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THE ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE MARRIAGE
O God, who by thy mighty power hast made all things out of nothing, who also (after other things set in order) didst appoint that out of Man (created after thine own Image or Similitude) Woman should take her beginning; and knitting them together, didst teach that it should never be lawful to put asunder those whom Thou by Matrimony hadst made one: we pray thee to send thy blessing upon all those, who enter upon this holy state, that they may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, and ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Matt. xix. 6.
WHAT THEREFORE GOD HATH JOINED TOGETHER, LET NOT MAN
We now resume the consideration of relative duties, which the introduction of the Sermons on Confirmation had interrupted. Our subject is Marriage, at all times important, from its influence on public
morals and domestic peace, and from its intimate connexion with the happiness and the interests of all classes. But, in the present times, legislative changes and eager discussions have conspired to attract to it the attention of the religious and reflecting with more than ordinary solicitude. This solicitude impels us to enter upon the subject more at large, than perhaps under common circumstances might have been deemed necessary, or desirable, in a work of this popular description. Three separate discourses will be devoted to it. The present will treat generally of the origin, and nature, of the marriage contract—the next, of the purposes, for which our Church declares it to have been designed, and the manner, in which she directs it to be solemnized—and the third, of the duties of husbands and wives.
The present Sermon, on the origin and the nature of the Marriage contract, will be appropriated to the discussion of the following questions :
1. By whom, and with what obligations, Marriage was instituted.
2. The probable origin of the erroneous notion, that Marriage is a civil contract.
3. By whom, and how far, persons may, by Divorce, be absolved its obligations.
I. By whom, and with what obligations, was Marriage instituted ?
: On this head we affirm, that the state of Marriage is of Divine institution, that its obligations are founded upon God's ordinance, and that none, but the Divine Lawgiver, can set aside, or limit them.
You will observe, brethren, that I say--the state of Marriage ; because the state of Marriage is one thing, and the solemnization of Marriage is another; the former of Divine institution, the latter coming under the province partly of ecclesiastical, partly of civil regulation. It is with the former only that we have to deal in the present sermon; the latter will be considered in the next.
Now, to determine the question of the institution, and obligations of Marriage, we may have recourse to the highest of all authority-the word of God. And there those points appear to be so plainly, and positively settled, that no room is left for dispute, unless for those, who deny the truth and inspiration of the Bible. In proof of this I shall commence by citing, and comparing two passages, one from the Old, and the other from the New, Testament.
In the second chapter of Genesis' we find the following simple and explicit account of the original institution, and obligations of Marriage. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him an help meet for him. 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 instead thereof: and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
| Ver. 18. 21--25.
That no plea of Christian liberty, no vain imagination of the Gospel making us, in this respect, free from the precepts and institutions of the Law, may be set up against the above explicit account of the matter, compare it with the following declaration of Jesus himself
“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 his wife : and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder 1."
Here not only is a distinct acknowledgment of the Mosaic account of the origin, and obligations of Marriage, made by Jesus Himself, but the very words of that account quoted, adopted, and enforced,
1 Matt. xix. 4, 5, 6.
by Him. And, that it may not be doubted, whether Adam spake by the inspiration and delivered the decree of God, Jesus tells us expressly that the words uttered by Adam, declaring the institution and obligations of Marriage, were God's words. “He that made them at the beginning” (that is, God) “made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife.” It may also be observed, that Adam here must be considered not as speaking of his own marriage only, but delivering the divine decree, respecting the nature of the contract, to be recorded for the general benefit of mankind, because the words “ leave his father and mother” could not apply to his own case, and must refer to the establishment of a rule for future generations.
Nothing can be clearer than the concurrent testimony of the Old and New Testament, in these two passages, to the Divine institution and obligations of Marriage. That, which Moses recorded before the Law, Jesus ratified in the Gospel. I have said, the divine obligations of Marriage ; for God, at the beginning, declared the obligations, no less explicitly and solemnly, than the institution of Matrimony. And, in the one respect, as well as in the other, did Jesus adopt the original contract. In the Old Testament, Adam, speaking under inspiration (as we have shewn) the decrees of God, said, This is “ now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,” and,“ therefore shall a man leave his father