Billeder på siden

recovering their liberty until the next year of jubilee, after forty-nine years. (Exod. xxi. 5, 6.) This very significant ceremony implied that they were closely attached to that house and family; and that they were bound to hear, and punctually to obey, all their master's orders.-8. If a Hebrew by birth was sold to a stranger or alien dwelling in the vicinity of the land of Israel, his relations were to redeem him, and such slave was to make good the purchase money if he were able, paying in proportion to the number of years that remained, until the year of jubilee. (Levit. xxv. 47-55.) Lastly, if a slave of another nation fled to the Hebrews, he was to be received hospitably, and on no account to be given up to his master. (Deut. xxiii. 15, 16.)

III. Although Moses inculcated the duty of humane treatment towards slaves, and enforced his statutes by various strong sanctions, yet it appears from Jer. xxxiv. 8-22. that their condition was sometimes very wretched. It cannot, however, be denied that their situation was much more tolerable among the Hebrews than among other nations, especially the Greeks and Romans. Nor is this a matter of astonishment: for the Israelites were bound to exercise the duties of humanity towards these unhappy persons by weighty sanctions and motives, which no other nation had, whose slaves had no rest, no legal protection, and who were subject to the cruel caprice of their masters, whose absolute property they were, and at whose mercy their lives every moment lay. For the slightest and most trivial offences they were cruelly scourged and condemned to hard labour and the petty tyrant of his family, when exasperated by any real or apprehended injury, could nail them to a cross, and make them die in a lingering and most miserable manner. These slaves, generally, were wretched captives, who had been taken prisoners in unfortunate battles, or had fallen into their enemies' hands in the siege of cities. These miserable captives, antient history informs us, were either butchered in cold blood, or sold by auction

The freedman, bustling through, replies, "First come is still
First served; and I may claim my right and will,
Though born a slave-('twere bootless to deny
What these BORED EARS betray to every eye.)"


Calmet, to whom we are indebted for this fact, quotes a saying from Petronius Arbiter, as attesting the same thing; and another, of Cicero, in which he rallies a Lybian who pretended he did not hear him. It is not,' said the philosopher, because your ears are not sufficiently BORED.'-Commentaire Littéral, sur l'Exode xxi. 6. p. tom. i. p. 501.

1 Among the Romans more particularly, slaves were held--pro nullis—pro mortuis-pro quadrupedibus-for no men-for dead men-for beasts; nay, were in a much worse state than any cattle whatever. They had no head in the state, no name, no tribe, or register. They were not capable of being injured, nor could they take by purchase or descent; they had no heirs, and could make no will. Exclusive of what was called their peculium, whatever they acquired was their master's; they could neither plead nor be pleaded, but were entirely excluded from all civil concerns; were not entitled to the rights of matrimony, and therefore had no relief in case of adultery; nor were they proper objects of cognation nor affiniity. They might be sold, transferred, or pawned, like other goods or personal estate; for goods they were, and as such they were esteemed. Taylor's Elements of the Roman Civil Law, p. 429. 4to. Adams' Summary of Roman Antiquities, pp. 38, 39.

for slaves to the highest bidder. The unhappy prisoners thus bought and enslaved, were sometimes thrust into deep mines, to be drudges through life in darkness and despair: sometimes were pent up in private workhouses, and condemned to the most laborious and ignoble occupations: frequently the toils of agriculture were imposed upon them, and the severest tasks unmercifully exacted from them: most commonly they were employed in the menial offices and drudgery of domestic life, and treated with the greatest inhumanity. As the last insult upon their wretchedness, they were branded in the forehead, and a note of eternal disgrace and infamy publicly and indelibly impressed upon them! One cannot think of this most contumelious and reproachful treatment of a fellow-creature without feeling the acutest pain and indignation. To the above-mentioned customs in the treatment of slaves, which obtained among the antients, there are several allusions in the New Testament. Thus, St. Paul, in reference to the custom of purchasing slaves, on whose heads a price was then fixed, just as upon any other commodity, and who, when bought, were the entire and unalienable property of the purchaser, by a very beautiful and expressive similitude represents Christians as the servants of Christ; informs them that an immense price had been paid for them: that they were not at their own disposal; but in every respect, both as to body and mind, were the sole and absolute property of God. Ye are not your own: for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Cor. vi. 20.) So also again: Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men. (I Cor. vii. 23.) St. Paul usually styles himself the servant of Christ; and in a passage in his Epistle to the Galatians, alluding to the signatures with which slaves in those days were branded, he tells them, that he carried about with him plain and indelible characters impressed in his body, which evinced him to be the servant of his master Jesus. From henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Gal. vi. 17.) It was a doctrine of the pharisaic Jews, that proselytes were released from all antecedent, civil, and even natural relations: and it is not im


probable that some of the Jewish converts might carry the same principle into the Christian community, and teach that, by the profession of Christianity, slaves were emancipated from their Christian masters. In opposition to this false notion, the same great apostle requires that all who are under the yoke of servitude be taught to yield due obedience to their masters, and animadverts with great severity upon those false teachers, who, from mercenary views, taught a different doctrine. (1 Tim. vi. 1-10.) Against this principle of the Judaising zealots, St. Paul always enters his strong protest, and teaches that the profession of Christianity makes no difference in the civil relations of men. See 1 Cor. vii. 17-24.

IV. Though slavery was tolerated, and its horrors were mitigated by the wise and humane enactments of Moses, yet in the progress of time as hired servants would be necessary, various regulations were in like manner made by him, to ensure them from being oppressed. Like slaves, hired labourers were to partake of the rest of the sabbath, and also to share in the produce of the sabbatical year: their hire was to be paid every day before sun-set (Levit. xix. 13. Deut. xxiv. 14, 15.): but what that hire was to be, the Hebrew legislator has not determined, because the price of labour must have varied according to circumstances. From the parable of the proprietor of a vineyard and his labourers, which is related in Matt. xx. 1-15., we learn these three particulars concerning the servants in Judæa, or at least in Jerusalem. That early in the morning they stood in the market-place to be hired-that the usual wages of a day-labourer were at that time a denarius, or about seven-pence halfpenny of our money-and that the customary hours of working were till six in the evening. Early in the morning the master of a family rose to hire day-labourers to work in his vineyard. Having found a number, he agreed to pay them a DENARIUS for the WAGES of the DAY, and sent them into his vineyard. About nine o'clock he went again into the MARKETPLACE, and found several others unemployed, whom he also ordered into his vineyard, and promised to them what was reasonable. At twelve, and three in the afternoon, he went and made the same proposals, which were in the same manner accepted. He went likewise about five o'clock, and found a number of men sauntering about the market in idleness, and he said to them, why do you consume the whole day in this indolent manner? There is no one hath thought fit to give us any employment, they replied. Then go you into the vine

[ocr errors]



1 The same custom obtains to this day in Persia. In the city of Hamadan there is a maidan or square in front of a large mosque. "Here," says Mr. Morier, observed every morning before the sun rose, that a numerous band of peasants were collected with spades in their hands, waiting, as they informed us, to be hired for the day to work in the surrounding fields. This custom, which I have never seen in any other part of Asia, forcibly struck me as a most happy illustration of our Saviour's parable of the labourers in the vineyard in the 20th chapter of Matthew, particularly, when passing by the same place late in the day, we still found others standing idle, and remembered his words, why stand ye here all the day idle as most applicable to their situation: for, in putting the very same question to them, they answered us, because no man hath hired us." Morier's Second Journey through Persia, p. 265.

[ocr errors]

yard among my other labourers, and you shall receive what is just. In the evening the proprietor of the vineyard ordered his steward to call the workmen together, beginning from the last to the first, to pay them their wages, without any partiality or distinction. When those, therefore, came, who had been employed about five in the afternoon, they received a denarius apiece. When those, who had been hired in the morning, saw them return with such great wages, they indulged the most extravagant joy, imagining that their pay would vastly exceed that of the others; but how great was their disappointment, when they received from the steward, each man a denarius! This supposed injurious treatment caused them to raise loud clamours against the master. And they complained to him of his usage to them, saying, the last labourers you hired only worked a SINGLE HOUR, and you have given them the same wages as you have given us who have been scorched with excessive heat, and sustained the long and rigorons toil of the whole day. He turned to one who appeared the most petulent of them, and directed this reply, Friend, I do thee no injustice; was not our agreement for a denarius? Take what justice entitles thee to, without repining, and calmly acquiesce in the faithful performance of our original agreement-a principle of benevolence disposes me freely to bestow upon the last persons I hired what equity obliges me to give to


It has been observed that slaves were condemned to the mines, where their uncomfortable lives were consumed in the most rigorous and servile drudgery. It is natural to suppose that these wretches, born to better hopes, upon their first entrance into these dismal subterraneous abodes of darkness and despair, with such doleful prospects before them, would be transfixed with the acutest distress and anguish, shed bitter unavailing tears, gnash their teeth for their extreme misery, and fill these gloomy caverns with piercing cries and loud lamentations. Our Lord seems to allude to this, and, considered in this view, the imagery is peculiarly beautiful and expressive, when he represents the wicked servant and unfaithful steward bound hand and foot, and cast into utter darkness, where there would be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth! (Matt. viii. 12. xxii. 13.) The reader will be pleased with the ingenious remarks of the learned and judicious Dr. Macknight on this passage. "In antient times the stewards of great families were slaves as well as the servants of a lower class, being raised to that trust on account of their fidelity, wisdom, sobriety, and other good qualities. If any steward, therefore, in the absence of his lord, behaved as is represented in the parable, it was a plain proof, that the virtues on account of which he was raised were counterfeit, and by consequence that he was an hypocrite. Slaves of this character, among other chastisements, were sometimes condemned to work in the mines. And as this was one of the most grievous punishments, when they first entered, nothing was heard among them but weeping and gnashing of teeth, on account of the intolerable fatigue to which

they were subjected in these hideous caverns without hope of release. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Crucifixion was a servile punishment, and usually inflicted on the most vile, worthless, and abandoned of slaves. In reference to this it is that St. Paul represents our Lord taking upon him the form of a servant, and becoming subject to death, even the death of the CROSS (Phil. ii. 8.); crucifixion was not only the most painful and excruciating, but the most reproachful and ignominious death that could be suffered. Hence it is that the apostle so highly extols the unexampled love for man and magnanimity of Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the CROSS, despising the shame (Heb. xii. 2.) and infamy even of such a death. It was this exit which Jesus made that insuperably disgusted so many among the heathens; who could never prevail with themselves to believe that religion to be divine, whose founder had suffered such an opprobrious and infamous death from his countrymen. And for men to preach in the world a system of truths as a revelation from the deity, which were first delivered to mankind by an illiterate and obscure Jew, pretending to a divine mission and character, and who was for such a pretension crucified, appeared to the heathens the height of infatuation and religious delusion. The preaching of the CROSS was to them foolishness (1 Cor. i. 23.) and the religion of a crucified leader, who had suffered in the capital of his own country the indignities and death of a slave, carried with it, in their estimation, the last absurdity and folly, and induced them to look upon the Christians, and the wretched cause in which they were embarked, with pity and contempt. Hence St. Paul speaks of the offence of the cross, the great and invincible disgust conceived by the men of those times against a religion whose founder was crucified! Hence he speaks of not being ashamed of the Gospel from the circumstance which made such numbers ashamed of it, nay of glorying in the cross of Christ; though the consideration of the ignominious and servile death he suffered was the very obstacle that made the heathens stumble at the very threshold of Christianity, and filled them with insurmountable prejudices against it.*


1 Dr. Macknight's Harmony, p. 522. 2d. edit. 1763.

Ο Σκανδαλον του σταυρού. Galat. v. 11.

3 God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Galat. vi. 14.

4 Jahn, Archæologia Biblica, pp. 241-246. Michaelis's Commentaries, vol. ii. pp. 155-184. Bruning's Compendium Antiquitatum Græcarum e profanis Sacrarum, pp. 77-86. Harwood's Introduction, vol. ii. pp. 144-152. Stosch, Compendium Archæologia Economica Novi Testamenti, pp. 38-48.



« ForrigeFortsæt »