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Verse 1. Masters, give unto your servants, etc. See Barnes "Eph 6:9".

That which is just and equal. What they ought to have; what is fairly their due. The apostle here, probably, refers to bondmen or slaves—and the propriety of this rule is apparent. Such persons were subject to their masters' control; their time and services were at their disposal, and they could not enforce their just and equal claims by an appeal to the laws. They were, therefore, dependent on the equity and kindness of their masters. There can be no doubt that not a few who were converted to the Christian faith were held to involuntary servitude, 1 Co 7; and it is as clear that the apostles did not design to make a violent disruption of these bonds, or to lead the slaves to rise and murder their masters. See Barnes "1 Ti 6:1, also 1 Ti 6:2-4. But it is equally clear that they meant to represent slavery as a hard and undesirable condition; that they intended to instruct the slaves to embrace the earliest opportunity to be free which was presented, 1 Co 7:21; and that they meant to suggest such considerations, and to lay down such principles, as would lead masters to emancipate their slaves, and thus ultimately to abolish it. Among these principles are such as these.

(1.) That all men were of one and the same blood, Ac 17:26.

(2.) That they were all redeemed by the same Saviour, and were brethren, 1 Ti 6:2; Phm 1:16.

If redeemed; if they were "brethren", if they were heirs of glory, they were not "chattels," or "things": and how could a Christian conscientiously hold or regard them as property?

(3.) That they were to "render them that which was just and equal." What would follow from this if fairly applied? What would be just and equal to a man in those circumstances? Would it not be

(a.) to compensate him fairly for his labour—to furnish him an adequate remuneration for what he had earned? But this would strike a blow at the root of slavery—for one of the elementary principles of it is, that there must be "unrequited labour;" that is, the slave must earn as much more than he receives as will do his part in maintaining the master in idleness, for it is of the very essence of the system that he is to be maintained in indolence by the slaves which he owns —or just so far as he owns a slave. If he were disposed to earn his own living, he would not need the labour of slaves. No man ever yet became the permanent owner of a slave from benevolence to him, or because he desired to pay him fully for his work, or because he meant himself to work in order to maintain his slave in indolence.

(b.) If a man should in fact render to his slaves "that which is just and equal," would he not restore them to freedom? Have they not been deprived of their liberty by injustice, and would not "justice" restore it? What has the slave done to forfeit his liberty? If he should make him "equal" in rights to himself, or to what he is by nature, would he not emancipate him? Has he not been reduced to his present condition by withholding that which is "equal?" Has he "equal" rights, and "equal" privileges with other men? Has he not been cut off from them by denying him the equality to which he is entitled in the arrangements of God's government? Can he be held at all without violating all the just notions of equality? Though, therefore, it may be true that this passage only enjoins the rendering of that which was "just" and "equal" in their condition as slaves, yet it contains a principle which would "lay the axe at the root" of slavery, and would lead a conscientious Christian to the feeling that his slaves ought to be free. These principles actually effected the freedom of slaves in the Roman empire in a few centuries after Christianity was introduced, and they are destined to effect it yet all over the world.

Knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. See Barnes "Eph 6:9".


{a} "Masters" Eph 6:9

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