« VorigeDoorgaan »
Character of an English Judge: A Sermon preached at the Cathedral of York, on Sunday, March 28, hefore the
Judges of the Northern Circuit, by the Rev. SYDNEY Smith, Chaplain to the High Sheriff, Walter Fawkes, Esq.
[From The Morning Herald.] “Sittest thou here to judge me after the law, and commandest thou me to be
smitten contrary to the law?"-Acts xxiii. 3. W TITH these bold words St. the importance of human justice to
Paul repressed the unjust the happiness of mankind : and if it violence of that ruler who would have be that theme, it is appropriate to silenced his arguments, and extin- this place, and to the solemn public guished his zeal for the Christian duties of the past and the ensuing faith : knowing well the misfortunes week, over which some here present which awaited him, prepared for deep will preside, at which many here preand various calamity, not ignorant of sent will assist, and which almost all the violence of the Jewish multitude, here present will witness. not unused to suffer, not unwilling to “ I will discuss, then, the impordie, he had not prepared himself for tance of judging according to the law the monstrous spectacle of perverted or, in other words, of the due adjustice ; but loosing that 'spirit to ministration of justice upon the chawhose fire and firmness we owe the racter and happiness of nations. And very existence of the Christian faith, in so doing, I will begin with stating he burst into that bold rebuke which a few of those circumstances which brought back the extravagance of may mislead even good and conscienpower under the controul of law, and tious men, and subject them to the branded it with the feelings of shame: unchristian sin of siniting contrary to Sittest thou here to judge me after the law. I will state how that justice the law, and comınandest thou me to is purified and perfected, by which be smitten contrary to the law?' the happiness and character of nations
“I would observe that in the Gos. is affected to a good purpose. pels, and the various parts of the New “I do this with less fear of being Testament, the words of our Saviour misunderstood, because I am speaking and of St. Paul, when they contain before two great magistrates, who any opinion, are always to be looked have lived much among us; and whom upon as lessons of wisdom to us, how. --because they have lived much among ever incidentally they may have been ús-we have all learned to respect and delivered, and 'however shortly they regard, and to whom no man fears to may have been expressed. As their consider himself as accountable, bewords were to be recorded by inspired cause all men see that they, in the writers, and to go down to future ages, administration of their high office, nothing can have been said without consider themselves as deeply and daily reflection and design. Nothing is to accountable to God. be lost; every thing is to be studied : “ And let no inan say, 'Why teach a great moral lesson is often conveyed such things? Do you think they must in a few words. Read slowly, think not have occurred to those to whom deeply, let every word enter into your they are a concern?' I answer to this, soul, for it was intended for your that no man preaches novelties and soul.
discoveries; the object of preaching “I take these words of St. Paul is, constantly to remind mankind of as a condemnation of that man who what mankind are constantly forgetsmites contrary to the law; as a praise ting ; not to supply the defects of of that man who judges according to human intelligence, but to fortify the the law; as a religious theme upon feebleness of human resolutions, to
recall mankind from the by-paths would it be honourable if it were not where they turn, into that broad path difficult? Why do men quit their of salvation which all know, but few hoines, and give up their common octread. These plain lessons the hum- cupations, and repair to the tribunal blest ministers of the gospel way of justice? Why this bustle and buleach, if they are honest, and the most siness, why this decoration and dispowerful Christians will ponder, if play, and why are we all eager to pay ihey are wise. No man, whether he our homage to the dispensers of jus. bear the sword of the law, or whether tice? Because we all feel that there he bear that sceptre which the sword must be, somewhere or other, a check of the law cannot reach, can answer to human passions ; because we all for his own heart to-morrow, and can know the immense value and imporsay to the teacher, Thou warnest tance of men, in whose placid equity ine, thou teachest me in vain.'
and mediating wisdom we can trust “A Christian Judge, in a free land, in the worst of times; because we should, with the most scrupulous ex- cannot cherish too strongly, and exactness, guard himself from the influ- press too plainly, that reverence we ence of those party, feelings, upon feel for men, who can rise up in the which, perhaps, the preservation of ship of the state, and rebuke the political liberty depends, but by which storins of the mind, and bid its angry the better reason of individuals is often passions be still. blinded, and the tranquillity of the “A Christian Judge, in a free land, public disturbed. I am not talking of should not only keep his mind clear the ostentatious display of such feels from the violence of party feeling, but ings; I am hardly talking of any gra- he should be very careful to preserve tification of which the individual him. lis independence, by seeking no proself is conscious; but I am raising up motion, and asking ‘no favours froin a wise and useful jealousy of the en- those who govern: or, at least, to be croachment of those feelings, which, (which is an experiment rot without when they do encroach, lessen the danger to his salvation) so thoroughly value of the most valuable, and lower confident of his motives and his conthe importance of the most important duct, that he is certain the hope of inen in the country. I admit it to be favour to coine, or gratitude for favour extremely difficult to live amidst the past, will never cause him to swerve agitations, contests and discussions of from the strict line of duty. It is often a free people, and to remain in that the lot of a Judge to be placed, not state of cool, passionless, Christian only between the accuser and the accandour, which society expect from cused, not only between the comtheir great magistrates; but it is the plainant and hiin against whom it is pledge that magistrate has given, it complained, but between the goveris the life he has taken up, it is the nors and the governed, between the class of qualities which he has pro- people and those whose lawful commised us, and for which he has ren- inands the people are bound to obey. dered himself responsible : it is the In these sort of contests, it unfortusame fault in him, which want of cou, nately happens that the rulers are rage would be in some men, and want sometimes as angry as the ruled; the of moral regularity in others. It runs whole eyes of a nation are fixed upon counter to those very purposes, and one man, and upon his character and sins against those utilities for which the conduct the stability and happiness of very office was created : without these the times seem to depend. The best qualities, he who ought to be cool, and firmest magistrates cannot tell is heated; he who ought to be neutral, how they may act under such circumis partial; the ermine of justice is stances, but every man may prepare spotted ; the balance of justice is un- himself for acting well under such poised; the fillet of justice is torn circumstances, by cherishing that quiet off; and he who sits to judge after feeling of independence, which removes the law, suites contrary to the law. one temptation to act ill. Every man
"And if the preservation of calm- may avoid putting himself in a situaness amidst the strong feelings by tion where his hopes of advantage are which a Judge is surrounded be diffi- on one side, and his sense of duty on cult, is it not also honourable? And the other : such a temptation may be withstood, but it is better it should tenderness and courtesy by supreme not be encountered. Far better that magistrates of deep learning and pracfeeling which says, I have vowed a tised understanding, from whose views vow before God; I have put on the they are perhaps at that moment difrole of justice; farewell avarice, fare- fering, and whose directions they do well ambition : pass me who will, not choose to follow; to see at such slight me who will, I live hencefor- times every disposition to warmth ward only for the great duties of life; restrained, and every tendency to conmy business is on earth, my hope and temptuous feeling kept back; to witmy reward are in God.”
ness this submission of the great and “He who takes the office of a wise, not when it is extorted by neJudge, as it now exists in this country, cessity, but when it is practised with takes in his hand a splendid gem, good willingness and grace, is a spectacle and glorious, perfect and pure. Shall which is very grateful to Englishmen, he give it up mutilated, shall be mar which no other country sees, whichi, it, shall he darken it, shall it emit no above all things, shews that a Judge light, shall it be valued at no price, has a pure, gentle and Christian heart, shall it excite no wonder? Shall he and that he never wishes to smite find it a diamond, shall he leave it a contrary to the lawv. stone? What shall we say to the man “May I add the great importance who would wilfully destroy with fire in a Judge, of courtesy to all mnen, the magnificent temple of God, in and that he should, or all occasions, which I am now preaching ? Far abstain from unnecessary bitterness worse is he who ruins the moral eci- and asperity of speech. Å Judge alfices of the world, which time, and ways speaks with impunity, and always toil, and many prayers to God, and speaks with effect. "His words should many sufferings of men have reared: be weighed, because they entail no evil who puts out the light of the times in upon himself, and much evil upon which he lives, and leaves us to wander others. The language of passion, the amid the darkness of corruption and language of sarcasm, the language of the desolation of sin. There may be, satire is not, on such occasions, Christhere probably is in this church, some tian language: it is not the language young man who may hereafter fill the of a Judge. There is a propriety of office of an English Judge, when the rebuke and condemnation, the justice greater part of those who hear me are of which is felt even by hin who sufdead, and mingled with the dust of the fers under it; but when magistrates, grave. Let him remember my words, under the mask of law, aim at the and let them form and fashion his offender more than the offence, and spirit: he cannot tell in what danger- are more studious of inflicting pain ous and awful timnes he may be placed; than repressing error or criine, the but as a mariner looks to his compass office suffers as much as the Judge; in the calm, and looks to his compass the respect for justice is lessened; and in the storm, and never keeps his eyes the school of pure reason becomes off his compass, so in every vicissitude the hated theatre of mischievous pasof a judicial life, deciding for the peo- sion. ple, deciding against the people, pro- A Christian Judge, who means to tecting the just rights of kings, or be just, must not fear to smite accordrestraining their unlawful ambition, ing to the law; he must remember let him ever cling to that pure, exalted that he beareth not the sword in vain. and Christian independence, which Under lis protection we live, under towers over the little motives of life; his protection we acquire, under his which no hope of favour can influence, protection we enjoy. Without him, which no effort of power can con- no man would defend his character, troul.
no inan would preserve his substance : “A Christian Judge, in a free proper pride, just gains, valuable excountry, should respect, on every oc- ertions, all depend upon his firm wigeasion, those popular institutions of dom. If he shrink from the severe justice, which were intended for his duties of his office, he saps the founcontroul and for our security. To dation of social life, betrays the highest see humble men collected accidentally interests of the world, and sits not to from the neighbourhood, treated with judge according to the law,
“The topics of mercy are the smalle something wortlı preserving, and worth ness of the offence—the infrequency contending for. Instances are rememof the offence. The temptations to bered where the weak prevailed over the culprit, the moral weakness of the the strong: one man recalls to mind culprit, the severity of the law, the when a just and upright Judge proerror of the law, the different state of tected him from unlawful violence, society, the altered state of feeling, gave him back his vineyard, rebuked and, above all, the distressing doubt his oppressor, restored him to his whether a human being, in the lowest rights, published, condemned and recabyss of poverty and ignorance, has tified the wrong, This is what is not done injustice to himself, and is called country. Equal rights to unenot perishing away from the want of qual possessions, equal justice to the knowledge, the want of fortune, and rich and poor: this is what men come the want of friends. All magistrates out to fight for, and to defend. Such feel these things in the early exercise a country has no legal injuries to reof their judicial power, but the Chris- member, no legal murders to revenge, tian Judge always feels them, is always no legal robbery to redress : it is youthful, always tender when he is strong in its justice: it is then that going to shed human blood : retires the use and object of all this assemfrom the business of men, coinmunes blage of gentlemen, and arrangement with his own heart, ponders on the of juries, and the deserved veneration work of death, and prays to that Sa- in which we hold the character of viour who redeemed him, that he may English Judges, is understood in all not shed the blood of inan in vain. its bearings, and in its fullest effects :
“ These, then, are those faults which men die for such things, they cannot expose a man to the danger of sıniting be subdued by foreign force, where contrary to the law: a Judge must be such just practices prevail. The sword clear from the spirit of party, inde- of ambition is shivered to pieces pendent of all favour, well inclined to against such a bulwark. Nations fall the popular institutions of his coun- where Judges are unjust, because try, firm in applying the rule, merci- there is nothing which the multitude ful in making the exception; patient, think worth defending; but nations guarded in his speech, gentle and do not fall which are treated as we courteous to all. Add his learning, are treated, but they rise as we have his labour, his experience, his probity, risen, and they shine as we have shone, his practised and acute faculties, and and die as we have died, too much this man is the light of the world, who used to justice, and too much used to adorns human life, and gives security freedom, to care for that life which is to that life which he adorns.
not just and free. I call you all to “Now see the consequence of that witness if there is any exaggerated state of justice which this character picture in this : the sword is just implies, and the explanation of all sheathed, the flag is just furled, the that deserved honour we confer on last sound of the trumpet has just the preservation of such a character, died away. You all remember what and all the wise jealousy we feel at a spectacle this country exhibited : the slightest injury or deterioration it one heart, one voice, one
weapon, one may experience.
purpose. And why? Because this ** The most obvious and important country is a country of the law; beuse of this perfect justice is, that it cause the Judge is a judge for the makes nations safe : under common peasant as well as for the palace; becircumstances, the institutions of jus- cause every man's happiness is guarded tice seen to have little or no bearing by fixed rules from tyranny and caupon the safety and security of a price. This town this week, the busicountry, but in periods of real danger, ness of the few next days would exwhen a nation surrounded by foreign plain to any enlightened European enemies, contends, not for the boun- why other nations did fall in the daries of empire, but for the very storms of the world, and why we did being and existence of empire; then it not fall. The Christian patience yon is that the advantages of just institu- may witness, the impartiality of the tions are discovered. Every inan feels judgment-seat, the disrespect of perthat he has a country, that he has sons, the disregard of consequences, these attributes of justice, do not end pitals and altars ;-a nation of good with arranging your conflicting rights Samaritans ;-a people of universal and mine; they give strength to the compassion. All lands, all seas, have English people, duration to the En- heard we are brave. We have just glish name; they turn the animal sheathed that sword which defended courage of this people into moral and the world; we have just laid down religious courage, and present to the that buckler which covered the nations lowest of mankind plain reasons and of the earth. God blesses the soil strong motives why they should resist with fertility; English looms labour aggression from without, and bend for every climate. All the waters of themselves a living rampart round the the globe are covered with English land of their birth.
ships. We are softened by fine arts, “There is another reason why every civilized by humane literature, instruce wise man is so scrupulously jealous of ed by deep science, and every people, the character of English justice. It as they break their feudal chains, look puts an end to civil dissension. What to the founders and fathers of freedom other countries obtain by bloody wars, for examples which may animate, and is here obtained by the decisions of rules which may guide. If ever a our own tribunals : unchristian pas- nation was happy--if ever a nation was sions are laid to rest by these tribu- visibly blessed by God if ever a nanals ; brothers are brothers again; tion was honoured abroad, and left at the gospel resumes its empire, and home under a Government (which we because all confide in the presiding can now conscientiously call a liberal magistrate, and because a few plain Government) to the full career of men are allowed to decide upon their talent, industry and vigour, we are at own conscientious impression of facts, this moment that people-and this civil discord, years of convulsion, end- is our happy lot. First, the gospel less crimes are spared; the storm is has done it, and then justice has done laid, and those who came in clamour- it; and he who thinks it bis duty to ing for revenge, go back together in labour that this happy condition of peace from the hall of judgment to existence may remain, must guard the The loom and the plough, to the senate piety of these times, and he must and the church.
watch over the spirit of justice which The whole tone and tenour of pub- exists in these times. First, he must lic morals is affected by the state of take care that the altars of God are supreme justice; it extinguishes re- not polluted, that the Christian faith venge, it communicates a spirit of pu- is retained in purity and in perfection : rity and uprightness to inferior magis. and then turning to human affairs, let trates; it makes the great good, by him strive for spotless, incorruptible taking away impunity; it banishes justice ;—praising, honouring and lovfraud, obliquity and solicitation, and ing the just Judge, and abhorring, as teaches men that the law is their right. the worst enemy of mankind, him who Truth is its handmaid, freedom is its is placed there to Judge after the child, peace is its companion; safety law, and who smites contrary to the walks in its steps, victory follows in law.” its train: it is the brightest emanation of the gospel : it is the greatest attri- Sır,
Penzance. which human molives and passions A THOUGH many of your read
ers may be of opinion that they turn: and Justice, sitting on high, have already heard more than enough sees Genius and Power, and Wealth about the religious disputes of a small and Birth, revolving round her throne; and remote town like this, and that and teaches their paths, and marks its “ little gentry” have already been out their orbits, and warns with a dragged into a much larger share of loud voice, and rules with a strong public notice than they have any claiın arm, and carries order and discipline to, I am yet obliged to solicit two into a world, which, but for her, columns more of your valuable space, would only be a wild waste of passions. and five minutes more of their no less Look what we are, and what just laws valuable time, for this trite subject. have done for us :-a land of piety and A small pamphlet which I was lately charity; a land of churches and hos. induced to publisl, with a view to cir