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PRO E MIAL.
PHILOSOPHY knows no obligation that binds one man to another without an equivalent. If one man could be subjected to another, who is not bound to render any thing in return, it would be subversive to good morals and political justice. Such a relation cannot exist, only so far as to reach the immediate death of the subjected. But it has been the error of some good men to suppose that slavery presented such a case. It has been their misfortune also to receive the following succedaneums as axioms in the search for truth:
“All men are born equal.”
“The conscience infallibly distinguishes between right and wrong.”
“No man is under any obligation to obey any law when his conscience dictates it to be wrong.
* The conscience empowers any man to nullify any law; because the conscience is a part and parcel of the Divine mind."
Slavery is wholly founded on force.”
Slavery originates in the power of the strong over the weak.”
“ Slavery disqualifies a man to fulfil the great object of his being.'
“ The doctrines of the Bible forbid slavery.”
“ There is no word, either in the Old or the New Testament, which expresses the idea of slave or slavery.”
“Slavery places its subjects beyond moral and legal obligation: therefore, it can never be a legal or moral relation.”
“Slavery is inconsistent with the moral nature of man.”
“ To hold in slavery is inconsistent with the present state of morals and religion."
Slavery is contrary to the will of God.” “No man can hold a slave, and be a Christian.”
Averments of this order are quite numerous. Fanatics receive them; and some others do not distinguish them from truths.
At any age, and in any country, where such errors are generally adopted, and become the rules of political action, morals and religion are always in commotion, and in danger of shipwreck: for, although, where man has only approached so far towards civilization that even the enlightened can merely perceive them as rudimental, yet the great principles that influence human life, morality and religion, are, everywhere, and always have been the same.
“The Elements of Moral Science: By FRANCIS WAYLAND, D.D., President of
Brown University, and Professor of Moral Philosophy. Fortieth Thousand. Boston, 1849.” Pp. 396. This author informs us that he has been many years preparing the work, with a view to furnish his pupils with a text-book free from the errors of Paley. Like Paley, whom he evidently wishes to supersede, he has devoted a portion of his strength to the abolition of slavery. We propose to look into the book with an eye to that subject alone. President Wayland says:
P. 24. “Moral Law is a form of expression denoting an order of sequence established between the moral quality of actions and their results.”
Pp. 25, 26. “An order of sequence established, supposes, of necessity, an Establisher. Hence Moral Philosophy, as well as every other science, proceeds upon the supposition of the existence of a Universal Cause, the Creator of all things, who has made every thing as it is, and who has subjected all things to the relations which they sustain. And hence, as all relations, whether moral or physical, are the result of his enactment, an order of sequence once discovered in morals, is just as inviolable as an order of sequence in physics.
“Such being the fact, it is evident that the moral laws of God can never be varied by the institutions of man, any more than the physical laws. The results which God has connected with actions will inevitably occur, all the created power in the universe to the contrary notwithstanding.
“ Yet men have always flattered themselves with the hope that they could violate the moral law and escape the consequences which
God has established. The reason is obvious. In physics, the consequent follows the antecedent, often immediately, and most cominonly after a stated and well-known interval. In morals, the result is frequently long delayed; the time of its occurrence is always uncertain :-Hence, because the sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, therefore the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil.' But time, whether long or short, has neither power nor tendency to change the order of an established sequence. The time required for vegetation, in different orders of plants, may vary; but, yet, wheat will always produce wheat, and an acorn will always produce an oak. That such is the case in morals, a heathen poet has taught us. 'Raro, antecedentum scelestum deseruit pede poena claudo.' Hor. lib. iii. car. 2.
"A higher authority has admonished us, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap. It is also to be remembered, that, in morals as well as in physics, the harvest is always more abundant than the seed from which it springs."
To this doctrine we yield the highest approval.
The first obvious deduction from the lesson here advanced is, that the laws of God, as once revealed to man, never lose their high moral qualities nor their divine character, at any subsequent age of the world. The law, which God delivered to Moses from Mount Sinai, authorizing his chosen people to buy slaves, and hold them as an inheritance for their children after them, is, therefore, the law of God now. The action of the law may be suspended at a particular time or place, from a change of contingencies,--yet the law stands unaffected.
We hope no one doubts the accuracy of the doctrine thus fairly stated in these “ Elements.” But we shall see how fatal it is to some portions of the author's positions concerning slavery. And we propose to show how this doctrine, as connected with slavery, has been, and is elucidated in scripture. The twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy shows that the fruits of wickedness are all manner of curses, finally terminating in slavery or death.
Here, slavery, as a threatened punishment, distinctly looks back to a course of wickedness for its antecedent. The same idea is spread through the whole Scriptures: “Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.” John viii. 34. “I am carnal, sold under sin.” Rom. vii. 14. “Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves.” Isa. 1. 1. See, also, Jer. xiii. 22.
The biblical scholar will recollect a multitude of instances where this doctrine is clearly advanced, recognising sin as the antecedent of slavery.
Abraham was obedient to the voice of God. His conduct was the antecedent; and the consequent was, God heaped upon him many blessings; and among them, riches in various things,-“male and female slaves," some of whom were born in his house," and some “bought uith his money;" and God made a covenant with him, granting him, and his seed after him, the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.
But this gift, as it is the continuance of all other blessings, was accompanied with a condition, which is well explained in Genesis, xviii. 19: "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him."
Scholars will concede the fact that “his household” is a term by which his slaves are particularly included, over whom his government was extended; and, without its proper maintenance, the covenant so far on his part would be broken.
From the wording of the covenant it is evident that Abraham had slaves before the covenant was made, since it embraced regulations concerning slaves, but, in no instance, hints that the existence of slavery was adverse to the law of God, or that the holding of slaves, as slaves, was contrary to his will. The deduction is, that slavery exists in the world by Divine appointment; and that the act of owning slaves is in conformity with the moral law.
The doctrine, that sin is the antecedent of slavery, is further elucidated and made still more manifest by the recognition of the institution by the biblical writers, where they place sin and slavery in opposition to holiness and freedom :--thus, figuratively, making righteousness the antecedent of freedom. “Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Gal. v. 1. shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John iii. 32.
The abuse of slavery, like the abuse of any thing else, is doubtless a great sin. Of the blessings God bestows on man, there is perhaps no one he does not abuse; and while we examine the laws of God, as presenting to the mind the vast field of cause and effect, -of antecedent and consequent,—we may be led to a reflection
66 And ye