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the closer we cleave, and faster we are glued to them? - This the Apostle St. Paul casts in seasonably, . though many think it not seasonable at such times, when he is discoursing of a great point of our life, Marriage; to work Christian minds to a holy freedom both ways, whether they use it or no; not to view it, nor any thing here, with the world's spectacles, which make it look so big and so fixed, but to see it in the stream of time, as passing by, and no such great matter. The fashion of this world passeth away, napáve (1 Cor. vii. 31.), as a pageant or show in a street, going through, and quickly out of sight. What became of all the marriage-solemnities of kings and princes of former ages, which they were so taken up with in their time? When we read of them described in history, they are as a night-dream, or a day-fancy, which passes through the mind and vanishes!
Oh, foolish man! that hunteth such poor things, and will not be called off till death benight him, and finds his great work not done, yea, not begun; no, nor seriously thought of. Your building, your trading, your lands, your matches, and friendships, and projects, when they take with you, and your hearts are after them, say, But for how long all these ? Their end is at hand; therefore be sober, and watch unto prayer. Learn to divide better; set apart more hours for it, and fewer for them : your whole heart for it, and none of it for them. Seeing they will fail you so quickly, prevent them. Become free;
lean not on them till they break, and you fall into the pit.
It is reported of one, that, hearing the 5th of Genesis read, “ So long lived ”- and yet the burden still, “ They died,”-Seth lived 912 years, and he died; Enos 905, and he died; Methuselah 969, and he died,-he took so deep the thought of death and eternity, that it changed his whole frame, and set him from a voluptuous to a most strict and pious course of life. How small a word will do much, when God sets it into the heart! But sure this one thing would make the soul more calm and sober in the pursuit of present things, if their term were truly computed and considered. How soon shall youth, and health, and carnal delights, be at an end! How soon shall statecraft, and king-craft, and all the great projects of the highest wits and spirits, be laid in the dust! This casts a damp upon all those fine things. But, to a soul acquainted with God, and, in affection, removed hence already, no thought so sweet as this : it helps much to carry it cheerfully through wrestlings and difficulties, through better and worse: they see land near, and shall quickly be at home: that is the way.
The end of all things is at hand ;—an end of a few poor delights, and the many vexations of this wretched life; an end of temptations and sins, the worst of all evils; yea, an end of the imperfect fashion of our best things here ;-an end of prayer itself, to which succeeds that new song of endless praises !
MODESTY, IN TEMPER AND DRESS,
1 PETER III. 3, 4.
To a sincere and humble Christian, very little, either dispute or discourse, concerning this, will be needful. A tender conscience, and a heart purged from vanity, and weaned from the world, will be sure to regulate this, and all other things of this nature, after the safest manner; and will be wary:First, Of lightness and fantastic garb in apparel, which is the very bush or sign hanging out, that tells a vain mind lodges within. Secondly, Of excessive costliness, which both argues and feeds the pride of the heart, and defrauds, if not others of their dues, yet the poor of thy charity, which, in God's sight, is a due debt too: and far more comfort shalt thou have, on thy death-bed, to remember that, “Such a time, instead of putting lace on my own clothes, I helped a naked back to clothing; I abated somewhat of my former superfluities, to supply the poor's necessities ;" -far sweeter will this be, than to remember, that “I could needlessly cast out many pounds to serve my pride, rather than give a penny to relieve the poor!”
As conscientious Christians will not exceeed in the thing itself, so, in as far as they use lawful ornament and comeliness, they will do it without bestowing much, either diligence or delight, in the business.
To have the mind taken and pleased with such things, is so foolish and childish a thing, that, if most
might not find it in themselves, they would wonder at many others, of years and common wit. And yet, truly, it is a disease that few escape. It is strange upon how poor things men and women will be vain, and think themselves somebody; not only upon some comelines in their face or feature, which, though poor, yet is a part of themselves; but, of things merely without them—that they are well lodged, or well mounted, or well apparelled, either richly or well in fashion. The soul, fallen from God, hath lost its true worth and beauty; and therefore it basely descends to these mean things, to serve and dress the body, and take share with it of its unworthy borrowed ornaments ; while it hath lost and forgotten God, and seeks not after Him; knows not that He alone is the beauty and ornament of the soul, and His Spirit, and the grace of it, its rich attire.
The Apostle doth, indeed, expressly on purpose check and forbid vanity and excess in apparel, and excessive delight in lawful decorum ; but his prime end is to recommend this other ornament of the soul, the hidden man of the heart.
It is the thing the best philosophy aimed at, as some of their chiefest men do express it, to reduce men, as much as may be, from their body to their soul: but this is the thing that true religion alone doth, effectually and thoroughly; from the pampering and feeding of a morsel for the worms, to the nourishing of that immortal being infused into it; which, therefore, it directs to the proper nourishment of souls, the Bread that came down from Heaven: John vi. 27.
So here the Apostle pulls off from Christian women their vain outside ornaments. But, is not this a wrong, to spoil all their dressing and fineness ? No; he doth this, only to send them to a better wardrobe :—and there is much profit in the change.
All the gold, and other riches of the temple, figured the excellent graces of Christians; of Christ indeed first, as having all fulness in himself, and furnishing them; but, secondarily, of Christians, as the living temples of God. So the church is all glorious, but it is within: Psal. xlv. 13. And the embroidery, the variety of graces, the lively colours of other graces, shine best on the dark ground of humility.
The particular grace he recommends is particularly suitable to his subject in hand, the conjugal duty of wives; nothing so much adorning their whole carriage as this meekness and quietness of spirit. But it is, withal, the comeliness of every Christian, in every estate; it is not a woman's garment, or ornament improper for men. There is somewhat (as I may say) of a particular cut or fashion of it for wives, towards their husbands, and in their domestic affairs; but men, all men, ought to wear of the same stuff; yea, so if I may speak, of the same piece: for it is, in all, one and the same spirit, and fits the stoutest and greatest commanders. Moses was a great General, and yet no less great in this virtue—the meekest man on earth.
Nothing is more uncômely in a wife than an