By Adam Clarke
"A MAN shall leave," wholly give up,
"both father and mother;" the matrimonial union being more intimate
and binding than even paternal or filial affection: and shall be
closely united; shall be firmly cemented to his wife: a beautiful
metaphor, which most forcibly intimates that nothing but death can
separate them: as a well glued board will break sooner in the whole
wood than in the glued joint.
"And they twain shall be one flesh:" not only meaning that they should be considered as one body, but also as two souls in one body, with a complete union of interests, and an indissoluble partnership of life and fortune, comfort and support, desires and inclinations, joys and sorrows.
Here is a grand rule, according to which every husband is called to act: "Love your wife as Christ loved the church." But how did Christ love the church? "He gave himself for it:" he laid down his life for it. So then husbands should, if necessary, lay down their lives for their wives: and there is more implied in the words than mere protection and support; for, as Christ gave himself for the church to save it, so husbands should, by all means in their power, labour to promote the salvation of their wives and their constant edification in righteousness. Thus we find that the authority of the man over the woman is founded on his love to her, and this love must be such as to lead him to risk his life for her. As the care of the family devolves on the wife, and the children must owe the chief direction of their minds and formation of their manners to the mother, she has need of all the assistance and support which her husband can give her; and if she performs her duty well, she deserves the utmost of his love and affection.
The husband is to love his wife, the wife to obey and venerate her husband; love and protection on the one hand, affectionate submission and fidelity on the other. The husband should provide for his wife without encouraging profuseness; watch over her conduct without giving her vexation; keep her in subjection without making her a slave; love her without jealousy; oblige her without flattery; honour her without making her proud; and be hers entirely, without becoming either her footman or her slave. In short, they have equal rights and equal claims; but superior strength gives the man dominion; affection and subjection entitle the woman to love and protection. Without the woman, man is but half a human being; in union with the man, the woman finds her safety and perfection.
How few wives feel it their duty to pray to God to give them grace to behave as wives! How few husbands pray for the grace suited to their situation that they may be able to fulfil its duties! The like may be said of children, parents, servants, and masters. As every situation in life has its peculiar duties, trims, &c., so to every situation there is peculiar grace appointed. No man can fulfil the duties of any station without the grace suited to that station. The grace suited to him, as a member of society in general, will not be sufficient for him as a husband, father, or master. Many proper marriages become unhappy in the end, because the parties have not earnestly besought God for the grace necessary for them as husbands and wives. This is the origin of family broils in general; and a proper attention to the apostle's advice would prevent them all.
Those who imagine they can encounter the cares of life with just the same measure of grace which was sufficient for them in a single state, will find themselves greatly mistaken. For to every situation in life peculiar and suitable grace is requisite. Most new-married people, even among those who are religious, think nothing of this. Hence it is often found that the new-married pair soon decline in the divine life; and, instead of getting forward, either go halting in the heavenly road, or turn back to the world.
I am perfectly of Solomon's opinion, that "he who findeth a wife findeth a good thing." Even in any circumstances, matrimony is better than celibacy; and hence I execrate the addition made here by the Targum, and some other would-be menders of the word of God, who have added "good;" a truth, indeed, that a child could have told; a truism and an actum agere very unworthy of the wisdom of Solomon; for most assuredly he that finds a good thing finds a good thing. Please to enter this beautiful criticism in your adversaria.
God pronounces the state of celibacy to be a bad state, or, if the reader please, "not a good one:" "And the Lord God said, It is not good for man to be alone." This is God's judgment. Councils, and fathers, and doctors, and synods have given a different judgment; but on such a subject they are worthy of no attention.
The word of God abideth for ever. God made the woman for the man, and thus he has shown us that every son of Adam should be united to a daughter of Eve to the end of the world. God made the woman out of the man, to intimate that the closest union and the most affectionate attachment should subsist in the matrimonial connection; so that the man should ever consider and treat the woman as a part of himself; and as no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and supports it, so should a man deal with his wife; and on the other hand, the woman should consider that the man was not made for her, but that she was made for the man, and derived, under God, her being from him; therefore the wife should see that she reverence her husband. Gen. ii, 23, 24, contain the very words of the marriage ceremony: "This is flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone: therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." How happy must such a state be where God's institution is properly regarded, when the parties are married, as the apostle expresses it, "in the Lord;" when each, by acts of the tenderest kindness, lives only to prevent the wishes, and contribute in every possible way to the comfort and happiness of the other! Marriage might still be what it was in its original institution, pure and suitable; and in its first exercise, affectionate and happy: but how few such marriages are there to be found! Passion, turbulent and irregular, not religion; custom founded by these irregularities, not reason; worldly prospects, originating and ending in selfishness and earthly affections, not in spiritual ends, are the grand producing causes of the great majority of matrimonial alliances. How then can such turbid and bitter fountains send forth pure and sweet waters?
Unfitness of minds, more than circumstances, is what in general mars the marriage union. Where minds are suited, means of happiness and contentment are ever within reach.
I scruple not to say that those who marry for money are committing adultery as long as they live.
A conversation on board ship between Leith and Lerwick.—"How is it," says one, "that the most simple and unadorned rings are used in the matrimonial ceremony?"—"Because, I believe, the canon law requires that no other should be used."—A. C. "I am not aware, that there is any law on this part of the subject. The law states that a metal ring shall be used, and not one of leather, straw, thread, &c.; and the reason to me appears to be this:—The ring itself points out the duration of the union; it is without end in reference to the natural lives of the parties. Metal is less liable to destruction than flax, leather, straw, &c. Gold is generally preferred, not only because it is the most precious, but the most perfect of metals, being less liable to destruction or deterioration by oxydisement. Life will wear out by labours, trials, &c.; and so will gold by attrition, frequent use, &c. Therefore, life and the metal shadow forth each other, properly enough. As to the ring being simple and unadorned, I think it has its reason in the case itself, and in the feelings and apprehension of the spouse who produces it. He has chosen, according to his feelings, one whom he esteems the most perfect of her kind: she is to him superior to every other female, adorned with every charm. To use then, in this state of the case, any ornament, would be a tacit confession that her person was defective, and needed something to set it off, and must be more or less dependant on the feeble aid of dress."—Mrs. Frembly. "But, sir, there is soon added what is called a guard; and this is, if circumstances will admit, highly ornamented with pearls or brilliants."—A. C. "True, madam; and this is not without much signification. The unadorned ring supposes the fact of the bride's great superiority as already mentioned, and her suitable feelings toward her spouse; but the guard is afterward added. In order to preserve this perfection, the husband feels it necessary to add ornaments to the union, that is, endearments, attentions, and obligations, to keep his wife steady to the character which he has given her to assume; and without attention to the support of the character, and the continuance of endearing conduct, he knows the progress of married life will soon remove all false or too sanguine expectations of each other's character. The bubble, if it were one, would soon burst; animosities and mutual recriminations would soon imbitter wedded life, and show how false and empty the high-formed estimation and expectations of each other were at the beginning. Thus the guard, as well as the ring, are not without their respective significations."