Sarah Grimké recounts this incident, related to her by a close friend whose husband was a plantation owner on an adjacent plantation:
There was a slave of [well-known holiness]. A planter was one day dining with the owner of this slave, and in the course of conversation observed that all profession of religion among slaves was mere hypocrisy. [The master] asserted a contrary opinion, [saying], “I have a slave, who I believe would rather die than deny his Saviour.”
This was ridiculed, and the master was urged to prove his assertion. He accordingly sent for this man of God, and ordered him to deny his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The slave [was shocked, and said he could not], constantly affirming that he would rather die than deny the Redeemer, whose blood was shed for him.
His master, after vainly trying to induce obedience by threats, had him terribly whipped. The fortitude of the [beaten and bleeding slave] was not to be shaken; he nobly rejected the offer of exemption from further [beating] at the expense of destroying his soul, and [so] this blessed martyr died [being beaten to death for the love of the Saviour].
As Lord Acton once observed to his friend Bishop Creighton, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It is hard to imagine power more absolute than that which a master wields over a slave. The hideous thing about absolute power is that the one possessing it remains unaware of the corrosive effect of it on his soul. The slaveholders whom the Grimké sisters have described would have been shocked at their (and our) reaction to them. For more than a few southern planters, the power they wielded dehumanized them, without their realizing it.
From Sea to Shining SeaBy Peter Marshall and David Manuel