Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On Sir Walter Raleigh and his Views on the Judicial Law of Moses

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618) was a soldier, spy, poet, explorer, writer, and statesman. He also served as captain of Queen Elizabeth's guard. 

Raleigh was Protestant, and had strong words for the Spanish Catholic priests:
He was the uncompromising foe, not only of the Spaniards, but of their religion, and once wrote of the Spanish priests: "For matter of religion it would require a particular volume to set down how irreligiously they cover their greedy and ambitious practises with the veil of piety; for, sure am I, there is no kingdom or commonwealth in all Europe, but if reformed, they invade it for 'religion's sake.' If it be, as they term 'catholic,' they pretend title: as if the kings of Castile were the natural heirs of all the world; and so, between both, no kingdom is unsought."
Frederick A. Ober, Heroes of American History: Sir Walter Raleigh (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1909), 126, 127.
It may be that Raleigh was a friend of the Puritans. At the very least, he championed the cause of a one John Udall, faced with the possibility of death or banishment. Raleigh interceded
with the Queen for the Puritan, John Udall, who had been imprisoned and was awaiting sentence of death, or at least of banishment, for advocating reforms in the established church. The Queen's Council was determined to silence him, but whether it were best to do so by hanging or by banishment the councillors were not agreed. Sir Walter nobly stepped forward in Udall's defence; but before a decision had been rendered, the poor man died in prison. (Ibid., 125, 126.)
After the passing of Queen Elizabeth, Raleigh, during the reign of King James I, would be arrested and executed for treason. According to one author, 
Raleigh denied all charges against him. His trial is widely thought to have been a sham, but the absolute truth about the plots against the king will likely remain uncertain. 
Earle Rice Jr., Profiles In American History: The Life and Times of Sir Walter Raleigh (Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc., 2007), 42.
Ober describes Raleigh's final, courageous moments, trusting in God:
Begging the sheriff for a few moments more of grace, he said in explanation, and with a sad smile: "I have a long journey to take, you know, and must bid all this company farewell." His friends now crowded about to shake his hand, and when all had gone he said: "Now I entreat that you will all join with me in prayer to that great God of heaven whom I have grievously offended; that He will, of his almighty goodness, extend to me forgiveness, being a man full of vanity, and one who hath lived a sinful life, in such callings as have been most inducive to it; for I have been a soldier, a sailor, and a courtier—all of them courses of wickedness and vice. But I trust He will not only cast away my sin, but will receive me into everlasting life."
Kneeling at the block, he said to the headsman: "When I stretch forth my hands, despatch me." The dean suggested that he should turn his face to the east, when he replied: "What matters it which way the head lie, so the heart be right?" He then gave the signal to the executioner, and a delay ensuing, he again stretched out his hands, saying: "What dost thou fear? Strike, man! — strike!" Two cruel blows severed the head from the body. When it was held aloft by the headsman a shudder of horror ran through the throng about the scaffold, and one man shouted: "We have not such another head to cut off!"
Ober, Heroes of American History: Sir Walter Raleigh, 299, 300.

Sir Walter Raleigh died courageously,  not fearing the ax,
and trusted that God would forgive him of his sins.

On the Abiding Equity of the Judicial Laws of Moses

We now turn to Raleigh's views on the judicial laws of Moses, which he discusses in his History of the World, which was written while he was imprisoned in the Tower for a 13-year period under King James I.

Regarding the judicial law in general, Raleigh appears to affirm the standard Reformed position that, while the judicial laws of Moses were to some extent uniquely framed for the Jews, their moral equity applies to all nations. (More on the historical view of the judicial law here.)

Raleigh writes:

The law of Moses hath three parts; moral, ceremonial, and judicial. The moral part commandeth this or that good to be done, and this or that evil to be avoided, in particular; as also it declareth for whose sake it is to be done; as, Do this, for I am the Lord; whereas the law of nature commands it but in general. Again, the moral law entreateth of virtue and goodness; the ceremonial of divine service and of holiness; (for external worship, and the order of hallowing ourselves unto God, is called ceremony ;) and the judicial teacheth the particular government, fit for the commonwealth of the Jews, and prescribeth orders for justice and equity. And therefore was it said of St. Paul, Rom. vii. 12. The commandment is just, holy, and good; just, or justice, being referred to the judicial ; holy, or holiness, to the ceremonial; good, or honest, to the moral. The judicial part is touching the government of the commonwealth of the Jews, in which many things must needs be proper to that estate, as, such as were instituted either in respect of place or persons.
Sir Walter Raleigh, William Oldys, Thomas Birch, The History of the World. Book II. Chap. I-XII 4. (Oxford: The University Press, 1829). 118.
Note that Raleigh says that in the judicial law, "many things" -- not all things -- were "proper to that estate." The judicial law "prescribeth orders for justice and equity." Similarly, Raleigh states in the next page,  
The judicial liveth in substance, and concerning the end and the natural and universal equity. ... the judicial is taken away, as far forth as it was peculiar to the Jews' commonweal and policy. (Ibid., 119)
Raleigh also states, 
The use of the judicial, to teach us natural equity and right, whereto we must conform ourselves(Ibid., 125)

The Judicial Law Regulating the Severity of Civil Punishments

For Raleigh, the punishments of the judicial law (at least regarding capital offenses) may be lessened, but civil punishments cannot exceed that of the judicial law (i.e., punishing with death offenses that are not punished such by the judicials):
So, where even the general nature of man doth condemn (as many things it doth) for wicked and unjust, there may the law given by Moses worthily be deemed the most exact reformer of the evil, which forceth man, as near as may be, to the will and pleasure of his Maker. But where nature or custom hath entertained a vicious, yet not intolerable habit, with so long and so public approbation, that the virtue opposing it would seem as uncouth, as it were to walk naked in England, or to wear the English fashion of apparel in Turkey; there may a wise and upright lawgiver, without presumption, omit somewhat that the rigour of Moses’s law required ; even as the good king Hezekiah did, in a matter merely ecclesiastical, and therefore the less capable of dispensation, praying for the people; The good Lord be mercful unto him that prepareth his whole heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary: which prayer the Lord heard and granted.
To this effect it is well observed by Master Dr. Willet, that the moral judicials of Moses do partly bind, and partly are let free. They do not hold affirmatively that we are tied to the same severity of punishment now, which was inflicted then; but negatively they do hold, that now the punishment of death should not be adjudged, where sentence of death is not given by Moses: Christian magistrates ruling under Christ the Prince of peace, that is, of clemency and mercy, may abate of the severity of Moses’s law, and mitigate the punishment of death, but they cannot add unto it, to make the burden more heavy; for to shew more rigour than Moses becometh not the gospel. (Ibid., 146)
Thus for Raleigh, the judicial law regulates civil punishments -- at the very least, by telling us when capital punishment is permitted. 

The Judicial Law as Foundational to Civil Government

For Raleigh, the judicial law's abiding validity -- which has been defended by "worthy divines" -- "hath always been very plausible"; as such, it is the only foundation for civil government, whereby a judge with confidence could base his decisions. (In the example below, Raleigh appears to allude to the judicial law about witnesses to a crime, requiring at least two to convict.)
But I will not wander in this copious argument, which hath been the subject of many learned discourses, neither will I take upon me to speak any thing definitively in a case which dependeth still in some controversy among worthy divines. Thus much (as in honour of the judicial law, or rather of him that gave it) I may well and truly say, that the defence of it hath always been very plausible. And surely, howsoever they be not accepted (neither were it expedient) as a general and only law, yet shall we hardly find any other ground, whereon the conscience of a judge may rest with equal satisfaction, in making interpretation, or giving sentence upon doubts, arising out of any law besides it. Hereof, perhaps, that judge could have been witness, of whom Fortescue, that notable bulwark of our laws, doth speak, complaining of a judgment given against a gentlewoman at Salisbury, who being accused by her own man, without any other proof, for murdering her husband, was thereupon condemned, and burnt to ashes; the man who accused her, within a year after being convict of the same offence, confessed that his mistress was altogether innocent of that cruel fact, whose terrible death he then (though over-late) grievously lamented: but this judge, saith the same author, Scepius ipse mihi fassus est, quod nunquam in vita sua animum ejus de hoc facto ipse purgaret ; “He himself often confessed unto me, that he should never, during his life, be able to clear his conscience of that fact.” Wherefore that acknowledgment which other sciences yield unto the metaphysics, that from thence are drawn propositions, able to prove the principles of sciences, which out of the sciences themselves cannot be proved, may justly be granted by all other politic institutions, to that of Moses; and so much the more justly, by how much the subject of the metaphysics, which is, ens quatenus ens, “being as it is being,” is infinitely inferior to the ens entium, “the being of beings,” the only good, the fountain of truth, whose fear is the beginning of wisdom. To which purpose well saith St. Augustine, Conditor legum temporalium si vir bonus est et sapiens, illam ipsam consulit ceternam, de qua nulli animce judicare datum est; “The author of temporal laws, if he be good and wise, doth therein consult the law eternal, to determine of which there is no power given to any soul.” And as well prince Edward, in Fortescue’s discourse, Nemo potest melius aut aliud fundamentum ponere, quam posuit Dominus ; No man can lay a better or another foundation, than the Lord hath laid.” (Ibid., 147)

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