Page images

servants themselves, but only in their time, labor and skill, which only he really hires. In like manner ancient Hebrew masters acquired no property in their “bought” and “sold” servants, but only in their time, labor and skill—both this ancient and modern phraseology being thus incorrectly used, merely to avoid inconvenient circumlocutions.



(Continued.) Examination of Deut. xx. 10—20 ; Josh. ix. 22, 23, 27; 1 Kings ix. 21, 26;

2 Kings iv. 1, &c.; Neh. v. 5—13; Jer. xxxiv. 8–17. In Deut. xx. 10–20, is the statute regulating the treatment and disposal of those Canaanites, who should voluntarily submit to the Israelites about to invade their territory, as they are bound to agreeably to the promise of God to Abraham, which promise they doubtless well knew. According to the statute those who peaceably submitted were not to be exterminated, or banished, or in any respect enslaved, but were to become tributary to the Jews, just as the Egyptians who sold themselves to Joseph to be Pharaoh's servants, merely became tributary to the latter-while those who should refuse to submit and dared to resist contrary to the divine command, were with one exception to be exterminated, or destroyed. In Josh. ix. 22, 23, 27, and 1 Kings ix. 21, 26, are recorded two cases of the practical application of this statute under peculiar circumstances. There is not the slightest evidence now existing to prove that this statute was ever intended or used to promote the practice of human slavery. The objects of the statutes were, not only to give the Jews the country promised to them, but also, either to reform or else to destroy the aboriginal inhabitants, neither of which could have been effected had they been reduced to slavery-for in that case it would have been just as impossible to have allowed to them the rights and privileges secured by the Levitical law, without which they could not have been reformed, as it is to our slaves now, and if they were allowed

[ocr errors]

to live among the Jews, without reformation even as slaves, they would soon corrupt the whole nation. For these reasons the statute provided, either for their entire submission, or for their entire destruction—and it was only when the statute was dissegarded, that they corrupted the people, and seduced them into their own destructive sins, see Judg. ii. 10—23, iii. 5, 7, 12–14. Besides, the individuals composing nations rendered merely tributary to others, are never held as property or slaves, the whole nation rather than its inhabitants being subjected. And thus even the Hebrews, though persecuted through “hard bondage” by the Egyptians, Ex. i. 14, ii. 23, &c., were in no respect held as property or slaves, as the whole history of their persecution clearly proves.

In 2 Kings iv. 1, Neh. v. 5—13, and Jer. xxxiv. 8-17, are several cases of severe prophetic denunciations and reproofs for violations of the Levitical statutes regulating free and voluntary service, which have just been reviewed. These cases illustrate the extreme facility with which the rich and powerful are prone to oppress


and helpless. But they also answer the important purpose of proving, that these political statutes must have been free or intended to regulate free service only, for had they been intended to regulate slave service or slavery, their violations never would have been complained of in the Scriptures, because such violations, according to the complaints made in the passages themselves, had the strongest tendency to promote and strengthen slavish oppression, and God is repeatedly declared in the Scriptures never to do anything in vain, see Ps. cxi. 7; Isa. xlv. 18, li. 6, lv. 11; Jer. xxxi. 35, 36; Eze. vi. 10; Matt. x. 20, xxiv. 35; Luke xii. 36; Rom. ii. 2, iv. 16; 2 Tim. ii. 19, &c. He would never, therefore, have enacted laws for any purpose whatever, and at the same time condemn and forbid the use of the very means best adapted to promote and secure that purpose, for human slavery. cannot be supported without worse oppression than is complained of in these passages. This single circumstance is an irrefutable objection to the pretended slavish nature of the ancient Hebrew servitudes. The whole history of the ancient Jewish nation, both sacred and profane, is interspersed with their violations of the Levitical code of laws, and especially of the statutes for the regulation of free service among the rest similar to those contained in the passages under consideration. On account of


which same violations without repentance and reformation, the Jewish nation was, by the long threatened judgments of God, at last overthrown and destroyed.

Among these violations as they are recorded in the Scriptures, the sin of human oppression stands out the most conspicuous, as the numerous passages I have already quoted go far to prove. Yet multitudes of pro-slavery Christians at the present time contend, that these same oppressive violations, which overthrew and destroyed ancient Israel, are strong evidence that God sanctions the most oppressive practice in the world N

It is to be remembered in this connection that the cases now under review are those of strong censure for violations of the Levitical statutes, and not of approbation for obedience to them. With persons who are in the habit of quoting violations of laws, as evidence by analogy and not by contrast of what the laws themselves are, such reasoning may pass for sound logic, the same as that which quotes the bondage of the Jews in Egypt so severely condemned in the Scriptures, in justification of every other kind of oppression, and the massacre of infants by Pharaoh and Herod, in justification of all other massacres, or in other words to quote the divine condemnation of sins, in moral justification of the sins condemned !! It is in fact quoting one of two moral opposites, to show by analogy and not by contrast, what the other is. What would be thought of an advocate who would in a court of justice quote legal convictions of murder and other crimes condemned in a code of laws, as evidence that those crimes were legalized and sanctioned by the same code ? Yet there are thousands of minds in the United States sufficiently perverted and corrupted by slavery, thus to attempt the moral justification of that great crime--for as the latter is founded on perversions and other sins, so it perverts all minds within the sphere of its vicious influence-one perversion, like any other sin, being sure to produce effects similar to itself. The specific violations or sins complained of and threatened in the passages quoted from Nehemiah and Jeremiah were the neglect and refusal of the wealthy Jews to allow to their servants the full privileges of the year of Release, the Jubilee, and the redemptions by which the latter were discharged from service—in consequence of which violations, these servants were not only oppressed at home, but were sometimes obliged to sell themselves to the inhabitants of the neighboring nations, who

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and "




[ocr errors]

had no such institutions, and allowed their servants no such privileges, as the whole account in the passages clearly proves,

The Jews having been at this time just delivered from a long captivity, had lost much of their knowledge and respect for the Levitical law, for which reason these and other Prophets were sent to re-convert them to its obedience. It is proper also here to remark, that the Hebrew word falsely rendered “bondmen,” in the common translation of 2 Kings iv. 1, is the plural number of the word “evedh," and thus literally means menservants,” or “servants.' So in every instance where “bond

: man” and “ bond woman” occur in that translation, as in Gen. xxi. 10, 12, 13, and other passages, they are translated from “evedh

amau,” the same literally meaning “ man servant” or vant,” and “maid servant” or “maiden,” being thus literally and properly translated in several other passages, as in Ex. xx. 10; Lev. xxv. 6; Neh. v. 5, &c. As there were no Hebrew words for slave," "slaves,&c., when King James' translators found passages which they thought bore the strongest resemblance to the then popular practice of negro slavery, they selected the English words that came nearest to the latter meaning, without any regard to the literal import of the words in the Hebrew text, or the real doctrinè intended to be inculcated by the latter. The foregoing are all the passages in the Old Testament worthy of special notice in this connection, that have been perverted for the moral justification of human slavery. These wicked perversions were forged about four hundred and fifty years ago, to justify negro slavery, which had then lately commenced among Christians; the same perversions having previous to that time been entirely unknown, at least unknown among Christians, who had long before entirely renounced human slavery. After they had first been forged by the Catholics, Protestant theologians copied and adopted them as so much sound Christian doctrine, and that apparently without any critical examination or other care. Protestants who were so sharp as to detect those Catholic perversions which justified their own persecutions, were perfectly blind to the nature of those perversions which were intended to justify the persecution of negroes and other heathen. These perversions having been thus introduced and recommended, all the modern writers on the Hebrew servitudes have until very recently concurred in their pretended belief of the slavish nature of those servitudes, they having merely

copied from each other without apparent examination or care. Abundance of this kind of concurrent human testimony can be found in favor of the moral righteousness of negro and other heathen slavery, and which many American Christians are fond of quoting for that purpose. But as this is after all nothing but human testimony made up of human opinions, so I trust the whole of it has now been shown to be erroneous and false. So well settled, and so popular indeed had the pro-slavery doctrines derived from them become, that Mr. Crothers seems to have been the first Christian writer in the world who dared, in 1833, to call the whole of these absurd perversions in question. He was soon succeeded by Mr. Dickey. And the latter by Mr. Wield, and other anti-slavery writers, so that the theological credit of these wicked perversions is now extensively shaken.



Having thus directly proven from the texts of the Old Testament, usually perverted for the justification of human slavery, that none of them did in the least degree sanction such slavery, but on the contrary regulated free and voluntary service only, I proceed next to produce twelve special facts, or doctrines contained in the Scriptures and the Law of Nature, as circumstantial evidence to prove the utter impossibility of the ancient Patriarchal and Hebrew servitudes being slavish, or in any other way oppressive. My readers will please to remember the fact, that the advocates of the pretended slavery sanctioned by the Old Testament, always refuse to quote any other part of the Scriptures in relation to the subject, except the few isolated passages which they contend justify slavery, thus entirely neglecting to examine the spirit of the Scriptures in relation to it-contrary to the universal rule of ethical construction, so to construe each part of every code of laws, that will admit of it, as to correspond with the general spirit and intent of the other parts, and thus promote the harmony of the whole code, by fulfilling the whole intent of the legislators who enacted it. The facts here alluded to are as follows:

« PreviousContinue »