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SERMON XXXV.

AGAINST THE CRIME OF MURDER.

EXODUS XXI. 14.

But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him

with guile,-thou shalt take him from my altar, that he may die

As the end and happy result of society was our mutual protection from the depredations which malice and avarice lay us open to,-so have the laws of God laid proportionable restraints against such violations as would defeat us of such a security-Of all other attacks which can be made against us, that of a man's life, which is his all, being the greatest, -the offence, in God's dispensation to the Jews, was denounced as the most heinous,—and represented as most unpardonable. At the hand of every "man's brother will I require the life of man.. " Whoso sheddeth man's bloocl, by man shall his blood be shed.-Ye shall take no satisfaction for " the life of a murderer ;-he shall surely be put to “ death. So ye shall not pollute the land wherein

ye are,- for blood defileth the land ;-and the land

cannot be cleansed of blood that is shed therein, “ but by the blood of him that shed it.”—For this reason, by the laws of all civilized nations, in all parts of the globe, it has been punished with death.

Some civilized and wise communities have so far incorporated these severe dispensations into their municipal laws, as to allow of no distinction betwixt murder and homicide, at least, in the penalty :leaving the intentions of the several parties concerned in it to that Being who knows the heart, and will adjust the differences of the case hereafter. This falls, no doubt, heavy upon particulars ;-but it is urged for the benefit of the whole. It is not the business of a préacher to enter into an examination of the grounds and reasons for so seeming a severi. ty-Where most severe,—they have proceeded, no doubt, from an excess of abhorrence of a crime, which is, of all others, most terrible and shocking in its own nature and the most direct attack and stroke at society,--as the security of a man's life was the first protection of society,--the ground-work of all the other blessings to be desired from such a compact.-Theftsoppressions-exactions and violences of that kind, cut off the branches ;--this smote the root ;-all perished with it: the injury irreparable :- :-no after-act could make amends for it. What recompense can he give to a man in ex: change for his life ?-What satisfaction to the widQW, the fatherless-to the family,the friends, the relations,-cut off from his protection, and rendered, perhaps, destitute !--perhaps miserable forever!

No wonder that, by the law of nature, this crime was always pursued with the most extreme ven. geance ;-which made the barbarians to judge, when they saw St. Paul upon the point of dying a sudden and terrifying death,“No doubt, this man is a “ murderer ; who, though he has escaped the sea, “.yet vengeance suffereth not to live."

The censure there was rash and uncharitable; but the honest detestation of the crime was uppermost—They saw a dreadful punishment, they thought ;--and in seeing the one, they suspected the other :-and the vengeance which had overtaken the holy man, was meant by them the vengeance and punishment of the Almighty Being, whose providence and honour was concerned in pursuing him from the place he had fled from to that island.

The honour and authority of God is most evidently struck at, most certainly, in every such crime, and, therefore, he would pursue it ;-it being the reason (in the ninth of Genesis) upon which the prohibition of murder is grounded;- for in the image 6 of God created he man:"-as if to attempt the life of a man had something in it peculiarly daring and audacious;- not only shocking as to its consequence above all other crimes, but of personal violence and indignity against God, the author of our life and death.-That it is the highest act of injustice to man, and which will admit of no compensation, I have said.But the depriving a man of life, does not comprehend the whole of his suffering; he may be cut off in an unprovided or disordered condition, with regard to the great account betwixt himself and his Maker :- he may be under the power of irregular passions and desires.-- The best of men are not always upon their guard ;-and I am sure we have all reason to join in that affecting part of our litany,That, amongst other evils, God would deliver us from sudden death ;-that we may have some foresight of that period, to compose our spirits, -prepare our accounts and put ourselves in the best posture we can to meet it; for, after we are most prepared,-it is a terror to human nature !

The people of some nations are said to have a peculiar art in poisoning, by slow and gradual ad. vances. In this case, however horridit savours of mercy with regard to our spiritual state ;--for the sensible decays of nature, which a sufferer must feel within him from the secret workings of the horrid drug, give warning, and shew that mercy which the bloody hand that comes upon his neighbour suddenly, and slays him with guile,-has denied him. It may serve to admonish him of the duty of repentance, and to make his peace with God whilst he had time and opportunity.-The speedy execution of justice, which, as our laws now stand, and which were intended for that end,must strike the greater terror upon that account.-Short as the interval between sentence and death is it is long, compared to the case of the murdered. Thou allowedst the man no time,--said the judge to a late criminal, in a most affecting manner ;-thou allowedst hiin not a moment to prepare for eternity !-and to one who thinks at all,-it is, of all reflections and self-accu. sations, the most heavy and unsurmountable,--That, by the hand of violence, a man in a perfect state of healthywhilst he walks out in perfect security, as he thinks, with his friends ;-perhaps whilst he is sleeping soundly,to be burried out of the world by the assassin -by a sudden stroke-to find himself at the bar of God's justice, without notice and pre. paration for his trial !-'tis most horrible !

Though he be really a good man (and, it is to be hoped, God makes merciful allowances in such cases)—yet it is a terrifying consideration at the best ;-and, as the injury is greater,—there are also very aggravating circumstances relating to the person who commits this act ;-as when it is the effect not of a rash and sudden passion, which sometimes disorders and confounds reason for a moment, but of a deliberate and propense design or malice. When the sun not only goes down, but rises upon his wrath ;-when he sleeps not till he has struck the stroke !-when, after he has had time and leisure to recollect himself,—and consider what he is going to do ;-when, after all the checks of conscience, the struggles of humanity,

the recoilings of his own blood at the thoughts of shedding another man's he shall persist still,--and resolve to do it !-Merciful God! protect us from doing or suffering such evils !- Blessed be thy name and providence, which seldom or ever suffers it to escape with impunity! -In vain does the guilty flatter himself with hopes of secrecy or impunity : the eye of God is always upon him.-Whither can he fly from his presence ! -By the immensity of his nature, he is present in all places by the infinity of it, to all times by his omniscience, to all thoughts, words, and actions of men-By an emphatical phrase in scripture, the blood of the innocent is said to cry to heaven from the ground for vengeance ;--and it was for this reason--that he might be brought to justice,-that he was debarred the benefit of any asylum and the cities of refuge :--for the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood ;-and their eye should not pity him.

The text says-“Thou shalt take him from my « altar, that he may die.”—It had been a very ancient imagination, that for men guilty of this and other horrid crimes

a place held sacred, as dedi

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