Imágenes de páginas

fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for MEN-STEALERs, for liars, for perjured perSons.” 2. “Thou shalt neither wea, a stranger nor oppress him —for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. xxii. 21.) In regard to this precept, Dr. Ludwig Phil-. ippson justly remarks, that “the deliverance of Israel from Egypt was the foundation of their national character and constitution. The annihilation of slavery among themselves was therefore a prime condition of their existence ; they must be a free people—a nation of the Free.”.” Hence the Israelite was forbidden to retaliate upon the children of Egyptians the oppressions of their fathers;+ but was reminded of his own oppression in Egypt as a motive for the kind treatment of strangers of whatever race or nation. The same argument applies emphatically to a people whose own national independence is based upon the declaration of man's inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 3. “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee; he shall dwell with thee, even among you in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates where it liketh him best; thou shalt not oppress him.” (Deut. xxiii. 15, 16.) Of this precept, Maimonides, the renowned Rabbi of the 12th century, observes, that “beside the act of mercy, it has this further beneficial result—that it teaches us to

* Der Pentateuch, in loc. + Deut. xxiii. 7.

accustom ourselves to virtuous and praiseworthy actions, not only by succoring those who have sought our aid and protection, and not delivering them into the hands of those from whom they have fled, but also by promoting their comfort, doing them all manner of kindness, and not injuring or grieving them even in word.”* Compare this humane provision of the Mosaic code with the Lew Fabia of Rome, which made it a penal offence to harbor a fugitive slave A code which made kidnapping and man-stealing a crime to be punished with death, which forbade the oppression of the poor and the stranger, and the returning of the fugitive slave to his master, could never have been made the foundation of that system of servitude which existed in Rome and now exists in the Southern States. The enactment of those three provisions of Hebrew law would abrogate every slave code in the South. By the Mosaic code, “the servant could have recourse to the law for all wrongs; his testimony was received ; he could hold property and redeem himself; he was instructed ; his rights were respected. No slave-trade, no fugitive slave law, no enslaving of natives; a year of jubilee ; the purity of woman, the weakness of childhood, the rights of manhood placed under the provident protection of the law ; equality professed, fraternity preached. Such was Hebrew servitude. Let the partisans of modern slavery cease to seek arguments from it ; let them rather pattern after it !”*

* Reasons of the Laws of Moses, Chap. XIV * Cochin, p. 299.

Salvador declines to use even the word servitude to describe the condition of servants under the Hebrew code. The title of his chapter on this subject is, “Domesticité, or the condition of servants improperly called slaves.” He shows, conclusively, that both in theory and in practice, the Mosaic law destroyed slavery as far as this was within its power. It is a significant fact that while the history of antiquity, in Sparta, Rome, Crete, Thessaly, records frequent slave insurrections, and vigorous measures to suppress them,-in all the long history of Israel” there is no such thing as a rising of slaves, nor any legislation to prevent such insurrection ;-and this for the obvious reason, that there was no such servile class in Israel as existed in other nations.

Says the Rabbi Mielziner, “No religion and no legislation of ancient times could, in its inmost spirit, be so decidedly opposed to slavery as was the Mosaic : a religion which so sharply emphasized the high dignity of man as a being made in the image of God, a legislation based upon that very idea of man's worth, and which, in all its enactments, insisted not only upon the highest justice, but also upon the tenderest pity and forbearance, especially towards the necessitous and the unfortunate; a people, in fine, which had itself smarted under the yoke of slavery, and had become a nation only by emancipation, would necessarily be solicitous to do away, wherever it was practicable, with the unnatural state of slavery, by which human nature is degraded.” The wisest and best among the Jews have been accustomed to construe the Mosaic code as forbidding slavery. “Our sages,” says Maimonides, “ordered us to make the poor and orphans our domestics, instead of employing slaves. . . . Every one who increases his slaves does day by day increase sin and iniquity in the world; while those who employ the poor as their domestics [or ‘sons of the house ] add hourly to their good acts.” The religion of the Old Testament, in spirit and in practice, was an anti-slavery religion; and hence, when the Jews had degenerated and had begun to practice oppression, we find their prophets threatening divine judgments for this specific wickedness, and requiring them “to break every yoke,” in order that they may escape those judgments. How impressive a warning to us is conveyed in this anti-slavery tone of Hebrew prophecy—“Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate; for the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.”f Jehovah threatens to lay waste his vineyard, the house of Israel, because “he looked for justice, but, behold, oppression ; for righteousness, but, behold, a cry.”f And, again, as if forecasting the judicial consequences of slavery upon our own nation, “thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression, and perverseness, and stay thereon; therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant. Thus saith the Lord, Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor; behold I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine.”

* Histoire des Institutions de Moise, Book VII., Chap. 7. For this entire Chapter see Apendix A

* Die Verhältnisse, etc., p. 7. Also, in Am. Theo. Review, Vol. III., p. 234. For further elucidation of this topic, see Ewald's views, in Appendix B. + Prov. xxii. 22. # Is. v. 7.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

SUCH were the principles in which the apostles as Jews were trained ; and by the working of these principles, it had come to pass in their time that involuntary servitude had well-nigh ceased to exist in their nation. A true understanding of the Mosaic tenure of service is essential to right views of Christian ethics as applied to slavery. With these humane and liberal sentiments of the Jewish code, enforced by Christ's doctrine of neighborly love, the travelling apostles came in contact with Roman slavery as I have already described it. How did they treat that system 7

1. They had no occasion to treat, in the form of an ethical essay, of the system of slave-laws as existing in

the Roman empire; for they had no such legal position or political rights as could invite them to that mode of

* Is... xxx. 12, 13. Jer. xxxiv. 17.

« AnteriorContinuar »