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The husband though the head of the wife, is not to treat her as a menmil seryant, and exact from her an unlimited subjection. This is to assume an authority, which Christ has not communicated to him. Both should act, as having one soul, and combine their infuence in the government of the household. But when there happens a diversity of sentiment, and nei. ther can impart conviction, the obligation to recede, doubtless lies first on the woman. The Apostle says,
". The woman ought not to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence with all subjection,”. For this he assigns several reasons. He says, “ Adam was first formed, and then Eve." He therefore had a natural precedence.
* The man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man,” being formed out of him, and made of his flesh and bone, "
Neither was the man created for the woman, but she for the man,” to be an help meet for him. " And Adam was not” first “ deceived,” and drawn into the apostasy, " but the woman being deceived was,” first in the transgression.” For this cause God ordered, that “her desire should be to her husband, and he should rule over her."
But the reason alleged, in the text, for this subjec. tion, is the example of the church. The first marriage was an emblem of the union between Christ and his church. As the woman was bone of man's bone, and flesh of his flesh, so " we are members of Christ's body, of his flesh and of his bones." And the ancient insti. tution, “ They two shall be one flesh,” was a mystical representation of this spiritual relation.
Now since the church is subject to Christ, the woman ought to be subject to her husband, who, by Christ's authority, is constituted her head.
A family should resemble a church in union, peace and subordination. In a church there could be no edification, if there were no government ; neither in a family could there be order, if there were no head. Either of them, without rule, must be dissolved, or live in perpetual discord. Christ is the head of the church; and all its members are bound to obey the government which he has instituted. The husband, under him, is ruler in his own house ; and when he governs it according to the laws of Christ, all the members are to be subject to him. Thus the family will become a little church ; and, being cdified in knowledge and virtue, will grow into a meetness to join the general assembly and church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven.
The honor and interest of religion require, that wives, by a cheerful subordination, cooperate with their husbands in all the important concerns of the household, and in the nurture, education and govern. ment of the dependent members. Hence this direction of Paul to Titus, “Charge them to be sober, to respect their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed;" or that the gospel be not reproached among hea. thens by means of the confusions and disorders in Christian families. We proceed,
III. To consider the duties of husbands to their wives, These the Apostle expresses by the word Love.
Under this word he comprises all those kind offices, which love, in so intimate and tender a connexion, will naturally dictate. Love here stands opposed to sharpness and severity. “ Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them." Though the wife by the order of creation, the manner of the apostacy, and the injunctions of the gospel, is bound to obey ; yet the husband is not warranted to exercise an arbitrary au. thority. He is to maintain the superiority with gentle. ness, always considering his wife as his associate, closely allied to him by the strongest bonds of friendship and interest. “He must not be bitter against
her." This is a metaphor taken from the disgust excited by bitter objects of taste. He should not, by a peevish, morose and haughty carriage, render himself ungrateful and offensive to her, like wormwood to the mouth. He should not be provoked to wrath, aversion and upbraiding by her trivial imperfections and acci. dental failings, as the stomach is provoked to disgust by loathsome food. The near connexion between the parties renders that language and behavior bitter, which, in other circumstances, would be indifferent. The malice of an enemy may make little impression, when the coldness of a friend would be deeply felt. Ill usage from a stranger may excite anger ; but from a near relative it awakens the tenderest sensations of grief. What chiefly wounds in such cases is the defeat of our expectations. We love, and would be beloved ;. we esteem, and would be esteemed. But failing of these returns, we are afflicted and disconsolate. The reason why harsh words and unkind usage are so peculiarly grievous in near relations, is because they are so little expected, and so entirely unmerited. The mind is full of other hopes, and is surprised to find them deceived.—When, instead of gentleness, condescension and affability, the wife only meets with sullen reserve, or ungenerous upbraidings, her tender feelings are deeply wounded. A tongue thus whet is keener than a sword. Such sharpened words pierce deeper than an arrow.
The Apostle Peter directs the husband “to dwell with the wife according to knowledge, giving honor to her, as to the weaker vessel”—to treat her with lenity and softness, as vessels of finer mould and weaker contexture must be handled with care and tenderness-to regard her as an intimate friend—to support her authority in the household—to protect her person from insults --to uphold her reputation—to feel for her pains and injuries to place confidence in her discretion and fidelity-and to render her condition easy and happy.
“ Whoever considers to what peculiar difficulties and trials God has subjected this part of the human species, both by the tenderness of their frame, and by the lot assigned them, will see himself bound to treat his wife with gentleness, and to sustain her under all her infirmities. And if he fartier considers, of what use such a friend is in all the changes of life-whát solace in health, comfort in sickness, and relief in dis. tress her good offices afford him-and what peculiar burdens fall to her share in the nurture and education of children, he will find himself bound, in point of justice and gratitude, to study her happiness; and will feel the propriety of those divine precepts, which require him to love his wife, and give her honor as the more tender vessel.”
But this brings me, to consider the reasons alleged why the husband should love his wife.
One argument is the example of Christ. “ Hus: bands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church,"
One end of Christ's appearance in the flesh was to set us an example of our duty. As he never sustaina ed the tender domestic relations, he could not exhibit a direct example of the duties resulting from them. But then his relation to the church is so similar to that subsisting between husband and wife, that the latter is often compared to, and illustrated by the former. He is called the bridegroom, and his church the bride. Hence his love to the church is improved as an argument to enforce on husbands the duties which they owe to their wives.
Having mentioned the love of Christ, the Apostle so strongly feels the argument, that, he expatiates and enlarges upon it.
" Christ loved the church and gave himself for it." Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend ; but Christ commended his love toward us, in that, while we were enemies, he died for us. He has purchased for himself a church with his own blood. He has re.
deemed her from bondage, introduced her into a state of freedom, and admitted her to an intimate communion with himself.
He gave himself for the church, “ that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” The great end for which he brings us into the church is, that we might be sanctified: In order to our sanctification, he has appointed his word and ordinances, which we are to attend upon with this view. The work of the Spirit in our sanctification is not immediate, but by his word and ordinances. And it is only in our attendance on these, that we obtain his sanctifying grace. Do not then imagine, that you ought to absent yourselves from the church, until you are sanctified—that you are first to become holy, and afterward to attend on the institutions of Christ as evidences that you are holy. But remember that “ Christ gave himself for the church, that he might cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, and thus finally present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.'
In the present state there will be some spots and wrinkles in the church. There will be in it some unsanctified members ; and the saints themselves will be sanctified only in part. But in the future state, the church will be perfectly cleansed. Hypocrites will be utterly excluded, and the saints will be sanctified wholly.
Christ has given his word and ordinances, that. by them his body may be edified, and that we all may come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto perfect men, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
This example teaches us, that Christians ought to love one another---to bear one another's burdens, for: give each other's offences, and assist each other in those spiritual exercises, which are preparatives for heaven. It teaches us, that husbands are especially bound to Vol. III.