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"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free."— Ephesians vi. 5-8.
rPEUE religion carries its regenerating influence -*- into every relationship of life. It is not a thing which may be put on like a garment, and be put off at pleasure; it takes possession of the whole man, soul and body, and takes part in every act, inward and outward, in which we engage. There is not a thought in our hearts, there is not a word on our lips, there is not a deed of our daily lives, which it does not regulate and control. It hallows and blesses the bonds that unite husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, rulers and subjects; and there is not one of these unions which does not drag heavily and unhappily when true religion does not lend its ceaseless and heavenly help. The miseries of the world are all to be traced to the fact that the divine element of purity and peace is not allowed to pervade every link and fibre of society as it ought; and the great aim of all who love their country and their fellow-men should be to promote the diffusion of the renewing grace, sent down from on high, till the people in every rank and in every relationship be brought fully under its power.
The Scriptures set forth to us the divine law which is appointed to regulate the relationship which subsists between servants and masters. Their mutual duties are pointed out by authority of Him who is Head over all, and to whom masters and servants are alike responsible. The duties of servants are first to be considered.
They are exhorted to be obedient. "Be obedient," says the Lord, "to them that are your masters according to the flesh." This injunction makes them servants not only of men but also of God; so that in doing the humblest work to which they are called, as well as in doing the highest, they are serving both their earthly employers and their heavenly Master. The most ordinary occupation of even the least servant in the land is thus made honourable, because its duties are performed at the command of Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Happily in this country there is no such institution as that of slavery. There are none in the position of being held by others as articles of property, liable to be bought and sold at the will of their owners. This was the condition of many of those to whom the Gospel was first preached, and whom the apostle Paul addressed. Even they were not exhorted to rebellion, but to obedience; and their masters were not denounced and commanded to set them free, but were entreated to act towards them justly and kindly. Christ begins His reforms, not from without, but from within. He seeks to renew the heart, knowing well that if the foolish heart be made wise, and the cruel heart be made loving and kind, that inner change will certainly show itself outwardly in all the relationships of life. The slave-master into whose spirit the heavenly dispositions of a true disciple of Christ have been carried by the preaching of the truth, will not continue to deal harshly and tyrannically towards those under him. The grace of God, which has now taken possession of him, will as surely have the effect of melting him into brotherly love as the summer's sun has the effect of melting the winter's snow. The slave who has been brought under the power of the principles of Jesus, will not continue to harbour hatred and revenge in the secret chambers of his bosom towards the man who drives him to his daily round of toil, but will strive heartily to give satisfaction to those whom he serves; and if he still have to bear curses, he will bless and pray for the persons from whom the curses proceed.
We may thus understand why the apostle, though actually addressing slaves and slaveowners—such being the hard relationship in which servants and masters stood to one another in many parts at least of the Eoman empire in those days—spoke to them so gently, knowing well that the hard and bitter thoughts which they had been wont to entertain one towards another, would disappear from within them when the Spirit of Christ took possession of their hearts, as darkness flees from off the hills and valleys at the dawn of day. A cruel institution cannot possibly stand amid the general spread of genuine kindness. It may retain for a time its old name and forms, but it cannot retain its old nature. While it seems to stand, it becomes transformed into something very different from that which it formerly was. Even slavery became sweet, we may well conceive, when those who served and those who ruled were brought to regard and to treat one another with affection as brethren in Christ. But true brotherly love cannot be long in discovering that there is something abhorrent to its nature in one man holding another in bondage. It is not satisfied with merely seeing the slave treated kindly; it feels that there is something still wanting as long as he is not free.
Christianity has long since not only eased but broken the chain in this favoured land, so that the relationship of servants and masters rests upon the basis not of bondage but of freedom. Every man's person, both body and soul, is acknowledged to be his own, and he is at liberty to dispose of his powers of labour as he himself judges to be right. If he become a servant, and engage on certain conditions to place himself under the authority of a master and to work for him, he does so voluntarily. He is then bound