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the age, in which we live. The abuses all arise from another quarter ; and the contentious spirit is kept alive and propagated by the lusts of private men. And what renders their iniquity without excuse, is, that the very equity of those forms, in which our laws are administered, is made the occasion of introducing all these corruptions.
2. To come to a detail on this subject, might be thought improper. Let me paint to you, then, in very general terms, the disorders that spring from this perversion of Law; and, to do it with advantage, let me employ the expressive words of an ancient Pagan writer.
The Roman governors of provinces, it is well known, had their times for the more solemn administration of civil justice. Suppose, then, one of these governors to have fixed his residence in the capital of an Asiatic province, to have appointed a day for this solemnity, and, with his Lictors, and other ensigns of authority about him, to be now seated in the forum, or public place of the city; and consider, if the following representation of an indifferent by-stander be not natural and instructive.
• See,” says the eloquent writer°, whose words I only translate, “ see that vast and " mixt multitude assembled together before you.
You ask, what has occasioned this mighty concourse of people. Are they met " to sacrifice to their country Gods, and to
communicate with each other in the sacred « offices of their religion? Are they going “ to offer the Lydian first-fruits to the Ascræan
Jupiter? or, are they assembled in such
numbers to celebrate the rites of Bacchus, “ with the usual festivity? Alas, no.
Neither pious gratitude, nor festal joy, inspires " them. One fierce unfriendly passion only “ prevails ; whose epidemic rage has stirred up “all Asia, and, as returning with redoubled « force on this stated anniversary, has driven 6 these frantic crouds to the forum; where
they are going to engage in law-suits with “ each other, before the Judges. An infinite “number of causes, like so many confluent « streams, rush together, in one common tide, " to the same tribunal. The passions of the contending parties are all on fire; and the
Plutarch, or whoever was the author of a fragment, printed among his moral discourses, and entitled, wórior τα της ψυχής και τα τα σώμαλος πάθη χείρονα. Ρar. Ed. vol. i.
“ end of this curious conflict is, the ruin of " themselves and others. What fevers, what “ calentures, what adust temperament of the
body, or overflow of its vicious humours, is “ to be compared to this plague of the disa “ tempered mind? Were you to interrogate “ each cause (in the manner you examine à
witness) as it appears before this tribunal, “and ask, WHENCE IT CAME? the answer “ would be, an obstinate and self-willed spirit
produced this; a bitter rage of contention, “that; and a lust of revenge and injustice, 66 another.”
It is not to be doubted, that this rage of the contending parties was inflamed, in those times, by mercenary agents and venal orators; by men, who employed every fetch of cunning, and every artifice of chicane, to perplex the clearest laws, to retard the decision of the plainest cases, and to elude the sentence of the ablest judges. Without some such management as this, the passions of the litigants could not have been kept up in such heat and fury, but must gradually have cooled, and died away of themselves. Add this, then, to the other features, so well delineated, and you will have the picture of ancient litigation com plete.
And what think we, now, of this picture ? Is there truth and nature in it? Are we at all concerned in this representation ; and do we discover any resemblance to it in what is passing elsewhere, I mean in modern times, and even in Christian societies? If we do, let us acknowledge with honesty, but indeed with double shame, that, like the Pagans of old, we have the art to pervert the best things to the worst purposes; and that the lusts of men are still predominant over the wisest and most beneficent institutions of civil justice.
Indeed, as to ourselves, the mild and equitable spirit of our laws might be enough, one would think, to inspire another temper: but when we further consider the divine spirit of the Gospel, by which we pretend to be governed, and the end of which is charity, our prodigious abuse of both must needs cover us with confusion,
The instruction, then, from what has been said, is this: That, since, as St. James observes, all our wars and fightings with each other proceed only from our lusts, and since these have even prevailed to that degree as to corrupt the two best gifts, which God, in his mercy, ever bestowed on mankind, that is, to make Religion and Law subservient to our bitter animosities; since all this, I say, has been made appear in the preceding comment on the sacred text, it becomes us, severally, to consider what our part has been in the disordered scene, now set before us: what care we have taken to check those unruly passions, which are so apt, by indulgence, to tyrannize over us; and, if this care has been less than it ought to have been, what may be the consequence of our neglect. We should, in a word, take heed, how we bite and devour one another; not only, as the Apostle admonishes, that we be not consumed one of another ; but lest, in the end, we incur the chastisement of that Law, we have so industriously perverted, and the still sorer chastisement of that Religion, we have so impiously abused.