תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

customs and usages of each people, for whom those laws may have been enacted ; but it is considered, that the customs and usages of a people so often originate, or modify, or explain their laws, and are always so closely connected with them, that an analysis of the latter would be next to impracticable, without a distinct reference to the former ; and with respect to the treatment of these great subjects by the ancient nations of the world, but particularly the two most conspicuous in the annals of literature and science, it was considered that allusion to them was essential to the history of the case; and it has been desired, that nothing should be omitted which may render the investigation as full and complete as the subject itself is interesting and important. For this purpose, the outline of these observations should perhaps be of an historical character; and in order to reduce them as much as possible to clearness and method, it may be better to treat progressively of the laws and customs of the different countries and nations, as they have severally existed in order of time: this arrangement may, perhaps, a little invert the line marked out in the Thesis, but it will not essentially disturb it, and may probably contribute to the increased clearness of the discussion. Still the

as

most important part of the Essay will be held to be the accurate investigation of the doctrines of the Scriptures on these subjects; and this, as well because the authority of laws promulgated from such a source, possess an influence, and assert a claim, paramount to all others; as also, because the Thesis seems to mark out this as the chief object of the Essay, an object, as interesting in itself, as has been noble and generous the feeling which has called into exercise this and other competing efforts for its elucidation.

These prefatory remarks are necessary to clear the space on which the Essay itself is to rest, and to state distinctly the received import of the Thesis: and this view of the subject naturally leads to the following arrangement.

It is proposed, then,

First.—To investigate the regulations of the Mosaic Law, in relation to these subjects of Adultery and Divorce, and the customs of the ancient Hebrews founded upon it.

Secondly.—To state the various enactments and practices of the Greeks and Romans in the codes of their legislators, and the customs of their people.

Thirdly.-To inquire into the laws which the Saviour of the world and the Founder of the Christian Faith propounded on these subjects, with the opinions of the Apostles, the Fathers of the Christian Church, the usages of primitive Christians, and the edicts of Christian Emperors.

Fourthly.-To mention some of the laws and practices of various countries subsequently to that time ; of England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the East : confined, however, with one or two exceptions, to their ancient history ; and, then,

Fifthly.-To conclude by some observations on the whole view of the case, and certain questions arising out of it, which may tend to place the miscellaneous facts and circumstances previously stated, in a more compendious form, and elicit from them something which may coincide with the intention of the individual who has proposed the discussion.

It will be necessary, under these several divisions, to treat distinctly from each other the two subjects of Adultery and Divorce; and of the former always first, as the consideration of

the crime should precede that of the remedial enactment. The necessity of any inquiry into the origin and nature of the institution of marriage, or the dictates of the law of nature on the subjects under consideration, is precluded by the terms of the Thesis, and in passing at once to the subjects proposed, it may be premised, that throughout the Essay, as much effort as possible shall be made against any violation of refinement; but necessity will compel the introduction of many disgusting particulars which fidelity to the subject cannot omit.

The first thing which is necessary to a right apprehension of all reasoning, is a correct definition of the terms employed. A general definition of the two principal terms on which we have now to comment, may be given in the outset, but the more peculiar acceptation of them belongs to the several heads of the Essay.

Adultery, then, is that act by which the marriage bed of another is violated. It is an injury, “ Ad alterius thorum,from which, or as some have rendered it, “ Ulterius," or short, “ Adulter,it has derived its name of Adulterium or Adultery.

It is a crime which has this peculiar odium attached to it, that it has furnished a name to designate all foreign intermixtures, and when a departure from all purity and simplicity is

to be described by connexion with what is deteriorating and spurious, it is called adulteration. The crime of Adultery is repugnant to the very nature of matrimony, which of two makes one ; whereas, the other of one makes two. Properly speaking, Adultery is a crime which can only be committed with a married person. Both by the Jewish and the Roman laws, this was necessary to its existence. By our law, it is Adultery if either party be married.

The meaning of the word Divorce, is separation; its derivation is sufficiently plain from divertere, to turn away. The two kinds of Divorce, the one which severs from cohabitation merely ; the other, which dissolves the very vinculum or bond of marriage, shall be noticed more at large hereafter.

And now viewed thus, in connexion with each other, both cause and consequence compel a remark on the distressing appearances they present. Adultery does not appear a simple crime; it is lamentably complex, and generally in one form or other, besides the necessary attendants, lasciviousness and impurity ; its other associates are seduction and cruelty to children ; and, when viewed as committed against the obligation of a religious oath, it involves perjury also. Even the

« הקודםהמשך »