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preserve them, and to persuade all those with whom we have any power or interest, to a liberal concurrence towards their relief and redemption.
And then as for imprisonment, which is a sort of captivity too, what a calamitous condition is it for a man to be shut up in a close and unwholesome durance, to dwell with hunger and cold, and be confined to a hard lodging, a dark solitude, or a wretched company? to be sequestered from the conversation of his friends, from the comforts of diversion, and from his business and employment, and all opportunities of making provision for his poor family? All which unhappy circumstances do commonly meet in the state and condition of prisoners, and render it exceedingly wretched and miserable. In which case the mercy which is required of us is, first to visit them in this their uncomfortable solitude and confinement, supposing that they are our friends and acquaintance; and to endeavour by our conversation to divert their sorrows, to raise and strengthen their hopes, and to cheer them with fresh assurances of our friendship; and then to use all just endeavours to mollify their adversaries, to vindicate their innocence, or to compound their debts, if they are not able to discharge them. But whether they are our friends or acquaintance, or no, the law of mercy obliges us, as we have opportunity and ability, to relieve their necessities, to redress their injuries, and if it be just and feasible, to contribute to their enlargement, that so they may enjoy themselves with comfort, and by their honest industry make provision for those who depend on them.
And then, lastly, for bodily torments and persecutions, you need not be told what a misery that is; for your own sense will inform you, how dolorous it is to flesh and blood to be cruelly scourged, beaten, and abused; to be pinched with hunger, harassed with labour, and dispirited for want of necessary ease and refreshment; and therefore, as mercy binds you by the strictest obligations not to inflict these evils upon your children, or servants, or any others that are in your power and disposal; so it also engages you to endeavour the relief of all such unhappy persons whom you know to be thus cruelly treated; to intercede in their behalf with those their hard-hearted parents, masters, or conquerors, by whom they are thus unmercifully dealt with, to remonstrate to them their cruelty and inhumanity, and to endeavour, by such arguments as are most likely to affect them, to reduce them to a more merciful temper and treatment; and if, in despite of your arguments, they still persist in their cruelty, to use all just and lawful ways to curb and restrain them, to complain of them to those who have power to correct them, and to rescue the miserable wretches out of their power and disposal.
And then as for those who are unjustly persecuted for their conscience and religion, who, to secure their souls, and their loyalty to God and their Saviour, are forced to fly from their habitations and countries, or to submit themselves to spoil and depredation, to imprisonment and famine, torture and death; these doubtless are of all others the greatest objects of our mercy, because they suffer for our common Master and in our common cause, which ought to be dearer to us than our own lives; because our religion suffers with them; and what they suffer we must suffer, (unless we will renounce our religion,) if ever we are
reduced to their circumstances. And can we with unconcerned hearts behold our persecuted brethren, flying into our arms for succour before the mighty Nimrods of the earth, with their souls, their consciences, and their religion in their hands, and with pitiful looks beseeching us to deliver them from the dreadful dilemma they are put to, of delivering up their souls or bodies for a prey, without agonies of pity and compassion ? And if we have any mercy or compassion for them, by what more suitable acts can we express it, than by a kind and welcome reception of those who fly to us for succour, and a free and liberal contribution towards their relief snd subsistence; and by assisting those with the charity of our prayers, whom we cannot reach with the charity of our alms; or, as the apostle expresses it, by remembering those that are in bonds, that is, so as to pity them and pray for them, and, if it were in our power, so as to visit and comfort and relieve them, as being bound with them, and also with the same effect to remember those that suffer adversity, as being ourselves also in the body. Heb. xiii. 3.
4. Another of the miseries which affect men's bodies is civil or arbitrary punishments inflicted on them for injuries received. For all considerable injuries do give us a right to punish the offender, either by due course of law, or else immediately by our own power and authority. If by nature or compact the offender be put under our power and disposal, his offence gives us a right to correct him by our own authority; if not, his offence gives us right to appeal to the public tribunals, and there to exact of him such penalties as the law denounces in the case. Now because men's souls are out of the reach of all human punishments, and liable only to the lash of the Father of spirits; therefore we can exact no other penalties of offenders, but only such as do affect their bodies with shame, or pain, with loss of bodily goods, or wearisome labour, or confinement of liberty; all which being miseries to the body, are proper objects of our compassion and mercy. And what mercy these miseries require may be easily collected from the natural end of punishment, which is, not so much to offend the guilty, as to defend the innocent; not so much to hurt or damnify the offender, as to restrain him from hurting himself or others; and to warn others, by the example of his punishment, not to imitate the example of his offence. So that, according to its true and natural design, punishment is rather an act of mercy than an act of revenge ; the end of it being to do good, and not to retaliate evil; to defend myself or others against the offenders, or else to defend the offenders against themselves, or to defend others against the prevailing infection of their lewd and pernicious examples: and whosoever punishes, to vent and ease his spleen, or gratify his malice with the hurt and mischief of the offender, transgresses the end of punishment, and, under pretence of justice, sacrifices to his own cruelty. No man hath right to do another hurt, unless it be necessary to some good end: for to hurt without any reason is a brutish savageness, and to hurt without a good reason, devilish rancour. He therefore who hurts another merely to hurt him, acts with the intention of a devil, who doth mischief for mischief's sake, and plagues his wretched vassals merely to recreate himself with their miseries, and pacify his own black rage and malice. Since therefore the
end of punishment is doing good, it ought to be executed with a good will, and a kind and benevolent intention; not to discharge our rage, or tickle and recreate our malice, but either to vindicate our own right, or to reclaim the offender, or to terrify others from his sin by his sufferings. This therefore is the first thing which the law of mercy requires of us, in respect to our punishing offenders, that we should always do it with a good and benevolent intention. But then,
2. It also requires us not to exact punishment for small and trifling offences: for since the end of punishment is doing good, it is cruelty to exact it for slight and inconsiderable evils; because in this case the punishment is a greater hurt than the offence. And what reason can I have to hurt another for such small offences as do little or no hurt either to myself or others, but only to gratify my own revenge and malice? As for instance, suppose that in a heat of passion a man should give me the lie, or call me by an ill name, or treat me with reproachful language; and thereupon I should strike or wound him, or prosecute him with a vexatious suit at law : in this case it is plain my punishment would hurt him more than his offence could hurt me, and consequently my design in punishing him would be to do hurt, and not good; and to design to do hurt is malice and cruelty. Wherefore, in case of lighter injuries, the law of mercy requires us wholly to remit and forgive them : and not rigidly to exact the hurt of the offender for such trifling offences as do no great hurt either to ourselves or others.
3. The law of mercy also obliges us not to punish an offender, when we can do no good by it, either to our