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THE INCOMPATIBILITY OF SLAVERY WITH
THE PRINCIPLES AND PRECEPTS OF THE
We have seen how decidedly and strongly the Old Testament writers denounce slavery. Let us now look into the New Testament and learn what that requires of Christians in relation to it.
Matthew ix. 10. Luke iv. 8.. « Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve."
“ And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
The service of God must be without rivalry. No authority is allowable between the authority of God and the obedience of his creature. No man must therefore be placed in a situation where he would be required to obey man rather than God.' But this is the slave's condition, for in the first place to keep up the authority of the master it is requisite that the mind of the slave be restrained from intellectual cultivation beyond a certain point, he therefore cannot learn what God requires of him and cannot improve the capacity for serving God; and in the next place he cannot carry out the convictions of his own conscience as to the service he owes, unless those convictions accord with his master's judgment, and his consent be given to his slave to practice agreeably to his convictions. The rights of conscience and of private judgment are as indisputably appropriate to the servant as to the master. No man, therefore, can properly enter into any service of another man which to perform may require a neglect of any conscientious convictions of duty. But if no man have a right to place himself in such a condition, no other man has a right to force him into it. No man therefore can rightfully hold another man in the condition of a slave, for if the latter be at liberty to follow out the convictions of his own conscience, he is not a slave, because this alone is true liberty. It is consequently impossible both to be a slave, and to carry out the injunction “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve.”
Matthew vii. 12. “ All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them : for this is the law and the prophets.”
This text is so exceedingly pertinent to the question at issue, that anti-slavery writers have for the most part been satisfied to rest their argument upon the strength of it alone. Yet pro-slavery men have with great dexterity evaded its force, to their own satisfaction, but not to the satisfaction of those whose minds are not under the influence of the peculiar institution.” They interpret it thus, (and I will state it as strongly for them as I can):-All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you if you were in their circumstances, do ye even so to them, yet without affecting the subsisting relation between the parties. They apply it thus: The master
is to treat his slave as he would wish to be treated as a slave if he were one. But let us test the correctness of this construction. I am taken prisoner by a Pirate. He is about to take my life. But suddenly it occurs to his mind that he ought to do to me as he would have me to do to him if our relative positions were changed. He therefore spares my life and treats me very kindly as a prisoner, but he retains me in captivity. I say to him, The rule that governs you in your treatment of me as your prisoner, ought also to release me from captivity. Not so, is his reply. It is not intended to affect in the slightest degree the relation subsisting between us. Does not every one perceive at once the absurdity of such a construction ? Had the pirate been governed by the rule before he captured me, even according to his own interpretation of it, I would not have been his prisoner, for he could not capture me without thereby changing the relation between us. And yet after having
. violated his own rule in taking my liberty, the same rule does not require him to restore it to me! But our Saviour meant no such nonsense. He evidently gave the precept for the purpose of securing to every man his right to “ life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It was designed to impress the doctrine of human equality. It is to be taken literally, just as our Saviour has expressed it.
But says one in reply to this, A man may desire another to do for him an ungodly act, and is he in that case bound by the Saviour's precept to do the same act for another?
But such is not a supposable case. For he whọ desires another to do for him an ungodly act, has already violated in his heart the laws of God, and cannot be supposed to be under their influence. The golden precept is nothing to such a man, because he has by his own violation of righteous and just principles placed it out of his power to fulfil the law of duty either to his God or his neighbour. He must first recal his ungodly desires, before he can be prepared to make his desires the standard of his duties to his fellow men.
I once wrote in reply to President Wayland on this precept, when I was myself