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of the objects of their common faith, the importance of their nuptial union with respect to them, joined to a mutual desire of obtaining salvation, will not suffer that stagnation to take place in the married state, in which otherwise it is so frequently found to settle.
Further : Strife and contention first cool, and then destroy all conjugal affection. But the devout exercises in which the faithful in Christ Jesus are employed, are of great efficacy to prevent variance; or when in any measure it happens, to heal it. For when they appear before God, seeing and lamenting their own defects, renouncing themselves, and praying that their repeated offences may not be imputed to them, but rernitted for the sake of Jesus, how
easy will they find it to confess their own proneness to passion, to make merciful allowances for each other, and to divide the blame instead of imputing it wholly to one side, after the manner of pride and self-sufficiency! by these concessions the contention will cease, and the quarrel end in a mutual self-condemnation, and in earnest desire of greater vigilance against any disagreement for the future.
Though the height and ardour therefore of natural love, which usually precedes the nuptial union, and flourishes after it for a time, may wear off and subside; husbands and wives, who are united in Christian knowledge and principles, may be certain that a solid tender affection will ever remain; an affection far more exalted, sufficient to produce all the happiness the marriage state was intended to afford, and ripening more and more as they grow in grace
divine attainment. Besides mutual fidelity and love, which are branches of duty common to both parties in the married state, there are some also peculiar to the husband, others to the wife; and the conscientious discharge of these respectively, will be regarded as matter of strict duty by the faithful in Christ Jesus.
The peculiar province of the husband is to govern. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church,” Ephes. v. 23. Therefore, when the husband ceases to preside, giving up without just reason the authority to the wife, he transgresses no less than an officer in an army would do, who surrenders
his command to the importunity and ambition of an inferior. But then, as the head has no interest of its own, distinct from the rest of the body, nor any advantage over the other parts (unless the care of directing and providing for them be deemed an advantage) so the husband has no interest separate from his wife, nor any private advantage flowing from his superiority. For the authority entrusted with the husband by almighty God is designed for the direction, the preservation, and well-being of the wife, and therefore can never be exercised by any husband, who fears God, but with this view, and to this excellent end: not with such arbitrary power as men rule their slaves, but with such a benign influence as the soul exerts over the body, presiding over and governing it; for the command, in the Christian rule of conduct, is, hat “ husbands dwell with their wives according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel," 1 Pet. iii. 7; that is, making the superiority which God hath ordained and given them, a reason, not of insolence and abuse, but of indulgent tenderness. So that the authority lodged in the husband, by being managed with propriety, instead of proving a galling yoke to the wife, shall be found a real source of greater ease and happiness to both.
Another peculiar branch of the husband's duty to his wife, is to provide her with all things necessary, convenient, and comfortable, according to his own rank and condition of life. He must express an alacrity in letting her share in all the advantages he possesses, and by evident marks of joy convince her, that he takes pleasure in seeing her use, within the limits which God has prescribed, all the worldly accommodations he enjoys. And though conjugal affection renders any command for the husband to communicate in his joys with his wife less needful, it is still necessarily included in that sacred injunction, “So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself, for no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it." Ephes. v. 28, 29.
The peculiar duty of the Christian wife, and which for conscience towards God she will observe, is to give aid and comfort to her husband in the midst of his business and labour. The good management of a family is a thing quite different from making a provision for the support of
The former, in general, depends chiefly on the wife; the latter is the husband's province. In this manner the labour of life is divided, and if either neglect their respective duty, much confusion may be expected, which it was one design of the nuptial union to prevent. A Christian wife therefore, instead of affecting to be above the care of a family, as if she was only made to dress, visit, and be admired, like a statue or a picture, for her shape or face, will look well to the ways of her household, and eat not the bread of idleness. Thus will she give her husband a solid testimony of her regard for him, by being careful to see that the fruit of his labour, or his income, is not wasted through extravagance, or consumed for want of female inspection and order at home.
A second instance of duty peculiar to the wife, is obedience to the will of her husband. When Eve, the mother of the human race, sinned through a vain desire of knowledge, the most holy God was pleased to punish that vanity with a disappointment of the very end at which it aimed, by making that desire of pre-eminence a reason of her subjection. It pleased God therefore to declare that from thence forward her desires should be referred to the will of her husband, either to reject or comply with them in things lawful, as he thought proper: "And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee,” Gen. iii. 16.
It is therefore nothing less than an open resistance of the ordinance of God; it is nothing less than a proud self-exalting contempt of the word of God, in a wife to affect to rule, or to refuse to submit to the authority of her husband. For this submission is ordained of God, even from the fall of man; and is confirmed again by the command of the inspired apostle, that “ As the church is subject to Christ;" acknowledging his power, and submitting to his authority, though contrary to natural inclination: “so let the wives be to their own husbands, in every thing,” Eph. v. 14. The plain meaning must be, that in every instance where the command of the husband does not interfere with duty to God, the wife is obliged to comply, and give up her own will without murmuring.
If it be urged, that the wife has frequently more understanding and ability to govern than the husband, and therefore on this account may think herself excused from paying obedience and living in subjection, the answer is obvious: she has liberty to use her superior wisdom in giving counsel, in producing such strong reasons as are proper to correct a mistaken judgment, and persuade to a change of sentiment or conduct. But if the force of her persuasions prove ineffectual, subjection is her wisely appointed duty. Indeed, if more than the liberty to advise were allowed on account of greater talents, it must follow that authority is founded on the superiority of intellectual endowments; a notion big with confusion and ruin to society. For suppose a servant endued with more capacity and grace too (as often is the case) than his master; still how insolent, how insupportable would it appear, should this be urged as a reason for his refusing to be under the control, to which it was indisputably his duty to submit; indisputably his duty, because though allowed to be superior in understanding, he is inferior in station. To attempt therefore to gain the place of authority, or contend for it on account of gifts and parts, is to abuse them to the subverting that order, which the sovereign Giver of them has himself established. The Christian rule is positive against such usurpation. It speaks thus: “Let the wife see that she reverence her husband;" that is, in opposition to the violent pride and selfishness of human nature, let her with carefulness watch her own heart that she may not be found wanting in submission to him; for if she is, her deportment is most unbecoming a woman professing godliness. Let her look through her husband to God, the author of the marriage union, and habitually call to mind the holy appointment so plainly made known in his word.
It is a case which too frequently happens, that one party is brought to the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus, whilst the other remains in natural unbelief and bitter prejudice against the power of godliness. Here much of the comfort of the nuptial union must be prevented : here, instead of animating and assisting each other in their best interests, the believing husband or wife will find a severe cross in the vain company, the foolish discourse, the favourite pleasures, and the low pursuits, in which alone the unconverted party can delight. Yet in these trying circumstances, the power of the christian faith will display itself to great advantage. It will produce a persevering meekness, and patient waiting in love, if God, peradventure, shall give repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth. It will excite to greater circumspection in adorning the Gospel, so that the mind disaffected to God and his great salvation may be won over “even without the word.” It will provoke to earnest intercession with God to crown his loving-kindness by making those who are already united by the marriage tie, one spirit in the Lord. *
THE DUTY OF PARENTS TOWARDS THEIR CHILDREN.
The nearest connection in life after the nuptial union is that which subsists between parents and their children. From this connection arise various duties, both of a temporal and a spiritual kind, to the discharge of which every christian will conscientiously attend.
I. It is a duty all parents owe their children to accustom them to an early habit of industry; and to inspire them with a contempt and abhorrence of idleness, as the great corrupter of the human mind and inlet to every vice. The poor must strongly insist upon their children's giving themselves diligently to work, not only as necessary to procure themselves bread, but as the means of preventing temptations to pilfering and theft, and keeping them from infamy and the gallows. The children of the rich stand in no less need of being excited to industrious application of their time and talents. From their earliest years they should hear that neither wealth nor a large estate, nor even nobility of birth, can preserve them from being despicable, and noxious to society, if they take no pains to acquire what will improve the mind, and give them ability to perform their duty; that without love of
* See Prayer the 11th.