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That the practice of buying and selling servants, thus early begun amongst the patriarchs, descended to their posterity, is known to every attentive reader of the Bible. It was expressly authorized by the Jewish law, in which were many directions how such servants were to be treated. They were to be bought only of the heathen; for, if an Israelite grew poor and sold himself, either to discharge a debt or to procure the means of subsistence, he was to be treated, not as a slave, but as a hired servant, and restored to freedom at the year of Jubilee. Unlimited as the power thus given to the Hebrews over their bondservants of heathen extraction appears to have been, they were strictly prohibited from acquiring such property by any other means than fair purchase. ‘He that stealeth a man and selleth him,’ said their great Lawgiver, ‘shall surely be put to death.’ --Encyclopoedia Britannica, vol. XX., p. 319.The above passage seems scarcely just to the Law given by Moses. The true object and purpose of that Law, so far as bondage is concerned, was rather a mitigation of the harsher features of an existing institution than the creation of a new one. Moses, “for the hardness of your hearts,” says Jesus, allowed or tolerated some things which “ from the beginning were not so.” How any one can quote the Law of Moses as a warrant for Slavery, yet not admit it as a justification of free-and-easy Divorce, is not apparent.
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