Whoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
I. First, I ASSERT THAT THE PUNISHMENT OF DEATH FOR MURDER IS A DIVINE DECREE. As some persons are opposed to the execution of any murderer, it is well to examine both the objections they urge and the command by which this law is asserted. Death for murder is recognized from the beginning of the world. It seems to be written on the conscience of man by God that such a doom rightly awaits a murderer. The case of Cain — the strong case of the opposers of death for murder — is, when rightly understood, a strong case against them. Cain declared that the first person that met him would slay him. Who but God had written this in the tables of his heart? who save He could have engraven this on his conscience? It was a recognized principle from the beginning that the murderer should not live. But it is objected, "God interfered and saved his life." Quite true. But then, if God had not interfered, his life would have been justly taken in obedience to the general laws of God implanted in the consciences of all men; and therefore, unless God similarly interferes now by a special and marked revelation, the original rule holds good, and the murderer is put to death. Observe, in order to save Cain, "God set a mark upon" the man. Why? Because without this he was liable to death. The exception in this case clearly proves the rule! Again: you cannot but be struck with the remarkable care which God manifests in His laws to Israel concerning blood. He warns them against suffering their "land to become polluted with blood." The law of inquest is founded upon one part of the Jewish law; and the humane provisions which rendered the owner of any infuriated animal a loser of a vast fine if the animal caused the death of any person not only commends itself for its justice, but again shows the value which is set upon human life. And with a view, I deem, yet further to impress this truth upon mankind, the blood even of the animal, since "it is the life thereof," is distinctly ordered to be in nowise eaten, but to be "poured upon the ground like water." You may say that these were laws to the Jewish nation, and it is true; but I am persuaded that the polity of the Jewish nation is given as a specimen for all nations to follow. It involves a very great principle, namely, the care which is to be taken over life. It is important also on physiological grounds, or rather physiology supports the great wisdom of this command, for it is known that disobedience to it produces pernicious results on the body and the mind of man.
II. And now, secondly, WE HAVE TO INQUIRE INTO THE REASON WHY THIS COMMAND OF DEATH FOR MURDER IS GIVEN. It might suffice indeed for our guidance to know what God had decreed, and in some instances we have His direction given without any reason being added; yet it is not so here. God, in giving this universal law, has added a reason equally universal. Man is to put the murderer to death because in the image of God man was made. I have heard men contend, "Oh! let the murderer live, for life will be more miserable to him than death; and if he is so unfit to live, surely he is unfit to die; why, therefore, put him to death?" There is here a strange fallacy, however; for the argument presumes, in the first place, that the sparing of the man aggravates his woe, while the concluding sentence intimates a desire to prevent this agony. Others, again, contend that the murderer being locked up in perpetual prison, society is as safe as though he were executed. This also may be true as far as the individual felon is concerned, but is incorrect probably so far as the example to others is regarded. But the truth of the matter simply is, you have nothing at all to do with it. God has decreed it, and God has assigned a reason for that decree. It is no question about society, or policy, or necessity at all — it is a matter of revelation. God asserts that man was made by Him in His own glorious image; and "therefore," and without any other reason, you are to execute death upon every murderer. And mark you, God watches to see that this is done.
III. And, in the third place, I must ask you to observe A REMARKABLY IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE WHICH IS INVOLVED IN THE REASON WHICH GOD ASSIGNS TO ORDERING DEATH AS THE PUNISHMENT FOR MURDER. To those who have been accustomed to view this matter as a simple act of the community in defence of social safety, the principle which I am about to allude to cannot, of course, have presented itself; but to the attentive student of the reason appended in the text, it will follow, I think, as a matter of necessity. It is there plainly enough commanded that death shall by man be inflicted upon the murderer, because man was made in the image of God; so that death is thus inflicted because that which was made in the likeness of God had been destroyed. Now, you need not be reminded that the great destroyer of man as the image and glory of God is sin. I will not detain you on a subject which you all agree upon. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin." What then follows? Sin must be destroyed. It is the thing which brought destruction upon man; it is the defiler of that which was the temple of the Holy Ghost; it is the murderer of man, both body and soul. How shall it be destroyed? By one man it entered: can it be by one Man punished and removed? God Himself has, in the text, announced a principle on earth to man. This principle on earth is only a material image of that which is true in the spiritual kingdom. How shall it be made manifest? Behold, then, slowly toiling up the ascent to Golgotha, One whom the Eternal has singled out as "the Man that was His Fellow," and who Himself had said, "Lo, I come." The sin which ruined us all and secured our destruction is there borne by Him. "God made Him," though sinless, "to be sin for us"; and when at that hour "it pleased the Father to bruise Him, to put Him to grief," and to "lay on Him the iniquities of us all" — when thus bearing that on Him in our stead, which would murder us, He suffered the penalty, and was "cursed" as He "hung upon the tree." He was at once thus suffering that we might have the means of escape, and was as a personal Being, on whom all sin was placed in its highest and most spiritual meaning, undergoing the penalty of that law which enacts, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man." All nature, every physical law, and every revealed law of God on earth, is but a material image of the spiritual; "as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." The heavenly laws are presented to us in our earthly state in an earthly form, and are images to us of the spiritual truths which we shall recognize in our heavenly condition. Sin destroyed the image and glory of God in man. Christ undertook to restore all, and in doing so must bear sin away. It is man's destroyer. Christ takes it; and with it His blood was shed.
(G. Venables, S. C. L.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.