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different codes of law, not only in different countries, but in the fame country at different periods.
There are, at the fame time, certain general and fixed principles of law applicable to every state of society; which, founded in eternal, unchangeable truth and justice, are in perpetual force, and of univerfal obligation. Divefted of every thing arbitrary, local and temporary, they addrefs themselves to the underftanding and confcience of every man, and irresistibly carry conviction with them. The genius, character and progrefs of any people, a fagacious obferver will be able to trace, with tolerable accuracy, in their legiflation, in their inftitutions, political and religious; for thofe of a moral tendency never vary. It is easy to difcern in the fpirit of the laws, what is the spirit of the nation; to difcern whether liberty or defpotism, moderation or tyranny is predominant.
But the conftitution of the commonwealth of Ifrael poffeffes distinctive features. It was formed by Divine Wisdom long before it had a local refidence wherein to act. The laws by which Canaan was to be governed, were enacted in the wilderness. Prescience made provision for cases which could not as yet have arifen. Republican equality was blended with abfolute unlimited theocracy; a liberty and a fovereignty established in perfect harmony, and yet both to their utmost extent. The Levitical part of the conftitution was adapted to this state of things. The priesthood, in refpect of property and poffeffion, was reduced below the level of their brethren; while by their office and employments, the homage paid and the provision made for them, they were raised above their fellows. They were appointed to minister at the altar of God; and it was his will, and it was reasonable, that they fhould live by it.
One of the laft public fervices in which Mofes was employed, is the fettlement of this branch of the political economy-the establishment of religion, without which no ftate can long exist; and the appointment
of a moderate, but certain and steady provifion for its minifters.
Forty and eight cities, in all, with their fuburbs, and an extent of territory around every one, not exceeding two thousand cubits, in all directions, were to be fet apart for the tribe of Levi, and diftributed by lot. As the lot was fpecially ordered by Divine Providence, the difperfion of this tribe over the whole land, there is good reafon to believe, God in wisdom overruled favourably to the exercife of their facred function. Of their other privileges and immunities, we are not now led to treat. The words we have read limit our attention to an inftitution, in many respects fingular, and unexampled in the hiftory of mankindthe appointment of fix of the Levitical cities, as places of refuge for the unintentional, and therefore lefs criminal manflayer. Refpecting this inftitution, and its reafon and defign, the following particulars recom
mend themselves to our notice.
The provifion here made refers to a cafe of fingular importance to fociety; on which indeed the very being of fociety depends-the fecurity of human life against violence. To take away the life of another is the most atrocious offence which man can commit against man. The laws of every well-regulated community have accordingly marked it as the object of juft vengeance, faying, in the language of the fupreme Legiflator, "Whofo fheddeth man's blood, by man fhall his blood be fhed." But into the commiffion of this offence, as of every other, circumftances of aggravation or alleviation may enter; and every wife legiflator will take thefe into confideration; adapting the degree of punishment to the degree of criminality, diftinguifhing the action, as connected with, or feparated from the intention. To the wilful and deliberate murderer no place was to ferve as a fanctuary; to him the altar itfelf was to afford no protection. But a man may deprive his neighbour of life without incurring the guilt of murder; and it must be imputed
to him as a calamity, not a crime. To meet fuch a cafe, the provifion in queftion was made; and a ref uge was provided for both the citizen and the stranger who might 66 unawares," without malice or intention, occafion the death of another.
This refuge, however, was not wholly unreftricted, but fubject to a variety of regulations, all calculated powerfully to imprefs on the minds of the people, an awful fenfe of the value put on the life of man by the great Legislator: and to ferve as a caution not only against deliberate violence, but even against carelefsnefs and inattention, where the life of another was concerned. Blood lies heavily, as it ought, on the head of him who sheddeth it, however innocently; and the consciousness of it will ever be felt as a fevere punishment by a fenfible heart, though no judge arife to avenge it. But punishment to a certain degree was inflicted on the manflayer, by the very ftatute which appointed the refuge; and to the uneafy reflections arifing from having been the unwilling inftrument of a man's death, were fuperadded alarming apprehenfions and painful restraints.
The first regulation limited the number of these cities to fix, for the whole commonwealth of Ifrael. Hence, an escape to a place of refuge muft, in many inftances, have been effected through much danger, exertion and labour; and the unhappy fugitive mufl frequently have felt all the bitternefs of death in his folicitude to flee from it. Thus, while the finger of mercy pointed to the ftrong hold of fafety, the voice of justice exclaimed, “Flee for thy life, look not behind thee, left thou perish; behold the avenger of blood is at thy heels."
But that the danger, and the anxiety refulting from it, might be diminished as far as the limited number of the cities would admit, it was determined by the lot that these fhould be difperfed at the moft coinmodious distances, over the country; and it was exprefly provided that three of them fhould be on each fide
the Jordan, in order to facilitate and fecure escape at the seasons when that river overflowed its banks, and rendered a paffage tedious, difficult or impracticable. In the fame view, it has been affirmed, and feems probable, that the roads which led to these cities were formed and maintained at the public expense, and that their breadth was very confiderable: that every obftruction was removed out of the way, bridges were thrown over interpofing ftreams, and when roads happened to crofs or feparate, an index, infcribed with the word Refuge, pointed out the right courfe. And thus an inftitution humane in its defign, was rendered more fo, by the manner in which it was obferved.
But again-the city was, in the firft inftance, to ferve only as a temporary refuge, and afforded shelter only till inquiry was made into the fact, and judgment was folemnly given between the manflayer and the avenger of blood, upon evidence adduced. If criminal intention was proved, there was no remedy, blood demanded blood, the prifoner muft be delivered up to the hands of juftice. If otherwife, public protection was granted, and he was restored to his refuge. The ordinance having it in view not to prevent and fupprefs the truth, but to bring it openly and fully to light.
The innocence of the profecuted party having been made clearly to appear, he was restored indeed to his refuge, but it became, at the fame time, his prifon. Exiled from his native poffeffion, and from all that rendered it dear; doomed to live among ftrangers, to fubfift on their bounty, perhaps to feel their unkindnefs or neglect, he must drag out a comfortless existence, to an unknown, uncertain period; or stir abroad under conftant apprehenfion and hazard of his life. And confinement is ftill confinement, though in a place of fafety, a city of refuge: and ignorance and uncertainty refpecting the termination of our mifery, are bitter ingredients in the cup of affliction. "It
may outlaft life," fad thought! "or confume the best and most valuable portion of my days. Unhappy that I am, to have introduced mourning into my neighbour's family, and defolated my own. Though I feel not the pangs of remorfe, my heart is torn with thofe of regret; and blood, though fhed without a crime, is a burden too heavy for me to bear."
The laft regulation on record refpecting this subject, was a permiffion to the hapless manflayer to "return into the land of his poffeffion," on the death of the high-prieft. The reafon of this ordinance does not appear; but it contains a circumstance very affecting to the prisoner himself, and affecting to all Ifrael. His release from confinement could be purchased only by death, the death of another; and that not of an ordinary citizen, but of the most dignified and respectable character in the republic. The weight of blood innocently fhed, was at length to be removed; but how? Not by the demife of him who fhed it, but of "the high-priest which should be in those days." And may we not suppose a refugee of fenfibility looking forward to this event with the mixed emotions of hope and forrow? The very caufe of his enlargement makes it to partake of the nature of a punishment. He dare hardly with for liberty, for it involved guilt deeper than what already lay upon his head; deliberate devifing the death of his neighbour, and taking pleasure in it.
Now, if guiltless homicide fubjected the perpetrator of it to fuch accumulated danger, anxiety and diftrefs, how atrocious in the fight of God muft wilful murder be? And how facred, in the fight of man, ought to be the life of his brother, and every thing relating to its preservation and comfort, his health, his peace, his reputation? To attack him in any of these refpects, is to level a blow at his head, or, where he feels more fenfibly still, at his heart.
Let us review this last of the Mofaic inftitutions, and mark its reference to a clearer and more explicit dif