« VorigeDoorgaan »
only to give a keener edge to his courage, and opposition to be a healthful exercise of his firmness and patience. Shame, pain, hunger, and nakedness, serve but to present fresh triumphs of his faith, and to increase his rejoicing in Christ: ingratitude feeds rather than quenches the flame of his love; and the false apostles who undermined his ministry, instead of resentment, excite only a holy emulation, by the superior lustre of his life, to cast them into the shade. He takes pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. When he is weak then he is strong. He is instructed in all things, to want and to abound, and can do and suffer all things, yea, is more than conqueror through Christ, who strengtheneth him. For he is persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus his Lord. Nor are these strong expressions the wild rant of enthusiasm, or the boast of one unacquainted with the dangers of the warfare in which he was engaged. No! He spoke the language of truth and mature experience. For thirty-three years he had been inured to the fight, and was skilled in every weapon and art of holy war: he had confronted every danger, supported every toil, and stood victorious against the united powers of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Of the Jews five times received he forty stripes save one; thrice he was beaten with rods by the Roman magistrates; once he was stoned; thrice he suffered shipwreck; a night and a day he was in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by his own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. And besides these things which were without, that which came on him daily, the care of all the churches. In this enumeration nothing appears exaggerated, nor does the apostle assume to himself any merit before God on account of his extraordinary sufferings. On the contrary, when he tells us, that he had suffered the loss of all things for Christ's sake, he treats the things which he had lost with contempt and loathing, as dross and dung, in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of his Lord, by whom the world was crucified to him, and he was crucified to the world. From this passage it is evident, that so far are the dignities and emoluments of the church from being allowable motives to actuate the zeal and labours of the ministers of the gospel, that St. Paul could not
have been what he was without a supreme contempt of all human dignities and emoluments. The men who desire can least deserve them.
St. Paul had much forgiven, and he loved much. His ardent zeal was the fruit of his love He felt that he could never either do, or suffer enough for Christ. The shame and grief of his past persecutions attended him through life, and gave uncommon energy to all his exertions. He was the most indefatigable labourer in the vineyard of Christ. Every faculty is engaged, every nerve is strained, his whole soul is on fire for honour and glory, and immortal life. He kindles on his hearers like a conflagration; he pours along with the impetuosity of a torrent sweeping down opposition. If there be an act of superior virtue or praise, he singles it out as his prize. Surrounded with a cloud of witnesses in heaven, and witnesses on earth, he fixes his eyes on Jesus; he contends among patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, for primacy in love, labour, suffering, and humility.
All those graces for which St. Paul was so eminently distintinguished, were tempered and directed by consummate wisdom. He always appears to be in possession of himself, and to walk in a happy medium between extremes. His courage is without rashness, his firmness without tenacity, and his zeal is neither debased by superstition, nor misapplied to matters of inferior concern. The peace of the church is a grand object of his regard, and he agitates no controversies which are not essential to her welfare. He is the pattern of the charity which he recommends. All his designs are noble and catholic, and are pursued with temperate vigour and firmness. His wisdom has in it nothing dark, creeping, and serpentine; but is always luminous, pure, and peaceable.
The character of St. Paul's writings, which contain a fair example of every species of christian elocution, is that of his mind. They exhibit and do justice to every part of the religion of Jesus Christ. He reasons as a logician, he writes as a scholar, and he exhorts as a father. No character described in the word of God is so rich in every diversified excellence: and if it be the province of God alone to pass judgment on the heart, and to pronounce him the first of christians; we cannot hesitate to call him THE GREAT APOSTLE, and THE FIRST BENEFACTOR OF MANKIND,
RELIGIOUS AND MORAL DISCUSSIONS.
THE QUESTION, WHETHER A MAN MAY LAWFULLY MARRY HIS BROTHER'S WIFE, OR WIFE'S SISTER.
[Continued from page 320.]
We now proceed to take notice of some objections which have been made to our view of the subject.
I. It is said, that the injunction, Deut. xxv. that a man should marry the widow of his brother, who had died without issue, implies that the law, v. 16, is not of moral obligation.
In answer to this, it may be observed,
1. That a particular exception, made by the same authority, that made the law, and for special reasons, expressly mentioned, should be no objection to, but rather a confirmation of the obligation of the law in all other cases. Such cases may appear to the imperfect views of men, as objections to the perfection of the laws of God; but they are not so in the great plan of providence. The wis dom of God could easily foresee what effect any law should have upon the order of things established by himself, and what variations it might admit of, and require, in particular cases, without any imputation of inconsistency. Infidels have made an objection. like this against the evidence of miracles, as being transgressions of the law of nature.
2. The reason and obligation of divine laws depend upon the will of the supreme Lawgiver; and as dictated by infinite wis dom, must have a respect to the nature and powers of the creatures to whom they are given, and to the condition and relations, in which his sovereign will has placed them, or may, at any time, place them. Hence it is, that the laws of one order of beings may not be suitable for another; and in the same order, obligation and duty may vary, according to the different conditions in which they may be placed by the sovereign will of God. Thus the human race was made at first in one pair; and designed to grow and extend, by natural generation, in new and distinct kins. This rendered it necessary, in the first instance, for brother and sister to marry; which was the law in that singular case; but when that necessity was removed, God appears to have ordered it otherwise, and revealed here the general law of kin, which could not in that case be admitted. And when God, for special reasons was pleased to place the family of the Jews, in their peculiar condition, it might be expected, that his laws should bear a corresponding aspect to that condition. This appears to have been the
case, as to some other parts of the moral law, and so it may be with respect to the law of kin; especially, in the particular instance in question, where the kin was, in a measure, extinct, through defect of issue.
Other variations may be observed in their constitution, the reasons of which must be referred to the wisdom of God, who does nothing in vain. Particularly, the Jews were prohibited from marrying with other nations. They were allowed to keep slaves, and even to abuse them, and beat them to death without punishment, as in other cases, Exod. xxi. 21. Lev. xix. 20. Our Lord also said to the Jews, that " Moses, on account of their untractable temper, permitted them to put away their wives, but that from the beginning the law was not so." And he calls the practice adultery, which is certainly a breach of the moral law. Matt. xix. 8.
II. It is said, that as the marriage bond constitutes the kin, so, when this is dissolved by death, the relation ceases, and its influence is no more.
1. This would set aside the law in question, which, after what has been said, is not to be conceded. 2. It limits the effect of marriage and kin, to what the judgment or fancy of men may think fit, and not to what the wisdom of God appears to have done, which is certainly most fit to establish general and useful regulations. Human reason never establishes any. 3. It is not fact, that the kin is extinguished by death. Where there are children, they are evidence of its continuance; in whom it would be unlawful to intermarry with their uncles or aunts, though the father or mother was dead. 4. It is contrary to scripture. The apostle Paul reprobates a man's having his father's wife, as a nameless fornication and excommunicates the person guilty of it. 1 Cor. 5. whereas if the kin was extinct, he would not have been on that account so "wicked a person." From the conformity of the expression, his father's wife, to the terms of this law, Lev. xviii. which is the only law about kin, it may be justly presumed, that the father was dead.
III. It has been thought, that the 18th verse, which forbids "the taking a wife to her sister, to vex her, in her lifetime," permits a man to marry his wife's sister, after her death.
This, however has no reference to the case of marrying two sisters. It is a prohibition of polygamy. The words rendered "a wife to her sister," is an idiomatic form of speech to signify one to another. The same words are used, Exod. xxvi. 3. to signify the coupling of the curtains of the tabernacle, one to another. Its meaning here is, one wife to another,
IV. The objection, that it is inconsistent with liberty, scarcely deserves a serious consideration; as every one knows, that liberty without law is licentiousness; and that obedience to the laws of God is always a reasonable service. In this case, the restraint is so light and partial, that it can have no weight with men who are governed by reason. As to those who are inclined to follow their passions without control, we ought not to be so much concerned for their satisfaction.
V. The 19th verse has been thought by some to be of a ceremonial cast, and an evidence that the law was designed only for the Jews. But however peculiarly that precept might be enjoined upon them, every one must know, that it forbids an indecency which ought to be avoided by all. God governs the brutes by instinct, which, in this respect is very remarkable. The female orgasm affects them only at particular seasons, and the males pay no attention to them at other times; which may be an intimation, that man, who, in all his conduct, is to be governed by reason, and not by appetite, should be so regulated in this. Moreover, it is a common observation, that nature vindicates itself; and especially in such cases, where offences are not capable of other punishment; and if the opinion of some physicians is well founded, which is not improbable, viz. that some particular disorders may affect the bodies of men from such original impurities, it would be an addtional argument for the obligation of the law.
VI. It has been said, that marriage is a civil relation, and that the law of the land is the sole guide, in all things relating to it.
This is a short and easy way of getting rid of the question, and of solving cases of conscience about it. But although marriage is, in some respects, a civil relation, attended with many civil effects of great importance to the community; and it is the right of the civil government to direct in all such matters; yet it is not only of a civil, but also of a moral nature; an institution of God, which is the source of many of those relations and duties upon which the virtue and happiness of man greatly depends, and the observation or neglect of which very much affects the christian character. In all its aspects, therefore, upon the moral characters of men, it ought to be considered, as under the cognizance of the church of Christ. The kingdom of Christ does not rest on the foundation of civil government, but upon the laws of God. The laws of the land cannot be admitted as regulating the terms of church-membership, but the laws of Christ. The frequent instructions which are given in the word of God, about this relation; its nature and moral effects; its strong obligation and duties; the