Liberty On Labor Day

Neal Pollard

In 1838, September 3 was also on a Monday.  It was many years before the first Monday of September was designated as the “Labor Day” holiday, but on that day a monumental effort occurred.  On September 3, 1838, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery disguised as a sailor.  Later, he would write a book about his life in slavery (

Douglass had to work for his freedom, to rely on his cunning and ability.  He left the fields of Maryland’s Eastern Shore at the age of 18 to caulk ships, earning a wage for his master.  He borrowed a friend and fellow passenger’s “sailor’s protection” papers, which, if it had been examined closely, would have described a man much darker than himself.  To his favor, the conductor, who had been harsh and impatient with the other black passengers in the car, spoke pleasantly to him and the paper Douglass showed looked extremely official.  He spent all of September 3, 1838, hoping and praying that “slave catchers” in Maryland or Delaware would not snare him, but he survived the day and ultimately arrived in New York City.  He had to continue running, as slave-catchers resided there, too. Not long after, having arrived in New Bedford, Massachusetts, he hired himself out at the wharves. En route to search out this work, he asked if he could help put up a large pile of coal in front of a preacher’s house.  The lady of the house gave him two silver half-dollars for the work, the first money he earned as a free man (

You and I, outside of Christ, are described as “slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6,16-18,20).  Yet, we could not obtain our freedom through our cunning, wit, or abilities.  Instead, we were totally dependent upon God’s grace to emancipate us.  That does not mean that we were saved without obedience (Rom. 6:17), but it does mean that all the works and acts of obedience would be useless without God’s amazing grace (Rom. 6:14-15).  We need freedom as desperately as any slave who has ever lived, but the only way to get it is through Christ (Rom. 6:8-11).  This includes baptism (Rom. 6:3-4).

Thank God for giving us our freedom, which nothing and no one can revoke.  It was His labor, at Calvary, that brings us from sin to safety.

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