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Exodus 21:16 - Homiletics

The crime of man-stealing.

To steal the purse of a man is a trivial crime; to filch his good name is a serious one; but the worst robbery of all is to steal his person. Civilised, refined, polished, intellectual men, happy in the enjoyment of freedom, wealth, honour, domestic happiness, have gone to sleep in comfort, peace, and fancied security, to wake up in the grip of lawless man-stealers, who have bound them and carried them into a hopeless captivity, far from any relative or friend, to become familiar with every sort of ill-usage and indignity. Cilician and other pirates did this in the olden time; Norman sea-kings in the middle ages; Algerine corsairs so late as the last century. The blood boils when we think of the sufferings inflicted on thousands of our species by these fiends in human shape, without pity, without conscience, without remorse. Death was certainly a punishment not one whit too severe for this atrocious crime, by which the happiest of the human race might become suddenly one of the most wretched. In modern times, the conscience of mankind, enlightened by eighteen centuries of Christianity, has revolted against the enormity long committed with impunity on the negro races of Western Africa, and the slave-trade has been proclaimed a form of piracy. Yet the accursed traffic still continues in the centre and in the east of the "Dark Continent;" still quiet villagers are awakened in the dead of night by the news that the kidnapper is upon them; harmless, peaceable men, together with their wives and children, are carried off in hundreds by Arab and sometimes by so-called Christian traders, driven to the coast in gangs, shipped in crowded dhows, and sold to the best bidder in the marts of Arabia and Persia. It is a subject well worthy the consideration of Christian governments, whether a revival of the Mosaic enactment is not required, to stop a trade the profits of which are so enormous, that nothing short of death is likely to deter avaricious men from engaging in it.

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