Page images

which the church especially did dwell, were to be scattered and broken all in pieces with fierce calamities, and the world was apt to calumniate and to suspect and dishonour Christians upon pretences and unreasonable jealousies, and that to all these purposes the state of marriage brought many inconveniences; it pleased God in this new creation to inspire into the hearts of his servants a disposition and strong desires to live a single life, lest the state of marriage should in that conjunction of things become an accidental impediment to the dissemination of the Gospel, which called men from a confinement in their domestic charges to travel, and flight, and poverty, and difficulty, and martyrdom : upon this necessity the Apostles and apostolical meni published doctrines, declaring the advantages of single life, not by any commandment of the Lord, but by the spirit of prudence, di, solo įvertürav úváryzmy, ' for the present and then incumbent necessities, and in order to the advantages which did accrue to the public ministries and private piety.* “ There are some (said our blessed Lord) who make them selves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven," that is, for the advantages and the ministry of the Gospel, “ non ad vitæ bonæ meritum" (as St. Austin in the like case;) not that it is a better service of God in itself,t but that it is useful to the first circumstances of the Gospel and the infancy of the kingdom, because the unmarried person does Legiớv så rol Kugiou, is apt to spiritual and ecclesiastical employments :' first áryos, and then iyazóuevos, "holy in his own person, and then sanctified to public ministries;' and it was also of ease to the Christians themselves, because, as then it was, when they were to flee, and to flee for aught they knew in winter, and they were persecuted to the four winds of heaven; and the nurses and the women with child were to suffer a heavier load of sorrow because of the imminent persecutions; and above all, because of the great fatality of ruin upon the whole nation of the Jews, well it might be said by St. Paul, Grófer ougni e govor oi TOIŪTOI, “ Such shall have

* Etiam Judæi, qui præceptum esse viris raidoroni, aiunt, uno ore concedunt, tamen dispensatum esse cum iis qui assiduo legis studio vacare volunt, alias etiam immunibus ab acriori carnis stimulo. Maimon. 15. Halach. Ishoth.

+ ου ψέγω δε τους λοιπούς μακαρίους, ότι γάμοις προσωμίλησαν ών εμνήσθην άρτι» εύχομαι γάρ άξιος Θεού ευρεθείς προς τους ίχνεσιν αυτών ευρεθήναι έν τη βασιλεία ως 'Αβραάμ, και Ισαάκ, και Ιακώβ, ως 'Ιωσηφ, και Ιισαίου και των άλλων προφητών, ως Πέτρου και Παύλου, και των άλλων αποστόλων, &c. Epist. ad Philadelph.

trouble in the flesh," that is, they that are married shall, and so at that time they had : and therefore it was an act of charity to the Christians to give that counsel, én w od iseño φείδομαι, I do this to spare you, and θέλω υμάς άμερίμνους είvou : for when the case was altered, and that storm was over, and the first necessities of the Gospel served, and the sound was gone out into all nations;' in very many persons it was wholly changed, and not the married but the unmarried had Stór év vagni, “ trouble in the flesh ;” and the state of marriage returned to its first blessing, “et non erat bonum homini esse solitarium,” “and it was not good for man to be alone."

But in this first interval, the public necessity and the private zeal mingling together did sometimes overact their love of single life, even to the disparagement of marriage, and to the scandal of religion; which was increased by the occasion of some pious persons renouncing their contract of marriage, not consummate, with believers. For when Flavia Domitilla being converted by Nereus and Achilleus the eunuchs, refused to marry Aurelianus, to whom she was contracted; if there were not some little envy and too sharp hostility in the eunuchs to a married state, yet Aurelianus thought himself an injured person, and caused St. Clemens, who veiled her, and his spouse both, to die in the quarrel. St. Thecla being converted by St. Paul, grew so in love with virginity, that she leaped back from the marriage of Tamyris, where she was lately engaged. St. Iphigenia denied to marry king Hyrtacus, and it is said to be done by the advice of St. Matthew. And Susanna, the niece of Dioclesian, refused the love of Maximianus the emperor; and these all had been betrothed; and so did St. Agnes, and St. Felicula, and divers others then and afterward : insomuch that it was reported among the Gentiles, that the Christians did not only hate all that were not of their persuasion, but were enemies of the chaste laws of marriage; and indeed some that were called Christians were so; “ forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats." Upon this occasion it grew necessary for the Apostle to state the question right, and to do honour to the holy rite of marriage, and to snatch the mystery from the hands of zeal and folly, and to place it in Christ's right hand, that all its beauties might appear, and a present con

venience might not bring in a false doctrine, and a perpetual sin, and an intolerable mischief. The Apostle, therefore, who himself* had been a married man, but was now a widower, does explicate the mysteriousness of it, and describes its honours, and adorns it with rules and provisions of religion, that, as it begins with honour, so it may proceed with piety, and end with glory.

For although single life hath in it privacy and simplicity of affairs, such solitariness and sorrow, such leisure and inactive circumstances of living, that there are more spaces for religion if men would use them to these purposes; and because it may have in it much religion and prayers, and must have in it a perfect mortification of our strongest appetites, it is therefore a state of great excellency; yet concerning the state of marriage, we are taught from Scripture and the sayings of wise men, great things are honourable. Marriage is honourable in all men;" so is not single life; for in some it is a snare and a rugwois, ' a trouble in the flesh,' a prison of unruly desires, which is attempted daily to be broken. Celibate or single life is never commanded; but in some cases marriage is; and he that burns, sins often if he marries not; he that cannot contain must marry, and he that can contain is not tied to a single life, but may marry and not sin. Marriage was ordained by God, instituted in Paradise, was the relief of a natural necessity, and the first blessing from the Lord; he gave to man not a friend, but a wife, that is, a friend and a wife too (for a good woman is in her soul the same that a man is, and she is a woman only in her body; that she may have the excellency of the one, and the usefulness of the other, and become amiable in both) : it is the seminary of the church, and daily brings forth sons and daughters unto God; it was ministered to by angels, and Raphael waited upon a young man that he might have a blessed marriage, and that that marriage might repair two sad families, and bless all their relatives. Our blessed Lord, though he was born of a maiden, yet she was veiled under the cover of marriage, and she was married to a widower; for Joseph the supposed father of our Lord had children by a former wife.

• Ως Πέτρου και Παύλου και των Αποστόλων των γάμους προσομιλησάντων ουκ υπό προθυμίας της περί το πράγμα, αλλ' εν εννοίας αυτών του γένους έσχον εκείνους. Ignatius epistol. ad Philadelph. Et Clemens idem ait apud Eusebium Hist. Eccles. lib. 3. sed tamen eam non circunduxit sicut Petrus : probat autem ex Philip. 4.

The first miracle that ever. Jesus did, was to do honour to a wedding; marriage was in the world before sin, and is in all ages of the world the greatest and most effective antidote against sin, in which all the world had perished, if God had not made a remedy: and although sin hath soured marriage, and stuck the man's head with cares, and the woman's bed with sorrows in the production of children; yet these are but throes of life and glory, and “ she shall be saved in child-bearing, if she be found in faith and righteousness." Marriage is a school and exercise of virtue; and though marriage hath cares, yet the single life hath desires, which are more troublesome and more dangerous, and often end in sin, while the cares are but instances of duty and exercises of piety: and therefore, if single life hath more privacy of devotion, yet marriage hath more necessities and more variety of it, and is an exercise of more graces. In two virtues, celibate or single life may have the advantage of degrees ordinarily and commonly,—that is, in chastity and devotion : but as in some persons this may fail, and it does in very many, and a married man may spend as much time in devotion as any virgins or widows do; yet as in marriage even those virtues of chastity and devotion are exercised; so in other instances, this state hath proper exercises and trials for those graces, for which single life can never be crowned; here is the proper scene of piety and patience, of the duty of parents and the charity of relatives ;* here kindness is spread abroad, and love is united and made firm as a centre: marriage is the nursery of heaven; the virgin sends prayers to God, but she carries but one soul to him ; but the state of marriage fills up the numbers of the elect, and hath in it the labour of love, and the delicacies of friendship, the blessing of society, and the union of hands and hearts; it hath in it less of beauty, but more of safety, than the single life; it hath more care, but less danger; it is more merry, and more sad; is fuller of sorrows, and fuller of joys; it lies under more burdens, but is supported by all the

Xρή της αιγένεως φύσεως αντέχεσθαι τα παϊδας παίδων καταλείποντι αεί τώ θεω υπηρέτας ανθ' αυτού παραδιδόναι. Plalo. .

Adde, quod Eunuchus nulla pietate movelur,
Nec generi natisve cavet : clementia cunctis
In similes, animosque ligant consortia damni.

Claudian. In Eutrop. i. 187.

strengths of love and charity, and those burdens are delightful. Marriage is the mother of the world,* and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities, and churches, and heaven itself. Celibate, like the fly in the heart of an apple, dwells in a perpetual sweetness, but sits alone, and is confined and dies in singularity ; but marriage, like the useful bee, builds a house and gathers sweetness from every flower, and labours and unites into societies and republics, and sends out colonies, and feeds the world with delicacies, and obeys their king, and keeps order, and exercises many virtues, and promotes the interest of mankind, and is that state of good things to which God hath designed the present constitution of the world.

Τούνεκεν ενθέσμως άλοχον λαβε, καί τινα κόσμο

Δος βροτών αντί σίθεν. φεύγε δε μαχλοσύνην. Β. Αn. 3. 93. Single life makes men in one instance to be like angels, but marriage in very many things makes the chaste pair to be like to Christ. “ This is a great mystery," but it is the symbolical and sacramental representation of the greatest mysteries of our religion. Christ descended from his Father's bosom, and contracted his divinity with flesh and blood, and married our nature, and we became a church, the spouse of the Bridegroom, which he cleansed with his blood, and gave her his Holy Spirit for a dowry, and heaven for a jointure; begetting children unto God by the Gospel. This spouse he hath joined to himself by an excellent charity, he feeds her at his own table, and lodges her nigh his own heart, provides for all her necessities, relieves her sorrows, deter-mines her doubts, guides her wanderings, he is become her head, and she as a signet upon his right hand; he first indeed was betrothed to the synagogue and had many children by her, but she forsook her love, and then he married the church of the Gentiles, and by her as by a second venter had a more numerous issue, "atque una domus est omnium filiorum ejus,” 66 all the children dwell in the same house,” and are heirs of the same promises, entitled to the same inheritance. Here is the eternal conjunction, the indissoluble knot, the exceed

Καλά τα παρθενίης κειμήλια παρθενίη δε

Τον βιον ώλεσεν άν, πάσι φυλαττομένη. Βrunck. Αn. 3. 93. Siquis patriam majorem parentem extinguit, in eo culpa est, quod facit pro sua parte qui se eunuchat aut aliqua liberos producit, i. e. differt eorum procreationem. Varro in • lege Mænia.'

« PreviousContinue »