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So strict is this law with regard to this offence, that it even reaches to the defilement of a betrothed woman, who, in God's fight, is reckoned as the man's wife to whom she is betrothed. If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman ; So shalt thou put away evil from Ifrael. Deut. xxii. 22. By these latter words we are taught, that the fin of adultery, like that of murder, was not to be looked upon merely as a personal offence, which was of no further consequence than to the parties committing it, but, if not punished as God commanded, brought guilt upon the
very land itself, which could only
's cally, to worship idols, Jer. iii. 9. It differs from "73), which fignifies whoring in general, as is plain “ from Hosea iv. 14. But this word only belongs to in" continency with a married woman.
" R. Solomon Jarchi observes, it is only used where a « married woman is concerned.'
Aben Ezra thinks, that it fignifies all illicit commerce, even whoredom-" But I fee, faith Grotius, on Exod.
xx. 14. that this word is taken by the Hebrews in the “ sense of adultery only, and so it is translated in this " and the other places where it is used, by the Greeks, “ Latins, and other interpreters.” See Leigh, ib. and margin.
The LXX always render it by qorxéuerv and porxãdal.
However, not to rely on the faithfulness of translators, the accuracy of lexicographers, or the wisdom of commen• tators, either critical or explanatory, we must have recourse to the word itself in the original ; and if we find, that in all its connections throughout the Hebrew scriptures, it never is used but in one single sense, we are not warranted to put any other upon it.
be put away by the punishment of the of fenders. Then follows ver. 22. If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city and lie with her, then shall ye bring them both into the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die : the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he HATH HUMBLED HIS NEIGHBOUR'S WIFE.
Such is the law of THE MOST HIGH against adultery, or the defilement of a man's wife. Yet it is not the object of our municipal law as any public offence whatsoever. The injured husband may bring a civil action for private damages; but neither the adulterer, nor the adulteress, can be indicted or punished, * as a public offender, by any one statute
throughout *" In the year 1650, when the ruling powers found « it for their interest to put on the semblance of a very “ extraordinary strictness and purity of morals; not only “ incest and wilful adultery were made capital crimes, “ but also the repeated act of keeping a brothel, or com“ mitting fornication, were (upon a second conviction) “ made felony without benefit of clergy. But at the re“ftoration, when men, from an abhorrence of the hypo
crisy of the late times, fell into a contrary extreme of “ licentiousness, it was not thought proper to renew a “ law of such unfashionable rigour. And these offences « have been ever since left to the feeble coercion of the
spiritual court, according to the rules of the canon law; « a law which has treated the offence of incontinence,
nay even adultery itself, with a great degree of tender“ ness and lenity; owing perhaps to the celibacy of its “ first compilers. The temporal courts therefore take no “cognizance of the crime of adultery, otherwise than " as a private injury." Blackftorte, vol. iv. p. 64. Id.
vol. i. 433
throughout our whole code of laws. How far this is seen to be for the comfort of society, and the honour of a Christian nation, let others determine; I can only say, that, if the law of God (which by the way is as clear and positive a law as can be conceived) took place, we should hardly hear of such daily offences against it, as now disgrace, dishonour, and defile the land. Such however is the consistency of our statute laws, such their conformity to the law of God, that they make a man a felon, and, but for the benefit of clergy, liable to suffer death, if he have two wives of his own; but he
seduce and debauch as many wives of other people, as may fall in his way, and he is free from punishment, except, as I said before, by way of civil action for the wrong
done to the husband. It is said, indeed, that “*our law confi“ ders marriage in no other light but as a “ civil contract, and leaves the holiness of the
marriage-state to the ecclesiastical courts ;” but surely in a Christian land, " the holiness
" “ of the marriage-state” ought to be an object of the municipal laws, as of infinitely greater consequence to the public, and to the
Bishop Burnet, in his history of the Reformation, speaking of the state of the church before that period faith_^ The unmarried state both of seculars and regu“ lars gave infinite scandal to the world ; for it ap
peared that the restraining them from having wives of “ their own, made them conclude that they had a right to all other men's : and the inferior clergy were no bet
See Crit. History of England, p. 141. * Blackstone Comm. VOL.I.
This we may
peace and welfare of society, than offences, which are properly deemed objects of their utmost severity. For what are the consequences of adultery, even in a temporal view? All its evils cannot be reckoned but only to mention a few :-It must introduce a total confufion as to the offspring, a defeating of rightful heirs, an utter obscurity as to family descents and pedigrees; for where adultery is, no man can know his own children, or even ostensible brothers and sisters ascertain their relation to each other : for which, as well as for many other wise causes, , doubtless it was (as well as to preserve the sanctity of the marriage-institution) made capital
the DIVINE LAWGIVER. humbly presume to be the case ; for this offence is introductory of that kind of disorder, which must, in the very nature of it, tend to destroy every bond of civil and religious society, and make the world, in a moral sense, a mere chaos.
Why then is adultery, notwithstanding it is so condemned by the positive law of God, so frequently, fo shamelessly, so openly practised ? It is because the law of God being disregarded in the conscience, and not enforced by the laws of the land in all its terror, its importance is not adverted to: for though outward laws may not reach the heart, yet, they frequently, by restraining the outward actions of men, may lead them to view such offences in a different light, than when there is no punishment attending them.
Such is the depravity of mankind, that we find the saying of the Preacher generally true: Because sentence against an evil work is not executed
speedily, therefore the heart of the fons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Eccl. viii. 11. Impunity begets security; and this must
produce and multiply transgresion.
As to those reliques of the Pope's tyranny in this country, commonly called the eccleßaftical courts *, their power is but very feeble ; for which I and every free Protestant ought to be thankful. This sort of imperium in imperio,
* An instance of the oppression of these courts, and the tyranny they exercise where they can, may appear from the following case :--Ann Jenkinson was presented at the primary visitation of the Archbishop of York, 1777, for fornication, she being with child by C. D. a single man. The case was, that the man had promised her marriage, not only privately to herself, but also before the Justice, when The swore C. D. to be the father of the child. He soon after married another woman.. The spiritual court proceeded against the poor girl, thus abandoned by the man, and without ever citing her, sent an excommunication down, which was red and returned accordingly. Another was cited on such an account, but could not take out her penance, because she could not pay a certain sum of money which was demanded : so that it is possible she may also have been excommunicated.
The late Mr. Shenstone, in his works, vol. ii. p. 258. 4th edit. gives several definitions of the word church. Among others is the following, viz.-“ A body of peo
ple who too frequently harrass and infest the laity ac« cording to law, and who conceal their real names un“ der that of a spiritual court.”
No man, says Bishop Burnet, was more sensible of the abuses of the court called the spiritual court, than Archbishop Usher was. No man knew the beginning and progress of them better, nor was more touched with the ill effects of them. Life of Bishop Bedell, p. 85.