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POLYGAMY AND CITIZENSHIP
CHURCH AND STATE
SAMUEL SPAHR LAWS, D. D., LL. D.
"Εκαστος της εαυτού γυναίκα εχέτω, και εκάστη τον ίδιον άνδρα
I Corinthians vii:2.
WASHINGTON, N. C.
Soc 5500. Il
HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
JUL 1 1914
Notice: By an oversight the first fifty copies of this pamphlet were struck off and circulated without Chapter XVII of this issue. The Conclusion is now Chapter XVIII.
A SUMMATION OF THE ARGUMENT.
If marriage is ordained of God, it must either be between one man and one woman or between more than two of opposite sex at the same time. The positive teaching of the Bible is that the conjugal relation was originally ordained by God at man's creation between two—one man and one woman. There is a total absence of any scriptural evidence that God ever changed or superseded this original ordinance as be tween two, and only two, or approved of it between more than two at the same time. The Savior did not claim to institute a new ordinance, but, in plain language, reaffirmed the original ordinance of monogamy as still in force, and as the law of his kingdom. He said to his questioners: "Have ye not read about the creation of man and woman, as male and female, and that for this cause a man shall leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife [not wives], and the two shall become one flesh?" (Matt. xix: 4, 5.) From the nature of this disjunctive or alternative proposition, which the case fully warrants, the affirmation of the monogamous predicate is a thus saith the Lord in denial of the polygamous alternative.
This is explicit and irreversible; and most positively there is no reversal of this alternative in the Bible; nor can circumstances change it. It is not a case of expediency dependent on circumstances, but of inflexible principle founded on man's constitution. There is a total absence of any evidence that God ever superseded or suspended the conjugal ordination for the race between the two at creation, which Christ so unequivocally reaffirmed and re-established. We shall see that natural reason and the providentially equal birth of the sexes abundantly confirm and sustain this Bible doctrine.
The proof or disproof of any proposition simply consists in the marshaling of the evidence in its support or refutation. The proof, in reasonable quantity and quality, will be adduced in this essay in refutation of the claim that there was polygamy in the apostolic church, or that it was approved anywhere or at any time in the Bible by divine sanction.
The attempt is sometimes made to discredit the validity of à negative argument; but it is erroneous and misleading. This is fallacious. The thoughtful and intelligent reader will recall that of the nineteen valid forms of the syllogism in the Aristotelic system of logic, thirteen are negative. All depends on the evidence. And it may be fairly submitted whether the unfitness of polygamists for citizenship in the church of Christ has not in this essay been made sufficiently evident by a reasonable array of proof or evidence. The legislatures and secular courts have settled that for the civilized state; and ecclesiastical courts should even more surely settle it for the church. May heaven so order! If polygamy is an outcast condition and disqualifies for citizenship in the civilized state, much more is this so in the Christian church.
Under the peculiar circumstances incident to the history and fortunes of the original Chesapeake Presbytery Overture on the subject of polygamy to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, a reasonable allowance for its length and for some repetitions in this discourse is respectfully bespoken. The aim has been, not a literary product, but, as it is hoped the text will make manifest, the realization of an earnest and definite purpose in the interest of Christian missions, to help defend and warn them against the foul and defiling clutch of polygamy and all its apologies.
I know of no equally serious discussion of this vexatious question, the most important part of which is the Bible argument, a due attention to which should dispel the distracting confusion of individual opinions and practice. Indeed, this serious re-study of Paul's epistles has wholly dispelled all doubt about his teaching on polygamy. The venerable constitution and fundamental law of the Presbyterian Church, overwhelmingly sustained by the word of God, 0. T. and N. T., utterly discountenance the entrusting of this subject to unregulated individualism, and properly subordinate the entire lay and official membership of our church to one course of action, from which no departure is allowable. Ch. xxiv: 1: “Marriage is to be between one man and one woman; neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time.” And the Larger Catechism enumerates, among the sins forbidden by the VII commandment, this one: "Having more wives or husbands than one at the same time" (8 139). It is appropriate to quote the words of I Timothy vi: 3, 4: "If any man teach a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to goodness, he is puffed up, knowing nothing."