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marriage has a claim upon every man to understand its doctrine and its law, and to be acquainted at least with its primary principles and its essential obligations. It was justly argued by Lord Mansfield, that no reasonable man can contemplate the state of marriage, and not be convinced that it is a state in which all the amiable passions are engaged and interested in the cause of virtue and truth ; from which the best and most essential felicities of life derive their origin; which enhances the joys and divides the unavoidable sorrows of humanity ; which diffuses its beneficial influence alike through the palace and the cottage ; and pours the balm of consolation into the breast that is wounded by affliction, whether resulting from sudden calamity and change of fortune, or from personal pain and individual infirmityb.
It is the sound theory of another distinguished and eloquent lawyer', that “almost all the relative duties of human life will be found more immediately, or more remotely, to arise out of the two great institutions of PROPERTY and MARRIAGE: they constitute, preserve, and improve society : upon their gradual improvement depends the progressive civilization of mankind : on them rests the whole order of civil life. These two great institutions convert the selfish, as well as the social, passions of our nature into the firmest bands of a peaceable and orderly intercourse: they change the sources of discord into the principles of quiet: they discipline the
See Woodfall's Parliamentary Reports, vol. vii. p. 11. • Sir James Mackintosh : “ Discourse on the Study of the Law of Nature and Nations."
most ungovernable, they refine the grossest, and exalt the most sordid propensities; so that they become the perpetual fountain of all that strengthens, and preserves, and adorns society ; they sustain the individual, and they perpetuate the race.
Around these institutions all our social duties will be found at various distances to range themselves: some more near, obviously essential to the good order of human life; others more remote, and of which the necessity is not at first view so apparent; and some so distant, that their importance has been sometimes doubted, though upon more mature consideration they will be found to be out-posts and advanced guards of these fundamental principles; that man should securely enjoy the fruits of his labour, and that the society of the sexes should be so wisely ordered, as to make it a school of the kind affections, and a fit nursery for the commonwealth."
There is a feeling in the heart of every man which immediately corresponds with these eloquent descriptions, and under the influence of which it is not unreasonable to suppose, that no man will be indifferent in the search, or find any difficulty in the acquirement, of the best and most accurate information upon the doctrine and law of marriage. This reasonable expectation however is more often disappointed than fulfilled. - In the intercourse of ordinary life; in the conversation of educated men, informed on every other topic; in the proceedings of the courts of law and of parliament, which on all other subjects abound with acuteness and practical wisdom ; and in the marked and singular inaccuracy with which these proceedings are reported by the
daily press; there is evidence of a want of knowledge, of an absence of settled conviction, of a vacillation of principle, which is not found to prevail on any other question of moral duty. There is a laxity of opinion on the nature of marriage, its divine institution, and religious solemnization. Men have affirmed the competence of human laws to multiply the impediments of matrimony, and have not scrupled to deny the validity of marriages, contracted under circumstances which are by no means sufficient to preclude or vitiate the contract. They have thrown doubts on the obligation and perpetuity of the bond of marriage; and the guilt of the adulterer, the wrong of the injured husband, and all the sins of impurity, are treated with a levity which is not applied to any other instance of private vice, or civil injury. There is a facility in palliating and excusing, if not in recommending and approving, the voluntary separation of married persons; and there is a precipitancy in asserting the rights of divorce, and the dissolution of a lawful marriage. In all these respects there is a disorder in marriages which requires to be counteracted ; an apathy which needs to be stimulated ; an ignorance which demands instruction; or a misapprehension which deserves correction and restraint.
Whether it is that the pure doctrine of marriage has been polluted by irrelevant disquisitions, in which men of virtuous minds refuse to participate; or whether its principles and laws “ have been deemed too evident to require the support of argument, and almost too sacred to admit the liberty of discussion ;” or whether the defence has been
neglected because no man has had the hardihood to open the assault; it is certain, that while the library of the English theologian is crowded with volumes of theological erudition on all other points, the doctrine of marriage has been singularly neglected. Detached pieces have appeared, as different parts of the doctrine have been called in question; but no English writer, with the single exception of Selden, has embraced the whole subject of marriage, adultery, and divorce: and even the Uxor Ebraica is always deficient in the moral application, has no reference to the present state of English law, and is often at least ambiguous in respect of the religious principles and solemn sanctions, which constitute the virtue of marriage, the sin of adultery, and the awful hazard of divorce. The doctrine has been more worthily treated upon the continent, and the work of Gerhard, De Conjugio, will remain a perpetual monument of his learning, and his zeal for virtue, piety, and truth. But the works of Gerhard and of Selden are not accessible to the ordinary reader, who is probably unacquainted with the very title of the former, and who will hardly be invited to study the embarrassed style of Selden, or to bear the weight of his learned authority, unless he is drawn by a peculiar motive to engage in the investigation. The work of Comber on the Office of Matrimony, as far he was conducted by the text, on which he professed to comment, is of the highest value ; but his works have ceased to command the attention to which they will always be entitled by their intrinsic merit. The eight treatises of Domestical Duties, by William Gouge, the Puritan divine, are all but un
known. The chapters in which Paley treats of the public use of marriage institutions, of seduction, of adultery, divorce, and marriage, in the midst of many valuable observations, contain some principles which it is not possible to approve, and which cannot be recommended without exception and reserve. The formulary for the solemnization of marriage is regarded as a form for a particular occasion, although if it were considered a manual of useful instruction, from which the ignorant might seek, and the wise be confirmed in, the knowledge of practical duty; or if married men would be persuaded to review the vows of their marriage, as the clergy are instructed to review the vows of their ordination; there would be the less occasion of investigating the principles, and maintaining the rules, of conjugal duty as they are unfolded in the word of truth, and accommodated to the practice of daily life.
No man can read the Office for the Solemnization of Matrimony in the Church of England, without observing that the general doctrine is exhibited in terms clear, unambiguous, and calculated to preclude the possibility of disorder in marriages. “ Holy matrimony” is declared to be " an honourable estate, instituted by God in the time of man's innocency, and therefore is not by any to be enterprized, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly .. but reverently, discreetly, soberly, and in the fear of God.” It is pronounced to be “ God's holy ordinance."
At the time of the celebration, the congregation, supposed to be present, are required to speak, “if any man can shew any just cause why the two persons to be married may not be lawfully