My Friends — My Sisters:

How impor­tant is the occa­sion for which we have assem­bled our­selves togeth­er this evening, to hold a feast, to feed our nev­er-dying minds, to excite each oth­er to deeds of mer­cy, words of peace; to stir up in the bosom of each, grat­i­tude to God for his increas­ing good­ness, and feel­ing of deep sym­pa­thy for our brethren and sis­ters, who are in this land of Chris­t­ian light and lib­er­ty held in bondage the most cru­el and degrad­ing — to make their cause our own!

An Eng­lish writer has said, 

We must feel deeply before we can act right­ly; from that absorb­ing, heart-ren­der­ing com­pas­sion for our­selves springs a deep­er sym­pa­thy for oth­ers, and from a sense of our weak­ness and our own upbraid­ings aris­es a dis­po­si­tion to be indul­gent, to for­bear, to forgive.”

This is my experience. 

One short year ago, how dif­fer­ent were my feel­ings on the sub­ject of slav­ery! It is true, the wail of the cap­tive some­times came to my ear in the midst of my hap­pi­ness, and caused my heart to bleed for his wrongs; but, alas! the impres­sion was as evanes­cent as the ear­ly cloud and morn­ing dew. I had formed a lit­tle world of my own, and cared not to move beyond its precincts. 

But how was the scene changed when I beheld the oppres­sor lurk­ing on the bor­der of my own peace­ful home! I saw his iron hand stretched forth to seize me as his prey, and the cause of the slave became my own. I start­ed up, and with one mighty effort threw from me the lethar­gy which had cov­ered me as a man­tle for years; and deter­mined, by the help of the Almighty, to use every exer­tion in my pow­er to ele­vate the char­ac­ter of my wronged and neglect­ed race. 

One year ago, I detest­ed the slave­hold­er; now I can pity and pray for him. Has not this been your expe­ri­ence, my sis­ters? Have you not felt as I have felt upon this thrilling sub­ject? My heart assures me some of you have.

And now, my sis­ters, I would earnest­ly and affec­tion­ate­ly press upon you the neces­si­ty of plac­ing your whole depen­dence on God; poor, weak, finite crea­tures as we are, we can do noth­ing for our­selves. He is all pow­er­ful; He is wait­ing to be gra­cious to us as a peo­ple. Do you feel your inabil­i­ty to do good? Come to Him who giveth lib­er­al­ly and upbraideth not; bring your wrongs and fears to Him, as you would to a ten­der par­ent — He will sym­pa­thise with you. 

I know from blessed, heart-cheer­ing expe­ri­ence the excel­len­cy of hav­ing a God to trust to in sea­sons of tri­al and con­flict. What but this can sup­port us should the pesti­lence which has dev­as­tat­ed Asia be born to us by the sum­mer breezes ? What but this can uphold our faint­ing foot­steps in the swellings of Jor­dan? It is the only thing worth liv­ing for — the only thing that can dis­arm death of his sting. I am earnest­ly solic­i­tous that each of us may adopt this language: 

I have no hope in man, but much in God— Much in the rock of ages.”

In con­clu­sion, I would respect­ful­ly rec­om­mend that our men­tal feast should com­mence by read­ing a por­tion of the Holy Scrip­tures. A pause should pro­ceed the read­ing for sup­pli­ca­tion. It is my wish that the read­ing and con­ver­sa­tion should be alto­geth­er direct­ed to the sub­ject of slav­ery. The refresh­ment which may be offered to you for the body, will be of the most sim­ple kind, that you may feel for those who have noth­ing to refresh body and mind.

Sarah Mapps Dou­glass, The Cause of the Slave Became My Own,” giv­en as an address to the Female Lit­er­ary Soci­ety of Philadel­phia in June 1832, and sub­se­quent­ly pub­lished in William Lloyd Garrison’s news­pa­per The Lib­er­a­tor Vol. II. No. 29 (July 21, 1832).

Art­work: Psalm 139 by Christa Rosier. Used by permission.

Text First Published July 1832 · Last Featured on June 2022

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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