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Letter from the Rev. RICHARD FULLER to the Editor
of the Christian Reflector. MR. EDITOR
I comply at once, and in as few words as possible, with your request, and state why I do deny that slavery is a moral evil; and let me request you, once for all, to bear in mind that this is the thing affirmed and denied. You say slavery is itself a sin; it is therefore always a sin ; a sin amid any circumstances; a crime which must in. volve the criminal in perdition unless he repents ; and should be abandoned at once, and without reference to consequences. This is the abolition doctrine; and at Philadelphia it was reiterated in every variety of phrase; and when even moderate men, and men seemingly very kind and calm in private, mounted the rostrum and felt the oratorical afflatus, we invariably heard, not arguments, but denunciations of this sort; we were sure to have eternal changes rung on the moral evil of slavery, the sin of slavery, the abominable guilt of slavery, -to be told that the ineffable horrors of slavery
did not admit of discussion, and to be seriously asked what article of the decalogue slavery does not violate. And because the South listened to all this, unchafed and patiently, one or two papers at the north (and I believe the Reflector among them) forgot themselves, and, when the meetings were over, indulged in pæans and flourishes which showed they did not comprehend us. Now what I do entreat is, that you will cherish no delusion on this point. Even Dr. Channing censures this conduct of the abolitionists, and says, “ They have done wrong, I believe; nor is their wrong to be winked at because done fanatically, or with good intentions; for how much mischief may be wrought with good designs! They have fallen into the common error of enthusiasts, that of exaggerating their object, of feeling as if no evil existed but that which they opposed, and as if no guilt could be compared with that of countenancing and upholding it. The tone of their newspapers, as far as I have seen them, has often been fierce, bitter, and abusive." We are willing to weigh reasons, but assertion, and abuse, and blustering, will be heard in silence, because this subject is not to be treated in that style. A correspondent in your last number holds up to me, as a model, the magnanimity of the Northern States in emancipating a few slaves who had become a burden to their owners. We understand this perfectly, and when in a similar situa. tion will abolish, too. This writer is, however, utterly blind, if he supposes that the question with us now is about the value of so much slave property only. It regards all kinds of property, all civilization, and life itself; and in such a case to
employ vituperation is at once a sin and a mistake.
а My chief hope for the Union is in the conservative power of religion, and the day is not far when that power will be required in all its stringency. Look at the distracted condition of this land; reflect on the appalling character of a civil war; and if you love the country, or the slave, do not sever the bands which unite the Baptist churches. Compared with slavery, all other topics which now shake' and inflame men's passions in these United States, are really trifling. They are only bonfires; but Ucalegon burns next, and in that quarter God forbid that Christians should throw the first torches.
If, however, slavery be a sin, surely it is the immediate duty of masters to abolish it, whatever be the result—this you urge, and this I grant; and this brings me to the single matter in hand, on which I submit to you the following observations.
1st. In affirming what you do, ought it not to give a pious mind pause, that you are brought into direct conflict with the Bible? The Old Testament did sanction slavery. God said, " Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land : and they shall be in your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession ; they shall be your bondmen for ever."
And in the Gospels and Epistles, the insti
tution is, to say the least, tolerated. I do not now inquire as to the character of this slavery, nor is it important, for you pronounce slaveholding itself a sin ; a sin, therefore, semper et ubique, always, and everywhere, and in all shapes. I, for my part, have no difficulty, and am in no sort of di. lemma here, for I find my Bible condemning the abuses of slavery, but permitting the system itself, in cases where its abrogation would be a greater calamity than its existence. But you-how do you escape the charge of impiety? 2d. In the remark just made, I supposed, of
you admit some sort of slavery to have been allowed in the Old Testament, and suffered by Jesus and his apostles. A man who denies this will deny any thing, and only proves how much stronger a passion is than the clearest truth. Both Dr. Channing and Dr. Wayland, with all respectable commentators, yield this point; but if this point be yielded, how can it be maintained that slaveholding is itself a crime? No one can regard the noble president of Brown University with more esteem and affection than I do; from his arguments, however, I am constrained to dissent. His position is this :* the moral precepts of the gospel condemn slavery; it is therefore crimi. nal. Yet he admits that neither the Saviour nor his apostles commanded masters to emancipate their slaves; nay, they “go further,” he adds, “and prescribe the duties suited to both parties in their present condition ;” among which duties, be
* I need hardly say that the argument is the same as Paley, book 3, chapter 3.
it remembered, there is not an intimation of manu. mission, but the whole code contemplates the continuance of the relation. Here, then, we have the Author of the gospel, and the inspired propagators of the gospel, and the Holy Spirit inditing the gospel, all conniving at a practice which was a viola. tion of the entire moral principle of the gospel ! And the reason assigned by Dr. Wayland for this abstinency by God from censuring a wide-spread infraction of his law, is really nothing more nor less than expediency—the apprehension of consequences. The Lord Jesus and the apostles teaching expediency! They who proclaimed and prosecuted a war of extermination against all the most cherished passions of this guilty earth, and attacked with dauntless intrepidity all the multiform idolatry around them—they quailed, they shrank from breathing even a whisper against slavery, through fear of consequences!! And, through fear of consequences, the Holy Spirit has given us a canon of Scriptures, containing minute directions as to the duties of master and slave, without a word as to emancipation !!! Suppose our missionaries should be detected thus winking at idolatry, and tampering with crime in heathen lands.
Dr. Channing also says,—Paul satisfied himself with disseminating principles which would slowly subvert slavery. Satisfied himself !” but was he so easily satisfied in reference to any act which he regarded as a dereliction from duty ? Hear how he speaks : “If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one no not to eat.": “ Be not deceived ;