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of a diametrically opposite kind : in some cases, the offenders were incapacitated from ever repeating their crimes; in others, they were compelled to submit to a public repetition of the guilty pleasure, till satiety had rendered it disgusting, and made those waters which, when stolen in secret, were sweet, more bitter than the waters of jealousy.
With regard to Divorce, we have seen at one time the utmost caution in its indulgence, and the permission of it surrounded by the wisest restraints ; but at others, the growing profligacy of the people, over-leaping all the bounds of laws, and compelling, in the use of it, the most licentious liberty. And to those latter periods we may refer, to the jealousies, the strifes, the discords, and the confusion to which the unrestrained exercise of this liberty gave birth ; in order to prove how little compatible such a measure is with the real happiness, domestic peace, and security of a state, as little as it is agreeable to the prescribed regulations and natural dictates of reason and justice.
• But we have now a higher authority to consult on these interesting subjects; and we approach to the third branch of the Essay, to examine, with that reverence which is due to a Teacher so wise, so exemplary, and divine, the law promulgated by the Founder of the Christian Faith, in relation to the subject of this Essay, with the opinions of the Apostles, the Fathers of the Christian Church, the usages of primitive Christians, and the edicts of Christian Emperors.
The first public discourse which the Saviour and Lawgiver of the Christian Church delivered in the days of his incarnation, contained his sentiments on Adultery and Divorce. In the Sermon on the Mount, which was a revision of the law of Moses, and a purifica
tion of that law from all the corrupt glosses put upon it by mistaken and prejudiced interpreters, we find this passage; “ It hath been said, whosoever will put away his wife, let him give her a writing of Divorcement ; but I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit Adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth Adultery."*
This is an important doctrine. The first thing which occurs to the mind, is, that it contains an evident alteration in the old law, less perhaps in the spirit and intention of it, than in some of the permissions which literally it indulged.
Here also the reins of restraint are indeed laid upon the corrupt and licentious practices of those times, arising from the false and carnal glosses of the school of Hillel, on the Mosaic code. That code was not, and could not from circumstances, or it would have been characterized by an unbending rigour on the
* Matt. ch. v. 31 « Ερρεθη δε οτι ος αν απολυση της γυναικα αυτον, δοτω αυτη αποστασιου.
33 “ Εγω δε λιγω υμιν, οτι ος αν απολυση την γυναικα αυτου, παρεκτος λογου πορνειας, ποιοι αυτην μοιχασθαι, και ος εαν απολελυμενην γαμηση
use of Divorce : a liberty granted by it for serious causes, had been thrown wide to include the slightest, and now it is restored and restricted to the exclusive occurrence of one.
Jesus Christ did not, as some have contended, abrogate the Mosaic law ; he was a careful observer of it. His doctrine is not that of hostility and opposition to the latter, but of superiority; a superiority rendered necessary by circumstances, as were the less rigid enactments of the Judaical institutes. This is the manner in which Eusebius, Tertullian, Grotius,* and numerous other writers regard it, stating the law from the Mount of Galilee, to have succeeded to that from Mount Sinai, to be the same rule of moral action, expounded and perfected; and as Grabe observes, though its provisions have a novelty, and a difference of sanctity, yet their object is not to throw
* Grotius has stated this forcibly in the subjoined passage. “ Nullam juris per Mosem promulgati partem a Christo infringi, at præcepta interim meliora quam lex illa, præsertim quatenus in judiciis observabatur, exigebat.” And, on the very subject before us, he adds, “ Sensus enim est lex Mosis ne quid gravius eveniret tibi de uxore judicium indulsit; tu vide ut tantà potestate humanè utaris, certus, nulla Deo placere Divortia nisi quæ summa necessitas extorsit."
contempt on the former institution, but to excuse its unavoidable imperfection, and to complete what it had but begun.
It is thus the Saviour himself explains the old permission; for on the next occasion where we find the Pharisees (disciples, doubtless, of the school of Hillel) approaching Christ, for the determination of the reality of this liberty, or whether its existence had not, in virtue of his interposition, altogether ceased, he expresses himself in a manner which more fully confirms the doctrine delivered by him on the Mount. The passage is in Matthew.* “ Then came the Pharisees, tempting him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” † This question brings all the fluctuating opinions on Divorce to a point ; and the reply of the Saviour should be attentively considered ; the “every cause” in the question, evidently alludes to slight causes, some infirmity, some unpleasantness in temper or person, or of the same kind and equally trivial. The Saviour commences his answer, by referring to the original institution of marriage, as the correct standard by which opinions on such matters should be regulated, every deviation from which was an evil and
* Matt. xix. 3—9.
+ Kata radar astiar.