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a right to complain of the sacrifices by which alone those enjoyments can be innocently obtained, since they are of their own imposing. Before they can prove that vice or misery arising from an involuntary abstinence from marriage are any part of the lot bestowed upon them by Providence, they must prove that the same Providence hath made the enjoyment of luxury, and the acquisition of riches, a necessary condition of their existence.
Providence, for example, cannot be arraigned for reducing a man to the necessity of abstaining either from marriage, or his wine; nor would it be any mitigation of the crime of irregular intercourse, if a man should say that, by the constitution of human affairs, he could not enjoy the comfort of a wife without parting with his bottle. He has it clearly in his power to support the former in health and temperance, if he choose to abstain from the latter ;-the choice is his. But when he has made it, he is certainly bound to abstain from illegal gratification, having the power of enjoying that which is legal. As this, however, is not the case with the poor, if it could be proved that they, among whom perhaps the natural passion is at least equally strong, with less power of escaping its effects, be absolutely precluded from the option of an early marriage; if the weight of the greatest of all temptations be laid exclusively where the smallest means of resisting it are bestowed; if there be no possibility of bestowing upon the lower orders the gratifications which their religion holds out as innocent, and the domestic enjoyments 'of a family, (those cordial drops in the cup
a poor man, which by lulling his most restless passions to a repose that his intellectual faculties could never
produce, lift him to a level with his superiors in the scale of happiness and contentment, and in the power of practising the moral duties) ;-then may we be tempted to think that the impartiality of Providence may be plausibly impeached, and that the sins and vicious indulgences of the lower orders must be held harmless in its sight. To say in defence of so partial a dispensation, “that the Scriptures most clearly and precisely point out to us, as our duty, to restrain our passions within the bounds of reason ; and that it is a palpable disobedience of this law to indulge our desires in such a manner as reason tells us will unavoidably end in misery ;” would scarcely be admitted as conclusive in any place where the hearers were not restricted from answering, so long as the argument is exclusively used in reference to the lower orders; which in this question of the free option of marriage or celibacy it certainly is, according to the reasoning just referred to.
But let Providence speak for itself on this occasion, and in language of its own inspiration. St. Paul who, in addition to his inspired wisdom, was a man of the world, and a politician liberally educated, takes occasion to address the Corinthians upon the subject of matrimony. They were natives of a rich luxurious city, employed in many occupations sufficient to engross a man's whole and undivided attention, (as is the case in every advanced stage of society;) and where of course it would have interfered with the general and individual prosperity that all should have been distracted from their attention to pursuits advantageous to the public by the care of families; he therefore writes thus to them. “ It is good for a man not to touch a woman; nevertheless, to avoid
fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband :” (1 Cor. vii. 1, 2. 9.): and to the Hebrews, a nation in a somewhat less advanced state of society, he says, riage is honourable in all; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge:” (Heb. xii. 4.) The meaning of the former passage plainly is, that it is proper enough, there is no harm, that a man should abstain from marriage provided he can abstain from women; but let him, who finds he cannot otherwise abstain, have recourse to matrimony. That this is the true meaning appears from what follows: “I speak this by permission, not of commandment; but every man has his proper gift of God; one after this manner, another after that: I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I” (in a life of celibacy); “ but if they cannot, let them marry.” The meaning of the whole is so direct that it is impossible to mistake it. It is plainly this: in a complex society some may serve their country by devoting their whole time and talents to the advantage of the public in naval, military, commercial, or political pursuits; others to the exclusive service of God and the souls of their fellow-creatures; to severe study or to literary labours. Others again by marriage may serve both God and their country in bringing up families, and leading them in the paths of religion and virtue. Let those, then, who can contentedly devote their whole time to the former pursuits, and by distracting their minds continue pure from carnal indulgences, remain single even as St. Paul. But if ever they find their purity in so much danger that they cannot otherwise preserve it, let them marry; “ for whoremongers and
adulterers God will judge;" and so long as men have it in their power to marry, if they cannot otherwise remain pure, there is no just ground of complaint against this condition of celibacy. Such then is the judgment which the omniscient God has promulgated concerning the force of the strongest and most necessary of the natural passions, and to such an extent has he allowed indulgence to be innocent. Marriage is held forth as the universal method of such indulgence, and it is clear that the recommendation has to do with feelings and situa: tions that will occur in every state of society, whe, ther the population be full or scanty ; that it applies to the inhabitants of crowded cities as well as to the village peasant: therefore it is to be presumed (as the principles of this work maintain) that God hath pro vided the means of a sufficient supply of food for any increase of people which the compliance with such permission will ever be found to produce. The precise and positive rule is one of the most universal application, and therefore, in the case supposed, may universally be complied with without reference to any other circumstance. Moreover, marriage being permitted in the cases just stated, it follows most clearly that it is permitted to the young among the lower orders, as soon as they are emancipated from the paternal superintendance, and find their temporal circumstances in such a state as to induce them to suppose that their comforts would be increased by matrimony. “ Let the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully:" (1 Tim. v. 14.) And here we have one among a thousand instances, that the method appointed by. Providence for pre
serving and improving one virtue is made the indispensable condition, and the means of practising, many others; for without early marriage, how can a parent hope properly to fulfil the various duties of education, maintenance, and provision for his children. “ Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; having them in subjection with all gravity :” (Ephes. vi. 4.) “ If any provide not for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel :” (1 Tim. v. 8.) There are many other commands to the same purpose given to parents, a compliance with which requires much of the undivided attention of a great portion of life, and can hardly be performed by those who marry when they have yet but few active years remaining. Enough, however, has been said to prove the positive nature of the scripture doctrine upon this subject, and to show that there is no room to misapply the opinion* quoted from Dr. Paley, (Mor. Phil. b. ii. c. 4.) by stating that, according to the genuine principles of moral science, “the method of coming at the will of God by the light of nature is, to inquire into the tendency of an action to promote or diminish the general happiness.” Indeed this passage should never have been quoted, without the qualification given to it in an early part of the same chapter of the “ Moral Philosophy,” that such a method is merely recommended as the best remaining to discover the will of God, when we cannot come at his express declarations, which must always guide us when they are to be had, and which must be sought for in Scrip
* Malthus's Essay, b. iv. c. 2.