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THE PROVIDENCE SOCIETY
ABOLISHING THE SLAVE TRADE, ETC.,
IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
THE SLAVE TRADE, ETC.
The members of this respectable society, by whom I have been invited to deliver a discourse before them, at this their annual meeting, on the slave trade, and the consequent slavery of the Africans, and all those who are present on this occasion will not expect that any thing new will be said on a subject which has been so much canvassed of late, and on which so many have written and so fully exposed the unparalleled unrighteousness, inhumanity, and cruelty, and the odious and horrible attendants of it, by which great light has been thrown upon it, and the attention of millions turned to it, and they have been led to execrate it as a most shocking, outrageous violation of all the rights of man. And there are none, or very few now, except those whose minds are blinded, and their hearts hardened by custom and their supposed interest, who do not condemn it, as contrary to the true and best interest of society, and, therefore, think all lawful endeavors ought to be exerted to suppress and abolish it forever.
But as it is not easy fully to explore this business, and comprehend it in all its length and breadth, and realize all the evils included in it, it is highly proper and important often to renew our meditations upon it, and to take those methods which are suited to impress our minds and the minds of others more and more with the iniquity of this practice, viewed in every different light, and in all the evil consequences of it.
In this view, and to promote such a design, the attention, patience, and candor of this respectable audience are asked to the following observations, which shall be introduced by some of the last words of the benevolent Redeemer of man, who came not to destroy men's lives, but to save, - which he spake to his disciples when he was about to leave the world and ascend to
heaven, — recorded by the evangelist Mark, 16th chapter and 15th verse of his gospel,
“ Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
This direction and command is an expression of the greatest benevolence to man. When the Son of God had become in. carnate and taken upon him the form of a servant, and was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, in order to make atonement for the sins of men, and bring in everlasting righteousness that God might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus, and had risen from the dead, he ordered that this good news should be published through the whole world, and the offer of this salvation be made to all mankind, of whatever nation or complexion, whether Jews or Gentiles, the more civilized or barbarians, rich or poor, white or black; this being the only remedy for lost man, suited to recover him from that state of darkness, sin, and misery in which the world of mankind lay and must perish forever, were it not for this salvation. “ Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby they can be saved.”
And, as this is an infinitely kind and benevolent injunction, it points out and commands a duty, an employment, which must be most agreeable and pleasing to every benevolent mind, whatever labor and expense it may require. And they may reasonably think themselves highly favored and honored to whom ability and opportunity are given to preach the gospel, the unsearchable riches of Christ, to any of their fellowmen; or who are under advantage to promote this design, by any exertion in their power.
As the gospel affords the only relief for fallen man, so it is a sufficient and complete one, where the spirit of it is cordially imbibed and it is properly improved for the purposes which it is suited to promote. It raises sinners from the greatest moral depravity, guilt, and misery, to a state of light, pardon, and peace, and brings them finally to the enjoyment
, of complete and endless felicity.
This institution of Heaven, when properly attended to, understood, and cordially embraced, turns men from darkness to marvellous light. If it finds them in a state of savage ignorance and barbarity it civilizes them, and forms them to be intelligent and good members of society. It subdues the selfishness, pride, and worldly-mindedness of men, and all their inordinate lusts, and a teaches them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” It raises the mind to the sight and contemplation of the most sublime, important, and entertaining objects, and manifests those truths, and gives that light, which are received with pleasing love and admiration; which make men truly wise, and animate them to the practice of every personal, social, and religious duty. It forms men to uprightness and the practice of righteousness, to universal benevolence and goodness; teaching them to love their neighbor as themselves, and to do to other men as they would that others should do unto them. So far as it spreads and has influence on the hearts and lives of men, it banishes the manifold evils under which mankind have groaned in all ages, and introduces peace, love, and harmony among men, and unites them together into a happy society, in which every one puts on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness and longsuffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving each other in love; each one studying and exerting himself to do good to all men, according to his ability and opportunity. At the same time, it forms men to the most sincere, uniform, and rational piety, in the exercise of love to God and the Redeemer, and to all his friends and servants; and they have joy and peace in believing and serving Jesus Christ, and their hope of eternal life in the kingdom of Christ is built and flourishes on the best and most sure foundation.
This command of Christ, to preach the gospel to all the nations in the world, respects not only the apostles and disciples who then heard him speak, and the ministers of the gospel in general who have since been, or are now, or shall be, appointed to that work, but is extended to all Christians, in every age of the church, requiring them in all proper ways, according to their ability, stations, and opportunities, to promote this benevolent design, and exert themselves for the furtherance of the gospel, that, if possible, all may hear and share in the happy effects of it. They who are not called to be preachers of the gospel may, in many ways, assist those who are sent forth to this work, and do much to forward the propagation and spreading of Christianity; not only helping by their prayers, but by liberal contributions of their substance, and by many other labors and exertions. Every true disciple of Christ who understands the gospel, and prizes it above silver and gold, and whose heart is expanded with love to Christ and benevolence to his fellow-men, must not only wish and pray that all nations may enjoy the blessings of it, and come to the knowledge of this saving truth, but considers it as an unspeakable privilege to be in any way, and in the least degree, an instrument of promoting this design, whatever labor and expense it may require. And it is owing to the great and inexcusable wickedness of men that the gospel did not soon spread all over the world after the resurrection and ascen. sion of Christ, and was not embraced by all men from that day down to this time; which would have prevented the many and dreadful evils which have reigned in the world in all this period, and introduced a glorious scene and series of happy events, which exceed our present conception. Therefore, it can be attributed to nothing but the depravity of mankind that the command of the Savior has not been obeyed, and all men have not been made to share in the saving blessings of the gospel, but that it has been, and still is, so unsuccessful in the world.
Would we know the nature and excellence of Christianity, and the happy tendency of it to promote the good of mankind, both temporal and eternal, we must not expect to learn it from the general appearance of it in what is called the Christian part of the world, and the effect it now has on the greatest part of those who enjoy the light of it; but we must look into our Bibles, where it is properly and to the best advantage described, and all the doctrines and precepts which it contains are plainly written by the pen of inspiration; and there we are taught the effect it had on those who cordially embraced the gospel in the days of the apostles, and to what an excellent character it formed those who became true Christians; and we are informed by credible historians what a happy effect it had in the world where it spread and was embraced for the first two or three centuries after the ascension of Christ, until the administration of it was perverted by wicked men, who, with all their worldliness and pride, crept into the church, and perverted Christianity in its very nature and design, both in doctrine and practice, to accommodate it to their selfishness and pride, and so as to answer their own worldly ends. And there have been numbers who in all ages since, in the midst of the general apostasy and corruption, have held fast the form of sound doctrine contained in divine revelation, and in their life and practice have been the humble, harmless followers of Christ, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom they have shone as lights in the world, exhibiting an amiable example of faith, patience, righteousness, and benevolence, of which excellent character, we trust, there is a number now in the Christian world, and among us.
Among many other evil things which have prevailed in this apostate world are tyranny and slavery, introduced and practised by the lusts, the selfishness, pride, and avarice of men, which have been the source of unspeakable unhappiness and misery. The gospel is suited to root these evils out of the