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belligerent principle of an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, life for life, in some degree necessary under the circumstances actually existing. It was on account of their sin that he permitted them to put each other to death, in the same way as it was on account of their sin that he permitted them to practice polygamy, and to give the writing of divorcement. Or another scriptural illustration of the course of the divine proceeding in this matter may perhaps be equally to the purpose, to be found in the hundred and sixth Psalm. They soon forgat his works ; they waited not for his counsel ; but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.”
We proceed now, in the third place, to remark, that the sixth Commandment is recognized and reenacted in the New Testament, unaccompanied by any exception or suspension whatever ; a view of the subject, which is particularly important in its bearings upon us in the present age of the world.
The following passages will abundantly verify the correctness of the ground, which is now proposed to be taken.--" And behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good ? there is none good but one, that is, God; but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which ? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Matthew, 19: 16, 17, 18. It is perfectly clear from this passage, that the Savior gives his sanction to the portion of the Old Testament which is so expressly referred to, and that he adopts it as a part of his own exalted system of doctrine and practice. And this is in accordance with what he says in another place, Matthew
5: 16, 17. - Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets ; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled.”—This strong declaration refers obviously, not to the Ceremonial law, nor to any mere civil and political regulations ; but to those portions of the Old Testament, which are of a purely moral and religious import. But we have another passage in the same chapter which is more to our present purpose. Matthew 5: 21, 22, 23, 6 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill : and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council : but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire. Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way : first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
There is then a “ Thou shalt not kill,” in the Old Testament, accompanied, on account of the hardness of men's hearts, with a temporary suspension of its enforcement, and a permission in certain specified cases to take
There is also a “ Thou shalt not kill,” in the New Testament; but in vain do we look for any suspension or modification of it in the later and more perfect revelation. The suspending clauses, which, under the preparatory Dispensations, interfered with the full and perfect application of the principle of the inviolability of human life, are no where to be found on the bright pages of the New and Evangelical Code. This great principle
stands on the statute-book of the Gospel, sanctioned by the authority of Christ himself, confirmed by the Apostles, and instead of being diminished in aught, is carried so far in the application as to condemn all causeless anger. Throughout the New Testament, as we have seen more fully in a former Chapter, we are required, not to smite and to slay, but to love our enemies, to do good for evil, and to bless and pray for those, who persecute and hate
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But will it be said, that these passages, scattered every where over the New Testament, are binding upon individuals only, and not upon communities? sible, that such a suggestion should have much weight. It is admitted, that as individuals, if we have a transgressor under our feet, (no matter how great his transgression,) we are bound on Gospel principles to let him live, to raise him up, to use every effort to restore him to hope and virtue, and thus to save him. And will either sound reason or common humanity permit us to assert, that the body politic is less bound to do this? Is there one code of morals for individuals, and another for nations, who are made up of individuals ? Is it possible, that the mere fact of my being politically associated with a thousand or a hundred thousand others renders right less imperative, or wrong less odious ? And if not, on what ground is it said, that I am bound in my individual capacity to love those that hate me, while in my social and political capacity I am permitted to hate and to do evil, where otherwise I should be required to love and to do good ? We assert, therefore, that the Gospel, in its prohibition of taking life, is as much binding upon communities, as upon individuals.
Where then shall we look for a defence of our conduct, we, who profess to be Christians, but whose hands are imbrued with blood; who at one time wield a sword
and at another erect a gallows, and who make the butchery of mankind a legalized and permanent business! We may find it perhaps in the authors of profane antiquity, in some code of heathenism, in the. obscure songs and legends of some barbarous and unchristianized period, in the Alcoran and the Adda; but we may venture to say with entire confidence, that we do not find it in the Bible.
CHAPTER TWENTY THIRD.
CAPITAL PUNISHMENTS AS EXAMINED BY REASON AND
In accordance with the plan of discussion indicated at the beginning of the last Chapter, we proceed now to remark on the subject of capital punishments, as viewed in the light of reason and experience. And in order to render the discussion as simple as possible, we will take it for granted, that society has the right of punishing capitally, provided it does any good. Accordingly our present object is to show, that the results of Capital punishments are not such as to justify their infliction. In doing this, it is proper to state the ends or objects of punishment. The four great objects or ends of punishment are generally supposed to be the following,—(1)reparation for injury done,—(2) the reformation and good of the offender himself,—(3) the direct protection of society against future attacks by the same individual,-.(4) the
benefit of the example on other evil disposed persons,
-Let us accordingly examine capital punishments, in connection with these great objects or ends.
In the first place, we cannot reasonably suppose, that the punishment of death is inflicted on the ground of reparation, in any strict and proper sense of this term. In cases of loss of property and mere injury of person, such as theft, housebreaking, assault, highway robbery, maiming, arson, and the like, it certainly would not be easy to perceive, how reparation connects itself with a punishment involving death. Furthermore, the infliction of the punishment of death, even in cases of murder, is of itself no reparation. It does not restore the person previously killed to life ; nor does it do him any good, or affect him in any way whatever. On the contrary, it takes away the opportunity and means of that indirect reparation which might otherwise have been made, either to the murdered person's family, or to the State of which he is a member.--We do not deny, that the taking the life of the criminal may, in some instances, minister to the revengeful feelings of those, who survive ; but this is not, in propriety of speech, a reparation; it is certainly not that species of reparation, which writers on this subject commonly have in view, when they use the term. And besides, this would be an object, which enlightened reason, as well as the Gospel, condemns; which is never openly avowed as the object of public punishment; and which the judicious and enlightened legislator certainly would not approve. We feel no hesitancy, therefore, in saying, that capital punishments cannot stand on this basis.
II, -The second object mentioned is the reformation and good of the offender. This is a great object undoubtedly ; one, which the best interests of society require us to pursue, and which has the advantage of be