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and the divorce a vinculo, or sentence of nullity of marriage, may be limited exclusively to those cases in which there was originally an impediment, sufficient to nullify and preclude the contract. When the criminal character of adultery is recognized, and followed by an appropriate severity of punishment, the difficulties, which embarrass the law and licence, the principle and practice of divorce, will be removed; and the true doctrine, that marriage, pro* perly contracted, cannot be dissolved, will be restored to its primitive vigour and simplicity.
Private Acts of Separation. The primary end of marriage is the mutual consolation of the parties under the several cares and anxieties of life; and the subordinate end proposed in their mutual cohabitation, is the religious education of the offspring. The most effectual provision was made for the accomplishment of these important purposes, when it seemed good to the divine wisdom to ordain, that the man should cleave unto his wife, and they two should be one flesh, incorporated by an unity, which nothing in this world should be worthy to dissolve.
Founded in the divine institution of marriage, and on a correct view of the real condition of human nature, is the benevolent and considerate precept delivered by the apostle, in reference to the discipline which prevailed in the apostolic age: Defraud not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. In the earliest comment which is extant upon this text, it is justly remarked, that the apostle adds, By consent, that it may not be in the power of either party to dissolve the marriage; and that he limits the separation for a time, that the parties, in imposing a restraint upon them
* 1 Cor. vii. 5.
selves, may be free from the temptation to adultery. .... Marriage has its proper offices and duties excelling in the Lord, the care of the children and the wife: and every man who would be perfect in respect of marriage, will make it his first object to fulfil the proper duties of the conjugal union, in maintaining a prudent care of the common household. It is obvious to the most ordinary reader, that the apostle allows no separation, except on the conditions that it be with consent ; that it be for a time only ; that it be for the performance of speci. fied duties; and that it be with the intention of coming together again, when those duties shall be fulfilled. Such a suspension of the matrimonial intercourse was, at a very early period, held to be not a dissolution of marriage, but a furtherance of piety": but separation upon other conditions was pronounced by the apostle, a privation of the duties which the one owes to the other, and a strong temptation to uplawful indulgence.
There are but too many effects which this matrimonial privation may be shewn to produce. There will be the want of mutual conversation, advice, instruction, exhortation to duty, confirmation in faith, and the mutual elevation of heavenly hope, which becomes those who are heirs together of the grace of life: there will be the want of consolation in sorrow, and of protection in danger; and there will be the want of mutual assistance in the government of the family, and especially in the necessary disci
o Clem. Alex. Strom. I. ii. &. 12. tom. xiv. s. 2.
Orig. Com. in Matth.
pline and instruction of the children, whose minds are not to be formed to Christian virtue, but by the authority of a father's fear, and the affectionate assiduity of a mother's love. When the mutual coha. bitation, which the Deity has ordained, is superseded, the wisdom of the provision will receive a fatal illustration from the temptation which follows its neglect. The parties, formed for a state of mutual dependence, are prone to entertain a false sense of independence: they turn for consolation, not to each other, but to themselves; there is no more conformity in their wills; their views are directed to different pursuits ; they seek for other helps than those which nature has provided, in the government of their children ; their hearts are open to every emotion of distrust, of jealousy, of suspicion, and resentment; the love which is cherished by attention, and the passion which is soothed by forbearance, is in absence hardened to indifference, or exasperated to aversion: the whole order of marriage is inverted, and the conjugal union, which was designed by the divine benevolence for the alleviation of domestic care, is loaded by human folly with the heaviest of troubles and the worst of sins.
If the blessing of marriage is thus destroyed by occasional separation, it is not unreasonable to suppose that judicial and penal consequences may follow that which is designed to be permanent; when the husband and the wife, who are appointed to cleave unto each other, and to be one, presume by a private act of their own to separate from each other, and to be two. The state of celibacy, the state of marriage, and the state of widowhood, are all natural states, easily understood, and easily reconciled with the law and appointment of God, and with the hope of his blessing : but in the state of a man and wife living separately from each other, there is something unnatural; there is a contravention of the divine appointment; there is a resistance of the divine means of conveying good to man. In the very act of separation, the parties presume on possessing a better knowledge of their nature and condition in the world than the divine Author of their being, who saw that it was not good that the man should be alone, and therefore made an help meet for him, and ordained that he should cleave unto his wifed: they affect other help than he hath provided for the relief of their infirmity; they throw themselves upon resources which cannot avail them; they rush into a state of delicacy, of difficulty, of danger, and tempt. ation, from which it is hard to escape ; they abandon at once the duties which they owe to God and to each other; and, whatever be the terms or motives of separation, they betray the most hardened indifference to their common children, whom, as married parents, they are bound by every consideration of law, of reason, and religion, to train for a godly seed in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It is indeed hardly possible to conceive an act of more unfeeling or more unprincipled depravity, than that which is displayed by a parent, who, in a deed of separation, defines the terms upon which the children shall be separated from one or other of their common parents, and disposes of them with the same heartless