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duty in protecting marriage against violation and assault. The mutual rights and privileges of the husband and wife are among the most sacred and precious in the guardianship of the state. They partake of the nature of a contract solemnly and publicly witnessed and recorded, and a breach of the covenant is a fraud on the party dishonored and robbed. The inheritance of property, the prosperity of the commonwealth, the nurture of children, the natural increase of population, and all the rights which come under the protection of civil government are involved in the honest maintenance of the marriage vow, and therefore if any wrong should be punished, the assault upon the marital rights should have preëminence.
This makes it imperative upon any well ordered government to treat adultery as a state offense. The preceding remarks have proved the enormity of this crime against the interests and integrity of society, and scarce any personal outrage can be committed, whose effects are so cruel and pernicious. Yet we believe that in a majority of the United States adultery is not punished by the statute; while in the state of New York, seduction, an act which from the nature of the case lies beyond detection, is made liable to a severe penalty. Marriage is not protected under such a statute, and we are not surprised when the popular sentiment sustains the wronged husband in taking summary vengeance on the guilty, who have embittered his home and disgraced his innocent babes. The wife, who violates her vow, ought to be treated as a criminal, and merits severe punishment for a breach of covenant which inflicts irreparable injury on the household, and strikes at the heart of social order and security.
Government must also in the due exercise of its prerogative protect marriage by carefully guarding against laxity in granting divorces. We are not prepared to affirm that the precept of our Saviour forbidding a divorce except for the single cause of adultery, should be the law of the state, because “the hardness of heart” which constrained Moses may not have been sufficiently renewed, yet the facility with which this contract is legally annulled in many commonwealths degrades wedlock into a temporary arrangement. Families are to the state what
the blood vessels are to a healthy body, and are consequently essential to its action and even its existence. Whatever tends to their injury corrupts the organism of life, and the permission of such an outrage is suicide. In our Union, the actual evil extends beyond the commonwealth whose legislation is in alliance with immorality, by dissolving the marriage contract on the slightest pretext, and those western states who have permitted the legal unloosening of this sacred bond whenever desired, are responsible not only to their own citizens, but to others who have been wronged by their injustice. We have within our knowledge a case in point, which portrays the evil and the cruelty of such laxity. A husband otherwise conscientious, but whose jealousy is excusable only on the supposition of monomania, attempted to obtain a divorce in a New England state on the plea of adultery on the part of his wife. Finding however that his wealth and influence and the suborning of infamous witnesses would not accomplish his design, he threw up the case and hurried to the state of Indiana.
After a night's lodging in Indianapolis he avowed himself a citizen, and filed his bill for divorce, which in due course was granted, since the wife under legal advice declined to appear. Had she consented to answer, she would have placed herself under the jurisdiction of the court, and even if the divorce had been refused in that instance, he could have made a new application in some other county, and thereby have compelled her acquiescence in the verdict, or rendered her liable to the torture of a continual persecution. This man who professes to be governed by Christian principles, has been induced throngh the iniquitous statute to perform an act of injustice, which onght to send him to a penitentiary, if he is not freed from responsibility by insanity, while a wife and a mother respected and beloved by the purest and most highly cultivated society in New England, is separated from her children, and subjected to torture beyond the rack, by the wicked legislation which was de. vised apparently to disgrace Christian marriage. Nor is this an isolated instance, since Indiana and other western states afford opportunity for discontented partners to repudiate their
pledges, and to shield themselves from a human penalty, though not from the divine condemnation.
Nevertheless, the statute, apart from public sentiment, is a nerveless muscle, and we are constrained to seek in higher sources the remedy of this evil. The Christian religion contains a token of its celestial origin, in the purity of its precepts, and the chastity which it produces. Other religions have pandered to the grossest sensuality, and their worship has been debauchery, but no one can maintain licentiousness by the gospel of Jesus. We do not forget the corruption of the church, when the highest ecclesiastical dignitaries were wretched profligates, and the Gothic architecture was defiled with lewd ornaments; but these abominations were never defended from the example or doctrine of the Saviour, and even when such vices abounded these nominal Christians professed and preached celibacy. The progress of true religion has been marked by an increasing purity of morals, and men who seek to justify their lewdness on a divine sanction, are obliged to invent Mormon Bibles and spiritual rappings.
American Christianity has never descended to the countenancing of unchastity, and the members of the protestant and papal ministry are as a class above suspicion in their general purity of life and manners. The religious feeling in this country would not tolerate in Christian teachers any departure from this high standard, and although there have been and may be hypocrites in every class, we challenge the world to point out anywhere beside, any body of men who either inculcate or exemplify a higher morality than the ministers of the gospel in the United States. Notwithstanding we do well to recall the necessity of enforcing the practice of this virtue upon all the disciples of Jesus Christ, and the subject should not be banished from the pulpit, although its inculcation is best accomplished by occasional allusions, and by its saintly illustrations in the mothers of the Old and New Testaments, rather than by a labored discourse. In this, as in all things, we have the model of a perfect man in Christ Jesus.
The change which is rapidly taking place in the position of the Christian ministry and in their relations is favorable to virtue. They are losing the caste of a priesthood and assuming the position of their divine Master, that of a common brotherhood, with all mankind. This fraternization enables their light to shine as a household lamp, not as a star above and apart, and teaches men that there is not one virtue for the pulpit, and a lower for the pew. As a consequence we rejoice in the altered treatment of pastors by their congregation, that manly courtesy marks the intercourse between the parties, instead of the rigid etiqnette of ancient time, or the fondling tenderness of a later day. The pastor who suffers himself to be dandled and rocked, to be fed with delicacies and soothed by the lullaby of soft speeches, is publishing his own silliness, to the contempt of all rightminded and sober people; and a congregation who thus endeavor to nurse and pamper their bishop, deserve a babe for their ruler and a fool for their preacher.
The sacredness of that bond, which is the divine type of the union between Christ and his church, ought to be largely insisted upon in the religious teaching of the sanctuary, and the duties incumbent thereupon should have an ampler space in the sermons of the present time, than they seem to have occupied. The churches must also arouse themselves to greater carefulness in watching over their membership, and in maintaining proper discipline. The open profligate would of course be excluded from any communion of Christians; but the silent and kindly oversight, the gentle admonition, the tender warning, are too often neglected, and if this, which is the love enjoined on the disciples, were cherished abundantly, the community would feel its influence as the breath of spring, reviving every grace, making the dry stalk green, and giving
, promise of a rich and abundant harvest. Here is the proper sphere for the exercise of that charity which welcomes the penitent and protects the return of the erring to virtue.
The best efforts of government and the church to restrain anchastity, will be futile, without the influence of HOME. The causes of this vice are undonbtedly to be looked for in the family, and there, if anywhere, it must be cured. Parents are naturally inclined to throw the blame of profligacy
in their own children upon external temptations, or vicious social arrangements, when in the large majority of cases they are themselves responsible. The stringent enactinents of the strongest government and the wisest teachings of our holy religion will avail nothing, when the domestic altar is defiled, and the household god is an obscene idol. Instances occur indeed where a child breaks loose from the best nurture, and becomes a demon, but these are the rare exceptions of an universal rule.
The domestic order and the household arrangements have the power of a climate over spiritual life and health, and in a pure atmosphere the virtues expand harmoniously and grow sturdy. The provocatives to indelicacy should be sternly excluded from every Christian home. We regard with suspicion the reviving taste for what is called “art,” which within a few years has crowded our parlors with statuettes, and made the business of the virtuoso a lucrative trade. This revival of the fine arts grates upon our ear, when we recall the themes of the classic age and their representation; we should rather hear of the renewal of art and its conformity to Christian morality. We confess to no great respect for galleries where the young are introduced to pictures whose actual realization would subject to a trial for indecent exposure, and although not prudish we dread the contamination of engravings, which are adapted to the manners of the French court in the sixteenth century. We admire the elegance and enjoy the comforts of a modern parlor, but when its luxurious upholstery is arranged to display the nude figure in marble or Parian ware, or the copy of Titian, we sigh for the sanded floor and shining platters of the kitchen in the ancient homestead. The domestic carpet, the plain furniture, the evergreens in the open fire-place of the keeping-room in olden time, breathing simplicity and purity, can be ill exchanged for the heavy perfume and the costly drapery in these modern bowers of Benlah.
Care should also be exercised in respect to the character and deportment of the domestics who are employed, since they are often the corrupters of the children committed to their