I have just read The Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass. It is the story of his slavery–from his young years to the time he escaped to freedom (I think he was about 19 or twenty). He went through the usual treatment, being whipped often and regarded as an animal and as the property of the slaveholder-the master. But at the same time he secretly educated himself–leaned to read and write. I have not read any more of his life than this narrative, but I have read that he came to be a very great leader and brilliant. In fact I read that Lincoln sought his advice on a few matters.
Anyway, I was so struck with what happened shortly after he escaped to freedom in the north, in New Bedford. What he experienced was not what he expected. He all along thought that free states would be full of poor people and without comforts and wealth. I will quotes some of the lines in his book.
I had very strangely supposed, while in slavery, that few of the comforts, and scarcely any of the luxuries of life were enjoyed at the north, compared with what were enjoyed by the slaveholders of the south. I probably came to this conclusion from the fact that northern people owned no slaves… I had somehow imbibed the opinion that, in the absence of slaves, there could be no wealth, and very little refinement.
Anyway, Douglass went on and on describing his surprise at what he saw. He wrote,
I found myself surrounded with the strongest proofs of wealth.
When he visited the warehouses and places of work, he wrote,
I heard no deep oaths of horrid curses on the laborer. I saw no whipping of men; but all seemed to go smoothly on. Every man went at his work with a sense of his own dignity as a man.
Then when he strolled around the town he wrote,
[He] gazing with wonder and admiration at the splendid churches, beautiful dwellings, and finely cultivated gardens; evincing an amount of wealth, comfort, taste, and refinement, such as I had never seen in any part of slaveholding Maryland.
He went on to say,
Everything looked clean, new, and beautiful. I saw few or no dilatated houses, with poverty-stricken inmates; no half-naked children and barefooted women…the people looked more able, stronger, healthier, and happier…
Well, I can’t help but think of what slavery does to people. And Fredrick was deceived in thinking that the slaveholders were not also slaves–to to their evil wretchedness, how they continually whipped the salves every day without thinking anything of it, and how many of them cursed at the slaves and at the same time thought themselves to be good Christians. The slaveholders I think were in the worst bondage, the worst slavery–the slavery of their sins of prejudice.
As Fredrick Douglass saw, where he came to in New Bedford, that town of freedom without slavery was glorious, and wealthy. The freedom we have in Christ is the most free, the most glorious. As I read how Fredrick described the surroundings as clean, new and beautiful, so I also recall how things looked directly after I prayed to receive Christ. All things looked brighter and new and so wonderful. Even the air was fresher. I invite you to always be vigilant to confess your sins every day. Don’t let sin take a hold of you. The devil and sin is out to make you their slave–to put you in deep bondage. There is no freedom or comfort in sin. Be free of sin and you will be free indeed.