|Welcome to the book by Rev. Beriah Green, The Chattel Principle: The Abhorrence of Jesus Christ and the Apostles; or, No Refuge for American Slavery in The New Testament (1839).
Prior to the 1861-1865 War, a number of Christian abolitionists opposed slavery. They included Rev. John Rankin, Rev. John G. Fee, Rev. Theo. D. Weld, Rev. George B. Cheever, Harriet B. Stowe, Rev. Stephen S. Foster, Deacon James Birney, Rev. William W. Patton, Rev. Parker Pillsbury, etc. Nowadays, their Bible-based reasons are generally unknown.
Other abolitionists wrote to show the unconstitutionality of slavery. They included: James Otis (1761), John Adams (pre-1776), Samuel May (1836), Salmon P. Chase (1837), Gerrit Smith (1839), George Mellen (1841), Alvan Stewart (1845), Lysander Spooner (1845), Benjamin Shaw (1846), Horace Mann (1849), Joel Tiffany (1849), William Goodell (1852), Abraham Lincoln (1854), Edward C. Rogers (1855), and Frederick Douglass (1860).
This series of websites educates by making the text of their writings accessible. Whether or not you agree with their position, it is at least a good idea to know what it was!
This site in the series reprints this 1839 book by Rev. Beriah Green (1794-1874), President, Oneida Institute.
Rev. Green had previously published Things for Northern Men to Do Against Slavery in 1836.
The Abhorrence of Jesus Christ
and the Apostles; or,
No Refuge for American Slavery
in The New Testament,
Rev. Beriah Green
(New York: American
Anti-Slavery Society, 1839)
NEW TESTAMENT AGAINST SLAVERY.
“THE SON 0F MAN IS COME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? In 1776 THOMAS JEFFERSON, supported by a noble band of patriots and surrounded by the American people, opened his lips in the authoritative declaration:
And from the inmost heart of the multitudes around, and in a strong and clear voice, broke forth the unanimous and decisive answer: Amen—such truths we do indeed hold to be self-evident. And animated and sustained by a declaration, so inspiring and sublime, they rushed to arms, and as the result of agonizing efforts and dreadful sufferings, achieved under God the independence of their country.
The great truth, whence they derived light and strength to assert and defend their rights, they made the foundation of their republic. And in the midst of this republic, must we prove, that He, who was the Truth, did not contradict “the truths” which He Himself, as their Creator, had made self-evident to mankind?
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? What, according
to those laws which make it what it is, is American slavery? In the
Statute-book of South Carolina thus it is written:
* “Slaves shall be
deemed, sold, taken, reputed and adjudged in law to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possossors, and their executors, administrators and assigns, to all intents, constructions and purposes whatever.”
The very root of American slavery consists in the assumption, that [politician] law has reduced men to chattels. But this assumption is, and must be, a gross falsehood. Men and cattle are separated from each other by the Creator, immutably, eternally, and by an impassable gulf. To comfound or identify man and cattle [as mere equals] must be to lie most wantonly, impudently, and maliciously. And must we prove, that Jesus Christ is not in favor of palpable, monstrous falsehood?
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? How can a system, built upon a stout and impudent denial of self-evident truth—a system of treating men like cattle—operate? Thomas Jefferson shall answer. Hear him.*
Such is the practical operation of a system, which puts men and cattle into the same family and treats them alike. And must we prove, that Jesus Christ is not in favor of a school [viewpoint] where the worst vices in their most hateful forms are systematically and efficiently taught and practiced?
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? What, in 1818, did the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church affirm respecting its nature and operation?†
* Notes on Virginia .
† Minutes of the General Asembly for 1818, p. 29.
Must we prove that Jesus Christ is not in favor of such things?
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? It is already widely felt and openly acknowledged at the South, that they can not support slavery without sustaining the opposition of universal christendom. And Thomas Jefferson declared, that
And must we prove, that Jesus Christ is not in favor of what universal christendom is impelled to abhor, denounce, and oppose;—is not in favor of what every attribute of Almighty God is armed against?
It is no man of straw, with whom in making out such proof we are called to contend. Would to God we had no other antagonist! Would to God that our labor of love could be regarded as a work of supererogation! [beyond the call of duty].
But we may well be ashamed and grieved to find it necessary to “stop the mouths of” [vile] grave and learned ecclesiastics, who from the heights of Zion have undertaken to defend the institution of slavery. We speak not now of those, who amidst the monuments of oppression are engaged in the sacred vocation; who as misters of the Gospel can “prophesy smooth things” [Isaiah 30:10] to such as pollute the altar of Jehovah with human sacrifices; nay, who them-
selves bind the victim and kindle the sacrifice. That they should put their Savior to the torture, to wring from his lips something in favor of slavery, is not to be wondered at. They consent to the murder of the children; can they respect the rights of the Father?
But what shall we say of theological professors at the North—professors of sacred literature at our oldest divinity schools—who stand up to defend, both by argument and authority, southern slavery! And from the Bible! Who, Balaam-like, try a thousand expedients to force from the mouth of Jehovah a sentence which they know the heart of Jehovah abhors! Surely we have here something more mischievous and formidable than a man of straw.
More than two years ago, and just before the meeting of the General Assembly of the Preshyterian church, appeared an article in the Biblical Repertory,* understood to be from the pen of the Professor of Sacred Literature at Princeton, in which an effort is made to show, that slavery, whatever may be said of any abuses of it, is not a violation of the precepts of the Gospel.
This article, we are informed, was industriously and extensively distributed among the members of the General Assembly—a body of men, who by a frightful majority seemed already too much disposed to wink at the horrors of slavery.
The effect of the Princeton Apology on the southern mind, we have high authority for saying, has been most decisive and injurious. It has contributed greatly to turn the public eye off from the sin—from the inherent and necessary evils of slavery to incidental evils, which the abuse of it might be expected to occasion.
And how few can be brought to admit, that whatever abuses may prevail nobody knows where or how, any such thing is chargeable upon them! Thus our Princeton prophet has done what [evil] he could to lay tbe southern conscience asleep upon ingenious perversions of the sacred volume [Bible]!
In a letter to a Methodist clergyman, Mr. Merritt, published in Zion's Herald, Dr. Fisk gives [pro-sin] utterance to such things as the following:—
to Anti-Slavery Mr. Merritt
Enclosing Pro-Slavery Prof. Stuart's Letter]
What are we taught there?
Thus according to Prof. Stuart, Jesus Christ has not a word to say against “the peculiar institutions” of the South.
If our brethren there do not “abuse” the privilege of exacting unpaid labor, they may multiply their slaves to their hearts' content, without exposing themselves to the frown of the Savior or laying their Christian character open to the least suspicion. Could any trafficker in human flesh ask for greater latitude? And to such
doctrines, Dr. Fisk eagerly and earnestly subscribes. He goes further. He urges it on the attention of his brethren, as containing important truth, which they ought to embrace. According to him, it is “Bible doctrine,” showing, that “the abolitionists are on a wrong course,” and must, “if they would succeed, take a different position.”
The ungrateful task, which a particular examination of Prof. Stuart's letter lays upon us, we hope fairly to dispose of in due season.—Enough has now been said, to miake it clear and certain, that American slavery has its apologists and advocates in the northern pulpit; advocates and apologists, who fall behind few if any of their brethren in the reputation they have acquired, the stations they occupy, and the general influence they are supposed to exert.
Is it so? Did slavery exist in Judea, and among the Jews, in its worst form, during the Savior's incarnation? If the Jews held slaves, they must have done so in open and flagrant violation of the letter and the spirit of the Mosaic Dispensation. Whoever has any doubts of this may well resolve his doubts in the light of the Argument entitled “The Bible against Slavery.”
If, after a careful and thorough examination of that article, he can believe that slaveholding prevailed during the ministry of Jesus Christ among the Jews and in accordance with the authority of Moses, he would do the reading public an important service to record the grounds of his belief—especially in a fair and full refutation of that Argument.
Till that is done, we hold ourselves excused from attempting to prove what we now repeat, that if the Jews during our Savior's incarnation held slaves, they must have done so in open and flagrant violation of the letter and the spirit of the Mosaic Dispensation.
Could Christ and the Apostles every where among their countrymen come in contact with slaveholding, being as it was a gross violation of that law which their office and their profession required them to honor and enforce, without exposing and condemning it.
In its worst forms, we are told, slavery prevailed over the whole world, not excepting Judea. As, according to such ecclesiastics as Stuart, Hodge, and Fisk, slavery in itself is not bad at all, the term “worst” could be applied only to “abuses” of this innocent relation.
Slavery accordingly existed among the Jews, disfigured and disgraced by the “worst abuses” to which it is liable. These abuses in the ancient world, Prof. Stuart describes as “horrible cruelties.”
And in our own country, such abuses have grown so rank, as to lead a distinguished eye-witness—no less a philosopher and statesman than Thomas Jefferson—to say, that they had armed against us every attribute of the Almighty.
With these [evil] things the Savior every where came in contact, among the people to whose improvement and salvation he devoted his living powers, and yet not a word, not a syllable, in exposure and condemnation of such “horrible cruelties,” escaped his lips!
He saw—among the “covenant people” of Jehovah he saw,
No sympathy with them who suffered wrong—no indignation at them who inflicted wrong, moved his heart! [That's the demonized claim of slavers!]
From the [falsely] alleged silence of the Savior, when in [this alleged] contact with slavery among the Jews, our divines [U.S. clergymen] infer, that it [slavery] is quite consistent with Christianity. And they affirm, that he [Christ] saw it [slavery] in its worst forms; that is, he witnessed what Prof. Stuart ventures to call “horrible cruelties.”
But what right have these interpreters of the sacred volume to regard any form of slavery which the Savior found, as “worst,” or even bad? According to their inference—which they would thrust gag-wise into the mouths of abolitionists—his silence should seal up their [abolitionists'] lips. They ought to hold their tongues. They have no right to call any form of slavery bad—an abuse; much less, horribly cruel! Their inference is broad enough to protect the most brutal driver [slaver] amidst his deadliest inflictions!
THE LAW OR THE PROPHETS; I AM NOT COME
TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFILL.”
And did the Head [Jesus Christ] of the new dispensation, then, fall so far behind the prophets of the old in a hearty and effective regard for suffering humanity? The forms of oppression which they witnessed, excited
their compassion and aroused their indignation. In terms the most pointed and powerful, they exposed, denounced, threatened. They could not endure the creatures, who “used their neighbors' service without wages, and gave him not for his work;”* who imposed “heavy burdens”† upon their fellows, and loaded them with “the bands of wickedness ;” who, “hiding themselves from their own flesh,” disowned their own mothers' children.
Professions of piety, joined with the oppression of the poor, they held up to universal scorn and execration, as the dregs of hypocrisy. They warned the creature of such professions, that he could escape the wrath of Jehovah only by heart-felt repentance. And yet, according to the [modern vile] ecclesiastics with whom we have to do, the Lord of these prophets passed by in silence just such enormities as he commanded them to expose and denounce!
Every where, he came in contact with slavery in its worst forms—“horrible cruelties” forced themselves upon his notice; but not a word of rebuke or warning did he utter. He saw “a boy given for a harlot, and a girl sold for wine, that they might drink,”‡ without the slightest feeling of displeasure, or any mark of disapprobation!
To such disgusting and horrible conclusions, do the arguings which, from the haunts of sacred literature, are inflicted on our churches, lead us!
According to them [pro-slavery clerics], Jesus Christ, instead of shining as the light of the world, extinguished the torches [lights] which his own prophets had kindled, and plunged mankind into the palpable darkness of a starless midnight! O Savior, in pity to thy suffering peopIe, let thy temple be no longer used as a “den of thieves!”
SUCH AN ONE AS THYSELF.”
In passing by the worst forms of slavery, with which he every where came in contact among the Jews, the Savior must have been inconsistent with himself [self-contradictory]. He was commissioned
In accordance with this commission, he bound himself, from the earliest date of his incarnation, to the poor, by the strongest ties; himself “had not where to lay
* Jeremiah xxii. 13.
his head,” he exposed himself to misrepresentation and abuse for his affectionate [social] intercourse with the outcasts of society; he stood up as the advocate of the widow, denouncing and dooming the heartless ecclesiastics, who had made her bereavement a source of gain; and in describing the scenes of the final judgment, he selected the very personification of poverty, disease, and oppression, as the test by which our regard for him should be determined. To the poor and wretched; to the degraded and despised, his arms were ever open. They had his tenderest sympathies. They had his warmest love.
His heart's blood he poured out upon the ground for the human family, reduced to the deepest degradation, and exposed to the heaviest inflictions, as the slaves of the grand usurper [Satan].
And yet, according to our [U.S. "Bible-Belt" and accessory] ecclesiastics, that class of sufferers who had been reduced immeasurably below every other shape and form of degradation and distress; who had been most rudely thrust out of the family of Adam, and forced to herd with swine; who, without the slightest offense, had been made the foot-stool of the worst criminals; whose “tears were their meat night and day,” while, under nameless insults and killing injuries, they were continually crying, O Lord, O Lord;—this class of sufferers, and this alone, our [vile] biblical expositors, occupying the high places of sacred literature, would make us believe the compassionate Savior coldly overlooked.
Not an emotion of pity; not a look of sympathy; not a word of consolation, did his gracious heart prompt him to bestow upon them! He denounces damnation upon the devourer of the widow's house. But the monster, whose trade it is to make widows [genocidally slaughter their husbands] and devour them and their babes, he can calmly endure!
O Savior, when wilt thou stop the mouths of such blasphemers!
It seems, that though, according to our Princeton professor,
“the subject” of slavery “is hardly alluded to by Christ in any of his
personal instructions,”* he had a way of “treating it.” What was that? Why, “he taught the true nature, DIGNITY, EQUALITY, and
destiny of men,” and “inculcated the principles of justice and
love.* And according to Professor Stuart, the maxims which our Savior furnished, "decide against" "the theory of slavery." All, then, that these [vile] ecclesiaatical apologists for slavery can make of the Savior's alleged silence is, that he did not, in his personal instructions, apply his own principles to this particular form of wickedness.
For wicked that [behavior] must be, which the maxims of the Savior decide against, and which our Princeton professor assures us the principles of the gospel, duly acted on, would speedily extinguish.†
How remarkable it is, that a teacher should “hardly allude to a subject in any of his personal instructions,” and yet inculcate principles which have a direct and vital bearing upon it!—should so conduct [himself], as to
Higher authority that sustains self-evident truths there can not be. As forms of reason, they are rays from the face of Jehovah. Not only are their presence and power self-manifested, but they also shed a strong and clear light around them. In this light, other truths are visible. Luminaries themselves, it is their office to enlighten. To their authority, in every department of thought, the sane mind bows promptly, gratefully, fully.
And by their authority, he explains, proves, and disposes of whatever engages his attention and engrosses his powers as a reasonable and reasoning creature.
For what, when thus employed and when most successful, is the utmost he can accomplish? Why, to make the conclusions which he would establish and commend, clear in the light of reason;—in other words, to evince that they are reasonable. He expccts, that those with whom he has to do, will acknowledge the authority of principle-—will see whatever is exhibited in the light of reason.
If they require him to go further, and, in order to convince them, to do something more than show that the doctrines he maintains, and the methods he proposes, are accordant with reason—are illustrated and supported by “self-evident truths”—they [pro-slavers] are plainly “beside themselves.” They have lost the use of reason. They are not to be argued with. They belong to the mad-house.
* Pittsburgh pamphlet, p. 9.
SAITH THE LORD.”
Are we to honor the Bible, which Prof. Stuart quaintly calls “the good old book,” by turning away from “self-evident truths” to receive its instructions? Can these truths be contradicted or denied there?
Do we search for something there to obscure their clearness, or break their force, or reduce their authorify? Do we long to find something there, in the form of promises or conclusions, of arguing or of inference, in broad statements or blind hints, creed-wise or fact-wise, which may set us free from the light and power of first principles?
And what if we were to discover what we were thus in search of?—something directly or indirectly, expressly or impliedly prejudicial to the principles, which reason, placing us under the authority of, makes self-evident? In what estimation, in that case, should we be constrained to hold the Bible? Could we longer honor it, as the book of God? The book of God opposed to the authority of REASON! Why, before what tribunal do we dispose of the claims of the sacred volume to divine authority? The tribunal of reason.
This every one acknowledges the moment he begins to reason on the subject. And what must reason do with a book, which reduced the authority of its own principles—broke the force of self-evident truths?
Is he not, by way of eminence, the apostle of infidelity, who, as a minister of the gospel or a professor of sacred literature, exerts himself, with whatever arts of ingenuity or show of piety, to exalt the Bible at the expense of reason? Let such arts succeed and such piety prevail, and Jesus Christ is “crucified afresh and put to an open shame.”[Hebrews 6:6].
What saith the Princeton professor? Why, in spite of “general principles,” and “clear as we may think the arguments against DESPOTISM, there have been thousands of ENLIGHTENED and good men, who honestly believe it to be of all forms of government the best and most acceptable to God.”*
Now, these “good men” must have been thus warmly in favor of despotism, in consequence of, or in opposition to, their being "enlightened." In other words, the light, which in such abundance they enjoyed, conducted them to the position in favor of despotism, where the Princeton professor so beartily shook
hands with them, or they must have forced their way there in despite of its hallowed influence. Either in accordance with, or in resistance to the light, they became what he found them—the advocates of despotism.
If in resistance to the light—and he says they were “enlightened men”—what, so far as the subject with which alone he and we are now concerned, becomes of their “honesty” and “goodness?” Good and honest resisters of the light, which was freely poured around them! Of such, what says Professor Stuart's “good old Book?”
Their authority, where “general principles” command the least respect, must be small indeed.
But if in accordance with the light, they have become the advocates of despotism, then is despotism “the best form of government and most acceptable to God.” It is sustained by the authority of reason, by the word of Jehovah, by the will of Heaven!
If this be the doctrine which prevails at certain theological seminaries, it must be easy to account for the spirit which they breathe, and the general [immoral] influence which they exert.
Why did not the Princeton professor place this “general principle”as a shield, heaven-wrought and reason-approved, over that cherished form of despotism which prevails among the churches of the South, and leave the “peculiar institutions” he is so forward to defend, under its protection?
What is the “general principle” to which, whatever may become of despotism with its “honest” admirers and “enlightened” supporters, human governments should be universally and carefully adjusted? Clearly this—that as capable of, man is entitled to, self-government.
And this is a specific form of a still more general principle, which may well be pronounced self-evident—that every thing should be treated according to its nature. The mind that can doubt of this, must be incapable of rational conviction.
Man, then,—it is the dictate of reason, it is the voice of Jehovah—must be treated as a man. What is he? What are his distinctive attributes?
The Creator impressed his own image on him. [Genesis 1:26-27]. In this were found the grand peculiarities of his character. Here shone his glory. Here REASON manifests its laws. Here the WILL puts forth its volitions. Here is the crown of IMMORTALITY.
Why such endowments? Thus furnished—the image of Jehovah—is he not capable of self-government? And is he not to be so treated? Within the sphere where the laws of reason place him, may he not act according to his choice—carry out his own volitions?—may he not enjoy life, exult in freedom, and pursue as he will
the path of blessedness? If not, why was he [mankind] so created and endowed? Why the mysterious, awful attribute of will? To be a source, profound as the depths of hell, of exquisite misery, of keen anguish, of insufferable torment!
Was man formed “according to the image of Jehovah” to be crossed, thwarted, counteracted; to be forced in upon himself; to be the sport of endless contradictions; to be driven back and forth forever between mutually repellant forces; and all, all “at the discretion of another!”*
How can man be treated according to his nature, as endowed with reason or will, if excluded from the powers and privileges of self-government?—if “despotism” be let loose upon him, to “deprive him of personal liberty, oblige him to serve at the discretion of another,” and with the power of “transfering” such “authority” over him and such claim upon him, to “another master?”
If “thousands of enlightened and good men” can so easily be found, who are forward [willing] to support “despotism” as “of all governments the best and most acceptable to God,” we need not wonder at the testimony of universal history, that “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” [Romans 8:22.] Groans and travail-pangs must continue to be the order of the day throughout “the whole creation,” till the rod of despotism be broken, and man be treated as man—as capable of, and entitled to, self-government.
But what is the despotism whose horrid features our smooth professor tries to hide beneath an array of cunningly-selected words and nicely-adjusted sentences? It is the despotism of American slavery—which crushes the very life of humanity out of its victims, and transforms them to cattle! At its touch, they sink from men to things!
“Slaves,” saith Prof. Stuart, “were property in Greece and Rome. That decides all questions about their relation.”
And slaves in republican America are property; and as that easily, clearly, and definitely settles “all questions about their relation,” why should the Princeton professor have put himself to the trouble of weaving a definition equally ingenious and inadequate—at once subtle and deceitful ? Ah, why? Was he willing thus to conceal the wrongs of his mother'a children even from himself? If among the figments of his brain, he could fashion slaves, and make them something else than property, he knew full well that a very different pattern was in use among the southern patriarchs. Why did he not, in plain words, and
sober earnest, and good faith, describe the thing as it was, instead of employing honied words and courtly phrases, to set forth with all becoming vagueness and ambiguity, what might possibly be supposed to exist in the regions of fancy.
BUT TO THE EVIL.”
But are we, in maintaining the principle of self-government, to overlook the unripe, or neglected, or broken powers of any of our fellow men with whom we may be connected?—or the strong passions, vicious propensities, or criminal pursuits of others? Certainly not.
But in providing for their welfare, we are to exert influences and impose restraints suited to their charactcr. In wielding those prerogatives which the social [aspect] of our nature authorizes us to employ for their benefit, we are to regard them as they are in truth, not things, not cattle, not articles of merchandize, but men, our fellow-men—reflecting, from however battered and broken a surface, reflecting with us tbe image of a common Father.
And the great principle of self-government is to be the basis, to which the whole structure of discipline under which they may be placed, should be adapted.
From the nursery and village school on to the work-house and state-prison, this principle is ever and in all things to be before the eyes, present in the thoughts, warm on the heart. Otherwise, God is insulted, while his image is despised and abused.
Yes, indeed; we remember, that in carrying out the principle of self-government, multiplied embarrassments and obstructions grow out of wickedness on the one hand and passion on the other.
Such difficulties and obstacles we are far enough from overlooking. But where are they to be found? Are imbecility and wickedness, bad hearts and bad heads, confined to the bottom of society? Alas, the weakest of the weak, and the desperately wicked, often occupy the high places of the earth, reducing every thing within their reach to subserviency to the foulest purposes.
Nay, the very power they have usurped, has often been the chief instrument of turning their heads, inflaming their passions, corrupting their hearts. All the world knows, that the possession of arbitrary power has a strong tendency to make men shamelessly wicked and insufferably mischievous. And this, whether the vassals over whom they domineer, be few or many. If you can not trust
man with himself, will you put his fellow under his control!—and flee from the inconveniences incident to self-governmont, to the horrors of despotism?
STEAL, DOST THOU STEAL.”
Is the slaveholder, the most absolute and shameless of all despots, to be intrusted with the discipline of the injured men whom he himself has reduced to cattle?-—with the discipline by which they are to be prepared to wield the powers and enjoy the privileges of freemen?
Alas, of such discipline as he can furnish, in the relation of owner to property, they have had enough. From this sprang the very ignorance and vice, which in the view of many lie in the way of their immediate enfranchisement.
He it is, who has darkened their eyes and crippled their powers [by, e.g., reading bans]. And are they to look to him for illumination and renewed vigor—and expect “grapes from thorns and figs from thistles!” Heaven forbid!
When, according to arrangements wbich had usurped the sacred name of law, he consented to receive and use them as property, he forfeited all claims to the esteem and confidence, not only of the helpless sufferers themselves, but also of every philanthropist. In becoming a slaveholder, he became the enemy of mankind. The very act was a declaration of war upon human nature [beings].
What less can be made of the process of turning men to cattle? It is rank absurdity—it is the height of madness, to propose to employ him to train, for the places of freemen, those whom he has wantonly robbed of every right—whom he has stolen from themselves. Sooner place Burke, who used to murder for the sake of selling bodies to the dissector, at the head of a hospital.
Why, what have our slaveholders been about [doing] these [past] two hundred years? Have they not been, constantly and earnestly engaged in the work of education?—training up their human cattle? And how? Thomas Jefferson shall answer.
Is this the way to fit the unprepared for the duties and privileges of American citizens? Will the evils of the dreadful process be diminished by adding to it length? What, in 1818, was the unanimous testimony of the Generai Assembly of the Presbytenan
church [pp 4-5, supra]? Why, after describing a variety of influences growing out of slavery, most fatal to mental and moral improvement, the General Assembly assure us, that such
Is this the condition in which our [vile] ecclesiastics would keep the slave, at least a little longer, to fit him to be restored to himself?
The methods of discipline under which, as slaveholders, the Southrons now place their human cattle, they with one consent and in great wrath, forbid us to examine. The statesman and the priest unite in the assurannce, that these methods are none of our business. Nay, they give us distinctly to understand, that if we come among them to take observations, and make inquiries, and discuss questions, they will dispose of us as outlaws.
Nothing will avail to protect us from speedy and deadly violence! What infercuce does all this warrant? Surely, not that the methods which they [slavers] employ are happy and worthy of universal application. If so, why do they not take the praise, and give us the benefit, of their wisdom, enterprise, and success? Who, that has nothing to hide, practices concealment?—
Can we confide in [trust] methods for the benefit of our enslaved brethren, which it is death for us to examine? What good ever came, what good can we expect, from deeds of darkness?
Did the influence of the masters contribute any thing in the West
Indies, to prepare the apprentices for enfranchisement? Nay, verily.
Àll the world knows better. They did what in them lay, to turn back
the tide of blessings, which through emancipation was pouring in upon the famishing around them. Are not the best minds and hearts in England now thoroughly convinced, that slavery, under no modification, can be a school for freedom?
We say such things to the many who alledge, that slaves can not at once be entrusted with the powers and privileges of self-government. However this may be, they can not be better qualified under the influence of slavery. That must be broken up from which their ignorance, and viciousness, and wretchedness proceeded. That which can only do what it has always done, pollute and degrade, must not be employed to purify and elevate. The lower their [slaves'] character and condition, the louder, clearer, sterner, the just demand for immediate emancipation. The plague-smitten sufferer can derive no benefit from breathing a little longer an infected atmosphere.
In thus referring to elemental principles—in thus availing ourselves of the light of self-evident truths—we bow to the authority and tread in the foot-prints of the great Teacher. He chid [chided] those around him for refusing to make the same use of their reason in promoting their spiritual, as they made in promoting their temporal welfare. He gives them distinctiy to understand, that they need not go out of themselves to form a just estimation of their position, duties, and prospects, as standing in the presence of the Messiah.
How could they, unless they had a clear light, and an infallible standard within them, whereby, amidst the relations they sustained and the interests they had to provide for, they might discriminate between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, what they ought to attempt and what they ought to eschew?
From this pointed, significant appeal of the Savior, it is clear and certain, that in human consciousness may be found self-evident truths, self-manifested principles; that every man, studying his own consciousness, is bound to recognize their presence and authority, and in sober earnest and good faith to apply them to the highest practical concerns of “life and godliness.” It is in obedience to the Bible, that we apply self-evident truths, and walk in the light of general principles. When our fathers proclaimed these truths, and at the hazard of their property, reputation, and life,
stood up in their defense, they did homage to the sacred Scripture—they honored the Bible. In that volume, not a syllable can be found to justify that form of infidelity, which in the abused name of piety, reproaches us for practicing the lessons which “nature teacheth.”*
These lessons, the Bible requires us reverently to listen to, earnestly to appropriate, and most diligently and faithfully to act upon in every direction and on all occasions.
Why, our Savior goes so far in doing honor to reason, as to encourage men [people] universally to dispose of the characteristic peculiarities and distinctive features of tho Gospel in the light of its principles.
Natural religion—the principles which nature reveals, and the lessons which nature teaches—he [Christ] thus makes a test of the truth and authority of revealed religion. So far was he, as a teacher, from shrinking from the clearest and most piercing rays of reason—from callmg off the attention of those around him from the import, bearings, and practical application of general principles.
And those who would have us escape from the pressure of self-evident truths, by betaking ourselves to the doctrines and precepts of Christianity, whatever airs of piety they may put on, do foul dishonor to the Savior of mankind.
According to this maxim, in human consciousness, universally, may be found,
In other words, the Savior here teaches us, that in the principles and laws of reason, we have an infallible guide in all the relations and circumstances of life; that nothing can hinder our following this
guide, but the bias of selfishfness; and that the moment, in deciding any moral question, we place ourselves in the room [place] of our brother, before the bar of reason, we shall see what decision ought to be pronounced.
Does this, in the Savior, look like fleeing self-evident truths!—like decrying the authority of general principles!—like exalting himself at the expense of reason!—like opening a refuge in the Gospel for those whose practice is at variance with the dictates of humanity!
What then is the just application of the Golden Rule—that fundamental maxim of the Gospel, giving character to, and shedding light upon, all its precepts and arrangements—to the subject of slavery?—that we must “do to” slaves as we would be done by, AS SLAVES, the RELATION itself being justified and continued? Surely not.
A little reflection will enable us to see, that the Golden Rule reaches farther in its demands, and strikes deeper in its influences and operations. The natural equality of mankind lies at the very basis of this great precept. It obviously requires every man [person] to acknowledge another self in every other man [person]. With my powers and resources, and in my appropriate circumstances, I am to recognize in any child of Adam who may address me, another self in his appropriate circumstances and with his powers and resources. This is the natural equality of mankind; and this the Golden Rule requires us to admit, defend, and maintain.
EVEN BECAUSE YE CAN NOT HEAR MY WORD.”
They strangely misunderstand and grossly misrepresent this doctrine, who charge upon it the absurdities and mischiefs which any “levelling system” can not but produce. In all its bearings, tendencies, and effects, it is directly contrary and powerfully hostile to any such system. EQUALITY OF RIGHTS, the doctrine asserts, and this necessarily opens the way for variety of condition.
In other words, every child of Adam has, from the Creator, the inalienable right of wielding, within reasonable limits, his own powers, and employing his own resources, according to his own choice; while he respects his social relations, to promote as he will his own welfare.
But mark—HIS OWN powers and resources, and NOT ANOTHER'S, are thus inalienably put under his control. The Creator makes every
man free, in whatever he may do, to exert HIMSELF, and not another. Here no man may lawfully cripple or embarrass another. The feeble may not hinder the strong, nor may the strong crush the feeble. Every man may make the most of himself, in his own propor sphere. Now, as in the constitutional endowments, and natural opportunities, and lawful acquisitions of mankind, infinite variety prevails, so in exerting each HIMSELF, in his own sphere, according to his own choice, the variety of human condition can be little less than infinite. Thus equality of rights opens the way for variety of condition.
But with all this variety of make, means, and condition, considered individually, the children of Adam are bound together by strong ties which can never be dissolved. They are mutually united by the social of their nature. Hence mutual dependence and mutual claims. While each is inalienably entitled to assort and enjoy his own personality as a man, each sustains to all and all to each, various relations. While each owns and honors the individual, all are to own and honor the social of their nature.
Now, the Golden Rule distinctly recognizes, lays its requisitions upon, and extends its obligations to, the whole nature of man, in his individual capacities and social relations.
What higher honor could it do to man, as an individual, than to constitute him the judge, by whose decision, when fairly rendered, all the claims of his fellows should be authoritatively and definitely disposed of? " Whatsoever YE WOULD " have done to you, so do ye to others. Every member of the family of Adam, placing himself in the position here pointed out, is competent and authorized to pass judgment on all the cases in social life in which he may be concerned. Could higher responsibilities or greater confidence be reposed in men individually?
And then, how are their claims upon each other herein magnified! What inherent worth and solid dignity are ascribed to the social of their nature! In every man with whom I may have to do, I am to recognize the presence of another self, whose case I am to make my own. And thus I am to dispose of whatever claims he may urge upon me.
Thus, in accordance with the Golden Rule, mankind are naturalty brought, in the voluntary use of their powers and resources, to promote each other's welfare. As his contribution to this great object, it is the inalienable birth-right of every child of Adam, to consecrate whatever he may possess. With exalted powers and large resources, he has a natural claim to a correspondent field of effort. If his
“abilities” are small, his task must be easy and his burden light. Thus the Golden Rule requires mankind mutually to serve each other. In this service, each is to exert himself—employ his own powers, lay out his own resources, improve his own opportunities.
A division of labor is the natural result. One is remarkable for his intellectual endowments and acquisitions; another, for his wealit; and a third, for power and skill in using his muscles. Such attubutes, endlessly varied and diversified, proceed from the basis of a common character, by virtue of which all men and each—one as truly as another—are entitled, as a birth-right, to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Each and all, one as well as another, may choose his own modes of contributing his share to the general welfare, in which his own is involved and identified. Under one great law of mutual dependence and mutual responsibility, all are placed—the strong as well as the weak, tho rich as much as the poor, the learned no less than the unlearned. All bring their wares, the products of their enterprise, skill and industry, to the same market, whero mutual exchanges are freely effected.
The fruits of muscular exertion procure the fruits of mental effort. John serves Thomas with his hands, and Thomas serves John with his money. Peter wields the axe for James, and James wields the pen for Peter. Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, employ their wisdom, courage, and experience, in the service of the community, and the community serve Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, in furnishing them with food and raiment, and making them partakers of the general prosperity. And all this by mutual understanding and voluntary arrangement. And all this according to the Golden Rule.
What then becomes of slavery—a system of [extortion] arrangements, in which one man treats his fellow, not as another self, but as a thing—a chattel—an article of merchandise, which is not to be consulted in any disposition which may be made of it;—a system which is built on the annihilation of the attributes of our common nature—in which man doth to others, what he would sooner die than have done to himself.
The Golden Rule and slavery are mutually subversive of each other. If one stands, the other must fall. The one strikes at the very root of the other. The Golden Rule aims at the abolition of THE RELATION ITSELF, in which slavery consists. It lays its demands upon every thing within the scope of human action. To “whatever MEN DO,” it extends its authority. And the relation itself, in which slavery consists, is the work of human hands. It is what
men have done to each other—contrary to nature and most injurious to the general welfare. This RELATION, thorefore, the Golden Rule condemns. Wherever its authority prevails, this relation must be annihilated. Mutual service and slavery—like light and darkness, life and death—are directly opposed to, and subversive of, each other. The one the Golden Rule can not endure; the other it requires, honors, and blesses.
Like unto the Golden Rule is the second great commandment—“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” [Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31-33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8].
“A certain lawyer,” who seems to have been fond of applying the doctrine of limitation of human obligations, once demanded of the Savior, within what limits the meaning of the word “neighbor” ought to be confined. “And who is my neighbor?” [Luke 10:29].
The parable of the good Samaritan [Luke 10:29-36] set that matter in the clearest light, and made it manifest and certain, that every man whom we could reach with our sympathy and assistance, was our neighbor, entitled to the same regard which we cherished for ourselves.
Consistently with such obligations, can slavery, as a RELATION, be maintained? Is it then a labor of love—such love as we cherish for ourselves—to strip a child of Adam of all the prerogatives and privileges which are his inalienable birth-right?—To obscure his reason, crush his will, and trample on his immortality?—To strike home to the inmost of his being, and break the heart of his heart?— To thrust him out of the human family, and dispose of him as a chattel—as a thing in the hands of an owner, a beast under the lash of a driver [slaver]?
All this, apart from every thing incidental and extraordinary, belongs to the RELATION, in which slavery, as such, consists. All this—well fed or ill fed, underwrought or overwrought, clothed or naked, caressed or kicked, whether idle songs break from his thoughtless tongue or “tears be his meat night and day,” fondly cherished or cruelly murdered;—all this ENTERS VITALLY INTO THE RELATION ITSELF, by which every slave, AS A SLAVE, is set apart from the rest of the human family.
Is it an exercise of love, to place our “neighbor” under the crushing weight, the killing power, of such a relation?—to apply the murderous steel to the very vitals of his humanity?
DEEDS OF YOUR FATHERS; FOR THEY KILLED
THEM, AND YE BUILD THEIR SEPULCHRES.”*
The slaveholder may eagerly and loudly deny, that any such thing is chargeable upon him. He may confidently and earnestly alledge, that he is not responsible for the state of society in which he is placed. Slavery was established before he began to breathe. It was his inheritance. His slaves are his property by birth or testament.
But why will he thus deceive himself? Why will he permit the cunning and rapacious spiders, which in the very sanctuary of ethics and religion are laboriously weaving webs from their own bowels, to catch him with their wretched sophistries?—and devour him, body, soul, and substance? Let him know, as he must one day with shame and terror own [admit], that whoever holds slaves is himself responsible for the relation, into which, whether reluctantly or willingly, he thus enters.
The relation can not be forced upon him.
What though Elizabeth countenanced John Hawkins in stealing the natives of Africa?—what though James, and Charles, and George, opened a market for them in the English colonies?—what though modern Dracos [politicians] have “framed mischief by law,” in legalizing man-stealing and slaveholding?—what though your ancestors, in preparing to go “to their own place,” constituted you the owner of the “neighbors” whom they had used as cattle?—what of all this, and as much more like this, as can be drawn from the history of that dreadful process by which men “are deemed, sold, taken, reputed, and adjudged in law to be chattels personal?”
Can all this force you to put the cap upon the climax—to clinch the nail by doing that, without which nothing in the work of slave-making would be attempted?
The slaveholder is the soul of the whole system. Without him, the chattel principle is a lifeless abstraction. Without him, charters, and markets, and laws, and testaments, are empty names.
And does he think to escape responsibility? Why, kidnappers, and soul-drivers, and law-makers, are nothing but his agents. He is the guilty principal. Let him look to it.
But what can he do? Do? Keep his hands off his “neighbor's” throat. Let him refuse to finish and ratify the process by which the chattel principle is carried into effect. Let him refuse, in the face of
derision, and reproach, and opposition. Though poverty should fasten its bony hand upon him, and persecution shoot forth its forked tongue; whatever may betide him—scorn, flight, flames—let him promptly and steadfastly refuse. Better the spite and hate of men than the wrath of Heaven!
[Pro-slavery] Prof. Stuart admits, that the Golden Rule and the second great commandment “decide against the theory of slavery as being in itself right.”
What, then, is their relation to the particular precepts, institutions, and usages, which are authorized and enjoined in the New Testament? Of all these, they are the summary expression—the comprehensive description. No precept in the Bible enforcing our mutual obligations, can be more or less than the application of these injunctions to specific relations or particular occasions and conditions.
Neither in the Old Testament nor the New, do prophets teach or laws enjoin, any thing which the Golden Rule and the second great command do not contain. Whatever they forbid, no other precept can require; and whatever they require, no other precept can forbid.
What, then, does he attempt, who turns over the sacred pages to find something in the way of permission or command, which may [supposedly] set him free from the obligations of the Golden Rule? What must his objects, methods, spirit be, to force him to enter upon such inquiries?—to compel him to search the Bible for such a purpose? Can he have good intentions, or be well employed? Is his frame of mind adapted to the study of the Bible?—to make its meaning plain and welcome?
What must he think of God, to search his word in quest of gross inconsistencies and grave contradictions! Inconsistent legislation in Jehovah! Contradictory commands! Permissions at war with prohibitions! General requirements at variance with particular arrangements!
What must be the moral character of any institution which the Golden Rule decides against?—which the second great command condemns? It can not but be wicked, whether newly established or long maintained.
However it may be shaped, turned, colored—under every modification and at all times—wickedness must be its proper character. It must be, IN ITSELF, apart from its circumstances, IN TTS ESSENCE, apart from its incidents, SINFUL.
WE HAVE ABRAHAM FOR OUR FATHER.”
In disposing of [summarizing] those precepts and exhortations which have a specific bearing upon the subject of slavery, it is greatly important, nay, absolutely essential, that we look forth upon the objects around us from the right post of observation. Our stand we must take at some central point, amidst the general maxims and fundamental precepts, the known circumstances and characteristic arrangements, of primitive [First Century] Christianity.
Otherwise, wrong views and false conclusions will be the result of our studies. We can not, therefore, be too earnest in trying to catch [understand] the general features and prevalent spirit of the New Testament institutions and arrangements. For to what conclusions must we come, if we unwittingly pursue our inquires under the bias of the prejudice, that the general maxims of social life which now prevail in this country, were current, on the authority of the Savior, among the primitive [First Century] Christians!
That, for instance, wealth, station, talents, are the standard by which our claims upon, and our regard for, others, should be modined?—That those who are pinched by poverty, worn by disease, tasked in mental labors, or marked by features offensive to the tastc of the artificial and capricious, are to be excluded from those refreshing and elevating influences which intelligence and refinement may be expected to exert; that thus they are to constitute a class by themselves, and to be made to know and keep their place at the very bottom of society?
Or, what if we should think and speak of the primitive [First Century] Christians, as if they had the same pecuniary resources as Heaven has lavished upon the American churches?—as if they were as remarkable for affluence, elegance, and splendor? Or, as if they had as high a position and as extensive an influence in politics and literature?—having directly or indirectly, the control over the high places of learning and of power?
If we should pursue our studies and arrange our arguments—if we should explain words and interpret language—under such a bias, what must inevitably be the results? What would be the worth of our conclusions? What confidence could be reposed in any instruction we might undertake to furnish? And is not this the way in which the advocates and apologists of slavery dispose of the bearing which primitive Christianity has upon it? They first ascribe, un-
wittingly perhaps, to the primitive [First Century] churches, the character, relations, and condition, of American Christianity, and amidst the deep darkness and strange confusion thus produced, set about interpreting the language and explaining the usages of the New Testament!
Among the lessons of instruction which our Savior imparted, having a general bearing on the subject of slavery, that in which he sets up the true standard of greatness, deserves particular attention. In repressing the ambition of his disciples, he held up before them the methods by which alone healthful aspirations for eminence could be gratified, and thus set the elements of true greatness in the clearest light.
In other words, through the selfishness and pride of mankind, the maxim widely prevails in the world, that it is the privilege, prerogative, and mark of greatness, TO EXACT SERVICE; that our superiority to others, while it authorizes us to relax the exertion of our own powers, gives us a fair title to the use of theirs; that “might,” while it exempts us from serving, “gives the right” to be served.
The instructions of the Savior open the way to greatness for us in the opposite direction. Superiority to others, in whatever it may consist, gives us a claim to a wider field of exertion, and demands of us a larger amount of service. We can be great only as we are useful. And “might gives right” to bless our fellow men, by improving every opportunity and employing every faculty, affectionately, earnestly, and unweariedly, in their service. Thus the greater the man, the more active, faithful, and useful the servant.
The Savior has himself taught us how this doctrine must be applied. He bids us improve every opportunity and employ cvory power, even through the most menial services, in blessing the human family. And to make this lesson shine upon our understandings and move our hearts, he embodied it in a most instructive and attractive example. On a memorable occasion [the Passover Eve, Lord's Supper, Communion], and just before his crucifixion, he discharged for his disciples the most menial of all offices—taking,
in washing their feet, the place of the lowest servant. [John 13:4-5 and 12-17.] He took great pains to make them [the disciples] understand, that only by imitating this example could they honor their relations to him as their Master; that thus only would they find themselves blessed. By what possibility could slavery exist under the influence of such a lesson, set home by such an example? Was it while washing the disciples' feet, that our Savior authorized one man to make a chattel of another?
To refuse to provide for ourselves by useful labor, the apostle Paul teaches us to regard as a grave offence. After reminding the Thessalonian Christians, that in addition to all his official exertions he had with his own muscles earned his own bread, he calls their attention to an arrangement which was supported by apostolical authority,
In the most earnest and solemn manner, and as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, he commanded and exhorted those who neglected useful labor,
What must be the bearing of all this upon slavery?
Could slavery be maintained where every man eat the bread which himself had earned?—where idleness was esteemed so great a crime, as to be reckoned worthy of starvation as a punishment? How could unrequited labor be exacted, or used, or needed? Must not every one in such a community contribute his share to the general welfare?—and mutual service and mutual support be the natural result?
The same apostle [Paul], in writing to another church, describes the true source whence the means of liberality ought to be derived.
Let this lesson, as from the lips of Jehovah, be proclaimed throughout the length and breadth of South Carolina. Let it be universally welcomed and reduced to practice. Let thieves give up what they had stolen to the lawful proprietors, cease stealing, and begin at once to “labor, working with their hands,” for necessary and charitable purposes.
Could slavery, in such a case, continue to exist? Surely not! Instead of exacting unpaid serices from others, every man would be busy, exerting himself not only to provide for his own wants, but also to accumulate funds, “that he might have to give to” the needy. Slavery must disappear, root and branch, at once and forever.
In describing the source whence his ministers should expect their
support, the Savior furnished a generai principle, which has an obvious and powerful bearing on the subject of slavery. He would have them remember, while exerting themselves for the benefit of their fellow men, that “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” [Luke 10:7]. He has thus united wages with work. Whoever renders the one is entitled to the other. And this manifestly according to a mutual understanding and a voluntary arrangement.
For the doctrine that I may force you to work for me for whatever consideration [pay] I may please to fix upon, fairly opens the way for the doctrine, that you, in turn, may force me to render you whatever wages you may choose to exact for any services you may see fit to render. Thus slavery, even as involuntary servitude, is cut up by the root. Even the Princeton professor seems to regard it as a violation of the principle which unites work with wages.
The apostle James [5:1-4] applies this principle to the claims of manual laborers—of those who hold the plough and thrust in the sickle. He calls the rich lordlings who exacted sweat and withheld wages, to “weeping and howling,” assuring them that the complaints of the injured laborer had entered into the ear of the Lord of Hosts, and that, as a result of their oppression, their riches were corrupted, and their garments moth-eaten; their gold and silver were cankered; that the rust of them should be a witness against them, and should eat their flesh as it were fire; that, in one word, they had heaped treasure together for the last days, when “miseries were coming upon them,” the prospect of which might well drench them in tears and fill them with terror.
If these admonitions and warnings were heeded there, would not “the South” break forth into “weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth?” What else are its rich men about, but withholding by a system of fraud, his wages from the laborer, who is wearing himself out under the impulse of fear [extortion], in cultivating their fields and producing their luxuries?
Encouragement and support do they derive from James, in maintaining the “peculiar institution” whence they derived their wealth, which they call patriarchal, and boast of as the “corner-stone” of the republic?
In the New Testament, we have, moreover, the general injunction, “Honor all men.” [1 Peter 2:17.] Under this broad precept, every form of humanity may justly claim protection and respect. The invasion of any human right must do dishonor to humanity, and be a transgression of this command. How then, in the light of such obligations, must
slavery be regarded? Are those men honored, who are rudely excluded from a place in the human family, and shut up to the deep degradation and nameless horrors of chattelship? Can they be held as slaves, and at the same time be honored as men?
How far, in obeying this command, we are to go, we may infer from the admonitions and instructions which James applies to the arrangements and usages of religious assemblies. Into these he can not allow “respect of persons” to enter.
On this general principle, then, religious assemblies ought to be regulated—that every man is to be estimated, not according to his circumstances—not according to any thing incidental to his condition; but according to his moral worth—according to the essential features and vital elements of his character.
Gold rings and gay clothing, as they qualify no man for, can entitle no man to a “good place” in the church. Nor can the “vile raiment of the poor man,” fairly exclude him from any sphere, however exalted, which his heart and head may fit him to fill. To deny this, in theory or practice, is to degrade a man below a thing; for what are gold rings, or gay clothing, or vile raiment, but things, “which perish with the using?” [Colossians 2:22.] And this must be “to commit sin, and be convinced of the law as transgressors.” [James 2:9.]
In slavery, we have “respect of persons,” strongly marked, and reduced to system. Here men are despised not merely for “the vile raiment,” which may cover their scarred bodies. This is bad enough. But the deepest contempt for humanity here grows out of birth or complexion. Vile raiment may be, often is, the result of indolence, or improvidence, or extravagance. It may be, often is, an index of character.
But how can I be responsible for the incidents of my birth?—how for my complexion? To despise or honor me for these, is to be guilty of "respect of persons" in its grossest form, and with its worst effects. It is to reward or punish me for what I had nothing
to do with; for which, therefore, I can not, without the greatest injustice, be held responsible. It is to poison the very fountains of justice, by confounding all moral distinctions.
It [committing unbiblical “respect of persons”] is with a worse temper [moral state of mind], and in the way of inflicting infinitely greater injuries, to copy the kingly folly of [Ancient Persian King] Xerxes, in chaining and scourging the Hellespont [Darndaelles Strait in Turkey].
What, then, so far as the authority of the New Testament is concerned, becomes of slavery, which can not be maintained under any form nor for a single moment, without “respect of persons” the most aggravated and unendurable? And what would become of that most pitiful, silly, and wicked arrangement in so many of our [allegedly Christian] churches, in which worshipers of a dark complexion are to be shut up to [segregated into] the negro pew [section]?*
Nor are we permitted to confine this principle to religious assemblies. It [the cited Bible non-discrimination principle] is to pervade social life every where. Even where plenty, intelligence, and refinement, diffuse their brightest rays, the poor are to be welcomed with especial favor.
In the high places of social life then—in the parlor, the drawing-room, the saloon—special reference should be had, in every arrangement, to the comfort and improvement of those who are least able to provide for the cheapest rites of hospitality. For these, ample accommodations must be made, whatever may become of our kinsmen and rich neighbors.
And for this good reason, that while such occasions signify little to the latter, to the former they are pregnant with good—raising their drooping spirits, cheering their desponding hearts, inspiring them with life, and hope, and joy. The rich and the poor
thus meeting joyfully together, can not but mutually contribute to each other's benefit; the rich will be led to moderation, sobriety, and circumspection, and the poor to industry, providence, and contentment. The recompense must be rich and sure.
A most beautiful and instructive commentary on the text in which these things are taught, the Savior furnished in his own conduct. He freely mingled with those who were reduced to the very bottom of society. At the tables of the outcasts of society, he did not hesitate to be a cheerful guest, surrounded by publicans and sinners. And when flouted and reproached by smooth and lofty ecclesiastics, as an ultraist and leveler, he explained and justified himself by observing, that he had only done what his office demanded. It was his to seek the lost, to heal the sick, to pity the wretched [Luke 4:18];—in a word; to bestow just such benefits as the various necessities of mankind made appropriate and welcome. In his great heart, there was room enough for those who had been excluded from the sympathy of little souls. In its spirit and design, the gospel overlooked none—least of all, the outcasts of a selfish world.
Can slavery, however modified, be consistent with such a gospel?—a gospel which requires us, even amidst the highest forms of social life, to exert ourselves to raise the depressed by giving our warmest sympathies to those who have the smallest share in the favor of the world?
Those who are in “bonds” are set before us as deserving an especial remembrance. [Hebrews 13:3.] Their claims upon us are described as a modification of the Golden Rule—as one of the many forms to which its obligations are reducible. To them we are to extend the same affectionate regard as we would covet for ourselves, if the chains upon their limbs were fastened upon ours.
To the benefits of this precept, the enslaved have a natural claim of the greatest strength. The wrongs they suffer, spring from a persecution which can hardly be surpassed in malignancy. Their birth and complexion are the occasion of the insults and injuries which they can neither endure nor escape. It is for the work of God [in making them of this complexion], and not their own deserts, that they are loaded with chains. This is persecution.
Can I regard the slave as another self—can I put myself in his place—and be indifferent to his wrongs? Especially, can I, thus affected, take sides with the oppresser? Could I, in such a state of mind as the gospel requires me to cherish, reduce him to slavery or
keep him in bonds? Is not the precept under hand naturally subversive of every system and every form of slavery?
The general descriptions of the church which are found here and there in the New Testament, are highly instructive in their bearing on the subject of slavery. In one connection, the following words meet the eye:
Here we have—
Natural distinctions are not destroyed. They are recognized, hallowed, confirmed. The gospel does not abolish the sexes, forbid a division of labor, or extinguish patriotism.
It takes woman from beneath the feet, and places her by the side of man; delivers the manual laborer from “the yoke,” and gives him wages for his work; and brings the Jew and the Gentile to embrace each other with fraternal love and confidence.
Thus it raises all to a common level, gives to each the free use of his own powers and resources, binds all together in one dear and loving brotherhood. Such, according to the description of the apostle, was the influence, and such the effect of primitive Christianity.
“Behold the picture.” Is it like American slavery, which, in all its tendencies and effects, is destructive of all oneness among brethren?
Where, then, may we feverently recognize the presence, and bow before the manifested power, of this spirit?
* Gal. iii. 28.
Is the spirit of the Lord there, where liberty is decried and denounced, mocked at and spit upon, betrayed and crucified! In the midst of a church which justified slavery, which derived its support from slavery, which carried on its enterprises by means of slavery, would the apostle have found the fruits of the Spirit of the Lord! [Galatgians 5:22-23.] Let that Spirit exert his influences, and assert his authority, and wield his power, and slavery must vanish at once and forever.
In more than one connection, the apostle James describes Christianity as “the law of liberty” [James 1:25, 2:12.] It is in other words the law under which liberty can not but live and flourish—the law in which liberty is clearly defined, strongly asserted, and well protected.
As the law of liberty, how can it be consistent with the law of slavery? The presence and the power of this law are felt wherever the light of reason shines. They are felt in the uneasiness and conscious degradation of the slave, and in the shame and remorse which the master betrays in his reluctant and desperate efforts to defend himself. This law it is which bas armed human nature against the oppressor. Wherever it is obeyed, “every yoke is broken.”
In these references to the New Testament we have a general description of the primitive church, and the principles on which it was founded and fashioned. These principles bear the same relation to Christian history as to Christian character, since the former is occupied with the development of the latter.
What then is Christian character but Christian principle realized, acted out, bodied forth,
and animated? Christian principle is the soul, of which Christian character is the expression-—the manifestation. It comprehends in itself, as a living seed, such Christian eharacter, under every form, modification, and complexion. The former is, therefore, the test and interpreter of the latter.
In the light of Christian principle, and in that light only, we can judge of and explain Christian character. Christian history is occupied with the forms, modifications, and various aspects of Christian character. The facts which are there recorded serve to show, how Christian principle has fared in this world—how it has appeared, what it has done, how it has been treated.
In these facts we have the various institutions, usages, designs, doings, and sufferings of the church of Christ. And all these have of necessity, the closest relation to Christian principle. They are the production of its power. Through them, it is revealed and manifested. In its light, they are to be studied, explained, and understood. Without it they must be as unintelligible and insignificant as the letters of a book, scattered on the wind.
In the principles of Christianity, then, we have a comprehensive and faithful account of its objects, institutions, and usages—of how it must behave, and act, and suffer, in a world of sin and misery.
For between the principles which God reveals, on the one hand, and the precepts he enjoins, the institutions he establishes, and the usages he approves, on the other, there must be consistency and harmony. Otherwise we impute to God [accuse God of] what we must abhor in man—practice at war with principle.
Bring practice in these various respects into harmony with principle, and what becomes of slavery? And if, where the divine governrnent is concerned, practice is the expression of principle, and principle the standard and interpreter of practice, such harmony cannot but be maintained and must be asserted.
In studying, therefore, fragments of history and sketches of biography—in disposing of references to institutions, usages, and facts in the New Testament, this necessary harmony between principle and practice in the government, should be continually present to the thoughts of the interpreter.
Principles assert what practice must be. Whatever principle condemns, God condemns. It belongs to those weeds of the dunghill which, planted by “an enemy,” his hand will assuredly “root up.” [Matthew 13:25, 29, 39.]
It is most certain, then, that if slavery prevailed in the first ages of Christianity, it could nowhere have prevailed under its influence and with its sanction.
The condition in which, in its efforts to bless mankind, the primitive [First Century] church was placed, must have greatly assisted the early Christians in understanding and applying the principles of the gospel.—Their Master was born in great obscurity, lived in the deepest poverity, and died the most ignominious death. The place of his residence, his familiarity with the outcasts of society, his welcoming assistance and support from female hands, his casting his beloved mother, when he hung upon the cross, upon the charity of a disciple—such things evince the depth of his poverty, and show to what derision and contempt he must have been exposed.
Could such an one, “despised and rejected of men—a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief [Isaiah 53:3],”
play the oppressor, or smile on those who made merchandize of the poor!
And what was the history of the apostles, but an illustration of the doctrine, that “it is enough for the disciple, that he be as his Master?” [Matthew 10:25.]
Were they lordly ecclesiastics, abounding with wealth, shining with splendor, bloated with luxury! Were they ambitious of distinction, fleecing, and trampling, and devouring “the flocks,” that they tbemselves might “have the pre-eminence!” Were they slaveholding bishops! Or did they derive their support from the wages of iniquity and the price of blood!
Can such inferences be drawn from the account of their condition, which the most gifted and enterprising of their number has put upon record?
Are these the men who practiced or countenanced slavery? With such a temper [mind-set], they WOULD NOT; in such circumstances, they COULD NOT.
Exposed to “tribulation, distress, and persecution ;” subject to famine and nakedness, to peril and the sword; “killed all the day long; accounted as sheep for the slaughter,”† they would have made but a sorry figure at the great-house or slave-market!
Nor was the condition of the brethren, generally, better than that of the apostles. The position of the apostles doubtless entitled them to the strongest opposition, the heaviest reproaches, the fiercest persecution. But derision and contempt must have been the lot of Christians generally.
Surely we cannot think so ill of primitive [First Century] Christianity as to suppose that believers, generally, refused to share in the trials and sufferings of their leaders; as to suppose that while the leaders submitted to manual labor, to buffeting, to be reckoned the filth of the world, to be accounted as sheep for the slaughter, his brethren lived in affluence, ease, and honor! despising manual labor! and living upon the sweat of unrequited toil!
But on this point we are not left to mere inference and conjecture. The apostle Paul in the plainest language explains the ordination of Heaven.
* 1 Cor. iv. 11-13.
Here we may well notice,
1. That it was not by accident, that the primitive [First Century] churches were made up of such elements, but the result of the DIVINE CHOICE—an arrangement of His wise and gracious Providence. The inference is natural, that this ordination was co-extensive with the triumphs of Christianity. It was nothing new or strange, that Jehovah had concealed his glory “from the wise and prudent, and had revealed it unto babes,” [Matthew 11:25] or that “the common people heard him gladly,” [Mark 12:37] while “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, had been called.” [1 Cor. 1:26].
2. The description of character which the apostle records, could be adapted only to what are reckoned the very dregs of humanity. The foolish and the weak, the base and the contemptible, in the estimation of worldly pride and wisdom—these were they whose broken hearts were rcached, and moulded, and refreshed by the gospel; these were they whom the apostle took to his bosom as his own brethren.
That slaves abounded at Corinth, may easily be admitted. They They have a place in the enumeration of elements of which, according to the apostle, the church there was composed. The most remarkable class found there, consisted of “THINGS WHICH ARE NOT” [1 Cor. 1:28]—mere nobodies, not admitted to the privileges of men, but degraded to a level with “goods and chattels;” of whom no account was made in such arrangements of society as subserved the improvement, and dignity, and happiness of MANKIND. How accurately this description applies to thosc who are crushed undcr the chattel principle!
The reference which the apostle makes to the “deep poverty of the churches of Macedonia,”†and this to stir up the sluggish liberality of his Corinthian brethren, naturally leaves the impression, that the latter wore by no means inferior to the former in the gifts of Providence. But, pressed with want and pinched by poverty as were the believers in “Macedonia and Achaia, it pleased thern to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which were at Jerusalem.”‡
* 1 Cor. i. 27, 28.
Thus it appears, that Christians every where were familiar with contempt and indigence, so much so, that the apostle would dissuade such as had no families from assuming the responsibilities of the conjugal relation!*
Now, how did these good people treat each other?
Far otherwise—as far as possible!
In those Christian communities where the influence of the apostles was most powerful, and where the arrangements drew forth their highest commendations, believers treated each other as brethren, in the the strongest sense of that sweet word. So warm was their mutual love, so strong the public spirit, so open-handed and abundant the general liberality, that they are set forth as “having all things common.”†
Slaves and their holders here? Neither the one nor the other could in that relation to each other have breathed such an atmosphere. The appeal of the kneeling bondman,
must here have met with a prompt and powerful response.
The tests by which our Savior tries the character of his professed disciples, shed a strong light upon the genius of the gospel. In one connection,‡ an inquirer demands of the Savior,
After being reminded of the obligations which his social nature imposed upon him, he ventured, while claiming to be free from guilt in his relations to mankind, to demand, “what lack I yet ?” The radical deficiency under which his character labored, the Savior was not long or obscure in pointing out.
On this passage it is natural to suggest—
1. That we have here a test of universal application. The rectitude and benevolence of our Savior's character forbid us to suppose, that he would subject this inquirer, espccially as he was highly amiable, to a trial, where eternal life was at stake, peculiarly severe.
Indeed, the test seems to have been only a fair exposition of his second great command [Matt. 18:19, "love thy neighbor"], and of course it must be applicable to all who are placed under the obligations of that precept. Those who can not stand this test, as their character is radically imperfect and unsound, must, with the inquirer to whom our Lord applied it, be pronounced unfit for the kingdom of heaven. [Matt. 18:23-24].
2. The least that our Savior can in that passage be understood to demand is, that we disinterestedly and heartily devote ourselves to the welfare of mankind, “the poor” especially. We are to put ourselves on a level with them, as we must do “in selling that we have” for their benefit—in other words, in employing our powers and resources to elevate their character, condition, and prospects. This our Savior did; and if we refuse to enter into sympathy and cooperation with him, how can we be his followers? Apply this test to the slaveholder. Instead of “selling that he hath” for the benefit of the poor, he BUYS THE POOR, and exacts their sweat with stripes, to enable him to “clothe himself in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day;” or, HE SELLS THE POOR to support the gospel and convert the heathen!
What, in describing the scenes of the final judgment, does our Savior teach us? By what standard must our character be estimated, and the retributions of eternity be awarded? A standard, which both the righteous and the wicked will be surprised to see erected. [Matthew 25:31-46].
From the “offscouring of all things,” the meanest specimen of humanity will be selected—a “stranger” in the hands of the oppressor, naked, hungry, sickly; and this stranger, placed in the midst of the assembled universe, by the side of the sovereign Judge [Christ], will be openly acknowledged as his [Christ's] representative.
“Glory, honor, and immortality,” will be the reward of those who had recognized and cheered their Lord through his outraged [mistreated] poor [representatives]. [Matthew 25:34].
And tribulation, anguish, and despair, will seize on “every soul of man,” who had neglected or despised them. [Matthew 25:41, 46].
But whom, within the limits of our country, are we to regard especially as the representatives of our final Judge?
Every feature of the Savior's picture finds its appropriato original in our enslaved countrymen.
1. They are the LEAST of his brethren.
2. They are subject to thirst and hunger, unable to command cup of water or a crumb of bread.
3. They are exposed to wasting sickness, without the [legal or financial] ability to procure a nurse or employ a physician.
4. They are emphatically “in prison,” restrained by chains, goaded wtth whips, tasked, and under keepers. Not a wretch groans in any cell of the prisons of our country, who is exposed to a confinement so rigorous and heart-breaking as the law allows theirs to be continually and permanently.
6. And then they are emphatically, and peculiarly, and exclusively, STRANGERS— strangers in the land which gave them birth. Whom else do we constrain to remain aliens in the midst of our free institutions? The Welch, the Swiss, the Irish? The Jews even? Alas, it is the negro only, who may not strike his roots into our soil. Every where we have conspired to treat him as a stranger—every where he is forced to feel himself a stranger. In the stage and steamboat, in the parlor and at our tables, in the scenes of business and in the scenes of amusement—even in the church of God and at the communion table, he is regarded as a stranger. The intelligent and religious are generally disgusted and horror-struck at the thought of his becoming identified with the citizens of our republic—so much so, that thousands of them have entered into a conspiracy [the Colonization Society] to send him off “out of sight,” to find a home on a foreign shore [Liberia]!—And justify themselves by openly alledging, that a “single drop” of his blood, in the veins of any human creature [e.g., near-whites], must make him hateful to his fellow citizens!—That nothing but banishment from “our coasts,” can redeem him from the scorn and contempt to which his “stranger” blood has reduced him among his own mother's children!
Who, then, in this land “of milk and honey,” is “hungry and athirst,” but the man from whom the law takes away the last crumb of bread and the smallest drop of water?
Who “naked,” but the man whom the law strips of the last rag of clothing?
Who “sick,” but the man whom the law deprives of the power of procuring medicine or sending for a physician?
Who “in prison,” but the man who, all his life is under the control of merciless masters and cruel keepers?
Who a “stranger,” but the man who is scornfully denied the cheapest courtesies of life—who is treatcd as an alien in his native country?
There is one point in this awful description which deserves particular attention. Those who are doomed to the left hand of the Judge, are not charged with inflicting positive injuries on their helpless, needy, and oppressed brother. Theirs was what is often called negative character. What they had done is not described in the indictment. Their neglect of duty, what they had NOT done, was the ground of their “everlasting punishment.”
The representative of their Judge, they had seen a hungered and they gave him no meat, thirsty and they gave him no drink, a stranger and they took him not in, naked and they clothed him not, sick and in prison and they visited him not.
In as much as they did NOT yield to the claims of suffering humanity—did NOT exert themselves to bless the meanest of the human family, they were driven away in their wickedness.
But what if the indictment had run thus: I was a hungered and ye snatched away the crust which might have saved me from starvation; I was thirsty and ye dashed to the ground the “cup of cold water,” which might have moistened my parched lips; I was a stranger and ye drove me from the hovel which might have sheltered me from the piercing wind; I was sick and ye scourged me to my task; in prison and you sold me for my jail-fees—to what depths of hell must not those who were convicted under such charges be consigned!
And what is the history of American slavery but one long indictment, describing under ever-varying forms and hues just such injuries!
Nor should it be forgotten, that those who incurred the displeasure of their Judge [Christ], took far other views than he, of their own past history.
The charges which he brought against them, they heard with great surprise. They were sure that they had never thus turned away [him] from his necessities. Indeed, when had they seen him thus subject to poverty, insult, and oppression? Never.
And as to that poor friendless creature whom they left unpitied and unhelped in the hands of the oppressor, and whom their Judge now presented as his own representative, they never once supposed, that he had any claims on their compassion and assistance.
Had they known, that he was destined to so prominent a place at the final judgment, they would have treated him as a human being, in despite of any social, pecuniary, or political considerations. But neither their negative virtue nor their voluntary ignorance could shield them from the penal fire which their selfishness had kindled.
Now amidst the general maxims, the leading principals, the “great commandments” of the gospel; amidst its comprehensive descriptions and authorized tests of Christian character, wc should take our position in disposing of any particular allusions to such forms and useages of the primitive [First Century] churches as are supported by divine authority. The latter must be interpreted and understood in the light of the former.
But how do the apologists and defenders of slavery proceed? Placing themselves amidst the arrangements and usages which grew out of the corruptions of Christianity, they make these the standard by which the gospel is to be explained and understood!
Some Recorder or Justice, without the light of inquiry or the aid of a jury, consigns the negro whom the kidnapper has dragged into his presence to the horrors of slavery. As the poor wretch shrieks and faints, Humanity shudders and demands why such atrocities are endured? Some “priest” or “Levite,” “passing by on the other side,” [Luke 10:31-32] quite self-possessed and all complacent reads in reply from his broad phylactery, Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon!
Yes, echoes the negro-hating mob, made up of “gentlemen of property and standing” together with equally gentle-men reeking from the gutter [white trash]; Yes—Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon! And [Bible-believing] Humanity, brow-beaten, stunned with noise and tumult, is pushed aside by the crowd! A fair specimen this of the manner in which modern usages are made to interpret the sacred Scriptures?
1. This letter was written by the apostle Paul while a “prisoner of Jesus Christ” at Rome.
2. Philemon was a benevolent and trustworthy member of the church at Colosse, at whose house the disciples of Christ held their assemblies, and who owed his conversion, under God, directly or indirectly to the ministry of Paul.
3. Onesimus was the servant of Philemon; under a relation which it is difficult with accuracy and certainty to define. His condition, though [allegedly] servile, could not have been like that of an American slave; as, in that case, however he might have “wronged” Philemon, he could not also have “owed him ought.”* The American slave is, ac-
cording to law, as much the property of his master as any other chattel; and can no more “owe“” his master than can a sheep or a horse. The basis of all pecuniary obligations lies in some “value received.” How can “an article of merchandise” stand on this basis and sustain commercial relations to its owner? There is no person to offer or promise. Personality is swallowed up in American slavery!
4. How Onesimus found his way to Rome it is not easy to determine. He and Philemon appear to have parted from each other on ill terms. The general character of Onesimus, certainly, in his relation to Philemon, had been far from attractive, and he seems to have left him without repairing the wrongs he had done him or paying the debts which he owed him. At Rome, by the blessing of God upon the exertions of the apostle, he was brought to reflection and repentance.
5. In reviewing his history in the light of Christian truth, he became painfully aware of the injuries, he had inflicted on Philemon. He longed for an opportunity for frank confession and full restitution. Having, however, parted with Philemon on ill terms, he knew not how to appear in his presence. Under such embarrassments, he naturally sought sympathy and advice of Paul. His influence upon Philemon, Onesimus knew must be powerful, especially as an apostle.
6. A letter in behalf of Onesimus was therefore written by the apostle to Philemon. After such salutations, benedictions, and thanksgiving as the good character and useful life of Philemon naturally drew from the heart of Paul, he proceeds to the object of the letter. He admits that Onesimus had behaved ill in the service of Philemon; not in running away, for how they had parted with each other is not explained, but in being unprofitable and in refusing to pay the debts* which he had contracted. But his character had undergone a radical change. Thenceforward fidelity and usefulness would be his aim and mark his course. And as to any pecuniary obligations which he had violated, the apostle authorized Philemon to put them on his account.† Thus a way was fairly opened to the heart of Philemon. And now what does the apostle ask?
was to receive him as “a son” of the apostle—“as a brother beloved”—nay, if he counted Paul a partner, an equal, he was to receive Onesimus as he would receive the apostle himself. * So much above a servant was he to receive him!
8. But was not this request to be so interpreted and complied with as to put Onesimus in the hands of Philemon as “an article of merchandise,” CARNALLY, while it raised him to the dignity of a “brother beloved,” SPIRITUALLY? In other words, might not Philemon consistently with the request of Paul have reduced Onesimus to a chattel, AS A MAN, while he admitted him fraternally to his bosom, as a CHRISTIAN? Such gibberish in an apostolic epistle! Never. As if, however, to guard against such folly, the natural product of mist and moonshine, the apostle would have Onesimus raised above a servant to the dignity of a brother beloved, “BOTH IN THE FLESH AND IN THE LORD,”† as a man and Christian, in all the relations, circumstances, and responsibilities of life.
It is easy now with definiteness and certainty to determine in what sense the apostle in such connections uses the word “brother.” It describes a relation inconsistent with and opposite to the servile. It is “NOT” the relation of a “SERVANT.” It elevates its subject “above” the servile condition. It raises him to full equality with the master, to the same equality, on which Paul and Philemon stood side by side as brothers; and this, not in some vague, undefined, spiritual sense, affecting the soul and leaving the body in bonds, but in every way, “both in the FLESH and in the Lord.” This matter deserves particular and earnest attention. It sheds a strong light on other lessons of apostolic instruction.
9. It is greatly to our purpose, moreover, to observe that the apostle clearly defines the moral character of his request. It was fit, proper, right, suited to the nature and relations of things—a thing which ought to be done.‡ On this account, he might have urged it upon Philemon in the form of an injunction, on apostolic authority and with great boldness.§ The very nature of the request made it obliga-
‡ Verse 8. To "L0i@L. See Robinson's New Testament Lexicon; “it is fit, proper, becoming, it ought.” In what sense King James' translators used the word “convenient” any one may see who will read Rom. i. 28 and Eph. v. 3, 4.
tory on Philemon. He was sacredly bound, out of regard to the fitness of things, to admit Onesimus to full equality with himself—to treat him as a brother both in the Lord and as having flesh—as a fellow man. Thus were the inalienable rights and birth-right privileges of Onesimus, as a member of the human family, defined and protected by apostolic authority.
10. The apostle preferred a request instead of imposing a command, on the ground of CHARITY.* He would give Philemon an opportunity of discharging his obligations under the impulse of love. To this impulse, he was confident Philemon would promptly and fully yield. How could he do otherwise? The thing itself was right. The request respecting it came from a benefactor, to whom, under God, he was under the highest obligations.†
That benefactor, now an old man and in the hands of persecutors, manifested a deep and tender interest in the matter, and had the strongest persuasion that Philemon was more ready to grant than himself to entreat. The result, as he was soon to visit Colosse, and had commissioned Philemon to prepare a lodging for him, must come under the eye of the apostle. The request was so manifestly reasonable and obligatory, that the apostle, after all, described a compliance with it, by the strong word "obedience."‡
Now how must all this have been understood by the church at Colosse?—a church, doubtless, made up of such materials as the church at Corinth, that is, of members chiefly from the humblest walks of life. Many of them had probably felt the degradation and tasted the bitterness of the servile condition.
Would they have been likely to interpret the apostle's letter under the bias of feelings friendly to slavery!—And put the slaveholder's construction on its contents!
Would their past experience or present sufferings—for doubtless some of them were still “under the yoke”—have suggested to their thoughts such glosses [false claims] as some of our [vile, unconverted, demonized] theological professors[and clergy] venture to put upon the words of the apostle!
Far otherwise. The Spirit of the Lord was there, and the epistle was read in the light of “liberty.” It contained the principles of holy freedom, faithfully and affectionately applied. This must have made it precious in the eyes off such men “of low degree” as were most of the believers, and welcome to
a place in the sacred canon. There let it remain as a luminous aud powerful defense of the cause of emancipation!
But what saith [vile] Prof. Stuart?
“Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon.” By what process?
Did the apostle, a prisoner at Rome, seize upon the fugitive, and drag him before some heartless and perfidious “Judge,” for authority to send bim back to Colosse? Did he hurry his victim away from the presence of the fat and supple magistrate, to be driven under chains and the lash to the field of unrequited toil, whence he had escaped?
Had the apostle been like some [vile, unconverted, demonized] teachers [and clergymen] in the [depraved] American churches, he might, as a professor of sacred literature in one of our seminaries, or a preacher of the gospel to the rich in some of our cities, have consented thus to subserve the “peculiar” interests of a dear slaveholding brother. But the venerable champion of truth and freedom was himself under bonds in the imperial city, waiting for the crown of martyrdom. He wrote a letter to the church at Colosse, which was accustomed to meet at the house of Philemon, and another letter to that magnanimous disciple, and sent them by the hand of Onesimus. So much for the way in which Onesimus was sent back to his master.
A slave escapes from a patriarch in Georgia, and seeks a refuge in the parish of the Connecticut doctor, who once gave public notice that he saw no reason for caring for the servitude of his fellow men.† Under his influence, Caesar becomes a Christian couvert. Burning with love for the son whom he hath begotten in the gospel, our doctor resolves to send him back to his master. Accordingly, he writes a letter, gives it to Caesar, and bids him return, staff in hand, to the “corner-stone of our republican institutions.” Now, what would any Caesar do, who had ever felt a link of slavery's chain? As he left his spiritual father, should we be surprized to hear him say to himself, What, return of my own accord to the man who, with the hand of a robber, plucked me from my mother's bosom!—for whom I
† “Why should I care?”
have been so often drenched in the sweat of unrequited toil!—whose violence so often cut my flesh and scarred my limbs!—who shut out every ray of light from my mind!—who laid claim to those honors to which my Creator and Redeemer only are entitled! And for what am I to return? To be cursed, and smitten, and sold! To be tempted, and torn, and destroyed! I can not thus throw myself away—thus rush upon my own destruction.
Who ever heard of the voluntary return of a fugitive from American oppression? Do you think that the doctor and his friends could persuade one to carry a letter to the patriarch from whom he had escaped? And must we believe this of Onesimus!
“Paul sent back Onesimes to Philemon.” On what occasion?—
Alive to [Aware of] the claims of duty, Onesimus would “restore” whatever he “had taken away.” He would honestly pay his debts. This resolution, the apostle warmly approved. He was ready, at whatever expense, to help his young disciple in carrying it into full effect. Of this he assured Philemon, in language the most explicit and emphatic. Here we find one reason for the conduct of Paul in sending Onesimus to Philemon.
If a fugitive slave of the Rev. Mr. Smylie, of Mississippi, should return to him with a letter from a doctor of divinity in New York, containing such an assurance, how would the reverend slaveholder dispose of [react to] it? What, he exclaims, have we here?
What ignorance of southern institutions! What mockery, to talk of pecuniary intercourse between a slave and his master! The slave himself, with all he is and has, is an article of merchandise. What can he owe his master? A rustic may lay a wager with his mule, and give the creature the peck of oats which he had permitted it to win. But who in sober earnest would call this a pecuniary transaction?
Receive him how? As a servant, exclaims our [vile] commentator. But what wrote the apostle?
Who authorized the[vile, demonized, pro-slavery] professor to bereave [deprive] the word 'not' of its negative influence?
According to Paul, Philemon was to receive Onesimus 'not as a servant;'—according to [the demonized] Stuart, he [Philemon] was to receive him [Onesimus] “as a servant!”
If the [vile] professor will apply the same rules of exposition to the writings of the abolitionists, all difference between him and them must in his view presently vanish away. The harmonizing process would be equally simple and effectual. He has only to understand them as affirming what they deny, and as denying what they affirm.
Suppose that Prof. Stuart had a son residing at the South. His slave, having stolen money of his master, effected his escape. He fled to Andover [Stuart's college], to find a refuge among the “sons of the prophets.” There he finds his way to Prof. Stuart's house, and offers to render any service which the professor, dangerously ill “of a typhus fever,” might require.
He is soon found to be a most active, skillful, faithful nurse. He spares no pains, night and day, to make himself useful to the venerable sufferer. He anticipates every want. In the most delicate and tender manner, he tries to sooth every pain. He fastens himself strongly on the heart of the reverend object of his care. Touched with the heavenly spirit, the meek demeanor in the submissive frame, which the sick bed exhibits, Archy becomes a Christian. A new bond now ties him and his convalescent teacher together. As soon as he is able to write, the professor sends by Archy the following letter to the South, to Isaac Stuart, Esq.:—
And what if Dr. Baxter, in giving an account of this letter should publicly declare that Prof. Stuart of Andover regarded slaveholding as lawful; for that “he had sent Archy back to his son Isaac, with an apology for his running away” to be held in perpetual slavery?
With what propriety might not the professor exclaim: False, every syllable false. I sent him back, NOT TO BE HELD AS A SLAVE, but recognized as a dear brother, in all respects, under every relation, civil and ecclesiastical. I bade my son receive Archy as myself. If this was not equivalent to a requisition to set him fully and most honorably free, and that, too, on the ground of natural obligation and Christian principle, then I know not how to frame such a requisition.
I am well aware that my supposition is by no means strong enough fully to illustrate the case to which it is applied. Prof. Stuart lacks apostolical authority. Isaac Stuart is not a leading member of a church consisting, as the early churches chiefly consisted, of what the world regard as the dregs of society—“the offscouring of all things.” Nor was slavery at Colosse, it seems, supported by such barbarous usages, such horrid laws as disgrace the South.
But it is time to turn to another passage which, in its bearing on the subject in hand, is, in our view, as well as in the view of [vile] Dr. Fisk
and Prof. Stuart, in the highest degree authoritative and instructive.
1. The apostle addresses himself here to two classes of servants, with instructions to each respectively appropriate. Both the one class and the other, in Prof. Stuart's eye, were slaves. This he assumes, and thus begs the very question in dispute. The term servant is generic, as used by the sacred writers. It comprehends all the various offices which men discharge for the benefit of each other, however honorable, or however mental; from that of an apostle† opening the path to heaven, to that of washing “one another's feet.”‡ A general term it is, comprehending every office which belongs to human relations and Christian character.§
A leading signification gives us the manual laborer, to whom, in the division of labor, muscular exertion was allotted. As in his exertions the bodily powers are especially employed—such powers as belong to man in common with mere animals—his sphere has generally been considered low and humble. And as intellectual power is superior to bodily, the manual laborer has always been exposed in very numerous ways and in various degrees to oppression.
Cunning,intrigue, the oily tongue, have, through extended and powerful conspiracies, brought the resources of society under the control of the few, who stood aloof from his homely toil. Hence his dependence upon them. Hence the multiplied injuries which have fallen so heavily upon him. Hence the reduction of his wages from one degree to another, till at length, in the case of millions, fraud and violence strip him of his all, blot his name from the record of mankind, and, putting a yoke upon his neck, drive him away to toil among the cattle. Here you find the slave.
To reduce the servant to his condition, requires abuses altogether monstrous—injuries reaching the very vitals of man—stabs upon the very heart of humanity. Now, what right has Prof. Stuart to make the word “servants,” comprehending, even as manual laborers, so many and such various meanings, signify “slaves,” especially where different classes are
concerned? Such a right he could never have derived from humanity, or philosophy, or hermeneutics. Is it his by sympathy with the oppressor?
Yes, different classes. This is implied in the term “as many,”* which sets apart the class now to be addressed. From these he proceeds to others, who are introduced by a particle† whose natural meaning indicates the presence of another and a different subject.
2. The first class are described as “under the yoke”—a yoke from which they were, according to the apostle, to make their escape if possible.‡ If not, they must in every way regard the master with respect—bowing to his authority, working his will, subserving his interests so far as might be consistent with Christian character.§ And this, to prevent blasphemy—to prevent the pagan master from heaping profane reproaches upon the name of God and the doctrines of the gospel. They should beware of rousing his passions, which, as his helpless victims, they might be unable to allay or withstand.
But all the servants whom the apostle addressed were not “under the yoke”|| — an instrument appropriate to cattle and to slaves. These he distinguishes from another class, who instead of a “yoke”—the badge of a slave—had “believing masters.” To have a “believing master,” then, was equivalent to freedom from “the yoke.” These servants were exhorted not to despise their masters. What need of such an exhortation, if their masters had been slaveholders, holding them as property, wielding them as mere instruments, disposing of them as “articles of merchandise?” But this was not consistent with believing. Faith, “breaking every yoke,” united master and servants in the bonds of brotherhood. Brethren they were, joined in a relation which, excluding the yoke,¶ placed them side by side on the ground of equality, where, each in his appropriate sphere, they might exert themselves freely and usefully, to the mutual benefit of each other. Here, servants might need to be cautioned against getting above their appropriate business, putting on airs, despising their masters,
† ),. See Passow.
and thus declining or neglecting their service.* Instead of this, they should be, as emancipated slaves often have been,† models of enterprise, fidelity, activity, and usefulness—especially as their masters were “worthy of their confidence and love,” their helpers in this well-doing.‡
Such, then, is the relation between those who, in the view of Prof. Stuart, were Christian masters and Christian slaves§ — the relation of “brethren,” which, excluding “the yoke,” and of course conferring freedom, placed them side by side on the common ground of mutual service, both retaining, for convenience's sake, the one while giving and the other while receiving employment, the correlative name, as is usual in such cases, under which they had been known. Such was the instruction which Timothy was required, as a Christian minister, to give. Was it friendly to slaveholding?
† Those, for instance, set free by that “believing master” James G. Birney.
‡ The following exposition is from the pen of ELIZUR WRIGHT, JR.:—
“This word ["LJJ("Lß] in our humble opinion, has been so unfairly used by the commentators, that we feel constrained to take its part. Our excellent translators, in rendering the clause 'partakers of the benefit,' evidently lost sight of the component preposition, which expresses the opposition of reciprocity, rather than the connection of participation. They have given it exactly the sense of (2 Tim. ii. 6.) Had the apostle intended such a sense, he would have used the latter verb, or one of the more common words, etc. (See Heb. iii. 1, and 1 Tim. v. 22, where the latter word is used in the clause, 'neither be partaker of other men's sins.' Had the verb in our text been used, it might have been rendered, 'neither be the part-taker of other men's sins.') The primary sense of is to take in return—to take instead of, etc.. Hence, in the middle with the genitive, it signifies assist or do one's part towards the person or thing expressed by that genitive. In this sense only is the word used in the New Testament.—(See Luke i. 54, and Acts xx. 35.) If this be true, the word can not signify the benefit conferred by the gospel, as our common version would make it, but the well-doing of the servants, who should continue to serve their believing masters, while they were no longer under the yoke of compulsion. The word is used elsewhere in the New Testament but once, (Acts iv. 3,) in relation to the 'good deed' done to the impotent man. The plain import of the clause, unmystified by the commentators, is, tbat believing masters would not fail to do their part towards, or encourage by suitable returns, the free [voluntary] service of those who had once been under the yoke.”
And on what ground, according to the Princeton professor, did these masters and these servants stand in their relation to each other? On that of a “perfect religious equality.”*
In all the relations, duties, and privileges—in all the objects, interests, and prospects, which belong to the province of Christianity, servants were as free as their master. The powers of the one, were allowed as wide a range and as free an exercise, with as warm encouragements, as active aids, and as high results, as the other.
Here, the relation of a servant to his master imposed no restrictions, involved no embarrassments, occasioned no injury. All this, clearly and certainly, is implied in “perfect religious equality,” which the Princeton professor accords to servants in relation to their master.
In every department of interest and exertion, they might use their capacities, and wield their powers, and improve their opportunities, and employ their resources, as freely as he, in glorifying God, in blessing mankind, and in laying up imperishable treasures for themselves!
Give perfect religious equality to the American slave, and the most eager abolitionist must be satisfied. Such equality would, like the breath of the Almighty, dissolve the last link of the chain of servitude. Dare those who, for the benefit of slavery, have given so wide and active a circulation to the Pittsburgh pamphlet, make the experiment?
In the epistle to the Colossians, the following passage deserves earnest attention:—
* Pittsburgh Pamphlet, p. 9.
Here it is natural to remark—
1. That in maintaining the relation, which mutually united them, both masters and servants were to act in conformity with the principles of the divine government. Whatever they did, servants were to do in hearty obedience to the Lord, by whose authority they were to be controlled and by whose hand they were to be rewarded. To the same Lord, and according to the same law, was the master to hold himself responsible. Both the one and the other were of course equally at liberty and alike required to study and apply the standard, by which they were to be governed and judged.
2. The basis of the government under which they thus were placed, was righteousness—strict, stern, impartial. Nothing here of bias or antipathy. Birth, wealth, station,—the dust of the balance not so light! Both master and servants were hastening to a tribunal, where nothing of “respect of persons” could be feared or hoped for. There the wrong-doer, whocver he might be, and whether from the top or bottom of society, must be dealt with according to his deservings.
3. Under this government, servants were to be universally and heartily obedient; and both in the presence and absence of the master, faithfully to discharge their obligations. The master on his part, in his relations to the servants, was to make JUSTICE AND EQUALTY the standard of his conduct.
Under the authority of such instructions, slavery falls discountenanced, condemned, abhorred. It is flagrantly at war with the government of God, consists in “respect of persons” the most shameless and outrageous, treads justice and equality under foot, and in its natural tendency and practical effects is nothing else than a system of wrong-doing.
What have they to do with the just and the equal who in their “respect of persons” proceed to such a pitch as to treat one brotber as a thing because he is a servant, and place him, without the least regard to his welfare here, or his prospects hereaftcr, absolutely at the disposal of another broth-
er, under the name of master, in the relation of owner to property! Justice and equality on the one hand, and the chattel principle on the other, are naturally subversive of each other—proof clear and decisive that the correlates, masters and servants, cannot here be rendered slaves and owners, without the grossest absurdity and the greatest violence [to the language].
Slavery and the chattel principle! So our professor thinks; otherwise his reference has nothing to do with the subject—with the slavery which the abolitionist, whom he derides, stands opposed to.
How gross and hurtful is the mistake into which he allows himself to fall.
The relation recognized in the precepts of the New Testament had its basis and support in “justice and equality;” the very opposite of the chattel principle; a relation which may exist as long as justice and equality romain, and thus escape the destruction to which, in the view of Prof. Stuart, slavery is doomed.
The description of Paul obliterates every feature of American slavery, raising the servant to equality with his master, and placing his rights under the protection of justice; yet the eye of Prof. Stuart can see nothing in his [Paul's terms] master and servant [employer and employee] but a slave and his owner. With this relation he is so thoroughiy possessed, that, like an evil angel, it haunts him even when he enters the temple of justice!
It would be remarkable, indeed, if they were chargeable with a defect so great and glaring. And so they have nothing to say upon the subject? That not even the Princeton professor has the assurance to affirm. He admits that KINDNESS, MERCY, AND JUSTICE, were enjoined with a distinct reference to the government of God.‡
“Without respect of persons,” they were to be God-like in doing justice. They were to act the part of kind and merciful “brethren.” And whither would this lead them? Could they stop short of restoring to every man his natural inalienable rights—of doing
what they could to redress the wrongs, soothe the sorrows, improve the character, and raise the condition of the degraded and oppressed? Especially, if oppressed and degraded by any agency of theirs.
Could it be kind, merciful, or just to keep the chains of slavery on their helpless, unoffending brother? Would this be to honor the Golden Rule, or obey the second great command [“love thy neighbor as thyself”] “their Master in Heaven?”
Could the apostles have subserved the cause of freedom more directly, intelligibly, and effectually, than to enjoin the principle, and sentiments, and habits, in which freedom consists—constituting its living root and fruitful germ?
The Princeton professor himself, in the very paper which the South has so warmly welcomed and so loudly applauded as a scriptural defense of “the peculiar institution,” maintains,
It is indeed “remarkable,” that while neither Christ nor his apostles ever gave “an exhortation to masters to liberate their slaves,”
This is not only “remarkable,” but inexplicable. Yes and no—hot and cold, in one and the same breath!
And yet these things [schizophasic contradictions, inconsistencies] stand prominent in what is reckoned [alleged to be] an acute, ingenious, effective defense of slavery!
† The same p. 31.
In his letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul furnishes another lesson of instruction, expressive of his views and feelings on the subject of slavery.
In explaining and applying this passage, it is proper to suggest,
1. That it could not have been the object of the apostle to bind the Corinthian converts to the stations and employments in which the Gospel found them [at time of conversion]. For he exhorts some of them to escape, if possible, from their present condition. In the servile state, “under the yoke, ” they ought not to remain unless impelled by stern necessity. “If thou canst be free, use it rather.” If they ought to prefer freedom to bondage and to exert themselves to escape from the latter for the sake of the former, could their master consistently with the claims and spirit of the Gospel have hindered or discouraged them in so doing? Their “brother” could he be, who kept “the yoke” upon their neck, which the apostle would have them shake off if possible? And had such masters been members of the Corinthian church, what inferences must they have drawn from this exhortation to their servants? That the apostle regarded slavery as a Christian institution?—-or could look complacently on any efforts to introduce or maintain it in the church? Could they have expected less from him than a stern rebuke, if they refused to exert themselves in the cause of freedom?
2. But while they were to use their freedom, if they could obtain it, they should not, even on such a subject, give themselves up to ceaseless anxiety. “The Lord was no respecter of persons.” They need not fear, that the “low estate,” to which they had been wickedly reduced, would prevent them from enjoying the gifts of his hand or the light of his countenance. He would respect their rights, sooth their sorrows, and pour upon their hearts, and cherish there, the spirit of liberty. “For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman.” In him, therefore, should they cheerfully confide.
3. The apostle, however, forbids them to to acquiesce in the servile relation, as to act inconsistently with their Christian obligations. To their Savior they belonged. By his blood they had been purchased. It should be their great object, therefore, to render Him a hearty and effective service. They should permit no man, whoever he might be, to thrust in himself between them and their Redeemer.
With his eye upon the passage just quoted and explained, the Princeton professor asserts that
Does he then regard it as a small matter, a mere trifle, to be thrown under the [unconstitutional] slave-laws of this republic, grimly and fiercely excluding their victim from almost every means of improvement, and field of usefulness, and source of comfort; and making him, body and substance, with his wife and babes, “the servant of men?” Could such a relation be acquiesced in consistently with the instructions of the apostle?
To the Princeton professor we commend a practical trial of the bearing of the passage in hand upon American slavery. His regard for the unity and prosperity of the ecclesiastical organizations, which in various forms and under different names unite the southern with the northern churches, will make the experiment grateful to his feelings. Let him, then, as soon as his convenience will permit, proceed to Georgia. No religious teacher† from any free state, can be likely
† Rev. Mr. Savage, of Utica, New York, had, not very long ago, a free [outspoken, frank] conversation with a gentleman of high standing in the literary and religious world from a slaveholding state, where the “peculiar institution” is cherished with great warmth and maintained with iron rigor. By him, Mr. Savage was assured, that the Princeton professor had, through the Pittsburgh pamphlet, contributed most powerfully and effectually to bring the “whole South” under the persuasion, that slaveholding is in itself right—a system to which the Bible gives countenance and support.
In an extract from an article in the Southern Christian Sentinel, a new Presbyterian paper established in Charleston, South Carolina, and inserted in the Christian Journal for March 21, 1839, we find the followmg paragraphs from the pen of Rev. C. W. Howard, and according to Mr. Chester, ably and freely endorsed by the editor.
to receive so general and so warm a welcome there. To allay the heat [outcry, dissenion], which the doctrines and movements of the abolitionists have occasioned in the southern mind, let him with as much despatch as possible collect, as he goes from place to place, masters and their slaves. Now let all men, whom it may concern, see and own [admit] that slavery is a Christian institution!
With his Bible in his hand and his eye upon the passage in question, he addresses himself to the task of instructing the slaves around him.
Would such an effort, generally and heartily made, allay excitement [dissension] at the South, and quench the flames of discord, every day rising higher and waxing hotter, in almost every part of the republic, and cement “the Union?”
To say [as does Prof. Hodge] that he [Christ] found it [slavery] in Judea, is to speak ambiguously [fraudulently, lying, to be blunt].
Many things were to be found "in Judea," which neither belonged to, nor were characteristic of the Jews. It is not denied that the Gentiles [heathens], who resided among them, might have had slaves; but of the Jews this is denied.
How could the professor take that as granted [assumed], the proof of which entered vitally into the argument and was essential to the soundness of the conclusions to which he would conduct us? How could he take advantage of an ambiguous [fraudulent] expression to conduct his confiding readers on to a position which, if his own eyes were open, he must have known they could not hold in the light of open day?
We do not charge the Savior with any want of wisdom, goodness, or courage,† for refusing to “break down the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles” [Eph. 2:14] “before the time appointed.” While this barrier stood, he could not, consistently with the plan of redemption, impart instruction freely to the Gentiles. To some extent, and on extraordinary occasions, he might have done so. But his business then was with “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”‡
The propriety of this arrangement is not the matter of dispute between the Princeton professor [Hodge] and ourselves.
In disposing of the question whether theJews held slaves during our Savior's incarnation among them, the following points deserve earnest attention:—
the proof of this, we would refer our readers, among other arguments more or less appropriate and powerful, to the tract already alluded to.* In all the external relations and visible arrangements of life, the Jews, during our Savior's ministry among them, seem to have been scrupulously observant of the institutions and usages of the “Old Dispensation.” They stood far aloof from whatever was characteristic of Samaritans and Gentiles. From idolatry and slaveholding—those twin-vices which had always so greatly prevailed among the heathen—they seem at length, as the result of a most painful discipline, to have been effectually divorced.
2. While, therefore, John the Baptist, with marked fidelity and great power, acted among the Jews the part of a reprover, he found no occasion to repeat and apply the language of his predecessors,† in exposing and rebuking idolatry and slaveholding. Could he, the greatest of the prophets, have been less effectually aroused by the presence of “the yoke,” than was Isaiah?—or less intrepid and decisive in exposing and denouncing the sin of oppression under its most hateful and injurious forms?
3. The Savior was not backward in applying his own principles plainly and pointedly to such forms of oppression as appeared among the Jews. These principles, whenever they have been freely acted on, the Princeton professor [Hodge] admits, have abolished domestic bondage. Had this prevailed within the sphere of our Savior's ministry, he could not, consistently with his general character, have failed to expose and condemn it. The oppression of the people by lordly ecclesiastics, of parents by their selfish children, of widows by their ghostly counsellors, drew from his lips scorching rebukes and terrible denunciations.‡ How, then, must he have felt and spoke in the presence of such tyranny, if such tyranny had been within his official sphere, as should have made widows, by driving their husbands to some flesh-market, and their chiidren not orphans, but cattle?
4. Domestic slavery was manifestly inconsistent with the [small-scale agrarian-related] industry, which, in the form of manual labor, so generally prevailed among the Jews. In one connection, in the Acts of the Apostles, we are informed, that, coming from Athens to Corinth, Paul
* “The Bible against Slavery.”
This passage has opened the way for different commentators to refer us to the public sentiment and general practice of the Jews respecting useful industry and manual labor.
Slavery among a people who, from the highest to the lowest, were used to manual labor! What occasion for slavery there? And how could it be maintained? No place can be found for slavery among a people generally inured [accustomed] to useful industry. With such, especially if men of learning, wealth, and station “labor, working with their hands” [Ephesians 4:28], such labor must be honorable. On this subject, let Jewish maxims and Jewish habits be adopted at the South, and the “peculiar institution” would vanish like a ghost at day-break.
* Acts xviii. 1-3.
† Henry on Acts xviii. 1-3.
‡ Kuinoel on Acts.
§ Heinrichs on Acts.
¶ See Kuinoel's Prolegom. to tho Gospel of John.
5. Another hint, here deserving particular attention, is furnished in the allusions of the New Testament to the lowest casts and most servile employments among the Jews. With profligates, publicans were joined as depraved and contemptible. The outcasts of society were described, not as fit to herd with slaves, but as deserving a place among Samaritans and publicans. They were “hired servants,” whom Zebedee employed. In the parable of the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32] we have a wealthy Jewish family. Here servants seem to have abounded. The prodigal, bitterly bewailing his wretchedness and folly, described their condition as greatly superior to his own. How happy the change which should place him by their side! His remorse, and shame, and penitence made him willing to embrace the lot of the lowest of them all. But these—what was their condition? They were HIRED SERVANTS. “Make me as one of thy hired servants.” Such he refers to as the lowest menials known in Jewish life.
Lay such hints as have now been suggested together; let it be remembered,
and [so] the question of slavery “in Judea,” so far as the seed of Abraham were concerned, is very easily disposed of. With every phase and form of society among them slavery was inconsistent.
The position which, in the article so often referred to in this paper, the [vile] Princeton professor [Hodge] takes, is sufficiently remarkable. Northern abolitionists he saw in an earnest struggle with southern slaveholders. The present welfare and future happiness of myriads of the human family were at stake in this contest. In the heat of the battle, he throws himself between the belligerent powers. He gives the abolitionists to understand, that they are quite mistaken in the character of the object they have set themselves so openly and sternly against. Slaveholding is not, as they suppose, contrary to the law of God. It was
witnessed by the Savior “in its worst forms,”* without extorting from his lips a syllable of rebuke.
From this [fraudulent] definition he infers that the abolitionists are greatly to blame for maintaining that American slavery is inherently and essentially sinful, and for insisting that it ought at once to be abolished. For this [vile] labor of [demonized] love the slaveholding South is warmly grateful and applauds its reverend ally, as if a very Daniel had come as their advocate to judgment.§
A few questions, briefly put, may not here be inappropriate.
1. Was the form of slavery which our professor pronounces innocent the form witnessed by our Savior “in Judea?” That, he will by no means admit. The slavery there was, he affirms, of the “worst” kind. How then does he account for the alledged silence of the Savior?—a silence covering the essence and the form—the institution and its “worst” abuses?
2. Is the slaveholding, which, according to the Princeton professor [Hodge], Christianity justifies, the same as that which the abolitionists so earnestly wish to see abolished. Let us see.
Now it is slavery according to the American system that the abolitionists are set against. Of the existence of any such form of slavery as is consistent with Prof. Hodge's account of the requisitions of
§ Supra p. 6l.
Christianity, tbey know nothing. It has never met their notice, and of course, has never roused their feelings, or called forth their exertions. What, then, have they to do with the censures and reproaches which the Princeton professor deals around?
Let those who have leisure and good-nature protect the man of straw he is so hot against. The abolitionists have other business. It is not the figment of some sickly brain; but that system of oppression which in theory is corrupting, and in practice destroying both Church and State;—it is this that they feel pledged to do battle upon, till by the just judgment of Almighty God it is thrown, dead and damned, into the bottomless abyss.
3. How can the South feel itself protected by any shield which may be thrown over SUCH SLAVERY, as may be consistent with what the Princeton professor describes as the requisitions of Christianity? Is this THE slavery which their laws describe, and their hands maintain?
“Fair compensation for labor”—“marital and parental rights”—“free scope” and “all suitable means” for the “improvement, moral and intellectual, of all classes of men;”—are these, according to the statutes of the South, among the objects of slaveholding legislation? Every body knows that any such requisition and American slavery are flatly opposed to and directly subversive of each other.
What service, then, has the Princeton professor, with all his ingenuity and all his zeal, rendered the “peculiar institution?” Their gratitude must be of a stamp and complexion quite peculiar, if they can thank him for throwing their “domestic system” under the weight of such Christian requisitions as must at once crush its snaky head “and grind it to powder.”
And what, moreover, is the bearing of the Christian requisitions which Prof. Hodge quotes, upon the definition of slavery which he has elaborated? “All the ideas which necessarily enter into the definition of slavery are, deprivation of personal liberty, obligation of service at the discretion of another, and the transferable character of the authority and claim of service of the master.”*
* Pittsburgh pamphlet, p. 12.
Christianity, then, requires such slavery as Prof. Hodge so cunningly defines, to be abolished. It was well provided, for the peace of the respective parties, that he placed his definition so far from the requisitions of Christianity. Had he brought them into each other's presence, their natural and invincible antipathy to each other would have broken out into open and exterminating warfare.
But why should we delay longer upon an argument which is based on gross and monstrous sophistry? It can mislead only such as wish to be misled. The lovers of sunlight are in little danger of rushing into the professor's dungeon.
Those who, having something to conceal, covet darkncss, can find it there, to their hearts' content. The hour can not be far away, when upright and reflective minds at the South will be astonished at the blindness which could welcome such protection as the Princeton argument offers to the slaveholder.
Did not EXPECT!
What then? Are the requisitions of Christianity adapted to any EXPECTATIONS wbich in any quarter and on any ground might have risen to human consciousness? And are we to interpret the precepts of the Gospel by the expectations of Paul?
The Savior commanded all men every where to repent, and this, though “Paul did not expect” that human wickedness, in its ten thousand forms would in any community " be ousted in a day." Expcctations are one thing; requisitions quite another.
In the mean time, while expcctation waited, Paul, the professor adds, “gave precepts to Christians respecting their demeanor.” That he did. Of what character were these preccpts? Must they not have been in harmony with the Golden Rule? But this, according to Prof. Stuart, “decides against the righteousness of slavery” even as a “theory.” Accordingly, Christians were required, without
respect of persons, to do each other justice—to maintain equality as common ground for all to stand upon--to cherish and express in all their intercourse that tender love and disinterested charity which one brother naturally feels for another. These were the “ad interim precepts,”* which can not fail, if obeyed, to cut up slavery, “root and branch,” at once and forever.
Prof. Stuart comforts us with the assurance that “Christianity will ultimately certainly destroy slavery.” Of this we have not the feeblest doubt. But how could he admit a persuasion and utter a prediction so much at war with the doctrine he maintains, that “slavery may exist without VIOLATING THE CHRISTIAN FAITH OR THE CHURCH?”†
What, Christianity bent on the destruction of an ancient and cherished institution which hurts neither her character nor condition!‡
Why not correct its abuses and purify its spirit; and shedding upon it her own beauty, preserve it as a living trophy of her reformatory power? Whence the discovery that, in her onward progress, she would trample down and destroy what was no way hurtful to her?
This is to be aggressive with a witness. Far be it from the Judge of all the earth to whelm the innocent and guilty in the same destruction! In aid of Professor Stuart, in the rude and scarcely covert attack which he makes upon himself, we maintain that Christianity will certainly destroy slavery on account of its inherent wickedness—its malignant temper—its deadly effects—its constitutional, insolent, and unmitigable opposition to the authority of God and the welfare of man.
“Christianity will ultimately destroy slavery.” “ULTIMATELY!” What meaneth that portentous word? To what limit of remotest time, concealed in the darkness of futurity, may it look?
Tell us, O watchman, on the hill of Andover. Almost nineteen centuries have rolled over this world of wrong and outrage—and yet we tremble in the presence of a form of slavery whose breath is poison, whose fang is death!
If any one of the incidents [characteristics] of slavery should fall, but for a single day, upon the head of the prophet who dipped his pen, in such cold blood, to write that word “ultimately,” how, under the sufferings of the first tedious hour, would he break out in the lamentable cry, “How long, O Lord, HOW LONG!” In the agony of beholding a wife or daughter [being sold]
upon the table of the auctioneer, while every bid fell upon his heart like the groan of despair, small comfort would he find in the dull assurance of some heartless prophet, quite at “ease in Zion,” that “ULTIMATELY Christianity would destroy slavery.”
As the hammer falls and the beloved of his soul, all helpless and most wretched, is borne away to the haunts of legalized debauchery, his heart turns to stone, while the cry dies upon his lips, “How LONG, O Lord, HOW LONG?”
“Ultimately!” In what circumstances does Prof. Stuart assure himself that Christianity will destroy slavery?
Are we, as American citizens, under the sceptre of a Nero?
When, as integral parts of this republic—as living members of this community, did we forfeit the prerogatives [rights] of freemen? Have we not the right to speak and act as wielding the powers which the principle of self-government has put in our possession! And without asking leave of priest or statesman, of the North or the South, may we not make the most of the freedom which we enjoy under the guaranty of the ordinances of Heaven and the Constitution of our country?
Can we expect to see Christianity on higher vantage-ground than in this country she stands upon? In the midst of a republic based on the principle of the equality of mankind, where every Christian, as vitally connected with the state [government], freely wields the highest political rights and enjoys the richest political privileges; where the unanimous demand of one-half of the members of the churches would be promptiy met in the abolition of slavery, what “ultimately” must Christianity here wait for before she crushes the chattel principle beneath her heel?
Her triumph over slavery is retarded by nothing but the corruption and defection so widely spread through the “sacramental host” beneath her banners! Let her voice be heard and her energies exerted, and the ultimately of the “dark spirit of slavery” would at once give place to the immediately of the Avenger of the Poor.