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already shown; and what was adduced shews the reasonableness of the sacred precept. "Say not, I will do "so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to a man according to his work". Prov, xxiv. 29.
The propriety of pardoning a man of a warm but generous temper has appeared; both under the rule for suspending punishment, and under that for endeavouring to get just notions of merit, and of mens true cha
The distinction between public and private punishment is very clear in the holy scriptures. The design of a city of refuge was to prevent the avenger from inflicting private punishment before public could be procured that the man-slayer die not, until he stand "before the congregation in judgment". Numb. xxxv. 12. In one case it has appeared that the private avenger is made, as it were, the executioner under public authority. Deut. xix. 12. And St. Paul, though he justifies Rulers or Magistrates as ministers cf God, when they act as avengers to execute wrath on those that do evil, Rom. xiii. 4, 5. yet says to private individuals, avenge not yourselves". Rom. xii. 19.
37. I concluded my remarks taken from fact with a kind of recapitulation; but that would of course con. sist chiefly of the substance of what had gone before it. Some few additional ideas might occur.
Seeming injuries which we are inclined to punish, may be no injuries. Let us not deserve to have it said of us, "Behold he findeth occasions against me; he "counteth me for his enemy". Job. xxxiii. 10. let us rather take the advice of Solomon, "Strive not with a "man without cause, if he have done thee no harm”, Prov. iii. 30. And suppose harm done, yet if not meant, let us accept the same kind of Apology which St. Paul offered; I wist not, Brethren, that he was the High
Priest. For it is written, "Thou shalt not speak "evil of the ruler of thy people". Acts xxiii. 5. who will cite authorities against himself, merits our indulgence.
If we are convinced that we suffer, yet if there is room for doubt whether we suffer wrongfully let us remember the Housholder who hired labourers into his vineyard; "Friend, I do thee no wrong". Matt. xx. 13. This plea was in all reason sufficient to secure peace; though we are too apt to imagine, that we are injured if we receive less from free bounty than other men and to look upon that as an injury, which is only a deprivation of a benefit that we had been long accus tomed to enjoy.
Should a man have injured us beyond dispute, and should he shew strong marks of sincere contrition; let us remember the Servant-Debtor: let us by all means avoid that cutting reproach of the Lord, to whom the debt was owing; "O thou wicked servant, I forgave "thee all that debt, because thou desirest me; shouldest "not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow
servant, even as I had pity on thee?" Matt. xviii. 32, 33. Let this excellent parable make us cautious of over-rating any injury offered to us, and earnest, when we think it necessary to punish, in chusing the punishment most likely to do good. And after all our caution, let us be aware, that the best punishment we can chuse may not answer the good purpose intended; such is the "hardness and impenitent heart" Rom. ii. 5. of some men nay, that a punishment strictly just, may be cruel, according to the passage of the Parable now quoted, and therefore unbecoming when inflicted by frail and fallible beings. And not only cruelty may prompt us to punish, but, what seems less obvious, cowardice; that the merciful may be brave, cannot be doubted by those who contemplate our blessed Lord and his first Martyr St. Stephen in their dying moments. And let us not forget, that we are not only bound to regard ourselves, but the general good of the world: "if ye bite and devour one another", says St. Paul, "take heed that ye be not consumed one of another”. Gal. v. 15. "A wrathful man stirreth up strife"; and we have seen, that "the beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water", Prov. xv. 18, and xvii. 14.
Let the examples which we meet with in holy writ,
convince us, that any disgrace which attaches to submission and condescension in the injured, is only in the eyes of the low and vulgar; that it is only a temporary stain, soon evaporates, and leaves pure and genuine brightness behind it, for ever.
Lastly. If notwithstanding all that has been said, offenders should presume to claim that indulgence which we have been studying the means of providing for them, the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard may again be called to our aid: there the just and generous Housholder insists upon being the judge of his own beneficence; by whatever rules he may be guided in the sight of God, and before his own conscience. If then we are, at any time, in the situation of those who have reason to desire forgiveness, let not our eye be evil; let us not take wrong and confused views of the case before us; Matt. vi. 22, 23. and xx. 15. lest we begin dissentions which we can never justify, and which will never have an end; and so involve ourselves in perplexity and guilt, which even death itself may be unable to expiate.
END OF PART VI.
FOUR PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE.
E have now made some remarks on the passion of anger, or resentment, gathered from facts and from the nature of man; we have also compared those remarks with various expressions dispersed through the sacred writings; but still something remains. There are passages of scripture so peculiar to revelation, that they have nothing analogous to them in natural Law, as hitherto laid down; these require a separate consideration. We will begin with Matt. v. 21, 22.
2. The first enquiry which it is natural to make, is, what particular men are signified by "them of old "time"? I suppose those persons to be meant, from whom the Scribes and Pharisees of our Saviour's time had received their Traditions: these might be called men "of old time", because Traditions are by some Jews traced up as high as to the time of the delivery of the Law on Mount Sinai. Some traditions seem to have been innocent, or useful; but others were hurtful and blamable. Evasions of the Law, or unjustifiable and burthensome additions, or licentious restrictions. The design of our Saviour's Sermon on the Mount seems to
have been, to correct the wrong traditional notions of the Jews: or of the Scribes and Pharisees, as priding themselves on distinguished skill in Tradition: an additional purpose, might be, to take the opportunity of restoring the purity of the Mosaic Law; and also of introducing some Christian morality. The first instance in which our Saviour says that the righteousness of Christians must exceed that of the Scribes and Phraisies, is contained in the words now under consideration. In general we should understand, that the notion which our Lord corrects, is not in the Law of Moses, but some abuse or perversion of that Law. It is indeed certain, that the Law of Moses does say, "Thou shalt not kill"; but in the reference made by Christ we are to understand the commandment, not as meant by Moses, or as comprehending all steps leading to murder, all dispositions of a murderous sort; with all the guilt attending them; but as interpreted by Tradition, as excluding every thing but the crime of actual murder, and the sentence or condemnation of the Jewish Judgment. This is the meaning of the Text taken altogether. The difference between this doctrine being taught by them of old time, and to them, does not seem to be material; because whatever traditional doctrines were taught to the Jews of any one generation, were taught by them to the
Take the words "Thou shalt not kill", in their literal sense, and suppose nothing forbidden but what is expressed, and men are permitted to hire assassins, to let loose wild beasts, to wound, to maim; and if nothing was to be dreaded but the Jewish Judgment, then any one who could confound evidence, or suborn witnesses, was free from guilt. Our Lord's doctrine is so directly opposed to such folly as this, that we may be confident it is implied; especially if we compare the other notions corrected with that before us. The morality of the Gospel is more perfect than that of the Law of Moses; but we can in no degree conceive that such a Lawgiver, and such a religious teacher as Moses, should have intended the strict and literal sense of "Thou shalt not "kill" for its whole meaning. It must have been meant for a brief prohibition of all personal injury.