Prohibited Marriages: Consanguinity & Affinity

Charles Hodge
Systematic Theology
Vol. 3, pp. 407-421.

Prohibited Marriages.

That certain marriages are prohibited is almost the universal judgment of mankind. Among the ancient Persians and Egyptians, indeed, the nearest relations were allowed to intermarry and in the corrupt period of the Roman Empire, equal laxness more or less prevailed. These isolated facts do not invalidate the argument from the general judgment of mankind. What all men think to be wrong, must be wrong. This unanimity cannot be accounted for, except by assuming that the judgment in which men thus agree is founded on the constitution of their nature, and that constitution is the work of God. There are cases, therefore, in which the “vox populi” is the “vox Dei” [the voice of the people is the voice of God].

The Ground or Reason of such Prohibitions.

The reason why mankind so generally condemn the intermarriage of near relations cannot be physical. Physiology is not taught by instinct. It is, therefore, not only an unworthy, but is an altogether unsatisfactory assumption, that such marriages are forbidden because they tend to the deterioration of the race. The fact assumed may, or may not be true; but if admitted, it is utterly insufficient to account for the condemnatory judgment in question.

The two most natural and obvious reasons why the intermarriage of near relations is forbidden are, first, that the natural affection which relatives have for each other is incompatible with conjugal love. They cannot coexist. The latter is a violation and destruction of the former. This reason need only be stated. It requires no illustration. These natural affections are not only healthful, but in the higher grades of relationship, even sacred. The second ground for such prohibitions is a regard to domestic purity. When persons are so nearly related to each other as to justify their living together as one family, they should be sacred one to the other. If this were not the case, evil could hardly fail to occur, when young people grow up in the familiarity of domestic life. The slightest inspection of the details of the law as laid down in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus, shows that his principle underlies many of its specifications.

J. D. Michaelis, in his work on the law of Moses, makes this the only reason for the Levitical prohibitions. He goes to the extreme of denying that “nearness of kin” is in itself any bar to marriage. His views had great influence, not only on public opinion, but even on legislation in Germany. That influence, however, passed away when a deeper moral and religious feeling gained ascendancy.

Augustine’s Theory.

Augustine advanced a theory on this subject, which still has its earnest advocates. He held that the design of all these prohibitory laws was to widen the circle of the social affections. Brothers and sisters are bound together by mutual love. Should they intermarry the circle is not extended. If they choose husbands and wives from among strangers, a larger number of persons are included in the bonds of mutual love. “For it is very reasonable and just that men, among whom concord is honorable and useful, should be bound together by various relationships; and one man should not himself sustain many relationships, but that the various relationships should be distributed among several, and should thus serve to bind together the greatest number in the same social interests.” Thus it would come to pass, “so that a man had one person for his sister, another his wife, another his cousin, another his father, another his uncle, another his father-in-law, another his mother, another his aunt, another his mother-in-law; and thus the social bond would not have been tightened to bind a few, but loosened to embrace a larger number of relations.” (City of God XV.xvi.1; NPNF 1.2, p. 297).

A writer in Hengstenberg’s “Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung,” adopts and elaborately vindicates this theory. He endeavours to show that it answers all the criteria by which any theory on the subject should be tested. These marriages are called “abominations;” and he asks, Is it not shameful that the benevolent ordinance of God for extending the circle of the social affections should be counteracted? They are called “confusion,” because they unite those whom God commands to remain separate. It also accounts for the propriety of the intermarriage of brothers and sisters in the family of Adam; for in the beginning the circle of affection did not admit of being enlarged. It even meets the case if the Levirate law which bound a man to marry the childless widow of his brother. The law which forbids the marriage of relations, holds only where the relationship is close. There must, therefore, be cases just on the line beyond which relationship is no bar to marriage. And with regard to those just within the line, there must be considerations which sometimes outweigh the objections to a given marriage. That God dispensed with the law forbidding the marriage of a man with his brother’s widow, when the brother died without children, this German writer regards as impossible. “Evil,” he says, “may be tolerated, but not commanded.” He adds that it provokes a smile that Gerhard finds an analogy between the case in question and the permission given to the Israelites to despoil the Egyptians. It is probable that the venerable Gerhard would smile at the writer’s criticisms. In the first place, God can no more allow evil than He can command it. An act otherwise evil, ceases to be so when He either allows (i.e. sanctions) it, or commands it. If He commands a man to be put to death, it ceases to be murder to put him to death.

There are two principles of morality generally accepted and clearly Scriptural; one of which is, that any of those moral laws which are founded, not on the immutable nature of God, but upon the relations of men in the present state of existence, may be set aside by the divine law-giver whenever it seems good in his sight; just as God under the old dispensation set aside the original monogamic law of marriage. Polygamy was not sinful as long as God permitted it. The same principle is involved in the words of Christ, “God loves mercy and not sacrifice” [Mat. 9:13; 12:7; Hos. 6:6]. When two laws conflict, the weaker yields to the stronger. It is wrong to labour on the Sabbath, but any amount of labour on that day becomes a duty, if necessary to save life. In the case of the Levirate law, the prohibition to marry a brother’s widow, yielded to what under the Mosaic economy was regarded as a higher obligation, that is, to perpetuate the family [Deut. 25:5-10]. To die childless was considered one of the greatest calamities.

The question, however, concerning the rationale of these laws is one of minor importance. We may not be able to see exactly in all cases why certain things are forbidden. The fact that they are forbidden should satisfy the reason and the conscience. The two important questions in connection with this subject, to be considered, are, first, is the Levitical law respecting prohibited marriages still in force? and, second, how is that law to be interpreted, and what marriages does it forbid?

Is the Levitical Law of Marriage still in force?

1. It is a strong a priori argument in favour of an affirmative answer to that question, that it always has been regarded as obligatory by the whole Christian Church.

2. The reason assigned for the prohibition contained in that law, has no special reference to the Jews. It is not found is their peculiar circumstances, nor in the design of God in selecting them to be depositaries of his truth to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah. The reason assigned “is nearness of kin.” This reason has as much force at one time as at another, for all nations as for any one nation. There was nothing peculiar in the relation in which Hebrew parents and children, Hebrew brothers and sisters, and Hebrew uncles and nieces, stood, which was the ground of these prohibitions. That ground was the nearness of the relationship itself as it exists in every and in all ages. There is, therefore, in the sight of God, a permanent reason why near relations ought not to intermarry.

3. If the Levitical law be not still in force, we have no divine law on the subject. Then there is no such sin as incest. It is an offense only against the civil law, and a sin against God only in so far as it is sinful to violate the law of the state. But this is contrary to the universal judgment of men, at least of Christian men. For parents and children, brothers and sisters, to intermarry is universally considered as sin against God, irrespective of any human prohibition. But if a sin against God, it must be forbidden in his Word, or we must give up the fundamental principle of Protestantism, that the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of our faith and practice. As such marriages are nowhere in the Bible forbidden except in the Levitical law, if that law does not forbid them, the Bible does not forbid them.

4. The judgments of God are denounced against the heathen nations for permitting the marriages which the Levitical law forbids. In Leviticus 18:8, it is said, “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.” This is the introduction to the law of prohibited marriages, containing the specification of the “ordinances” of the Egyptians and Canaanites, which the people of God were forbidden to follow. And in the twenty-seventh verse of the same chapter, at the close of these specifications, it is said, “All these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is deified.” Again, in Lev. 20:23, still in reference to these marriages, it is said, “Ye shall not walk in the manners of the nations which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.” This is a clear proof that these laws were binding, not on the Jews alone, but upon all people and at all times.

5. The continued obligation of the Levitical law on this subject is also recognized in the New Testament. This recognition as involved in the constant reference to the law of Moses as the law of God. If in any of its parts or specifications it is no longer obligatory, that is to be proved. It contains much which we learn from the New Testament was designed simply to keep the Hebrews a distinct people; much which was typical; much which was a shadow of things to come, and which passed away when the substance was revealed. It contained, however, much which was moral and of permanent obligation. If God gives a law to men, those who deny its perpetual obligation are bound to prove it. The presumption is that it continues in force until the contrary is proved. It must be hard to prove that laws founded on the permanent social relations of men were intended to be temporary.

Besides this general consideration, we find specific recognitions of the continued obligation of the Levitical law in the New Testament. John the Baptist, as recorded in Mark 6:18 and Matthew 14:4, said to Herod that it was not lawful for him to have his brother Philip’s wife. It matters not, as to the argument, whether Philip was living or not. The offense charged was not that he had taken another man’s wife, but that he had taken his brother’s wife. It may be objected to this argument that during the ministry of John the Baptist the law of Moses was still in force. This Gerhard denies, who argues from Matthew 11:13, “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John,” that the Baptist’s ministry belongs to the new dispensation. This may be doubted. Nevertheless John expressed the moral sentiment of his age; and the record of the fact referred to by the Evangelists whose Gospels were written after the Christian Church was fully organized, is given in a form which involves a sanction of the judgment which the Baptist had expressed against the marriage of Herod with his brother’s wife. It is also to be remembered that the Herodian family was Idumean, and therefore, that a merely Jewish law would have no natural authority over them.

The Apostle Paul, moreover, in 1 Corinthians 5:1, speaks of a man’s marrying his step-mother as an unheard of offense. That this was a case of marriage and not of adultery is plain because the phrase gunaika echein is never used in the New Testament except of marriage. This, therefore, is a clear recognition of the continued obligation of the law forbidding marriage between near relations, whether the relationship was by consanguinity or affinity.

6. The Bible everywhere enforces those laws which have their foundation in the natural constitution of men. That this Levitical law is a divine authentication of a law of nature, may be inferred from the fact that with rare exceptions the intermarriage of near relations is forbidden among all nations. Paul says that the marriage of a man with his step-mother was unheard of among the heathen; i.e., it was forbidden and abhorred. Cicero exclaims, “The mother-in-law marries the son-in-law, no one looking favorably on the deed, no one approving it, all foreboding a dismal end to it. Oh, the incredible wickedness of the woman, and, with the exception of this one single instance, unheard of since the world began! Oh, the unbridled and unrestrained lust! Oh, the extraordinary audacity of her conduct!” (In Defense of Aulus Cluentius Habitus, § 14-15) Beza says, It must not be overlooked that the civil laws of the Romans agree completely in reference to this subject with the divine law. They seemed to have copied from it.

No Christian Church doubts the continued obligation of any of the laws of the Pentateuch, of which it can be said that the reason assigned for their enactment is the permanent relations of men; that the heathen are condemned for their violation; and that the New Testament refers to them as still in force: and which heathen nations under the guidance of natural conscience have enacted.

How is the Levitical Law to be interpreted?

Admitting the Levitical law of marriage to be still in force, the next question is, How is it to be interpreted? Is it to be understood as specifying the degrees of relation, whether of consanguinity or of affinity, within which intermarriage is forbidden? or, is it to be viewed as an enumeration of particular cases, so that no case not specifically mentioned is to be included in the prohibition?

The former of these rules of interpretation is the one generally adopted; for the following reasons: –

Exegesis.

1. The language of the law itself. It begins with a general prohibition of marriage between those who are near of kin. Nearness of kindred is made the ground of the prohibition. The specifications which follow are intended to show what degree of nearness of kindred works a prohibition. This reason applies to many cases not particularly mentioned in Leviticus 18 or elsewhere. The law would seem to be applicable to all cases in which the divinely assigned reason for its enactment is found to exist.

Purpose.

2. The design of the law, as we have seen, is twofold: first, to keep sacred those relationships which naturally give rise to feelings and affections which are inconsistent with the marriage relation; and secondly, the preservation of domestic purity. As the natural affections are due partly to the very constitution of our nature, and partly to the familiarity and constancy of intercourse, and the interchange of kindly offices, it is natural that in the enumeration of the prohibited cases regard should be had, in the selection, to those in which this familiarity of intercourse, at the time the law was enacted, actually prevailed. In the East the family is organized on different principles from those on which it is organized in the West. Among the early Oriental nations especially, the males of a family with their wives remained together; while the daughters, being given in marriage, went away and were amalgamated with the families of their husbands. Hence it would happen that relatives by the father’s side would be intimate associates, while those of the same degree on the mother’s side might be perfect strangers. A law, therefore, constructed on the principle of prohibiting marriage between parties so related as to be already in the bonds of natural affection and who were domesticated in the same family circle, would deal principally in specifications of relationships on the father’s side. It would not follow, however, from this fact, that relations of the same grade of kindred might freely intermarry, simply because they were not specified in the enumeration. The law in its principle applies to all cases, whether enumerated or not, in which the nearness of kin is the source of natural affection, and in which it leads to and justifies intimate association.

Reciprocity.

3. Another consideration in favour of the principle of interpretation usually adopted, is, that the opposite rule would introduce the greatest inconsistencies into the law. The law forbids marriage between those near of kin; and, according to this rule, it goes on alternately permitting and forbidding marriages where the relationship is precisely the same. Thus, a man cannot marry the daughter of his son; but a woman may marry the son of her daughter; a man cannot marry the widow of his father’s brother, but he may marry the widow of his mother’s brother; a woman cannot marry two brothers, but a man may marry two sisters. These inconsistencies might be intelligible if the law were a temporary and local enactment, designed for a transient state of society; but they are utterly unaccountable if the law be one of permanent and universal obligation. A rule of interpretation which brings uniformity and consistency into these enactments of Scripture, is certainly to be preferred to one which renders them confused and inconsistent.

Prohibited Degrees.

The cases specifically mentioned are: 1. Mother. 2. Stepmother. 3. Grand-daughter. 4. Sister and half-sister, “born at home or born abroad,” i.e., legitimate or illegitimate. 5. Aunt on the father’s side. 6. Maternal aunt. 7. The wife of a father’s brother. 8. Daughter-in-law. 9. Brother’s wife. 10. A woman and her daughter. 11. A wife’s grand-daughter. 12. Two sisters at the same time.

The meaning of Leviticus 18:18, has been much disputed. The question is, Whether the words, “a woman to her sister,” are to be understood in their idiomatic sense, “one to another,” so that the law forbids bigamy, the taking of one wife to another during her lifetime; or, Whether they are to be taken literally, so that this law forbids a man’s marrying the sister of his wife while the latter is living. It is certain that the words in question have in several places the idiomatic sense ascribed to them. In Exodus 26:3, “Five curtains shall be coupled together one to another,” literally, “a woman to her sister;” so in verse 5, the loops take hold, “a woman and her sister;” ver. 6, the taches of gold unite the curtains, “a woman and her sister.” Also in ver. 17. Thus also in Ezekiel 1:9, it is said, “their wings were joined one to another,” “a woman to her sister;” and again in 3:13. The words therefore admit of the rendering given in the margin of the English version. But it is objected to this interpretation in this case: (1.) That the words in question never mean “one to another,” except when preceded by a plural noun; which is not the case in Leviticus 18:18. (2.) If this explanation be adopted, the passage contains an explicit prohibition of polygamy, which the law of Moses permitted. (3.) It is unnatural to take the words “wife” and “sister” in a sense different from that in which they are used throughout the chapter. (4.) The ancient versions agree with the rendering given in the text of the English Bible. The Septuagint has gunaika ep adelphe autes; the Vulgate, sororem uxoris tuae.

In this interpretation the modern commentators almost without exception agree. Thus Maurer renders the passage: “Uxorem ad (i.e., praeter) sororem ejus ne ducito,’ i.e., Nolli praeter tuam conjugem aliam insuper uxorem ducere, quae illius soror est.” Baumgarten’s comment is: “From the fact that the prohibition of the marriage of a wife’s sister is expressly conditioned on the life of the former, we must infer with the Rabbins, that after the death of the wife this marriage is permitted. True, the degree of affinity is here the same as in ver. 16, but there the relationship is on the male, here on the female side; this makes a difference, because under the Old Testament the woman had not attained to the same degree of personality and independence as the man.” Rosenmuller says: “Marry not a wife to his sister, do not marry two sisters, viz. בְּחַיֶּֽיהָ in his life, i.e., your wife is alive. Therefore Moses does not forbid marriage with the sisters of his dead wife.” Knobel says: “Finally, a man shall not marry…. the sister of his wife, so long as the latter lives…. To marry one after the other, after the death of the other, is not forbidden.” Keil understands v. 18 in the same way. It forbids, according to his view, a man’s having two sisters, at the same time, as his wives. “After the death of the first wife,” he adds, “marriage with her sister was allowed.

The inference which these writers draw from the fact that in this passage the marriage of a wife’s sister is forbidden during the life of the wife, that the marriage of the sister, after the death of the wife, is allowed, is very precarious. All that the passage teaches is that if a man chooses to have two wives at the same time, which the law allowed, they must not be sisters; and the reason assigned is that it would bring the sisters into a false relation to each other. This leaves the question of the propriety of marrying the sister of a deceased wife just where it was. This verse has no direct bearing on that subject.

Implicit Prohibitions.

The cases not expressly mentioned in Leviticus 18, although involving the same degree of kindred as those included in the enumeration, are: 1. A man’s own daughter. This is a clear proof that the enumeration was not intended to be exhaustive. 2. A brother’s daughter. 3. A sister’s daughter. 4. A maternal uncle’s widow. 5. A brother’s son’s widow. 6. A sister’s son s widow. 7. The sister of a deceased wife.

As nearness of kindred is made the ground of prohibition, and as these cases are included within “the degrees” specified, the Church has considered them as belonging to the class of prohibited marriages. It is, however, to be considered that the word “prohibited,” as here used, is very comprehensive. Some of the marriages specified in the Levitical law are prohibited in very different senses. Some are pronounced abominable, and those who contract them are made punishable with death. Others are pronounced unseemly, or evil, and punished by exclusion from the privileges of the theocracy. Others again incur the penalty of dying childless; probably meaning that the children of such marriages should not be enrolled in the family registers which the Jews were so careful to preserve.

As this distinction is recognized in the law itself, so it is founded in the nature of the case. As nearness of kin varies from the most intimate relationship to the most distant, so these marriages vary in their impropriety from the highest to the lowest degree. Some of them may, in certain cases, be wrong, not in themselves, but simply from the obligation to uphold a salutary law. That is, there may be cases to which the law, but not the reason of the law applies. For example; a man may go thousands of miles from home and marry: his wife would stand in a very different relation to her husband’s brothers, than had she lived in the same house with them. The law forbidding a woman to marry the brother of her deceased husband, would apply to her; but the reason of that law would affect her in a very slight degree; nevertheless, even in her case, the law should be observed.

There is another obvious remark that ought to be made. Strong repugnance is often felt and expressed against the Levitical law, not only because it is regarded as placing all the marriages specified on the same level, representing all as equally offensive in the sight of God, but also from the assumption that all the marriages forbidden are, if contracted, invalid. This is a wrong view of the subject. It is inconsistent with the law itself, and contrary to the analogy of Scripture. The law recognizes a great disparity in the impropriety of these marriages. Some, as just remarked, are utterly abominable and insufferable. Others are specified because inexpedient or dangerous, as conflicting with some ethical or prudential principle.

It is in this as in many other cases. The Mosaic law discountenanced and discouraged intermarriage between the chosen people and their heathen neighbors. With regard to the Canaanites, such intermarriages were absolutely forbidden; with other heathen nations, although discountenanced, they were tolerated. Joseph married an Egyptian; Moses, a Midianite; Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter. Such marriages, in the settled state of the Jewish nation, may have been wrong, but they were valid. Even now under the Christian dispensation, believers are forbidden to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. It does not follow from this that every marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is invalid. These remarks are not out of place. The truth suffers from being misapprehended. If the Bible is made to teach what is contrary to the common sense, or the intuitive judgments of men, it suffers great injustice. No man can force himself to believe that a man’s marrying the sister of a deceased wife is the same kind of offense as a father’s marrying his own daughter. The Bible teaches no such doctrine; and it is a slander so to represent it.

Concluding Remarks.

The laws of God are sacred. They are founded, not only on his infinite wisdom, but also on the nature of his creatures, and, therefore, should be sedulously observed. There may, in some cases, be honest difference of opinion as to what the law or will of God is, but when ascertained, it is our wisdom and duty to make it the rule of our conduct. This is so obvious that the statement of it may seem entirely superfluous. It is so common. however, for men professing to be Christians to make their own feelings, opinions, and views of expediency, the rule of action for themselves and others, that it is by no means a work of supererogation, to reiterate on all proper occasions the truism that there is no wisdom like God’s wisdom, and that men are never wise except when they follow the wisdom of God as revealed in his Word, even when they have to do it blindly.

There are certain principles which underlie the marriage laws of the Bible, which all men in their private capacity and when acting as legislators, would do well to respect, –

1. The first is, that marriage is not a mere external union; it is not simply a mutual compact; it is not merely a civil contract. It is a real, physical, vital, and spiritual union, in virtue of which man and wife become, not merely in a figurative sense, but really, although in a mysterious sense, one flesh. This is not only expressly declared by Christ himself to be the nature of marriage, but it is the doctrine which underlies the whole Levitical law on this subject. Nearness of kin is expressed constantly by saying that one is “flesh of the flesh” of the other, שְׁאֵר בְשָׂרוֹ, “Carnem carnis suae s. corporis sui esse cognatam propinquam, quae est ut caro ejusdem corporis.” [the flesh of his flesh that it is closely related to its body, which is like the flesh of the same body.] According to the Scriptures, therefore, husband and wife are the nearest of all relations to each other. According to the spirit, and most of the legislation of the present age, they are no relations at all. They are simply partners. If one member of a business firm die, his property does no; go to his partner, but to his own family; so if a wife die, without children, her property does not go to her husband, but to her third or fourth cousins. They, in the eye of the law, are more nearly related to her than her husband. This is not the light in which God looks upon marriage.

2. The second principle which underlies these marriage-laws is, that affinity is as real a bond of relationship as consanguinity. Fully one half of the marriages specified in Leviticus are prohibited on the ground of affinity. The same form of expression is used to designate both kinds of relationship. Those related to each other by affinity are said to be “flesh of the flesh,” one of the other, just as blood relations; because all the specifications contained in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus are included under the general prohibition contained in the sixth verse, “None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him;” under this head are included step-mothers; mothers-in-law; step-daughters; sisters-in-law (as when a man is forbidden to marry the widow of his brother); uncle’s wife, etc. These relationships are traced out in the line of affinity, just as far as they are in that of consanguinity. The declaration, therefore, contained in the Westminster Confession [24.4], “The man may not marry any of his wife’s kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own, nor the woman of her husband’s kindred nearer in blood than of her own,” is a simple and comprehensive statement of the law as laid down in Leviticus. In saying that affinity is as real a bond of relationship as consanguinity, it is not meant that it is as strong. A daughter is a nearer relation than a step-daughter, or daughter-in-law; a mother than a step-mother; a sister than a sister-in-law. This, as we have seen, is recognized in the law itself. The Bible asserts nothing inconsistent with fact or nature. In making affinity a real bond of kindred, it is meant that it is no merely nominal, or conventional, or arbitrary. It has its foundation in nature and fact.

Mr. Bishop, in his elaborate work on “Marriage and Divorce,” says, ” A truly enlightened view will doubtless discard altogether affinity as an impediment, while it will extend somewhat the degrees of consanguinity within which marriages will be forbidden.” He also teaches that “the relationship by affinity” ceases “with the dissolution which death brings to the marriage…. If, when a man’s wife dies, she is still his wife, then, of course, her sister is still his sister…. If, on the other hand, the wife is no more the wife after her death, then is her sister no more the sister of the husband. And though men who have no other idea of religion than to regard it as a bundle of absurd and loathed forms, may not be able to see how the termination of the relationship by the death of the wife is of any consequence in the case, yet men who discern differently and more wisely, will discover nothing unseemly in practically acting upon a fact which everybody knows to exist.

It is very evident that Mr. Bishop never asked himself what, in the present connection, the word “relationship” means. Had he had any clear idea of the meaning of the word, he never could have written the above sentences. By relationship is here meant the relation in which parties stand to each other; and that, in the case supposed, is a matter of feeling, affection, and intimacy. This relationship is not dissolved by the death of the person through whom it arose. A wife’s sister continues to cherish to her widowed brother-in-law the same sisterly affection after, as before her sister’s death. She can live with him, guide his house, and take charge of his children, without the slightest violation of her self-respect, and without fear of incurring the disrespect of others.

Besides, if relationship by affinity is dissolved by death, then a son may, on the death of his father, marry his step-mother, which Paul says (1 Cor. 5:1) was not tolerated among the heathen. We have not come to that yet. On the principle of Mr. Bishop, a man may marry his mother-in-law, his daughter-in-law, and, on the death of the mother, his step-daughter. All this the Bible forbids; and whatever religion in some of its manifestations may be, the Bible, surely, is not “a bundle of absurd and loathed forms.” It is the wisdom of God, in the presence of which the wisdom of man is foolishness.

3. The great truth contained in these laws is, that it is the will of God, the dictate of his infinite and benevolent wisdom that the affections which belong to the relation in which kindred (whether by consanguinity or affinity) stand to each other, should not be disturbed, perverted, or corrupted by that essentially different kind of love which is appropriate and holy in the conjugal relation; and that a protecting halo should be shed around the family circle.

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