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OF RELATIVE DUTIES WHICH RESULT FROM THE
CONSTITUTION OF THE SEXES.
THOUGH every moral obligation may be considered as included in the common division, according to which we treat of our duties to God; to our fellowcreatures, and to ourselves ; yet; ôn account of the prominent place which théy should hold in our view, and in respect of their important consequences in reference to society, I prefer discussing the duties of the marriage relation; and the crimes opposed to thető, under å separate head.
ON THE ORIGIN OF MARRIAGE.
The institution of marriage naturally takes its rise from the principles implanted in human nature, and the circumstances in which mankind are placed. They are led to form this union by that tendency of their nature which is common to them with the lower animals, to continue the species ; but more especially, by the esteem of a beloved object ; affection to children; and a regard to their own virtue and happiness. Though these propensities would lead to this relation, they might not lead to it universally; at least, so as to be productive of all the advantages which it is designed to secure to the parties concerned, and to their offspring.
Hence the importance of a divine and definite law on the subject; the nature of which we learn from Revelation. We might, indeed, infer, from the constitution and circumstances of the parents of the human race, that this institution was the subject of special enactment, and that as God made them “male and female,” he intended they should live together as husband and wife.
But in the following passage the origin of marriage is explicitly stated by our Lord: “the Pharisees also came unto him, tempting 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, have ye not read, that He, which made them at the beginning, made them 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. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder *.”
This is the language of Christ; and the law which it contains, is, of course, designed for the human race; that is, it respects the whole posterity of Adam and Eve alike. They who are united to each other by the ties of marriage, are joined together by the ordinance of God, and are not to be "put asunder” by man. The marriage ceremony may vary in different ages and countries, being modified by the law of the land; but the institution itself is of divine appointment.
* Matt. xix. 3-6.
THE NATURE OF THIS INSTITUTION, AND THE OBLIGATIONS
IMPLIED IN IT.
In forming this union, man “ leaves,” to use the words of the institution, “ father and mother, and cleaves to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh.” Hence an union is created, the most intimate and endearing that can exist on earth; and which is to continue during the lives of the parties concerned. The tender affection from which it takes its rise, and which is so necessary to render it a source of happi. ness, has been alluded to in a former part of this work.
This union is formed by a vow or contract, in which God is appealed to, and which appears to me to have all the solemnity and obligation of an oath. However much the mere ceremony may vary with particular circumstances, the husband in all cases promises love, fidelity, and support, to his wife; and the wife, affection, honour, and obedience to her husband. The stipulation of personal fidelity is reciprocal.
Though an equality may prevail in the sexes as to original intellectual endowments, and though in many instances there be a manifest superiority of understanding in the woman, yet, as the designs of the marriage institution render it necessary that there should be a determining authority somewhere, nature points out the propriety of lodging it in the husband. “ Since from various circumstances, natural and face titious, man is everywhere in possession of physical and political superiority,-since his education is usually less imperfect, and since the charge of providing for the support of the family, in almost every instance, belongs to him—it is surely, from all these circumstances, fit, upon the whole, that if the power of decision, in doubtful matters, should be given to one rather than the other, it should be with the man that it is to rest." The divine law has made the decision, “Let the wife be subject to her own husband in every thing. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own hus, bands, as unto the Lord.”
Though, according to the divine law, the presiding authority rests with the husband, this law enjoins him to exercise it with the most affectionate tenderness: “ For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it."-" In the general circumstances of conjugal life there should be absolute equality, be. cause, where love should be equal, there should be that equal desire of conferring happiness which is implied in equality of love; and he, who from the mere wish of gratifying his feeling of superiority, can wil. fully thwart a wish of her whose wishes-where they do not lead to any moral or prudential improprietyshould be to him like his own, or even dearer than his own, if they did not truly become his wishes, when known to be hers,
would deserve no slight punishment, as the violator of conjugal obligation, if he were not almost sufficiently punished in the very want of that better affection, the delightful feeling
of which would have saved him from his tyranny of power *."
The person to whom the conjugal duties are to be discharged is to be the object of choice; to whom affection and esteem leads us to give the preference; and whose happiness we become bound by the most tender ties to promote. This is implied in the mar. riage vow; and should well be considered before this yow is made. Nor can it be any justification of the carelessness of either party toward the other, that they cease to love, because they discover that the object is unworthy of continued affection. This discovery, if, indeed, it be well founded, ought to have been made, and would have been made, had they been careful to consider who it was with whom they were about to enter into the most solemn engagements,-before they had appealed to Heaven to witness their vows. The plea, after this appeal, is inadmissible; and to offer it is nothing less than "to plead one crime as the justification of another.”
It is indeed of infinite importance to the happiness of the married life, and especially to the happiness of woman, that she should only engage where love is felt. In acting otherwise she not only violates truth, but as the punishment, sacrifices her happiness. She may secure, in exchange, wealth, and equipage, and distinctions, in consigning her person to him for whom she has no affection ; but she misses that happiness which Providence has designed the married life to be the means of communicating. If the affection which gives rise to the conjugal
* Brown's Lect. on Mor. Phil. vol. iv. p. 120.