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stands on the statute-book of the Gospel, sanctioned by the authority of Christ himself, confirmed by the Apostles, and instead of being diminished in aught, is carried so far in the application as to condemn all causeless anger. Throughout the New Testament, as we have seen more fully in a former Chapter, we are required, not to smite and to slay, but to love our enemies, to do good for evil, and to bless and pray for those, who persecute and hate
But will it be said, that these passages, scattered every where over the New Testament, are binding upon individuals only, and not upon communities? It is i npossible, that such a suggestion should have much weight. It is admitted, that as individuals, if we have a transgressor under our feet, (no matter how great his transgression,) we are bound on Gospel principles to let him live, to raise him up, to use every effort to restore him to hope and virtue, and thus to save him. And will either sound reason or common humanity permit us to assert, that the body politic is less bound to do this? Is there one code of morals for individuals, and another for nations, who are made up of individuals? Is it possible,
that the mere fact of my being politically associated with a thousand or a hundred thousand others renders right less imperative, or wrong less odious? And if not, on what ground is it said, that I am bound in my individual capacity to love those that hate me, while in my social and political capacity I am permitted to hate and to do evil, where otherwise I should be required to love and to do good? We assert, therefore, that the Gospel, in its prohibition of taking life, is as much binding upon communities, as upon individuals.
Where then shall we look for a defence of our conduct, we, who profess to be Christians, but whose hands are imbrued with blood; who at one time wield a sword
and at another erect a gallows, and who make the butchery of mankind a legalized and permanent business! We may find it perhaps in the authors of profane antiquity, in some code of heathenism, in the obscure songs and legends of some barbarous and unchristianized period, in the Alcoran and the Ædda; but we may venture to say with entire confidence, that we do not find it in the Bible.
CHAPTER TWENTY THIRD.
CAPITAL PUNISHMENTS AS EXAMINED BY REASON AND EXPERIENCE.
In accordance with the plan of discussion indicated at the beginning of the last Chapter, we proceed now to remark on the subject of capital punishments, as viewed in the light of reason and experience. And in order to render the discussion as simple as possible, we will take it for granted, that society has the right of punishing capitally, provided it does any good. Accordingly our present object is to show, that the results of Capital punishments are not such as to justify their infliction. In doing this, it is proper to state the ends or objects of punishment. The four great objects or ends of punishment are generally supposed to be the following,—(1)reparation for injury done,-(2) the reformation and good of the offender himself,-(3) the direct protection of society against future attacks by the same individual,-(4) the
benefit of the example on other evil disposed persons. Let us accordingly examine capital punishments, in connection with these great objects or ends.
In the FIRST place, we cannot reasonably suppose, that the punishment of death is inflicted on the ground of REPARATION, in any strict and proper sense of this term. In cases of loss of property and mere injury of person, such as theft, housebreaking, assault, highway robbery, maiming, arson, and the like, it certainly would not be easy to perceive, how reparation connects itself with a punishment involving death. Furthermore, the infliction of the punishment of death, even in cases of murder, is of itself no reparation. It does not restore the person previously killed to life; nor does it do him any good, or affect him in any way whatever. On the contrary, it takes away the opportunity and means of that indirect reparation which might otherwise have been made, either to the murdered person's family, or to the State of which he is a member.We do not deny, that the taking the life of the criminal may, in some instances, minister to the revengeful feelings of those, who survive; but this is not, in propriety of speech, a reparation; it is certainly not that species of reparation, which writers on this subject commonly have in view, when they use the term. And besides, this would be an object, which enlightened reason, as well as the Gospel, condemns; which is never openly avowed as the object of public punishment; and which the judicious and enlightened legislator certainly would not approve. We feel no hesitancy, therefore, in saying, that capital punishments cannot stand on this basis.
II, The SECOND object mentioned is the reformation and good of the offender. This is a great object undoubtedly; one, which the best interests of society require us to pursue, and which has the advantage of be
ing approved by enlightened reason, at the same time that it is accordant with the benevolent spirit of the New Testament. There is reason to believe, however, that the importance of this great object is not estimated so highly as it ought to be.. It must be admitted, that men have but little of the spirit, involved in the declaration of the Savior, "I came not to call the righteous, but SINNERS to repentance." They are more selfish and less benevolent than they should be; but this does not alter their duty, nor the nature and reason of things. The government of a country, if we have any correct view of its true nature, stands in reference to the citizens, IN LOCO PARENTIS. The government is the father; the citizens are the children. Nature and reason alike establish this analogy; and from the analogy, which exists between parental and civil government, it would not be difficult to deduce principles of civil authority and discipline, accordant with those, which the Gospel itself furnishes. If a child commits an offence, even one of the most aggravated nature, does the father put him to death -does he smite him to the dust with an axe-or does he rather seek by every means in his power to reform him? There can be but one answer to such a question. Civil government, therefore, if there is truly an analogy be tween civil and parental government, should pursue the same course. It should seek to recover and reform, and not to cast off and destroy. But on the plan of capital punishments, this great object is necessarily defeated. When a man is dead, there is certainly no power in his fellow men to reform him, or to benefit him in any way. On the contrary by putting him to death, they have not only cut him off from society, but have perhaps done all in their power to prevent his making a suitable preparation to appear in the presence of his Creator. punishments, therefore, find no support here also.
III, That the THIRD object mentioned, viz. the protection of society in future against the same individual, can be secured by means of capital punishment, is readily admitted. It is certainly easy to see, that, when a man is dead, he can no longer do hurt in his own person. But this object can be secured, to the entire satisfaction of the community, by shutting the offender up in prison. The public do not demand, that criminals should be put to death, because there is no possibility of otherwise preventing future attacks; they feel that the legislature can give them ample security in that matter in other ways. Capital punishments, therefore, find no support here, so long as we have the materials for erecting around the criminal a circumvallation of iron and granite sufficient to confine him. We are able to do this; and in doing this, are able to secure at once all the great objects, for which punishments are instituted. By keeping the criminal in prison and at labor, although, if murder be his crime, he can make no reparation to the murdered person, he can certainly make some reparation to the State and to his family for the loss they have sustained at his hands. We may also consult the good of the offender, if we punish him by confinement in prison, not only by the remedial effect of the imprisonment itself, but also by giving him religious instruction, and affording him an opportunity for reflection and repentance. The punishment, furthermore, is considered by the community a great one, and the example of it is admitted to be impressive and in a high degree efficacious. And besides, if the prisoner is wrongly condemned, as is sometimes the case, there is an opportunity of subsequently rectifying the unjust judgment, which cannot be done, if he be put to death. And what is no small consideration, we may inflict this punishment in such a way as to be fully in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel. The