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Answ. In order to discover the true meaning of this text, I think it is necessary to attend to some of the next preceding verses. Verse 3. "Evcry moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things." When man was first created, God gave him the herbs of the field, and the fruit of trees, for food. And in this verse, for the first time, he grants him permission to eat the flesh of animals. "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you." The expression is unlimited and, universal. It includes the whole genus of animals, or living creatures, of which mankind forms one species. But we find two important exceptions to this general rule in the two next verses. Verse 4. "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." Here the eating of the blood of all animals is forbid den. Verse 5. "And surely your blood of your lives will I require at the hand of every beast will I require it and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother, will I require the life of man." I would ask what other language could have been used, that would have impressed on the mind of man a higher sense of the sacred importance and inviolability of his life! This verse is a solemn denunciation against the shedding of any human blood and is in perfect concord with the sixth commandment, which absolutely forbids it, without any
proviso, or exception. In the 5th verse men are warned not to shed any human blood; because God will require it at their hands. And lest that awful awful denunciation should prove insufficient to deter blood-thirsty man from committing the atrocious crime, in the sixth verse they are warned of the consequences, which in this life generally follow the bloody deed;' as effects will follow their causes ; namely, that by so doing they put their own lives in jeopardy. It rouses in the survivors, all the vindictive passions, jealousies and fears for their own safety, that are implanted in our nature. And these have generally been sufficient to cause the blood of the murderer to be shed; and thus the fore-warning in the text hath generally been verified I consider this text, in connection with the context, not as a command to shed the blood of the murderer, but as a most solemn warning to every man not to take away the life of any human being, for food, or on any pretence what
In the first place I would premise that our auxiliary verb shall, does not always imply a command. It is frequently used by the translators of the Bible in lieu of the verb will, as declarative of something to happen in future. Our Saviour said to his disciples, "One of you shall betray me.' And again," He that dippeth with we in the dish shall betray me." These are not to be considered as commands,
but only as declarations of what would come to pass. Our three words shall be shed, are expressed by one word in several ancient languages, and the same word stands for will be shed.
I consider the reason assigned, "For in the image of God made he man," that is, all mankind, as being good a gainst all shedding of human blood; because all men, even murderers, are made in the image of God. This reason assigned in the text, instead of supporting the construction given to it by the objector, appears to me to be in direct contrast and opposition to it, and is, in my opinion, an irrefutable argument against the effusion of any human blood!
Obj. 10. "This command to punish the murderer with death, hath been viewed as binding on all mankind in every period of the world, by such as have been favoured with divine revelation; and they have acted accordingly, from age to age, down to the present time."
Answ. It seems that the objector does not pretend to have discovered in this chapter a divine command to inflict capital punishments for any crime, except murder. Now if mankind had restricted capital punishments to the crime of murder, there would have been some plausible grounds for his assertion. But it appears from all history, sacred and profane, that vast numbers of the human race have been put to death by judicial tribuVol. VI. No. 8.
nals for other crimes and pretences, or when perfectly innocent. The best estimate that I can make on my acquaintance with the history of man from the days of Noah to the present time, is, that of the many thousands who have been subjected to death by civil tribunals, not one out of twenty (perhaps I might say, not one out of an hundred) hath suffered for the crime of murder. Hence we may safely conclude that all those who have been favoured with divine revelation have not inflicted capital punishments in obedience to any supposed command in this chapter. It is further evident from the practice of all nations who have been favoured with divine revelation, that they have not viewed this text as a divine command to put all murderers to death, because the chief magistracy, in all nations that we are acquainted with, have constantly claimed and exercised a right of repriev ing or pardoning all convicts for murder, as well as for all other crimes. Now if they had considered this text as containing a "positive command from God binding on all mankind to punish the murderer with death," they would not have claimed and exercis ed a prerogative of pardoning, or rescuing from that penalty, those whom God had sentenced to it.
Obj. 11. "The shedding of innocent blood is a crime of such a horrid nature, that, in numerous instances, such as have perpetrated it, on a cool
reflection upon their wickedness, have had their minds so harrowed with keen remorse, as to impel them to a confession of the fact, although they knew they must suffer death."
Ans. I would ask the objector, whether he thinks that death is the most suitable punishment for such sincere, remorseful, and broken-hearted penitents? Or does he imagine "that the lives of others would be endangered by such?" Will nothing short of their extermination satisfy the hardness of the human heart? God will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. He is merciful to penitent sinners! But their fellow men, their co-equals, subject to like frailties and infirmities, abhor and detest the blemishes in their own likenesses. They cannot endure the company of their frail fellow-sinners. They will not suffer them to remain on God's earth, his appointed time, even in confinement, or banishment !!!
Obj 12. In the black catalogue of human crimes, we find some that are of so deep a dye, and so horribly wicked, that we can hardly devise punishments adequate to the crimes. Great crimes, call for great punishments. A repeal of all the capital statutes. in the penal code, might weakthe energies of government, and strengthen the bands of iniquity.
Answer. There are two systems of laws, namely, di vine and human; and both of these, generally speaking,
have a bearing on criminal causes.
It appears to me to be demonstrable from the reason' and nature of things, that the civil judge in estimating the demerit of a civil crime, ought to consider it merely as a civil misdemeanor. In apportioning the reparation, or punishment of the crime, he ought to consider the sinfulness, of the act as not coming within his jurisdiction. By sinfulness I mean the violations of the divine law. I believe the truth of this position, and the importance of this distinction, will be acknowledged by our ablest civilians in theory, however little it may have been regarded in practice. The popular cry of a blood thirsty mob, in the trial of civil crimes, may have too much influence on a judge possessing a moderate share of candour, discernment, and impartiality. Witness the trial and condemnation of our blessed Saviour before the civil tribunal of Pontius Pilate'
God says, "to me belongeth vengeance, and recompence: I will repay.' " Whenever men have usurped this sacred prerogative of the Deity, under the specious pretence of assisting the Almighty in punishing the violations of his law (or rather to make a pompous display of their own hatred of all iniquity) they have given deplorable and incontestible proofs of their own frailty, and incompetency! By usurping "the power of death for a time," and under the pretence of rooting out the tares
from among the wheat, they have, in numberless instances, rooted up the wheat also.
The prevention of crimes will conduce much more to the peace, security, and happiness of the community, than the punishment of them. The multitude of crimes denotes the corruptness of government and, eventually, occasions impunity. In order to effect a cure, the remedy must be applied where the evil originated. The frequency of punishments, lessens their value. The cruelty and inhumanity of them, will multiply crimes for cruelty and inhumanity, like most other things, will beget their own likenesses.
The civil ruler (as well as the head of a family) by governing himself, and by exercising his authority with moderation, will soon acquire the love and respect of all his subjects: for a man in authority hath ample means of gaining an ascendency over all that are under him. By making By making them wise and happy, he will gain their affections; and these will increase and confirm his influence, and wi beget in them a sincere regard for the laws. The path of duty will then become pleasant and delightful. And their love and respect for him, a sense of duty, and a regard to their own happiness, will ensure a more valuable, and more lasting obedience, than terror, compulsion, or cruelty.
The greatness of punishments does not have so benefitial an effect in preventing
crimes, as many persons are apt to imagine.
The threatening of death, would be wholly disregarded by a person in a paroxysm of rage, fortitude or despair. All our bloody statutes will not restrain the duellist, the assassin, or the desperado; who in order to obtain the object of his pursuit, will risk his own life, and brave all dangers. Mankind have found by long and sad experience, that the threatening and infliction of death, will not lesson moral depravity; because more extra crimes are generallly committed during one capital trial, and public execution (exclusive of shedding his blood) than the culprit himself had been guilty of.
If our legislators would publicly acknowledge the sacred inviolability of the human life; and would renounce their peculiar privilege of deliberately shedding human blood, I firmly believe, that the duellist, and the assassin would no longer consider his profession as being honourable, and would renounce the practice.
Severity and cruelty, are more excusable in a savage, than in a citizen. They are insufferable in a christian! In the New Testament (the christian's constitution) read much about our forgiving the trespasses of others against us, and but little about our punishing them. The Latin maxim, Humanum est errare, Divinum parcere, (it is man-like to transgress; Godlike to forgive) is a noble spec
imen of heathen philosophy. But the pure principles of christianity, instruct us more fully, and more forcibly, in our moral duties. The divine precept to do to others, as we would that others (circumstances exchanged) should do to us, is a perfect rule of moral rectitude. Can any sober, reflecting man, who hath ever sinned against his God and Judge, expect forgiveness at the day of general retribution, if his tender mercies towards a fellow creature, are cruelty? Can a professor of christianity, in the exercise of an unrelenting temper, with a good grace pray his Heavenly Father to forgive his trespasses, as he forgives those who have trespassed against him?
Mankind are not such unbiassed and competent judges in criminal causes, as they imagine themselves to be. They manifest great dexterity in discovering, and magnifying the failings of others.
Like Herschel's telescope,
I never beheld the public execution of any person with whom I had had any former acquaintance. But I have witnessed the execution of a number whom I never saw before they were conducted to the gallows. Their crimes were burglary, and desertion from our army. If such an affecting tragedy could force tears of sympathy from strangers, what would be the heart. rending agonies of an affectionate father, mother, brother, sister, or wife, to behold the unnatural scene?
SPEECH OF AN INDIAN CHIEF TO A SWEDISH MISSIONARY. by interpreters. The Missionary upon his return to Sweden, published his sermon and the Indian's answer. Having wrote them in Latin, he dedicated them to the Univer
of Upsal, and requested them to furnish him with`arguments to confute such strong reasonings of the Indians. The Indian's speech, translated from the Latin, is as follows:
"In or about the year of our Lord, 1710, a Swedish Missionary preached a Sermon, at an Indian treaty, held in Conestogoe in Pennsylvania, in which sermon he set forth original sin, the necessi-sity ty of a Mediator, and endeavoured by certain arguments to induce the Indians to embrace the christian religion. After he had ended his discourse one of the Indian Chiefs made a speech in reply to the sermon; and the discourses on both sides were made known
"Since the subject of his (the Missionary's) errand is to persuade us to embrace a new