Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

ertion of a power of thought like Mr. Hall's, after he had been so deeply conversant with important and difficult speculations, might perhaps have contributed something towards such an alleviation. But even Mr. Hall could have effected nothing of this nature for a mind which would not exercise a childlike faith. Carry, our knowledge up to the last point to which the strongest mind ever created could advance it, and there is still the same need of faith, contented, quiet, submissive faith. And how is faith ever to be tried, how can it be proved that it is the faith of an humble and submissive mind, except in the midst, or on the border of great difficulties?

Mr. Foster speaks, almost with a feeling of disappointment, of that peculiarity in Mr. Hall's mental character, by which he appeared “disinclined to pursue any inquiries beyond the point where substantial evidence fails. He seemed content to set it remain a terra incognita, till the hour that puts an end to conjecture.” We confess we see a deep wisdom and beauty in this trait of character. It was wrought into Mr. Hall's constitution not by nature only, but by the power of grace divine. And the more the soul is absorbed with the known realities of our being, and the overwhelming importance of what is clearly revealed of our destiny in the world to come, the more anxious it will be to press that knowledge, the more unwilling to distract the attention from it by the pursuit of doubt and inquisitive speculation, and the more content to leave the obscure and the mysterious to the hour when we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known. “My efforts,” said Mr. Foster, in his journal, "to enter into possession of the vast world of moral and metaphysical truth, are like those of a mouse attempting to gnaw through the door of a granary:" It was also a curious remark which he made, that one object of life should be to accumulate a great number of grand questions to be asked and resolved in Eternity.' Inquisitive wonderer in the presence of mysterious and incomprehensible truth! Art thou now in a world, where faith is no longer needed? Or do the answers that in the light of eternity, the light of Heaven, have burst upon thy redeemed spirit, only render neces sary a still higher faith, and prepare thee for its undoubting, beatific, everlasting exercise ?

ARTICLE II.

HUMAN JUSTICE; OR, GOVERNMENT A MORAL POWER.

By Prof. Tayler LEWIS, LL.D., New York University. We propose to examine the true nature of Human Justice. In doing so, we maintain, 1st, That government is a moral, as well as an economical power,-the term political being employed as embracing both departments; 2d, That morality is something absolute, or an end in itself, to be sought and upheld for its own sake; 3d, That unless morality is thus upheld and regarded as an end in the punishment of crime, the State will fail in accomplishing even the economical purposes for which it is designed ; And 4th, That government, being a moral power, is, on this account, a Divine institute, with Divine sanctions, a proposition which can be most abundantly demonstrated by most sure proofs from Holy Scripture.

Justice, then, or that aspect of it which is styled punitive or punishment, may be regarded as having a relation to both departments, and as being both moral and economical. According to the largest division, it may be viewed as retrospective and prospective. It looks back to the intrinsic demerit of the crime as a deed done with an unalterable desert, logically irrespective of everything extrinsic, and it also looks forward to the influence which it may have upon the future conduct of others, or of the criminal himself. In this latter aspect, it may be again subdivided, and regarded as preventive or reformative. The word retrospective is employed as furnishing the best antithesis to the mere prospective view. The more significant term, however, is retributive, as denoting that which assigns suffering to crime, according to an inherent fitness, as a debt due to law. Hence it may also be styled Vindicative Justice, as that which the law vindicates or claims, as a reparation of a wrong done to itself, irrespective of any individual injury or individual vengeance.

We may, therefore, regard punishment as, 1st, Retributive; 2d, Preventive ; and 3d, Reformative; or, in other words, in its relation to law regarded as a representative, whether perfect or imperfect, of the Eternal Justice,-or in its relation to society, or in its relation to the individual.

In regard to this division, questions at once arise which receive different and even opposite answers from those who belong to opposing schools of moral or religious philosophy; or who resort to different methods in interpreting the decisions of the moral sense. Some would deny that this retrospective or retributive aspect of

5

THIRD SERIES. VOL. III. NO. I.

ever.

punishment had any real foundation, in any correct view of law or government, be it Divine or human. They would say that it has no place in the laws of man, and that it must be abhorrent to any right views of the moral administration of God. Such might still use the terms penal, and punishment, but would apply them only to what we have styled the preventive and reformative aspects. Others advance a step farther. With them punishment also as preventive or in terrorem cannot belong to the Divine government, though they might, perhaps, concede it to an imperfect state of human justice ; to be superseded, however, by something better when their boasted period of political perfection shall have arrived. In this view, the true idea of penalty has, in fact, no place what

In the administration of God, nothing is done through an appeal to the fears. All suffering is disciplinary, or else is reduced to the law of physical consequences, ever self-remedying, and having no more of a strictly moral character than the law of gravitation. The only acknowledged end of punishment is reformation, and this can consistently be conceded alone to the Divine administration. It must be denied to men as far as its exercise would require the use of force against wrong-doers, and this on the ground that such forcible reforming power does not belong to us by nature, and has never been delegated to us by God.

There are again others, who, in consideration of certain conclusions to which they would inevitably be led, and which they would struggle to avoid, admit that the retributive principle enters into the Divine administration, but contend that it has no place in the human. Their sagacity, or their philosophy, or their orthodoxy, makes them perceive, that if in God's government sin is not punished for its intrinsic demerit, there are no grounds on which it can be properly punished at all. They must see that in regard to the universal spiritual law of God, a universe of beings who are just kept from overt acts by the in terrorem principle of punishment, are already intrinsically sinners, and have already incurred the penalty. They must also acknowledge that the position, that punishment in the world to come is for the reformation of the criminal, is at war with some of the most solemn revelations of the Bible. They cannot avoid the conclusion, that a denial of punishment as based on intrinsic desert, must be a denial of such intrinsic desert itself, or result in the position, that what is styled sin, is a disease, a nuisance, a political mischief, a mere state to be regreted; and then along with this must go all moral conviction of such demerit, leaving a condition of soul in which punishment could have no real preventive or reformative efficacy, even if such had been its main design. Even the terrors of the Divine Justice have no true moral power, severed from the idea and conviction of desert. If the penalty is demanded by this, then the conscience requires no other reason. If there is no such absolute desert, the infliction of punishment on grounds of expediency, aside from this, can only produce a sense of injustice instead of a disposition to obedience. In other words, the penalty of the Divine Law will not even keep men from sinning, if this, aside from intrinsic demerit, is felt to be the only, or highest ground of its infliction. Even conceding, then, that prevention and reformation were important ends of the Divine penalty, they could not be secured if the higher principle is regarded as having no existence. It might be proved, that from the degree of strength and purity with which this is preserved in the mind, comes all the real moral power of the two others; and that thus the principle of prevention, which would be spiritually powerless, if it were the only end of the Di. vine law, becomes quickened by an energy not its own, in consequence of being associated with that superior element which looks only to the absolute. But this will come in better in another part of our argument, for which we have reserved it.

For these reasons, many, who are not yet prepared to take part with Universalism, or with Infidelity either in its vulgar or more transcendental forms, admit that the principle of retribution does enter into the Divine government,* and that, there, sin is punished as sin, that is, as something opposed to the eternal righteousness, irrespective of the deterring effect upon others, or of any reforming influence upon the criminal himself.

They deny it, however, of the human. Whilst the former positions satisfy their orthodoxy, it is quietly assumed that, in this respect, human government differs radically from the Divine ; that although the terms, law, justice, punishment, &c., are used of both, yet they must be taken with an essential distinction; and that, in short, when predicated of the latter, it is only by that sort of accommodation, by which lower things of an altogether different nature are sometimes taken as arbitrary symbols or representatives of those that are higher. Hence, although the words are retained, they denote only shadows, and do not signify real entities, as in their application to the Divine administration. Crime, in its relation to human law, is not strictly crime, but only inconvenience to society; of another species, perhaps, physically, but differing in no moral respect (as far as human laws can take cognizance of it), from madness, or contagious disease, or a pestilential atmosphere. Ill desert is not strictly ill desert, in the moral

• We had supposed this to be admitted by almost if not quite all who in any way profess to believe in the commonly received doctrines of Christianity. There is evidence, however, that some who would claim the name of orthodox or evangeli. cal, do actually go so far as to make expediency, aside from desert, the sole ground of punishment in Divine as well as human law; or, if they admit the word desert at all, it is only by such a perversion as would make it synonymous with expediency, or that measure of suffering, be it more or less, which might be just enough to operate, in terrorem, in keeping others from offending,

sense, but only the economical relation borne by one who has occasioned this inconvenience. Punishment is not punishment, in the moral sense, but the method society employs to abate a nuisance which cannot be tolerated. In short, there is, strictly, no justice, no crimne, no ill desert, no punishment, in anything like the absolute import of those terms in their relation to the Divine government. The object of human law and human penalty is not moral but physical evil. If it even has the semblance of dealing with the former, it is only in reference to the physical inconveniences that may incidentally flow from it.

Since, then, there can be but one true and absolute sense to al} these words, and this they have when used of the Divine law, it would follow that human government is in no sense a moral power. It has, consequently, only an apparent, and no true or real right and wrong. It has nothing to do with the moral turpitude of acts in themselves, or aside from the fact of such moral turpitude being the measure or evidence of some inconvenience to the political economy. In short, in this theory, government has no right to punish actions because they are wicked or morally wrong. It cannot, therefore, consistently use towards them any language implying moral distinctions or intrinsic demerit. Of course, it can have nothing to do with the conscience. It ought not, as we expect hereafter to show, to have any regard to intention. It can rightly have no honors, or degradations, or anything involving the idea of moral worth or its opposite. All these consequences are inseparably linked with the position, that in human justice, crime is not punished as crime, or because of its intrinsic demerit, but as a mischief or inconvenience. Even should it be conceded to the theory of expediency, that the great and highest end of human punishment is prevention instead of retribution, still the moral power of government may be said to be maintained, if it can be shown that this end is the prevention of crime, as crime, and not simply as a nuisance or a mischief.

We maintain, however, that the principle of retribution or the punishment of crime for its intrinsic demerit, not only enters, but necessarily enters into that constitution of things which is styled law and government, in its lowest, as well as in its highest departments—whether regarded as perfect or imperfect, as intended for this world, or the world to come.

The argument admits of a three-fold division. It may be maintained, ist, on the a priori ground; 2d, by the a posteriori method; and 3d., by direct proof from the Holy Scriptures. By the a priori argument we mean that which is derived from the moral sense as interpreted in the universal sentiments of mankind. As evidence of this, we bring the unvarying concurrence of language, showing by the uniformity, not simply in the primary etymological senses, but in the usus loquendi and applications of the

« AnteriorContinuar »