|Bible Research > Interpretation > Slavery > Bledsoe|
Below is chapter 3 from the anti-abolitionist book, An Essay on Liberty and Slavery, by Albert Taylor Bledsoe (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & co., 1856).
In discussing the arguments of the abolitionists, it was scarcely possible to avoid intimating, to a certain extent, the grounds on which we intend to vindicate the institution of slavery, as it exists among us at the South. But these grounds are entitled to a more distinct enunciation and to a more ample illustration. In the prosecution of this object we shall first advert to the argument from revelation; and, if we mistake not, it will be found that in the foregoing discussion we have been vindicating against aspersion not only the peculiar institution of the Southern States, but also the very legislation of Heaven itself.
The ground is taken by Dr. Wayland and other abolitionists, that slavery is always and everywhere, semper et ubique, morally wrong, and should, therefore, be instantly and universally swept away. We point to slavery among the Hebrews, and say, There is an instance in which it was not wrong, because there it received the sanction of the Almighty. Dr. Wayland chooses to overlook or evade the bearing of that case upon his fundamental position; and the means by which he seeks to evade its force is one of the grossest fallacies ever invented by the brain of man.
Let the reader examine and judge for himself. Here it is: "Let us reduce this argument to a syllogism, and it will stand thus: Whatever God sanctioned among the Hebrews he sanctions for all men and at all times. God sanctioned slavery among the Hebrews; therefore God sanctions slavery for all men and at all times."
Now I venture to affirm that no man at the South has ever put forth so absurd an argument in favor of slavery, —not only in favor of slavery for the negro race so long as they may remain unfit for freedom, but in favor of slavery for all men and for all times. If such an argument proved any thing, it would, indeed, prove that the white man of the South, no less than the black, might be subjected to bondage. But no one here argues in favor of the subjection of the white man, either South or North, to a state of servitude. No one here contends for the subjection to slavery of any portion of the civilized world. We only contend for slavery in certain cases; in opposition to the thesis of the abolitionist, we assert that it is not always and everywhere wrong. For the truth of this assertion we rely upon the express authority of God himself. We affirm that since slavery has been ordained by him, it cannot be always and everywhere wrong. And how does the abolitionist attempt to meet this reply? Why, by a little legerdemain, he converts this reply from an argument against his position, that slavery is always and everywhere wrong, into an argument in favor of the monstrous dogma that it is always and everywhere right! If we should contend that, in some cases, it is right to take the life of a man, he might just as fairly insist that we are in favor of having every man on earth put to death! Was any fallacy ever more glaring? was any misrepresentation ever more flagrant?
Indeed we should have supposed that Dr. Wayland might have seen that his representation is not a fair one, if he had not assured us of the contrary. We should have supposed that he might have distinguished between an argument in favor of slavery for the lowest grade of the ignorant and debased, and an argument in favor of slavery for all men and all times, if he had not assured us that he possesses no capacity to make it. For after having twisted the plea of the most enlightened statesmen of the South into an argument in favor of the universal subjection of mankind to slavery, he coolly adds, "I believe that in these words I express the argument correctly. If I do not, it is solely because I do not know how to state it more correctly." Is it possible Dr. Wayland could not distinguish between the principle of slavery for some men and the principle of slavery for all men? between the proposition that the ignorant, the idle, and the debased may be subjected to servitude, and the idea that all men, even the most enlightened and free, may be reduced to bondage? If he had not positively declared that he possessed no such capacity, we should most certainly have entertained a different opinion.
It will not be denied, we presume, that the very best men, whose lives are recorded in the Old Testament, were the owners and holders of slaves. "I grant at once," says Dr.Wayland, "that the Hebrews held slaves from the time of the conquest of Canaan, and that Abraham and the patriarchs held them many centuries before. I grant also that Moses enacted laws with special reference to that relation ... I wonder that any should have had the hardihood to deny so plain a matter of record. I should almost as soon deny the delivery of the ten commandments to Moses."
Now, is it not wonderful that directly in the face of "so plain a matter of record," a pious Presbyterian pastor should have been arraigned by abolitionists, not for holding slaves, but for daring to be so far a freeman as to express his convictions on the subject of slavery? Most abolitionists must have found themselves a little embarrassed in such a proceeding. For there was the fact, staring them in the face, that Abraham himself, "the friend of God" and the "father of the faithful," was the owner and holder of more than a thousand slaves. How, then, could these professing Christians proceed to condemn and excommunicate a poor brother for having merely approved what Abraham had practised? Of all the good men of old, Abraham was the most eminent. The sublimity of his faith and the fervor of his piety has, by the unerring voice of inspiration itself, been held up as a model for the imitation of all future ages. How, then, could a parcel of poor common saints presume, without blushing, to try and condemn one of their number because he was no better than "Father Abraham?" This was the difficulty; and, but for a very happy discovery, it must have been an exceedingly perplexing one. But "Necessity is the mother of invention." On this trying occasion she conceived the happy thought that the plain matter of record "was all a mistake;" that Abraham never owned a slave; that, on the contrary, he was "a prince," and the "men whom he bought with his money" were "his subjects" merely! If, then, we poor sinners of the South should be driven to the utmost extremity, —all honest arguments and pleas failing us,— may we not escape the unutterable horrors of civil war, by calling our masters princes, and our slaves subjects?
We shall conclude this topic with the pointed and powerful words of Dr. Fuller, in his reply to Dr. Wayland: "Abraham," says he, "was 'the friend of God,' and walked with God in the closest and most endearing intercourse; nor can any thing be more exquisitely touching than those words,'Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?' It is the language of a friend who feels that concealment would wrong the confidential intimacy existing. The love of this venerable servant of God in his promptness to immolate his son has been the theme of apostles and preachers for ages; and such was his faith, that all who believe are called 'the children of faithful Abraham.' This Abraham, you admit, held slaves. Who is surprised that Whitefield, with this single fact before him, could not believe slavery to be a sin? Yet if your definition of slavery be correct, holy Abraham lived all his life in the commission of one of the most aggravated crimes against God and man which can be conceived. His life was spent in outraging the rights of hundreds of human beings, as moral, intellectual, immortal, fallen creatures, and in violating their relations as parents and children, and husbands and wives. And God not only connived at this appalling iniquity, but, in the covenant of circumcision made with Abraham, expressly mentions it, and confirms the patriarch in it, speaking of those 'bought with his money,' and requiring him to circumcise them. Why, at the very first blush, every Christian will cry out against this statement. To this, however, you must come, or yield your position; and this is only the first utterly incredible and monstrous corollary involved in the assertion that slavery is essentially and always 'a sin of appalling magnitude.'"
Slavery among the Hebrews, however, was not left merely to a tacit or implied sanction. It was thus sanctioned by the express legislation of the Most High: "Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen forever." [Lev. xxv. 44, 45, 46.] Now these words are so perfectly explicit, that there is no getting around them. Even Dr. Wayland, as we have seen, admits that the authority to take slaves seems to be a part of "this original, peculiar," and perhaps "anomalous grant." No wonder it appeared peculiar and anomalous. The only wonder is, that it did not appear impious and absurd. So it has appeared to some of his coagitators, who, because they could not agree with Moses, have denied his mission as an inspired teacher, and joined the ranks of infidelity.
Dr. Channing makes very light of this and other passages of Scripture. He sets aside this whole argument from revelation with a few bold strokes of the pen. "In this age of the world," says he, "and amid the light which has been thrown on the true interpretation of the Scriptures, such reasoning hardly deserves notice." Now, even if not for our benefit, we think there are two reasons why such passages as the above were worthy of Dr. Channing's notice. In the first place, if he had condescended to throw the light in his possession on such passages, he might have saved Dr. Wayland, as well as other of his admirers, from the necessity of making the very awkward admission that the Almighty had authorized his chosen people to buy slaves, and hold them as "bondmen forever." He might have enabled them to see through the great difficulty, that God has authorized his people to commit "a sin of appalling magnitude," to perpetrate as "great a crime as can be conceived;" which seems so clearly to be the case, if their views of slavery be correct. Secondly, he might have enabled his followers to espouse the cause of abolition without deserting, as so many of them have openly done, the armies of the living God. For these two reasons, if for no other, we think Dr. Channing owed it to the honor of his cause to notice the passages of Scripture bearing on the subject of slavery.
The Mosaic Institutes not only recognise slavery as lawful; they contain a multitude of minute directions for its regulation. We need not refer to all of them; it will be sufficient for our purpose if we only notice those which establish some of the leading characteristics of slavery among the people of God.
1. Slaves were regarded as property. They were, as we have seen, called a "possession" and an "inheritance." [Lev. xxv. 44, 45, 46.] They were even called the "money" of the master. Thus, it is said, "if a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money." [Exod. xxi. 20, 21.] In one of the ten commandments this right of property is recognised: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's."
2. They might be sold. This is taken for granted in all those passages in which, for particular reasons, the master is forbidden to sell his slaves. Thus it is declared: "Thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her." And still more explicitly: "If a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her to a strange nation, he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her." [Exod. xxi. 7, 8.]
3. The slavery thus expressly sanctioned was hereditary and perpetual: "Ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen forever." Even the Hebrew servant might, by his own consent, become in certain cases a slave for life: "If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years shall he serve; and in the seventh shall he go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters, the wife and the children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his master shall bring him unto the judges: he shall also bring him to the door or unto the door-post, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever."
Now it is evident, we think, that the legislator of the Hebrews was not inspired with the sentiments of an abolitionist. The principles of his legislation are, indeed, so diametrically opposed to the political notions of the abolitionist, that the latter is sadly perplexed to dispose of them. While some deny the authority of these principles altogether, and of the very book which contains them, others are content to evade their force by certain ingenious devices of their own. We shall now proceed to examine some of the more remarkable of these cunningly-devised fables.
It is admitted by the inventors of these devices, that God expressly permitted his chosen people to buy and hold slaves. Yet Dr. Wayland, by whom this admission is made, has endeavored to weaken the force of it by alleging that God has been pleased to enlighten our race progressively. If, he argues, the institution of slavery among His people appears so very "peculiar and anomalous," this is because he did not choose to make known his whole mind on the subject, withheld a portion of it from his people, and allowed them, by express grant, to hold slaves until the fuller revelation of his will should blaze upon the world. Such is, perhaps, the most plausible defence which an abolitionist could possibly set up against the light of revelation.
But to what does it amount? If the views of Dr. Wayland and his followers, respecting slavery, be correct, it amounts to this: The Almighty has said to his people, you may commnit "a sin of appalling magnitude;" you may perpetrate "as great an evil as can be conceived;" you may persist in a practice which consists in "outraging the rights" of your fellow-men, and in "crushing their intellectual and moral" nature. They have a natural, inherent, and inalienable right to liberty as well as yourselves, but yet you may make slaves of them, and they may be your bondmen forever. In one word, you, my chosen people, may degrade "rational, accountable, and immortal beings" to the "rank of brutes." Such, if we may believe Dr. Wayland, is the first stage in the divine enlightenment of the human race! It consists in making known a part of God's mind, not against the monstrous iniquity of slavery, but in its favor! It is the utterance, not of a partial truth, but of a monstrous falsehood! It is the revelation of his will, not against sin, but in favor of as great a sin "as can be conceived." Now, we may fearlessly ask if the cause which is reduced to the necessity of resorting to such a defence may not be pronounced desperate indeed, and unspeakably forlorn?
It is alleged that polygamy and divorce, as well as slavery, are permitted and regulated in the Old Testament. This, we reply, proves, in regard to polygamy and divorce, exactly what it proves in regard to slavery, —namely, that neither is in itself sinful, that neither is always and everywhere sinful. In other words, it proves that neither polygamy nor divorce, as permitted in the Old Testament, is "malum in se," is inconsistent with the eternal and unchangeable principles of right. They are forbidden in the New Testament, not because they are in themselves absolutely and immutably wrong, but because they are inconsistent with the best interests of society; especially in civilized and Christian communities. If they had been wrong in themselves, they never could have been permitted by a holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, except with infinite abhorrence.
Again, it is contended by Dr. Wayland that "Moses intended to abolish slavery," because he forbade the Jews "to deliver up a fugitive slave." The words are these: "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant that is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of the gates where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him." [Deut. xxiii. 15, 16.] "This precept, I think," says Dr. Wayland, "clearly shows that Moses intended to abolish slavery. How could slavery long continue in a country where every one was forbidden to deliver up a fugitive slave? How different would be the condition of slaves, and how soon would slavery itself cease, were this the law of compulsory bondage among us!"
The above passage of Scripture is a precious morsel with those who are opposed to a fugitive slave law. A petition from Albany, New York, from the enlightened seat of empire of the Empire State itself, signed, if we recollect right, by one hundred and fifty persons, was presented to the United States Senate by Mr. Seward, praying that no bill in relation to fugitive slaves might be passed, which should not contain that passage. Whether Mr. Seward was enlightened by his constituents, or whether he made the discovery for himself, it is certain that he holds an act for the reclamation of fugitive slaves to be "contrary to the divine law." It is certain that he agrees with his constituents, who, in the petition referred to, pronounced every such act "immoral," and contrary to the law of God. But let us look at this passage a little, and see if these abolitionists, who thus plant themselves so confidently upon "a higher law," even upon "the divine law" itself, be not as hasty and rash in their interpretation of this law as they are accustomed to be in their judgment respecting the most universal and long-established institutions of human society.
In the first place, if their interpretation be correct, we are at once met by a very serious difficulty. For we are required to believe that one passage of Scripture grants an "authority to take slaves," while another passage is designed to annul this authority. We are required to believe that, in one portion of the divine law, the right of the master to hold his slaves as "bondsmen" is recognised, while another part of the same law denies the existence of such right. In fine, we are required to believe that the legislator of the Jews intended, in one and the same code, both to establish and to abolish slavery; that with one hand he struck down the very right and institution which he had set up with the other. How Dr. Channing and Mr. Sumner would have disposed of this difficulty we know full well, for they carry within their own bosoms a higher law than this higher law itself. But how Dr. Wayland, as an enlightened member of the good old orthodox Baptist Church, with whom the Scripture is really and in truth the inspired word of God, would have disposed of it, we are at some loss to conceive.
We labor under no such difficulty. The words in question do not relate to slaves owned by Hebrew masters. They relate to those slaves only who should escape from heathen masters, and seek an asylum among the people of God. "The first inquiry of course is," says a learned divine [Moses Stewart, a divine of Massachusetts, who had devoted a long and laborious life to the interpretation of Scripture, and who was by no means a friend to the institution of slavery], "in regard to those very words, 'Where does his master live?' Among the Hebrews, or among foreigners? The language of the passage fully develops this and answers the question. 'He has escaped from his master unto the Hebrews; (the text says - thee, i.e. Israel;) he shall dwell with thee, even among you ... in one of thy gates.' Of course, then, he is an immigrant, and did not dwell among them before his flight. If he had been a Hebrew servant, belonging to a Hebrew, the whole face of the thing would be changed. Restoration, or restitution, if we may judge by the tenor of other property-laws among the Hebrews, would have surely been enjoined. But, be that as it may, the language of the text puts it beyond a doubt that the servant is a foreigner, and has fled from a heathen master. This entirely changes the complexion of the case. The Hebrews were God's chosen people, and were the only nation on earth which worshipped the only living and true God ... In case a slave escaped from them (the heathen) and came to the Hebrews, two things were to be taken into consideration, according to the views of the Jewish legislator. The first was that the treatment of slaves among the heathen was far more severe and rigorous than it could lawfully be under the Mosaic law. The heathen master possessed the power of life and death, of scourging or imprisoning, or putting to excessive toil, even to any extent that he pleased. Not so among the Hebrews. Humanity pleaded there for the protection of the fugitive. The second and most important consideration was, that only among the Hebrews could the fugitive slave come to the knowledge and worship of the only living and true God."
Now this view of the passage in question harmonizes one portion of Scripture with another, and removes every difficulty. It shows, too, how greatly the abolitionists have deceived themselves in their rash and blind appeal to "the divine law" in question. "The reason of the law," says my Lord Coke, "is the law." It is applicable to those cases, and to those cases only, which come within the reason of the law. Hence, if it be a fact, and if our Northern brethren really believe that we are sunk in the darkness of heathen idolatry, while the light of the true religion is with them alone, why, then, we admit that the reason and principle of the divine law in question is in their favor. Then we admit that the return of our fugitive slaves is "contrary to the divine law." But if we are not heathen idolaters, if the God of the Hebrews be also the God of Southern masters, then the Northern States do not violate the precept in question — they only discharge a solemn constitutional obligation — in delivering up our "fugitives from labor."
The New Testament, as Dr. Wayland remarks, was given, "not to one people, but to the whole race; not for one period, but for all time." Its lessons are, therefore, of universal and perpetual obligation. If, then, the Almighty had undertaken to enlighten the human race by degrees, with respect to the great sin of slavery, is it not wonderful that, in the very last revelation of his will, he has uttered not a single syllable in disapprobation thereof? Is it not wonderful, that he should have completed the revelation of his will, that he should have set his seal to the last word he will ever say to man respecting his duties, and yet not one word about the great obligation of the master to emancipate his slaves, nor about the "appalling sin" of slavery? Such silence must, indeed, appear exceedingly peculiar and anomalous to the abolitionist. It would have been otherwise had he written the New Testament. He would, no doubt, have inserted at least one little precept against the sin of slavery.
As it is, however, the most profound silence reigns through the whole word of God with respect to the sinfulness of slavery. "It must be granted," says Dr. Wayland, "that the New Testament contains no precept prohibitory of slavery." Marvellous as such silence must needs be to the abolitionist, it cannot be more so to him than his attempts to account for it are to others. Let us briefly examine these attempts:
"You may give your child," says Dr. Wayland, "if he were approaching to years of discretion, permission to do an act, while you inculcate upon him principles which forbid it, for the sake of teaching him to be governed by principles, rather than by any direct enactment. In such case you would expect him to obey the principle, and not avail himself of the permission." Now we fearlessly ask every reader whose moral sense has not been perverted by false logic, if such a proceeding would not be infinitely unworthy of the Father of mercies? According to Dr. Wayland's view, he beholds his children living and dying in the practice of an abominable sin, and looks on without the slightest note of admonition or warning. Nay, he gives them permission to continue in the practice of this frightful enormity, to which they are already bound by the triple tie of habit, interest, and feeling! Though he gives them line upon line, and precept upon precept, in order to detach them from other sins, he yet gives them permission to live and die in this awful sin! And why? To teach them, forsooth, not to follow his permission, but to be guided by his principles! Even the guilty Eli remonstrated with his sons. Yet if, instead of doing this, he had given them permission to practise the very sins they were bent upon, he might have been, for all that, as pure and faithful as the Father of mercies himself is represented to be in the writings of Dr. Wayland. Such are the miserable straits, and such the impious sophisms, to which even divines are reduced, when, on the supposition that slavery is a sin, they undertake to vindicate or defend the word which they themselves are ordained to preach!
Another reason, scarcely less remarkable than the one already noticed, is assigned for the omission of all precepts against slavery. "It was no part of the scheme of the gospel revelation," we are told by Dr. Wayland, (who quotes from Archbishop Whately,) "to lay down any thing approaching to a complete system of moral precepts — to enumerate every thing that is enjoined or forbidden by our religion." If this method of teaching had been adopted, "the New Testament would," says Dr. Wayland, "have formed a library in itself, more voluminous than the laws of the realm of Great Britain." Now, all this is very true; and hence the necessity of leaving many points of duty to the enlightened conscience, and to the application of the more general precepts of the gospel. But how has it happened that slavery is passed over in silence? Because, we are told, "every thing" could not be noticed. If, indeed, slavery be so great a sin, would it not have been easier for the divine teacher to say, Let it be abolished, than to lay down so many minute precepts for its regulation? Would this have tended to swell the gospel into a vast library, or to abridge its teachings? Surely, when Dr. Wayland sets up such a plea, he must have forgotten that the New Testament, though it cannot notice "every thing," contains a multitude of rules to regulate the conduct of the master and the slave. Otherwise he could scarcely have imagined that it was from an aversion to minuteness, or from an impossibility to forbid every evil, that the sin of slavery is passed over in silence.
He must also have forgotten another thing. He must have forgotten the colors in which he had painted the evils of slavery. If we may rely upon these, then slavery is no trifling offence. It is, on the contrary, a stupendous sin, overspreading the earth, and crushing the faculties — both intellectual and moral — of millions of human beings beneath its odious and terrific influence. Now, if this be so, then would it have been too much to expect that at least one little word might have been directed against so great, so tremendous an evil? The method of the gospel may be comprehensive, if you please; it may teach by great principles rather than by minute precepts. Still, it is certain that St. Paul could give directions about his cloak; and he could spend many words in private salutations. In regard to the great social evil of the age, however, and beneath which a large majority of even the civilized world were crushed to the earth, he said nothing, lest he should become too minute, —lest his epistles should swell into too large a volume! Such is one of Dr. Wayland's defences of the gospel. We shall offer no remark; we shall let it speak for itself.
A third reason for the silence in question is the alleged ease with which precepts may be evaded. "A simple precept or prohibition," says Dr. Wayland, "is, of all things, the easiest to be evaded. Lord Eldon used to say, that 'no man in England could construct an act of Parliament through which he could not drive a coach-and-four.' We find this to have been illustrated by the case of the Jews in the time of our Saviour. The Pharisees, who prided themselves on their strict obedience to the letter, violated the spirit of every precept of the Mosaic code."
Now, in reply to this most extraordinary passage, we have several remarks to offer. In the first place, perhaps every one is not so good a driver as Lord Eldon. It is certain, that acts of Parliament have been passed, through which the most slippery of rogues have not been able to make their escape. They have been caught, tried, and condemned for their offences, in spite of all their ingenuity and evasion.
Secondly, a "principle" is just as easily evaded as a "precept;" and, in most cases, it is far more so. The great principle of the New Testament, which our author deems so applicable to the subject of slavery, is this: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Now, if this be the great principle intended to enlighten us respecting the sin of slavery, we confess it has been most completely evaded by every slave State in the Union. We have, indeed, so entirely deceived ourselves in regard to its true import, that it seems to us to have not the most remote application to such a subject. If any one will give our remarks on this great "principle" a candid examination, we think he will admit that we have deceived ourselves on very plausible, if not on unanswerable, grounds. If slavery be a sin, — always and everywhere a monstrous iniquity, — then we should have been far more thoroughly enlightened with respect to its true nature, and found evasion far more difficult, if the New Testament had explicitly declared it to be such, and commanded all masters everywhere to emancipate their slaves. We could have driven a coach-and-four neither through, nor around, any such express prohibition. It is indeed only in consequence of the default, or omission, of such precept or command, that the abolitionist appeals to what he calls the principles of the gospel. If he had only one such precept, —if he had only one such precise and pointed prohibition, he might then, and he would, most triumphantly defy evasion. He would say, There is the word; and none but the obstinate gainsayers, or unbelievers, would dare reply. But as it is, he is compelled to lose himself in vague generalities, and pretend to a certainty which nowhere exists, except in his own heated mind. This pretence, indeed, that an express precept, prohibitory of slavery, is not the most direct way to reveal its true nature, because a precept is so much more easily evaded than a principle, is merely one of the desperate expedients of a forlorn and hopeless cause. If the abolitionist would maintain that cause, or vindicate his principles, it will be found that he must retire, and hide himself from the light of revelation.
Thirdly, the above passage seems to present a very strange view of the Divine proceedings. According to that view, it appears that the Almighty tried the method of teaching by precept in the Old Testament, and the experiment failed. For precepts may be so easily evaded, that every one in the Mosaic code was violated by the Pharisees. Hence, the method of teaching by precept was laid aside in the New Testament, and the better method of teaching by principle was adopted. Such is the conclusion to which we must come, if we adopt the reasoning of Dr. Wayland. But we cannot adopt his reasoning; since we should then have to believe that the experiment made in the Old Testament proved a failure, and that its Divine Author, having grown wiser by experience, improved upon his former method.
The truth is, that the method of the one Testament is the same as that of the other. In both, the method of teaching by precept is adopted; by precepts of greater and of lesser generality. Dr. Wayland's principle is merely a general or comprehensive precept; and his precept is merely a specific or limited principle. The distinction he makes between them, and the use he makes of this distinction, only reflect discredit upon the wisdom and consistency of the Divine Author of revelation.
A third account which Dr. Wayland gives of the silence of the New Testament respecting the sin of slavery, is as follows: "If this form of wrong had been singled out from all the others, and had alone been treated preceptively, the whole system would have been vitiated. We should have been authorized to inquire why were not similar precepts in other cases delivered? and if they were not delivered, we should have been at liberty to conclude that they were intentionally omitted, and that the acts which they would have forbidden are innocent." Very well. But idolatry, polygamy, divorce, is each and every one singled out, and forbidden by precept, in the New Testament. Slavery alone is passed over in silence. Hence, according to the principle of Dr. Wayland himself, we are at liberty to conclude that a precept forbidding slavery was "intentionally omitted," and that slavery itself "is innocent."
Each one of these reasons is not only exceedingly weak in itself, but it is inconsistent with the others. For if a precept forbidding slavery were purposely omitted, in order to teach mankind to be governed by principle and to disregard permissions, then the omission could not have arisen from a love of brevity. Were it not, indeed, just as easy to give a precept forbidding, as to give one permitting, the existence of slavery? Again, if a great and world-devouring sin, such as the abolitionists hold slavery to be, has been left unnoticed, lest its condemnation should impliedly sanction other sins, then is it not worse than puerile to suppose that the omission was made for the sake of brevity, or to teach mankind that the permissions of the Most High may in certain cases be treated with contempt, may be set at naught, and despised as utterly inconsistent, as diametrically opposed to the principles and purity of his law?
If the abolitionist is so completely lost in his attempts to meet the argument from the silence of Scripture, he finds it still more difficult to cope with that from its express precepts and injunctions. Servants, obey your mnasters, is one of the most explicit precepts of the New Testament. This precept just as certainly exists therein as does the great principle of love itself. "The obedience thus enjoined is placed," says Dr. Wayland, "not on the ground of duty to man, but on the ground of duty to God." We accept the interpretation. It cannot for one moment disturb the line of our argument. It is merely the shadow of an attempt at an evasion. All the obligations of the New Testament are, indeed, placed on the same high ground. The obligation of the slave to obey his master could be placed upon no higher, no more sacred, no more impregnable, ground.
Rights and obligations are correlative. That is, every right implies a corresponding obligation, and every obligation implies a corresponding right. Hence, as the slave is under an obligation to obey the master, so the master has a right to his obedience. Nor is this obligation weakened, or this right disturbed, by the fact that the first is imposed by the word of God, and rests on the immutable ground of duty to him. If, by the divine law, the obedience of the slave is due to the master, then, by the same law, the master has a right to his obedience.
Most assuredly, the master is neither "a robber," nor "a murderer," nor "a manstealer," merely because he claims of the slave that which God himself commands the slave to render. All these epithets may be, as they have been, hurled at us by the abolitionist. His anathemas may thunder. But it is some consolation to reflect, that, as he was not consulted in the construction of the moral code of the universe, so, it is to be hoped, he will not be called upon to take part in its execution.
The most enlightened abolitionists are sadly puzzled by the precept in question; and, from the manner in which they sometimes speak of it, we have reason to fear it holds no very high place in their respect. Thus, says the Hon. Charles Sumner, "Seeking to be brief, I shall not undertake to reconcile texts of the Old Testament, which, whatever may be their import, are all absorbed in the New; nor shall I stop to consider the precise interpretation of the oft-quoted phrase, Servants, obey your masters; nor seek to weigh any such imperfect injunction in the scales against those grand commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets." [Speech in the Metropolitan Theatre, 1855.] Now this is a very significant passage. The orator, its learned author, will not stop to consider the texts of the Old Testament bearing on the subject of slavery, because they are all merged in the New! Nor will he stop to consider any "such imperfect injunction" as those contained in the New, because they are all swallowed up and lost in the grand commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself!" If he had bestowed a little more attention on this grand commandment itself, he might have seen, as we have shown, that it in no wise conflicts with the precept which enjoins servants to obey their masters. He might have seen that it is not at all necessary to "weigh" the one of those precepts "in the scales against" the other, or to brand either of them as imperfect. For he might have seen a perfect harmony between them. It is no matter of surprise, however, that an abolitionist should find imperfections in the moral code of the New Testament.
It is certainly no wonder that Mr. Sumner should have seen imperfections therein. For he has, in direct opposition to the plainest terms of the gospel, discovered that it is the first duty of the slave to fly from his master. In his speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, we find among various other quotations, a verse from Sarah W. Morton, in which she exhorts the slave to fly from bondage. Having produced this quotation "as part of the testimony of the times," and pronounced it "a truthful homage to the inalienable rights" of the slave, Mr. Sumner was in no mood to appreciate the divine precept, "Servants, obey your masters." Having declared fugitive slaves to be "the heroes of the age," he had not, as we may suppose, any very decided taste for the commonplace Scriptural duties of submission and obedience. Nay, he spurns at and rejects such duties as utterly inconsistent with the "inalienable rights of man." He appeals from the oracles of eternal truth to "the testimony of the times." He appeals from Christ and his apostles to Sarah W. Morton. And yet, although he thus takes ground directly against the plainest precepts of the gospel, and even ventures to brand some of them as "imperfect," he has the hardihood to rebuke those who find therein, not what it really contains, but only a reflection of themselves!
The precept in question is not an isolated injunction of the New Testament. It does not stand alone. It is surrounded by other injunctions, equally authoritative, equally explicit, equally unequivocal. Thus, in Eph. vi. 5: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh." Precisely the same doctrine was preached to the Colossians: (iii. 22:) "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God." Again, in St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy, he writes: "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed." Likewise, in Tit. ii. 9, 10, we read: "Exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." And in 1 Pet. ii. 18, it is written: "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward." Yet, in the face of these passages, Mr. Sumner declares that it is the duty of slaves to fly from bondage, and thereby place themselves among "the heroes of the age." He does not attempt to interpret or explain these precepts; he merely sets them aside, or passes them by with silent contempt, as "imperfect." Indeed, if his doctrines be true, they are not only imperfect — they are radically wrong and infamously vicious. Thus, the issue which Mr. Sumner has made up is not with the slaveholders of the South; it is with the word of God itself. The contradiction is direct, plain, palpable, and without even the decency of a pretended disguise. We shall leave Mr. Sumner to settle this issue and controversy with thie Divine Author of revelation.
In the mean time, we shall barely remind the reader of what that Divine Author has said in regard to those who counsel and advise slaves to disobey their masters, or fly from bondage. "They that have believing masters," says the great Apostle to the Gentiles, "let them not despise them because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing." Mr. Sumner congratulates himself that he has stripped "from slavery the apology of Christianity." Let servants "count their own masters worthy of all honor," and "do them service," says St. Paul. "Let servants disobey their masters," says Mr. Sumner, "and cease to do them service." "These things teach and exhort," says St. Paul. "These things denounce and abhor," says Mr. Sumner. "If any man teach otherwise," says St. Paul, "he is proud, knowing nothing." "I teach otherwise," says Mr. Sumner. And is it by such conflict that he strips from slavery the sanction of Christianity? If the sheer ipse dixit of Mr. Sumner be sufficient to annihilate the authority of the New Testament, which he professes to revere as divine, then, indeed, has he stripped the sanction of Christianity from the relation of master and slave. Otherwise, he has not even stripped from his own doctrines the burning words of her condemnation.
Dr. Wayland avoids a direct conflict with the teachings of the gospel. He is less bold, and more circumspect, than the Senator from Massachusetts. He has honestly and fairly quoted most of the texts bearing on the subject of slavery. He shows them no disrespect. He pronounces none of them imperfect. But with this array of texts before him he proceeds to say: "Now, I do not see that the scope of these passages can be misunderstood." Nor can we. It would seem, indeed, impossible for the ingenuity of man to misunderstand the words, quoted by Dr. Wayland himself, "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh." Dr. Wayland does not misunderstand them. For he has said, in his Moral Science: "The duty of slaves is explicitly made known in the Bible. They are bound to obedience, fidelity, submission, and respect to their masters, not only to the good and kind, but also to the unkind and froward." But when he comes to reason about these words, which he finds it so impossible for any one to misunderstand, he is not without a very ingenious method to evade their plain import and to escape from their influence. Let the reader hear, and determine for himself.
"I do not see," says Dr. Wayland, "that the scope of these passages can be misunderstood. They teach patience, meekness, fidelity, and charity — duties which are obligatory on Christians toward all men, and, of course, toward masters. These duties are obligatory on us toward enemies, because an enemy, like every other man, is a moral creature of God." True. But is this all? Patience, meekness, fidelity, charity — duties due to all men! But what has become of the word obedience? This occupies a prominent — nay, the most prominent — place in the teachings of St. Paul. It occupies no place at all in the reasonings of Dr. Wayland. It is simply dropped out by him, or overlooked; and this was well done, for this word obedience is an exceedingly inconvenient one for the abolitionist. If Dr. Wayland had retained it in his argument, he could not have added, "duties which are obligatory on Christians toward all men, and, of course, toward masters." Christians are not bound to obey all men. But slaves are bound to obey "their own masters." It is precisely upon this injunction to obedience that the whole argument turns. And it is precisely this injunction to obedience which Dr. Wayland leaves out in his argument. He does not, and he cannot, misunderstand the word. But he can just drop it out, and, in consequence, proceed to argue as if nothing more were required of slaves than is required of all Christian men!
The only portion of Scripture which Mr. Sumner condescends to notice is the Epistle of St. Paul to Philemon. He introduces the discussion of this epistle with the remark that, "In the support of slavery, it is the habit to pervert texts and to invent authority. Even St. Paul is vouched for a wrong which his Christian life rebukes." [Speech at the Metropolitan Theatre, 1855.] Now we intend to examine who it is that really perverts texts of Scripture, and invents authority. We intend to show, as in the clear light of noonday, that it is the conduct of Mr. Sumner and other abolitionists, and not that of the slaveholder, which is rebuked by the life and writings of the great apostle.
The epistle in question was written to a slaveholder, who, if the doctrine of Mr. Sumner be true, lived in the habitual practice of "a wrong so transcendent, so loathsome, so direful," that it "must be encountered wherever it can be reached, and the battle must be continued, without truce or compromise, until the field is entirely won." Is there any thing like this in the Epistle to Philemon? Is there any thing like it in any of the epistles of St. Paul? Is there anywhere in his writings the slightest hint that slavery is a sin at all, or that the act of holding slaves is in the least degree inconsistent with the most exalted Christian purity of life? We may safely answer these questions in the negative. The very epistle before us is from "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon, our dearly beloved, and fellow-laborer." The inspired writer then proceeds in these words: "I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers. Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother."
Now if, instead of leaving out this portion of the epistle, Mr. Sumner had pronounced it in the hearing of his audience, the suspicion might have arisen in some of their minds that the slaveholder may not, after all, be so vile a wretch. It might even have occurred to some, perhaps, that the Christian character of Philemon, the slaveholder, might possibly have been as good as that of those by whom all slaveholders are excommunicated and consigned to perdition. It might have been supposed that a Christian man may possibly hold slaves without being as bad as robbers, or cut-throats, or murderers. We do not say that Mr. Sumner shrunk from the reading of this portion of the epistle in the hearing of his audience, lest it should seem to rebuke the violence and the uncharitableness of his own sentiments, as well as those of his brother abolitionists at the North. We do say, however, that Mr. Sumner had no sort of use for this passage. It could in no way favor the impression his oration was designed to make. It breathes, indeed, a spirit of goodwill toward the Christian master as different from that which pervades the speeches of the honorable Senator, as the pure charity of heaven is from the dire malignity of earth.
"It might be shown," says Mr. Sumner, "that the present epistle, when truly interpreted, is a protest against slavery, and a voice for freedom." If, instead of merely asserting that this "might be done," the accomplished orator had actually done it, he would have achieved far more for the cause of abolitionism than has been effected by all the splendors of his showy rhetoric. He has, indeed, as we shall presently see, made some attempt to show that the Epistle to Philemon is an emancipation document! When we come to examine this most extraordinary attempt, we shall perceive that Mr. Sumner's power "to pervert texts and to invent authority," has not been wholly held in reserve for what "might be done." If his view of this portion of Scripture be not very profound, it certainly makes up in originality what it lacks in depth. If it should fail to instruct, it will at least amuse the reader. It shall be noticed in due time.
The next point that claims our attention is the intimation that St. Paul's "real judgment of slavery" may be inferred "from his condemnation, on another occasion, of 'manstealers,' or, according to the original text, slave-traders, in company with murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers." Were we disposed to enter into the exegesis of the passage thus referred to, we might easily show that Mr. Sumner is grossly at fault in his Greek. We might show that something far more enormous than even trading in slaves is aimed at by the condemnation of the apostle. But we have not undertaken to defend "manstealers," nor "slavetraders," in any form or shape. Hence, we shall dismiss this point with the opinion of Macknight, who thinks the persons thus condemned in company with murderers of fathers and mothers, are "they who make war for the inhuman purpose of selling the vanquished as slaves, as is the practice of the African princes." To take any free man, whether white or black, by force, and sell him into bondage, is manstealing. To make war for such a purpose, were, we admit, wholesale murder and manstealing combined. This view of the passage in question agrees with that of the great abolitionist, Mr. Barnes, who holds that "the essential idea of the term" in question, "is that of converting a free man into a slave" ... the "changing of a freeman into a slave, especially by traffic, subjection, etc." Now, as we of the South, against whom Mr. Sumner is pleased to inveigh, propose to make no such changes of freemen into slaves, much less to wage war for any such purpose, we may dismiss his gross perversion of the text in question. He may apply the condemnation of the apostle to us now, if it so please the benignity of his Christian charity, but it will not, we assure him, enter into our consciences, until we shall not only become "slave-traders," but also, with a view to the gain of such odious traffic, make war upon freemen.
We have undertaken to defend, as we have said, neither "slave-traders, nor "manstealers." We leave them both to the tender mercies of Mr. Sumner. But we have undertaken to defend slavery, that is, the slavery of the South, and to vindicate the character of Southern masters against the aspersions of their calumniators. And in this vindication we shrink not from St. Paul's "real judgment of slavery." Nay, we desire, above all things, to have his real judgment. His judgment, we mean, not of manstealers or of murderers, but of slavery and slaveholders. We have just seen "his real judgment" respecting the character of one slaveholder. We have seen it in the very epistle Mr. Sumner is discussing. Why, then, does he fly from St.Paul's opinion of the slaveholder to what he has said of the manstealer and the murderer? We would gather an author's opinion of slavery from what he has said of slavery itself or of the slaveholder. But this does not seem to suit Mr. Sumner's purpose quite so well. Entirely disregarding the apostle's opinion of the slaveholder contained in the passage right before him, as well as elsewhere, Mr. Sumner infers his "real judgment of slavery" from what he has said of manstealers and murderers! He might just as well have inferred St. Paul's opinion of Philemon from what he has, "on another occasion," said of Judas Iscariot.
Mr. Sumner contents himself with "calling attention to two things, apparent on the face" of the epistle itself; and which, in his opinion, are "in themselves an all-sufficient response." The first of these things is, says he: "While it appears that Onesimus had been in some way the servant of Philemon, it does not appear that he had ever been held as a slave, much less as a chattel." It does not appear that Onesimus was the slave of Philemon, is the position of the celebrated senatorial abolitionist. We cannot argue this position with him, however, since he has not deigned to give any reasons for it, but chosen to let it rest upon his assertion merely. We shall, therefore, have to argue the point with Mr. Albert Barnes, and other abolitionists, who have been pleased to attempt to bolster up so novel, so original, and so bold an interpretation of Scripture with exegetical reasons and arguments.
In looking into these reasons and arguments, — if reasons and arguments they may be called, — we are at a loss to conceive on what principle their authors have proceeded. The most plausible conjecture we can make is, that it was deemed sufficient to show that it is possible, by a bold stroke of interpretation, to call in question the fact that Onesimus was the slave of Philemon; since, if this may only be questioned by the learned, then the unlearned need not trouble themselves with the Scripture, but simply proceed with the work of abolitionism. Then may they cry, "Who shall decide when doctors disagree?" [Fools may hope to escape responsibility by such a cry. But if there be any truth in moral science, then every man should examine and decide, or else forbear to act.] and give all such disputings to the wind. Such seems to us to have been the principle on which the assertion of Mr. Sumner and Mr. Barnes has proceeded; evincing, as it does, an utter, total, and reckless disregard of the plainest teachings of inspiration. But let the candid reader hear, and then determine for himself.
The Greek word douloV applied to Onesimus, means, according to Mr. Barnes, either a slave, or a hired servant, or an apprentice. It is not denied that it means a slave. "The word," says Mr. Barnes himself, "is that which is commonly applied to a slave." Indeed, to assert that the Greek word douloV does not mean slave, were only a little less glaringly absurd than to affirm that no such meaning belongs to the English term slave itself. If it were necessary, this point might be most fully, clearly, and conclusively established; but since it is not denied, no such work of supererogation is required at our hands.
But it is insisted, that the word in question has a more extensive signification than the English term slave. "Thus," says Mr. Barnes, "it is so extensive in its signification as to be applicable to any species of servitude, whether voluntary or involuntary." Again: "All that is necessarily implied by it is, that he was, in some way, the servant of Philemon — whether hired or bought cannot be shown." Once more, he says: "The word denotes servant of any kind, and it should never be assumed that those to whom it was applied were slaves." Thus, according to Mr. Barnes, the word in question denotes a slave, or a hired servant, or, as he has elsewhere said, an apprentice. It denotes "servant of any kind," whether "voluntary or involuntary."
Such is the positive assertion of Mr. Barnes. But where is the proof? Where is the authority on which it rests? Surely, if this word is applied to hired servants, either in the Greek classics or in the New Testament, Mr. Barnes, or Mr. Sumner, or some other learned abolitionist, should refer us to the passage where it is so used. We have Mr. Barnes' assertion, again and again repeated, in his very elaborate Notes on the Epistle to Philemon; but not the shadow of an authority for any such use of the word. But stop: in making this assertion, he refers us to his "Notes on Eph. vi. 5, and 1 Tim. vi." Perhaps we may find his authority by the help of one of these references. We turn, then, to Eph. vi. 5; and we find the following note: "Servants. oi douloi. The word here used denotes one who is bound to render service to another, whether that service be free or voluntary, and may denote, therefore, either a slave, or one who binds himself to render service to another. It is often used in these senses in the New Testament, just as it is elsewhere." [The Italics are ours.] Why, then, if it is so often used to denote a hired servant, or an apprentice, or a voluntary servant of any kind, in the New Testament, is not at least one such instance of its use produced by Mr. Barnes? He must have been aware that one such authority from the New Testament were worth more than his bare assertion, though it were a hundred times repeated. Yet no such authority is adduced or referred to; he merely supports his assertion in the one place by his assertion in the other!
Let us look, in the next place, to his other reference, which is to 1 Tim. vi. 1. Here, again, we find not the shadow of an authority that the word in question is applicable to "hired servants," or "apprentices." We simply meet the oft-repeated assertion of the author, that it is applicable to any species of servitude. He refers from assertion to assertion, and nowhere gives a single authority to the point in question. If we may believe him, such authorities are abundant, even in the New Testament; yet he leaves the whole matter to rest upon his own naked assertion! Yea, as Greek scholars, he would have us to believe that douloV may mean a "hired servant," just as well as a slave; and he would have us to believe this, too, not upon the usage of Greek writers, but upon his mere assertion! We look for other evidence; and we intend to pin him down to proof, ere we follow him in questions of such momentous import as the one we have in hand.
Why is it, then, we ask the candid reader, if the term in question mean "a hired servant," as well as a slave, that no such application of the word is given? If such applications be as abundant as our author asserts they are, why not refer us to a single instance, that our utter ignorance may be at least relieved by one little ray of light? Why refer us from assertion to assertion, if authorities may be so plentifully had? We cannot conceive, unless the object be to deceive the unwary, or those who may be willingly deceived. An assertion merely, bolstered up with a "See note," here or there, may be enough for such; but if, after all, there be nothing but assertion on assertion piled, we shall not let it pass for proof. Especially, if such assertion be at war with truth, we shall track its author, and, if possible, efface his footprints from the immaculate word of God.
If the term douloV signifies "a hired servant," or "an apprentice," it is certainly a most extraordinary circumstance that the best lexicographers of the Greek language have not made the discovery. This were the more wonderful, if, as Mr. Barnes asserts, the word "is often used in these senses" by Greek writers. We have several Greek lexicons before us, and in not one of them is there any such meaning given to the word. Thus, in Donnegan, for example, we find: "douloV, a slave, a servant, as opposed to despothV, a master." But we do not find from him that it is ever applied to hired servants or apprentices. In like manner, Liddell and Scott have "douloV, a slave, bondman, strictly one born so, opposed to andrapodon." But they do not lay down "a hired servant," or "an apprentice," as one of its significations. If such, indeed, be found among the meanings of the word, these celebrated lexicographers were as ignorant of the fact as ourselves. Stephens also, as any one may see by referring to his "Thesaurus, Ling. Grec., Tom I. art. DouloV," was equally ignorant of any such use of the term in question. Is it not a pity, then, that, since such knowledge rested with Mr. Barnes, and since, according to his own statement, proofs of its accuracy were so abundant, he should have withheld all the evidence in his possession, and left so important a point to stand or fall with his bare assertion? Even if the rights of mankind had not been in question, the interests of Greek literature were, one would think, sufficient to have induced him to enlighten our best lexicographers with respect to the use of the word under consideration. Such an achievement would, we can assure him, have detracted nothing from his reputation for scholarship.
But how stands the word in the New Testament? It is certain that, however "often it may be applied" to hired servants in the New Testament, Mr. Barnes has not condescended to adduce a single application of the kind. This is not all. Those who have examined every text of the New Testament in which the word douloV occurs, and compiled lexicons especially for the elucidation of the sacred volume, have found no such instance of its application.
Thus, Schleusner, in his Lexicon of the New Testament, tells us that it means slave as opposed to eleuqeroV, freeman. His own words are: DouloV, ou, o, (1) proprie: servus, minister, homo non liber nec sui juris, et opponitur tw eleuqeroV. Matt. viii. 9; xiii. 27, 28; 1 Cor. vii. 21, 22; xii. 13; eite douloi, eite eleuqeroi. Tit. ii. 9."
We next appeal to Robinson's Lexicon of the New Testament. We there find these words: "douloV, ou, o, a bondman, slave, servant, pr. by birth; diff. from andrapodon, 'one enslaved in war,' comp. Xen. An., iv. 1, 12," etc. Now if, as Mr. Barnes asserts, the word in question is so often applied to hired servants in the New Testament, is it not passing strange that neither Schleusner nor Robinson should have discovered any such application of it? So far, indeed, is Dr. Robinson from having made any such discovery, that he expressly declares that the douloV "WAS NEVER A HIRED SERVANT; the latter being called misqioV, misqwtoV." "In a family," continues the same high authority, "the douloV was bound to serve, a slave, and was the property of his master, 'a living possession,' as Aristotle calls him."
"The Greek douloV," says Dr. Smith, in his Dictionary of Antiquities, "like the Latin servus, corresponds to the usual meaning of our word slave ... Aristotle (Polit. i. 3.) says that a complete household is that which consists of slaves and freemen, (oikia de teleioV ek doulwn kai eleuqerwn,) and he defines a slave to be a living working-tool and possession. (O douloV emyucon organon, Ethic. Nicim. viii. 13; o douloV kthma ti emyucon, Pol. i. 4.) Thus Aristotle himself defines the douloV to be, not a "servant of any kind," but a slave; and we presume that he understood the force of this Greek word at least as well as Mr. Barnes or Mr. Sumner. And Dr. Robinson, as we have just seen, declares that it never means a hired servant.
Indeed, all this is so well understood by Greek scholars, that Dr. Macknight does not hesitate to render the term douloV, applied to Onesimus in the Epistle to Philemon, by the English word slave. He has not even added a footnote, as is customary with him when he deems any other translation of a word than that given by himself at all worthy of notice. In like manner, Moses Stuart just proceeds to call Onesimus "the slave of Philemon," as if there could be no ground for doubt on so plain a point. Such is the testimony of these two great Biblical critics, who devoted their lives in great measure to the study of the language, literature, and interpretation of the Epistles of the New Testament.
Now, it should be observed, that not one of the authorities quoted by us had any motive "to pervert texts," or "to invent authorities," "in support of slavery." Neither Donnegan, nor Liddell and Scott, nor Stephens, nor Schleusner, nor Robinson, nor Smith, nor Macknight, nor Stuart, could possibly have had any such motive. If they were not all perfectly unbiassed witnesses, it is certain they had no bias in favor of slavery. It is, indeed, the abolitionist, and not the slaveholder, who, in this case, "has perverted texts;" and if he has not "invented authorities," it is because his attempts to do so have proved abortive.
Beside the clear and unequivocal import of the word applied to Onesimus, it is evident, from other considerations, that he was the slave of Philemon. To dwell upon all of these would, we fear, be more tedious than profitable to the reader. Hence we shall confine our attention to a single circumstance, which will, we think, be sufficient for any candid or impartial inquirer after truth. Among the arguments used by St. Paul to induce Philemon to receive his fugitive slave kindly, we find this: "For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him forever." This verse is thus paraphrased by Macknight: "To mitigate thy resentment, consider, that perhaps also for this reason he was separated from thee for a little while, (so proV wran signified, 1 Thess. ii. 17, note 2,) that thou mightest have him thy slave for life." Dr. Macknight also adds, in a footnote: "By telling Philemon that he would now have Onesimus forever, the apostle intimates to him his firm persuasion that Onesimus would never any more run away from him." Such seems to be the plain, obvious import of the apostle's argument. No one, it is believed, who had no set purpose to subserve, or no foregone conclusion to support, would view this argument in any other light. Perhaps he was separated for a while as a slave, that "thou mightest have him forever," or for life. How have him? Surely, one would think, as a slave, or in the same capacity from which he was separated for a while. The argument requires this; the opposition of the words, and the force of the passage, imperatively require it. But yet, if we may believe Mr. Barnes, the meaning of St. Paul is, that perhaps Onesimus was separated for a while as a servant, that Philemon might never receive him again as a servant, but forever as a Christian brother! Lest we should be suspected of misrepresentation, we shall give his own words. "The meaning is," says he, "that it was possible that this was permitted in the providence of God, in order that Onesimus might be brought under the influence of the gospel, and be far more serviceable to Philemon as a Christian than he could have been in his former relation to him."
In the twelfth verse of the epistle, St. Paul says: "Whom I have sent again," or, as Macknight more accurately renders the words, "Him I have sent back," (on anepemya.) Here we see the great apostle actually sending back a fugitive slave to his master. This act of St. Paul is not, and cannot be, denied. The words are too plain for denial. Onesimus "I have sent back." Surely it cannot be otherwise than a most unpleasant spectacle to abolitionist eyes thus to see Paul, the aged, — perhaps the most venerable and glorious hero whose life is upon record, — assume such an attitude toward the institution of slavery. Had he dealt with slavery as he always dealt with every thing which he regarded as sin; had he assumed toward it an attitude of stern and uncompromising hostility, and had his words been thunderbolts of denunciation, then indeed would he have been a hero after the very hearts of the abolitionists. But, as it is, they have to apologize for the great apostle, and try, as best they may, to deliver him from his very equivocal position! But if they are true apostles, and not false, then, we fear, the best apology for his conduct is that he had never read the Declaration of Independence, nor breathed the air of Boston.
This point, however, we shall not decide. We shall examine their apologies, and let the candid reader decide for himself. St. Paul, it is not denied, sent back Onesimus. But, says Mr. Barnes, he did not compel or urge him to go. He did not send him back against his will. Onesimus, no doubt, desired to return, and St. Paul was moved to send him by his own request. Now, in the first place, this apology is built on sheer assumption. There is not the slightest evidence that Onesimus requested St. Paul to send him back to his master. "There may have been many reasons," says Mr. Barnes, "why Onesimus desired to return to Colosse, and no one can prove that he did not express that desire to St. Paul, and that his 'sending' him was not in consequence of such request." True; even if Onesimus had felt no such desire, and had expressed no such desire to St. Paul, it would have been impossible, in the very nature of things, for any one to prove such negatives, unless he had been expressly informed on the subject by the writer of the epistle. But is it not truly wonderful, that any one should, without the least particle or shadow of evidence, be pleased to imagine a series of propositions, and then call upon the opposite party to disprove them? Is not such proceeding the very stuff that dreams are made of?
No doubt there may have been reasons why Onesimus should desire to return to his master. There were certainly reasons, and reasons of tremendous force, too, why he should have desired no such thing. The fact that Philemon, whom he had offended by running away, had, according to law, the power of life and death over him, is one of the reasons why he should have dreaded to return. Hence, unless required by the apostle to return, he may have desired no such thing, and no one can prove that an expression of such desire on his part was the ground of the apostle's action. It is certain, that he who affirms should prove.
In the second place, if St. Paul were an abolitionist at heart, he should have avoided the appearance of so great an evil. He should not, for a moment, have permitted himself to stand before the world in the simple and unexplained attitude of one who had sent back a fugitive slave to his master. No honest abolitionist would permit himself to appear in such a light. He would scorn to occupy such a position. Hence we repeat, if St. Paul were an abolitionist at heart, he should have let it be known that, in sending Onesimus back, he was moved, not originally by the principles of his own heart, but by the desire and request of the fugitive himself. By such a course, he would have delivered himself from a false position, and spared his friends among the abolitionists the necessity of making awkward apologies for his conduct.
Thirdly, the positions of Mr. Barnes are not merely sheer assumptions; they are perfectly gratuitous. For it is easy to explain the determination of St. Paul to send Onesimus back, without having recourse to the supposition that Onesimus desired him to do so. Such determination was, indeed, the natural and necessary result of the well-known principles of the great apostle. He had repeatedly, and most emphatically, inculcated the principle, that it is the duty of slaves to "obey their masters," and to "count them worthy of all honor." This duty Onesimus had clearly violated in running away from his master. If St. Paul, then, had not taught Onesimus a different doctrine from that which he had taught the churches, he must have felt that he had done wrong in absconding from Philemon, and desired to repair the wrong by returning to him. "It is," says Mr. Barnes, "by no means necessary to suppose that Paul felt that Onesimus was under obligation to return." But we must suppose this, unless we suppose that Paul felt that Onesimus was under no obligation to obey the precepts which he himself had delivered for the guidance and direction of all Christian servants.
We shall now briefly notice a few other of Mr. Barnes' arguments, and then dismiss this branch of the subject. "If St. Paul sent back Onesimus," says he, "this was, doubtless, at his own request; for there is not the slightest evidence that he compelled him, or even urged him, to go." We might just as well conclude that St. Paul first required Onesimus to return, because there is not the slightest evidence that Onesimus made any such request.
"Paul," says Mr. Barnes, "had no power to send Onesimus back to his master unless he chose to go." This is very true. But still Onesimus may have chosen to go, just because St. Paul, his greatest benefactor and friend, had told him it was his duty to do so. He may have chosen to go, just because the apostle had told him it is the duty of servants not to run away from their masters, but to obey them, and count them worthy of all honor. It is also true, that "there is not the slightest evidence that he compelled him, or even urged him, to go." It is, on the other hand, equally true, that there is not the slightest evidence that any thing more than a bare expression of the apostle's opinion, or a reiteration of his well-known sentiments, was necessary to induce him to return.
"The language is just as would have been used," says our author, "on the supposition, either that he requested him to go and bear a letter to Colosse, or that Onesimus desired to go, and that Paul sent him agreeably to his request. Compare Phil. ii. 25: 'Yet I suppose it necessary to send Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor,' etc.; Col. iv. 7, 8: 'All my estate shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord: whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate.' But Epaphroditus and Tychicus were not sent against their own will, —nor is there any more reason to think that Onesimus was." Now there is not the least evidence that either Epaphroditus or Tychicus requested the apostle to send them as he did; and, so far as appears from his statements, the whole thing originated with himself. It is simply said that he sent them. It is true, they were "not sent against their own will," for they were ready and willing to obey his directions. We have good reason, as we have seen, to believe that precisely the same thing was true in regard to the sending of Onesimus.
But there is another case of sending which Mr. Barnes has overlooked. It is recorded in the same chapter of the same epistle which speaks of the sending of Epaphroditus. We shall adduce it, for it is a case directly in point. "But ye know the proof of him, (i. e. of Timothy,) that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him, therefore, I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me." Now, here the apostle proposes to send Timothy, not so soon as Timothy should request to be sent, but so soon as he should see how it would go with himself as a prisoner at Rome. "As a son with the father," so Timothy, after his conversion, served with the great apostle, and, not against his own will, but most cheerfully, obeyed his directions. And in precisely the same ineffably endearing relation did Onesimus stand to the apostle. As a recent convert, — as a sincere and humble Christian, — he naturally looked to his great inspired teacher for advice, and was, no doubt, with more than filial affection, ready to obey.
Hence, we insist that Paul was responsible for the return of Onesimus to his master. He might have prevented his return, had he so desired; for he tells us so himself, (ver. 13.) But he chose to send him back. And why? Because Onesimus requested? The apostle says not so. "I would have retained him with me," says he to Philemon, "that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel. BUT WITHOUT THY MIND WOULD I DO NOTHING." Nay, whatever may have been his own desires, or those of Onesimus, he would do nothing without the mind of Philemon. Such is the reason which the apostle assigns for his own conduct, for his own determination not to retain the fugitive slave.
"What the apostle wrote to Philemon on this occasion is," says Dr. Macknight, "highly worthy of notice; namely, that although he had great need of an affectionate, honest servant to minister to him in his bonds, such as Onesimus was, who had expressed a great inclination to stay with him; and although, if Onesimus had remained with him, he would only have discharged the duty which Philemon himself owed to his spiritual father, yet the apostle would by no means detain Onesimus without Philemon's leave, because it belonged to him to dispose of his own slave in the way he thought proper. Such was the apostle's regard to justice, and to the rights of mankind!"
According to Mr. Barnes, however, the apostle was governed in this transaction, not by a regard to principle or the rights of mankind, but by a regard for the feelings of the master! Just listen, for one moment, to his marvellous discourse: "It is probable," says he, "that if Onesimus had proposed to return, it would have been easy for Paul to have retained him with him. He might have represented his own want of a friend. He might have appealed to his gratitude on account of his efforts for his conversion. He might have shown him that he was under no moral obligation to go back. He might have refused to give him this letter, and might have so represented to him the dangers of the way, and the probability of a harsh reception, as effectually to have dissuaded him from such a purpose. But, in that case, it is clear that this might have caused hard feeling in the bosom of Philemon, and rather than do that, he preferred to let him return to his master, and to plead for him that he might have a kind reception. It is, therefore, by no means necessary to suppose that Paul felt that Onesimus was under obligation to return, or that he was disposed to compel him, or that Onesimus was not inclined to return voluntarily; but all the circumstances of the case are met by the supposition that, if Paul had retained him, Philemon might conceive that he had injured him."
Alas! that so much truth should have been suppressed; and that, too, by the most glorious champion of truth the world has ever seen. He tells not his "son Onesimus" that he is under no moral obligation to return to his master. On the contrary, he leaves him ignorant of his rights — of his inherent, sacred, and eternal rights. He sees him blindly put off "the hero," and put on "the brute" again. And why? Because, forsooth, if he should only speak, he might cause hard feeling in the bosom of his master! Should he retain Onesimus, his son, he would not injure Philemon at all. But then Philemon "might conceive" that he had injured him. Ah! when will abolitionist again suppress such mighty truth, lest he disturb some fancied right, or absurd feeling ruffle? When the volcano of his mind suppress and keep its furious fires in, lest he consume some petty despot's despicable sway; or else, at least, touch his tender sensibilities with momentary pain? "fiat justitia, ruat coelum," is a favorite maxim with other abolitionists. But St. Paul, it seems, could not assume quite so lofty a tone. He could not say, "Let justice be done, though the heavens should fall." He could not even say, "Let justice be done," though the feelings of Philemon should be hurt.
It is evident, we think, that St. Paul needs to be defended against Mr. Barnes' defences of him, and vindicated against his apologies. If, indeed, he were so pitiful a pleader of "the innocent cause" as Mr. Barnes would have us to believe he is, then, we ask if those abolitionists are not in the right who despise both the apostle and his doctrine? No other abolitionist, it is certain, will ever imitate his example, as that example is represented by Mr. Barnes. No other abolitionist will ever suppress the great truths — as he conceives them to be — with which his soul is on fire, and which, in his view, lie at the foundation of human happiness, lest he should "cause hard feelings" in the bosom of a slaveholder.
It may be said, perhaps, that the remarks and apology of Mr. Barnes do not proceed on the supposition that Onesimus was a slave. If so, the answer is at hand. For surely Mr. Barnes cannot think it would have been dishonorable in the apostle to advise, or even to urge, "a hired servant," or "an apprentice," to return and fulfil his contract. It is evident that, although Mr. Barnes would have the reader to believe that Onesimus was merely a hired servant or an apprentice, he soon forgets his own interpretation, and proceeds to reason just as if he himself regarded him as a slave. This, if possible, will soon appear still more evident.
The apostle did not, according to Mr. Barnes, wholly conceal his abolition sentiments. He made them known to Philemon. Yes, we are gravely told, the letter which Onesimus carried in his pocket, as he wended his way back from Rome to Colosse, was and is an emancipation document! This great discovery is, we believe, due to the abolitionists of the present day. It was first made by Mr. Barnes, or Dr. Channing, or some other learned emancipationist, and after them by Mr. Sumner. Indeed, the discovery that it appears from the face of the epistle itself that it is an emancipation document, is the second of the two "conclusive things" which, in Mr. Sumner's opinion, constitute "an all-sufficient response" to anti-abolitionists.
Now supposing St. Paul to have been an abolitionist, such a disclosure of his views would, we admit, afford some little relief to our minds. For it would show that, although he did not provoke opposition by proclaiming the truth to the churches and to the world, he could at least run the risk of hurting the feelings of a slaveholder. But let us look into this great discovery, and see if the apostle has, in reality, whispered any such words of emancipation in the ear of Philemon.
In his note to the sixteenth verse of the epistle, Mr. Barnes says: "Not now as a servant. The adverb rendered 'not now,' (ouketi) means no more, no further, no longer." So let it be. We doubt not that such is its meaning. Hence, we need not examine Mr. Barnes' numerous authorities, to show that such is the force of the adverb in question. He has, we admit, most abundantly established his point that ouketi means no longer. But then this is a point which no anti-abolitionist has the least occasion to deny. We find precisely the same rendition in Macknight, and we are perfectly willing to abide by his translation. If Mr. Barnes had spared himself the trouble of producing these authorities, and adduced only one to show that douloV means a hired servant, or an apprentice, his labor would have been bestowed where it is needed. As the passage stands, then, St. Paul exhorts Philemon to receive Onesimus, "no longer as a servant." Now this, we admit, is perfectly correct as far as it goes. "It (i.e. this adverb) implies," says Mr. Barnes, "that he had been in this condition, but was not to be now." He was no longer to be a servant! Over this view of the passage, Mr. Sumner goes into quite a paroxysm of triumphant joy. "Secondly," says he, "in charging Onesimus with this epistle to Philemon, the apostle announces him as 'not now a servant, but above a servant, —a brother beloved;' and he enjoins upon his correspondent the hospitality due only to a freeman, saying expressly, 'If thou count me, therefore, as a partner, receive him as myself;' ay, sir, not as slave, not even as servant, but as a brother beloved, even as the apostle himself. Thus with apostolic pen wrote Paul to his disciple Philemon. Beyond all doubt, in these words of gentleness, benediction, and EMANCIPATION, [The emphasis is ours.] dropping with celestial, soul-awakening power, there can be no justification for a conspiracy, which, beginning with the treachery of Iscariot, and the temptation of pieces of silver, seeks by fraud, brutality, and violence, through officers of the law armed to the teeth like pirates, and amid soldiers who degrade their uniform, to hurl a fellow-man back into the lash-resounding den of American slavery; and if any one can thus pervert this beneficent example, allow me to say that he gives too much occasion to doubt his intelligence or his sincerity."
Now in regard to the spirit of this passage we have at present nothing to say. The sudden transition from the apostle's "words of blessing and benediction," to Mr. Sumner's words of railing and vituperation, we shall pass by unnoticed. Upon these the reader may make his own comments. It is our object simply to comment on the words of the great apostle. And, in the first place, we venture to suggest that there are several very serious difficulties in the way of Mr. Barnes' and Mr. Sumner's interpretation of the passage in question.
Let us, for the sake of argument, concede to these gentlemen that Onesimus was merely the hired servant, or apprentice, of Philemon. What then follows? If they are not in error, it clearly and unequivocally follows that St. Paul's "words of emancipation" were intended, not for slaves merely, but for hired servants and apprentices! For servants of any and every description! Mr. Sumner expressly tells us that he was to return, "not as a slave, not even as a servant, but as a brother beloved." Now such a scheme of emancipation would, it seems to us, suit the people of Boston as little as it would those of Richmond. It would abolish every kind of "servitude, whether voluntary or involuntary," and release all hired servants, as well as apprentices, from the obligation of their contracts. Such is one of the difficulties in their way. It may not detract from the "sincerity," it certainly reflects no credit on the "intelligence," of Mr. Sumner, to be guilty of such an oversight.
There is another very grave difficulty in the way of these gentlemen. St. Paul writes that the servant Onesimus, who had been unprofitable to Philemon in times past, would now be profitable to him. But how profitable? As a servant? No! he was no longer to serve him at all. his "emancipation" was announced! He was to be received, not as a slave, not even as a servant, but only as a brother beloved! Philemon was, indeed, to extend to him the hospitalities due to a freeman, even such as were due to the apostle himself? Now, for aught we know, it may have been very agreeable to the feelings of Philemon, to have his former servant thus unceremoniously "emancipated," and quartered upon him as "a gentleman of elegant leisure;" but how this could have been so profitable to him is more than we can conceive.
It must be admitted, we think, that in a worldly point of view, all the profits would have been on the side of Onesimus. "But," says Mr. Barnes, "he would now be more profitable as a Christian brother." It is true, Onesimus had not been very profitable as a Christian brother before he ran away, for he had not been a Christian brother at all. But if he were sent back by the apostle, because he would be profitable merely as a Christian brother, we cannot see why any other Christian brother would not have answered the purpose just as well as Onesimus. If such, indeed, were the apostle's object, he might have conferred a still greater benefit upon Philemon by sending several Christian brethren to live with him, and to feast upon his good things.
Thirdly, the supposition that St. Paul thus announced the emancipation of Onesimus, is as inconsistent with the whole scope and design of the passage, as it is with the character of the apostle. If he would do nothing without the consent of Philemon, not even retain his servant to minister to himself while in prison, much less would he declare him emancipated, and introduce him to his former master as a freeman. We submit to the candid reader, we submit to every one who has the least perception of the character and spirit of the apostle, if such an interpretation of his words be not simply ridiculous.
It is certain that such an interpretation is peculiar to abolitionists. "Men," says Mr. Sumner, "are prone to find in uncertain, disconnected texts, a confirmation of their own personal prejudices or prepossessions. And I," he continues, "who am no divine, but only a simple layman, make bold to say, that whosoever finds in the gospel any sanction of slavery, finds there merely a reflection of himself." He must have been a very simple layman indeed, if he did not perceive how very easily his words might have been retorted. We venture to affirm that no one, except an abolitionist, has ever found the slightest tincture of abolitionism in the writings of the great apostle to the Gentiles.
The plain truth is, that Philemon is exhorted to receive Onesimus "no longer as a slave ONLY, but above a slave, —a brother beloved." Such is the translation of Macknight, and such, too, is the concurrent voice of every commentator to whom we have access. Pool, Clarke, Scott, Benson, Doddridge — all unite in the interpretation that Onesimus was, in the heaven-inspired and soul-subduing words of the loving apostle, commended to his master, not as a slave merely, but also as a Christian brother. The great fact — the "words of emancipation," which Mr. Sumner sees so clearly on "the face of the epistle," — they cannot see at all. Neither sign nor shadow of any such thing can they perceive. It is a sheer reflection of the abolitionist himself. Thus, the Old Testament is not only merged in the New, but the New itself is merged in Mr. Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts.
We shall notice one passage more of Scripture. The seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Corinthians begins thus: "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me;" and it proceeds to notice, among other things, the relation of master and slave. This passage was designed to correct the disorders among the Christian slaves at Corinth, who, agreeably to the doctrine of the false teacher, claimed their liberty, on pretence that, as brethren in Christ, they were on an equality with their Christian masters. Here, then, St. Paul met abolitionism face to face. And how did he proceed? Did he favor the false teacher? Did he recognise the claim of the discontented Christian slaves? Did he even once hint that they were entitled to their freedom, on the ground that all men are equal, or on any other ground whatever? His own words will furnish the best answer to these questions.
"Let every man," says he, "abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called, being a servant? care not for it." Thus, were Christian slaves exhorted to continue in that condition of life in which they were when converted to Christianity. This will not be denied. It is too plain for controversy. It is even admitted by Mr. Barnes himself. In the devout contemplation of this passage Chrysostom exclaims: "Hast thou been called, being a slave? Care not for it. Continue to be a slave. Hast thou been called, being in uncircumcision? Remain uncircumcised. Being circumcised, didst thou become a believer? Continue circumcised. For these are no hindrances to piety. Thou art called, being a slave; another, with an unbelieving wife; another, being circumcised. Astonishing! Where has he put slavery? As circumcision profits not, and uncircumcision does no harm, so neither doth slavery nor yet liberty."
"The great argument" against slavery is, according to Dr. Channing and other abolitionists drawn from the immortality of the soul. "Into every human being," says he, "God has breathed an immortal spirit, more precious than the whole outward creation. No earthly nor celestial language can exaggerate the worth of a human being." The powers of this immortal spirit, he concludes, "reduce to insignificance all outward distinctions." Yea, according to St. Paul himself, they reduce to utter insignificance all outward distinctions, and especially the distinction between liberty and slavery. "Art thou called," says he, "being a slave? care not for it." Art thou, indeed, the Lord's freeman, and as such destined to reign on a throne of glory forever? Oh, then, care not for the paltry distinctions of the passing world!
Now, whom shall the Christian teacher take for his model? St. Paul, or Dr. Channing? Shall he seek to make men contented with the condition in which God has placed them, or shall he stir up discontent, and inflame the restless passions of men? Shall he himself, like the great apostle, be content to preach the doctrines of eternal life to a perishing world; or shall he make politics his calling, and inveigh against the domestic relations of society? Shall he exhort men not to continue in the condition of life in which God has placed them, but to take his providence out of his hands, and, in direct opposition to his word, assert their rights? In one word, shall he preach the gospel of Christ and his apostles, or shall he preach the gospel of the abolitionist?
"Art thou called, being a servant? care not for it; but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather." The Greek runs thus: all ei kai dunasai eleuqeroV genesqai, mallon crhsai, literally, "but even if thou canst become free, rather make use of." Make use of what? The Greek verb is left without a case. How, then, shall this be supplied? To what does the ambiguous it of our translation refer? "One and all of the native Greek commentators in the early ages," says Stuart, "and many expositors in modern times, say that the word to be supplied is douleia i. e. slavery, bondage. The reason which they give for it is, that this is the only construction which can support the proposition the apostle is laboring to establish, viz.: 'Let every man abide in statu quo.' Even De Wette, (who, for his high liberty notions, was banished from Germany,) in his commentary on this passage, seems plainly to accede to the force of this reasoning; and with him many others have agreed. No man can look at the simple continuity of logic in the passage without feeling that there is force in the appeal." Yet the fact should not be concealed, that Stuart himself is "not satisfied with this exegesis of the passage;" which, according to his own statement, was the universal interpretation from "the early ages" down to the sixteenth century. This change, says he, "seems to have been the spontaneous prompting of the spirit of liberty, that beat high" in the bosom of its author.
Now have we not some reason to distrust an interpretation which comes not exactly from Heaven, but from a spirit beating high in the human breast? That is certainly not an unerring spirit. We have already seen what it can do with the Scriptures. But whether it has erred in this instance, or not, it is certain that it should never be permitted to beat so very high in any human breast as to annul the teachings of the apostle, or to make him contradict himself. This has been too often done. We too frequently hear those who admit that St. Paul exhorts "slaves to continue in slavery," still contend that "if they may be made free," they should move heaven and earth to attain so desirable an object. They "should continue in that state," and yet exert all their power to escape therefrom!
Conybeare and Howson, who are acknowledged to be among the best commentators on the Epistles of St. Paul, have restored "the continuity of his logic." They translate his words thus: "Nay, though thou have power to gain thy freedom, seek rather to remain content." This translation certainly possesses the advantage that it makes the doctrine of St. Paul perfectly consistent with itself.
But let us return to the point in regard to which there is no controversy. It is on all sides agreed, that St. Paul no less than three times exhorts every man to continue in the condition in which Providence has placed him. "And this rule," says he, "ordain I in all the churches." Yet — would any man believe it possible? — the very quintessence of abolitionism itself has been extracted from this passage of his writings! Let us consider for a moment the wonderful alchemy by which this has been effected.
We find in this passage the words: "Be not ye the servants of men." These words are taken from the connection in which they stand, dissevered from the words which precede and follow them, and then made to teach that slaves should not submit to the authority of their masters, should not continue in their present condition. It is certain that no one but an abolitionist, who has lost all respect for revelation except when it happens to square with his own notions, could thus make the apostle so directly and so flatly contradict himself and all his teaching. Different interpretations have been given to the words just quoted; but until abolitionism set its cloven foot upon the Bible, such violence had not been done to its sacred pages.
Conybeare and Howson suppose that the words in question are intended to caution the Corinthians against "their servile adherence to party leaders." Bloomfield, in like manner, says: "The best commentators are agreed," that they are "to be taken figuratively, in the sense, 'do not be blindly followers of men, conforming to their opinions,' etc." It is certain that Rosenmüller, Grotius, and we know not how many more, have all concurred in this interpretation. But be the meaning what it may, it is not an exhortation to slaves to burst their bonds in sunder, unless the apostle has, in one and the same breath, taught diametrically opposite doctrines.
Yet, in direct opposition to the plain words of the apostle, and to the concurrent voice of commentators and critics, is he made to teach that slaves should throw off the authority of their masters! Lest such a thing should be deemed impossible, we quote the words of the author by whom this outrage has been perpetrated. "The command of the 23d verse," says he, "'be not ye the servants of men,' is equally plain. There are no such commands uttered in regard to the relations of husband and wife, parent and child, as are here given in regard to slavery. No one is thus urged to dissolve the marriage relation. No such commands are given to relieve children from obedience to their parents," etc. [Elliott on Slavery, Vol. I., p. 295.] Nor is any such command, we repeat, given to relieve slaves from obedience to their masters, or to dissolve the relation between them.
If such violence to Scripture had been done by an obscure scribbler, or by an infidel quoting the word of God merely for a purpose, it would not have been matter of such profound astonishment. But is it not unspeakably shocking that a Christian man, nay, that a Christian minister and doctor of divinity, should thus set at naught the clearest, the most unequivocal, and the most universally received teachings of the gospel? If he had merely accused the Christian men of the South, as he has so often done in his two stupid volumes on slavery, of the crimes of "swindling," of "theft," of "robbing," and of "manstealing," we could have borne with him well; and, as we have hitherto done, continued to pass by his labors with silent contempt. But we have deemed it important to show in what manner, and to what extent, the spirit of abolitionism can wrest the pure word of God to its antichristian purpose.
We shall conclude the argument from Scripture with the following just and impressive testimony of the Princeton Review:
"The mass of the pious and thinking people in this country are neither abolitionists nor the advocates of slavery. They stand where they ever have stood — on the broad Scriptural foundation; maintaining the obligation of all men, in their several places and relations, to act on the law of love, and to promote the spiritual and temporal welfare of others by every means in their power. They stand aloof from the abolitionists for various reasons. In the first place, they disapprove of their principles. The leading characteristic doctrine of this sect is that slaveholding is in all cases a sin, and should, therefore, under all circumstances, be immediately abandoned. As nothing can be plainer than that slaveholders were admitted to the Christian church by the inspired apostles, the advocates of this doctrine are brought into direct collision with the Scriptures. This leads to one of the most dangerous evils connected with the whole system, viz., a disregard of the authority of the word of God, a setting up a different and higher standard of truth and duty, and a proud and confident wresting of Scripture to suit their own purposes. The history of interpretation furnishes no examples of more wilful and violent perversions of the sacred text than are to be found in the writings of the abolitionists. They seem to consider themselves above the Scriptures; and when they put themselves above the law of God, it is not wonderful that they should disregard the laws of men. Significant manifestations of the result of this disposition to consider their own light a surer guide than the word of God, are visible in the anarchical opinions about human governments, civil and ecclesiastical, and on the rights of women, which have found appropriate advocates in the abolition publications. Let these principles be carried out, and there is an end to all social subordination, to all security for life and property, to all guarantee for public or domestic virtue. If our women are to be emancipated from subjection to the law which God has imposed upon them, if they are to quit the retirement of domestic life, where they preside in stillness over the character and destiny of society; if they are to come forth in the liberty of men, to be our agents, our public lecturers, our committee-men, our rulers; if, in studied insult to the authority of God, we are to renounce in the marriage contract all claim to obedience, we shall soon have a country over which the genius of Mary Wolstonecraft would delight to preside, but from which all order and all virtue would speedily be banished. There is no form of human excellence before which we bow with profounder deference than that which appears in a delicate woman, adorned with the inward graces and devoted to the peculiar duties of her sex; and there is no deformity of human character from which we turn with deeper loathing than from a woman forgetfiul of her nature, and clamorous for the vocation and rights of men. It would not be fair to object to the abolitionists the disgusting and disorganizing opinions of even some of their leading advocates and publications, did they not continue to patronize those publications, and were not these opinions the legitimate consequences of their own principles. Their women do but apply their own method of dealing with Scripture to another case. This no inconsiderable portion of the party have candor enough to acknowledge, and are therefore prepared to abide the result." [The Princeton Review. Volume 10, Issue 4 (October 1838), pp. 603-604]
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