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munity had the same protection from the penal laws.
Not a little has been said against the law of retaliation, or the lex talionis, as it is enjoined in this code. But has it not been hastily said ? No man doubts that, as the law of individual, and private revenge, it is wrong. It is in this view, and only in this view, that it is condemned by the Saviour, and superseded by the injunction, “Resist not evil.” No man may take the law into his own hands, and become at pleasure the avenger of his own wrongs. But where is its severity, or iniquitableness, as the adjudicated decision of a legal tribunal ? The lex talionis in relation to deliberate and premeditated crimes is just, and it is not certainly impolitic. « Thou shall give life for life.” Nor do I see any injustice, or inexpediency in punishing deliberate maiming by a similar judicial maiming. No man can say, it is not the measure of punishment most consonant to natural equity. As applied to perjury, a crime always of great and studied premeditation, there is a strong propriety in its being rigidly executed, and in doing to the perjurer “ as he had thought to have done unto his brother."
Nor let the conscientious reader of the Mosaic law be induced to imagine that there is any thing either in the civil or penal code of the Hebrews that requires and justifies sin. It is not so. Great injustice has been done in this particular to the Old Testament, as I have remarked before,
There is a difference between a moral and a judicial code, even though proceeding from the same source; and though what the former may not allow, the latter may not require, yet what the former may forbid, the latter may leave unnoticed, and even regulate and control. It is not necessary that a code of civil laws should adjudicate upon every moral evil. It is not best that it should. Notwithstanding all that has been said and written, there is no evidence to my mind that there is any thing in the laws of Moses which countervails the unchanging principles of moral rectitude. . Sometimes you find the Saviour, when commenting on that code, giving the preference to a moral precept over a positive institution, but this is no evidence that the positive institution was sinful. Moses“ suffered some things for the hardness of the hearts of the people,” which, in a subsequent age and a different state of society, he would not have suffered; but this is no evidence that what he judicially suffered he morally approved. Not an instance can be found in which the divine command required that, which can upon any fair construction, be regarded as a violation of that rule of right, which is founded in the nature and relation of things, and is written in every human heart. The Jews in the time of Christ had erroneous views of the laws of Moses, and perverted them, and needed the exposition which was ‘given them by the Saviour. And not a few at the present day have erroneous views of the instructions
of Christ, and pervert them, and need to be taught that they are perfectly consistent with the instruce tions of Moses. The gospel is in advance of the law, but not in opposition to the law. Moses wrote of Christ, and if we believe the words of Christ, we shall believe the writings of Moses.
The Jews were a favoured people. Their penal laws are so much distinguished for discretion, humanity, equity, and mildness, that they cannot but challenge the admiration of every intelligent jurist. Let them be compared with Hales' Pleas of the Crown, and it is no difficult matter to see on which side the advantage lies. Nothing escapes their notice. They guard the morals as well as the persons of the community. It were well if every crowded city had as good a system of sanitary regulations as the camp of Israel. The uniform tendency of their whole system of jurisprudence was to promote a good understanding between man and man; and the great object of their police, the prevention, rather than the punishment of crime. Moses is not less truly the great lawgiver, than the first historian. The surrounding and contemporaneous nations were far in the rear of this favoured people in every department of legislative knowledge. Chaldea, Egypt, Phænicia, Media, Persia, then under the sovereignty of Cherdorlaomer, had every thing to learn on this subject from the Hebrews. “What nation,” says the God of Israel to his chosen people, “ what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judg
ments so righteous, as all this law which I set before you this day ?!
Men do not always follow ancient customs because they are wise. And yet is there no doubt that many succeeding ages, as well as those that were contemporaneous, were deeply indebted to the Mosaic institutions. Dr. Graves, in his admirable lectures on the Pentateuch, says, that “the Mosaic code must have been generally known in those eastern countries from which the most ancient and celebrated legislators and sages derived the model of their laws.” Moses indeed labours to impress this thought upon his countrymen as a powerful motive for a careful observance of their institutions. “Keep therefore and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations which shall hear of all these statutes, and say, surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. The lawgivers of nations bordering on the Jews borrowed many of their institutions from the laws of Moses. This was obviously true of the Egyptians and the Phenicians. During the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus, while the Jews were scattered throughout the kingdom of Persia, their laws were the subjects of remark and notoriety; for Haman speaks of them to the king as “diverse from the laws of all people.” That the extent to which the laws of Greece were indebted to the institutions of Moses was not inconsiderable, may be inferred from the influence of the Hebrew State on the
political condition of the world, during the early ages of the Grecian history, as well as from the direct testimony of learned men.
Very many points of resemblance between the Grecian laws and customs, and those of the Hebrews are stated by Archbishop Potter, in his Antiquities. The Athenians had a prescribed bill of divorce, and so had the Jews. Among the Jews, the father gave names to the children; and such was the custom among the Greeks. The purgation oath among the Greeks strongly resembles the oath of jealousy among the Hebrews. The harvest and vintage festival among the Greeks—the presentation of the best of their flocks, and the offering of their first fruits to the gods—together with the portion prescribed for the priests—the interdiction against garments of diverse colours-protection from violence to the man who fled to their altars—would seem to indicate that the Greeks had cautiously copied the usages of the Jews. And whence was it that no person was permitted to approach the altar of Diana, who had touched a dead body, or been exposed to other causes of impurity, and that the laws of Athens admitted no man to the priesthood who had
person, unless from the institutions of Moses? And has not the agrarian law of Lycurgus its prototype, though none of its defects, in the agrarian law of the Hebrews ? Many of the Athenian laws in relation to the descent of property, and the prohibited degrees of relationship in marriage, seem to