LOCUST GROVE, Culpeper Co., Va., 1841.
|Thornton Stringfellow (March 6, 1788 – March 6, 1869) was the pastor of Stevensburg Baptist Church in Culpeper County, Virginia. This essay was, as the extended title suggests, first published in the Religious Herald and the separately published, by request. The text is taken from the "Documenting the American South" website at the University of North Carolina.|
Circumstances exist among the inhabitants of these United States, which make it proper that the Scriptures should be carefully examined by Christians in reference to the institution of Slavery, which exists in several of the States, with the approbation of those who profess unlimited subjection to God's revealed will.
It is branded by one portion of people, who take their rules of moral rectitude from the Scriptures, as a great sin; nay, the greatest of sins that exist in the nation. And they hold the obligation to exterminate it, to be paramount to all others.
If slavery be thus sinful, it behooves all Christians who are involved in the sin, to repent in dust and ashes, and wash their hands of it, without consulting with flesh and blood. Sin in the sight of God is something which God in his Word makes known to be wrong, either by preceptive prohibition, by principles of moral fitness, or examples of inspired men, contained in the sacred volume. When these furnish no law to condemn human conduct, there is no transgression. Christians should produce a "thus saith the Lord," both for what they condemn as sinful, and for what they approve as lawful, in the sight of Heaven.
It is to be hoped, that on a question of such vital importance as this to the peace and safety of our common country, as well as to the welfare of the church, we shall be seen cleaving to the Bible, and taking all our decisions about this matter, from its inspired pages. With men from the North, I have observed for many years a palpable ignorance of the divine will, in reference to the institution of slavery. I have seen but a few, who made the Bible their study, that had obtained a knowledge of what it did reveal on this subject. Of late, their denunciation of slavery as a sin, is loud and long.
I propose, therefore, to examine the sacred volume briefly, and if I am not greatly mistaken, I shall be able to make it appear that the institution of slavery has received, in the first place,
1st. The sanction of the Almighty in the Patriarchal age.
2d. That it was incorporated into the only National Constitution which ever emanated from God.
3d. That its legality was recognized, and its relative duties regulated, by Jesus Christ in his kingdom; and
4th. That it is full of mercy.
Before I proceed further, it is necessary that the terms used to designate the thing, be defined. It is not a name, but a thing, that is denounced as sinful; because it is supposed to be contrary to, and prohibited by, the Scriptures.
Our translators have used the term servant, to designate a state in which persons were serving, leaving us to gather the relation, between the party served and the party rendering the service, from other terms. The term slave, signifies with us, a definite state, condition, or relation, which state, condition, or relation, is precisely that one which is denounced as sinful. This state, condition, or relation, is that in which one human being is held without his consent by another, as property; to be bought, sold, and transferred, together with the increase, as property, forever. Now, this precise thing, is denounced by a portion of the people of these United States as the greatest individual and national sin that is among us, and is thought to be so hateful in the sight of God, as to subject the nation to ruinous judgments, if it be not removed. Now, I propose to show, from the Scriptures, that this state, condition, or relation, did exist in the patriarchal age, and that the persons most extensively involved in the sin, if it be a sin, are the very persons who have been singled out by the Almighty as the objects of his special regard--whose character and conduct he has caused to be held up as models for future generations. Before we conclude slavery to be a thing hateful to God, and a great sin in his sight, it is proper that we should search the records he has given us with care, to see in what light he has looked upon it, and find the warrant, for concluding that we shall honor him by efforts to abolish it; which efforts, in their consequences, may involve the indiscriminate slaughter of the innocent and the guilty, the master and the servant. We all believe him to be a Being who is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.
The first recorded language which was even uttered in relation to slavery, is the inspired language of Noah. In God's stead he says, "Cursed be Canaan;" "a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren." "Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant." "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant." Gen. ix. 25, 26, 27. Here language is used, showing the favor which God would exercise to the posterity of Shem and Japheth, while they were holding the posterity of Ham in a state of abject bondage. May it not be said in truth, that God decreed this institution before it existed; and has he not connected its existence, with prophetic tokens of special favor, to those who should be slave owners or masters? He is the same God now, that he was when he gave these views of his moral character to the world; and unless the posterity of Shem and Japheth, from whom have sprung the Jews, and all the nations of Europe and America, and a great part of Asia, (the African race that is in them excepted,)--I say, unless they are all dead, as well as the Canaanites or Africans, who descended from Ham, then it is quite possible that his favor may now be found with one class of men, who are holding another class in bondage. Be this as it may, God decreed slavery--and shows in that decree, tokens of good-will to the master. The sacred records occupy but a short space from this inspired ray on this subject, until they bring to our notice a man, that is held up as a model, in all that adorns human nature, and as one that God delighted to honor. This man is Abraham, honored in the sacred records with the appellation, "Father" of the "faithful." Abraham was a native of Ur of the Chaldees. From thence the Lord called him to go to a country which he would show him; and he obeyed, not knowing whither he went. He stopped for a time at Haran, where his father died. From thence he "took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance, that they had gathered, and the souls they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan." Gen. xii. 5.
All the ancient Jewish writers of note, and Christian commentators agree, that by the "souls they had gotten in Haran," as our translators render it, are meant their slaves, or those persons they had bought with their money in Haran. In a few years after their arrival in Canaan, Lot with all he had was taken captive. So soon as Abraham heard it, he armed three hundred and eighteen slaves that were born in his house, and retook him. How great must have been the entire slave family, to produce at this period of Abraham's life, such a number of young slaves able to bear arms. Gen. xiv. 14.
Abraham is constantly held up in the sacred story as the subject of great distinction among the princes and sovereigns of the countries in which he sojourned. This distinction was on account of his great wealth. When he proposed to buy a burying-ground at Sarah's death of the children of Heth, he stood up and spoke with great humility of himself as "a stranger and sojourner among them," (Gen. xxiii. 4,) desirous to obtain a burying-ground. But in what light do they look upon him? "Hear us, my Lord, thou art a mighty prince among us." Gen. xxiii. 6. Such is the light in which they viewed him. What gave a man such distinction, among such a people? Not moral qualities, but great wealth, and its inseparable concomitant, power. When the famine drove Abraham to Egypt, he received the highest honors of the reigning sovereign. This honor at Pharaoh's court was called forth by the visible tokens of immense wealth. In Genesis xii. 15, 16, we have the honor that was shown to him, mentioned, with a list of his property, which is given in these words, in the 16th verse: "He had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels." The amount of his flocks may be inferred from the number of slaves employed in tending them. They were those he brought from Ur of the Chaldees, of whom the three hundred and eighteen were born; those gotten in Haran, where he dwelt for a short time; and those which he inherited from his father, who died in Haran. When Abraham went up from Egypt, it is stated in Genesis xiii. 2, that he was "very rich," not only in flocks and slaves, but in "silver and gold" also.
After the destruction of Sodom, we see him sojourning in the kingdom of Gerar. Here he received from the sovereign of the country, the honors of equality; and Abimelech, the king, (as Pharaoh had done before him,) seeks Sarah for a wife, under the idea that she was Abraham's sister. When his mistake was discovered, he made Abraham a large present. Reason will tell us, that in selecting the items of this present, Abimelech was governed by the visible indications of Abraham's preference in articles of wealth--and that above all, he would present him with nothing which Abraham's sense of moral obligation would not allow him to own. Abimelech's present is thus described in Gen. xx. 14, 16: "And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and men-servants, and women-servants, and a thousand pieces of silver, and gave them unto Abraham." This present discloses to us what constituted the most highly-prized items of wealth, among these eastern sovereigns in Abraham's day.
God had promised Abraham's seed the land of Canaan, and that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He reached the age of 85, and his wife the age of 75, while as yet, they had no child. At this period, Sarah's anxiety for the promised seed, in connection with her age, induced her to propose a female slave of the Egyptian stock, as a secondary wife, from which to obtain the promised seed. This alliance soon puffed the slave with pride, and she became insolent to her mistress--the mistress complained to Abraham, the master. Abraham ordered Sarah to exercise her authority. Sarah did so, and pushed it to severity, and the slave absconded. The divine oracles inform us, that the angel of God found this runaway bond-woman in the wilderness; and if God had commissioned this angel to improve this opportunity of teaching the world how much he abhorred slavery, he took a bad plan to accomplish it. For, instead of repeating a homily upon doing to others as we "would they should do unto us," and heaping reproach upon Sarah, as a hypocrite, and Abraham as a tyrant, and giving Hagar direction how she might get into Egypt, from whence (according to Abolitionism) she had been unrighteously sold into bondage, the angel addressed her as "Hagar, Sarah's maid," Gen. xvi. 1--9; (thereby recognizing the relation of master and slave,) and asks her, "whither wilt thou go?" and she said "I flee from the face of my mistress." Quite a wonder she honored Sarah so much as to call her mistress; but she knew nothing of abolition, and God by his angel did not become her teacher.
We have now arrived at what may be called an abuse of the institution, in which one person is the property of another, and under their control, and subject to their authority without their consent; and if the Bible be the book, which proposes to furnish the case which leaves it without doubt that God abhors the institution, here we are to look for it. What, therefore, is the doctrine in relation to slavery, in a case in which a rigid exercise of its arbitrary authority is called forth upon a helpless female; who might use a strong plea for protection, upon the ground of being the master's wife. In the face of this case, which is hedged around with aggravations as if God designed by it to awaken all the sympathy and all the abhorrence of that portion of mankind, who claim to have more mercy than God himself--but I say, in view of this strong case, what is the doctrine taught? Is it that God abhors the institution of slavery; that it is a reproach to good men; that the evils of the institution can no longer be winked at among saints; that Abraham's character must not be transmitted to posterity, with this stain upon it; that Sarah must no longer be allowed to live a stranger to the abhorrence God has for such conduct as she has been guilty of to this poor helpless female? I say, what is the doctrine taught? Is it so plain that it can be easily understood? and does God teach that she is a bond-woman or slave, and that she is to recognize Sarah as her mistress, and not her equal--that she must return and submit herself unreservedly to Sarah's authority? Judge for yourself, reader, by the angel's answer: "And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return unto thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands." Gen. xvi. 9.
But, says the spirit of abolition, with which the Bible has to contend, you are building your house upon the sand, for these were nothing but hired servants; and their servitude designates no such state, condition, or relation, as that, in which one person is made the property of another, to be bought, sold, or transferred forever. To this, we have two answers in reference to the subject, before giving the law. In the first place, the term, servant, in the schedules of property among the patriarchs, does designate the state, condition, or relation in which one person is the legal property of another, as in Gen. xxiv. 35, 36. Here Abraham's servant, who had been sent by his master to get a wife for his son Isaac, in order to prevail with the woman and her family, states, that the man for whom he sought a bride, was the son of a man whom God had greatly blessed with riches; which he goes on to enumerate thus, in the 35th verse: "He hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold and men-servants, and maid-servants, and camels, and asses;" then in verse 36th, he state the disposition his master had made of his estate: "My master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old, and unto him he hath given all that he hath." Here, servants are enumerated with silver and gold as part of the patrimony. And, reader, bear it in mind; as if to rebuke the doctrine of abolition, servants are not only inventoried as property, but as property which God had given to Abraham. After the death of Abraham, we have a view of Isaac at Gerar, when he had come into the possession of this estate; and this is the description given of him: "And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great; for he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants." Gen. xxvi. 13, 14. This state, in which servants are made chattels, he received as an inheritance from his father, and passed to his son Jacob.
Again, in Gen. xvii., we are informed of a covenant God entered into with Abraham; in which he stipulates, to be a God to him and his seed, (not his servants,) and to give to his seed the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. He expressly stipulates, that Abraham shall put the token of this covenant upon every servant born in his house, and upon every servant bought with his money of any stranger. Gen. xvii. 12, 13. Here again servants are property. Again, more than 400 years afterwards, we find the seed of Abraham, on leaving Egypt, directed to celebrate the rite, that was ordained as a memorial of their deliverance, viz: the Passover, at which time the same institution which makes property of men and women, is recognized, and the servant bought with money, is given the privilege of partaking, upon the ground of his being circumcised by his master, while the hired servant, over whom the master had no such control, is excluded until he voluntarily submits to circumcision; showing clearly that the institution of involuntary slavery then carried with it a right, on the part of a master to choose a religion for the servant who was his money, as Abraham did, by God's direction, when he imposed circumcision on those he had bought with his money,--when he was circumcised himself, with Ishmael his son, who was the only individual, beside himself, on whom he had a right to impose it, except the bond-servants bought of the stranger with his money, and their children born in his house. The next notice we have of servants as property, is from God himself, when clothed with all the visible tokens of his presence and glory on the top of Sinai, when he proclaimed his law to the millions that surrounded its base: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's." Ex. xx. 17. Here, is a patriarchal catalogue of property, having God for its author, the wife among the rest, who was then purchased, as Jacob purchased his two, by 14 years' service. Here, the term servant, as used by the Almighty, under the circumstances of the case could not be understood by these millions, as meaning anything but property, because the night they left Egypt, a few weeks before, Moses, by divine authority, recognized their servants as property, which they had bought with their money.
2d. In addition to the evidence from the context of these, and various other places, to prove the term servant to be identical in the import of its essential particulars with the term slave among us, there is unquestionable evidence, that, in the patriarchal age, there are two distinct states of servitude alluded to, and which are indicated by two distinct terms, or by the same term, and an adjective to explain.
These two terms, are first, servant or bond-servant; second, hireling or hired servant: the first, indicating involuntary servitude; the second, voluntary servitude for stipulated wages and a specified time. Although this admits of the clearest proof under the law, yet it admits of proof before the law was given. On the night the Israelites left Egypt, which was before the law was given, Moses, in designating the qualifications necessary for the passover, uses this language, Exod. xii. 44, 45: "Every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof." This language carries to the human mind, with irresistible force, the idea of two distinct states--one a state of freedom, the other a state of bondage: in one of which, a person is serving with his consent for wages; in the other of which, a person is serving without his consent, according to his master's pleasure.
Again, in Job iii., Job expresses the strong desire he had been made by his afflictions to feel, that he had died in his infancy. "For now," says he, "should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest. There (meaning the grave) the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and the great are there; and the servant is free from his master." Job iii. 11, 13, 17, 18, 19. Now, I ask any common-sense man to account for the expression in this connection, "there the servant is free from his master." Afflictions are referred to, arising out of states or conditions, from which ordinarily nothing but death brings relief. Death puts an end to afflictions of body, that are incurable, as he took his own to be, and therefore he desired it.
The troubles brought on good men by a wicked, persecuting world, last for life; but in death the wicked cease from troubling,--death ends that relation or state out of which such troubles grow. The prisoners of the oppressors, in that age, stood in a relation to their oppressor, which led the oppressed to expect they would hear the voice of the oppressor until death. But death broke the relation, and was desired, because in the grave they would hear his voice no more.
All the distresses growing out of inequalities in human condition; as wealth and power on one side, and poverty and weakness on the other, were terminated by death; the grave brought both to a level: the small and the great are there, and there, (that is, in the grave,) he adds, the servant is free from his master; made so, evidently, by death. The relation, or state, out of which his oppression had arisen, being destroyed by death, he would be freed from them, because he would, by death, be freed from his master who inflicted them. This view of the case, and this only, will account for the use of such language. But upon a supposition that a state or relation among men is referred to, that is voluntary, such as that between a hired servant and his employer, that can be dissolved at the pleasure of the servant, the language is without meaning, and perfectly unwarranted; while such a relation as that of involuntary and hereditary servitude, where the master had unlimited power over his servant, and in an age when cruelty was common, there is the greatest propriety in making the servant, or slave, a companion with himself, in affliction, as well as the oppressed and afflicted, in every class, where death alone dissolved the state, or condition, out of which their afflictions grew. Beyond all doubt, this language refers to a state of hereditary bondage, from the afflictions of which, ordinarily, nothing in that day brought relief but death.
Again, in chapter 7th, he goes on to defend himself in his eager desire for death, in an address to God. He says, it is natural for a servant to desire the shadow and a hireling his wages: "As the servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as the hireling looketh for the reward of his work," so it is with me, should be supplied. Job vii. 2. Now, with the previous light shed upon the use and meaning of these terms in the patriarchal Scriptures, can any man of candor bring himself to believe that two states or conditions are not here referred to, in one of which, the highest reward after toil is mere rest; in the other of which, the reward was wages? And how appropriate is the language in reference to these two states.
The slave is represented as earnestly desiring the shadow, because his condition allowed him no prospect of anything more desirable; but the hireling as looking for the reward of his work, because that will be an equivalent for his fatigue.
So Job looked at death, as being to his body as the servant's shade, therefore he desired it; and like the hireling's wages, because beyond the grave, he hoped to reap the fruit of his doings. Again, Job (xxxi.) finding himself the subject of suspicion (see from verse 1 to 30) as to the rectitude of his past life, clears himself of various sins, in the most solemn manner, as unchastity, injustice in his dealings, adultery, contempt of his servants, unkindness to the poor, covetousness, the pride of wealth,&c. And in the 13th, 14th, and 15th verses, he thus expresses himself: "If I did despise the cause of my man-servant or my maid-servant, when they contended with me, what then shall I do when God rises up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb, make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?" Taking this language in connection with the language employed by Moses, in reference to the institution of involuntary servitude in that age, and especially in connection with the language which Moses employs after the law was given, and what else can be understood than a reference to a class of duties that slave owners felt themselves above stooping to notice or perform, but which, nevertheless, it was the duty of the righteous man to discharge; for, whatever proud and wicked men might think of a poor servant that stood in his estate, on an equality with brutes, yet, says Job, he that made me made them, and if I despise their reasonable causes of complaint, for injuries which they are made to suffer, and for the redress of which I only can be appealed to, then what shall I do, and how shall I fare, when I carry my causes of complaint to him who is my master, and to whom only I can go for relief? When he visiteth me for despising their cause, what shall I answer him for despising mine? He means that he would feel self-condemned, and would be forced to admit the justice of the retaliation. But on the supposition that allusion is had to hired servants, who were voluntarily working for wages agreed upon, and who were the subjects of rights, for the protection of which their appeal would be to "the judges in the gate," as much as any other class of men, then there is no point in the statement. For doing that which can be demanded as a legal right, gives us no claim to the character of merciful benefactors. Job himself was a great slaveholder, and, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, won no small portion of his claims to character with God and men from the manner in which he discharged his duty to his slaves. Once more: the conduct of Joseph in Egypt, as Pharaoh's counsellor, under all the circumstances, proves him a friend to absolute slavery, as a form of government better adapted to the state of the world at that time, than the one which existed in Egypt; for certain it is, that he peaceably effected a change in the fundamental law, by which a state, condition, or relation, between Pharaoh and the Egyptians was established, which answers to the one now denounced as sinful in the sight of God. Being warned of God, he gathered up all the surplus grain in the years of plenty, and sold it out in the years of famine, until he gathered up all the money; and when money failed, the Egyptians came and said, "Give us bread;" and Joseph said, "Give your cattle, and I will give for your cattle, if money fail." When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said, "There is not aught left in sight of my Lord, but our bodies and our lands. Buy us and our lands for bread." And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh.
So the land became Pharaoh's, and as for the people, he removed them to cities, from one end of the borders of Egypt, even to the other end thereof. Then Joseph said unto the people, "Behold! I have bought you this day, and your land for Pharaoh;" and they said, "we will be Pharaoh's servants." See Gen. xlvii. 14, 16, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25. Having thus changed the fundamental law, and created a state of entire dependence, and hereditary bondage, he enacted in his sovereign pleasure, that they should give Pharaoh one part, and take the other four parts of the productions of the earth to themselves. How far the hand of God was in this overthrow of liberty, I will not decide; but from the fact that he has singled out the greatest slaveholders of that age, as the objects of his special favor, it would seem that the institution was one furnishing great opportunities to exercise grace and glorify God, as it still does, where its duties are faithfully discharged.
I have been tedious on this first proposition, but I hope the importance of the subject to Christians as well as to statesmen will be my apology. I have written it, not for victory over an adversary, or to support error or falsehood, but to gather up God's will in reference to holding men and women in bondage, in the patriarchal age. And it is clear, in the first place, that God decreed this state before it existed. Second. It is clear that the highest manifestations of good-will which he ever gave to mortal man, was given to Abraham, in that covenant in which he required him to circumcise all his male servants, which he had bought with his money, and that were born of them in his house. Third. It is certain that he gave these servants as property to Isaac. Fourth. It is certain that, as the owner of these slaves, Isaac received similar tokens of God's favor. Fifth. It is certain that Jacob, who inherited from Isaac his father, received like tokens of divine favor. Sixth. It is certain, from a fair construction of language, that Job, who is held up by God himself as a model of human perfection, was a great slaveholder. Seventh. It is certain, when God showed honor, and came down to bless Jacob's posterity, in taking them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, they were the owners of slaves that were bought with money, and treated as property; which slaves were allowed of God to unite in celebrating the divine goodness to their masters, while hired servants were excluded. Eighth. It is certain that God interposed to give Joseph the power in Egypt, which he used, to create a state, or condition, among the Egyptians, which substantially agrees with patriarchal and modern slavery. Ninth. It is certain, that in reference to this institution in Abraham's family, and the surrounding nations, for five hundred years, it is never censured in any communication made from God to men. Tenth. It is certain, when God put a period to that dispensation, he recognized slaves as property on Mount Sinai. If, therefore, it has become sinful since, it cannot be from the nature of the thing, but from the sovereign pleasure of God in its prohibition. We will therefore proceed to our second proposition, which is--
Second. That it was incorporated in the only national constitution emanating from the Almighty. By common consent, that portion of time stretching from Noah, until the law was given to Abraham's posterity, at Mount Sinai, is called the patriarchal age; this is the period we have reviewed, in relation to this subject. From the giving of the law until the coming of Christ, is called the Mosaic or legal dispensation. From the coming of Christ to the end of time, is called the Gospel dispensation. The legal dispensation is the period of time we propose now to examine, in reference to the institution of involuntary and hereditary slavery; in order to ascertain, whether, during this period, it existed at all, and, if it did exist, whether with the divine sanction, or in violation of the divine will. This dispensation is called the legal dispensation, because it was the pleasure of God to take Abraham's posterity by miraculous power, then numbering near three millions of souls, and give them a written constitution of government, a country to dwell in, and a covenant of special protection and favor, for their obedience to his law until the coming of Christ. The laws which he gave them emanated from his sovereign pleasure, and were designed, in the first place, to make himself known in his essential perfections; second, in his moral character; third, in his relation to man; and fourth, to make known those principles of action by the exercise of which man attains his highest moral elevation, viz: supreme love to God, and love to others as to ourselves.
All the law is nothing but a preceptive exemplification of these two principles; consequently, the existence of a precept in the law, utterly irreconcilable with these principles, would destroy all claims upon us for an acknowledgment of its divine original. Jesus Christ himself has put his finger upon these two principles of human conduct, (Deut. vi. 5--Levit. xix. 18,) revealed in the law of Moses, and decided, that on them hang all the law and the prophets.
The Apostle Paul decides in reference to the relative duties of men, that whether written out in preceptive form in the law or not, they are all comprehended in this saying, viz: "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." With these views to guide us, as to the acknowledged design of the law, viz: that of revealing the eternal principles of moral rectitude, by which human conduct is to be measured, so that sin may abound, or be made apparent, and righteousness be ascertained or known, we may safely conclude, that the institution of slavery, which legalizes the holding one person in bondage as property forever by another, if it be morally wrong, or at war with the principle which requires us to love God supremely, and our neighbor as ourself, will, if noticed at all in the law, be noticed, for the purpose of being condemned as sinful. And if the modern views of abolitionists be correct, we may expect to find the institution marked with such tokens of divine displeasure, as will throw all other sins into the shade, as comparatively small, when laid by the side of this monster. What, then, is true? has God ingrafted hereditary slavery upon the constitution of government he condescended to give his chosen people--that people, among whom he promised to dwell, and that he required to be holy? I answer, he has. It is clear and explicit. He enacts, first, that his chosen people may take their money, go into the slave markets of the surrounding nations, (the seven devoted nations excepted,) and purchase men-servants and women-servants, and give them, and their increase, to their children and their children's children, forever; and worse still for the refined humanity of our age--he guaranties to the foreign slaveholder perfect protection, while he comes in among the Israelites, for the purpose of dwelling, and raising and selling slaves, who should be acclimated and accustomed to the habits and institutions of the country. And worse still for the sublimated humanity of the present age, God passes with the right to buy and possess, the right to govern, by a severity which knows no bounds but the master's discretion. And if worse can be, for the morbid humanity we censure, he enacts that his own people may sell themselves and their families for limited periods, with the privilege of extending the time at the end of the 6th year to the 50th year or jubilee, if they prefer bondage to freedom. Such is the precise character of two institutions, found in the constitution of the Jewish commonwealth, emanating directly from Almighty God. For the 1,500 years, during which these laws were in force, God raised up a succession of prophets to reprove that people for the various sins into which they fell; yet there is not a reproof uttered against the institution of involuntary slavery, for any species of abuse that ever grew out of it. A severe judgment is pronounced by Jeremiah, (chapter xxxiv. see from the 8th to the 22d verse,) for an abuse or violation of the law, concerning the voluntary servitude of Hebrews; but the prophet pens it with caution, as if to show that it had no reference to any abuse that had taken place under the system of involuntary slavery, which existed by law among that people; the sin consisted in making hereditary bond-men and bond-women of Hebrews, which was positively forbidden by the law, and not for buying and holding one of another nation in hereditary bondage, which was as positively allowed by the law. And really, in view of what is passing in our country, and elsewhere, among men who profess to reverence the Bible, it would seem that these must be dreams of a distempered brain, and not the solemn truths of that sacred book.
Well, I will now proceed to make them good to the letter, see Lev. xxv. 44, 45, 46: "Thy bond-men and thy bond-maids which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you: of them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land. And they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession, they shall be your bond-men forever." I ask any candid man, if the words of this institution could be more explicit? It is from God himself; it authorizes that people, to whom he had become king and law-giver, to purchase men and women as property; to hold them and their posterity in bondage; and to will them to their children as a possession forever; and more, it allows foreign slaveholders to settle and live among them; to breed slaves and sell them. Now, it is important to a correct understanding of this subject, to connect with the right to buy and possess, as property, the amount of authority to govern, which is granted by the law-giver; this amount of authority is implied, in the first place, in the law which prohibits the exercise of rigid authority upon the Hebrews, who are allowed to sell themselves for limited times. "If thy brother be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond servant, but as a hired servant, and as a sojourner he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee until the year of jubilee-- they shall not be sold as bond-men; thou shalt not rule over them with rigor." Levit. xxv. 39, 40, 41, 42, 43. It will be evident to all, that here are two states of servitude; in reference to one of which, rigid or compulsory authority, is prohibited, and that its exercise is authorized in the other.
Second. In the criminal code, that conduct is punished with death, when done to a freeman, which is not punishable at all, when done by a master to a slave; for the express reason, that the slave is the master's money. "He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall surely be put to death." Exod. xxi. 11, 12. "If a man smite his servant or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall be surely punished; notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money." Exod. xxi. 20. Here is precisely the same crime: smiting a man so that he die; if it be a freeman, he shall surely be put to death, whether the man die under his hand or live a day or two after; but if it be a servant, and the master continued the rod until the servant died under his hand, then it must be evident that such a chastisement could not be necessary for any purpose of wholesome or reasonable authority, and therefore he may be punished, but not with death. But if the death did not take place for a day or two, then it is to be presumed, that the master only aimed to use the rod, so far as was necessary to produce subordination, and for this, the law which allowed him to lay out his money in the slave, would protect him against all punishment. This is the common-sense principle which has been adopted substantially in civilized countries, where involuntary slavery has been instituted, from that day until this. Now, here are laws that authorize the holding of men and women in bondage, and chastising them with the rod, with a severity that terminates in death. And he who believes the Bible to be of divine authority, believes these laws were given by the Holy Ghost to Moses. I understand modern abolition sentiments to be sentiments of marked hatred against such laws; to be sentiments which would hold God himself in abhorrence, if he were to give such laws his sanction: but he has given them his sanction; therefore, they must be in harmony with his moral character. Again, the divine Lawgiver in guarding the property right in slaves among his chosen people, sanctions principles which may work the separation of man and wife, father and children. Surely, my reader will conclude, if I make this good, I shall force a part of the saints of the present day to blaspheme the God of Israel. All I can say is, truth is mighty, and I hope it will bring us all to say, Let God be true, in settling the true principles of humanity, and every man a liar who says slavery was inconsistent with it, in the days of the Mosaic law. Now for the proof: "If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years shall he serve thee, and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing; if he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him; if his master have given him a wife (one of his bond-maids) and she have borne him sons and daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself." Exodus, xxi. 2, 3, 4. Now, the God of Israel gives this man the option of being separated by the master, from his wife and children, or becoming himself a servant forever, with a mark of the fact, like our cattle, in the ear, that can be seen wherever he goes; for it is enacted, "If the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him unto the judges, (in open court,) he shall also bring him unto the door, or unto the door post, (so that all in the court-house, and those in the yard may be witnesses,) and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever." It is useless to spend more time in gathering up what is written in the Scriptures on this subject, from the giving of the law until the coming of Christ.
Here is the authority, from God himself, to hold men and women, and their increase, in slavery, and to transmit them as property forever; here is plenary power to govern them, whatever measure of severity it may require; provided only, that to govern, be the object in exercising it. Here is power given to the master, to separate man and wife, parent and child, by denying ingress to his premises, sooner than compel him to free or sell the mother, that the marriage relation might be honored. The preference is given of God to enslaving the father rather than freeing the mother and children.
Under every view we are allowed to take of the subject, the conviction is forced upon the mind, that from Abraham's day, until the coming of Christ, (a period of two thousand years,) this institution found favor with God. No marks of his displeasure are found resting upon it. It must, therefore, in its moral nature, be in harmony with those moral principles which he requires to be exercised by the law of Moses, and which are the principles that secure harmony and happiness to the universe, viz: supreme love to God and the love of our neighbor as ourself. Deut. vi. 6.--Levit. xix. 18. To suppose that God has laid down these fundamental principles of moral rectitude in his law, as the soul that must inhabit every preceptive requirement of that law, and yet to suppose he created relations among the Israelites, and prescribed relative duties growing out of these relations, that are hostile to the spirit of the law, is to suppose what will never bring great honor or glory to our Maker. But if I understand that spirit which is now warring against slavery, this is the position which the spirit of God forces it to occupy, viz.: that God has ordained slavery, and yet slavery is the greatest of sins. Such was the state of the case when Jesus Christ made his appearance. We propose--
Third. To show that Jesus Christ recognized this institution as one that was lawful among men, and regulated its relative duties.
Having shown from the Scriptures, that slavery existed with Abraham and the patriarchs, with divine approbation, and having shown from the same source, that the Almighty incorporated it in the law, as an institution among Abraham's seed, until the coming of Christ, our precise object now is, to ascertain whether Jesus Christ has abolished it, or recognized it as a lawful relation, existing among men, and prescribed duties which belong to it, as he has other relative duties; such as those between husband and wife, parent and child, magistrate and subject.
And first, I may take it for granted, without proof, that he has not abolished it by commandment, for none pretend to this. This, by the way, is a singular circumstance, that Jesus Christ should put a system of measures into operation, which have for their object the subjugation of all men to him as a law-giver--kings, legislators, and private citizens in all nations; at a time, too, when hereditary slavery existed in all; and after it had been incorporated for fifteen hundred years into the Jewish constitution, immediately given by God himself. I say, it is passing strange, that under such circumstances, Jesus should fail to prohibit its further existence, if it was his intention to abolish it. Such an omission or oversight cannot be charged upon any other legislator the world has ever seen. But, says the Abolitionist, he has introduced new moral principles, which will extinguish it as an unavoidable consequence, without a direct prohibitory command. What are they? "Do to others as you would they should do to you." Taking these words of Christ to be a body, inclosing a moral soul in them, what soul, I ask, is it?
The same embodied in these words of Moses, Levit. xix. 18: "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;" or is it another? It cannot be another, but it must be the very same, because Jesus says, there are but two principles in being, in God's moral government, one including all that is due to God, the other all that is due to men.
If, therefore, doing to others as we would they should do to us, means precisely what loving our neighbor as ourself means, then Jesus has added no new moral principle above those in the law of Moses, to prohibit slavery, for in his law is found this principle, and slavery also.
The very God that said to them, they should love him supremely, and their neighbors as themselves, said to them also, "of the heathen that are round about you, thou shalt buy bond-men and bond-women, and they shall be your possession, and ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your bond-men forever." Now, to suppose that Jesus Christ left his disciples to find out, without a revelation, that slavery must be abolished, as a natural consequence from the fact, that when God established the relation of master and servant under the law, he said to the master and servant, each of you must love the other as yourself, is, to say the least, making Jesus to presume largely upon the intensity of their intellect, that they would be able to spy out a discrepancy in the law of Moses, which God himself never saw. Again: if "do to others as ye would they should do to you," is to abolish slavery, it will for the same reason, level all inequalities in human condition. It is not to be admitted, then, that Jesus Christ introduced any new moral principle that must, of necessity, abolish slavery. The principle relied on to prove it, stands boldly out to view in the code of Moses, as the soul, that must regulate, and control, the relation of master and servant, and therefore cannot abolish it.
Why a master cannot do to a servant, or a servant to a master, as he would have them do to him, as soon a wife to a husband or a husband to a wife, I am utterly at a loss to know. The wife is "subject to her husband in all things" by divine precept. He is her "head," and God "suffers her not to usurp authority over him." Now, why in such a relation as this, we can do to others as we would they should do to us, any sooner than in a relation, securing to us what is just and equal as servants, and due respect and faithful service rendered with good will to us as masters, I am at a loss to conceive. I affirm then, first, (and no man denies,) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command: and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction, under the gospel dispensation; and that the principle relied on for this purpose, is a fundamental principle of the Mosaic law, under which slavery was instituted by Jehovah himself: and third, with this absence of positive prohibition, and this absence of principle, to work its ruin, I affirm, that in all the Roman provinces, where churches were planted by the Apostles, hereditary slavery existed, as it did among the Jews, and as it does now among us, (which admits of proof from history that no man will dispute who knows anything of the matter,) and that in instructing such churches, the Holy Ghost by the Apostles, has recognized the institution, as one legally existing among them, to be perpetuated in the church, and that its duties are prescribed.
Now for the proof: To the church planted at Ephesus, the capital of the lesser Asia, Paul ordains by letter, subordination in the fear of God,--first between wife and husband; second, child and parent; third, servant and master: all, as states, or conditions, existing among the members.
The relative duties of each state, are pointed out; those between the servant and master in these words: "Servants be obedient to them who are your masters, according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart as unto Christ; not with eye service as men pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will, doing service, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And ye masters do the same things to them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your master is also in heaven, neither is there respect of persons with him." Here, by the Roman law, the servant was property, and the control of the master unlimited, as we shall presently prove.
To the church at Colosse, a city of Phrygia, in the lesser Asia,--Paul in his letter to them, recognizes the three relations of wives and husbands, parents and children, servants and masters, as relations existing among the members; (here the Roman law was the same;) and to the servants and masters he thus writes: "Servants obey in all things your masters, according to the flesh: not with eye service, as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong he has done; and there is no respect of persons with God. Masters give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that you also have a master in heaven."
The same Apostle writes a letter to the church at Corinth;--a very important city, formerly called the eye of Greece, either from its location, or intelligence, or both, and consequently, an important point, for radiating light in all directions, in reference to subjects connected with the cause of Jesus Christ; and particularly, in the bearing of its practical precepts on civil society, and the political structure of nations. Under the direction of the Holy Ghost, he instructs the church, that, on this particular subject, one general principle was ordained of God, applicable alike in all countries and at all stages of the church's future history, and that it was this: "as the Lord has called every one, so let him walk." "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he is called." Let every man wherein he is called, therein abide with God." 1 Cor. vii. 17, 20, 24. "And so ordain I in all churches;" vii. 17. The Apostle thus explains his meaning: "Is any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised.
"Is any called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised.
"Art thou called, being a servant? Care not for it, but if thou mayst be made free, use it rather;" vii. 18, 21. Here, by the Roman law, slaves were property,--yet Paul ordains, in this and all other churches, that Christianity gave them no title to freedom, but on the contrary, required them not to care for being slaves, or in other words, to be contented with their state, or relation, unless they could be made free, in a lawful way.
Again, we have a letter by Peter, who is the Apostle of the circumcision--addressed especially to the Jews, who were scattered through various provinces of the Roman empire; comprising those provinces especially, which were the theatre of their dispersion, under the Assyrians and Babylonians. Here, for the space of 750 years, they had resided, during which time those revolutions were in progress which terminated the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Macedonian empires, and transferred imperial power to Rome. These revolutionary scenes of violence left one half the human race (within the range of their influence,) in abject bondage to the one half. This was the state of things in these provinces addressed by Peter, when he wrote. The chances of war, we may reasonably conclude, had assigned a full share of bondage to this people, who were despised of all nations. In view of their enslaved condition to the Gentiles; knowing, as Peter did, their seditious character; foreseeing, from the prediction of the Saviour, the destined bondage of those who were then free in Israel, which was soon to take place, as it did, in the fall of Jerusalem, when all the males over seventeen, were sent to work in the mines of Egypt, as slaves to the State, and all the males under, amounting to upwards of ninety-seven thousand, were sold into domestic bondage;--I say, in view of these things, Peter was moved by the Holy Ghost to write to them, and his solicitude for such of them as were in slavery, is very conspicuous in his letter; (read carefully from 1st Peter, 2d chapter, from the 13th verse to the end;) but it is not the solicitude of an abolitionist. He thus addresses them: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you." He thus instructs them: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." "For so is the will of God." "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward." 1st Peter ii. 11, 13, 15, 18. What an important document is this!-- enjoining political subjection to governments of every form, and Christian subjection on the part of servants to their masters, whether good or bad; for the purpose of showing forth to advantage, the glory of the Gospel, and putting to silence the ignorance of foolish men, who might think it seditious.
By "every ordinance of man," as the context will show, is meant governmental regulations or laws, as was that of the Romans for enslaving their prisoners taken in war, instead of destroying, their lives.
When such enslaved persons came into the church of Christ let them (says Peter) "be subject to their masters with all fear," whether such masters be good or bad. It is worthy of remark, that he says much to secure civil subordination to the State, and hearty and cheerful obedience to the masters, on the part of servants; yet he says nothing to masters in the whole letter. It would seem from this, that danger to the cause of Christ was on the side of insubordination among the servants, and a want of humility with inferiors, rather than haughtiness among superiors in the church.
Gibbon, in his Rome, vol. 1, pages 25, 26, 27, shows, from standard authorities, that Rome at this time swayed its sceptre over one hundred and twenty millions of souls; that in every province, and in every family, absolute slavery existed; that it was at least fifty years later than the date of Peter's letters, before the absolute power of life and death over the slave was taken from the master, and committed to the magistrate; that about sixty millions of souls were held as property in this abject condition; that the price of a slave was four times that of an ox; that their punishments were very sanguinary; that in the second century, when their condition began to improve a little, emancipation was prohibited, except for great personal merit, or some public service rendered to the State; and that it was not until the third or fourth generation after freedom was obtained, that the descendants of a slave could share in the honors of the State. This is the state, condition, or relation among the members of all the apostolic churches, whether among Gentiles or Jews; which the Holy Ghost, by Paul for the Gentiles, and Peter for the Jews, recognizes as lawful; the mutual duties of which he prescribes in the language above. Now, I ask, can any man in his proper senses, from these premises, bring himself to conclude that slavery is abolished by Jesus Christ, or that obligations are imposed by him upon his disciples that are subversive of the institution? Knowing as we do from contemporary historians, that the institution of slavery existed at the time and to the extent stated by Gibbon--what sort of a soul must a man have, who, with these facts before him, will conceal the truth on this subject, and hold Jesus Christ responsible for a scheme of treason that would, if carried out, have brought the life of every human being on earth at the time, into the most imminent peril, and that must have worked the destruction of half the human race?
At Rome, the authoritative centre of that vast theatre upon which the glories of the cross were to be won, a church was planted. Paul wrote a long letter to them. On this subject it is full of instruction.
Abolition sentiments had not dared to show themselves so near the imperial sword. To warn the church against their treasonable tendency, was therefore unnecessary. Instead, therefore, of special precepts upon the subject of relative duties between master and servant, he lays down a system of practical morality, in the 12th chapter of his letter, which must commend itself equally to the king on his throne, and the slave in his hovel; for while its practical operation leaves the subject of earthly government to the discretion of man, it secures the exercise of sentiments and feelings that must exterminate everything inconsistent with doing to others as we would they should do unto us: a system of principles that will give moral strength to governments; peace, security, and good will to individuals; and glory to God in the highest. And in the 13th chapter, from the 1st to the end of the 7th verse, he recognizes human government as an ordinance of God, which the followers of Christ are to obey, honor, and support; not only from dread of punishment, but for conscience sake; which I believe abolitionism refuses most positively to do, to such governments as from the force of circumstances even permit slavery.
Again. But we are furnished with additional light, and if we are not greatly mistaken, with light which arose out of circumstances analogous to those which are threatening at the present moment to overthrow the peace of society, and deluge this nation with blood. To Titus whom Paul left in Crete, to set in order the things that were wanting, he writes a letter, in which he warns him of false teachers, that were to be dreaded on account of their doctrine. While they professed "to know God," that is, to know his will under the gospel dispensation, "in works they denied him;" that is, they did, and required others to do, what was contrary to his will under the gospel dispensation. "They were abominable," that is, to the church and state, "and disobedient," that is, to the authority of the Apostles, and the civil authority of the land. Titus, he then exhorts, "to speak the things that become sound doctrine;" that is, that the members of the church observe the law of the land, and obey the civil magistrate; that "servants be obedient to their own masters, and please them well in all things," not "answering again, not purloining, but showing all good fidelity that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things," in that which subjects the ecclesiastical to the civil authority in particular. "These things speak, and exhort and rebuke with all authority; let no man despise thee. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates." Titus i. 16, and ii. from 1 to 10, and iii. 1. The context shows that a doctrine was taught by these wicked men, which tended in its influence on servants, to bring the Gospel of Christ into contempt, in church and state, because of its seditious and insubordinate character.
But at Ephesus, the capital of the lesser Asia, where Paul had labored with great success for three years--a point of great importance to the Gospel cause--the Apostle left Timothy for the purpose of watching against the false teachers, and particularly against the abolitionists. In addition to a letter which he had addressed to this church previously, in which the mutual duty of master and servant is taught, and which has already been referred to, he further instructs Timothy by letter on the same subject: "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed." 1 Tim. vi. 1. These were unbelieving masters, as the next verse will show. In this church at Ephesus, the circumstances existed, which are brought to light by Paul's letter to Timothy, that must silence every cavil, which men, who do not know God's will on this subject, may start until time ends. In an age filled with literary men, who are employed in transmitting historically, to future generations, the structure of society in the Roman Empire; that would put it in our power at this distant day, to know the state or condition of a slave in the Roman Empire, as well as if we had lived at the time, and to know beyond question, that his condition was precisely that one, which is now denounced as sinful: in such an age, and in such circumstances, Jesus Christ causes his will to be published to the world; and it is this, that if a Christian slave have an unbelieving master, who acknowledges no allegiance to Christ, this believing slave must count his master worthy of all honor, according to what the Apostle teaches the Romans, "Render, therefore, to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom is due, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor." Rom. xiii. 7. Now, honor is enjoined of God in the Scriptures, from children to parents-- from husbands to wives--from subjects to magistrates and rulers, and here by Jesus Christ, from Christian slaves to unbelieving masters, who held them as property by law, with power over their very lives. And the command is remarkable. While we are commanded to honor father and mother, without adding to the precept "all honor," here a Christian servant is bound to render to his unbelieving master "all honor." Why is this? Because in the one case nature moves in the direction of the command; but in the other, against it. Nature being subjected to the law of grace, might be disposed to obey reluctantly; hence the amplitude of the command. But what purpose was to be answered by this devotion of the slave? The Apostle answers, "that the name of God and his doctrine (of subordination to the law-making power) be not blasphemed," as they certainly would by a contrary course on the part of the servant, for the most obvious reason in the world; while the sword would have been drawn against the Gospel, and a war of extermination waged against its propagators, in every province of the Roman Empire, for there was slavery in all; and so it would be now.
But, says the caviler, these directions are given to Christian slaves whose masters did not acknowledge the authority of Christ to govern them; and are therefore defective as proof, that he approves of one Christian man holding another in bondage. Very well, we will see. In the next verse, (1 Timothy vi. 2,) he says, "and they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren, but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit." Here is a great change; instead of a command to a believing slave to render to a believing master all honor, and thereby making that believing master in honor equal to an unbelieving master, here is rather an exhortation to the slave not to despise him, because he is a believer. Now, I ask, why the circumstance of a master becoming a believer in Christ, should become the cause of his believing slave despising him, while that slave was supposed to acquiesce in the duty of rendering all honor to that master before he became a believer? I answer, precisely, and only, because there were abolition teachers among them, who taught otherwise, and consented not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Timothy vii. 3: and "to the doctrine which is according to godliness," taught in the 8th verse, viz: having food and raiment, servants should therewith be content; for the pronoun us, in the 8th verse of this connection, means especially the servants he was instructing, as well as Christians in general. These men taught, that godliness abolished slavery, that it gave the title of freedom to the slave, and that so soon as a man professed to be subject to Christ, and refused to liberate his slaves, he was a hypocrite, and deserved not the countenance of any who bore the Christian name. Such men, the Apostle says, are "proud, (just as they are now,) knowing nothing," (that is, on this subject,) but "doating about questions, and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself." 1 Tim. vi. 4, 5.
Such were the bitter fruits which abolition sentiments produced in the Apostolic day, and such precisely are the fruits they produce now.
Now, I say, here is the case made out, which certainly would call forth the command from Christ, to abolish slavery, if he ever intended to abolish it. Both the servant and the master were one in Christ Jesus. Both were members of the same church, both were under unlimited and voluntary obedience to the same divine lawgiver.
No political objection existed at the time against their obedience to him on the subject of slavery; and what is the will, not of Paul, but of the Lord Jesus Christ, immediately in person, upon the case thus made out? Does he say to the master, having put yourself under my government, you must no longer hold your brother in bondage? Does he say to the slave, if your master does not release you, you must go and talk to him privately, about this trespass upon your rights under the law of my kingdom; and if he does not hear you, you must take two or three with you; and if he does not hear them then you must tell it to the church, and have him expelled from my flock, as a wolf in sheep's clothing? I say, what does the Lord Jesus say to this poor believing slave, concerning a master who held unlimited power over his person and life, under the Roman law? He tells him that the very circumstance of his master's being a brother, constitutes the reason why he should be more ready to do him service; for, in addition to the circumstance of his being a brother who would be benefited by his service, he would as a brother give him what was just and equal in return, and "forbear threatening," much less abusing his authority over him, for that he (the master) also had a master in heaven, who was no respecter of persons. It is taken for granted, on all hands pretty generally, that Jesus Christ has at least been silent, or that he has not personally spoken on the subject of slavery. Once for all, I deny it. Paul, after stating that a slave was to honor an unbelieving master, in the 1st verse of the 6th chapter, says, in the 2d verse, that to a believing master, he is the rather to do service, because he who partakes of the benefit is his brother. He then says, if any man teach otherwise, (as all Abolitionists then did, and now do,) and consent not to wholesome words, "even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ." Now, if our Lord Jesus Christ uttered such words, how dare we say he has been silent? If he has been silent, how dare the Apostle say these are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, if the Lord Jesus Christ never spoke them? Where or when, or on what occasion he spoke them, we are not informed; but certain it is, that Paul has borne false witness, or that Jesus Christ has uttered the words that impose an obligation on servants, who are abject slaves, to render service with good will from the heart, to believing masters, and to account their unbelieving masters as worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. Jesus Christ revealed to Paul the doctrine which Paul has settled throughout the Gentile world, (and by consequence, the Jewish world also,) on the subject of slavery, so far as it affects his kingdom. As we have seen, it is clear and full.
From the great importance of the subject, involving the personal liberty of half the human race at that time, and a large portion of them at all times since, it is not to be wondered at, that Paul would carry the question to the Savior, and plead for a decisive expression of his will, that would forever do away the necessity of inferring anything by reasoning from the premises laid down in the former dispensation; or in the Patriarchal age; and at Ephesus, if not at Crete, the issue is fairly made, between Paul on the one side, and certain abolition teachers on the other, when, in addition to the official intelligence ordinarily given to the Apostles by the Holy Ghost, to guide them into all truth, he affirms, that the doctrine of perfect civil subordination, on the part of hereditary slaves to their masters, whether believers or unbelievers, was one which he, Paul, taught in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
The Scriptures we have adduced from the New Testament, to prove the recognition of hereditary slavery by the Savior, as a lawful relation in the sight of God, lose much of their force from the use of a word by the translators, which by time, has lost much of its original meaning; that is, the word servant. Dr. Johnson, in his Dictionary, says: "Servant is one of the few words, which by time has acquired a softer signification than its original, knave, degenerated into cheat. While servant, which signified originally, a person preserved from death by the conqueror, and reserved for slavery, signifies only an obedient attendant." Now, all history will prove that the servants of the New Testament addressed by the Apostles, in their letters to the several churches throughout the Roman Empire, were such as were preserved from death by the conqueror, and taken into slavery. This was their condition, and it a fact well known to all men acquainted with history. Had the word which designates their condition, in our translation, lost none of its original meaning, a common man could not have fallen into a mistake as to the condition indicated. But to waive this fact, we are furnished with all the evidence that can be desired. The Savior appeared in an age of learning--the enslaved condition of half the Roman Empire, at the time, is a fact embodied with all the historical records--the constitution God gave the Jews, was in harmony with the Roman regulation on the subject of slavery. In this state of things, Jesus ordered his Gospel to be preached in all the world, and to every creature. It was done as he directed; and masters and servants, and persons in all conditions, were brought by the Gospel to obey the Savior. Churches were constituted. We have examined the letters written to the churches, composed of these materials. The result is, that each member is furnished with a law to regulate the duties of his civil station-- from the highest to the lowest.
We will remark, in closing under this head, that we have shown from the text of the sacred volume, that when God entered into covenant with Abraham, it was with him as a slaveholder; that when he took his posterity by the hand in Egypt, five hundred years afterwards to confirm the promise made to Abraham, it was done with them as slaveholders; that when he gave them a constitution of government, he gave them the right to perpetuate hereditary slavery; and that he did not for the fifteen hundred years of their national existence, express disapprobation towards the institution.
We have also shown from authentic history that the institution of slavery existed in every family, and in every province of the Roman Empire, at the time the gospel was published to them.
We have also shown from the New Testament, that all the churches are recognized as composed of masters and servants; and that they are instructed by Christ how to discharge their relative duties; and finally, that in reference to the question which was then started, whether Christianity did not abolish the institution, or the right of one Christian to hold another Christian in bondage, we have shown, that "the words of our Lord Jesus Christ" are, that so far from this being the case, it adds to the obligation of the servant to render service with good will to his master, and that gospel fellowship is not to be entertained with persons who will not consent to it!
I propose, in the fourth place, to show that the institution of slavery is full of mercy. I shall say but a few words on this subject. Authentic history warrants this conclusion, that for a long period of time, it was this institution alone which furnished a motive for sparing the prisoner's life. The chances of war, when the earth was filled with small tribes of men, who had a passion for it, brought to decision, almost daily, conflicts, where nothing but this institution interposed an inducement to save the vanquished. The same was true in the enlarged schemes of conquest, which brought the four great universal empires of the Scriptures to the zenith of their power.
The same is true in the history of Africa, as far back as we can trace it. It is only sober truth to say, that the institution of slavery has saved from the sword more lives, including their increase, than all the souls who now inhabit this globe.
The souls thus conquered and subjected to masters, who feared not God nor regarded men, in the days of Abraham, Job, and the Patriarchs, were surely brought under great obligations to the mercy of God, in allowing such men as these to purchase them, and keep them in their families.
The institution when ingrafted on the Jewish constitution, was designed principally, not to enlarge the number, but to ameliorate the condition of the slaves in the neighboring nations.
Under the Gospel, it has brought within the range of Gospel influence, millions of Ham's descendants among ourselves, who, but for this institution, would have sunk down to eternal ruin; knowing not God, and strangers to the Gospel. In their bondage here on earth, they have been much better provided for, and great multitudes of them have been made the freemen of the Lord Jesus Christ, and left this world rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. The elements of an empire, which I hope will lead Ethiopia very soon to stretch out her hands to God, is the fruit of the institution here. An officious meddling with the institution, from feelings and sentiments unknown to the Bible, may lead to the extermination of the slave race among us, who, taken as a whole, are utterly unprepared for a higher civil state; but benefit them, it cannot. Their condition, as a class, is now better than that of any other equal number of laborers on earth, and is daily improving.
If the Bible is allowed to awaken the spirit, and control the philanthropy which works their good, the day is not far distant when the highest wishes of saints will be gratified, in having conferred on them all that the spirit of good-will can bestow. This spirit which was kindling into life, has received a great check among us of late, by that trait which the Apostle Peter reproves and shames in his officious countrymen, when he says: "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busy-body in other men's matters." Our citizens have been murdered--our property has been stolen, (if the receiver is as bad as the thief,)-- our lives have been put in jeopardy--our characters traduced--and attempts made to force political slavery upon us in the place of domestic, by strangers who have no right to meddle with our matters. Instead of meditating generous things to our slaves, as a return for Gospel subordination, we have to put on our armor to suppress a rebellious spirit, engendered by "false doctrine," propagated by men "of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth," who teach them that the gain of freedom to the slave, is the only proof of godliness in the master. From such, Paul says we must withdraw ourselves; and if we fail to do it, and to rebuke them with all the authority which "the words of our Lord Jesus Christ" confer, we shall be wanting in duty to him, to ourselves, and to the world.
CULPEPER, VIRGINIA, 1841.
After my essay on slavery was published by you in the Herald, I sent a copy of it to a prominent Abolition gentleman in New York, accompanied by a friendly letter.
This gentleman I selected as a correspondent, because of his high standing, intellectual attainments, and unquestioned piety. I frankly avowed to him my readiness to abandon slavery, so soon as I was convinced by the Bible that it was sinful, and requested him, "if the Bible contained precepts, and settled principles of conduct, in direct opposition to those portions of it upon which I relied, as furnishing the mind of the Almighty upon the subject of slavery, that he would furnish me with the knowledge of the fact." To this letter I received a friendly reply, accompanied by a printed communication, containing the result of a prayerful effort which he had previously made, for the purpose of furnishing the very information to a friend at the South, which I sought to obtain at his hands.
It may be owing to my prejudices, or a want of intellect, that I fail to be convinced, by those portions of the Bible to which he refers, to prove that slavery is sinful. But as the support of truth is my object, and as I wish to have the answer of a good conscience towards God in this matter, I herewith publish, for the information of all into whose hands my first essay may have fallen, every passage in the Bible to which this distinguished brother refers me for "precepts and settled principles of conduct, in direct opposition to those portions of it upon which I relied, as furnishing the mind of the Almighty upon the subject of slavery."
1st. His reference to the sacred volume is this: "God hath made of one blood all nations of men." This is a Scripture truth which I believe; yet God decreed that Canaan should be a servant of servants to his brother--that is, an abject slave in his posterity. This God effected 800 years afterwards, in the days of Joshua, when the Gibeonites were subjected to perpetual bondage, and made hewers of wood and drawers of water. Joshua ix. 23.
Again, God ordained, as law-giver to Israel, that their captives taken in war should be enslaved. Deut. xx. 10 to 15.
Again, God enacted that the Israelites should buy slaves of the heathen nations around them, and will them and their increase as property to their children forever. Lev. xxv. 44, 45, 46. All these nations were made of one blood. Yet God ordained that some should be "chattel" slaves to others, and gave his special aid to effect it. In view of this incontrovertible fact, how can I believe this passage disproves the lawfulness of slavery in the sight of God? How can any sane man believe it, who believes the Bible?
2d. His second Scripture reference to disprove the lawfulness of slavery in the sight of God, is this: "God has said a man is better than a sheep." This is a Scripture truth which I fully believe--and I have no doubt, if we could ascertain what the Israelites had to pay for those slaves they bought with their money according to God's law, in Levit. xxv. 44, that we should find they had to pay more for them than they paid for sheep, for the reason assigned by the Saviour; that is, that a servant man is better than a sheep; for when he is done ploughing, or feeding cattle, and comes in from the field, he will, at his master's bidding, prepare him his meal, and wait upon him till he eats it, while the master feels under no obligation even to thank him for it, because he has done no more than his duty. Luke xvii. 7, 8, 9. This, and other important duties, which the people of God bought their slaves to perform for them, by the permission of their Maker, were duties which sheep could not perform. But I cannot see what there is in it to blot out from the Bible a relation which God created, in which he made one man to be a slave to another.
3d. His third Scripture reference to prove the unlawfulness of slavery in the sight of God, is this: "God commands children to obey their parents, and wives to obey their husbands." This, I believe to be the will of Christ to Christian children and Christian wives--whether they are bond or free. But it is equally true that Christ ordains that Christianity shall not abolish slavery. 1 Cor. vii. 17--21, and that he commands servants to obey their masters and to count them worthy of all honor. 1 Tim. vi. 1, 2. It is also true, that God allowed Jewish masters to use the rod to make them do it--and to use it with the severity requisite to accomplish the object. Ex. xxi. 20, 21. It is equally true, that Jesus Christ ordains that a Christian servant shall receive for the wrong he hath done. Col. iii. 25. My correspondent admits, without qualification, that if they are property, it is right. But the Bible says, they were property. Levit. xxv. 44, 45, 46.
The above reference, reader, enjoins the duty of two relations, which God ordained, but does not abolish a third relation which God has ordained; as the Scripture will prove, to which I have referred you, under the first reference made by my correspondent.
4th. His fourth Scripture reference is, to the intention of Abraham to give his estate to a servant, in order to prove that servant was not a slave. "What" he says, "property inherit property?" I answer, yes. Two years ago, in my county, William Hansbrough gave to his slaves his estate, worth forty or fifty thousand dollars. In the last five or six years, over two hundred slaves, within a few miles of me, belonging to various masters, have inherited portions of their masters' estates.
To render slaves valuable, the Romans qualified them for the learned professions, and all the various arts. They were teachers, doctors, authors, mechanics,&c. So with us, tradesmen of every kind are to be found among our slaves. Some of them are undertakers--some farmers--some overseers, or stewards--some housekeepers-- some merchants--some teamsters, and some money-lenders; who give their masters a portion of their income, and keep the balance. Nearly all of them have an income of their own--and was it not for the seditious spirit of the North, we would educate our slaves generally, and so fit them earlier for a more improved condition, and higher moral elevation.
But will all this, when duly certified, prove they are not slaves? No. Neither will Abraham's intention to give one of his servants his estate, prove that he was not a slave. Who had higher claims upon Abraham, before he had a child, than this faithful slave, born in his house, reared by his hand, devoted to his interest, and faithful in every trust?
5th. His fifth reference, my correspondent says, "forever sets the question at rest." It is this: "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master, the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee--he shall dwell with thee, even in that place which he shall choose, in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best; thou shalt not oppress him."
This, my distinguished correspondent says, "forever puts the question at rest." My reader, I hope, will ask himself what question it puts to rest. He will please to remember, that it is brought to put this question to rest, "Is slavery sinful in the sight of God?" the Bible being judge--or "did God ever allow one man to hold property in another?"
My correspondent admits this to be the question at issue. He asks, "What is slavery?" And thus answers: "It is the principle involved in holding man as property." "This," he says: "is the point at issue." He says, "if it be right to hold man as property, it is right to treat him as property,"&c. Now, conceding all in the argument, that can be demanded for this law about runaway slaves, yet it does not prove that slavery or holding property in man is sinful--because it is a part and parcel of the Mosaic law, given to Israel in the wilderness by the same God, who in the same wilderness enacted "that of the heathen that were around about them, they should buy bond-men and bond-woman---also of the strangers that dwelt among them should they buy, and they should pass as an inheritance to their children after them, to possess them as bond-men forever." Levit. xxv. 44.
How can I admit that a prohibition to deliver up a runaway slave, under the law of Moses, is proof that there was no slavery allowed under that law? Here is the law from God himself, Levit. xxv. 44, authorizing the Israelites to buy slaves and transmit them and their increase as a possession to their posterity forever--and to make slaves of their captives taken in war. Deut. xx. 10--15. Suppose, for argument's sake, I admit that God prohibited the delivery back of one of these slaves, when he fled from his master--would that prove that he was not a slave before he fled?-- would that prove that he did not remain legally a slave in the sight of God, according to his own law, until he fled? The passage proves the very reverse of that which it is brought to prove. It proves that the slave is recognized by God himself as a slave, until he fled to the Israelites. My correspondent's exposition of this law seems based up on the idea that God, who had held fellowship with slavery among his people for 500 years, and who had just given them a formal statute to legalize the purchase of slaves from the heathen, and to enslave their captives taken in war, was, nevertheless, desirous to abolish the institution. But, as if afraid to march directly up to his object, he was disposed to undermine what he was unwilling to attempt to overthrow.
Upon the principle that man is prone to think God is altogether such an one as himself, we may account for such an interpretation at the present time, by men north of Mason & Dixon's line. Our brethren there have held fellowship with this institution, by the constitutional oath they have taken to protect us in this property. Unable, constitutionally, to overthrow the institution, they see, or think they see, a sanction in the law of God to undermine it, by opening their gates and letting our runaway slaves "dwell among them where it liketh them best." If I could be astonished at anything in this controversy, it would be to see sensible men engaged in the study of that part of the Bible which relates to the rights of property, as established by the Almighty himself, giving in to the idea that the Judge of the world, acting in the character of a national law-giver, would legalize a property right in slaves, as he did--give full power to the master to govern--secure the increase as an inheritance to posterity for all time to come--and then add a clause to legalize a fraud upon the unsuspecting purchaser. For what better is it, under this interpretation?
With respect to slaves purchased of the heathen, or enslaved by war, the law passed a clear title to them and their increase forever. With respect to the hired servants of the Hebrews, the law secured to the master a right to their service until the Sabbatic year or Jubilee--unless they were brought back by a near kinsman at a stated price in money when owned by a heathen master. But these legal rights, under these laws of heaven's King, by this interpretation, are all canceled--for the pecuniary loss, there is no redress--and for the insult no remedy, whenever a "liketh him best" man can induce the slave to runaway. And worse still, the community of masters thus insulted and swindled, according to this interpretation, are bound to show respect and afford protection to the villains who practise it. Who can believe all this? I judge our northern brethren will say, the Lord deliver us from such legislation as this. So say we. What, then, does this runaway law mean? It means that the God of Israel ordained his people to be an asylum for the slave who fled from heathen cruelty to them for protection; it is the law of nations--but surrendered under the Constitution by these States, who agreed to deliver them up. See, says God, ye oppress not the stranger. Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him. Ex. xxii. 21.
His 6th reference to the Bible is this: "Do to others as ye would they should do to you." I have shown in the essay, that these words of our Saviour, embody the same moral principle, which is embodied by Moses in Levit. xix. 18, in these words, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." In this we cannot be mistaken, because Jesus says there are but two such principles in God's moral government--one of supreme love to God--another of love to our neighbor as ourself: To the everlasting confusion of the argument from moral precepts, to overthrow the positive institution of slavery, this moral precept was given to regulate the mutual duties of this very relation, which God by law ordained for the Jewish commonwealth.
How can that which regulates the duty, overthrow the relation itself?
His 7th reference is, "They which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles, exercise lordship over them, but so it shall not be among you."
Turn to the passage, reader, in Mark x. 42; and try your ingenuity at expounding, and see if you can destroy one relation that has been created among men, because the authority given in another relation was abused. The Saviour refers to the abuse of State authority, as a warning to those who should be clothed with authority in his kingdom, not to abuse it, but to connect the use of it with humility. But how official humility in the kingdom of Christ, is to rob States of the right to make their own laws, dissolve the relation of slavery recognized by the Saviour as a lawful relation, and overthrow the right of property in slaves as settled by God himself, I know not. Paul, in drawing the character of those who oppose slavery, in his letter to Timothy, says, (vi. 4,) they are "proud, knowing nothing;" he means, that they were puffed with a conceit of their superior sanctity, while they were deplorably ignorant of the will of Christ on this subject. Is it not great pride that leads a man to think he is better than the Saviour? Jesus held fellowship with, and enjoined subjection to governments, which sanctioned slavery in its worst form--but abolitionists refuse fellowship for governments which have mitigated all its rigors.
God established the relation by law, and bestowed the highest manifestations of his favor upon slaveholders; and has caused it to be written as with a sunbeam in the Scriptures. Yet such saints would be refused the ordinary tokens of Christian fellowship among abolitionists. If Abraham were on earth, they could not let him, consistently, occupy their pulpits, to tell of the things God has prepared for them that love him. Job himself would be unfit for their communion. Joseph would be placed on a level with pirates. Not a single church planted by the Apostles would make a fit home for our abolition brethren, (for they all had masters and slaves.) The Apostles and their ministerial associates could not occupy their pulpits, for they fraternized with slavery, and upheld state authority upon the subject. Now, I ask, with due respect for all parties, can sentiments which lead to such results as these, be held by any man, in the absence of pride of no ordinary character, whether he be sensible of it or not?
Again, whatever of intellect we may have--can that something which prompts to results like these be Bible knowledge?
Reference the 8th is favorable in sound, if not in sense. It is in these words, "Neither be ye called masters, for one is your master, even Christ." I am free to confess, it is difficult to repress the spirit which the prophet felt when he witnessed the zeal of his deluded countrymen, at Mount Carmel. I think a sensible man ought to know better, than to refer me to such a passage, to prove slavery unlawful; yet my correspondent is a sensible man. However, I will balance it by an equal authority, for dissolving another relation. "Call no man father upon earth, for one is your father in heaven."
When the last abolishes the relation between parent and child, the first will abolish the relation between master and servant.
The 9th reference to prove slavery unlawful in the sight of God is this: "He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death." Wonderful!
I suppose that no State has ever established domestic slavery, which did not find such a law necessary. It is this institution which makes such a law needful. Unless slavery exists, there would be no motive to steal a man. And, the danger is greater in a slave State than a free one. Virginia has such a law, and so have all the States of North America.
Will these laws prove four thousand years hence that slavery did not exist in the United States? No--but why not? Because the statute will still exist, which authorizes us to buy bond-men and bond-women with our money, and give them and their increase as an inheritance to our children, forever. So the Mosaic statute still exists, which authorized the Jews to do the same thing, and God is its author.
Reference the 10th is: "Rob not the poor because he is poor. Let the oppressed go free; break every yoke; deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor. What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God. He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker." This sounds very well, reader, yet I propose to make every man who reads me, confess, that these Scriptures will not condemn slavery. Answer me this question: Are these, and such like passages, in the Old Testament, from whence they are all taken intended to reprove and condemn that people, for doing what God, in his law, gave them a right to do? I know you must answer, they were not; consequently, you confess they do not condemn slavery; because God gave them the right, by law, to purchase slaves of the heathen. Levit. xxv. 44. And to make slaves of their captives taken in war. Deut. xx. 14. The moral precepts of the Old or New Testament cannot make that wrong which God ordained to be his will, as he has slavery.
The 11th reference of my distinguished corespondent to the sacred volume, to prove that slavery is contrary to the will of Jesus Christ and sinful, is in these words: "Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal." The argument of my correspondent is this, that slavery is a relation, in which rights based upon justice cannot exist.
I answer, God ordained, after man sinned, that he "should eat bread (that is, have food and raiment) in the sweat of his face."
He has since ordained, that some should be slaves to others, (as we have proved under the first reference.) Therefore, when food and raiment are withheld from him in slavery, it is unjust.
God has ordained food and raiment, as wages for the sweat of the face. Christ has ordained that with these, whether in slavery or freedom, his disciples shall be content.
The relation of master and slave, says Gibbon, existed in every province and in every family of the Roman Empire. Jesus ordains in the 13th chapter of Romans, from the 1st to the end of the 7th verse, and in 1 Peter, 2d chapter, and 13th, 14th, and 15th verses, that the legislative authority, which created the relation, should be obeyed and honored by his disciples. But while he thus legalizes the relation of master and slave as established by the civil law, he proceeds to prescribe the mutual duties which the parties, when they come into his kingdom, must perform to each other.
The reference of my correspondent to disprove the relation, is a part of what Jesus has prescribed on this subject to regulate the duties of the relation, and is itself proof that the relation existed--that its legality was recognized--and its duties prescribed by the Son of God through the Holy Ghost given to the Apostles.
The 12th reference is, "Let as many servants as are under the yoke, count their masters worthy of all honor. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit." If my reader will turn to my remarks, in my first essay upon this Scripture, he will cease to wonder that it fails to convince me that slavery is sinful. I should think the wonder would be, that any man ever quoted it for such a purpose.
And lastly. My correspondent informs me that the Greek word "doulos," translated servant, means hired servant and not slave.
I reply, that the primary meaning of this Greek word, is in a singular state of preservation. God, as if foreseeing and providing for this controversy, has caused, in his providence, that its meaning in Greek dictionaries shall be thus given, "the opposite of free." Now, readers, what is the opposite of free? Is it a state somewhere between freedom and slavery? If freedom, as a condition, has an opposite, that opposite state is indicated by this very word "doulos." So says every Greek lexicographer. I ask, if this is not wonderful, that the Holy Ghost has used a term, so incapable of deceiving, and yet that that term should be brought forward for the purpose of deception. Another remarkable fact is this: the English word servant, originally meant precisely the same thing as the Greek word "doulos;" that is, says Dr. Johnson in his Dictionary, it meant formerly a captive taken in war, and reserved for slavery. These are two remarkable facts in the providence of God. But, reader, I will give you a Bible key, by which to decide for yourself, without foreign aid, whether servant, when it denotes a relation in society, where the other side of that relation is master, means hired servant. "Every man's servant that is bought for money shall eat thereof; but a hired servant shall not eat thereof," Exod. xii. 44, 45. Here are two classes of servants alluded to--one was allowed to eat the Passover, the night Israel left Egypt; the other not. What was the difference in these two classes? Were they both hired servants? If so, it should read, Every hired servant that is bought for money shall eat thereof; but a hired servant that is bought for money, shall not eat thereof." My reader, why has the Holy Ghost, in presiding over the inspired pen, been thus particular? Is it too much to say, it was to provide against the delusion of the 19th century, which learned men would be practising upon unlearned men, as well as themselves, on the subject of slavery? Who, with the Bible and their learning, would not be able to discover, that a servant bought with money was a slave; and that a hired servant was a free man? Again, Levit. xxv. 44, 45, and 46: "Thy bond-servants shall be of the heathen that are round about you, and of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy. And they shall be your possession, and ye shall take them as an inheritance, for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession, they shall be your bond-men forever."
Reader, were these hired servants? If so, they hired themselves for a long time. And what is very singular, they hired their posterity for all time to come. And what is still more singular, the wages were paid, not to the servant, but to a former owner or master. And what is still stranger, they hired themselves and their posterity to be an inheritance to their master and his posterity forever! Yet, reader, I am told by my distinguished correspondent, that servant in the Scriptures, when used to designate a relation, means only hired servant. Again, I ask, were the enslaved captives in Deut. xx. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, hired servants?
One of the greatest and best of men ever raised at the North, (I mean Luther Rice,) once told me when I quoted the law of God for the purchase of slaves from the heathen, (in order to silence his argument about "doulos," and hired servant,) I say he told me positively, there was no such law. When I opened the Bible and showed it to him, his shame was very visible. (And I hope he is not the only great and good man, that God will put to shame for being ignorant of his Word.) But he never opened his mouth to me about slavery again while he lived.
If my reader does no better than he did, at least let him not fight against God for establishing the institution of "chattel" slavery in his kingdom, nor against me for believing he did do it. But, reader, if you have the hardihood to insist that these were hired servants, and not slaves after all, then, I answer, that ours are hired servants too, and not slaves; and so the dispute ends favorably to the South, and it is lawful for us, according to abolition admissions, to hold them to servitude. For ours, we paid money to a former owner; so did the Jews for theirs. The increase of ours passes as an inheritance to our children, so did the increase of the Jewish servants pass as an inheritance to their children, to be an inheritance forever. And all this took place by the direction of God to his chosen people.
My correspondent thinks with Mr. Jefferson, that Jehovah has no attributes that will harmonize with slavery; and that all men are born free and equal. Now, I say let him throw away his Bible as Mr. Jefferson did his, and then they will be fit companions. But never disgrace the Bible by making Mr. Jefferson its expounder, nor Mr. Jefferson by deriving his sentiments from it. Mr. Jefferson did not bow to the authority of the Bible, and on this subject I do not bow to him. How can any man, who believes the Bible, admit for a moment that God intended to teach mankind by the Bible, that all are born free and equal?
Men who engage in this controversy ought to look into the Bible, and see what is in it about slavery. I do not know how to account for such men saying, as my correspondent does, that the slave of the Mosaic law, purchased of the heathen, was a hired servant; and that both he and the Hebrew hired servant of the same law, had a passport from God to run away from their masters with impunity, to prove which is the object of one of his quotations. Again, New Testament servants and masters are not the servants and masters of the Mosaic law, but the servants and masters of the Roman empire. To go to the law of Moses to find out the statutes of the Roman empire, is folly. Yet on this subject the difference is not great, and so far as humanity (in the abolition sense of it) is concerned, is in flavor of the Roman law.
The laws of each made slaves to be property, and allowed them to be bought and sold. See Gibbon's Rome, vol. i. pp. 25, 26, and. Lev. xxv. 44, 45, 46. The laws of each allowed prisoners taken in war to be enslaved. See Gibbon as above, and Deut. xx. 10--15. The difference was this: the Roman law allowed men taken in battle to be enslaved--the Jewish law required the men taken in battle to be put to death, and to enslave their wives and children. In the case of the Midianites, the mercy of enslaving some of the women was denied them because they had enticed the Israelites into sin, and subjected them to a heavy judgment under Balaam's counsel, and for a reason not assigned, the mercy of slavery was denied to the male children in this special case. See Numbers xxxi. 15, 16, 17.
The first letter to Timothy, while at Ephesus, if rightly understood, would do much to stay the hands of men, who have more zeal than knowledge on this subject. See again what I have written in my first essay on this letter. In addition to what I have there said, I would state, that the "other doctrine," 1 Tim. i. 2, which Paul says, must not be taught, I take to be a principle tantamount to this, that Jesus Christ proposed to subordinate the civil to ecclesiastical authority.
The doctrine which was "according to godliness," 1 Tim. vi. 3, I take to be a principle which subordinated the church, or Christ in his members, to civil governments, or "the powers that be." One principle was seditious, and when consummated must end in the man of sin. The other principle was practically a quiet submission to government, as an ordinance of God in the hands of men.
The Abolitionists, at Ephesus, in attempting to interfere with the relations of slavery, and to unsettle the rights of property, acted upon a principle, which statesmen must see, would, in the end, subject the whole frame-work of government to the supervision of the church, and terminate in the man of sin, or a pretended successor of Christ, sitting in the temple of God, and claiming a right to reign over, and control the civil governments of the world. The Apostle, therefore,|chapter ii. 1, to render the doctrine of subordination to the State a very prominent doctrine, and to cause the knowledge of it to spread among all who attended their worship, orders that the very first thing done by the church should be, that of making supplication, prayers, and intercessions, and giving God thanks for all men that were placed in authority, by the State, for the administration of civil government. He assigns the reason for this injunction, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."
My correspondent complains, that abolitionists at the North are not safe when they come among us. They are much safer than the saints of Ephesus would have been in the Apostolic day, if Paul would have allowed the seditious doctrine to be propogated which our northern brethren think it such a merit to preach, when it subjects them to no risk. How can they expect, in the nature of things, to lead a quiet and peaceable life when they come among us? They are organized to overthrow our sovereignty--to put our lives in peril, and to trample upon Bible principles, by which the rights of property are to be settled.
Questions and strifes of words characterized the disputes of the Abolitionists at Ephesus about slavery. It is amusing and painful to see the questions and strifes of words in the piece of my correspondent. Many of these questions are about our property right in slaves. The substance of them is this: that the present title is not good, because the original title grew out of violence and injustice. But, reader, our original title was obtained in the same way which God in his law authorized his people to obtain theirs. They obtained their slaves by purchase of those who made them captives in the hazards of war, or by conquest with their own sword. My correspondent speaks at one time as if ours were stolen in the first instance; but, as if forgetting that, in another place he says, that so great is the hazard attending the wars of Africa, that one life is lost for every two that are taken captive and sold into slavery. If this is stealing, it has at least the merit of being more manly than some that is practised among us.
A case seems to have been preserved by the Holy Ghost, as if to rebuke this abolition doctrine about property rights. It is the case of the King of Ammon; a heathen, on the one side, and Jephtha, who "obtained a good report by faith," on the other. It is consoling to us that we occupy the ground that Jephtha did-- and we may well suspect the correctness of the other side, because it is the ground occupied by Ammon. The case is this: A heathen is seen menacing Israel. Jephtha is selected by his countrymen to conduct the controversy. He sends a message to his menacing neighbor, to know why he had come out against him. He returned for answer, that it was because Israel held property to which they had no right. Jephtha answered, they had had it in possession for three hundred years. Ammon replied, they had no right to it, because it was obtained in the first instance by violence. Jephtha replied, that it was held by the same sort of a title as that by which Ammon held his possessions--that is to say, whatever Ammon's god Chemosh enabled him to take in war, he considered to be his of right; and that Israel's God had assisted them to take this property, and they considered the title to be such an one as Ammon was bound to acknowledge.
Ammon stickled for the eternal principle of righteousness, and contended that it had been violated in the first instance. But, reader, in the appeal made to the sword, God vindicated Israel's title. Judges xi. 12--32.
And if at the present time, we take ground with Ammon about the rights of property, I will not say how much work we may have to do, nor who will prove the rightful owner of my correspondent's domicil; but certain I am, that by his Ammonitish principle of settling the rights of property, he will be ousted.
Reader, in looking over the printed reply of my correspondent to his southern friend, which occupies ten columns of a large newspaper, to see if I had overlooked any Scripture, I find I have omitted to notice one reference to the sacred volume, which was made by him, for the general purpose of showing that the Scriptures abound with moral principles, and call into exercise moral feeling inconsistent with slavery. It is this: "Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethern, you have done it unto me." The design of the Savior, in the parable from which these words are taken, in Matt. 25th, is, to impress strongly upon the human mind, that character, deficient in correct moral feeling, will prove fatal to human hopes in a coming day.
But, reader, will you stop and ask yourself, "What is correct moral feeling?" Is it abhorrence and hatred to the will and pleasure of God? Certainly not. Then it is not abhorrence and hatred of slavery, which seems to be a cardinal virtue at the North. It has been the will and pleasure of God to institute slavery by a law of his own, in that kingdom over which he immediately presided; and to give it his sanction when instituted by the laws of men. The most elevated morality is enjoined under both Testaments, upon the parties in this relation. There is nothing in the relation inconsistent with its exercise.
My reader will remember that the subject in dispute is, whether involuntary and hereditary slavery was ever lawful in the sight of God, the Bible being judge.
1. I have shown by the Bible, that God decreed this relation between the posterity of Canaan, and the posterity of Shem and Japheth.
2. I have shown that God executed this decree by aiding the posterity of Shem, (at a time when "they were holiness to the Lord,") to enslave the posterity of Canaan in the days of Joshua.
3. I have shown that when God ratified the covenant of promise with Abraham, he recognized Abraham as the owner of slaves he had bought with his money of the stranger, and recorded his approbation of the relation, by commanding Abraham to circumcise them.
4. I have shown that when he took Abraham's posterity by the hand in Egypt, five hundred years afterwards, he publicly approbated the same relation, by permitting every slave they had bought with their money to eat the passover, while he refused the same privilege to their hired servants.
5. I have shown that God, as the national lawgiver, ordained by express statute, that they should buy slaves of the nations around them, (the seven devoted nations excepted,) and that these slaves and their increase should be a perpetual inheritance to their children.
6. I have shown that God ordained slavery by law for their captives taken in war, while he guarantied a successful issue to their wars, so long as they obeyed him.
7. I have shown that when Jesus ordered his Gospel to be published through the world, the relation of master and slave existed by law in every province and family of the Roman Empire, as it had done in the Jewish commonwealth for fifteen hundred years.
8. I have shown that Jesus ordained, that the legislative authority, which created this relation in that empire, should be obeyed and honored as an ordinance of God, as all government is declared to be.
9. I have shown that Jesus has prescribed the mutual duties of this relation in his kingdom.
10. And lastly, I have shown, that in an attempt by his professed followers to disturb this relation in the Apostolic churches, Jesus orders that fellowship shall be disclaimed with all such disciples, as seditious persons--whose conduct was not only dangerous to the State, but destructive to the true character of the Gospel dispensation.
This being the case, as will appear by the recorded language of the Bible, to which we have referred you, reader, of what use is it to argue against it from moral requirements?
They regulate the duties of this and all other lawful relations among men--but they cannot abolish any relation, ordained or sanctioned of God, as is slavery.
I would be understood as referring for proof of this summary, to my first as well as my present essay.
When I first wrote, I did suppose the Scriptures had been examined by leading men in the opposition, and that prejudice had blinded their eyes. I am now of a different opinion. What will be the effect of this discussion, I will not venture to predict, knowing human nature as well as I do. But men who are capable of exercising candor must see, that it is not against an institution unknown to the Bible, or declared by its author to be sinful, that the North is waging war.
Their hostility must be transferred from us to God, who established slavery by law in that kingdom over which he condescended to preside; and to Jesus, who recognized it as a relation established in Israel by his father, and in the Roman Government by men, which he bound his followers to obey and honor.
In defending the institution as one which has the sanction of our Maker, I have done what I considered, under the peculiar circumstances of our common country, to be a Christian duty. I have set down nought in malice. I have used no sophistry. I have brought to the investigation of the subject, common sense. I have not relied on powers or argument, learning, or ingenuity. These would neither put the subject into the Bible nor take it out. It is a Bible question. I have met it fairly, and fully, according to the acknowledged principles of the Abolitionists. I have placed before my reader what is in the Bible, to prove that slavery has the sanction of God, and is not sinful. I have placed before him what I suppose to be the quintessence of all that can be gleaned from the Bible to disprove it.
I have made a few plain reflections to aid the understanding of my reader. What I have written was designed for those who reverence the Bible as their counsellor-- who take it for rules of conduct, and devotional sentiments.
I now commit it to God for his blessing, with a fervent desire, that if I have mistaken his will in anything, he will not suffer my error to mislead another.
The following letter, in substance, was written to a brother in Kentucky, who solicited a copy of my slavery pamphlet, as well as my opinion on the movement in that State, on the subject of emancipation. This letter was designed to form an appendix to the two essays in the pamphlet which were first published in the Herald.
If you can spare the space for so large an article, I think you can find, in the present state of things in our country, some justification for the effort to diffuse Bible knowledge upon this subject, among the people. Yours,
JUNE 8th, 1849.
I received your letter of April 2d, and the slavery pamphlet which you requested me to send you, I herewith enclose.
When I published the first essay in that pamphlet, I intended to invite a discussion with Elder Galusha, of New York; and when I received Mr. Galusha's letter to Dr. Fuller, I still expected a discussion. But after manifesting, on his part, great pleasure in the outset, for the opportunity tendered him by a southern man, to discuss this subject, he ultimately declined it. This being the case, I did not at that time present as full a view of the subject as the Scriptures furnish. I have since thought of supplying this deficiency; and the condition of things in Kentucky furnishes a fit opportunity for saying to you, what I said to a brother in Pennsylvania, who, like yourself, requested me to send him a copy of my pamphlet.
I do not know that I could add anything, beyond what I said to him, that would be useful to you. To this brother I said, among other things, that Dr. Wayland (in his discussion with Dr. Fuller) relied principally upon two arguments, used by all the intelligent abolitionists, to overthrow the weight of Scriptural authority in support of slavery. The first of these arguments is designed to neutralize the sanction given to slavery by the law of Moses; and the second is designed to neutralize the sanction given to slavery by the New Testament.
The Dr. frankly admits, that the law of Moses did establish slavery in the Jewish Commonwealth; and he admits with equal frankness, that it was incorporated as an element in the Gospel church. For the purpose, however, of destroying the sanction thus given to the legality of the relation under the law of Moses, he assumes two things in relation to it, which are expressly contradicted by the law. He assumes, in the first place, that the Almighty, under the law, gave a special permission to the Israelites to enslave the seven devoted nations, as a punishment for their sins. He then assumes, in the second place, that this special permission to enslave the seven nations, prohibited, by implication, the enslaving of all other nations. The conclusion which the Dr. draws from the above assumptions is this--that a special permission under the law, to enslave a particular people, as a punishment for their sins, is not a general permission under the Gospel to enslave all, or any other people. The premises here assumed, and from which this conclusion is drawn, are precisely the reverse of what is recorded in the Bible.
The Bible statement is this: that the Israelites under the law, so far from being permitted or required to enslave the seven nations, as a punishment for their sins, were expressly commanded to destroy them utterly. Here is the proof--Deut. vii. 1 and 2: "When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them, thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them." And again, in Deut. xx. 16 and 17: "But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth. But thou shalt utterly destroy them, namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee." This law was delivered by Moses, and was executed by Joshua some years afterwards, to the letter.
Here is the proof of it, Josh. xi. 14 to 20 inclusive: "And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe.
"As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. So Joshua took all that land, the hills and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same. Even from the mount Halak that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baalgad, in the valley of Lebanon, under mount Hermon, and all their kings he took, and smote them and slew them. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon, all others they took in battle. For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor, but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses." In this account of their destruction, the Gibeonites, who deceived Joshua, are excepted, and the reason given is, that Joshua in their case, failed to ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Here is the proof: "And the men took of them victuals, and asked not counsel of the mouth of the Lord." (Josh. ix. 14.) This counsel Joshua was expressly commanded to ask, when he was ordained some time before, to be the executor of God's legislative will, by Moses. Here is the proof, (Numb. xxvii. 18 to 23 inclusive:) "And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thy hand upon him; and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him, after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word shall they come in, both he and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation. And Moses did as the Lord commanded him; and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation. And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses." These scriptures furnish a palpable contradiction of the first assumption, that is--that the Lord gave a special permission to enslave the seven nations. The Lord ordered that they should be destroyed utterly.
As to the second assumption, so far from the Israelites being prohibited by implication, from enslaving the subjects of other nations, they were expressly authorized by the law to make slaves by war, of any other nation. Here is the proof-- Deut. xx. 10 to 17 inclusive: "When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein, shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it. And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thy hands, then shalt thou smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword. But the women and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee which are not of the cities of these nations. But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth. But thou shall utterly destroy them, namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee." They were authorized also by the law, to purchase slaves with money of any nation except the seven. Here is the proof--Lev. xxv. 44, 45, and 46: "Both thy bond-men and thy bond-maids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; (that is, round about the country given them of God, which was the country of the seven nations they were soon to occupy;) of them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, (that is, the mixed multitude of strangers which came up with them from Egypt, mentioned in Exodus xii. 38,) of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession, they shall be your bond-men forever."
Now, let it be noted that this first law, of Deut. xx. above referred to, which authorized them to make slaves by war of any other nation, was executed for the first time, under the direction of Moses himself, when thirty-two thousand of the Midianites were enslaved. These slaves were not of the seven nations.
And it is worthy of further remark, that of each half, into which the Lord had these slaves divided, he claimed for his portion, one slave of every five hundred for the priests, and one slave of every fifty for the Levites. These slaves he gave to the priests and Levites, who were his representatives, to be their property forever-- Numb. xxxi. These scriptures palpably contradict the Dr.'s second assumption-- that is, that they were prohibited by implication from enslaving the subjects of any other nation. The Dr.'s assumptions being the antipodes of truth, they cannot furnish a conclusion that is warranted by the truth.
The conclusion authorized by the truth, is this: that the making of slaves by war, and the purchase of slaves with money, was legalized by the Almighty in the Jewish Commonwealth, as regards the subjects of all nations except the seven.
The second argument of the Dr.'s, as I remarked, is designed to neutralize the sanction given to slavery in the New Testament.
The Dr. frankly admits that slavery was sanctioned by the Apostles in the Apostolic churches. But to neutralize this sanction, he resorts to two more assumptions, not only without proof, but palpably contradicted by the Old and New Testament text. The first assumption is this-- that polygamy and divorce were both sins under the law of Moses, although sanctioned by the law. And the second assumption is, that polygamy and divorce are known to be sins under the Gospel, not by any Gospel teaching, or prohibition, but by the general principles of morality. From these premises the conclusion is drawn, that although slavery was sanctioned in the Apostolic church, yet it was a sin, because, like polygamy and divorce, it was contrary to the principles of the moral law. The premises from which this conclusion is drawn, are at issue with the word of God, and therefore the conclusion must be false. The first thing here assumed is, that polygamy and divorce, although sanctioned by the law of Moses, were both sins under that law. Now, so far from this being true, as to polygamy, it is a fact that polygamy was not only sanctioned, when men chose to practise it, but it was expressly enjoined by the law in certain cases, and a most humiliating penalty annexed to the breach of the command. Deut. xxv. 5--9. As sin is defined by the Holy Ghost to be a transgression of the law, it is impossible that polygamy could have been a sin under the law, unless it was a sin to obey the law, and an act of righteousness to transgress it. That polygamy was a sin under the law, therefore, is palpably false.
As to divorce, the Almighty gave it the full and explicit sanction of his authority, in the law of Moses, for various causes (Deut. xxiv. 1.) For those causes, therefore, divorce could not have been a sin under the law, unless human conduct, in exact accordance with the law of God, was sinful. The first thing assumed by the Dr., therefore, that polygamy and divorce were both sins, under the law, is proved to be false. They were lawful, and therefore, could not be sinful.
The Dr.'s second assumption (with respect to polygamy and divorce,) is this, that they are known, under the Gospel to be sins, not by the prohibitory precepts of the Gospel, but by the general principles of morality. This assumption is certainly a very astonishing one--for Jesus Christ in one breath has uttered language as perfectly subversive of all authority for polygamy and divorce in his kingdom, as light is subversive of darkness. The Pharisees, ever desirous of exposing him to the prejudices and passions of the people, "asked him in the presence of great multitudes, who came with him from Galilee into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan," whether he admitted, with Moses, the legality of divorce for every cause. Their object was to provoke him to the exercise of legislative authority; to whom he promptly replied, that God made man at the beginning, male and female, and ordained that the male and female by marriage, should be one flesh. And for satisfactory reasons, had sanctioned divorce among Abraham's seed; and then adds, as a law-giver, "But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, (except for fornication,) and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and if a woman put away her husband, and marry again, she committeth adultery. Here polygamy and divorce die together. The law of Christ is, that neither party shall put the other away--that either party, taking another companion, while the first companion lives, is guilty of adultery --consequently, polygamy and divorce are prohibited forever, unless this law is violated --and that violation is declared to be adultery, which excludes from his kingdom. 1 Cor. vi. 9. After the church was organized, the Holy Ghost, by Paul, commands, let not the wife depart from her husband, but, and if she depart let her remain unmarried--and let not the husband put away his wife, 1 Cor. vii. 10. Here divorce is prohibited to both parties; a second marriage according to Christ, would be adultery, while the first companion lives; consequently, polygamy is prohibited also.
This second assumption, therefore, that polygamy and divorce are known to be sins by moral principles and not by prohibitory precepts, is swept away by the words of Christ, and the teaching of the Holy Ghost. These unauthorized and dangerous assumptions are the foundation, upon which the abolition structure is made to rest by the distinguished Dr. Wayland.
The facts with respect to polygamy and divorce, warrant precisely the opposite conclusion; that is, that if slavery under the Gospel is sinful, then its sinfulness would have been made known by the Gospel, as has been done with respect to polygamy and divorce. All three, polygamy, divorce and slavery, were sanctioned by the law of Moses. But under the Gospel, slavery has been sanctioned in the church, while polygamy and divorce have been excluded from the church. It is manifest, therefore, that under the Gospel, polygamy and divorce have been made sins, by prohibition, while slavery remains lawful because sanctioned and continued. The lawfulness of slavery under the Gospel, rests upon the sovereign pleasure of Christ, in permitting it; and the sinfulness of polygamy and divorce, upon his sovereign pleasure in prohibiting their continuance. The law of Christ gives to the relation of slavery its full sanction. That law is to be found, first, in the admission, by the Apostles, of slaveholders and their slaves into the Gospel church; second, in the positive injunction by the Holy Ghost, of obedience on the part of Christian slaves in this relation, to their believing masters; third, in the absence of any injunction upon the believing master, under any circumstances, to dissolve this relation; fourth, in the abscence of any instruction from Christ or the Apostles, that the relation is sinful; and lastly, in the injunction of the Holy Ghost, delivered by Paul, to withdraw from all such as teach that this relation is sinful. Human conduct in exact accordance with the law of Christ thus proclaimed, and thus expounded by the Holy Ghost, in the conduct and teaching of the Apostles, cannot be sinful.
There are other portions of God's Word, in the light of which we may add to our stock of knowledge on this subject. For instance, the Almighty by Moses legalized marriage between female slaves and Abraham's male descendants. But under this law the wife remained a slave still. If she belonged to the husband, then this law gave freedom to her children; but if she belonged to another man, then her children, though born in lawful wedlock, were hereditary slaves. Exod. xxi. 4. Again, if a man marries his own slave, then he lost the right to sell her--if he divorced her, then she gained her freedom. Deut. xxii. 10 to 14, inclusive. Again, there was a law from God which granted rights to Abraham's sons under a matrimonial contract; for a violation of the rights conferred by this law, a free woman, and her seducer, forfeited their lives, Deut. xxi. 23 and 24; also 13 to 21, inclusive. But for the same offence, a slave only exposed herself to stripes, and her seducer, to the penalty of a sheep. Levit. xix. 20 to 22, inclusive. Again, there was a law which guarded his people, whether free or bond, from personal violence. If in vindictiveness, a man with an unlawful weapon, maimed his own slave by knocking out his eye, or his tooth, the slave was to be free for this wanton act of personal violence, as a penalty upon the master. Exod. xxi. 26 to 27, inclusive. But for the same offence, committed against a free person, the offender had to pay an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, as the penalty, Levit. xxiv. 19, 20, and Exod. xxi. 24 and 25, inclusive. Again, there was a law to guard the personal safety of the community against dangerous stock. If an ox, known to be dangerous, was suffered to run at large and kill a person, if the person so killed was free, then the owner forfeited his life for his neglect, Exod. xxi. 29. But if the person so killed was a slave, then the offender was fined thirty shekels of silver. Exod. xxi. 33. In some things, slaves among the Israelites, as among us, were invested with privileges above hired servants--they were privileged to eat the Passover, but hired servants were not, Exod. xii. 44, 45; and such as were owned by the priests and Levites were privileged to eat of the holy things of their masters, but hired servants dare not taste them. Levit. xxii. 10, 11. These are statutes from the Creator of man. They are certainly predicated upon a view of things, in the Divine mind, that is somewhat different from that which makes an abolitionist; and, to say the least, they deserve consideration with all men who worship the God of the Bible, and not the God of their own imagination. They show very clearly, that our Creator is the author of social, moral, and political inequality among men. That so far from the Scriptures teaching, as abolitionists do, that all men have ever had a divine right to freedom and equality, they show, in so many words, that marriages were sanctioned of God as lawful, in which he enacted, that the children of free men should be born hereditary slaves. They show also, that he guarded the chastity of the free by the price of life, and the chastity of the slave by the rod. They show, that in the judgment of God, the life of a free man in the days of Moses, was too sacred for commutation, while a fine of thirty shekels of silver was sufficient to expiate for the death of a slave. As I said in my first essay, so I say now, this is a controversy between abolitionists and their Maker. I see not how, with their present views and in their present temper, they can stop short of blasphemy against that Being who enacted these laws.
Of late years, some obscure passages (which have no allusion whatever to the subject) have been brought forward to show, that God hated slavery, although the work of his own hands. Once for all, I challenge proof, that in the Old Testament or the New, any reproof was ever uttered against involuntary slavery, or against any abuse of its authority. Upon abolition principles, this is perfectly unaccountable, and of itself, is an unanswerable argument that the relation is not sinful.
The opinion has been announced also of late, that slavery among the Jews was felt to be an evil, and, by degrees, that they abolished it. To ascertain the correctness of this opinion, let the following considerations be weighed: After centuries of cruel national bondage practised upon Abraham's seed in Egypt, they were brought in godly contrition to pour out, "the effectual fervent prayer" of a righteous people, to the Almighty for mercy, and were answered by a covenant God, who sent Moses to deliver them from their bondage--but let it be remembered, that when this deliverance from bondage to the nation of Egypt was vouchsafed to them, they were extensive domestic slave-owners. God had not by his providential dealings, nor in any other way, shown them the sin of domestic slavery--for they held on to their slaves, and brought them out as their property into the wilderness. And it is worthy of further remark, that the Lord, before they left Egypt, recognized these slaves as property, which they had bought with their money, and that he secured to these slaves privileges above hired servants, simply because they were slaves. Exod. xii. 44, 45. And let it be noticed further, that the first law passed by the Almighty after proclaiming the ten commandments or moral constitution of the nation, was a law to regulate property rights in hereditary slaves, and to regulate property rights in Jewish hired servants for a term of years. Exod. xxii. 1 to 6, inclusive. And let it be considered further, that when the Israelites were subjected to a cruel captivity in Babylon, more than eight hundred years after this, they were still extensive slave-owners; that when humbled and brought to repentance for their sins, and the Lord restored them to their own land again, that he brought them back to their old homes as slave-owners. Although greatly impoverished by a seventy years' captivity in a foreign land, yet the slaves which they brought up from Babylon bore a proportion of nearly one slave for every five free persons that returned, or about one slave for every family. Ezra ii. 64, 65. Now, can we, in the face of these facts, believe they were tired of slavery when they came up out of Egypt? It had then existed five hundred years. Or can we believe they were tired of it when they came up from Babylon? It had then existed among them fourteen hundred years. Or can we believe that God put them into these schools of affliction in Egypt and Babylon to teach them, (and all others through them,) the sinfulness of slavery, and yet, that he brought them out without giving them the first hint that involuntary slavery was a sin? And let it be further considered, that it was the business of the prophets which the Lord raised up, to make known to them the sins for which his judgments were sent upon them. The sins which he charged upon them in all his visitation are upon record. Let any man find involuntary slavery in any of God's indictments against them, and I will retract all I have ever written.
In my original essay, I said nothing of Paul's letter to Philemon, concerning Onesimus, a runaway slave, converted under Paul's preaching at Rome; and who was returned by the Apostle, with a most affectionate letter to his master, entreating the master to receive him again, and to forgive him. O, how immeasurably different Paul's conduct to this slave and his master, from the conduct of our abolition brethren! Which are we to think is guided by the Spirit of God? It is impossible that both can be guided by that spirit, unless sweet water and bitter can come from the same fountain. This letter, of itself, is sufficient to teach any man, capable of being taught in the ordinary way, that slavery is not, in the sight of God, what it is in the sight of the abolitionists.
I had prepared the argument furnished by this letter for my original essay; I afterwards struck it out, because at that time, so little had the Bible been examined at the North in reference to slavery, that the abolitionists very generally thought this was the only Scripture which southern slaveholders could find, giving any countenance to their views of slavery. To test the correctness of this opinion, therefore, I determined to make no allusion to it at that time.
Now, my dear sir, if, from the evidence contained in the Bible to prove slavery a lawful relation among God's people under every dispensation, the assertion is still made, in the very face of this evidence, that slavery has ever been the greatest sin-- everywhere, and under all circumstances-- can you, or can any sane man bring himself to believe, that the mind capable of such a decision, is not capable of trampling the Word of God under foot upon any subject?
If it were not known to be the fact, we could not admit that a Bible-reading man could bring himself to believe, with Dr. Wayland, that a thing made lawful by the God of Heaven, was, notwithstanding, the greatest sin--and that Moses under the law, and Jesus Christ under the Gospel, had sanctioned and regulated in practice, the greatest sin known on earth--and that Jesus had left his church to find out as best they might, that the law of God which established slavery under the Old Testament, and the precepts of the Holy Ghost which regulate the mutual duty of master and slave under the New Testament, were laws and precepts, to sanction and regulate among the people of God the greatest sin which was ever perpetrated.
It is by no means strange that it should have taken seventeen centuries to make such discoveries as the above, and it is worthy of note, that these discoveries were made at last by men who did not appear to know, at the time they made them, what was in the Bible on the subject of slavery, and who now appear unwilling that the teachings of the Bible should be spread before the people--this last I take to be the case, because I have been unable to get the northern press to give it publicity.
Many anti-slavery men into whose hands my essays chanced to fall, have frankly confessed to me, that in their Bible reading, they had overlooked the plain teaching of the Holy Ghost, by taking what they read in the Bible about masters and servants, to have reference to hired servants and their employers.
You ask me for my opinion about the emancipation movement in the State of Kentucky. I hold that the emancipation of hereditary slaves by a State is not commanded, or in any way required by the Bible. The Old Testament and the New, sanction slavery, but under no circumstances enjoin its abolition, even among saints. Now, if religion, or the duty we owe our Creator, was inconsistent with slavery, then this could not be so. If pure religion, therefore, did not require its abolition under the law of Moses, nor in the church of Christ--we may safely infer, that our political, moral, and social relations do not require it in a State; unless a State requires higher moral, social, and religious qualities in its subjects, than a Gospel church.
Masters have been left by the Almighty, both under the patriarchal, legal, and Gospel dispensations, to their individual discretion on the subject of emancipation.
The principle of justice inculcated by the Bible, refuses to sanction, it seems to me, such an outrage upon the rights of men, as would be perpetrated by any sovereign State, which, to-day, makes a thing to be property, and to-morrow, takes it from the lawful owners, without political necessity or pecuniary compensation. Now, if it be morally right for a majority of the people (and that majority possibly a meagre one, who may not own a slave) to take, without necessity or compensation, the property in slaves held by a minority, (and that minority a large one,) then it would be morally right for a majority, without property, to take anything else that may be lawfully owned by the prudent and care-taking portion of the citizens.
As for intelligent philanthropy, it shudders at the infliction of certain ruin upon a whole race of helpless beings. If emancipation by law is philanthropic in Kentucky, it is, for the same reasons, philanthropic in every State in the Union. But nothing in the future is more certain, than that such emancipation would begin to work the degradation and final ruin of the slave race, from the day of its consummation.
Break the master's sympathy, which is inseparably connected with his property right in his slave, and that moment the slave race is placed upon a common level with all other competitors for the rewards of merit; but as the slaves are inferior in the qualities which give success among competitors in our country, extreme poverty would be their lot; and for the want of means to rear families, they would multiply slowly, and die out by inches, degraded by vice and crime, unpitied by honest and virtuous men, and heartbroken by sufferings without a parallel.
So long as States let masters alone on this subject, good men among them, both in the church and out of it, will struggle on, as experience may dictate and justify, for the benefit of the slave race. And should the time ever come, when emancipation in its consequences, will comport with the moral, social, and political obligations of christianity, then Christian masters will invest their slaves with freedom, and then will the good-will of those follow the descendants of Ham, who, without any agency of their own, have been made in this land of liberty, their providential guardians.
Yours, with affection,
Washington: Printed at the Congressional Globe Office, for the Publishers. New edition, 1850.