« PreviousContinue »
terfuge; God gave him wives, he gave them to the man whom he loved, as one among a number of great benefits; he would have given him more, if these had not been enough. Besides, the very argument which God uses towards David, is of more force when applied to the gift of wives, than to any other, thou oughtest at least to have abstained from the wife of another person, not so much because I had given thee thy master's house, or thy master's kingdom, as because I had given thee the wives of the king. Beza indeed objects, that David herein committed incest, namely, with the wives of his father-in-law.' But he had forgotten what is indicated by Esther ii. 12, 13. that the kings of Israel had two houses for the women, one appointed for the virgins, the other for the concubines, and that it was the former and not the latter which were given to David. This appears also from 1 Kings i. 4. "the king knew her not." Cantic. vi. 8. "there are fourscore concubines, and virgins without number." At the same time, it might be said with perfect propriety that God had given him his master's wives, even supposing that he had only given him as many in number and of the same description, though not the very same; even as he gave him, not indeed the identical house and retinue of his master, but one equally magnificent and royal.
It is not wonderful, therefore, that what the authority of the law, and the voice of God himself has sanctioned, should be alluded to by the holy prophets in their inspired hymns as a thing lawful and honourable. Psal. xlv. 9. (which is entitled A song of loves) "kings' daughters were among thy honourable women, v. 14. "the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee." Nay, the words of this very song are quoted by the apostle to the Hebrews, i. 8. "unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, &c. as the words wherein God the father himself addresses the Son, and
regem æque ac populum istis legibus astrictum fuisse.' Anglicano Defensio, Prose Works, Symmons' ed. V. 59.
Deinde, si valeret Ochini argumentum, profecto non tantum polygamiam sed etiam incestus probaret; si quidem consanguinei uxoris eodem gradu junguntur viro quo ipsi uxori. Itaque non magis licuit Davidi ducere uxoris suæ Michal novercas, quam suam ipsius novercam. Beza De Polygamia.
in which his divinity is asserted more clearly than in any other passage. Would it have been proper for God the Father to speak by the mouth of harlots, and to manifest his holy Son to mankind as God in the amatory songs of adulteresses? Thus also in Cantic. vi. 8-10. the queens and concubines are evidently mentioned with honour, and are all without distinction considered worthy of celebrating the praises of the bride: "there are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number .... the daughters saw her and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her." Nor must we omit 2 Chron. xxiv. 2, 3. "Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest: and Jehoiada took for him two wives.' "" For the two clauses are not placed in contrast, or disjoined from each other, but it is said in one and the same connection that under the guidance of Jehoiada he did that which was right, and that by the authority of the same individual he married two wives. This is contrary to the usual practice in the eulogies of the kings, where, if anything blameable be subjoined, it is expressly excepted from the present character: 1 Kings save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." v. 11, 14. " and Aza did that which was right.... but the high places were not removed: nevertheless Aza's heart was perfect." Since therefore the right conduct of Joash is mentioned in unqualified terms, in conjunction with his double marriage, it is evident that the latter was not considered matter of censure; for the sacred historian would not have neglected so suitable an opportunity of making the customary exception, if there had really been anything which deserved disapprobation.
XV. 5. "
Moreover, God himself, in an allegorical fiction, Ezek. xxiii. 4. represents himself as having espoused two wives, Aholah and Aholibah; a mode of speaking which he would by no means have employed, especially at such length, even in a parable, nor indeed have taken on himself such a character at all, if the practice which it implied had been intrinsically dishonourable or shameful.
On what grounds, however, can a practice be considered dishonourable or shameful, which is prohibited to no one even under the gospel? for that dispensation annuls none of
the merely civil regulations which existed previous to its introduction.2 It is only enjoined that elders and deacons should be chosen from such as were husbands of one wife, 1 Tim. iii. 2. and Tit. i. 6. This implies, not that to be the husband of more than one wife would be a sin, for then the restriction would have been equally imposed on all; but that, in proportion as they were less entangled in domestic affairs, they would be more at leisure for the business of the church. Since therefore polygamy is interdicted in this passage to the ministers of the church alone, and that not on account of any sinfulness in the practice, and since none of the other members are precluded from it either here or elsewhere, it follows that it was permitted, as abovesaid, to all the remaining members of the church, and that it was adopted by many without offence.
Lastly, I argue as follows from Heb. xiii. 4. Polygamy is either marriage, or fornication, or adultery; the apostle recognizes no fourth state. Reverence for so many patriarchs who were polygamists will, I trust, deter any one from considering it as fornication or adultery; for "whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;" whereas the patriarchs were the objects of his especial favour, as he himself testifies. If then polygamy be marriage properly so called, it is also lawful and honourable, according to the same apostle : marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.
It appears to me sufficiently established by the above arguments that polygamy is allowed by the law of God: lest however any doubt should remain, I will subjoin abundant examples of men whose holiness renders them fit patterns for imitation, and who are among the lights of our faith. Foremost I place Abraham, the father of all the faithful, and of the holy seed, Gen. xvi. 1, &c. Jacob, chap. xxx. and, if I mistake not, Moses, Numb. xii. 1. "for he had married [a Cushite, Marginal Translation, or] an Ethiopian woman." It is not likely that the wife of Moses, who had been so often spoken of before by her proper name of Zipporah, should now be called by the new title of a Cushite; or that the anger of
2 Sciunt enim qui labris aliquanto primoribus evangelium gustarunt, ecclesiæ gubernationem divinam esse totam ac spiritualem, non civilem.' Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio. Prose Works, Symmous' edition,
Aaron and Miriam should at this time be suddenly kindled, because Moses forty years before had married Zipporah; nor would they have acted thus scornfully towards one whom the whole house of Israel had gone out to meet on her arrival with her father Jethro. If then he married the Cushite during the lifetime of Zipporah, his conduct in this particular received the express approbation of God himself, who moreover punished with severity the unnatural opposition of Aaron and his sister. Next I place Gideon, that signal example of faith and piety, Judg. viii. 30, 31. and Elkanah, a rigid Levite, the father of Samuel; who was so far from believing himself less acceptable to God on account of his double marriage, that he took with him his two wives every year to the sacrifices and annual worship, into the immediate presence of God; nor was he therefore reproved, but went home blessed with Samuel, a child of excellent promise, 1 Sam. ii. 10. Passing over several other examples, though illustrious, such as Caleb, 1 Chron. ii. 46, 48. vii. 1. 4. the sons of Issachar, in number "six and thirty thousand men, for they had many wives and sons," contrary to the modern European practice, where in many places the land is suffered to remain uncultivated for want of population; and also Manasseh, the son of Joseph, 1 Chron. vii. 14. I come to the prophet David, whom God loved beyond all men, and who took two wives, besides Michal; and this not in a time of pride and prosperity, but when he was almost bowed down by adversity, and when, as we learn from many of the psalms, he was entirely occupied in the study of the word of God and in the right regulation of his conduct. 1 Sam. xxv. 42, 43. and afterwards, 2 Sam. v. 12, 13. "David perceived that Jehovah had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake and David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem." Such were the motives, such the honourable and holy thoughts whereby he was influenced, namely, by the consideration of God's kindness towards him for his people's sake. His heavenly and prophetic understanding saw not in that primitive institution what we in our blindness fancy we discern so clearly; nor did he hesitate to proclaim in the supreme council of the nation the pure and honourable motives to which, as he trusted, his children born in polygamy owed their existence. 1.Chron.
xxviii. 5. " of all my sons, for Jehovah hath given me many sons, he hath chosen," &c. I say nothing of Solomon, notwithstanding his wisdom, because he seems to have exceeded due bounds; although it is not objected to him that he had taken many wives, but that he had married strange women ;3 1 Kings xi. 1. Nehem. xiii. 26. His son Rehoboam desired many wives, not in the time of his iniquity, but during the three years in which he is said to have walked in the way of David, 2 Chron. xi. 17, 21, 23. Of Joash mention has already been made; who was induced to take two wives, not by licentious passion, or the wanton desires incident to uncontrolled power, but by the sanction and advice of a most wise and holy man, Jehoiada the priest. Who can believe, either that so many men of the highest character should have sinned through ignorance for so many ages; or that their hearts should have been so hardened; or that God should have tolerated such conduct in his people? Let therefore the rule received among theologians have the same weight here as in other cases: "The practice of the saints is the best interpretation of the commandments.'
It is the peculiar province of God to make marriage prosperous and happy. Prov. xix. 14. "a prudent wife is from Jehovah." xviii. 22. "whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of Jehovah."
The consent of the parents, if living, should not be wanting. Exod. xxii. 17. "if his father utterly refuse to give
Her temple on th' offensive mountain, built
By that uxorious king, whose heart, though large,
To idols foul.
Paradise Lost, I. 442.
Women, when nothing else, beguil'd the heart
Paradise Regained, II. 169.
4 The subject of Jewish polygamy has been discussed by Selden in his Uxor Hebraica, and Michaelis on the Laws of Moses, Book iii. Chap. 5. The arguments advanced by Paley against the practice seem quite unanswerable. See his Moral Philosophy, Book iii. Part 3. Chap. vi. Compare also Lightfoot's Works, VIII. 480.
The 18th chapter (of Bucer's Kingdom of Christ) I only mention as determining a thing not here in question, that marriage without consent of parents ought not to be held good, yet with this qualification fit to be