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knowledge that even in its peculiarities the Levitical law has not so far trenched upon the law of nature by imposing novel and arbitrary restrictions as is generally and ignorantly believed. It is for its concessions and indulgence on the subject of marriage rather than its harshness and restraints, that the Levitical code is chiefly remarkable. Those who contend for its abiding and universal obligation would obtain far less by their motion than they imagine, even could they succeed in compelling us all to pass under the Jewish yoke. The truth is that the Judaical law of marriage is little understood by those who profess to hold it in the greatest veneration.
But supposing that all the prohibited degrees, within which we are told it is not lawful for Christians to marry, were every one to be found in the Jewish law, our plain answer would be, we are willing to be instructed by Moses as well as by other legislators, as to what is expedient on this or any other grave subject affecting our social well being. But the only law to which we reverentially defer is that which God has equally imposed upon the whole human family, and which is equally applicable to them all in their infinitely diversified circumstances of illumination and ignorance, of civilization and barbarism. They may not all in every particular read it aright—there may be circumstantial, minute, and unimportant differences in their application of it to themselves, but among them all none will be found to have stumbled on anything so absurdly wicked as the prohibitory regulations professedly derived by Christian Canonists from the Judaical Institutes.
As there has been much superstition, much priestcraft, and, as we think, gross immorality mixed up with the law of marriage, and which prevail to a great extent in the Canons, and supposed to be sanctioned by the statute law of this Protestant country, in order to put our readers in full possession of the subject, and to prepare the public mind for those beneficial changes which enlightened public opinion firmly expressed can alone obtain, we shall briefly examine the divine law of marriage as applicable to all mankind—the same law adapted and restricted to the civil and ecclesiastical polity of the Jews-the perversion and abuse of this code by the church of Rome—the modifications in both produced by the reformation in England, or subsequently arising out of it-the change effected in the law by Lord Lyndhurst's Act; and the present unsatisfactory state in which he has left it.
The original law of marriage, with the occasion of its promulgation, is thus recited in the second chapter of Genesis : "And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be 'alone, I will make an helpmeet for him. And the Lord God 'brought the woman unto the man, and Adam said, this is now
bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called 'woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a * man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife, ' and they shall be one flesh.'
The comment of our Saviour on this law, in the nineteenth chapter of Matthew, will help us to explain it. The Pharisees tempting him, inquired, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his 'wife for every cause ? To this he replied, 'Have ye not read
that he who made them at the beginning made them male and 'female, and said for this cause shall a man leave his father • and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they twain
shall be one flesh; what therefore God hath joined together • let no man put asunder.' On both these passages, the text and the commentary, Mr. Dwight makes the following pertinent and explanatory observations.
1. The words for this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh,' were not, as some have supposed, the words of Adam, but were uttered by God. The language of Christ is, . He who made them at the beginning said, For this cause,' &c. The maker of Adam there. fore, and not Adam said this ; and the thing uttered was not a prediction of Adam, but a command of God.
2. This is the great original law of marriage, binding on the whole human family. It was not a part of any ceremonial law, or of the national law of Israel ; but was promulgated at the original institution of marriage to the first parents of mankind, as the representatives of the whole race. Men and women about to contract marriage were the only beings, and the very beings on whom it was binding. By the terms of it Adam and Eve were personally exempted from its operation, since they were already married, and Adam had no father or mother whom he could leave. It was made, therefore, for their pos. terity ; and since in its binding force on them there are no restrictions nor limitations, it was clearly given to bind the whole human family. On this point the comment of Christ is express. The Jews inquire of him whether it was lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause. In his reply he admits that Moses, for the hardness of their hearts, allowed divorces in certain cases, but asserts that in the beginning it was not so. He then declares that, except in the single case of incontinence, it is not lawful for a man to put away his wife, and marry another, and assigns four reasons for it-first, the fact that God originally created but one man and one woman, and joined them in marriage ; and thus expressed his own pleasure that marriage should subsist between one man and one woman: second, that at the time God instituted marriage he declared, . For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife ; and they twain shall be one flesh' (which in the nature of things cannot mean a personal but a virtual identity): third, that that is the reason why two married persons are no more twain, but one flesh: fourth, that all who are united in marriage are joined together by God. Here, then, is an express recognition of this law as the original law of marriage.'
It is evident from hence that this original law knew nothing of divorce—that it was intended to constitute each marriage the root of a distinct and separate family—that it forbad adultery by implication, and most expressly condemned polygamy. This law, with the exception of allowing divorce in a single case, received the sanction of the Christian Lawgiver; and is the only law on marriage which Christians, as such, are under any obligation to obey.
It must likewise be observed, that this divine law of marriage, as it is morally binding upon all mankind, takes no cognizance whatever of near or remote affinities between the contracting parties. It prohibits no degrees of consanguinity; what it really demands is purity and fidelity on the part of the husband and the wife. This is all. The inferior yet important questions of relationship and affinity, which ought to form a barrier to the marriage union, it leaves to be regulated by the dictates of nature, and the reason of the thing as affecting the increase of the species, the virtue of individuals, the happiness of families, and the well-being of the state. All that the moral law in the commandment enforcing the sanctity of marriage prohibits is comprehended in one sentence, 'Thou shalt not commit adul'tery. This command is co-extensive with the obligation of marriage between one man and one woman, but like the original law on which it is founded, it is perfectly silent as to any previous relationship which might have subsisted between them.
The degeneracy of morals which brought destruction upon the antediluvians was produced not by any abuse of the relations of consanguinity, or by intermarrying with each other, but from polygamy, and the intrusion into their families of aliens and strangers; for we are told 'that the sons of God seeing
that the daughters of men were fair, took them wives of all * whom they chose ;' that in consequence of this the wickedness of man became intolerable, so that God said I will destroy man “whom I have created from the face of the earth.'
After the deluge the world must have been peopled as at the beginning. Cousins at least of every degree, and all the other relations of mere affinity, must have been within the comprehension of the law of marriage. The patriarchal history is full of instances confirmatory of this assumption. Abraham married Sarah, his half-sister. Isaac married Rebecca, his second, and Jacob married Rachel, his first cousin. The patriarch Judah caused his second son to marry the widow of his eldest son. Amram, the father of Moses, married his aunt, so that even at
that late period it was customary for good men-men celebrated for their faith and piety, to marry their near relations; and it is remarkable that the patriarchs Abraham and Isaac should not only marry near relations themselves, but that at the approach of death, they should take pains to procure wives of near kindred for their sons, without expressing any remorse for their own conduct, or imposing any restrictions upon their children. The following passage is striking, as it exhibits the views and feelings not only of Isaac, but of Rebekah, on the subject of marriages between those who stood in close and natural affinity to each other-their own nearest and dearest relations. And • Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth : if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me? And Isaac called Jacob, and 'blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, thou shalt
not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to *Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and 'take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy * mother's brother.'
From these marriages of affinity no evil consequences were anticipated ; on the contrary, they were deemed a protection against the immoral and irreligious alliances which Rebekah deprecates, and which had proved so degrading and destructive to the antediluvians. The polygamy of Jacob was, in the view of the divine law, highly reprehensible. But his uniting himself to two sisters during their lifetime clearly intimates that the marrying of sisters in succession, as well as cousins in the first degree, was the common practice of the members of the patri. archal church, and that through these marriages God fulfilled the desire of Isaac, when in blessing Jacob. he said, 'God
almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee; 'that thou mayest be a multitude of people.'
Even at this time the daughters of the land, the Canaanitish women, were considered as in a state of moral degradation, as unfit to be introduced into the families of the patriarchs. As the depravity of mankind increased, as idolatry, one of its worst forms, spread pollution and engendered impurities of the most revolting and detestable character, marriage became prostitution, wives and concubines were strangely multiplied and mingled together; and the most criminal excesses, in utter contempt of als affinity and relationship, were sanctioned by religion and practised in its groves and temples.
The floodgates of a gross licentiousness were thus thrown open, and fearfully demoralized must have been the state of the world, when Moses, clothed with the authority of heaven and endowed with super-human wisdom, was appointed to be the lawgiver to Israel.
In legislating for this singular people, expressly chosen by God to be the conservators of the true religion, the depositaries of its oracles, and eventually the dispensers of its blessings, Moses constructed a civil and ecclesiastical polity, which should separate them from the idolatrous world around them, and preserve them in twelve distinct tribes under one government and system of laws and worship of so peculiar a kind, and so exclusively adapted to those on whom they were originally imposed, that they could be regarded as obligatory on no other people, and binding upon them (the Jews) only so long as they retained their nationality, and the economy under which they were placed by their divine lawgiver.
Of course whatever peculiarities were intended to distinguish this mixed polity of Moses, it was first of all necessary to lay its foundation in the immutable principles of the moral law, which was, therefore, solemnly announced from Sinai. In the peculiarities themselves we are naturally led to conclude that the law of marriage would be reinforced that it would be modified and explained so as to ensure unbroken the genealogy of every family of every tribe-that the tribal distinctions might be preserved free from all admixture and confusion, in order that the promise made to Abraham, and afterwards limited to the tribe of Judah, that in his seed (the Messiah) all the families
of the earth should be blessed,' might be eventually accomplished. This necessarily involved, as we shall afterwards have occasion to show, the necessity of intermarriages between near collateral kindred.
Nor, considering the firm hold which the practice of polygamy had upon all the nations of the east, and which had taken deep root among the descendants of Abraham, ought we to be surprised if the inspired lawgiver, while carrying out the great principle of the law of marriage in all his institutions, should lay positive restrictions, with severe penalties annexed, to their violation, upon an evil which in the then state of the Israelites it would have been impossible by any legislation totally to eradicate. Nor can we imagine a code of laws designed for such a people, under such circumstances, would have been complete had it not been raised as a special guard and barrier against the loathsome and disgusting vices which prevailed among the idolatrous heathens from whom they were so recently separated, and which, originating in sexual impurity, had polluted their hearths and altars, and imbruted and debased their domestic and social intercourse.
Now these are in fact the three grand divisions of the Levitical law regarding marriage and chastity. In these divisions, how