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In perfect conformity with these sentiments, is the rule laid down in Scripture to the Christian for the formation of this union. Although the fear of God in every age must have been a sufficient guide, it was far too important a subject to be overlooked by the Saviour of our race, in his design to establish a kingdom of righteousness and peace in this unprincipled and rebellious world. In the earliest ages, he well linew that consequences the most dreadful had ensued from indifference to this subject. Accordingly, no sooner do we read of the sons of God taking to themselves partners in life, “ of all which they chose," that is, without any regard to their principles in so doing, then it is immediately added, “ Jehovah said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” Yes, their disregard to principle in this important step, hurried on the wickedness of the antediluvian world, till the earth became so corrupt before God, that the end of all flesh came before him. The saine disregard to principle in this matter, the Saviour also knew, had well nigh prevented the restoration of the Jewish economy after the captivity, and rendered it, even at last, a task of the most formidable and appalling descrip:ion to Ezra and his friends. Almost despairing of success, even after all his unwearied labors, when he heard of this dereliction of principle, he rent his garinent and his mantle, nay, even plucked off the very hair of his head and of his beard, and sat down in an astonishment of grief.
Our blessed Lord, therefore, at once, by the character of his subjects, and the nature of his kingdom, made provision against such an evil. In its progress over the world, whether Jewish or heathen, it might indeed lay hold of but one party, a husband, or a wife, already united; and though he enjoined the union in this case to remain, giving prospect, too, of the conversion of the other party; yet the union, cnce dissolved by
death, whatever liberty was enjoyed, must be subject to one condition. In the case supposed in Scriptui”, it happens to be the female to whom allusion is madų, but the law is one. " She is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord.” For a literal precept, on the part of our Lord, there had been no necessity whatever, the nature and genius of his own kingdom being regarded; and the incidental manner in which this injunction occurs, is, to the intelligent reader of Scripture, the strongest confirmation of the rule in all cases where marriage is in prospect, and when there has been no engagement previous to conversion. The inspired writer is manifestly recognizing, by the way, a general rule—the universal moral obligation of the Christian.
Should any reader startle at this exposition, not to say object to it, I can only now say, that, in such a case, the disposition to appreciate, and the spirit to imbibe, the intimations of the divine record, will be found, on reflection, at a low ebb indeed, if not altogether wanting. Such a reader has yet to learn and to study the nature and the genius of the Messiah's kingdom. No, the Saviour, without doubt or controversy, evidently intended, in every age, to lay hold of this his own institution, not only preserving it in its original purity, but employing it as one po fut auxiliary to his kingdom; o disregard to him in this one matter alone, by any :::Mlimiy, tust ever work the ruin of vital Christianity there.
Thus upon entering on one of the most important relations cominon to man, and in taking a step which is by far the most important in regard to this life, it is certainly not a little remarkable, that divine revelation should suggest to both parties the absolute necessity of personal religion. For never let it be forgotten, that, if the Christian is bound in this step by one indispensable requisite,
it is not less the duty of every one, whether husband or wife, to be a Christian. This, however, is a subject which will naturally present itself for our consideration in another place.
PARENT AND CHILD.-A connection is here admitted at once by many, if not by all; but the nature of it is evidently overlooked by multitudes, misunderstood or denied by others, while by many professing Christians, in every denomination, it has been wofully because practically disregarded. Between the parent and his children a natural connection cannot be denied, since it is common to man with the animal creation; and as he rises in value so far above mere animal nature, the natural connection between him and his offspring involves much more of obligation. Yet the sense of obligation goes with multitudes so little way, that Scripture and reason send them for lessons of reproof and warning even to the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven. This obligation arising from natural connection, were human nature not corrupted and fallen, would go a prodigious length, but, as it is, alas, with most, it ends in furnishing certain instructions for the mind, fitting it merely for the business of this transitory and uncertain life ; and if to these instructions be added a portion, great or small, of temporal good, for the sustenance or gratification of the animal frame, the duty of the generation going away has been, in the estimation of many, well discharged.
But if, over and above the natural connection admitted by many as existing between the two generations, there is yet another of far superior importance revealed in Scripture, what shall we say? If there is an instituted connection, as well as a natural one, and a connection of God's own institution revealed by himself for our government and encouragement, should it not be patiently
studied? Once understood and regulated by it, the primeval curse will, in a great degree, be softened into mercy.
Until, however, the very basis, or first principle on which this serious and instituted connection depends, be made manifest, it cannot be thoroughly comprehended. The reader, therefore, must not be startled at the two tables of the law of God being placed before him. Yes, that basis of all the order and harmony in the universe, the Moral Law,“ to which all things in heaven and earth do homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power,” must direct
This law is generally divided into two tables; and these have been summed up, by the Lawgiver himself, as requiring the love of God by the first, and the love of man by the second. In both tables it will be seen,
that parents are especially regarded. Near the top of the first, no sooner is the divine unity announced, than the honor and glory of God are placed in the most solemn manner under their guardianship; and at the very top of the second, stand the father and mother by name. The first object is to secure for the Almighty the sole and exclusive veneration and worship of all his intelligent creatures; and in order to this, he addresses himself to the root or head of every family. Clothing the parent with high authority, as he intended to do in the second table, the Almighty first informs him, that his highest aim must consist in maintaining the honor of God in his family, and for this end, these remarkable words are employed, "for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my command
To this distinct and solemn intimation great objections have been expressed; great and general indifference has been evinced, and even some men of no inferior powers have gone so far as to suppose, that such proceeding, on God's part, actually ceased with the Old Testament dispensation, and that, when the gospel was published, and everlasting punishment was still more clearly threatened to persevering sinners, the former mode of punishment was left off!
If, however, the Almighty here unfolds his own universal law, and if he has continued, in all ages, to act accordingly, what will the opinions of men avail ? “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord : he is of one mind, and none can turn him.” Let the language only be again observed. The whole is said to originate in the jealousy of God. Now, had this jealousy no existence until these words were uttered, or was it confined, in all its merciful severity, to the people to whom it was addressed, to the natural posterity of Abraham, the friend of God? or can we suppose the Almighty to be less jealous of his name and honor now, than once? Is it not rather implied, that this was his own universal rule, originating in his own character, as applicable to the constitution of human nature in the domestic circle, cosval with sin itself, and applied, as it had been, to the family of Adam, the father of mankind ? and that, from this malediction, even Israel could only be exempted by conscientiously observing the commandment ? on which right and wrong depend,” even a heathen sage has told us, “that on which right and wrong depend, did not begin to be law when it was written ; it is older than the ages of nations and cities, and contemporary with the eternity of God."*