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mothers at eleven, grandmothers at twenty-two, and past child-bearing at thirty.
The marriage engagement of a minor, without the knowi ledge and consent of the parents, was of no force; so sa cred was the parental authority held among that people. Grecian virgins were not allowed to marry without the consent of their parents; whence Hero, in Musæus, tells Lysander they could not be honourably joined in marriage, because her parents were against it:
Ου γαρ εμοις τοκεεσσιν επιφαδεν. . The mother's consent was necessary, as well as the father's ; and therefore Iphigenia, in Euripides, was not to be given in marriage to Achilles, till Clytemnestra approved the match. Nor were men permitted to marry without consulting their parents, who claimed a right to control their affections, and even to dispose of them in marriage. Achilles refuses Agamemnon's daughter, and leaves it to his father Peleus to choose him a wife :
δη με σαωσι Θεου, και οίκαδ' ικωμαι Πηλους θην μοι επειτα γυναικα γαμεσσεται αυτος. ΙΙ. ib. ix, 1. 39. : In Persia, the female is betrothed by the parents ; she may, however, refuse her consent ; and the marriage cannot proceed if she continues averse to it."
These customs appear to have been derived from a very remote antiquity ; for when Eliezer of Damascus went to Mesopotamia to take a wife from thence unto his master's son, he disclosed the motives of his journey to the father and brother of Rebecca ;o and Hamor applied to Jacob and his sons, for their consent to the union of Di
Shaw's Trav. vol. i, p. 434. m' Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. ii, p. 270. Adam's Rom. Antiq. p. 463. * Malcom's Hist. of Persia, vol. ii, p. 589. • Gen. xxiv, 34.
nah with his son Shechem.P Samson also consulted his parents about his marriage ; and entreated them to get for him the object of his choice. The right of the parents, in all ordinary cases, to dispose of both their sons and their daughters, under the law, is recognized in many parts of the Old Testament; but it appears from the conduct of Samson, that it was not absolute in every case,
for when his parents objected to his choice, he renewed his suit in a more peremptory tone: “ Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me, for she pleaseth me well.”
In Mesopotamia the younger daughter could not be given in marriage before the elder. This rule of conduct Laban pleaded as his excuse for substituting Leah in the place of Rachel : “ It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born.” The existence of this rule, and its application to practice, in those parts of the world, is confirmed by the Hindoo law, which makes it criminal to give the younger daughter in 'marriage before the elder ; or for a younger son to marry while his elder brother remains unmarried."
Marriage is evidently meant by Scripture and reason, to be the union of one man with one woman. When God said, “ It is not good that the man should be alone;" he promised him the help only of a single mate: “ I will make him an help meet for him." This gracious promise he
p Gen. xxxiv, 6.
9 Judg. xiv, 23. * Maurice's Indian Antiq. vol. vii, p. 838. Gen. xxix, 26. Halhed's Preface to the Gentoo Laws, p. 69.
Gen. ii, 18.
sooh performed in the formation of one woman, a clear intimation of his will that only one man and one woman should be joined in wedlock. This design Adam recognized, and acknowledged in express terms; and his declaration was certainly meant as a rule for his descendants in every succeeding age : 66 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” These quotations, which are all couched in terms of the singular number, are inconsistent with the doctrine of polygamy. The original appointment was confirmed by our Lord in these words: “Have ye not read, that he which made you at the beginning, made them male and female; and said, for this cause, shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife ; and they twain shall be one flesh ? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh." The apostle is not less decisive in his direction to the churches : “ Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife; and let every woman have her own husband." But though the law is so decisive, it cannot be doubted that polygamy was introduced soon after the creation ; Lamech, one of the descendants of Cain, and only the sixth person from Adam, married two: wives; he was probably the first who ventured, in this respect, to transgress the law of his Maker. This unwarrantable practice, derived from the antediluvian world, seems to have become very common soon after the flood; for it is mentioned as no thing remarkable that Sarah, when she despaired of having children, took her hand-maid Hagar, and gave her to Abraham her husband, by whom she had a son.
Both Esau and Jacob had a number of wives; and that is un
* Matt. xix, 4.
u 1 Cor. vii, 2.
doubtedly one of the practices which Moses suffered to re- main among his people, because of the hardness of their hearts, prohibiting only the high-priest to have more than one wife.
Every transgression of the divine law is attended by its corresponding punishment.. Polygamy has proved in all ages, and in all countries where it has been suffered, a teeming source of evil. The jealousy and bitter contentions in the family of Abraham, and of his grandson Ja'cob, which proceeded from that cause, are well known; and still more deplorable were the dissensions which convulsed the house, and shook the throne of David. Such mischiefs are the natural and necessary effects of the practice; for polygamy divides the affections of the husband, and by consequence, generates incurable jealousies and contentions among the unhappy victims of his licentious desirės. To prevent his abode from becoming the scene of unceasing confusion and uproar, he is compelled to govern it, as the oriental polygamist still does, with despotic authority, which at once extinguishes all the rational and most endearing comforts of the conjugal state. The husband is a stern and unfeeling despot; his harem, a group of trembling slaves. . The children espouse, with an ardour unknown to those who are placed in other circumstances, the cause of their own mother, and look upon the children of the other wives as strangers or enemies. They regard their common father with indifference or terror ; while they cling to their own mother with the fondest affection, as the only parent in whom they feel any interest, or from whom they expect any suitable return of attention and kindness. This state of feeling and attachment, is attested by every writer on the manners of the east :
and accounts for a way of speaking so common in the Scriptures: “ It is my brother, and the son of my mother.” “ They were my brethern,” said Gideon," the sons of my mother; as the Lord liveth, if
had saved them alive, I would not slay you."' It greatly aggravated the affliction of David, that he had become an alien to his mother's children ; the enmity of his brethren, the children of his father's other wives, or his more distant relatives, gave him less concern; “ I am become a stranger to my brethren, and an alien to my mother's children.” The same allusion occurs in the complaint of the spouse: “ Look not upon me because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards.” The children of one wife, scarcely looked upon the children of the other wives as their brothers and sisters at all ; and they scarcely felt more regard for their father. An oriental, in consequence of this unnatural practice, takes little notice of an insult offered to his father, but expresses the utmost indignation when a word is spoken to the disadvantage of his mother. To defame or to curse her, is the last insult which his enemy can offer; and one which he seldom or never forgives. “ Strike,” cried an inscensed African to his antagonist, 66 but do not curse
Marriage-contracts seem to have been made in the primitive ages with little ceremony. The suitor himself, or his father, sent a messenger to the father of the woman, to ask her in marriage. Abraham sent the prinipal servant of his household, with a considerable retinue and
Judg. viii, 19. * Psa. Ixix, 8.
* Song i, 6 ; see also ch. viii, 1, 2.
Park's Trav. vol. i, p. 264.