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tures. Of the first of these modes of cruelty, horseracing is a scandalous example. A brutal specimen of the last is presented to us in cockfighting.
A righteous man, says Solomon, regardeth the life of his beast; Proverbs xii. 10.; that is, a righteous man realizes, in a just manner, the value of the life of his beast, entertains a steady conviction, that he has no right either unnecessarily to shorten, or embitter it; and feels the solemn obligation, which he is under, to use all the means, dictated by humanity and prudence for preserving the life of those animals, which are under his care, and for rendering them comfortable.
In all these instances of cruelty the life of animals is not immediately taken away.
But in all of them it is either suddenly, or gradually, destroyed; and often with greater cruelty, and more abominable wickedness, where the process is slow, than where it is summary. The spirit of this command is violated in them all.
Children, who are either taught, or permitted, to exercise cruelty towards animals in early life, are efficaciously fitted, in this manner, to exercise cruelty towards their fellow-men. If they escape the dungeon, or the gibbet, they will be little indebted for this privilege, to those, who had the charge of their education. It is remarkable, that the law, which punished murder with death, was immediately subjoined to the permission 10 take the life, and eat the flesh, of animals. In this fact, if I mistake not, the Creator has taught us, that the transition from shedding their blood to shedding that of man is so short, and obvious, as to render a new law necessary for the prevention of murder : a law, which, it would seem, had not been demanded by the circumstan. ces of preceding ages.
2. The life of Man may, also, be lawfully taken away in certain cases, according to the Scriptures.
This may be done, in the first place, when this act is necessary for our own defence. A sufficient warrant for this is given us in the case of the thief, mentioned Exodus xxii. 2. If a thief be found brraking up, and be smitten that he die ; there shall no blood be shed for him. In this case, the thief was killed in the defence of a man and his family: and the act of killing him is plainly warranted. By parity of reason the warrant extends to all cases, which in substance compare with this. In other words, we are justified in putting to death the person, who assails the life of ourselves, or others, wrongfully, whenever our own defence, or theirs, makes it necessary. In
every case of his nature, we are, however, indispensably bound to be sure, tha we act only in the defence of ourselves or others; and that there are no perceptible means, beside this extreme one, of warding off the threatened evil. Wherever such means exist;' it is our indispensable duty to employ them. We are
bound, also, in no case to take away life for an injury, already done; and in the indulgence of anger, malice, or revenge. At the same time, if the right invaded, or the injury to be done, is of moderate importance; we are prohibited from proceeding to this extremity,
On this ground alone, that it is an act of self-defence, can War be justified. Aggressive war is nothing but a complication of robbery and murder. Defensive war is merely the united efforts of several persons to defend themselves against a common inroad, or enemy. It is, therefore, equally lawful with self-defence in an individual. By aggressive war, here, I do not intend that, which is first commenced under the name of war; but the original outrage, or series of outrages, out of which the war has lawfully arisen, on the part of the injared nation.
A numerous, and on many accounts respectable, class of Christians, the Friends, have denied the lawfulness of war. It is to be wished, that the world would universally adop! the practice of these pacific men. But so long as the present disposition of mankind predominates; so long as men will attack, and destroy, the life, liberty, and property, of their fellow-men; defensive war is absolutely necessary, and absolutely lawful. A nation, which should adopt the contrary doctrine, would be undone. This society of Christians could not possibly exist in a nationul slate. The province of Pennsylvania, and perhaps the rest of the British Colonies together with it, came very near being finally destroyed by the prevalence of this very doctrine in its House of Representatives. Such a nation would publicly proclaim itself an unresisting prey to the rest of mankind; and, like the deer, would become a victim to the langs of the wolf and the tiger.
That Wur is lawful in the abstract we know with certainty ; because it has been directly commanded, unequivocally approved, and miraculously prospered, by God. He commanded Israel to make war upon Amalek, until the name of that guilty nation should be blotted out from under heaven. In the saine manner, He commanded them to make war upon the inhabitants of Canaan; and approved of their conduct in making war upon that people. In the same manner He commmanded the Israelites to make war repeatedly upon Midian and upon Hazor ; censured the tribe of Reuben, and by his Angel commanded the Israelites to curse Meroz, because they neglected, cr refused, to make active exertions in this
He also miraculously aided the Israelites against Midian, Amalek, the Philistines, and others. See Exodus xvii. 8. Judges vii. 1 Samuel vii. and 2 Samuel y.
But all, that has been commanded, approved, and miraculously prospered, by God, is in itself right. For it is impossible, that God should either command, or approve of, that which is wrong. The only question, therefore, which can be rationally made in this
case, is, In what circumstances is war lawful? With this question it cannot be supposed, that I have here any concern.
Secondly. The life of man may be lawfully taken away, when by crimes it has been forfeited to the law of the land.
Mankind are commanded, in the orignal law concerning murder, given us in Gen. ix. 10 put the murderer to death. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. In the Mosaic code the same punishment is annexed 10 a variety of crimes; such as adultery, filial stubbornness, idolatry, and several others. In each of these cases men are required to take away human life, as the proper punishment of a crime, by which it has been forfeited; and are not merely warranted to do this by a permission. In the former case, the command is addressed to all men. According ly we find it repeated by Solomon, as an universal precept, in the most absolute terms. A man, that doeth violence to the blood of any person, he shall flee to the pit : let no man stay him. It is also made a part of the Jewish law in various places. Exodus xxi. 12, 14.: Lev. xxiv. 17.; and very ccmprehensively, Numb. xxxv.
In the latter cases, the command is addressed to the ls raelites. The Jewish law is binding upon other nations only in those cases, whose nature is unchangeable and universal; or in those, in which the circumstances are precisely the same. Still, this law is a complete proof of the absolute rectitude of that conduct, which it prescribes. For, God cannot possibly prescribe that which is wrong. The same law also teaches, that, in the same circumstances, the same conduct may, with the strictest propriety, be pursued by us. For, God cannot command that, which, in the given circumstances, is unwise. It is evidently lawful, therefore, for other nations, as well as the Jews, to put men to death for other crimes beside murder.
But in every case of this nature, we are, in my view, forbidden by the general spirit of the Gospel, and, as I apprehend, by the plain dictates of Reason, also, to take away life, wherever a mild. er punishment may be safely substituted. Murder, we are bound invariably to punish with death. For every other crime, a milder penalty mav, and ought to be, adopted, whenever it will answer the proper ends of punishment. All evils, which are suffered beyond the necessary purposes of penal jurisprudence, are sus sered gratuitously; or, in other words, without any justifying cause. In this case, the infliction ceases to be justice; and becomes oppression.
It is ever to be remembered, that, even when the punishment of death is lawfully to be inflicted, it can be warrantably executed only by the magistrate ; and by him, only when acting according to the decisions of law. Private individuals have no more right to interfere, than if the man condemned were innocent; and were
to lay violent hands on him, although proved to be guilty, rightfully mned, they would themselves become mur.
derers. Nor can the Judge lawfully condemn any man, whatever he may think concerning the rectitude of the decision, unless upon adequate legal testimony, fairly exhibited in open court, and in exaci conformity to the modes of trial, by law established. Neither can the Executive Magistrate warrantably do any thing, in a case of this nature, beside merely executing the sentence of the Judge; whether he esteems that sentence just, or unjust. The time, the manner, and the circumstances, of execution, ordered by law, he is bound exactly to observe. A criminal, although condemned to death, may, instead of being executed, be murdered; and that as truly, as any other man. The Sheriff, also, can easily lay aside the character of a Magistrate, and assume that of a Murderer.
At the same time, all magistrates, in whatever station they act, are indispensably prohibited from the exercise of hatred, or revenge, in every forin, and degree, against the criminal. Magistrates here, as well as elsewhere, are Ministers of God for good to his people. In the awful employment of executing penal justice, it is their unalterable duty to exercise the benevolence of the Gospel; to be exactly just, and faithful; and to rule in the fear of God. As instruments in His hand, disposed conscientiously to do that, and that only, which is required by his will, and demanded by the Public safety, they will be approved by Him; and ought ever to be highly honoured by their fellow-citizens. But, if they turn aside from their duty; and indulge their own passions, instead of obeying the dictales of public justice; they assume the character of oppressors, and lay aside that of rulers; mcrit the severest cen. sures of their fellow-men; and prepare a terrible account of their stewardship against the final day.
II. I shall mention several instances, in which life is destroyed in contradiclion to this command.
Of these, the only one which I shall mention at the present time, is that, which is appropriately called Murder; usually defined to be killing our neighbour with premeditated malice.
On this subject, so long, so often, and so thoroughly, canvassed, so perfecily understood, and so harmoniously considered by mankind, it cannot be necessary to dwell. I shall dismiss it, therefore, with this single observation : that the very necessity of forbidding this crime, a necessity daily and unanswerably manifestçd, is a most dreadful proof of the excessive depravity of man.
I shall now proceed to make several observations, more neces. sary, and more instructive to this Audience, concerning several crimes, more or less intimately connected with this subject.
First. All those actions, which involve murder, are undoubtedly of the same nature.
Such are the burning of a house, supposed by the Incendiary to be inhabited; making a dangerous leak in a ship, having men on board; shooting, or casting the instruments of death into a crowd, Vol. III.
Treason ; Rebellion; and other acts of a similar nature. It is to no purpose, here, for the perpetrator to allege, that death may, possibly, not be the consequence of his nefarious conduct. Had he any other regard to the value of human life, and to the sacred obligation, which he is under, not only not to invade, but to preserve, it, beside what a murderer feels; he would never be guilty of the conduct, nor think of this reason as a justification of it.
A bare possibility of this nature must be alleged, if alleged at all, not to convince, but to affront, the understanding,
Secondly. Under this head are also included all those actions, by which the life of man is destroyed through a criminal Neglie gence.
There are many cases, in which we may easily foresee, that the death of others will be a consequence of our negligence. A sacred regard to the value of human life, duly felt by us, would necessarily produce that attentive care, which, so far as is in our power, would insure safety to the lives of our fellow-men.
Thirdly. To contrive the death of others is a crime of the same general nature,
The crime of murder lies in the dispositions, and designs, of the heart. To constitute us murderers in the sight of God, it is not pecessary, that we should be guilty of any overl act whated, er. His amply sufficient to contrive the death of others.
So plain is this truth, that it has been generally acknowledged by mankind. The real, and the prime, guilt, probably, almost always lies here. The Providence of God not unfrequently prevents the contrivance from being executed. But the contriver is still a murderer in his sight.
Fourthly. To wish the death of others, although we form no plans for accomplishing it, is a crime of the same general nature.
He, who looketh on a woman to lust after her, saith our Saviour, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. By parity of reason, wishes indulged against the life of our neighbour, are the commission of murder. There are probably many persons, who secretly wish the death of their fellow-men, and who yet, never form, nor think of forming, any plan to accomplish their death, Most, if not all, of these, perhaps, feel little remorse at the remembrance of their conduct; and probably rarely suspect them. selves of being even remotely concerned in transgressing this com. mand. Every such person is grossly deceived; and will be found charged with the guilt of murder at the final Judgment.
Fifthly. To wound our neighbour, and deprive him of the use of his limbs, or faculties, is a crime of the same nature ; though, I acknowledge, of inferior guilt.
Although to destroy another's limbs is not to take away his life; it is yet to take away a part of the usefulness, and comfort, which make life desirable. We may continue to live, when we are ren. dered chiefly useless, and unhappy. But life itself, so far as