Harmony Of The Law Volume 3 by Jean Calvin
And thou shalt take no gift. This kind of theft is the worst of all, when judges are corrupted either by bribes, or by affection, and thus ruin the fortunes which they ought to protect: for, since their tribunal is as it were sacred asylum, to which those who are unjustly oppressed may fly, nothing can be more unseemly than that they should there fall amongst robbers. Judges are appointed to repress all wrongs and offenses; if therefore they show favor to the wicked, they are harborers of thieves; than which there is no more deadly pest. And besides, since their authority excludes every other remedy, they are themselves like rob-hers with arms in their hands. The greater, therefore, their power of injury is, and the greater the damage committed by their unjust sentences, the more diligently are they to be warned to beware of iniquity; and thus it was necessary to keep them in the path of duty by special instructions, lest they should conceal and encourage thievery by their patronage. Now, as avarice is the root of all evils, when it thus lays hold of the minds of judges, no integrity can continue to exist. But, since all utterly condemn this vice, even though they may be entirely under its influence, God speaks of it the more plainly and popularly, enjoining that judges should withhold their hands from every gift: for there is no more fatal poison for the extinction of all uprightness, than when a judge suffers himself to be cajoled by gifts. Let those who accept gifts allege as much as they please that they still maintain their integrity, the fact itself clearly shows that they are venal, and seek their own pecuniary advantage when they are thus attracted by gain. Formerly it was enough to render judges infamous that they were called nummarii, (moneyers.) But it is superfluous to treat any further of this matter, since God cuts off all handles for subterfuge in a single sentence: |for gifts (He says) blind the eyes of him that seeth, and pervert the judgment of the righteous.| If, then, we acquiesce in His decision, there is no light of intelligence so bright but that gifts extinguish it, nor any probity so great but that they undermine it; in fact, gifts infect a sound mind before they soil the hand; I mean those which a person receives in reference to the judgment of a cause; for there is no question here as to those gifts of mutual kindness which men reciprocate with each other. Thus, in the passage from Deuteronomy 16, before God speaks of gifts, He forbids that justice should be wrested., or men's persons respected: whence we gather, that only those snares are condemned which are set to curry favor. It must be observed on the passage from Leviticus, that to judge in righteousness is contrasted with respecting the person: and consequently, as soon as the judge turns away his eyes ever so little from the cause itself, he forgets equity. Moreover, to wrest judgment is equivalent to doing iniquity in judgment; but since injustice is not always openly manifested, but rather disguised by various artifices, after God in Leviticus has condemned corrupt and unjust judgments, He uses this word to wrest (inclinandi), in Deuteronomy, in order to dissipate all vain pretexts.