Page images
PDF
EPUB

won't marry, because I can't afford it."; Every man may afford to marry, who is sober and industrious, but certainly none can who are idle and profligate. : The Jewish law also, by its severity . against adultery, inflicting certain death on the adulterer and adulteress, so checked the evil, that married men had little to: fear on that account; whereas, among us, our laws, having inflicted no punishment on adulterer's as public offenders, leave the punishment of it to what Judge Blackstone well calls, " the feeble coercion of " the ecclesiastical courts,” which is about as well calculated to restrain it, as, the strength of a pigmy would be to repel

Comp. Prov. xix. 15. and 2 Theff. ii. 10.-whereas with us, an increase of children is too often an increase of idleness and extravagance. Witness the crowds of, what we call, the higher fort of people, who fill our numerous places of public diverfion, gaming-houses, &c. the bankruptcies among our tradefmen, and the shoals of thieves, vagrants, beggars, &c. among the lower orders of men.

It is a remarkable thing, that among other ingredients of ruin to the apostate Jews-idlenessabundance of idleness, was one. Ezek. xvi. 49.

We do not find that God changed His law, because they had departed froin their observance of it; but maintained its holiness and unchangeableness, in the fearful punishments He sent upon them for their diffoluteness and disobedience,

the

U 3

the force of a giant; and even this, such as it is, is within the reach * of money to buy off. Seei Burn, Eccl. Law, quarto, p. 663. Hence it is, that this giant-vice, with such large strides, marches through our land, and may probably be the means of terrifying not a few from marrying.

Having elsewhere observed the wisdom of the divine laws for the prevention and punishment of whoredam, I will here fay once more, that our banishment of them from our system of government, is another reason of the alarming frequency of celibacy among us.

As for polygamy, it certainly was al lowed, as much as marriage $ itself was; to say the contrary, is to deny the whole testimony of the Hebrew fcripture:- but this was not that wild, licentious, wicked practice of it, which is now maintained at the expence not only of decency, but even of humanity itself, among the Mabometans; but a holy and sober use of marriage, circumscribed by holy laws and institutions, in all cases permitted, in some commanded. And what was the consequence to the state? A numerous issue, which contributed to its riches and strength--the demand for women in marriage increased, and few were left either to be a burden or a disgrace to it. But is this fo with us ? Our making polygamy felony has destroyed * it. But in what respect are we gainers * by this ? Why, we have gained—what Ifrael never

this

* About the year 1735, the Bishop of Chefter actually cited his commiffàry into the Archbishop's court at York, to exhibit an account of the money received for commutations. Oughton says, that “ commutation-money is to be given to the poor,

or applied to other pious uses, at the discretion * of the Judge." See Burn. Eccl. Law. tit. Pes nance. Also poft, Append. to this Chapter.

+ For which plain and evident reason, it may be concluded, that the several attacks on marriage, which the Christians have made from time to time, under notions of greater purity and beliness, are

wholly

wholly unjustifiable, because unwarranted by the fcriptures. God forbad marriage under certain circumstances, but in no one precept or example did he prohibit polygamy, where marriage itself was allowed. Wherefore, I own, I cannot in the least doubt, that the stat. of 1 Jac. chap. 11. which forbids por lygamy under pain of death, is just as opposite to the divine law, as the stat. of Hen. VIII. which hangs a priest for marrying one wife, as well as the man who should affert it lawful in the fight of God, for a priest to marry at all. There was a time when it would have given great offence to have found fault with this law of Hen. VIII. just as much as to ar: raign the propriety of that of 1 Jac. may give now; but this proves no more than that both are equally absurd-that fuperftition is always the same-and that men are apt to take their ideas of religious truths, more from custom, and vulgar opinion, than from the word of God.

[blocks in formation]

saw,

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

* That is, we have abolished the public and open marriage of more women than one at a timeand thus have we fhut one door, against the private inexpediency and inconvenience to individuals, which, as things are constituted among us, might accrue in many instances.

But, on the other hand, what has the public gained ? for marriage is not to be considered as only concerning this or that individual, or this or that private convenience or inconvenience, but as respecting the public--the whole in general. And this, no doubt, the ALL-WISE Creator had in view, when-He blessed them, "and said, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth-Gen. i. 28. with Gn. ix. 1, 7.

-as well as when he framed His Laws for regulating the commerce of the sexes. : Baron Montesquieu observes, and very truly, that public incontinence may be regarded as the greatest - of misfortunes."--Now, considering mankind, not as what they ought to be, but as what they really are - what a door to public incontinence is opened, bv making it impoffible for married men, who seduce virgins, to be under that responsibility towards them which the divine law enjoins-Exod. xxii, 16. and Deut. xxii. 28, 29?-by this means thousands are turned out friendless and helpless, to public infamy, prostitution, and ruin.

Another door is opened to that most horrid practice (it is so common as to be a practice) of childmurder, either by procuring abortion, or by destroying infants in or after the birth — for concealment, in such cases, has more, much more to plead, than where single men are concerned.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

wh ing

These,

saw, till they regarded the divine law as little as we do -- thousands of women for the purposes of prostitution and destruction, by making it impossible for their seducers to do them that justice, which reason, nature, and the divine law, intitle them to demand. This may be reckoned also among the causes of our want of people ; for I believe it would not be very hard to prove, that almost every woman, who is driven into common prostitution, is a loss of one breeding-wo

These, and other dreadful appendages of making ourselves more wise, pure, and holy, than the God who knoweth whereof we are made, are the consequences of an indiscriminate and total prohibition of polygamy - so that, whatever we may have gained in point of casual, private, or domestic convenience in one respect, we are losers in point of public, as well as private mischiefs, in ten thousand !

If we advert to the scripture, we shall not find a single instance of these things among the antient Jews – their law was so framed as to prevent them. -- If we attend to the daily evidence of our own eyes and ears, they are frequently happening among us, because our laws are so framed as to be the occafions of them-and perhaps no one part of our system is chargeable with more of them, than our sanguinary prohibition of polygamy. I Jac. C. II.

To lay a foundation for all this mischief, by charging Him, who came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them, with repealing the divine law which was made to prevent it, is an impious and infamous flander, and its wearing the guile of parity and piety makes it so much the worse.

10

« PreviousContinue »