By EZRA RIPLEY, A. M. Minister of Concord.

Published for the Benefit of Criminals.

Printed by SAMUEL HALL, No. 53, Cornhill, BOSTON. 1800.


THE crime, which is this day to be capitally punished, is a direct violation of the law of love to our neighbour. The words read will not, therefore, it is presumed, be thought un­suitable for the theme of a discourse, on the present very solemn and affecting occasion. They are very concise and simple in expression; but their meaning is great, their contents are weighty and extremely interesting to individuals and to society.

I shall endeavour to show,

First, The true meaning of the law of love to our neighbour in its nature and extent;

Secondly, The reasonableness and obligation of this law; and, then, make improvement by way of in­ference and application.

First. I am to show the true meaning of the law of love to our neighbour in its nature and extent.

It pleased God to create man in his own moral likeness; to endue him with knowledge to under­stand the divine character and his own duty; with rectitude of mind and holy principles of action, that he might obey his Maker, and be the object of his complacency. On the understanding and heart of [Page 6] man the Lord wrote two comprehensive and unalter­able laws, viz. Love to God, and Love to men.—These were to him the rule and covenant of life. Accordingly, Jesus Christ, who taught the will of God in perfection, when this question was put to him, "Which is the great commandment of the law?" answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Although by the sinful lapse of man our nature is so depraved, that we are prone to transgress, and our moral powers are so debilitated, that we cannot ren­der perfect obedience; and, in boundless compassion, a Saviour is provided, to redeem us from sin and the curse of the law; yet Jesus Christ "came not to de­stroy the law, but to fulfil it."* He came not to lower its demands and weaken its obligation but to obey it perfectly for man; not to excuse any from the duties enjoined, nor to tolerate the least sin, but to exemplify its perfect morals, and aid us in sincere and universal imitation of himself. This law, there­fore, is now our rule of life. Sincere obedience to it is a service most reasonable, useful, and necessary.

Love is one of the primary affections of the mind, and always inclines us to will and to do whatever ap­pears to be right and good. It is the opposite of ha­tred, which invariably prompts to sin, unless it be directed against sin itself. Love to God exhibits it­self in reverence and worship, admiration and praise, obedience and gratitude, confidence and trust. When this affection is in proper exercise, and the divine character is rightly apprehended, it becomes compla­cency, [Page 7] and is productive of joy and delight. Love to our neighbour expresses itself in good will and kindness, truth and justice, righteousness and charity. And when real amiableness of character is perceived, love surpasses the ordinary bounds of benevolence, and is refined into complacency, the result of which is harmony and happiness.

Let us now attend particularly to the second table of the law, love to our neighbour, which enjoins all relative and social duties, and prohibits all the con­trary vices. These precepts, which are six in num­ber, and begin with the fifth in the decalogue, have respect to all stations and relations in life, and extend as well to the desires of the heart, as to the out­ward actions. The first enjoins on children all due honour and obedience towards their parents; and with equal reason, on parents, all proper affection and care towards children. It requires all suitable respect to superiors, kindness to equals, and conde­scension to inferiors, and prohibits every sentiment and action inconsistent with these virtues. The second is, Thou shalt not kill; and forbids every disposition and action, which tends to injure the life and health of our neighbour, with all hatred, malice, and re­venge; and requires a sincere desire and endeavour to preserve his life and health, and to promote his happiness. The third prohibits the violation of the marriage covenant and every kind and degree of lewdness, and requires chastity in heart, speech, and behaviour. The fourth is, Thou shalt not steal. By this command, all thest, burglary, robbery, fraud, counterfeiting the currency and legal writings, and whatever tends unjustly to deprive our neighbour of his property, is absolutely prohibited; and the oppo­site virtues, by parity of reason and full implication, [Page 8] are strictly commanded. The fifth utterly forbids all perjury, lying, falsehood, and prevarication; and implicitly enjoins on every man, to speak the truth to his neighbour in conversation and in witness bearing, whether he speak without or under the ob­ligation of an oath. The sixth aims directly at the heart. It forbids coveting the property and enjoy­ments of our neighbour; and implies that we be contented with such things as we have by the allot­ments of Providence, and can procure by honest in­dustry. The coveting, which is a violation of the divine law of love to our neighbour, is an earnest desire to possess and enjoy the possessions and com­forts of other people, without regard to equity and justice. To covet in this sense is sinful; and it prompts to unrighteous measures to obtain the things coveted. It induces deception, fraud, stealing, and the most atrocious crimes. Thus, to covet is the corrupt fountain whence flow those injurious vices, which frequently scourge individuals and society. This is the bitter root from which spring up fraud, injustice, stealing, robbery, and, sometimes, murder. According to the confession of the unhappy convict before us, all his crimes, which have more directly procured prosecutions, prisons, punishments (and I may add, the gallows) may be traced to this secret, fruitful, and corrupt source. There is a sense in which it is virtuous to covet, viz. to "covet earnestly the best gifts." We may ardently desire to excel in goodness and usefulness, and for this purpose, to be distinguished by endowments. But this desire hav­ing for its objects spiritual things and the benefit of men, is the very opposite in its nature and effects to that sinful lusting, or coveting, after evil things, and things to which we have no just right.

[Page 9] That such, as above stated, is the true meaning of love to our neighbour, is evident from a great num­ber of passages in the sacred scriptures. To cite one only may be sufficient to our present purpose.—"Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other command­ment (that is, enjoining relative duties) it is briefly comprehended in this saying, viz. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."*

The sense of the text will be more perspicuous, whilst we attend to the nature of love. It is a true character given in scripture of the Deity, that he "is a God of peace, and not of confusion:" and a more perfect one, when it is said, "God is love." Hence all moral duty, all religion, which is designed to make men good, holy, and happy like God, is summed up in love. The moral law is a transcript of the divine mind, and consists summarily in love to God and love to men. According to this statement, it is evi­dent that love to our neighbour is of the same nature and kind, as the love of God to men. He hath for men a love of benevolence and a love of complacency, which he expresses, as they are by moral character qualified to receive.

I will now distinctly consider love to our neigh­bour in both these operations.

The love of benevolence intends a disposition to do good to our neighbour, and an actual exhibition of the inward purpose. There must be both the willing [Page 10] mind and the actual performance of good deeds. True benevolence is therefore totally opposed to all hatred, violence, injustice, and unkindness in dispo­sition and behaviour. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour."* Nor must this exercise of benevolence be the result merely of a casually unruffled state of the passions, nor be limited by particular occasions and circumstances; but it must be the prevailing bias and the habitual frame of the mind and heart. Nei­ther is it dependent on the temper and treatment of others; but it is the most prominent and permanent feature of the soul towards our neighbour, which both really and apparently includes and gives com­plexion and life to all the other features. A person truly benevolent would feel a disposition to do good and to make his fellow creatures happy, though not one of them were disposed to receive his kindness, or to be grateful for his favours. In this, as he ought, he resembles God, who causeth his sun to rise and his rain to fall, as well on the evil, as on the good, as well on the ungrateful, as on the thankful. Other­wise, the benevolence of a person would be measured by the worthiness or unworthiness of the objects. In this case, multitudes would not have the least be­nevolence shown them, for they are wholly unworthy.

But as one perfection of God cannot be in such a sense infinite, as to infringe on any one other perfec­tion, so neither does christian benevolence interfere with the proper exercise of justice, even when it in­flicts pain and punishment. Love to others, to soci­ety, to ourselves, may require us, in a due course of law, to abridge the natural and civil liberty of indi­viduals, to inflict punishment on offenders, and even to take away the life of malefactors, whose abuse of liberty, vicious conduct, and continuance in life are [Page 11] dangerous to the peace and happiness of individuals and the community. The law of love commands, and government is obliged, as far as possible, to pre­serve the peace and order of society, and the quiet possession of life, liberty, and property to individuals. Persons the most humane and benevolent, are, some­times, constrained by the law, by a sense of duty, of justice, and benevolence to punish offenders, for whom they have pity and compassion, and whom they would joyfully relieve, could they do it in con­sistence with equity and fidelity. Love to society, to the great body of the people, frequently requires the execution of justice on individuals in pains and penalties. From this view it is evident that the love of benevolence due to our neighbour, is of the same nature with the disposition and moral character of God, who is infinite in benevolence.

The love we owe to our fellow-men resembles that of Deity in another respect, viz. in distinguishing be­tween the objects of kindness and the objects of com­placency. And it is only when love is considered, as complacency, that it is limited by the character of the persons loved. To this operation of love I will briefly speak.

Love becomes complacency only when the object is possessed of good and amiable moral qualities. As God, who scatters blessings on the evil and the good, hath complacency only in the good; so christians, however affectionate and charitable they may be, can have complacency only in the virtuous and good, who are possessed of such amiable qualities, as answer to their ideas of moral beauty. There is no relig­ious harmony between the virtuous and vicious, though the latter as well as the former may possess many agreeable qualifications. Natural and acquired [Page 12] accomplishments may engage our natural affections and give us real satisfaction, as social beings: but without moral goodness there can be no religious complacency and mutual delight. "For what fellow­ship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" We are liable, however, through ignorance and error in judgment, to withold our complacency from some to whom it is due, and to bestow it on others really unworthy.

The qualifying words in our text, as thyself, are designed to express the quality, rather than the de­gree of love. To love our neighbour as ourselves, is, to exercise towards him the same kind of tender affection, benevolent disposition, and friendly care, which we do for ourselves. This construction an­swers all the purposes, and preserves the force and perfection, of the precept, without involving any ab­surdity, or discouraging human exertions. Some persons, perhaps, may love some other, as much, as they do themselves, in some respects at least: but this sense is not enjoined, I conceive, as the rule and measure for all men. The same kind of attention, care, and endeavour, which we generally have for our own person, character, interest, and happiness be­ing exercised towards our neighbour, is to love him as ourselves. In this light I understand the precept.

The extent of this law under consideration next de­mands attention.

Our blessed Saviour hath taught us by the story of the man, who fell among thieves, that we are to look upon all men as our neighbours, and especially, [Page 13] when we have any concerns with them, and oppor­tunity to show them kindness. Our Lord, on hav­ing this question put to him, "Who is my neigh­bour?" answered, "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance, there came down a certain priest that way; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow, when he depart­ed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him, and what­soever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour to him that fell among the thieves? And he said, he that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, go, and do thou like­wise."* It is worthy notice, that the unfortunate man was a Jew; the priest and Levite, who neglect­ed him, were of the same nation; but the real neigh­bour was a Samaritan; and such alienation and en­mity subsisted between the Jews and Samaritans, that the former had no dealings with the latter. It is here clearly set forth, that we are to consider all men as our neighbours, and that we are bound by the law of love, to aid and relieve the necessitous, whenever we have opportunity and ability.

All this is perfectly consistent with self-defence, [Page 14] and even taking the life of an enemy, when he will not cease to behave inimically on easier terms. I speak here only of public enemies and private assassins and robbers, who threaten, or endeavour, to destroy life. Ordinary personal enemies should be the objects of our love of benevolence. Our Lord commands, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you." If we love our friends only, what reward have we? Do not even publicans and sinners the same?

Our affection may be proportioned to the nearness and dearness of relations. But I will not enlarge on this idea. One observation farther ought not to be omitted. It is the command of Christ, "Whatso­ever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye the same unto them." In this precept, there is no exception of persons or characters. Whatsoever ye would, or could, in reason and propriety, desire men to do unto you, in present, or change of, circumstan­ces, that do ye unto them; that is the rule of your duty, the measure of your conduct towards them.

Should a transgressor of the useful and necessary laws of society, suffering punishment for evil doing, say, I would that men take no cognizance of my crimes, or that they release me from prison, and excuse me from punishment, it would be altogether unreason­able. The offender ought to query thus, Would I, that men should do unto me and mine, as I have done unto them and theirs? Would I, that they should follow such pernicious practices to my detriment, as I have followed to their injury? And were I in their place and they in mine, would I, or could I, in reason and justice, relcase them from prison and punishment, and suffer them to pursue their vile and [Page 15] mischievous career without interruption? Such que­ries properly made and answered, are sufficient to silence the complaint of oppression to sufferers for evil doing, and to suppress, in criminals under pun­ishment, that spirit of hatred and revenge against government and people, which they too frequently indulge and exhibit. Their revenge should turn upon themselves and their own evil practices, and not on society, which is obliged in self-defence, and in love to others, to discipline them by the civil law, "which is made, not for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient."*

There are two essential properties of love, viz. sin­cerity and impartiality, which merit some attention in this place. But they are so far obviously implied in the preceding, and I have already been lengthy in explanation, that barely to mention them must suffice. I proceed

Secondly, To show the reasonableness and obligation of the law of love to our neighbour.

The reasonableness of this law appears in its adapta­tion to the nature, powers, condition, and exigencies of man. "God hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on the face of the earth;" and hath given to all the same general nature and desti­nation, the same wants and obligations. We are all members of the same great family, and are necessarily connected by mutual desires, attachments, and wants. Our intellectual powers, social faculties, and animal propensities, our condition in the world, our depen­dence on each other, and our exigencies, being in general the same, it is most fit and reasonable that we be under the obligation of the law of good-will and kindness, of reciprocal affection and aid; and this law is properly expressed by the words, benevo­lence, [Page 16] love, charity. Our nature and condition in this life demand, and our rational and social faculties dictate, mutual expressions of love and kindness. All the understanding of man, and all the reason and fitness of things, require, approve, and urge this di­vine law of love to our neighbour.

The vast benefit, which results from the exercise of love, and the destructive evils, which follow the opposite, farther prove the reasonableness of this law. The happiness to individuals, to families, and to all societies, which is the genuine fruit of love, is be­yond all calculation and description. The full exer­cise of love towards all our relations, society, and the whole family of man, is itself a state of happiness, especially if it be accompanied by love to God. And when love is the principle, the spring, the rule of ac­tion in all the members of a family, society, or world, the whole must be most pleased and blest. There would be no discord, jealousies, nor fears; no hatred, malice, nor revenge; no injustice, fraud, nor pilfer­ing, no violence, oppression, nor falsehood; no cov­eting, discontent, nor repining; no intemperance, lewdness, nor idleness; no disobedience to parents, neglect of children, nor disrespect to constituted au­thorities. There would be no need of penal laws, prisons, and corporal punishments. Every family, society, and the world, would be a heaven in kind.

But on the other hand, what countless evils, what sin and misery naturally and necessarily flow from the opposite principles and practices, to individuals, to families, and to society! Let us suppose, for a moment, the entire cessation of love, and the full op­eration of hatred one to another, and of all those cor­rupt lusts and passions, which spring up in the hu­man heart. Every man would covet, and then steal, [Page 17] or violently seize the things of his neighbour. The more artful and mighty would prey upon the more weak and defenceless. Injustice and rapine would be the order of every day; and mutual fears, plots, con­tentions, violence, and murder, would be only the more conspicuous lines in the horrible portrait. Pa­rents would be against children, and children against parents; husbands and wives would be plagues to each other, and brothers, sisters, connexions, and neighbours, would be mutual tormentors. Even natural affection would cease to operate under the reign of hatred; friendship would be unknown; and people would often become murderers of fathers, of mothers, of children, and deadly enemies to all about them on every trivial occasion. The general consent and practice would be, to bite and devour one an­other, and the unavoidable consequence would be complicated wretchedness and destruction. Every family, every society, if societies properly speaking could subsist, and the world itself would be a hell in sort, and a lively picture of the infernal regions. Who doth not see the boundless reason of love to our neighbour, and the necessity of it to human hap­piness and moral excellence!

To what has been said very little need be added, to show the obligation of this law on every one of the human race. Its obligation results from its reason­ableness, its utility, the necessity of it to the happiness of men, and to the very existence of social order and civil society, and from the authority of God in the command. We have shown the reasonableness, the utility, and the necessity of such a law; its obligation on us, therefore, is manifest and undeniable. While the nature and condition of man shall be, as they now are, so long we shall be indissolubly bound by [Page 18] the law of love. In its very nature it is unalterable and perpetual; for the duties required originate in the eternal reason and fitness of things, and in the moral nature, relations, and condition of man. "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."* We must, therefore, obey this law of love in the sincerity of our hearts, and look by faith to Jesus Christ, as the end of the law for righteousness, or suffer for­ever the penalty, the just punishment of our trans­gressions.

The obligation of this law appears farther, as it is enjoined by the authority of the eternal God. It is true, he gave the commands because they were, and are, replete with reason and goodness, most suitable and needful. But whatever God commands, whether it be a moral or positive law, is obligatory on us, and the more so, if possible, in proportion to the manifest reason and fitness of the law. I will only add, on this article, they who presume to contemn this authority and disobey this law, must, one day, experience, unless they repent of sin and believe in Christ, what it is to fall under the wrath of God and the curse of this law without remedy or hope.


1. The allowed transgressors of the law of love to their neighbour, have not the love of God in them, nor his love of complacency towards them: but they are enemies to him by a sinful disposition and by wicked works. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." "And if a man say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not [Page 19] seen?" There is an inseparable connexion between the two great commandments of the law. Unseign­ed obedience to both, according to the gospel, is ne­cessary to prove the renovation of our minds, the goodness of our hearts, and qualification for the blissful presence of God.

2. The transgression of this law renders necessary dreary prisons, pecuniary and corporal punishments in a course of civil law, and occasions vast infelicity and expense to the peaceable and virtuous members of society. Were it not for sins against our neigh­bour, yon dismal jail would be unnecessary. Those iron doors and bolts might be converted into instru­ments of agriculture. Idleness and vice, complaints and groans, oaths and imprecations, misery and wretchedness, would there no longer wound our sen­sibility and pain our hearts. No more would wretch­ed criminals be doomed to smart beneath the painful scourge, nor mount the shameful pillory to bear the public scorn, and in their flesh receive the indelible marks of infamy and vice. The now intended use of yonder fatal gallows might be changed. Instead of a machine to take the precious life, and send a fellow-mortal to the world of spirits, it might be used to shelter, or to warm, the shivering limbs of poor and virtuous families. Instead of all this solemn pomp, this awful scene, this terrible parade of execu­tion, at the sight of which compassion mourns, and pity weeps, each countenance bespeaks deep felt con­cern, and every nerve perceives unusual tremor; in­stead, I say, of this new trial of humanity to most of us, we might be quietly in search of sacred truth, or with united hearts and voice, proclaiming praise to God for blessings social, civil, and religious, or, in the private walks of life, engaged in pleasing offices [Page 20] of love. O, the happiness of this reverse! And O, how much to be lamented is the want of universal love to neighbours!

3. Love to society joins with self love in punish­ing the transgressors of this law. We form the social compact, institute civil government, enact laws, au­thorise judiciary courts, for the great purpose of preserving, in peace and safety, our property, our life, our civil and sacred rights and privileges. By thus entering into the obligations of civil society, we agree most solemnly, to aid and defend each other and the whole body against every one, who shall trespass on society or an individual. We should at once violate all our social and civil obligations, and expose ourselves to rapine and ruin, were we not to rise against the criminal invaders of private and pub­lic rights and property. We are bound by love and duty to each individual and the whole community, to support the order of society, and to aid the execu­tion of the laws against the wicked disturbers of pri­vate persons and society. In the painful task of in­flicting punishment on offenders, we are actuated by love, duty, conscience, and faithfulness; and ill-will, hatred, and revenge, have no part in this business. The same principles, doubtless, actuate government, which is the people by civil constitution. This con­sideration should prevent the indulgence and even the rising of enmity in the breasts of criminals against the government, the legislature, judicial courts, jurors, and executive officers. The motives, which prompt to punish, are the very opposite to those, which in­cited to acts of wickedness.

4. They who steal, break up and plunder houses and stores, set fire to buildings, rob travellers, secret­ly take or destroy the property of others by art or [Page 21] violence, commit murder, or otherwise wilfully en­danger the life of another, are in a state of real hos­tility against society and the individual members of it. They are governed by hatred to their neighbour, and by those base passions, which follow in her train. In the perpetration of the less atrocious of those crimes, their hatred may seem to them, to wear only the appearance of coveting, dishonesty, and injustice; to indulge which they feel strongly inclined. They may even imagine that they harbour no ill-will to­wards any person, and may in reality be kind to some neighbours,* who are situated near to them, and whose friendship and aid they frequently need. But they know not their own selves. They are de­ceived by a false colouring. The truth is, they are in heart and life the allowed enemies of society; and a change of local neighbours and circumstances would prove them such in every direction. Not love and goodness, but hatred and injustice reign in them, and have dominion over them. Cupidity, avarice, revenge, or some peculiar circumstances, may be the immediate spur, but the principle is hatred, or, to say the least, the absence of love gives an open­ing for the operation of the vile and malignant pas­sions.

5. To exercise and cultivate love to our neigh­bour is of the highest importance. Thus doing, we may be harmonious and happy in all the various stages and circumstances of ordinary life. But in the contrary, we must be miserable in this world and in that which is to come. Without love to our neighbour, we are pests in society, and are prepared [Page 22] for the company of demons in the regions of discord, hatred, and misery. A thorough change only can qualify us for a world of love and happiness.

6. It is vastly important that the social duties of love be impressed on the minds of children and youth. Great care should be taken by parents and instructors, to implant the principles of virtue and piety, and to form the dispositions and habits in ear­ly life. Thus educated, there is good ground for hope, that they will resist the force of opposite princi­ples and temptations in riper years. Children should be encouraged in every virtuous sentiment and practice. They should be incessantly taught to revere the rights of others, and to realize the obliga­tion of love and goodness.

7. The wilful transgressors of this command to love our neighbour, are, in that character, totally dis­qualified for heaven and happiness. Their disposi­tions and habits are opposed to love and holiness.—They have no moral taste for intellectual and reli­gious exercises and enjoyments. It is true, they may desire happiness and dread misery. This is natural. But the bias of the mind, and the prevailing tenden­cy of the soul, are inconsistent with the pure joys and holy employments of heaven. Being under the influence of vicious passions and habits, they must of necessity be miserable. And were they to be intro­duced to the immediate presence of God, and the company of saints and angels, they would feel the horrors and pains of hell: for heaven and hell consist principally in character and condition, and in the enjoyments and torments thence naturally resulting. A wicked mind, having all the passions and propen­sities raging, but without desired gratification, must necessarily be in misery. But on the other hand, [Page 23] persons in the full exercise of love and goodness must infallibly be pleased and happy. How, then, can the wicked and unholy, who love not their Maker and fellow men, escape the wrath to come? There is one only method, viz. repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ. They must so repent of all sin, as to forsake and hate moral evil, and thoroughly re­form; and they must so believe in Jesus Christ, as the Son of God and only Saviour, as cordially to ac­cept what he hath done for sinners, and sincerely conform to his gospel. Christ is the only way of salvation, the only name given under heaven where­by we must be saved.§ God is ready to show mercy, to grant pardon, and to give eternal life to those, who sincerely repent of their sins, trust in Christ, and look for salvation through him. Such repentance and faith include a change of heart, a renovation of the whole man, and the restoration of that moral image of God, which was lost by sin. Thus they are qualified to enjoy heaven, while they are pardoned and justified for the sake of the complete atonement and perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. In this way, all people, who hear the sound of the gospel, who read the Bible, have the offer of salvation from sin and wrath to come. "If any man thirst, let him come;* and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Jesus Christ is able to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him. He is exalted, a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repen­tance and forgiveness of sins." The chief of sin­ners, and at the last hour of life, if they sincerely re­pent, and believe in Christ, shall be accepted of God, and saved in the great day of the Lord.

[Page 24] It is now proper to make application and ad­dresses. And

1. To you, Samuel Smith, who are this day to suffer the pains of ignominious death, by the hand of civil justice, for aggravated violations of the law of love to your neighbour. Unhappy man! We feel for you the bowels of compassion, and ardent desires for your future salvation. We have aimed to in­struct and benefit you, and not to increase your dis­grace and wretchedness. We pretend not that your sins are more heinous in the sight of God, than the sins of many others thieves, who have not been con­victed of capital offences. And it has been a satisfac­tion to me and others, to hear you declare with so much evidence of sincerity, that you have never had an intention to take the life of a fellow mortal. But the law, that punishes burglary with death, proceeds on the supposition, that house-breakers for the pur­pose of stealing, intend to commit murder, if it be found necessary to prevent detection. It may, how­ever, have been more owing to the restraining grace of God and to circumstances, that you have not shed innocent blood, than to your own principles and resolutions.

The disappointments and troubles, which you met with, when young,* and the consequent derange­ment of your mind and worldly affairs, if your late declarations be true, were powerful temptations, in a mind destitute of religion, to the practice of injustice and stealing: and your sufferings deserved commiser­ation. But instead of turning to God and submit­ting to him in the day of adversity, you chose the way of wickedness. And after all that can be said [Page 25] in your favour, it is evident that you have been a heinous sinner, during many years. This you have readily acknowledged, as also the justice of God in bringing you to legal conviction and punishment. Although, as you say, you have been kind in many instances to some people in your particular neigh­bourhood, and to your children, as a fond parent, yet your life, for thirty years past, has been a preda­tory warfare against society and individual families and persons. The law of God condemns you, as a transgressor. But had you lived without any open and gross acts of wickedness forbidden by the moral law, and yet in the neglect of Christ and his gospel, you must be under the sentence of the divine law. "He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."* To be condemned by the law of God, as a transgressor, and for rejecting Jesus Christ, and to have that sentence executed at the final judg­ment, must be infinitely more dreadful, than to be condemned and executed by the laws of society.—Man hath power only to kill the body; but God is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Ministers and other people have affectionately en­deavoured to assist you in preparation for another world. With what success, I am not able to say.—The present is the last opportunity you will have for instruction, for repentance, and for reconciliation with God. You are now once more exhorted to re­pent of all your sins, and urged to fly for refuge to Christ the Saviour. Look on him, whom your sins have pierced, and mourn. Now is the day of salva­tion, and, I believe, literally the last day of grace and [Page 26] mercy to you. Now, then, after so long a time, harden not your heart.

In the most full and unfeigned manner, confess and forsake your sins, and then you may hope for mercy. "Whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy." Humbly rely on Christ alone for salvation, and, then, though your sins are of a scarlet colour and a crimson dye, they shall be white as snow and wool. "He that believeth shall be saved."

Endeavour to pray to God in the name of Christ, if peradventure the thoughts of thine heart and the sins of thy life may be forgiven. Pray that God would create in you a clean heart, and give you a right frame of spirit; and continue to seek him to the last moment of your life, with this resolution, if you perish, it shall be pleading for mercy through the glorious Redeemer.

While you have a heart to pray, to be sorry for sin, to love your neighbour, and look to Christ, you need not despair of salvation. God hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he repent, and turn, and live.§ But to evidence true peace with God, you much be at peace with men. You must forgive to every one, both real and supposed injuries. You have said, people have falsely accused you, and thereby brought on you vexation and expense: but in this case, you must freely forgive them, as you hope for pardon from God. Our Saviour hath de­clared, "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, nei­ther will your Father forgive your trespasses."* In­dulge no hard thoughts towards any persons. O for­give your fellow-men, while you pray God to be merciful unto you a sinner. And now we commit and commend you to God and to the word and [Page 27] power of his grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, pray­ing that you may be eternally a monument of mercy and an heir of glory.

2. Our text furnishes an interesting portion for criminals in general. Consider, ye transgressors of the law of love to your neighbour, your late wretch­ed companion in wickedness, who has suffered death for his crimes; and be warned by his awful doom, to fly from the wrath to come, and to forsake those paths of vice, which lead to a similar end. Your situ­ation is extremely dangerous and awful. You have hitherto escaped the tremendous scene and pains of execution; and most of you, perhaps, have not com­mitted those crimes, which are made capital by the law. And as you have not had your fears alarmed by the immediate prospect of death and judgment, I have reason to believe that you are careless about your souls and another world. Do you not still put far away the evil day, and neglect to consider your ways? As you have chosen the way of trans­gressors, and some of you have continued long in op­position to God and men, you are in imminent dan­ger of being forsaken of God, of being hardened in sin, so as to commit more and greater wickedness, and be brought to the gallows. You stand on slip­pery places, and your feet will slide in due time. You have been often reproved in various ways, and by many persons. Your imprisonment and corporal punishments are constant and sensible admonitions to you, and fully demonstrate to you that, "the way of transgressors is hard." You are now, by this dis­course, warned and exhorted to repent, and turn from your evil ways, that iniquity be not your ruin. [Page 28] Consider, I beseech you, the solemn words of inspira­tion, "He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." O, tremble for yourselves, left God should verify to you this awful threatening, and sud­denly cut you off from the light of life and the hope of heaven!

Were you to love your neighbour as yourselves, you would never invade, nor steal, nor destroy his property. You would no sooner unjustly deprive him of his possessions, than you would utterly destroy your own; nor sooner endanger his health, or happiness, or life, than your own. You are bound to do unto others, whatsoever ye would that they should do un­to you. Then, "let him that stole, steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."§

Take heed that you do not increase your sins and treasure up wrath by indulging hatred and revenge against society and particular persons. What can they do to preserve their peace and property better, than to confine and punish you? Do you think, gov­ernment wishes to create unnecessary expense and trouble? Or that it delights in your confinement and disgrace? no; as it did nothing to provoke your first offence, so you are disciplined by the law, only to prevent you and others from farther crimes, and to defend the innocent in the quiet enjoyment of life, liberty, and property.

Beware of coveting the things, which belong to other people. "Thou shalt not covet." Suffer me now, once more, to warn and beseech you, to resolve in the presence of God, and with prayers for his aid­ing grace, that henceforth you will industriously fol­low [Page 29] some honest calling, and "be content with such things as you have;" that you will "be diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."

3. Parents and heads of families should be reli­giously attentive to prepare the rising generation for social and civil life. Let it be your constant care, to train them up in the way they should go, and then you may confidently hope, they will not depart from it in riper years. Some parents, like pious, but faulty Eli, are too indulgent to their children, and do not seasonably and resolutely restrain them from vicious practices: and many like him also, when it is too late, mourn their folly. Some parents err on the other hand, especially in respect to world­ly affairs. You should be kind and just to your children, and to young people under your care, as well as strict and vigilant over them. You should "not be bitter against them," nor refuse to give, or pay them, in proper time, what is reasonable and just, "left they be discouraged," their innocent emu­lation be cramped, their affections be alienated, and their minds indisposed to the steady pursuit of profi­table business. The unhappy criminal before us, has declared to me, in a feeling manner, and with a re­quest, that I would warn parents against injustice to their children, that the hard treatment of his father,* when he wished to settle in a family state, was one great source of his early trouble, and the principal cause of his beginning to steal. Whether we give full credit to this story, or not, it is an undoubted truth, that the hardness and injustice of parents and masters towards children and servants, have very pernicious effects on their minds. Such treatment tends direct­ly [Page 30] to counteract a sense of equity, goodness, and love, and to quench every spark of laudable ambition. If you would have those under your care grow up and persevere in the exercise of love to their neighbour, in the full extent of the law of love, you must not only teach them their duty by precepts, but you must set before them a living example. Then shall your hearts be made glad by the wisdom and virtue of your children and charge.

4. Young people are instructed by our discourse. My young friends, you see the shame and wretched­ness, which attend on vice, and that "sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Be solicitous to shun the paths of sin, for they lead to destruction. Cultivate a lively sense of love to mankind, and ever act on the strictest principles of benevolence, truth, and righteousness to all people. Dread the first step to any scandalous vice, and "abstain from all appear­ance of evil." Fear God, and keep his command­ments, through Jesus Christ, as the only sure and peaceful way to honour, glory, and eternal happiness.

5. Let this numerous assembly make application. Every person is under the obligation of the law of love to God and our neighbour. How have we obeyed this law? Have we loved our neighbour as ourselves? Are not many of us guilty concerning our brother? Let us search and prove our own ways, and resolutely reform whatever we find to be inconsistent with love. Let every one set his face, as a flint, against prevailing vices. Accept the admoni­tion, which this dying criminal hath desired might be given, not to neglect public worship, and the re­ligious observation of the Sabbath.* Such neglect [Page] keeps people out of the way of hearing the word of God explained, and of having their duty inculcated upon them. When people forsake the house, profane the day, and neglect the word of God, let them expect that their temptations and their sins will be multiplied, and that God will cast them off forever.

This day, my hearers, for the first time in this town, we see, as to this world, the closing scene of coveting and stealing. God grant there may be none occasion for another of this kind. But if any pre­sent should ever meditate the crime of theft with ap­probation, let him also think of the gallows. The connexion between the crime and the gibbet, is much nearer and more natural, than many suppose. Be­hold this thief, and tremble at the thought of steal­ing, which naturally leads on to burglary, [...]bery, murder, and the gallows. Let sinners see and fear. Let them suppress every injurious passion, and cov­etous desire, left they be imperceptibly hurried on to the commission of one crime after another, until swift destruction come upon them. Let us all re­solve to embrace, by divine aid, with all our heart, the perfect law of love to God and man.

"Now unto him who is able to keep us from fall­ing, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, be praise and honour forever."


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