Imágenes de páginas

a contrivance more effectual to deter one from vice, than remorse, which itself is a grievous punishment. Self-punishment goes still farther : every criminal, sensible that he ought to be punished, dreads punishment from others; and this dread,

the world. Her meekness, her fubmiflion, her patience, tended but to increase his sullenness. Upon a Sunday morning when on her knees she was of. fering up her devotions, he came softly behind her, put a rope about her neck, and hung her up to the ceiling. He bolted his gate, creeped out at a window, walked demurely to church, and charmed his hearers with a most pathetic sermon. After divine service, he invited two or three of his neighbours to pass the evening, at his house, telling them that his wife was indisposed, and of late inclined to melancholy; but that she would be glad to see them. It surprised them to find the gate bolted and none to answer : much more when, upon its being forc'd open, they found her in the posture mentioned. The husband feemed to be struck dumb; and counterfeited forrow so much to the life, that his guests, forgetting the deceased, were wholly interested about the living. His feign'd tears however became real': his soul was oppressed with the weight of his guilt. Finding no relief. from agonizing remorse and from the image of his murdered wife constantly haunting him, he about fix weeks after the horrid deed went to Edinburgh and delivered himself up to justice. He was condemned upon his own confeffon, and executed 4th October 1570.


[ocr errors]

however sinothered during prosperity,
breaks out in adversity, or in depression
of mind : his crime stares him in the face,

accidental misfortune is in his disturbed imagination interpreted to be a punishment : “ And they said one to an

other, We are verily guilty concerning

our brother, in that we saw the anguish " of his foul, when he befought us; and

we would not hear: therefore is this “ distress come upon us.

And Reuben “ answered them, saying, Spake I not

unto you, saying, Do not fin against

the child; and ye would not hear? " therefore behold also his blood is required (a)" *



[ocr errors]

(a) Genesis, xlii. 21.

* John Duke of Britany, commonly termed the Good Duke, illustrious for generosity, clemency, and piety, "reigned forty-three years, wholly employ'd about the good of his subjects. He was succeeded by his eldest son Francis, a prince weak and fufpicious, and consequently liable to be misled by favourites. Arthur of Montauban, in love with the wife of Gilles, brother to the Duke, persuaded the Duke that his brother was laying plots to dethrone him. Gilles being imprisoned, the Duke's best friends conjured him to pity his unhappy brother, who might be imprudent, but assuredly was inno,

No transgression of self-duty escapes punishment, more than transgression of

cent; all in vain. Gilles being profecuted before the three ettates of the province for high treason, was unanimously absolved; which irritated the Duke more and more. Arthur of Montauban art. fully suggested to his master to try poison ; which having miscarried, they next refolved to starve the prisoner to death. The unfortunate prince, through the bars of a window, cried aloud for bread; but the passengers durft not supply him. One poor woman only had courage more than once to flip fome bread within the window. He charged a priest, who had received his confeffion, to declare to the Duke, “ That feeing justice was refufed him in this " world, he appealed to Heaven; and called upon " the Duke to appear before the judgement-seat of “ God in forty days.” The Duke and his favourite, amazed that the prince lived so long without nourishment, employ'd affaffins to fmother him with his bed-cloaths. The priest, in obedience to the orders he had received, presented himself before the Duke, and with a loud voice cited him in name of the deceased Lord Gilles to appear before God in forty days. Shame and remorse verified the diction. The Duke was stized with a sudden terror; and the image of his brother, expiring by his orders, haunted him day and night. He decay'd daily without any marks of a regular difeafe, and died within the forty days in frightful agony.

See this subject further illustrated in the Sketch Principles and Progress of Theology, chap. 1.





[ocr errors]

duty to others. The punishments, tho' not the same, differ in degree more than in kind. Injustice is punished with remorse : impropriety with shame, which is remorse in a lower degree. Injustice raises indignation in the beholder, and so doth every flagrant impropriety : flighter improprieties receive a milder punishment, being rebuked with some degree of contempt, and commonly with derision (a).

So far we have been led in a beaten track; but in attempting to proceed, we are entangled in mazes and intricacies. An action well intended may happen to produce no good; and an action ill intended may happen to produce no mischief: a man overawed by fear, may be led to do mischief against his will; and a person, mistaking the standard of right and wrong, may be innocently led to do acts of injustice. By what rule, in such cases, are rewards and punishments to be apply'd ? Ought a man to be rewarded when he does no good, or punished when he does no mischief: ought he to be punished for doing mischief against his will,

(a) See Elements of Criticism, chap. 10.


or for doing mischief when he thinks he is acting innocently? These questions suggest a doubt, whether the standard of right and wrong be applicable to rewards and punishments.

We have seen that there is an invariable standard of right and wrong, which depends not in any degree on private opinion or conviction. By that standard, all pecuniary claims are judged, all claims of property, and, in a word, every demand founded on interest, not excepting reparation, as will afterward appear. But with respect to the moral characters of men, and with respect to rewards and punishments, a different standard is erected in the common sense of mankind, neither rigid nor inflexible; which is, the opinion that men have of their own actions. It is mentioned above, that a man is esteemed innocent in doing what he himself thinks right, and guilty in doing what he himself thinks wrong.

In applying this standard to rewards and punishments, we reward those who in doing wrong are however convinced that they are innocent; and punish those who in doing right are however convinced that they are


H 2

« AnteriorContinuar »