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and he will direct thy paths.” Prov. iii. 6. * Be careful for nothing but in every thing by prayer and supplication, make known your requests unto God.” Phil. iv. 6. " A prudent wife," and by inference a prudent husband also,“ is from the Lord.” Prov. xix. 14. Why then not make this request known unto God? If you will not, you slight the gift and despise the Giver. You implicitly declare, that you will not have God either by his word or his providence, to interfere in your marriage. But whether you will or not, reason accords with this inspired direction. For there is nothing which the inexperienced are more ready to do, than to take appearance for reality, and in spite of all your sagacious scrutiny it may, in this case, deceive you; and then, how mortified and miserable must you feel through life! Is it not then wise to implore the counsel of him who perfectly sees the real characters of men and women, under all their fair but deceitful coverings? Is not the prayer of Abraham's servant, and the answer he immediately received, left on record for your learning? and what can you learn from it, if not that the affair of marriage is an affair every way proper to be carried to a throne of grace?Were professors of religion more faithful and conscientious in paying this tythe of commanded duty unto God, they would, oftener than they do, receive in the person of their choice, his most abundant blessing. If they unjustly withhold it, he justly withholds his blessing. And this, I doubt not, is the invisible cause, why the respectful addresses of some, meet a mortifying repulse—why the sanguine and perhaps reasonable hopes of others, meet an unexpected and bitter disappointment-why many, even of the saints, are permitted to succeed in doing in one hour what costs them afterwards bitter sorrow and repentance till they find relief in the grave. This.is, I doubt not, the reason why some are left to fall into the grossest sins, and others are cursed with the greatest miseries—why cruel death cuts short the most promising courtship, or snatches the bride from the altar, or even tears them asunder after the happy union has been consummated: and why the love and harmony which at first promised fair to ensure happiness unruffled to the end, give place to strife and hatred, which bring forth misery, confusion, and every evil work! Some would be willing in this case to act towards God as they do towards their parents; they would ask his counsel, after the matter is all settled in their minds, and steps perhaps are taken which honour and fidelity forbid them to retrace. That is, they first disobey his command and infringe his prerogative and then ask him to approve of it!! a vile mockery! a daring insult!
Farther, you are not to think that prayer supercedes the exercise of your own judgment and prudence in the case. It is as much your duty to employ these, as if all depended on them. It is in the exercise of these you are to expect God's direction. And there are many things that require to be weighed in the balance and compared together. Unity and harmony is the point to be gained. The person whose qualities with yours will produce these, is the person that should be sought. The temper, manners, education, talents, predilections, sentiments, avocation and circumstances in life, have all to be considered before you can hope to make a discreet choice. But you must not mistake my meaning, I do not intend that you should direct your attention exclusively to find out your neighbour's character; first and chiefly endeavour to find out your own.
To ascertain this with precision, is by far the most difficult part of the task you have to perform. If through the influence of begun attachment you are in danger of judging too favourably of your neighbour's qualifications, you are in much greater danger of over rating your own. Your good qualities lie on the surface and meet your eye at once, your bad ones lie concealed and elude your search. Many take their own qualifications for granted without any inquiry at all. To speak of their having any deficiencies or extravagancies, is to affront them. Yet that every one has more bad qualities than good, is certain. Without forming a candid judgment of your own character, you are exceedingly liable to be disappointed and to throw the whole blame on your partner, when perhaps with more justice it may be laid upon yourself.
Without accurately ascertaining your own deficiencies you cannot be happy in yourself or just to your partner; because, you will expect too much, you will be proud, a word out of place will be ready to offend you; you will not stoop to a reconciliation or forgiveness even to the person whom you profess (but in this case hypocritically) to love above all the rest of the world. Therefore, if you would choose wisely or be happy in your choice, Know yourself. And to obtain this knowledge you must go again to the sacred volume, and to the throne of grace, and seek from
" Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” 2 Cor. vi. 15, 16. To the same purpose he reasons in the first epistle. “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What! know ye not that he that is joined to a harlot is one body? for two saith he shall be one fesh. But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” 2 Cor. vi. 16. For the same reason he restricts christian widows. “ 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.” chap. vii. 39. The law which was given to ancient Israel stands in full force. “ Neither shalt thou make marriages with them. Thy daughter shalt thou not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy
For they will turn away thy son from following me that they may serve other Gods.” Deut. vii. 3, 4. The reason subjoined to this precept shows that it belongs to the moral law and is therefore still binding. Unless you be both children of God, you cannot comply with the precept frequently given, “wives submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord.”_"Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himselffor it,” &c. Eph.v. 22--25. Mere submission on the one side and natural affection on the other, is not enough. There must be a respect to the authority of this precept and this example, which all but the real believer are incapable of giving. It is therefore perfectly manifest that if you go by the rule of Scripture, you will, with your knowledge, be joined to none who are not children of God. But it is objected,
we may be the means of their salvation." I answer it is far more likely that they will be the means of your apostacy and ruin. “For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other Gods.” Of this, the apostacy of the antedeluvians, of Ishmael, of Esau, and of Solomon with all his wisdom, are monuments for all generations to consider to the end of time. When the Apostles say, “ For what knowest thou O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband, or what knowest thou O man whether thou shalt save thy wife.” 1 Cor. vii. 16.---And “ that if any obey not the word they may without the word, be won by the conversation of their wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” 1 Pet, iii. 12.-They speak to those who were converted after
marriage or at least after espousals. But that is not supposed to be your case. I would ask you who make this objection? Is a hope of being the means of their conversion one of your motives? If it is not, you are making a hypocritical pretence to cover some antiscriptural predilection, and have just ground to expect that in some way or other a righteous God will punish you for it. If it is, I ask, what is your hope founded on? Is it on any thing God has promised to do in such a case? It cannot be, for he has commanded you not to place yourselves in such a case. How then dare you seek the aids of God's Holy Spirit to bless your endeavours? and what can you do without them? Have you seriously considered the matter whether you are able to withstand what even Solomon could not withstand? Can your influence achieve what the most perfect example and painful instruction, what the most powerful eloquence, the most stupendous miracles, what the most tremendous judgments, what neither the joys of heaven, nor the terrors of hell can accomplish? Have you considered your own weakness, ignorance, carnal minđedness, and unbelief, and the slight temptations before which you have already fallen? It is impossible. This must be your presumption,
infatuation. But still you say it is possible. True, all things are possible with God. He can preserve you from apostacy and make you instrumental in converting a soul. But is that enough? It is possible for him to preserve you unhurt in the lion's den or in the midst of the burning fiery furnace, do you consider that sufficient to warrant you to venture in? It is possible for a man to walk along a precipice without falling, ought he therefore to leave the middle of the road? God can preserve your soul safe though in the hands of the Devił, would you therefore be wise to keep his company? “It is possible," says a writer, “ for God to make a beggar a gentleman, or to bring it round that a criminal under sentence of death may be pardoned, would you therefore be willing to marry either? No, truly: and yet the hazard is infinitely greater in the case under consideration.
But the Scriptures demand an entire union in sentiments and -practice. It is not enough that both be considered, in the judgment of charity, to be Christians. They have duties to perform jointly, which require them to bring into operation definite and particular sentiments. If it shall please God to make them fruitful, they have children to instruct. And in this they have a joint interest. This appears from the duties of children. They are required “to honour father and mother.” Exod. xx. 12.They are here required to pay the same tribute of respect, or to perform the same duties to both parents. And as all their duties are here included, we infer that they are to listen to the instructions of both. The same inference is to be made, when they are commanded to obey their parents in the Lord,” and to obey them in all things.” Solomon says, “ train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. xxii. 6. As neither parent is particularized, we may fairly infer that both are intended. And this must appear from the very nature of the duty specified, which is one in which both parents must have a share. The same inference may be made from chap. xxix. 17.
6. Correct thy son and he shall give the rest;" as neither is mentioned both are bound to this duty. And that the mother is included, is certain from what is said in the 15th verse. " The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” What are we to gather from the frequent mention that is made of the mother's name at the end of the history of most of the kings of Israel and Judah; if not that she had a chief agency in forming that character which has just been described, and that therefore her well known character in some degree accounts for it? It is beyond a doubt that Timothy received his instruction at a very carly period from his mother, and perhaps his grand mother. That the father is charged with their insruction, none will doubt. To him, as to the head of the family, is the charge often immediately addressed. Therefore it is the duty of both.
The next thing is, what is to be the system of instruction? It cannot be doubted that “the way a child should go,” is the way laid down in the Bible. It is to remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” It is to "seek God early that he may
find him.” It is “the fear of God” which includes all that relates to the knowledge and practice of religion. Every thing connected with setting their “trust in God.” “I will open my mouth in a Parable, I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; showing to the generation to come, the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wondrous works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and a law in Israel which he commanded our fathers that they should make them known to their children, &c. that they might set their hope in God.” &c. Ps. lxxviii. 1-5—7. This extends it as far as the profession and practice of religion goes. Thus far are parents bound.” But how can they act thus, unless they
one heart, and one way?" It is not possible. And