Tag Archives: slavery

Slavery in the Roman Empire

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(The following is from the introduction to Philemon in “The Prodigal Slave: A Study of the Letter to Philemon” by Bradley S. Cobb)

Philemon owned at least one slave, a man named Onesimus.  It was because of this slave that the book which bears Philemon’s name was written.   This slave had run away and somehow found himself with the apostle Paul.  After a period of time, Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with this letter.  But why would a man of God send someone back to a life of slavery?

Because of the culture in which we live today, we have ideas about slavery that did not exist in the first century.  In the United States, slavery is generally viewed as inherently sinful.  The idea that one man can own another is repulsive to the vast majority of Americans.  However, the Bible never once condemns slavery.  The book of Philemon, along with Colossians (see 4:1), makes it clear that slavery is not sinful in and of itself.

By some estimates, there may have been as many as 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire during the first century.  This is even more shocking when you note that the whole of the Roman Empire numbered 120 million!  Regardless of the specific number, it is quite sufficient to say that slavery was a common practice throughout the Empire.  However, not all people became slaves in the same way.

  1. Some became slaves because they were part of a conquered people. When armies conquered new areas, many were taken as slaves.  Sometimes it was considered a sign of prestige if you had a Greek slave, especially if that slave was an educator for your children.  Others, such as the Gauls and Barbarians, were prized because of their strength.  These became slaves for life.
  2. Some were born to parents who were slaves, thus becoming property of the master.
  3. A large section of the slave population became slaves because they owed more money than they could pay back. There were no bankruptcy courts back then.  If you amassed a debt and could not pay it back, your possessions would be sold.  If that still did not cover what you owed, your family would be sold or you would sell yourself into slavery.  If you did not owe a tremendous amount of money, you may only have to be a slave for a relatively short time until that debt to the man was paid off.  Other times, you may owe one man the money, and someone else will pay it off, buying you in the process.
  4. The Plebes (the poorest class of people) would often sell themselves into slavery so that they would not starve to death.  In effect, becoming a slave was actually a step up for them, guaranteeing them food, clothing, and shelter.  Possibly, these were the ones who were given the most menial tasks, because they did not have any skills like some of the other slaves.

Slaves literally became the property of their owners.  Think about owning a car.  If the car stops working well, you might decide to try to fix it, and if that does not work you might sell it or even have it crushed.  If a slave was not working as well as the master wanted, the master could try to correct him (possibly by talking with him, or by punishing him).  If that did not work, he might sell him to someone else, continue to beat him, or maybe even kill him.  If a slave was disobedient to his master or talked back, the master had full legal right to sell the slave’s wife and children as punishment.

It is also important to note that not all slaves were treated the same way.  Just as there is everywhere else, good and bad people exist.  There were forgiving masters, but there were also vicious masters.  Some slaves were treated kindly, others were beaten mercilessly.  Many masters would simply view the slave as an employee, like one might view a butler or a maid.  Others made the slaves the object of all of their anger and hatred.  After the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln had abolished slavery in the US, there were some slaves who did not wish to leave their master’s house.  They stayed on because they had been treated well by their owners.

In the first century, slaves had the same rights as widows and orphans: none.  This is the life that Paul was sending Onesimus back into.  Would you be willing to go back?

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Preacher Who was Kicked out of the Church…

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Elijah Martindale, a pioneer preacher of the 1800s, was quite an interesting character.  If you read the free preview edition of the Quarterly (you can download it here), then you got to read some of the interesting things that happened in his life, including the fact that he was kicked out of the church that he was preaching for…

because he preached the truth on baptism and salvation.

There are a lot of interesting things that happened in this man’s life, and we only touched a few of them in the Quarterly.  But today, we are giving you a much fuller picture.

Today’s addition to the absolutely free Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary is The Autobiography and Sermons of Elijah Martindale.  Take a look at what you can read in this free eBook:

  • Chapter I.
    Birth and Early Training — Emigration to Ohio — To Indiana — Indian Troubles — Returning a Second Time to Our New Home — Religious Impressions.
  • Chapter II.
    Marriage — Deep Conviction for Sin — Christian Experience and Baptism — A Journey with William Stubbs — Uniting with the Newlight Church.
  • Chapter III.
    Ordained to the Ministry — First Sermon — Poverty and Persecution — Mourners Uncomforted — Preaching Near New Lisbon — Flattery.
  • Chapter IV.
    The Jerusalem Doctrine Calls Down Persecution — Voted Out of the New House — Some Things Lacking — Controversial Preaching — Ministers Exhorted to Faithfulness.
  • Chapter V.
    Preaching the Gospel — Desire for Union — Love for the Erring — Zeal of the Old Preachers
  • Chapter VI.
    Preaching Near Middletown.
  • Chapter VII.
    Preaching at Bentonville.
  • Chapter VIII.
    A Flourishing Church at Hillsboro.

Sermons and Articles

  • Chapter IX.
    On Family Training.
  • Chapter X.
    The Gospel Invitation.
  • Chapter XI.
    A Sermon on Supporting the War
  • Chapter XII.
    Sermon On Prayer.
  • Chapter XIII.
    Letter To Church Members.
  • Chapter XIV.
    Object And Form Of Local Churches.
  • Chapter XV.
    On Exhortation.
  • Chapter XVI.
    Parable Of The Ten Virgins.
  • Chapter XVII.
    Religion And Politics.
  • Chapter XVIII.
    Where Is The True Church Of Christ?.
  • Chapter XIX.
    Letter To My Brother John.
  • Chapter XX.
    Extract From Speech Delivered At An Old Settlers’  Meeting At New Castle, Ind.
  • Chapter XXI.
    Sermon delivered at the Christian Chapel, New Castle, April 13, 1873.
  • Song I Used To Hear My Father Sing.
  • A Brief Excerpt Of The History Of The Martindale Family In America.

I found this to be a very interesting read, and I think you will too.  It’s not that long–actually only 67 pages.

If you like the church, the truth, conflict, and history, you’ll get all of it in this book that we’ve proofread, reformatted, and made into a nice-looking eBook just for you!

Read it online, or download it for later reading by clicking the link below:

Autobiography and Sermons of Elder Elijah Martindale

-Bradley S. Cobb

Three Free Books

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I hope that caught your attention.  We were busy last week and didn’t get as many books added to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary as we wanted, so we’re making up for it this week!

Today, we’re adding three more books for your enjoyment!  And here they are:

The Gospel and Its Elements

By James Challen, this book could be called a doctrinal history of the Restoration Movement.  By that, I mean that he writes about the biblical doctrines and practices pleaded for (without mentioning the names of anyone involved) by people like Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, James Challen, and others.

To download it, just click the link below:

The Gospel and Its Elements (James Challen)

A Primitive Missionary Church

Written by H.L. Hastings (a big name in the late 1800s for his fight against atheists and skeptics), this sermon is all about the church in Thessalonica.  While we might not agree with everything he says, it is a worthwhile read–and it isn’t that long.  The download link is below:

A Primitive Missionary Church (H.L. Hastings)

The Disciples of Christ in Illinois and Their Attitude Toward Slavery

Originally given as a lecture before the Illinois State Historical Society in 1913, N.S. Haynes presented his manuscript for publication in their official minutes.  It gives a very brief history of the Restoration Movement, then a brief history of how the Restoration made its way into Illinois, and then briefly shows the attitude of many of the brethren in the state toward slavery prior to the Civil War.  It is an interesting historical piece, and we have taken the liberty to correct a few historical errors that the author made (with notations of what was changed appearing in footnotes).

You can download it and read it here:

Disciples of Christ in Illinois and Their Attitude Toward Slavery

-Bradley S. Cobb

Restoration Moments – The Rafting of Pardee Butler

American slavery had been a hot topic for many years, and tempers flared whenever it came up.  What is a Christian to do in such cases?  Should he (like Isaac Errett) pretend the problem doesn’t exist?  Or should he (like Pardee Butler) stand up and fight against it?

This week’s Restoration Moment comes from “The Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler,” which appears in Pardee Butler: The Definitive Collection.  These are Pardee Butler’s own words:

The things that had been happening in the Kansas Territory [regarding slavery] had been so strange and unheard of, and the threats of the Squatter Sovereign had been so savage and barbarous, that I wanted to carry back to my friends in Illinois some evidence of what was going on. I went, therefore, with Bro. Elliott to the Squatter Sovereign printing office to purchase extra copies of that paper. I was waited on by Robert S. Kelley. After paying for my papers I said to him: “I should have become a subscriber to your paper some time ago only there is one thing I do not like about it.” Mr. Kelley did not know me, and asked: “What is it?”

I replied: “I do not like the spirit of violence that characterizes it.”

He said: “I consider all Free-soilers rogues, and they are to be treated as such.”

I looked him for a moment steadily in the face, and then said to him: “Well, sir, I am a Free-soiler; and I intend to vote for Kansas to be a Free State.”

He fiercely replied: “You will not be allowed to vote.”

When Bro. Elliott and myself had left the house, and were in the open air, he clutched me nervously by the arm and said: “Bro. Butler! Bro. Butler! You must not do such things; they will kill you!”

I replied: “If they do I cannot help it.”

Bro. Elliott was now to go home. But before going he besought me with earnest entreaty not to bring down on my own head the vengeance of these men. I thanked him for his regard for me, and we bade each other goodbye.

Bro. Elliot had come to feel that my life was precious to the Christian brethren in Atchison county. Except myself they had no preacher. And they needed a preacher.

The steamboat bound for St. Louis that day had been detained, and would not arrive until the next day. I must, therefore, stay overnight in Atchison. I conversed freely with the people that afternoon, and said to them: “Under the Kansas-Nebraska bill, we that are Free State men have as good a right to come to Kansas as you have; and we have as good a right to speak our sentiments as you have.”

A public meeting was called that night to consider my case, but I did not know it. The steamboat was expected about noon the next day. I had been sitting writing letters at the head of the stairs, in the chamber of the boarding-house where I had slept, and heard someone call my name, and rose up to go down stairs; but was met by six men, bristling with revolvers and bowie-knives, who came upstairs and into my room. The leader was Robert S. Kelley. They presented me a string of resolutions, denouncing Free State men in unmeasured terms, and demanded that I should sign them. I felt my heart flutter, and knew if I should undertake to speak my voice would tremble, and determined to gain time.

Sitting down I pretended to read the resolutions—they were familiar to me, having been already printed in the Squatter Sovereign—and finally I began to read them aloud. But these men were impatient, and said: “We just want to know will you sign these resolutions?” I had taken my seat by a window, and looking out and down into the street, had seen a great crowd assembled, and determined to get among them. Whatever should be done would better be done in the presence of witnesses. I said not a word, but going to the head of the stairs, where was my writing-stand and pen and ink, I laid the paper down and quickly walked down stairs and into the street. Here they caught me by the wrists, from behind, and demanded, “Will you sign?”

I answered, “No,” with emphasis. I had got my voice by that time. They dragged me down to the Missouri River, cursing me, and telling me they were going to drown me. But when we had got to the river they seemed to have got to the end of their programme, and there we stood. Then some little boys, anxious to see the fun go on, told me to get on a large cotton-wood stump close by and defend myself. I told the little fellows I did not know what I was accused of yet. This broke the silence, and the men that had me in charge asked:

“Did the Emigrant Aid Society send you here?”

“No; I have no connection with the Emigrant Aid Society.”

“Well, what did you come for?”

“I came because I had a mind to come. What did you come for?”

“Did you come to make Kansas a Free State?”

“No, not primarily; but I shall vote to make Kansas a Free State.”

“Are you a correspondent of the New York Tribune?”

“No; I have not written a line to the Tribune since I came to Kansas.”

By this time a great crowd had gathered around, and each man took his turn in cross-questioning me, while I replied, as best I could, to this storm of questions, accusations and invectives. We went over the whole ground. We debated every issue that had been debated in Congress. They alleged the joint ownership the South had with the North in the common Territories of the nation; that slaves are property, and that they had a natural and inalienable right to take their property into any part of the national Territory, and there to protect it by the strong right arm of power. While I urged the terms of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and that under it Free State men have a right to come into the Territory, and by their votes to make it a Free State, if their votes will make it so.

At length an old man came near to me, and dropping his voice to a half-whisper, said in a confidential tone: “Nee-ow, Mr. Butler, I want to advise you as a friend, and for your own good, when you get away, just keep away.

I knew this man was a Yankee, for I am a Yankee myself. His name was Ira Norris. He had been given an office in Platte County, Mo., and must needs be a partisan for the peculiar institution. I gave my friend Norris to understand that I would try to attend to my own business.

Others sought to persuade me to promise to leave the country and not come back. Then when no good result seemed to come from our talk, I said to them: “Gentlemen, there is no use in keeping up this debate any longer; if I live anywhere, I shall live in Kansas. Now do your duty as you understand it, and I will do mine as I understand it. I ask no favors of you.”

Then the leaders of this business went away by themselves and held a consultation. Of course I did not know what passed among them, but Dr. Stringfellow many years afterwards made the following statement to a gentleman who was getting up a history of Kansas:

“A vote was taken upon the mode of punishment which ought to be accorded to him, and to this day it is probably known but to few persons that a decided verdict of death by hanging was rendered; and furthermore, that Mr. Kelley, the teller, by making false returns to the excited mob, saved Mr. Butler’s life. … At the time the pro-slavery party decided to send Mr. Butler down the Missouri River on a raft…”

The crowd had now to be pacified and won over to an arrangement that should give me a chance for my life. A Mr. Peebles, a dentist from Lexington, Mo., … a slave-holder, was put forward to do this work. He said: “My friends, we must not hang this man; he is not an Abolitionist, he is what they call a Free-soiler. The Abolitionists steal our niggers, but the Free-soilers do not do this. They intend to make Kansas a Free State by legal methods. But in the outcome of the business, there is not the value of a picayune of difference between a Free-soiler and an Abolitionist; for if the Free-soilers succeed in making Kansas a Free State, and thus surround Missouri with a cordon of Free States, our slaves in Missouri will not be worth a dime apiece. Still we must not hang this man; and I propose that we make a raft and send him down the river as an example.”

And so to him they all agreed. Then the question came up, What kind of a raft shall it be? Some said, “One log”; but the crowd decided it should be two logs fastened together. When the raft was completed I was ordered to take my place on it, after they had painted the letter R. on my forehead with black paint. This letter stood for Rogue. I had in my pocket a purse of gold, which I proffered to a merchant of the place, an upright business man, with the request that he would send it to my wife; but he declined to take it. He afterwards explained to me that he himself was afraid of the mob. They took a skiff and towed the raft out into the middle of the Missouri River. As we swung away from the bank, I rose up and said: “Gentlemen, if I am drowned I forgive you; but I have this to say to you: If you are not ashamed of your part in this transaction, I am not ashamed of mine. Goodbye.”

Pardee Butler survived his “rafting,” and later returned to town where he was “tarred and cottoned” (they had no feathers to use).  But still he kept returning, and kept fighting against slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln.

 

Pardee Butler–The Definitive Collection

“By faith Pardee Butler became a sojourner in the land of Bleeding Kansas, dwelling in dugouts…who through faith subdued slavery, wrought righteousness and prohibition, escaping the edge of the sword. He was tortured, not accepting deliverance, that he might obtain the victory of the Gospel and establish an unsectarian, undenominational New Testament Church of Christ in the free and virgin soil of the great plains of the West.”

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An abolitionist, a statesman, a writer, a farmer, a crusader–but most of all, a preacher.  This is Pardee Butler.

The newest release from Cobb Publishing is Pardee Butler: The Definitive Collection.This 438-page book covers the life of this pioneer Kansas preacher from start to finish.  When you see what’s in it, you’ll know why we call this the definitive collection.

Contents

Pardee Butler: Kansas Crusader
This work, graciously provided by the Kansas State Historical Society, looks at the life of Pardee Butler as he fought against slavery and saloons.  And in Kansas, he won both fights.

Pardee Butler: Kansas Abolitionist
An extensive look at the life of Pardee Butler during his years of trying to make Kansas a “free state.”

Pardee Butler’s Reply to Attacks made by Elders Isaac Errett and Benjamin Franklin
This article was written for publication in answer to personal attacks made against him by his own brethren.  These attacks were made by the leaders who thought the best tactic to take in regards to slavery is to just not bring it up.  Of course, those brethren refused to print it, so Butler published it himself.

Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
This is part autobiography, part history, and every bit of it interesting.  Read his personal account of being “rafted” down the Missouri River by an angry mob.  See how the same mob later tarred and cottoned him (they didn’t have feathers).  But even more than that, You will see his incredible love for the truth and care for the churches in Kansas.

Pardee Butler: Pioneer Minister and Statesman
This is the “final word” on Pardee Butler, written by his son, Charles P. Butler.  It gives a very balanced look at his life and shows that he was much more than an abolitionist.

Over a hundred hours of work have gone into preparing this 438-page book.  We know that you’ll enjoy it!

Kindle version is available via Amazon.com.