Slavery Ordained of God
Rev. Fred. A. Ross, D.D.
Part 2 out of 2
find "_great laws of their nature,--instinctive feelings_"--just such as
you find against slavery, and not more perverted in them than in you,
condemning all this Bible. And they hold now, with your sanction, that a
book affirming such facts "_cannot be from God_."
Sir, some men are made infidels by hearing the Ten Commandments, and they
find "_great laws of their nature_," as strong in them as yours in you
against slavery, warring against every one of these commandments. And
they declare now, with your authority, that a book imposing such
restraints upon human nature, "_cannot be from God_" Sir, what is it
makes infidels? You have been wont to answer, "They _will not_ have God
_to rule over them_. They _will not_ have the BIBLE _to control the great
laws of their nature."_ Sir, that is the true answer. And you know that
_the great instinct of liberty_ is only one of _three great laws_,
needing special teaching and government:--that is to say, _the instinct
to rule; the instinct to submit to be ruled; and the instinct for
liberty._ You know, too, that the instinct _to submit_ is the strongest,
the instinct _to rule_ is next, and that the _aspiration for liberty_ is
the weakest. Hence you know the overwhelming majority of men have ever
been willing to be slaves; masters have been next in number; while the
few have struggled for freedom.
The Bible, then, in proclaiming God's will _as to these three great
impulses_, will be rejected by men, exactly as they have yielded forbidden
control to the one or the other of them. The Bible will make infidels of
_masters_, when God calls to them to rule right, or to give up rule, if
they have allowed _the instinct of power_ to make them hate God's
authority. Pharaoh spoke for all infidel rulers when he said, "_Who is the
Lord that I should obey his voice?_"
The Bible will make infidels of _slaves_, when God calls to them to aspire
to be free, if they have permitted _the instinct of submission to_ make
them hate his commands. The Israelites in the wilderness revealed ten
times, in their murmuring, _the slave-instinct_ in all ages:--"_Would to
God we had died in the wilderness!_"
You know all this, and you condemn these infidels. Good.
But, sir, you know equally well that the Bible will make infidels of men
_affirming the instinct of liberty,_ when God calls them to learn of him
how _much liberty_ he gives, and _how_ he gives it, and _when_ he gives
it, if they have so yielded to this law of their nature as to make them
despise the word of the Lord. Sir, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram spoke out
just what the liberty-and-equality men have said in all time:--"_Ye, Moses
and Aaron, take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy,
every one of them: wherefore, then, lift ye up yourselves above the
congregation?"_ Verily, sir, these men were intensely excited by "_the
great law of our nature,--the great instinct of freedom."_ Yea, they told
God to his face they had looked within, and found the _higher law of
liberty and equality--the eternal right--in their intuitional
consciousness_; and that they would not submit to his will in the
elevation of Moses and Aaron _above them_.
Verily, sir, you, in the spirit of Korah, now proclaim and say, "Ye
masters, and ye white men who are not masters, North and South, ye take
too much upon you, seeing the negro is created your equal, and, by
unalienable right, is as free as you, and entitled to all your political
and social life. Ye take, then, too much upon you in excluding him from
your positions of wealth and honor, from your halls of legislation, and
from your palace of the nation, and from your splendid couch, and from
your fair women with long hair on that couch and in that gilded chariot:
wherefore, then, lift ye up yourselves above the negro?"
Verily, sir, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram said all we have ever heard from
abolition-platforms or now listen to from you. But the Lord made the
earth swallow up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram!
I agree with you then, sir, fully, that some men have been, are, and will
be, made infidels by hearing that God, in the Bible, has ordained slavery.
But I hold this to be no argument against the fact that the Bible does so
teach, because men are made infidels by any other doctrine or precept they
hate to believe.
Sir, no man has said all this better than you. And I cannot express my
grief that you--in the principle now avowed, _that every man must
interpret the Bible as he chooses to reason and feel_--sanction all the
infidelity in the world, obliterate your "_Notes_" on the Bible, and deny
the preaching of your whole life, so far as God may, in his wrath, permit
you to expunge or recall the words of the wisdom of your better day.
_Testimonies of General Assemblies_.
I agree with you that the Presbyterian Church, both before and since its
division, has testified, after a fashion, against slavery. But some of its
action has been very curious testimony. I know not how the anti-slavery
resolutions of 1818 were gotten up; nor how in some Assemblies since. I
can guess, however, from what I do know, as to how such resolutions passed
in Buffalo in 1853, and in New York in 1856. I know that in Buffalo they
were at first voted down by a large majority. Then they were reconsidered
in mere courtesy to men who said they wanted to speak. So the resolutions
were passed after some days, in which the _screws_ were applied and
turned, in part, _by female hands_, to save the chairman of the committee
from _the effects_ of the resolutions being finally voted down!
I know that, in New York, the decision of the Assembly to spread the
minority report on the minutes was considered, in the body and out of it,
as a Southern victory; for it revealed, however glossed over, that many in
the house, who could not vote directly for the minority report, did in
fact prefer it to the other.
I was not in Detroit in 1850; but I think it was established in New York
last May that that Detroit testimony was so admirably worded that both
Southern and Northern men might vote for it with clear consciences!
I need not pursue the investigation. I admit that, after this sort, you
have the stultified abstractions of the New School Presbyterian
Church,--while I have its common sense; you have its Delphic words,--I
have its actions; you have the traditions of the elders making void the
word of God,--I have the providence of God restraining the church from
destroying itself and our social organization under folly, fanaticism, and
You, sir, seem to acknowledge this; for, while you appear pleased with the
testimony of the New School Presbyterian Church, such as it is, you lament
that the Old School have not been true to the resolutions of 1818,--that,
in that branch of the church, it is questionable whether those resolutions
could now be adopted. You lament the silence of the Episcopal, the
Southern Methodist, and the Baptist denominations; you might add the
Cumberland Presbyterian Church. And you know that in New England, in New
York, and in the Northwest, many testify against _us_ as a pro-slavery
body. You lament that so many members of the church, ministers of the
gospel, and editors of religious papers, defend the system; you lament
that so large a part of the religious literature of the land, though
having its seat North and sustained chiefly by Northern funds, shows a
perpetual deference to the slave-holder; you lament that, after fifty
years, nothing has been done to arrest slavery; you lament and ask, "Why
should this be so?" In saying this, you acknowledge that, while you have
been laboring to get and have reached the abstract testimony of the
church, all diluted as it is, the common-sense fact has been and is more
and more brought out, in the providence of God, that _the slave-power has
been and is gaining ground in the United States_. In one word, you have
contrived to get, in confused utterance, the voice of the Sanhedrim; while
Christ himself has been preaching in the streets of our Jerusalem the true
meaning of slavery as one form of his government over fallen men.
These, then, are some of the things I promised to show as the results of
your agitation. This is the "_tone_" of the past and present speech of
Providence on the subject of slavery. You seem disturbed. I feel sure
things are going on well as to that subject. Speak on, then, "in
unambiguous tones." But, sir, when you desire to go from words to
actions,--when you intimate that the constitution of the Presbyterian
Church may be altered to permit such action, or that, without its
alteration, the church can detach itself from slavery by its existing laws
or the modification of them,--then I understand you to mean that you
desire to deal, in fact, with slave-holders as _offenders_. Then, sir,
_you mean to exscind the South_; for it is absurd to imagine that you
suppose the South will submit to such action. You mean, then, to _exscind
the South, or to exscind yourself and others_, or to _compel the South to
withdraw_. Your tract, just published, is, I suppose, intended by you to
prepare the next General Assembly for such movement? What then? Will you
make your "American Presbyterian," and your Presbyterian House, effect
that great change in the religious literature of the land whereby the
subject of slave-holding shall be approached _precisely_ as you deal with
"theft, highway-robbery, or piracy?" Will you, then, by act of Assembly,
Synod, Presbytery, Session, deny your pulpits, and communion-bread and
wine, to slave-holding ministers, elders, and members? Will you, then,
tell New England, and especially little Rhoda, We have purified our skirts
from the blood: forgive us, and take us again to your love? What then?
Will you then ostracize the South and compel the abolition of slavery?
Sir, do you bid us fear these coming events, thus casting their shadow
before from the leaves of your book?
Sir, you may destroy the integrity of the New School Presbyterian Church.
So much evil you may do; but you will hereby only add immensely to the
great power and good of the Old School; and you will make disclosures of
Providence, unfolding a consummation of things very different from the end
you wish to accomplish for your country and the world.
I write as one of the animalcules contributing to the coral reef of
F. A. Ross.
Government Over Man a Divine Institute.
This letter is the examination and refutation of the infidel theory of
human government foisted into the Declaration of Independence.
I had written this criticism in different form for publication, before Mr.
Barnes's had appeared. I wrote it to vindicate my affirmation in the
General Assembly which met in New York, May last, on this part of the
Declaration. My views were maturely formed, after years of reflection, and
weeks--nay months--of carefully-penned writing.
And thus these truths, from the Bible, Providence, and common sense, were
like rich freight, in goodly ship, waiting for the wind to sail; when lo,
Mr. Barnes's abolition-breath filled the canvas, and carried it out of
port into the wide, the free, the open sea of American public thought.
There it sails. If pirate or other hostile craft comes alongside, the good
ship has guns.
I ask that this paper be carefully read more than once, twice, or three
times. Mr. Barnes, I presume, will not so read it. He is committed.
Greeley may notice it with his sparkling wit, albeit he has too much sense
to grapple with its argument. The Evangelist-man will say of it, what he
would say if Christ were casting out devils in New York,--"He casteth
out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils." Yea, this
Evangelist-man says that my version of the golden rule is "diabolical;"
when truly that version is the _word_ of the Spirit, as Christ's casting
out devils was the _work_ of the Holy Ghost.
Gerrett Smith, Garrison, Giddings, do already agree with me, that they are
right if Jefferson spoke the truth. Yea, whether the Bible be true, is no
question with them no more than with him. Yea, they hold, as he did, that
whether there be one God or twenty, it matters not: the fact either way,
in men's minds, neither breaks the leg nor picks the pocket. (See
Jefferson's Notes on Virginia.) Messrs. Beecher and Cheever will find
nothing in me to aid them in speaking to the mobs of Ephesus and Antioch.
They are making shrines, and crying, Great is Diana. Mrs. Stowe is on the
Dismal Swamp, with Dred for her Charon, to paddle her light canoe, by the
fire-fly lamps, to the Limbo of Vanity, of which she is the queen. None of
these will read with attention or honesty, if at all, this examination of
what Randolph long ago said was a _fanfaronade of nonsense_. These are all
wiser "than seven men that can render a reason."
But there are thousands, North and South, who will read this refutation,
and will feel and acknowledge that in the light of God's truth the notion
of created equality and unalienable right is falsehood and infidelity.
Rev. A. Barnes:--
Dear Sir:--In my first letter I promised to prove that the paragraph in
the Declaration of Independence, which contains the affirmation of
created equality and unalienable rights, has no sanction from the word of
God. I now meet my obligation.
The time has come when civil liberty, as revealed in the Bible and in
Providence, must be re-examined, understood, and defended against infidel
theories of human rights. The slavery question has brought on this
conflict; and, strange as it may seem, the South, the land of the slave,
is summoned by God to defend the liberty he gives; while the North, the
clime of the free, misunderstands and changes the truth of God into a
lie,--claiming a liberty he does not give. Wherefore is this? I reply:---
God, when he ordained government over men, gave to the individual man
RIGHTS, _only_ as he is under government. He first established the family;
hence all other rule is merely the family expanded. The _good_ of the
family limited the _rights_ of every member. God required the family, and
then the state, so to rule as to give to every member the _good_ which is
his, in harmony with the welfare of the whole; and he commanded the
individual to seek _that good_, and NO MORE.
Now, mankind being depraved, government has ever violated its obligation
to rule for the benefit of the entire community, and has wielded its
power in oppression. Consequently, the governed have ever struggled to
secure the good which was their right. But, in this struggle, they have
ever been tempted to go beyond the limitation God had made, and to seek
supposed good, not given, in rights, prompted by _self-will_, destructive
of the state.
Government thus ever existing in oppression, and people thus ever rising
up against despotism, have been the history of mankind.
The Reformation was one of the many convulsions in this long-continued
conflict. In its first movements, men claimed the liberty the Bible
grants. Soon they ran into licentiousness. God then stayed the further
progress of emancipation in Europe, because the spread of the asserted
liberty would have made infidelity prevail over that part of the
continent where the Reformation was arrested. God preferred Romanism,
and other despotisms, modified as they were by the struggle, to rule for
a time, than have those countries destroyed under the sway of a
In this contest the North American colonies had their rise, and they
continued the strife with England until they declared themselves
That "Declaration" affirmed not only the liberty sanctioned of the Bible,
but also the liberty constituting infidelity. Its first paragraph, to the
word "_separation_," is a noble introduction. Omit, then, what follows,
to the sentence beginning "_Prudence will dictate_," and the paper, thus
expurgated, is complete, and is then simply the complaint of the colonies
against the government of England, which had oppressed them beyond
further submission, and the assertion of their right to be free and
This declaration was, in that form, nothing more than the affirmation of
the right God gives to children, in a family, applied to the colonies, in
regard to their mother-country. That is to say, children have, from God,
RIGHT, AS CHILDREN, when cruelly treated, to secure the good to which they
are entitled, as children, IN THE FAMILY. They may secure _this_ good by
becoming part of another family, or by setting up for themselves, if old
enough. So the colonies had, from God, _right_ as colonies, when oppressed
beyond endurance, to exchange the British family for another, or, if of
sufficient age, to establish their own household. The Declaration, then,
in that complaint of oppression and affirmation of right, in the colonies,
to be independent, asserts liberty sanctioned by the word of God. And
therefore the pledge to _that_ Declaration, of "lives, fortune, and sacred
honor," was blessed of Heaven, in the triumph of their cause.
But the Declaration, in the part I have omitted, affirms other things, and
very different. It asserts facts and rights as appertaining to man, not in
the Scriptures, but contrary thereto. Here is the passage:--
"We hold these truths to be self-evident,--that all men are created
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are
instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of
the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or
abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation
on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to
them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
_This is the affirmation of the liberty claimed by infidelity._ It teaches
as a fact _that_ which is not true; and it claims as right _that_ which
God has not given. It asserts nothing new, however. It lays claim to that
individual right beyond the limitation God has put, which man has ever
asserted when in his struggle for liberty he has refused to be guided and
controlled by the word and providence of his Creator.
The paragraph is a chain of four links, each of which is claimed to be a
The _first_ and controlling assertion is, "that ALL MEN ARE CREATED
EQUAL;" which proposition, as I understand it, is, that _every man and
woman on earth is created with equal attributes of body and mind_.
_Secondly_, and consequently, that every individual has, by virtue of his
or her being created the equal of each and every other individual, the
right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, _so in his or her
own keeping that that right is unalienable without his or her consent_.
_Thirdly_, it follows, that government among men must derive its just
powers only from the _consent_ of the governed; and, as the governed are
the aggregate of individuals, _then each person must consent to be thus
controlled before he or she can be rightfully under such authority_.
_Fourthly_, and finally, that whenever any form of government becomes
destructive of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,
_as each such individual man or woman may think_, then each such person
may rightly set to work to alter or abolish such form, and institute a new
government, on such principles and in such form as to them shall seem most
likely to effect their safety and happiness.
This is the celebrated averment of created equality, and unalienable right
to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, with the necessary
consequences. I have fairly expanded its meaning. It is the old infidel
averment. It is not true in any one of its assertions.
_All Men not created equal_.
It is not a truth, _self-evident,_ that all men are created equal.
Webster, in his dictionary, defines "Self-evident--Evident without proof
or reason: clear conviction upon a bare presentation to the mind, as that
two and three make five."
Now, I affirm, and you, I think, will not contradict me, that the
position, "_all men are created equal"_ is _not_ self-evident; that the
nature of the case makes it impossible for it to be self-evident. For the
created nature of man is not in the class of things of which such
self-evident propositions can by possibility be predicated. It is equally
clear and beyond debate, that it is not _self-evident_ that all men have
_unalienable rights_, that governments derive their just powers from the
_consent_ of the governed, and may be altered or abolished whenever _to
them_ such rights may be better secured. All these assertions can be known
to be true or false only from revelation of the Creator, or from
examination and induction of reasoning, covering the nature and the
obligations of the race on the whole face of the earth. What revelation
and examination of facts do teach, I will now show. The whole
battle-ground, as to the truth of this series of averments, is on the
first affirmation, "_that all men are created equal_." Or, to keep up my
first figure, the strength of the chain of asserted truths depend on
_that_ first link. It must then stand the following perfect trial.
God reveals to us that he created man in his image, _i.e._ a spirit
endowed with attributes resembling his own,--to reason, to form rule of
right, to manifest various emotions, to will, to act,--and that he gave
him a body suited to such a spirit, (Gen. i. 26, 27, 28;) that he created
MAN "_male and female_," (Gen. i. 27;) that he made the woman "_out of the
man_," (Gen. ii. 23;) that he made "_the man the image and glory of God_,
but the woman _the glory of the man_. For the man is not of the woman, but
the woman of the man. Neither was the man _created for the woman_, but the
woman _for the man_," (1 Cor. xi.;) that he made the woman to be the
weaker vessel, (1 Pet. iii. 7.) Here, then, God created _the race_ to be
in the beginning TWO,--a male and a female MAN; one of them _not equal_ to
the other _in attributes of body and mind_, and, as we shall see
presently, not equal in rights as to government. Observe, this inequality
was fact as to the TWO, in the perfect state wherein they were _created_.
But these two fell from that perfect state, became depraved, and began to
be degraded in body and mind. This statement of the original inequality in
which man was created controls all that comes after, in God's providence
and in the natural history of the race.
_Providence_, in its comprehensive teaching, "says that God, soon after
the flood, subjected the races to all the influences of the different
zones of the earth;"--"That he hath made of one blood all nations of men
for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times
before appointed and the bounds of their habitation; that they should
seek the Lord if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he
be not far from every one of us." (Acts xvii. 26, 27.)
These "bounds of their habitation" have had much to do in the natural
history of man; for "_all men_" have been "_created_," or, more
correctly, _born_, (since the race was "created" once only at the first,)
with attributes of body and mind derived from the TWO unequal parents,
and these attributes, in every individual, the combined result of the
parental natures. "_All men_," then, come into the world under influences
upon the amalgamated and transmitted body and mind, from depravity and
degradation, sent down during all the generations past; and, therefore,
under causes of inequality, acting on each individual from climate, from
scenery, from food, from health, from sickness, from love, from hatred,
from government, inconceivable in variety and power. Under such causes,
to produce infinite shades of inequality, physical and mental, in
birth--if "all men" were created equal (_i.e._ born equal) in attributes
of body and mind--such "creation" would be a violation of all the known
analogies in the world of life.
Do, then, the facts in man's natural history exhibit this departure from
the laws of life and spirit? Do they prove that "all men are created
equal"? Do they show that every man and every woman of Africa, Asia,
Europe, America, and the islands of the seas, is created each one equal in
body and mind to each other man or woman on the face of the earth, and
that this has always been?
Need I extend these questions? Methinks, sir, I hear you say, what others
have told me, that the "Declaration" is not to be understood as affirming
what is so clearly false, but merely asserts that all men are "created
equal" in _natural rights._
I reply that _that_ is _not_ the meaning of the clause before us; for
_that_ is the meaning of the next sentence,--the _second_ in the series we
There are, as I have said, four links to the chain of thought in this
passage:--1. That all men are created equal. 2. That they are endowed by
the Creator with certain unalienable rights. 3. That government derives
its just powers from the consent of the governed. 4. That the people may
alter and abolish it, &c.
These links are logical sequences. All men--man and woman--are created
equal,--equal in _attributes of body and mind_; (for _that_ is the only
sense in which they could be _created_ equal;) _therefore_ they are
endowed with right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,
unalienable, except in their consent; _consequently_ such consent is
essential to all rightful government; and, _finally_ and _irresistibly_,
the people have supreme right to alter or abolish it, &c.
The meaning, then, I give to that first link, and to the chain following,
_is_ the sense, because, if you deny that meaning to the _first link_,
then the others have no logical truth whatever. Thus:--
If all men are _not_ created equal in attributes of body and mind, then
the _inequality_ may be _so great_ that such men cannot be endowed with
right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, unalienable save in
their _consent_; then government over such men cannot rightfully rest upon
their _consent_; nor can they have right to alter or abolish government in
their mere determination.
Yea, sir, you concede every thing if you admit that the "Declaration"
does _not_ mean to affirm that all men are "_created_" _equal in body
I will suppose in the Alps a community of Cretins,--_i.e._ deformed and
helpless idiots,--but among them many from the same parents, who, in body
and mind, by birth are comparatively _Napoleons_. Now, this _inequality_,
physical and mental, by birth, makes it impossible that the government
over these Cretins can be in their "_consent_." _The Napoleons must rule_.
The Napoleons must absolutely control their "life, liberty, and pursuit of
happiness," for the good of the community. Do you reply that I have taken
an extreme case? that everybody admits sensible people must govern natural
fools? Ay, sir, there is the rub. _Natural fools_! Are some men, then,
"_created_" natural fools? Very well. Then you also admit that some men
are _created_ just a degree above natural fools!--and, consequently, that
men are "_created_" in all degrees, gradually rising in the scale of
intelligence. Are they not "_created_" just above the brute, with savage
natures along with mental imbecility and physical degradation? Must the
Napoleons govern the Cretins without their "consent"? Must they not also
govern without their "consent" these types of mankind, whether one, two,
three, thirty, or three hundred degrees above the Cretins, if they are
still greatly inferior by nature? Suppose the Cretins removed from the
imagined community, and a colony of Australian ant-catchers or California
lizard-eaters be in their stead: must not the Napoleons govern these? And,
if you admit inequality to be in birth, then that inequality is the very
ground of the reason why the Napoleons must govern the ant-catchers and
lizard-eaters. Remove these, and put in their place an importation of
African negroes. Do you admit _their inferiority by_ "CREATION?" Then the
same control over them must be the irresistible fact in common sense and
Scripture of God. _The Napoleons must govern_. They must govern without
asking "consent,"--if the inequality be such that "_consent_" would be
evil, and not good, in the family--the state.
Yea, sir, if you deny that the "Declaration" asserts "all men are created
equal" in body and mind, then you admit the inequality may be such as to
make it impossible that in such cases men have rights unalienable save in
their "consent;" and you admit it to be impossible that government in such
circumstances can exist in such "_consent_" But, if you affirm the
"Declaration" _does_ mean that men are "_created_ equal" in attributes of
body and mind, then you hold to an equality which God, in his word, and
providence, and the natural history of man, denies to be truth.
I think I have fairly shown, from Scripture and facts, that the first
averment is not the truth; and have reduced it to an absurdity. I will now
regard the second, third, and fourth links of the chain.
I know they are already broken; for, the whole chain being but an electric
current from a vicious imagination, I have destroyed the whole by breaking
the first link. Or was it but a cluster from a poisonous vine, then I have
killed the branches by cutting the vine. I will, however, expose the other
three sequences by a distinct argument covering them all.
_Authority Delegated to Adam_.
God gave to Adam sovereignty over the human race, in his first
decree:--"_He shall rule over thee_." _That_ was THE INSTITUTION OF
GOVERNMENT. It was not based on the "_consent_" of Eve, the governed. It
was from God. He gave to Adam like authority to rule his children. It was
not derived from their "_consent_". It was from God. He gave Noah the same
sovereignty, with express power over life, liberty, and pursuit of
happiness. It was not founded in "_consent_" of Shem, Ham, and Japheth,
and their wives. It was from God. He then determined the habitations of
men on all the face of the earth, and _indicated_ to them, in every clime,
the _form_ and _power_ of their governments. He gave, directly, government
to Israel. He just as truly gave it to Idumea, to Egypt, and to Babylon,
to the Arab, to the Esquimaux, the Caffre, the Hottentot, and the negro.
God, in the Bible, decides the matter. He says, "Let every soul be subject
unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that
be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth
the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves
damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.
Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou
shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for
good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the
sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath
upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for
wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also:
for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
Render, therefore, to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due;
custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." (Rom.
Here God reveals to us that he has _delegated to government his own_ RIGHT
_over life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness_; and that that RIGHT is
not, in any sense, from the "_consent_" of the governed, but is directly
from him. Government over men, whether in the family or in the state, is,
then, as directly from God as it would be if he, in visible person, ruled
in the family or in the state. I speak not only of the RIGHT simply to
govern, but the _mode_ of the government, and the _extent_ of the power.
Government _can do_ ALL which God _would do,--just_ THAT,--_no more, no
less_. And it is _bound to do just_ THAT,--_no more, no less_. Government
is responsible to God, if it fails to do _just_ THAT which He himself
would do. It is under responsibility, then, to rule in righteousness. It
must not oppress. It must _give_ to every individual "_life, liberty, and
pursuit of happiness_," in harmony with the _good_ of the family,--the
state,--_as God himself would give it_,--_just_ THAT, _no more, no less_.
This passage of Scripture settles the question, From whence has
government RIGHT to rule, and what is the _extent_ of its power? The
RIGHT is from God, and the EXTENT of the power is _just_ THAT to which
God would exercise it if he were personally on the earth. God, in this
passage, and others, settles, with equal clearness, from whence is the
OBLIGATION to _submit_ to government, and what is the _extent_ of the
duty of obedience? The OBLIGATION to submit is not from individual RIGHT
to consent or not to consent to government,--but the OBLIGATION _to
submit_ is directly from God.
The EXTENT of the duty of obedience is equally revealed--in this wise: so
long as the government rules in righteousness, the duty is perfect
obedience. So soon, however, as government requires _that_ which God, in
his word, _forbids the subject to do_, he must obey God, and not man. He
must refuse to obey man. But, inasmuch as the obligation to submit to
authority of government is so great, the subject must _know_ it is the
will of God, that he shall refuse to obey, before he assumes the
responsibility of resistance to the powers that be. His _conscience_ will
not justify him before God, if he mistakes his duty. _He may be all the
more to blame for having_ SUCH A CONSCIENCE. Let him, then, be CERTAIN he
can say, like Peter and John, "Whether it be right, in the sight of God,
to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye."
But, when government requires _that_ which God _does not forbid_ the
subject to do, although _in that_ the government may have transcended the
line of its righteous rule, the subject must, nevertheless,
submit,--_until_ oppression has gone to _the point_ at which _God makes_
RESISTANCE _to be duty._ And _that point_ is when RESISTANCE will clearly
be _less of evil, and more of good_, TO THE COMMUNITY, than further
_That_ is the rule of _duty_ God gives to the _whole_ people, or to the
_minority_, or to the _individual_, to guide them in resistance to the
powers that be.
It is irresistibly _certain_ that _He who ordains_ government _has, alone,
the right to alter or abolish it_,--that He who institutes the powers that
be has, alone, the right to say when and how the people, in whole or in
part, may resist. So, then, the people, in whole, or in part, have no
right to resist, to alter, or abolish government, simply because _they_
may deem it destructive of the end for which it was instituted; but they
may resist, alter, or abolish, _when it shall be seen that God so regards
it_. This places the great fact where it must be placed,--_under the_
CONTROL _of the_ BIBLE _and_ PROVIDENCE.
I will conclude with one or two illustrations. God, in his providence,
ordains the Russian form of government,--_i.e._ He places the sovereignty
in one man, because He sees that such government can secure, for a time,
more good to that degraded people than any other form. Now, I ask, Has the
emperor _right_, from God, to change at once, in his mere "_consent_," the
_form_ of his government to _that_ of the United States? No. God forbids
him. Why? Because he would thereby destroy the good, and bring immense
evil in his empire. I ask again, Have the Russian serfs and nobles,--yea,
all,--"consenting," the right, from God, to make that change? No. For the
government of the United States is not suited to them. And, in such an
attempt, they would deprive themselves of the blessings they now have, and
bring all the horrors of anarchy.
Do you ask if I then hold, that God ordains the Russian type of rule to be
perpetual over that people? No. The emperor is bound to secure all of
"_life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness_," to each individual,
consistent with the good of the nation. And he is to learn his obligation
from the Bible, and faithfully apply it to the condition of his subjects.
_He will thus gradually elevate them_; while they, on their part, are
bound to strive for this elevation, in all the ways in which God may show
them the good, and the right, which, more and more, will belong to them in
their upward progress. The result of such government and such obedience
would be that of a father's faithful training, and children's
corresponding obedience. The Russian people would thus have, gradually,
that measure of liberty they could bear, under the one-man power,--and
then, in other forms, as they might be qualified to realize them. This
development would be without convulsion,--as the parent gives place, while
the children are passing from the lower to their higher life. It would be
the exemplification of Carlyle's illustration of the snake. He says, A
people should change their government only as a snake sheds his skin: the
new skin is gradually formed under the old one,--and then the snake
wriggles out, with just a drop of blood here and there, where the old
jacket held on rather tightly.
God ordains the government of the United States. And _He places_ the
_sovereignty_ in the _will_ of the majority, because He has trained the
people, through many generations in modes of government, to such an
elevation in moral and religious intelligence, that such sovereignty is
best suited to confer on them the highest right, as yet, to "life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." But God requires that _that will
of the majority_ be in perfect submission to Him. Once more then I
inquire,--Whether the people of this country, yea all of them consenting,
have right from God, to abolish now, at this time, our free institutions,
and set up the sway of Russia? No. But why? There is one answer only. He
tells us that our happiness is in this form of government, and in it, its
_The "Social Compact" not recognised in the Divine Institute_.
Here I pause. So, then, God gives no sanction to the notion of a SOCIAL
COMPACT. He never gave to man individual, isolated, natural rights,
unalienably in his keeping. He never made him a Caspar Hauser, in the
forest, without name or home,--a Melchisedek, in the wilderness, without
father, without mother, without descent,--a Robinson Crusoe, on his
island, in skins and barefooted, waiting, among goats and parrots, the
coming of the canoes and the savages, to enable him to "_consent_" if he
would, to the relations of social life.
And, therefore, those five sentences in that second paragraph of the
Declaration of Independence are not the truth; so, then, it is not
_self-evident_ truth that all men are created equal. So, then, it is not
the truth, in fact, that they are created equal. So, then, it is not the
truth that God has endowed all men with unalienable right to life,
liberty, and pursuit of happiness. So, then, it is not the truth that
governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. So,
then, it is not the truth that the people have right to alter or abolish
their government, and institute a new form, whenever to them it shall seem
likely to effect their safety and happiness.
The manner in which these unscriptural dogmas have been modified or
developed in the United States, I will examine in another paper.
I merely add, that the opinions of revered ancestors, on these questions
of right and their application to American slavery, must now, as never
before, be brought to the test of the light of the Bible. F.A. Ross.
Huntsville, Ala., Jan. 1857.
This argument on the abolition charge, against the slave-holder,--that he
is a man-stealer,--covers the whole question of slavery, especially as it
is seen in the Old Testament. The headings in the letter make the subject
Rev. Albert Barnes:--
Dear Sir:--In my first letter, I merely touched some points in your tract,
intending to notice them more fully in subsequent communications. I have,
in my second paper, sufficiently examined the imaginary maxims of created
equality and unalienable rights.
In this, I will test your views by Scripture more directly. "To the law
and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is
because there is no light in them." (Isaiah viii. 20).
The abolitionist charges the slave-holder with being a _man-stealer_. He
makes this allegation in two affirmations. First, that the slave-holder
is thus guilty, because, the negro having been kidnapped in Africa,
therefore those who now hold him, or his children, in bondage, lie under
the guilt of that first act. Secondly, that the slave-holder, by the very
fact that he is such, is guilty of stealing from the negro his unalienable
right to freedom.
This is the charge. It covers the whole subject. I will meet it in all
_The Difference between Man-Stealing and Slave-Holding, as set forth in
The Bible reads thus: (Exodus xxi. 16:)--"He that stealeth a man
and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be
put to death."
What, then, is it to kidnap or steal a man? Webster informs us--To kidnap
is "to steal a human being, a man, woman, or child; or to seize and
forcibly carry away any person whatever, from his own country or state
into another." The idea of "_seizing and forcibly carrying away"_ enters
into the meaning of the word in all the definitions of law.
The crime, then, set forth in the Bible was not _selling_ a man: but
selling a _stolen_ man. The crime was not having a man _in his hand as a
slave_; but......in _his_ hand, as a slave, a _stolen_ man. And hence, the
penalty of _death_ was affixed, not to selling, buying, or holding man, as
a slave, but to the specific offence of _stealing and selling, or holding_
a man _thus stolen, contrary to this law_. Yea, it was _this law_, and
this law _only_, which made it _wrong_. For, under some circumstances, God
sanctioned the seizing and forcibly carrying away a man, woman, or child
from country or state, into slavery or other condition. He sanctioned the
utter destruction of every male and every married woman, and child, of
Jabez-Gilead, and the seizure, and forcibly carrying away, four hundred
virgins, unto the camp to Shiloh, and there, being given as wives to the
remnant of the slaughtered tribe of Benjamin, in the rock Rimmon. Sir,
how did that destruction of Jabez-Gilead, and the kidnapping of those
young women, differ from the razing of an African village, and forcibly
seizing, and carrying away, those not put to the sword? The difference is
in this:--God commanded the Israelites to seize and bear off those young
women. But he forbids the slaver to kidnap the African. Therefore, the
Israelites did right; therefore, the trader does wrong. The Israelites,
it seems, gave wives, in that way, to the spared Benjamites, because they
had sworn not to give their daughters. But there were six hundred of these
Benjamites. Two hundred were therefore still without wives. What was done
for them? Why, God authorized the elders of the congregation to tell the
two hundred Benjamites to catch every man his wife, of the daughters of
Shiloh, when they came out to dance, in the feast of the Lord, on the
north side of Bethel. And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them
wives, "whom they caught:" (Judges xxi.) God made it right for those
Benjamites to catch every man his wife, of the daughters of Shiloh. But he
makes it wrong for the trader to catch his slaves of the sons or daughters
of Africa. Lest you should try to deny that God authorized this act of the
children of Israel, although I believe he did order it, let me remind you
of another such case, the authority for which you will not question.
Moses, by direct command from God, destroyed the Midianites. He slew all
the males, and carried away all the women and children. He then had all
the married women and male children killed; but all the virgins,
thirty-two thousand, were divided as spoil among the people. And
_thirty-two_ of these virgins, _the Lord's tribute_, were given unto
Eleazar, the priest, "as the Lord commanded Moses." (Numbers xxxi.)
Sir, Thomas Paine rejected the Bible on this fact among his other
objections. Yea, _his_ reason, _his_ sensibilities, _his_ great law of
humanity, _his_ intuitional and eternal sense of right, made it impossible
for him to honor such a God. And, sir, on your now avowed principles of
interpretation, which are those of Paine, you sustain him in his rejection
of the books of Moses and all the word of God.
God's command _made it right_ for Moses to destroy the Midianites and make
slaves of their daughters; and I have dwelt upon these facts, to reiterate
what I hold to be THE FIRST TRUTH IN MORALS:--that a thing is right, not
because it is ever so _per se_, but because God _makes it right_; and, of
course, a thing is wrong, not because it is so in the nature of things,
but because God makes it wrong. I distinctly have taken, and do take, that
ground in its widest sense, and am prepared to maintain it against all
comers. He made it right for the sons of Adam to marry their sisters. He
made it right for Abraham to marry his half-sister. He made it right for
the patriarchs, and David and Solomon, to have more wives than one. He
made it right when he gave command to kill whole nations, sparing none. He
made it right when he ordered that nations, or such part as he pleased,
should be spared and enslaved. He made it right that the patriarchs and
the Israelites should hold slaves in harmony with the system of servile
labor which had long been in the world. He merely modified that system to
suit his views of good among his people. So, then, when he saw fit, they
might capture men. So, then, when he forbade the individual Israelite to
steal a man, he made it crime, and the penalty death. So, then, that crime
was not the mere _stealing_ a man, nor the _selling_ a man, nor the
_holding_ a man,--but the _stealing and selling_, or _holding_, a man
_under circumstances thus forbidden of God_.
_Was the Israelite Master a Man-Stealer?_
I now ask, Did God intend to make man-stealing and slave-holding the same
thing? Let us see. In that very chapter of Exodus (xxi.) which contains
the law against man-stealing, and only four verses further on, God says,
"If a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and he die under his
hand, he shall be surely punished: notwithstanding, if he continue a day
or two he shall not be punished; for he is his money." (Verses 20, 21.)
Sir, that man was not a hired servant. He was bought with money. He was
regarded by God _as the money_ of his master. He was his slave, in the
full meaning of a slave, then, and now, bought with money. God, then, did
not intend the Israelites to understand, and not one of them ever
understood, from that day to this, that Jehovah in his law to Moses
regarded the slave-holder as a man-stealer. Man-stealing was a specific
offence, with its specific penalty. Slave-holding was one form of God's
righteous government over men,--a government he ordained, with various
modifications, among the Hebrews themselves, and with sterner features in
its relation to heathen slaves.
In Exodus xxi. and Leviticus xxv., various gradations of servitude were
enacted, with a careful particularity which need not be misunderstood.
Among these, a Hebrew man might be a slave for six years, and then go free
with his wife, if he were married when he came into the relation; but if
his master had given him a wife, and she had borne him sons or daughters,
the wife and her children should be her master's, and he should go out by
himself. That is, the man by the law became free, while his wife and
children remained slaves. If the servant, however, plainly said, "I love
my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his
master brought him unto the judges, also unto the doorpost, and his master
bored his ear through with an awl, and he served him forever." (Ex. xxi.
1-6.) Sir, you have urged discussion:--give us then your views of that
passage. Tell us how that man was separated from his wife and children
according to _the eternal right_. Tell us what was the condition of the
woman in case the man chose to "go out" without her? Tell us if the Hebrew
who thus had his ear bored by his master with an awl was not a slave for
life? Tell us, lastly, whether those children were not slaves? And, while
on that chapter, tell us whether in the next verses, 7-11, God did not
allow the Israelite father to sell his own daughter into bondage and into
polygamy by the same act of sale?
I will not dwell longer on these milder forms of slavery, but read to you
the clear and unmistakable command of the Lord in Leviticus xxv. 44,
46:--"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 beget in your land: and they shall be your possession: and ye
shall take them for an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit
them for a possession; and they shall be your bondmen forever."
Sir, the sun will grow dim with age before that Scripture can be tortured
to mean any thing else than just what it says; that God commanded the
Israelites to be slave-holders in the strict and true sense over the
heathen, in manner and form therein set forth. Do you tell the world that
this cannot be the sense of the Bible, because it is "a violation of the
first principles of the American Declaration of Independence;" because it
grates upon your "instinct of liberty;" because it reveals God in
opposition to the "spirit of the age;" because, if it be the sense of the
passage, then "the Bible neither ought to be, nor can be, received by
mankind as a divine revelation"? _That_ is what you say: _that_ is what
Albert Barnes affirms in his philosophy. But what if God in his word says,
"Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids which thou shalt have shall be of the
heathen that are round about you"? What if we may then choose between
Albert Barnes's philosophy and God's truth?
Or will you say, God, under the circumstances, _permitted_ the Israelites
_to sin_ in the matter of slave-holding, just as he permitted them _to
sin_ by living in polygamy. _Permitted_ them _to sin!_ No, sir; God
_commanded_ them to be slave-holders. He _made it_ the law of their social
state. He _made it_ one form of his ordained government among them.
Moreover, you take it for granted all too soon, that the Israelites
committed sin in their polygamy. God sanctioned their polygamy. It was
therefore not sin in them. It was right. But God now forbids polygamy,
under the gospel; and now it is sin.
Or will you tell us the iniquity of the Canaanites was then full, and
God's time to punish them had come? True; but the same question comes
up:--Did God punish the Canaanites by placing them in the relation of
slaves to his people, by express command, which compelled them to sin?
That's the point. I will not permit you to evade it. In plainer
words:--Did God command the Hebrews to make slaves of their fellow-men, to
buy them and sell them, to regard them as their money? He did. Then, did
the Hebrews sin when they obeyed God's command? No. Then they did what was
right, and it was right because God made it so. Then _the Hebrew
slave-holder was not a man-stealer_. But, you say, the Southern
slave-holder is. Well, we shall see presently.
Just here, the abolitionist who professes to respect the Scriptures is
wont to tell us that the whole subject of bondage among the Israelites was
so peculiar to God's ancient dispensation, that no analogy between that
bondage and Southern slavery can be brought up. Thus he attempts to raise
a dust out of the Jewish institutions, to prevent people from seeing that
slaveholding then was the same thing that it is now. But, to sustain my
interpretation of the plain Scriptures given, I will go back five hundred
years before the existence of the Hebrew nation.
I read at that time, (Gen. xiv. 14:)--"And when Abraham heard that his
brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own
house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them even unto Damascus,"
&c. (Gen. xvii. 27:)--"And all the men of his house, born, in the house,
and bought with the money of the stranger, were circumcised." (Gen. xx.
14:)--"And Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and men-servants and
women-servants, and gave them unto Abraham." (Gen. xxiv. 34, 35:)--"And he
said, I am Abraham's servant; and the Lord hath blessed my master greatly,
and he is become great; and he hath given him flocks and herds, and silver
and gold, and men-servants and maid-servants, and camels and asses."
_Was Abraham a Man-Stealer?_
Sir, what is the common sense of these Scriptures? Why, that the
slave-trade existed in Abraham's day, as it had long before, and has ever
since, in all the regions of Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt, in which
criminals and prisoners of war were sold,--in which parents sold their
children. Abraham, then, it is plain, bought, of the sellers in this
traffic, men-servants and maid-servants; he had them born in his house; he
received them as presents.
Do you tell me that Abraham, by divine authority, made these servants part
of his family, social and religious? Very good. But still he regarded them
as his slaves. He took Hagar as a wife, but he treated her as his
slave,--yea, as Sarah's slave; and as such he gave her to be chastised,
for misconduct, by her mistress. Yea, he never placed Ishmael, the son of
the bondwoman, on a level with Isaac, the son of the freewoman. If, then,
he so regarded Hagar and Ishmael, of course he never considered his other
slaves on an equality with himself. True, had he been childless, he would
have given his estate to Eliezer: but he would have given it to his slave.
True, had Isaac not been born, he would have given his wealth to Ishmael;
but he would nave given it to the son of his bondwoman. Sir, every
Southern planter is not more truly a slave-holder than Abraham. And the
Southern master, by divine authority, may, to-day, consider his slaves
part of his social and religious family, just as Abraham did. His relation
is just that of Abraham. He has slaves of an inferior type of mankind from
Abraham's bondmen; and he therefore, for that reason, as well as from the
fact that they are his slaves, holds them lower than himself. But,
nevertheless, he is a slave-holder in no other sense than was Abraham. Did
Abraham have his slave-household circumcised? Every Southern planter may
have his slave-household baptized. I baptized, not long since, a
slave-child,--the master and mistress offering it to God. What was done
in the parlor might be done with divine approbation on every plantation.
So, then, Abraham lived in the midst of a system of slave-holding exactly
the same in nature with that in the South,--a system ordained of God as
really as the other forms of government round about him. He, then, with
the divine blessing, made himself the master of slaves, men, women, and
children, by buying them,--by receiving them in gifts,--by having them
born in his house; and he controlled them as property, just as really as
the Southern master in the present day. I ask now, _was Abraham a
man-stealer?_ Oh, no, you reiterate: but the Southern master is. Why?
_Is the Southern Master a Man-Stealer_?
Do you, sir, or anybody, contend that the Southern master seized his slave
in Africa, and forcibly brought him away to America, contrary to law?
That, and that alone, was and is kidnapping in divine and human statute.
No. What then? Why, the abolitionist responds, The African man-stealer
sold his victim to the slave-holder; he, to the planter; and the negro has
been ever since in bondage: therefore _the guilt_ of the man-stealer has
cleaved to sellers, buyers, and inheritors, to this time, and will
through all generations to come. That is the charge.
And it brings up the question so often and triumphantly asked by the
abolitionist; _i.e._ "You," he says to the slave-holder,--"you admit it
was wrong to steal the negro in Africa. Can the slave-holder, then, throw
off wrong so long as he holds the slave at any time or anywhere
thereafter?" I answer, yes; and my reply shall be short, yet conclusive. It
is this:--_Guilt_, or criminality, is that state of a moral agent which
results from _his_ actual commission of a crime or offence knowing it to
be crime or violation of law. _That_ is the received definition of
_guilt_, and _you_, I know, do accept it. The _guilt_, then, of kidnapping
_terminated_ with the man-stealer, the seller, the buyer, and holders,
who, knowingly and intentionally, carried on the traffic contrary to the
divine law. THAT GUILT attaches in no sense whatever, as a personal, moral
responsibility, to the present slave-holder. Observe, I am here
discussing, _not the question of mere slave-holding,_ but whether the
master, who has had nothing to do with the slave-trade, can _now_ hold the
slave without the moral guilt of the man-stealer? I have said that _that_
guilt, in no sense whatever, rests upon him; for he neither stole the
man, nor bought him from the kidnapper, nor had any _complicity_ in the
traffic. Here, I know, the abolitionist insists that the master _is_
guilty of this _complicity_, unless he will at once emancipate the slave;
because, so long as he holds him, he thereby, personally and _voluntarily,
assumes the same relation which the original kidnapper or buyer held to
This is Dr. Cheever's argument in a recent popular sermon. He thinks it
unanswerable; but it has no weight whatever. It is met perfectly by adding
_one_ word to his proposition. Thus:--_The master does_ NOT _assume the
same relation which the original man-stealer or buyer held to the
African_. The master's _relation_ to God and to his slave is now _wholly
changed_ from that of the man-stealer, and those engaged in the trade; and
his obligation is wholly different. What is his relation? and what is his
obligation? They are as follows:----
The master finds himself, with no taint of personal concern in the African
trade, in a Christian community of white Anglo-Americans, holding control
over his black fellow-man, who is so unlike himself in complexion, in
form, in other peculiarities, and so unequal to himself in attributes of
body and mind, that it is _impossible, in every sense_, to place him on a
level with himself in the community. _This is his relation to the negro_.
What, then, does God command him to do? Does God require him to send the
negro back to his heathen home from whence he was stolen? That home no
longer exists. But, if it did remain, does God command the master to send
his Christianized slave into the horrors of his former African heathenism?
No. God has placed the master under law entirely different from his
command to the slave-trader. God said to the trader, _Let the negro
alone_. But he says to the present master, _Do unto the negro all the good
you can; make him a civilized man; make him a Christian man; lift him up
and give him all he has a right to claim in the good of the whole
community_. This the master can do; this he must do, and then leave the
result with the Almighty.
We reach the same conclusion by asking, What does God say to the
Does he tell him to ask to be sent back to heathen Africa? No. Does he
give him authority to claim a created equality and unalienable right to
be on a level with the white man in civil and social relations? No. To
ask the first would be to ask a great evil; to claim the second is to
demand a natural and moral impossibility. No. God tells him to seek none
of these things. But he commands him to know the facts in his case as
they are in the Bible, and have ever been, and ever will be in
Providence:--that he is not the white man's equal,--that he can never
have his level--that he must not claim it; but that he can have, and
ought to have, and must have, all of good, in his condition as a slave,
until God may reveal a higher happiness for him in some other relation
than that _he must ever_ have to the Anglo-American. The present
slave-holder, then, by declining to emancipate his bondman, does not
place himself in _the guilt_ of the man-stealer or of those who had
complicity with him; but he stands _exactly_ in that NICK _of time and
place_, in the course of Providence, where _wrong_, in the transmission
of African slavery, _ends_, and _right begins_.
I have, sir, fairly stated this, your strongest argument, and fully met
it. _The Southern master is not a man-stealer._ The abolitionist--repulsed
in his charge that the slave-owner is a kidnapper, either in fact or by
voluntarily assuming any of the relations of the traffic--then makes his
impeachment on his second affirmation, mentioned at the opening of this
letter. That the slave-holder is, nevertheless, thus _guilty_, because,
in the simple fact of being a master, he _steals_ from the negro his
unalienable right to freedom.
This, sir, looks like a new view of the subject. The crime forbidden in
the Bible was stealing and selling a man; _i.e._ seizing and forcibly
carrying away, from country or State, a human being--man, woman, or
child--contrary to law, and selling or holding the same. But the
abolitionist gives us to understand this crime rests on the slave-holder
in another sense:--namely, that he steals from the negro a metaphysical
attribute,--his unalienable right to liberty!
This is a new sort of kidnapping. This is, I suppose, _stealing the man
from himself_, as it is sometimes elegantly expressed,--_robbing him of
his body and his soul_. Sir, I admit this is a strong figure of speech, a
beautiful personification, a sonorous rhetorical flourish, which must make
a deep impression on Dr. Cheever's people, Broadway, New York, and on your
congregation, Washington Square, Philadelphia; but it is certainly not the
Bible crime of man-stealing. And whether the Southern master is _guilty_
of this sublimated thing will be understood by us when you prove that the
negro, or anybody else, has such metaphysical right to be stolen,--such
transcendental liberty not in subordination to the good of the whole
people. In a word, sir, this refined expression is, after all, just the
old averment that the slave-holder is guilty of _sin per se!_ That's it.
I have given you, in reply, the Old Testament. In my next, I propose to
inquire what the New Testament says in the light of the _Golden Rule_.
Huntsville, Ala., Jan. 31, 1857.
The Golden Rule.
This view of the Golden Rule is the only exposition of that great text
which has ever been given in words sufficiently clear, and, with practical
illustrations, to make the subject intelligible to every capacity. The
explanation is the truth of God, and it settles forever the slavery
question, so far as it rests on this precept of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Albert Barnes:--
Dear Sir:--The argument against slave-holding, founded on the Golden Rule,
is the strongest which can be presented, and I admit that, if it cannot be
perfectly met, the master must give the slave liberty and equality. But if
it can be absolutely refuted, then the slave-holder in this regard may
have a good conscience; and the abolitionist has nothing more to say. Here
is the rule.
"Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to
you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets."
(Matt. vii. 12.)
In your "_Notes_," on this passage you thus write:--"This command has been
usually called the Savior's _Golden Rule_; a name given to it on account
of its great value.--_All that you_ EXPECT or DESIRE _of others, in
similar circumstances_, DO TO THEM."
This, sir, is your exposition of the Savior's rule of right. With all due
respect, I decline your interpretation. You have missed the meaning by
leaving out ONE word. Observe,--you do not say, All that you OUGHT to
_expect_ or _desire_, &c., THAT _do to them_. No. But you make the
EXPECTATION or DESIRE, _which every man_ ACTUALLY HAS _in similar
circumstances_, THE MEASURE _of his_ DUTY _to every other man_. Or, in
different words, you make, without qualification or explanation, the MERE
EXPECTATION or DESIRE which every man,--with no instruction, or any sort
of training,--wise or simple, good or bad, heathen, Mohammedan, nominal
Christian,--WOULD HAVE _in similar circumstances_, THE LAW OF OBLIGATION,
_always binding_ upon him TO DO THAT SAME THING _unto his neighbor!_
Sir, you have left out _the very idea_ which contains the sense of that
Scripture. It is this: Christ, in his rule, _presupposes_ that the man to
whom he gives it _knows_, and from the Bible, (or providence, or natural
conscience, _so far as in harmony_ with the Bible,) the _various
relations_ in which God has placed him; and the _respective duties_ in
those relations; _i.e._ The rule _assumes_ that he KNOWS what he OUGHT to
_expect_ or _desire_ in similar circumstances.
I will test this affirmation by several and varied illustrations. I will
show how Christ, according to your exposition of his rule, speaks on the
subject,--of _revenge, marriage, emancipation_,--_the fugitive from
bondage_. And how he truly speaks on these subjects.
_Revenge--Right according to your view of the Golden Rule_.
Indian and Missionary--Prisoner tied to a tree, stuck over with burning
Here is an Indian torturing his prisoner. The missionary approaches and
beseeches him to regard _the Golden Rule_. "Humph!" utters the savage:
"Golden Rule! what's that?" "Why" says the good man, "all that you
_expect_ or _desired_ other Indians, in similar circumstances, do you
even so to them." "Humph!" growls the warrior, with a fierce
smile,--"Missionary--good: that's what I do now. If I was tied to that
tree, I would _expect_ and _desire him_ to have _his_ revenge,--to do to
me as I do to him; and I would sing my death-song, as he sings his.
Missionary, your rule is Indian rule,--good rule, missionary. Humph!"
And he sticks more splinters into his victim, brandishes his tomahawk,
Sir, what has the missionary to say, after this perfect proof that you
have mistaken the great law of right? Verily, he finds that the rule,
with your explanation, tells the Indian to torture his prisoner. Verily,
he finds that the wild man has the best of the argument. He finds he had
left out the word OUGHT; and that he can't put it in, until he teaches
the Indian things which as yet he don't know. Yea, he finds he gave the
commandment too soon; for that he must begin back of that commandment,
and teach the savage God's ordination of the relations in which he is to
his fellow-men, before he can make him comprehend or apply the rule as
Christ gives it.
_Marriage--Void under your Interpretation of the Golden Rule_.
Lucy Stone, and Moses--Lady on sofa, having just divorced herself--Moses,
with the Tables of the Law, appears: she falls at his feet, and covers her
face with her hands.
This woman, everybody knows, was married some time since, after a fashion;
that is to say, protesting publicly against all laws of wedlock, and
entering into the relation so long only as she, or her husband, might
continue pleased therewith.
Very well. Then I, without insult to her or offense to my readers, suppose
that about this time she has shown her unalienable right to liberty and
equality by giving her husband a bill of divorcement. Free again, she
reclines on her couch, and is reading the Tribune. It is mid-day. But
there is a light, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about
her. And _he_, who saw God on Sinai, stands before her, the glory on his
face, and the tables of stone in his hands. The woman falls before him,
veils her eyes with her trembling fingers, and cries out, "Moses, oh, I
believed till now that thou practised deception, in claiming to be sent of
God to Israel. But now, I know thou didst see God in the burning bush,
and heard him speak that law from the holy mountain. Moses, I know ... I
confess.".... And Moses answers, and says unto her, "Woman, thou art one
of a great class in this land, who claim to be more just than God, more
pure than their Maker, who have made their inward light their God. Woman,
thou in '_convention_' hast uttered _Declaration of Independence_ from
man. And, verily, thou hast asserted this claim to equality and
unalienable right, even now, by giving thy husband his bill of
divorcement, in thy sense of the Golden Rule. Yea, verily, thou hast done
unto him all that thou _expectedst_ or _desiredst_ of him, in similar
circumstances. And now thou thinkest thyself free again. Woman, thou art a
sinner. Verily, thine inward light, and declaration of independence, and
Golden Rule, do well agree the one with the other. Verily, thou hast
learned of Jefferson, and Channing, and Barnes. But, woman,
notwithstanding thou hast sat at the feet of these wise men, I, Moses, say
thou art a sinner before the law, and the prophets, and the gospel. Woman,
thy light is darkness; thy declaration of equality and right is vanity and
folly; and thy Golden Rule is license to wickedness.
"Woman, hast thou ears? Hear: I, by authority of God, ordained that the
man should rule over thee. I placed thee, and children, and men-servants,
and maid-servants, under the same law of subjection to the government
ordained of God in the family,--the state. I for a time sanctioned
polygamy, and made it right. I, for the hardness of men's hearts, allowed
them, and made it right, to give their wives a bill of divorcement.
Woman, hear. Paul, having the same Spirit of God, confirms my word. He
commands _wives_, and children, and servants, after this manner:--'Wives,
submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord;
children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing unto
the Lord; servants, obey in all things your masters according to the
flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart,
fearing God.' Woman, Paul makes _that rule_ the same, and _that
submission_, the same. The _manner_ of the rule he varies with the
relations. He requires it to be, in the _love_ of the husband, even as
Christ loved the church,--in the _mildness_ of the father, not provoking
the children to anger, lest they be discouraged,--in _the justice and
equity_ of the master, knowing that he also has a master in heaven:
(Colossians.) Woman, hear. Paul says to thee, the man _now_ shall have
one wife, and he _now_ shall not give her a bill of divorcement, save for
crime. Woman, thou art not free from thy husband. Christ's Golden Rule
must not be interpreted by thee as A. Barnes has rendered it; Christ
_assumes_ that thou _believest_ God's truth,--that thou _knowest_ the
relation of husband and wife, and the _obligations and rights_ of the
same, _as in the Bible; then_, in the light of this _knowledge_, verily,
thou art required to do what God says thou _oughtest_ to do. Woman, thou
art a sinner. Go, sin no more. Go, find thy husband; see to it that he
takes thee back. Go, submit to him, and honor him, and obey him."
_Emancipation--Ruin--Golden Rule, in your meaning, carried out_.
Island in the Tropics--Elegant houses falling to decay--Broad fields
abandoned to the forest--Wharves grass-grown--Negroes relapsing into the
savage state--A dark cloud over the island, through which the lightning
glares, revealing, in red writing, these words:--"_Redeemed, regenerated,
and disenthralled by the irresistible genius of universal
emancipation"_.--[Gospel--according to Curran--and the British
Jamaica, sir, to say nothing of St. Domingo, is illustration of your
theory of the Golden Rule, in negro emancipation. You tell the Southern
master that all he would _expect_ or _desire_, if he were a slave, he must
do unto his bondman; that he must not pause to ask whether the relation of
master and slave be ordained of God or not. No. You tell him, _if_ he
would _expect_ or _desire_ liberty were he a slave, _that_ settles the
question as to what he is to do! He must let his bondman go free. Yea,
_that_ is what you teach: because the moment you put in the word OUGHT,
and say, all that you OUGHT to _expect_ or _desire_,--_i.e._ all that you
_know_ God commands you to _expect _ or _desire_ in your relations to men,
_as established by him,_--THAT _do to them_. Sir, when you thus explain
the Golden Rule, then your argument against slave-holding, so far as
founded on this rule, is at once arrested; it is stopped short, in full
career; it has to wait for reinforcement of FACT, which may never come up.
For, suppose the FACT to be, that the relation of master and slave is one
mode of the government ordained of God. Then, sir, the master, _knowing
that_ FACT, and _knowing_ what the slave, _as a slave_, OUGHT to _expect_
or _desire_, he, the master, then FULFILS THE GOLDEN RULE when he does
that unto his slave which, in similar circumstances, he OUGHT to expect
_to be done unto himself_. Now comes the question, OUGHT he then to
_expect_ or _desire_ liberty and equality? THAT is the question of
questions on this subject. And without hesitation I reply, The Golden Rule
DECIDES _that question_ YEA or NAY, _absolutely_ and _perfectly_, as God's
word or providence shows that the GOOD _of the family, the community, the
state_, REQUIRES that the slave IS or IS NOT _to be set free and made
equal_. THAT GOOD, _as God reveals it_, SETTLES THE QUESTION.
Let the master then see to it, how he hears God's word as to THAT GOOD.
Let him see to it, how he understands God's providence as to THAT GOOD.
Let him see to it, that he makes no mistake as to THAT GOOD. For God will
not hold him guiltless, if he will not hear what he tells him as to THAT
GOOD. God will not justify him, if he has a bad conscience or blunders in
his philosophy. God will punish him, if he fails to bless his land by
letting the bond go free when, he OUGHT to emancipate. And God will punish
him, if he brings a curse upon his country by freeing his slave when he
OUGHT NOT to give him liberty.
So, then, _the Golden Rule does not_, OF ITSELF, _reveal to man at all
what are his_ RELATIONS _to his fellow-men; but it tells him what he is
to_ DO, _when he_ ALREADY KNOWS THEM.
So, then, you, sir, cannot be permitted to tell the world that this rule
must emancipate all the negro slaves in the United States,--no matter how
unprepared they may be,--no matter how degraded,--no matter how unlike and
unequal to the white man by creation,--no matter if it be a natural and
moral impossibility,--no matter: the Golden Rule must emancipate by
authority of the first sentiments of the Declaration of Independence, and
by obligation of the great law of liberty,--the intuitional consciousness
of the eternal right!
No. The Rule, as said, _presupposes_ that he who is required to obey it
does already _know_ the relations in which God has placed him, and the
respective duties in those conditions. Has God, then, established the
relations of husband and wife, parent and child, master and slave? Yes.
Then the command comes. It says to the husband, To aid you in your known
obligations to your wife,--to give you a lively sense of it,--suppose
yourself to be the wife: whatsoever, therefore, you OUGHT, in that
condition, to _expect_ or _desire_, that, as husband, do unto your wife.
It says to the parent, Imagine yourself the child; and whatsoever, as
such, you OUGHT to _expect_ or _desire, that_, as parent, do unto your
child. It says to the master, Put yourself in the place of your slave;
and whatsoever you OUGHT, in that condition, to _expect_ or _desire,
that_, as master, do unto your slave. Let husband, parent, master, _know_
his obligations from God, and obey the Rule.
_Fugitive Slave--Obeying the Golden Rule under your version_.
Honorable Joshua R. Giddings and the Angel of the Lord--Hon. Gentleman at
table--Nine runaway negroes dining with him--The Angel, uninvited, comes
in and disturbs the feast.
Giddings has boasted in Congress of having had nine fugitive slaves to
break bread with him at one time. I choose, then, to imagine that, during
the dinner, the angel who found Hagar by the fountain stands suddenly in
the midst, and says to the negroes, "Ye slaves, whence came ye, and
whither will ye go?" And they answer and say, "We flee from the face of
our masters. This abolitionist told us to kill, and steal, and run away
from bondage; and we have murdered and stolen and escaped. He, thou seest,
welcomes us to liberty and equality. We _expect_ and _desire_ to be
members of Congress, Governors of States, to marry among the great, and
one of us to be President. Giddings, and all abolitionists, tell us that
these honors belong to us equally as to white people, and will be given
under the Golden Rule." And the angel of the Lord says to them, "Ye
slaves, return unto your masters, and submit yourselves under their hands.
I sent your fathers, and I send you, into bondage. I mean it unto good,
and I will bring it to pass to save much people alive." Then, turning to
the tempter, he says, "Thou, a statesman! thou, a reader of my word and
providence! why hast thou not understood my speech to Hagar? I gave her, a
slave, to Sarah. She fled from her mistress. I sent her back. Why hast
thou not understood my word four thousand years ago,--that _the slave
shall not flee from his master?_ Why hast thou also perverted my law in
Deuteronomy, (xxiii. 15, 16?) I say therein, 'Thou shalt not deliver unto
his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: he
shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall
choose, in one of thy gates where it liketh him best: thou shalt not
oppress him.' Why hast thou not known that I meant the _heathen slave_ who
escaped from his _heathen master?_ I commanded, Israel, in such case, not
to hold _him_ in bondage. I made this specific law for this specific fact.
Why hast thou taught that, in this commandment, I gave license to all
men-servants and maid-servants in the whole land of Israel to run away
from their masters? Why hast thou thus made me, in one saying, contradict
and make void all my laws wherein I ordained that the Hebrews should be
slave-owners over their brethren during years, and over the heathen
forever? Why hast thou in all this changed my Golden Rule? I, in that
rule, _assume_ that men _know_ from revelation and providence the
relations in which I have placed them, and their duties therein. I then
command them to do unto others what they thus _know_ they _ought_ to do
unto them in these relations; and I make the obligation quick and
powerful, by telling every man to imagine himself in such conditions, and
then he will _the better_ KNOW '_whatsoever_' he should do unto his
neighbor. Why hast thou made void my law, by making me say, 'All that thou
_expectest_ or _desirest_ of others, in similar circumstances, do to
them'? I never imagined to give such license to folly and sin. Why hast
thou imagined such license to iniquity? Verily, thou tempter, thou hast in
thy Golden Rule made these slaves thieves and murderers, and art now
eating with them the bread of sin and death.
"Why hast thou tortured my speech wherein I say that I have made of _one
blood_ all nations of men, to mean that I have created all men equal and
endowed them with rights unalienable save in their consent? I never said
that thing! I said that I made all men to descend from _one parentage!_
That is what I say in that place! Why hast thou tortured that plain truth?
Thou mightest as well teach that all 'the moving creatures that have life,
and fowl that fly above the earth, in the open firmament of heaven,' are
_created equal_, because I said I brought them forth _of the water_. Thou
mightest as well say that 'all cattle, and creeping thing and beast of the
earth, _are created equal_, because I said I brought them forth _of the
earth_, as to affirm the _equality of men_ because I say they are _of one
blood_. Nay, I have made men unequal as the leaves of the trees, the sands
of the sea, the stars of heaven. I have made them so, in harmony with the
infinite variety and inequality in every thing in my creation. And I have
made them unequal in my _mercy_. Had I made all men equal in attributes of
body and mind, then _unfallen man_ would never have realized the varied
glories of his destiny. And had I given _fallen man_ equality of nature
and unalienable rights, then I had made the earth an Aceldama and Valley
of Gehenna. For what would be the _strife_ in all the earth among men
equal in body and mind, equal in power, equal in depravity, equal in will,
each one maintaining rights unalienable? When would the war end? Who would
be the victors where all are giants? Who would sue for peace where none
will submit? What would be _human social life?_ Who would be the weak, the
loving? Who would seek or need forbearance, compassion, self-denying
benevolence? Who would be the grateful? Who would be the humble, the meek?
What would be _human_ virtue, what _human_ vice, what _human_ joy or
sorrow? Nay, I have made men _unequal_ and given them _alienable rights_,
that I might INSTITUTE HUMAN GOVERNMENT and reveal HUMAN CHARACTER.
"Why hast thou been willingly ignorant of these first principles of the
oracles of God, which would have made thee truly a Christian philosopher
_Fugitive Slave--Obeying the Golden Rule as Christ gave it_
Rev. A. Barnes and the Apostle Paul--Minister of the gospel in his
study--Fugitive slave, converted under his preaching, inquiring whether it
is not his duty to return to his master--Paul appears and rebukes the
minister for wresting his Gospel.
With all respect and affection for you, sir, I imagine a slave, having run
away from his master and become a Christian under your preaching, might,
with the Bible in his hands and the Holy Spirit in his heart, have,
despite your training, question of conscience, whether he did right to
leave his master, and ought not to go back. And I think how Paul would
listen, and what he would say, to your interpretation of his Epistle to
Philemon. I think he would say,--
"I withstand thee to thy face, because thou art to be blamed. Why hast
thou written, in thy '_Notes_,' that the word I apply to Onesimus may
mean, not _slave_, but _hired servant?_ Why hast thou said this in
unsupported assertion? Why hast thou given no respect to Robinson, and all
thy wise men, who agree that the word wherein I express Onesimus's
relation to Philemon never means a hired servant, but a _slave_,--the
property of his master,--a living possession?
"Why hast thou called in question the fact that Philemon was a
slave-holder? Why hast thou taught that, if he was a slave-holder when he
became a Christian, he could not _continue, consistently_, to be a
slave-owner and a Christian,--that if he did so _continue_, he would not
be in _good standing_, but an _offender_ in the church? (See Notes.)
"I say Philemon was the master of Onesimus, in the real sense of a
slave-owner, under Roman law, in which he had the right of life and death
over him,--being thereby a master in possession of power unknown in the
United States. And yet I call Philemon 'our dearly beloved and
fellow-laborer,' I tell him that I send to him again Onesimus, who had
been unprofitable to him in time past; but now, being a Christian, he
would be profitable. I tell him, I send him again, not a slave, (only,)
but above a slave, a Christian brother, beloved, specially to me, but how
much more unto him, both _in the flesh_ and in the Lord. Dost thou know,
Albert Barnes, what I mean by that word, _in the flesh?_ Verily, I knew
the things wherein the master and the slave are beloved, the one of the
other, in the best affections of human nature, and in the Lord! therefore
I say to Philemon that he, _as master_, could receive Onesimus _as his
slave_, and yet as a _brother_, MORE _beloved, by reason of his relation
to him as master_, than I could regard him! Yea, verily,--and I say to
thee, Albert Barnes, thou hast never been in the South, and thou dost not
understand, and canst not understand, the force, or even the meaning, of
my words _in the flesh_; i.e. _in the love of the master and the slave to
one another_. But Philemon I knew would feel its power, and so I made that
appeal to him.
"Why hast thou said, that I did not send Onesimus back _by authority?_ I
did send him back by authority,--yea, by authority of the Lord Jesus
Christ? For it was my duty to send him again to Philemon, whether he had
been willing to go or not; and it was his duty to go. But he was willing.
So we both felt our obligations; and, when I commanded, he cheerfully
obeyed. What else was my duty and his? Had I not said, in line upon line
and in precept upon precept, 'Servants, obey in all things your masters
according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in
singleness of heart, pleasing God'? (Coloss. iii. 22.) Had not Peter
written, 'Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to
the good and gentle, but also to the froward'? (1 Pet. ii. 18.) Onesimus
had broken these commandments when he fled from his master. Was it not
then of my responsibility to send him again to Philemon? And was it not
Christ's law to him to return and submit himself under his master's hand?
"Why, then, hast thou not understood my speech? Has it been even because
thou couldst not _hear_ my word? What else has hindered? What more could I
have said, than (in 1 Tim. vi. 1-5) I do say, to rebuke all abolitionists?
Yea, I describe them--I show their principles--as fully as if I had called
them by name in Boston, in New York, in Philadelphia, and said they would
live in 1857.
"And yet thou hast, in thy commentary on my letter to Timothy, utterly
distorted, maimed, and falsified my meaning. Thou hast mingled truth and
untruth so together as to make me say what was not and is not in my mind.
For thou teachest the slave, while professing not so to teach him, that I
tell him that he is _not_ to count his master worthy of all honor; that he
_is_ to _despise_ him; that he is _not_ to do him service as to a
Christian faithful and beloved. _No_. But thou teachest the slave, in my
name, to regard his Christian master an _offender_ in the sight of
Christ, if he _continues_ a slave-owner.
"Thou tellest him to obey _only_ in the sense in which he is to submit to
injustice, oppression, and cruelty; and that he is ever to seek to throw
off the yoke in his created equality and unalienable right to liberty.
"This is what thou hast taught as my gospel. But I commanded thee to
teach and exhort _just the contrary_. I commanded thee to say after this
way:--'Let as many servants as are under the yoke, count their own
masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not
blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise
them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they
are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach
"Thou, in thy 'Notes,' art compelled, though most unwillingly, to confess
that I do mean _slaves_ in this place, in the full and proper sense; yea,
slaves under the Roman law. Good. Then do I here tell slaves to count
their masters, even when not Christians, worthy of all honor; and, when
Christians, to regard them as faithful and beloved, and not to despise
them, and to do them service? Yet, after all this, do I say to these same
slaves that they have a created equality and unalienable right to liberty,
under which, whenever they think fit, I command them to dishonor their
masters, despise them, and run away! Sir, I did never so instruct slaves;
nay, I did never command thee so to teach them. But I did and do exhort
thee not so to train them; for I said then and say now to thee, 'If any
man teach [slaves] otherwise, [than to honor their masters as faithful and
beloved, and to do them service,] and consent not to wholesome words, even
the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according
to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and
strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and DESTITUTE OF THE TRUTH,
supposing that gain is godliness; from such withdraw thyself,'
"What more could I have said to the abolitionists of my day? What more can
I say to them in this day? _That_ which was true of them two thousand
years ago, is true now. I rebuked abolitionists then, and I rebuke them
now. I tell them the things in their hearts,--the things on their
tongues,--the things in their hands,--are contrary to wholesome words,
even the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Canst thou _hear_ my words in
this place without feeling how faithfully I have given the head, and the
heart, and the words, and the doings of the men, from whom thou hast not
"Verily, thou canst not _hear_ my speech, and therefore thou canst not
interpret my gospel. Thou believest it is impossible that I sanction
slavery! Hence it is impossible for thee to understand my words: for I do
sanction slavery. How? Thus:--
"I found slavery in Asia, in Greece, in Rome. I saw it to be one mode of
the government ordained of God. I regarded it, in most conditions of
fallen mankind, necessarily and irresistibly part of such government, and
therefore as natural, as wise, as good, in such conditions, as the other
ways men are ruled in the state or the family.
"I took up slavery, then, as such ordained government,--wise, good, yea
best, in certain circumstances, until, in the elevating spirit and power
of my gospel, the slave is made fit for the liberty and equality of his
master, if he can be so lifted up. Hence I make the RULE of magistrate,
subject, master and servant, parent and child, husband and wife, THE SAME
RULE; _i.e._ I make it THE SAME RIGHT in the _superior_ to control the
_obedience_ and the _service_ of the _inferior_, bound to obey, whatever
the difference in the relations and service to be rendered. Yea, I give
_exactly the same command_ to all in these relations; and thus, in all my
words, I make it plainly to be understood that I regard slavery to be as
righteous a mode of government as that of magistrate and subject, parent
and child, husband and wife, during the circumstances and times in which
God is pleased to have it continue. I saw all the injustice, the
oppression, the cruelty, masters might be guilty of, and were and are now
guilty of; but I saw no more injustice, oppression, and cruelty, in the
relation of master and slave, than I saw in all other forms of rule,--even
in that of husband and wife, parent and child. In my gospel I condemn
wrong in all these states of life, while I fully sanction and sustain the
relations themselves. I tell the magistrate, husband, father, master, how
to rule; I tell the subject, wife, child, servant, how to submit. Hence, I
command the slave not to flee from bondage, just as I require the subject,
the wife, the child, not to resist or flee from obedience. I warn the
slave, if he leaves his master he has sinned, and must return; and I make
it the duty of all men to see to it, that _he shall go back_. Hence, I
myself did what I command others to do: I sent Onesimus back to his
"Thus I sanction slavery everywhere in the New Testament. But it is
impossible for thee, with thy principles,--thy law of reason,--thy law of
created equality and unalienable right,--thy elevation of the Declaration
of Independence above the ordinance of God,--to sustain slavery. Nay, it
is impossible for thee, with thy interpretation of Christ's Golden Rule,
to recognise the system of servile labor; nay, it is impossible for thee
to tell _this_ slave to return to his master as I sent Onesimus back;
nay, thou art guarded by thy Golden Rule. Thou tellest him that, if thou
hadst been in his place, thou wouldst have _expected, desired_ freedom,
that thou wouldst have run away, and that thou wouldst not now return;
that thou wouldst have regarded thy created equality and unalienable
right as thy supreme law, and have disregarded and scorned all other
obligations as _pretended revelation from God_. Therefore thou now doest
unto him '_whatsoever_' thou wouldst _expect_ or _desire_ him to do unto
thee in similar circumstances; _i.e._ thou tellest him he did right to
run away, and will do right not to return! This is thy Golden Rule. But
I did not instruct thee so to learn Christ. Nay, this slave knows thou
hast not not given him the mind of Christ; nay, he knows that Christ
commands thee to send him to his master again. And thus do what thou
OUGHTEST to _expect_ or _desire_ in similar circumstances; yea, _do_ now
_thy duty_, and this slave, like Onesimus, will bless thee for giving him
a good conscience whenever he will return to his obedience. Thus Paul,
the aged, speaks to thee."
So, then, the Golden Rule is the whole Bible; yea, Christ says it is-"the
law and the prophets;" yea, it is the Old Testament and the New condensed;
and with ever-increasing glory of Providence in one sublime aphorism,
which can be understood and obeyed only by those who _know_ what the
Bible, or Providence, reveals as to man's varied conditions and his
I think, sir, I have refuted your interpretation of the Golden Rule, and
have given its true meaning.
The slave-holder, then, may have a good conscience under this commandment.
Let him so exercise himself as to have a conscience void of offence
towards God and towards men.
Yours, &c. F.A. Ross.
I intended to, and may yet, in a subsequent edition, write two more
letters to A. Barnes. The _one_, to show how infidelity has been passing
off from the South to the North,--especially since the _Christian death_
of Jackson; the other, to meet Mr. Barnes's argument founded on the spirit
of the age.
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