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CHAP. IV. The duties of the Christian Church in reference to the subject.
1. HER FIRST DUTY IS TO AWAKE TO A JUST SENSE
OF HER RESPONSIBILITIES IN CONNEXION WITH THE SUBJECT ITSELF.
The main-spring of Christian activity is love and while the Great Teacher of the Church has taken care not to confine this sacred affection, in its relationship to man, within a narrower circle than that which comprehends the whole human family, he has also provided for its being exercised in every direction, in which it can possibly operate to the advantage of its objects.
“But I say unto you love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."* “ Do good unto all men,”+ and again, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," I are commands at once so binding, and so comprehensive, as to leave us without excuse, for anything approaching to lukewarmness and inaction, when human happiness may be secured. But has it not been too much the practice to measure our duty, not by the com
* Matt. v. 44. + Gal. vi 10. Matt. xix. 19.
prehensive rules, given for our direction by our Divine Master—not by the spirit which evidently pervades the entire code of Christian moralitybut only by such particular and pointed precepts, as could not by any possibility be evaded? We may not, like the corrupt teachers of the Jewish Church, endeavour to make void the law, by our traditions, but, in too many instances, through the want of a Divine command, so plain as to be incapable of being perverted by sophistry, and so direct, as to admit of no evasion, we have shown our readiness to sacrifice everything, like Christian consistency, to our passions and interests. Had slavery been expressly condemned in the word of God—had its abominations not only been clearly pointed out, but described as abhorrent to the spirit of the Gospel-in short, had there been a command given to the Christian Church, and recorded in the sacred statute book, rendering it obligatory on every disciple of the Son of God, to oppose slavery, under every form, and to the utmost of his power, can it be supposed, that this enormous evil, would ever have found abettors among persons calling themselves Christians ?
“All things,” said our Lord,“ whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them : for this is the law and the prophets."* One would
* Matt. vii. 12.
naturally suppose, that this command would have been sufficient to have induced every Christian professor, long ago, to assume an attitude of the most determined resistance, to everything like slavery; and, yet, for many years, after Clarkson and Wilberforce had become the champions of Negro emancipation, the great majority of British Christians were, comparatively, unaffected, either by the sufferings of the Negroes themselves, or by the benevolent example of those zealous and devoted men. Nay, there were many, who pleaded, that slavery involved no violation of Christian consistency, because it involved no breach of a clearly expressed precept, bearing directly on the subject; and, when the cruelties inflicted upon our brethren, in bonds, were alluded to, we were told, that these were merely the abuses of the thing, and ought not to be alleged against the thing itself. Even Abraham, under the Old Testament dispensation, and Philemon under the New, it was said, were slaveholders; and thus, the Word of God was declared to be in favour of a system, which was most awfully demonstrative of the selfishness, the tyranny, and cruelty of man.
In the United States, there are still some hundreds of thousands of men, of high Christian profession, who not only tolerate slavery, but who contend manfully on its behalf, and denounce others, who would deprive them of their slaves, as fanatics, madmen, and robbers!* But what, it may be asked, has this to do with the question under consideration ? We reply, “ much every way.” Although there is no direct command, in the Scriptures, binding us to compassionate the condition of the drunkard, or to make especial efforts for the destruction of intemperance, still, while drunkenness abounds, and while its causes are
* It appears to the writer, that the Temperance question occupies a position, at the present moment, in this country, very similar to that occupied by the slavery question, in the Southern States of North America ; excepting, that the authority of the law being much more easily enforced, in this country, than in those States, it is not possible for the opponents of the Temperance men to manifest their hostility, with impunity, in the same outrageous manner, in which the “ abolitionists” are sometimes treated. Like slavery abolition, the cause of true temperance has to oppose itself to a most powerful array of deeply-rooted prejudices, of long established habits, of real interests, and imaginary rights; and above all, it has to contend against the opinions and example of men, who stand high in the Christian church, either as ministers, elders, or private professors. As, in America, there are many slave-holding pastors and deacons, so, in Great Britain, there are many such individuals, who both love strong drink, and are deeply interested in " the traffic" by which intemperance is maintained.
capable of being removed, we cannot help thinking, that it is quite as much a matter of Christian obligation, to make the unhappy victims of intemperance, the objects of our sympathising, and benevolent concern, and to aim at the removal of those causes, as it is to engage in any undertaking, suggested by the holy, and benevolent spirit of the Gospel.
If we view intemperance as a form of slavery, it is impossible to imagine a bondage more degrading, or which can involve a greater amount of suffering. Its horrors were never equalled by those of the “ middle passage ;” nor by the most painful inflictions, endured by the Negro, when toiling beneath a scorching sun, and writhing under the lash of the most heartless of oppressors ! The fetters of the slave may have eaten into his body, but they have never reached his soul, — while intemperance is the entire subjection of a man's rational and immortal nature, to a most foul and tyrannic appetite.
For the sake of eight hundred thousand Negro slaves, whom they never saw, many of the holiest men were content to toil, year after year, against ignorance, and prejudice, and interest, and the love of ease, until their efforts were crowned with the most glorious success. Shall the Christian church, then, be indifferent to the wants of the six hun