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Van Deusen/Kosinski Collection

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PAGE 130

in the letter or spirit of that precept, which has the least reference to the question before us. To apply it to the sister of a deceased wife is a species of reasoning, of which men of cultivated minds ought to be ashamed.

IV.  A fourth objection is raised from Levit. 18. 18. "neither shall thou take a wife to her sister to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other, in her lifetime." From this precept it is inferred: "that the natural sister of the wife is intended; that the marriage with such a sister is forbidden only during the life of the wife: and the very exception, in her life time, evinces, the prohibition did not extend farther, and therefore after the death of the wife, the surviving husband might lawfully marry the sister: for why should any stress be put upon the circumstance of her being alive? Why should the law specify in her life time only during which it would be unlawful, but afterwards it might become legitimate. Upon this objection the baseless fabric of the incestuous connection question perhaps principally rests. Two observations will suffice to show it has no foundation.

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1. The whole law concerning Incest closes with the 17th verse. The precept contained in the 18th verse respects altogether another crime, and is as distinct from Incest as any of the other cases which follow in the chapter. It is a law upon another subject, and relates wholly and only to POLYGAMY. It forbids the taking of any wife beside the other, during her life time, and the reason is not derived from Incest, but because polygamy is a source of domestic vexation, and destructive of all the interesting ends of marriage.

If the natural sister of the wife were here intended, it could not, even then, be considered an implicit permission to marry such sister after the death of the wife, for this was already absolutely forbidden verse 16. and, the whole cause of the prohibition in verse 18. refers to the vexation of the wife - but why should her sister be specified as the most vexatious partner? The pretended argument, to recommend the marrying of a deceased wife's sister, would prove that of all other women she would be the least exceptional and the most desirable associate of a living sister. - But, that the natural sister cannot be meant is evident, because the law would


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