Page:The Bible Against Slavery (Weld, 1838).djvu/16
voiced in mortal agony, "man is inviolable."—a confession shrieked in phrenzy at the grave's mouth—"I die accursed, and God is just."
If God permitted man to hold man as property, why did he punish for stealing that kind of property infinitely more than for stealing any other kind of property? Why did he punish with death for stealing a very little of that sort of property, and make a mere fine, the penalty for stealing a thousand times as much, of any other sort of property—especially if God did by his own act annihilate the difference between man and property, by putting him on a level with it?The atrociousness of a crime, depends much upon the nature, character, and condition of the victim. To steal is a crime, whoever the thief, or whatever the plunder. To steal bread from a full man, is theft; to steal it from a starving man, is both theft and murder. If I steal my neighbor's property, the crime consists not in altering the nature of the article, but in shifting its relation from him to me. But when I take my neighbor himself, and first make him property, and then my property, the latter act, which was the sole crime in the former case, dwindles to nothing. The sin in stealing a man, is not the transfer from its owner to another of that which is already property, but the turning of personality into property. True, the attributes of man remain, but the rights and immunities which grow out of them are annihilated. It is the first law both of reason and revelation to regard things and beings as they are; and the sum of religion, to feel and act toward them according to their value. Knowingly to treat them otherwise is sin; and the degree of violence done to their nature, relations, and value, measures its guilt. When things are sundered which God has indissolubly joined, or confounded in one, which he has separated by infinite extremes; when sacred and eternal distinctions, which he has garnished with glory, are derided and set at nought, then, if ever, sin reddens to its "scarlet dye." The sin specified in the passage, is that of doing violence to the nature of a man—to his intrinsic value as a rational being, and blotting out the exalted distinction stamped upon him by his Maker. In the verse preceding, and in that which follows, the same principle is laid down. Verse 15, "He that smiteth his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." V. 17, "He that curseth his father or his mother, shall surely be put to death." If a Jew smote his neighbor, the law merely smote him in return; but if the blow was given to a parent, it