« PreviousContinue »
will take his life away pro confesso; but by what law I know not, unless a law of antichrist; I am sure such precepts came neither from Mount Sion, nor Mount Sinai: these have out-stripped Herod and Pontius Pilate. The Gentiles, that knew not the law, did not compel man to lye, by saying not guilty, when they were guilty; nor to go against the law of nature, to accuse themselves by confessing their own guilt; but of all cruelty there is none like that of Antichrist, the Man of Sin, and that beast with seven heads, and ten horns, spoke of in Revel. xiii. and they exercise it upon their own brethren, even the members of their church. Thus the crowned locusts, in the midst of Ægyptian darkness, are a plague to the men of the earth.
But the way to try a thief is to examine the witnesses, and, if they prove matter of fact, the judge is to declare, how much he must pay, and to command that law to be put in execution. That his estate should be seized, and, if it will not satisfy, he must deliver up his
person, not so much as to lose a limb, or any member of his body, but to go immediately to the work-house, or place where he may be safely kept with sufficient food, and work enough, as much as he is able to do, and ply it constantly early and late every day (Lord's days excepted) and to have sufficient time to sleep and rest; and when they have wrought out their theft, then to be freed, and, if they steal again, to serve them in the same kind; as, if the thief steal a hundred pounds, he should pay two hundred pounds, if it be found with him; but, if he have spent the money, he shall pay four hundred pounds.
If this course were well followed, Tyburn would lose many customers, for it would much abate the number of thieves and murderers.
My desire is, that your honours would have the parliament to put God's law in execution, concerning this thing, and what it is I have declared before.
It hath been desired, that laws should be drawn up from God's word, for the government of this nation; but unless the parliament will be pleased to confirm them, what are we the better? Ordinary men cannot impose, all they can do is only to propose; only God hath declared, His testimonies must be bound up, and his law sealed amongst his disciples. But others do take upon them to make laws besides, and contrary to the laws of God; moreover, if the parliament should countenance such a thing, that certain men should be appointed to draw up laws, according to the laws of God, it will ask a great deal of time; and it is a work that the wisest and holiest men, in the world, will find too great for them to undertake to do, without errors, unless they were infallibly inspired by the Holy Ghost. Moses was in the mount with God, forty days and forty nights, and neither eat nor drank; and forty days and forty nights after that likewise; neither do we read, that he saw sleep with his eyes, in all that time; and after he wrote the laws and precepts for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments; he was therein guided by the immediate direction of the Spirit of God infallibly, and how long he was writing them, we know not, but they are very full and brief, and very sufficient for the government of that nation; neither had any nation such an excellent law as Israel had; neither was there so excellent a government amongst any people,
as amongst the people of the Jews, so long as they forsook not the law of the Lord, nor cast aside the word of the holy one of Israel. Their chief city was called the city of righteousness, the faithful city, righteousness lodged in it; their judges and counsellors were gods, and children of the Most High, because the word of God was committed unto them. Now may be it will be a long time before the Parliament will establish the laws of God, or give way for laws to be imposed upon this nation, which are suitable thereunto; and when such a work is set upon, it will be long before it be accomplished, for whosoever taketh it upon them, must devote themselves wholly to the work, and when they have used their best endeavours, a wonder it will be, if the laws they draw up, with the manner of proceedings, will be so perfect, that they need no amendments, in respect of manner and form; and a long time will be spent in debate, before such a work be admitted to be attempted. And therefore Thumbly conceive, that it is a meet, that this business, concerning the preservation of the petty thieves, should be concluded now, with all speed, being out of controversy, and afterwards to do the rest according as time and opportunity will afford. For this doth concern life, which is above person, name, liberty, and estate. And this thing, being done, will render the antichristian priests, and lying lawyers, the basest of men, who have lived upon the souls and bodies of men, and have not had the fcar of God before their eyes, but have made their belly their God, and their glory their shame, and their end shall be destruction, unless they repent. And, as a testimony of the truth of God in this particular, 1 set to my hand, this thirty-first of December, 1651,
A letter written to the regulators of the law, appointed by the Parlia,
ment, and sent, and presented to that committee.
from my mother's house in Soper-Lane, London, Feb. 25, 1651. Honourable Gentlemen, FORASMUCH as you are appointed by the Parliament, to consider
of the inconveniencies, mischiefs, chargeableness, and irregularities, in your law, and that you have professed your willingness to receive whatsoever persons have to offer in relation thereunto. I hold it meet to present you with these inclosed papers, which, peradventure, may be a means to shorten your seven years tedious work, and wherein you may observe that I have endeavoured to discharge my conscience before all, witnessing against that hateful sin of putting men to death merely for theft, although the God of nature doth teach a contrary lesson. But who is so blind as those that will not see? Surely covetousness is the root of all evil, and gifts destroy the heart, and blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the judgment of the righteous; and men in the greatest places are the greatest unbelievers, for they have not so much faith as to trust God with their substance, but use indirect means to make uncertain riches certain; as may appear by their putting thieves to death for stealing.
Now, when I found so little fruit in the magistrates of the city of London, as you may see by my printed relations, I was sorry that my endeavours produced no better effect amongst them, whose predecessors have always been very forward to put the laws of man in execution, though they were never so ridiculous, and contrary to reason and religion.
I sent and went unto others, whom it likewise principally concerned, even to those who are called the learned judges of the land, and declared my judgment to as many of them as I could meet with, that they might not suffer their mouth to cause their flesh to sin, by pronouncing unjust murdering sentences.
I went down also to the sessions, but I could gather no grapes off thorns.
And after I had delivered a letter to the lord president Bradshaw, to be presented unto the council of state; I remembered that the officers of the army were men professing great things, for the advancement of God's glory; so I presented some humble proposals to those honourable gentlemen, which were well resented by them, a copy of which I have sent you here inclosed with this petition, which should have been presented to the house ; but some of the members conceive the business to be pro
you to take cognisance of, because you are appointed to consider, and make report of the evils of your law, for reformation thereof; therefore you ought to cry out against murder before you do any thing else, for this concerneth men's lives; the best of your actions herein, in my judgment, having been at the most but a tything of mint, anise, and cummin, and you have neglected mercy, one of the weighty matters of the law; for I am verily persuaded, that it was in your power to have put a stop to the murdering of those men which were hanged at Tyburn the last sessions, for stealing five shillings and six pence. I hoped that you would have gone to the root, and not cropped only the branches of wicked laws. I am angry, and grieved at the heart, that you should so dally in God's matters, as not to acquaint the house with such a gross, unnatural, inhuman practice of the law, as killing of the petty thieves. ! desire the Lord to give you repenting and relenting hearts, for doing his work so negligently, to value men's lives no more; for it is a sin, and shame, that the land should still be defiled with more blood; and how you can answer it in the day of account, for not preventing such mischief, when you knew how to do it, and had an opportunity in your hands, I know not. In my opinion, if you
work never so close, if you omit this business of weight, you will make a long harvest of a little fruit; no doubt, but the time will be long before you have swimmed through the ocean sea of your troublesome laws. For, what is the chaff to the corn, or the heap of ashes to the spark that is hid under it? May not the Parliament, by the west-wind of their legislative pow. er, blow such combustible stubble away? You sit as refiners, but time is precious, and dross is not worth the labour of refining, and a leaden law is too heavy for an honest heart; and we ought not to think, that such a law, because it is a law, will be a sufficient excuse to the execu,
tioners thereof, so long as it is idolatrous, prophane, rebellious, bloody, adulterous, thievish, lying, and covetous; certainly, that law cannot be good, that forceth all men to prefer the meanest thing before the greatest, that is, a little wicked mammon with an idolatrous badge upon it, before a man's precious life. Solomon esteemed more of a living dog, than those, who have killed men merely for stealing, have (or had) of living men. Now, if God do touch your hearts, and make you thoroughly sensible of the abominations of the time, and set you in a mourning posture, that you may bewail your neglect in suffering the poor thieves to be put to death, when it was in your power to have prevented it; then, you may the better go on, like Josiah's men, whom he set to spy out the abominations in the land, and set up a sign, wheresoever you find a bone of Haman-gog unburied, and go on, and let the nation know the idolatry, and superstition of their law, and its prophaneness, and the sabbath-breaking thereof; the rebellion of their law, the murder of their law, the adultery of their law, the theft of their law, the lying of their law, and the covetousness of their law; and lastly, the uncharitableness of their law, which is the end thereof, and so I end;
Yours (and the Commonwealth's servant) in all lawful things.
READER, WHERE are they that are valiant for the truth, and will do the work of the Lord diligently? If thou hast any spark of love or zeal to maintain the wonderful statutes of God, which my soul keeps; I charge thee, as thou wilt answer before the tribunal-seat of God's eternal vengeance, that thou hinder not the publication of this to all persons, who have an ear open to hear, neither conceal this precious truth, which will maintain him that maintaineth it, and bring him into more acquaintance with God. For, doubtless, the standing for the statutes and judgments of the holy and blessed God is a most blessed work, and the establishment thereof in this nation will work a more blessed reformation, than yet hath been, or shall be spoken of, at this time.
By Mr. Chidley's appointment, who is the author of this book, one of them should have been nailed upon Tyburn gallows, before the execution, with this motto written on the top:
Cursed be that bloody hand,
As a witness against such cursed proceedings of murdering men, merely for stealing food or raiment. But the party could not nail it upon Ty. burn gallows-tree, for the crowd of people; and, therefore, was forced to nail it to the tree, which is upon the bank by the gallows; and there it remained, and was read by many, both before and after execution, and it is thought will stand there still, till it drop away.
PROPOSALS OF THE COMMITTEE
REGULATING THE LAW,
Both in sense, form, and practice; communicated to publick view, by
especial order and command.
Quarto, containing eight pages.
E the commissioners of the grand and weighty business of regula
while, with the assistance of a single-soaled minister, have at last grown big of these high and mighty articles, and desire to be delivered of them into the world, for the publick applause and consent; for by them we hope to give a free interpretation of modern justice, and a strict account of the reformation of all fees, tedious demurs, and practice of courts, that by it the commonwealth may be eased of the burden of unknown charges, which waits upon buckram-bags, and we richly rewarded for our sweat and travel in so acceptable and laudable a work.
Proposal 1. That, whereas all the good laws, statutes, and acts of grace in this kingdom have been derived clearly from noble and heroick princes, and their free grant, and (until they shall be repealed by a knack of parliament) are the sole tye and safety of human society, trade, and traffick, it is thought fit, that the charity and love of former Kings to their liege people be esteemed nothing to the mercy of the state we now live under, and the famous liberties, properties, and bounty of their generous spirits, we partake; and that it shall be thought reason, and law both, that an ordinance of parliament may take the wall of Magna Charta, though it be in the middle of Lincolu's-Inn-Fields, and in all causes, and over all persons, to be supreme moderator.
2. That the sword was the first inventor of Kings, and the present upholder of states and parliaments; and therefore, notwithstanding any right or equity to the contrary, the sword is the best law-giver; and, as it has attempted already to cut off the head of the commonwealth, so it does require all the rest of the members to an observance of iis command, be it never so unjust, inhuman, cruel, sacrilegious, or profane.
3. That in all administrations of modern justice, we may be no more bound to conscience, than conscience is to us; for, let a man look over all the anatomy of the lawgivers, it is impossible to conjecture, in what part of that body conscience lies.