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they have made void thy law. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts, concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way.
To the Right Honourable the Council of State.
The humble petition of Samuel Chidley, Sheweth, THAT your petitioner, setting the fear of the Lord of Lords before his eyes, and advancing the judgments and laws of the God of Gods in his heart before the precepts of frail man, was moved, in zeal to his most sacred Majesty, to discharge his conscience in the best and most peaceable way he could devise, and, accordingly, hath given testimony of the truth, at the judgment-seat before the sessions in the Old-Bailey, the eleventh of this month, as may appear unto your honours by the printed relation hereunto annexed; yet, notwithstanding they proceed according to the usual custom, which is against the law of God, the good things contained in the solemn league and covenant of the nation, the oath of every freeman of London, reason itself, the witness of conscience well checked, or rightly rectified, and the whole creation of God.
My humble desire is, that this honourable council would be pleased, in their prudence, to take such a speedy course, that the condemned persons yet alive (who are not guilty of death by the laws of God, nature, or equity) may be reprieved, till the parliament of this commonwealth hath heard and determined this matter; so shall you find much comfort. Jehovah will be with the good.
And your petitioner shall pray, &c.
To the Right Honourable the General Council for the Army.
The Humble Proposals of Samuel Chidley, Sheweth, THAT, forasmuch as the Lord of Lords hath anointed you to be the heads of the forces, which he hath mustered up for the destruction of that generation of sinful men, who are compacted together, as one man, to establish iniquity by their laws, which they have set up in direct opposition to the laws of God, and have made use of the Kings of the earth, as their horns, to protect them in the exercise of their bloody cruelty; and, seeing the Lord of Hosts hath, in a great measure, subdued your enemies, and that your swords are not returned empy, it concerns you, right honourable, to testify your thankfulness by yielding
obedience unto the statute-laws of God, which, at this day, in the main fundamental parts thereof, are trampled upon by those who have the form of godliness, and deny the power thereof in their practices, as may appear by their putting of men to death for trivial matters, contrary to the law of God; for God's law saith, If a thief steal, he shall make restitution out of his estate; and, if he have nothing, he is to be sold for his theft, but not killed. Now, although my soul abhors the sin of theft, it deserving the punishment of eternal death before God, how much more the crying sin of murder? And, though I know not any of them, and, for aught I know, not one of them knows me, yet, because I see no man valiant for God, nor stand to make up the gap, I, for want of a better, am moved, in zeal for God's glory, to cry out against the irrational and irregular proceedings of men, who set up or maintain a flag or standard of defiance against their own consciences, and the most righteous laws of the only law-maker; and this I have endeavoured to do in such a peaceable way, that my transaction of this business for God may not savour of any bitterness of spirit in me, against the persons of those men, or contempt of their lawful authority, who sit in judgment, and do err therein, as I humbly conceive; but, seeing God hath said, He will magnify his law, and make it honour. able; and that it hath been a usual course with him to make choice of weak instruments, to make his truth known; I, therefore, upon this account, was resolved to put forth myself, and engage my heart in this business, the consequence whereof, when accomplished, will be more than I will speak of at this time; and, although I endure some reproaches for it, some saying, What a thief is this to attempt such a work? And that none but thieves would do it; yet I am led forward by such a spirit, as, I hope, will so carry me upon the wings of his provi. dence in the managing hereof, that I shall not be discouraged, notwithstanding human frailty. And, because I have a seasonable opportunity to acquaint your honours with this business, and to crave your assistance, I desire you, in the first place, to consider my printed papers, wherein I have shewed my dislike of putting men to death for stealing; and, for the further amplification and inlargement thereof, I desire you to consider of these positions:
1. That God is the only law-maker, and that his law is the ancientest and the best that ever was, or can be possibly invented by any parliament, to which all men are bound under pain of damnation; and that whatsoever laws and proceedings are opposite thereunto, in the smallest measure, are unjust, and the executioners thereof do sin; and, by how much the greater the precept is, by so much the more do they offend that violate the same.
God hath no where given liberty, but hath prohibited, that the life of any man should be taken away for stealing, and hath manifested he would have their lives preserved; therefore to take away their lives is a sin, a crying sin, yea, I may say it is a national sin, for which God hath, and will visit them with the arrows of his indignation. Yet, the people are so blinded with this corrupt custom, that they know it not, neither will they understand, but think they do well, and that they shall have peace, though they walk on in darkness, while the foundations of the earth are out of course.
Obj. And, whereas they object, that it is the law of the land to put thieves to death for stealing tv the value of thirteen pence halfpenny,
I answer. That no law is to be observed, if it be against the law of God, especially in the taking aw:y of men's lives; yca, God was so far from commanding such thieves to be put to death; that he requireth theit biood at the hands of them that shed it, though done in the very act of breaking through, if the sun be risen upon them.
3. The putting them to death is expresly against the law of God, because it disableth them for ever from making satisfaction to the owners of the goods; yea, such is the corruption of the laws and customs of this land, that he, that discovers the thief, is bound over to prosecute hin, tho' it be to the taking away of his life; and, after he bas done that, the owner shall sustain damage nevertheless, and he can have no more than the life of the thief; and some men are so ignorant, cruel, hard-hearted, and revengeful, that they will take away the lives of the petty thieves in revenge, taking an opportunity, upon the advantage of the law, to exercise their bloody cruelty upon them.
And such is the corruption of the laws, that, if the thief steal to the value of thirteen pence halfpenny, he shall be hanged, as Judge Byron, in his cases, hath declared; and sometimes their lives are taken away upon a single evidence; whereas there ought to be two witnssses to prove every fact, and one witness ought not to rise up against any man, to put hiin to death. So God hath said, whose word is a law amongst saints, though sinner's cast the same behind their backs.
4. The law of putting poor thieves to death for stealing, that are not able to make restitution out of their estates, is against God's law; because, in such cases, God hath said they shall be sold for their theft. Now, though they are worth somewhat, while they are living, yet, when they are dead, they are worth nothing; yea, a living dog is better than a dead lion. Men would rather, in such cases, bury dead men, than buy them; and, how unjust a thing it is to put them to death, seeing the apostle saith, Let them labour with their hands, let all rational men judge. The apostle saith, They should labour with their hands: No, saith the bench, they shall be hanged; tie up their hands, and he that hath benefit of clergy, and can read his neck-verse, burm him on the hand. By this he is disabled for the present, that he cannot labour with his hand, and, if he would, he is forced into a necessity of stealing again, if no man will set him on work; which thing men will be cautious to do to one that carrieth such a brand of infamy upon him.
5. This murdering law is the cause wherefore many murders are committed by robbers in the act of stealing; for the thieves know it is a harging matter to steal, and it is no more to commit murder; and then, for safety of their lives, and to hide their theft, they commit murder, for fear the party should come and witness against them, to the taking away of their lives.
6. This law is the cause wherefore many thieves escape, and persons come not in to prosecute them, because they find, that the remedy
would be worse than the disease; for, if they prosecute them, they shall be put to a great deal of expence and charge, and, peradventure, the thief shall lose his life, and the parties their goods; whereas, if there were a way for restitution by them, there would be more prosecution of them.
Obj. But it is objected, What shall we do with them?
Answ. I answer: He that hath stolen, if the theft be found in his hands, is to forfeit the double; if he has made it away, he is to forfeit four-fold, and his estate is to be taken to satisfy the debt.
Obj. But what if he has no estate? It may be, he is some poor rogue, that is worth nothing.
Answ. I answer: He must be sold for his theft.
Answ. I answer: Either the party who hath sustained the damage is to take bim, or he may be set on work in our own country, by land, or by water, being chained up; they might work in mines, heave coals, and earn three or four shillings a day; or row in gallies, or be put in workhouses for to pun hemp, or other servile employments. And why cannot we put them to it here, as well as the Hollanders there, till they have made satisfaction: And not put the thieves in such places, which are a hell on earth, where they learn to be worse, than ever they were before. Or they may be transported to some of our own plantations, where some, that have been in the like condition transported, have soon become honest, and, being very ingenious, have been able to teach the planters; which maketh the merchants to prize the thieves far above the ordinary vagrants, or other persons that are taken up by the spirits in the streets, because they want that ingenuity that the thieves have; for, generally, the wittiest rogues are the greatest cut-purses.
Obj. But would not this be great tyranny, that men should be sold as slaves ?
Answ. I answer to that: They are not sold for ever, but only for their theft; ahd it is a worse slavery, yea, a great tyranny indeed, to take away their lives.
Obj. But what if they run away?
Answ. They must not eat. And, before such an one will die for hunger, doubtless, he will eat the Aesh off his arm; and, before he will eat his own flesh, it may be he will work. Hunger will break through stone walls, and, if any thing will force him to work, this will, for his belly requires it of him; but, if he will perish, let him perish; his own blood upon his own head, and the commonwealth is discharged of it.
Such courses as these would be a means to terrify the thieves, and suppress theft, for many of them would rather be hanged. But, if a man would be hanged, he must not have his desire, unless the law require it; so, though thieves chuse to die against the law of God, rather than to live according to it, they must be kept alive notwithstanding, and set hard at work to earn their bread, and the overplus must
for their theft. And then, if any (as I hope many will) be con• verted in this their captive condition, O, how will they bless the time that ever such compulsion was used, whereby they learned to know themselves, and to remember their Creator! And he, that is an instrumental means of converting one poor sinner, shall have no cause to be sorry for it in the day of account.
7. Another abuse in the proceedings of the law of this land is, that, whereas God's law requireth that the witnesses should be executioners of death on their malefactor, a condemned executioner doth it, who is the notoriousest rogue that can be found, and one that knows nothing of the business, whether he, whom he hangs, be an honest man or a knave; he will hang a martyr as well as a thief, but, doubtless, he hath a check of conscience, as well as his masters, else why will he ask them forgiveness before he turns them off? Now all that can be alledged for the hangman is, he doth but his office, he is but an executioner of the law and sentence. And the like the judges do alledge for themselves. Alas (say they) what can we do, we are but the executioners of the law of the land, and, till the parliament alter the law, we must observe our ordinary rules. Why do you come to us? What would
have us do? We have not power. But judges ought to be men of courage, fearing God, and hating covetousness, and such as will observe God's laws, and judge according to his statute book; and by the laws of God, no executioner ought to indict death upon any man, unless he in the execution of him
be satisfied in his own conscience, that the man ought to die, else he is a murderer after a manner, though the offender deservcth death; yet, if a man be not convinced of it, he ought not to put him to death, by any command whatsoever, and, if the witnesses will not do it, they must be severely dealt with.
This is my opinion, which I humbly submit to the consideration of those who have more understanding than myself.
8. Another abuse, which I find in the proceedings of the law, is in the pressing men to death, because they will not hold up their hands at the bar, or say they are guilty, or not guilty; upon which circumstantial nicety, they condemn them to be pressed in such a tyrannical manner, that the very sentence itself is enough to terrify the poor creatures, and make them open their months to confess their own guiltiness, or else to lye against their own consciences.
Obj. But it is objected, That they are pressed to death, within half an hour at the most, and that they are not kept in such a lingering condition, according to the sentence.
Answ. I answer: If they put them to death before their time, herein they go beyond their commission. But indeed the executioners do it out of compassion to the condemned, to dispatch him out of his torment; something like a physician, that will give his patient something in pity, to rid him out of his pain, because he believeth he must die, and cannot escape his fit of sickness, so making more haste than good speed.
Now the proceeding against such malcfactors who will not hold up their hands, and plead, is without examination of witnesses, yet they