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remedy is an injury. A divorce cannot be effected without violating the ends of marriage, however much the cause may justify the measure; and the results of this crime are thus perceived to be, a total destruction of that union of hearts and interests which the conjugal state implies, a breach of the marriage compact, a blot upon domestic peace, an effectual impediment to the education of offspring, an alienation of affection, and a fruitful spring of bitter hatreds, raging jealousies, and deadly feuds.
But it is proper to hasten from these preliminary observations, to consider,
The regulations of the Mosaic Law, and the customs of the ancient Hebrews.
Before the giving of the Jewish Law, there was no instance of Adultery, (at least, on record, and, therefore, no mention of Divorce. The patriarchal ages were distinguished by a simplicity and purity, which rendered unnecessary those strict regulations for which the progress of corruption afterwards imperatively called. Eusebius remarks, that their own piety was their unwritten law; so that, with respect to the subject of the present Essay, they were safely trusted with that liberty of marriage and divorce, which it was certain they would not abuse.* The polygamy of some of the patriarchs is generally accounted for on the principles of necessity. The writers of the early church, and several modern writers of note, have justified and explained it in this manner: “ Donec mundus repleretur,” is an expression of Tertullian, and of Eusebius also. Another cause for it has been found in the desire so generally felt by them to become the parent of the promised seed. But there are instances among them of a voluntary restraint, even in this liberty. Noah, Isaac, and others, afford specimens of forbearance from repeated marriage, which strongly aid the suppositions just made. But the intercourse with Egypt succeeded to the time of these good men, and this led to the indulgence of that licentious liberty, which called for the restraints which the Mosaic code was afterwards to furnish.t
In considering that code, the first thing which requires to be observed, is, the distinc
* Φυσικους γαρ του λογισμούς και νομους αγραφους, την ορθην της αρετης διευθυναντες πορειαν, και περαν των σαρκος ηδονων, επι τον πανσοφον και θεοσεβη Βιον διαβεβηκοτες αναγράφονται.
Præp. Evang. lib. vii. cap. 8. p. 309. † The eighth chapter of Eusebius contains some interesting remarks on this subject, and is well worthy the attention of the scholar.
tion which exists between the moral and the judicial law. By the latter, many things were, from the necessity of the case, and the peculiar circumstances of the people, connived at, which were not at all countenanced by the former. This would have maintained a strictness, which the other was, in a degree, compelled to relax. Perhaps it is to this source that we may trace the various mistakes which have occurred in the writings of many on this subject, who have otherwise reasoned well, but have failed to remark this distinction. The judicial law of Moses was not to be regarded as the interpreter of the moral: the doctrines of Christianity afford the interpretation. These we shall afterwards consider, but we may now observe, that those imputations which would fasten on the Mosaic law the stigma of a moral laxity, not to say profaneness, when placed beside the stricter ethics of the New Testament, are most unjust. Doubtless, the difference of the outward provisions of the two systems was great, but certainly not such as to justify an aspersion of this kind, which seems to have originated in a loose view and confused apprehension of the varied nature of the two dispensations, and a forgetfulness of those customs imbibed from the soil of Egypt, which preceded the judaical economy, and on
which it was a restraint of great moral importance.
We come now to the enactments of that law itself. The first sentence, in relation to the subject of Adultery, is found in the second table of the Decalogue.* This verse contains an express prohibition of the crime, in terms as explicit as the circumstances under which it was uttered were impressive and awful. It is a simple prohibition: no reason is added, for the reason was unnecessary: it is one of those crimes which carries its own condemnation in its name, and immediately and sufficiently justifies its own prohibition. It has been already observed, that it annihilates the very end of marriage, and entails after it the greatest miseries and acutest sufferings. ,
This prohibition of the Decalogue has, however, received a wider interpretation than that which would restrict it to this crime. Many of the etymologists and commentators contend, that it restrains, not only the gross act of adultery, but all illicit coition, and all unnatural lusts. This has been the received opinion of many eminent Jews and Christians, though others limit it to the breach of conjugal faith. Philo and Tertullian state, that some Greek copies of the Decalogue, extant in their time, placed this precept before that relative to murder, and they contend adultery to be the greater evil of the two. To this, however, it may be replied, that Moses no where gives so weighty a reason against this crime, as he did against the other, when he said, “ In the image of God made he man."
* Exodus xx. 14.
With regard to other unnatural crimes, they are made the subject of express prohibition in other parts of the divine law, and made capital ; except, indeed, fornication ; the punishment of this, if committed against a virgin, was a fine of fifty shekels and an obligation to marry her without the power of divorce. We shall consider the Seventh Commandment, then, as referring to Adultery, in the usual acceptation of the term, defined in Leviticus xviii. 20, as “ lying carnally with a neighbour's wife."*
.לא תנאף The terms of the prohibition are
The Arabic root, from which the Hebrew word, 98), is a derivative, signifies, “ to satiate the thirst by drinking ;" situm explevit potu: and the sacred writers appear to have made the exact application of this term in the comparisons which they institute in relation
* Levit. xviii. 20.