values] grounded in [based on] the word of God are overthrown, and a system of [depraved] public and domestic moral principles adopted, that would have disgraced the darkest ages of mankind.
Among all the monstrosities of idol superstitions, the fanaticisms of infanticide and Moloch-sacrifices, in the darkness of heathenism, without the light of the Bible, none were ever so bad as the deliberate maintenance of such doctrines as are not maintained in such light.
We are reminded by such doctrines of the horrid manufacture of the music in the pope's choir, where the mutilation of children [making eunuchs] is said to give a tone of plaintiveness and pathos to the melody, so exquisite as to be unattainable in any other way.
We are taught [contradictorily] in one and the same breath
elevating Christianity, is the badge of degradation.
Intense and unmitigated selfishness, pride, revenge, ferocity, hardness of heart, and griping, close-fisted extortion, along with the seemingly opposite qualities of lavish profusion and waste, were not merely wrought into fixtures of character among the Roman slaveholders, but they are fruits of the same system now.
Indeed the demoralizing effect of this system in making labor disgraceful, where God has made it honorable, and in taking from it its right to a place of nobleness and respect in human society, is worse than its influence in defrauding independent laborers of their just adequate recompense.
and intelligence in the pursuit of his business, learning that there was great domand for his [type of] work at Charleston in South Carolina, and thinking he might more rapidly acquire a competency there, closed up his business here, and went south for that purpose. He had hardly got established, when a lady sent for him to make a contract with him for repairing and in effect rebuilding some part of her establishment. She desired him to make a computation of the cost, and to let her know the lowest price at which he would undertake the business. The bill somewhat exceeded her expectations. Sbe reflected awhile, and at length told our honest friend that on the whole she concluded not to engage him. The work would take two or three montbs, and on the whole she could do better to buy a carpenter, and sell him again in the spring! The man left the house, went to his sbop, packed up his tools, closed up his half established business, and took passage in the first ship he could find for New York, dcclaring that a country where housekeepers could buy their carpenters, and sell them again in the spring, was no place for him or free labor to live in.
And where, in the whole extent of our [U.S.] territorial empire, let slavery once be established in the length and breadth of it [slavers' goal], can free and honorable labor find a breathing place? Where will it ever be able to command its rights of existence, or its just reward?
THE COMBINATION OF DEMONSTRATION—SOLEMNITY OF OUR
SUCH now is the vast and mighty evidence in regard to this system, in the word, and in the providential judgments of Almighty God upon it; and in its fruits in the misery of man. The intuitions of all mankind go with this evidence; the moral sense of human nature itself pronounces the system of slavery to be, in its essence, oppression, injustice, and sin. God's own testimony as to the sinfulness of slavery is as clear as his condemnation of idolatry itself; and then, as to the proof of its injustice and inhumanity to man, in the very nature of the case this is more manifest still, because human beings are the subjects of it.
On the whole, there is nothing that has a more united and concentrated verdict in regard to its wickedness, from within and without, from feeling, from conscience, from experience, from the recorded opinion and testimony of men, from the study of history, the fate of empires, and the word of God. The reverberating roar in every part of the word of God in regard
to the sin of oppression is as the sound of many waters; and the ground-wave of conviction from the depths of the consciousness of all mankind, amidst the groans of humanity, generation after generation, rolls up the judgment that personal slavery is the culmination of this sin. The feeling of our common humanity has found a common expression, and the literature of all nations is as a shrine of many-forked lightnings against it. The logic of common law, of common honesty, of common charity, must all be set at defiance in denying its sinfulness. Millions on millions of beating hearts assert, that for themselves,
Of fleeting life its luster and perfume,
And we are weeds without it;
and if they can turn from such sentiments, and with eyes moistened with the tears springing from the poetic sensibility of a Christian patriotism, can vote to make their fellow-creatures such weeds, by fastening the chains of a perpetual slavery upon them, how will they stand before God, face to face with the victims of such hypocrisy and cruelty?
The proud boasts of liberty for themselves, the care with which they guard their own personal freedom, shows what they consider the dearest birthright of their humanity; and, therefore, by the common law of love, what they know to be due to the humanity of others; and if they defraud them of it, their own natural emotions will witness against them at the last day. The dem-
onstrations as to profit, also, and the proofs of what men's true interests require, are equally clear, and must equally be defied, in the maintenance of this iniquity.
John Wesley did truly declare that it [slavery] is the sum of all villainies, and others in our land have testified that there is no sin in the decalogue [Ten Commandments] but slavery is the parent of it.
Now it is this iniquity that a large portion of the community defend.
At the South it [slavery] is entailed [permanent]; but each generation consents to the entailment [permanence].
It would be easy for any State Legislature, nay for all, if the people would consent, to put a stop to the evil. If they would but take example from the [Bible's Society Management] law of jubilee, and bring in a bill that at the end of fifty years every child born in the State should be born free, the evil would, in that period, without difficulty work itself away.
But instead of staying it [halting slavery] where it is, they [Southern slavers] propose its universal extension. There is territory enough to carve out twenty-nine new States in the region proposed to be set open to the freedom [expansion] of slavery. There are no geographical barriers to the existence and the lust of power; it overrides every thing; there is no climate on earth unfavorable to it. Freedom is a flower that you must cherish; but slavery is a weed, as [Edmund] Burke [1729-1797] once truly said, that you may have anywhere; only scatter the seed.
The question before us is as to the deliberate national extension of this system. My argument does not run backward, but was constructed simply to illustrate, by
a survey of the cogency and clearness of the demonstration [evidence, prrofs] that slavery is sin, the solemnity of the responsibility laid on us at this juncture in voting in regard to it. God has brought us, at length, by a wonderful combination of circumstances, to this, as the one absorbing issue before us as a nation,
In the history of the whole world, no nation was ever brought face to face with God, to answer such a question, as ours is at this day. It is a position, the solemnity and importance of which arrest the gaze of the nations.
And the responsibility is individual.
God has concentrated the whole issue, at length, after a whole age of thrusting and parrying, and fending off, on the primal election [e.g., for President, 1860], which combines the opinions, choices, wills, of all our teeming population in the same act.
There is no diversion of the responsibility in other ways, or on more than one principle, one line of policy, which is brought to every man's own door to decide upon, to every man'a own bosom for his judgment, to every man's own conscience for approval or rejection.
The choice of every man, we had almost said of every man, woman, and child, is concentratod in this [how-to-vote] decision with a directness of opinion, will, and responsibility, such as never accompanied any other elective act of the people, in such sovereignty of determination as no other nation under heaven ever exercised.
On this account it is indisputably the province of the pulpit to proclaim at this time the judgment of God for the guidance of the people, in this, their religious responsibility; and all plausibility and power are taken away from the accustomed [typical] allegation with which every mention of the sin of slavery has been met, when it has been referred to, namely, that we, the people of this congregation, or any other congregation in a free State, have nothing to do with it.
We now [at election time] have every thing to do with it, and are ourselves to determine in regard to it. The question as to the sinfulness of slavery and its extension, is as direct, practical, and personal for us, as of stealing, lying, adultery, intemperance, or infidelity.
If a bill for licensing polygamy were before our own State Legislature, there would be no more obligation to turn the light of God's word upon that iniquity, than there is now to examine the iniquity of the extension of slavery in the same light. It is no more a political thing to preach concerning slavery, than it is concerning dishonesty in business, or repentance toward God.
On the principles laid down in the 33d chapter of Ezekiel, of which no man ever dreamed of denying the application directiy to every preacher of the word of God, no minister of the gospel can do his duty, and avoid speaking in such a case.
This applies to whatever moral evil or sin any people are in danger of committing. No sword, no pestilence, no external misery or distress, is ever to be compared with the sword of a deliberate iniquity, cutting the people to their vitals, or the habit of iniquity, chosen as their State and domestic policy.
THE ONE QUESTION BEFORE US—PRETENSIONS AND DEMANDS OF
THE question now before us is just this, and no other, Shall slavery, henceforward, be the chosen policy of our nation? Shall it be extended over new territory, comprehending an area for the habitation of man, and the formation of human societies, larger than all civilized Europe? Shall every thing be made to bend to its advancement, and no freedom of speech, or even of opinion, be tolerated, that does not swear fealty to it? Shall the whole power of our government be enlisted and applied in its support?
Shall the United States army force it upon freemen, at the point of the bayonet, with rights that had been secured by the Constitution struck down as treason, and the freedom of thought itself forbidden by atrocious law? To this it must come, and this is the essential despotism brought upon ourselves, if we, as a nation, deliberately fasten the law of slavery on our free Territories.
Shall we plainly choose, as our guiding and ruling policy, a system of injustice and cruelty that God abhors, and that all the nations of the civilized world in turn have abolished and cast out as the scourge of a prosperous, and the opprobium of a virtuous, society? Shall this condemned and abandoned policy be set in new States and Territories, as their normal form, their jurisprudence, the Shechinah of the genius of the country?
Shall that which is as plainly forbidden of God as idolatry itself be selected by this nation and government, stamped with the people's approbation, and inaugurated as the fundamental, determining, administrative act and prudence of public and private life, the object of our worship, the North Star of our being, the standard of our morals, the law of domestic society, and the rule of State?
To this extent its pretensions and demands have come. It has happened, in the providence of God, which has permitted the experiment to go that length, before throwing the question of its sanction or rejection solemnly on the whole nation's choice, that the preparation for this crime of the extension of slavery has been begun in open violence, in a daring, yet acknowledged usurpation, establishing the throne of iniquity, in the method of framing mischief by a law. The annals of history can not show a greater wickedness. The statutes of the house of Omri in Israel, for the iniquity of obeying which, the whole people of the land were swept into desolation, were not more directly
in conflict with God and his righteousness. The [pro-slavery] territorial legislative fraud transacted in Kansas, and the execrable laws under it, enforced by the [pro-slavery] United States army, at the command of the [pro-slavery] executive [Presidents Pierce and Buchanan], at the same time that the [anti-slavery] House of Representatives has declared that very Legislature, and those very [pro-slavery] laws, to be unconstitutional, infamous, unrighteous, and therefore null and void, constitute the grossest usurpation; all things considered, ever perpetrated; because our light, our privileges, our position in the world and its ages, our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, our theory and practice of liberty for ourselves, our knowledge of the word of God, our light from history and from the examples of all nations before us, and our long consideration and examination of the nature of public justice and righteousness, brand it as a foreknown [intended] and heaven-defying crime, not rejected and reprobated, when committed, but sanctioned as crime; so that the sun in heaven never shone upon a greater enormity, all these things considered, than the [pro-slavery] oppressions and cruelties in Kansas. It is impossible to set their wickedness in an adequate light.
And now, if we accept and sustain them, and carry out the villainy for which they were committed, we have sealed our own subjection, and the ruin of our liberties forever. I say this, because, a revolution from good to evil, requiring at the outset a bloody usurpation and civil war, can go on [continue] only by the sacri-
fice of all principle. The two things can not live together:
And to this it is running on.
If we [Northerners] accept and sustain this iniquity [slavery and its expansion forever], our policy must be henceforward wholly despotic, and as much against the spirit and letter of our own Constitution as of the word of God. All our strength will be called into requisition against ourselves to subdue our own prejudices [beliefs, values] in favor of liberty; and a new net-work of law will have to be arranged to hold [suppress] the swelling emotions [pro-liberty views] we have been accustomed to utter, as a lunatic in a strait-jacket.
Our [Northern pro-libery] statutes must be [would have to be] overhauled and knotted [repealed] for the submission [revoking] of [Northern] State rights [to please the South], and judicial precedents and decisons favorable to slavery must be [would have to be] prepared and enforced, that there may be no [pro-freedom] rebellion, nor whisper of discontent.
The silent, unbroken, unmurmuring reign of terror at the South will be a stormy terror at the North, but a reign of terror still, the worse for the uproar and resistance of conscience. The [pro-slavery federal] agencies of power are in readiness, and the needed [pro-slavery] judges [e.g., Taney] are at hand, to apply all the instrumentalities in tbeir keeping. With great assurance the advocates of the slave-system look forward to the established and unquestioned catho-
licity [expansion] of its despotism, determined that it shall no longer be the creature of municipal [local] law, or local state sovereignty, but of national and international righteousness.
Not more confidently did Philip of Spain load bis vessels of the Armada against Protestant England with thumb-screws and boots for the tortures of the Inquisition, to be applied to freemen.
I wish that it were in my power, by any language, to express the sacredness and solemnity of a vote in this crisis. If there ever was a religious responsibility in human affairs, it is the obligation to resist this iniquity, when the opportunity is given of a vote against it.
There has never been such an opportunity till now; but now, no other issue is pretended, no other is talked of, no other is thought of, but the sanction and support, or renunciation and resistance, of this sin.
It is idle to pretend any other question depending than just this, Shall slavery be extended and nationalized [as the South demands]?
I wish that I could portray, as with lightning, the unmeasured wickedness of that [business] man, who will let his individual profit, or imagined profit, determine his vote on the side of injustice and oppression, in a matter on which the temporal and eternal condition of millions in future generations may depend.
The baseness of any merchant or cap-
italist is not to be fathomed, who, because the ramifications of his southern trade [business connections] require that he cast a benignant regard upon the system of slavery, will therefore vote for its extension in the land. I do not believe that human nature ever sank to a deeper debasement than it has in those [business] men, wbo, under [despite] the light of Christianity, will, for the sake of an imagined greater security of property, establish, or vote to establish, the curse of slavery where it has not gone.
To set this cancer in the vitals of a new land [the U.S. frontier], to inoculate with this plague the heart of a new society, with the full knowledge of all the evils it will entail [make permanent for] generation after generation [perpetually, forever], is a climax of wickedness, a sublimity of crime, such as no nation under heaven before our own ever had a possibility of attaining.
Divine providence has never once committed such a possibility to mortals, and would not have done it now, except to a nation educated, trained, disciplined, under the light of the gospel, and therefore prepared to repel the evil, and elect the good.
And now, for such a nation, having the power to determine the policy, the social and civil institutions, of another state, and in the words of God in Isaiah, to raise up the foundations of many generations, deliberatcly, after long dispute and discussion, to set the system of slavery at the heart of it, would be a crime so gigantic, a cruelty so infinite, that eternity alone could reveal its enormity. It [expanding slavery] is a transaction without parallel on the face of the earth. Nations have made slaves, have prac
ticed slavery, but, to compel another nation, abhorring it, into the endurance and establishment of this iniquity, puts a complication and intensity of malignity into the transaction, beyond the power of the imagination to measure and of language to describe.
If you could take one immortal being, and set within the circle of his faculties, for your profit, regardless of his fate, a spring and machinery of incessant sin and misery, that would be the supernatural wickedness of a fiend; but who can adequately illustrate or characterize the enormity of setting such a spring at the heart of a whole nation, of placing there this productive cause of all miseries, this fountain and creative agency of cruelty and crime?
We can almost see the great God of our fathers warning us for the last time; we can almost hear the voice of incarnate divine compassion, Oh that thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, thy decisive visitation, the things that belong to thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, but ye would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate! [Matthew 23:37].
We can almost see the spirits of our fathers bending down over us from their bright abodes, to see what shall be our decision in this hour of solemn trial. Oh that God would in mercy guide us! Oh that he would constrain us to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God! But if we will not, then
there is a conflict before us, such as the nations never knew. [Ed. Note: the Civil War, with near a million casualties]. Every step of the way we have got to grapple with God's word, and with conscience, and we can not overcome it. He has set it within us, and it is on God's aide, and we had better have ten thousand devils outside opposing us, than conscience within. And God will still work; his word will break forth like a volcano.
You have even now the conscience of twenty millions under the light of God's word, against the conscience of three hundred thousand slaveholders drugged by self-interest and sophistry. The conscience of the twenty millions God will continue to stir up. He will make his word like a fire in the bones, and a fire in the heart, and a fire in the brain, and the whole Pacific ocean could not put it out, nor all the mountains of profit and expediency keep it down.
No small part of our country, thanks be to God, is all conscience on this subject, living conscience, outraged conscience, conscience burdened and agonized, and crying up to God. If you under- take to silence or to suffocate that conscience, you will have such convulsions, such volcanoes as the world never saw; and if you undertake to put down the volcanoes, then you will have earthquakes, and your institutions will roll and totter like a raging sea, as when God takes whole cities by their towers, and beats them against one another.
When God and his justice are pledged against a nation in rebellion in this one sin, you can not question who will conquer.
God has thrown down the gauntlet against this wickedness, and at this late period of the world , the nation that dares to take it up will be blasted with the fury of his wrath, not less terribly than his peeled, scattered, and exterminated people of old.
of the Extension of Slavery
(30 October 1856)
Responsibility of the Church and Ministry
Respecting the Sin of Slavery
(Boston: J. P. Jewett Pub, 1858)
The Fire and Hammer of God's Word Against
the Sin of Slavery(May 1858) (UM PDF Version)
The Curse of God Against Political Atheism:
With Some of the Lessons of
the Tragedy at Harper's Ferry:
A Discourse Delivered in
the Church of the Puritans, New York,
on Sabbath Evening, Nov. 6, 1859
(Boston: Walker, Wise, 1859)
Related Writings by Other Authors
Bishop S. Horsley's 1806 Anti-
Slavery Bible Principles Speech
Rev. J. Rankin's 1823
Rev. B. Green's 1836
What Northern Men Can Do
Rev. T. Weld's 1837
Bible Against Slavery
Rev. T. Weld's 1839
Professor Charles G. Finney,
"Lecture XXXIV" Section VII,
Paragraphs 2-4 and Remarks,
paras 2, 5, 8, and 11
(Oberlin, 9 June 1841)
Alvan Stewart's 1845
Legal Speech For Freeing Slaves
(P 34 cites the Ten Commandments)
Rev. W. Patton's 1846
Pro-slavery Interpretations of
the Bible: Productive of Infidelity
Rev. J. Fee's 1851
Sinfulness of Slavery
Rev. J. Fee's 1851
H. B. Stowe's 1853
Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin
Chap. 14, pp 115-120, discusses
pertinent Hebrew Bible laws
Rev. P. Pillsbury's 1883 History
Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles
|In his 1883 historical review of the anti-slavery movement, Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles, Rev. Parker Pillsbury praises Rev. Cheever for his activism and dedication, at pages 332 and 496.|