Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

children, since the Wise Man says, Chasten thy son whilst there is hope, but persist not in it to cause him to die. * Indeed they had not so much liberty as the Romans to make use of this severe privilege without the magistrate's knowledge. The law of God only permitted the father and mother, after they had tried all sorts of correction at home, to declare to the elders of the city, that their son was stubborn and rebellious, and upon their complaint he was condemned to death and stoned. The same law was practised at Athens,f and founded upon children's lives being derived from their parents, and upon a supposition that none could be so unna ural as to put their children to death, unless they had committed some horrible crimes. Now the dread of this power was of great use in keeping children in perfect subjection.

We see but too many evils proceed from relaxing or rather taking away this paternal authority. Let a son be never so young, as soon as he is married, or knows how to live without his father's assistance, he thinks he owes him no longer any thing but a little respect. Thence comes the infinite number of small families and people that live alone, or in boarding-houses, where all are equally masters. Such young independent people, if they are rich, run into debauchery and ruin themselves. If they are poot, they turn vagabonds whom nobody cares to own, and capable of all sorts of villainy. Be

* Prov. xix. 18. See the Hebrew, and the Margin of our Bibles.

§ Liv. lib. ii. + Deut, xxi. 19. Heliod. i,

. sides

sides, the corruption of manners, this independency may also occasion great disorders in the state: for it is much more difficult to rule a multitude of single, untractable men, than a few heads of families, each of whom was responsible for a great number of persons, and was commonly an old man that understood the laws.

CHAP. XXI.
The Authority of Old Men.

TOT only fathers but all old men had great authority among the Israelites, and all the people of antiquity. They every where, in the beginning, chose judges for private affairs, and counsellors for the public, out of the oldest men.* Thence came the name of Senate and Fathers at Rome, and that great respect for old age which they borrowed from the Lacedemonians. Nothing is more conformable to nature. Youth is only fit for motion and action. Old age is qualified to instruct, advise, and command. The glory of young men is their strength, says Solomon, and the beauty of old men is their grey head.t It is not likely that either study or good

* Though this perhaps may be true of the original institution of the Jewish sanhedrim and Roman senate ; yet it is certain, in process of time, neither assembly consisted of the oldest. Putres and Seniores, as with us aldermen, came to denote rank of dignity, not of age; as Selden observes, de Synedriis, lib. i. c. 14. p. 1092, and lib. ii. c. 9. § 4. p. 1423. ed. fol.

+ Prov. xx. 29.

parts parts should make up for want of experience in a young man: but an old man, provided he has good natural sense, is wise by experience alone. All history proves that the best governed states were those where old men were in authority, and that the reigns of princes that were too young have been most unfortunate; which explains what the Wise Man says, Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child.t And it is this woe that God threatens the Jews with, when he tells them by Isaiah, that he will give them children for princes. I In reality youth has neither patience nor foresight, is an enemy to all rule, and seeks nothing but pleasure and variety. · As soon as the Hebrews began to be formed into a people, they were governed by old men: when Moses returned into Egypt to promise them that God would set them at liberty, he assembled the elders together, and performed the miracles which were the proof of his mission before them. All the elders of Israel came to the feast that he made for Jethro his father-inlaw.ll When God thought fit to give a council to relieve him in governing that great people, Gather unto me, said he, seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people and officers over them. So that they had already authority before the law was given, and the state had taken its form.* In the whole

Scripture + Eccles. X. 16. Isaiah iii. 4.' $ Exod. iv. 29. || Exod. xviii. 12.

* This is a proof that the power, which we before men. tioned to be given by Jacob to the heads of tribes, took place immediately upon his death. From that time all applica

Scripture afterwards, as often as mention is made of assemblies and public affairs, the elders are always put in the first place, and sometimes named alone.

Thence comes the expression in the Psalms, exhorting to praise God in the congregation of the people and in the seat of the elders,t that is, the public council. These are the two parts that composed all the antient commonwealths; the assembly (which the Greeks call. ÉKXAYOLOL and the Latins concio) and the senate. The name of elder ITPEsBUTEP@ became afterwards a title of dignity; and from this Greek word is derived the Latin name presbyter; and from the Latin word senior, elder, comes the name of seigneur, or lord. We may judge of the age required by the Hebrews before a man was reckoned an elder, by those being called young men whose advice Rehoboam followed ;* for it is said they had been educated with him; from which it may be concluded they were about his age, who was then forty.

tions and messages are not to the people, but to the elders of Israel; Exod. iii. 16. xii. 21. The command of God, sent to the house of Jacob, and the children of Israel in Egypt, was delivered by Moses to the elders of the people, Exod. xix. 3, 7. Bishop Sherlock's third Dissertation, p. 304, 305. Whether the number of these elders, who made up the Sanhedrim, was just Seventy, or Seventy-two, it is allowed it was first formed out of Jacob's children, who went into Egypt, and that it always represented the twelve tribes. See Mal. . donat on Luc. xii. 1. Grot. in loc. and on Numb, xii. In and Selden, de Synedriis, lib. II. c. iv., 8.

+ Psalm cvii. 32. * i Kings xii. 8. 2 Chron. xii. 13.

[ocr errors][merged small]

CHAP. XXII.
Their Administration of Justice.

JUSTICE was administered by two sorts of officers, Shophetim and Soterim, established in every city by the command which God gave by Moses. It is certain the word Shophetim signifies judges: as to Soterim, it is differently translated by the Vulgate :t but the Jewish tradition explains it of ministers of justice, as sheriffs, serjeants, or their guards, and other officers. . These posts were given to Levites, and there were six thousand of them in David's time. I Such were the judges that Jehoshaphat restored in each city, and to whom he gave such good instructions ;$ the Scripture adds, that he settled at Jerusalem a company of Levites, priests, and heads of families, to be judges in great causes. It was the council of seventy elders, erected in the time of Moses, over which the high-priest presided, and where all questions were decided that were too hard to be determined by the judges of smaller cities. The tradition of the Jews is, that these judges of paras ticular cities were twenty-three in number, that they were all to meet to judge in capital cases, and that three were sufficient for causes of Meum ;

* Deut. xvi. 18.

+ Mugistri, masters; præfecti, prefects; duces, leaders or captains; præcones, heralds. Josh iii. 2.

1 1 Chron. xxiii. 4. § 2 Chron. xix. 5,6,7. ' Ibid. 8. | Deut, xvii. 8.

U

[ocr errors]

and

« PoprzedniaDalej »