THE RELATION OF PARENTS TO THE MARRIAGE CHOICE OF THEIR CHILDREN.
"Youth longeth for a kindred spirit, and yet yearneth for a heart that can commune with his own;
One of the most affecting scenes of home-life is that of the bridal hour! Though in one sense it is a scene of joy and festivity; yet in another, it is one of deep sadness. When all is adorned with flowers and smiles, and the parlor becomes the theater of conviviality and parade, even then hearts are oppressed with sorrow at the thought of that separation which is soon to take place.
The bridal is a home-crisis. It is the breaking up of home-ties and communion, a separation from home scenes, a lopping off from the parent vine, an engrafting into a strange vine, and alas! too often, into a degenerate vine. As the youthful bride stands beside her affianced husband, to be wedded to him for life, and reflects that the short ceremonial of that occasion will tear her forever from the loved, objects and scenes of her childhood-home, what tears of bitter sorrow adorn the bridal cheek, and what pungent feelings are awakened by her last farewell!
"'I leave thee, sister! we have played
"Yes! I leave thee, sister, with all that we have enjoyed together; I leave thee in the memory of our childhood-haunts and song and prayer. We cannot be as we have been. I leave thee now, and all that has bound us together as one; and hereafter memory alone can hail thee, and will do so with her burning tear; therefore, kind sister, let me weep!
"I leave thee, father! Eve's bright moon,
"Yes, I leave thee, father! I receive thy last blessing; no longer shall thy protecting hand guide me; no longer shall thy smile be music to my ear. I leave thee, oh, therefore, let me weep!
"'Mother! I leave thee! on thy breast,
"Yes, I go from thee, mother! Though you have watched over me in helpless infancy with all a mother's love and care, and 'lulled me with your strain;' and though earth may not afford me a love like yours; yet I go! Oh, therefore, sweet mother, let me weep!"
"'Oh, friends regretted, scenes forever dear
If momentous interests' are involved in marriage, then, we think that parents should take an important part in the matrimonial alliances of their children. When they grow up, they naturally seek a companion for life. The making choice of that companion is a crisis in their history, and will determine their future interest and happiness. If separation from home is a great sacrifice, then we should look well to the grounds of our justification in making that sacrifice.
We propose, under the head of "match-making," to consider the part which parents should take in the marriage of their children; and also the false and true standards of judgment both for parents and their children, in making the marriage choice and alliance.
Have parents a right to take any part in the marriage choice and alliance of their children? Have they a right to interfere in any respect with the marriage of their children? That they do possess such a right, and are justified in the exercise of it within just and reasonable limits, is, we think, undisputed by any one acquainted with the Word of God. It is one of the cardinal prerogatives and duties of the Christian parent. His relation to his children invests him with it. The age and inexperience of the child, on the one hand; and the seductions of the world, on the other; imply it. Children need counsel and admonition; and this is a needs be for the interposition of the parent's superior wisdom and greater experience.
This right is plainly exemplified in sacred history. Abraham interfered in Isaac's selection of a companion. Isaac and Rebecca aided in the choice of a wife for Jacob. And indeed throughout the patriarchal age, you find this right recognized and practiced. It was also acknowledged and exercised in all the subsequent ages of Judaism, in the age of primitive Christianity, and even down to the present time, in every true Christian household. The right still exists, and receives the sanction of the church. The great dereliction of parents now is, that they do not exercise it; and of children, that they do not recognize it. "A wise son heareth his father's instructions." "The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pluck it out, and the young eagles shall eat it."
What now is the extent, and what are the duties of that right to interfere? This is a difficult question, and can receive but an imperfect answer. In infancy the authority of the parent is exercised without any reference to the will of the child, because reason is not yet developed. But when he reaches the age of personal accountability, the control of the parent is exercised on more liberal principles; and when, by age, he becomes a responsible citizen, the legal authority of the parent ceases. Still he possesses moral authority, and has a right to exert a restraining influence over the child. This does not, of course, involve a right to compel him to yield to the parent's arbitrary will. He can exert but a moral control over him; and it is the child's duty to yield to this, so long as it is consistent with scripture and the maxims of sound reason and conscience. He should consult his parents, receive them into his confidence, and give priority to their judgment and counsels.
Parents have the right to use coercive measures to prevent an imprudent marriage by their children before they have arrived at age; for until they are of age they are both legally and morally under the authority and government of their parents, who are responsible for them. Hence the child should recognize and submit to their authority. But this right to the use of coercive measures extends only to the prevention of unhappy marriages, -- not to the forming of what the parents may regard happy alliances, against the will of the child. No parent has the right to compel a child under age to marry, because the marriage alliance implies the age and free choice of the child.
But when the child reaches legal maturity, the coercive authority of the parent ceases. His interposition then should not involve coercive, but persuasive measures. Then a mere mechanical prevention of an unhappy marriage would have no good moral effect, but would be productive of great evil, inasmuch as it not only involves parental despotism, but the restriction of a manifest and conceded right of the child. It would destroy the sense of personal dignity and responsibility.
Persuasive measures will then accomplish more than all the efforts of the parent to prevent an unhappy union, by threats of disinheritance and expulsion from home. In this way parents often extend their interference to most unreasonable extremes, and to the great detriment of the interests and happiness of their children; while at the same time they often bring disgrace and misery upon their own heads and home. They set themselves up as the choosers of companions for their children, presuming that they should passively submit to their selection whatever it may be. This is taking away the free moral agency of the child, making no account of his taste, judgment, or affections; and forming between him and the object thus chosen a mere outward union, with no inward affinity.
In such cases it most generally happens that parents are prompted by sinister motives and a false pride, as that of wealth, honor, and social position. They do not consult the law of suitability, but that of availability. They think that wealth and family distinction will compensate for the absence of all moral and amiable qualities, that if outward circumstances are favorable, there need not be inward adaptation of character. Hence they will dictate to their children, make their marriage alliance a mere business matter, and demand implicit obedience on the penalty of expulsion from the parental home, and disinheritance forever. They are thus willing to prostitute the domestic peace and happiness of their offspring to the gratification of their own sordid and inordinate lust for gain and empty distinction.
Who does not perceive and acknowledge the evil of such a course? It involves unfeeling despotism on the one hand, and a servile obedience on the other. The affections are abused; the idea and sacredness of marriage are left out of view; the conditions of domestic felicity are not met. All is supremely selfish; the power exercised is arbitrary; the submission is slavish and demoralizing; the obedience involuntary and degrading; and the result of it all is, an outrage against nature, against marriage, and against God.
On the other hand, the interference of the parent should be persuasive, and the obedience of the child, voluntary. The parent should reason with and counsel the child; and seek by mild and affectionate means to secure obedience to his advice. And if the child then persist in his own course, the parent, we think, has discharged his duty, and the responsibility will rest upon the child. He should not expel and disinherit him, and thus add the hard-heartedness of the parent to the folly and perversity of the child. He should love him still, and seek by parental tenderness to alleviate the sad fruits of filial recklessness. Parents should so train their children in the nursery and parlor, by instilling in them correct principles of judgment in the choice of a companion, as to secure them ever after from an imprudent choice. Here is the place to begin. Parents too often omit this duty, until alas, it is too late.
We have now seen that the parent has no right to destroy the domestic happiness of a child by uniting him forcibly in wedlock to one for whom he has no true affection. On the other hand, the child should pay due deference to the parent's moral suasion, and seek, if possible, to follow his counsels. "A child," says Paley, "who respects his parent's judgment, and is, as he ought to be, tender of their happiness, owes, at least, so much deference to their will, as to try fairly and faithfully, in one case, whether time and absence will not cool an affection which they disapprove. After a sincere but ineffectual endeavor by the child, to accommodate his inclination to his parent's pleasure, he ought not to suffer in his parent's affections, or in his fortunes. The parent, when he has reasonable proof of this, should acquiesce; at all events, the child is then at liberty to provide, for his own happiness."
FALSE TESTS IN THE SELECTION OF A COMPANION FOR LIFE.
Before we advert to some of those biblical principles upon which parents and children should proceed in the marriage choice, we shall take a negative view of the subject, and mention some of those false principles and considerations which have in the present day gained a fearful ascendancy over the better judgment of many professed Christians.
In the matter of marriage, too many are influenced by the pomp and parade of the mere outward. The glitter of gold, the smile of beauty, and the array of titled distinction and circumstance, act like a charm upon the feelings and sentiments of many well-meaning parents and children. But it is not all gold that glitters. We must not think that those are happy in their marriage union, because they are obsequious in their attentions to each other, and live together in splendor, overloaded with fashionable congratulations. We cannot determine the character of a marriage from its pomp and pageantry. We rather determine the many unhappy matches from the false principles upon which the parties acted in making choice of each other. What are some of these? We answer --
1. The manner of paying addresses involves a false principle of procedure. These are either too long or too short, and paid in an improper spirit and manner. There are too much flirtation and romance connected with them. The religious element is not taken up and considered. They do not involve the true idea of preparation, but have an air of mere sentimentalism about them. The object in view is not fully seen. The most reprehensible motives and the most shocking thoughtlessness pervade them throughout. These addresses carry with them an air of trifling, a want of seriousness and frankness, which betrays the absence of all sense of responsibility, and of all proper views of the sacredness of marriage and of its momentous consequences both for time and for eternity.
2. The habit of match-making involves a false principle. This we see more fully among the higher classes of society. It is the work of designing and interested persons, who, for self-interest, intrude their unwelcome interposition. Its whole procedure implies that marriage is simply a legal matter, a piece of business policy, a domestic speculation. It strikes out the great law of mutual, moral love, and personal adaptation. It makes marriage artificial, and apprehends it as only a mechanical copartnership of interest and life. It is sinister in spirit, and selfish in the end. Many are prompted from motives of novelty to make matches among their friends. All their schemes tend to wrest from the parties interested all true judgment and dispassionate consideration. They are deceived by base misrepresentation, allured by over-wrought pictures of conjugal felicity, so that when the marriage is consummated, they soon find their golden dreams vanish away, and with them, their hopes and their happiness forever.
But there are not only personal match-makers, in the form of tyrannical fathers, sentimental mothers, amorous grandmothers, and obsequious friends; but also book match-makers, in the form of love-sick tales and poetry, containing Eugene-Aram adventures, and scrapes of languishing girls with titled swains running off, calculated to heat the youthful imagination, distort the pictures of fancy, giving to marriage the air of a romantic adventure, and throwing over it a gaudy drapery, leading the young into a world of dreams and nonentities, where all is but a bubble of variegated colors and fantastic forms, which explodes before them as soon as it is touched by the finger of reality and experience.
These are the most dangerous match-makers. Their sister companions in this evil are, the ball-room, the giddy dance and masquerade, the fashionable wine-cup and the costly apparel. Let me affectionately exhort the members of the Christian home to keep all these at a distance. Touch not, taste not, handle not! They will poison the spirit and the affections, and encircle you with a viper's coil from which there is no hope of escape. Here parents have a right, and it is their duty, to interfere. They can do so effectually by not allowing such filthy match-making intruders to pass the threshold of their homes. What can you expect out an unhappy marriage, if you permit your sons and daughters to spend their time in converse with love-sick tales and languishing swains? They will become love-sick, too, and long for marriage with one who is like the hero of their last-read romance. Perhaps they will not think their matrimonial debut sufficiently flavored with romantic essence, unless they run off with some self-constituted count, or at least with their papa's Irish groom!
3. We might advert, finally, to some of those false influences which are frequently brought to bear upon the children's choice of a companion for life. The term smitten is here significant and deserves our serious consideration. It carries in its pregnant meaning the evidence of a spurious feeling, and a false foundation of love and union. Be it remembered that there must always be something to smite one. We may be smitten by a scoundrel, or by something unworthy our affections. Empty titles and mustaches often smite the susceptible young. Sometimes the heart is smitten by a pretty face and form; and sometimes by a rod of gold. The simple fact that we are smitten is not enough; we should know who or what it is that smites us. When we are drawn to each other, it should be by a true cord, and by an influence which binds and cements for life. The influence of mere outward beauty is a false one. Those who are smitten by it, and drawn thus into a matrimonial union by an interest which is but skin-deep, and which may fade like the morning flower, are allured by a dazzling meteor, by a mere bubble, beautifully formed and colored, but empty within. It may dazzle the eye, but it blinds us to all its blemishes and inward infirmities. It is deceptive. Often beneath its gaudy veil there lies the viper, ready to poison all the sweets of home-life, and cause its victim to lament over his folly with bitter tears and heart-burning remorse. How soon may beauty fade; and what then, if it was the only basis of your marriage choice? The union which rested upon it must then be at least morally dissolved; and that which once flitted like an impersonated charm before your admiring eye, now becomes an object of disgust and a source of misery.
To fall in love, therefore, with mere outward beauty is, to dandle with a doll, to fawn upon a picture, to rest your hopes upon a plaything, to pursue a phantom which, as soon as you embrace it, may vanish into nothing. Look not to external beauty alone; but also to the ornaments of an inward spirit, of a noble mind, and an amiable and pious heart. "If," says the Rev. H. Harbaugh, "you will be foolish, follow the gilded butterfly of beauty, drive it a long chase; it will land you at last at some stagnant mud-pond of the highway."
Neither is impulsive passion a true basis of marriage. This is falling in love at first sight, which often proves to be a very dangerous and degrading fall, -- a fall from the clouds to the clods, producing both humiliation and misery. It is indeed a fearful leap, -- a leap without judgment or forethought; and, therefore, a leap in the dark. It is too precipitate, and shows the infatuation of the victim. Falling in love is not always falling in the embraces of domestic felicity. Such leaping is an act of intoxication. The drunkard, falling in the mire, often thinks that he is embracing his best friend, whereas it is but descending to fellowship with the swine. It is blind love, which is no love, but passion without reason. It is crazy, fitful, stormy, raising the feelings up to boiling point, and bringing the affections under the influence of the high-pressure system. Consequently it is raving, frothy, of a mushroom growth, making mere bubbles, and completing its work in an evaporation of all that it operated upon, passing away like the morning cloud and the early dew.
True love is very different. It is substantial, reasonable, moral, acting according to law, temperate in all things, keeping the heart from extremes, permanent, and based upon principle. Passion, without love, may keep you in a state of pleasurable intoxication until the knot is tied, when you will soon get sober again, only to see, however, your folly and to contemplate the height from which you have fallen, and then, with the recklessness of sullen despair, to pass over into the opposite extreme of stoical indifference and misery. All emotions are transient, and hence no proper standard of judgment in the serious matter of a marriage choice. The heart, unguided by the head, is, in its emotions, like the flaming meteor that passes in its rapid, fiery train across the heavens. It flames only for a time, and soon passes away, leaving the heavens in greater darkness than before.
Neither is wealth a true basis for the marriage choice. "The love of money is the root of all evil;" and when it is the primary desideratum in marriage, it acts like a canker-worm upon domestic peace and happiness. With too many in this day of money-making, marriage is but a pecuniary speculation, a mere gold and silver affair; and their match-making is but a money-making, that is, money makes the match. Many parents (but we don't call such Christians,) sacrifice their children upon the altar of mammon, and prostitute their earthly and eternal happiness to their love of filthy lucre.
Fatal mistake! Will money make your children happy? Is it for money you have them led to the bridal altar? Ah! that sordid dust may cover the grave of their fondest hopes and connubial felicity. Wed not your children to mere dollars and cents. The hand that holds a purse and shakes it before you for your child, may hold also a dagger for both the child and the parent. "Look not only for riches, lest thou be mated with misery." Wealth is good in its place, and we should not object to it, other things being equal. But it never was nor can be good as an inducement to marry. What a miserable policy it is, to make it the test of a proper match! "Do not make the metals of earth the cord of the marriage tie." They are too brittle in their nature to do so. They take to themselves wings and fly away. The fine gold becomes dim; their cords are like ropes of glass-sand, --
"Like the spider's most attenuated thread,
Rank also is a false standard of judgment in the forming of a marriage alliance. Many look only to position in society, make it everything, and think that acknowledged social distinction will compensate for the want of all other interests. While there should be a social adaptation of character, and while you should --
"Be joined to thy equal in rank, or the foot of pride will kick at thee,"
yet there is nothing to justify marrying a person because of his or her social position. The evils of this may be seen in the first classes of English society, where rank is mechanical, and where law forbids a trespass upon its bastard prerogatives; and as a consequence, relatives intermarry, until their descendants have degenerated into complete physical and mental imbecility. Such nepotism as this is replete with untold disaster both in the family and in the state. Too many in our democratic country ape this, look to rank, and are blind to all things else. The fruits of this are seen in that codfish aristocracy which floats with self-inflated importance upon the troubled waters of society, causing too many of the little fish to float after them, until they land themselves in the deep and muddy waters of domestic ruin.
TRUE TESTS IN THE SELECTION OF A COMPANION FOR LIFE.
Having considered some of the false standards of judgment in the choice of a companion for life, we now revert to those true tests which are given us in the Word of God. There we have the institution and true idea of marriage, and the principles upon which we should proceed in making the marriage choice.
We are taught in the holy scriptures, the primary importance of judicious views of the nature and responsibilities of the marriage institution itself. We should apprehend it, not from its mere worldly standpoint, not as a simple legal alliance, not only as a scheme for temporal welfare and happiness, but as a divine institute, a religious alliance, involving moral responsibilities, and momentous consequences for eternity as well as for time, for soul as well as for body. We are commanded to look to its religious elements and duties; and to regard it with that solemnity of feeling which it truly demands. When the light of the bridal day throws upon the cheek its brightest colors, even then we should rejoice with trembling, and our joy and festivity should be only in the Lord.
"Joy, serious and sublime,
In the days of our forefathers, marriage was thus held sacred, as a divine institution, involving moral and religious duties and responsibilities; and their celebration of it was, therefore, a religious one. They realized its momentous import, and its bearing upon their future welfare. It was not, therefore, without heavings of deep moral emotion and the flow of tears as well as of joyful spirits, that they put the wedding garment on.
"There are smiles and tears in that gathering band, Where the heart is pledged with the trembling hand
True love in each, and reciprocated by each, must determine the marriage choice. The marriage of children should not be forced. Mutual love is the basis of a proper union, because marriage is a voluntary compact. When parents, therefore, force their children into an alliance, they usurp their undoubted natural and religious rights. Hence there should be no must, where there is no will, on the part of the child. That choice which is made upon any other than reciprocated affection, is an unreasonable and irreligious one. "Parents have no right," says Paley, "to urge their children upon marriage to which they are averse;" "add to this," says he, "that compulsion in marriage necessarily leads to prevarication; as the reluctant party promises an affection, which neither exists, nor is expected to take place." To proceed to marriage, therefore in the face of absolute dislike and revulsion, is irrational and sinful.
As true, mutual love is the basis of marriage, so also should it be a standard of our judgment in the marriage choice. Without it, neither beauty, wealth, nor rank will make home happy. True love should be such as is upheld in scripture. It is above mere passion. It never faileth. It is life-like and never dies out. It is an evergreen in the bosom of home. It has moral stamina, is regulated by moral law, has a moral end, contains moral principle, and rises superior to mere prudential considerations. It is more than mere feeling or emotion; it is not blind, but rational, and above deception, having its ground in our moral and religious nature. It extends to the whole person, to body, mind, and spirit, to the character as well as to the face and form. It is tempered with respect, yea, vitalized, purified, directed and elevated by true piety. Such love alone will survive the charms and allurements of novelty, the fascinations of sense, the ravages of disease and time, and will receive the sanction of heaven.
Mutual adaption of character and position is another scripture standard of judgment. Is that person suited for me? Will that character make my home happy? Could I be happy with such an one? Are we congenial in spirit, sentiment, principle, cultivation, education, morals and religion? Can we sympathize and work harmoniously together in mind and heart and will and taste? Are we complemental to each other? These are questions of far greater importance than the question of wealth, of beauty, or of rank.
Fitness of circumstances, means, and age should be also considered. Am I able to support a family? Can I discharge the duties of a household? Where there is ignorance of household duties, indolence, the want of any visible means of supporting a family, no trade, no education, no energy, and no prospects, there is no reason to think there can be a proper marriage. Thus, then, mutual love, adaptation of character, of means, of circumstances, of position, and of age, should be considered, in the formation of a marriage alliance.
But the standard of judgment to which the scriptures especially direct our attention is, that of religions equality, or spiritual adaptation. "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." The positive command here is, that Christians should marry only in the Lord. Here is a test in the selection of a companion for life, from which neither parents nor children should ever depart. It evidently forbids a matrimonial union with those who have no sympathy with religion. We should make more account of religious equality than of equality of rank and wealth. Is not true piety of more importance than education, affluence or social distinction? When husband and wife are unequally yoked together in soul and grace, their home must suffer spiritually as well as temporally. The performance of religious duties and the enjoyment of religious privileges, will be impossible. The unbeliever will discourage, oppose, and often ridicule, the pious efforts of the believer. Partiality will be produced, and godliness will decline; for, says Peter, unless we dwell as heirs together of the grace of life, our prayers will be hindered. The pious one cannot rule in such a home. Thus divided and striving with each other, their house must fall. Where one draws heavenward and the other hellward, opposite attractions will be presented, and the believer will find constant obstructions to growth in grace, to the discharge of parental duty, and to the cultivation of Christian graces in the heart. How can the unbeliever return, like David, to bless his household? How can he bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Can he be the head of a Christian home? And, tell me, does the true Christian desire any other than a Christian home? "How can two walk together, except they be agreed?" And are you, then, in your marriage, agreed to walk with the unbeliever in the broad road of sin and death? You are not, if you are a true Christian!
We see, therefore, the importance of a rigid adherence to the scripture standard, "Be not unequally yoked, together with unbelievers." It is even desirable that husband and wife belong to the same branch of the church, that they may walk together on the sabbath to the house of God. There is indeed something repugnant to the feelings of a Christian to see the husband go in one direction to worship, and the wife in another. They cannot be thus divided, without serious injury to the religious interests of their family, as well as of their own souls. It is impossible for them to train up their children successfully when they are separated by denominational differences. It is a matter of very common observation that when persons thus divided, marry, the one or the other suffers in religious interest. From these and other considerations, we think it Is expedient to marry, if possible, within the pales of our own branch of the church. Then, being agreed, they can walk together with one mind and one purpose.
But how much more important that they be united in their pilgrim walk to eternity, -- united In the Lord Jesus Christ, by a common life and faith and hope! We believe that Christians commit a sin when they violate this law of religious equality, and unite themselves in matrimony with those who pay no regard to religion. Who can estimate the peril of that home in which one of its members is walking in the narrow way to heaven, while the other one is traveling in the broad road to perdition! Whom, think you, will the children follow? Let the sad experience of a thousand homes respond. Let the blighted hopes and the unrequited affections of the pious wife, reply. Let those children whose infamy and wretchedness have broken the devout mother's heart, or brought the gray hairs of the pious father down with sorrow to the grave, speak forth the answer. It will show the importance of the scripture rule before us, and will declare the sin of violating that rule.
And does not, therefore, a terrible judgment accompany that indiscriminate matrimonial union with the unbelieving world, of which so many Christians, in the present day, are guilty? Parents encourage their pious children to marry unbelievers, though they are well aware that such unholy mixtures are expressly forbidden, and that spiritual harmony is essential to their happiness. "She is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord!" Those who violate this cardinal law of marriage, must expect to suffer the penalties attached to it. History is the record of these. The disappointed hopes, and the miseries of unnumbered homes speak forth their execution. This great scripture law has its foundation in the very nature of marriage itself. If marriage involves the law of spiritual harmony; if, in the language of the Roman law, it is "the union of a man and woman, constituting an united habitual course of life, never to be separated;" if it is a partnership of the whole life, -- a mutual sharing in all rights, human and divine; if they are one flesh, -- one in all the elements of their moral being, as Christ and His church are one; if it is a mystery of man's being, antecedent to all human law; if, in a word, man and woman in marriage, are no more twain, but one flesh; and if the oneness of our nature is framed of the body, the soul, and the spirit, then is it not plain that when two persons marry, who possess no spiritual fitness for, or harmony with, each other, they violate the fundamental law of wedlock; and their marriage cannot meet the scripture conception of matrimonial union or oneness. There will be no adaptation of the whole nature for each other; they will not appreciate the sacred mysteriousness of marriage; instead of the moral and religious development of the spiritual nature, there will be the evolution of selfishness and sensuality as the leading motives of domestic life. We see, then, that the Christian cannot with impunity, violate the scripture law, "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers."
Shall the Christian parent and child disregard this prohibition of God? Will you ridicule this fundamental principle of Christian marriage? Will the children of God not hesitate to marry the children of the devil? Can these walk together, in domestic union and harmony? Can saint and sinner be of one mind, one spirit, one life, one hope, one interest? Can the children of the light and the children of darkness, opposite in character and in their apprehension of things, become flesh of each other's flesh, and by the force of their blended light and darkness shed, around their home-fireside the cheerfulness of a mutual love, of a common life and hope, and of a progressive spiritual work?
Parents! it is your right and duty to interfere when your children violate this law. Bring them up from infancy to respect it. In the parlor, train them to appreciate its religious importance. Show them that God will visit the iniquity of their departure from it, unto the third and fourth generation. You are stimulated to do so by the divine promise that when they grow old, they will not depart from it.
Such unequal matches are not made in heaven. "God's hand is over such matches, not in them." "What fellowship hath light with darkness?" If love, in Christian marriages, is holy and includes the religious element, then it is evident that the Christian alliance with, one between whom and himself there is no religious affinity whatever, is not only an outrage against the marriage institution, but also exposes his home to the curse of God, making it a Babel of confusion and of moral antipathies.
Both the old and the new testaments give explicit testimony to the law of spiritual harmony in marriage. Thus the law of Moses forbid the children of Israel to intermarry among heathen nations. "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son." -- Deut. vii., 3. Abraham obeyed this law in the part he took in the marriage of his son Isaac, as recorded in the twenty-fourth, chapter of Genesis. His obedience was reproduced in Isaac and Rebecca, who manifested the same desire, and took the same care that Jacob should take a wife from among the covenant people of God. See twenty-eighth chapter of Genesis.
The evil consequences of the violation of this law may be seen in the history of Solomon, -- i. Kings, chap.11; also in the case mentioned in the 10th chap.; and in Nehemiah, chap.13. Paul upholds this law when he exhorts the Corinthians to marry "only in the Lord." Reason itself advocates this law. The true Christian labors for heaven and walks in the path of the just; the unbelieving labor for earth, mind only the things of this world, and walk in the broad road to ruin. Can these now walk together, live in harmony, when so widely different in spirit, in their aims and pursuits? "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters."
The primitive Christians developed this law in their families. They forbade marriage with Jews, Pagans, Mohammedans, and ungodly persons. With them, piety was the first desideratum in marriage. The sense of the Christian church has ever been against religious inequality in marriage. It has always been felt to be detrimental to personal piety and to the general interests of Christianity. It limits and neutralizes the influence of the church, brings overwhelming temptations to lukewarmness in family religion, and is, in a word, in almost every instance, the fruitful cause of spiritual declension wherever it is practiced.
Let me, then, exhort you to marry only in the Lord. Such an union will be blessed. Daughter of Zion! marry such a man as will, like David, return to bless his household. Son of the Christian home! marry no woman who has not in her heart the casket of piety. Make this your standard; and your home shall be a happy, as well as a holy home, and
"In the blissful vision, each shall share