Page images

feel and act as Joseph did, when he said, under temptation from his mistress to violate this commandment. "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" And fled from the temptation.

The seventh commandment also requires us to preserve the chastity of our neighbour, or of others. To do this we must avoid the commission with others of the sin forbidden by the commandment. We should abstain from every thing, in our actions towards others, and our conversation with them which may lead them to acts of unchastity. We should discountenance in others, not only overt acts of uncleanness; but all lascivious conduct and conversation. We should, as we have opportunity, warn others, when we see them in danger of being led into this sin. We should train up our children and all under our care, to abhor the sins forbidden by this commandment. We should keep out of their hands all books which have a lascivious tendency. And we should carefully guard their company, and by advice, and when necessary, by authority, keep them from evil associates, and from places where they will be in danger of becoming corrupted. We proceed to consider,

II. The sins forbidden in this commandment.

These we have stated in our Catechism, in the answer to the seventy second question.

"What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?

The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions."

The commandment prohibits adultery. In the strict acceptation of this word, it signifies unchastity in a married person. But as has already been observed, this word is not intended to be so restricted in our text. It is a generick term, embracing every species of unchastity. This commandment may be broken by an unmarried person as well as by one who is inarried. In unmarried persons the overt act of uncleanness is called fornication. Sometimes in the commission of the crime forbidden by the seventh commandment, force is used; then the crime is called rape, which is a very great aggravation of the sin. It is also an aggravation of sin forbidden by the seventh commandment, when it is committed by persons nearly related to each other by blood or affinity. The crime in such circumstances is called incest.

And here I would remark that marriages are incestuous, when they take place between persons near of kin to each other. Such persons are habitually living in incest, and therefore an aggravated violation of the seventh commandment. And here a question will arise. Within what degree of consanguinity or affinity is marriage unlawful, or incestuous, and a breach of the seventh commandment? Marriage within the degrees of consanguinity, or relation by blood, nearer than that of cousins, appears to be positively forbidden in the Scriptures. And it has been made a question by some, whether it is lawful even for cousins to marry. On this point, I would say, there is nothing in the Scriptures forbidding such a connexion; but on the contrary there are examples which favour its lawfulness. There are also certain degrees of affinity forbidden in the Scriptures. A connexion with a father's wife or step-mother is very severely condemned by the apostle Paul; 1 Cor. v. 1. In Leviticus, Chapters xviii, and xx, if the laws therein contained relate to marriage, we find forbidden, father's wife or step-mother, father's brother's or uncle's wife, son's wife or daughter-in-law, and a brother's wife or sister-in-law. In all these, there is no relation by blood. In regard to the last relation, by a positive law, which we find, Deut. xxv. 5; it was lawful and a duty for a brother to marry the widow of his deceased brother when he died without children.

A relation similar to this is, the marriage of a man with the sister of the deceased wife. This is a connexion which is frequently formed in the present day. Its lawfulness has been much questioned; and by many eminent writers it has been pronounced incestuous; and it is so pronounced in the Confession of Faith of our Church, Chap. xxiv. Sect. 4. Whether such marriages may be formed is a very serious question; inasmuch as if they are unlawful, they who are thus connected are, in the sight of God, constantly living in the violation of the seventh commandment. Without undertaking in this place, to discuss the merits of this question, I would earnestly exhort all who fear God, never to form such a connexion, until they have thoroughly examined the subject, and fully satisfied their minds of the lawfulness of such a step, lest they be found at the bar of God, to have been guilty of incest. And further I would remark on this sub

ject, that all things which are lawful are not expedient. And since there are enough other persons, with whom to form a connexion by marriage; and marriage with a wife's sister is very offensive to many of God's people, and of tentimes creates much trouble in the church, persons, if they were satisfied that there was nothing unlawful in such connexions would do better to abstain from them.

Another way in which the seventh commandment is broken, is by polygamy, or having more wives than one at the same time. This is contrary to the original institution of marriage, which was between only one pair. It is contrary to the instructions of our Saviour, when he said, referring to the original institution of marriage: "Have ye not read, that he which made them 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 :" Mat. xix. 4-6. And the apostle Paul in the frequent reference he makes to the conjugal relation, uniformly speaks of it as existing between one man and one woman. It is true some good men of old practised polygamy. But we are to consider these examples as instances of the imperfections of these men, and not as forming arguments of the lawfulness of the practice. Polygamy is contrary to the institution of God in relation to marriage; and they who are guilty of it, and especially under the light of christianity are transgressors of the seventh commandment, and are living in adultery.

This commandment may also be broken by divorce.. There is unquestionably a ground of divorce which is authorised by the divine law. But divorces doubtless often take place, in opposition to the law of God; and the parties are married again to other persons. Such marriages are a breach of the seventh commandment; and the parties brought together, by them are constantly living in adultery in the sight of heaven.

[ocr errors]

Marriage is undoubtedly a divine ordinance. It was instituted by God himself in the garden of Eden. Our Saviour in answer to a question of the Pharisees, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Mat. xix. 3; referred them to the original institution of marriage, in the case of our first parents; and hence in

ferred that God had joined married persons together, and that man ought not to put them asunder; "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder;" ver. 6. Hence we learn that every truly married pair are joined together by God; and that man, though clothed with human authority, has no right to dissolve this connexion, and divorce those thus joined together, unless God permits it. In what cases then has he in his word authorized divorces? for in no other cases have human tribunals the right to grant them. I answer he has authorized them in the case of the adultery of one of the parties; but I believe in no other case. In this case the innocent party has a right, in the sight of God, to seek for and obtain a divorce, and to marry again; but not the guilty party. That a want of fidelity in either party is a sufficient, and the only legal ground of divorce in the sight of God, appears from what our Saviour said to the Pharisees in the conversation already alluded to-"I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away, doth commit adultery;" Mat. xix. 9. Equally explicit is the declaration of our Saviour, Mat. v. 32; "I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever. shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery."

Many married persons are divorced by human authority, where this cause is not alledged, and the persons thus divorced marry again; but such marriages are unlawful in the sight of heaven, and the persons thus married are constantly living in adultery, and no human laws can screen them from this charge in the sight of heaven.

I proceed to point out other breaches of the seventh commandment.

Unchaste or obscene conversation is prohibited by this commandment. Such conversation offends and pains the chaste ear, and is calculated to excite lust in those who use it, in others who hear it. Against such conversation are the following texts: "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth;" Eph. iv. 29. "But foranation, and all cleanness, let it not be once named step, g you-nei guilty "Put off


Impure thoughts, desires, and intentions are also a breach of this commandment. This is explicitly taught by our Saviour; Mat. v. 28; "I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Further, whatever has a tendency to excite, and inflame the lustful passions, and tempt to the acts directly forbidden by the seventh commandment is a breach of the commandment.

Hence I remark that associating with loose company, the tendency of which according to the Scriptures is to corrupt good manners; and reading books of a lascivious tendency, is a breach of the spirit of this commandment. So also indecent and immodest apparel. Solomon speaks of the attire of an harlot; Prov. vii. 10. There is an attire which is contrary to modesty, and which is calculated to excite improper desires in others. Idleness is also a sin against this commandment; as it tends to incite and nourish the lusts of the flesh. "Abundance of idleness," is mentioned, Ezek. xvi. 9, as one cause of the excessive lewdness of Sodom. Excess or intemperance in eating and drinking is also forbidden by this commandment; as such excess pampers the flesh, and has a tendency to excite and strengthen the lusts of the flesh. In short whatever has a tendency to excite to lust is forbidden by the seventh command


The evils of sins against the seventh commandment are many and great.

No class of sins is more frequently spoken of and forbidden than this. And both the terms used to express these sins, and the explicit declarations of the Lord in regard to them, show his great abhorrence of them. Sins against this commandment are infamous among men, and more than perhaps any other, when discovered, destroy character. To females especially, the consequence is in delible disgrace in the sight of the world. The wise man speaking of those who commit this sin, said; "A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away;" Prov. vi. 33. Many instances which we have known accord with this text.

Sins against the seventh commandment also frequently bring misery on others. They inflict a deep, and often

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »