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Southern States nobly follow in this illustrious example, the way would be open for church and individual action, as indicated by the prophet in the seventh verse. So that the most natural construction of the passage gives no countenance to the new measures, into the service of which it is sought to be pressed; but the contrary, as the reader will have just seen. And it may be confidently affirmed, that it is only by such perversions and misapplications of the sacred text, together with a total misconception of the relation, as connected with the moral and providential government of God, that they can derive any support from the Holy Scriptures.
ITS COMPATIBILITY WITH THE RECTITUDE OF THE DIVINE CHARACTER
But we have not yet done with it. Having shown, as we think, on the authority of the Holy Scriptures, that the relation is, in the sense, and to the extent, stated in the preceding pages, tolerated in the Divine forbearance, as a principle of his moral and providential government, we will now proceed to show its compatibility with the rectitude of the character and administration of the moral Governor of the universe. As already seen, this is by many regarded as a hopeless task. We frankly admit that it has its difficulties, though we think not insuperable. A careful perusal of the sacred page will illumine our pathway, and conduct us to satisfactory conclusions. For if the principles, reasonings, and deductions, contained in the former pages, are drawn from the Bible, as we
think they are, and it is consistent with itself, it must reflect light on this complicated question.
It will be remembered, that on a former occasion we laid down the principle, that the remedial dispensations are addressed not only to men as men, but to men in their social and civil relations. We then intimated the soundness of this view, as being involved in the apostle's argument, that the merciful provisions of the gospel are equal, or more than equal to the ravages of sin :—“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” And also from the fact that they are addressed to men in their individual, social, and civil capacities. We need not here pause to prove a position so obviously true. The fact is too notorious to require it, further than to say, first, that the gospel is to be preached to every creature,—to all nations, enforcing their duty not only individually, to God and themselves, but socially, in the relation they sustain to each other, and civilly, as subjects and citizens of the State. And all this as unto God, whose administration sweeps over and takes up all these interests. And second, that the Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian dispensations, at the time of their announcement, all found slavery as an element of society. This, in the face of the Scriptural authority already introduced, together with the unequivocal voice of history as to the fact of its existence, and the extent of its prevalence, will not, cannot be denied.
That the influence of sin has poisoned and deranged all the departments of our present existence, is too fearfully true to admit of serious or sober doubt. The history of the world, in a voice like the “sound of many waters,” proclaims the individual, social, and civil wickedness of the race, as manifested in the aban
doned iniquity of private character, social wrongs, and public oppression.
Now the reign of favour, carried out under the Divine government as now constituted, takes hold of, and adapts itself to, this variety, in the exigencies of our present condition, giving those instructions which are suited to that variety—the practical tendency of which, in view of all the circumstances of the present state, are beyond all controversy the most beneficial, and best calculated to promote the general welfare. The fact that such is their tendency with regard to the relation of slavery, is so very apparent in the Scriptures, that it is difficult to conceive how it could have been overlooked, and can only be accounted for on the principle, that we look to our rights under the law of nature ; forgetting, at the same time, that the conditions of our primitive existence have been forfeited by transgression, which defaced the beauty and order of God's moral system; and that we are now under a reign of grace, which has relaxed the uncompromising principles of the first covenant, in accommodation to the “weakness of the flesh,” and accepts, through the world's Atonement, the best an honest heart, in view of all the providential circumstances of our existence, can perform. We repeat, the want of understanding correctly the principles of God's moral and providential government, as adapted to the present disordered state of the world, is what has misled us in the views we have taken of this intricate question.
To the law and testimony, as the ultimate standard of appeal for the settlement of this question.
Its first mention is in connexion with Abraham, who was commanded to circumcise them, and thus
introduce them to the benefits of the covenant of blessing which God had made with him, and through him to all mankind. “ And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," Gen. xii, 3; and Gal. iii, 8: “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Circumcision was the sign and seal of this covenant; and they, in receiving this rite, became interested in its benefits, simply because of THEIR RELATION to his family. Now, was it of no advantage to them thus to partake of God's blessing? Whatever may be the estimate that scoffers at Divine revelation may put upon it, pious minds will be far from admitting it; so that the good practical tendency of the doctrine of the Scriptures, in this first mention of the relation, cannot be for one moment doubted by the believer in the oracles of God.
The next place where we find it introduced to notice, to which we shall call attention, is under the law of Moses, Leviticus xxv, 44: "Both thy bond-men and thy bond-maids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids."
Here it will be seen that the same principles and reasonings apply as under the former, or patriarchal dispensation, noticed in the case of the servants of Abraham. If it was any advantage to enjoy the blessings of the Jewish religion, THEY, as their servants, were in this relation, by virtue of God's commandment, entitled to those blessings.
We will next call attention to the question as found under the New Testament, or gospel dispensation. It comes up under altered circumstances, and therefore requires more particular attention in its examination. Under the dispensations just named, which, as we have seen, though intended in their ultimate development for all the “families” and nations” of the earth, were confined first to one particular family ; secondly, to one particular nation, as the depositories of the true religion. The principle and practice of slavery having obtained, it was comparatively an easy matter, under these circumstances, to restrict it (which was done) to those who, so far as the true religion was concerned, should be benefited, or derive advantages from the relation. But the state of things in the providence of God was greatly changed when the gospel dispensation was announced.
The fulness of time had come, as foretold by the prophets, when the purposes of his mercy in the mission of Christ were to be made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. Accordingly we find the shepherds, while watching their flocks by night on the plains of Bethlehem, visited by an angel, accompanied by a multitude of the heavenly hosts, who said unto them, “Fear not: behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” And in the commission of Christ to his disciples, as recorded by St. Matthew, they were commanded to go and “teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Now, as the patriarchal and Mosaical dispensations took hold of the individual, social, and civil relations of a single family or nation, and delivered their instructions, as we have seen, obviously the best calculated to promote the best interests of all concerned, in reference to the eternal state; so the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ takes hold of all nations, and carrying out the same principle, recognizes the possible Christian character (in the relation) of both master and slave, and adapts its instruc