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OF JUDGMENT TO COME.
TIIE CONSTITUTION UNDER WHICH IT HATH PLEASED GOD
TO PLACE THE WORLD.
HAVING shown at length in our former discourse that it is not unpleasant to the nature of man, nor uncongenial with the softest, tenderest relations of human life, to be held under responsibility to God, and amenable to his future judgment,--we now proceed to examine the constitution under which he hath actually placed us, and upon which he is to enter into judgment with the sons of men. For God, who in this respect might be a pattern to all lawgivers, hath so contrived it in his wisdom, that his laws and ordinances should be within narrow compass, and he hath brought them by his providence within the reach of small expense, while in his wisdom he hath written them, so that he who runneth may read, and the way-faring man, though a fool, shall not err therein. Upon man therefore, the knowledge of them is incumbent; and surely he will not hold us guiltless if we refuse to lend our ear to the hearing of those words which he hath been at so much pains to reveal. Let us, therefore, gird up the loins of our mind, and draw near with full purpose to discover what the Lord our God, our Creator and our preserver, our father and our friend, requireth of his children, in order that, if we find it good and wholesome to our nature, we may walk before him in the cheerful obedi. ence of an enlightened and convinced mind. For while allegiance to any constitution, human or divine, is blind prejudice and slavery, so long as you know it not, neither are convinced of its wisdom, it doth become, when the mind approves it as right and just, both dutiful and honourable to adhere to it; and the strictest obedience is then the greatest freedom, being emancipation from what the mind rejects and obedience to that which it approves.
There is a great peculiarity in the divine constitution, and a great difficulty in bringing it completely before the mind; not because of the number of its details, but because of that intermixture of justice and mercy in which God hath made it to consist. And yet, if he open our mind to comprehend, and guide our pen to express the wonderful harmony of these its parts, and the wise adaptation of the whole to the present condition and faculties of man, we shall present the purest, the most just, the most merciful institute under which man can live, and to which the mind will spontaneously offer the witness of every good and noble sentiment.
The first office which the Christian lawgiver discharged, was to take to task the principles upon which men had been wont to regulate their sentiments and actions, and to substitute in their stead others by which they should be governed. This discourse, delivered upon the mount, which contains the spirit of his discipline, divides itself into two parts First, of outward or overt acts—Secondly, of inward sentiments and feelings.
Amongst outward acts, he gives the first place to the inflicting of injuries. The law current in his day, and still current in all well-governed societies, that whosoever killed another should be in danger of the judgment, he refines upon, by threatening both judgment here and hell hereafter, to every one who, without a cause, should allow himself in anger against his brother, or rate him for a fool ;thus striking at the root of injuries, by prohibiting the hot and hasty language in which they originate, crushing quarrels in the bud, by making the first outbreak of them
as criminal as their most lamentable termination. The second place he gives to the retaliating of injuries, upon which the lex talionis--an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth—was the current maxim of his day, as it is still. This he utterly abrogates, forbidding to resent or even to resist evil, but to repay it with good ;-a law which, being understood in the letter, would abrogate all law, making us slaves to the worst of masters, the evil passions and ungoverned wills of the wicked ;-but being understood in the spirit, forbids all revenge of injury, and all defence which proceeds in the spirit of revenge ; not prohibiting self-defence, nor suits for justice, nor restrainings of wickedness ; but cautioning us to proceed in these with a benevolent spirit for the reformation of the evil-doer, for the maintenance of good order, and for the ascertaining of righteousness and truth. These two maxims, which compose the whole criminal code of Christ, if obeyed, would put a stop to the inflicting and resenting of
injuries from the greatest even to the least. They would abolish all hasty, heady quarrels, reconcile all cherished grudges and projected retaliations, and convert all arbitrations of differences and suits at law into a cool, quiet examination of the right and just, thus making all questions subservient to the ends of peace and good order. In the third place, comes the intercourse between man and woman, where, as before, his rule is to oppose the mischief in the beginning. An impure word, an unchaste look, a lustful desire, he makes of equal die with adultery complete ; and he honours marriage as the holy threshold and sacred temple of these affections, which being once joined, is not, save on one account, to be dissolved, without incurring the guilt of infidelity in its most atrocious form. All antecedent life he covers with a robe of vestal purity-all subsequent he binds in a chain of duty dissolvable by nothing but one crime. After these laws upon injury and chastity,
come truthfulness and sincerity in our speech; concerning which men are wont to make a distinction, sometimes vowing with a vow, and confirming with an oath, sometimes not. Perceiving that the effect of this distinction was to cast into a secondary place the ordinary every-day intercourse of speech, upon which mainly dependeth the good condition of life, he abrogates it altogether, and appoints that the simplest form of assent and denial-yea and nay--should be strong and binding as the most solemn imprecation.
Having thus restrained insincerity and indecency and injus. tice, in the very germ, he goes on to legislate for the unexpressed, unsignified movements of the inward man, which all former lawgivers had thought to be beside their office. Hatred and malevolence he prohibits in the very last condition of misery to which we can be reduced by the malice of others; for a curse ordering a blessing in return; for contempt, tenderness; for persecution, well-doing, according to the pattern of God, who showers his blessings upon the evil no less than upon the good. Ostentation and vanity, whether in our religious duties or in our natural gifts, he prohibits; and enjoins the last degree of secrecy in prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and other such avocations. Avarice, or the spirit of accumulation, he denounces as the service of mammon, who is the antagonist of God; anticipation and foresight he guards us against, lest they should destroy a due respect unto the providence of God, which feeds the raven and clothes the lilies of the field. Busying ourselves with the affairs of our neighbours, or scanning a brother's failings, he
sets down as the sign of greater failings in ourselves, which he commands us to redress ; giving, as the sum of all, this golden rule, That whatsoever we would that men should do unto us, we should do unto them.
Then, to confirm and sanction all the preceding laws, and others in the same strain, he allows of no religion, no worship, which hath not these practices and these sentiments within its bosom. One nourishing a grudge against any brother, he prohibits from depositing a gift upon the altar of God; one disobeying his commandments in the least iota, and teaching men to do so, he accounts least in the kingdom of heaven ; one who heareth them and doeth them not, confiding withal in the future approbation of God, he likens to a man building his house upon sand, which fell in the hour of need, and carried him away in its ruins.
These laws differ from all others, not only in the originality of their principles, and in the altitude to which these principles arise, and in the pervading extent to which they go, but in this, above all, that, not resting the offence in the degree but in the spirit, they establish it not by evidence of fact, but by evidence of conscience anterior to fact. It is in the state of passionateness in the soul, not the thousand passionate acts; it is in the state of vindictiveness in the soul, not the thousand vindictive acts ; it is in the state of wantonness in the soul, not the thousand impure acts; it is in the state of insincerity in the soul, not the thousand breaches of covenant ;-in these first conceptions of evil, which are, as it were, each the root of a wide-branching tree, the lawgiver of Christians find the criminality to exist. As if the mind were a soil into which, if these seeds be admitted, they must necessarily grow and bear fruit and propagate their kind to an indefinite extent. Seeing then that into the secret place of the heart nothing penetrates but conscience and the eye of God; these two alone can arbitrate the matter. Evidence, therefore, on which all conviction in human institutions ought alone to proceed, is here clean out of the question. The crime is perpetrated long ere it proclaims itself to the perception of the nicest judge. The law is addressed to the spirit of man, from which nothing is hid of its own designs or transactions, of which designs and transactions not the thousandth part do see the light. So that Christ's laws, though a thousand times less numerous, apply to a thousand times more cases than the laws of man.
But a jurisconsult would object to this as their greatest . possible imperfection. He would say at once, To what sery
eth this their saintly purity, if so be that you cannot discern the offence, or bring up the offender to the bar, or if you had him there, could bring nothing home, unless a window should be opened into his breast to reveal the lights and shadows of his mind, or birds of the air should come and testify to his secret works? What availeth this canopy of perfection, extended so far above the head of all performance as hardly in any point to approximate it? Why confound the thought or even the design with the completed act? Why drive men distracted with the crimination of what they daily and hourly commit? These your Christian laws are, in truth, properly speaking, no laws, but the abstract sentiment and disembodied spirit of law, the justice and the purity, upon the steadiness of which law steers its course, but which, like the two poles of the earth, are for ever defended against all approach. They cannot be applied by any judge, they cannot be watched over by any police, or executed by any human power. Evidence cannot be had, conviction cannot be brought home, and therefore no issue can follow. You might set up a court of conscience, but courts of conscience have uniformly become courts of injustice and oppression.,
Now as these peculiarities, by which the Christian is essentially distinguished from every other code, do manifest that it was not meant for being adopted into the courts of men ; it becomes necessary to examine what is its use, seeing it cannot be enforced, where its proper field of operation lies, and how it bears upon those institutions which hold society together. From this inquiry it will appear, that its appeal to conscience, and its sublime purity, are the two very qualities by which it is fitted to gain ascendancy and awaken enthusiasm in the heart, to become the parent of moral feeling, and of good character in the individual, and in the general to patronize enlightened obedience to every wise social institution. In order to exhibit this justification and praise, it becomes necessary to enter a little into the nature of statute law, that by discovering its limited operation, we may perceive the necessity of the Christian institution to do for our well-being that office to which no written executed law of man hath any pretence.
Human laws, judged of and executed by man, have in them properly no moral sanction whatever, as has been well shown by the shrewdest jurisconsult, yet perhaps most limited philosopher, of the day.* They make no appeal to conscience, but to fact. Properly speaking, they never find the
* Mr. Bentham,