« PreviousContinue »
offence, the judge, and not his master, was to pronounce the sentence. If the master wilfully murdered his slave, he was to suffer death. The Israelites were not permitted to use the captive women, who were of course slaves, at their pleasure. The law is so express on this subject, that I shall recite it. Deut. xxi, 10, When thou goeft forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou haft taken them captive, and feest among the captives a beautiful woman, and haft a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have ber to thy wife, thou shalt then bring her home to thy house, and she hall Jhave her head, and pare her nails (as it is in our translation ; but the meaning is, that she should make them beautiful by colouring thein, which is at this time done in the East, and confidered as a great article of beauty); and she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month; and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will, but thou Jhalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not 1. LA
make merchandije of her, because thou haft humbled her. We shall find no law approaching to the humanity of this among the Greeks or Romans a thousand years after this time, and still less among nations of greater antiquity. How little will the treatment of flaves by Europeans bear to be compared with this ?
Voltaire charges the Jews with a violent hatred of all other nations; but let us attend to their original laws and institutions on this subject. Deut. xxii. 8, If a stranger sojourn with you in your land, ye shall not vex him, but the stranger Thall dwell with you. He shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself. For ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. The Lord loveth the stranger. Exod. xxii. 22. Many ancient nations made great difficulties about the naturalization of foreigners; but among the Hebrews any person being circumcised, and conforming to the laws of the land, became one of themselves in all respects. Only, for particular reasons, persons of certain nations could not be completely naturalized till after the expiration of a certain number of generations. In all ancient nations, and many modern
ones, torture was made use of both in the punishment of crimes, and for procuring evidence. But no use whatever was made of it among the Hebrews. Punishment by scourging was limited to forty stripes, murder and some other atrocious crimes were punished with death, but executions were performed by stoning or hanging, and the body buried before sunset. Where, then, are those “ cruel “ and torturous executions, and that unre“ lenting vindictiveness” which Mr. Paine says coutribute to make him consider the Bible as “the word of a demon rather than " the word of God,” and which makes him • detest it as,” he says, “ he detests every os thing that is cruel.” They have no ex. istence whatever but in his own imagination. How easy is it to calumniate what a man does not understand, and what he is strongly predisposed to dislike and misrepresent. In cases of mere manslaughter, a city of refuge was provided, in which the innocent author of the death of another was fafe from the pursuit of the relations of the deceased. Theft was punished by reftitution, by fine, or slavery, but not with death. Such, my brethren, is the general outline,
and and some of the principal features, of that system of religion, and civil policy, which Voltaire treats as most execrable ; but judge for yourselves with what justice. On the contrary, I have no doubt but that, if all the circumstances of the Hebrew nation, and of other ancient and neighbouring nations, could be known, we should be satisfied that it was, in all respects, the best system possible; as much superior to any of those of human invention, as the works of nature are superior to those of art,
The Principles of the Heathen Philosophy
compared with those of Revelation.
The world by wisdom knew not God.
i Cor. i. 21.
In my two last discourses I Thewed you how greatly superior were the religious institutions of Moses, though so much decried by modern unbelievers, to those of the heathens, the shocking enormities, and gross abominations, of which are so much disguised and smoothed over by them. But because it will be said that what I then exhibited was only the system of fuperftition, adopted by the vulgar, and that the more intelligent persons among the heathens (though, for political reasons, they did not choose to oppose, and even countenanced it) held a more rational system, I shall now fhow you what that more rational system was.