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COMMANDMENT.—THE ORIGIN, NATURE, AND BENEFITS
Exodus xx. 14.- Thou shall not commit adultery.
BEFORE I enter upon the direct consideration of the precept in the Text, it will be useful, for the purpose of illustrating and enforcing it, to examine the nature of Marriage. The Sin, immediately forbidden in the Text, derives, in some respects, its existence from this Institution; and is, in all respects, intimately connected with it, in whatever manner, or degree, the Sin may exist. Such an Examination, also, derives particular inportance from the fact, that it has been rarely made in the Deska 'Indeed, I do not know where it has been made, in such a man aer, as to satisfy my own wishes.
In discussing this Subject I shall consider,
The proof of this position is complete in the following passage. Matth. 'xix. 3—6. The Pharisees also came unto him, templing him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered, and said unto them, Hare ye not read, that He, which made them at the beginning, made ihem male and female ; And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife ; and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man
In this passage of Scripture our Saviour declares, that, when God had created man male and female, he said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife ; and they twain shall be one flesh. These, it is ever to be remembered, are the words of God Himself; as they are here declared to be by Christ; and not, as they have often been erroneously supposed to be, the words of Adam. God made man male and female for this end; and in these words delivered his own Ordinance to mankind; at once permitting, and directing, that a man, henceforth, should leave his father and mother; and that lawfully, notwithstanding his high, and otherwise indissoluble, obligations
to them; and be united to his wise. Accordingly, He declares them, henceforth, to be no more twain, but one.
That these words contain an Institution of God, and that this Institution is Marriage, cannot be doubted for a moment. The only question which can be asked concerning the subject, is, For whom was this institution designed? Plainly it was not designed for Adam and Eve : for they had neither father nor mother; and were, therefore, not included in the terms of the Ordinance; and, being already married by God Himself, were necessarily excluded from any Ordinance, succeeding that event. The Ordinance, then, respected their posterity only : and, as it is delivered in absolutely indefinite terms, terms unrestricted to any individuals, or collections of mankind it respected all their posterity alike.
In this manner it is directly explained by our Saviour, in the passage quoted above. The Pharisees asked Him, whether it was lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause. Christ replies, that, in consequence of this Institution, a man and his wife are no more twain, but one; that is, a man and his wife, at the time in which he was speaking, and from the time, when this ordinance was wade, are no more twain, but, from the day of their marriage, are by this Ordinance constituted one. Accordingly, he subjoins, What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. As if he had said, “God hath joined together by this Ordinance all men and wowen, who are lawfully married; or, in other words, every lawfully married pair.” Man, therefore, cannot lawfully disjoin them. Here it is evident beyond a debate, that our Savjour pronounced men to be married, or joined together, at the time, when He made these declarations, by God Himself in this Ordinance. Of course, the Ordinance, extends to all lawfully married persons.
II. The Nature of Marriage may be explained in the following
Marriage is an union between two persons of the different seres. It is carefully to be remembered, that the Ordinance of God which gave birth to it, limits the Union to two. God said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; not, Men shall leave their fathers and mothers, and shall cleave unto their wife; nor, A man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleate unto his wives, And they twain shall be one : Not, they indefinitely, without declaring how many; nor they three, four, or five; but they twain. The Ordinance, therefore, on which alone Marriage is lawfully founded, limits this Union, in the most express and definite manner, to two persons. What God has thus established, man cannot alter.
It is the most Intimate Union which exists in the present world. The persons who are thus united, are joined together in a more intimate relation, than any other, which exists, or can exist, among mankind. No attachment is so strong; no tenderness is so great
as that, which is originated, and cherished, by this Institution. This is directly predicted, and very forcibly declared, in the passage, which I have quoted from St. Matthew. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one. Accordingly, the union of affections, interests, labours, and life, here existing, has no parallel in the present world.
It is also a Perpetual Union. The connexion is entered into by both parties for life. God has constituted it by joining the parties with his own Infinite Authority; and has forbidden man to put them asunder. It is indissoluble, therefore, on any ground, but that of Crime: a crime of one kind only; and in its nature fatal to all the blessings, and hopes, intended by the Institution.
It is an Union, also, formed by a most solemn Covenant. In this Covenant God is appealed to, as a Witness of the sincere affections, and upright designs, of the parties ; both of whom engage, mutually, the exercise of those affections, and the pursuit of that conduct, which, together, are the most efficacious means of their mutual happiness. This Covenant plainly approaches very near to the solemnity, and obligation, of an Oath; and, exclusively of that, in which Man gives himself up to God, is, without a doubt, the most solemn, and the most important, ever entered into by Man. When the duties of it are faithfully performed; they furnish a fair foundation for the best hopes, that the Union will be immortal.
III. The Benefits of this Institution are incalculably numerous, and inestimably important.
This truth is clearly evident from the observations, already made, concerning the Origin and Nature of Marriage. It is also forcibly evinced by the manner, in which the subject is elsewhere exhibited in the Scriptures.
The violation of the Marriage Covenant was of such consequence in the view of the Divine Mind, that it was made the subject of one of the Commands in the Decalogue.
In the laws concerning this subject, given to the Israelites, curses were pronounced in form against the direct violations of the Marriage vow; and the violaters were punished with death.
Of Adulterers, and all other transgressors of the Seventh Command, it is declared, in the New Testament, that they shall hade their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. None of those who go in to the strange woman, says Solomon, turn again; ñeither take they hold of the paths of life.
The relation between Christ and his Church is, throughout the Scriptures, exhibited as a Marriage. God says to His Church, Thy Maker is thy Husband : Jehovah of Hosts is His name. The Angel in the Revelation styles the Church the Bride, the Lamb's Wife.
From these and other similar exhibitions of this subject in the Scriptures, it must necessarily be supposed, that God regarded Marriage as pre-eminently important, and beneficial, to mankind.
The Benefits of Marriage, however, like those of every other practical concern, are chietly to be learned from facts. I shall, therefore, apply directly to that extensive source of information; and exhibit with a brief survey, such of these benefits, unfolded by human experience, as the present opportunity will permit.
1. Marriage is, extensively, the means of Comfort to the married Pair.
This was originally proposed by God as an important end of the Institution. And the Lord God said, It is not good, that the man should be alone ; I will make him an help meet for him. Accordingly, this end has been regularly accomplished from the beginning.
Licentious men, both of ancient and modern times, have carried on a course of open, and incessant, hostility against this Institution; as they have, indeed, against all the real interests of mankind. In the progress of this warfare, they have arraigned the wisdom, and denied the benefits, of it; charged upon it evils, which it does not produce; and enhanced those, which are incident to the Marriage-state. The unhappy marriages, which have been contracted in violation of the law of our nature and of the Scriptures, comparatively few in number, and only exceptions to the general truth under discussion, they have multiplied without consideration, or integrity; and have brought them up to public view as just exhibitions of the Marriage-state in general. In a word, they have treated this subject, as they customarily treat others of a serious nature. They have misstated facts; they have sophisticated arguments; and, where neither would answer their purpose, they have endeavoured to accomplish it by contempt, sneers, and ridi cule.
This conduct, censurable and mischievous as it is, is, perhaps, not to be wondered at in men of such a character. But it is to be wondered at, that men of a far better character should have fol. lowed their steps. A man of even moderate reflection must be equally surprised, and wounded, to see how many, otherwise respectable, writers in the peculiarly enlightened Kingdom of Great Britain have, in a greater or less degree, lent their names, to foster the wretched calumnies and falsehoods, heaped so undeservedly upon this subject.
That there are unhappy marriages, and that the number of them is considerable, I am not disposed to question. There are many persons, whose passions are too violent, or whose temper is too sordid, to permit them to be happy in any situation. Persons marry, at times, whose dispositions are wholly incompatible with each other. There are vicious persons, who will neither be
happy themselves, nor suffer others to be happy. All these, it is readily conceded, will find little happiness in the Marriagestate.
The propensities, inwrought into our nature as a law, and the declarations of Scripture, teach us alike, and irresistibly, that this Union is to be formed only on the ground of affection, regulated by prudence. On this plan, and on this only, can Marriage be reasonably expected to be happy. We are not therefore to wonder, that persons, who marry for the purposes of allying themselves to families of distinction; acquiring, or repairing, fortunes; obtaining rank; or gratifying, in any manner, ambition, avarice, or sensuality; should afterwards find themselves unhappy. These persons do not, intentionally, marry either husbands or wives. They marry distinction, fortunes, titles, villas, luxury, and grand
The objects, to which they intentionally unite themselves, they acquire. It cannot be wondered at, that they do not gain those, which they never sought; nor that they do not find the blessings of marriage, following plans and actions, which, unless incidentally, have no relation to Marriage. These persons, it is true, find the objects, to which they are really wedded, incumbered by beings, who stand in the places of husbands and wives. Still, they cannot form even a pretence for complaining; since, with their eyes open, they voluntarily subject themselves, for the sake of such gratifications, to all the evils, arising out of the incumbrance. The person, who wishes to obtain the blessings, designed by this or any other Institution of God, must intentionally conform to the nature and spirit of the Institution itself; and to all the precepts concerning it, by which He has manifested His own pleasure.
I have lived in very many families; and these, often in plain, as well as polished life. With very many more, extensively diversified in character and circumstances, I have been intimately acquainted. By the evidence, arising from these facts, I am convinced, that the great body of married persons are rendered more happy by this Union; and are as happy, as their character, and their circumstances, could permit us to expect. Poverty cannot, whether in the married or single state, enjoy the pleasures of wealth; avarice, those of generosity; ambition, those of moderation ; ignorance, those of knowledge ; vulgarity, those of refinement; passion, those of gentleness; nor vice, in whatever form, those of virtue. The evils, here specified, Marriage, it is true, cannot remove. Nor are they removable by Celibacy: and, where these evils exist, neither Celibacy, nor Marriage, can confer the contrary blessings. Grapes, here, will not grow upon thorns, nor figs upon thistles. Nothing but folly can lead us to expect, that this Institution will change the whole nature of those who enter into it; and, like a magical spell
, confer knowledge, virtue, and loveliness, upon beings who have neither.