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we be permitted to ask where he is to stop in his concessions? Would he concede to brothers freedom to marry their sisters? or to uncles permission to marry their nieces? Or would he permit a man to marry his father's wife? The Bishop of Llandaff also appears not disinclined to grant relaxations even beyond what Mr. Wortley asks for; though he does not express himself very distinctly. But seriously we would ask of those who advocate the subversion of the Table of Prohibited Degrees, and the reversal of the judgments of the Church of England, what ground they can possibly take in order to prevent the marriage of uncles and nieces, brothers and sisters. If there are no prohibitions of such connexions in the Word of God now binding on Christians -if all restrictions are merely created by human law, then it will be absolutely impossible to maintain them against pressing demands for the removal of all restraints on the liberty of individuals, and against the lax and immoral practice of the Church of Rome, and of those bodies on the Continent which are nominally connected with the Reformation. If we take our stand on the principle of the Church of England, that marriages within the prohibited degrees are forbidden by the Word of God, our position is clear, firm, and consistent; but if we once permit ourselves to descend from this ground of our own Church to argue the question on grounds of expediency, policy, domestic advantage, or abstract morality alone, we forsake the only position from which we can protect the country and the Church from the pollution of sanctioning a number of connexions which every Christian would now look upon with abhorrence. Can those who argue from the law of nature alone maintain their ground successfully against a demand for liberty to marry several wives? There are instances in Scripture of men marrying their wives' sisters during the lifetime of their wives; many instances of polygamy; many of concubinage combined with polygamy; others of marriages between brothers and sisters, fathers-in-law and daughters-in-law, uncles and nieces, and other connexions of the same kind; which will at once prove, that connexions of almost any kind are reconcilable with men's feelings and sense of right and wrong.
We have hitherto been considering the bearing of Mr. Wortley's, or any similar Bill on the interests of the Church of England and on general morality. We have been writing for and to the members of the Church of England exclusively, because the question affects them almost entirely. To other religious communions it is a matter of comparatively trifling importance. But we must now proceed briefly to state the grounds on which we believe that the Church of England is perfectly right in her repeated declarations on this subject. And here we cannot do better
than avail ourselves of Mr. Bennett's clear and cogent reasoning in the excellent pamphlet which we have mentioned at the head of these pages.
"The passage of Scripture, upon which the Table of Degrees is chiefly based, is the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus.
"II. Here the first question which meets us is, whether the precepts contained in this chapter are binding on Christians; in other words, whether they belong to the moral law, or only to the ceremonial or political law of the Jews'.
"(1.) To determine this question, first, let my readers refer to the passage itself. It will be obvious to any one who reads it, that the whole chapter is in contrast with heathen practices;-those of Egypt and Canaan. God relates in the beginning of it that there were certain 'doings' of the land of Egypt, which the Israelites had just left, and of the land of Canaan, whither they were going, after which they should not do: After their doings shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances :' but 'ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances,' and my statutes,' 'which if a man do, he shall live in them : I am the Lord.' After this preamble (so to speak), the Divine law on the subject follows, forming the main body of the chapter, to which is appended the solemn admonition, 'Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things for in all these things the nations are defiled which I cast out before you.' Now, if the practices forbidden in these precepts were accounted sins when done by the heathen, and drew down God's wrath on them, it is plain that the prohibitions belong to that law which is binding on all nations, i. e. the moral, and not the ceremonial or judicial laws, which were intended for the Jews alone.
(2.) Another argument may be drawn from the words which God here uses to denote the nature of the sins forbidden. They are called (and the words are emphatically repeated in successive verses) 'defilements,' and' abominations;' and they are spoken of as defiling the land in which they were committed. Expressions so strong, and such as these, would not have been applied to the transgressions of merely ceremonial precepts.
"(3.) It may be noted, also, that these laws are given separately from the judicial laws on the same subject. In Levit. xviii. these things are laid down simply as things not to be done. What related to the judicial law of the Jewish people, seems to be recorded in another place, (viz. in the twentieth chapter,) where the same degrees are mentioned again, with special penalties annexed to intermarriage within them.
'(4.) Again: let those who contend that the law of marriage, which God has given in Scripture, belongs only to the ceremonial or political law, say in what light they regard the sacred ordinance of marriage itself. Are they prepared to consider this as a merely civil or cere
2 See Article vii.
4 See ver. 24-30.
3 See ver. 3—5.
monial institution? If not, let them beware of relaxing on this plea the restrictions with which God has fenced it round, lest they insensibly lower their own and other men's views of the holiness of the state of matrimony itself.
‘(5.) I may add further, that it would be contrary to the analogy of all the other dealings of God with men on this subject to suppose that more licence is given to Christians than was to the Jews. The constant course of God's dealings, from the beginning of the world, has been gradually to increase the restrictions on marriage, and so to draw the bond closer, and render the union more holy in the eyes of men, by the fences placed around it. The Creator made it necessary, in the first generation after Adam, that brothers should marry their sisters. Abraham, for whatever cause, was permitted to marry his niece, if not his half-sister. Jacob married two sisters at once; Jochabed, the mother of Moses and Aaron, was aunt to her husband. By the law which God gave to Moses, the licence formerly permitted in these and other instances was abridged. But polygamy was still practised, of which David and Solomon afford sufficient examples; and divorces 'for every cause' were yet allowed to the Jews by the law itself, for the hardness of their hearts";' but by the Gospel of Christ the licence in these respects was restrained. Polygamy became unlawful for Christians, and divorce was restricted to the cause of fornication alone. It would appear, therefore, to have been the uniform tenor of God's dealings with men, under each successive dispensation, to lay increased restrictions on the licence of marriage. And as the Christian Church was intended to be the home of a higher degree of purity than found shelter either in the Jewish or Patriarchal Church, it would be contrary to all the revealed designs of God to suppose that what was forbidden to the Jews in these respects is allowed to Christians. So strongly did the Church, in the early ages of Christianity feel the force of this, that they, we know, did, whether wisely or not, increase the restrictions on marriage amongst themselves to a much wider extent even than the law of God in Scripture obliged them.
"(6.) Lastly, these laws were considered, as weil by the ancient Jewish authorities, as by the general consent of the Christian Church, to be not confined to the Jews alone, but to be intended for heathens and Christians also "."
"It is hoped that enough has now been said to establish beyond a doubt, that the prohibitions in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus are binding on mankind universally as part of the moral law of God."
These arguments are substantially the same which were employed by Cranmer and the other English Reformers, in the sixteenth century, against the advocates of Romish laxity. The
6 See Matt. xix. 8, 9.
7 See Questions 439, 470, and 471, p. 45, in Report of Commissioners. See also Hammond on this point, vol. i. of his works.
first principle on which the doctrine of the English Church on this point depends, viz., that the Levitical prohibitions of marriage are binding on Christians, has thus been satisfactorily established.
The next point which we have to prove, is, that all the prohibited degrees contained in our Table are prohibited by the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus. Mr. Bennett proceeds thus:
"The sixth verse, which stands at the head of God's statutes on this matter, at once enunciates the principle on which all these prohibitions rest, and declares the law, of which the following verses contain particular instances :-'None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him;' 'I am the Lord.'
Here, then, we find a law, expressed in general terms, which directly forbids any who are 'near of kin' to marry together. Our question, therefore, is now brought to this,-What is meant by that nearness of kin' here spoken of? and how far does it extend? If it can be shown that nearness of kin,' according to the intention of this law of God, includes every degree of relationship set forth in the table, then it must be admitted that this law obliges persons so related together in every case, 'not to approach' each other; in other words, 'that whosoever are related within these degrees are forbidden in Scripture' 'to marry together.'
"(1.) Now, first, it will not be disputed that the nearness of kin,' which is the foundation of these prohibitions, must be supposed to reach through all those cases enumerated in the following verses; and as we find amongst these, the instances of a son's wife, a brother's wife, a father's brother's wife, and a wife's daughter and granddaughter, it is evident that the nearness of kin' here spoken of must be taken to include cases of affinity as well as of consanguinity; and of these, some that are quite as remote in degree as any instances of consanguinity to which it is extended.
"(2.) Secondly, it cannot be denied that there are some degrees of nearness of kin, not expressly mentioned in these verses, within which it is impossible to suppose that marriage was intended to be permitted, e. g. a grandmother and a daughter. The principle, then, will not hold good in this case, that whatever is not specifically forbidden is permitted. It is necessary to think that some more instances are comprehended under the general prohibition in ver. 6, besides those enumerated in the following verses."
"(3.) But how, then, are we to know the extent of the application here contended for? How must we ascertain what those other instances are which are prohibited by virtue of verse 6, and yet are not expressed in the following verses? It is necessary and easy to suppose that a daughter and a grandmother are included, but what others? One simple rule of interpretation will remove every difficulty. Whatever
8 Ver. 14-17.
instances are exactly equal, or parallel, to those mentioned in the chapter, are to be esteemed as falling under the same prohibition.
"We have, then, arrived at this result, that the nearness of kin' which, according to the intention of God's law, is a bar to marriage, includes not only whatever is found specifically mentioned in the following verses of the same chapter, but whatever is equal or parallel to the instances therein given.
"(4.) It only remains to be said, that every degree expressed in the table is included under one or other of these two classes. There is not one degree prohibited in our laws at present which is not either explicitly mentioned in the eighteenth of Leviticus, or exactly equal to one that is there mentioned. The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable, that the relationship existing in each of these degrees is within the meaning of that nearness of kin' which, according to God's law in Leviticus xviii. 6, is a bar to marriage.
"(5.) It seems scarcely necessary to say more—this rule of parity of reason, or of relationship, on which the Church of England has proceeded in interpreting this chapter, and in constructing her Table of Degrees upon it, is almost self-evident. Without it no consistent interpretation of these laws can be arrived at. For no reason can be given why marriage with a father's brother's wife should be forbidden', which does not apply equally to a mother's brother's wife, which is not mentioned. No ground can be alleged for the exclusion of those instances of daughter and grandmother (some of the nearest degrees of consanguinity) to which I have before referred. Nor can any principle be discovered on which some degrees of affinity are omitted, which are nearer than others that are specifically mentioned, e. g. a wife's sister, which is as near as a brother's wife, or a wife's granddaughter, and nearer than a father's brother's wife. On the other hand, if this rule be adopted, all inconsistency is at an end. We learn to regard the chapter as forbidding all nearness of kin, and illustrating its meaning by some particular instances. The rule itself is found in its application to involve no more than two recognised principles of God's word, which are attested both by the general tenor and express declarations of Holy Scripture :—1st, That man and wife are, by God's ordinance, made one flesh;' whence it follows, that whoever is related to one by consanguinity, is to be accounted as related in the same degree to the other by affinity: and 2nd, That purity and incest are the same in both sexes'; whence it follows, that whatever prohibitions are made to a man in these laws, are to be understood as extending to a woman in the like case, and vice versâ, And the Table of Degrees, which is constructed on the eighteenth of Leviticus, interpreted by this rule, is seen to contain a reasonable and perfectly consistent law, all the parts of which are in harmony with each other, and rest on one intelligible principle, viz. that the nearness of
9 See ver. 14.
1 Gal. iii. 28. "In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female."