« AnteriorContinuar »
duced into the world, which were connived at, even under the theocracy. At length Moses himself, “because of the hardness of their hearts, suffered them to put away their wives, but from the beginning it was not so."* But however the stubborn, passionate, and licentious tempers of these persons might have rendered such a step expedient, or even necessary, to prevent more dreadful evils, which they were quite capable of committing, yet Jehovah himself bore his testimony against it in the days of Malachi. “ And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously; yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? yet had he the residue of the spirit: and wherefore one? that he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith, that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts : therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”+ Now from hence it appears, that while the gross sensuality of the Jews required such a permissive measure, yet that whenever they divorced their wives, unless in case of adultery, they violated the original design of the marriage covenant, and were heinously guilty in the sight of God. The text is a powerful confirmation of this truth; and declares, that whatever might have been done to accommodate the wicked passions of these carnal men; yet as
unlimited divorce was never permitted “ at the beginning," so neither will the Saviour allow it under the gospel. “It hath been said, whosoever putteth away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.”* But you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commiteth adultery.”
The appointment of divorce, when the marriage vow was evidently broken, was a wise and merciful design. It was eminently calculated to prevent the commission of the prohibited sin; and, by the public repudiation of the guilty party, to preserve the honour and chastity of the marriage life. But where the separation was made from some cause of dislike, or from an improper attachment to another woman, it became a dreadful sin, inasmuch as it exposed the divorced party to the temptation of adultery; and whenever she married again, the person who married her became an adulterer also. The husband, however, who first put her away, brought all the consequence which followed the divorce upon himself. And this is the point of my text. A faithful adherence to the original law will be the most effectual means, under the divine blessing, of securing the purity, and preserving the peace, of all parties.
But the individual who shall wantonly violate this law, adopts a course which the text condemns, and subjects both himself and others to the tremendous consequences annexed to the violation. And this will lead us to consider,
III. THE MOTIVE which OUR LORD INTRODUCES FOR THE ADOPTION OF THESE MEANS. “IT IS PRO
* Deut. xxiv. 1.
FITABLE FOR THEE THAT ONE OF THY MEMBERS SHOULD PERISH, AND NOT THAT THY WHOLE BODY SHOULD BE CAST INTO HELL."
Now, from hence it appears, that the alternative is clear and decisive. The flesh must be “crucified with its affections and lusts," or there is no salvation. It is not indeed said that unless this cause of self-denial be adopted, and the right eye or right hand be destroyed, there cannot be any happiness in another state; nor is it affirmed that the sin here condemned will lead to inevitable perdition; but the fact is assumed, that the body, which has been the instrument of sin, shall inevitably suffer all the anguish of unquenchable fire, unless its passions be subdued. The drift of our Lord's argument, therefore, amounts to this, that we must either give up our sinful pleasures, or give up heaven. There is no neuter ground; no middle path. On the one hand, you have present delight, if such the drudgery of licentiousness may be designated, and hell at last as your eternal portion; and, on the other, you have the sacrifice of all the irregular desires, and impure affections, which are too ready to spring up in the corrupt soil of our degenerate nature, and heaven as the blissful consequence in the end. . Between these two you are to choose; I have no other choice to offer you.
The testimony of an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ confirms the statement: “ If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."*
I have now done with the exposition of the text; and what remains is, that I make some application of this subject. You will, my hearers, allow me to speak freely unto you, as in the sight of God. Although I know no individual of the present congregation whose morals are tainted according to the signification commonly attached to the phrase; yet the Searcher of all hearts knows the most secret and hidden transaction, and will finally bring to light all the deeds of darkness and crime. Suffer, therefore, the word of exhortation, and receive the fraternal counsel, which I proceed to give you.
* Rom. viii. 13.
First. Consider the dreadful evil of this crime. Many of you are in connected life-husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. You are, therefore, bound by every tie of covenant and humanity, “to keep yourselves unspotted from the world.” For you to be guilty, would be to commit a species of perjury the most awful. You have sworn at the altar of God, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” that you would “ forsake all others, and cleave to one another, until death should part you.” And what guilt is contracted by the infraction of such a solemn oath! Think, also, on the distress and disgrace, the poverty and ruin, which it will, in all probability, bring on the dear children whom God has given you. Think, also, on the scandal which it will entail on your name. And forget not the low and grovelling appetites which you hereby seek to sustain. And then the dying hour! The day of judgment! The inevitable doom! Ah! if there be one dungeon deeper, or one chain heavier, in hell, than another, that dungeon, and that chain, are reserved for seducers, fornicators, adulterers, and adulteresses. The righteous God places these crimes on a level with murder, as you will read in the twenty-third chapter of Ezekiel. O young man, young woman, “keep thyself pure. Beware of the seducers' arts, however specious and flattering they may seem; and the more fascinating—the more deceitful they will prove. Consider that the happiness of two immortal beings are at
* I Tim. v. 22.
stake. Have no unguarded hours ; watch against all surprise; cherish the pure and unadulterated stream of tender affection, but restrain its e.rcess.
Secondly. This subject has a strong claim on the attention of parents and guardians. How awful is your responsibility in this respect! I stand not here to deal forth reproach; but I will express my conviction, that this great truth—the sin of uncleanness, is not instilled into the minds of youth so carefully as it ought. Nor do I think that young people are so cautiously preserved from the contamination, which will inevitably arise from evil company, as it is desirable they should.
And here permit me to remark one thing, that has frequently supplied me with an enigma which I cannot explain. On what principle is it that many virtuous females, especially in the higher ranks of life, will pour forth their unqualified censure on the unhappy creatures of their own sex, who have fallen by the villainous arts of the seducer; and while they would shun the society of every female, on whose morality the breath of suspicion has lighted, as they would the venomous fangs of a serpent, yet that they can appear in places of public amusement and fashion with the very men whose characters are notorious for this abomination ? Do they suppose that what is vice in one party is virtue in the other? Or is it because they imagine that these miserable beings are rather the seducers than the seduced? But the case is not confined to this sex ; it is true of both. Condemned and deserted, as the victims of animal passion are, by the very men who have effected their ruin; yet these men retain their standing in society just the same as if they were models of virtue, and perhaps stand higher than if they were! Surely this cannot be common justice,—the injured party is despised; the miscreant who has robbed her of all she possessed is caressed! Well, the day ad