« PreviousContinue »
generality of mankind and womankind, as this one intelligible reflection, that they must each make the best of their bargain; and that seeing they must either both be miserable, or both share in the same happiness, neither can find their own comfort, but in promoting the pleasure of the other.”
III. The impossibility of release from the marriagecontract is conducive to chastity of speech and behaviour. Had the case been otherwise, that love of novelty and variety which is natural to man, would here be productive of mischievous effects. In the probability of a divorce, the spirit of licentiousness would roam abroad, and soon, for the purpose of making way for another, would the wife be repudiated. As it is, the perpetuity of matrimonial engagements precludes the desire of release from them; and tends essentially to render the marriage union a permanent source of enjoyment.
IV. The perpetuity of the marriage-contract is peculiarly important to the interests of the children. This position, so palpably obvious, requires no elucidation. The close, indissoluble union of parents is essential to the moral and religious education of their offspring. But were divorce attainable, this union, in a multitude of cases, would neither be close nor lasting
Perhaps the care and attentions of the mother are still more necessary to the training of children than those of the other parent. What mother does not feel much for her children, when she has the prospect of being soon called away from them by death, and of leaving them to the charge of a person who may
be afterwards invited to occupy her place in the family? What would be the situation of children in countries where divorce prevailed ? “ The father, having released himself from one wife, and married another, would soon forsake the second for a third ; this for a fourth ; and thus onward, without any known limit.—Who does not see with a glance, that even where humanity and principle reigned, these friendless beings would soon be neglected by the stepmother in favour of her own offspring. What must be their fate, where lewdness had succeeded to principle, and humanity had already been frozen out of the heart?"
Such is the importance of the perpetuity of the marriage-contract 'to the usefulness and even to the stability of this institution.
ON THE DUTIES WHICH ARISE OUT OF THE CONSTI
TUTION OF CIVIL SOCIETY.
THE ORIGIN OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT.
It is probable that the first government known among mankind was patriarchal. The account which is given to us in the Pentateuch of the longevity of man in the early ages of the world, and of the habits of pastoral life which prevailed, naturally leads us to this conclusion.
A consideration of the circumstances in which mankind are introduced into the world, and in which they are prepared for the duties and employments in which they are afterwards to engage, strengthens this opinion. Combined from the beginning into families or small communities, they are trained up under a system of discipline; and by being accustomed to render obedience to parental authority, they can afterwards more readily yield whatever subjection the arrangements of Providence may require from them.
Nor can we doubt that the parental authority would, more or less, continue during the parents' life. It would be revered by his offspring after his death; and they being united together by affection and habit, would be led, from motives of convenience and
security, “ to transfer their obedience to some one of the family, who, by his age or services, or by the part he possessed in the direction of their affairs during the lifetime of the parent, had already taught them to respect his advice, or to attend to his commands."
In this way we may account for the origin of a tribe or clan, which as it increased in affluence and power would extend its authority; so that surrounding families would incorporate themselves into it, that they might enjoy its protection.
Various causes might contribute to render this authority, vested in the chief of the clan, hereditary. His own personal accomplishments, his mental superiority, his skill in war, and wisdom in peace, would raise him in the estimation and affection of his clansmen; and what could be more natural than to transfer the affectionate obedience to his son which they had given to him as their leader and commander ? When the sovereign power had been in the same family for some generations, prejudice, interest, indolence, and even reason, would suggest motives for rendering the possession perpetual.
But though in this way we are able to account for the origin of civil government, we still require to be informed of the grounds on which it is a duty in us to render it obedience. Why should I be called upon to obey laws which were framed by my ancestors, and to observe institutions which are enforced by mere human authority? Does it not seem incongruous that millions of mankind, whose physical force when combined seems irresistible, should submit to the control, direction, and enactments, of a few of