« ForrigeFortsæt »
believer to cultivate an habitual will lead him to remember, and to forbearance, and a readiness to pass mention when proper, the kindness over and forgive the manifold little shown him; for they lead to gratifaults, mistakes, and petulances, tude, not only to the Giver, but to which we must expect to meet with the instruments of all our comforts. even in the best of men, whilst they We might further enlarge on the continue in this imperfect state; candour in judging of men's motives, for he knows that he needs such re- and of those, actions that may adciprocal forbearance from them: mit of a more or less favourable and without this mantle of love construction; the courteousness, covering the multitude of faults, no affability, affectionate behaviour, peace can be expected in human &c., which Christian principles prosociety. He will be taught to bear portionably effect; but we must not without much concern those af- at present proceed any further. fronts which proud men deem it a The apostle's description of, that point of honour to resent, whatever charity, or love, which is even greaconsequences ensue: and if he be ter than faith and hope, includes all ridiculed or reviled for his tame-that hath been advanced, and much ness, he remembers the meekness more. As a natural philosopher of Christ amidst the scorn and cru- would define gold by its peculiar elty of his enemies. His point of properties, which exist as really in honour consists in not suffering him- a grain as in a talent; so he shows self to be overcome by any kind or the nature of love itself, whether a degree of evil; in overcoming evil man hath more or less of it. "Chawith good; and in subduing his rity suffers long, and is kind; doth own spirit and his fortitude is not envy or vaunt herself, is not shown, by facing danger, and endur- puffed up, doth not behave herself ing hardship in the cause, and unseemly, seeketh not her own" after the example of Christ. But interest, credit, ease, or indulgence; when he is conscious of having in-"is not easily provoked; thinketh jured or affronted others, he will no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, readily submit to the most humiliat- but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth ing concessions, or reparation, for all things, believeth all things, hopthe sake of peace. His principles eth all things, endureth all things, also teach him to avoid every irri- and never faileth" (1 Cor. xiii). tating expression, and to stifle the As far then as Christian principles rising of resentment for injuries re- prevail, peace, harmony, and comceived; to fear harbouring a preju-fort abound; and were they univerdice or grudge against any man, sally influential, they would rectify (for "anger resteth" only "in the the whole moral state of the world. bosom of a fool"); to watch his What then shall we think of those opportunity of convincing an obsti- who spend their lives in running nate enemy, that he bears him no them down, or representing them ill-will, but would gladly live amic-as of licentious tendency? What ably with him; and to forget, as far shall we say concerning those who as he can, the hard treatment he take occasion from the gospel to hath met with, not loving to men- indulge their selfish, sensual, or tion it, or hear others expatiate on malignant passions? or to what it, and only recollecting it in order shall we ascribe the improper conto pray for the injurious party. duct even of true Christians, but On the other hand, the same views to their want of a fuller acquaintance
with the tendency of their princi- and boldness in religion far beyond
ples, and a more complete experience of their efficacy?
On the Believer's Attention to
what is genuine; and, on the other hand, will prevent superficial observers from perceiving how much right principles have humbled, softened, and meliorated the mind; and this will also create the believer himself a great deal of trouble and uneasiness, perhaps to the end of THOSE dispositions of mind, which his days. In like manner, a timid, a real belief of evangelical truth placid, indolent temper, will give a never fails to produce, will be es- man an appearance of great meekpecially manifested by a conscien-ness and gentleness, even when he tious attention to the duties of the is but little influenced by principles: several relations which constitute whilst the greatest prevalence of human society, according to the grace in his heart, will leave him precepts and exhortations of the too much disposed to make improholy Scriptures: by this the excel-per compliances, and to decline lency of our principles is peculiarly hardships, dangers, difficulties, and displayed, and true holiness is dis- contests.
tinguished from all counterfeits. But when the Christian is folOur natural propensities are so di-lowed into the retired scenes of life, versified by constitution, education, the habitual effect of his principles habits, connexions, and pursuits; may be more precisely ascertained; that they sometimes assume the and his attention to the welfare, appearance of certain gracious dis- comfort, and peace of all around positions: a courageous temper may him, even at the expense of many be mistaken for Christian firmness personal inconveniences and much and fortitude: an indolent or yield- self-denial, will prove his piety to ing turn of mind may pass for Chris-be genuine and of the most salutary tian meekness, pliancy, and com- tendency. This will therefore conpassion, &c. Yet the counterfeit stitute the subject of the present is perfectly distinct from that holy Essay; and the strictest regard to temper to which it is assimilated; brevity will not prevent the necesand has very little effect on a man's sity of dividing it into two parts. general conduct, though it may be It may be useful to premise a few very conspicuous in a few detached observations. instances at the same time it un- I. When we state the believer's fits men for several parts of their relative duties, we do not mean that duty, renders them peculiarly prone other men are exempted from the to sins which coincide with their same obligations: but merely that natural propensity, and leaves them Christian principles, and the grace regardless of the will and glory of given with them, incline and enable God, and of the true happiness of believers habitually to attend to mankind, in their best actions. their duties, in the whole tenour of Even when the mind is in a measure their conduct, though they do not influenced by divine grace, natural perform them in that extent and propensities may often deceive us perfection in which they own them as to the degree of it; a harsh, to be obligatory: whereas other men rough, violent or obstinate temper, either live without rule, or lay down will induce an appearance of zeal rules for themselves, that differ
widely from the precepts of Scrip- to bring the reality of his grace into ture; or they allow themselves habit- suspicion.
ually to neglect their known duty, in 4. We may observe, that the this as well as in other particulars. sacred writers generally begin with 2. The attention to relative du- the duties of the inferior relations; ties, produced by evangelical prin- whether it be that these are comciples, differs widely even from that monly the most difficult to our selfwhich results from regard to the willed ungovernable nature; or that authority of God as a lawgiver. a greater number of believers occuIn this case, the fear of punishment py these stations; or that the ador the hope of reward, are the only vantageous performance of the duinfluential motives of a religious ties belonging to the superior relanature; and these indeed, aided by tions depends much on the conduct self-love in its manifold operations, of inferiors. But however they and by natural affection, may in may be, we must carefully observe, particular circumstances produce a that in most instances the failure of very decent outward conduct: but one party in the reciprocal relations believers, besides all these motives, does not excuse the other in negare influenced by the constraining lecting their duties, though it comlove of Christ, a sense of immense monly increases the difficulty, and obligations received, a desire of renders it a more severe trial of adorning and recommending the any person's faith and obedience. gospel, and an unfeigned love to all In this the excellency of Scripture around them, producing a perma- principles especially appears; if nent attention to every thing con- we only behave well in relative life nected with their present and eter- to them who behave well to us, nal welfare. We therefore find what do we more than others? that the apostles always inculcate This is merely doing as we are done relative duties from these and simi- by, not as we would be done by. lar considerations; and thus affixed This being premised, we proceed an evangelical stamp to their prac- to considertical instructions, as well as a prac I. The reciprocal duties of hustical stamp to their doctrinal dis- bands and wives; as from this relacussions. tion most others are regularly deri
3. We may observe, that the ved. The Creator himself instituted believer indeed endeavours" to this union before the entrance of show his faith by his works," but sin, for the most wise, kind, and he also judges his works by the important purposes, with which the strict rule of the spiritual commands: whole plan respecting the human so that whilst he hopes for a gruci- race was inseparably connected. ous reward from his reconciled God, He saw, that "it was not good for according to the new covenant in Adam," even in Paradise, "to be the blood of Christ; he is conscious alone;" and that "there was no that his best performance, even of help meet for him," to be found relative duties, is so defective as to among all the other creatures; no deserve punishment, if the Lord one suited to engage his affections; should be extreme to mark what is participate his enjoyments, constidone amiss. He will therefore ha- tute his companion, or unite with bitually connect the exercise of re- him in the worship of God. He pentance and faith with all his obe was therefore pleased to form the dience, even when nothing occurs woman from his side, as "bone of
his bone, and flesh of his flesh," to Lord himself often dissolves the lay the foundation of a moderate marriage union soon after it hath subordination and most rational af- been formed; and at what time sofection; and thus he gave her to ever this separation takes place, his Adam, to be his associate and coun- word leaves the surviving party terpart, and to unite with him in entirely at liberty to form another training up their common offspring; union, if that be deemed expedient. that she might yield him the willing Unfaithfulness to the marriage covobedience of cordial esteem and af-enant in either party makes way fection, and receive from him the for the dissolution of the union, as attention, protection, and counsel of by a moral death; and where it is wisdom, love, and mild authority. clearly proved, without any susThe Lord made no more than one picion of collusion, a divorce should woman for Adam (Mal. ii. 15): for be easily and certainly attainable. the most remote desire of polygamy Various circumstances in the precould never have entered man's sent degraded state of human nature, heart, had he not become a sinner: by weakening the authority of reahe joined Adam and Eve together, son, and giving force to the passions, blessed them, and pronounced the add to the original ends for which union indissoluble by the authority marriage was instituted. The maof any creature; for no cause of di-nifold mistakes, imperfections, and vorce could have subsisted in holy faults, to which all are liable, rencreatures: and he added, "for this der mutual forbearance, forgiveness, cause a man shall leave his father and self-denying concessions essenand mother, and shall cleave unto tial to connubial harmony and comhis wife; and they shall be one fort: whilst the malignity, sensuflesh." To this original institutionality, and obduracy of which fallen our Lord repeatedly referred in his man is capable, induced the Lord decisions on this subject; constantly himself to permit divorces and polyinserting the word twain along with gamy among the Jews, to prevent the words used by the sacred histo- more dreadful consequences; but rian, lest any corrupt interpretation as the Christian dispensation conshould be superinduced. Had not tains no municipal law, so it makes sin entered, this union would doubt- no such allowances. Moreover, less have subsisted during the whole the manifold sorrows, pains, trials, term of probation allotted to Adam and temptations, to which our race and Eve, or to the rest of their pos- is now exposed, and the peculiar terity, till they were admitted to that sufferings incident to the female more exalted state, which was pro- sex, have given rise to a variety of posed as the reward of entire obedi- duties, which would not otherwise ence; and that unalterable fidelity, have been incumbent: so that the attachment, and affection, which, relative obligations of this union with their inseparable effects, must vary exceedingly from what they have resulted from the perfection would have been had not sin entered, of human nature, are still required and become more difficult to be perby the spiritual law of God, as far formed.
as circumstances continue to be the Several questions relative to the same. But many and great changes subject, do not immediately belong have taken place in consequence of to the design of these Essays: but the fall. "Sin hath entered into we observe in general, that some the world, and death by sin:" the legal and authenticated recognition
is absolutely necessary to distinguish ii. 14-16; Matt. xix. 3-9; Mark, this honourable union from all tem-x, 11; 1 Cor. vii. 2-4). The interporary and disgraceful connections; marriage of the professed worshipfor the opinion that the consent of pers of God with idolaters, and the parties alone is essential to mar- other open despisers of him, and riage, to which the outward cere- that of believers with those that are mony can give no additional vali-evidently strangers to true godliness dity, is suited to answer the purpose are prohibited, at least in all ordiof libertines; and tends to multiply nary cases; and the infringement seductions, to introduce confusion, of these prohibitions has in all ages and to disseminate licentiousness. been extremely injurious to the Should it be granted, that this or cause of religion (1 Cor. vii. 39; 2 the other form of solemnizing ma- Cor. vi. 14-16). This may lead us trimony is not in itself of divine back to our more immediate subject; authority, it must also be main-for the duty of Christians in respect tained, that some warranted form is of this relation commences before indispensably necessary: and it will they actually enter into it. When follow, that the form appointed by they deem it most conducive to their the laws of our country is sanc-best interests and to their usefulness tioned by the Lord also: unless it to marry, their principles will lead can be proved, that he hath exclu- them to acknowledge God in so ded legislators from making such important a concern, to consult his appointments, by prescribing the word, to pray for his direction and requisite form in his holy word; or blessing, and to regard his providenthat the form fixed upon by them is tial dispensations in their determinain itself a violation of the Divine tion. They cannot consistently treat law. It hath been observed, that this most momentous matter with a divorces should only be admitted childish levity, or hearken to the for the cause of fornication, being corrupt suggestions of worldly conexpressly prohibited in all other venience, avarice, or irrational cases: but it may be added, that attachment, or to the fascinations of marriages contracted between those wit, beauty, &c. in preference to near relations, whom the Lord for piety. A suitable companion the wisest reasons hath prohibited through the residue of life, who to intermarry, are in themselves may especially be helpful in forjustly deemed invalid, and may warding spiritual improvement, and properly be dissolved: in all other concur in every pious plan of family cases, "whom God hath joined religion, and the education of childtogether man ought not," on any ren, should before all things be pretence whatsoever, "to put asun-sought for: though a subordinate der:" and the fewer restrictions to regard to situation in life, habits, marriage are added to those ex-prospects, and natural disposition, pressly made in the Scripture, the may very properly be admitted. In better will the true interests of man- short, the Lord, who knoweth all kind in every order of society be things, should be constantly and provided for. That polygamy also earnestly entreated to direct the is expressly prohibited by the sa- choice and determination, and to cred Scriptures, must appear to give the blessing; in order to which every unbiassed mind, who care- the advice of pious and prudent fully compares together the pas-persons, and the judgment of affecsages referred to (Gen. ii. 24; Mal. tionate parents and relations, should