« PreviousContinue »
ried to you.
Turn, o backsliding children, for I am mar
Then God complains, ver. 20. Surely as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, fo have
'ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, faith the Lord of hosts.
It is the misfortune of ours, as of all arbitrary languages, to want + precision ; so that when we speak of adultery, we include in it every idea which is usually affixed to the word by custom, whether right or wrong. There is a * precision in the Hebrew language peculiar to itself; every word is derived from some fixed root, or is itself that root, which has a fixed and determinate meaning ; and though the word branch itself into ever so many different, and seemingly contradictory senses, yet the original idea contained in the root will always circulate, as the same fap from the root of a tree, will always flow through the stem to the several branches, be
+ One great reason of which is, the aptness of such languages to acquire new meanings by length of time. This is remarkably the case with ours; for instance, the word knave formerly meant a boy-a male child-then a fervant boy, and by degrees, any servant man. In some old English translations, I am told, that Taunos donos Inox Xpose, is rendered, Paul a knave of Jesus Christ. These meanings are obsolete, and now it signifies a petty rascal, a scoundrel, a dishonest fellow. See Phillips's Dict. and Johnson. So the word luft, which now generally, if not only, carries with it an idea of something filthy and unlawful, was used by the translators of the Bible to signify lawful desire, (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-wantonness-leachery" --so that its signification of desire, in a good sense, is totally excluded.But this cannot affect the import of the Hebrew Is, or the Greek επιθυμια. ŠTibuuld. Dr. Johnson (Dict. fub voc.) defines it by, 1. Carnal desire 2. Violent and irregular desire. See Pr. xxxiv. 12. Prayer Book Translation. Other instances of such mutation might be given. But this cannot be the case with the Hebrew language ; if it could, it must cease to be the word of God, and become the word, the uncertain word, of man.
In short, it would amount to a creation of new laws, which still must 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
which very conclufive reason, it is impossible that any word of the Old Testament can acquire a new meaning under the New Testament. Wherefore the word 23 adultery, can never admit of any other meaning or construction, than it received in the books of Moses and the prophets—what that was, will appear in the sequel.
How arbitrary languages have always been subject to change, by their being governed by falhion and custom, we may learn from Horace :
Mortalia facta peribunt, Nedum sermonum ftet honos, & gratia vivax. Multa renascentur, quæ jam cecidere : cadentque Quæ nunc sunt in honore vocabula ; si volet usus, Quem penes arbitrium eft, & jus & norma loquendi, All things shall perish, and shall words presume To hold their honours and immortal bloom? Many shall rise, that now forgotten lie, Others, in present credit, soon shall die, If custom will, whose arbitrary sway, Words, and the forms of language, must obey.
Francis. * The Hebretu language is worthy its omniscient author, equally free from deficiency or hyperbole : not so tho modern languages; they have indeed letters to form sounds, but the words they compose are arbitrary, uncertain, and frequently falfe. "Hutch. Abr. p. 41.
they ever so many. From the want of such precision in our language, we are apt to fix meanings to the words of scripture, which, when considered in the original, they will not bear : and in few are we more mistaken than in the meaning (the scriptural meaning) of the word adultery.
The words of the seventh commandment are-A8985—which we very properly tranflate--Thou shalt not commit adultery. But what is the true meaning of the word 987 adultery? The only certain way to know this, is to consider its uniform signification throughout the whole Hebrew Bible; and whoever doth this, will find that it is never used but to denote the defilement of a*betrothed or married woman ; except in the fie gurative sense above mentioned, with respect
* The learned authors of the Ant. Univ. Hift. vol. iii, p. 137. rightly observe, that “ adultery was punishable To 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 same, who committed adultery with an 66 unmarried woman.' This solecism of a married
“ a “ man's committing adultery with an unmarried woman," arises from the popular and improper ideas which are annexed to the English word adultery, and from not attending to the single and only idea annexed to the Hebrew NJ throughout the Bible. Consistently with this, Anthonius Matthæus, the civilian, affirms, that “ adul
tery cannot be committed between a married man and “ an unmarried woman.” This is certainly true ; because no trace of such an use of the word is to be found throughout the Bible.
And indeed, the fixing a determinate meaning to the word 9N3 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
was, therefore, too serious a matter to be left in a state of uncertainty, respecting what did or did not constitute the offence.
What Wetstein fays on Mark X. 12. is worth attending to on this point.-Potiora fuisse jura mariti quam uxoris inde manifestum eft, quia uxor jure & confuetudine Judæorum erat in manu ac poteftate viri. Porro uxor cum juvene rem habens, adulterii erat rea et morte punienda : non item vir rem habens cum innıpta ; quod etiam apud veteres Chriftianos obtinuit.
Βafil. Can. 21. Εαν ανηρ γυναικι συνοικων, επεία μη αρεθεις τω γαμω, εις πορνείαν εμπεση, πoρνoν κρινομεν τοιεγον-ου μενοι εχομεν κανονα τω της μοιχειας αυλον σαγαγειν εγκληματι, εαν εις ελευθερας γαμα η αμαρια γενήθαι.
μενοι πορνευσας και αποκλειθησέήαι της προς την γυναικα ανής συνοκησεως, ωςε και μεν γυνη επανιονία απο πορνειας τον ανδρα αυλη σαραδεξεθαι, ο δε ανηρ μιανθεισαν των οικων αυή αποπεμψει. Και τέλων δε ο λογος ου ραδιος, η δε συνηBeide 87W kerpeluxe.
" From hence it is manifeft, that the laws which re“ lated to the husband were more eligible than those “ which related to the wife, because, by the law and “ custom 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,
a " and to be punished with death. But it was not so “ with the husband who had an affair with an unmar“ ried woman, which also obtained among the antient
Christians." Bafil, Can. 21. “ If a man cohabiting ss with a wife, afterwards, not pleased with marriage, “ should fall into fornication, we judge such an one a “ fornicator.We have not any canon (or rule) to bring " him under an accusation of adultery, if the sin should “ be with a woman free from marriage-nor indeed shall " he that (thus) committeth fornication, be shut out “ from cohabitation with his wife : so that the wife shall “ receive the man returning from fornication to herself, " but the man thall send away from his house a defiled “ wife. The reason of these things is not easy to con“ ceive, but thus hath the custom prevailed.”
to idolatry, where the same idea is exactly prea served.
In Lev. XX. 1o. we have an accurate and clear explanation of the significant word 983 as well as of the commandment where it is found. If a man commit adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and adulteress fall surely 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 consider the exposition of the seventh commandment which Mofes was directed, by the Holy Spirit, to deliver to the rising generation, before their entrance into Canaan, from ver. 13. to ver. 29. inclusive, we shall find this idea uniformly preserved * throughout, See also Lev. xviii, 20.
So It is to be observed, that Bafil lived in the fourth century. If the above rule was of so long standing, as to be called ourndeid, a custom, it proves demonstrably, that the very early Christians did not consider adultery as relating to any thing but to the defilement of a married woman, and of course, that the interpreting the New Testament so as to rank polygamy with adultery, is a much more modern invention than is usually supposed.
Mæchatus eft, adulteravit, adulterium com“ misit. Prov. vi. 32. per metaphoram-Idola coluit. Jer.
Differt a 773; quod generaliter fcortari significat, ut liquet ex Ofeæ iv. 14. at hoc verbum non “ nifi in nuptam competit. Mercer in Pagn. “ R. Solomon Jarchi notat dici tantum de nupta.”
Leigh's Crit. Sacr. X" To commit adultery with matrons. See Litt. Diá. Machor. to adulterate, to commit adultery (with a “ married woman) Prov. vi. 29, 32-34. Metaphori3