Imágenes de páginas

Professor J. H. Thornwell, with his "Slavery-no-evildoctrine, swallows this proposition of Dr. Rice, and finds it excellently palatable, that “God expressly permitted his pcople to hold slaves;” while the good pious northern lady who reads it, may wipe her spectacles and think-"Oh, well, God has permitted strange things, in old times; Dr. Rice does not go sò far out of the way, after all.”

That you may see what tone of sentiment, and what sort of principles prevail at the extreme South, and which meet and harmonize with northern opinion, in the sentiments of Dr. Rice, I will read from a southern religious paper, " The Alabama Baptist," the editor of which, replying to a Vermont paper, says :

• The editor of the Vermont Observer honors us with the sentiment, that we are in a fair way to become as rabid in support of slavery as the Index of Georgia. We are much obliged to him for placing us in such good company. We came into this station with the determination that no one should surpass us in the ardor of our devotion to, and the boldness of our defence of, southern institutions, and we think we have fulfilled that determination. He says endorse the sentiment of George Mc Duffie-slavery is the best possible relation between the employer and the laborcr,' and we repudiate that old-fashioned doctrine, that all MEN are born equal.' THIS IS EXACTLY OUR POSITION: and we will state also that our motto is, DEATH to abolitionism, and confusion to the enemies of the South.”

This main proposition of Dr. Rice will be palatable to that

man, while at the same time the good old mother, in his church here, will not dream that her beloved pastor is defending slavery.

But I further object to their equivocal main position, that “God expressly permitted his people to hold slaves under the Old Dispensation,THAT IT IS NOT TRUE.

I am fully aware that we are now in the Thermopylæ of this discussion, and that the liberties not of Greece, but of mankind are bound up, not (I am thanksul) in the ability

that we

with which it is conducted, but in the principles of which it takes hold.

There are two chief sources of argument appealed to by Dr. Rice in support of his main position that God did expressly permit slavery to the Jews. The first is the authority of Divines and Commentators. The second is scripture itself. As to the first, he has asked, repeatedly, during this debate, as if he thought it conclusive of the whole subject, “ Why have learned and godly men thought that God permitted slavery in the Old Dispensation if it be not true? Meaning, it would seem, that it must be true if good and wise men think so. Whereas the whole difficulty is solved by simply supposing that his good and wise men are in a mistake. There are several reasons why those wise and godly men have thought so. One is that Dr. Paley's definition of slavery has been adopted, even by anti-slavery men, instead of a true definition-and hundreds of speculative minds have been misled by his definition instead of looking at the thing as it actually exists. Paley defines slavery to be merely, "an obligation to labor without contract or consent." That is, mere compulsory labor. And such labor is found in the Bible, and in every family, and prison, and press-gang, and poor-house. But children, and paupers, and prisoners, though compelled to labor are not slaves; for they have rights. Slaves have none. But actual, veritable slavery; viz: “men made property:"—bereft of self-ownership, marriage, property, liberty, for no crime; this is not in the Bible, This ownership of the blood and bones of human beings is not there.

2. Another reason why some classes of commentators have thought that slavery was in the Bible, is, that their opinions and feelings on the subject were influenced by the slave-hold. ing spirit of the age. They have seen the Bible through slave-holding spectacles; and have interpreted Hebrew words by European and American practices. Successful commen. tators prove by their very success that they are more or less the exponents of the sentiments of the age in which they wrote. If no body believed them, no body would buy them. And though able commentators may have moulded the public mind to their own or a few points, no mere human being can revolutionize the sentiments of his age throughout. I did not say that the German commentators were stupid men, but I said, that the ideas of some of them were baked stiff in the oven of German hermeneutics. And there is a race of literary drudges, who write in their books what they find in others. And one great source of error, with minds of a higher sort, on the subject of slavery, is, that they have interpreted Hebrew words by European and American practices. Take Matthew Henry for an instance of this. He was the pastor of a taxed, tolerated, and licenced church; and wrote his commentaries at a small town not twenty miles from Liverpool, while a hundred ships, engaged in the slave-trade, sailed from that single port.

Liverpool itself was built by the profits of this traffic: in allusion to which , Brooke, the comedian, when he appeared in their theatre, and, for some reason or other, was hissed; in the indignation of the moment, told them that “every brick of their town was laid in human blood.” Matthew Henry wrote his commentaries near this town, in an age and country where the slave-trade was not deemed inconsistent with a Christian profession. But neither he, nor any other Bible commentator has taken up the subject of slavery as a topic for distinct and thorough investigation; but they have incorporated into their works the ideas current among good men at the time they wrote. It is no reproach that they have done so.

To understand thoroughly all the topics which come within his range, a commentator must have a mind infinite, like God's: for his profession calls him to write about all that is in the Bible, and hence, to treat of all the principles which belong both to time and eternity. If Henry's subject had been slavery, and he had written against it as John Wesley did, his book would have sold no farther than he could create a party to buy it.

The man who undertakes to setile great moral questions

These can gen

by scraps from Biblical commentators and definitions of lexicographers, acts on precisely the same principles of investigation with the man who should undertake to master the Constitution of the United States, by looking out the meaning of every word in that instrument in Perry's Dictionary, instead of explaining the document by its own great principles, and the history of its times, and the known facts which bear upon the case to be examined.

Yet there are not wanting authorities for the contrary interpretation of the scripture passages, in question, from that given by my friend. Whether there are more for his view, than against it, is more than I can tell. Authorities upon the subject may be divided into two classes. First, timid, and book-bound minds, such as commentators and lexicographers are apt to be, who depend largely for what they write, upon what others have written. erally be quoted in favor of slavery. Bartholomew Las Casas, a pious Roman Catholic, who, I have no doubt-but no matter whether he has gone to Heaven or not—[a laugh] (not that I wish to doubt he is there, only that is nothing to the point)-his heart was so grieved to see the poor Indians toiling and perishing in the Peruvian mines, that, observing the patient, much-enduring habits of the negro, he is said to have written an argument to show that it was the will of God, that Africans should be enslaved, as the cursed progeny of Ham. Other commentators have taken


their opinions after him, or some vindicator of the slave trade, like the story of the Welshman and the bridge; so that you may go through a dozen of these “authorities," and you will, perhaps, read in all of them, but the opinions of one man from whom they have all copied, taking his opinions upon trust, and putting them into their books, to be in turn quoted as authority by others, verbatim et literatim. Break the hold of one of these authorities upon my brother's text, and they all fall into the river with him. But there is another class of authorities, viz: men marked for originality and independence, thought and investigation. These writers are generally

[ocr errors]


clear on the subject of human rights. Grotius, a name that all respect, as a scholar, a lawyer, and a divine, concerning whom, his biographer has said, that he was “master of all that is worth knowing in sacred or profane literature," —a man whom lawyers quote as a jurisconsult of the highest authority, and whose work, “De veritate Chris. Relig.," is still commonly referred to by Divines. Grotius says, Hominum fures, qui servos vel liberos abducunt, RETINENT, vendunt vel emunt.That is, They are men-stealers, who bring of slaves or free men ; who retain, buy or sell them.So, according to this high authority, every man who buys, sells, or retains a slave, is a man thief. And the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church, for the space of twenty-two years, from 1794 to 1816, used an edition of their Confession of Faith, which contained this opinion of Grotius, in a note, explaining the meaning of the word men stealers," used by the apostle Paul, in I. Timothy i, 10.

John Wesley, whom our Methodist brethren delight to honor, a clear-thinking, independent and apostolic man, says, « I strike at the root of this complicated villany. I utterly deny all slave-holding to be consistent with any degree of natural justice."

In a letter written by John Wesley to Mr. Wilberforce, dated February 24th, 1791; supposed to be the last, or one of the last, he ever wrote; he declares his opinion ; unless God had raised him (Wilberforce) up for the very purpose of destroying slavery, he would be worn down by the opposition of men and devils; and he exhorts him to go on in his work until even “ American slavery, the VILEST THAT EVER SAW THE SUN” shall be no more.

I will now quote some authorities from Presbyterians, the first of whom stands as high with his denomination as John Wesley does with Methodists.

PRESIDENT EDWARDS is a man who will be admitted to stand second to no other on questions of morals. His father was the first American whom European divines would acknowledge to be a theologian. They seemed scarcely to

« AnteriorContinuar »