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acts in a saint. All these declarations are based upon the incompatibility of slavery with the idea of man as the offspring of God and as redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. These generous sentiments of the Christian fathers find a partial echo in legislation, especially in the Byzantine empire—though we should no more judge of Christianity in that age by the character and decrees of nominal Christian emperors, than we would judge of Christianity in England by the character and demands of her Tudors and Stuarts as defenders of the faith. In the code of Justinian are various enactments ameliorating the condition of slaves, reducing their number, favoring the enfranchisement of individuals, and restraining the cruelty of masters, though there is an obvious design to conserve and regulate the system of slavery rather than to abolish it. But while we recognize in the humane features of this celebrated code the softening influences of Christianity upon imperial despotism, we surely cannot charge upon the gospel the lack of wisdom, of courage, or of piety in an emperor called Christian. A more decisive proof of the anti-slavery influence of Christianity is given in frequent acts and declarations of councils, convents, bishops, popes, the ecclesiastical representatives of the middle ages. In the sixth century, we see the pious Gregory with his own purse ransoming Saxon slaves brought for sale to Rome, and educating them to become missionaries to barbarian Britain. As pope, he used his authority for the protection of the enslaved ; and there is extant a letter manumitting two persons who had been his own slaves, which marks at once the noble piety of the man and the evangelical spirit of the time. “As our Redeemer, the Author of all beings, has been pleased to put on the human form to break by the grace of his divinity the bonds which held us captive, and to restore to us our former liberty, it is fitting and salutary that those whom nature has made free, and whom human law has subjected to the yoke of servitude, should be restored by the boon of enfranchisement to the liberty in which they were born.” Moved by this consideration, and as a dictate of piety, he formally renounces all claim to the service of these servants of God and of his church.* In the eighth century we find the heads of convents giving freedom to all slaves received with lands bestowed upon the monastery. The head of one of these institutions writes, “a monk should never possess a slave, either for his own service or for the service of the convent, or to cultivate its lands; for the slave is a man created in the
* The following is the original of this epistle: “Cum Redemptor noster totius conditor creaturae ad hoc propitiatus humanam voluerit carnem assumere, ut divi. nitatis suae gratia, diruto quo tenebamur captivi vinculo servitutis, pristinae nos restitueret libertati; salubriter agiter, si homines quos ab initio natura creavit liberos et protulit, et jus gentium jugo substituit servitutis, in ea natura in qua nati fuerant, manumittentis beneficio, libertati reddantur. Atque ideo pietatis intuitu, et hujus rei consideratione permoti, vos Montanam atque Thomam famulos sanctae Romanæ Ecclesiae, cui Deo adjutore deservimus, liberos ex hac die civesque Romanos efficimus, omneque vestrum vobis relaxamus servitutis peculium.” (Greg. I., v. Ep. xii.) See, also, the acts of various Councils, in Appendix C.
# Theodore Studita.
An early English bishop received of the king of Sussex 250 slaves with land; he at once baptized them and set them free. In 1102, a church council, at London, condemned the slave trade—“that wicked traffic, by which men of England have been sold like brute animals;” and a little later, at the council of Armagh, in Ireland, “the bishops declared that the misfortunes of their country were the just punishment of the perpetuated crime of slavery,” and freed all captives held as slaves. A bull of Pope Gregory XVI. interdicts all ecclesiastics from “venturing to maintain that the traffic in blacks is permitted under any pretext whatever; and from teaching in public or in private, or in any way whatever, anything to the contrary.” Between the third and the twelfth centuries, no less than thirty-seven public councils of the church rendered decisions for the relief of slaves. During four centuries not a council met which did not denounce the slave-trade and urge its abolition ; and in the twelfth century slavery had well-nigh died out of Europe as under the ban of Christianity.” It became a common thing for the faithful to emancipate their slaves as an act of merit, for the salvation of their own souls and the souls of their ancestors. Penitents would even buy slaves in order to manumit them in the church ; and the Bible was set upon the head of the freed man as a crown of liberty.
The slave made free could rise to any office or dignity in the church. When a king of Hungary, in the thirteenth century, complained to Gregory IV., that a bishop was of servile origin, the Pope answered, “Before God all men are equal.” There was a doctrine of human rights before the French Revolution, before Thomas Jefferson. All honor to Popes and councils who, in the dark ages, held up this great light of liberty.” Of this whole period Guizot says, “the clergy in general, and especially several popes, enforced the manumission of their slaves as a duty incumbent upon laymen, and loudly inveighed against the scandal of keeping Christians in bondage. The greater part of the forms by which slaves were set free, at various epodes, are founded upon religious motives. It is under the impression of some religious feeling—the hopes of the future, the equality of all Christian men, and so on—that the freedom of the slave is granted. These are rather convincing proofs of the influence of the church, and of her desire for the abolition of this evil of evils, this iniquity of iniquities.”
* See Appendix C.
BUT such an evil dies hard. It is like the banyan, whose branches strike down again to the soil that nurses it, and become the stocks of other trees. And so in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, slavery which had been cut down and thinned out, but not extirpated, began to sprout again, and in the seventeenth century it was fostered by European sovereigns, in the interest of colonies and of commerce. For a time the Reformers had so much to do in the way of conflict and of suffering, to win for Protestantism a recognized position and field of action in Europe, that they could give but little time to philanthropic reform, and, indeed, could have but little influence toward social and legal reformations. But there stood the gospel, declaring all men made of one blood, children of one father, redeemed by one Saviour; there stood the sermon on the Mount, the parable of the good Samaritan, the golden rule of equal justice and fraternal love ; there stood the teachings of the Apostles and the practice of the early church ; and this gospel testimony must be heard again. By degrees it found a voice, first through individual Christians, then by combined Christian action, and through the reformation of laws. Of this more recent anti-slavery agitation, I need not speak in detail. Bishop Warburton and Bishop Porteus, Bishop Horsley, and Archdeacon Paley, Bishop Butler and John Wesley, and many other illustrious names of England, are enrolled in the list of witnesses against the crime of slavery. I need barely refer to the testimony of Hopkins of Newport, and Edwards of New Haven; to the consistent antislavery testimony of the Society of Friends; of the somewhat fluctuating and inconsistent, and yet in the main,
* For conclusive evidence on these points, see Balmes’ “Protestantism and Catholicity," especially the original citations in the appendix: Biot, “Abolition de L'Esclavage;" Cochin, “Results of Slavery;" and above all, the great work of Wallon, “Histoire de L'Esclavage.” + History of Civilization.