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For The Michigan Liberty Press

For The Michigan Liberty Press image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
Letter to the Editor
OCR Text

Illuslrious ñames, mul high nnd exalted official potions. being m furthef, in my o timation, authorirutive tban ns they are scpported by reason and common sense, I riinvt taki' the liberty enlircly to diueut, aot only l'rom inaiiy ol'tlie commentators upon the T] jistíe to Philemon, but oven from the conclusión al whieh the f.lou. Mr. Vknablk, M. C. (cata North Carolina, lias or seems lo have arrived, in a diseussion on the floor of Congress on the 25th, ultimo He says, " He would reí'er the gentleman (Mr. Ginnisos,) to the Epistle of Paul to Pliilemon, from wliich that gentleman would leani that Paul (lid not tfll errantt (how mild, soft, oautiodí !) to run away from thoir masters, but to return back to tliem. When the gentleman from Ohio could bring evidence to show that he was better, wiser, holier than Paul, he would listen to hií comiséis, and not till then. It is time, certaiuly, that grave legislators, at least, should understand that whereof they affirm, before they put forlh thus dictalorially, not to say in bad taste and temper, assertions and conclusions entirely unauthori.cil by, and opposed to the plainest reading of the text ; and utterly at war with all the teachings, commands as vvcll as cxamples of the great author of onr holy religión - the bleaaed Lord and Savior Jusus Christ. Did he eve;r boy or hold slaves? Did ho ever scourge, or inslruct othen to do it? If so, was it in this command - '■ All thiugs whatsoever, ye would that men should do unto yon, do ye even so unto Uiern?" or this - " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy lieart and soul and mind and strength - this is the first and great command. The second i like unto it - Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Yes, even the despied and outcast Samaritan. Or was it this - " Inaamuch as ye did it (see what ' it' means, Matthew xxv., 31 to 46,) unto one of the least of these my bruthren, ye did it unto me." Or was it that beautiful and sublime apothegm of the apostle, " Love worketh no ill to liis neighbor." But let lis briefly examine the Epistle of Pbilemon, aml see how much support OBI Hou. M. C. can derive fbr slavery from it. In the liist place, it will be obvinus to remark that thu same word, translated " servanl" in the Epistle referred to, is also applied in the New Testament in numerous instances, to all the apostles, to parents, nay, to lirolhren. And it uiay bo line remarked, nnd I wigh Mr. Vkxabi.e to noticeit particularly, that in Bible lanrunge the head of the household, whether father or brother, is tenned the master. and al', younger perso-is are called servante. Another remnrK should be made, pnd Mr, V.'s attention is called particnlarly to it ; and that is, thnt from Genesis to Revelationi, there cannot be an inïtarice in which the term ' brother in the flesh" is used, in which it does not mean a brother by natural geuoration. With these prelimiuary remarks, let us examine the languace of the Epistle. Verses 10. 11 and 12 are as follows - " T beseech thee for mv son Onesimus, whom I have bedotten in mv bonds ; which in time past was to thee nnorofitable, hut now profitable to thee and to me, wlmm I hnve Bnt n":vn : than, thurefore, receive him, thal is mine own howels." In this qnotation we learn a number of things - First Who is the subject of the epithet Oneiniiis; Second, that Paul, the wrjler, WBI ' in bonds", not Onesimus : Thivil, that Onesimus had been converted at Rmne. nnder Panl'fl ministry; Fourth, that Paul sent Onesimus bnek to Phiemon, a distanee of nearly one thonsand inil'-s. alone, as bearer of this epistle, with an injunctinn to Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would Paul, for Opesimue was as lus own bowels; Fifth, that Onesimus had before been anprofitable to Philemon, but was now profitable to him and to Panl. TIn' iihovu woitlá pruGlable aud. nnprofitable, seem to have exerted. something like a taliamanic inrluence upon some commentators; and I suppose friend Venable will triiimphantly exclaim, " How criuid Onesimus he profitable to Philemon or Paul if he were not a slave !" In answer to this supposed inquiry, I would say, Onesimus never was Paui's servant or slave, clearly, vet he was profitable m the same sense both to Paul and Philemon. And how was this ? As a spiritual helper - a servnut of the Lord Jesus - not of Paul or Philemon. Does our friend Vesablk snppose that auy of bis slaves who may have Hed to Canada, and have been converted onder some Canadian Paul, could safely be sent back to the sunny South with an epistle, commanding him to sulimit to eternal slavery ? But Paul commanded Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would receive himself. Would Philemon have received Paul as a slave ? Clear. ly not. ' Oh ! but," says friend Vf.xablk, " that ouly meant that Philemon was to receive Onesimus with k i ndiir- . and treat him as a Christian." Precisely - thereiore, he must receive and treat him as he would be received and treated, But, perhaps, before going furtlür I should reniind Mr. Vknabi.k. thnt in any remarles which I have made, or may make, the ground is distinctly assumed that " God is Love;" and that the Scriptures are, so far as they are preceotive, a transcript of His character and will ; and, thercfore, that we are bound so to construe them as to ronder them consistent, with that character and will ; and that the great comniands quoted at the beginning of lilis article, are utterly repugnant to, and inconsiteut with the idea, that one human being may, under any circumstances, deprive another of his liberty - or any other privilege not inconsistent with the equal privilege of every other human beiug. But we must proceed. Verses 15, IC and 17, read thus: "For, perhapa. he, therefore. departed for a season, that thon shouldst receive him forever; - not now es a servant. but above a servant, a brother beloved, especially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the (lesh and in the Lord. If thou count me, therefore a partner, receive him as myself." Now I ask if the 15th verse shows any the remotest implication of servitude upon any principie of construclion, benevolent or otherwise ? No ; it shows that the two brothers had had a quarrel or misunderstandiug - and the youuger brother run away, and, perhaps, pur loined memey or property iinproperly from Philemon, What, however, bad might have been his conduct, God was overruling it for good, both to Onesimus and Phil. emon; and iheir teinporary estrangement and hard feeling towirds each other was to be succeeded by a revival of fraternal love, which should last forever, - not mterely during their natural Uves, but to uil eternity. - And this conslruction is more fully and conclusively established in ihe 16th verse. Iu that verse the two-fold. relation of Christian brother and brother in the fiesh,or natural brother. are so distinctly and cleaHy stateil, and the comparison so plainly indicated, that by no fair construct ion eau there be the slightest inference that Ouesimus was other than Paal stated him to be ; and the more ospecially as Paul, allhought enjoying that endcariiiii rel it ion of spiritual pateruity to Onesini'ls, yet Btfttea thxit l'hih'tnon enjoyad -,i still more sndeared rolationslrp: "A brother beloved, especially to me, but how mnch more unto thee." Now, can it be possible that Mr. Vknable is prepared to como to the conclusión that the linuible, srlt-sacrificing, warm-hearted Paul, considered the relation of master and slave, more endearing. more beuevolent, aml more consistent with the character ot .Jesus Christ, than that blessed, that beavenly reIttieu which subsisted betweeu Paul, tho minister o" Christ, and Onesimus, the brother and spiritual son of that apostle ? Hut does the 17th verse hint at any relation but perfect equaiity between Philemon and Onesimns? Clearly not ; for Paiil says, " If Philemon cousidered him a partner" (partner in what 7 - in tho gospel, surely,) he, Philemnn, wal to receivo Onesimus as partner in that same gospel. To attempt, from such language, to deduce a support for slavery, or servitude of any kind, is like " soaruhing the golden pavements of Heaveu to fiud mice," But let ns pass to the I Stil verse, which rendí ,is f..! lows : - " lile I.ai4i witrt' ll '■'■' " ' ' ' wA '-! ' v'r' put ihat lo mine ace-cunt." Nfiw, v. ] : i i i irr'i.!i ï uvc ht( n tl:e J ia vii fYfilcvi o f Bcrvili'ulc, f mi 'v lli' )'■' rii.u m il il i ■ u i Urn ifütems cuiin !', [ife?ludo"tlie iilrn llm flÍH", cil ■ vant," can uwe uny lliing. l'ir ïliy iIihjii-'ms bib considci-'i cTintfèla pèi'forn], in tl:e sume catepwy with the horic.the.ox, ïnuJr ; 1 1 1] mrdj :. Vr able ís nol -" (lemciiieJ ná t i insiel ttintocú luiid ■ teis can nciir legHl iiidebtednesa. No ; thu si;ii[)li" fict wop, One&imufl hoü b i n gnillyq somií moral wrong tó liis Lrutliorl l'liüi n.uii, Uli l'auj in ortlor to bi'ing about a reiïpniliation, asauiaes Ünes;mus' ilebt - which shows two tliings utterly at war vviih American slavery. Fint, tlie buL'evolenca warmliearted self-Jevotiou of Paul t the iuturajta nud liappiness of iiis follow man; SeconJ, tbát I'aul'i religión led lijm, contrarry to slaveholdeB religión, to put the best and kindest oonitruction upo:i the conduct of tlio erring, and to Ireat Onesimus as a reaponiible, acoun. table and inmortal being. Truc, tlie slnvelmlder don this where penalties are to be iuilicted ; but when rígbte are in question, tlie inimorlal sink to lbo brute beait