« PreviousContinue »
she has uniformly maintained so far the honour of the divine inftitution, that an irregularity (even the want of a priest) in the administration of the ceremony which was to attend the folemnization of it, did not vacate the obligation of the thing itself. See before P. 49, 50.
To conclude-If fuperftition confifts in believing certain religious tenets which have no foundation or warrant from the fcripture, as well as in fetting up human tradition as a rule of faith and practice in religious matters -if berefy confifts in adhering to certain pofitions and doctrines as fo many religious truths, which are inconfiftent with, and in many respects oppofite to the mind and will of GOD, as revealed in the fcripture-I will leave it to the difcretion of the reader to determine, under which of the two he will rank the following pofitions, which are deducible from the fyftems of law and divinity in this kingdom.
That a man can feduce a virgin, and lie with her, and yet the not be his wife in the fight of GOD, and the man not be compellable to make her fo in the face of the world.
That no union is binding on the parties, unless authorized by human laws.
That a man and woman may divorce each other, fo as that the woman may marry again to another-if not joined by act of parliament.
That polygamy, though allowed of GoD
under the Old Testament, was forbidden by JESUS CHRIST under the New Teftament, and is therefore finful, and if fo, damnable.
That where a man has two wives of his own, he shall be deemed a felon, and fuffer death as fuch-but if he debauch ever so many wives fo of other men he shall be free.
That it is a greater crime to be a polygamist in one inftance, than to be a whoremonger in an hundred *.
*This and the following paragraph may remind us. of an apothegm of Cardinal Campegius, about the time of the reformation, who faid-" Multo gravius effe peccatum "quod facerdotes fiant mariti, quam fi plurimas domi "meretrices alant."-" It was a much more grievous fin "that priests should marry, than that they should keep many harlots."
However fhocking the Cardinal's fentiments may feem to us, yet they are not at all more oppofite to fcripture, than ours upon the fubjects here mentioned: and may ferve to fhew, how far fuperftition and prejudice may lead those who leave the word of God, turn their ears from the truth, and are turned unto fables, 2 Tim. iv. 4.
Some time before the reformation, the magiftrates of the Swifs cantons made an edict that--"Every priest fhould "be bound to have his proper concubine, that he might not enfnare the chastity of modest women.'
Hugo, Bishop of Conftance, in his letter to Zuric against Zuinglius, fays-"though this feemed a ridiculous de"cree, yet it was neceffary to be made, nor could be changed, unless that as much as was conftituted in "favour of keeping concubines, were at that prefent con"verted unto lawful matrimony. See Brent. Hift. Counc. Trent. p. 17.
As for Luther, becaufe he wrote against the celibacy of the priests and monks, the nuncio of Pope Adrian to the diet of Noremberg, anno 1523, reprefented him as treading in the way that Mahomet did long ago, per"mitting carnal inclinations to be fatiated." He alfo VOL. II.
That it is more criminal to marry two wives, than to defile and then abandon ever fo many virgins.
That human laws, maxims, cuftoms, inventions, and prejudices, are to supersede the obligation of the divine law.
That JESUS CHRIST has taught a more pure and perfect system of morals than is contained in the law of the Old Testament.
That therefore men are to govern them
obferved, that " religious men forfook the cloifters, and "returned to the world-that priests married, to the great difgrace and contempt of religion-wherefore it was neceffary that fome orders were taken, that these facrilegious marriages might be diffolved, the author's "feverely punished, and the apoftates reduced under the power of their fuperiors." Brent. 25, 26. After this, anno 1530, the Emperor Charles V. made an edict, that the married priests fhould either forfake their wives, or be banished. Ib. 57.- One accufation against good Bishop Cranmer was, that he had been twice married: that he had kept a wife fecretly in the time of Hen. VIII. and openly in the reign of Edw. VI. Rapin vol. ii. p. 44. In 1554, feven Bifhops were deprived by fpecial commiffion, for having defiled their functions by contracting marriage, in contempt of GOD, and manifeft fin of their own fouls, as well as to the grievous offence of all orders of people, both clergy and laity. See Burnet Hift. Reform. 274, 275. Part II.
When Gregory VII. or Hildebrand, made his decree against the marriage of ecclefiaftics, he branded it with the odious title of the herefy of the NICOLAITANS. Hift. of Popery, vol. i. p. 331.
I mention thefe things, to fhew further, what abfurdity, folly, and wickedness men may fall into themselves, and lead others into, when human imagination ufurps the place of divine wisdom, and we ceafe to cleave to the divine teftimony as the only rule of right and wrong, though under notions of stricter purity and more exemplary holiness..
felves by fome precepts of CHRIST, not by the moral law of the Old Teftament. See vol. i. p. 393, 327.
I could almost here adopt the words of the Marquis of Beccaria, in his ingenious Effay on Crimes and Punishments, and say of such pofitions as thefe, as he does of certain modes of profecution" What a labyrinth of ab"furdities abfurdities, which" (it is to be hoped)" will appear incredible to happier
pofterity. The philofopher only will be "able to read in the nature of man, the posfibility of there ever having been such a fyftem!"
When the reader has revolved the above pofitions, and perhaps others which may incidentally arife from them, within his mind, he will most likely begin to fee, farther than he did before, into that mystery of iniquity, which, mixing its baleful influence in the corrupt minds of men, transfufes itself as well into their religious, as into their worldly fyftems; and renders both, as far as they are connected with each other, either independent on, inconfiftent with, or oppofite to, the plan of the divine government; and these in more respects than we are apt to imagine, till we examine into, and feriously confider the subject, on the footing of the divine law itself; and weigh the importance of the law, as well as of our obedience to it, by that holy jealoufy over it, which the GREAT LAW-GIVER HIMSELF hath manifefted in His word. This
This jealousy of GoD over His laws, as a neceffary appendage to the preceding pages, fhall be the subject of the next chapter.
CHA P. IX.
Of GOD's Jealoufy over His Laws.
HIS title may be faid to form a confiderable part of the fubject of holy writ, and indeed to pervade, and, like the warp through the woof, to run throughout the whole. The more we contemplate those authentic records of the mind and will of GOD, the more awfully fhall we find this truth illuftrated both by precept and example.
I the LORD thy GOD am a jealous GOD, vifiting the fins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. Exod. xx. 5.-and again, Nah. i. 2. GOD is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth and is furious, the LORD will take vengeance on His adverfaries, and He referveth wrath for His enemies.
An exemplification of this character of the holy GOD, began with the first act of man's difobedience By one man fin entered into the