« AnteriorContinuar »
sense of the value and obligation of these virtues, did not interpret either of them to require an unresisting submision to every contumely, or a neglect of the means of safety and self-defence. He took refuge in the laws of his country, and in the privileges of a Roman citizen, from the conspiracy of the Jews, (Acts xxv. 11.) and from the clandestine violence of the chief Captain. (Acts xxii. 25.) And yet this is the same Apostie who reproved the litigiousness of his Corinthian converts with so much severity. “ Now " therefore, there is utterly a fault among you, be“ cause ye go to law one with another ; why do you “ not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather sufa fer yourselves to be defrauded ?”
On the other hand, therefore, Christianity ex. cludes all vindictive motives, and all frivolous causes of prosecution; so that where the injury is small, where no good purpose of public example is answer. ed, where forbearance is not likely to invite a repe. tition of the injury, or where the expence of an action becomes a punishment too severe for the offence; there the Christian is withholden by the authority of his religion from going to law.
On the other hand, a law-fuit is inconsistent with no rule of the gospel, when it is instituted,
1. For the establishing of some important right.
2. For the procuring a compensation for some corr. fiderable damage.
3. For the preventing of future injury.
But since it is supposed to be undertaken simply with a view to the ends of justice and safety, the prosecutor of the action is bound to confine himself to the cheapest process that will accomplish these ends, as well as to coosent to any peaceable expedient for the same purpose; as to a reference, in which the arbitrators can do, what the law cannoi, divide the damage, when the fault is mutual, or to a compounding of the dispute, by accepting a compensation in the gross, without entering isto articles and items, which it is often very difficult to adjut separately.
A: As to the rest, the duty of the contending parties may be expressed in the following directions:
Not to prolong a suit by appeals against your own conviction,
Not to undertake or defend a suit against a por adversary, or render it more dilatory or expentive than necessary, with the hope of intimidating or wearying him out by the expence.
Not to influence evidence by authority or expec. tation.
Nor to fifle any in your poffefsion, although it make against you.
Hitherto we have treated of civil actions. In cri. minal prosecutions the private injury should be furgotten, and the prosecutor proceed with the same temper, and upon the same motives, as the magif. trate; the one being a necessary minister of justice as well as the other; and both bound to direct their conduct by a dispassionate care of the public welfare.
In whatever degree the punishment of an offender is conducive, or his escape dangerous, to the interest of the community, in the same degree is the party against whom the crime was committed bou: d to prosecute, because such prosecutions muít in their nature originate from the furierer.
Therefore, great public crimes, as robberies, fure geries, and the like, ought not to be spared, from an apprehension of trouble or expence in carrynig 01 the proficution, or from falle Thame or mislaced compaiiion.
There are many cffcrces, such as ruisances, neglect of public roads, forcftailing, e grolling, imuge glig, lubath breaking, prołanenets, drunkennes, prollitution, the keepirg of lewd or disorderly hovies, the writir.g, piiblithung, or exposing to sale lativious books or pictures, with tome others, the pi c. cution of which, beilig of <q'ial concern to the whi: neighbourhood, ca.1ot be charged is a peculiar Obda galion upon ar y.
Nevertheless, there is great merit in the person who undertakes such prosecutions upon proper motives; which amounts to the same thing.
The character of an informer is in this country undeservedly odious. But where any public advantage is likely to be attained by informations, or other ac. tivity in promoting the execution of the laws, a good man will despise a prejudice founded in no just reafon, or will acquit himself of the imputation of interested designs by giving away his share of the penalty,
On the other hand, prosecutions for the fake of the reward, or for the gratification of private enmity, where the offence produces no public mischief, or where it arises from ignorance or inadvertency, are reprobated under the general description of applying a rule of law to a purpose for which it was not intended. Under which description may be ranked an officious revival of the laws against popish priests, and diffenting teachers.
CH A P.
T XAMPLES of ingratitude check and discourage
L voluntary beneficence: And in this the milchief of ingratitude consists. Nor is the mischief small; for after all is done that can be done, towards providing for the public happiness, by prescribing rules of justice, and enforcing the observation of them by penalties or compulsion, much must be left to those offices of kindness, which men remain at li. berty to exert or withhold. Now not only the choice of the objects, but the quantity and even the exitence of this fort of kindness in the world deperds, in a great measure, upon the return which it receives; and this is a consideration of general importance.
A second reason for cultivating a grateful temper in ourselves is the following. The same principle which is touched with the kindness of a human bene. factor, is capable of being affected by the divine goodness, and of becoming, under the influerce of that affection, a source of the purest and most exalted virtue. The love of God is the sublimest grali. rude. It is a mistake, therefore, to imagine, that this viriue is omitted in the Chriftian fcriptures, for every precefi, which commands us " to love God, " because he first loved us," presupposes the princi. ple of gratitude, and directs it to its proper object
It is impollible to particularize the several exprefsions of gratitude, in as much as they vary with the character and lituation of the benefactor, and with the opportunities of the perfon obliged; which variery adinits of no bounds.
I may be observed, however, that gratitude can never oblige a man to do what is wro:g, and what
by consequence he is previously obliged not to do. It is no ingratitude to refuse to do, what we cannot reconcile to any apprehensions of our duty; but it is ingratitude and hypocrisy together, to pretend this reason, when it is not the real one; and the frequency of such pretences has brought this apology for non-compliance with the will of a benefactor into unmerited disgrace.
It has long been accounted a violation of delicacy and generosity to upbraid men with the favours they have received; but it argues a total deftitution of both these qualities, as well as of moral probity, to take advantage of that ascendency, which the conferring of benefits juftly creates, to draw or drive thote whom we have obliged into mean or dishoneft compliances.