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It was no fault of the law of Moses, that its spirituality and benignity were not more generally perceived and appreciated. The gospel of Christ is now rejected by many, and is far from having its perfect work, in those who acknowledge its immeasurable excellencyBut neither the former nor the latter dispensation of the grace of God, is responsible for human perverseness and intractableness.
The civil and ceremonial provisions of the Mosaic system were accommodated to the condition of the chosen people, with ultimate designs, which required ages for their full development. And although most wise and excellent, in the circumstances of that people, and of the world, yet "the law made nothing perfect,” as did “the bringing in of a better hope." “Having a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things," the whole fabric of Moses was for a season only. It was not ordained of God to be perpetual. And can it be a question, whether, in “the grace and truth” which “came by Jesus Christ," there can be any less of the spirit of universal philanthropy and freedom, than in the positive and temporary institutions, or in the moral and fundamental principles of " the law,” which “came by Moses ?” As it regards the latter, there can be no room for a doubt. The gospel and the law, or the New Testament and the Old, are one and inseparable in those principles of righteousness and love, which, like the source of all being and blessing, are from everlasting to everlasting. And “if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.”
Happy would it have been with the Hebrews, if they had cordially obeyed the statutes of their sacred code, and had more diligently considered, so as to discern the spirit of their ritual. The Mosaic system, in a fair operation, would have put an entire end to all slave-holding among them.
There is no evidence, we believe, that such a place as a slave-market was ever known at Jerusalem, or in any of the cities of the land while the people preserved their independence. There is no mention of “the persons of men," among the articles of traffic, which the ships of Solomon brought from Ophir; nor in any other notice of Hebrew commerce. Yet it is not at all improbable, that individuals were sometimes concerned in the slave-trade of other nations. In some instances the number may have been great, when an opportunity was afforded of making large gains, by buying the captives which were offered for sale, by tens of thousands, as after the conquest of a populous city, like Sidon, by Artaxerxes Ochus, or Tyre, by Alexander the Great.
The neighboring powers of Tyre and Sidon, at one period, had sold many of the Hebrews to the Greeks. From what is said of them in the Book of Joel, it is evident, that this traffic in men had been pursued in the most reckless and revolting
In the terrible retribution which was denounced, the avenging God of “the children of Judah” declared: “I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return recompense upon your own head. And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off : for the Lord hath spoken it.” (Ch. iii.)
The fulfillment of this prophecy is among the well authenticated memorials of the age of Alexander. Many of those who had been sold into Greece were set at liberty; while the Tyrians and Sidonians who had sold them, were doomed to slavery by the conquerors, and were purchased by some of the Jews, who sold them to the Sabeans and Arabians.
A part of those purchased, it is very likely, were sold to Jews, or were retained by the purchasers in their own families. In the three centuries following the age of Alexander, there was no diminution of the slave-holding spirit among the Gentiles, either of Asia, Europe or Africa. And we are not able to affirm, that, at any time previous to the Christian era, the Jews had no slaves among them. But the manner in which the slave-merchants are alluded to, who came with the armies of Syria in the wars of the Maccabees, very plainly shows how such a commerce, as that in men, was regarded by those noble champions of Hebrew liberty. (1 Mac. iii. 41, &c.; 2 Mac. viii. 10, 11, 34–36.) And such, in general, was the public sentiment, or the various influence of divers causes, that, when the Messiah appeared, there is much reason for the opinion, that both polygamy and slavery had so far been abolished, as not to require any specific notice in his admonitory and reformative instructions.
In the judgment of biblical scholars, who are among the best qualified to determine the point, it is very questionable, if, " in the days of his flesh," the eye of the Great Reformer ever rested upon a single slave. And one case only, that of the young servant of a Roman centurion, who, at Capernaum, exhibited “so great faith,” can be cited as an example, that the relation of master and slave was ever brought directly before him, in any of his ministrations. But it is far from being certain, that the servant in question was a bond-servant. The terms used in each of the narratives of the miracle of healing, which, in the circumstances, was so memorable, might as we think, have been employed as they are, even by a Roman, if that servant had been as free as was the centurion himself. The compassionate interposition of the Saviour was besought as earnestly, as if he were no less dear to his master than an own son. (Mat. viii. 8; Luke vii. 2-10.)
In all the recorded discourses and conversations of our Lord, there are but a very few instances, in which any allusion whatever was nade to the subject of servitude. And in no one of these is the idea of slavery, as we use the term, necessarily or strongly implied. (Mat. vi. 24; Comp. Luke xvi. 13; Mat. xiii. 27, 28; John viii. 33; xiii. 15; xv. 20.) However the fact may be explained, there is not, in either of the Gospels, any affirmation of right or condemnation of wrong, in respect to master or slave,-any more than there is of direct rebuke of idolaters and their abominable iniquities.
The Great Teacher said nothing of the gladiatorial exhibitions, so common and so bloody in the Roman empire, or of other customs and practices, which were, of course, utterly inconsistent with the well-being of society, and repugnant to every principle of the gospel. Even upon great questions of civil polity, which have since become so vastly interesting, throughout the civilized world, he delivered no discourse and gave no counsel, which could have any immediate tendency to disturb the submission of the Jews to the throne of Cæsar.
The accomplishment of the grand design of the Redeemer's coming into our world, did not admit of his directing the attention of his hearers or of his disciples, to those subjects, which would at once have given his mission the aspect of a treasonable conspiracy against the power of Rome, or, at least, of a lawless and fanatical movement, for the destruction of existing social relations. Enough for the hour, at that momentous crisis in the history of our redemption, that the Lord of life should publish a system of grace and truth, involving principles, which, in their intended and inevitable result, so far as applied, would be subversive of every institution or custom, which is at variance with the highest virtue and glory of man. Such a system the gospel claims to be, in all its elements and in all its characteristics. And if it be " diametrically opposed to the principle of slavery," as is maintained by an eminent expounder of Christian ethics, and by many others, then is it undeniable, as he also maintains, that "it must be opposed to the practice of slavery; and therefore, were the principles of the gospel fully adopted, slavery could not exist."* " The very reason,
" it has elsewhere been said by the same author,-" why this mode of teaching was adopted, was to accomplish the universal abolition of slavery. A precept could not have done this; for, in the changing condition of human society, the means would have easily been devised for eluding it. But by teaching truths, the very truths in which Christianity consisted, utterly and absolutely opposed to slavery, truths founded in the essential moral relations of creatures to their Creator, it was rendered certain that wherever Christianity was understood and obeyed, this institution must cease to exist."*
* Wayland's Elements of Moral Science.
And we may add to these statements, without anticipating what we have to say in the sequel,--that the method of Christ and the apostles in regard to slavery, is precisely that which the ablest apologistst for the right or lawfulness of slave-holding have described, and declared to be, the only consistent method for Christians at the present day. And they admit the fact, as indisputable, that the gospel, by its legitimate operation, did abolish the slavery of the Roman empire.
It is indeed in precepts or commandments, that we have the literal rule of duty. But it is in the principles, upon which those precepts are founded, and in the doctrines and examples which reveal or illustrate the nature of our obligations, and the proper motives of cordial obedience, that we have the highest, the most ennobling, and the most effectual instructions of Christian virtue. Without these, in a distinct perception and recognition, the precepts of our holy religion would never find a response of love in the heart. Without these, also, it would be impossible to feel the admiring and adoring sentiment of the Psalmist, when he exclaimed : “I have seen an end of all perfection ; but THY COMMANDMENT IS EXCEEDING BROAD!”
Our duty, then, to God and to one another, we do not seek to learn, preëminently, in the precepts, but in the great and primary principles and doctrines of "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” And in proportion as these are apprehended and exert their legitimate influence, the gospel will have its 66 free course,” and be glorified, as a “perfect law of liberty.”
Every good citizen obeys the laws of his country, not because of their "terror,” but because of his sentimenis and convictions of uprightness and order. And the sincere Christian, who in his outward life reflects most of the “image of God, in righteousness and true holiness," is influenced, and transformed into that image, immeasurably more by his filial acquaintance with God in Christ, than by any of the most fearful denunciations of "eternal judgment."
Hence, as we understand our relations to the Judge of all the earth, we should be guilty of a most flagrant error, if we were not to recognize the cardinal principles and doctrines of Christianity, as the clearest and surest exponents of his sovereign
Wayland's Letters to Fuller.
† Fuller's Letters to Wayland.
the more specific directions of precept or commandment. | we would know what interpretation we are to give to
LDEN RULE, it will not suffice to consider the literal form we words only, in which it comes to us. If we would comprehend its beneficence and its justice, in its thousand different applications, we must remember those many other "gracious words,” which are like the parable of the "Good Samaritan” in answering the question—"Who is my neighbor ?” And if, upon the subject now before us, we would know and judge rightly the witness of the "Revelation of Jesus Christ” in the New Testament, we must open our whole heart to the radiance of the Truth, which makes us "free indeed."| ACcording to the gospel, all mankind are placed upon the same level before God. Jew and Gentile, barbarian and Scythian, bond and free, are all one in Christ. All were redeemed by the same blood. All have the same title to become “ heirs of salvation." All should be, in deed and in truth, brethren beloved. How, then, could any man, with “the love of Christ constraining” him, ever make a slave of his fellow-man? And in what land does slavery exist, without assuming, that there is a distinction and a difference between the slave and his master, which is radically and irreconcilably opposed to the very first principles, both of evangelical and civil liberty, equality and fraternity ? How can any man believe, that he himself as a slave-holder and a Christian, would be willing to be deprived of his liberty ; to be retained in servitude; to be bought and sold at pleasure,--for the same reasons and upon the same principles that he holds his own slaves in bondage?
“Domestic slavery," says Dr. Wayland, "proceeds upon the principle, that the master has a right to control the actions, physical and intellectual, of the slave, for his own, that is, the master's, individual benefit; and of course, that the happiness of the master, when it comes in competition with the happiness of the slave, extinguishes in the latter the right to pursue it. It supposes, at best, that the relation between master and slave is not that which exists between man and man, but is a modification of that which exists between man and the brutes. Now this manifestly supposes, that two classes of beings are created with dissimilar rights; that the master possesses rights which have never been conceded by the slave; and, that the slave has no rights at all over the means of happiness which God has given him, whenever these means of happiness can be rendered available to the service of the master. It supposes that the Creator intended one human being to govern the physical, intellectual and moral actions, of as many other human beings, as by purchase he can bring within his physical power; and that one human being may thus acquire a right to sacrifice the hap