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by them, should be stoned with stones, that he might die. And in like manner presumptuous disobedience to the ecclesiastical ruler or the civil magistrate, for these in a certain sense are parents, was a capital offence, as the law runs, “ The man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die : and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously.”
Wilful Murder was another crime which was punished with death. This had been commanded to the patriarchs, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed ;” and it was repeated by the Jewish
“ He that smiteth a man so that he die, shall surely be put to death.” If this were done accidentally, or under circumstances which made it amount only to what is called manslaughter, there were cities of refuge appointed, to which the man-slayer might flee for safety, but if any one had killed
another wilfully and maliciously, he must die. The law was, “If a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from my altar, that he may die.”
Another great offence against the person was to suffer the same penalty, namely, the attempt to make any one a slave. The law was in these words, “ He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”
Adultery was also one of the highest offences under the law of God, and a capital crime. The law was, “ The adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” And this extended to other cases of female unchastity, as also to all forcible violation. All unnatural crimes and incestuous connections were also to be punished by death. And the people were compelled, under the penalty of this last-extremity, to the observance of that precept of holiness given with such solemnity and earnestness in the gospel, “ Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
The crimes therefore which were punished
with death by that law which God himself enacted for the government of his people were idolatry, blasphemy, and sabbath-breaking ; wilful disobedience to parents or the judge ; murder and stealing a man to make him a slave ; and adultery, with other sins of licentiousness and depraved passions. Mark the difference in the estimation in which the guilt of actions is held by the law of God and that of most modern nations, for instance, our own. Idolatry, blasphemy, sabbath-breaking, disobedience to parents, adultery, and unchastity, have the most trifling penalties attached to them, or none at all ; while, on the contrary, offences against property, which in such numerous instances are punishable with death by our laws, were not in any one case visited with so high a penalty under the law of God. Restitution of the thing stolen, with the penalty of double its value, and in one case of five times its value, was to be made, and if the thief could not pay this, then he might be taken or sold as a slave, till payment was made, or till the coming of the year of release. All this shews plainly enough that the divine law in all its penal punishments most regarded the preservation of the religion and morals of the people, while human laws generally consider their property to be more valuable than either.
After thus setting a general view of the criminal code of the Mosaic law before you, I now proceed to the consideration of this particular case in which death was inflicted. The circumstances were these. The son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, strove with a man of Israel in
And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed. Up to this time it seems that there had been no express penalty attached to this crime, and therefore they who heard him brought him to Moses, as they were to do in all cases of difficulty, to know what should be done with him. He was therefore kept in custody till the will of the Lord should be known concerning him. 66 And the Lord said unto Moses, bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp, and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and
let all the congregation stone him.” And then the law was promulged and established among them for all time to come. " Whoso
ever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And • he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord,
shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him : as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death."
The sin of blasphemy and cursing is therefore a great and grievous sin. It is a direct and daring insult of the majesty and holiness of God. Alas! that so much of it should be heard among us. But though the blasphemer, the curser, and the swearer, may not now have a law that condemns him to death, yet let him know that the Lord will not hold him guiltless, and let him hear the words of that third commandment of the decalogue, and fear, and do no more so wickedly.
There are certain circumstances mentioned in the text, connected with the punishment of this man, which put additional marks upon the enormity of his crime. He was to be