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Rules for Married Persons, or Matrimonial Chastity.

Concerning married persons, besides the keeping of their mutual faith and contract with each other, these particulars are useful to be observed:105105Nisi fundamenta stirpis jacta sint probe, Miseros necesse est esse deinceps posteros.—Eurip.

1. Although their mutual endearments are safe within the protection of marriage, yet they that have wives or husbands must be as though they had them not; that is, they must have an affection greater to each other than they have to any person in the world, but not greater than they have to God: but that they be ready to part with all interest in each other’s person rather than sin against God.

2. In their permissions and license they must be sure to observe the order of nature, and the ends of God. “He is an ill husband that uses his wife as a man treats a harlot,” having no other end but pleasure. Concerning which our best rule is, that although in this, as in eating and drinking, there is an appetite to be satisfied which cannot be done without pleasing that desire, yet, since that desire and satisfaction was intended by nature for other ends, they should never be separate from those ends, but always be joined with all or one of these ends, “with a desire of children, or to avoid fornication, or to lighten and ease the cares and sadnesses of household affairs, or to endear each other: “but never with a purpose, either in act or desire, to separate the sensuality from these ends which hallow it. Onan did separate his act from it proper end, and so ordered his embraces that his wife should not conceive, and God punished him.

3. Married persons must keep such modesty and decency of treating each other, that they never force themselves into high and violent lusts, with arts and misbecoming devices; always remembering, that those mixtures are most innocent which are most simple and most natural, most orderly and most safe.

4. It is a duty of matrimonial chastity to be restrained and temperate in the use of their lawful pleasures: concerning which, although no universal rule can antecedently be given to all persons, any more than to all bodies one proportion of meat and drink, yet married persons are to estimate the degree of their license according to the following proportions. 1. That it be moderate, so as to consist with health. 2. That it be so ordered as not to be too expensive of time, that precious opportunity of working out our salvation. 3. That when duty is demanded, it be always paid (so far as is in our powers and election) according to the foregoing measures. 4. That it be with a temperate affection, without violent transporting desires, or too sensual applications. Concerning which a man is to make judgment by proportion to other actions, and the severities of his religion, and the sentences of sober and wise persons; always remembering, that marriage is a provision for supply of the natural necessities of the body, not for the artificial and procured appetites of the mind. And it is a sad truth, that many married persons, thinking that the flood-gates of liberty are set wide open without measures or restraint, (so they sail in that channel,) have felt the final rewards of intemperance and lust, by their unlawful using of lawful permissions. Only let each of them be temperate, and both of them be modest. Socrates was wont to say, that those women to whom nature hath not been indulgent in good features and colours, should make it up themselves with excellent manners; and those who were beautiful and comely should be careful that so fair a body be not polluted with unhandsome usages. To which Plutarch adds, that a wife, if she be unhandsome, should consider how extremely ugly she would be if she wanted modesty: but if she be handsome, let her think how gracious that beauty would be if she super adds chastity.

5. Married persons by consent are to abstain from their mutual entertainments at solemn times of devotion; not as a duty of itself necessary, but as being the most proper act of purity, which, in their condition, they can present to God, and being a good advantage for attending their preparation to the solemn duty and their demeanour in it. It is St. Paul’s counsel, that ‘by consent for a time they should abstain, that they may give themselves to fasting and prayer.’ And though when Christians did receive the holy communion every day, it is certain they did not abstain but had children; yet, when the communion was more seldom, they did with religion abstain from the marriage-bed during the time of their solemn preparatory devotions, as anciently they did from eating and drinking, till the solemnity of the day was past.

6. It were well if married persons would, in their penitential prayers, and in their general confessions, suspect themselves, and accordingly ask a general pardon for all their indecencies, and more passionate applications of themselves in the offices of marriage; that what is lawful and honourable in its kind may not be sullied with imperfect circumstances; or, if it be, it may be made clean again by the interruption and recallings of such a repentance, of which such uncertain parts of action are capable.

But, because of all the dangers of a Christian, none more pressing and troublesome than the temptations to lust, no enemy more dangerous than that of the flesh, no accounts greater than what we have to reckon for at the audit of concupiscence, therefore it concerns all that would be safe from this death to arm themselves by the following rules, to prevent or to cure all the wounds of our flesh made by the poisoned arrows of lust.


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