If a man be found lying with. A Political
Supplement, whereby it appears how greatly God abominates adultery, since He denounces capital punishment against it. And assuredly, since marriage is a covenant consecrated by God, its profanation is in no wise tolerable; and conjugal faith should be held too sacred to be violated with impunity, whilst it is an act of horrible perfidiousness to snatch from a man's bosom the wife who is as his very life, or at any rate half of himself. Wherefore, also, the Prophet ignominiously compares adulterers to neighing horses, (Jeremiah 5:8;) for where such lasciviousness prevails, men degenerate, as it were, into beasts. Another reason is, however, here referred to; for, if a man had broken faith with his wife by having connection with a harlot, it was not a capital offense; but if any man, though a bachelor, had committed adultery with the wife of another, (he was to die, ) because both the husband is grossly injured, and the dishonor descends to the offspring, and all adulterine race is substituted in place of the legitimate one, whilst the inheritance is transferred to strangers, and thus bastards unlawfully possess themselves of the family name. This cause impelled the Gentiles, even before the Law, to punish adultery with severity, as clearly appears from the history of Judah and Tamar. (Genesis 38:14.) Nay, by the universal law of the Gentiles, the punishment of death was always awarded to adultery; wherefore it is all the baser and more shameful in Christians not to imitate at least the heathen. Adultery is punished no less severely by the Julian law than by that of God; whilst those who boast themselves of the Christian name are so tender and remiss, that they visit this execrable offense with a very light reproof. And lest they should abrogate God's law without a pretext, they allege the example of Christ, who dismissed the woman taken in adultery, whereas she ought to have been stoned; just as He withdrew Himself into a mountain that He might not be made a king by the multitude. (John 8:11, and 6:15.) For if we consider what the office was which the Father delegated to His only-begotten Son, we shall not be surprised that He was content with the limits of His vocation, and did not discharge the duties of a Judge. But those who have been invested with the sword for the correction of crime, have absurdly imitated His example, and thus their relaxation of the penalty has flowed from gross ignorance.
Although the disloyalty of husband and wife are not punished alike by human tribunals, still, since they are under mutual obligation to each other, God will take vengeance on them both; and hence the declaration of Paul takes effect before the judgment-seat of God, Let not married persons defraud one another; for the wife hath not power of her own body, nor the husband of his. (1 Corinthians 7:4, 5.)
23. If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed. The severity of the punishment is now extended further, and a betrothed woman is counted as a wife; and this for a very good reason, because she has plighted her troth, and it is a token of abandoned incontinency for the mind of a woman to be so alienated from the man to whom she is betrothed, as to prostitute her virginity to another's embraces. But since one who has been ravished is not criminal, a woman is absolved if she be forced in a field, because it is probable that she yielded unwillingly, inasmuch as she was far from assistance. Although, however, the terms are accommodated to the comprehension of a rude people, it was the intention of God to distinguish force from consent. Thus if a girl had been forced in a retired part of a building, from whence her cries could not be heard, God would undoubtedly have her acquitted, provided she could prove her innocence by satisfactory testimony and conjecture.