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David, Solomon, and others; and we do not find that the Lord censured them for it. Hence some have been ready to conclude that polygamy is not in itself unlawful. But we may rather suppose that this was one of the imperfections of those good men, which the sacred historians faithfully record, not for imitation, but to give a faithful narrative, and rather to warn, than to hold up examples for imitation.
We proceed to what was principally intended in this discourse, viz. to point out the duties which arise out of this relation. Some of these are mutual, or common to both parties, and some are peculiar, to one or the other.
I. Let us attend to those duties which are mutual.
1. It is the duty of married persons mutually to love each other above all other persons. The Scriptures frequently teach and enjoin this duty in the marriage relation, as in the following passages. “And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife ; and they shall be one flesh.” Gen. ii. 23, 24. “ Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe, and be thou ravished always with her love." Prov. v. 18, 19. And the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, repeatedly enjoins love in the marriage relation, and compares it to the love which exists between Christ and his church. “ Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies : he that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” Eph. v, 25, &c. In these passages love is particularly enjoined upon the husband; but the duty is undoubtedly mutual. And from the preceding texts it is evident, that love between the parties in the marriage relation, ought to be greater than they bear to any other persons whatever. If a person is to leave father and mother and cleave unto his partner; if the parties are no more twain but one flesh; if their love is to be like that which exists between Christ and his church; and if they are to love one another as their own bodies and their own flesh-undoubtedly it must be their duty to love one another above all other persons.
True conjugal love is something very different from mere sensual passion. The latter persons may have for each other, when there is no real affection. And this we have reason to fear, is the whole of the love, which many persons, who appear to be warmly attached, have for each other, before marriage. Where this is the sole or chief foundation of love, it cannot long continue. And this is undoubtedly one cause why we see so many unhappy after marriage, who before appeared to be extravagantly fond of each other. Their fondness had no higher foundation than sensual passion. True love is rational, and has esteem for its basis. We want a friend in the married state. And one who, if he or she were not related to us, we could not, on intimate acquaintance, esteem as a friend, is not likely to secure our affections, and make us happy in the married state. This remark is certainly very important and ought to be duly attended to in the choice of a partner for life.
A few lines from the celebrated Young in his Night Thoughts, aptly express the sentiment I wish to convey on this subject.
5. The bosom of a friend
If then, my hearers, you would be happy in the married state, let reason and not passion be your guide in the choice of a partner for life. And if you would fulfil the duties of this relation, ever mutually and sincerely love one another above all other persons. Whoever in the married state does not this, comes short of his duty; and much more do they come short of their duty and commit in, who hate their partners, and spend their lives in conation and discord, or even in indifference.
2. Another mutual duty in the married state is fidelity towards each other. This is frequently enjoined in the word of God; and the violation of this duty is very frequently and severely reprehended, and declared to be very offensive to God. And our Saviour makes it a sufficient ground on which for the innocent party to sue for and obtain a divorce.
3. Another important duty incumbent on both parties in this relation is mutual patience and forbearance towards each other, under the various infirmities and weaknesses to which human nature is subject in its present fallen state. Human nature in its present state is at best but imperfect. And whatever ideas young persons may form of the perfection of the objects of their choice and affections, a more intimate acquaintance to which marriage introduces them, will soon teach them that their partners are no more than human, subject to the infirmities incident to human nature. And the erroneous opinions which persons sometimes form of the perfection of the objects of Their choice, are often the cause of domestic unhappiness after marriage, when they find their expectations disappointed. If we would fulfil the duties, and enjoy the happiness of the marriage relation, we must not look for perfection in our partners; and we must make allowances for the weaknesses of human nature, and bear with each others infirmities. In no relation is the exercise of that charity which the Scriptures describe and inculcate, more important than this. Charity suffereth long, and is kind is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil-beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, enduzeth all things; charity never faileth.” 1. Cor. xiii. 4. &c.-“Charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” 1. Pet. iv. 8. The exercise of this charity in both parties will produce domestic tranquility, and generally, if practised only by one, will do the same ; and perhaps will always with the. worst of partners make things better than they otherwise would be. And it is the want of this charity in exercise, that impairs the domestic happiness of a great many, and renders many persons wretched through life. Amidst the numerous occurrences of domestic life, circumstances will arise to ruffle the temper. When this is the case with either party, soft words in the other might turn away anger, and prevent a vast deal of domestic mischief; when
finding fault and reproving while in this state, most frequently increases irritation, and after a time issues in a want of confidence, and constant coolness, and domestic broils. It seldom happens where persons are unhappy in the married state, that either party is entirely innocent, although one may be more to blame than the other; for it is certain as a general rule, however one party may fail in his or her duty, if the other has prudence, and bears with these failings in meekness and patience as the law of God directs, and to these adds a uniform and loving behaviour, things may for the most part be kept in a tolerable way; and not unfrequently the temper of the offending party may be overcome, or moderated, and sometimes an entire reformation be effected. I know there may be exceptions to this rule ; for there are some monsters in human form, whom no kindness or prudence can soften or reclaim ; but such instances are probably rare indeed.
4. Another mutual duty in the married state is, that husband and wife should be helpful to each other. The Lord made Eve to be an help-meet for Adam. Man and wife have such an intimate connexion, that according to the word of God, they are no more twain, but one flesh.They ought therefore certainly to be mutually helpful to each other. They ought to help bear each others burdens, and thus they will be greatly lightened. They ought to have but one interest, and mutually to promote this. They ought to endeavour to defend and advance each others honour and character. They ought to be bosom friends, and merit and maintain a mutual confidence in each other. And they ought to participate in each others joys and sorrows, to sympathize with each other, to rejoice together, and to mourn together.
And here we may observe that either husband or wife who wants frugality, economy, or care, or is indolent, or squanders away property to the injury of the other party and their common family, is guilty of a gross violation of this relation, and is highly criminal in the sight of God.For “ if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel." 1 Tim. v. 8.
5. Another mutual duty in the married state is, that husband and wife should endeavour to promote each other's spiritual and eternal good. We are bound to do good unto
others; and as the soul is of incomparably more importance than the body, it is our duty to endeavour to do good to the souls of others; and if it be our duty to endeavour to promote as far as in us lies the salvation of the souls of others, undoubtedly it must be still more our duty diligently to endeavour to be the instruments of good to the souls of those who sustain such an intimate and dear connexion with us as is formed by marriage. Besides, by promoting each others spiritual interests, we will best secure domestic and temporal felicity. The duty of endeav, ouring to promote each others spiritual and eternal good is taught in the following texts. 1. Cor. vii. 14, 16. “ For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband ? or how knowest thou, Oman, whether thoushaltsave thy wife?” And 1. Pet. iii. 1, 2,7.“ Likewise, 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.
Likewise ye husbands dwell with them according to knowledge, give ing honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life ; that your prayers be not hindered.” If they both be pious, they ought frequently to converse together about the things of religion, and endeavour to instruct and quicken one another; and they ought to pray with and for each other. If one party be careless, the other ought to endeavour prudently and affectionately to speak to them of their situation, and exhort them to newness of life; to maintain a godly example before them ; and to pray earnestly to God for their salvation. But alas ! brethren, have we not reason to fear that most husbands and wives are criminally deficient in this article of duty ? II. We proceed to peculiar duties.
Nature and the Scriptures give a certain authority to the husband. His peculiar duties may be summed up in the proper exercise of this authority. In every society, it is necessary to its well-being, that there be some head. In the domestic society, the man is constituted the head. This superiority he has from nature. For he was created first, and the woman was made to be an help-meet for him. This an