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Now I do not see that the scope of these passages can be misunderstood. They teach patience, meekness, fidelity, and charity-duties which are obligatory on Christians towards all men, and of course towards masters. These duties are obli. gatory on us towards enemies, because an enemy, like
every other man, is a moral creature of God. They are demanded of Christians, because by acting otherwise they would bring reproach upon the cause of Christ. And it is to be observed, that the apostles are in every case careful not to utter a syllable by which they concede the right of the master, but they always add as a reason for these precepts, the relation in which the slave stands to Christ. The fact seems to be simply this. There are certain vices to which ignorant and ill-instructed persons, when laboring for others, are specially liable; such, for instance, are disobedience, lying,' purloining, eye-service, and the like. These practices are inconsistent with the Christian character, and the apostles forbid them, referring always to the principles of love and piety which the gospel inculcates. These instructions, then, would have been appropriate (as indeed they are everywhere appropriate at this moment, and just as appropriate to free laborers as slaves) had there been no such institution as slavery in existence. They were therefore appropriate to slaves, who stood in the relation of persons doing service. These precepts seem to me to emanate directly from the principles of Christianity, and hence, in 1 Tim. vi. 3–5, the apostle sternly rebukes those that teach any other doctrine. But in this very rebuke he makes no allusion to the right of
the master over the slave; and boldly exposes the motives of those who would excite insubordination for the sake of their own personal gain. To present this subject in the clearest light, I ask, do our obligations to practise fidelity, honesty, charity, to avoid purloining, lying, eye-service, depend on the justice of the authority which the master claims over the slave? If not, the inculcation of these duties in no manner involves a concession of the claim of the master to that authority. Supposing slavery to be wrong, will this wrong justify a Christian in lying, stealing, deception, or even in rebellion against the authority by which he is unjustly held in bondage ?
If this be so, the only foundation for the argument in favor of slavery from the New Testament must be found in the precepts which it addresses to masters. These are as follows:
Ephesians vi. 8: “And ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” This immediately follows that above quoted from Ephes. vi. 5-8, and merely inculcates reciprocity of duties between master and servant.
Colossians iv. 1: “ Masters, render to your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven."
These precepts simply inculcate on masters the duty of treating the slave as he himself would wish to be treated; and of allowing to him suitable means of subsistence. And this is all.
Let us now see the use that is made of these two passages. They are supposed to sanction the
whole system of domestic slavery; and to grant a universal permission to establish and maintain it everywhere and at all times; for, as I have said, if it be a permission of the New Testament, it is of course without limitation. Let us see what this permission involves. It is the right to compel another man, a fellow-creature of God, in every re. spect made like to myself, in his social, intellectual, and moral nature, and held at the bar of God to precisely the same responsibility as myself, to labor for me without his contract and consent. This right also, as I have shown, involves the right to use all the means necessary to its establishment and perpetuity; and of course the right to crush his intellectual and social nature, and to stupify his conscience, in so far as may be necessary to enable me to enjoy this right with the least possible peril. Nay, more, I do not see that it does not sanction the whole system of the slave-trade. If I have a right to a thing after I have gotten it, I have a natural right to the means necessary for getting it. If this be so, I should be as much justified in sending a vessel to Africa, murdering a part of the inhabitants of a village, and making slaves of the rest, as I should be in hunting a herd of wild animals, and either slaying them or subjecting them to the yoke. If I err in making these inferences, I err innocently; for they seem to me to be of necessity involved in the principles which would be established by the argument in question.
Now I ask, was there ever such a moral superstructure raised from such a foundation ? The doctrine of purgatory, from a verse in Maccabees,
on our race.
the doctrine of the papacy, from the saying of Christ to Peter, the establishment of the inquisition, from the obligation to extend the knowledge of religious truth, all of these seem to me as nothing to it. I say it with entire kindness, for on such a subject I am incapable of any other feeling, if the religion of Christ allows us to take such a license from such precepts as these, the New Testament would be the greatest curse that ever was inflicted
I need not say, my dear brother, that I know you would abhor such an inference as much as any man on earth. I know well your kindness of heart, and what is still better, your entire will, fully to subject yourself to the whole doctrine of Christ. But, I ask, do not the principles which our Southern brethren adopt, lead to precisely these results ? Let us test the case by an example. Suppose that a foreign foe should land an over. whelming force on your shores, for the sake of reducing the State of South Carolina to bondage ; would not the language of every man, because he is a man, be,“ Give me liberty or give me death !" And do you suppose that the apostolic precept re. specting masters and slaves was intended to stifle this first and strongest aspiration of a human soul? Suppose that such an enemy should establish this authority, and reduce you to servitude, it would be your duty as men, and especially as Christians, to be kind, charitable, and forbearing; to avoid lying, purloining, and deceit. But would it not be a most cruel mockery to plead the apostolic precepts on this subject in justification of the ty. ranny and oppression under which you were crush
ed ? Now, strong as this case may seem, I think it is put fairly. For we are always to remember that a New Testament rule is a universal rule. It was not made for the Northern or the Southern States, for white men or for black men, but for all
And hence the precept which would justify slavery in one case, would justify it equally in all similar cases.
But it may be said, that although these precepts, taken by themselves, will not authorize slavery, yet that it is really authorized by the inference which may be drawn from a consideration of the circumstances under which the precepts were delivered. At the time of our Saviour and his apostles, slavery was universal, and was of a very oppressive char acter. These precepts were given for the sake of correcting its abuses. But inasmuch as the abuses were thus corrected, and nothing was said respecting the institution itself, it is inferred that the gospel considers slavery in itself as innocent, and only reproves
those incidental wrongs which are by no means essential to it. If this be so, it will, I think, be true, that we are to learn our duty, the uni. versal duty of man respecting slavery, from a consideration of Roman slavery in connection with the precepts of the New Testament. Roman slavery is the basis on which we are to rest. This, in its principles, was right, and agreeable to the will of God, and became at variance with the gospel only by abuse. The New Testament under. took to correct these abuses, and what is not thus corrected is therefore according to the will of God. Let us then inquire what were some of the fea