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contrary to the law of God, who hath declared, that if a thief be found breaking thro', the sun being risen upon him, and he Le smitten that he die, blood shall be shed for him, Exod. xxii. 3, from whence it appeareth, thai those are guilty before the Lord, who take away the life of any man, merely for stealing, when the Lord requireth, that he should make full restitution out of his estate, or, if he have nothing, that he should be sold for his theft. But contrariwise, their lives are taken away, merely for stealing; and commonly many, though found notorious thieves, yet have been discharged, with little or no punishment, either in person or purse, to the great damage of those who have lost their goods, and to the imboldening of the malefactors, and the want of the due execution of tke law of God upon them; and not setting them in a way to make restitution, to the owners, tendeth to the utter destruction, both of their bodies and souls.
Therefore, our desire is, that ye would take these things into serious consideration, and, in your wisdoms, take such a prudent and effectual course, that, in the execution of justice, the remedy may not be worse than the disease, like those who kill their wounded patients, and wound themselves; but that punishment may be equalised proportionable to the offences, that the prosecutors, or executors of the law, may have no cause to repent, and that one witness may not rise against any man, for any iniquity, but that, at the mouth of two or three witnesses, the matter may be established; and that ye would, by no means, make the wills of any men, or any human laws whatsoever, any rules for you to walk by, further than you see them agreeable to the holy will and word of God, and that ye would, according to your power, seek to remove the dishonourable badges of infamy, from off your sinful city and nation, though never so ancient, familiar, common, and customary, and that ye would address yourselves to the parliament, for the obtaining of these things,
And your affectionate petitioners shall pray,
Here followeth a letter, written to Thomas Andrews, the Lord Mayor
that then was.
London Bridge, June 25th, 1649. Right Honourable, I Hope your lordship hath not forgotten our petition in the behalf of transgressors; Christ made intercession to God for transgressors, who were guilty of eternal death before God; we make intercession for men, whu are not guilty of temporal death before men. Divers petitions have been promoted in the behalf of saints, and it was a very good and acceptable service; this is for sinners whom it may be, God will call effectually, for Christ died for the ungodly, and received gifts for the rebellious. I have written this inclosed paper, to further the petition; I desire that my counsel may be acceptable unto your honour, so long as it is agreeable with God's word, and if it be agreeable to your
lordship's affection, I hope you will assist in it according to your power, and prosecute it with all your might, and make haste, and not delay, to keep the righteous judgments of the God of judgment, who hath promised to be for a spirit of judgment, to him that sitteth in judgment.
Right honourable, you may be pleased to remember what I said; I know no friend of mine that is guilty of theft; what I have done is in conscience to God, and compassion to my native country, and in tender respect to your honour, that the heavy wrath of God may not fall upon you, and the whole nation; at least, that some of the rods of God inay be taken away, or that some of his judgments may be stayed. I desire to be a good example to the sons of men, that they may clear themselves of blood-guiltini'ss. I desire your lordship again to consider seriously of this inclosed writing; I have shewed it to just men, and they approve of it. Your lordship in your wisdom may take counsel of wise men, and of the ancients, concerning this matter, and hear what they say thereunto; but, above all, search the scripture, for whatsoever is not according to that, hath no light in it; and it is a maxim in law, that all laws which are not according to God's law, and pure reason, are void and null; and, if so, then not binding to a citizen, or to any other under Heaven, and so are no rules for me to walk by; but it is the word of God, which is binding, and yet is not bound.
Honourable Sir, I am,
Certain Reasons of weighty consideration, in reference to the petition to
the Common-Council, in behalf of transgressors.
ALTHOUGH there be ground sufficient enough in the petition itself to evince, that no malefactor's life should be taken away, merely for theft; when the Lord requireth, that satisfaction should be made out of his estate, and, if he have nothing, that he should be sold for his thest; yet, because of the ignorance and hardness of men's hearts, and their cruelty and revenge, I shall, for their regulation, propose some things to their consideration.
To take a way the life of any man only for theft, as aforesaid, is iniquity, because it is against the rule of equity; it is not good, because not of God; it is not correspondent with his will, it hath no agreement with his most righteous law, but is inhuman, bloody, barbarous, and tyrannical, and provoketh the God of judgment, to execute his judgments upon the nation that abetteth the same; yea, it tendeth to their utter destruction, to destroy men by the laws of men, contrary to the laws of God; consider I say, how contrary it is to the rule of equity, the blessed and righteous law of God.
According to the rule of equity, there is required 'life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe,' Exod. xxi. 23, 24, 25. It is not life for eye, but eye for eye; nor eye for tooth, but tooth for tooth; so that, if a man require more, it is iniquity. Prov. xxx. 6. Therefore, if a man put out his neighbour's eye, strike out his tooth, and bruise his hand, but doth not kill, he ought not to be killed for this, but must lose his eye, and his tooth, and as he hath done to his neighbour, so it must be done to him; as it is written, breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again; and he that killeth a beast, shall restore it, and he that killeth a man, shall be surely put to death; and the same Lord saith, ‘Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country,' Levit. xxiv. 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. The Lord of life hath expresly declared, and it is known to all men living, * That the life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment, Luke xii. 22. If then the life be more than meat, no man's life should be taken away for meat, much less for raiment, which is inferior; and all things, necessary for the temporal life and body of man, are comprehended in these terms, food and raiment, Deut. X. 18. 1 Tim. vi. 8.
The God of the spirits of all flesh hath declared plainly, in his most just and righteous law, That, if a thief be found breaking through, the sun being risen upon him, and be smitten that he die, blood shall be shed for him, Exod. xxii. 3. And'he renders this reason, for he should make full restitution, and, if he have nothing, he shall be sold for his theft; and the Lord hath not said, that he that stealeth food, or raiment, shall be put to death, or that his blood shall be shed; but, Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed,' Gen. ix. 6. So then it appeareth, that it is murder by the law of God to kill a man merely for stealing, when the Lord saith he should make full restitution, and if he have nothing, he shall be sold, not killed, for his theft; and, amongst his statute-laws, hath stated particular cases in this, as well as in other things, and made them so plain, that mean capacities may decide controversies of this nature.
And, as there is no precept nor consequence in the word of God for this unjust practice, so there is no precedent in Israel, but many in England, the more is their misery; but, as that ancient Father Austin saith, That man is miserable, who is not sensible of his misery, which may well be applied unto this sinful and miserable nation, who are not sensible of the dangerous consequence of this one deadly evil amongst the rest; how unjust a thing it is to kill a man for stealing fourteen pence. Let all men reasonable judge; for so is the law of this land, according to which the people are forced to prosecute the thieves; but, in King Solomon's time, Men did not despise a thief in some case, Prov. vi. 30. And he who is greater than Solomon, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of the Kings of the earth, hath not given the least hint, that he that stealeth food, or raiment, should be killed, but He, that leadeth into captivity, shall go into captivity; and he, that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword. Revel. xiii. 10. But, concerning theft, it is said, 'Let him that stole, steal no more;' he doth not say, let him be hanged; 'but rather let him labour
with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to distribute to him that needeth, 'Ephes. iv. 28. And it is expresly commanded That he that will not work, neither should he eat,' 2 Thes. iii. 10. Many precepts, precedents, and propositions may be brought to confirm the premisses, but this is enough at this time. A word to the wise is sufficient.
A letter written the 11th of December, 1651, by Samuel Chidley, to the
Right Honourable the Commissioners of Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol-
Right Worshipful and Honourable,
Right Honourable, I am sorry to see you go on still in your wonted course, of arraigning men for their lives merely for theft. I have observed, that the persons, who are arraigned before your honours, are poor labourers, and such creatures who stole things of a small value, peradventure, for mere necessity; yet you arraign them for their lives, when the Law of God requireth their preservation in such a way, that they may make satisfaction, and not, if disabled, to force them into a necessity of stealing again; but they are great sinners indeed, who rob men of their precious lives. And the worst of men are such, as despise and destroy thieves that steal, merely to satisfy their hunger. It seems some of the thieves you will press, for not holding up their hands at your command, or for not answering to that interrogatory, guilty? or not guilty ? Consider, I pray you, how circumstantial these things are; the weight of trials depends not hereupon, as I humbly conceive. For it is possible that a murderer, when he is arraigned, may want his hands, and another may be dumb; yet you may proceed to judgment against him, if sufficient evidence come in, and that the jury, who are judges in matter of fact, and, if they will, in matters of law, find them guilty. Surely you must take no ransom for the life of a murderer, though he cannot, or will not, hold up his hand at the bar, or say, that he is guilty; for, by the law, no man is bound to accuse himself, therefore the guilty person is not bound to say he is guilty; and, if he should say, not guilty, what is he the better?
This is my opinion, which I humbly leave to the serious consideration of this honourable bench. I would to God that you would try such men by the laws of God, who cast themselves upon God and the country. And oh! that you would put the judgments of God in exo
Cation, seeing you are his stewards; all laws being subordinate to God's laws, as the country is to God himself; then your tranquillity would be lengthened. Consider what I say, in the fear of God, for life is above liberty and estate. The jewel of one man's life all your estates cannot balance. I took notice of a passage of the Lord Chief Justice Rolls, and it was well observed, how that the thieves are honest, before they come in gaol, and there they become naught, and learn to lye, by saying, not guilty, when they had confessed it before. If it be so, then great pity it that they should not be in such a place, where they may be put in a way and course to make satisfaction according to the direction of the wisdom of God, by whom princes and nobles, yea, all the judges of the earth are said to rule. So, leaving these conscientious dictates to your serious thoughts, I subscribe myself, Sessions, Dec. 11,
Your humble servant, devoted to in the year of
the fear of God, and service of Christ 1651.
the commonwealth, according to the laws of God, and not otherwise,
This letter was delivered unto the bench, about the third hour of the day, where, when Mr. Chidley was called, he made answer, and came to the board, and the letter was there publickly owned by him, as his own hand-writing, which he would stand by and justify, it being, as he said, a discharging of his conscience, as a testimony before them all, which he left to their serious consideration; whereupon he was commanded, by the bench, to depart, and was put out of the court, he speaking in the justification of the statutes of God to be right, and the precepts of men to be wrong, in taking away men's lives for such trivial matters.
After he was put out, they gave sentence against the prisoner at the bar, who was arraigned for stealing, and would not hold up his hand, for plead, but besought them that the letter might be read publickly, that all the bench might bear; and then, saith he, afterwards I will plead, whatsoever comes of it, whether I live, or die. But they would not hearken unto him, but proceeded; and, by the Recorder, Mr. Steele, who was their mouth, gave sentence against him, which was to this effect: That he should go from thence to the place from whence he came, and be lcd into a dark room where there was no light, and should be stripped naked, only his privy members and bis head covered, and his arms stretched forth, both on the one side and on the other, as far as they could be stretched; and that he should be laid along on his back, and have as much weight laid upon him as he was able to bear, and inore; and, the next day, he should have only three morsels of barley-bread, without any drink; and, the day following, three draughts of the kennel-water running under Newgate as much as he could drink, and so to remain in that condition from day to day till he died. Psal. cxix. 126, 127, 128. It is time for thee, Lord, to work, for