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be still more unable to support them. Even the spirit of moderation will regard her as unworthy and disgraced. The common feelings of the world will mark her as the mere butt of scorn and infamy. Why was she divorced? “Because she was unfit to sustain the character of a wife,” will be the answer, every where hissed out by the tongue of contempt. In all this contempt, and in all the evils, which this wolfish spirit draws in its train, the children will necessarily share; and will be regarded, like the spurious offspring of beggars, born under a hedge, and buried in a ditch. Such of them, as survived their multiplied sufferings; and these would be comparatively few; would be solitary, deserted beings; without a home; without a father; without education; without industry; without employment; without comforts; and without hopes; residing no where, and related to nobody. Like the wild men, said to be found at times in the Forests of Germany and Poland, and supposed to be nursed by bears, they would sustain the character of mere animals. At war with every thing, and by every thing warred upon; when out of sight, forgotten; and when seen, regarded only with horror; they would live without a friend; without a name ; nay, sunk beneath the cattle wandering in the same deserts, without a mark, to denote to whom they belonged. Thus they would prowl through life; and putrefy on the spot, where they were seized by . JNor would the children, who followed the father, in most instances, be at all more comfortable. The cold-hearted cruelty of stepmothers is proverbial. Palpable injustice has, I doubt not, been extensively done by the .. opinions of the public to persons of this denomination. I have myself known multitudes of persons fill this station with great integrity, tenderness, and excellence. Yet even in this o, ... and Christianized country, I believe there are few mothers, who leave the world while their families are young, without very serious anxieties concerning the treatment, wo their children will receive from their future stepmothers. 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, entleness 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 unprotected. Far different would be the situation of children, under this surintendence, in regions where divorce prevails. The Father, having released himself from one wife, and married another, would Soon #j 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 stepmothers; absolute strangers to their o, their interests, and even their legitimacy: their mothers, only for a year, a month, or a day: mothers, ło 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 comtentions? Who does not see with a glance, that, even where humanity and rinciple reigned, these friendless beings would soon be neglected y the stepmother 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 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 |. 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 o period: that is, one, out of every hundred married pairs. hat 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 anti-scriptural 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 registered 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. §. 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 undivorced, 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, barefaced pollution. The realm around him has become one vast Brothel; one great province of the World of Perdition. To that dreadful .#. 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 Warkness, which envelops it for ever.
Exodus xx. 15.-Thou shalt not steal.
THE preceding Command prohibits all trespasses against puri. ty; 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, ..I. 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 Wo: 4ssembly 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 neighhour'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 sense, is a disposition to render, or the actual rendering of an equivalent for what we receive, in our dealings with others. This equivalent may consist either of property, or of services; Honesty being equally concerned with both. At the same time, there is such a thing, as defrauding one's self. “Whatsoever doth, or may unjustly hinder our own outward estate,” or, in other words, that comfort, and benefit, which we might derive from our property, or from our opportunities of acquiring it, is of this nature; and is accordingly Ž. by this Commandment. With these introductory observations, I shall now proceed to consider the prohibition in the Text, under the following heads: I. The Fraudulent Conduct, which respects Ourselves, and our Families ; and, II. That, which respects others. I. I shall mention several kinds of fraudulent conduct, which most immediately respects ourselves, and our families. All the members of a Family have a common interest; and are so intimately united in every joi. concern, that, if one memher suffer, all the members suffer with it; or if one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Whatever affects the head must affect the whole body. If a man defraud himself, either directly, or indirectly, he cannot fail, therefore, of defrauding his family. For this reason, I have thought it proper to consider the Family of a man, as united with himself in this part of my Subject. The 1. Specimen of Fraud, which I shall mention under this head, is Idleness. That Idleness hinders our own wealth, or outward estate, will not be questioned. I went by the field of the slothful, says Solomon, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding, and lo! it was all grown over with thorns; and nettles had covered the