SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Image Map
Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : THE ATONEMENT

Print Thread (PDF)


Joined: 2006/1/31
Posts: 4991



THE difficulties which exist in regard to the Christian religion do not pertain so much to the system of morals which it inculcates, or to the kind of life which it requires, or to the character of its Author, or to the measures which he adopted for the propagation of his religion, or to the doctrine of the immortality of the soul which it discloses, and its description of the future state, as to the fact that men are to be saved by the sufferings of the Author of the system as a sacrifice for human guilt. The character of the Author of the system is admitted to have been perfect; the system of morals which he taught is conceded to have been of the purest character; the manner of life which he required in his followers, it is not denied, is such as is best adapted to secure the happiness of the individual and the progress of society; the general influence of his system of religion has been such undoubtedly as to promote the welfare of mankind; and the hopes which Christianity inspires are such as men must feel that it is desirable that they should cherish; but the grand difficulty in the system is, that it inculcates the idea that an atonement has been made through substituted suffering for human guilt, and that somehow the salvation of the soul is regarded as connected with the death of the Author of the system considered as a sacrifice or expiation for crime. What is meant by this sacrifice? To whom was it made? What ends does it accomplish in a system of religion? Why is not such a device found in human governments? How does it affect the divine character? And how does it make the pardon of sinners more proper than it would otherwise be? What was there to prevent the exercise of mercy on the part of God which has been removed by the atonement? How is pardon more consistent now that an atonement has been made than it otherwise would have been?
These difficulties, if drawn out in detail, would be expressed in some such specifications as the following, embodying thoughts which often pass through the minds of men when the doctrine of the atonement is suggested, though not often expressed in words:
1. The device of an atonement has not been introduced into any human government; nor has it been found necessary to resort to it. Amidst all the methods of disposing of crime and of the criminal which have been suggested, it has never occurred to any legislator to substitute the sufferings of the innocent in the place of the guilty. The principle has never been suggested as one to be acted on, and would never have been admitted if suggested, that the innocent should be punished for the guilty, or that the sufferings of the innocent could accomplish the purpose contemplated by the punishment of crime. In the numerous methods proposed for the maintenance of law; in the plans that have been suggested for the prevention of crime or for the reformation of the criminal, it has never been suggested as a practicable scheme in accomplishing these ends, that the sufferings of the innocent could be substituted for the punishment due to guilt. Even if innocent persons could be found who would be willing to take the place of the guilty--if there were those of exalted rank and character who would consent to take the place of the murderer or the traitor, the law would not admit the substitution, nor would it be supposed that the interests of justice could be secured by such a substitution. Law is direct, earnest, personal: it deals with the guilty, not with the innocent. It has demands on the offender against justice, not on the guiltless. It denounces the criminal, and inflicts punishment on him: it knows nothing of substituted suffering or of vicarious punishment. It recognizes no transfer of criminality, and, consequently, no transfer of punishment. The man who is guilty of arson or forgery is imprisoned; the traitor or the murderer dies. No one can be required to be imprisoned or put to death in their place; nor would any voluntary submission of the innocent to the sufferings appointed as the penalty of law be accepted in the place of the punishment of the offender himself. If the law in its operations is too severe; if there are mitigating circumstances in the case of which the law in its regular operations cannot take cognizance; or if the offender manifest such a spirit of penitence that the interests of justice will not suffer by his release, and that he may be safely restored to the bosom of the community, a 'pardon' is granted, and the offender is discharged. In the act of granting such a pardon, however, no substituted sufferings in the place of the guilty would be allowed to constitute an argument why the pardon should be granted. It is, and it must be, in human governments, wholly on other considerations. But if there are no mitigating circumstances in the case; if the trial has been just and fair; if there is nothing in the character or deportment of the offender to justify the interposition of mercy, the law is allowed to take its course, and the offender languishes in prison or dies. All the arrangements of human governments are based on this; all that is done to maintain the honour of the law is concentrated on this; all that there is to satisfy the demands of justice is founded on this. No attempt to introduce substituted sufferings as a method of meeting the demand of law is made; none would be tolerated; none would be practicable.
It is not unnatural that these views should influence men's minds when they come to the consideration of the divine administration, and that what would be regarded as unnecessary or unjust in a human government should be considered as equally unnecessary or unjust when applied to the govern-ment of God. Why, it would be asked, since his law is more perfect than any human law, and since he is himself more perfect than any human legislator or judge--why, since the penalties of his laws can be adjusted more accurately and inflicted more perfectly than is possible under a human administration--why, since it is possible for him to extend pardon without any bias on his part, and without any danger of error, only in those cases where it ought to be extended, and in all cases where it should be, why, since, under his administration, every necessary precaution can be taken to prevent any evil from the exercise of the pardoning power, should a device like that of the atonement be regarded as necessary? Since such an arrangement has never been found necessary in a human administration, the question may be asked with fairness, why, in a system absolutely perfect, as the divine government is alleged to be, and under the administration of one infinitely wise and just, should it be found necessary to resort to a device which has not been found needful under any form of human administration? And if such an arrangement as that of an atonement by the substituted sufferings of the innocent in place of the guilty would be impracticable in a human government, and would violate some of the plainest and most obvious principles of justice, how can it be introduced into the divine administration? Is that just in God which would be unjust in man? Is that desirable in the divine government which would be undesirable in the best form of human government? Is that needful under a perfect form of administration which has not been required even in the confessedly imperfect administration of human law?
2. It would be regarded as an objection to the doctrine of the atonement that nothing like this is found in the actual administration of the affairs of the world under the divine government, or that, in the actual course of events, there is no such substitution of the suffering of the innocent for the guilty as is contemplated in the atonement. There is evidently, under the divine government, some system pertaining to the treatment of sin. Sin has been in the world as far back as any historical records go, except the single record that the first man was sinless at first, though of his conduct while sinless we have almost no record; and there has been, under the divine administration, what may be regarded as a course of events in respect to the transgression of law. There are sufficient intimations that there is a divine plan in regard to the treatment of sinners. In other words, there are certain results which, under the divine administration, will follow the commission of crime. No one could deny that various methods have been resorted to express the divine feelings in respect to sin, and designed to check its career; but in the actual administration of human affairs, apart from revelation, there has been no device discernible by which it is contemplated to meet the consequences of sin by the, substituted sufferings of the innocent considered as an expiation for guilt.
The actual government of God in the world proceeds on the supposition that the guilty only are to be punished. The penalty of the law has reference only to them. Its threatenings rest on them alone. It has no denunciations for the innocent. The evils resulting from intemperance as a penalty of law do not pertain to the sober; the results of avarice belong to the covetous; the consequences of licentiousness descend on those who violate the laws of chastity, and not on the pure. No other system, it would be said, would answer the purpose of a moral administration. In no other mode could we learn from the actual course of events what is the character of the moral Governor of the universe. No other system would fairly interpret his character; under no other system could we learn what he is. The stability of his administration, and its influence as a moral system, both depend on the principle that his creatures shall be treated as they deserve, and that guilt and innocence shall not be transferred at pleasure; or, which is the same thing in effect, that the results of guilt and innocence shall not be made to change places by an arbitrary purpose. It would be unjust, it would be said, in a righteous system of administration, to treat the guilty as if they were innocent, and equally unjust to treat the innocent as if they were guilty. The objects of a just moral administration are to save the innocent from the penalties which come upon the guilty and to punish the guilty, and thus to maintain the principles of law; not to transfer responsibilities, penalties, and rewards from one to the other. The stability of the divine administration depends on the steadiness with which this principle is pursued, and on the amount of certainty which can be secured, by a steady administration of the principle, that this may always be expected to be so.
The essential idea of an atonement, it would be alleged, is a violation of this principle. Contrary to all the well-understood arrangements of law and justice--arrangements so essential to the stability of the moral administration of the universe--it represents the punishment of the sins of the world as passing over from the guilty to the innocent. It transfers the entire penalty of the law, in relation to the race, from the actual violators of the law to one who never violated it in any respect. It arrests and changes the regular course of justice, introducing an entirely new principle, and one at variance with the settled course of things, by transferring the entire guilt of the world to the head of the only perfectly innocent being who ever dwelt upon the earth.
3. A third difficulty in the atonement considered in reference to the administration of the affairs of the world is, that it seems to be based on a view of the divine character which is unamiable, severe, harsh, stern. The doctrine of the atonement, it is said, represents God as not disposed to show mercy until it is procured by the blood of the innocent; as unwilling to pardon on the manifestation of repentance and reformation, unless the shedding of innocent blood shall have intervened; as demanding that the exact and the utmost penalty of the law shall be inflicted either on the guilty or on a substitute; as, in fact, so intent on the infliction of the penalty of law that there is in no case a remission of the penalty, but merely a transfer of it from the guilty to the innocent. According to the representations in the plan of the atonement, it would seem that no mercy is manifested toward the guilty which is not the result of purchase; that none are in fact forgiven in reference to whom the whole penalty of the law has not been borne by a substitute; that when God seems to forgive it is in appearance only; or that he has been changed by the atonement from a stern and inexorable being to a being who is mild and forgiving, and that, after all, even this is in appearance only, since he forgives only when pardon has been purchased by so much suffering for so much guilt, and since, if the atonement had not been made, mercy would no more have been manifested to man than to rebel angels.
It would be further said on this point, on the one hand, that among men there is no characteristic more amiable or more universally commended than that which prompts to the forgiveness of offenses, and, on the other, that there is none more unamiable than that which never forgives; that no government is more stern, harsh, and severe than that where the pardon of the guilty is never contemplated, and where no provision is made for it; that in ordinary life we have constant occasion either to manifest the spirit of forgiveness toward others or to avail ourselves of it in their forgiving us; that there is nothing that marks a more elevated state of social life than that in which this disposition prevails, and none that has more decisively the characteristic of a state of barbarism than that in which this disposition does not exist; and that the real progress of society is more distinctly marked by the disposition to forgive offenders, and to lay aside the spirit of revenge, than by almost any other advance which society makes. And it would be further added that in the gospel itself there is no spirit that is more frequently commended, and no duty that is more constantly enjoined, than that of forgiveness; and that there is none that is more frequently spoken of with entire disapprobation than the opposite. Everywhere, and at all times, we are required to manifest a spirit of forgiveness toward our fellowmen, no matter how often they offend and no matter how aggravated may be the offence. It would be said, moreover, that in the precepts which enjoin forgiveness we are constantly referred to the example of God himself as a reason why we should forgive, and, is showing the manner in which we are to forgive those who offend us. And yet it would be asked, perhaps with no spirit of humility or reverence, but it would be asked as indicating what is felt by many minds in regard to this subject, "What would be the spirit which would be manifested among men in this respect if they were to imitate God according to the representations in the atonement?" That is, if they were never to forgive unless an expiation or an atonement had been made for the offence; if they were to insist that a full equivalent should be paid for all the wrong done them, either by the offenders themselves or by a substitute; if they never pardoned unless in cases where the innocent had been made to suffer for the guilty; or even if they should admit the sufferings of the innocent at all as a reason why the guilty should go unpunished. Could the principle implied in the atonement be introduced into the common transactions between man and man? Could the example of God in this respect, supposing that he regards it as necessary in order to a reconciliation between him and those who offend against him that an atonement should be made, he held up to man for imitation? Could it be made a virtue of a high order, or a virtue at all, to imitate the example? Does not God, in fact, in the New Testament, require us to act on a different principle from that on which it is alleged that he acts, enjoining it on us to forgive those who offend against us freely, fully, frankly? Does he not everywhere in the New Testament commend a spirit entirely different from that which is necessarily implied in demanding an atonement? And can we believe that he would commend a spirit that should be based on the same principle as his own conduct in requiring an atonement as an indispensable condition of restoration to favour? What would be the condition of the world if, in every case where an offence is committed between man and man, neighbour and neighbour, parent and child, a full equivalent for the wrong done should be demanded before the offence could be forgiven? If there should be the utmost exaction of justice before mercy could be proffered? And if, when this could not be rendered by the, offender himself, it should be required that an innocent being should pay the penalty in order that there might be a willingness to forgive? Two neighbours are at variance. What would be the effect of introducing a principle like the atonement into their quarrel? In default of the offender being able to make an expiation, or to satisfy the demands of the injured one, what would be the effect of requiring that an innocent third person should be made to suffer all that the offender ought himself in justice to endure? A child violates the command of his father and exposes himself to punishment by his offence. What would be the effect in the family if the father should refuse to forgive him until an innocent brother had manifested a willingness to endure, and had actually endured, all that was due to the offender himself? These illustrations may seem harsh as in any way applicable to the divine arrangement of the atonement, and they are not intended to be in any proper sense an illustration of the real nature of that doctrine; but they are designed to illustrate what is often passing through the minds of men when this subject is suggested, and to show the nature of one of the obstacles--though it may not be often stated in this form--to the reception of the doctrine of the atonement by large classes of men.
It is not improbable, also, that the common representations of the atonement are often regarded as but a modification of an idea in the ancient system of Paganism, the idea of appeasing angry gods by sacrifice. The essential idea in those sacrifices undoubtedly was that of turning away the anger of the gods, of doing something to mitigate their wrath, of presenting a reason why they should not take vengeance, or satiate their indignation in the punishment of men. The reason or the consideration in the case was supposed to lie in the fact that what was implied in the idea of wrath or vengeance had been fully met by the blood and sufferings of the innocent victim, and that, therefore, that wrath or vengeance was fully appeased or satisfied. The sacrifice of an animal, or of a prisoner taken in battle, or of an innocent child, might, it was supposed, satisfy the thirst for blood on the part of the offended deity and render him propitious; that is, so appease his, wrath as to make him willing to show mercy, or to release the offender as if he had himself borne the full penalty of the law. This idea, as it lies in the minds of many persons, cannot be better expressed, perhaps, than in the following words, copied from a popular work of the present time: "On one side is an offended God, a somewhat grander Jupiter, with all his thunderbolts suspended over us, and his arm raised to exterminate the world. On the other side, sullen, gloomy, half terrified, half defiant, trying hard to buy him off, are we, his revolted subjects; and midway between stands a grand, unexplainable Personage, whom we by some unexplainable means, have persuaded to conspire with us to buy a reluctant pardon from an angry Jove above."
How extensively this view of the nature of the atonement prevails, it is, of course, impossible to know, for there are deep feelings in the hearts of men which are never expressed in language; but it may be presumed that the thoughts suggested above are far from being uncommon among men, and that many more are cherishing those views than would be willing to avow them. No one can doubt that the thoughts above expressed embody substantially the ideas of the Pagan world in regard to the wrath of the offended gods and the means of appeasing that wrath; and no one need doubt that multitudes are willing to understand the Christian doctrine of the atonement as founded on the same views, and as designed to effect the same object. Nor need it be denied that there have been representations of the atonement by its advocates and friends which would go far to justify this. How far these views are a correct representation of the doctrine will be considered in another part of this work.
4. A similar difficulty in regard to the atonement arises from the idea that it might have been avoided altogether; that God, who has infinite power, could have prevented that state of things which has made such an interposition necessary, if it is necessary at all; that the scheme, in fact, represents God as causing or suffering sin to be introduced into the world with a view to an atonement, or to such a manifestation of his character as would be connected with an atonement; and that the necessity for this would have been avoided if he had prevented the existence of evil. The atonement, it would be said, is designed, according to the usual representations of it, to furnish an exhibition of the character of God such as has been made nowhere else in his dealings with men, or to develop traits of character which could not have developed but for this; and evil was allowed to come into the system in order to furnish a means of the manifestation of the character of God which could not have been otherwise made; as if, it would be said, defects had been purposely allowed in the construction of a machine in order to furnish an occasion to exhibit in a higher degree the skill of the inventor: the existence of the defect, as well as the remedy, both being designed to bring out in its fullness the character of the inventor. In accordance with this view, it would be said that the doctrine of the atonement implies that there are certain attributes of the divine character which could be developed fully in the ordinary works of creation and Providence, but that there are certain others which can be developed only through the medium of sin and misery, and that, as it is desirable that the divine character should be fully displayed, evil has been allowed to come into the system in order to furnish an opportunity for the exhibition of a method of correcting it, thus developing certain attributes of the divine nature which could not otherwise be made known. The idea, according to the doctrine of the atonement, it would be said, seems to be, that there are certain attributes of the divine nature--as power, wisdom, skill--which can be sufficiently manifested in the works of creation contemplated as without sin or suffering; but that there are certain other characteristics of the divine mind which, in order to their being displayed, need the instrumentality of sin and suffering in his creatures, and that the fact that they can be displayed through that medium is a sufficient reason why the race was suffered to fall, and why sin and woe were permitted to spread over the world; or, in other words, that the benefits of such a display of the divine character will be a full equivalent for all the acknowledged evils resulting from the existence of sin, and all the woes that the race will endure. A slight illustration of this idea would be, that it is a sufficient reason why a wasting and painful disease should be suffered to spread through a community, that it gives occasion for the display of skill and benevolence in the healing art; or that, though multitudes suffer and numbers die, still, a sufficient reason for allowing the introduction of the disease would be found in the manifestation of what could not otherwise be known, the benevolence implied in a remedial system. Would not greater benevolence, it would be asked, be shown by preventing the disease altogether? Is not manifest injustice done to the suffering and the dying in bringing these woes upon them in order that there may be a display of the benevolent character of others? Could we vindicate an arrangement by which a pestilential disease should be sent upon a community, sweeping multitudes into the grave, in order that there might be a display of the mercy implied in the healing art? And can we vindicate the arrangement by which it was contemplated that a world should fall into sin, and an entire race of beings otherwise innocent and happy be subjected to the evils of apostasy, and pain and woe spread over the face of a beautiful part of creation, and all forms of crime be committed, and vast numbers perish forever, in order that the character of God might be more fully developed? Is not a grievous wrong thus done to an innocent race? And can there be any equivalent for such a manifest wrong in the fact that the divine character is thus more fully displayed? Could it be an equivalent to the multitudes that should suffer from the plague, or the smallpox, or the cholera, that a remedy was found out which would display in the highest degree the skill of the discoverer, and might in fact save multitudes of others from the ravages of the disease? And can any conceivable exhibition of the divine character, either to this world or to the universe at large, be a sufficient compensation for the introduction of sin into the system, for the wide, deep, and enduring desolations that sin has caused? If the question could have been submitted to the universe of created intelligences, can we suppose that any one race among those created intelligences could have been found who would have seen such manifest good as likely to result from the arrangement, that they would have been willing to be made the subjects of it?
And, in connection with this, it would be said that the whole scheme, even if it could be vindicated, would be but an indirect and `round-about' way of reaching an end wholly unlike what we are accustomed to see in the arrangements which God has made elsewhere. "The thing objected against this scheme of the gospel," says Bishop Butler, "is that it seems to suppose God was reduced to the necessity of a long series of intricate means--in order to accomplish his ends, the recovering and salvation of the world; in like sort as men, for want of understanding or power, not being able to come at their ends directly, are forced to go round-about ways and to make use of many perplexed contrivances to arrive at them." Why, it would be asked, did not God rather prevent the evil altogether, than take such a method to remedy it? Why suffer it to come into the system to be checked, if checked at all, by a slow process extending through many ages, a process, too, which has never yet proved itself to be effectual? And why, since the evil has come into the system, and since men under the system actually become guilty, does not God pardon offenders at once, if penitent, and restore them to his favour? Why, if he is a benevolent being, is there a necessity of some stupendous intermediate work to make even repentance acceptable to God, and to dispose him to the exercise of mercy?
5. It would be said, also, that, after all, we do not understand the nature and the bearing of the proposed remedy. What does it do? To whom is the atonement made? What is its bearing on the character of God? How is it an equivalent for the punishment of the guilty? In what way does it maintain law? In what way does it expiate crime? It is admitted, it would be said, by the advocates of the atonement themselves, that it is impossible to explain its exact relation to the divine character and government, or to show how it facilitates the work of pardon. No one has been able to explain in what way it accomplishes the object contemplated; nor is it pretended that the manner in which it does this is stated in the Bible. It is admitted by its friends, it would be said, to be among those mysteries of the divine administration which God has not thought proper to disclose, or which may be wholly beyond the power of man to comprehend. Though claimed to be among the highest devices of divine wisdom, yet no one understands it; though declared to be expressive of the highest benevolence, yet no one knows how it is so; though said to be an arrangement by which God vindicates his justice and maintains the honour of his law, yet no one is able to show how it does this; and though it is asserted that it meets evils which it has been found impossible to meet in a human administration, yet no one is able to show that it would be proper to introduce such a system into a human administration if it could be done.
Under these circumstances, and with these difficulties of the system full in view, it is asked, how can it be proposed to mankind as an arrangement fitted to meet the evils of sin in the world? So remote does it lie from the ordinary course of things in the divine administration; so unlike is it to what occurs or to what is found necessary under any form of human government; so difficult is it of explanation in its alleged bearing on the divine government and character; so mysterious and incomprehensible is it in respect to the question how it makes it consistent for God to pardon a sinner; so various are the explanations of its relation to the divine character and government by its advocates and friends; and so absurd and contradictory are many of the theories of the atonement, that, although if it be true it is the central doctrine of the system of God's moral administration, it leaves, after all, more questions unanswered and more difficulties unresolved than any other doctrine of natural or revealed religion; and perhaps it would be added that it creates or originates many new perplexities in an ineffectual attempt to explain those previously existing which are so embarrassing to the human mind. The difficulties which are felt in regard to the atonement present perhaps a more real and wide-spread obstacle to the reception of the Christian system than any of the avowed arguments of infidelity, and are operating on large classes of men who would not be influenced by the common objections of infidelity to the authority of the system of revealed truth; men who would not desire to be classed among skeptics, but who see so many difficulties in the whole doctrine of the atonement that they cannot embrace a system of religion which makes that doctrine the basis of all hope of heaven.
It cannot be improper, then, to inquire whether the atonement, as represented in the Bible, does not meet a want which is felt under every form of the administration of law; whether it does not remove difficulties which have everywhere embarrassed the subject of pardon; whether there are not perplexities in administering government everywhere which could be removed by such an arrangement as that of an atonement; whether the doctrine of the atonement has not met a want in the human mind which has never been met under any other proposed arrangement; and whether, in devising such a scheme, a God of infinite wisdom and beneficence has not introduced into his administration that which has been felt everywhere to be necessary, but which has elsewhere been sought in vain. Though there may be depths in regard to it which human wisdom cannot fathom, yet it may be also true that there are difficulties in every system of administering law which could be solved in no way but by such an arrangement as an atonement. To show this will be a leading design of this Essay.


 2007/1/25 13:48Profile

Joined: 2006/1/31
Posts: 4991


IN the administration of law, few subjects have been found more difficult than that of pardon. It has been assumed in all governments that law would be violated; and in all, or nearly all, it has been assumed that there would be cases in which it would be proper that the penalty of the law should not be inflicted. In most governments where there is a constitution, provision has been made for the exercise of pardon in the constitution itself; and it has become a settled and well understood maxim, in administering the government, that cases may be expected to occur where it would be proper to exercise the pardoning power. There have been, indeed, absolute tyrants who never showed mercy to offenders; but there has been no government, founded on a constitution, where it has been an established principle that pardon is in no case to be extended to the guilty.
An atonement is founded on the fact that men are sinners, or transgressors of law, and on the fact that there are difficulties in the way of pardon which cannot be overcome but by some such arrangement as that which is implied in an atonement.
The difficulties in the way of pardon must be substantially the same in the divine administration as in a human government. It is proper, therefore, to inquire what those difficulties are:
Those difficulties are such as exist in the following cases. 1. If pardon should never be extended to the guilty, or if the penalty of the law should be always rigidly executed. 2. If it is often extended to the guilty, or if there is a frequent exercise of the pardoning power. 3. If it should always be extended to the guilty, or if the penalty of the law were never inflicted; and 4. In any and every case where pardon is extended by one--as in this respect he must be above the courts of law, in its bearing on the regular administration of justice.
1. If pardon should never be extended to the guilty, or if the penalty of the law should be always rigidly executed. It has never, indeed, as already remarked, been assumed in any government that this was to be a settled principle, however tyrants may in some cases have acted on it. But it is clear that it might be assumed; and it is proper, in the consideration of the subject, to inquire what consequences would follow if it should be assumed and acted on.
The government in such a case would be one of severe and unrelenting justice. It would be, if such a thing could be secured, a government of perfect law, or a perfect administration of law. The principle would be that an equal and exact penalty for the violation of law should be specified; that the exact amount of criminality should be ascertained; that there should be no improper influence exerted on the mind of a judge or jury; that a just sentence should be in all cases pronounced; and that the law should always be suffered to take its course.
It is easy to conceive that there might be such a government, a government which would be so severely and exactly just, that, in this respect, there could be no ground of complaint against it. Every rule of law might be observed; every proper degree of care be taken that the exact nature of the offence might be determined; every reasonable precaution might be resorted to in the admission of evidence; every desirable security for a just trial might be granted to an accused person; all that has been regarded as valuable, and that is valuable, in securing the rights of men accused of crime, might be maintained; all that has been worked out in the progress of society, now regarded as so essential to justice and as such inestimable safeguards for true liberty, in the trial by jury, in the writ of habeas corpus, in a public trial, in knowing the charge alleged, in confronting witnesses, in the right of cross-examination, might be so observed that on none of these accounts could there be a ground of complaint. Nor in reference to the sentence might there be a just ground of complaint. It might be neither more nor less than was prescribed by the law, neither more nor less than exact justice demanded. And, moreover, the law might be administered with the utmost tenderness on the part of the officers of justice. Every thing might be done in the trial to protect the rights of the accused; every thing might be humane in the execution of the sentence. Neither a Scroggs nor a Jeffreys, it may be supposed, would ever preside on the bench, and the law might always be administered with more than the purity and kindness of a Hale.
But, if it were an admitted principle that pardon was never to be extended to the guilty, that principle would be at war with some of the finest feelings of our nature; for there is a law of our nature which requires that pardon should in some instances be extended to the guilty. We are so made that we cannot but feel that this is desirable and right. We ourselves are prompted by our nature, as well as by the precepts of revelation, to forgive an offender; and there is a demand in the very constitution of our souls which is not met if this is never done. Upright, and firm, and just, as a man may be, yet we feel that there is a defect in his character if he is only upright, and firm, and just, and that, however we may confide in him where questions of right are involved, he is nevertheless a man who cannot be loved. The same would be true in a government. However just and equal it might be in its decisions, and however impartial it might be in its administrations, it would, if pardon were never exercised, drive its decisions over some of the finest feelings, and be in conflict with some of the noblest impulses of our nature. For there are cases where pardon is desirable and proper; cases in which whatever care may have been manifested to secure the ends of justice, whatever impartiality may have been evinced on the trial, whatever indulgence may have been shown to the convicted man, and whatever may have been the justice in the verdict of a jury--it is proper that there should be an interposition of the pardoning power to arrest the execution of the law. Under every constitutional government, or every government of law, men have been convinced of this, and accordingly the pardoning power has been lodged either with the executive or the judges. This provision has been found under all governments but those of tyrants; and a government where this provision was not found would be, in the nature of the case, the government of a tyrant. Moreover, this has been, more than any thing else in the administration of the laws, a matter of discretion. How many may be pardoned, under what circumstances, with what manifestations of feeling on the part of the guilty, with what promises or pledges, express or implied, if any, and with what expressions of sympathy or appeals for pardon on the part of the community in behalf of the guilty, if any, have all been points beyond the control of the law. How much or how little of these shall be requisite to secure the favourable intervention of the pardoning power, has been a point which the law has never attempted to prescribe.
That there is a deep feeling in the nature of man which demands that the pardoning power shall be exercised in some cases, is apparent from the ease with which petitions can be procured in any community in cases where the exercise of the law, though strictly just, has been regarded as too severe. This, though sometimes, is not always, mawkish sentimentalism; nor is it always, though it often may be, based on an unwillingness that punishment should ever be inflicted. It lies deeper than this. It is the manifestation of a law of our nature. It arises from the fact that we have been endowed with the emotions of sympathy and compassion as well as with a stern sense of justice. There are cases where every benevolent feeling of a community, however resolute that community might be in the demands of justice, and however deep its convictions might be that the law should be sustained, would be gratified by the exercise of mercy, and where every feeling of that community would be outraged if such clemency were never shown. Such cases are too well known to require a distinct specification. The considerations which appeal to a community in such cases are those which are derived from the great age, or the tender age, or the sex, of the guilty; from the circumstances of temptation under which the crime was committed; from the want of education or the mental feebleness of the criminal; from the fact that a family may be dependent on him; from the impaired health of the prisoner; from the belief that the ends of justice may be secured by the mere fact of his condemnation without inflicting on him the sentence; from the conduct of a prisoner after conviction, and the belief that he has so reformed that it may be safe to restore him again to his family and to the community; perhaps from the former public services of the guilty man. In all such cases it is left for the executive to judge as to the propriety of remitting the sentence of the law; in reference to such cases it would be an outrage on all the finer feelings of our nature if there were to provision to meet them and if the law was always inexorably to take its course.
It follows from this that in a government in which there was no provision for pardon in any case, though it might be strictly just, and though it might in this respect deserve the confidence of mankind, it would violate some of the noblest principles that have been implanted in the soul of man. It would contemplate man not as he is, but as a being destitute of compassion, sympathy, and kindness. It would regard him not as possessing, in connection with a sense of justice, a feeling of humanity, but as endowed with a mere sense of justice, stern, severe, inexorable.
But this is not man; this is not society. Man has been formed in a different manner, and society is made up of different materials. There are in the bosoms of individual men and in society different elements; and none of them can be safely disregarded even in the strictest administration of law. Man, individual or associated, is not all intellect, nor is his only characteristic that of a stern sense of justice. He has a heart as well as a head, and there is in his bosom a sense of humanity as well as a sense of right. There are demands in his nature for the exercise of sympathy and forgiveness as well as for the exercise of justice and the maintenance of law; and a government, a court, or an individual, where these are ignored or disregarded, violates some of the noblest principles of our nature and some of the most important arrangements of the Creator. This feeling of our nature--this demand for the exercise of sympathy, compassion, and forgiveness, has led to the conviction already adverted to, that there should be, in all human governments, some arrangement for the remission of the penalty of the law in certain cases, or to the conviction that the law should not in all instances be rigidly and sternly executed, and is the reason why a power of pardon has been lodged in the hands of the executive or the judges.
May it not be added also, since God has implanted this feeling so deeply in the human soul, and made the manifestation of it so essential to the good of society, that it may be inferred that it is a principle in his own nature and in his own administration? Would he make necessary in a human government a principle which has no place in his own? Would he implant in the human soul what has no counterpart in his own nature? Can we suppose that his nature is severely and sternly just, with no elements of sympathy, when he has made compassion so essential a characteristic in the soul of man, and its exercise so indispensable to the welfare of society? And can we avoid, from this consideration, the inference that there will be found in his nature a disposition to pardon, and that there will be found somewhere in his administration an arrangement for the exercise of mercy? As man individually is in some proper sense made in the image of God, and as man associated with his fellow-man for purposes of government represents in some proper sense the administration of the Great Governor of the universe, it may be inferred that a counterpart of what is so essential to the character of the individual here, and of what is made so necessary in all forms of human administration, will be found to exist in the character of the Creator himself, and be manifested in a perfect form under his administration.
2. A second difficulty in regard to the manifestation of mercy in a human administration occurs if pardon is often extended to those who are guilty. There have been, and there are, forms of administration where this in fact occurs. Either from a slight sense of the obligations of justice in a community, or from lax views of the nature of law, or from a mawkish sensibility in regard to punishment, or from false forms and views of humanity, or from weakness, instability, a feeble sense of right, and a false compassion in an executive, it sometimes occurs that 'pardons' are greatly multiplied, and that the conviction of a guilty man constitutes scarcely the slightest evidence that the sentence of the law will be executed. The decisions of courts are set aside on the slightest considerations, and men guilty of atrocious and admitted crimes are turned unpunished and unreformed again upon the community. The evils of this are too obvious to need illustration.
But there are cases, as has been before remarked, where the interposition of the pardoning power seems to be demanded by the circumstances of the case, and by the appeals to that law of our nature which prompts to the exercise of mercy; cases where the rigid sentence of the law would be too severe, or where there were mitigating circumstances in the commission of the offence, or where the conduct of the convicted man seems to furnish evidence that all the desirable ends of conviction have been obtained, and where it may be hoped that a permanent reformation has been secured, or where the reason or the health of the prisoner is endangered, and humanity seems to demand that he should be released, and that a heavier infliction than that contemplated by the law--the loss of reason, or death in the prison--should not come upon him. In these circumstances, as has been remarked before, all the promptings of our nature demand that the pardoning power should be exercised, and all the benevolent feelings of a community are gratified by the exercise of executive clemency.
And yet pardon, under any circumstances, always does much to weaken the strong arm of the law. It is a proclamation that crime may, in certain circumstances, be committed with impunity. It is an announcement to offenders that they have a double hope of escaping punishment--a hope that they will not be detected and convicted, and then a hope that if they are convicted they may, like others, be partakers of the executive clemency. It is manifest that this feeling will exist just in proportion to the frequency with which the pardoning power is exercised. Every guilty man discharged from prison becomes thus a messenger sent into the community--and especially into the community of thieves, robbers, pirates, and murderers--to announce that crime may be committed with impunity; that the law is not rigid and inexorable in its inflictions, and that little is to be apprehended from its threatenings. And it is to be observed, further, that the effect of one act of pardon will be more deep and wide-spread than the effect of the continued punishment of a large number of the guilty. The imprisoned or executed convict is in a great degree forgotten. If imprisoned, he is confined to a cell to which the community has no access. The memory of his trial and of his conviction passes out of the public recollection. He is not seen, except by his keeper, by his chaplain, and by a few of his friends. By a refinement, too, in modern prison-discipline, whether wise or not is not now the inquiry, his very name is concealed, and he is only numerically designated. Between him and his fellow-prisoners, as far as possible, all communication is interdicted. His place in the community is forgotten, and every tie that bound him to the living world is sundered. As far as it is possible, even in the infliction of the punishment, his person, his name, his very existence, are forgotten. He is dead to law, dead to his family, dead to the community. And when the time for which he was committed to prison is expired, if it does expire, and if he does not die in his cell, unpitied, unreformed, and forgotten, all possible care is taken to obliterate the memory of his name, of his crime, of his trial, and of his imprisonment, and to restore him, with no recollection of his offence, and no suspicion on his character, to the community. Often he goes to a place where he is unknown, and where, his name having been concealed or being changed, every trace of his conviction and his punishment is obliterated. And if, in the other supposed case, he is executed for his crime, the memory of that also soon dies away. The terror or the attractiveness of the scene of execution is over; the public sympathy, and with it the public interest in him, is exhausted; a portion of the community feel that he died justly, and lose all interest in him; and on the other and the larger portion no impression favourable to law and virtue was made by his death: he passes out of the sight of the living and out of the memory of mankind.
But not such is the case with a pardoned man. No attempt is made to conceal the interest which is felt in him in securing the arrest of the penalty of the law in his case. A deep public sympathy is excited in his favour; the names of the respectable, the virtuous, and the pious are easily obtained to a petition for his pardon; he acquires a degree of publicity and of popularity which could never have been his if he had been a virtuous man; no attempt is made to conceal his name, and he is restored to the community as a public proof that crime may be committed with impunity, that there are cases where the regular sentence of the law is too severe and where humanity should be allowed to triumph over justice. Every instance of this nature becomes such a proclamation; and, while the influence of a trial and a conviction in favour of the claims of justice may be forgotten, the influence of the pardon, as operating against the claims of justice, will not soon die away. Just in proportion as such instances are multiplied do they operate to weaken the strong arm of the law, and to proclaim to the community that the law may be violated with impunity.
This effect it has never been possible to prevent in a human administration by any safeguards or checks; nor is there any way in which it can be done. No practicable devices have been found to arrest or counteract the natural effect of a frequent exercise of the pardoning power in rendering the administration of justice weak and ineffectual, and in furnishing an encouragement for the commission of crime.
3. This result would be still more disastrous if pardon were always extended to the guilty, or even if it were proclaimed that pardon could, by any arrangement, be extended to all the guilty. In such a case, what would be the use of the forms of law, of the arrest, indictment, and trial of the guilty, of the verdict of a jury, of the sentence of a judge? If in each and every case of such trial there were present in the court-room an officer of the executive intrusted with pardoning power, or if an instrument of pardon were made out and executed before the trial, or if a blank form of pardon, properly signed and sealed, were always at hand ready to be filled up with the name of the man whom a jury should find 'guilty,' or if it were certain that a pardon would be granted, it is evident that the whole process of trial would be a farce and the sentence of the law a bugbear.
Further: in no community would it be safe to have all the prison-doors unbarred and the whole multitude of convicts thrown upon the world. Who, in such a case, in the neighbourhood of a crowded prison would sleep calmly at night? Who would feel for a moment that his property was secure? Who would feel that his house and home were safe? that his wife and children could lie down secure? There could be no arrangement by which such a general jail-delivery could be rendered consistent with the safety of society. No one would wish to live in the vicinity of such a prison. Property would become valueless and the place would become a desert; and though the vast and terrific power of thus discharging all the imprisoned convicts in a community has been intrusted to the executive in each commonwealth, yet it never has been exercised, nor has it ever been contemplated that it should be or could be. There is no community in which it would be safe to have all prisons thrown open and all the inmates discharged; nor are there any arrangements in the power of man by which this could be made safe. If it had ever been contemplated that an executive would thus throw open all the doors of prisons, the pardoning power would never have been granted; if such a case ever should occur in a community, that power would be at once withdrawn. At present society is protected from this evil by general public opinion, and it has not been found necessary to provide any special checks against the exercise of the pardoning power; but if it should be abused in the manner above supposed, the community would find it necessary at once to provide some suitable and effectual restraints against the possibility of an occurrence that would render nugatory all the existing arrangements for the administration of justice, and endanger every thing that is sacred and valuable in a commonwealth.
Moreover, no community would regard it as safe to offer pardon to all criminals on any condition whatever. The offer of pardon is, indeed, not now made to any one, and the hope of pardon in any case is derived only from the fact that the pardoning power is lodged with the executive, the judges, or the legislature, and from the fact that it is so often exercised as to constitute the basis of a hope that it may be exercised in other cases also. But it is never offered to any one. It is never made avowedly dependent on any conditions of penitence, of reformation, or of pledges for future good behaviour. If these things become considerations on the ground of which pardon is extended to the guilty, it is not because it is offered on these conditions, or because they could be safely made conditions of pardon, but because in such cases they may have their influence on the minds of those who are intrusted with the pardoning power. But there can be no doubt as to what would be the effect if pardon were indiscriminately offered to all criminals on any conditions whatever. Forthwith all prisons would be filled with hypocrites and pretenders, in whose bosoms there would be no real reformation, but who would assume the appearance of reformation until the pardon was obtained. There could be no security for future good behaviour; there could be no infallible proof of genuine reformation; there could be no ground of reliance that all the indications of compliance with the conditions were not hypocritically assumed for the purpose of obtaining a discharge from prison. No civil government has the power of originating an influence that shall be extended into the future life of the convict, and that shall become the guarantee that the community will suffer no wrong by the indiscriminate discharge of the guilty on the profession of repentance and reformation.
There is not a government on earth that could safely venture to make the unlimited offer of pardon which God in the gospel makes to guilty men. There it is unlimited. It is on simple conditions, conditions that may be easily complied with by all. Interwoven with those conditions there is a security for the future good conduct of those who are pardoned; a guarantee to the universe that no wrong would be experienced if even all the guilty should be pardoned. That offer of pardon excludes none even by name, none by description. No man is presumed to be so great an offender, to have committed crimes of so aggravated a character against God and his law, to be so powerful or so dangerous, that it would be unsafe to forgive him. In every case, no matter how great the crimes have been, it is presumed that an influence pervades the arrangement for pardon which will secure ever onward the future good conduct of him who is forgiven, and that he who has been most distinguished for crime will hereafter be as eminent for obedience to the law. What those arrangements are, will be the subject of subsequent consideration. The remark now made is that it has been impossible thus far in the world to introduce those arrangements into human legislation, and that, consequently, there has been no community where a universal offer of pardon could be made to the guilty; no commonwealth where it would be safe to throw open all prison-doors and to discharge all convicts upon the world.
4. There is another difficulty on the subject of pardon which must occur in a human administration whenever, and with whatever precautions, it maybe exercised. It is, that it sets aside the decisions of the courts, and, by diminishing confidence in their wisdom, lessens their influence in the administration of the laws. Every act of pardon is, as far as it goes, a proclamation either that the law itself is defective, or that there has been an error in its administration. It is a public statement that there is no tribunal which can be always confided in; that there is need of a higher power to sit again in judgment on the highest decisions of the law, and perhaps to reverse them. And it is not merely a rehearing of the case, as in a court of error, where all the forms and securities of law may be observed; but it is a rehearing where the precautions which the law has thrown around the administration of justice in the arraignment, the indictment, the trial by jury, the examination of witnesses, and the pleadings in the cause, are dispensed with, and where, in most instances, the case is left, without these forms of security, to the decision of a single man. Practically the judgment of the court and the decisions of the law are declared to be wrong. Nothing is done to assert the authority of the court or to maintain the influence of the law while the guilty man is discharged, and two branches of the government--the judicial and the executive--come directly into conflict. In every case of pardon it may be supposed that all executive would desire to maintain the authority of law as administered in the courts of justice, and from this consideration, if there were no other, would hesitate to interpose; for the executive never cannot interpose without practically doing so much to set aside the authority of the law and the regular course of justice. It is to be observed, also, that it has cost much, in the progress of society, to secure an arrangement by which justice may be dispensed, and that it is of the highest importance to maintain the authority of courts of law. There is value in all the arrangements and the processes of justice; in the appointment of judges, in the modes of indictment, in the trial by jury, in the forms of pleading, in the respect shown to the sentence of a court. All these bear directly on the interests of a community; all are to be regarded as safeguards of justice; all are results of long struggles in past ages for the protection of rights; and all go into the sense of security which a community feels in reference to the nature of citizenship. Each one of the arrangements which now enter into the administration of justice has been the result of a long and fearful struggle in the history of the world, or has, in its establishment, constituted an epoch in the progress of society; making a marked distinction between society as it was before, and as it is afterwards. So it was with the establishment of trial by jury in the time of Alfred; with the rights secured by the barons in the Magna Charta; in the writ of habeas corpus in the time of Charles II.; in the abolition of the Star Chamber; in the arrangements by which an indictment shall be found by a jury before trial; in the points established after so long a conflict, that the accused shall meet his accuser face to face, and that the witnesses shall be examined in open court; in the independence of the judges, and in the forms of pleading. The progress of society has been marked by the establishment of these and similar arrangements from age to age: and there is not one of the arrangements now seen in a court of justice which has not in its introduction constituted an epoch in the progress of the world, and been the result of a severe and protracted struggle against oppression and wrong.
It is of the highest importance to the interests of a community that the arrangements which have been found necessary in the administration of law should be sacredly observed; and yet all are practically set aside in every case of pardon, for in every such case an interference is allowed which is protected by none of these safeguards. The interference goes to show that, so far as this case is concerned, the respect which it is so desirable to maintain for courts of law is to be set aside. It is, in fact, an arrangement where there is no proper respect for law or for the regular administration of law under the safeguards secured in the wisdom of past ages.
Such are some of the difficulties on the subject of pardon; difficulties which occur inevitably if pardon is never exercised, if it is often exercised, or if it should be always extended to the guilty. These difficulties it has never been in the power of any human wisdom to overcome; and, whichever of these courses has been adopted, evil has always resulted under every form of human administration. No way has been discovered of so adjusting these points as to make the exercise free from difficulty. There has been some defect in the practical working of every system; something wanting which it has never been in the power of a human legislator to introduce into his scheme. There has been everywhere a deep conviction that pardon should in certain cases be extended to the guilty; but how it can be done so as to secure the interests of justice, so as to maintain the power of law, and so as not to be an encouragement for the commission of crime, is a point which has never been settled in any human administration.


 2007/1/25 13:49Profile

Joined: 2006/1/31
Posts: 4991


ALL governments, in the administration of the laws, experience such difficulties as are proposed to be remedied by an atonement. Whether those difficulties would be removed by such a device as that of the atonement is a fair question for consideration; but it will be admitted, on the slightest consideration of the subject, that the difficulties which are proposed to be remedied by an atonement actually exist in all forms of human administration, and that, in spite of any arrangement which can be made by human wisdom, they create constant embarrassment.
It is important, in order to prepare the way for the consideration of the doctrine of the atonement, to show what those difficulties are, and what devices have been resorted to in order to remove them.
I. The embarrassments which are felt may be specified under four heads:
1. The first arises from the difficulty in respect to the magistrate, the impossibility of his cherishing and carrying, out as a magistrate the feelings which he is permitted and required to cherish as a man. As a man, in his private transactions, he can fully carry out the promptings of humanity and the principle of religion in forgiving an offence; as a magistrate, appointed to administer and execute the laws, these feelings are never to be indulged. There springs up a conflict between the promptings of his nature and the demands of duty; and one or the other of these must be suppressed if he extends pardon to the guilty. The difficulty consists in making the private virtues of the man harmonize with the duties of the magistrate, for there are feelings of our nature which require us to show mercy to the guilty, and it is universally regarded as a virtue for one who has been offended or wronged to pardon an offender. This is a virtue, however, which the magistrate strives in vain to transfer as a magistrate to his own bosom. Pardon he could freely extend in private life; but his public position creates difficulties in indulging these feelings which he cannot surmount. All the interests of justice would be sacrificed if as a magistrate he should give indulgence to the feelings which constitute the highest traits of character in private life; if he were to indulge in that free exercise of mercy towards offenders which he inculcates as a duty on his own children, and which he feels bound to manifest as a neighbour or a citizen. On the one hand, to be as unwilling in private life to forgive as he feels bound to be as a magistrate, would be at variance with all the virtues which are inculcated in regard to the treatment of others, and with what, conscious as we are of imperfection, we are often under the necessity of asking from others; and, on the other hand, to transfer these feelings to a bench of justice, or to expect an officer of justice to indulge them freely, would be to render all the processes of trial a farce, and to defeat all the purposes of the arraignment of the violators of the law. No arrangement has been devised by human wisdom by which that which is an eminent virtue in private life can be transferred to a bench of justice, or by which that which is deemed so essential to virtue in private life can be made proper in him who administers and executes the laws. Every man, therefore, who occupies this position must feel--or must act as if he felt--that he is constrained to assume a different character from that which he deems to be virtuous in private life, when he becomes an executor of the laws, or when he occupies a position where the interests of justice are intrusted to him.
2. The second source of embarrassment occurs in cases where it is desirable that an offender should be pardoned, but where it cannot with propriety be done, and the law is suffered to take its course. In such a case an injury is done to humanity itself, and some of its best dictates are disregarded. There are conflicting feelings and interests, and there is no way by which they can be reconciled. The convictions of the necessity of justice in the execution of the laws, and the strong promptings of humanity in the bosom of the magistrate and in the feelings of the community, come into collision, and there is no method in which both can be indulged, or in which they can be reconciled. The well-known case of Dr. Dodd, so frequently referred to by writers on this subject, will illustrate this point. He was a clergyman. His character and standing before the act of forgery charged on him had been unimpeached. In an evil hour he committed an act of forgery, and was sentenced to death. The case at once excited strong sympathy throughout the realm. The offence was undeniable, and he himself did not attempt to deny it. He did not seek, by any dishonest or dishonourable act, to evade the penalty of the law, nor did he even avail himself of an opportunity of escape which had been purposely left open to him. The paper, forged with the name of the Earl of Chesterfield, was purposely left with him when alone, with the expectation and the hope that he would destroy it and thus remove all the means of convicting him. But, by some strange infatuation, or by design, he omitted to do it, and the law pronounced on him the sentence of death. His fair character hitherto, his profession, and the fact that this was his first offence, excited the strong sympathies of the nation. A petition for his pardon, drawn up by Dr. Johnson, and with his name at the head, received at once no less than thirty thousand signatures; and all the warm feelings of the sovereign himself prompted him to clemency. The benevolent feelings of a large part of the British nation would have been gratified with his pardon. But, on the other hand, there was the explicit judgment of the law. There was the aggravated character of the offence, an offence tending to destroy all confidence in a commercial community. The law regarded the crime as so heinous; so important was it to prevent the commission of the crime in a commercial community; so necessary was it to secure confidence in the transactions between man and man, that it has been said that up to that time in England no one guilty of that crime had been pardoned. Perhaps, too, his profession operated against him, and it was deemed desirable that by a striking example it should be seen that in no circumstances whatever was indulgence to be given to that offence. The law was suffered, therefore, to take its course. The offender died, and the world approved the stern decision of the sovereign.
But the embarrassment felt in this case for the want of some device like an atonement is apparent. There was a manifest want of some arrangement by which the benevolent feelings of the nation and of the sovereign could be gratified, and by which at the same time the interests of justice could be secured. On the one hand, there were thousands of pained hearts when the guilty man died; and on the other, there would have been thousands of painful apprehensions about the consequences if he had been suffered to live. An atonement, or some arrangement that would have secured, at the same time, the gratification of the benevolent feelings of the community, the life of the offender. and the interests of justice, would have saved the whole difficulty.
In every such case there is a source of embarrassment in the administration of law which it has never been in the power of human legislation to remove. There are desires of our nature which are not gratified; and in the rigid execution of law, however a magistrate may comply with the promptings of nature in one respect, that which requires him to administer justice, there are other promptings of his nature which are not complied with, those which impel him to mercy. While obeying the demands of his nature in one respect, he is doing violence to it in another; nor has it ever been possible to make such an arrangement that all the promptings of his nature shall be in harmony.
3. A third source of embarrassment in the administration of justice from the want of some arrangement like an atonement pertains to the reformation or the future conduct of an offender. Even supposing that the interests of justice were fully consulted, and that at the same time all the promptings of compassion in our nature were complied with, still, there is a material point for which no arrangement is made, in regard to the future conduct of the offender. If his punishment had secured his reformation, and if there were absolute certainty in regard to his future good conduct, the exercise of mercy would be attended with much fewer embarrassments than it is now. The whole aspect of the case would be changed, and an approximation would be made at least towards a removal of the difficulties already suggested. It might be supposed that the ends of justice had been so far accomplished in securing his reformation that the exercise of the pardoning power would not be perilous to the community. A few remarks will make this point clear.
(a.) There is great injustice to a community if an offender is discharged with no evidence of repentance and reformation, and no security that he will be subsequently obedient to the laws. This involves a positive wrong to a community, because it sets aside all the arrangements which have been made by that community to detect and punish the guilty and to secure itself from the commission of crime, and because it jeopards the safety of the community by turning upon it a practised offender with no security that he will not repeat his offenses. The wrong done to the community, therefore, is to be measured by all the arrangements which have been made to detect and punish offenders, and by all the injury which would result if the offence should be repeated. For the arrangements made in any community for the detection, arrest, trial, conviction, and punishment of offenders are among the most valuable of all the arrangements of governments; they call into requisition more than almost any other arrangement the wisdom of legislators; they are supposed to protect more rights and to furnish more security for the peace of a community than any other arrangements; and they constitute, more than any thing else, the security on which the community relies for the preservation of property, reputation, life, and peace. The wrong also is to be measured by all that is thus done to endanger the future welfare of the community. Every offender discharged from prison without evidence of reformation does much to render property, life, and reputation insecure, and is so far an act of injustice to the community. It is practically an act of wrong to the community as direct as it would be to establish a school for the purpose of training burglars and counterfeiters, instructing them in the arts of fraud and villainy, and sending them out thus trained to prey upon the community. If there could be some arrangement by which the future good conduct of those who are pardoned could be secured, the wrong done to the community would be indeed much less flagrant; but there, could be no higher act of injustice to all the virtuous and peaceable citizens of a commonwealth, and no act that would more certainly endanger all the rights that society seeks to secure, than at once to discharge all the inmates of the penitentiaries of a land with no security for their future good behaviour.
(b.) Yet it has never been possible by prison-discipline so to secure the reformation of convicts as to furnish a guarantee for their future good conduct. At this point all the arrangements made for reaching the hearts of convicts, and all the efforts of the friends of prison-discipline for securing the reformation of convicts, fail; and, unless some plan securing such an effect as is contemplated by an atonement in the reformation of the guilty can be devised, must forever fail. The reasons for this opinion are the following:
1. No certain reliance can be placed on any professed reformation of a convict; and this would be especially true if his discharge were made in any way dependent on such a professed reformation. No government has ever supposed that it would be a safe principle to adopt that an offender should always be pardoned on evidence of his repentance and reformation. No evidence could be furnished of such a reformation that would be a safe ground of reliance, for the temptation to hypocrisy and insincerity in such a prospect would be so great that no reliance could be placed on any protestations of a purpose of future amendment. Even the most hardened offenders would, in such a case, soon learn the tears and the language of penitence; and few would they be who would remain in prison if the counterfeited expressions of sorrow for sin and the counterfeited pledges of future amendment would secure a discharge. Even with all the precautions and safeguards introduced into prisons on this point; even where there is no promise, or pledge, or even secret hope of pardon from reformation, it is sad to reflect how few pretended reformations in prison can be relied on; how few are, in fact, sincere and permanent.
2. There is no certainty that punishment will so secure the certain reformation of the offender as to make it safe to pardon him. The design of punishment will be a subject for future consideration in this essay, as well also the usual effect of punishment considered as a means of securing reformation or guarding against a repetition of an offence. All that it is necessary now to observe is, that such an effect cannot be regarded as so certain as to be a basis of calculation in reference to the future conduct of an offender, or a basis of action in reference to his treatment at present. It cannot be assumed in the administration of law that punishment will always be so efficacious in securing reformation that this may be proceeded upon as certain, or that on the basis of such an expectation it will be proper to make an arrangement by which convicts may be discharged. In all the forms of punishment which have been devised, whether by fines, imprisonment, scourging, torture, attainder, banishment, or branding, no method has been found that has been so certainly efficacious in securing reformation that it could be assumed that this would always be the result, or that the professions of reformation under the infliction of such penalties could be so relied on that they might be regarded as a safe basis of action in the treatment of the guilty. Repentance and reformation, in fact, occur very seldom as the result of punishment. Even the profession of repentance and reformation is a rare thing. We shall see in our subsequent inquiries that punishment as such has no tendency to produce genuine reformation, but that whenever a real reformation occurs in connection with an infliction of the penalty of the law, it is by some foreign influence, by something which has been introduced apart from the punishment, and which could never have been secured by the mere infliction of the penalty of the law.
3. Such a power cannot be introduced into an act of pardon as shall secure the future good conduct of the offender. If this could be done, it is obvious that it would be safe then to pardon the guilty, at least, so far as their future good conduct is concerned. But this cannot be done. There is no certainty or probability that an act of pardon will so operate on the mind of one who is pardoned as to make his reformation certain; there is no tendency in such an act to make it certain. There are no principles in human nature on which reliance can be placed in securing such a result. We cannot so confide in the gratitude of men, or in their generous impulses, as to feel any assurance that by doing them an act of kindness they will cease to do wrong. However flagrant may have been a crime, however clear the evidence that it was committed, and however it might be supposed that an act of clemency in such a case would appeal to all that is generous and noble in man, yet facts abundantly show that no such act of clemency will so appeal to his sense of gratitude as to secure the future good conduct of the guilty. Nor can there be introduced into the instrument of pardon any such influence as to constitute a ground of security for the future good conduct of an offender. The presumption is rather that one who had been punished, in whatever way he may be discharged from punishment, whether by having borne the prescribed penalty of the law, or by an act of clemency, will feel that he has been wronged by the punishment, and will seek an opportunity of avenging himself for the wrong. Facts, in the case of those who are convicted of crime and who are either punished or pardoned, abundantly sustain this presumption.
4. A fourth source of embarrassment in the administration of justice, which no human arrangement has been sufficient to overcome, is, that it is impossible to secure the exercise of both justice and mercy. The one, so far as it is exercised, sets aside the other. It is possible to be severely and sternly just, and it is possible to be tender, compassionate, and merciful; but it has not been found possible to blend the two. We have seen in the previous remarks that in our nature there is a demand for both, and that cases constantly occur where it is desirable that there should be an exercise of both; that is, cases of acknowledged crime where it is desirable that the offence should be punished, and yet cases so peculiar in their nature that it is desirable that there should be an exercise of clemency; cases where all the interests of justice demand that there should be punishment, and yet where all the benevolent feelings of our nature would be gratified by an act of pardon. One of these only can be gratified by the course which may be pursued in the administration of law; both cannot be. They conflict with each other. The one practically and in effect sets aside the other. As a government leans to the one or the other, it is stern, severe, and harsh, or weak, inefficient, and ineffective. Some of the noblest feelings of our nature are overridden and crushed out by the rigid execution of law; some of the essential claims of justice are set aside by every interposition of mercy. There have been no arrangements in society for blending the two. There are no such arrangements in the ordinary courts of justice; there is no special tribunal where it is supposed that the two can be blended. There are arrangements in abundance for the administration of justice, and there are arrangements for the exercise of mercy, but there are none for the blending of the two. So far also as the character of one who is intrusted with administering the laws is concerned, in proportion as he is inclined to the one it is always at the expense of the other. He is merciful or just, not merciful and just. The one attribute constantly neutralizes the other; and, though there are cases in abundance where these attributes are manifested separately, there are none where they are perfectly combined. Though there are humane judges, yet the mere administration of law is always stern and rigid. If mercy is to be shown it is not by the judge as such; it is reserved for some other breast than his, or for his own breast when acting in some other capacity. "The constitution," says Lord Mansfield, when delivering the opinion of the court of King's Bench on the outlawry of Mr. Wilkes, "does not allow reasons of state to influence our judgments. God forbid that it should! The constitution trusts the king with reasons of state and policy; he may stop prosecutions; he may pardon offenses; it is his to judge whether the law or the criminal should yield. We have no election. None of us encouraged or approved the commission of either of the crimes of which the defendant is convicted; none of us had any hand in his being prosecuted. We cannot pardon. We are to say what we take the law to be: if we do not speak our real opinions, we prevaricate with God and our own consciences."
The departments of justice and mercy have in all constitutional and wise governments been kept distinct; and, however the hearts of judges may be inclined to mercy, and however cordial they may be in commending the guilty to mercy, yet judgment and mercy are so distinct in their character, and are to be dispensed on so different principles, that the law presumes that they cannot both be found united in the same bosom, and that they cannot be safely intrusted to the same individual. As the law has made no arrangement for blending the exercise of the two, so it has never presumed that the same person is qualified to administer both.
Such are some of the embarrassments which occur in a human administration from the want of an atonement. It may be proper, then,
II. In the second place, in illustration of this point, to refer to some cases which have occurred where this difficulty has been felt, and some of the devices which have been resorted to meet it.
A case occurred in the life of the prophet Daniel, which will show what has not infrequently occurred under governments where the law is stern and inflexible. The case was this: Darius, the king, had been instigated by crafty counsellors to promulgate a law that whoever should ask any petition of any god or man for thirty days, except of himself, should be cast into a den of lions. (Daniel vi. 7.) Daniel, as was anticipated by those who had proposed the law, (for it had been proposed for the very purpose of securing his fall from power,) was the first offender. The king now saw that by the law so craftily obtained he had involved the first officer of the realm and a man of unsullied character in ruin, unless some way could be devised by which the consequences of the statute could be averted. Thus it is said (verse 14) that "the king was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him." His feelings of friendship for Daniel prompted him to this; his convictions of what was right urged him to it; the sense of the wrong that he had done in yielding to the enactment of a law manifestly designed to ruin an innocent man pressed it upon him. But there were insuperable difficulties in the ease. There was the stern and absolute law which he had himself enacted. There was the settled maxim in regard to the laws of the realm that they should not be altered, (verse 8;) the fixed principle that, having been once enacted, they should be allowed to take their course, no matter what consequences might follow. There was the undoubted fact that Daniel had violated the law, a fact which Daniel himself would not deny, and which could not be called in question. There was the rank of the offender, and the apprehension of the consequences on more humble classes if one so exalted should be pardoned after an open and palpable violation of the law. There was the effect which would follow in regard to the character of the monarch himself, if he should thus practically confess that he had been inveigled into the enactment of a law designed for a crafty purpose, whose consequences and bearing he did not himself foresee. In view of these considerations, all that could be done was to let the law take its course. The most illustrious, the most useful, and the most upright man in the kingdom was thus consigned to a most fearful doom; and nothing but the protecting care of God saved him when human justice was denied him. Now, on the supposition in this case that the law had been as just as it was inexorable, what was needed, and what would have met the whole difficulty, was some device like an atonement, some arrangement by which the majesty of the law could be asserted and its proper influence secured, while at the same time the desire of the monarch's heart to release the offender could be gratified.
This case may illustrate what substantially occurs always in the administration of law. It is true that all law has a penalty; for if it had not it would be a bugbear. It is true that, so far as the administration of law is concerned, all law is inexorable; for, though a legislature may change or repeal a law, a court is appointed only to administer it, not to set it aside, and, so far as a court is concerned, all laws are as inexorable as "the laws of the Medes and Persians." It is true that in every case where an act of pardon is contemplated it is implied that there has been an undoubted violation of law; for if this is not so the discharge of the man is not an act of pardon, but of justice. And it is true that though all offenders have not the rank, the character, or the moral worth of Daniel, yet that the mere act of violating a law gives a man a prominence which he would not otherwise have had; exalts him into a degree of conspicuousness to which nothing else might elevate him; and gives him a claim to notice which perhaps nothing else could. And it is true, also, that in numerous cases there are strong appeals made to the humanity, the compassion, the kindness, of those intrusted with the pardoning power; that from the age, the former character, the standing, the ability to be useful, of those who are convicted of crime, the operation of the law, though just, seems harsh and severe, and a strong appeal is made to mercy. Such instances strongly remind us of the case of Darius, who "set his heart on Daniel to deliver him, and laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him."
The case of Dr. Dodd, before described, may be again referred to, as another illustration of the embarrassments experienced in the administration of a human government for the want of an atonement. If in that case, as in the case of Daniel, there could have been some device by which, on the one hand, the majesty of the law could have been maintained and the claims of justice asserted, and by which, on the other, the benevolent feelings of the sovereign and of the community could have been gratified, it is easy to see how the evils would have been avoided which were inevitable without it.
Whatever may be thought of the arrangement proposed in the gospel to meet the case of sinful men, it cannot be denied that such an arrangement is desirable, nor that embarrassments are constantly occurring in human governments for the want of it which there has been hitherto no way to overcome. The fact that there is no atonement under a human administration does not occur because there are no cases where it would be desirable, or because no embarrassments arise from the want of it, but because the legislator can make no such provision. It is above him. Even if the principle were admitted that the sufferings of the innocent might be substituted in place of the penalty with which the law threatens the guilty, there is no one whose sufferings he can substitute in place of the guilty, and the whole arrangement is too elevated and vast for him.
To meet and remove these difficulties, as far as it can be done, governments are often constrained to resort to clumsy, ineffectual, and even cruel, devices. Of these the two principal have been substitution and retaliation.
(1.) Substitution.--this has not often indeed been resorted to, for it has not been easy to find a substitute, nor has it been easy to perceive how substituted suffering could satisfy the demands of the law, or secure the ends of the penalty threatened to the offender himself. We shall see, indeed, in a subsequent part of this Essay, that the principle involved in such a substitution is not infrequently developed in the actual course of events under the divine administration; but it has not been practicable for a human government to adopt the principle and to incorporate it into the regular administration of the laws. A single instance may illustrate the difficulty of doing this, and may show how clumsy, ineffectual, and impracticable the attempt is when men resort to substituted sufferings to screen the guilty from punishment.
The King of the Locrians made a law that the adulterer should be punished with the loss of both his eyes. His son was the first offender; and the father, to save his son from the infliction of the penalty and yet to secure the honour of the law, determined that he himself would lose one eye and that his son should lose another. But, whatever might be the effect of a single instance of this kind on the offender or on the community, it was still far from meeting the difficulties which occur in the administration of justice, and from removing the embarrassments which, as we have seen, press on all governments. For this was not what the law required; it was not what the case demanded. The penalty was simply divided, and yet was such that it was not in fact inflicted at all; for the essential idea in the penalty was that of a total loss of sight, which occurred to neither the father nor the son. If the father had submitted to the loss of both his eyes, the case would have been more nearly met. But even then it would have lacked an essential thing in all the proper demands for an atonement. It could not be repeated, and the influence of it could be properly applicable only to this one case. Besides, it had necessarily no efficacy in bringing his son to repentance and securing his future good conduct. The threatening of the loss of the other eye, and of total blindness, might indeed have deterred him; but that would be a new penalty, to operate as any other penalty would, deriving no power from the substituted sufferings of the father in this case. Moreover, even if it had been effectual in this case, it could not be expected to operate in other instances to deter from crime, for, in the very nature of the case, it was limited in its intention and influence to this single instance, and any merit which there might be in it could not be transferred to others. Further, the crime was not atoned for. Just as much suffering was supposed to be endured as would have been if the whole penalty had been inflicted on the son; and the effect was simply that a part was transferred from the guilty to the innocent. So far as the suffering threatened by the law was concerned, it was all inflicted, and in that respect the penalty was completely exhausted. There was no gain of happiness, there was no diminution of suffering, there was no advantage on the whole; for if the exact amount of suffering is to be endured, it is obvious that there is no gain secured by the arrangement, and that it is better that it should be endured by the guilty than by the innocent. Besides, as already remarked, the arrangement secured necessarily no change in the offender. It might be hoped, indeed, that a son would be affected by seeing a father voluntarily endure such a calamity to save him from the full penalty of the law; but it is obvious that there could be no security that it would have this effect on him, and still less that it would have such an effect on others. Indeed, it would not be probable that in regard to the reformation of others it would produce any effect whatever. It might deter others from crime by the apprehension that, if the sovereign was so determined to execute the law as to divide its penalty between his own son and himself, it might be presumed that in all other cases it would be rigidly enforced; but neither in the case of his son, nor of any other offenders, would there be the slightest security that it would tend to bring them to repentance and to a virtuous life.
(2.) Another device which is resorted to to remove the difficulties which occur in the administration of justice, is that of retaliation. A tragedy of this kind was on the point of being enacted in the American Revolution, which would have made the hearts of hundreds bleed on both sides of the Atlantic. A Captain Huddy--an American officer who commanded a small body of troops in Monmouth county, New Jersey--was taken by the British, and shortly afterwards was hanged on the heights near Middletown. It was a case so aggravated, his character was so fair, and it was regarded as so important that a repetition of such offenses should be prevented, that retaliation was resolved on, and it was determined that if the leader of the party was not given up, an officer of the same rank should be selected from the British prisoners in the hands of the Americans, and executed. A large number of British officers were then in Lancaster, Pennsylvania as prisoners. The selection was to be made by lot. It fell on Captain Asgill, an interesting young man of nineteen years of age; and he was conducted towards the army to expiate the murder of the American officer by his death. He had a mother across the ocean. She was already borne down with the weight of family afflictions; and now, far from home, her son, having attained an honourable rank in the army, and in the dawn of life, was destined to death, a species of military sacrifice to atone for the crimes of his country. Circumstances, indeed, not necessary here to be stated, prevented the execution of the purpose, and he was discharged; but the principle was fully admitted both by Washington and by Congress, and every arrangement had been made to execute the purpose. Calmly indeed a brave young man might die even under such circumstances; but it was not like dying on the field with the flag of the enemy folded under his head for a pillow, as Wolfe did, or even dying in defeat voluntarily shedding his blood, like Montgomery on the same plains of Abraham.
But it is not with the spirit with which a brave young man might meet death in such circumstances that we are concerned; it is with the transaction itself considered as a human device to avenge a wrong, to secure the ends of justice, to repair an injury, and to atone for an offence. And here we may notice the following things as illustrating this and all similar methods of retaliation:
(a.) It was a designed substitution--a substitution of an innocent man in the place of the guilty leader of the band which had perpetrated the crime. It was designed to be in the place of his death, and was intended somehow to answer the purpose which his death would have answered. The execution of the leader of the party would have been regarded, so far as the law is concerned, as an expiation for the offence, or as a satisfaction for the crime. If he had been delivered up and put to death, the laws of war would have had no other claim, nor, according to the usages of war, could there have been any other claim, on the enemy. Not even the friends of the murdered man themselves could have demanded any other reparation for the wrong that had been done to them, and the proposed arrangement--by the execution of an innocent man--was intended to accomplish, as far as it could be done, the ends that would have been secured by the death of the murderer himself. It was, therefore, one of the few cases attempted in human laws of expiating crime by substituted sufferings.
(b.) It was to the young officer himself a palpable wrong, a wrong which no consideration could justify. He had, so far as this was concerned, committed no crime. He had violated no law. He had in no sense been guilty of the murder. Nor can it be inferred that he had bound himself by any contract, express or implied, to serve his country in this manner. He may, indeed, be presumed to have offered himself to die for his country, if such should be his lot, on the field of battle, or even in any hard service that might be required. His talents, his skill, his vigour, his time, his valour, all were, in the proper way, to be at the service of his country. But it cannot be supposed that by entering the army he had ever brought himself under an obligation to undergo a shameful death; to have his name connected with the infamy of the gallows, and to be hurried by a cold and cruel act to the grave, in the morning of life, in order to expiate the crime of another. Nothing could make this an act of justice to him, or ever prevent its being, in all its aspects and bearings, a palpable wrong. Whatever benefit his country might derive to itself by suffering this; in whatever way it might be made to avenge a wrong or make satisfaction for crime, it could not but be to him an act of gross and cruel injustice.
(c.) Such an act of retaliation makes even war itself more barbarous and savage. Besides being a wrong to him who is selected to suffer, for which nothing could compensate, it violates all the laws even of honour, deemed so essential in the prosecution of war. It crushes at once all the gentle and noble feelings of our nature, and inflicts pain and wrong on those who ought to be protected. It was not merely the young man who was selected to be the victim who would suffer: the infliction would strike deeper, and would reach those who were in no manner implicated in the war, who were in no sense under the laws of war, and who could by no construction be under obligations to suffer the penalty due to crime. After all, the keenest suffering in the case might not be that endured by the young officer himself, for when he entered the army he perhaps expected to die in the service of his country: it would be the widowed mother in a distant land; the affectionate and tender sister; the maiden affianced to him and who waited for his return with triumph. The chief sorrow from the infliction would be found in the home made desolate; the painful disappointment there; the embittered remembrance in future years of such a day of calamity. Could all terminate on him, or could even his death be remembered in future years as it might have been if he had fallen in battle, the case would be different; but when would the sorrow cease, and what mitigation could there ever be of it, if he was dragged, as if he had been a guilty man, to be murdered in cold blood to expiate a crime with which he had no connection, and for whose commission he could in no sense be responsible?
(d.) It may be added, that if the matter had been of such a nature that he could have submitted to death voluntarily, and that his sacrifice could have been regarded as an act of generous self-devotion to save another from a death as cruel, or more cruel, or to save a friend or a foe from danger, as when one perils his life in endeavouring to deliver another from a watery grave or from flame, or throws himself into pestilential abodes to minister to the sick and dying, and himself falls a victim, then the case would have been different. The aspect of cruelty, injustice, and severity would then have been wholly removed. It would have assumed the character of all that is noble, elevated, and pure. In such generous self-sacrifice there is every thing to mitigate the sorrows of bereavement; and even the distant widowed mother, the affectionate sister, and the affianced bride would find consolation in such an act. The idea of voluntariness would change at once the whole nature of the transaction, and impart consolation in the remembrance of it in the scenes of deepest sorrow. In the one case the act would convey the idea of every thing generous and noble; in the other, it suggests the idea of all that is cold, repellant, harsh, severe. While the act under consideration would fail, therefore, in atoning for the crime or expiating the offence it would violate every generous feeling of our nature, and serve to perpetuate, extend, and magnify all that is cruel and savage in the nature of man.
The difficulties which have been now suggested press upon every government in the administration of justice; nor has it been possible ever to remove them. The two objects of mercy and justice have never been blended, and the devices which have been resorted to to secure the two have always been clumsy and ineffectual, and usually severe and unjust. One may easily be secured, either justice or mercy; but frequently one is secured at the expense of the other. Justice may be secured, but mercy cannot be extended at the same time to the guilty. It is mere justice--stern, hard, inexorable justice--when a murderer dies on the gallows; it is cold, ironhearted, and iron-handed right when a man is incarcerated for life in a dungeon; it becomes a violation of all the tender sensibilities of our nature, a thing which chills and stuns us, when such a man as the youthful Asgill is selected by lot, and when arrangements are coolly made for his death. Possibly, in such a case, one accustomed to the stern laws of war, or schooled in the mere rules of justice, may discipline the understanding so that it does not revolt at it; but he never so disciplines the heart. That maintains an unwavering aversion to all such transactions; that never varies in its emotions when such transactions are contemplated. Its remonstrances may be, indeed, silenced. There may be no clamour, and no expressed disapproval. But it is acquiescence in stern necessity in a case where the heart feels that a wrong is done to all its own sympathies, and that a demand of its nature has been disregarded, for there is in such cases no such clemency, such kindness, such compassion, as the heart demands. In the mere administration of justice, judges are compelled to part with the kindlier feelings of their nature, and to lay aside their sympathies as fathers, as brothers, as men; jurors are compelled to forget that they are endowed with sympathy and that it is part of their nature to forgive offenders; executioners are compelled to forget that he is a man for whom they are rearing the gallows, and to suppress all the tender emotions of the soul when they send a fellow-being to the bar of God. But, on the other hand, it is true, mercy might be shown to the guilty. All prisons might be thrown open. All convicts might be pardoned. The murderer, and the pirate, and the traitor might be discharged. But then there are principles of our nature which are violated which are as strong and as proper as the claims of mercy and compassion. There are wrongs committed as real, and violations of our nature as certain, as in the sternest and coldest infliction of the mere penalty of the law. In doing this, all the demands of justice would be disregarded, and an egregious wrong would be done to a community. It would be of no use that a vigilant police had ferreted out those who had committed crime; that the process of arraignment and trial had been gone through with; that justice had poised her scales with sure hand and sentenced the guilty man to death. All the securities supposed to be important to the community in the trial by jury, and in the processes of trial, would be of no value; for they would be all at once set aside. In such a state of things, also, the best interests of the community would be disregarded. Pardoned, but unreformed, the murderer, the burglar, the pirate, the highwayman, the midnight assassin, would be let loose upon the community; and who could lie calmly on his pillow? Every neighbourhood would be filled with discharged convicts unreformed; and where would property and life be safe? Every sea would swarm with pirates; and what security could there be for the vast treasures embarked in the pursuits of commerce? What mother could sleep calmly at night, feeling that her sailor-boy was safe on the ocean?
But if an atonement could be made; if there could be such an arrangement that all these varied interests could be secured, what a change would be produced in the administration of the laws! If it were possible to institute an arrangement which would secure a proper expression of the majesty and honour of the law and the interests of justice, and, at the same time, make it proper to indulge the benevolent feelings of the heart; that would send forth all who are pardoned, however guilty they may have been, thoroughly reformed, prepared to take their places in the community as industrious and honest men, securing their good behaviour in all time to come, it is obvious that an object would be accomplished which never has been secured in the administration of justice. It would be an object for which the world has sighed, and which men have endeavoured to secure by the harsh and clumsy devices occasionally resorted to in the vain endeavour to blend the administration of justice and the dispensation of mercy. Whether that object has been secured in the atonement made by the Redeemer, is the most momentous question that can come before the mind of man.


 2007/1/25 13:49Profile

Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Affiliate Disclosure | Privacy Policy