then imply, that a man might marry any other woman, in the life time, of his wife, provided, she
was not her sister; which would be implicitly to license polygamy, instead of forbidding it. - An inference
which no modest commentator would dare to countenance. - "The whole of this objection is
founded upon a mistake. However our translation sounds, there is not a syllable in the passage about
marrying a wife's sister more than about marrying any other woman. The text has nothing to do
with the marriage of a wife's sister. It is a clear, simple, and absolute prohibition of polygamy."
Polygamy is of ancient date, and appears to have been practiced in the early periods of the Church,
even by some of the best of men, without an accusing conscience. The only apology that can be suggested
to palliate the crime is, that possibly the pure principles of religion and morality were not so well
understood at that time, as afterwards. But no apology must be attempted. It always was sinful,
and was forever the source of domestic evils. It is beyond dispute that polygamy is contrary to the letter
and spirit of the original Institution, and was positively forbidden. To the law which prohibits polygamy,
the Prophet Malachi appeals chap. ii. - 14, 15. 16. To this our Lord refers Mat. xix. 5-7.
And this, the Apostle confirms 1 Cor. vii. 2. But where is it forbidden? Where is the law which
directly prohibits polygamy? In the seventh command of the Decalogue it is indeed implied, but it
is no where expressly denounced in the whole revelation of the divine law, excepting in this very precept
Levit. xviii. 18. To which may be added Deut. xvii. 17. Where kings are commanded not to multiply wives.
2. The undeniable proof that this precept, verse 18. refers wholly to polygamy, and can suggest no
argument in favour of marrying the natural sister after the death of the wife, is deduced from the idiom
peculiar to the Hebrew language, which is adopted in this text.
Whatever construction an
Grotius maintained that polygamy was allowed to the Jews, in consequence
of expressions in their municipal precepts, which seemed to suppose such cases to
exist. Drusius and others insisted, that it was prohibited in the letter of their law;
yet permitted, by winking at the offence, for the hardness of their hearts. But
the arguments, above mentioned, suffice to prove that it was positively forbidden,
and always sinful.
The term sister is used with great latitude in scripture. It primarily signifies,
a sister by consanguinity or by affinity, either one who is descended from the
same parents, from both or from one of them, and is a sister by blood; or,
one who is a sister in law, who has become a sister by the law of marriage, Ruth
i. 15. - But it is frequently employed more extensively, to denote any near relatives.
So, they were called the brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Mat. xiii. 55. Mark Mark iv. 3. who were only his cousins, the children of the sisters
of the virgin Mary. - It is also a term expressive of affection. So the divine Saviour
calls the Church his sister, . viii. 8. and as such he esteems all his faithful
followers, Mat. xii. 30. So the primitive believers who viewed each other as
brethren, called Christian women sisters, Rom. xvi. 1. James ii. 15. 2 John xiii. -
The name sister is also frequently introduced figuratively. "I have said to
the worm thou art my mother and my sister," Job. xvii. 14. "Say unto wisdom thou art my sister,"
Prov. vii. 4.