“AND WHEN I LOOKED, BEHOLD, A HAND WAS SENT UNTO ME; AND
LO, A ROLL OF A BOOK WAS THEREIN; AND HE SPREAD IT BEFORE ME”, AND IT WAS WRITTEN WITHIN AND WITHOUT; AND THERE WAS WRITTEN THEREIN LAMENTATIONS, AND MOURNING, AND WOE.”
Ezekiel ii. 9, 10.
Both parents are thus robbed of this darling gift of God, not by the gipsy snatch, rare and lawless, not by a whirl of maddening passion, but by sober and written Law, whereof ministers and members of the professed Church of Christ,statesmen of the highest rank, judges of most rigid legal righteousness, and even philanthropists of tender hearts, are the enactors, advocates, arid supporters. How horrible our sin ! How more horrible will be our punishment !
If left with its parents for a season, it is as the calf is left with its dam, awaiting the owner’s need or wish. Nay, it has less privileges than that creature, for the animal’s mother may train it after her nature, to the utmost of her capacity. These sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty are not suffered to be developed by their affectionate parents according to the nature He has given them. Though permitted to remain in their arms, they are forbidden to receive any real education. They must not be taught to read or even pray. They grow up, a youth manly and self-reliant, a maiden modest and comely. Are these blessings ? To your sons and daughters they are. Not so with this piece of marketable flesh. Their heaviest curse is their intelligence, their manliness, their modesty, their beauty. For their fate violates and crushes these noble instincts. They enter the holy estate of matrimony. It is a cheat and a lie. They are coupled like cattle subject to their owner’s will. He takes that wife from her husband at any impulse of passion, the husband from his wife under any purpose of self-interest. They are parted or united as indifferently as you would separate a yoke of oxen.
Gilbert Haven, “The National Midnight”, National sermons. Sermons, speeches and letters on slavery and its war: from the passage of the Fugitive slave bill to the election of President Grant
A footnote says this sermon was “preached at Westfleld, Mass., November 10, 1850, on the occasion of the election of James Buchanan to the Presidency of the United States”. Haven was a Methodist preacher.
Most of us are filled delight when our own offspring show signs of beauty or ability as they come of age. Equal delight when it’s someone we’ve nurtured in a church or civic club. Imagine the horror in Haven’s sermon of the parents of slaves knowing that beautiful features, ordinarily might be a matter of pride, merely make the child in higher demand for the flesh market!
I have many purposes for bringing this up. One, to remind us all that the mainstream, orthodox tradition of the church has been to speak from the pulpit of contemporary matters of great human suffering. Both the critics of the church and some of its more conservative members seem to forget this. Two, we might ask just how could slavery have found so many apologists among ministers, statesmen, judges, and even philanthropists? In the season that I write this, people from many camps are downplaying the horrors of slavery in order to make some political points. Some cite Stonewall Jackson as commendable because he violated laws by teaching his slaves to read. Are all the assaults on chastity and crushing of the spirit somehow erased on God’s ledgers because of a dubious good deed? Others have said slavery is but a state of mind. Would a contemporary American, living an extremely comfortable life, be able to withstand these crushing blows and come out “stronger”, as the saying goes? Whatever policy positions or political affiliations were being advocated by means of downplaying the horrors of slavery must be abominable.
PRAYER: Dear God, forgive us. Forgive us for the deeds of the past, and for our current, tireless efforts to make slavery seem less abhorrent. Renew the minds of our ministers, statesmen, judges, and philanthropists who may be blind to any current affronts to dignity, and let us all be aware of the sufferings throughout history. Let the parents of maidens and youth never have to fear again for what dangers may come because of beauty. AMEN.