Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

And this view of the subject is very much strengthened by all that catalogue of Scriptures which allows sexual intercourse only in lawful wedlock; and invariably restricts it under the fearful penalty of the Divine displeasure, both here and hereaster, to the one lawful wife, or husband. So that there is no room for inference that the gospel dispensation, under any circumstances, recognizes or tolerates the lawfulness of polygamy, or a plurality of wives.

For, second: While, as we have seen and proved by various passages of Scripture, and which might have been greatly multiplied, both from the Gospels and the Epistles, that it is according to the laws of Christianity for a man to have one wife, there is not the most distant intimation to be found in the New Testament that it will meet the Divine forbearance or tolerance that we have a plurality of wives or husbands,—that is, more than one at a time. And hence all approbatory allusions to the conjugal state in the New Testament are restricted to the husband of one wife, or the wife of one husband.

True, it may be argued that, in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, in the language above quoted, where the bishops and deacons are restricted to one wife, by implication a plurality of wives would be allowable, to such as were not in the pastoral office. Should we for the sake of argument concede this, it would necessarily carry with it the following very embarrassing difficulty: that drunkenness, and all the other bad traits of character there enumerated and condemned, would be no objection to the Christian character of those not in the pastoral office; which would be fatal to the argument.

But another discrimination, of striking importance to

:$

the correct understanding of the points of disagreement in which these two questions are presented in the New Testament, is that as above stated, while they nowhere intimate that polygamy would be allowed or tolerated, and hence give no instructions for the regulation of a plurality of wives, or more than one at a time. They do, according to the Doctor's own acknowledgment, distinctly recognize and tolerate the relation of slavery, as a temporary regulation, and give those instructions for its government which were calculated to make the best of it under the circumstances; and which, on his acknowledgment, were in force up to the time of his writing the work from which we quote; for he not only admits, but lauds, the private virtue and Christian love of those in the relation. On page 54, he says: "Absolute monarchy is still a scourge, though among despots there have been good men. It is possible to abhor and oppose bad institutions, and yet to abstain from indiscriminate condemnation of those who cling to them, and even to see in their ranks greater virtue than in ourselves. It is true, and ought to be cheerfully acknowledged, that in the slaveholding States may

be found some of the greatest names of our history, and, what is still more important, bright examples of private virtue and Christian love." Now how, in view of all these facts, it can be claimed by the Doctor that polygamy and slavery stand precisely on the same footing; and by our friend, that polygamy is just as eligible to church-fellowship as the slavery relation, we are at an utter loss to conceive. In either case, to make good their respective positions, they should give us the same unequivocal Scriptural laws, on the authority of the New Testament, to

govern polygamy in the Church, that are given for this purpose to govern the relation of slavery; or otherwise wholly disprove the applicability of those passages to the slavery relation that are claimed in its support. This the Doctor does not attempt; but unhesitatingly admits their applicability and force temporarily, as before stated. And we think our friend will not stake his reputation for critical authority against the learning of the Church and of the world. And we think, instead of finding a like amount of Scriptural authority to govern polygamy in the Church that is found to govern the relation of slavery, as a temporary regulation, there cannot, as before stated, be found one single passage that, by any torturing, can be made to look to its recognition and regulation in the Church. And further, if polygamy, like slavery, was authorized by existing civil laws, and was to any considerable extent the practice of the country, the facts already stated-first, that it is the doctrine of the New Testament that a man shall have but one wife at the same time; and, secondly, that there is not in all the New Testament the most distant approbatory allusion to, or tolerant recognition of, the practice of polygamy-place the action of the Church on very distinct and entirely different grounds. In the case of polygamy, be the civil authority for or against it-law or no law-all we can learn from the New Testament respecting it, is clearly and unequivocally against it, as an element of Church organization; whereas, the relation of slavery, on the teaching of the New Testament, as expounded by the best critical and literary lights the Church and the world have produced, was, in the days of the apostles, taken into the Church, and suitable directions given for its regulation, as an element of religious society. Therefore the cases are not in agreement; and the argument that will sustain the action of the Church in the one case, affords no plea whatever in the other. And further, the principle of volition or agency involved in the case of the highwayman, adulterer, or drunkard, before alluded to, applies, in all its force, to the polygamist.

Note. On reading this section to our friend above alluded to, he informed us, that he did not intend to be understood as saying, that the cases were presented in the same light in the New Testament. Having, however, frequently heard the argument used by others, we insert the article.

SECTION V.

THE RELATION OF SLAVERY AS TAUGHT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.

The Scriptures teach us that God is not careless of the conduct of his rational creatures; that such is the essential goodness and rectitude of his nature, that he has an infinite pleasure in our doing right, and is always displeased with us when we do wrong. Right and wrong, or righteousness and wickedness, are relative terms, having respect to some rule or law by which the moral quality of actions or relations is determined. That rule or law is the word of God-the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; which profess to be, and are received by all Christians as, a revelation from heaven, for the instruction of mankind in the principles and practice of moral duty. And when we consider the ignorance and wants of the world, together with the essential character of the Author of the Bible, as a God of wisdom, truth, and goodness, as we might naturally expect, there is a fulness of instruction, embracing everything important for us to know, to guide us into all truth, in all the various relations and duties of the present life. On the verity of this proposition, we presume there is no disagreement among Christians. And infidels have done homage to the Scriptures, by acknowledging and testifying to the sublimity and super-excellence of their moral teachings. The difficulty is not as to the verity of what they teach, and its paramount obligation on mankind as a rule of duty, but what they teach-what is their meaning on this, that, or the other subject. The most serious and heated, not to say angry and bloody controversies, have frequently grown out of mere differences of opinion as to what they teach: not so much, however, on questions of moral duty, as on other notions and opinions that are not really essential to religion. Happily for the world, the reign of ignorance and passion is fast passing away; while reason and truth are asserting and maintaining empire, to the honour of human nature, and the glory of Christianity. So that on questions indifferent, we more generally agree to disagree; and conduct our disputations involving more essential points, with a marked spirit of courtesy and forbearance, as compared with former ages of the Church. Exceptions to the rule are not of so frequent occurrence as formerly; and, in Protestant Christendom, appear, so far as we are posted on the subject, to be mainly confined to the partisans taking different, or apparently different positions on the slavery question ;

« FöregåendeFortsätt »