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conditions inflicted on each one in this transient exile on earth. They radically change the title of authority and the spirit of servitude. They do not detach the slave from being a slave, they detach the master from being a master. Occupied, moreover, before everything, with the enfranchisement of souls, they seek to make of the master and the slave two brethren on earth, and of these brethren two saints in heaven. To those who suffer, they say, Wait / to those who inflict suffering, Tremble /**
FROM the apostolic age of planting, we pass to the period of development, from the death of John to the conversion of Constantine —when Christianity as a new religion, aiming at universal diffusion, came into collision with the religious, social, and political institutions of the pagan world. What was the first bearing of Christianity toward slavery 7 and what its general influence upon the system 7 Rightly to answer these questions, we must remember, first, as stated above, that, in the Roman empire, there was no such thing as popular suffrage upon public questions—and therefore Christians had no power to act politically against slavery, nor to influence the law-making power. Next, we must remember, that at this time, Christianity itself had no recognized legal or social status; but its adherents were largely from the poor, and many of them slaves. And, again, we must remember, that this was one prolonged period of persecution ; marked especially by the ten great persecutions from Nero, Domitian, and Trajan, down to Diocletian ;a period in which the church at times was compelled to hide itself in the catacombs that underlie the city of Rome, in the tombs along the valley of the Nile, and in the deserts of Egypt and Arabia. Moreover, it was a period of which we have but meager literary remains as materials of church history. We are not therefore to look for the influence of Christianity in public laws, or in public sentiment, or in great social revolutions, or in judicial or literary monuments. Pagan writers of this period, Tacitus and Suetonius, for example—had no conception of the genius of Christianity, and took no pains to distinguish between Christians and Jews. In fact, regarding Christians only as a pestilential sect of Jews, these authors transfer to them the hatred and contempt which so abounded toward the race of Israel. In the absence of an accurate census of the Pagan and Christian empires, respectively, it is difficult to trace the ameliorating influence of the gospel upon slavery in the interval from Augustus to Constantine. Yet we have striking evidence that in this era of oppression from without, the spirit of freedom and of equality was preserved within the Church, and that instead of courting the patronage of the world by winking at iniquity in the rich and great, the Christians of that age so far maintained the fundamental teachings of the gospel with regard to the essential equality of men, that when owners of slaves became Christians, they manumitted their slaves as a preliminary to uniting with the church. It is not claimed that such manumission, in form, was a pre-requisite, or a uniform preliminary to Christian fellowship. The primitive Christians were not perfect, either in the doctrines, or in the spirit and practice of the gospel. The epistles of Paul and John rebuke doctrinal errors, and James reproves the spirit of caste, and a regard for social distinctions in the Christian assembly. Besides, as noted above, in the first two centuries of the Christian era, it was the general policy of the Roman Emperors to obstruct by legal hindrances the manumission of slaves by individual masters;–just as in some of the Southern States, emancipation upon the soil is embarrassed by regulations almost prohibitory. It is admitted, then, that there are traces of nominal slaveholding in the churches in post-apostolic times. Justin Martyr complains that the slaves of Christians were put to the torture to compel them to calumniate their masters;* Athenagoras appeals to the slaves in Christian households to windicate their masters from alleged scan
* Cochin, Results of Slavery, p. 327.
dals; and Eusebius mentions that heathen household Servants belonging to the brethren, being threatened with
* Apol. II., 12. # Apology for Christianity, 35.
the torture, at the instigation of the persecutors, charged upon Christians the most odious vices and crimes.” But while traces of slavery are found as an occasional residuum of paganism, among the early Christians, it is evident from the tone of the Fathers, that, within the pale of the church, “the slave passed from the category of things which the right of property placed at the disposal of the master.”f “Slaves,” said Clement of Alexandria, in the second century, “are men like ourselves; God is the same for all, for slaves and for the free.”f Cyprian, of Carthage, in the third century, defending Christians from false accusations, reminds his pagan adversary of the unnatural crime of slavery :—you compel to be your slave, a man who was born as you were, who dies as you do, whose body is made of the same substance with your own, whose soul had the same origin with yours, who has the same rights and is under the same law. § That these principles were carried into practice in the church, we have the evidence of credible history. For though the number of slaves set free by individual masters may be exaggerated—as when Ovinius, of Gaul, is said to have emancipated five thousand, and Melanius eight thousand —that very exaggeration in the popular traditions shows the tendency of Christianity toward universal emancipation. In this view, making due allowance for the exaggeration of numbers, such instances as the following are valuable, not only as substantial facts, but as “the exponents of the spirit which animated the church at that time concerning the duties of Christian masters.” “A Roman prefect, Hermas, converted in the reign of Trajan (98–to 117), received baptism at an Easter festival, with his wife and children, and twelve hundred and fifty slaves, and on this occasion gave all his slaves their freedom, and munificent gifts besides. So, in the martyrology of St. Sebastian, it is related that a wealthy Roman prefect, Chromatius, under Diocletian (284–305), on embracing Christianity, emancipated fourteen hundred slaves, after having them baptized with himself, because their sonship with God put an end to their servitude to man. In the beginning of the fourth century, St. Cantius, Cantianus, and Cantianilla, of an old Roman family, set all their slaves, seventy-three in number, at liberty, after they had received baptism. After the third century, the manumission became a solemn act, which took place in the presence of the clergy and the congregation. The master led the slave to the altar; there the document of emancipation was read, the minister pronounced the blessing, and the congregation received him as a free brother, with equal rights and privileges. Constantine found this
* Eu. Hist., W., 1. See, also, the Letter from the churches of Lyons and Vienne
to Asia, Sec. 4.
+ “Ac famulis quidem utendum est tanquam nobis ipsis; sunt enim homines sicut nos; Deus enim est omnibus, liberis et servis, ex æquo, si consideres.”— Paedag. III., 12.
§ “Homo hominem parere tibi et obedire compellis. Et cum sit vobis eadem sors nascendi, conditio una moriendi, corporum materia consimilis, animarum ratio communis, aquali jure et pari lege vel veniatur in istum mundum, vel de mundo postmodum recedatur.”—Cyp. ad. Demet. See, also, his Epistle on the duty and privilege of redeeming captives. Epis. LXII.