Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Bible and Slavery

Recently I have been reading some of the pre-Civil War, pro-slavery, sermons that are available online. It is quite interesting reading and good reminder about how wrong those who quote Bible passages to buttress their positions can be. Here are a few paragraphs of a sermon delivered by Rev. Joseph Ruggles at First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia on January 6, 1861. Ruggles begins by reading Ephesians 6:5-9, gives us a brief exegesis of the Greek word for servant, which he explains clearly means slave. And says:
...The time has fully come when all who are interested personally in the subject of Southern institutions--whether masters or servants--should comprehend their scriptural relation to them--should know whether or not the holiness of God receives or rejects them--and whether in all our possible contentions for their maintenance we are to have only men for our enemies or, in addition, our Sovereign Ruler also. Now, we have already seen that the Holy Spirit employs words which He has intended to be understood as distinctly enunciating the existence of domestic servitude--that He has sent to all the world a volume of truth, which is indisputably addressed to men who hold slaves and to the slaves who possess masters--and that, from the connections in which these highly suggestive words occur, He has included slavery as an organizing element in that family order which lies at the very foundation of Church and State. A study of such words is, therefore, a first and an important step in ascertaining the will of God with respect to an institution which short sighted men have indiscriminately and violently denounced, and which wicked men have declared unworthy of the countenance of a Christianity whose peaceful and conservative spirit, as applied to society, they neither respect nor understand.

...I refer you to his conduct with respect to Onesimus, a runaway slave belonging to that believer in Christ., Philemon. This servant coming providentially under the influence of Paul's preaching, was happily converted. Being converted, what was his duty to his defrauded master? The spirit of christianity, which now resided in his heart, informed his conscience of the fact that he was the property of Philemon, and that while he remained away from his owner's home and authority, he was committing the sin of robbery. He consulted the Apostle. What was his advice ? He did not hesitate to urge Onesimus to go at once to his master, confess at his feet the grevious fault he had committed, and beg to be received once more among the number of his slaves. And that the reconciliation between master and servant might be hastened, Paul wrote, (and wrote under the inspiration of God,) a letter of beseeching tenderness to the offended owner, asking him to pardon the faithful fugitive and give him a place in his confidence, and telling him that he would now, with grace in his heart, be a far better servant than ever.

Such reasoning, from the implied allowance of slavery by inspired Scripture, is, my friends, conclusive enough upon the point in question. Let neither master nor servant dispute the righteousness, doubt the wisdom, or fear the reproach of the relation which they sustain towards each other. It is not sinful. It is not inexpedient. It is not degradatory.

Of course not. Because he found it in the Bible.

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