The life story of Frederick Douglas remains a definitive work on slavery in pre-civil war America, because he was a slave, an eye witness, writing from experience. He secretly taught himself to read and freed his mind and the rest of him followed in due course.
Everything about slavery was designed to prevent any thought or hope of freedom; the slaveholders knew their craft well. The brutality required to subjugate their slaves and turn them into brutes, turned the slaveholders themselves into something much worse. One could say that to be a slave was to be possessed by the possessed.
It makes all the more understandable the condition of being a slave to sin, to be beholden to the cruellest taskmaster of all.
For Frederick, even though he was learned and articulate, there were so many obstacles and dangers in obtaining freedom, discouragements and temptations to resignation and settling for the certainties of slavery rather than the risk and uncertainty of freedom. Many ensnared in sin suffer the same malaise. Freedom, whilst desirable, will make demands also.
The slave to sin initially gives reasons to sin because of the pleasure derived from it, then justifies it as not being sinful at all as the heart becomes calloused. Eventually there will come a point where the slave to sin has an emptiness that is so great that it can either lead to despair and self destruction or by God’s grace to liberation and salvation.
Eventually the yearning to be free overwhelmed Frederick. Standing over a harbour looking at the sailing ships he prayed “You are loosed from your moorings and are free, I am fast in my chains and am a slave. You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip. You are freedom’s swift winged angels. I am confined in bands of iron…It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave.” Then he escaped.
For those entrenched in lives of bondage to sin, of whatever varieties, time will come when the heart cries out in a similar way. Freedom is only a step away, a decision and a prayer for mercy and forgiveness; then freedom is given by the Lord in an instant. That’s the miracle of the Divine Mercy.