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There never was a single instance, of this nature, since the world began. The very first step towards Religion, whenever they have ultimately become religious, has invariably been repentance, and reformation, of this enormous sin. Such persons can, therefore, never teach their children Religion, either by precept or example. Therefore,
Secondly, Their Children grow up, of course, in Irreligion.
There are two primary Means of Grace: the Preaching of the Gospel; and the Religious Education of Children. Of these, Baxter supposes Religious Education to be probably the principal, as to its efficacy, wherever the Gospel is regularly established. But, whatever be their comparative importance, it is sufficient to say, what cannot be denied, that children, who are not educated religiously, rarely become religious, even in the midst of those, who are thus educated; and that a generation of such children would, of course, be a generation of profligates. But married persons, only, ever cducate their children religiously; or present to them that example, without which their instructions would be given to no purpose.
Thirdly. None but married Parents build Churches, suppor! Ministers, or frequent the Worship of God.
That the irreligion of persons, living in promiscuous concubinage, would never give birth to these things, nor to any of them, needs no proof. But without all these things, Religion, as the world is constituted, cannot exist. The loss of the Sabbath alone soon becomes, every where, the loss of Religion. The Preaching of the Gospel, united with the Ordinances of Public Worship, is the only effectual mean of keeping Religious Education alive in the world. Religious Education, in its turn, gives existence, and life to Public Worship: and both, united, are the great and efficacious means of continuing the Kingdom of God, and producing the Salvation of Man.
Such, in a summary view, are the Origin, the Nature, and the Benefits, of Marriage. No man of common sobriety, can hesitate to acknowledge, that these benefits are inestimable and immense. Of course, the Institution, whence they were derived, and without which they would not exist, is of incomprehensible importance to mankind. How worthy of the Wisdom of the In
finite Mind is the erection of so vast, and so glorious, a fabric, upon a foundation so simple, apparently so inadequate, and yet proved by all the experience of Man to be sufficiently extensive, solid, and enduring! How small a cause, to the human eye, is here seen to produce effects, innumerable in their multitude, and supreme in their importance! What serious mind can hesitate to acknowledge, that such a Work is wrought by the Counsel of God!
Exodus xx. 14.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Having in the preceding discourse considered the Origin, Nature, and Benefits of Marriage; the Institution, which is the basis of the prohibition in the Text; I shall now proceed to examine the Prohibition itself.
The thing, which is here universally prohibited, is Lewdness : Lewdness in every form; in thought, word, and action. This is unanswerably evident from our Saviour's comment on this precept. He, that looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Before I begin the immediate discussion of this subject, I shall premise a few General Observations.
It is universally known, that there is, and for a great length of time has been, a riveted prejudice against the introduction of this subject into the Desk. When the peculiar delicacy, attend. ing it, is considered; it cannot be thought strange, that such a prejudice should in some degree exist. Even the most chaste and correct observations concerning it are apt to give pain; or
at least to excite an alarm in a refined and apprehensive mind. What Nature itself, perhaps, dictates, Custom and Manners have not a little enhanced. The opinions, and feelings, to which I have referred, have been carried to a length, unwarranted either by the Scriptures, or Common Sense. The subject seems, in fact, to have been banished from the Desk: and Ministers, by their general and profound silence concerning it, appear to have sanctioned the conclusion, that there is one, and that not a small, part of Scripture, which, so far as Preaching is concerned, is not profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, nor for instruction in righteousness.
But let me solemnly ask every religious man, whether this conduct can be justified. The rejoicing of St. Paul, at the close of his life, was the testimony of a good conscience, that not by fleshly wisdom, but by the Grace of God, he had his conversation in the world, the testimony of a good conscience, that he was pure from the blood of all men, because he had not shunned to declare the whole Counsel of God. Is it not a plain, and prominent, part of the Counsel of God, to forbid, to discourage, to prevent, this profigate conduct of mankind? Why else was this precept inserted in the Decalogue ; and promulged amid the lightnings of Sinai? Why else is it throughout the Scriptures made the subject of such forcible prohibitions, and the object of such awful threatenings?
What reason can be given, why it should not be introduced into the Desk ? Can common sense either prove, or discern, the usefulness of excluding it? Is it fit, is it safe, is it not preposterous, is it not ruinous, to the best interests of mankind, to leave the whole management of it to loose and abandoned men; and to suffer them from year to year, and from century to century, to go on in a course of corruption ; seducing, and destroying, thousands and millions, especially of the young, the gay, and the giddy : while we, Ministers of Christ, divinely appointed to watch for the souls of men, quietly sit by, and see them hurried on to perdition? Shall we be awed by the cry of indelicacy, originally raised by the most indelicate of mankind, only to keep the field open for its own malignant occupancy? Shall we not infinitely rather lay hold on every opportunity, and all the Vol. IV.
means, furnished here, as well as elsewhere, to rescue our fellowcreatures from destruction ?
And shall not the House of God, and this Sacred Day; both divinely consecrated, not only to His worship at large, but to this very end, that the wicked may be warned of the error of his way, that he turn from it, and save his soul alive; shelter this subject, a solemn prominent subject of his own express commands, awful exhortations, and terrible threatenings, from misconception, sport, and sneer? Shall not the known presence of this Tremendous Being in His House silence every unscriptural complaint ; check every wayward thought; forbid every roving of an unhallowed imagination; and appal every lightminded sinner; however prone he may be to forget the presence of his Maker; or unwilling to remember, that this Great Being is, at the very time, searching his heart, and trying his reins, to reward him according to his works ?
But why, it may be asked, may not the evil be left to other correctives? Why is it necessary, that Ministers of the Gospel should make it the theme of their public discourses? Why may not the business of reformation be entrusted to the Satirist, the Poet, and the Moralist; to private conversation, and to the Religious Instruction of Parents? The answer to these questions is at hand. God has required Ministers to cry aloud and spare not, to lift up
their voices as a trumpet, and to shew his people their transgressions. He has declared to Ministers, that if they warn not the wicked of his way, the wicked shall die in his sins; but his blood He will require at their hands. The point in debate must, I think, be alJowed to be here finally settled; unless some argument can be devised to show, that a Minister is bound to make himself an. swerable for the blood of those sinners, to whom he preacbes. Besides, the Satirist, the Poet, and the Moralist, in a multitude of instances, have been enlisted on the side of Vice; and have endeavoured to stimulate, rather than repress, the evil under ex. amination. Where they are not; how few persons read their books, compared with the number of those, who are present at the preaching of the Gospel! Probably two-thirds of a million of persons hear the Gospel preached, weekly, in New-England. Not one in a thousand of these, perhaps, has ever read a book,