Imatges de pÓgina
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arson, and felony, — five classes to the five of the Mosaic laws, or if instances, five instances to the fourteen of the Mosaic. It is, however, to be remembered that, in many cases, what our laws made, not long since, capital offences, are now punishable with imprisonment for life, a penalty substituted for death, and meant to be the same, so far as society is concerned.

One of the methods of the death-penalty, stoning, the most common, was certainly severer than the modern hanging, shooting, and beheading. Slaying by the sword, however, the penalty of murder, and taking the place of our hanging in great degree, is less severe. Stoning was the penalty of all the other crimes, for which we have substituted hanging, fines, and imprisonment with hard labor. We think that, in the two cases, Lev. xx. 14 and xxi. 9, where apparently punishment by burning alive was commanded, Bush shows good reason for believing that it means rather the burning of the bodies after the criminals had been put to death by stoning. If there was more severity than we should use now, and if, especially in some cases, there was a severity which we do not deem necessary now, there are two things to be remembered. First, there were special reasons for severity. These reasons are to be found in the peculiar relations in which the Hebrews stood, as a nation, to God, and the purpose which God had in view in those relations. Their republican government, as we have already seen, was also a monarchy in which God was the king It was so by a formal covenant on the part of the people at Mt. Sinai. Certain crimes, therefore, among them idolatry, witchcraft, and false prophesying, were treason. Certain things became state crimes, from the nature of the case, which are now only immoralities, and which we can see very well might then necessarily be severely punished. While now they may be left to themselves, so far as legislation is concerned.

The purpose in view was a restoration, or to use lord Bacon's word, an instauration, of a knowledge of the character and will of God in the world; the instauration of true

religion in place of debasing and soul-destroying idolatry, and a revelation of will and truth for all coming time. The true idea of sin and unholiness, and of the nature, authority, and government of God, was to be imparted. To this end, it is easy to see how necessary a strict, justly severe, and unbending code of laws was. Israel could not be made a peculiar people, separate from the nations about thein, and marked as a people of the true God, and knowing and obeying his will, unless these strait, strong walls had been erected each side of the way. We should find that more regulations were required, and other and severer penalties, to bring children up from the streets and dens of the city into civilized society, through the House of Refuge and Reform School, than in the already well regulated Christian family. In such a family, the strong, dark lock-up for children would be an unheard of thing; it would be a barbarous thing; but in our Industrial Schools, where the pupils are children snatched from the streets of our cities, from every low den and miserable place, and already educated and well practised in vice and crime, it is both a fact and a necessity. Under different circumstances different means have to be used to the same end.

Second. While the Mosaic code did employ the death penalty more frequently than we do now, yet it never employed or allowed cruelty in punishment; and this is worthy of especial notice. Cruelty in punishment is always to be found among barbarous and uncivilized nations; and it certainly has existed, in fearful degree, in every civilization besides the Hebrew and Christian; e.g. in the Egyptian, Assyrian, Grecian, and Roman; and indeed in that Christian civilization of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries which had lost everything Christian but the name. The Hebrew law did not know imprisonment, nor exile, nor banishment, nor confiscation of goods, nor rack, wheel, knout, flaying, por burying alive. It was a stranger to the punishment of solitary confinement in the dark cell, which crazes the brain of the prisoner in a few short hours (infinitely more cruel than death, and allowed to-day in Eng.

land if not in America), and even the shower-bath, made a terrible instrument of torture at Singsing (if we may believe recent newspaper accounts), the pillory, and the stocks. Its penalties were only four — those which we have named : scourging (thirty-nine stripes – forty save one"given in thirteen blows, with a scourge having three lashes), giving like for like, “ eye for eye,” restitution with compensation, and death.

It must be acknowledged, even here, that the Mosaic code does not compare unfavorably with the codes of our modern enlightened civilization.

We turn now to the positive proofs of the opposite character we have noted.

We take, first, the following passage : “ When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvests. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger. I am the Lord your God." How beautifully it makes every man thoughtful, while gathering his harvests, of the poor man and stranger who may be his neighbor. He must leave the corners of his field unreaped, and the gleanings must not be gathered, nor every grape be carefully plucked from the vine. " Thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger.” It brought every man into immediate relation with the

poor and stranger. It made him feel individually responsible for them. He could never throw off that responsibility upon any general provision, or any common body. It kept the heart open. It cherished thoughtful and generous sentiments. We can hardly conceive that a man could grow up under it a niggard and miser. To this add all the provisions for the poor.

It was said that the poor were never to cease out of the land. Therefore“ Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” Every man was

1 Lev. xix. 9, 10.

2 Deut. xv. 11.

to have a care for his neighbor, and if he saw him waxing poor and falling into decay," — getting behindhand, we should say --- he was, by law, to relieve him,' even though he were a stranger, not a Hebrew. No interest money was to be taken of such an one, nor any increase, i. e, no pay. ment, in any kind, over and above the return of the amount or quantity loaned. How could law any better prevent the grinding and oppression of the poor? By one regulation of the Mosaic code, a poor man was permitted to sell himself, for a time, to his more favored brother Hebrew. But in doing this, he was carefully guarded and enfolded by the protecting power of the law. In the first place, he was not to be made to serve as a bond servant. He was expressly to be regarded as one whose services were hired, and rather as a guest-friend than a servant. He was, then, not to be ruled with rigor. And, in the next place,3 if he served six years, in the seventh he was to “go out free for nothing." he and all his; i. e. he could not be kept in servitude for any amount of indebtedness above six years, and any indebtedness which he could not solve by six years' labor should be forgiven. And, still further, he was not then to go out empty: “And when thou sendest bim out from thee, ..... thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press; of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.” Unless he came forward of himself, volun . tarily, and, from love to his chosen master, declared that he would be his servant always, it was impossible that he should be held beyond the seventh year. Although perhaps our system of provision for the poor through almshouses, benevolent associations, and special appropriations is as good as in our circumstances we can have, and is humanely designed and administered, and it is meant that everything which a generous humanity could dictate shall be done, yet with what superiority, and how

2 Lev. xxv. 39.

1 Lev. xxv. 35 - 37.
3 Deut. xv. 12, 13; Ex. xxi. 2.

much more beautifully, the humanity of the Mosaic provisions shines out!

After every forty-ninth year occurred “the jubilee year,” which was remarkable in these respects — and here, again, the humanity of the code surprisingly appears: all land which had been disposed of, reverted to its original owner; so that no man could be permanently deprived of a possession in the soil (the feudal system, and that evil which exists to-day in Great Britain to such degree under the system of primogeniture, could never have existed under the Mosaic law); and every creditor gave a release to his debtor ; and if the debtor was a poor man, the release was perpetual. How much finer this last than our crude system, in which a general bankrupt law is called for from time to time, or some act of insolvency (radendum tabularum) by which poor creditors, as well as rich, are ground under the stone of injustice !

A law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts allows pawn-brokerage. It sets no limit, and makes no provision with regard to it, except a fine for carrying it on without a license. In Massachusetts, therefore, the poor man who is compelled to pawn his watch, article of clothing, furniture, precious heirloorn, or keepsake, is at the mercy of the broker for the best bargain he can make; and it generally turns out that the article is lost for a tithe of its value. Our other system of pledges is by attachments, mortgages, and bonds, under which, in failure of redemption, the law knows no mercy, and is always in favor of the creditor

never of the debtor. It takes houses and lands; and not long since it took household goods, and, if that were not enough, the person too. And as it now is, it is doubtful whether the provision which exempts a certain value of property and certain articles from attachment for debt is more for the honest poor man or the rascally swindler. Set, now, in contrast with this, the Mosaic law. Pledges might be taken; but certain articles, for instance the upper and nether millstones, and the widow's raiment, might not be taken. But

I Lev. xxv.

% Deut. xxiv. 6, 10.

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