« AnteriorContinua »
Since the fall, the world has been filled with objects of sympathy. With it came bondage and incalculable wo. There are various kinds of bondage which distress the children of men.
There is a bondage of ignorance. Thousands and millions of our fellow-creatures are at this moment groping their way through life without a knowledge of the one living and true God, who are conscious of sins, but know nothing of the plan of redemption through Christ, who are travelling to the judgment seat without one clear impression of the unending existence beyond the grave. They live without light, and they die without hope.
There is also a bondage of sin. All who have not been made free by faith in the Son of God are suffering under the weight of its heavy chains. They feel it driving them on from sin to sin, or whether they feel it or not, it is daily sinking them deeper and deeper in condemnation and ruin. Its shackles are so dreadful, that every struggle of the soul to throw them off only makes them gall and oppress the more. This is a bondage, not only of body, but it grasps and holds every faculty of the mind and every emotion of the heart. Multitudes in the freest lands are groaning under it, and these groans are but the brief, faint preludes of what is to come upon them in the end.
There is also a civil bondage-a bondage effected by the hand of governmental authority. Many are suffering in this way; some justly as culprits, some unjustly for conscience sake. These count the weeks, and months, and years, in jails, penitentiaries, or in solitary dungeons. Not far from ten thousand in this country are confined thus: “the father separated from his children; the husband from his wife; the brother from his sister; and all cut off from the living world.”
There is also a social bondage. In different regions of the world one man holds another in complete subjection to his will, and subject to his disposition as any other property. Upon the morality of this matter I have nothing to say. But all must agree that it has its peculiar humiliations and sufferings; and sometimes these sufferings are most intense. Bondage, though it should even be right and defensible, is yet hard.
These several classes of bondmen, Christians are to " remember." That is, we must sympathize with them. The original expresses a high degree of sympathy. We are to remember them with deep
and lively feeling and pity. A Christian heart is always full of sympathy for the suffering. This is one of the points in which we are to resemble Christ. It was because his eye pitied and his heart beat in sympathy for our suffering world that his hand brought us salvation. And like him, we too, must sympathize with them that are in bonds and suffer adversity. The extent to which this sympathy is to be carried is also clearly designated. We must “ remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, and them which suffer adversity, as being ourselves also in the body.” We are to feel and act toward them as if we were their fellow-prisoners and fellow-sufferers—as if they were our own kinsmen-our parents, companions, brethren, or children, in misfortunes to which we ourselves are also exposed—as being ourselves sufferers by their adversities. Sympathy is an expression of unity between different parts or members. A wound in the hand or foot will produce excitement throughout the entire system, and that excitement' is both an expression and an evidence of the one life which animates the whole body. And as it is the impression produced upon the healthy members by the wound of a suffering member, so it also calls out the energies of the disaffected parts in the way of assistance in the work of restoration. And while there is a member suffering, and there is any energy in any other part of the system, it will be given and given, until health is restored, the breach repaired, or the whole body dies together. So Christians are to be affected toward the bound and suffering children of men. Their whole energy is to be expended in the great work of bringing all to happiness. To the millions who are groping under the darkness of heathenism, we are to labor to send the light of the Gospel. Those who are groaning in the bondage of sin we must labor to have redeemed. Those who are suffering in our prisons are to share in our efforts to do good. They are our brothers, and need . instruction and consolation. Those who are laboring under the yoke of slavery we must pity, and for their comfort and salvation we must concern ourselves.
And for these several uses God has entrusted to Christians various talents. To some he has given money; to others learning; to others genius ; to others political influence; and so
All these are sources of power. The virtue made the subject of exhortation in the text draws upon all of them. We are so to sympathise with the various classes of our suffering
fellow-men as to give, and give freely, what God has placed at our disposition for their relief. If He has given you money, then give money, and give it such directions in which it will accomplish the greatest amount of good. If learning, then employ learning in expounding the truth and bringing it to bear where it is needed. If genius, then give genius to enlarge the compass of thought, and open new channels through which relief may flow down to those who are sighing and crying for it. If political influence, then use this also in removing national impediments in the way of Christian effort. And so whatever God may have given you, give again for the promotion of his will—the salvation of men.
And especially will the sympathy enjoined in the text lead Christians to prayer. Whatever else they may do, this is, after all, the last resort. A Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God only can give the increase. His mighty arm alone can break the fetters that bind men down in sorrow. And to that arm will Christians ever look' and trust. At the foot of the throne they will daily and importunately present the cause for which they continually labor.
Brethren, let these apostolic precepts sink deeply into your hearts: “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
LECTURE X X XIV.
Heb. xiii.-4. Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
In addressing you from these words I will be led to speak of a subject, which, on account of its peculiar delicacy, might be thought by some unfit for pulpit discussion. And did I simply consult my inclinations, I would probably myself decide not to bring it before you in this connection. But when I look at the example of those preachers of whom we read in the Bible, how they “ shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God;" when I see the subject alluded to in the plainest terms by every writer of the holy Scriptures; and when I find it Divinely enjoined upon ministers to “cry aloud and spare not, to lift up their voices as a trumpet, and show the people their sins," and find it furthermore declared that “ if they warn not the wicked of his way, the wicked shall die in his sins, but his blood will be required at their hands;" I feel that there is a moral necessity in the case. I must either speak out on the subject, or risk the consequences of an omission of duty. I trust, then, that you will hear me patiently whilst I speak to you in the fear of God, and at the same time look to the Spirit to enable me to conduct this discussion with a dignity and solemnity becoming the day—the house—the minister of the Lord.
I. WHAT IS MARRIAGE?
Marriage is a Divine ordinance designed for our happiness and God's glory. It was instituted in Paradise, and it is to be perpetuated to the end of time. When man was first placed upon the earth, the record says, that “male and female created He them.” It consists of the union of one man with one woman for life. As God originally created but one of each sex, it seems to have been intended that a man should have only one wife, and a woman but
one husband. Accordingly we also find that nature produces about an equal portion of males and females, allowing one male more for every twelve for the increased exposure of males to accident and death ; whilst polygamy is prohibited both in the Old and New Testaments. (Lev. xviii.-18. Matt. xix.-3—11.)
Marriage is both a civil and a religious contract. It has its engagements to men, and its vows to God. It is related to the state as a branch of public morality, and as a source of civil peace and strength. It involves mutual rights, which the civil law must defend. It involves questions of property which the civil law must define and decide. For these and many other reasons, the state must take cognizance of marriage, prescribe regulations respecting it, and guard some of the great injunctions of religion in the matter by penalities. “In every well-ordered society, marriage must be placed under the cognizance and control of the state. But then, those who would have the whole matter to lie between the parties themselves and the civil magistrate, appear wholly to forget, that marriage is also a solemn religious act, in which vows are made to God by both persons, who, when the rite is properly understood, engage to abide by all those laws with which he has guarded the institution; to love and cherish each other, and to remain faithful to each other until death. For if, at least, they profess belief in Christianity, whatever duties are laid on husbands and wives in the holy Scriptures, they engage to obey, by the very act of contracting marriage.?"
Marriage is not a temporary but permanent engagement. It is an institution of God, and it is not to be altered by man. Persons thus united are not privileged to separate at their pleasure, or at the expiration of any definite period. A wife or husband is not to be dismissed as a master dismisses his servant. They are bound to adhere to each other as long as life lasts; and for either to enter into a new engagement while the other yet lives, is an offence against the laws of God and man. The allowance of divorce at the option of the husband or the wife, would, to a very great extent, defeat the whole object of marriage. For one cause only can the marriage relation be terminated during the lifetime of the parties. The Savior says, “whosoever shall put away bis wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth