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« one with another; why do you not rather " take wrong? why do yé not rather suffer “ yourselves to be defrauded?"
On the one hand, therefore, Christianity excludes all vindi&tive motives, and all frivolous causes of prosecution ; so that where the injury is small, where no good purpose of public example is answered, where forbearance is not likely to invite a repetition 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-suit is inconsistent with no rule of the gospel, when it is insti. tuted,
1. For the establishing of some important right.
2. For the procuring a compensation for some considerable damage.
3. For the preventing of future injury.
But since it is fupposed to be undertaken fimply 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 consent to any peaceable expedient for the same purpose ; as to
a reference, in which the arbitrators can do, what the law cannot, divide the damage, when the fault is mutual; or to a compounding of the dispute, by accepting a compensation in the gross, without entering into articles and items which it is often very difficult to adjust separately.
*. 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 poor adversary, or render it more dilatory or expensive than necessary, with the hope of intimidating or wearying him out by the expence.
Not to influence evidence by authority or expectation.
Nor to stifte any in your possession, although it make against you.
Hitherto we have treated of civil actions. In criminal prosecutions the private injury should be forgotten, and the prosecutor proceed with the same temper, and upon the same motives, as the magistrate; 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 of
fender 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 bound to prosecute, because such prosecutions must in their nature originate from the sufferer.
Therefore, great public crimes, as robberies, forgeries, and the like, qught not to be spared, from an apprehension of trouble or expence in carrying on the prosecution, or from false shame or misplaced compassion.
There are many offences, such as nuisances, neglect of public roads, forestalling, engrossing, smuggling, fabbath breaking, profaneness, drunkenness, prostitution, the keeping of lewd or disorderly houses, the writing, publishing, or exposing to sale lascivious books or pictures, with some others, the prosecution of which, being of equal concern to the whole neighbourhood, cannot be charged as a peculiar obligation upon any.
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 activity in promoting the execution of the laws, a good man will despise a prejudice founded in no just reason, 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 inischief, or where it arises from ignorance or inadvertency, are reprobated under the general defcription of applying a rule of law to a purpose for which it was not intended. Under which defcription may be ranked an officious revival of the laws against popish priests, and dissenting teachers.
CH A P.
TXAMPLES of ingratitude check and
discourage voluntary beneficence: And in this the mischief of ingratitude consists. Nor is the mischief fmall; for after all is done that can be done, towards providing for the public happiness, by prescribing rules of justice, and enforcing the obfervation of them by penalties or compulsion, much must be left to those offices of kindness, which men remain at liberty to exert or withhold. Now not only the choice of the objects, but the quantity and even the existence of this fort of kindnefs in the world depends, in a great meafure, upon the return which it receives ; and this is a consideration of general importance.
A fecond reason for cultivating á grateful temper in ourselves is the following. The fame principle which is touched with the kindness of a human benefactor, is capable of being affected