A Dissertation on the Marriage of a Man with his Sister-in-Law

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District of New-Jersey, ss.

Be it remembered, that on the sixth day of May, in the fortieth year of the Independence of the United States of America, Ava Neal, of the said district hath deposited in this office, the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as Proprietor, in the words following, to wit:

"A Dissertation on the Marriage of a Man with his Sister in Law. By John H. Livingston, D.D. S.T.P. Ye shall do my Judgments, and keep my Ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.. ..Levit. xviii. 5."

In Conformity to an act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, "An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;" and also to the act, entitled, "An act supplementary to the act, entitled an act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned, and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving and etching historical and other prints."


Clerk of the District of New-Jersey.

At the last ordinary session of the General Synod of the Reformed Dutch Church, when the case of a man who had married his sister in law was brought up from a lower judicatory; the consideration of the question, which that case suggested, was postponed, and I was requested to state the arguments and ascertain the sentiments of the Reformed Church respecting the illegitimacy of such a connubial connection.

The subject, in itself, has nothing to recommend it, either to the writer or the reader. But the honour of religion, the purity of the church, and the welfare of the community, which are all implicated in the decision of the question, render it very interesting and highly worthy of discussion. A fervent desire to vindicate these, and a cheerful willingness to meet the wishes of my beloved brethren, have conquered my reluctance, and finally induced me to prepare what is now offered to the public.

The incessant pressure of official duties, during the weeks devoted to this work, afforded nothing more than interrupted intervals, and has restricted the disquisition to narrower limits than it deserved. More could be readily suggested, and the principles and inferences might have been advanced and urged with greater precision and energy. Yet the truth is established by sufficient arguments. A matrimonial connection with a sister in law, whether the wife of a deceased brother, or the sister of a deceased wife, which last is here more particularly the object of inquiry, is proved to be incestuous; not merely an approach to incest, or a slight species of that abominable crime; but gross incest of the highest grade; a prohibited connection in the nearest collateral degree. — The Documents annexed, will give ample information respecting the rules and canons of the Church.

This Dissertation, perhaps the last pledge of my love and attachment to the Church, is now, with great respect and sincere affection, presented to the General Synod. It earnestly solicits the approbation and patronage of the respective members; and confidently anticipates beneficial, seasonable and permanent consequences.

If, without presumption, the words of an aged Apostle might be adopted, I would humbly say: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth." If those who heretofore cordially united with me, many have entered into rest, their eyes are closed to this world, and the Church can no more profit by their labours. Yet being fully persuaded that they who remain are upright and intrepid in the service of their divine Master, and will also cordially receive, in the same spirit of meekness and love, what is here offered; I have been encouraged thus publicly to vindicate the truth. That it may please the Lord to preserve his Church inviolate, protect the morals of the Nation, and render all "who are on the Lord's side" zealous defenders of his law, and faithful witnesses for their God, is the fervent prayer of