Capital Punishment -- By: Daniel R. Goodwin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 004:15 (Aug 1847)
Article: Capital Punishment
Author: Daniel R. Goodwin


Capital Punishment

Daniel R. Goodwin

[It is due to the writer of this Article, and to the readers of the Bibliotheca, to say, that the whole of the Essay was prepared some months before the publication of the former part, and for a destination quite different from its appearance in this Review. If therefore the following portion should seem when taken by

itself, to wear too much of a political aspect, we trust it will be excused, partly for the sake of this apology, and partly for the sake of its connection with the more strictly Theological portion which has preceded it. We have not thought it best altogether to omit the portion which follows, because, although considered in relation to the general principles involved, the former part of the discussion is by far the most fundamental and important; yet, considered in practical connection with the particular question in hand, we cannot help regarding the branch of that question discussed in this latter part, viz. the point of expediency, as really containing the substantial and decisive portion of the whole argument to all men of impartial minds and plain common sense.]

Before proceeding to the argument from expediency, we will first dispose of a few miscellaneous objections which have not fallen directly in our way in the foregoing investigation of the question of right.

1st Objection. “Capital punishment is wrong because the innocent are sometimes executed.”

If innocent men have been recklessly executed, whenever and wherever it may have been done, we shall be the last to say one word in extenuation of the deed. The wilful execution or procurement of an unrighteous sentence of death, knowing it to be such, we hold, of course to be murder, and murder of the most atrocious die. It adds to the common enormity of the crime the character of a treacherous and nefarious attempt against the moral basis on which the whole fabric of human society reposes. Hence the Jews are properly stigmatized in the New Testament as the murderers of our Lord; although his crucifixion took place according to all the forms of law.

Further, we maintain that all possible precaution against error ought to be taken in capital cases; and a capital sentence never passed or executed so long as there is any reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused.1

All cases of unjust executions whose occasion falls under these two heads, viz. false testimony or want of due caution in weighing the evidence, are cases of abuse. They prove nothing at all in regard to the right, except that,...

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