« PreviousContinue »
ble. He says,
There is, indeed, a wide difference, in some respects, between an infidel and a nominal believer of Christianity, but not such as makes any diversity of application in this rule. In heart, both are infidels ; in character, both are enemies of God; in destiny, both are children of wrath ; and, to be saved, both need absolute regeneration. The chief difference is, one openly rejects the truth, the other secretly; or rather, both openly reject it, but one agrees it ought to be received, the other affirms it ought not. One really disbelieves God's word, the other believes, but continues to disobey. Where then is the mighty difference which makes one a suitable companion, and not the other ? Where is the advantage of a convinced Felix, over an unenlightened Gallio?
If any still suppose this passage not to relate specifically to marriage, it need not be contended. The doctrine of this essay is substantiated by it under any probable interpretation. Is it affirmed that it relates primarily to the admission of church members ? We, in this case, may argue from the less to the greater. If the apostle glows with indignation at the thought of such unseemly and disastrous intimacy, then still more at marriage, which is far more intimate. Or, is it contended that the injunction is general, and the interrogations universal, applying not to marriage in particular, but to all needless intimacies and intercourse? Then we may argue from the whole to a part, from the comprehension of general terms, to the integral parts comprehended in those general terms. If he prohibits all intimacy, then he prohibits this intimacy. Mr. Jay handles this question in a manner which seems unanswera
“ If Christians are forbidden to join with unbelievers in church communion, surely they are equally enjoined not to enter with them into marriage contract.
What! were the converted Corinthians commanded to come out from among them ;' and yet be permitted to enter into the closest affinity ? Were they ordered to be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing;' and yet be allowed to become one body? Was there to be no fellowship between righteousness and unrighteousness, between light and darkness ;' and yet were these to be united for ever? Was 'he that believeth to have no part with an infidel,' and yet suffer them to be partners for life? Was 'the temple of God to have nothing to do with idols,' and yet were idols to be set up within its walls ?"*
Let the reader understand that the argument from this text is not intended only for those who admit its being certain that the apostle had marriage particularly in view at the time he wrote it. It cannot be evaded by any pretext. The passage must be blotted from the Bible, or those who profess and appear to be Christians, must not marry such as profess and appear not to be Christians.
2. “ The wife is bound by the law, as long as her husband liveth ; but, if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord.” 1 Cor. vii. 39.6 The expression “in the Lord,” is of frequent occurrence. We have
* Essay on Marriage. + This passage seems sufficient authority for second marriages, anciently regarded by many Christians as unlawful, at least, for ministers, and still thought by some to be improper.
it in about forty such passages as the following:-"Timothy, my beloved son and faithful in the Lord.” “ Are ye not my work in the Lord.” “ Children obey your parents in the Lord.” Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident, speak without fear."
66 Submit to your husbands in the Lord.” " A fellow-servant in the Lord." “Know them who are over you in the Lord.” “ A brother, both in the flesh, and in the Lord.” “ Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” The expression “in Christ,” which is of the same import, occurs nearly thirty times in the New Testament: such as, I knew a man in Christ :” “ there is no condemnation for them who are in Christ;' “ the dead in Christ shall rise first." The import of the expression cannot be misunderstood, even by a negligent reader. A person who is “in the Lord,” or “ in Christ Jesus,” is a person who belongs to the church of Christ, or a religious person. McKnight's rendering of our text is “ only he must be a Christian,” and no writer offers a contrary interpretation.
If the phrase be plain, the restriction it gives to the passage now adduced in argument is equally plain. It distinctly and positively forbids Christian widows from marrying any who are not apparently pious. Of course the law for other unmarried Christians is the same. There is no possible reason for any difference. The case of a religious woman whose husband is dead, furnishes no ground for restriction other than exists in the case of any other female. Nor does the case of females differ, in any particular, from that of men. The argument is the same (only more forcible) as that by which we conclude polygamy to be unlawful for all, though expressly forbidden only to bishops. 1 Tim. iii. 2. Every argument for evading the application of the rule to all Christians, would equally tend to release all but ministers from the prohibition of polygamy:
It is hardly to be presumed that any one would plead for a difference between widows and any other class of single persons, or would attempt to evade the obvious meaning of the text in reference to persons once married.
Here then is a plain and positive rule. What shall be done with it? The will of Heaven is distinctly revealed. Shall it be obeyed or disobeyed? Will we submit to the New Testament, or hide our face from its import? Let every one give to this passage the reflection it de
It needs no comment, and scarcely admits any. The Lord preserve us from wilfully shutting our eyes, and drawing upon ourselves judicial blindness!
3. There is still another passage which, though of oblique application, derives additional consequence from that very fact.
" Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as the other apostles ?” 1 Cor. ix. 5.
The original is αδελφης γυναικα, a sister wife, “ that is," says McKnight, " a Christian wife;" and Whitby sustains the rendering, by remarking that “ the words are not γυναικα αδελφην, but αδελφην yuvaika, which cannot well be rendered a sister woman, there being no sister, which is not a woman.” It obviously shows that Paul, in asserting his right to marry, claimed no license to marry a sinner.
of this essay.
Public sentiment has always been decidedly averse to the marriage of an irreligious woman by a minister. The same reasons apply to private Christians, though perhaps with somewhat abated force, as to the influence on the public. As to the private effect, there is no difference. Both are bound to seek the highest attainments in holiness, both are to adhere closely to the Divine rule, both are to seek first the kingdom of God in all their ways, and both are commanded to come out from the world, and be separate. Both equally violate all these obligations in marrying a sinner. Both draw upon themselves, by such an act, the disadvantages which have been feebly portrayed in a preceding part
I have thus endeavoured to discuss an important subject, in the light of reason, and of religion. Arguments have been drawn from admitted principles, universal experience, and direct Scripture testimony. The opinions and practice of early Christians, and of great and good men in later days, have been exhibited.
Reader! if you have sought to know the truth, pause and consider what evidence you have that this is not the truth. See whether the preceding inferences, from established principles, are not fairly deduced ; whether the experience of men is not fairly described ; the opinions of the good fairly quoted ; and the injunctions of Scripture fairly set forth.
If you cannot fairly overthrow the argument, adduce opposite testimony, or prove the Scriptures to be erroneously construed, your duty is plain. If you have unwittingiy erred heretofore, err no more. you are already ngaged, or married, encourage no such alliances among others.
That difficulties attend the subject is not denied. It is even possible that some objections might perhaps be started, for which there is no answer. But it is not enough to start difficulties and objections. These lie against every doctrine in physics, law, or theology. Every subject has its difficulties to our weak minds. Ignorant and indolent minds, who can easier see a difficulty than trace out an argument, and form a conclusion, will doubt on all points, and may even glory in scepticism. But let it not be so with a Christian. Let him find out what can be proved, and be governed by what he finds out, difficulties notwithstanding. Let him set out with the assurance that that Bible, which is to be our counsellor in all things, will not be silent on this subject. As, therefore, he values the final approbation of God, let him not permit superable difficulties to keep him from examining and deciding on this point, so far as his reason and the Scriptures of truth clearly teach.
CONCLUSION. 1. This subject is of great importance to Christian parents.
Consider maturely, and examine duly, what is your duty in this particular. There is a right and wrong here, as on other points. Settle your consciences by examining the Oracles of truth. If these marriages are improper, you must withhold your consent. To be active in forwarding them, is to partake of the guilt.
Be not deceived by appearances. Your true interest, and that of your child, is to "seek first the kingdom of God.” Whether your children be religious or irreligious, the rule is equally binding, and the danger of violating it is equally great. There is a natural preference, in the mind of a godly parent, to marry a beloved child, though unconverted, to a Christian. A feeling of safety is cherished, that such a partner will do right by their child. This is, indeed, likely to be true, in a
a good degree. But yet the preference is founded in mistake. Many proofs of the impossibility of conjugal happiness have been given in the preceding pages : many more might be given. And, what is awfully more important, the chance of conversion is abridged! Then let us not yield up a dear child to these disadvantages, even though immediate outward advantages, which offer, seem large. Your relief from expense, your seeing a child settled ere you die, your forming a connexion with a pleasant and important family, are all of them immeasurably small considerations, compared to doing that which is right.
If your pious daughter be the object of peculiar regard to some youth, ingenuous, but yet not religious, I do not say you should thwart such an attachment; but let it not grow into an ardent intimacy. Especially let it not ripen into an engagement. Let it be avowed by you to your child's admirer, that the Divine rule will be observed; that all the natural loveliness which charms her heart, is not a sufficient warrant for a union, without the fear of God. Let all suitable efforts be made to bring him over to the fold of Christ. Let him be warned that he is walking the downward road ; that he is wickedly withholding his heart from God; that sudden death would prove his eternal ruin. Take pains to make him feel the truths he really admits. Let him accompany her to the house of God, and to the conference meeting. Let him have the all-important subject kept suitably before him. Let him kneel by your family altar, while you pour out before God your audible entreaties on his behalf. Let him hear from her lips the frequent experience of her own heart. In fine, let the thousand secret arts, which affection and piety dictate, be employed. Who can doubt the result ? Either he will turn and live, or he will abandon her society, that he may postpone the claims of heaven, without being incessantly reminded of their immediate obligation.
As to the danger of inducing hypocrisy, there is little to apprehend. Such a knowledge of him as you must possess, and such a knowledge of him as the object of his love must possess, leave little room to fear that
you should be deceived. It is not at all probable that an irreligious person would persist in the society of such a Christian, and increase in his admiration and love, till he should seek connexion by marriage. If, after all, deception should be attempted and accomplished, God will overrule it for the eternal good of your child. You will not be made to suffer for not being omniscient.
2. Ministers are deeply concerned here.
The quotations I have given, show that some have lifted up their voice, and uttered the testimony of reason and religion, on this neglected question. Would that none were silent ! How are even good men bound in the fetters of supposed expediency! How timid are we all disposed to be in maintaining truths, which, if received, will demand extensive changes in the opinions and practices of the public; especially when they require us to take a stand against our own apparent interest and popularity.
It is in the power of ministers to make head against this great evil ; and it is therefore their duty. Some are convinced, but dare not teach openly what they know on this subject. Such are guilty of keeping back part of the counsel of God. Some fear to examine the matter, lest they become convinced. Such are guilty of wilful ignorance. Others, and doubtless far the greatest number, have never had the subject agitated in their minds. To such, it is fondly hoped, this essay will be acceptable and important, in creating an inquiry, which, if properly conducted, cannot but result in the acquisition of truth. These marriages are either right or wrong; and sacred teachers are bound to find out and publish the truth in the case, according to their ability, or be guilty of negligence.
3. It is supremely important to such as have not yet committed themselves.
If you have not yet investigated this point, give it serious attention ere you take a step not to be retraced, and involving your dearest interests in both worlds. You are called upon, by the highest obligations of love and gratitude, to obey God, your Redeemer. You are his, by every tie which can bind a creature to a Creator, a subject to a King, a child to a Father. You are bought with blood. You are washed and sanctified by blood. You will be admitted to the Holy of Holies by blood. Make his glory your aim in all your ways. Hearken to the voice of his word. What else should guide you in forming this important union ? A fine form and features ? Money? Accomplishments ? Oh, no! You cannot thus surrender yourself to disobedience. This would indeed be, to be joined to idols. Such inducements would not lead you to steal, or to swear, or to violate the sabbath ; and why should they lead you to sin in this case ?
If you have somewhat reflected on this subject, but are yet not certain but that you may proceed, and the temptation is strong upon you, you are not ready to act at all. You must wait, and search, and pray. In reference to a matter of comparatively far less consequence, it is said, “ He that doubteth, is damned if he eat.” If a man, seriously doubting the propriety of eating meat offered to idols, condemned himself by so doing, surely he who, with a "double mind," proceeds in this so much more important act, does more seriously condemn himself. True, we are sometimes obliged to act, when, though the evidence preponderates, doubts remain. But this must only be in cases where we as much or more doubt the propriety of declining to act. Now you are certainly under no obligation to form an attachment to a sinner. You, therefore, can have no painful doubts, lest if you do not form such an attachment you transgress some Divine rule. But you have doubts whether you may form such an engagement. Therefore wait till those doubts are overborne by right reason and Scripture, and you can, with a comfortable degree of decision, know that you have your heavenly Father's smiles.
In your general rule, it may be presumed you are settled : viz.,