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Verse 21. Being a servant. doulov. A slave. Slaves abounded in Greece, and in every part of the heathen world. Athens, e.g., had, in her best days, twenty thousand freemen, and four hundred thousand slaves. See the condition of the heathen world on this subject illustrated at length, and in a very learned manner, by Rev. B. B. Edwards, in the Bib. Repository for Oct. 1835, pp. 411—436. It was a very important' subject to inquire what ought to be done in such instances. Many slaves who had been converted might argue that the institution of slavery was contrary to the rights of man; that it destroyed their equality with other men; that it was cruel, and oppressive, and unjust in the highest degree; and that therefore they ought not to submit to it, but that they should burst their bonds, and assert their rights as freemen. In order to prevent restlessness, uneasiness, and insubordination; in order to preserve the peace of society, and to prevent religion from being regarded as disorganizing and disorderly, Paul here states the principle on which the slave was to act. And by referring to this case, which was the strongest which could occur, he designed doubtless to inculcate the duty of order, and contentment in general, in all the other relations in which men might be when they were converted.

Care not for it. Let it not be a subject of deep anxiety and distress; do not deem it to be disgraceful; let it not affect your spirits; but be content in the lot of life where God has placed you. If you can in a proper way obtain your freedom, do it; if not, let it not be a subject of painful reflection. In the sphere of life where God by his providence has placed you, strive to evince the Christian spirit, and show that you are able to bear the sorrows and endure the toils of your humble lot with submission to the will of God, and so as to advance in that relation the interest of the true religion. In that calling do your duty, and evince always the spirit of a Christian. This duty is often enjoined on those who were servants, or slaves, Eph 6:5; Col 3:22; 1 Ti 6:1; Tit 2:9; 1 Pe 2:18.

This duty of the slave, however, does not make the oppression of the master right or just, any more than the duty of one who is persecuted or reviled to be patient and meek makes the conduct of the persecutor or reviler just or right; nor does it prove that the master has a right to hold the slave as property, which can never be right in the sight of God; but it requires simply that the slave should evince, even in the midst of degradation and injury, the spirit of a Christian, just as it is required of a man who is injured in any way to bear it as becomes a follower of the Lord Jesus. Nor does this passage prove that a slave ought not to desire freedom if it can be obtained, for this is supposed in the subsequent clause. Every human being has a right to desire to be free, and to seek liberty. But it should be done, in accordance with the rules of the gospel; so as not to dishonour the religion of Christ, and so as not to injure the true happiness of others, or overturn the foundations of society.

But if thou mayest be made free. If thou canstdunasaiif it is in your power to become free. That is, if your master or the laws set you free; or if you can purchase your freedom; or if the laws can be changed in a regular manner. If freedom can be obtained in any manner that is not sinful. In many cases a Christian master might set his slaves free; in others, perhaps, the laws might do it; in some, perhaps, the freedom of the slave might be purchased by a Christian friend. In all these instances it would be proper to embrace the opportunity of becoming free. The apostle does not speak of insurrection, and the whole scope of the passage is against an attempt on their part to obtain freedom by force and violence. He manifestly teaches them to remain in their condition, to bear it patiently and submissively, and in that relation to bear their hard lot with a Christian spirit, unless their freedom could be obtained without violence and bloodshed. And the same duty is still binding. Evil as slavery is, and always evil and only evil, yet the Christian religion requires patience, gentleness, forbearance; not violence, war, insurrection, and bloodshed. Christianity would teach masters to be kind, tender, and gentle; to liberate their slaves, and to change the laws so that it may be done; to be just towards those whom they have held in bondage. It would not teach the slave to rise on his master, and imbrue his hands in his blood; to break up the relations of society by violence; or to dishonour his religion by the indulgence of the feelings of revenge and by murder.

Use it rather. Avail yourselves of the privilege if you can, and be a freeman. There are disadvantages attending the condition of a slave; and if you can escape from them, in a proper manner, it is your privilege and your duty to do it.

{d} "care not" Heb 13:5

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