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I am resolved, by the same divine grace, to be as constant in loving my wife, as cautious in choosing her.
THOUGH it be not necessary for me to resolve upon marrying, yet it may not be improper to resolve, in case I should, to follow these rules of duty; first in the choice of a wife; and secondly, in the affection that I ought to bear towards her.
As for the first, I shall always endeavour to make choice of such a woman for my spouse, who hath first made choice of Christ as a spouse for herself; that none may be made one flesh with me, who is not also made one spirit with Christ my Saviour. For I look upon the image of Christ as the best mark of beauty I can behold in her; and the grace of God as the best portion I can receive with her. These are excellencies, which, though not visible to carnal eyes, are nevertheless agreeable to a spiritual heart; and such as all wise and good men cannot 188choose but be enamoured with. For my own part, they seem to me such necessary qualifications, that my heart trembles at the thought of ever having a wife without them. What? shall I marry one that is wedded already to her sins, or have possession of her body only, when the devil hath possession of her soul? shall such a one be united to me here, who shall be separated from me for ever hereafter, and be condemned to scorch in everlasting burning? No, if it ever he my lot to enter into that state, I beg of God, that he would direct me in the choice of such a wife only to lie in my bosom here, as may afterwards be admitted to rest in Abraham’s bosom to all eternity; such a one, as will so live and pray, and converse with me upon earth, that we may be both entitled to sing, to rejoice, and be blessed together, for ever in heaven.
That this, therefore, may be my portion and felicity, I firmly resolve, never to set upon a design, before I have first solicited the throne of grace, and begged of my heavenly Father to honour me with the partnership of one of his beloved children; and shall afterwards be as careful and cautious as I can, never to fix my affections upon any woman for a wife, till I am thoroughly persuaded of the grounds I have to love her, as a true Christian.
If I could be thus happy, as to meet with a wife of these qualities and endowments, it would be impossible for me not to be hearty and sincere in my affection toward her, even though I had the greatest temptations to place them upon another: for, how could I choose but love her, who has God for her Father, the church for her mother, and heaven for her portion; who loves God, and is beloved 189of him? especially, when I consider that this love to her, will not only be my duty but my happiness too.
As to the duty, it is frequently inculcated in the Scripture, that ‘husbands shall love their wives,’ and that not with a common love, but as ‘Christ loved his church,’ yea, ‘as their own body,’ or, ‘as themselves,’198198 Eph. v. 25, 28, 33. and they are so to love them, as not to ‘be bitter against them,’199199 Col. iii. 19. not to be passionate or angry with them upon every light matter, nor suffer their resentments to rise to that height, upon any occasion whatsoever, as to abate the least spark of conjugal affection towards them, but to ‘nourish and cherish them even as the Lord the church.’ In a word, to do all the kind offices they can for them in their civil capacities, and to help and forward them by all means possible, in the way that leads to heaven; that as they are united in the flesh, so they may likewise be united in the spirit, and raised and rewarded together at the general resurrection.
And, as love is the great duty, so it is likewise the chief happiness of a married state. I do not mean that love whereby she loves me, but that wherewith I love her; for, if I myself have not a cordial esteem and affection for her, what happiness will it be to me, to be beloved by her? or rather, what a misery would it be to be forced to live with one I know I cannot love? As ever, therefore, I desire to be happy, I must perform my duty in this particular, and never aim at any other end in the choice of a wife, nor expect any other happiness 190in the enjoyment of her, but what is founded in the principle of pure and inviolable love. If I should court and marry a woman for riches, then, whensoever they fail, or take their flight, my love and my happiness must drop and vanish together with them. If I choose her for beauty only, I shall love her no longer than while that continues, which is only till age or sickness blasts it, and then farewell at once, both duty and delight.
But if I love her for her virtues, and for the sake of God, who has enjoined it as a duty, that our affections should not be alienated, or separated by any thing but death; then, though all the other sandy foundations fail, yet will my happiness remain entire, even though I should not perceive those mutual returns of love, which are due from her to me upon the same foundation. But, oh! the happiness of that couple, whose inclinations to each other are as mutual as their duties; whose affections, as well as persons,. are linked together with the same tie! this is the chief condition required to make the state of matrimony happy or desirable, and shall be the chief motive, with me, to influence me to enter into it. For, though it be no happiness to be beloved by one I do not love; yet it is certainly a very great one to be beloved by one I do. If this, then, be my lot, to have mutual expressions of love from the person I fix my affections upon, what joy and comfort will it raise in my heart? with what peace and amity shall we live together here? and what glory and felicity may we not promise ourselves hereafter?
What is here said of the duty in choosing and loving a wife, may be likewise applied to a 191woman’s duty in choosing and loving her husband. But being not so immediately concerned in this, I pass on to my next resolution.
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