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would be worse than the disease; for, if they prosecute them, they shall be put to a great deal of expence anoVcharge, 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 sol-J for his theft. Obj. But who will buy him? No-body will be troubled with him. Answ. I answer: Either the party who hath sustained the damage ig to take him, 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, agreat tyranny indeed, to take away their lives.
Obj. But what if they run away?
Answ. Then they contract upon themselves a double debt.
Answ. They must not eat. And, before such an one will die for hunger, doubtless, he will eat the flesh 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 is upon his own head, and the commonwealth is discharged of it. • i
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 pay for their theft. And then, if any (as I hope many will) be converted 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, bean 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 you 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 inflict 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 deserveth 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.
Anw. 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 malefactors who will not hold up their hands, and plead, is without examination of witnesses, yet they 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 jEgyptian 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 j udg-ments; 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 tull and brief, and very sufficient for the government ofthat 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; anda long time will be spent in debate, before such a work be admitted to be attempted. And therefore I humbly 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 fear 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, I set to my hand, this thirty-first of Pecember, 165J.
A letter written to the regulators of the law, appointed by the Parliament, and sent, and presented tothat 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 covetousnessis 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 plar ces are the greatest unbelievers, for they have not so much faith as to trust God with their substance, but use indirect means to make uncer
tain 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, wh>ists 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.
1 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; f 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 thosi 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 proper for 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. I desire the Lord to give you repenting and relenting hearts, tor 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 follow your 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 power, 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 execur