Page images
PDF
EPUB

Yet with all their natural disposition to abridge a precept so onerous and perilous, even Rabbins felt themselves constrained to hold that the ties of a common faith, on the fugitive's reception of their religious rites, put him inviolably under the banners and behind the altars of the nation. the Moslems of the East also yet feel; and on the demand made by Russia, but denied by Turkey, for the rendition of the Hungarian refugees, Bem, by becoming a Mahometan, put himself under this protection, to which Kossuth nobly refused to resort. Take the precept, when pared down by the keen edge of Rabbinical casuistry into its smallest dimensions, its defense of a proselyte fugitive, having just cause of complaint against his master, is significant in its lessons to those living under the more genial dispensation of the gospel. For Judaism was, of right, a national and hereditary system, isolating, if not exclusive, in its temper. It favored signally the lineal descendants of Abraham: yet in this one precept, it went out of its ordinary paths, to shield the alien whose veins had none of the blood of Israel. Load that precept, even with the added burden of repayment to the master for the price of his lost servant, would it not, if recognized amongst us, do good? Would it not, on the one hand, form at the South a safe check to the tyranny of a cruel or vicious master ? And would it not, at the North, establish a more liberal hospitality, than perchance the Constitution yet allows, in the case of the bondsman, who, denied the Bible, and threatened, it may be, with the branding-iron, and tracked by the blood-hound, would believe liberty at all risks, and with privations and exile in its train, more desirable than such a home and such a fate at the South ? And would it not, as by a gradual drainage, let off from the drowned lands some of the surplus waters that convert them into a morass? Would not such systems of Northern refuge and safeguard become the cheapest form of colonization, and lead on the most feasible and quiet system of emancipation ?

Now there are, at the North, those who, “in all good conscience," accept the spirit of this precept, as of perpetual obligation. Whilst they fail, on the one hand, to accord with those opponents of slavery, who, viewing it as radically and inherently sinful, demand its instant and utter abrogation ; they see, on the other hand, in the Divine condemnation of those who create slaveholding, in a certain fashion, and by a certain title, but too familiar in the slave-market,—the kidnapper, and the “ manstealer,''*-a strong protest of Heaven

* 1 Tim. i. 10.

against certain tenures of slave property; and they cannot, therefore, as Christians, sustain by their sympathy and support any lax system of extradition, that would, denying all jury trial to the alleged slave, put an honorable slaveholder and a perjured kidnapper on the same level, and clothe them with the same summary rights. There are those who believe themselves to see, in this remarkable provision of the Mosaic economy, a sort of valve yielding to any excessive strain of cruelty or crime on the part of a lawful master,-in some sense a safety valve, guarding the social machine from ruinous explosions,m-giving to the slave hardly treated by such severity or immorality a moral and Heaven-warranted right of escape, and adding also to such right in him of escape, a correlațe duty on the part of Christians to shelter that escape, and to fling themselves and their influence between the fierce pursuer and his wretched prey. Their right to show such humanity, and the imprescriptible right of him ready to perish to implore and expect that humanity, they find written in a law earlier than our Constitution, and in their eyes yet more august than that venerable instrument—the statute of our common Maker and Judge. And the law, thus explicit on the face of the Pentateuch, they suppose to be intimated afresh, in every free and prompt impulse of the soul, to right the wronged and to rescue him that is ready to die. They need quote no Pandect and collate no Rabbi or Father to establish and vindicate it. It is, in fact, a law not only independent of all human legislation, but going down below our race, and binding man to the kind use and care of the brute creation whom he bows to his yoke and attaches to his car.

The very beast which, with mouth opened by miracle, reproved the prophet Balaam, was made to appeal to a law that, without statute book or advocate, even the dumb beast knows and demands ;-"What have I done, that thou hast smitten me ?”—the law which requires that smiting even of the brute shall not be causeless or cruel. And the slave causelessly or cruelly smitten, if that cruelty be extreme, (and is it not often so ?) and if its ends be vicious, (and are they not sometimes so ?) has rights on our pity and protection, by primitive and ineffaceable laws, which no Constitution was needed to legitimate, and no Constitution is competent to supersede or override. Such at least are the views of multitudes of religious men at the North, not technically proselytes to the Anti-slavery creed or shibboleth Holding these principles, it cannot be expected that any arrangement for extradition in the crude and summary shape of the present law will suffice them. As to any severer and heavier penalties, for the purpose of schooling and curbing such men, those who propose these must forget what manner of men the Puritan Fathers were, and how much they outlived, and wore out, of fine and confiscation and pillory and dungeon, in the parent country, under the dominion of the first and the last Stuarts. Laud threatened to "harry' them, in his own choice phrase; and, with the favor of the Crown, and all the tender mercies of the Star Chamber, in his control, there was weight in the Archbishop's threats : but Laud died on the scaffold, and the Puritans were not harried. It has been thought, that something of the vigor of the old stock yet survives. And claim not others of us to share the faith and the blood of the early companions of Roger Williams, whom the Puritans, in turn persecutors, could neither convert nor subdue ? From how many a land where martyr ashes were driven on the winds and martyr blood reddened the sod,—from Holland, which in her fens stood up, strong for truth and God, against Spain, when Spain was the proudest, the richest, and the most cruel monarchy of Europe,--from France, whose Huguenots carried over Europe, and to our shore, the inextinguishable memory of persecution, rampant before Heaven in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantz, but failing in all its ruthlessness to extort the submission of conscience and the suppression of truth it had demanded, from Germany, where the Saltzburgher was driven with sword and firebrand from burning home and desolated field, from Wales, land of sturdy resistance through long centuries to the Saxon, and from Scotland and the gray hills whence covenanted Presbyterians spurned at last proud Prelacy, after all her violence, from Bohemia and the old homes of the Moravian Brethren, and even from the borders of Italy where the Waldensian, through long centuries of midnight darkness, kept burning on mountain altars the flame of a pure gospel* fast by the strongest hold of Antichrist, where Satan's seat is,-from how many a tribe, and a country, memorable for the inextinguishable love of truth, and the irrepressible energies of Conscience, have our colonial fathers come.

Those colonists settled in the South, as well as the North : and whilst this should serve to remind our brethren below the Potomac that Force avails little against Faith, that same common origin, and these blended memories of our martyr

* Some of the Waldensians were among the early emigrants to one of our Southern States. VOL. XV.NO. LX.

20

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

fathers, shall they not as well remind those who reside above the Potomac that the Union is a glorious, and ought to be cherished as an inestimable, portion of our common birthright?

Does it seem to any that secular enfranchisements are entirely beneath the regard of the Christian ? But has not his Master selected, as the fitting emblem of his own priceless and endless salvation, these terrestrial emancipations; and do not the latter come, naturally and necessarily, in the train of the truth and holiness secured by the former? What is the Messiah's own favorite title but that of the REDEEMER—the BUYER BACK FROM BONDAGE? And to what are the invitations of His gospel habitually and daily compared, but to that trump of JUBILEE, whose glad notes, ringing over hill and valley, announced to the pining serf and exile the term of his servitude—the falling of his bonds, and the restoration of his home? We allow, freely and gratefully, that the bondage Christ breaks is the worst of all bondage, for it is spiritual ; and the home He restores is the best of all homes, for it is celestial and eternal. But this very selection of the imagery for our Lord's titles and proclamations, shows sufficiently, that even civil freedom and an earthly home are not boons to be despised by the feeble when peacefully attainable, or to be denied by the powerful where safely allowable.

With the practical difficulties that beset the vexed subject now before Congress, and the darkness in which such great men so widely differ, and so sternly debate, how much need we to remember the worth of a better wisdom than man's laws can suggest, or man's intellect supply. Over the embittered discussion, God, even whilst we are writing, has cast the awful and calming gloom of a great sorrow.

One of the mightiest and noblest intellects in the nation has departed from us. After one speech prepared by him and delivered but ineffectually-and with another in the course of dictation, John C. Calhoun has passed into those realities of eternity, before which even the vital interests of a great nation, terrene and transitory as these last are, pale and dwindle. Let us remember, that whilst the counsellors may be thus removed, the greater Giver of the counsellor, Himself the only Eternal and Infallible Teacher, lives yet, awaiting our petitions, and ready, if trusted and invoked, to repeat and augment, in our behalf, all the wonders of deliverance and conciliation that have marked our earlier history. And in the prayers needed to draw down His mighty interposition, and availing to secure it, the supplications of either sex and of every agethe devotions of the loneliest closet, and of the lowliest altarmay have greater potency for good than all that students have written or statesmen elaborated. When Paul was tossing on the Adriatic and beating against the tempestuous Euroclydon, the bark in which he sailed was seemingly strained, and they “used helps, under-girding the ship.” These are supposed to have been cables, and perhaps other sea-tackling, passed around and beneath the body of the ship; as in the voyages of one of the companions of Cook the circumnavigator, sails were passed beneath the keel and sides, so prepared as to staunch and close the opening seams of the vessel. Even thus is it with the ship of the State, in such days of tossing and peril as have now overtaken her. The remedies are not to be those only or even those mainly-applied, before all eyes, in methods which " come with observation," to the sails and the masts and the cordage, so to speak, of the vessel above her decks: but those used beneath the surface of public life, in the intercourse of private society, in the discussions of the hearth and the way, and above all else, in the devotions of the homes where God's Word is and where His presence often shines. Though rent sails or crashing masts may be a more noticeable disaster, the mariner knows that torn sheathing or rotten planks in the submerged hulk of the vessel bring far more dreadful and remediless ruin than do the former. And even such vital position do the homes and sanctuaries of a land occupy. They are doing a more modest, but also a graver and more indispensable work, than the statesmanship which, in the public eyes, furls the sails and mans the rigging. Let those homes and sanctuaries now strengthen themselves by prayer. Let the closets 'and the altars of the land, North and South, gather all their force of petition around Him who is the seasonable and effectual Helper, the Hearer of prayer, and thus straining towards each other, cement the wounds and rifts of the State. Let them, in the spirit in which their pious forefathers achieved Freedom, now maintain Union; and the ship of the State shall

, thus "under-girded,” ride the billows unharmed, and instead of becoming a wreck, over which no lover of freedom could rejoice, survive as a glorious galley and a rich argosy, bearing down to latest ages her inestimable freight, in the institutions that have come to us from the patriots, the saints and the martyrs of our long and glorious ancestry.

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »