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With those interpreters, therefore, who designedly and openly go the whole length of abrogating all penal jurisprudence, all civil government, all commercial intercourse, on the authority of this "Sermon," we hold no argument. They have the virtue of consistency and openness at least; and we respect them for it. But, for our present purpose, we shall consider it refutation enough of any interpretation, to show that, carried out consistently, it will not stop short of the entire abolition of all administration of human justice.

We suppose that the passage, "ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you that ye resist not evil," is as strong a passage, in the letter and spirit of it, as can be urged against capital punishment from the New Testament. But can it require any labored argumenta. tion to show that, if this passage can be thus applied, it is equally applicable to all cases of punishment, i. e. of the infliction of evil or suffering for crime? If a resort to the tribunals of human justice is here forbidden in cases of the most aggravated personal injuries, much more is such resort forbidden for minor wrongs; and if all such resort for redress is forbidden, then the administration of criminal jurisprudence, if not itself positively forbidden, is so by implication; or, at all events, is left without any use whatever for which it should exist among Christian men. And not only is the administration of criminal law forbidden, but all civil processes also; for did not our Saviour expressly add, "of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again?" And does it not inevitably follow thence, on this method of literal and political interpretation, that no magistrate or civil officer has any right, as a Christian man, to demand, much less to compel, the payment of debts or the restitution of stolen goods? Why then should our courts of justice be kept open any longer? Their whole business is solemn, systematic, legalized outrage upon the first principles of the Gospel! As though the Gospel of Christ was given for the special protection of thieves and murderers!

Is it said that it is only the form of the old law as a lex talionis, donné des conseils, c'est qu'il a vu que ses conseils, s'ils étaient ordonnés comme des loix, seraient contraires à l'esprit de ses loix."—Esp. des Loix. Liv. 24. Ch. 6.

We should also except Rousseau, if he is entitled to the name of "critic." His inferences from the Sermon on the Mount, he gives as follows: “Je me trompe en disant une République chrétienne; chacun de ces deux mots exclut l'autre. Le christianisme ne prêche que servitude et dépendance. Les vrais chrétiens sont faits pour être esclaves."-Du Contrat Social. Liv. 4. Ch. 8.

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Michaelis's Interpretation.


which is here repeated? We answer that the substitute is of the most general and absolute character: "I say unto you that ye resist not evil," not only are ye not to resist by direct retaliation but in no way whatever. Besides, is it to be supposed that our Saviour meant to say, "If a man strike you on your cheek, or deprive you of an eye or a tooth, you may have him punished in any way by a court of justice, provided only he be not punished by being smitten on his cheek, or deprived of his eye or tooth in return?" And so, if a man have committed murder, "he may be punished in any other way, by the knout or the rack, or any length or severity of imprisonment-only life must not be taken for life." Is this what our Saviour meant? If not, then it would seem it was not merely the lex talionis, as such, that he designed to repeal,-if he designed to repeal anything.

If it be asked what interpretation, then, can be given to the passage; we answer, that is no present business of ours. We are under no obligation to show what the text does mean. It is enough for us to have shown that the interpretation by which it is arrayed against us, is untenable, short of requiring the abolition of all penalties whatever for crime. But there is an old interpretation which has been given by most Christian critics, and received in the Christian church from time immemorial. According to that interpretation our Saviour did not mean in this discourse of his to abrogate the law of Moses, or any part of it, as a civil regulation; but to condemn the prevalent abuse which was made of its principles to the purposes of private selfishness, licentiousness, malice and revenge. If any allow themselves to sneer at this ancient interpretation, or think it sufficiently refuted by being exclaimed at, it remains for them and not for us to offer a better. And we

If a particular authority is wanted to confirm our exegesis, take the following, which we find in Michaelis; Mos. Recht. Art. 242.

"Christ does not find fault with the Mosaic statute of eye for eye, tooth for tooth; for he has throughout his whole sermon nothing to do with Moses, and neither expounds nor controverts his doctrines; he only condemns the bad morality of the Pharisees, which they thought fit to propound in his words. In the present instance these expositors confounded, as on many other occasions, civil law and morality together; and when the moral question was, How far may I be allowed to carry my resentment and gratify my thirst for revenge? they answered in the words which Moses addressed, not to the injured, but to the injuring party, or to the judge; and said: eye for eye, tooth for tooth. *** Moses addresses the magistrate, or the delinquent who has mutilated his neighbor, and says: Thou, delinquent, art bound to give eye for eye, tooth for tooth; end, thou, judge, to pronounce sentence to that effect. Christ, on the other hand, manifestly addresses the person injured, and forbids him to be vindictive."

think it worth while here to observe, that in this law of like for like, which contains, under a mutable form, the immutable principle of even-handed justice, the specification "life for life," as it stands in the Old Testament, is in every case placed first. (Ex. 21: 23-25. Lev. 24: 17-20. Deut. 19: 21). Why then, if our Lord meant to abrogate the law, did he not begin with its principal and leading title? With our interpretation the reason of this is clear. The law of life for life, hedged in by all the cautious limitations of the Mosaic code, could hardly be perverted to purposes of private revenge; besides, if he had mentioned it, it would have been incongruous with his subsequent positive instructions.

But some will ask in amazement, if we presume to deny that the law of Moses was abrogated in the Gospel? We certainly do presume to deny it, in any such positive and formal sense as that in which we understand our opponents to maintain it. Did not our Saviour most solemnly deny it in that very sermon to which the appeal has been made? Think not," says he, "that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I came not to destroy but to fulfil." It boots nothing to tell us, this applies only to the Decalogue. That is a mere assumption. Our Saviour makes no such distinctions. This is the very preface which he prefixes to those same comments upon the law, which our opponents undertake to interpret as its abrogation-a preface which was intended to serve as an express and solemn warning against all such misinterpretations.

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Was the law of Moses too rigorous? So far from abating one jot or tittle of that rigor, Christ only reässerts it in all its length and breadth and depth and height. And it is remarkable, that he begins his comments with that very command in the Decalogue, for whose temporal sanction God himself originally instituted, and for which we maintain that civil governments have still a right to continue, the penalty of death. Does he repeal that command? Does he repeal that sanction? No. He recognizes and enforces it by still higher sanctions. It is indisputable that the enforcement of rigor is here the general drift and tendency of his discourse; and in harmony with such drift and tendency we are bound to interpret; unless we are to imagine our Saviour to have dealt in insinuations and inuendoes. "Ye have heard," he says, "that if any man kill, he shall be in danger of the judgment; [which, according to Josephus, was the designation of the lowest court of judicature, consisting of seven judges;] but I say unto


Interpretation of Matt. 5: 21, 22.

you, that, [according to any interpretation of the law and its sanctions], whosoever shall be angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca! shall be in danger of the synedrium; [by the "synedrium," all critics agree, the Jewish sanhedrim, or council of seventy is meant, which had the power of inflicting the penalty of death by stoning;] but whosoever shall say, Thou fool! shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna;" [i. e. of being burnt in the vale of Hinnom-the most terrific punishment which a Jew could imagine.] Does all this indicate any remission of the rigor of the law-any abrogation of its sanctions?

We not only freely admit, but strenuously maintain, in consonance with the authority of the best and oldest critics, that our Saviour here intends something more than mere temporal punishment; but that certainly is strange argumentation which would prove that, by merely asserting that a higher punishment was right, he intended to assert that the lower punishment was wrong, that in using the lower punishment as a symbol and illustration of the higher, he thereby intended to cashier the former as "savage and barbarous," as utterly inconsistent with the benign and merciful character, the indulgent and gentle spirit of the new dispensation. Let no one undertake to misrepresent us, as though we should say that our Saviour here enacted a law binding on all Christian governments, that whoever should say to his brother, Raca! should be stoned; and whoever should say, Fool! should be burnt. We neither say nor mean any such thing. We have already said that, according to our view, neither in this sermon, nor, we might have added, in any of his instructions, did our Saviour interfere, or intend to interfere, with the rights or duties of the magistrate, or have them in view in any shape further than to recognize them. That he does here recognize and does not abolish, but rather, if any inference can be made one way or the other from his words, does indirectly sanction and confirm, the penalty of death for murder, we cannot but think is sufficiently clear.

The drift of the whole passage, as bearing upon our present discussion and it is one of the proof-texts adduced by our adversaries, we understand as follows. Our Lord would say: The murderer is by law punishable with death. Lest any should think that this is too severe a punishment, or that I came to substitute a milder; or lest any should think that the whole penalty ends here; I say unto you that the murderer, according to my interpretation of the law, is not only punishable with temporal and natural death, but


also with what that death foreshadows, with eternal and spiritual death. I would not have you confine your views to the punishments of time, but would have you carry them forward to the more awful and equally just retributions of eternity. And not only so; lest any should think that, provided they avoid the actual perpetration of the crime of murder, they may indulge freely in feelings and expressions of hatred, malice and contempt, I tell you that though you may thus escape the temporal penalty, you are nevertheless exposed to the eternal.

With those who deny all allusion to future punishment in this passage, we have no occasion to dispute the point. Their view only the more clearly defines its direct meaning as bearing upon temporal sanctions. And that the sanctions, if temporal, are positive, and not mere natural consequences, we suppose is sufficiently evident from the exigences of the context.

But we are reminded of the case of divorcement. In regard to a regulation on this subject, our Lord did indeed say, "for the hardness of your hearts Moses wrote you this precept;" and this, as far as we remember, is the most disparaging remark he ever uttered in regard to the law of Moses or any part of it. But here we see not a particle of evidence that he intended to abolish that precept as a civil regulation. The true meaning would seem to be, "Moses, (or rather God, who spake by the mouth of Moses,) knowing your cruelty and selfishness, and the danger in which a hated wife therefore would stand of abuse, allowed you to put away your wives by a certain legal formality, thus preferring a less evil to a greater." And is not this a good reason for a civil regulation? As a civil regulation, therefore, our Lord did not profess to interfere with it, but protested against its being assumed as a standard of moral purity, and declared that individuals had not the moral right, according to the true spirit of the law itself, and in foro conscientiae, to avail themselves of this legal permission, except in one case; which exception being made, his doctrine on the sub. ject is brought into almost perfect coincidence with the interpretation given of this very law by one of the schools of Jewish doctors.1

1 Since writing the above, our attention has been directed to the account given of this matter by Michaelis in his Mosaisches Recht. We quote from it not only because it confirms our views, but because we have been struck with the almost perfect coincidence in the forms of expression. "Divorce was permitted by Moses for the prevention of greater evils, and on account of the hardheartedness of the people. It may therefore be politically inexpedient, but it is not sinful, in a sovereign, even in certain cases not specified by Christ, to permit married persons to separate, on account of their unyielding and irreconcil

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