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after a stricter examination would satisfactory reasons always be found in the peculiar situation of each community for its peculiar provisions."
In the fluctuations of human legislation on the subject of divorce, and in the precarious tenure of the bond of marriage considered merely as a civil contract, it is the more necessary to insist on the true principle of its divine institution ; and to maintain, that persons marrying in conformity with the divine institution, are bound to comply with the terms which that institution prescribes. The words of the primary institution certainly establish the permanence and perpetuity of marriage, as an union which is indissoluble, as a contract which cannot be revoked. There is not only the leaving of the father and mother, the abandonment of the most powerful of all natural relations ; but there is the cleaving of the man unto the woman, the adherence of the one to the other, and so perfect a consolidation of the parties, that in virtue of their marriage they are pronounced to be no more two but one flesh', combined in such unity as is incapable of division. The terms of the contract are irreconcileable with the idea of separation ; and there is certainly no qualification of the terms, nothing which authorizes the presumption, that any dissolution of the contract was contemplated in the original institution. Such presumption is not only unauthorized, but it is positively precluded by the first and highest authority, which has pronounced, in reference to the practice
. Gen. ii. 24. Matt. xix. 5. Mark x.
• Fergusson, 183.
of divorce, that from the beginning it was not so ; and that what God hath joined together it is not for man to put asunder.
The same doctrine, of the perpetual unity of marriage, is asserted in a perplexed and intricate passage of the prophet Malachi', and is made the principle upon which the Lord declares his abhorrence of divorce, or his permission of it only for the prevention of greater evils. But the most ordinary allusion to the doctrine is made in describing the connexion of God and of Christ with the Church, under the figure of a nuptial union. This description affirms the permanence and perpetuity of the union; not only from the historical fact that God has never forsaken the Church, but from the frequent allusions of the prophets to the prevailing practice, and to the authorized law, under which a man might not receive the wife whom he had divorced. This was a wholesome restriction upon the licence of divorce; but even to divorce thus restricted, the Lord would not give the sanction of his practice in respect of the Church; rather intreating her to return to him, notwithstanding her adulteries ; and recalling the backsliding Israel to himself, notwithstanding the bill of divorce which she had received. It was the opinion of one of the most learned, if not the most judicious, of the primitive fathers, and may be alleged in proof of the caution with which he thought it necessary to guard the doctrine of divorce, that
* Matt. xix. 4, 6, 8. Mark x. 6, 9. 'Malachi ii. 16. Jeremiah iii. 1, 7, 12. h Origen. Com. in Matt, tom. xiv. s. 19. See also tom. xii. s. 4.
Christ did not attach himself to the Church of the Gentiles, before the Church of the Jews had withdrawn herself by a manifest apostacy from the truth. The permanence however of this divine union, or marriage of Christ and the Church, may be more clearly and unexceptionably maintained on the sacred truth, that the body of the faithful has ever constituted the true Church and Bride of Christ, and that, in the admission of the believing Gentiles as well as the Jews into the covenant of his grace, he has not so much transferred his favour, as proved the constancy of his love to them that believe and trust in him.
The permanence and perpetuity of marriage are too firmly established in the terms of the divine institution to need even the indirect support which may be derived from the figurative and mystical union of Christ with his Church; and the proofs of wisdom and mercy conspicuous in this arrangement are worthy of the providence of God. If that which is injurious to the common happiness of mankind is contrary to the law of nature, provisions which are made for the security of that common happiness are worthy to be interpreted in proof of the divine benevolence. The several designs proposed by the Deity, and the characters under which he appears in the institution of marriage, agree in recommending the permanence and perpetuity of marriage.
It was worthy of the wisdom of Him, who created the male and the female, to ordain the perpetuity of marriage, that the woman, who is always inferior in power, might not be subject to the arbitrary humours and caprices of the man. It was wise and necessary
to add a stability to the condition of married women, more 'secure than the continuance of a husband's affections; to supply to both, by a sense of duty and of obligation, what satiety has impaired of passion and personal attachment; to prevent the injury which is inseparable from the condition of the repudiated wife ; and to provide that the real happiness of one half of the species should not be sacrificed to the voluptuousness of the otherl. The effects of this wise provision are seen in strong contrast with the degraded condition of woman in heathen and Mahometan countries, where she is liable to be discharged when she ceases to be the instrument of pleasure or of profit: and the common sense of mankind has agreed in making the permanence of the relation the grand distinction between the wife and the concubine. It was the fine observation of Quintilian upon another occasion, Our affections are not at our command. . . . Matrimony is then only perpetual, when it is founded in mutual good will : when a man seeks for himself a wife, the partner of his bed, the companion of his life, the choice must be made for ever.
It was worthy of the wisdom of Him, who ordained that it was not good that man should be alone, to provide, in the perpetuity of marriage, an help meet for him throughout the whole condition of his infirmity. The man himself might otherwise be neglected when he should most need the consolatory assiduities of a wife's attention. The woman might also be abandoned in the hour of trial and affliction, compelled to rely upon precarious and casual assistance, and destitute of the consolation which her infirmity may require. It was the pious prayer of Tobias, that he and his bride might grow old togetherl: and it is the prayer of every man who marries on a righteous principle, and in the ardour of young affections: but before old age arrives many a motive may arise which would recall the prayer: and the affectionate solicitude which an aged couple now take in the welfare of each other might be prevented, and a bright example of constancy and unbroken love be lost to the world, under a contract which was not indissoluble. In the ordinary circumstances of life, the permanence of the union has the best tendency to " preserve peace and union between married persons, by perpetuating their common interest, and by inducing a necessity of mutual compliance. There is great weight and substance in both these considerations. An earlier separation of the union would produce a separate interest. The wife would naturally look forward to the dissolution of the partnership, and endeavour to draw to herself a fund against the time when she was no longer to have access to the same resources. This would beget peculation on one side, and mistrust on the other, evils which at present very little disturb the confidence of married life. The second effect of making the union determinable only by death is not less beneficial. It necessarily happens that adverse tempers, habits, and tastes, ofteutimes mect in mar
* Quint. Declam.
Paley's Mor. Philos. b. iii. pt. 3. c. 3. 376.