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THE FOLLY, GUILT, AND MISCHIEFS OF
A SERM ON.
TIMOTHY DWIGHT, D. D.
PRESIDENT OF YALE-COLLEGE.
PROVERBS Xxviii. 17.
A man, that doeth violence to the blood of any perfon, fhall flee to the pit let no man fay him.
THIS passage of scripture is a republication of that general law concerning homicide, which is recorded in Gen. ix. 5, 6. "But surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; 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." ""
This law was published at the time, when the kil ling of beasts for food was permitted. No time could have been equally proper. As the shedding of animal blood would naturally remove the inherent hor. ror at destroying life, and prepare men to shed the blood of each other; the law became indespensable for the prevention of this crime, from the beginning. It ought to be observed, that the detestation, with which God regards this sin, is marked with a pen of iron in that singular declaration; At the hand of every beast will I require it. If homicide is so odious in
the sight of God, as to expose the unconscious brute, which effected it, to the loss of his own life as an expiation; with what views must he regard a man, a rational agent, formed in his own image, when accomplishing the death of his brother man with design, from the indulgence of malice, and in the execution of revenge? As this original law was given to Noah, the progenitor of all postdiluvian men, it is evidently binding on the whole human race. Every nation has accordingly felt its force, and executed it upon the transgressor.
In the text, the same law is promulged with one additional injunction. He shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.' However strongly the past services of the criminal, or the tender affections of his friends may plead for his exemption from the sentence; no man from any motive, or with any view, shall prevent, or even retard, his progress towards the punishment required. To this punishment God has consigned him, absolutely and with his own voice. No consideration, therefore, can prevent, or hinder, the execution.
A sober man would naturally conclude, after reading these precepts, that in every country, where their authority is acknowledged to be divine, homicide would in all cases, beside those excepted expressly by God, be invariably punished with death. At least, he would expect to find all men in such countries agreeing, with a single voice, that such ought to be the fact; and uniting with a single effort, to bring it to pass. Above all, he would certainly conclude, that whatever might be the decision of the vulgar, and the ignorant, there could be but one opinion, in such countries, among those who filled the superior ranks of society.
How greatly then, must such a person be astonished, when he was informed, that in christian countries only, and in such countries among those only,
who are enrolled on the list of superiority and dis. tinction, homicide of a kind no where excepted by God from this general destiny, but marked with all the guilt, of which homicide is succeptible, is not only not thus punished but is vindicated, honored and rewarded, by common consent, and undisguised suf, frage.
The_views; which I entertain of Duelling may be sufficiently expressed under the following heads ;
Duelling is vindicated, so far as my knowledge ex, tends, on the following considerations only; That it is
If it can be shown to be neither of these, in any such sense, as reason can approve, or argument sustain; if it can be proved to be wholly unnecessary to all these purposes, and a preposterous method of accomplishing them ; it must evidently fail of all vin. dication, and be condemned as foolish, irrational, and deserving only of contempt.
As a punishment of an offence, which for the present shall be supposed to be a real one, duelling is fraught with absurdity only. If a duel be fought on equal terms, the only terms allowed by duellists, the person injured exposes himself, equally with the injurer, to a new suffering; always greater in truth, and commonly in his own opinion, than that which he purposes to punish. The injurer only ought to suffer, or to be exposed to suffering. No possible reason can be alledged, why the innocent man should be at all put in hazard. Were the tribunals of justice to place the injured party, appealing to them for redress, in the same hazard of being obliged to pay a
debt, with the fraudulent debtor, in the same dan. ger, of suffering a new fraud, with the swindler ; or in an equal chance of suffering a second mayhem, with the assaulter of his life, or were they to turn him out upon the road, to try his fortune, in another robbery, with the highwaymen; what would common sense say of their distribution? It would doubt. less pronounce them to have just escaped from bedlam; and order them to be strait-waistcoated, until they should recover their reason. Here the injured
, person constitutes himself his own judge ; and resolves on a mode of punishment, which, if ordered by any other umpire, he would reject with indignation. What ? he would exclaim; am I, because I have been injured once, to be injured a second time? And is my enemy, because he has robbed me of my character, to be permitted also to rob me of my life? Let it be remembered, that the decision is not the less mad, because it is voluntarily formed by himself. He, who wantonly wastes his own well being is of all fools the greatest.
As a reparation, duelling has still less claim to the character of rational. What is the reparation proposed? If it be any thing, it must consist either in the act of fighting, or in the death of the wrong-doer. If the injury be a fraud, neither of these will restore the lost
property ; if a personal suffering, neither can restore health, or renew a limb, or a faculty. Or if the wrong be an injury to the character, it cannot need to be asserted, that neither fighting as a duellist, nor killing the wrong-doer, can alter at all the reputation which has been attacked. He has, perhaps, been charged with lying. If the charge is just, he is a liar still. If it be known to be just, neither fighting nor killing his antagonist, will wipe off the stain. The public knew him to be a liar before the combat ; with the same certainty they know him to be such after the combat. What reparation has he gained ? Not
onre man will believe the story the less, because he has fought a duel, or killed his man. If on the other hand, the charge is false, fighting will not in the least degree prove it to be so. Truth and falsehood must, if evinced at all, be evinced by evidence; not by fighting. In the days of knight-errantry this method of deciding controversies had, in the reigning superstition, one rational plea, which now it cannot claim. God was then believed to give success invariably, to the party which had justice on its side. Modern duellists neither believe, nor wish God to interfere in their concerns.
The reparation, enjoyed in the mere gratification
revenge, will not here be pleaded, because, duellists disclaim with indignation the indulgence of that contemptible passion. In the progress of the discourse, however, this subject will be further exam. ined.
As a prevention of crimes generally it is equally absurd. I acknowledge readily, that the fear of danger and suffering will, in a greater or less degree, prevent crimes, and that men may, in some instances, be discouraged from committing private injuries by the dread of being called to account in this manner. But these instances will be few : and this mode of preventing injuries is almost wholly ineffectual.-Duelling is always honorable among duellists; and to be generally practised, must be generally esteemed honorable. That which is honorable will always be courted. The danger to life, will therefore recommend duelling to most men instead of deterring from it. None who call themselves men of honor, ever shew any serious reluctance to give, or accept, a challange. All are brave enough to hazard life, whenever the hazard becomes a sourse of glory.-Every savage, that is, every man in a state of nature, will fight because it is glorious. Civilized men have exactly the same natural character. Persuade them