St. Gregory of Nyssa
, the first abolitionist?:
335,5. "I got me slaves and slave-girls." What do you mean? You condemn man to slavery, when his nature is free and possesses free will, and you legislate in competition with God, overturning his law for the human species. The one made on the specific terms that he should be the owner of the earth, and appointed to government by the Creator — him you bring under the yoke of slavery, as though defying and fighting against the divine decree.
335,11. You have forgotten the limits of your authority, and that your rule is confined to control over things without reason. For it says Let them rule over winged creatures andfishes and four-footed things and creeping things (Gen, 1,26). Why do you go beyond what is subject to you and raise yourself up against the very species which is free, counting your own kind on a level with four-footed things and even footless things? You have subjected all things to man, declares the word through the prophecy, and in the text it lists the things subject, cattle and oxen and sheep (Ps 8,7-8). Surely human beings have not been produced from your cattle? Surely cows have not conceived human stock? Irrational beasts are the only slaves of mankind. But to you these things are of small account. Raising Fodder for the cattle, and green plants for the slaves of men, it says (Ps104/103,14). But by dividing the human species in two with 'slavery' and 'ownership' you have caused it to be enslaved to itself, and to be the owner of itself.
336,6. "I got me slaves and slave-girls." For what price, tell me? What did you find in existence worth as much as this human nature? What price did you put on rationality? How many obols did you reckon the equivalent of the likeness of God? How many staters did you get for selling the being shaped by God? God said, Let us make man in our ownimage and likeness (Gen 1,26). If he is in the likeness of God, and rules the whole earth, and has been granted authority over everything on earth from God, who is his buyer, tell me? Who is his seller? To God alone belongs this power; or rather, not even to God himself. For his gracious gifts, it says, are irrevocable (Rom 11,29). God would not therefore reduce the human race to slavery, since he himself, when we had been enslaved to sin, spontaneously recalled us to freedom. But if God does not enslave what is free, who is he that sets his own power above God's?