B. (Benjamin) Franklin.

Marriage and divorce in physical, psychical, moral, and social relations; according to the law natural and revealed online

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it illumines and vivifies. His Word has made Divine
revelations. This was to be expected, from God to
His creature man. Those revelations, among other
things, touch and illumine morals. Whenever they


are given respecting morals they are infallible, because
they are of God.

The primary probability of a revelation from God
has long been fulfilled ; and we inherit, from a long
line of believers — who were philosophers of the con-
crete — a historic record of such revelation. It was
given by little and little in the course of a historic de-
velopment of one concrete body, whose mission to
bear witness to God is and has been one in all ages,
and whose special work for man is and has been one
also, viz., to receive, proclaim, and transmit the word
or revealed will of the One Almighty, Who is truth
and love.

The Divine revelation, amply attested and shown
to be authentic and authoritative, is found in the
Bible. Whatever it treats of has God's truth for its
basis and support. If it treats of that which under-
lies domestic purity, social order, and national exist-
ence, it treats of it with omniscience and by author-
ity. The family underlies these, and marriage makes
the family. If the Bible has any record or revelation
about marriage, the first is historic, and the second is
God's word. We may, therefore, at this point, turn to
the Bible in order to search for what God makes
known to man in respect to the limitations of mar-
riage. We have already found what it is in itself; but
now may ask, ' Who may or may not enter into it ? '
We have seen what nature makes known in respect
to nearness of kin as affecting marriage. We find
the Bible treating of the same subject at the same
point. It does not, indeed, record anything definite
about the early marriages, when one human, feimily ex-


isted alone on the earth. The marriage of Adam and
Eve is alone recorded, while nothing is said of their
sons and daughters. Indeed, the first law of God
upon the impediments to, and limitations of, mar-
riage, is given to an organized society, a visible church,
and a fully constituted nation. It applies to similar
organizations now. It limits primitive, necessary lib-
erty, by establishing " prohibited degrees." It is in
the line with nature, which declares that now nearness
of kin is a barrier to marriage, and that it is immoral
to break down that barrier. Nature shows the mis-
chief that will thus arise ; while God's word declares
the sin.

We find the first table of prohibited degrees in "the
Law as given by Moses." It is not only first, but full.
Nothing has been added to it since by God through
revelation. Men have added to this list. Even
national churches like the English, and provincial
churches like the Roman or the Greek, have added
to this list. But God Himself has left it, as it was
originally given and recorded in Leviticus, xviii. 6-17.

The first of these verses sets forth the principle
which underlies and pervades the whole prohibition,
and gives the one ground of authority for it.

6. " None of you shall approach to any that is near
of kin to him [remainder {j,.e., part) of his flesh] ; to
uncover nakedness : I, the Lord."

The point insisted upon, and sealed with the name
of the Lord, is the natural one, viz., that those who are
near of kin are partakers together, not of a remotely re-
lated flesh, but actually of one flesh, not of similar (i.e.,
human) flesh merely, but of flesh that is identically one.


This, indeed, is only part of marriage, its physical
part ; but it is inseparable from all marriage, and is,
therefore, the subject of general law. All human per-
sons, in every mortal generation, are subject to it. Its
principle is of universal application. Hence, its enact-
ments are binding upon all.

The seal of authority is set to this principle ; " I, the
Lord." Whoever violates the principle, and takes in
marriage " part of his own flesh," sets himself against
the Lord ; not only defies His authority, but embarks,
for himself, his partner, and children if any come, on
a course of life where nature worketh against him, and
the Lord — ^the God of Nature — vieweth him with dis-

This principle is universal, applicable to all human
persons in all times, and amid all varieties of social or-
ganizations, because it is stamped by nature on human
progress, and set forth by clearest warrant of Divine

From the 7th to the nth verses, inclusive, are given
instances of prohibition on account of this principle.
All cases are not specified, but every specification in-
cludes all its actual equivalents. This is obvious and
needs no proof. The equivalents must be actual,-
however, and not merely constructive. They must be
real and equal cases of consanguinity, and not of af-
finity merely. The flesh of the parties must be in the
same nearness of kin. If this is strictly adhered to,
then we keep within the letter and scope of the writ-
ten Divine law. Any prohibition, beyond it, can only
claim human authority. Neither the Church, nor civil
government, nor social consent, have the right to set


up any specifications under "prohibited degrees,"
which are not set forth in nature and God's word,
specifically or by actual equivalent.

7. " The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness
of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy
mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness."

This prohibits a man from sexual intercourse with,
and hence from marrying, his mother, or a woman her
father. The reason is obvious ; the parties are in the
utmost nearness of kin. This carries prohibition of
marriage with grandparents, because they are of one
flesh with the parents. The prohibition of marriage
includes unmarried intercourse. Indeed, marriage is
not specified. The Word of God expressly uses the
clearest and plainest terms of prohibition, so as to
cover all acts.

8. " The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou
not uncover : it is thy father's nakedness."

Obviously, the flesh of the father has joined the
flesh of the step-mother, and the reason given for the
prohibition is that of consanguinity, and not of affinity
merely. In ch. xx. 1 1, the penalty of death is decreed;
" both of them shall surely be put to death." This is
also forbidden in Deut. xxii. 30, and cursed from Mt.
Ebal, xxvii. 20 (see also i Cor. v.).

" Intercourse " with a step-father is not equivalent
to that with a step-mother. That case, being not one
of consanguinity, is here neither mentioned nor im-
plied ; it is forbidden, however, in v. 18, for another
reason, which will be considered in its place.

9. " The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of
thy father, or daughter of thy mother, born at home.


or born abroad, their nakedness thou shalt not un-

This prohibits sexual intercourse between brothers
and sisters of both the whole and the half blood. In
ch. XX. 17 this is called " a wicked thing;" and the
penalty is " they shall be cut off in the sight of their
people" . . . " he shall bear his iniquity." Cursed,
Deut. xxvii. 22.

la "The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of
thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou
shalt not uncover, for theirs is thine own nakedness."

This specifies what was virtually included in the
prohibitions of v. 7. The reason given is the physical
fact that the intervening link — the parents — between
grandparents and grandchildren being of one flesh with
both, intercourse would be in violation of the very
closest consanguinity. As this is the same on both
sides, the prohibition is equally against intercourse, or
marriage, with a grandson.

II. "The nakedness of thy father's wife's daugh-
ter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt
not uncover her nakedness."

This, like the same in v. 9, involves both the pen-
alty and the curse.

Here we reach the end of the first class of " pro-
hibited degrees." They rest upon the physical fact of
unity of flesh. The parties named are partakers of
one flesh, without remove. It is not morally affected
by other commingling. The sin is incest, and the
penalty is the curse of God.

It will be noticed at this point that physical mar-
riage, including all mere sexual intercourse, is here


mentioned. Nothing is said, or even intimated, of
that psychical union between the pair, such as leads
" the man to leave father and mother and cleave to
his wife ; " and which our Saviour seems to recognize
in S. Mark, x. ii. It must be remembered, however,
that this law was given to a nation of just emancipated
slaves. It dealt, therefore, with the most obvious char-
acteristic of marriage. It laid down, however, a moral
foundation that can never be removed; or rather it
sanctioned, and set the seal of Divine Revelation upon
that natural foundation of purity upon which, in all
ages, must be built, if built at all, first, family integ-
rity, then social security, and finally national perpet-
uation. Without leaving this foundation, and without
extending it, an advanced civilization may build upon
it the facts of psychical union in marriage. As culture
becomes deepened and refined, the marriage union will
come more and more to light, and be seen as a union
between human souls, or even between human spirits,
as well as bodies, in this sphere of mortality. Then,
while its physical foundation will remain, it will be
subordinated : i, to unity of heart, in loving delight
of reciprocal self-sacrifice; 2, to unity of mind, in
willing mutual instruction; 3, to unity of taste and
desire, either by accord or mutual consideration ; 4,
and finally, to that spiritual unity which tends to em-
brace the two parties in one faith and one hope.
Thus, and thus only, we reach perfect marriage. It
becomes then personal union, in and throughout the
completeness of each other's persons. Body, soul, and
spirit — the channels in each of personal manifestation
— commingle, one with the other, in the communion


of love. Each becomes more intensely conscious of
his or her own indefeasible personality, by making it
a whole-offering one to the other, and thus, in losing
life each one finds it. Such love is a type of God's
love, and therefore both heavenly and immortal. Here
on earth it is linked, at one part — the mortal body —
with death-subjected nature. So long as mortality
lasts, the physical basis of marriage will be an insepar-
able part of every marriage. When " this mortality "
shall have run its course, then this physical basis will
have fulfilled its design. " In the resurrection they
neither marry nor are given in marriage." All the
permanent results of marriage must however continue.
Psychical and spiritual unions cannot die, because they
rest in those functions, perhaps organs, but not constit-
uents, of personality which are naturally undying.

The spiritual side, or department, of marriage finds
its natural operation in connection with religion. It is
remarkable that the Christian religion alone makes pro-
vision for it. The psychical department of marriage
is manifest among cultured peoples. Even the unre-
Ijgious among them have, and act upon, refined and
even exalted views of heartfelt, intelligent, and recip-
rocally self-sacrificial communion. Love, among even
the worldly-minded, refines, deepens, and expands the

Yet the physical basis of marriage is inseparable
from it in this time of mortality. Morals attach them-
selves to it. Laws should never ignore it. Marriage
laws may not be made for either of its three depart-
ments separately. They may not give spiritual or
psychical privileges or exemptions, except in strictest


consonance with all the necessary facts of the physical

The remaining six verses that treat of prohibited
degrees in this xviii. chapter of Leviticus, rest upon
other grounds than those of " unity of the flesh." They
adhere, however, to the principle of consanguinity, in
prohibiting sexual intercourse — zxiA a fortiori va3Xx\a%Q
— ^between near kinsfolk.

12. "Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy
father's sister : she is thy father's near kinswoman."

13. "Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy
mother's sister : she is thy mother's near kinswoman."

This prohibition is repeated with a penalty attached
in chapter xx. ig. " Thou shalt not uncover the na-
kedness of thy mother's sister nor of thy father's sister,
for he uncovereth his near kin ; they shall bear their

The prohibition here rests upon nearness of kin.
The relationship is that of consanguinity in the third
degree. (We shall follow, here and through this work,
the simplest mode of calculating degrees, by counting
to and from the common ancestor : e.g., from a person
to father or mother is one degree, to grandparent two
degrees, thence to aunt or uncle three degrees.) It
forms the link between the first class of prohibited de-
grees (7 to 1 1) and those that follow. It is like the
first class, as it contains prohibition on account of near-
ness of kin. The parties are " remainders or parts " of
each other's flesh, and yet are the farthest removed
mentioned within that relationship.

The penalty, " they shall bear their iniquity," is a
natural penalty as well as a statutory one. It is award"


ed by revealed authority, and sealed by natural conse-
quences. The " iniquity " is both physical and psy-
chical. Offspring, if they come, deteriorate, sometimes
even to imbecility ; while corruption of character at
least, with guilt and shame of conscience, supervene.
Thus, in both nature and revelation, God stamps with
condemnation this incestuous intercourse.

Although father's brother and mother's brother are
not, by this verse, forbidden in terms, yet they are in-
cluded by the reason given. The same kinship exists
in either case. Thus marriage and all its rights are
forbidden between any persons who come within the
third degree of consanguinity.

14. " Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy
father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife,
she is thine aunt" (xx. 20). " And if a man shall lie
with his uncle's wife, he hath uncovered his uncle's
nakedness ; they shall bear their sin ; they shall die

This is an apparent extension of the third degree ;
apparent, but not real when the consummation of
marriage is considered. The woman, who before mar-
rying the uncle was no relation, becomes by consum-
mation of marriage partaker of the blood of the uncle,
his near kinswoman, part of his flesh. Hence she is,
by consanguinity, the very aunt of his nephew. They
become actually relatives to each other in the third

Although the uncle's wife (or widow, for his blood
remains in her) is thus related to the nephew, it does
not follow that the husband of the aunt by blood is
" near of kin " to her niece, for he has not received of


the blood of his wife, and therefore is not of one blood
with her niece. May a man, therefore, marry a wo-
man and her niece ? To this question there is cer-
tainly no negative reply upon natural grounds. The
parties are not in any degree consanguineous. There
may be social and domestic objections to such unions.
Their lawfulness may, through family intimacies, lead
to jealousies, or even suggest impurity, through that
perverse human disposition to tread the very edge of
lawfulness with the risk of falling over. But the fact
may not be denied, that neither nature nor the written
law of God forbids the marriage of a niece with her
deceased aunt's husband.

15. " Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy
daughter-in-law, she is thy son's wife; thou shalt
not uncover her nakedness." " And if a man lie with
his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put
to death ; they have wrought confusion ; their blood
shall be upon them" (xx. 12); "and another hath
lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law " (Ezek. xxii. 11).

Here the relationship is in the first degree. " She
is thy son's wife," one with him in possessing his
blood, of the same flesh as thyself. The consequence
is " confusion ; " the very same streams of life are
commingled in threefoldness ; the sacred duality of
marriage is broken. There is no repair for such con-
fusion. It cannot be cured. Society cannot endure
it. Hence "both of them shall surely be put to
death." This is part of the divinely established penal
laws; does it apply in all cases, amid all people,
through all time ? The Church, of course, is not re-
quired to answer this question. Her weapons are not


carnal. Temporal law makers should regard the " con-
fusion " and its consequences. It breaks up grossly,
and under inexcusable circumstances, the domestic
unity which is in the foundation of all social order and
stability. If right be followed and expediency disre-
garded, then temporal law should so punish this " con-
fusion," that its perpetrators could no longer corrupt
public purity. This might be effected by less than the
death penalty; nor can it be proved that the penal
code which God gave to the Israelites is binding
specifically upon all nations, in all time. Expediency,
therefore, may be considered. Indeed, Moses himself
did not wholly discard expediency (Deut. xxiv. 1-4)*
And our Lord did not positively condemn it (S. Matt.
xix, 8 ; S. Mark, x. 5). A yielding to expediency does
not, however, prevent the natural development of evil.
If law does not punish, and cannot check, this or any
other " confusion of blood," government must be
weakened by it through the social corruption that it
will engender.

The Church may, and should, exclude from her
communion such offenders. No penitence could be ad-
mitted as ground for restoration, except, indeed, such
as carried with it security and iissurance against the
recommission of the sin ; e.g., penitence in articulo

The violation of this law by Judah, on his daughter-
in-law Tamar (Gen. xxxviii.), at least suggests that
this natural " confusion of blood " does not absolutely
vitiate its current ; for our Lord's own human descent
comes through Phares — the first born of the twin sons
of Judah and Tamar (Ruth, iv. 18-22; i Chr. ii. 4-12 ;


S. Matt. i. 3-5; S. Luke, iii. 31-33). This, however,
only shows that the remedial providence and grace of
God are able to heal even this confusion. On these
grounds, therefore, absolution may be granted even to
such sinners, if penitent ; especially when they surely
will not again commit the sin. In fact the Church, in
exercising discipline for all sins of the flesh, may safely
regard moral considerations alone. While she should
prohibit such sins as against both natural and revealed
law, and while she should avow and declare their in-
eradicable corruption and confusion, yet, as their reme-
dial forces are secrets of the God of nature and revela-
tion, she can neither apply those forces nor ignore
them. All the Church is authorized to do, therefore,
is to forbid them, to condemn those guilty of them ;
but yet to apply the gracious means of reconciliation
to all who are truly penitent.

16. " Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy
brother's wife : it is thy brother's nakedness." " And
if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean
thing [a separation] ; he hath uncovered his brother's
nakedness; they shall be childless" (xx, 21).

A specific exception to this law is recorded in Deut.
XXV. 5, 6. " If brethren dwell together and one of
them die and have no child, the wife of the dead shall
not marry without unto a stranger ; her husband's
brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to
wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto
her. And it shall be that the first born that she bear-
eth shall succeed in the name of his dead brother, that
his name be not put out in Israel." Herein the God
of revelation, Who is God of nature also, makes an ex-


ception to the natural law of consanguinity and to the
written divine statute. A husband's brother not only
may, but should, take the childless widow, and give her
first born the dead brother's name. She may then ap-
parently continue his wife. A specific purpose is
stated and given as the object of this duty. The
specification excludes all others, and leaves the moral
duty intact; it was confined also to the chosen
people, and had one object, viz., that a "name
be not put out in Israel. " When a brother had left
children, his widow might not become his brother's
wife. For Israelites only the specific exception was
made, for all others the whole law stands. S. John
Baptist was cast into prison by Herod, for denouncing
him according to this law (S. Matt. xiv. 3, 4).

It should be particularly observed, and duly consid-
ered, that all the "prohibited degrees" — mentioned
and involved as co-equals — i.e., binding on both sides —
contained in these eleven verses, are degrees of consan-
guinity ; not one case of affinity is named. Every fair
reasoner must allow that a specified prohibition is
equally a prohibition of all its equivalents ; e.g., " Thou
shalt not marry thy mother " is the same as " Thou
shalt not marry thy son." Indeed, a prohibition in
any degree of consanguinity, is equally a prohibition
of any equivalent degree in any direction. But con-
sanguinity alone is the principle involved. A man
may not marry his deceased brother's widow, because
she has partaken of his blood, and has thus become by
consanguinity the sister of his own brother. She con-
tinues, after his death, one blood with him, and there-
fore is " part of the flesh " with his brother. Nature


utters her voice against such union, and God's written
law specifically forbids it.

As the case, however, is plainly one of consanguinity,
it does not reach to any case of mere affinity ; e.g., a
deceased wife's sister is not of one blood with her sis-
ter's husband. Her sister did not give him of her
blood, it never entered into his vital circulation ; hence
her blood, which was one indeed with her sister's, is
not in him, and her sister is not his sister by consan-
guinity. This, though a Scientific fact — in its depart-
ment of physiology — becomes the basis of both natural
and revealed law in the case. A deceased wife's sister
is in no consequent degree of blood-relationship with
her dead sister's surviving husband. As far as natural
and revealed law reach, there is certainly no prohibition
of marriage between a man and his deceased wife's sis-
ter. Historic canon law upon this point will be con-
sidered hereafter.

Now we come to a prohibition because of affinity.
The only cases of prohibited degrees of affinity, are
contained in v, 17 : " Thou shalt not uncover the
nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt
thou take her son's daughter or her daughter's daugh-
ter, to uncover her nakedness ; for they are her near
kinswomen : it is wickedness."

Let it be observed that the ground of this prohibi-
tion is not that they are her very self, because her very
blood is in them ; not that they are remainders of her
very flesh ; but that they are only her " near kins-
women ; " close to her, in a common stream of blood,
but not actually partakers of that portion of the blood
set off to her.


The prohibition is repeated with a penalty, in xx,
14 : " And if a man take a wife and her mother it is
wickedness ; they shall be burnt with fire, both he and
they ; that there be no wickedness among you."
" Cursed be he that lieth with his mother-in-law. And
all the people shall say. Amen ! " (Deut. xxvii. 23).

Here we have a prohibition upon merely moral
grounds. Science has nothing to say on this point,
because there is no physical violation of natural law.
Natural sentiment, and even an intuitive natural sense
of right and wrong — i.e., the natural moral sense — may
have produced the common judgment of mankind
which condemns these marriages. It is certain that
they are so condemned, while the impulsive feeling
against them is universal, at least in moral and enlight-
ened communities. Even if the natural moral law, and
concurrent natural sentiment, were not opposed to
sexual intercourse between persons related in those de-
grees of aflfinity, it is clearly and specifically forbidden

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Online LibraryB. (Benjamin) FranklinMarriage and divorce in physical, psychical, moral, and social relations; according to the law natural and revealed → online text (page 8 of 15)