« ZurückWeiter »
ORIGINAL CRITICISM. What a delightful and chearing prospect is here presented to the enraptured eye! But low is that prospect blafted, if the fell monster Adultery gain admillion into this blissful family! What a dreadful reverse is then exhibited! The brightest scene of felicity, which it has pleased Providence to display in this part of the creation, then vanishes entirely, and is succeeded by another scene, infinitely the most distressful that can cccur in the numerous vicissitudes of social life. The hearts which before were the residence of joy, harmony, and love, are torn and tormented by the most painful and furious pallions. The kindred feelings of conjugal and parental fondness, no longer fympathetic and congenial, now wage open war, and distract the soul, by the fierceness of their conflict. But who shall describe the misfortune of the innocent and helpless offspring, who look, with mute astonishment, on the dreadful change which they are unable to comprehend? Alas! poor unfortunate babes, little do you think how deeply you are interested in the mysterious event, which has damped the joys of your hitherto happy abode ; little do you think how baleful an influence that event must have on your future life; you are no longer to witness the fond eífusions of maternal tenderness; you are no longer to experience that fostering care, to which Providence had kindly entrusted your infant years ; no, you are torn from the stock which gave you birth; from the foil which alone could cherish your growing virtues; you are about to be exposed to the fad consequences of chilling neglect, and to the still more dangerous contagion of vicious example."
The necessity of legal coercion for restraining, by the means of punishment, a fin so heinous, and thus making human laws, what they should always be made, whenever it be practicable, auxiliaries to the denunciations of divine vengeance, for the purpose of reforming a guilty world, is strongly enforced; suitable comments are made on the glaring defect in our penal code, which does not consider Adultery as a crime, a defect alike dishonourable to the legislature, and disgraceful to the nation ; and the provisions of the bill which was rejected last year by the junior part of the Commons House of Parliament, are truly represented as alone adequate to the attainment of this most desirable object.
“ To punish, as a misdemeanor, a crime which endangers the very ex. istence of society, if an error, is certainly one on the side of lenity. But the extremely corrupted ftate of morals which prevails, (in confequence chiefly of the long impunity of that crime), renders it impoffible, now to punish it as it deferves. By clafling it in the list of misdeineanors, le punithment of which is in a certain degree discretionary, due consideration may b: had, if not to the heinousness of the offence, at leait to the various shades of guilt of which it is susceptible.
“ The other provision of the Bill, which was brought forward last year, had for its object, to prevent tlie internarriage of the offending parties, after a Divorce for Adultery. This provision I conceive to be as necessary as the one already noticed. ' It would operate beneficially in two ways. First, it would cut off one grand source of temptation to the commision of Adultery. When good principles are implanted by education, they naturally produce some struggle before they yield to the force of templation. When a married woman is engaged in fueh a struggle; when honour and fame are combating in her breast, with unlawful paslion and licentious desire ; what can afford such effettual S, nanding her satte og vil as the condity that its fall will be
attended with inevitable misery, and indelible disgrace ? On the other hand, what can be so likely to make her give up the contest, and to violate her vows, as the expectation that the shall regain her credit, and even encrease her happiness, by marrying with her feducer? Such an expectation the man, who is base enough to corrupt her fidelity, will not fail to fet full in her view, if it be neceffary to the accomplishment of his purpose. To take away this induce. ment to fin, to remove this auxiliarý to vice, would, therefore, afford support and security to female chastity at the moipent of the greatest peril.
“ Another effect of the above provision would be to destroy a moit darigerous species of example. The impunity of crimes is one great cause of their frequency. But how muit they prevail if they be allowed, not only to escape punishment, but to be rewarded with respect and apparent happiness? Is it possible to conceive a scene more calculated to relieve adultery of all its odium, and even to recommend it to favour, than that of two persons, who, after being guilty of that offence, nay, in confequence of their very crime, intermarry, and live together in connubial felicity? Before such a scene adultery loses all its horror ; it ceases to be infamous; it even acquires a semblance of respectability. Such a scene robs marriage of its fanctity, and profanes that moit sacred institution ; it is an insult upon female honour, and a most dan. gerous snare to female chastity. The more happiness it exhibits, the more dangerous it is to fociety. It is a temptation of the most seductive kind to the married woman who does not think herself happys-nay, it is an icducement to her to maguify her unhappiness--to brood over every cau'e of domestic inquietude--to relent more keenly every flight' she may receive from her hufband--to indulge her fancy in the contemplation of the bliss the might enjoy with a more attentive and affectionate yoke fellow--to think lighıly of the nuptial tie, and to consider the diffolution of it as in her own power;
with these impressions she is prepared to listen to the wily addresses of the feducer, and to believe that, by a venial offence, the may ensure her felicity without a facrifice of her honour... The practice of adulterous marriages, of " impudica matrimonia," tends also to break down the barrier between vice and virtue. The woman who is thus raised, by means of her fin, from the depths of guilt, to a fituation which entitles her to all the rights of unspotted fame, is a link in the chain of society, which connects honour and disgrace, fo that the diftinction between these opposite sentiments is in danger of being loft ; she blends virtue and vice in fuch a manner, that it becomes impossible, as in the colours of the rainbow, to say, where the one ends and the other begins.”
One leading feature in the character of this liberal age is holden forth in a very proper point of view, and proves that the author not only closely observes but truly estimates the spirit, the manners, and the morals of the time. There is but one radical cure for this wretched perversion of philanthropy, this miserable mockery of virtue, this base counterfeit of Christian compaffion ; let the Scriptures be rendered the sole ftandard of human actions, and the ever-erring judginent of the finful creature be no longer opposed to the supreme will, and irrevocable fiat of his all-juft, all-wise, and all-powerful creator !
“ But notwithstanding the extremely mischievous tendency of the practice of intermarriage betweea the guilty parties, after a divorce for Adultery, the provision, which had for its object the prevention of such a practice, excited the disapprobation of some persons, who admitted the indispenfabic ncceility
of subjecting Adultery to legal punishment. The objections to that clause liarę assumed a moft interesting form. They assail the virtuous and the manly heart where it is most susceptible. They represent the adulterefs, not as a criminal, but as a helpless and unfortunate female—as an object of pity rather than of censure. A lively interest is excited in her future fate. Should she not be allowed to marry her paramour, what, it is said, must be her lor, buc infamy and prostitution ? Nay, some extreme case of forced marriage, and of unconquerable attachment, is presumed, in order to display, in the stronget light, the cruelty of a law, which would consign to shame and misery the woman who violates the most sacred of ties.
" It is the peculiar disposition of this compassionate age to listen, attentively, to such appeals. The heart, relaxed by the indulgent principles of the new philosophy, is feelingly alive to all the woes of guilt. "It generously effaces all recollection of the crime, and is only anxious left the criminal should fink under those sufferings, which the laws of God and man have doomed him to undergn, In the exercise of this refined species of sensibility, not a feeling, not a ihought is bestowed on the injury suitained by society, or on the danger to which the public morals must be exposed, by the spectacle of vice fecure frem inisery, and loaded with caresses. All such confiderations vanish before the peafing, the generous, talk, of foothing the guilty heart, and of rendering ingeny amiable and vice interesting.
e humbly conceive, with all due deference to modern fyftems of ethics, that this sity is unkind, that this compatrion, like the tender mercies of the wikid,' is cruel. 'I humbly conceive that the plan of Providence is in. fin toy more humane, as well as ioexprelibly more wise. The connection, vick in that plan, berween vice and misery, is established for the sake, not mely of the innocent, but also of the guilty. While the former are warned lgunes mple, the latter are amended by discipline. While thuse are preserved írum tiling, these are raifed up and conducted, through suffering, to peniIee, setorination, and pardon. The correction may, indeed, be severe
, butxi is talavary, it is merciful. It afords the only means by which, accord319 to the conviction of human nature, the heart can be purified from guilt. Puthie law of affociarior (already noticed), the crime, which occafioned the Suif ring, becomes an object of loathing and abhorrence ; and these sentiments, when confirmed ly reflecrion, afford a solid basis for good resolutions, for virtuous difpofitions, and for real reformation.
Or the contrary, the new and refined system of feeling, sympathyling with ibat arrogant philofophy, which promises perfect happiness to imperfect mnen, cannoi udure that vice should be miserable. It pours balm into the guilty breast, and forbids the finner to be sorrowful. This vain attempt to improve upon the order of nature, will, if perfifted in, receive the reward due to fuch prefumption. It will gratly increase the corruption of human nature, and the sum of human misery. It will encompass virtue with new snares, by rendering ihe path of vice apparently safe, as well as flowery. It will render guilt impenitent, and prevent the criminal from reaping the falutary fruits of compunction and repentance.
“ It is true, in the loose style of the new school of morality, when the adulterefs, by marrying the partner of her crime, regains a kind of character, which, though not sterling, is current for all the purposes of fashionable life ; and when, tensible of the danger which she has lo fortunately escaped-cr, perhaps, really attached to the man for whom the violated her firit vows-the
svoids, in her new nuptial connection, a repetition of her offence ; this change is called reformation. But is it certain that this skin-deep reformation will be accepted by that Being, who searches the heart? Is there no danger that the woman, who is thus preserved from forrow, may fall very short of that repentance which is not to be repented of? that she may find it impossible even to regret, much less to abhor the offence, which has produced fuch pleasing consequences ? that, in short, by being prevented from atoning for her crime in this world, she may have to account for it in the next? These, surely, are enquiries of some importance, unless to those who adopt the Gallic scheme of infidelity, and recognize tlie infidel decree that ' death is an eternal fleep.' Without, however, resorting to considerations of so high a nature, one thing is certain, that it is better, both for the individual and the community, that a woman, who has been guilty of such a crime as Adultery, should hide her face in retirement, than that she should appear in the public walks of life, asserting her undiminished claims to character and respect; and-
CowPER. Every other objection to the prohibitory clause of the bill is proved to be equally false and futile ; and many of our juvenile propounders of laws
here find much useful and necessary information, as well respecting their private conduct as their public duty. Our readers will have perceived that the author's stile is as chaste and elegant, as his principles and sentiments are just and pure; and we should ill discharge our duty did we not most strenuously recommend this letter to the perusal of every man, who thinks that the religious and moral principles of the community are an object of importance, either to the present well-being of the state, or to the future happiness of its members. Copious as our quotations have already been, we cannot resist the temptation of extracting the closing passage of the book, which is calculated to impress the mind with the most serious, the most awful reHections; adding our fervent with that these reflections may tend to promote those beneficial effects which it is the evident object of the author to produce. Having delineated the profligate state of manners in France, he thus concludes;
« Sir, it deserves our most serious consideration, whether, though we have not yet, thank Heaven! attained so dreadfully corrupted a state of manners, we are not making fast approaches towards such a ftaté. Of this, I fear, we exhibit symptoms which are truly alarming. We exhibit the most alarming of all symptoms—a corruption of moral sentiment. It is certain, that Adula tery no longer excites among us the same abhorrence as heretofore. It is viewed every day with a more indulgent eye. It is connived at, and encouraged, even by some, whose personal conduct is irreproachable. It is holden out as an object of compassion. It is growing into a system. It is beginning to have its laws of honour. All this has been allowed—nay, it has even been urged by those who opposed the attempt which has been made to reAtrain it by law, and who pleaded, as a reason against the probable effect of Legislative interposition, but Adulteries are better received than beretofore ! X 4
Thus are we treading in the steps of profligate France. May Heaven inspire our Legislators with wisdom and resolution to interpose, whilft it is yet time, to check our perilous care r ; left we share the fate of our Gallic neighbours, who would not have been the victims of Revolution, if they had not first been the slaves of vice.”
Sermons preached at Laura Chapel, Bath, during the Season of Advent, 1799. By the Rev. Francis Randolph, D. D. &c.
(Continued from p. 137.) IN
review, we shall now attempt an analysis of the subject matter of these discourses, and of the doctrinal points which it is their object to establish, reserving for our next publication the extracts which we propose making as a specimen of the style, the language, and the argumentation of no common author.
The firit fermon, which, as we have already observed, is a kind of abstrast of the whole work, has for its text the sublime declaration of the inspired writer concerning our Saviour, which of itself establishes all the facts insisted on in the volume under confideration. (Hebrews, xiii. 8.] Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and to day, and for ever. On which text the author observes, that nothing has done more harm to the cause of Christianity, than the idea which has been thrown out by some and adopted by others; that it is of late original, a scheme of religion entirely new till 4000 years had elapsed after the creation. This idea tends to impeach the unity of God's design, to darken the promise of universal redemption, and to shut on preceding ages the gates of mercy. By those who diligently search the scriptures a different do&rine will be maintained : they will unite the promise wich the performance-the prophecy with the completion-the anticipation with the eveno--they will see that the faith which Christianity inculcates was one and the same in all ages of the church; immutable as the divine Mediator, whose religion it is. The enquiry, it is observed, will lead to a wide field of discussion ; but in the extensive survey the path of life will be discovered; from this christian eminence will appear the subsisting traces of the Patriarchal and the Jewish Churches, all pursuing the same road, all tending to the same end; nay, in the wildest digressions of heathen mythology, the wandering footsteps of the idolater may be traced back to the very point of departure from the true faith.
Previously to this investigation, the general line of argument is proposed.' The first revelation to Adam, made at the fall, is found to have been a promise of redemption; it is traced, through the ante. diluv an world, in the faith of Abel and of Enoch, to Noah ; it is shewn to be the basis of the new covenant, made between God and man, at the restoration of the world after the food; the principle on which Abraham obeyed the divine call, separating him at once from his country and his kindred; by virtue of which he went forth, niat