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as to deserve punishment, if the Lord should be extreme to mark what is done amiss. He will therefore habitually connect the exercise of repentance and faith with all his obedience, even when nothing occurs to bring the reality of his grace into suspicion.
4. We may observe, that the sacred writers generally begin with the duties of the inferior relations; whether it be that these are commonly the most difficult to our self-willed ungovernable nature; or that a greater number of believers occupy these stations; or that the advantageous performance of the duties belonging to the superior relations depends much on the conduct of inferiors. But however they may be, we must carefully observe, that in most instances the failure of one party in the reciprocal relations does not excuse the other in neglecting their duties, though it commonly increases the difficulty, and renders it a more severe trial of any person's faith and obedience. In this the excellency of Scripture principles especially appears; if we only behave well in relative life to them who behave well to us, what do we more than others? This is merely doing as we are done by, not as we would be done by. This being premised, we proceed to consider
I. The reciprocal duties of husbands and wives; as from this relation most others are regularly derived. The Creator himself instituted this union before the entrance of sin, for the most wise, kind, and important purposes, with which his whole plan respecting the human race was inseparably con. nected. He saw, that " it was not good for Adam,” even in Paradise, “ to be alone;" and that “there was no help meet for him,” to be found among all the other creatures; no one suited to engage his affections, participate his enjoyments, constitute his companion, or unite with him in the worship of God. He was therefore pleased to form the woman from his side, as “ bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh,” to lay the foundation of a moderate subordination and most rational affection ; and thus he gave her to Adam, to be his associate and counterpart, and to unite with him in training up their common offspring; that she might yield him the willing obedience of cordial esteem and affection, and receive from him the
attention, protection, and counsel of wisdom, love, and mild authority. The Lord made no more than one woman for Adam, (Mal. ii. 15): for the most remote desire of polygamy could never have entered man's heart, had he not become a sinner: he joined Adam and Eve together, blessed them, and pronounced the union indissoluble by the authority of any creature ; for no cause of divorce could have subsisted in holy creatures : and he added, “ for this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife ; and they shall be one flesh.” To this original institution our Lord repeatedly referred in his decisions on this subject ; constantly inserting the word twain along with the words used by the sacred historian, lest any corrupt interpretation should be super-induced. Had not sin entered, this union would doubtless have subsisted during the whole term of probation allotted to Adam and Eve, or to the rest of their posterity, till they were admitted to that more exalted state, which was proposed as the reward of entire obedience: and that unalterable fidelity, attachment, and affection, which, with their inseparable effects, must have resulted from the perfection of human nature, are still required by the spiritual law of God, as far as circumstances continue to be the same. But many and great changes have taken place in consequence of the fall. “ Sin hath entered into the world, and death by sin :" the Lord himself often dissolves the marriage union soon after it hath been formed; and at what time soever this separation takes place, his word leaves the surviving party entirely at liberty to form another union, if that be deemed expedient. Unfaithfulness to the marriage covenant in either party makes way for the dissolution of the union, as by a moral death; and where it is clearly proved, without any suspicion of collusion, a divorce should be easily and certainly attainable. Various circumstances in the present degraded state of human nature, by weakening the authority of reason, and giving force to the passions, add to the original ends for which marriage was instituted. The
manifold mistakes, imperfections, and faults, to which all are liable, render mutual forbearance, forgiveness, and self-denying concessions essential to connubial harmony and comfort: whilst the malignity, sensuality, and obduracy of which fallen man is capable, induced the Lord himself to permit divorces and polygamy among the Jews, to prevent more dreadful consequences; but as the Christian dispensation contains no municipal law, so it makes no such allowances. Moreover, the manifold sorrows, pains, trials, and temptations, to which our race is now exposed, and the peculiar sufferings incident to the female sex, have given rise to a variety of duties, which would not otherwise have been incumbent: so that the relative obligations of this union vary exceedingly from what they would have been had not sin entered, and become more difficult to be performed.
Several questions relative to the subject, do not immediately belong to the design of these Essays : but we observe in general, that some legal and authenticated recognition is absolutely necessary to distinguish this honourable union from all temporary and disgraceful connections; for the opinion that the consent of the parties alone is essential to marriage, to which the outward ceremony can give no additional validity, is suited to answer the purpose of libertines; and tends to multiply seductions, to introduce confusion, and to disseminate licentiousness. Should it be granted, that this or the other form of solemnizing matrimony is not in itself of divine authority, it must also be maintained, that some warranted form is indispensably necessary: and it will follow, that the form appointed by the laws of our country is sanctioned by the Lord also : unless it can be proved, that he hath excluded legislators from making such appointments, by prescribing the requisite form in his holy word; or that the form fixed upon by them is in itself a violation of the Divine law. It hath been observed, that divorces should only be admitted for the cause of fornication, being expressly prohibited in all other cases : but it may be added, that ma ges contracted between those near relations, whom the Lord for the wisest reasons hath prohibited to intermarry, are in themselves justly deemed invalid, and may properly be dissolved: in all other cases, “ whom God hath joined together man ought not," on any pretence whatsoever, “ to put usunder :" and the
fewer restrictions to marriage are added to those expressly made in the Scripture, the better will the true interests of mankind in every order of society be provided for. That polygamy also is expressly prohibited by the sacred Scriptures, must appear to every unbiassed mind, who carefully compares together the passages referred to, (Gen. ii. 24 ; Mal. ii. 14-16; Matt. xix. 3—9; Mark x. il; 1 Cor. vii. 2-4). The inter-marriage of the professed worshippers of God with idolaters, and other open despisers of him, and that of believers with those that are evidently strangers to true godliness, are prohibited, at least in all ordinary cases ; and the infringement of these prohibitions has in all ages been extremely injurious to the cause of religion, (1 Cor. vii. 39; 2 Cor. vi. 14-16). This may lead us back to our more immediate subject ; for the duty of Christians in respect of this relation commences before they actually enter into it. When they deem it most conducive to their best interests and to their usefulness to marry, their principles will lead them to acknowledge God in so important a concern, to consult his word, to pray for his direction and blessing, and to regard his providential dispensations in their determination. They cannot consistently treat this most momentous matter with a childish levity, or hearken to the corrupt suggestions of worldly convenience, avarice, or irrational attachment, or to the fascinations of wit, beauty, &c., in preference to piety. A suitable companion through the residue of life, who may especially be helpful in forwarding spiritual improvement, and concur in every pious plan of family religion, and the education of children, should before all things be sought for: though a subordinate regard to situation in life, habits, prospects, and natural disposition, may very properly be admitted. In short, the Lord, who knoweth all things, should be constantly and earnestly intreated to direct the choice and deters
mination, and to give the blessing ; in order to which the advice of pious and prudent persons, and the judgment of affectionate parents and relations, should be attended to, as far as the word of God consists with their conclusions. When the union hath taken place, the married persons should consider each other, not only as the objects of their own choice, but also of the Lord's choice for them, and should constantly desire and pray to be perfectly satisfied with it. From that moment, the eye,
the imagination, the heart, must be carefully closed against all other persons, and every word and action cautiously shunned, which may excite an uneasy thought in each other's mind, or which may give the least reason to suspect an abatement or change of affection. They should remember from the first, that they are both sinners, and must expect to be sufferers; that they are absolutely inşufficient to each other's happiness; and that whilst the Lord may render them instrumental to each other's comfort and welfare, they must expect to be also sources of anxiety and sorrow to one another in many respects, and at last be separated by the stroke of death. That idolatrous, selfish, and carnal love, therefore, to which nature leads, should be steadily counteracted, and grace should be sought to change it gradually for a more rational, subordinate, and spiritual affection : otherwise it will at length either abate, be turned into disgust, transferred to another object, or prove the source of the keenest anguish. The mind should also be prepared by every consideration, for all that forbearance, sympathy, mutual concession, and self-denial, without which the most promising prospects of connubial happiness will soon be covered with dark clouds; and it should never be forgotten, that there is much amiss in every human character, and much alloy in all earthly comforts ; for too high expectations are the bane of our satisfaction in almost every situation.
When both parties are real Christians, their reciprocal duties will be comparatively easy and pleasant; yet even in this case the preceding cautions will not be found unnecessary. The general rules of conduct for the wife, and for the husband, are laid down by the apostle, with reference to the union between Christ and his espoused church, from whom all our motives must be deduced, and who in one way or other is our perfect example in every thing, (Eph. v. 22–33). This allusion instructs the “ wife to submit herself to her own husband, as unto the Lord,” for his sake, and as the church is subject to him, the preserver and Saviour of the whole body. As therefore the Lord has placed the husband to be the head of authority, protection, and counsel to the wife; so she ought “ to be subject to him in all things ;" that is, provided nothing be commanded contrary to the will of God. The example of the true church shows, that the wife should render obedience willingly, from love and gratitude, with alacrity, and a steady desire of promoting the advantage, credit, and comfort of her husband, even when this is connected with such things as thwart her own inclinations, and seem to be contrary to her own interests in less matters: it teaches her to honour and reverence her husband, and to be very reluctant to discover his infirmities, or induce his frown; to consider herself as no longer her own, to be at her own disposal, but as her husband's; to make it the business of her life, in subserviency to the glory and will of God, to promote his happiness; and especially to soothe him when discomposed by the various troubles of life, to accommodate herself to his station, to avoid every expense that may involve him, to concur in every prudent regulation to support their family, and above all to assist him with her prayers and endeavours in every part of personal and family religion. On the other hand, the husband may learn from this condescending pattern, “ to love his wife as his own body,” notwithstanding her defects and misconduct; to treat her with the most persevering kindness and affectionate sympathy; to endure hardship, and meet danger, in order to protect and provide for her ; to employ his authority wholly for her good, and especially in promoting her sanctification and salvation; to admit her to a full participation of all the advantages attached to his station in life;
to soothe all her sorrows with a tender attention, and a self-denying endeavour to alleviate them ; not to despise her because of infirmities, nor to allow others to despise or injure her, “ but to give honour to her as the weaker vessel ;" to be as careful not to give her needless pain or uneasiness, as he would be not to wound his own flesh; and to give up his own humour, nay even sometimes his reasonable inclination, rather than ruffle her temper, or give her umbrage, when by any means a temporary peevishness hath been excited, and so to behave in all things, that she may find it easy to respect and esteem him. In general, both of them are required to watch over each other, to tend each other in sickness, to alleviate one another's cares and sorrows, to pray for and with one another, and to avoid whatever may hinder those prayers. Above all, each of them must be sure to remember to be most attentive to their several duties when the other is most deficient; for if only one party at once indulge a wrong temper, or fall into misconduct, few serious interruptions of domestic harmony would follow.
To these general hints a few more special may be added. Sometimes it is discovered after marriage, that a mistake hath been fallen into as to the religious character of the person with whom the union has been formed. In this trying case, great care must be taken, that the mind be not alienated, or amicable intercourse interrupted on that account; that no disgust be excited by reproach, or any expression importing repentance of the union. On the other hand, wisdom and grace should be immediately and earnestly sought, to enable the party to bear the cross cheerfully; to win upon the other by kindness and attention ; to induce a concurrence in family worship, and attendance on the means of grace ; and to use a prudent caution, that the circumstances may only be a cross, and not a snare to the soul. By whatever means a pious person is thus united with an unbeliever, the same cautions are in a measure needful, and others may be added. The apostle hath expressly directed, that believers should not on any such account withdraw from their partners, but should abide with them, in hopes of being instrumental to their salvation, (1 Cor. vii. 12–17). In this case, the wife, whose husband “ obeys not the word,” should endeavour “to win him without the word,” not so much by frequent and earnest discourse on religious subjects, (which ought to be introduced very cautiously, modestly, and affectionately), as by a “ chaste conversation, coupled with fear," or an union of circumspect fidelity and respectful submission; and to render herself agreeable to him, not by the vain decorations of elegant and costly attire, but “ by the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit," and the exercise of all those holy tempers, the seat of which is in the heart, and which are “ in the sight of God of great value.” In such circumstances, may be advisable to bear unkind usage or neglect with patience, or to wait for opportunities of mild expostulation, in humble prayer and persevering submission. Thus the cross may be lightened, which a contrary conduct commonly increases; and the best method taken of “adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour,” and of giving an unbeliever an affecting proof that the truths he rejects are most excellent in their nature and tendency. Many of the same rules may properly be adopted by the pious husband, whose wife dislikes his religion ; but in the superior relation there may be a propriety in more explicitly and frequently proposing religious conversation; in urging attendance on the means of grace, and concurrence in family worship. In both cases, such compliances as cannot be conscientiously made, should be firmly, but mildly refused ; and in proportion to the degree in which a decided conduct is adopted, where the will of God is concerned, an obliging and yielding disposition should be manifested, where personal inclination only is at stake, or where the matter is rather expedient than obligatory.
But there is a case of still greater difficulty, viz. when a believer has married an ungodly person, after having been competently acquainted with the truth and will of God in this respect. In general, such persons flatter themselves with the hope of being the instrument of good to the object of their
choice, though the reverse is by far the more common effect. Yet this hope should not afterwards be abandoned : but deep humiliation, with earnest prayers to a merciful God to pardon and to overrule for the best what cannot now be disannulled, should be considered as above all things needful : to this the observance of the foregoing rules should be added ; and the consideration of the sin by which the cross hath been incurred, should constitute an additional motive to persevering patience, meekness, and kindness, even in return for harsh treatment; and in one way or other the Lord will support, comfort, and rescue such humble penitents, and make all to work together for good to their souls.
These hints indeed are very inadequate to the full discussion of so copious and important a subject ; but they may throw some light upon the believer's path, who reads them with prayer, and compares them with the sacred Scriptures.
II. We proceed to consider the reciprocal duties of parents and children. Some observations have already been made on this subject, (Essay IV), but a few hints must here be subjoined, beginning with the duty of children to their parents, which will finish the first part of this Essay. The apostle exhorts “ children to obey their parents in the Lord,” in obedience to the will, for the honour of the gospel, from grateful love to the name, and in imitation of the example of the Lord Jesus, this being also right in itself, and required by the holy law of God. The general grounds and nature of this duty have been stated; it remains for us to consider it, as practised by a believer from evangelical motives. If such a young disciple have the blessing of pious parents, in honouring and obeying them, he will commonly honour and obey the Lord : and gratitude for the spiritual benefits derived to him by means of their instructions, example, and prayers, will be an additional incitement to a respectful, submissive, and obliging deportment; to a steady concern for their comfort, ease, interest, and reputation; and to a self-denying, frugal, and diligent endeavour to ward off want and distress from their old age, as pious Joseph maintained his father and family just as many years in his old age, as his father had maintained him in his youth. In this case, it will be peculiarly proper to bear with their infirmities, and conceal them from others; to submit to inconveniences and restraints, in compliance with their wishes, and to soothe their sorrows; to consult them in every undertaking as long as they live; to pay a deference to their opinion, even when it is in a measure unreasonable, if it do not interfere with other duties; and never to grieve them by a contrary behaviour, without a very satisfactory reason, and with the most evident reluctance. On the other hand, it sometimes happens that pious children have parents, whom they cannot but consider as strangers to the power of godliness ; in which case, it must be a leading desire of their hearts to win them over to the doctrine and grace of the Lord Jesus: but in order to accomplish this purpose, it is peculiarly needful to watch against a hasty zeal, and a violent spirit. They should expect to be opposed in their religious pursuits; to be assailed by arguments and authority, and perhaps by reproaches and menaces ; to be restrained by various methods from attending divine ordinances ; and to be allured into such companies and diversions as are inconsistent with their profession: they should therefore beg of God to give them the meekness of wisdom, as well as a steadfast mind ; that they may not refuse obedience in frivolous or doubtful matters, or in a harsh and disobliging manner, but where evident duty requires it, and with calm and mild declarations of the grounds on which theyproceed: thus it will appear. that a Scriptural conscientiousness (and not caprice, self-will, or self-conceit) compel them to act in this manner; and in proportion as this is done, redoubled diligence and self-denial should be used, to oblige their parents in all other things. In general, children are not required to preach to their parents; at least, every word should be spoken in modesty, tenderness, candour, and unassuming gentleness: and they should rather aim to induce them to hear sermons, to read books, or to converse with