Page images

which excludes trials by juries in criminal matters, and substitutes paper depositions in the place of viva voce evidence, is too abhorrent from every principle of our free constitution to be endured ; and I am astonished, that at the Reformation, their very being was not annihilated, as that of the star-chamber was afterwards, 16 Car. I. These * courts, however, have cognizance of the crime of adultery, for which they can set the offender on a joint stool in a white sheet, under title Penance; unless, under title of Commutation, he

* In antient times, the King's courts, and especially the Leets, had power to enquire of and punish fornication and adultery; but by 13 Ed. I. Stat. 4. called the statute of circumspecté agatis, these matters were turned over to the eccleßaftical courts. See i Burn, 662, 663. Also 2 Burn, 144, 145.

+ All this wicked traffic of penance and commutation was originally derived from the doctrine of indulgences ; concerning which, Tetzel and his associates, when describing the benefit of indulgences, and the necessity of purchasing them, a little before the Reformation, thus express themselves :-“ The efficacy of indulgences is so

great, that the most heinous fins, even if one thould “ violate the mother of God, would be remitted and ex

piated by them, and the perfon freed both from punishment and guilt

. For twelve-pence you may redeem " the soul of your father out of purgatory.

Tetzel was lent into Germany, in the time of Leo the Tenth, with a large cargo of indulgences, which he dirposed of for the raising a sum of money for the Pope. Tetzel affirmed, that he could not only pardon fins paft, but also fins to come; whereupon a German gentleman bought such a pardon of him, and afterwards robbed Tetzel of the money. Tetzel threatening him, the other faid, he had bought his fardon, declaring that was the fin which he determined to commit. To which Tetzel could not reply.


or she can buy off their fin and shame with a fum of money. See 1 Burn. Ecc. Law, 663, quarto. Whatever be the cause, most certain it is, that the crime of adultery daily increases amongst us, insomuch, that one would think many of the Britijh ladies, once famed for their modesty, chastity, and sobriety, either never red their Bibles at all, or else only that edition of it which was printed by the company of Stationers, in the reign of Charles the First (and for which Archbishop Laud fined them severely in the star-chamber) wherein they printed the seventh commandment without the word not, so that it stood, Thou salt commit adultery,

But if in reading the Hebrew Bible we restrain the word: 5x3 adultery in the seventh commandment, to the married woman only, and to the man who defiles her, do we not leave the man, who, having one wife, takes another *, out of its reach? I answer. It is


* The wife, holy, uniform, and connected scheme of God's moral government, with respect to the commerce of the sexes, has two principal ends in view. The one, to prevent all confusion of issue--the other, to secure the female sex from that which must lead to it. Therefore a woman's going from one man to another is in all cases made a capital offence, and punishable with death. On the other hand, no man could take a woman, and then wantonly forsake her. This, being apparently the source of * adultery and prostitution, is positively forbidden. The law which forbids this, though conceived in general terms, without any limitation or exception, must, in some cases, fail of the provision it has made for the above purposes,

[blocks in formation]

not for us to judge in this matter, but by the rule of God's word; if that brings such a case within the reach of the seventh commandment, or of any one interpretation of it which is to be found in the book of that law, then such a man is condemned: if otherwise, he is free-For where there is no law, there is no transgression. Rom. iv, 15. And fin is not imputed (ennoyzitai, reckoned, charged, brought to account) where there is no law. Rom. v. 13.

By the book of the law, I mean the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses, delivered by God himself to that eminent servant and prophet of the Most High, and by him committed to writing, and delivered to the people. To the book of this law the great apostle of the Gentiles evidently refers, Gal. iii. 10. where he says, Cursed is every one, that continueth not in all things which are written in the BOOK OF THE LAW, to do them. Our Lord's forerunner, John the Baptist, declared THE LAW was given by Moses, John i. 17. There is therefore no law but that which was given by God to Mofes, nor was any new law enacted after the canon of the Pentateuch was closed by the death of Mofes. The distinction and difference of moral good and evil were then un

without the allowance of polygamy; as, where the man taking the woman was married before. It is therefore necessary for us to enter deeply into this question; which I shall endeavour in the next chapter, not on the precarious footing of popular prejudice and vulgar opinion, concluding that we are wiser than the inhabitants of more extensive parts of the globe ; but on the firm basis of divine revelation, concluding that God is wifer than man.


alterably fixed, and the nature of both invariably to remain the fame. What God doeth, it fall be for ever; nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it : and God doeth it that men Nould fear before Him. Eccl. ii. 14.

As I am fully persuaded, on the most mature deliberation, that taking from God's law in some points, and adding to it in others, are the chief causes of the evil complained of, with regard to the ruin of one sex, by the luft, cruelty, treachery, and perfidy of the other; I shall examine the subject before us the more freely: not supposing that polygamy, being made felony by that sanguinary statute i Jac. I. c. 11. is therefore finful in the fight of God, any more than that adultery is innocent before Him, or one jot the more fo, because our flatute-book has ordained no punishment for it whatsoever. Nor does its being looked upon with detestation and abhorrence in this part of the world, any more prove the unlawfulness of polygamy in the fight of God, than the approbation and practice of it in other more extensive parts of * the globe, can prove its

lawfulness. * The pride and self-importance so natural to fallen man, are the true reasons why people of all climes and countries are apt to imagine themfelves in the right, and all others who differ from them in the


The Turk despises the Christian, because he is not a polygamist, the Christian in his turn abhors the Turk becaule he is what shall decide between them ? Custom, usage, prejudice of education, national belief, municipal laws-have as much to plead on one side as on the other : these may say— Non noftrum inter vos tantas componere lites.

lawfulness. All must stand or fall by God's own revelation of His own will, in His own law. To suppose that His law can be different in different parts of the world, which he hath made, and upholds with the word of His power; or that His one uniform jurisdiction doth not equally and invariably extend over all His reasonable creatures; is to think of Him as the poor idolatrous, ignorant Syrians did-The LORD is God of the bills, but he is not the God of the valiies. 1 Kings xx. 28.

Near akin to this, is the supposition that God can change his mind, and be of one mind in the Old Testament, and of another in the New Testament ; if so, He changed His mind again, and neither of these

may now have

The only decisive appeal which can be made, must be to the Hebrew scriptures, unless we are to suppose that the Great Moral Governor of the universe had no mind or will concerning the matter, or that he left his church and people in the dark for four thousand years together, touching an affair of such infinite consequence. As for imagining that he left the adjustment of marriage to the days of the New Testament (which is a popular notion amongst us) having suffered the Jews to live in ignorance and error concerning it for so many preceding ages-this is as false in point of fact, as if it were said, that they lived without any revelation at all. As surely as the writings of Moses contain the law of God, fo surely was the law of marriage adjusted and settled in the minutest particular. Among other reasons why this must necessarily have been the case, is that very conclusive one, which arises from the dependence of the lawfulness of the issue on the lawfulness of the marriage, and of course the preservation of true genealogy throughout the whole Jewis difpenfation; a matter in which our deareft and eternal intereft is concerned.


« PreviousContinue »