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master in heaven, and that there is no respect of persons with him.”
In a word, should we at any time feel uncertain as to some of the duties which we owe as children and parents, as masters and servants, as teachers and taught, -as inferiors, superiors, and equals; or, though not uncertain as to their nature, yet reluctant to perform them, we have only to imagine ourselves in the situation of others, with their views and feelings made our own, and we shall find that our self-love will powerfully enforce the claims of benevolence and justice. That inordinate regard to our own interests and gratifications, which, by perverting our views in judging of the rights of our neighbour, forms the chief obstacle in the way of our duty towards them, is thus brought to plead on their behalf; and having been led to decide for them with the same scrupulous fidelity which we would have employed for ourselves, we cannot, without doing violence to our own convictions, do otherwise than act agreeably to our decisions. All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them *.
See the Author's work on Personal and Family Religion, chap. iii.
THE DUTY OF REFRAINING FROM INJURING THE PERSONS
OR LIVES OF OTHERS.
Ir is difficult to enumerate the various ways in which man can inflict an injury on man, and in which, consequently, he transgresses the will of his Maker, and violates the obligations of eternal justice. He is clearly bound to respect the life, property, and character of others—his promises, asseverations or oaths, contracts, subscriptions to articles of belief, made in reference to them,--and their virtue and happiness.
We begin with the consideration of our obligations to abstain from injuring the persons or lives of others. The divine law has clearly defined this duty, and enforced its observance by the most awful sanctions. “ Thou shalt not kill. Surely your blood of your lives will I require ; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of men; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.”
God alone is the giver of life; he gives the law to guard its preservation; and in no case can it be innocently taken away when he does not grant the permission. Though he has given to man a dominion over the inferior animals, this power would not entitle him to deprive them of life, unless the great Lord and Ruler of all had so defined it. This is allowed him in the two following cases: first, when he intends to use them for food. “ The fear of you, and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” Secondly, when they are destructive and dangerous. That we are at liberty to deprive them of life in such circumstances, is clear from the passage now quoted, and from the inherent right of every man to defend his person and property.
With these exceptions, we are bound to refrain from injuring the lives, or impairing the enjoyments of the lower animals; and, consequently, to avoid all those brutal modes in which this defenceless part of the creation is distressed and tortured. We cannot but condemn, as immoral in its nature and tendency, a practice to which children are sometimes habituated, that of exercising the most wanton cruelty to animals, and of employing their ingenuity in inflicting sufferings. Irrespectively of the amount of suffering which they thus create, merely for their amusement, the practice is calculated to deaden every better feeling, and fit them for perpetrating hereafter, on a wider theatre, deeds of criminal selfishness, inhumanity, if not of still greater atrocity. If it be the characteristic of a righteous man that he regardeth the life of his beast, we cannot but consider the contrary conduct as the mark of the unfeeling and the wicked.
As there are exceptions to the general law concerning life-preservation with respect to the inferior
animals, so are there in regard to man. His life may be taken away when it is clearly necessary for our own defence. In such a case reason suggests that we are to preserve our own life, though it be at the expense of that of another. But revelation gives the warrant in explicit terms. “If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.” By parity of reason we are justifiable in all similar cases to defend ourselves and our families. Hence, the only ground on which war is justifiable. If individuals have the right to defend themselves from the assassin, and the robber, this right surely does not cease when they are assailed by a nation in their lives and property. They can only repel such an assault collectively; and they are acting in conformity with the divine law, when they unite, and use suitable means for such a repulsion.
The life of man may be also taken away when he commits crimes worthy of death. There is a crime to which the law of God has explicitly affixed this punishment. “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” It has been doubted whether it be just or expedient to annex death to any other offence. That it is so, appears to me clear from the fact, that the Jewish law connected this punishment with other crimes besides murder,--such as adultery, filial stubbornness, and idolatry,-a circumstance which proves at least that there may be cases in which it is lawful to visit various offences with this last and heaviest award. But this can only be allowable when it is quite manifest that no inferior punishment is adequate. All, therefore, who have in every age of the world been doomed to suffer under tyranny and oppression, and by the forms of law have been put to death for maintaining a good conscience, have been deprived of life contrary to the divine law, and are considered by the Supreme Judge as murdered.
Conscience, seconding the sentence of the law, announces to the murderer the fearful nature of his crime. “ The Almighty Creator and Preserver of man has provided against the frequency of this crime, by rendering the contemplation of it something, from which even the most abandoned shrink with a loathing which is, perhaps, the only human feeling that still remains in their heart; and the commission of it a source of a wilder agony of horror than can be borne, even by the gloomy heart which was capable of conceiving the crime. When we read or hear of the assassin, who is driven by the anguish of his own conscience, to reveal to those whom most he dreaded, the secret which he was most anxious to hide addressing himself to the guardians, not of the mere laws which he has offended, but of the individual whom their protection, at that moment which is ever before his memory, was too powerless to save:when we think of the number of years that in many instances of this kind have elapsed, since the mortal blow was given, and of the inefficacy of time, which effaces all other sorrows, to lessen that remorse, which no one suspected to be the cause of the wasting of the cheek, and the gloomy melancholy of the eye,can we fail to regard a spectacle like this, as an awful testimony to the goodness of that Almighty