Page images
PDF
EPUB

sert is not the ground of punishment. There need be no great objection to this, when viewed simply as the opinion of a lawyer having his mind upon the outward preceptive part of the law, regarded as practically commanding, prohibiting, and punishing, without reference to the ultimate ground and reason. In respect to the true nature of government as a Divine institution, and of the magistrate wielding the sword of justice as “a minister of God," we must esteem his philosophy and his authority as far inferior to that of the Apostle Paul ; and yet his statement may perhaps be admitted when contemplated from his own point of view. It is, however, most interesting to observe, how soon his own moral sense compels him (unconsciously perhaps), to use language inconsistent with the doctrine attributed to him. Very soon after his proposition respecting the object of punishment, he tells us, that the penalty in certain cases ought to exceed the damage sustained by the sufferer, because it is contrary to reason and equity that the guilty should suffer no more than the innocent has done before.” Here is a direct appeal to moral considerations, aside from that measure of pain which, without reference to desert, might be enough to deter from the crime. Reason and equity demand something more. It is on the ground, too, that the deterring power would be weakened by the sense of injustice arising from

like the idea of expiation, satisfaction, or the reprobated lex talionis.

Again he says (Vol. iv., 17), “ It is moreover absurd and impolitic to apply the same punishment to crimes of different malignity.Here, too, are moral ideas, regarded as an independent and ultimate ground lying farther back than the economical, and which the latter department cannot disregard without greatly impairing its own efficacy. “It is impolitic," that is, it is inexpe

Here comes up again that most important distinction, to which we have before called attention, exhibiting even in the mind of one who would seem to maintain the other theory, the necessary and eternal priority of moral ideas to the economical and the expedient.

" When men,” Blackstone again remarks, “ see no distinction made in the nature and gradation of punishment, the generality will be led to conclude that there is no distinction in the guilt”

(Vol. iv., 18). But if moral desert is not the ground of punishment, what have they to do with the guilt, unless the generality are to be treated as the exoteric multitude, who are not to be initi. ated into the more philosophic views of jurisprudence? A most important admission this, that law, even human law, is, and of necessity must be, that moral or immoral educating power which we

contend it is; and that, therefore, if for no other reasons, it must have regard to desert as a ground of punishment.

To be sure, he would have us believe, that only to the generality is the law such a necessary schoolmaster; yet how clearly is it proved by the intuitive manifestation of his own moral sense, that to this generality of conscience-taught men,' belonged even the great jurist himself. “Men," he says, “will be led to conclude that there is no distinction in guilt;" but if it is generally understood that “moral guilt,” as the writer in the Democratic Review maintains, " is not the ground of punishment,” then this effect ought not to follow; men should not be led thus to conclude. This, however, has not yet become established as “ The Rationale of crime.". It is not so understood; and cannot be so understood, without fatally corrupting and changing the moral and political constitution of humanity from its deepest foundations.

If it be true that the state, in dealing with crime, cannot make “moral guilt a ground of punishment,” it would follow, of course, that it could neither make, nor countenance, any such distinctions as would imply moral degradation. The law might inflict its amount of pain, just enough, according to some Bentham estimate, to deter the criminal or others from a similar mischievous act; but it could not regard him, in the act, as morally worse than any others in the community. Degradation, therefore, could form no part of punishment, or be lawfully regarded as one of its just consequences. If it be said that it may be employed to deter, even in the economical scheme, as well any other species of pain or uneasiness, the answer is, that the moral sense revolts at the very thought of any such use, disconnected from moral ideas. Indeed, severed from these, it could no longer be degradation. All the mere physical power of human, or even of divine law, could not make it such. If, then, the State cannot thus employ it by way of punishment, much less can this be justly done by that thing called society, viewed as something different from the organized State. If the employment by the one is an usurpation of the prerogative of God, much more is this true of the other which has even less claim to a divine sanction or a divine institution.

It may be easily conceived what an effect such a doctrine must have upon the mind of a criminal, and how greatly it must modify and diminish the restraining and deterring power of punishment. The lesson has of late been taught with great assiduity, not simply to a select few who are initiated into the higher mysteries of this philosophical Eleusis,' but to “ the generality” in our state-prisons. * Your position is so humiliating,” said an acquaintance to a prisoner, as we were lately told in a letter in one of the public journals,— your position is so humiliating, that I should think you would rather shun than meet your old friends.” “Oh, no," he replied, “ there is nothing humiliating about it; it is unfortunate,

be to with that really ounce

to be sure, but nothing more.” It is just the lesson that might have been learned from Sampson's Rationale of Crime, or from our State Prison Matron's new phrenological library, and is in strictest accordance with the physical theory of crime and punishment. But if moral considerations form a ground of the law's proceeding, or if they have any place whatever in criminal jurisprudence, then he ought to have felt humiliated, and, unless he did so feel, his punishment was not producing upon him any true reforming or preventing effect.

" This is the very spirit of pharisaism,” say some. “You would shut out the unfortunate man with the unfortunate cerebral organization from all return to society, and of consequence from all reformation.” We are aware how very popular, even with those who pretend to be conservative, is the cant that talks of lifting the fallen soul from its degradation, of inspiring the debased with a true self-respect, and winning him by love from the paths of sin and shame to those of virtue and honor.” Some who use such language are very fond, too, of setting forth themselves as peculiarly Christlike, whilst they maintain a doctrine which not only takes away all grounds for repentance and humiliation, but denies even the very existence of sin. With them, the great object would seem to be to keep the criminal from all sense of humiliation, as inconsistent with that “self-respect” which alone furnishes a ground for reform. How really opposed is all this to the spirit of that gospel which teaches repentance and atonement; how cruel, too, when rightly viewed, is such a course towards the wretched being himself. This silly sentimentalism prattles of the redeeming power of music, “ of its touching memories lingering in the soul like a glance of its early sunlight, and of the aspirations it produces to be once again pure and good, &c.;' as though in the experience of the world the discovery were yet to be made, that one may melt under the influence of a song—especially if that song falsely appeals to his most selfish sympathies as a poor wronged victim of society and the next day, if unrestrained, commit the worst of crimes against that very society towards which he is thus made to believe that he stands in a hostile relation. Every view that a criminal takes of himself, whether inspired by music, or poetry, or phrenology, or anything else, that is unaccompanied by a painful repentance and true humiliation, is productive of a false feeling; and it is yet to be proved that all false feeling, like everything else that is false, does not generate a disposition favorable to, rather than averse from crime. If experience did not abundantly prove it, the true philosophy of the affections might demonstrate that nothing is ultimately so hardening to the soul as spurious emotion connected with no right feeling of the real moral condition of the unhappy subject of its influence.

We maintain, then, that the apparently sterner view is, in

rade, a ply when afeformed. Bible and all

reality, by far the most humane, not only for society, but also for the criminal himself. The one would make restoration to a higher moral grade, a previous step to reformation; the other would give him that place only when after fair trial, and competent tests, he could be truly pronounced reformed. The previous humiliation, according to the philosophy of the Bible and all right views of human nature, is a most important part of the necessary means to such a result. The course practised at the Sing Sing State Prison has a direct tendency to prevent this; or, most likely, to produce a sentimental reformation, having no real ground in the conscience, furnishing no real strength against temptation, and no security against the worst of crimes. Moreover, to treat the criminal as though he were not degraded, is a lie on its very face; it is not honest; it is not acting according to the truth of things; and, like everything else that is hollow and deceptive, must be mischievous. There is a want of that sincerity without which there can be no hope for good. The philanthropy is unreal and affected; the reformation resulting must be of the same character. Genuine repentance would turn away from it to that better sympathy, which to some may seem like pharisaism, but which has, in reality, more of the true feeling of brotherhood in proportion as it is more sin. cere, and is therefore more truly efficacious for good, because it does not attempt to separate ideas which God has indissolubly joined together.

Our third argument, or the one from the Scriptures, is necessasily deferred to another occasion.

ARTICLE III.

THE BIBLE ITS OWN INTERPRETER.

By Prof. Henry P. Tappan, D.D., New York:

THE BIBLE is the voice of our Father in Heaven, speaking to us, his ignorant and sinful children. He speaks to us that he may enlighten and correct us—that he may make us wise and good like himself. It is to be presumed that he speaks in a way adapted to our ignorance and our wants—that he speaks so that we may understand him, and of things which it behoves us most of all to know.

Now we do not find in this Bible a system of science or of art, by which the efforts of the human mind are anticipated and rendered unnecessary. These have been left to our own thought and skill to work out, and slowly to ripen from age to age. He has presented us the objects of science, and the materials of art in the universe around us; and he has planted deep within our minds the elements of truth, and the principles of investigation and reasoning—and here he has left us.

But there were truths and interests too high and momentous to be given up to the slow development of ages,-even if the human mind of itself could have grasped them. But there were truths and interests which the human mind of itself could not reach, or in a degree very limited and insufficient. Redemption from sin and all its attending and consequential evils, and the state of man after death, are the two great problems before which all mere philosophy and science have ever stood abashed. The highest cultivation of the intellect and the taste still leaves the heart corrupt; and the most glorious and ripened knowledge of the visible and temporal, contains no adequate data of the invisible and the eternal. The high hope, the illimitable destiny, the final well-being of men lie in these solemn and sublime problems, but he does not find the solution within himself, nor in the mechanism of the world around him. It is on these great questions that God speaks to him. He will not leave his poor child in darkness-He will not abandon him to the power of evil.

In accordance with His benevolent purpose, the language which He employs, is the familiar language in use between man and man. And while he employed men as the instruments of his revelation, and so inspired them that they should communicate the truth adequately and without any admixture of error, he still permitted them to speak both according to their vernacular idiom, and their individual peculiarities of style, and according to the usages of language generally, in respect to illustrations, figures, and graces of

speech.

The Bible, therefore, is not a book of philosophy, for it does not profess to treat of philosophical subjects; nor is it a book of science, for it does not profess to treat of scientific subjects; but it is a book of history and biographies, of religious and moral truths, and institutions; a book of laws, prophecies, comminations, and promises ; a book wherein is revealed the origin, the condition, the duty, the salvation, and the immortal hope of man.

It is true, indeed, that the topics of this Book have most intimate relations with various parts of philosophy, such as ontology and psychology; and that facts are introduced which seem to involve, to some extent, particular views of science, such as geology and astronomy; but, then, no philosophical discussions are interwoven-no philosophical terms are employed—and no scientific doctrines are professedly and systematically given, but every kind of knowledge appears in practical moral relations, and under turns of thought and forms of expression according with the popular

« PreviousContinue »