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T>iv t\cvSicpiav IXoijiriv av avri ojti cxoi navTOiv Koi aWuv zoXKaTrXacrtbiv. 

Xenoph. Anab. lib. i. c. vii. 3. 





• 03-7 

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1846, by 


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 





Chap. I. Reasons why the appeal on the subject of Slavery should 

he made to the Bible . • • • • .19 

1. The Bible is the acknowledged standard of morals in this 

nation . 21 

2. The subject of slavery is one on which the Bible has legis- 

lated, and there is, therefore, a propriety that we should 
ascertain its decisions • . . . . . .22 

3. The question whether slavery is right or wrong can only 

be settled by an appeal to the Scriptures . . . .23 

4. Great reforms, on moral subjects, do not occur except under 

the influence of religious principle . . . . .25 

5. Because it is by such an appeal that the advocates of slavery 

endeavour to defend the system 28 

Chap. II. What constitutes Slavery ? 38 

(1.) Not a mere condition of apprenticeship . . . .40 
(2.) Not to be confounded with the condition of a minor . .41 
(3.) Not merely a governmental affair . . . . .42 
(4.) Not a mere relation in which legislative bodies alone are 

concerned ......... 43 

(5.) Does not pertain wholly to a legislature to regulate . . 43 
(6.) Not a condition like that of the serfs of Russia, &c. . 44 

(7.) Not the kind of property which a man has in his wife or 

child 46 

1. Is wholly involuntary on the part of the slave . . .50 

2. Is property claimed in that which belongs to him, but which 

he is not at liberty to resume to himself . . . .50 

3. Is a right of property in all that pertains to the slave . .51 

4. Is a right of property in his services without equivalent or 

compensation ....... 52 

5. Involves the right to sell him as the master pleases . . 54 
The true question stated - . . . . . .56 



Chap. III. Slavery in the time of the Patriarchs • • .53 

Meaning of the words denoting servitude in the Scriptures . 64 

Chap. IV. Slavery in Egypt 81 

I. The resemblance between the servitude of the Hebrews in 

Egypt and slavery now ....... 83 

XL Whether the interposition of God, in that case, was such as 
to make it proper for us to derive any conclusions as to his 
will in regard to slavery ....... 96 

Chap. V. The Mosaic Institutions in relation to Servitude . . 105 
§ 1. What the argument which is relied on is . . . .107 
§ 2. What the Mosaic institutions in regard to servitude were . 112 
§ 3. Comparison of the Mosaic institutions in relation to slavery 

with those existing in the United States . . . .160 

Chap. VI. Hebrew Servitude in the time of the Prophets • . 203 

1. The inquiry in regard to the condition of the native in- 

habitants of the land of Palestine 206 

2. There was no foreign traffic in slaves . . . .210 

3. The prophets felt themselves at liberty to animadvert upon 

the injustice of slavery, &c. &c. . . . . .213 

Chap. VII. The relation of Christianity to Slavery . . . 229 
I, There is no evidence that Christ himself ever came in con- 
tact with slavery ........ 242 

II. The manner in which the apostles treated the subject of 

slavery 249 

§ 1. They found it in existence when they organized churches 

out of the limits of Judea ..... 249 
§ 2. The apostles did not openly denounce slavery as an 
evil, or require that those who were held in bondage 
should be at once emancipated .... 260 

§ 3. The question whether the general conduct of the apos- 
tles is consistent with the belief that they approved of 
slavery and desired its perpetuity .... 304 
The case of Onesimus, the servant of Philemon . . 318 
§ 4. The principles laid down by the Saviour and his apos- 
tles, are such as are opposed to slavery, and if carried 
out would secure its universal abolition . . . 340 
CoNCiTjsioN .... ...... 376 


The subject of slavery is one in which all men have an 
interest, and which all have a right to discuss. It pertains 
to a great wrong done to our common nature, and affects great 
questions relating to the final triumph of the principles of 
justice and humanity. Wherever wrong is done to any 
human being, there is no improper interference if the con- 
viction is expressed by any other one. Wherever principles 
are held which have a tendency to produce or perpetuate 
wrong, it is a right which all men have, to examine those 
principles freely. The race is one great brotherhood, and 
every man is under obligation, as far as he has the ability, to 
defend those principles which will permanently promote the 
welfare of the human family. 

These obvious principles have a peculiar applicability to our 
own land. Our country is one. What promotes the honour 
of one portion of the nation, promotes the honour of the whole ; 
what is dishonourable, in like manner pertains to all. 

Pre-eminently, the subject of slavery pertains to the repub- 
lic, as such. There are no interests of our common liberty or 
rehgion which are not affected by it ; there is nothing which 
our fathers valued, and which we have been taught to prize, — 
no principles of justice, or humanity, or equal rights, or in- 
dustry, or morals, which are not more or less affected by this 
institution. If it be a good institution ; if it be in accordance 
with the divine arrangements for the welfare of society, it is 
the duty of every man to defend it, and to seek its extension 
in the world. If it be contrary to the principles of the Bible, 
and if its tendency be evil, he is under no less obligation to 



lift up his voice on this subject, and to do whatever he can, 
that truth and justice may prevail. Every citizen at the 
North whose situation is such, or who has secured such a 
reputation that his arguments will receive respectful attention, 
owes a duty to his Southern brethren which he should not 
fail to discharge, and should not die without giving utterance, 
in the best way he can, to his convictions on the subject 
of American slavery. It may be little that the testimony 
of any one individual can accomplish, but by the accumula- 
tion of numerous testimonies, and the multiplication of ap- 
peals and arguments, the conviction may gain ground all 
over the nation that slavery is wrong, and the means may be 
devised for its entire removal. As one having a common 
interest in whatever affects the welfare of my country, in 
the prevalence of true religion, and in opposing whatever 
seems to me to militate against the gospel, I desire to 
discharge this portion of my duty to my generation, how- 
ever humble my individual influence may be, and to record 
my convictions on a subject of so much concern to our 
whole land. 

The work which is now submitted to the public, is limited 
to an examination of the Scripture argument on the subject 
of slavery. This is done because this seems to me to be 
the most important department of the general argument 
respecting slavery, and because it better falls in with my 
whole studies and habits of investigation than any other 
question pertaining to it. There are questions in regard to 
the general subject — its relations to agriculture and com- 
merce ; its political bearings ; its influence on the means 
of national defence and security, and kindred topics, which I 
do not feel competent to examine, and which can be much 
better pursued by those who are familiar with the science 
of political economy than by one whose studies have had a 
different direction. To a man, however, who has spent more 
than twenty years in an almost exclusive study of the Bible, 
it may be permitted to examine the teachings of that book 


on a subject so important as this is ; and whatever may be 
the inference as to the strength of his argument, there are 
none who will charge him with a departure from the proper 
sphere of his duty. 

I have been led to the discussion of the Scripture ques- 
tion in this manner, by the following considerations : — 
(a) Because the institution of slavery is defended by many 
individuals of respectable names, and by entire bodies of 
men, by an appeal to the Bible. (See ch. 1.) (6) Because, 
although there have been some professed investigations of 
the Scriptures on this subject, evincing considerable re- 
search, submitted to the public, yet they did not any of them 
furnish so full and thorough an examination as seemed to 
me to be desirable. Believing that the spirit of the Bible 
is against slavery, and that all the arguments alleged in fa- 
vour of it from the Bible are the result of a misunderstanding 
of its true spirit, and that the honour of religion demands 
that that argument should be placed fairly before the world, 
I was desirous of doing what I could to make the teachings 
of the Bible seen and appreciated by my fellow-men. (c) Be- 
cause it did not appear to me to be proper to preach on it so 
fully as would be necessary if I had gone into a thorough 
examination of the subject in my pulpit instructions ; and 
besides this, the critical nature of many of the investigations 
is little fitted to the pulpit. Nor if I had deemed it proper to 
make this a more prominent subject of my preaching, could 
I have reached one of the main objects which seemed to me 
to be desirable. The people to whom I minister will bear 
me witness that I have not concealed my views from them 
on the subject of slavery. I have endeavoured to give 
it the place which it appeared to me it ought to occupy 
in my ministrations in the circumstances in which I am 
placed. But my lot is not cast in a slaveholding commu- 
nity. I do not know that I have an advocate of slavery in 
my church, or that there is one who statedly attends on my 
ministry who would wilhngly be the owner of a slave. I 


confess also that it seems to me that any one topic, except the 
cross of Christ, however important in itself, may be intro- 
duced too frequently into the pulpit, and that undue pro- 
minence in preaching is given to this in many churches 
where slavery does not exist. I do not suppose that this 
occurs too frequently in those places where slavery does 
exist ; but where the pen is free, and a man may make 
his voice heard beyond the bounds of his own congregation, 
however important it may be that he should make his 
views decidedly understood in reference to every form of 
national sin, and should exhibit the fair teachings of the 
Bible on every subject in the proper proportions, it is 
better to endeavour to influence the public mind in some 
other method than by making any one topic a very con- 
stant subject of discourse in the pulpit. Slavery, though 
a great evil, is not the only evil in the land. Its influ- 
ence is indeed vast, and there is no part of the republic 
that is wholly free from it, but there are other bad in- 
fluences in our country also. I will not undertake to say 
how prominent a minister should make this topic in com- 
munities where slavery exists, and where he is called con- 
stantly to address those who sustain the relation of master 
and slave ; nor will I venture to say that / should be in any 
way likely to be more faithful in this respect if my lot were 
cast there, than I fear is the case with most of those who 
reside there, but I may be allowed to suggest that the pro- 
minent evils which we should assail in preaching are those 
which are near, and not those which are remote ; those 
which directly pertain to our own people, rather than those 
which pertain primarily to a distant community ; and those in 
reference to which we may expect immediate action on the 
part of those who hear us, in forsaking their own sins, rather 
than such topics as will lead them to judge of others who 
are living in wickedness, [d) I have been led to adopt this 
course because it was in this way only that I could hope in 
any manner to influence those whom I desired to reach. I 


have already said that I am not accustomed to preach to many 
such. But I would hope that there are not a few who 
may be wUhngf to examine an argument on slavery, if 
proposed with candour, and if pursued with a manifest desire 
to know what is the teaching of the Bible. There are, I 
am persuaded, not a few such men in the slaveholding 
portions of our country. I have never indeed been at the 
South, but my situation has given me an opportunity of 
becoming acquainted with not a few Southern gentlemen, 
and that acquaintance has been such as to induce me to 
believe that there are large numbers there who would ex- 
amine with candour an argument proposed on this subject. 
Indeed, I have been led to apprehend that there are many 
there who, in this respect, are much in advance of many at 
the North, and that among these are many who exhibit a 
degree of candour which we do not always find in those 
portions of our country in which slavery does not exist. 
There is a hesitancy at the North in speaking of it as an evil; 
a desire to apologize for it, and even to defend it as a scrip- 
ture institution, which by no means meets the convictions of 
the great body of men at the South, and for which they do 
not thank us. They regard slavery as an unmixed evil — 
as the direst calamity of their portion of the republic. They 
consider it to be contrary to the spirit of the Bible. They 
look upon it as a curse in the midst of which they Avere 
born ; as an evil entailed upon them without their consent, 
and which they desire above all things to get rid of. They 
remember with little gratitude the laws and cupidity of the 
mother country by which it was imposed on them, and the 
Northern ships by which the inhabitants of Africa were con- 
veyed to their shores ; and they little thank the professors 
in Theological Seminaries, and the pastors of the churches, 
and the editors of papers, and the ecclesiastical bodies at 
the North, who labour to convince the world that it is not 
an evil, and that it is one of the designs and tendencies of 
Christianity to rivet the curse on thern for ever. Such 


men ask for no defence of slavery from the North. They 
look for a moi'e manly voice — for more decided tones in 
behalf of freedom, from those wljom God has favoured 
with the entire blessings of liberty, and they ask of us that 
we will aid them to free themselves from a burden imposed 
on them by the joint Mackedness and cupidity of our father- 
land and the North ; not that we will engage in the miserable 
business of attempting to convince the world that the South 
must always groan under this malediction, and that even the 
influence of Christianity will be only to make the evil there 
eternal. There have been more published defences of 
slavery from the Bible at the North, than there have been 
at the South. A Christian man can look with some respect 
on a defence of slavery at the South — for they who are 
there live in the midst of it, and it is natural for us to love 
and defend the institutions in the midst of which we were 
born; but what respect can we have for such a defence 
emanating from the North ? 

It is a subject of not unfrequent complaint, that, in the 
examination of this subject, the adversaries of the system 
endeavour to show that slavery as it exists in our own 
country is contrary to the Bible, instead of confining them- 
selves to the naked question whether slavery in the abstract 
is right or wrong. They are willing to admit that there are 
many '■abuses'' in the system as it now exists; that there is 
much that is oppressive and unjust in the XslWS ; and while 
they regard slavery in itself as not inconsistent with the 
Bible, they admit that there is much in the system in our 
own country which they will not undertake to defend. 
They maintain that the controversy should be confined to the 
naked question whether slavery in any form is inconsistent 
with the Bible, and that it is unfair in this argument to make 
an appeal to slavery as it now exists, in determining the 
morality of the institution. Thus Dr. Fuller, in accordance 
with language often used by good men at the South, says : — 
" What I am writing about is slavery, but let no one suppose 


that I am defending all the slave laws," "In reference to 
the lawB of South Carolina I am not called to express myself 
in this discussion. Suffice it to say, that most of them are 
virtually repealed by universal practice. The law, for ex- 
ample, forbidding slaves to assemble without the presence of 
so many white persons, is a dead letter, whenever the meet- 
ing is for rehgious purposes." "It is not of the slave laws, 
but of slavery, I am speaking; and the character of this, 
according to the eternal principles of morality, is not affected 
by any human enactments."* Thus also the conductors 
of the Princeton Biblical Repertory say: — "We have little 
apprehension that any one can so far mistake our object, or 
the purport of our remarks, as to suppose either that we 
regard slavery as a desirable institution., or that we approve 
of the slave laws of the Southern states. So far from this 
being the case, the extinction of slavery, and the amelioration 
of those laws, are as sincerely desired by us as by any of the 
abohtionists." "It follows necessarily, from what has been 
said, that all those laws which are designed to restrict the 
master in, the discharge of the duties which flow from his 
relation to his slaves; which forbid his teaching them to 
read, or which prohibit marriage among them, or which 
allow of the separation of those who are married, or which 
render insecure the possession of their earnings, or are other- 
wise in conflict with the word of God, are wicked laws ; laws 
which do not find their justification in the admission of the 
right of ownership in the master, but are in direct contraven- 
tion of the obligations which necessarily flow from that right. 
If the laws of the land forbade parents to instruct their chil- 
dren, or permitted them to sell them to the Turks, there 
would be a general outcry against the atrocity of such laws ; 
but no man would be so absurd as to infer that having chil- 
dren was a great sin. Parents who complied with such laws 
would be great sinners, but not parents who did their duty to 

* Letters to Dr. Wayland, pp. 158, 159, 211. 


their children. In all other cases, men distinguish between 
the relation, whether of kings and subjects, of lords and 
tenants, of parents and children, and the laws just or unjust, 
which may be made respecting those relations. If they 
would make the same distinction between slaveholding and 
the slave laws, they 7vould see that the condemnation of the 
latter does not necessarily involve the condemnation of the 
former as itself a crim,e." 

In reply to this, I would make the following remarks: 
(a) The very question — the only one that is of any practical 
importance to us — is, whether slavery as it exists in the 
United States is, or is not, in accordance with the principles 
and the spirit of Christianity. As an abstract matter, there 
might indeed be some interest attached to the inquiry whe- 
ther slavery, as it existed in the Roman empire in the time 
of the Apostles, or in Europe in the middle ages, was in 
accordance with the spirit of the Christian religion; and it 
cannot be denied also that for us there may be some interest, 
and for others great interest, in the question whether slavery 
as it exists in India or in Brazil, is in accordance with the 
principles of the Bible, but neither of these are the questions 
which are fairly before the American people. When the 
inquiry respects any particular institution, it is proper to look 
at that institution as it exists, not as it might possibly exist: 
— for that is the only question which it is of much import- 
ance to examine. When an inquiry pertains to the tempe- 
rance reformation, or to the morality of gambling, it is proper 
to look at these things as they actually are, for the object is 
to ascertain whether it is desirable to make any change in 
them. This is especially important if an evil is of long 
standing; if it is incorporated into the customs and habits of 
a people ; if it is sustained by the laws ; if it affects the wel- 
fare of millions of human beings. When Christianity first 
made war on idolatry, the immediate and most important 
question which came up to be examined, was not, Avhether 
some modified form of idolatry might not be consistent with 


the new system of religion, or whether there might not be 
found in some community a form of idolatry which Chris- 
tianity could consistently tolerate, but whether the idolatry 
with which Christianity then came in actual coUision was 
consistent with its principles. In examining the morality of 
the stage, shall we not examine it as it is, not as it possibly 
might be; shall we not look at its practical working to know 
whether it is a good or a bad thing? Is it not right to ask 
whether the principles of the Bible sanction the drama as it 
is? Is there any other question respecting it that is of im- 
mediate practical importance ? (b) It is not improper to 
regard slavery as it exists in the United States as a fail' 
illustration of the tendency of the system. It exists here in 
the best age of the world, and in the land most distinguished 
for intelligence, and for wisdom in making and administering 
laws. The laws pertaining to the system here may be 
regarded as those which long experience has shown to be 
necessary. It may be presumed that, amidst the prevalent 
intelligence of this land, the best measures have been adopted, 
or those which are regarded as the best, to make the system 
of slavery as perfect as possible. The laws in the several 
slave states are those which experience has shown to be 
necessary that the system may be perpetuated; that this 
kind of "property" may be as secure as possible, and that the 
institution may be made to contribute as much as possible to 
the wealth and comfort of the community in which it pre- 
vails. In the free states it is proper to look to the laws 
existing there in regard to common schools, to real and 
personal property, to the administration of justice, to appren- 
ticeship, as a fair expression of the nature of the institutions 
there— as showing what experience has demonstrated to be 
adapted to secure the best working of the system — as an 
exponent of the real value and character of the system at 
this advanced age of the world. What shall forbid us, in 
like manner, to regard the laws and customs which are 
found necessary at the South, as a fair illustration of the 



system — as an exponent of what slavery is in the best age 
of the world, and under the guidance of legislative wisdom, 
and experience ? That some of the laws may be so modified 
as better to secure the ends in view; that some that are 
harsh may be repealed consistently with the best working 
of the system, need not be denied — ^just as in the farther 
progress of society in free states some of the modes of punish- 
ment may be modified with advantage ; but still, in the main, 
in the one case and the other, the existing laws may be 
regarded as what the best wisdom of the world has been able 
to devise to make the system as perfect as possible. I have 
therefore, in this Inquiry, freely appealed to the existing 
laws in the Southern states, not for the purpose of casting 
reproach on those portions of our country where slavery 
exists, but for the sole design of ascertaining what the system 
is, and of examining the question whether a system which so 
develops itself is in accordance with the Bible, (c) If any 
system of slavery is sustained by the Bible, it may be pre- 
sumed that that which exists in the United States, is. This 
is a Christian land — a land, to a degree elsewhere unknown, 
under the influence of the . Christian religion. In what 
country could we hope that slavery would exist in a milder 
or better form than in the United States? Our institutions 
have grown up under the influence of Christianity. Not 
a few of the legislators of the land have been pious men. 
Not a few of the owners of slaves are pious men, and are 
gathered into Christian congregations under the instruction 
of men abundantly able to explain the doctrines of the 
Christian system. It could hardly be hoped that a state 
of society could be found, in which slavery could be 
better developed, and where its developments would more 
accord with the principles of the Bible, than in our own 
land. Why then is it not fair to appeal to skvery as it 
is, and to inquire whether the system as it now exists 
is in accordance with the Bible? Is it not as imprac- 
ticable to form an ideal system of slavery that shall be free 


from all objections, and that shall be in all the laws and 
customs by which it is sustained in entire conformity with 
the New Testament, as it is to perfect the drama so that it 
shall be wholly free from objection on the score of morals? 
(d) The advocates of slavery themselves appeal to the Bible 
to show the propriety of slavery as it exists in the United 
States. When the question is agitated whether slavery is 
right or wrong, they almost uniformly make their appeal to 
the Scriptures to sustain themselves in the practice of it. 
The appeal which they make to the Bible is not to prove 
that slavery as it existed in Palestine in the time of Moses 
was right ; or that slavery in Greece and Rome was right ; 
or that slavery in India, Cuba, or Brazil, is right; but to 
vindicate themselves in the practice — to show that slavery in 
our own land cannot be regarded as wrong, and especially to 
show that the position taken by many that slavery is a sin, 
is not sustained by the Bible. When we make an attack 
on slavery as it exists in the United States, and endeavour to 
show that it is an evil — that it is morally wrong — that it 
ought to be abandoned — they make their appeal at once to 
the Bible. Why is this, but to defend slavery as it exists in 
this country ? If this is not the drift of the argument, why 
do they not at once admit that slavery here, as it actually 
exists, is wrong, and enter on the foreign question whether 
some imaginary form of slavery could be vindicated ? What 
can be the pertinency or propriety of such an appeal to the 
Bible as is almost uniformly made at the South, and fre- 
quently at the North, unless it is proper to bring American 
slavery as it is by the side of the Bible, and to inquire whe- 
ther, with all its developments, it is or is not in accordance 
with the word of God ? If the advocates of slavery would 
take this ground, and admit that the system of American 
slavery is in fact contrary to the Bible, the field of debate 
would be much narrowed. But as long as, in arguing this 
question, the appeal is made at the South to the Bible, it can- 
not be wrong to press the question with earnestness whether 


American slavery as it is is sanctioned by the word of God. 
The main question is not about the ' abuse'' of the system — 
for it might be a question whether there is any abuse of it pos- 
sible, that is, any degree of oppression and wrong which the 
principles of the system do not sanction — but about the thing 
as it is fairly developed in our country. For what is the 
♦ abuse' of slavery ? When you have taken away a man's 
liberty ; Avhen you have made him a piece of property, and 
refused him the right of citizenship, and the right in his wife, 
his children, and himself ; when he is to be wholly at the will 
of another, what precisely is to be understood by the ' abuse' 
of the system ? What law of the South can be referred to 
which can be distinctly shown to be an '■abuse' of the system, 
in the sense that the principles of the system do not lead to 
it, or that it is not necessary in order to sustain it ? It may 
be fairly doubted whether there is a single law or custom at 
the South Avhich can be shown to be a violation of the fun- 
damental principle of slavery ; and if this be so, then it is 
proper to make the appeal to the Bible to inquire whether 
this system of laws and customs is in accordance with the 
revealed will of God. So the advocates of the system make 
their appeal when it is attacked ; and so it is right for us. 

I may be permitted to add another prefatory remark. I 
have endeavoured to conduct the argument with candour, 
and with a kind and Christian spirit. In noticing the argu- 
ments of the advocates of slavery, and of those who have 
in any manner used the language of apology for it, I have 
not designedly given any representation of their views which 
would diminish their force ; nor have I been conscious of 
evading an argument because it seemed to present an un- 
answerable objection, or a material obstacle, to the views 
which I entertain. I have not sought to gain any thing 
in the argument by the use of hard names ; or by im- 
puting bad motives ; or by assuming that every thing con- 
nected with slavery is wrong ; or by the supposition that 
the slaveholder is necessarily a bad man. I have aimed 


not needlessly to offend any one. To a candid examination 
of the views expressed by the advocates of slavery, no one 
can reasonably object ; and if I have been enabled to evince 
the spirit in this argument which I have desired to do, no 
one will have just occasion to be offended with the manner 
in Avhich this discussion has been conducted. If I have 
betrayed any other than a kind spirit,^and have used any 
other than kind words, it has been contrary to my design. 
I anticipate that in some of the views expressed in this 
work, I shall be found to differ from not a few of my 
friends ;— but it is one of the conditions of our friendship 
that each one is at liberty to express his opinions with en- 
tire freedom. I expect to be found to differ from not a few 
of the wise and good of the land ; — but it would be impos- 
sible to discuss any subject on morals in respect to Avhich 
this would not be the case — and the truly wise and good 
are accustomed to expect that this may occur. All such 
will admit that the points discussed in this work are of 
great importance to the best interests of humanity : to me 
it would be a matter of high gratification if the discussion 
in these pages should be found to be such as to contribute 
something towards promoting uniformity of views and feel- 
ings on one of the most momentous questions which this 
age is called to investigate, and which enters more deeply 
into the permanent welfare of our country than any other. 






Reasons why the appeal on this subject should be made to the Bible. 

There are perhaps no questions of more importance to our 
country than those which pertain to the subject of slavery. 
The fact that after the existence of more than half a century 
of freedom in this land, there should be in the midst of us now 
a number nearly equal in the aggregate to the white popula- 
tion at the time of the Declaration of Independence, is of itself 
most remarkable in history ; and is so anomalous, and so at 
variance with all our principles, that posterity will inquire for 
the reasons of such an occurrence. This number, already so 
large, is increasing in certain parts of our country in a ratio 
fearfully alarming, and the effects of the system are felt, and 
must be felt, in every portion of the Republic. There is no- 
thing connected with our national interests which is not 
affected more or less by slavery. It enters into the represen- 
tation in our national legislature ; it is connected with great 
questions of industry, literature, agriculture, commerce, and 
morals ; it is intimately allied with religion. The entire South 
is identified with it ; and by the ramifications of business, of 
education, of commerce, and of manufactures, there is not a 
town, a school-district, or a parish in the North, which is not 



directly or remotely affected by it. As a part of a great na- 
tion — one great confederated people — we of the North have 
the deepest interest in all the questions that pertain to the 
weal or wo, the perils or the faults of any part of our country 
— for we share the common honour or the dishonour of the 
Republic. Belonging to the same race with those who are held 
in bondage, we have a right, nay, we are bound to express the 
sympathies of brotherhood, and to " remember those who are 
in bonds, as bound with them." But there is a deeper inte- 
rest still which we have in this subject ; a more perfect right 
which we have to express our views in regard to it. The 
questions of morals and reHgion — of right and wrong, know 
no geographical limits ; are bounded by no conventional lines ; 
are circumscribed by the windings of no river or stream, arid are 
not designated by climate or by the course of the sun. They 
are questions which no existing compacts or constitutions for- 
bid us to examine ; and though there are rights which one 
part of a country has which are not to be invaded by others, 
yet there are no enclosures within which the questions of right 
and wrong may not be carried with the utmost freedom. 

At the same time, this subject should be approached Avith 
calmness and candour. There is no one thing pertaining to 
the welfare of our common country, which is beset with so 
many difficulties, and which is so much fitted to make men 
of all classes feel their need of the " wisdom which is from 
above." Hitherto, all "the wisdom of the wise" has been 
confounded in regard to it, and if there is any question that 
is fitted to bring the whole intellect of this nation — including 
that of judges, senators, counsellors, and the ministers of reli- 
gion, at the feet of Infinite wisdom, it is the question respect- 
ing African slavery. How is the evil to be arrested ? How 
is that unhappy people among us to be restored to freedom, 
and elevated to the dignity and the privileges of men ? How 
is a foreign race with so different a complexion, and in refer- 
ence to which so deep-seated prejudices and aversions exist 
in every part of the land, to be disposed of if they become 


free ? These, and kindred inquiries, have hitherto baffled all 
our wisdom. It may do something towards answering them, 
if we can settle the grand preliminary question whether sla- 
very is right or wrong; an evil per se, or only an evil inci- 
dentally and by abuse ; a good institution which God designs 
to be perpetuated, or an institution which he regards as evil, 
and which he designs that the principles of his religion and 
his own Providential dealings shall ultimately destroy. 

In the examination of this subject, on which I propose now 
to enter, the appeal will be made wholly to the Bible, for the 
following reasons : 

1. The Bible is the acknowledged standard of morals in 
this nation. To an extent wholly unknown in other lands, it 
is allowed here to settle all questions of right and wrong, and 
its decisions, when clearly ascertained, are conceded to be 
final. It is not indeed directly made the basis of legislation, 
and it cannot be denied that there are- departures from its 
principles in many practical views which prevail, yet still it 
maintains an ascendency on all questions of morals which no 
other book can acquire, and which, by the mass of this nation, 
will be conceded to no other authority whatever. There are 
few writers on morals, and probably none of reputation, who 
would undertake to defend a position that was plainly against 
the teachings of the Bible. It may be safely affirmed that 
there is not a legislative body that would take the ground 
of openly legislating against the Bible ; there is not a judge 
on any bench who would pronounce a decision that would be 
clearly contrary to a principle laid down in the Sacred Scrip- 
tures ; there is not a department of government that would 
not admit that if the Bible has settled a question, it is final. 
It is to be regarded as an elementary principle in the ques- 
tions which come before the public mind in this nation, that 
on subjects in relation to which there are clear principles in 
that book, the intellect, and the heart, and the laws of this 
great people will bow reverently before that high authority. 
It is proper therefore to bring this question before this admit- 


ted standard in morals, and I shall regard it as a safe position, 
that if the people of this nation were convinced that slavery- 
is contrary to the Bible, they vi^ould at once institute a train of 
measures vphich v^^ould effectually remove the evil. We may 
carry a clear decision of the Bible to any class of our citizens, 
expecting that the authority vi^ill be respected, and that the 
obligation to obey it will be conceded. This sentiment is 
recognised at the South as well as at the North ; and by candid 
men there as well as elsewhere it is admitted that, if slavery 
is contrary to the Bible, it must be abandoned. Thus it is 
said in the Southern Q,uarterly Review, for October, 1845, 
p. 334, " Greatly the most important view of the subject 
[slavery] is the religious one. For assuredly if slavery be 
adjudged a sin, if it be condemned by the rcA^ealed will of 
God, then in Christendom it cannot continue to exist. It is 
the duty of every man, making the laws of God the rule of 
his conduct, to use all practicable efforts to abolish whatever 
violates them." 

2. The subject of slavery is one on which the Bible has 
legislated, and there is, therefore, a propriety that we should 
ascertain its decisions. An institution of servitude of some 
kind early existed in the world. The most ancient and 
venerable men whose names the Sacred History has trans- 
mitted to us, were in some v/ay connected with it. There 
are numerous statutes on the subject in the Mosaic code of 
laws. The Prophets often refer to it. Servitude had an 
existence in the time of the Apostles, and they often came in 
contact with it in their attempts to spread the Gospel. They 
have repeatedly alluded to it in their writings, and have laid 
down principles in regard to it which they evidently designed 
should be understood to be the settled laws of the Christian 
religion. In fact there is scarcely any one subject to which 
there is more frequent allusion in the Scriptures, in some way 
or other, than to slavery ; and it cannot be that a subject 
should so early attract the attention of the Great Legislator 
whose laws are there recorded, and be so often referred to. 


without ever laying down any principles which may be 
regarded as decisive in regard to his views. It is to be pre- 
sumed that it is possible to ascertain whether God regards it 
as a good institution or an evil one ; an arrangement in society 
. which he meant his religion should contribute to sustain and 
perpetuate for the good of the race, or an institution which he 
intended it should ultimately abohsh. — There is, therefore, 
perfect propriety in carrying the appeal to the Bible ; and 
there can be few things more important than to ascertain 
what are the teachings of the Bible on the subject. If slavery 
be in accordance with the principles of the Bible, and be the 
best thing for socfety, there is then an increasingly large part 
of the world that is neglecting to avail itself of the advantages 
which might be derived from the institution, and that is fall- 
ing into dangerous error on a great question of morals — for 
there can be no doubt that there is a growing conviction in 
the world that the institution is not one which it is desirable 
to perpetuate for promoting the welfare of mankind. 

3. There is little approximation to a settlement of the ques- 
tion whether slavery is right or wrong on other grounds than 
an appeal to the Scriptures. Apart from the influence of 
the Bible, it may be doubted whether any advance is made 
towards a settled and uniform judgment on this subject. 
Considerations of humanity or policy have done something 
indeed to change the views of men in regard to the slave 
trade, and by common consent this has come to be regarded 
as piracy ; but it may be doubted whether these considera- 
tions have done any^thing to affect the question about slavery 
itself in slaveholding communities. No progress was made 
towards its abolition in the Roman empire by the influence 
of these considerations. Slavery flourished in its extremes! 
rigour under the highest advances made in Roman policy, and 
in the brightest days of Roman jurisprudence, and it was 
only by the application of rehgious principle that it was ever 
permanently affected in the empire. In England, it was by 
the power of religious principle in Clarkson, Wilberforce, and 


their fellow-labourers, that slaA'^ery was abolished, and not by 
considerations of policy or mere humanity. In our own 
country, it may be doubted whether any considerable pro- 
gress has been made in determining whether slavery is to 
continue or not, by mere political considerations. The convic- 
tions of the great mass of our fellow-citizens in the slaveholding 
part of our country in regard to the evils of slavery, are not 
more decided than were those of JefTerson, and though since 
his views were so firmly expressed there has been an Oppor- 
tunity of observing the effects of the system for half a century, 
yet slavery has a hold on the country at large not less tena- 
cious than it had then. It is indeed not difficult to show the 
impolicy of the system. It is easy to show the superior 
prosperity of those portions of our country where it does not 
exist. It is easy to point to the exhausted soil ; the wasted 
fields ; the diminished population and wealth ; the compara* 
tive destitution of schools, colleges, and churches ; the igno- 
rance, degradation and corruption of morals which slavery 
engenders ; and it is easy to fortify all this by the splendid 
declamation of Southern statesmen themselves about the 
impoverished condition of their country,* but still almost no 

* The following eloquent remarks by two Southern gentlemen in Con- 
gress, furnish at the same time a mournful description of the eflects of 
slavery on the condition of a country ; show the comparative influence of 
freedom and slavery ; and illustrate the argument which might be derived 
from the tendency of slavery, to show that God does not- approve of the 
system. The first extract is from a speech of the Hon. Mr. Clowney, of 
South Carolina. He says : — 

" Look at South Carolina now, with her houses deserted and falling to 
decay, her once fruitful fields worn out and abandoned for want of timely 
improvement or skilful cultivation ; and her thousands of acres of inex- 
haustible lands still promising an abundant harvest to the industrious hus- 
bandman, lying idle and neglected. In the interior of the state where I 
was bom, and where 1 now live, although a country possessing all the 
advantages of soil, climate and health, abounding in arable land, unre- 
claimed from the first rude state of nature, there can now be found many 


advance is made towards admitting that the system is evil. 
Almost no efforts are put forth to remove it. No conclusions 
against it are derived from the disapprobation which the God 
of Providence is placing upon it by these results of the 
system, and if the inquiry is ever settled it must be by 
bringing it to a standard which all will admit to have autho- 
rity to determine great questions of morals. 

4. Great reforms on moral subjects do not occur except 
under the influence of religious principle. Pohtical revolu- 
tions, and changes of policy and of administration, do indeed 
occur from other causes, and secure the ends which are 
desired. But on subjects pertaining to right and wrong ; on 
those questions where the rights of an inferior and down- 
trodden class are concerned, we can look for little advance 
except from the operation of religious principle. Unless the 
inferior classes have power to assert their rights by arms, 
those rights will be conceded only by .the operations of con- 
science, and by the principles of religion. There is no great 
wrong in any community which we can hope to rectify by 

neighbourhoods where the population is too sparse to support a common 
elementary school for children. Such is the deplorable condition of one 
of the oldest members of this Union, that dates back its settlement more 
than a century and a half, while other states, born as it were but yester- 
day, already surpass what Carolina was or ever has been in the happiest 
and proudest day of her prosperity." 

The other extract is from a speech of the Hon. -Mr. Preston, of South 

" No Southern man can journey (as he had lately done) through the 
Northern States, and witness the prosperity, the industry, the public 
spirit which they exhibit — the sedulous cultivation of all those arts by 
which life is rendered comfortable and respectable, without feelings of 
deep sadness and shame as he remembers his own neglected and desolate 
home. There, no dwelling is to be seen abandoned — not a farm unculti- 
vated. Every person and every thing performs a part toward the grand 
result; and the whole land is covered with fertile fields, with manufac- 
tories, and canals, and railroads, and edifices, and towns, and cities. We 
of the South are mistaken in the character of these people when we think 



new considerations of policy, or by a mere revolution. The 
relations of slavery are not reached by political revolutions, 
or by changes of policy or administration. Political revolu- 
tions occur in a higher region, and the condition of the slave 
is no more affected by a mere change in the government than 
that of the vapours in a low, marshy vale is affected by the 
tempest and storm in the higher regions of the air. The 
storm sweeps along the Apennines, the lightnings play and 
the thunders utter their voice, but still the malaria of the 
CampagnaJs unaffected, and the pestilence breathes desola- 
tion there still. So it is with slavery. Political revolutions 
occur in high places, but the malaria of slavery remains 
settled down on the Ioav plains of life, and not even the sur- 
face of the pestilential vapour is agitated by all the storms 
and tempests of political changes. It remains the same 
deadly, pervading pestilence still. Under all the forms of 
despotism ; in the government of an aristocracy or an oli- 
garchy ; under the administration of a pure democracy or 
the forms of a republican government, and in all the changes 
from one to the other, slavery remains still the same. Whe- 

of them only as pedlars in horn flints and bark nutmegs. Their energy 
and enterprise are directed to all objects, great and small, within their 
reach. The number of railroads and other modes of expeditious inter- 
communication knit the whole country into a closely compacted mass, 
through which the productions of commerce and of the press, the comforts 
of life and the means of knowledge, are universally diffused ; while the 
close intercourse of travel and of business makes all neighbours, and pro- 
motes a common interest and a common sympathy. How different the 
condition of these things in the South ! Here the face of the country 
wears the aspect of premature old age and decay. No imphovement is 
SEEN GOING ON, nothing is done for posterity. No man thinks of any 
thing beyond the present moment." 

It is true that these gentlemen attribute these effects to the tariff, but 
the facts in the case are the things of chief importance here. Other per- 
sons see different causes at work than the tariff, and the period will arrive 
when the true cause will be seen by all the inhabitants of the slavehold- 
ing states. 


ther the master is hurled from the throne, or rides into power 
on the tempest of revolution, the down-trodden slave is the 
same still, and it makes no difference to him whether the 
master wears a crown or appears in a plain republican garb ; 
whether Caesar is on the throne or is slain in the Senate 
house. Slavery, among the Romans, remained substantially 
the same under the Tarquins, the Consuls, and the Cassars ; 
when the tribunes gained the ascendency, and when the 
patricians crushed them to the earth. It lived in Europe 
when the Northern hordes poured down on the Roman 
empire, and when the Caliphs set up the standard of Islam 
in the Peninsula. It lived in all the revolutions of the 
middle ages — alike when spiritual despotism swayed its 
sceptre over the nations, and when they began to emerge 
into freedom. In the British realms it has lived in the time 
of the Stuarts, under the Protectorate, and for a long time 
under the administration of the house of Hanover. With 
some temporary interruptions, it lived in the provinces of 
France, through the Revolution. It lived through our own 
glorious Revolution ; and the struggles which gave liberty to 
millions of the Anglo-Saxon race did not loosen one rivet 
from the fetter of an African, nor was there a slave who was 
any nearer to the enjoyment of freedom after the surrender 
at Yorktown, than when Patrick Henry taught the notes 
of liberty to echo along the hills and vales of Virginia. So 
in all the changes of political administration in our own land, 
the condition of the slave remains unaffected. Alike whether 
Federalists or Republicans have the rule ; whether the star of 
the Whig or the Democrat is in the ascendant, the condition 
of the slave is the same. The pasans of victory when the hero 
of New Orleans was raised to the presidential chair, or when 
the hero of Tippecanoe was inaugurated, conveyed no note 
of joy, no intimation of a change, to the slave ; nor had he 
any more hope, nor was his condition any more affected 
when the one gave place to his successor, or the other was 
borne to the grave. And so it is now. In the fierce con- 


tests for rule in the land ; in the questions about changes of 
administration, there are nearly three millions of our fellow- 
fceings who have no interest in these contests and questions, 
and whose condition will be affected no more, whatever the 
result may be, than the vapour that lies in the valley is by 
the changes from sunshine to storm on the summits of the 
Alps or the Andes. 

The reason of this is, that these questions of revolution do 
not go into these humble vales of life. It is only religion 
that finds its way down and effects changes there ; and the 
only hope, therefore, of producing revolutions en this great 
subject IS, by bringing the principles of the Bible to bear 
upon it. The suggestions, therefore, in the argument which 
I propose to conduct, will not refer to the political bearings 
of slavery, but to the naked question whether the institution 
is in accordance with the Bible. I should feel myself in- 
competent to go into a proper examination of the former ques- 
tion ; I may accomplish some good if I can do any thing to 
determine what is truth in regard to the latter. 

5. The appeal will be made solely to the Bible, because it 
is by such an appeal that the advocates of slavery endea- 
vour to defend the system. In popular speeches ; in ser- 
mons ; in the solemn acts of Presbyteries, synods, conven- 
tions, conferences, and assemblies ; in formal treatises in 
defence of slavery, in pamphlets and reviews, the appeal 
is constantly made to the Sacred Scriptures. In popular 
illustrations of Scripture, in newspaper articles, in learned 
commentaries, and in the formal opinions of erudite profes- 
sors at the North and the South, such a melancholy general 
expression of opinion that the Bible lends its sanction to 
slavery prevails, that it has come almost to be regarded as 
a settled matter. A few selections from those opinions will 
illustrate the propriety of an appeal to the Bible, and will 
show that the prevailing method of interpreting the Bible 
on this subject is such as to call for an examination of the 
meaning of the Scriptures, involving whatever talent may 


be found adapted to such an inquiry, and whatever patient 
labour such an investigation may demand. The extracts 
will be mere brief selections designed to exhibit the pre- 
vaihng mode of speaking and writing on the subject among 
intelligent religious men. 

The following is the declared opinion of Rev. E. D. Sims, 
Professor in Randolph Macon College, a Methodist institu- 
tion : — 

" These extracts from holy writ unequivocally assert the 
right of property in slaves, together with the usual incidents 
of that right, such as the power of acquisition and disposition 
in various ways, according to municipal regulations. The 
right to buy and sell, and to transmit to children by way of 
inheritance, is clearly stated. The only restriction on the 
subject, is in reference to the market, in which slaves or 
bondmen were to be purchased. 

" Upon the whole, then, whether we consult the Jewish 
poHty, instituted by Grod himself; or the uniform opinion and 
practice of mankind in all ages of the world ; or the injunc- 
tions of the New Testament and the moral law ; we are 
brought to the conclusion, that slavery is not immoral. 

" Having established the point, that the first African slaves 
were legally brought into bondage, the right to detain their 
children in bondage follows as an indispensable consequence. 

" Thus we see, that the slavery which exists in America 
was founded in rights 

The following sentiment was expressed by the late Rev. 
Wilbur Fisk, D. D,, President of the Wesleyan University 
in Connecticut, a name standing deservedly high in the 

"The relation of master and slave may, and does, in many 
cases, exist under such circumstances, as free the master from 
the just charge and guilt of immorality. 

" 1 Cor. vii. 20 — 23. — This text seems mainly to enjoin and 
sanction the fitting continuance of their present social rela- 
tions ; the freeman was to remain free, and the slave, unless 
emancipation should offer, was to remain a slave. 

" The general rule of Christianity not only permits, but, in 
supposable circumstances, enjoins a continuance of the mas- 
ter's authority. 



"The New Testament enjoins obedience upon the slave as 
an obligation due to a present rightful authority." 

The following resolutions of different religious bodies of 
the South may be regarded, without impropriety, as express- 
ing the prevailing sentiment at the South in regard to the 
sanction which the Bible gives to slavery. 


1. " Slavery has existed in the church of God from the time 
of Abraham to this day. Members of the church of God have 
held slaves, bought with their money, and had them born in 
their houses ; and this relation is not only recognised, but its 
duties are defined clearly, both in the Old and New Testaments. 

3. " Emancipation is not mentioned among the duties of the 
master to his slave, while obedience ' even to the froward* 
master is enjoined upon the slave. 

3. " No instance can be produced "of an otherwise orderly 
Christian being reproved, much less excommunicated from 
the church, for the single act of holding domestic slaves, from 
the days of Abraham down to the date of the modern aboli- 


" Whereas, sundry persons in Scotland and England, and 
others in the north, east, and west of our country, have de- 
nounced slavery as obnoxious to the laws of God, some of 
whom have presented before the General Assembly of our 
church, and the Congress of the nation, memorials and 
petitions, with the avowed object of bringing into disgrace 
slaveholders, and abolishing the relation of master and slave : 
And whereas, from the said proceedings, and the statements, 
reasonings, and circumstances connected therewith, it is most 
manifest that those persons * know not what they say, nor 
Avhereof they affirm ;' and with this ignorance discover a 
spirit of self-righteousness and exclusive sanctity, &c. ; there- 
fore, Resolved, 

1. " That as the kingdom of our Lord is not of this world, 
his church, as such, has no right to abolish, alter, or affect any 
institution or ordinance of men, political or civil, &c. 

2. " That slavery has existed from the days of those good 
old slaveholders and patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 
(who are now in the kingdom of heaven,) to the time when the 


apostle Paul sent a runaway slave home to his master, Phile- 
mon, and wrote a Christian and paternal letter to this slave- 
holder, which we find still stands in the canon of the Scrip- 
tures — and that slavery has existed ever since the days of the 
apostle, and does now exist. 

3. " That as the relative duties of master and slave are 
taught in the Scriptures, in the same manner as those of pa- 
rent and child, and husband and wife, the existence of slavery 
itself is not opposed to the will of God ; and whosoever has a 
conscience too tender to recognise this relation as lawful, is 
' righteous overmuch,' is ' wise above what is written,' and 
has submitted his neck to the yoke of men, sacrificed his 
Christian liberty of cpnscience, and leaves the infallible word 
of God for the fancies and doctrines of men." 


" It is a principle which meets the views of" this body, that 
slavery, as it exists among us, is a political institution, with 
which ecclesiastical judicatories have not the smallest right to 
interfere ; and in relation to which, any such interference, 
especially at the present momentous crisis, would be morally 
wrong, and fraught with the most dangerous and pernicious 
consequences. The sentiments which we maintain, in com- 
mon with Christians at the South of every denomination, are 
sentiments which so fully approve themselves to our con- 
sciences, are so identified with our solemn convictions of duty, 
that we should maintain them under any circumstances. 

" Resolved, That in the opinion of this Presbytery, the 
holding of slaves, so far from -being a sin in the sight of God, 
is nowhere condemned in his holy word — that it is in accord- 
ance with the example, or consistent with the precepts of pa- 
triarchs, apostles, and prophets, and that it is compatible with 
the most fraternal regard to the best good of those servants 
whom God may have committed to our charge ; and that, 
therefore, they who assume the contrary position, and lay it 
down as a fundamental principle in morals and religion, that 
all slaveholding is wrong, proceed upon false principles." 


" The committee to whom were referred the resolutions, &c., 
have, according to order, had the same under consideration — 
and respectfully report, that in their judgment, the following 
resolutions are necessary and proper to be adopted by the 
Synod at the present time : 


" Whereas, the publications and proceedings of certain or- 
ganized associations, commonly called anti-slavery, or abolition 
societies Avhich have arisen in some parts of our land, have 
greatly disturbed and are still greatly disturbing the peace of 
the church, and of the country ; and the Synod of Virginia 
deem it a solemn duty which they owe to themselves and to 
the community to declare their sentiments upon the subject ; 
therefore, Resolved, unanimously, 

" That we consider the dog-ma fiercely promulgated by said 
associations — that slavery, as it exists in our slaveholding 
states, is necessarily sinful, and ought to be immediately 
abolished — and the conclusions which naturally follow from 
that dogma, as directly and palpably contrary to the plainest 
principles of common sense and commion humanity, and to 
the clearest authority of the word of Gody 

The following is from the church in Petersburg, Virginia, 
16th November, 1838:— 

" Whereas, the General Assembly did, in 1818, pass a law, 
which contains provisions for slaves, irreconcilable with our 
civil institutions, and solemnly declaring slavery to be a sin 
against God- — a law at once offensive and insulting to the 
whole Southern community ; Resolved, 

1. " That, as slaveholders, we cannot consent longer to 
remain in connection with any church where there exists a 
statute conferring a right upon slaves to arraign their masters 
before the judicatory of the church — and that, too, for the act 
of selling them without their consent first had and obtained. 

2. " That as the Great Head of the church has recognised 
the relation of master and slave, lue conscientiously believe 
that slavery is not a sin against God, as declared by the 
General Assembly. 

3. " That there is no tyranny more oppressive than that 
which is sometimes sanctioned by the operation of ecclesias- 
tical law." 

Thus also the Presbytery of Tombecbee, in a formal letter 
to the General Conference in Maine, expresses the following 
sentiments : — " In the Bible the state of slavery is clearly 
recognised, but the condition of the slave, like that of all 
society, is left to be regulated by the civil policy of the state, 
or country in which it exists. Abram, the friend of God, had 


slaves born in his house, and bought with money." "Jacob 
held slaves, without the least remorse of conscience, or 
reproof from God." " It was no sin for a priest to purchase 
a slave with money." " The Bible warrants the purchase 
of slaves as an inheritance for children for ever." " That 
slavery is not a moral evil, is evident from the fact, that it is 
nowhere condemned by the Redeemer, or his apostles, in 
the New Testament." " The Bible makes slavery a part of 
the domestic circle ; it is associated with husband and wife, 
parents and children." 

Views similar to these are expressed in an article in the 
Princeton Bibhcal Repertory, for April, 1836 — an article 
which was reprinted at Pittsburgh, on the eve of an import- 
ant meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian 
church, by Southern gentlemen, and which was understood 
to give great satisfaction to the friends of slavery in the South. 
The following extracts will show the views of the writer, and 
illustrate the inclination of those who look favourably on the 
system, to sustain their views by the authority of tlie Bible. 

" It is on all hands acknowledged that, at the time of the 
advent of Jesus Christ, slavery in its worst forms prevailed 
over the whole world. The Saviour found it around him in 
Judea ; the Apostles met with it in Asia, Greece, and Italy. 
How did they treat it ? Not by the denunciation of slavery 
as necessarily and universally sinful. The subject is hardly 
alluded to by Christ in any of his personal instructions. The 
Apostles refer to it, not to pronounce upon it as a question of 
morals, but to prescribe the relative duties of masters and 
slaves." — pp. 275, 276. " An obvious deduction from the 
fact above referred to, is, that slaveholding is not necessarily 
sinful." — p. 277. " The argument from the conduct of 
Christ and his immediate followers seems to us decisive on 
the point, that slaveholding, in itself considered, is not a 
crime." — p. 279. "But what stronger argument can be 
presented to prove that the sacred writers did not regard 
slaveholding as in itself sinful, than that while they condemn 
all unjust or unkind treatment (even threatening) on the part 
of the masters toward their slaves, they did not condemn 
slavery itself." — p. 280. " That many of the attributes of 


the system, as established by law in this country are con- 
demned, is, indeed, very plain ; but that slaveholding in itself 
is condemned, has not been, and cannot be proved."— p. 281. 
*' It Js admitted by these distinguished moralists [Dr. Chan- 
ning and Dr. Wayland] that the Apostles did not preach a 
religion proclaiming freedom to slaves; that Paul did not 
assail slavery ; that the Gospel did not proclaim the unlaw- 
fulness of slaveholding ; it did not forbid it. This is going 
the whole length that we have gone in our statement of 
the conduct of Christ and his apostles." — p. 382. "The 
Apostles did not condemn slavery ; they did not require 
emancipation ; they I'ecognised slaveholders as Christian 
brethren." — p. 28-5. " Slavery was tolerated among the 
ancient people of God. Abraham had servants in his family 
■who were ' bought with money.' The Mosaic institution 
recognised the lawfulness of slavery. Our argument, from 
this acknowledged fact, is, that if God allowed slavery to 
exist, if he directed how slaves might be lawfully acquired, 
and how they were to be treated, it is in vain to contend that 
slavery is a sin, and yet profess reverence for the Scrip- 
tures." — p. 287. " Slavery is a question of circumstances, 
not a malum in se." — p. 292. "As it appears to us too 
clear to admit of either denial or doubt, that the Scriptures 
do sanction slaveholding ; that under the old dispensation it 
was expressly permitted by^divine command, and under the 
New Testament is nowhere forbidden or renounced, but, on 
the contrary, acknowledged to be consistent with the Chris- 
tian character and profession, (that is, consistent with justice, 
mercy, holiness, love to God and love to man,) to declare it to 
be a heinous crime, is a direct impeachment of the word of 
God."— pp. 297, 298. 

"Slavery," says the Hon. J. K. Paulding, (in his work 
entitled "Slavery in the United States," pp. 14, 15,) "is 
made the subject of express regulation in the social institu- 
tions of the Jews, and this without a single expression of 
disapprobation on the part of the divine Lawgiver." After 
quoting several passages from the books of Moses on the sub- 
ject of slavery, he also adds, (pp. 19, 20,) "Here is a direct 
sanction of rights corresponding in all respects with those of 
the holders of slaves in the United States. They were 
originally ' of the heathen' when purchased ; their posterity 
was ' begot in the land ;' and they have descended ' as an 
inheritance to our children.' It is difficult to conceive how, 
with these authorities before them, the Abolitionists can 


persist in maintaining that slavery is contrary to the law of 
God." "There is no authority derivable from the New Tes- 
tament, which justifies the assertion that slavery is contrary 
to the law of God." — p. 24. " Slavery existed almost univer- 
sally at, and ages before, the Christian dispensation, and it is 
not even discountenanced there, much less denounced as con- 
trary to the law of God." — p. 26. 

Dr. Fuller, in his letters to Dr. Wayland, says, " The Old 
Testament did sanction slavery. - And in the Gospels and 
Epistles the institution is, to say the least, tolerated. You 
admit some sort of slavery to have been allowed in the Old 
Testament, and suffered by Jesus and his apostles. A 
man who denies this will deny any thing, and'only proves 
how much stronger a passion is than the clearest truth. But 
if this point be yielded, how can it be maintained that slave- 
holding is itself a crime?" — pp. 3, 4. And again : "I under- 
take to show that the Bible does, most explicitly, both by 
precept and example, bear me out in my assertion, that 
slavery is not necessarily, and always, and amidst all circum- 
stances, a sin. This is the position to be established, and the 
entire reasoning (reasoning which, if the premises be true, 
really seems to me to commend itself at once to every man's 
conscience) is this, what God sanctioned in the Old Tes- 
tament, AND permitted IN THE NeW, CANNOT BE SIN."* 

To these extracts may be added, for an illustration of the 
prevailing manner in which the subject is regarded, the fol- 
lowing views of Professor Stuart, than whom there is not one 
of higher or more deserved authority in this land, in all 
questions pertaining to the interpretation of the Scriptures. 
These views are copied, not because I would wish to convey 
the impression that Professor Stuart is or would be either the 
advocate of slavery, or the apologist for it, but to show the 
importance of a' thorough inquiry into the actual teachings of 
the Scriptures on this subject. The following is Professor 
Stuart's letter to Dr. Fisk : 

"Andover, April 10, 1837. 
" Rev. and Dear Sir : — Yours is before me, A sickness 
of three months' standing, (typhus fever,) in which I have 

* Fuller and Wayland on Slavery, p. 170. 


just escaped death, and which still confines me to my house, 
renders it impossible for me to answer your letter at large. 

" 1. The precepts of the New Testament, respecting- the 
demeanour of slaves and their masters, beyond all question, 
recognise the existence of slavery. The masters are, in part, 
^believing masters i"* so that a precept to them, how they are 
to behave, as masters, recognises that the relation may exist, 
sulvafide, et salva ecclesia, [ivithoitt violating the Christian 
faith or the church f] otherwise Paul had nothing to do but 
to cut the band asunder at once. He could not lawfully and 
properly temporize with malum in se, [that which is in itself 

" If any one doubts, let him take the case of Paul's sending 
Onesimus back to Philemon, with an apology for his running 
away, and sending him back to be a servant for life. The 
relation did exist — may exist. The abuse of it is the essen- 
tial and fundamental wrong. Not that the theory of slavery 
is right, in itself. No. ' Love thy neighbour as thyself — 
' Do unto others that which you would that others should do 
unto you,' decides against this. But the relation, once consti- 
tuted and continued, is not such a malum, in se as calls for 
immediate and violent disruption at all hazards. So Paul did 
not counsel. 

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

" 3. Every one knows, who is acquainted with Greek or 
Latin antiquities, that slavery among heathen nations has 
ever been more unqualified and at loose en3s than among 
Christian nations. Slaves were property in Greece and 
Rome. That decides all questions about their relation. 
Their treatment depended, as it does now, on the temper of 
their masters. The power of the master over the slave was, 
for a long time, that of life and death. Horrible cruelties at 
length mitigated it. In the apostle's day, it was at least as 
great as among us. 

" After all the spouting and vehemence on this subject, the 


good old Book remains the same. Paul's conduct and advice 
are still safe guides. Paul knew well that Christianity Avould 
ultimately destroy slavery, as it certainly Avill. He kneAV too 
that it would destroy monarchy and aristocracy from the 
earth, for it is fundamentally a doctrine of true liberty and 
equality. Yet Paul did not expect slavery or aristocracy to 
be ousted in a day, and gave precepts to Christians respecting 
their demeanour, ad interim. 

" With sincere and fraternal regard, 
" Your friend and brother, 

"M. Stuart." 

These extracts, with the considerations which have been 
suggested, will show, it is beheved, the propriety of the 
course which I propose to pursue in this argument. By the 
results of such an investigation, the people of this land ulti- 
mately must and will abide. He that shall contribute any 
thing, however humble, to influence the public mind in 
coming to a right decision on so momentous a question, will 
not have hved in vain. 



TVhat constitutes Slavery ? 

The issue of the question about the lawfulness of slavery 
must depend materially on the answer which is given to the 
question, What constitutes slavery? Until this is deter- 
mined, it is impossible to arrive at any settled views on the 
inquiry whether it is right or wrong. 

The true inquiry here is, what are the essential features 
of the system ? What distinguishes it from, all other relations 
of life — from the relation of a child, a minor, an apprentice, 
a day-labourer, a serf, a ' villein' under the feudal system ? 
Slavery has some features which resemble certain things in 
other relations, and the attention is sometimes fixed on these 
features of resemblance, forgetting what constitutes the pe- 
culiarity of the system, and then an argument is constructed 
to prove that slavery is recognised in the Scriptures just as 
those other relations are ; that the duties in the one case 
are prescribed as they are in the other ; and that this re- 
lation in society is designed to be as permanent, and is in 
itself as lawful, as the others. It is undeniable that in the 
relation of slavery there is something in common with the 
relation of apprenticeship, of a minor, of a subject under 
an arbitrary government, of those who are transferred from 
one government to another, as " by the treaty of Vienna, a 
large part of the inhabitants of central Europe changed 
masters, — as Saxony was transferred to Prussia, Belgium 
was annexed to Holland, and as Louisiana was transferred 
from France to the United States,"* but still the question is, 
whether the peculiarity of slavery is found in all these rela- 
tions and transfers 1 In the condition of a slave, also, there 

• Bib. Repertory, 1836, p. 294. 


is some resemblance to that of the serf of Russia, and the 
'villein' under the feudal system; but still the world is 
accustomed accurately to distinguish their condition from 
that of slave, and it does not define slavery to say that it 
is the condition of a serf or a ' vil'ein.' There is still some- 
thing essential to it which is not reached by these terms. 

The importance of ascertaining- accurately what slavery 
is, may be seen by referring to some of the definitions 
which have been given of it. From these it will be seen that, 
according to some of the different views which are held of its 
nature, it is easy to construct an argument in its defence. 
Paley's definition is this : "I define slavery," says he, "to be 
an obhgation to labour for the benefit of the master, without 
the contract or consent of the servant."* Substantially the 
same is the idea of the author of the article before referred to 
in the Biblical Repertory, and as this may be regarded, with- 
out impropriety, as expressing the sentiments of those who 
apologize for slavery, or who regard it as consistent with 
Christianit}', it is important to quote the words of the writer 
at length. He says, "Neither inadequate remuneration, 
physical discomfort, intellectual ignorance, moral degradation, 
is essential to the condition of a slave. Yet if all these 
ideas are removed from the commonly received notion of 
slavery, how little will remain. All the ideas which essen- 
tially enter into the definition of slavery are, deprivation of 
personal liberty, obligation of service at the discretion of an- 
other, and the transferable character of the authority and 
claim of the master. The manner in which men are brought 
into this condition ; its continuance, and the means adopted 
for securing the authority and claim of masters, are all 
incidental and variable. They may be reasonable or un- 
reasonable, just or unjust, at different times and places." — 
p. 279. " Slavery, in itself considered, is a state of bond- 
age, and nothing more. It is the condition of an indi- 

* Moral Philosophy, book iii. ch. 3. 


vidual who is deprived of his personal liberty, and is 
obliged to work for another, who has the right to transfer 
this claim of service, at pleasure." — p. 389. In discussing 
the question whether the nature of property enters into the 
idea of slavery, the writer remarks that, " a man has pro- 
perty in his wife, in his children, in his domestic animals, 
in his fields and forests," and goes on 4;o observe that, 
" where it is said that one man is the property of another, 
it can only mean that the one has a right to use the other 
as a man, but not as a brute or as a thing. — When this 
idea of property comes to be analyzed, it is found to be no- 
thing more than a claim of service either for life, or for a 
term, of years." — p. 293. According to this view, slavery 
is comparatively a harmless thing. No one should be 
alarmed at the idea of being himself a slave, or of having 
his children reduced to this condition ; and no one should 
regard slavery as essentially an undesirable condition of 
society, and still less as having in it any thing that is 
morally wrong. The idea of regarding a slave as a chattel 
or a thing is expressly discarded, and all the property 
which it is supposed there can be in the slave is that 
harmless possession which a man has in his wife and chil- 
dren. If this be the just idea of slavery, then it would 
hardly be worth while to argue the question whether it is 
right or wrong, or whether it is, or is not, in accordance 
with the Bible. It may be remarked here only that this is 
a view which will calm the feehngs, allay the suspicions of 
guilt or responsibility, save from the compunctious visitings 
of remorse, and meet the wishes of all those south of 
'Mason's and Dixon's line' who desire to preserve this 
domestic institution in its purity. Whether this is the true 
notion of slavery, however, it may be well to consider. I 
would observe, then, 

(1.) That slavery is not a mere condition of apprentice- 
ship, or that the service which a slave is bound to render 
to his master is not that which the apprentice is bound to 


render to his emploj'^er. There may be something in com- 
mon, but all men make a distinction between them. Even 
in the system of 'apprenticeship' in the West Indies, there 
was an accurate, and a very obvious distinction, between 
that condition and the state of slavery which this was in- 
tended to supersede. An apprentice is bound to his mas- 
ter ; he works for him ; his time is his ; and the master 
avails himself of whatever physical strength or skill the 
apprentice may have, or may acquire while he is with him 
— and so far there is that which the relation has in com- 
mon with slavery. The relations resemble each other also 
in the fact, that the apprentice is usually placed in this 
condition without being consulted, or in accordance with the 
will of another. But this relation is designed to be tem- 
porary ; it is for the good of the apprentice himself; it 
contemplates his own future usefulness and happiness, and 
there is a full equivalent supposed to be rendered for his 
labour. The care of the master over his morals and habits, 
and the instruction which he is expected to receive in the 
employment to which he designs to devote his life, are re- 
garded as an ample compensation for any service which he 
can render. The master, in fact, avails himself of no un- 
requited labour of the apprentice ; has no claim of pro- 
perty in him; has no power to continue the relation be- 
yond a specified period; and has no right to transfer the 
apprentice to another. The condition is one also that is 
consistent with a regular advance in knowledge of all 
kinds, and in which the master has no control over any of 
the other relations which the apprentice may sustain, or 
into which he may choose prospectively to enter. In all 
this it differs from slavery. 

(2.) Nor is slavery to be confounded with the condition 
of a minor. There are many things indeed that are com- 
mon between slavery as it has always existed, and the con- 
dition of those who are under age. A minor, like a slave, 
has no right to vote ; is not eligible to office ; cannot be 



held in law by contracts which he makes, and in his time 
and labour is subject to the will of another. But we never 
confound the two conditions, and never suppose that the 
description of the one is a correct representation of the 
other. Nature, not force, has made the condition of a 
minor. In the arrangement, his own good is consulted. 
The whole arrangement is with reference to his own future 
welfare. It contemplates his being ultimately raised to all 
the dignities and rights of a citizen, and nature has secured, 
in the affections of those under whom minors are commonly 
placed, the best possible pledge that their interests will be 
sacredly regarded. Slavery does none of these things. 

(3.) Nor is slavery merely a governmental affair — an 
assertion of power like that under a hereditary monarchy, or 
like a transfer of a portion of a people from one government 
to another, by treaty.* There may be much in common be- 
tween such a condition and slavery, but we never confound 
them — except where we wish to throw dust in order to render 
the subject obscure. The authority asserted over the slave is 
often hereditary ; the power is claimed of making laws for him 
without his consent, and without representation ; the power 
over him is an usurped power ; it deprives him of the rights 
of a freeman, and he is transferred from one master to another 
without his consent — as the inhabitants of Poland, Belgium, 
Louisiana, Canada, Florida, and Normandy have been, or as 
the Cherokees, Choctaws, and Seminoles have been removed 
from Georgia and Florida, to the country west of the Missis- 
sippi. But we never think of confounding these things with 
slavery. Slavery is the right of an individual owner, not the 
operation of a government. It is control over the individual, 
and not over the mass. It contemplates properly no arrange- 
ment for masses as governed, but of individuals as owned.. 
It transfers none by communities, but sells them as indivi- 
duals. It is not the mere' power of making laws for others, 

* See Biblical Repertoiy, 1836, p. 294. 


or of commanding their services for war ; it is the power of 
controlling their time, a claim on their whole earnings, and of 
receiving all the avails of their skill and labour. It is not the 
right of transfer by treaty or conquest, but the power to sell 
them. The idea of slavery is not that of suffering the de- 
privation of rights as a community, but as individuals ; and 
if laws are ever made for them regarded as a community, it 
is not because they are considered as any part of the govern- 
ment, but only to guard the rights of those who own them. 
In every essential feature slavery is removed from the aspect 
of being a governmental affair ; for while it has some things 
in common- with such an arrangement, still the world makes 
an accurate distinction between them. Besides, it would 
settle nothing as to the question of right and wrong to show 
that it Avas a mere governmental transaction. There are 
great questions of right and wrong in relation to the govern- 
ment of Nero, and the conquests of Attila, and the authority 
claimed by the Emperor of Morocco, or by the Sultan, as really 
as in relation to the rights claimed by the master over the slave. 

(4.) Nor is it a mere relation in which legislative bodies alone 
are concerned.* It has indeed a relation to governments, and 
the makers and administrators of the laws have much to do 
with it. It is, indeed, a relation between man and man — for 
the slave is a man, and is, in some respects, regarded as such. 
But the usual relations in civil life are those of compact 
and agreement ; of buying and selling ; of commerce, appren- 
ticeship, marriage, mutual aid, in regard to Avhich each party 
is voluntary, and each party has guarded rights. Nothing 
of this kind occurs in slavery. There all is involuntary on 
the part of the slave, and he is never considered and treated 
as a neighbour, or an equal. In no respect does the law 
regard him as on a level with the master. 

(5.) Slavery is not a thing which pertains wholly to a 
legislature to regulate, and with which an individual, or an 

* See Biblical Repertory, 1836, p. 293. 


association expressly organized for that purpose, or an eccle- 
siastical body have no right to interfere, or in reference to 
which they have no right to express an opinion. There are 
respects, indeed, in which the subject pertains to legislative 
bodies, and in those respects others cannot interfere with 
their peculiar prerogatives. The bad laws which they have 
made, they only can unmake. The actual legislation which 
may be at any time demanded to remove the evil, or to correct 
abuses growing out of the laws, pertains only to them. Others 
can no more usurp the place of the legislator, in respect to 
this, than they can in respect to any thing else. But the 
points on which slavery touches on the legislative body are 
few and imimportant, compared with its other relations to 
society. Men are not made slaves by legislative acts, but by 
individual rapacit}'^ and wrong. Legislatures do not own 
slaves, unless it be in a corporate capacity, and rarely then. 
The slave is the property of an individual, and his relations 
are to him. That individual is a man, not a legislator ; and 
it is right to reason with him as a man, as a neighbour, as a 
member of the church, as a father and a brother, or as a 
minister of the gospel. In each and all of these respects, it 
is right to bring the subject before his conscience, and to rea- 
son and remonstrate with him, as himself responsible to God. 
And it is the right of any one to do it who is a man, whether 
in his individual or associate capacity — for the slaveholder 
holds a man in bondage, and claims him as his property. 
Between these two individuals, therefore, no legislator has 
a right to interpose a barrier, and to say that this subject 
pertains to us, and that no individual or association has a right 
to intermeddle with it. It does not define slavery, therefore, 
to say that it is a relation which has been instituted by a 
legislature for the good of the community, requiring one class 
of people to engage in the service of another. 

(6.) Slavery is not a condition like that of the serfs of 
Russia, or like the ' villeins' of the feudal system. It has 
something in common with those relations, and in some 


aspects may not be more oppressive or degrading, but still it 
is to be accurately distinguished from them. In the relation 
of the 'villein' of the feudal system there was an obligation 
of service to the lord ; the time, and talent, and skill of the 
vassal were his ; the villein had none of the rights of a free- 
man, implied in the power of making laws, eligibility to office, 
or the administration of justice ; and there was the possibility 
of being transferred with the soil from one master to another. 
The same is substantially true of the condition of the serf. 
But the ' villein' was attached to the glebe, as the serf now is. 
He was a. fixture on the estate, and he could not be removed. 
There was no power of alienating him without alienating the 
land, his family, his neighbours, and whatever comforts he 
had been used to. There was no power of separating hus^ 
band and wife, and parents and children. He was not 
bought and sold as an individual, and he was not regarded in 
the light of property. He was, in some respects, recognised 
as a man, and even in his lowest condition had the germs of 
certain rights, which have grown into the condition of the 
now middle and respectable classes in Europe. " The villein 
has become the independent farmer." " The feudal system 
has in a great measure been outgrown in all the European 
states. The third estate, formerly hardly recognised as hav- 
ing an existence, is become the controlling power in most of 
those ancient communities."* But there is no such germ of 
freedom and of elevation in slavery. There is nothing 
which, being cultivated and expanded, will grow into free- 
dom. There was nothing in slaveiy, as understood by the 
Romans, and there is nothing in it as it exists in this country, 
which has such a principle of liberty, advancement, and eleva- 
tion, that the slave, by any natural progress, can ever emerge 
into hberty, or ever take such a place that there shall be 
recognised in him the rights of a man ; and though there is 
in the system, in many respects, a strong resemblance to the 

* See Biblical Repertory, 1836, pp. 291, 300. 


condition of a feudal ' villein,' or a Russian serf, yet these 
conditions are never confounded. All men know that slavery 
is a difierent thing. Its peculiarity is not described by a 
reference to the condition of society in the dark ages, or 
under the dominion of the Autocrat of the North. 

(7.) Slavery is not the kind of property which a man 
has in his wife or child.* There may be something in com- 
mon in these relations, but, except in arguments in defence 
of slavery, they are never confounded. In the condition 
of a wife and child there is indeed a want of a right of 
suffrage and of eligibility to office ; and, in the case of 
the child, of a right to the avails of his labour, as in 
that of a slave. But (l.)the relation of parent and child 
is a natural relation, that of master and slave is not ; 
(2.) the relation of husband and wife is voluntary, that of 
master and slave is not ; (3.) in these relations wives and 
children are treated in all respects as human beings, 
slaves are not ; (4.) in these relations there is no right 
of property in any such sense as that in which the word 
property is commonly used : — there is no right of sale ; 
there is no right to sunder the relation for the mere sake 
of gain. It is true that some of these things have oc- 
curred in certain times and places, and that the power of 
purchase or sale has been understood to be connected with 
the relation of husband and wife, and that even parents 
have claimed this power over their children. But this has 
always been understood as an abuse of power, and as not 
fairly impHed in the relation. The common sense of man- 
kind has revolted at it ; and whatever usurped power there 
may have been at any time, the instinctive feeling of man- 
kind is that the 'property' which a man has in his wife 
or child is essentially different from that which the master 
has in his slave. 

If none of these things constitute slavery, the question 

* Comp. Bib. Repertory, 1836, p. 293. 


then arises, what is it ? What is the essential element 
of the system ? What distinguishes this from all other 
relations ? These questions can now be answered by the 
single reply, that it is property in a human being. The 
master owns the slave. He has bought him, and he has 
a right to use him, or to sell him. He can command his 
services against his own will ; he can avail himself of 
the fruit of his toil and skill ; he can sell him or other- 
wise ahenate him as he pleases. He regards him as his 
own property in the same sense as he regards any thing 
else as his property. He is not an apprentice, a companion, 
an equal, or a voluntary servant ; he is a part of his 
estate, and subject substantially to the same laws as those 
which regulate property in any thing else. He is his 
property in the sense that either by himself, or by one 
from whom he has inherited him, the slave has been 
taken by force and appropriated to the use of another man- 
substantially in the same way in which property was first 
acquired by cultivating a piece of land selected from the 
great common of the world, or fruit gathered from that 
which was before common ; or he has become his pro- 
perty in the sense that an equivalent has been paid for 
him, or from the fact that the children of slaves become 
property in the same way as the offspring of cattle do. 
He is his property in the sense that the slave himself 
has no right to the employment of his time and limbs 
and skill for his own advantage, and no right to the avails 
of his own labour. He is his property in the sense that 
the master claims the right to himself of all that the slave 
can produce by his physical strength, or by any tact or 
skill which he may have in any department of labour. 
He is his property in the sense that he may part with 
his services to any one on such terms as he, and not 
the slave, shall choose ; that he may sell him for any , 
price in money, or barter him for any commodity, to any 
person that he chooses ; and that he may make a testa- 


mentary disposition of him as he may of his house, his 
land, his books, his cane, or his horse. This was the 
doctrine of the Roman law. " The master had the entire 
right of property in the slave, and could do just as he 
pleased with his person and life, his powers and his 
earnings." Digesta I. 19, 32. Quod attinet ad jus civile, 
servi pro nuUis habentur ; non tamen et jure naturali, 
quia, quod ad jus naturale attinet, omnes homines aequales 
sunt. IV. 5, 3. Gluia servile caput (civil condition of a 
slave) nullum jus habet, ideo nee minui potest.* The 
same was true in Greece. " In Greece the slave was con- 
sidered "iy-^v^ov opyttvoi' or a xtrj/xa, a mere instrument en- 
dowed vnth life, a possession.^'f 

It is true that this kind of property differs in some 
respects from other kinds — as property in a horse differs 
in some respects from property in a tree or a mine. 
Property is to be regarded, in some aspects, according to 
the nature of the thing Avhich is held, and will be treated 
in some respects according to its nature. The ownership- 
which a man has in a marble quarry, or in a silver mine, 
or in a field or forest, is different in some respects from 
that which he has in a horse or a dog ; that which he 
has in the latter is in some respects different from that 
which he can have in a man. It will secure a different 
kind of treatment, and there are still common laws, though 
these are held as property, which a man is not at liberty 
to disregard. It is observed, correctly in the main, by 
the author of the article in the Biblical Repertory already 
referred to (p. 293), that a man " has no more right to 
use a brute as a log of wood, in virtue of the right of 
property, than he has to use a man as a brute. There 
are general principles of rectitude obligatory on all men, 
which require them to treat all the creatures of God, ac- 
». — — _— — 

* See Prof. G. H. Becker, in Bibliotheca Sacra, ii. p. 571. 
\ Ibid. p. 572. 


cording to the nature which he has given them. The 
man who should burn his horse because he was his pro- 
perty, would find no justification in that plea either be- 
fore God or man. When therefore it is said that one 
man is the property of another, it can only mean that 
the one has the right to use the other as a man, but 
not as a brute or a thing. He has no right to treat him 
as he may lawfully treat his ox or a tree." — Still, the 
essential thing — the right of property is the same. It is 
ownership of the quarry, the mine, the forest, the field, 
the ox, the man ;— -and though the treatment must in pro- 
per respects correspond to their nature, and though the 
community may feel that if a man should 'burn' his 
horse he would violate great laws of nature, still this does 
not affect the question whether he owns the horse and 
has a right to regard him as property. The same is 
true of the ownership in man. There are certain things 
which it is^ admitted the owner has no right to do, which 
he might do to some other species of property. He may 
no more ' burn' his slave than he may his ' horse ;' he 
might not treat a slave in all respects as he might his 
horse, any more than he might treat his horse as he 
would an inanimate object, and still the property claimed 
in the one may be as distinct and exclusive as in the 
other. — He may employ him as he pleases ; he may 
make use of all that he can produce by his labour ; he 
may sell him, or may dispose of him, as he chooses, 
in his will. The slave is never regarded as a human 
being, with the rights of a human being, but he is re- 
garded as property made more valuable because he is a 
human being — just as the horse is regarded as property 
made valuable because he is a horse. As such the slave 
is to be treated as a man, not with respect to any duties 
or relations which he owes as a citizen, a father, a son, 
an heir of salvation, but only with reference to the ques- 
tion, how he can be rendered more valuable as a slave. 



^is nature is consulted in his treatment, in distinction from 
that of the horse, only as that of the horse is consulted 
in distinction from the inanimate objects of property. 

This claim of property in the slave always involves the 
following things : — 

1. It is wholly involuntary on the part of the slave. 
He has never conceded any such right over himself to 
others, and no one has done it who had any authority 
to do it. He has not made a voluntary surrender of him- 
self to his master to be regarded as his ; to be owned 
by him, and to yield to him the avails of his labour, and 
be sold by him when and where he pleases. And no one 
has done this who had a right to do it. The power ori- 
ginally asserted over him or his ancestors, was a power of 
usurpation or robbery ; was against his consent or theirs ; 
and was successfully asserted only because he had not the 
means of resistance. It was that which no parent had the 
prerogative of yielding, and which in most instances no 
parent pretended to yield. The whole system is involun- 
tary on his part, and the property which is claimed in his 
person, his services, his wife, his children, was never the 
result of compact or voluntary agreement. 

2, It is property claimed in that which naturally belongs 
to him, but which he is not at liberty to resume to him- 
self. He is not at liberty to claim a property in his own 
time, person, family, bodily vigour, talent, or skill. There 
may be instances — as we are often told there are in slave- 
holding communities, and as we have no reason to doubt 
there are — in which, from kind treatment or other causes, the 
slave would prefer to remain with his master than to take 
the chances of freedom. He may see great and certain evils 
which would result if he were thrown upon his own re- 
sources, if, in the existing state of society, he should un- 
dertake to provide for himself and his family. Or, slavery 
may have so effectually accomplished its work, by destroying 
all that is noble in his nature, that he prefers to be a slave. 


to being a freeman. But while this may be true, he is not 
at hberty to do otherwise if he should choose, without the 
consent of his master. He has no independent volition in the 
case. A horse, if he had a choice, might prefer to remaiij 
the property of his owner by whom he was well taken care of, 
but he would not be at liberty to do otherwise if he chose. 

3. There is a right of property in all that pertains to the 
slave. It is a right extending, (1.) to his time. The slave 
can claim none as his own. The hours when he shall begin 
his work, and when he shall close it, his master claims the 
right of determining, and he has no choice in the case. 
(2.) To his service. " When this idea of property comes to 
be analyzed, it is found to be nothing more than a claim of 
service either for life or for a term of years. This claim 
is transferable, and is of the nature of property, and is con- 
sequently liable for the debts of the owner, and subject to his 
disposal by will or otherwise."* There is " something 
more''' than this in the claim of properly claimed in the 
slave, but this concession shows, what indeed no one would 
deny, that the master has a claim of ' service' in the slave, 
which is of the nature of transferable property. (3.) To 
his bodily strength and power of labour. The master asserts 
a claim over these, and the price of the slave, that is, the 
value of the property in him, is estimated in accordance 
with these things. Whatever the slave has of youth, 
physical power, vigour of constitution, capacity for enduring 
labour, enters into the notion of the property in him — ^just 
as much as the metal, speed, bottom, and pedigree of the 
horse does of his value. (4.) To his talent or skill. If he 
has a tact for labour ; if he has skill in any of the mechanic 
arts; if he has genius so that he can facihtate or abridge 
toil by useful inventions, it is all the property of the master. 
He is the more valuable on that account, and his superior 
worth is often published, when he is exposed to sale, if he 

* Bib. Repertory, pp. 293, 294. 


is a skilful and accomplished house-servant, or if he is en- 
dowed with mechanical talent. He has no right to avail 
himself of any skill which he may have in making a shoe, 
^ carriage, or a machine. He would have no right to take 
out a patent for the most useful invention ; he would have 
no right to enter a copyright for a book. Such a thing is 
never contemplated in the laws regulating slavery, and if a 
slave had any such endowment it would be wholly at the 
disposal of the master. 

4. The master claims this right of property in his services 
without equivalent or compensation. He does not pretend to' 
have given him any valuable consideration for the surrender 
of his freedom, and he furnishes him no equivalent for his 
labour. It is in vain to say that the food, the raiment, and 
the cottage of the slave are any equivalent for his services, 
or that the deficiency of these is made up by the implied 
pledge of the master that he will furnish him with medicine 
when he is sick, and that he will take care of him when he 
is old. None of these things are such an equivalent for his 
services that a freeman would be Vv^illing to contract for them 
by seUing himself into slavery ; they are not what a freeman 
can secure by voluntary labour. Besides, slavery is of neces- 
sity a system of unrequited toil. The master expects to 
make something by the slave ; that is, he expects to secure 
more from the labour of the slave than he returns to him. 
The whole arrangement of the system contemplates such a 
profit in slave labour, or such an increase of property from it 
over and above what the slave himself receives, as to meet 
the following expenses : — First, the interest on the capital 
paid for the slave — paid, not to him, but to the one from 
whom he is purchased. Secondly, all the diminution of the 
worth of the property from advancing age, from the proba- 
bilities of sickness, and the risk of death. This is no incon- 
siderable sum. If a man at twenty-five years of age costs 
five hundred dollars, his value is constantly diminishing by 
advancing age, and there is a constant risk of a total loss of 


the property ; and to make a return to the master for this 
diminution and the risk of the total loss, there must be in the 
system a calculation to receive from the labour rendered so 
much over and above what the slave himself receives, as to 
meet the chances of this loss and this regular decrease in 
his value. Thirdly, there must be, according to the sys- 
tem, enough received from the labour of slaves over and 
above what they receive, to support the master and his 
family, so far as any advantage is derived from slave 
labour, in idleness, and usually in luxury — for the system 
always has been, and essentially is, one of luxury. It is 
not designed in the system that the master shall labour. He 
buys his slaves in order that he and his family may not be 
under the necessity of earning any thing. The consequence 
is, that there is contemplated in the system the receipt from 
the labour of the slave, over and above what he himself 
receives, enough to maintain the master himself and his 
family in indolence. It follows from this, that the amount 
of the unrequited labour of the slave on the whole is that 
which is necessary to meet the interest on the capital 
invested in him ; that which is necessary to meet the 
regular diminution of his own value from advancing age 
and the risk of death ; and that part of his individual labour 
which will be necessary to support his master. Of course, 
the amount involved in this latter item will be regulated 
somewhat by the number of slaves. Each slave is to do his 
part. The system is to support all the masters and their 
families in indolence, or, at least so far as the system avails, 
it is to release him and them from the necessity of as much 
labour as is gained from the unrequited labour of the slave. 
This differs wholly from a free system, where the labourer 
receives what to him is a full compensation for his work. 
His employer has invested no capital in the person of the 
labourer ; makes no calculation about the diminution of his 
value or risk from sickness ; and does not contemplate being 
supported in indolence on unrequited labour. He gives 



what the labourer considers a full equivalent for his work ; 
he receives what is to him of equal value with the wages. 

(5.) This possession of property in the slave involves the 
right to sell him as the master pleases. It is not a right 
merely to dispose of his service for a term of years or for 
hfe ; it is a right to sell the slave himself. He sets the slave 
up at auction — not his services ; he disposes of the slave, in 
his will, by name — not of his unexpired term of service. He 
disposes of his person, his skill, his physical strength — all 
that he has that can be of value to himself or to another. 
He retains nothing to himself; he reserves no rights for the 
slave. This disposal o^ property is in all respects as absolute 
and entire as it is where a man sells a farm, a mill, or a 
horse. He may, moreover, sell or alienate him in any way 
he pleases, whether by a private bargain, by auction, or by a 
testamentary disposition — as is the case in any other property. 
He may sell him by sundering way ties which bind him to 
others ; regardless of any remonstrances of father or mother ; 
and irrespective of any obligations which the slave may feel 
himself under to a wife, a sister, or a child. " This claim," 
says the Bibhcal Repertory, "is transferable, and is conse- 
quently liable for the debts of the owner, and subject to his 
disposal by will or otherwise." This is the common view of 
slavery the world over, and on the subject of selling him the 
master feels himself under no more restrictions than he does 
in selling his dromedary or ox. 

That these are correct views of the nature of slavery, will 
be apparent from a brief reference to some of the existing laws 
on the subject, showing in what light slaves are regarded in 
the statutes of the slaveholding states in our country. Judge 
Stroud, in his " Sketch of the Laws respecting Slavery," 
says, " The cardinal principle of slavery, that the slave is not 
to be ranked among sentient beings, but among things — 
obtains as undoubted law in all these [the slave] states." 
The law of South Carohna says, " Slaves shall be claimed, 
held, taken, reputed and adjudged in law, to be chattels 


PERSONAL in the hands of their owners and possessors, and 
their executors, administrators, and assigns, to all intents, 
ana code says, " A slave is one who is in the power of the 
master to whom he belongs ; the master may sell him, dis- 
pose of his person, his industry, and his labour ; he can do 
nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire any thing but what 
must belong to his master."! So the Hon. J. K. Paulding, 
in his work on slavery, says, " Being property, slaves may 
be bought and sold by persons capable of buj'ing and selling 
other property. They are held to be personal estate,| and 
as such may be levied upon and sold for the debts of the 

This claim of property is not only asserted in all the books 
that treat of slavery, and in all the laws that regulate the 
system, but enters into the every-day view of the subject, 
and the practical working of the system. As a matter of 
fact slaves are regarded and treated as property, or as 
" chattels." They are bought or are inherited as such. 
They are advertised for sale by auction, or otherwise, as 
such. They are disposed of by will as such ; they may 
be seized as such, by a sheriffj and sold for the payment of 
debts. And when a slave is so disposed of, it is in the same 
way as any other property. There are no reserved rights to 
him as a man. There is no specification in the advertise- 
ment or the instrument of sale, that he differs from any 
other property ; there is no recognition of the fact that in 
any respect he is a human being, or is to be treated as such. 
There is no condition in the sale that any of his rights as a 
man, as a father, a brother, or a citizen, shall be regarded. 
It is not specified or imphed that he shall exercise any of the 
privileges of a freeman ; that he may himself ever hold pro- 
perty ; that he shall be taught to read ; that the cultivation 

* Brev. Dig. 229. f Civ. Code, art. 35. 

+ Rev. Code, vol. i, p. 431, s. 47. § P. 141. See also, p. 145. 



of his intellect shall be regarded ; that he shall have the 
liberty of worshipping God. None of his rights or feehngs 
as a son, a husband, or a father are consulted in the conditions 
of the sale, but his new master, hke his old one, may sunder 
any one of these relations as soon as he pleases, and for any 
cause that he chooses. 


The true question now is, whether this is a good insti- 
tution, and one which God designed to commend and per- 
petuate. Is it an institution for the maintenance of which 
He has made arrangements in his Avord, and which has his 
sanction ? Is it a system in accordance with the spirit of the 
religion which he has revealed, and which that religion is 
intended to keep up in the world ? Is it such an arrange- 
ment in society that the fair influence of that religion will 
tend to perpetuate it, as it will the relations of husband and 
wife, and of parent and child ? Or is it an institution which 
God regards as undesirable and evil in its nature and ten- 
dency, and which he intends to have removed from the 
world ? Would the fair application of the principles of his 
religion perpetuate it on the earth, or remove it as an evil 
thing ? This is the fair question now before us. According 
to the references made to the Scriptures, by most of the 
writers already alluded to, they would regard the former of 
these opinions as the true one — that slavery has the sanc- 
tion of God ; that he has from the beginning fostered and 
patronised the institution ; that he legislates for its continu- 
ance, as he does for the relation of parent and child ; and 
that the principles of his religion do not conflict with' its 
perpetuity on the earth. Is this the true position to be taken 
on the subject ? 

In this view of the real question, it is not necessary to 
agitate the inquiry whether slavery is a malum in se. That 
question is one that has usually given rise only to perplexing 
logomachies, and that has contributed little to determine the 


true issue in the inquiry. If it shall appear, in the course of 
this discussion, that slavery is an institution which God has 
never originated by positive enactment ; that his legislation 
has tended from the beginning to mitigate its evils ; that he 
has by his Providential dealings frowned upon it ; that he 
has asserted great principles in his word, which cannot be 
carried out without destroying the system ; that he has 
enjoined on man, in the various relations of life, certain 
duties, of which slavery prevents the performance ; that 
slavery engenders inevitably certain bad passions, which are 
wholly contrary to religion ; and that it is the tendency and 
the design of the Christian religion, when fairly applied, 
to abolish the system, it will be apparent that slavery is a 
moral wrong. God does not legislate against any thing that 
is good. His own Providential dealings are not against that 
which is desirable in society. His Gospel is not designed 
to abolish any good institution ; and if it shall appear that 
Christianity has such" provisions as are designed to remove 
slavery, the divine view in relation to it will be clear. To 
show what is that view, is the sole design of this discussion. 



Slavery in the time of the Patriarchs. 

In entering directly upon the question whether slavery, as 
before defined, is in accordance with the will of God, and is 
an institution which he designs should be perpetuated for 
the good of society, like the other relations of life contributing 
to the perfection of a community, it is natural to inquire 
whether any thing can be determined on this question from 
the practice of the patriarchs. The true inquiry here is, 
whether the patriarchs were holders of slaves in such a 
sense that it can be properly inferred that God regards 
slavery as a good and desirable institution. 

The support Avhich the advocates of slavery derive from 
the conduct of the patriarchs, has already been referred to. 
The reader will recall the quotations from the Presbyteries 
of Hopewell, Harmony, Charleston Union, and Tombecbee ; 
from the Biblical Repertory, and Paulding's work on slavery. 
The example of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 
is adduced as decisive on the point. Thus, as an instance, 
the Presbytery of Tombecbee, in their correspondence with 
the General Conference of Maine,* say, " On the subject of 
slavery we are willing to be guided by the Bible, the unerr- 
ing word of truth." " In the Bible the state of slavery is 
clearly recognised — Abraham, the friend of God, had slaves 
born in his house, and bought with his money. Isaac pos- 
sessed slaves, as is evident from Gen. xxvi. 14. Jacob held 
slaves, without the least remorse of conscience." So also Dr. 
Fuller! appeals with the utmost confidence to the fact that 
God indulged Abraham in the practice of slavery, in proof that 

* Pp. 12, 13. I Letters to Dr. Wayland, pp. 175, 176. 


it is not wrong. " 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 V 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 
Hved all his life in the commission of one of the most aggra- 
vated 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 crea- 
tures ; 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 state- 
ment. 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 appalhng magnitude.' " 

The question now is, whether the facts stated in the Bible, 
in reference to the conduct of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 
furnish an evidence that God means to sanction slavery, and 
regards it as an institution which he intends should be per- 
petuated. It is Avhether one who is a slaveholder in the 
United States, in the manner in which slavery exists here, is 
justified in it by the example of the patriarchs. 

Now those who make their appeal to the patriarchs, have. 


not informed us in what the strength of the argument lies, 
and what are precisely the considerations on which they rest 
such an appeal. It is possible, therefore, that injustice may 
be done them in an attempt to state what they would consider 
the true force of the argument. So far as I can see, however, 
the only bearing which the example of the patriarchs can 
have on the question, must consist in the following consider- 
ations : 

1. That, in the cases referred to, it was truly and properly 
slavery which was sanctioned by their example. Whatever 
is essential to slavery ; whatever constitutes its peculiarity, 
and distinguishes it from every other species of servitude, 
it must be assumed in the argument, existed under the patri- 
archs. In an attempt to prove that slavery is sanctioned by 
their example, it is indispensable to show that the slavery 
which existed then was essentially the same as that which it 
is proposed to vindicate by it. It is indispensable to make out 
that whatever is proposed to be vindicated by the example, 
should be found in the example. If, therefore, the essential 
thing in slavery, as has been already shown, be the right of 
property, and it be proposed to vindicate or justify this, it is 
essential to show that this idea existed in the kind of servi- 
tude recognised among the patriarchs. It would not throw 
any light on the question, if the condition referred to was one 
of voluntary servitude ; or if it were that of a serf or 'villein,' 
like the relation in Russia or under the feudal system ; it 
must involve the essential thing in slavery as it exists now. 
It is necessarily supposed, therefore, in this appeal to the 
patriarchs, that the idea of property in a human being 
existed in those cases, or the argument has no force or 
pertinenc}'-. And that this is supposed, is apparent from 
the argument relied on by the Presbytery of Tombecbee: 
"Abram, the friend of God, had slaves bought with 

3, That the patriarchs were good men, 'the friends of 
God,' and that we are safe and right in following the exam- 


pie of such men. The example of a patriarch, it is implied 
in the argument, must be decisive. Whatever he did, cannot 
be regarded as morally wrong, or a malum in se, and cannot 
be improper to be imitated in any relation of society, and at 
any period of the world. Unless this is implied in the appeal 
to the patriarchs, the argument has no force. For if it be 
admitted that they did things which would not be proper 
now ; that they indulged in any thing which is to be regard- 
ed as a malum in se, or that they entertained views which 
are not adapted to promote the best interests of society, and 
which God does not design to have perpetuated, it is possible 
that their conduct in regard to servitude may belong to this 
class. The argument, therefore, supposes that what they 
habitually did, is not to be regarded as a malum in se, or 
should not be called in question as morally wrong. 

3. The argument must involve this idea also, that as God 
permitted it, and as he caused their conduct to be recorded 
without any expression of disapprobation, it must have been 
therefore right. It is not pretended that he commanded the 
purchase of slaves in the time of the patriarchs, or that he 
commended them for what they did. The argument is 
based on his silence as to any expression of disapprobation, 
and on his causing the record to be made. The strength of 
this argument, then, must be, that whatever God permits 
among good men at any time, without a decided expression 
of disapprobation ; whatever he causes to be recorded as a 
matter of historical fact, must be regarded as authorizing 
the same thing in others, and as a proof that he considers 
it to be adapted to secure the best interests of society. 

I can conceive of no other grounds than these on which an 
argument in favour of slavery can be derived from the exiim- 
ple of the patriarchs. It is proposed now to inquire whether 
this argument is valid. Does it demonstrate what it is 
adduced to prove, that slavery is a good and desirable insti- 
tution ; that it meets with the approbation of God, and is an 
institution which he designs should be perpetuated ; and that 



men are justified in holding human beings as property now ? 
In reply to these questions, I shall consider what were the 
facts in the case ; and then what is the real value of the 

(1.) The kind of servitude referred to in the cases of the 
patriarchs was doubtless common at that time. We have, 
indeed, no historical documents to prove this, for we have no 
other records which go back to so remote ages. But there 
are some circumstances, which, in the absence of historical 
documents, render this probable. One is, that in the age of 
Job, who probably lived in the time of the patriarchs, the 
same kind of servitude is mentioned which appears to have 
prevailed in the days of Abraham. Thus in chap. i. 3, it is 
said of Job, that "he had a very great household,^'' ('^^?P, 
abuddd,) where the very word is used which, in various forms, 
is uniformly employed to denote servitude.* This does not 
determine, indeed, that those referred to were slaves^ but it 
shows that the kind of servitude mentioned in the account of 
the patriarchs, prevailed in the land of Uz, that is, probably, 
in Arabia Deserta, and in the country adjacent to Chaldea. 

(2.) A second circumstance is, that we have mention of an 
historical fact pertaining to those times, which shows that the 
buying and selling of men was common. Thus when it was 
proposed by the brethren of Joseph to sell him to the travel- 
ing Ishmaelites who were engaged in commerce, they made 
no more scruple about buying him, than they would have 
done any thing that had been offered for sale ; and the same 
thing occurred when he was exposed for sale by them in 
the Egyptian market. He was readily bought by Potiphar, 
Gen, xxxvii. 27, 28; xxxix. 1. This whole transaction looks 
as if the buying and selling of men was then a common thing, 
and was as allowable as any other species of traffic. 

(3.) A third circumstance is, that servants appear to have 
been in the market, or to have been held by those who dwelt 

• Gen. xxtL 14; xxx. 26; xii. 16; xvii. 33; xxxix. 17, etal. 


in the vicinity of Abraham, for it is said that he had "ser- 
vants bought wAh. money," Gen. xvii. 12. This would 
seem to show that they were held for sale by others, that is, 
that servitude of this kind prevailed there. 

(4.) The fourth circumstance is, that as far back as we can 
trace the history of nations, we find the existence of slavery 
in some form. We find it represented in the historical paint- 
ings of Egypt, where nothing is more common than drawings 
of slaves or captives. We find it in the earhest stages of the 
history of Greece and Rome. We find it in the practice of 
conquerors, who were accustomed to regard the captives 
taken in war as the property of the captors, and who were 
supposed to have a right to kill them, to sell them, or to 
retain them as slaves at their pleasure. We find it in the 
earliest laws, and in the claims set up under those laws to 
certain persons held to servitude. Those laws are but the 
expressions of the early opinions on the subject, and an 
exponent of the prevaihng practice. Thus these causes are 
assigned by Justinian as laying a foundation for slavery, or 
as making the enslaving of others proper. Servi aut Jiunt, 
met nascuntur: Jiunt jure gentium, aut jure civili: nas- 
cuntur ex ancillis nostris.* According to this, slaves are 
said to become such in three ways : by birth, where the mo- 
ther was a slave ; by captivity in war ; and by the voluntary 
sale of himself as a slave by a freeman of the age of twenty. 
Blackstone examines these causes of slavery, and shows them 
all to rest on uncertain foundations ; and he insists that a state 
of slavery is repugnant to reason, and contrary to natural 
law.t The foundation of this claim was undoubtedly wrong ; 
but the fact that it was made, shows the state of feeling in 
the earhest times, and may be regarded as proof that slavery 
prevailed in the remotest periods of the world. Whatever 
may be said, therefore, about the state of servitude in the 

* Just. 1, 3, 4. 

f Coram, i. 423, 424. Comp. Kent's Commentaries on American Law, 
L 427, seq. 


time of the patriarchs, and whatever conclusions may be 
drawn from the fact that they held slaves, it cannot be held 
that they originated the system. It was a system which 
they doubtless found in existence, and they acted only in 
accordance with the customs of all the surrounding nations. 

In order now adequately to understand what was the real 
character of the servitude which existed among the patri- 
archs, on Avhich so much reliance is placed b)'' those who 
attempt to sustain the system by an appeal to the Bible, it is 
of the utmost importance to understand what is the exact 
sense of the word used to designate this relation in the 
Scriptures. If the word rendered servant in the Old Testa- 
ment necess'arily means slaves in the modern sense of the 
term, it will do something to settle the question whether 
slavery as it now exists is in accordance with the will of God. 
It must be assumed by those who bring the example of the 
patriarchs in support of slavery, that the word had the same 
signification then which it has now ; for if the word, as used 
in their times, meant an essentially different thing from what 
it does now, it is obvious that its use furnishes no argument 
in support of slavery. 

The Greeks, accustomed to exact distinctions, and favoured 
with a language so refined as to distinguish the nicest shades 
of thought, discriminated accurately between various kinds 
of servitude, and designated those relations in a way which 
is not common in other languages. To serve in general^ 
without reference to the manner in which the obligation to 
service originated, whether by purchase, by contract, by being 
made a captive in war, as a subject, a dependent, they ex- 
pressed by the word ^ovxsvu — douleuo / to serve as a soldier 
for reward, or to serve the gods, they expressed by the word 
jiarpsvcd — latreuo, (Passoio); to serve as a domestic or house- 
hold servant, under whatever manner the obligation arose, they 
expressed by the word olxufsw — oiketeuo ; to serve in the 
capacity of a hired man, or for pay in any capacity, they ex- 


pressed by the word jUkj^ow — misthod ; to serve in the capa- 
city of an attendant or waiter, especially at a door, they 
expressed by the word vrtaxow — hypakoud, (Fossow). The 
proper word to denote a slave, with reference to the master's 
right of property in him, and without regard to the relations 
and offices in which he was employed, was not SovXoi — dou- 
los, but avSpdttoSov — andrapodon, defined by Passow, Sklctv, 
Knecht, bes. der diirch Kriegsgefangenschoft in Leibeigcn- 
schaft Gerathne—^'a. ^lave, servant, especially one who as a 
prisoner of war is reduced to bondage.'* Hence the Greeks 
used the term ^oiJxoj — doulos, to express servitude in the 
most general form, whatever might be the method by which 
the obligation to service originated. They used the term 
di/SpartoSov — andrapodon, to denote a slave regarded as pro- 
perty ; the term S^uwj — dmds, also, to denote a slave as one 
conquered, or as primarily made by capture in war ; t the 
terms olxsvi — oikeus, X oixi-itii — oiketes, to denote a household 
servant ; the term vrtj^xooj- — hypekoos, to denote an attendant, 
a waiter ; the term nis^io^ — misthios, to denote a hired man, 
or a labourer in the employ of another ; and the word ^afptj 
— latris, to denote one who served for pay, as a soldier. 
That hov-Koi — doulos might be a slave, and that the word is 
most commonly applied to slaves in the classic writers, and 
frequently in the New Testament, no one can doubt ; but its 
mere use in any case does not of necessity denote the relation 
sustained, or make it proper to infer that he to whom it is 
applied was bought with money, or held as property, or even 
in any way regarded as a slave. It might be true also that 
the various terms doulos, dmds, andrapodon, oiketes, and 
possibly hypekoos, might all be applied to persons who had 
been obtained in the same way — either by purchase, or by 
being made prisoners in war ; but these terms, except those of 

* Comp. Prof. G. W. Becker, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. ii. p. 569 
f Od. i. 398 ; lb. xix. 9, 333, {Cmsius, Lex.) 
+ Od. xiv. 4, iv. 245. 



andrapodon and dmds, would not designate the origin of the 
relation, or the nature of the tenure by which the servant was 
bound. The words used in our language — servant, slave^ 
waiter^ hired man, though not marking the relations with 
quite as much accuracy as the Greek words, will indicate 
somewhat the nature of the distinctions. It may be proper 
to add, that the word doidos, as remarked above, is frequently 
used in the New Testament, being found one hundred and 
twenty-two times ;* the word olxttrji — oiketes, occurs four 
times, in three places rendered servant — and in one house- 
hold servant: Luke xvi. 13, "No servant can serve two 
masters ;" Acts x. 7, " He calfed two of his household ser- 
vants;" Rom. xiv. 4, " That judgest another man's servant;^* 
and 1 Pet. ii. 18, " Servants, be subject to your masters ;" 
the word fiia^ioi — misthios, occurs in Luke xv. 17, 19, in 
both places rendered hired servants, — " How many hired 
servants of my father's," — " Make me as one of thy hii'ed 
servants ;" the word irt,[xooi — hypekoos, occurs in Acts vii. 
39, 2 Cor. ii. 9, Phil. ii. 8, in each case rendered obedient ; 
the word xatptj — latris, does not occur, though the word 
^a.T'pgt'a — latreia, service, and ta-i^ivi^ — latreuo, to serve, fre- 
quently occur, applied in all cases to religious service ; and 

* « According to Greenfield's Schmidius, the word doulos occurs 122 
times in the New Testament. Of these, 19 are parallel ; and the remain- 
ing 103 may be classed as follows: 

1. Applied to servants of men ; 

[1] Of Jewish masters, 47 times. 

[2] Of masters generally without distinction, 18 « 

[3] Of a Gentile master, [Mat. viii. 9,] I « 
[4] To Christians as servants of each other, [Mat. xx. 27, 

2 Cor. iv. 5,] 3 « 

2. To the servants of God and Christ, 38 « 

3. To Christ as the servant of God, [Phil. ii. 7,] 1 « 

4. To the servants of sin and Satan, 4 " 

5. Used indefinitely, [Rom. vi. 16,] 1 " 

6. To those ' under the elements of the world.' [Gal, iv.,] 1 « 



the word avSpuTtoSov — andrapodon, which peculiarly denotes 
slavery, does not occur at all, though the correlative word 
avb(ia.7io8iaxyii — andrapodistes, occurs once (1 Tim. i. 10) with 
the most marked disapprobation of the thing denoted by it : — 
" The law is made for murderers of fathers and murderers of 
mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for men-stealers, 
for liars," &c. 

The Hebrews made no such minute ' distinctions as the 
Greeks did. Their language was less cultivated, and much 
less adapted to express nice discriminations of thought. They 
used but one word, l^j^ ebedh, to express all the relations of 
servitude — somewhat as the word servant is used in the 
slaveholding states of our own country. Among the He- 
brews, however, the word was used as expressing, with pro- 
priety, the relations sustained ; in a slaveholding community 
it is adopted as a mild term to avoid the use of the odious 
and offensive term slave. 

The Hebrew words ~\2Vl ebedh, n-jbj; abodha, and m3jr 
abicddd, rendered commonly servant, service, and servants, 
(Job i. 3,) are derived from 13j; dbddh, meaning to labour, to 
work, to do work. It occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures some 
hundreds of times in various forms of the word, and is never 
rendered slaves, but commonly servants, and serve. Occa- 
sionally the words derived from the verb are rendered bond- 
man, or bond-servant, Lev. xxv. 39, 42, 44 ; Josh. ix. 23 ; 
1 Kings ix. 22. The verb and the nouns derived from it are 
applied to any and every kind of service or servitude which 
one can render to another. The ideas of working for an- 
other, ministering to another, being' bound to another, being 
tributary to another, offering homage to another, will all be 
found embraced in this word. The essential significations 
in the use of the word are (l.)to labour or work, without 
respect to the question who it is for, and (2.) to render service 
to another ; that is, to be subject to him, and to act with 
reference to his will. In accordance Avith this, the word, in 
various forms, is used to denote the following kinds of service : 


(l.)To work Tor another, Gen. xxix. 20, xxvii. 40, xxix. 15, 
XXX. 26, 1 Sam. iv. 9. (2.) To serve or be servants of a 
king, 2 Sam. xvi. 19, Gen. xl. 20, xli. 10, 37, 38, 1. 7, Ex. 
V. 21, vii. 10, X. 7. (3J To serve as a soldier, 2 Sam. ii. 
12, 13, 15, 30, 31, iii. 22, viii. 7, et saepe. (4.) To serve as 
an ambassador, 2 Sam. x. 2 — 4. (5.) To serve as a people ; 
that is, w^hen one people were subject to another, or tributary 
to another, Gen. xiv. 4, xv. 14, xxv. 23, Isa. xix. 23, Gen. 
XV. 13, ix. 26, 27, xxvii. 37. (6.) To serve God, or idols, 
Ex. iii. 12, ix. 1, 13, Deut. iv. 19, viii. 19. Under this head 
the word is often used in the sense of ' the servant of Je- 
hovah,' applied (a) to a worshipper of the true God, Neh. i. 
10, Ezra v. 11-, Dan. vi. 21, et saepe; (6) a minister, or 
ambassador of God, Isa. xlix. 6, Jer. xxv. 9, xxvii. 6, xliii. 
10, Deut. xxxiv. 5, Josh. i. 1, Ps. cv. 26, Isa. xx. 3. 
(7) The word is often employed to denote a servant, whether 
hired, bought, or inherited, — one who was involuntarily held 
to service to another. In this sense it is frequently used in 
the laws of Moses ; for all the kinds of servitude which are 
referred to there, are designated by this term. As already 
observed, the Hebrews did not make distinctions between the 
various- kinds of service with the accuracy of the Greeks. 
So far as I have been able to ascertain, they made no distinc- 
tions of that kind, except that in later times they made use of 
one other term besides 1^1^ ebedh, which, was T'^i^' sdkir, 
one hired ; a hired labourer ; one to whom wages was paid, 
Ex. xii. 45, xxii. 14, Lev. xix. 13, Isa. xvi. 14, Job vii. 1. 
In one passage in Job (vii. 2, 3) the two words occur in the 
same verse, where the distinction is marked, and yet so as, 
by the parallelism, to show that the persons referred to were 
regarded as in some respects on a level. 

"As a servant — "^^V ebedh — earnestly desireth the shadow, 
" And as an hireling — y^'^ sa^iV^ooketh for the reward 

of his work, 
*' So am I made to possess vanity, 
" And wearisome nights are appointed to me.' 


There were, indeed, in the Hebrew language, two words 
which denoted exclusively female domestics or servants, 
which may be regarded as a refinement peculiar to them. I 
do not knowthat'it occurs often in other languages. Neither 
of these words, however, were designed, so far as I can per- 
ceive, to denote the kind of service Avhich was to be rendered, 
but only to mark the distinction of sex. The female servant 
thus designated might either be hired, or bought, or inherited, 
or be a captive taken in war. Their condition seems to have 
partaken of the general nature of servitude, though for what 
reason a distinctive name was given to them is not certainly 
known. One of the names used was nox, umd, rendered 
maid-servant, Ex. xx. 10, xxi. 7, 32, Job xxxi. 13, Deut. 
XV. 17; bond-maid. Lev. xxv. 44; bond-ivoman. Gen. xxi. 
10, 12, 13 ; maid. Gen. xxx. 3, Lev. xxv. 6, Ex. ii. 5, Job 
xix. 15, Nah. ii. 7 ; hand-maid, Ex. xxiii. 12, Ruth iii. 9, 
1 Sam. i. 11, xxv. 24, and often ; — and the other name was 
nriflK^, Shiphhha, rendered hand-maid. Gen. xvi. 1, xxix. 
24, Prov. xxx. 23, Gen. xxv. 12, xxxv. 25, 26 ; bond-maid. 
Lev. xix. 20 ; maiden, Ps. cxxiii. 2 ; women-servants, Gen. 
xxxii. 5, 6; maid-servant, Ex. xi. 5, 1 Sam. viii. 16, Gen. 
xii. 16, xxiv. 35, xxx. 43 ; wench, 2 Sam. xvii. 17 ; and 
servant, 1 Sam. xxv. 41. The distinction between these two 
words applied to female servants, it is probably impossible 
now to mark. 

From this examination of the terms used to denote servi- 
tude among the Hebrews, it follows that nothing can be in- 
ferred from the mere use of the vjord in regard to the kind 
of servitude which existed in the days. of the patriarchs. 
The conclusions which would be fair from the use of the 
word, would be these, (l.)That any service, whether hired 
labour, or that rendered by one who was bought ; whether 
that of a freeman or a slave ; whether in the house or the 
field, would be properly expressed by the use of the Hebrew 
word. (2,jThat at any period of their history the word 
denoted servitude as it then existed, and its meaning in any 


particular age is to be sought from a knowledge of the kind 
of servitude which then actually prevailed. We can ascer- 
tain the meaning of the word from the facts in the case ; 
not the nature of the facts from the use of the word. If the 
kind of servitude existed which does now in England, and to 
which the w^ord servant is applied, it would accurately express 
that ; if the kind which existed under the feudal system, 
it would express that ; if the kind which exists in Russia, 
it would express that; and if such a kind as exists in the 
Southern states of this Union, it would express that. (3.) The 
word might, therefore, denote slavery, if slavery at any time 
existed. The Hebrews would not have been under a neces- 
sity of forming a new word to denote that relation, but the 
term in actual use would have covered the whole ground, 
and would easily adapt itself to the actual state of things. 
But (4.) it did not necessarily denote that, and that signifi- 
cation is not to be given to it in any case unless it is clear, 
from other sources than from the use of the word, that 
slavery was intended. It might mean many other things, 
and it is not a correct method of interpretation to infer that 
because this word is used, that therefore slavery existed. 

It follows from this, that the mere use of the word in the 
time of the patriarchs, determines nothing in the issue before 
us. It does not prove either that slavery existed then, or 
that it is lawful. For any thing that can be learned from 
the mere use of the V)ord, the kind of servitude then existing 
may have had none of the essential elements of slavery. 

This inquiry into the meaning of the word will be of use 
through the whole discussion, for it is important to bear in 
remembrance that this use of the term nowhere in the Scrip- 
tures of necessity implies slavery. 

(3.) Some of the servants held by the patriarchs were 
^bought with money.'' Much reliance is laid on this by the 
advocates of slavery, in justifying the purchase, and conse- 
quently, as they seem to reason, the sale of slaves now ; and 
it is, therefore, of importance to inquire how far the fact 


stated is a justification of slavery as it exists at present. 
But one instance occurs in the case of the patriarchs, where 
it is said that servants were ' bought Avith money.' This is 
the case of Abraham, Gen. xvii. 12, 13: "And he that is 
eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man- 
child in your generations ; he that is born in the house, or 
bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy 
seed ; he that is born in thy house, and lie that is bought 
vnth thy money, must needs be circumcised." Comp. vs. 23, 
27. This is the only instance in which there is mention of 
the fact that any one of the patriarchs had persons in their 
employment who were bought with money. The only other 
case which occurs at that period of the world is that of the sale 
of Joseph, first to the Ishmaehtes, and then to the Egyptians 
— a case which, it is believed, has too close a resemblance to 
slavery as it exists in our own country, ever to be referred to 
with much satisfaction by the advocates of the system. In 
the case, moreover, of Abraham, it should be remembered 
that it is the record of a mere fact. There is no command 
to buy servants or to sell them, or to hold them as property 
— any more than there was a command to the brethren of 
Joseph to enter into a negotiation for the sale of their brother. 
Nor is there any approbation expressed of the fact that they 
were bought ; unless the command given to Abraham to affix 
to them the seal of the covenant, and to recognise them as 
brethren in the faith which he held, should be construed as 
such evidence of approval. 

The inquiry then presents itself, whether the fact that they 
were bought determines any thing with certainty in regard 
to the nature of the servitude, or to the propriety of slavery 
as practised now. The Hebrew in the passages referred to 
in Genesis is, ' the born in thy house, and the purchase of 
silver,^ *]D3-nJpD — miknath keseph — not incorrectly ren- 
dered, 'those bought with money.' The verb HJp kdnd, 
from which the noun here is derived, and which is com- 
monly used in the Scriptures when the purchase of slaves 


is referred to, means to set upright, or erect, to found or 
create. Gen. xiv. 19, 22, Deut. xxxii. 6; to get for oneself 
to gain or acquire, Prov. iv. 7, xv. 32 ; to obtain, Gen. 
iv. 1 ; and to buy or purchase, Gen. xxv. 10, xlvii. 22. 
In this latter sense it is often used, and with the same 
latitude of signification as the word buy or purchase is with 
us. It is most commonly rendered by the words buy and 
purchase in tke Scriptures. See Gen. xxv. 10, xlvii. 22; 
xlix. 30, 1. 13 ; Josh. xxiv. 32 ; 2 Sam. xii. 3 ; Ps. Ixxviii. 
54 ; Deut. xxxii. 6 ; Lev. xxvii. 24, and very often else- 
where. It is applied to the purchase of fields ; of cattle ; 
of men ; and of every thing which was or could be regarded 
as property. As there is express mention of silver or tnoney 
in the passage before us respecting the servants of Abraham, 
there is no doubt that the expression means that he paid 
a price for a part of his servants. A part of them were 
"born in his house ;" a part had been "bought with money" 
from ' strangers,' or were foreigners. 

But still, this use of the word in itself determines nothing 
in regard to the tenure by which they were held, or the 
nature of the servitude to which they were subjected. It 
does not prove that they were regarded as property in the 
sense in which the slave is now regarded as a chattel ; 
nor does it demonstrate that the one who was bought 
ceased to be regarded altogether as a man ; or that it was 
regarded as right to sell him again. The fact that he 
was to be circumcised as one of the family of Abraham, 
certainly does not look as if he ceased to be regarded as 
a man. 

The word rendered buy or purchase in the Scriptures, 
is applied to so many kinds of purchases, that no safe 
argument can be founded on its use in regard to the kind 
of servitude which existed in the time of Abraham. A 
reference to a few cases where this word is used, will 
show that nothing is determined by it respecting the tenure 
by which the thing purchased was held. (1.) It is used 


in the common sense of the word purchase as applied 
to inanimate things, where the property wouid be absolute. 
Gen. xlii. 2, 7, xhii. 20, xlvii. 19, xxx. 19. (2.) It is 
applied to the purchase of cattle, where the property may 
be supposed to be as absolute. See Gen. xlvi. 22, 24, 
\v. 20; Job xxxvi. 33; Deut. iii. 19; and often. (3.) God 
is represented as having bought his people ; that is, as 
having ransomed them with a price, or purchased them 
to himself. Deut. xxxii. 6, "Is not he thy Father that 
hath bought thee?" — '"l^j"? — kdnekhd — thy purchaser. 
Ex. XV. 16, "By the greatness of thine arm they shall be 
still as a stone, till thy people pass over; till the people 
pass over which thou hast purchased." — ^'lyl^ kdnithd. 
See Psalm Ixxiv. 2. Comp. Isa. xhii. 3, "I gave Egypt 
for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for. thee." But though 
the word purchase is used in relation to the redemption 
of the people of God — the very word which is used 
respecting the servants of Abraham — no one will maintain 
that they were held as slaves, or regarded as property. 
Who can tell but what Abraham purchased his servants in 
some such way, by redeeming them from galling captivity ? 
May they not have been prisoners in war, to whom 
he did an inestimable service in rescuing them from a 
condition of grievous and hopeless bondage ? May they 
not have been slaves in the strict and proper sense, and 
may not his act of purchasing them have been, in fact, a 
species of emancipation in a way similar. to that in which 
God emancipates his people from the galling servitude 
of sin ? The mere act of paying a price for them no more 
implies that he continued to hold them as slaves, than it 
does now when a man purchases his wife or child who have 
been held as slaves, or than the fact that God has redeemed 
his people by a price implies that he regards them as 
slaves. (4.) Among the Hebrews a man might sell himself, 
and this transaction on the part of him to whom he sold 
himself would be represented by the word bought. Thus 



in Lev. xxv. 47, 48, " And if a sojourner or a stranger wax 
rich by tliee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax 
poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, 
or to the stock of the stranger's family, after that he is sold, 
he may be redeemed again." This transaction is repre- 
sented as a purchase. Ver. 50, "And he shall reckon 
with him that bought him, (Heb. his purchaser, -iJ^Jp 
konaihu,) from the year that he was sold unto the year of 
jubilee," &c. This was a mere purchase of time or service. 
It gave no right to sell the man again, or to retain him in 
any event beyond a certain period, or to retain him at all, 
if his friends chose to interpose and redeem him. It gave 
no right of property in the man, any more than the purchase 
of the unexpired time of an apprentice, or the ' purchase' 
of the poor in the state of Connecticut does. In no proper 
sense of the word could this be called slavery. (5.) The 
word buy or purchase was sometimes applied to the 
manner in which a wife was procured. Thus Boaz is 
represented as saying that he had bought Ruth. " More- 
over, Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I 
purchased ('^'J|3 — kdnithi) to be my wife." Here the 
word which is applied to the manner in which Abraham 
became possessed of his servants, is applied to the manner 
in which a wife Avas procured. So Hosea says, (ch. iii. 2,) 
" So I bought her to me (another word however being used 
in the Hebrew, nns kara) for fifteen pieces of silver, and 
for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley." Jacob 
purchased his wives, Leah and Rachel, not indeed by the 
payment of money, but by labour. Gen. xxix. 15 — 23. 
That the practice of purchasing a wife, or paying a ' dowry' 
for her was common, is apparent from Ex. xxii. 17 ; 1 Sam. 
xviii. 25. Comp. Judges i. 12, 13. Yet it will not be 
maintained that the wife, among the Hebrews, was in any 
proper sense a slave, or that she was regarded as subject 
to the laws which regulate property, or that the husband 
had a right to sell her again. In a large sense^ indeed, 


she was regarded, as the conductors of the Princeton 
Repertory (1836, p. 298) allege, as the .wife is now, as the 
property of her husband ; that is, she was his to the 
exclusion of the claim of any other man, but she was his 
as his unfe, not as his slave. (6.) The word '■boughf 
occurs in a transaction between Joseph and the people 
of Egypt in such a way as farther to explain its meaning. 
When, during the famine, the money of the Egyptians 
had failed, and Joseph had purchased all the land, the 
people proposed to become his servants. When the con- 
tract was closed, Joseph said to them, "Behold I have 
bought you — ■'^'JP Mnithi — this day, and your land for 
Pharaoh," Gen. xlvii. 23. The nature of this contract is 
immediately specified. They were to be regarded as 
labouring for Pharaoh. The land belonged to him, and 
Joseph furnished the people seed, or 'stocked the land,' 
and they were to cultivate it on. shares for Pharaoh. The 
fifth part was to be his, and the other four parts were to be 
theirs. There was a claim on them for labour, but it does 
not appear that the claim extended farther. No farmers 
now who work land on shares, would be willing to have 
their condition described as one of slavery. 

The conclusion which we reach from this examination 
of the words buy and bought as applied to the case of 
Abraham is, that the use of the word determines nothing in 
regard to the tenure by which his servants Avere held. 
They may have been purchased from those who had taken 
them as captives in war, and the purchase may have been 
regarded by themselves as a species of redemption, or a 
most desirable rescue from the fate which usually attends 
such captives — perchance from death. The property which 
it was understood that he had in them niay have been 
merely property in their time, and not in their persons. 
Or the purchase may have in fact amounted to every thing 
that is desirable in emancipation, and, from any thing implied 
in the word, their subsequent service in the family of Abra- 


ham may have been entirely voluntary. It is a very 
material circumstance also that there is not the slightest 
evidence either Jlbraham, Isaac, or Jacob ever sold a 
slave, or offered one for sale, or regarded them as liable 
to be sold. There is no evidence that their servants even 
descended as a part of an inheritance from father to son. 
So far, indeed, as the accounts in the Scriptures go, it would 
be impossible to prove that they would not have been at 
liberty at any time to leave their masters, if they had 
chosen to do so. The passage, therefore, which says that 
Abraham had 'servants bought with money,' cannot be 
adduced to justify slavery as it exists now — even if this 
were all that we know about it. But 

(4.) Servitude in the days of Abraham must have existed 
in a very mild form, and have had features which slavery by 
no means has now. Almost the only transaction which is 
mentioned in regard to the servants of Abraham, is one 
which could never occur in the slaveholding parts of our 
country. A marauding expedition of petty kings came from 
the North and East, and laid waste the country around the 
vale of Sid dim, near to which Abraham lived, and among 
other spoils of battle they carried away Lot and his posses- 
sions. Abraham, it is said, then ' armed his trained servants, 
born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pur- 
sued them unto Dan,' and rescued the family of Lot and 
his goods. Gen. xiv. This narrative is one that must for 
ever show that servitude, as it existed in the family of Abra- 
ham, was a A'ery different thing from what it is in the United 
States. The number was large, and it does not appear that 
any persons but his servants accompanied Abraham. They 
were all armed. They were led off on a distant expedition, 
where there could have been no power in Abraham to pre- 
serve his life, if they had chosen to rise up against him, and 
no power to recover them, if they had chosen to set them- 
selves free. Yet he felt himself entirely safe, when accompa- 
nied with this band of armed men, and when far away from 


his family and his home. What must have been the nature 
of servitude, where the master was wilHng to arm such a 
company ; to put himself entirely at their disposal, and lead 
them off to a distant land ? 

Compare with this the condition of things in the United 
States. Here, it is regarded as essential to the security of the 
hfe of the master, that slaves shall never be intrusted with 
arms. "A slave is not allowed to keep or carry a weapon."* 
" He cannot go from the tenement of his master, or other per- 
son with whom he lives, without a pass, or something to show 
that he is proceeding by authority from his master, employer, 
or overseer."! " For keeping or carrying a gun, or powder, 
or shot, or club, or other weapon whatsoever, offensive or de- 
fensive, a slave incurs, for each offence, thirty-nine lashes, by 
order of a justice of the peace ;"J and in North Carohna and 
Tennessee, twenty lashes, by the nearest constable, without 
a conviction by the justice. § Here, there is every precaution 
from laws, and from the dread of the most fearful kind of 
punishment, against the escape of slaves. Here, there is a 
constant apprehension that they may rise against their mas- 
ters, and every security is taken against their organization 
and combination. Here, there is probably not a single master 
who would, if he owned three hundred slaves, dare to put 
arms in their hands, and lead them off on an expedition 
against a foe. If the uniform precautions and care at the 
South against arming the slaves, or allowing them to become 
acquainted with their own strength, be any expression respect- 
ing the nature of the system, slavery in the United States is a 
very different thing from servitude in the time of Abraham, 
and it does not prove that in the species of servitude existing 

* Rev. Code Virg. vol. i. p. 453, § 83, 84. 
f Ibid. vol. i. p. 422, § 6. See Paulding on Slavery, p. 146. 
+ 2 Litt. and Swi. 1150; 2 Missouri Laws, 741, § 4. 
§ Hayv^ood's Manual, 521; Stroud on the Laws relating to Slavery, 
p. 102. 



here it is right to refer to the case of Abraham, and to say that 
it is 'a good patriarchal syste^n.^ Let the cases be made 
parallel before the names of the patriarchs are called in to 
justify the system. But 

(5.) What real support would it furnish to the system, 
even if it were true that the cases were wholly parallel? 
How far would it go to demonstrate that God regards it as a 
good system, and one that is to be perpetuated, in order that 
society may reach its highest possible elevation ? Who 
would undertake to vindicate all the conduct of the patri- 
archs, or to maintain that all which they practised was in 
accordance with the will of God ? They practised concu- 
binage and polygamy. Is it therefore certain that this was 
the highest and purest state of society, and that it was a state 
which God designed should be perpetuated ? Abraham and 
Isaac Avere guilty of falsehood and deception, (Gen. xx. 2, 
seq. ; xxvi. 7 ;) Jacob secured the birthright, by a collusive 
fraud between him and«his mother, (Gen. xxvii,) and obtained 
no small part of his property by cunning, (Gen. xxx. 86-43 ;) 
and Noah was drunk with wine, (Gen. ix. 21 ;) and these 
things are recorded merely as fads, Avithout any decided ex- 
pression of disapprobation ; but is it therefore to be inferred 
that they had the approbation of God, and that they are to 
be practised still, in order to secure the highest condition 
of society ? 

Take the single case of polygamy. Admitting that the 
patriarchs held slaves, the argument in favour of polygamy, 
from their conduct, would be, in all its main features, the 
same as that which I suggested, in the commencement of this 
chapter, as employed in favour of slavery. The argument 
would be this : — that they were good men, the * friends of 
God,' and that Avhat such men practised freely cannot be 
wrong ; that God permitted this ; that he nowhere forbade it ; 
that he did not record his disapprobation of the practice ; 
and that whatever God permitted in such circumstances, 
without expressing his disapprobation, must be regarded as 


in itself a good thing, and as desirable to be perpetuated, in 
order that society may reach the highest point of elevation. 
It is perfectly clear that, go far as the conduct of the patri- 
archs goes, it would be just as easy to construct an argument 
in favour of polygamy as in favour of slavery — even on the 
supposition that slavery existed then essentially as it does 
now. But it is not probable that polygamy would be defend- 
ed now, as a good institution, and as one that has the appro- 
bation of God, even by those who defend the 'domestic 
institutions of the South.' The truth is, that the patriarchs 
were good men in their generation, and, considering their cir- 
cumstances, were men eminent for piety. But they were 
imperfect men ; they lived in the infancy of the world ; they 
had comparatively httle light on the subjects of morals and 
rehgion ; and it is a very feeble argument which maintains 
that a thing is right, because any one or all of the patri- 
archs practised it. 

But after all, what real sanction did God ever give either 
to polygamy or to servitude, as it was practised in the time 
of the patriarchs 1 Did he command either ? Did he ever 
express approbation of either ? Is there an instance in which 
either is mentioned with a sentiment of approval ? The 
mere record of actual occurrences, even if there is no declared 
disapprobation of them, proves nothing as to the divine esti- 
mate of what is recorded. There is a record of the ' sale' of 
Joseph into servitude, first to the Ishmaehtes, and then to 
Potiphar. There is no expression of disapprobation. There 
is no exclamation of surprise or astonishment, as if a deed of 
enormous wickedness were done, when brothers sold their 
own brother into hopeless captivity. This was done also by 
those who were subsequently reckoned among the 'patri- 
archs,' and some of whom at the time were probably pious 
men. Will it be inferred that God approved this transac- 
tion ; that he meant to smile on the act, when brothers sell 
their own brothers into hopeless bondage? Will this record 
be adduced to justify kidnapping, or the acts of parents in 


barbarous lands, who, forgetful of all the laws of their nature, 
sell their own children ? Will the record that the Ishmaelites 
took the youthful Joseph into a distant land, and sold him 
there as a slave, be referred to as furnishing evidence that 
God approves the conduct of those who kidnap the unof- 
fending inhabitants of Africa, or buy them there, and carry 
them across the deep, to be sold into hopeless bondage? 
Why then should the fact that there is a record that the 
patriarchs held servants, or bought them, without any ex- 
pressed disapprobation of the deed, be adduced as evidence 
that God regards slavery as a good institution, and intends 
that it shall be perpetuated under the influence of his religion, 
as conducing to the highest good of society ? The truth is, 
that the mere record of a fact, even without any sentiment of 
approbation or disapprobation, is no evidence of the views of 
him who makes it. Are we to infer that Herodotus approved 
of all that he saw or heard of in his travels, and of which he 
made a record ? Are we to suppose that Tacitus and Livy 
approved of all the deeds the memory of which they have 
transmitted for the instruction of future ages ? Are we to 
maintain that Gibbon and Hume believed that all which 
they have recorded was adapted to promote the good of man- 
kind 1 Shall the biographer of Nero, and Caligula, and 
Richard III., and Alexander VI., and Caesar Borgia, be held 
responsible for approving of all that these men did, or of com- 
mending their example to the imitation of mankind ? Sad 
would be the office of an historian were he to be thus judged. 
Why then shall we infer that God approved of all that the 
patriarchs did, even when there is no formal disapprobation 
expressed ; or infer, because such transactions have been 
recorded, that therefore they are right in his sight ? 



Slavery in Egypt. 

The will of God may often be learned from the events of 
his providence. From his dealings with an individual, a 
class of men, or a nation, we may ascertain whether the 
course which has been pursued was agreeable to' his will. 
It is not, indeed, always safe to argue, that because calamities 
come upon an individual, they are sent as a punishment on 
account of any peculiarly aggravated sin, or that these cala- 
mities prove that he is a greater sinner than others, (Luke 
xiii. 1 — 5,) but when a certain course of conduct always tends 
to certain results ; when there are laws in operation in the moral 
world as fixed as in the natural world ; and Avhen there are 
uniformly either direct or indirect interpositions of Providence 
in regard to any existing institutions, it is not unsafe to infer 
from these what is the divine will. It is not unsafe, for illus- 
tration, to argue from the uniform effects of intemperance in 
regard to the will of God. Those effects occur in every age 
of the world, and in reference to every class of men. There 
are no exceptions in favour of kings or philosophers ; of the 
inhabitants of any particular climate or region of country ; of 
either sex, or of any age. The poverty, and babbling, and 
redness of eyes, and disease engendered by intemperance, 
may be regarded without danger of error as expressive of the 
will of God in reference to that habit. They show that 
there has been a violation of a great law of our nature or- 
dained for our good, and that such a violation must always 
incur the frown of the great Governor of the world. The 
revelation of the mind of God in such a case is not less clear 
than were the enunciations of his will on Sinai. 

The same is true in regard to cities and nations. We 


need be in as little danger, in general, in arguing from what 
occurs to them, as in the case of an individual. There is 
now no doubt among men why the old world was destroyed 
by a flood ; why Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed ; why 
Tyre,- Nineveh, Babylon, and Jerusalem were overthrown ; 
and there can be as little doubt, since the excavations have 
been made at Herculaneum and Pompeii, why those cities 
were buried under the ashes and lava of Vesuvius. If a cer- 
tain course of conduct long pursued, and in a great variety 
of circumstances, leads uniformly to health, happiness, and 
property, we are in little danger of inferring that it is in 
accordance with the will of God. If it lead to poverty and 
tears, we are in as little danger of error in inferring that it is 
a violation of some great law which God has ordained for 
the good of man. If an institution among men is always 
followed by certain results ; if there is no modification of it 
by which it can be made to avoid those results ; if we find 
them in all climes, and under all forms of government, and 
in every stage of society, it is not unsafe to draw an infer- 
ence from these facts on the question whether God regards 
the institution as a good one, and one which he designs shall 
be perpetuated for the good of society. 

It would be easy to make an application of these unde- 
niable principles to the subject of slavery. The inquiry 
would be, whether in certain results always found to accom- 
pany slavery, and now developing themselves in our OAvn 
country, there are no clear indications of what is the will of 
God. The inquiry would be pursued with reference to the 
bearing of the ' institution' on morals and rehgion ; on the 
industry and population of a state ; on agriculture, commerce, 
literature, and the arts. 

I propose, however, only to consider the application of the 
principle to one important transaction in history — the rescue 
of an enslaved people from Egyptian bondage. The object 
is to inquire what light that transaction throws on the ques- 
tion, Whether God regards slavery as a good institution^ 


and one which he desires should be perpetuated. The prin- 
ciple on which this inquiry will be conducted is, that if ive 
can find a case in history concerning which God has de- 
claimed his sentiments, ive may draw a safe conclusion in 
regard to the estimate which he forms of a similar institu- 
tion now. 

The case referred to is that of Hebrew servitude in Egypt. 
The obvious inquiries are, I. Whether there was any thing 
in that servitude so similar to slavery now as to make it safe 
and proper to argue from the one to the other ; and, II. 
Whether the act of God in delivering the Israelites from 
bondage makes it proper to draw any conclusion as to his 
general sentiments about slavery. 

I. The resemblance between the servitude of the Hebrews 
in Egypt and slavery now ; or the inquiry whether they are 
so similar as to make it proper to argue from the one to the 
other respecting the divine will. 

It is not to be denied that there were some important 
points in which the servitude of the Hebrews in Egypt 
differed from slavery now, but most if not all of those points 
were of such a nature as not particularly to affect the in- 
quiry before us. 

(a) The Hebrews were not essentially distinguished from 
the Egyptians, as the Africans are from their masters in this 
land, by colour. There could be no argument drawn from 
the fact that they were of different complexion, or were of an 
inferior caste of men, in favour of holding them in bondage. 

ip) They do not appear to have been claimed by individuals, 
or distributed, on plantations or farms as the property of in- 
dividuals. It was the enslaving or oppressing of them as a 
people, or nation, rather than subjecting them, as is done in 
our country, as individuals, to the service of others. They 
were in the service of the government, and held by the 
government, without particular reference to the will of in- 
dividuals. ■ 

(c) On many accounts, also, the servitude in Egypt was 


much more mild than it is in this country. Though cha- 
racterized as ' hard,'' ' oppressive,'' ' grievous,'' and a '^fur- 
nace ;' and though it was such as to lead to most decided 
and marked interpositions of God to rescue a down-trodden 
people from it, yet there were features in it which greatly 
softened it as compared with the system in our own land. 
This circumstance will increase, as will be seen in the sequel, 
the force of the argument which I deduce from the inter- 
position of God in the case ; for if the oppression there was 
so grievous as to call forth the strong expressions of God in 
regard to it recorded iii the Bible, and to lead to the heavy 
judgments which fell on Egypt in order to testify his disap- 
probation of the system, what are we to infer in reference to 
the divine views of the still more grievous oppressions in 
our own land ? In order to see this difference, and to ap- 
preciate the force of this consideration, it is of importance to 
have a just conception of the nature of servitude in Egypt. 
The following summary, made in part by another hand, 
(" The Bible vs. Slavery, pp. 55, 56, 57,") will present this 
with sufficient distinctness. {\.)The Israelites '^luere not 
dispersed among the families of Egypt, hut formed a, 
separate community. Gen. xlvi. 34 ; Ex. viii. 22, 24 ; ix. 
26; X. 23; xi. 7; iv. 29; ii. 9; xvi. 22; xvii. 5; vi. 14. 
(2.) They had the- exclusive possession of the land of Go- 
shen, the best part of the land of Egypt. Gen. xlv. 18 ; 
xlvii. 6, 11, 27; Ex. viii. 22; ix. 2(i ; xii. 4. Goshen must 
have been at a considerable distance from those parts of 
Egypt inhabited by the Egyptians ; so far at least as to 
prevent their contact with the Israelites, since the reason 
assigned for locating them in Goshen was, that shepherds 
were ' an abomination to the Egyptians ;' besides, their em- 
ployments would naturally lead them out of the settled parts 
of Egypt to find a free range of pasturage for their immense 
flocks and herds. (3.) They lived in permanent dwellings. 
These were houses, not tents. In Ex. xii. 7, 22, the two 
side posts, and the upper door posts, and the lintel of the 


houses, are mentioned. Each family seems to have occupied 
a house by itself. Acts vii. 20. (4.) They oivned 'flocks 
and herds,^ and ' very much cattle.'' Ex. xii. 4, 6, 32, 37, 
38. From the fact that ' every man'' was commanded to kill 
either a lamb or a kid, one year old, for the passover, before 
the people left Egypt, we infer that even the poorest of the 
Israelites owned a flock either of sheep or goats. Further, 
the immense multitude of their flocks and herds may be 
judged of from the expostulation of Moses with Jehovah. 
Num. xi. 21, 22. 'The people, among whom I am, are six 
hundred thousand footmen ; and thou hast said, I will give 
them flesh, that they may eat a whole month ; shall the flocks 
and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them?' As these six 
hundred thousand were only the m,en 'from twenty years old 
and upward, that were able to go forth to war,' Num. i. 45, 46 ; 
the whole number of the Israelites could not have been less 
than three millions. Flocks and herds to ' suffice' all these 
for food, might surely be called 'very much cattle.' {b.)They 
had their own form of government, and preserved their tribe 
and family divisions, and their internal organization through- 
out, though still a province of Egypt and tributary to it. 
Ex. ii. 1 ; xii. 19,21; vi. 14, 25; v. 19; iii. 16,18. 
(6.) They had, in a considerable measure, the disposal of 
their oum time. Ex. iii. 16, 18; xii. 6; ii. 9; and iv. 27, 
29—31. (7.) They were all armed. Ex. xxxii. 27. (8.) ^11 
the females seem to have knoivn something of domestic rc- 
flnements. They were familiar with instruments of music, 
and skilled in the working of fine fabrics, Ex. xv. 20 ; 
XXXV. 25, 26 ; and both males and female were able to read 
and write. Deut, xi. 18 — 20 ; xvii, 19 ; xxvii. 3. {9.) Ser- 
vice seems to have been exacted from none but adult males. 
Nothing is said from which the bond service of females could 
be inferred ; the hiding of Moses three months by his mother, 
and the payment of wages to her by Pharaoh's daughter, go 
against such a supposition. Ex. ii. 29. (10.) Their food 
ivas abundant and of great variety. So far from being fed 



upon a fixed allowance of a single article, and hastily pre- 
pared, ' they sat by the flesh-pots,' and ' did eat bread to the 
full.' Ex. xii. 15,39. They ate 'the fish freely, the cu- 
cumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and 
the garlic' Num. xi. 4, 5 ; xx. 5." (11.) It does not appear 
that they were hable to be sold for debt, or that they could 
be disposed of by testamentary disposition. And, (12.) they 
were not held strictly as chattels. They were oppressed 
men, and were regarded as such. They were men held to 
service ; not men reduced to all the conditions of property. 
But still there were so many strong points of resemblance 
between the servitude of the Hebrews in Egypt and slavery 
in this land, as to make it right to argue from the one to 
the other. Indeed, the resemblances are so remarkable that 
they cannot fail to strike every one who reads the account in 
Exodus, and the references to the servitude in Egypt which 
abound elsewhere in the Scriptures. (l.)They were a 
foreign race, as the African race is with us. They were 
not Egyptians, any more than the natives of Congo are 
Americans. They were not of the children of Ham.* They 

* It is not admitted here that if they had been of the children of Ham, it 
would have been right to reduce them to servitude ; for apart from any other 
consideration, the Egyptians were themselves the proper descendants of 
Ham. An argument is sometimes attempted in favour of African slavery 
from the curse pronounced by Noah : — (Gen. ix. 25,) " Cursed be Ca- 
naan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." See the 
" Brief Examination of the Scripture Testimony on the Institution of 
Slavery," by Enoch liCwis. I have not thought it necessary to notice this 
weak argument, for two reasons: One is, that a mere prediction of 
what would be, is no justification of wickedness — for the prediction of the 
Saviour that he would be betrayed by Judas, and even the command to him 
to do ' what he was about to do' quickly, (John xiii. 27,) did not justify the 
act of the traitor ; the other is, that the curse was not pronounced on Ham, 
but on Canaan. What have the inhabitants of Africa to do with that ? 
They are not descended from the one on whom the curse was pronounced, 
whatever might be the argument supposed to be drawn from that curse. 
The argument, however, would be good for nothing even if they were. It 
is surprising that it was ever used. 


were of another family ; they differed from the Egyptians, 
by whom they were held in bondage, as certainly as the Afri- 
can does from the Caucasian or the Malay divisions of the 
great family of man. They had no share in the government ; 
held no appointments under the crown ; were ehgible to no 
office ; had no participation in making or administering the 
laws. They were dissimilar in religion, in language, in cus- 
toms, in employment, (Gen. xlvi. 34,) in manners. In every 
thing except complexion, they were as unlike the Egyptians 
as the African is to the native American, and they had as 
little to do with the government and institutions of Egypt 
as the African has with ours. They were a race introduced 
from abroad, and kept throughout, and on principle distinct. 

(2.) There was a strong resemblance in the nature of the 
claim set up over them, and in the tenure by which they 
were held. («) The first one of the race who went down 
to Egypt and dwelt there, was carried there as a slave, and 
sold as such. He had been kidnapped by members of his 
own family ; sold to men who were as willing to traffic in 
human flesh as in aromatics ; carried by them, as an article 
of merchandise, to Egypt, and sold as such there. Gen. 
xxxvii. 25 — 28 ; xxxix. 1. This is just the way in which 
African slaves were introduced into the United States ; and 
the heartless cruelty with which Joseph was made a slave, 
and sold, has been re-enacted millions of times in Ajorica, in 
order to procure the slaves which are now in the United 
States. How appropriate to the method in which slaves are 
procured and held in this land, would be the description 
which is given of the manner in which Joseph was made a 
slave in Egypt ! 

« He sent a man before them, 

«'Even Joseph who was sold for a servant; 

«' Whose feet they hurt with fetters ; 

"He was laid in iron." Ps. cv. 1 7, 18. 

Many a poor African has been consigned to slavery in the 
same way, but with no holy bard, like David, so patheti- 


cally to record his name, and to tell the wrong of his capture, 
and the manner in which he was borne to the scene of his 
future toil and woes, (b) As it is in slavery in this land, so 
there was nothing voluntary on the part of the Hebrews. It 
was throughout the work of oppression and wrong. It ex- 
isted because their masters had the power ; not because they 
had the right. There was nothing on their part of the nature 
of contract ; there was no agreement to serve the Egyptians ; 
they had never been consulted in the case. They were 
♦ made to serve' with hard bondage, for they had no power 
of resisting. Like slavery in this country, then, the whole 
thing was distinct from the acts of freemen, and the entire 
arrangement was separated from that of voluntary labour. 
There was not a Hebrew who had .expressed his consent to 
that kind of service ; there was not one who did not groan 
and sigh by reason of the bondage. Ex. i. 8 — 11. (c) It had 
the essential features of slavery, so far as those features are 
specified in the Scriptures. The same word is used to de- 
scribe it which is commonly employed to denote servitude in 
the laws of Moses, and evidently in the same sense. Thus 
in Ex. i. 14, it is said, "And they made their lives bitter with 
hard bondage''^ — nz'pnnbj?2 — where the same word occurs 
which is commonly applied to slavery in all the forms in 
which it is specified in the Scriptures, The same word 
occurs in Gen. xv. 13, where the servitude in Egypt is pre- 
dicted. " Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not 
theirs, and shall serve them — Ci^J^] — and they shall afflict 
them four hundred years." Comp. Lev. xxv. 30, 40. 

(3.) It was unrequited labour. There was no pretence 
even of giving them a fair compensation for their toil. 
It was a system of exaction and oppression — Avhere severe 
labour was demanded; where no pay was tendered, and 
where few facihties were granted for the performance of 
the prescribed task. The method by which this was done 
bore a strong resemblance also to the arrangements in the 
slavehoiding portions of our own country ; and the account 


which is given of that, would be an accurate description 
of the means resorted to to compel slaves to work in this 
land. " Therefore they did set over them task-masters 
to afflict them with their burdens.'''' Ex. i. 11. Servi- 
tude has always demanded the appointment of an order 
of men under various names of task-masters or drivers. 
It appoints tasks to be done, and often too where the 
" tale of bricks is demanded while no straw is given." 
Ex. V. 8, 11. There is no voluntai'y labour. There are 
none of the spontaneous exertions of freemen. All the 
language employed to describe the servitude in Egypt, 
is language denoting severe oppression and wrong; lan- 
guage such as is proper when there are severe exactions 
and unrequited labour ; and language that, with almost no 
change, might be employed to describe slavery in this 
country. It represents a state of things conducted on the 
same principles, and with the same ends in view ; and the 
two are so parallel in all their essential features, that if 
God approves the one, he must have approved the other j 
if he hated the one, he hates the other. The argument 
here is of the same kind as we apply in other cases. The 
strong faith which God approved in Abraham, he approves 
M'herever it exists now ; the wickedness which character- 
ized the race before the flood, he would equally disapprove 
of now; and the tyranny of Ahab he equally abhorred in 
Nero, in Henry VIII., and would in any future sovereign. 
A few of the expressions, therefore, employed when the 
Bible speaks of the servitude in Egypt, will show its 
parallelism with the state of slavery in this land, and will 
serve to show also how God n^ust regard both. " And 
they made their Hves bitter, with hard bondage in mortar, 
and in bricks, and in all manner of service in the field : all 
their service Avherein they made them serve was with 
rigour." Ex. i. 14. "And the Egyptians evil-entreated 
us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage, and 
when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord 


heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, 
and our oppression ; and the Lord brought us forth out of 
Egypt with a mighty hand, and M'ith an outstretched arm, 
and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with won- 
ders." Deut. xxvi. 6 — 8. " And I have heard the groan- 
ing of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep 
in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant." Ex. 
vi. 5. Comp. Ps. cii. 20, to ascertain how the Lord will 
always regard such a state of things, or will ultimately act 
on the same principle. 

" For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary ; 
From heaven did the Lord behold the earth ; 
To hear the groaning of the prisoner; 
To loose those that are appointed to death." 

And Ps. xii. 5 : 

" For the oppression of the poor, 
For the sighing of the needy, 
Now will I arise, saith the Lord ; 
I wUl set hira in safety from him that pufTeth at him. 

In accordance with these declarations, are the numerous 
passages Avhich speak of the servitude in Egypt as hard 
and oppressive bondage, and the situation of the Hebrews 
there as a residence in a prison. " The Lord brought us 
out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Ex. viii. 14. 
•' I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land 
of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Ex. xx. 2. Comp. 
Deut. V, 6; vii. 8; viii. 14; xiii. 5, 10; Josh. xxiv. 17; 
Judges vi. 8. Let any one look at the numerous references 
to the servitude of the Hebrews in Egypt in these and other 
passages, and he cannot fail to be struck with the accuracy 
with which the terms employed would describe slavery in 
this country. There are no words used to characterize that 
enormous wrong — for so it is always spoken of in the Scrip- 
tures — which would not with equal accuracy and emphasis 
characterize oppression in this land. 


(4.) In the servitude in Egypt it was necessary to adopt 
most harsh and oppressive measures to prevent the Hebrews 
from becoming- so numerous as to be able to overpower their 
masters, and to prevent their joining their enemies in case of 
invasion. The measures adopted in Egypt, and the reasons 
why they were adopted, are distinctly specified. The alarm 
which was excited was on account of their growing numbers. 
The danger apprehended was, that, becoming more numerous 
than their masters, they would be able to subdue them, or that 
they would unite themselves with an invading army, and 
thus secure their own freedom, and then turn their arms on 
their oppressors. " And the children of Israel were fruitful, 
and increased abundantly and multiplied, and waxed exceed- 
ingly mighty ; and the land was filled with them. And he 
[Pharaoh] said unto his people. Behold, the people of the 
children of Israel are more and mightier than we : Come on, 
let us deal wisely with them ; lest they multiply, and it 
come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join 
also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them 
up out of the land." Ex. i. 7, 9, 10. The measures adopted 
to prevent this, are well known. They were first, to oppress 
and crush them by severe exactions ; to dishearten them ; 
and to prevent their increase by measures of excessive 
cruelty. Ex. i. 11, 13, 14. Then, when this failed, (Ex. 
i. 12,) they resorted to the still more harsh and cruel 
measure of putting all the male children to death, that thus 
they might remove the danger. These measures were 
adopted from what was deemed a sagacious policy, that 
the oppressed Hebrews might not be able to assert their 
own freedom. Ex. i. 15, 16. 

Is there nothing hke this in the system of slavery, as it 
exists in this land ? The means resorted to are not indeed 
precisely the same, but they have the same end in view. It 
is an essential part of the system here, that there should be 
measures adopted to prevent the slaves asserting their free- 
dom, and an extended system of things having this end in 


view is constantly in operation — as oppressive, as cruel, and 
as contrary, in some respects, to the laws of Heaven, as was 
the unsuccessful policy of the Egyptians. Among those 
measures, the following are in existence in the slave states : 
— preventing the slaves from being taught to read and write ; 
prohibiting, as far as possible, all knowledge among them- 
selves of their own numbers and strength ; forbidding all 
assemblages, even for worship, where there might be danger 
of their becoming acquainted with their own strength, and of 
forming plans for freedom ; enacting laws of excessive 
severity against those vi^ho run away from their masters ; 
appointing severe and disgraceful punishments, either with. 
or without the process of law, for those who are suspected 
of a design to inform the slaves that they are men, and that 
they have the rights of human beings ; and solemnly pro- 
hibiting the use of arms among the slaves, designed to pre- 
vent "their rising upon their masters, or 'joining themselves 
to an enemy, to fight against their masters, and so getting up 
out of the land.' A very large portion of the enactments in 
the Southern states, have the same object in view which 
was contemplated and avowed by the oppressive laws and 
measures of the Egyptians. They are felt to be essential to 
the system, and so long as slavery exists, it will be necessary 
to frame such laws. 

There will be occasion to illustrate each of the points 
referred to here under another head, when we come to con- 
sider the nature of servitude under the laws of Moses. At 
present, it will be sufficient to refer to a very few instances 
of the laws in the slave states bearing on those points, or 
designed to keep the slaves in a 'state of bondage.' 
(1.) They are not to be taught to read or write. In 1740, 
South Carolina enacted this law i " Whereas, the having of 
slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in 
writing, may be attended with great inconveniences, Be it 
enacted, that all and every person and persons whatsoever, 
who shall hereafter teach or cause any slave or slaves to be 


taught to write, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe 
in any naanner of writing whatsoever, every such person 
or persons shall, for every such offence, forfeit the sum 
of one hundred pounds current money."* A similar law, 
except the penalty, was passed in Georgia, by act of 1770.t 
In the revised code of Virginia of 1819, the following 
statute occurs : " All meetings or assemblages of slaves, or 
free negroes or mulattoes mixing and associating with such 
slaves at any meeting-house, or houses, or any other place, 
&c., in the night, or at any school or schools for teaching 
them reading or writing either in the day or the night, 
under whatsoever pretext, shall be deemed and considered 
an unlawful assembly^X (2.) They are not allowed to 
assemble even for worship in any such way as shall make 
an insurrection possible. In a law enacted by Georgia, 
1792, it is enacted that "no congregation or company of 
negroes shall, under pretence of divine worship, assemble 
themselves contrary to the act regulating patrols. "§ Substan- 
tially the same thing exists in South Carolina, I| and in Mis- 
sissippi.^ (3) JVo meeting whatever of slaves is to be 
allowed of such a number as could acquaint themselves of 
their oivn strength, or make combination possible- If a 
slave shall presume to come upon the plantation of any 
person, Avithout leave in Avriting from his master, employer, 
&c., not being sent on lawful business, the owner of the 
plantation may inflict ten lashes for every such offence.^* 
" It shall be lawful for any person who shall see more 
than seven men slaves, without some white person with 
them, travelling or assembled together, in any high road, 
to apprehend such slaves, and to inflict a whipping on such 

* 2 Brevard's Digest, 243. -j- Prince's Digest, 455. 

+ 1 Rev. Code, 424, 425. § Prince's Digest, 342. 

II 2 Brevard's Digest, 254, 255. 1 Rev. Code, 390. 

** 1 Virg. Rev. Code, 422 ; 3 Mississippi Rev. Code, 371 ; 2 Litt. «& 
Swi. Dig. 1150; 2 Missoiui Laws, 741, sec. 3. 


of them, not exceeding twenty lashes apiece."* (4) The 
possession of all arms or weapons of defence is strictly 
prohibited. " For keeping or carrying a gun, or powder, 
or shot, or a club, or other weapon ivhatever, offensive or 
defensive, a slave incurs for each offence, thirty-nine lashes, 
by order of a justice of the peace. "t 

There are reasons why the same measure is not adopted 
here which was by the Egyptians, that of putting the male 
children to death. It cannot be doubted or denied that increas- 
ing humanity has done much to prevent this. But even if this 
had had no influence, there are other causes which would 
secure this result, and prevent a measure so cruel and 
wrong. They are valuable in the market. They can be 
sold and conveyed to places where the danger of an insur- 
rection would be less. The surplus population of Virginia, 
North Carolina, and Maryland can thus be removed to 
Georgia, Mississippi, or Texas, instead of being thrown into 
the Potomac, the Rappahannock, or the Roanoke. But still, 
there are laws both numerous and appropriate, all contem- 
plating the same end, and customs that were little, if any, 
surpassed in cruelty by the Egyptian law which ordained 
that the male children should be thrown into the Nile. Is 
there not many a mother who would prefer to see her infant 
son " thrown into the river," (Ex, i. 22,) to having him torn 
from her bosom and borne away where she would see him no 
more ? Is there not many a father who could see his daugh- 
ter floating on the smooth current of a river, a lifeless corpse, 
with more calmness than he could see her wrested from 
his arms to be doomed to unpitied infamy and degradation in 
the dweUing of some planter in Texas, or made to minister 
to corrupt passions in a palace in New Orleans ? Would a 

* 2 Brev. Dig, 243; Prince's Dig. 554. 

f 2 Litt, «& Swi. 1150; 1 Virg, Rev, Code, 423; 2 Missouri Laws, 
741, sec, 4; Haywood's Manual, 521, See Stroud's "Sketch of the 
Laws relating to Slavery," pp. 88, 92, 93, 102. 


father or a mother have no pleasure in looking on the green 
sod that should cover the grave of an infant child, compared 
with the thought that he might be groaning under the lash 
in a distant land of bondage ? And can the things ordained 
in this Christian land professedly to keep the slaves in 
bondage, and to prevent a possibility of their asserting their 
freedom, be less offensive to God than were similar things 
among the heathen of Egypt ? 

(5.) There is a resemblance between Egyptian and Ame- 
rican slavery, in a remarkable feature, which has always 
perplexed those who have written on the subject of popula- 
tion — the increase of those who are oppressed. The growth 
of the Hebrews in Egj'pt, compared with the native popula- 
tion, was such as to lead to the apprehension that they would 
ultimately have power to bring the country under their ov.-n 
control. Ex. i. 7, 9. It was particularly alarming that the 
more they were oppressed the more they increased. Ex. i. 12. 
It became necessary, therefore, to resort to additional mea- 
sures of rigor, to prevent their becoming so numerous as to 
endanger the government. Ex. i. 11, 14, 16. The similarity 
between this increase and that of the slaves in our own 
country, is such that it cannot fail to have arrested the atten- 
tion of all those who have ever looked at slavery. It is 
sufficient, on this point, merely to refer to the un(Jisputed fact. 
The increase of the population in the free states, from 1830 
to 1840, was at the rate of 38 per cent., while the increase of 
theyVee population of the slave states was only 23 per cent. 
A single statement will show the progressive advance of the 
slaves over the free population of some of those states. 

In 1790, the whites in North Carolina were to the slaves, 
2-80 to 1 ; now as 1-97 to 1, 


1; ' 

1; ' 

1; ' 
in spite of all the oppressions 

South Carolina, 1*31 
Georgia, 1*76 

Tennessee, 13-35 

Kentucky, 5* 16 

From this it is apparent that 

•79 " 


1-44 " 


3-49 " 


3-23 " 



and cruelties of slavery ; of all the sales that are effected ; 
of all the removals to Liberia ; and of all the removals by the 
escape of the slaves, there is a regular gain of the slave 
population over the free, in the slaveholding states. No 
oppression prevents it here more than it did in Egypt, and 
there can be no doubt whatever that unless slavery shall be 
arrested in some way, the increase is so certain that the 
period is not far distant when, in all the slave states, the free 
whites will be far in the minority. At the first census, taken 
in 1790, in every slave state there was a very large majority 
of whites. At the last census, in 1840, the slaves outnum- 
bered the whites in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisi- 
ana. The tendency of this, from causes which it would be 
easy to state, can be arrested by nothing but emancipation. 

(6.) There is a striking resemblance in regard to the num- 
bers held in bondage in Egypt, and those now in servitude in 
this country. When Moses led the children of Israel forth, 
the number of men, capable of bearing arms, was six hundred 
thousand. Ex. xii. 37, 38. According to this enrolment, 
allowing the usual proportion for age, infancy, and the 
female sex, there were full three millions that had been held 
in " the iron furnace," in Egypt. Jer. xi. 4. There are in 
the United States now, according to the census of 1840, 
2,480,465 of a foreign race held in bondage. Of these 
432,727 are me7i more than twenty-four years of age, and 
391,206 are males between the ages often and twenty-four; 
and probably the number of those capable of bearing arms 
would be found to be nearly the same as among the Hebrews 
whom Moses conducted out of Egypt. As in Egypt, also, 
there is a vast number of women and children, and of the 
aged and the infirm, held in a state that, in the main, without 
any poetic colouring, may be called a "furnace of iron." 

n. The second inquiry in regard to the servitude in Egypt, 
is, whether the interposition of God, in that case, was such as 
to make it proper for us to derive any conclusions as to his 
will in regard to slavery. He dehvered the oppressed with 


an "outstretched arm, and with great signs and wonders." 
Is it right to infer, from this remarkable interposition in the 
behalf of that people, any thing respecting his views in 
cases of similar oppression ? Is the case sufficiently parallel 
to lay the foundation of an argument on the principle on 
which we are accustomed to appeal to the dispensations of 
Providence and the course of events ? We judge of the 
divine will in relation to intemperance, not only from the 
declarations in the Bible, but from the wo and sorrow, the 
poverty, rags, and disease, which God in his Providence 
brings upon the drunkard. Is it right, on similar principles, 
to judge of his sentiments on the subject of slavery, from one 
of the most direct and remarkable interpositions of heaven in 
human affairs, which has ever occurred ? Here stands in his 
word the record of these great and wonderful facts in history 
— millions of slaves delivered by direct divine interposition ; 
a series of most overwhelming calamities on those who held 
them in bondage ; frequent allusions to the event in the sub- 
sequent inspired writings ; a mighty arm stretched out from 
heaven to conduct the oppressed and the down-trodden to a 
land of freedom. What are we to infer from these things ? 
Did God regard that; does he regard a similar institution 
now, as a good arrangement, and as one on which he is dis- 
posed to smile, and which he desires should be perpetuated 
for the good of mankind ? Let the following facts in the 
case* be considered : 

(1.) It would have been as just for the Egyptians to retain 
the Hebrews in bondage, as it is for white Americans to 
retain the African race. All the right in either case is 
derived from mere power. In the case of the Egyptians, it 
could not be pretended that they had a right to enslave the 
nation because they had purchased Joseph some hundreds 
of years before; and as little can the right to enslave the 
posterity of the Africans be founded on the fact that their 
ancestors were purchased in Congo. It could not be pre- 
tended that they had a right to enslave them because they 



were a foreign race, or were of diiferent complexion ; and as 
little can the plea be set up to vindicate the retaining of the 
African in bondage. If the vindication of slavery now should 
be set up on that ground, it would be difficult to see why it 
Avould not apply in the case of the Hebrews as well as of the 
African race ; nay, it would be difficult to see why this might 
not be imbodied in a general principle — that all foreigners, 
of a different complexion from our own, may be lawfully 
enslaved. Further; if the right to retain the African race in 
bondage be based on the laws of the land, the same plea 
might have been urged in the case of the Hebrews. Under 
the authority of Pharaoh, it had become the law of the land 
that the Hebrews should be held to servitude. If it be 
further urged that it is difficult to free the slaves in this 
country ; that emancipation might be attended Avith peril to 
the master ; that to let loose two millions and a half of slaves 
from a state of deep degradation might be fraught with dan- 
gerous consequences, the same thing might have been urged 
with equal force in regard to the servitude in Egypt. The 
simple truth is, that the sole claim in either case is founded 
in j)ower, and that is just the same in the one instance as the 
other. The Egyptians had power to enslave the Hebrews, 
and they did it ; the American has power to hold the African 
in bondage, and he does it. The right is as clear in the one 
case as in the other; and if God approves of slavery as it 
exists now in this land, he must have approved the same 
thing in Egypt. 

Will it be said that the Hebrews were his chosen people, 
and that he M^as especially displeased with the Egyptians, 
not because the oppression was itself wrong, but because 
they oppressed his friends ? And are not the Africans his 
people, (Acts xvii. 26 ;) and is there any thing that more cer- 
tainly excites the sympathy and compassion of God, than the 
fact that an individual or a community is trodden by the foot 
of violence to the earth ? 

Will it be alleged that there is a difference in the two 


cases, because the slaves in Egypt were held not by indivi- 
duals but by the government, and that there was no claim of 
property in them — that they were not bought and sold as 
chattels and as things ? If this is alleged, the case is not 
affected. God may be as little displeased that the head of a 
nation or a government should do wrong, as an individual. 
Besides, if it be alleged that the cases are not parallel because 
the Hebrews were not held as chattels and as things, this is 
all the worse for the American slaveholder ; for, from this very 
fact, slavery here must be just so much more offensive to God 
than it was in Egypt. In all the acts of Egyptian oppres- 
sion ; in the heavy tasks imposed ; in the grievous burdens 
laid on the Hebrews ; in the murder by authority of law of 
all their male children, the refinement of cruelty was never 
thought of which has become essential in American slavery — 
that of reducing a man to a chattel ; an immortal soul to a 
thing. The Hebrews were oppressed 7nen, they were not 
chattels and things. And if God frowned upon slavery as 
it was then ; if he brought ten successive judgments upon a 
heathen nation in order to express his abhorrence of the 
system, and to deliver an enslaved people, is it not right to 
infer that he has at least as deep feelings of indignation 
against a system of deeper degradation and oppression in a 
Christian land ? 

(2.) The divine declarations in regard to Egyptian bondage, 
and all the expressions of disapprobation of what occurred in 
Egypt, are applicable to the system of things in this country. 
No one can pretend that God approved of servitude as it was 
in Egypt, or that the measures which were adopted to per- 
petuate it were pleasing in his sight. The heavy burdens ; 
the withholding of the material for work, and yet exacting 
the full amount which had been before required ; the murder 
of the male children ; and the entire series of acts designed to 
keep them from insurrection, and to prevent their joining an 
enemy, are all recorded with expressions of decided dis- 
approbation. And can we suppose that God will be pleased 


with similar acts in this Christian country ; acts that have in , 
a great measure the same ends in view — to retain nearly 
three millions of people in a state of degradation and bond- 
age ? A vast and complicated system of arrangements, as 
has already been remarked, exists in the United States, all 
having for their object precisely the same thing which was 
contemplated in Egypt — designed to perpetuate the system ; 
to place those held in bondage in such a condition that they 
can neither conrbine to assert their own liberty, nor be in a 
situation to join the army of an enemy should one invade the 
land. Among these arrangements are all thosewhich are 
made to keep the slaves in ignorance ; to withhold the Bible 
from them ; to prevent their being taught to read ; to withhold 
arras from them ; to forbid assemblages even for worship 
without such a surveillance as to prevent all danger of com- 
binations ; to prohibit their going to other plantations without 
a passport ; to check and arrest and punish all of their own 
colour, or of a different colour, who would acquaint them with 
their numbers, their power, and their rights ; to put down 
all effort for the recovery of their liberty, and to bring back to 
servitude, to lodge in prison, or to manacle, scourge, or kill 
those who have attempted to escape. These, and numerous 
similar things, all contemplate precisely the same end which 
was contemplated by the arrangements made at the court of 
Pharaoh ; and can we suppose that they are more pleasing 
to God in the one case than in the other ? Has the lapse of 
three thousand and five hundred years served to reconcile the 
divine Mind to such measures ? Are they more agreeable 
to the Ruler of the nations because they are resorted to in a 
land of liberty, and under the light of the Christian revela- 
tion"? Were they wrong under the heathen Pharaoh; are 
they right under Christian masters and legislators ? 

Let it be remembered, too, that oppressive and cruel as were 
the measures resorted to in Egypt to perpetuate slavery, there 
are wrongs existing in this country, under the sanction of 
law, and which are regarded as essential to the system, which 


were unknown there. In Egypt, there was no withhold- 
ing of the Bible; there is not known to have been any pro- 
hibition to learn to read ; there was no separation of husband 
and Avife, and parent and child, to be sold into distant servi- 
tude ; there was no arrangement for confining in prison those 
who attempted to escape ; there was no shooting down the 
poor man who endeavoured to assert his freedom ; there was 
no pursuit of those who fled for liberty, with bloodhounds. 
Can we believe that God frowned on the arrangements made 
in Egypt to perpetuate slavery, and that he can look with 
complacency on these arrangements of augmented cruelty and 
oppression in our own land ? 

(3.) The calamities brought upon the Egyptians for holding 
a foreign people in bondage, and for the measures to which 
they resorted to perpetuate that bondage,- were an expression 
of the views which God entertained of the system. What 
those calamities were, it is not needful to state. They con- 
sisted, in general, of ten successive judgments, the most deso- 
lating, the most annoying, the most humbling to the pride of a 
haughty people, and the best adapted to spread lamentation 
and wo through a nation, which the human mind can con- 
ceive. The waters of the land turned into rivers, pools, and 
lakes of blood ; offensive and loathsome reptiles creeping into 
the very palaces, and filling all the implements for preparing 
the food even of the royal household ; clouds of locusts that 
devoured every green thing ; offensive vermin swarming 
everyAvhere ; storms of hail that destroyed the labours of 
man ; disease that swept off" the cattle, and the destroying 
angel passing in the dead of night through all the land of 
Egypt, cutting off" everywhere the first-born, and filling every 
house with grief; — these were the expressions of the divine 
sense of the wrongs endured by the foreign race which had 
been reduced to servitude. 

Can any thing be inferred from this in reference to the divine 
views regarding slavery now? We are not now, indeed, to 
expect miraculous interpositions of this nature. But what 



if it shall be found that the existence of slavery is attended 
with a series of inevitable calamities to a country ? What 
if it leads to a diminished or enfeebled population ? What 
if it is destructive to the interests of industry, morals, 
education, and religion ? What if its effects are seen in 
wasted fields, in a crippled commerce, in a destruction of the 
interests of manufacture, in ruined credit, in bankrupt indivi- 
duals and states ? What if, where the course of a river 
winds along through lands equally favoured by nature, one 
bank shall be adorned with smiling villages, and colleges, and 
churches, and the general aspect of neatness, thrift, and 
order ; and the other shall wear the aspect of ignorance, 
irreligion, neglect, and desolation ? Are we to be forbidden 
to draw an inference as to the views which God entertains of 
the system ? Is it wrong to draw such an inference with as 
much certainty as we do from the divine interpositions in 
Egypt ? Are not desolate fields, and a crippled commerce, 
and the evils of bankruptcy, and blightings and mildeAvs, as 
really the act of God, as were the murrain, and the bail, and 
the flight of locusts, and the passing of the destroying angel 
over Egypt ? Are they not as certain indications of the will 
of God, as the rags, and the poverty, and the babblings, and 
the bloated and haggard form of the drunkard ? If slavery 
brings up a brood of evils upon a land that ' out-venom all 
the worms of Nile ;' that are more offensive and ruinous 
than crawling reptiles and annoying vermin, and that cause 
more permanent desolation than the sweepings of a hail- 
storm, is it an unfair inference that it is hateful in the sight 
of God? 

(4.) The deliverance of the Hebrews from Egyptian bond- 
age shows what is the divine estimate of every similar 
system. He brought out an oppressed people by his own 
hand. He did it amidst great judgments and mighty won- 
ders. He did it in the most public manner, and so that the 
fact of Jiis interposition could not be mistaken. He did it in 
such a way that the act might be known among the nations 


of the earth, and that a permanent record might be made of 
his interposition, in order that all future ages might under- 
stand what he had done. He did it by bringing heavier 
judgments upon those who had been the oppressors, than had 
before befallen any nation. By this public act, he- testified 
to the nations of the earth how much he hated the system. 
By this act, as well as by his own solemn declarations, he 
showed that he valued the freedom of the oppressed more 
than he did the prosperity of the royal house of Pharaoh, the 
preservation of the harvests of Egypt, the lives of their 
first-born, or even the whole land of Egypt and Ethiopia. 

" I am Jehovah, thy God ; 

The Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour : 

7 gave Egypt for thy ransom, 

Ethiopia and Seba for thee.^' — Isa. xliii. 3. 

That is, Egypt was regarded as having been given up to 
destruction and desolation, instead of the Hebrews. One of 
them must perish — either the Hebrews, under the hand of 
the oppressor, or the Egyptians by the hand of their deli- 
verer ; and God chose that Egypt, though so much more 
mighty and powerful, should be reduced to desolation, rather 
than the enslaved nation of the Hebrews. All the wealth of 
Egypt, including her armies and her king, was not worth so 
much, in the divine estimate, as the liberty of the oppressed ; 
and God chose that the one should be sacrificed in order to 
secure the other — ^just as it may yet appear that God values 
the liberty of the oppressed in our own land more than he 
^oes the beauty of smiling harvests, a prosperous commerce, 
and the happiness and the wealth of the planter ; and may yet 
suffer blighting and curses to come over the fairest portions 
of our own country, i)z order that the oppressed may be suf- 
fered to go free. Nor did he wait for a gradual deliverance ; 
nor did he recommend a preparation for freedom ; nor did he 
utter any apology for the continuance of servitude, from the 
difficulties attending emancipation. He demanded of the 


oppressors that his people should be allowed to go free at 
once. When they would not permit this, the storms of his 
wrath burst upon the guilty nation, and he led out his people 
triumphantly under his own hand. 

The conclusions which 1 am authorized to draw from this 
signal interposition in behalf of an oppressed people, are, that 
such oppression is hateful to God ; that the acts of cruelty 
and wickedness which are necessary to perpetuate such 
oppression, are the objects of his abhorrence ; that wherever 
the same system of things exists which did there, it must be 
equally offensive to him ; that it is his will that, if a foreign 
race have been held in servitude, they should be allowed to 
go free ; and that if those who hold them in bondage will not 
allow them to go free when he commands it, he will, by his 
own providence, bring such a series of desolating judgments 
on a people, that, however hardened their hearts may have 
been towards the oppressed and the down-trodden, and how- 
ever much they may be disposed, like Pharaoh, to say, 
"Who is Jehovah, that we should obey his voice to let the 
people go ?" (Ex. v. 2 ;) he will make them willing to send 
them forth, even if they pursue them with their maledictions, 
as Pharaoh pursued the ransomed Hebrews with his embat- 
tled hosts. If we may draw an inference, also, from this 
case, in regard to the manner in which God would have 
such a people restored to freedom, it would be in favour of 
immediate emancipation. 



The Mosaic Instituiions in relation to Servitude. 

The Scriptural argument on which most reliance is placed 
by the advocates of slavery, is, probabl)^ that it made a part 
of the Mosaic institutions. We have seen (ch. 1) that those 
who appeal to the Bible, in defence of the institution, make 
the argument from the Mosaic laws prominent, and seem to 
consider it decisive in the case. A single reference here to 
the article, so often quoted, in the Princeton Biblical Reper- 
tory, will illustrate the usual mode of making this appeal, and 
the manner in Avhich reliance is placed on the argument. 
" The fact that the Mosaic institutions recognised the lawful- 
ness of slavery, is a point too plain to need proof, and is 
almost universally admitted. Our argument from this ac- 
knowledged fact is, that if God allowed slavery to exist, if he 
directed how slaves might be lawfully acquired, and how 
they were to be treated, it is4n vain to contend that slavery 
is a sin, and yet profess reverence for the Scriptures. Every 
one must feel that if perjury, murder, or idolatry had been 
thus authorized, it would bring the Mosaic institutions into 
conflict with the eternal principles of morals, and that our 
faith in the divine origin of the one or the other must be 
given up."* This may be regarded as the current method 
of appeal by the advocates of slavery — often expressed, 
indeed, in stronger language, and made more directly to 
bear on the institutions of slavery in our country, but still 
constituting, in fact, the same appeal. The argument is 
usually alleged as if it were decisive in the case. A bare 
reference to the fact that slavery existed ; that it was tole- 

* Page 287. 


rated by law ; that it was the subject of express enact- 
ments ; that the Hebrew people might own slaves ; and 
that it " was no sin for a priest to purchase a slave with his 
money,"* is generally supposed to be all that the argument 
requires. There is usually little attempt to show what 
slavery was under the Mosaic institutions ; to inquire how 
it was modified, checked and controlled ; to ask what pri- 
vileges were conceded by law to those who were held in 
servitude ; to compare the Mosaic system with that which 
existed in surrounding nations ; and still less to compare it 
with that which exists in our land. There is little care 
taken to inquire into the true spirit of the Mosaic laws on the 
subject, or what would be the effect on slavery in the United 
States if the Mosaic statutes were at once substituted in the 
place of those existing here. Yet it is plain that all this is 
necessary in order to see the real force of the argument, or to 
do justice to Moses. The argument is brought to defend the 
institution of slavery as it exists among us. But how can 
there be any force in it, unless it be shown that Moses was 
at heart the friend of slavery as a permanent institution, and 
that his laws on the subject, if apphed noAV, would sustain 
and perpetuate the institution as»it exists among us ? 

The propriety, therefore, of a somewhat extended examina- 
tion of this point, will be at once apparent. It is impossible 
to convince the advocates of slavery that it is in any sense 
a wrong, unless the argument which they derive from the 
Mosaic institutions shall be met and answered. To do this, 
it will be necessary to show, 1. What the argument is on 
which so much reliance is placed ; 2. To investigate the 
Mosaic institutions on the subject, that we may understand 
the system as arranged by the Hebrew legislator ; 3. To 
compare that sj^stem with slavery as it exists in the United 
States ; and, 4. To inquire how far it is legitimate to argue 

* See the Letter of the Presbytery of Tombecbee to the Conference of 
Maine, p. 14. 


from the one to the other, or how far the Mosaic institutions 
would countenance slavery as it exists in this country. 

§ 1. What the argument which is relied on, is. 
The argument in favour of slavel-y, from the Mosaic .insti- 
tutions, is not commonly drawn out at length, but it may be 
supposed to be comprised in the following particulars : — 

1. That slavery in fact existed under the Mosaic insti- 
tutions, or entered into institutions which had their origin in 
a divine arrangement. 

2. That it existed there unrebuked, or that there was no 
express condemnation of it ; that there is to be found no ex- 
plicit and positive declaration that it was wrong per se, or 
that they who practised on the system were doing wrong. 
The argument here is, that whatever is incorporated into a 
divine institution, or an institution under divine arrangement, 
without express rebuke and condemnation, must be regarded 
as in itself right. 

3. That there was express legislation on the subjectj'^re- 
cognising the relation of master and slave ; giving permission 
to purchase slaves ; directing the method of their treatment ; 
arranging their duties and the duties of their masters ; pre- 
scribing their privileges and the rights of their masters; 
and, in general, legislation for this relation in the same 
way as there was for the relation of husband and wife, and 
parent and child. The inference which would be derived 
from this by the advocate of slavery, would be, that this 
relation was considered to be as lawful as any other. The 
argument is, that whatever is made the subject of express 
legislation must be regarded as right and proper by the legis- 
lator, or that it cannot be inferred that he regarded it as 
wrong or as undesirable. 

4. That this arrangement extended to all classes of men 
under the Mosaic system. Even the priests might become 
the owners of slaves, and it was not regarded as wrong in 


them to ' purchase a slave with money.'* The argument here 
would be, that a system could not be regarded as wrong in itself 
^vhere even the ministers of religion were allowed, in com- 
.mon with all others, to participate in it. Could God allow 
one to purchase a slave just as he was about to approach 
the very altar, and yet regard the institution as evil ? Per- 
haps, also, in this case, the appeal to the permission given to 
the Jewish priesthood might be urged to give a sanction to 
the fact that a minister of the gospel may lawfully " purchase 
a slave with his money," and to show that it is not improper 
that he should lend the sanction "of his name and example to 
so good an institution. If a Jewish priest might purchase 
and own a slave, how can it be inferred that the same thing 
is wrong for a Christian minister in the United States ? 

5. It would be said, in addition to all this, that there is ex- 
press sanction given to the institution as one that was to be 
permanent, or, in the language of the Presbytery of Tonibec- 
bee, "the Bible warrants the purchase of slaves as an inherit- 
ance ybr children forever." — p. 14. The passage on which 
reliance is placed in this argument, is Lev. xxv. 44, 45,46: 
" Both thy bond-men and thy bond-maids, which thou shalt 
have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you : of 
them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids. Moreover, of 
the children of the strangers that do sojourn among yon, of 
them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, 
which they begat in your land : and they shall be your pos- 
session. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your 
children after you, to inherit them for a possession ; they 
shall be your bond-men for ever." 

This, perhaps, drawn out at greater length, would be sub- 
stantially the argument in favour of slavery derived from the 
Mosaic institutions. I have designed not to do injustice to it; 
and indeed I have made it stronger than I have found it in 

* Letters of the Presbytery of Tombecbee, p. 14. 


any of the books to which I have access. Compare, however, 
Paulding on Slavery, pp. 19, 20. 

What now is the real force of this argument ? What 
weight should it he allowed to have in vindicating slavery 
as it exists in the United States ? What are we to infer from 
the Mosaic institutions in regard to the divine feehngs to- 
wards servitude in our own land ? Tf'as Moses friendly to 
slavery, or was he not? Or rather, since God was the author 
of the Mosaic institutions, was he friendly to slavery, and did 
he regard it as a good and desirable institution to be perpetu- 
ated on earth, as contributing to the best good of society ? Or 
if he was friendly to slavery as it existed under the Mosaic 
institutions, is it fair to infer that he is friendly to it as it 
exists in the United States ? 

Now it will be apparent that, in order to the vahdity of the 
argument in favour of slavery from the Mosaic institutions, it 
is essential that the following points be made clear, viz. : — 

1. That it was regarded by Moses as in itself a good 
thing ; a thing which it would have been proper for him 
to originate if he had not found it already in existence. 
For it may be conceived, that, for certain reasons, he might 
have regarded it as proper to tolerate that which he found 
in existence, and which could not be at once removed, but 
which he did not regard in itself as good or right, and which 
he would by no means have originated. The true inquiry 
here, therefore, should be, whether we can find in his ar- 
rangements, any evidence that he regarded, it per se as good 
and desirable ; or any evidence that he would have originated 
it as conducive to the valuable ends which he had in view. 
Can we infer from the Mosaic arrangements that he would 
have the system originated now where it does not already 
exist, or perpetuated where it can easily be abolished ? 

2. It must be shown that God approved the system as a 
good and desirable one. It must be made apparent that he 
did not regard it as among the evils that were to be removed 
as speedily as practicable, consistently with the preservation 



of great interests which he desired should be secured. 
There must be some declaration, or some arrangement, by 
which it may be fairly inferred that it is a good per se, and 
not such an institution that he would wish it to be removed. 
This might be inferred, if he made arrangements for its per- 
petuity ; if he commanded a system or set of doctrines to be 
propagated which would lead to its perpetuity or the enlarge- 
ment of its influence ; if he instituted nothing to check it ; 
if the fair operation of the institutions which he appointed 
should serve to perpetuate, and not to destroy it. But if 
none of these things occur, it is not fair to draw the conclusion 
that he is friendly to the institution. If, on the contrary, an 
entirely opposite set of arrangements shall be found all tend- 
ing to destroy the system, it will not be unfair to conclude 
that he does not regard it as a good and desirable institution ; 
or in other words, that the Mosaic arrangement is not to be 
interpreted as in favour of slavery. We infer that the 
church is an institution which God approves, because he has 
made arrangements for its perpetuity and enlargement on 
earth ; he has appointed ordinances which suppose that it 
will always be in existence ; he has commanded doctrines 
and principles to be inculcated which will always tend to its 
growth ; and if his injunction should be fairly carried out, 
the growth of the church would never be checked, but its 
influence would continually expand until the earth would be 
covered with organizations of this kind. It will be necessary 
to find some such arrangement of permanency in the Mosaic 
laws in order to demonstrate that he regarded slavery as 
a good institution, and desired it to be perpetuated on the 

3. It is essential to this argument, in order to show that 
slavery is now right, or that the Bible sanctions it, to be able 
to argue from the Hebrew institutions to those in this 
country. It is necessary to show that the Mosaic arrange- 
ments in regard to the institution were such as to justify those 
which are found indispensable now for its perpetuity. It is 


necessary to show that the laws respecting slavery under the 
Mosaic code and in this land are so similar that an argument 
which would prove that slavery was proper as it was then, 
demonstrates that it is proper as it is now. This is essential, 
because the very purpose for which an appeal is made to the 
Mosaic laws by the advocate of slavery is to show that it is 
right now, and as it exists in the United States. There must 
be, therefore, in order to make the argument valid, such a re- 
semblance as to make it proper to reason from one to the 
other. If the Mosaic institution was a very different thing 
from slavery in our country ; if it was organized on different 
principles and for different objects ; if it varied essentially 
in its arrangements ; and if it tended to a different result, it 
is evidently improper to argue from one to the other. In one 
word, if there was an arrangement in the one which tended 
to its speedy abolition, it is not fair to infer that the arrange- 
ments in the other which contemplate its perpetuity, are 

4. It is essential to this argument from" the Mosaic institu- 
tions, to prove that what is tolerated at one period of the 
world is always right ; that what was tolerated three thou- 
sand years ago, under the Hebrew system of legislation, is 
proper under the Gospel. The argument implies that what 
is allowed at one period of the world, is right at all times, and 
in all places, and under all degrees of light and knowledge. 

If these points could be made out, it would be necessary to 
admit the conclusiveness of the argument derived from the 
Mosaic institutions in favour of slavery now. The inquiry 
before us, therefore, is, were the arrangements among the 
Hebrews in regard to servitude such as to make this clear? 
This inquiry demands that we examine with care the laws 
which Moses made on the subject, and then compare them 
w^ith those existing in our own land. 


§ 2. The Mosaic institutions in regard to Servitude. 

Previous to our entering on the inquiry proposed in this 
section, it is proper to remark that Moses did not originate 
the system of servitude which is recognised in his laws, and 
there is no reason to think that he would have done it. 
Whatever may be inferred respecting his views of the sys- 
tem, from his enactments, yet every thing in those enact- 
ments looks as if he found the institution of slavery already 
in existence. 

That slavery had an existence when Moses undertook the 
task of legislating for the Hebrews, there can be no doubt. 
We have seen* that servitude of some kind prevailed among 
the patriarchs ; that the traffic in slaves was carried on be- 
tween the Midianites and the Egyptians, Gen. xxxviii. 25 — 
28 ; xxxix. 1 ; and that it existed among the Egyptians. It 
was undoubtedly practised by all the surrounding nations, for 
history does not point us to a time when slavery did not 
exist. It was one of the earliest maxims that has come down 
to us, that by the common laws of war, the captive was to be 
a slave at the disposal of the victor. Thus the common law 
among the Romans says, a quo quis vincitur, ejus serxms 
esse tencfur. Thus Thucydides says,t " We consider it to 
be of divine appointment; and conformable to reason, that one 
who has subdued another should have dominion over him — 
ol av xpdfyj, ap;i:">'' There is even evidence that slavery was 
practised by the Hebrews themselves when in a state of 
bondage, and that though they were, as a nation, " bondmen 
to Pharaoh," yet they had servants in their own families who 
had been "bought with money." This is manifest from Ex. 
xii. 43 — 45. Comp. 51. At the very time that the law was 
given respecting the observance of the Passover, and before 
the exode from Egypt, this statute appears among others : 
" This is the ordinance of the Passover : There shall no 

* Ch. iii. f Lib. 5. 


stranger eat thereof: But every man's servant that is 
bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then 
shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall 
not eat thereof." It is clear, from this, that the institution 
was already in existence, and that Moses did not originate it. 

The truth in regard to this point is, that Moses found ser- 
vitude in existence, just as he did polygamy and the custom 
of divorce; that it can be no more inferred that he would 
have originated the one than the other; and that the fact that 
he legislated for the one can be no more regarded as evidence 
that he approved it as a good and desirable system, than the 
fact that he legislated for the other. 

The condition of Moses as a lawgiver, in this respect, was 
not materially unlike that of the framers of the Constitution of 
the United States. When the Convention sat, in 1790, to frame 
that instrument, slavery existed in all the Southern states, 
and in not a few of the Northern states also, and had existed 
from the first settlement of the country. . It was extensively 
interwoven with all the colonial institutions. The people 
had become habituated to it, and nearly all the existing laws 
tolerated it. The people of the colonies had, like the He- 
brews in Egypt, been under oppression, but, like those same 
Hebrews, they had themselves held others in bondage. In 
these circumstances, it became a matter of necessity to legis- 
late on the subject, and to admit some arrangements into the 
Constitution in regard to it. Hence the slave-trade itself was 
tolerated until the year 1808. Provision was made in the 
Constitution for restoring those who escaped, from one state 
to another, to their masters.* An important concession was 
made to the states where slavery existed, in regard to the 
ratio of representation. Though the word ' slave' was care- 
fully avoided in the instrument, yet it was understood that 
the arrangements in the Constitution pertained to slavery, 
and in fact did really pertain to it. Yet it Avould be 

* Art. ii. § 4. 


very unfair to suppose from this that either the majority of 
the framers of that instrument were in favour of slavery, 
or the majority of the states which adopted it. No one 
would feel that he was reasoning safely, to infer from 
that fact that Washington, and Madison, and Franklin, and 
Adams were the friends of slavery, or that they would have 
originated the system, if it had not already been in existence. 
In fact, were there no other evidence in the case, it would not 
be difficult to make out an argument, from the very Constitu- 
tion which they framed, to show that they looked on the 
whole institution with aversion ; that they were not willing 
to defile the immortal instrument which they were framing 
with even the name of slavery ; that they would be willing 
that future ages should not know, if possible, that they even 
tolerated it ; and that they meant that the system should 
cease in the land as soon as possible. Why should we, then, 
any more infer that Moses was friendly to the system, from 
the fact that he tolerated it ? 

If it should be said here, that Moses had it in his power 
wholly to prohibit slavery in his institutions, and yet chose to 
admit it as a part of his system, and that therefore it is to be in- 
ferred that he regarded it as a good and desirable thing, I 
would make the following reply: (1) It is not absolutely cer- 
tain that it could have been entirely prohibited with ease, and 
we know that some things were tolerated under his system 
which were not approved. Thus we are expressly told, on 
the highest authority, that the practice of divorce was per- 
mitted " on account of the hardness of the hearts" of the 
Jewish people, (Mat. xix. 8 ;) but that this was not according 
to the original arrangement when man was created, and was 
not an arrangement which God desired should be perpetuated 
on the earth. The Christian precept utterly abolished an 
arrangement sanctioned by the laws of Moses, on Avhich he 
had carefully legislated, and which had been acted on, per- 
haps without suspicion of wrong, for many hundred years. 
Who can prove that slavery may not have been a case like 


this ? It will not do to assume that it might not be, for it 
would seem that it would be as easy to abolish the custom of 
divorce, and to prohibit it for ever, as to abolish slavery and 
to ordain a perpetual prohibition of it. (2) There may have 
been reasons, perhaps a part of them unknown to us, why 
Moses tolerated slavery, but which Avould be entirely con- 
sistent with the belief that he regarded it as ah evil system, 
and one which he wished to have abolished as speedily as 
possible. In such a case, we are not to infer from the fact 
that he tolerated it, and legislated for it, that he regarded 
it as a good and a desirable institution. It would seem 
that this was the case, if the following things should be 
found to be true in regard to his admission of slavery into his 
system : (a) if it existed all around him in harsh and oppres- 
sive forms ; {h) if the condition of a slave, by being purchased 
by a Hebrew, would be greatly meliorated ; (c) if the condi- 
tion there was such as to make it an object for slaves in sur- 
rounding countries to place themselves voluntarily under 
Hebrew masters ; ((/) if by such an arrangement they might 
in fact become incorporated into the Hebrew commonwealth, 
and be made partakers of the blessings of the only true reli- 
gion ; (e) if Palestine was made an asylum for the oppressed 
of all lands, and it was understood that the moment a slave 
crossed its borders he was secure from having the chains of 
heathen servitude ever riveted again on him, and the whole 
power of the civil arm in the Hebrew commonwealth would 
be stretched out for his defence and protection ; and (/) if it 
should appear that an arrangement was made by which per- 
petual slavery Avould be impracticable, and the whole system 
ultimately abolished. In such a case, it would not be unfair to 
conclude that Moses would not have originated the system ; 
that he did not regard it as a desirable institution, and that 
it is not to be inferred that it is an institution which God 
approves and wishes to be perpetuated, because it was tole- 
rated under the Mosaic dispensation. 


That Moses did admit a system of servitude into his in- 
stitutions, seems to me to be undeniable. See Lev. xxv. In 
regard to the methods by which native born Hebrews or 
foreigners might become slaves under the Mosaic system, a 
full account may be found in the Constitutiones Servi Hebrasi, 
of Joh. Cas. Miegius, sec. 11, in Ugolin's Thes. Ant. Sacra, 
torn. 26, pp. 678, seq. The modes by which those who were 
native born Hebrews might become servants, were the three 
following: (1.) It was a settled principle that the Hebrew could 
not be made a slave to his brethren by ivar. This prohibition 
is not indeed expressly found in the laws of Moses, but an 
occurrence which took place in the time of Ahaz, shows that it 
was a well understood principle. In a war between the 
king of Israel and Ahaz, a large number of Hebrews — more 
than two hundred thousand — were made captives, and taken 
to Samaria, the captors purposing to retain them as 'bond- 
men,' and 'bond-women.' Against this the prophet Oded 
remonstrated, as a violation of the settled laws of the realm. 
"And now ye purpose to keep under the children of Judah 
and Jerusalem for bond-men and bond-women unto you : but 
are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord 
your God ? Now hear me, therefore, and deliver the captives 
again, which ye have taken captive of your brethren : for 
the fierce wrath of God is upon you." 2 Chron. xxviii. 10, 11. 
It was also a settled principle among the Greeks, the Romans, 
the lUyrians, and still is among theMohammedans, that their 
own countrymen could not be made slaves. (2.) A Hebrew 
might become a servant to another Hebrew by selling himself 
to serve the other, on account of poverty. Ex. xxi. 2 ; Lev. 
xxv. 39. In this case, however, it was specially provided 
that he should not be made to serve with rigor. He was to 
be regarded in the light of an ' hired servant,' and a ' so- 
journer,' and not as a ' bond-servant.' Lev. xxv. 39 ; comp. 
Deut. XV. 7 — 11. This was not allowed among the early 
Greeks, though in the later periods of their history it was 


common.* It was permitted among the Romans;! and 
among the Germans, t and was common among the Gauls. § 
(3.) A Hebrew might be sold to his brethren if he had 
been detected in the act of theft, and had no means of 
making restitution according to the provisions of the law. Ex. 
xxii, 3. " He should make full restitution ; if he have no- 
thing, then he shall be sold for his theft." This is in accord- 
ance with a common legal maxim — " Luat in corpore, qui 
non habet in acre." || The same law prevailed among the 
Egyptians,^ and among the Greeks also till the time of Solon. 
He prohibited it by the enactment " that the body should 
not be bound for debt." By the laws of the Twelve Tables, 
the same thing was enacted at Rome. (4.) A native-born 
Hebrew might be a servant in a single case, in virtue of his 
birth. If the master had given to a Hebr?w, whom he had 
purchased, a wife, and she had borne him children, the chil- 
dren were to remain m servitude after the expiration of the 
six years during Avhich alone he Avho had been bought could 
be held as a servant, except by his own consent. Ex. xxi. 4. 
The children, however, as we shall see, would all be restored 
to liberty on the year of jubilee. In these methods only 
could a Hebrew be reduced to servitude, and in no instance, 
except the last, could he be held to servitude more than six 
years unless he preferred it to freedom. It was a right 
which was secured by law, and which could be enforced, 
that he should be entitled to his freedom at the end of six 
years, and in no case whatever could he be held as a slave 
beyond the year of jubilee. 

In the laws of Moses, there is but one way mentioned by 
which a foreigner could be made a slave — that is, by pur- 
chase. Lev. xxv. 44. All kidnapping was prohibited on 
pain of death, Ex. xxi. 16; and it is remarkable that the 

* Dio Prusceensis, Orat. 1 5. | See Grotius, lib. 6, c. 7. 

i: Tacitus de Mor. Ger. lib. 24 § Caesar, Com. lib. 6. 

II Comp. Jos. Ant. book iv. ch. 8, sec. 27. 
^ Died. Siculus, Rer. Ant. lib. 2, c. 3. 


Hebrews were not permitted to make slaves of the captives 
taken in war. This, we have seen, was regarded as common 
law among the ancient nations, but there is no concession of 
this right among the Hebrews. The nations of Palestine 
were devoted to destruction, not to servitude ; and if they 
had any servants from other nations they were not to be 
kidnapped, or taken in war, but were to be the result of 

Such being the facts in regard to the toleration of this insti- 
tution among the Hebrews, the question then arises whether 
this can be adduced as a proof that slavery is lawful now. 
To settle this, it will be necessary to examine at some length 
the Mosaic institutions on the subject, and then to compare 
them with those existing in our own land. 

The arrangements of Moses in regard to slavery, found 
scattered through his laws, comprise the following particulars. 
The results of the classification of those laws which I shall 
now make, and of the connected view which will be taken of 
thetn, will be to show that he greatly modified all existing 
systems, and that while he temporarily tolerated slavery, he 
originated a system of enactments, the operation of which 
tended certainly to exclude slavery ultimately from the He- 
brew commonwealth. 

1. There stands in the fore-front of the whole Mosaic 
system a solemn prohibition, on pain of death, of that 
which enters into the essential nature of slavery, and on 
which the whole system everywhere is based: "^e that 
stealeth a man and selleth hhn, or if he he found in his 
hand, he shall surely be put to death.'''' Ex. xxi. 16. The 
place which this solemn prohibition occupies in the Mosaic 
system, and the circumstances of the Hebrew people at the 
time, deserve to be attentively considered. It is among the 
first of the precepts which were uttered after the giving of 
the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. It Avas designed 
to stand among the precepts which were regarded as ele- 
mentary. It was uttefed m such circumstances that it 


must have produced a deep impression on the minds of the 

" They had just been emancipated. The tragedies of their 
house of bondage were the reahties of yesterday, and peo- 
pled their memories with thronging horrors. They had just 
witnessed God's testimony against oppression in the plagues 
of Egypt : — the burning blains on man and beast ; the dust 
quickened into loathsome life, and swarming upon every 
living thing ; the streets, the palaces, the temples, and every 
house heaped up with the carcases of things abhorred ; th^ 
kneading troughs and ovens, the secret chambers and the 
couches, reeking and dissolving with the putrid death ; the 
pestilence walking in darkness at noonday, the devouring 
locusts, and hail mingled with fire, the first-bora death- 
struck, and the waters blood ; and last of all, that dread high 
hand and stretched-out arm, which overwhelmed the mo- 
narch and his hosts, and strewed their corpses on the sea. 
No wonder that God, in a code of laws prepared for such 
a people at such a time, should uprear on its foreground 
a blazing beacon to flash terror on slaveholders. He that 
stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his 
hand, he shall surely be put to death.''''* 

It is not necessary here to consider the particular import 
of . the word '■ stealethJ' It is doubtless used in the sense 
in which that word is commonly used — to take what 
belongs to another, secretly, by violence, or by fraud. To 
' steal a man' is a phrase that will properly denote kid- 
napping ^ that is, 'to steal a human being, man, woman, 
or child ; to seize and forcibly carry away any person 
whatever from his own country or state to another.' t It 
imphes the seizing of such a person by violence, or se- 
curing him by secrecy or fraud, and appropriating him to 
ourselves — his person, his liberty, his ability to labour, his 
muscles and bones. It is, in fact, the way in which the 

* Bible against Slavery, pp. 11,12. -j- Webster. 


great mass of slaves on the earth have been made, and vi^ith- 
out which the system could never be perpetuated. 

The crime referred to in this law^ of Moses is stated in a 
three-fold form — stealing, selling, and holding ' a man.' All 
these are put on a level, and in each case the penalty was 
the same — death. This is, of course, the highest penalty 
that can be inflicted, and this shows that Moses ranked this 
among the highest crimes known to his laws. If a ' man' 
was stolen, no matter whether he was sold, or whether he 
was retained as property, he who had been guilty of the 
crime was to suffer death. 

It is worthy of observation, also, that Moses distinguishes 
this in the strongest manner from all other kinds of theft. 
In no other instance in his laws is theft punishable with 
death. If property was stolen, there was to be merely a re- 
storation. If a man had stolen an ox, and killed or sold it, 
he was to restore five oxen ; if a sheep, four sheep. If the 
theft was found in his hand alive, he was to restore double. 
Ex. xxi. 1, 4. In the case of the theft of a man, however, 
the very first act drew down the severest penalty of the law, 
and as long as the man was deprived of his rights, the 
offender exposed himself to that penalty. By this statute, 
therefore, Moses made the broadest possible distinction be- 
tween the theft of a man and the theft of property, and his 
statutes frown upon every law, and every institution, and 
every view, theoretical or practical, which regards man as on 
a level with the brute. 

What now would be the practical operation of this law in 
regard to slavery ? What check would it put upon it ? Or 
what would be the impression which it would leave in regard 
to the views which the legislator entertained of the system? 
The following effects, it seems to me, would be inevitable, and 
were evidently designed. (1.) It would show that the legis- 
lator did not approve the system. As slavery in all ages has 
been originated, if not exclusively, yet to a great extent, by 
theft or kidnapping, the solemn prohibition of this as subject- 


ing to the highest punishment known to the laws, would be 
a standing declaration that the system was not approved of, 
per se. (2.) Thjs prohibition would be a material check 
on slavery. If all kidnapping were at once to cease, and 
not another man, woman, or child were ever again to be 
' stolen' on the earth, it is manifest that a very essential 
change would take place in regard to slavery, even if there 
were no other regulations to check it. The perpetuity 
of the system would then depend wholly on the prisoners 
made in Avar — if indeed the prohibition would not also em- 
brace this method of making slaves — and on the hereditary 
character of the institutions. But, (3.) This solemn prohibi- 
tion against ' stealing' a man would of course operate to a 
great extent to prevent the purchase of those who had been 
stolen. It does not require a very advanced state of morals, 
or a very acute moral discernment in a community, to per- 
ceive that it is wrong to participate in what is regarded as 
crime ; that it is not right to ' receive stolen goods ;' that it 
is not proper to countenance a system that is forbidden by 
the laws. If to steal a horse be pronounced wrong by the 
laws, it requires no very acute discernment to perceive that 
it is not right to purchase a horse knowing that it has been 
stolen. If the sale of horses depended materially on the fact 
that they were all stolen, and the stealing were pronounced 
to be a penitentiary oifence, the moral effect would soon be 
to break up the traffic altogether. The friends of the laws 
would of course soon abstain from all such commerce, and no 
good citizen would feel that it was right for him to own a horse 
at all. (4.) This prohibition would be in the end an effectual 
check against slavery, on the supposition that the whole in- 
stitution were to be periodically abolished. If it were to be a 
standing statute of the nation, that at the end of every fifty 
years every slave was to be free, it is clear that this prohibi- 
tion would soon put an end to the system altogether. How 
could it be renewed again, if it were once abolished ? If it 
were a crime punishable by death to steal a man, how would 



there be the possibility of renewing the system to any consi- 
derabJe extent, after tlie act of abohtion had taken effect ? If, 
for example, in this country, at a specified time, and then 
periodically ever onward, it should be the law of the land 
that all who were then in servitude should be free, and all 
kidnapping should be prohibited on pain of death, how would 
it be possible again to renew the system to any considerable 
extent ? Where would slaves be obtained in sufficient num- 
bers to cultivate the plantations of the South ? Is it not clear, 
therefore, that if Moses ordained that all the slaves in the 
land should be emancipated on the yt'ar of jubilee, the whole 
system would be abolished, and that it would be impossible 
to renew it? And would it not be manifest that he meant 
that it never should be, to any considerable extent, renewed? 
Whether he did ordain this, will be a matter for subsequent 
consideration. The only object in adverting to it now is, to 
show what would be the operation of the arrangement if it 
were so. If this were the fact, then it is clear that, by the 
statute under consideration, Moses laid the foundation for the 
effectual abolition of the system. 

(2.) Moses secured, by lav/, all slaves from hard and 
oppressive usage. He intended that the slave should be 
regarded as a man ; as having certain rights ; and as having 
redress in cases where wrong was done him. (a) Servants 
were to be treated with humanity and kindness. Ex. xxi. 
20, 21 : "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid with 
a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall be surely pun- 
ished," (Heb. ' vengeance shall be taken on him.') Compare 
with this just and humane precept, the laws respecting 
slaves in this country. " Should death ensue by accident, 
while the slave is receiving" moderate correction, the consti- 
tution of Georgia, and the laws of North Carolina, denominate 
the offence justifiable homicide.''''* (b) If the slave was 
maimed by his master, he had. the right of freedom. If the 

* Stroud, Laws of Slavery, p. 127. 


master should injure him in the eye or the tooth, that is, in 
the spirit of the law, in any member whatever, the servant, 
in consequence of such treatment, had a right to his liberty 
at once. "And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the 
eye of his maid that it perish, he shall let him go free for 
his eye's sake. And if he smite out his man-servant's tooth, 
or his maid-servant's tooth, he shall let him go free for his 
tooth's sake." Ex. xxi. 36, 27. (r) In connection with this, 
should be noticed the numerous humane provisions of the 
Mosaic laAvs in reference to the stranger. I do not think 
that the word stranger in the Mosaic laws refers of necessity 
•to a slave, nor that it would be commonly so understood ; but 
the effect of such statutes on the treatment of the slave should 
not pass unnoticed when we are inquiring into the bearing 
of the Mosaic system on the subject of slavery. The slave 
would, as a matter of course, be more or less regarded in the 
light of a stranger. He would fee usually a foreigner. It 
would be felt that he was away from his own home, and in a 
land of strangers. All the precepts, therefore, which relate 
to the proper treatment of a stranger and foreigner, might 
be supposed to have an effect on his condition, and it would 
be not unnatural that, under the operation of these precepts, 
he should be in fact secured from all the evils from which 
the stranger was secured by law, and that the general com- 
mands enjoining kindness to the foreigner would have a 
salutary influence on his condition. Among these precepts 
are such as the following: — ^"The stranger that dwelleth 
with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou 
shalt love him as thyself." Lev. xix. 34.^ "Thou shalt 
neither vex a stranger nor oppress him ; for ye were strangers 
in the land of Egypt." Ex. xxii. 21. "Thou shalt not op- 
press a stranger, for ye know the heart of a stranger." Ex. 
xxiii. 9. " The Lord your God regardeth not persons. He 
doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and the widow, 
and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment ; 
love ye therefore the stranger." Deut. x. 17, 19. "Judge 


rigKteousIy between every man and his brother, and the 
stranger that is with him." Deut. i. 16. "Cursed be he 
that perverteth the jildgment of the stranger." Deut. xxvii. lt>. 
These humane commands contain the general injunction that 
tlie rights of the foreigner were to be respected no less than 
those of the native Israelite ; that no advantage was to be 
taken of the fact that he was in a strange land and without 
counsellors or patrons ; that there was no partiality to be 
shown to any one in virtue of his birth or rank in his own 
country ; and that all the protection of the law of the land should 
be thrown around the foreigner to secure him in his rights. 
All this was enforced by a reference to their own circum- 
stances in the land of Egypt, — a reference which could not 
but have a happy bearing on the slave, — for they were slaves 
in that land. " Thou shall neither vex a stranger nor oppress 
him, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." " Thou 
shalt not oppress a stranger, for ye knoiv the heart of a 
stranger.'''' Would they, when these precepts were enjoined 
with so much solemnity, be Jikeiy to treat the servant with 
the same oppression which they had themselves experienced 
in Egypt ? Is it not clear that Moses meant to make use of 
the remarkable events of their own history — events which 
could never fade from the memory — to modify the condition 
of slavery, and to make the yoke as light as it could be ? A 
very beautiful and affecting exhibition of the prevailing sen- 
timents on this subject, and of the conviction that the rights 
of the servant ought to be strictly regarded, occurs in one of 
the solemn appeals of Job respecting his own integrity and 
the sincerity of his religion. 

" If I have refused justice to my man-servant or maid-servant, 
When they had a cause with me, 
What shall I do when God riseth up "? 
And when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? 
Did not he that made me in the womb, make himi 
Did not the same God fashion us in the womb"!" 

Ch. xxxi. 13—15. 


(3.) Moses modified the system of slavery by securing to 
the servant, by law, an important portion of time for religious 
and moral improvement. During these periods of time, ser- 
vants were supported by their masters, and had opportunities 
for receiving the same kind of instruction, and enjoying the 
same religious privileges, as the other members of the Hebrew 
community. The law secured for them the following portions 
of time : — 

(o) Every seventh year. Lev. xxv. 4 — 6 : " But in the 
seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sab- 
bath for the Lord ; thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune 
thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy 
harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy 
vine undressed : for it is a year of rest unto the land. And. 
the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you ; for thee, and 
for thy servant, and ybr thy maid, and for thy hired servant, 
and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee." Thus, on 
the supposition that all the slaves in the land were to be free 
on the year of jubilee, here was an arrangement by which 
during seven whole years of their servitude they were to be 
released from toil. One whole seventh part of their time was, 
therefore, by the statute, made entirely their own. This ar- 
rangement would, in itself, be no unnnportant modification of 
the system of slavery as it has commonly existed in the 
world, and would make it a desirable thing for those who 
were reduced elsewhere to this condition to become servants 
among the Hebrews. 

(b) Every seventh day was, of course, secured to the ser- 
vant as a day of holy rest. In the fourth commandment, 
(Ex. XX. 10,) the rights of the servant in this respect are ex- 
pressly guarantied : " The seventh day is the sabbath of the 
Lord thy God ; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor 
thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy 
maid-servant.'''' This was securing for the servant another 
seventh part of his time, and so securing it that he could not 
be deprived of it by his master under any circumstances. It 



was not optional with the master whether his servant should 
labour on that day or not ; it was a matter of express and 
solemn statute that no labour should be done by himself, and 
none exacted from his servant. 

(c) The servant had the privilege of attending on the three 
great national annual festivals. Ex. xxiii. 17. " Three times 
in a year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God." 
Ex, xxxiv. 23. " Thrice in a year shall all your male- 
children appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel." 
These festivals were the " Passover, which commenced on 
the fifteenth of the first month, and lasted seven days, Deut. 
xvi. 1 — 8; the Pentecost, or Feast of Weeks, which began 
on the sixth day of the third month, and lasted seven days, 
Deut. xvi. 10, 11 ; and the Feast of Tabernacles, which com- 
menced on the fifteenth of the seventh month, and lasted 
eight days, Deut. xvi. 13, 15; Lev. xxiii. 34,39. As all 
met in one place, much time would be spent on the journey. 
After their arrival, a day or two would be requisite for various 
preparations before the celebration, besides some time at the 
close of it, in preparations for return. If we assign three 
weeks to each festival — including the time spent on the jour- 
neys, and the delays before and after the celebration, together 
with the festival we^k, it will be a small allowance for the 
cessation of their regular labour. As there were three festi- 
vals in the year, the main body of the servants would be 
absent from their stated employments at least nine weeks an- 
nually, which would amount in forty-two years, subtracting 
the sabbaths, to six j'-ears and eighty-four days." 

(d) The slave was to be a guest at all the family festivals. 
Ex. xii. 44. From Deut. xii. 11, 12, it would seem also that 
he was to be admitted to all the festivals that were celebrated 
in the land, or that the entire family was to be present. 
"Then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall 
choose to cause his name to dwell there ; thither shall ye 
bring all that I command you ; and ye shall rejoice before 
the Lord your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, 


and your men-servants, and yoicr maid-servants, and the 
Levite that is withm your gates." If so, then the slave 
attended on the festival of the new moon. Numb. x. 10 ; 
xxviii. 11 — 14; compare 1 Sam. xx. IS, 19; on the feast 
of trumpets. Lev. xxiii. 24,25; and on the great day of 
atonement. Lev. xxiii. 27. 

It is not possible to ascertain, with exactness, the whole 
amount of time which the Hebrew servant would have for 
himself, but it has been estimated that it would amount to 
about twenty-three years out of fifty, or nearly one half of 
his time. A considerable part of this was to be employed in 
religious services, when the slave was in all respects on a 
level with his master, and when he would enjoy all the ad- 
vantages which the Jewish rehgion furnished, to elevate the 
understanding and to purify the heart. The remainder, it 
Avould seem, might be employed in any way which he might 

It is not surprising, therefore, that we meet with intima- 
tions that the Hebrew servant might become possessed of a 
considerabfe amount of property. If he was industrious, and 
if he chose to avail himself of his advantages, nothing pre- 
vented his becoming easy in his circumstances, or accumu- 
lating so much that he could properly call his own, that Avhen 
the period of 'release' came, he might 'go out' in such cir- 
cumstances as at once to be above dependence, and to have 
all the respectability attached to citizenship. In Lev. xxv. 
49, it is supposed that a man who had become poor, and 
who was under the necessity of 'selhng himself,' might pro- 
cure the means of redeeming himself Avhile in a state of servi- 
tude. " Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, 
or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem 
him, or, if he be able, he may redeem himself'' As he was 
forced from poverty to ^ell himself, it is clear that it is sup- 
posed that he might acquire considerable property after he 
became a servant. In what way this was to be done, is not 
indeed expressly specified, but there are some intimations. 


in the Scriptures, that even the servant that was bought was 
to have compensation for his labour, and. there are some 
general principles laid down, which, if applied, would lead 
to that. Thus, Jer. xxii. 13, "Wo unto him that buildeth 
his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong ; 
that uses his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth 
him not for his work." Comp. CoL iv. 1 ; James v. 4. 
Jf the servant received compensation for his labour, or even 
if he employed the time which the law allowed him, to 
earn money for himself, it is evident that when he emerged 
into freedom, he might have had no inconsiderable amount 
of property. 

In connection with this, we may notice a most humane and 
just provision of the Mosaic law securing the comfort of the 
slave, when, by the limitation of his service, he became a 
freeman. It is found in Deut. xv. 12 — 15: "And if thy 
brother, an Hebrew man, or Hebrew woman, be sold unto 
thee, and serve thee six years, then in the seventh year thou 
shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him 
out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty : 
Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of 
thy floor, and out of thy wine-press ; of that wherein the 
Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. 
And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the 
land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee, there- 
fore I command thee this thing to-day." 

We may also notice in this connection, the fact that in the 
patriarchal age, and possibly also under the Mosaic institu- 
tions, the servant might become the heir to the property of 
his master. Thus Abraham said, that, in default of his not 
having a son of his own, his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, 
would be the heir to his property, (Gen. xv. 2,) and in the 
Mosaic institutions there was nothing to prevent this. 

These circumstances do much to illustrate the nature of 
Hebrew servitude. The large amount of time which was 
guarantied to the servant by law for religious and other pur- 


poses; the possibility of securing property for himself; the 
humane provision that if he became free he should not be 
sent out poor and pennyless ; and the possibihty that he 
might even become the heir of his master, showed that it 
was the design of Moses to modify the system, as it had 
before existed, and that the servitude which existed in 
Palestine was of a milder form than that Avhich has existed 
probably elsewhere on the earth. We shall have occasion 
to compare these provisions of the Mosaic system with those 
which are found in our own land. 

(4.) Another important arrangement of Moses on this 
subject related particularly to the religious privileges of 
slaves. Among these privileges were the following : — 

(o) They were admitted into covenant with God, and as 
members of a family were recognised as in that covenant, by 
the customary rite indicating that relation. This was an 
express ordinance in the time of Abraham, and the same is 
found in the Mosaic institutions. To Abraham, God gave 
this command when the covenant was established with him : 
"This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and 
you, and thy seed after thee ; every man-child among you 
shall be circumcised. And he that is eight days old shall be 
circumcised among you, every man-child in your generations ; 
he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any 
stranger, which is not of thy seed, he that is born in the 
house, and he that is bought with money, must needs be 
circumcised." Gen. xvii. 10, 12, 13. So also in the solemn 
covenant into, which God entered with the Hebrew people 
in the Avilderness, the servants were expressly included. 
Deut. xxix. 10, seq. "Ye stand this day, all of you before 
the Lord your God ; your captains of your tribes, your elders, 
and your officers, with all the men of Israel : your little ones, 
your wives, and the stranger that is in thy camp, from the 
hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water, that thou 
shouldst enter into covenant with the Lord thy God." 

{b) Slaves were guests, as we have seen, at the national 


and family festivals. Of course, they would derive all the 
advantage of instruction, and of religious impression, contem- 
plated in the observances of the Hebrew people. In this 
respect, there appears to have been no distinction, as if they 
appertained to a distinct class or caste. There was no special 
service appointed for them at unusual seasons ; there were 
no particular places or seats assigned them, to keep up the 
idea of their being a degraded and dependent class ; there 
was no withholding from them the instructions which the 
law of God gave about the equal rights of all mankind. The 
whole Mosaic arrangement, in this respect, Avas one that 
would leave the impression, that, whatever differences there 
might be among men in other respects, in regard to their 
religious rights they were on a level. In the sanctuary, at 
the altar, and at the family festival, they were all the children 
of the same Father, all sinners before God, and all dependent 
on the merit of the great sacrifice which Avas shadowed forth 
by the blood of the lamb that was slain. One of the most 
certain ways of mitigating the evils of servitude is an 
arrangement which will show to master and servant, as a 
practical matter, that they are on an entire equality before 
God. If they may approach the same altar ; if they may sit, 
without distinction, in the same sanctuary, and partake of the 
same ordinances of religion ; if they may be made to feel 
that they are alike sinners ; and if they can be made to 
realize that God looks with as much favour upon one as the 
other, one of the most important steps is taken effectually to 
abolish the institution. This arrangement existed as perfectly 
as possible, it is believed, in the Mosaic institutions. 

(c) Slaves were to be statedly instructed in the duties of 
morality and religion. Every seventh year, called the ' year 
of release,' (Deut, xxxi. 10, xv. 1, seq.,) the whole law was 
to be read through in the presence of all the people. 
" When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy 
God, in the place which he shall choose, thou shall read this 
law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people 


together, men, and women, and children, and the strans:er 
that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they 
may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all 
the words of this law." Deut. xxxi. 10 — 12. That this law 
included the servants or slaves in its operation, is expressly 
affirmed by Josephus. " When the multitude are assembled 
together in the holy city for sacrifice, every seventh year, at 
the feast of tabernacles, let the high-priest stand upon a 
high desk, wherein he may read, and let him read the law 
to all the people, and let neither the women nor the children 
be hindered from hearing, no, nor the servants neither, 
for it is a good thing that these laws should be engraven 
in their souls."* When the law was publicly read 
in the time of Joshua, and a solemn covenant with 
God was made by the Hebrews after their entrance into 
the land of Canaan, all the nation was present and partici- 
pated in it. " And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, 
and judges, stood on this side the ark, and on that side, before 
the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant 
of the Lord, as well the stranger as he that was born among 
them. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded 
which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, 
with the women, and the Httle ones, and the strangers that 
were conversant among them.'''' Josh. viii. 33, 35. The 
word ' strangers'' in these passages would include all those 
of foreign birth that were in the land, no matter what was 
their condition. Thus it is often used in the Scriptures, to 
distinguish all of foreign extraction from native Israehtes. 
Comp, Ex. xii. 49 ; Lev. xxiv. 22 ; Num. ix. 14, xv. 15, 16, 
29, xxiii. 34. 

[d) The slave might become a proselyte, and thus be ad- 
mitted to the full privileges of religion. Indeed, this seems 
not merely to have been permitted, but to have been contem- 
plated as a part of the arrangement. Hence, as we have seen, 

* Ant. b. iv. ch. viii. § 12. 


he Was circumcised ; he was admitted to all the national 
festivals ; he was carefully instructed in the larw. The 
arrangement seems to have been such as would lead him, of 
course, to become a worshipper of the true God, and to feel 
that his interests were identified with those of the Hebrew 
people. That all this v\'-as contemplated, there can be no 
doubt. The laws requiring them to be circumcised ; to keep 
the Sabbath, the Passover, the Pentecost, and the Feast of 
Tabernacles, all suppose this. But there is no intimation 
that this was to be done by compulsion. It is supposed, all 
along, that they would do this as a matter of course, and con- 
sequently no arrangement is made by Moses for punishing 
them in case of refusal. No matter what brought them to 
the land where the Hebrews dwelt, it was presumed that 
they would become worshippers of the true God, and would 
regard it as a privilege to avail themselves of the religious 
advantages furnished them there. The following declarations 
of Maimonides will show how this was commonly understood 
by the Hebrews. 

" Whether a servant be born in the power of an Israelite, 
or whether he be purchased from the heathen, the master is 
to bring them both into the covenant. 

" But he that is in the house is entered on the eighth day, 
and he that is bought with money, on the day on which his 
master receives him, unless the slave be unwilling. For if 
the master receive a grown slave, and he be ^mwilling, his 
master is to bear with him, to seek to win him over by 
instruction, and by love and kindness, for one year. After 
which, should he refuse so long, it is forbidden to keep him 
longer than a year. And the master must send him back to 
the strangers from whence he came. For the God of Jacob 
will not accept any other than the worship of a willing 

If the enjoyment of these religious privileges entered into 

* Maimon. Hilcoth Miloth, ch. i. sec. 8. 


the condition of Hebrew servitude, then it is easy to suppose 
that Moses designed to make that condition as mild and tole- 
ifible as possible. We shall have occasion hereafter to con- 
trast these arrangements made by law under the Mosaic 
institutions, with those made by law on the same subject in 
the United States. In view of these dissimilar arrangements, 
also, we shall have occasion to ask, whether the Mosaic insti- 
tutes give any sanction to the system existing in our own 
country ? At present it is sufficient to remark, that no 
arrangement existed which would prevent the servant from 
enjoying any and every privilege of rehgion which existed 
in the land ; that he might make as rapid and extended 
advances in religious knowledge and hohness as could be 
secured to any one under the Mosaic system ; that he had 
full opportunity for performing all his duties to God and 
to his family ; that in the great and most important trans- 
actions in which he could be engaged, he had the privilege 
of feeling that he was on a perfect level with his master ; 
and that he might feel that these rights were secured to him 
by solemn enactments — by the unchangeable constitution of 
the land. 

(5.) A fifth fundamental arrangement in regard to Hebrew 
servitude was, that the slave could never be sold. A man, in 
certain circumstances, might be bought by a Hebrew ; but 
when once bought that was an end of the matter. There is 
not the slightest evidence that any Hebrew ever sold a slave ; 
and any provision contemplating that was unknown to the 
constitution of the commonwealth. It is said of Abraham 
that he had 'servants bought with money;' but there is 
no record of his having ever sold one, nor is there any ac- 
count of its ever having been done by Isaac or Jacob. The 
only instance of a sale of this kind among the patriarchs, 
is that act of the brothers of Joseph which is held up to so 
strong reprobation, by which they sold him to the Ishmaelites. 
Permission is given in the law of Moses to buy a servant, but 
none is given to sell him again, and the fact that no such 



permission is given, is full proof that it was not contem- 
plated. When he entered into that relation, it became cer- 
tain that there could be no change unless it was volun- 
tary on his part, (Comp. Ex. xxi. 5, 6,) or unless his 
master gave him his freedom, until the not-distant period 
fixed by law when he would be free. There is no ar- 
rangement in the law of Moses by which servants were to 
be taken in payment of their masters' debts ; by which they 
were to be given as pledges ; by which they were to be con- 
signed to the keeping of others ; or by which they were to 
be given- ^way as presents. There are no instances occurring 
in the Jewish history in which any of these things were 
done. This law is positive in regard to the Hebrew servant, 
and the principle of the law would apply to all others. 
Lev. XXV. 42 : " They shall not be sold as bondmen."* In 
all these respects, there was a marked difference, and there 
was doubtless intended to be, between the estimate affixed to 
servants and to property. 

If it was regarded as a settled principle in Hebrew legisla- 
tion that servants were not to be sold again, it is easy to see 
what would be the effect on the system. Before he came 
into the hand of an Israelite, the slave might have been 
transferred from one to another, but here he found a resting- 
place. Before this, the ties which bound him. to his family 
might have been rudely torn asunder, but here he was 
certain that this would never occur again. If he entered 
into a domestic relation while the servant of a Hebrew ; if 
he became a husband and a father, it was certain that the 
ties which bound him to his wife and children would never 
be rudely severed. _ Neither himself, nor his wife, nor his 
children could be sold. The family bond could not be 
sundered except by death. This circumstance would of 
itself do much to modify slavery as it existed elsewhere in 

* See -Constitutiones Servi Hebraei, by John Cas. Miegius, in Ugolin's 
Thes, Sac. Ant, vol. xx-vi. p. 695. 


that age of the world, and make it an object for those who had 
been reduced to this condition in other lands, to become, if 
practicable, the servants of a Hebrew. So humane and 
careful was the Jewish law on this subject ; so averse to 
sundering the ties which bind husband and wife and parents 
and children together, that the law expressly provided that, 
where, by the limitation of the service, the husband and 
father became free, he might, if he chose, remain with his 
family, and share their lot. Ex. xxi. 2 — 6. 

In the Hebrew commonwealth scenes could never occur 
such as are constantly taking place in the United States, 
where families are separated for ever by sales at public auc- 
tion, or where, at the pleasure of the master, a husband and 
father may be removed to a distant part of the land, to see his 
wife and children no more. It is only necessary to read the 
description of such scenes as frequently occur in the Southern 
states of this Union, to be forcibly impressed with the humanity 
of the Mosaic law, and to see the strong contrast between 
servitude under that law and slavery in our own coun- 
try. It is hardly necessary to remark, what a modification it 
would make in slavery in this land, if it should become a 
settled principle that a slave could never be sold ; that if he 
came into the hand of an American master, he was certain 
that he would never be set up by the sheriff at auction ; that 
he would never be consigned to another for the payment of a 
debt ; that he would never be exhibited and examined for pri- 
vate sale ; and that he never could be transferred to a slave- 
dealer and conveyed to a distant part of the land to endure 
the evils of a harder bondage. Then he might look upon 
wnfe and children with the feehng that nothing but death 
could part them. Then he would dread the approach of no 
stranger, as if he had come to purchase himself, his wife, or 
child, to be removed for ever. Then he might solace his sad 
hours with something of the feeling that he had a home, and 
that however hard his lot, this most bitter of all evils was never 
to be experienced by him : — that neither he nor his family could 


be SOLD ; that, for the sake of gain to his master he could not 
be torn away from an agonized wife, or his wife from him ; 
and that a child could never be snatched from his embrace, to 
be manacled, and fettered, and borne to unknown woes, more 
dreadful to parent and child than death itself. The slave is a 
man, and there are few men who, rather than have a son or 
daughter subjected to the evils of slavery in Louisiana or 
Texas, would not prefer to see them laid in the silent abode 

" The wicked cease from troubling, 
And where the weaiy be at rest;" 

and where 

" The servant is free f7-om his master.^''* 

Job iii. 17, 19 

* If such a provision existed in the laws of this land respecting slavery, 
a scene such as the following would never occur. The account is given 
by a correspondent of the " Christian Advocate and Journal" (Methodist), 
and is evidently drawn from life, and is such a scene as must often occur 
under the system of slavery in this land. There is no law to prevent its 
occurring as often as a master shall find it for his convenience to part with 
any portion of his slaves. It could never have occuiTed in Palestine. 
The occurrence took place at Wilmington, North Carolina. 

« There are at Washington City, at Norfolk, at Charleston, and per- 
haps some other places in the old states of the South, slave markets, where 
slave-dealers purchase upon speculation such slaves as they can obtain, 
for the purpose of resale at a profit in the extreme South. 

" As I went on board the steamboat I noticed eight coloured men, hand- 
cuffed and chained together in pairs, four women, and eight or ten chil- 
dren, of the apparent ages of from four to ten years, all standing together 
in the bow of the boat, in charge of a man standing near them. Of the 
men, one was sixty, one was fifty-two, three of them about thirty, two of 
them about twenty-five, and one aboiit twenty years of age, as I subse- 
quently learned from them. The two first had children, the next three 
had wives and children, and the other three were single, but had parents 
living from them. Coming near them, I perceived they were all greatly 
agitated ; and, on inquiring, I found that they were all slaves, who had 
been born and raised in North Carolina, and had just been sold to a spe- 

scripTuhal views of slavery. 137 

(6.) A sixth fundamental principle of servitude among the 
Hebrews was, that if an Israelite had become poor, and was 
under a necessity of selhng himself to a stranger or sojourner 
Avho had become rich, he was, at all events, to be set at liberty 

culator who was now taking them to the Charleston market. Upon the shore 
there was a number of coloured persons, women and children, waiting 
the departure of the boat ; and my attention was particularly attracted by 
two coloured females of uncommonly respectable appearance, neatly at- 
tired, who stood together, a little distance from the crowd, and upon jvhose 
countenance was depicted the keenest sorrow. As the last bell was toll- 
ing, I saw the tears gushing from their eyes, and they raised their neat 
cotton aprons and wiped their faces under the cutting anguish of severed 
affection. They were the wives of two of the men in chains. There, 
too, were mothers and sisters, weepmg at the departure of their sons and 
brothers ; and there, too, were fathers, taking the last look of their wives 
and children. My whole attention was directed to those on the shore, as 
they seemed to stand in solemn, submissive silence, occasionally giving 
utterance to the intensity of their feelings by a sigh or a stifled groan. As 
the boat was loosed from her moorings, they cast a distressed, lingering 
look towards those on board, and turned away in silence. My eye now 
turned to those in the boat ; and although I had tried to control my feel- 
ings amidst my sympathies for those on shore, I could conceal them no 
longer, and I found myself literally ' weeping with those that weep.' I 
stood near them, and when one of the husbands saw his wife upon the shore 
wave her hand for the last time, in token of her affection, his manly efforts 
to restrain his feelings gave way, and fixing his wateiy eyes upon her, he 
exclaimed, 'This is the most distressing thing of all! My dear wife 
and children, farewell !' The husband of the other wife stood weeping in 
silence, and with his manacled hands raised to his face, as he looked upon 
her for the last time. Of the poor women on board, three of them had 
husbands whom they left behind. One of them had three children, 
another had two, and the third had none. These husbands and fathers 
were among the throng upon the shore, witnessing the departure of their 
wives and children, and as they took their leave of them they were sitting 
together upon the floor of the boat, sobbing in silence, but giving utterance 
to no complaint. But the distressing scene was not yet ended. Sailing 
down the Cape Fear river twenty-five miles, we touched at the little village 
of Smithport, on the south side of the river. It was at this place that one 


in the year of Jubilee, and might in the mean time be re- 
deemed. That he was to be free in the year of Jubilee was 
a fundamentgil condition of the sale. Lev. xxv. 54, Equally 
positive was the law that he might be redeemed, and this, too, 

of these slaves lived, and here was his wife and five children ; and while 
at work on Monday last his purchaser took him away from his family, 
carried him in chains to Wilmington, where he had since remained in jail. 
As we approached the wharf, a flood of tears gushed from his eyes, and 
anguish seemed to have pierced his heart. The boat stopped but a mo- 
ment, and as she left, he bid farewell to some of his acquaintance whom he 
saw upon -the shore, exclaiming, <Boys, I wish you well; tell Molly 
(meaning his wife) and the children I wish them well, and hope God will 
bless them.' At that moment he espied his wife on the stoop of a house 
some rods from the shore, and with one hand which was not in the hand- 
cuffs,, he pulled off his old hat, and waving it toward her, exclaimed, 
' Farewell !' As he saw by the waving of her apron that she recognised 
him, he leaned back upon the railing, and with a faltering voice repeated, 
' Farewell, for ever.' After a moment's silence, conflicting passions seemed 
to tear open his heart, and he exclaimed, • What have I done that I should 
suffer this doom 1 Oh, my wife and children, I want to live no longer I' 
and then the big tear rolled down his cheek, which he wiped away with 
the palm of his unchained hand, looked once more at the mother of his 
five children, and the turning of the boat hid her face from him for ever. 
As 1 looked around I saw that mine was not the only heart that had been 
affected by the scene, but that the tears standing in the eyes of many of 
my fellow-passengers bore testimony to the influence of human sympathy ; 
and I could, as an American citizen, standing within the limits of one of 
the old thirteen states, but repeat the language of Mr. Jefierson, in rela- 
tion to the general subject, ' I tremble when I think that God is just.' 
After we left Smithport, I conversed freely with all these persons ; and in 
intelligence and respectability of appearance, the three men who have thus 
been torn from their families would compare favourably with the respect- 
able portion of our coloured men at the north. This is a specimen of 
what almost daily occurs in the business of the slave-trade ; and I hesitate 
not to say, that there is not a Christian in the whole South who will refuse 
to unite with his brethren everywhere in the condemnation of, and in the 
most effective measures to extinguish the evils of tliis nefarious traffic. 
. " Yours in the bonds of the gospel, A. C." 


was one of the conditions of the sale. The privilege of being 
redeemed was secured to him by law, and was not at the dis- 
cretion of his master. The right of doing this was conceded 
to so many persons, that if the condition of servitude was at 
all severe, it would be morally certain that it would be done. 
" After he is sold, he may be redeemed agai-n ; one of his 
brethren may redeem him, either his uncle, or his uncle's 
son, may redeem him, or any that is. nigh of kin unto him of 
his family may redeem him, or, if he be able, he may redeem 
himself." Lev. xxv. 48, 49. Every thing about this was 
arranged on as mild and equal terms as possible, (a) It was 
presumed that in many cases the servant himself might, by 
occupying the leisure time a.llowed him by law, procure the 
means of purchasing his own freedom. (6) The remotest of 
his kindred might claim the right to redeem him, and the 
master could not prevent it. (c) It was required by the law 
that only a fair and equitable price should be demanded for 
his restoration to freedom. A just estimate of his value was 
to be made in proportion to the time which remained to the 
year of Jubilee, and the price was to be fixed accordingly. 
Lev. xxv. 56 — 52. 

This provision was an important part of the Mosaic 
arrangements respecting servitude. It is true that it did 
not extend to those Avho were foreign slaves, but it was of 
much importance that any who were held as servants might 
be redeemed. At all events, this feature of Hebrew servitude 
stands in strong contrast with all the arrangements for slavery 
in our land. Here, no one who becomes a slave can be 
redeemed except by the will of the master. There is no 
common understanding that when a man becomes a slave he 
may ever be redeemed, either by a relative, by a friend, or 
by his own labour. There is not in any of the slave states 
of the Union a law making it obligatory on the master, under 
any circumstances whatever, to liberate a slave. If a slave 
is ever in circumstances to purchase his own freedom, or if a 
friend is willing to do it for him, it depends wholly on the 


will of the master whether it can be done at all ; and if he is 
Avilling that it should be done, it is at such a price as he shall 
choose to affix to the value of the slave. If the slave himself 
has succeeded in any way in purchasing his own freedom, 
and has a wife and children in bondage, it depends AvhoUy 
on the will of the master whether he may purchase their 
freedom, though he may have ample means of doing it. The 
master has still absolute power to hold them in bondage, and 
there is no authority to compel him to part with them at all ; 
or even if he is wilHng to do it, to compel him to do it on 
reasonable terms. A right of redeeming himself or his family, 
secured by law, and with the conditions on which it might 
be done specified by law, would be a feature in the system 
in favour of the slave which would do much to mitigate its 
evils. It would hold out to him at least the hope that he 
might be free, and would prevent the absolute and unbroken 
gloom of the thought on his soul that he must be for ever 
held in bondage, until he is reheved by the kind hand of 

(7.) A seventh essential and fundamental feature of 
Hebrew slavery was, that the runaway slave was not to be 
restored to his master. On this point the law was absolute. 
" Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which 
is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with 
thee, even among you, in that place .where he shall choose in 
one of thy gates, where it hketh him best ; thou shalt not 
oppress him." Deut. xxiii. 15, 16. I am willing to admit 
that this command probably relates only to the slaves which 
escaped to the country of the Hebrews from surrounding 
nations, and that in form it did not contemplate the runaway 
slaves of the Hebrews in their own land. Still, it contains 
most important principles on the whole subject which could 
not but materially modify the system. This solemn and fun-- 
damental enactment would involve the following resuks or 
effects. (1.) No law could ever be enacted in the Hebrew 
commonwealth by which a runaway slave could be restored 


to his master. No revolution of the government, and no 
change of poHcy, could ever modify this principle of the 
constitution. (2.) No magistrate could, on any pretence, 
deliver up a runaway slave. From the moment when the 
foot of the slave crossed the boundary which divided the 
Hebrews from other nations, the magistrate became his pro- 
tector, and it was his business to see that he should not be 
oppressed or restrained. He was to dwell in such part of the 
land as he chose, unmolested. (3.) Palestine would thus 
become an asylum of freedom. Encouragement was given 
to all who chose to seek a refuge there, and the land of Judea 
was thus designed to be an asylum for the oppressed of all 
people. The foreigner who came there voluntarily, no matter 
from what place, became, from the moment that he reached 
the confines of Judea, a freeman. 'No matter though an 
Indian or an African suu had burned upon him, that moment 
he was free.' There was no power on earth that could again 
lawfully oppress him ; there was none that could lawfully 
compel him to return to servitude. The whole authority of 
the divine law proclaimed him to be a freeman, and, if true 
to their constitution, the armies of the commonwealth would 
all rush to his defence, and shield him from the claims of his 
former master. It is not difficult to imagine what must be 
the effect of this arrangement on the whole system of slavery, 
nor to understand what Moses meant should be accomplished 
by it. He designed that the country, under Jewish laws, 
should not be regarded as a land of oppression, but a land of 
freedom. He meant that it should have this prominence and 
this honourable distinction among the nations of the earth. 
This was itself a most bold and independent prmciple in 
legislation, and would be so understood by surrounding 
nations. It was, in fact, a public invitation to the oppressed 
of all lands to flee from oppression ; an invitation to all who 
were held in bondage to escape from' their masters ; an 
assurance that there was one country where they would be 
certain that their shackles would fall, never to be riveted 


again. We may imagine what the effect of this would be, ' 
by supposing that Texas, on the borders of Louisiana, had 
remained a separate and independent nation, and had made 
a similar proclamation in the face of all the states of this 
Union, and of all the world. If she had enacted, as a funda- 
mental principle of her constitution, that no slave was ever to 
be restored ; if she had made this proclamation to all the 
world ; if she had pledged all the power of her armies and her 
navy that no one who sought an asylum there should ever be 
wrested from her grasp, what would have been the effect on 
the system of slavery in an adjoining state ? This result 
would be inevitable, that there could be no security for this 
species of ' property.' It would be an easy matter to become 
a freeman. Where there was no danger of being retaken 
and punished, the attempt would be often made, and would 
be successful. The only reason whjt the attempt is not con- 
stantly made now, and why this kind of property is not 
regarded as wholly insecure, is, that the slave, if he escapes, 
is liable to be recaptured ; that there is a compact embracing 
in the parties to it all the free states of this Union, by which 
he may be restored ; and that the places where he would be 
safe are so distant, and so difficult to be reached, that he 
has no hope of success, and yields himself to his condi- 
tion in despair. (4.) The law prohibiting the restoration of 
the runaway slave in the Mosaic statutes, would do much to 
destroy the system altogether. It could not but leave the 
impression that, in the eye of the law, slavery was a hard 
and undesirable condition ; a condition from which one must 
escape if he would find happiness. It would operate to pre- 
vent a conscientious Hebrew from subjecting his fellow-men 
to a condition regarded as so harsh and severe. It would be 
a perpetual proclamation of the value of freedom. If a man 
already owned slaves, it would lead him to ask whether he 
ought to continue a relation, to escape from which was 
regarded as so desirable. And (5) we may ask whether it 
can be believed, in view of this law, that Moses regarded 


slavery as a good and desirable institution ? If it were, 
would he not have enjoined the return of the slave to his 
master? Can we, moreover, regard him as supposing that 
the master from whom the slave had escaped, had any real 
right to hold him? If he had, would he not have enjoined 
his restoration ? Is not this law in fact a pubUc proclama- 
tion that he regarded the slav^e as entitled to his freedom, 
and to all the assistance which others could render him to 
secure it ? Assuredly, if Moses had considered this to be 
a good institution, if he had regarded it as desirable for 
the best condition of society, if he had supposed that the 
master had a right to the slave, he would never have intro- 
duced so extraordinary a provision into his code. He would 
never have publicly invited the slave to escape if he could. 
He would never have, thrown around the runaway the pro- 
tecting shield of his laws. He would never have proclaimed 
in the face of all nations, that the moment when a man, who 
had fled from oppression, had reached the land overshadowed 
by Hebrew customs and laws, that moment he was a free- 
man, and that all the power of the state would be exerted to 
secure him from being restored to his master. 

(8.) The eighth fundamental principle in the Hebrew code 
was, that at certain periods there was to be a total emancipa- 
tion of all the slaves in the land. The provisions for securing 
this, were two. One was, that all Hebrew slaves were to be 
released at the close of the sixth year ; the other, that all the 
slaves in the land were to be set at liberty in the year of 

First, In regard to the former of these arrangements, the 
law was explicit, and there is no difference of opinion as to its 
meaning. The Hebrew servant was, in all circumstances, to 
be discharged at the close of the sixth year of his service, and 
at the jubilee, whether he had served the six years or not, 
unless by submitting to a degrading ceremony he showed 
that he preferred to remain in a state of servitude. Moses 
specifies two periods at which the Hebrew servant was to 


regain his freedom ; the seventh year (Ex. xxi. and Deut. 
XV.), and the fiftieth year, or year of jubilee. Lev. xxv. 
The meaning of these laws was this : The Hebrew servant 
was in no case to serve more than six years. If the year 
of jubilee did not occur during the time of his servitude, he 
was nevertheless in no instance to exceed six years of ser- 
vice. At all events, also, he was to be free at the year of 
jubilee. Even if he had not then served six years ; if he 
had served only one, he was to be restored to liberty, for it 
Avas a great principle of the Hebrew legislation that every 
fifty years all the inhabitants of the land should be free.* 
The argument to prove that the Hebrew servant was manu- 
mitted (Ex. xxi. 2; Deut. xv. 12; Jer. xxxiv. 14) on the 
seventh year after he became a servant, whether this were a 
sabbatical year or not, may be seen pursued at length in a 
tract of John Meyer, de Temporibus, et Festis Diebus He- 
bra3orum, cap. xvii. 22 — 35, found in Ugohn's Thesaur. Ant. 
Sacra, torn i. p. 697. On the year of jubilee, all the He- 
brew servants were released, whether they had served six 
years or not. The testimony of Maimonides is clear on this 
point, t The Mosaic provisions respecting the Hebrew ser- 
vant are thus stated : — " If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six 
years he shall serve : and in the seventh year he shall go 
out free for nothing." Ex. xxi. 2. " And if thy brother, an 
Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and 
serve thee six years, then in the seventh year thou shalt let 
him go free from thee." Deut. xv. 12; comp. Lev. xxxiv. 10 
— 17. If, however, during the period of his servitude, the 
Hebrew had married a wife who belonged to his master, and 
who was held by another tenure, and he chose to remain with 
her, he was not to be thrust out with violence. He was at 
liberty, by submitting to what would be a perpetual mark of 
his degradation, to remain. " And if the servant shall plainly 

* Comp. Michaelis' Commentary on the Laws of Moses, vol. ii, pp. 
176, 177. 

■\ See Ugolin, as above, p. 700. 


say, I love my mother, my wife, and my children ; I will not 
go out free ; then his master shall bring him unto the judge ; 
he shall also bring him unto the door, or unto the door-post ; 
and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and 
he shall serve him for ever." Ex. xxi. 5, 6. In this case his 
servitude became wholly voluntary, and this can furnish no 
authority for involuntary servitude, or for retaining a man in 
bondage against his will. Any man, doubtless, has a right 
to become the permanent servant of another, if he chooses. 
In this case, however, as in all instances where a Hebrew 
became a servant, there was an express provision that he 
should not be regarded in the light of a slave or bondman. 
" And if thy brother that dwellelh by thee be waxen poor, 
and be sold unto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as 
a bond-servant ; but as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, 
he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of 
jubilee : and then shall he depart from thee, both he and his 
children with, him, and shall return unto his own family, and 
unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For they 
are my servants, brouglit forth out of the land of Egypt : 
they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule 
over him with rigour, but thou shalt fear thy God." Lev. 
xxv. 39—43. 

Second, The law was equally explicit that in the year of 
jubilee, occurring once in fifty years, there was to be a uni- 
versal proclamation of freedom throughout the land. This 
positive law occurs in Lev. xxv. 10. "And ye shall hallow 
the fiftieth year, and proclaim, liberty throughout all the 
land UNTO all the inhabitants thereof ; it shall be a 
jubilee unto you ; and ye shall return every man unto his 
possession, and every man unto his family." This law does 
not seem to have any ambiguity, or to be easily susceptible 
of misconstruction. The command is positive that it should 
be proclaimed in every part of the land that all the inhabit- 
ants were free.. It seems to be a plain matter, then, that 
this proclamation could not be made, and yet any part of the 



inhabitants of the land be retained in servitude. The word 
rendered liberty here ("'I'^l cleror) is not of frequent occur- 
rence in the Old Testament, but there can be no doubt about 
its meaning. It signifies, according to Gesenius, (1.) a swift 
flight, a wheeling gyration ; (2.) a spontaneous flow, or flow- 
ing freely and abundantly ; and, (3.) a letting go free, free- 
dom, liberty. It is rendered in the Septuagint a^saiv, remis' 
sion. It is a word which is commonly applied expressly to 
the manumission of slaves. Thus in Jer. xxxiv. 8, 9 : '* This 
is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, after that 
the king had made a covenant with all the people which 
were in Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty p"""^! deror) unto 
them ; that every man should let his man-servant, and every 
man his maid-servant, being an Hebrew or Hebrewess, go 
free ; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew 
his brother." See also vs. 15, 10, of the same chapter. So 
also in Ezek. xlvi. 17, the same word is applied to the year 
in which the slave by law was restored to liberty. The 
meaning of the phrase 'unto all the inhabitants of the land,' 
seems also to be plain. The Hebrew expression employed, 
n'OK/' — Yoshebehd, is one which would include all that dwell 
in the land. The LXX have used a phrase that would in 
itself not improperly embrace all that sojourned in the land 
from any cause, ytacrt t'otj xatoLxovOLv a.vT!<riv. To one who 
should read this law, if there were no other to conflict with 
it, or that made it necessary to seek a different interpretation, 
the plain meaning of the statute would appear to be, that all 
who resided in the land from whatever motive, or whatever 
were their relations or employments, were from that moment 
to be regarded as freemen. So it would be now understood, 
if a proclamation were made in these very words throughout 
the United States. So also if a clause had been introduced 
into the federal constitution, declaring, that at the termination 
of fifty years from that time, 'Liberty should be proclaimed 
throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof there 
could have been no difference of opinion in regard to its 


meaning. The courts of the land would have been unani- 
mous in its interpretation. After the publication of such a 
law, it is clear that slavery of any kind would have been 

The following brief summary of remarks contains the prin- 
ciples on which such an interpretation is given to this word. 
as to make it embrace all the dwellers in the land, of all 
classes and conditions. (1.) The word here rendered inhabit- 
ants is the one which, if that idea had been intended to be 
conveyed, would have been employed. There is no other 
word of more general character in the Hebrew language ; 
none which would have better conveyed the idea ; none 
which a Hebrew would have been so likely to employ. 
(3.) It is, as remarked above, the natural, and obvious inter- 
pretation ; that which would occur to the great mass of 
readers ; that about which there would be no doubt, if 
no difficulty should arise out of the passage itself. So it 
Avould be understood now; so it would have been understood 
in any country or age, (3.) It is an accordance with the 
usage of the word elsewhere. There is almost no word of 
more frequent occurrence in the Scriptures, than the Hebrew 
word (-^?'') here employed. It occurs, in various forms, more 
than eleven hundred times in the Bible,* and is employed in 
the most general manner conceivable. Any dweller, any in- 
habitant, any one who resides in a place, any one who so- 
journs, any one who remains only for a short time, or any 
one who has a permanent residence, would be embraced by 
this word. It is repeatedly applied to all that came out of 
Egypt ; to all that abode in the wilderness ; to all the inha- 
bitants of Canaan, of Edom, of Moab, of Tyre, of Kedar, of 
Philistia, of the world ; and there is no word which would 
more naturally embrace all that abode in a country, from any 
cause whatever. (4.) There is nothing, as we shall see!,on fur- 
ther examination, which necessarily hmits its meaning here. 

* See the Hebrew Concordance. 


For such reasons as these, it seems clear to me, that the word 
was intended to embrace all that dwelt in the land, whatever 
w«re their relations or employments. At certain periods of 
the Jewish history all were to be free. 

The correct interpretation of this passage (Lev. xxv. 10) is 
of so great importance in understanding the true nature of the 
Hebrew institutions, that it may be proper here to submit 
some of the views of distinguished expositors. Vatablus ex- 
plains it, "And thou shalt proclaim that all the inhabitants 
of the land are free, who were before held as slaves." This 
interpretation is adopted by Rosenmiiller. Rabbi Solomon 
says, " Thou shalt proclaim liberty to the servants, whether 
the ear had been perforated with an awl or not, or whether 
the six years had not been completed from the time when 
they were purchased." The general opinion of Jewish wri- 
ters has been, that at the year of jubilee all Hebrew servants 
at least, though ihey had been unwilHng to be released at- 
the close of the six years' service, (Ex. xxi.,) should then be 
free.* "The year of jubilee made all servants free without 
exception." This is the opinion of the most distinguished 
Jewish Rabbins, t Thus Abenezra says, in explaining the 
law in Lev. xxv. 41, " And he shall go out from thee, that 
is, he who sold himself to thee of his own accord, as well as 
he who was convicted of theft, and who was sold to thee on 
account of theft." Maimonides says, that all those whose 
ears had been bored, (Ex. xxi.,) and who had thus become 
voluntary servants beyond the period of six years, were then, 
set at liberty. " The servant who was sold, and who had 
served six years, and who was then unwilling to leave his 
master, his ear was bored, and he was to serve until the year 
of jubilee.'''' 1 Servants who had been sick through their 
whole time of service, or who were then confined to their 

* See Joh. Casp. Miegius, Constitutiones Servi Hebraei, ^ 3, Ixxxvi. 
•j- See the instances referred to in Ugolin's Thes. Ant. Sacra, torn, 
xxvi. p. 793. :t^ Avod. c. iii. § 6. 


couch, were also made free at the year of jubilee.* "The 
servant who is sick as the year of jubilee comes in, becomes 
free." They who had endeavoured before to escape, but who 
had been prevented, were set free at the year of jubilee. 
" When a servant who sold himself, or who was sold by the 
court, made an attempt to escape, he was held to make up for 
these years, but he was set at liberty at the year of jubilee."! 
The wives and children of slaves were restored to liberty on 
the year of jubilee. | Josephus expressly states, that all the 
Hebrew servants whose ' ears had been bored,' and who had 
served their masters voluntarily more than six years, were set 
at liberty in the year of jubilee. § It would also appear from 
Josephus,|| that on the year of jubilee, all slaves were set at 
liberty. " The fiftieth year is called by the Hebrews \he jubi- 
lee, wherein debtors are freed from their debts, and slaves are 
set at liberty ;" and though in this connection he mentions 
only Hebrew slaves, yet as he elsewhere mentions no other, it 
would seem that he regarded the law as general, that all who 
were then slaves should be on that year restored to freedom. 

The law under consideration, (Lev. xxv. 10) is so positive 
and exphcit in its terms, that there could have been no differ- 
ence of opinion in regard to it, if there were not a permission 
given, which seems to conflict with it, and which has led 
many respectable expositors to maintain that the law of eman- 
cipation at the jubilee related only to the Hebrews who Avere 
held as slaves, and that those who were foreigners were re- 
tained for life, notwithstanding this proclamation, and that in 
fact, therefore, slavery among the Hebrews was a perpetual 
institution. It is of essential importance, therefore, to inquire 
whether the statute referred to demands this interpretation. 
It is found in Lev. xxv. 44 — 47 : " Both thy bondmen and 

* Maimonides, Avod. c. ii. § 5 ; c. iii. § 15. j- Maimonides, c. iii. § 15. 
i See the authorities for this quoted in UgoUn, as above. 
§ Ant. b. iv. ch. viii. ■§ 28. ll Ant. b. ii. ch. xii. § 3. 



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 ; ihey 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 for ever : 
but over your brethren, the children of Israel, ye shall not 
rule one over another with rigour." There can be no differ- 
ence of opinion on the question whether this authorized the 
Hebrews to purchase those of the surrounding nations for 
slaves. The only question is, whether the slavery into 
which they were brought by this purchase was perpetual 
and hereditary, or whether those who were thus bought of 
the heathen came under the general operation of the law that 
* liberty was to be proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the 
land' on the year of jubilee. The objection to this interpre- 
tation is found in the expression, " Jlnd ye shall take them 
as an inheritance J'or your children after you, to inherit them 
for a possessioi; they shall be your bondmen for ever." 
The question is, how, in connection with the proclamation of 
the year of jubilee, this is to be interpreted. 

It is not to be denied that many respectable names may be 
adduced to prove that this law contemplates that slavery 
should be a perpetual institution among the Hebrews, and 
that, while all who were Hebrews by birth were to be manu- 
mitted in the year of jubilee, this arrangement did not extend 
to foreign slaves. This opinion is expressed decidedly by 
Judge Stroud,* though he endeavours to show that " the term 
perpetual, in its proper and absolute sense, was not applica- 
ble to the slavery of the Israelites, even of the heathen na- 
tions, and that the heathen slaves might become proselytes, 
and thus soon obtain their freedom. It is also the opinion of 

* Laws of Slavery, p. 63. 


Thomas Goodwin,* andis the opinion of Miegius,tquoted above. 
Probably this would be found also to be the opinion of all in 
our own country who endeavour to defend slavery from the 
Bible. Thus the conductors of the Princeton Repertory 
become absolutely confident on this point, and consider it as 
so clear that it excludes even the possibility of reasoning on 
the subject. They say, 

" We do not know how this passage can be rendered plainer 
than it is, nor can we hope that any man, who is in such a 
state of mind as to prevent his seeing and admitting that it 
authorized the Hebrews to hold slaves, could be convinced 
even if one rose from the dead. It is here taught, 1. That if 
a Hebrew through poverty sold himself, he should not be re- 
duced to the abject state of a slave. 2. That he should be 
treated as a hired servant. 3. And be allowed to go free at 
the year of jubilee. This is the precise condition which 
abolitionists assign to the heathen servants among the He- 
brews, whereas it is here declared to be peculiar to servants 
who were children of Israel ; who could not be sold as bond- 
men, vendilione mancipii., as the elder Michaelis translates it. 
Of the other class it is taught, 1. That they might be bought 
for bondmen. 2. That they might be held as a possession or 
property. 3. They might be bequeathed by their masters to 
the children as a possession ; hereditario jure possidehitia, as 
Michaelis renders the phrase ; or as De Wette translates it to 
the letter : Ihr moget sie vererben auf eure Sohne nach euch 
als Eigenthum. You may bequeath them to your children 
after you for a possession. 4. This bondage was perpetual. 
They shall be your bondmen for ever. One of the points of 
distinction between the two classes was, that the former could 
not be sold in perpetuity, the latter might. As the land of a 
Hebrew could not be alienated, so his person could not be re- 

* Moses and Aaron, c. x., note 3, in Ugolin's Thes. Ant. Sacrar. torn. iii. 
p. 296. 

I See his work, in Ugolin. Thesaur. Ant. Sac. xxvi. p. 738. 


duced to perpetual bondage. At the year of jubilee he was 
to go free, and his inheritance reverted to him. In contrast 
with this, Moses allows the heathen to be reduced to perpetual 
bondage. Hebrews shall not be sold with the sale of a slave, 
vcnditione mancipii, v. 42 ; the heathen may be thus sold, is 
the very point of contrast, v. 46. If the former passage for- 
bade reducing Israelites to the condition of slaves, the latter 
allowed the heathen to be so reduced. Again, both the He- 
brew words and the construction in v. 39, are the same as v. 
48. An Israelite ' thou shah not compel to serve as a bond- 
servant;' the heathen 'shall be your bondmen.' What is 
forbidden in the one case, was allowed in the other." 

So plain is this passage in their eyes, that it is probable that 
a man who should even doubt whether all this is so would be 
regarded by them as of the same intellectual capacity and 
attainments as he, to use their own expression, who should 
gravely maintain that when it is said that "John the Baptist 
came neither eating nor drinking, it means that he drank no 
water, but only milk ;" or as he who should assert that all the 
slaves were "ten feet high." Thus they say : — 

"The attempts made to evade this plain teaching of the 
Scriptures are precisely similar to those which are made to 
prove that the Bible condemns as sinful all use of wine as a 
beverage, and that it pronounces even defensive war to be 
sinful. It is impossible to answer mere assertions. And the 
more extravagant the assertion, the more impossible the an- 
swer. How can a man be refuted who should say, as we 
know an ultra advocate of temperance did say, that the passage 
which speaks of John the Baptist coming neither eating nor 
drinking, means that he drank no water, but only milk ; where- 
as Christ came drinking water ; though he was called a glut- 
tonous man and a wine-bibber. So when abolitionists say in 
reference to all the passages above referred to, that the bond- 
men of the Hebrews, even from among the heathen, were 
voluntary servants, who received themselves the purchase 
money paid for. them, that they were in fact hired servants, 


receiving vrages, hiring themselves for a term of years instead 
of for a single year, or for a day, or week, or month, who 
could neither be sold nor bequeathed ; we know not how they 
are to be answered, any more than if they were to assert, they 
were all ten feet high." 

To the interpretation, however, which supposes that this 
passage means that slavery was to be perpetual, and that so 
far as it pertained to foreign slaves, their condition was not to 
be afTected by the proclamation on the year of jubilee, there 
stand opposed the following objections — objections of so much 
force as to seem to make it necessary to seek some other inter- 
pretation. (1.) The positive nature of the command respect- 
ing the year of jubilee, " And ye shall hallow the fiftieth 
year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the 
inhabitants thereof." This law is explicit ; the terms, as we 
have seen, are such as refer to freedom from servitude, and 
the arrangement is one which accords with the general spirit 
of the Hebrew institutions. (2.) The hberty of the Hebrew 
slave was secured, by other enactments, at the termination of 
his six years of servitude, unless he chose to remain as a 
servant for a longer period, and submitted to a degrading cere- 
mony, as a proof that he was willing to continue in that con- 
dition. Ex. xxi. The year of jubilee, therefore, could secure 
no real benefit to the Hebrew servants, unless it was to the 
comparatively small number who should have shown themselves 
willing to remain in this humihating condition. The restora- 
tion to freedom of that comparative small number would have 
been an event by no means commensurate with the import- 
ance attached to the year of jubilee, as a year of universal 
emancipation. It was evidently the intention of this humane 
and remarkable law, that on the return of every fifty years 
things should go back where they were half a century before ; 
that whatever wrongs had accumulated in society during that 
period should be at once rectified ; that if there were any 
cases of oppression and cruelty which the usual operation of 
the law failed to reach, they should now at once be arrested 


and corrected ; and that if any cases of poverty had arisen 
by a reverse of circumstances, instead of becoming fixed, and 
leading to the permanent debasement of the family, the evil 
might be checked then, and the family have an opportunity 
of beginning life again. The idea of the great Hebrew legis- 
lator seems to have been, that in order to the perfection of a 
commonwealth, there should be no permanent causes of de- 
gradation ; that no individuals or classes in society should be 
placed in such circumstances of permanent disadvantage that 
they could not rise ; and that in order to secure the highest 
state of society it was proper that all should have the oppor- 
tunity periodically of starting on life again under equal ad- 
vantages. There Avas to be no institution, no law, no custom, 
no relation, no habit among the people, that was to become 
stereotyped, and that would send a mahgn influence onward 
inevitably to coming generations. It was felt that evils might 
accumulate which no ordinary operation of law would reach; 
that there might be cases of oppression and wrong which the 
usual course of jurisprudence could not affect ; and that in- 
stead of allowing them to accumulate, there should be a time 
when, by a general enactment, all these evils should cease. 
It was like clearing out the channel of a river which is in 
danger of being obstructed with drift-wood, that it may run 
clear again ; or like a law respecting a " general jail delivery," 
or the action of the court of oyer and terminer, where all un- 
tried cases must be tried — lest otherwise some who are accused 
of crime should be overlooked in the ordinary process of juris'^ 
prudence, and thus permanent injustice be done, and evils 
accumulate in a community. It is essential to society that 
there should be some such enactments. We apply them to 
judicial proceedings by the writ of habeas corpus, and by 
other enactments. Moses meant that by one general arrange- 
ment all these evils should be reached at once. He knew 
nothing, indeed, of the writ of habeas corpus, or of a court 
of oyer and terminer, but perhaps it would be found even now 
that his one appointment of the year of jubilee would accom- 


plish as much for the good of a community as all the devices 
in jurisprudence in modern times. But it is clear that this 
arrangement could not be carried into effect unless there was 
a provision for universal emancipation. If the law had not 
extended to foreign slaves, there would have been a perma- 
nent evil, diametrically opposed to the whole tenor of the 
Mosaic institutions, stretching on from age to age. (3.) The 
language which is employed in Lev. xxv. 46, "they shall be 
your bondmen for ever," does not of necessity imply that this 
refers to the perpetual bondage of the individual slave. It 
could not, at all events, be literally true, nor is it necessarily 
meant even that the individual was to be a slave till his death. 
The same language precisely is used of the Hebrew slave, 
who chose to remain with his master rather than to be made 
free at the end of six years, and who had his ear bored as a 
token of his voluntary servitude. Ex. xxi. 6 : " His master 
shall bore his ear through with an awl ; and he shall serve 
him, for etjer." Yet it is admitted, on all hands, that this 
^'■for ever'''' extended,, in the case of the Hebrew servant, only 
to the year of jubilee. How is it then inferred that the same 
phrase should mean that the foreign individual should serve 
for life, or should be perpetually a slave ? (4.) All that is 
fairly implied in the law of Moses (Lev. xxv. 44 — 46), " thy 
bondmen, and thy bondmaids which thou shalt have, shall be 
of the heathen that are round about you, and ye shall take 
them for an inheritance for your children after you, they shall 
be your bondmen for ever" is, that the permanent provision 
for servants was not that they were to enslave or employ their 
brethren, the Hebrews, but that they were to employ foreigners. 
Those who were already slaves in other nations — for all kid- 
napping, or all m,aking of slaves by the Hebrews themselves 
was forbidden — nlight be introduced into the Jewish common- 
wealth, under the far superior advantages which they would 
enjoy there, and the greatly modified conditions of servitude 
there, and it would be a permanent arrangetnent that they 
might be purchased and introduced among the Hebrews, where 


they would enjoy the privileges of the true religion, and where 
they would be secure of their freedom at the return of the 
jubilee. The native Hebrew was never to be regarded 
properly as a slave. He was to be considered, even when 
sold for debt, poverty, or theft, as " an hired servant, and a 
sojourner," Lev. xxv. 40; he was not "to be made to 
serve with rigour," (Lev. xxv. 43, 46,) and he was not, it 
would seem, to descend " as an inheritance," but the foreigner 
who was purchased might be regarded as the " money" of 
him who had bought him, and might be inherited as other 
property, until he was released by the operation of the gene- 
ral law when all became free. The law was a humane one, 
for the condition of servitude among the Hebrews, according 
to the Mosaic statutes, was in all respects more eligible than 
in the surrounding nations, and for the Hebrew to purchase 
a slave was in fact to secure him his freedom if he survived 
to the year of ^^ubilee. 

If, however, it should be conceded that this passage means 
that the heathen might be subjected to perpetual bondage, and 
that the intention was not that they should be released in the 
year of jubilee, still it will not follow that this is a justification 
of perpetual slavery as it exists in the United States. For 
(L) Even on that supposition the concession was one made 
to them, not to any other people. (2.) There were particular 
reasons operating for subjecting the nations around Palestine 
to servitude, which do not exist now — they were doomed to 
servitude for sins, not for their complexion. (3.) No one can 
maintain that it would be proper to transfer all the Hebrew 
institutions to our own country, and yet the fact that any insti- 
tution was found in the Mosaic code, would be just as strong 
in that case as in this : and, (4.) Even if we admit that it was 
right then, it would not follow that it would be right now. 
There is more light now than there was then. There has 
been an advance in the knowledge of moral truths and rela- 
tions, and it would not be a safe method of reasoning to infer 


that what was tolerated in the period of the world when 
Moses lived, would meet with the divine approbation now. 

The importance of this part of the subject has led me to go 
at considerable length into the nature of Hebrew servitude. 
I hav-e done this the rather because the Mosaic institutions 
are constantly appealed to in defence of slavery in this 
country, and it seems to be inferred at once that the mere fact 
that Moses tolerated a S5^stem of servitude, may be regarded 
as a full vindication of that very diiferent system which exists 
in this nation. In view of the examination which we have 
gone over, it is natural to ask, what would be the operation of 
the Mosaic laws on slavery? What would be the effect of 
these laws in perpetuating the system in Palestine ? What 
would be their operation if they were applied to the system 
as it exists in this land ? The following would be the inevi- 
table results of such a system, and were doubtless such as 
were foreseen and intended by the sagacious Hebrew 

(1.) There could be no permanent arrangements for the 
system. At certain periods, not remote from each other, all 
the existing forms of servitude would come to an end, and the 
land would be a land of liberty. 

(2.) The effect of such a periodical emancipation would be 
to introduce a considerable number of freemen to the enjoy- 
ment of all the civil and religious privileges of the Hebrew 
commonwealth. The number of freemen would be aug- 
mented, and the real wealth of the state would be increased 
by all the difference in value which there is between a free- 
man and a slave. And this was much. Long ago it was 
said, by Homer, 

« Jove fixed it certain that whatever day 
Makes man a slave, takes half his worth away." 

A slave, or a subject of oppression of any kind, is never 
worth half as much as a freeman. A man under the Turkish 
government, or in Russia or Persia, is not worth half as much 



as a mere means of increasing national wealth, as in a free 
country. A slave has nothing like half the value of a free- 
man as a means of increasing the property of a nation, or 
considered as a part of national wealth. In our country he is 
' one-third of a freeman' in representation, but not in actual 
worth. The way to make a man valuable is plain. It is to 
impress him with the conviction that he is a freeman ; to 
allow him to feel that his limbs, his time, his ingenuity, hrs 
sinews, are his own ; to permit him to pursue his own plans 
in his own way, subject' only to those mild restraints which 
a regard to the welfare of others demands ; to teach him^ that 
he is responsible to his Maker alone for the manner in which 
he spends his time and employs his talents ; to assure him, 
by all the safeguards which the law can throw around him, 
that the avails of his labour shall be his own ; to give him a 
pledge that the whole community will come forth, if necessal-y, 
to defend him if he has been injured or wronged, and that 
every court of justice will vindicate his rights to a farthing. 
It is to allow him to own a piece of land on which he can 
tread as a freeman, and say, ' It is mine. I may keep it or 
sell it ; I may plow it and sow it as I please. I may sit down 
here under the vine and the fig-tree planted by my own 
hands. Here, if I choose, I may build me a house where to 
live ; and here I may dig a grave for myself and my children, 
which no mortal can have a right to disturb ; and here I may 
lay me down when I die, and sleep in the hope of a glorious 
immortality.' An arrangement, therefore, which should have 
the effect to elevate periodically all to the rank of freemen, 
who from any cause had been depressed to the condition of 
bondage, would be most auspicious on a commonwealth, and 
there can be no doubt that Moses contemplated this in his 
arrangements for the regulation of affairs in the Hebrew 

(3.) The operation of these laws would soon abolish slavery 
altogether, or at least would so diminish the evils of the 
system, as to make it practically little oppressive. After the 


universal emancipation at the jubilee, it would not be easy to 
begin the system again. It is not probable that they who 
M'^ere released would sell themselves again into servitude; and 
as all who were slaves were to be the result of purchase, and 
not of conquest or kidnapping, it is clear that the places of 
those who had been emancipated could not be soon suppHed. 
If in this country there were an article of the constitution that 
there should be a jubilee once in fifty years, in which all 
who were held in slavery should be restored to freedom, even 
if it were permitted to procure slaves again by purchasing 
them from foreigners, it is clear that slavery would soon 
cease. The slave would at once lose a considerable part 
of his value, for he and his children would soon be free. 
It would be impossible at once to supply the places of those 
who were emancipated at the jubilee, for the most active 
traffic, and the most numerous importations practicable, 
would not meet the demand. The plantations, in the mean 
time, must lie waste, and all the operations usually carried 
on by slave labour would be suspended, unless there could 
be found some substitute for that labour. But here would be 
all those who had been set at hberty, now dignified as free- 
men ; stimulated to make an effort for themselves and their 
families, because they were free ; acquainted with the busi- 
ness to be done on a plantation ; many of them attached to 
their old masters, and ready to engage in their service for a 
reasonable compensation. The consequence would be, that 
in by far the greater number of instances, there would be no 
desire to purchase slaves again. Those who had been slaves, 
and who were emancipated by law, would be at once engaged, 
not as ' bondmen,' but as ' hired labourers,' and the same 
work which they performed before under the lash, they would 
now perform, in a better manner, under the higher incentives 
applicable to freemen. It may be safely said that slavery, as 
a system, would not survive the operation of two such jubilees 
in this land ; and the conclusion is inevitable, that Moses was 
not a friend of the system, and did not design its perpetuity. 


I have thus examined, at length, the nature and the prac- 
tical operation of the Mosaic institutions in regard to servi- 
tude. But one point remains, to settle the inquiry whether 
we can derive an argument from the Mosaic institutions in 
defence of slavery as it exists in our land, or to determine 
Avhether it is proper to infer, as is often done, that because 
the Hebrew institutions tolerated slavery, that, therefore, the 
system is right as it exists in the United States. This will 
make it necessary to compare the Mosaic arrangements 
already described, with those existing in this country. 

§ 3. Comparison of the Mosaic institutions in relation to 
Slavery with those existing in the United States. 

The Mosaic institutions are, as has been before remarked, 
often appealed to in support of slavery as it exists at the 
present time. It is inferred, that because Moses permitted 
it, under the sanction of God, that therefore it is lawful now. 
This argument supposes that slavery, as Moses tolerated it, 
had substantially the same features which it has now, and 
that consequently it is right to argue from one to the other. 
It is important, therefore, to bring into comparison the fea- 
tures of slavery as it exists now, with those which were 
tolerated under the Mosaic laws; for nothing can be clearer 
than that if an argument can be constructed at all in favour 
of slavery from the fact that it was tolerated by Moses, that 
argument can be adduced only in favour of those features 
of servitude which he himself imbodied in his civil code. 

Before proceeding, however, to notice the things in which 
slavery in this country differs essentially from that tolerated 
under the Mosaic laws, there is one remark which it is 
important to make, in order to obtain a clear view of the 
argument. It is, that it is no certain evidence that a thing 
is approved, or is regarded as best, because it is tolerated. 
The circumstances may be such that the evil could not at 
once be prevented without tearing up the very foundations 


of society, and, therefore, it may be necessary to connive at 
it. The ultimate good may on the whole be more promoted, 
if it is permitted, with arrangements to modify it, and ulti- 
mately to remove it, than it would be if there were a violent 
effort to remove it at once. We have certain evidence that 
there were some things allowed by Moses, and for which he 
legislated, which were not regarded as arrangements most 
conducive to the happiness of society, and which it was never 
intended should always exist. Among these things we may 
mention {a) polygamy. Nothing can be clearer from the New 
Testament than that polygamy was not originally designed 
when man was made, (Matt. xix. 4,) and that it was not re- 
garded as the best institution for society, or to be perpetuated 
for the good of mankind, (1 Tim. iii. 2 ; 1 Cor. vii. 2 ;) and yet 
this was practised by nearly all the patriarchs, and was tole- 
rated by the Mosaic laws. I am aware that it is denied by 
the advocates of slavery,* and by some most decided aboli- 
tionists t — extremes meeting here — that Moses tolerated poly- 
gamy, or that he ever legislated for it, and that even Dr. 
Dwight denies it. J The argument on which Dr. Dwight 
rests, g,nd the only one, is the marginal reading in the 
English version of Lev. xviii. 18, "Thou shalt not take one 
wife to another." The reading in the text is, "Neither shalt 
thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, besides the other, 
in her lifetime." But, that the reading in the text is the 
correct one, is apparent, (1.) because the main discussion in 
the chapter is not about polygamy, but about marrying near 
relations. Having stated the general principles on that sub- 
ject, nothing was more natural than for the lawgiver to add, 
that though, in itself, it was not unlawful to marry the sister 
of a wife, and he did not mean to prohibit that — a question 

* .See the Southern Literary Messenger, for September, 1845, p. 521. 
•j- See the Letters of the Rev. A. A. Phelps, to Professor Stowe. 
+ Theology, vol. iii. pp. 419, 420, 



Avhich could not but occur — yet that it was not proper to da 
it ' in her hfetime.' There were obvious evils and impro- 
prieties accompanying such a step, which would render it 
undesirable that it should be done. (2.) This is the fair 
construction of the Hebrew — nnhx ^X HK^HI — *«; unfe to her 
sister,' and it will not properly bear any other. So the Vul- 
gate expUcitly — Sororem uxoris tuse in pelhcatum illius non 
accipies — adhuc ilia vivente. So the LXX, TwctTxa frt' absT-^-zj 
avtrji, x.t;.%. So the Targum of Onkelos, the Samaritan, the 
Syriac, and the Arabic. So Coverdale renders it. Indeed, 
there is no interpretation of a passage better settled thaff 
this. That polygamy was tolerated by Moses, will further 
appear from the following remarks : 

(1.) The act of legislation in Ex. xxi. 7 — 10, has reference 
to polygamy, and authorized it. " And if a man sell his 
daughter to be a maid-servant, she shall not go out as the 
men-servants do. If she please not her master, who hath 
betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed : 
to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, 
seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have 
betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the 
manner of daughters. If he take him another wife, her food, 
her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish." 
The case supposed is that of an Israelite Avho should sell his 
daughter to be a 'maid-servant,' and that the daughter thus 
' sold' might be ' betrothed' tc him or to his son. If, after 
being thus betrothed to her master, she did not please him, 
the law was that she should be allowed to be redeemed. In 
no case should she be sold to a strange people. In case she 
was ' betrothed' to his son, and he chose to take to himself 
another wife, there were certain things which were not to be 
withheld from her. She was not to be discarded, or deprived 
of support, or treated in any other way than she would have 
been if the ' other wife' had not been taken. " Her food, her 
raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish." 
The argument in this passage turns on the meaning of two 


words; that rendered 'betrothed,' and that rendered 'duty 
of marriage.' About the former, there can be httle difierence 
of opinion. The Hebrew word IP' means properly, to point 
out, to appoint, to fix. The idea of designating, appointing, 
fixing — as of a time or place for worship, for a meeting, for 
trial, &c., is the essential idea in the word. Job ii. 1 1, ix. 19 ; 
Neh. vi. 2, 10; Amos iii. 3 ; Jer. xlix. 19, 1. 44. It is ren- 
dered in this place, by Gesenius, " to fix upon as a wife or 
concubine, to betroth ;" and there can be no doubt that the 
thing- contemplated was such a designation as a wife or as a 
concubine, since she had already been ' purchased' as a maid- 
servant. The case seems to have been such as would not 
unfrequently occur, in which after one had been procured as 
a ' maid-servant' by the promise or payment of wages, or of a 
' price' to her father — with the security that she could never 
be 'sold' — he who had thus secured her for his employ, or 
his son, might be disposed to sustain to her the nearer relation 
of a husband. The law was designed to guard that point, so 
that no advantage should be taken of her condition as a ser- 
vant, to oppress her, or to do her wrong. If the father vvho 
had secured her services was not pleased with her, after 
having designed to enter into this new relation, he should not 
take advantage of the fact that he was the purchaser, and sell 
her, but should allow her to be honourably redeemed, or 
restored again to freedom ; if the son, who had no claim of 
purchase, he should be bound to treat her as a wife, even if 
he chose to marry another. The law, therefore, was every 
way humane, and was designed to prevent the worst kind of 
oppression — that of an unprotected female in humble hfe. 
The other word on which the interpretation of the passage 
depends, rendered 'duty of marriage,' riJljr, is derived from 
a verb (pV) which means to rest, to dwell; and the noun 
means a living together, cohabitation, says Gesenius, " in 
the conjugal sense." So the Talmud understands it in this 
place. The Hebrew noun occurs nowhere else except in 
Hos. X. 10, where it is rendered /wrrows, though the reading 


there is doubtful, and by a different pointing the word would 
mean, more appropriately, sins. In the passage before us, 
the versions all sustain the interpretation which supposes that 
the reference is to cohabitation as man and wife. Thus 
the Vulgate renders it, et pretium pudicitise non negabit. 
The Septuagint, t^v 6fn,%iav ovx a7toati^r^!Ssi — ' he shall not de- 
prive her of her marriage rites.'* The Chaldee Paraphrase 
has the same word as the Hebrew, and the Arabic renders 
it, ' her times.'' The Syraic renders it by a word still more 
expressive, about which there can be no doubt, meaning 
accubilus ; lying with, cohabitation. There can be no well- 
founded doubt, therefore, about the meaning of this passage, 
(ver. 10,) and if the interpretation given be correct, it proves 
that Moses contemplated, that in the case referred to, while 
the son had another wife, he should in all respects, in her 
food, her raiment, and in respect to the marriage rights, regard 
and treat her as his wife. He was not at hberty to treat her 
otherwise because he had taken another. The fair meaning 
of the word here, it seems to me, will not bear the interpreta- 
tion proposed by Mr. Phelps,t of habitation, meaning that he 
should furnish her a residence. If it will not, then polygamy 
in one form was tolerated by Moses, and legislated for. 

(2.) The act of legislation in Deut. xxi. 15, 16, proves that 
polygamy was tolerated by Moses. "If a man have two 
wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born 
him children, both the beloved and the hated ; and if the 
firstborn son be her's that was hated : then it shall be, when 
he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he 
may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son 
of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn." In this case it 
is supposed that a man might have 'two wives,' and the 
design of the ordinance is to prevent a kind of injustice which 
would not be unlikely to occur, when a man, in disposing of 
his property by will, might be induced to depart from the 

* Thompson. -j- Letter to Prof. Stowe. 


usual custom, and from what was right towards the lawful 
heir, by favouritism towards cue of his wives. The only- 
question that can be raised on this point is, whether the pas- 
sage means that he had had two wives, either one succeed- 
ing the other, and both dead, or one still hving ; or whether 
it means that in the case supposed he had two living at the 
time here referred to. The literal meaning of the Hebrew, 
y^T)T\ ^2 is, ' when there shall be to a man two wives ;' or 
when a man shall have two wives ; most naturally and 
obviously meaning, at the same time. The Septuagint 
expresses it in the same sense, 'Eav 5s yivijvta.i dv0pu)rt9 ^t'" 
yD»mj:ff. It may be added here, that this interpretation is so 
natural, and would be so likely to be put upon the passage, 
that if Moses had meant to prohibit polygamy, he could not 
have used this language. He would not have left it open to 
so obvious and so dangerous an interpretation. It was clearly 
supposed that this would occur, as it had done in the time of 
the patriarchs ; and one can hardly help believing that he 
had an actual case in his eye like that of Jacob. Gen. 
xxix. 30. 

(3.) It may be added in proof that Moses tolerated poly- 
gamy, that in certain circumstances, he made it a subject of 
express command, in a form which no one would pretend to 
vindicate as proper now. Deut. xxv. 5 — 10. This instance 
at least shows, that though a man had a wife of his own, 
there were circumstances in which it was proper for him to 
cohabit with one who had been the wife of another. The 
point of the remark made here is, that this ordinance Avould 
not have existed in a community where polygamy was in no 
case to be tolerated. It is true that he interdicted many wives 
to the kings who might rule over the people, (Deut. xvii. 17 
"Neither shall he multiply wives to himself," lVn3T xi 
' he shall not have a multitude of wives ;') but this very pro- 
hibition supposes that polygamy, to some extent, would be 
practised by a king. That polygamy prevailed in the timer 
of Moses, see Jahn's Archaeology, § 151. The arrangements 


of Moses have, indeed, been shown (see Jahn) to be such that 
a man could not well have more than four wives, but there 
was nothing in his statutes which prevented an Israelite 
having that number, and it would seem probable that he 
contemplated it.* The doctrine of the Talmud and the 
Rabbins is, that an Israelite might have not more than 
four wives. The reasons for supposing that the number of 
wives tolerated by Moses v/ould not exceed four, may be seen 
in Michaelis. They are not such as can be dwelt on here. 
Mohammed also limited the number of wives to four, whether 
for the same reason is unknown. In Deut. xxi. 15 — 17, it is 
supposed that it would not be uncommon for a man to have 
two wives, and the fact that this would occur is mentioned 
without any disapprobation; nay, it becomes just as much 
the subject of legislation as slavery is in the Mosaic institutes. 
"If a man have two wives, one beloved and another hated," 
&c. It is quite clear, however, from the Mosaic statutes, that , 
the Hebrew legislator was no favourer of polygamy, but that 
he meant gradually to mitigate its evils, and to make such 
arrangements that it should finally cease to be practised in 
the Hebrew commonwealth. He allowed an institution 
which he found already in existence, to be continued, ' on 
account of the hardness of the hearts' of the people.t The 
same was manifestly true in regard to slavery. 

(6) Another of the things which were tolerated by Moses, 
and for which arrangement was made in his laws, was arbi- 
trary divorce. On this subject the law was positive, but we 
know that it was not regarded as the best arrangement for 
society, or one which God approved ]ier se ; and yet the 
whole strength of the argument from the Mosaic institutions 
in favour of slavery could be urged in favour of the practice 
of divorce now. The Mosaic arrangement tolerated divorce, 

* See, on this subject, Michaelis' Commentaries on the Laws of Moses, 
art. xcviii., and Selden de Uxore Hebraka, 
\ See Michaelis' Com., art. xcv. xcvi. xcvii. 


it would seem, to any extent, and made the continuance of 
the marriage relation depend wholly on the pleasure of the 
husband. Deut. xxiv. 1, seq. It demanded only that the 
act of divorce should be deliberate, and should be accompa- 
nied Avith a ' bill,' or with proper testimonials given to the 
wife that she was at liberty to marry another. This requisi- 
tion would prevent hasty acts, and would tend much to dimi- 
nish the evil. It is evident that Moses found th^ practice 
already in existence,* and it is also quite clear that he did 
not approve of it, or regard it as an institution tending to the 
best interests of society. The Saviour expresses a distinct 
disapprobation of the practice ; says that " it was tolerated 
only 'on account of the hardness of the hearts' of the people, 
but that in the beginning it Avas not so." Matth. xix. 8 ; 
Mark x, 5. The truth was, that Moses found this in existence 
as a prevailing practice ; that it had become incorporated with 
the habits of the people ; that they regarded the right of 
divorce as essential to the proper authority and liberty of the 
husband ; and that it would have been in vain for him to have 
attempted to prohibit it entirely. All that could be done, 
therefore, in the case, was to determine by statute in what 
circumstances, and for what causes, it might take place ; to 
prevent, as far as possible, all hasty and arbitrary acts of the 
husband ; to prohibit a reunion with the former husband, if the 
wife should marry again, thus securing further deliberation ; 
and so to arrange every thing in regard to it, that it should be 
manifest that the spirit of his institutions was against it, even 
while it was tolerated. But assuredly it would be an illegiti- 
mate method of reasoning to conclude that because Moses 
tolerated polygamy and divorce; because he legislated for 
them, and made arrangements that they might be continued, 
therefore he approved of them as necessary to the best state 
of society, and meant that it should be inferrefl that the spirit 
of his institutions was favourable to them. Still less could 

• See Michaelis' Commentaries on the Laws of Moses, art, cxix. 


it be inferred that they were to be perpetuated in alt states 
of society, and at all periods of the world, as desirable arrange- 
ments for the promotion of human happiness. And yet the 
whole of the argument in favour of slavery, from the fact that 
it was tolerated in the Mosaic institutions, could be applied to 
polygamy and divorce. Moses sanctioned the one no more 
than he did the other. He made no more permanent arrange- 
ments for the one than he did for the other. He expressed 
no more approbation of the one than he did of the other. He 
wove the one no more into his system than he did the other. 
He ' legislated' no more for the one than he -did for the other. 
Nay, it is manifest that he looked with a less favourable eye 
on slavery than he did on polygamy and divorce. He made 
arrangements by which slavery was periodically to cease in 
his commonwealth, but he made no such arrangements for 
divorce and polygamy. Yet who now will undertake to 
maintain that because these were tolerated, and legislated for, 
in the Mosaic statutes, therefore they are right now, and 
should continue to prevail for the best interests of society ? 

The argument on this point from the Mosaic toleration of 
polygamy and divorce, has been placed in so strong a light 
by Dr. Wayland, that I will copy it : — 

"Can the proposition, 'whatever was sanctioned to the He- 
brews is sanctioned to all men at all times,' be proved from 
revelation ? It seems to me that precisely the reverse is the 
fact. To arrive at the truth in this case it is only necessary 
to inquire whether there were any acts sanctioned to the He- 
brews by Moses which are not sanctioned to all men. - 

" Take, for instance, the whole Mosaic code of civil law, its 
severe enactments, its very frequent capital punishments, its 
cities of refuge, its tenure of real estate. Could any legisla- 
tor at the present day enact similar laws, and justly plead as 
a sufficient reason that God had sanctioned, nay enacted, such 
laws for the Jews 1 Would this be a sufficient reason for 
abolishing the trial by jury in a case of accidental homicide, 
(as for instance when the head of an axe slipped from the 


helve and wounded a man to death,) and enacting that the 
next akin might slay an innocent person if he overtook him 
before he arrived at a city of refuge ? I think every one 
must immediately perceive that this law was a humane limita- 
tion to the spirit of Oriental vindictiveness, but that it would 
be very wrong to put it in practice at the present day. 

" But we are not left to our own reasonings on this subject. 
We know full well that polygamy and divorce are wrong, 
that they violate the obligations established by God between 
the sexes, and are transgressions of his positive law. On 
this subject I presume we can have no difference of opinion. 
Yet these sins were not forbidden by Moses. Nay more, 
laws were enacted by the Hebrew legislator in respect to both 
of these practices. When a man was already united to one 
wife, and chose to take another, the manner in which the first 
wife was to be put away was prescribed. The right of the 
first-born was also in such a case defined. When, again, a 
Hebrew wished to divorce a wife, the manner in which this 
should be done was a matter of positive enactment. The 
discussion of our Saviour with the Jews on this subject is 
given us in Matt. xix. 3 — 9. I will quote the whole passage. 
' The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and say- 
ing unto him. Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for 
every cause ? And he ansM^ered and said unto them, Have 
ye not read that at the beginning, when the Creator made 
man, he formed* a male and a female, and said. For this cause 
a man shall leave father and mother and adhere to his wife, 
and .they two shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no 
longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath con- 
joined, let not man separate. They rephed. Why then did 
Moses command to give her a writing of divorcement and 
dismiss her ? He answered, Moses indeed, because of your 
iintractabh disposition, permitted you to divorce your wives, 
but it was not so from the beginning. Therefore I say unto 
you, whosoever divorceth his wife except for whoredom, and 
marrieth another, committeth adultery,' &c. You perceive 



I have used the translation of Dr. Campbell, who seems to 
have understood the scope of the ar^ment better than the 
authors of our version. 

" Now concerning this decision of our Lord, several things 
are to be remarked : 

" 1. Our Lord authoritatively lays down the law of mar- 
riage, defining it to be an exclusive engagement between two 
parties for life. 

" 2. He not only does this, but he declares that this doc- 
trine was taught from the creation, quoting Genesis ii. 24, in 
confirmatioQ of his assertion. 

" 3. Notwithstanding this, Moseis had sanctioned divorce ; 
that is, he had not forbidden it, and had enacted laws for the 
regulation of it. 

" 4. And moreover, the reason of this is given ; it was be- 
cause of the hardness of their hearts, or their untractable dis- 

" Here then is an institution sanctioned ; that is, permitted 
and made a subject of legislation, which is wrong in itself^ 
and therefore forbidden by our Saviour to them and to all 
men. Nay, it had been thus sanctioned, although a prior 
revelation had discountenanced it. It is therefore clear, that 
a practice may have been sanctioned to the Hebrews, which 
is not sanctioned to all men at all times ; nay, which before 
and after a particular period was not sanctioned even to the 
Hebrews themselves. I think, therefore, th*at the teaching 
of the Scriptures is diametrically at variance with the propo- 
sition on which the whole argument from the Old Testament 
is founded."* 

Keeping the Mosaic institutions on the subject of slavery 
in view, I shall proceed now to compare them with those ex- 
isting in our own country. It will be convenient to arrange 
the various topics substantially in the order in which we have 
contemplated them ; and the object will be to show that in all 

* Fuller and Wayland on Slavery, pp. 54 — 57. 


essential features, the Mosaic arrangements in regard to sla- 
very differed entirely from those existing in this land. The 
inference which will be derived from "Such a comparison will 
be, that the Mosaic institutions cannot be referred to, to sanction 
slavery as it exists at present. The points to which I refer 
are the following : — 

(1.) The arrangements in the two systems respecting 
hard and oppressive usage. We have seen that under the 
Mosaic institutions, the rights of the slave were carefully 
guarded on this subject, and that if he were subjected to such 
usage he had a redress by claiming his freedom. We have 
seen that there were express statutes requiring that slaves 
should be treated with humanity and kindness ; that if they 
were maimed by their masters they had a right to liberty ; 
and that there were many solemn injunctions to treat the 
stranger with kindness, no matter what relation he might 

The question now is, whether there are any such provisions 
in the Jaws in this land, or whether there is any security that the 
slave will be preserved from hard and oppressive usage ? The 
question is not, whether there may not be masters who treat 
their slaves with kindness, but whether the laws furnish any 
security for the slave on this point? It is not whether a 
master may not abuse his power, but it is whether the law 
does not give him such power that the slave has no redress, 
as he had under the Hebrew commonwealth ? If it be so, 
certainly the Mosaic enactments cannot, so far as this point is 
concerned, be adduced in defence of slavery in the United 
States. The following laws of the slave states of this Union 
■will show what is the spirit of servitude here, and will illus- 
trate the striking contrast between slavery here and in the 
Hebrew commonwealth.* 

* For the laws of the slave states on this subject, I am indebted mainly 
to "A Sketch of the Laws relating to Slavery in the several States of the 
United States of America. By George M. Stroud." Tliis work was 


"The master may, at his discretion, inflict any 


In particular, (o) The mtirder of a slave has in general subjected 
the murderer to a pecuniary fine only. " There was a time 
in many, if not in all the slave-holding districts of our coun- 
try, when the murder of a slave was followed by a pecuniary 
fine only. In one state, a change of the law in this respect 
has been very recent. At the present date, the wilful, ma- 
licious, deliberate murder of a slave, by whomsoever perpe- 
trated, is declared to be punishable with death in ever}'- state. "t 
It should be remembered, however, that there must be great 
difficulty of convicting a white man, and especially a master, 
of such an offence. No slave is allowed to give testimony 
against a white man •,\ and of course, in most cases it would 
be impossible to bring a white murderer of a slave to justice. 
There might be many witnesses of the deed, and -yet not one 
of them be allowed to testify to what he had himself seen. 
It cannot be doubted that not a few slaves have been murdered 
by their masters in this land. Has there ever been a convic- 
tion for such an offence ? Has a master ever been punished 
capitally for such a crime ? Is he commonly punished at all ? 
Is it a common occurrence to convict any white man for a 
wrong done to a slave, except so far as the slave is regarded 
as the property of another man ? On the practical operation 
of the law of the slave states respecting testimony, and the 

published in Philadelphia in 1827. It is now out of print. Of the quali- 
fications of Judge Stroud for such a work, no one can doubt; and the 
accuracy of the work has never been called in qiiestion. The slave laws 
since the time of the publication of that work fcave undergone too un- 
important changes to make the quotations now irrelevant to show the 
general spirit of slavery. 

* Stroud, p. 35. The capitals are his. 

f Stroud, p. 36. 

t 1 Rev. C. Virg. 422 ; 2 Miss. Laws, 600; Mississippi Rev. Code, 372; 
2 Litt. and Swi. 1150; Maryland Laws, act of 1817, and North Carolina 
and Tennessee Laws, 1777. 


difficulty of convicting a white man, and the fact that those 
laws place a slave completely at the disposal of his master, 
Judge Stroud well remarks, " It [the law that no slave can be 
a witness against a white person] places the slave, who is 
seldom within the view of more than one white person at a 
time, entirely at the mercy of this individual, without regard 
to his fitness for the exercise of power — whether his temper 
be mild and merciful, or fierce and vindictive. A white man 
may, if no other individual be present, torture, maim, and 
even murder his slave, in the midst of any number of negroes 
and mulattoes. Having absolute dominion over his slave, the 
master, or his delegate, if disposed to commit illegal violence 
upon him, may easily remove him to a spot safe from, the 
observation of a competent witness." — p. 66. (b) The laws 
of some of the slave states expressly acquit the master for 
killing his slave, if it be done when inflicting moderate 
CORRECTION. The law of North Carolina, sect. 3, of the act 
of 1798, on this subject, is in the following words : — " Where- 
as by another act of Assembly, passed in the year 1774, the 
killing of a slave, however wanton, cool, and deliberate, is 
only punished in the first instance by imprisonment and pay- 
ing the value thereof to the owner, which distinction of cri- 
minality between the murder of a white person and one who 
is equally a human creature, but merely of a different com- 
plexion, is disgraceful to humanity, and degrading in the 
highest degree to the laws and principles of a free. Christian, 
and enlightened country : Be it enacted, &c.. That if any 
person shall hereafter be guilty of wilfully or mahciously 
killing a slave, such offender shall, upon the first conviction 
thereof, be adjudged* guilty of murder, .and shall suffer the 
same punishment as if he had killed a free man : Provided 
always, this act shall not extend to the person killing a 
slave outlawed by virtue of any act of Assembly of this state, 
or to any slave in the act of resistance to his lawful owner 
or master, or to any slave dying under moderate cor- 


RECTTON."* The language of the constitution of Georgia is 
nearly the same. " Any person who shall maliciously dis- 
member or deprive a slave of life, shall suffer such punish- 
ment as would be inflicted in case the like offence had been 
committed on a free white person, and on the like' proof, ex- 
cept in case of insurrection of such slave, and unless such 


MODERATE CORRECTION. "t (c) If the life of a slave is so feebly 
protected by law, it is not to be supposed that he Avould be 
defended from wrongs done in other respects against his per- 
son. Accordingly we find, that the slave is, not only neces- 
sarily, from the nature of the case, but by the laws, almost 
entirely at the disposal of the master. Wrongs done by the 
master to the slave are regarded as comparatively trivial 
offences, and even on the supposition that he could be con- 
victed, the punishment is trifling. The act of South Carolina 
for 1740, says, " In case any person shall wilfully cut out 
the tongue, put out the eyt?, *****«, or cruelly scald, burn, 
or deprive any slave of his limb, or member, or shall inflict 
any other cruel punishment, other than by whipping or 
heating with a horsewhip or cowskin, sivitch or small stick, 
or by putting irons on, or confining or imprisoning such 
slave, every such person shall, for every such offence, forfeit 
the sum of one hundred pounds, current money, "J Here 
we may make the following obvious remarks : (1.) The strong 
contrast between this and the Mosaic law: " If any man smite 
the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish, 
he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. And if he smite 
out his man-servant's tooth, or his maid-servant's tooth, he 
shall let him go free for his tooth's sake." (2.) The trifling 
penalty which the law imposes — of "one hundred pounds" — 
for wrongs which would render a human being wretched for 

* Haywood's Manual, .530. See also the Laws of Tennessee, act of 
October 23, 1799, with a like proviso. 

t Prince's Digest, 559. :t^ 2 Brevard's Digest, 241. 


life. (3.) The permission given to inflict certain classes of 
wrongs at the pleasure of the master. Thus the law ex- 
pressly allows the following things : (a) scalding and burn- 
ing, provided they be not " cruel ;^^ (b) whipping or beating 
tvith a horsewhip, cowskin, switch, or small stick; (c) put- 
ting on irons, and (d) imprisonment, apparently at pleasure. 
A similar provision is found in the new Civil Code of Louisiana : 
" The slave is entirely subject to the will of his master, Avho 
may correct and chastise him, though not with unusual rigor, 
nor so as to maim or mutilate him, or to expose him to the 
danger of loss of life, or to cause his death."* Here, then, are 
two limitations only of the power of the master over the slave. 
The first is, that he shall not be at liberty to cause the death 
of the slave ; and the second is, that he shall not punish 
him with " unusual rigor." Respecting this, it would seem 
that the common methods of punishing slaves on neighbouring 
plantations were to be the standard, and that the master was 
to be the sole judge whether he exceeded that. So in Mis- 
sissippi, while the laws require the " owners of slaves to treat 
them with humanity, and to abstain from all injuries to them 
extending to hfe and hmbs," they also ordain that "no cruel 
or unusual punishment shall be inflicted on any slave within 
this state. And any master or other person, entitled to the 
service of any slave, who shall inflict such cruel or unusual 
punishment, or shall authorize or permit the same to Jbe in- 
flicted, shall, on conviction, be fined according to the magni- 
tude of the offence, in any sum not exceeding five hundred 
dollars. "t Here we may remark (1.) that it is, from the 
nature of the case, exceedingly difficult to convict a master 
of wrong done to a slave, from the fact above referred to, that 
no slave can be a witness ; and (2.) that the law authorizes 
the infliction of any punishment provided it be not " cruet,''* 
or " unusual.^* But what ^horrid crimes and wrongs may be 
done by a master before he shall reach the point in punish- 

* Civil Code of Louisiana, art. 173. -j- Rev. Code, 379. 


ment that he will himself regard as " cruel," or beyond that 
which is " unusual" in sla\reholding communities ! So in 
Missouri, the law gives the master the power of confining a 
slave in prison during his own pleasure, evidently for hfe if 
he pleases, and that without judge or jury, with none of the 
privileges of habeas corpus; with no power of escaping. 
"If any slave resist his or her master, mistress, overseer, or 
employer, or refuse to obey his or her lawful commands, it 
shall be lawful for such master, &c., to commit such slave to 
the common jail of the county, there to remain at the plea- 
sure of the master, &c. ; and the sheriff shall receive such 
slave, and keep him, &c., in confinement at the expense of 
the person committing him or her."* Here the only security 
for the slave, so far as the law goes, is the expense which the 
master must incur for his maintenance. It may be probable 
that, from the fact that the master, if cruel and vindictive, 
may gratify his disposition in a manner less expensive, this 
law will not be likely to be abused ; yet it- is clear that the 
slave is, in this respect, wholly at his disposal. He is to 
judge when the offence demands imprisonment, and if so, 
how long; and the officer of justice, appointed in a "land 
of freedom" for the execution of the laws, is to receive the 
slave at his hands, and be the executioner of his will, even if 
the imprisonment should continue for life. On these laws 
of the slave states. Judge Stroud well remarks, " Upon a fair 
review, the result is found to be : That the master's power 
to inflict corporeal punishment, to any extent short of life and 
limb, is fully sanctioned by law, in all the slave-holding states ; 
that the master, in at least two states, is expressly protected in 
using the horsewhip and cowskin, as instruments of beating 
his slave ; that he may, with entire impunity, in the same 
states, load his slave with irons, or subject him to perpetual 
imprisonment whenever he may so choose ; that for cruelly 
scalding, wilfully cutting out the tongue, putting out an eye, 

* 1 Missouri Laws, 309. 


&c., and for any other dismemberment, if proved, a fine of one 
hundred pounds currency only is incurred in South Carolina ; 
that though in all the slates the wilful, dehberate, and mali- 
cious murder of the slave is now directed to be punished with 
death, yet as in the case of a white offender, none except 
whites can give evidence, a conviction can seldom, if ever, 
take place." — pp. 43 Id . Let these laws be compared with 
those of Moses already referred to in regard to the treatment 
of slaves, and it will not be difficult to determine whether the 
Hebrew institutions furnish a sanction for slavery as it exists 
in this land. 

(2.) In illustration of the same point we may refer to the 
•difference of the systems respecting the time allowed to the 
slave for his own use. In the examination of the Mosaic 
system, we found that Moses secured for the slave by law an 
important portion of his time, either for the acquisition of pro- 
perty, or for intellectual, moral, or religious improvement. 
The slave had every seventh day ; every seventh year ; the 
whole of the days devoted to the national festivals, and the 
privilege of attending on all the family festivals. According 
to the estimate then made, it was supposed that the Hebrew 
servant would have for his own purposes something like " 
twenty-three years out of the fifty, if he served from one ju- 
bilee to another. It is scarcely necessary, however, to remark, 
that in our own country no such arrangements exist, and that 
the lavjs do not contemplate that any of the time of the slave 
shall be his own. • His entire time, as well as his bodily 
vigor and skill, is the property of his master. There is none 
in which he may not, according to the law, be employed in the 
service of his master. So far as the law is concerned, there 
is no day or hour in which he may cultivate a piece of 
ground for himself; there is none which he might take to 
read — if he can read — or to pray. The master may call him 
from his little patch of ground, from his family, and from his 
"closet" at any hour to labour in his service. The Sabbath 
may be given, and 1 presume usually is given, to the slave ; 


but it is not secured expressly for him by law, except in 
Louisiana and Mississippi, as it was among the Hebrews. A 
half day or more in the week may be given, and we know 
that it is often given, but it is not an arrangement of laiv ; it 
is wholly at the discretion of the master. It may be a fact 
also that at certain seasons of the year, and on certain plan- 
tations, the tasks may be of such a character that they can be 
accomplished, so that a considerable part of the day may be 
secured by the slave for himself, but this is not an arrange- 
ment made bi/ law. It is wholly at the pleasure of the mas- 
ter, and it may be confidently affirmed that there are no laws 
in the slaveholding states of this Union, except in Louisiana 
and Mississippi, which secure to the slave any time whatever 
for his own service. 

(3.) In like manner, and as a consequence of this, th.e slave 
is not regarded as one who can have any right to property,* 
He cannot be the legal owner of a piece of land, of a house, 
of a horse, of a cow, or of an article of husbandry. He could 
not be the proprietor of a patent for a valuable invefltion or 
improvement in machinery or agriculture, though the inven- 
tion were his own. He could not be the legal holder of the 
copyright of a book, if he could write a book. He could 
have no legal right of property in the most valuable mine of 
silver or gold that he might discover. It would all be legally 
the property of his master.! The Roman law said : Servile 
caput nullum jus habet, ideo nee minui potest.! " In Rome, 
indeed, the slave could, by great diligence and economy, ac- 
quire a scanty property (peculium); but, strictly considered, all 
this, together with the slave himself, belonged to the master, 
and might be retained by him at the period of manumission. "§ 
In this country, it is a settled principle that a slave can own 
no property. In examining the Mosaic institution, we found 

* Comp. Ch. I. 

\ Comp. G. W. Becker, on Roman Slavery, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, 
vol. ii. pp. 572, 573. 

+ Digesta, iv. 5, 3 - § Becker. 


that the servant might become possessed of a considerable 
amount of property which he could regard as his own. We 
found that it was contemplated that he might be able to pur- 
chase his own freedom by the avails of his own labour, and 
that if he could do this at a fair valuation, he had the right to 
do it. We found, also, that when he was released by the 
expiration of the term of service as fixed by law, provision 
was made that he should be made comfortable. We found, 
also, that he might become the heir to his master, and might 
hope to share his property if he was faithful in his service. 

Far different from the Hebrew laws are the legal arrange- 
ments in the United States. Here the slave himself is re- 
garded as property in the most absolute sense, and of course 
all that he can earn becomes the property of his master, as 
much as that earned by the horse does. It is not even con- 
ceded that the slave may in any circumstances ever own pro- 
perty. It is expressly prohibited ; and a claim of property on 
his part becomes a crime, and there are express and solemn 
acts of legislation to deprive him of any little articles of property 
which he may have acquired. The following enactments will 
put this beyond dispute. Thus, in South Carohna : " It shall 
not be lawful for any slave to buy, sell, trade, &c., for any 
goods, &c., without a license from the owner, &c., nor shall any 
slave be permitted to keep any boat, periauger, or canoe, or 
raise and breed for the benefit of such slave, any horses, mares, 
cattle, sheep, or hogs, under pain of forfeiting all the goods, &c., 
and all the boats, periaugers or canoes, horses, mares, cattle, 
sheep, or hogs. And it shall be lawful for any person what- 
ever, to seize and take away from any such slave, all such 
goods, &c., boats, &c., &c., and to deliver the same into the 
hands of any justice of the peace, nearest to the place where 
the seizure shall be made, and such justice shall take the oath 
of the person making such seizure, concerning the manner 
thereof; and if the said justice shall be satisfied that such 
seizure has been made according to law, he shall pronounce 
and declare the goods so seized to be forfeited, and order the 


same to be sold at public outcry, one half of the moneys 
arising from such sale to go to the state, and the other half to 
him or them that sue for the same."* The act of the legis- 
lature of Georgia is in nearly the same words.f And lest 
perchance the benevolence of the master should sometimes 
permit the slave to hire himself to another for his own benefit, 
Georgia has imposed a penalty of thirty dollars " for every 
weekly offence on the part of the master, unless the labour be 
done on his own premises.":}: So in Kentucky, with a slight 
modification. § In Virginia, if the master shall permit the 
slave to hire himself out, it is made lawful for any person, 
and the duty of the sheriff, to apprehend such slave, and the 
master shall be fined not less than ten dollars, and not more 
than twenty. II So in Missouri.^ In the year 1779, North 
Carolina enacted as follows: "AH horses, cattle, hogs, or 
sheep, that one month after passing this act shall belong to 
any slave, or be of any slave's mark, in this state, shall be 
seized and sold by the county wardens, and by them applied, 
the one half to the support of the poor of the county, and the 
other half to the informer."** So also substantially in Mary- 
land,tt and Mississippi.|| In the Civil Code of Louisiana it is 
ordained, " Jill that a slave possesses belongs to his master ; 
he possesses nothing of his own, except his peculium, that 
is to say, the sum of money or movable estate which his 
master chooses he should possess.''''§§ So slaves are declared 
uniformly incapable of inheiiling property. Thus in Louisi- 
ana, " Slaves are incapable of inheriting or transmitting pro- 
perty."|||| Slaves cannot dispose of or receive by donation 
inter vivos or mortis causa, unless they have been previously 

* .lames' Digest, 385 b; Act of 1740. f Prince's Digest, 453. 

t Prince's Digest, 457. 

§ 2 Litt. and S wi. Digest, 11 59, 11 60. See Mississippi Rev. Code, 375 ; 
Laws of Tennessee, Oct. 23, 1813, ch. 135; Stroud's Slave Laws, p. 47. 
II 1 Rev. Code, 374, 375. 1 3 Missouri Laws, 743. 

•* Haywood's Manual, 526. ff April Sessions, 1787, ch. 33. 

i\ Rev. Code, 374. §§ Art. 175. 1||| Civil Code, art. 945. 


and expressly enfranchised conformably to law, or unless they 
are expressly enfranchised by the act by which the donation 
is made to them.* " The earnings of slaves, and the price of 
their service, belong to their owners, who have their action to 
recover the amount from those who have employed them."t 
So in the decisions of the court of South Carohna, " Slaves 
cannot take property by descent 'or purchase ;''J and in 
North Carolina, " Slaves cannot take by sale, or devise, or 
descent. "§ 

These statutes and judicial decisions settle the question in 
regard to the legal right of the slave to hold any property 
whatever. All belongs to his master. If he earns any thing, 
it belongs to the master. If he is ever hired out, the wages 
belong to his master. If he should make a valuable improve- 
ment in the arts, the avails of it would be his master's. If he 
should write a book, the copyright would be his master's. 
If he should find a mine of gold, or a purse, or if property 
should be given to him, it belongs to his master. Of course, 
the question about purchasing his ovi^n freedom is in every 
respect at the disposal of his master. He never could, in 
any vmy, by gift or earning, become the owner of so much 
property as to be able to purchase his freedom without his 
consent, and if he could, the question whether he could obtain 
it is still lodged solely with his master. As a matter of fact, 
the slave has not the means of purchasing his freedom. If he 
has a little piece of ground for his own cultivation, and if he 
is allowed to till it at night or on the Sabbath ; or if, as may 
be sometimes the case, the master may allow him half a day 
in the week to till it for himself, the utmost that he can 
usually earn is from twelve to twenty dollars a year ! and 
what hope has a man of being able to purchase his freedom 
by so small gains as these ? The sum of the matter is this : 

* Art. 1462. j- Louisiana Code of Practice, art. 103. 

■\ 4 Dessaussure's Chancery Reports, 266. 
§ 1 Cameron and Norwood's Reports, 353. 


the slave himself is held as the property of his master, as 
much as his horse is, and to all that he earns his master has 
a legal title, as much as he has to the earnings of his horse. 
How different this from the mild Mosaic statutes ! Can it be 
believed that God ever meant to sanction this enormous 
system of vprong ? 

(4.) There is a very material contrast between the Mosaic 
institutions and those in our country in regard to the religious 
privileges allowed by law to slaves. In examining the Mosaic 
institutions in regard to servants, we found (a) that they were 
received into covenant with God, and as members of the 
family were recognised as in that covenant by the customary 
rites of religion, (b) They were guests at the national and 
family festivals, (c) They were statedly instructed in the 
duties of morality and rehgion. (fZ) They might become 
proselytes and be admitted to the full privileges of religion, 
(e) In securing to them the Sabbath, and the Sabbatical year, 
and the time for attending on the great festivals, there was 
ample time secured to them by law for the performance of all 
their rehgious duties. Between these arrangements and 
those existing in our own country, we shall now see there is 
the strongest possible contrast. In illustration of this we may 
remark, (1.) that the benefits of education are withheld from 
the slave. This is so well known that it is scarcely necessary 
to prove the existence of the fact. It is proper, however, to 
show that it is not the result of custom, or neglect on the part 
of the master, but that it is an essential part of the system, 
and is ordained by law. This is shown in a law of South 
Carolina, passed in the year 1740, and before quoted, 
(pp. 93, 93,) and in the law of Georgia, there referred to. 
In Virginia it is ordained, " That all meetings or assem- 
blages of slaves, or free negroes or mulattoes mixing or 
associating with such slaves at any meeting-house, or any 
other place, &c., in the night, or at any school or schools 
for teaching them reading or writing, either in the day 
or night, under whatever pretext, shall be deemed and con- 


sidered an unlawful assembly.''''* So in South Carolina, in 
addition to the law of 1740, and in order to make the pro- 
hibition more effectual, the law was re-enacted in 1800, with 
power given to any officer, at pleasure, to disperse any such 
assemblage. The magistrates are "required" to enter into 
such places where any " slaves, free negroes, mulattoes, and 
mestizoes are met together for the purpose of mental instruc- 
tion,^'' and to " break the doors if resisted, and to disperse such 
slaves," &c. ; and "the officers dispersing such unlawful 
assemblage may inflict such corporeal punishment, not 
exceeding tiventy lashes, on such slaves, free negroes, ^-c, 


enactments of law, it should also be said, that the condition 
of the slave is such that he could find little or no time to learn 
to read and write, even if the prohibition Avere not positive. 
He is doomed to toil. " Hard-worked and scantily fed, his 
bodily energies are exhausted ; without an instructor and 
without books, he must of necessity remain for ever ignorant 
of the benefits of an education. "J (2.) The means for moral 
and religious instruction are not granted to the slave, but, on 
the contrary, the efforts of the charitable and humane to supply 
these wants are discountenanced by law. There is no arrange- 
ment made by law by which the slave shall be admitted to the 
privileges of public worship, though in some of the states it is 
enacted that he may receive and profess the Christian religion, 
and may be baptized, and the whole matter of public worship 
is left at the discretion of the master. The slave has no 
means of erecting a place of worship, nor could he be the 
owner of the house erected, or of the land on which it stood, 
or even of the most simple communion-service, or of the Bible 
or hymn-book which might be used. He has no means of 
supporting the gospel ; he has no Bible from which to give 

* 1 Rev. Code, 424, 435. f 3 Brevard's Digest, 254, 355. 

^ Stroud, p. 90. 


instruction to his children, if he had the ability. Nay, it is 
well known that within a few years there have been positive 
prohibitions in many of the slave states against teaching the 
slave to read the Bible at all, and that this has been made a 
penal offence. If slaves have any religious privileges, they 
are not, in most of the states, secured by law, but are at the 
discretion of their masters, and in many of the states the 
dearest and most valuable of all the rights and privileges con- 
nected w^ith religion are expressly prohibited to them. A 
reference to a very fe\V of the enactments of the slave states 
on the subject, will show the condition of the servant in the 
United States, in regard to the most valuable privilege of man 
— that of the free worship of God. The laws of Mississippi 
indeed ordain, that " the master or overseer tnay, in writing, 
grant the slave permission to attend a place of religious wor- 
ship at Avhich the minister may be white and regularly or- 
dained or licensed, or at least two discreet and respectable 
Avhite persons, appointed by some regular church or society, 
shall attend."* In Maryland, permission is given by law 
that the slave may be baptized, with this proviso, that such 
permission shall not be so construed that the slave, in virtue 
of his .baptism, should be regarded as free. " No negro or 
negroes, by receiving the holy sacrament of baptism, is there- 
by manumitted or set free, nor hath any right or title to 
freedom or manumission, mpre than he or they had before, 
any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding."! 
In North Carolina, also, it is expressly enacted that a slave 
may be baptized. " Be it enacted, that it shall be, and it is 
hereby declared lawful, for any negro, or Indian slave, or any 
other slave or slaves whatever, to receive and profess the 
Christian religion, and be, thereunto baptized." The same 
proviso is added here as in Maryland, that this shall not be 
construed as implying that the slave is thereby free.J In 

* Rev. Code, 390. f Act of 1715, ch. 44, § 23. 

+ 2 Brevard's Digest, 229. 


Louisiana, the law enacts that, " It shall be the duty of every 
owner to procure for his sick slaves all kinds of temporal and 
spiritiial assistance, which their situation may require."* 
In Louisiana and Mississippi, the law makes provision that 
the slave shall not be required to labour on Sunday. The 
law in Louisiana is, " If any person shall, on the Lord's day, 
commonly called Sunday, employ any slave in any work or 
labour, (work of absolute necessity, and the ordinary occasions 
of the family excepted,) every person so offending shall forfeit 
and pay the sum of ten shillings for every slave he, she, or 
they shall so cause to work or labour."t So in Mississippi, 
under a penalty of two dollars.^ These are all the arrange- 
ments, it is believed, in the slave states, for the religious in- 
struction and privileges of the slaves, made by law. That in 
many, or most of the states, the slaves are permitted to attend 
on puWic worship, occasionally at least, there can be no doubt; 
and that not a few among them become Christians, it would 
be as improper to doubt. Nor can it be denied that there are 
not a few kind and pious masters, who sincerely desire the 
salvation of their slaves, and who are willing to grant to them 
all the facilities which the circumstances of the case may 
permit, to secure their salvation. But I speak of the enact- 
ments of the laws ; of the arrangements made by statute, and 
of the fair operation of the laws if they were executed ac- 
cording to the spirit of the enactments. In considering those 
laws, and in estimating the actual privileges of slaves in re- 
gard to religion, we are to bear in remembrance the following 
things: (1.) That in case the provisions of the few laws in 
favour of the slave are not complied with, the slave has almost 
no means of redress ; he can never prosecute a white man, 
or even bear witness against him. (2.) That power is given 
to magistrates and others to break in upon suspicious assem- 
blages of coloured persons, and in such a way that the slave 

• 1 Martin's Digest, 610. f Prince's Digest, 455. 

\ Rev. Code, 317. 



would have no power of redress if wrong were done to him. 
(3.) That all night-meetings are prohibited. (4.) That the law 
ordains that the slave shall not be taught to read, and of course 
the oral instruction which he can receive will be of compara- 
tively httle benefit to him. (5.) That slaves can never have a 
church of their own, or a pastor of their own, and can never 
feel that they are in any way a free congregation. (6.) That 
the}^ are a mere appendage, in most circumstances, to a 
white congregation, with less advantageous seats and privi- 
leges. (7.) That in most states it is made a penal offence ta 
teach them to read the Bible ; and (8.) that in regard to a 
preacher, they are altogether dependent on the will of their 
masters, who have the power of ^presentation,'' and 'the 
right of patronage,^ in the most absolute and odious form in 
which it has ever existed on earth. Let all these things be 
contrasted with the mild and equal laws of Moses in regard 
to the religious privileges of servants, and it is not difficult to 
answer the question whether his institutions can be appealed 
to in support of slavery in the United States. 

(5.) Under the Mosaic statutes we found that there was no 
provision by which a slave could be sold, or transferred from 
one master to another. The effect of this, in modifying the 
system of slavery, Avas also fully considered. It is hardly 
necessary to attempt to prove that in this country directly the 
reverse is true. The slave is regarded as property, so far as 
the right of selling him is concerned, in the same sense that 
a horse or a mule is property. He may be sold, transmitted 
by will, or alienated in any way. He may be sold by private 
bargain, or at " public outcry ;" by auction at the pleasure of 
the master, or by the sheriff when seized for debt in connec- 
tion with horses, sheep, or oxen. He may be sold irrespective 
of the question to what place he is to be driven, or what kind 
of labour he is to be employed in, or what may be the cha- 
racter of his new master. He may be sold irrespective of 
any question whether he is a husband, or father, or brother ; 
or any wishes which he may have to remain with those who 


are dear to his heart. He may be sold regardless of his tears 
and sobs, as he is about to be separated from his wife and 
children for ever. Indeed, in some of the slave states, no 
small part of the anticipated profits of the system result from 
the fact that the slave may be sold. The only restrictions 
made by law on the fact that slaves may be sold at pleasure, 
are, (1.) the ordinances of certain states, as Delaware, Mary- 
land, North and South Carohna, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, 
and Louisiana, (and now of Mississippi,) prohibiting, in a 
great degree, the farther introduction of slaves;* and a law 
in Louisiana, by which slaves are declared to be real estate 
there, and therefore ranked among immovable property. 
It is also ordained in Louisiana, that " If at a public sale of 
slaves, there happen to be some who are disabled through old 
age or otherwise, and who have children, such slaves shall 
not be sold but with his or her children whom he or she may. 
think proper to go with ;" and also, " Every person is ex- 
pressly prohibited from selling separately from their mothers, 
children who shall not have attained the full age of ten years." 
Of course, it follows from this, that when children have at- 
tained the age of ten years they may be separated from their 
mothers at the pleasure of their masters. With these excep- 
tions, which do not materially affect the system of slavery, 
slaves may be sold like any other property. In fact, it is well 
known that nothing is more common, and that the buying and 
seUing of slaves constitutes a regular species of merchandise 
at the South as much as the buying and selling of woollens, 
cottons, and silks/; of horses, sheep, and mules, in any part 
of the North. One can scarcely take up a paper printed even 
at the seat of the federal government, without finding nume- 
rous advertisements for the purchase of slaves ; and Wash- 
ington and Alexandria have long been known to be places 
where this inhuman traffic is carried on in as regular a busi- 
ness manner as any mercantile transaction is conducted in any 

* Stroud, p. 54. 


part of the land. Such a traffic could never have existed in 
the Hebrew commonweahh. The whole spirit of its laws 
and institutions would have revolted at it, and a raart for the 
purchase and sale of slaves could not have been tolerated in 
any part of Palestine for a single hour. 

(6.) Under the Mosaic institutions we found an important 
arrangement for the redemption of the servant, if he or his 
friends had the means of doing it, which the master was not 
at liberty to refuse. The law provided a way by v\rhich it 
could be done. If the servant could himself earn enough to 
pay for his freedom, or if certain of his friends chose to inter- 
pose and purchase his liberty, the law made it obligatory on 
his master to release him. Lest, also, this provision should 
be rendered a nulHty by an exorbitant price fixed by the 
master, the law made an express arrangement that the price 
should be equitable. A just valuation was to be made of the 
servant in proportion to the proximity of the year of jubilee, 
and the master was bound to accept that as the price of his 

Nothing like this, however, enters into American laws 
respecting slavery. There is no law compelling or requiring 
a master to sell a slave to himself or to a friend, any more than 
there is requiring him to sell his horse, his ox, or his hound. 
When a husband and father is from any cause made free, 
there is no law by which he can compel his former master to 
release his own wife and children at any price, or for any 
consideration whatever. If he proposes to buy them, and the 
master is disposed to sell them to their own husband and 
father, the price is entirely at the discretion of the master. 
No matter, also, how cruel may be the treatment of the slave, 
and however much he may desire a different place of resi- 
dence, he has no poAver to obtain a change of masters. In 
Egypt and Arabia, if a slave is maltreated, he may appeal to 
the magistrate, and compel his master to sell him.* But 

* Burckhardt's Travels in Nubia, pp. 306, 307. 


nothing of this nature exists in the United States. In Jiidea, 
under the Mosaic laws, as we have seen, if a master in any- 
way mutilated a slave ; if he merely deprived him of one of 
his teeth, he had a right to liberty. In this country, how- 
ever, neither by wrongs done to him or his family, nor by 
purchase by himself or his friends, can the slave claim his 
freedom. There exists no provision by which, under any 
circumstances, he can claim it as a right guarantied by law 
that his master shall set him up to be sold at ' public out- 
cry,' or in any other Avay. Should he find a man who 
would be willing to purchase him at any price, however 
exorbitant, there would be no power to compel his master to 
dispose of him. In all the slaveholding states, it is believed, 
there is but a single law in which it is ever made obligatory 
on a master to part with his slave, and that law is of such a 
nature as to be practically void. It is found in the new Civil 
Code of the state of Louisiana. The law is in these words : 
" No master shall be compelled to sell his slave, but in one 
of two cases, to wit : first, where, being only co-proprietor 
of the slave, his co-proprietor demands the sale, in order to 
make partition of the property ; second, where the master 
shall be convicted of cruel treatment of the slave, and the 
JUDGE SHALL DEEM IT PROPER to prouounce, bcstdes the 
penalty established for such cases, that the slave shall be 
sold at public auction, in order to place him out of the reach 
of the power which the master has abused." — Art. 192. 
This law, however, must be in almost all cases a practical nul- 
lity, for (1.) it is to be remembered that by a fundamental law 
of slaver)^ no slave or coloured free person can bear witness 
against a white man ; (2.) it is necessary that the master be 
' convicted' of cruelty — a thing so difficult " that it can hardly 
be ranked among possibilities ;" (3.) it is, after all, optional 
with the judge whether he shall or shall not make the decree 
in favour of the slave. But if in any cases it should be carried 
into effect, it furnishes no relief to the system of oppression, for 
(1.) the slave is not to be made free as the servant under the 


Jewish system was, when oppressed ; (2.) there is in this case 
the same view of degradation and debasement which prevails 
everywhere in the notion of slavery — that the slave may be 
sold — sold " at auction" — sold as property — sold as cattle are ; 
and (3.) there is a possibility at least that the condition of 
the slave would be in nowise benefited by such a sale. He 
would have no security whatever that he might not pass into 
the hands of a master quite as cruel as his former owner was. 

(7.) Slaves in the United States are to be restored to their 
masters, if they endeavour to escape. We found, among the 
fundamental principles of the Mosaic law, a provision that the 
slave was never to be restored if he attempted to do this. He 
was to find in the land of Judea an asylum. The whole 
power and authority of the commonwealth were pledged for 
his protection. It would never be lawful, even by treaty, to 
make an arrangement by which he could be restored. . No 
judge had the right to return him, and if an attempt was 
made by his former master to rescue him, it was contemplated 
that the whole power of the Hebrew magistracy would be 
asserted to secure his freedom. A practical invitation, there- 
fore, was given to the oppressed of all lands, to seek the 
enjoyment of freedom within the limits of the Hebrew com- 
monwealth. In examining the Mosaic institutions, I showed 
what must have been the practical bearing of this funda- 
mental law in regard to slavery there, and what would be its 
practical operation in our own land. 

The law in our country on this subject is positive, and is 
one of the very few provisions for the perpetuity of slavery 
which it was thought important to incorporate into the Con- 
stitution of the United States. It is probably the only thing 
in the federal Constitution which comes in direct and open 
conflict with any law of the Bible, or where a conscientious 
man holding office would have any doubt about his duty in 
obeying the Constitution of his country. Here, however, the 
provision is directly at variance with the law of God, and is 
designed to prevent the very thing which was sought as a 


good by the Mosaic legislation — to furnish an inducement to 
the oppressed to secure their freedom. The provision of the 
Constitution of the United States on this subject is in the fol- 
lowing words : " No person held to service or labour in one 
state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in 
consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged 
from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on 
claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be 
due." — Art. iv. sect. ii. 3. That slaves are here included, 
there can be no reasonable doubt, and so the article has always 
been understood ; but two things are quite remarkable on the 
face of the article. One is, that the framers of the Constitu- 
tion carefully, here as elsewhere, avoided the use of the word 
slave; and the other is, that they as carefully avoided the 
recognition of property in the slave. They speak of the indi- 
vidual referred to as a ' person,' not as being a chattel or thing; 
' held to service or labour,' not as property. And they say 
that the ' person' so held ' shall be delivered up on claim of 
the party to whom such service or labour may be due,' not 
that the person so held shall be delivered up to him who 
' owns^ him, or who claims him as ^property.' 

Upon the authority, however, of this provision of the Con- 
stitution, an act of Congress has been passed, dated February 
12, 1793, which is the source of bitter anguish to its victims, 
and which, in all its details, is directly in conflict with the 
divine law. The law is in these words : " When a person 
held to labour in any of the United Stales, or in either of the 
territories on the north-west or the south of the river Ohio, 
under the laws thereof, shall escape into any other of the said 
states or territories, the person to whom such labour or service 
may be due, his agent or attorney, is hereby empowered to 
seize or arrest such fugitive from labour, and to take him or 
her before any judge of the circuit or district courts of the 
United States, residing or being within the state, or before 
any magistrate of a county, city, or town corporate, wherein 
such seizure or arrest shall be made ; and upon proof to the 


satisfaction of such judge or magistrate, either by oral testi- 
mony or affidavit taken before and certified by a magistrate 
of any such state or territory, that the person so seized or 
arrested doth, under the laws of the state or territory from 
which he or she fled, owe service or labour to the person 
claiming him or her, it shall be the duty of such judge or 
magistrate to give a certificate thereof to such claimant, his 
agent or attorney, which shall be sufficient warrant for 
removing the said fugitive from labour to the state or terri- 
tory from which he or she fled."* Under this provision of 
the Constitution, and this law of Congress, escape from slavery 
within the limits of the United States, or any of the territories 
of the United States, is hopeless. The arrangement is de- 
signed to secure this species of ' property,' and to render 
freedom for the slave impossible. It is contemplated that 
every magistrate in the land shall be ready to lend his support 
to the institution ; shall be an ally of the slaveholder of the 
South in perpetuating the system, and shall give the sanc- 
tion of his name and authority to the enforcement of a law 
which is directly at variance with the law of God. The law 
of God ordains that every man who can secure his freedom 
by escape from bondage, has a right to it, and should be pro- 
tected in that right ; the Constitution and laws of the United 
States suppose that he has no such right, and that all the 
authority of the civil arm is to be employed in rivetting upon 
him again the fetters of bondage. It would be impossible to 
conceive of laws more directly repugnant to each other, than, 
in this case, are the law of God and the law of this Christian 

(8.) There is no provision made in this land for gene- 
ral emancipation. We found, in the examination of the 
.Tewish law, that it was a fundamental provision there that 
every Hebrew servant was to be set at liberty at the close of 
the sixth year, and that there was to be a general proclama- 

* IngersoU's Abridgment, 310. 


tion of freedom throughout the land in the year of jubilee. 
The practical operation of this, it was shown, would be to 
abolish slavery altogether, for it was seen that the system 
could not be perpetuated under such an arrangement. 

It is not necessary to attempt to show that there is no such 
general arrangement in this country for freedom. It has 
never been contemplated, for it must be seen at once that it 
would be the destruction of the system. Let the Mosaic laws 
be appHed to slavery in this land, just as they are found in 
the Pentateuch, and in half a century slavery in the United 
States would be at an end. In order, hoAvever, to see more 
clearly that the Mosaic statutes cannot be adduced in support 
of slavery in the United States, it may not be improper to 
refer to a few of the laws directly opposed to those sta- 
tutes, or which are' designed to perpetuate slavery, and to 
prevent the possibility of emancipation. In Georgia, the 
attempt to free a slave, by any other mode than by an applica- 
tion -to the legislature, is visited with severe penalties, as will 
appear by the following act : " If any person or persons shall, 
after the passing of this act, (ISOl,) set free any slave or 
slaves, in any other manner and form than the one prescribed 
herein," (i. e. by special legislative act,) "he shall forfeit for 
every such offence two hundred dollars, to be recovered by 
action of debt or indictment, the one half to be applied to the 
use of the county in which the offence may have been com- 
mitted, the other half to the use of the informer, and the said 
slave or slaves so manumitted and set free, shall be still to all 
intents and purposes as much in a state of slavery as before 
they were m,anumitted and set free by the party or parties so 
offending."* Yet, as if this enactment were not sufficiently 
strong to perpetuate slavery, and to prevent the possibility 
of freedom to the slave, Georgia, by an act of the year 1818, 
added the following statute to her code : " All and every will 
and testament, deed, whether by way of trust or otherwise, 

* Prince's Digest, 467. 


contract, or agreement, or stipulation, or other instrument in 
writing- or by parol, made and executed for the purpose of 
effecting, or endeavouring to effect, the manumission of any 
slave or slaves, either directly, by conferring or attempting to 
confer freedom on such slave or slaves, or indirectly or 
virtually, by allowing and securing, or attempting to allow 
and secure to such slave or slaves the right or privilege of 
working for his, her, or themselves, free from the control of 
the master or owner of such slave or slaves, or of enjoying 
the profits of his, her, or their labour and skill, shall be, and 
the same are hereby declared utterly null and void, and the 
person or persons so making, &c., any such deed, &c., and 
all and every person or persons concerned in giving or 
attempting to give effect thereto, whether by accepting the 
trust thereby created, or attempted to be created, or in any 
other way or manner whatsoever, shall be severally liable to 
a penalty, not exceeding one thousand dollars, to be recovered, 
&c., and each and every slave or slaves in whose behalf such 
will or testament, ^-c, shall have been made, shall be liable 
to be arrested by warrant under the hand and seal of any 
magistrate of this state, and being thereof convicted, shall 
be liable to be sold as a slave or slaves by public outcry.''''* 
A similar law exists in North Carolina. By an act of the 
General Assembly of that state, passed in 1777, it is ordained, 
" That no negro or mulatto slave shall hereafter be set free 
except for meritorious services, to be adjudged of and allowed 
by the county court, and license first had and obtained there- 
upon ; and when any slave is or shall be set free by his or her 
master or owner otherwise than is herein directed, it shall 
and may be lawful for any freeholder in this state to appre- 
hend and take up such slave, and deliver him or her to the 
sheriff of the county, who, upon receiving such slave, shall 
give such freeholder a receipt for the same, and the sheriff 
shall commit all such slaves to the jail of the county, there to 

* Prince's Digest, 466. 


remain until the next court to be held for that county, and the 
court of the county shall order such confined slaves to be sold, 
during the term, to the highest bidder."* In Mississippi, it 
is enacted that the emancipation of a slave must be by an in- 
strument of writing, a last will or deed, under a seal attested 
by at least two credible witnesses, or acknowledged in the 
court of the county or corporation where the emancipator re- 
sides ; proof satisfactory to the General Assembly must be 
adduced that the slave has done some meritorious act for the 
benefit of his master, or rendered some distinguished service 
to the state, all which circumstances are but prerequisites, 
and are of no efficacy until a special act of the Assembly sanc- 
tions the emancipation.! 

It cannot be denied that there are greater facilities for 
emancipation in Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Virginia, eShd 
Delaware, and perhaps in some of the other slaveholding 
states, but it is not necessary to specify the provisions parti- 
cularly. In Kentucky, it may be done by a proper record in 
the county court of the will of the master or owner to emanci- 
pate his slaves, " saving, however, the rights of creditor s.''''X 

In reference, however, to the subject of emancipation in the 
United States, as contrasted with the Mosaic provisions, it may 
be remarked in general, (1.) That there is no provision or law 
for a general emancipation of all slaves as there was among 
the Hebrews. (2.) That in some of the states it is entirely 
prohibited to the owner to emancipate his own slaves, and it 
can take place only by a special act of the legislature. 
(3.) That in some of the states it can never occur unless the 
emancipated slave shall be removed from the limits of the 
state. (4.) That in all cases where it may be done, it depends 
on the will of the master, and there is no provision of law to 
compel him to do it ; and (5.) That all the considerations of 
interest, and custom, and law, and all the circumstantial pro- 

* Haywood's Manual, 525. | Mississippi Rev. Code, 385, 386. 

+ 2Litt. «&Swi. 1155. 


cesses of law in order to secure emancipation in any case — 
the necessity of witnesses, and in many oases of legislative 
enactments — go to prevent emancipation at all. To this may 
be added all the severe enactments in the slave states against 
foreign interference to persuade the masters to emancipate 
their slaves ; all the obstructions thrown in the way of making 
an appeal to the masters through the mails ; all the excite- 
ments against those who are suspected of being abolitionists ; 
all the operations of Lynch law ; all the public denunciations 
against foreign interference in the case ; all the appointments 
of committees of vigilance, and all the precautions against the 
possible escape of those held as slaves. Jill the arrangements 
of law which are made in the slave states, are designed to per- 
petuate slavery, not to bring it to an end; all those "in the 
MSsaic statutes were intended to modify the system, and ulti- 
mately to abolish it. Under the Mosaic system, slavery 
could be, and would be, by the regular operation of the 
laws, abolished. Here, there is no tendency in the laws to 
its abolition, but under any existing or prospective arrange- 
ment, it would continue for ever. 

I have thus gone over, at considerable length, the laws of 
Moses in regard to servitude, and have placed those laws in 
contrast with those which exist in our own land. On this part of 
my subject, therefore, it only remains to ask, what sanction the 
Mosaic laws give to servitude as it exists in the United States ? 
Scarcely any two systems could possibly be more directly in 
contrast, and how can it then be inferred that the Mosaic en- 
actments are either proofs that Moses regarded slavery as 
desirable in order to promote the best interests of society, or 
that his institutions give a sanction to it as it exists in the 
United States ? The sanction of Moses could be adduced 
only in favour of the system which he established, and not in 
favour of one which has scarcely a feature in common with 
his. The operation of his laws was to modify a system which 
he found in existence, and which could not at once be extir- 
pated ; to soften all its hard features ; to bring it as far as 


possible into conformity with the privileges of freedom, and 
as soon as practicable to abolish it altogether. The ope- 
ration of the system here is to rivet the fetters of the slave ; 
to deny to him all the privileges and rights of an intellectual 
and a moral being, and to perpetuate the system for ever. The 
application of the laws of Moses to this country would make 
servitude at once a mild and gentle institution, and would 
abolish it wholly in half a century ; the regular operation of 
the laws now existing here would perpetuate it for ever. 
Here are no laws designed to modify and mehorate the sys- 
tem ; there are none which contemplate emancipation. Of 
all the abuses ever applied to the Scriptures, the most intol- 
erable and monstrous are those which pervert them to the 
support of American slavery. Sad is it, that the mild and 
benignant enactments- of the Hebrew legislator should ever 
be appealed to, to sanction the wrongs and outrages of the 
poor African in "this land of freedom ;" sad, that the ministers 
of religion should ever prostitute their high office to give 
countenance to such a system, by maintaining or even con- 
ceding for a moment that the Mosaic laws sanction the op- 
pressions and wrongs existing in the United States. " I 
tremble,'''' said Jefferson, " when I remember that God is 
just, for God has no attributes Avhich can take part Avith us 
in relation to this matter." 

In regard to the laws existing in the United States respect- 
ing slavery, as contrasted with those of the Mosaic institutions, 
there are a few additional remarks which it seems proper to 
make in this place. 

(1.) I have not copied them with any intention of exciting 
odium against slaveholders, or of holding the framers of those 
laws up to reproach. It would have been desirable to have 
avoided all reference to them if possible, and to have suffered 
them to remain scattered as they are through the law books 
of many states, and intermingled with other laws, so that they 
should not be presented under the disadvantage of being 
placed side by side. But it seemed indispensable that in 



comparing the system of servitude under the Mosaic insti- 
tutions with that in the United States, with reference to the 
question whether the one sanctions the other, to compare the 
laws in the two institutions. I have endeavoured to do justice 
to the Mosaic institutions in this respect by bringing together 
all the laws which he enacted, and, though I have not copied 
all the laws of the slaveholding states on the subject, yet it 
seemed to be but a mere act of justice that the principal 
enactments should be referred to. 

(2.) It may be admitted that these laws in the Southern 
states are not always enforced, and that in some respects 
many of them become in fact a dead letter. I am happy in 
the behef that it is so ; and I admit that it is not a fair way 
of judging of the system to suppose that these laws are 
always rigidly enforced. There is no doubt that in many 
places almost none of them are.* Uniform testimony goes to 
show that in not a few places slaves appear to be contented, 
cheerful, and happy ; that many masters are kind and truly 
pious ; that on many plantations great pains are taken to teach 
the slave to read the Bible, and to instruct him in the princi- 
ples of religion ; that not a few slaves give evidence that they 
are true Christians ; and that multitudes of them, in such 
circumstances, may pass their whole lives and never feel the 
weight of the terrific enactments which hang over them, or 
even know of their actual existence. It is not always fair, 
I admit, to judge of the actual condition of a people by what 
we find in a statute book. Laws become obsolete. Customs 
and habits change. The severe enactment dies away without 
a formal repeal. There is no necessity, under the advancing 
state of society, to put it in execution, and it is forgotten. There 
can be no doubt that it would be possible to make quite a formi- 
dable representation of the state of things in England by merely 
copying the unrepealed laws in the statute book, and that by 

* Compare on this point Dr. Fuller on Slavery, Letters to Dr. Wayland, 
pp. 159, 160. . , 


such a process an idea might be conveyed of the state of 
society there to which there is nothing corresponding in fact. 
The laws have become obsolete, though they are not repealed ; 
and a true judgment of the state of society there is to be 
formed, not by an abstract study of the law books in a distant 
land,, but by a close observation of the actual workings of 
society. I have no doubt that injustice is often done to the 
southern states of this Union by just this process — as beyond 
all question injustice is done by collecting all the advertise- 
ments of runaway slaves ; and all the notices of their marks 
and brands ; and all the accounts of isolated acts of cruelty and 
severity ; and all the instances of the whipping, the imprison- 
ment, and the shooting down of slaves, and by publishing 
them as if that were a fair representation of the ordinary 
operations of " slavery as it is." Every one of those indivi- 
dual instances may have occurred — perhaps hundreds of miles 
apart — but to collect them in a volume does no more justice 
to society there than would be done by collecting all the cases 
of rape, and riot, and burglarj^ and murder, and arson from 
the records of the courts at the North, and publishing them in 
a volume in order to give to a stranger a just representation 
of society here. I should be sorry, therefore, if by copying 
the laws of the Southern states as contrasted with those of 
Moses, I should do any thing to extend or perpetuate this 
injustice, or lead any to suppose that these laws are always 
executed, or that the state of society is to be inferred from the 
supposition that they are always executed, and that there is in 
fact nothing at the South of which these laws may not be 
regarded as the fair exponent. 

(3.) It should be said, however, that while those laws exist 
unrepealed, they may be put into execution, and that the slave 
under, them is hable to suffer all the oppression and wrong 
which they appear to justify. It is no uncommon thing for a 
man to be made to suffer under the operation of an obsolete 
statute of which he had no knowledge, and the remembrance 
of which is revived for the very purpose of doing him in- 


justice. Whether these laws at the South shall or shall not 
be executed in their severity, depends on the state of the pub- 
lic mind, on the passions that may prevail in any community, 
and on the will and caprice of particular masters. This is a 
point over which the slave has no control, and in which the 
benevolent who might wish a better state of things, and might 
shudder at the wrong done, have no power. Any or all of 
these grievous wrongs may be perpetrated by a cruel master, 
and he will be sustained by the sanction of the laws ; and in 
order to a fair judgment respecting a community, we are to 
take into the account not only what is done, but what may be 
done under the sanction of law. 

(4.) These laws are a fair expression of the nature of the 
system of slavery in its essential character. They are what 
the system has produced. They have grown out of it, as 
being supposed to be necessary to the best working of the 
system, and to its perpetuity. They are the result of long 
and careful legislation, in a country that boasts of being the 
most enlightened in the world. They are in most instances 
the result of experience, and are what has been found by 
experience to be necessary to the perfection of the system. 
They are what the lawgivers at the South have supposed to 
be requisite in order that the institution may be perpetuated 
in this country, and are an exponent of %vhat the master deems 
to be necessary in order that his right to this species of ' pro- 
perty' may be best secured. For illustration, it would be 
fair to refer to the laws of Pennsylvania respecting the right 
of the owners of various kinds of property, and the ways by 
which they may secure themselves from wrong, as a proof 
of what has been found necessary in that commonwealth to 
promote in the best manner the security of society. Those 
laws are the results of long experience in the case, just as the 
laws of the South are the results of long experience of the 
best methods of perpetuating slavery. They may be referred 
to, therefore, as the fair exponent of the nature of the system. 

(5.) Those laws are necessary to the system. They are 


the shield which protects it. They could not be repealed 
with safety. The system of slave laws as such could not be 
safely modified. The repeal of any of those enactments, 
harsh and severe as they seem to be, M'ould be doing so 
much to endanger the system. To abolish them, and to 
introduce the great features of the Mosaic code, would be 
to peril the system at once. No essential modification of 
those laws for the better has been made in all the legislation 
on the subject, and the question is never agitated at the South 
whether the "negro code" could be meliorated consistently 
with the perpetuity of slavery. No proposition could be 
entertained suggesting that the laws should be so modified 
that the slave should be taught to read ; that he should 
be allowed entire freedom to worship God ; that he should 
be permitted to testify against a white man ; that he should 
be considered as the owner of property ; that the marriage 
contract should be inviolate ; that he should be allowed to 
control his children, or that, if he escaped, he should not be 
returned by force to his master. Any relaxation of the system 
at all, bordering on such modifications, would be repelled as 
tending to abolition, and the nearer such modifications should 
come to the Mosaic statutes, the more would that danger be 
felt. It is not unfair, therefofe, to refer to these laws as illus- 
trating the working of the system of American slavery, or as 
showing WHAT it is. 

(6.) If the system of slavery, as it exists in this country, is 
right, or if slavery itself is right in any proper sense of the 
term, then these laws growing out of the system, and neces- 
sary to its continuance, are also right. If the master possess 
the right which is claimed over a slave — a right to oblige him 
to labour for his benefit without his consent ; a right to his 
time and to the avails of his labour and skill ; a right to dis- 
pose of that time and skill, and to sell the slave himself, then 
he " enjoys also a right to use all the means necessary both to 
enforce it and to render it permanent. He has a right to 
protect himself against everything that would interfere with the 


exercise of this right. If the intellectual and moral cultiva- 
tion of the slave would interfere v^^jth the master's poM^er to 
enforce this right, he has the right to arrest this cultivation at 
any point he chooses, or to abolish it altogether. If the right 
exist, therefore, no exception can be taken to the sternest 
laws which have ever been enacted in any of the Southern 
states, even though they prohibit, under the severest penal- 
ties, the education of negroes, and forbid them to assemble for 
the worship of God, except under the strictest surveillance."* 
To these views of Dr. Wayland, no exception, it seems to me, 
can be taken, and if they are correct, then it is clear that it is 
proper to place the existing laws in the slave states in contrast 
with those of Moses, as illustrating the question whether 
American slavery has the sanction of the Bible. 

* Dr. Wayland's Letters to Dr. Fuller, p. 23. 



Hebrew Servitude in the time of the Prophets. 

In the previous chapters, I have gone into an extended 
examination of the subject of slavery or servitude as it ex- 
isted among the Hebrew patriarchs, and under the Mosaic 
arrangements. Tlie general conclusion which has been 
reached in this investigation is, that while slavery existed in 
the patriarchal times, and while the laws of Moses contem- 
plated the possibility of its existence, just as they did of 
polygamy and divorce, yet that, so far Ss the Mosaic code 
tolerated it, it was comparatively a mild system, and one 
which it was the tendency of his institutions ultimately to 
abolish. He found it in existence, and could abolish it 
only by mild, but determined legislation. He made servi- 
tude under his code a different thing from what it was in. 
surrounding nations. He made it a desirable thing for a 
slave elsewhere to place himself under his laws. He pro- 
tected him there, and made it certain that, when once under 
the jurisdiction of his laws, he could never be returned 
again to his former master. He elevated the slave to 
many of the rights of a man ; regarded him as a man, a 
moral agent, a religious being ; gave him an opportunity 
of acquiring the knowledge of the true religion ; allowed 
him time for the improvement of his mind, and for the acqui- 
sition of property ; fitted him to be a freeman, and made 
arrangements which were incorporated in the very constitu- 
tion of the commonwealth, that at certain periods, not far dis- 
tant from each other, the whole land should be free from 
every vestige of slavery. The Mosaic institutions were thus 
evidently opposed to the system, and contemplated its ultimate 


entire abolition, in strong contrast, as we have seen, with the 
institutions of our own country, which contemplate its un- 
mitigated perpetuity. 

A very important question presents itself in regard to the 
working of the Mosaic system, and on this inquiry I now 
enter. The inquiry extends from the period of the close of 
the Mosaic code, or the death of Moses, to the winding up of 
the Hebrew institutions — the coming of the Messiah. So far 
as this subject is concerned, this may be regarded as one 
period — whether under the judges or the kings ; whether the 
nation was itself free, or whether it was in bondage. The 
inquiry is, what was the operation of the Mosaic laws respect- 
ing servitude ? Was it regarded as consistent with the 
spirit of those laws ? Was the Hebrew nation a nation of 
slaveholders ? If slavery existed at any time, what was its 
character ? Did the prophets approve and commend it ? 
And was it a fact that under the operation of that system, 
the Saviour found slavery prevalent at the time of his ap- 
pearing ? 

There is some difficulty in arriving at exact views on this 
point, arising from the indefinite meaning of the word servant, 
and the words relating to servitude, in the Scriptures. That 
there were servants in the times of the prophets, and through 
the entire period now under consideration, no one can doubt. 
Any one by opening a Hebrew, a Greek, or an English Con- 
cordance, will find that the words "J^J^ ebedh — Sovxa; doulos — 
and servant, occur almost numberless times, though they 
are used in a great variety of senses. It is necessary, there- 
fore, to bear in mind that the use of these words does not 
demonstrate that slavery existed in any proper form. The 
inquiry is not into the use of the word, but into the thing, 
and in order to this it is necessary to -keep in constant re- 
membrance what slavery is. The meaning of the word ren- 
dered servant in the Old Testament has been the subject of 
previous examination, (Chapter III.) and the results of this 
examination should be borne in mind in the inquiry on which 


we now enter. The result of the examination, in substance, 
was, that the words used to denote servitude in the Scriptures, 
do not necessarily denote slavery in the proper sense of the 
term, or in the sense now under inquiry, and that the mere 
use of those terms determines nothing in the issue before us. 
It neither proves that slavery existed then, nor that it is lawful, 
any more than the word servant in England, or in the states 
north- of Mason's and Dixon's line, proves that slavery exists 
there, or is regarded as right. We are to remember what 
constitutes the thing, (See Chap. II.) and to inquire whether 
there is evidence that that existed, and how it was regarded 
in the period under consideration. 

If the view which has been taken of the Mosaic law be 
correct, we shall expect to find in the Hebrew commonwealth, 
that, if slavery existed at all, it was in a mild form. We 
shall expect to find that the Hebrews did not engage in the 
slave-trade or traffic. We shall expect to find that all cruelty 
was rebuked, and that the slave gradually rose in the public 
estimation, and was elevated nearer to the condition of a free- 
man. We shall expect to find that the institution gradually 
disappeared ; that it was regarded as so contrary to the whole 
spirit of the Mosaic laws, that it finally ceased to be known in 
the nation. These are the fair and reasonable expectations 
which we should form from the examination of the subject 
which we have gone over ; and if this should be found not 
to be the result, it would do much to make us doubt the cor- 
rectness of the conclusions to which we have come respecting 
the nature of the Mosaic arrangements. The inquiry now is, 
what were the facts in the case as developed in their history ? 
This inquiry will embrace the following points : — The treat- 
ment of the native inhabitants of the land of Canaan ; the 
foreign traffic of the nation, and the question whether dealing 
in slaves constituted a part of that traffic ; how it was re- 
garded and treated by the prophets ; and whether slavery 
continued to exist among the Hebrew people, or was finally 



I. The inquiry in regard to the condition of the native 
inhabitants of the land of Palestine. I begin with this, 
because there is allusion to them in the sacred writings in 
such a way as to illustrate this subject ; and because, if the 
Mosaic institutions had contemplated slavery as a desirable 
thing, and as a permanent arrangement, nothing would have 
been more natural than that whole people should have been 
reduced to permanent servitude. 

To such a course there were strong inducements. They 
might be regarded as captives taken in war, and it was the 
ancient law that such captives were regarded as slaves. 
They M'ere an abandoned race — a race devoted to destruc- 
tion. None of them were regarded as the proper objects of 
mercy ; none were to be considered as entitled to any privi- 
leges of citizenship, nor were they to become citizens of the 
Hebrew republic. Ex. xxxiv. 1 1 — 13 ; Numb, xxxiii. 51 — - 
56 ; Deut. vii. 1 — 5. Yet, if their institutions contemplated 
slavery, and it was designed that slavery should enter into 
the permanent arrangements of the commonwealth, what 
would have been more natural than to have doomed that 
race to servitude ? Where could any class of men have been 
found more fitted for it, or against whose subjugation to hope- 
less bondage fewer objections could have been raised? In 
the view of the law of God, as promulgated by Moses, they 
had forfeited all claim to life or mercy. They might justly 
be driven from their land, or devoted to destruction. Yet it 
would seem to be a milder and more compassionate treat- 
ment to make them slaves ; to permit them to live, and to 
give them the opportunity of becoming ultimately incorpo- 
rated among the Hebrew people. This thought would cer- 
tainly occur to the Hebrews themselves, if they had sup- 
posed that slavery was to be a part of their political arrange- 
ments ; and if God had designed that it should enter into that 
system permanently, it is inconceivable why he did not at 
once point them to that people as a race that would supply 
them with all the slaves that they needed. 


Nothing, moreover, would have been more natural than 
this course, if they had recalled one of the ancient predictions 
respecting a portion of this people — the malediction of Noah. 
Gen. ix. 25. "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants 
shall he be unto his brethren." This passage, by a singular 
perverseness of interpretation, and a singular perseverance in 
that perverseness notwithstanding the plainest rules of 
exegesis, is often employed to justify the reduction of the 
African to slavery, because Ham, the father of Canaan, 
peopled Africa. Nothing can be clearer, however, than that 
if a Hebrew had ever thought of employing this passage to 
justify slavery, it would not have been applied by hitn to the 
African, but to the Canaanite. It was Canaan and not Ham 
that was specified ; and whatever there was in the passage, 
whether of prophecy or malediction, that could be interpreted 
in favour of the right of subjecting any one to servitude, a 
Hebrew would have applied it only to the Canaanite. The 
plea would have been plausible, that by an ancient prediction 
it was foretold that the Canaanite should be a slave ; that the 
curse of the patriarch Noah, specifying Canaan by name, 
would make such subjection proper ; and that it was in 
accordance with this ancient prediction that arrangements 
were now made by which he should be reduced to bondage. 
A far more plausible argument could have been derived from 
Misapplication of the passage in favour of fastening the chains 
of servitude on the Canaanite, than has ever been urged in 
modern times from it in favour of the subjection of the African 
to bondage. 

Yet this application of the prophecy, so far as we know, 
was never made, nor did these plausible considerations in 
favour of subjecting the inhabitants of Palestine to slavery, 
ever occur to the mind of the Hebrew conquerors. No 
arrangements were made to kidnap them ; no permission was 
given by Moses or Joshua to the victors to hold those taken in 
arms as slaves; nor was a slave-mart opened in which the 
captives were exposed to sale. There i^ not the slightest 


evidence that one of them was held as a slave, or was ever 
sold or offered for sale as a slave. They were not evea 
attached as serfs or villeins to the soil, nor were they exported 
to be sold in a foreign market. 

There are two occurrences referred to in their history 
which are decisive on this point, and which prove that not 
even the survivors of those tribes were regarded as slaves. 
The first is, the fact that a few of the inhabitants of Canaan, 
from the fear of death, became, by art and duplicity, voluntary 
servants to the Hebrews. I refer to the case of the Gibeonites. 
Josh. ix. They came to Joshua with the representation that 
they had travelled a great distance, and in such raiment as to 
appear as if they had come from afar. They stated to him 
and the elders, that they had heard of all that had been done 
by the Hebrews in their conquests, and they came to enter 
into a league of peace. The artifice succeeded, and the 
request was granted, and a solemn compact was entered into 
between them and the leaders of the Jewish host. Soon the 
deception was found out, (ver. 16,) and it became a serious 
question what course was to be pursued in regard to them. 
The command to destroy all the inhabitants of the land was 
positive ; the fact of fraud in this case was undoubted ; and 
yet a solemn league had been made with them, and the faith 
of the nation pledged that they should be spared. The matter 
was compromised, and the honour of the nation secured ; 
since by the compact they were regarded as ' bondmen ;' 
(literally ' servitude 131^ shall not be cut off from you ;' see 
the margin ;) and they were made " hewers of wood and 
drawers of water" 'for the house of God.' They were em- 
ployed in the service of the " congregation and of the altar," 
(ver. 27,) and were continued in this menial occupation. 
Yet there is no evidence that they were reduced to slavery, 
properly so called. They were not held as property. They 
were not bought and sold, nor does' it appear that the obliga- 
tion to servitude descended to their children. They were 
held in subjection, and were employed to perform the more 


laborious duties connected with, the pubhc services of the 
sanctuary. Undoubtedly they were regarded as menials, and 
were probably subjected to much indignity and contempt, but 
the essential features of slavery were wanting in. their case. 
They had voliintarily put themselves in this position. They 
obtained what they asked, and though it was a laborious and 
debased condition, yet they preferred it to death. No argu- 
ment can be derived from this in favour of the supposition 
that the Hebrews designed to perpetuate the institution of 

The other occurrence referred to in their history, which 
may illustrate the subject, is one that took place, in the time 
of Solomon. Upon the remnant of that people in the land, 
who it would seem up to this time had been hee, Solomon is 
said to have 'levied a tribute of bond-service' in building the 
temple. " And all the people that were left of the Amorites, 
Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which Avere not 
of the children of Israel, their children that were left after 
them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not 
able utterly to destroy, upon these did Solomon levy a tribute 
of bond-service (13:;-D0) unto this day." 1 Kings ix. 20, 21. 
An express distinction was made between them and the chil- 
dren of Israel. " But of the children of Israel did Solomon 
make no bondmen, i^^V.,) but they were men of war, and his 
servants," (that is, in a higher sense than the others,) "and 
his princes, and his captains, and rulers of his chariots, and 
his horsemen." — Ver. 22. Yet there is no evidence that the 
descendants of the Amorites, &c., were regarded as slaves. 
They were pressed into a temporary service for the purpose 
of procuring the materials of building the temple, and were 
doubtless dismissed as soon as the temple was completed. 
There is no evidence that they were held as property, or that 
they were in any case sold, or that they were held in perpetual 
servitude of any kind. The phrase " unto this day," ver 21, 
proves only that they were held until that part of the book of 
Kings was composed. 



Two remarks, however, may be made in view of this trans- 
action. First, that until this time they were not regarded 
as slaves, or as servants of any kind. The ' bond-service' was 
then laid upon them. They were before freemen, and were 
now pressed into the service for a temporary purpose. 
Second, slavery was not common at that time, or at least 
Solomon had not slaves of his own. If that had been the 
case, we should have heard something of it on an occasion 
like this, and his slaves would have been required to perform 
this laborious service. The fact that Solomon was obliged to 
lay this burden on a people heretofore free, demonstrates that 
there was no large body of slaves under his control, to whom 
the work could be intrusted. 

II. There was no foreign traffic in slaves. The proof of 
this is as complete as it can be where there is no express de- 
claration, and the fact is of great importance, for if there were 
provisions made for the periodical emancipation of all who 
were held in servitude, then it is clear that the system could 
be perpetuated only by an active foreign traffic. It is needless, 
to say that, though chiefly an agricultural people,* the 
Hebrews, especially in the time of Solomon, had considerable 
foreign trade. Palestine was favourably situated for commerce, 
and particularly for a commerce in slaves. It was adjacent 
to the Mediterranean, and the rich productions of India, in all 
ages the most desirable objects of commerce, almost of neces- 
sity passed through some part of it. It was undoubtedly to 
facilitate or secure this trade, that Solomon built Tadmor or 
Palmyra, and it was this which, in subsequent times, made 
Tyre, and Petra, and Alexandria, and Venice what they were. 
Solomon also had the advantage of a port at Ezion-Geber, on 
the Red Sea, and secured also from that direction the rich 
productions of India and Africa. The vicinity of Egypt to 
Palestine, and the intercourse which Solomon had with that 

• See Michaelis' Com. on the Laws of Moses, art. xxxix. 



country, made it easy, if he had chosen to do it, to import 
slaves from northern Africa. An active commerce in slaves 
has, in nearly all ages, been carried on through Egypt ; and 
the different parts of Turkey, at the present day, are supplied 
with those which are procured in the interior of Africa, and 
conveyed through Nubia and Egypt. An extensive slave- 
mart is established at Shendy, in Nubia, and the slave traffic 
is among the most profitable that now passes through Egypt. 
The number of slaves sold annually in the slave market at 
Shendy is about five thousand, a large part of whom go to 
Egypt, and thence to various parts of Turkey.* It may be 
added here, that slavery has always prevailed in Egypt, and 
in the adjacent countries. " According to the most moderate 
calculation," says Burckhardt, "the number of slaves actually 
in Egypt is forty thousand. There is hardly a village in 
which several of them are not found, and every person of pro- 
perty keeps at least one. All the Bedouin tribes also, who 
surround these countries, are well stocked with slaves." — 
p. 307. It would not be possible to refer to a period in the 
history of Egypt in which slavery did not exist, and in which 
the traffic in slaves did not constitute an important part of the 
commerce with other countries. There was every temptation, 
therefore, if the Hebrews engaged in commerce at all, to make 
this a part of the traffic, and there is a moral certainty, if 
slavery was regarded as in accordance with the spirit of the 
Mosaic institutions, that this species of trade would have ex- 
tensively prevailed. 

Yet, in every allusion to the commerce which was carried 
on with other nations, there is not a single instance where the 
traffic in slaves is mentioned. There happens to be quite an 
extended specification of the articles of trade — a specification 
which would be sufficient for a custom-house officer in ascer- 
taining the amount and value of imports — and yet there is no 
case in which a slave constituted an item in the imports. 

* See this traffic fully described in Burckhardfs Travels in Nubia, 
pp. 290—308. 


Thus we have an enumeration in 1 Kings x. 22, of the articles 
which were imported in the "navy of Tharshish." "For 
the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of 
Hiram ; once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, 
bringing, gold and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks." 
Comp. 2Chron. ix. 21. So also Solomon had a seaport at 
Ezion-Geber, " on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of 
Edom," (1 Kings ix. 26,) from whence the traffic with Ophir 
was carried on, but there is no intimation that any of those 
vessels were employed in the slave trade. If the traffic in 
slaves constituted any part of this commerce, it is incredible 
that "apes and peacocks" should have been specified, and no 
allusion to what must have been a much more important 
branch of commerce. 

The considerations here suggested receive confirmation, if 
we advert to two circumstances mentioned in regard to the 
commerce of Tyre. The one is, that a part of the commer- 
cial operations of the Tyrians consisted in slaves. Thus it 
is said, (Ezek, xxvii. 13,) " Javan, Tubal, and Mesech, they 
were thy merchants; they traded the persons of men and 
vessels of brass in thy market." Comp. Rev. xviii. 13. The 
other circumstance is, that in the mention of the trade which 
the Hebrews carried on with Tyre, there is no allusion to any 
such traffic, and the enumeration of other things as the arti- 
cles in Avhich they traded, precludes the supposition that they 
dealt in either the purchase or sale of slaves. " Judah, and 
the land of Israel, they were thy merchants : they traded in 
thy market wheat of Minnith, and Pannag, and honey, and 
oil, and balm." — ver. 17. These circumstances make it mo- 
rally certain that in the transactions with Tyre, and in the 
foreign commerce carried on from Ezion-Geber, no part of the 
merchandise consisted of slaves. I do not find in the whole 
history of the Hebrew people under the Mosaic institutions, 
a hint that they were ever engaged in this species of com- 
merce. There is no enumeration of slaves among the articles 
of importation ; there is no allusion to them in the account 


of the arrival of caravans or of foreigners who came to Pa- 
lestine ; there is no recorded instance of any public sale of 
slaves ; there was no public mart where they were sold ; 
there are no merchants mentioned who devoted their lives tc 
the business. 

Now if slavery existed in Palestine to any considerable 
degree, it must have been kept up by the foreign traffic, and 
i/'that had existed, it is incredible that in the long time in 
which they existed as a separate people, no allusion is ever 
made to it. It would be impossible to give a correct history 
of the United States, without some allusion to the slave trade; 
and the records in regard to the importation of slaves are so 
deeply engraven in all our annals, that no lapse of time can 
ever obliterate them. If the traffic existed in Palestine in 
any manner at all corresponding to what exists in our own 
country, how can it be accounted for that in all their history 
there was not the slightest allusion to it ? 

III. The prophets felt themselves at liberty to animadvert 
upon the injustice of slavery, and to denounce it as entirely 
inconsistent with the Mosaic institutions. If this was the 
case, it will follow that, though slavery may have prevailed to 
some extent, yet it was understood that the spirit of the Mo- 
saic institutions was opposed to it, and that they were in- 
tended to abolish it. For the prophets surely would not have 
denounced, as wrong, a system which the constitution of their 
own country was designed to perpetuate, and which the law 
of their God intended to sanction. 

In regard to the fact that the prophets felt at liberty to de- 
nounce all slavery as wholly inconsistent with the Mosaic 
institutions, I will refer to two classes of passages of Scripture, 
whjch will make the matter entirely clear. Before I do this, 
it may be observed, however, that the allusions in the writings 
of the prophets are so infrequent as to lead us to suppose 
that slavery in Palestine did not extensively prevail ; but 
that when they do allude to it, it is in such a way as to leave 


no doubt as to the views which they entertained on the 

(A) The first class of passages of Scripture relates to the 
views which were entertained about the propriety of subject- 
ing their own countrymen to slavery ; or the question whether 
it was proper for the Hebrews to make slaves of their brethren. 
Two events which happened in their history gave occasion to 
the prophets to express their views on this point, and they did 
not hesitate to avail themselves of the opportunity. The first 
occurred during the reign of Ahaz, and is so important on 
the point that I will copy the account at length. 2 Chron. 
xxviii. 8-^ — 15: "And the children of Israel carried av/ay 
captive of their brethren two hundred thousand, women, sons, 
and daughters, and took also away much spoil from them, 
and brought the spoil to Samaria. But a prophet of the Lord 
was there, Avhose name was Oded ; and he went out before the 
host that came to Samaria, and said unto them, Behold, be- 
cause the Lord God of your fathers was wroth with Judah, 
he hath delivered them into your hand, and ye have slain 
them in a rage that reacheth up unto heaven. And now ye 
purpose to keep under the children of Judah and Jerusalem 
for bondmen and bondwomen unto you ; but are there not 
with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God? 
Now hear me, therefore, and deliver the captives again, which 
ye have taken captive of your brethren ; for the fierce wrath 
of God is upon you. Then certain of the heads of the chil- 
dren of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the 
son of Meshillemoth, and Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and 
Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against them that came from 
the war, and said unto them, ye shall not bring in the captives 
hither ; for whereas we have offended against the Lord already, 
ye intend to add more to our sins, and to our trespass ; for our 
trespass is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel. So 
the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the 
princes and all the congregation. And the men which were 
expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with 


the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and ar- 
rayed them, and shod them, and gave them to eat and to drink, 
and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon 
asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to 
their brethren: then they returned to Samaria." This was 
a case which settled one important question in regard to ser- 
vitude. It was, that it was not in accordance with the spirit 
of the Mosaic institutions, that any portion of the Hebrew 
people should make slaves of their brethren who might be 
taken in war. The general law in ancient times was, that 
captives taken in war were the slaves of the victor, and 
might be disposed of in any way to their advantage. This 
principle prevailed all over the heathen world, and was re- 
garded as an indisputable maxim.* Nothing was more natu- 
ral than that it should be applied among the Hebrews, when 
they were separated into different kingdoms, and made war 
on each other; and, in the instance before us, the attempt was 
made to carry out the principle in regard to their captive 
brethren. The decisive rebuke of a prophet ; the ready 
acquiescence of the leaders in his views, and their care in 
restoring the captives, all show how obviously this was a 
violation of the spirit of the Mosaic institutions, and have settled 
what Avas the spirit of those institutions, against slavery. 
One such instance would for ever determine the question 
whether it was proper to enslave their brethren who w^ere 
taken captive in war, and we do not hear that the attempt was 
ever repeated. 

A case of a similar kind, so far as the servitude of Hebrews 
to other Hebrews was concerned, though not similar as to the 
question whether it could be done by reducing captives taken 
in war to slavery — that question being regarded as settled — 
but which equally went to establish the point that it was 
regarded as inconsistent with the spirit of the Mosaic insti- 
tutions for the Hebrews t€ subject their brethren to servitude, 

* See Grotius de Jure Belli ac Pacis, lib. iii. cap. vii. 


occurred in the time of Jeremiali. This remarkable transac- 
tion is recorded in Jer. xxxiv. 8 — 20. Its importance in refer- 
ence to the point before us, will make it proper to dwell upon it. 

" This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, 
after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all 
the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto 
them ; that every man should let his man-servant, and every 
man his maid-servant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go 
free ; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew 
his brother. Now when all the princes, and all the people, 
which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one 
should let his man-servant, and every one his maid-servant, 
go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, 
then they obeyed, and let them go. But afterward they 
turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom 
they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjec- 
tion for servants and for handmaids. 

" Therefore the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from 
the Lord, saying, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; I 
made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought 
them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bond- 
men, saying, At the end of seven years let ye go every man 
his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee ; and 
when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go 
free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, 
neither inclined their ear. And ye were now turned, and. 
had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every 
man to his neighbour ; and ye had made a covenant before 
me in the house which is called by my name : but ye turned 
and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, 
and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at 
their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to 
be unto you for servants and for handmaids. Therefore thus 
saith the Lord : Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaim- 
ing liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his 
neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the 


Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine ; and 
I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the 
earth. And I will give the men that have transgressed my 
covenant, which have not performed the words of the cove- 
nant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf 
in twain, and passed between the parts thereof, the princes of 
Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the 
priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between 
the parts of the calf; I will even give them into the hand of 
of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their 
life ; and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls 
of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth." 

In regard to this transaction, the following points are clear 
from the narrative. (1.) That at that time there were many 
of the Hebrews who had, for some cause, been reduced to 
servitude by their brethren. The reasons why this had been 
done are unknown, but it is probable that it had been in the 
manner contemplated in the laws of Moses when literally 
understood. It may be presumed that poverty was the 
principal cause, and in the transaction there is no intimation 
that it had occurred from any other. It may haA^e been pos- 
sible that there was then an unusual degree of oppression 
of this kind, but it does not appear that it was for any 
causes different from those which the literal interpretation 
of the Mosaic laws seemed to contemplate. The number of 
those who were thus subjected to servitude is not men- 
tioned, but it would seem that it was so great as to demand 
the interposition of the prophet. (2.) A reformation from 
this evil was, from some cause now unknown, effected. 
Whether it was originated by the reigning king Zedekiah, 
as a civil arrangement, or by the influence of Jeremiah, as 
a religious movement, it is impossible to determine ; but 
it is certain that a universal emancipation of all the He- 
brews who were held in servitude was agreed upon, and 
was actually carried into effect. It was evidently under 
the patronage of the king, and he gave his sanction to it, 
. 19 


though it may have had its origin among the reh'gious 
part of the nation, or have been urged by the prophets. 
" This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, 
after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all 
the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim hberty unto 
them ; that every man should let his man-servant, and every 
man his maid-servant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go 
free ; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of g. 
Jew his brother. Now when all the princes, and all the 
people which had entered into the covenant, l>eard that 
every one should let his man-servant, and every one his 
maid-servant go free, that none should serve themselves of 
them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go." — ver. 
8 — 10. It may be presumed that such an emancipation was 
not effected without difficulty, and without reluctance on the 
part of those who claimed their brethren as bound to servi- 
tude. We know that men are not usually disposed to emanci- 
pate those who are held in bondage, and the subsequent 
transactions in regard to those here referred to, show that 
they had not been restored to freedom without an effort. 
Still, it was remarkable, as an instance of voluntary emanci- 
pation — for it was not the result of an absolute command on 
the part of the sovereign, but of a covenant or compact — 
" Zedekiah made a covenant with all the people." It is one 
of the earliest instances on record of the voluntary emanci- 
pation of large n-umbers held in bondage, and shows that it 
may be possible to induce a people to act from such a sense 
of justice as to release those whom they hold as slaves. For 
any thing that appears, it would have been as difficult to 
bring about such an emancipation among the Hebrews by 
their own consent, as it would now be in Maryland or Vir- 
ginia. (3.) After they had been emancipated, an attempt was 
made to reduce them again to bondage, in spite of the solemn 
covenant by which they had been set at liberty. " But after- 
wards they turned, and caused the servants and the hand- 
maidens whom they had let go free, to return, and brought 


them into subjection for servants and for handmaids." 
— ver. 11. This is a manifestation of the genuine spirit of 
slavery, and shows how strong is the tendency in human 
nature to relapse into it again, even when convinced that it is 
wrong. So powerful is the spirit of avarice in men ; so com- 
mon the indisposition to labour ; so constantly operating the 
desire to live by the avails of the labour of others; and so 
much of ease, and comfort, and luxury, is supposed to be con- 
nected with slavery, that there is scarcely any form of wrong 
which men are more reluctant to relinquish, or to which they 
more readily return. (4.) In this state of things, the prophet 
in a most severe manner rebuked those who attempted to 
subject their brethren again to servitude, and denounced oa 
them the severest judgments of heaven. He reminded them 
of the solemn covenant into which God entered with their 
fathers, when he released them from Egyptian bondage ; of 
the absolute command that no Hebrew should on any consi- 
deration be made to serve more than six years ; and says that 
for the crime of subjecting their brethren again to servitude 
after they had been released from bondage, God would sub- 
ject them "to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine," 
and would cause them to be removed " into all the kingdoms 
of the earth." — ver. 17. Nothing could have shown more 
decidedly the abhorrence with which the whole transaction 
was viewed, or the fact that subjecting their brethren to servi- 
tude was entirely incompatible with the whole spirit of the 
Hebrew institutions. If the permanent existence of slavery 
had been contemplated as in accordance with the spirit of the 
Mosaic institutions, no effort would have been made to secure 
their release, nor would the conduct of those Avho endea- 
voured to fasten the bonds on their brethren after they had 
been once broken off, have been met with so fearful a 

The two cases now referred to, show, that though accord- 
ing to the exact letter of the Mosaic statutes it was lawful, in 
certain cases, to hold their brethren in servitude, yet that it 


was contrary to the spirit of those institutions that it should 
be perpetuated ; that their brethren were not to be made 
slaves in the way which was then invariably regarded as 
proper ; and that any attempt to forge the chains of slavery 
on them permanently must meet with the decided rebuke of 
Heaven. They show that the entire subject was observed 
with an eye of vigilance by the prophets whom God raised 
up, and that the whole spirit of the Mosaic institutions tended 
to introduce a period when no Hebrew should be the servant 
of his brother. 

(B) A second class of texts of Scripture will show us that 
the prophets felt themselves at liberty to utter the language 
of rebuke so decisively on the whole subject of slavery, as to 
prove that in any and every form it was contrary to the spirit 
of the Mosaic laws, and was never designed to be a perma- 
nent institution. If we find a prophet of God, in a single 
instance, condemning the existence of slavery ; demanding that 
those held in bondage should be emancipated as an acceptable 
service to God ; and denouncing the whole system as oppres- 
sive, we may make use of this fact to prove that the Mosaic 
laws were not favourable to it, and never intended that it 
should be permanent. We find, in fact, just such an in- 
stance in the book of Isaiah, ch. Iviii. 6: "Is not this the 
fast that I have chosen ? to loose the bands of wickedness, to 
undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that 
ye break every yoke ?" The question now is, to whom would 
this be understood as referring ? Who would come under 
the description of the oppressed? Who would have obtained 
release by ' breaking every yoke V Would a compliance 
with the demand of the prophet have been consistent with 
the continuance of slavery ? If the command of the prophet 
had been obeyed in its true spirit, would there still have 
remained large bodies of men in the land held as property, 
and subjected to the evils of servitude ? Those who suppose 
that slavery was contemplated by Moses as a permanent 
institution, and that it was regarded by the prophets as an 


institution with which they were not to intermeddle because 
it was estabhshed by law, must necessarily believe that all 
that the prophet contemplated here could have been complied 
with, even if the Hebrews should have continued to be 
owners of slaves to any extent. It becomes important, then, 
to ascertain the real idea which was in the mind of the 

(1.) It is clear that the evil which he desired should 
be removed, he considered to be a moral evil, or sin. The 
appropriate fast was to "loose the bands of wickedness ;^^ to 
cease to do wrong. The eye was fixed on some prevailing 
form of iniquity which made it proper that there should be 
fasting on account of it, and which should be removed in 
order that the act of fasting might be acceptable to God. 

(2.) The things which they were to do in relation to the 
various forms of evil, in order that their fasting might be ac- 
ceptable, are distinctly specified, and are such as to lead to 
the belief that slavery was referred to, and such that it would 
be understood that the prophet meant that it should at once 
cease. That the expressions used by the prophet would include 
slavery, if it existed then, will be apparenbby a brief exami- 
nation of the language employed by him. 

(«) The first thing specified is, that they should " loose the 
bands of wickedness." The idea clearly is, that they were 
to dissolve every tie which unjustly bound their fellow-men. 
If they were exercising any cruel authority over others ; if 
they had bound them in any way to any service or obligation 
contrary to the law of God, and the demands of justice,, they 
were to release them. This might refer to their holding 
others to contracts fraudulently made ; or to their holding 
others to strict payment who were unable to meet their obli- 
gations ; or to their subjecting others to more rigid servitude 
than was allowed by the laws of Moses ; but it would not 
require a very ardent imagination for any one to see that if 
he held others as slaves at all, this came fairly under the 
description of the prophet. A man with a tender conscience, 



who held slaves, would at least have suspected that this 
part of the description might have been intended to include 

(b) The second thing specified is, that they should " undo 
the heavy burdens" — literally, ' to shake off the bands of the 
yoke ;' that is, the yoke of captives, of the oppressed, &c. 
The same word is used to denote burden (nz)lo) which in the 
subsequent member is rendered yoke ; and the verb which is 
rendered " undo" ^^^\r\, frojn inj, is elsewhere employed to de- 
note emancipation from servitude. See Psalm cv. 20. The 
idea here is, that the yoke was attached to the necks of animals 
by cords or bands,* and that those cords or bands were to be 
so loosened that the one Avhich bore the yoke should be free. 
The yoke in the Scriptures is commonly employed as the 
emblem of oppression, or of compulsory toil or servitude, and 
is undoubtedly so used here. The whole phrase here used 
denotes the release of captives or slaves, and would, to one 
accustomed to Scripture language, be so understood here. 
Thus in Psalm cv. 17—20 : 

He sent a man before them even Joseph, 

Who was sold for a servant; 

Whose feet they hurt with fetters : 

He was laid in iron ; 

Until the time that his word came, 

The word of the Lord tried him. 

The king sent and loosed him — ■"iniTT'l, 

Even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. 

So in Psalm cxlvi. 7: "The Lord looseththe prisoners," 
where the same Hebrew word occurs. 

(c) The third thing specified is, that they were to "let the 
oppressed go free." This language is still more emphatic and 
unambiguous than that before employed. The word rendered 
"oppressed" (marg. broken), is from f^T ratzatz to break, to 

* See Fragments to Taylor's Calmet, No. xxviii. 


break down ; to treat with violence, to oppress. It may ap- 
ply to those whoare treated with violence in any way, or who 
are broken down with hard usage. It may refer, therefore, 
to slaves, who are crushed with bondage or toil ; to inferiors, 
who are crushed by the exactions of those above them ; or to 
the subjects of a tyrant, groaning under his yoke. If slavery 
existed at the time when this word was used in the form in 
which it is usually found, it would be understood as including 
that ; at least it would be so understood by the slaves themselves ; 
for if any system properly deserves to be called oppression, 
it is slavery. This interpretation is confirmed by the use of 
the word rendered free. This word "'K'iJn hhdphshi, evident- 
ly refers to the act of freeing a slave. The person who had 
been once a slave, and who had obtained his freedom, was 
denominated 'K'sn hhdphshi.* The word occurs, and is so 
used, in the following places : Ex. xxi. 2, "And the seventh 
[year] he shall go out/?-ee ;" ver. 5, " I will not go out free ;" 
xxvi. 27, " He shall let him go free;'' Deut. xv. 12, " Thou 
shall let him go free ;" ver. 13, " When thou sendest him out 
free;'' ver. 18, " When thou sendest him away free;" Job 
iii. 19, "The servant is free from his master;" that is, in the 
grave, where there is universal emancipation. So in the places 
above referred to, respecting the freedom of the Hebrews who 
had been held as slaves, (Jer. xxxiv. 9, 10, 11, 14, 16,) the 
same Hebrew word is used. It occurs in no other places ex- 
cept the following: 1 Sam. xvii. 25, "And make his father's 
house free in Israel," referring to the favour that was pro- 
mised to one that should slay Gohath of Gath. Job xxxix. 5, 
"Who hath sent out the wild ass free?" Ps. Ixxxviii. 5. 
(6.) ''Free among the dead." The word is one that would 
be naturally understood by a Hebrew as referring to freedom 
from servitude, and unless there was something in the connec- 
tion that made it necessary to adopt a different signification, 
it would be so regarded of course. In the case before us, 

* See Jahn's Archffiology, § ITl. 


such an interpretation would be obvious, and if slavery at 
that time existed in Palestine, a Jew would understand the 
prophet as saying that the slave was to be released in order 
that an "acceptable fast" might be observed. 

{d) The fourth thing specified is, that they were " to break 
every yoke." This also would be naturally understood of 
slavery, if it existed at that time. A ' yoke,' in the Scrip- 
tures, is a symbol of servitude or of oppression, and the pro- 
phet demanded, in order that an acceptable fast should be 
observed, that every thing which could be properly regarded 
as a yoke should be broken. This requisition, if complied 
with, would restore all to their equal rights. 

If now this proclamation were made in the United States, 
and were fairly complied with, no one can doubt that it would 
lead to the emancipation of the slave. The language is such 
that it cannot well be misunderstood. The prophet demands 
a cessation of that which would include slavery, and specifies, 
in order to an acceptable fast, that that should be abandoned 
which has always entered into it. 

These are all the cases which I have been able to find in 
which the prophets allude to the subject of slavery. They 
are not numerous, and the fact that they are no more nume- 
rous suggests the conclusion unavoidably that slavery was not 
a common thing in Palestine, or that if it prevailed it was a 
very mild system. But from the references which* we have 
found to it, and the manner in which it is noticed by the pro- 
phets, we are led to the following conclusions : — 

(1.) That the prophets felt themselves at entire liberty to 
animadvert upon it, and to state their views clearly in regard 
to it. They did not consider themselves restrained from 
doing it by the fact that it was sustained by law ; or by the 
plea that it was a civil institution, or that the ministers of reli- 
gion had nothing to do with it. The men who were sent 
from God as his ambassadors to the people, did not suppose 
that, in lifting up their voice in opposition to it, they were doing 
any thing contrary to what fairly came within their notice as 


religious teachers, nor did they regard it as a political institu- 
tion in such a sense that they were not to advert to it. 

It is often said in our country that slavery is a civil institu- 
tion ; that it pertains solely to the states where it exists; that 
it is sustained and sanctioned by law ; that the Constitution 
of the Union makes provision for its perpetuity, and that it is 
not appropriate for the ministers of religion, and for ecclesias- 
tical bodies, to intermeddle with it. This plea, however, 
might have been used with much more propriety among the 
Hebrews. Their Constitution was, what ours is not, of divine 
origin, and it would have been easy for a friend of slavery to 
have said to the prophets that the institution was sanctioned 
by the laws which all acknowledged to be of divine appoint- 
ment, and that arrangements were made for its perpetuity in 
the constitution of the commonwealth. Why would not such 
an argument have as much weight then as it should be 
allowed to have now ? Yet 

(2.) The prophets felt themselves at entire hberty to 
exhort the people to restore their slaves to freedom. They 
considered that slavery was as proper a subject for them to 
discuss as any other. They treated it as if it were entirely 
within their province, and never appear to have hesitated 
about expressing their views of it. 

(3,) They never speak of it as an institution which it was 
desirable to perpetuate, as contributing to the welfare of the 
community. In the iew notices which we have of it, there is 
a uniform representation of its nature. It is, in their view, a 
hard and oppressive system ; a system which should be aban- 
doned if there were acceptable service rendered to God. 
There is no apology made for it ; no pleading for it as a desi- 
rable system, and no attempt to show that it was in accord- 
ance with the laws of the land. In their writings there is no 
such effort to defend it or apologize for it, as, I am grieved 
to say, may often be found in the preaching and the writings 
of ministers of the gospel in the United States. It would 
not be difficult to imagine what would have been the emotions 


of Isaiah, after he had written the fifty-eighth chapter of his 
prophecies, were he to read some of the apologies for slavery 
issued by ministers of the gospel, and by professors in theo- 
logical seminaries at the present day ; or should he hear the 
sentiments uttered in debate in ecclesiastical synods, assem- 
blies, conferences and conventions. 

(4.) From the whole view, also, it may be inferred that the 
prophets did not suppose that the institution of slavery was in 
accordance with the spirit of the Mosaic institutions, or was 
designed to be perpetuated. Their treatment of it is just such 
as would be natural on the supposition that they considered 
those institutions to have been so arranged that, while it was 
for a while tolerated, the tendency and design was ulti- 
mately to remove the evil entirely, and to make the Hebrews 
throughout a free people. 

As one of the results of this inquiry, it is apparent that the 
Hebrews were not a nation of slaveholders. There is no evi- 
dence that they engaged in the foreign slave-trade ; there is 
none that the domestic slave-trade prevailed ; there is none that 
there were any marts for the purchase or sale of slaves ; there 
is none that they purchased or sold slaves at all. There is no 
evidence that they even purchased of others the captives made 
in war ; and there is none that, as was usual among other 
people, a Hebrew ever sold a captive made in war to a 
Hebrew brother or to a stranger. The fair inference from all 
this is, that the Mosaic institutions were not fitted to foster 
the spirit of slavery, and that while it prevailed among other 
people, there was some process going on in Judea adapted to 
separate its inhabitants from all connection with the system. 

As another result of this inquiry, it may be inferred that 
slavery altogether ceased in the land of Palestine. On 
what evidence would a man rely to prove- that slavery existed 
at all in that land in the time of the later prophets, of the 
Maccabees, or when the Saviour appeared ? There are abun- 
dant proofs, as we shall see, that it existed in Greece and 
Rome ; but what is the evidence that it existed in Judea ? 


So far as I have been able to ascertain, there are no declara- 
tions that it did, to be found in the canonical books of the Old 
Testament, or in Josephus. There are no allusions to laws 
and customs which imply that it was prevalent. There are 
no coins or medals which suppose it. There are no facts 
which do not admit of an easy explanation on the supposition 
that slavery had ceased, and that the Hebrew people, though 
themselves often sold into captivity as slaves, had long since 
ceased all connection with it themselves. The only intima- 
tions of the existence of servitude at all between the time of the 
closing of the canon of the Old Testament and the advent of 
the Saviour, consist of a very few notices in the books of the 
Apocrypha. Thus in the book of Judith, ch. xiv. 13, it is 
said, " So they came to Holofernes' tent, and said to him that 
had charge of all his things. Waken now our lord ; for the 
slaves," or servants, (ot 6otJxot,) " have been bold to come 
down against us to battle." This proves that the Hebrews 
were regarded as servants to the Assyrians, • for in fact 
many of them, under Holofernes, had been reduced to bond- 
age. So in 1 Mace. iii. 41: "And the merchants of the 
country, hearing of the fame of them, took gold and silver 
very much, with servants, and came into the camp to buy the 
children of Israel for slaves." This proves that it was not 
uncommon for surrounding nations to purchase slaves, about 
which, indeed, there can be no dispute ; but it does not demon- 
strate that this was practised in Judea, or by the Jews them- 
selves. The following passages also in the Apocrypha show 
that there was servitude existing of some kind among the 
Hebrews, but do not, unless in a single instance, determine 
its nature. Wisdom, xviii. 11 ; Ecclesias. iv. 30, vi. 11, vii. 
20, 21, xix. 21, xxiii. 10, xxxiii. 24, 25, 26, 30, 31, xxxvii. 
11, xlii. 5; 2 Mace. viii. 35; Tobit x. 10; Judith, x. 23; 
Esth. XV. 16 ; Susan. 27 ; 1 Mace. i. 6, 8 ; 2 Mace. vii. 6. 
33. One of these passages only alludes to the fact that ser- 
vants were bought with money. Ecclesias. xxxiii. 30 : " If 
thou have a servant, let him be unto thee as thyself, because 


thou hast bought him with a price." Marg. as in Gr. in 
blood, [iv aifiafi,.) The meaning probably is, that he was a 
captive taken in war. In what way the others who are men- 
tioned were obtained, or what was the nature of their servi- 
tude, is in no case stated. It is only intimated that they 
would escape if they could. Ecclesias. xxxiii. 25, 31. Comp. 
2 Mace. viii. 35. 

If, therefore, it be true that slavery did not prevail in Judea ; 
that there is no evidence that the Hebrews engaged in the 
traffic, and that the prophets felt themselves at liberty to 
denounce the system as contrary to the spirit of the Mosaic 
institutions, these facts will furnish an important explanation 
of some things in regard to the subject in the New Testament, 
and will prepare us to enter on the inquiry how it was 
regarded by the Saviour. For if slavery did not exist in 
Palestine in his time ; if he never came in contact with it, it 
will not be fair to infer that he was not opposed to it, because 
he did not often refer to it, and expressly denounce it. He 
was not accustomed to go out of his way to denounce sins 
with which he did not come in contact. The inquiry 
whether there ivere slaves in Judea in his time, will be appro- 
priately considered in the next chapter. 



The relation of Christianity to Slavery. 

In the previous chapters, I have examined at length all that 
seems to refer to the subject of slavery in the Old Testament. 
If the train of reasoning which has been pursued is correct, 
we have reached the conclusion that, so far from its being true 
that the Mosaic system was designed to uphold and perpetuate 
the institution, the fact was, that under the fair operation of 
that system, slavery would at no distant period come entirely 
to an end. The fair and honest application of the Mosaic 
laws to slavery in the United States would speedily remove 
the evil from our country. 

In approaching the New Testament v/ith reference to .this 
subject, the true points of inquiry may be stated in few 
words: — Did Christ and his apostles look benignly on tjie 
institution ? Did they regard it as a good institution, or as 
one adapted to promote permanent good ? Did they consider 
it to be desirable for the highest comfort of social hfe ? Did 
they consider that they who held slaves could illustrate the 
power and excellence of the Christian religion in the best 
manner, while continuing in that relation ? Did they suppose 
that they who vjere held in slavery were occupying the most 
desirable condition in Hfe, and that they should consider that 
the Christian religion contemplated the continuance of that 
relation ? Was it the design of the Saviour, that the fair ap- 
plication of the gospel to this system should perpetuate it in 
his church ? 

The affirmative of these questions it is necessary for the 
advocates of slavery to make out, in order to show that the 



New Testament sustains the system. If the affinnatlve can 
be made out, and if it can be shown that slavery has flourished, 
and must continue to flourish, under theyoir application of the 
principles which Christ and his apostles laid down, it may be 
inferred that Christianity is favourable to the institution; if 
otherwise, not. 

The points which the advocates of slavery refer to as show- 
ing that Christianity is not unfavourable to the system, or that 
the system is not contrary to the New Testament are the 
following : — 

(1.) That slavery existed in the time of Christ, and that 
though he must often have come in contact with it, he did not 
condemn or denounce it. Thus it is said by the Presbytery 
of Tombecbee, pp. 15, 16, 

" That slavery is not a moral evil, is evident from the fact, 
that it is nowhere condemned by the Redeemer, or his apos- 
tles in the New Testament. All principles, and all practices, 
which would exclude from the favour of God, and the king- 
dom of heaven, are recorded with great plainness without 
respect of persons. Witness the manner in which the scribes 
and Pharisees were addressed : ' For I say unto you, That 
except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of 
the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the 
kingdom of heaven.' Matt. v. 20. In a long catalogue of 
denunciations against various sins by the Redeemer himself, 
contained in the 23d chapter of Matthew, and from the 13th 
to the 33d verses inclusive, not a word is said against the sin 
of slavery. 

" How does all this come to pass, if it be so ' great an evil' 
as our brethren seem to think ? In the sermon on the Mount 
not a word is uttered against the sin of slavery. A centurion 
came to Jesus in Capernaum, beseeching him, and saying, 
Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously 
tormented. Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 
The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy 
that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word 


only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man im- 
der authority, havmg soldiers under me, and I say unto this 
man, go, and he goeth ; and to another, come, and he cometh ; 
and to my servant, do this, and he doeth it. The Lord said, 
' I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.' Matt. viii. 
5 — 10. The centurion was a slaveholder, and instead of 
being reproved by the Saviour, he received the highest com- 

So also the Princeton Repertory, (April 1836, p. 275,) " It 
is on all hands acknowledged that, at the time of the advent 
of Jesus Christ, slavery in its worst forms prevailed over the 
whole world. The Saviour found it around him in Judea, 
&c. The subject is hardly alluded to by Christ in any of 
his personal instructions.^^ So in the Princeton Repertory 
for October, 1844, it is said, " Neither Christ nor his apostles 
ever denounced slaveholding as a crime." 

(2.) That slavery existed throughout the Roman world, 
wherever the apostles went, and yet that they did not denounce 
it as an evil, or proclaim the necessity of immediate emancipa- 
tion. So the Princeton Repertory for 1836, p. 275, "The 
apostles met with it in Asia, Greece, Italy. How did they 
treat it ? Not by the denunciation of slavery as necessarily 
and universally sinful. The apostles refer to it, not to pro- 
nounce upon it AS A QUESTION OF MORALS, but to prescribe the 
relative duties of masters and slaves.'''' So in the number 
for October, 1844, it is said by the Princeton Reviewer, " At 
the time of ths introduction of Christianity, slavery in its worst 
form prevailed extensively over the world. The slaves are 
estimated as amounting to one half or two-thirds of the popu- 
lation of the Roman empire ; and the severity with which, 
they were treated was extreme." But ^^ neither Christ nor 
his apostles ever denounced slaveholding as a crime.'''' 

So the Presbytery of Tombecbee : "In the whole catalogue of 
prohibitions which disqualify for the kingdom of heaven, sla- 
very is not once named. Did the apostles say any thing on the 
subject that justifies its existence among a Christian people ? 


This Presbytery believes they did. Let every man abide 
in the same calling in which he was called. Art thou called 
being a servant ? Care not for it ; but if thou mayest be made 
free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a 
servant, is the Lord's freeman. Likewise also, he that is called, 
being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price ; 
be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, 
Avherein he is called, therein abide with. God. 1 Cor. vii. 20 
— 24. The Bible makes slavery a part of the domestic circle ; 
it is associated with husband and wife, parents and children. 

" Slaves are directed in what manner they are to demean 
themselves as members of the civil and social compact. Ser- 
vants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to 
the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, 
as unto Christ; not with eye service, as men pleasers, but as 
the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart ; 
with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 
knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same 
shall he receive of the Lord, whether bond or free. And, 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. 5 — 9. Society is a 
whole, formed by infinite wisdom, with all its functions and 
functionaries. No honest calling is degraded, or degrading. 
Each member of the social compact is to be honoured and 
esteemed, while he continues to move cheerfully and usefully 
in his proper sphere." And so the advocates of slavery 

(3.) That the inspired teachers of the Christian religion 
admitted slaveholders into the Christian church, in the same 
manner as others, and regarded them, while holding slaves, 
as in every respect in good standing.* This is insisted on 
everywhere by the advocates of slavery, as showing that the 
apostles did not regard slaveholding as a sin, or as in any way 

* See the Princeton Repertory, 1836, p. 277. 


inconsistent with the existence of true piety, and with pos- 
sessing all the proper qualifications of church membership. 
Thus the Princeton Reviewer says, " Did they [Christ and the 
apostles] shut their eyes to the enormity of a great offence 
between God and man ? Did they temporize with a heinous 
evil, because it was common and popular? Bid they admit 
the perpetrators of the greatest crimes to the Christian com- 
munion? Who vvill undertake to charge the blessed Re- 
deemer and his inspired followers with such connivance at sin, 
and such fellowship with iniquity ?" This argument is stated 
with much force by Dr. Fuller : — 

" The demonstration furnished on this question, I need only 
mention ; it is the baptism by the apostles of slaveholders, 
and the admission of them into the churches. Before baptism 
they required men to repent, that is, to abandon all their sins ; 
yet they baptized masters holding slaves. They fenced the 
Lord's table with the most solemn warnings that men should 
examine themselves, and that to eat and drink unworthily was 
to eat and drink condemnation ; yet they admitted to the sup- 
per masters holding slaves. They declared that 'without 
hoHness no man could see the Lord,' and at once condemned 
all the darling sins of the day. Idolatry was interwoven with 
the very elements of society, yet they spared it not, but at 
the sight of 'a city given to idolatry' their 'spirits were 
stirred,' and they told the people plainly that they worshipped 
devils. They abhorred the thought that 'the temple of God 
could have any agreement with idols ;' and stigmatized idola- 
try as one of the ' works of the flesh,' ' as to which,' said 
ihey, ' we tell you before, as we have told you in times past, 
that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom 
of God.' Voluptuousness reigned in city and country, and 
even philosophers considered it innocent ; but the heralds of 
Christ assailed it everywhere. In a word, going in the 
strength of the Lord God, they, with lion-hearted dauntless- 
ness, struck at and warred with the superstitions of the Gen- 
tiles and the prejudices of the Jews. They attacked the 



passions of the vulgar and the pride of the noble. They 
defied the priests, and confronted the Sanhedrim, and thun- 
dered before unjust and licentious princes, ' of righteousness, 
and temperance, and judgment to come.' Yet as to slavery, 
they not only never forbade it, but received believing masters 
into the churches, and declared them ' faithful and beloved,' 
brethren in Christ Jesus."* 

(4.) It is said by those who maintain that slavery is not 
inconsistent with the spirit of the New Testament, that the 
apostles " legislated" for it in the same way as they did for 
the other allowed relations of life. They recognised the rela- 
tion of master and slave in the same manner as they did that 
of husband and wife, and parent and child, and monarch and 
subject, and in language that implied no more disapprobation 
in the one case than in the other. They prescribed the duties 
of both, as if the relation was not improper. It is argued 
further,-that they never "legislated" for a sinful relation ; that 
they never made similar laws in reference to polygamy or 
concubinage ; and that the fact that they thus made laws con- 
templating this relation, showed that they could not have 
designed to express disapprobation of the system. This ar- 
gument is much urged by the advocates of the system, and is 
deemed by them conclusive on the point. In support of it, 
they refer to such passages of the New Testament as Eph. 
V. 22, 33 ; vi. 1—9 ; Col. iii. 18—25 ; iv. 1 ; 1 Tim. vi. 1—5. 

(5.) It is urged that to suppose slavery to be a sin, and yet 
to suppose that Christ and the apostles failed to denounce it 
as such, is a gross reflection on their character, and entirely 
inconsistent with their moral honesty. This argument is 
urged with great zeal by the Princeton Reviewer, as being 
decisive in the case. Thus the author of the article in the 
Repertary for 1836 says on this point : " It requires no 
argument to show that sin ought to be at once abandoned. 
Every thing, therefore, is conceded which the abolitionists 

* Dr. Fuller's Letters to Dr. Wayland, pp. 196, 197. 


need require, when it is granted that slaveholding is in it- 
self a crime. But how can this assumption be reconciled 
with the conduct of Christ and the apostles ? Did they shut 
their eyes to the enormities of a great offence against God 
and man ? Did they temporize with a heinous evil, because 
it was common and popular ? Did they abstain from even 
exhorting masters to emancipate their slaves, though an im- 
perative duty, from fear of consequences ? Did they admit 
the perpetrators of the greatest crimes to the Christian com- 
munion 1 Who will undertake to charge the blessed Re- 
deemer and his in&pired followers with such connivance at 
sin, and such fellow^ship with iniquity ? Were drunkards, 
murderers, hars, and adulterers thus treated? Were they 
passed over without even an exhortation to forsake their sins? 
Were they recognised as Christians ? It cannot be that 
slaveholding belongs to the same category with these crimes ; 
and to assert the contrary, is to assert that Christ is the minis- 
ter of sin." And again, on pages 283, 284, he urges the 
argument with renewed energy : " Let us, however, consider 
the force of the argurftent as stated above. It amounts to this. 
Christ and his apostles thought slaveholding a great crime, 
but they abstained from saying so for fear of the conse- 
quences. The very statement of the argument, in its naked 
form, is its refutation. These holy men did not refrain from 
condemning sin from a regard to consequences. They did 
not hesitate to array against the religion which they taught, 
the strongest passions of men. Nor did they content them- 
selves with denouncing the general principles of evil ; they 
condemned its special manifestations. They did not simply 
forbid intemperate sensual indulgence, and leave it to their 
hearers to decide what did or what did not come under that 
name. They declared that no fornicator, no adulterer, no 
drunkard could be admitted into the kingdom of heaven. 
They did not hesitate, even when a httle band, a hundred 
and twenty souls, to place themselves in direct and irrecon- 
cilable opposition to the whole polity, civil and rehgious, of 


the Jewish state. It will hardly be maintained that slavery 
was, at that time, more intimately interwoven with the insti- 
tutions of society than idolatry was. _ It entered into the 
arrangements of every family ; of every city and province, 
and of the whole Roman empire. The emperor was the 
Pontifex Maximus ; every department of the state, civil and 
military, was pervaded by it. It was so united with the 
fabric of the government that it could not be removed with- 
out effecting a revolution in all its parts. The apostles 
knew this. They knew that to denounce polytheism was to 
array against them the whole power of the state. Their 
divine Master had distinctly apprised them of the result. He 
told them that it would set the father against the son, and 
the son against the father ; the mother against the daughter, 
and the daughter against the mother ; and that a man's ene- 
mies should be those of his own household. He said that 
he came not to bring peace, but a sword, and that such would 
be the opposition to his followers, that whosoever killed them, 
would think he did God service. Yet in view of these cer- 
tain consequences the apostles did denounce idolatry, not 
merel)' in principle, but by name. The result was precisely 
what Christ had foretold. The Romans, tolerant of every 
other religion, bent the whole force of their wisdom and arms 
to extirpate Christianity. The scenes of bloodshed which, 
century after century, followed the introduction of the gospel, 
did not induce the followers of Christ to keep back or modify 
the truth. They adhered to their declaration that idolatry 
was a heinous crime. And they were right. We expect 
similar conduct of our missionaries. We do not expect them 
to refrain from denouncing the institutions of the heathen, as 
sinful, because they are popular, or intimately interwoven 
with society. The Jesuits, Avho adopted this plan, forfeited 
the confidence of Christendom, without making converts of 
the heathen. It is, therefore, perfectly evident that the 
authors of our religion were not withheld, by these consider- 
ations, from declaring slavery to be unlawful. If they did 


abstain from this declaration, as is admitted, it must have 
been because they did not consider it as in itself a crime. 
No other solution of their conduct is consistent with their 
truth or fidelity." 

This argument seems to have had a peculiar value in the 
eyes of the conductors of that periodical. After having slum- 
bered unnoticed and unappreciated for some eight years on 
its pages, it was deemed important that so valuable a speci- 
men of reasoning should not be lost to the generation that 
was about to come on the 'stage, and that the world should at 
least be reminded that there was such a cogent argument 
which might be urged in favour of the system ; and accord- 
ingly it is reproduced, somewhat enlarged, though with no 
additional strength, in the same work for October, 1844.* In 
that article the reviewer urges the point before us with aug- 
mented zeal. He says, "They [that is the abohtionists] 
say, in substance, that the apostles concealed the truth, that 
they were afraid of consequences, that they acted from policy, 
or motives of expediency. Our answer to this is, 1. That 
such conduct would be immoral. For men professing to be 
inspired teachers of truth and duty, to appear among men 
living in the daily commission of 'a heinous crime in the 

* Why, after the lapse of so many years, it was deemed necessary to 
republish it substantially in the same periodieal, is not stated. The cha- 
racter of the article, being the undisguised production of a northern man, 
was such as not soon to be forgotten at the North ; and having been re- 
published in a pamphlet form at Pittsburgh by southern gentlemen, it 
seemed scarcely necessary to refresh the memory of those who reside at 
the South with the fact of its existence. It is one of the characteristics 
of the theol»gy at Princeton, that it never changes ; and perhaps the ob- 
ject of the republication was to certify to the world that its views of slavery- 
are as changeless as its divinity. Whatever may have been the motive, 
however, its republication without material change, and with no additional 
strength, may be regarded as a sign that in the apprehension of the con- 
ductors of the Princeton Repertory, the argument which palliates slavery 
is exhausted. 


sight of God,' and never once telJ them it was a crime ; to allow 
them to go on in this course of iniquity, to the ruin of their 
souls, is a supposition which shocks the moral sense. No- 
thing but the explicit declaration that slaveholding was a 
crime, and immediate emancipation a duty, could satisfy the 
demands of conscience, in such a case. Men were constantly 
coming to the apostle to ask, what they must do to be saved, 
what God would have them to do ; and if they did not answer 
those questions openly and honestly, according to their real 
convictions, they were bad men. Such conduct in any other 
case would by all men be pronounced immoral. Suppose 
our missionaries among the heathen, in teaching the gospel, 
should, from motives of policy, abstain from telling them the 
truth, should fail intentionally to inform them that idolatry, 
adultery, child-murder, or any like crime, was a grievous sin 
in the sight of God, would not all the world pronounce them 
unfaithful ? Do not abolitionists condemn southern ministers 
for not explicitly stating that slaveholding is a crime, and im- 
mediate emancipation a duty ? Would ihey not view with 
abhorrence the minister who really coincided with them in 
his views, and yet through fear of consequences, held his 
peace, and allow his hearers to sin on in security ? Would 
not, on the contrary, the world ring with their shouts in 
praise of the man who, in fidelity to God, and in love to man, 
should openly preach the truth on these points to a congrega- 
tion of slaveholders, even though it brought sudden destruc- 
tion on his own head ? We fear, however, we are only 
obscuring the clearness of a self-evident truth, by multiplying 
illustrations. The conduct of the apostles is absolutely irre- 
concilable with moral honesty, if they believed slaveholding 
to be a heinous crime in the sight of God. They were either 
bad men, or they were not abolitionists, in the American 
sense of that word. 2. But again, the course ascribed to the 
apostles in reference to slavery, is not only base in itself, 
but it is contrary to their conduct in all analogous cases. 
Slaveholding is the only sin familiar to those to whom they 


preached, and about which they wrote, that they failed to 
denounce. Idolatry was a crime which was more prevalent 
than slaveholding; more impUcated in all the institutions of 
life, in support of which stronger passions were engaged, 
and in attacking which they could not look for the support 
of one-half or two-thirds of the community. Yet idolatry 
they everywhere proclaimed to be a crime, inconsistent with 
Christianity and a bar to salvation.. The consequence was, 
the apostles were persecuted even to death. It* is not true that 
they kept back the truth for fear of suffering. They called 
God to witness that they declared the whole counsel of God, 
and were clear of every man's blood. It is said that the 
cases of idolatry and slavery are not parallel, because it was 
more dangerous to denounce the latter than the former. Ad- 
mitting the fact, is the degree of danger attending the dis- 
charge of a duty the measure of its obligation ? Must a 
religious teacher, in explaining the way of salvation, keep 
back the truth — one of the most effectual methods of teaching 
falsehood — because he may incur danger by inculcating it ? 
We do not, however, believe the fact. We believe that the 
apostles might have taught that slaveholding is a sin, with far 
less danger than that which they incurred by teaching that 
what the heathen sacrificed they sacrificed to devils. We 
need not conceive of their adopting the system of agitation, 
and the whole ' moral machinery' of modern times. They 
adopted no such course with regard to idolatry. But they 
might doubtless, with comparative safety, have told slave- 
holders that it was their duly to emancipate their slaves. 
They could as well have enjoined them to set their servants 
free, as to command them to render to them what is just and 
equal. Many men, without any great exhibition of courage, 
have taught and do still teach the moral evil of slaveholding 
in the midst of slaveholders. And even now, any man who, 
in a meek, sincere, and benevolent spirit, should say to south- 
ern planters, that the relation they sustain to their slaves is 
contrary to the will of God, and incompatible with their own 


salvation, would meet with no greater disturbance than the 
Quakers have experienced in making their annual testimony 
against slavery. 

" The course ascribed to the apostles is not only incon- 
sistent with fidelity, and contrary to their uniform practice, 
but it is moreover opposed to the conduct of the messengers 
of God in all ages. The ancient prophets never failed to 
reprove the people for their sins, and to exhort them to repent- 
ance, no matter how strong the attachment of their hearers to 
their iniquitj'-, or how powerful the interests leagued in its 
support. Elijah did not fail to denounce the warship of Baal, 
though Ahab and Jezebel Avere determined to kill the pro- 
phets of God ; nor did John the Baptist fail to tell Herod that 
it was not lawful for him to have his brother's wife." 

(5.) Another consideration rehed on is, that the apostles 
nowhere exhort masters to liberate their slaves ; they speak 
of the relation as one of comparatively little account, and as 
one attended with few disadvantages. Thus the .Princeton 
Reviewer says, 

"The subject is hardly alluded to by Christ in any of his 
personal instructions. The apostles refer to it, not to pronounce 
upon it as a question of morals, but to prescribe the relative 
duties of masters and slaves. They caution those slaves who 
have believing or Christian masters, not to despise them be- 
cause they were on a perfect religious equahty with them, but 
to consider the fact that their masters were their brethren, as 
an additional reason for obedience. It is remarkable that there 
is not even an exhortation to masters to liberate their slaves, 
much less is it urged as an imperativ^e and immediate duty. 
They are commanded to be kind, merciful, and just; and to 
remember that they have a Master in heaven. Paul reprC' 
sents this relation as of comparatively little account. ' Let 
every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. 
Art thou called being a servant, (or slave,) care not for it ; 
though, should the opportunity of freedom be presented, em- 
brace it. These externa] relations, however, are of little 


importance, for every Christian is a freeman in the highest 
and best sense of the word, and at the same time is under the 
strongest bonds to Christ.' 1 Cor. vii. 20 — •23." 

If the relation is a mild one, and on the whole not very un- 
desirable, and if masters are never exhorted to disturb it by 
any act of voluntary emancipation, it seems to be inferred that 
the New Testament is not inimical to it, and that it is an insti- 
tution which it is desirable to perpetuate for the best interests 
of society. 

(6.) As a final argument to show that the apostles were not 
hostile to slavery, and that the institution is not opposed by 
Christianity, an appeal is made to the case of Onesimus, 
referred to in the epistle to Philemon. The argument relied 
on is, that Onesimus was a slave ; that he had escaped from 
his master, and was a runaway ; that he was converted under 
Paul; that he sent him back without any wish or concurrence 
on the part of Onesimus, and with a view that he might re- 
main as a slave with Philemon. It is inferred from these 
supposed facts, (1.) That Paul regarded the relation as proper 
and desirable. (2.) That it is wrong for a slave to leave his 
master without his consent. (3.) That the effect of con- 
version should be to make a runaway slave willing to return 
to a state of bondage. (4.) That it is a duty to send back a 
runaway slave to his master; and, (.5.) That the act of Paul 
in restoring Onesimus to his master, fairly proves that he 
supposed the relation was to be perpetual.* 

It is on such arguments as these that those who maintain 
that slavery is not inconsistent with Christianity, rely. It is 
of importance, therefore, to examine the force of this reason- 
ing, and to inquire whether the Saviour and his apostles 
meant to represent slavery as. a desirable system for the 
best interests of society; as a system which is congenial 
with the gospel which they sought to propagate ; as one 
which the gospel would serve to extend, and as so destitute 

* Compare Dr. Fuller's Letters to Dr. Way land, p. 195. 


of the elements of evil, that they would desire to see it per- 
petuated in connection with the Christian religion. I shall, 
therefore, examine these points at some length, with a view 
to ascertain the exact relation of Christianity to slavery, and 
particularly to the system as it exists in our own country. If 
Christianity would sustain and perpetuate that system, it may 
be assumed that the institution is not evil ; if it would not, it 
is not a very forced conclusion that it is to be regarded as sin- 
ful and wrong. 

I. There is no evidence that Christ himself ever came 
IN contact with Slavery. 

The first inquiry which meets us here is, whether there is 
evidence that Christ himself ever came in contact with slavery. 
If he did, and regarded it as wrong,' in the same sense as hy- 
pocrisy and sensuality are wrong, it is to be presumed that he 
would have denounced it in the same way as he did those 
things ; and if he did not express his disapprobation of it, it 
seems to be a fair inference that he did not regard it as wrong. 
If, however, he never came in contact with it, nothing can be 
safely argued in favour of it from his silence, any more than 
it can be inferred that he was favourable to the sports of the 
amphitheatre at Rome, or to the orgies which were celebrated 
in honour of Bacchus, or to the claims to inspiration of the 
oracles of Dodona or Delphi. We can only argue in respect 
to his sentiments on such points, from the principles which he 
laid down of a general character, or from the incidental 
remarks which he made when discoursing on other topics. 

In endeavouring, then, to ascertain the views of the Saviour 
on this subject, I would make the following remarks : — 

(1.) There is no conclusive evidence that he ever came in 
contact with slavery at all. If the train of argument which 
has been pursued in regard to the tendency of the Mosaic in- 
stitutions is well-founded, there is every probability that 
slavery had ceased in the Hebrew commonwealth long before 
the advent of the Saviour. There is no proof which I have 


seen referred to from any contemporary writer, that it existed 
in Judea in his time at all ; and there is no evidence from the 
New Testament that he ever came in contact with it. The 
only instance that is ever referred to of the kind, and the only 
one that can be, is the case of the Roman centurion who had 
a servant sick at Capernaum. Matt. viii. 5, seq. But this 
case doeg not prove the point for which it is adduced ; for («) 
the terms which are used as descriptive of the case, do not 
prove it. The centurion himself applies to the sick servant 
at home the term o rcali — pais, (Matt. viii. 5,) which is a word 
much too general to demonstrate that he was a slave. It was 
rarely applied to a slave at all, and when it was, it was only as 
the term boy now is in the slaveholding states of this Union. 
The term which the centurion uses in ver. 9, implying 
that he had servants under him, also, does not demonstrate 
that they were slaves : " And I say to my servant-^r^ fioiJ^ 
— do this, and he doeth it." This word, as has been shown, 
(Ch. III.) is also too general to make it certain that he refers to 
slaves. If it should be said that it is probable that this sick 
man was a slave, still it is obvious to reply, that what is neces- 
sary to the argument derived from the fact that the Saviour 
did not express disapprobation of the system, is, that he 
actually came in contact with a case, and did not condemn it. 
Even then it might be questioned whether his not expressing 
a sentence of condemnation on the system could be construed 
as an argument that he did not disapprove of it ; but in order 
that the argument should have any force, it is necessary to 
know that he actually encountered slavery, [b) It may be 
urged further, that it is by no means certain that a Roman 
officer, such as the centurion was, would have a slave to ac- 
company him. That he would have a servant of some kind 
is not improbable, for it is still common in the East for officers 
in an army, and even for the ordinary cavalry, to have ser- 
vants to attend them, to wait upon them, and to take care of 
their horses. But these are not commonly slaves. ■ They are 
persons in the employ of the government, assigning such 


persons to the use of the army, to be paid by the government, 
(c) Considering the facihties for escaping in passing through 
foreign countries on a march, it is hardly probable that the 
attendants on Roman officers would be slaves. At all events, 
there is not the slightest proof that this maa was a slave, and 
if not, then there is not the slightest proof that the Saviour 
ever came in contact with slavery at all, either in public or 
in private life. The only evidence which I have seen that 
there were any slaves in Palestine about the time of the 
Saviour, is the statement of Josephus, (Hist. 19,) that "King 
Agrippa exhibited at one time in Judea seven hundred pair of 
gladiators." But (1.) There is no evidence that the Saviour 
ever witnessed any such scene, nor is it probable that he did. 
(2.) If his silence in such a case may be construed as a proof 
that he did not disapprove of slavery, it may for the same 
reason be construed as a proof that be did not disapprove of 
gladiatorial exhibitions. 

_ (2.) Nothing then can be inferred from the silence of the 
Saviour on this subject. It was by no means his method to 
go out of his way to denounce sins which prevailed in other 
parts of the earth, however great they might be, or however 
much it may be inferred that he disapproved of them. He con- 
demned the sins of his own age and country as he encountered 
them, and laid down great principles of truth which would 
be of easy application to all others as his gospel should spread. 
But to infer that he approved of every thing on which he 
maintained silence, or which he did not expressly condemn, 
would be a violation of all the principles by which we judge 
of a religious teacher or philosopher, and would be doing 
him manifest injustice. Are we to infer that he approved of 
the sports in the amphitheatre at Rome ; of the conflicts of 
gladiators, and the bloody struggles between captives in war 
and wild beasts ? Are we to infer that he approved of the 
scenes of the Roman Saturnalia, or the modes of worship on 
the Acropolis at Corinth, because he was silent in regard to 
them 1 To hold him to this, would be a violation of every 


rule of right ; yet they in fact do no less, who infer that, be- 
cause he did not denounce slavery, therefore he was not unfa- 
vourable to the system. 

(3.) He never uttered a word which can be construed in 
favour of slavery. It is remarkable that the advocates of 
the system never appeal to any thing that fell from his lips 
in his instructions ; to any principle or doctrine that he laid 
down in his religion, in defence of the institution. If there 
were nothing else in the woi'ld than the discourses of Jesus 
Christ to form the opinions and direct the conduct of men, no 
one would ever dream that such a system was desirable or 
proper. In his discourses, there is not a sentiment which 
can be tortured by any ingenuity of exegesis into an ap- 
proval of the system. No one, under the fair influence of 
the doctrines which he laid down, ever yet made a man a 
slave; no one ever supposed that he could justify such an 
act by any thing that the Saviour ever did or taught. Not 
even a hint can be found in all that he said, on which a 
man who was about to embark in the slave trade, or who 
designed to raise slaves for sale, or who meant to purchase a 
slave, or who meant to keep one already in his possession, 
could rely to sanction his course. Never were any discourses 
or writings in the world more entirely free from any thing 
which would lend such a sanction, than the recorded dis- 
courses of the Redeemer. 

(4.) While this was true — true that he in no way inter- 
meddled with the system any more than he did with the 
regulations of the Roman Coliseum, or the laws respecting 
the harem in a Persian court, it is also true that he laid down 
principles Avhich are entirely inconsistent with slaver}^, and 
which would tend to its rapid abohtion. In another part of this 
argument from the New Testament, I shall have occasion to 
inquire into the effect of Christianity on the abolition of sla- 
very. At present, all that it is necessary to observe is, that 
there are fundamental principles laid down by the Saviour 
which are opposed to the whole system of slavery, and which 



it is necessary constantly to violate in order to its perpetuity. 
Among those principles are the foUowingf : — 

(a) The doctrine that all the race are on a level before God; 
that all are redeemed by the same blood ; that all are equally 
the heirs of life ; that all are moral and responsible beings ; 
that all are descended from the same parent. The instruc- 
tions of the Saviour do not go against all distinctions in life. 
They recognise the relations of father and son ; of ruler and 
subject ; of the rich and poor, as those which are not incon- 
sistent with his grand fundamental position — that in the matter 
of redemption all men are on a level. In these relations ail 
are to be recognised, as men; as capable of redem.ption ; as 
free moral agents ; and no one by nature is supposed to have 
any priority or superiority over the other. But slavery 
always supposes that there is a distinction among men in these 
respects — a distinction different from that which arises from 
regarding them as sustaining the relation of parent and child ; 
as qualified to govern or not, and as fitted for different occu- 
pations of life where all may be free. It is supposed to be 
such a distinction in nature as to make it proper that one 
should be a master and the other a slave ; that one should be 
regarded as a freeman, and the other ' a chattel and a thing ;' 
that one should have a right to buy and sell, and that the 
other should be bought and sold. It is impossible, in the 
nature of things, that the advocate of slavery should regard 
all men as, in every respect, on a level in regard to re- 
demption. There is inevitably, in his apprehension, some 
reason, in the nature of the case, just in proportion as there 
is any reason for the existence of slavery at all — why the 
present master should be the master, and the present slave 
SHOULD BE the slave ; — why the white should be the 
master, and why the man of colour should be the slave. Yet 
it is clear that this view of the matter is entirely at variance 
with the fundamental doctrine in the plan of redemption. 

[b) Under the gospel, and in accordance with its principles, 
no relation was to exist, which would be inconsistent with the 


honest recognition of all who bore the Christian name and 
image as brethren. They were to be regarded as Chris- 
tian brethren in all respects, and there was to be nothing in 
their condition which would make the application of the 
term to any and to all. improper. Matth. xxiii. 8. " One 
is your master — xa^j^y^/f^s : and all ye are brethren — 
Tidvtii bi v/xHi aSiXi^iol iaic* 'Ye a//;' — that is, 'all who pro- 
fess to be my followers — all who compose the true church, no 
matter what their rank, colour, condition, age. There is to be 
nothing in your condition or relations which shall be incon- 
sistent with the fair and honest application of the word bre- 
thren — a8e%^oi. Any thing which would not allow that, Avould 
be a violation of the principles of my religion.' This is the 
uniform language of the New Testament. Now, the employ- 
ment of this term is entirely appropriate in all those relations 
where freedom is enjoyed. There is nothing to hinder its 
fair use when the rich address the poor, or princes their 
subjects, or preachers their people, or men of years and ex- 
perience those who are just entering on life. But there is 
much to prevent its fair use when applied by masters to their 
slaves, or still tnore by slaves to their masters. It cannot 
be used except it be constructively and metaphorically, by 
those who regard their slaves as chattels and as property, 
and who have the constant feeling that they are at hberty to 
sell them at any moment, as they do their cattle. To apply 
the term brethren to those who are slaves, is a departure from 
all just use of language, and is a mockery of the feel- 
ings which it is condescendingly designed to soothe. Does 
it ever occur that slaves address their masters in this manner ; 
and would they be allowed to do so ? 

* It is remarkable that even here the Saviour is careful not to employ a 
term which would even suggest the relation of master and slave. He 
uses the term xa^vyviri — a leader, conductor (Anfuhrer, Anleiter, Pas- 
sow ;) a leader, guide, teacher, master, (^Robinson, Lex.), and not the term 
expressive of the relation of master, in contradistinction from a servant or 
slave — bidrto'i'^i. — 1 Tim. vi. 1, 2; Titus ii. 9; 1 Pet. ii. 18. 


(c) One of tlie great and leading principles of the religion 
of the Saviour is expressed in the golden rule : " Whatso- 
ever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to 
them ; for this is the law and the prophets." Matt. vii. 12. 
This rule he evidently designed should be incorporated into 
his religion as essential to the system, and it is manifest that 
nothing inconsistent w^ith the fair application of it can be in 
accordance with the spirit of Christianity. Yet its bearing 
on slavery is obvious. Its influence in securing the eman- 
cipation of all those now held in bondage, if fairly applied, 
would be certain and inevitable. (1) No one, under the in- 
fluence of this rule, ever made a man a slave. No one ever 
felt that in tearing him away from his home, in separating 
him from country and friends, in exposing him to sale, and in 
dooming him to perpetual bondage for no other crime than 
that of being 

« Guilty of a skin not coloured like his own," 

he was doing that which he would wish. another man to 
do to him. (2.) No one in exacting from another unrequited 
toil, or feeding him on coarse fare, or clothing him with coarse 
raiment, far inferior to what he himself possesses, or in de- 
priving him of the privileges of reading the Bible, or of rising 
in pohtical life, or of being ehgible to office, ever did that 
which he would wish others to do to him. (3.) No one ever 
subjected a fellow-being to the operation of the laws of ser- 
vitude, as they exist in this country, by the fair operation of 
this rule. He would not wish any one to subject him or his 
children to the operation of these laws. (4.) It may be added, 
that few or none, under the fair operation of this rule, would 
ever continue to hold another in slavery. Those cases must be 
exceedingly rare on the earth, where a man would desire that 
he himself should be in the condition of his slave, or that, 
if he were already a slave, the bonds of servitude should be 
riveted perpetually on him. Freedom is sweet to man ; and 
it cannot be doubted that if a man were in all circumstances 


to act towards those under him, as he would desire to be 
treated if in their places, the bonds of servitude would soon 
be loosed. 

If these principles are correct, then it is clear that neither the 
example nor the silence of the Saviour can never be referred 
to as sanctioning slavery. It is one of the plainest of all 
propositions, that if we had had only his instructions and 
his example to guide us in this matter, slavery would never 
have been originated ; and that where it had before existed, it 
would soon cease. The application of these principles to 
the system in this country, as we shall see in another part 
of the argument, would inevitably abolish the system. 

II. The manner in which the Apostles treated the 
SUBJECT of Slavery. 

§ 1. They found it in existence when they organized churches 
out of the limits of Judea. 

We have seen above, that there is no evidence that when the 
Saviour appeared, slavery in any form existed in Judea, and 
consequently there is no proof that he ever encountered it. 
We have also seen that his silence on the subject cannot be 
construed as any evidence that he did not disapprove of the 
system, and did not design that the principles of his religion 
should abolish it, wherever it might be found. It is of great 
importance, therefore, to inquire how his apostles treated the 
system when they encountered it, and whether the manner in 
which they met it can be construed as an evidence that they 
regarded it as a good institution, and as one which it was 
desirable to perpetuate in the world. 

There can be no doubt that slavery existed in the countries 
to which they went to preach the gospel, and that they often 
encountered it, and were called to act in view of it in organ- 
izing churches. There are evidences of this, as we shall 
see, in their epistles ; and from what is known of the condition 
of the Roman empire at that period,, it cannot be doubted that 



they came in contact with it, and that in preaching the gospel 
they would be called to address those who sustained the rela- 
tion of master and slave. 

It is unnecessary to enter into a proof that slavery abounded, 
in the Roman empire, or that the conditions of servitude were 
very severe and oppressive. This is conceded on all hands. 
If any one desires to see it demonstrated beyond the possibi- 
lity of a doubt, he may consult an article by Professor B. B. 
Edwards, in the American Biblical Repository for October, 
1835, pp. 411 — 438. The purpose of my argument does not 
require me to go into an examination of this point, in detail. 
All that the argument does require, whatever conclusion we 
~ may reach as to the manner in which the apostles treated the 
subject, is, the admission of the fact that slavery every- 
where abounded; that it existed in forms of great severity 
and cruelty ; that it involved all the essential claims which are 
now made by masters to the services or persons ^of slaves ; 
that it was protected by civil laws ; that the master had the 
right of transferring his slaves by sale, donation, or testa- 
ment ; that in general he had every right which was supposed 
to be necessary to perpetuate the system ; and that it was 
impossible that the early preachers of Christianity should not 
encounter this system, and be constrained to adopt some prin- 
ciples in regard to the proper treatment of it. 

In order to allow to those who suppose that slavery is sanc- 
tioned by the New Testament, and that the conduct of the 
apostles may be appealed to in justification of the system as 
it exists in this country, all the advantage in the argument 
which can be derived from the actual state of slavery as they 
found it, it seems necessary, however, to advert to the form 
in which slavery was found when they preached the gospel. 
It is proper to concede that the state of things was such that 
they must have encountered it, and that it then had all the 
features of cruelty, oppression, and wrong which can ever 
exist to make it repellant to any of the feehngs of humanity, 
or revolting to the principles of a Christian. It is fair that 


the advocate of the system should have all the advantage 
which can be derived from the fact that the apostles found it 
in its most odious forms, and in such circumstances as to make 
it proper that they should regard and treat it as an evil, if 
Christianity regards it as such at all. It is proper that it 
should be seen that their method of treating it was not prompted 
by the fact that it was of so mild a type as to be scarcely 
worthy of their attention. It is to be admitted that if there can 
be wrongs in slavery anywhere Which should rouse the spirit 
of a Christian man, they existed to as great an extent in the 
countries where the apostles propagated the gospel ; that if the 
system as it exists in our own land is contrary to the spirit 
of Christianity, the system as they found it was no less con- 
trary to it ; that if now, in any of its forms and influences, 
and in any of the means adopted to perpetuate it, it is opposed 
to the gospel, it was no less so then ; that if it can be regarded 
now as desirable that the system should come to an end, it 
was no less desirable then; and that if Christians now should 
labour to bring it to a termination, it was no less desirable and 
proper that they should do it then. This, it seems to' me, is 
all that the advocate of slavery can ask to have conceded on 
this point. 

The features of -slavery in the Roman empire, so far as it 
is necessary to refer to them to illustrate this point, were 
summarily these t— 

1. Slavery existed generally throughout the Roman empire, 
and the number of slaves was very great. " Some rich indi- 
viduals possessed ten thousand, and some as many as twenty 
thousand of their fellow-creatures," who were held as slaves.* 
In Italy, it was computed that there were three slaves to one 
freemaa, and that in this part of the empire alone their nunl- 
ber amounted to more than twenty millions. The number, 
therefore, throughout the Roman empire must have been im- 
mensely great ; and if so, it is impossible that the apostles 

* Professor B. B. Edwards. 


should not have encountered it. Gibbon* says " that the 
slaves were at least equal in number to the free inhabitants of 
the Roman vi^orld. The total amount of this imperfect calcu- 
lation [of the inhabitants of the Roman empire] would rise to 
about one hundred and twenty miUions." Of course, accord- 
ing to this, the number of slaves could not have been less than 
sixty millions in the Roman empire, at about the time when 
the apostles went forth to preach the gospel. Respecting the 
number held by individuals, Gibbon remarks, (p. 26,) that " it 
was discovered on a very melancholy occasion, that four hun- 
dred slaves were maintained in a single palace of Rome. The 
same number of four hundred belonged to an estate, which an 
African widow, of very private condition, resigned to her son, 
while she reserved to herself a much larger share of her 
property. A freedman, under the reign of Augustus, though 
his fortune had suffered great losses in the civil wars, left be- 
hind him three thousand six hundred yoke of oxen, two hun- 
dred and fifty thousand head of smaller cattle, and, what was 
almost included in the description of cattle, four thousand one 
hundred and sixteen slaves." " Scaurus possessed above 
four thousand domestic, and as many rural slaves. In the 
reign of Augustus, a freedman, who had sustained great losses 
during the civil wars, left four thousand one hundred and 
sixteen slaves, besides other property." " Slaves always 
composed a great part of the movable property of individuals, 
and formed a chief article of ladies' dowries." " It was 
fashionable to go abroad attended by a large number of slaves. 
Horacet says, " habebat ssepe ducentos, s«pe decem servos." 
Besides the domestic and agricultural slaves, there were the 
gladiators, who were chiefly slaves, and who were extremely 
numerous at different periods. Juhus Caesar exhibited at one 
time three hundred and twenty pairs. Trajan exhibited 
them for one hundred and twenty-three days, in the course 

* Dec. and Fall, vol. i. p. 27, ed. New York, 1829. 
I Lib. 1, Sat. iii. v. 11. 


of which ten thousand gladiators fought. Chrysostom says, 
that under Theodosius the Great, and Arcadius, some persons 
had two or three thousand slaves. From the time of Au- 
gustus, we may allow three slaves to one freeman ; we shall 
thus have a free population in Italy of 6,944,000, and of 
slaves 20,832,000; total, 27,776,000.* 

(2.) The methods in which men became slaves, in the Ro- 
man empire, were the following : — 

(g) By war. This was almost a universal custom. In 
general, prisoners of war were sold as soon as possible after 
their captivity. '.' On the descent of the Romans upon Africa 
in the first Punic war, twenty thousand prisoners were taken. 
On the great victory of Marius and Catullus over the Cimbri, 
sixty thousand were captured. When Pindenissas was taken 
by Cicero, the inhabitants were sold for more than £100,000. 
Augustus, having overcome the Salassi,so]d as slaves thirty-four 
thousand, of whom eight thousand were capable of bearing 
arms. Ceesar, in his Gallic wars, according to the moderate 
estimate of Velleius Paterculus, took more than four hundred 
thousand prisoners." 

(6) Slaves were acquired by commerce. " The slave-trade 
in Africa is as old as history reaches back. Among the ruling 
nations of the North coast, — the Egyptians, Cyrenians, and 
Carthagenians, — slavery was not only estabhshed, but they 
imported whole armies of slaves, pa^-tly for home use, and 
partly, at least by the Carthagenians, to be shipped for foreign 
markets. They were chiefly drawn from the interior, where 
kidnapping was just as much carried on then as now. Black 
male and female slaves were even an article of luxury, not 
only among the above-named nations, but in Greece and Italy. 
For the building of the public works at Rome, vast numbers 
of slaves were procured. In raising such a structure as the 
Mausoleum of Adrian, thousands of wretched men, torn from 
their own firesides, were toiled unto death. For a long period, 

* Bibl. Repos. as above, pp. 413,414. 


great numbers of slaves were drawn from Asia Minor, parti- 
cularly from Phrygia and Cappadocia. Slave and Phrygian 
became almost convertible terms. So great a multitude were 
carried into slavery, that but few towns were planted; the 
country was rather a pasturage for flocks. In most countries 
it was common for parents to sell their children into slavery. 
Man-stealing was, at all times, a very common crime among 
the ancients." The following places are mentioned either as 
emporia for slaves, or countries from which they were pro- 
cured : — Delos, Phrygia, and Cappadocia ; Panticapaeum, 
Dioscurias, and Phanagoria on the Euxine or Black Sea; 
Alexandria and Cadiz ; Corsica, Sardinia, and Britain ; Africa 
and Thrace ; and, indeed, almost every part of the world fur- 
nished slaves for the Roman people.* 

(c) Freeborn Romans might be reduced to slavery by law. 
Criminals doomed to certain ignominious punishments, were, 
by the effect of their sentence, deprived of citizenship, and 
reduced to servitude. Those who did not give in their names 
for enrolment in the militia, were beaten, and sold into slavery 
beyond the Tiber. Those who did not make proper returns 
to the Censor, were liable to be visited with the same punish- 
ment. An indigent thief was adjudged as a slave to the injured 
party. Children that were exposed by their parents, and left 
to perish, became, by law, the slaves of any person who chose 
to take them up and support them. Freedmen, if guilty of 
ingratitude towards their former masters, might be again re- 
duced to slavery. 

(d) Persons became slaves by birth. The Roman law on 
this subject was, that the condition of the child depended on 
that of the mother alone — partus sequitur ventrem. " The 
father of a natural child, by his bond-woman, was the master 
of his offspring, as much as any other of his slaves." 

(3.) In regard to the condition of slaves under the Roman 

* Comp. Bib. Repos. as above, pp. 416, 417. 


laws as they existed in the time of the propagation of Chris- 
tianity, it may be remarked, 

(a) That the master had the power of hfe and death over 
the slave. Thus the Codex Justinian says, "All slaves 
are in the power of their masters, which power is derived 
from the law of nations ; for it is equally observable among 
all nations, that masters have had the power of life and death 
over their slaves." 

Prof. W. A. Becker, of Leipsic, in an article translated for 
the Bibliotheca Sacra, (vol. ii. p. 571,) says, "With the 
Romans, a slave passed indeed for a human being, but one 
without any personal rights ; in the legal sense he had no 
caput, no legal rights, no legal capacity. The master had 
the entire right of property in the slave, and could do just as 
he pleased with his person and life, his powers and his 

" In regard to the power of life and death, it was unlimited. 
The master could use the slave for any purpose that suited 
his own pleasure. He could punish him, put him to pain 
and torture, and, free from all obligation to give account of his 
actions, could put him to death in any way that pleased him. 
This right of unlimited dominion continued down to a late time, 
and certainly through the whole period of the republic, and 
it can be safely assumed that it was in less actual exercise in 
the earlier than in the later periods of Roman history. The 
arbitrary exercise of this power, which had been previously 
subject only to censorial animadversion, was gradually limited, 
at first by the operation of the Lex Petronia, which forbade 
that any one should give up his slave arbitrarily, (sine Judice,) 
to fight with wild beasts, (^ad bestias depiignandas ;) perhaps 
even in the time of Augustus, though the story of the cruelty 
of Vedius PoUio* seems to prove, that up to that time there 
was no legal restriction on the right of the master." The 
whole article of Prof. Becker may be consulted with advantage. 

* Dio Cas. liv. Seneca de Ira, iii. 40. 


(b) They were permitted to hold no property as their own, 
whatever they acquired being regarded as the property of 
their masters. Thus the Codex Just, says, " Whatever is 
acquired by the slave, is acquired for the master." "What- 
ever our slaves have at any time acquired, whether by deli- 
very, stipulation, donation, bequest, or any other means, the 
same is reputed to be acquired by ourselves, for he who is a 
slave can have no property. And if a slave is instituted an 
heir, he cannot otherwise take upon himself the inheritance, 
than at the command of the master." 

(c) Slaves were not permitted to marry. " Servile relar- 
tions are an impediment to matrimony." The only sexual 
connection was a contubernium, a mere living together, with- 
out any of the legitimate rights of marriage.* 

id) They were not allowed to give testimony. " Those 
persons are allowed to be good witnesses, who are themselves 
legally capable of taking by testament ; but yet no woman, 
slave, interdicted prodigal, no person under puberty, &c., can 
be admitted a witness to a testament." 

(e) They were exposed to the most unrelenting barbarity, 
being wholly unprotected by law, and left entirely in the 
power of their owners. They were liable to every kind of 
torture; and cruel masters sometimes kept on their estates 
tormentors by profession, for the purpose of punishing their 
slaves. Burning alive was sometimes resorted to, and cruci- 
fixion was frequently made the fate of a slave for trifling 
misconduct, or from mere caprice. The truth was, that 
slaves were considered in no other light than as representatives 
of so much value, and were in all cases liable to be disposed 
of as any other property was, with no respect whatever to their 
being moral and intellectual beings. Hence, it is not wonder- 
ful that they should have been slain as food for fishes, or that 
the question should have arisen whether, in a storm, a man 
should sacrifice a horse, or a less valuable slave.t 

* See Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. ii. p. 572. 

•j- Comp. Wayland's Letters on Slavery, pp. 86, 87. 


Among, the modes of punishment enumerated by Professor 
Edwards as practised' on slaves, were the following : — " The 
lash and rod were in frequent use. If a slave spoke or coughed 
at a forbidden time, he was flogged by a very severe master. 
The toilet of a lady of fashion was a terrible ordeal for a slave. 
A stray curl was an inexorable offence, and the slave's back 
was punished for the faults of the mirror. Burning aUve is 
mentioned as a punishment in the Pandects and elsewhere. 
Tertullian says it was first used for slaves alone. Vine sap- 
lings, as instruments of punishment, were the least dishonour- 
able ; next to them rods^fustes or virgse, scourges — -JlageUa 
or Jlagra, sometimes loaded with lead— plumbata. Chain 
scourges were used, with weights at the end, all of bronze or 
tin. The equuleus was a terrible instrument of torture. Dis- 
location was one of its effects. There were also the Jidiculse — 
lyre strings, the ungula and forceps, &c. A slave taken 
among soldiers was cast from the Capitoline rock, having been 
first manumitted that he might be worthy of that punishment. 
Cruel masters sometimes hired torturers by profession, or had 
such in their establishments, to assist them in punishing their 
slaves, or in extorting confessions from them. The noses, 
ears, teeth, or even eyes were in great danger from an enraged 
master. Crucifixion was frequently made the fate of a wretched 
slave, for trifling conduct, or for mere caprice." " Hortensius 
cared less for the health of his slaves, than for that of his fish. 
It was a question put for ingenious disputation, whether, in 
order to lighten a vessel in a storm, one should sacrifice a 
valuable horse, or a worthless slave." 

It is to be conceded, therefore, that slavery existed in its 
most revolting forms in the time of the apostles, and that they 
often came in contact with it, in preaching the gospel, and in 
organizing churches. R is to be admitted that it existed under 
laws as severe and arbitrary ; laws which gave to the master 
as absolute power over the slave, and which subjected him to 
as great oppression and wrong, as the laws in the slave states 
of this Union. Whatever may follow from this, either for or 



against slavery as it now exists, the fact cannot be denied, and 
that fact is not to be called in question in our reasonings on 
the subject. 

It has recently been made a question whether slavery ex-, 
isted in those parts of the Roman empire where the apostles 
founded churches, and consequently whether they ever in 
fact came in contact with it. Indeed, it has been maintained 
by some of the friends of the anti-slavery cause, that there is 
no reason to think that it existed in Asia Minor in the time 
of the apostles, and that, consequently, when, in addressing 
' masters and servants' in the Epistles to the Ephesians, to the 
Colossians, and in the first Epistle of Peter, there is no evi- 
dence that slaves were intended, but that the reference is to a 
condition of voluntary service. If this could be made out ; 
if it could be demonstrated that there was no slavery in those 
places to which those epistles were addressed, it would be 
indeed fair to suppose that the terms used by the apostles did 
not relate to slavery, and that it could not be proved from those 
epistles that the apostles ever admitted the masters of slaves 
to the communion of the church. But even then the whole 
difficulty would not be met, for ia the epistles to Timothy, 
(1 Epis. vi. 1 — 3,) and to Titus, (ii. 9, 10,) there is a reference 
to the same relation, and those epistles have no special reference 
to Asia Minor, but contain general directions to those who were 
ministers of the gospel in the church at large. 

But, it seems to me, that it is .wholly improbable that there 
were no slaves in Asia Minor, and, at all events, it cannot 
be demonstrated that there were none ; and if this is so, then 
it is to be admitted that the passages in those epistles refer to 
those who sustained the relation of master and slave — and that 
whatever advantage can be derived from that fact, if any, by 
the advocates of slavery, the fact is to be conceded. The rea- 
sons for this are briefly these: (1.) It is highly improbable 
that when slavery prevailed so extensively throughout the 
Roman empire, it should not have existed in Asia Minor. 
There were no influences at work there, as in Palestine ; no 


institutions of religion ; no principles of liberty to prevent it. 
(2.) We have seen above that large numbers of Phrygians 
and Cappadocians were taken as slaves to Rome, and it is a 
rare thing, perhaps a thing that never has occurred, that 
slavery did not prevail in a country which furnished slaves for 
another country. The very fact that Phrygia and Cappado- 
cia were understood to be places from which slaves could be 
obtained for the capital, would make it necessary to keep them 
for the market. (3.) There is direct evidence which makes 
it more than probable that slavery had an existence in the 
provinces of Asia Minor. It undoubtedly existed all around 
it, and in such a way that it would naturally exist there also. 
Thus Timasus asserts that, in early times, before Athens had 
obtained possession of the commerce of the seas, Corinth had 
four hundred and sixty thousand slaves. In Sparta, slaves 
abounded, and the name Helot was synonymous with that of 
slave. In Attica there were about eighty thousand citizens, 
and four hundred thousand slaves. After the fall of Corinth, 
the island of Delos rose into importance as a commercial place, 
and especially as a mart for slaves. The slave-trade there 
was so brisk that the port became proverbial for the traffic, 
and was capable, says Strabo, of importing and re-exporting 
ten thousand slaves in a single day.* As a matter of fact it 
is asserted that " there were six thousand slaves which be- 
longed to the temple of a goddess in Cappadocia." Hence the 
words of Horace, " Mancipiis locuples, eget seris Cappadocum 
rex."t These facts make it morally certain that slavery must 
have existed in Asia Minor, and that it undoubtedly existed at 
Ephesus and Colosse. It should be added, (4.) That the most 
natural and obvious interpretations of the passages in those 
epistles, is to refer them to the relation of master and slave. 
This will be shown in the sequel. I am persuaded that no- 

* See an article in the Biblical Repository on " Slavery in Ancient 
Greece," by Professor B.B.Edwards, vol. v. pp. 138, seq. 
■j- See Biblical Repository, vol. v. p. 416. 


thing can be gained to the cause of anti -slavery by attempting 
to deny that the apostles found slavery in existence in the 
regions where they founded churches, and that those sustain- 
ing the relation of master and slave were admitted to the, 
churches if they gave real evidence of regeneration, and were 
regarded by the apostles as entitled to the common participa- 
tion of the privileges of Christianity. If the argument from 
the Scriptures against slavery cannot be sustained without 
admitting that, I do not see that it can be sustained at all.- 

§ 3. The Apostles did not openly denounce Slavery as an 
evil, or require that those who were held in bondage should 
be at once emancipated. 

In inquiring into the manner in which the apostles treated 
the subject of slavery, it is clear that they did not openly and 
everywhere denounce it as an evil ; that they did not make 
immediate and direct war upon it ; that they did not declare 
that a slaveholder could in no possible circumstances be a 
Christian ; that they did not demand the emancipation of 
slaves as an indispensable condition of admission to the 
church ; that they did not forbid all fellowship with those 
Avho held slaves, or require others wholly to separate from 
them ; and that they did not encourage efforts to promote in- 
surrection among the slaves themselves. These things seem 
to me to lie on the face of the New Testament, and what- 
ever argument they may furnish to the advocates of slavery, 
or whatever difficulty they may present to the enemies of 
slavery in disposing of these facts, it seems plain that the facts 
themselves cannot be denied. 

More particularly, in reference to this point, the following 
things must be regarded as indisputable : — 

1. That slaveholders were admitted by the apostles to the 
Christian church, and were not subjected to immediate disci- 
pline for holding slaves ; in other words, that where those 
were converted who held slaves, as probably many were, it 


was not required of them in all cases to emancipate their 
slaves in order that they should become members of the 
church. This is clear, because (a) it is undeniable that 
they preached to many who were slaveholders ; (6) there 
is no direct evidence that they required them to emancipate 
their slaves in order to their being admitted to the church ; 
(c) they addressed those to whom their epistles were directed 
as in fact still sustaining this relation, though they were 
members of the church. Eph. vi. 9 ; Col. iv. 1 ; 1 Tim. 
vi. 2, and Titus ii. 9, 10. The passage in 1 Tim. vi. 2, 
makes this so clear, it seems to me, that it cannot be denied 
by any one who will candidly and carefully examine the 
direction of the apostle : " And they that have believing 
7nasters, let them not despise them, because they are bre- 
thren ; but rather do them service, because they are faithful 
and beloved.'''' The same thing is taught with equal clear- 
ness in 1 Cor. xii. 13 : " For by one spirit are we all bap- 
tized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles ; whe- 
ther we be bond or free.'''' Here, it is evident, that as 
there were in the church those who had been Jews, and those 
who were of Gentile origin, so there were those who were 
properly described by the word ' bond' — SoiJxot — and those 
who were described by the word ' free' — tXiv^n^oi,. It is true, 
that the latter term does not necessarily prove that they were 
masters or owners of slaves, still the use of the term ' bond 
and free' in the same connection would most naturally suggest 
that. I do not think that an argument could be based on the 
mere words used here, to prove that they were slaveholders ; 
but in a community where slavery abounded — for example, 
like that in South Carolina or Georgia, the phrase, ' the bond 
and the free,' used in any connection, would most naturally be 
understood as referring to masters and slaves. The only 
question which can be raised on this point is, whether the 
term used in the passages just referred to, ol xi,puo(,, and the 
corresponding term used in 1 Pet. ii. 18, Sturtorijs — and rendered 
in every instance masters, refers to masters in the sense of 


proprietors of slaves, or masters in the sense of having those 
in their employ who were volunta,ry or hired servants. I 
admit that so far as the. words themselves are concerned, they 
do not necessarily imply that those to whom they are applied, 
were masters in the former sense, for they would be used, 
and were often used, to denote those who had those under 
them who were voluntary servants, and would be -the terms 
which would be naturally employed to denote such a relation. 
But there are three circumstances which seem to make it 
clear that the words are used here as denoting those who 
were the owners of slaves. 1. One is, that the condition 
of those towards whom they are represented as sustaining 
the relation of inasters, was evidently that of slavery. No 
one, it seems to me, can doubt that they were slaves. 
Their condition is not described as one of voluntary ser- 
vice, but as a much harder service — in which they were 
' under the yoke ;' in which ih.ej were subjected to great 
hardships ; and from which it is said that it Avould be de- 
sirable to be dehvered if possible. The evidence of this will 
appear in another part of the argument. But if this be so, 
then it Avill follow that the terms used in addressing masters 
were such as denote the owners of slaves. 2. A second 
thing is, that considering the universal prevalence of slavery 
where the gospel was preached, it is not probable that any 
very considerable number Avould be found who were masters 
and servants in the sense of a voluntary servitude on the 
part of the latter. The great mass of those who sustained 
the relation of master and servant, were those among whom 
the terms would denote slavery, and it is morally certain that 
many of them would be brought under the power of the gos- 
pel. In other words, it is absurd to suppose that the gospel 
would be preached in so discriminating a manner that only 
those would be converted who stood entirely aloof from slavery 
— bothas masters and servants. But unless these terms are used 
in that sense, there is no reference to the relation in the New 
Testament, and nothing can be inferred about the views of 


the apostles in the case, one way or the other. 3. A third 
circumstance is, that this is the interpretation which would be 
put, and is put, on these expressions by the great mass of the 
readers of the New Testament — by plain Christians in all 
lands and times who have no theory to support : — one of the 
best of all evidences that the interpretation is correct. 

Whether this fact would make it proper to treat slavery in 
the same manner now, is indeed quite another question, and 
one which it is not necessary to argue here. There are many 
things to be considered in reference to that before it would 
be legitimate to draw the conclusion, that because the apostles 
admitted slaveholders to the church in the state of things 
which existed in the world in their time, therefore it would 
be proper to do it in all circumstances, and at all periods of 
the world, and in all countries. It is quite conceivable at 
least that circumstances may so change, that what would be 
wise and expedient at one time would be in the highest de- 
gree unwise and inexpedient at another ; and it is casting no 
imputation on the moral integrity of an apostle to suppose that, 
under the laws of the Roman empire, amidst institutions 
which had been sanctioned for ages, and in a state of things 
where they had no agency in making the laws, some things 
might have been tolerated which they would not have deemed 
it best to tolerate in a community like that existing now in the 
United States. Nay, it is conceivable that going as they did 
as missionaries among the heathen — poor, friendless, un- 
known, with no powerful protectors, there might have been 
arrangements admitted into the church which they would not 
have judged to be the best possible for all circumstances, or 
which they would regard, as on the whole the most desirable. 
This certainly occurred in regard to some things ; it may be 
that it was so in regard to slavery. It might be, therefore, 
an unfair inference to conclude, that because the apostles ad- 
mitted slaveholders to the communion, therefore this should 
be contemplated as a permanent arrangement in a well- 
organized Christian community, or that a Missionary Board 


in this age should contemplate this in their missions among the 
heathen. The onXy fair inference from their conduct is, that 
slavery,, in all conceivable circumstances, is not to be regarded 
as a sin. Whether in any circumstances, however, it is, or 
is not, is a legitimate subject of inquiry. Whether this con- 
duct on the part of the apostles was consistent with moral 
honesty, and with a real hatred of slavery, will be the sub- 
ject of subsequent consideration. 

3. In like manner, the apostles did not deny that those who 
were the holders of slaves might be true Christians. This is 
implied, indeed, in the fact that they were admitted into the 
church, but there is more direct and independent proof of it. 
Thus, in 1 Tim. vi. 2, they are addressed as such : " And 
they [that is those servants who are under the yoke] that 
have believing masters, let them not despise them, because 
they are brethren." Here, there are three terms employed 
which imply that, though sustaining this relation, they were 
regarded as real Christians. The first is found in the phrase 
'■believing masters^ — riKStov^ fisartdt'aj — a phrase which would 
be properly applied only to those who were true Christians. 
Comp. Luke xix. 17; John xx. 27; Acts x. 45; xvi. 1, 15; 
2 Cor. vi. 15 ; Gal. iii. 9 ; Eph. i. 1, et al. The second 
term is brethren — ' let them not despise them because they 
are brethren,'' — a term also which denotes that they were re- 
garded as fellow-Christians, or were to be regarded by the 
'servants under the yoke' as //teiV brethren. The third term 
or phrase is, 'faithful and beloved,''- — showing that they had, 
and that they deserved, the confidence of those who were 
Christians. No one can doubt that there are many such 
masters of slaves in our own countr}^ who on account of their 
Christian virtues are, and deserve to be, greatly beloved. 
The exhortation to the servants that they should not despise 
them because they Avere brethren, is based on the fact that there 
niight possibly spring up in their minds, unless they were 
properly instructed, a want of respect for thei-r masters if they 
were regarded as ' brethren ;' or from the fact that the master 


and the seivant had embraced the same religion, and were to 
be regarded as in the most important respects on an equahty. 
It would not be wholly unnatural that this truth should be so 
perverted by ill-designing persons as to make servants in- 
subordinate and disrespectful ; and it would be easy for such 
persons to allege, that as they were equal before God, 
the master had no right to control the servant, and the ser- 
vant was under no obligation to obedience. While, there- 
fore, the apostle admitted in the fullest sense that, as Chris- 
tians, they were equal, and were to regard each other as 
brethren, he designed to guard the servant from the inference 
which some might derive from this fact, that all distinctions 
were at once to be broken down between them. This pas- 
sage then proves that those who had owned slaves in accord- 
ance with the prevailing laws of the Roman empire, might be 
converted to the Christian faith, be admitted to the church, 
and be addressed as Christian brethren. It does not prove, 
however, that they might buy and sell slaves after they were 
converted ; nor does it state how long they might continue 
to hold slaves and yet be regarded as true Christians ; nor 
does it of necessity imply that they might contemplate this 
as a permanent arrangement, and coiitentedly hold their fel- 
low-men in bondage with no purpose to restore them to 
freedom. Though they were regarded as truly converted, 
and though they are addressed as ' brethren,' yet nothing in 
this passage forbids the supposition that it might be a duty 
for them to cause this relation to cease as soon as it could be 
done. Whether that was so, must be determined by an inde- 
pendent inquiry. 

3. In hke manner, it is to be conceded that the apostles 
did not openly and publicly proclaim that slavery was an evil ; 
that the Roman laws on this subject were wrong ; that the 
whole institution was contrary to the gospel ; that the system 
was replete with every form of monstrous error ; and that it 
was the duty of every man who owned slaves at once to set 
them at liberty. They never used harsh and severe language 



in regard to it ; never denounced civil government as wholly 
evil, because it upheld the institution ; never spoke of those 
who held sloyes as thieves, or murderers, or infidels, or adul- 
terers, or open abettors of vice and immorality. The simple 
proof of this is to be found in an appeal to the New Testa- 
ment. Such violent denunciations and such severities of 
language are not to be found there ; and as it is to be pre- 
sumed that in the Acts of the Apostles we have a fair repre- 
sentation of their usual manner of preaching, and a statement 
of the topics which they insisted on in their public discourses ; 
and as in their epistles we have a fair illustration, undoubtedly, 
of the usual method in which they addressed the churches, 
the inference is clear that such violent denunciations formed 
no part of their preaching. It cannot fail, I think, to strike 
every one, that there is a most marked- difference between the 
manner of the apostles in this respect, and the style of address 
of many who are the advocates of emancipation at the present 
day. There is a severity of language which finds no counte- 
nance in the New Testament. There are severe reproaches 
cast on the owners of slaves, which find no parallel in the 
Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles. There is a style 
of denouncing civil government, and ecclesiastical bodies, 
and churches, and ministers of the gospel, and private 
Christians, which is utterly foreign to the methods of dis- 
cussing these questions employed by the apostles. No calm 
and dispassionate inquirer, it seems to me, can doubt that 
in their methods of discussing this subject, many who are 
called ' abolitionists' have departed far from the example of the 
apostles ; and, indeed, I apprehend, not a few of them would 
openly avow it. But it is as clear that their course has been 
wrong in itself, and has been adapted to defeat the very end 
in view. Indeed, it would seem that if Satan had resolved 
to employ his highest ability in forming a scheme by which 
the fetters of the slave should be riveted for ever on the un- 
happy children of Africa in this land, he could not have 
devised a more effectual way than by producing just the mode 


of treating it which prevails at the South and the North. 
Never, it seems to me, has a good cause been more wretchedly 
managed in the main than the cause of anti-slavery in the 
United States. Any man will do a good service to his gene- 
ration who can contribute to bring his fellow-citizens, by 
exhortation or example, to a more calm and kind way of meet- 
ing this great evil. The following remarks of the late Dr. 
Channing, in his work on Slavery, should command the assent 
of all thinking men. 

" The abolitionists have done wrong, I believe ; nor is their 
wrong to be winked at, because done fanatically, or with good 
intentions ; for how much mischief may be wrought with good 
designs ! They have fallen into the common error of enthu- 
siasts, that of exaggerating their object, of feeling as if no evil 
existed but that which they opposed, and -as if no guilt could 
be compared with that of countenancing and upholding it. 
The tone of their newspapers, as far as I have seen them, has 
often been fierce, bitter, and abusive." — p. 133. " The aboli- 
tionists might have formed an association ; but it should have 
been an elective one. Men of strong principles, judiciousness, 
sobriety, should have been carefully sought as members. 
MucR good might have been accomplished by the co-operation 
of such philanthropists. Instead of this, the aboHtionists sent 
forth their orators, some of them transported with fier}' zeal, 
to sound the alarm against slavery through the land, to gather 
together young and old, pupils from schools, females hardly 
arrived at years of discretion, the ignorant, the excitable, the 
impetuous, and to organize these into associations for the 
battle against oppression. Very unhappily, they preached 
their doctrine to the coloured people, and collected them into 
societies. To this mixed and excitable multitude, minute, 
heart-rending descriptions of slavery were given in the 
piercing tones of passion ; and slaveholders were held up as 
monsters of cruelty and crime." — p. 136. One great principle 
which we should lay down as immovably true, is, that if a 
good work cannot be carried on by the calm, self-controlled, 


benevolent spirit of Christianity, then the time for doing it has 
not come. God asks not the aid of our vices. He can over- 
rule them for good, but they are not the chosen instruments 
of human happiness." — p. 138. 

4. It is to be admitted, that, in meeting this subject, the 
apostles gave instructions to those who sustained the relation 
of master and slave, respecting their duties while in that rela- 
tion. The passages alread}'' referred to contemplate the per- 
formance of certain duties in that relation, or while that 
relation continued. Thus, in regard to the duty of masters, 
they are enjoined (Eph. vi. 9) to do " the same things" 
towards their servants which had been enjoined on them ; to 
wit, to exhibit the same kindness, fidelity, and respect for the 
will of God. They were to " forbear threatening;" that is, 
they were to avoid a fretful and dissatisfied temper — a disposi- 
tion to govern by terror rather than by love. They were 
(Col. iv. 1) to " give unto their servants that which is just 
and equal, remembering that they bad also a master in 
heaven." These, I believe, are all the direct commands which 
are addressed to masters in the New Testament, but they 
imply that the relation did exist, and that there were import- 
ant duties to be performed in that relation. There* are 
undoubtedly many general precepts addressed to Christians, 
as such, which masters would be expected to apply to them- 
selves to regulate their conduct in their treatment of their 
slaves, but these are all that directly bear on the subject, 
unless the case of Philemon, which will be examined at length 
in the sequel, be one. It is indeed quite remarkable, that, 
considering the fact that there were so many slaves in the 
countries where the gospel was preached, and the probability 
that not a few masters would be converted to the Christian 
religion, so little is addressed to them in the epistles, and that 
so little is said implying that the relation existed at all. Still, 
these passages do seem to make it certain that the relation 
existed among some who were members of the church, and 


that the master owed important duties to his servant while 
sustaining that relation. 

There are, hoAvever, more passages which refer to the duty 
of slaves, and which seem to imply that, as might be 
supposed, more slaves than masters were converted. Thus 
in Eph. vi. 5 — 8, they are instructed to be " obedient to their 
masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in 
singleness of heart, as unto Christ, not with eye-service, as 
men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of 
God from the heart ; with good-will doing service, as to the 
Lord, and not to men." In Col. iii. 22 — 25, also, a direction 
very similar to this occurs. In 1 Tim. vi. 1, 2y it is.said, "Let 
as many servants as are under the yoke count their ov/n 
masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his 
docti'ine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing 
masters, let them not despise them, because they are bre- 
thren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful 
and beloved, partakers of the benefit." In 1 Pet. ii. 18, it 
is said, "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; 
not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward." 
It should be said respecting this passage, however, that it is 
less clear that it refers to slavery than the others which have 
been adduced. The Greek word is not that which is com- 
monly used, 5ov>>oi,, but oixitai, a term which means merely 
domestics, house-companion.s, or household servants — from 
olxoi, house. (See Ch. III.) They might have become such 
domestics, either by purchase or by voluntary agreement. 
The word would properly apply to any persons who were 
employed about a house as domestics, in whatever way they 
entered into that relation. It may be admitted as probable 
that most of those who were thus engaged were slaves, and 
that such are referred to here by the apostle. But that fact 
is not conveyed by the word which is used. 

Whatever consequences may follow from these passages ; 
whatever argument may be fairly deduced from them by the 



advocates of slavery, it cannot, it seems to me, be denied that 
the apostles addressed those to whom they sent their epistles, 
as sustaining the relation of master and slave, and gave to each 
instructions in regard to their duty in that relation. They 
doubtle^ meant to be understood as teaching that in that rela- 
tion they owed important duties to each other. It is also to 
be admitted, that in giving these directions, they did not en- 
courage among the slaves insurrection against their masters, 
or insubordination, or an attempt to escape by ' running away ;' 
and, in like manner, it is to be admitted, in whatever way it 
may be explained, that they did not enjoin on the masters the 
duty of emancipating their slaves immediately in all possible 
circumstances. This is to be admitted, because no instructions 
of that kind can be found in their writings, and it is not to be 
presumed that they gave one species of instruction to them in 
oral intercourse, and another in their letters. 

The question now is, whether, these things being so, the 
conduct of the apostles shows that they regarded the system 
as consistent with the best good of society, and as one to be 
tolerated and perpetuated in the church ; or, is their treat- 
ment of this matter consistent with the fact that they regarded 
the whole system as evil, and that they sincerely desired its 
extinction ? If they did so regard it ; if it is indeed sinful 
and evil, can their conduct be vindicated as honest men ? If 
they regarded it as wrong, if they desired its extinction, if they 
meant that their labours as Christian men should abohsh it, 
can their conduct in the points now referred. to be shown to 
be consistent with common honesty, and with that openness 
and boldness in exposing sin which their character as apostles 
demanded ? 

These are certainly very important questions, and on all 
sides they should be met with candour and fairness. They 
constitute the very gist of the whole inquiry respecting 
slavery, so far as the New Testament is concerned. The 
advocates and apologists for slavfery, as a scriptural institution, 
would probably be wilhng to leave the argument here, as 


decisive in the case. The argument on which they rely rests 
essentially on two grounds : — 

I. That the apostles ' legislated for slavery,' as they did for 
the relations of husband and wife, and parents and. children ; 

II. That if they were in fact opposed to slavery, and re- 
garded it as a moral evil, and yet pursued this course, it was 
not consistent with moral honesty, and involved one of the 
worst forms of what is now known as Jesuitism. It is the 
duty of those who entertain the views which I am advocating, 
to meet these arguments. They cannot be evaded without 
being fatal to the cause. Let us then inquire whether these 
things are so. 

I. The first argument from these admitted facts is, that the 
apostles legislated for slavery as they did for the relations of 
husbands and wives, and parents and children. By this it is 
meant, that they made laws for those who sustained that rela- 
tion in such a way that they must have intended that the 
relation should be permanent in the church ; and that they 
could not have done this if they had regarded the institution as 
sinful, and had not intended to lend their sanction to it.. It 
is said in support of this argument, that though' polygamy 
prevailed, yet that they never legislated for that relation — 
that they never prescribed the duties of husbands in such a 
sense that it was supposed a man would have two wives — 
and that they never prescribed the duties of the wives of one 
man to each other, or the duties of a plurality of wives to the 
same husband. It would be said further, perhaps, that they 
never prescribed the duties of pirates, and robbers, and thieves 
in the business to which they had devoted themselves, nor the 
duties of idolatefs to their idols or their priests, nor the duty 
of men in any other sinful relation. When John, as recorded in 
Luke iii. 12, seq., prescribed the duties of ' publicans' in the 
employment in which they were engaged, it is said, that it is 


fair to suppose that he did not regard that employment as 
necessarily sinful; when he prescribed the duties of soldiers, 
it is implied that he did not regard the occupation of a soldier 
as necessarily wrong. If he had so regarded these employ- 
ments, instead of prescribing the duties of these persons in 
them, he would have directed them at once to leave them, and 
to seek some honest and honourable occupation. The argu- 
ment is, that a relation in life with respect to which the Bible* 
has ' legislated,' and in reference to which it has prescribed 
duties in that relation, may be permanently continued, con- 
sistently with the best interests of society and the world. 

I need not say that this argument is greatly relied on by the 
advocates for slavery and the apologists for it, and that it is 
usually considered to be enough merely to refer to it, without 
drawing it out to even the length in which I have stated it. 
I have not intended to do injustice to it; and I have not, in fact, 
found it so strongly expressed as is done in the language 
which I have now used. 

In reply to this argument, I Avould make the following re- 
marks : — 

(I.) It is not true that the apostles ^ legislated^ for slavery, 
or for its existence, in any proper signification of the word 
legislate. The word legislate means " to make or enact a 
law or laws."* Now, in what sense is it true that the apos- 
tles made or enacted laws respecting slavery ? Did they ever 
take up the subject as a ncAV thing ; as a matter about which 
arrangements were to be made ; as an institution concerning 
which they were to make laws to be of permanent observance 
in the church? Assuredly, they did none of these things. 
They did not prescribe it as one of the regulations of the 
church ; they did not even utter sentiments formally permit- 
ting it in the church ; they did not attempt to make laws 
respecting it at all. It may be said that Moses legislated for 
it ; and that the Roman senate legislated for it ; but there is 

* Webster. 


no intelligible sense in which it can be said that the apostles 
legislated for it. They prescribed the duties of the master 
in a relation already existing — but that was not legislating for 
slavery ; they prescribed the duties of slaves, in a relation 
which the gospel did not originate, but in which it found 
them — but that was not laying down laws for the permanent 
continuance of the institution. The permanency of the in- 
stitution can derive no support from what they said on the 
subject, and in no manner depends on it. The permanency 
of the relations of husband and Avife, and of parents and 
children, does not depend on the fact that the apostles legis- 
lated for those relations, or on the fact that they prescribed the 
duties of those who sustained these relations. The question 
whether it was contemplated that those relations should be 
permanent in the earth, lies back of the fact that the apostles 
prescribed the duties of parents and children. They made 
laws for the master — as responsible to God — not for slavery : 
for the slave — as a redeemed man and a sufferer — not for the 
perpetuity of the system which oppressed him. 

(2.) It is not fair to infer from the manner in which they 
prescribed the duties of masters and slaves in that relation, 
that they approved the system, and that they desired its per- 
petuity. To prescribe the duties of certain persons while 
sustaining a certain relation to each other, cannot be construed as 
an approbation of the relation itself. It might not be desirable 
for him who gave directions about the right mode of acting 
in a certain relation, to attempt to disturb it at that time, or it 
might be impossible at once to remove certain evils connected 
with it, and yet there might be important duties which religion 
would enjoin while that relation continued. Thus, to direct 
masters to render to their servants that which is just and 
equal ; to forbear threatening, knowing that they had a master 
in heaven; to be kind, equal, and just in their dealings with 
their servants — which is the extent of the ' legislation' of the 
apostles in respect to them — cannot with any justice be con- 
strued into an approval of the system : for as long as that 


relation continued, whatever might be their duty about dis- 
solving it, there were certain duties which they owed to those 
under them, and which the Christian religion made it impe- 
rative on them to perform. And in like manner, to direct 
servants to be obedient to their masters according to the flesh ; 
to obey in all things their masters according to the flesh ; to 
count their masters worthy of all honour ; to direct them to 
please their masters well in all things, not answering again, 
not purloining, but to show all good fidelity ; and to be subject 
to them with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also 
to the froward — which is the extent of their ' legislating' for 
slaves — cannot be construed as an approbation of the system, 
or as expressing the opinion that it would be desirable that 
this relation should always continue. While it continued, 
there were certain duties which religion required of them, 
whether it were to be dissolved or not; for it was in an emi- 
nent manner desirable that they should show the fair influence 
of religion on the heart. Even on the supposition that the 
apostles regarded the system as a great evil, and desired the 
immediate abolition of slavery, as long as the relation con- 
tinued, they would have required that this spirit should be 
manifested. It is the same spirit, certainly, which the great 
body of the most decided abolitionists in this countrj/ would 
desire that those who are held in slavery should evince, 
though this fact cannot be construed into an argument that 
they approve of slavery. 

That this is a just view, will appear from two considera- 
tions, [a) The apostles 'legislated' in a manner quite as 
decisive respecting the relation between Nero and his subjects, 
(Rom, xiii. 1 — 7 ; 1 Pet. ii. 13 — 17,) and yet it would be doing 
them great injustice to infer that they approved of his govern- 
ment, or desired that it should be perpetTiated on the earth. 
It would be very unfair to conclude from the vieivs which 
they expressed, that such a despotism would be the best kind 
of government for the United States, or that it would be de- 
sirable that it should be established everywhere, or that it was 


sucli as God approved, or even that in any sense it was right. 
And yet, whatever obligations Christians might be under to 
modify that government if they had any power to do so, while 
the relation whicji they sustained to it continued, there were 
important duties which they owed to the government under 
which they were, as such; for even under the hardships 
of such a government, they were under obligation to evince 
such a spirit as would do honour to the gospel. And even 
if the apostles had given just the instructions to Nero which 
they did to Christian masters, it would not have proved that 
they regarded his administration as a good one, or that God 
desired that such a government should be perpetuated. If 
they had directed him, as they did Christian masters, to ' ren- 
der to his subjects that which was just and equal,' and to 
evince kindness, and tenderness, and fidelity, ' forbearing 
threatening,' — ' legislating' for him in that relation, it would 
by no means demonstrate that his conduct towards his subjects 
was such as God approved, or that there was not something 
essentially wrong in the kind of government which he endea- 
voured to maintain over the Roman people. (/;) The same 
remarks are applicable also to cases of persecution. The 
apostles 'legislated' for those who were suffering under per- 
secution ; that is, they recognised the fact that Christians 
were persecuted ; they made laws for those who were perse- 
cuted; they enjoined on them the performance of certain 
duties in that condition, as much as they did for those who 
were held as slaves. They enjoined on them the duty of 
showing proper respect for their superiors ; a spirit of sub- 
ordination and submission ; patience under the reception of 
wrongs, just as they did on slaves in respect to the wrongs 
and oppressions which they received from their masters. But 
assuredly, it would be doing the apostles great injustice to 
hifer that because they did this, they approved of the laws 
which made the persecution of the saints inevitable, or that they 
desired that the system under which those laws were enacted 
should be perpetuated. And even if the apostles had enjoined 


on persecutors the same thing which they did on Christian 
masters, it could not be construed as expressing an approba- 
tion of their conduct in maintaining a system which subjected 
so many innocent Christians to so grievous wrongs, ^they 
had enjoined on them the duty of being kind, and of ' for- 
bearing threatening,' and of ' rendering to all that which is 
just and equal' — *• legislating^ for them in the case, it would 
be a very inconclusive method of reasoning, to infer that they 
approved of the persecuting system, and wished to be under- 
stood as desiring its perpetuity. 

(3.) But it is not ti-ve that in any sense the apostles ' legis- 
lated' for slavery as they did for the relation of husband and wife, 
and parent and child. It is not true that they ever represented 
those relations as parallel, or as equally desirable and acceptable 
to God. I shall have occasion to refer to this again, but would 
here notice the following things in regard to their legislating 
for those who were in this relation — in all vvhich their in- 
structions differ from those respecting the relation of husband 
and wife, and parent and child, (a) They uniformly repre- 
sent servitude as a /««?•(? condition, and as in itself undesirable. 
1 Cor. vii. 21 ; 1 Pet. ii. 18 — 2S. Comp. the injunctions to 
masters, Eph. vi. 9; Col. iv. 1. But where do they represent 
the condition of a wife or child as necessarily a hard and un- 
desirable condition ? (b) They enjoin on slaves submission 
to their condition as a hard one, and one in which they were 
constantly liable to suffer wrong. 1 Pet. ii. 18, 19 : " Ser- 
vants, be subject to your masters Avith all fear; not only to 
the good and gentle, but also to the froward, for this is 
thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure 
grief [i. e. that which is fitted to produce grief,] suffering 
wrongfully.'''' 1 Cor. vii. 21: "Art thou called being a 
servant? Care not for it. '''' That is, 'though it is a hard 
condition, yet let it not be a subject of deep anxiety 
and distress ; in the humble lot in life where God has 
placed you, strive to evince the Christian spirit, and show 
that you are able to honour religion, rejoicing in the hope 


of immortal freedom in a better world.' But where does 
an apostle attempt to console a wife or a child by telling 
them not to *■ care for if that they are in such a condition ? 
How would a child interpret such a direction, that though he 
had a father over him when he became a Christian, yet that 
he ought not to ' care for it,' but to endeavour in that hard 
condition to perform his duties as well as he was able, and to 
console himself with the reflection that after all he was a child 
of God, and was in that more important sense free ? (c) The 
principal virtue which the apostles enjoin on slaves to culti- 
vate, is that of patience under wrong — a mild, gentle, and 
kind spirit, even when conscious that they were enduring 
wrong. See the passages already referred to. Comp. parti- 
cularly 1 Pet. ii. 18 — 23: "This is thankworthy, if a man 
for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, 
ye shall take it patiently ? But if, Avhen ye do well, and 
suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 
For even hereunto were ye called^ Ye were called by your 
Christian profession, and after the example of your master — 
the Lord Jesus — "who, when he was reviled, reviled not 
again ; when he suffered, he threatened not ; but committed 
himself to him who judgeth righteously," to evince a spirit 
of patience under wrongs, and to bear them submissively, by 
committing your cause unto God. But what other relation 
of life is there in which the leading virtue recommended to be 
cultivated, is patience under the infliction of wrong ? Is that 
the crowning vjrtue recommended in the marriage relation ? 
Is that described as the cardinal virtue of a son or daughter ? 
(J) They represented it as desirable to escape from servitude 
if it could be done ; or as more desirable to be free than to be 
in that condition. Thus, in 1 Cor. vii. 21, the apostle Paul 
says, " Art thou called being a servant ? Care not for it : 
hut if thou may est be made free, use it rather.'''' But where 
is any thing like this said respecting the condition of a wife 
or child ? Where is it imphed that such a relation was so 



hard and oppressive that it would be desirable to escape from 
it if possible ? 

If these things are so, then it is clear that the apostles did 
not ' legislate' for slavery in any such sense as they did for 
the relation of husband and wife, and parent and child. They 
never regarded the relations as similar. Every thing that 
they said in the way of legislation is entirely consistent with 
the supposition that they disapproved of the system, and de- 
sired that it might cease sis soon as possible. 

II. The second argument relied on, from the facts respect- 
ing the manner in which the apostles treated the subject of 
slavery as specified above, is, that if they were opposed to 
slavery at heart, and regarded it as sinful, their course was 
inconsistent with moral honesty, and that it was in fact one 
of the worst forms of what is now known as Jesuitism. 

This argument is greatly insisted on by all the advocates 
of slavery, and by all who apologize for it as a scriptural 
institution. It is in fact the strongest argument which has 
been adduced on that side of the question. It is stated in as 
strong a manner probably as it can be, in the Princeton 
Biblical Repertory, in the passages already quoted, pp. 234 — 
240. It is also urged with great confidence by Dr. Fuller in his 
Letter to Dr. Wayland ; and in order that the full force of the 
argument may be seen in the present connection, I will copy 
it as it is presented by this eminent Baptist divine. 

"In the remark just made, I supposed, of course, that you 
admit' some sort of slavery to have been allowed in the Old 
Testament, and suffered by Jesus and his apostles. A man 
who denies this will deny any thing, and only proves how 
much stronger a passion is than the clearest truth. Both 
Dr. Channing and Dr. Wayland, with all respectable com- 
mentators, yield this point ; but if this point be yielded, 
how can it be maintained that slaveholding is itself a crime ? 
No one can regard the noble president of Brown University 
with more esteem and affection than I do ; from his argu- 


ments, however, I am constrained to dissent. His position is 
this :* the moral precepts of the gospel condemn slavery ; it 
is therefore crimin^al. Yet he admits that neither the Saviour 
nor his apostles commanded masters to emancipate their 
slaves ; naj'-, they ' go further,' he adds, ' and prescribe the 
duties suited to Both parties in their present condition ;' 
among which duties, be it remembered, there is not an inti- 
mation of manumission, but the whole code contemplates the 
continuance of the relation. Here, then, we have the Author 
of the gospel, and the inspired propagators of the gospel, and 
the Holy Spirit indicting the gospel, all conniving at a prac- 
tice which was a violation of the entire moral principle of the 
gospel ! And the reason assigned by Dr. Wayland for this 
abstinency by God from censuring a wide-spread infraction of 
his law, is really nothing more nor less than expediency — 
the apprehension of consequences. The Lord Jesus and the 
apostles teaching expediency ! They who proclaimed and 
prosecuted a war of extermination against all the most 
cherished passions of this guilty earth, and attacked with 
dauntless intrepidity all the multiform idolatry around them — 
they quailed, they shrank from breathing even a whisper 
against slavery, through fear of consequences ! ! And, 
through fear of consequences, the Holy Spirit has given us 
a canon of Scriptures, containing minute directions as to the 
duties of master and slave, without a word as to emancipation ! ! ! 
Suppose our missionaries should be detected thus winking at 
idolatry, and tampering with crime in heathen lands. 

"Dr. Channing also says, — 'Paul satisfied himself with 
disseminating principles which would slowly subvert slavery. 
♦ Satisfied himself!' but was he so easily satisfied in reference 
to any act which he regarded as a dereliction from duty ? 
Hear how he speaks : ' If any man that is called a brother 
be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a 
drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one no not to eat.' 

* I need hardly say that the argument is the same as Paley, b. 3, ch. 3L 


* Be not deceived ; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adul- 
terers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with man- 
kind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, 
nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.' ' Whore- 
mong'ers and adulterers God will judge.' 'In the name of 
our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and 
my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver 
such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that 
the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.' 
Such was Paul's language ; nothing but this unyielding, un- 
compromising condemnation of every sin could content him ; 
yet, ffs to the ' unutterable abomination of slavery,' he is a 
temporizing palterer ! As to slavery, which ' violates every 
article in the decalogue,' although the apostle saw it all 
around him, and members of the church guilty of it, he 
declined uttering a word — he is cowed into a time-server, a 
worker by concealed and tardy indirections! He ' satisfies 
himself,' while millions on all sides are sinking into hell 
through this crime — he 'satisfies himself with spreading 
principles which would slowly work a cure ! Craven and 
faithless herald ! and after this, with what face could he say, 
'I have kept back nothing' — 'I have not shunned to declare 
the whole counsel of God V Arguments like these refute 
themselves ; they are the signal failures of riiinds masterful 
for the truth, but impotent against it ; and will convince 
every sincere inquirer that to denounce slaveholding as ne- 
cessarily a sin, is to deal in loose assertion, and practically to 
range one's self with the infidel and scoffer."* 

These are strong positions, expressed both by Dr. Fuller 
and bj' the author of the article in the Repertory, in vigorous 
language. The argument is not capable of being urged in 
any clearer manner, and if it can be shown, as thus presented, 
to be unfounded, it will remain disposed of for ever. It is in 
the highest degree important to reply to it, not only to vindi- 

See Fuller's Letters, pp. 4, 5, 6. 


cate the character of the apostles, but also to ascertain the 
true relation of the New Testament to the subject of slavery, 
and also to furnish instructive lessons about the M^isest course 
of meeting great and appalling evils in the world. 

The true question is, whether, on rhe supposition that the 
apostles regarded slavery as an evil institution ; as undesirable 
for the good of society ; as contrary to the spirit of the religion 
which they preached ; as so offensive in the sight of God that 
he desired its removal ; and as an institution which the reli- 
gion which they promulgated was intended to remove from 
the earth, it was morally honest for them to pursue the course 
which they did — to admit slaveholders to the communion ; to 
baptize them ;* to speak of them as ' brethren beloved ;' and 
to give them counsel for their conduct in that relation, without 
apprising them that they were living in gross sin, or requiring 
them at once to emancipate their slaves. 

This inquiry resolves itself essentially into two questions. 
(1.) Whether they meant to have it supposed that they 
approved of the system, and desired it to be perpetuated on 
the earth, in the same sense that they desired that the mar- 
riage institution, and the relation of parent and child should be 
perpetuated as desirable for the best interests of society ; and, 
(2.) If they did not, whether their treatment of it was origi- 
nated by a false notion of expediency ; by the fear of the con- 
sequences of exposing its evil, and in fact left a false impres- 
sion on those whom they addressed, in regard to it. 

On the supposition, then, that they, regarded the system as 
evil, and desired it to be abandoned, and meant that rehgion 
should undermine it and remove it from the world, what in 
their circumstances was the path of wisdom and of honesty ? 
What did Christian integrity demand of them in the accom- 
plishment of their object 1 In reply to these questions, and in 
order fairly to meet the argument, I would make the following 
remarks : — 

* See Fuller's Letters, p. 196. 



(1.) It will be admitted on all hands, that whatever were 
the reasons which induced them to meet slavery in the manner 
in which they did, it was not from any fear of the conse- 
quences of an opposite course. Their whole conduct shows, 
that, whatever motives may have influenced them in respect 
to any existing eviljit was not the dread of a loss of popularity, 
or of comfort, or of life. It is true in reference to the prevail- 
ing evils of the world, as the conductors of the Biblical Re- 
pertory say, that " they did not keep back the truth from 
the fear of suffering. They called God to witness that 
they declared the whole counsel of God, and Avere clear 
of every man's blood." It is true that, as Dr. Fuller says, 
" they proclaimed and prosecuted a war of extermination 
against all the most cherished passions of this guilty earth, 
and attacked with dauntless intrepidity all the multiform idol- 
atry around them." On all hands it will be agreed by those 
who are acquainted with the principles on which the apostles 
acted, that they were not restrained from denouncing what 
they regarded as wrong, from fear of personal consequences. 
If it be a fair inference from this, as Dr. Fuller and the con- 
ductors of the Princeton Repertory suppose, that they did not 
regard slavery as " a heinous crime in the sight of God," then 
the inference cannot be denied. f'Fhatever conclusion follows, 
it is to be conceded that the method in which the apostles met 
it did not arise from the fact that " they quailed, or shrunk 
from breathing even a w^hisper against slavery, through 
fear of consequences."* • 

(2.) It is incumbent on those who believe that slavery is 
inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity, and that God 
regards it as an evil and undesirable thing, to show that the 
manner in which the apostles met it was honest ; that it did 
not imply connivance at an acknowledged evil ; that it was 
not a course fitted to produce deception ; and that there were 
reasons for meeting the subject in this manner, which did not 
exist in the case of idolatry and other sins. 

* Dr. Fuller, 


In illustrating this point, therefore, and in endeavouring to 
show that the conduct of the apostles was consistent with the 
belief that slavery was an evil, and that the spirit of the reli- 
gion which they propagated was opposed to it, and yet that 
their course was honest, I would submit the following 
remarks : — 

(a) There were reasons for meeting this evil in this manner, 
which did not exist in the case of other evils. In other words, 
it was expedient, and yet honest, to meet it without making 
an open and violent assault on the institution, and without 
denouncing it as at all times, and in all circumstances a sin, 
and without denying that in any circumstances one who held 
slaves could be a good man. Or, in other words, there was a 
propriety in their meeting it by inculcating fundamental 
truths, which would gradually but certainly remove the evil, 
rather than by an open opposition to the laws in the case, and 
a denunciation of it as always sinful. The general principle 
is, that they adopted the best method of ultimately removing 
the evil under the influence of Christianity, without lending 
to it any such sanction as to leave the impression that they 
regarded it as a good and desirable institution. 

There are two kinds of expediency, one of which is con- 
sistent with moral honesty, and the other of which is not. 
Expediency may be employed in a good cause and to accom- 
plish good ends ; or it may be employed in a bad cause and 
to accomplish evil purposes. The word " expedient^'' means 
that " which tends to promote the object proposed ; fit or 
suitable for the purpose." An " expedienf^ is " that which 
serves to promote or advance ; any means to accomplish an 
end." '■^Expediency'''' is "fitness or suitableness to effect 
some good end, or the purpose intended ; propriety under the 
particular circumstances of a case."* In itself, therefore, 
expediency is not inconsistent with entire honesty, and with 
the most manly independence. It is, in itself, a characteristic 

* Webster. 


of wisdom, and we could hardly respect a man who did not 
do that which is expedient, in the sense of adopting means 
suitable to the end which he proposes, and adapted to secure 
that end. "A man would hardly be deemed of sound mind 
unless he obeyed the dictates of such an expediency. Nay, 
if he failed to avail himself of such means, he might be 
morally delinquent. For instance, if a man were charged 
with the accomplishment of some good design, and neglected 
to use the means suitable to effect it, or still more, if he used 
means of a directly opposite tendency, we should all declare 
him culpable. His conduct would show that his interest in 
the work was not sufficient to prompt him to the use of the 
proper means to insure his success."* 

There may be cases, then, in which expediency is right and 
proper ; and there may be cases, also, as we all know, in which 
it may be "mean, contemptible, cowardly, and wicked." 
When it is wicked and mean, the evil must arise from some 
cause aside from the fact that the act seems to be expedient. 
It must be because there is some wrong in the object aimed 
at, or because there is something dishonest, cowardly, mean, 
or wicked in the measures adopted to secure it ; something 
which in that case is ' expedient,' not because it is fit and suita- 
ble to the end, but because it involves some improper conceal- 
ment of the truth ; some false pretence, or some dishonest 
trick to secure the end in view. In such a case, an act 
would be as wicked, as an honest and wise expediency would 
be virtuous. 

Suppose, for instance, a man goes among the heathen to 
preach the gospel. If he should study the character of the 
people ; if he should be prudent and not needlessly rouse 
their prejudices ; if he should conform himself to their modes 
of dress and style of hving ; if he should evince such an irtte- 
rest in them as to win their confidence and affections ; and if 
he should present the gospel with sound sense and practical 

* Dr. Wayland's Letters to Dr. Fuller, p. 64. 


good judgment, he would be pursuing a wise expediency, for 
he would be pursuing a course that was adapted to secure the 
end in view, and every thing which he did would be consist- 
ent with the strictest honesty. But suppose he should rely 
on pious frauds, and invent false testimonies to his doctrines, 
and pretend to work miracles, this would be an 'expediency' 
that would be manifestly dishonest. And suppose even that 
it might be attended with some conversions, still that would 
not alter the case. The thing itself would be condemned by 
ail honest men. 

In like manner, suppose that in propagating the gospel, I 
adopt some of the evil customs of the heathen ; that I attempt 
to avail myself of their known reverence for sacred shrines, 
and forms, and places ; of their superstitious regard for holy 
vestments, and for those Avho sustain a priestly character 
among them, and should attempt to transfer all this at once 
to Christianity to secure its success, it is equally clear that 
this would be a wicked expedient. It would be relying on 
what I knew to be false, though they did not know it, and 
though perhaps they might never perceive it. There is no 
honest mind which would not condemn it — except just so far 
as any of these things might be in exact conformity with the 
principles of the religion which I sought to propagate. 

Suppose, further, that in my efforts to spread my religion, 
I should, for the sake of not arousing opposition or endanger- 
ing my life, leave a wholly erroneous impression of the moral 
character of certain things which I found prevailing among 
the people — as, for instance, of the crimes of idolatry, infanti- 
cide, or intemperance. If my conduct could be fairly so 
construed as to imply approbation of these things ; if I did 
not leave a distinct impression that I regarded them as evil ; 
if I should connive at them with a view to extending my 
principles ; and if I should make distinct and definite arrange- 
ments contemplating their perpetuity, and leave it to be so 
understood, there could be no difference of opinion in regard 
to my conduct. It might be possible that some such course 


would secure my personal safety, and it may ev^en be conceived 
that this might do something to conciliate the favour of the 
heathen, and dispose them to look favourably on me and my 
doctrines, but no one could hesitate to say that such an expe- 
die-ncy would be morally wrong. 

So, if, to accomplish my ends, I should attempt to make my 
message acceptable, by totally withholding a part of the truth ; 
or by modifying it ; or by adding to it ; or by adapting it to 
what should be demanded by popular clamour, no one could 
hesitate to say that I did wrong. It would be acting from 
expediency in such a sense that no one could approve of it. 

Such and similar cases are instances in which to act from 
♦ expediency' implies guilt. It arises from fear ; it involves 
the suppression of truth ; it leaves a false impression ; and 
no man can look upon it but with disapprobation, and no one 
who acts in this way can hope to meet the approbation of God. 
If the apostles really believed that slaveholding was wrong, and 
yet concealed their opinion of it from any of these motives, or 
so acted in regard to it that they left the impression that it was 
a good and desirable institu^^'on, it would be impossible to 
vindicate their conduct. 

But, on the other hand, there may be cases where expe- 
diency is a virtue, and where it is entirely consistent with 
honesty and sincerity. In such cases, there is no designed 
suppression of the truth ; there is no bad motive ; there is no 
withholding of offensive doctrines under the influence of fear, 
or from the dread of the consequences ; and there is no false 
plea by which it is sought to advance the cause in hand. 
Such cases are the following :-— (o) Instances in which there is 
conformity to some custom or habit among a people that is not 
sinful, with a view not to excite prejudice or needless opposi- 
tion. Such was the case of Paul, who ' became all things to 
all men that he might by all means save some ; who to the 
Jews became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews ; and to 
them that were under the law as under the law, that he might 
gain them that were under the law ; and to them who were 


without law as without law, that he might gain them that 
were without law.' (1 Cor. ix, 21, 22.) Thus he performed 
a vow at Jerusalem, (Acts xxi. 24 ;) and thus he and the other 
apostles and early Christians of Hebrew origin all continued 
to conform to the Jewish customs after they had ceased to be 
binding, in order that they might not alarm the prejudices of 
the Jews, and give rise to the charge that they were hostile to 
the Mosaic institutions. Every man, who is wise, does the 
same thing. He does not needlessly arouse opposition. He 
does not make war on things which are indifferent. He does 
not unnecessarily give occasion for charges against himself, 
which would defeat the whole end which he has in view. 
While he does not do that which is morally wrong, or abandon 
any principle of truth, he at the same time adapts himself to 
the habits of thinking, the mode of living, the manners and 
customs of those whom he seeks to influence, in order that 
his views may meet with no unnecessary opposition. (6) An- 
other case of obviously justifiable expediency is that of in- 
sinuating our views by parables or fables which will convey 
the truth in such a way as to disarm opposition, and secure 
the assent of the mind to some principle which involves all 
that we wish to inculcate, before the proposition itself is openly 
stated. Such was the parable with which Nathan addressed 
David ; such were the parables of our Saviour ; such were 
the fables of ^sop. The bare and bold statement of the truth 
which it was desirable to get before the mind would have 
created revulsion, and the attention is therefore arrested by an 
interesting narrative, and the assent gained to some important 
principle of easy application, before the particular truth is 
stated which it is designed to convey to the mind. This is 
allowable ' expediency ;' and this has been practised among 
all people. Prejudice is disarmed, and the end is reached 
without producing revulsion, (c) A similar method is that 
of laying down important principles, and suffering them to 
produce a certain effect which is foreseen, and which will 
operate ultimately to remove an existing evil. Instead of 


attacking the evil at once, when the only effect would be to 
defeat the end in view, it may be far better to lay down cer- 
tain fundamental truths, the operation of which shall be to 
place the evil ultimately in a proper light, and to lead by cer- 
tain consequence to its removal. It may be that the thing 
which we regard as wrong is not so seen by others ; it may 
be that they have had a training which has sanctioned it in 
their minds ; it may be that they hold principles in regard to 
it which, if they are correct, make that which we would wish 
to remove correct also.. To secure our object, therefore, it is 
necessary that more correct principles should be held, and a 
patient work of moral instruction becomes absolutely neces- 
sary. The object could not be reached in any other way. 
The evil has been so long practised; it is so interwoven with 
other important interests ; in the defence of it there is such a 
blending of truth and error, that it is necessary to disentangle 
the skein, and to bring out the truth by the faithful inculca- 
tion of correct principles. It is in this way that God has in 
fact removed most of the evils of the world by a gradual de- 
velopment of principles which strike on great wrongs existing 
in society, thus preparing the world for the higher develop- 
ments of his will ; and it is in this way that wise men com- 
monly approach a deep-rooted evil. It is the expedient and 
the wise course. The other would be inexpedient and un- 
tvise ; for it would not be that which would be necessary to 
moral honesty, and would defeat the end in view. These 
principles can be justified by the example of the Saviour. 
His parables, as before remarked ; his treatment of the pre- 
judices of the Jews, and his methods of meeting the blind- 
ness and errors of his own disciples, all illustrate them. 
Thus also he said, at the close of his ministry, respecting his 
mode of teaching, " I have yet many things to say unto you, 
but ye cannot bear them now.'''' John xvi. 12. So the apostle 
Paul, (1 Cor. iii. 1, 2,) says, "And I, brethren, could not 
speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as 
unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with 


meat ; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet 
now are ye able."'' 

This principle has been so well illustrated by Dr. Wayland — 
to whom I am indebted for some of these thoughts — that I 
cannot do better than copy a few of his remarks on the 

" This form of expediency — the inculcating of a funda- 
mental truth, rather than of the duty which springs imme- 
diately out of it, seems to me innocent. I go further : in 
some cases it may be really demanded. Thus, suppose a 
particular wrong to have become a social evil, to have become 
interwoven with the whole framework of society, and to be 
established by positive enactment and immemorial usage ; 
suppose that all departments of society have become adjusted 
to it, and that much instruction is necessary before any party 
can avail itself of the advantages of a righteous change ; 
suppose also the whole community to be ignorant of the moral 
principles by which both the vi^rong is condemned and the 
right established. In such a case, the wrong could only be 
abolished by changing the sentiments and enlightening the 
consciences of the Avhole community. Here it seems to me 
that it would be not only allowable, but a matter of imperative 
duty, to inculcate the principles on which the duty rested, 
rather than the duty itself. The one being fixed in the mind, 
would necessarily produce the other; and thus the end would 
be in the most certain manner accomplished. 

" It is in this manner that the New Testament has gene- 
rally dealt with the various forms of social evil. Take for 
instance civil government. At the time of Christ and his 
apostles, the only form of government known in the civiHzed 
world, was a most abominable and oppressive tyranny. Yet 
the New Testament utters no precepts in regard to forms of 
government, or the special duties of rulers. It goes further. 
It commands men everywhere to obey the powers that be, so 
far as this could be done with a good conscience towards God. 
But it at the same time inculcates those truths concerning the 



character, rights, responsibilities, and obligations of man, which 
have been ever since working out the freedom of the human 
race ; and which have received, as I beheve, their fullest 
development in the principles of the American Declaration of 
Independence. Indeed, in no other manner could the New 
Testament have become a system of religion for the whole 
human race, adapted to meet the varying aspects of human 
depravity. If it had merely taught precepts, whatever was 
not forbidden must have been taken as permitted. Hence, 
unchecked wickedness would soon have abounded, and the 
revelation of God must have become a nulHty. But by teach- 
ing principles of universal application, it is prepared to meet 
every rising form of moral deviation, and its authority is now 
as all-pervading as at the moment when it was first delivered. 
Our Saviour, as it appears to me, carries out this principle to 
the utmost, when, setting aside as it were all other precepts, 
he declares that our whole duty is summed up in these two 
commandments, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all 
thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself; for this is the law 
and the prophets.' That is, I suppose him to mean, that 
cherishing these principles in our hearts, and carrying them 
out into all our actions, we shall do the whole will of God 
without any other precept."* 

A very material question then arises here which is vital to 
the whole argument. It is this. On the supposition that the 
apostles regarded slavery as contrary to the spirit and prin- 
ciples of the religion which they wished to propagate ; as a 
system which they desired to destroy, and which they believed 
Christianity was intended to destroy ; in other words, on the 
supposition that they were enemies of slavery and wished its 
fibolition, what, in the circumstances in which they were 
.placed, was it proper for them as honest men to do ? What 
would be the wisest and the best course to reach the end in 
view ? Would the proper course be at once to attack and 

* Letters to Dr. Fuller, pp. 73, 74, 75, 


denounce it, and to declare that no slaveholder could zn any 
possible circumstances enter into the kingdom of heaven ? 
Would it be to insist that every master should emancipate all 
his slaves as an indispensable condition, of being admitted 
to the Christian church ? The apostles were strangers in the 
lands where they published the gospel; they had no' civil 
power ; they had no agency in making the laws ; they had 
no power to change them. Slavery had existed for ages ; its 
propriety was not doubted; it was defended by lawgivers and 
moralists ; it was interwoven with every custom and habit of 
social life ; it entered into all the arrangements for agriculture, 
for the mechanic arts, and for war ; and it was supposed to 
have the sanction of religion. What would have been the 
effect of denouncing it, and of proclaiming in so many words, 
that it ' was a heinous sin in the sight of God,' cannot be a 
subject of doubt. They would have been regarded as dis- 
turbers of the public peace ; as travelling entirely beyond, the 
conceded rights of religious teachers ; and as intermeddlers 
with the laws : and they would have been banished at once from 
every slaveholding community— just as abolition agents are 
now at the South. 

Would not the following principles, in conformity with the 
views relating to expediency above laid down, be all that 
could be required of the honest enemies of slavery, in their 
circumstances ? 

First, not to pursue such a course as would defeat the very 
end in view, while it was not yet admitted that it ivas wrong 
or a moral evil by those among whom slavery prevailed. If 
it had been conceded to be a wrong — to be sinful ; if it had 
been or would be at once admitted, as it would be in the case 
of idolatry, and drunkenness, and murder, and falsehood, and 
incest, to be an open and flagrant violation of the laws of God, 
then the case would be different. Then it would be plain 
that it could not be tolerated for a moment ; that it would 
be proper to meet it as an indisputable evil, and to require its 
immediate abohtion. Thus it was with the sins just referred 


to. They were plain cases ; things positively forbidden by 
the laws of Heaven ; things which men would at once per- 
ceive and feel to be wrong. There was no defence which, 
could be set up for them ; there could be no difference of 
opinion about their impropriety. 

Second, it would be obviously dema^nded of honest men in 
such circumstances never to express any approbation, of the 
system; and I Avill add, never to do that which could be 
fairly construed, when all the circumstances were considered, 
as implying approbation of the system.. Either of these 
things, even on the supposition that they should be regarded 
as expedient, would be an instance of dishonest expediency. 
On the supposition, for example, that by representing to a 
large slaveholder that slavery was entirely consistent with the 
law of God and the principles of the religion which they 
preached, in order that he might thus be led to look favourably 
on the new system of religion, and induced to embrace it, it 
would be such an 'expedient' that no honest man, who re- 
garded the system as evil, could adopt. No considerations 
could have justified upright men in adopting any such course 
in reference to lying and licentiousness. 

Third, it would be obviously demanded of honest men in 
these circumstances, that they should lay down such funda- 
mental principles of morahty as, when fairly applied, would 
show that the system was evil, and that the religion which 
they aimed to promulgate was opposed to it, and would ulti- 
mately remove it. It would be clearly improper that they 
should advance any principle which, if /aiV/y applied, would 
tend to sanction or to perpetuate it. Thus, it would have 
been improper that they should state any principle which 
would, when fairly applied, tend to sustain polygamj'-, or idol- 
atry, or which would not tend to remove them from the world. 

Fourth, it would be obviously demanded that, as honest 
men, they should make such statements and such arrange- 
ments, as should leave the fair impression on the minds of 
those to whom they were made, that they desired that the 


system should cease, and that their instructions could not 
fairly be pleaded as sanctioning the system. This would be 
met by their stating such views of man and of redemption 
as would be inconsistent with the permanent relations of 
slavery ; by enjoining such duties on the masters as, i( fairly 
followed, would lead them to emancipate their slaves as soon 
as possible ; by such statements as would preserve Christians 
from the purchase and sale of others ; and by showing that 
there were duties incumbent on all men, and which all were 
under obligations to God to perform, which it would be seen 
would be interfered with by the continuance of the system, 
and which in fact could nat be performed Avhile the relation 

If these things were done, would not their course be en- 
tirely honest, on the supposition that they were opposed to the 
system of slavery ? Would not this be a course which would 
fall in with the rules of justifiable 'expediency,' as explained 
above ? Would it not be in fact all that could be demanded 
in the case ? But one other thing could possibly be supposed 
to be required of them as honest men — to denounce it always ; 
to exclude from the church, in all circumstances, those who 
were engaged in it ; to proclaim that in every instance it was 
wholly inconsistent with the possession of the Christian hope ; 
to publish that, at all hazards, it was every man's duty at 
once to emancipate all his slaves, and that it was the duty of 
every one who was a slave to rise on his master and assert 
his freedom. But was that demanded ? If so, why was it 
not demanded of them that they should denounce all the 
crimes of the Roman emperor, and proclaim the evils of such 
a government, and exhort the nations to free themselves from 
this oppressive yoke ? Why was it not demanded that they 
should denounce the evils of the gladiatorial shows, and the 
other barbarous amusements of the amphitheatre, and the 
thousand other evils which abounded in the Roman world ? 
Was any thing more required in these cases, than that, in all 



honesty, they should lay down principles, the fair application 
of which would bring these barbarous sports to an end ? 

It is still asked, however, why, if they regarded slavery 
as 'a heinous sin,' they did not treat it as they did idolatry, 
and murder, and theft, and licentiousness ? How could they 
tolerate it any more than they could those evils ? How could 
they admit a man to the church who practised the one, more 
than he who practised the other ? Would they admit an 
idolater to the church ? They never did. Would they re- 
ceive to the communion one who made his living by piracy ? 
They never did. Would they give directions to one who 
was living in the practice of adultery, or incest, how to con- 
duct in that relation ? They never did. Would they address 
such a one as ' faithful and beloved V Assuredly not. To 
this I may reply : (1.) All those were acknowledged and 
undisputed sins. No one could set up a defence of them ; 
no one could urge any thing in their favour, or in vindication 
of them. They were open and palpable violations of the 
law of God, and in no possible circumstances could they be 
right. It was not so with slavery. It would not at once be 
seen and admitted to be wrong. (2.) There are certain things, 
in accordance with this view, which are evil and wrong, but 
which require patient instruction, and much discussion of 
principles before the wrong will be perceived, and where, if 
denunciation be employed instead of argument, the whole object 
will be defeated. An instance of this sort has occurred in our 
own times. It is now generally admitted that the manufacture 
and sale of intoxicating drinks, for the purpose of being used 
as a beverage, is wrong; that it tends to produce evil and 
only evil ; that it is not a kind of business which should be 
pursued by a Christian ; and that it is the duty of a church 
to keep itself pure in this respect. But to reach the present 
views on this subject, has been the result of a long process 
of argumentation, and of an examination of principles, demand- 
ing the patient and profound inquiries of some of the best in- 
tellects in the world — for the whole business was regarded as 


honourable and lawful ; it was sustained by the laws and by 
public sentiment, and it was patronised by numbers of the best 
men in the church. And yet what church is there now that 
would deem it best or right to go back to the views which 
prevailed on this subject thirty years ago ? Drunkemiess, 
indeed, was alwa:ys condemned, alike in the New Testament 
and by all Christians — but how slow a process has it been to 
perceive the Avrong of that business which tends to produce 
vdrunkenness, and which steadily operates to keep it up in the 
world. Oppression and cruelty, and the withholding of wages 
which are due, have in like manner always been condemned, 
alike in the New Testament and by all Christians; but there 
were reasons why there should be as slow a process, in arriv- 
ing at the conclusion that that system which involved oppres- 
sion and cruelty and the withholding of wages, is wrong, as 
existed in the case of the manufacture and sale of intoxicating 
drinks. It may, indeed, be fairly inferred that the apostles 
would not have approved of the manufacture and sale of alco- 
holic Hquors as a beverage, but where do they expressly con- 
demn it ? (3.) There are evils — great and acknowledged evils 
— which the apostles treated just as they did the subject of 
slavery, in respect to which they laid down great principles, 
and left them to the certain operation of time to secure the 
changes which they desired. Such was the case in regard to 
polygamy — a usage which indubitably prevailed in their time, 
and in the countries where they preached the gospel ; and 
yet it would be as difficult to find a distinct declaration in the 
New Testament condemning it, as it would be to find one 
that openly condemns slavery. Such was the case also in re- 
gard to the barbarous sports of the amphitheatre — the gladia- 
torial shows, and the conflicts with wild beasts for the amuse- 
ment of the Roman senators and matrons. Such things 
abounded. The apostles knew of their existence. It came in 
their way to speak of them — for Paul was once at least con- 
demned to fight with wild beasts at Ephesus, and often had 
occasion to allude to the sports which prevailed in the Roman 


world. And yet it would be impossible to find in the New 
Testament one single text which expressly condemns these 
things, any more than one which expressly condemns slavery. 
Are we, therefore, to infer that the apostles approved of these 
things, or that they wished them to be perpetuated, or that 
they would have deemed it right for Christians to be engaged 
in them ? Such, too, was the case in respect to civil govern- 
ment. Can any one suppose that the writers of the New 
Testament approved of the government of Nero ? That they 
regarded his cruelties and abominations with complacency ? 
That they thought it would be desirable that such a govern- 
ment should be perpetuated ? Or that there were no evils in 
existing governments which they expected that time, under 
the operation of the principles which they laid down, would 
correct ? And yet, where in the New Testament shall we 
look for a distinct condemnation of the atrocities of Nero's 
reign ? There were many deep social evils on which Chris- 
tianity made Avar, and which it intended to remove, and yet 
the" way in which it was done was by laying down principles 
which would ultimately effect the change, and not by direct 
and open denunciation. (4.) The apostles as freely and 
openly condemned many things in slavery, and indispensa- 
ble to it, as they did idolatry or any thing connected with it. 
They condemned the making of a slave, (1 Tim. i. 10); they 
condemned all oppression, cruelt}^ and wrong ; they expressed 
their vieAvs on these points without ambiguity or hesitancy ; 
and since these always entered into slavery then, as they djo 
now, it follows that they expressed themselves in a Avay on 
this subject which could not be misunderstood. How they 
did this, Avill be seen in a subsequent part of this argument. 

The conclusion which seems to follow from these consider- 
ations, is, that there were many existing things which the 
apostles regarded as wrong, and which they intended the 
Christian rehgion should abolish, which they met, not by open 
denunciation, and not by maintaining that those which prac- 
tised them could in no possible circumstances be Christians, 


and should in no case be admitted to the privileges of church, 
membership, but by condemning certain things which were 
always connected with them, and by laying down such gene- 
ral principles that they could not fail in the end to secure 
their removal. Even some things, in respect to the morahty 
q^ which there could be no difference of opinion, appear to 
have been left in this manner. Thus, every thing pertaining 
to the barbarous sports of the amphitheatre were left to the 
slow but certain operation of Christian principle to remove 
them. Many things pertaining to idolatry were left in the 
same manner. Whether it was right to partake of the meat 
that was offered in sacrifice to idols, was a question that VA^as 
left to be determined by the operation of Christian principle. 
Evils strike their roots far into the social organization. They 
become sustained and sanctioned by customs, habits, and laws, 
and it is not possible to remove them at once without changing 
the whole framework of society. It is necessary to advance 
slowly to the work, to state . the elementary principles of 
morals, and to trust much to the gradual but certain operation 
of those principles to effect in silence the work of reform. 

I have thus endeavoured to show, that, on the supposition, 
that the apostles regarded slavery as evil, and that they 
designed that the religion which they preached should ulti- 
mately remove it, there were reasons arising from a just 
' expediency,' why they should treat it as they did ; and that 
the method which they adopted cannot be regarded as evi- 
dence that they approved of the system, or that they desired 
its perpetuity.. 

(6) I would observe, therefore, in the next place, that this 
is the very course which is recommended now by many who 
would not wish it to be understood that they are the advocates 
of slavery, or that they regard it as a good institution. The 
course which they recommend is that of patiently inculcating 
principles, and instructing the master in his duty, and trusting 
to the silent influence of the gospel ; and they wish it to be 
understood that they regard this as consistent with the idea 


that they are opposed sincerely to slavery, and that they be- 
lieve the gospel will ultimately abohsh it. They wrould be 
by no means willing that the course vv^hich they recommend 
should be construed as implying that they are the friends of 
slavery, or the apologists for it.* But if they insist that this 
construction should not be put on /AeJr recommendations, w^liy 
should it be on the course pursued by the apostles ? If in 
their case this course is consistent with the belief that they 
regard slavery as an evil, why should it not be in the case of 
the apostles ? 

That this course is recommended by many at the present 
day, it is unnecessary to prove. Equally at the South and 
the North it is demanded that there shall be no rude and vio- 
lent attack made on the system ; that the owners of slaves 
shall not be denounced as men who cannot be Christians ; 
that they shall not be excluded from the church because they 
hold slaves, and that they shall not be held up to public 
opprobrium and scorn. At the same time, it is maintained that 
the silent operation of the Christian religion will gradually 
remove the system, and that all that is necessary to be done 
is to go on patiently inculcating the fundamental principles 
of the gospel, and that in due time that gospel will remove 
slavery from our country and from the world. The views of 
the conductors of the Princeton Repertory, who may be 
regarded as giving utterance to the sentiments which prevail 

* Thus the conductors of the Princeton Repertoiy are quits indignant 
at the supposition that the course which they and their friends pursue 
should be construed as implying that they are in any way the advocates 
of slavery. They say, (Repertory, 1844,) "The very title of the book to 
which we have so often referred is <■ A Review of Dr. Junkin's Synodical 
Speech in defence of American Slavery.' Dr. Junkin's speech, however, 
is simply an argument to prove that slaveholding is not a crime, and there- 
fore that 'believing masters ought not be excommunicated from the church 
of God.' This is called a defence of American slavery ! i. e. of the whole 
system of slave laws now in force in this country. There is no lielp for 
men wlw mill act thus." 


on this point at the South, are expressed in the most decisive 
language. Thus, in a passage ah'eady quoted, tbey say : 

" It is on all hands acknowledged, that, at the time of the 
advent of Jesus Christ, slavery in its w^orst forms prevailed 
over the whole world. The Saviour found it around him in 
Judea ;* the apostles met with it in Asia, Greece, and Italy. 
How did they treat it ? Not by the denunciation of slave- 
holding as necessarily and universally sinful. Not by de- 
claring that all slaveholders were men-stealers and robbers, 
and consequently to be excluded from the church and the 
kingdom of heaven. Not by insisting on immediate emanci- 
pation. Not by appeals to the passions of men on the evils 
of slavery, or by the adoption of a system of universal agita- 
tion. On the contrary, it was by teaching the true nature, 
dignity, equality, and destiny of men ; by inculcating the 
principles of justice and love ; and by leaving these principles 
to produce their legitimate effects in ameliorating the condi- 
tion of all classes of society." 

Again they say : 

** We think, therefore, that the true method for Christians 
to treat this subject, is to follow the example of Christ and his 
apostles in relation both to despotism and slavery. Let them 
enforce as moral duties the great principles of justice and 
mercy, and all the specific commands and precepts of the 

And again, in their article in 1844, they reiterate these 
views still more distinctly : 

" It is also evident, that acting in accordance with these 
principles would soon improve the condition of the slaves, 
would make them intelligent, moral, and religious, and thus 
work out to the benefit of all concerned, and the removal of the 
institution. For slavery, like despotism, supposes the actual 
inferiority and consequent dependence of those held in sub- 
jection. Neither can be perm^ent. Both may be prolonged 

'* There is no evidence, however, as I have endeavoured to show, of that. 


by keeping the subject class degraded, that is by committing 
sin on a large scale, which is only to treasure up ^vrath for 
the day of wrath. It is only the antagonist fanaticism of a 
fragment of the South, which maintains the doctrine that 
slavery is in itself a good thing, and ought to be perpetuated. 
It cannot by possibility be perpetuated." 

But from these views, so plainly expressed, shall we infer 
that the conductors of the Repertory wish to be understood as 
the advocates of American slavery ? Shall we infer that they 
regard it as an institution which it is desirable to perpetuate, 
and which the Christian religion is adapted and designed to 
perpetuate ? However such a conclusion would seem to fol- 
low from some portions of their reasoning, and howeA'^er cer- 
tainly such an impression will go forth from some of their 
statements, adapted to soothe the consciences of slaveholders 
at the South, yet there are other portions of their argument 
with Avhich such a conclusion would be entirely at variance ; 
portions in which they distinctly express the opinion that 
the system is an evil, and that the effect of the gospel 
would be gradually to remove it, because it is so. Thus they 
say :— 

" We have little apprehension that any one can so far mis- 
take our object, or the purport of our remarks, as to suppose 
either that we regard slavery as a desirable institution, or 
that we approve of the slave laws of the Southern states. So 
far from this being the case, the extinction of slavery, and 
the amelioration of those laws, are as sincerely desired by us, 
as by any of the abolitionists. 

"If it be asked what would be the consequence of thus 
acting on the principles of the gospel, of following the 
example and obeying the precepts of Christ ? We answer, 
the gradual elevation of the slaves in intelligence, virtue, and 
wealth ; the peaceable and speedy extinction of slavery ; the 
improvement in general prosperity of all classes of society, 
and the consequent increase in the sum of human happiness 
and virtue. This has been the result of acting on these prin- 


ciples in all past ages ; and just in proportion as they have 
been faithfully observed. 

"Besides the two methods mentioned above, in which 
slavery dies a natural and easy death, there are two others 
by which, as history teaches us, it may be brought to an end. 
The one is by the non-slaveholders, in virtue of their autho- 
rity in the state to which the slaves and their masters belonged, 
passing laws for its extinction. Of this, the Northern states 
and Great Britain are examples. The other is by servile 
insurrections. The former of these two methods is of course 
out of the question, as it regards most of the Southern states ; 
for in almost all of them the slave-owners have the legislative 
power in their own hands. The South, therefore, has to 
choose between emancipation by the silent and holy influence 
of the gospel, securing the elevation of the slaves to the 
stature and character of freemen, or to abide the issue of a 
long-continued conflict against the laws of God." 

Now if it is fair to conclude that the views entertained by the 
conductors of the Repertory, when they recommend the in- 
culcation of the relative duties of the master and the slave, and 
the silent influence of the gospel, are not inconsistent with the 
belief that they do not regard " slavery as a desirable institu- 
tion," and that they suppose the gospel would produce its 
certain extinction, it is fair to infer the same thing of the 
apostles, and to conclude that they did not regard it as " a de- 
sirable institution," and that they supposed they were adopt- 
ing the most wise and judicious means to remove what they 
considered as an evil. Moreover, if the course which is 
pursued by the conductors of the Repertory be such as to 
free them from the charge of Jesuitism and dishonest dealing, 
while they are recommending a method adapted to secure the 
entire removal of the system — by a quiet influence — by the 
inculcation of principles — by the silent operation of the system 
'producing the gradual elevation of the slaves in intelligence, 
virtue, and worth, and the peaceable and speedy extinction of 
slavery' — why should they have inferred that the very same 



course, if pursued by the apostles, would have befen dishonest 
and Jesuitical ? Why should it be charged on them as wrong, 
when the same course is recommended by those Avho admit 
that the gospel would remove it as ' an undesirable institution,' 
and who become indignant when it is suggested that they 
are the advocates of slavery or the apologists for it ? Would 
they not desire that it should be understood that, while they 
recommend this course, they are the friends of liberty ; that 
they prefer freedom for themselves and their children to bond- 
age ; that they suppose that the gospel will promote liberty 
wherever it has its fair influence in the world, and that it con- 
tains principles which are hostile to slavery ? Would they 
wish it to b& supposed that they desire that slavery should be 
extended and perpetuated on the earth ? Assuredly not— 
for they express the belief that the effect of the silent 
influence of Christianity would be to remove it entirely 
from the world ; that is, that it is an evil — for Christianity 
removes nothing that is good. The doctrine of the Princeton 
Repertory, as I understand it, is, that men are to go into those 
portions of our country in which slavery exists, and to incul- 
cate the truths of the gospel ; to instruct the master and the 
slave in their respective duties ; to lay down principles which 
will gradually remove the evils of t^e system, and ultimately 
abolish it altogether ; and to do this with a view and inten- 
tion that this shall be the result. Is this course honest, or is 
it Jesuitical ? If honest now, was it not in the days of the 
apostles ? If it is consistent now with a sincere aversion to 
the system, and a belief that the principles of the gospel are 
opposed to it, was it not then ? Would it be exactly right for 
any one, from the course which they recommend, to represent 
the conductors of the Repertory as the friends and advocates 
•of slavery, and as desiring its perpetuity ? If it would not, 
is it proper to represent the apostles, when pursuing just such 
measures as they recommend, as the friends of the sjj'stem, 
or as Jesuitical in their manner of treating it ? The whole 
matter on this point is clear. If the apostles supposed that 


the gospel which they preached would ultimately abolish the 
system, they regarded it as an evil. If they left that impres- 
sion as fairly deducible from their writings, then they were 
honest men, and cannot be charged with duplicity. 

(c) I would remark, then, that they did not leave a false 
impression on this subject. They did not leave it to be fairly 
deduced from their conduct or their writings that they re- 
garded it as a good system, or as desirable to be perpetuated. 
This point will be more fully considered in another part of 
the argument. Here, it may be observed, in general, that 
they never enjoin it as a duty, or speak of it as proper or 
desirable, for Christians to hold slaves ; they never express 
any approbation whatever of the system ; they never speak 
of it as they do of marriage and similar institutions, as honour- 
able ; they never enjoin it on the masters to continue to hold 
their slaves in bondage ; they never even say to a slave that 
it is right for his master to hold him in bondage, or recom- 
mend obedience or submission on that ground ; they never 
leave the impression on his mind that liberty would not be 
better than servitude. They represent it as a hard system ; lay 
down principles which would lead every Christian master, if 
he followed them, to emancipate his slaves as soon as possible ; 
endeavour to comfort slaves as in a condition that was hard 
and undesirable ; advise them to avail themselves of the 
opportunity of becoming free if it is in their power, (1 Cor. 
vii. 21, ii xa,i Svvaaai,); and direct them, if they cannot obtain 
their freedom on earth, to look forward to that world where 
every fetter will be broken, and they will be free for ever. If 
it shall appear, as I trust it will, that the apostles gave this 
representation of slavery, then it is doing them great injustice 
to speak of them as friends of the system, or to say that their 
conduct was chargeable with pusillanimity or duplicity. 

{d) One other remark should be made here, in inquiring 
whether they were honest men if they were really opposed 
to slavery, and how far their conduct should direct us in the 
treatment of this subject. It is, that they were aW foreigners 


in those countries where slavery prevailed. They had no 
agency in making or administering the laws. We have. "We 
make and administer the laws ourselves. The apostles could 
not change the state of things then existing by a vote. The 
American people can. They had no vote ; they could effect 
changes in a community only by a slow moral influence. The 
people of the slaveholding states can produce changes on this 
subject at the polls ; can make any changes which they please. 
Their responsibility, then, was of a different kind from that 
of the people of the slaveholding states. The only thing 
which they could do was to lay down principles ; to mould 
the public mind by a moral influence ; and to leave the im- 
pression of their opinions on the age in which they lived. 
The responsibility of the people where slavery exists in our 
land is of a different character altogether. The question is 
whether they shall sustain the system by their votes ; or 
whether, in connection with such moral influences as may 
be used, they shall use the power which they have, and put 
an end to it : and whatever may be their duty on that point, 
it is clear that they cannot refer to the example of the apostles 
to guide them in it. They never could cast a vote that could 
in any way affect slavery ; they could do nothing in making 
or administering the laws which sustained it. 

§ 3. The question whether the general conduct of the Apos- 
tles is consistent with the belief that they approved of 
Slavery, and desired its perpetuity. 

A very material question here presents itself, which is, 
whether the general conduct of the apostles, above referred to, 
is consistent with the supposition that they regarded slavery 
as a good institution, and desired that it should be perpe- 
tuated ? Was it such as to make a Christian master feel that 
he was doing right, or acting consistently with his religion, in 
asserting a claim of property over those who were his fellow 
Christians ? 


In examining the method in which they treated the subject, 
with reference to these points, I would make the following 
remarks : — (1.) No argument in favour of slavery can be de- 
rived from any express statements in the New Testament 
affirming its justice or propriety. This is not pretended by 
any of the advocates of slavery, and obviously cannot be. 
There are no such statements of its propriety ; of the desira- 
bleness of the relation ; of the purpose of God that it should 
be perpetuated in the world. It is impossible for an advocate 
of slavery to appeal to the New Testament to sustain him in 
the right which he claims over a slave, in any such sense as 
a man can appeal to the New Testament to sanction his right 
to worship God ; to search the Scriptures ; to enjoy the avails 
of his own labour ; to form his own opinions ; to control his 
children, &c. And this, in the circumstances of the case, is 
much. At a time when slavery prevailed everywhere, it 
could not but have occurred to those to whom the gospel 
was preached, to inquire whether it was right and proper, 
and whether it was consistent wiU^ the Christian religion. 
There would be tender and troubled consciences on the sub- 
ject. It was in fact a matter of .discussion among the heathen 
themselves whether it was right, aiid many of their philoso- 
phers had declared themselves decidedly against it.* Thus, 
Alcidimas, the scholar of Gorgias of Leontium, says: "All 
come free from the hands of God ; nature has made no man a 
slave." Philemon says : " Though he is a slave, yet he has 
the same nature as ourselves. No one was ever born a slave, 
though his body may be brought by misfortune into subjec- 
tion." Aristotle, indeed, vindicated slavery, on the ground of 
the natural superiority of one man over another. Xenophon 
and Socrates raised no objection against the institution of 
slavery. Plato, in his Republic, only desires that no Greeks 
may be reduced to slavery. The question, therefore, among 

* See the article of Prof. B. B. Edwards on " Slavery in Ancient 
Greece," in the Biblical Repository, vol. v., pp. 155 — 160. 



the Greeks was unsettled, and it was regarded as a debatable 
matter whether slavery was right or wrong. Many of the 
philosophers had doubts of its justice and propriety, and un- 
questionably many more of the common people had. Now, 
in these circumstances, it is much that there is no express 
permission of it in the New Testament ; that there is no un- 
equivocal assertion in favour of the system ; that there is 
no unqualified declaration of an apostle that would have put 
these scruples to rest. 

Equally clear is it that there is no express permission 
given to Christians to hold slaves. There is, in the New 
Testament, no reference to the fact that it was tolerated in the 
Mosaic institutions ; there is no statement that it had ever 
been or Avas right that men should be bought and sold ; there 
is no intimation that it was regarded as a good and desirable 
institution, and that it was intended that it should be perpe- 
tuated. If it shall appear that the apostles laid down any 
principles which would seem to militate against the institu- 
tion, and to raise any scgiples in the minds of conscientious 
men who held slaves, they were at no pains to explain 
themselves, or to give ease to a conscience that might be 
troubled, on the subject. And if a Christian master at the 
present time, either from the workings of natural humanity in 
his soul, or from the influence of the principles laid down in 
the New Testament, should be troubled in his conscience in 
regard to his i-ight to hold slaves, there is no part of the 
apostolic writings to which he could turn to allay his feelings 
and calm his scruples, by any thing like a distinct declaration 
that slavery is right. Now, in regard to such an institution, 
so much apparently against 'human rights, and against the 
principles of the New Testament, it is not too much to 
demand of those who suppose that it is sanctioned by the 
apostles, that they should adduce some express Statement 
to that effect, or some distinct permission to Christians to 
hold their fellow-men in- bondage. But it is clear that if^ 


the continuance of slavery depended on this, universal freedom 
would be inevitable. 

(2.) No argument in favour of slavery can be derived from 
the precepts of the apostles to the masters. 

I have already conceded that the apostles admitted holders 
of slaves to the church, on evidence that they were truly con- 
verted ; and that they addressed important precepts to them in 
that relation; and that among those precepts they did not 
require them immediately to emancipate their slaves, as a 
condition of good standing in the church. 

The question now is, whether this fact can be fairly con- 
strued as demonstrating that they regarded slavery as rio-ht, 
and designed that it should be perpetuated. The affirmative 
of this is confidently maintained by the advocates of the 
system. Thus Dr. Fuller* says : 

" I come now to what I have announced as proof on the 
question before us. It is the precepts to masters. And 
here let it be still remembered, that the Old Testament is con- 
stantly referred to by the apostles as of divine origin, and that 
there slavery had, by express precept, been sanctioned ; and I 
put it to any one, whether the precepts to masters, enjoining 
of course their whole duty, and not requiring, not exhorting 
them to emancipate their slaves, are not conclusive proof that 
the apostles did not consider (and, as a New Testament pre- 
cept is for all ages, that no one is now justified in denouncing) 
slaveholding as a sin. These precepts are so regardful of the 
slave that they even require the master to ' forbear threaten- 
ing,' yet not an intimation as to emancipation. These pre- 
cepts were to men anxious to know the vv^hole will of God, and. 
ready to die (as multitudes did die) rather than commit sin, 
and who were not prevented by law, as we are, from giving 
liberty to their bondmen. Yet the apostles do not even insi- 
nuate that slaveholding is a sin. The apostles solemnly took 
heaven to witness that they had ' kept back nothing ;' and in 
addressing, not only the people, but the pastors, who w^ere to 

* Letters to Dr. Wayland, pp. 194, 195. 


teach the people and bequeath their ministry to their succes- 
sors, they asserted their purity from the blood of all men, be- 
cause they ' had not shunned to declare the whole counsel of 
God.' Yet they had shunned even to hint to masters that 
they were living in a ' sin of appalling magnitude ;' and had 
kept back truth, which, if you are right, was of tremen- 
dous importance. Lastly, a whole epistle (to which you do 
not allude) was addressed to a pious master, whom Paul styles 
a ' brother dearly beloved ;' and its entire contents were about 
his slave. This letter was written, too, when th& apostle 
styles himself ' Paul the aged,' sixty or seventy years after the 
first promulgation of the gospel, and when surely the spirit 
and principles you speak of ought to have begun to operate." 

The supposed argument from the epistle to Philemon, on 
which much reliance, also, is placed, will be considered in 
another place. In reference to the other portions of the argu- 
ment, I would make the following remarks : — The precepts 
addressed to masters, as suck, in the New Testament, are two, 
and two only:, "And 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;" and Col. iv. 1, " Masters, render unto your servants that 
which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a master 
in heaven." There are no other passages in the New Testa- 
ment which can be considered as directly addressed to the 
owners of slaves ; and if a slaveholder can take shelter under 
any such address to himself, as sanctioning his claim, it must 
be found in these two verses. Let us inquire, then, whether 
an owner of slaves -could find a sanction for continuing this 
relation in these passages of the New Testament. To deter- 
mine this, it is necessary to look at them in connection with 
certain other declarations of the New Testament, which the 
owners of slaves could not but regard as demanding their 

(«) What do these passages really prove ? What sanction 
do they give to slavery ? What right do they give to the 


master to continue the relation ? They simply inculcate on 
masters the duty of treating their slaves as they would wish to 
be treated, and to remember that they have a master in heaven. 
Do they say that the master has a right to hold them in bond- 
age ; to regard them as property ; to sell them to whom he 
pleases ; to avail himself of their unrequited labour ; to make 
all their religious privileges and rights dependent only on 
his will ? They say no such thing ; they imply no such 
thing ; fairly interpreted, they would go against any such 

And yet it is on such passages as these that the master 
must ground his right to continue to hold his fellow-men in 
bondage, if he founds that right on the precepts addressed to 
him in the New Testament ; for there are no other. It is 
impHed in the argument which is derived from these passages, 
that they sanction the whole system of domestic slavery, and 
grant a universal permission to establish and maintain it at all 
times,. and in all lands, and are proof that it was the intention 
of the Author of the Christian religion that the system should 
be perpetuated. They are supposed to sanction the right of 
one man, w^ho has the power, to compel a human being, a 
fellow-creature, a man redeemed by the blood of Christ, and 
an heir of salvation, to labour for him, without his own con- 
sent, and to be subject wholly to his will. They are supposed 
to sanction all the claim which is set up by the master over 
such a man — the right to withhold from him the Bible ; to 
forbid his marrying the object of his affections ; to regulate 
his food and clothing and mode of living ; to control his chil- 
dren ; and to give him a right, when he pleases, to sunder 
his connection with his wife and children for ever, and to sell 
him, or her, or them, to any one whom he pleases. They 
are supposed to sanction the right to all that such a man can 
earn, and all by which he can in any way contribute to the 
wealth, the ease, or the luxurious indulgence of the master. 
Everything that enters essentially into the system of slavery; 
all the claims which a master asserts over his slaves ; all the 


laws which go to uphold the system, — all these are supposed to 
be sanctioned by these two injunctions. * 

Well may we ask, in the words of Dr. Wayland, (pp. 83, 
84,) whether there was " ever such a moral superstructure 
raised on such a foundation ? The doctrine of purgatory, from 
a verse of Maccabees ; the doctrine of the papacy, from the 
saying of Christ to Peter ; the estabhshment of the Inquisi- 
tion, from the obhgation to extend the knowledge of religious 
truth, — all these seem as nothing to it. If the religion of Christ 
allows such a license from such precepts as these, the New 
Testament would be the greatest curse that ever was inflicted 
on our race." 

(b) But in order to see the exact bearing of these precepts, 
and to understand whether they could properly be regarded 
by a Christian master as sanctioning his claim over a human 
being, they should be considered in connection with other 
things, in which he would feel himself to be concerned, and 
certain representations made in the New Testament which 
he could not but regard as having an important bearing on 
him, and on the question of his duty to his slaves. The object 
now is to obtain a just view of the attitude in which a master 
would be placed, with -all the statements of the New Testa- 
ment before his mind that could be considered to relate to his 
duty to his slaves. What would he do, or how would he 
esteem this system, under the influence of all the doctrines 
and precepts laid down in the New Testament that could be 
regarded as applicable to him in this relation ? To see this, 
let the following things be borne in mind : 

(1.) The right of the master to the slave, as already ob- 
served, is never once recognised, either in so many words, or 
in any expressions which fairly imply it. It is not found in 
any statement of his right in general, or in detail. It is never 
said that he is the lawful owner of the slave, or that the rela- 
tion is good and desirable, or that it is contemplated by Chris- 
tianity that it should be continued ; nor is it anywhere said 
that he has the right to avail himself of the labour of the slave. 


or to interfere with his relations to his wife or children, or to 
prescribe the time or the mode in which he shall worship God. 
There is not one thing which enters essentially into the 
nature of slavery, for which an explicit precept of the New 
Testament can be pleaded. It is not said that he has a right 
to enforce obedience, or even to require it of his slaves. It 
is indeed enjoined on servants that they be obedient to their 
masters, as it was on subjects to be obedient to the laws of 
Nero ; but there is no authority given to masters to require or 
enforce such obedience, any more than there is to Nero, or 
any other bloody tyrant. What was the duty of the servant 
in the premises, and what were the obligations of the master, 
are different questions, and the one throws no hght on the 
other. When a man strikes me, it is my duty to receive the 
bloviT with a proper spirit ; but this furnishes no sanction for 
his conduct. 

Now this undeniable fact, that the right of the master over 
the person and the services of the slave is never recognised 
at all in the New Testament, is a most important fact, andin 
the circumstances of the case could not but have an important 
bearing on the whole subject in the view of the early Chris- 
tians. How could it be that he would not be led to ask the 
question, as already remarked, whether the apostles regarded 
it as right ? If an owner of slaves in the United States were 
now to appeal to the New Testament to justify what is actu- 
all}'' done, to what part of the New Testament would he look ? 
Where would he find a distinct precept, giving him a right 
to buy a fellow being? Or to hold him as property ? Or to sell 
him ? Or to separate him from his wife and children ? Or to 
withhold from him the Bible ? Or to feed him on coarse fare, 
and to clothe him in coarse raiment, in order that he himself 
and his family might be supported in indolency and luxury ? 
For not one of these things will he find a direct precept or 
permission in the New Testament ; and yet all of them are 
things which are unlawful without such a precept or per- 


(2.) The New Testament lays down the doctrine, in terms so 
plain that a holder of slaves could not be ignorant of it, that 
all men are by nature equal in regard to their rights; that 
there is no distinction of blood, or caste, or complexion that 
can justify such an institution as that of slavery. It is one 
of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity — a doctrine on 
which the whole system is based, and which sends its influence 
into every portion of the system — that God " hath made of 
one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of 
the earth." Acts xviii. 26. They are descended from the 
same earthly ancestors, and are children alike of the same 
heavenly Parent. Whatever distinction of complexion there 
may be, it is a doctrine of the Bible that all belong to one 
and the same great family, and that in the most important 
matters pertaining to their existence they are on a level. By 
nature, one is no more the favourite of Heaven than another ; 
one has no rights over another. Now, this doctrine, which 
lies everywhere on the face of the Bible, could not but be seen 
by a conscientious Christian master in the times of the apos- 
tles, to strike at one of the fundamental conceptions on which 
slavery is based — the essential superiority of one class of men 
over another. It was on this ground professedly that Aristotle 
advocated slavery ;* and if it were not for this conception, 
slavery could not long exist at all. I need not say that ex- 
tensively at the South now in our own country, it is maintamed 
that the riegro belongs to a race essentially inferior to the white 
man, and that by his physical incapacity it may be demon- 
strated that he was designed by his Creator to be in a condition 
of servitude ; nor need I say that this idea of essential inferior- 
ity contributes much, even among good men, though often un- 
consciously to themselves, to perpetuate the system. All over 
the world it would probably be found that one of the essential 
things on which the institution of servitude rests, is this sup- 
position of the natural inferiority of one class to another, "and 

* See Biblical Repository, as above. 


the moment when that shall be made to disappear, and the con- 
ception shall fully enter the mind, that, whatever difference of 
complexion or physical characteristics of any kind there may 
be, there is essential equality ; that all are the children of 
God alike ; that the same blood flows in all human veins ; 
that every human being is a brother- — that moment a death- 
blow will be given to slavery, from which it Avill never 
recover. I need not say that whatever support the system 
was supposed to derive among the ancients from the inequa- 
lity of men, or the inferiority of one class to another, or what- 
ever it may be supposed to derive from the same consider- 
ation now, this receives no countenance from the New 
Testament. It would be impossible for a Christian master to 
derive the least sanction to his claim to the service of others, 
from any intimation of the kind in that book. 

(3.) The New Testament lays down the doctrine that all 
are alike in a more important respect than in the equality of 
natural rights, and their being of the same family. All are 
redeemed by the same blood, and are heirs of the same glorious 
immortality. The same great sacrifice has been made for the 
slave which has been made for his master ; and so far as the 
purchase made by redemption affixes any stamp of value on the 
human soul, it proclaims that the soul of the slave is worth as 
much as that of the master. In every respect as a redeemed 
sinner ; as an heir of heaven ; as a child of God, the slave is 
on a level with his master. He has the same right to wor- 
ship God ; to partake of the ordinances of religion ; to pray ; 
to read the Bible. In the highest of all senses they are 
brethren — ransomed in the same way, and destined, if they 
are Christians, to live in the same heaven. It is unnecessary 
to attempt to prove this from the New Testament, for it lies 
on the face of the volume, and no one can call it in question. 

Yet it is impossible not to see what would be the bearing 
of this truth on the mind of a Christian master, and on the 
whole question of slavery. In spite of all reasoning to the 
contrary, the feeling must cross the mind of such a master 



that he has no right to hold a Christian brother in hondage ; 
to regard him as property ; to sell him to others ; to break up 
his domestic relations ; to interfere with any of his rights as a 
husband, a father, a son, or a Christian. The feeling will 
cross the mind that, as a redeemed man, he has the same rights 
as any other redeemed man ; that as Christ died for him, he 
is to be treated in every way as an heir of life ; that as all 
hope for the same heaven, no one has a right to rivet the 
fetters of bondage on another. A Christian master, in order 
to his having perfect peace in asserting his claims over a 
redeemed man as a slave, mw-sif feel that there ought' to be 
sortie explicit warrant for this in the New Testament ; and 
if there is any thing for which such a plain, unequivocal 
warrant should be adduced, it is for the asserted right of hold- 
ing a Christian brother,— a fellow-heir of life — a candidate for 
heaven,— as property ; the right to sell him or to keep him ; 
to alienate him by contract or by will ; to appropriate all the 
avails of his labour to our own use ; to regulate exactly his 
manner of living ; to separate him from wife, and children, and 
home ; and to determine the times and seasons, if any, when 
he may worship God. And when we ask for this explicit^ 
Avarrant, this unambiguous authority in the case, we are 
referred to two texts of the New Testament, enjoining on 
masters ' to do the same things to them, forbearing threaten- 
ing, knowing that they have a master in heaven ;' and ' to 
render to their servants that which is just and equal.' And 
this is all. This is the whole authority which is or can be 
adduced for reducing one for whom Christ died to bondage, 
and holding a Christian brother in the chains of perpetual 
servitude. Verily, a Christian master should be able to refer 
to some more e-xplicit authority than this. 

(4.) The fair influence of the injunctions on this subject in 
the New Testament, so far as a Christian master would feel 
himself addressed in them, would be to induce him to eman- 
cipate his slaves. If there was no explicit authority given 
to him to hold them in bondage ; if they were considered to 


be in all respects by nature on an equality with himself, 
and as having the same rights as he ; if they were re- 
garded as Christian brethren, redeemed by the same blood, 
and heirs of the same eternal life, the effect on the mind of a 
conscientious man would be inevitable. However he might 
have felt before he was made acquainted with the Chris- 
tian system, when these great doctrines of the cross were 
revealed to him, and he had embraced them, he could not but 
have felt their silent influence on the mind, leading him to 
the conclusion that Christianity designed that all should be 
free. The influence of these doctrines may be illustrated by 
a supposed case. At a time when it was the law of nations 
that all prisoners of war should be regarded as slaves, we may 
conceive of a man who had early left his home and country, 
and gone to a distant land. While there, among the captives 
which might be exposed to sale, might be a bright and beau- 
tiful female child. Impressed with the common sentiments 
respecting the rights over the captives taken in war, he may 
have purchased her without scruple, when exposed to sale, as 
his slave. What now would be his emotions, and what his 
views about the propriety of retaining her in bondage, if he 
should learn that she was his own sister ; born after he had 
left his home ; the daughter of his own beloved mother ? 
Would he suppose that he had a right to retain her as 
a slave ; to hold her as property ; to sell her to whom he 
pleased ? Much like this was the effect which Christianity 
was fitted to produce on the feelings and views of men 
in regard to slavery. Up to the time when its truths were 
made known, the great mass of mankind had no scruples 
about its propriety. They regarded one portion of the race 
as inferior to the other, and as born to be slaves. Christianity 
disclosed the great truth that all were on a level ; that all were 
equal ; that all were brethren. When this truth dawned on 
the soul, what must have been its effect on those who held 
their fellow-men in bondage ? That effect must have been 
not a little like that in the supposed case of the man who had 


unwittingly purchased his own sister, and now held her as a 

If we look more closely at the very precepts w^hich the 
apostles gave to 'masters,' and on which rehance is placed to 
justifj' them in holding their fellow-men in bondage, it must 
be apparent that this effect would follow from those very pre- 
cepts, even if th^re were no other on the subject in the 
New Testament. One of them (Eph. vi. 9) enjoins it on 
masters to ' do the same things unto them, forbearing threaten- 
ing, knowing that they had a master in heaven, and that 
there is no respect of persons with him.'' Would the effect 
of this precept be to lead him to infer that slavery was a good 
thing, and was to be perpetuated? The manifest object of 
the apostle in this passage is, to secure for servants a proper 
treatment ; to require the master to evince towards them the 
same spirit which he had enjoined on servants ; and to teach 
them to remember that they had a master in heaven who 
would require a strict account ; for ' there was no respect of 
persons with him.'' But this great and central trutli of the 
Christian religion, that ' there is tio respect of persons with' 
God,' is one which is by no means favourable to the per- 
petuity of slavery. A man who should have this constantly 
before his mind, and allow it to have its full influence on his 
heart, would not be long the owner of a slave. The direct 
tendency of it is to show him that his slave, in the sight of 
God, is equal to himself, and that before his high and impartial 
tribunal the rights of the slave would be regarded as much 
as those of the master. The other passage is still more de- 
cisive: " Masters, render unto your servants that ivhich is 
just and equal; knowing that ye also have a master in 
heaven." Col. iv. 1. What would be the fair effect of this 
on the mind of a conscientious Christian master? What 
would be 'just and equal' to a man in these circumstances? 
Would it not be {a) to compensate him fairly for his labour ; 
to furnish him an adequate remuneration for what he had 
earned ? But this would strike a blow at the root of slavery. 


for one of the elementary principles of the system is, that 
there ^niist be ' unrequited labour ;' that is, the slave must 
earn as much more than he receives, as will do his part in 
maintaining his master and his family in idleness. If he 
and they were disposed to earn their own living, they would 
not need the labour of slaves. (6) If a man should in fact 
render to his slaves 'that which is just and equal,' would he 
not restore them to freedom ? Would any thing short of this 
be all that is just and equal? In the case of our own sons, 
if they were reduced to slavery, could we feel that any thing 
short of restoration to freedom would meet the claims of jus- 
tice ? Have not slaves in every instance been deprived of their 
liberty by injustice? Are they not retained in their condition 
by a practical denial of their equality with other men ? Is it 
not now both unjust, and a denial of their equality with others, 
to continue that relation any longer ? And would not justice 
to them restore them to freedom ? What has the slave done 
to forfeit his right to liberty ? What has he or his forefathers 
done to make it 'just' that it should be contemplated that he 
and his posterity should be held in bondage /o?- ever? And is 
he not now retained in his present condition, every day and 
hour, by withholding that which is 'equal?' Has he now 
' equal' rights, and ' equal' privileges with other men ? Has 
he not been cut- off from them by denying- him the equality 
to which he is entitled in the arrangements of God's govern- 
ment? Can he be held at all without violating all the just 
notions of equality? This passage, therefore, contains a 
principle which would 'lay the axe at the root' of slavery 

Now, suppose a man to be fairly under the influence of 
these undoubted principles of Christianity. Let him be im- 
bued with the conviction that God has made of one blood all 
the human race ; that all are by nature equal before him ; 
that all have been redeemed by the same great sacrifice on 
the cross, showing no respect to colour, caste, or rank ; that 
all true Christians are brethren — belonging to the same family 



and fellow-heirs of the grace of life ; and that it is a duty to 
render to all that which is just and equal ; and to these things 
let him add the golden rule of the Saviour, and what sanction 
would these two passages (Eph. vi. 9, and Col. iv. 1) really 
give to the system of slavery ? What would be the fair 
influence of all the precepts of Christianity which the master 
could regard as appropriate to him, and bearing on his duty ? 
Would it be — could it be, to satisfy his conscience that the 
apostles meant to teach that it was right for him as a Chris- 
tian man to hold his brother—his fellow Christian — as pro- 
perty ; and to regard him as, in any sense, a 'chattel' or a 
* thing ?' Could he feel this — when it is never said, and when 
it is never even implied? No ! no man under the full and 
fair influence of these principles could feel thus. 

T7ie case of Onesimus, the servant of Philemon. 

In pursuing the inquiry whether the precepts addressed to 
masters furnish a sanction for slavery, there is a propriety in 
examining, with a somewhat more rigid attention, the case of 
Onesimus, the servant of Philemon. This is especially im- 
portant, from the reliance which is reposed on that case by the 
advocates of slavery. The epistle to Philemon is often re- 
ferred to by them as full proof that the sanction of the New 
Testament is given to slavery ; and, indeed, it would seem to 
be regarded as so clear on the point, that all that is necessary 
is to name this epistle as settHng the whole matter in debate. 
The points which it is supposed to prove are two : — -first, that 
slavery is right, since it is assumed that Onesimus was a 
slave, and that Paul, in writing to his master Philemon, does 
not intimate that the relation was contrary to the spirit of 
Christianity ; and second, that it is our duty to restore a slave 
to his master, if he runs away — since it is assumed that Paul 
did this in the case of Onesimus.* This argument is con- 

* Comp. Dr. Fuller on Slavery, in his Letters to Dr. Wayland, pp. 194, 


Btantly referred to by the advocates of slavery at the North as 
well as at the South. 

It cannot be denied that this view of the matter would be 
sustained by most of the commentaries on this epistle ; but it 
is time to inquire whether that exposition is the true one, and 
whether this epistle gives any sanction to slavery in these 
respects. Perhaps a not less important inquiry also would 
be, whether the common interpretation put on this epistle, as 
sustaining slavery, could be made to commend itself to the 
innate sense of mankind as what a revelation ivould teach ; 
and especially whether it could be so commended to slaves 
themselves as to make them feel that a book which taught 
the doctrine commonly supposed to be taught in it, could be 
a revelation from God.* In order to this, it is important to 

* A very affecting illustration of the use which is often made of this 
epistle at the South in defence of slavery, and of the innate conviction of 
thc^ slaves themselves that a revelation from God cannot inculcate the 
doctrine that is derived from it, and of the distrust and suspicion excited 
in the minds of slaves against the ministers of the gospel when they 
declare that this epistle docs sanction slavery, is found in the Tenth An- 
nual Report of the "Association for the Religious Instruction of the Ne- 
groes in Liberty county, Georgia." In that report, the missionary, the 
Rev. C. C. Jones, frankly says : — " Allow me to relate a fact which occurred 
in the spring of this year, illustrative of the character and knowledge of the 
negroes at this time. I was preaching to a large congregation on the Epis- 
tle to Philemon; and when I insisted upon fidelity and obedience as 
Christian virtues in servants, and, upon the authority of Paul, condemned 
the practice of running away, one half of my audience deliberately rose 
up and walked off with themselves, and those that i-emained looked any 
thing but satisfied, either with the preacher or his doctrine. After dis- 
mission, there was no small stir among them : some solemnly declared 
' that there was no such epistle in the Bible ;' others, ' that it was not the 
gospel;' others, 'that I preached to please masters;' others, 'that they 
did not care if they ever heard me preach again.' " — pp. 24, 25. This is 
a very instructive passage on the subject of slavery. Mr. Jones has shown 
himself by his labours to be a sincere friend of the coloured man, and to 
he truly desirous of his welfare, and has been making a very interesting 


know exactly what was the state of the case in relation to 
these points — for in interpreting the NeAV Testament it should 
not be assumed that any part of it is in favour of slavery, any 
more than it may be assumed in respect to polygamy, pro- 
faneness, adultery, or any other sin. The points which it is 
necessary to make out, in order to prove that the epistle of 
Philemon may be urged in favour of slavery, are, that Onesi- 
mus was actually a slave ; that Paul returned him against his 
will to his former master ; that he sent him back because he 
supposed he had done wrong by escaping from servitude ; 
that he so expressed himself in the letter to his master as to 
show that he was not unfriendly to the system, or regarded it 
as not inconsistent with the spirit of the Christian religion ; 
and that he meant that Onesimus should continue to be held 
as a slave, after his return to Philemon. Now, in regard to 
these points, I would make the following remarks : — 

experiment — which, from the nature of the case, must ultimately be a 
failure — to see whether true religion can be propagated and maintained 
among a people by mere oral instruction, and where the slave is forbidden 
by law to have free access to the oracles of God. If Mr. Jones had been 
trained under different influences, and had adopted a different method of 
interpreting this epistle ; if he had been able, consistently with his views 
of truth, in expounding it to his congregation of slaves, to have said that 
there was no certain evidence that Onesimus was a slave at all; that when 
he was away, and had been converted to Christianity, he may have felt 
that he had wronged Philemon, and on many accounts wished to return 
to him ; that there is no proof that Paul sent him back against his will, 
or even advised him to go, but that, seeing he was desirous to return, he 
gave him a kind letter to Philemon, to induce him to be willing to receive 
him again- ; and that, even supposing he had been a slave, Paul expressly 
directed him not to regard and treat him any more as a slave, but as in all 
respects a Christian brother, it cannot be doubted that his audience would 
have all retained their seats. That view would have accorded well enough 
with their common sense, and with what they would expect to find in a 
revelation from the Father of all mankind ; it is no wonder that they 
could not be persuaded that the other view was any part of a revelation 
from heaven. 


(«.) There is no positive or certain evidence that Onesi- 
mus was a slave at all. Even if it should be admitted to be 
probable that he was, it would be necessary, in order that the 
epistle might be adduced in favour of slavery, that the fact 
should be made out without any ground of doubt, or the argu- 
ment is worthless — for the only conceivable force in the argu- 
ment is, that he was a slave. Just so far as there is any doubt 
about that, so far is the argument of no value. It is clear 
that the epistle can, under any circumstances, be adduced in 
favour of slavery only so far as it is certain that Onesimus 
had been a slave. But that is not certain. It cannot be made 
to be certain, and it should not be taken for granted. Either 
of the suppositions that he was bound to service till he was 
of age by a parent or guardian, or that, he had voluntarily 
obhgated himself to serve for wages, if true, would be fatal to 
the argument derived from this epistle in favour of slavery ; 
and in order to that argument, it must be shown by fair exe- 
gesis that neither of these suppositions accord with what is 
said of him by the apostle. 

What, then, is the evidence that Onesimus was a slave ? 
^11 the proof that there can be on that point must be derived 
from ver. 16, and all the evidence in that verse is in the fact 
that he is there called " a servant,''^ — Sov?loj. " Not now as a 
servant." What evidence that verse affords that,^/" he were 
a slave, Paul did not mean that the relation should be conti- 
nued, will be considered hereafter. The question now is, 
whether the mere apphcation of the term " servant" to him — 
hov%oi — necessaTily proves that he was a slave ? 

From the remarks which I have before made on the mean- 
ing of the Greek word rendered servant — Soixo? — it is evident, 
I trust, that nothing certain can be determined, from the mere 
use of this word, in regard to the condition of one to whom it 
is applied. It is not the pecuhar and distinctive word which 
in the Greek language denotes a slave — though like our word 
servant, it was often, perhaps usually applied to a slave. 
Like that word, it is of a general character, and would be ap- 


plied to any one who was engaged in the service of another, 
whether bound by a parent or guardian, or whether he en- 
gaged voluntarily to serve another, or whether he was pur- 
chased as a slave, or whether he was a serf attached to the 
soil. The word denotes servant of any kind, and it should 
never he assumed that those to whom it was applied were 
slaves. Unless there is some circumstance stated which will 
enable us to determine what kind of a servant any one was, 
it can never be ascertained by the mere use of the word. In. 
the instance before us, there is no circumstance mentioned by 
which it can be determined whether Onesimus was a volun- 
tary or involuntary servant, and no advocate of slavery has a 
right to assume that he was a slave. It cannot be inferred, 
from the fact that he had run away from his master, that he 
was a slave, for indented apprentices often do this ; and those 
who have made a voluntary contract to labour for others do 
this, and by doing it are guilty of all the wrong here 
charged on Onesimus. It cannot be inferred, from the fact 
that Paul sent him back to his master, that he was a slave, for 
this might have occurred if he had been a bound servant, an 
apprentice, or even one who had voluntarily agreed to labour 
in the employment of Philemon ; and, as we shall see, there is 
no evidence whatever that Paul compelled him to return 
against his will. Jill that is said of him in ver. 16 of the 
epistle, or in any other part of the epistle, would be met by 
the supposition that he was a voluntary servant, and that he 
had been in fact intrusted with important business by Phile- 
mon. No man has a right to assume that when the word 
hovXoi; — doulos — occurs in the New Testament, it means a 
slave, or that he to whom it was applied was a slave ; (comp. 
Mark x. 44; Luke ii. 29, xvii. 10; Acts ii. 18, iv. 29, xvi. 
17; Rom. i. 1, vi. 16; 2 Cor. iv. 5; Rev. i. 1, ii. 20, &c. 
&c. ;) and yet, vnthout such an assumption, it is impossible to 
prove that Onesimus sustained this relation. 

(h.) There is not the least evidence that Paul used any 
force, or even persuasion, to induce Onesimus to return to 


Philemon. It cannot be inferred from the epistle, that he 
even advised him to return. All that even looks like evi- 
dence on this point is found in ver. 12 of the epistle : "Whom, 
/ have sent again : thou therefore receive him, that is, mine 
own bowels." But all the circumstances of the case make it 
probable, or certainly not improbable, that this was at his own 
request, and there is nothing in the expression which will not 
be fully met by stich a supposition. (1) The language does 
not necessarily imply that he compelled him to. go, or even 
urged him to do it. It is just such as would have been used 
on the supposition, either that he requested him to go and 
convey a letter to Colosse, or that Onesimus desired to go, and 
that Paul sent him, agreeably to his request. Comp. Phil. ii. 
25, " Yet I supposed it necessary, to send to you Epaphro- 
ditus, my brother and companion in labour," &c. ; Coloss. iv. 
7, "All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is 
a beloved brother, and a faithful minister, and fellow-servant 
in the Lord : whom / have sent unto you for the same pur- 
pose, that he might know your estate," &c. But Epaphro- 
ditus and Tychicus were not sent against their will, nor is 
there any more reason to think that Onesimxis was. Comp., 
for a similar use of the Greek word TtsfiHu, which does not 
differ in sense from the word here used, drtorta'^rtw, (fo sejid 
up, to send back,) so far as the point before us is concerned, 
Luke vii. 6, 10, 19, xx. 13 ; Acts x. 5, xv. 22 ; 1 Cor. iv. 
17; 2 Cor. ix. 3; Eph. vi. 22; Phil. ii. 19, 23, 28. The 
word here employed by the apostle is of such general import, 
that -on the supposition that Onesimus had a desire to return, 
or that Paul wished him to bear a message to a friend there, 
or to do any other service for him, this would be the very 
word which would be employed. There is nothing in the 
statement which forbids us to suppose that Onesimus was 
disposed to return to Philemon, and that Paul sent him at his 
own request. (2) Paul had no poiver to send Onesimus back 
to his master, unless he chose to go. He had no civil author- 
ity ; he had no guard to send him with ; he could intrust 


him to no sheriff to convey him from place to place, or to con- 
fine him in jail, if he were disposed to escape; and he had 
no means of controlling him, if he chose to go to any other 
place than Colosse. He could, indeed, have sent him away 
from himself; he could have told him to go to Colosse, but 
there his power ended. Onesimus then could have gone 
where he pleased. But there is no evidence that Paul even 
told him to go to Colosse against his own inclination, or that 
he would have sent him at all, if he had not requested it. 
And if he had, what probability is there that he would have 
been so pliant and passive as to return to a state of slavery? 
How many runaway slaves are there now, who would return 
to their masters on being merely told to do so ? Who ever 
saw one that would be willing to do it, even on the authority 
of an apostle ?* (3) There may have been many reasons why 
Onesimus desired to return to Colosse, and no one can prove 
that he did not express that desire to Paul, and that Paul sent 
him in consequence of that request. He may have had rela- 
tives and friends there ; or, being now converted, he may 

* An instance, illustrative of this, occurred once in my own experience. 
About twelve or fourteen years since, as I was entering the gate of my 
church, to go into my study, early in the morning, a fine-looking coloured 
man, apparently about twenty-five or thirty years of age, met me, and told 
me that he was a runaway slave, from Maryland, and wished some assist- 
ance. Influenced by feelings which commonly prevailed at that time, and, 
as I then thought, in accordance with the Bible, and probably having this 
very case of Onesimus in my eye, I endeavoured to show him the impro- 
priety of his leaving his master, and to convince him that he ought to 
return. But I could make not the least impression on his mind, and all 
my arguments had no force in his view whatever. For the eiTor which I 
committed in that case, I have for years felt regret, and have increasingly 
felt that I was bound to do something to help my fellow-men everywhere 
to the enjoyment of freedom, in every proper way ; and from that case, I 
am satisfied that it would be no easy thing to persuade a man, who had 
escaped from bondage, to return to it, even on apostolic authority. What 
slave has there ever been in the world, who has been induced to return by 
any such reasoning? 


have become sensible that he had, in some way, wronged his 
former master, and that he ought to return, and repair the 
wrong ; or he may have been poor, and a stranger in Rome, 
and may have been greatly disappointed in what he expected 
to find there when he left Philemon, and may have wished to 
return to the comparative comforts of his former condition. It 
is no uncommon thing for a runaway apprentice to be disap- 
pointed in the expectations which he cherished when he left 
his master, and to feel that it would be better for him if he 
could again return to his former home and employment. It 
is no very uncommon thing for one who has done wrong to 
another, and who has fled away, if he should be converted, to 
desire to return and repair the wrong. And since any one 
of these, or of many other supposable causes, may have in- 
duced Onesimus to desire to return to his master, it should not 
be assumed that Paul sent him against his will, and thence 
inferred that he was in favour of sending back runaway slaves 
against their will. There are many points to be proved, 
which cannot be proved, in order to make that a legitimate 
conclusion. (4) It may be added, therefore, that tliis passage 
should not be referred to, to prove that we ought to send back 
runaway slaves to their former masters against their own 
consent ; or to vindicate the laws, which require magistrates 
to do it ; or to show that they Avho have escaped from slavery 
should be arrested and forcibly detained; or to justify any 
sort of influence over a runaway slave, to induce him to re- 
turn to his former master. There is not the least evidence 
that any of these things occurred in the case before us, and 
if this instance is ever referred to, it should be to justify what 
Paul did — AND NOTHING ELSE. The passage shows that it 
is right to aid a servant of any kind to return to his master, 
if he desires it; and that it is right to give him a "letter," 
and to plead earnestly for his favourable reception, if he has 
in any way wronged his master — for Paul did this. On the 
same principle, it would be right to give him pecuniary assist- 
ance, to enable him to return — for there may be cases where 



one who has fled from servitude would wish to return. There 
may be instances where one has had a kind master, with 
wiiom he would feel, that, on the whole, he could be more 
happy than in his present circumstances. Or there may be 
instances where one may have relatives that are in the neigh- 
bourhood, or in the family of his former master, and the 
desire to be with them may be so strong, that he would 
prefer to be a servant, as he was before, rather than remain 
as he is now. In all such cases, it is right to render aid — for 
the example of the apostle Paul goes to sustain this : but it 
goes no further. Nothing more can be proved; nothing more 
is necessary to be believed, in order to a fair interpretation of 
the epistle. 

(c.) There is no evidence that Paul meant that Onesimus 
should return as a slave, or with a view to his being retained 
and treated as a slave. Even supposing he had been so 
formerly, there is not the sligilitest intimation in the epistle 
that when he sent him back to his master, he meant that he 
should throw himself into the chains of bondage again. No 
man can take this epistle and prove from it that Paul would 
have sent him at all, if he had supposed that the effect would 
be that he would be reduced to slavery again. If such had 
been his expectation, the expression of such a desire would 
have found a place in the epistle ; at least, the epistle would 
not have been so framed as almost of necessity to lead to a 
different result. 

{d.) There is very satisfactory evidence, besides this, that 
Paul did 710^ mean that Onesimus should be regarded and 
treated as a slave. This evidence is found in ver. 16, of the 
epistle : " Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother 
beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both 
in the flesh, and in the Lord." It would be impossible for 
Philemon to comply with the wish expressed here, and yet 
retain Onesimus as a slave, and regard him as property ; as 
a 'chattel ;' as a ' thing.' For (I) i/" he had been formerly a 
slave ; if this is the fair meaning of the word holxo^, (doidos,) 


then this is expressly declared, — " Not now as a servant, 
{ovxiti <1>5 SoiJTi.oi'.) If he had been a slave before, he did not 
wisK that he should be received as such now, or regarded as 
such any longer. The adverb rendered 'not now,' (ovxitt.,) 
means, no more, no farther, no longer. It implies that in 
regard to the condition in which he had been before, he was 
not to be so any more. He was to be received and treated as 
sustaining another kind of relation hereafter, that of a Christian 
brother, Comp. Matt. xix. 6, "They are no more twain ;" — 
the same Greek word. They were once so, but they are not 
to be regarded as such now. Matt. xxii. 46 : " Neither durst 
any man from that day forth, ask him any more questions," 
(ErtEpcof^aat avtov ovxi-ti.) They once did it, but now they did 
not dare to do it. Luke xv. 19 : " Am no more worthy to be 
called thy son ;" — though I once was. John vi. 68 : " And 
walked no more with him;" — though they once did. See 
also John xi. 54, xiv. 19, xvii. 11 ; Acts viii. 39 ; Gal. iv. 7 ; 
Eph. ii. 19. How could Philemon comply with this wish of 
the apostle, on the supposition that Onesimus had been before 
a slave, and yet regard him still as such ? The very attempt' 
to do it would be directly in the face of the desire expressed 
by the apostle, and every moment he held him as such he 
would be disregarding his wishes. Suppose that Paul, after 
a short interval, had actually gone to the residence of Phile- 
mon, as he expected to, (ver. 22,) and had found him regard- 
ing and treating Onesimus as a slave; would he have felt 
that he had complied with his wishes ? Did he ask this of 
him ? Did he not ask just the reverse — that he would not do 
it any more ? Would it not be natural for him to say that he 
had not received him as he wished him to do ? And how 
could Philemon have replied to this 1 (2) He desired him to 
receive and treat him, in all respects, as a Christian brother ; 
as one redeemed ; as a man : " Not now as a servant, but 
above a. servsLXit, a brother beloved;''^ that is, as a Christian 
brother. See 1 Tim. vi. 2, where this same phrase is applied 
to Christian masters, and where it is claimed justly, as has 


been already noticed, by the advocates of slavery, that it 
proves that those to whom it v^^as applied were real Christians : 
"Let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but 
rather do them service, because they are faithful and 
beloved.''' The phrase implies that he was a Christian, and 
was entitled to be treated, in all respects, as a Christian 
brother, and in no respect as a servant. But how could he 
do this, and yet regard and treat him as a slave ? Is it treat- 
ing one in all respects as a Christian brother, to deprive him 
of freedom ; to consider him as an article of merchandise ; to 
exact his labour without compensation ? Would the man 
himself who makes another a slave, suppose that he was 
treated as a Christian brother, if he were reduced to that con- 
dition ? Would he feel that his son was so regarded, if he was 
made a slave ? There are no ways of reconciling these things. 
It is impossible for a man to regard his slave as, in the full 
and proper sense of the phrase, ' a Christian brother.'' He 
may, indeed, esteem him highly as a Christian ; he may treat, 
him with kindness ; he may show him many favours ; but — 
he regards him also as his slave ; and this makes a dif- 
ference wide as " from the centre thrice to the utmost pole" 
in his feelings towards him and other Christians, He is not 
on a level with himself as a Christian. He has not the same 
rights in his own family, and in regard to his time, and to the 
avails of his labour, and to the privilege of reading the Bible, 
which the master supposes the Christian religion to guarantee 
to himself: and in relation to these things he could not but 
feel that he was deprived of the rights which religion confers, 
if he were placed in the same condition 'in which his slave is. 
The idea of his being his slave mingles with all the feelings 
of the master towards him, and gives a colouring to all his 
views of him. He cannot but feel, if he is under the influence 
of religion, that that slave, if he were treated in all respects 
as a Christian, would be as free as himself; would have the 
same right to his time, and skill, and hberty ; would be per- 
mitted to form his own plans, and to enjoy the avails of his 


own labour; and would be as secure from the possibility of 
being sold. 

If it should be objected here, that when the apostle (ver. ] 6) 
requests Philemon to receive Onesimus "not as a servant, but 
above a servant, a brother beloved," he adds " specially to me, 
but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the 
Lord," and that this phrase ' in the flesh' proves that he had 
been a slave, and that he meant that he should still be so con- 
sidered, though at the same time he was to be regarded as a 
Christian brother; I would reply, that the phrase 'in the 
flesh' may be properly used in reference to any relation which 
may exist pertaining to this present world, as contradistin- 
guished from that which is formed primarily by religion, and 
which would be expressed by the phrase ' in the Lord.' This 
latter phrase denotes relations formed by religion, or in which 
rehgion lies at the basis. (Comp. 1 Cor. vii. 39, ix. 1 ; Rom. 
xvi. 2, 22; Eph. vi. 21 ; Phil. i. 14; 1 Thess. v. 12, et al.) 
The other expression, ' in the flesh,' denotes any relation per- 
taining to the present life, or founded on any thing else but 
religion. See 1 Cor. vii. 28, x. 18; Rom. ix. 3, xi. 14; 
Gal. iv. 23. It might, in itself, refer to any natural relation 
of blood, or to any formed in business, or constituted by mere 
friendship, or by family alliance, or to any relation having its 
origin either in voluntary or involuntary servitude. It will 
not do to assume that it refers to any one of these, without 
more evidence than is conveyed in the mere expression ; and 
from the mere use of the phrase, it will not do to infer that he 
to whom it is applied was a slave. It is not necessary to sup- 
pose, in order to meet the full force of the expression, either 
that Onesimus had been a slave, or that he would be continued 
to be regarded as such. Any relation of the kind referred to 
above which may have existed before between him and Phi- 
lemon, or which might be afterwards formed, would be appro- 
priately denoted by this phrase. The new and more interest- 
ing relation, which they Avere now to sustain to each other, 
which was formed by religion, is expressed by the phrase 



• in the Lord.' In both these, Paul hop'ed that Onesimus 
wou Id manifest the appropriate spirit of a Christian, and be 
worthy of his entire confidence. It may be added also, that 
there ai'e many relations of a voluntary kind subsisting 
between one man and another, involving- the obligation even 
to render service, which are entirely consistent with the feel- 
ing that he who renders it is in all respects a Christian 
brother ; but none, except the natural relations of kindred, of 
an involuntary kind. A labourer on a farm; a journeyman 
mechanic ; a scrivener employed to do a piece of Avriting ; a 
book-keeper or a salesman in a store ; a lawyer ' retained' to 
manage a cause ; a minister of the gospel employed as a 
pastor — engagt'd all of them in a voluntary service ; and a son 
from his natural relations bound to labour for his father to a 
certain period of life — each of these may be regarded in all 
respects as a Christian brother ; — a slave never. 

(e.) The principles laid down in this epistle to Philemon, 
therefore, would lead to the universal abolition of slavery. If - 
all those who are now slaves were to become Christians, and 
their masters were to treat them ' not as slaves, but as brethren 
beloved,' the period would not be far distant when slavery 
would cease. This would probably be admitted by all. But 
if this is conceded, then all is conceded that my argument 
requires. It would follow from that, that slavery is not a 
thing which it is desirable to perpetuate — is not a thing 
which Christianity tends to perpetuate — and is therefore evil 
and sinful. For, a state of things which would be destroyed 
by Christianity is not right at any time. Christianity, even 
in its highest influences, interferes with nothing that is good, 
and would annihilate nothing which is not wrong. That 
which is true, pure, and just, and Avhich is best for the wel- 
fare of man, will survive in all the relations of life, when 
Christianity spreads all over the world ; and to say that 
Christianity, when fairly applied in an individual case, as that 
of Philemon, would destroy the system of slavery, is to say, 
that Christianity would everywhere destroy it, and that it is 


always wrong — for what. would have existed in that one family, 
in reference to this relation, under the fair influence of the 
gospel, would exist in every family on the face of the 

3. No argument in favour of slavery can be derived from 
the injunctions addressed by the apostles to slaves themselves. 

The argument on this point in favour of slavery is often 
referred to, and is relied on, among others, as conclusive, in 
proof that slavery is not to be regarded as sinful. Thus it is 
adduced by Dr. Fuller: — 

" The New Testament is not silent as to slavery ; it recog- 
nises the relation, and commands slaves to obey their masters ; 
and what I now affirm is this, that, when we consider the 
previous permission by the Old Testament, such commands 
to slaves are not only a siippressio veri, but a suggestio falsi 
— not only a suppression of the truth, but a suggestion of 
what is false-^if slavery be a sin of appalling magnitude. 
Let it be borne in mind that the previous sanction had been 
both by God's conduct and express precept, and demanded, 
therefore, a countervaihng revelation of no equivocal sort. 
Yet, not only is no condemnation uttered, but slaves are 
addressed as such, and required to obey. 

" ' Is any man called,' says the apostle, ' being circumcised? 
let him not become uncircumcised. Is he called in uncir- 
cumcision, let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is no- 
thing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the 
commandments of God.. Let every man abide in the same 
calhng wherein he was called. Art thou called being a 
servant? care not for it ; but if thou mayest be made free, 
use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a 
servant, is the Lord's freeman : likewise, also, he that is called, 
being free, is Christ's servant.' 1 Cor. vii. 18 — 22. His ar- 
dent soul on fire with the great salvation, and the anticipations 
of the glory to be revealed, Paul declares that the true spirit 
of the gospel, instead of interfering with social relations, 
should cause the believer to soar above them ; and that the 


advantages and disadvantages of all, earthly conditions ought 
to be forgotten and swallowed up in the thought of those 
transports and raptures to which he is hastening. In the 
verse just copied, while he says liberty is to be preferred to 
slavery, yet he adds that, in the light of faith, the 'soul alone 
has true value, and even the hardest bondage is nothing at all, 
the most cruel treatment nothing at all, not worth a thought, 
if the slave has been called to the glorious liberty of the 
gospel. And he classes the distinction between master and 
servant in the same list with circumcision and uncircum- 
cision, which made no sort of diiference."* 

The passages rehed on in this argument are these, and 
these only : — 

1 Cor. vii. 30 — 24: "Let every man abide in the same 
calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a ser- 
vant ? care not for it : but if thou mayest be made free, use 
it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, 
is the Lord's freeman : likewise also he that is called, being 
free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price ; be not 
ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he 
is called, therein abide with God." 

Eph. vi. 5—8: "Servants, be obedient to them that are 
your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, 
in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ ; not with eye-ser- 
vice, as men-pleasers ; but as the servants of Christ, doing 
the will of God from the heart ; with good will doing service, 
as to the Lord, and not to men : knowing that whatsoever 
good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the 
Lord, whether he be bond or free." 

Col. iii. 22 — 25 : " Servants, obey in all things your mas- 
ters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men- 
pleasers ; but in singleness of heart, fearing God : and what- 
soever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men ; 
knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the 

* Dr. Fuller's Letters to Dr. Way land, pp. 188, 189, 190. 


inheritance : for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth 
wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done : and 
there is no respect of persons." 

1 Tim. vi. 1 — 5 : "Let as many servants as are under the 
yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the 
name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they 
that have beheving masters, let them not despise them, be- 
cause 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 godli- 
ness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about ques- 
tions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, 
evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, 
and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness : 
from such withdraw thyself." 

Titus ii. 9, 10: "Exhort servants to be obedient unto their 
own masters, and to please them well in all things ; not 
answering again ; not purloining, but showing all good fidelity ; 
that they ma};^ adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all 

1 Peter ii. 18 — 20: "Servants, be subject to your masters 
with all fear ; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the 
froward. For this is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience 
toward God endure^grief, suffering wrongfully. For what 
glory is it, if, when ye be bufl^eted for your faults, ye shall 
take it patiently ? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, 
ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." 

The question now is, Avhether these passages are to be re- 
garded as evidence that the apostles approved of slavery, and 
desired that it should be perpetuated ? Whether the design 
of these passages was to induce the slaves themselves to be- 
lieve that their condition was a desirable one ; that all that 
Christianity could do for them was to meliorate their circum- 
stances in that relation ; and that it was contemplated by it. 


that one portion of the members of the church should always be 
held in bondage to another portion ? 

If the passages quoted can be regarded as proof on this 
point, the proof must either lie in the fact that they enjoin 
submission to their masters ; or that they do not enjoin it on 
slaves, as a duty, to assert their freedom ; or that they do not 
even declare that the slave had a right to freedom. In refer- 
ence to this argument, I would make the following remarks: 

(a) The main duty which they enjoin on the slaves is that 
of patience, meekness, fidelity, kindness, truth, and honesty — 
duties which are obligatory on Christians towards all men, 
whatever may be their relations, and of course towards mas- 
ters. There were certain vices to which servants were par- 
ticularly exposed — as pilfering, lying, purloining, eye-service; 
and the apostles enjoin on them, as Christians, to avoid those 
vices. So they enjoin a patient and kind spirit towards their 
masters ; but this does not prove that their masters were right 
in doing that which made the virtues of patience and meek- 
ness necessary. When the Saviour enjoins on me to turn my 
cheek to him that smote me, it does not prove that he was 
right who smote me ; when he commands me to give my 
coat to him Vvho had taken away my cloak, it does not prove 
that he had a right to either of them. There is a Christian 
duty which / am to perform in the circumstances in which I 
am placed, whatever may be the conduct of others ; but that 
fact does not prove that others are right in jvhat they do to me. 
The injunctions of the apostles addressed to slaves do no 
more to sanction the evils of slavery, than the directions ad- 
dressed to those who are persecuted sanction the conduct of 
Nero and Mary. The fact that religion requires martyrs 
to be unresisting, and to allow themselves to be led to the 
stake, does not demonstrate that they are right who lead them 
to the stake ; and yet the argument in that case would just as 
much prove that the conduct of the persecutor is in accord- 
ance with the spirit of Christianity, as in the other, that 
slavery is. 


(b) If these passages, enjoining obedience and patience on 
the part of slaves, prove that slavery is right, and will go to 
justify it, they prove that it was right as it then existed — for 
the apostles do not discourse about any abstract duty of obe- 
dience, but of obedience in the circumstances in which they 
then were placed. These injunctions, then, go to justify the 
whole system of Roman servitude, and to show that the apos- 
tles meant to lend their sanction to all the abominations that were 
practised in connection Avith Roman slavery. But it is pre- 
sumed that there are no men now, who will pretend that that 
system was in accordance with the spirit of the gospel. Yet 
that is the only system in reference to which the apostles in- 
culcate obedience. 

(c) If these injunctions, to be obedient, honest, and patient, 
prove that slavery is consistent with the gospel, the similar 
injunctions addressed to Christians to be submissive to civil 
rulers will prove that all the abominations of the government 
of Nero were right, and that Christians were to submit to 
them as being right. The commands to obedience, patience, 
and fidelity, addressed to Christians under the administration 
of that monster of iniquity, are as positive and explicit as any 
addressed to slaves to be submissive to their masters. Thus 
the apostle Paul says, (Rom. xiii. 1 — 6,) " Let every soul be 
subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but 
of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whoso- 
ever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of 
God : and they that resist shall receive to themselves damna- 
tion. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the 
evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power ? do that 
which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same : for he 
is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that 
which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in 
vain : for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute 
wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be 
subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For, 
for this cause pay ye tribute also : for they are God's minis- 


ters, attending continually upon this very thing." It would 
be as proper to adduce this passage, to prove that the tyranny 
of Nero was a good and desirable government ; that it was 
the design of Christianity to perpetuate such a government ; 
that it would be wrong to attempt to throw it off and establish 
civil liberty, as to adduce the injunctions addressed to slaves 
to prove that slavery is a good institution. The injunctions 
in the one case are as positive as in the other. 

(d) In these injunctions addressed to slaves, it is worthy of 
special observation, that the right of the master is never con- 
ceded, or even referred to. The obligation to obedience and 
fidehty is never put on the ground that slavery is right ; that 
it is a good institution ; that there is a natural inferiority of 
one to another, or that the master has in any way a claim to 
the service of his slave. The ground on which obedience 
and fidehty are enjoined is altogether different. It is, that, 
whatever treatment we may receive from others, we are to 
manifest a spirit of submission and meekness ; we are to do 
our duty to our God, as Christians, in any circumstances in 
which we may be placed in life. In this case, if the apostles 
did believe that slavery is right, and in conformity with the 
spirit of Christianity, it is unaccountable that they did not put 
the obligation to obedience on that ground. That would at 
once have repressed any insubordination among the Christian 
slaves, and would have prevented any bad effect on their 
minds from certain doctrines, which they did lay down, which 
seemed to be adverse to slavery, and which a slave would be 
likely to construe as favourable to his natural equality with 
his master, and to his right to freedom. If the apostles be- 
lieved that slavery is right, and meant to be understood as 
teaching that it is to be perpetuated, they have been guilty of 
a most unaccountable concealment in holding back this fact 
from the slaves themselves, and in never alluding to it, even 
in the remotest degree. 

(e) The apostles, so far from intimating to slaves that they 
regarded the system as a good one, constantly represent it as 


a hard and undesirable condition, and exhort them to conduct 
themselves in this relation as under the infliction of a wrong. 
They exhort them to the exercise of just such virtues as they 
are bound to manifest who are constantly enduring wrong — 
the virtues of patience and meekness, and the manifestation of 
a spirit not disposed to take revenge. Thus Peter says, 
" Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear ; not only 
to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is 
thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure 
grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye 
be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently ? but if, 
when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is 
acceptable with God." So Paul represents it as a hard and 
undesirable condition, though he exhorts servants not to be 
anxious about it, but to remember that they will soon be de- 
livered from it in heaven. 1 Cor. vii. 21 : " Art thou called 
being a servant ? care not for it ; but if thou mayest be made 
free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a 
servant, is the Lord's freeman." That is, ' Let him not be 
concerned about the hardships of his present condition, but let 
him patiently submit to them. He is already free in a higher 
and more important sense than it would be to be emancipated 
from temporal bondage, and let him, in the possession of that 
more valuable liberty, patiently bear the evils connected with 
his humble and trying situation in life, rejoicing that he is 
endowed with higher freedom — freedom from the degrading 
servitude of sin and Satan.' Now, what other relation of 
life is there which is described in this manner ? What other 
is there, in which the principal virtues recommended are 
those which grow out of the patient endurance of wrongs ? 
What other is there, in which the apostles exhort those who 
are in that relation ' not to care for it,' but to rejoice rather 
that they are free, in a higher and more important sense ? 
What would have been thought if the same kind of exhorta- 
tion had been addressed to wives, or to children, and it had 
been represented that the principal virtue to be exhibited by 



a wife or child was patient endurance of wrong? What 
Avould be inferred about the apostolic view of those relations, 
if the apostles had said to wives and children that they were 
not to ' care' anxiously on account of their condition, but that 
they were to rejoice in the feeling that they were ' free ' in 
a higher sense, and that the ills of the condition of a wife or 
child, therefore, should be patiently borne ? And what would 
be inferred, if he had told them that if they might be ' free' 
from a husband or father ' to use it rather V But no such 
exhortations as these are found in the New Testament, and the 
relation of master and slave, therefore, is 7%ot like other relations, 
(y) Slaves were directed, if possible, to obtain a release 
from their hard condition. They were taught to prefer free- 
dom, and to obtain it, if they could consistently with the 
manifestation of the spirit of the gospel. Thus the apostle 
Paul expressly says, (1 Cor. vii. 21,) "Art thou called being 
a servant ? care not for it : but if thou mayest be free, use it 
rather." Here there is a distinct assertion that freedom is 
preferable to slavery, and that the slave should not regard his 
condition as the best and most desirable, though, in comparison 
with the higher freedom which the gospel imparts in deliver- 
ing the soul from sin, he was to regard his servitude as com- 
paratively unimportant. This might be, and yet it might 
be true that slavery was a great evil. Yet the command is 
clear, that if it was in the power of the slave to become free, 
(si xai SiJmaat txiv^tpo^ yfrta^at,) he Avas to avail himself of the 
p]ivilege. If either the laws or his master set him free ; 
if he could purchase his liberty ; if a friend would purchase 
it for him ; if in any way that was not sinful he could obtain 
his freedom, he was to embrace the opportunity. But where 
is there any representation like this in regard to a wife or 
child ? What should we think of the condition of a wife or 
child if there had been such a representation ? But there is 
none. It is never said or imphed that their condition, as such, 
is a hard or undesirable one, and that they should, if possible, 
escape from it. 


(g) To all this is added, in regard to the slave, that, if he 
could not be free, he was to comfort himself with the reflec- 
tion that he had been emancipated from the greater evil — sin, 
and therefore was to bear with patience the lesser temporary 
evil — servitude; that in his condition it was possible for him 
to serve Christ acceptably ; that the evils of his hard lot did 
not prevent his becoming a true Christian, and cherishing the 
hope of eternal life ; and that he should patiently bear those 
evils, submitting to the arrangements respecting them over 
which he had no control, as to any other wrong. 1 Cor. vii. 
22 : " For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the 
Lord' s freeman,'''' ' He is manumitted, made free, endowed 
with liberty by the Lord.' The meaning is, 'You are blessed 
with freedom from the bondage of sin by the Lord. That 
servitude was far more grievous, and far more to be lamented, 
than the bondage of the body. You are now a true freeman, 
the freeman of the Lord. Your spirit is free ; while those 
who are not slaves, and perhaps your own masters, are even 
now under a more severe bondage than yours. You should 
rejoice, therefore, in deliverance from the greater evil, and be 
glad that in the eyes of the Lord you are regarded as his 
freeman, and are endowed by him with more valuable liberty 
than it would be to be delivered from the servitude under 
which you are now placed. You will soon be admitted to 
the eternal liberty of the saints in glory, and will forget all 
your toils, and privations, and wrongs, here below.' But, 
where, I may repeat, is there any such representation made 
to a wife, or a child, or even to the subject of a civil govern- 
ment 1 Where are they told to console themselves in their 
hard condition with the reflection that they, by deliverance 
ftom sin, have been released from afar greater evil than the 
condition of a wife or child, and that, therefore, they should 
not regard the evils of their condition with solicitude ? Where 
are they told that though under the law of a husband, a 
parent, or a civil ruler, they were ' the Lord's freemen,' 
and should now bear patiently the lesser evils of their bond- 


age in these relations, exulting in their higher liberty as the 
freemen of the Lord ? There are no such exhortations in 
the New Testament, and the apostles never designed to repre- 
sent the relations of husband and wife, and parent and child, 
and master and slave, as similar, or to leave the impression 
that the one was as proper and as desirable for the good of a 
community as the other. 

From the arguments thus far presented in regard to the 
relation of Christianity to slavery, it seisms fair to draw the 
conclusion that the Christian religion lends no sanction to 
slavery ; that it is not adverted to in the New Testament ' 
either as a good and desirable relation, or as one that religion 
would have originated for the good of society, or as one 
which it is desirable to perpetuate in order that society may 
reach the highest point in its progress which it can reach. It 
would be clearly impossible to find a hint that would be the 
slightest basis of an argument to prove from the New Testa- 
ment that either Christ or his apostles would have originated 
slavery, or that they regarded it as a good and desirable insti- 
tution. There is but one point, then, necessary to complete 
the argument, which is to inquire whether they expressed 
any views, or laid down any principles, which, if fairly acted 
on, would tend to its abolition. 

§ 4. The principles laid down by the Saviour and his .Apos- 
tles are such as are opposed to Slavery, and if carried otii 
would secure its universal abolition. 

In addition to what has already been said, which might be 
appropriatelyintroduced under this head, I would make some 
additional remarks. The inquiry is, what was the intention 
of the Saviour in regard to this institution ? What would be 
the result of a fair application of the principles of his religion 
in regard to it ? Did he design that it should be understood 
to be a good system, and one which his religion was intended 
to sanction and perpetuate ? 

scriptuhal views of slavery. 341 

To show that the institution of slavery is contrary to the 
Christian religion, and inconsistent with its spirit ; that it is 
regarded as an evil which religion was designed to remove 
from the world ; and that it cannot be perpetuated consistently 
with the fair influence of the gospel, I would now submit the 
following considerations : — 

(1.) The Saviour and his apostles inculcated such views of 
man as amount to a prohibition of slavery, or as if acted on 
would abolish it. In other words, they gave such views of 
man, that, imder their influence, no one would make or retain 
a slave. This argument I cannot express in a better manner 
than is done by Dr. Wayland : — 

"In what manner, then, did the Saviour and his apostles 
deal with this universal sin ? I answer, by promulgating 
such truths concerning the nature and destiny of man, his 
relations and obligations both to man and to his Maker, as 
should render the slavery of a human being a manifest moral 
absurdity ; that is, a notion diametrically opposed to. our ele- 
mentary moral suggestions. Let us observe how strangely 
they are in contrast with all that was then known of the cha- 
racter and value of a man. 

" To men who had scarcely an idea of the character, or 
even the existence, of a Supreme Intelligence, and whose 
objects of adoration were images of ' gold and silver and stone, 
graven with art and man's device,' and whose worship con- 
sisted in the orgies of Venus and Bacchus, the gospel revealed 
the existence of one only living and true Jehovah, aU-wise, 
all-just, all-holy, everywhere present beholding the evil and 
the good, knowing the thoughts and intents of the heart, who 
will bring every secret thing into judgment, whether it be 
good or whether it be evil, and who has placed us all under 
one and the same law, that law which declares, 'Thou shalt 
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour 
as thyself.' 

" To men who had scarcely an idea of existence after death, 
whose notions of futurity were the fables of Charon's boat, 



the Styx, and Tartarus — fables which were already held up 
as objects of inextinguishable laughter — the gospel revealed 
the doctrine of man's immortality ; it taught that every human 
being was a never-dying soul ; that the world to come was a 
state either of endless and inconceivable happiness or of wo ; 
that for this infinitely important state, the present brief ex- 
istence was the probation and the only probation that God had 
allotted to us ; and that, during this probation, every one of 
our race must by his own moral character determine his des- 
tiny for himself. 

" To men who had scarcely formed an idea of their moral 
relations, the gospel revealed the fact that our racd were uni- 
versally sinners, and v/ere, without exception, under the con- 
demnation of that law which denounces eternal death as the 
desert of every transgression ; that God placed such an esti- 
mate upon a human soul, nay, that he so loved the world that 
he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever heheveth on 
him should not perish, but have everlasting life ; and that, in 
consequence of this atonement, eternal salvation is freely 
offered to every human being, who, repenting of his rebellion, 
will return to the love and service of God. 

" To men steeped in the most debasing atid universal sen- 
suality, Avhose motto was, ' Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow 
we die,' the gospel revealed the truth, that while this salva- 
tion was thus freely offered to all, yet still every individual 
of our race was placed on earth to work out his salvation with 
fear and trembling ; that he was still, in the strictest possible 
sense, in a state of probation ; and that in a world lying in 
wickedness, surrounded by every temptation to sin, exposed 
to all the allurements of vice, and assailed by all the arts of 
the adversary of souls, he must come off conqueror over every 
moral enemy, or else he will after all perish under a most 
aggravated condemnation. 

"And lastly, to men who esteemed the people of another 
nation as by nature foes whom they had a right to subdue, 
murder, or enslave, whenever and in what manner soever they 


were able, the gospel revealed tjie fact that all men are, by the 
act of their creation, brethren; that all are equally beloved 
by the same Father of all ; that Christ died equally for all ; 
that all are equally exposed to the same perdition ; that to all 
is equally offered a mansion in the same Father's house, and 
that the title to that inheritance, the same to all, can be secured 
in no other way than by obedience to the universal law of 
love, a law enforced by the solemn sanction, ' Inasmuch as ye 
did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me.'' 

" Such, then, were some of the efiulgent truths which the 
gospel poured upon the moral darkness of the heathen world. 
Such was the entire revolution (the word, you perceive, is 
feebleness itself when applied to such a case) which the gos- 
pel effected in all the notions which were then entertained 
respecting the character, the destiny, the responsibilities, and 
the inestimable value of a man. We feel at once that the 
highest seraph around the throne would not dare to violate 
the meanest right of the meanest creature Avho stood in such 
a relation to God ; infinitely less would he dare, for the sake 
of his own temporary convenience, to interfere with any of the 
means to which such a creature was entitled, for ascertaining 
and doing the will of God, and thus escaping eternal death, 
and laying hold on everlasting life. 'Are they not all minis- 
tering spirits, sent forth to minister to those that are heirs of 
salvation V What shall we say, then, if a creature of yester- 
day, himself subject to the same law, exposed to the same 
condemnation, and going to the fsarae judgment-seat, abolishes, 
at his own pleasure, and on the authority of physical force, 
the social, intellectual, and moral rights of hie brother ; and 
for the sake of pecuniary gain interferes with the most solemn 
relations which can exist between the God and Father of us 
all, and his child here on earth — a child redeemed with the 
precious blood of his only-begotten Son. 

" It is obvious that such principles as these, instilled into 
the public mind, must of necessity abolish slavery, and every 
other form of wrong. Just in so far as slavery is, either in 


its principles or its practice, at variance with these elementary 
truths of revealed religion, it is forbidden. Whether it be 
thus at variance, let every man judge."* 

To these remarks I vi^ould add, that the Christian religion 
teaches that " God hath made of one blood all the nations of 
men for to dwell on all the face of the earth," (Acts xvii. 26,) 
and that as the children of the common Father they are re- 
garded as equal. All the right which one human being has 
ever been supposed to have over another, in virtue of any 
superiority in rank, complexion, or blood, is evidently con- 
trary to this doctrine of the Bible in regard to the origin and 
equality of the human race. The common nature which 
xnan has, is not affected, in any respect, by the colour of his 
hair or his skin, by the difference of his stature, by national 
physiognomy, or by any ethnographical distinctions in the form 
of the skull. This common nature, as distinct from the brute 
creation, remains the same under every external appearance, 
and every form of intellectual and moral development. A 
man may be wiser or less wise than I am ; he may have more 
or less property ; he may have a more richly endowed, or an 
inferior mental capacity, but this does not affect our common 
nature. He is in every respect, notwithstanding our differ- 
ence in these things, as completely a human being as my- 
self; and he stands in precisely the same relations towards 
the Creator and Father of all. He, like myself, has an im- 
mortal soul, and is placed in a state of probation, as a candidate 
for everlasting happiness or everlasting wo. He has an in- 
tellect capable of an endless progression in knowledge ; and 
God has given him the right to improve it to the utmost. He 
is endowed with a conscience, which, like his immortal intel- 
lect, for ever constitutes an impassable Hne between him and 
the inferior races of the animal creation. In virtue of this 
endowment, it is his right and privilege to seek to know the 
will of God, and to act always with reference to the future 

* Fuller and Wayland on Slavery, pp. 90, 91, 93, 93. 


State on which he is soon to enter. He is a sinner, and, as 
such, is placed in substantially the same circumstances with 
all others before God, in reference to the rewards of heaven or 
the pains of hell. It was with reference to this common na- 
ture that redemption was provided. It was our common na- 
ture which the Son of God assumed when he became incar- 
nate, and, in that assumption, and in all his sufferings for 
man, he regarded the race as having such a common nature. 
He was not a Jevj, except by the accident of his birth ; but he 
was aman, and in his human frame there was as distinct a 
relation to the African and the Malay, as there was to the 
Caucasian. The blood that flowed in his veins, and that was 
shed on the cross for human redemption, was the blood of a 
human being — a descendant of Adam — and had as much re- 
ference, Avhen it warmed his heart with benevolence, and when 
it was shed on the cross, to a descendant of Ham as to the 
posterity of Japheth or Shem. Every human being has a 
right to feel that when the Son of God became incarnate he 
took his nature upon him, and to regard him as the repre- 
sentative of that common humanity. It is on the basis of that 
common nature that the gospel is commanded to be preached 
to ' every creature,' and any one human being has a right to 
consider that gospel as addressed to him with as specific an 
intention as to any other human being whatever. It is on the 
basis of that common nature also that the Holy Spirit is sent 
down from heaven to awaken, convict, and convert the soul ; 
and any human being, no matter what his complexion, may 
regard the promise of the Holy Spirit to be as much addressed 
to him as to any other one — though that other one may have 
a more comely form or complexion ; may be clothed in the 
imperial purple,' or may wear a coronet, or a crown. In all 
respects pertaining to our common origin ; to our nature as 
distinct from the brute creation ; to the fall and to redemption ; 
to the rights of conscience and to the hopes of glory, the hu- 
man race is regarded in the Bible as on a level. There is an 
entire system of things which contemplates man as such as 


distinguished from the inferior creation; not one of which 
pertains to a brute, however near the brute may seem to ap-, 
proximate a human being, and each one of which is as appli- 
cable to one human being as to another. 

If these views are correct, then all the reliance which the 
system of slavery has ever been thought to derive from the 
supposed fact that one class of human beings is essentially 
inferior to another^ is a false reliance. At all events, such 
views will find no support in the Bible, and they must be left 
to be maintained by those who recognise the Christian Scrip- 
tures as of no authority. A man acting on the viev/s laid 
down in the Bible on this subject, would never make a slave ; 
a man acting on these views would not long retain a slave : 
and Christianity, by laying down this doctrine of the essential 
equality of the race, has stated a doctrine which must sooner 
or later emancipate every human being from bondage. 

(2.) The gospel regards every human being as invested 
with such rights as are inconsistent with his being held as a 
slave ; that is, these rights, as recognised in the New Testa- 
ment, always have been violated where slavery exists ; are 
liable to be violated at any time ; and there is no way of effec- 
tually guarding against such violation, for the power to violate 
them enters into every proper conception of slavery. In other 
words, it is involved in the notion of the system that the slave- 
holder has power to violate what are undoubted laws of God, 
and to interfere with and annul the arrangements which he 
has instituted for the good of man. If this be so, it will be 
conceded that the New Testament does not contemplate 
slavery as right, or as an institution to be perpetuated for the 
good of society. 

Among those rights which are liable to be violated at the 
pleasure of the slaveholder, and against the violation of which, 
from the very nature of slavery, it is impossible to guard, are 
the following : — 

{a) The rights involved in the marriage relation. The 
master necessarily holds the power of preventing its being 



formed, or of annulling it at his pleasure. This results from 
the very nature of slavery, and never has been forbidden, and 
never can be, while slavery retains its essential features. It 
results from the right oi property ; for the right to buy a thing 
implies a right to sell it again ; and as a man in purchasing 
one slave is under no obligation to purchase another, though 
it be the wife or child of the former, so it is in regard to the 
sale. As in procuring slaves originally, whether by the con- 
quests of war, by kidnapping, or by purchase, no respect was 
had to the relations which they might sustain to their families, 
or any duties which might grow out of such relations, so there 
is no reference to any such duties or relations in the tenure 
by which they are held. ' On this very obvious principle all 
the laws pertaining to slavery in this land are founded. The 
right to separate husband and wife, parent and child, and 
brother and sister, is nowhere forbidden, and this power is 
constantly acted on. It is not known that an attempt has 
ever been made to regulate this by law, and the only influence 
by which it is sought to control it is by an appeal to the hu- 
manity of masters. There are doubtless thousands of cases 
where the master would not separate a husband from his wife 
by selling one without the other, but this does not prove that 
• the law does not regard them as having the power, and is not 
to be taken ipto the account in estimating the character of the 

Even supposing, moreover, that the husband and wife are 
not actually separated from each other, and the marriage bond 
wholly disregarded, still there are duties enjoined in reference 
to this relation in the New Testament which the recognised 
power of the master wholly sets aside. In the New Testa- 
ment, the husband is declared to be the " head of the wife, as 
Christ is the head of the church," (Eph. v. 23, 1 Cor. xi. 3,) 
and as such has a right to rule in his family. The wife, as 
such, is commanded to be subject to her husband ; to recognise 
his authority ; to obey him ; to love him ; to submit to him 
in all things. " As the church is subject to Christ, so let the 


wives be to their own husbands in every thing." Eph. v, 24. 
Comp. Eph. V. 33 ; Titus ii. 4, 5 ; 1 Pet. iii. 1. Now this 
command is practically nullified in every case where slavery 
exists. The master, not the husband, possesses*supreme au- 
thority in relation to every slave, male or female, and his will 
is to be obeyed, and not that of the husband, if they ever come 
in conflict. The master, too, by the laws of all slaveholding 
communities, has the power of enforcing obedience by punish- 
ment, even when it is against every wish and will of the hus- 
band. This power extends to her manner of employing her 
time ; to her whole domestic arrangements ; to her hours of 
labour and of rest ; to her food and raiment ; to her habitation, 
and to every comfort. Even when the husband is sick, there is 
no power of enforcing any right which the wife has by the 
laws of marriage in the Bible, to attend on him, and soothe 
his sorrows ; and though it may be that the duties which a. 
wife owes to her husband in such cases may not often be 
prevented by an absolute interference on the part of the 
master, yet the fact that it is not, is not to be traced to any 
mercy in the institution of slaver}^ or the laws, but to the 
mercy of our common humanity. Nothing prevents the 
master from setting at naught the whole law of God on the 

(6) Slavery interferes with the natural right vyhich a father 
has over his children. This results, too, from the nature of 
property implied in the relation. The primary and the con- 
trolling notion is, that the child is owned by the master, not 
that he is placed under the control and authority of his father. 
The master, not the father, is supreme. The Bible recognises 
certain duties as growing out of the relation of a father and 
child, which are never acknowledged in the code of slavery ; 
and-enjoins certain duties \vhich the father can never perform, 
except at the pleasure of the master. The father is displaced 
from the position where God ha,s assigned him, and the master 
is substituted in his place. The Bible has laid down certain 
duties as binding on the parent, as such, and which properly 


grow out of the relation of parent and child. The parent is to 
"command his children and his household after him," (Gen. 
xviii. 19;) he is to "bring them up in the nurture and admo- 
nition of the Lord," (Eph. vi. 4;) he is to "provide for his 
own, and specially for those of his own house," (1 Tim. v. 5 ;) 
he is to instruct them in the ways and duties of religion, to 
lead their devotions, to seek to prepare them for heaven, to be 
their counsellor and adviser in regard to the perplexities and 
duties of life. Children, on the other hand, all children, are 
to 'honour their father and mother, that their days may be 
long in the land,' (Ex. xx. 12 ;) they are to ' obey their 
parents in all things,^ (Col. iii. 20;) they are to 'obey their 
parents in the Lord,' (Eph. vi. 1.) Now, it is impossible to 
secure the discharge of these duties under the system of 
slavery. The whole question whether a father may perform 
these duties at all, rests with the master. The father's own 
time is not at his disposal ; he is at liberty to select and 
appoint no hours when he will instruct his children ; he has 
no right to designate any time when he will even pray with 
his family ; and the whole business of ' provrding for his own' 
is entirely taken out of his hands. The master provides, and 
is the agent appointed by the laws to do it. The father is 
under no obligation by the laws even to attempt it. It is not 
presumed that he can do it. It is not understood that he ever 
will do it. He violates none of the obligations contemplated 
by slavery, if he makes no provision whatever for his children 
while he himself shall live, or after he is dead ; if he leaves 
ihem to suffer without one sympathizing look or word ; if he 
provides no physician for them in sickness, or even if he does 
not see them decently buried when they are dead. Food and 
raiment ; medicine and physicians ; shrouds, coffins, and 
graves are to be provided by the master. It is not contem- 
plated by the law that the slave can ever be the owner of 
property enough to furnish his child a coffin or a grave. So 
also in the whole duty of training the child for heaven. If 
time is to be taken for that, it is to be at the pleasure of the 



master ; if a religious teacher is to be employed, it is only at 
his pleasure, and under his direction. 

The law of God is perhaps still more entirely nullified, in 
regard to the duty which the child owes to its parent. Here 
it is impossible for him to obey the command of God requiring 
subjection to his parent, if the will of the master comes in con- 
flict with his. It is not designed that the parent shall be 
obeyed. The master has the absolute authority, and has the 
right to counteract any of the requirements of the father. The 
master, not the parent, directs in regard to the employment 
of the time, and appoints every task that is to be performed. 
The master has authority in the whole matter of discipline, 
and punishment is administered, not because the laws of a 
father have been disregarded, but because the Avill of the 
master has been disobeyed. The spirit of the whole institu- 
tion is, not that the father is to be obeyed, but the master ; 
and if the father is not obeyed, the law lends no help to 
secure the respect and obedience of the child. The law has 
.displaced the father from the position which God gave him, 
and has substituted the authority of another. 

(c) Slavery interferes with the natural right which every 
human being has, to worship God according to his own views 
of what is true. That this right is recognised in the Bible, it 
would be needless to attempt to prove. See Acts iv. 18 — 30, 
V. 29; John v. 39 ; 1 Cor. x. 29 ; 1 Thess. v. 21 ; 1 John 
iv. 1 ; Prov. iv. 13 ; Luke xi. 52 ; Deut. x. 12, xiii. 4. 
The right to do this is everywhere now conceded, and is 
regarded as one of the great and inalienable principles of 
Protestantism and of liberty. It is the most important position 
which society has taken in its progress toward that state of 
perfectness which it is destined to attain ; the last point which 
society is to reach in this direction — the ultima Thule of 
human hopes and prospects on this point. To establish this 
principle has cost more than any other which enters into just 
notions of liberty — for it is the result of discussions and in- 
quiries pursued for ages ; of all the persecutions and martyr- 


doms that have been endured; of all the self-denials and 
sacrifices in the cause of freedom. To maintain and enjoy 
the right of the undisturbed privileges of religion ; the right 
to worship God unmolested ; the right to hold what opinions 
they pleased ; to worship God where, and when, and how- 
ever the}^ pleased ; our fathers came to this western land, 
and endured all the sacrifices incident to the perilous voyage 
across the deep, and the peopling of what was then a vast and 
inhospitable wilderness. There is no other right for which 
an American citizen, at the North or the South, would more 
cheerfully lay down his life ; none from which he would not 
sooner part. 

And yet this right, so invaluable, is practically denied to 
the slave wherever the institution exists. The abundant 
quotations which I have made, in the former part of this work, 
from the laws of the Southern states, show, that, whatever 
kindness there may be on the part of many masters, this great 
right, so far as the slave is concerned, is denied him. Every 
thing pertaining to the worship of God — the time, the place, 
the manner — is entirely in the hands of the master ; and there 
is not a company of slaves in the land that, according to the 
laws, can act freely in the worship of their Maker. The 
condition in which the early Puritans were placed in Eng- 
land, in the times of Elizabeth, James, and Charles I. ; the 
condition in which the Nonconformists and Quakers were, in 
the time of Charles II. ; the condition in which the Pilgrim 
Fathers were, in England and Holland — a condition so se- 
vere, that they sought the inhospitable shores of New England, 
in the dead of winter, rather than endure it — all these are 
nothing, when compared with the absolute right which the 
master has over his slaves in the Southern states. The world, 
even in the worst times of civil oppression, has never seen 
any thing worse than this ; any thing which more entirely 
interferes with every sacred right of conscience. 

And can any man believe, that it was the design of God to 
sanction such a system, or that it is in accordance with the 


principles of the New Testament, and is to be perpetuated for 
the good of society? Can it be believed, that God meant to 
put the authority to regulate entirely the manner in which he 
should be worshipped, into the hands of any man ? The whole 
chivalry of the South would be in arms, if an attempt were 
made, from any quarter, to impose on them the same restric- 
tions in regard to the worship of God which the laws make 
necessary respecting the slaves ; and there is not on earth a 
class of men that would be more ready to shed their last drop 
of blood in opposition to such an attempt, and in defence of 
the very principles which are set at naught by their OAvn 
laws respecting three millions of human beings — as free, by 
nature, to worship God in the manner \vhich they prefer, as 

(c?) Slavery interferes with the rights o^ property. If any 
principle is clear, not only from reason, but from the Bible,- it 
is, that a man has a right to the avails of his own labour. 
This is founded on the right Avhich he has to himself, and of 
course to all that he himself can honestly earn. If any por- 
tion of this is taken away by taxes for the support of govern- 
ment, it is not on the principle that another man, though at 
the head of the government and ruling over him, has any 
right to it, but it is, that he himself is represented in that 
government ; and that it is, to all practical purposes, an ap- 
propriation by himself, of his own property, to make himself, 
his family, and the remainder of his property more secure. 
It is not taken from him ; it is committed by him to others, 
to be employed in his own service, and in the protection 
which he receives there is a full equivalent for all that is ren- 
dered to the government. He is still regarded as the lawful 
owner, and as having a right to all the avails of his own in- 
dustry, until it is thus surrendered to other hands. 

This right, while it enters into all our notions of liberty, 
and while the denial of it led to all the sacrifices which 
secured American Independence, is abundantly recognised in 
the Bible, An attempt to prove it is scarcely necessary ; 


but the following passages show what are the current state- 
ments of the Scriptures on the subject: "Wherefore I per- 
ceive that there is nothing better than that a man should 
rejoice in his own works ; for that is his portion : for who 
shall bring him to see what shall be after him." Eccl. iii. 22, 
" Behold that which I have seen : it is good and comely for 
one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour 
that he taketh tinder the sun all the days of his life, which 
God giveth him: for that is his portion." Eccl. v. 18. 
"Behold the hire of the labourers who have reaped down 
your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth ; and 
the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears 
of the Lord of Sabaoth." James' v. 4. "Thou shalt not 
defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him ; the wages of him 
that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the 
morning."- Lev. xix. 13. "Rob not the poor because he is 
poor ; neither oppress the afflicted in the gate : for the Lord 
will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled 
them." Prov. xxii. 22, 23. "For I the Lord love judgment, I 
hate robbery for burnt-offering." Isa. Ixi. 8. " The people 
of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and 
have vexed the poor and needy ; yea they have oppressed 
the stranger wrongfully. And I sought for a man among 
them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap 
before me in the land, that I should not destroy it : but I 
found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation 
upon them ; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath ; 
their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith 
the Lord God." Ezek. xxii. 29—31. "Wo unto him that 
buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by 
wrong ; that useth his neighbour'' s service without wages^ 
.and giveth him not for his worky Jer. xxii. 13. 

Now it is unnecessary to attempt to prove, that this essen- 
tial principle of the right of property is wholly at variance 
with slavery as it exists in this land, and indeed with all pro- 
per notions of its nature, wherever it exists. It is a funda,- 



mental doctrine in the idea of slaverj'-, that the slave can be 
the legal owner of no property; can have no right to the avails 
of his own labour. This has been abundantly demonstrated 
in the quotations which have been made from the laws of the 
slaveholding states. The slave can own neither farm, nor 
house, nor ox, nor ass, nor any thing which his hands can 
earn. He can own no copyright of a book, and claim none 
of the avails of a book. He can buy nothing, and can sell 
nothing. He can contract no debt that could be collected of 
him ; he can collect no wages from another for services ren- 
dered ; he ca« make no will that the law would recognise as 
vahd. There is even no little memento of kindness, which 
he may have received from his master or from others, Avhich 
he can claim as his own ; there is no such token, AVhich the 
master might not legally appropriate to himself. The slave 
has no right to any portion of the corn or the cotton which his 
own hands have raised ; nor can he ever look on a tree, a rose- 
bush, or a flower, and say, legally, that it is his own. 

Now, if the principles of the Bible on the subject of pro- 
perty are permanent principles, it is clear that the system of 
slavery is not in accordance with the word of God, and that it 
is not the intention of Christianity to perpetuate the system ih 
the world. The fair application of these principles Avould 
soon bring the system to an end. Can it be believed that 
the New Testament sanctions the power of making void the 
marriage relation ; of abrogating the authority of parents ; of 
nullifying the command which requires children to obey their 
parents ; of interfering with the right which every man has 
to worship God according to his own views of duty and truth; 
and of appropriating to ourselves entirely the avails of th« 
labour of another man ? Whatever may be the abstract views 
which any man may defend on the subject of human rights, 
yet no one can seriously maintain — I know not that any one 
has ever attempted to maintain — that these things are sanc- 
tioned by the New Testament. And yet, they are essential 
to the system. Slavery, in the proper sense of the term, 


never has existed without some or all of these things ; it 
never can. 

(3.) The gospel, and the Bible generally, prohibits, in the 
most positive manner, many things which are always found 
in slavery, and which are inseparable from it. 

Among these things are the following : — 

(a) Stealing a tnan is forbidden ; and the precepts of the 
Bible on that subject are necessarily violated by slavery. 
This, as we have seen, was prohibited, in the most solemn 
manner, in the Old Testament : " And he that stealeth a man, 
and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely 
be put to death." Ex. xxi. 16. It is forbidden, in an equally 
positive manner, in the New Testament : " The law is made 
for menstealers''^ — avdpa7to8i,ata.ii. 1 Tim. i. 9, 10. The 
meaning of this word has been before considered. It needs 
only to be remarked here, that the essential idea of the term 
is, that of converting a freeman into a slave. Thus Passow 
defines the word avSpa-jtoBiafio^ — andrapodismos — ^Verwand- 
lung eines freyen Mannes in einen Sklaven, besonders durch 
Verkauf, Unterjochung, u. s. w. : — a changing of a fi'ee?nan 
into a slave, especially by traffic, subjection, S,-c. Now, some- 
hoio this ' conversion of a freeman into a slave' — the sin for- 
bidden in the passage before us — occurs essentially in the 
case of every one who ever becomes a slave; for it is a truth 
no less in accordance with the Bible, and with all the princi- 
ples of natural religion, than with the declaration of American 
Independence, "that all men are created equal; that thej'are 
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights ; 
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happi- 
ness." This was also the doctrine of the Roman civil law : 
Ciuod ad jus naturale atlinet, omnes homines sequales sunt. 
Digesta, i. 19, 32. 

If this right is ever disturbed, so as to deprive a human 
being of the liberty with which he was created, it must be by 
some power coming in between his creation, contemplated as 
the work of God, and his future condition in fact ; practically 


and really ' converting the freeman to a slave,' and constituting 
the very offence forbidden in the passage before us. He was 
made a freeman ; he is held a slave. The one is the act of 
God ; the other is the act of man. Now this process of con- 
verting a freeman to a slave may be. either by the conquests 
of war, or by kidnapping, or by the laws of a land. It may 
be either the act of an individual or of a community ; an act 
of direct and immediate wrong by an individual, or an effect 
of the legalized workings of a system. 

It is- clear, however, that neither one method nor the other 
can make it right, or reconcile it with the statement of Paul 
in 1 Tim. i. 9, 10. The mere act of a legislature in legalizing 
the conversion, or sanctioning the original robbery, does not 
make the prohibitions here inapplicable to it, or make it cease 
to be a violation of the law of God ; nor is the case changed 
by the fact that the original perpetrator of the wrong is dead, 
and that it is now a part of an organized system. Somewhere., 
the wrong is done to the man whom God made free ; to each 
individual who is made a slave : and in every instance, either 
some individual, or the society which sanctions and legalizes 
the wrong, is responsible. If the inhabitants of Georgia, liv- 
ing on the borders of the Cherokee country, had been long in 
the habit of committing depredations on the farms of the Chero- 
kees, and carrying pff their horses, it is clear that there would 
be a wrong done in the case of every horse that was stolen. 
The wrong would not be removed, if the legislature of Georgia 
at the time had authorized the outrage, or should legalize it 
afterward ; nor would any lapse of time, or any number of legal 
enactments, make the act of depredation right. Somewhere, 
either in the individual or in the society, the guilt of the wrong 
would remain, nor could it ever be removed by any legal en- 
actments. The case might be made still stronger, though on 
the same principle, by a reference to property of a different 
kind. When Napoleon invaded Italy, a large portion of the 
celebrated paintings and statues of that land were plundered 
and removed to Paris. On the supposition that the invader 


had no right himself to rob churches and palaces ; that he 
violated every principle of common justice, and every senti- 
ment of what the Earl of Chatham calls ' honourable war,' it 
is clear that no lapse of time, no amount of legal enactments, 
and no number of transfers of t-he property by sale or by be- 
quest, could ever convey a moral right to those works of art. 
The claim of one robber might be legally good against another, 
or the claim of one French proprietor might be legally good 
against another inhabitant of France, or an inhabitant of Rus- 
sia or England, but it could never be morally good against the 
Italian church or convent that had been plundered. Some- 
where, in spite of all the forms of law, the wrong is perpe- 
tuated and extended, nor can it ever be obliterated but by a 
restoration. It may be that one who inherited one of these 
paintings may have been guilty of no wrong in becoming the 
recognised legal owner — ^for he had no agency in it ; it may 
be that he could hold it against another claimant — a pretended 
heir at law of the estate ; it may be that a restoration to the 
original owner might be for a time impracticable ; but none of 
these things sanction the original wrong, or abolish the moral 
claim of the original owner. 

These principles are still more clear, in the case of stealing 
a man — a human being — a fellow-traveller to eternity. The 
injury is greater to him, and to every one descended from him, 
who, in virtue of an unhappy connection with him, shall be 
involved in the wrong, than can possibly be in the case 
of a horse or a work of art. The guilt of converting the 
freeman to a slave exists somewhere ; and if in any case it 
does not rest on the individual who becomes an involuntary 
inheritor of the wrong, it rests on the community which pro- 
vides for this by its laAvs. The thing is forbidden. It is con- 
trary to the whole spirit of the New Testament. 

(b) Oppression is forbidden ; and just the kind of oppres- 
sion which always enters into the idea of slavery. " For 
the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now 
will I arise, saith the Lord ; I will set him in safety from him 


that puffeth at him." Ps. xil. 5. "He shall judge the poor 
of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and , 
shall break in pieces the oppressor. For he shall deliver the 
needy when he crieth ; the poor also, and him that hath no 
helper." Ps. Ixxii. 4, 12. " I know that the Lord will main- 
tain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor." Ps. 
cxl. 12. " What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, 
and grind the faces of the poor ? saith the Lord of hosts." Isa. 
iii. 15. " Wo unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and 
that write grievousness which they have prescribed ; to turn 
aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right 
from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, 
and that they may rob the fatherless. And what will ye do 
in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come 
from far ?. To whom will ye flee for help ? And where will 
ye leave your glory ?" Isa. x. 1 — 3. Comp. also Amos viii. 
4—7; Ex. iii. 7—9; Eccl. v. 8; Isa. Ixi. 8; Jer. v. 38; 
Ezek. xxii. 12 ; James ii. 13, v. 4 ; Job xxvii. 13 ; Jer. xxii. 
13, xxxiv. 17. 

There is almost nothing which is more frequently adverted 
to in the Bible, than oppression. And yet, the idea of oppreS' 
sion enters into the very conception of slavery, and is im- 
bodied in all the laws that pertain to it. Indeed, if it were 
the design to originate a system of laws for the very purpose 
of oppression ; if a legislature should wish to frame a series of 
enactments which should accomphsh that in the most effectual 
manner, the slave laws of this country would be the very ones 
which would be needed for such a purpose. Scarcely any 
modification would be necessary to accomplish such an end ; 
scarcely a new element .of cruelty and wrong could be intro- 
duced into these laws. Let any one read over the laws of the 
slave states as I have quoted them in a former part of this 
volume, and this will be apparent at a glance. 

It is clear, also, that if all that properly comes under the 
name of oppression were removed from those laws, slavery, 
as a system, would soon come to an end. There might, in- 


deed, be found a few now held as slaves who are in such cir- 
cumstances that they do not regard their condition as oppres- 
sive, and who would prefer to remain with their masters rather 
than at once to be set at liberty. But their condition would 
not invalidate the truth of the general remark. Slavery, as a 
system, could not live a day, if there were not in it the elemen- 
tary idea of oppression ; and if so, it is clear, that a fair appli- 
cation of the principles of the Bible would soon bring it to an 
end ; that is, that it is contrary to the principles of the Bible, 
and therefore wrong. 

(c) Depriving one of his lawful wages, is forbidden in 
the New Testament. — Such a withholding of the proper wages 
due to the labourer is involved in the very idea of slavery, and 
in order to show that the Christian system is opposed to it» 
and would abolish it, it is necessary to show that the applica- 
tion of the principles laid down on that subject in the New 
Testament would bring the system to an end. 

This point has already been partially illustrated under a 
previous specification, in showing that the system of slavery 
interferes with the essential rights of property. It is proper, 
however, to add a few words in regard to this specific form 
of the evil, in order to show, not only that it violates the 
essential rights of the labourer, by denying that the slave can 
be the owner of any property whatever, but that it furnishes 
no such compensation for labour as the principles of the New 
Testament give a man a right to receive. 

The principles of the Bible on the subject are stated in the 
following language : " Behold the hire of the labourers who 
have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by 
fraud, crieth ; and the cries of them which have reaped are 
entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth." James v. 4. 
" And I will come near you to judgment ; and I will be a swift 
witrless against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, 
and against false swearers, and against those that oppress 
the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and 
that turn aside the stranger from the right, and fear not me, 


saith the Lord of hosts." Mat. iii. 5. " Wo unto him that 
buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by- 
wrong ; that useth his neighbour's service without wages, 
and giveth him not for his work." Jer. xxii. 13. " The 
labourer is worthy of his reward." 1 Tim. v. 18. " The 
labourer is worthy of his hire." Luke x. 7. 

In all these passages the same principles essentially are laid 
down. They are these : (a) that where labour is per- 
formed, or service rendered, a fair equivalent is due to the 
labourer ; (b) that he to whom the service is rendered is not 
to withhold that fair equivalent; (c) that we are not to avail 
ourselves of the forced or unrequited labour of others. He 
who renders the service is to receive a yair equivalent ; that 
is, he is to receive what is worth as much to him as the labour 
is ; and he in whose behalf the service is rendered is to bestow 
on the labourer as much as the service rendered is worth to him. 

Now, it is not true, in the system of slavery anywhere, 
that it is contemplated that a fair equivalent shall be ren- 
dered to the slave for the service which he performs. It is 
presumed, in the very nature of the system, that the master 
shall receive from the toil of the individual slave, or from 
his slaves collectively, so much m.ore than he gives to them for 
their work, as to be sufficient to free him from the necessity 
of toil, and to enable him, so far as that is concerned, to live 
in indolence. It is not true that an- equivalent is paid to the 
slave. What he receives is not what he would be wilHng to 
contract to do the work for. It is not what freemen receive 
for the same amount of work. No one can pretend that the 
coarse raiment, and the hard fare, and the rude cottages, and 
the scanty furniture, and the im-phed pledge of medical attend- 
ance in sickness, and of support in old age, can be any 
proper equivalent for the service which a slave renders. It is 
not what any freeman would contract to do the work for. If 
it were an equivalent, the Avhole system would be unprofitable, 
and must soon come to an end. 

As long, therefore, as slavery exists in any community, it 


is a standing violation of these precepts of the New Testa- 
ment, and an honest application of these precepts would at 
once' bring the system to an end. Let all slaveholders adopt 
the principle which prevails where there is free labour, of 
giving to those employed a fair compensation for their toil ; 
an honest equivalent for their work, and the system must at 
once cease. It follows, therefore, if these principles are cor- 
rect, that all that is received by the master above such an 
equivalent, is to be set down to the fact that the master has 
power, and 'can enforce the wrong ;' and is as unjustly appro- 
priated to himself as if it were taken by robbery in any other 
form, from the earnings of another. Why is it more justifia- 
ble than any other mode of availing ourselves of the labour of 
others without their consent, and without rendering to them a 
fair equivalent ? There is not on earth any other condition of 
things to which the passage in James v. 4 is so applicable 
as that of slavery ; and if the rebuke in this one passage of the 
word of God were regarded, slavery would at once come to 
an end. Let it be imagined to be addressed to slaveholders, 
and how distinctly does it seem to refer to every feature of 
injustice and wrong in the system. " The hire of the labourers 
which have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept 
back by fraud, crieth ; and the cries of them which have 
reaped, are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.^' 

(d) The vnthholding of instruction is forbidden in the 
New Testament. Nothing is more definite in the Bible, or 
more in accordance with all our views of what is proper and 
right, than the declarations that all men have a clear right to 
know the truth ; to receive instruction, to have free access to 
the oracles of God. Luke xi. 52: " Wo unto you, lawyers ! 
for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered 
not in yourselves, and them that were entering in, ye hindered." 
John V. 89 : " Search the Scriptures ; for in them ye think 
ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." 
Prov. xix. 3 : " That the soul be without knowledge, it is 
not good." 



The precepts in the Bible which speak of the value of 
knowledge, and of the obHgation to search for the truth, apply ' 
to all men. It is everywhere supposed that all have a right 
to the privilege of obtaining the knowledge of God ; and, in. the 
laws of the Mosaic economy, we have seen the solicitude 
which was manifested that all persons in the Hebrew com- 
monwealth should have the benefits of religious instruction. 

Yet the laws of the slave states in this Union are a direct 
violation of all these precepts, so far as slaves are concerned. 
It is not contemplated that they shall have sufficient knowledge 
even to read the Bible. There are numerous laws which are 
enacted with the express design that they shall not have that 
knowledge. Those laws have been enacted on the principle 
that they are necessary to perpetuate the system ; that there 
is no other way of preserving the slaves in subordination ; 
that were they to allow them to be acquainted with the Bible, it 
would make them restless and dissatisfied, and would tend to 
the ultimate subversion of the whole system. It is understood 
everywhere in the slaveholding states that nothing would be 
more fatal to the existence of slavery there, than to establish a 
system of common-school instruction ; and that the whole insti- 
tution would be perilled if all the slaves were taught to read 
the Bible. It would be impossible to press through a single 
legislature of the slaveholding states an act authorizing 
the free instruction of all the slaves to such an extent that 
they might be able to read the word of God ; much less to 
institute a system of common-school instruction that should, 
embrace all the slaves. Even the efforts which are made by 
not a few worthy philanthropists, of a recent date, in the South, 
to benefit the slaves by giving them instruction, contemplate 
only oral instruction ;* and the experiment has been under- 
taken — an experiment which cannot but be destined to certain 
failure in the end, benevolent and well-meant though it be — to 
see whether this mode of instruction can be made to answer 

* See the Reports of the Rev. Mr. Jones. 


tlie purpose of the plan which God has adopted, and v/hich 
he has revealed as the right of every human being, in the 
sense that no one can deprive him of it, and as the only thing 
adapted to meet the wants of the human soul — the ability to 
read the Bible, and the unrestricted right to do it. 

The laws prohibiting the instruction of the slaves are essential 
to slavery. Slaveholding legislators believe, that if those laws 
should be repealed, the system could not be perpetuated. In 
this opinion every intelligent person must unite with them. 
Nothing can be clearer than this ; there is no point on which 
less doubt can be entertained. 

But if this be so, then two things follow also, with entire 
clearness, (a.) One is, that the essential laws in the slave- 
states are opposed to the Bible on this point ; or in other words, 
the Bible is essentially opposed to slavery. That is, laws are 
necessary to support the system, which are a direct violation 
of the principles of the word of God. 

(6.) The second thing is, that the framers of those laws, and 
the advocates of slavery, have no real beHef that the system 
of slavery is sanctioned by the word of God., If they had, 
the very best thing which they could do, would be forthwith 
to teach all their slaves to read the Bible. If this system is 
in accordance with the Scriptures ; if it is clear that it is meant 
that it shall be perpetuated ; if the relation of master and slave 
is one that is recognised as a desirable one, and one that is to 
be continued, then the Bible is the very book to put into the 
hands of the slaves, and then the master is doing both himself 
and the slave a great wrong that he does not do it. For the 
slave often feels that his condition is a hard one. He often 
feels that, being a human being, he has a right to freedom. 
He is chafed, and discontented, and dissatisfied with his con- 
dition. He often feels — hejcannot help it, with the measure 
of light which he has— that God made him for higher ends ; 
for the privileges and immunities of freedom. His spirit is 
restless and disturbed, and he is in constant danger of being 
tempted to take measures to burst his chains, and to enjoy the 


sweets of liberty. Now, if the Bible is friendly to slavery ; 
if it is wholly opposed to all efforts to produce universal 
emancipation ; if it never speaks of slavery as sinful, then 
the best thing that can be done to calm down the restless 
feelings of the slave, is, to put this book into his hands, and 
let him see what is the will of God in the case ; to bring the 
sanctions of religion on the side of the master, and to let the 
slave see that he is only obeying the injunctions of his Maker. 
One of the best methods of calming down the rebellious feelings 
of those who are afflicted by the loss of health, property, or 
friends, is to put the Bible in their hands, and let them see 
that it is the will of God that his people should be tried. 
Nothing does so much to still the murmurs of a troubled soul, 
and to produce peace, as to know that God has appointed 
these trials, and that in obedience to his will they should be 
patiently borne. So, if slavery be countenanced in the Bible, 
and it is there regarded as an institution having the divine 
approbation, nothing would do so much to soothe every mur- 
muring feeling ; to produce universal contentment; to silence 
every complaint against the master, and to make the slave 
happy, as to instruct him so that he could read the Bible, and 
see all this with his own eyes. Masters of slaves are doing 
themselves great wrong, by leaving the suspicion on their 
minds, that something would be found in the Bible which 
would lead them to doubt whether God designed that they 
should be held in that condition. The ' schoolmaster' would 
thus do a good service if he were ' abroad' all over the South. 
The Bible Society should be heartily countenanced by the 
masters and legislators there, and would deserve their warmest 
thanks if it should follow in the steps of the schoolmaster, and 
put a Bible into the hands of every murmuring and dissatisfied 
slave, and into the hands of all the children there born to be 
slaves. Nothing could do so much to prevent trouble — and 
especially to prevent the propensity now so prevalent with 
them to escape to the North. 

(4.) It is conceded that the gospel, if fairly apphed, would 


remove slavery from the world : it is therefore wrong. This 
is admitted in the Princeton Biblical Repertory. 

"It is also evident, that acting in accordance with these 
principles would so soon improve the condition of the slaves, 
would make them intelligent, moral, and religious, and thus 
work out to the benefit of all concerned, and the removal of the 
institution. For slavery, like despotism, supposes the actual 
inferiority and consequent dependence of those held in sub- 
jection. Neither can be permanent. Both may be prolonged 
by keeping the subject class degraded, that is, by committing 
sin on a large scale, which is only to treasure up wrath for 
the day of wrath. It is only the antagonist fanaticism of a 
fragment of the South, which maintains the doctrine that 
slavery is in itself a good thing, and ought to be perpetuated. 
It cannot by possibihty be perpetuated." 

The same sentiments are expressed in the Princeton Re- 
pertory for 1836, pp. 302, 304. This same concession would 
be made by most of those who suppose that slavery was 
tolerated in the church by the apostles, and who are most 
offended at its ever being denominated a sin. Even Dr. Fuller, 
the ablest defender of the institution of slavery of modern times, 
candidly makes the following concession : " If you had as- 
serted," says he, addressing Dr. Wayland, "the great danger 
of confiding such irresponsible power in the hands of any man, 
I should at once have assented. There is quite enough abuse 
of this authority to make me regret its general existence.''^ 
Again he says, " You must already have perceived, that, 
speaking abstractly of slavery, I do not consider its perpetu- 
ation proper, even if it were possible. Nor let any one ask, 
why not perpetuate it if it be not a sin ? The Bible informs 
us what man is, and, among such beings, irresponsible porver 
is a trust too easily and too frequently abusedy^ It is evident 
from these passages, that even this distinguished defender of 
slavery, as a scriptural institution, would not regard it as de- 

* Fuller and Wayland on Slavery, p. 157. 


sirable or ' proper' that it should be perpetuated ; that he 
'.regrets' the general existence of the institution ; and that he 
regards its perpetuation as 'impossible.' Even Dr. Fuller, 
therefore, must suppose, that a fair application of the princi- 
ples of the Bible would remove the system ultimately from 
the world, since he would rely on nothing to correct what 
is evil in man, or permanently to modify society, but the in- 
fluence of religion. 

I have myself repeatedly conversed with intelligent gentle- 
men of the slavehoiding states on the subject, and I have never 
seen one who did not admit that the gospel would ultimately 
remove slavery entirely. They have, indeed, been opposed 
to violent measures — to denunciation, to harsh words, to a 
disorganizing spirit, and to making the mere fact of sustaining 
the relation of a master a test of admission to the church or a 
ground of excommunication from it — as in fact most of the 
opponents of slavery at the North are ; they have in general 
maintained that the North had ko right to intermeddle with it, 
and that it pertained wholly to the .states where the institution 
exists ; they have insisted that it is not proper for ecclesias- 
tical bodies to interfere with the subject, even by bearing 
testimony against it; but they have conceded that the gospel, 
by its mild and gentle influence, Avould ultimately abolish the 
system. It may be set down as the undoubted belief of the 
great mass of private Christians, and Christian ministers at 
the South, that the fah' effect of the gospel, if applied in a 
proper manner, would be iirst to meliorate the condition of the 
slave, and ultimately to effect his entire emancipation. The 
concession would be made, in accordance with the views in 
the Princeton Repertory, that " the consequence of acting on 
the principles of the gospel, of following the example and 
obeying the precepts of Christ, would be the gradual eleva- 
tion of the slaves in intelligence, virtue, and wealth ; the 
peaceable and speepy extinction of slavery ; the improvement 
in general prosperity of all classes of society, and the con- 
sequent increase in tho sum of human happiness and vir- 


tue."* Most persons also would accord with the opinion so em- 
phatically expressed in the same work, that, "The South has to 
choose between emancipation by the silent and holy influence 
of the gospel, securing the elevation of the slaves to the stature 
and character of freemen, or to abide the issue of a long con- 
tinued conflict with the laws of God.''"' — p. 304. 

These views, of what the tendency of the gospel would do if 
fairly apphed, though they seem to be entirely contradictory to 
the opinion, so commonly defended at the South, that it is an in- 
stitution sanctioned by the Bible, would be strengthened by a 
reference to the effect which the gospel, when first promulgated, 
had on the system of Roman slavery. It has been commonly 
admitted, even by the advocates of the opinion that slave- 
holding is not necessarily sinful, that the effect of Christianity 
was to abolish slavery throughout the Roman empire, and 
the manner in which the apostles treated it has been supposed 
to have contributed essentially to this result. 

This opinion, so greatly conceded to be true, has, hoM'ever, 
been recently called in question, by Dr. Fuller. The bearing 
of the concession that the gospel ever did abolish slavery, 
could not but be seen by a mind as clear as his. He there- 
fore expresses himself in the following decisive language : 

" ' Slavery was at last abolished throughout the whole 
Roman empire ; and, by the admission of all, this was purely 
the result of the gospel.' Answer. Even if this statement 
were correct, it would not affect our discussion. But I sub- 
mit to you that it is inaccurate. At first, myriads of slaves 
were procured by war ; and then the law of self-preservation 
occasioned the greatest severities. When all nations had be- 
come consolidated into one empire, this source of supply al- 
most ceased, and, masters depending on the natural increase, 
slaves became more valuable, and their treatment more kind. 
Through this cause the laws were mitigated, and, in the reign 
of the Antonines, edicts were published protecting slaves. 

* Vol. viii. pp. 303, 304. 


This was in the second century, nor can this change be at all 
ascribed to the gospel. In process of time Christianity se- 
conded the humane working of this system, and infused its 
mild and benevolent spirit into the institution, making it quite 
a different thing. But slavery never was abolished through- 
out the Roman empire. In its latest days there were millions 
of slaves in the empire, and a Hving writer thinks, that their 
number was one of the causes which conspired in producing 
that most astonishing catastrophe, the subjugation of Rome by 
the Northern barbarians."* 

It becomes, then, an important inquiry just here, what 
was the effect of the Christian religion on the system of 
slavery as it existed in the Roman empire ? Did it in any 
way modify it, or tend to remove it ? Was it understood to 
lend its sanction to it, so that it was regarded as a good and 
desirable institution ? Was it understood that it was improper 
for Christian ministers to preach on the subject, or synods and 
councils to bear their testimony against it ? Are there any facts 
to show that its tendency was to promote universal emanci- 
pation, or was it a common belief in the Christian church, 
that it was to be perpetual 1 If all Christian ministers and 
churches should act now on what was understood by the 
early Christians to be the proper way to act, would the 
system be vindicated and perpetuated ? 

In reply to these questions, I would observe that i]ie facts 
in the case, so far as I have had the means of ascertaining 
them, were these : 

(a) The attention of Christians was early turned to the 
subject of slavery, and to the evils of the system. In the 
second epistle of Ignatius of Antioch to Polycarp of Smyrna, 
are the following words : " Overlook not the men and maid- 
servants ; neither let them be puffed up ; but rather let them 
be the more subject to the glory of God, that they may ob- 
tain from him a better liberty. Let them not desire to be set 

♦ Fuller and Wayland on Slavery, pp. 330,221. 


free at public cost, that they be not slaves to their own lusts." 
In the general epistle of Barnabas, ch. 14, v. 15, he says, 
" Thou shalt not be bitter in thy commands towards any of 
thy servants that trust in God ; lest thou chance not to fear 
him who is over both ; because he came not to call any with 
respect of persons, but whomsoever the spirit prepared."* 

(6) Freedom, under the influence of Christianity, was re- 
garded as a great blessing, and the desire to promote it led to 
great sacrifices on the part of the early Christians. The 
prevailing views of the early Christians may be regarded 
as expressed in the following passage of Clemens, in his 
epistle to the Corinthians : " We have known many among 
ourselves, who have delivered themselves into bonds and 
slavery, that they might restore others to their liberty ; many 
who have hired out themselves servants unto others, that by their 
wages they might feed and sustain them that wanted." The 
following facts also will show with what feelings the early 
Christians regarded slavery. " Paulinus, bishop of Nola, ex- 
pended his whole estate, and then sold himself, in order to 
accomphsh the same object. Serapion sold himself to a stage- 
player, and was the means of converting him and his family. 
Cyprian sent to the bishop of Numidia, in order to redeem 
some captives, 2500 crowns. Socrates, the historian, says, 
that after the Romans had taken 7000 Persian captives, Aca- 
cius, bishop of Amida, melted the gold and silver plate of his 
church, with which he redeemed the captives. Ambrose of 
Milan did the same in respect to the furniture of his church. 
It was the only case in which the imperial constitutions allowed 
plate to be sold."t 

(c) Emancipation became a very common thing in the early 
Christian church, and was attended with such ceremonies as 
to show that it was regarded as a matter of great importance, 
and thatan invaluable privilege was thus conferred on the slave. 

* Bib. Repos. for 1835, pp. 432, 433. 
f Bib. Repos. Oct. 1835, p. 433. 


Thus, when a slave became, with the consent of his master, a 
minister of the gospel, he was, by the very act, regarded as 
emancipated.* Emancipation came to be performed in the 
church, attended with the impressive rites of religion,! and 
every thing relating to it was such as to make a deep impres- 
sion of the desirableness of restoration to freedom. 

((/) Under the influence of Christianity, the laws were 
greatly modified, and many of the former oppressive and 
harsh treatments came to an end. " After the establishment 
of Christianity, under Constantino, slaves partook of all the 
ordinances of religion, and their birth was no impediment to 
their rising to the highest distinctions of the priesthood. At 
first, indeed, it was required that a slave should be enfran- 
chised before ordination ; but Justinian declared the simple con- 
sent of the master to be sufficient. Slaves were fully protected 
in the exercise of worship, and to a certain extent in the ob- 
servance of religious festivals. If a Christian slave fell into 
the hands of a heathen master, the latter was prohibited from, 
interfering with his spiritual concerns."! 

(e) It is admitted that the tendency of things under the 
Roman empire, in the early ages of Christianity, was to bring 
slavery to an end ; and that, in fact, it brought it almost to a 
termination. Indeed, such were the facilities for manumission 
in the Roman state, and such numbers were actually emanci- 
pated before Christianity exerted any influence, that it came to 
be necessary, as it was supposed, to restrict the right of emanci- 
pation, in order to limit the dangerous number of freedmen. 
Cicero induces us to believe, that good slaves usually at- 
tained their hberty after six years' service. § It was usual for 
a wealthy master to give freedom to a number of slaves upon 
joyful The posthumous vanity of masters was 

* Blair's Slavery amongst the Romans, p. 168. 

•j^ Pliny vii. epist. 1 6. 

i Bib. Repos. ut supra, p. 434. § Philip, viii. II. 

II Ammi. Marcell. xxii.; Libianus Paneg. Jul. i. 21; Cassiod.Varior. vi.ep. I. 


gratified in their funeral procession being swelled by a crowd 
of slaves, to whom they left their freedom by testament, and 
hundreds were sometimes thus emancipated at once.* The 
number of freedmen found in Rome, at the close of the civil wars, 
was so large that Augustus, desirous to re-establish the relative 
importance of the pure civic classes, imposed various restric- 
tions on their manumission, and several of his successors acted 
on similar views. The Fusian law, passed probably under 
Augustus, limited the proportion of slaves that a proprietor 
might emancipate by will, and fixed one hundred as the maxi- 
mum, not to be exceeded by any single ovvner.t The exact 
provision of this law was, that for one or two slaves, there was 
no limitation ; but between the numbers three and ten, one 
half could be emancipated ; of any number under thirty, a 
third ; under a hundred, a quarter ; under five hundred, a 
fifth part, and in no case whatever more than a hundred.^ 

This tendency to emancipation was much increased by the 
influence of Christianity. The feelings of the early Chris- 
tians, as we have seen, prompted them to it ; and the obstacles 
to emancipation were finally removed, to a great degree, by 
Justinian. § So strong was the tendency to emancipation, so 
decisive was the influence of Christianity, that, if slavery was 
never entirely brought to an end in the Roman empire, it was 
nearly so ; and if the progress of things had not been inter- 
rupted by the invasion of the Northern hordes, there is every 
reason to think that it would have wholly ceased within the 
limits of the Roman power. Thus, Gibbon expressly says, 
that it " had almost ceased under the peaceful reign of the 
Roman emperors." (See Fuller on Slavery, p. 221.) Thus 
Dr. Fuller himself says : " In process of time Christianity 
seconded the humane working of this system, and infused 
its mild and benevolent spirit into the institution, making it 

• Blair, ut supra, p. 173. f I^id. p. 174. 

t Becker on Roman Slavery, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, Aug. 1845, 
p, 579. § Blair, ut. sup. p. 174. 


quite a different thing."— p. 220. Thus also, Prof. B. B. 
Edwards* says : " The spirit of the Christian religion effected ■ 
a glorious triumph in almost every part of the imperial domi- 
nions. There was no instantaneous abandonment of the sys- 
tem of servitude. But its contrariety to the precepts of the 
New Testament was gradually seen. Clergymen vindicated 
the rights of the oppressed. The codes of slave-law were 
gradually ameliorated, till finally the rescripts of Justinian 
nearly accomplished the salutary reform." On the influence 
of the invasions of the Goths and Vandals in checking the 
progress of emancipation, and perpetuating slavery, the whole 
of the article just referred to may be consulted with great ad- 
vantage. It is evident, that whatever influence those inva- 
sions had in perpetuating slavery should be regarded as coun- 
teracting the tendency of the Christian religion. 

From the above statements in regard to slavery in the 
Roman empire after the gospel was preached, it is manifest 
that slavery was considered to be adverse to the spirit of the 
gospel ; that the early Christians were willing to make great 
sacrifices to impart freedom to those who were enslaved; that 
emancipation was regarded as a most important and desirable 
thing ; that the tendency of Christianity was to mehorate the 
laws pertaining to slavery, and to ' make it quite a different 
thing ;' that under the influence of Christianity slavery ' had 
almost ceased' in the Roman empire ; and that there is every 
reason to suppose that it would have ceased entirely, if the 
progress of things so auspiciously commenced had not been 
arrested by the incursions of the Northern barbarians. 

The result of this investigation in regard to Roman slavery 
is, therefore, in entire accordance wuth the statement in the 
Princeton Repertory, that the fair application of the Christian 
religion would ullimately bring the institution to an end. 

But, if this be so, it is a legitimate conclusion that slavery 
is sinful, and that the gospel does not contemplate that it shall 

* Bibl. Repos. Jan. 1836, p. 441. 

scriptuhal views of slavery. 373 

be perpetuated for the best interests of society. It is clear, 
that the most rigid application of the principles of the gospel 
will destroy nothing that is good, and that it will interfe're with 
no desirable relation in society. It makes war only on evil ; 
its tendency is to remove only that which is sinful. Regard- 
ing the gospel as a system of truth revealed from heaven, all 
that is necessary to prove that any thing is wrong, is to show 
that the fair application of the gospel would abolish it. It 
makes no diiference as to this point, whether it be by a 
gradual process, or whether it would do it immediately ; 
whether it would be by effecting a change in the laws, or by 
acting directly on the individual consciences of those who are 
guilty of the wrong; the fact that the gospel would aboHsh its 
existence, proves that it is wrong. The Christian religion 
disturbs nothing that is good ; it destroys no relation which it 
is desirable should be perpetuated for the best interests of man. 
All the arguments, therefore, in the Princeton Repertory, and 
elsewhere, in favour of slavery, when the admission is made 
that the gospel would abolish it, are grossly inconsistent. At 
one moment it is maintained that it is not condemned in the 
Bible ; that slavery has been countenanced in all ages ; that 
it is not to be regarded -as per se an evil ; that it is wrong for 
ecclesiastical bodies to legislate on it ; that slaves may be held 
with propriety by Christian ministers and by other Christians ; 
that the war which Christianity makes on it is not on the 
system, but the ' abuses of the system' — the unjust and oppres- 
sive laws on the subject ;* and at another, it is admitted, in. 
the clearest manner, that the fair application of the Christian 
religion would bring the system ' speedily' to an end, — as if 
the gospel would abolish any thing that is good and right. 
If Christianity would bring it to an end, there must be some 
reason Avhy it would ; and the only reason that can be 
assigned as drawn from the nature of Christianity is, that 

* Princeton Repertory, April, 1836, pp. 302, 303. 


it is contrary to the will of God, and a thing that is morally 

It is a fair conclusion, therefore, that if Christianity would 
abolish slavery, it is sinful. It demonstrates the point before 
us, that it is contrary to the Bible, and cannot be defended 
from the word of God. To show that it is not contrary to the 
Bible, it should be maintained that, under the fair operation of 
Christianity, the system would be extended and perpetuated ; 
and that the best way to keep it up on the earth would be to 
promulgate the principles of the Christian religion as plainly 
and as extensively as possible. There are few men, it is to 
be presumed, who would be disposed to take that ground. 

The force of the argument here referred to may be seen by 
applying it to two classes of objects. 

(a) There are things, indubitably, which the application of 
Christianity would bring to an end, and which, wherever it 
has prevailed, have been abohshed. Such, for example, are 
polygamy, gladiatorial shows, intemperance, concubinage, 
profaneness, piracy, highway robbery, duelling, fraud, hcen- 
tiousness of manners. Christianity has brought them to an 
end, because they are wrong ; and the fact that it has done so, 
proves that they are wrong. If it would also abolish slavery, 
would it not prove that it is to be classed with the same evils 
as those just referred to ? Is it the tendency of the system to 
abolish alike the evil and the good ? Is it ' a fountain which 
at the same place sends forth sweet water and bitter?'— 
James iii. 11. 

(b) There are things which it would not abolish ; which it 
has no tendency to abolish, but which it only confirms in their 
influence. Such are the relations of the marriage covenant ; 
of parent and child ; of brothers and sisters ; of neighbours and 
friends. The most rigid appHcation of the principles of Christi- 
anity would do nothing to abolish the relations of husband and 
wife in a community, or those of parent and child. The 
Christian system would only perpetuate and do honour to 
those relations ; nor is it possible to conceive that the time will 


ever come, under the application of Christianity, Avhen they 
will cease in the world. Does not this prove that they have 
the sanction of God, and are designed to be perpetuated for 
the good of man ? And if the relation of master and slave had 
equally the sanction of God, would not the fair application of 
Christianity be to extend and perpetuate it also ? Why should 
it perpetuate the one and abolish the other ? 

These considerations seem to me to be conclusive proof that 
Christianity was not designed to extend and perpetuate slavery, 
but that the spirit of the Christian religion is against it ; and 
that the fair application of the Christian rehgion would re- 
move it from the world, because if is an evil, and is displeasing 
to God. 



I HAVE thus gone thjrough with the subject which I pro- 
posed to examine — the scriptural argument on the subject 
of slaver3^ There is another line of argument on the sub- 
ject which might be pursued, in order to confirm the views 
which have been talcen, derived from the vjorking of the sys- 
tem. This would consist of an examination of the bearing of 
the system on the various questions pertaining to agricuUure, 
commerce, arts, manufactures, education, morals, and political 
prosperity. It would be easy, on these points, to show that 
there is not a valuable interest of society which does not suf- 
fer from the influence of slavery, and that our own country, in 
the comparative increase and prosperity of the free and slave 
states, furnishes abundant illustration of this truth. This 
course of argument would be proper, in accordance with the 
object which I proposed, only as it would be a confirmation 
of the views taken in interpreting the Bible. If the teachings 
of the Bible are against the system ; if in the word of God it 
is not regarded as a good and desirable institution; if it 
appears from the Scriptures that it was not his intention that 
it should be perpetuated ; and if the fair application of the 
Christian principles would be to abolish it, it may be pre- 
sumed that these views would find confirmation in the events 
of his Providence ; and that in respect to those things on which 
the best interests of society depend, and which will enter into 
its highest condition, those portions of the world where slavery 
prevails will be found to be falling behind those which are 
free from it. This argument might be pursued at length, 


and with tlie clearest demonstration. With certain classes 
of minds it would have more force than any thing which 
I have advanced. But it does not fall directly within 
my design in ascertaining the true sense of the Bible on the 

I have not thought it necessary for me, in this argument, to 
go into any examination of the question in what way our 
country can be delivered from this great evil, or what is the 
duty of those who now hold slaves who would be desirous 
of dissolving all connection with the system, or what is their 
duty in seeking the modification of the laws on the subject. 
There is one great preliminary matter first to be settled, and 
that is, to secure the conviction everywhere, in the church 
and out of it, that slavery is evil, and only evil ; that it is con- 
trary to the spirit of the Bible ; that the fair influence of the 
Christian religion would be to bring it to an end ; and that it 
is a system which cannot be defended by any fair and honest 
interpretation of the word of God. The examination which 
I have pursued has conducted us, if I mistake not, to the con- 
clusion that slavery cannot rest for its support on the teach- 
ings of the Bible. The fair influence of the Bible ; the 
application of the principles of the Christian religion, would 
bring the system to a 'speedy' end. This is felt everywhere 
at the North ; and is probably felt in the consciences of the 
great majority of persons at the South. Few men, even there, 
would have the boldness to undertake to maintain that the 
Bible sanctions the system of American slavery, a.s it is. 
The great mass of the friends of religion there would admit 
that the mild and gentle influence of Christianity would bring 
it to an end. Thousands of Christians there, I doubt not, are 
looking forward to the time when this shall be accomplished, 
and are praying most sinceiely that the gospel may be so 
applied to all classes there — to the master and the servant ; to 
the legislators and the people ; to the churches and the com- 
munity at large — that the evils of this system may be ultimately 



banished, and that all the South may be truly a land of free- 
dom. They sigh over wrongs and woes which they yet see 
no method of removing. 

That the South, moreover, is sensible that the fair influence 
of the Bible is against the system, and would bring it to an 
end, is manifest from all the laws which exist there to prevent 
the truths of the Bible from coming in contact with the minds 
of the slaves themselves. If the Bible is favourable to the 
system, and would sustain it, the most obvious course to con- 
tinue it, as has been before observed, would be to cause every 
slave to be taught to read, and to place the Bible in every 
negro cottage in the plantations of the South. But this can- 
not be done. The laws are against it ; the public sentiment 
is against it, and against it only because it is known that the 
slave, if allowed to be his own interpreter of the word of God, 
would not draw the conclusion that the master often does, 
that the Bible is in favour of slavery. Well is it known that 
the Bible would teach him that he is a man ; that he is a 
redeemed heir of life ; that he was born as free as others ; 
that he has a right to bis own time, and to the fruits of his 
own toil ; and that if he had all the rights which he ought to 
have, he would be as free as his master. Well is it knoAvn 
that the influence of the Bible, while it would make him 
patient under his trials and wrongs, would awaken in his 
bosom an inextinguishable love of liberty. It would be impos- 
sible to repress in the soul the aspirings after freedom ; and 
with the Bible everywhere in his hands, it would be impossi- 
ble to keep down the feeUng that the master was guilty of 
oppression and wrong. 

Now this conviction that slavery is contrary to the spirit 
of the Christian religion, and that that religion will ultimately 
bring it to an end, is destined most certainly to increase and 
prevail. Nothing is more sure than that, on this subject, the 
human mind will become strengthened in this conviction 
until it becomes universal. There is but one result every- 


where to be anticipated in the progress of knowledge, and in 
the careful investigations of the Scriptures on this subject, and 
that is the result which was reached by the minds of Penn, 
and the younger Edwards, and by Wilberforce and Clarkson, 
that the system of slavery is contrary to the spirit of the 
Bible. The progress towards this result may be temporarily 
checked. Many minds may for- a while hesitate ; many, 
swayed by interest, may doubt it ; but the world will come 
to it, and will yet admit that the system which proclaims that 
man may be held as a chattel, cannot be sustained by the 
word of God. With reference to so certain a result, we may 
apply to this anticipated triumph of truth, the eloquent lan- 
guage with which Dr. Fuller closes his letters to Dr. Way- 
land, on slavery. 

" The knowledge of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, we 
are assured, shall fill this guilty and polluted earth, as the 
waters cover the face of the deep. And it is with that 
knoAvledge, too, as with those waters, when the sea is rolling 
in. Wave after wave breaks, and is driven back ; but the 
ocean is advancing ; and before its majesty and strength, im- 
potent must every barrier prove ; — vainly shall nations rage, 
and rulers take counsel together, and all the kings of the 
earth set themselves, saying. Hitherto shalt thou come, but no 
further, and here shall thy proud billows be stayed." 

It is deeply affecting to see such a mind as that of Dr. 
Fuller — large, generous, highly cultivated, and well-disci- 
pUned — labouring to defend the system of slavery, yet deeply 
impressed with its undeniable evils; with the fact that the 
current of pubhc feeling is setting against it ; and that he can 
find little sympathy in the spirit of the age while maintaining 
such an argument, pouring itself forth in the following pen- 
sive and disconsolate words : — 

" I have done ; and mine has been an irksome and cheerless 
task. You have had the popular side of the question, and the 
Reflector has accompanied your letters with accounts of the 


enthusiasm produced by them at the North. May you ever 
be animated in your pious labours by multitudes who love and 
admire you, — among whom I shall always be found, when 
conscience permits it. For me, I have long been schooled to 
say, * My soul, wait thou only upon God ; for my expec- 
tation is from Him.\ I expect no enthusiasm from the 
North, and little even from the South. I ask only the calm 
and honest reflection of wise and good men for truth, which 
may not be welcome, but is truth for all that. Easily could I 
have composed papers which would have been copied and 
applauded here, but truth forbade it. Nor can I approve of 
the fanaticism of the South, any more than that of the North, 
on the subject which has been before us. I only wish, in 
fact, that, instead of employing my humble efforts in refuting 
an untenable, and mischievous, and monstrous dogma, T had 
been occupied in the more congenial work of attempting- to 
excite masters to a sense of their fearful responsibility, and to 
the discharge of their solemn duties." 

How much more in accordance with such a mind would it 
be, to engage in showing how the system debases all that is 
noble in man, and how contrary it is to the spirit of the Lord 
Jesus, and to all the principles of that religion which he came 
to establish in the world. For such a mind must perceive 
that there is a current setting against slavery, which nothing 
can resist. There are great and well-established principles 
in society, which are constantly pressing harder and harder 
on the system. The progress towards universal freedom is 
onward. The spirit of the age ; the settled principles of 
liberty ; the advances in intelligence and in benevolent feel- 
ing, all are against the system, and it cannot survive the shock 
when all these are fully armyed against it. 

The defence of slavery from the Bible is to be, and will 
soon be abandoned, and men will wonder that any de- 
fence of such a system could have been attempted from the 
word of God. If the authors of these defences could live a 


little longer than the ordinary term of years allotted to man, 
they would themselves wonder that they could ever have set 
up such a defence. Future generations will look upon the 
defences of slavery drawn from the Bible, as among the most 
remarkable instances of mistaken interpretation and unfounded 
reasoning furnished by the perversities of the human mind. 

One thing further is settled. If the Bible could be shown 
to defend and countenance slavery as a good institution, it 
would make thousands of infidels — for there are multitudes of 
minds that will see more clearly that slavery is against all the 
laws which God has written on the human soul, than they 
would see that a book sanctioning such a system had evidence 
of divine origin. If slavery is to be defended, it is not to be 
by arguments drawn from the Bible, but by arguments drawn 
from its happy influences on agriculture, commerce, and the 
arts ; on the increase of population and national prosperity ; 
on morals and social intercourse ; on the military strength 
which it gives a people ; on the smiling villages, the neat 
dwellings, the school-houses and churches, which it rears and 
adorns ; on its influence in promoting chastity and purity of 
life ; on its elevating the black man, and making him more 
intelligent and happy than he would be in his own land ; on 
its whole benevolent bearing on the welfare of the slave, in 
this world and the world to come. Whether these considera- 
tions in its favour are sufficient to defend the institution, may 
be safely left to the results of an examination by those who 
are disposed to engage in it. 

From the whole train of reasoning which I have pursued, 
I trust it will not be considered as improper to regard it as a 
position clearly demonstrated, that the fair influence of the 
Christian religion would everywhere abolish slavery. Let its 
principles be acted out ; let its maxims prevail and rule in the 
hearts of all men, and the system, in the language of the 
Princeton Repertory, ' would speedily come to an end.' In 
what way this is to be brought about, and in what manner the 


influence of the church may he made to hear upon it, are 
points on which there may be differences of opinion. But 
there is one method which is obvious, and which, if every- 
where practised, would certainly lead to this result. It is, 
for the Christian church to cease all connection loith slavery. 
Happily we have, on this subject, one most beautiful and in- 
structive example of what might be done by all Christian 
churches — the example of the Society of Friends. Humbly 
commending that example to the churches of the Lord Jesus 
Christ in this land, as one eminently prudent, Christian, and 
wise, I would submit this whole argument to the candid 
judgment of the Christian public, to all who love liberty and 
value the rights of man. 

The history of emancipation among the Quakers is an ex- 
ceedingly interesting and instructive portion of the history of 
our country ; and in the calm, and prudent, and persevering 
measures which they have adopted, is probably to be found 
the true way in which our country can be, and is to be, freed 
from this great evil. They have aimed at two things — and 
two only — both of them legitimate, both of them prudent and 
wise :— first to remove slavery from their own body; and then 
to bear their solemn testimony, in regard to the evil, to the 
world. The first object was pursued year afteryear by patient 
and manly discussion, and by faithful and affectionate dealing 
with their brethren ; — and the period at last arrived — a most 
triumphant period in the history of their body — when they 
could announce to the world that the evil of slavery was not 
attached to any portion of their denomination ; when there 
was not a " Friend" who claimed a right of property in his 
fellow-man. The other object they have as steadily pursued. 
They have borne, without ambiguity, and without hesitancy, 
and with nothing of a spirit of denunciation, their 'testimony' 
in regard to the evil of the system before the world. They 
offer no forced interference. They use no harsh words. 
They impugn no man's motives. They interfere with no 


rights protected by law. But they are a plain-spoken people. 
They use intelligent language. They do not attempt to blink 
the subject, or to cover up the evil. They make no apology 
for slavery ; they never speak of it as right ; they never 
speak of it as sanctioned by the Bible ; they never even speak 
of the difficulty of emancipation ; they use no metaphysical 
distinctions on the question whether it is a moral, or a political, 
or a social wrong, or on the question whether it is in all cases 
a sin. They leave the impression that they regard it as a 
wrong in every sense of the word, and that they themselves 
deemed it so great a wrong that they were willing to make 
great sacrifices, that their own denomination might be freed 
from it totally and for ever ; and they leave this solemn testi- 
mony to go forth to the world for what it is worth. 

Now here, I am persuaded, is a<=fwise model for all other 
denominations of Christian men, and the true idea of all suc- 
cessful efforts for the removal of this great evil from the land. 
Let all the evangelical denominations but follow the simple 
example of the duakers in this country, and slavery would 
soon come to an end. There is not vital energy enough; 
there is not power of numbers and influence enough out of 
the church, to sustain it. Let every religious denomination 
in the land detach itself from all connection with slavery, 
without saying a word against others ; let the time come when, 
in all the mighty denominations of Christians, it can be 
announced that the evil has ceased ^vith them for ever ; and 
let the voice from each denomination be lifted up in kind, but 
firm and solemn testimony against the system — with no 
* mealy' words ; with no attempt at apology ; with no wish 
to blink it ; with no effort to throw the sacred shield of religion 
over so great an evil — and the work is done. 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 that is 
needful is, for each Christian man, and for every Christian 
church, to stand up in the sacred majesty of such a solemn 
testimony ; to free themselves from all connection with the 
evil, and utter a calm and deliberate voice to the world, and 




No. 142 Chestnut Street, 



A collection of Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship : 
containing Dr. Watts^ versification of the Psahns of 
David, entire, a large portion of Dr. Watts'' Hymns, 
and Psalms and Hymns by other authors. — Selected 
and Original. 

This book is the result of years of uninterrupted labour. It has 
been prepared by a clergyman admirably qualified for the task, and 
with unusual facilities afforded him to make the work of the very 
best character. The Editor has availed himself of every advantage 
which could be derived from the most extensive collection of works 
on Psalmody,- both American and foreign, and frequent consultation 
with clergymen in this and other sections of the country. 

It has been before the Christian public but for a short time, yet it has 
received an unusual degree of approbation, having been warmly com- 
mended by ecclesiastical bodies and individuals in various and remote 
parts of the Union, in connexion with the Constitutional Presby- 
terian Church. A great number of churches in many of the States 
have adopted it, and, judging from the testimonials received, it is be- 
lieved to possess a greater degree of merit than any other book now 
before the public. 

The publishers beg leave to call the attention of clergymen and 
others to the following characteristics of the Parish Psalmody. 

I. It contains Dr. Watts' versification of the Psalms, entire and 
unaltered, except in a few instances of allusion to the British nation 
and government. Versifications by Dwight, Montgomery, and others, 
of the Psalms omitted by Dr. Watts', and some choice versifications 
of other Psalms, have been inserted, but in all such instances the 
name of the author is given at the close of the piece. 

II. The Parish Psalmody contains also a selection of Hymns, 
nearly seven hundred in number, which, (according to the numerous 
testimonials above referred to,) will be found copious, adapted to a 
great variety of topics and occasions, and suited to the evangelical and 


active spirit of the age. Nearly two hundred of Dr. Watts' hymns, 
embracing, it is supposed, all that are used in public worship, will 
be found in this volume. The standard productions of Doddridge, 
Cowpcr, Newton, Mrs. Steele, and others, have been scrupulously 

The aim of the Editor has been to allow the authors to speak for 
themselves, and in some cases what may appear to be alterations 
of the Hymns, are but restorations of the original language a)id sen- 
timent, which has been much injured by the vin warrantable liberties 
taken by other compilers. A hymn which has once proved its power 
over the pious heart, may be made more severely correct in style or 
sentiment, but its nature commonly suffers by alteration more than 
is compensated by the removal even of a slight defect. 

A few hymns, not hitherto familiar to the public, have been al- 
tered, because without alteration they could not be admitted into a 
volume of devotional poetry, although possessing great excellence. 
These are designated as altered. 

III. The classification of subjects is more minute than usual, and 
is methodical, easy, and corresponding with the best arrangement of 
systematic theology. 

In the running title over the left-hand page is found the general 
subject; as, for instance, "Christ," while over the right-hand page is 
found the subdivision of this general subject, as "Advent," "Atone- 
ment," " Resurrection," "Ascension," " Intercession," &c. 

A complete table of the "Classification of Hymns" is given. The 
"Index of Subjects," and that of "Passages of Scriptures alluded to 
in the Hymns," is also very full. 

In the size designed for the pulpit, a table of the " First lines of 
every Stanza" in the book is given, so that upon the recollection of the 
first line of any stanza of any Psalm or Hymn in the book, the piece 
to which it belongs may be readily found. The copiousness of the 
indexes and tables has been often mentioned by many of the pastors 
who are using the book, in different sections of the country, as afford- 
ing them greater facilities than any other book they have ever seen. 

IV. In addition to its other excellencies, there is included in the 
volume the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, and the 
Shorter Catechism, but congregations choosing to dispense with these 
can be supplied with copies in which they are omitted. 

Pastors and churches are earnestly desired to examine the Parish 
Psalmody before adopting any other book. It is published in the 
three sizes, in .32mo., 18mo., and 12mo., all in very clear, new type, 
and will be sold very low to churches. 


By the Synod of Pennsylvania. 
^ Resolved, That the Parish Psalmody, which has already been 
adopted extensively by the churches in our connexion, is a Book of 
Psalms and Hymns of great excellence. The collection is large, 
various, and evangelical, replete with lyric beauty, and admirably 
adapted to the wants and spirit of the age. Embracing also the Con- 

fession of Faith and Shorter Catecliisiifi, it supplies a desideratum, 
wJiich has been wanting- heretofore in the Hymn Books in use in the 
Presbyterian Churcli, 

Resolved, That we recommend its adoption, as speedily as possible, 
by all the churches under our care. 

By the Synod of Western Pennsylvania. 
Resolved, That we recommend its adoption, (Parish Psalmody) 
by all the churches under our care. 

By the Presbytery of Pittsburgh, Pa. 

Resolved, That the Parish Psalmody, which has been adopted by 
two of our churches, is a collection of Psalms and Hymns of great 
excellence; and we recommend its use in all the churches under our 

Resolved, That we consider it a strong recommendation of the 
Parish Psalmody, that appended to it, are the Confession of Faith, 
and the Shorter Catechism ; thus giving a wide circulation to those 
venerated standards of Presbyterianism, and making all -our members 
familiar with the system of doctrine, held and taught in our church. 

Resolved, Tliat we overture the Synod to take action on this sub- 
ject, so that we may, if possible, secure uniformity of Psalmody 
throughout the churches. 

. Extract from the Minutes of the Third Presbytery, Philadelphia. 

The committee appointed to examine the " Parish Psalmody," 
published by Messrs. Perkins & Purves, of Philadelphia, respectfully 

That they have given due attention to the book, and find it to pos- 
sess more excellencies, and fewer defects, than usually attach to 
works of this character. 

It contains the Psalms of Dr. Watts entire from the original copy, 
except in a few instances of national allusion, together with a versifi- 
cation of the Psalms of David which he omitted, by other and approved 

Most of the Hymns of Watts also are given with sparing and judi- 
cious alterations. To these are added about five hundred of the most 
choice hymns in the English language, adapted to every variety of 

The index of subjects is full and well arranged, and one also of 
Scripture passages on which the hymns are founded, is added. 

The book is truly Presbyterian in its character, containing the Con- 
fession of Faith and Shorter Catechism. The execution of the work 
is admirable, both for appearance and durability. 

They would recommend the following resolution for adoption: — 

Resolved, That the Presbytery recommend to the churches under 
its care the "Parish Psalmody," published by Messrs. Perkins & 
Purves, of Philadelphia, as admirably adapted to interest and edify 
our churches and congregations, in this department of public worship. 

The foregoing is a true extract from the minutes of the Presbytery. 
Attest, Robert Adair, Stated Clerk, 

Extract from the Minutes of the Presbytery of Wilmington. 
Resolved, That the " Parish Hymns" and " Parish Psalmody be 
recommended to all tlie churches under the care of this Presbytery, 
for their examination, and if they approve, for their adoption, as the 
system of Psalms and Hymns to be used in our churches. 

Attest, E. W. Gilbert, Stated ClcrJc. 

Extract from the Minutes of the Presbytery of Bethlehem. 

Resolved, That we highly approve the collection of Psalms and 
Hymns, entitled "Parish Psalmody," published by Perkins Si, Purves, 
and regard it as decidedly the most judicious selection v^^ith which 
we are acquainted. Henry B. Elliot, Clerk. 

Extract from the Minutes of the Pastoral Association of this City, 
The Pastoral Association having recommended the " Parish 
Hymns," published by Messrs. Perkins & Purves, which are design- 
ed for use in the lecture-room and for social worship, take great plea- 
sure in also recommending the *' Parish Psalmody," recently publish- 
ed by the same enterprising gentlemen. The design of the " Parish 
Psalmody" is different from that of the "Parish Hymns." The for- 
mer is intended for the public worship of God, containing Dr. Watts' 
Psalms entire, and nearly seven hundred hymns from Dr. Watts and 
other esteemed authors, including the greater part of the " Parish 
Hymns." The care and labour which have been bestowed in pre- 
paring this admirable collection, the execution of the work as to type 
and paper, together with the cheapness at which the publishers have 
offered the same, will, we doubt not, secure for it the favour of the 
churches; and we earnestly desire to see this book introduced into 
the churches of our communion. There is another feature which 
greatly commends it in our esteem ; they have appended to it the 
Confession of Faith of our church, and the Shorter Catechism. This 
will doubtless enhance its value, and give it a more ready and wel- 
come access into the families in our communion. 

Signed, Charles Brown, Secretary. 


The following; recommendation has been received from several of the 
Pastors of the city of Philadelphia, who have adopted the Parish 

The undersigned have introduced into their respective churches the 
"Parish Psalmody," recently published by Perkins &. Purves, of this 
city, and which has received the approval of the Third Presbytery of 
Philadelphia, and other ecclesiastical bodies. The following are some 
of its excellencies, viz : 

1. It contains Dr. Watts' versification of the Psalms, entire: and 
the Hymns by the same author are retained, with sparing and judi- 
cious alterations. To the Hymns by Dr. Watts are added about five 
hundred of the best in the English language. 

2. The classification and the index of subjects are full and well ar- 


ranged: and an index of Scripture passages, upon which the hymns 
are founded; and (in the large size) an index of the first line of every 
stanza, give it a completeness which is seldom to be met with in simi- 
lar collections. 

3. It includes the Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism 
of the Presbyterian Church, which gives the book much additional 

We cordially recommend the "Parish Psalmody" to our brethren 
in the ministry and the churches in our connexion, for their adoption, 
believing it to be the best collection of Psalmody now in use. 

John L. Grant, 
Pastor of the 11th Presbyterian Church, Phila. 

Charles Browx, 
Pastor of 1st Presb. Church, Fairmount, Phila. 

Ezra Stiles Ely, D. D. 
Pastor Elect of 1st Presb. Church, N. L. Phila. 

Robert Adair, 
Pastor of 1st Presb. Church, Southwark, Phila. 

William Ramsey, 
Minister of Cedar street Presb. Church, Phila. 

M. La Rue P. Thompson, 
Pastor of the 5th Presbyterian Church, Phila. 

George Chandler, 
Pastor of 1st Presb. Church, Kensington, Phila. 

E. J. Richards, 
Pastor of the Western Presb. Church, Phila. 

Thomas Brainerd, 
Pastor of the 3d Presbyterian Church, Phila. 

From Rev. James P. Wilson, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church at 
Hartsville, Pa. 

I have careful!}' examined your " Parish Psalmody," and we are 
now using it exclusively in public worship. I consider it the best 
system of Psalmody I have ever seen — purely catholic, and yet strict- 
ly Presbyterian. Watts' Psalms are wisely retained entire, and most 
of the old favourite Hymns, while the new ones that are added, arc 
suited to the times, and to the present advanced progress of the 
Church. I may add, moreover, the whole selection is in poetical 
taste; and the hymns metrically adjusted to the present improvement 
and variety in Church Music, and of convenient length. 

It is unnecessary to remark, that the Confession of Faith and Cate- 
chism appended, give the book much additional value. 

, James P. Wilson. 

From Rev. R. W. Landis, Pastor of the Presb, Church at Sidney, N. J. 

In relation to the Parish Psalmody, I must also add a word. I 
have been labouring much with my brethren in other churches lately, 
in time of these great awakenings, and in my own church there are 
now nearly eighty inquirers, who have presented themselves for our 
counsel and prayers, and I have had, therefore, an opportunity to test 
the relative merits of the book. My esteem for it has increased upon 


every comparison, and I find in it a fulness of subjects and adapta- 
tion to the exigencies of a revival, that I have found in no other work 
of the kind. It has become more and more endeared to me and my 
people, in proportion to our use of it. 

Robert W. Landis. 

From Rev.'George Foot, Pastor of the Drawyer''s Presbyterian Church 
I have examined the "Parish Psalmody" with much interest. It 
is, in my opinion, better adapted to congregational use than any book 
with which I am acquainted, embodying a large portion of the best 
hymns in tlie English language; a great variety of measure, adapting 
it to the present state of musical science; and also, those hymns which 
are pecularly adapted to revivals of religion. The most decisive tes- 
timonial, however, in its favour is, that we have resolved to use it 
hereafter in the services of the sanctuary. In the sentiment of the 
Psalms and Hymns, I perceive nothing to which the most fastidious 
can take exceptions, while the Confession of Faith and Catechism an- 
n'exed to it, make it emphatically a Presbyterian book. 

George Foot. 

From Rev. Charles Brown, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church 
of Fairmount, Philadelphia, 

After a careful examination of your new collection of Psalms and 
Hymns lately publislied, and entitled '' Parish Psalmody," I recom- 
mended it to my congregation, by exhibiting some of its many ex- 
cellencies. The superiority of your book over tlie one (the Assem- 
bly's) we had in use, as well as over any we had seen, was soon 
manifest; and the congregation, by a popular vote, unanimously 
adopted it. 

We have had it in use for about two months, and find it in every 
way well adapted both to the sanctuary and the lecture room. The 
Confession of Faith and Shorter Catechism, which you have appended 
to the v\rork, much improve its value. 

Charles Brown. 

Fro7n Rev. H. BushneJl, of Cincinnati. 

To the Presbyterian Churches in the West, not supplied with a 
suitable Hymn Book for Public and Social Worship: 

I have observed in many of the churches through the country, a 
great destitution of Hymn Books, and even where congregations 
have a large number of books, there is generally so great a variety 
as to render nearly all of them useless. Perhaps no one thing adds 
more to the interest of public, social, and family worship, than to 
have all the worshippers supplied with uniform books. I have re- 
cently examined somewhat carefully, the " Parish Psalmody," for 
sale by G. L. Weed, of Cinchmati, and am confident that it possesses 
excellencies above any work of the kind now in use in our western 
churches. In addition to Watts' version of the Psalms entire, to- 
gether with a versification of those omitted by him, the book contains 

about seven hundred hymns, admirably arranged and adapted to the 
wants of the churches under all their circumstances. A greater va- 
riety of subjects are embraced in this book, than I have heretofore 
found in any other. Scarcely can any subject of religion be named, 
or occasion occur, in wrhich the " Parish Psalmody" will not supply 
a hymn adapted to the subject, and appropriate for the occasion. 
The most orthodox will, it is presumed, find no fault with the senti- 
ment, nor the most fastidious with the style of the work. I believe 
that a careful examination would lead to its general adoption, espe- 
cially in all those congregations where a uniform Hymn Book is 



From the Philadelphia Christian Observer. 

' * * * Alterations have been cautiously avoided, especially in well 
known hymns; and the work of abridgment, (often carried so far as 
to deprive the reader of stanzas which were old and dear friends,) has 
been sparingly, and, we think, judiciously applied. In scrupulously 
retaining favourite hymns, and avoiding unnecessary alterations, the 
compiler pursued a course which the Christian public will unques- 
tionably approve. **»***» 

We think the work possesses many of those traits which the Chris- 
tian public most demand in a book that is used in the devotions of 
the sanctuary, and is free from those objections which interfere with 
the general popularity of other works of the kind, and we anticipate 
for it a general approval. 

Fro7n the New York Evangelist. 

This is a work evidently prepared with care, and by one who is a 
theologian and a man of taste, though we are not informed who he is. 
It has some distinguishing features, which will probably commend it 
to the favour of many of the churches. ******* 

The alterations and abridgments of those hymns of Watts which 
are given, are sparingly but judiciously and tastefully made. They 
are by no means too frequent; in our opinion, they might have been 
more frequent, without injury to the cause of good psalmody. The 
selection from other authors is copious, varied, and in good taste. 
The whole number of hymns is little less than seven hundred ; and 
those adapted to special occasions and subjects are quite as numerous 
as in any collection we are acquainted with. The classification of 
subjects is more minute than usual, and is methodical, easy, and cor- 
responding with the best arrangement of systematic theology. Some 
may think it carried too far, but it gives the work an appearance of 
symmetry and order which is pleasing and desirable. 

There is added, also, the Confession of Faith and the Shorter Cate- 
chism of the Presbyterian Church — a feature which, to many church- 
es, will be a great recommendation of the work. It is very hand- 
somely printed, with fair, open type, and fine paper — has convenient 
indexes of subjects, first lines, &c., is well bound, and sold at a mod- 
erate price. We doubt not it will strike a large portion of the re- 

ligious public with favour, and find its way to the acceptable use of 
many churches.' 

From the New York Observer. 

We have examined this book with some attention, and we are 
pleased with all that we have yet seen in it; the selection appears to 
be made with taste, and the variety is so great that songs suitable for 
any occasion, and adapted to almost any subject, may be readily 

Another feature we admire much in this book — the Confession of 
Faith and the Shorter Catechism of the Presbyterian Church are 
added in an appendix. The propriety and usefulness of this addition 
will be very apparent. For other than Presbyterian churches, which 
adopt this book, an edition is published without the appendix. 

From the {Cincinnati, Ohio,) Watchman of the Valley, 
From what examination we have been able to give to this book, we 
are inclined to believe it the best hymn-book now in use, decidedly in 
advance of most of those which have issued from the press of late. 
We may hereafter notice it more at large. We have now only time 
to remark that the arrangement of the work, especially of the index- 
es, and the selection of the pieces, shows an excellent judgment, and 
sound devotional taste. 

From the Watchman of the Valley, {Cincinnati,) Aug, 8, 1844. 
Parish Psalbiody. — We some time since noticed this work favour- 
ably, and a farther examination has strengthened our opinion of its 
superior merits. " The Parish Psalmody" contains Watts' version 
of the Psalms entire; and the work of abridgment and alteration is 
sparingly applied in the case of pieces which have become household 
acquaintances in the Church. Tastes differ, but for ourselves, we 
dislike to see an old familiar hymn mutilated or patched, though 
done by a skilful hand. A hymn which has once proved its power 
over the pious heart, may be made more severely correct in style or 
sentiment; but its nature commonly suffers by alteration more than 
is compensated for by the removal even of a slight defect. " The 
Parish Psahuody" has another excellent attraction, in that those who 
wisli can obtain copies which contain, at the end, the "Confession of 
Faith" and " Shorter Catechism" — making a most valuable book. 





Extract from the minutes of the Pastoral Association of Philadelphia. 

The Pastoral Association of this city, having examined a collec- 
tion of hymns, just published by Messrs. Perkins & Purves, entitled 
"Parish Hijmns," cordially recommend it to the churches, as in their 
esteem, admirably adapted to promote the spiritual edification of the 
people of God, and as supplying a deficiency long experienced and 
deeply felt in social worship. 

On motion, it was Resolved, That this Association will hereafter 
use the '■^Parish Htjmns^' in its devotional exercises. 

Robert Adair, Clerk. 

From the New York Evangelist. 

The Pastoral Association of Philadelphia, which embraces all the 
clergymen of the New School Presbyterian church, has recently pub- 
lished a resolution highly approving of this collection of Psalmody, 
published by Perkins & Purves, Philadelphia. We took occasion 
once, to express our own satisfaction with the work, and feel confi- 
dent that the churches will find it admirably adapted for the purpose 
of social worship. 

From the Rev. Joel Parker, D.D., and Rev. Albert Barnes, of Phila- 
The undersigned have examined the Hymn Book lately published 
by Perkins & Purves, of this city, entitled '■'■Parish Hy7nns," designed 
for use in the lecture room, and for social worship. The book which 
we have been using for a long time we found very defective in many 
respects, and have been induced to pay particular attention to this 
new publication. It is a very copious collection — the arrangement 
simple and convenient. The hymns themselves are of a choice cha- 
racter. They are lyrical, and in every way well adapted to promote 
devotional feeling. They are of suitable length, replete with evan- 
gelical sentiment, and embrace a rich variety. We are using them 
at our weekly lectures, and other meetings for social worship, and 
find Ihem m.ost acceptable. Joel. Parker, 

Albert Barnes. 


From Rev. E. W. Gilbert, D. D., President of Delaware College. 

The "Parish Hymns" have been hitroduced and used for some time 
in the village church of Newark, Del., and have commended them- 
selves here as superior to any collection hitherto used. The volume 
has striking popular excellencies, being suited, better than any other 
publication of my acquaintance, to the benevolent activities of the 
age. It possesses great varietj^ and a superior arrangement; and 
contains many hymns, among the sweetest in the language, not 
hitherto known to our congregations. For myself, I like it not 
merely for the variety of subjects introduced, but for the great 
variety of metres, and the introduction of so many vivacious metres 
of the dactylic and anapeestic kind. 

E. W. Gilbert, 

From Rev. William Sterling, Reading, Pa. 
I have examined the '■'■Parish Hymns'" with considerable care, and 
find it to approach nearer to my beau ideal of what such a book 
should be, than any other collection of the kind I have ever seen — 
harmonizing, as it does, with the growing refinement and Christian 
spirit of the age. 

The selection is made with much care and poetical taste, and pre- 
sents an extensive variety of subjects and metres. I therefore regard 
■the "Parish Hymns," as well supplying a want which I have long felt 
to exist in one of the most interesting parts of Christian worship. 

We have recently adopted it in our lecture room and prayer 
meetings, and I am happy to add that my congregation are highly 
pleased with it. 

William Sterling. 

Fro7n Rev. Ray Palmer, Pastor of the Congregational Church, 
Bath, Me. 
It is now some three months since we introduced the "Parish 
Hymns" into our vestry. I thought highly of the work at first; and 
I am happy to say that I am equally well pleased with it on a some- 
what thorough acquaintance. The selections strike me as in good 
taste — well adapted, generally, to music, and at the same time sufS- 
ciently popular in their character. On many subjects the book is 
richer in good hymns than any I have seen. In these days of re- 
vivals in the church, good hymn books are becoming more and more 
important; and I doubt not that the "Parish Hymns'" will prove ex- 
tensively acceptable and useful. 

Ray Palmer. 

From the Neio York Observer. 
Messrs. Perkins & Purves, of Philadelphia, have just issued a col- 
lection of hymns for social worship, which we are inclined to believe 
will be received with great favour. The selection is extensive, com- 
prehensive, and judicious, embracing almost every variety of subject 
that can be properly introduced into a social meeting ; and taking 
the whole together, there is, perhaps, as little to offend good taste as 
in any hymn book. 


We would call the attention of the churches to tlie "Parish 
Hymns;'''' and as many are about making changes in the books to be 
used in the public worship of the sanctuary, this may be a favour- 
able moment to introduce a new compilation of hymns for evening 

From the Philadelphia Christian Observer. 
In this collection of Hymns we have the results of a careful and 
laborious examination of a large number of hymn books and other 
volumes of religious poetry, made with the design of preparing a 
volume to meet the demands of the public taste, and in all respects 
adapted to the purposes of public and social worship. It is an ex- 
cellent book — worthy of the examination of pastors and others who 
are wishing to improve the psalmody of their churches. 

From a second notice in the Philadelphia Christian Observer. 
It appears to have been the leading aim, in the preparation of this 
book, to furnish such a collection of hymns that the Christian public 
will say — "■This is what is wanted." It is easy for a magazine 
writer to speculate on the nature and limits of devotional lyric 
poetry, and many speculations have been offered in reviews and 
other publications ; but the man who takes the responsibility of pre- 
paring a hymn book for the use of worshiping assemblies, will feel, 
if he has a moderate share of respect for enlightened public opinion, 
that it is not for him, under such circumstances, to exemplify the 
novel dogmas of critics, or prescribe rules for the devotional singing 
of a nation. We cannot but commend, therefore, the course adopted 
by the editor of the Parish Hymns, in preparing the book, (to use 
the language of the Preface,) " with reference to that standard which 
is found in the general judgment of the Christian public." 

From Rev. Joshua N. Danforth, Pastor of the Second Presbyterian 
Church, Alexandria, D. C. 
The Parish Hymns I consider an excellent collection, made with 
judgment, and well adapted to the worship of our churches. In pre- 
paring such a work, the difficulty of combination is great. To unite 
a pure poetic imagination with the lofty spirit of Christian devotion, 
is a rare attainment. This collection pays great regard to this prin- 
ciple, and must, I think, become popular and useful. 

Joshua N. Danforth. 

From the Massachusetts Eagle. 
We know the author, we know the publishers, and, what is more, 
we Iftiow this book. It is one of the very few hymn books that we 
like. It comprises about six hundred hymns, which, for appropriate- 
ness, judiciousness and simplicity cannot be excelled. It contains, in 
addition to the standard hymns, many that are beautifully fresh. We 
have read it and used it sufficiently to know that we may safely re- 
commend it. 






The Confession of Faith, The Catechisms, and the Directory for the Worship of 
God, together with the Plan of Government and Discipline as ratified by the 
General Assembly, at their sessions in May, 1821, and amended in 18-10. 

Certificate of the Synod of Pennsylvania. 

The undersigned, iaaving been appointed by the Synod of Penn- 
sylvania, at their sessions, held October, 1844, " a Permanent Com- 
mittee, to superintend the publication of the Confession of Faith, the 
Catechisms, the Directory for Worship, and the Plan (Form) of Gov- 
ernment and Discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the United 
States of America, and, after examining the proof sheets, to authen- 
ticate by their signature, at the time of pubHcation, every edition as 
it may be issued, in the name, and on behalf of the Synod," have ex- 
amined and do hereby authenticate, the present as a correct edition 
of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States 
of America. 

The Committee deem it expedient to add, that the "Confession of 
Faith" proper, the " Larger and SJiorter Catechisms," and the " Di- 
rectory for Worship," are word for word, and letter for letter, as 
adopted by the fathers of the Presbyterian Church in 17S8, The 
only alterations are in the " Form of Government," conforming it to 
the amendments adopted by the General Assembly of 1840. 

Thomas Brianerd, i 
E. W. Gilbert, > Committee. 
Robert Adair, j 

Philadelphia, July 1, 1845. 







As amended and ratified by the General Assembly, in May, 1821, 
and furtiier amended in May, 1840.