The Chattel Principle:
The Abhorrence of Jesus Christ
and the Apostles; or,
No Refuge for American Slavery
in The New Testament,
Rev. Beriah Green
(New York: American
Anti-Slavery Society, 1839)
|The Son of Man Is Come To Seek And
To Save That Which Was Lost||3
|Ye Have Despised the Poor||5
|So They Wrap [Snarl] It Up||8
|Think Not That I Am Come To Destroy
The Law or The Prophets; I Am Not
Come To Destroy, But To Fulfill||10
|Thou Thoughtest That I Was Altogether
Such An One As Thyself||11
|It Is The Spirit That Quickeneth||12
|Come Now, Let Us Reason Together,
Saith the Lord||14
|Thou That Preachest A Man Should Not
Steal, Dost Thou Steal||18
|And They Stopped Their Ears||19
|Why Do Ye Not Understand My Speech;
Even Because Ye Can Not Hear My Word||22
|Love Worketh No Ill To His Neighbor||25
|Ye Therefore Applaud and Delight in the
Deeds of Your Fathers; For They Killed
Them, and Ye Build Their Sepulchures
|Think Not To Say Within Yourselves,
We Have Abraham For Our Father||28
|So That Ye Are Without Excuse||29
NEW TESTAMENT AGAINST SLAVERY.
“THE SON 0F MAN IS COME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? In 1776 THOMAS
JEFFERSON, supported by a noble band of patriots and surrounded by
the American people, opened his lips in the authoritative declaration:
THAT WHICH WAS LOST.”
And from the inmost heart of the multitudes around, and in a strong and clear voice, broke forth the unanimous and decisive answer: Amen—such truths we do indeed hold to be self-evident. And animated and sustained by a declaration, so inspiring and sublime, they rushed to arms, and as the result of agonizing efforts and dreadful sufferings, achieved under God the independence of their country.
The great truth, whence they derived light and strength to assert and defend their rights, they made the foundation of their republic. And in the midst of this republic, must we prove, that He, who was the Truth, did not contradict “the truths” which He Himself, as their Creator, had made self-evident to mankind?
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? What, according
to those laws which make it what it is, is American slavery? In the
Statute-book of South Carolina thus it is written:
* “Slaves shall be
|“We hold these truths to be SELF-EVIDENT, that all men are created
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
rights; that among these are life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.”|
* Stroud's Slave Laws, p. 93
|Ed. Note: Full Citation: A Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery in the Several States of the United States of America, by George M. Stroud (1795-1875) (Philadelphia: Kimber and Sharpless, 1827).|
deemed, sold, taken, reputed and adjudged in law to be chattels
personal in the hands of their owners and possossors, and their executors, administrators and assigns, to all intents, constructions and purposes whatever.”
The very root of American slavery consists in the assumption, that [politician] law has reduced men to chattels. But this assumption is, and must be, a gross falsehood. Men and cattle are separated from each other by the Creator, immutably, eternally, and by an impassable gulf. To comfound or identify man and cattle [as mere equals] must be to lie most wantonly, impudently, and maliciously. And must we prove, that Jesus Christ is not in favor of palpable, monstrous falsehood?
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? How can a system, built upon a stout and impudent denial of self-evident truth—a system of treating men like cattle—operate? Thomas Jefferson shall answer. Hear him.*
Such is the practical operation of a system, which puts men and cattle into the same family and treats them alike. And must we prove, that Jesus Christ is not in favor of a school [viewpoint] where the worst vices in their most hateful forms are systematically and efficiently taught and practiced?
|“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions; the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives loose to his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, can not but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy, who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances.”|
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? What, in 1818, did the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church affirm respecting its nature and operation?†
|“Slavery creates a paradox in the moral system—it exhibits [reduces] rational, accountable, and immortal beings, in such [animal-level] circumstances as scarcely to leave them the power of moral action. It exhibits them as dependent on the will of others, whether they shall receive religious instruction; whether they shall know and worship the true God; whether they shall enjoy the ordinances of the gospel [e.g., “Lord's Supper” / “Communion”]; whether they shall perform the duties and cherish the endearments of husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbors and|
* Notes on Virginia .
† Minutes of the General Asembly for 1818, p. 29.
Must we prove that Jesus Christ is not in favor of such things?
Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? It is already widely felt and openly acknowledged at the South, that they can not support slavery without sustaining the opposition of universal christendom. And Thomas Jefferson declared, that
|friends; whether they shall preserve their chastity and purity, or regard the dictates of justice and humanity. Such are some of the consequences of slavery; consequences not imaginary, but which connect themselves with its very existence.
“The evils to which the slave is always exposed, often take place in their very worst degree and form; and where all of them do not take place, still the slave is deprived of his natural rights, degraded as a human being, and exposed to the danger of passing into the hands of a master who may inflict upon him all the hardships and injuries which inhumanity and avarice may suggest.”
And must we prove, that Jesus Christ is not in favor of what universal christendom is impelled to abhor, denounce, and oppose;—is not in favor of what every attribute of Almighty God is armed against?
“YE HAVE DESPISED THE POOR.”
It is no man of straw, with whom in making out such proof we are called to contend. Would to God we had no other antagonist! Would to God that our labor of love could be regarded as a work of supererogation! [beyond the call of duty].
But we may well be ashamed and grieved to find it necessary to “stop the mouths of” [vile] grave and learned ecclesiastics, who from the heights of Zion have undertaken to defend the institution of slavery. We speak not now of those, who amidst the monuments of oppression are engaged in the sacred vocation; who as misters of the Gospel can “prophesy smooth things” [Isaiah 30:10] to such as pollute the altar of Jehovah with human sacrifices; nay, who them-
|“he trembled for his country when he reflected, that God is just; that his justice can not sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature, and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events; that it may become practicable by supernatural influences! The Almighty has no attribute which can take sides with us
in such a contest.”*|
* Notes on Virginia .
selves bind the victim and kindle the sacrifice. That they should put their Savior to the torture, to wring from his lips something in favor of slavery, is not to be wondered at. They consent to the murder of the children; can they respect the rights of the Father?
But what shall we say of theological professors at the North—professors of sacred literature at our oldest divinity schools—who stand up to defend, both by argument and authority, southern slavery! And from
the Bible! Who, Balaam-like, try a thousand expedients to force from the mouth of Jehovah a sentence which they know the heart of Jehovah abhors! Surely we have here something more mischievous and formidable than a man of straw.
More than two years ago, and just before the meeting of the General Assembly of the Preshyterian church, appeared an article in the Biblical Repertory,* understood to be from the pen of the Professor of Sacred Literature at Princeton, in which an effort is made to show, that slavery, whatever may be said of any abuses of it, is not a violation of the precepts of the Gospel.
This article, we are informed, was industriously and extensively
distributed among the members of the General Assembly—a body of
men, who by a frightful majority seemed already too much disposed
to wink at the horrors of slavery.
The effect of the Princeton Apology on the southern mind, we
have high authority for saying, has been most decisive and injurious. It has contributed greatly to turn the public eye off from the sin—from the inherent and necessary evils of slavery to incidental evils, which the abuse of it might be expected to occasion.
And how few can be brought to admit, that whatever abuses may prevail nobody knows where or how, any such thing is chargeable upon them! Thus our Princeton prophet has done what [evil] he could to lay tbe southern conscience asleep upon ingenious perversions of the sacred volume [Bible]!
About a year after this, an [evil] effort in the same direction was jointly made by [vile] Dr. [Wilbur] Fisk and Prof. [Moses] Stuart [1780-1852].
In a letter to a Methodist clergyman, Mr. Merritt, published in Zion's Herald, Dr. Fisk gives [pro-sin] utterance to such things as the following:—
|Ed. Note: Green is referring to Hebrews 6:6, torturing Christ, "crucifying" him again, by unrepented-of newly committed, in-process sins.|
* For April, 1835. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church met in the following May, at Pittsburgh, where, in pamphlet form, this article [by Prof. Hodge] was distributed. The following appeared upon the title page:
|P I T T S B U R G H :
For gratuitous distribution.
[Letter by Pro-Slavery Dr. Fisk
to Anti-Slavery Mr. Merritt
Enclosing Pro-Slavery Prof. Stuart's Letter]
|“But that you and the public may see and feel, that you have the ablest and those who are among tbe honestest men of this age [era], arrayed against you, be pleased to notice the following letter from Prof. Stuart. I wrote to him, knowing as I did his integrity of purpose, his unflinching regard for truth, as well as his deserved reputation as a scholar and biblical critic, proposing the following questions:—
1. Does tbe New Testament directly or indirectly teach, that slavery existed in tbe primitive [First Century] church?
2. In 1 Tim. vi. 2, And they that have believing masters, &c., what is the relation expressed or implied between “they” (servants) and “believing masters?” And what are your reasons for the construction of the passage?
3. What was the character of ancient and eastern slavery?—Especially what (legal) power did this relation give the master over the slave?
|PROFESSOR STUART'S REPLY.
ANDOVER, 10th April, 1837.
REV. AND DEAR SIR,—Yours is before me. A [tobacco-related] sickness of three months' standing (typhus fever,) in which I have just [barely] escaped death, and which still confines me to my house, renders it impossible for me to answer your letter at large.
1. The precepts of the New Testament respecting the demeanor of slaves and of their masters, beyond all question, recognize the existence of slavery. The masters are in part “believing masters,” so that a precept to them, how they are to behave as masters, recognizes that the relation may still exist, salva fide et salva ecclesia (“without violating the Christian faith or the church.”) Otherwise, Paul had nothing to do but to cut the band asunder at once. He could not lawfully and properly temporize with a malum in se, (“that which is in itself sin.”)
If any one doubts, let him take the case of Paul's sending Onesimus back to Philemon, with an apology for his running away, and sending him back to be his servant for life.
The relation did exist, may exist. The abuse of it is the essential and fundamental wrong. Not that the [extortion] theory of slavery is in itself right. No; “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” “Do unto others that which ye would that others should do unto you,” decide against this. But the [extortion] relation once constituted and continued, is not such a malum in se as calls for immediate and violent disruption at all hazards. So Paul did not counsel.
2. 1 Tim. vi. 2, expresses the sentiment, that slaves, who are Christians and have Christian masters, are not, on that account, and because as Christians they are brethren, to forego the reverence due to them as masters. That is, the [extortion] relation of master and slave is not, as a matter of course, abrogated between all Christians. Nay, servants should in such a case, a fortiori, do their duty cheerfully. This sentiment lies on the very face of the case. What is the master's duty in
|such a case may be in respect to liberation, is another question, and one which the apostle does not here treat of.
3. Every one knows, who is acquainted with Greek or Latin antiquities, that slavery among heathen nations has ever been more unqualified and at looser ends than among Christian nations. Slaves were property in Greece and Rome. That decides all questions about their relation. Their treatment depended, as it does now, on the temper of their masters. The power of the master over the slave was, for a long time, that of life and death. Horrible cruelties at length mitigated it. In the apostle's day, it was at least as great as among us.
After all the spouting and vehemence on this subjeet, which have been exhibited, the good old Book remains the same. Paul's conduct and advice are still safe guides. Paul knew well that Christianity would ultimately destroy slavery, as it certainly will. He knew too, that it would destroy monarchy and aristocracy from the earth; for it is fundarnentally a doctrine of true liberty and equality. Yet Paul did not expect slavery or anarchy to be ousted in a day; and gave precepts to Christians respecting their demeanor ad interim.
With sincere and paternal regard,
Your friend and brother,
——This, sir, is doctrine that will stand, because it is Bible doctrine. The abolitionists, then, are on a wrong course. They have traveled out of the record; and if they would succeed, they must
take a different position, and approach the subject in a different manner.Respectfully yours,
|Ed. Note: Note that Moses Stuart is a tobacco user. Such are notoriously medically documented as mentally disturbed in their reasoning. For example, Dr. William M'Donald, says, in 1 The Lancet (#1748) 231 (28 Feb 1857), “no smoker can think steadily or continuously on any subject. . . . He cannot follow out a train of ideas.” Here Stuart cannot comprehend that a relation or situation begun immorally, in extortion, cannot morally be continued!
And see the analysis by Rev. William Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery (1852), pp 166-173.
“SO THEY WRAP [SNARL] IT UP.”
What are we taught there?
That in the ecclesiastical organizations which grew up under the hands of the apostles, slavery was admitted as a relation, that did not violate the Christian faith;
that the relation may now in like manner exist;
that “the abuse of it is the essential and fundamental wrong;”
and, of course, that American Christians may hold their own brethren in slavery without incurring guilt or inflicting injury.
Thus according to Prof. Stuart, Jesus Christ has not a word to say against “the peculiar institutions” of the South.
If our brethren there do not “abuse” the privilege of
exacting unpaid labor, they may multiply their slaves to their hearts'
content, without exposing themselves to the frown of the Savior or
laying their Christian character open to the least suspicion. Could
any trafficker in human flesh ask for greater latitude? And to such
doctrines, Dr. Fisk eagerly and earnestly subscribes. He goes further. He urges it on the attention of his brethren, as containing important truth, which they ought to embrace. According to him, it is “Bible doctrine,” showing, that “the abolitionists are on a wrong course,” and must, “if they would succeed, take a different position.”
We now refer to such distinguished names, to show, that in attempting to prove that Jesus Christ is not in favor of American slavery, we contend with something else than a man of straw.
The ungrateful task, which a particular examination of Prof. Stuart's letter lays upon us, we hope fairly to dispose of in due season.—Enough has now been said, to miake it clear and certain, that American slavery has its apologists and advocates in the northern pulpit; advocates and apologists, who fall behind few if any of their brethren in the reputation they have acquired, the stations they occupy, and the general influence they are supposed to exert.
Is it so? Did slavery exist in Judea, and among the Jews, in its worst form, during the Savior's incarnation? If the Jews held slaves, they must have done so in open and flagrant violation of the letter and the spirit of the Mosaic Dispensation. Whoever has any doubts of this may well resolve his doubts in the light of the Argument entitled “The Bible against Slavery.”
If, after a careful and thorough examination of that article, he can believe that slaveholding prevailed during the ministry of Jesus Christ among the Jews and in accordance with the authority of Moses, he would do the reading public an important service to record the grounds of his belief—especially in a fair and full refutation of that Argument.
Till that is done, we hold ourselves excused from attempting to prove what we now repeat, that if the Jews during our Savior's incarnation held slaves, they must have done so in open and flagrant violation of the letter and the spirit of the Mosaic Dispensation.
Could Christ and the Apostles every where among their countrymen come in contact with slaveholding, being as it was a gross violation of that law which their office and their profession required them to honor and enforce, without exposing and condemning it.
In its worst forms, we are told, slavery prevailed over the whole world, not excepting Judea. As, according to such ecclesiastics as Stuart, Hodge, and Fisk, slavery in itself is not bad at all, the term “worst” could be applied only to “abuses” of this innocent relation.
Slavery accordingly existed among the Jews, disfigured and disgraced by the “worst abuses” to which it is liable. These abuses in the ancient world, Prof. Stuart describes as “horrible cruelties.”
And in our own country, such abuses have grown so rank, as to lead a distinguished eye-witness—no less a philosopher and statesman than Thomas Jefferson—to say, that they had armed against us every attribute of the Almighty.
With these [evil] things the Savior every where came in contact, among the people to whose improvement and salvation he devoted his living powers, and yet not a word, not a syllable, in exposure and condemnation of such “horrible cruelties,” escaped his lips!
He saw—among the “covenant people” of Jehovah he saw,
the babe plucked from the bosom of its mother;
the wife torn from the embrace of her husband;
the daughter driven to the market by the scourge of her own father;—he saw
the word of God sealed up [banned] from those who, of all men, were especially entitled to its enlightening, quickening influence;—nay, he saw
men beaten for [paying] kneeling before the throne of heavenly mercy;—
such things he saw without a word of admonition or reproof!
No sympathy with them who suffered wrong—no indignation at them who inflicted wrong, moved his heart!
From the alledged silence of the Savior, when in [this alleged] contact with slavery among the Jews, our divines [U.S. clergymen] infer, that it [slavery] is quite consistent with Christianity. And they affirm, that he [Christ] saw it [slavery] in its worst forms; that is, he witnessed what Prof. Stuart ventures to call “horrible cruelties.”
But what right have these interpreters of the sacred volume to regard any form of slavery which the Savior found, as “worst,” or even bad? According to their inference—which they would thrust gag-wise into the mouths of abolitionists—his silence should seal up their [abolitionists'] lips. They ought to hold their tongues. They
have no right to call any form of slavery bad—an abuse; much less,
horribly cruel! Their inference is broad enough to protect the most
brutal driver [slaver] amidst his deadliest inflictions!
“THINK NOT THAT I AM COME TO DESTROY
THE LAW OR THE PROPHETS; I AM NOT COME
TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFILL.”
And did the Head of the new dispensation, then, fall so far behind the prophets of the old in a hearty and effective regard for suffering humanity? The forms of oppression which they witnessed, excited
their compassion and aroused their indignation. In terms the most
pointed and powerful, they exposed, denounced, threatened. They
could not endure the creatures, who “used their neighbors' service
without wages, and gave him not for his work;”* who imposed “heavy burdens”† upon their fellows, and loaded them with “the bands of wickedness ;” who, “hiding themselves from their own flesh,” disowned their own mothers' children.
Professions of piety, joined with the oppression of the poor, they held up to universal scorn and execration, as the dregs of hypocrisy. They warned the creature of such professions, that he could escape the wrath of Jehovah only by heart-felt repentance. And yet, according to the [modern vile] ecclesiastics with whom we have to do, the Lord of these prophets passed by in silence just such enormities as he commanded them to expose and denounce!
Every where, he came in contact with slavery in its worst forms—“horrible cruelties” forced themselves upon his notice; but not a word of rebuke or warning did he utter. He saw “a boy given for a harlot, and a girl sold for wine, that they might drink,”‡ without the slightest feeling of displeasure, or any mark of disapprobation!
To such disgusting and horrible conclusions, do the arguings which, from the haunts of sacred literature, are inflicted on our churches, lead us!
According to them [pro-slavery clerics], Jesus Christ, instead of shining as the light of the world, extinguished the torches [lights] which his own prophets had kindled, and plunged mankind into the palpable darkness of a starless midnight! O Savior, in pity to thy suffering peopIe, let thy temple be no longer used as a “den of thieves!”
“THOU THOUGHTEST THAT I WAS ALTOGETHER
SUCH AN ONE AS THYSELF.”
In passing by the worst forms of slavery, with which he every
where came in contact among the Jews, the Savior must have been
inconsistent with himself [self-contradictory]. He was commissioned
to preach glad tidings to the poor;
to heal the broken-hearted;
to preach deliverance to the captives;
to set at liberty them that are bruised;
to preach the year of Jubilee. [Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2; Isaiah 58:6].
In accordance with this commission, he bound himself, from the earliest date of his incarnation, to the poor, by the strongest ties; himself “had not where to lay
* Jeremiah xxii. 13.
† Isaiah lviii. 6, 7.
‡ Joel iii. 3.
his head,” he exposed himself to misrepresentation and abuse for his affectionate [social] intercourse with the outcasts of society; he stood up as the advocate of the widow, denouncing and dooming the heartless ecclesiastics, who had made her bereavement a source of gain; and in describing the scenes of the final judgment, he selected the very personification of poverty, disease, and oppression, as the test by which our regard for him should be determined. To the poor and wretched; to the degraded and despised, his arms were ever open. They had his tenderest sympathies. They had his warmest love.
His heart's blood he poured out upon the ground for the human family, reduced to the deepest degradation, and exposed to the heaviest inflictions, as the slaves of the grand usurper [Satan].
And yet, according to our [U.S. "Bible-Belt" and accessory] ecclesiastics, that class of sufferers who had been reduced immeasurably below every other shape and form of degradation and distress; who had been most rudely thrust out of the family of Adam, and forced to herd with swine; who, without the slightest offense, had been made the foot-stool of the worst criminals; whose “tears were their meat night and day,” while, under nameless insults and killing injuries, they were continually crying, O Lord, O Lord;—this class of sufferers, and this alone, our [vile] biblical expositors, occupying the high places of sacred literature, would make us believe the compassionate Savior coldly overlooked.
Not an emotion of pity; not a look of sympathy; not a word of consolation, did his gracious heart prompt him to bestow upon them! He denounces damnation upon the devourer of the widow's house. But the monster, whose trade it is to make widows [genocidally slaughter their husbands] and devour them and their babes, he can calmly endure!
O Savior, when wilt thou stop the mouths of such blasphemers!
“IT IS THE SPIRIT THAT QUICKENETH.”
It seems, that though, according to our Princeton professor,
“the subject” of slavery “is hardly alluded to by Christ in any of his
personal instructions,”* he had a way of “treating it.” What was that? Why, “he taught the true nature, DIGNITY, EQUALITY, and
destiny of men,” and “inculcated the principles of justice and
* Pittsburgh pamphlet, (already alluded to,) p. 9.
love.* And according to Professor Stuart, the maxims which our Savior furnished, "decide against" "the theory of slavery." All, then, that these [vile] ecclesiaatical apologists for slavery can make of the Savior's alledged silence is, that he did not, in his personal instructions, apply his own principles to this particular form of wickedness.
For wicked that [behavior] must be, which the maxims of the Savior decide against, and which our Princeton professor assures us the principles of the gospel, duly acted on, would speedily extinguish.†
How remarkable it is, that a teacher should “hardly allude to a subject in any of his personal instructions,” and yet inculcate principles which have a direct and vital bearing upon it!—should so conduct [himself], as to
|Ed. Note: Rev. Weld had explained, in Bible Against Slavery (New York: Am Anti-Slavery Soc, 1837), pp 151-153.|
justify the inference, that “slaveholding is not a crime,”‡ and
at the same time lend his authority for its “speedy extinction!”
Higher authority that sustains self-evident truths there can not be. As forms of reason, they are rays from the face of Jehovah. Not only are their presence and power self-manifested, but they also shed a strong and clear light around them. In this light, other truths are visible. Luminaries themselves, it is their office to enlighten. To their authority, in every department of thought, the sane mind bows promptly, gratefully, fully.
And by their authority, he explains, proves, and disposes of whatever engages his attention and engrosses his powers as a reasonable and reasoning creature.
For what, when thus employed and when most successful, is the utmost he can accomplish? Why, to make the conclusions which he would establish and commend, clear in the light of reason;—in other words, to evince that they are reasonable. He expccts, that those with whom he has to do, will acknowledge the authority of principle-—will see whatever is exhibited in the light of reason.
If they require him to go further, and, in order to convince them, to do something more than show that the doctrines he maintains, and the methods he proposes, are accordant with reason—are illustrated and supported by “self-evident truths”—they [pro-slavers] are plainly “beside themselves.” They have lost the use of reason. They are not to be argued with. They belong to the mad-house.
|Ed. Note: “It is difficult today to comprehend the psychosis of the southern mind. . . .” says Prof. Clement Eaton, The Freedom-of-Thought Struggle in the Old South (Duke Univ Press, 1940, and New York: Harper & Row, 1964), p 384.|
|Ed. Note: “It is difficult today to comprehend the psychosis of the southern mind. . . .” says Prof. Clement Eaton, The Freedom-of-Thought Struggle in the Old South (Duke Univ Press, 1940, and New York: Harper & Row, 1964), p 384.
A 1784 South Carolinian (cited by Edward C. Rogers, Slavery Illegality (1855), p 85), had earlier made this same point.
Some Southern legislators were described as “a set of drunkards, gamblers, and whoremongers,” words by abolitionist Daniel Worth cited by Prof. Eaton, supra, p 140. And “some of the members of [Congress] needed only long ears and a tail to classify them openly as asses,” says Eaton, supra, p 84.
* Pittsburgh pamphlet, p. 9.
† The same, p. 31.
‡ The same, p. 13.
“COME NOW, LET US REASON TOGETHER,
SAITH THE LORD.”
Are we to honor the Bible, which Prof. Stuart quaintly calls
“the good old book,” by turning away from “self-evident truths” to receive its instructions? Can these truths be contradicted or denied there?
Do we search for something there to obscure their clearness, or break their force, or reduce their authorify? Do we long to find something there, in the form of promises or conclusions, of arguing or of inference, in broad statements or blind hints, creed-wise or fact-wise, which may set us free from the light and power of first principles?
And what if we were to discover what we were thus in search of?—something directly or indirectly, expressly or impliedly prejudicial to the principles, which reason, placing us under the authority of, makes self-evident? In what estimation, in that case, should we be constrained to hold the Bible? Could we longer honor it, as the book of God? The book of God opposed to the authority of REASON! Why, before what tribunal do we dispose of the claims of the sacred volume to divine authority? The tribunal of reason.
This every one acknowledges the moment he begins to reason on the subject. And what must reason do with a book, which reduced the authority of its own principles—broke the force of self-evident truths?
Is he not, by way of eminence, the apostle of infidelity, who, as a minister of the gospel or a professor of sacred literature, exerts himself, with whatever arts of ingenuity or show of piety, to exalt the Bible at the expense of reason? Let such arts succeed and such piety prevail, and Jesus Christ is “crucified afresh and put to an open shame.”[Hebrews 6:6].
What saith the Princeton professor? Why, in spite of “general principles,” and “clear as we may think the arguments against DESPOTISM, there have been thousands of ENLIGHTENED and good men, who honestly believe it to be of all forms of government the best and most acceptable to God.”*
Now, these “good men” must have been thus warmly in favor of despotism, in consequence of, or in opposition to, their being "enlightened." In other words, the light, which in such abundance they enjoyed, conducted them to the position in favor of despotism, where the Princeton professor so beartily shook
* Pittsburgh pamphlet, p. 13.
hands with them, or they must have forced their way there in despite of its hallowed influence. Either in accordance with, or in resistance to the light, they became what he found them—the advocates of despotism.
If in resistance to the light—and he says they were “enlightened men”—what, so far as the subject with which alone he and we are now concerned, becomes of their “honesty” and “goodness?” Good and honest resisters of the light, which was freely poured around them! Of such, what says Professor Stuart's “good old Book?”
Their authority, where “general principles” command the least respect, must be small indeed.
But if in accordance with the light, they have become the advocates of despotism, then is despotism “the best form of government and most acceptable to God.” It is sustained by the authority of reason, by the word of Jehovah, by the will of Heaven!
If this be the doctrine which prevails at certain theological seminaries, it must be easy to account for the spirit which they breathe, and the general [immoral] influence which they exert.
Why did not the Princeton professor place this “general principle”as a shield, heaven-wrought and reason-approved, over that cherished form of despotism which prevails among the churches of the South, and leave the “peculiar institutions” he is so forward to defend, under its protection?
What is the “general principle” to which, whatever may become of despotism with its “honest” admirers and “enlightened” supporters, human governments should be universally and carefully adjusted? Clearly this—that as capable of, man is entitled to, self-government.
And this is a specific form of a still more general principle, which may well be pronounced self-evident—that every thing should be treated according to its nature. The mind that can doubt of this, must be incapable of rational conviction.
Man, then,—it is the dictate of reason, it is the voice of Jehovah—must be treated as a man. What is he? What are his distinctive attributes?
The Creator impressed his own image on him. [Genesis 1:26-27]. In this were found the grand peculiarities of his character. Here shone his glory. Here REASON manifests its laws. Here the WILL puts forth its volitions. Here is the crown of IMMORTALITY.
Why such endowments? Thus furnished—the image of Jehovah—is he not capable of self-government? And is he not to be so treated? Within the sphere where the laws of reason place him, may he not act according to his choice—carry out his own volitions?—may he not enjoy life, exult in freedom, and pursue as he will
the path of blessedness? If not, why was he [mankind] so created and endowed? Why the mysterious, awful attribute of will? To be a source, profound as the depths of hell, of exquisite misery, of keen anguish, of insufferable torment!
Was man formed “according to the image of Jehovah” to be crossed, thwarted, counteracted; to be forced in upon himself; to be the sport of endless contradictions; to be driven back and forth forever between mutually repellant forces; and all, all “at the discretion of another!”*
How can man be treated according to his nature, as endowed with reason or will, if excluded from the powers and privileges of self-government?—if “despotism” be let loose upoN him, to “deprive him of personal liberty, oblige him to serve at the discretion of another,” and with the power of “transfering” such “authority” over him and such claim upon him, to “another master?”
If “thousands of enlightened and good men” can so easily be found, who are forward [willing] to support “despotism” as “of all governments the best and most acceptable to God,” we need not wonder at the testimony of universal history, that “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” [Romans 8:22.] Groans and travail-pangs must continue to be the order of the day throughout “the whole creation,” till the rod of despotism be broken, and man be treated as man—as capable of, and entitled to, self-government.
But what is the despotism whose horrid features our smooth professor tries to hide beneath an array of cunningly-selected words and nicely-adjusted sentences? It is the despotism of American slavery—which crushes the very life of humanity out of its victims, and transforms them to cattle! At its touch, they sink from men to things!
“Slaves,” saith Prof. Stuart, “were property in Greece and Rome. That decides all questions about their relation.”
And slaves in republican America are property; and as that easily, clearly, and definitely settles “all questions about their relation,” why should the Princeton professor have put himself to the trouble of weaving a definition equally ingenious and inadequate—at once subtle and deceitful ? Ah, why? Was he willing thus to conceal the wrongs of his mother'a children even from himself? If among the figments of his brain, he could fashion slaves, and make them something else than property, he knew full well that a very different pattern was in use among the southern patriarchs. Why did he not, in plain words, and
* Pittsburgh pamphlet, p. 12.
sober earnest, and good faith, describe the thing as it was, instead of employing honied words and courtly phrases, to set forth with all becoming vagueness and ambiguity, what might possibly be supposed to exist in the regions of fancy.
“FOR RULERS ARE NOT A TERROR TO GOOD WORKS,
BUT TO THE EVIL.”
But are we, in maintaining the principle of self-government, to overlook the unripe, or neglected, or broken powers of any of our fellow men with whom we may be connected?—or the strong passions, vicious propensities, or criminal pursuits of others? Certainly not.
But in providing for their welfare, we are to exert influences and impose restraints suited to their charactcr. In wielding those prerogatives which the social [aspect] of our nature authorizes us to employ for their benefit, we are to regard them as they are in truth, not things, not cattle, not articles of merchandize, but men, our fellow-men—reflecting, from however battered and broken a surface, reflecting with us tbe image of a common Father.
And the great principle of self-government is to be the basis, to which the whole structure of discipline under which they may be placed, should be adapted.
From the nursery and village school on to the work-house and state-prison, this principle is ever and in all things to be before the eyes, present in the thoughts, warm on the heart. Otherwise, God is insulted, while his image is despised and abused.
Yes, indeed; we remember, that in carrying out the principle of self-government, multiplied embarrassments and obstructions grow out of wickedness on the one hand and passion on the other.
Such difficulties and obstacles we are far enough from overlooking. But where are they to be found? Are imbecility and wickedness, bad hearts and bad heads, confined to the bottom of society? Alas, the weakest of the weak, and the desperately wicked, often occupy the high places of the earth, reducing every thing within their reach to subserviency to the foulest purposes.
Nay, the very power they have usurped, has often been the chief instrument of turning their heads, inflaming their passions, corrupting their hearts. All the world knows, that the possession of arbitrary power has a strong tendency to make men shamelessly wicked and insufferably mischievous. And this, whether the vassals over whom they domineer, be few or many. If you can not trust
|Ed. Note: Green alludes to the concept of leaders as the "basest of men," the scum. The scum rises to the top. (Jeremiah 17:9; Daniel 4:17).
Modern research verifies mental abnormality among politicians, e.g., see
World Health Organization, "Wide research needed to solve the problems of mental illness," World Mental Health, Vol 12, pages 138-141 (WHO Press Release, October 1960) ("people with psychopathic make-up often become leaders" / "les postes de commandement sont souvent assumés par des personnes à tendances psychopathiques")
Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life, 5th ed (Scott, Foresman & Co, 1976), p 10, by James C. Coleman, Ph.D. (summarizes pertinent 1960 data thus: "individuals with psychopathic personality makeup, who tend to exploit power for selfish purposes and have little concern for ethical values or social progress, often become leaders"); and
"Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," by John T. Jost, Jack Glaser, Arie W. Kruglanski, Frank J. Sulloway, 129 Psychological Bulletin (#2) 339-375 (July 2003) (cites symptoms).
See also the site on Adolf Hitler.
man with himself, will you put his fellow under his control!—and flee from the inconveniences incident to self-governmont, to the horrors of despotism?
“THOU THAT PREACHEST A MAN SHOULD NOT
STEAL, DOST THOU STEAL.”
Is the slaveholder, the most absolute and shameless of all despots, to be intrusted with the discipline of the injured men whom he himself has reduced to cattle?-—with the discipline by which they are to be prepared to wield the powers and enjoy the privileges of freemen?
Alas, of such discipline as he can furnish, in the relation of owner to property, they have had enough. From this sprang the very ignorance and vice, which in the view of many lie in the way of their immediate enfranchisement.
He it is, who has darkened their eyes and crippled their powers [by, e.g., reading bans]. And are they to look to him for illumination and renewed vigor—and expect “grapes from thorns and figs from thistles!” Heaven forbid!
When, according to arrangements wbich had usurped the sacred name of law, he consented to receive and use them as property, he forfeited all claims to the esteem and confidence, not only of the helpless sufferers themselves, but also of every philanthropist. In becoming a slaveholder, he became the enemy of mankind. The very act was a declaration of war upon human nature [beings].
What less can be made of the process of turning men to cattle? It is rank absurdity—it is the height of madness, to propose to employ him to train, for the places of freemen, those whom he has wantonly robbed of every right—whom he has stolen from themselves. Sooner place Burke, who used to murder for the sake of selling bodies to the dissector, at the head of a hospital.
Why, what have our slaveholders been about [doing] these [past] two hundred years? Have they not been, constantly and earnestly engaged in the work of education?—training up their human cattle? And how? Thomas Jefferson shall answer.
|Ed. Note: A Mississippi Supreme Court judge agreed, saying, “denial of [fundamental rights] would, upon principles of public law, be just cause of war.”—Mitchell v Wells, 37 Miss 235, 282 (1859) (dissent by J. Handy).
“[Slavery] was allowing a state of war de jure in the body politic, which could not be prevented from becoming a war de facto to the destruction of the commonwealth [nation].”—Edward C. Rogers, Slavery Illegality (1855), p 9.
Is this the way to fit the unprepared for the duties and privileges of American citizens? Will the evils of the dreadful process be diminished by adding to it length? What, in 1818, was the unanimous testimony of the Generai Assembly of the Presbytenan
|“The whole commerce between master and slave, is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions; the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other.” [supra, p 4].|
church [pp 4-5, supra]? Why, after describing a variety of influences growing out of slavery, most fatal to mental and moral improvement, the General Assembly assure us, that such
Is this the condition in which our [vile] ecclesiastics would keep the slave, at least a little longer, to fit him to be restored to himself?
“AND THEY STOPPED THEIR EARS.”
The methods of discipline under which, as slaveholders, the Southrons now place their human cattle, they with one consent and in great wrath, forbid us to examine. The statesman and the priest unite in the assurannce, that these methods are none of our business. Nay, they give us distinctly to understand, that if we come among them to take observations, and make inquiries, and discuss questions, they will dispose of us as outlaws.
|“consequences are not imaginary, but connect themselves WITH THE VERY EXISTENCE of slavery. The evils to which the slave is always exposed, often take place in fact, and IN THEIR VERY WORST DEGREE AND FORM*; and where all of them do not take place,” “still the slave is deprived of his natural right, degraded as a humaa being, and exposed to the danger of passing into the hands of a master who may infiict upon him all the hardsbips and injuries which inhumanity and avarice may suggest.”|
Nothing will avail to protect us from speedy and deadly violence! What infercuce does all this warrant? Surely, not that the methods which they [slavers] employ are happy and worthy of universal application. If so, why do they not take the praise, and give us the benefit, of their wisdom, enterprise, and success? Who, that has nothing to hide, practices concealment?—
|Ed. Note: Referring to lynching, of which there were a number of examples, including of Rev. Elijah Lovejoy.|
Is this the way of slaveholders? Darkness they court—they will have darkness. Doubtless “because their deeds are evil.” [John 3:19].
Can we confide in [trust] methods for the benefit of our enslaved brethren, which it is death for us to examine? What good ever came, what good can we expect, from deeds of darkness?
Did the influence of the masters contribute any thing in the West
Indies, to prepare the apprentices for enfranchisement? Nay, verily.
Àll the world knows better. They did what in them lay, to turn back
|“He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be manifest, that they are wrought in God.” [John 3:21].|
* The words here marked as emphatic, were so distinginuished by ourselves.
the tide of blessings, which through emancipation was pouring in upon the famishing around them. Are not the best minds and hearts in England now thoroughly convinced, that slavery, under no modification, can be a school for freedom?
We say such things to the many who alledge, that slaves can not at once be entrusted with the powers and privileges of self-government. However this may be, they can not be better qualified under the influence of slavery. That must be broken up from which their ignorance, and viciousness, and wretchedness proceeded. That which can only do what it has always done, pollute and degrade, must not be employed to purify and elevate. The lower their [slaves'] character and condition, the louder, clearer, sterner, the just demand for immediate emancipation. The plague-smitten sufferer can derive no benefit from breathing a little longer an infected atmosphere.
In thus referring to elemental principles—in thus availing ourselves of the light of self-evident truths—we bow to the authority and tread in the foot-prints of the great Teacher. He chid [chided] those around him for refusing to make the same use of their reason in promoting their spiritual, as they made in promoting their temporal welfare. He gives them distinctiy to understand, that they need not go out of themselves to form a just estimation of their position, duties, and prospects, as standing in the presence of the Messiah.
How could they, unless they had a clear light, and an infallible standard within them, whereby, amidst the relations they sustained and the interests they had to provide for, they might discriminate between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, what they ought to attempt and what they ought to eschew?
From this pointed, significant appeal of the Savior, it is clear and certain, that in human consciousness may be found self-evident truths, self-manifested principles; that every man, studying his own consciousness, is bound to recognize their presence and authority, and in sober earnest and good faith to apply them to the highest practical concerns of “life and godliness.” It is in obedience to the Bible, that we apply self-evident truths, and walk in the light of general principles. When our fathers proclaimed these truths, and at the hazard of their property, reputation, and life,
|“Why, EVEN OF YOURSELVES,” he demands of them, “judge ye not what is right?”*|
* Luke xii. 57.
stood up in their defense, they did homage to the sacred Scripture—they honored the Bible. In that volume, not a syllable can be found to justify that form of infidelity, which in the abused name of piety, reproaches us for practicing the lessons which “nature teacheth.”*
These lessons, the Bible requires us reverently to listen to, earnestly to appropriate, and most diligently and faithfully to act upon in every direction and on all occasions.
Why, our Savior goes so far in doing honor to reason, as to encourage men [people] universally to dispose of the characteristic peculiarities and distinctive features of tho Gospel in the light of its principles.
Natural religion—the principles which nature reveals, and the lessons which nature teaches—he [Christ] thus makes a test of the truth and authority of revealed religion. So far was he, as a teacher, from shrinking from the clearest and most piercing rays of reason—from callmg off the attention of those around him from the import, bearings, and practical application of general principles.
And those who would have us escape from the pressure of self-evident truths, by betaking ourselves to the doctrines and precepts of Christianity, whatever airs of piety they may put on, do foul dishonor to the Savior of mankind.
And what shall we say of the Golden Rule, which, according to the Savior, comprehends all the precepts of the Bible?
|“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”†|
According to this maxim, in human consciousness, universally, may be found,
|Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 7:12].|
1. The standard whereby, in all the relations and circumstances of life, we may determine what Heaven demands and expects of us.
2. The just application of this standard, is practicable for, and obligatory upon, every child of Adam.
3. The qualification requisite to a just application of this rule to all the cases in which we can be concerned, is simply this—to regard all the members of the human family as our brethren, our equals
In other words, the Savior here teaches us, that in the principles and laws of reason, we have an infallible guide in all the relations and circumstances of life; that nothing can hinder our following this
* 1 Cor. xi. 14.
† John vii. 17.
guide, but the bias of selfishfness; and that the moment, in deciding any moral question, we place ourselves in the room [place] of our brother, before the bar of reason, we shall see what decision ought to be pronounced.
Does this, in the Savior, look like fleeing self-evident truths!—like decrying the authority of general principles!—like exalting himself at the expense of reason!—like opening a refuge in the Gospel for those whose practice is at variance with the dictates of humanity!
What then is the just application of the Golden Rule—that fundamental maxim of the Gospel, giving character to, and shedding light upon, all its precepts and arrangements—to the subject of slavery?—that we must “do to” slaves as we would be done by, AS SLAVES, the RELATION itself being justified and continued? Surely not.
A little reflection will enable us to see, that the Golden Rule reaches farther in its demands, and strikes deeper in its influences and operations. The natural equality of mankind lies at the very basis of this great precept. It obviously requires every man [person] to acknowledge another self in every other man [person]. With my powers and resources, and in my appropriate circumstances, I am to recognize in any child of Adam who may address me, another self in his appropriate circumstances and with his powers and resources. This is the natural equality of mankind; and this the Golden Rule requires us to admit, defend, and maintain.
“WHY DO YE NOT UNDERSTAND MY SPEECH;
EVEN BECAUSE YE CAN NOT HEAR MY WORD.”
They strangely misunderstand and grossly misrepresent this doctrine, who charge upon it the absurdities and mischiefs which any “levelling system” can not but produce. In all its bearings, tendencies, and effects, it is directly contrary and powerfully hostile to any such system. EQUALITY OF RIGHTS, the doctrine asserts, and this necessarily opens the way for variety of condition.
In other words, every child of Adam has, from the Creator, the inalienable right of wielding, within reasonable limits, his own powers, and employing his own resources, according to his own choice; while he respects his social relations, to promote as he will his own welfare.
But mark—HIS OWN powers and resources, and NOT ANOTHER'S, are thus inalienably put under his control. The Creator makes every
man free, in whatever he may do, to exert HIMSELF, and not another. Here no man may lawfully cripple or embarrass another. The feeble may not hinder the strong, nor may the strong crush the feeble. Every man may make the most of himself, in his own propor sphere. Now, as in the constitutional endowments, and natural opportunities, and lawful acquisitions of mankind, infinite variety prevails, so in exerting each HIMSELF, in his own sphere, according to his own choice, the variety of human condition can be little less than infinite. Thus equality of rights opens the way for variety of condition.
But with all this variety of make, means, and condition, considered individually, the children of Adam are bound together by strong ties which can never be dissolved. They are mutually united by the social of their nature. Hence mutual dependence and mutual claims. While each is inalienably entitled to assort and enjoy his own personality as a man, each sustains to all and all to each, various relations. While each owns and honors the individual, all are to own and honor the social of their nature.
Now, the Golden Rule distinctly recognizes, lays its requisitions upon, and extends its obligations to, the whole nature of man, in his individual capacities and social relations.
What higher honor could it do to man, as an individual, than to constitute him the judge, by whose decision, when fairly rendered, all the claims of his fellows should be authoritatively and definitely disposed of? " Whatsoever YE WOULD " have done to you, so do ye to others. Every member of the family of Adam, placing himself in the position here pointed out, is competent and authorized to pass judgment on all the cases in social life in which he may be concerned. Could higher responsibilities or greater confidence be reposed in men individually?
And then, how are their claims upon each other herein magnified! What inherent worth and solid dignity are ascribed to the social of their nature! In every man with whom I may have to do, I am to recognize the presence of another self, whose case I am to make my own. And thus I am to dispose of whatever claims he may urge upon me.
Thus, in accordance with the Golden Rule, mankind are naturalty brought, in the voluntary use of their powers and resources, to promote each other's welfare. As his contribution to this great object, it is the inalienable birth-right of every child of Adam, to consecrate whatever he may possess. With exalted powers and large resources, he has a natural claim to a correspondent field of effort. If his
“abilities” are small, his task must be easy and his burden light. Thus the Golden Rule requires mankind mutually to serve each other. In this service, each is to exert himself—employ his own powers, lay out his own resources, improve his own opportunities.
A division of labor is the natural result. One is remarkable for his intellectual endowments and acquisitions; another, for his wealit; and a third, for power and skill in using his muscles. Such attubutes, endlessly varied and diversified, proceed from the basis of a common character, by virtue of which all men and each—one as truly as another—are entitled, as a birth-right, to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Each and all, one as well as another, may choose his own modes of contributing his share to the general welfare, in which his own is involved and identified. Under one great law of mutual dependence and mutual responsibility, all are placed—the strong as well as the weak, tho rich as much as the poor, the learned no less than the unlearned. All bring their wares, the products of their enterprise, skill and industry, to the same market, whero mutual exchanges are freely effected.
The fruits of muscular exertion procure the fruits of mental effort. John serves Thomas with his hands, and Thomas serves John with his money. Peter wields the axe for James, and James wields the pen for Peter. Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, employ their wisdom, courage, and experience, in the service of the community, and the community serve Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, in furnishing them with food and raiment, and making them partakers of the general prosperity. And all this by mutual understanding and voluntary arrangement. And all this according to the Golden Rule.
What then becomes of slavery—a system of [extortion] arrangements, in which one man treats his fellow, not as another self, but as a thing—a chattel—an article of merchandise, which is not to be consulted in any disposition which may be made of it;—a system which is built on the annihilation of the attributes of our common nature—in which man doth to others, what he would sooner die than have done to himself.
The Golden Rule and slavery are mutually subversive of each other. If one stands, the other must fall. The one strikes at the very root of the other. The Golden Rule aims at the abolition of THE RELATION ITSELF, in which slavery consists. It lays its demands upon every thing within the scope of human action. To “whatever MEN DO,” it extends its authority. And the relation itself, in which slavery consists, is the work of human hands. It is what
men have done to each other—contrary to nature and most injurious to the general welfare. This RELATION, thorefore, the Golden Rule condemns. Wherever its authority prevails, this relation must be annihilated. Mutual service and slavery—like light and darkness, life and death—are directly opposed to, and subversive of, each other. The one the Golden Rule can not endure; the other it requires, honors, and blesses.
“LOVE WORKETH NO ILL TO HIS NEIGHBOR."
Like unto the Golden Rule is the second great commandment—“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” [Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31-33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8].
“A certain lawyer,” who seems to have been fond of applying the doctrine of limitation of human obligations, once demanded of the Savior, within what limits the meaning of the word “neighbor” ought to be confined. “And who is my neighbor?” [Luke 10:29].
The parable of the good Samaritan [Luke 10:29-36] set that matter in the clearest light, and made it manifest and certain, that every man whom we could reach with our sympathy and assistance, was our neighbor, entitled to the same regard which we cherished for ourselves.
Consistently with such obligations, can slavery, as a RELATION, be maintained? Is it then a labor of love—such love as we cherish for ourselves—to strip a child of Adam of all the prerogatives and privileges which are his inalienable birth-right?—To obscure his reason, crush his will, and trample on his immortality?—To strike home to the inmost of his being, and break the heart of his heart?— To thrust him out of the human family, and dispose of him as a chattel—as a thing in the hands of an owner, a beast under the lash of a driver [slaver]?
All this, apart from every thing incidental and extraordinary, belongs to the RELATION, in which slavery, as such, consists. All this—well fed or ill fed, underwrought or overwrought, clothed or
naked, caressed or kicked, whether idle songs break from his thoughtless tongue or “tears be his meat night and day,” fondly cherished or cruelly murdered;—all this ENTERS VITALLY INTO THE RELATION ITSELF, by which every slave, AS A SLAVE, is set apart from the rest of the human family.
Is it an exercise of love, to place our “neighbor” under the crushing weight, the killing power, of such a relation?—to apply the murderous steel to the very vitals of his humanity?
“YE THEREFORE APPLAUD AND DELIGHT IN THE
DEEDS OF YOUR FATHERS; FOR THEY KILLED
THEM, AND YE BUILD THEIR SEPULCHRES.”*
The slaveholder may eagerly and loudly deny, that any such thing is chargeable upon him. He may confidently and earnestly alledge, that he is not responsible for the state of society in which he is placed. Slavery was established before he began to breathe. It was his inheritance. His slaves are his property by birth or testament.
But why will he thus deceive himself? Why will he permit the cunning and rapacious spiders, which in the very sanctuary of ethics and religion are laboriously weaving webs from their own bowels, to catch him with their wretched sophistries?—and devour him, body, soul, and substance? Let him know, as he must one day with shame and terror own [admit], that whoever holds slaves is himself responsible for the relation, into which, whether reluctantly or willingly, he thus enters.
The relation can not be forced upon him.
What though Elizabeth countenanced John Hawkins in stealing the natives of Africa?—what though James, and Charles, and George, opened a market for them in the English colonies?—what though modern Dracos [politicians] have “framed mischief by law,” in legalizing man-stealing and slaveholding?—what though your ancestors, in preparing to go “to their own place,” constituted you the owner of the “neighbors” whom they had used as cattle?—what of all this, and as much more like this, as can be drawn from the history of that dreadful process by which men “are deemed, sold, taken, reputed, and adjudged in law to be chattels personal?”
Can all this force you to put the cap upon the climax—to clinch the nail by doing that, without which nothing in the work of slave-making would be attempted?
The slaveholder is the soul of the whole system. Without him, the chattel principle is a lifeless abstraction. Without him, charters, and markets, and laws, and testaments, are empty names.
And does he think to escape responsibility? Why, kidnappers, and soul-drivers, and law-makers, are nothing but his agents. He is the guilty principal. Let him look to it.
But what can he do? Do? Keep his hands off his “neighbor's” throat. Let him refuse to finish and ratify the process by which the chattel principle is carried into effect. Let him refuse, in the face of
|Ed. Note: Note the “mischief by law” terminology from Psalm 94:20. Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D., elaborated this concept, in God Against Slavery (Cincinnati: Am Reform Tract & Book Soc, 1857), pp 9-15, 23-34, etc.|
* You join with them in their bloody work. They murder, and you bury the victims. [Luke 11:47-48].
derision, and reproach, and opposition. Though poverty should fasten its bony hand upon him, and persecution shoot forth its forked tongue; whatever may betide him—scorn, flight, flames—let him promptly and steadfastly refuse. Better the spite and hate of men than the wrath of Heaven!
[Pro-slavery] Prof. Stuart admits, that the Golden Rule and the second great commandment “decide against the theory of slavery as being in itself right.”
What, then, is their relation to the particular precepts, institutions, and usages, which are authorized and enjoined in the New Testament? Of all these, they are the summary expression—the comprehensive description. No precept in the Bible enforcing our mutual obligations, can be more or less than the application of these injunctions to specific relations or particular occasions and conditions.
Neither in the Old Testament nor the New, do prophets teach or laws enjoin, any thing which the Golden Rule and the second great command do not contain. Whatever they forbid, no other precept can require; and whatever they require, no other precept can forbid.
What, then, does he attempt, who turns over the sacred pages to find something in the way of permission or command, which may [supposedly] set him free from the obligations of the Golden Rule? What must his objects, methods, spirit be, to force him to enter upon such inquiries?—to compel him to search the Bible for such a purpose? Can he have good intentions, or be well employed? Is his frame of mind adapted to the study of the Bible?—to make its meaning plain and welcome?
What must he think of God, to search his word in quest of gross inconsistencies and grave contradictions! Inconsistent legislation in Jehovah! Contradictory commands! Permissions at war with prohibitions! General requirements at variance with particular arrangements!
What must be the moral character of any institution which the Golden Rule decides against?—which the second great command condemns? It can not but be wicked, whether newly established or long maintained.
However it may be shaped, turned, colored—under every modification and at all times—wickedness must be its proper character. It must be, IN ITSELF, apart from its circumstances, IN TTS ESSENCE, apart from its incidents, SINFUL.
|“If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, for it is profitable for thee, that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” [Matt 5:29; see also Matt. 18:9 and Mark 9:47.]|
“THINK NOT TO SAY WITHIN YOURSELVES,
WE HAVE ABRAHAM FOR OUR FATHER.”
In disposing of [summarizing] those precepts and exhortations which have a specific bearing upon the subject of slavery, it is greatly important, nay, absolutely essential, that we look forth upon the objects around us from the right post of observation. Our stand we must take at some central point, amidst the general maxims and fundamental precepts, the known circumstances and characteristic arrangements, of primitive [First Century] Christianity.
Otherwise, wrong views and false conclusions will be the result of our studies. We can not, therefore, be too earnest in trying to catch [understand] the general features and prevalent spirit of the New Testament institutions and arrangements. For to what conclusions must we come, if we unwittingly pursue our inquires under the bias of the prejudice, that the general maxims of social life which now prevail in this country, were current, on the authority of the Savior, among the primitive [First Century] Christians!
That, for instance, wealth, station, talents, are the standard by which our claims upon, and our regard for, others, should be modined?—That those who are pinched by poverty, worn by disease, tasked in mental labors, or marked by features offensive to the tastc of the artificial and capricious, are to be excluded from those refreshing and elevating influences which intelligence and refinement may be expected to exert; that thus they are to constitute a class by themselves, and to be made to know and keep their place at the very bottom of society?
Or, what if we should think and speak of the primitive [First Century] Christians, as if they had the same pecuniary resources as Heaven has lavished upon the American churches?—as if they were as remarkable for affluence, elegance, and splendor? Or, as if they had as high a position and as extensive an influence in politics and literature?—having directly or indirectly, the control over the high places of learning and of power?
If we should pursue our studies and arrange our arguments—if we should explain words and interpret language—under such a bias, what must inevitably be the results? What would be the worth of our conclusions? What confidence could be reposed in any instruction we might undertake to furnish? And is not this the way in which the advocates and apologists of slavery dispose of the bearing which primitive Christianity has upon it? They first ascribe, un-
|Ed. Note: For background on early Christianity, see
Rev. John G. Fee, An Anti-Slavery Manual (1851), pp 79-81 and pp 114-121
Harriet B. Stowe, Key (1853), pp 228-240
Edward C. Rogers, Slavery Illegality (1855), pp 27-33|
wittingly perhaps, to the primitive [First Century] churches, the character, relations, and condition, of American Christianity, and amidst the deep darkness and strange confusion thus produced, set about interpreting the language and explaining the usages of the New Testament!
“SO THAT YE ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE.”
Among the lessons of instruction which our Savior imparted, having a general bearing on the subject of slavery, that in which he sets up the true standard of greatness, deserves particular attention. In repressing the ambition of his disciples, he held up before them the methods by which alone healthful aspirations for eminence could be gratified, and thus set the elements of true greatness in the clearest light.
In other words, through the selfishness and pride of mankind, the maxim widely prevails in the world, that it is the privilege, prerogative, and mark of greatness, TO EXACT SERVICE; that our superiority to others, while it authorizes us to relax the exertion of our own powers, gives us a fair title to the use of theirs; that “might,” while it exempts us from serving, “gives the right” to be served.
The instructions of the Savior open the way to greatness for us in the opposite direction. Superiority to others, in whatever it may consist, gives us a claim to a wider field of exertion, and demands of us a larger amount of service. We can be great only as we are useful. And “might gives right” to bless our fellow men, by improving every opportunity and employing every faculty, affectionately, earnestly, and unweariedly, in their service. Thus the greater the man, the more active, faithful, and useful the servant.
The Savior has himself taught us how this doctrine must be applied. He bids us improve every opportunity and employ cvory power, even through the most menial services, in blessing the human family. And to make this lesson shine upon our understandings and move our hearts, he embodied it in a most instructive and attractive example. On a memorable occasion [the Passover Eve, Lord's Supper, Communion], and just before his crucifixion, he discharged for his disciples the most menial of all offices—taking,
|“Ye know, that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles, exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you; but whosoever will be great among you, shall bc your minister; and whosoever of you will be chiefest, shall be servant of all.” [Mark 10:42-44.]|
in washing their feet, the place of the lowest servant. [John 13:4-5 and 12-17.] He took great pains to make them [the disciples] understand, that only by imitating this example could they honor their relations to him as their Master; that thus only would they find themselves blessed. By what possibility could slavery exist under the influence of such a lesson, set home by such an example? Was it while washing the disciples' feet, that our Savior authorized one man to make a chattel of another?
To refuse to provide for ourselves by useful labor, the apostle Paul teaches us to regard as a grave offence. After reminding the Thessalonian Christians, that in addition to all his official exertions he had with his own muscles earned his own bread, he calls their attention to an arrangement which was supported by apostolical authority,
In the most earnest and solemn manner, and as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, he commanded and exhorted those who neglected useful labor,
|“that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” [2 Thess. 3:10].|
What must be the bearing of all this upon slavery?
|“with quietness to work and eat their own bread.” [2 Thess. 3:12]. |
Could slavery be maintained where every man eat the bread which himself had earned?—where idleness was esteemed so great a crime, as to be reckoned worthy of starvation as a punishment? How could unrequited labor be exacted, or used, or needed? Must not every one in such a community contribute his share to the general welfare?—and mutual service and mutual support be the natural result?
The same apostle [Paul], in writing to another church, describes the true source whence the means of liberality ought to be derived.
|Ed. Note: After the Civil War, and abolition of slavery, one ex-slaver lamented about the change, “I never did a day's work in my life, and don't know how to begin.” Source: Richard W. Murphy, ed. The Civil War: The Nation Reunited: War's Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1987), p 33.|
Let this lesson, as from the lips of Jehovah, be proclaimed throughout the length and breadth of South Carolina. Let it be universally welcomed and reduced to practice. Let thieves give up what they had stolen to the lawful proprietors, cease stealing, and begin at once to “labor, working with their hands,” for necessary and charitable purposes.
Could slavery, in such a case, continue to exist? Surely not! Instead of exacting unpaid serices from others, every man would be busy, exerting himself not only to provide for his own wants, but also to accumulate funds, “that he might have to give to” the needy. Slavery must disappear, root and branch, at once and forever.
In describing the source whence his ministers should expect their
|“Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” [Ephesians 4:28].|
support, the Savior furnished a generai principle, which has an obvious and powerful bearing on the subject of slavery. He would have them remember, while exerting themselves for the benefit of their fellow men, that “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” [Luke 10:7]. He has thus united wages with work. Whoever renders the one is entitled to the other. And this manifestly according to a mutual understanding and a voluntary arrangement.
For the doctrine that I may force you to work for me for whatever consideration [pay] I may please to fix upon, fairly opens the way for the doctrine, that you, in turn, may force me to render you whatever wages you may choose to exact for any services you may see fit to render. Thus slavery, even as involuntary servitude, is cut up by the root. Even the Princeton professor seems to regard it as a violation of the principle which unites work with wages.
The apostle James [5:1-4] applies this principle to the claims of manual laborers—of those who hold the plough and thrust in the sickle. He calls the rich lordlings who exacted sweat and withheld wages, to “weeping and howling,” assuring them that the complaints of the injured laborer had entered into the ear of the Lord of Hosts, and that, as a result of their oppression, their riches were corrupted, and their garments moth-eaten; their gold and silver were cankered; that the rust of them should be a witness against them, and should eat their flesh as it were fire; that, in one word, they had heaped treasure together for the last days, when “miseries were coming upon them,” the prospect of which might well drench them in tears and fill them with terror.
If these admonitions and warnings were heeded there, would not “the South” break forth into “weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth?” What else are its rich men about, but withholding by a system of fraud, his wages from the laborer, who is wearing himself out under the impulse of fear [extortion], in cultivating their fields and producing their luxuries?
Encouragement and support do they derive from James, in maintaining the “peculiar institution” whence they derived their wealth, which they call patriarchal, and boast of as the “corner-stone” of the republic?
In the New Testament, we have, moreover, the general injunction, “Honor all men.” [1 Peter 2:17.] Under this broad precept, every form of humanity may justly claim protection and respect. The invasion of any human right must do dishonor to humanity, and be a transgression of this command. How then, in the light of such obligations, must
slavery be regarded? Are those men honored, who are rudely excluded from a place in the human family, and shut up to the deep degradation and nameless horrors of chattelship? Can they be held as slaves, and at the same time be honored as men?
How far, in obeying this command, we are to go, we may infer from the admonitions and instructions which James applies to the arrangements and usages of religious assemblies. Into these he can not allow “respect of persons” to enter.
On this general principle, then, religious assemblies ought to be regulated—that every man is to be estimated, not according to his circumstances—not according to any thing incidental to his condition; but according to his moral worth—according to the essential features and vital elements of his character.
Gold rings and gay clothing, as they qualify no man for, can entitle no man to a “good place” in the church. Nor can the “vile raiment of the poor man,” fairly exclude him from any sphere, however exalted, which his heart and head may fit him to fill. To deny this, in theory or practice, is to degrade a man below a thing; for what are gold rings, or gay clothing, or vile raiment, but things, “which perish with the using?” [Colossians 2:22.] And this must be “to commit sin, and be convinced of the law as transgressors.” [James 2:9.]
In slavery, we have “respect of persons,” strongly marked, and reduced to system. Here men are despised not merely for “the vile raiment,” which may cover their scarred bodies. This is bad enough. But the deepest contempt for humanity here grows out of birth or complexion. Vile raiment may be, often is, the result of indolence, or improvidence, or extravagance. It may be, often is, an index of character.
But how can I be responsible for the incidents of my birth?—how for my complexion? To despise or honor me for these, is to be guilty of "respect of persons" in its grossest form, and with its worst effects. It is to reward or punish me for what I had nothing
|“My brethren,” he exclaims, “have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment [clothing]; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool; are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? If ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin and are convinced of the law as transgressors.” [James 2:1-10.]|
to do with; for which, therefore, I can not, without the greatest injustice, be held responsible. It is to poison the very fountains of justice, by confounding all moral distinctions.
It [committing unbiblical “respect of persons”] is with a worse temper [moral state of mind], and in the way of inflicting infinitely greater injuries, to copy the kingly folly of [Ancient Persian King] Xerxes, in chaining and scourging the Hellespont [Darndaelles Strait in Turkey].
What, then, so far as the authority of the New Testament is concerned, becomes of slavery, which can not be maintained under any form nor for a single moment, without “respect of persons” the most aggravated and unendurable? And what would become of that most pitiful, silly, and wicked arrangement in so many of our [allegedly Christian] churches, in which worshipers of a dark complexion are to be shut up to [segregated into] the negro pew [section]?*
Nor are we permitted to confine this principlo to religious assemblies. It [the cited Bible non-discrimination principle] is to pervade social life every where. Even where plenty, intelligence, and refinement, diffuse their brightest rays, the poor are to be welcomed with especial favor.
In the high places of social life then—in the parlor, the drawing-room, the saloon—special reference should be had, in every arrangement, to the comfort and improvement of those who are least able to provide for the cheapest rites of hospitality. For these, ample accommodations must be made, whatever may become of our kinsmen and rich neighbors.
And for this good reason, that while such occasions signify little to the latter, to the former they are pregnant with good—raising their drooping spirits, cheering their desponding hearts, inspiring them with life, and hope, and joy. The rich and the poor
|“Then said he [Christ] to him that bade [invited] him [to dinner], when thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors, lest they also bid [invite] thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor and the maimed, the lame and the blind, and thou shalt be blesseed; for they can not recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” [Luke 14:12-14.]|
* In Carlyle's Review of the Memoirs of Mirabeau, we have the following anecdote, illustrative of the character of a “grandmother” of the Count. “Fancy the dame Mirabeau sailing stately towards the church font; another dame striking in to take precedence of [over] her; the dame Mirabeau despatching this latter with a box on the ear, and these words, “Here, as in the army, THE BAGGAGE goes last.'” Let those who justify the negro-pew-arrangement [segregation in church], throw a stone at this proud woman—if they dare.
|Ed. Note: Bibliographic citation: Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Memoirs of Mirabeau (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1837 reprinted 1983)
Mirabeau, Honoré-Gabriel de Riquetti, comte de, lived 9 March 1749 - 2 April 1791, and was active in events leading to the French Revolution of 1789.
thus meeting joyfully together, can not but mutually contribute to each other's benefit; the rich will be led to moderation, sobriety, and circumspection, and the poor to industry, providence, and contentment. The recompense must be rich and sure.
A most beautiful and instructive commentary on the text in which these things are taught, the Savior furnished in his own conduct. He freely mingled with those who were reduced to the very bottom of society. At the tables of the outcasts of society, he did not hesitate to be a cheerful guest, surrounded by publicans and sinners. And when flouted and reproached by smooth and lofty ecclesiastics, as an ultraist and leveler, he explained and justified himself by observing, that he had only done what his office demanded. It was his to seek the lost, to heal the sick, to pity the wretched [Luke 4:18];—in a word; to bestow just such benefits as the various necessities of mankind made appropriate and welcome. In his great heart, there was room enough for those who had been excluded from the sympathy of little souls. In its spirit and design, the gospel overlooked none—least of all, the outcasts of a selfish world.
Can slavery, however modified, be consistent with such a gospel?—a gospel which requires us, even amidst the highest forms of social life, to exert ourselves to raise the depressed by giving our warmest sympathies to those who have the smallest share in the favor of the world?
Those who are in “bonds” are set before us as deserving an especial remembrance. [Hebrews 13:3.] Their claims upon us are described as a modification of the Golden Rule—as one of the many forms to which its obligations are reducible. To them we are to extend the same affectionate regard as we would covet for ourselves, if the chains upon their limbs were fastened upon ours.
To the benefits of this precept, the enslaved have a natural claim of the greatest strength. The wrongs they suffer, spring from a persecution which can hardly be surpassed in malignancy. Their birth and complexion are the occasion of the insults and injuries which they can neither endure nor escape. It is for the work of God [in making them of this complexion], and not their own deserts, that they are loaded with chains. This is persecution.
Can I regard the slave as another self—can I put myself in his place—and be indifferent to his wrongs? Especially, can I, thus affected, take sides with the oppresser? Could I, in such a state of mind as the gospel requires me to cherish, reduce him to slavery or
keep him in bonds? Is not the precept under hand naturally subversive of every system and every form of slavery?
The general descriptions of the church which are found here and there in the New Testament, are highly instructive in their bearing on the subject of slavery. In one connection, the following words meet the eye:
Here we have—
|“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”*|
1. A clear and strong description of the doctrine of human equality, “Ye are all ONE;”—so much alike, so truly placed on common ground, all wielding each his own powers with such freedom, that one is the same as another.
2. This doctrine, self-evident in the light of reason, is affirmed on divine authority. “IN CHRIST JESUS, ye are all one.” The natural equality of the human family is a part of the gospel. For—
3. All the human family are included in this description. Whether men or women, whether bond or free, whether Jews or Gentiles, all are alike entitled to the benefit of this doctrine. Wherever Christianity prevails, the artificial distinctions which grow out of birth, condition, sex, are done away.
Natural distinctions are not destroyed. They are recognized, hallowed, confirmed. The gospel does not abolish the sexes, forbid a division of labor, or extinguish patriotism.
It takes woman from beneath the feet, and places her by the side of man; delivers the manual laborer from “the yoke,” and gives him wages for his work; and brings the Jew and the Gentile to embrace each other with fraternal love and confidence.
Thus it raises all to a common level, gives to each the free use of his own powers and resources, binds all together in one dear and loving brotherhood. Such, according to the description of the apostle, was the influence, and such the effect of primitive Christianity.
“Behold the picture.” Is it like American slavery, which, in all its tendencies and effects, is destructive of all oneness among brethren?
Where, then, may we feverently recognize the presence, and bow before the manifested power, of this spirit?
There, where the laborer may not choose how
|“Where the spirit of the Lord is,” exclaims the same apostle, with his eye upon the condition and relations of thechurch, “where the spirit of the Lord is, THERE IS LIBERTY.” [2 Corinthians 3:17.]|
* Gal. iii. 28.
he shall be employed!—in what way his wants shall be supplied!—with
whom he shall associate!—who shall have the fruit of his exertions!
There, where he is not free to enjoy his wife and children!
There, where his body and his soul, his very “destiny,” * are placed altogether beyond his control!
There, where every power is crippled, every energy blasted, every hope crushed!
There, where in all the relations and concerns of life, he is legally treated as if he had nothing to do with the laws of reason, the light of immortality, or the exercise of will!
Is the spirit of the Lord there, where liberty is decried and denounced, mocked at and spit upon, betrayed and crucified! In the midst of a church which justified slavery, which derived its support from slavery, which carried on its enterprises by means of slavery, would the apostle have found the fruits of the Spirit of the Lord! [Galatgians 5:22-23.] Let that Spirit exert his influences, and assert his authority, and wield his power, and slavery must vanish at once and forever.
In more than one connection, the apostle James describes Christianity as “the law of liberty” [James 1:25, 2:12.] It is in other words the law under which liberty can not but live and flourish—the law in which liberty is clearly defined, strongly asserted, and well protected.
As the law of liberty, how can it be consistent with the law of slavery? The presence and the power of this law are felt wherever the light of reason shines. They are felt in the uneasiness and conscious degradation of the slave, and in the shame and remorse which the master betrays in his reluctant and desperate efforts to defend himself. This law it is which bas armed human nature against the oppressor. Wherever it is obeyed, “every yoke is broken.”
In these references to the New Testament we have a general description of the primitive church, and the principles on which it was founded and fashioned. These principles bear the same relation to Christian history as to Christian character, since the former is occupied with the development of the latter.
What then is Christian character but Christian principle realized, acted out, bodied forth,
* “The Legislature [of South Carolina] from time to time, has passed many restricted and penal acts, with a view to bring under direct control and subjection the DESTINY of the black population.” See the Remonstrance of James S. Pope and 352 others, against home missionary efforts for the benefit of the enslaved—a most instructive paper.
|Ed. Note: The South, pretended "Christians" no less! had made reading and writing a criminal offense! See
Charles Sumner, Barbarism of Slavery (1860), p 134
Rev. Stephen Foster, Brotherhood (1843), p 35
Rev. Silas McKeen, Scriptural Argument (1848), p 8
Rep. Horace Mann, Slavery and the Slave-Trade . . . . (Washington, D.C.: 1849), p 24
Rev. Wm. Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery(1852), pp 189-190 and 210-213.
Rev. Parker Pillsbury, Acts (1883), p 436
Harriet B. Stowe, Key (1853), pp 244-250.
The South's goal in reading and writing bans, was to prevent slaves learning the Gospel message of liberty.
As the South made it illegal for slaves to read, the American Bible Society refused to provide them Bibles—Rev. Wm. Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery (1852), pp 210-213. Others refused as well, pp 189-190.
and animated? Christian principle is the soul, of which Christian character is the expression-—the manifestation. It comprehends in itself, as a living seed, such Christian eharacter, under every form, modification, and complexion. The former is, therefore, the test and interpreter of the latter.
In the light of Christian principle, and in that light only, we can judge of and explain Christian character. Christian history is occupied with the forms, modifications, and various aspects of Christian character. The facts which are there recorded serve to show, how Christian principle has fared in this world—how it has appeared, what it has done, how it has been treated.
In these facts we have the various institutions, usages, designs, doings, and sufferings of the church of Christ. And all these have of necessity, the closest relation to Christian principle. They are the production of its power. Through them, it is revealed and manifested. In its light, they are to be studied, explained, and understood. Without it they must be as unintelligible and insignificant as the letters of a book, scattered on the wind.
In the principles of Christianity, then, we have a comprehensive and faithful account of its objects, institutions, and usages—of how it must behave, and act, and suffer, in a world of sin and misery.
For between the principles which God reveals, on the one hand, and the precepts he enjoins, the institutions he establishes, and the usages he approves, on the other, there must be consistency and harmony. Otherwise we impute to God what we must abhor in man—practice at war with principle.
Does the Savior, then, lay down the principle that our standing in the church must depend upon the habits, formed within us, of readily and heartily subserving the welfare of others; and permit us in practice to invade the rights and trample on the happiness of our fellows, by reducing them to slavery.
Does he, in principle and by example, require us to go all lengths in rendering mutual service, comprehending offices the most mental, as well as the most honorable; and permit us in practice to EXACT service of our brethren, as if they were nothing botter than “articles of merchandize?”
Does he require us in principle “to work with quietness and eat our own bread [2 Thess. 3:12],” and permit us in practice to wrest from our brethren the fruits of their unrequited toil?
Does he in principle require us, abstaining from every form of theft, to employ our powers in useful labor, not only to provide for ourselves but also to relieve the indigence of others; and permit us, in practice, abstain-
ing from every form of labor, to enrich and aggrandize ourselves with the
fruits of man-stealing?
Does he require us in principle to regard “the laborer as worthy of his hire” [Luke 10:7] ; and permit us in practice to defraud him of his wages?
Does he require us in principle “to honor ALL men [1 Peter 2:17];” and permit us in practice to treat multitudes like cattle?
Does he in principle prohibit "respect of persons [Acts 1:34; James 2:9; 1 Peter 1:17];" and permit us in practice to place the feet of the rich upon the necks of the poor?
Does he in principle require us to sympathize with the bondman as another self [Hebrews 13:3]; and permit us in practice to leave him unpitied and unhelped in the hands of the oppressor?
In principle, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [2 Cor. 3:17];” in practice, is slavery the fruit of the Spirit?
In principle, Christianity is the law of liberty [James 2:12]; in practice, is it the law of slavery?
Bring practice in these various respects into harmony with principle, and what becomes of slavery? And if, where the divine governrnent is concerned, practice is the expression of principle, and principle the standard and interpreter of practice, such harmony cannot but be maintained and must be asserted.
In studying, therefore, fragments of history and sketches of biography—in disposing of references to institutions, usages, and facts in the New Testament, this necessary harmony between principle and practice in the government, should be continually present to the thoughts of the interpreter.
Principles assert what practice must be. Whatever principle condemns, God condemns. It belongs to those weeds of the dunghill which, planted by “an enemy,” his hand will assuredly “root up.” [Matthew 13:25, 29, 39.]
It is most certain, then, that if slavery prevailed in the first ages of Christianity, it could nowhere have prevailed under its influence and with its sanction.
The condition in which, in its efforts to bless mankind, the primitive [First Century] church was placed, must have greatly assisted the early Christians in understanding and applying the principles of the gospel.—Their Master was born in great obscurity, lived in the deepest poverity, and died the most ignominious death. The place of his residence, his familiarity with the outcasts of society, his welcoming assistance and support from female hands, his casting his beloved mother, when he hung upon the cross, upon the charity of a disciple—such things evince the depth of his poverty, and show to what derision and contempt he must have been exposed.
Could such an one, “despised and rejected of men—a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief [Isaiah 53:3],”
play the oppressor, or smile on those who made merchandize of the poor!
And what was the history of the apostles, but an illustration of the doctrine, that “it is enough for the disciple, that he be as his Master?” [Matthew 10:25.]
Were they lordly ecclesiastics, abounding with wealth, shining with splendor, bloated with luxury! Were they ambitious of distinction, fleecing, and trampling, and devouring “the flocks,” that they tbemselves might “have the pre-eminence!” Were they slaveholding bishops! Or did they derive their support from the wages of iniquity and the price of blood!
Can such inferences be drawn from the account of their condition, which the most gifted and enterprising of their number has put upon record?
Are these the men who practiced or countenanced slavery? With such a temper [mind-set], they WOULD NOT; in such circumstances, they COULD NOT.
Exposed to “tribulation, distress, and persecution ;” subject to famine and nakedness, to peril and the sword; “killed all the day long; accounted as sheep for the slaughter,”† they would have made but a sorry figure at the great-house or slave-market!
Nor was the condition of the brethren, generally, better than that of the apostles. The position of the apostles doubtless entitled them to the strongest opposition, the heaviest reproaches, the fiercest persecution. But derision and contempt must have been the lot of Christians generally.
Surely we cannot think so ill of primitive [First Century] Christianity as to suppose that believers, generally, refused to share in the trials and sufferings of their leaders; as to suppose that while the leaders submitted to manual labor, to buffeting, to be reckoned the filth of the world, to be accounted as sheep for the slaughter, his brethren lived in affluence, ease, and honor! despising manual labor! and living upon the sweat of unrequited toil!
But on this point we are not left to mere inference and conjecture. The apostle Paul in the plainest language explains the ordination of Heaven.
|“Even unto this present hour, we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffetted, and have no certain dwelling place, and labor working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat; we are made as the filth of the world, and are THE OFFSCOURING OF ALL THINGS unto this day.”*|
|“But God hath CHOSEN the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;|
* 1 Cor. iv. 11-13.
† Rom. viii. 35, 36.
Here we may well notice,
1. That it was not by accident, that the primitive [First Century] churches were made up of such elements, but the result of the DIVINE CHOICE—an arrangement of His wise and gracious Providence. The inference is natural, that this ordination was co-extensive with the triumphs of Christianity. It was nothing new or strange, that Jehovah had concealed his glory “from the wise and prudent, and had revealed it unto babes,” [Matthew 11:25] or that “the common people heard him gladly,” [Mark 12:37] while “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, had been called.” [1 Cor. 1:26].
2. The description of character which the apostle records, could be adapted only to what are reckoned the very dregs of humanity. The foolish and the weak, the base and the contemptible, in the estimation of worldly pride and wisdom—these were they whose broken hearts were rcached, and moulded, and refreshed by the gospel; these were they whom the apostle took to his bosom as his own brethren.
That slaves abounded at Corinth, may easily be admitted. They They have a place in the enumeration of elements of which, according to the apostle, the church there was composed. The most remarkable class found there, consisted of “THINGS WHICH ARE NOT” [1 Cor. 1:28]—mere nobodies, not admitted to the privileges of men, but degraded to a level with “goods and chattels;” of whom no account was made in such arrangements of society as subserved the improvement, and dignity, and happiness of MANKIND. How accurately this description applies to thosc who are crushed undcr the chattel principle!
The reference which the apostle makes to the “deep poverty of the churches of Macedonia,”
|and God hath CHOSEN the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God CHOSEN, yea, and THINGS WHICH ARE NOT, to bring to nought things that are.”*|