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A dispute between Mr Glas and the presbytery of
Dundee, concerning the lawfulness of J. B.'s marriage with J. M. his former wife's grand-niece, in 1729.
Mr Glas's reasons for the lawfulness of this marriage.
T is manifest this marriage is upon none of these degrees
fully laid open in the common table, where the several instances upon the degrees of nearness of kindred and affinity are pointed out. When the Lord takes notice of the abominations of the Heathen in this matter of incest, for which he took vengeance on them, and with which he feverely dischar. ges his people to defile themselves; and when he makes so particular a condescension on the several degrees, and explains this his law in no other part of his word; and when he makes this a case of life and death; it seems an inference very just from this, That he hath left it free for any man to marry in any degree beyond these mentioned in the law.
Yet whatever is by just and necessary consequence dedu. cible from God's law, is certainly in it; and therefore every such consequence must have some foundation in the law itself. And if there be any thing in the Levitical law that leads us to see a marriage unlawful upon that degree whereon J. B.'s marriage is an instance, though that degree be not very express in the law, then they who thus see it in the law must declare it unlawful, though it be really unlawful whether they see it or not : but, at the same time, it will not be easily thought, that the Lord made the life and death of the peo. ple of his kingdom to depend on a point not obvious in his law.
Now, let us see if we find any thing in the law of God up
on this subject, from which we may infer the unlawfulness of marriage upon that degree whereon J. B.'s marriage is an inItance.
And, 1. The law speaks not of that distinction of the lines direct, collateral, and oblique, which men have used in the explication of it, and for giving a ready up-taking of the dif. ferent degrees. And no reason can be given why the express prohibition goes not so far downward upon the oblique line as upon
the direct, if we have not recourse to the reason mentioned in the law; or why there is but one degree forbidden expressly upon the oblique line, and but one upon the collateral, while there are as it were two (though they be but upon the matter one, as we shall see) upon the direct line, especially if we consider that it is far more easy by nature's light to make an inference from one generation to another upon the direct line, than upon the oblique or collateral. The presbytery seems to labour under a gross mistake, in confounding the direct line and the oblique, reckoning, that, as they draw or fancy a line from the brother to his brother's daughter through his brother, so there is such a real derivation of blood from that brother to his brother's daughter, as there is from her grandfather to her upon the direct line : and by this chimerical fancy, to which their line leads them, they must hold a higher degree of incest in the marriage of uncle and niece, than in the marriage of a brother and lifter upon the collateral line; -whereas the nearness of brother and fifter in blood is beyond all possibility of contradiction presupposed unto the nearness of uncle and niece.
2. It is evident there is no room left in this law of God for drawing inferences, by taking the words or names of the related persons in stricter or larger senses : for though there be such words made use of in this law, as occurs in other places of scripture, in a larger sense; yet that sense is plain. ly excluded in this law. And we had been left at the utmost uncertainty if it had been otherwise, as we may see by this instance, Lev. xviii. 9. “ The nakedness of thy sister, the “ daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, born fhould marry a woman descended of the other, he would in that case uncover the nakedness of his lifter, the daughter of his father, and that in a scripture-fense of the words father and sister, and daughter of the father, and the same man is still the father in this sense of all that descend from on both the lines, which are from him direct, and so are all that stand upon these lines collaterally to one another still fons and daughters of the same father, and brothers and sisters in the fcripture-sense of the word: but in this law the Lord keeps close to the strictest sense of the words, as we see v 10. The words fon and daughter stand in their strictest sense, and the largest sense is avoided. “The nakedness of thy son's daugh. “ ter, or of thy daughter's daughter." Just so, y 14. the sense of the word aunt is expressly determined, " Thou shalt “ not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother ; thou « Malt not approach to his wife, she is thine aunt.” The presbytery have thought, that, seeing this is the reason of the prohibition that she is his aunt, this word must carry farther import than father's sister; and what should that be? It is this, as they declare, As she is the aunt of her husband's immediate nephew, her niece, so she is an aunt to her grand. niece, and all in a direct line downward. And this is their authoritative sense of the reason for a man's not approaching to his father's brother's wife. It should not be thought, that they are imagining the Bible was at first written in our language ; and yet, even in our language, the aunt simply and the grand-aunt are different designations, and different per: fons; and the aunt will never make grand-aunt, unless we put grand to it: nor should it be thought, that this presbytery is casting about to fetch in an old Popish notion into a Protestant church, That persons should not marry in such a relation as has a common name given to it. But as this their interpretation of the reason of this prohibition is wholly beside the plain mind of the law-giver, and founded upon their sense of an English word: so it is most evident, that the rea. fon the lawgiver there points out for a man's not approaching to his father's brother's wife, is, seeing that husband and wife stands for the same thing throughout this law, as being one flesh, she is the same thing to him as his father's brother, whose nakedness her's is, and she is so to him, his father's filter or his aunt. This is very clear in the text, which says, a man uncovers the nakedness of his father's brother by approaching to his wife; and was it possible for the presbytery to overlook this, and give another senfe, if they had not been
at home or abroad, their nakedness thou shalt not unco. « ver.” If we take father and fifter, and daughter of the father, in such a sense as they frequently bear in fcripture, it will be unlawful for, not cousin-germans only, but for their children and children's children still downwards, to marry together; and so no marriage, even in the collateral way, will be at all lawful : for if any man descended of the one cousin
in the greatest haste to condemn J. B.? Thus aunt here, as in other places, is still father's Gifter, Exod. vi. 20. Numb. xxvi. 29. And if it signify cousin-german in these places, according to the mind of some interpreters, then the reason hereby fetched into the Levitical law upon incest makes cousin-germans unfit for marriage.
3. Neither does this law make the least use of the notion of parentage, but in the strictest sense. We have heard how it expresses the relation betwixt the grandfather and grandchild, and gives such a reason for the prohibition, even in that law, as leaves not room for a general notion of parentage to come into this law; and as it meddles not with any general notion of parentage, so it makes no manner of use of the notion of fuperiority and inferiority. It forbids equals (brother and sister) to marry, but not on the account of their equality. It forbids superiors and inferiors (the begetting parent and child, and child's child, and the uncle and niece) to marry : but not on the account of the superiority or inferiority. The wise lawgiver goes more strictly to work than to insist in this case upon a general notion, that, if it were followed, would take in innumerable marriages that have no manner of concern with the subject of this law, or the reason of it, such as all marriages betwixt cutors and pupils, magistrates and subjects, masters and servants, elder and younger, ministers and people, learned and unlearned. And if this general notion of parentage and superiority should be restricted to the affair of kindred and affinity, it would still be unlaw. ful for one cousin german, or his wife, to marry the other cousin-german's child or grandchild, upon the direct line still downward, as the presbytery speaks. But if the general notion of parentage and superiority must yet be further restrained unto great nearness of kin, then that general notion is dwindled away into a particular, and the stress leans on great nearness of kin, the Lord's own reason: but who shall determine that nearness of kin to us, if it be not he who can say, “ I am the Lord ?" He does indeed determine it: but not a fyllable speaks be in this law of a general notion of parentage, or of fuperiority or inferiority. The civil law, as it stood when Antichrist was growing to his height, forbids the grand. uncle to marry his grand-niece; for this reason, because he is unto her in place of a parent. And these foreign divines, who, by their circumstances in the countries and times wherein they lived, have been induced to explain the law of God by Justinian's law, have themselves observed a difference be
tween that law and the law of God in this case, and have been obliged to strain exceeding hard to reconcile the com. mentary with the text; but they might have saved their pains if they had considered, that Christians made no bonds in those days of carrying points wherein the divine authority claimed a concern, much farther than God's law carried them.
4. And as little does the law of God make any mention of a reason taken from the removal of the relation from a for. bidden degree on the one side, but not on the other. It is the true relation of brother and lister is a forbidden degree, and the law forbids the marriage of uncle and niece, where the relation is removed upon one side, but not on the other, and leaves it free to coulin-germans, where the relation is removed on both sides : but does it insinuate this reason, taken from the difference which we observe betwixt these two ca. fes ? nothing like it ; but declares another expressly, which will carry the thing no further than the Lord himself carries it, who stops on both hands where there is an equal distance of relation, that is, where there is an equal number of persons intervening. And why should God's own reason be neglected in this case, and another put in place of it, which he never once points to, and which carries the thing farther than it can go upon the reason he gives ? And it is here to be observed, that, in the case of cousin germans, the relation is removed only upon one side, from the forbidden degree of uncle and niece, or aunt and nephew, and stands on the other. Though there be no use made of the foresaid things in the law of God upon incest, yet we must consider how this law of his stands, and if any thing shall be found in it from which the unlawfulness of J. B.'s marriage can be inferred, let it be declared unlawful.
The following observations upon this law may serve to clear this matter to unprejudiced minds.
1. The reason given in the introduction is precisely this, Lev. xviii. 6. “ None of you shall approach to any that is
near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness; I am the 14 Lord.” Here the Lord lays the nearness of kin for a foundation to all the following prohibitions, which are bis explications upon this general, and are all built upon this foundation; and then he declares his sovereign authority as the absolute Lord and Lawgiver, and thereupon calls for o. bedience, and proceeds to determine by that his authority what is that nearness of kin. If he had rested in the general, and left us to determine in that matter of the near