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MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE.
At first sight there is the appearance of discordance between the passages in the 5th and 19th of St. Matthew and the passages in St. Mark and St. Luke, respecting Divorce: the two former mak. ing an exception of fornication; the two latter making no such exception. But on an attentive consideration, the passages appear to be reconcileable with each other; and the inference to be drawn
; from all of them taken together is, that the contract of marriage is indissoluble. The proposition affirmed in the 5th of St. Matthew is, that “ whosoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” In the 19th the proposition is, that" a husband putting away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, and marrying another, commits adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery.
In the 10th of St. Mark is the same affirmation, without the exception, but with the addition, that "if a woman shall put away her husband and be married to another, she committeth adultery.”
" In the 16th of St. Luke the affirmation is the same as in the 19th of St. Matthew, saving that there is no exception of the cause of fornication. The apparent difference of the passages is, that the two former seem to afford an inference that fornication is an allowable cause of divorce, and that in the latter it is forbidden absolutely without any exception. To understand the passages aright, it is necessary to observe, that our Saviour is not laying down or pro. wulgating any new law, or abrogating or altering the existing Mosaic law; he merely points out and forewarns his hearers of the real crimes they would fall into by putting away their wives, which the law in certain cases was supposed to allow. These crimes are enumerated in the several passages, and are as follow: viz.
1st. Causing the wife put away to commit adultery, i. e. by exposing her to the engaging in a second marriage.
2nd. The commitment of adultery by the husband himself by a second marriage.
3rd. The commitment of adultery by the second husband, in the marriage of the divorced woman.
4th. The adultery of a woman putting away her husband, and making a second marriage.
There is still another party who may be drawn into adultery; viz. the second wife of the husband who is particeps criminis, or becomes an adultress. It is to be further remarked, that the crime is not described to be completed in the simply putting away, but in the second marriage of either party. The liberty of putting away is not expressly denied; but the use of it is condemned, as contrary to the original institution of marriage, and as leading and tempting to the commission of heinous crimes. Christ does not say, that whosoever putteth away his wife is guilty of a breach of the law; but that he exposes his wife and himself to the temptation to commit adultery in second marriages, and to draw others into the same crime. The question now arises upon the meaning of the exception, and how far it operates. As the proposition affirms, that whoever puts away his wife causes her to conimit adultery, so the exception is a negation of it in the case excepted; and therefore the putting away a wife guilty of fornication, and marrying another, is not the commitment of adultery. How then are the passages containing the exception, to consist with those which make the affirmation without it, and therefore absolutely? Is not this a contradiction? Whether it is or not, depends on the construction of the word fornication.
That fornication must bear a distinct meaning from that of the word adultery, is obvious from what has been before observed It is a crime which married persons cannot commit; it is the illicit intercourse of unmarried persons; if either is married, it is adultery in both. From hence it necessarily follows, that if a wife has been guilty of fornication, the commitment of the fact must have been antecedent to the marriage. This would vitiate the marriage ttb initio, for by the 22nd of Deuteronomy, 28, 29, if a man lay with a virgin not betrothed, she was to be his wife, and he might not put her
away all his days; consequently, being the wife of the man who debauched her, she could not be the wife of the man to whom she
· The liberty of a wife putting away an husband in any case, does not appear to have been allowed by any law in the Pentateuch. It probably was nevertheless practised under the authority of the Misna or the Talmud.
was subsequently married. It is a corollary, that not only might the husband lawfully put her away, but in so doing he could not subject himself to the crime of adultery in marrying another, por could he be the cause of adultery in the wife by any subsequent marriage she might enter into. The exception, therefore, is reconcileable to, and is consistent with, those passages wherein it is not expressly contained: the wives spoken of in the two latter being understood to be real and lawful wives, and the fornicating woman in the former, not being the real and lawful wife of the husband putting her away, he could not be chargeable, in so doing, with the crime of adultery. It is moreover to be observed, that by the law in 22nd Deuteronomy, a woman who had lost her virginity before marriage was to be put to death. The husband had therefore a double ground to warrant his putting her away.
That it was a clear and justifiable ground of putting away is indisputable, from the secret determination which Joseph had taken to put Mary away, upon his discovery of her pregnancy. No guilt is imputed to that intention; but on the contrary, the message by the angel justifies it, by grounding his recommendation not to fear taking her to wife, on the disclosure to bim of the fact that the pregnancy did not proceed from the cause he had supposed, but the operation of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord no where admits the dissolubility of marriage in any case whatsoever; all the four passages are direct denials of it. All that the exception bears under any construction is, that in the case it puts, the husband will not incur the guilt of adultery; which if the natural signification of the word is allowed, is free of doubt. This construction removes any apparent inconsistency of our Lord's doctrine with the law in 24th Deuteronomy. The word uncleanness, in that chapter, may be properly restricted to the signification of some bodily disease, or impurity, or defect, or other cause of iusuperable disgust to the husband. If used in this sense, the liberation of the parties from the marriage by the putting away and bill of divorce, may be considered to be founded upon the deception practised on the husband, by the concealinent of the cause of disgust till the discovery in the marriage bed; and allowing such deception as a just ground of rendering the marriage void ab initio. Whether in the use of the word fornication our Lord refers to this law or not, may be questionable; but the conclusion will be the same, because in either case the marriage was originally invalid.
It is possible, that in the term fornication he might include the uncleanness contemplated in the law, but it is not possible to suppose that Moses meant, in the term uncleanness, to describe fornication. Because it is absurd to imagine that he meant to give a woman, who had been guilty of a crime which subjected her to capital punishment, a qualification, by bill of divorce, to marry again. Our Lord throughout the sermon on the Mount, illustrates the new principle, as well as the beauty and excellence of his doctrines, by placing his precepts in contrast with the particular laws he quotes or refers to. The Law was, in its moral and political branch; given for the government of the Jews as a nation, and to regulate the ontward conduct of its individuals towards its supreme governor, as well as towards each other; enforcing its injunctions by punishments of estreme severity. So long as his outward conduct did not infringe the letter of the Law, or no breach of it could be proved against him, the individual might barbour the most wicked thoughts and designs, and be guilty of the most vicious secret practices; nay, like the Pharisees, he might hypocritically, by an outward appearance of punctilious observance of the letter of the Law, claim credit for superior sanctity of character. The ruling principle of obedience to the Law, was fear of its vengeance and penalties. The new principle of thought and action our Lord promulgated, was that of love. He ascended to and purified the fountain head of the stream, and in lieu of a slavish and cautious compliance with the legal prohibitions and injunctions, he seeks to create an active impulse in a contrary direction; substituting, as the ruling motive, the noble desire of doing good for the base fear of doing
evil, and extinguishing every thought and inclination to the latter in its birth. Thus, while
the Law can reach no further than the regulation of the outward cooduct, his precepts take their root in and regulate the seat of thought and origin of action, the heart. All his injunctions are calculated to excite voluntary movements, to inflame the mind with the love of virtue, and impel it to active benevolence, not from fear, but of its free choice and as its ruling passion. All his subjects he invites to be, and seeks to make free men; instead of being, as heretofore, the slaves of sin and the terrors of the Law. His soldiers are all to be volunteers, and their distinctive badge is zeal for good works. To them may be applied the poet's line: “Oderunt peccare boni virtutis amore," and not “poenæ timore.” Our Lord's design was to restore, or rather recreate the divine image in the soul of man; and the soul, thus renewed, must be full fraught with love and admiration, and imbued with a taste for and a desire of imitation of the divine perfections. Our Lord, in his discourse on the Mount, after describing in the beatitudes the dispositions of mind and heart, which are to qualify for the kingdom of Heaven, and declaring that he came not to destroy but fulfil the Law, (i. e. as well in its prophetic signification as in exact conformity to its precepts in principle and conduct, and that the righteousness of his disciples must be of a different character from that the Scribes and Pharisees, (the whole of which consisted in a scru