Page images

been made a religious ceremony ; although, of its own nature, and abstracted from the rules and declarations which Jewish and Christian Scripture deliver concerning it, marriage is a civil contract, and nothing more."

2. The ceremony is usually grave, solemn, and impressive. The husband promises, on his part, “to love, comfort, honor, and keep his wife;" the wife, on hers, to “obey, serve, love, honor, and keep her husband,” in every variety of wealth, fortune, and condition, and both stipulate “to forsake all others, and keep only to one another so long as they both live.” The parties, by this vow, solemnly engage their personal fidelity, expressly and specifically : they engage likewise to consult and promote each other's happiness. 2

3. And by the law of Nature, marriage is, in all well-constituted minds, not only instituted, but made indissoluble, except by death: even the lower animals that live in pairs exemplify permanent connexion. With regard to man, where the organs of domestic affection bear a just proportion to each other, and where the moral and intellectual organs are favorabiy developed and cultivated, there is not only no desire, on either side, to bring the marriage tie to an end, but the utmost repugnance to do so. The deep despondency which changes into one unbroken expression of grief and desolation the whole aspect of even the most determined and energetic men, when they lose by death the cherished partners of their lives; and that breaking down of spirit---profoundly felt, although meekly and resignedly borne, which the widow indicates when her “stay and delight” is removed from her for ever,proclaim in language too touching and too forcible to be misunderstood, that, where the marriage tie is

Payley's Philosophy, B. 3, p. 3, c. 8, 2 The wife, moreover, promises obedienee to her husband., Nature may have left the sexes of the human species nearly equal in their faculties, and perfectly so in their rights; but to guard against those competitions which equality or a contested superiority, is almost sure to produce, the Christian Scriptures enjoin upon the wife, in terms peremptory and absolute, that obedience which she here promises.

formed according to nature's laws, no civil enactments are needed to render it indissoluble during life. It is clear, then, that life endurance is stamped upon it by the Creator, when He renders its continuance so sweet, and its bursting asunder so painful. It is only where the minds of both or one of the parties are ill constituted, or where the union is otherwise unfortunate, that any desire for separation exists.

4. “ The Law of Nature,” says Paley, “admits of divorce in favor of the injured party in cases of adultery, of obstinate desertion, of attempts upon life, of outrageous cruelty, of incurable madness, and, perhaps, of personal imbecility, but,” he proceeds, " by no means indulges the same privileges to mere dislike, to opposition of humours and inclination to contrariety of taste and temper, to complaints of coldness, neglect, severity, peevishness or jealousy: not that these reasons are trivial, but because such objections may always be alleged, and are impossible by testimony to be ascertained so as to allow implicit credit to them, and to dissolve marriage whenever either party thought fit to pretend them, would lead, in its effects, to all the licentiousness of arbitary divorces. If,” says he, “ a married pair, in actual irreconcilable discord, complain that their happiness would be better consulted by permitting them to determine a connexion which has become odious to both; it may be told them, that the same permission as a general rule would produce libertinism, desertion, and misery among thousands who are now virtuous, quiet, and happy in their condition; and it ought to satisfy them to reflect that when their happiness is sacrificed to the operation of an unrelenting rule, it is sacrificed to the happiness of the community.”

5. It has been properly observed, that “if there be truth in phrenology, this argument of Paley's is a grand fallacy." "Actual and irreconciliable discord” arises only from want of harmony in the natural dispositions of the parties connected with differences in their cerebral organizations : and agreement arises solely from the existence of such harmony. The natures of the parties in the one case differ irreconcilably: But to maintain that if two persons of such discordant minds were permitted to separate, that thousands of accordant minds would instantly fly off from each other in a like state of discord, is as illogical as it would be to assert that if the humane spectators of a street fight were to separate the combatants, they should forthwith be seized with the mania of fighting among themselves.

6. The common arguments on this subject appear to have been put forward in ignorance of the real elements of human nature, and are applicable only to particularly constituted individuals. " Married persons may be divided into three classes. First, those whose dispositions naturally accord, and who are consequently happy: Secondly, those in whom there are some feelings in harmony, but many in discord, and are in the medium state between happiness and misery : And thirdly, those between whose dispositions there is an irreconcilable difference, and who are, therefore, altogether unhappy in eaeh other's society."

7. Paley's views, if applied to persons who are bordering on the middle line of liking and dislike, would be sound. To hold to such persons extreme difficulty or impossibility, in obtaining dissolution of the marriage tie, will present them with motives to cultivate those feelings in which they agree; while to offer to them easy means of terminating it, might lead to a reckless aggravation of their quarrels. But this is only one class, and their case does not exhaust the question. Where the union is really accordant in nature the facility of undoing it will not alter its character, nor produce a desire to destroy the happiness it engenders. Where it is irremediably unsuitable and unhappy, the sacrifice of the parties will not mend their own condition; and as the happy are safe in the attractions of a reciprocal affection, the only persons who can be said to be benefitted by the example of the inseparability of the wretched, are the class of waverers to whom allusion has been made. Those penalties attached by nature to the dissolution of the marriage tie, may have some effect on this class. These, aided by a proper legal impediment to the fulfilmeni of their caprices,

might render the restraint on them sufficient, without calling for the absolute sacrifice of their unhappy brethren for the supposed public good. And such conclusions are greatly strengthened by the consideration that the dispositions of children are determined in an important degree, by the prominent dispositions of the parents; and that to prevent the separation wretched couples is to entail misery on the offspring, not only by the influence of example, but by the transmission to them of ill-constituted brains—the natural l'esult of organs of the lower feelings being maintained in a state of constant activity in their parents by dissension. And while the law permits marriages at ages when the parties are destitute of foresight

while the moral and intellectual education pursued in this country, furnishes scarcely one sound element of information by which to guide the judgment-while so many sources of error encompass mankind as now do, the argument is a mockery at once of reason and of human suffering, and persons ought not to be deprived of the possibility of escaping from the pit into which they may have inadvertantly fallen; and not only divorce for infidelity to the marriage vow, but dissolution of marriage by voluntary consent, under proper restrictions and after due consideration, ought to be permitted. Such divorces were allowed by the Code Napoleon, it having been the grand object of the First Consul, wisely to guard against those great evils which so surely follow deep-rooted aversions, to veil the shame of parties, and above all to save the public from the contaminating example of domestic immoralities.

8. The scriptures seem to have drawn the obligation of marriage tighter than the law of nature left it. “Whosoever," says Christ, “shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and skall marry another, committeth adultery, and whoso marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery."| Inferior causes may justify the separation of the husband and wife, although they will not warrant such a dissolution

I Matt. xix. 9.

of the marriage contract as would leave either party at liberty to marry again: for it is in that liberty the supposed danger and mischief of divorce would principally consist. If the care of children does not require that they should live together, and that in the serious judgment of both parties, it has become necessary for their mutual happiness that they should separate, let them separate by consent. Nevertheless this necessity can hardly exist without guilt or misconduct, on one side or on both. Moreover, it is made lawful, in certain cases, for the party aggrieved to withdraw from the society of the offender without his or her consent.

The law which imposes the marriage vow, whereby the parties promise “to keep each other,” or in other words, to live together, "must,” says Paley,“ be understood to impose it with a silent reservation in these cases.”

St. Paul likewise distinguishes between a wife's merely separating herself from the family of her husband and her marrying again : “Let not the wife depart from her husband; but if she do, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.”!

9. By the civil law, which is especially the object of our attention, the marriage tie is dissoluble only where adultery is committed. Therefore, the desire we feel to sever those who wish to live separately, and who have not yet been so unfortunate, on either side, to introduce, an element into their cases, that crime which is made the basis of the relief,—cannot be gratified to the extent we should hope for. We must still see them condemned to hateful inextricable unions, leading to consequences much worse to themselves, and to society, than any evil that could possibly arise from a moderate and Christian exercise of the power of dissolving marriage by a properly constituted tribunal, and, for the present, be content with that measure of relief which we have received :-limited as it is, much within the boundary of distinct Scripture authority.

10. For nearly two centuries has the British Parliament exercised the power of granting divorces. The

1 1 Cor. vü. 10, 11.

« EelmineJätka »