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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 uneafy under this reftraint, there is a remedy provided; the Apoftle 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 fecond.
II. WHAT our Saviour has directed with regard to divorce. Among the political laws which Mofes gave to the Jews for the good-ordering of the commonwealth, there was a permission for any man upon diflike of his wife, to write her a bill of divorce, to put into her hands, and fend 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 feems 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 difcipline of the Mofaical Law, left that ftubborn, impatient and ill-natur'd people, if not allow'd to put away the wives they hated, fhould abuse them, or fhould return to idolatry, where they faw divorce univerfally practifed. 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 rafhly, and in a paffion. Now this, which was a bare permiffion, the Jewish school maintain'd, as a practice morally lawful; and that it was no fin in foro confcientia and before God, as well as not against their civil conftitution. But our Saviour, in order
* 1 Cor. vii. 2.
† Heb. xiii. 4.
to the restoring of the feventh commandment to its due and moral perfection, recals this liberty here, and limits divorce to the cafe of adultery. This is, in fhort, what our Lord has done with regard to divorce: and having put an end to the evil by his recalling of the permiffion, there would be no need to enlarge farther upon this paragraph, had not the tempter here again interpofed, and introduced an unjustifiable practice, prevalent amongst us at this day, of mens forfaking their wives, and women their husbands, to live feparately, and this at the fole pleasure of one of them, or by private agreement of them both, without any judicial procefs, or fo much as complaint before an ecclefiaftical judge, whofe fentence, even in the cafe of adultery, is required before a separation. And what is this but a direct putting away our wives, without fo much as giving them a bill of divorce, and fo indulging our felves in a licentioufnefs, even unknown to the Jews? All the difference that I fee: in it, is, that these disjoin'd members have a power of reuniting again, which the Jews had not; but if we confider, what ufe is generally made of this, we fhall find, that the froward couple feldom meet again for the better, but for the worse; as if it was on purpose to repeat the fame finful act of feparation. It is no excufe, that they remain fingle; I mean, that they do not offer to marry again fo longas the forfaken party lives; for fuch a needlefs and illegal feparation, is certainly of it self a very great crime, though marrying again would make it greater; and tho' they have fo much religion, honour, or regard to their intereft, as to abitain from polygamy, they very much expofe themselves to temptations of adultery; and indeed it is very hard for both parties, who are known to live thus fe. parate, to keep their reputations clear with the world; for people will be apt to cenfure them, de
fervedly or not; because feparation does almost naturally produce fufpicions of this kind, and experience has fhewn many of them to be too juft. Befide, fuppofe a married perfon, prefuming upon his or her own ftrength, refolves never fo much before-hand, by a prudent and referv'd behaviour, to avoid all temptations, and to live a chafte life in a separate state; yet confidering the weakness of human nature, and the many temptations to which fuch a condition of life is obnoxious, this is an unwarrantable prefumption. And moreover, fuch a perfon will be guilty of whatever liberty the forfaken party takes, who not being, perhaps, of the fame temper and complexion, cannot contain, and yet is deprived of making ufe of the remedy the Apoftle prefcribes in this cafe. But whatever weight thefe arguments may have, there is another, I am fure, that ought to be well confidered, and that is the ftrict union of affections, implied in the very nature of marriage, and promifed 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 fay is implied in the very nature of marriage, I know not how any Chriftian can defire it fhould be better prov'd or illuftrated, than by confidering, that our bleffed Lord has made it the figure or reprefentation of his love to his Church; and unless we can fuppofe the love of Chrift to be a faint, an heartless, and inconftant love, it must be very abfurdly reprefented by any flight affection. Marriage, therefore, which is made an emblem of this love of Chrift, could never give us any juft and worthy idea of it in its own nature, if it did not imply fuch an exceeding great affection, fo ftrict, fo indiffolvable, as might render it in fome measure fit for the comparison. One would think, this fhould give Chriftians a ftronger 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 feem too fpeculative to a carnal mind, and want the influence upon practice, which might be expected from them; fure principles of common honesty, ftrengthned with the obligation of an oath, may be fuppofed a proper argument: I 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 exprefs 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 for poorer, in fickness and in health, and under all these fuppofitions, or whatever of this kind may happen, ftill to love and to cherish, fo long as 'till death (which only fhall diffolve the union) part them. This is furely a very pofitive and folemn promife, and made more folemn by their joining hands upon it in the prefence of the Church, or of witneffes that represent the Church; and heighten'd alfo into a formal oath, by being promised in the more especial prefence 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 proteftation upon putting on the ring, [In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghoft, Amen,] and by feveral other paffages throughout the whole office, which muft neceffarily imply an appeal to God upon the truth and fincerity of the engagement; and this is the formal nature of an oath. Now upon this confideration is it not eafy to fee, that whatever couple thus joined togethèr, according to God's holy ordinance, fhall wilfully part from each other, and live in a state of feparation, or which foever of the parties fhall thus feparate, though the other be unwilling, is guilty of a moft
a most notorious breach of faith and promife, neither living together, nor loving as they engaged to do? and not only this, but of notorious perjury alfo, in acting directly contrary to what they had promifed before God, and with an awful invocation of him? 'Tis to be fear'd, that many of those who enter into fuch an engagement, are guilty of extream inadvertency and want of confideration. They don't attend to the terms of the contract, nor ever duly reflect upon the extent of the obligation; but look upon the whole folemnity, as no more than a mere formality, without which they cannot by law attain the ends they propofe. Their end is moneyadvancement, or fomething elfe far fhort of what it fhould be, and their right to these in fuch a match, being confirm'd to 'em by the ceremony of joining hands, &c. as the law directs, 'tis all they think of, when they come to be fo join'd. But this furely is a great and dangerous prophanation of that ordinance; and the cafe is ftill much worse, if they really do confider the ftrictness of their contract, and yet intend within themselves never to be bound to perform it: For this is abfolute treachery, a moft ungenerous and villanous falfhood; 'tis dealing as the fons of Jacob did with the Sichemites, entring into a folemn covenant, and under the fhelter of religion, too to ferve the purposes only of an evil mind. On the other hand, I hope there are many, who enter into these engagements with fincere and hearty resolutions to act accordingly, though afterwards they make or find themselves uneafy under them, and have therefore a mind to part. But true affection is not variable by every little accident, nor totally to be deftroy'd by a great one. If it be pretended, that the humors of the hufband or wife are intolerable, or the perfon difagreeable, thefe points fhould have been well confider'd before marriage; for all after-exceptions of this kind, are guarded