The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 4 of 4
American Anti-Slavery Society

Part 1 out of 4

Produced by Stan Goodman, Amy Overmyer, Robert Prince and PG Distributed


By The American Anti-Slavery Society 1839

No. 12. Chattel Principle The Abhorrence of Jesus Christ
and the Apostles; Or No Refuge for American Slavery
in the New Testament.

On the Condition of the Free People of Color in the
United States.

No. 13. Can Abolitionists Vote or Take Office Under the United
States Constitution?

Address to the Friends of Constitutional Liberty, on the
Violation by the United States House of Representatives
of the Right of Petition at the Executive Committee of
the American Anti-Slavery Society.

No. 12.








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Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? In 1776 THOMAS
JEFFERSON, supported by a noble band of patriots and surrounded by
the American people, opened his lips in the authoritative declaration:
"We hold these truths to be SELF-EVIDENT, that all men are
created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
inalienable rights; that among these are life, LIBERTY, and the
pursuit of happiness." And from the inmost heart of the multitudes
around, and in a strong and clear voice, broke forth the unanimous
and decisive answer: Amen--such truths we do indeed hold to be
self-evident. And animated and sustained by a declaration, so
inspiring and sublime, they rushed to arms, and as the result of
agonizing efforts and dreadful sufferings, achieved under God the
independence of their country. The great truth, whence they derived
light and strength to assert and defend their rights, they made the
foundation of their republic. And in the midst of this republic,
must we prove, that He, who was the Truth, did not contradict
"the truths" which He Himself; as their Creator, had made
self-evident to mankind?

Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? What, according to
those laws which make it what it is, is American slavery? In the
Statute-book of South Carolina thus it is written:[1] "Slaves shall
be deemed, held, taken, reputed and adjudged in law to be chattels
personal in the hands of their owners and possessors, and their
executors, administrators and assigns, to all intents, construction
and purposes whatever." The very root of American slavery consists
in the assumption, that law has reduced men to chattels. But this
assumption is, and must be, a gross falsehood. Men and cattle are
separated from each other by the Creator, immutably, eternally, and
by an impassable gulf. To confound or identify men and cattle must
be to lie most wantonly, impudently, and maliciously. And must we
prove, that Jesus Christ is not in favor of palpable, monstrous

[Footnote 1: Stroud's Slave Laws, p. 23.]

Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? How can a system,
built upon a stout and impudent denial of self-evident truth--a
system of treating men like cattle--operate? Thomas Jefferson shall
answer. Hear him. "The whole commerce between master and slave is a
perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions; the most
unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on
the other. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the
lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller
slaves, gives loose to his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated,
and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with
odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy, who can retain his
manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances."[2] Such is the
practical operation of a system, which puts men and cattle into the
same family and treats them alike. And must we prove, that Jesus
Christ is not in favor of a school where the worst vices in their
most hateful forms are systematically and efficiently taught and
practiced? Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? What, in
1818, did the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church affirm
respecting its nature and operation? "Slavery creates a paradox in
the moral system--it exhibits rational, accountable, and immortal
beings, in such circumstances as scarcely to leave them the power of
moral action. It exhibits them as dependent on the will of others,
whether they shall receive religious instruction; whether they shall
know and worship the true God; whether they shall enjoy the
ordinances of the gospel; whether they shall perform the duties and
cherish the endearments of husbands and wives, parents and children,
neighbors and friends; whether they shall preserve their chastity
and purity, or regard the dictates of justice and humanity. Such are
some of the consequences of slavery; consequences not imaginary, but
which connect themselves with its very existence. The evils to which
the slave is _always_ exposed, _often take place_ in their very
worst degree and form; and where all of them do not take place,
still the slave is deprived of his natural rights, degraded as a
human being, and exposed to the danger of passing into the hands of
a master who may inflict upon him all the hardship and injuries
which inhumanity and avarice may suggest."[3] Must we prove, that
Jesus Christ is not in favor of such things?

[Footnote 2: Notes on Virginia, Boston Ed. 1832, pp. 169, 170.]

[Footnote 3: Minutes of the General assembly for 1818, p. 29.]

Is Jesus Christ in favor of American slavery? It is already widely
felt and openly acknowledged at the South, that they cannot support
slavery without sustaining the opposition of universal Christendom.
And Thomas Jefferson declared, "I tremble for my country when I
reflect that God is just; that his justice can not sleep forever;
that considering numbers, nature, and natural means only, a
revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is
among possible events; that it may become practicable by
supernatural influences! The Almighty has no attribute which can
take sides with us in such a contest."[4] And must we prove, that
Jesus Christ is not in favor of what universal Christendom is
impelled to abhor, denounce, and oppose; is not in favor of what
every attribute of Almighty God is armed against?

[Footnote 4: Notes on Virginia, Boston Ed. 1832, pp. 170, 171.]


It is no man of straw, with whom, in making out such proof, we are
called to contend. Would to God we had no other antagonist! Would to
God that our labor of love could be regarded as a work of
supererogation! But we may well be ashamed and grieved to find it
necessary to "stop the mouths" of grave and learned ecclesiastics,
who from the heights of Zion have undertaken to defend the
institution of slavery. We speak not now of those, who amidst the
monuments of oppression are engaged in the sacred vocation; who, as
ministers of the Gospel, can "prophesy smooth things" to such as
pollute the altar of Jehovah with human sacrifices; nay, who
themselves bind the victim and kindle the sacrifice. That they
should put their Savior to the torture, to wring from his lips
something in favor of slavery, is not to be wondered at. They
consent to the murder of the children; can they respect the rights
of the Father? But what shall we say of distinguished theologians of
the north--professors of sacred literature at our oldest divinity
schools--who stand up to defend, both by argument and authority,
southern slavery! And from the Bible! Who, Balaam-like, try a
thousand expedients to force from the mouth of Jehovah a sentence
which they know the heart of Jehovah abhors! Surely we have here
something more mischievous and formidable than a man of straw. More
than two years ago, and just before the meeting of the General
Assembly of the Presbyterian church, appeared an article in the
Biblical Repertory,[5] understood to be from the pen of the
Professor of Sacred Literature at Princeton, in which an effort is
made to show, that slavery, whatever may be said of any abuses of
it, is not a violation of the precepts of the Gospel. This article,
we are informed, was industriously and extensively distributed among
the members of the General Assembly--a body of men, who by a
frightful majority seemed already too much disposed to wink at the
horrors of slavery. The effect of the Princeton Apology on the
southern mind, we have high authority for saying, has been most
decisive and injurious. It has contributed greatly to turn the
public eye off from the sin--from the inherent and necessary evils
of slavery to incidental evils, which the abuse of it might be
expected to occasion. And how few can be brought to admit, that
whatever abuses may prevail nobody knows where or how, any such
thing is chargeable upon them! Thus our Princeton prophet has done
what he could to lay the southern conscience asleep upon ingenious
perversions of the sacred volume!

[Footnote 5: For April, 1836. The General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church met in the following May, at Pittsburgh, where,
in pamphlet form, this article was distributed. The following
appeared upon the title page:

_For gratuitous distribution_.

About a year after this, an effort in the same direction was jointly
made by Dr. Fisk and Professor Stuart. In a letter to a Methodist
clergyman, Mr. Merrit, published in Zion's Herald, Dr. Fisk gives
utterance to such things as the following:--

"But that you and the public may see and feel, that you have the
ablest and those who are among the honestest men of this age,
arrayed against you, be pleased to notice the following letter from
Prof. Stuart. I wrote to him, knowing as I did his integrity of
purpose, his unflinching regard for truth, as well as his deserved
reputation as a scholar and biblical critic, proposing the following

1. Does the New Testament directly or indirectly teach, that slavery
existed in the primitive church?

2. In 1 Tim. vi. 2, And they that have believing masters, &c., what
is the relation expressed or implied between "they" (servants) and
"believing masters?" And what are your reasons for the construction
of the passage?

3. What was the character of ancient and eastern slavery?--
Especially what (legal) power did this relation give the master over
the slave?


ANDOVER, 10th Apr., 1837

REV. AND DEAR SIR,--Yours is before me. A sickness of three
month's standing (typhus fever) in which I have just escaped death,
and which still confines me to my house, renders it impossible for me
to answer your letter at large.

1. The precepts of the New Testament respecting the demeanor of
slaves and of their masters, beyond all question, recognize the
existence of slavery. The masters are in part "believing masters," so
that a precept to them, how they are to behave as masters,
recognizes that the relation may still exist, _salva fide et salva
ecclesia_, ("without violating the Christian faith or the church.")
Otherwise, Paul had nothing to do but to cut the band asunder at once.
He could not lawfully and properly temporize with a _malum in se_,
("that which is in itself sin.")

If any one doubts, let him take the case of Paul's sending Onesimus
back to Philemon, with an apology for his running away, and sending
him back to be his servant for life. The relation did exist, may
exist. The _abuse_ of it is the essential and fundamental wrong.
Not that the theory of slavery is in itself right. No; "Love thy
neighbor as thyself," "Do unto others that which ye would that others
should do unto you," decide against this. But the relation once
constituted and continued, is not such a _malum in se_ as calls
for immediate and violent disruption at all hazards. So Paul did not

2. 1 Tim. vi. 2, expresses the sentiment, that slaves, who are
Christians and have Christian masters, are not, on that account, and
because _as Christians they are brethren_, to forego the reverence
due to them as masters. That is, the relation of master and slave is
not, as a matter of course, abrogated between all Christians. Nay,
servants should in such a case, _a fortiori_, do their duty
cheerfully. This sentiment lies on the very face of the case. What
the master's duty in such a case may be in respect to _liberation_,
is another question, and one which the apostle does not here treat of.

3. Every one knows, who is acquainted with Greek or Latin antiquities,
that slavery among heathen nations has ever been more unqualified
and at looser ends than among Christian nations. Slaves were
_property_ in Greece and Rome. That decides all questions about
their _relation_. Their treatment depended, as it does now, on the
temper of their masters. The power of the master over the slave was,
for a long time, that of _life and death_. Horrible cruelties at
length mitigated it. In the apostle's day, it was at least as great
as among us.

After all the spouting and vehemence on this subject, which have been
exhibited, the _good old Book_ remains the same. Paul's conduct
and advice are still safe guides. Paul knew well that Christianity
would ultimately destroy slavery, as it certainly will. He knew,
too, that it would destroy monarchy and aristocracy from the earth:
for it is fundamentally a doctrine of _true liberty and equality_.
Yet Paul did not expect slavery or anarchy to be ousted in a day; and
gave precepts to Christians respecting their demeanor _ad interim_.

With sincere and paternal regard,

Your friend and brother,


--This, sir, is doctrine that will stand, because it is _Bible
doctrine_. The abolitionists, then, are on a wrong course. They have
traveled out of the record; and if they would succeed, they must
take a different position, and approach the subject in a different

Respectfully yours,



What are we taught here? That in the ecclesiastical organizations
which grew up under the hands of the apostles, slavery was admitted
as a relation that did not violate the Christian faith; that the
relation may now in like manner exist; that "the abuse of it is the
essential and fundamental wrong;" and of course, that American
Christians may hold their own brethren in slavery without incurring
guilt or inflicting injury. Thus, according to Prof. Stuart, Jesus
Christ has not a word to say against "the peculiar institutions" of
the South. If our brethren there do not "abuse" the privilege of
enacting unpaid labor, they may multiply their slaves to their
hearts' content, without exposing themselves to the frown of the
Savior or laying their Christian character open to the least
suspicion. Could any trafficker in human flesh ask for greater
latitude! And to such doctrines, Dr. Fisk eagerly and earnestly
subscribes. He goes further. He urges it on the attention of his
brethren, as containing important truth, which they ought to embrace.
According to him, it is "_Bible doctrine_," showing, that "the
abolitionists are on a wrong course," and must, "if they would
succeed, take a different position."

We now refer to such distinguished names, to show, that in attempting
to prove that Jesus Christ is not in favor of American slavery, we
contend with something else than a man of straw. The ungrateful task,
which a particular examination of Professor Stuart's letter lays
upon us, we hope fairly to dispose of in due season. Enough has now
been said to make it clear and certain, that American slavery has its
apologists and advocates in the northern pulpit; advocates and
apologists, who fall behind few if any of their brethren in the
reputation they have acquired, the stations they occupy, and the
general influence they are supposed to exert.

Is it so? Did slavery exist in Judea, and among the Jews, in its
worst form, during the Savior's incarnation? If the Jews held slaves,
they must have done in open and flagrant violation of the letter and
the spirit of the Mosaic Dispensation. Whoever has any doubts of
this may well resolve his doubts in the light of the Argument
entitled "The Bible against Slavery." If, after a careful and
thorough examination of that article, he can believe that
slaveholding prevailed during the ministry of Jesus Christ among the
Jews and in accordance with the authority of Moses, he would do the
reading public an important service to record the grounds of his
belief--especially in a fair and full refutation of that Argument.
Till that is done, we hold ourselves excused from attempting to
prove what we now repeat, that if the Jews during our Savior's
incarnation held slaves, they must have done so in open and flagrant
violation of the letter and spirit of the Mosaic Dispensation. Could
Christ and the Apostles every where among their countrymen come in
contact with slaveholding, being as it was a gross violation of that
law which their office and their profession required them to honor
and enforce, without exposing and condemning it?

In its worst forms, we are told, slavery prevailed over the whole
world, not excepting Judea. As, according to such ecclesiastics as
Stuart, Hodge and Fisk, slavery in itself is not bad at all, the term
"_worst_" could be applied only to "_abuses_" of this innocent
relation. Slavery accordingly existed among the Jews, disfigured and
disgraced by the "worst abuses" to which it is liable. These abuses
in the ancient world, Professor Stuart describes as "horrible
cruelties." And in our own country, such abuses have grown so rank,
as to lead a distinguished eye-witness--no less a philosopher and
statesman than Thomas Jefferson--to say, that they had armed against
us every attribute of the Almighty. With these things the Savior
every where came in contact, among the people to whose improvement
and salvation he devoted his living powers, and yet not a word, not
a syllable, in exposure and condemnation of such "horrible cruelties"
escaped his lips! He saw--among the "covenant people" of Jehovah he
saw, the babe plucked from the bosom of its mother; the wife torn
from the embrace of her husband; the daughter driven to the market
by the scourge of her own father;--he saw the word of God sealed up
from those who, of all men, were especially entitled to its
enlightening, quickening influence;--nay, he saw men beaten for
kneeling before the throne of heavenly mercy;--such things he saw
without a word of admonition or reproof! No sympathy with them who
suffered wrong--no indignation at them who inflicted wrong, moved
his heart!

From the alleged silence of the Savior, when in contact with slavery
among the Jews, our divines infer, that it is quite consistent with
Christianity. And they affirm, that he saw it in its worst forms;
that is, he witnessed what Professor Stuart ventures to call
"horrible cruelties." But what right have these interpreters of the
sacred volume to regard any form of slavery which the Savior found,
as "worst," or even bad? According to their inference--which they
would thrust gag-wise into the mouths of abolitionists--his silence
should seal up their lips. They ought to hold their tongues. They
have no right to call any form of slavery bad--an abuse; much less,
horribly cruel! Their inference is broad enough to protect the most
brutal driver amidst his deadliest inflictions!


And did the Head of the new dispensation, then, fall so far behind
the prophets of the old in a hearty and effective regard for
suffering humanity? The forms of oppression which they witnessed,
excited their compassion and aroused their indignation. In terms the
most pointed and powerful, they exposed, denounced, threatened. They
could not endure the creatures, "who used their neighbors' service
without wages, and gave him not for his work;"[6] who imposed
"heavy burdens"[7] upon their fellows, and loaded them with
"the bands of wickedness;" who, "hiding themselves from their own
flesh," disowned their own mothers' children. Professions of piety
joined with the oppression of the poor, they held up to universal
scorn and execration, as the dregs of hypocrisy. They warned the
creature of such professions, that he could escape the wrath of
Jehovah only by heart-felt repentance. And yet, according to the
ecclesiastics with whom we have to do, the Lord of these prophets
passed by in silence just such enormities as he commanded them to
expose and denounce! Every where, he came in contact with slavery in
its worst forms--"horrible cruelties" forced themselves upon his
notice; but not a word of rebuke or warning did he utter. He saw
"a boy given for a harlot, and a girl sold for wine, that they might
drink,"[8] without the slightest feeling of displeasure, or any mark
of disapprobation! To such disgusting and horrible conclusions, do
the arguings which, from the haunts of sacred literature, are
inflicted on our churches, lead us! According to them, Jesus Christ,
instead of shining as the light of the world, extinguished the
torches which his own prophets had kindled, and plunged mankind into
the palpable darkness of a starless midnight! O savior, in pity to
thy suffering people, let thy temple be no longer used as a
"den of thieves!"

[Footnote 6: Jeremiah, xxii. 13.]

[Footnote 7: Isaiah, lviii. 6, 7.]

[Footnote 8: Joel, iii. 3.]


In passing by the worst forms of slavery, with which he every where
came in contact among the Jews, the Savior must have been
inconsistent with himself. He was commissioned to preach glad
tidings to the poor; to heal the broken-hearted; to preach
deliverance to the captives; to set at liberty them that are bruised;
to preach the year of Jubilee. In accordance with this commission,
he bound himself, from the earliest date of his incarnation, to the
poor, by the strongest ties; himself "had not where to lay his head;"
he exposed himself to misrepresentation and abuse for his
affectionate intercourse with the outcasts of society; he stood up
as the advocate of the widow, denouncing and dooming the heartless
ecclesiastics, who had made her bereavement a source of gain; and in
describing the scenes of the final judgment, he selected the very
personification of poverty, disease and oppression, as the test by
which our regard for him should be determined. To the poor and
wretched; to the degraded and despised, his arms were ever open.
They had his tenderest sympathies. They had his warmest love. His
heart's blood he poured out upon the ground for the human family,
reduced to the deepest degradation, and exposed to the heaviest
inflictions, as the slaves of the grand usurper. And yet, according
to our ecclesiastics, that class of sufferers who had been reduced
immeasurably below every other shape and form of degradation and
distress; who had been most rudely thrust out of the family of Adam,
and forced to herd with swine; who, without the slightest offence,
had been made the footstool of the worst criminals; whose "tears
were their meat night and day," while, under nameless insults and
killing injuries they were continually crying, O Lord, O Lord:--this
class of sufferers, and this alone, our biblical expositors,
occupying the high places of sacred literature, would make us
believe the compassionate Savior coldly overlooked. Not an emotion
of pity; not a look of sympathy; not a word of consolation, did his
gracious heart prompt him to bestow upon them! He denounces
damnation upon the devourer of the widow's house. But the monster,
whose trade it is to make widows and devour them and their babes, he
can calmly endure! O Savior, when wilt thou stop the mouths of such


It seems that though, according to our Princeton professor,
"the subject" of slavery "is hardly alluded to by Christ in any
of his personal instructions,"[9] he had a way of "treating it."
What was that? Why, "he taught the true nature, DIGNITY, EQUALITY,
and destiny of men," and "inculcated the principles of justice and
love."[10] And according to Professor Stuart, the maxims which our
Savior furnished, "decide against" "the theory of slavery." All, then,
that these ecclesiastical apologists for slavery can make of the
Savior's alleged silence is, that he did not, in his personal
instructions, "_apply his own principles to this particular form of
wickedness_." For wicked that must be, which the maxims of the
Savior decide against, and which our Princeton professor assures
us the principles of the gospel, duly acted on, would speedily
extinguish.[11] How remarkable it is, that a teacher should
"hardly allude to a subject in any of his personal instructions,"
and yet inculcate principles which have a direct and vital bearing
upon it!--should so conduct, as to justify the inference, that
"slaveholding is not a crime,"[12] and at the same time lend its
authority for its "speedy extinction!"

[Footnote 9: Pittsburg pamphlet, (already alluded to,) p.9.]

[Footnote 10: Pittsburg pamphlet, p. 9.]

[Footnote 11: The same, p. 34.]

[Footnote 12: The same, p. 13.]

Higher authority than sustains _self-evident truths_ there cannot
be. As forms of reason, they are rays from the face of Jehovah.
Not only are their presence and power self-manifested, but they
also shed a strong and clear light around them. In their light,
other truths are visible. Luminaries themselves, it is their
office to enlighten. To their authority, in every department of
thought, the same mind bows promptly, gratefully, fully. And by their
authority, he explains, proves, and disposes of whatever engages his
attention and engrosses his powers as a reasonable and reasoning
creature. For what, when thus employed and when most successful, is
the utmost he can accomplish? Why, to make the conclusions which he
would establish and commend, _clear in the light of reason_;--in
other words, to evince that _they are reasonable_. He expects that
those with whom he has to do will acknowledge the authority of
principle--will see whatever is exhibited in the light of reason. If
they require him to go further, and, in order to convince them, to
do something more than show that the doctrines he maintains, and the
methods he proposes, are accordant with reason--are illustrated and
supported with "self-evident truths"--they are plainly "beside
themselves." They have lost the use of reason. They are not to be
argued with. They belong to the mad-house.


Are we to honor the Bible, which Professor Stuart quaintly calls
"the good old book," by turning away from "self-evident truths" to
receive its instructions? Can these truths be contradicted or denied
there? Do we search for something there to obscure their clearness,
or break their force, or reduce their authority? Do we long to find
something there, in the form of premises or conclusions, of arguing
or of inference, in broad statement or blind hints, creed-wise or
fact-wise, which may set us free from the light and power of first
principles? And what if we were to discover what we were thus in
search of?--something directly or indirectly, expressly or impliedly
prejudicial to the principles, which reason, placing us under the
authority of, makes self-evident? In what estimation, in that case,
should we be constrained to hold the Bible? Could we longer honor
it as the book of God? _The book of God opposed to the authority of_
REASON! Why, before what tribunal do we dispose of the claims of the
sacred volume to divine authority? The tribunal of reason. _This
every one acknowledges the moment he begins to reason on the subject_.
And what must reason do with a book, which reduces the authority of
its own principles--breaks the force of self-evident truths? Is he
not, by way of eminence, the apostle of infidelity, who, as a
minister of the gospel or a professor of sacred literature, exerts
himself, with whatever arts of ingenuity or show of piety, to exalt
the Bible at the expense of reason? Let such arts succeed and such
piety prevail, and Jesus Christ is "crucified afresh and put to an
open shame."

What saith the Princeton professor? Why, in spite of "general
principles," and "clear as we may think the arguments against
DESPOTISM, there have been thousands of ENLIGHTENED _and good men_,
who _honestly_ believe it to be of all forms of government the best
and most acceptable to God."[13] Now these "good men" must have been
thus warmly in favor of despotism, in consequence of, or in
opposition to, their being "enlightened." In other words, the light,
which in such abundance they enjoyed, conducted them to the position
in favor of despotism, where the Princeton professor so heartily
shook hands with them, or they must have forced their way there in
despite of its hallowed influence. Either in accordance with, or in
resistance to the light, they became what he found them--the
advocates of despotism. If in resistance to the light--and he says
they were "enlightened men"--what, so far as the subject with which
alone he and we are now concerned, becomes of their "honesty" and
"goodness?" Good and honest resisters of the light, which was freely
poured around them! Of such, what says Professor Stuart's "good old
Book?" Their authority, where "general principles" command the least
respect, must be small indeed. But if in accordance with the light,
they have become the advocates of despotism, then is despotism
"the best form of government and most acceptable to God." It is
sustained by the authority of reason, by the word of Jehovah, by the
will of Heaven! If this be the doctrine which prevails at certain
theological seminaries, it must be easy to account for the spirit
which they breathe, and the general influence which they exert. Why
did not the Princeton professor place this "general principle" as a
shield, heaven-wrought and reason approved, over that cherished form
of despotism which prevails among the churches of the South, and
leave the "peculiar institutions" he is so forward to defend, under
its protection?

[Footnote 13: Pittsburg pamphlet, p. 12.]

What is the "general principle" to which, whatever may become of
despotism, with its "honest" admirers and "enlightened" supporters,
human governments should be universally and carefully adjusted?
Clearly this--_that as capable of, man is entitled to, self
government_. And this is a specific form of a still more
general principle, which may well be pronounced self-evident--_that
every thing should be treated according to its nature_. The mind
that can doubt this, must be incapable of rational conviction.
Man, then,--it is the dictate of reason, it is the voice of
Jehovah--must be treated as _a man_. What is he? What are his
distinctive attributes? The Creator impressed his own image on him.
In this were found the grand peculiarities of his character. Here
shone his glory. Here REASON manifests its laws. Here the WILL puts
forth its volitions. Here is the crown of IMMORTALITY. Why such
endowments? Thus furnished--the image of Jehovah--is he not capable
of self-government? And is he not to be so treated? _Within the
sphere where the laws of reason place him_, may he not act according
to his choice--carry out his own volitions?--may he not enjoy life,
exult in freedom, and pursue as he will the path of blessedness? If
not, why was he so created and endowed? Why the mysterious, awful
attribute of will? To be a source, profound as the depths of hell,
of exquisite misery, of keen anguish, of insufferable torment! Was man,
formed "according to the image of Jehovah," to be crossed, thwarted,
counteracted; to be forced in upon himself; to be the sport of
endless contradictions; to be driven back and forth forever between
mutually repellant forces; and all, all "at the discretion of
another!"[14] How can man be treated according to his nature, as
endowed with reason or will, if excluded from the powers and
privileges of self-government?--if "despotism" be let loose upon
him, to "deprive him of personal liberty, oblige him to serve at the
discretion of another" and with the power of "transferring" such
"authority" over him and such claim upon him, to "another master?"
If "thousands of enlightened and good men" can so easily be found,
who are forward to support "despotism" as "of all governments the
best and most acceptable to God," we need not wonder at the
testimony of universal history, that "the whole creation groaneth
and travaileth in pain together until now." Groans and travail pangs
must continue to be the order of the day throughout "the whole
creation," till the rod of despotism be broken, and man be treated
as man--as capable of, and entitled to, self-government.

[Footnote 14: Pittsburg pamphlet, p. 12.]

But what is the despotism whose horrid features our smooth professor
tries to hide beneath an array of cunningly selected words and
nicely-adjusted sentences? It is the despotism of American
slavery--which crushes the very life of humanity out of its victims,
and transforms them to cattle! At its touch, they sink from men to
things! "Slaves," saith Professor Stuart, "were _property_ in Greece
and Rome. That decides all questions about their _relation_." Yes,
truly. And slaves in republican America are _property_; and as that
easily, clearly, and definitely settles "all questions about their
_relation_," why should the Princeton professor have put himself
to the trouble of weaving a definition equally ingenious and
inadequate--at once subtle and deceitful. Ah, why? Was he willing thus
to conceal the wrongs of his mother's children even from himself? If
among the figments of his brain, he could fashion slaves, and make
them something else than property, he knew full well that a very
different pattern was in use among the southern patriarchs. Why did
he not, in plain words and sober earnest, and good faith, describe
the thing as it was, instead of employing honied words and courtly
phrases, to set forth with all becoming vagueness and ambiguity,
what might possibly be supposed to exist in the regions of fancy.


But are we, in maintaining the principle of self-government, to
overlook the unripe, or neglected, or broken powers of any of our
fellow-men with whom we may be connected?--or the strong passions,
vicious propensities, or criminal pursuits of others? Certainly not.
But in providing for their welfare, we are to exert influences and
impose restraints suited to their character. In wielding those
prerogatives which the social of our nature authorizes us to employ
for their benefit, we are to regard them as they are in truth, not
things, not cattle, not articles of merchandize, but men, our
fellow-men--reflecting, from however battered and broken a surface,
reflecting with us the image of a common Father. And the great
principle of self-government is to be the basis, to which the whole
structure of discipline under which they may be placed, should be
adapted. From the nursery and village school on to the work-house
and state-prison, this principle is ever and in all things to be
before the eyes, present in the thoughts, warm on the heart.
Otherwise, God is insulted, while his image is despised and abused.
Yes, indeed; we remember, that in carrying out the principle of
self-government, multiplied embarrassments and obstructions grow out
of wickedness on the one hand and passion on the other. Such
difficulties and obstacles we are far enough from overlooking. But
where are they to be found? Are imbecility and wickedness, bad
hearts and bad heads, confined to the bottom of society? Alas, the
weakest of the weak, and the desperately wicked, often occupy the
high places of the earth, reducing every thing within their reach to
subserviency to the foulest purposes. Nay, the very power they have
usurped, has often been the chief instrument of turning their heads,
inflaming their passions, corrupting their hearts. All the world
knows, that the possession of arbitrary power has a strong tendency
to make men shamelessly wicked and insufferably mischievous. And
this, whether the vassals over whom they domineer, be few or many.
If you cannot trust man with himself, will you put his fellows
under his control?--and flee from the inconveniences incident to
self-government, to the horrors of despotism?


Is the slaveholder, the most absolute and shameless of all despots,
to be entrusted with the discipline of the injured men who he
himself has reduced to cattle?--with the discipline with which they
are to be prepared to wield the powers and enjoy the privileges of
freemen? Alas, of such discipline as _he_ can furnish, in the
relation of owner to property, they have had enough. From this
sprang the very ignorance and vice, which in the view of many, lie
in the way of their immediate enfranchisement. He it is, who has
darkened their eyes and crippled their powers. And are they to look
to him for illumination and renewed vigor!--and expect "grapes from
thorns and figs from thistles!" Heaven forbid! When, according to
arrangements which had usurped the sacred name of law, he consented
to receive and use them as property, he forfeited all claims to the
esteem and confidence, not only of the helpless sufferers themselves,
but also of every philanthropist. In becoming a slaveholder, he
became the enemy of mankind. The very act was a declaration of war
upon human nature. What less can be made of the process of turning
men to cattle? It is rank absurdity--it is the height of madness, to
propose to employ _him_ to train, for the places of freemen, those
whom he has wantonly robbed of every right--whom he has stolen from
themselves. Sooner place Burke, who used to murder for the sake of
selling bodies to the dissector, at the head of a hospital. Why,
what have our slaveholders been about these two hundred years? Have
they not been constantly and earnestly engaged in the work of
education?--training up their human cattle? And how? Thomas
Jefferson shall answer. "The whole commerce between master and slave,
is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions; the most
unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on
the other." Is this the way to fit the unprepared for the duties and
privileges of American citizens? Will the evils of the dreadful
process be diminished by adding to its length? What, in 1818, was
the unanimous testimony of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian
Church? Why, after describing a variety of influences growing out of
slavery, most fatal to mental and moral improvement, the General
Assembly assure us, that such "consequences are not imaginary, but
connect themselves WITH THE VERY EXISTENCE[15] of slavery. The evils to
which the slave is _always_ exposed, _often_ take place in fact, and
IN THEIR VERY WORST DEGREE AND FORM; and where all of them do not
take place," "still the slave is deprived of his natural right,
degraded as a human being, and exposed to the danger of passing into
the hands of a master who may inflict upon him all the hardships and
injuries which inhumanity and avarice may suggest." Is this the
condition in which our ecclesiastics would keep the slave, at least
a little longer, to fit him to be restored to himself?

[Footnote 15: The words here marked as emphatic, were so distinguished
by ourselves.]


The methods of discipline under which, as slaveholders; the Southrons
now place their human cattle, they with one consent and in great
wrath, forbid us to examine. The statesman and the priest unite in
the assurance, that these methods are none of our business. Nay, they
give us distinctly to understand, that if we come among them to take
observations, and make inquiries, and discuss questions, they will
dispose of us as outlaws. Nothing will avail to protect us from
speedy and deadly violence! What inference does all this warrant?
Surely, not that the methods which they employ are happy and worthy
of universal application. If so, why do they not take the praise,
and give us the benefit of their wisdom, enterprise, and success? Who,
that has nothing to hide, practices concealment? "He that doeth
truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be manifest, that they
are wrought in God." Is this the way of slaveholders? Darkness they
court--they will have darkness. Doubtless "because their deeds are
evil." Can we confide in methods for the benefit of our enslaved
brethren, which it is death for us to examine? What good ever came,
what good can we expect, from deeds of darkness?

Did the influence of the masters contribute any thing in the West
Indies to prepare the apprentices for enfranchisement? Nay, verily.
All the world knows better. They did what in them lay, to turn back
the tide of blessings, which, through emancipation, was pouring in
upon the famishing around them. Are not the best minds and hearts in
England now thoroughly convinced, that slavery, under no modification,
can be a school for freedom?

We say such things to the many who allege, that slaves cannot at
once be entrusted with the powers and privileges of self-government.
However this may be, they cannot be better qualified under the
_influence of slavery_. _That must be broken up_ from which their
ignorance, and viciousness, and wretchedness proceeded. That which
can only do what it has always done, pollute and degrade, must not
be employed to purify and elevate. _The lower their character and
condition, the louder, clearer, sterner, the just demand for
immediate emancipation_. The plague-smitten sufferer can derive no
benefit from breathing a little longer an infected atmosphere.

In thus referring to elemental principles--in thus availing ourselves
of the light of self-evident truths--we bow to the authority and tread
in the foot-prints of the great Teacher. He chid those around him for
refusing to make the same use of their reason in promoting their
spiritual, as they made in promoting their temporal welfare. He gives
them distinctly to understand, that they need not go out of themselves
to form a just estimation of their position, duties, and prospects,
as standing in the presence of the Messiah. "Why, EVEN OF YOURSELVES,"
he demands of them, "judge ye not what is _right_?"[16] How could
they, unless they had a clear light, and an infallible standard within
them, whereby, amidst the relations they sustained and the interests
they had to provide for, they might discriminate between truth and
falsehood, right and wrong, what they ought to attempt and what they
ought to eschew? From this pointed, significant appeal of the Savior,
it is clear and certain, that in human consciousness may be found
self-evident truths, self-manifested principles; that every man,
studying his own consciousness, is bound to recognize their presence
and authority, and in sober earnest and good faith to apply them to
the highest practical concerns of "life and godliness." It is in
obedience to the Bible, that we apply self-evident truths, and walk
in the light of general principles. When our fathers proclaimed
these truths, and at the hazard of their property, reputation, and
life, stood up in their defence, they did homage to the sacred
Scriptures--they honored the Bible. In that volume, not a syllable
can be found to justify that form of infidelity, which in the abused
name of piety, reproaches us for practising the lessons which nature
teacheth. These lessons, the Bible requires us[17] reverently to listen
to, earnestly to appropriate, and most diligently and faithfully to
act upon in every direction, and on all occasions.

[Footnote 16: Luke, xii. 57.]

[Footnote 17: Cor. xi. 14.]

Why, our Savior goes so far in doing honor to reason, as to encourage
men universally to dispose of the characteristic peculiarities and
distinctive features of the Gospel in the light of its principles.
"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether
it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."[18] Natural religion--the
principles which nature reveals, and the lessons which nature teaches--he
thus makes a test of the truth and authority of revealed religion. So
far was he, as a teacher, from shrinking from the clearest and most
piercing rays of reason--from calling off the attention of those around
him from the import, bearings, and practical application of general
principles. And those who would have us escape from the pressure of
self-evident truths, by betaking ourselves to the doctrines and precepts
of Christianity, whatever airs of piety they may put on, do foul dishonor
to the Savior of mankind.

[Footnote 18: John, vii. 17.]

And what shall we say of the Golden Rule, which, according to the
Savior, comprehends all the precepts of the Bible? "Whatsoever ye
would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is
the law and the prophets."

According to this maxim, in human consciousness, universally, may be

1. The standard whereby, in all the relations and circumstances of
life, we may determine what Heaven demands and expects of us.

2. The just application of this standard, is practicable for, and
obligatory upon, every child of Adam.

3. The qualification requisite to a just application of this rule to
all the cases in which we can be concerned, is simply this--_to
regard all the members of the human family as our brethren, our

In other words, the Savior here teaches us, that in the principles
and laws of reason, we have an infallible guide in all the relations
and circumstances of life; that nothing can hinder our following
this guide, but the bias of _selfishness_; and that the moment, in
deciding any moral question, we place _ourselves in the room of our
brother_, before the bar of reason, we shall see what decision ought
to be pronounced. Does this, in the Savior, look like fleeing
self-evident truths!--like decrying the authority of general
principles!--like exalting himself at the expense of reason!--like
opening a refuge in the Gospel for those whose practice is at
variance with the dictates of humanity!

What then is the just application of the Golden Rule--that
fundamental maxim of the Gospel, giving character to, and shedding
light upon, all its precepts and arrangements--to the subject of
slavery?--_that we must "do to" slaves as we would be done by_, AS
SLAVES, _the_ RELATION _itself being justified and continued_? Surely
not. A little reflection will enable us to see, that the Golden Rule
reaches farther in its demands, and strikes deeper in its influences
and operations. The _natural equality_ of mankind lies at the very
basis of this great precept. It obviously requires _every man to
acknowledge another self in every other man_. With my powers and
resources, and in my appropriate circumstances, I am to recognize in
any child of Adam who may address me, another self in his
appropriate circumstances and with his powers and resources. This is
the natural equality of mankind; and this the Golden Rule requires
us to admit, defend, and maintain.


They strangely misunderstand and grossly misrepresent this doctrine,
who charge upon it the absurdities and mischiefs which _any
"levelling system"_ cannot but produce. In all its bearings,
tendencies, and effects, it is directly contrary and powerfully
hostile to any such system. EQUALITY OF RIGHTS, the doctrine asserts;
and this necessarily opens the way for _variety of condition_. In
other words, every child of Adam has, from the Creator, the
inalienable right of wielding, within reasonable limits, his own
powers, and employing his own resources, according to his own
choice;--the right, while he respects his social relations, to promote
as he will his own welfare. But mark--HIS OWN powers and resources,
and NOT ANOTHER'S, are thus inalienably put under his control. The
Creator makes every man free, in whatever he may do, to exert HIMSELF,
and not another. Here no man may lawfully cripple or embarrass
another. The feeble may not hinder the strong, nor may the strong
crush the feeble. Every man may make the most of himself, in his own
proper sphere. Now, as in the constitutional endowments; and natural
opportunities, and lawful acquisitions of mankind, infinite variety
prevails, so in exerting each HIMSELF, in his own sphere, according
to his own choice, the variety of human condition can be little less
than infinite. Thus equality of rights opens the way for variety of

But with all this variety of make, means, and condition, considered
individually, the children of Adam are bound together by strong ties
which can never be dissolved. They are mutually united by the social
of their nature. Hence mutual dependence and mutual claims. While
each is inalienably entitled to assert and enjoy his own personality
as a man, each sustains to all and all to each, various relations.
While each owns and honors the individual, all are to own and honor
the social of their nature. Now, the Golden Rule distinctly
recognizes, lays its requisitions upon, and extends its obligations
to, the whole nature of man, in his individual capacities and social
relations. What higher honor could it do to man, as _an individual_,
than to constitute him the judge, by whose decision, when fairly
rendered, all the claims of his fellows should be authoritatively
and definitely disposed of? "Whatsoever YE WOULD" have done to you,
so do ye to others. Every member of the family of Adam, placing
himself in the position here pointed out, is competent and
authorized to pass judgment on all the cases in social life in which
he may be concerned. Could higher responsibilities or greater
confidence be reposed in men individually? And then, how are their
_claims upon each other_ herein magnified! What inherent worth and
solid dignity are ascribed to the social of their nature! In every
man with whom I may have to do, I am to recognize the presence of
_another self_, whose case I am to make _my own_. And thus I am to
dispose of whatever claims he may urge upon me.

Thus, in accordance with the Golden Rule, mankind are naturally
brought, in the voluntary use of their powers and resources, to
promote each other's welfare. As his contribution to this great
object, it is the inalienable birthright of every child of Adam,
to consecrate whatever he may possess. With exalted powers and large
resources, he has a natural claim to a correspondent field of effort.
If his "abilities" are small, his task must be easy and his burden
light. Thus the Golden Rule requires mankind mutually to serve each
other. In this service, each is to exert _himself_--employ _his own_
powers, lay out his own resources, improve his own opportunities. A
division of labor is the natural result. One is remarkable for his
intellectual endowments and acquisitions; another, for his wealth;
and a third, for power and skill in using his muscles. Such
attributes, endlessly varied and diversified, proceed from the basis
of a _common character_, by virtue of which all men and each--one as
truly as another--are entitled, as a birthright, to "life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness." Each and all, one as well as another,
may choose his own modes of contributing his share to the general
welfare, in which his own is involved and identified. Under one
great law of mutual dependence and mutual responsibility, all are
placed--the strong as well as the weak, the rich as much as the poor,
the learned no less than the unlearned. All bring their wares, the
products of their enterprise, skill and industry, to the same market,
where mutual exchanges are freely effected. The fruits of muscular
exertion procure the fruits of mental effort. John serves Thomas
with his hands, and Thomas serves John with his money. Peter wields
the axe for James, and James wields the pen for Peter. Moses, Joshua,
and Caleb, employ their wisdom, courage, and experience, in the
service of the community, and the community serve Moses, Joshua, and
Caleb, in furnishing them with food and raiment, and making them
partakers of the general prosperity. And all this by mutual
understanding and voluntary arrangement. And all this according to
the Golden Rule.

What then becomes of _slavery_--a system of arrangements in which
one man treats his fellow, not as another self, but as a thing--a
chattel--an article of merchandize, which is not to be consulted in
any disposition which may be made of it;--a system which is built on
the annihilation of the attributes of our common nature--in which
man doth to others what he would sooner die than have done to himself?
The Golden Rule and slavery are mutually subversive of each other. If
one stands, the other must fall. The one strikes at the very root of
the other. The Golden Rule aims at the abolition of THE RELATION
ITSELF, in which slavery consists. It lays its demands upon every
thing within the scope of _human action_. To "whatever MEN DO." it
extends its authority. And the relation itself, in which slavery
consists, is the work of human hands. It is what men have done to
each other--contrary to nature and most injurious to the general
welfare. This RELATION, therefore, the Golden Rule condemns.
Wherever its authority prevails, this relation must be annihilated.
Mutual service and slavery--like light and darkness, life and
death--are directly opposed to, and subversive of, each other. The
one the Golden Rule cannot endure; the other it requires, honors,
and blesses.


Like unto the Golden Rule is the second great commandment--"_Thou
shalt love thy neighbor as thyself_." "A certain lawyer," who seems
to have been fond of applying the doctrine of limitation of human
obligations, once demanded of the Savior, within what limits the
meaning of the word "neighbor" ought to be confined. "And who is my
neighbor?" The parable of the good Samaritan set that matter in the
clearest light, and made it manifest and certain, that every man
whom we could reach with our sympathy and assistance, was our
neighbor, entitled to the same regard which we cherished for
ourselves. Consistently with such obligations, can _slavery,
as a_ RELATION, be maintained? Is it then a _labor of love_--such
love as we cherish for ourselves--to strip a child of Adam of all the
prerogatives and privileges which are his inalienable birthright? To
obscure his reason, crush his will, and trample on his
immortality?--To strike home to the inmost of his being, and break the
heart of his heart?--To thrust him out of the human family, and
dispose of him as a chattel--as a thing in the hands of an owner, a
beast under the lash of a driver? All this, apart from every thing
incidental and extraordinary, belongs to the RELATION, in which
slavery, as such, consists. All this--well fed or ill fed,
underwrought or overwrought, clothed or naked, caressed or kicked,
whether idle songs break from his thoughtless tongue or "tears be his
meat night and day," fondly cherished or cruelly murdered;--_all this_
SLAVE, _is set apart from the rest of the human family_. Is it an
exercise of love, to place our "neighbor" under the crushing
weight, the killing power, of such a relation?--to apply the
murderous steel to the very vitals of his humanity?


The slaveholder may eagerly and loudly deny, that any such thing is
chargeable upon him. He may confidently and earnestly allege, that
he is not responsible for the state of society in which he is placed.
Slavery was established before he began to breathe. It was his
inheritance. His slaves are his property by birth or testament. But
why will he thus deceive himself? Why will he permit the cunning and
rapacious spiders, which in the very sanctuary of ethics and
religion are laboriously weaving webs from their own bowels, to
catch him with their wretched sophistries?--and devour him, body,
soul, and substance? Let him know, as he must one day with shame and
terror own, that whoever holds slaves is himself responsible for
_the relation_, into which, whether reluctantly or willingly, he
thus enters. _The relation cannot be forced upon him_. What though
Elizabeth countenanced John Hawkins in stealing the natives of
Africa?--what though James, and Charles, and George, opened a market
for them in the English colonies?--what though modern Dracos have
"framed mischief by law," in legalizing man-stealing and
slaveholding?--what though your ancestors, in preparing to go
"to their own place," constituted you the owner of the "neighbors"
whom they had used as cattle?--what of all this, and as much more like
this, as can be drawn from the history of that dreadful process by
which men are "deemed, held, taken, reputed, and adjudged in law to be
_chattels personal_?" Can all this force you to put the cap upon the
climax--to clinch the nail by doing that, without which nothing in
the work of slave-making would be attempted? _The slaveholder is the
soul of the whole system_. Without him, the chattel principle is a
lifeless abstraction. Without him, charters, and markets, and laws,
and testaments, are empty names. And does _he_ think to escape
responsibility? Why, kidnappers, and soul-drivers, and law-makers,
are nothing but his _agents_. He is the guilty _principal_. Let him
look to it.

[Footnote 19: You join with them in their bloody work. They murder,
and you bury the victims.]

But what can he do? Do? Keep his hands off his "neighbor's" throat.
Let him refuse to finish and ratify the process by which the chattel
principle is carried into effect. Let him refuse, in the face of
derision, and reproach, and opposition. Though poverty should fasten
its bony hand upon him, and persecution shoot forth its forked tongue;
whatever may betide him--scorn, flight, flames--let him promptly and
steadfastly refuse. Better the spite and hate of men than the wrath
of Heaven! "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it
from thee; for it is profitable for thee, that one of thy members
should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."

Professor Stewart admits, that the Golden Rule and the second great
commandment "decide against the theory of slavery, as being in
itself right." What, then, is their relation to the particular
precepts, institutions, and usages, which are authorized and
enjoined in the New Testament? Of all these, they are the summary
expression--the comprehensive description. No precept in the Bible,
enforcing our mutual obligations, can be more or less than _the
application of these injunctions to specific relations or particular
occasions and conditions_. Neither in the Old Testament nor the New,
do prophets teach or laws enjoin, any thing which the Golden Rule
and the second great command do not contain. Whatever they forbid,
no other precept can require; and whatever they require, no other
precept can forbid. What, then, does he attempt, who turns over the
sacred pages to find something in the way of permission or command,
which may set him free from the obligations of the Golden Rule? What
must his objects, methods, spirit be, to force him to enter upon
such inquiries?--to compel him to search the Bible for such a purpose?
Can he have good intentions, or be well employed? Is his frame of
mind adapted to the study of the Bible?--to make its meaning plain
and welcome? What must he think of God, to search his word in quest
of gross inconsistencies, and grave contradictions! Inconsistent
legislation in Jehovah! Contradictory commands! Permissions at war
with prohibitions! General requirements at variance with particular

What must be the moral character of any institution which the Golden
Rule decides against?--which the second great command condemns?
_It cannot but be wicked_, whether newly established or long
maintained. However it may be shaped, turned, colored--under every
modification and at all times--_wickedness must be its proper
character. It must be_, IN ITSELF, _apart from its circumstances_,
IN ITS ESSENCE, _apart from its incidents_, SINFUL.


In disposing of those precepts and exhortations which have a
specific bearing upon the subject of slavery, it is greatly important,
nay, absolutely essential, that we look forth upon the objects
around us from the right post of observation. Our stand we must take
at some central point, amidst the general maxims and fundamental
precepts, the known circumstances and characteristic arrangements,
of primitive Christianity. Otherwise, wrong views and false
conclusions will be the result of our studies. We cannot, therefore,
be too earnest in trying to catch the general features and prevalent
spirit of the New Testament institutions and arrangements. For to
what conclusions must we come, if we unwittingly pursue our
inquiries under the bias of the prejudice, that the general maxims
of social life which now prevail in this country, were current, on
the authority of the Savior, among the primitive Christians! That,
for instance, wealth, station, talents, are the standard by which our
claims upon, and our regard for, others, should be modified?--That
those who are pinched by poverty, worn by disease, tasked in
menial labors, or marked by features offensive to the taste of the
artificial and capricious, are to be excluded from those refreshing
and elevating influences which intelligence and refinement may be
expected to exert; that thus they are to constitute a class by
themselves, and to be made to know and keep their place at the very
bottom of society? Or, what if we should think and speak of the
primitive Christians, as if they had the same pecuniary resources as
Heaven has lavished upon the American churches?--as if they were as
remarkable for affluence, elegance, and splendor? Or, as if they had
as high a position and as extensive an influence in politics and
literature?--having directly or indirectly, the control over the
high places of learning and of power?

If we should pursue our studies and arrange our arguments--if we
should explain words and interpret language--under such a bias, what
must inevitably be the results? What would be the worth of our
conclusions? What confidence could be reposed in any instruction we
might undertake to furnish? And is not this the way in which the
advocates and apologists of slavery dispose of the bearing which
primitive Christianity has upon it? They first ascribe, unwittingly,
perhaps, to the primitive churches; the character, relations, and
condition of American Christianity, and amidst the deep darkness and
strange confusion thus produced, set about interpreting the language
and explaining the usages of the New Testament!


Among the lessons of instruction which our Savior imparted, having a
general bearing on the subject of slavery, that in which he sets up
the _true standard of greatness_, deserves particular attention. In
repressing the ambition of his disciples, he held up before them the
methods by which alone healthful aspirations for eminence could be
gratified, and thus set the elements of true greatness in the
clearest light. "Ye know, that they which are accounted to rule over
the Gentiles, exercise lordship over them; and their great ones
exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you; but
whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; _and
whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all_." In
other words, through the selfishness and pride of mankind, the maxim
widely prevails in the world, that it is the privilege, prerogative,
and mark of greatness, TO EXACT SERVICE; that our superiority to
others, while it authorizes us to relax the exertion of our own
powers, gives us a fair title to the use of theirs; that "might,"
while it exempts us from serving, "gives the right" to be served.
The instructions of the Savior open the way to greatness for us in
the opposite direction. Superiority to others, in whatever it may
consist, gives us a claim to a wider field of exertion, and demands
of us a larger amount of service. We can be great only as we _are
useful_. And "might gives right" to bless our fellow men, by
improving every opportunity and employing every faculty,
affectionately, earnestly, and unweariedly, in their service. Thus
the greater the man, the more active, faithful, and useful the

The Savior has himself taught us how this doctrine must be applied.
He bids us improve every opportunity and employ every power, even
through the most menial services, in blessing the human family. And
to make this lesson shine upon our understandings and move our hearts,
he embodied in it a most instructive and attractive example. On a
memorable occasion, and just before his crucifixion, he discharged
for his disciples the most menial of all offices--taking, _in
washing their feet_, the place of the lowest servant. He took great
pains to make them understand, that only by imitating this example
could they honor their relations to him as their Master; that thus
only would they find themselves blessed. By what possibility could
slavery exist under the influence of such a lesson, set home by such
an example? _Was it while washing the disciples' feet, that our
Savior authorized one man to make a chattel of another_?

To refuse to provide for ourselves by useful labor, the apostle Paul
teaches us to regard as a grave offence. After reminding the
Thessalonian Christians, that in addition to all his official
exertions he had with his own muscles earned his own bread, he calls
their attention to an arrangement which was supported by apostolical
authority, "that if any would not work, neither should he eat." In
the most earnest and solemn manner, and as a minister of the Lord
Jesus Christ, he commanded and exhorted those who neglected useful
labor, "_with quietness to work and eat their own bread_." What must
be the bearing of all this upon slavery? Could slavery be maintained
where every man eat the bread which himself had earned?--where
idleness was esteemed so great a crime, as to be reckoned worthy of
starvation as a punishment? How could unrequited labor be exacted,
or used, or needed? Must not every one in such a community
contribute his share to the general welfare?--and mutual service and
mutual support be the natural result?

The same apostle, in writing to another church, describes the true
source whence the means of liberality ought to be derived. "Let him
that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his
hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that
needeth." Let this lesson, as from the lips of Jehovah, be proclaimed
throughout the length and breadth of South Carolina. Let it be
universally welcomed and reduced to practice. Let thieves give up
what they had stolen to the lawful proprietors, cease stealing, and
begin at once to "labor, working with their hands," for necessary
and charitable purposes. Could slavery, in such a case, continue to
exist? Surely not! Instead of exacting unpaid services from others,
every man would be busy, exerting himself not only to provide for
his own wants, but also to accumulate funds, "that he might have to
give to" the needy. Slavery must disappear, root and branch, at once
and forever.

In describing the source whence his ministers should expect their
support, the Savior furnished a general principle, which has an
obvious and powerful bearing on the subject of slavery. He would
have them remember, while exerting themselves for the benefit of
their fellow men, that "the laborer is worthy of his hire." He has
thus united wages with work. Whoever renders the one is entitled to
the other. And this manifestly according to a mutual understanding
and a voluntary arrangement. For the doctrine that I may force you
to work for me for whatever consideration I may please to fix upon,
fairly opens the way for the doctrine, that you, in turn, may force
me to render you whatever wages you may choose to exact for any
services you may see fit to render. Thus slavery, even as
involuntary servitude, is cut up by the root. Even the Princeton
professor seems to regard it as a violation of the principle which
unites work with wages.

The apostle James applies this principle to the claims of manual
laborers--of those who hold the plough and thrust in the sickle. He
calls the rich lordlings who exacted sweat and withheld wages, to
"weeping and howling," assuring them that the complaints of
the injured laborer had entered into the ear of the Lord of Hosts,
and that, as a result of their oppression, their riches were
corrupted, and their garments moth-eaten; their gold and silver were
cankered; that the rust of them should be a witness against them,
and should eat their flesh as it were fire; that, in one word, they
had heaped treasures together for the last days, when "miseries were
coming upon them," the prospect of which might well drench them in
tears and fill them with terror. If these admonitions and warnings
were heeded there, would not "the South" break forth into "weeping
and wailing, and gnashing of teeth?" What else are its rich men about,
but withholding by a system of fraud, his wages from the laborer,
who is wearing himself out under the impulse of fear, in cultivating
their fields and producing their luxuries! Encouragement and support
do they derive from James, in maintaining the "peculiar institution"
which they call patriarchal, and boast of as the "corner-stone" of
the republic?

In the New Testament, we have, moreover, the general injunction,
"_Honor all men_." Under this broad precept, every form of humanity
may justly claim protection and respect. The invasion of any human
right must do dishonor to humanity, and be a transgression of this
command. How then, in the light of such obligations, must slavery be
regarded? Are those men honored, who are rudely excluded from a
place in the human family, and shut up to the deep degradation and
nameless horrors of chattelship? _Can they be held as slaves, and at
the same time be honored as men_?

How far, in obeying this command, we are to go, we may infer from
the admonitions and instructions which James applies to the
arrangements and usages of religious assemblies. Into these he can
not allow "respect of persons" to enter. "My brethren," he exclaims,
"have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory,
with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a
man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel; and there come in also
a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth
the gay clothing, and say unto him, sit thou here in a good place;
and say to the poor, stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool;
are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil
thoughts?" _If ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are
convinced of the law as transgressors_. On this general principle,
then, religious assemblies ought to be regulated--that every man is
to be estimated, not according to his _circumstances_--not according
to anything incidental to his _condition_; but according to his _moral
worth_--according to the essential features and vital elements of his
_character_. Gold rings and gay clothing, as they qualify no man for,
can entitle no man to, a "good place" in the church. Nor can the
"vile raiment of the poor man," fairly exclude him from any sphere,
however exalted, which his heart and head may fit him to fill. To
deny this, in theory or practice, is to degrade a man below a thing;
for what are gold rings, or gay clothing, or vile raiment, but things,
"which perish with the using?" And this must be "to commit sin, and
be convinced of the law as transgressor."

In slavery, we have "respect of persons," strongly marked, and
reduced to system. Here men are despised not merely for "the vile
raiment," which may cover their scarred bodies. This is bad enough.
But the deepest contempt of humanity here grows out of birth or
complexion. Vile raiment may be, often is, the result of indolence,
or improvidence, or extravagance. It may be, often is, an index of
character. But how can I be responsible for the incidents of my
birth?--how for my complexion? To despise or honor me for these, is to
be guilty of "respect of persons" in its grossest form, and with its
worst effects. It is to reward or punish me for what I had nothing
to do with; for which, therefore, I cannot, without the greatest
injustice, be held responsible. It is to poison the very fountains
of justice, by confounding all moral distinctions. What, then, so
far as the authority of the New Testament is concerned, becomes of
slavery, which cannot be maintained under any form nor for a single
moment, without "respect of persons" the most aggravated and
unendurable? And what would become of that most pitiful, silly, and
wicked arrangement in so many of our churches, in which worshippers
of a dark complexion are to be sent up to the negro pew?[20]

[Footnote 20: In Carlyle's Review of the Memoirs of Mirabeau, we
have the following anecdote illustrative of the character of a
"grandmother" of the Count. "Fancy the dame Mirabeau sailing stately
towards the church font; another dame striking in to take precedence
of her; the dame Mirabeau despatching this latter with a box on the
ear, and these words, '_Here, as in the army_, THE BAGGAGE _goes
last_!'" Let those who justify the negro-pew arrangement, throw
a stone at this proud woman--if they dare.]

Nor are we permitted to confine this principle to religious
assemblies. It is to pervade social life everywhere. Even where
plenty, intelligence and refinement, diffuse their brightest rays,
the poor are to be welcomed with especial favor. "Then said he to
him that bade him, when thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not
thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich
neighbors, lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made
thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor and the maimed,
the lame and the blind, and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot
recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection
of the just."

In the high places of social life then--in the parlor, the
drawing-room, the saloon--special reference should be had, in every
arrangement, to the comfort and improvement of those who are least
able to provide for the cheapest rites of hospitality. For these,
ample accommodations must be made, whatever may become of our
kinsmen and rich neighbors. And for this good reason, that while
such occasions signify little to the latter, to the former they are
pregnant with good--raising their drooping spirits, cheering their
desponding hearts, inspiring them with life, and hope, and joy. The
rich and the poor thus meeting joyfully together, cannot but
mutually contribute to each other's benefit; the rich will be led to
moderation, sobriety, and circumspection, and the poor to industry,
providence, and contentment. The recompense must be great and sure.

A most beautiful and instructive commentary on the text in which
these things are taught, the Savior furnished in his own conduct. He
freely mingled with those who were reduced to the very bottom of
society. At the tables of the outcasts of society he did not
hesitate to be a cheerful guest, surrounded by publicans and sinners.
And when flouted and reproached by smooth and lofty ecclesiastics,
as an ultraist and leveler, he explained and justified himself by
observing, that he had only done what his office demanded. It was
his to seek the lost, to heal the sick, to pity the wretched;--in a
word, to bestow just such benefits as the various necessities of
mankind made appropriate and welcome. In his great heart, there was
room enough for those who had been excluded from the sympathy of
little souls. In its spirit and design, the gospel overlooked
none--least of all, the outcasts of a selfish world.

Can slavery, however modified, be consistent with such a gospel?--a
gospel which requires us, even amidst the highest forms of social
life, to exert ourselves to raise the depressed by giving our
warmest sympathies to those who have the smallest share in the favor
of the world?

Those who are in "bonds" are set before us as deserving an especial
remembrance. Their claims upon us are described as a modification of
the Golden Rule--as one of the many forms to which its obligations
are reducible. To them we are to extend the same affectionate regard
as we would covet for ourselves, if the chains upon their limbs were
fastened upon ours. To the benefits of this precept, the enslaved
have a natural claim of the greatest strength. The wrongs they
suffer spring from a persecution which can hardly be surpassed in
malignancy. Their birth and complexion are the occasion of the
insults and injuries which they can neither endure nor escape. It is
for _the work of God_, and not their own deserts, that they are
loaded with chains. _This is persecution_.

Can I regard the slave as another self--can I put myself in his
place--and be indifferent to his wrongs? Especially, can I, thus
affected, take sides with the oppressor? Could I, in such a state of
mind as the gospel requires me to cherish, reduce him to slavery or
keep him in bonds? Is not the precept under hand naturally
subversive of every system and every form of slavery?

The general descriptions of the church, which are found here and
there in the New Testament, are highly instructive in their bearing
on the subject of slavery. In one connection, the following words
meet the eye: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond
nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in
Christ Jesus."[21] Here we have--

1. A clear and strong description of the doctrine of _human
equality_. "Ye are all ONE;"--so much alike, so truly placed on
common ground, all wielding each his own powers with such freedom,
_that one is the same as another_.

2. This doctrine, self-evident in the light of reason, is affirmed on
divine authority. "IN CHRIST JESUS, _ye are all one_." The natural
equality of the human family is a part of the gospel. For--

3. All the human family are included in this description. Whether
men or women, whether bond or free, whether Jews or Gentiles, all
are alike entitled to the benefit of this doctrine. Whether
Christianity prevails, the _artificial_ distinctions which grow out
of birth, condition, sex, are done away. _Natural_ distinctions are
not destroyed. _They_ are recognized, hallowed, confirmed. The
gospel does not abolish the sexes, forbid a division of labor, or
extinguish patriotism. It takes woman from beneath the feet, and
places her by the side of man; delivers the manual laborer from
"the yoke," and gives him wages for his work; and brings the Jew and
the Gentile to embrace each other with fraternal love and confidence.
Thus it raises all to a common level, gives to each the free use of
his own powers and resources, binds all together in one dear and
loving brotherhood. Such, according to the description of the apostle,
was the influence, and such the effect of primitive Christianity.
"Behold the picture!" Is it like American slavery, which, in all its
tendencies and effects, is destructive of all oneness among brethren?

[Footnote 21: Gal. iii. 28.]

"Where the spirit of the Lord is," exclaims the same apostle, with
his eye upon the condition and relations of the church, "_where the
spirit of the Lord is_, THERE IS LIBERTY." Where, then, may we
reverently recognize the presence, and bow before the manifested
power, of this spirit? _There_, where the laborer may not choose how
he shall be employed!--in what way his wants shall be supplied!--with
whom he shall associate!--who shall have the fruit of his exertions!
_There_, where he is not free to enjoy his wife and children!
_There_, where his body and his soul, his very "destiny,"[22]
are placed altogether beyond his control! _There_, where every
power is crippled, every energy blasted, every hope crushed! _There_,
where in all the relations and concerns of life, he is legally
treated as if he had nothing to do with the laws of reason, the
light of immortality, or the exercise of will! Is the spirit of the
Lord _there_, where liberty is decried and denounced, mocked at and
spit upon, betrayed and crucified! In the midst of a church which
justified slavery, which derived its support from slavery, which
carried on its enterprises by means of slavery, would the apostle
have found the fruits of the Spirit of the Lord! Let that Spirit
exert his influences, and assert his authority, and wield his power,
and slavery must vanish at once and for ever.

[Footnote 22: "The legislature (of South Carolina) from time to time,
has passed many restricted and penal acts, with a view to bring
under direct control and subjection the DESTINY of the black
population." See the Remonstrance of James S. Pope and 352 others
against home missionary efforts for the benefit of the enslaved--a
most instructive paper.]

In more than one connection, the apostle James describes Christianity
as "_the law of liberty_." It is, in other words, the law under
which liberty cannot but live and flourish--the law in which liberty
is clearly defined, strongly asserted, and well protected. As the law
of liberty, how can it be consistent with the law of slavery? The
presence and the power of this law are felt wherever the light of
reason shines. They are felt in the uneasiness and conscious
degradation of the slave, and in the shame and remorse which the
master betrays in his reluctant and desperate efforts to defend
himself. This law it is which has armed human nature against the
oppressor. Wherever it is obeyed, "every yoke is broken."

In these references to the New Testament we have a _general
description_ of the primitive church, and the _principles_ on which
it was founded and fashioned. These principles bear the same
relation to Christian _history_ as to Christian _character_, since
the former is occupied with the development of the latter. What then
is Christian character but Christian principle _realized_, acted out,
bodied forth, and animated? Christian principle is the soul, of
which Christian character is the expression--the manifestation. It
comprehends in itself, as a living seed, such Christian character,
under every form, modification, and complexion. The former is,
therefore, the test and interpreter of the latter. In the light of
Christian principle, and in that light only we can judge of and
explain Christian character. Christian history is occupied with the
forms, modifications, and various aspects of Christian character.
The facts which are there recorded serve to show, how Christian
principle has fared in this world--how it has appeared, what it has
done, how it has been treated. In these facts we have the various
institutions, usages, designs, doings, and sufferings of the church
of Christ. And all these have of necessity, the closest relation to
Christian principle. They are the production of its power. Through
them, it is revealed and manifested. In its light, they are to be
studied, explained, and understood. Without it they must be as
unintelligible and insignificant as the letters of a book scattered
on the wind.

In the principles of Christianity, then, we have a comprehensive and
faithful account of its objects, institutions, and usages--of how it
must behave, and act, and suffer, in a world of sin and misery. For
between the principles which God reveals, on the one hand, and the
precepts he enjoins, the institutions he establishes, and the usages
he approves, on the other, there must be consistency and harmony.
Otherwise we impute to God what we must abhor in man--practice at war
with principle. Does the Savior, then, lay down the _principle_ that
our standing in the church must depend upon the habits formed within
us, of readily and heartily subserving the welfare of others; and
permit us _in practice_ to invade the rights and trample on the
happiness of our fellows, by reducing them to slavery. Does he,
_in principle_ and by example, require us to go all lengths in
rendering mutual service, or comprehending offices that most menial,
as well as the most honorable; and permit us _in practice_ to EXACT
service of our brethren, as if they were nothing better than
"articles of merchandize!" Does he require us _in principle_
"to work with quietness and eat our own bread;" and permit us
_in practice_ to wrest from our brethren the fruits of their
unrequited toil? Does he _in principle_ require us, abstaining from
every form of theft, to employ our powers in useful labor, not only
to provide for ourselves but also to relieve the indigence of others;
and permit us _in practice_, abstaining from every form of labor, to
enrich and aggrandize ourselves with the fruits of man-stealing?
Does he require us _in principle_ to regard "the laborer as worthy
of his hire"; and permit us _in practice_ to defraud him of his wages?
Does he require us _in principle_ to honor ALL men; and permit us
_in practice_ to treat multitudes like cattle? Does he _in
principle_ prohibit "respect of persons;" and permit us _in practice_
to place the feet of the rich upon the necks of the poor? Does he
_in principle_ require us to sympathize with the bondman as
another self; and permit us _in practice_ to leave him unpitied and
unhelped in the hands of the oppressor? _In principle_, "where the
Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;" _in practice_, is _slavery_
the fruit of the Spirit? _In principle_, Christianity is the law of
liberty; _in practice_, it is the law of slavery? Bring practice in
these various respects into harmony with principle, and what becomes
of slavery? And if, where the divine government is concerned,
practice is the expression of principle, and principle the standard
and interpreter of practice, such harmony cannot but be maintained
and must be asserted. In studying, therefore, fragments of history
and sketches of biography--in disposing of references to institutions,
usages, and facts in the New Testament, this necessary harmony
between principle and practice in the government _of God_, should be
continually present to the thoughts of the interpreter. Principles
assert what practice must be. Whatever principle condemns, God
condemns. It belongs to those weeds of the dung-hill which, planted
by "an enemy," his hand will assuredly "root up." It is most certain
then, that if slavery prevailed in the first ages of Christianity,
it could nowhere have prevailed under its influence and with its

* * * * *

The condition in which in its efforts to bless mankind, the
primitive church was placed, must have greatly assisted the early
Christians in understanding and applying the principles of the gospel.
Their _Master_ was born in great obscurity, lived in the deepest
poverty, and died the most ignominious death. The place of his
residence, his familiarity with the outcasts of society, his
welcoming assistance and support from female hands, his casting his
beloved mother, when he hung upon the cross, upon the charity of a
disciple--such things evince the depth of his poverty, and show to
what derision and contempt he must have been exposed. Could such an
one, "despised and rejected of men--a man of sorrows and acquainted
with grief," play the oppressor, or smile on those who made
merchandize of the poor!

And what was the history of the _apostles_, but an illustration of
the doctrine, that "it is enough for the disciple, that he be as his
Master?" Were they lordly ecclesiastics, abounding with wealth,
shining with splendor, bloated with luxury! Were they ambitious of
distinction, fleecing, and trampling, and devouring "the flocks,"
that they themselves might "have the pre-eminence!" Were they
slaveholding bishops! Or did they derive their support from the
wages of iniquity and the price of blood! Can such inferences be
drawn from the account of their condition, which the most gifted and
enterprising of their number has put upon record? "Even unto this
present hour, we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and _are
buffetted_, and have _no certain dwelling place, and labor working
with our own hands_. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we
suffer it; being defamed, we entreat; we are made as _the filth of
the world_, and are THE OFFSCOURING OF ALL THINGS unto this day."[23]
Are these the men who practised or countenanced slavery? _With
such a temper, they_ WOULD NOT; _in such circumstances, they_ COULD
NOT. Exposed to "tribulation, distress, and persecution;" subject to
famine and nakedness, to peril and the sword; "killed all the day
long; accounted as sheep for the slaughter,"[24] they would have made
but a sorry figure at the _great-house_ or slave-market.

[Footnote 23: 1 Cor. iv. 11-13.]

[Footnote 24: Rom. viii. 35, 36.]

Nor was the condition of the brethren, generally, better than that of
the apostles. The position of the apostles doubtless entitled them to
the strongest opposition, the heaviest reproaches, the fiercest
persecution. But derision and contempt must have been the lot of
Christians generally. Surely we cannot think so ill of primitive
Christianity as to suppose that believers, generally, refused to
share in the trials and sufferings of their leaders; as to suppose
that while the leaders submitted to manual labor, to buffeting, to be
reckoned the filth of the world, to be accounted as sheep for the
slaughter, his brethren lived in affluence, ease, and honor!
despising manual labor and living upon the sweat of unrequited toil!
But on this point we are not left to mere inference and conjecture.
The apostle Paul in the plainest language explains the ordination of
Heaven. "But _God hath_ CHOSEN the foolish things of the world to
confound the wise; and God hath CHOSEN the weak things of the world
to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world,
and things which are despised hath God CHOSEN, yea, and THINGS WHICH
ARE NOT, to bring to nought things that are."[25] Here we may well

1. That it was not by _accident_, that the primitive churches were
made up of such elements, but the result of the DIVINE CHOICE--an
arrangement of His wise and gracious Providence. The inference is
natural, that this ordination was co-extensive with the triumphs of
Christianity. It was nothing new or strange, that Jehovah had
concealed his glory "from the wise and prudent, and had revealed it
unto babes," or that "the common people heard him gladly," while
"not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble,
had been called."

2. The description of character, which the apostle records, could be
adapted only to what are reckoned the _very dregs of humanity_. The
foolish and the weak, the base and the contemptible, in the
estimation of worldly pride and wisdom--these were they whose broken
hearts were reached, and moulded, and refreshed by the gospel; these
were they whom the apostle took to his bosom as his own brethren.

[Footnote 25: 1 Cor. i. 27, 28.]

That _slaves_ abounded at Corinth, may easily be admitted. _They_
have a place in the enumeration of elements of which, according to
the apostle, the church there was composed. The most remarkable
class found there, consisted of "THINGS WHICH ARE NOT"--mere nobodies,
not admitted to the privileges of men, but degraded to a level with
"goods and chattels;" of whom _no account_ was made in such
arrangements of society as subserved the improvement, and dignity,
and happiness of MANKIND. How accurately the description applies to
those who are crushed under the chattel principle!

The reference which the apostle makes to the "deep poverty of the
churches of Macedonia,"[26] and this to stir up the sluggish
liberality of his Corinthian brethren, naturally leaves the
impression, that the latter were by no means inferior to the former
in the gifts of Providence. But, pressed with want and pinched by
poverty as were the believers in "Macedonia and Achaia, it pleased
them to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which were
at Jerusalem."[27] Thus it appears, that Christians everywhere were
familiar with contempt and indigence, so much so, that the apostle
would dissuade such as had no families from assuming the
responsibilities of the conjugal relation![28]

[Footnote 26: 2 Cor. viii. 2.]

[Footnote 27: Rom. xviii. 18-25.]

[Footnote 28: Cor. vii. 26, 27.]

Now, how did these good people treat each other? Did the few among
them, who were esteemed wise, mighty, or noble, exert their
influence and employ their power in oppressing the weak, in disposing
of the "things that are not," as marketable commodities!--kneeling
with them in prayer in the evening, and putting them up at auction
the next morning! Did the church sell any of the members to swell
the "certain contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem!" Far
other wise--as far as possible! In those Christian communities where
the influence of the apostles was most powerful, and where the
arrangements drew forth their highest commendations, believers
treated each other as _brethren_, in the strongest sense of that
sweet word. So warm was their mutual love, so strong the public
spirit, so open-handed and abundant the general liberality, that
they are set forth as "_having all things common_."[29] Slaves and
their holders here? Neither the one nor the other could, in that
relation to each other, have breathed such an atmosphere. The appeal
of the kneeling bondman, "Am I not a man and a brother," must here
have met with a prompt and powerful response.

[Footnote 29: Acts, iv. 32.]

The _tests_ by which our Savior tries the character of his professed
disciples, shed a strong light upon the genius of the gospel. In one
connection,[30] an inquirer demands of the Savior, "What good thing
shall I do that I may have eternal life?" After being reminded of the
obligations which his social nature imposed upon him, he ventured,
while claiming to be free from guilt in his relations to mankind, to
demand, "what lack I yet?" The radical deficiency under which his
character labored, the Savior was not long or obscure in pointing out.
"If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the
poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me."
On this passage it is natural to suggest--

1. That we have here a _test of universal application_. The
rectitude and benevolence of our Savior's character forbid us to
suppose, that he would subject this inquirer, especially as he was
highly amiable, to a trial, where eternal life was at stake,
_peculiarly_ severe. Indeed, the test seems to have been only a fair
exposition of the second great command, and of course it must be
applicable to all who are placed under the obligations of that
precept. Those who cannot stand this test, as their character is
radically imperfect and unsound, must, with the inquirer to whom
our Lord applied it, be pronounced unfit for the kingdom of heaven.

2. The least that our Savior can in that passage be understood to
demand is, that we disinterestedly and heartily devote ourselves to
the welfare of mankind, "the poor" especially. We are to put
ourselves on a level with _them_, as we must do "in selling that we
have" for their benefit--in other words, in employing our powers and
resources to elevate their character, condition, and prospects. This
our Savior did; and if we refuse to enter into sympathy and
co-operation with him, how can we be his _followers_? Apply this
test to the slaveholder. Instead of "selling that he hath" for the
benefit of the poor, he BUYS THE POOR, and exacts their sweat with
stripes, to enable him to "clothe himself in purple and fine linen,
and fare sumptuously every day;" or, HE SELLS THE POOR to support
the gospel and convert the heathen!

[Footnote 30: Luke, xviii. 18-25.]

What, in describing the scenes of the final judgment, does our Savior
teach us? _By what standard_ must our character be estimated, and the
retributions of eternity be awarded? A standard, which both the
righteous and the wicked will be surprised to see erected. From the
"offscouring of all things," the meanest specimen of humanity will
be selected--a "stranger" in the hands of the oppressor, naked,
hungry, sickly; and this stranger, placed in the midst of the
assembled universe, by the side of the sovereign Judge, will be
openly acknowledged as his representative. "Glory, honor, and
immortality," will be the reward of those who had recognized and
cheered their Lord through his outraged poor. And tribulation,
anguish, and despair, will seize on "every soul of man" who had
neglected or despised them. But whom, within the limits of our
country, are we to regard especially as the representatives of our
final Judge? Every feature of the Savior's picture finds its
appropriate original in our enslaved countrymen.

1. They are the LEAST of his brethren.

2. They are subject to thirst and hunger, unable to command a cup
of water or a crumb of bread.

3. They are exposed to wasting sickness, without the ability to
procure a nurse or employ a physician.

4. They are emphatically "in prison," restrained by chains, goaded
with whips, tasked, and under keepers. Not a wretch groans in any
cell of the prisons of our country, who is exposed to a confinement
so vigorous and heartbreaking as the law allows theirs to be
continually and permanently.

5. And then they are emphatically, and peculiarly, and exclusively,
STRANGERS--_strangers_ in the land which gave them birth. Whom
else do we constrain to remain aliens in the midst of our free
institutions? The Welch, the Swiss, the Irish? The Jews even?
Alas, it is the _negro_ only, who may not strike his roots into
our soil. Every where we have conspired to treat him as a
stranger--every where he is forced to feel himself a stranger. In
the stage and steamboat, in the parlor and at our tables, in the
scenes of business and in the scenes of amusement--even in the
church of God and at the communion table, he is regarded as a
stranger. The intelligent and religious are generally disgusted
and horror-struck at the thought of his becoming identified with
the citizens of our republic--so much so, that thousands of them
have entered into a conspiracy to send him off "out of sight," to
find a home on a foreign shore!--and justify themselves by openly
alleging, that a "single drop" of his blood, in the veins of any
human creature, must make him hateful to his fellow
citizens!--That nothing but banishment from "our coasts," can
redeem him from the scorn and contempt to which his "stranger"
blood has reduced him among his own mother's children!

Who, then, in this land "of milk and honey," is "hungry and athirst,"
but the man from whom the law takes away the last crumb of bread and
the smallest drop of water?

Who "naked," but the man whom the law strips of the last rag of

Who "sick," but the man whom the law deprives of the power of
procuring medicine or sending for a physician?

Who "in prison," but the man who, all his life, is under the control
of merciless masters and cruel keepers!

Who a "stranger," but the man who is scornfully denied the cheapest
courtesies of life--who is treated as an alien in his native country?

There is one point in this awful description which deserves
particular attention. Those who are doomed to the left hand of the
Judge, are not charged with inflicting _positive_ injuries on their
helpless, needy, and oppressed brother. Theirs was what is often
called _negative_ character. What they _had done_ is not described
in the indictment. Their _neglect_ of duty, what they _had_ NOT
_done_, was the ground of their "everlasting punishment." The
representative of their Judge, they had seen a hungered and they
gave him no meat, thirsty and they gave him no drink, a stranger and
they took him not in, naked and they clothed him not, sick and in
prison and they visited him not. In as much as they did NOT yield to
the claims of suffering humanity--did NOT exert themselves to bless
the meanest of the human family, they were driven away in their
wickedness. But what if the indictment had run thus: I was a
hungered and ye snatched away the crust which might have saved me
from starvation; I was thirsty and ye dashed to the ground the
"cup of cold water," which might have moistened my parched lips; I
was a stranger and ye drove me from the hovel which might have
sheltered me from the piercing wind; I was sick and ye scourged me
to my task; in prison and you sold me for my jail-fees--to what
depths of hell must not those who were convicted under such charges
be consigned! And what is the history of American slavery but one
long indictment, describing under ever-varying forms and hues just
such injuries!

Nor should it be forgotten, that those who incurred the displeasure
of their Judge, took far other views than he, of their own past
history. The charges which he brought against them, they heard with
great surprise. They were sure that they had never thus turned away
from his necessities. Indeed, when had they seen him thus subject to
poverty, insult, and oppression? Never. And as to that poor
friendless creature, whom they left unpitied and unhelped in the
hands of the oppressor, and whom their Judge now presented as his
own representative, they never once supposed, that _he_ had any
claims on their compassion and assistance. Had they known, that he
was destined to so prominent a place at the final judgment, they
would have treated him as a human being, in despite of any social,
pecuniary, or political considerations. But neither their _negative
virtue_ nor their _voluntary ignorance_ could shield them from the
penal fire which their selfishness had kindled.

Now amidst the general maxims, the leading principles, the "great
commandments" of the gospel; amidst its comprehensive descriptions
and authorized tests of Christian character, we should take our
position in disposing of any particular allusions to such forms and
usages of the primitive churches as are supported by divine authority.
The latter must be interpreted and understood in the light of the
former. But how do the apologists and defenders of slavery proceed?
Placing themselves amidst the arrangements and usages which grew out
of the _corruptions_ of Christianity, they make these the standard
by which the gospel is to be explained and understood! Some Recorder
or Justice. without the light of inquiry or the aid of a jury,
consigns the negro whom the kidnapper has dragged into his presence
to the horrors of slavery. As the poor wretch shrieks and faints,
Humanity shudders and demands why such atrocities are endured. Some
"priest" or "Levite," "passing by on the other side," quite
self-possessed and all complacent, reads in reply from his broad
phylactery, _Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon_! Yes, echoes the
negro-hating mob, made up of "gentlemen of property and standing"
together with equally gentle-men reeking from the gutter; _Yes--Paul
sent back Onesimus to Philemon_! And Humanity, brow-beaten, stunned
with noise and tumult, is pushed aside by the crowd! A fair specimen
this of the manner in which modern usages are made to interpret the
sacred Scriptures?

Of the particular passages in the New Testament on which the
apologists for slavery especially rely, the epistle to Philemon
first demands our attention.

1. This letter was written by the apostle Paul while a "prisoner of
Jesus Christ" at Rome.

2. Philemon was a benevolent and trustworthy member of the church at
Colosse, at whose house the disciples of Christ held their assemblies,
and who owed his conversion, under God, directly or indirectly to
the ministry of Paul.

3. Onesimus was the servant of Philemon; under a relation which it
is difficult with accuracy and certainty to define. His condition,
though servile, could not have been like that of an American slave;
as, in that case, however he might have "wronged" Philemon, he could
not also have "owed him ought."[31] The American slave is, according
to law, as much the property of his master as any other chattel; and
can no more "owe" his master than can a sheep or a horse. The basis
of all pecuniary obligations lies in some "value received." How can
"an article of merchandise" stand on this basis and sustain
commercial relations to its owner? There is no _person_ to offer or
promise. _Personality is swallowed up in American slavery_!

4. How Onesimus found his way to Rome it is not easy to determine.
He and Philemon appear to have parted from each other on ill terms.
The general character of Onesimus, certainly, in his relation to
Philemon, had been far from attractive, and he seems to have left
him without repairing the wrongs he had done him or paying the debts
which he owed him. At Rome, by the blessing of God upon the
exertions of the apostle, he was brought to reflection and repentance.

5. In reviewing his history in the light of Christian truth, he
became painfully aware of the injuries he had inflicted on Philemon.
He longed for an opportunity for frank confession and full
restitution. Having, however, parted with Philemon on ill terms, he
knew not how to appear in his presence. Under such embarrassments,
he naturally sought sympathy and advice of Paul. _His_ influence
upon Philemon, Onesimus knew must be powerful, especially as an

6. A letter in behalf of Onesimus was therefore written by the
apostle to Philemon. After such salutations, benedictions, and
thanksgiving as the good character and useful life of Philemon
naturally drew from the heart of Paul, he proceeds to the object of
the letter. He admits that Onesimus had behaved ill in the service
of Philemon; not in running away, for how they had parted with each
other is not explained; but in being unprofitable and in refusing to
pay the debts[32] which he had contracted. But his character had
undergone a radical change. Thenceforward fidelity and usefulness
would be his aim and mark his course. And as to any pecuniary
obligations which he had violated, the apostle authorized Philemon
to put them on his account.[33] Thus a way was fairly opened to the
heart of Philemon. And now what does the apostles ask?

7. He asks that Philemon would receive Onesimus, How? "Not as a
_servant_, but above a _servant_."[34] How much above? Philemon was
to receive him as "a son" of the apostle--"as a brother
beloved"--nay, if he counted Paul a partner, an equal, he was to
receive Onesimus as he would receive _the apostle himself_.[35] _So
much_ above a servant was he to receive him!

8. But was not this request to be so interpreted and complied with
as to put Onesimus in the hands of Philemon as "an article of
merchandise," CARNALLY, while it raised him to the dignity of a
"brother beloved," SPIRITUALLY? In other words, might not Philemon
consistently with the request of Paul have reduced Onesimus to a
chattel, as A MAN, while he admitted him fraternally to his bosom,
as a CHRISTIAN? Such gibberish in an apostolic epistle! Never. As if,
however to guard against such folly, the natural product of mist and
moonshine, the apostle would have Onesimus raised above a servant to
the dignity of a brother beloved, "BOTH IN THE FLESH AND IN THE
LORD;"[36] as a man and Christian, in all the relations,
circumstances, and responsibilities of life.

[Footnote 31: Philemon, 18.]

[Footnote 32: Verse 11, 18.]

[Footnote 33: Verse 18.]

[Footnote 34: Verse 16.]

[Footnote 35: Verse 10, 16, 17.]

[Footnote 36: Verse 16.]

It is easy now with definiteness and certainty to determine in what
sense the apostle in such connections uses the word "_brother_". It
describes a relation inconsistent with and opposite to the _servile_.
It is "NOT" the relation of a "SERVANT." It elevates its subject
"above" the servile condition. It raises him to full equality with
the master, to the same equality, on which Paul and Philemon stood
side by side as brothers; and this, not in some vague, undefined,
spiritual sense, affecting the soul and leaving the body in bonds,
but in every way, "both in the FLESH and in the Lord." This matter
deserves particular and earnest attention. It sheds a strong light
on other lessons of apostolic instruction.

9. It is greatly to our purpose, moreover, to observe that the
apostle clearly defines the _moral character_ of his request. It was
fit, proper, right, suited to the nature and relation of things--a
thing which _ought_ to be done.[37] On this account, he might have
urged it upon Philemon in the form of an _injunction_, on apostolic


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