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But this is not all; for such an interpretation appears to annihilate the prohibition of Divorce itself; because, if the marriage bond be not dissolvable by reason of the divine institution of marriage, (what God hath joined let not man sever;) and if this casual connexion be a valid bond of matrimony, it must follow that God hath been the author of this connexion ; and what, then, becomes of his own denunciation, “ whoremongers and adulterers God will judge ?” And, if fornication is to be the sure bond before marriage, Adultery could never be admitted for the dissolution of it, nor for the power of re-marriage afterwards. These consequences appear to have been partially foreseen by the supporters of the hypothesis under consideration, for they admit the power of re-marriage after a dissolution, and this destroys their whole argument; for, if the casual intercourse before alluded to, renders the persons unalienable, much more so would the fixed condition of marriage. But the hypothesis is utterly unsustainable. It has been well stated by the learned Ecclesiastical Judge, who presides in the Court of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, that “ No ante-nuptial misconduct can be pleaded as a ground for a sentence of Divorce. The subsequent marriage is justly considered a
waver of all antecedent misconduct. If it were otherwise, consequences the most dangerous would ensue. If the conduct of the one party before marriage could be inquired into, that of the other would be equally open to judicial investigation, and this would render cases of this description so frequent, that no end could be foreseen to the inconveniences that would arise out of it.” .
Far is it from being wished that the least palliation should be considered as extended to the criminal intercourse of the sexes, under any circumstances. The whole spirit of the Saviour's precepts is directed against it,* and the New Testament must be examined in all its parts ; but when consequences so alarming flow from a forced interpretation of a precept, explicable in a much more obvious manner, and productive under that explication of no such results, but marked by a wisdom and a propriety altogether the reverse, it is not difficult to say to which of the interpretations we should affix the probability of correctness.
The interpretation given to the term TopVEIA in this Essay, is Adultery. True, by the Jewish law, fornication and Adultery were ever dis
* See, particularly, Matt. v. 28. and Gal. v. 5.
tinguished from each other, both in name and in the mode of punishment. Yet it is clear that the Saviour employs the term here, as a generic term, comprehending all licentious sin ; but by the nature of the transaction, and the relative situation of the parties, it is easily to be detached from its general, and applicable to its particular purpose.
And, taking the term in its widest signification, What is unchastity? What is fornication in a married woman? It is Adultery. Adultery, in other words, is a crime accumulated upon that offence, which, in all unmarried persons, would be fornication.* This is the plain and strict meaning of the Saviour. The rule was new. It both surprised and offended his hearers ; but he added nothing to relax it. Indeed, on the contrary, he refuses to qualify or soften it, but leaves it just as he had pronounced it. “ All men,” he replies, “cannot receive this saying, save they to whom
* This application of the term is admitted by Gibbon, he says, “ progresa, as signifying fornication, cannot be strictly applied to matrimonial sin;" though, in the passages which contain this observation, he displays his usual acrimony, and seems anxious to reflect upon it, as “ an ambiguous term, flexible to any interpretation that the wisdom of a legislature can demand.” It is hoped this part of the Essay will discountenance such an insinuation.
it is given ; but he that is able to receive it, let him receive it." And thus the best commentators have ever understood it. Selden affixes this meaning to it. So do Hammond, Beza, Doddridge, Scott, and many others.
Selden says, “ Priore notione ad conjugium seu Divortium attinere nequit fornicatio, nisi de Divortiæ ob stuprum ante nuptias, seu sponsalia admissere capias,” and this idea he rejects; and adds, “ Secunda igitur, seu quæ significat Adulterium, seu conjugii violationem denotat, hic auferenda, si recte fornicatio illicitum conjugis concubitum.” And then he subjoins the readings of several versions which all bear the same way. · Ut tam Syro quam Arabi sic acceptam legislati, et interpretatur plerique, (the Syriac and Arabic.) And also the translation of the old Gallican Church. It is subjoined for its curiosity ; “Tut cil que lerout leur femmes hors pur acheson de fornication, il la fait estre fornicaire, et cil que prenont femme en tel manier lessie, fit advoutire."*
Selden's inference is very just on the con
* « Avoutire est Adulterium.”
“ Florentini avolterio dicunt.”
vertible terms employed in the first and second divisions of this version. “ Plane Adulterium et fornicatio hic sumentur pro synonimis." Another old version makes them still more clear, by reciprocally employing the terms “ lecherie et advowterie.” Luther's old version has it " whordom and advowtry.” And the references in the margins of our English Bibles, while, in many instances, they show the use of the term fornication to be in its generic character, yet, in others, absolutely require the interpretation of it to be exclusively Adultery.
Taverner's translation has the verse thus ; “ Whosoever shall put away his wyfe, excepte it bee for whoredome, causeth her to play the whore; and whoso marrieth her that is devorced, is an whoremonger.” That is, as fornication signifies no more than the unlawful connexion of unmarried persons; this term cannot be used in this sense with propriety, when speaking of those who are married.
The meaning of the word is now considered sufficiently clear. Divorce is allowed, but exclusively for the incontinence of the married parties; all other is for ever barred. And with regard to this permission, it may be here remarked, that some light may be thrown on the note in page 26, on the law of