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served with what society fornication is classed; with murders, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. I do not mean that these crimes are all equal, because they are all mentioned together; but it proves that they are all crimes, The apostles are more full upon this topic. One well known passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, may stand in the place of all others; because, admitting the authority by which the apostles of Christ spake and wrote, it is decisive: "Marriage and the bed undented is honourable amongst all men; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;" which was a great deal to say, at a time when it was not agreed, even amongst philosophers themselves, that fornication was a crime.
The scriptures give no sanction to those austerities, which have been since imposed upon the world under the name of Christ's religion; as the celibacy of the clergy, the praise of perpetual virginity, the prokibitio concubitds cum gravida uxore; but with a just knowledge of, and regard to, the condition and interest of the human species, have provided, in the marriage of one man with one woman, an adequate gratification for the propensities of their nature, and have restricted them to that gratification.
The avowed toleration, and in some countries the licensing, taxing, and regulating of public brothels, has appeared to the people an authorizing of fornication; and has contributed, with other causes, so far to vitiate the public opinion, that there is no practice of which the immorality is so little thought of or acknowledged, although there are few in which it can more plainly be made out. The legislators who have patronized receptacles of prostitution, ought to have foreseen this effect, as well as considered, that whatever facilitates fornication, diminishes marriages. And, as to the usual apology for this relaxed discipline, the danger of greater enormities, if access to prostitutes were too strictly watched and prohibited, it will be time enough to look to that, when the laws and the magistrates have done their utmost. The greatest vigilance of both will do no more, than oppose some bounds and some difficulties to this intercourse. And, after all, these pretended fears are without foundation in experience. The men are in all respects the most virtuous, in countries where the women are most chaste.
There is a species of cohabitation, distinguishable, no doubt, from vagrant concubinage, and which, by reason of its resemblance to marriage, may be thought to participate
of the sanctity and innocence of that estate; I mean the case of hept-mistresses, under the favourable circumstance of mutual fidelity. This case I have heard defended by some such apology as the following:—
"That the marriage-rite being different in different countries, and in the same country amongst different sects, and with some scarce any thing; and, moreover, not being prescribed, or even mentioned in Scripture, can be accounted for only as of a form and ceremony of human invention: that, consequently, if a man and woman betroth and confine themselves to each other, their intercourse must be the same, as to all moral purposes, as if they were legally married; for the addition or omission of that which is a mere form and ceremony, can make no difference in the sight of God, or in the actual nature of right and wrong."
To all which it may be replied,
1. If the situation of the parties be the same thing as marriage, why do they not marry 1
2. If the man choose to have it in his power to dismiss the woman at his pleasure, or to retain her in a state of humiliation and dependence inconsistent with the rights which marriage would confer upon her, it is not the same thing.
It is not at any rate the same thing to the children.
Again, as to the marriage-rite being a mere form, and that also variable, the same may be said of signing and sealing of bonds, wills, deeds of conveyance, and the like, which yet make a great difference in the rights and obligations of the parties concerned in them.
And with respect to the rite not being appointed in Scripture;—the Scriptures forbid fornication, that is, cohabitation without marriage, leaving it to the law of each country to pronounce what is, or what makes, a marriage; in like manner as they forbid thefts, that is, the taking away of another's property, leaving it to the municipal law to fix what makes the thing property, or whose it is; which also, as well as marriage, depend upon arbitrary and mutable forms.
Laying aside the injunctions of Scripture, the plain account of the question seems to be this: It is immoral because it is pernicious, that men and women should cohabit, without undertaking certaiu irrevocable obligations, and mutually conferring certain civil rights; if, therefore, the law has annexed these rights and obligations to certain forms, so that they cannot be secured or undertaken by any other means, which is the case here, (for whatever the- parties may promise to each other, nothing but the marriage ceremony can make their promise irrevocable), it becomes in the same degree immoral, that men and women should cohabit without the interposition of these forms.
If fornication be criminal, all those incentives which lead to it are accessaries to the crime, as lascivious conversation, whether expressed in obscene or disguised under modest phrases; also wanton songs, pictures, books ; the writing, publishing, and circulating of which, whether out of frolic, or for some pitiful profit, is productive of so extensive a mischief, from so mean a temptation, that few crimes, within the reach of private wickedness, have more to answer for, or less to plead in their excuse.
Indecent conversation, and by parity of reason all the rest, are forbidden by St. Paul, Eph. iv. 29. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth;" and again, Col. iii. 8. "Put off—filthy communication out of your mouth."
The invitation, or voluntary admission, of impure thoughts, or the suffering them to get possession of the imagination, falls within the same description, and is condemned by Christ, Matt. v. 28. "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Christ, by thus enjoining a regulation of the thoughts, strikes at the root of the evil.
The seducer practises the same stratagems to draw a woman's person into his power, that a switidler does to get possession of your goods, or money; yet the law of honour, which abhors deceit, applauds the address of a successful intrigue: so much is this capricious rule guided by names, and with such facility does it accommodate itself to the pleasures and conveniency of higher life!
Seduction is seldom accomplished without fraud; and the fraud is by so much more criminal than other frauds, as the injury effected by it is greater, continues longer, and less admits reparation.
This injury is threefold: to the woman, to her family, and to the public.
I. The injury to the woman is made up of the pain she suffers from shame, or the loss she sustains in her reputation and prospects of marriage, and of the deprivation of her moral principle,
1. This pain must be 'extreme, if we may judge of it from those barbarous endeavours to conceal their disgrace, to which women, under such circumstances, sometimes have recourse; comparing also this barbarity, with their passionate fondness for their offspring in other cases. Nothing but an agony of mind the most insupportable can induce a woman to forget her nature, and the pity which even a stranger would shew to a helpless and imploring infant. It is true, that all are not urged to this extremity; but if any are, it affords an indication of how much all suffer from the same cause. What shall we say to the authors of such mischief?
2. The loss which a woman sustains by the ruin of her reputation, almost exceeds computation. Every person's happiness depends in part upon the respect and reception which they meet with in the world; and it is no inconsiderable mortification even to the firmest tempers, to be rejected from the society of their equals, or received there with neglect and disdain. But this is not all, nor the worst. By a rule of life, which it is not easy to blame, and which it is impossible to alter, a woman loses with her chastity the chance of marrying at all, or in any manner equal to the hopes she had been accustomed to entertain. Now marriage, whatever it be to a man, is that from which every woman expects her chief happiness. And this is still more true in low life, of which condition the women are who are most exposed to solicitations of this sort. Add to this, that where a woman's maintenance depends upon her character (as it does, in a great measure, with those who are to support themselves by service) little sometimes is left to the forsaken sufferer, but to starve for want of employment, or to have recourse to prostitution for food and raiment.
3. As a woman collects her virtue into this point, the loss of her chastity is generally the destruction of her moral principle; and this consequence is to be apprehended, whether the criminal intercourse be discovered or not.
II. The injury to the family may be understood, by the application of that infallible rule, "of doing to others what we would that others should do unto us."'—Let a father or a brother say, for what consideration they would suffer this injury to a daughter or a sister; and whether any, or even a total, loss of fortune, could create equal affliction and distress. And when they reflect upon this, let them distinguish, if they can, between a robbery, committed upon their property by fraud or forgery, and the ruin of their happiness by the treachery of a seducer.
III. The public at large lose the benefit of the woman's service in her proper place and destination, as a wife and parent. This, to the whole community, may be little; but it is often more than all the good which the seducer does to the community can recompense. Moreover, prostitution is supplied by seduction; and in proportion to the danger there is of the woman's betaking herself, after her first sacrifice, to a life of public lewdness, the seducer is answerable for the multiplied evils to which his crime gives birth.
Upon the whole, if we pursue the effects of seduction through the complicated misery which it occasions, and if it be right to estimate crimes by the mischief they knowingly produce, it will appear something more than mere invective to assert, that not onehalf of the crimes, for which men suffer death by the laws of England, are so flagitious as this.*
A New sufferer is introduced, the injured husband, who receives a wound in his sensibility and affections, the most painful and incurable that human nature knows. In all other respects, adultery on the part of the man who solicits the chastity of a married woman, includes the crime of seduction, and is attended with the same mischief.
The infidelity of the woman is aggravated by cruelty to her children, who are generally involved in their parents' shame, and always made unhappy by their quarrel.
If it be said that these consequences are chargeable not so much upon the crime, as the discovery, we answer, first, that the crime could not be discovered unless it were
• Yet the law has provided no punishment for this offence beyond a pecuniary satisfaction to the injured family; and this can only be come at, by one of the quaintest fictions in the world; by the father's bringing his action againBt the seducer, for the loss of his daughter's service, during her pregnancy and nurturing.
committed, and that the commission is never secure from discovery; and secondly, that if we excuse adulterous connections, whenever they can hope to escape detection, which is the conclusion to which this argument conducts us, we leave the hushand no other security for his wife's chastity, than in her want of opportunity or temptation; which would probably either deter men from marry ing, or render marriage a state of such jealousy and alarm to the husband, as must end in the slavery and confinement of the wife.
The vow, by which married persons mutually engage their fidelity, "is witnessed before God," and accompanied with circumstances of solemnity and religion, which approach to the nature of an oath. The married offender therefore incurs a crime little short of perjury, and the seduction of a married woman is little less than subornation of perjury ;—and this guilt is independent of the discovery.
All behaviour which is designed, or which knowingly tends, to captivate the affection of a married woman, is a barbarous intrusion upon the peace and virtue of a family, though it fall short of adultery.
The usual and only apology for adultery is, the prior transgression of the other party. There are degrees, no doubt, in this, as in other crimes: and so far as the bad effects of adultery are anticipated by the conduct of the husband or wife who offends first, the guilt of the second offender is less. But this falls very far short of a justification; unless it could be shown that the obligation of the marriage vow depends upon the condi tion of reciprocal fidelity; for which construction there appears no foundation, either in expediency, or in the terms of the promise, or in the design of the legislature which prescribed the marriage rite. Moreover, the rule contended for by this plea has a manifest tendency to multiply the offence, but none to reclaim the offender.
The way of considering the offence of one party as a provocation to the other, and the other as only retaliating the injury by repeating the crime, is a childish trifling with words.
"Thou shalt not commit adultery," was an interdict delivered by God himself. By the Jewish law, adultery was capital to both parties in the crime: "Even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be putto death." Levit. xx. 10. Which passages prove, that the Divine Legislator placed a great difference between adultery and fornica
tion. And with this agree the Christian Scriptures; for, in almost all the catalogues they have left us of crimes and criminals, they enumerate " fornication, adultery, whoremongers, adulterers," (Matthew xv. 19.1 Cor. vi. 9. Gal. v. 9. Heb. xiii. 4.); by which mention of both, they show that they did not consider them as the same; but that the crime of adultery was, in their apprehension, distinct from, and accumulated upon, that of fornication.
The history of the woman taken in adultery, recorded in the eighth chapter of St. John's Gospel, has been thought by some to give countenance to that crime. As Christ told the woman," Neither do I condemn thee," we must believe, it is said, that he deemed ,ier conduct either not criminal, or not a crime, however, of the heinous nature which we represent it to be. A more attentive examination of 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. The ction 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 1 This they said tempting him, that they might have to accuse lum. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the gTound, 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 con, science, 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 inter
meddling 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 th$ husband.
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 halfblood, if related by the father's side, might marry; if by the mother's side, they were prohibited from marrying. The same custom also 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.
* 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-niece.
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 an 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 characterised 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 - t for the question is not, whether
* This equality is not exact. The number of male infants exceeds that of females in the proportion of nineteen to eighteen, or thereabouts; which excess provides for the greater consumption of males by war, seafaring, and other dangerous or unhealthy occupations.
+ 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 lens by many deductions. For, first, as none but