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the case will, I think, convince us, that from it nothing can be concluded as to Christ's opinion concerning adultery, either one way or the other. This transaction is thus related : “Early in the morning Jesus came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him : and he sat down and taught them. And the Scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act: now Moses, in the law, commanded that such should be stoned ; but what sayest thou? This they said tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lift up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin amongst you, let him first cast a stone at her; and again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground : and they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last; and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lift up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers ? hath no man condemned thee? She said unto him, No man, Lord. And he said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.”
“This they said tempting him, that they might have to accuse him ;" to draw him, that is, into an exercise of judicial authority, that they might have to accuse him before the Roman governor, of usurping or intermeddling with the civil government. This was their design; and Christ's behaviour throughout the whole affair proceeded from a knowledge of this design, and a determination to defeat it. He gives them at first a cold and sullen reception, well suited to the insidious intention with which they came : “He stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the
ground, as though he heard them not.”: “ When they continued asking him,” when they teased him to speak, he dismissed them with a rebuke, which the impertinent malice of their errand, as well as the sacred character of many of them, deserved : “He that is without sin (that is, this sin) among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” This had its effect. Stung with the reproof, and disappointed of their aim, they stole away one by one, and left Jesus and the woman alone. And then follows the conversation which is the part of the narrative most material to our present subject. “Jesus said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers ? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.” Now when Christ asked the woman, “Hath no man condemned thee?” he certainly spoke, and was understood by the woman to speak of a legal and judicial condemnation; otherwise, her answer, “No man, Lord,” was not true. In every other sense of condemnation, as blame, censure, reproof, private judgment, and the like, many had condemned her; all those indeed who brought her to Jesus. If then a judicial sentence was what Christ meant by condemning in the question, the common use of language requires us to suppose that he meant the same in his reply; “Neither do I condemn thee,” i. e. I pretend to no judicial character or authority over thee; it is no office or business of mine to pronounce or execute the sentence of the law.
When Christ adds, “Go, and sin no more,” he in effect tells her, that she had sinned already : but as to the degree or quality of the sin, or Christ's opinion concerning it, nothing is declared, or can be inferred, either way.
Adultery, which was punished with death during the Usurpation, is now regarded by the law of England only as a civil injury; for which the imperfect satisfaction that money can afford may be recovered by the husband.
INCEST. In order to preserve chastity in families, and between persons of different sexes, brought up and living together in a state of unreserved intimacy, it is necessary by every method possible to inculcate an abhorrence of incestuous conjunctions; which abhorrence can only be upholden by the absolute reprobation of all commerce of the sexes between near relations. Upon this principle, the marriage as well as other cohabitations of brothers and sisters, of lineal kindred, and of all who usually live in the same family, may be said to be forbidden by the law of nature.
Restrictions which extend to remoter degrees of kindred than what this reason makes it necessary to prohibit from intermarriage, are founded in the authority of the positive law which ordains them, and can only be justified by their tendency to diffuse wealth, to connect families, or to promote some political advantage.
The Levitical law, which is received in this country, and from which the rule of the Roman law differs very little, prohibits* marriage between relations, within three degrees of kindred; computing the generations, not from, but through the common ancestor, and accounting affinity the same as consanguinity. The issue, however, of such marriages are not bastardized, unless the parents be divorced during their lifetime.
The Egyptians are said to have allowed of the marriage of brothers and sisters. Amongst the Athenians a very singular regulation prevailed ; brothers and sisters of the half-blood, if related by the father's side, might marry; if by the mother's side, they were prohibited from marrying. The same custom also
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* The Roman law continued the prohibition to the descendants of brothers and sisters without limits. In the Levitical and English law there is nothing to hinder a man from marrying his great-neice.
probably obtained in Chaldea so early as the age in which Abraham left it; for he and Sarah his wife stood in this relation to each other: “ And yet, indeed, she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not of my mother; and she became my wife.” Gen. xx. 12.
POLYGAMY. The equality* in the number of males and females born into the world, intimates the intention of God, that one woman should be assigned to one man; for, if to one man be allowed exclusive right to five or more women, four or more men must be deprived of the exclusive possession of any; which could never be the order intended.
It seems also a significant indication of the Divine will, that he at first created only one woman to one man. Had God intended polygamy for the species, it is probable he would have begun with it; especially as, by giving to Adam more wives than one, the multiplication of the human race would have proceeded with a quicker progress.
Polygamy not only violates the constitution of nature, and the apparent design of the Deity, but produces to the parties themselves, and to the public, the following bad effects : contests and jealousies amongst the wives of the same husband; distracted affections, or the loss of all affection, in the husband himself: a voluptuousness in the rich, which dissolves the vigour of their intellectual as well as active faculties, producing that indolence and imbecility both of mind and body, which have long characterized the nations of the East; the abasement of one half of the human species, who, in countries where polygamy obtains, are degraded into mere instruments of physical pleasure to the other half; neglect of children; and the manifold and sometimes unnatural mischiefs which arise from a scarcity of women. To compensate for these evils, polygamy does not offer a single advantage. In the article of population, which it has been thought to promote, the community gain nothing* : for the question gain is not, whether one man will have more children by five or more wives than by one; but whether these five wives would not bear the same or a greater number of children to five separate husbands. And as to the care of the children when produced, and the sending of them into the world in situations in which they may be likely to form and bring up families of their own, upon which the incréase and succession of the human species in a great degree depend; this is less provided for, and less practicable, where twenty or thirty children are to be supported by the attention and fortunes of one father, than if they were divided into five or six families, to each of which were assigned the industry and inheritance of two parents.
* This equality is not exact. The number of male jnfants exceeds that of females in the proportion of nineteen to eighteen, or thereabouts; which excess provides for the greater consumption of males hy war, seafaring, and other dangerous or unhealthy occupations.
Whether simultaneous polygamy was permitted by the law of Moses, seems doubtfulf: but whether per
* Nothing, I mean, compared with a state in which marriage is nearly universal. Where marriages are less general, and many women unfruitful from the want of husbands, polygamy might at first add a little to population ; and but a little : for, as a variety of wives would be sought chiefly from temptations of voluptuousness, it would rather increase the demand for female beauty, than for the sex at large. And this little would soon be made less by many deductions. For, first, as none but the opulent can maintain a plurality of wives, where polygamy obtains, the rich indulge in it, while the rest take up with a vague and barren incontinency. And, secondly, women would grow less jealous of their virtue, when they had nothing for which to reserve it but a chamber in the huram; when their chastity was no longer to be rewarded with the rights and happiness of a wife, as enjoyed under the marriage of one woman to one man. These considerations may be added to what is mentioned in the text, concerning the easy and early settlement of children in the world.
# See Deut. xvii. 17; xxi. 15.