Fugitive Slave Law and Deuteronomy 23

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PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
“Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭23:15-16‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him.”
‭‭‭ESV‬‬

Did any Reformed theologians discuss this when the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850? This law seems clearly in direct conflict with the scripture above. Did pro slavery advocates pick out the word “servant” and say it didn’t mean slave?
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
The fugitive slave act of 1850 was the last in a series of fugitive slave laws. This may have helped reduce its controversiality in some circles.
 

dhh712

Puritan Board Freshman
I would be surprised if any of them gave God's word any thought when developing the laws regarding slavery, but someone knowledgeable about the topic may be able to provide an informed discussion. The practise of slavery in the United States was so foreign to how it was declared to be done by God in his word it just makes me so infuriated when Bible critics point out that God was in approval of slavery. He absolutely did not approve of the way slavery was carried out here over a hundred years ago. It was a crime against humanity and in direct opposition of God's word.

I wondered how those holding to the Reformed doctrines, like my father in the faith (sort of) D.H. Hill, did condone slavery. I know he had his own slaves. From how he wrote I wasn't aware of any mistreatment of them, but I also didn't get the impression that they were there by their own choice (which is how I understand it is to be conducted in God's word--a person would sell themselves into slavery, what is it like 7 years or something? I can't remember the exact details of it, because financial destitution drove them to it. Then after a time if they found they enjoyed the life they made for themselves with their master they could chose to stay with him forever; but it was always their choice).
 

Zach

Puritan Board Junior
Mark Noll has some analysis in his excellent book The Civil War as a Theological Crisis on pp. 58-61 about commentary by Moses Stuart and how he tries to argue that the Fugitive Slave Law does not violate this command. Needless to say, I'm not persuaded and as Anne mentioned above there were clearly serious exegetical and theological problems with the pro-slavery arguments advanced by Southern Christians to defend the system in the United States.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
“Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭23:15-16‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him.”
‭‭‭ESV‬‬

Did any Reformed theologians discuss this when the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850? This law seems clearly in direct conflict with the scripture above. Did pro slavery advocates pick out the word “servant” and say it didn’t mean slave?
Ichabod Spencer of Brooklyn published a sermon enjoining obedience to the 1850 law, but he doesn't deal with Deut 23.

 

dhh712

Puritan Board Freshman
Mark Noll has some analysis in his excellent book The Civil War as a Theological Crisis on pp. 58-61 about commentary by Moses Stuart and how he tries to argue that the Fugitive Slave Law does not violate this command. Needless to say, I'm not persuaded and as Anne mentioned above there were clearly serious exegetical and theological problems with the pro-slavery arguments advanced by Southern Christians to defend the system in the United States.
Thanks, Zach--I'll have to add that one on to my very long reading list (I'm thinking that perhaps in my 4th lifetime--out of 7-- I may get to the end of that list). That is a civil war topic I'm interested in.

@Reformed Covenanter D.H. Hill was one of Lee's Divisional commanders (I believe he was mostly under Jackson, but they had a confusing command set-up). He's remembered mostly for South Mountain and Sharpsburg (edit to add: oh, I almost forgot, and for the "lost order" which people still blame him for but which he actually didn't lose). Lee got rid of him because he couldn't keep his mouth shut! Had a sarcastic sense of humor; and was always vocally critical about higher commanders (another aberration of character; but we all have our flaws and deep-rooted sins, don't we). He later developed great animosity toward Bragg (and Bragg also got rid of him; much for the same thing).

@Zach Hey, is that the same Mark Noll who did "America's God"? I've been trying to get back to reading that one for several months now; can't seem to get anywhere in it due to my ever-present time constraints. Really do enjoy his writing style so far. (Looks like I've just made it to page 9!!!) : ( : (
 
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PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ichabod Spencer of Brooklyn published a sermon enjoining obedience to the 1850 law, but he doesn't deal with Deut 23.

Skimming through this I can’t help but wonder if he would be criticizing pastors who resisted government orders on worship and masks.

Deuteronomy 23 would seem to fly in the face of his arguments, methinks.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
@Reformed Covenanter D.H. Hill was one of Lee's Divisional commanders (I believe he was mostly under Jackson, but they had a confusing command set-up). He's remembered mostly for South Mountain and Sharpsburg (edit to add: oh, I almost forgot, and for the "lost order" which people still blame him for but which he actually didn't lose). Lee got rid of him because he couldn't keep his mouth shut! Had a sarcastic sense of humor; and was always vocally critical about higher commanders (another aberration of character; but we all have our flaws and deep-rooted sins, don't we). He later developed great animosity toward Bragg (and Bragg also got rid of him; much for the same thing).

I just looked him up in Harry Stout's Upon the Altar of the Nation; that is where I remember seeing D. H. Hill's name, though the reference to him is brief. I have read that book twice, but it has been a while since my last reading.
 
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Zach

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks, Zach--I'll have to add that one on to my very long reading list (I'm thinking that perhaps in my 4th lifetime--out of 7-- I may get to the end of that list). That is a civil war topic I'm interested in.
...
@Zach Hey, is that the same Mark Noll who did "America's God"? I've been trying to get back to reading that one for several months now; can't seem to get anywhere in it due to my ever-present time constraints. Really do enjoy his writing style so far. (Looks like I've just made it to page 9!!!) : ( : (
Same Mark Noll!
 
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