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Covenanters and Slavery - Part Four: Slavery Violates Four Precepts of the Decalogue

By Angela Wittman

Let us continue with Pastor McLeod's pamphlet Negro Slavery Unjustified (printed in 1802) as he explains how American slavery of Negroes was in violation of the Commandments of God:
4. The practice which I am opposing is a manifest violation of four precepts of the decalogue.

If this can be shown, it will be an additional confirmation of the doctrine of the proposition. Revelation informs us, that whosoever offends in one point is guilty of all. James 2:10. And the reason is added, because the same authority is wantonly opposed in that one point which gives sanction to the whole of divine revelation. By inference, therefore, the whole decalogue is violated; but there is a direct breach of the fifth, the sixth, the eighth and the tenth commandments.

The fifth requires the performance of those duties which respect the several relations in which we stand to one another; and particularly enforces obedience to our natural parents. The Christian’s duty to the wretched African, brought providentially under his care, is to afford him the necessaries of life—to bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—to instruct him in the knowledge of his duty and his rights—to habituate him to honest industry—to help him to some business for himself, and set him at liberty from his controul. But the slave-holder exercises often a cruel, always an illegitimate, authority over his slave. He destroys, to a great degree, natural relationship. He sets aside the authority of the immediate parent; and, in opposition to the divine law, Which commands each to honour his father and mother, the child is taught, from the cradle, that his duty consists in implicit obedience to the command of his master.

The sixth requires the use of all lawful means to preserve the lives of men. But ah! Slavery, how many hast thou murdered? Thou hast kindled wars among the miserable Africans. Thou hast carried the captive, who escaped death, into a still more miserable state. Thou hast torn from the bosom of the grieved mother her beloved daughter, and broughtest down the grey hairs of an aged parent, with sorrow, to the grave. Thou hast huffed them on board thy floating prisons, and hast chained them in holds, which have soon extinguished the remaining spark of life. The few who have escaped thou hast deprived of liberty, dearer itself than life.

The eighth forbids the unlawful hindrance of our neighbour’s wealth. The whole life of the slave-holder is an infringement upon it. The labour of a man is worth more than his food and cloathing; but the slave receives no more. His master robs him of the fruits of industry. He steals him from his relations. He robs him of his liberty of action. He steals him from himself.

The tenth commandment forbids all inordinate desires after worldly property. The practice of the slave-holder is an evidence of his avarice. He employs servants without wages. He sells to a hard master, for money, the man and the woman whose severe services have already done more than make him compensation for any trouble or expense to which they had subjected him. Not only the avaricious merchant who sails to the coast of Africa with his ship fitted out with the implements of cruelty, in order to import and expose to sale our sable brethren; but the American slave-holder also, is convicted of a breach of the tenth precept of the moral, law.

In point five, we are told how enslavement of our fellow man is hostile to the spirit of mercy and grace which turns on its head the slavery apologist's argument that the antebellum slaveholders were actually being kind to the heathen Africans by owning them as property, and were giving them opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
5. The system against which I contend is also inimical to that benevolent spirit which is produced and cherished by the gospel of free grace.

In the system of grace all men are represented as proceeding from one pair—as fallen from a state of integrity and happiness, into a situation that is sinful and miserable. God is revealed as beholding man in this condition with an eye of benevolence—having pity for the distressed, mercy for the miserable, and grace for the unworthy. Jesus, God in our nature, appointed as the Saviour of sinners, and without respect of persons, gathering from the north and from the south, from the east and from the west, out of every kindred, tongue, and people, and nation, an innumerable multitude, to be introduced, through his divine mediation, into a state of unspotted purity and unspeakable happiness.

The influence which the grace of the gospel has upon the heart, is to cultivate, increase, and perfect every benevolent affection, and suppress all malevolence, extirpating the principles of sinful selfishness from the soul—to produce a spirit of meekness and self-denial, of readiness to forgive real injuries, and of prayer for the good of our enemies. Yes, the spirit of the gospel is love to God and to man, evidencing its existence by suitable exertions for the glory of our Creator, and the happiness of all our brethren, here and hereafter.

How does this system, Christian, correspond with the slave-trade? You behold your African brethren in the same miserable state in which you are yourself by nature.[4] Do you not sympathize with them? Your Maker has not excluded them from a share in his love, nor has the blessed Redeemer interdicted them from claiming a share in his salvation. How can you degrade them, therefore, from that rank which their Maker has assigned to them, and endeavour to assimilate them to the beasts that perish? By divine grace you are taught not to love this world, nor to be conformed to its sinful practices. Rom. 12:2. Look at your slave! How came you by him? Who had a right to tear his father from the bosom of his friends, in order to enslave him and his offspring, and sell this wretched victim to you? How long will religion suffer you to retain him in bondage? for life? Ah! hard-hearted Christian! is it thus you imitate his example who died for your sins? who voluntarily descended from his heavenly glory, and humbled himself into the death, in order to deliver you from slavery? On him rested the spirit of the Lord, for he preached glad tidings unto the meek. He proclaimed liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison doors to them who were bound. Isa. 61:1. Does the same spirit rest on you? does it produce a similar disposition? Consider the contrast: consider it attentively. You have pronounced heavy tidings in the ear of your slave. You have proclaimed bondage for life to the captive. You have even closed upon him the door of hope in his prison. You have purposed to enslave his offspring. Merciful God! how unmerciful do thy creatures act towards one another?

[4] Ephesians 2:3.

Now, dear reader, you may wonder why I am reproducing this pamphlet and taking to task those in the Christian camp who defend the South's former institution of slavery... Until we fully understand what wickedness slavery was, and we fully repent of it, I fear we won't end the slaughter of preborn babies. The simple truth is America is still persecuting the black man and woman as they really don't want them to reproduce. This may sound shocking, but I believe it is true. We are still a prejudiced people and if this wickedness is not exposed and rooted out, we'll continue to allow the killing of preborn children in this country. In other words, our hearts need to change and we need to really love other people, regardless of their skin color and economic social background.

To be continued...

Originally published at the Ladies Of The Covenant blog.


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