PLEA the First.
Containing eight propositions on the Marriage Institution, &c.
The marriage institution was, in the beginning, made single, as the most simple is always the best method of delivering out any institution, though meant to be more complicate; as in the process of time we find the marriage institution actually was. For,
Polygamy, or compound marriage, began early to be practiced, even in the days of Adam, and continued to be practiced, for aught we can tell, until the setting up the Jewish dispensation; and nothing said against it, either by God himself, or by Adam, or by any of God's prophets.
And Polygamy was practiced under the whole of the Jewish dispensation, and that powerful nation; a nation over whom God was not only specifically their God, but also their King, to govern in a civil capacity, and nothing said against Polygamy, by God or any of his prophets, down to their Savior.
And the great prophet Jesus Christ never said anything against Polygamy: though he undertook, with great exactness, to tell us the true meaning of God's law, which he does in the most critical and express manner, and among the rest, in particular, treats on the subject of marriage, and retrenches an essential error concerning it (though commanded by Moses) viz. the putting away in a wife for every cause; where he repeats the marriage institution, word for word as in the original, Matt xix. 4, 5. and powerfully and clearly argue[s] the unreasonableness of putting away a wife, from the union of the marriage; for as marriage makes them one, so 'tis unreasonable to divide them, and the more so as God joined them, as in the verse 6th. It is manifest therefore that Polygamy always was agreeable to the divine mind, or Jesus Christ, or some of God's prophets (somewhere in the Bible, a book given us on purpose to direct our way) would have borne testimony against it, which in fact they did not.
Nor, did any of the apostles say anything material on the subject of marriage; but wherever they speak of it, it is either circumstantial, exhortatory, analogous, or designed for the particular offices of some men in the church, or the present distressed state of the church.
Nor, do the Scriptures (in any place from beginning to end) so much as call the practice of Polygamy a sin, in any phrase expressed or understood, or put it among the catalogs of the iniquities of any man or people, land or nation.
There are two special ways of instruction taken in the Scriptures, viz. The one by precept, and the other by example; and by this latter way we are warned, by the fearful judgments that come on mankind for the practice of wickedness; and also encouraged to pursue the ways of those, whom God has owned and blessed: It is not therefore very unaccountable to condemn that principle, or practice for a sin, which God has allowed amongst all sorts of people, and owned and blessed among his chosen ones from the beginning of the world down to this day; and never said nor did anything against it; as is plainly the case of Polygamy?
Nor yet, is reason any less intelligible in the case, for Polygamy is in no way subversive of any of the good ends for which marriage was designed; either in family religion, family government, or the conveyance of property; but in some cases may and always will be, a benefit to some particular men: and therefore (under proper regulations) there is no moral evil in it.
Query 1. Have we anymore reason, or more express Scripture for the practice of infant baptism, or the sanctification of the first day of the week as a Sabbath (which two practices your opponent believes to be agreeable to the mind and will of God) than for Polygamy?
Query 2. Do not superstition, the force of education, custom, fashion, human law, prejudice and the like, strangely blind the eyes of men sometimes; so as to be the occasion of the subversion of justice, and condemnation of the innocent?
These propositions were (at this time) proved, illustrated and applied (in an extempore discourse) the substance of which being contained in the second plea, it was thought best (for brevity sake) to refer the reader to it.