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CHAPTER IX. IS THE SYSTEM OF RELIGION WHICH IS TAUGHT THE SLAVE THE GOSPEL?
The ladies of England, in their letter to the ladies of America, spoke in particular of the denial of the gospel to the slave. This has been indignantly resented in this country, and it has been claimed that the slaves do have the gospel communicated to them very extensively.

Whoever reads Mr. Charles C. Jones’ book on the religious instruction of the negroes will have no doubt of the following facts:

1. That from year to year, since the introduction of the negroes into this country, various pious and benevolent individuals have made efforts for their spiritual welfare.

2. That these efforts have increased, from year to year.

3. That the most extensive and important one came into being about the time that Mr. Jones’ book was written, in the year 1842, and extended to some degree through the United States. The fairest development of it was probably in the State of Georgia, the sphere of Mr. Jones’ immediate labor, where the most gratifying results were witnessed, and much very amiable and commendable Christian feeling elicited on the part of masters.

4. From time to time, there have been prepared, for the use of the slave, catechisms, hymns, short sermons, &c. &c., designed to be read to them by their masters, or taught them orally.

5. It will appear to any one who reads Mr. Jones’ book that, though written by a man who believed the system of slavery sanctioned by God, it manifests a spirit of sincere and earnest benevolence, and of devotedness to the cause he has undertaken, which cannot be too highly appreciated.

It is a very painful and unpleasant task to express any qualification or dissent with regard to efforts which have been undertaken in a good spirit, and which have produced, in many respects, good results; but, in the reading of Mr. Jones’ book, in the study of his catechism, and of various other catechisms and sermons which give an idea of the religious instruction of the slaves, the writer has often been painfully impressed with the idea that, however imbued and mingled with good, it is not the true and pure gospel system which is given to the slave. As far 245as the writer has been able to trace out what is communicated to him, it amounts in substance to this; that his master’s authority over him, and property in him, to the full extent of the enactment of slave-law, is recognized and sustained by the tremendous authority of God himself. He is told that his master is God’s overseer; that he owes him a blind, unconditional, unlimited submission; that he must not allow himself to grumble, or fret, or murmur, at anything in his conduct; and, in case he does so, that his murmuring is not against his master, but against God. He is taught that it is God’s will that he should have nothing but labor and poverty in this world; and that, if he frets and grumbles at this, he will get nothing by it in this life, and be sent to hell forever in the next. Most vivid descriptions of hell, with its torments, its worms ever feeding and never dying, are held up before him; and he is told that this eternity of torture will be the result of insubordination here. It is no wonder that a slave-holder once said to Dr. Brisbane, of Cincinnati, that religion had been worth more to him, on his plantation, than a wagon-load of cowskins.

Furthermore, the slave is taught that to endeavor to evade his master by running away, or to shelter or harbor a slave who has run away, are sins which will expose him to the wrath of that omniscient Being, whose eyes are in every place.

As the slave is a movable and merchantable being, liable, as Mr. Jones calmly remarks, to “all the vicissitudes of property,” this system of instruction, one would think, would be in something of a dilemma, when it comes to inculcate the Christian duties of the family state.

When Mr. Jones takes a survey of the field, previous to commencing his system of operations, he tells us, what we suppose every rational person must have foreseen, that he finds among the negroes an utter demoralization upon this subject; that polygamy is commonly practised, and that the marriage-covenant has become a mere temporary union of interest, profit or pleasure, formed without reflection, and dissolved without the slightest idea of guilt.

That this state of things is the necessary and legitimate result of the system of laws which these Christian men have made and are still keeping up over their slaves, any sensible person will perceive; and any one would think it an indispensable step to any system of religious instruction here, that the negro should be placed in a situation where he can form a legal marriage, and can adhere to it after it is formed.

But Mr. Jones and his coadjutors commenced by declaring that it was not their intention to interfere, in the slightest degree, with the legal position of the slave.

We should have thought, then, that it would not have been possible, if these masters intended to keep their slaves in the condition of chattels personal, liable to a constant disruption of family ties, that they could have the heart to teach them the strict morality of the gospel with regard to the marriage relation.

But so it is, however. If we examine Mr. Jones’ catechism, we shall find that the slave is made to repeat orally that one man can be the husband of but one woman, and if, during her lifetime, he marries another, God will punish him forever in hell.

Suppose a conscientious woman, instructed in Mr. Jones’ catechism, by the death of her master is thrown into the market for the division of the estate, like many cases we may read of in the Georgia papers every week. She is torn from her husband and children, and sold at the other end of the union, never to meet them again, and the new master commands her to take another husband;—what, now, is this woman to do? If she take the husband, according to her catechism she commits adultery, and exposes herself to everlasting fire; if she does not take him, she disobeys her master, who, she has been taught, is God’s overseer; and she is exposed to everlasting fire on that account, and certainly she is exposed to horrible tortures here.

Now, we ask, if the teaching that has involved this poor soul in such a labyrinth of horrors can be called the gospel?

Is it the gospel,—is it glad tidings in any sense of the words?

In the same manner, this catechism goes on to instruct parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that they should guide, counsel, restrain and govern them.

Again, these teachers tell them that they should search the Scriptures most earnestly, diligently and continually, at the same time declaring that it is not their intention to interfere with the laws which forbid their being taught to read. Searching the Scriptures, slaves are told, means coming to people who are willing to read to them. Yes, but if there be no one willing to do this, what then? Any one whom this catechism has 246thus instructed is sold off to a plantation on Red river, like that where Northrop lived; no Bible goes with him; his Christian instructors, in their care not to interfere with his civil condition, have deprived him of the power of reading; and in this land of darkness his oral instruction is but as a faded dream. Let any of us ask for what sum we would be deprived of all power of ever reading the Bible for ourselves, and made entirely dependent on the reading of others,—especially if we were liable to fall into such hands as slaves are,—and then let us determine whether a system of religious instruction, which begins by declaring that it has no intention to interfere with this cruel legal deprivation, is the gospel!

The poor slave, darkened, blinded, perplexed on every hand, by the influences which the legal system has spread under his feet, is, furthermore, strictly instructed in a perfect system of morality. He must not even covet anything that is his master’s; he must not murmur or be discontented; he must consider his master’s interests as his own, and be ready to sacrifice himself to them; and this he must do, as he is told, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. He must forgive all injuries, and do exactly right under all perplexities; thus is the obligation on his part expounded to him, while his master’s reciprocal obligations mean only to give him good houses, clothes, food, &c. &c., leaving every master to determine for himself what is good in relation to these matters.

No wonder, when such a system of utter injustice is justified to the negro by all the awful sanctions of religion, that now and then a strong soul rises up against it. We have known under a black skin shrewd minds, unconquerable spirits, whose indignant sense of justice no such representations could blind.

That Mr. Jones has met such is evident; for, speaking of the trials of a missionary among them, he says (p. 127):

He discovers Deism, Scepticism, Universalism. As already stated, the various perversions of the gospel, and all the strong objections against the truth of God,—objections which he may, perhaps, have considered peculiar only to the cultivated minds, the ripe scholarship and profound intelligence, of critics and philosophers!—extremes here meet on the natural and common ground of a darkened understanding and a hardened heart.

Again, in the Tenth Annual Report of the “Association for the Religious Instruction of the Negroes in Liberty County Georgia,” he says:

Allow me to relate a fact which occurred in the spring of this year, illustrative of the character and knowledge of the negroes at this time. I was preaching to a large congregation on the Epistle to Philemon; and when I insisted upon fidelity and obedience as Christian virtues in servants, and, upon the authority of Paul, condemned the practice of running away, one-half of my audience deliberately walked off with themselves, and those that remained looked anything but satisfied, either with the preacher or his doctrine. After dismission, there was no small stir among them: some solemnly declared that there was no such epistle in the Bible; others, “that it was not the gospel;” others, “that I preached to please masters;” others, “that they did not care if they ever heard me preach again.”—pp. 24, 25.

Lundy Lane, an intelligent fugitive who has published his memoirs, says that on one occasion they (the slaves) were greatly delighted with a certain preacher, until he told them that God had ordained and created them expressly to make slaves of. He says that after that they all left him, and went away, because they thought, with the Jews, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?”

In these remarks on the perversion of the gospel as presented to the slave, we do not mean to imply that much that is excellent and valuable is not taught him. We mean simply to assert that, in so far as the system taught justifies the slave-system, so far necessarily it vitiates the fundamental ideas of justice and morality; and, so far as the obligations of the gospel are inculcated on the slave in their purity, they bring him necessarily in conflict with the authority of the system. As we have said before, it is an attempt to harmonize light with darkness, and Christ with Belial. Nor is such an attempt to be justified and tolerated, because undertaken in the most amiable spirit by amiable men. Our admiration of some of the laborers who have conducted this system is very great; so also is our admiration of many of the Jesuit missionaries who have spread the Roman Catholic religion among our aboriginal tribes. Devotion and disinterestedness could be carried no further than some of both these classes of men have carried them.

But, while our respect for these good men must not seduce us as Protestants into an admiration of the system which they taught, so our esteem for our Southern brethren must not lead us to admit that a system which fully justifies the worst kind of spiritual and temporal despotism can properly represent the gospel of him who came to preach deliverance to the captives.

To prove that we have not misrepresented 247the style of instruction, we will give some extracts from various sermons and discourses.

In the first place, to show how explicitly religious teachers disclaim any intention of interfering in the legal relation (see Mr. Jones’ work, p. 157):

By law or custom, they are excluded from the advantages of education; and, by consequence, from the reading of the word of God; and this immense mass of immortal beings is thrown, for religious instruction, upon oral communications entirely. And upon whom? Upon their owners. And their owners, especially of late years, claim to be the exclusive guardians of their religious instruction, and the almoners of divine mercy towards them, thus assuming the responsibility of their entire Christianization!

All approaches to them from abroad are rigidly guarded against, and no ministers are allowed to break to them the bread of life, except such as have commended themselves to the affection and confidence of their owners. I do not condemn this course of self-preservation on the part of our citizens; I merely mention it to show their entire dependence upon ourselves.

In answering objections of masters to allowing the religious instruction of the negroes, he supposes the following objection, and gives the following answer:

If we suffer our negroes to be instructed, the tendency will be to change the civil relations of society as now constituted.

To which let it be replied, that we separate entirely their religious and their civil condition, and contend that the one may be attended to without interfering with the other. Our principle is that laid down by the holy and just One: “Render unto C?sar the things which are C?sar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” And Christ and his apostles are our example. Did they deem it proper and consistent with the good order of society to preach the gospel to the servants? They did. In discharge of this duty, did they interfere with their civil condition? They did not.

With regard to the description of heaven and the torments of hell, the following is from Mr. Jones’ catechism, pp. 83, 91, 92:

Q. Are there two places only spoken of in the Bible to which the souls of men go after death?—A. Only two.

Q. Which are they?—A. Heaven and hell.

Q. After the Judgment is over, into what place do the righteous go?—A. Into heaven.

Q. What kind of a place is heaven?—A. A most glorious and happy place.

Q. Shall the righteous in heaven have any more hunger, or thirst, or nakedness, or heat, or cold? Shall they have any more sin, or sorrow, or crying, or pain, or death?—A. No.

Q. Repeat “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”—A. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

Q. Will heaven be their everlasting home?—A. Yes.

Q. And shall the righteous grow in knowledge and holiness and happiness for ever and ever?—A. Yes.

Q. To what place should we wish and strive to go, more than to all other places?—A. Heaven.

Q. Into what place are the wicked to be cast?—A. Into hell.

Q. Repeat “The wicked shall be turned.”—A. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”

Q. What kind of a place is hell?—A. A place of dreadful torments.

Q. What does it burn with?—A. Everlasting fire.

Q. Who are cast into hell besides wicked men?—A. The devil and his angels.

Q. What will the torments of hell make the wicked do?—A. Weep and wail and gnash their teeth.

Q. What did the rich man beg for when he was tormented in the flame?—A. A drop of cold water to cool his tongue.

Q. Will the wicked have any good thing in hell? the least comfort? the least relief from torment?—A. No.

Q. Will they ever come out of hell?—A. No, never.

Q. Can any go from heaven to hell, or from hell to heaven?—A. No.

Q. What is fixed between heaven and hell?—A. A great gulf.

Q. What is the punishment of the wicked in hell called?—A. Everlasting punishment.

Q. Will this punishment make them better?—A. No.

Q. Repeat “It is a fearful thing.”—A. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Q. What is God said to be to the wicked?—A. A consuming fire.

Q. What place should we strive to escape from above all others?—A. Hell.

The Rev. Alex. Glennie, rector of Allsaints parish, Waccamaw, South Carolina, has for several years been in the habit of preaching with express reference to slaves. In 1844 he published in Charleston a selection of these sermons, under the title of “Sermons preached on Plantations to Congregations of Negroes.” This book contains twenty-six sermons, and in twenty-two of them there is either a more or less extended account, or a reference to eternal misery in hell as a motive to duty. He thus describes the day of judgment (Sermon 15, p. 90):

When all people shall be gathered before him, “he shall separate them, one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on the right hand, but the goats on the left.” That, my brethren, will be an awful time, when this separation shall be going on; when the holy angels, at the command of the great Judge, shall be gathering together all the obedient followers of Christ, and be setting them 248on the right hand of the Judgment-seat, and shall place all the remainder on the left. Remember that each of you must be present; remember that the Great Judge can make no mistake; and that you shall be placed on one side or on the other, according as in this world you have believed in and obeyed him or not. How full of joy and thanksgiving will you be, if you shall find yourself placed on the right hand! but how full of misery and despair, if the left............
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