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inheriting their names and property. Having by their own crimes made their children bastards, they now seek to have those crimes legalized, and their penal consequences removed. This most audacious attempt could never have been made had not a prior compromise of principle taken place in Lord Lyndhurst's Bill, by which marriages celebrated previously within the prohibited degrees were legalized. This was a wrong step-it was a compromise of principle; but, as the same Bill contained enactments calculated to render the operation of the law against incestuous marriages for the future more stringent, we presume that the faults of the Bill were excused for its merits. From this mistaken concession, however, arose, we are persuaded, the attempt which is now being made to legalize all past and future marriages within certain of the prohibited degrees. And this is a sufficient warning for the future. If so comparatively small a concession in practice has been laid hold of, to urge a breach in the whole structure and theory of the Table of Degrees, what will be the result if that breach should actually be made? May it not be expected that tenfold encouragement will be given to incestuous marriages of all kinds? Persons who are guilty of such crimes will all buoy themselves up with the hope, that in a few years the Parliament will rescind the whole Table of Prohibited Degrees, and legalize all marriages contracted in opposition to it.
And now let us consider the position of the clergy, in case this or any similar Bill should pass into law. By Mr. Wortley's Bill the clergy are left at liberty to celebrate marriages within the prohibited degrees, and are not liable to any process in the Ecclesiastical Courts for performing them: that is to say, the clergy may at pleasure hold, in opposition to the doctrine of their Church, that marriages within the prohibited degrees are not forbidden by the law of God; and they may with impunity set the canon of the Church, which has up to the present moment been in force, at defiance.
We regret to see that there are some of the clergy who have, without sufficient consideration, set themselves in opposition to the doctrine of the Church of England in this matter. We may be mistaken; but such is our view of the authority and obligation of that doctrine in the English Church, that we hold it a matter very highly probable, that proceedings might be taken in the Ecclesiastical Courts against such persons, and censures inflicted upon them. We see that the Archbishop of Dublin has avowed his open dissent from the established doctrine on this point; and that he holds the Levitical law of marriage to be no longer binding. We should
be glad to think that the very indiscreet letters which have been written on the subject, and which are published in the Appendix to the Commissioners' Reports, were written without any attentive examination of the subject; but the truth is, that the principles put forth in these papers go to the denial of any obligation to attend to the Levitical law of marriage at all; and this is evidently a branch of that doctrine which has led the writer into errors on the subject of the moral law. Archbishop Whately is well known as a writer against the obligation of the Sabbath. He blots out the Fourth Commandment as of no obligation upon Christians; and we believe that the Bishop of Llandaff concurs in these views.
The fact is, however, that some of the clergy of the Church of England-comparatively few indeed, yet certainly some-do not object to marriages within the prohibited degrees, and have not apparently made up their minds as to which of those degrees ought to be retained as prohibited. If Mr. Wortley's Bill should pass, therefore, there would probably be several of the clergy who would act upon it, and perform such incestuous marriages.
But then, on the other hand, it is a matter of notoriety-the Report of the Commissioners admits the fact that the great majority of the clergy and of the laity of the Church of England disapprove of marriages within the prohibited degrees. It is a matter of certainty, also, that numbers of them regard those marriages as absolutely prohibited by the Word of God. The Bill itself is a concession to this strong feeling. Its concoctors knew that many of the clergy would not, for any earthly consideration, celebrate such marriages; no, not if twenty Acts of Parliament enjoined them to do so. They know that there are conscientious objections in the minds of many to such marriagesthat they are regarded by them as incestuous, and forbidden by God's law. Here then we have the prevalent opinion and feeling of the Church of England. What would be the result if particular clergy should be found celebrating such marriages? The result would be, that they would be looked on by the majority of the clergy and laity as men of unsound principles, and as patrons of immorality. They would be regarded as men who were habitually violating the rules of their own Church, grounded on the belief of that Church, that certain Scriptural prohibitions are still binding-men who availed themselves of the protection of an Act of Parliament, to act in opposition to the established rules of their own Church-who were only saved from censure and suspension by the intervention of the temporal power. We feel confident that such would be the feeling in the minds of very many members of the Church, when they behold their ministers
or their brother clergy thus acting in opposition to the laws of the Church and the laws of God. We feel confident that the influence of many a clergyman would be most fatally injured in his own parish were he to act on Mr. Wortley's Bill, and celebrate incestuous marriages. We feel certain, also, that he would be looked on with disapprobation, and that his conduct would be severely censured by numbers of his brother clergy. All this might seem to be, and would no doubt be, called great bigotry and intolerance; but it would really be quite impossible to avoid it, if men were guilty of performing marriages which the Church holds to be incestuous.
Now then let us take another side of the question. What would be the position of the clergy who should refuse to celebrate such marriages? In the first place, their refusal would be considered, by persons seeking to contract such marriages, as a mere matter of private choice or scruple, since such marriages would be legal, and some of the clergy would celebrate them, A clergyman would therefore be obliged to fall back on his private opinion in order to excuse himself from celebrating marriages of this kind between his parishioners. If he were to appeal to the canons, he would be told that they are no longer binding on him; if he still maintained their obligation in spite of an Act of Parliament, he would be charged with "Puseyism." In short, it would come at last to his own private choice and opinion, as he could not pretend that there would be any penalty on him for celebrating the marriage. Under these circumstances, if he should refuse, it would very commonly be made a matter of personal offence. would raise up personal enemies by his refusal. He might have to speak his mind very plainly to his parishioners, and to tell them that he considered any such unions as sinful and forbidden by God's law. In many places, especially where there were clergy of contrary principles in the neighbourhood, a question would thus be raised, which would lead to continual strife and division, and place a clergyman in great difficulties.
The proposed interference with the laws of the Church of England with regard to marriages, is of a very different character from any mere interference with the Rubrics or disciplinary regulations of the Church. Any alterations, even in the Rubrics, would give much dissatisfaction; but here the alteration is attempted to be made in a great point of moral doctrine-a point which touches the deposit of the Christian faith. If the Church is not the guardian of such a matter as that of the prohibited degrees of marriage-if it does not constitute one of her first duties, to ascertain carefully the laws of God in such matters, and neither to go beyond them, nor to fall short of them, we know not what
her office is. The question is really a momentous one for the Church-it is whether she has been a faithful guardian of the law of God in relation to marriages; or whether she has mingled with her creed judaical errors, and imposed them on her members. Those who want to subvert the Table of Prohibited Degrees, virtually accuse the Church of England of judaizing. In any question of this kind far deeper interests are at stake, and far more important questions are pending, than would be the case in any mere abolition of Rubrics or of canonical regulations. The attempt is now to sanction what the Church has declared to be incest, prohibited by Holy Scripture.
It seems to us that it were an extreme act of injustice to the Church of England to hold out encouragement (as is done by this Act) to her ministers to violate a canon grounded on the unvarying belief of the Church. It seems to us that the Church ought to be exempt from such interference with her doctrine and her discipline. If certain persons are anxious for relief, let them not seek to gain it by subverting the established doctrine and discipline of the English Church. Let them not seek for the sanction of a religion which has always denounced such persons as guilty of incest, and which cannot possibly now turn round on all its laws and principles. The State can legalize any marriages whatever in the eye of the temporal law. To the State and the State only should be the application of such persons; but it is really an outrage on the Church to endeavour to release her Clergy and laity from obedience to her great principles of moralityand religion. The Commissioners report that the Dissenters have no objection to marriages within the prohibited degrees. We are sorry to hear it; but we have no doubt that if they think themselves aggrieved by being so restrained, the legislature will relieve them. The same may be said of Romanists. If any sect feels their need of relief from such restrictions, they will of course petition for relief. We have, however, no evidence that there is any feeling of the kind prevalent in any religious communion. In the Church of England it is admitted, even by the very partial Report of the Commission on the Law of Marriage, that the general feeling is against such marriages, as it is also strongly in the Presbyterian Kirk in Scotland. In the Church of England alone is the performance of incestuous marriages absolutely prohibited by the principles and law of the Church. This constitutes a wide difference between our case and that of other communities. They would not suffer by any alteration in the law; but we should suffer in very many ways. And yet, notwithstanding this, it is the Church of England that is singled out by this Bill for especial interference. The Ecclesiastical Courts of the Church
of England are prohibited by Clause 2 from annulling or pronouncing void certain incestuous marriages. The clergy of the Church of England, "clergyman or other person," are, by Clause 3, declared not to be liable to any action in any Ecclesiastical Court of the Church of England for celebrating such incestuous marriages. "Licences" are to be granted by functionaries of the Church of England, i. e. by chancellors, surrogates, &c. in the name of the Bishops of the Church of England, for the celebration of such incestuous marriages! The Church of England is specially singled out by the Act, which scarcely seems to recognise the existence of Dissent or Romanism. It is an Act wholly intended for the Church of England. Why does not the Bill restrict itself to the case of those who are not members of the Church of England? They seem to have no objection to such marriages; and if the Bill had been to relieve them, we should have been less surprised at the proposal: but here, without any demand from the Church of England, nay, in admitted opposition to the wishes of the majority of her members, a Bill is introduced, which, in order to legalize certain illegal and incestuous marriages, subverts the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England; authorizes the Clergy to rebel against the canons of their Church; prevents the Ecclesiastical Courts from punishing incest; calls on the Bishop to licence incestuous marriages; demolishes the authority and moral influence of the Table of Prohibited Degrees; opens the way for infinite licentiousness; sows the seeds of permanent dissension in the Church; affords a triumph to her bitterest enemies; and supplies them with new arguments and inducements to persuade unstable minds to forsake her communion. Such is the Bill which Mr. Wortley has been persuaded to introduce. A greater and more audacious outrage on public morality, and on the Bishops, the Clergy, and all the members of the Church of England, we have never heard of.
We must be here permitted to ask one question of the advocates of this measure. On what do they propose to build any future restrictions on marriage? The Archbishop of Dublin speaks contemptuously of those who produce any arguments from Leviticus against marriage with a deceased wife's sister. He says, "As for the allegations from the Levitical law, if any one brings them forward in sincerity, he should be prepared to advocate adherence to it in all points alike; among others, the compulsory marriage of a brother with his deceased brother's widow." If then, submission to the prohibitions of the Levitical law in this matter be so very absurd, on what are we to found any restrictions on marriage? If the Archbishop of Dublin holds the Levitical prohibitions to be of no obligation on Christians, may