23: Them That Came to This Country as Servants to Plead for Slave-Keeping Is Intolerable

And now my dear Friends and others, you that came as servants to this country and slaves, although for a short time, by your own consent too: for you to plead for Negro-keeping is almost intolerable.

I say, you that came here—poor, vile, miserable wretches, destitute and forlorn—and here you were kept to hard labor, which was good for you, and brought you to a sense of your filthy, abominable, undone, and woeful cursed condition which you, many of ye had been in: Then O then many of you came to consider of your ways and were wise in turning to the Lord, into your own hearts by the moving and rising of his own blessed Light, Life, Grace, and pure Love there in your own souls, which was as a Light shining in a dark place, your hearts dark indeed, by reason of sin and that filthy life which you had lived. You came to be burdened with it, and [to] seek relief in turning to the Lord in your hearts: where he was and is to be found, blessed be his pure name which is his essence or divine nature, manifest within men.

So when you came to this good experience, you came to love the society and follow the good example of our worthy [Quaker] elders—very commendable in you to do—which first settled in this country. You came to live sober lives, and—by your industry, the Almighty favoring—some attained to very large possessions here: being a large country and few people, but now more numerous, so no occasion for Negro slaves. For had this land been covered with them as it is now in some places, and too much here already, how would you have come to this greatness [out of indentured servitude]? You might have perished for want of business to purchase necessaries. Let it never be forgotten by you—I beseech and pray ye for the Lord’s sake and for your own and your children’s sake, that are coming up in vast numbers, as well as them that are or may become servants hereafter, with many, yea very many of your own children, which is very likely by the wicked soul courses many of our youth take—they may be brought to the same misery and extremity as you were, by their foolish lusts and vanities. My soul mourns in contemplating of it and is in sore distress and misery with many of my dear and inwardly beloved Friends, male and female, on this sad account, as well as other gross sins.

Many dear tender souls in our society, reproachfully called Quakers, have writ and bore testimony against this sin at times near 50 years, but were reproached for that likewise. But some are gone to their graves in peace; many yet living as in Pennsylvania, Jersey, Long Island, Nantucket, Old England, which I have been with at their houses and their writings are extant at this time to my certain knowledge. Although many poor seeking souls, that are bewildered by this wicked hellish sin in our ministers—slave-keeping—will not believe or cannot believe, but rather believe we approve of it as a people with one consent unanimously.

When some Friends have been reasoning with some sober people of other [religious] professions in my hearing, concerning the pride and covetousness of their hireling preachers and concerning Truth’s principles, they have had nothing to say for the one or against the other. “But whither shall we go,” say they, “we do not approve or like keeping slaves. It is not doing as we would be done by ourselves. And your people are as greedy as anybody in keeping Negroes for their gain.” (It is too true.) But not all, said I. “No,” say they again, “Who shall we believe? We are sure and do know that your preachers and elders, chief leaders have them.” Answer was made: not all; for some have testified against it as a very heinous sin for many years, year after year, and are gone to their silent graves in peace; and many yet living amongst us, as above is mentioned. “Why then,” say they, “do you not separate?” Here it is thus written: Wherefore come out from amongst them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you (2 Corinthians 6:13–17). Read the next verse with attention, in the fear of the Lord.

I know no worse or greater stumbling blocks the devil has to lay in the way of honest inquirers than our ministers and elders keeping slaves. And by straining and perverting holy scriptures preach more to hell than ever they will bring to heaven by their feigned humility and hypocrisy.

Satan put to his last shift—or the devil working wonders—by a seeming-gospel ministry of great repute. For by their keeping of slaves, they carry on his work and uphold his kingdom. We read (Revelations 12:3 to the end): That the dragon drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth with his tail, the vilest part of the beast.  Let him that reads understand the stars were men that had been enlightened. And it has been the judgment of worthy men in many ages of the world that a false and fallen ministry have been the greatest instruments of evil that ever the devil brought into the church of Christ, as may be seen in Eusebius’s Church History, Francis Howgill’s Works, George Fox’s Journal, and in many more beside, which I have by me. Does largely set forth that false and fallen ministers are the worst devils and dragons and serpents the Woman or Church has to war with, by reason of the power they have with the beastly nature in their ignorant hearers and foolish bigoted crowd: such as have itching ears and shallow crowns, carnal minds, and looser lives. Such, being born after the flesh, are very ready to join with the serpent to persecute him that is born after the Spirit. It was so, it is so, and it will be so. The dragon and the beast joining forces have great power to make rents in the outward Church, and divisions and sow discord amongst weak brethren. But the truly wise in heart I know will beware.

But as to those dragon, slave-keeping preachers, that are now making war with the Woman, these fallen stars: they say they have been enlightened and received part of the ministry. We will allow it, for God Almighty has been very good and kind to them, and is still long suffering. So Judas their elder brother was enlightened too—as much and more than they, for ought I know. But he repented and returned his cursed gain and made confession of his soul sin, which I fear is more than they will do in haste—so much worse than Judas they are: for they crucify the Truth daily and put it to open shame.

I have understood lately that some have made their wills when they were sick, to set their Negroes free at such an age, 30 or 40 [years] after their death. That will not salve the sore; it is too deep and rotten. God will not be mocked so, nor Wise Men neither; they rather think of the old proverb, it may be:

When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would be. But when the devil was well, the devil a monk was he.

Acts 2: It is written: when the time of Pentecost was fully come, there was people of many nations gathered together to hear the apostles, and all heard in their own tongue the wonderful works of God. And if they were now here in Pennsylvania, they might hear and see the wonderful works of the devil: men and women preaching up the purest religion in the world and live in the greatest of sins at same time—the mother of enormities—says Benjamin Lay.

I do firmly believe, in the secret of my soul before the Lord, that slave-keeping and -trading—with what has and now does daily attend and appertain unto it—is as great cause of the sins of Sodom as anything is or ever was in the whole world.