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ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE DIVINE RIGHT OF SLAVERY, AS
AN INSTITUTION OF GOD, OR OF SPECIAL DIVINE APPOINTMENT.
FIRST ARGUMENT, DRAWN FROM THE LAW OF NATURE.
Though we cannot now quote authorities, our reading and hearsay have led us to the opinion that there are some who believe in the Divine right of slavery; that it is of special Divine appointment, or an institution of God ;* and, as such, that it is the privilege of all who can, to own and hold slaves, without prejudice to the creditability of their Christian profession. Further, we believe it has been claimed by some of the Southern ministers, (on the grounds of expediency, we suppose,) that to own slaves is an important auxiliary, if not an essential qualification, in the ministerial character, in order to the efficient and successful prosecution of its sacred duties in the slave-holding States.f While, on
* In its moral aspect, slavery was not only countenanced, permitted, and regulated by the Bible, but it was positively instituted by God himself. He had, in so many words, enjoined it.-Rev. Mr. Crowder, of Va., General Conference, 1840.
† I have become a slave-holder-a slave-holder from principleto obviate suspicion, and gain free access to the slave, so as to do him good. It is highly advantageous to a minister that he himself should hold slaves. And I can see no impropriety, but advantage, in members, preachers, presiding elders, and even bishops, being slaveholders.—Dr. Winans, General Con. Doc., Cincinnati, 1836. James G. Birney.
Other quotations of similar sentiment might be collated, but these are sufficient.
the other hand, there are those who think that the relation of slavery, especially on the part of the master, is, under any circumstances, incompatible with a creditable profession of religion, and a visible connexion with the Christian Church; and that the Holy Scriptures, when properly understood, nowhere afford the least countenance to such a conclusion; that the thought is too shocking, too monstrous to be entertained for a moment; amounting to an impeachment of the whole character and government of God; who, rather than admit the most remote possibility of such a conclusion, contemptuously ask for a better Bible, a better Christ, a better set of prophets and apostles ; in a word, a new religion, more consonant with their views of the Divine character and government.
That principles so essentially opposite cannot be found in the Christian Scriptures, when properly understood, will be admitted by all who believe in their Divine inspiration. For if truth is one, and consistent with itself, it cannot be that a book professing to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, can occupy the extremes of this question as above stated. One or the other of these doctrines must be true, or both alike erroneous, or partly true and partly error, the truth lying between these extremes. Such is the conclusion to which our reading and reflection has conducted us; and the reasons which have shut us up to this faith will be seen by the attentive reader, in the preceding, as well as the following pages, which, we think, are drawn from, and sustained by, both Scripture and reason.
Being an undoctored doctor, we are aware of the delicacy of our position in differing from doctrines on this subject, venerable for their antiquity and the reputation of their authors, promulgators, and defenders. Nevertheless, we shall try, in the independent consciousness of truth, humbly to express our opinion.
Slavery, to be of Divine right, appointment, or an institution of God, should,
1. Be indicated by the laws of nature, and founded in such reasons of fitness and right as would manifest its practical utility, as best for all concerned, and vindicate the character of the Creator from the charge of partiality in his dealings with his rational creatures; or,
2. It should be plainly revealed in the Scriptures ; standing out with such prominence on the page of inspiration, as to mark its intrinsic excellence as an essential part and parcel of the positive duties of society, necessary to the perfection of the Divine government, and in agreement with its settled principles, as found in the oracles of God.
Now as to its being indicated by the laws of nature, &c. This, so far as our reading is concerned, has never been seriously intimated, except by some real or pretended skeptics, who have denied to the African race the claims of humanity, or a common origin with the rest of mankind, urging their mental imbecility, as compared with those of lighter shade, or whiter skin, as evidence of their being an inferior and distinct species ;-a conclusion at war with the facts in the case, and proved, beyond all controversy, to be erroneous, by living witnesses in men of colour, now on the stage, who, under all the disadvantages and discouragements peculiar to their condition, have, by dint of untiring industry, attained to a knowledge of science and letters that will compare favourably with the majority of their white brethren of better opportunities, but less application.
Another thought in this connexion, which is in refutation of the doctrine of their natural inferiority, is, that under like circumstances, they are in all respects creatures of like passions with the white race; which fact, in itself, is conclusive of a common origin.
To the Christian, if further proof be necessary, this question is settled by the voice of inspiration, which declares that God made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth. Acts xvii, 26.
In addition to the above exception, it now occurs to us that a new doctrine has been advanced in the nineteenth century, by a grave Senator of South Carolina, involving the equality and natural rights of mankind, in his speech, delivered in the Senate of the United States on the Compromise bill, providing for the organization of a Territorial Government over California and New Mexico. In that speech, where he comments on the following ever-memorable clause, found in the Declaration of American Independence,“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,”-he attempts to show that the above quotation is not true; that the framers of that instrument, in the use of that language, gave utterance to error on the doctrine of man's natural rights. And the pith of the argument by which he would prove them in error, and overturn the doctrines of that inimitable and venerable record, is, that all men are not created,—that they are born; some males, and some females, and in time grow up to be men and women. A quibble unworthy the man, the place, the occasion, the country, and the age. For is it not clear, that, as their descendants, we are partakers of a common nature; and, by the laws of that nature, entitled to the same rights ? and moreover, that every child born into the world is virtually an act of creation; it requiring the same all-powerful energy to carry out the laws of nature, which first called them into existence ?
But we cannot persuade ourselves that it was intended for anything more than a quibble. If we could, it would detract more from the senator's long-earned reputation, as a man of thought and strong mental powers, than all the other acts of his eventful life put together. True, all the circumstances considered would seem to call upon us to regard it as a frank avowal of his sentiments. But, we repeat, we cannot admit his seriousness on any other consideration but the adage, “once a man, twice a child;" the honourable senator may be an old baby-in his dotage.
Air-built or visionary as the quibble (for it deserves no higher name) of the grave senator is, it may nevertheless require a passing notice, lest the confusion of thought to which it tends may puzzle and mislead the credulous and unwary. For it is a well-known truth, that the opinions or sentiments of men of eminence and reputation for wisdom, have great influence over their admirers and common readers. Now it must be borne in mind, that the clause to which the senator's strictures and exceptions apply, is found in the Declaration of American Independence; which Declaration is intended to set forth, in an appeal to the world and the God who made it, the wrongs suffered by the American people from the Crown of Great Britain; and these wrongs as reasons why they should, and ought to, be free from the parent government; that, in the infliction of these wrongs, the government had failed of the ob