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would it be for the judges of the earth, as well as for the peo. ple of the earth, if all magistrates would set before them he character of Christ as a judge; the laws would then be duly honoured, and the majesty of government duly preserved; for the certainty of punishment would make men fear to offend. They fear little of what is to come, because they don't believe it ; but what they see before their eyes,
must strike them with terror. (a)
As to the case of the woman taken in adultery, which we find recorded, John viii. 3, 11. She was brought before Christ by her accusers, not for the sake of justice, but with a malicious design against Christ Himself, as we may learn from ver. 6. where it appears, that, all they said on the occasion, was merely to tempt our Lord, to try whether they could not have something * to accuse him of, either as presuming on an authority against the Romun government, if he condemned her, or against the law of Moses, if he did not; but he defeated their malice, and escaped the snare, by leading her accusers into a condemnation of themselves, insomuch that they departed self-convicted, and left the woman.
Then Jesus, who came not to condemn the world, nor to exercise a judicial power in punishing criminals—but even in this very instance renounced it; dismissed the woman, with a caution, which doubtless looked farther than the present life. Comp. John, v. 14.
On this case I would humbly propose two questions ;
1. What it has to do, one way or other, with a repeal of Jewish law ?
2. What precedent can it possibly afford, for a judge to turn three-fourths of the capital convicts upon the public ?(6).
* Comp. Matt. xxii. 15. and Luke xx. 20-23.
(6) Page 46.
As to the imitation of Christ, it is not only the duty, but the great privilege of Christians. "He left them an example that they should follow his steps; and it is their glory so to
in nothing more than in the forgiveness of injuries. He could, in his very last agonies upon the cross, pray for his persecutors and murderers. He could even, as it were, palliate their offences, by pleading their ignorance, instead of aggravating it, by reproaching them with their malice. “Father forgive them ! they know not what they do!" said the Dying Jesus. His whole life was a pattern of meekness, gentleness, love, and forbearance. “Lord,” said Peter, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? JESUS saith unto him, 66 ]
not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven." OUR Lord was a bright cxample of his own precepts; and we are told, 1 John, ji. 6. that, he that saith he abideth in HIM, ought himself also to walk, as he also walked.
Such are the precepts, which must be looked upon as commentaries on the divine law, that saith,' thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. They are the golden rules by which all christians ought to walk. The king and the subject, the prince and the beggar, the judge and the prisoner, are here all alike concerned; for There is no respect of persons with God. (c)
His Lordship then concluded, witb saying, that, “if judges were expected to execute the law upon those who were convicterl, the grand jury ought to be very cautious, how they exposed people to a trial by finding bills against them ; that they should find no bill unless the evidence before them was suficient to convict the prisoner, supposing it proved at the bar, and uncontradicted by the prisoner's witnesses.” (d)
I have almost forgotten to mention one more observation of the learned Judge, which was, on “the number of sanguinary laws, in our statute books, some of which, his lordship observed, were of long standing, others of more recent date, and" (adds his lordship) “ the only reason I can assign for these laws being either suffered to remain from oli time un:epealed, or being more recently enacted, is, that the legislature trusted to the discretion of the judges as to their exccution.” (R)
I do not pretend to give his Lordship’s exact words, either in this, or in any other quotation from the Charge ; but I hope, that neither here, nor clsewhere, have I mistaken or misrepresented what was said.
I must confess, that my apprehension is at a loss to conceive the idea of the legislative power of a country, enacting a law for any purpose whatsoever which they do not mean to be executed. That they should enact laws, with an inteni ihat the executive power might suspend their operation, appears to me to be giving themselves a very needless Trouble, which might have been spared, by not enacting such laws at all. (1)
The word sanguinary carries with it a very dreadful meaning, like its plain-English synonymy--bloody :-it brings sensations into the mind of the most terrible nature ; and, when applied to laws, it imports, that they are arbitrary and cruel, like the laws of Draco, which were calculated for the destruction and misery, not for the preservation and happiness of mankind. (g)
A law may be severe, without deserving the name of sanguinary; and though the former may be justly applied to some of our penal statutes, yet the latter never can. A law
(e) Page 53.
(f) Page 54.
(8) Page 55.
which has for its object, and is therefore calculated to promote, the security of peaceable and virtuous people, may justly be styled a merciful law, as it regards the whole, though severe in its punishment of offenders; and, if without such punishment, the good of the whole cannot be secured, and promoted, this must arise from the audacity and profligacy of those enemies to their fellow-subjects, who will not be intimidated by gentler methods, and who therefore bring upon themselves that wholesome severity, which is to make them examples of public justice, that others may fear to offend. (h)
As to leaving the execution or non-execution of statutes to the disposal of the judges, it is ultimately resorting to the fancy or will of individuals, and bringing us tothe--Misera servitus, ubi jus est vagum aut incognitum. Who can attempt to say, what the consequence of offending may be, when, instead of deducing, or apprehending, the consequences from the words, and plain meaning from the law itself, they are to be suspended, on the uncertainty of private determination ? (1)
OBSERVATIONS UPON THOUGHTS
ON EXECUTIVE JUSTICE.
PUBLISHED IN THE YEAR 1786.
Nunquam aliud natura, aliud supientia dicit.
Criminal jurisprudence has, within the last twenty years, become a very popular study throughout Europe, and the cultivation of it has been generally attended with very sensible and very beneficial efects. In proportion as men bave reflected and reasoned upon this important subject, the absurd and barbarous notions of justice, wbich prevaile for ages, have been exploded, and humane and rational principes have been adopted in their stead. That criminal piosecutions ought always to be carried on for the sake of the public, and never to gratify the passions of individuals; that the primary . object of the legislature should be to prevent crimes, and not to chastise criminals; that that object cannot possibly be attained by the mere terror of punishment; and that unless a just proportion be observed between the various degrees of criines, in the penalties appointed for them, the law must serve to excite, rather than repress guilt ; are truths so generally received, that they are come to be considered almost as axioms of criminal law. But considerable as has been the progress of these principles in other parts of Europe, they have not yet produced in this country any melioration of the system of our penal laws. The most glaring defects in those laws have not escaped observation, but few have attempted to remove them, and none have been successful in their attempts; and the only beneficial effect which has yet been produced in England, is a desire in the crown, and in its ministers, the judges, te