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Th. Yes; but, what was a bondman in Abraham's house? Was he considered as a person, having rights, like the white servants among us, capable of making contracts, capable of acquiring and holding property, and the like? If so, he was not a slave. For a slave is a thing, and not a person.
A slave has no rights.
Th. The Hebrew word is ebed, which is commonly rendered servant. David was the ebed of Saul, not his slave. Ziba was the ebed of Mephibosheth, but a man of wealth and importance. Jeroboam was the ebed of Solomon. It is used just as we use the word servant, to denote subordination and dependence, but not the degradation of persons to things, in which the essence of slavery consists.
Man. But Abraham's servants were bought with his money.
Th. The word signifies, acquired, got, procured. Abraham procured them with his money. And this is the way we procure white servants. The usual way to obtain a servant in patriarchal times is brought into view in that very ancient composition, the Book of Job, where, in respect to the leviathan, it is asked, “Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant forever?” The servant was bought, indeed, but he was bought of himself, and became a servant by contract. So it seems to be contemplated it might be among the Israelites.
“If a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger." Slaves are never bought of themselves, but of some other. Abraham might also have procured servants of his heathen neighbors, by way of redeeming captives taken in war, on the easy condition of their becoming permanent members of his family, and there enjoying the substantial benefits of freedom, which they could not hope to do among their enemies. Wives also were bought. Jacob gave fourteen years personal service for his. David bought his wife of the king her father, by his military services. To betroth a wife among the Israelites was to buy her, by paying a sum of money or goods to her father. Joseph bought the people with food to be servants unto Pharaoh. But they were not made slaves. They were only to pay Pharaoh a large rent for their land.
Ard. Would any slaveholder now treat his slaves as Abraham did his servants? He put arms into their hands, and intrusted them with the guardianship of his person. They were to be his heirs, in case of the lailure of children, in preference to other relations. The oldest servant of Abraham's house was a person of great consideration, 10 whom Isaac was in some respects subordinate, even at the age of forty years. And Abraham thought it necessary to bind him by an oath that he would not marry Isaac to any of the daughters of the land. There is no evidence that Abraham sold any of them, or gave them away, or treated them in any respect like slaves.
Th. If Abraham's service was slavery, his servants had an easy method of emancipating themselves. It was but to refuse a compliance with some of the religious obligations which his family were required to observe, and they would at once be excluded from his family, and turned out of his house. No, they must have been substantially like the servants of whom the apostle speaks. "Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all.” Of course, the servant differs nothing from a child in his minority. But as a child in his minority is very different froin' a slave, so also the servitude which is authorized by the Scriptures is very different from slavery.
Man But Moses found slavery in existence, and made laws to regulate it.
Th. Muses found a system of servitude in existence, not slavery, and made laws to regulate it which are not found in modern slave countries. Servants could make intermarriages with other members of the family, and become heirs with the children. “A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren." Servants were not allowed to be separated from their wives and children; they were invited guests at all the national and family festivals of the household in which they resided; they were under the same religious instruction, and under the same civil laws with their masters. There was not one law for the master, and another for the servant, as in slave countries. Servants might be parties to a suit at law for the recovery of their rights, and they could give testimony in courts of justice where masters were concerned.
Man. But Moses says: “Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids--they shall be your bondmen forever.” is not that authority to buy slaves?
Th. The word rendered bondmen signifies servants; the word rendered buy signifies procure. And we are not obliged by the language, when divested of the wrong ideas derived from our familiarity with slavery, to understand it as meaning any more than this: “ Both thy male and female servants, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; (and not of your Hebrew brethren;) of them shall ye procure men servants and maid servants—of such shall be your permanent servants in all ages.”
Ard. Did Moses authorize the buying and selling of slaves?
Th. The institutions of Moses provide for persons selling themselves to be servants, that is, hiring themselves out to be permanent servants, for a sum paid in advance; and also for fathers selling their daughters to be wives, and thus providing them with a dowry. But there seems to be no trace of any toleration of slave trading. The possibility that such a thing might be attempted, appears to be pro
vided for. "He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”
Man. Were not the Israelites slaves in Egypt?"
Th. They were under great oppression there, for which their oppressors were severely punished; but not slaves according to your definition. They resided by themselves in the land of Goshen, in permanent dwellings, in their own distinct aud separate families. They held their possessions independently, and owned a large amount of property, which does not appear to have been claimed by their masters. They kept arms, and were fully cquipped when they left Egypt. They had their own government, and laws, and magistrates, They appear to have been called out, a given portion of the men at a time, to labor in the public works. And the great oppression consisted in their being required to perform too much labor for the king. They appear to have had time to learn and practise several of the fine arts. There is no complaint that their women were subject to any personal outrages, nor to any species of cruel treatment, save that which Pharaoh judged to be necessary for his own safety, the destruction of their male children. They were abundantly supplied with the necessaries and comforts of life, as they afterwards alleged in their complaints when in the wilderness. Instead ef being allowed "a quart of corn a day,” as some slave-holding states now provide, they “sat by the flesh pots, and did eat bread to the full.” They also did “eat fish freely, and cucumbers, and melons, and leeks, and onions, and garlic.” No restrictions seem to have been placed on their intellectnal and moral improvement, or the free exercise of their religion, till they asked leave to go away in a body three days' journey into the wilderness, with all they possessed. And then the king seems to have refused chiefly from the fear that they would not return. If such was the bondage of Egypt, so decidedly condemned, and so severely punished; if it was so mild, compared with modern slavery; is it credible that God would authorize any thing like modern slavery, among a people whom he so abundantly enjoins not to oppress the stranger, nor to forget that they had been strangers in the land of Egypt? I cannot think it credible.
Ard. And then, there was a year of jubilee, of which it is said: “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
Th. And there was another direction, which the modern advocates of slavery do not like to have us obey. “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee.”
Man. You had better take care what you do, when you are within the reach of slaveholders.
Th. We mean to obey God, in relation to this matter, as well as all others; and bear testimony against oppression and cruelty. And we do not think you have any right to complain of us for doing so.
Man. "Slavery was prevalent at the coming of Christ; but he issued no command with regard to it; the apostles nowhere assailed it; the Gospel does not proclaim liberty to the slave."
Th. I cannot but wonder that you should use such language, if you have read the New Testament. It brings to mind the annunciation of the object of his coming, which is put into the mouth of our Lord, by the prophet: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath annointed me to preach good tidings unto to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn."
Man. But I cannot think it a sin to hold sl because the New Testament gives precepts to regulate the conduct both of masters and slaves. “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh.” " Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things.”
Th. With reference to these precepts, I have two remarks to make. One is, that nothing is here said about slaves. The Greek word is douloi, servants. The relation of master and servant may be very proper, and the relation of master and slave not be sanctioned at all. The proper Greek for slave is andrapodon. Doulos, servant, is used in the New Testament, very much as the Hebrew ebed, (servant,) is in the Old. It is evident, to any who examine the New Testament, that those who are called douloi were regarded as persons, and not as things; they possessed property of their own, were capable of making contracts, of owing debts to others, and having debts due to them; their wives and children were theirs, and not their masters. None of these things apply to modern slaves. Paul called himself a doulos, servant, of Jesus Christ, which was a title of honor. But his declaring it to be the same condition in which the heir is, during his minority, shows that it meant a man in a subordinate station, and not a mere chattel. But there is another remark to be made respecting these commands: They mention the duty of the servant, without deciding whether it is right for him to be held in that condition It is the duty of those who are held as slaves, to be obedient to the lawful commands of those to whom, in the providence of God, they are subordinate. But that does not prove it right for them to be held in that condition. Christianity found Nero exercising the most cruel tyrany at Rome; and it says to the Christians of that city: "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.” Did this prove that the government of Nero was right and no sin?
Man. But Christianity gives precepts to masters also; and thus recognizes that relation.
Th. It gives precepts for the treatment of servants. But I do not
just and equal to compel tu pay them for their work?
Man. I consider the case of Onesimu. sent him back to Philemon, he practically ii. taking up runaway slaves, and sending them back
Th. This case seems to be strangely misunderstood had embraced the Gospel. His servant Onesimus haa apparently in his debt. By the preaching of Paul, Onesi converted to Christianity. Paul speaks as if he might have him for the service of the Gospel; but he chose to have Philer. his duty in discharging him, of his own accord, and not by co sion. He sends him therefore, and exhorts Philemon to receive. sonot now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, es ally to me; but how much more unto thee." Was that to receive as a slave?
He said, “If thou count me, therefore, a partner, rec him as myself,” that is receive him as a partner, a companion, no a slave. And he expresses the greatest confidence tnat he would his duty in the case: Having confidence in thy obedience, I wi unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.” If : men, now held as slaves, were treated as Paul asks Onesiinus mig be, the reproach of slavery would no longer rest upon our country.
Ard. How do you pretend to reconcile slave-holding with ou Savior's golden rule, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,
do ye even so them; for this is the law and the prophets?” Man. That means, I suppose, that we should do what is best for others, considering their situation, character, and circumstances. And it is clearly best for most slaves to be kept in that condition; for they cannot take care of themselves.
Ard. They prove that they can, by taking care of themselves and their masters, too, in many cases.
But that would acknowledge that all who would be better off in freedom, should be set free.
Man. I doubt whether any would be better off.
Ard. Suppose you test the sincerity of your principles by changing places with them. Would you be willing to be shut up for a season, and then be sold to the highest bidder? Would you be willing to be chained in a company, and be driven with a whip to the sugar plantations, and there be worked, as those you sell are worked, till they are. exhausted, and die? Just put the case to yourself; and put yourself in their place, and see what you ought to do.
Man. “Slavery is the corner-stone of our republican edifice.”
Ard. Out upon such republicanism. The republican edifice erected by our revolutionary fathers, has the contrary as its foundation. They say: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are