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adultery; and whosoever marrieth her which is put away, doth commit adultery.” And so long as such direct infidelity to the marriage vow has not been clearly proven, they are still “one flesh;" for God hath joined them together.
II. WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR MARRIAGE?
As it is a sacred engagement, involving many serious considerations and important consequences, and one which is to continue for life, it “is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, and in the fear of God.” Several things are to be particularly observed :
1st. Revelation and nature concur in prohibiting marriage between persons who are related to each other in blood. Within three degrees of kindred persons should never enter into this relation. A violation of this law is not only offensive to God, and a sin to be accounted for in the day of judgment, but incurs a penalty in the direct line of the offence. Physical and mental degeneracy will inevitably follow it; and in the second or third generation, a most lamentable imbecility and even idiocy, or a total extinction of the race will be the result.
2nd. A happy marriage also requires a pure and elevated mutual affection between those entering this relation. The Scriptures insist upon a love which rises far above that mere bestial desire which is the sole motive in many alliances of this sort, or the mere question of temporal expediency which influences others. And without this it is very evident that marriage can be productive of nothing worthy of the name of happiness, much less of pure and permanent enjoyment.
3rd. It is also important that persons should not enter the marriage relation before a proper age. My own conviction is, that it should not be entered by persons whilst yet in years of minority as defined by our civil law. The reasons for it are, that minors have not prudence enough to make a selection, usually have not wisdom and gravity enough to undertake the management of a family, and are most likely to transmit imperfect constitutions to their eldest children. *
4th. It is important, too, that none should enter into the married state who are themselves the subjects of disease, or have weak
and sickly constitutions. The neglecters of this matter often have their own sufferings augmented, probably become disagreeable companions to each other, are troubled with a consciousness of their own unfitness for the duties of their condition, frequently plant the seeds of suffering in the constitutions of those who follow them; and as they often reach premature graves, so they also increase the number of melancholy orphans, which are left to tug along the way of life unprotected and unguided by parental experience and affection.
5th. There should also be, in those entering the marriage relation, a correspondence of age, mental turn, and general disposition. A wide disparity of age, with conflicting tastes and general habits, must inevitably cause collision, and often transform what ought to be the palace of peace and the mansion of the softest affections of our nature, into a theatre of interminable and incurable strife.
6th. Another thing which belongs to the qualifications for marriage, is the prospect of a comfortable support for a family. The doctrine of marrying for money deserves to be totally and eternally repudiated; but all reference to the subject of the maintenance of a family is not to be abandoned. If it is left entirely out of sight, marriage, in many instances, instead of adding to the stock of happiness in this world, will add only to its degradation and misery.
III. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE MARRIAGE VOW?
By this is meant the solemn, public, religious assumption of all the obligations and duties of the marriage relation as they are set forth in the holy Scriptures. The liturgy thus sums them up: " A christian husband is in duty bound to love and respect his wife; to endeavor to lead her with discretion, instructing, comforting and protecting her, as his nearest and most intimate friend and companion in life. He is to labor diligently and faithfully in the calling in which the providence of God hath placed him, that he may maintain in an honest and becoming manner those who are dependent on him.
In like manner, it is the duty of a christian wife, to love, honor, and esteem her husband; she is bound to manifest her love and attachment unto him, by her faithful and affectionate endeavors to promote his comfort and happiness; she is to assist him in direct
ing and governing their household, in providing for their mutual comfort, and contributing to the happiness of others. ???
These duties all persons when they are married solemnly swear before the heart-searching God to perform. This promise is called the marriage vow. It is an oath by which persons publicly join themselves together for life. When it is performed before “any regularly authorized minister of the Gospel,” persons are married, in the eye of the law and in the sight of God."
IV. THE HONORABLENESS OF MARRIAGE.
The text declares that “marriage is honorable.” It is honorable for various reasons.
1st. It is honorable, in consequence of the great antiquity of its institution. There are but two institutions now in existence which can date their origin previous to the fall, viz.: Marriage and the Sabbath. Marriage, however, was anterior to the Sabbath, and hence is the oldest institution in the world. And having commenced with the creation of man, gone into all nations, whether civilized ór savage, and received the sanction of the most ancient, and the noblest systems of religion that have existed on earth, it certainly is entitled to a high place in our regards. 2nd. Marriage is bonorable, too, on account of its typical refer
Christ has made it the emblem of his union with his church. And as we think highly of the ritual services of the Jews because they were typical of the work of salvation by the Savior, and would esteem them insignificant and worthless if divested of their typical reference; so then we ought to esteem marriage the more honorable as it represents the relation of Jesus to his church.
3rd. Marriage is honorable, because it is a Divine institution. God does nothing which is unworthy of his character. He is allwise, and cannot err. All his ways are just, and right, and good. Yet he saw, in the plenitude of his wisdom, that it was “not good that the man should be alone;" and accordingly God made him an help meet. "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh."
Liturgy for the use of the Evan. Luth. Churches, p. 18.
An institution which stands in the express will of the Supreme God, certainly is deserving of our respect.
4th. Marriage is honorable, too, on account of the comfort and happiness which it secures to those who properly enter into this sacred relation. It is true that some have suffered, and suffered severely, in having contracted matrimonial alliances contrary to the laws of nature and the precepts of revelation. These instances, however, are not to be adduced as arguments against the beneficence of the marriage institution. Dr. Dwight has remarked in his work on Theology, “I have lived in very many families, and these often in plain, as well as polished life. With very many more, extensively diversified in character and circumstances, I have been intimately acquainted. By the evidence, arising from these facts, I am convinced, that the great body of married persons are rendered more happy by this union; and are as happy as their character and circumstances could permit us to expect.”! Marriage calls into active exercise, purifies, dignifies, and perpetuates the tenderest affections of our nature. It inspires hope; it prompts to virtuous effort; it nerves for the endurance of the various hardships which lie in our path through life; and it gives to the soul a contentment, the value of which no sums of gold can represent.
5th. Marriage is honorable, on account of its great usefulness to society in general.
All the natural relations of mankind depend upon this institution. The delightful and important relations of parents and childrenbrothers and sisters-together with many others, have their whole foundation in marriage. No other relationships on earth are so immensely interesting and useful as these. They connect mankind by bonds the most intimate and enduring. They resist the irregular, evil, and stormy passions of man, and soften his rugged nature incomparably more than any other influences. And they spread through the world a degree of peace, moderation, and amiability, which without them, would be impossible. From these relations spring affections of softness and sweetness which cannot otherwise exist. Here they are rooted; and hence they send forth their boughs and branches, their blossoms and fruits. And what would this world be without them? A bleak, stern, and joyless wilderness, without music, or stream, or fruit, or flower. “Domestic
"Vol. 3, p. 399.
society," says Robert Hall, “is the seminary of social affections, the cradle of sensibility; where the first elements are acquired of that tenderness and humanity which cement mankind together; and were they entirely extinguished, the whole fabric of social institutions would be dissolved.”
And as all the natural relations and domestic affections depend upon marriage, so it is also the source of subordination and government, and consequently of the peace and order of the world. “Families,” says the author just quoted, “ are so many centres of attraction, which preserve mankind from being scattered and dissipated by the repulsive powers of selfishness. The order of nature is evermore from particulars to generals. As in the operations of intellect we proceed from the contemplation of individuals to the formation of general abstractions, so in the development of the passions, in like manner, we advance from private to public affections; from the love of parents, brothers, and sisters, to those more expanded regards which embrace the immense society of human kind."1 Children are taught, in the very dawn of being, to obey. And by learning to obey those who love them and do not require anything at their hands which would not be for their good, they become so impressed with the advantages of obedience as in this way to be prepared to become the supporters and willing subjects of civil government. Were it not for the tender influences of parental affection, were they taught obedience at the hands of those only who would rule them with a rod of iron, the effect would be the very reverse. Instead of respecting and loving the restraint of authority, they would look upon it as a grievous yoke from which it would be a privilege to escape. They would hate government; they would view it as an evil that should be abolished; and thus become the subverters of peace, and the most deadly foes to the highest interests of man.
From these considerations of the importance of the marriage institution to the general good of society, it appears to me perfectly evident that it is honorable, that it deserves our respect, and that every genuine philanthropist is bound to repel every movement that may be made to disparage it.
? See Hall's Works, vol. i. p. 41,