The informality of household instruction was reinforced by the more formal attentions of [white] Yankee clergymen [in the late 1700s]. Ministers like Cotton Mather and John Usher commonly inquired into the conduct of their black parishioners, continually urging them onward in the Christian life. Ministers also catechized groups..., preaching special sermons to the black members of their congregations and lecturing to black religious and social associations….
The social aspects of Christian fellowship at first must have been more attractive to potential converts than the theology preached to the servant population. The religion tendered slaves was not the Weberian Puritanism of the protestant ethic; instead, slave religion inculcated servility and Augustinian acceptance of menial status and submission to authority. In New England, as throughout the United States, Protestant Christianity was presented to slaves as a defense of the status quo.
Christianity, as Cotton Mather noted in his Catechism for Negroes, made better servants, since blacks who knew God would also know their proper place….
Among the texts used by [white] New England ministers for special lectures to the blacks were Luke 14:16-24, Ephesians 1:5-7, Psalms 68:31, Romans 5:12, Jeremiah 5:4, Job 27:8, and Hosea 13:13. Lorenzo Greene contends that prominent among themes was emphasis upon faithful service and abstention from theft and fornication; but conversion is the most important theme in the texts noted above. Comparatively, the favorite text of sermons to slaves in the Old South was Ephesians 5:5-8, “Servants obey in all things your masters.”
above, excerpts from Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth- Century New England by the late Dr. William D. Pierson, History Professor, Chair of the History Department, and Chair of the Division of Social Sciences at Fisk University.