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of the slave, as his history beautifully demonstrates. The conduct of Gregory outlines the policy of the Pontiffs that have succeeded him.
In the next place the Christian missionary cheered the heart of the converted slave by giving a prominent place to those virtues that had hitherto been deemed mean, contemptible and unworthy of a freeman. The virtues appreciated and extolled by the Pagan world as the ideal of human perfection were courage, fortitude, magnanimity, self-reliance, and all such as are calculated to excite the admiration and win the applause of the populace. But poverty of spirit, humility and meekness under contempt, patience and resignation under affronts, forgiveness of injuries and love of enemies, a spirit of obedience and long-suffering, were despised by them as servile virtues, or rather as no virtues at all, but the base characteristics of an enslaved and ignoble caste.
The founder of the Christian religion set His royal seal on these despised virtues and proclaimed their true value, so that henceforth they passed current among the faithful as the most precious medium of communication, enriching souls and purchasing the kingdom of heaven. He taught them these virtues by word and example from Bethlehem to Calvary.
The wretched hovel of the slave was no longer degrading to him when he reflected that the Son of Man had not where to lay His head. He had comfort in his bondage seeing that the Lord of heaven humbled Himself, "taking the form of a slave."
How could manual labor be degrading to him when he learned that his Divine Master had for several years worked as an artisan? How could obedience be any longer intolerable to him, since his Lord had become for his sake "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross!" Neither could chains nor stripes rob him of his peace of mind, when he remembered that his Master bore them at the pillory. It is a great alleviation to a captive people for a prince voluntarily to share their miseries; and, above all, are they consoled when conscious that their future recompense will be proportioned to their present sufferings if borne with Christian patience.
The Apostle of the Gentiles frequently comforts the Christian slave by reminding him of the real source of moral grandeur. He tells him that true dignity does not depend on the accident of birth, or wealth, or civil freedom, or social station, but that virtue is the sole standard of moral excellence in the sight of God, as well as the sole test of future retribution. He informs the slave that he has a soul as well as Cæsar; that he is the child of God by adoption, the brother of Christ, and a member of His mystical body; and that he has equal privileges with the freeman to a participation in the Divine Spirit. "In one spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free."1
In the family of Christ to which they belong "there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor
1I. Cor. XII., 13.
uncircumcision, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all." No wonder that the slave took heart on listening to revelations so cheering.
Again the Church contributed largely to the moral elevation of the slave by levelling all distinctions between bond and free in her temples and religious assemblies. As soon as the slave entered the place of worship he breathed the air of liberty. He possessed every privilege accorded to the freeman. He was admitted to an equal participation in the Sacraments of the Church. He was baptized at the same font. He sat side by side with his master at the Agape, and joined with him in the public prayers." In the penitential discipline of the Church there was no class distinction. The Christian master who had no punishment to fear from the State for scourging his slave to death, was, if guilty of such a crime, debarred by the ecclesiastical law from Holy Communion. The slave was admitted into the ranks of the clergy, though before taking orders he was redeemed from bondage, as none but freemen served at the altar. In a council held in Rome, in 597, under Pope Gregory, it was decreed that freedom should be granted to slaves that wished to embrace the monastic state. The applicants, however, were not indiscriminately received, for wise precautions were taken to ascertain the sincerity of their vocation.
1 Colloss. III., 11.
Ibid., p. 67.
2 Hist. of Europ. Morals, II., 66. Balmez, pp. 109 and 437.
Not only were slaves permitted to join in the public offices of the Church and in the reception of the Sacraments, not only were they raised to the ranks of the clergy, but many of them who had died for Christ were honored in Christian sanctuaries as saints and martyrs, and even had temples erected to their honor. The names of Blandina, Potamiena, Eutyches, Victorinus, Nereus, and numerous others, are enrolled in our Martyrology. The most stately Byzantine church in Ravenna is dedicated to a martyred slave.1
The Church taught the slave and the master their reciprocal duties, prescribing laws that exercised a salutary restraint on the authority of the one, and sanctified the obedience of the other. "Servants," says St. Paul, "be obedient to your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the simplicity of your heart as to Christ. Not serving to the eye as pleasing men, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.... Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man shall do, the same shall he receive from the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatenings, knowing that the Lord both of them and you is in Heaven; and there is no respect of persons with Him." 2
In his touching letter to Philemon, while fully recognizing the claims of the master, the Apostle
exhorts him to receive Onesimus not only as his slave, but also as his brother in Christ; and while pleading for the slave he does not exempt him from the lawful service he owes to his master.
This brief Epistle of twenty-five verses has served as a guiding principle to the Church in her solution of the slave problem; and it has contributed more to alleviate the miseries of humanity than all the moral treatises of the most philanthropic of Pagan philosophers.
Perhaps the most substantial service rendered by the Church to the slaves was the recognition of their marriage-tie as valid and indissoluble, and not as mere concubinage such as Paganism regarded it. Pope Adrian I., in the eighth century, uses the following language: "According to the words of the Apostles, as in Jesus Christ, we ought not to deprive either slaves or freemen of the Sacraments of the Church, so it is not allowed in any way to prevent the marriage of slaves; and if their marriages have been contracted in spite of the opposition of their masters, they ought nevertheless not to be dissolved in any way." And St. Thomas maintains that slaves are not bound to obey their masters in regard to the contracting of marriage.2
In upholding the moral dignity and prerogatives of the slave, the Church was striking a blow for his civil freedom. Though she was not charged with the framing of the civil laws, she moved the hearts of
1De Conjug. Serv., lib. IV., tom. 9, c. 1,
2 2a, 2o, Quæs. 104, art. 5,