« PreviousContinue »
to remark, that he who would pull another out of a pit, had need stand firm or he may be pulled in. We have. already mentioned Solomon. Whether Solomon hoped to bring over Pharoah's daughter to worship the true God we know not, but we do know that she brought bim over to worship a false one.-But we have now to do only with the apprehension and impression of this truth. Is it consistent with humility to suppose that you can stand where others, and some of them far superior to yourselves, have fallen ? Is it consistent with, a proper sense of your own weakness to rush into extreme perils, confidenț, not only that you shall be secure there, but even do good? The very imagination fore. bodes ill. It looks like the pride that goes before destruction, and the haughty spirit that precedes a fall. Indeed it is righteous in God to suffer us to fall when disobeying his command we renounce his protection, and venture to proceed without him.
Again. As you conclude that your companion being ungodly will not be able to make you irreligious—what authorizes you to think that your being godly will be able to make him religious ? Surely out of your own mouth you are condemned; for the very principle upon which you proceed with regard to yourself should reduce the confidence you indulge with regard to him.If
you have no fear that he can impress and influence you, you should have no hope that you can impress and influence him. If you believe that your love to him will not alter you, you ought not to believe that his love to you will alter him.
And do you consider what human nature is? Do you consider what real religion is? If so, surely you would
not think so lightly of accomplishing the conversion of a soul as you now seem to do. If the process be so easy, why are so few converted at all? Why do not all those who have dear connexions convert those whom they love and by whom they are beloved ?
But you say, You do not expect the result independent of God's influence and blessing-But is not he able to convert them? He is. And we have reason to believe he has in some cases employed his power.
For we cannot go the length of Dr. Doddridge, who has remarked, that where christians have knowingly espoused irreligious characters he never knew an instance of the conversion of one of them afterwards. But I ask, would
take up an affair so important on a ground so slender ?-On a mere possibility ?-For probability there is none. You would not like to marry a condemned criminal, because he may be pardoned or reprieved. God can make a beggar a gentleman, and yet I presume you would not like to take him on this presumption ; you would rather reckon certainly upon a little wealth. Why then inarry an unconverted sinner, because God may, because God can, call him by his grace?
Besides : If the acceptance and success of all our en. deavours depend wholly upon his favour-Can it be a rational way to attain our wishes, to slight his authority, and to provoke his anger by disobedience ?
But, to conclude. Even if God should over-rule such a connexion for good, you will remember that this is his work, and the glory belongs to him. It does not prove that you have done right; nor can it free the mind from distress in review. For you cannot be so ignorant as not to be able to distinguish between your
unrighteousness, and the divine goodness that has thus blessed you, notwithstanding all your
In what cases this Law is not broken, though both the Para
ties be not religious.
WE have thus endeavoured, by placing the subject in various points of light, to prove, that christians in the business of marriage ought to confine their choice to pious character only. But to relieve the minds of some who deserve pity rather than censure, let me remark two or three instances in which the rule laid down is not transgressed.
First. It sometimes happens that both parties are ig. norant of divine things at the time of marriage, and one is called afterward. When this is the case, the blame does not attach. But the individual renewed by divine grace, now feels pains and anxieties, to which he was before a stranger. It is the nature of grace to excite, with a concern for our own welfare, a concern for the salvation of others, especially of those to whom we are tenderly connected by blood, friendship, or affinity. How can I endure the thought of being sever. ed for ever from her in whom my happiness is so much bound up ?—“ How can I bear,” will such an Esther say, “to see the destruction of my kindred ?"-She will therefore
pray, and use every persuasive method to allure. She will endeavour to render her religion love. ly and attractive. It is what the scripture enjoins. “ Ye wives be in subjection to your own husbands that if any obey not the word, they may without the word
“ be won by the good conversation of the wives: while
they behold your chastè conversation coupled with 's fear.” And for the consolation of such, be it remembered that after a trial, and perhaps a long one, of their faith and patience, God has frequently heard their petitions, and succeeded their endeavours. After
performing religious exercises alone, they have gone to the house of God in company; and have walked together as heirs of the grace of life.
Secondly. Persons may be mistaken after due examination. Every thing admits of counterfeit. There is a specious imitation of every christian grace as well as of every moral virtue. But we are not accountable for our inability to read the heart. This is the prerogative of God only. “By their fruits we are to know them.” If the profession be fair, and the life blameless, there is no objection upon this ground to hinder choice.
Thirdly. There is another case which perhaps to some will not carry the same force of conviction. Yet we do not express ourselves without due deliberation and council.-It is this. Two individuals, both, at the time of promise, destitute of religion, may solemnly pledge themselves to each other, and before the actual accomplishment of the covenant engagement, one of them may become pious-We will suppose it to be the man--In this case we affirm that he would not be at liberty to violate his promise, under the pretence of looking out for a character congenial with his present views. If some contend that marriage be nothing more than a civil contract, all must allow that it is nothing -less : and not to observe the coersion of the case-not to observe that the law could enforce the claim; the in
sufficiency of justifying a civil offence by a religious reason; and the ridiculousness of the attempt--what a dishonour would be done to the cause of the gospel by such prevaricating morality ?-For such it must appear to the world. Whereas we are to “have our conversation honest among the Gentiles :" we are not to suf. fer our “good” to be “evil spoken of :" we are to “ avoid the very appearance of evil-Such is the holy delicacy of the gospel !
This seems to be one of those cases in which a good man “sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not.” And trying as the-scene may be, if by the consent of the other party he be not honorably disengaged, we should advise him to a plain, strait-forward policy; and to expect that in a combination of circumstances so peculiarly providential, all will be over-ruled for good, either by way of usefulness or trial.
And if even this solemn consideration be not sufficient to discharge a man honourably from one to whom he has contracted himself—Will any thing else? Can any thing else? What! is he to trifle with a sacred engagement, and to wound the affections, the respecta. bility, the health the peace of a female l-because another object comes in view subsequently, in his opinion, more eligible for person, for fortune, for address?!! If a man wished to sink the honor of religion, and to dis. grace the value of the christian-how much more should it ever be the ministerial character! he could not take a step that would more affectually accomplish his purpose.