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Some regulation, it may be presumed, every person would acknowledge to be necessary: hardly will it be maintained, that there is no other rule of chastity than inclination. - And if we must be confined within some limits; the narrowest, in this instance, may be the most just, and most commodious.
In the first place, we may venture to assert, that, though the Christian precept should not be deducible from the light of reason, it is at least not contrary to it; if it be not enjoined by the dictates of nature, it is as conformable to them, as any other law would be.
Sura. iv.3. Mary wires, says the law of Maho
met, two, three, or four. But why, we may ask, so many ? or why no more ? What reason, when we have once begun to number, for stopping exactly in this place? Indeed this precept of the Koran has admitted of a latitude in the inter
pretation; and however precise the words of the command, the practice is by no means confined within the bounds prescribed.
Secondly, the number of males and females brought into the world, according to the course of nature established by Almighty God, is not greatly unequal : which is some intimation, that the allotment He intended, was that of one, to one. There seems to be no opportunity for polygamy, without danger of injustice.
Experience also strengthens these apa prehensions. In those countries, where the greatest latitude is allowed in marriage, there is the greatest oppression in government: in order to maintain an indulgence, for which nature has not made provision, and to secure to a few persons a licentious intercourse with the other sex; a great part of our own is enslaved and mutilated,
Thirdly, suppose we knew no more, than that Almighty God, in the beginning, made a human pair, one man and one woman, to be the parents of the whole race: this single fact, would it not be a kind of precept? an admonition to us, what is the most suitable to our nature, in the estimation of Him that made us?
But when we find it the declared will Gen.ii.24. of our Creator, that a man mall leave his
father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh, we must own it clearly taught, as our Lord himself indeed explains it, that this society was originally meant to comprehend but two persons, and be compleated between them; and that, at the very first marriage, polygamy was forbidden.
Divorce too, at least for every little reason, for fancy, disgust, or a new aflection, is, comprehended under the same prohibition : nothing indeed less than unfaithfulness, a violation of what is most essential in this contract, it may fairly be inferred, will justify the diffolution of so strict an union, established by such authority
Difficulties there will be always: maný occasions of self-denial will meet us, whatever course we take; and they will meet us the oftener, the more anxiously we strive to Thun them. There
also be cases, where particular persons are found to suffer by regulations, which yet are for the good of the whole : but the question is, whether, as a general institution, the perpetuity of the marriage. contract be not beneficial to mankind.
We have in our composition a principle, to which we are much indebted : use makes easy to us many things, which we fancy intolerable : we learn first to acquiesce in what we cannot alter, and
then to like what we are accustomed to. The desire of change requires some probability of success, to keep it alive and active: our wishes must be fed with hopes, to become strong enough to disturb us; they decay naturally and are extinguished, when we are once thoroughly persuaded, that they cannot pofsibly be gratified.
How many desires are thus checked, and strangled in the birth; which might have grown up to an enormous strength, and proved fatal to those that conceived them! What conflagrations had arisen from sparks, which are thus happily extinguished! It is a kindness, to keep us back from these great dangers ; to shut us up in a secure and quiet haven; and not to suffer us to expose ourselves to the perilous conflict with boisterous paffions, and a restless curiosity.
If we permit fancy to be our leader,