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ther than be ensnared by them, and may I become one bone and one flesh with an harlot? God forbid. If nature is uneasy under this restraint, there is a remedy provided; the Apostle tells us what it is, * To avoid fornication let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband. If they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn. + Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Thus much for our first enquiry: Let us proceed to the second.
II. WHAT our Saviour has directed with regard to divorce. Among the political laws which Moses gave to the Jews for the good-ordering of the commonwealth, there was a permission for any man upon dislike of his wife, to write her a bill of divorce, to put into her hands, and send her out of his house.But this was by no means given them, as a moral precept : It was only a toleration of a practice, which seems to have obtained amongst them before; and because of the hardness of their hearts, it was not thought fit to abridge them of it under the discipline of the Mofaical Law, left that stubborn, impatient and ill-natur'd people, if not allow'd to put away the wives they hated, should abuse them, or should return to idolatry, where they saw divorce universally practised. But they were only obliged by Mofes, to proceed in this divorce with due formalities of law, which might prevent the inconveniency of doing it rashly, and in a passion. Now this, which was a bare permission, the Jewish school maintain'd, as a practice morally lawful; and that it was no fin in foro conscientia and before God, as well as not against their civil constitution. But our Saviour, in order
* 1 Cor. vii. 2.
| Heb. xiii. 4.
to the restoring of the seventh commandment to its due and moral perfection, recals this liberty here, and limits divorce to the case of adultery. This is, in short, what our Lord has done with regard to divorce: and having put an end to the evil by his reealling of the permission, there would be no need to enlarge farther
paragraph, had not the tempter here again interposed, and introduced an unjustifiable practice, prevalent amongst us at this day, of mens forsaking their wives, and women their husbands, to live separately, and this at the fole pleasure of one of them, or by private agreement of them both, without any judicial process, or so much as complaint before an ecclefiaftical judge, whose sentence, even in the case of adultery, is required before a separation. And what is this but a direct putting away our wives, without so much as giving them a bill of divorce, and so indulging our selves in a licentiousness, even unknown to the Jews ? All the difference that I see in it, is; that these disjoin'd members have a power of reuniting again, which the Jews had not; but if we consider, what use is generally made of this, we shall find, that the froward couple seldom meet again for the better, but for the worse; as if it was on purpose to repeat the fame sinful act of separation. It is no excuse, that they remain single; I mean, that they do not offer to marry again so long as the forsaken party lives; for such a needless and illegal separation, is certainly of it self a very great crime, though marrying again would make it greater; and tho' they have so much religion, honour, or regard to their interest, as to abitain from polygamy, they very much expose themselves to temptations of adultery; and indeed it is very hard for both parties, who are known to live thus fes, parate, to keep their reputations clear with the world; for people will be apt to censure them, de
servedly or not ; because separation does almost naturally produce suspicions of this kind, and experience has shewn many of them to be too juft. Befide, suppose a married person, prefuming upon his or her own strength, resolves never fo much before-hand, by a prudent and reserv'd behaviour, to avoid all temptations, and to live a chaste life in a separate state; yet considering the weakness of human nature, and the many temptations to which such a condition of life is obnoxious, this is an unwarrantable presumption. And moreover, such a person will be guilty of whatever liberty the forTaken party takes, who not being, perhaps, of the same temper and complexion, cannot contain, and yet is deprived of making use of the remedy the Apostle prescribes in this case. But whatever weight these arguments may have, there is another, I am fure, that ought to be well considered, and that is the strict union of affections, implied in the very nature of marriage, and promised under the folemn obligation of an oath, both by the one and the other, at their entrance upon that state: As to that strict union of affections, which I say is implicd in the very nature of marriage, I know not how any Christian can desire it should be better prov'd or illustrated, than by considering, that our blessed Lord has made it the figure or representation of his love to his Church; and unless we can suppose the love of Christ to be a faint, an heartless, and inconstant love, it must be very absurdly represented by any sight affection. Marriage, therefore, which is made an emblem of this love of Christ, could never give us any just and worthy idea of it in its own nature, if it did not imply such an exceeding great affection, fo strict, so indiffolvable, as might render it in some measure fit for the comparison. One would think, this should give Christians a stronger and a truer notion of the endearments,
which ought to unite a married couple, than generally we find they have. But if these deductions from religion seem too fpeculative to a carnal mind, and want the influence upon practice, which might be expected from them ; fure principles of common honesty, strengthned with the obligation of an oath, may be supposed a proper argument :
mean, that perpetual union and affection, which both parties mutually engage themselves to at the folemnization of their marriage. The promise is made in words, as express as can be, to adhere to each other from that day forward, in all states and conditions of life, for better for worse, for richer fora poorer, in fickness and in health, and under all these luppositions, or whatever of this kind may happen, ftill to love and to cherish, so long as 'till death (which only shall dissolve the union) part them. This is surely a very positive and solemn promise, and made more folemn by their joining hands upon it in the presence of the Church, or of witnesses that represent the Church; and heighten'd also into a formal oath, by being promised in the more especial presence of God; as appears by the place, or at least by the religion of the whole ceremony, and by the first words that begin it, [We are gathered together here in the fight of God] and by the folemn
? protestation upon putting on the ring, [In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen,] and by several other passages throughout the whole office, which muft neceffarily imply an appeal to God upon the truth and sincerity of the engagement; and this is the formal nature of an oath.
Now upon this consideration is it not easy to see, that whatever couple thus joined together, according to God's holy ordinance, shall wilfully part from each other, and live in a state of separation, or which foever of the parties shall thus feparate, though the other be unwilling, is guilty of
a most notorious breach of faith and promise, nei-
upon the whole solemnity, as no more than a
yet intend within themselves never to be bound to perform it: For this is absolute treachery, a most ungenerous and villanous falfhood; 'tis dealing as the fons of Jacob did with the Sichemites, entring into a solemn covenant, and under the shelter of religion too to serve the purposes only of an evil mind. On the other hand, I hope there are many, who enter into these engagements with sincere and hearty resolutions to act accordingly, though afterwards they make or find themselves uneasy under them, and have therefore a mind to part. But true affection is not variable by every little accident, nor totally to be destroy'd by a great one. If it be pretended, that the humors of the husband or wife are intolerable, or the person_disagreeable, these points should have been well consider'd before marriage ; for all after-exceptions of this kind, are