The Southern Work


An Example in History

The Hebrew nation were in servitude for a great number of years. They were slaves in Egypt, and the Egyptians treated them as though they had a right to control them in soul, body, and spirit. But the Lord was not indifferent to their condition, He had not forgotten His oppressed people. The record says: “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.” “The Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land, and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” SWk 41.1

When God called Moses to be His instrument in delivering the Hebrew nation out of cruel bondage, Moses considered the difficulties of the situation, and thought of the obstacles that he would have to encounter in doing this great work. He knew that the people were in blindness and ignorance, that their minds had become beclouded in faith, and that they were almost destitute of a knowledge of God. They had become degraded by associating with a nation of idolaters, and had corrupted their ways by practicing idolatry. Yet there were many who were righteous and steadfast among this downtrodden people. The Lord directed Moses to give them a message from Himself. He said: “Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: and I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” SWk 41.2

This nation of slaves was to be taught of God. Jesus Christ, enshrouded in the pillar of cloud and fire, was to be their invisible leader, the ruler over all their tribes. Moses was to be the mouthpiece of God. For forty years God ruled over them as they journeyed through the wilderness. But the Hebrew nation is not the only nation that has been in cruel bondage, and whose groanings have come to the ears of the Lord of hosts. The Lord God of Israel has looked upon the vast number of human beings who were held in slavery in the United States of America. The United States has been a refuge for the oppressed. It has been spoken of as the bulwark of religious liberty. God has done more for this country than for any other country upon which the sun shines. It has been marvelously preserved from war and bloodshed. God saw the foul blot of slavery upon this land, He marked the sufferings that were endured by the colored people. He moved upon the hearts of men to work in behalf of those who were so cruelly oppressed. The Southern States became one terrible battlefield. The graves of American sons who had enlisted to deliver the oppressed race are thick in its soil. Many fell in death, giving their lives to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that were bound. God spoke concerning the captivity of the colored people as verily as He did concerning the Hebrew captives, and said: “I have surely seen the affliction of my people ..., and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them.” The Lord wrought in freeing the Southern slaves; but He designed to work still further for them as He did for the children of Israel, whom He took forth to educate, to refine, and ennoble. Christ Himself wrought with His appointed leaders, and directed them as to what they should do for His people that had become so terribly degraded. They were to be kept separate from all nations, to be directed and counseled until, through a correct representation of the divine character, they should come to know God, to reverence and obey His commandments. SWk 41.3

Those who study the history of the Israelites should also consider the history of the slaves in America, who have suffered, who have been educated in crime, degraded, and oppressed, and left in ignorance to perish. Their physical freedom was obtained at a great loss of life, and Christians generally should have looked with compassion upon the colored race, for which God had a care. They should have done a work for them that would have uplifted them. They should have worked through the wisdom of God to educate and train them. We have been very neglectful of our colored brethren, and are not yet prepared for the coming of our Lord. The cries of these neglected people have come up before God. Who has entered into the work since their deliverance from bondage, to teach them the knowledge of God? The condition of the colored people is no more helpless than was the condition of the Hebrew slaves. The children of Israel were addicted to licentiousness, idolatry, gluttony, and gross vices. This is ever the result of slavery. But the Lord looked upon His people, and after their deliverance He educated them. They were not left uncared for. Though they had lost in years of bondage the knowledge of the true God and of His holy law, yet God again revealed Himself to them. In terrible grandeur and awful majesty He proclaimed to them His holy precepts, and commanded them to obey His law. The Ten Commandments are a transcript of the divine character, and are as unchangeable as the eternal throne. But since the slaves of the south attained to freedom, what have we as Christians done to bear any comparison to what was done for them by those who poured out their lives on the battlefield? Have we not looked upon the difficulties that presented themselves, and drawn back from the work? Perhaps some of us have felt sad over their wretchedness, but what have we done to save them from the slavery of sin? Who have taken hold of this work intelligently? Who have taken upon them the burden of presenting to them spiritual freedom that has been purchased for them at an infinite price? Have we not left them beaten, bruised, despised, and forsaken by the way? Is this the example that God has given us in the history of the deliverance of the children of Israel? By no means. SWk 42.1

Walls of separation have been built up between the whites and the blacks. These walls of prejudice will tumble down of themselves as did the walls of Jericho, when Christians obey the Word of God, which enjoins on them supreme love to their Maker and impartial love to their neighbors. For Christ's sake, let us do something now. Let every church whose members claim to believe the truth for this time, look at this neglected, downtrodden race, that, as a result of slavery, have been deprived of the privilege of thinking and acting for themselves. They have been kept at work in the cotton fields, have been driven before the lash like brute beasts, and their children have received no enviable heritage. Many of the slaves had noble minds, but the fact that their skin was dark, was sufficient reason for the whites to treat them as though they were beasts. When freedom was proclaimed to the captives, a favorable time was given in which to establish schools and to teach the people to take care of themselves. Much of this kind of work was done by various denominations, and God honored their work. Those who attempted to work for the black race had to suffer persecution, and many were martyrs to the cause. It was difficult to educate these people in correct ideas, because they had been compelled to do according to the word of their human masters. They had been subject to human passions, their minds and bodies had been abused, and it was very hard to efface the education of these people and to lead them to change their practices. But these missionaries persevered in their work. They knew that the black man had not chosen his color or his condition and that Christ had died for him as verily as He had died for his white brother. To show sympathy for the released slaves was to expose one's self to ridicule, hatred, and persecution. Old-time prejudice still exists, and those who labor in behalf of the colored race will have to encounter difficulties. SWk 43.1

The neglect of the colored race by the American nation is charged against them. Those who claim to be Christians have a work to do in teaching them to read and to follow various trades and engage in different business enterprises. Many among this race have noble traits of character and keen perception of mind. If they had an opportunity to develop, they would stand upon an equality with the whites. The Hebrew nation were educated during their journeying through the wilderness. They engaged in physical and mental labor. They used their muscles in various lines of work. The history of the wilderness life of God's chosen people was chronicled for the benefit of the Israel of God till the close of time. The apostle says, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” The Lord did not forsake His people in their wanderings through the wilderness, but many of them forsook the Lord. The education they had had in Egypt made them subject to temptation, to idolatry, and to licentiousness, and because they disregarded the commandments of the Lord, nearly all the adults who left Egypt were overthrown in the wilderness; but their children were permitted to enter Canaan. SWk 44.1

The land of Egypt was nearly desolated to bring freedom to the children of Israel; the Southern States were nearly ruined to bring freedom to the colored race. For four years war was carried on, and many lives were sacrificed, and there is mourning today because of broken family circles. Unspeakable outrages have been committed against the colored race. They had lived on through years of bondage with no hope of deliverance, and there stretched out before them a dark and dismal future. They thought that it was their lot to live on under cruel oppression, to yield their bodies and souls to the dominance of man. After their deliverance from captivity how earnestly should every Christian have cooperated with heavenly intelligences who were working for the deliverance of the downtrodden race. We should have sent missionaries into this field to teach the ignorant. We should have issued books in so simple a style that a child might have understood them, for many of them are only children in understanding. Pictures and object lessons should have been used to present to the mind valuable ideas. Children and youth should have been educated in such a way that they could have been instructors and missionaries to their parents. SWk 44.2

Let us prayerfully consider the colored race, and realize that these people are a portion of the purchased possession of Jesus Christ. One of infinite dignity, who was equal with God, humbled Himself so that He might meet man in his fallen, helpless condition, and become an advocate before the Father in behalf of humanity. Jesus did not simply declare His good will toward perishing man, but humbled Himself, taking upon Himself the nature of man. For our sakes He became poor, that we might come into possession of an immortal inheritance, be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.—The Review and Herald, December 17, 1895. SWk 45.1