The Single Christian's Rule
"She is free to marry anyone she wishes — but he must belong to the Lord." 1 Corinthians 7:39
This, though spoken of widows — is the law of Christ in reference to all unmarried Christians, and is imperatively binding upon them.
To slight it — is to slight the authority of Christ;
to reject it — is rebellion against the King of kings and Lord of lords;
and to act contrary to it — is to ensure sorrow, grief, and woe!
Celibacy is not sanctity — though it may, under some circumstances, be preferable to marriage. It is not required by the gospel, and in many instances, cannot be approved by the Lord.
Marriage is lawful — for God has instituted it;
it is honorable — for God commends it;
it is desirable — for God blesses it;
it is instructive — for God speaks by it;
it is profitable — for thereby we become helpers of each other;
and it is sometimes necessary — for the prevention of sin.
But it must be according to God's Word — "only in the Lord." A Christian may only marry another Christian, for he is to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness — but rather reprove them." It is not enough for the other party to . . .
be moral — for morality is not salvation; or
an attendant on the means of grace — for many attend to whom the gospel is a savor of death unto death; or
a hopeful character — for of many it may be said, "They are not far from the kingdom of God," but they never enter it!
It must be a genuine believer, one who is born again by the Holy Spirit, who is in the Lord. That is, a person . . .
who is vitally united to the Lord Jesus;
who lives upon Christ;
who walks with Him in faith and holiness;
who is not ashamed to profess Him;
who adorns the doctrine of Christ his Savior;
a Christian not in word only — but in deed and in truth!
And with no other, can a believer unite . . .
in accordance with God's Word,
under the approving smile of the Holy Spirit, or
with scriptural ground to expect the Lord's blessing.
This command of Christ is plain; no one can misunderstand it — but from willful blindness.
It is imperative; it does not give permission to any one to qualify it, or excuse himself from conforming to it! If you are a Christian — you are solemnly bound to observe it. It is as much a crime to marry an unconverted person — as to steal, or to violate any of the ten commandments.
It is indispensable; no one has authority to set it aside, or to say, "I am not bound by it." If you are a Christian — you are bound by it, and woe unto you if you break it!
It is solemn; for it is a part of that Word by which Jesus will judge us at the last day. Therefore if you are tempted to trifle with it, remember you must be judged by it!
It is reasonable; "for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?" Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; but the body of an unbeliever, however moral, or amiable, or lovely — is the temple of Satan, who is preferred and served in preference to God. You are a member of the body of Christ — but every unconverted person is a member of the body of Satan! You are alive to God — every unregenerate person is dead in trespasses and sins. In a word, you . . .
are influenced by different spirits,
are walking in directly opposite roads,
observe contrary rules, and
serve two opposite masters!
"How can two walk together — unless they be agreed?" They cannot with comfort, propriety, or as mutual helps.
The consequences of mixed marriages are generally fearful:
the unconverted partner becomes more hardened in sin;
the converted partner becomes carnalized and debased;
the family affairs cannot be conducted upon strictly Christian principles;
the children cannot be trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;
there can be no family religion, though there may be a degree of the form of it;
and the cause of God must suffer by it.
If therefore, you have any regard for the authority of God,
if you have any concern to please the Lord Jesus Christ,
if you have any fear of grieving the Holy Spirit of God,
if you have any desire to maintain and increase your own spirituality,
if you have any wish to be approved and commended at the judgment of the great day,
if you would not be cruel to the soul of the unconverted person,
if you would not sow the seeds of sorrow, perplexity, and distress,
if you would not make bitter work for repentance —
then observe carefully and to the letter — this law of our Lord Jesus Christ! And when tempted to run counter to it, say, with holy Joseph, "How can I do this great wickedness — and sin against God!"