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the Lord, for this is right? And why did he not speak thus, as he did when inculcating filial obedience? If it was right in itself, and a moral duty according to "the law and the prophets," why did he not speak in the same manner, as to children ?
The motive, in every instance, was not that of obligation to the master, as if of right a slave-holder ; but that which arose from the relation of servants to the “Lord of all.” They were to obey, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed, “in singleness of heart, as unto Christ ;' that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. How does the principle of obligation here differ, from that which should constrain us to " resist not evil,” and to “ pray for them which despitefully use us and persecute When smitten on the right cheek, if we turn the other also, do we thereby confess ourselves justly smitten? We may suffer patiently, for the honor of God and the gospel, what we know to be the most flagrant injustice and inhuman oppression. And we may counsel others to suffer in like manner, if need be, « for conscience toward God.”
It is at least somewhat remarkable, that if the master had a right to be a master, such as could be recognized, independently of the legal title which he held,—the slave should never have been exhorted by an appeal to such a right. But if there is any reference or allusion to the right of the master, as such, we have failed to discover it.
Io all their instructions, from first to last, the apostles appear to have aimed to promote a thorough conversion of every man to righteousness and true holiness ; as if such conversion would ultimately associate with its results, as consequence or accompaniment, all that was most needful in the existing circumstances of individuals and communities. Thus, while accounting freedom a great privilege, and a natural right indisputably, they could, in all godly sincerity and with the truest friendship for
slave, exhort him to make the greatest exertion to please his master, in every thing which his duty to God required or permitted ; and not to be discontented, if he should be compelled to remain in servitude. If he could have freedom, let him embrace it, as a state most desirable. Yet to be a freeman in Christ was of vastly greater importance. And as his spiritual redemption had been already purchased at the price of the blood of the Son of God, let him consider himself exalted as a servant of God, and the “Lord's freeman," rather than depressed and humiliated by bondage to his fellow-man.
Such injunctions and exhortations were perfectly consistent with an inward abhorrence of the principle of slave-holding. And the same may be said of those addressed to the masters
themselves. They were required to discharge their duties to their servants, with as conscientious a regard for the will of God and the love of Christ, as servants were required to exercise towards them. “Ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening; knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” (Eph. vi. 9.) And again the charge was, "Masters give unto your servants that which is just and equal, krowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” (Col. iv. 1.) This charge to those in the church of Colossé immediately follows the exhortation to servants, encouraging them to look for the reward of fidelity to their masters, in that inheritance which was theirs, as servants of the Lord Christ. " But he that doeth wrong," it is significantly declared, both for servants and masters," shall receive for the wrong which he hath done : and THERE IS NO RESPECT OF PERSONS.
Notice also the exhortation subjoined, which must be understood as addressed to all, but would seem to have been peculiarly intended to touch the sympathies of masters. - Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds : that I may make it manifest as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” The exceeding delicacy and tenderness of the allusion to the “bonds" in which the apostle himself was, because a faithful servant of Christ, is equalled only by the exquisite elegance and urbanity of the Epistle to Philemon. And surely no one of the servants in the church at Colossé could have had any question of the apostle's most cordial respect for them, as well as sympathizing interest in all their temporal privations and hardships. As they heard his Epistle read, they would hear him speak of Onesimus, as "a faithful and beloved brother," and one of themselves, -and see Onesimus also, face to face, -who had been sent in company with Tychicus, that he might know their estate and comfort their hearts." They would have been most unreasonable to have expected more from him, however intolerable might have been their servitude.
There is a consideration, also, which we deem worthy of no small account, in estimating the desirableness of freedom to the slave. It should be remembered, that much commotion had been already made by the news of the gospel ; and many thought that the "doctrine according to godliness must be resisted and crushed, or it would turn the world upside down." Dreadful persecutions had already been experienced, and there was an evident expectation, that more
perilous times” (2 Tim. iii. 1.) were about to come.
If such was the
“distress " then “present," that the apostle advised all, who
" 66 were unmarried, not to marry, if they would have the less of " trouble in the flesh;” if such were the uncertainties of all earthly things, that it "remained, that both they that had wives,” should “be as though they had none, and they that rejoiced, as though they rejoiced not, and they that bought, as though they possessed not ;”-is it improbable, that from the whole aspect of the “ fashion of the world” as then before him and as "passing away," he could not but feel, that the question of personal freedom was of comparatively little moment to any one, in whom Christ had been formed “the hope of glory?" Vastly different are the circumstances of slaves at the present day! And even in the primitive churches, freedom soon came to be esteemed an invaluable privilege. Emancipation was frequently solemnized in the church with very impressive ceremonies.
In times of persecution the slave would obviously be less exposed to die as a martyr by popular violence, or in the regular course of law. The master would be the victim, in preference, And to both masters and slaves, who had hope in Christ, how animating must have been those sublime views of "the liberty of the children of God," when they have lest the body, and when the redemption of the body shall be consummated at
16 the resurrection of the just !” (Rom. viii. ; 1 Cor. xv.)
But suppose, that it was a hard struggle for the slave, to remain quietly and contentedly, if he saw no prospect of being free from his master, until the grave was opened to receive his mortal nature. With all that he may have had to endure and all that he may have needed of the graces of meekness and patience,- we are not sure, that "the believing master " did not have the bitterest experience, and did not need the largest measure of the virtues of “the new man,” that he might do the will of God. The natural rights of the slave being fully admitted, there would yet be questions, upon which "the flesh ” and “the spirit” would have not a little of sharp contention. Were not men in those circumstances, to be instructed, and “besought, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ ?"
Although not a word may have been spoken upon the rights of the master or the wrongs of the servant, it must not be forgotten, that Paul has classified "men-stealers," with the most abandoned and abominable of the workers of iniquity, and enemies of all righteousness. (1 Tim. i. 10.) The moral distance was not so great between the kidnapper and the slavedealer, that both of them alike may not have been denoted by the term, which he employed. Neither was the distance so great, certainly in many cases, between the slave-dealer and the slave-holder, as not unnaturally to occasion in Christian
masters some very anxious "searchings of heart." What would have been the effect of any other treatment, than that which they received from their spiritual fathers and instructors? What if Paul had not been “gentle among” them, “even as a nurse cherisheth her children?” How could they, unmoved, receive injunctions to "give unto their servants that which is just and equal,” while so solemnly reminded of the judgmentseat of Christ, with whom “is no respect of persons," and so affectionately solicited to pray for the opening of a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ for which also the apostle was in those "bonds," and wearing that "chain ?" How could they meet their servants upon the basis of equality as freemen and brethren in the Lord ; how co-operate in seeking the salvation of others, as well as promoting their own, and endeavor, in unity of faith to fulfill their mutual responsibilities of love to God and love to man ;-and yet never have a thought of the inevitable tendency of such a relationship and fellowship to “break every yoke” but “the yoke" of Christ ? As they became more and more "enlightened” in the "eyes” of their " understanding," how could they fail to see that they were not “ giving that which is just and equal,” unless they gave their servants their freedom, at an early day; or retained them, regarding them as if “hired servants,” and having no wish or purpose to uphold and perpetuate an institution, so contrary to the natural and the moral rights of every human being ?
That the effects of the gospel were most happy, in ameliorating the condition of slaves, in different countries, where the holy influence of its principles was permitted silently to operate, is amply proved in what remains to us of the history of the primitive churches. Much was to be done, a labor of years and of generations was to be accomplished, -before the right of slave-holding, which was so taken for granted among all heathen nations, could be openly resisted, and the institution of slavery, in its principle, be assailed, with the least hope of
And it is not easy for any one to estimate the magnitude, the immensity of the work, which Christianity had to perform, before idolatry could be extirpated, and slavery abolished, in the civilized world. Both the one and the other bowed before it. And the glory of the moral triumph, uncounted millions of “sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty" will celebrate, through everlasting ages.
It could have been no time-serving policy, no fear of personal consequences, that could have had influence upon Paul, in treating as he did, the trying subject of slavery. He did what was expedient, according to the “wisdom that is from above," which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and with
out hypocrisy ;” not that which “is earthly, sensual, devilish,” with "envying and strife, confusion and every evil work.” He “went about doing good," and followed in close proximity the steps of his adorable Leader “who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth."
And if there is to be any impeachment of his integrity and honesty, on the ground that he ought to have done far otherwise, than he did, if really opposed to the principle of slaveholding, as in utter conflict with the principles of the gospel ;then it would, perhaps, be not inappropriate to inquire, how such impeachment could be issued, without a direct imputation upon the veracity and holiness of “God only wise,”: -in the method and means, which have distinguished the whole course of his providence and grace.
“ In trust with the gospel,” the apostle was accustomed to speak, not as pleasing men, but God;” “neither at any time
" used flattering words, nor a cloak of covetousness; nor of men sought glory." If there ever was a man, who is entitled to everlasting remembrance and gratitude for his noble deeds, when in the fear of God, a fearless champion of human rights and liberties,—that man was Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. And to interpret his words, or his example, as authority for the right of slave-holding, is, as we must be allowed to say, a libel upon his memory, of which no one would intentionally be guilty, unless willing also to despise and blaspheme the gospel and the name of “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
Far be it from us to " bring railing accusation.” We would « deal kindly” while we deal truly " with all, who have the immediate responsibility of action, by means and measures for the removal of slavery from this land. We would not forget the example of the founders of the churches of Christ among the slave-holding Gentiles. Neither can we forget, that the cir
, cumstances in which those churches were established, were very different from those in which Christian churches now exist in our Southern States. Most sincerely do we believe, that, if all Christians in these States were to do with their might” what they can find to be done,-the love of Christ constraining them ;-if they would detach themselves from all personal connection with the system of slavery, so that their influence should not "throw the sacred shield of religion over so great an evil, there is no public sentiment in this land—there could be none created, that would resist the power of such testimony. There is no power out of the church, that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it. Not a blow need be struck. Not an unkind word need be uttered. No man's motive need be impugned; no man's proper rights invaded. All