Page images
PDF
EPUB

over the body of her husband be different now from what it was under the law, where it is called y, Exod. xxi. 10. which signifies "her stated times," expressed by St. Paul in the present chapter by the phrase, her due benevolence.' With regard to what is due, the Hebrew word is sufficiently explicit.s

"C

"9

9

On the other hand, the following passages clearly admit the lawfulness of polygamy. Exod. xxi. 10. "if he take him another wife, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage shall he not diminish." Deut. xvii. 17. "neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away." Would the law have been so loosely worded, if it had not been allowable to take more wives than one at the same time? Who would venture to subjoin as an inference from this language, therefore let him have one only? In such case, since it is said in the preceding verse, "he shall not multiply horses to himself," it would be necessary to subjoin there also, therefore he shall have one horse only. Nor do we want any proof to assure us, that the first institution of marriage was intended to bind the prince equally with the people; if therefore it permits only one wife, it permits no more even to the prince. But the reason given for the law is this, that his heart turn not away; a danger which would arise if he were to marry many, and especially strange women, as Solomon afterwards did. Now if the present law had been intended merely as a confirmation and vindication of the primary institution of marriage, nothing could have been more appropriate than to have recited the institution itself in this place, and not to have advanced that reason alone which has been mentioned.

Let us hear the words of God himself, the author of the law, and the best interpreter of his own will. 2 Sam. xii. 8. "I gave thee thy master's wives into thy bosom. and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things." Here there can be no sub

satis locupletes, arbitratur esse, ad me quod attinet, nihil quidem moror, quo minùs ita existimet.'-Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano, Symmons' ed. V. 237.

8

..Love's due rites, nuptial embraces sweet. Paradise Lost, X. 994. 9 Regi etiam futuro leges constituit, quibus cautum erat, ut ne multiplicet sibi equos, ne uxores, ne divitias, ut intelligeret nihil sibi in alios licere, qui nihil de se statuere extra legem potuit..... Ex quo perspicuum est,

terfuge; God gave him wives, he gave them to the man whom he loved, as one among a number of great benefits; he would have given him more, if these had not been enough. Besides, the very argument which God uses towards David, is of more force when applied to the gift of wives, than to any other, thou oughtest at least to have abstained from the wife of another person, not so much because I had given thee thy master's house, or thy master's kingdom, as because I had given thee the wives of the king. Beza indeed objects, that David herein committed incest, namely, with the wives of his father-in-law.' But he had forgotten what is indicated by Esther ii. 12, 13. that the kings of Israel had two houses for the women, one appointed for the virgins, the other for the concubines, and that it was the former and not the latter which were given to David. This appears also from 1 Kings i. 4. "the king knew her not." Cantic. vi. 8. "there are fourscore concubines, and virgins without number." At the same time, it might be said with perfect propriety that God had given him his master's wives, even supposing that he had only given him as many in number and of the same description, though not the very same; even as he gave him, not indeed the identical house and retinue of his master, but one equally magnificent and royal.

It is not wonderful, therefore, that what the authority of the law, and the voice of God himself has sanctioned, should be alluded to by the holy prophets in their inspired hymns as a thing lawful and honourable. Psal. xlv. 9. (which is entitled A song of loves) "kings' daughters were among thy honourable women," v. 14. "the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee." Nay, the words of this very song are quoted by the apostle to the Hebrews, i. 8. "unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, &c. as the words wherein God the father himself addresses the Son, and

regem æque ac populum istis legibus astrictum fuisse.' Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio. Prose Works, Symmons' ed. V. 59.

'Deinde, si valeret Ochini argumentum, profecto non tantum polygamiam sed etiam incestus probaret; si quidem consanguinei uxoris eodem gradu junguntur viro quo ipsi uxori. Itaque non magis licuit Davidi ducere uxoris suæ Michal novercas, quam suam ipsius novercam. Beza De Polygamia.

in which his divinity is asserted more clearly than in any other passage. Would it have been proper for God the Father to speak by the mouth of harlots, and to manifest his holy Son to mankind as God in the amatory songs of adulteresses? Thus also in Cantic. vi. 8-10. the queens and concubines are evidently mentioned with honour, and are all without distinction considered worthy of celebrating the praises of the bride: "there are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number...., the daughters saw her and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her." Nor must we omit 2 Chron. xxiv. 2, 3. "Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest: and Jehoiada took for him two wives." For the two clauses are not placed in contrast, or disjoined from each other, but it is said in one and the same connection that under the guidance of Jehoiada he did that which was right, and that by the authority of the same individual he married two wives. This is contrary to the usual practice in the eulogies of the kings, where, if anything blameable be subjoined, it is expressly excepted from the present character: 1 Kings 5. " save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” v. 11, 14. "and Aza did that which was right.... but the high places were not removed: nevertheless Aza's heart was perfect." Since therefore the right conduct of Joash is mentioned in unqualified terms, in conjunction with his double. marriage, it is evident that the latter was not considered matter of censure; for the sacred historian would not have neglected so suitable an opportunity of making the cus tomary exception, if there had really been anything which deserved disapprobation.

XV.

Moreover, God himself, in an allegorical fiction, Ezek. xxiii. 4. represents himself as having espoused two wives, Aholah and Aholibah; a mode of speaking which he would by no means have employed, especially at such length, even in a parable, nor indeed have taken on himself such a character at all, if the practice which it implied had been intrinsically dishonourable or shameful.

On what grounds, however, can a practice be considered dishonourable or shameful, which is prohibited to no one even under the gospel? for that dispensation annuls nore of

the merely civil regulations which existed previous to its introduction.2 It is only enjoined that elders and deacons should be chosen from such as were husbands of one wife, 1 Tim. iii. 2. and Tit. i. 6. This implies, not that to be the husband of more than one wife would be a sin, for then the restriction would have been equally imposed on all; but that, in proportion as they were less entangled in domestic affairs, they would be more at leisure for the business of the church. Since therefore polygamy is interdicted in this passage to the ministers of the church alone, and that not on account of any sinfulness in the practice, and since none of the other members are precluded from it either here or elsewhere, it follows that it was permitted, as abovesaid, to all the remaining members of the church, and that it was adopted by many without offence.

Lastly, I argue as follows from Heb. xiii. 4. Polygamy is either marriage, or fornication, or adultery; the apostle recognizes no fourth state. Reverence for so many patriarchs who were polygamists will, I trust, deter any one from considering it as fornication or adultery; for "whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;" whereas the patriarchs were the objects of his especial favour, as he himself testifies. If then polygamy be marriage properly so called, it is also lawful and honourable, according to the same apostle : marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled."

66

It appears to me sufficiently established by the above arguments that polygamy is allowed by the law of God: lest however any doubt should remain, I will subjoin abundant examples of men whose holiness renders them fit patterns for imitation, and who are among the lights of our faith. Foremost I place Abraham, the father of all the faithful, and of the holy seed, Gen. xvi. 1, &c. Jacob, chap. xxx. and, if I mistake not, Moses, Numb. xii. 1. “for he had married [a Cushite, Marginal Translation, or] an Ethiopian woman." It is not likely that the wife of Moses, who had been so often spoken of before by her proper name of Zipporah, should now be called by the new title of a Cushite; or that the anger of

Sciunt enim qui labris aliquanto primoribus evangelium gustarunt, ecclesiæ gubernationem divinam esse totam ac spiritualem, non civilem.' Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio. Prose Works, Symmons' edition, V. 196.

[ocr errors]

Aaron and Miriam should at this time be suddenly kindled, because Moses forty years before had married Zipporah; nor would they have acted thus scornfully towards one whom the whole house of Israel had gone out to meet on her arrival with her father Jethro. If then he married the Cushite during the lifetime of Zipporah, his conduct in this particular received the express approbation of God himself, who moreover punished with severity the unnatural opposition of Aaron and his sister. Next I place Gideon, that signal example of faith and piety, Judg. viii. 30, 31. and Elkanah, a rigid Levite, the father of Samuel; who was so far from believing himself less acceptable to God on account of his double marriage, that he took with him his two wives every year to the sacrifices and annual worship, into the immediate presence of God; nor was he therefore reproved, but went home blessed with Samuel, a child of excellent promise, 1 Sam. ii. 10. Passing over several other examples, though illustrious, such as Caleb, 1 Chron. ii. 46, 48. vii. 1. 4. the sons of Issachar, in number "six and thirty thousand men, for they had many wives and sons," contrary to the modern European practice, where in many places the land is suffered to remain uncultivated for want of population; and also Manasseh, the son of Joseph, 1 Chron. vii. 14. I come to the prophet David, whom God loved beyond all men, and who took two wives, besides Michal; and this not in a time of pride and prosperity, but when he was almost bowed down by adversity, and when, as we learn from many of the psalms, he was entirely occupied in the study of the word of God and in the right regulation of his conduct. 1 Sam. xxv. 42, 43. and afterwards, 2 Sam. v. 12, 13. "David perceived that Jehovah had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake and David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem." Such were the motives, such the honourable and holy thoughts whereby he was influenced, namely, by the consideration of God's kindness towards him for his people's sake. His heavenly and prophetic understanding saw not in that primitive institution what we in our blindness fancy we discern so clearly; nor did he hesitate to proclaim in the supreme council of the nation the pure and honourable motives to which, as he trusted, his children born in polygamy owed their existence. 1 Chron.

« PreviousContinue »