The New Zealand Evangelist
There are few things which exert a more unfavourable influence upon the piety of our churches than the mixed marriages between those who are professors of religion, and those who are not; and which it must be acknowledged, are in the present day lamentably common.
The operation of such unions on the state of religion, so far as regards the parties themselves, needs be no mystery to any one. When two individuals of different tastes, in reference to any matter, are associated, and one of them has an aversion, or even an indifference to the pursuit of the other, it is next to impossible for the one so opposed to sustain with vigour and perseverance his selected course of action; and then if he cannot assimilate the taste of the other party to his own, he must for the sake of harmony give up his cherished predilections. This applies to no subject with such force as it does to religion. Every Christian man carries in his own heart and encounters from surrounding circumstances sufficient resistance to a life of godliness, without selecting a still more potent foe to piety in an unconverted wife. Conceive of either party, in such an unsanctified union, continually exposed, if not to the actual opposition, yet to the deadening influence of the other. Think of a religious wife, to put it in the mildest form, not persecuted indeed, though this is often the case, by an irreligious husband, but left without the aid of his example, his prayer, his cooperation: hindered from a regular attendance upon many of the means of grace which she deems necessary for keeping up the life of godliness in her soul; obliged to be much in a sort of company for which she may have no taste, yea, a positive aversion, and to engage in occupations which she finds it difficult to reconcile to her conscience, or harmonize with her profession; hearing no conversation, and witnessing no pursuits but what are of the earth, earthly: page 294 ridiculed, perhaps, for some of her conscientious scruples, and doomed to hear perpetual sneers cast upon professors for their inconsistency; or what is still more ensnaring, constantly exposed to the deleterious influence of an unvarying, but at the same time, unsanctified amiableness of disposition in her husband, whose want of piety seems compensated by many other excellencies—is it likely, unless there be a martyr-like piety, not often found in such a situation, that amid such trials she will continue firm, consistent, and spiritual; will she not, if possessed only of the average degree of piety, relax by little and little, till her enfeebled and pliable profession easily accommodates itself to the wishes and tastes of her unconverted husband?
But, perhaps, the influence on religion generally is still worse when the husband is a professor, and the wife is not; worse, because he is more seen and known; has more to do with church affairs; has greater power over others, and therefore may be supposed to be more injurious or beneficial, according as his personal piety is more or less vigorous or consistent. When such a man unites himself with a female whose tastes and habits are opposed to spiritual religion; who is fond of gay company and fashionable amusements, and would prefer a party or a rout to a religious service; who feels restless, uneasy, and discontented in religious society and occupations; who has no love for family devotion, and is often absent from the morning and evening sacrifice,—is it likely that the husband of such a woman will long retain his consistency, his fervour, his spirituality? Will he not, for the sake of connubial happiness, concede one thing after another till nearly all the more strict forms of godliness are surrendered, and much of its spirit lost? His house becomes the scene of gaiety, his children grow up under maternal influence, his own piety evaporates, and at last he has little left of religion but the name. And now what is his influence likely to be upon others? What families usually spring from such marriages; page 295 and what churches are, by a still wider spread of mischief, formed by them? This practice is ever going on before our eyes, and we feel unable to avert it. It was never more common than at this time. Notwithstanding the protests which have been lifted up against it, the evil is continually spreading, and while it too convincingly proves the low state of religion amongst us, is an evidence of the truth of the last particular, that our present practice of the admission of persons to membership is far too low. Too few of the female members of our churches would refuse an advantageous offer of marriage on the ground of the want of religion in the individual who makes the proposal: and not many of the opposite sex would allow their conscience, on the same ground, to control their fancy and give law to their passions. Can we wonder that there should be little intense devotion in our churches in such a state of things as this?
How can we look with earnest pity, when such hindrances as these are thrown in the way of it? Honourable and noble exceptions, I admit, there are. Among others, one especially have I known where a female, by consenting to marry an ungodly man, could have been raised with her fatherless children, from widowhood, solicitude, suspense, and comparative poverty, to wealth, ease, and grandeur; but where, with martyr-like consistency, she chose rather to struggle on for the support of herself and her children, with the smile of conscience and of God to sustain her noble heart, than to accept the golden bait under the frown of both. But how few are there who would thus account the reproach of Christ greater treasure than all the riches of Egypt.