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long ago, and imagine that they are effaced from God's memory as well as from our own: but every action, word, and thought, is noted in the book of his remembrance. He sees the transactions of former years as if they had this moment passed. All our iniquities are viewed by him in one accumulated mass; nor does he abhor them less than in the very instant they were committed. Let us not then pass them over, or palliate them, as youthful follies. Let us remember how exactly the Lord's threatenings were executed on the Israelites in the wilderness"; and endeavour to avert his judgments while space for repentance is allowed us. Let us mourn over our innumerable violations of our baptismal covenant. Let us lament our solicitude about a present portion, our aversion to fight the Lord's battles, and our indifference about the heavenly Canaan. We must repent of these things, or lie under the guilt of them for ever] 2. How thankful should we be that a
of escape is provided for us!
[It is not sin lamented, but sin unrepented of, which will find us out. There is a city of refuge provided for those who will flee to it. The man, Christ Jesus, is an hiding-place from the impending storm“. If we flee to him, we may be sure that sin shall not find us out. Every perfection of the Deity is pledged to save a believing penitents. We are confirmed in this hope by the most positive declarations of Scriptures. We have most authentic and astonishing instances of sin forgiven?; and the day of judgment is appointed no less for the complete justification of believers than for the condemnation of unbelieversa. Let this blessed assurance then dwell richly on our minds. Let it encourage us to take refuge under the Saviour's wings b. Let an holy confidence inspire those who have committed their souls to him. And let all rejoice and glory in him as able to save them to the uttermosta.)
I Numb. xxxi. 10–13. s Ps. 1. 21. Luke xiii. 3. t Heb. vi. 18.
u Isai. xxxii. 2. x 1 John i. 9. y Isai. xliv. 22. Mic. vii. 19. Heb. vii. 12. 2 2 Sam. xii. 13. Luke vii. 47. and xxiii. 43. a 2 Thess. i. 9, 10. b Matt. xxiii. 37. c 2 Tim. i. 12.
d Heb. vii. 25.
THE CITIES OF REFUGE.
Numb. xxxv. 24—28. The congregation shall judge between
the slayer and the revenger of blood, according to these judgments : and the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled ; and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high-priest, which was anointed with the holy oil. But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; and the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer, he shall not be guilty of blood ; because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high-priest : but after the death of the high-priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
THE impartial administration of justice is one of the richest blessings that result from civilization and good government. It counteracts the evil which might otherwise arise from inequality of rank and fortune, and, without levelling the distinctions which are necessary for the well-being of society, prevents the abuse of them. It keeps every member of the community in his proper place and station: it protects the rich from the rapacity of the envious, and the poor from the oppression of the proud: and, while it imposes on all a salutary restraint, it gives to all personal security and mutual confidence. Supposing therefore that the inspired volume had made no provision for the administration of justice, it would have been expedient to establish such an order of things as should maintain the rights of men inviolate, or inflict condign punishment on the aggressors. But God has graciously admitted this subject into the code which he has given us: he has put honour upon those who are appointed to preside in judgment: he has declared them to be his own representatives and vicegerents upon earth : he has required the utmost deference to be paid them, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake; and has on some occasions ratified their decisions by extraordinary dispensations of his providence. The protecting of the innocent, and the punishing of the guilty, were objects of especial care in the government which he himself established upon earth. This appears, as from a variety of other ordinances, so particularly from the
a In the destruction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
appointment of cities of refuge, whither persons, who had accidentally or wilfully taken away the life of a fellow-creature, might flee for safety till the matter should be examined, and the judgment of the congregation declared respecting it.
This enactment, which is to be the subject of the present Discourse, may be considered in a two-fold view ; namely, as a civil ordinance, and as a typical institution. I. First, let us consider the appointment of cities of
refuge as a civil ordinance : and for the sake of perspicuity we will begin with explaining the nature and intent of the ordinance, and then make such remarks upon it as our peculiar cir
cumstances requireThe ordinance was simply this. There were to be six cities separated at convenient distances, three on either side of Jordan, that any persons who had occasioned the death of a fellow-creature might flee to one or other of them for safety, till the circumstances of the case should be investigated, and his guilt or innocence be ascertained. The person next of kin to him that was killed, was permitted to avenge the blood of his relation in case he overtook the slayer before he reached the place of refuge; but, when the slayer had got within the gates of the city, he was safe : nevertheless the magistrates were to carry him back to the town or village where the transaction had taken place; and to institute an inquiry into his conduct. Then, if it appeared that he had struck the deceased person in wrath or malice, (whether with any kind of weapon, or without one,) he was adjudged to be a murderer, and was delivered up to justice; and the near relative of the murdered person was to be his executioner: if, on the contrary, it was found that he had been unwittingly and unintentionally accessary to the person's death, he was restored to the city whither he had fled, and was protected there from any further apprehensions of the avenger's wrath. Nevertheless he was, as it were, a prisoner at large in that city: he was on no account to go out of it: if the avenger should at any time find him without the borders of the city, he was at liberty to kill him. This imprisonment continued during the life of the high-priest ; but at his death it ceased; and the slayer was at liberty to return to his family and friends. This part of the ordinance was probably intended to put honour upon the highpriest, whose death was to be considered as a public calamity, in the lamenting of which all private resentments were to be swallowed up.
Such was the ordinance itself: We now come to the intention of it. The shedding of human blood has ever been regarded by God with the utmost abhorrence. The first murderer indeed was spared in consequence of a divine mandate; but not from clemency, but rather, that he might be to the newlycreated world a living monument of God's wrath and indignation. The edict given to Noah says expressly, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” But, as there must of course be different degrees of guilt, according to the circumstances under which any person might be killed, God appointed this method of securing protection to the innocent, and punishment to the guilty. The accomplishing of these two objects was, I say, the direct end which the Deity proposed. Provision was thus made that disinterested and experienced judges should have the cause brought before them, and determine it according to evidence: if the man were guilty, and declared to be so on the evidence of two witnesses, he must die : whatever were his rank in life, he must die : no commutation of punishment could possibly be admitted. If the man were innocent, or were not convicted by the testimony of two witnesses, (for no man was to be put to death on the testimony of one witness only,) the whole congregation were bound to secure him from the effects of animosity and vindictive wrath. Yet even in the protection thus afforded to the man-slayer, there were many circumstances which were intended to mark God's abhorrence of murder : for though no blame attached to the man who had
unwittingly slain his neighbour, yet he must leave all that was dear to him, and flee in danger of his life to the city of refuge, and continue there a prisoner, perhaps as long as he lived, and certainly to the death of the high-priest : nor could his confinement there be dispensed with : there was no more commutation of sentence allowed for him, than for the murderer himself. The injunctions of God relative to this deserve particular notice: “Ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death ; but he shall be surely put to death. And shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge; that he should come again and dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for BLOOD DEFILETH THE LAND, AND THE LAND CANNOT BE CLEANSED OF THE BLOOD THAT IS SHED THEREIN, BUT BY THE BLOOD OF HIM THAT SHED IT.”
In the remarks that we shall have occasion to make on this ordinance, we must of necessity be more particular than we could wish: but in all that we may say upon this most interesting subject, we beg to be understood, not as presuming to criminate any individual, but as declaring in general terms what we believe to be agreeable to the mind of God, and what we are bound in conscience to declare with all faithfulness.
That there is an ardent wish in all our legislators, and in all who superintend the execution of the laws, to maintain the strictest equity, none can doubt: a conviction of it is rooted in the mind of every Briton; and the bitterest enemies of our country are compelled to acknowledge it. But in some respects there is in our laws an awful departure from the laws of God; I should rather say, a direct opposition to them:
• Adultery, by the law of God, was punished with death, with the death of both the offenders : but by our laws the penalties attach only, or principally, when the crime is committed by the wife, and then only on her paramour. That the penalties have on some occasions been heavy, we confess ; but never once too heavy. Yet from the nature of the pecuniary mulct, it happens, that the very penalty