In the light of recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations might I offer these comments. All manifestations of racial disrespect are disgraceful to sincere Christian people. They flow obviously from the Fall of man. All hatred, all superiority, all disdain, all persecution of ‘other’ ethnic groups and religions, together with all ideological persecution (which is the greatest killer in modern times), and all class prejudice is forbidden by the sixth commandment – ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ As Moses explains, the command not to kill extends from hatred to kidnap, taking away a person’s liberty, and self-respect and all manner of related things. It is in the murder family of sins.
Although kidnap is condemned in the Bible, slavery of a kind was tolerated in a fallen society, in the case of people going into servitude through inadequacy or debt or through war and conquest. But the rule of the Scripture was – ‘Six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free.’ Imagine how many times over that would have liberated all slaves, bond-slaves, and servants of almost any kind! That was the rule of Moses.
No doubt many well-meaning people get involved in BLM demonstrations, but this particular organisation is something to be very concerned about because it is a very speckled creature. It was founded in the USA by young thinkers with very definitely atheistic views, and committed to radically alternative sexual morality, and to Marxist and even anarchist ideology. That is all well known. There may, unknown to me, be regional chapters where there are people who are not closely associated with radical sexual views, but this is the foundation and inclination of the movement as a whole.
1. Now for the Christian, first, we cannot have close associations or common cause with people whose objectives and views are anti-moral, anti-God, anti-Christian. We cannot do that. We must follow the Scriptures on matters of association.
2. Then, secondly, lawbreaking for Christians is always forbidden by Scripture. Damage to property and incitement to damage, all that is against the civil law, is contrary to the Word of God. We may refer to Romans 13, 1 Peter 2.13-17. Such texts are very clear and incontrovertible.
3. Thirdly, the Gospel always comes first for us. Our major aim and cause is the Gospel of Christ’s kingdom.
4. Fourthly, any social influence that we have the opportunity to exert has to be lawful. That has always been a principle of true Christianity.
5. And fifthly, and perhaps this ought to have been first, the house of God must always be an example of sincere mutual regard and of perfect racial harmony. We believe (according to Genesis) there is only one human race. Our Particular Baptist tradition, if I may use that expression, has always been very outspoken on one human race.
I can remind you of people whose names you know so well, like William Carey, who opposed slavery from the time of his conversion. Even as a youngster he joined the West Indian sugar boycott in order to express his objection to it, and he taught so strongly against slavery.
In his most famous and first work, The Enquiry, he encouraged the preaching of the Gospel to the heathen. And as you know, as Carey and his mission work proceeded, he was persecuted with great ferocity by the British colonial authorities because of his views and because of his influence. When he wrote the foundation documents for the mission that he founded, which was the blue touchpaper for the entire missionary movement in its time, one of the earliest articles in it was his strong view, shared by his fellow labourers, that the white missionaries should be leaving the field as soon as possible having trained and handed over to indigenous pastors and church leaders. That was always the attitude of the Particular Baptists.
I want to say a few words very briefly and quickly about William Knibb who was, not so many years after Carey, a missionary in the West Indies. And if I can plug my little book, Missionary Triumph over Slavery; we issued it around 2006. Everyone has heard of William Wilberforce, who died just before the emancipation of slaves, but few know of Knibb.
William Knibb as a young man was a missionary in Jamaica; he was persecuted for his work and his views by the colonial authorities, by the settlers there, and at one point because they were seeking to assassinate him, he was compelled to return to Britain for a while and take refuge. He conducted a tremendous tour of the British churches, packed halls everywhere, and told the story of slavery – and the things that went on, and his own persecution. He did it so successfully that he was the major means of turning the British middle and working classes in favour of the abolition of slavery. When many were uncertain and many thought the accounts they were hearing were exaggerated, it was this man who at the age of 29 really turned almost everyone round. It was quite remarkable. He was such a fine and eloquent speaker and so fervent in this, and he carried the day.
My little book is a very short work, only about 50 pages long and half of it is wonderful pictures. People are ignorant of these things today and they don’t realise how strongly these missionaries resisted colonial slavery.
The Anglican missionaries in Jamaica very largely served the colonial power and did their bidding and they didn’t show any enthusiasm for the abolition of slavery. In fact they supported settlers in all their atrocities, at least most of them did. But the Methodist and the Baptist missionaries were generally quite different and it was Knibb who was so instrumental in the final push towards the abolition act.
Then C H Spurgeon in his time was strongly against slavery. There are many records of the things that were said of Spurgeon in the southern states of America once they discovered how hostile he was to slavery. He would not fellowship with a slave owner. They turned against him and the sales of his sermons fell dramatically in the South.
We are wholly sympathetic with people who are upset about atrocities that rise from racial disharmony, and about all the low-level prejudice and foolishness too. In the church of Jesus Christ and in the Tabernacle we want to demonstrate how things ought to be, through prayer and proper love and mutual affection.
Things could be said about the taking down of statues. I don’t think most of the statues that people are objecting to should have been erected in the first place, but there are proper, legal ways of dealing with them, and that is the approach we should support.
I don’t know, incidentally, why the folk who want to pull down statues do not seek to topple the statues of Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley and people like that. While, to his credit, Darwin was against slavery, nevertheless he was an imperialist and one of the founders of a system of thought which has inspired and energised racism and imperialism. So was Huxley; if anything he was a more influential promoter than Darwin. Yet when it comes to them, the people who pull down statues say, ‘O leave them alone. They were people of their time. They couldn’t help it. Everybody thought like that.’ They say that kind of thing. Why do they defend the Darwins and the Huxleys? Well, of course, because they conceived and refined an explanation for existence without God. Through them, society can do away with God and write its own morals. And being anti-moral and LGBT, men such as Darwin and Huxley are essential to them, so they are heroes and they are excused. But they shouldn’t be excused, because to this day in the minds of ordinary people evolution is the appalling basis and justification of racial disdain. It is the head-on contradiction of the biblical truth that we are created as one race. It is the engine of the monster.
Taken from a short Metropolitan Tabernacle Prayer Meeting address.
From The Sword & Trowel 2020, issue 2