« AnteriorContinuar »
ousness of a cause. That affair, in a modern vocabulary, would be denominated the operation of Lynch law. Cain was the judge, the jury, and the executioner.
It is supposed, again, that the practice arose from the example of David and Goliah, recorded in the Old Testament. It is not improbable this contest between the champion of the Philistines, on the one part, and the future king of the Israelites on the other, suggested that mode of deciding controversies by the sword which obtained so generally in some parts of the world in after time. But this, it is apparent, was not a sufficient precedent to authorize the judicial combats of the barbarians, nor the Christian combats of the dark ages, nor the honorable combats of modern gentlemen--gentlemen, however, who have neither the true courage of the brave, nor the virtuous principles of Christians, nor the dignified feelings of men of honor. It is enough to observe here that the famous encounter of the above persons was approved by the Lord. Its success was to decide the disputes of the two armies, and the Israelites were commanded by the Ruler of nations to exterminate the Philistines. Where such reasons are associated with any human quarrel, a single combat may be both lawful and Scriptural.
Three causes have been assigned for the practice of dueling among the barbarians of Europe. The first is the rude character of their government. The ancient Germans, who finally overran the Roman empire, according to Cesar and Tacitus, cultivated but little ground, had no towns, and built their houses a considerable distance from each other. They were unacquainted with the arts, except that of war; were barbarous their very constitution and government, and were left in the possession of an unbounded liberty, from the abuse of which nothing could restrain them. It is easy to perceive that in a government of this kind there would be no regular subordination of authority: every man would be his own master and judge, and the sole arbiter of his own actions, and no one would be held responsible for his conduct to a higher power. The sword was the only tribunal of justice, and from this there was no appeal. He, therefore, who had a weapon with the sharpest point and the keenest edge, and who was most dextrous in wielding it, was always considered more righteous than his antagonist.
It is said by Tacitus that the Germans intrusted their kings and chiefs with but very little power; and Cesar says that in time of peace they had no common magistrate at all. From this want of authority in the proper persons, and this absolute independence of the people, originated the practice of administering justice to each other at their own option and in their own way. This is the opinion of some writers. But the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, for 1761, in reviewing a pamphlet on dueling, from the French of Father Gorville, justly observes that this defect in the northern governments, though it was certainly the cause of violence and bloodshed, does not seem to have been the cause of that kind of single combat which we distinguish by the name of duel.
When one of the ancient Goths or Vandals imagined he had received an injury for which the aggressor ought to atone with his life, there was nothing in the defect of the constitution under which he lived that induced him to put it to an equal chance whether the
offender or offended should suffer for the offense. This was a refinement of later times. The barbarian made no scruple of taking such advantages as offered to do himself justice. Though a modern man of honor, with a politeness and sagacity peculiar to his character, always reduces it to an equal chance whether he or his antagonist shall fall in the duel; which is not less absurd than if after a ruffian had set fire to my house, or murdered my wife, I should consent to toss up, heads or tails, whether he should be hung for it, or I!
A second cause which is supposed to have established the practice of dueling may be found, it is thought, in false principles of honor, arising from ignorance and folly. This part of the subject shall be more particularly discussed in the conclusion of this essay, especially as honor is now nearly the sole plea for the continuance of the practice.
The third general cause of this custom, and, doubtless, the only true one, is superstition. The trial by single combat was for many ages, and from the earliest accounts we have of it, as all other ordeals were, an appeal to God either to clear the innocent or punish the guilty.
The beginning of ancient is equally obscure with the commencement of modern history. For nearly five hundred years after the birth of Christ little can now be certainly known of the principal tribes of northern Europe. But from the brief testimony of a few historians of those days it appears that the laws, customs, and opinions of the Germans, Scandinavians, and other northern nations, were marked with a great degree of similarity. We need not, therefore, search for the invention of this practice by any particular tribe after the invasion of the Roman empire. It was in use among them all, and they brought it with them as a part of their imperfect system of jurisprudence. We have the testimony of a Roman historian, Vellius Paterculus, who served nine years in Germany and Gaul, under the Emperor Tiberias, that, when Quintellius Varus, the governor of Syria, and afterward the commander of the armies in Germany, had undertaken to teach the barbarians the Roman mode of trial, they considered it a new and unknown law, and inferior to the trial by single combat, by which they settled all their difficulties. And even then the whole fabric was built upon superstition.
Dr. Clarke and others mention that it is thought the ordeal by battle was instituted by Frotha III., king of Denmark, about the beginning of the Christian era, because it was ordained by him that all controversies should be decided by the sword. But the Danish monarchy, previous to the end of the ninth century, is so fabulous that nothing can be relied upon with confidence; and were there even positive evidence that Frotha was then the king of the Danes, and that he published such an ordinance as the above, it would still not prove that dueling had no previous existence in the world, though we might infer from it that it was then adopted as the best mode of trial, or that it was then declared to be the only criterion of justice, in exclusion of all others, while yet it might have been practiced in . other countries for many years before this edict was issued. One thing is certain, that the single combat was in use among the tribes of Germany as far back as we have any knowledge of them; and
it is not unlikely, as there was but a very slight difference between the ancient Gauls and Britons and the Germans, that trials of this kind were also in practice among the former before they were subdued by the more northern hordes.
Several writers on this subject have asserted, but without sufficient evidence, that this ordeal was instituted by Gondebald, one of the Burgundian kings, in A. D. 501,-when the trial by the oath of the parties had been so abused as to fill the country with perjurers. But this mistake, into which many eminent historians have fallen, was occasioned by not considering the difference between written laws and unwritten customs. The Burgundians were the first of those barbarous nations to write a code of laws for their own regulation. This was done by the prince and at the time already mentioned, and the observance of judicial battles is enjoined in this code. But were a law now to be passed and published by congress, that every president of the United States should hereafter be inaugurated in Washington city, it would be no proof that none had been heretofore installed into office in the present metropolis of the Union. So while the German hordes brought this usage with them from the mountains and fastnesses of the north, it had not become a written law previously to the days of Gondebald. Nor is it correct, as some say, that this monarch admitted dueling in lieu of swearing. The combat was only added to the oath, or, rather, the two were then united.
The accounts of Selden, Blackstone, Clarke, and others, that duels were introduced into England among the Norman customs by William the Conqueror, appear doubtful, as this prince ascended the English throne in 1066; and there is credible evidence that they were authorized in that island before the conquest; but they were not so frequent, nor conducted with so many ceremonies and so much solemnity as after the invasion.
Guthrie, who flourished in the beginning of the last century, speaks of dueling, in his History of England, as having existed among the Saxons for many years before the days of William. He states a case which happened in the time of Hardicanute. The case is this: Gunhilda, the sister of this king, celebrated for great piety and personal beauty, was married by Henry III., emperor of Germany, Not long after their marriage he became jealous of his wife, and accused her of unfaithfulness. Her guilt or innocence was to be determined by the sword. A champion of giant strength was chosen for the accuser, and an English youth, her page, offered his services for the empress. The latter conquered his antagonist, and saved his mistress. The lady afterward left her husband. And we cannot suppose it at all probable that such a custom as this could have been practiced in Denmark for a thousand years, and in Gaul and other European countries for upward of five hundred, as these authors admit, and still remain unknown in England until the Norman conquest of the eleventh century.
The conclusion, then, on this point is, after all the best evidence has been consulted, that single combats were either practiced by the Gauls, Britons, &c., before they were subdued by more northern hordes, or that they were introduced by the Germans, who had observed them in their original settlements from their earliest history.
(To be continued.)
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review. Art. III.-GOD'S DETERMINATE COUNSEL AND FOREKNOWLEDGE.
The following discourse was written at the instance of a very respectable and intelligent Bible class, conducted by the author. When he took his pen in hand he intended merely to illustrate the peculiar operations of Providence, as connected with the history of Joseph, which constituted some most interesting lessons for the class. But when he was devising his plan, the subject so expanded before him as to lead him to discourse somewhat at large on the interesting and long-mooted question of the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. The discourse was read to the members of the class, and a few other persons, who professed to be profited by it, and desired to see it in print. Wishing as much as lieth in him to subserve the cause of truth and righteousness, as well as to gratify the wishes of friends, he has consented to lay the piece, with all its defects, before the candid and Christian reader of the respectable periodical to which he submits it for admission.-S.
How true is the declaration of the apostle, “ We know in part !" Indeed, we know but a little part of what is to be known." This earth is a land of shadows, where many an interesting subject is involved in obscurity palpable as Egyptian darkness. It is true, some subjects are partially revealed—we are permitted to have some discovery of them. But how frequently is it the case that we behold them as the man in the gospel beheld objects when his sight was partially restored, and he saw"men as trees walking!" Just so it is with us. We gain some knowledge of these subjects; but because of their abstruseness, or rather because of our limited perceptions, we are obliged to acknowledge that we "know but in part." Especially is this the case with regard to the nature, attributes, counsels, and operations of the great Supreme; for it must be acknowledged that “clouds and darkness are round about him," though "righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne,” Psa. xcvii, 2. Indeed, we need not wonder that a finite mind cannot grasp the Infinite, or that human language is inadequate to the task of conveying to our minds a perfect knowledge of the “deep things of God." Even the Apostle Paul himself, as he approached the awful verge, and looked down into the great profundity, and attempted, with the lead and line of faith and inspiration, to fathom the mighty abyss, exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Rom. xi, 33. Surely, then, we need not be astonished that uninspired men, however vigorous their minds, brilliant their talents, and favorable their opportunities, should fail in their attempts to be wise above what is written. Nor is it a matter of surprise that, setting sail from the port of Inspiration, on a voyage of discovery, they would take diverse directions, pursue different courses, and be all lost in the mists of Ignorance, dashed on the rocks of Presumption, or swallowed up in the vortex of Infidelity! And, indeed, if men were to confine themselves to the law and to the testimony, it is not to be wondered at if their opinions concerning revealed truth should differ; for there are numerous passages in the word of God which can only be explained by Him whose inspiration moved the penmen of the sacred page to write, or those who possessed this plenary inspira. tion, and none have possessed it since the days of the apostles.
These considerations should teach us mutual forbearance when we happen to be antagonists, each contending for what he supposes to be “the faith once delivered unto the saints.” They should teach us humility, with respect to ourselves, in the advancement of our opinions; and deference and charity, with respect to our opponents, in the advancement of theirs. The foregoing considerations should excite us to desire earnestly the coming of the day of God, when the clear light of eternal truth shall be shed upon those subjects which are now, to a greater or less extent, involved in darkness; and then shall we inherit the promise, “ What thou knowest not now thou shalt know hereafter."
But these reflections are not designed as an apology for indolence; not so, for while “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God, the things which are revealed belong to us;" and by prayer and persevering industry we ought to search out and set them in order, or, as the prophet has it, "to regard the work of the Lord, and to consider the operation of his hands,” Isa. v, 12; and we shall be amply rewarded for our investigations, although we cannot find out God to perfection.
I have designed these remarks to be a prelude to the consideration of an important question of Christian theology, namely, the de. terminate counsel and foreknowledge of God. In the discussion of this subject we are first called upon to consider the proposition, which may be expressed in the following terms, to wit:
PROPOSITION I. That all the events of futurity, whether necessary or contingent, are fully known to God.
The doctrine contained in this proposition is, we think, plainly taught in the sacred Scriptures. To them we therefore appeal. In Isa. xlvi, 9, 10, Jehovah is represented to us as saying, “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I . am God, and there is none like me: declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”Thus Rom. viii, 30: “Whom he did foreknow, them he did predestinate." 1 Pet. 1, 2: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God." Acts ii, 23: “ The determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” Indeed, this doctrine must follow from the omniscience of God; for if he knows all things, he must know what is future, as well as what is present or past. Agreeably to this is the declaration of James, “Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world,” Acts xv, 18. If it should be said this knowledge, according to the apostle, has respect to all the works of God, but this is no proof that it has respect to the contingent actions of men,-I answer, If it has reference to all the actions of God, it must have reference to the actions of men, whether contingent or otherwise ; for a great many of the divine operations have direct reference to the contingent actions of men; and it is impossible to conceive how the former could be known to God, and not the latter. If he knew