13 October 2013 by Published in: William Gadsby, Sermons No comments yet

“But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery.”—Matthew 5:32

Beloved,—The subject we are this evening about to enter upon is a subject of the greatest importance in human life, the eternal concerns of the soul, excepted. I am not aware of any thing that enters more into the very vitals of human happiness or misery. It is immediately connected with all our domestic and social concerns; in fact, it is designed, by the God of all comfort, as a kind of spring-head blessing to the human race, and if acted upon according to the revelation of God’s will, it is sure to prove a source of real happiness to the parties immediately connected, and, in a great variety of instances, will hand down to posterity clusters of blessings not to be equalled by any other created good. The blessings arising from, and connected with, the marriage-union, in heart and affection, according to the word of God, bid defiance to the most capacious soul to find one gem, in all the mines of created good and earthly enjoyment, equal in real dignity of nature and social happiness. Sordid minds may grasp at riches, honours, and voluptuousness, and glut themselves with the objects of their pursuits, and when they have obtained their ends, they will find themselves immersed in vanity and vexation of spirit; but the pleasures and sweets connected with and arising from a real marriage-union, according to the word of truth, leave no room for bitter reflections and heart-rending groans. On the other hand, a prostitution of the marriage-union is a violation of the laws both of nature and of God, and is a source of indescribable evils, both in the morals, minds, and circumstances of mankind. It is, in fact, bidding defiance to God and his laws, and opening the flood gates of every thing scandalous, profane, and abominable.

Let a man forsake his lawful wife, and give up himself to prostitutes, and away goes all real happiness in every feeling branch of his family; and let a woman forsake her lawful husband, and yield to tho carnal desires of a wanton man, and all domestic happiness is swept away as with a flood; and in proportion to tho nature of the sphere of life a man fills in the world, so will his base example be seriously felt by the community at large; the greater and more splendid the office he fills, the greater and more dangerous is the crime, and the greater is the disgrace he brings upon the country; and if the parties thus prostituting the marriage-bed die without real repentance towards God, and real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the greater will be their damnation. Fulsome, venal, self-seeking, flattering priests may say that a king can do no wrong; but was not David a king, and did not he do wrong? Did not the Lord send the prophet Nathan to be an instrument of convincing David of his ungodly deeds? Surely he did. But if Nathan, instead of attempting to convince David of his sin, had told all Israel that a king could not do wrong, would he not have acted more like a servant of the devil than a prophet of the Lord? and would not the Lord have said unto him, “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant into thy mouth? seeing thou hatest instruction and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterer. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit.” (Ps 50:10-19) But Nathan was no self-seeking bishop, but a prophet of God, and he went and delivered the Lord’s message to his royal master, and king David fell under the charge, and confessed his sins before God. The whole statement tends to prove that rather than David’s being a king exculpating him from his guilt, it increased his crime, because, as the head of the nation, his example was more seriously felt; so that, though the Lord forgave his sin, he sent a severe chastisement upon him, and one reason assigned for it was, “because he had given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.” (2 Sam 12:11-14) David sensibly felt and fell under his crime, nor did he for a moment charge Nathan with being disaffected to his person or his throne. No, beloved; David never loved Nathan better in the whole course of his life than he did at this time. If you will read the 51st Psalm, you will soon see that David both believed and felt that kings could do wrong. If men, in the capacity of ministers of Christ, who have access to the persons of kings, were faithfully to deliver unto them the message of Jehovah, instead of telling them that they cannot do wrong, who can calculate upon the blessings that might be handed down to posterity through their instrumentality?

But, on the other hand, when professed ministers of Christ sanction and encourage sin, they are among the greatest curses that can come upon a nation. What a blessed lesson is given to kings in Proverbs 31:3-9. O that all the kings of the earth felt its contents, and acted according thereunto! Hear it, beloved; it will do you no harm; God grant it may do you good: “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink; lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. Open “thy mouth for tho dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” What must a fulsome, venal, flattering priest, who asserts that a king cannot do wrong, say to such a lesson as this? But, let priests say what they will, God’s word says, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Heb 13:4) It may strictly be said, both of man and woman, be they who or what they may, who forsake the marriage-bod, and live in acts of uncleanness, “Hell from beneath is moved to meet thee at thy coming;” and an awful meeting it will be, when the God of infinite purity drags the guilty wretch to his righteous bar, and sets before the tortured sold all its voluptuous and unclean actions, and, in strict justice and blazing majesty, spurns the guilty wretch into black despair, as a monster that neither regarded the laws of God nor the good laws of man. It is probable that a time may come when men may be sanctioned in committing acts of adultery, and unjustly putting away their wives to cause them to do the same, by what some people call the law; but as such laws are an awful infringement upon the prerogative of God, all such law-makers, will have to stand before the Judge of quick and dead, and give an account of their treasonable proceedings against his solemn Majesty; for their conduct will be high treason, against tho King of kings. Of such law-makers it may be justly said, “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.” (Ps 94:20,21)

But without detaining you any longer by way of introduction, I will immediately come to the passage read as a text; and, in making a few remarks upon this portion of the word of God, I will,

I. Drop a few hints upon the real nature and design of the marriage-union.

II. Point out some of the duties incumbent upon each party in that relation.

III. Show tho only lawful ground upon which a man can put away, or divorce, his wife, which is, in case of fornication.

IV. Endeavour to show that if any man put away his wife for any other cause, except that of fornication, and she commits adultery, after being thus put away, he is the cause of that adultery.

V. Make a few remarks by way of improvement.

I. We are to consider the nature and design of the marriage-union; and, as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, I mean to ground my views upon the doctrine of Christ. Here I make my stand, fearless of all consequences, and entirely regardless of either the approbation or the disapprobation of man.[1] Such is the nature of the marriage-union, that it constitutes the parties one flesh. They no longer remain twain, but are verily and truly one. “When God incarnate made his visible appearance upon earth,” the Pharisees came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Now, beloved, mark the answer of the adorable Redeemer, and be concerned to act up to its contents: “He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning, made them male and female; and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to Ins wife; and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matt 19:3-5) Thus we see, that, in the strictest sense, a man’s wife is a part of himself, and ought to be dealt with as such. She is bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, nor can a man dishonour his wife without dishonouring himself, nor a woman disgrace her husband without disgracing herself; for they are one in the nearest and dearest ties of nature.

This union is according to divine appointment, nor can it be made null or void, without offering an indignity to God, disgracing humanity, and shamefully injuring society. No man, or set of men, be they as dignified as they may, have any authority from God to dissolve tins union, except in the case of fornication; for, says the incarnate God, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh; what, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” Neither crowned heads, bishops, judges, peers, nor commons, jointly or separately, have any right to violate the laws of God. Jehovah has said the man and his wife are one, and whoever separates them insults God, and shall feel his just anger sooner or later, in time, or through the vast ages of eternity. Such is the nature of the marriage-union, that they are immediately interested in, and become partners of, each other’s joys and sorrows; and every changing vicissitude of life should tend to endear them more and more to each other. A man who can unjustly put away his wife, and see her persecuted and held up to public contempt, and never attempt to deliver her out of the hands of her inveterate and malignant foes, is not worthy the name of man, and ought never to be allowed to associate with woman again. Unerring truth says, “No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it,” and this is spoken in direct relation to man and his wife, the wife being considered the flesh of the man; so that I say again, the man who hates his wife, and who does not nourish and cherish her, is not worthy the name of man. “When God created man, he created him male and female;” so that, in reality, the very first wife given to man was created in himself, before she was visibly formed into a woman, and given to man for a wife: “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh thereof; and the lib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” This was the first marriage that ever was celebrated upon earth; and to this the Lord Jesus Christ refers, as a confirmation of the fact that the marriage pair are no longer twain, hut one. This Adam knew well, the moment he saw his wife; hence he says, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” And as there is a oneness in bone and flesh, there ought to be in heart and affection too. But more of tins in another place.

It has been justly observed, that the woman was. not made from the superior part of man, that she might not be thought to be above him; nor from any inferior part, as being below him. Allow me to observe, that she was not taken from his head, that she might not be supposed to reign over him; nor from his eyes, that she might not be supposed to see for him nor diligently search for his imperfections; nor from his ears that she might not be supposed to listen to false accusations against him; nor from his mouth, for fluent as she may be in speech, she is not to be her husband’s spokesman; nor from his arms, or hands, for she is not to fight his battles for him; nor from the front part of his body, for she is not to be set at the front of dangers and difficulties; nor from his back, for she is not to be treated with contempt, and set behind him; nor from his legs, or thighs, for she is not to bear the principal part of his burdens; nor from his feet, for she is not to be trampled upon by him; but out of his side, and from one of his ribs, that she might appear to be equal to him; and from a part near his heart, and under his arms, to show that she should be affectionately loved by him, and be always under his care and protection. So that a wife is not. to be tyrannised over by her husband, nor made into a slave, much less to be abandoned by a voluptuous husband, and exposed to all the frowns and enmity of self-seeking reptiles. No, beloved; she is designed, by the providence of God, to be a help-meet for her husband: “For the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; 1 will make him a help-meet for him.” And if so, there is to be freedom and familiarity between a man and his wife; and there should ho a mutual concern for each other’s real welfare. Strictly speaking, their concerns are one, and demand a oneness of care and attention ; and as far as either a man or his wife acts contrary to this, they violate the laws of God, and dishonour their own persons.

But if a wife is to be a help-meet for her husband, she should, in some tolerable measure, be acquainted with her husband’s circumstances; for if she is totally unacquainted with them, how is she to judge what will, or what will not, be to his real advantage? The very methods she takes to make him comfortable may be a means of bringing him to ruin, unless she is acquainted with his circumstances in life; so that there ought to be freedom between a man and his wife in all things, that they may be mutual helpers of each other, in all the concerns of life, and act really for each other’s welfare, in the things which relate to both time and eternity.

Before I proceed, let me ask each married person in the presence of God, Do you in reality feel that you arc bone of bone, and flesh of flesh. Is it your real concern to fill up the situation in which you stand as it becomes the character you sustain? If not, you are rather a plague to each other than a blessing. But recollect, you stand accountable to God for all your works and ways. Therefore, for your own personal good, for the good of each other, for the good of your offspring and domestics, for the good of society, and for the honour of God, be concerned to act in conformity to the law of God and to the near relation in which you stand to each other; for remember, that in this respect, example will have its influence, and is much better than, precept. How can you attempt to exhort your children or domestics to act lovingly and kindly towards each other, while you yourselves act quite the reverse? How despicable a character is a husband who pays no attention to his wife’s real welfare, seldom treating her kindly or speaking friendly to her, and when he does, it is for the purpose of the gratification of his carnal desires; and how contemptible is a wife who, instead of seeking her husband’s real good, and the welfare of the family, and so proving a help-meet to him, is spending her time in pride, gossiping, and cant. Remember, the marriage union makes you one. Act as such towards each other, and let the wife be concerned to please her husband in all lawful things, and use all her talents to fill up her place as a help-meet for him; and as far as any of us come short of the standard of truth, may we be humbled under a sense of our sins, and pray for wisdom, grace, and strength to live more in character in future.

But one end of marriage is, for the production of children, till the whole number of God’s elect are brought into real existence, and are savingly called by grace. When the Lord has gathered the whole of his elect unto himself, natural marriages shall for ever cease, and time shall be no more. But we pass on,

II. To consider the duties incumbent upon a man and his wife to each other. And here let me observe, that I shall only notice a few particulars out of many, and be very brief in what I have to say.

1. It is the duty of the husband sincerely to love his wife: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” The marriage life is sure to be connected with circumstances which call for the exercise of love, and real love too; and if there be no real love, the parties will only be a pest to each other. If love be wanting, there will be misery enough, and real happiness will be as far from the tent as the cast is from the west. It becomes the husband to love his wife as his own body, and to act towards her with as much care and tenderness as he does towards himself. Eternal truth has said, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” So that, the same law which binds a man to love himself binds him to love his wife; and as no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourished and cherished it, that husband who hates his wife cannot strictly be called a man, but a kind of nondescript in the marriage life. The love that a man ought to have to his wife is not a love of lasciviousness, but a love of union, of sympathy, pity, and compassion, imitating the love of Christ to his church. Hence it becomes the husband to love without bitterness: “Husbands love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”

A husband who is full of bitterness to his wife, whose words are like the pouring forth of gall, gives but little proof of loving her; and if so, what must be the feelings of a husband who has unlawfully put away his wife from his bed, his house, and his table, and is venting his bitterness with unremitting diligence and unwearied persecutions?

It is one part of a husband’s duty to dwell with his wife: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel.” Husbands are lo dwell with their wives, and exercise a right knowledge of the station they fill, as husbands, and the claims the wife has upon them, not forgetting that she is the weaker vessel, and that, as such, she is to be honoured, and not despised. The husband is to honour her, by feeling for her, and sympathising with her in her distresses, paying strict attention to her necessities, vindicating her character, standing up for her defence, and, as much as in him lies, providing for her wants, giving her every proof in his power that her real welfare is near his heart. He is to nourish and cherish her, that is, to be kind and affectionate to her, and afford her all that succour and comfort her situation calls for, and his circumstances afford him an opportunity of doing.

It is also incumbent upon both the husband and the wife to render unto each other due benevolence, ever recollecting that neither of them has power over their own bodies; therefore, they are not to defraud each other: “Let the husband render unto his wife due benevolence; and likewise also the wife unto her husband. The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband; and likewise the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife.” So that they have no lawful power to withhold the conjugal debt from each other, much less to give their bodies to others, or commit acts of adultery, fornication, or uncleanness. They ought carefully and judiciously to perform all things connected with the marriage life; and it is a violation both of the laws of nature and of God to act contrary.

Since the fall of man, it was never supposed that a wife would be every thing the fickle mind of man might desire. Both male and female are poor frail creatures, prone to err, and should share in each other’s compassion; but as a man is considered the stronger vessel, he is called upon to exercise tho greater pity and sympathy, and rather cover than expose and exaggerate the weakness of his wife; for real love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Pet 4:8; Prov 10:12)

2. But we now pass on to consider the duty of the wife to the husband. While it is the husband’s duty to love his wife, and to dwell with her in knowledge, it is the wife’s duty to love her husband, and to yield obedience unto him in all things. Do not you women start from your pews. Recollect, it is the word of God, as you shall soon hear. I do not mean that they are to obey the husband in criminal things, but in all things lawful and right. Nor is the wife to be governed by her own fickle temper in her acts of obedience, but whatever the husband requires, agreeably to the laws of God and the marriage-union, it becomes the wife, not reluctantly, but cheerfully, to obey, and not to treat the husband as though ho ought to have no mind of his own. A woman that only obeys her husband in those things which happen to suit her own views, however righteous and just his claims may be, in the strictest sense only obeys her own inclination, and not her husband. But the word of God is quite pointed on this subject; and supposing the husband’s claims to be grounded upon the word of God and the nature of the marriage-union, the wife is to obey him in all things, whether those things please her fancy or not. But let the husband take care that his claims be righteously grounded; and that being the case, unerring truth says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the church; and he is the Saviour of the body; therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are the only characters who are capable of showing any spiritual concern for the welfare of their husbands, it becomes them, above all others, to think well of their husbands, and speak becomingly and respectfully of them, and show a willing mind to use all diligence and prudence in managing the family and family affairs, as far as her talents and circumstances give opportunity. She should use all diligence, to give her husband proof that his welfare is near her heart. She should be sober, modest, and temperate, in all things. Let her love to her husband be evidenced by constantly seeking his honour, and interest, and by endeavouring to secure peace, union, and harmony, by all pleasing, affectionate, and lawful means.

It is the duty of the wife to love her children, and to act wisely, prudently, and judiciously towards them, keeping them in their proper place, and teaching them to reverence their father, and not secret their crimes from him, nor encourage them in things contrary to the word of God, and to the will of their father. A wife who acts such a part is-disgracing herself, and opening a way for the ruin of her children. Too many wives, under pretence of tenderness for their children, encourage them in visiting places of carnal amusement, and secreting their unbecoming actions from their father; but is this acting the part of a loving, dutiful wife, or a really affectionate mother? No, beloved, the issue will prove quite the reverse. A tenderness of this nature is a sinful tenderness. Rather let the wife endeavour, as far as in her lies, to caution her offspring against the snares which lay in their way, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And as, in many instances, the care of the children falls more upon the wife than the husband, the wife should be careful not to put stumblingblocks in the way of the children, but use all her diligence to seek their temporal and their eternal welfare. Both husbands and wives should be careful to bring their children under the means of grace, and set before them the solemn realities of the great concerns of eternity, and, by earnest prayer, commit them into the hands of God.

It becomes the wife to be discreet in all things, to be chaste both in body and affection, having her love pure and single to her own husband; keeping the marriage bed undefiled, and to be a keeper at home, not gadding about, busying herself about other people’s affairs, but minding her own family concerns. In Titus 2:1-6, is a blessed lesson both for husbands and wives, young and old; and when the husband and wife are enabled to act according thereunto, they will be a mutual blessing to each other, and be a means of sweetening each other’s cares in a world of perplexity and woe.

Husbands and wives, let it be your concern to make each other as comfortable as your circumstances will admit. You cannot long dwell together; why should you embitter each other’s lives the few fleeting moments you have to be here? Rather be concerned to bear one another’s burdens, and, in times of distress, comfort each other’s minds. Let Christians remember, that it becomes them to pray with and for each other, and to pray with and for their offspring and domestics; and in all things show themselves as Christians indeed. But we pass on.

III. To show the only lawful ground upon which a man can put away his wife; and upon this and the next head, I shall say hut a few words. The only lawful ground upon which a man can put away his wife is for the sin of fornication; that is, if she prostitute herself to the lascivious desire of another man; but till it can be fully proved that she has committed the crime of fornication, it is highly criminal in any man to put her away. No other circumstance whatever will justify such conduct in the sight of God. Not one solitary passage of Scripture in all the New Testament allows any man to divorce his wife, but for the sin of fornication. Our text is quite decided upon the business; and recollect, it is the Incarnate God who speaks. To contradict him, or to attempt to overturn or set at nought his solemn declaration, is to set our mouths above the heavens, and to say to the Lord, in plain terms, that we will not have him to reign over us. No man, or set of men, be they who or what they may, can make a law in direct opposition to the law of God, without being guilty of high treason against the King of kings.

Both the law of nature and the law of God allow a man to put away his wife if she commit fornication; for in that case she has thrust herself from his bosom and his bed, and constituted herself the flesh of another man. Nevertheless, if woman has fallen into this snare and the husband is equally guilty of the same crime, ho must make a miserable appearance in wishing to put away his wife for the very thing he practises himself. What a flood of miseries has this abominable sin brought into many families. Let both husbands and wives, whether believers or unbelievers, be concerned to keep the marriage-union inviolable. We now come,

IV. To show that if a wife be put away from her husband except for the sin of fornication, and she, after being thus put away, commit adultery, the husband is the cause of that crime; for our text says, “The husband causeth her to commit adultery;” so that the guilt falls upon him as the first cause. I do not mean to say that the woman is exculpated from guilt, neither did the divine Lawgiver; so far from that, he declares “Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery.” But the husband is the cause, the fountain, and the spring-head of the crime, and on his devoted head the heaviest weight of the guilt must fall.

V. We now make a few remarks by way of improvement.[2] I address my self to the unmarried part of my congregation. My dear young friends, as the marriage life is a life of such vast importance, it becomes you seriously to consider what you are about, before you enter upon so solemn a change. You need wisdom to direct you. The Lord help you to seek it at his hands; and may you be enabled to form such a connexion as shall prove a lasting blessing both to yourselves and to posterity.

Let the unmarried Christians remember, that they are at liberty to “marry only in the Lord.” (1 Cor 7:39) For believers to marry unbelievers is contrary to the word of God, and is sure to bring them into deep distress of soul; therefore, it becomes you to cry unto the Lord, with fervency of soul, for direction, and cautiously act agreeably to his blessed will. If a believer marry an unbeliever, the marriage-union makes them hone of bone, and flesh of flesh, but it will not make them of one spirit, which they will painfully feel when it is too late. Therefore, my young Christian brethren and sisters, act cautiously in this solemn business. Remember, that the things connected with a marriage-union are not merely the trifles of an hour, but they involve in them the vast concerns of the whole of your natural life.

To the married I would say, let it he your steady concern to act in your place, as it becomes the station you fill; and let real believers live together as heirs of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered. Strive together for the faith of the gospel, and endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; and the God of peace be with you.

If any of you have been savingly converted to the Lord since you were married, and have unconverted partners in life, be concerned to give them constant proof that the grace of God has taught you the denying of ungodliness and the world’s lust, teaching you to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this world. And if any of you have married an unbeliever since you knew the Lord, be careful to treat them kindly. Remember, if they persecute you, you have brought it upon yourselves; therefore, expect fatherly chastisement; bear it with patience, and treat your spouse becomingly and honourably. Recommend Christ and his salvation by all your deportment, “for what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” The Lord enable you to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

But we pass on, lastly, to show that a real marriage-union is a beautiful type of Christ and his church; and, if I may be allowed to judge, I have reserved the best wine till last. The union which subsists between Christ and his church is so intrinsically glorious that there is no other union, either human or angelic, to equal it in majesty, bliss, or blessedness. It boasts of real happiness and blessings, surpassing human thought, and all its blessings are secured by every thing which is dear to God, and safe to his blood-bought family. It is a union which can never be dissolved, for the Lord “hateth putting away.” (Mal 2:16) This union took place in the mind of Jehovah before the foundation of the world, and is the real offspring of God’s matchless and immutable love; so that there was a secret giving of the church to Christ, as his wife, in the purposes of heaven. Hence says the blessed Redeemer to the Father, “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” Their persons, and all spiritual blessings necessary to make them perfectly holy and happy, and perfectly to secure their bliss and blessedness for ever, were all safely lodged in the heart of Christ, their lovely and loving Husband, before Jehovah laid the foundation of the earth. What a blessed description of this the inspired Paul has given in his epistle to the Ephesians, 1:3-9. Read it at your leisure.

Here you will see, beloved, that the dear people of God were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and that they were blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in him; and if all spiritual blessings were lodged up and secured in him, final apostacy from him could never take place, for both, grace and glory must be included in all spiritual blessings; hence tley were adopted to be “children in Christ, and if sons, then heirs of Cod, and joint heirs with Christ.”

Though Jehovah knew well that they would fall in Adam, bring themselves into sin and disgrace, and merit eternal misery, yet such was his matchless love that he secured their redemption in Christ; and, ever blessed be the name of Christ, he loved his spouse too well to shrink back when payment was demanded. (Gal 4:4,5) And in due time the blessed Spirit is sent to communicate the spirit of adoption unto tho souls of all God’s elect. (Gal 4:6,7) Their heirship is secured in Christ, and this is among the all-spiritual blessings which are treasured up in him,—the pardon of nil their sins. The justification and acceptance of their persons arc also secure in Christ. (Eph 1:7) In Christ they are made holy and unblameable, and shall eternally stand complete in him. Yes, beloved, and so secure is the spouse of Christ in him, that neither earth nor hell can separate them; and, iu the Lord’s time, they shall be brought to know tho blessed mystery of his will, the majesty of the love and loveliness of the blessed Trinity in Unity, as made manifest in the great economy of salvation. Every particle of the glory which the church shall have and enjoy, in time or in eternity, is all according to the riches of God’s grace, and the good pleasure of his will, which he purposed in himself. Hear this, ye dear children of God; you see that all is safe in Christ. In him place all your hope, for there is nothing you can possibly need, to make you either holy or happy, but what is safely lodged up in his heart, and there it is lodged for you: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;” “And of his fulness have we all received, and grace for grace.” And as the church was betrothed, or given, unto Christ, in the counsels of Jehovah, before the world began, so there is, in time, an open or manifestative marriage-union takes place between Christ and his people.

The Holy Ghost quickens tho sinner, blesses him with life, light, faith, and love in Christ, sheds abroad the love of Christ in his heart, and causes the soul to experience union unto and oneness with him, through floods of corruption and filth, and over mountains of guilt and wrath. The blessed Spirit directs the faith of God’s people to the cross of Christ, and Christ swiftly and sweetly flies with pardon and peace, seats himself in the conscience, and says, “I am thy great salvation.” Guilt, bondage, and fear depart, and Christ and the soul hold sweet intercourse together, and both parties are well pleased, and highly delighted with each other. The Lord calls the poor soul his Hephzibah and Beulah, and tells her he rejoices over her, as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride; (Is 62:4,5) and the believer says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall he joyful in ray God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels.”

Thus the marriage-union is sensibly felt and enjoyed, nor will the blessed Lord ever lose sight of his spouse, nor for one moment let his love for her abate. She is his own flesh and bone, and he has made her partaker of his Spirit. They are in very deed one, and shall never be parted. Some poor broken-hearted sinner may say, “I believe this to be true, but, alas for me! I fear I have no part nor lot in the matter. I find myself so wretched, Jost, and ruined, so destitute of everything that is good, and so full of every thing that is evil, that I really abhor myself before God; and if I am so fulsome in my own eyes, what must I be in the eyes of the Lord? Surely Christ will never take into his bosom and his embraces one so vile as I am. Indeed, such a sinful wretch am I, that I should think it high presumption to claim an interest in Christ. There is nothing that my soul so ardently thirsts for and pants after as Christ and his salvation, but I fear he will never be mine.” Poor, distressed soul, recollect that they are sinners, and none but sinners, that Jesus Christ came to seek and to save; and “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And sure I am, there would be no real hungering and thirsting after Christ and his righteousness, if there were no union unto him. It is the fruit of spiritual life, and the Lord himself says, “Blessed are those which do hunger mid thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Wait at wisdom’s gate, and trust in, and rely solely upon, the precious name, blood, and love of Christ; and in the Lord’s own time, thou shalt sing and say, “This is my God, and I have waited for him.” Christ never expected to find one single limb of his wife pure and spotless in. herself. No, beloved; her purity is in him, and from him she receives all real holiness. Hear what the Holy Ghost says by Paul: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy, and without blemish.” So that her sanctification, cleansing, and holiness are all from and by the Lord Jesus Christ.

The description the apostle in Ephesians 5 gives of a man and his wife evidently has a twofold meaning. First, it relates to the natural union which subsists between man and wife; and, secondly, it relates to that blessed spiritual union which subsists between Christ and his church. Hence, in verses 32 and 33, Paul says, “This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” Let us, then, for a moment, glance at a few. things spoken of in this chapter, relative to the love of Christ to his wife: “He that loveth his wife loveth himself, and no man ever yet hated his own flesh;” so that Christ loves the church as he loves himself; nor can he hate her without hating himself. Through evil and through good report, he loves her as himself; and before ever lie can withdraw his love from his dear spouse, he must cease to love himself, for she is bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh; and he both docs and will love, cherish, and nourish her. He feels for her in all her afflictions and distresses: “In all their affliction he -was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them and carried them all the days of old.” Though she has played the harlot again and again, yet he has never taken his love from her, nor will lie suffer his faithfulness to fail. He took up a life for the express purpose of dying for her offences, and bearing her contradictions, and, in everlasting love, he has followed her through all the dark mazes of her unrighteous and ungrateful career, not to pattern after her, nor to pursue her with vengeance, but to bear her vile offences, and to allure her to himself, with the manifestation of his love and beauties. Give her up! No, beloved; rather than do that, “he gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair.” In her natural rebellion against him, she did all she could to expose him to shame and contempt; but such was his love, that he bore it all, nor did he even “hide his face from shame and spitting.”

In whatever sense we view the church in real union to Christ, the union is inseparable. Is the church called a building? It is built, and fitly framed together in the Lord; every stone in its proper place, and all the.timber work of it properly jointed together, for a habitation of God, through the Spirit, and is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom (that is, in the Lord) ye also are builded together for a habitation of God, through the Spirit.” This uniform, fitly-framed building is the church of Christ, in union, to him, both as the foundation and the chief corner-stone. This is the house of God’s glory, and he will glorify it. (Is 60:7)

If the church be called a body, it is a body fitly joined together, and compacted, by that which every joint supplieth; so that there cannot be one single joint of the body left without supply; and the supply of the joints and parts of the body of Christ is not by offers and proffers ; no, beloved, but “according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.” (Eph 4:10)

From Christ all the members, joints, and parts, receive their nourishment and succour, and this is communicated by the effectual working of God the Holy Ghost. This is blessedly set forth in 1 Cor 12:12. Every limb and part of this body is so dependent, one upon another, that there never can, strictly speaking, be any schism in this body; for Christ, the Head, cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee. The body of Christ must be a perfect body: “and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it: or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now, ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

Thus we see, that whether we view the church as a building, or as a body, or as a wife, it is inseparably united to Christ, and derives all its blessings from him, and is his special care and charge. And to whatever dangers or difficulties she may be exposed, or however many, cruel, or artful her enemies may be, he will ever stand up in her defence, bring her safely through all her trials, and eternally glorify her with his own glory. He knew she would be exposed to the dreadful artillery of hell, and he remembered her in her low estate, and was determined to suit himself to her condition. (Heb 4:15,16)

Let the spouse of Christ keep this in view. Your Husband has become your Priest, and to this very moment he is touched with the feeling of your infirmities, lie knows your temptations, weaknesses, and distresses, and he holds out to you the golden sceptre, sweetly inviting you to the throne of grace, the mandates which proceed from his throne being matchless mercy and boundless grace. Your loving Husband is there seated to bestow the blessings of his heart upon his dear spouse, and however sharp or keen your temptations may be, “he himself has suffered, being tempted, and he is able to succour them that are tempted.”

In fits of unbelief, when the world, flesh, and the devil are all up in arms against the spouse of Christ, and when, for wise ends, the blessed Lord hides his face, and she cannot see him, she often says, her “way is hid from the Lord, and her judgment is passed over from her God;” but such is the nature of his love, he cannot long refrain. He both must and will appear, and say, “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest thou, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord ?” No infant can be so dear to the most tender-hearted mother as the spouse of Christ is to him. (Is 49:15,16)

Eternal honours rest upon the head of Christ! Neither foes within nor foes without shall ever tear his spouse from his loving heart. At all times, and under all circumstances, he loves her and pursues her real welfare. (John 17:9,10,24) Let the world frown, and men and the devil rage, still the church is secure in Christ. Though all nature be convulsed, and all created good fail, the loving-kindness of the Lord shall never fail. Poor, trembling, cast down, desponding spouse of Christ, “fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame,” &c. (Read Is 54:4-10)

What a divine cluster of precious promises and declarations of mercy are here. This is the endearing language of a loving Husband to a poor, fretful, peevish wife; and though at times he appears to frown, because of her repealed insults and untoward conduct towards him, his apparent frowns are but for a moment, nay, a small moment. But his kindness is everlasting. Sooner shall the lofty mountains and the solid hills disappear than his loving-kindness depart from his spouse, he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust, and his sympathising heart feels for us in our weakness. The whole of this chapter is full of mercies and blessings for Zion; and for the encouragement of her hope, when enemies make head against her, the Lord assures her of victory. (Is 54:17)

Christ and his church ever were, and ever shall be one, and such is the nature of this union, that every step the Lord Jesus Christ took in his mediatorial capacity, he took it as a head and representative. His wife was considered virtually in him, and shall most assuredly share in the victories he gained, and the honours he won. View him where you will, in his mediatorial capacity, and you view his wife in him. Was he set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was? The church was chosen in him before the foundation of the world. (Prov 8:23; Eph 1:4) When he became incarnate, still his church was in him, and with him: “Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world. Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.” Now the church of Christ is his reward; and the Lord says, his reward is with him; therefore, the church was with him. Adam the first, was the figure of him which was to come. (Rom 5:11) His wife lay in his loins before she was visibly brought forth; and so it is with the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. His church is the dew of his youth, which lay hid in him, as in the womb of the morning, and shall be made willing to acknowledge him her loving and lawful husband in the day of his power. (Ps 110:3) This is the seed named in the 89th Psalm, which Jehovah three times over declares shall endure for ever. O the matchless wonders of sovereign grace! Who can sound the depths of the love of Christ? The angels desire to look into the things it contains, but the spouse of Christ only is admitted into the sweetest part of the secret; for, “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them bis covenant.”

Let us farther observe, that when the Lord Jesus Christ gave his soul an offering for sin, still ho and his spouse were one. He did at that moment both see his seed and fool the dreadful vengeance due to her guilt. But such is his love, that notwithstanding both law and devils, and earth and hell, pressed hard upon him, and divine justice demanded full satisfaction for the vile offences of his wife, still his love never abated; but he gave his honour, his life, and his blood for her. (Is 53:10,11) But he will never be satisfied to reign in heaven and see his wife in hell. Part with her he never will. By virtue of union to him, she was considered as crucified with him, and died with him. Hence says Paul, “I am crucified with Christ.” And again, “The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” That is, when Christ died for all his people, then they were all considered dead with him; and as they died with him, so they were quickened together with him, and were raised up together, and sit together in heavenly places with him. (Eph 2:4-6)

The mystical body of Christ had the sentence of death passed upon it in him, and so was considered his dead body; as it is written, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” And as sure as the wife of Christ virtually stood, and suffered, and died, and rose again, and ascended up to heaven in Christ, so sure shall she be spiritually quickened, made alive to God, become dead to the world, sin, and the law, and shall be raised to newness of life in Christ, by the invincible energy of God the Holy Ghost. Thus they shall be manifestatively, or visibly, married to Christ; and when sinners are visibly married to Christ, they are not only bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, but they are made partakers of his Spirit. They dwelt in him before the foundation of the world, though they knew it not. But now he dwells in them, both the life and. the hope of glory; for “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” He puts his fear in their hearts, and they shall not finally depart from him. The Holy Ghost says, by Solomon, that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And so it is; for till the Lord puts his fear in the sinner’s heart, the sinner knows neither God nor himself; and, therefore, in the best sense, cannot be wise. But the spouse of Christ is made wise unto salvation, and is what is meant by the five wise virgins. Christ puts his life in their hearts, and they live in him, and “walk in newness of life.” Because he lives, they shall live also. He imparts unto them his light and his truth, and they walk in the light and in the truth. (Jn 8:12; 3 Jn 4) His love is sweetly shed abroad in their hearts, and they love him above all earthly joy, and with their better part say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” In a word, he gives them faith to believe in him, and love to embrace him. He calls his church his love, his dove, his undefiled, and tells her he sees no spot in her. He takes her to his banquetting house, spreads over her his banner of love, and banquets her with the rich treasures of his heart; and, under the sweet refreshing unction of his lovingkindness, she exclaims, “He is altogether lovely; this is my beloved, and my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” When this marriage-union is sensibly enjoyed in the soul, the world drops its charms, and Christ is all and in all, and by faith she has fellowship with the Father, and with Christ, and with the blessed Spirit. Then she in reality knows what it is to be blest with “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost.”

It is one thing to make a profession of religion, and another thing to experience real vital union to, and oneness with, the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this union, there cannot be any real communion, for union is the foundation of communion; therefore, it is of the greatest moment to know our union to Christ. When the spouse of Christ is brought to experience this union and communion, by a living and vital faith in Christ, she shall overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, and at last be fully changed into the glorious image of the Lord Jesus Christ, and shall live and reign with him for ever and ever; and then shall the marriage be fully consummated in ineffable bliss.

When the inspired apostle was taking a view of the love of Christ to his church, he appeared to be lost in a blaze of glory. I will, therefore, beloved, conclude this part of the subject with the words of the inspired apostle: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And now, beloved, if Christ so loved us, how ought we to love one another; and surely it is incumbent upon us to love him, and to yield obedience unto him in all things. Be concerned to know his blessed will and to do it. Follow his blessed footsteps, and be “followers of God, as clear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” The wife of Christ is to be a witness for God, before men and devils; therefore, stand up for the blessed truth of his gospel, and cheerfully yield obedience to his precepts and to the ordinances of his house. Let this blessed love- to you constrain you to say. “Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths; lead me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”

Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation; live as strangers and foreigners on earth, and by all your deportment among men, give proof that you are called to holiness, and wish to live and to walk as becomes saints. Let the honour of Christ lie near your heart, and seek to glorify him in all you do, and in all you say. Give proof that, through rich mercy, he has both taught you to love him and to obey him. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service; and be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Amen.

[1] The cause of this sermon being preached was the proceedings in the House of Lords, in 1820, against Queen Caroline, wife of George the Fourth. The Secretary of State had instructed Mr. N., the deputy constable of Manchester, to watch Mr. Gadsby, and he accordingly attended to hear this sermon, hoping that something might escape Mr. G.’s lips that he could take hold of. Mr. Gadsby, however, recognised Mr. N. among the congregation, which will account for the above remarks. (See ” Memoir,” second edition, page 106.)
[2] In the original work, reference is here made to George IV. Putting away his wife, Queen Caroline; but it is not considered necessary to insert the remarks here.


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