« PreviousContinue »
What greater injury can be inflicted on the innocent party? The crime carries sorrow and infamy to the bosom of a happy, and before the tempter plied his artifices, an united family. The afflicted husband beholds her whose happiness was dearer to him than his own, who is the mother of his children, corrupted by villany, seduced from virtue, dishonoured and ruined. That bosom on which he had so entirely reposed his confidence has deceived him. He feels himself to be widowed and desolate: he sees his children deserted and motherless ; he engages in his necessary avocations spiritless and almost broken-hearted; and passes the remainder of his course to the tomb without enjoyment, and without hope.
The injury done to the children by this crime is of the utmost magnitude. They are robbed of maternal care and affection; of instruction and government; of the holy and efficacious influence of a mother's example; of all the happiness which flows from her
presence, and of the numberless tendernesses which her presence suggests.
It cannot surprise us that, under the Jewish law, a crime which violates the most sacred rights, and which is productive of so much misery, should be followed with a capital punishment to both the parties concerned. “ Even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death *.” In the christian Scriptures it is declared that God will visit the adulterer with adequate punishment.—“ Marriage is honourable in
* Levit. xx. 10.
all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge *."
That this declaration will receive its fulfilment, no one will doubt who believes in the Divine authority of the Book which contains it. He who has an eternity in which to punish the workers of iniquity cannot want opportunities of exercising his punitive justice.
It is scarcely necessary to remark, that they in some measure participate in the guilt of the adulterer, whose behaviour is designed to captivate the affections of a married woman. Though the crime is not com
a pleted, its consequences, in this way, may be felt, in the interruption of the peace of a family.
It may be proved, both from Scripture and reason, that polygamy is unlawful and inexpedient.
I. Let us attend to the testimony of Scripture. On two occasions, at the beginning of the world, and immediately after the flood, when it was necessary to people the world, God assigned one woman to one
From the words of Christ, quoted in a former chapter, we learn that a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh. It is perfectly clear from this language, that in the ordinance of marriage, as
• Heb. xiii. 4.
instituted by God, there are two, and only two, joined together.
The same truth is elsewhere taught by our Lord, when answering the inquiry of the Pharisees regarding the law of divorce ; " I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commiteth adultery ; and whoso marrieth her who is put away doth commit adul
Here it is declared that the man who puts away his wife, and marries another, is an adulterer ;a declaration which establishes the truth of the position, that whosoever marries a second wife, while the first is living, is guilty of adultery.
All the passages of the New Testament which allude to marriage, suppose it to signify the union of one man with one woman. “ Know ye not,” says
the Apostle Paul, “ brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband, is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth ; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband; so then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress f."-"Let every man,” says the same Apostle elsewhere, “ have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”
There are, indeed, several instances of polygamy mentioned in the Old Testament, as there are there recorded the deviations from duty, as well as the virtues, of the persons alluded to; but they receive no countenance from the authority of God, and were sources of vexation and sorrow, both to parents and children.
* Rom. vii. 1-4.
Matt. xix. 3-11.
II. Let us now listen to the testimony of nature and of reason on the subject. The equality, or, rather, the very near approximation to equality, in the number of males and females born into the world, is a plain indication that it is the will of God, that one woman should be the wife of one husband : “ For, if to one man be allowed an exclusive right to five or more women, four or more men must be deprived of the exclusive possession of any; which could never be the order intended."
Polygamy is not more friendly to population than the existing arrangement. It is maintained, by some respectable writers, that it is less so; and they adduce in evidence, the creation of a single pair to replenish the world. They infer from this fact, that the allotment of one woman to one man is more favourable to population than a plurality of wives. Indeed, the fact stated in the former paragraph, namely, the equality in the number of males and females who grow to maturity, renders it impossible that polygamy should increase the population. For the question is not, as Paley remarks, whether one man will have more children by five or more wives than one ; but whether these five wives would not bear the same or a greater number of children to five separate husbands.
Polygamy, besides, tends to frustrate, by the evils which it produces, the designs of marriage. It introduces the most unseemly dissensions into families, which impair the happiness of parents, and lead to a neglect of the education of children. The female sex,
who by Christianity are admitted to equal rights with the males in the institution of marriage, are degraded by polygamy into instruments of mere physical plea
There would thus, on the supposition of the adoption of this system, be continual injustice done to the half of the human racema circumstance which of itself proves that it is at variance with the will of God.
We must, therefore, regard the law which prohibits polygamy in every christian country as just. In Sweden it is punished with death. In England, besides the nullity of the second marriage, it subjects the offender to transportation for the first offence, and to capital punishment for the second *.
By divorce, we understand the dissolution of the marriage-contract. This was allowed by some ancient
nations, and is allowed by some nations at the present day, by the act, and at the will of the husband. Such a permission is incongruous with scripture and with
Polygamy can never be endured under any rational civil establishment, whatever specious reasons may be urged for it by the eastern na. tions, the fallaciousness of which has been fully proved by many sensible writers. It is therefore punished by the laws both of ancient and moderu Sweden with death. And with us in England it is enacted by statute, 1 Jac. I. c. ii., that if any person being married, do afterwards marry again, the former husband or wife being alive, it is felony; but within the benefit of Clergy. The first wife, in this case, shall not be admitted as a witness against her husband, because she is the true wife ; but the second may, for she is indeed no wife at all: and so vice versâ, of a second hus. band."--Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. i. p. 136. VOL. II.