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life-time." Lev. xviii. 18. From which it is inferred, that if she be dead, it is lawful to marry her sister. For why,' say the objectors," lay any stress up
on the circumstance of her being alive? Why say, “ in her life time,” if, after her death, the marriage of her sister is unlawful ?'
. It is amazing, that any Christian, not to say Christian divine, can permit himself to talk so wildly. Follow up this mode of arguing, and see whither it will conduct you. According to the objection, it is only a woman's sister whom a man may not marry during the life of his wife. " Then I infer," cries another, " that I may marry any other woman!" This would make the law a direct permission of polygamy, and that, in defiance of its very letter! “Beside the other,” excludes an additional wife, whether she be literally a sister,' or not. For, let a man marry whom he will, if he be married already, he takes a wife " beside the other.” The phraseology is remarkable in another view : It evidently supposes that a man has but one wife, as he is forbidden to marry her sister. Not “others"_ņot “ wives to their sisters ;” but “ the other”-“ her sister,” in the singular, is the language of the law. It is humiliating to find men so wedded to a favourite opinion and indulgence on this point, as to contend that the Jews were permitted to have a plurality of wives ; and to quote David and Solomon against us, when the example of both these princes, in the affair before us, contravened a positive command*. Yes, we are told that God allowed his peculiar people, by a written provision of his law, to trample upon his own primitive institution of marriage; and to destroy, if possible, the balance of population between the sexes, by marrying as many wives as caprice or lust; as vanity or wealth, might dictate ! And that he subjected this licence to no other controul, than, what in such cir. cumstances would be, the whimsical and frivolous one, of not marrying a'“ wife's sister.” Any body else, without limit !!
* Neither shall he,” (your king,)“ multiply wives to himself.” Deut. xvii. 17. It would be quite as rational to prove, that pertness is good sense-vulgar rudeness to a venerable minister of the Gospel, good manners-and pettifogging cavil, good logic—by quoting the “ Free remarks on Dr. Benjamin Trumbull's appeal to the public," &c. by a “FREE THINKER." The remarks, it must be owned, are free' enough; the thinking' part of the basiness is yet to be done.
Look, next, at the reason of the law. It will vex your wife. But why, I pray, should her sister be singled out as the most offensive co-partner in her husband's affections ? Sure I am, that the reasonings employed to prove the general fitness of marrying a deceased wife's sister, tend also to prove that she would, of all women, be the most suitable, or the least exceptionable associate of a living sister : in other words, they tend to prove, that God has assigned a foolish reason for excluding two sisters from a joint property in one husband. · But the whole of this objection is founded upon a mistake. However our translation sounds, there is not a syllable in the passage about marrying a wife's sister, more than about marrying any other woman. The expressions, “ a woman to her sister,”. and “a man to his brother,” are Hebraisms of exactly the same import with "one to another.” For ex. ample: In the treaty with Abimelech and Isaac, our English version has it, “they sware one to another." Gen. xxvi. 31. In the original it is, “ they sware, & man to his brother*.” In the account given by Moses of the structure of the tabernacle, an order relative to the curtains runs thus : “ the five curtains shall be coupled together, one to another.” Exod. xxvi. 3. The original is, “a woman to her sistert.” The phrase is exactly the same in the passage in Leviticus, and ought to have been rendered in the same manner; viz. “ Neither shalt thou take one woman
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to another," for one wife to another,) " to vex her, beside the other, in her life time." The text has nothing to do with the marriage of a wife's sister. It is a clear, simple, and absolute prohibition of polygamy; and it is the only one in the Mosaic law. The inference drawn from it in favour of such a marriage, rests upon a blunder growing out of the sound of two words in a faulty, version. No scholar, when not off his guard, can possibly commit it; and as to those who comfort themselves in their want, or their hatred, of human learning-why, they may be absurd in their own way. .
If it be asked, why the common versions of the bible, in different modern languages, render the original“ a wife to her sister," the answer is obvious.. The Protestant translators made conscience of adhering as closely to the very phraseology of the original as could be done without destroying the sense : and, as no Protestant Church admitted the lawfulness of marrying a wife's sister, or supposed it to be a matter of doubt, the translators never dreamed that the passage in question would ever have been perverted to the support of such an errour. .
My conclusion on the whole argument is, that the marriage of a deceased wife's sister is unequivocally incestuous ; cannot become lawful by any act of mán; and is one of those crimes which infallibly draw down the judgments of God upon the nation which tolerates them. I own, that I tremble, when I look at the progress of this “ abomination” in our land. If incest is not disreputable in one case, it will gradually cease to be so in others; and we must lay our account with finding adultery also to be treated as a "bagatelle.” What reason is there to hope that sooner or later the curse of God will not overtake these unhallowed mixtures ?
NOTE. The foregoing strictures were originally written in a letter to a friend, which will account for the turn of several expressions.
IF I were not writing to a Christian friend, who, I hope, possesses that “ charity which suffereth long, and is kind," I should deem an apology necessary. In truth, I am ashamed that I have not answered your letter before, and fulfilled my promise. Some. thing has always prevented, and we are too apt to ex. cuse ourselves for the omission of duty. But, my dear , it is a sweet commission from on high, to encourage, to exhort daily, and provoke each other to good works. Though I feel my own weakness, and blush at my stupidity, when I think of ex. horting others, still, I trust, my heart's desire and prayer to God is, for the salvation of Israel ; and I would thankfully and humbly improve the “ talent” I have received, to the glory of my Maker. But why do we want exhorting? Why should these stupid hearts want any thing to animate them to love a Saviour who has so highly commended his love to us, as to die for us while we were sinners ? Not us only, but, as Dr. Young says, “ for our species up in arms a rebel universe.” Is it not an undeniable evidence of our depravity, that after all which has been done for our souls, we should still want some. thing more to “ provoke us to love," and to good works? Yes, well may we be ashamed of such stupidity; well may we exclaim with the poet, “ Are we of such hell-hardened steel, that mercy cannot move ?"
Vol. IV. No. III. S
I had little opportunity of conversing with you last winter, but I learned from you, that your hope in. creased, and that you had been quickened, and was happier than formerly. I desire to join with you, in giving God glory for undeserved mercies. His promises are gracious, and their fulfilment sweeter than honey to the taste. “ If any man love me, I will come unto him, and will manifest myself unto him." Blessed Jesus, what delicious fare! Love is the evidence of our adoption. In vain do we look back on past joys for comfort, while our hearts are cold towards God. As well may we look for the blossoms of spring, amidst the frosts of winter. A present God is all that can delight us. Past experience may be comforting at times, but will not satisfy the hungry soul : like the manna in the wilderness, it must be daily sought, and daily found. How much, then, my brother in Christ, does it behoove us, to live near to our Saviour! How ought our lives to be hid. with Christ in God, that we may hourly taste the riches of his grace !
Canaan, June 28, 1802. " I AM sick of it.”-Not of thee, oh my Redeemer ! Not of the religion thou diedst to enforce! Not of the duties it enjoins ! Not of the humility thy example has recommended! Not of the persecution and ridicule which thou sustainedst, and which all who live godly in thee shall receive ! Not of any thing that relates to thy holy nature, will, or commandments! but of that sin, that hateful vileness, which is so utterly opposed to thy blessed character. Yes, I am sick of it; sick of these evil propensities, these indwelling corruptions, these vain, delusive pleasures, this ensnaring world that would fain make me leave the only living and true God, for the worship of