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thus limiting the prohibition to the crime of murder in its various forms. But we venture to assert, it will not be maintained by Biblical critics, that this limitation of meaning is found in the verb itself, which is unquestionably one of the most general import. The meaning of the passage, taken by itself, is simply this ; Thou shalt not take life ; life is sacred, inviolable.-Nor does anything in the connection, so far as we can perceive, suggest any such limitation, as has been contended for. The true connection and relations of the passage are to be found in the chapter, in which it is contained. There is a clear line of distinction both between what goes before and what comes after; and in this chapter it is undeniable, that no limitation of the terms in question is either made or even suggested, excepting we may infer from the general objects and manner of the communications made at this time, that the prohibition refers to the taking of human life, and not to that of brute animals.
It is not denied, that a portion of the Jewish civil Code was communicated at the same time, or nearly at the same, with the announcement of the Tables of the Moral Law; and that in this Code, the punishment of death is required to be inflicted in certain cases. But what precise time elapsed, and what explanatory or other communications took place between the announcement of the Moral and Civil code, we have now no means of knowing. We may reasonably suppose, however, that enough was communicated to the Jews to remove from the course of Divine proceeding all inconsistency and obscurity. God, it may be supposed, gave his people to understand, that the prohibition of the sixth commandment was binding upon men, to whom it was directed, and not upon himself ; that no man was at liberty to destroy the life which he could not give ; and that consequently it could not be taken in any case whatever,
without his express permission. And accordingly we find him, in his capacity of civil and political ruler, granting this permission to some extent; not because it was so in the beginning, not because he designed it to be so in the end, but undoubtedly for the reason applicable in the case of polygamy and divorce, viz, on account of the hardness of their hearts and their sins.
The prohibition, therefore, contained in the sixth commandment, stands out in all its distinctness and solemnity, sanctioned by all the impressive circumstances, which attended God's appearance on Mount Sinai, and to be obeyed in all situations whatever, except where God by a special interposition is pleased to suspend it. As God is the author of life, we naturally feel, that no one besides himself has a right to take it away with the single exception, which was mentioned in the last chapter, viz, where our own life comes in direct and certain conflict with that of another; and even in that case no one pretends to deny, that it is his right, when he sees fit to exercise it, to determine who shall fall. His command posesses the prerogative of overruling even our natural feelings of resentment. Whatever may be true on the subject of taking human life when we are left to the light of nature, it is certain, that God, when he undertakes to reveal his will and to legislate in addition to and in completion of the light of nature, may lay down such regulations in regard to the inviolability of life as he sees fit. He has said, thOU SHALT NOT KILL ; he has made use of the most general terms, clearly asserting the inviolability of human life in all cases whatever ; he has promulgated this command in the most solemn manner; he has incorporated it into the specific and glorious code of the Ten Commandments, which alone, amid the wreck of ceremonial and political regulations, is sanctioned and established forever by the Mediator of the New Covenant.
This, therefore, is the conclusion at which we arrive on this part of our subject. In the periods of the Old Testament, life was taken and wars were carried on by those, who are represented in the Epistle to the Hebrews as having lived and died in the faith, not on the ground of natural right, (for they were now placed under a theocracy or economy above that of the light of nature,) but on the ground of permission. God, as the great arbiter of life and death, had once in his righteous anger drowned the whole world, had sent down fire and consumed the corrupt cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, had opened the earth and swallowed up Korah and his company, and in repeated instances he smote and destroyed his own people and their enemies with some deadly disease ; but he saw fit for wise reasons, which we are not at liberty to gainsay, to employ war as the more common instrument of his indignation. When he saw a nation occupying lands belonging to another, as was the case with the Canaanites in their occupancy of Palestine; when he saw them unjustly attempting to destroy his own beloved people ; when he beheld them given up to every species of idolatry and moral corruption, he determined to secure the great ends of justice and beneficence by destroying them in war. It is true, he might have effected his object by other means, but he chose this. If his people in some instances, either in their forgetfulness or their sin, seized the sword and took life without his permission, we find that they did not always escape his rebukes and chastisements; and certainly this unauthorized and sinful conduct is no suitable precedent and authority for us.*
* There is one passage of the Old Testament, Gen. 9:6, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed,” which might have been introduced here. But in order to prevent repetition, the examination of it is reserved to one of the chapters on Capital Punishment.
But it is worthy of particular notice, that, while the taking of life and the practise of war were permitted during the periods of the Old Testament dispensations, we have repeated intimations in the Old Testament itself of a better state of things; of a day when war and its attendant miseries shall cease. The ceremonial institutions and rites seem to have had a meaning, prefigurative of that better, purer, and more peaceful state. Even the tabernacle and the temple had their spiritual import. And it is worthy of remark, that David, with all his success and glory, was not permitted to build the Temple, because he had shed blood abundantly and made great wars.” This certainly looks, as if the shedding of blood was not a thing pleasant in the sight of God ; but was permitted, in the wisdom and supremacy of his Providence, in consequence of the peculiar situation of mankind. But there are express predictions on this subject. It is not necessary to repeat all the passages, which are now referred to. A few will afford ample matter for profound reflection.—Isa. 2: 3, 4. “And many people shall go and say, Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths ; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people ; and shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks ; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. And again in the same prophet, chap. 9:6, 7, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his naine shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his
Of the increase of his government and peace, there shall be no end.” And again, chap. 11 : 1,5,6,
7, 8, 9, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid ; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den.— They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my Holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” See also the prophet Micah 4:145.
In view of these passages and others of a like import, it cannot be doubted, that we are fully authorized to anticipate the actual existence of a day, whether it shall be slow or rapid in its advent, when wars shall cease, when contentions shall exist no longer. The day of aggression and of retaliation will certainly come to an end. But can this universal diffusion of harmony consist with the principle, that it is right and justifiable to do acts of injury and violence! What sort of a millennium would the bright period referred to prove to be, if every actual or supposed injury might without impropriety call forth other acts of violence in repelling them, or in retaliation of them ! Who has ever associated in his conceptions of the serenity, quietude, and love of the millennial period, the recognition, either practical or theoretical, of the belligerent dogma, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”! It seems from the very nature of the case, that the principle of non-resistance, based upon emotions of true and heart-felt love, must be the forerunner, the attendant, and the grand security of that blessed state of the world.
So that while Jehovah, in the exercise of that theo