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who by Christianity are admitted to equal rights with the males in the institution of marriage, are degraded by polygamy into instruments of mere physical plea
There would thus, on the supposition of the adoption of this system, be continual injustice done to the half of the human race-a circumstance which of itself proves that it is at variance with the will of God,
We must, therefore, regard the law which prohibits polygamy in every christian country as just. In Sweden it is punished with death. In England, besides the nullity of the second marriage, it subjects the offender to transportation for the first offence, and to capital punishment for the second *.
By divorce, we understand the dissolution of the mar. riage-contract. This was allowed by some ancient nations, and is allowed by some nations at the present day, by the act, and at the will of the husband. Such a permission is incongruous with scripture and with
* “ Polygamy can never be endured under any rational civil establishment, whatever specious reasons may be urged for it by the eastern na, tions, the fallaciousness of which has been fully prored by many sensible writers. It is therefore punished by the laws both of ancient and modern Sweden with death. And with us in England it is enacted by statute, 1 Jac. I. c. ii., that if any persou being married, do afterwards marry again, the former husband or wife being alive, it is felony; but within the benefit of Clergy. The first wife, in this case, shall not be admitted as a witness against her husband, because she is the true wife ; but the second may, for she is indeed no wife at all: and so vice versa, of a second hus. band."—Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. i. p. 136. Vol. II.
the law of nature, both of which establish the position that divorces are unlawful, except in cases of incontinence.
I. Let us attend to the testimony of Scripture on this subject. We have recorded in the New Testament the answer which our Lord gave to the Pharisees on this very point. “ Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female; and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, why did Moses, then, command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away, doth commit adultery."
From these words of our Lord, it is clearly proved, in the first place, that marriage is a divine institution, and that therefore the engagements made in it are irrevocable by man. The parties joined together are united according to God's authority, and man has no judicial power to put them asunder without permission from the Supreme Legislator.
It is further evident, in the second place, from tho language of our Lord, that a divorce cannot take place, except in the case of incontinence, without involving the parties, and their consequent marriages, in guilt. The man who divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery; and the man who marries the divorced wife is also an adulterer. If the effect of a divorce be to allow the parties whose marriage contract is thereby dissolved lawfully to marry, it is obvious that there never can be a divorce according to the divine law, except in the case of the previous adultery of the husband or wife.
It is maintained, and as it appears to me, on the best grounds, that the Apostle Paul teaches the same doctrine in the following passage. “Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart, or be separated from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband : and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest ;" that, to those who were placed in peculiar circumstances by the introduction of christianity, and whose case had not existed when Christ gave the command referred to—“ But to the rest I command, not the Lord: if any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him
depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace *."
I entirely concur with Dr. Dwight, in opposition to the greater number of commentators, in thinking that the deserted husband or wife, supposed in this passage, was bound to remain unmarried ; or, rather, it was not lawful for her or him to marry another person. I consider the Apostle as reiterating the very
doctrine which had been previously taught by his Divine Master regarding marriage.
II. Reason goes a great way in establishing the same doctrine, by shewing its importance to the usefulness and stability of the marriage institution. This is indeed so evident, that all allow that the Scriptures forbid a divorce, except for incontinence, or something equivalent. Among the things which are considered as equivalent to adultery are, obstinate desertion, attempts upon life, outrageous cruelty, incurable madness, and perhaps personal imbecility.
As no such things are mentioned by the Divine Lawgiver, we are not warranted to make any such additions to the law which he has given us. evils just mentioned are, indeed, great; but since Christ takes no notice of them, when declaring what it is that constitutes a cause of divorce, they cannot justly be allowed to have the same effect, in this respect, as adultery. They are good grounds for a separation à mensá et thoro, in which the parties, though not released from the bonds of marriage, are not bound to live with one another.
* I Cor, vii. 6-16.
The perpetuity of the marriage-contract, except in the single case specified by the Divine Lawgiver, ap. pears to me to be productive of the following advantages.
I. An union of interests is by this means complete. Could the union be terminated earlier, of course every married pair would begin their connexion with the perfect knowledge of this circumstance; and in many cases they would lay their plans accordingly. Can it be doubted that woman, the weaker vessel, would thus feel herself driven to the necessity of providing a fund of reserve when she might not have access to the same resources? The husband, aware of this temptation, would have his confidence in his wife diminished, and his character also impaired by suspicions often excited. Would not such a possible separation of interests be productive of a separation of affections, and beget coldness, alienation, and jealousy? Would it not be felt that where in other circumstances there was a suitableness of dispositions and temper, there were now incompatibility, variance, unkindness, and even personal violence ?
II. The perpetuity of the marriage-contract induces a necessity of mutual compliance.
“ It necessarily happens," as Dr. Paley remarks, that adverse tempers, habits, and tastes, oftentimes meet in marriage. In which case, each party must take pains to give up what offends, and practise what may gratify the other. A man and woman in love with each other do this insensibly; but love is neither general nor durable; and where that is wanting, no lessons of duty, no delicacy of sentiment, will go half so far with the