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Judas sold his Master to the . . . for thirty pieces of silver. Under the old dispensations this was the price of a slave. The Evangelists tell us that in the case of Christ it was the “price of blood.” I do not mean to infer from this that the Evangelists taught that money received for human flesh is “blood-money;” but there is a fearful sense in which all such money is the price of blood; at least, for my own conscience it would be so awfully so that I would not have my hands stained with it
“For all the gold that sinews bought and sold have ever . . ..”
But if it be true, as is likely, that the . .. . bargained purposely with Judas for thirty pieces, in order that they might have it to say that Jesus of Nazareth was bought at a slave’s price, and died a slave’s death; if it be true that this was one ingredient in the cup of grief, and pain, and shame; and . . . which the malice of devils and the wickedness of men mingled for our Saviour to drink; then it may be true also, as one Evangelist has so carefully preserved to us the exact reward of the traitor, that Christ bore expressly this additional shame, not without a deep significance. One thing is certain,--and I mean no offense by it, but to express the simple, literal truth—the life of Jesus, in its meekness and loneliness, its patience of wrong and tolerance of insult, was far more a type of the salve’s life than the willing slaveholder’s. But it was his mission not only to present this blessed example of meek endurance and patient submission to wrong for the glory of God, but also to “preach deliverance to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” and if he died a shameful death, bought with a slave’s price, and crucified as a malefactor, it was to lay the foundation of that glorious kingdom of his in which all men should be brethren, and there be but one Master, and the Spiritual life and spiritual freedom of his kingdom were unquestionably destined to take to themselves forms in men’s outward life, and in civil society, that should correspond to them, and so, in God’s own time, the operating of prison born for captive souls, and the abuse of enslaved consciences, must necessarily bring on the casting off of all claims and bondage in which men’s limbs and wills are held unjustly. In my innocent heart I believe that Christianity will accomplish all this; that when her glorious . . . . is reached, there can be no oppression among men; no slaves; no despots; but all “shall worship under their own vine and fig tree, none daring to molest, or to make them afraid.”
It is one of the favorite positions of our Southern friends that slavery is a civil and political institution, and therefore not to be meddled with by the Church. They are fond of quoting in this connection Christ’s saying “Render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” We are willing to take it so; and to use in trying the case the very illustration used by Christ himself. “And they brought him a penny. And he said unto them, Whose is this image and . . . ? They say unto him, Cesar’s.” And then he laid down the rule. So when one man claims to hold another as “a . .. personal to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever.” (Buvard’s Digest Laws of South Carolina) let us appeal to our Master’s maxim: let the one man stand up beside the other; and as the claim is announced let us ask “. . . is this image and . . . . ? If the “chattel” be a man, he bears God’s image; and we are to render him to God, and not to man. Apply but this one rule of Christ’s faithfully, (and there are scores besides that will do as well,) and slavery must cease to exist.
The Christian religion, at its origin, necessarily took the forms of society as it found them. It had to clothe itself in them in order to work upon society at all. But was it thereby intended that all the forms of society then existing should be perpetuated? On the contrary, some of them were to be preserved, (whether Christ and his apostles spoke of them expressly or not.) except such as were adapted to the life and spirit of Christianity itself. All that were founded in the necessities of human nature as such, or all that could be used by a purely spiritual religion, were taken up by Christianity, made her own, and thereby made immortal. The relation of parent and child, of husband and wife, of teacher and pupil, of friend and friend,--all these Christianity took up into her own life, and they lived, and shall live while human society . .. . .As outer garments they were fitting; and the fitting garments of Christianity can never wear out, or be thrown aside. But there were others interwoven with the structure of society then--. . . the prince of this world, and not Christ, ruled among men—which were totally uncongenial to her spirits and her progress: such as absolute despotism, slavery, and others; and although Christ gave no specific commands against them, nay, even fixed the principles of Christian conduct in circumstance of oppression: and although Christianity had for a time to adapt herself to them, or else not be at all, it was her destiny to shake them off in the coarse of her development: and she did so. The slavery of the Roman empire was a terrific system; worse, it may be, than the West Indian or American slavery has ever been. Nowhere can you find more graphic descriptions of its . . . horrors than in the writings of southern advocates of American slavery. They dwell upon its . . . laws, and their more cruel execution; they tell of mines far down in the earth, where wretched men in thousands toiled from year to year under the scourge of the driver; of slaves murdered in the anger or for the pleasure of their masters, with impunity; tortures and mutilations in every form that . . . . cruelty could devise,--whips, scourges, from girdles; handcuffs, chains, collars, brands, and . . . , they tell of rage, and avarice, and . . . pursuing their victims among a miserable . . . , numbered by myriads that had no. . . but God, and he abandoning them to the tender . . . of the wicked; of old, sick, and infirm men and women, cast away to die, like worn-out, . . . , when they could no more bring grain to their . . . : they tell us that slaves could . . . marry, nor be punished for adultery; could learn no letters, own no lands, and have no home nor household gods, except at the master’s . . . . All this, and more, may be . . . recorded in the books and pamphlets of southern advocates of slavery. And why? They are Christian men: do they tell us of all these wrongs and outrages, then crimes that . . . . can hardly rival, to excite our . . . , to stir up our righteous indignation at sin, to warn us against the possibility of encouraging such . . . among ourselves? No! . . . to tell us that Christ could said not one word against the system which bred all these atrocities, and bred them of necessity; that he even “legislated for the relations that grew out of the system,” and therefore sanctioned both them and it! They tell us that Paul saw its workings in all their damning detail, and yet had no condemnation to utter against the system, and therefore must have believed it to be good!
This, then, is what these writers seek, wittingly or unwittingly, to do;--to sanctify slavery as one of the relations which Christianity assumes, and, in assuming, makes perpetual, like herself. This worn-out garment of slavery that clung like the shirt of Nessus to the giant shoulders of the Roman empire until it had poisoned its very vitals, and as the monster fell, dropped in rags and tatters to the earth, to be picked up and worn in shreds and patches by the half-civilized European nations for a few centuries, and then to crumble into debt, and he remembered only as the bloody costume of a barbarous age, and an unchristian people; this worn-out garment of slavery must now in the nineteenth century, and in republican America be thrown upon the pure and spotless shoulders of Christianity, to poison her too to the heart—and that by her own children!
And the Church of Christ must stand by and see this work of ruin wrought, and be dumb: because it is not prudent to speak!
John McClintock, Jr.
Carlisle, April 18, 1847.