The Rev. Henry Handley Norris was a British clergyman who served as Rector of South Hackney in Middlesex County, England. Rev. Norris married Catherine Henrietta Powell in 1805. Their marriage lasted for forty-five years until his death in December of 1850. In this sermon, Norris marks the recent passage of a new law on marriage by providing a detailed look at the marriage institution from a Biblical perspective. He painstakingly progresses through the scriptures in establishing his point that marriage is most importantly a religious institution, and therefore it should never be relegated to a strictly civil character. Rev. Norris emphasizes that God created and established the marriage institution and therefore His intent and purposes should be followed by both religious and civil rulers. Rev. Norris’ sermon provides an example of how 18th and 19th Century clergymen regularly instructed their congregations in a Biblical worldview
Marriage Scripturally Considered
Preached At South Hackney Church,
On Sunday, July 2, 1837,
On Occasion of the New Law of Marriage Coming into Operation
By The Rev. H. H. Norris, A.M.
Rector of South Hackney, and Prebendary of St. Paul’s, and Landaff.
And He brought her unto the man.
There are none probably so entirely strangers to the measures in progress under the notion of reform, as to be unaware that a very material change has just taken place in the law of marriage, as the admission into this state of life has been uniformly regulated since the first establishment of Christianity amongst us, with the exception of a very few years during Cromwell’s usurpation.
Of that short period of the kingdom’s judicial subjection to the very dregs of its population, one distinguishing feature is, that, in their self-assumed legislative character, they took from the Clergy “the solemnizing of Matrimony, and put it into the hands of Justices of the Peace [See the Ordinance, Neal’s History of the Puritans, Vol. IV. Page 74.].” This is the only precedent to be found in our annals for the enactment that has now taken effect; and though, if reference be had to it, and to the circumstances belonging to its history, it will be seen, that no sooner did the nation recover its legitimate government, than this ordinance was declared a nullity, and repudiated in opprobrious terms, yet does it appear, from the observable similarity in some of the visions of both instruments, to be the model after which the new statue has been framed, the preamble of which lays the ground for the desecration of the holy rite, in and alleged “expediency” that the law of marriage should be so “amended.”
In the former instance of this desecration being ordained, the power to legislate had been seized by those who would be restrained in nothing that they imagined to do; and, in a day specified in their ordinance, “no other marriage whatsoever within the Commonwealth,” but such as should be contracted under the Parish Registrar’s Certificate of his publication of Banns, and before a Justice of the Peace, “should be held or accounted a marriage according to the law of England [See the Ordinance.].” But the national principle is not yet sufficiently prostrated to make us again ripe for so arbitrary and irreligious and imposition, and therefore, by the law just come in force, you are left to form your own judgments, whether marriage is a mere civil contract, or a Divine institution â€“ whether it shall be celebrated with or without any offices of religion â€“ whether the Church, the Conventicle, or the Register-office, shall be the place of celebration â€“ and whether the Clergyman of the Parish, the Dissenting Teacher, or the superintendent Registrar, shall officiate on the occasion.
In the relation in which I stand, and have long stood, toward you, my beloved brethren, and in a matter wherein your interests, both in time and eternity, are not lightly concerned, it would betray a very culpable indifference to my own responsibilities, were I to allow this new order of things to be brought into operation with our subjecting the questions at issue to a scriptural inquiry, and putting before you the strong reasons which should guide your conduct, “as persons professing godliness,” and pledged, by your baptismal stipulations, to maintain in all things “a conversation becoming the Gospel of Christ.”
It is under these impressions that the subject is undertaken; and the text has been selected, because, being the Divine record of the institution of Marriage, it carries back our inquiries into it to the fountain head, and whether the desecration of marriage is an “amendment” of the law, and there is the alleged “expediency” in dealing with it as though it were a common covenanting between parties about to traffic together as long as they can mutually agree, are questions upon which it has by no means an unimportant bearing.
To make this appear with the clearness due to it, having first reminded you that the facts of Scripture, bearing reference to man, are our “examples,” and “are written for our leaning,” let it be observed how few and simple are the words of the text, and how full to the point is their testimony, that on the first solemnization of the nuptial union, God, in His own person, brought the woman to the man. But this is far from being the whole of the august proceeding: there are disposals belonging to it, preparatory to this final issue, which set it very strikingly apart from all the other alliances established at the Creation, and connect the Almighty with it with a peculiarity to which they can in no degree aspire. In the case of the inferior orders, it was by one fiat of His Sovereign Will that both the male and female of every species were produced â€“ a corporeal and instinctive adaptation to herd together being the bounds of their perfection. But, in the case of the human species, a course very far removed from this compendious process was pursued: the man was formed first â€“ a splendidly-gifted individual â€“ and having been made to feel his social wants by a survey of all God’s creatures mated but himself, and to express, by that plaintive reference to his own comparative destitution with which the scene is closed, how desolate he was even in Paradise, being alone in that garden of delights, and how hopeless was the search for the “help meet” for him throughout the whole compass of hither-to-animated nature, God puts His last finish to the visible universe by the execution of His own wonderful counsel for supplying the deficiency. He takes from man’s own substance the material from which his second self is to be formed; as the term employed by Moses technically imports, He works upon it with the skill of a profound and exquisite artificer; and having framed and modeled out of it, after man’s own image, yet retaining its Divine similitude, but softened and refined, the grace of social life, He brings her to him, to be his bosom counselor and partner of his joys (for cares and sorrows he then had none), and knitting them together, pours out upon them precious benedictions; and ordains, with obvious respect to all future generations, that in every instance the strongest tie of nature, at the time existing, should be in great part dissolved, that the tie of matrimony might be adequately cemented; and that it should be of the very essence of the alliance thus contracted, that the parties should become “one flesh,” and, therefore, that our first mother’s marvelous formation should be in some sort influentially repeated, that this mutual tendency to cleave together might be produced.
All this is to be gathered from the text, and the passages which immediately precede and follow it; and, had the All-gracious Giver of this good to man confined the expression of His purposes and will to this primeval revelation, surely He had made known enough of both to enshrine the institution in inviolable sanctity, and to afford the means of conviction to every considerate inquirer that His presence and intervention constituted an indispensable part of the solemnity, and was to be invoked in His sacred dwelling place, with all the fervor of the most importunate supplication.
But we are not left to be our own interpreters of the perceptive force of the passage before us, or of the extent of its application to ourselves; for, the Pharisees, in their cavilings with our Savior on the intricate questions in debate amongst them, having called upon Him on one occasion, to decide a doubtful disputation growing out of their allowance of divorce, He meets their attempt to entangle Him in the difficulty, with a direct appeal to God’s original promulgation. On the sole ground that “in the beginning it was not so,” He dismisses the cases captiously put to Him, making this the criterion of lawful marriage under His perfect dispensation; and, still keeping steadily before Him the primeval pattern, He pronounces the vital principle of marriage to be “the making of twain one flesh,” and expressly declares, that it is by “God’s joining them together,” that this blending of their beings takes effect, and that the contract is inviolable; and farther, that it is an exempt jurisdiction reserved by God exclusively to Himself, and not to be modified, or, in any respect, invaded by human authority [Mat. 19:3,6]. Man’s law indeed may “couple” male and female together; but as our Church affirms, it is their being “joined together by God, and as God’s law does allow, that, in His sight, makes their matrimony lawful [Marriage Service.].”
What has been already advanced relates to marriage considered in itself, as it is God’s ordinance, “instituted by Him in the time of man’s innocency,” and as it received confirmation from our Lord, on His adoption of it into the Christian system. But that innocency was of very short duration, and, by the loss of it, as the prophet sets it forth, Man “destroyed himself so effectually, that “in God only was his help [Hosea 13:9],” and the “help meet for him” God again only could provide; and this provision God made by fulfilling the prediction of another prophet, whose words of promise are, “to us a Child is born â€“ to us a Son is given [Is. 9:6] â€“ the Second Adam â€“ of Whom “the first” is declared by St. Paul to have been a “a figure” [Rom. 5:14]; and one striking feature of resemblance between our fallen sire and this Great Deliverer is, that, when first brought into the world, He abode “alone” [John 12:24], and so continued, till God, by His providential over-ruling the malice of the Jews, caused a deep sleep â€“ the sleep of death â€“ to fall upon Him; and, during His suspended sensibility, still conducting to the accomplishment of His purposes the very wantonness of the soldiers attendant upon His crucifixion, caused to come forth from His wounded side the sacramental symbols â€“ “the water and the blood” [ibid. 19:34-John 5:8] â€“ the means by which the Church, to united to Him by the closest bond of union, and therefore declared to be “His spouse,” was to be formed. Thus the eternal Son of God descended from the bosom of the Father, contracted His divinity with flesh and blood, and married our nature; and thus it is, that as the mystery of God with reference to man commences, during the period of his innocence and of his abode in Paradise, with the marriage of Adam and Eve, the grandest and the most august nuptial celebration that ever yet was solemnized, inasmuch as the Officiating Minister was God Himself, and the contracting parties, for merit and dignity far beyond all subsequent comparison amongst ourselves, were the stem of all mankind; so does this mystery close, when redemption is completed, and Paradise regained, with a marriage infinitely surpassing its prototype in all the circumstances by which grandeur can be enhanced; for thus does St. John speak, in the Apocalypse, of this blissful consummation â€“ “the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready [Apoc. 19:7] â€“ and it is all in beautiful accordance with this glorious issue, and in process towards it, that our Lord compares His kingdom to “a king making a marriage for his son” [Mat. 22:2]; and that St. Paul describes the ministerial office to consist in our “espousing you to one Husband, that we may present you a chaste virgin to Christ” [2 Cor. 11:2]; and that the same Apostle, expatiating upon the demonstrations of our Lord’s love to the Church, sets it forth as manifested in “giving Himself for is, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” and so, when the end comes, “present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holly and without blemish” [Eph. 5:26-27].
Nor is this mystical union between the Redeemer and His faithful people so depicted, as the above representations exhibit it, only in the Scriptures of the New Testament, but the same figurative illustrations occur continually in the Psalms of David, and the Prophets, when this Desire Of All Nations, and the relation in which He was to affiance Himself to our race, are the subjects of their prospective contemplation; and, to specify but in a single instance, the 45th Psalm (appointed a stated part of the public service on the festival of our Lord’s nativity, and fraught with expressions far transcending any merely human application), is, in the structure of it throughout, a song of congratulation on the marriage of a great king, to be sung to music at the Wedding Feast, and is made up of those topics the praises both of the Bridegroom and the Bride which belong naturally to all compositions of that description.
Now what has here been stated affects the question of the religious character of marriage in a very material degree; for, that by the “state of matrimony the spiritual marriage that is betwixt Christ and His Church is signified and represented,” is no mere unsupported doctrine of the compilers of our Liturgy, but is put forth by them on the authority of St. Paul, the great mystagogue of Christianity, who propounds it, not in a cursory manner, or in ambiguous terms, but in a lengthened argument drawn out into particulars, and in a statement so clear as to be incapable of misapprehension, and to show incontestably that he attaches great importance to it. His object is to put to silence certain seducers who were disfiguring Christianity, by imputing to it the forbidding its disciples to marry. To do which effectually, he takes the decided course of showing that marriage, so far from having any disparagement cast upon it by the Gospel, was greatly advanced in honor by its revelations, which had made the discovery of its consecration to be the earthly figure of the above-specified excellent mystery, and had thus placed its holiness in a more conspicuous point of view, and given a new, and a more sacred force to its mutual obligations.
These, then, are the strong reasons to which I had respect in the outset of this discourse, as proving, beyond all controversy, the sanctity of the marriage state, and the despite done by Christians to the spirit of Grace in becoming parties to its desecration; and if it be required, for their further commendation to our regard, to make it appear that they are not merely speculative, but have the sanction of being received and acted upon by those divinely accredited to us as examples in the conduct of life, and are, moreover, enforced by divine commands, specifically enjoining their observance, we have only to refer to the recorded particulars, both of the holy conversation of the patriarchs, and of the laws of God, and the demonstration will be, not that of greater license or indifference than these reasons impose, but of a godly jealousy diffusing itself over the whole affair, and subjecting it to much more restricted limitations.
Mark the conduct of the Father of the Faithful, when the marriage of Isaac comes under his contemplation, and of the ruler of his household also, to whom the negotiation was confided. Religion overrules the whole proceeding. The patriarch, on his part, protesting against any alliance with the unbelievers amongst whom he dwelt, commits the conducting it to a prosperous issue, to the Lord God of Heaven, who had taken him from his father’s house; and the servant, full of his master’s faith, refers himself to God also for guidance and direction; and, in the very terms of the supplication which he makes, describes the object of his pursuit to be her whom God has appointed to His servant Isaac [Gen. 24].
In the same spirit, when Jacob, the fruit of the marriage thus solemnized, was of age to be affianced to a help meet for him, Rebecca evinced the same solicitude in the most passionate expressions of deprecation against any union with the daughters of Heth, and took the same religious precautions to keep the way of the Lord which Abraham had taken in his day, in the case of her husband Isaac [Ibid. 27:46].
And, though the sons of Jacob dealt deceitfully with Schechem, in the case of their sister Dinah, the terms upon which they insisted as the condition of intermarriage, viz. that “all the male among the Schechemites should be circumcised” [Ibid. 34:14-16], explains fully that religion was the ground on which both Abraham’s and Rebecca’s exceptions were taken; for circumcision was the divinely-appointed rite of admission into covenant with God, and incorporation amongst His people. In the symbolical language of the prophets, they became married to Him by receiving this sign upon them; and as, by the contract then entered into they were solemnly pledged to keep themselves only unto Him in spiritual communion, so were they also with respect to nuptial alliances, the figures of this mystical union, to keep themselves only to them who were partakers in its espousals; and the reason of this restriction, distinctly stated by Moses, from God Himself to the descendants of the sons of Jacob, when he reinforced it upon them on their arrival at the confines of the forced it upon them on their arrival at the confines of the Canaanitish nations, whose land they were to possess, that the throwing of it off would open the way to their going back from God, and forsaking Him altogether [Deut. 7:3-4], connects marriage with religion in the closest possible degree.
The last words of Joshua lay even more stress upon this connection than those of his predecessor, the great lawgiver of the Jews, and set out in fearful array the penal consequences that would result from slighting his admonition [Josh. 23:12-13]; and when this “great trespass,” as Ezra describes it, persevered in through several generations, in contempt of the above warnings, had been visited with the threatened penalty â€“ “the delivery of themselves, their kings and their priests, to the sword, to captivity, to a spoil, and to confusion of face” â€“ and, upon God’s giving them, after a long term of bondage, “a reviving to repair their desolations,” was repeated by irreligious marriages to a great extent, the nullity of such marriages, in the construction of the Divine law, and the reserved jurisdiction over them to the spiritual court of Israel, received a most impressive exemplification; for it is declared to be “according to that law,” that a judicial sentence of separation is in every instance pronounced, and the judge who pronounces it is described specifically as “Ezra the priest,” to whom the princes of Israel present the transgression on the alleged ground distinctly stated, that “the matter belongs to him;” calling upon him to “take courage and do” as God’s commandment requires, and engaging to “be with him: to support his authority [Ezra 9:10].
Such are the practical illustrations of the principles previously laid down with reference to marriage, and proving it to be, not a mere civil contract, but “an holy estate,” which we derive from the scriptural records, both of the Patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations; and, as might be presumed from the preeminently spiritual nature of Christianity, that dispensation, so far from dismantling it of any of its sacred character, gives that sacredness new stability by the fullest confirmation. Our Lord, who, in His reply to the Herodians, carefully distinguishes between “the things of Caesar and of God,” and on several occasions disclaims all interference with those of the former department [Luke 12:14-John 18:36], yet, as we have seen in the case of marriage, legislates with absolute authority â€“ suppresses the Jewish licenses of polygamy and divorce â€“ and restores it to what it was at the beginning: and, when called upon to take cognizance of a breach of conjugal fidelity, He does not put the hearing aside by inquiring “who made Him a judge;” but He exercises His judicial prerogative without any reservation, and thus again sets His seal to the position, that God, and not Caesar, is the supreme authority to Whose tribunal it belongs [John 8:1-11].
But the spread of the gospel not having commenced, nor the foundations of the Church been laid till after our Lord’s return to The Father, it is to the Apostolic epistles that we must have recourse for the full development of its laws and constitutions; and though, where the matrimonial alliance had already been formed, and one party only became a convert, the decision is, that the bond was not to be necessarily broken [1 Cor. 7:13]; yet, with reference to the contracting this relationship subsequently to conversion, the religious restriction, already traced through both preceding dispensations, is both negatively and positively enjoined â€“ “Be no unequally yoked with unbelievers [2 Cor. 6:14]” â€“ “Marry only in the Lord” [Ibid. 39].
In the scriptural view which has been already taken, I have, in passing, just touch upon the consequences entailed by the sure warnings of God on the setting at naught these divine injunctions; and I might now proceed to show, by the induction of particulars upon record in the same sacred history of man throughout his generations, how fearfully that total corruption from which the earth was purified by Noah’s flood, to that equally desperate accumulation of moral depravity and unbelief which, as St. John sets it forth, introduced by the Nicholaitan heretics [See Woodhouse on Apoc. Ch 2:6], through the same desecration of marriage, overspread the fairest portion of the Church in the early part of the Christian era; and I might further enforce a devoted adherence to the Divine ordinances, setting as it were a sacred hedge about this most influential institution, either for evil or for good, by arresting your attention to our Lord’s predictive representation of the state of apostasy in which the world will be found at His second coming, the caused of which are declared to be the same by which mankind were demoralized and fitted for destruction when the flood swept them away [Mat. 26:37-38].
These are indeed weighty considerations to those whose eyes are open to the signs of the times, and who, instructed by the records of former ages what those self-inflicted miseries were which falling off from God has hitherto produced, have sufficiently quickened and spiritualized their understandings to apprehend in any degree the enhanced poignancy of woe, which is to characterized the yet impending desolation. But there is a consideration, in most intimate connection with the subject before us, which will bring it at once to your own homes, and identify it with your tenderest affections; and therefore, having glanced at consequences affecting us in our national capacity, I shall wave the further insisting upon them, that I may urge that point upon you, which is more obviously and impressively of individual interest, and which you cannot but feel to be vitally important to yourselves. I refer to those choicest of domestic treasures of which marriage is the source; and I would put it to you to bethink yourselves what effect any civil contract, with all the appliances that can be devised to render it efficient, can have in their production. Independent and self-sufficient as, in the dotage of carnal mindedness, some amongst us conceit themselves to be, here they must succumb to the God of the spirits of all flesh; and however grudgingly they may yield the tribute, must take up the Psalmist’s recognition, and confess that the treasures in question, “the babes they would have to call after their own name,” and to preserve their remembrance in the earth, “are an heritage and gift that cometh only from Him [Ps 127:4];” that it is He “who seeth their substance, yet being imperfect, and in Whose book all their members are written which day by day are fashioned, when as yet there were none of them [Ps. 139:16],” that it is by “sending forth His breath [Ps. 104:30]” that the vital spark is kindled, and by His giving “strength to bring forth,” that they are born into the world.
If there is any truth in the interesting narrative of Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, with which the First Book of Samuel is introduced, the blessing of the priest has something to do in the raising up of family to cheer our domestic retirement, for sought and obtained that blessing, and her pious effusion of praise and thanksgiving proclaims its abundant success. If, on the other hand, the narrative of Michel, the wife of David, is equally founded in fact, there is something also intimately affecting the subject before us, in scoffing at the offices of religion; for this was her trespass against the Lord, and therefore says the sacred historian, she had no children to the day of her death [2 Sam. 6:22-23].
But that “the fruitful vine” should have its counterpart within our walls is only half the requisite to connubial felicity. To render that complete, our children must be “olive branches round about our table [Ps. 128:4].” As the Psalmist expresses it in another place, “our sons must grow up as the young plants, our daughters must be as the polished corners of the Temple [Ps. 144:12];” and then indeed they may well be compared to “the arrows in the hands of the giant, and blessed will be the man who has his quiver full [Ps. 124:5-6]” of such an armory, for securing to himself internal peace and external protection. But this also is not procurable by a civil contract, it cometh only of the Lord.
There is a mystery in the whole process of the formation of man, as compounded of “body, soul, and spirit,” which in our present state completely dumb-founders the acutest understanding. Who can explain the problem of the two sons of Isaac, why one should have been “a hairy man, and the other a smooth man; why “the elder should serve the younger,” and, on what principle it was pronounced upon them by the Almighty, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated?” It is a short method of solving the difficulty to avail ourselves of Jeremiah’s illustration of the potter [Jerem. 18], and by an abused reference to this figure, to disengage ourselves in our own conceits from being in any way implicated in the moral character of our offspring, and thus cast off from our minds all concern about it; but though it is profoundly and awfully true, that “as the clay in the potter’s hand,” so are the element of which we are composed in the hands of God, to form them individually, in the inner equally with the outer man, as seemeth him good; yet the very similitude assumes that the artificer has a material to work upon; and if wisdom and not caprice is the principle that governs him, (and who shall presume to charge God foolishly in this respect,) the quality of that material is, as we well know, of no small account in determining him to the construction that ensues. If we presume to pry into the arcane of God’s creative dispensations, and to put to Him the audacious question, “Why hast Thou formed me thus?” we trespass in the same degree upon His prerogatives as our Maker, that the clay would upon the potter by a similar interrogatory, and in the way of rebuke He returns no other answer, than, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and will harden whom I will.” But dare we, therefore, suppose, when contemplating the almost infinitely-diversified endowments and dispositions of children, that it is to be ascribed solely to God that they are qualitied as we see them, and that, in so fashioning the, He is actuated by no other motive than the showing His authority over a piece of clay: Was it of God alone, that, when He had formed our first parent in the Divine image, it was in his own likeness divested of that image that all his children were begotten, and that his posterity waxed worse and worse, till all flesh had become irretrievably corrupted? God is indeed omnipotent, and does whatsoever pleases Him both in heaven and earth; but omnipotence is not His only attribute; wisdom, goodness, and equity, belong equally to the Divine Essence, in the same infinite degree, and in common with it have their full share of influence in all His acts and operations; and “as the Judge of all the earth He will do right,” and be clear, when He is judged, of any respect of persons. This irrefragable principle governs all His dealings with mankind; but with reference to children, He has further made this specific disclosure of the judicial course His providence will pursue, that, in vindication of His honor, and in demonstration of the jealousy with which He watches over it, and exacts from us the filial acknowledgment of our dependence upon Him, by that holy worship which is exclusively His due, He will visit upon them the iniquity of their fathers, and thus in their punishment emblazon their parents’ offense. And if this be so, and yet as it were to challenge the Almighty to do His worst against them in this respect, men will make the audacious breach upon Him in His creative character to imagine the device of families without reference to Him, what alternative is left to Him, than, as the Prophet fearfully expresses it, “to curse these blessings [Mal. 2:2],” and, “raising up evil against them out of their own houses [2 Sam. 12:11],” to let them experience what it is to nourish and bring up rebellious children, and to reduce them to those circumstances of poignant anguish and blasting of their fondest hopes, that in the agony of their minds they shall themselves curse the day which invested them with the parental relation.
Let these impressive representations be pondered upon with the solemnity to which the sacred source from whence they are derived gives them so peremptory and demand; and should, (what God forbid!) a single instance brave the light of day, and affront the decencies of social life, of such an abandonment to a reprobate mind as shall occasion holy matrimony to be supersede by a coupling together which, upon scriptural principles, can be regarded only as a legalized concubinage, and which our Liturgy, a part of the law of the land, brands as likening those who enterprise it “to brute beasts who have no understanding,” do you, my beloved brethren, cast discountenance and reproach upon it by every means in your power; do so, for your brethren and companions’ sake, that the demoralizing example may not spread amongst us; do so, for the sake of our common Christianity, against which, by this enactment, a blow has been struck of a nature so insidious and destructive, that we are bound to give its framers the advantage of our ignorance of the hearts of men, and in duty to them, to believe that its tendencies, natural and necessary as they are, never came under their deliberative contemplation. And for yourselves, my beloved brethren, when meditating admission into this Holy estate, lay it well to heart, that what is sweet on its first flavors, may be acrid in the extreme in its subsequent experiences; and therefore do not allow the fascinations of short-sighted and superficial views to captivate your minds, but carry them forward through all the domestic passages of life, and from time into eternity, where the beings you give birth to must pass an interminable existence, either in joy unspeakable in the beatific vision of God, or in wailing and gnashing of teeth with the Devil and his angels.
Reflections such as these will infuse a due degree of soberness into the very exuberances of the most glowing affection, and will so solemnize your internal temperament, that reverence and the fear of God will pervade it, through the whole of the momentous undertaking. In the choice you make you will look beyond external circumstances to “the hidden man of the heart,” that being “heirs together of the grace of life,” one faith and hope may animate your common supplications; and when the vows are to be exchanged which are to bind you to each other, your first thought will be, that God be invoked to sanctify your union, “that Christ, the President of Marriage, be propitiated to adorn and beautify it with His presence, as at that similar celebration in Cana of Galilee, where His first miracle was wrought; and that the Holy Ghost, the fountain of purities and chaste desires, be supplicated to pour out upon it His harmonizing and cementing benedictions. Nor will its mysterious relation to that contracted between Christ and His Church be lightly regarded, but, on the contrary, will be devoutly cherished and exemplified, as St. Paul enjoins, in your interchanges of affection. And although your union, thus hallowed, must still be dissolved when death comes to make the separation; and when you meet again, there shall be no renewal of your conjugal relation, “and no other marriage shall be celebrated but the marriage of the Lamb, yet then it shall be remembered how you passed through this state, which is the type of that, and from these symbolical and transitory espousals your translation shall be to the substantial reality which is spiritual and eternal, where love shall be your portion, and joys unutterable shall crown your heads, and you shall lie in the bosom of Jesus and in the heart of God to eternal ages [Bp. J. Taylor’s Sermons, folio, p. 136.].”
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