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many of those enjoyments which marriage was designed to bestow on mankind.
If, however, you are to be considered as persons of genuine religion, this circumstance is a most favourable omen of your future life. It is the smile of Heaven on the morning of your day. Every serious friend, taking an interest in the yet unfolded page of your history, rejoices in this good beginning; and expects that it will be followed by many grateful instances of the excellency of wedded life. The maintenance of mutual affection has been recommended to you as a great object of the attention of a married couple. And what is so likely to keep up its vigour as a deeply rooted regard to a religion which cherishes all the tenderness of which our nature is capable ? Such is Christianity: a religion which exhibits the highest example of benevolence, and suggests the most powerful motives to its imitation. A mind imbued with the views and principles of this heavenly system, is formed to grace any lawful situation. But how amiable a figure must it make in the marriage connexion, where there are so many opportunities of gratifying its philanthropic spirit!
Christian piety promises to keep the spirit of conjugal affection alive, by that sublime species of benevolence which it induces; an earnest desire for the spiritual and eternal welfare of all, but especially of those to whom we are more nearly allied. And it has likewise always at hand a motive to the exercise of for
giveness; by that sense of our own faults, and our consequent need of forgiveness from God, with which it is ever accompanied.
Religion, while it thus calls forth, aud strengthens the mutual tenderness of the married pair, further provides for their continued happiness, by teaching them not to expect too much from each other, since neither of them has married an angel, but a human being : a creature “encompassed with infirmity." This just view makes them sober in their expectations; and they are likely to continue longer, and more comfortably at the feast, than those who sit down to it ignorant of human nature, and therefore unprepared for the proofs of its imperfection.
Actuated by religious principle, the married pair will not have their happiness interrupted by those altercations which are produced between the love of pleasure, and the necessity of resisting its continual and excessive demands. They will likewise be preserved from the embarrassments which in the end imbitter this connexion, where the parties have agreed in adopting an expensive style of living. In short, it is by these, and many other concomitants of genuine piety, that old age steals on, without bringing with it the misery of feeling, that there is nothing left but the dregs and feculence of worn out enjoyments; something yet remains that can be tasted without exciting disgust.
Mistake me not, as if by piety I meant merely the making a profession of religion ; or the adoption of that system of truth you hear from me, your minister. There are people who go thus far, and yet afford as affecting instances of the unhappiness of married life as any. Christian piety must have, like many other things, its principles; and the more truth there be in the principles, the more purity and energy there is likely to be in the practice. But the mere adoption of opinions, however sound, is not Christian piety. This is a thing that is manifested by making the word of God the rule of life.
A truly pious man makes the Holy Scriptures the rule both of his expectations and his conduct. Making them the rule of his expectations, he embraces “the faith once delivered to the saints ;" whatever reception it may have in that age in which he happens to live : making them the rule of his conduct, he consults them with respect to the several relations he may sustain in life, that she may know how he ought to walk and please God." Ĝod has given some very particular directions how to conduct ourselves in relative life ; that in situations of such importance the servant of God may not be at a loss how to act. The married person, for instance, has his behaviour marked out; and these passages the man of piety will study.
The superficial religionist will not, indeed, be thus attentive to the preceptive part of Scripture. It is lamentable to observe how
many there are who take up the volume of inspiration merely as a book that discovers an expedient for escaping punishment; never regarding it as the directory of eonduct. If these are your models of piety, you will neither adorn, nor enjoy, the religion you profess. There is nothing to be expected from your religion, unless it be of that genuine kind, which will make each of you attentive, as in the sight of God, to your respective duties.
THE CONDUCT WHICH THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
REQUIRE IN MARRIED PERSONS TOWARDS EACH
What I have therefore to recommend to you is, serious meditation, accompanied with prayer to God, on those passages of Scripture, which teach you how to act in this relation. They were rehearsed to you when your nuptials were solemnized. And as part of an inspired book, you are to consider the exhortation in the office of matrimony, as God's charge to you from the altar. ,
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water, by the word ; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. Let every one so love his wife, even as himself.* Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.t Ye husbands, give honour. unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel.”I:
Perhaps no part of Scripture less requires a comment. To understand the meaning of familiar terms is all that is necessary. The Christian husband is taught by this passage that God requires him to love the woman he has chosen : to be kind and tender to her; yea, to honour her; and therefore, that the domestic tyrant, the fierce animadverter on every little omission, the husband whose contemptuous treatment of a wife is an habitual degradation of her, are persons condemned by the Lord of all; who is to be considered as the avenger of the wrongs of every deserving wife thus injured. Here husbands may learn, that something more is required of them than merely to afford a maintenance to a wife; and that they do not fulfil their obligations, even when they provide what is called a very comfortable one. Nothing can compensate for the want of that love required in the passage above quoted. What is a maintenance any further than it be enjoyed ? and how impossible is this, unless it be accompanied with tenderness, kindness, and respectful treatment in words and actions. Alas! for want of these endearments, many a woman, who by her dress seems to tell the world she
* Eph. v. 25–33. Col. iii. 19. 1 Pet. iii. 7.