these gentlemen are sincere and consistent, if they sup. port and obey it. But until they do, we are not willing to have them interpolate as much as they choose into it, and then require us to obey it. If you will show me a man who rigidly obeys the other verses of the covenant, then I will show you a man who really supports the gallows because he thinks the sixth verse commands it; but until you do, I shall think the opponents of the abolition of the death penalty are influenced by other motives than those which appear.
Now, gentlemen, I shall leave this subject in a moment; but allow me to say to you, that this statute is represented as a warrant from Almighty God, commanding all governments, for all time, to inflict the penalty of death upon every man who takes life.
There is only this single verse, in language of an uncertain tenor, and it has all the difficulties about it I have named.
I ask you, in all sincerity, if any county sheriff would hang one
man on a writ as ambiguous as that?
You know he would not; and yet governments are to hang to all time, and thousands are to die, upon the authority of a statute so uncertain in its meaning that no sheriff would hang an individual man on a precept so equivocal, and so much surrounded with difficulties!
If men are to come here and propound it as a statute sounding down to us from Sinai
, and before Sinai
, then it is a statute that we must put our hands on our lips, and our lips in the dust, and obey to the letter.
We have no right to reject one word and take the next; there is no trifling to be done with it.
Gentlemen, we have now dismissed the subject of obligation.
It is unnecessary to say,,after this, that I do not believe in the obligation.
If society can get permission
to take life from this text, it is the most that it can