Page images

appearance of the difference of opinion (at this day) among the Right Reverend Bench, and the delivery of doctrine at variance with that of the Church itself, inculcated in the marriage service? Appearances rejoiced at by her enemies, and deplored by her friends. Do not such evil consequences of the doubts of the true interpretation of so important a passage in the gospel, imperiously call for every effort for their removal?

It was the concern such a scene awakened in the mind of the writer of these remarks, which excited him to the investigation which gave rise to them. They were committed to paper as they occurred, for his own assistance and retrospection during the progress of his researches, and to keep alive his future recollections ; without any thought of the publication of them. It is in compliance with the recommendation, and in deference to the judgment of a much respected and esteemed friend, that they are offered to the public eye; with the view of provoking discussion, and stimulating some abler hand to complete that elucidation the writer has aimed at, and rescue our Holy Church from the opprobrium such a scene could not fail to cast upon it; and dispel from before the Holy Word, the cloud which buman error, and the blindness of buman interpreters, have raised to obscure its radiance.

But there are other, and more cogent reasons, which imperiously call for such an investigation. Parliament, which is, or ought to be, the guardian of the religion and morals, as well as of the rights of the nation, has, for a long course of years, been in the habit of passing Acts of Divorce, declaring the dissolution of marriages, on the application of individuals, on proof of the crime of adultery, and enabling the parties to marry again. If the construction resulting from these remarks is sound, can such acts be justitiable? Are they not highly criminal, as well as invalid? Are they not a direct violation and contempt of God's Law, in affecting the assumption of a power to dispense with, and release parties from its obligation? Do not they pronounce those to be put asunder whom God has joined together, and declared that man shall not put asunder? And do they not authorise, and affect to enable the parties to contract other marriages, which our Lord has in such emphatic terms forbidden, with the declaration that all who shall contract them shall become adulterers? But not only is the act itself a defiance of the Deity, in assuming a power to set at nought his Law; but by holding out the temptation to the parties to enter into other marriages, and drawing in those with whom they are contracted, to become partners in the adulteries committed thereby; does it not accumulate, on its own bead, the complicated guilt of all those adulteries ?, Parliament represents the nation, and all its enactments are national acts ; and who can say that they are not


sufficient (if knowingly committed, or persisted in) to expose the nation to become the subject of the tremendous denunciation in Jeremiah :“Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord; shall not my soul be avenged of such a nation as this?”

Is it fit that parties, who have, in compliance with the ritual of our Church, sworn and mutually pledged themselves to each other at the holy altar, and in God's presence,“ to have and to hold each to the other till death do them part,should be allowed to admit into their minds the idea of the possibility of the dissolution of such an engagement, by human authority?

After listening with deep interest and reverence, to the solemn admonition of the priest, declaring marriage to be an Holy Ordinance, instituted by God, and a type of the mystical union of Christ with his Church ; after the symbolic pledge given by the passing and receiving the ring, and the junction of their hands by the priest, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and having from his lips the awful sentence, in the very words of Christ, “ Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder"—What, on returning from this impressive scene, must the parties think of it, and feel, on being told, that (notwithstanding these awful admonitions and injunctions, and in the very teeth of those words, still sounding in their ears and penetrating their souls,) marriage is not indissoluble, but that its sacred bond, witnessed by God himself, and recorded in heaven, is cancellable by an earthly power, and that a release from it is purchasable by crime.

Is it not saying to them-Strong and unqualified as are the terms of your mutual oath, to adhere to each other till separated by death, Parliament can interpose between you and your Creator, and absolve you from its obligation. If you grow tired of each other, you, the wife, have only to be faithless to your husband's bed; or if you do not like that, you may feign it, and furnish (by placing yourself in highly suspicious circumstances,) presumptive evidence that you have been so; and, as was observed by the Chancellor) it need not be so strong in the case of private persons, as that adduced against the Queen, (though many of the Peers and a large portion of the nation were not convinced by it) and the fact (if you keep your counsel,) will be taken for granted. Parliament will, on the ground of it, put you asunder, and enable each of ye to please yourselves in other marriages, without subjecting you to the charge of adultery.

Is this--the wisdom, the truth, the sincerity of the doctrine of our Church-or the contrary interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, to be relied upon ? May not the contradiction of the one, by

the other, shake the faith of the weak and ignorant in both, and thus the purity of the bridal robe of the Church itself, be called in question ? Can the granting of such Acts (if the construction deduced be the true one) be too soon put an end to? or must we not expect the stroke of a bolt from heaven, red with uncommon wrath, as the just judgment of the Almighty, for such daring impiety, and rebellious contempt of his sacred Law?


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]






Your « Letter on the Rev. W. L. Bowles's Strictures" is not the least poetical of your works. The impassioned vindication of the poesy with which genius can surround all works in which the all-interesting mind of man can be employed, does no less honor to your feelings as a man, than to your taste as a poet. But disputants ever caricature the faults and burlesque the beauties of their antagonists, at the same time that they shade the defects and emblazon the merits of their friends. Your Lordship's chivalrous and enthusiastic zeal for Pope's character has led you to mistake principles and to misrepresent conduct. Your generosity engaged you to become the advocate of Pope, and your ardor in the cause of your client suggested what he required, not what truth and reason warranted. With the fervor of a poet too, you persuaded yourself that forcible statement and clear illustration were proofs of undoubted truth and unequivocal justice.

Your defence of Pope's moral character I admit to be as just as it is manly. Your picture of English cant possesses a moral truth and grandeur that shrivels up at once every fool's face that looks upon . it. You depart from truth, and nature, and poetry, when you represent Gray's Odes as encumbrances on the glory of his Elegy, and all your subsequent criticism is perverse and unjust. My reasons I shall assign with all the freedom, which, as a poet and as à critic, you invite.

« PreviousContinue »