« PreviousContinue »
On the other side, the parent shall offend, if, holding too hard a hand over the fruit of his own body, he shall resolve violently to force the child's affections to his own bent: and, where he finds them settled, will rather break than bow them; not caring so much to persuade, as to compel love. These harshnesses have too much of tyranny in them, to be incident to a Christian parent; who must transact all these matrimonial affairs, in a smooth and plausible way of consent and indulgence.
A noble and ancient pattern whereof, we find in the contract betwixt Isaac and his Rebekah ; Gen. xxiv. 49, &c. The match was treated on, betwixt Abraham's proxy and the maid's father Bethuel and her brother Laban. The circumstances drew their full consent: all is agreed upon betwixt parents. But, when all this is done, nothing is done till Rebekah have given her assent: they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth; v. 57. And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go; v. 58. Now the contract is made up : till then, all the engagements of Bethuel and Laban were but compliments : till then, all the rich jewels of gold and silver given to the intended bride, and all the precious things given to her mother and brother, were but at the mercy of the receivers.
Neither ought it to be other, in all Christian espousals. The free and cheerful consent of parents and parties makes the match both full and happy. Let not the child dare to cross his parents : let not the parent think to force the child. And, when an undue bargain is, through the heat of passion, made up past reclamation, let love and pity so far intercede for the offenders, that they may smart for their rashness and neglect, without their utter undoing.
Whether the marriage of cousins-german, that is, of brother's or sis
ter's children, be lawful. The displeasure of the Canon Law against such marriages is so high flown, that no less can take it off, than an utter diremption of them; even though they be not ratified only, but consummate by carnal knowledge. And the grave authority of some ancient and holy Fathers and eminent Doctors of the Church, besides five several Councils, have passed a hard sentence upon them.
The main ground of the supposed unlawfulness, is that clause of God's Law, which was more than judicial : No man shall approach unto any near of kin to his flesh, to uncover their nakedness : I am the Lord; Lev. xviii. 6. Which though Cornelius à Lapide *, following his Radulphus, would seem to restrain to the ensuing particularities only; yet they may not think that God will suffer so
* Cor. à Lap. in locum.
universal a charge to be so straitly pent: especially when we know there are divers other no less unlawful copulations omitted in this black roll of uncleannesses, than those which are expressly mentioned; the rest being intended to come in by way of analogy only : for it is easy for any reader to observe, that all the severalities of the degrees prohibited run still upon the male; under which, if the like exorbitances of the other sex were not meant to be comprehended, females should be lawless, and the law imperfect.
To marry, then, with a cousin-german, iş apprehended by these Canonists to be an approach to one near kin to our flesh; and, therefore, intimated in that inhibition.
Doctor Willet, a man much deserving of God's Church, conceives these marriages to be analogically forbidden in this catalogue of Moses. “ For," saith he *, “ if the degrees of affinity belimited to the third or fourth degree: as it is not lawful for a man to marry his wife's daughter's daughter; Lev. xviii. 17 : why should not the line of consanguinity hold to the fourth degree likewise ; and so neither the son to marry his father's brother's daughter, or the daughter the son ?” But that worthy Divine did not heedfully observe the great difference betwixt these instanced degrees : for the one of these is in an equal line; the other, in an unequal line: the one is a collateral consanguinity; the other is in a directly descending affinity; so as the husband should be grand-father-in-law to the wife, which in all reason were very unlawful and absurd ; since in all those descending degrees there is a kind of reverential inequality betwixt the lower and superior, which abhors from all proportion of a match: whereas the collateral equidistance of .cousins-german from the stock whence both descend, hath in it no such
appearance of inequality. Certainly, then, no analogy can draw these marriages within the prohibition : whether the nearness of approach to our fesh be a just bar to them, must be farther considered.
Gregory, whom some would fain interest in our English Apostleship, writing to his Augustin † in way of answer to his Interrogations, puts these marriages in the same rank with the marriages of brothers and sisters; which he brands with this note, that they seldom ever prove
fruitful. As for those of brothers and sisters, which were usual, as Diodorus Siculus tells us amongst the Egyptians, and are this day in use in barbarous nations; nature itself abominates the mention of them. In the first plantation of the world, there was a necessity of them; as without which, there could have been no human generation : but, afterwards, as the earth grew more peopled, so these matches grew still more odious. Like as it was also in the first plantation of the Church; the holy seed being confined to a narrow compass, were forced, unless they would join with infidels, to match sometimes overnear to themselves : as even Abraham him
* Will. Syno. Controver. 15. de Matr. q. 3. Augustini. q. 6.
+ Greg. Resp. ad Interrog.
self, the Father of the Faithful, married his brother's daughter. But when the bounds of men and believers came to be enlarged, the greater elbow-room opened a wider liberty of choice: and now God's select people found it meet to observe a due distance in the elections of their wives; so regarding the entireness of their tribes, as that they fell not within the lines of prohibition ; wherein no mention being made of brother's and sister's children, in all ages and nations some have thought fit to make use of their freedom in this kind.
What need I to urge the case of Zelophehad's five daughters; Num. xxxvj. 11 : who, by God's own approbation, were married to their father's brother's sons ? To mince the matter, and to make these sons nephews, according to the Hebrew phrase, as Doctor Willet endeavours to do, is without either need or warrant; since these scruples were not since that time stood upon by the Jewish people.
Yea, this practice was no less current, among the civiler heathens of old. I could tell you of Cluentia, by Cicero's relation *, married to her cousin Marcus Aurius; of Marcus Antoninus, the wise and virtuous philosopher, marrying his cousin Faustina; and a world of others : were not this labour saved me by the learned Jawyer Hotoman; who tells us how universal this liberty was of old, as being enacted by the laws of the Roman Empire, and descending to the laws of Justinian, and confidently affirms, that, for five hundred years, all Christian people, magno consensu, allowed and followed these imperial constitutions concerning matrimony t. Although I might here put him in mind of Theodosius enacting the contrary, in his time, as it is like, by St. Ambrose's instigation; who then sharply inveighed against these matches in a vehement Epistle to Paternus I, being then in hand with a marriage betwixt his son and his sister's daughter.
But, excepting that good emperor, the coast was clear perhaps, for the Cæsarean constitutions: not so for the judgment of Divines; amongst whom it were enough that St. Ambrose and St. Augustin, the flower of the Latin Fathers, if no other, do bitterly oppose it.
This judgment being found not probable only, but exceeding profitable to the Roman See, it is no wonder if it obtained both credit and vigour from thence. Decrees and Decretals make this inhibition good; not without damning the contrary practice: and now the Civil and Canon Laws clashing with one another, how can it be but the prevalence must be according to the power of the abettor ?
What liberty the Court of Rome hath taken to itself in the restraint of marriages, and upon what ground, all Christendom both
* Cicer. Orat. pro Cluentio. * Hotoman de Grad. Cognat.-Laurent. Kirchovius Profes. Rostoch. in Consil. Matrimon. Ambr. Ep. ad Paternum. 66. ll Hodie cessat fraternitas, et aliquâ ex parte compaternitas, per Concilium Trident. Sess. 24. Navarr. c. 22. n. 27.
sees and feels. One while, their prohibition reaches to the seventh degree in natural kindred: then, to the fourth. One while the impediment of spiritual cognation is stretched so far, without any colour of divine authority, as that, what by Baptism, what by Confirmation, twenty several persons are excluded from the capacity of inter-marriage : another while, the market is fallen to fourteen. And wherefore this, but for the sweet and scarce-valuable gain of dispensations, upon these occasions flowing into the Lateran Trea. sure? For which considerations, we have learned not to attribute too much to the judgment or practice of the Roman Courtiers in
Upon the summing up, then, of this discourse, will you be pleased to see the vast latitude of different opinions concerning these marriages? The Canon Law decries them with such rigour, as to ordain them, though after a conjugal conversation, separated. Some moderate Divines, as Doctor Willet, finding this sentence too bard, go not so far; but hold this nearness of blood a sufficient bar to hinder a marriage contracted, though not consummate : some others, as Mr. Perkins in my conference with him, hold it, though not unlawful, yet inconvenient : some others, as learned and acute Mr. Wooton, and Mr. Attersoll who hath written a very large discourse in way of vindication of them, hold them both lawful and not inexpedient: Hotoman, yet higher, pium et Christianum esse, quòd duarum sororum liberi matrimonio copulentur; that such a marriage is pious and Christian t.
In all this variety, if you desire my opinion, I shall neither censure such marriages, where they are made; nor yet encourage them to be made, where they are not. To those that are free, I should be apt to suggest counsels of forbearance: the world'is vide; the choice abundant: let it be never so lawful, yet how unwise and unsafe were it to put the conscience upon the nicety of a dangerous scruple, when it may keep aloof off with a clear freedom and resolute contentment! That these marriages are disallowed by so great authority, should be reason enough to divert the free thoughts to a safer election : and, again, that these marriages are allowed both by civil laws, and by the judgment of eminent divines; and not any where forbidden, either Jure Cæsareo or Apostolico, by God's Law or Cæsar's; should be reason enough to bear up the hearts of those, who are so matched, from a scrupulous dejection. Let the persons, therefore, so married enjoy themselves with mutual complacency and comfort; not disquieting themselves with needless anxieties. Let those single persons, who have the world before them, look further off; and fasten their affections at a more unquestionable distance. As it was wont to be worthy Mr. Perkins's expression, to this purpose; “ Let those, who must walk close to the brim of a steep precipice, look well to their feet, and tread sure; and so they may come off, perhaps, as safely as those,
* Hotoman de Vita Matrim. p. 6. citante Kirchovio; ut suprà.
that are further off: but, if a man be to chuse his way, let him so cast it, as that he may not approach near to the brink of danger.”
Thether is it necessary or requisite there should be a witnessed con
tract, or espousals of the parties to be married, before the solemni
zation of the marriage ? It is necessary we should distinguish, betwixt those things which are essential to the very being of marriage, and those which are requisite to the orderly and well-being of it.
It may not be denied, that the marriage is true and valid, which, with full consent of parties, is made, without the intervention of a previous contract, in a due and lawful form prescribed by the Church : but, it is no less true, that such a marriage is very unmeet, and liable to just exceptions.
That God, who is the Author and Institutor of Marriage, made a difference in his Law, betwixt a betrothing and a matrimony he, that ordained the one, ordained the other also; and ordained the one, in order to the other.
And this was constantly observed in the practice of God's an. cient people, accordingly. So we find the Blessed Virgin espoused to Joseph, before his taking her to wife + : neither did the Chris. tian Church think fit to vary from so holy a pattern 1 : whereto St. Paul alludes, when, writing to and of the Church of Corinth, which he bad happily planted and forwarded in grace, he saith, I hare espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ ; 2 Cor. xi. 2. Lo, he hath betrothed them to Christ, in that he had entered them into a covenant of grace, and prepared their souls for a full consummation of their blessed union with Christ in glory; intimating, as matrimony is a lively resemblance of our spiritual conjonction with the Lord of Glory, that our bodily espousals, bere below, are they, which must make way for a complete marriage ensuing.
It were not difficult, if it were needful, to deduce this holy practice down from the primitive times to the present. Before the Nicene Council, we find the Synod of Ancyra enjoining a severe penance to the man, that should defile his body by an incestuous copulation, after espousals contracted $. And the Council of Eliveris or Granado, about the time of the Nicene Convention, takes such notice of these betrothings, as that it decreed, that, if any parents should break the faith mutually engaged in these espousals, they should be held off during the space of three years from the com
* Exod. xxii. 16. Lev. xix. 20. Deut. xx. 7. xxii. 25, 23, 28. Jer. ir...
+ Compare Matt. i. 18. with Deut. xxii. 13. # Magdeburg. Cent. 2. de Conjugio. & Concil. Anciran. Can. 24.