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would render her life extremely wretched. To prevent these evils, Moses prudently permitted, not commanded, a separation of the parties. This was the best law which could be made for men in their circumstances; but it was not the best which civil society admitted, nor that which God designed from the beginning.--This permission, therefore, did not exempt those from guilt who had recourse to it. 9. And I
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
It is to be remembered that Christ is not here laying down civil laws for public communities: these he left every state to settle for itself, as it might think
proper; but he is delivering precepts which are to bind the consciences of his followers. He decides in favour of those Jewish doctors who thought that a man was not to put away his wife, except for the cause of adultery; although he admits that Moses permitted it in other cases. To divorce a wife for any other reason, was to cause her to commit adultery; by which Christ means that a man, by branding her with the ignominy of a divorce, would prevent her from marrying another husband, and induce her, after losing the hope of honourable marriage, to seek some irregular connection, which is sometimes denominated by the word which we here render adultery. The guilt of such a criminal connection is to be imputed to the man by whom she is unjustly divorced; or, if she should have virtue enough to live soberly afterwards, yet the man who puts her away is justly chargeable with all the evil consequences which are likely to arise from his severity.
« And whoso marrieth her that is put away doth commit adultery.' This is to be understood of men who received those
who were divorced, for their wives, without taking any pains first to reconcile them to their former husbands; or of those who acted in a manner still more criminal, who instigated married women to behave in such a manner towards their husbands, as they knew would provoke a divorce, that they might have an opportunity of marrying them afterwards.
10. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
If a man is bound to his wife for life, and must bear with all the other defects and irregularities of her temper and conduct, except adultery, it is better not to marry.
11. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
None are capable of that, i. e. of abstaining from marriage, of which the disciples had just been speaking, except those whose natural constitution is so framed . by God, as to be able to bear this abstinence.
12. For there are some eunuchs which were so born from their mother's womb; and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
I find these two verses thus paraphrased. “What you propose, in order to avoid the inconveniences attending a marriage state, when there happens not to be a thorough good-liking between the parties, namely, not to marry at all, is more than can be expected of all persons, though it is so with respect to some: for some have little or no inclination to marriage, and therefore may be said, in a figurative sense, to be eunuchs from their mother's womb; as others are actually made eunuchs by the wanton cruelty of men; while others, like myself, will devote themselves to a single life, in order to be free from worldly incumbrances, and to devote themselves more entirely to the service of religion; which, though not generally adviseable, may be expedient in times of persecution.
In this case let every person act as he shall find himself able to do, and as he shall judge to be best upon the whole*.”
13. Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. Some persons, observing how effectual the
prayers of Christ were in curing all manner of diseases, thought they would have the same efficacy in preventing them, and therefore brought children to Jesus, that he might pray over them. Laying on of hands was a common ceremony among the Jews, whenever the divine blessing was implored for any person.
Thus we read that Jacob placed his hands upon the heads of Ephraim and Manassch, when he prayed that God would bless the lads. Gen. xlviii. 14. In the same manner Moses laid his hands upon Joshua, when he implored the divine blessing upon him as his successor. The conversation which the disciples were holding with their master concerning marriage was agreeable and interesting to them: it is not unlikely that they had some curious questions to propose to him in their minds; they were therefore displeased to find themselves thus unseasonably, as they imagined, interrupted.
14. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come
Dr. Priestley's Harmony, p. 159.
unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Of persons resembling these children in disposition, modest and easily receiving instruction, does my church, or kingdom in this world, consist. Children are not therefore to be treated with neglect; they possess many amiable qualities, which men must cultivate, if they wish to attain true excellence.
15. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
His laying on of his hands was the external sign that he secretly prayed over them.
1. If the marriage contract be indissoluble, except in the case of adultery, as there are many other circumstances which may render the continuance of it grievous, there are two duties which necessarily arise from this consideration. The first is caution in entering upon it, that men do not form alliances with those whose vices and irregularities of behaviour may render their lives wretched, and tempt them to repent of their engagements. The other is, to avoid every thing which may render those unhappy with whom they are associated: for this is to consult their own comfort, as well as that of their companions. Let nothing be done by either party, which may cause unnecessary pain, or create disgust; let there be a mutual endeavour to ease each other's burthens, and to comply with each other's wishes. If offences should arise, let them avoid harsh language, which stirs up passions and engenders strife; severe treatment, which discovers hardness of heart in the party which indulges in it, and alienates the affec
tions: let them not cherish resentment for supposed injuries or affronts, but discover a readiness to be reconciled, and to forgive. These are rules which it is the interest of each to observe: for whoever transgresses them will find that the evil he commits will return to him again; although they are two, they are but one flesh; their interests and their happiness are inseparable. “Husbands, then, love your wives, and be not bitter against them: let every one of you, in particular, so love his wife, even as himself: for so ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies: he that loveth his wife loveth himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it.” This is the advice and exhortation of one apostle upon this subject, and that of another is not unlike it; “husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge; giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life.” To the wives they both say, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as unto the Lord.”
The frequency of divorces among us, for the cause of adultery, discovers the depravity of our morals, and shows how lightly men think of the duties of this important relation.
The same observation may likewise he made upon the violent quarrels and implacable hatred which take place in other instances, where the connection is not dissolved. Christians should remember that whatever allowances may be made for Jews, under an imperfect dispensation of religion, the same indulgence will not be granted to them, who have been so much better instructed, when they come to give an account of their conduct at the last day.
2. The conduct of our Lord towards children is a proof of the benevolence of his temper, and of the excellence of human nature. Were this nature so depraved as some have represented it to be; were men born into the world under the wrath and curse of the Almighty, and liable to all the punishment of hell in the earliest period of life, Christ would not have entertained so favourable an opinion of children, nor have behaved towards them with so much attention: he would