Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

union is maintained, the discharge of the duties involved in this relation will be a source of delight. This will prompt the wedded pair to anticipate each other's wishes, to bear each other's burdens, and to think of whatever may contribute to each other's happiness; as time advances, and those attractions of form, which perhaps first awakened the tender passion, disappear, they find that they “are lovers still." With mutual love, there will be mutual fidelity, and the zealous performance of all the duties in regard to each other, which love can suggest as devolving on those who are united by such a close and endearing bond.

CHAPTER III.

THE DESIGNS OF THIS INSTITUTION,

The importance of the marriage institution in the view of the divine Legislator, appears from his having made it the subject of one of the commands of the decalogue, and rendered its violation, under the Jewish economy, punishable by death. In the New Testa. ment, special judgments are denounced against whoremongers and adulterers; and it is declared that “they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." The utility of this institution to the virtue and happiness of mankind, will be manifest from the following considerations.

I. The comfort of the wedded pair. This is one of the reasons assigned for the origin of the institution. “ The Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him." This end, unquestionably, and more especially in regard to the female sex, has been attained to an incalculable extent. Amid the manifold sorrows of this chequered scene, enjoyment has flowed from this source to gladden the families of mankind.

That there have been, and still are, unhappy marriages, no one will deny, who is acquainted with human nature, and the state of the world. Vice will not suffer those who continue in its practice to enjoy comfort and tranquillity in any situation. When persons form the matrimonial union, whose views, principles, and tempers, are wholly unsuited, is it surprising that their connexion should be the occasion of disappointment and misery? or, when their chief objects in marriage are, alliance to a powerful family, the acquiring or repairing of fortune, the obtaining of rank, the gratification of ambition, or avarice,-can it be wondered that the happiness which was not sought, is not realized ? marriage was not designed to be a source of comfort in such cases. It cannot reverse the fixed ordinations of Providence; and give to ignorance the pleasures of knowledge, to sordid meanness those of generosity, or to vice those of virtue.

But the history of mankind will bear us out in the affirmation, that where there exists an adaptation in the views and dispositions,—where the union proceeds from previous affection and esteem, and not from paltry and selfish considerations, this institution is pre-eminently calculated to be to both parties a source of continual comfort,

VOL. II.

2N

II. It is designed for the preservation and education of children. That these ends can be attained only by marriage, is a position which it is scarcely neces. sary to prove, since there are few, if any, by whorn it is denied. The helplessness, the ailments, the wants of children, and their peculiar liability to danger, require those constant attentions which the parental affections alone will unweariedly bestow–parental affections, such as are awakened and cherished by wedded love. In these affections, and nowhere else, has nature made ample provision for the necessities of the human race, while advancing from infancy to manhood. Animated by these, parents in spite of filial ingratitude and even profligacy, and notwithstanding incessant anxiety and toil, persevere in discharging the ministry which Heaven has assigned to them.

But for this ministry, which is the fruit of marriage, who would adequately care for human beings during the helpless years of infancy and childhood ? As it is, and with all the aid which affection and medicine can supply, vast numbers die in the course of these years. Abolish marriage, and annihilate the affection to children which it renders sacred, and to which it gives scope, and multitudes would be left to perish as soon as they were born, and few would ever reach to manhood.

The education of children is nearly of as great importance as their preservation. By education, I mean, not merely the communication of knowledge, but the formation of those dispositions, habits, and manners, which characterize man in civilized society. Education, in this acceptation of the term, is a tedious and laborious process; and certainly would not be undertaken

nor conducted but by the wedded heads of families, prompted as they are to the task by those affections which God has given them. It is by the instruction which they both give and provide for them, it is by the principles which from time to time they instil into the mind, and by the example which they set before them, that children are trained to virtue, civility, industry, and usefulness.

Industry and economy, especially, are the result of early habit. These are not natural to man, however necessary they may be to his comfortable subsistence. Savages are idle and wasteful, and suffer much from the evils which idleness and waste occasion. It is only in families, and where some degree of civilizátion has been attained, that parents exercise the watchfulness and unremitting attention requisite to the training of children to habits of industry and economy: and without these habits, science, arts, comfortable dwelling-places, and all that improves, embellishes, and renders life delightful, would have no existence.

A most important part of education is the habit of subordination to lawful authority. One design of Providence in dividing mankind into families is, to accustom them from the dawn of their being to obedience; and thus to prepare them for rendering that submission to the Powers that be" which is so necessary to the peace, order, and happiness of the world. To the parental authority, obedience is secured, not merely by the love and tenderness which accompany it, but by the filial affections which Providence has placed in the hearts of children. Obedience becomes delightful because it is rendered, not from constraint, but will

ingly, not from servile fear, but from filial love. A habit of subordination to just authority is thus imperceptibly formed, which human beings carry with them from the family to the world, and which if not attained in early life, and under the direction of parents, could never be attained at all.

If it were never formed, and by the means and the multitudes that Heaven employs in its formation, what would be the consequence? Could mankind be taught submission by the enactments of the legislature, the power of the magistrate, the hope of reward, or the fear of punishments? Having grown to manhood without government, they could never, without a miracle, be governed at all. It is unnecessary to say, that in such a state of things the earth would present a scene of anarchy, desolation, and destruction.

III. Marriage is the source of the gentle affections and natural relations which unite mankind. To these our attention has already been directed; and it is sufficient here to remark, that the benevolence of the human mind, and the rudiments of all that is lovely in human character, are very much owing to the family union. This is the spring of the humanity and philanthropy which render the intercourse of mankind a blessing. It is from this source that the parental, the conjugal, the filial, the fraternal, and other useful relations, take their rise; and which are the occasion of the greater share, not merely of the happiness, but of the virtue of the human race.

Such are some of the designs of the institution of marriage; the inestimable benefits which it confers; and the numerous consequences which flow from it.

« ElőzőTovább »