Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

haps you have been often talked to in this way before ; but never mind that, young people require to be told the same thing over and over again.

I am an old man, and have lived a many years in the world, and I love to see children happy; but as I know they cannot be happy without loving God, so I talk to them, that they may love him for all his goodness to them.

You would not put the top nor the doll in the fire, for if you did, the one would be burnt, and the other would be melted. You would not stick a pin in poor pussy, nor in your own finger, for that would be putting you both to great pain; it would be very weak and foolish to do these things. Do you not think so ? I see that you do ; well, then, how weak and how wicked, too, it must be to hurt the soul.

Now the soul cannot be injured by the fire, nor by the pricking of a pin; but I will tell you what injures it very much indeed. It is injured by every wicked word, and every sinful deed. Every child that tells an untruth, that takes God's holy name in vain, that steals, if it be but a pin, that disobeys his parents, that practises cruelty ;-every child that does any of these things injures his soul.

You see that though I am an old man, I can talk as plainly to you as if I were a child. Now then remember, that Ephraim Holding told you, that a scratch or a cut does not hurt the body half so much as an ill temper or a naughty passion hurts the soul.

I want you to grow up as the holy child Jesus grew in his youth, when he was in this world. Perhaps you may remember how that was : “ Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." This will be the way to do good to your souls; this will be the way to be happy.

How soon you have eaten up my gingerbread-buttons! You must not, however, soon forget my words. The more you love God, the happier will you be ; remember this, and remember, too, a text that I am going to give you, for then you will see that God loves those who love him: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.”

Some day or other, perhaps, you and I may talk a little more about these things ; but, see! the tabby cat has jumped up, and is playing with the ball of worsted on the floor; you will like to be playing too, I dare say. Come, Miss Pinky, where is your doll ? Now, my little fatty, once more set about your top, and while that is running round and round, Ephraim Holding must run off in a different direction.

THE CHRISTIAN RULE OF MARRIAGE.
BY THE REV. H. MALCOM, A.M., OF BOSTON, UNITED STATES. .

(Continued from page 301.) V. The marriages of Christians with unbelievers greatly tend to prevent the irreligious partner from ever being converted to God.

The contrary expectation has often been expressed, but is no where authorized, and has been seldom fulfilled. Marriage is not among the means of grace proposed in sacred Scripture, nor have we there a single instance of its proving such. Though it may, in some cases, have proved such, yet for the Christian to marry with this view, would be to “ do evil that good may come.” The breaking of a limb, or the loss of a friend, has been the means of conversion, but we are not hence authorized to break men's limbs, or to kill their friends, in order to convert their souls. In case conversion should be the actual consequence of such a marriage, the sin of the connexion will not be diminished. Even the glorious consequences of the crucifixion, do not free Christ's murderers from guilt. The rectitude of an act is not decided, in the sight of God, by its consequences. If the wrath of men praise him, it is still the wrath of men.

Allowing conversion to be a possible result, which no one will deny, and even supposing the connexion to involve no guilt, common prudence would prevent a union formed on such a mere chance. Jay says, “ You would not like to marry a condemned criminal because he may be pardoned! God can make a beggar a gentleman--yet I presume you would not want to take him on this presumption.” And shall we act in regard to eternal things, in a manner which would shock common sense, even in relation to temporal things ? Shall a believer, God's child and freedman, marry Jehovah's foe, "condemned already," “sold under sin," on the bare possibility that God may convert that rebel to obedience, and give that slave " the glorious liberty of the sons of God!”

So far as the hope of conversion grows out of dependence on the great excellence we expect to show, or the forcible appeals we intend to make, we may fully try the experiment before marriage. Our advantages are certainly no less, and probably are much greater during courtship, both for arguing forcibly, and keeping out of sight the failings which might rebut our appeals. If the effort be fully made, month by month, and fails, what hope can there be of better success after marriage ? See holy parents training their children to piety, from their tenderest years. See the tears, the prayers, the entreaties, continued up to manhood. All has not produced conversion. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” John iii. 8. The very pride and presumption indicated by a confidence of bringing over a soul to God by our life, or prayers, shows that whatever piety we may have, it is far too infirm to secure such a result.

Not only is there a failure of proof that such marriages tend to conversion, but we know the contrary to be the general result. There is much to prevent it in the very nature of such a connexion. Men of the world form to themselves a high standard of what Christians should be; a standard by which few, if any, will bear to be measured. The deficiencies of professors form the strongest existing barrier to the prevalence of religion. The unconverted party is almost sure to be disappointed, in not seeing in the other so much of the power and practice of religion as was expected. Daily familiarity, and thu frequent recognition of imperfections, tend to destroy his veneration for his professing partner, and too often for religion itself. As few but cold and deficient Christians will ever form such a connexion, he is almost sure of seeing a poor specimen of religion. The almost certain diminution of whatever apparent piety there might have been, has already been shown. Add to this shackled, uncomforted, and pining piety, the continual compromises which are deemed necessary, and where will be that living potency of godliness which is to convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment ?

The sentiments of the excellent Bridges, * are a weighty testimony on this point :“Whatever may be the effect of this compromise in recommending ourselves to the world, no progress has been made in introducing our Master to their affections, whose name, whether from watchfulness or cowardice on our part, or from the overpowering flow of the world on the other side, has probably, in such society, scarcely passed over our lips with any sensible power of attraction. Indeed, so far from recommending our religion by accommodation, we have been successful in ingratiating ourselves in their favour, only so far as we have been content to restrain any prominent introduction of our religion to their notice. At the same time, our yielding conformity to their taste, and habits, and conversation, has virtually sanctioned their erroneous and defective standard of conduct, and tended to deceive them with the self-complacent conviction, that it approaches as near to the scriptural elevation, as is absolutely required.” On this subject, Scott also remarks, of “ In general, such persons flatter themselves with the hope of being the instrument of good to the object of their choice, though the reverse is by far the more common effect.” He remarks in another part of the same essay, “ The intermarriage of the professed worshippers of God with idolaters, and other open despisers of him, and that of believers with those who are evidently strangers to true godliness, is prohibited, at least, in all ordinary cases ; and the infringement of the prohibition has, in all ages, been extremely injurious to the cause of religion.” I am able to add the strong testimony of Doddridge, as quoted by Jay, who says, “I never knew a believer espousing an unconverted person, known to be such, where that person was afterwards converted.”

VI. The united testimony of great and good men in all ages is against this practice.

Though few Christian writers have expressly treated this subject, many mention it incidentally, and so far as I know, they sustain the doctrine of this essay, without a dissenting voice. The opinions of

* Exposition of Psalm cxix.

+ Essay 20.

Whitby, Hunter, Jay, Bridges, Doddridge, Henry, and Scott, have been quoted. The opinions of many more, not less distinguished, might be added; but to avoid prolixity, only a few quotations will be offered.

The early Fathers who mention this subject, understood the Scripture to require Christians to marry Christians.

Tertullian, who lived about a hundred years after the death of the apostle John, wrote two tracts to his wife. In the first, he argues against second marriages. In the second, he shows that if she should marry, it should be with a Christian. In this, he earnestly dissuades Christians from marrying unbelievers. He proves that it is unlawful, but that they may continue together, if married previously to the conversion of either party. He expatiates on the disadvantages of such improper connexions, and attempts to show the impossibility that a woman so married, should perform the duties she owes to God, her own soul, the poor, and the church. He concludes his essay by descanting on the happiness of a Christian marriage, and the richness of the Divine blessing. *

Cyprian, of the third century, speaking of the lapsed state of Christianity in his day, considers it, both as cause and consequence, that “it was common to contract marriages with unbelievers.”p

Hilary, of the fourth century, commenting on 1 Corinthians vii. 15, “If the unbelieving depart (that is, renounce the matrimonial tie), let him depart: a brother, or sister, is not under bondage in such cases :" says, “ The Christian in this case is free to marry another Christian.”

Jerome, Theodoret, and the entire current of those Fathers who have occasion, in their epistles and commentaries, to speak on this point, unhesitatingly denounce the unequal yoke.

Archbishop Leighton, I speaking of the injunction, “ Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the word, they also may, without the word, be won by the conversation of the wives, while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear,” 1 Peter ii. 12, says, “ This gives not Christians a warrant to draw on themselves this task, by choosing to be joined to an unbeliever, either profane or merely unconverted; but teaches them, being so matched, what should be their desire and carriage."

Bishop Edwards, $ says, “ Above all things, make choice of one that fears God, one whose mind is endued with a deep sense of religion, The want of this makes them unfit to be taken into the conjugal embraces. For we see what a powerful influence so near and intimate a society hath ; it makes the parties mutually exchange their qualities. Wherefore it concerns those that design a married life, to join themselves

* The title of this treatise, (which I have not seen) as translated into English, is thus given by Dr. Clarke : “ The seconde booke of Tertullian unto his wyf ; translated into Englishe wherin is conteined most godly counsel, how those that be unmaryed may chose unto themselves godly companyons, and so to live quyetly in this worlde, and blessedlye in the world to come. [by John Hooper.] Imprinted at London, by Richard Jugge, dwellynge in Paule's Churche yard, at the sygne of the Byble. 1550. 8vo."

+ De Lapsis. p. 170. Edit. Rigalt. Lectures on 1st Peter,

$ Body of Divinity.

to such as are professors to true grace and virtue. And let them remember this, that as there is no true friendship but what is founded on piety, so it is certain that there can be no conjugal fidelity, which doth not commence in, and flow from the fear of God.”

Jeremy Taylor,* in giving the rules of marriage, says, “I. In Christo et Ecclesia,' that begins all, and there is great need it should be so; for they that enter into a state of marriage, cast a die of the greatest contingency, and yet the greatest interest in the world, next to the last throw for eternity. The stags in the Greek Epigram, whose knees were clogged with frozen snow upon the mountains, 'came down to the brooks of the valley, hoping to thaw their joints with the waters of the stream ; but there the frost overtook them, and bound them in the ice, till the herdsmen took them in their stronger snare. Such is the unhappy chance of many, who, finding inconveniences upon the mountains of a single life, descend into the valley of marriage to refresh their troubles, and there enter into fetters, and are bound to sorrow by the cords of a man's peevishness; and the worst of the evil is, they are to thank their own follies; for they fell into the snare by entering in an improper way; Christ and the church were no ingredients in their choice.”

Bishop Hallt enumerates, as the inconveniences of an unequal yoke, s corruption in religion, alienation in affections, distraction of thoughts, death of zeal, dangerous underminings, and an unholy seed." He says, “I wish Manoah could speak so loud that all our Israelites might hear him." 'Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all God's people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines ?' “ Is she a fair Philistine? Why is not this deformity of the soul more powerful to dissuade us, than the beauty of the face, or of metal to allure us? To dote on the fair skin, when we see a Philistine under it, is sensual and brutish.”

Brown says, I “ As families, regularly managed, are a representation of churches, religion with respect to instruction, worship, order, and edifying example, ought to be carefully promoted in them. It is therefore mournful, that by the irregular constitution of families, through marriages not in the Lord, Deuteronomy vii. 3, 1 Corinthians vii. 39, 2 Corinthians vi. 4, family worship, and its proper attendance, are so much neglected.

Cecil,s that acute observer and casuist, has given his opinion with great plainness : “ Be ye not unequally yoked. If a believer marry an unbeliever, the miseries which ensue are endless. Though they may -determine, in kindness, to grant all they can to each other, yet they live as in two separate worlds. There is a great gulf between them. They cannot taste the same pleasures, nor share the same sorrows, nor pursue the same objects, nor walk in the same path. What hope then can there be of comfort ? Every Christian finds the corruptions of his own heart, the snares of the world, and the devices of Satan, together with innumerable secret anxieties, quite enough to struggle with in his journey to heaven, without adding another to his difficulties.”

* Conjugal Ring.

+ Contemplations.

I Body of Divinity.

$ Remains.

« VorigeDoorgaan »