to us as the law of God,--it must be obeyed, fully, entirely obeyed; no man has a right to take exceptions to it. If it is the law of God, Mr. Chairman
, you and I, and this government, and every individual in it must obey it in its letter.
We have no right to make changes in it. If we have a right to make changes in the law of God, how much
change may we make?
Change it a half; two thirds?
No; the rule is, you cannot change it a tittle.
It is to be obeyed; and it is to be obeyed wholly; it is to be obeyed in its full spirit, to the extent of it. Is not that proper?
The opponents of capital punishment, gentlemen, are perfectly willing to obey this statute, with the gentlemen who support the gallows, if they will obey it to the letter, entirely.
How long could any legislature that obeyed that command, in its full spirit, sit in any Christian country?
Let us see.
In the first place, you will remark that this is but a single line of Hebrew text.
If you will look into our friend Spear
's book, or Dr. Cheever
's book, or any book on this subject, on either side, you will find that there are as many as twelve
different interpretations of it. No two of the great lights of Oriental
learning and the Hebrew language have been able to agree upon an interpretation.
One says that it means one thing, and another, another thing; and from Calvin and Luther down to our own day, there has been no unanimous agreement among scholars as to the meaning of this sentence.
Is it not rather singular, gentlemen, that you should be asked to upset the whole theory of the American Constitution
, to support a law which it is confessed transcends the American
idea of the power of government, that you should be asked to take a right-one of the most doubtful ever exercised, even if it should appear to have existed in any human government — on the faith of a single line of a dead language, three thousand years old, about