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nary Patience can bear; for Men and Women have commonly Patience but to a certain Degree, and if they are overloaded beyond their Strength, they can not deal with the Burden at all, but it perfectly masters and conquers them. It is true, Persons endowed with an eminent Degree of Holiness perform incredible Things in the way of Patience; to that Degree, that they learn, with St Paul, in whatsoever State they are, to be therewith content; and they can do all Things through Christ strengthening them. But these are rare Persons indeed; the far greater number of Mankind, nay, of People of an ordinary Measure of Goodness, are quite broke with an Excess of Hardship and ill Usage; and when their Patience is gone, they become an easy prey to Temptations. 3. The great want to which such an abandoned State exposes poor Women, and the Helplesness of their Circumstances, often drives many of them upon ill Courses, who, if they had continued in the favour of their Husbands, and had been supplied with the Neceflaries and Comforts of Life, as 0ther honest Women are, would never have thought of such desperate Shifts as they do then take to, when exposed to extream Want, without either Money or Credit. And now, though the Woman, although ever so Innocent at first, is not to be justified, if any ill Usage drives her to vitious Courses ; yet who can deny that the Unjuft Hufband, who has abandoned her to all this Misery, and consequently to all these Temptations, is the principal Cause of her sin, and as our Saviour lays in my Text, causeth her to commit Adultery.
III. The Third Thing I observed to you in the Words, was, that notwithstanding the Strictness.
of the Marriage-Bond, yet if the conjugal Fidelity, which is the Foundation of that Covenant, comes to be overthrown, the Marriage may be dissolved. This is gathered from our Saviour's Limitation of Divorces, to the Case of Conjugal Infidelity. This is a mighty Blot our Saviour has left upon this Sin, and though he has not positively Commanded, but only permitted, in this particular Case, the putting away of the Wife; this fufficiently shews, that in his Esteem, it is one of the Heinousest of Crimes. For besides the Breach of Chastity, of which I had Occasion to Discourse at large from our Saviour's Doctrine upon the Seventh Commandment, there are so many other heinous Aggravations of this Sin, that it is no easy Matter to reckon them up. It is a Breach of the greatest Trust, entered upon by the most solemn Covenant; it is the injuring a Man in the tenderest Part, that which of all worldly Things, is dearest to him by God's own appointment; it is the doing what in her lies to bring in a spurious Brood into his Family ; it is the Purloining from him all that goes to the Maintenance, Education, and Portioning of such Adulterous Brood; it is loading her self, and her Husband, and all her Relations, with Infamy and Disgrace. In short, it is such a Complication of Crimes, that no Reparation can be made for it: And therefore it is no wonder our Saviour leaves Room for this one Expedient, partly by way of Punishment of the Guilty, partly out of Relief and Compassion to the Innocent, partly for a Terrour to others, to scare them from the like Crimes : He leaves Room for it, I say; does not command, but permit it, that if the injuring Party can, by her Repentance and Amendment, make Peace with the Injured, it may be in' his power to thew Mercy as well as Justice.
IV. The Fourth and last Thing I observed in the Words, is, that it is unlawful to marry the Divorced Wife. This is Grounded on these lait Words of the Text; And whofoever shall marry ber that is Divorced, commitfeth Adultery. This at first may appear to be a harsh Saying; for if the Marriage is diffolved, why should not the Parties be free to marry again? But on the other Hand, the Reason of the Case, as well as our Saviour's Authority, is on the other side. For no Person can suffer by this Doctrine, but by her own Fault; for our Saviour would have none Divorced but for her Infidelity to the Marriage Covenant. Whoever is separated from her Husband on any other Account, is not lawfully separated, and therefore according to St Paul's Advice, let her be reconciled to her Husband: She is by our Saviour's Doctrine his Wife, still, and therefore, whoever Marries her commits Adultery; and as it is in St Luke, the Husband, if in that Case be marries another, committeth Adultery. But if the Woman is Divorced for her, Adultery, there is no Reason at all that the should be admitted again to another Marriage, during the Life of her Husband; for that would be to encourage all Wives, who are discontented with their Husbands, to commit Adultery, and get Din vorced, that they might have another Husband when they please. It is certainly much better that such Criminals should endure this Punishment, to be deprived of the benefit of Matrimony, than that a Door be left open to all wicked People, to creep out of it when they pleafe. And
'therefore, though the Marriage is diffolved as to
the innocent Party, yet a Restraint is still left on the Guilty by the Laws of Christ. There is fome difficulty indeed to apprehend how the Marrying such a one should be the Sin of
Adultery ; it may be prohibited among the Sins of Uncleanness; but how should it be properly Adultery, when perhaps the innocent Party is Married again ; how the Marriage should be diffolved as to one of the Parties, and not as to the other, is not so easy to apprehend. But in answer to this Doubt, the, Original Word Mobyćuw, which we translate to commit Adultery, as I told you before, is often used in a more general Sense for all Sins of Uncleanness, and therefore may very well be applied in this place, to him who Marries a PerTon, that, by the Law of God, is debarred from Marriage.
Thus now I have gone through the several Parts of the Text; there are some Things I would briefly infer from the Doctrine which has been delivered, for encreasing our esteem of the Christian Religion, and for exhorting to a more careful Practice of several of the Duties of it. :
1. First then, it ought to encrease our venerable Esteem of Christianity, that it takes such a particular care, above all other Religions in the World, of regulating that brutish Passion of Lust, and for the Procreation of Children in a way fo Sacred, by making the Christian Marriage a Covenant of perpetual Chastity and Friendship. It is plain to any wife considering Man, how much the Christian Religion, in this respect,
is preferable both to Paganism, Mahometism and Judaism. As for Paganism, the Generality of those of that Religion, were so far from contriving any Thing on this Subject that was Wise or Useful to Mankind, that their Religion is stuffed with Fables of the Whoredoms and Adulteries of their very Gods; and by their Example, they encouraged themselves in all manner of Lewdness: Not excepting the most unnatural Mixtures, such as the very Brute Creatures abhor. Some of the learned Greek Philosophers were so Brutal in their Notions of these Things, that they recommended a promiscuous use of the Female Sex, and gave loose reins to Mens Lusts : So that of a whole Country, they made a general House of Debauchery, by this Means not only corrupting the Minds and Manners of Men, but hindering both the Procreation and good Education of Children. And indeed they had so little Love to their Children, that it was a common Thing, inost unnaturally to expose them to Perish. The Jewish Religion, it is true, rectified a great many of those Abuses, yet gave great Indulgences to the irregular Appetites of Mankind; for it allowed them, because of the hardness of their Hearts, both a plurality of Wives at one time, and the Power of putting away their Wives by a Bill of Divorce, for every trivial cause, and so does Mahometism at this Day. But the Christian Religion goes to the Root of all these Evils, and digs them up. It forbids wandering Luft in the very Heart and Thoughts, so far is it from approving the Practice of it. It sets up a sacred lasting Friendship between Man and Wife, as much more becomVOL. II.