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ture; and the effects of which are said to visit the constitution of even distant generations.
The passion being natural, proves that it was intended to be gratified; but under what restrictions, or whether without any, must be collected from different considerations.
The Christian Scriptures condemn fornication absolutely and peremtorily. "Out of the heart," says our Saviour," proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things which defile a man." These are Christ's own words: and one word from him upon the subject is final. It may be observed with what society fornication is classed; with murders, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. I do not mean that these crimes are all equal, because they are all mentioned together; but it proves that they are all crimes. The apostles are more full upon this topic. One well known passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews may stand in the place of all others; because, admitting the authority by which the apostles of Christ spake and wrote, it is decisive: "Marriage, and the bed undefiled, is honourable amongst all men; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;" which was a great deal to say, at a time when it was not agreed, even amongst philosophers themselves, that fornication was a crime.
The Scriptures give no sanction to those austerities which have been since imposed upon the world under the name of Christ's religion; as the celibacy of the clergy, the praise of perpetual virginity, the prohibitio concubitus cum gravida uxore; but, with a just knowledge of and regard to the condition and interest of the human species, have provided, in the marriage of one man with one woman, an adequate gratification for the propensities of their nature, and have restricted them to that gratification.
The avowed toleration, and in some countries the licencing, taxing, and regulating of public brothels has appeared to the people an authorizing of fornication; and has contributed, with other causes, so far to vitiate the public opinion, that there is no practice of which
the immorality is so little thought of or acknowledged, although there are few in which it can more plainly be made out. The legislators who have patronized receptacles of prostitution ought to have foreseen thi effect, as well as considered, that whatever facilitates fornication, diminishes marriages. And, as to the usual apology for this relaxed discipline, the danger of greater enormities, if cess to prostitutes wer strictly watched and prohibited, it will be time enough to look to that, when the laws and the magistrates have done their utmost. The greatest vigilance of both will do no more than oppose some bounds and some difficulties to this intercourse. And, after all, these pretended fears are without foundation in experience. The men are in all respects the most virtuous, in countries where the woman are most chaste.
There is a species of cohabitation, distinguishable, no doubt, from vagrant concubinage, and which, by reason of its resemblance to marriage, may be thought to participate of the sanctity and innocence of that estate; I mean the case of kept-mistresses, under the favourable circumstance of mutual fidelity. This case I have heard defended by some such apology as the following:
"That the marriage-rite being different in different countries, and in the same country amongst different sects, and with some scarce any thing; and, moreover, not being prescribed, or even mentioned in Scripture, can be accounted for only as of a form and ceremony of human invention: that, consequently, if a man and woman betroth and confine themselves to each other, their intercourse must be the same, as to all moral purposes, as if they were legally married; for the addition or omission of that which is a mere form and ceremony can make no difference in the sight of God, or in the actual nature of right and wrong."
To all which it may be replied,
1. If the situation of the parties be the same thing as marriage, why do they not marry?
2. If the man choose to have it in his power to dismiss the woman at his pleasure, or to retain her in a
state of humiliation and dependence, inconsistent with the rights which marriage would confer upon her, it is not the same thing.
It is not, at any rate, the same thing to the children.
Again, as to the marriage-rite being a mere form, and that also variable, the same may be said of signing and sealing of bonds, wills, deeds of conveyance, and the like, which yet make a great difference in the rights and obligations of the parties concerned in them.
And with respect to the rite not being appointed in Scripture-the Scriptures forbid fornication, that is, cohabitation without marriage, leaving it to the law of each country to pronounce what is, or what makes a marriage; in like manner as they forbid thefts, that is, the taking away of another's property, leaving it to the municipal law to fix what makes the thing property, or whose it is; which also, as well as marriage, depend upon arbitrary and mutable forms.
Laying aside the injunctions of Scripture, the plain account of the question seems to be this: It is immoral, because it is pernicious, that men and women should cohabit, without undertaking certain irrevocable obligations, and mutually conferring certain civil rights; if, therefore, the law has annexed these rights and obligations to certain forms, so that they cannot be secured or undertaken by any other means, which is the case here (for whatever the parties may promise to each other, nothing but the marriage ceremony can make their promise irrevocable,) becomes in the same degree immoral, that men and women should cohabit without the interposition of these forms.
Ir fornication be criminal, all those incentives which lead to it are accessaries to the crime; as lascivious conversation, whether expressed in obscene or disguised under modest phrases; also wanton songs, pictures, books; the writing, publishing, and circulating of which, whether out of frolic, or for some pitiful profit, is productive of so extensive a mischief, from so mean a temptation, that few crimes, within
the reach of private wickedness, have more to answer for, or less to plead in their excuse.
Indecent conversation and, by parity of reason, all the rest are forbidden by St. Paul, Eph. iv. 29. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth;" and again, Col. iii. 8. "Put off-filthy communication out of your-mouth."
The invitation, or voluntary admission, of impure thoughts, or the suffering them to get possession of the imagination, falls within the same description, and is condemned by Christ, Matt. v. 28. "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."Christ, by thus enjoining a regulation of the thoughts, strikes at the root of the evil,
THE seducer practises the same stratagems to draw a woman's person into his power, that a swindler does to get possession of your goods or money; yet the law of honour, which abhors deceit, applauds the address of a successful intrigue: so much is this capricious rule guided by names, and with such facility does it accommodate itself to the pleasures and conveniency of higher life!
Seduction is seldom accomplished without fraud; and the fraud is by so much more criminal than other frauds, as the injury effected by it is greater, continues longer, and less admits reparation.
This injury is threefold: to the woman, to her family, and to the public.
1. The injury to the woman is made up of the pain she suffers from shame, or the loss she sustains in her reputation and prospects of marriage, and of the depravation of her moral principle,
1. This pain must be extreme, if we may judge of it from those barbarous endeavours to conceal their
disgrace, to which women, under such circumstances, sometimes have recourse; comparing also this barbarity with their passionate fondness for their offspring in other cases. Nothing but an agony of mind the most insupportable can induce a woman to forget her nature, and the pity which even a stranger would show to a helpless and imploring infant. It is true, that all are not urged to this extremity; but if any are, it affords an indication of how much all suffer from the same cause. What shall we say to the authors of such mischief?
2. The loss which a woman sustains by the ruin of her reputation almost exceeds computation. Every person's happiness depends in part upon the respect and reception which they meet with in the world; and it is no inconsiderable mortification even to the firmest tempers, to be rejected from the society of their equals, or received there with neglect and disdain. But this is not all, nor the worst. By a rule of life, which it is not easy to blame, and which it is impossible to alter, a woman loses with her stity the chance of marrying at all, or in any manner equal to the hopes she had been accustomed to entertain. Now marriage, whatever it be to a man, is that from which every woman expects her chief happiness. And this is still more true in low life, of which condition the women are who are most exposed to solicitations of this sort. Add to this, that where a woman's maintenance depends upon her character (as it does, in a great measure, with those who are to support themselves by service,) little sometimes is left to the forsaken sufferer, but to starve for want of employment, or to have recourse to prostitution for food and rai
3. As a woman collects her virtue into this point, the loss of her chastity is generally the destruction of her moral principle; and this consequence is to be apprehended, whether the criminal intercourse be discovered or not.
2. The injury to the family may be understood by the application of that infallible rule, "of doing to others what we would that others should do unto us."