Page:The duties of masters and slaves respectively (1845).djvu/19
'to do unto others as we would they should do unto us', shall prevail among men, must the abuses of this institution become manifest, and lead to its extirpation. It follows, therefore, that no good man can be a friend to slavery; and the church is bound to attempt the removal of it at once, just as certainly as benevolence is a Christian duty."
This objection presents a singular commixture of truth and error. In a certain modified sense the objection may be deemed valid. The direct tendency of religion is to eradicate vice and to correct all abodes; and so far as true religion prevails will men discern the abuses attendant on slavery—and abhor them, and attempt their removal. But the abuse of a thing is no part of the thing itself. The more extensively true religion prevails in Southern society, the more will masters use their power for the good of their slaves; and inasmuch as power (in the hands of beings so imperfect as men are) is always liable to abuse, true benevolence would lead masters to employ every safe and practicable means for improving the condition and elevating the character of servants, with a view to their complete emancipation, whenever that can be effected without detriment to them, and with safety to the community.
Were the question now to be agitated, Shall we suffer the introduction of slavery among us? and more emphatically still, Shall we take measures to furnish ourselves with domestic servants, by reducing to slavery some of our fellow-men, now free as ourselves? the great law of love, and sound policy no less, would return a prompt refusal.
But with the question of originating slavery, or of now first introducing it here, we have, at present, nothing to do. The institution already exists among us, and, however it may have been originated, the only question for us to ponder is, How, under these circumstances, shall we act? Does the great law of love forbid slavery, and require its immediate extinction? Does that law require that we, because we ourselves, now free, would not like to be reduced to slavery, should instantly set all our slaves free? This the objector affirms:—this I do emphatically deny.
If the law of love now demands this, it must always have demanded it, even in the days of Abraham and of Moses. Yet these holy men did not think so, as their practice and their laws show; and those laws God himself sanctioned. Thus to interpret the law of love, is to overstrain its meaning. That law requires us, not to abolish the existing ranks and distinctions of condition in society, but to treat each person in a manner suited to our relative positions; a manner such as, were our positions reversed, we might personally desire he would employ in