Volume 3: 1771 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica!


Marriage, a contract both civil and religious, between a man and a woman, by which they engage to live together in mutual love and friendship, for the ends of procreation, etc. See Law, Tit. vi.

The Romans, as well as the Greeks, disallowed of polygamy. A Roman might not marry any woman who was not a Roman. It was thought dishonourable for a woman to marry twice.

We find but few laws in the books of Moses concerning the institution of marriage: he restrained the Israelites from marrying within certain degrees of consanguinity; but we find, that polygamy, though not expressly allowed, is however tacitely implied in the law of Moses: there is a particular law that obliged a man, whose brother died without issue, to marry his widow, and raise up children to his brother. The Hebrews purchased their wives, by paying down a competent dowry for them; and a man was at liberty to marry, not only in any of the twelve tribes, but even out of them, provided it was with such nations as used circumcision.

The ancient Christian church laid several restraints upon her members in relation to marriage: such was the rule forbidding Christians to marry with infidels and heathens: another restraint related to the consanguinity and affinity prohibited in scripture: a third was, that children under age should not marry without the consent of their parents, guardians, or next relations: and another was, that there should be some parity of condition between the contracting parties. They not only condemned polygamy, but even reckoned it unlawful to marry after a divorce. The Romish church requires of the clergy perpetual abstinence from marriage; and has advanced this institution to the dignity of a sacrament.

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