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· ON MARRIAGE, seldom if ever do we see the unconverted party afterwards converted. In numberless instances the professor of religion is drawn away from God, and back to the world and destruction; but in few cases indeed do we behold the unbeliever drawn from the world and led to God. If this is your hope, it is delusion.
§ 15. In some few cases total apostasy is not the consequence of these unnatural marriages; but in these cases they are often the cause of much unhappiness. Much temporal distress is often their bitter fruit. It appears from various passages of Scripture, that sometimes when God forgives the sins of his own people, so far as to shield them from their punishment hereafter, he lets them feel painfully the effects of their sin and folly while here. Thus, though David's adultery was forgiven, the sword was never to depart from his house. Acting apparently upon this system, the Most High frequently punishes professors of piety, who form these forbidden unions. They expect happiness, but he bids sorrows encircle them, distress and affliction in various forms, and poverty, beset them. Their expectations are disappointed; their hopes fail; and though their hope for eternity is not lost, for time they see little before them but difficulty and sorrow. Thus he frowns upon them, and marks his displeasure of their sin.. At other times their distresses are of another nature. They are spiritual distresses. Instead of a helper in their nearest earthly friend, they find a hinderance. If a family rises up, the in. structions of one parent are counteracted by the example of the other. A good writer referring to this subject observes, That the language of a child so circumstanced, to the miserable mother, who entreats him to read the Bible, may be, “ Why should I pore over that tedious book my father never reads ? Why should I spend that day in the wearisome services of the church or the chapel, which my father spends in recreation and pleasure? Why should I be so anxious to obtain what you call A NEW HEART, which my father tells me he has got through the world well enough without, and which he calls folly and fanaticism ? He says that you are too strict, and would rob your children of all the innocent enjoyments and indulgences of youth."* If not the actual language, yet are not such sentiments likely to be adapted to the feelings of
223 the child, one of whose parents follows the Saviour, and the other the world ? How painful must it be to a father or mother who feels the value of an immortal soul, who knows the Saviour's love, and anxiously desires that a beloved family of children should know this also, to think, By marrying con. trary to the will of God, I have I fear entailed eternal damnation on all my dear but thoughtless children.
$ 16. Those who cavil against a divine law, because they are unwilling to submit to its restraint, invent various objections against the preceding statements, or excuses for rebelling against the authority of the Most High. Some plead that the unbelieving party may receive spiritual benefit, and urge the apostle's words, “ What knowest thou, O wife, but thou mayest save thy husband.”
Ans. A reply to this objection has in fact already been given. The good done bears no proportion to the mischief. Few strangers to religion are brought to embrace it, by marrying those that professed to enjoy its power; but many that professed religion, are led to forsake and renounce it, by entering into such forbidden unions. The words, “ What knowest thou, O wife, but thou mayest save thy husband," refer not to a case of this kind, but to those cases where, of those persons who are equally strangers to religion, one party after marriage is brought to embrace it. In these cases the wife or husband, when converted, often becomes the means of converting their respective partner ; but it is not so in those cases where professed disciples of Jesus violate his laws, by marrying those who know him not.
Obj. 2. Still it may be said, in some cases the happy result of a friend of religion marrying an amiable person, who knew not its power, has been the conversion of the unbelieving party.
Ans. Allowing this in some instances to be true, it forms no justifiable reason for violating a plain divine law. The principle maintained in this case, is neither more nor less, than “Let us do evil that good may come.” The good expected may never come, yet if it were certain that it would, the sin of breaking God's holy law is not thereby lessened. Of those who do evil that good may come, it is said, “ that their dampation is just." I recollect reading of a thief who stole a
(u) Rom. iii. 8.
ON MARRIAGE. Bible, or other religious book. This book proved the instrument of his conversion ; but would any one argue, It is law. ful to steal Bibles because they may convert the thieves that steal them? Would they not rather acknowledge, that the dishonest action retained all its criminality, whatever might be its effect? It is the same in the present case. Whether the unbelieving party be converted to God, or remain unconverted, the believing party has incurred the guilt of wilfully despising the authority of the Majesty on high.
Obj. 3. It is further objected, that so much difference exists between a nominal Christian and a heathen, that the rule which is applicable to the latter will not be so to the former.
Ans. In reply we may inquire, Wherein does that differ. ence exist? Not in their state in the sight of God. Both are children of wrath. Not in their enjoyment of spiritual blessings; for neither has any. Not in the state of their hearts. The nominal Christian as much needs conversion, as the profligate heathen, and is as unable to be saved without it. Not that one needs less grace than the other for salvation. The nominal Christian cannot be saved, unless born again of the Spirit of God, and with that great change the heathen may. In fact, in many respects the balance turns in favour of the heathen. The nominal Christian has heard the gospel, and slighted its message; the heathen has not. In one case neglect of religion is plainly proved, that there would be such neglect is not plainly proved in the other case. The preponderance in guilt and ruin, evidently lies with the nominal Christian. The Lord Jesus represented the state of heathea Tyre and Sidon, of Sodom and Gomorrah, as preferable to that of Jews who heard his message of love in vain.
Where then is the difference in favour of the nominal Christian ? With a heart as hard as the heathen's, and as much needing divine power to soften it, with greater sins and darker prospects, in consequence of sinning against more light and greater obligations, than the heathen ever knew, the nominal Christian is going apace to a ruin as sure, but still more tremendous.
ON FAMILY DUTIES.
$1. A VERY considerable portion of human happiness
1 depends on the members of a family cherishing those sentiments, and practising those duties, which spring from the relations of domestic life. The religion of the gospel is designed to diffuse peace, love, and harmony through the family circle; to soften every rugged passion; to strengthen every affectionate feeling; and to open in each house, as well as “ in each breast, a little heaven." There are persons who abroad appear courteous and humble, gentle and good-natured, that at home are harsh and passionate, proud or peevish, soon provoked, and easily offended. It should never be forgotten by you, that true piety should be shown at home. Let the family that has daily converse with you, behold its brightest radiance. Thus Jesus acted ; Judas, who knew him best, and saw him in his retired hours, had not one charge of folly or inconsistency to bring against him. How different from those of his professed disciples, who are esteemed abroad, but not at home; loved as Christians by those who know them least, but whose profession is doubted or scorned by those who know them best.-Hypocrites in reality, that have given rise to the proverb, “ A saint abroad, and a devil at home.”
The religion of Jesus, however, is not answerable for the hypocrisy it condemns. The true disciples of the Saviour will act a very different part.
There is no scene in which the all-important graces, meekness, humility, gentleness, courteousness, are more important than at home. There is no situation in which watchfulness over your words and tempers is more necessary. There many little things will occur to vex and irritate; there you are more liable to be off your guard, and thus more liable, by improper tempers and hasty words, to bring sin upon your
PARENTAL DUTIES. own soul, and to injure the souls of others. The directions given in the Scriptures, respecting harmony, kindness, care not to provoke nor be provoked, and others of a similar kind, should be impressed on the heart of every Christian, who would honour religion in the family to which he belongs.
In the general it may be observed, that whatever be your situation in the family of which you form a part, as a Christian it should be your constant aim and daily study, to display a meek, humble, gentle, benevolent, affectionate spirit; and to maintain a conscience void of offence. towards all around you. The Scriptures however descend to direction more minute, and peculiarly expressive.
$ 2. Duties of parents.
To instruct their children in divine truth. “ These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." Teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons."
By needed correction to restrain them from evil. « Withhold not correction from the child; thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul fron hell.”c Eli, though pious, fell under God's dreadful displeasure, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.d
Not to discourage or provoke their children. “ Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.”e “ Fathers, provoke not your children, lest they be discouraged.”
To love their children, and to pray for them, as Job and David did, and to labour for their eternal welfare. “Train up a child in the way he should go ; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”g “ Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”h
The expression, Train up a child in the way he should go, signifies, to draw along by a regular and steady course of exertions. This calls for line upon line, precept upon precept; continued exertions; continued watchfulness, and unceasing care. Many pious parents, who have done something to promote their children's religious welfare, have still been far from (a) Deut. vi. 6. (6) Deut. iv. 9. (c) Prov, xxiii. 13, 14. (d) 1 Sam. ii. 11-13
le) Eph, iv. 4. (5) Col, iii. 21. (0) Prov. xxii. 6. () Eph, vi. 4.