« ПредишнаНапред »
market, and assigning all interest in his contract to another man for a pot of beer and fourpence. Such a brutal act will never perhaps be performed by any other than such vile wretches as have heretofore been guilty of the abomination; but the transaction itself is no longer a violation of any law, either divine or human. It will still be as disgusting as heretofore, but it is not illegal. In fact, there is now no court in which offences against the marriage contract-for we suppose that if a woman forsakes her husband without mutual consent, the breach of the civil contract will still be called adultery-can be judicially dealt with. Adultery, properly so called, is an offence against the law of God, and the question of divorce, which in this case only is allowed by Christ, has hitherto been always tried in the Ecclesiastical Courts. Where is it to be tried now? Or, rather, what is the occasion to try at all ; since the parties have the law in their own hands?
Still there is a far more fearful point of view in which it is necessary to regard this new Act, independently of the obvious facility which it affords to clandestine marriages ; we mean the opening which it presents to the perpetration of legalized seduction. It is painful to reflect upon the numerous instances in which, at all times, confiding innocence has fallen a prey to the seducer, under the promise of subsequent marriage; but the victim is now secure by a readier process. The woman, firm in virtue and religion, who has strength to resist the tempter, may now be carried before a superintendent-registrar, and made a legal wife by civil contract, little dreaming that so frail a tie will be no hold upon a man who has merely adopted it as, the means of temporary gratification. She will soon be a legal wife without a husband ; and be as quietly deserted as if she had yielded to his purpose without the form of law. Many who shrink from polluting the altar of God with the utterance of a vow which he never meant to keep, will not hesitate to entrap the victim of his lust by a specious promise in a workhouse. It is not upon religious grounds alone, but by the simple calculations of human foresight, that we augur a consequence of uninterrupted misery from the civil-contract marriages. To suppose that they will be equally respectable with those which are solemnized in the Church, is absurd; to expect that they will be visited with the blessing of the Almighty, is impious; and where this last is wanting, even the highest human honours are of little moment.
To appreciate justly the probable effects of this new attempt at liberal legislation, a person should take up his residence for a few months on the Continent. In France and Belgium this system of conjugation prevails ; and the light account in which the civil obligation is held, is abundantly notorious. It is indeed civility, not affection, which is the bond of man and wise ; and that domestic harınony, and peace, and love, that oneness of object and pursuit and purpose, which in England is wont to be felt, is not even understood. A married couple are seldom seen together; they rarely attend the same church, and never at the same time; and infidelity to the marriage bed is an occurrence of so ordinary a nature as to pass almost without observation. Of Poland and America, let us hear what says Mr. Gathercole :
“ Civil-contruct” marriages, indeed, can have no security about them, and great evils must assuredly follow from their adoption. This was the case in Poland. According to the ancient laws of that country, marriage was considered an entirely religious act, and subject to the spiritual authorities. But, some years ago, this was all done away with ; and marriage was considered and entered into as a merely “civil contract,” and all matters regarding it were referred to the civil power. It was, however, found impossible to go on with it in such a way: and so, in 1825, it was felt to be necessary to go back in part to the ancient principle; and marriage was again considered a religious affair, and the celebration of it was restored to the Clergy: and, about three years ago, they were obliged to return altogether to the old mode of marrying; for they found that the new way would not do at all.
And if we turn to North America, how shall we find its people going on there with their “civil-contract” marriages? Why, in the State of Cincinnati alone, there were lately no less than FIVE HUNDRED divorces in a single circuit !! This shows very clearly, that those who consider marriages as only a "civil contract,” believe that as they make them, they can also unmake then, whenever they like.--Pp. 19, 20.
And now let us turn for a moment from the effects which this law is adapted to produce upon the happiness of individuals, to the national judgments which may be the penalty of so gross an insult to the Majesty of heaven. Here is an office which the Almighty has reserved to himself in the person of his minister, and hitherto performed with due solemnity before his own altar, invaded by a superintendent-registrar of a parish workhouse. We know the fearful vengeance which fell upon Korah and his company, for their rebellious interference with the functions of the priesthood; we know the fate of impious Uzziah, who dared to intrude himself into the sanctuary of the Lord; and though the jealousy of God may not be manifested in these latter days in a burst of instantaneous displeasure, yet we are of the number of those who tremble at the gradual, though no less certain, display of his wrath. National sins, sooner or later, are sure to produce national calamities; and the crimes of ungodly rulers are necessarily visited upon the people whom they cause or permit to offend. Nor is the sin, in this case, a sin of ignorance. With all the mischief which the unparalleled stupidity of the present Ministry has accomplished, this, at least, is an act of the most unqualified presumption. For is there one among them who would adopt the law as their own rule of action ? Would Lord J. Russell, par exemple, have married his lady by civil contract; or would she have accepted his right honourable band if he would? We believe his lordship has a child; and, at all events, we know that he desires to have
Would his lordship choose that the happiness of that child's married life should depend upon such a bargain? We pause for a reply. If he would not, how dares he to let loose a pest upon his country, of which he too well knows the fatal influence ?
Such is the view which we take of this important question. The present Act we believe to be a nullity ; but we are sure that those who have succeeded in gaining so much, will not flag in their exertions to gain more. In the mean time, we would earnestly entreat all who are parents, to reflect seriously upon the subject ; to persuade themselves of the religious obligations of the marriage contract; of the many blessings which arise from it, considered in this point of view; and of the beautiful and impressive solemnity with which it is solemnized in the Church to which we belong. To this end we recommend to their notice the three Sermons of Mr. Bennett.
Art. II.—Journal of a Three Years' Residence in Abyssinia, in fur
therance of the Objects of the Church Missionary Society. By the Rev. Samuel Gobat, one of the Society's Missionaries. To which is prefixed, A Brief History of the Church of Abyssinia, by the Rev. Professor LEE, D.D. Accompanied by a Map, drawn from the best Authorities, and from Mr. Gobat's Journal. London: Hatchard and
Son; and Seeley and Sons. 1834. Pp. xxi. 371. We once conversed with an intelligent Eastern Christian, who bitterly complained of the conduct adopted by certain European Missionaries towards the oriental non-papist churches, where Missionaries, he intimated, measured every theological question by the standard of the Lutheran Reformation,-a Reformation which involved a separation from that usurping Church of Rome, which the Eastern Church had, long before that period, rejected from the community of the faithful for her grievous errors. They despised and inveighed against the most venerable practices and observations-lowered the value and efficacy of the Sacraments--and perplexed the consciences of many simple-hearted Christians, who had hoped to follow, without danger, the customs of the churches of God.
Now, whilst we are far from looking upon the Eastern Churches as pillars of orthodox belief or practice, we are compelled to allow, that
le of theological teaching in favour with some of the above excellent men, is, with relation to those churches, singularly infelicitous. Whatever forms of belief may have been adopted by Protestant Churches since the Council of Trent, it is certain that the original grounds of their protest concerned chiefly the pretended authority of the Romish See, and the corrupt practices founded directly upon that authority. And
in both these grounds of glorious resistance to Rome, the Greek and Eastern Churches preceded us. The authority of the Pope, the doctrine of purgatory and indulgences, and the sacrifice of the mass, are peremptorily rejected by all. Transubstantiation, the worship of images and relics, the seven sacraments, and auricular confessions, are symbolically disavowed by most, although inconsistently permitted, or implied by some. Most of the superstitious observances which yet cling to these Churches, are rather the off-shoots of a barbarous age, and of untoward circumstances, than the deliberate ingrafts of systematic error. It is vain to conjecture what would be the conduct of men under given circumstances ; but we strongly suspect that Luther, and we are confident that Melancthon, if either of these illustrious reformers had been gremials of the Eastern Church, would not have impugned her ecclesiastical authority. They would not have thought it necessary to come out of her, but would have been willing so to act, that improvements might have been evolved from within.
With regard to the Church of Abyssinia, these observations apply with greater force. Really, without venturing to affirm that the Abyssinian faith can in every point be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary without dread of deficiency, it appears to us, that the public faith and discipline of that Church is sufficiently pure and apostolical. The dispute upon the point of our Lord's human nature, in connexion with his divinity, and that upon the mode of the procession of the Holy Spirit, is a dispute in both cases upon words and terms, susceptible of an orthodox interpretation. The Abyssinian Church is at least, in the main, as pure and as apostolical as any one of the three denominations of Dissenters, much more so than that of many of the mushroom sects whose whimsies have so deeply injured religion, by dividing the body of Christ. It is indeed surprising that many good men who inveigh, not more against the corrupt manners and practices, than against the doctrinal tenets of the Abyssinians, and who think the latter call for especial correction from the hand of the master-builders of modern theology, should look with no unfriendly or uncordial eye on schismatics who have utterly rejected all that the Church has, from the very beginning, regarded as sacred and essential. Are not the Quakers (than whom, with some exceptions, a more amiable body of individuals do not exist,) well received in the religious world; and if opposed, opposed most tenderly and lightly? And yet this body of meņ strip themselves of the sacred sacraments, undervalue God's word, and even halt upon the palmiary point of justification by faith : why then should our Abyssinian sister (a Church literally Protestant; for she, after a partial usurpation of the emissaries of Rome, finally and deliberately rejected and expelled them) be harshly impugned because she will not nullify the sacraments, abrogate the divine commission and authority of
VOL. XX, NO, I.
the priesthood, cut down her carved work, denounce her innocent customs, and slavishly submit to remodel herself at the dictate of certain theologians, who regard every pin of the tabernacle reared in their own schools as precious and necessary.
We are most ready and anxious to do every justice to the piety, learning, and zeal (which are each remarkable) of Mr. Gobat, and to rejoice in any good he may have been the instrument in effecting. But the Abyssinians are not heathens, and we would humbly beg that this circumstance may be borne in mind; for remarks, which, if they bear upon the conduct of Missionaries amongst the heathen, might appear to be unfair (as embarrassing good men, whose charity we ought to love and emulate), may be perfectly justifiable when they bear upon the discussions of practised theologians. We think, then, that in several points, Mr. Gobat's instructions were unnecessary and inexpedient; and in others, erroneous and misleading. We will now afford our readers an opportunity of exercising their own judgment, only premising that Mr. Gobat's expedition was preliminary and preparatory, in order to examine the religious condition of Abyssinia, and to make such reports to the Church Missionary Society, as might guide them in their future proceedings.
April 4, 1830 : Sunday.— I passed a great part of the day alone, reading the Bible; and spent the afternoon very agreeably with Habeta Selasse. We found me in the garden, employed in reading hymns. I translated some for bim, which much pleased him. After a long conversation on some points of doctrine on which we differ, we had recourse to St. Paul. “St. Paul,” said he to me, “is my favourite: he is the master from whom I desire to learn what is the true faith." We afterward read Romans viii. and ix. He stopped every moment, to ask of me the explanation of what he had read. His views on election are not clear; but he does not contend against the doctrine; on the contrary, it appears to be a source of consolation to him. When night came on, he said to me, “I must now go, for fear my clothes should be stolen. I do not know why I am so much pleased with you; but is it not a fact, that the disciples of Christ know and love one another, much more quickly than worldlings?”. I gave him much information about Bible and Missionary Societies, which pleased him greatly ; but he afterward said, in a tone of sadness, “There are many who call themselves Christians, who walk in the way of perdition. There are but few true Christians.” I gave bim a copy of the Gospel, which he received with tears in bis eyes. He wished to kiss my feet; but í prevented him from so doing, telling him that it would be a sin. On leaving, he told me that he should remain a year longer at Gondar, waiting till my return, that we may go together to Shoa; but, in the mean time, he wishes that I should procure him the whole Bible in Amharic.—Pp. 97, 98.
The good taste of introducing the controversy on the Five Points, is to us very questionable ; unless, like some physicians, who would expel one disease by the inoculation of another into the system, Mr. Gobat would allay the Monothelite wranglings by the novelty of the Quinquarticular contest.