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and reasons for so seeming a severity.most severe,they have proceeded, no doubt, from an excess of abhorrence of a crime
which is, of all others, most terrible and shocking in its own nature, and the most direct attack and stroke at society; -as the security of a man's life was the first protection of society,-the ground work of all other blessings to be desired from such a compact. Thefts,- -oppressions-exactions, and violences of that kind, cut off the branches ;- -this smote the root:- -All perished with it;- -the injury irreparable.-No after-act could make amends for it. What recompence can he give to a man in exchange for his life? What satisfaction to the widow,-the fatherless, to the family,-the friends,-the relations cut off from his protection, and rendered, perhaps, destitute,-perhaps miserable for ever!
No wonder, that, by the law of nature, this crime was always pursued with the most extreme vengeance; which made the barbarians to judge, when they saw St. Paul upon the point of dying a sudden and terrifying death.-No doubt this man is a murderer; whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
The censure, there, was rash and uncharitable; but the honest detestation of the crime was uppermost. They saw a dreadful punishmentthey thought; and in seeing the one,they suspected the other. And the vengeance which had overtaken the holy man, was meant by them the vengeance and punishment of the almighty Being, whose providence and honor was concerned in pursuing him, from the place he had fled from, to that island.
The honor and authority of GoD is most evidently struck at, most certainly, in every such crime, and therefore he would pursue it ;—it being the reason, in the ninth of Genesis, upon
which the prohibition of murder is grounded;for in the image of GoD created he man;-as if to attempt the life of a man had something in it peculiarly daring and audacious; not only shocking as to its consequence, above all other crimes, -but of personal violence and indignity against GOD, the author of our life and death. That it is the highest act of injustice to man, and which will admit of no compensation, I have said.—But the depriving a man of life, does not comprehend the whole of his suffering ;-he may be cut off in an unprovided or disordered condition, with regard to the great account betwixt himself and his Maker. He may be under the power of irregu lar passions and desires. The best of men are not always upon their guard. And I am sure we have all reason to join in that affecting part of our Litany,―That, amongst other evils,-GoD would deliver us from sudden death;-that we may have some foresight of that period, to compose our spirits, prepare our accounts, and put ourselves in the best posture we can to meet it ;—for, after we are most prepared,it is a terror to human na
The people of some nations are said to have a peculiar art in poisoning by slow and gradual advances. In this case,-however horrid,-it savors of mercy with regard to our spiritual state ;-for, the sensible decays of nature, which a sufferer must feel within him, from the secret workings of the horrid drug, give warning, and show that nercy, which the bloody hand that comes upon his neighbor suddenly, and slays him with guile,has denied him. It may serve to admonish him of the duty of repentance, and to make his peace with Gon, whilst he had time and opportunity. The speedy execution of justice, which as our laws now stand, and which were intended for that end, must strike the greater terror upon that ac
count. Short as the interval between sentence and death is, it is long compared to the case of the murdered.-Thou allowedest the man no time, said the judge to a late criminal, in a most affecting manner;-thou allowedest him not a moment to prepare for eternity; and, to one who thinks at all, it is, of all reflections and self accusations, the most heavy and unsurmountable
That, by the hand of violence, a man in a parfect state of health, whilst he walks out in perfect security, as he thinks, with his friends,perhaps whilst he is sleeping soundly, to be hur`ried out of the world by the assassin,-by a sudden stroke-to find himself at the bar of God's justice, without notice and preparation for trial,
-it is most horrible!
Though he be really a good man, (and it is to be hoped GoD makes merciful allowances in such - cases),—yet, it is a terrifying consideration at the best ;—and, as the injury is greater, there are also very aggravating circumstances relating to the person who commits this act :-As, when it is the effect, not of a rash and sudden passion, which sometimes disorders and confounds reason for a moment, but of a deliberate and propense design or malice;—when the sun not only goes down, but rises upon his wrath ;-when he sleeps not -till he has struck the stroke ;-when, after he has had time and leisure to recollect himself,and consider what he is going to do;-when, after all the checks of conscience, the struggles of humanity,the recoiling of his own blood, at the thoughts of shedding another man's-he shall persist still,- and resolve to do it. Merciful GOD! protect us from doing or suffering such evils. Blessed be thy name and providence, which seldom or ever suffers it to escape with impunity.
-In vain does the guilty flatter himself with hopes of secrecy or impunity :-The eye of GoD VOL. III, Ff
is always upon him.-Whither can he fly from his presence!By the immensity of his nature, he is at present in all places-by the infinity of it, to all times ;- by his omniscience, to all thoughts, words, and actions of men, by an emphatical phrase in scripture, the blood of the innocent is said to cry to heaven from the ground for vengeance;-and it was for this reason, that he might be brought to justice, that he was debared the benefit of any asylum, and the cities of refuge. -For the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, and their eye should not pity him.
The text says,Thou shalt take him from my altar, that he may die. It had been a very ancient imagination, that, for men, guilty of this, and other horrid crimes,- ——a place held sacred, as dedicated to GoD, was a refuge and protection to them from the hands of justice. The law of GOD cuts the transgressor off from all delusive hopes of this kind;-and I think the Romish church has very little to boast of, in the sanctuaries which she leaves open for this, and other crimes and irregularities ;— -sanctuaries, which are often the first temptations to wickedness, and therefore, bring the greater scandal and dishonor to her that authorizes their pretensions.
Every obstruction of the course of justiceis a door open to betray society, and bereave us of those blessings which it has in view. To stand up for the privileges of such places, is to invite men to sin with a bribe of impunity. It is a strange way of doing honor to GoD, to screen actions which are a disgrace to humanity.
What scripture, and all civilized nations, teach concerning the crime of taking away another man's life,- -is applicable to the wickedness of a man's attempting to bereave himself of his own.
He has no more right over it,than over that of others:And, whatever false glosses have been put upon it by men of bad heads or bad hearts, it is at the bottom a complication of cowardice, and wickedness, and weakness;is one of the fatalest mistakes, desparation can hurry a man into;-inconsistent with all the reasoning and religion of the world, and irreconcileable with that patience under afflictions,—that resignation and submission to the will of GoD in all straits, which is required of us. But, if our calamities are brought upon ourselves by a man's own wickedness, still has he less to urge, least reason has he to renounce the protection of GOD-when he most stands in need of it, and of his mercy.
But, as I intend the subject of self murder for my discourse next Sunday,-I shall not anticipate what I have to say, but proceed to consider some other cases, in which the law relating to the life of our neighbor is transgressed in different degrees. All which are generally spoken of under the subject of murder,and considered by the best casuists as a species of the same,and, in justice to the subject, cannot be passed here.St. John says, Whosoever hateth his brother, is a murderer;—it is the first step to this sin;-and our Saviour, in his sermon upon the Mount, has explained in how many slighter and unsuspected ways and degrees, the command in the law,Thou shalt do no murder, may be opposed,if not broken. All real mischiefs and injuries maliciously brought upon a man, to the sorrow and disturbance of his mind,-eating out the comfort of his life, and shortening his days, -are this sin in disguise; and the grounds of the scripture expressing it with such severity, is,-that the beginnings of wrath and malice,-in event, often extend to such great and unforeseen effects, as, were we foretold them, we should give so little credit