Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

and of slavery as a sin. From Ezek. xxii. and Jer. xxxiv., this lesson stands out as the one grand lesson of God's vengeance in the captivity. We have now to consider the institution and law of the Jubilee, as the completion of the system of social benevolence and freedom embodied in the Mosaic statutes. Meantime we have before us, even if we stopped short of that, a body of laws embracing, as thus far traced, beyond all comparison, the most benign, protective, and generous system of domestic servitude, the kindest to the servants, and the fairest for the masters, ever framed in any country or in any age. The rights of the servants are defined and guaranteed as strictly and with as much care, as those of the employers or masters. Human beings could not be degraded into slaves or chattels, or bound for involuntary service, or seized and worked for profit, and no wages paid. The defences against these outrages, the denouncement and prohibition of them, are among the clearest legal and historical judgments of God against slavery. The system of slavery in our own country, even in the light only of these provisions, holds its power by laws most manifestly conflicting with the divine law, and stands indisputably under the divine reprobation. Four forms of statute-law combined, in this divinelyordered social arrangement, to render slavery forever impossible among a people regardful of justice and obedient to God. First. The law of religious equality and dignity, gathering all classes as brethren and children of one family before God. Instruction, recreation, and rest, were secured in the institution of the Sabbath, and its cognate sacred seasons, following the same law; and freedom, not slavery, was inevitable. Second. By the same system, the original act of oppression and violence, which has been the grand and almost only source of all the slavery in our own country, was branded and placed in the catalogue of crime, on a level with that of murder, to be punished by death. It requires no particular acuteness of vision to perceive that what was an injustice to the parents, worthy of death, cannot be transformed, in the next generation, or the next after, to a righteous institution, sacred by the grace of God. By covenant, the curse of the Almighty is upon it. Third. The right of possession to himself, is recognized as resting, by the nature of humanity and the authority of God's law, in each individual; and the sacredness of the human personality is demonstrated by the same law to be such, that a human being cannot, but by the highest violence and crime, be degraded into an article of property and merchandise. From the Mosaic statutes, it is indisputable that such is the judgmentof God; and the successive history, which takes its course and coloring from them, or from their violation, confirms the demonstration. From the statutes and the history together it is as clear that slavery is a moral abomination in the sight of God, as it is from the history in Genesis that the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorrah was a sin. The destruction of Judah and Jerusalem for the iniquity of oppression, in this particular form, of a forced involuntary bondage, was a more stupendous and enlightening judgment by far, all things considered, than the overwhelming of the cities of the plain with fire. How can it be possible for any unprejudiced reader of the word of God to avoid acknowledging our own condemnation in this light?Fourth. The protection, by statute, of the servant escaping from his master, instead of any provision for the master's regaining possession of the servant, was another interposition in behalf of the weaker party, in the same design of rendering slavery impossible, and is another plain indication of the judgment of God as to the iniquity of American slavery, and of the laws for the support of it. The Hebrew system was so absolute and effective a safeguard against oppression, and rendered any form of slavery so impracticable, and in its legitimate working would have so inevitably subdued the slavery of all surrounding nations to its own freedom, that it stands out as a superhuman production, the gift of God. The wisdom and benevolence of the Almighty appear in it to such a degree, in comparison and contrast with the habits and morals of the world, that the claim of the Pentateuch to a divine inspiration might, in no small measure, be permitted to rest upon it .

The Law of Jubilee. Universality of its Application Demonstrated. We come now to the consideration of the Law of the Jubilee, in Lev. 25: 10, 35-55. This great statute of personal freedom was as follows: "Ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a Jubilee unto you, and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family." Liberty Throughout THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF. The expression is chosen on purpose for its comprehensiveness. It is not said to all the inhabitants of the land, being Hebrews, or such as are Hebrews, which restriction would have been made, had it been intended; as is manifest from the case in Jeremiah xxxiv, where the restriction is carefully and repeatedly announced. But the phrase all the inhabitants of the land, seems to have an intensity of meaning, comprehending, purposely, all, whether Hebrews or not; it being well known that many of the inhabitants of the land were not Hebrews. This phrase, the inhabitants of the land, had been frequently used to describe its old heathen possessors, the Canaanites, and others, as Ex. 23:31; 34: 12, and Num. 32: 17; 33: 52. It is used, Josh. 2: 9; 7: 9; 9: 24, in the same way. It is never used restrictively for Hebrews alone; not an instance can be found of such usage in the Mosaic books. It is used in Jer. 1: 14, an evil on all the inhabitants of the land, and in Joel 1: 2, and 2: 1, let all the inhabitants of the land tremble. In this statute in Leviticus, it is the whole number of inhabitants of the land, held in servitude, that are included. Ye people of Israel shall do this, shall proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants of the land. And proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof. The Hebrew is as follows: f;xa n'-fl ansojsn n"otiTisi, and preach freedom in the land to all the dwellers thereof. The expression is emphatic; the proclamation to be made throughout the length and breadth of the land, not to those only who inhabited it as Hebrews by descent, but to all that dwelt in it. Had it been intended to restrict the application of this statute, the class excluded from its application would have been named; another form of expression would have been used. Had it been intended to make a law broad, universal, unexceptional in its application, no other phraseology could be used than that which is used. If it had been a form of class-legislation, it must necessarily have been so worded as to admit of no mistake. But the expression employed is found, without exception, in all cases, with an unlimited, universal meaning. It is never used where a particular class alone are intended. The proof of its usage, and the demonstration from its usage may be seen by examination of the following passages. Is. 18: 3, All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth. ^Mioi ian ^a^-is. Here are two words used as synonymous. The first is the word employed in the law under consideration, from the verb acj"1, with the meaning to continue, to dwell, to inhabit; and this is the word ordinarily employed to designate the whole people inhabiting a country. The second is from the verb ",aia, to encamp, to rest, to dwell, employed much less frequently, as in Job 26: 5, the waters and the inhabitants thereof, amatol tm. Also, Prov. 1: 33; 8: 12; 10: 30. Ps. 37: 29; 102: 28. In Is. 32: 16; 33: 24, and in Joel 3: 20, and some other places, as in Ps. 69: 35, both these verbs are used interchangeably. But the verb "jaiu is used exclusively in a number of passages which speak of God as dwelling among his people, or in his temple. And hence the use of the word Shechinah, nj^aia, the tabernacle of God's presence. In Is. 33: 24, we have the noun 15© for inhabitant, and the verb atj-> for the people that dwell. But the noun l?^ is very seldom used, while the participle from at£ is employed in more than seventy passages to signify the inhabitants of the land, or of the world without any restriction. For example:Lev. 18: 25, the land vomiteth out her inhabitanis, masJn.

Judges 2: 2, make no league with the inhabitants of the land, y~wn -axi-i.

Ps. 33: 8, all the inhabitants of the world, ian "atf*^.

Ps. 33: 14, all the inhabitants of the earth, f>w ^asp-Is.

Is. 24: 1, 5, 6, 17, inhabitants of the earth. Also, 26: 9, inhabitants of the world, ian "aic"'.

Jer. 25: 29, 30, inhabitants of the earth, and Lam. 4: 12, of the world. Joel 2: 1, let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,

And so in multiplied instances. There is no case to be found in which this expression signifies only a portion of the inhabitants, or a particular class. Of the two words to which we have referred, the form 'ffs would most probably have been employed, if only a portion of the inhabitants, and not all classes, had been intended. There would be just as good reason to restrict the denunciation in Joel 2:1, or 1: 2, give ear all the inhabitants of the land, to a particular and limited class, as to restrict the expression in which the law of Jubilee is framed. Indeed, according to the universal reason of language, and especially according to the necessity of precise and accurate phraseology in the framing of laws, had the blessings and privileges of the Jubilee been intended only for native-born Hebrews, or guaranteed only to such, the expression universally employed on other occasions when that particular portion of the inhabitants alone are concerned, would have been employed on this. There being such a well-known phrase, capable of no misunderstanding, the law would have been conveyed by it. The phrase must have been the common one, of which one of the earliest examples is in Ex. 12: 19, rvntxa isp'a"; rvns, the congregation of Israel born in the land. In Ex. 12: 48, the same distinctive expression, to particularize the native Hebrew, is used along with .p!<, thus, inxrj rnjx, the born in the land, the native of the land, of Hebrew birth or origin. Whenever there was danger of misinterpretation, misapplication, or confusion, as to the class intended by a law, this

« AnteriorContinuar »