Another Kind of Slavery
(Message Given During Camp Meeting 1995)
"Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Gal. 6:9)
You have heard of the Tale of Two Cities, and how it begins: "It was the best of times and the worst of times." I would have you consider, not the tale of two cities, but the tales, in brief, of two women. One of these is Harriet, the daughter of a distinguished preacher in the decades before the Civil War. The second is Mollie Alma, daughter of a Kentucky tanner. (In another article in this issue, also given during the recent Camp Meeting, by Dr. Robert B. Dallenbach, you will find some interesting details about her early history.)
The dominating idea in the minds and hearts of these two women was (1) to be used of the Lord, and (2) to make their lives count. Can any of us lay claim to being a serious-minded Christian and not have that same great desire?
One of the great evils abroad in the land when Harriet was born, as you know, was slavery. It might not be thought that slavery was something that would come close in a personal way to the daughter of a Massachusetts preacher, but it was. Her mother was a beautiful, talented, and godly woman whose sister married a well-to-do man from the Caribbean. When that sister, Harriet's aunt, went with her husband to his home in the islands, she was shocked to find that he was the father of numerous progeny by his slave women. Moreover, he considered these children his property, whom he could sell off at his will to others. Harriet's aunt could not countenance what she found out about her husband, and left him and returned to Massachusetts.
Always a serious and thoughtful girl, Harriet felt a great concern about her soul, as Mollie Alma Bridwell did, and at the age of fourteen came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Then she began to wonder what the Lord would have her do to make her life count for Him and humanity. Do you and I sometimes think about this? I think it is important for us to do so. Frequently young Harriet brought up the subject to her father, who encouraged her to believe that the Lord had a work for her to do, and that in due time He would show her what that work was. The Lord has a work for you and me, and for every Christian to do, and He will show us what it is if we continue to ask Him, in faith and obedience.
As a young teenager Harriet helped her older sister Catherine, considered an innovator in providing education for women, as a teacher of various subjects in her school. Later they moved with their father from New England to Cincinnati, where he acted both as a pastor and as president of Lane Theological Seminary. Cincinnati, as you may recall, is just across the river from Kentucky, then a slave state. Many of the students at the seminary became fervent abolitionists through the influence of one of their fellow students.
Harriet herself had long been troubled by the evils of slavery, and had met William Lloyd Garrison some time earlier in her father's church in Boston. It was he, you will perhaps remember, whose first issue of the Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper, had these words:
"I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD."
While in Cincinnati Harriet came in contact with an interesting preacher and his wife by the name of Rankin. They lived near the Ohio River and kept a lantern burning at night as a signal to runaway slaves that they were willing to help them escape to freedom in Canada. The Rankin house, I am told, is still standing. It is estimated that some two thousand slaves were helped to freedom by the Rankins by the end of slavery. It was they who helped a certain black woman named Eliza. She crossed the river in winter, jumping from one cake of ice to another, carrying her little boy. She lost her shawl, and her feet and knees were bloody when she reached shore after that incredible feat of bravery.
Harriet had opportunity to hear more about the evils of slavery as time went by. In a Cincinnati newspaper, for instance, an ad was placed by a slave owner offering one thousand dollars for the return of a slave family of eleven, or "securing of them in any jail." Then there were riots in Cincinnati, and the print shop of an antislavery Quaker was broken into by a mob, and his presses were wrecked and thrown into the river.
Meanwhile, Harriet had married a brilliant widower, Calvin Stowe, a professor in her father's seminary. After the birth of a child she needed some help in the home, and hired a black woman who claimed that she was a "free person." Later the woman came to her and admitted that she had lied to her. Word had somehow come that her master was in the city looking for her. Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet's younger brother, along with her husband Calvin, around midnight, took the slave woman in a wagon, covered with straw, to the farm of one John Van Zandt, who cooperated with the so-called "underground Railroad," and who would help her get to Canada.
On another occasion Harriet
read a handbill that deeply stirred her. This is how it read:
$1200 to 1250 DOLLARS
The undersigned wishes to purchase a large lot of NEGROES for the New Orleans market. I will pay $1200 to $1250 for No. 1 young men and $850 to $1000 for No. 1 young women. In fact, I will pay more for likely NEGROES that any other trader in Kentucky. My office is adjoining the Broadway Hotel, on Broadway in Lexington, Ky., where I or my agent can always be found.
WM. F. Talbot
Later on her brother Henry, now pastor of a large church in Brooklyn, conducted a slave auction in his church. He stood two beautiful runaway slaves on the platform and auctioned them off to the highest bidder. He explained that these girls had been converted at a camp meeting, but that if their freedom was not bought, they would be sold by their owners for evil purposes. Soon twenty-five hundred dollars was bid, and he could say, "Sold." "There wasn't a dry eye in the building," Henry reported to his sister.
Harriet wondered what she could do for the cause. Henry said: "Write a book." She did, and at first it was published in installments in a weekly paper. It created a sensation! Then it was published in book form. At first, five thousand copies were printed. Her husband, Calvin Stowe wondered if the 5,000 copies could be sold in a year. He soon found out. The very first day 3,000 copies were ordered, and the next day the remaining 2,000. Within three weeks 20,000 copies had been sold, and a Boston newspaper reported that one hundred book-binders could not keep up with the orders! Later Harriet and her husband traveled to England. A mass meeting was held in her honor, and she was presented with a lovely solid silver plate. On the plate were piled a thousand gold coins for the anti-slavery cause!
Some say that her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, helped Abraham Lincoln become President. Harriet decided to try to see him at the White House. By this time the Civil War had broken out. On meeting the little lady, who described herself as "barely five feet tall . . . over fifty . . . (and) not even equal to a tiny pinch of snuff," President Lincoln is reported to have said to her: "So this is the little lady who made this big war."
Harriet, as we have pointed out, wanted to make her life count for the Lord and for humanity, and she helped bring an end to slavery. The Lord wants to help you and me make our lives tell for Him and for humanity as well. There is another, even more insidious form of slavery. Jesus speaks about it in John 8.
These are words which Jesus spoke to "those Jews who believed on him": "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed' And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) Then, in verse 34: "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." The Greek word, translated in the King James, or Authorized Version as "servant," ("doulos") actually means "slave," ("literally or figuratively, involuntarily or voluntarily") . Most of the other translations use the word "slave."
Jesus then added, "If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (v. 36) This spiritual freedom, freedom from guilt, from eternal death, from the crushing load of sin, is available to all who will believe on Him, and come humbly to the foot of the cross, confessing and forsaking their sins. Wonderful freedom indeed!
This is the last day of Camp Meeting. We have had wonderful times of exhortation and admonition, and wonderful times of prayer at these altars. Many have come to the Lord for salvation or a deeper work of grace, but there may be some who have put off the day of salvation.
I am reminded of a thrilling passage in John's Gospel: "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." (7:37) If you are one of those who have put off this most important of all decisions, to turn your life over to Jesus Christ, to let Him rule and reign in your heart and life, don't wait a moment more. Some mistakenly think that they can be saved by some sort of mental belief in Christ that does not include surrender to His lordship. The enemy of our souls, Satan, would be happy for you to accept that lie, and lose your soul. Don't allow that to happen!
Jesus longingly beckons to you: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)