Imágenes de páginas

of the porch, and the sceptic of the academy, addressed by a poor and lowly man, who, rude in speech, without the enticing words of man's wisdom, enjoined precepts contrary to their taste, and very hostile to their prejudices. One of the peculiar privileges of the Areopagitæ seems to have been set at defiance by the zeal of Saint Paul on this occasion; namely, that of inflicting extreme and exemplary punishment upon any person, who should slight the celebration of the holy mysteries, or blaspheme the gods of Greece. We ascended to the summit by means of steps cut in the natural stone. The sublime scene here exhibited, is so striking, that a brief description of it may prove how truly it offers to us a commentary upon the apostle's words, as they were delivered upon the spot. He stood upon the top of the rock, and beneath the canopy of heaven. Before him there was spread a glorious prospect of mountains, islands, seas, and skies: behind him towered the lofty Acropolis, crowned with all its marble temples. Thus every object, whether in the face of nature, or among the works of art, conspired to elevate the mind, and to fill it with reverence towards that BEING, who made and governs the world (Acts xvii. 24. 28.); who sitteth in that light which no mortal eye can approach, and yet is nigh unto the meanest of his creatures; in whom we live and move and have our being.”

?? 1 1




I. CRIMES AGAINST GOD.-1. Idolatry.-2. Blasphemy.-3. Falsely Prophesying.-4. Divination.-5. Perjury.-II. CRIMES AGAINST PARENTS AND RULERS.-III. CRIMES AGAINST PROPERTY :1. Theft.-2. Man-stealing.-3. The Crime of denying any thing taken in trust, or found.-4. Regulations concerning Debtors.IV. CRIMES AGAINST THE PERSON.-1. Murder.-2. Homicide.3. Corporal Injuries.-4. Crimes of Lust.-5. CRIMES OF MALICE, I. IT has been shown in a preceding chapter, that the maintenance of the worship of the only true God was a fundamental object of the Mosaic polity. The government of the Israelites being a Theocracy, that is, one in which the supreme legislative power was vested in the Almighty, who was regarded as their king, it was to be expected that, in a state confessedly religious, crimes against the Supreme Majesty of Jehovah should occupy a primary place in the statutes given by Moses to that people. Accordingly,

1. Idolatry, that is, the worship of other gods, in the Mosaic

[ocr errors]

1 Dr. Clarke's Travels, vol. vi. pp. 263-265. See also Mr. Dodwell's Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece, vol. i. pp. 361, 362.

2 This section is wholly an abridgment of Michaelis's Commentaries, vol. iv.



3 See pp. 77-81. supra.

law occupies the first place in the list of crimes. It was indeed, a crime not merely against God, but also against a fundamental law of the state, and consequently was a species of high treason, which was capitally punished. This crime consisted not in ideas and opinions, but in the overt act of worshipping other gods. An Israelite therefore was guilty of idolatry,

(1.) When he actually worshipped other gods besides JEHOVAH, the only true God. This was, properly speaking, the state crime just noticed; and it is, at the same time, the greatest of all offences against sound reason and common sense. This crime was prohibited in the first of the ten commandments. (Exod. xx. 3.)

(2.) By worshipping images, whether of the true God under a visible form, to which the Israelites were but too prone (Exod. xxxii. 4, 5. Judg. xvii. 3. xviii. 4-6. 14-17. 30, 31. vi. 25-33. viii. 24-27. 1 Kings xii. 26-31.), or of the images of the gods of the Gentiles, of which we have so many instances in the sacred history. All image-worship whatever is expressly forbidden in Exod. xx. 4, 5.; and a curse is denounced against it in Deut.

xxvii. 15.

[ocr errors]

(3.) By prostration before, or adoration of, such images, or of any thing else revered as a god, such as the sun, moon, and stars. (Exod. xx. 5. xxxiv. 14. Deut. iv. 19.) This prostration consisted in falling down on the knees, and at the same time touching the ground with the forehead.

(4.) By having altars or groves dedicated to idols, or images thereof; all which the Mosaic law required to be utterly destroyed (Exod. xxxiv. 13. Deut. vii. 5. xii. 3.); and the Israelites were prohibited, by Deut. vii. 25, 26., from keeping, or even bringing into their houses, the gold and silver that had been upon any image, lest it should prove a snare, and lead them astray: because, having been once consecrated to an idol-god, (considering the then prevalent superstition as to the reality of such deities,) some idea of its sanctity, or some dread of it, might still have continued, and have thus been the means of propagating idolatry afresh among their


(5.) By offering sacrifices to idols, which was expressly forbidden in Levit. xvii. 1-7., especially human victims, the sacrifices of which (it is well known) prevailed to a frightful extent. Parents immolated their offspring: this horrid practice was introduced among the Israelites, from the Canaanites, and is repeatedly reprobated by the prophets in the most pointed manner. The offering of human victims was prohibited in Levit. xviii. 21. compared with 2, 3, 2430. xx. 1-5. Deut. xii. 30. and xviii. 10.

(6.) By eating of offerings made to idols, made by other people, who invited them to their offering feasts. Though no special law was enacted against thus attending the festivals of their gods, it is evidently presupposed as unlawful in Exod. xxxiv. 15.

Idolatry was punished by stoning the guilty individual. When a whole city became guilty of idolatry, it was considered in a state

of rebellion against the government, and was treated according to the laws of war. Its inhabitants, and all their cattle were put to death; no spoil was made, but every thing which it contained was burnt, together with the city itself; nor was it ever allowed to be rebuilt. (Deut. xiii. 13-19.) This law does not appear to have been particularly enforced; the Israelites (from their proneness to adopt the then almost universally prevalent polytheism) in most cases overlooked the crime of a city that became notoriously idolatrous; whence it happened, that idolatry was not confined to any one city, but soon overspread the whole nation. In this case, when the people, as a people, brought guilt upon themselves by their idolatry, God reserved to himself the infliction of the punishments denounced against that national crime; which consisted in wars, famines, and other national judgments, and (when the measure of their iniquity was completed) in the destruction of their polity, and the transportation of the people as slaves into other lands. (Lev. xxvi. Deut. xxviii. xxix. xxxii.) For the crime of seducing others to the worship of strange gods, but more especially where a pretended prophet (who might often naturally anticipate what would come to pass) uttered predictions tending to lead the people into idolatry, the appointed punishment was stoning to death. (Deut. xiii. 2—12.) In order to prevent the barbarous immolation of infants, Moses denounced the punishment of stoning upon those who offered human sacrifices; which the bye-standers might instantly execute upon the delinquent when caught in the act, without any judicial inquiry whatever. (Levit. xx. 2.)


2. God being both the sovereign and legislator of the Israelites, Blasphemy (that is, the speaking injuriously of his name, his attributes, his government, and his revelation) was not only a crime against Him, but also against the state; it was therefore punished capitally by stoning. (Levit. xxiv. 10-14.)


3. It appears from Deut. xviii. 20-22. that a False Prophet was punished capitally, being stoned to death; and there were two eases in which a person was held as convicted of the crime, and consequently liable to its punishment, viz. (1.) If he had prophesied any thing in the name of any other god,-whether it took place or not, he was at all events considered as a false prophet, and, as such, stoned to death. (Deut. xiii. 2—6.)—(2.) If a prophet spoke in the name of the true God, he was tolerated, so long as he remained unconvicted of imposture, even though he threatened calamity or destruction to the state, and he could not be punished: but when the event which he had predicted did not come to pass, he was regarded as an audacious impostor, and, as such, was stoned. (Deut. xviii. 21, 22.)

4. Divination is the conjecturing of future events from things which are supposed to presage them. The eastern people were always fond of divination, magic, the curious arts of interpreting dreams, and of obtaining a knowledge of future events. When Moses gave the law which bears his name to the Israelites, this

disposition had long been common in Egypt and the neighbouring countries. Now, all these vain arts in order to pry into futurity, and all divination whatever, unless God was consulted by prophets, or by Urim and Thummim (the sacred lot kept by the high priest), were expressly prohibited by the statutes of Lev. xix. 26. 31. xx. 6. 23. 27. and Deut. xviii. 9-12. In the case of a person transgressing these laws, by consulting a diviner, God reserved to himself the infliction of his punishment; the transgressor not being amenable to the secular magistrate. (Lev. xx. 6.) The diviner himself was to be stoned. (Lev. xx. 27.)

5. Perjury is, by the Mosaic law, most peremptorily prohibited as a most heinous sin against God; to whom the punishment of it is left, and who in Exod. xx. 7. expressly promises that he will inflict it, without ordaining the infliction of any punishment by the temporal magistrate; except only in the case of a man falsely charging another with a crime, in which case the false witness was liable to the same punishment which would have been inflicted on the accused party if he had been found to have been really guilty (as is shown in p. 135. infra); not indeed as the punishment of perjury against God, but of false witness.

II. CRIMES AGAINST PARENTS and MAGISTRATES constitute an important article of the criminal law of the Hebrews.

1. In the form of government among that people, we recognise much of the patriarchal spirit; in consequence of which fathers enjoyed great rights over their families. The cursing of parents,that is, not only the imprecation of evil on them, but probably also all rude and reproachful language towards them, was punished with death. (Exod. xxi. 17. Levit. xx. 9.); as likewise was the striking of them. (Exod. xxi. 15.) An example of the crime of cursing of a parent, which is fully in point, is given by Jesus Christ in Matt. xv. 4-6. or Mark vii. 9-12.; "where he upbraids the Pharisees with their giving, from their deference to human traditions and doctrines, such an exposition of the divine law, as converted an action, which, by the law of Moses, would have been punished with death, into a vow, both obligatory and acceptable in the sight of God. It seems, that it was then not uncommon for an undutiful and degenerate son, who wanted to be rid of the burden of supporting his parents, and in his wrath, to turn them adrift upon the wide world, to say to his father or mother, Korban, or, Be that Korban (consecrated) which I should appropriate to thy support; that is, Every thing wherewith I might ever aid or serve thee, and, of course, every thing, which I ought to devote to thy relief in the days of helpless old age, I here vow unto God.-A most abominable vow indeed! and which God would, unquestionably, as little approve or accept, as he would a vow to commit adultery. And yet some of the Pharisees pronounced on such vows this strange decision; that they were absolutely obligatory, and that the son, who uttered such words, was bound to abstain from contributing, in the smallest article, to the use of his parents; because



every thing, that should have been so appropriated, had become consecrated to God, and could no longer be applied to their use, without sacrilege and a breach of his vow. But on this exposition, Christ not only remarked, that it abrogated the fifth commandment, but he likewise added, as a counter-doctrine, that Moses, their own legislator, had expressly declared, that the man who cursed father or mother deserved to die. Now, it is impossible for a man to curse his parents more effectually, than by a vow like this, when he interprets it with such rigour, as to preclude him from doing any thing in future for their benefit. It is not imprecating upon them a curse in the common style of curses, which evaporate into air; but it is fulfilling the curse, and making it to all intents and purposes effectual.1

Of the two crimes above noticed, the act of striking a parent evinces the most depraved and wicked disposition: and severe as the punishment was, few parents would apply to a magistrate, until all methods had been tried in vain. Both these crimes are included in the case of the stubborn, rebellious, and drunkard son; whom his parents were unable to keep in order, and who, when intoxicated, endangered the lives of others. Such an irreclaimable offender was to be punished with stoning. (Deut. xxi. 18-21.) Severe as this law may seem, we have no instance recorded of its being carried into effect; but it must have had a most salutary operation in the prevention of crimes, in a climate like that of Palestine, where (as in all southern climates) liquor produces more formidable effects than with us, and where also it is most probable that, at that time, the people had not the same efficacious means which we possess, of securing drunkards, and preventing them from doing mischief.

2. Civil government being an ordinance of God, provision is made in all well regulated states for respecting the persons of magistrates. We have seen in a former chapter,2 that when the regal government was established among the Israelites, the person of the king was inviolable, even though he might be tyrannical and unjust. It is indispensably necessary to the due execution of justice, that the persons of magistrates be sacred, and that they should not be insulted in the discharge of their office. All reproachful words or curses, uttered against persons invested with authority, are prohibited in Exod. xxii. 28. No punishment, however is specified; probably it was left to the discretion of the judge, and was different according to the rank of the magistrate and the extent of the crime.

III. The CRIMES or offences AGAINST PROPERTY, mentioned by Moses, are theft, man-stealing, and the denial of any thing taken in trust, or found.

1. On the crime of Theft, Moses imposed the punishment of double (and in certain cases still higher) restitution; and if the thief were unable to make it (which however could rarely happen, as every Israelite by law had his paternal field, the crops of which

1 Michaelis's Commentaries, vol. iv. p. 300.

See p. 85. supra.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »