« ZurückWeiter »
is before us; and therefore a chasm
between the premise and the conclusion defensive of slavery, which no exegesis and no logic can bridge over.
To illustrate the strength of this argument, let the fact be observed, that, if it could be set aside, it would follow, by parity of reasoning, that the
clergy of our country, regardless of fundamental of laws, have right to take possession of a tenth
part of the estates and incomes of their fellowcitizens, because the Levites in this manner received their inheritance among their brethren. It is plain, however, that, as in regard to other interests no less important than liberty or slavery,
so also in regard to slavery itself, the special laws 1
of the Old Testament are no longer in force; whence it follows that the vital doctrine of the system, “masters have the same right to their slaves which they have to any other property," is totally erroneous.
The institution which claims solid foundation here is built on nothing.
We cannot forbear to adduce an instance of unexceptionable testimony to the validity of this reasoning. In one or two famous articles on slavery and abolitionism, the Princeton Repertory adopts it, with another application, and says, “ So far as polygamy and divorce were permitted under the old dispensation they were lawful, and
became so by that permission; and they ceased to be lawful when that permission was withdrawn, and a new law given. That Christ did give a new law is abundantly evident." In the same manner, ' so far as' slavery was permitted under the old dispensation it was lawful, and became so by that permission; and it ceased to be lawful when that permission was withdrawn, and a new law given. It is true, however, only in a qualified sense, that Christ gave “a new law” concerning polygamy and divorce. His law restored the original institution of marriage, as in Eden; and this was “new” to the Jews, because there had been departure from it. In like manner the New Testament, if not the very words of Christ, now gives a new law concerning slavery in the same sense; that is, as will appear, in the sequel, the Christian precepts restore the original institution concerning property as well as concerning marriage. The laws which allowed polygamy and slavery, and therefore the right, passed away together.
Here we leave the old Testament. No other passages need examination; for all consist with these positions. So far as that sacred volume gives light, the world are bound by the laws and have equal right to the full blessings of three divine institutions, whose foundations were laid in
Paradise, and whose complete and glorious proportions will encompass the universal, millennial felicity.
The defence of slavery from the New Testament now demands brief notice. We desire to allow it full force, while we ask the reader's candid judgment of the conclusion.
Of course, the New Testament sanctions now what it sanctioned in the days of its authors. That must have been Roman, not Hebrew, slavery; for they lived and wrote to men under Roman law. Besides, there is reason to believe, as Kitto states, that the Jews at that time held no slaves. In point of historic truth, it appears that the Mosaic law, finding slavery in existence, practically operated as a system of gradual emancipation for its extinction. " There is no evi. dence that Christ ever came in contact with slavery." This sufficiently explains why he did not give a “new law” concerning it in specific terms. The occasion did not arise, as it did arise in regard to polygamy and divorce, with which he did come in contact. Furthermore, there was no need of new law, other than was actually given.
The argument from the New Testament for the rightfulness of slavery is twofold, being built on the instructions given to masters and servants. It fails on both sides.
For, first, the precepts addressed to servants convey no authority to national rulers or to private individuals to set aside the institution of Jehovah by reducing men to the condition of slaves. These precepts simply enjoin the conduct which Christianity required in their actual situation. They do not vindicate the law and usage by which they were held as property. This is abundantly evident in the texts themselves, and more emphatically, when they are compared with the parallel cases.
Christ promulgated these rules. “I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” Does this empower States to legal. I ize fraud and violence? Does it transmute all the evil which Jesus' disciples have endured into righteousness of those who have inflicted the evil ? Does it wash the crimsoned hands of persecutors in innocency? Does it justify the wilful smiter? All men know better.
No one contends for such exposition. Yet it is indispensable to the interpretation which finds a justification of slavery in precepts which enjoin obedience on slaves. That obedience is re.' quired on other grounds.
Another example. The New Testament explicitly commands citizens to submit to the civil power. Does this sanctify the tyranny of a Nero or a Nicholas ? In the enjoined submission of subjects, has the despot, or the state, full license for edicts and acts of oppression and iniquity? Yet they are logically compelled to admit this, and thus, in theory at least, banish freedom from the whole earth, who find in commands addressed to servants power conferred on legislators and masters to make them slaves, that is, to hold them as property. Instead of this, the rights and obligations of rulers, and of those who claim to be owners of their fellow men, are defined in a very different class of instructions.
Secondly, the instructions addressed to masters forbid the exercise of the right which is assumed in slavery. To make this clear, we observe, primarily, there is no passage in the New Testament which institutes the relation of men held in ownership by men. There is no direct reference to the civil laws which constituted this relation. They are passed by silently, as are the laws that established idolatry, and kindled the fires of persecution. Their existence is tacitly acknowledged in the use of the terms which designate masters and servants; and that is all