Imatges de pàgina

custom of the Jews, St. Paul seems to allude, when he says, Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth (Rom. xiv. 22.); that is, who being convinced of the truth of a thing, does not really and effectually condemn himself in the sight of God by denying it. After the accusation was laid before, the court, the criminal was heard in his defence, and therefore Nicodemus said to the chief priests and pharisees, Doth our law judge any man o: it hear him, and know what he doth ? (... vii. 51.) 4. In matters of life and death, the evidence of one witness was not sufficient: in order to establish a charge, it was necessary to have the testimony of two or three credible and unimpeachable witnesses. (Numb. xxv. 30. Deut. xvii. 6, 7. xix. 15.) Though the law of Moses is silent concerning the evidence of women, Josephus says that it was prohibited on account of the levity and boldness of their sex He also adds that the testimony of servants was inadmissible, on account of the probability of their being influenced to speak what was untrue, either from hope of gain or fear of punishment. Most likely, this was the exposition of the scribes and pharisees, and the practice of the Jews, in the last age of their political existence. In general, the witnesses to be sworn did not pronounce the formula of the oath, either when it was a judicial one, or taken on any other solemn occasion. A formula was read, to which they said Amen. (Lev. v. 2. Prov. xxix. 34. 1 Kings viii. 31.) Referring to this usage, when Jesus Christ was adjured or put upon his oath, he immediately made an answer. (Matt. xxvi. 63.) All manner of false witness was most severely prohibited. (Exod. xx. 13. xxiii. 1–3.) 5. In questions of property, in default of any other means of decision, recourse was had to the lot. In this manner, it will be recollected that the land of Canaan was divided by Joshua, to which there are so many allusions in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Psalms. And it should seem, from Prov. xvi. 33. and xviii. 18. that it was used in courts of justice, in the time of Solomon, though probably only with the consent of both parties. In criminal cases, recourse was had to the sacred lot, called Urim and Thummim, in order to discover, not to convict the guilty party (Josh. vii. 14–18. 1 Sam. xiv. 37–45.); but it appears to have been used only in the case of an oath being transgressed, which the whole people had taken, or the leader of the host in their name. A peculiar mode of eliciting the truth was employed in the case of a woman suspected of adultery. She was to be brought by her husband to the tabernacle, afterwards to the temple; where she took an oath of purgation, imprecating tremendous punishment upon herself. The form of this process (which was the foundation of the trial by ordeal that so generally prevailed in the dark ages) is detailed at length in Numb. v. 11–31., to which the rabbinical writers have added a variety of frivolous ceremonies. If innocent, the woman suffered no inconvenience or injury; but if guilty, the

1 Josephus, Ant. Jud. lib. iv. c. 8. § 15.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

punishment which she had imprecated on herself immediately over-
took her." - -
6. Sentences were only pronounced in the day time; of which
circumstance notice is taken in Saint Luke's narrative of our Sa-
viour's mock trial. (xxii. 66.) It was the custom among the Jews to
pronounce sentence of condemnation in this manner.—He is guilty
of death. (Matt. xxvi. 16.) In other countries, a person's condem-
nation was announced to him by giving him a black stone, and his
o by giving him a white stone. Ovid mentions this practice
lus : - -
Mos crat antiquus, nineis atrisque oft,
His damnare reos, illis alsolvere culpá.
.Nunc quoque sic lata est sententia tristis
- MET. lib. xv. 41–43.
A custom was of old, and still obtains, .
Which life or death by suffrages ordains:
White stones and black within an urn are cast;
The first absolve, but fate is in the last
In allusion to this custom, our Saviour (Rev. ii. 17.) promises to give
the spiritual conqueror a white stone, and on the stone a new name
written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it; which may
be supposed to signify—Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
The white stones of the antients were inscribed with characters; and
so is the white stone mentioned in the Apocalypse. According to
Persius the letter 9 was the token of condemnation:
Et potis es nigrum vitio prefigere Theta.
SAT. iv. 13.
Fixing thy stigma on the brow of vice.
DRUMMond. .
But on the white stone given by our Lord was inscribed a new name
of dignity and honour, which no man knoweth but he who receiveth it;
agreeably to the custom of nations, from the earliest ages, by which
a person raised to dignity was commonly invested with a new name,
expressive of his deserts."
7. Such were the judicial proceedings in ordinary cases, when
the forms of law were observed. On some occasions however, when
particular persons were obnoxious to the populace, it was usual for
them to demand prompt justice upon the supposed delinquents. It
is well known that in Asia, to this day, those who demand justice
against a criminal, repair in large bodies to the gate of the royal resi-
dence, where they make horrid cries, tearing their garments and
wing dust into the air. This circumstance throws great o: upon
the conduct of the Jews towards Saint Paul, when the chief captain
of the Roman garrison at Jerusalem presented himself to them.
(Acts xxii. 28–36.) When they found the apostle in the temple,
Prejudiced as they were against him in general, and at that time par-
ficularly irritated by the mistaken notion that he had polluted the
holy place by the introduction of Greeks into it, they raised a tumult,

* Wetstein, Doddridge, and Dean Woodhouse on Rev. ii. 17. WOL. III. 6.

and were on the point of inflicting summary vengeance on Saint Paul. As soon as the chief captain of the Roman soldiers, who resided in a castle adjoining the temple, heard the tumult, he hastened thither. They then ceased beating the apostle, and addressed themselves to him as the chief official person there, exclaiming, Alway with him. Permission being at length given to Paul to explain the affair in their hearing, they became still more violently enraged, but not daring to do themselves justice, they demanded it nearly in the same manner as the Persian peasants now do, by loud vociferations, tearing off their clothes and throwing up dust into the air." V. As soon as sentence of condemnation was pronounced against a person, he was immediately dragged from the court to the place of execution. Thus our Lord was instantly hurried from the presence of Pilate to Calvary: a similar instance of prompt execution occurred in the case of Achan; and the same practice obtains to this day, both in Turkey and Persia. In those countries, when the enemies of a great man have sufficient influence to procure a warrant for his death, a capidgi or executioner is despatched with it to the victim, who quietly submits to his fate.” Nearly the same method of executing criminals was used by the antient Jewish princes. It is evidently alluded to in Prov. xvi. 14. Thus, Benaiah was the capidgi (to use the modern Turkish term,) who was sent by Solomon to put to death Adonijah, a prince of the blood royal (1 Kings ii. 25.), and also Joab the commander in chief of the army. (29–31.) John the Baptist was put to death in like manner. (Matt. xiv. 10.) Previously, however, to executing the criminal, it was usual, among the antient Persians, to cover his head, that he might not behold the face of the sovereign. Thus, the head of Philotas, who had conspired against Alexander the Great, was covered;" and in conformity with this practice, the head of Haman was veiled or covered. (Esth. vii. 8.) So zealous were the Jews for the observance of their law, that they were not ashamed themselves to be the executioners of it, and to punish criminals with their own hands. In stoning persons, the witnesses threw the first stones, agreeably to the enactment of Moses. (Deut. xvii. 7.) Thus, the witnesses against the protomartyr Stephen, after laying down their clothes at the feet of Saul, stoned him (Acts vii. 58, 59.); and to this custom our Saviour alludes, when he said to the Pharisees, who had brought to him a woman who had been taken in adultery, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at %. (John viii.) As there were no public executioners in the more antient periods of the Jewish history, it was not unusual for persons of distinguished rank themselves to put the sentence in execution upon offenders. Thus, Samuel put Ágag to death (1 Sam. xv. 33.); and in like manner Nebuchadnezzar ordered Arioch the commander in chief of his forces to destroy the wise men

[ocr errors]

of Babylon, because they could not interpret his dream. (Dan. ii. 24.) Previously, however, to inflicting punishment, it was a custom of the Jews, that the witnesses should lay their hands on the criminal's head. This custom originated in an express precept of God, in the case of one who had blasphemed the name of Jehovah, who was ordered to be brought without the camp : when all, who had heard him, were appointed to lay their hands upon his head, and afterwards the congregation were to stone him. By this action they signified, that the condemned person suffered justly, protesting that, if he were innocent they desired that his blood might fall on their own head. In allusion to this usage, when sentence was pronounced against Jesus Christ, the Jews exclaimed,—His blood be upon us and our children. (Matt. xxvii. 25.) From the above noticed precept of bringing the criminals without the camp, arose the custom of executing them without the city. - But in whatever manner the criminal was put to death, according to the Talmudical writers, the Jews always gave him some wine with incense in it, in order to stupify and intoxicate him. This custom is said to have originated in the precept recorded in Prov. xxxi. 6., which sufficiently explains the reason why wine, mingled with myrrh, was offered to Jesus Christ when on the cross. (Mark xv. 23.) In the latter ages of the Jewish polity, this medicated cup of winé, was so generally given before execution, that the word cup is sometimes put in the Scriptures for death itself. Thus, Jesus Christ, in his last prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, said—If it be possible, let this cup pass from me. (Matt. xxvi. 39.42.)



I, Judicial proceedings of the Romans.—II. Privileges and treatment of Roman citizens, when prisoners.-III. Appeals to the imperial tribunal—IV. The Roman method of fettering and confining criminals.-V. The Roman tribunals—VI. The Areopagus of the Athenians.

WHEREveR the Romans extended their power, they also tarried their laws; and though, as we have already seen, they allowed their conquered subjects to enjoy the free performance of their religious worship, as well as the holding of some inferior courts of judicature, yet in all cases of a capital nature the tribunal of the Roman prefect or president was the last resort. . Without his permission, no person could be put to death, at least in Judaea. And as we find numerous allusions in the New Testament to the Roman Judicature, manner of trial, treatment of prisoners, and infliction of capital punishment, a brief account of these subjects so intimately


connected with the political state of Judaea under the Romans, naturally claims a place in the present sketch." I. “The judicial proceedings of the Romans were conducted in a manner worthy the majesty, honour, and magnanimity of that people. Instances indeed occur of a most scandalous venality and corruption in Roman judges, and the story of Jugurtha and Verres will stand, a lasting monument of the power of gold to pervert justice and shelter the most atrocious villany. But in general in the Roman judicatures, both in the imperial city and in the provinces, justice was administered with impartiality; a fair and honourable trial was permitted; the allegations of the plaintiff and defendant were respectively heard; the merits of the cause weighed and scrutinised with cool unbiassed judgment; and an equitable sentence pronounced. The Roman law, in conformity to the first principle of nature and reason, ordained that no one should be condemned and punished without a previous public trial. This was one of the decrees of the twelve tables: JNo one shall be condemned before he is tried.” Under the Roman government, both in Italy and in the provinces, this universally obtained. After the cause is heard, says Cicero, a man may be acquitted : but his cause unheard, no one can be condemned.” To this excellent custom among the Romans, which the law of nature prescribes, and all the principles of equity, honour, and humani dictate, there are several allusions in Scripture. We find the holy apostles, who did not, like frantic enthusiasts and visionaries, court persecution, but embraced every legal method which the usages and maxims of those times had established to avoid it, and to extricate themselves from calamities and sufferings, pleading this privilege, reminding the Romans of it when they were going to infringe it, and in a spirited manner upbraiding their persecutors with their violation of it. When Lysias, the Roman tribune, ordered Saint Paul to be conducted into the castle, and to be examined by scourging, that he might learn what he had done that enraged the

1 The materials of this section are principally derived from Dr. Harwood's Introduction to the New Testament (a work now of rare occurrence), vol. ii. section xvi. the texts cited being carefully verified and corrected. The subjects of this and the following section are also discussed by Dr. Lardner, Credibility, part i. book i. c. x. § 9–11.; and o by Calmet in his elaborate Dissertation sur les supplices dont ilest parlé dans l'Ecriture., inserted in his Commentaire Litterale, tom, i. part 'W'. 387–402. See also Merrill's Notae, Philologica in passionem Christi, and Wyssenbach's Notae Nomico-Philologica in passionem, in vol. iii. of Crenius's Fasciculus Opusculorum, pp. 583–691. and Lydius's Florum Sparsio ad Historiam Passionis Jesu Christi, 18mo., Dordrechti, 1672.

* Interfici indemnatum quemcunque hominem, etiam xii Tabularum decreta vetuerant, Fragment xii. Tab. o:

* Causa.cognità multi possunt absolvi; incognità quidem condemnari nemo potest. In Verrem, lib. i. c. 25. “Producing the laws which ordain that no person shall suffer death without a legal trial.” É. Halicarn. lib. iii. p. 153. Hudson. “He did not allow them to inflict death on any citizen uncondemned.” Ibid. Iib. vi, p. 370 lib. vii. p. 428, edit. Hudson, Oxon. 1704. “They thought proper to call him to justice, as it is contrary to the Roman customs to condemn any one to death without a previous trial.” Appian. Bell. Civil lib. iii. p. 906. Tolfii, 1670. “Pid not you miserably murder Lentulus and his associates, without their being either judged or convicted 2" Dion Cassius, lib. 46. p. 463. Reimar.

« AnteriorContinua »