« AnteriorContinuar »
of those who go in to the strange woman, says Solomon, turn again; neither 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 Mame. 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 chiefly 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 an
swer their purpose, they have endeavoured to accomplish it by contempt, sneers, and ridicule. 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 followed 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 Marriage-state. 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 grandeur. 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 those, 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 removeable 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. 2. Another end of this Institution is the Preservation and Comfort of Children. The experience of all ages, and countries, so far as it has extended to this subject, has uniformly shown, that the offspring of illicit concubinage suffer innumerable evils, to which those, born in wedlock are not subjected. In a prodigious multitude of instances, they perish before, or immediately aster, they are born. In a vast multitude of others, they die in the early periods of childhood. They suffer from hunger, cold, nakedness, negligence, the want of nursing, watching, medicine, and every other
comfort of life. The peculiar affection of Married Parents, and the peculiar efforts to which it gives birth, have ever been indispensable to the preservation of children from these evils, the establishment of their health, and the continuance of their lives. Children need ten thousand supplies, cares, and tendernesses, which nothing but this affection will ever furnish; and without which, they either die suddenly, or waste away with a lingering dissolution. This work of raising up children from infancy to manhood, is the most laborious of all our worldly concerns; and requires more efforts of both body and mind, more toil, care, patience, and perseverance, than any other. To most men, indeed, it is a great part of all, which, ordinarily, they find to do in their secular business. For this great work, God, with Wisdom, which can never be sufficiently admired, has made effectual provision by the parental tenderness, always existing, and flourishing, in Married Parents, with so few exceptions, as to demand no attention here; but always withered, and commonly destroyed, by promiscuous concubinage. This tenderness, neither time nor toil, neither care nor anxiety, neither trouble nor disappointment, neither filial ingratitude nor filial profligacy, can overcome, exhaust, or discourage. Other affections become cold, wearied, and disheartened; and are often converted into negligence, or hatred. But this, like the Celestial Fire in the Jewish Temple, burns by night and by day; and is, through this world, an everlasting flame, which cannot be extinguished. Without it, what would become of Children in poverty, in their rebellion, and in their profligacy? Who would watch over them; who relieve, supply, endure, and forgive 2 In promiscuous concubinage, children would be left to the mercy of the world; to the supplies of accident; to the charity of the street; to the bleak and desolate waste; to the frozen hospital; and to the inclemencies of the sky: to pine with hunger; to chill with nakedness; to shrivel with unkindness; to consume with premature disease; to die an untimely death: and, denied a grave, now the privilege even of beggars, to feed the beasts of the field, and the fowls of Heaven.
3. This Institution is the source of all the Natural Relations of mankind. By these I mean the relations of husband and wife, (which in a subordinate sense may be called natural ;) those of Parents and children, of brothers and sisters, together with many others, which are of considerable, although of inferior, importance. These relations are immensely more interesting, and useful, to the world, than any, nay, than all, others. They connect mankind by bonds, far more intimate, delightful, and enduring; resist incomparably more the irregular, evil, and stormy passions of man, soften his rugged nature; overthrow his violent purposes; and spread through the world a degree of peace, and moderation, which without them would be impossible. 4. This Institution is the source of all the gentle, and useful, JNatural Affections. These are Conjugal Tenderness, Parental Love, Filial Piety, and Brotherly and Sisterly Attachment: far the most amiable, endearing, permanent, and useful, native affections of man. No other affections have, originally, any softness, sweetness, or loveliness; but all owe to these every thing, which is of this nature. All our native amiableness is awakened by the presence of those, whom we love: and we originally love those only, who form the domestic circle, within which we were born; those, from whom we early received the offices of tenderness. Here, Natural Affection first springs. Here, also, it grows and flourishes ; and from its stem, deeply rooted here, sends abroad its boughs and branches, its blossoms and fruits. The mind, here strengthened, and refined, begins to wander abroad into the neighbourhood, to find new objects for attachment in other families. Relations, less near, easily slide into its affections; and are enrolled by it in the list of those whom it loves. To these succeed, in their turns, a train of friends, neighbours, and countrymen: until the sphere swells beyond the limits of its comprehension. What would this world be without these affections; and without the conduct, to which they give birth 7 Nothing good would ever be begun; much less be carried on, and conducted to a prosperous conclusion. But these affections commence, are cherished, and confirmed, in families only; and