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the pure, fresh, and serene joys of that garden, the scene of every beauty and the temple of God. In mercy it has been perpetuated to the present hour as a social blessing to soothe and sustain our nature amidst the depressing circumstances of our fallen state.
Jesus threw around this relationship a peculiar grandeur, He clothed it with sublimity; to His holy eye it was a holy thing. He ratified its contract, He guarded its obligations, He expounded its laws. He graced its celebration with His presence : the first miracle that His sacred hands performed was at a bridal feast. The apostles caught the idea of their master, and invested it with a mystic solemnity by representing it as a type of the substantial, invisible, and everlasting, union existing between Christ and His Church. It involves the most tender, close, and lasting ties that can unite human beings together in this life. “ Therefore shall a man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh." It combines the earthly interests, fortunes, and happiness of two, it may influence the eternal destinies of many. The interests of the parties united, the triumphs of truth and the upward progress of humanity are all dependent on the nuptial bond.
Marriage is the subject of the paragraph now under our notice : The subject is started by a question of the captious Pharisees, an artful question put for the express purpose of ensnaring the Heavenly Teacher. “ The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying, is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause ” ?
“It is probable,” says a modern expositor, “that the question which the carping Pharisees now put to Christ on the subject of marriage, was asked not for the sake of information, but to involve Jesus in difficulty." Two celebrated schools existed at this time among the Jews, called by the names of two great teachers, Hillel and Shammai, which held different views upon the dissolution of the marriage relation. That of Shammai contended that divorce was unlawful except in the single case of infidelity in the connexion, whilst
that of Hillel, more lax, permitted the union to be severed on any trivial ground, as that of dislike or discontent. (Deut. xxiv. 1.) The answer of Jesus, they supposed, could not be framed without exposing him to the odium of one or the other of these parties. But the usual wisdom of Jesus did not desert Him. He refers them beyond the quibbling and jargon of the schools to the authority of the great lawgiver, and the purpose of God who made the sexes, and instituted marriage as a connexion not to be dissolved for any slight cause. The Heavenly Teacher did what it would be well for all Christian teachers to do in such controverted points, ignore the disputations of men on the subject and appeal to the authority of God. The words of Christ lead us to notice, the prescribed limitation, the tender intimacy, the conditional dissolubility, and the optional formation of the marriage tie.
I. THE PRESCRIBED LIMITATION OF THE “ Have ye not read said Christ, " that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?" a reference which shows that marriage is the union of one to one of each sex. The marriage tie is to be restricted to one and no more on either side. That this is the case appears clear from the following considerations :-First: The numerical proportion of the two sexes which has existed through all ages, from the creation of the first pair to the present moment. Secondly : From the immense evils that have ever arisen, and, that in the nature of the case, must ever arise from polygamy. Thirdly : From the unequivocal teaching of the Bible on the subject. Paul states in the fewest words, and in the clearest manner, the doctrine of the Bible on the subject when he “ Let every man have his own wife, and every wife her own husband." Though polygamy was practised in patriarchal and Jewish times, it was never sanctioned by God, Wardlaw has clearly shown. *
See Wardlaw's Systematic Theology, vol. iii., where the whole question of marriage is discussed with great delicacy, intelligence, and thoroughness.
II. THE TENDER INTIMACY OF THE MARRIAGE TIE. this shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh.” The apostles take up the same idea of tender identification : "Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, and the wife see that she reverence her husband." “ Husbands love your wives and be not bitter against them.” “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord ; for the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the Head of the Church, and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be unto their own husbands in everything. Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify it and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word ; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing ; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 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 even as the Lord the Church. For we members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall be joined unto his wife and they both shall be one flesh.” Hear the statements of the Apostle Peter. husbands dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel. Ye wives be in subjection to your own husbands; that if any obey not the word they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives, while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” They are to be one, in interest, sympathy, and purpose. Such a union, of course, implies the existence of moral excellence on either side. For there can be no real union of soul without this.
III. THE CONDITIONAL DISSOLUBILITY OF THE MARRIAGE TIE. “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to
give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. “ And I
whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her that is put away, doth commit adultery.” Christ's remarks here on the dissolution of the marriage tie express two things :
First: The toleration of Moses on the subject; the license he granted in consequence of the hardness of the heart; see Exodus xxxiii. 3, 34 ; Deut. ix. 6, 31, 27; Isa. xlviii. 4; Ezek. ii. 4; Acts vii. 51 ; and :
Secondly: The justifiable ground of divorce. Milton, who regarded "fornication” here as expressive of any conduct as would be equally as offensive to either man or wife will not appear to be very far out of the
consider what the marriage tie really is. What is it?
Is it mere natural sympathy, that which has respect to the outward and external character ? Or, is it moral esteem, that which has respect to the inner being and spiritual attributes ? It is neither separately; it is both bined. Conjugal love is a compound of both. It is sinful, it is hazardous, alas ! it is common to enter into this relationship by the mere impulse of natural sympathy. When this element exists alone, the affection is fickle, turbulent, and confused ; but when associated in due proportion with moral esteem, love is firm, calm, and harmonious; storms may be without, but they will never reach the inner shore, they produce no ripple upon the deep and ever-rolling stream of domestic bliss. When alone, the connubial tie becomes a felt fetter, the home a prison, the only bond of union civil law; but, when combined with the other, the tie is no chain ; it is mightier than adamant, but finer than the finest web, too weak to fetter, but too strong to break. When alone, it is mortal, death dissolves the union and removes the parties far and for ever apart; but when com
bined with moral esteem, it constitutes a principle of unity more durable than that which binds planets to their centre, it will survive the grave and flourish in the eternal hereafter. If moral esteem be thus such an indispensable element in domestic blessedness on both sides, to promote it requires the promotion of excellence, virtue is its vital air ; and let me remind
you that the way to cultivate moral excellence is to believe the doctrine, cherish the spirit, and obey the precepts of Christ. The conclusion therefore is, that personal Christianity is essential to the welfare and design of conjugal life. It sanctifies, prospers, and immortalizes human friendship. This fact gives a moral splendor to the bridal day of Christians; they enter upon this the most intimate and endearing of relationships in the possession of an intelligent and vigorous Christianity. The power that unites their hearts together is composed of an indestructible element that issues from the Cross; an element that is to bind all holy souls in harmony for ever.
While I cannot better explain the question of divorce amongst the ancient Jews, than by quoting a very clear statement on the subject from Dr. Jahn's Biblical Antiquities as below,* I can only see the possibility of an essential dissolution, when the mutual moral esteem is departed. As
* “As the ancient Hebrews paid a stipulated price for the privilege of marrying, they seemed to consider it the natural consequence of making a payment of that kind that they should be at liberty to exercise a very arbitrary power over their wives, and to renounce or divorce them whenever they chose. This state of things, as Moses himself very clearly saw, was not equitable as respected the woman, and was very often injurious to both parties. Finding himself, however, unable to overrule feelings and practices of very ancient standing, he merely annexed to the original institution of marriage a very serious admonition to this effect-viz., that it would be less criminal for a man to desert his father and mother than, without adequate cause, to desert his wife. Gen. ii. 14, compared with Mic. ii. 9, and Malachi, ii. 11--14. He also laid a restriction upon the power of the husband as far as this, that he would not permit him to repudiate the wife without giving her a bill of divorce. He further enacted, in reference to this subject, that the husband might receive the repu