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will receive from their future step-mothers. This, and every thing else, dreaded or complained of, with respect to the class of persons in question, exists in the midst of a community, made up of Parents, married according to the Laws of God. Their families, also, live in the midst of civilization, gentleness of manners, and the mild influence of Religion; where the whole tide of things flows favourably to humanity, justice, kindness, and all the interests of the unpretected. Far different would be the situation of children, under this superintendence, in regions where divorce prevailed. The Father, having released himself from one wife, and married another, would soon forsake the second for a third ; this for a fourth ; this for a fifth; and thus onward, without any known limit. A French soldier lately declared before a judicial tribunal in Paris that he had married eleven wives, in eleven years; and boasted of this fact as honourable and meritorious. The scandal would soon vanish ; and mere convenience, whim, or passion, control the conduct. What, then, would become of those children of the first wife, who fell under the management of such a succession of step-mothers; absolute strangers to their family, their interests, and even their legitimacy: their mothers, only for a year, a month, or a day: mothers, before whom they would only pass in review, rather than with whom they would live: mothers, distracted in their affections, if they had any ; certainly in their thoughts, cares, and labours, distributed to so many children of so many sorts, having so many interests, and distracted, themselves, by so many contentions 2 Who does not see with a glance, that, even where humanity and principle reigned, these friendless beings would soon be neglected by the step-mother in favour of her own offspring” What must be their fate, where lewdness had succeeded to principle, and humanity had already been frozen out of the heart? Soon, very soon, must they become mere and miserable outcasts; like those, who wandered away from their father's house with their divorced mother. Divorces, once authorized, would soon become numerous, and in most countries would, in a moderate period of time, control the whole state of society. Even in this State, where the tide of
manners and morals is entirely against them, and where, for Vol. IV. 35
somewhat more than a century, they have blackened the public character with a strange, and solitary, but dreadful, spot, they were, indeed, for a long time, rare. The deformity of the object was so great, the prevalence of vital Religion was so general, and the power of Conscience and of public opinion so efficacious, that few, very few comparatively, had sufficient hardihood to apply. The Law, also, allowed of less latitude to applications. At the present time, the progress of this evil is alarming and terrible. In this town", within five years, more than fifty divorces have been granted: at an average calculation, more than four hundred in the whole State during this period: that is, one, out of every hundred married pairs. What a flaming proof is, here, of the baleful influence of this corruption on a people, otherwise remarkably distinguished for their intelligence, morals, and Religion' Happily, a strenuous opposition is begun to this antiscriptural law, which, it may be fairly hoped, will soon terminate in its final revocation. In France, within three months after the Law, permitting Divorces, was enacted by the National Assembly, there were, in the City of Paris almost as many Divorces registered, as Marriages. In the whole Kingdom, there were, as reported by the Abbe Gregoire, Chairman of a Committee of the National Assembly on that subject, upwards of twenty thousand Divorces registercd within about a year and an half. “This Law,” added the Abbe, “will soon ruin the whole nation.” From these facts, as well as from the nature of the case, it is clearly evident, that the progress of Divorce, though different in different countries, will, in all, be dreadful beyond conception. Within a moderate period, the whole Community will be thrown, by laws made in open opposition to the Laws of God, into a general prostitution. No difference exists between this prostitution, and that which customarily bears the name, except that the one is licensed, the other is unlicensed, by man. To the Eye of God, those, who are polluted in each of these modes, are alike, and equally, impure, loathsome, abandoned wretches; the offspring of Sodom and Gomorrah. They are divorced and un
divorced, adulterers and adulteresses; of whom the Spirit of Truth hath said, that not one of them shall enter into the kingdom of God. Over such a country, a virtuous man, if such an one be found, will search in vain, to find a virtuous wife. Wherever he wanders, nothing will meet his eye, but stalking, bare-faced pollution. The realm around him has become one vast Brothel; one great province of the World of Perdition. To that dreadful world the only passage out of it directly leads: and all its inhabitants, thronging this broad and crooked way, hasten with one consent to that blackness of darkness, which envelops it for ever.
The preceding Command prohibits all trespasses against purity; this against property. To steal, is to take privately the property of others, with an intention to convert it to our own use. To rob, is to take the same property, for the same purpose, openly, and with violence. There can be little necessity of expatiating upon a crime, so well understood, and so universally infamous, as stealing, before an assembly, whose education, principles, and habits, furnish so strong a barrier against it. It may, however, be useful to observe, that this crime has its origin in that spirit of covetousness, which prompts us to wish, inordinately, for the enjoyments, and possessions, of others. This spirit, when indulged, continually acquires strength ; and in many instances becomes, ultimately, so powerful, as to break over every bound of right, and reputation. The object in contemplation is seen to be desirable. As we continue to contemplate it, it becomes more and more desirable. While the attention of the mind is fixed upon it, it will be turned, comparatively, very little to other objects; particularly to those moral restraints, which hinder us from acquiring what we thus covet. The importance, and obligation, of these restraints gradually fade from before the eye. The man, engaged only in the business of obtaining the intended gratification, naturally finds little leisure, or inclination, to dwell upon the danger, shame, or sin, of seizing on his neighbour's possessions. Thus he becomes unhappily prepared to put forth a bold and rash hand, and to pluck the tempting enjoyment, in spite of the awful prohibitions of his Maker. He, who does not covet, will never steal. He, who indulges covetousness, will find himself in danger, wherever there is a temptation. In examining this precept, it will be my principal design to consider the subject of Fraud. That Fraud is implicitly forbidden in this Precept will not, I suppose, be questioned. The Catechism of the Westminster Assembly of Divines explains the Command in this manner. “It requires,” say they, “the lawful procuring, and furthering, the wealth and outward estate of ourselves, and others;” and “forbids whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbour's, wealth, or outward estate.” In the Catechism of King Edward it is thus explained. “It commandeth us to beguile no man: to occupy no unlawful wares; to envy no man his wealth; and to think nothing profitable, that either is not just, or differeth from right and honesty.” In this manner we are abundantly warranted to understand it by our Saviour's Commentary on the other Commands, in his Sermon on the Mount. Accordingly, it has been generally understood in the same comprehensive manner by Divines. To this interpretation, the nature of the subject gives the fullest warrant. All that, which is sinful in theft, is the taking of our neighbour's property, without his knowledge or consent, and converting it to our own use. In every fraud we do exactly the same thing, although in a different manner. Every fraud, therefore, whatever be the form in which it is practised, partakes of the very same sinful nature, which is found in theft. Fraud is in all instances a violation of what is commonly called Honesty, or Commutative Justice. Honesty, in the Scriptural