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their place. An eloquent historian, beside his more direct, and therefore fairer, attacks upon the credibility of Evangelic story, has contrived to weave into his narration one continued sneer upon the cause of Christianity, and upon the writings and characters of its ancient patrons. The knowledge which this author possesses of the frame and conduct of the human mind, must have led him to observe, that such attacks do their execution without inquiry. Who can refute a sneer? Who can compute the number, much less one by one, scrutinise the justice, of those disparaging insinuations which crowd the pages of this elaborate history? What reader suspends his curiosity, or calls off his attention from the principal narrative, to examine references, to search into the foundation, or to weigh the reason, propriety, and force of every transient sarcasm and sly allusion by which the Christian testimony is depreciated and traduced; and by which, nevertheless, he may find his persuasion afterwards unsettled and perplexed?
But the enemies of Christianity have pursued her with poisoned arrows. Obscenity itself is made the vehicle of infidelity. The awful doctrines, if we be not permitted to call them the sacred truths of our religion, together with all the adjuncts and appendages of its worship and external profession, have been sometimes impudently profaned by an unnatural conjunction with impure and lascivious images. The fondness for ridicule is almost universal; and ridicule to many minds is never so irresistible as when seasoned with obscenity, and employed upon religion. But in proportion as these noxious principles take hold of the imagination, they infatuate the judgment; for trains of ludicrous and unchaste associations adhering to every sentiment and mention of religion, render the mind indisposed to receive either conviction from its evidence, or impressions from its authority. And this effect being exerted upon the sensitive part of our frame, is altogether independent of argument, proof, or reason; is as formidable to a true religion, as to a false one; to a well-grounded faith, as to a chimerical mythology, or fabulous tradition. Neither, let it be observed, is the crime or danger less, because impure ideas are exhibited under a veil, in covert and chastised language.
Seriousness is not constraint of thought; nor levity, freedom. Every mind which wishes the advancement of truth and knowledge, in the most important of all human researches, must abhor this licentiousness, as violating no less the laws of reasoning than the rights of decency. There is but one description of men, to whose principles it ought to be tolerable; I mean that class of reasoners who can see little in Christianity, even supposing it to be true. To such adversaries we address this reflection: Had Jesus Christ
delivered no other declaration than the following-The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the grave shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation'-he had pronounced a message of inestimable importance, and well worthy of that splendid apparatus of prophecy and miracles with which his mission was introduced and attested; a message, in which the wisest of mankind would rejoice to find an answer to their doubts, and rest to their inquiries. It is idle to say, that a future state had been discovered already: -it had been discovered, as the Copernican system was it was one guess among many. He alone discovers, who proves; and no man can prove this point, but the teacher who testifies by miracles that his doctrine comes from God.
[We have already remarked, that punishment is correlative with obligation. Whatever is deemed obligatory on a person, we are prepared to enforce by some suitable sanction-in other words, by punishment.
The consideration of punishment, and of the various motives and principles that ought to regulate its application, makes an important question of ethics as well as of jurisprudence. The last of these subjects takes account only of legal or jural punishments; while under ethics we have to include the penalties inflicted by public opinion, and likewise those resulting from one's own conscience. The following are the principal motives that have operated in the treatment of offenders:
1. Resentment, or vindictive passion, is the primitive and natural impulse leading to the infliction of pain upon an offending party. The promptness and the severity of this mode of retribution inspire a salutary terror, and have great influence in keeping up order in the world. It is the everyday protection of man against man, the most universal check to lawlessness and injury. Such are its obvious advantages. On the other hand, it is apt to pass all reasonable limits, being measured not by the extent of the offence, but by the irascibility of the avenging party. The emotion of tenderness or pity will occasionally come into play, in modifying the wrathful impulses; but this, too, is equally a matter of individual temperament, and has very little reference to the merits of the case.
2. Resentment acting under a rude sense of retributive justice. This was shewn in the ancient doctrine of life for life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and in making restitution for theft. These things were done under the cognisance of law, and the principle was one of the earliest maxims of legal punishment. It has a certain appearance of justice, without much of the reality; and its enforcement in the old Persian Empire is said by Xenophon to have produced the hideous spectacle of a maimed and mendicant population diffused over all the highways of the empire.
3. The rational consideration of the best means of diminishing offences and protecting the peaceable portion of the community. For this end, punishments are chosen according as they are found to operate in deterring from crime. In the old English law, certain offences were treated with great severity, in consequence of the facility of committing them; and hence arose the use of capital punishment in forgery and cattle-stealing, while a less punishment was thought sufficient for shoplifting and similar cases of theft. These extreme punishments are, however, now abolished, not merely from a feeling of leniency to offenders, but because they did not answer expectation in diminishing crime.
4. A feeling of retributive justice as distinct from retributive resentment. The principle of justice that leads us to reward men in proportion to services and deserts, applies also to the use of punishment for demerits and wrongs. If our sentiments of fairdealing are not satisfied without expressing some approbation of good and useful actions, neither are they satisfied without positive disapprobation of an opposite sort of conduct. If we are to let criminals off without punishment or censure, there would seem to be no reason why we should not let benefactors off without praise. This deliberate sentiment of justice does not necessarily demand severity, any more than it will tolerate disproportionate leniency. Taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case-the harm inflicted on the immediate sufferer, the risk to society, the intentions and character of the criminal, the circumstances of aggravation or extenuation-it endeavours to decide in such a way as to satisfy the public feeling of moral equity, so important to be respected in all social transactions. It was the remark of a great master of first principles in the sciences of human nature,1 that if a fine of one shilling sufficed for the prevention of murder, it would be the appropriate punishment of the offence when it did happen. We might on the same principle maintain, that if a five-shilling silver medal were a sufficient stimulus to great public services, that would be the appropriate reward of a Marlborough or a Wellington.
There is, however, a very important consideration serving to qualify the enforcement of this principle. To confer good is one thing, to inflict evil is quite another thing; the one is allowable to any extent, the other demands a rigorous justification. Hence while the impulses of gratitude may receive unbounded scope, the power of punitive retribution must always be strictly interpreted, and kept within the narrowest limits.
5. The excision of a corrupt member of society.
1 Mr James Mill.