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Christ Strengthening us. And the Grace of God will not be wanting to them who earnestly pray for it, and diligently use it.
4. Our chief care then must be to apply our felves diligently to the use of all the Means of Grace ; Prayer, Temperance, Fasting, Studying the Holy Scriptures, Frequenting the Word and Sacraments, Avoiding the Occasions and Opportunities of Sin, and the seeking and embracing the Opportunities of the contrary Virtues, and by a Multitude of contrary Acts of Virtue destroying our evil Habits of Sin.
5. By all means we must not be discouraged, if we obtain not the Victory at First: No Foils will - totally overcome us, if we are not Ditheartned, but return Vigorously to the Combat. And this Combat must last as long as we Live ; for our Lusts are never so totally subdued in this Life, but that they will be ever and anon endeavouring to rebel. We shall therefore have much Occasion for Patience, and for hope in God, that he will at last give us an entire Victory, and tread Satan under our Feet. In the mean tirne let us be still going on, and advancing towards higher and more perfect Degrees of all Duty ; especially fuch Duties as are most directly Opposite to the Sins we are most endangered by. And let this very Consideration, that we are so Low in Grace and Goodness, and that we are so often surprized with Temptations, be improved to the Increase of our Humility, and to the enlarging of our Defires and Longings after Heaven ; where our Victory over all our Lusts shall be most compleat, and we shall be entirely delivered, not only from all Sin, but from all Temptation to it; where our
Joys shall not be as here mixed with Sin and Sorrow, and frequent Interruptions of our good Courses; but there shall be an Eternal settled Habit of Consummate Holiness, and consequently pure and unmixed Joy and Happiness, of which there is little or none to be found in this Vain World. O could we be sensible of this now, we should think all the Acts of Self-denial, the pulling out of a right Eye, and the cutting off of a right Hand, the parting with our Dearest and most Beloved Sins, infinitely well bestowed, as being the sure only way to rescue us from Hell, and to bring us to the Possession of Heaven and Happiness. Which God of his infinite Mercy grant to us all, for the Merits, and through the Mediation of Jesus Christ our Blessed Lord and Saviour, To whom, &c.
MAIT. V. 31.
Wife, let him give her a Writing of Divorce
ment. Ver. 32. But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away bis Wife
, Javing for the cause of Fornication, causeth her to commit Adultery : and whosoever Mall Marry her that is Divorced, committeth Adultery.
The First Sermon on this Text. HIS Subject of Divorce is of great Affi. nity
with the Doctrine immediately going before, concerning the Duty of Chastity and Purity of Heart. For no doubt it is a great Part of Chastity to preserve the Institution of Marriage Sacred and Inviolable, to which the Limitation of Divorces has a mighty Tendency.
In the Words which I have read we have,
1. An Account of the Doctrine of Divorce, as it was Taught by many of the Jewish Doctors,
2. Our Saviour's Correction and further Explication of that Doctrine.
I. As to the first, the Doctrine of Divorce, as Taught by many Jewish Doctors; we may ob
serve these two or three Things concerning it, from the Words.
(1.) That in the Manner of Introducing it, the Phrase is altered ; instead of Ye bave beard that it was said to them of old Time, here is nothing but It hath been said; intimating plainly that this Doctrine our Saviour is now Preaching against, has not such a Title to Antiquity or Universality as the other Doctrines he had explained before out of the Moral Law. Divorces at this time were become so frequent, contrary to the Primitive Design of them, that they were in use for any flight Cause: and this our Saviour notes, not as an Ancient, or an universal Doctrine, but only as a late Opinion of some loose Doctors among them.
(2.) After this Introduction, we have the Error itself touched at in these Words, whosoever fall put away his Wife, that is, whosoever is minded to put away his Wife, he need not trouble himself to find a just Cause to dissolve the Marriage, let him but observe the Law-Forms, and give her a Bill of Divorce, all the rest is of course. In short the Error was, that fo they observed but the Forms of Diyorces, which were very easily granted, and for very slight Causes in those Days, they had nothing further to answer to God or their own Consciences in that Matter.
(3.) In this great Contempt and slighting of the sacred Institution of Marriage, we have one good thing which was retained among them; namely, the external Form of Divorce, which was a Deed in Writing, let him give her a Writing of Divorcement. It was not upon any sudden hasty Words that this solemn Contract was to be dissolved ; it was to be done gravely and deliberately
in Writing, under Hand and Seal, before a Magistrate and Witnesses; and there were divers Things in this Practice, which tended to the Difcouraging of it. For 1. Though it was permitted, it was never thought a reputable Thing, but had been marked by God himself, as a Thing that he hated, Mal. ii. 15. Let none deal treacherously against the Wife of his Youth; for the Lord the God of Israel
faith, that he hateth putting away.
2. The Bill of Divorce was to contain the Cause of the Parting ; which, if it was a flight one, as often it was, was only a Record of the Persons Ill-Temper, that would part so needlesly or groundlesly. 3. Though for the hardness of their Hearts, the Parties were permitted to marry again, yet Care was taken in the Law, that they should be for ever separated from one another ; and therefore it is to be presumed, the Law designed that Divorces should not be made use of rashly and inconsiderately.
So much for the Doctrine of Divorce, as it was taught by the Jewish Doctors.
II. I go on next to our Saviour's Correction and further Improvement of that Doctrine. But I say unto you, that whosoever fall put away his Wife, saving for the Cause of Fornication, causeth her to commit Adultery : And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth Adultery. In which Words there are these three or four Things, which offer themselves to our Confideration.
1. We have here a total Prohibition of the parting of Man and Wife, excepting in the Case of Infidelity to the Marriage-Bed: For Interpreters generally mean that by the Word wogveix, which we translate Fornication,