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from Exod. xxi. 7. where a man is supposed to sell his daughter; which, you say, it is incredible to believe that God should permit, because it implies unnatural affection and covetousness in the father. But, Sir, 1. You do not consider that this is barely a provisional law, and is not the permission of the thing, so much as the regulation of it, supposing it to be done, i. e. in case a man should part with his interest in his daughter to another person, upon an extraordinary case of necessity, as the Jews understand it; yet then she was not to be in the condition of a servant, but to be either betrothed to the person who received her, or to his son; which was intended for the restraint of promiscuous buying and selling daughters, merely for the satisfaction of lust. The Jews, who certainly best understood their own judicial laws, do say, that this was never to be done but where there was a presumption of such a betrothing; for no man could sell his daughter to those to whom it ' was unlawful to marry by their law; so that this was. looked on as a kind of espousals of a young girl, taken into wardship by another; but so, that if she were not betrothed, she was to remain her six years during her minority, as the Jews understand it, unless she were redeemed, or set free, or the jubilee came, or the master died, or the time of her minority expired.
2. The case of necessity being supposed, it hath been thought lawful for parents to make advantage by their children, not only by the Jews, but by other nations, who have been in the greatest esteem for wisdom. For, by the law of the Twelve Tables among the Romans, the father had the liberty of selling his son three times for his own advantage, as Dionysius Halicarnasseus relates ; and before that time it was not only in use among the Romans, but in such esteem among them, that, upon the review of their laws, the Decemviri
durst not leave it out: but, by one of the laws of Numa
education under more able persons; and therefore the Ælian.
Thebans had a law, That parents, in case of poverty, Var. Hist. were to bring their children to the magistrate, as soon ii. c. 7.
as they were born, who put them out to such as were
judged fit to bring them up, and to have their service for their reward.
But however, you say, this place implies a toleration of having many wives; because it is said, if he take him another wife, ver. 10. I do not deny that the Mosaical law did suppose the practice of polygamy; but as it doth nowhere expressly allow it, neither doth it expressly condemn it. And although we say, the Christian law is far more excellent, which reduceth marriage to its first institution, yet you will find it a hard matter to prove such a permission of polygamy as this was, to be so repugnant to the law and principles of nature, as from thence to infer, that this law of Moses could not be from God. You might have said the same about the matter of divorce, which was permitted them, Christ saith, for the hardness of their hearts : which shews that God doth not always require that from men which is best pleasing to himself; and that, as to his political government, he may not always punish that which is not so pleasing to him.
The next law you quarrel at is that, Deut. xxii. 13, &c. about the trial of virginity; which you object against as immodest, and uncertain, and therefore unbecoming the wisdom of God. So, many customs of those elder times of the world, and of the Eastern parts, to this day seem very strange to us, that are not so well acquainted with the reasons of them. Methinks it better becomes our modesty, in such cases, to question our understanding those customs, than presently to cast so much disparagement on the author of them. If you had been offended at the literal sense of those words, many of the Jews themselves say, they are to be understood figuratively of the evidence that was to be brought and laid open before the judges on behalf of the defamed person. And both Josephus and Philo omit the laying open the cloth. But supposing it to be taken in the plainest literal sense, I have two things to say in vindication of this law. 1. That however uncertain some physicians have thought that way of trial to have been in these parts of the world ; yet it is generally agreed to have held for the eastern parts, by the most skilful physicians among the Arabians : and a custom of the same nature is said by good authors to have been observed among the Egyptians, and other Africans, as well as the Arabians; so that this could not be thought so strange or immodest among the inhabitants of those parts : and it is very probable that some particulars, as to the practice of these laws, are not set down, which might very much tend to the certainty of them, as the age of the married persons, which was most likely then, as it is to this day in the eastern parts, very early; the Jews say at twelve years old, which would make the trial more certain. 2. As to the modesty of it, you are to consider that the law was intended to keep persons from unjust defamations, and such a way of trial was therefore pitched upon to deter persons from such defamations; which men might otherwise have been more ready to, because of the liberty of divorce, and the advantage they had in saving the dower, if they could prove the party vitiated before marriage; therefore all the proof of that nature was to be passed soon after the consummation of marriage, which being agreed then by all the friends, there was to be no liberty left for defamation afterwards; but in case any man should be guilty of it, the producing those evidences, which before they were agreed upon, should be sufficient to clear the innocency of the party accused. And therefore I look on this law, as the Jews do on that of the rebellious son, of which they say, that there is no instance of the practice
of it; the penalty threatened being so effectual to prevent the occasion of it.
And such, in a great measure, I suppose the other law mentioned by you to have been, viz. of the water of jealousy, which you make so strange a matter of; and think it savours too much of a design to gratify the jealous humour of the Jewish nation. But you might have put a fairer construction upon it, viz. that it was intended to prevent any occasion of suspicion being given to the husband, by too much familiarity with other persons; since the law allowed so severe a trial, in case the wife, after admonition, did not forbear such suspected familiarity: but if you had looked on the law as it is, Num. v. 12, 13, &c., you would have found that the design of it was to keep women from committing secret adultery, by so severe a penalty; yet withal, allowing so much to a reasonable suspicion, (for so the Jews understand it, with many cautions and limitations,) that, rather than married persons should live under perpetual jealousies, he appointed this extraordinary way of trial, whereby adultery was most severely punished, and the honour of innocency publicly vindicated; which certainly are not ends at all unbecoming due conceptions of God.
The last of the Jewish laws which you quarrel with, is, the prohibition of usury, in several places of Moses's law and the Psalms. And from hence you fall into a long discourse to prove the lawfulness of usury: but to what purpose I beseech you? For you were to prove that God could never forbid it; you might have spared your pity for men, as you think, blinded with superstition, and cheated with new and airy notions. For by all that I can see by these papers, some pretended enemies to superstition have no better eyes than their neighbours, and are as easily cheated with ground
STILLINGFLEET, VOL. II. mm