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pose him to censure.* But our Divine Lord was ever superior to that fear of man, which would prompt a concealment of important truth. He resolutely explains the permission of Moses, and refers it to a cause that reflected no credit on his hearers. It was 6 for the hardness of your hearts :"flest you should use them in so cruel a manner, as to render their continuance with you a more deplorable condition even than that of widowhood and separation ; but henceforth, under the dispensation which is now to be introduced, characterized, as it is to be, by the most entire purity, as it will be by motives and means adequate to the attainment of that purity; henceforth, even this liberty is to be restricted ; and I repeat to you the doctrine delivered on the Mount in Galilee; for, from my disciples, I expect dispositions of a more
* Doddridge considers that both the interpretations of Hillel and Sammai were incorrect; that of Hillel, because clearly opposed to the whole spirit of the Bible, and that of Sammai also, because the law provided that Adultery should be punished with death; and that a medium between the two opinions would be the most just. We have, however, shown the punishment and the remedy not to be incompatible with each other.
+ Who, that knows any thing of the Jewish history, is at a loss for passages to justify the expression of the Saviour, and to acquit him of any harshness in the imputation ?
merciful and gentle kind; what was permitted to an uncircumcised heart among the Jews cannot be allowed among you.' It appears that the disciples themselves did not so clearly apprehend their Master's meaning, and were at that time not fully able to reconcile it to the precepts of Moses; when they were alone therefore with Christ, they asked him more particularly of this important subject; and he then gave them an ampler delineation of his intention. It is as follows: “ Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery against her; and whoso marrieth her which is put away, doth commit adultery. And if a woman shall put away her husband,* and be married to another, she committeth adultery.”
We now see that the Saviour makes the nearest approach to the indissolubility of the nuptial bond, which, circumstanced as human nature is, can be done. He declares the necessity for some permission, but the restriction of it to one cause, which is thenceforth to prevail. It would be impossible but that
Instances of the use of this liberty, by the Jewish women, have already been given. The precedent of Salome followed by Herodias and others.
offences should come, and some avenue is left open to escape the inconveniences which the absolute indissolubility of this bond would occasion.
The clause of exception which has just been noticed as mentioned twice by Saint Matthew, has indeed been omitted in the Gospels of both Mark and Luke: but this must be considered as understood in the two latter cases, or the harmony of Scripture will be violated : it is impossible to rest the supposition the other way, since the terms are explicit, and repeated a second time, and therefore cannot be supposed to be mis-stated ; whereas no injury is done to the text by the other hypothesis, which holds the excepted case to be clearly and avowedly understood. This is the only method of reconciling the statements of the respective Evangelists.
It must be now considered what this one cause really is; and the question resolves itself into the literal meaning of the terms employed. The word, in the original, is IIopvera: a term, on the interpretation of which, Selden remarks ; “ Difficultas, maximè quâ cruciari solent scriptores ;" but which, when carefully investigated, does not appear so difficult to define. Os av Atohuon Tony yuvaixa AUTOU, ER leo SIITTOPVEIQ, XQL gaunoi aamun porxatab, xam o atoupenou younous, porxatas. Now, Iloprsia, in its largest sense, implies general whoredom ; although, in the Sacred Writings, it is frequently employed to express simple fornication between unmarried persons, as distinguished from youxera, Adultery; arengsid, lasciviousness; and axabapoia, uncleanness. But it also expresses whoredom in a married woman, incestuous whoredom,* and all kinds of lewdness committed by such ; and, by a figure, has been applied to the idolatrous worship of apostate Christians.
The sense, however, in which it is employed by Christ, is to be sought.
That it could never be meant to express fornication committed in a single state, and before matrimony, is sufficiently clear. Several writers have diligently laboured to establish this position, but in vain.t Their arguments have chiefly rested on that expression in the Epistle to the Corinthians : " He that is joined to an harlot is one flesh;" | and, connecting it with the same
† See, particularly, Madan's Thelypthora, in three volumes; and Whitby.
1 1 Cor. vi. 16.
expression in the institution of the marriage rite, they contend that this passage ought to receive such an interpretation. But what would be the principle of such an interpretation? It would be, that every casual union, unhappily so frequent in wealthy and populous cities, would become a valid bond of matrimony, render the persons of the parties unalienable from each other, and forever disqualify the individual who has accidentally united her person with one man, from ever becoming the wife of another. This is an alarming explication of the maxim, “ Concubitus facit matrimonium.” It would expose the matrimonial contract to an extremity of danger, and involve the operation of it in an extent of guilt that would be perfectly appalling. Besides, this “ detestable inference,” as it has been properly designated, of nothing more being necessary to marriage than carnal knowledge, would suppose that no such crime as fornication could exist : that no woman could be an harlot; for she must, before her crime, be a virgin ; in consequence of it, a wife ; and by a repetition of it, be made an adulteress; and where, then, would be the meaning of those terms by which the crimes of this wretched class of females are denominated and denounced in the Scriptures ?