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But it may still be said that the apostles might have commanded Christian masters to perform the act of legal emancipation in all cases. Certainly they might, and it is quite evident that they did not.

The professing primitive Christian regarded and treated his slave as a brother, but in the eye of the law he was still his chattel personal,—a thing, and not a man. Why did not the apostles, then, strike at the legal relation? Why did they not command every Christian convert to sunder that chain at once? In answer, we say that every attempt at reform which comes from God has proceeded uniformly in this manner,—to destroy the spirit of an abuse first, and leave the form of it to drop away, of itself, afterwards,—to girdle the poisonous tree, and leave it to take its own time for dying.

This mode of dealing with abuses has this advantage, that it is compendious and universal, and can apply to that particular abuse in all ages, and under all shades and modifications. If the apostle, in that outward and physical age, had merely attacked the legal relation, and had rested the whole burden of obligation on dissolving that, the corrupt and selfish principle might have run into other forms of oppression equally bad, and sheltered itself under the technicality of avoiding legal slavery. God, therefore, dealt a surer blow at the monster, by singling out the precise spot where his heart beat, and saying to his apostles, “Strike there!”

Instead of saying to the slave-holder, “manumit your slave,” it said to him. “treat him as your brother,” and left to the slave-holder’s conscience to say how much was implied in this command.

In the directions which Paul gave about slavery, it is evident that he considered the legal relation with the same indifference with which a gardener treats a piece of unsightly bark, which he perceives the growing vigor of a young tree is about to throw off by its own vital force. He looked upon it as a part of an old, effete system of heathenism, belonging to a set of laws and usages which were waxing old and ready to vanish away.

There is an argument which has been much employed on this subject, and which is specious. It is this. That the apostles treated slavery as one of the lawful relations of life, like that of parent and child, husband and wife.

The argument is thus stated: The apostles found all the relations of life much corrupted by various abuses.

They did not attack the relations, but reformed the abuses, and thus restored the relations to a healthy state.

The mistake here lies in assuming that slavery is the lawful relation. Slavery is the corruption of a lawful relation. The lawful relation is servitude, and slavery is the corruption of servitude.

When the apostles came, all the relations of life in the Roman empire were thoroughly permeated with the principle of slavery. The relation of child to parent was slavery. The relation of wife to husband was slavery. The relation of servant to master was slavery.

The power of the father over his son, by Roman law, was very much the same with the power of the master over his sl............
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