Page images

stitutions, in themselves considered, are in any one point at variance with each other: so far from this, for particular ends, they are in perfect harmony; but still they are so distinct, that neither can be fully understood, much less seen in all its beauty, if confounded with the other. The peculiar genius of their several constitutions can never be violated with impunity. Here, however, in the family, mem , bers of the church and of the world must actually meet ; and doing so by divine appointment, how peculiar and important is the situation of a parent? Both worlds meeting, both must be kept in view ; but no Christian will for a moment hesitate as to which world should have the pre-eminence.

Such, at least in part, seems to be the peculiar character of the little group assembled round the household fire. The family may increase; the establishment extend ; but beyond the limits of a household properly so called, the constitution, as to its main design, cannot extend. Yet, however small in point of number, or unpretending in point of aspect, its connexions and laws, its spirit and principles, being altogether sui generis, well deserve, and will richly reward the most careful examination.





Connexions peculiar to this constitution_Husband and Wife

Parent and Child_Brothers and Sisters Master and SeryantSuperior and inferior Servant-Servant and Child.

In many passages of Sacred Writ, there will be seen much of force and beauty, when the connexions subsisting between the several parts of this constitution are fully considered.

HUSBAND AND WIFE.-The connexion between husband and wife, being at once the ground of all other domestic ties, and in many respects their pattern, naturally claims the first attention. Indeed, not only the connexion itself, but the rule laid down in Scripture, to the Christian, for its formation, equally demand notice.

A constitution so singular as that of a Family, is thus found to rise out of a connexion quite in character in point of singularity, while the harmony of the whole superstructure rests, of necessity, upon it. To refer, therefore, again to a passage of Scripture, already noticed in a former section, “ Have ye not read,” said Jesus, " that he which made them (i. e. man and wife) at the beginning, made them (a) male and (a) female?". as intending to prevent both polygamy and divorce; "and said,” at least by Moses,

if not by Adam himself, divinely instructed into the ends and obligation of marriage in all ages ; "for this cause,” or on account of engaging in the married state, “ shall a man leave his father and mother,” the nearest relation he has hitherto sustained, “ and cleave to his wife," a more intimate relation still, "and they twain shall be one flesh.” Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.” A stronger expression it was not possible to employ. As though it had been said, nothing should separate, but that which separates the soul from the body, and even the component parts of the body from each other. “What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

For the nature and intimacy of this connexion, therefore, our Lord refers to the original design of the Creator himself, just as Malachi had done before him. Indeed it is not unworthy of remark, that, as introductory to that glorious dispensation, when Elias was to come and restore all things, in preparation for his Lord, who was to confirm and establish them, the last of the prophets abounds with reference to first principles. To the honour due to a father—the honour due to a master-respect to a civil governorto man's common descent from Adam ; nay to his original creation by God, he appeals. So in the passage referred to, as quoted both by the Saviour, and the prophet whose authority he thus sanctioned, the reasoning goes back, not to Moses merely, or to any peculiarity in the Mosaic economy; not to Abraham or the covenant made with him, but to the creation of man at the beginning. It points directly at the special design of the Creator himself, in the formation of the first pair, and explains the intimacy of the con

nexion which God had formed, with a view to the best interests of the human family. Yes, the formation of the first woman, not out of the dust of the ground, but out of the first man, was evidently intended to impress on our minds the necessity for this union being entire, and that in order to the end he had in view. “ Did not he make one ?” says Malachi,

yet had he the residue” or abundance “ of the spirit. And wherefore one ? that he might seek" and so secure a godly seed.” Does not the prophet here remind the Jew of the first institution of marriage, precisely as the Messiah himself did afterwards ? “ He tells them that God made but one man at first, the word rendered one being masculine ; and made the woman out of him, when he could have created another out of the ground, or more if he had pleased—thus instructing them that this was the true pattern of marriage, ordained for true and undivided affections, as best serving the end he had in view, namely, the religious education of children.”* And why was this? Was it that his life-giving power was exhausted in Adam ? certainly not. With him was there abundance of power, and the residue of the spirit; “ but as he meant that a godly posterity should be trained up, this would best be done,” and could only in general be done, “ by the joint care of both parents living together in love, and uniting their instructions, and example, and prayers, for that end.”+

A connexion, however, so intimate and endearing, must have been intended, in the first instance also,

[blocks in formation]

to produce corresponding good to the parties themselves. So it has been said, that “ though single life may make a man like an angel, marriage, in very many things, makes the Christian pair like Christ.” The latter, indeed, seems to be one intention of the Almighty, according to an interesting passage in the New Testament Scriptures. It is manifest from it, that marriage is symbolical of one of the greatest mysteries in our religion ; and, therefore, that of which it is symbolical, is employed by the inspired writer at once to illustrate and enforce the relative obligations of both wife and husband. Read over the entire

passage in Ephesians, v. 22–33. Thus we know that the Saviour descended from the bosom of his Father, and, contracting with our nature, we became a church; not only the bride, but the spouse, as indissolubly united to him. This church he purifies by his blood, giving the Spirit as an earnest of perfect conformity to his image, and heaven at last, as an inheritance in which to enjoy and display this conformity to himself. Meanwhile this spouse he fosters and cherishes ; lodges near to himself-providing for all necessities-relieving all sorrows-resolving all difficulties, and guiding her through life; or, in one word, he has condescended to become at once the husband and the head of his church. In this profoundly mysterious case, the indissoluble union consists in his boundless love and her entire obedience, as well as the interchange and interweaving of interests, common to both: He taking upon him our nature, our condition, our interest, and we in return participating in his. Great then as this mystery is affirmed to be, marriage is employed by Paul to symbolize it: so that

« PreviousContinue »