10: A Few Precedents in Friends of Great Repute in Slave-Keeping Is Much More Mischievous Than in Many Publicans and Harlots

Now, dear Friends, behold a mystery! These ministers that be slave-keepers and are in such very great repute—such eminent preachers, given to hospitality, charitable to the poor, loving to their neighbors, just in their dealings, temperate in their lives, visiting of the sick, sympathizing with the afflicted in the body or mind, very religious seemingly, and extraordinarily devout and demure—and in short strictly exact in all their decorums, except slave-keeping: these, these be the men and the women too for the devil’s purpose, are the choicest treasure the devil can or has to bring out of his lazaretto to establish slave-keeping. By these Satan works wonders many ways. These are the very men, or people of both sexes, that come the nearest the scribes and Pharisees of any people in the whole world, if not sincere: For the scribes were exact and demure seemingly in their appearance before men according to Christ’s account of them, and yet the worst enemies the dear Lamb had, or that the devil could procure for or against him.

And I do surely believe that one such as these—now in this our day, in this very country—does more service for the devil and hurt in the church in slave-keeping, than twenty publicans and harlots. For by their extraordinary conduct, in hypocrisy, smooth and plausible appearance, they draw into the snare almost insensibly, and so beguile unstable souls before they are aware, which is sorrowful to consider as well as write: their example being much more powerful than others.

And Friends, what I touched at a little before concerning the delicate damsels or fine idle dames, it may be pretty much like it with the young men, and maybe the old ones, that have their Negroes to plow, sow, thresh, winnow, split rails, cut wood, clear land, make ditches and fences, fodder cattle, run and fetch up the horses, or fine curious pacing mares for young madam and sir to ride about on, impudently and proudly gossiping from house to house, [and] stuffing their lazy ungodly bellies. Then old Sir Master calls: 

“Negro, fetch my best gelding quickly, for me to ride to Meeting, to preach the Gospel of glad tidings to all men, and liberty to the captives, and opening the prison-doors to them that are bound. But I’ll keep thee in bondage nevertheless; help thyself if thee can. I charge thee to work very hard when I am gone. And before be very ready to wait on me and  my children when we come home, if they come with me, or else wait till they do come and then take their horses and look well after them. And then make haste in all of ye, and be ready to wait upon us, and keep good fires above-stairs or -below, and mind your business well or I’ll take a course with you. Don’t think that I’ll give 70 or 80 lashings apiece for you, for nothing but to lie lazying about like gentleman, doing nothing. You shall work now you are young; for when you are very old, you will not do much, I suppose, and then you must be maintained, you and your wives and children and children’s children. And if you don’t behave yourselves well, you’ll be but badly provided for, I believe, when you are past your labor, whatsoever you are now.”

Dear Friends, these things are true in fact and have been the ruin of many, body and soul, and will be of more, I greatly fear, beside and above all the soul stain it brings upon the pure, blessed, unchangeable TRUTH.

And my dear, my very dear Friends, I must say, I must say, and it is the experience and certain knowledge of my own soul that: except people will be willing to come to a separation—a separation, a separation—from this thing, to wit, Negro practice, they never can nor will see the evil of it as it really is in itself.

I say my own experience when I lived in Barbados about 18 years ago, where we had much business in trading, and the poor blacks would come to our shop and store—hunger-starved, almost ready to perish with hunger and sickness. Great numbers of them would come to trade with us, for they seemed to love and admire us, we being very much alike in stature and other ways. And my dear wife would often be giving them something for the mouth, which was very engaging, you that read this may be sure, in their deplorable conditions.

Oh! my soul mourns in contemplating their miserable, forlorn, wretched state and condition that mine eyes beheld them in then, and it is the same now. And I will remain except the great Almighty Being, either immediately or instrumentally, shall be pleased to put a stop to it. For they are yearly by shiploads poured in upon us, and received by the people, many thousands in one year—year after year—as is thought up and down America, besides what vast numbers are increased by generation daily. O Lord God Almighty, where will this practice lead us that are called thy people, dearest God, and make so great a profession of being led and guided by the eternal Spirit, which is the glorious Truth unchangeable and precious and without end? But I trust, dearest One, thou wilt be pleased to stop and end this practice that is more like hell than heaven, to be sure.