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the best. As I am conscious of many and great defects in all I can say to you on this very interesting subject, to make you full amends for them all, I shut up the whole with this last advice, wherein there is no room for error, nor indeed for any addition, and so leave you in the hands of God.
It is an observation, equally common and unintelligible, that marriages are made in heaven. They cannot surely be all made there. An unhappy marriage is, at most, but permitted by Providence; and why permitted, unless for the punishment of such as neither consult with God's word, nor seek his blessing on their designs? Now, the reason why they do neither, is plain. Having all along consulted with the enemies of God, that is, the flesh and the world, nay, and sometimes with the devil also, in forming their designs, they know full well, those designs are of 100 corrupt and sinful a nature ever to be sanctified. They are therefore afraid to bring them before God, but not afraid to carry them into execution, as if he that will not bless, were unable to curse, a practice so insolent and impious.
Here now, I know you will be ready to say, if mankind were to make use of all these precautions, to cast about, and consult at such a length, there would be few marriages. Admitting your observation for a truth, I answer it by saying, there would then be few, if any, unhappy marriages. Is it not a wiser course never to marry, than to marry on one principle, and hope for happiness in marriage on another? To marry for pride, and hope to live together in mutual condescension ? To marry for wealth, which one of the parties purposes to hoard up, and the other to flaunt away in articles of vanity; and yet to hope for agreement in their manner of living ?
But I am fully persuaded, that, were the young people of both sexes resolved to take the course I have been recommending, instead of diminishing, it would greatly increase, the number of marriages, and even bring them to a much speedier conclusion than the present methods. It is a long way about to adjust all the punctilios of family pride, to examine into fortunes, to search old deeds and records, to draw long settlements with a number of wary clauses, and to examine every piece of gold with all the nicety of a critical mammonist. Two minds, wisely and honestly determined to be open, might, moderately speaking, find the way to know each other sufficiently in half the time. This is undoubtedly the way of nature, which never moves in a curve, when she can take along a straight line. In countries where nature is followed, there is no sound person of either sex to be found who is grown old in celibacy; whereas here, where nothing but art and refinement is studied, a great part of mankind live and die unmarried, to the unspeakable damage of the community, and with a still more deplorable injury to virtue. As to the condition of particulars (the good of the public and the interests of virtue out of the question), it is plain to common observation, that the troubles incident to an unhappy marriage, if not in their utmost extreme, are but amusement to the solitude, the gloom, the melancholy, the peevishness, the suspicion, the contempt, the desertion in calamity, sickness, and death, ever found about him or her who hath protracted a single life to gray hairs.
All this, and more than this, which no force of words can describe, and still more than that, which the day of judgment only can disclose, might be prevented, were peo. ple masters of sufficient sense and resolution to break through a set of customs, as whimsical as they are tyrannical; as demonstrative of stupidity, as they are productive of misery; and going one step downward in point of fortune or family, to make a choice (for here they may choose) of the first suitable objects they meet with ; and so spend their days with that choice, in one degree less of pride and pomp than custom tempts them to aim at. It is easy to see what a speedy multiplication of marriages this practice would produce, though attended with all the precautions insisted on in this discourse. A conduct so disinterested and religious would infallibly bring a blessing on every match so made, provided they, who in wedding thus take care to bow only to the true God, are as careful to observe his command, in making no marriages with the worshippers of other gods, riches, titles, or inordinate pleasures, the idols of a deluded world. But why did I speak of going downward in point of fortune, since the prudence and good economy espoused will probably bring in more wealth in the event, than expensive vanity, though for the present more amply endowed,
is able to produce in hand ? Poverty coming with a great fortune, and wealth with a person of none, are not uncommon things. But supposing it were otherwise, it were infinitely better to have a good husband or wife with poverty, than the reverse. Better is a dinner of herbs where love. is, than a stalled ox, and hatred therewith. Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.' If, as our Saviour tells us, the life is more than meat,' we may safely venture to say, a comfortable life is much more to be regarded by one who is about to marry, than a superfluity of wealth; for neither does a man's life,' nor the real comforts of his life, ' consist in the abundance of the things he possesseth. Yet how many marry fortunes only, and consider the husband or wife that brings them merely as a trifle thrown in, and find out at leisure, that these trifles, which, if rightly chosen, might have brightened every day of their lives, are now able only to make them miserable.
Marriage is considered by both sexes as a matter of so great importance, that little less than one half of all the cares and labours of mankind is laid out on ways and means of making young people agreeable in order to advantageous matches. I am not going to plead for a diminution, but only for a better application of these cares. Since marrying well is, and ever necessarily must be, a business of the last consequence, every one ought, in the first place, to know that this consequence is not by any means so materially derived from the fortune or family, as from the principles, dispositions, and habits of the persons; and that to marry well, is to get a prudent and good man for a husband, or a prudent and good womanfor a wife.
In the next place, it ought to be universally laid down as an invariable and indispensable rule, that such only are to be sought for, and that superior merit is ever to decide the choice, against all other considerations. This will be the rule of acceptance and preference with unerring wisdom at the last day ; and can it be a wrong rule now ? a wrong rule to choose that person by, who is to make a full half of one's self for life?
In the last place, were this a universal rule (so strong under worse rules even now is the desire of being well married, and so greatly would this increase it) the world would soon be reformed, would soon put on a new face of religion, of virtue, and of all that high and lasting happiness which flows from both. Young men, instead of being fed up from their childhood in little else than idleness and impertinence, in pride and folly, would be strongly tinctured with the love of God and goodness, would be trained to humility, meekness, and diligence in some useful calling; and as they advanced in years, instead of foppery and effeminacy in dress, instead of drunkenness, lewdness, swearing, and quarrelling, would use their utmost endeavours to erect on the firm foundation, early laid in their hearts, the noble superstructure of profitable and ornamental knowledge, of manly arts, of humanity and kindness to all men, of honour and integrity unshaken in all trials, and of undaunted bravery in the service of their king and country. This, and every thing of like kind, they would do, as knowing no other accomplishments capable of recommending them to a happy match, and as knowing also, that these could hardly fail to give them the heart and hand of any woman they should think fit to ask.
And as to the other sex, were real merit alone permitted to fix their titles to good husbands, an eternal adieu would be bidden to almost all the present arts of catching men. It would no longer be the sole business of their lives to learn, nor exhaust, as it now does, the whole care of their mothers, to teach them alluring looks and airs, to inquire after the newest fashions, to study the colours best fitted to disguise or set off their complexions, to hold long consultations with the undertakers of beauty about the best sort of washes, and to spend one half of every day in the deep mystery of setting pins. No, religion in all its most beautiful and affecting colours, would be presented to the first dawnings of reason and sensibility in their minds. Humility, modesty, sweetness of temper, and a thorough command of their
passions, would be next introduced, and practised into habits; and the last stage of their education would be filled with maxims of prudence, with materials for entertaining and profitable conversation, and with the rules of good eco. nomy. From a course like this they would come forth into the world, not, as now, ridiculous compounds of pride and affectation, contemptible pageants of dress and fashion; but adorned with angelic graces, sparkling with native jewels of their own polishing, and dressed for an assembly in the new Jerusalem.
Now these methods would neither shorten the stature of the men, nor darken the complexion of the women. All the natural advantages of face and person would still be preserved; and I will venture to say, due regard being had to neatness and cleanliness, set off to infinite advantage by the majesty of the more manly virtues in the one sex, and by the delicacy and sweetness of the female graces in the other.
Here is a picture but imperfectly sketched, which nevertheless I wish you would impartially compare with the despicable trifles and pernicious arts, wherewith the sexes labour to please, to ensnare and impose on each other in this artificial world. What a glory diffuses itself round that! what a ridicule ! what a satire on mankind grins from a bare mention of this! If you have eyes to see, behold the infinite difference; and God give you understanding in all things; particularly this, through Christ Jesus our Saviour, to whom with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.
HOW TO BE HAPPY, THOUGH MARRIED,
Ephes. v. 31.
A man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined unto his wife, and
they two shall be one flesh. What is here said, was intended for, and is as true, with a mere verbal alteration, of a woman. She also will leave her father and mother, that is, her nearest and dearest relations, in order to find a yet closer and more beloved relation in a husband. Neither, however, would do this, did they not hope, on grounds apparently promising, for more satisfaction and happiness in a new state of their own choice, than in the old, to which they were introduced by their birth, and