Page images

matrimony, as to the succession of inhe“ ritance, should be legitimate, as well as

they that be born within matrimony, for so " much as the church accepteth such to BE LEGITIMATE.

And all the earls and barons answered with one voice—that they “ would not change the laws of the realm, " which hitherto have been used and

ap“ proved.”

Here was a strong push made, that the ordinance of God should be in some measure recognized, as to its scriptural import and validity, in our municipal laws; but human wisdom forbad it !

In antient Rome, there were three kinds of marriage, distinguished from each other by the names of confarreation, coëmption, and use.

-the last of these came very near to the fimplicity of the divine institution.

It was,

man, although she should be dismissed from him to “ whom she is subjected, it may well be doubted whether “ fhe ought not to be admitted to receive baptism.” So that it appears very plainly, there was a time, when the conjunction of the man and woman did not depend, for its validity and lawfulness, upon human ceremonies and inventions.

In how many matters, as well as in many of the above circumstances, hath the church (as it is called) changed it's notions of things ! I have often thought, that if Methuselah had begun his long life with the æra of the Christian church, and had lived his 969 years in the Christian world, his life must have been a very miserable one, unless, like the vicar of Bray, of famous versatile memory, he could have changed with the times, and have held at least as many different opinions as he was

Years old.

[blocks in formation]


when the accidental living together of a man and woman had been productive of children, and they found it necessary or convenient to continue together ; when, if they agreed on the matter between themselves, it became a valid marriage, and the children were confidered as legitimate.

By the first law of the 12th table, relative to marriages, it is declared, that “ when a

woman shall have cohabited with a man for a whole year, without having been three

nights abfent from him, the shall be “ deemed bis wife.By which it appears

that the Romans considered living together, or conjugal cohabitation, as the very effence of matrimony. Broughton Hist. Lib. tit. Marriage. This may be reckoned one instance, in which, to the disgrace of us Christians, the Gentiles, which had not the law, did, by nature, the things contained in the law. Rom. ii. 14.

According to the laws of Scotland, cohabitation with a woman for some time, and openly acknowledging of her as a wife, confirms the marriage, and renders it valid in law. Mem. of Cranstoun, p. 30. So where a man and woman have lived together 'till they have children, if the man marry the woman, even upon his death-bed, all the antinuptial children become legitimated, and inherit the honours and estate of their father.

The case is the same in Holland; with this difference only, that all the children to be legitimated, must appear with the father and mother in the church, at the ceremony of

their marriage. See the History of Women, by W. Alexander, M. D. vol. ii. p. 252, 267.

Our system in England is very injurious and cruel, as it destroys one grand inducement to matrimony, where a man and woman have lived together and had children, by stamping bastardy on the issue without remedy. Whence fo inhuman a plan should be derived into the common law of the realm, cannot well be devised; but it must be supposed to have commenced in some of the darkest ages of ignorance and barbarism ; for at the latter end of the twelfth century, Pope Alexander III. made a constitution, that “ children born “ before the folemnization of matrimony, where matrimony followed, should, to all • intents and purposes, be as legitimate as “ those born after matrimony.” By which it should seem that the institution of ConPantine had been totally laid aside ; also, that the church thought very differently of marriage, from what it did in the fourth century. See before, p. 31, note.

Upon the whole, it may be concluded, that such laws as are above inentioned, would never have been thought of, unless the proposers and framers of such schemes of postlegitimation, had been convinced, that the conjugal cohabitation of the man and woman was a lawful marriage in God's account, consequently the issue legitimate in His fight: therefore they were willing to reconcile matters as well as they could, between human invention and divine institution.

D 2


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Having, I trust, established this truth, that where a man and a virgin are united by the communication of their persons to each other, they become one fless in the light of God, so made by his express command, insomuch that the man may not put her away all bis days; it follows, that they are indisolubly united, beyond the power of difunion by any human authority whatsoever.

It is the contempt of this law, this primary law of nature, or rather of the God of nature, established from the beginning, and afterwards enforced and explained by the positive laws above-mentioned, which lies at the root of the evils complained of. For, if a man w'X'y which is the scripture's way of saying any man, every man, without distinction (for God makes none in the texts we have been considering, nor in any other) was deemed the husband of the virgin be lay with, and was obliged to make a public recognition of it, as enjoined by God fo to do, without any liberty to put her away all his days ; if the law of the land was as positive as to this, as the. law delivered from God to Moses above-cited, we should see a wonderful change in the manners of the people, as well as a stop put to the daily ruin of innocent girls. Would the great and opulent debauch their tenant's or labourer's daughters, or their own servantmaids, if they knew that this put it into the power of such poor creatures to claim their seducers as their husbands ? Certainly not, at least not in one instance of ten thousand where

it now happens. Must we not suppose, that the great and merciful Creator enacted His laws for the protection of the * weaker sex against the stronger, as well as for the prevention of confuson and every evil work, which must ensue from men and women's coming together and parting ως άλογα ζώα φυσικά (as the Apostle says) like natural brute beasts which are without reason?. As therefore a contempt of the laws of Heaven, is evidently the cause of the evil, it is as evident that nothing but restoring their due respect and efficacy can ever cure it.

How great an impediment to matrimony doth this also prove, among the profligate and licentious part of mankind ? (which, as the world goes, I do not suppose to constitute a very small part

of it)—for if men can gratify their passions, and indulge their love of variety, without the least danger of much further trouble than it costs them to seduce a poor unwary girl, they will hardly bind them

* The Atheist and Hobbift deny any principle of right or natural justice before the invention of civil compact, which, they say, gave being to it; and accordingly have had the effrontery to declare, that a state of nature was a state of war. See Pope's Works, quarto, 1769, vol.i. p. 534-5, note.

This seems to coincide with the vulgar notion, of throwing the marriage-union on an human outward ceremony, or civil compact, without which the sexes are in a ftate of war, and each to make what depredations they can on the other : little adverting to the wise and holy provision which the CREATOR ordained against this, long before civil compact, arising from marriage-ceremony, was invented, or exifted.


D 3

« PreviousContinue »