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ing an alarm against the workers of iniquity, that they may repent, and turn from their evil ways; so delivering my soul, and clearing myself of that blood-guiltiness, which lieth upon others, and especially upon rich men, who are called to weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon others. For the bread of the needy is the life of the poor, and he that defraudeth him of it is a murderer, and the scripture saith, “Thou shalt take no ransom for the life of a murderer that is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. But I hope, that some righteous men will take the matter into serious consideration, these our endeavours tending not only to the good of those transgressors, who have not deserved death by the laws of God, but also, of those who put them to death unjustly, lest the justice of God take hold upon those who are the causers of it, and that the like punishment be inflicted justly upon them, which they inflict upon others unjustly. And, indeed, I do admire that men who profess to be governed by God's laws, and stand against tyranny, should bave a finger in such a work ! Surely, such men, though they pretend never su much religion, are not fit to pray, nor to be piayed with: For, when they stretch forth their hands, God will hide his eyes, and, though they make many prayers, he will not hear them whose hands are full of blood.'
To the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Commons in
common council assembled.
The mournful petition of many inhabitants of the City of London, in the be
half of many thousand transgressors. Sheweth,
man, than his iniquities deserve, no magistrate is to punish a wicked man for his iniquity, beyond the rule of equity; that, seeing it is evident, that whatsoever is good is of God, and the contrary of Abaddon; and that no man's will, though great, is good, unless it be correspondent to the will of him who is greater than the greatest; nor the law of any authority whatsoever, unless it be according to the law of him, who is higher than the highest : Therefore, when great ungodly men have, by their own wills, and inhuman laws, for many years, destroyed not only the righteous for conscience-sake, but also the wicked undeservedly, this was iniquity to be punished by the judge, though done by judges themselves, who, by their over-much righteousness, and over-much wickedness, the people abetting them, have brought death and destruction upon this land, and the hand of the Lord is stretched out still, against this sinful nation, and unless they repent, they shall surely perish.
That the head of this land is the sinful city of London, who, instead of bringing forth monthly good, for the healing of the nation, doth bring forth that which tendeth to the destruction thereof; grey hairs being sprinkled here and there upon them, and they not aware; for they consider not, how many are destroyed every month, by the law ofman, contrary to the law of God, who hath declared, that if a thief be found breaking thro', the sun being risen upon him, and he be smitten that he die, blood shall be shed for him, Exod. xxii. 3, from whence it appeareth, thai those are guilty before the Lord, who take away the life of any man, merely for stealing, when the Lord requireth, that he should make full restitution out of his estate, or, if he have nothing, that he should be sold for his theft. But contrariwise, their lives are taken away, merely for stealing; and commonly many, though found notorious thieves, yet have been discharged, with little or no punishment, either in person or purse, to the great damage of those who have lost their goods, and to the imboldening of the malefactors, and the want of the due execution of tke law of God upon them; and not setting them in a way to make restitution, to the owners, tendeth to the utter destruction, both of their bodies and souls.
Therefore, our desire is, that ye would take these things into serious consideration, and, in your wisdoms, take such a prudent and effectual course, that, in the execution of justice, the remedy may not be worse than the disease, like those who kill their wounded patients, and wound themselves; but that punishment may be equalised proportionable to the offences, that the prosecutors, or executors of the law, may bave no cause to repent, and that one witness may not rise against any man, for any iniquity, but that, at the mouth of two or three witnesses, the matter may be established; and that ye would, by no means, make the wills of any men, or any human laws whatsoever, any rules for you to walk by, further than you see them agreeable to the holy will and word of God; and that ye would, according to your power, seek to remove the dishonourable badges of infamy, from off your sinful city and nation, though never so ancient, familiar, common, and customary, and that ye would address yourselves to the parliament, for the obtaining of these things.
And your affectionate petitioners shall pray.
Here followeth a letter, written to Thomas Andrews, the Lord Mayor
that then was.
London-Bridge, June 25th, 1649. Right Honourable, I Hope your lordship hath not forgotten our petition in the behalf of transgressors; Christ made intercession to God for transgressors, who were guilty of eternal death before God; we make intercession for men, whu are not guilty of temporal death before men. Divers petitions have been promoted in the behalf of saints, and it was a very good and acceptable service; this is for sinners whom it may be, God will call effectually, for Christ died for the ungodly, and received gifts for the rebellious. I have written this inclosed paper, to further the petition; I desire that my counsel may be acceptable unto your honour, so long as it is agreeable with God's word, and if it be agreeable to your
lordship's affection, I hope you will assist in it according to your power, and prosecute it with all your might, and make haste, and not delay, to keep the righteous judgments of the God of judgment, who hath promised to be for a spirit of judgment, to him that sitteth in judgment.
Right honourable, you may be pleased to remember what I said; I know no friend of mine that is guilty of theft; what I have done is in conscience to God, and compassion to my native country, and in tender respect to your honour, that the heavy wrath of God may not fall upon you, and the whole nation; at least, that some of the rods of God may be taken away, or that some of his judgments may be stayed. I desire to be a good example to the sons of men, that they may clear themselves of blood-guiltiness. I desire your lordship again to consider seriously of this inclosed writing; I have shewed it to just men, and they approve of it. Your lordship in your wisdom may take counsel of wise men, and of the ancients, concerning this matter, and hear what they say thereunto; but, above all, search the scripture, for whatsoever is not according to that, hath no light in it; and it is a maxim in law, that all laws which are not according to God's law, and pure reason, are void and null; and, if so, then not binding to a citizen, or to any other under Heaven, and so are no rules for me to walk by; but it is the word of God, which is binding, and yet is not bound.
Honourable Sir, I am,
Certain Reasons of weighty consideration, in reference to the petition to
the Common-Council, in behalf of transgressors.
ALTHOUGH there be ground sufficient enough in the petition itself to evince, that no malefactor's life should be taken away, merely for theft; when the Lord requireth, that satisfaction should be made out of his estate, and, if he have nothing, that he should be sold for his theft; yet, because of the ignorance and hardness of men's hearts, and their cruelty and revenge, I shall, for their regulation, propose some things to their consideration.
To take away the life of any man only for theft, as aforesaid, is iniquity, because it is against the rule of equity; it is not good, because not of God; it is not correspondent with his will, it hath no agreement with his most righteous law, but is inhuman, bloody, barbarous, and tyrannical, and provoketh the God of judgment, to execute bis judgments upon the nation that abetteth the same; yca, it tendeth to their utter destruction, to destroy men by the laws of men, contrary to the laws of God; consider I say, how contrary it is to the rule of equity, the blessed and righteous law of God.
According to the rule of equity, there is required 'life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, for eye,
wound for wound, stripe for stripe,' Exod. xxi. 23, 24, 25. It is not life for eye, but eye for eye; nor eye for tooth, but tooth for tooth; so that, if a man require more, it is iniquity. Prov. xxx. 6. Therefore, if a man put out his neighbour's eye, strike out his tooth, and bruise his hand, but doth not kill, he ought not to be killed for this, but must lose his eye, and his tooth, and as he hath done to his neighbour, so it must be done to him; as it is written, breach for breach, eye tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again; and he that killeth a beast, shall restore it, and he that killeth a man, shall be surely put to death; and the same Lord saith, “Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for
your own country,' Levit. xxiv. 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. The Lord of life hath expresly declared, and it is known to all men living, “That the life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment, Luke xii. 22. If then the life be more than meat, no man's life should be taken away for meat, much less for raiment, which is inferior; and all things, necessary for the temporal life and body of man, are comprehended in these terms, food and raiment, Deut. X. 18. 1 Tim. vi. 8.
The God of the spirits of all flesh hath declared plainly, in his most just and righteous law, That, if a thief be found breaking through, the sun being risen upon him, and be smitten that he die, blood shall be shed for him,' Exod. xxii. 3. And he renders this reason, for he should make full restitution, and, if he have nothing, he shall be sold for his theft; and the Lord hath not said, that he that stealeth food, or raiment, shall be put to death, or that his blood shall be shed; but, Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed,' Gen. ix. 6. So then it appeareth, that it is murder by the law of God to kill a man merely for stealing, when the Lord saith he should make full restitution, and if he have nothing, he shall be sold, not killed, for his theft ; and, amongst his statute-laws, hath stated particular cases in this, as well as in other things, and made them so plain, that mean capacities may decide controversies of this nature.
And, as there is no precept nor consequence in the word of God for this unjust practice, so there is no precedent in Israel, but many in England, the more is their misery; but, as that ancient Father Austin saith, That man is miserable, who is not sensible of his misery, which may well be applied unto this sinful and miserable nation, who are not sensible of the dangerous consequence of this one deadly evil amongst the rest; how unjust a thing it is to kill a man for stealing fourteen pence. Let all men reasonable judge; for so is the law of this land, according to which the people are forced to prosecute the thieves; but, in King Solomon's time, Men did not despise a thief in some case, Prov. vi. 30. And he who is greater than Solomon, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of the Kings of the earth, hath not given the least hint, that he that stealeth food, or raiment, should be killed, but He, that leadeth into captivity, shall go into captivity; and he, that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword. Revel. xii. 10. But, concerning theft, it is said, 'Let him that stole, steal no more;' he doth not say, let him be hanged; but rather let him labour
with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to distribute to him that needeth, 'Ephes. iv. 28. And it is expresly commanded That he that will not work, neither should he eat,' 2 Thes, iji. 10. Many precepts, precedents, and propositions may be brought to confirm the premisses, but this is enough at this time. A word to the wise is sufficient.
A letter written the 11th of December, 1651, by Samuel Chidley, to the
Right Honourable the Commissioners of Oyer and Terminer, and GaolDelivery of Newgate.
Right Worshipful and Honourable, ALTHOUGH I know not any of my acquaintance to be guilty of
I seek to save the lives of these sinners whom God would have preserved; and, I coming down to this judgment-seat, it being as free for me as another to see justice done; and, observing your proceedings from the beginning hitherto, how, in many things, you go against the very letter and equity of the law of the only law-maker, by whom, and by which, yourselves must be judged, caused me to call to mind, how that great men are not always wise, neither do the aged always understand judgment.
Right Honourable, I am sorry to see you go on still in your wonted course, of arraigning men for their lives merely for theft. I have observed, that the persons, who are arraigned before your honours, are poor
labourers, and such creatures who stole things of a small value, peradventure, for mere necessity; yet you arraign them for their lives, when the Law of God requireth their preservation in such a way, that they may make satisfaction, and not, if disabled, to force them into a necessity of stealing again; but they are great sinners indeed, who rob men of their precious lives. And the worst of men are such, as despise and destroy thieves that steal, merely to satisfy their hunger. It seems some of the thieves you will press, for not holding up their hands at your command, or for not answering to that interrogatory, guilty? or not guilty ? Consider, I pray you, how circumstantial these things are;
I the weight of trials depends not hereupon, as I humbly conceive. For it is possible that a murderer, when he is arraigned, may want his hands, and another may be dumb; yet you may proceed to judgment against him, if sufficient evidence come in, and that the jury, who are judges in matter of fact, and, if they will, in matters of law, find them guilty. Surely you must take no ransom for the life of a murderer, though he cannot, or will not, hold up his hand at the bar, or say, that he is guilty; for, by the law, no man is bound to accuse himself, therefore the guilty person is not bound to say be is guilty; and, if he should say, not guilty, what is he the better?
This is my opinion, which I humbly leave to the serious consideration of this honourable bench. I would to God that you would try such men by the laws of God, who cast themselves upon God and the country. And oh! that you would put the judgments of God in exe