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Many southern Christians felt that slavery, in one Baptist minister’s words, “stands as an institution of God.” Here are some common arguments made by Christians at the time:

Biblical Reasons

• Abraham, the “father of faith,” and all the patriarchs held slaves without God’s disapproval (Gen. 21:9–10).

• Canaan, Ham’s son, was made a slave to his brothers (Gen. 9:24–27).

• The Ten Commandments mention slavery twice, showing God’s implicit acceptance of it (Ex. 20:10, 17).

• Slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, and yet Jesus never spoke against it.

• The apostle Paul specifically commanded slaves to obey their masters (Eph. 6:5–8).

• Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master (Philem. 12).

Charitable and Evangelistic Reasons

• Slavery removes people from a culture that “worshipped the devil, practiced witchcraft, and sorcery” and other evils.

• Slavery brings heathens to a Christian land where they can hear the gospel. Christian masters provide religious instruction for their slaves.

• Under slavery, people are treated with kindness, as many northern visitors can attest.

• It is in slaveholders’ own interest to treat their slaves well.

• Slaves are treated more benevolently than are workers in oppressive northern factories.

Social Reasons

• Just as women are called to play a subordinate role (Eph. 5:22; 1 Tim. 2:11–15), so slaves are stationed by God in their place.

• Slavery is God’s means of protecting and providing for an inferior race (suffering the “curse of Ham” in Gen. 9:25 or even the punishment of Cain in Gen. 4:12).

• Abolition would lead to slave uprisings, bloodshed, and anarchy. Consider the mob’s “rule of terror” during the French Revolution.

Political Reasons

• Christians are to obey civil authorities, and those authorities permit and protect slavery.

• The church should concentrate on spiritual matters, not political ones.

• Those who support abolition are, in James H. Thornwell’s words, “atheists, socialists, communists [and] red republicans.”