Unauthorised Shooting

A recent walk from Barnoldswick to Weets Hill had me pondering a newly erected sign on the bridleway. The owners of the Whitemoor estate, through whose land the ancient track wends, have forbidden ‘unauthorised shooting’, with the prospect of prosecution threatened against any who disregard this warning and the property rights which underpin it. The shooting presumably refers to grouse and pheasants rather than people or tin cans, and is a right reserved for those who own it.

A man with a gun is not to be disrespected or disobliged. If one walks into a bank and requests a sum of money, he generally receives it promptly, and without the tedious negotiations over APRs, the production of ID and the exchange of paperwork. Telling a man with a gun to get off your land comes with a certain risk that he might blast you off it first. Yet the land agents of the Whitemoor estate understand that the law is a greater deterrent than a bullet; a courtroom’s displeasure can offer some serious competition to that which comes from a gun, be this fines or custody.

We live in a world characterised by injustice, inequality, oppression and violence. Citizens of Western democracies are spared the worst examples of these ugly traits, but even we are but a hair’s breadth from their painful expression. Yet the universe is subject to law, and not just of physics, but of God. Divine justice will settle all scores, punish all wrongs and dole fair restitution. Although this gratifies existing victims, it also troubles aggressors - of which all humans, save the very young, may be counted. Heaven’s justice is both a longed-for hope and a dreaded prospect; a utopia to anticipate and a terror to delay. Thank God, Christians need fear no law, for Christ was punished under the law in their stead. They have a righteousness ‘apart from law’, though they deserve its penalties as much as anyone. Lawbreakers might today wield the guns and shout the loudest, but the time is coming when they shall dumbly face the Judge and quiver as they hear sentence pronounced.

Not the labours of my hands

can fulfill thy law's demands;

could my zeal no respite know,

could my tears forever flow,

all for sin could not atone;

thou must save, and thou alone.

-Augustus Toplady, Rock of Ages

Ev'ry island, sea, and mountain,

Heav'n and earth, shall flee away;

All who hate him, must confounded,

Hear the trump proclaim the day;

Come to judgment, come to judgment, come to judgment,

Come to judgment come away.

-Charles Wesley, Lo! He Comes