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MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE.
It appearing somewhat extraordinary, that at this period there should exist a difference of opinion in the Bench of Bishops in the construction of the language of our Saviour on the subject of Divorce ; and still more extraordinary, that the head of the Church should declare an opinion in direct opposition to its doctrine on the subject expressed in her Liturgy, in terms admitting of no qualification,--the following view of the state of the question has resulted from such consideration, as I have been able to give to the passages of scripture which relate to it.
The institution of Marriage was ordained by God onhis creation of woman. As it was to lay the foundation of human society, its nature was defined by a figure of more forcible impression than it was in the power of language to create: it is descriptive of an union between two persons, which nothing but the fact of the extraction and formation of the substance of the body of the woman and of that of the man, could have rendered conceivable; such an union it was a natural impossibility to dissolve; it was out of the
power of Eve to cease to be bone of her husband's bone, or flesh of his flesh; and the creator declared his will, that a similar union should exist in the marriages of their descendants : it is that of two parts of one whole, or one soul in two bodies.
The following are the passages referred to :
Gen. i. 26. And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness : and let them have dominion, &c.
27. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him : male and female created he them.
28. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.
Gen. ii. 18. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him an help meet for him.
21. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam,
and he slept : and he took out one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.
22. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23. And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh
flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.
24. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.
Chap. v. 1. This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him.
2. Male and female created he them, and blessed them, and ealled their name Adam in the day when they were created.
The words of the 24th v. of the 2nd chap., viz. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, &c. appear at first sight to have been a prophetic observation of Adam, or the observation of / the sacred writer Moses ; but our Saviour (as appears hereafter) declares them to have been the words of God himself, promulgating the law of marriage, and defining its indissoluble obligation.
Thus construed, they were evidently designed for the government of, and addressed to, the unborn posterity of Adam exclusively, since he, having no father or mother, could not be within the pale of them ; as to Adam and Eve they were unnecessary, as well as inapplicable, by reason of the natural impossibility of the dissolution of their union, before noticed ; and that it was the unequivocal meaning of the law, that the marriages of their descendants should be equally indissoluble, could not admit of doubt or question, even if our Saviour had not fixed that interpretation upon them.
Thus then stood the law of marriage, from the creation to the promulgation of the Mosaic law.
The first notice of marriages among the descendants of Adam, is in the 6th ch. of Genesis, where, after noticing that men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and that daughters were born unto them, it is said, verse 2nd, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose.
V. 4. There were Giants in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children unto them; the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
It does not appear that there was any marriage-rite, or ceremony, but that the choice and coming together, or coming in, of the men to the women, constituted the union, and designated the parties to be man and wife. From the 6th and 7th chapters it appears, that
Noah and his three sons had wives, and that they had each one wife only.
In how inviolable a light the marriage-union was continued to be held in the days of Abraham appears from the expostulation of Pharaoh with him upon the discovery that Sarah was his wife : What is this, that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, she is my sister? so I'might have taken her to me to wife : now therefore, behold thy wife, take her and go thy way."
It appears by the Mosaic history, that Adam while in Paradise was subjected to no other law or control from without, except the restraint from tasting the forbidden fruit. The only other command given him and his wife, was that, to increase and multiply and replenish the earth, which must be considered in the light of a gift, or blessing, and not the injunction of a Deity. In fact there was no call for any code of laws, or rule of action, since in that state Adam had no duty to perform, but that of gratitude to his God, and love to his other self, his wife. It does not appear that after his expulsion from Paradise, any rule of action was prescribed to him; the only law laid upon him was that of the necessity of labor for his subsistence. The duty of man to his neighbour was unknown, for he had no neighbour; nor does it appear that after his children had come into being, and population had commenced, any code of laws was revealed for their Government. The first wicked act we read of, viz. the murder of Abel by Cain, was an undefined offence : it called down the visitation of the deity, not by the punishment of death, but by the stamp of a mark or stigma, which should render him odious to his fellow-créatures, and a living monument of God's displeasure. There was no previous express law prohibiting murder, which Cain was guilty of infringing. The act itself, being destructive of God's handy-work, bespoke its own wickedness and impiety, as well as the evil nature of the passion which gave rise to it.
Mankind seem to have been left to the guidance of their own reason, with which God had endued them. How imperfect a guide it proved was evidenced by the result. Man became more ferocious than the beasts of prey. The evil passions eventually so gained the ascendant, that the earth became one scene of violence, and every species of wickedness, and “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” 2 till at length they became ripe for total destruction, being wholly incorrigible. But God saw fit to preserve one family, through whom the earth might be repeopled with a less vicious race for the accomplishment of his original design. From the circumstance of Noah and his sons having wives, Gen. xii. 18, 19.
2 Gen. vi. 5.
(each one only) it is to be inferred that procreation had, till the flood, been carried on through marriage. Although there can be little doubt that fornication and adultery were among the vices then predominant, no mention is made of them.
It is singular that the first recorded instance of prostitution is that in the family of Lot. He made a voluntary offer of his two daughters to the Sodomites, as the price of protection of his guests from a more hideous attempt; and those daughters afterwards committed incest with that very father, who had made the offer of them, under the pretext of procuring seed from him, because there were no husbands to be found for them: and two idolatrous nations sprung from those illicit connections. It is to be conjectured that such vicious practices were to be ascribed to their past residence in that seat of wickedness, Sodom. This is the first instance of fornication expressly recorded, and it is not a little surprising that it should happen in the family rescued from the destruction of a city devoted for its crimes.
In the story of Abimelech the sanctity in which marriage was held, is again visible. Although Abram sent away his secondary wife Hagar, to appease Sarah, he still considered her to remain his wife. It was again apparent in the abhorrence in which the violation of the chastity of Dinah by the son of Hamor was held, and the violence of the resentment it excited : but it also appears by the answer of Jacob's sons to his expostulation,' that there were then harlots.
The next offence of this nature recorded, is the sin of Reuben in lying with his father's concubine, for which his tribe was degraded, and the sceptre which would otherwise have belonged to him as the first-born, was by his father's sentence transferred to his younger brother, Judah. This is the first act of the nature of adultery that is recorded, though perhaps, being committed with a concubine only, it did not amount to the crime of adultery; still, however, Jacob calls it a defilement of his bed, and testifies his indignation at it, in the punishment by which the memory of it was to be perpetuated.
The next transaction related by Moses, indicative of the manners of the time, in reference to marriage and prostitution, is the narrative of the trick played by Tamar upon Judah ; it proves
; that there were then common professed harlots by the road-sides ; that the sons of Jacob, the Patriarchs, were so licentious as to make use of them ; but on the other hand that whoredom, even by a widow, was held to be such a crime as to be punishable by burning to death, and that a father-in-law had the right or power to inflict it:2 on its being reported to Judah, that Tamar had played 1 Gen. xxxiv. 31.
2 Gen. xxxviii. 24.
the harlot, and was with child by whoredom, he said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.
The first direct notice of the light in which the crime of adultery was held at that period, was in the case of the temptation of Joseph, in his exclamation, How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?
It does not appear whether it was a capital crime, punishable by death, by the law of Egypt; but, that it was the subject of some sort of punishment, is clear from Joseph's commitment to prison on the charge of it.
It is remarkable that the first appearance of the word adultery, in the scriptures, is in the decalogue. The use of a single word, designating a crime of such a nature, proves beyond all doubt, that it was too well known to need any other description or definition: it must therefore have been prevalent, and held as a crime of deep dye (like murder) for ages, though no notice happens to be taken of it in the sacred history. As it does not appear to have been specifically and expressly forbidden by any divine law promulgated to Adam or Noah, or their immediate descendants, its denomination must have arisen from the common consent of mankind, to condemn and punish it as an heinous public crime, as well as private injury; and from that general sense, the habit of denoting the crime by a single word, in like manner as murder, theft, and other notorious crimes, must have grown into such general use, as to be adopted in a law without explanation. Accordingly when the law was pronounced from mount Sinai, it was fully understood. The crime must have been prevalent, to call for a divine law to repress its practice among God's chosen people, to whom that law was confined. Other nations were left to their own laws and usages respecting it. By other laws pronounced by Moses, both parties to the crime of Adultery, were to be punished by death. Even fornication with a maid betrothed was also a capital offence in both parties, and so strongly was the purity of the female sex guarded, that a man having commerce with a maiden, was obliged to take her for his wife. Such and so strongly guarded was the marriage-bond and bed; and under the law, promulgated to Adam, it continued of indissoluble obligation upon all his descendants ; but such were the corrupt habits of the nations, with which the Israelites had grown up, and were afterwards surrounded, that husbands made no scruple in putting away their wives for various
causes, or under different pretexts, by what was called a bill of Divorce. The Jews were so irresistibly addicted to this practice, that Moses, from the impracticability of abolishing it altoge
Lev. xviii. 20; xx. 10, 2 Deut. xxii. 28. See also v. 13, 14, &c. with what severity the marriage-bed was guarded.