Sunday, April 11, 2021

Lynching is Murder -- April 11, 2021

Adersonville, South Carolina Intelligencer, 29-April-1896

 I have found Rev EE Bomar's sermon reproduced in many places. I do not know what happened to his fourth point. The man lynched at Broxton Bridge was accused of stealing a bible from a church. The mob also lynched his mother.

"Thou Shalt do no Murder"--Timely Text
for all the Preachers In the State.

Aiken Journal and Review, March 4. Sunday night at the Baptist Church the Rev. E. E. Bomar preached a sermon on lynching, of which we give below an abstract. The fine audience present listened with close attention to the words of the preacher. His text was from Exodus, one of the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt do no murder." The preacher said:

Some think that this not a proper theme for a preacher in his pulpit.. Such would divide all the world into men, women and preachers. But a preacher is not a man apart from all the world ; a hermit is, a priest is, or may be, but a preacher, never. He must be one of the people, and while not of the world, not worldly-minded, he must yet be in the world.

If it is objected that the theme is sensational, the reply is, so is crime. That sentiment is faulty which makes pets of preachers and insists that they should always dress in the latest style, and preach only tender, hortatory sermons. Sin is a dirty thing, and he who really deals with it, meets it and fights it, must throw away his gloves and his dress suit and meet it as it is.

We have precedent for denunciatory sermons. Before Jesus was John the Baptist; before the Gospel, Sinai and the law. The apostle Paul in his letter to Titus says: "Put them in mind to be subject to rulers," and again in writing to the Romans, "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God." And yet again : "These things speak and exhort and rebuke with all authority."

Therefore I think it my duty to preach on this theme, and I advance as the distinct topic of the discourse this proposition: Lynching is never justifiable, not even in the most aggravated cases. I know what it is to feel the indignation which animates a mob against a man guilty of a terrible crime, for I have witnessed (both times by chance) two lynchings. I know that this may be brought home even to me at some time, but for all that I say that lynching is never justifiable in a well governed State like South Carolina. Plausible excuses are given, but none that justifies. Some say there's no use in talking about it, but I say there is use, and I will talk. There is need of enlightening public sentiment, and it is for that I plead, for the sentiment which stands on principle and refuses to justify lynching, no matter how aggravated the crime. I know that lynching is a sort of wild tribute to justice. If men did not care for purity and sobriety they would never lynch men for rape and murder. I know also that the state of our society is different from that of our sister States. I am not here to slander my own State and uncover her shame. I love her too well for that. But certainly she is guilty. Her own people have trampled on her laws and in the name of justice have overturned the throne of justice. The simple truth is that in the name of righteousness they have done unrighteousness; in the name of sobriety they have been guilty of lawlessness; in the name of safety, murder.

The preacher then went on to show why lynching is wrong. He gave five reasons, some low and some as high as heaven, which all can remember and think on. Lynching is wrong because it is a costly thing, a dangerous thing, a foolish thing. It sets at defiance the laws of the country, insults sobriety and, in the eyes of God, is nothing more or less than murder.

1. This lynching is apt to prove costly. A part of Section 6, Article 6, of the Constitution reads as follows:

"In all cases of lynching when death ensues the county where such lynching takes place shall, without regard to the conduct of the officers, be liable in exemplary damages of not less than two thousand dollars to the legal representative of the person lynched." This is a very practical and sordid consideration, but necessary in view of the assertion sometimes made that lynching is the easiest and cheapest way to get rid of notorious criminals.

2. It is a dangerous thing. It is not always true that mobs get the right man. Frequently it becomes known in after years that they got the wrong man. How can a frenzied mob do justice ? The state of mind which renders lynching possible makes true judgment impossible where there is any doubt. An angry mob is like a pack of bloodhounds let loose. If they do not get the right man, they will seldom rest content until they get somebody.

3. It is foolish; it is folly; it is useless. For the sense of justice which makes; possible lynching and really justifies it will also procure conviction in a legal trial. It is a favorite argument of those who justify lawlessness that our Courts are corrupt and that convictions cannot be obtained. I grant all the annoyance of the law's delay, all the influence of legal proceedings, all the one-sidedness of some maxims and principles, and, even all the stupidity of jurors and witnesses, and still I refuse to believe that the average jury in South Carolina would fail to convict a man so clearly guilty of crime that men threaten to arise and sometimes do crime to execute summary judgment on him. What, then is the use to take the law into our own hands ? Do we not by that act slander that sense of justice which abides in the breast of almost every common farmer in the State? For one I refuse to believe it, that our Courts are so corrupt that a man clearly guilty can get off by the quibble of the law. But we are not left to conjecture; we have a case in point. Some years ago in Spartanburg County a man killed his brother-in-law in which the public thought was cold-blooded murder, brought on by the murderer's own crime. Immediately the slayer was arrested and lodged in jail. Bail was refused him, though he was a man of large means. The indignant public in the neighborhood where the crime was committed, could not wait for him to be tried. They attempted to take him from jail to lynch him, but they failed. The officers, the militia and the law-abiding citizens resisted and kept back the mob. Was justice defeated? No, the criminal was in due time tried and, in spite of all that money and the best legal talent in the State could do, he suffered the extreme penalty of the law. This case, well known, and of but recent occurrence, shows that, our Courts are not so corrupted as these enemies of law would have us believe.

Again, lynching sets at defiance law and sobriety. It is a great misfortune. I had almost said the greatest, when a generation arises without respect for law and no evidence for justice and its officers. Lynching derides law; it spits in her face, takes from her her crown and tramples her garments under foot. Disregard for law, when it becomes an established sentiment, tends to make people either Ishmaelites or Indians. If our Courts are nothing, and our laws to be set aside for the unrestrained sentiments of every mob, the hand of every man must be against his felbws. Lynching for rape makes possible lynching for murder, and lynching for murder makes possible lynohing for minor offenses, and lynching for such things as stealing a Bible from a church makes possible the taking of individual private revenge in the home of law and order. If we tolerate lynching for the worst offence we may be sure that the mob will tolerate it for smaller offences. If we invoke the aid or submit to the patronage of lawlessness we must taste the consequence and not complain when lewd fellows of the baser sort really rule the land. Lynching is hypocrisy; it is the devil pretending to look after the public good.

5. Lastly, lynching is murder. That is all of it and the end of it. If one man takes the law into his hands, or two, and kills another, no one raises a question of guilt in that case. It makes no difference because a mob does the work of one man. Individuality and responsibility are not lost in a crowd. All lynchers are murderers, guilty in the sight of God and by the laws of our country. They are cowardly murderers, assassinators, striking in the dark, working often behind masked faces, no one daring to assert his individuality. They are weak murderers; no one of them will do what together they all do. They lean upon one another in their weakness. They pay no attention to the cries of the guilty. They even add torture, and while they sometimes make a mock of God by giving their victims a chance to pray, they more often add torture of some kind. Yes, lynching is murder; unabashed murder, cowardly murder, pitiless murder. God, the avenger, heard the cries of that man who was taken from the train at Windsor a few nights ago. God saw the end of the victims of Broxton Bridge, and God will avenge.

What concerns us is that his vengeance will fall on all also if we at all justify these acts, and do not do all in our power to bring the guilty ones to justice. Therefore I plead for correct views and a healthy sentiment on this subject; that we shall stand on principles when temptation comes; that we shall always support the law, and especially do I ask that God-fearing people will never countenance lawlessness in silence, look, or word, but remember the law, "Thou shalt not kill."

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