American Anti-Slavery Society.

The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 4 of 4 online

. (page 5 of 18)
Online LibraryAmerican Anti-Slavery SocietyThe Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 4 of 4 → online text (page 5 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

appropriate original in our enslaved countrymen.

1. They are the LEAST of his brethren.

2. They are subject to thirst and hunger, unable to command a cup
of water or a crumb of bread.

3. They are exposed to wasting sickness, without the ability to
procure a nurse or employ a physician.

4. They are emphatically "in prison," restrained by chains, goaded
with whips, tasked, and under keepers. Not a wretch groans in any
cell of the prisons of our country, who is exposed to a confinement
so vigorous and heartbreaking as the law allows theirs to be
continually and permanently.

5. And then they are emphatically, and peculiarly, and exclusively,
STRANGERS - _strangers_ in the land which gave them birth. Whom
else do we constrain to remain aliens in the midst of our free
institutions? The Welch, the Swiss, the Irish? The Jews even?
Alas, it is the _negro_ only, who may not strike his roots into
our soil. Every where we have conspired to treat him as a
stranger - every where he is forced to feel himself a stranger. In
the stage and steamboat, in the parlor and at our tables, in the
scenes of business and in the scenes of amusement - even in the
church of God and at the communion table, he is regarded as a
stranger. The intelligent and religious are generally disgusted
and horror-struck at the thought of his becoming identified with
the citizens of our republic - so much so, that thousands of them
have entered into a conspiracy to send him off "out of sight," to
find a home on a foreign shore! - and justify themselves by openly
alleging, that a "single drop" of his blood, in the veins of any
human creature, must make him hateful to his fellow
citizens! - That nothing but banishment from "our coasts," can
redeem him from the scorn and contempt to which his "stranger"
blood has reduced him among his own mother's children!

Who, then, in this land "of milk and honey," is "hungry and athirst,"
but the man from whom the law takes away the last crumb of bread and
the smallest drop of water?

Who "naked," but the man whom the law strips of the last rag of

Who "sick," but the man whom the law deprives of the power of
procuring medicine or sending for a physician?

Who "in prison," but the man who, all his life, is under the control
of merciless masters and cruel keepers!

Who a "stranger," but the man who is scornfully denied the cheapest
courtesies of life - who is treated as an alien in his native country?

There is one point in this awful description which deserves
particular attention. Those who are doomed to the left hand of the
Judge, are not charged with inflicting _positive_ injuries on their
helpless, needy, and oppressed brother. Theirs was what is often
called _negative_ character. What they _had done_ is not described
in the indictment. Their _neglect_ of duty, what they _had_ NOT
_done_, was the ground of their "everlasting punishment." The
representative of their Judge, they had seen a hungered and they
gave him no meat, thirsty and they gave him no drink, a stranger and
they took him not in, naked and they clothed him not, sick and in
prison and they visited him not. In as much as they did NOT yield to
the claims of suffering humanity - did NOT exert themselves to bless
the meanest of the human family, they were driven away in their
wickedness. But what if the indictment had run thus: I was a
hungered and ye snatched away the crust which might have saved me
from starvation; I was thirsty and ye dashed to the ground the
"cup of cold water," which might have moistened my parched lips; I
was a stranger and ye drove me from the hovel which might have
sheltered me from the piercing wind; I was sick and ye scourged me
to my task; in prison and you sold me for my jail-fees - to what
depths of hell must not those who were convicted under such charges
be consigned! And what is the history of American slavery but one
long indictment, describing under ever-varying forms and hues just
such injuries!

Nor should it be forgotten, that those who incurred the displeasure
of their Judge, took far other views than he, of their own past
history. The charges which he brought against them, they heard with
great surprise. They were sure that they had never thus turned away
from his necessities. Indeed, when had they seen him thus subject to
poverty, insult, and oppression? Never. And as to that poor
friendless creature, whom they left unpitied and unhelped in the
hands of the oppressor, and whom their Judge now presented as his
own representative, they never once supposed, that _he_ had any
claims on their compassion and assistance. Had they known, that he
was destined to so prominent a place at the final judgment, they
would have treated him as a human being, in despite of any social,
pecuniary, or political considerations. But neither their _negative
virtue_ nor their _voluntary ignorance_ could shield them from the
penal fire which their selfishness had kindled.

Now amidst the general maxims, the leading principles, the "great
commandments" of the gospel; amidst its comprehensive descriptions
and authorized tests of Christian character, we should take our
position in disposing of any particular allusions to such forms and
usages of the primitive churches as are supported by divine authority.
The latter must be interpreted and understood in the light of the
former. But how do the apologists and defenders of slavery proceed?
Placing themselves amidst the arrangements and usages which grew out
of the _corruptions_ of Christianity, they make these the standard
by which the gospel is to be explained and understood! Some Recorder
or Justice. without the light of inquiry or the aid of a jury,
consigns the negro whom the kidnapper has dragged into his presence
to the horrors of slavery. As the poor wretch shrieks and faints,
Humanity shudders and demands why such atrocities are endured. Some
"priest" or "Levite," "passing by on the other side," quite
self-possessed and all complacent, reads in reply from his broad
phylactery, _Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon_! Yes, echoes the
negro-hating mob, made up of "gentlemen of property and standing"
together with equally gentle-men reeking from the gutter; _Yes - Paul
sent back Onesimus to Philemon_! And Humanity, brow-beaten, stunned
with noise and tumult, is pushed aside by the crowd! A fair specimen
this of the manner in which modern usages are made to interpret the
sacred Scriptures?

Of the particular passages in the New Testament on which the
apologists for slavery especially rely, the epistle to Philemon
first demands our attention.

1. This letter was written by the apostle Paul while a "prisoner of
Jesus Christ" at Rome.

2. Philemon was a benevolent and trustworthy member of the church at
Colosse, at whose house the disciples of Christ held their assemblies,
and who owed his conversion, under God, directly or indirectly to
the ministry of Paul.

3. Onesimus was the servant of Philemon; under a relation which it
is difficult with accuracy and certainty to define. His condition,
though servile, could not have been like that of an American slave;
as, in that case, however he might have "wronged" Philemon, he could
not also have "owed him ought."[31] The American slave is, according
to law, as much the property of his master as any other chattel; and
can no more "owe" his master than can a sheep or a horse. The basis
of all pecuniary obligations lies in some "value received." How can
"an article of merchandise" stand on this basis and sustain
commercial relations to its owner? There is no _person_ to offer or
promise. _Personality is swallowed up in American slavery_!

4. How Onesimus found his way to Rome it is not easy to determine.
He and Philemon appear to have parted from each other on ill terms.
The general character of Onesimus, certainly, in his relation to
Philemon, had been far from attractive, and he seems to have left
him without repairing the wrongs he had done him or paying the debts
which he owed him. At Rome, by the blessing of God upon the
exertions of the apostle, he was brought to reflection and repentance.

5. In reviewing his history in the light of Christian truth, he
became painfully aware of the injuries he had inflicted on Philemon.
He longed for an opportunity for frank confession and full
restitution. Having, however, parted with Philemon on ill terms, he
knew not how to appear in his presence. Under such embarrassments,
he naturally sought sympathy and advice of Paul. _His_ influence
upon Philemon, Onesimus knew must be powerful, especially as an

6. A letter in behalf of Onesimus was therefore written by the
apostle to Philemon. After such salutations, benedictions, and
thanksgiving as the good character and useful life of Philemon
naturally drew from the heart of Paul, he proceeds to the object of
the letter. He admits that Onesimus had behaved ill in the service
of Philemon; not in running away, for how they had parted with each
other is not explained; but in being unprofitable and in refusing to
pay the debts[32] which he had contracted. But his character had
undergone a radical change. Thenceforward fidelity and usefulness
would be his aim and mark his course. And as to any pecuniary
obligations which he had violated, the apostle authorized Philemon
to put them on his account.[33] Thus a way was fairly opened to the
heart of Philemon. And now what does the apostles ask?

7. He asks that Philemon would receive Onesimus, How? "Not as a
_servant_, but above a _servant_."[34] How much above? Philemon was
to receive him as "a son" of the apostle - "as a brother
beloved" - nay, if he counted Paul a partner, an equal, he was to
receive Onesimus as he would receive _the apostle himself_.[35] _So
much_ above a servant was he to receive him!

8. But was not this request to be so interpreted and complied with
as to put Onesimus in the hands of Philemon as "an article of
merchandise," CARNALLY, while it raised him to the dignity of a
"brother beloved," SPIRITUALLY? In other words, might not Philemon
consistently with the request of Paul have reduced Onesimus to a
chattel, as A MAN, while he admitted him fraternally to his bosom,
as a CHRISTIAN? Such gibberish in an apostolic epistle! Never. As if,
however to guard against such folly, the natural product of mist and
moonshine, the apostle would have Onesimus raised above a servant to
the dignity of a brother beloved, "BOTH IN THE FLESH AND IN THE
LORD;"[36] as a man and Christian, in all the relations,
circumstances, and responsibilities of life.

[Footnote 31: Philemon, 18.]

[Footnote 32: Verse 11, 18.]

[Footnote 33: Verse 18.]

[Footnote 34: Verse 16.]

[Footnote 35: Verse 10, 16, 17.]

[Footnote 36: Verse 16.]

It is easy now with definiteness and certainty to determine in what
sense the apostle in such connections uses the word "_brother_". It
describes a relation inconsistent with and opposite to the _servile_.
It is "NOT" the relation of a "SERVANT." It elevates its subject
"above" the servile condition. It raises him to full equality with
the master, to the same equality, on which Paul and Philemon stood
side by side as brothers; and this, not in some vague, undefined,
spiritual sense, affecting the soul and leaving the body in bonds,
but in every way, "both in the FLESH and in the Lord." This matter
deserves particular and earnest attention. It sheds a strong light
on other lessons of apostolic instruction.

9. It is greatly to our purpose, moreover, to observe that the
apostle clearly defines the _moral character_ of his request. It was
fit, proper, right, suited to the nature and relation of things - a
thing which _ought_ to be done.[37] On this account, he might have
urged it upon Philemon in the form of an _injunction_, on apostolic
authority and with great boldness.[38] _The very nature_ of the
request made it obligatory on Philemon. He was sacredly bound, out
of regard to the fitness of things, to admit Onesimus to full
equality with himself - to treat him as a brother both in the Lord
and as having flesh - as a fellow man. Thus were the inalienable
rights and birthright privileges of Onesimus, as a member of the
human family, defined and protected by apostolic authority.

10. The apostle preferred a request instead of imposing a command,
on the ground of CHARITY.[39] He would give Philemon an opportunity
of discharging his obligations under the impulse of love. To this
impulse, he was confident Philemon would promptly and fully yield.
How could he do otherwise? The thing itself was right. The request
respecting it came from a benefactor, to whom, under God, he was
under the highest obligations.[40] That benefactor, now an old man,
and in the hands of persecutors, manifested a deep and tender
interest in the matter and had the strongest persuasion that
Philemon was more ready to grant than himself to entreat. The result,
as he was soon to visit Collosse, and had commissioned Philemon to
prepare a lodging for him, must come under the eye of the apostle.
The request was so manifestly reasonable and obligatory, that the
apostle, after all, described a compliance with it, by the strong
word "_obedience_."[41]

[Footnote 37: Verse 8. To [Greek: anaekon]. See Robinson's New
Testament Lexicon; "_it is fit, proper, becoming, it ought_." In
what sense King James' translators used the word "convenient" any
one may see who will read Rom. i. 28 and Eph. v. 3, 4.]

[Footnote 38: Verse 8.]

[Footnote 39: Verse 9 - [Greek: dia taen agapaen]]

[Footnote 40: Verse 19.]

[Footnote 41: Verse 21.]

Now, how must all this have been understood by the church at Colosse?
- a church, doubtless, made up of such materials as the church at
Corinth, that is, of members chiefly from the humblest walks of life.
Many of them had probably felt the degradation and tasted the
bitterness of the servile condition. Would they have been likely to
interpret the apostle's letter under the bias of feelings friendly to
slavery! - And put the slaveholder's construction on its contents!
Would their past experience or present sufferings - for doubtless
some of them were still "under the yoke" - have suggested to their
thoughts such glosses as some of our theological professors venture
to put upon the words of the apostle! Far otherwise. The Spirit of
the Lord was there, and the epistle was read in the light of
"_liberty_." It contained the principles of holy freedom, faithfully
and affectionately applied. This must have made it precious in the
eyes of such men "of low degree" as were most of the believers, and
welcome to a place in the sacred canon. There let it remain as a
luminous and powerful defence of the cause of emancipation!

But what saith Professor Stuart? "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 his servant for

[Footnote 42: See his letter to Dr. Fisk, supra pp. 7, 8]

"Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon." By what process? Did the
apostle, a prisoner at Rome, seize upon the fugitive, and drag him
before some heartless and perfidious "Judge," for authority to send
him back to Colosse? Did he hurry his victim away from the presence
of the fat and supple magistrate, to be driven under chains and the
lash to the field of unrequited toil, whence he had escaped? Had the
apostle been like some teachers in the American churches, he might,
as a professor of sacred literature in one of our seminaries, or a
preacher of the gospel to the rich in some of our cities, have consented
thus to subserve the "peculiar" interests of a dear slaveholding brother.
But the venerable champion of truth and freedom was himself under
bonds in the imperial city, waiting for the crown of martyrdom. He
wrote a letter to the church a Colosse, which was accustomed to meet
at the house of Philemon, and another letter to that magnanimous
disciple, and sent them by the hand of Onesimus. So much for _the way_
in which Onesimus was sent back to his master.

A slave escapes from a patriarch in Georgia, and seeks a refuge in
the parish of the Connecticut doctor of Divinity, who once gave
public notice that he saw no reason for caring for the servitude of
his fellow men.[43] Under his influence, Caesar becomes a Christian
convert. Burning with love for the son whom he hath begotten in the
gospel, our doctor resolves to send him back to his master.
Accordingly, he writes a letter, gives it to Caesar, and bids him
return, staff in hand, to the "corner-stone of our republican
institutions." Now, what would my Caesar do, who had ever felt a
link of slavery's chain? As he left his _spiritual father_, should
we be surprised to hear him say to himself, What, return of my own
accord to the man who, with the hand of a robber, plucked me from my
mother's bosom! - for whom I have been so often drenched in the sweat
of unrequited toil! - whose violence so often cut my flesh and
scarred my limbs! - who shut out every ray of light from my mind! - who
laid claim to those honors to which my Creator and Redeemer only
are entitled! And for what am I to return? To be cursed, and
smitten, and sold! To be tempted, and torn, and destroyed! I cannot
thus throw myself away - thus rush upon my own destruction.

[Footnote 43: "Why should I care?"]

Who ever heard of the voluntary return of a fugitive from American
oppression? Do you think that the doctor and his friends could
persuade one to carry a letter to the patriarch from whom he had
escaped? And must we believe this of Onesimus?

"Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon." On what occasion? - "If,"
writes the apostle, "he hath wronged thee, or oweth the aught, put
that on my account." Alive to the claims of duty, Onesimus would
"restore" whatever he "had taken away." He would honestly pay his
debts. This resolution the apostle warmly approved. He was ready, at
whatever expense, to help his young disciple in carrying it into
full effect. Of this he assured Philemon, in language the most
explicit and emphatic. Here we find one reason for the conduct of
Paul in sending Onesimus to Philemon.

If a fugitive slave of the Rev. Dr. Smylie, of Mississippi, should
return to him with a letter from a doctor of divinity in New York,
containing such an assurance, how would the reverend slaveholder
dispose of it? What, he exclaims, have we here? "If Cato has not
been upright in his pecuniary intercourse with you - if he owes you
any thing - put that on my account." What ignorance of southern
institutions! What mockery, to talk of pecuniary intercourse between
a slave and his master! _The slave himself, with all he is and has,
is an article of merchandise_. What can _he_ owe his master? A
rustic may lay a wager with his mule, and give the creature the peck
of oats which he has permitted it to win. But who, in sober earnest,
would call this a pecuniary transaction?

"TO BE HIS SERVANT FOR LIFE!" From what part of the epistle could
the expositor have evolved a thought so soothing to tyrants - so
revolting to every man who loves his own nature? From this?
"For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldst
receive him for ever." Receive him how? _As a servant_, exclaims our
commentator. But what wrote the apostle? "NOT _now as a servant, but
above a servant_, a brother beloved, especially to me, but how much
more unto thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord." Who authorized
the professor to bereave the word "_not_" of its negative influence?
According to Paul, Philemon was to receive Onesimus "_not_ as a
servant;" - according to Stuart, he was to receive him "_as a
servant_!" If the professor will apply the same rules of exposition
to the writings of the abolitionists, all difference between him and
them must in his view presently vanish away. The harmonizing process
would be equally simple and effectual. He has only to understand
them as affirming what they deny, and as denying what they affirm.

Suppose that Professor Stuart had a son residing, at the South. His
slave, having stolen money of his master, effected his escape. He
fled to Andover, to find a refuge among the "sons of the prophets."
There he finds his way to Professor Stuart's house, and offers to
render any service which the professor, dangerously ill "of a typhus
fever," might require. He is soon found to be a most active, skilful,
faithful nurse. He spares no pains, night and day, to make himself
useful to the venerable sufferer. He anticipates every want. In the
most delicate and tender manner, he tries to sooth every pain. He
fastens himself strongly on the heart of the reverend object of his
care. Touched with the heavenly spirit, the meek demeanor, the
submissive frame, which the sick bed exhibits, Archy becomes a
Christian. A new bond now ties him and his convalescent teacher
together. As soon as he is able to write, the professor sends Archy
with the following letter to the South, to Isaac Stuart, Esq.: -

"MY DEAR SON, - With a hand enfeebled by a distressing and dangerous
illness, from which I am slowly recovering, I address you on a
subject which lies very near my heart. I have a request to urge,
which our mutual relation to each other, and your strong obligations
to me, will, I cannot doubt, make you eager fully to grant. I say a
request, though the thing I ask is, in its very nature and on the
principles of the gospel, obligatory upon you. I might, therefore,
boldly demand, what I earnestly entreat. But I know how generous,
magnanimous, and Christ-like you are, and how readily you will 'do
even more than I say' - I, your own father, an old man, almost
exhausted with multiplied exertions for the benefit of my family and
my country and now just rising, emaciated and broken, from the brink
of the grave. I write in behalf of Archy, whom I regard with the
affection of a father, and whom, indeed, 'I have forgotten in my
sickness.' Gladly would I have retained him, to be _an Isaac_ to me;
for how often did not his soothing voice, and skilful hand, and
unwearied attention to my wants remind me of you! But I chose to
give you an opportunity of manifesting, voluntarily, the goodness of
your heart; as, if I had retained him with me, you might seem to
have been forced to grant what you will gratefully bestow. His
temporary absence from you may have opened the way for his permanent
continuance with you. Not now as a slave. Heaven forbid! But
superior to a slave. Superior, did I say? Take him to your bosom, as
a beloved brother; for I own him as a son, and regard him as such,
in all the relations of life, both as a man and a Christian.
'Receive him as myself.' And that nothing may hinder you from
complying with my request at once, I hereby promise, without
adverting to your many and great obligations to me, to pay you every
cent which he took from your drawer. Any preparation which my
comfort with you may require, you will make without much delay, when
you learn, that I intend, as soon as I shall be able 'to perform the
journey,' to make you a visit."

And what if Dr. Baxter, in giving an account of this letter should
publicly declare that Professor Stuart, of Andover regarded
slaveholding as lawful; for that "he had sent Archy back to his son
Isaac, with an apology for his running away" to be held in perpetual
slavery? With what propriety might not the professor exclaim: False,
every syllable false. I sent him back, NOT TO BE HELD AS A SLAVE,
_but recognized as a dear brother, in all respects, under every
relation, civil and ecclesiastical_. I bade my son receive _Archy as
myself_. If this was not equivalent to a requisition to set him
fully and most honorably free, and that, too, on the ground of
natural obligation and Christian principle, then I know not how to
frame such a requisition.

I am well aware that my supposition is by no means strong enough
fully to illustrate the case to which it is applied. Professor Stuart
lacks apostolical authority. Isaac Stuart is not a leading member of
a church consisting, as the early churches chiefly consisted, of
what the world regard as the dregs of society - "the offscouring of
all things." Nor was slavery at Colosse, it seems, supported by such
barbarous usages, such horrid laws as disgrace the South.

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryAmerican Anti-Slavery SocietyThe Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 4 of 4 → online text (page 5 of 18)