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judge; their heaven and their hell are the same.” How long would such a preacher of the gospel be tolerated in New Orleans? St. Isidore, of Pelusium (440), urges that servants should be treated even as ourselves, because they are men like ourselves. Against the plea that they are subjected to others by the fortune of war, or by superior force, he insists that “in reality we are but one with them, whether by agreement of nature, or by the princi. ples of our faith, or in view of the last judgment.”f Again he says, “I know not how a man who lowes Christ—who has known and experienced that grace which has secured freedom for us all—can hold a slave.”f Is opposition to slavery a fanaticism of modern times? There is a touching legend of St. Bavon, that long after he had renounced the world for a monastic life, he met a man whom he had once sold as a slave, when, falling at his feet he begged his forgiveness for the great crime he had committed, and offered to submit to any degradation or penance his injured victim would impose. The legend shows the tone of popular feeling in regard to slavery. To repent of slaveholding as a crime, and to offer reparation to the victim, were deemed meritorious 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. f 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
* See the whole of this masterly sermon in the works of Gregory, p. 406.
# Servis, tanquam nobis ipsis, utendum est. Homines enim illi nostri instar sunt. Anticipata quippe opinio, aut belli fortuna, aut armorum vis, eos in aliorum possessionem redigit. At re vira omnes unum utgue idem Sumus, sive naturam, sive fidem, sive futurum judicium spectemus.”
# In his epistle to Ironis: “Neque enim Christiamantem Ironem, qui cognitam et exploratam eam gratiam habeat, qui omnes in libertatem vindicavit, famulum ullum habere arbitror.”
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 *mage of God.”f
* 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 libe. ros 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.
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
- * See Appendix C.
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.”
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
*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.