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“Thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.” “Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty, but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.” And hence; the threatenings denounced against the rulers of Israel by the prophet Isaiah: “How is the faithful city become an harlotl righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers. Thy princes are companions of theives; every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards; they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. Therefore saith the Lord, the Mighty One of Israel,-Ah! I will ease me of mine adversaries and avenge me of mine enemies.” History, both civil and sacred, is full of examples of this description. We have a striking instance recorded in the first book of Kings, in relation to Ahab, and the vineyard of Naboth. The king desired to have the vineyard to add to the gardens Éion. to his palace. But Naboth was prohibited, by the law of Moses, from alienating from his family and posterity, the inheritance of his ancestors. Jezebel, the queen, was determined however, to effectuate her purpose, and she found ready instruments among the judges of the land, to carry into execution her diabolical scheme. With the basest, effrontery, and hypocrisy, she wrote letters in Ahab's name to the nobles and the elders of the city in which Naboth dwelt, and hired two “men of Belial" to witness against him that he had “blasphemed God and the king.” It is truly lamentable, that, in every age, in all such cases, princes have never wanted instruments to accomplish their most atrocious designs, when they made an appeal to the principle of ambition and avarice. In this case, it would appear, there was not one of all the judges of this city that abhorred such a piece of villany, or was proof against the flatteries and bribes of the wicked Jezebel. For, in obedience to her order, and without the least remonstrance, “they proclaimed a fast,” they set the virtuous Naboth “on high among the people,” condemned him on the false witness of two atrocious characters, and “carried him forth out of the city and stoned him with stones that he died.” And, in order to display their sycophancy to this atrocious woman, and to gratify her pride and revenge—and to show that they deserved her favor for the deed they had committed, they immediately sent information to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth is stoned, and is dead.” This is but one instance, out of many thousands of similar crimes which have been committed under the show of justice, through the influence of selfishness and avarice. The records of the Inquisition, of the conclaves of popes and cardinals, of the star chamber, of the high commission court, and even of many other courts deemed more just and honorable, by whose decrees, men innocent of any crime, have been fined and imprisoned, robbed of their earthly possessions, tortured with racks and thumb screws, and doomed to ignominous deaths, would afford ten thousands of striking examples of unrighteous decisions, proceeding from a principle of ambition and covetousness, sufficient to make “the ears of every one that hears them to tingle.” o • . It is related of that pious and upright judge, Sir Matthew Hale, that, when a gentleman who had a cause to be tried at the assizes, sent him a buck for his table; as soon as his name was mentioned, he asked him, “if he was not the same person who sent him venison,” and finding he was the same, he told him “he could not suffer the trial to go on, till he had paid him for his buck.” To which the gentleman, answered, “that he had never sold his venison, and that he had done nothing to him that he did not do to every judge that had gone that circuit.” But this excellent judge had learned from Solomon that “a gift perverteth the ways of judgment,” and therefore he would not suffer the trial to go on till he had paid for the present: upon which the gentleman withdrew the record. . On another occasion, at Salisbury, the dean and chapter, having, according to the custom, presented him with six sugar loaves, on his circuit, he made his servants pay for the o before he would try their cause. These anecdotes, while they illustrate the uprightness and impartiality of this eminent person, also proves, that it was customary for those who had causes to be tried, to give presents to the Judges of assize; and that, in all probability, they frequently acted under the influence of such bribes. Another story is told of Judge Hale, in reference to a case between two brothers, the younger of whom had endeavored to deprive his elder brother of an estate of £500 a year, by suborning witnesses to declare that he died in a foreign land. Under the guise of a miller, he was chosen one of the jury on this cause ; and as soon as the clerk of the court had sworn in the jury-men, a little dextrous fellow came into their apartment and slipped ten golden Caroluses into the hands of eleven of the jury, and gave the miller five, while the judge, at the same time was known to be bribed with a great sum. The judge summed up the evidence in favor of the younger brother, and the jury were about to give their assent, when the supposed miller stood up and addressed the court with such energetic and manly eloquence, as astonished the judge and all present—unravelled the sophistry to the very bottom, proved the fact of bribery, evinced the elder brother's title to the estate, from the contradictory evidences of the witnesses, and gained a complete victory in favor
* Deut. xvi. 18, 19, Exod. xxiii.6, 9.
of truth and iustice.
The well-known Judge Jeffreys, who was as avaricious as he was unjust and cruel, reduced many innocent victims to beggary, by his rapacious exactions. A gentleman of Devonshire, of the name of Prudeaux, aving been thrown into prison, and dreading the severe and arbitrary spirit, which at that time, met with no control, was obliged to buy his liberty of Jeffreys, at the price of so thousand pounds, though he could never so much as learn the crime of which he was accused. , And, as judges have perverted judgment, so advocates and pleaders in courts of justice, under the influence of avarice, have endeavored to “turn aside the cause of the needy in judgment.” How often have such persons, by means of sophistry, misrepresentation, and false eloquence, supported a bad cause, and robbed the fatherless and the widow of their just rights and their dearest enjoyments—while the very moment they were doing so, they were conscious of the injustice of their procedure thus subjecting themselves to that terrible denunciation, “Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him.” Nothing is more common, among such persons than to undertake a cause of any description, however untenable, provided, they are paid for defending it. In opposition to such conduct, which is directly opposed both to reason and the word of God, it is said of Sir M. Hale, that “if he saw a cause was unjust, he would not meddle farther in it; but to give his advice that it was so ; if the parties after that were to go on, they were to seek another counsellor, for he would assist none in acts of injustice.” “In his pleadings, he abhorred those too common faults of mis-reciting evidence; quoting precedents or books falsely, or asserting things confidently, by which, ignorant juries or weak judges are wrought upon and deceived.” Would to God, that all our pleaders were animated by such upright and honorable principles. - - -
6. Covetousness has transformed many of the ministers of religion into courtly sycophants, and hunters after places of honor and worldly gain.
The apostle Peter solemnly enjoins Christian pastors to “feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” Neither to act as “lord's over God's heritage, but to be ensamples to the flock.” But, how often do we find that professed ministers of the gospel appear to have a greater respect to the pecuniary rewards of their office than to accomplish the great ends for which it was appointed. Otherwise, how should it ever happen, that men would have the effrontery to receive five, or ten, or fifteen hundred pounds a year, under pretence of “feeding the flock of God,” over which they were solemnly appointed, and yet spend their time in fashionable dissipations in distant countries, without ever caring for the souls of their parishioners, or imparting to them the least portion of divine instruction ? Such ministers when at any time they do preach to their people, will naturally frame their sermons according to worldly motives, and for selfish designs. If it may promote their secular interests, they will appear like Apostles, full of ardent zeal for the truth and in opposition to error and abounding sins. But, if the doctrines of the cross be not palatable to their fashionable hearers, they will amuse them with Pagan morality, smooth down the threatenings of the divine word, and endeavor to gratify the corrupt humors of their audience. The standard of their religion changes with the changes of the State; and they will not scruple, when their worldly interest is at stake, to defend all that is odious in tyranny, and to extol the most wicked and unprincipled characters. Of this we. have a striking example in the case of the Rev'd Dr. Shaw, who lived in the time of the protectorship of the Duke of Gloucester, who afterwards usurped the crown, under the title of Richard HI. Among other pleas to gain his ambitious designs, Richard attempted to maintain what had not the shadow of a foundation in truth—that both Edward IV. his own brother, and the Duke of Clarence, were equally illegitimate, and that the Dutchess of York had received different lovers, who were the fathers of these children. Nothing was considered more impudent and unfounded than this assertion, which threw so vile an imputation on his own mother, a princess of irreproachable virtue, and then alive. Yet the place chosen for first promulgating this shameful falsehood, was the pulpit, before a large congregation, in the protector's presence; and a Reverend Doctor of Divinity was base enough to prostitute the sacred office for this purpose. Dr. Shaw was