since whatever is moral cannot be changed or dispensed with;" to this, an extravagant inference is
also added, "that the singular exception made by the law in Deut. xxv. rescinds the whole precept
against marrying a sister in law." But this objection and inference arise from an imperfect knowledge
of what is meant by a moral law; and from inaccurate views of the nature of exceptions to any law.
1. There are duties which are invariably obligatory, because they are founded upon the infinite perfections
of God, and inseparable from the very nature of man; such as a supreme love to God, and a
sincere love to each other, and whatever is essentially connected with these. It is acknowledged that
the law which binds to these duties is moral in the
most extensive sense of the term. The principles upon which these duties are founded, are in their
very nature unchangeable; they are inscribed as such upon the human heart; and have been repeatedly
promulgated by a divine revelation. These therefore never can, nor ever will be dispensed with.
But there are other duties which arise from positive laws, the whole extent of whose principles we do
not comprehend, and which, had it not been for an express revelation, would never have been known
or recognised as a rule of conduct: yet when revealed, become equally obligatory, and are as moral,
in regard to their binding power and requisite obedience, as any other law or obligation whatsoever.
Now, the whole law against Incest, like the law of marriage, is a positive law; but it is not the less
moral, after it has been promulgated. And the same divine authority which enacted this positive
law, possessed the power, to make any changes respecting the operations of that law, which infinite
wisdom might suggest - nor can any such particular dispensations make any essential alteration in the
nature of the law itself, or abrogate its general obligation.
2. The case expressed in Deut. xxv. is a restricted municipal regulation, and is evidently a particular
EXCEPTION to a general rule.
But what is the nature of exceptions? how are they to be construed? It is well known, and ought to be remembered
Calvin and others suppose that by brother in this law, is meant, not a brother by
consanguinity, but any other near relative; their opinion is founded upon the explanation of this Law in the case of Boaz and Ruth.