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Turn, O backfliding children, for I am married to you. Then GOD complains, ver. 20. Surely as a wife treacherously departs from her bufband, fo have ye dealt treacherously with me, O houfe of Ifrael, faith the Lord of hofts.
It is the misfortune of ours, as of all arbitrary languages, to want + precifion; so that when
+ One great reason of which is, the aptness of such languages to acquire new meanings by length of time. This is remarkably the cafe with ours; for inftance, the word knave formerly meant a boy-a male child-then a Servant boy, and by degrees, any fervant man. In some old English tranflations, I am told, that Пauλos duros Inov Xpis, is rendered, Paul a knave of Jefus Chrift. These meanings are obfolete, and now it fignifies a petty rafcal, a fcoundrel, a difhoneft fellow. See Phillips's Dict. and Johnson. So the word luft, which now generally, if not only, carries with it an idea of fomething filthy and unlawful, was used by the tranflators of the Bible to fignify lawful defire, (Deut. xii. 15. xiv. 26.) as well as that which is evil. In Phillips's Eng. Dict. 6th edit. 1706, the word luft is thus defined-"unlawful paffion or de"fire-wantonnefs-leachery"-fo that its fignification of defire, in a good fenfe, is totally excluded. But this cannot affect the import of the Hebrew, or the Greek Tilμia. Dr. Johnson (Dict. fub voc.) defines it by, 1. Carnal defire-2. Violent and irregular defire. See Pf. xxxiv. 12. Prayer Book Tranflation. Other instances of fuch mutation might be given. But this cannot be the cafe with the Hebrew language; if it could, it must ceafe to be the word of GOD, and become the word, the uncertain word, of man.
In fhort, it would amount to a creation of new laws, which still muft vary with the new use of words, and thus, from time to time, create new offences, in proportion to words acquiring new meanings. But the mind of GOD hath been graciously delivered to us in a language as unchangeable and fixed as itself. Therefore, what the words meant when recorded by the facred penmen, they mean to this hour, and will mean for ever-for
when we speak of adultery, we include in it every idea which is ufually affixed to the word by custom, whether right or wrong. There is a precifion in the Hebrew language peculiar to itself; every word is derived from fome fixed root, or is itself that root, which has a fixed and determinate meaning; and though the word branch itself into ever fo many different, and feemingly contradictory fenfes, yet the original idea contained in the root will always circulate, as the fame fap from the root of a tree, will always flow through the stem to the several branches, be
which very conclufive reafon, it is impoffible that any word of the Old Teftament can acquire a new meaning under the New Teftament. Wherefore the word N adultery, can never admit of any other meaning or conftruction, than it received in the books of Mofes and the prophets what that was, will appear in the fequel.
How arbitrary languages have always been fubject to change, by their being governed by fashion and custom, we may learn from Horace:
Mortalia facta peribunt, Nedum fermonum ftet honos, & gratia vivax. Multa renafcentur, quæ jam cecidere: cadentque Quæ nunc funt in honore vocabula; fi volet ufus, Quem penes arbitrium eft, & jus & norma loquendi,
All things fhall perish, and shall words prefume
*The Hebrew language is worthy its omniscient author, equally free from deficiency or hyperbole : not so the modern languages; they have indeed letters to form founds, but the words they compofe are arbitrary, uncertain, and frequently falfe. Hutch. Abr. p. 41.
they ever fo many. From the want of fuch precision in our language, we are apt to fix meanings to the words of fcripture, which, when confidered in the original, they will not bear and in few are we more mistaken than in the meaning (the fcriptural meaning) of the word adultery.
The words of the feventh commandment are--which we very properly tranflate-Thou shalt not commit adultery. But what is the true meaning of the word adultery? The only certain way to know this, is to confider its uniform fignification throughout the whole Hebrew Bible; and whoever doth this, will find that it is never ufed but to denote the defilement of a * betrothed
* The learned authors of the Ant. Univ. Hift. vol. iii, p. 137. rightly observe, that "adultery was punishable with death in both parties, whether they were both "married, or only the woman.' But, they add-" We << cannot affirm the punishment of a married man to have been the fame, who committed adultery with an "unmarried woman. This folecifm of "a married "man's committing adultery with an unmarried woman,” arifes from the popular and improper ideas which are annexed to the English word adultery, and from not attending to the fingle and only idea annexed to the Hebrew throughout the Bible. Confiftently with this, Anthonius Matthaus, the civilian, affirms, that "adul66 tery cannot be committed between a married man and 66 an unmarried woman.” This is certainly true because no trace of fuch an use of the word is to be found throughout the Bible.
And indeed, the fixing a determinate meaning to the word adultery, was of the utmost importance, for every man who committed adultery was guilty of a capital crime, and liable to be punished with death. This
trothed or married woman; except in the figurative sense above mentioned, with refpect
was, therefore, too ferious a matter to be left in a state of uncertainty, refpecting what did or did not constitute the offence.
What Wetstein fays on Mark x. 12. is worth attending to on this point.-Potiora fuiffe jura mariti quam uxoris inde manifeftum eft, quia uxor jure & confuetudine Judeorum erat in manu ac poteftate viri. Porro uxor cum juvene rem habens, adulterii erat rea et morte punienda: non item vir rem habens cum innupta; quod etiam apud veteres Chrif
Bafil. Can. 21. Εαν ανηρ γυναικι συνοικων, επειδα μια αρεσεις τω γαμω, εις πορνειαν εμπεση, πορνον κρινομεν τοιγλουτου μενῖοι έχομεν κάνονα τω της μοιχείας αυτον ύπαγα γειν εξκλημαζι, εαν εις ελευθεραν γαμε η αμαρτια γενηται μένοι πορνευσας εκ αποκλειθησεται της προς την γυναίκα αυτό συνομήσεως, ως η μεν γυνη επανιόντα απο πορνειας τον ανδρα αυτη παραδέξεται, ο δε ανηρ μιανθεισαν των οικων αυτό αποπέμψει. Και τέζων δε ο λογος ου ράδιος, η δε συνηθεία εξω κεκράτηκε.
"From hence it is manifeft, that the laws which re"lated to the husband were more eligible than those "which related to the wife, becaufe, by the law and "cuftom of the Jews, the wife was in the hand, and "under the power of the husband. Moreover, a wife having to do with a young man was guilty of adultery, "and to be punished with death. But it was not fo "with the hufband who had an affair with an unmar"ried woman, which also obtained among the antient "Chriftians."Bafil, Can. 21. "If a man cohabiting. "with a wife, afterwards, not pleafed with marriage, "fhould fall into fornication, we judge fuch an one a "fornicator.-We have not any canon (or rule) to bring. "him under an accufation of adultery, if the fin fhould "be with a woman free from marriage-nor indeed fhall " he that (thus) committeth fornication, be fhut out "from cohabitation with his wife: fo that the wife fhall "receive the man returning from fornication to herself, "but the man shall send away from his house a defiled "wife. The reason of these things is not eafy to con"ceive, but thus hath the cuftom prevailed."
to idolatry, where the same idea is exactly preferved.
In Lev. xx. 1o. we have an accurate and clear explanation of the fignificant word as well as of the commandment where it is found. If a man commit adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and adulterefs fball furely be put to death. What is here called committing adultery with his neighbour's wife, is called, Ezek. xviii. 11. defiling his neighbour's wife; and Prov. vi. 29. going in to his neighbour's wife. If we turn to Deut. xxii. and confider the expofition of the seventh commandment which Mofes was directed, by the Holy Spirit, to deliver to the rifing generation, before their entrance into Canaan, from ver. 13. to ver. 29. inclufive, we shall find this idea uniformly preserved * throughSee alfo Lev. xviii. 20.
It is to be observed, that Bafil lived in the fourth century. If the above rule was of fo long ftanding, as to be called ouvnbeid, a custom, it proves demonftrably, that the very early Chriftians did not confider adultery as relating to any thing but to the defilement of a married woman, and of course, that the interpreting the New Testament fo as to rank polygamy with adultery, is a much more modern invention than is ufually fuppofed. Mæchatus eft, adulteravit, adulterium com"mifit. Prov. vi. 32. per metaphoram-Idola coluit. Jer. iii. 9. Differt a quod generaliter fcortari fignifi66 cat, ut liquet ex Ofeæ iv. 14. at hoc verbum non "nifi in nuptam competit. Mercer in Pagn.
R. Solomon Jarchi notat dici tantum de nuptâ."
"To commit adultery with matrons. See Litt. Dict. Machor. to adulterate, to commit adultery [with a "married woman] Prov. vi. 29, 32-34. Metaphori→