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SERMON CXIX.

THE LAW OF GOD.

THE DECALOGUE,

SEVENTH COMMANDMENT.

THE ORIGIN, NATURE, AND BENEFITS OF MARRIAGE.

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.

EXODUS XX, 14.

BEFORE I enter upon the direct consideration of the precept in the text, it will be useful, for the purpose of illustrating and enforcing it, to examine the nature of marriage. The sin immediately forbidden in the text derives, in some respects, its existence from this institution ; and is in all respects intimately connected with it, in whatever manner or degree the sin may exist. Such an examination also derives particular importance from the fact, that it has been rarely made in the desk. Indeed, I do not know where it has been made in such a manner as to satisfy my own wishes.

In discussing this Subject I shall consider,
I. The origin.
II. The nature.
IIT. The benefits of marriage.

I. The origin of marriage is from God. In other words, Marriage is a Divine institution.

The proof of this position is complete in the following passage. Matt. xix. 3—6: · The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered, aud said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning, made them male and female ; and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife : and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore, they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let po man put asunder,

In this passage of Scripture our Saviour declares, that when God bad created man male and female, he said, · For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife ; and they twain shall be one flesh. These, it is ever to be remembered, are the words of God himself, as they are here declared to be by Christ; and not, as they have often been erroneously supposed to be, the words of Adam. God made man male and female for this end, and in these words delivered his own ordinance to mankind ; at once permitting and directing that a man henceforth should leave his father and mother, and that lawfully, notwithstanding his high and otherwise indissoluble obligations to them, and be united to his wife. Accordingly, he declares them henceforth to be no more twain, but one.'

That these words contain an institution of God, and that this institution is marriage, cannot be doubted for a moment. The only question which can be asked concerning the subject is, for whom was this institution designed? Plainly it was not designed for Adam and Eve; for they had neither father nor mother, and were therefore not included in the terms of the Ordinance; and, being already married by God bimself, were necessarily excluded from any ordinance succeeding that event. The ordinance then respected their posterity only; and, as it is delivered in absolutely indifferent terms, terms unrestricted to any individuals, or collections of mankind, it respected all their posterity alike.

In this manner it is directly explained by our Saviour, in the passage quoted above. The Pharisees asked him, whether it was lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?' Christ replies, that in consequence of this institution,

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a man and his wife are no more twain, but one; that is, a man and his wife, at the time in which he was speaking, and from the time when this ordinance was made, are no more twain, but, from the day of their marriage, are by this ordinance constituted one. Accordingly, he subjoins, What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.' As if he said, “ God hath joined together by this ordinance all men and women who are lawfully married ; or, in other words, every lawfully married pair. Man, therefore, cannot lawfully disjoin them.” Here it is evident, beyond a debate, that our Saviour pronounced men to be married, or joined together, at the time when he made these declarations, by God himself in this ordinance. Of course, the ordinance extends to all lawfully married persons.

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II. The nature of marriage may be explained in the following manner: Marriage is an union between two persons of the different

It is carefully to be remembered, that the ordinance of God, which gave birth to it, limits the union to two. God said, . For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife;' not, Men shall leave their fathers and mothers, and shall cleave unto their wife; nor, A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wives, and they twain shall be one: Not, they, indefinitely, without declaring how many ; nor, they three, four, or five ; but they twain.' The ordinance therefore, on which alone marriage is lawfully founded, limits this union, in the most express and definite manner, to two persons. What God has thus established, man cannot alter.

It is the most intimate union which exists in the present world. The persons who are thus united are joined together in a more intimate relation than any other which exists, or can exist, among mankind. No attachment is so strong, no tenderness is so great, as that which is originated and cherished by this institution. This is directly predicted, and very forcibly declared, in the passage which I have quoted from St. Matthew. For this caus shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one. Accordingly, the union of affections, interests, labours, and life here existing, has no parallel in the present world.

It is also a perpetual union. The connection is entered into by both parties for life. God has constituted it, by joining the parties with his own infinite authority ; and has forbidden man to put them asunder. It is indissoluble therefore on any ground but that of crime; a crime of one kind only, and in its nature fatal to all the blessings and hopes intended by the institution.

It is an union also formed by a most solemn covenant. In this covenant God is appealed to, as a witness of the sincere affection and upright designs of the parties; both of whom engage mutually the exercise of those affections, and the pursuit of that conduct, which together are the most efficacious means of their mutual happiness. This covenant plainly approaches very near to the solemnity and obligation of an Oath ; and, exclusively of that in which man gives himself up to God, is, without a doubt, the most solemn and the most important ever entered into by man. When the duties of it are faithfully performed, they furnish a fair foundation for the best hopes that the union will be immortal.

III. The benefits of this institution are incalculably numerous, and inestimably important.

This truth is clearly evident from the observations already made, concerning the origin and nature of marriage. It is also forcibly evinced by the manner in which the subject is elsewhere exhibited in the Scriptures.

The violation of the marriage covenant was of such consequence in the view of the Divine mind, that it was made the subject of one of the commands in the Decalogue.

In the laws concerning this subject given to the Israelites, curses were pronounced in form against the direct violations of the marriage vow, and the violators were punished with death.

Of adalterers, and all other transgressors of the seventh command, it is declared, in the New Testament, that they * shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.'- None of those who go in to the strange woman,' says Solomon, ' turn again; neither take they hold of the paths of life.'

The relation between Christ and his church is throughout the Scriptures exhibited as a marriage. God says to his church, Thy Maker is thy husband : Jehovah of Hosts is his name.' The angel in the Revelation styles the church, the bride, the Lamb's wife.'

From these and other similar exhibitions of this subject in the Scriptures, it must necessarily be supposed, that God regarded marriage as pre-eminently important and beneficial to mankind.

The benefits of marriage, however, like those of every other practical concern, are chiefly to be learned from facts. I shall therefore apply directly to that extensive source of information; and exhibit, with a brief survey, such of these benefits, unfolded by human experience, as the present opportunity will permit.

1. Marriage is extensively the means of comfort to the married pair.

This was originally proposed by God as an important end of the institution. And the Lord God said, It is not good, that the man should be alone: I will make him an help mect for him.' Accordingly, this end has been regularly accomplished from the beginning.

Licentious men, both of ancient and modern times, have carried on a course of open and incessant hostility against this institution ; as they have, indeed, against all the real interests of mankind. In the progress of this warfare, they have ar. raigned the wisdom, and denied the benefits of it; charged upon it evils which it does not produce, and enhanced those which are ivcident to the marriage state. The unhappy marriages which have been contracted in violation of the law of our nature and of the Scriptures, comparatively few in number, and only exceptions to the general truth under discussion, they have multiplied without consideration, or integrity; and bave brought them up to public view as just exhibitions of the marriage state in general. In a word, they have treated this subject as they customarily treat others of a serious nature ; they have misstated facts, they have sophisticated arguments, and, where neither would answer their purpose, they have endeavoured to accomplish it by contempt, sneers, and ridicule.

This conduct, censurable and mischievous as it is, is perhaps not to be wondered at in men of such a character. But it is to be wondered at ; that men of a far better character should have followed their steps. A man of even moderate reflection

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