Order of Contents
. Mutual Consent Makes a Couple Married
. Marriage with the Sister of a Deceased Wife is Prohibited
A Wedding Service
On the Warrant for a Pastoral Benediction upon the Wedded Couple
. Whether the Guilty Party in a Divorce May Remarry?
Dod, John and Cleaver, Robert – Duties of Husband and Wife, 1603, 20 paragraphs, being excerpts from A Plain and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandments
Some of the best marital advice there is, from a standard English Puritan treatment of the ten commandments.
McCurley, Rob – Biblical Marriage 2010 55 pp. being notes to 4 linked hour-long audio messages
Here are blueprints for a godly and spiritually fulfilling marriage, from a seasoned pastor. These warm audio messages and notes are filled with Biblical wisdom, to guide you into the richest blessings of the Lord. They are helpful for premarital counseling and any stage in marriage, whether one needs an encouraging check-up, or a wholesale turn around.
Mutual Consent to the Institution of Marriage Makes a Couple Married
It is not the confirmatory declaration of the civil magistrate or the Church which makes a couple married (there was no such institutions in Eden up through Gen. 9-12), but rather it is the mutual consent of both parties towards the natural institution of marriage which makes them married, which is normally and appropriately expressed in vows (though not always, as in the case of marriage by common law, Gen. 24:67).
That the Church makes persons married has been the view of Roman Catholicism (which was attended with so many ill effects), which the reformers so strongly protested against. In our day, many people believe it is the civil magistrate that marries a couple, this having equal ill effects when the magistrate then attempts (it believing it has the power) to change the definition of marriage, and consequently confer marriage on persons to whom it was never designed, and to possibly withhold it from persons to whom it is due. Rather than the Church or State having any intrinsic power to make persons married, they only have the authority to recognize and enforce which persons are married (by their entering into that bond through mutual consent) in their jurisdictions, and to declare this if it is beneficial to the public.
A Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbytery in Scotland 1642
“…because the mutual consent betwixt A. B. and his wife,
being essentially marriage, as the canon law, divines,
and sound casuists acknowledge, it makes A B. a husband,
and also the husband of such a wife, during their lifetime;”
“For a father to give his daughter in marriage to one is an authoritative act of a father; but for the daughter to consent to the choice, is no act of authority, but an act of her private choice.”
A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline
Book 3, ch. 1, p. 283
“The man comes from China acknowledging God in all his ways, as Abraham left his country, Gen. 12; if he be an idolater, they should not lodge him, 2 Jn. 10; he comes not as indifferent to be married to this or this church, or to none at all, as a man sins not if he marry none at all, 1 Cor. 7, but if he be a professor that joins to no church, he lives scandalously; therefore the adequate cause of membership, or to this membership, is not mutual consent, as in marriage…”
Book 3, ch. 3
“Mr. Hooker, Mr. Thomas Goodwin, and Mr. Philip Nye [congregationalists] give them [the eldership of a local church] only an authoritative directing power [to ordain new elders], such as parents have in the marriage of their daughter, which is an authority extrinsic, which the magistrate and pastor in their kind have; but the virgin has the only formal and intrinsic power to consent and so to make the marriage, and to dissent so as it shall be no marriage:
In which case the Fraternity only, or Male-church formally [according to congregationalists], intrinsically judges, and may judge, though there were no officers, as the maid may marry, though parents and tutors were dead; and the directive authority of the officers may be wanting [lacking], as the directive authority of the magistrate may be wanting.”
“…for as the woman is independent in regard of intrinsic power of consenting or dissenting in point of marriage, the parents’ directive power of extrinsic commanding, as the judicious [congregationalist] Prefacers say…
How are [ecclesiastical] leaders and overseers [according to congregationalism,] in the same managing of censures, equal in power, and not above those whom they lead and oversee, yea, to whom they are to yield obedience, as Mr. Hooker cites to that purpose the place Heb. 13:17? Are parents equal in power who do command the virgin, whose it is to consent to the marriage?”
John White, a New England Puritan
A Commentary upon the Three First Chapters of the first book of Moses called Genesis (1656), pp. 109-110
“When Adam embraces the woman as bone of his bone, etc., he does not only point backwards at her original, but withal expresses his acceptance of her, as God offered her to be one flesh with him in marriage, by which consent of his the marriage was concluded. Whence, 3. Observe, it is consent that must make the marriage between man and wife. And consent:
1. Of those in whose power the persons to be contracted are, and do remain, especially if they be parents: Now that may be either general, as Jacob was permitted to marry whom he pleased, so it were of his mother’s kindred; Or more particular, to marry such a person, which were fit rather to be a direction by way of advice than a peremptory command. Thus Hagar took a wife for Ishmael (Gen. 21:21), Judah for Er (Gen. 38:6) and Naomi advises Ruth in her match (Ruth 3:1-2). And this is most seasonably performed before the parties’ affections are engaged, lest afterwards they be forced either to consent to the match already made or to suffer a worse inconvenience.
2. The consent must be specially between the persons to be contracted, as in Rebecca’s case, whose parents would not force her beyond her own liking (Gen. 24:57). This consent must be every way free, neither stolen by fraud and false informations, nor purchased by rewards and expectations of outward advancements or other carnal allurement; not forced by terror or importunity, but grounded upon an evident manifestation of the piety and fitness of the persons approved by those whose counsels they ought to embrace. And upon the observation of God’s providence directing the choice, which was the main argument that swayed in the match of Isaac with Rebecca. Upon both these, Adam’s consent seems to be grounded in this place, that the woman was provided for him by God and was the only fit match that was to be found for him amongst the creatures.”
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 13th Topic, ‘The Person & State of Christ’, 11th Question, ‘The Conception & Nativity of Christ’, section 25
“XXV. Although copulation had not take place in that marriage [between Joseph and Mary], it did not cease to be true and ratified (although unconsummated) for not intercourse, but consent makes marriage. Therefore it was perfect as to form (to wit, undivided conjunction of life and unviolated faith, but not as to end (to wit, the procreation of children [Turretin held to the perpetual virginity of Mary], although it was not deficient as to the raising of the offspring).”
Marriage with the Sister of a Deceased Wife is Prohibited
Gibson, James – The Marriage Affinity Question: or, Marriage with the Sister of a Deceased Wife, Fully Discussed, in the Light of History, Ecclesiastical and Civil Law, Scripture, Reason and Expediency Buy 1854, 198 pp.
The last half of Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) 24.4, defining the extent of the laws of consanguinity from Leviticus 18, was cut out by the American revisions. The original Confession was right. Gibson’s book is an exhaustive defense of the Biblical (Lev. 18:9) and historic view of the Reformation and puritan era.
A Wedding Service
Fentiman, Travis – A Christian Wedding Service, two pages
Need help planning a Christian wedding service? Here is a Christ exalting, beautiful and simple wedding service according to historic reformed principles.
On the Warrant for a Pastoral Benediction upon the Wedded Couple
English-Popish Ceremonies (1637), pt. 3, ch. 2, pp. 24-5
“As touching matrimonial benediction… through divine institution, it has a necessary use, as we have said. And though the Dr. to make it appear that a pastor’s performing of the same is a thing indifferent, alleges that in Scripture there is nothing commanded thereanent.
Yet plain it is from Scripture itself that matrimonial benediction ought to be given by a pastor, for God has commanded his ministers to bless his people (Num. 6), which by just analogy belongs to the ministers of the Gospel; neither is there any ground for making herein a difference betwixt them and the ministers of the Law, but we must conceive the commandment to t•…e both alike to the blessing of God’s people. Unto which ministerial duty of blessing, because no such limits can be set as may exclude matrimonial blessing, therefore they are bound to the performance of it also. And if further we consider that the duty of blessing was performed by the minister of the Lord, even before the law of Moses (Heb. 6:7), we are yet more confirmed to think that the blessing of the people was not commanded in the Law as a thing peculiar and proper to the Levitical priesthood, but as a moral and perpetual duty, belonging to the Lord’s ministers forever.
Wherefore, notwithstanding of any abuse of matrimonial benediction among Papists, yet forasmuch as it has a necessary use in the Church and may not (as the controverted ceremonies may) be well spared…”
Kayser, Phillip – ‘Conception Control: Avoiding Antinomianism and Legalism’ 2017
This is the best and most in-depth, Biblical treatment available. Kayser argues against those who argue for no conception control at all. While affirming that children are blessings from the Lord and that generally speaking we ought to aim for large families, yet certain forms of birth control for certain reasons and in certain degrees are morally lawful. Kayser rightly makes clear that hormonal birth control involves an abortive, back-up function. You will learn a lot from Scripture and medicine in reading this booklet which will richly repay your time.
The birth control pill works in three ways: (1) by inhibiting ovulation, (2) thickening the cervical mucus, and (3) thinning and shriveling the lining of the uterus to the point that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly-fertilized egg.
This third effect of “The Pill” is abortive. Alcorn’s short and very readable book is heavily documented with scientific journals and is Biblically accurate.
On Calvin & Geneva
Adultery & Divorce in Calvin’s Geneva in Harvard Historical Studies Buy (Harvard, 1995) 224 pp.
On the Dissolubleness of Marriage apart from Adultery or Desertion
Commentary on Numbers, ch. 30, pp. 704-5
“We see this in marriage, published in the face of the Church, solemnized by consent of parties and parents, ratified by the action of the minister, and celebrated in the presence of many friends; the knot cannot be untied, no not by agreement of the parents, of the parties, of the minister, of the friends, and of the whole congregation, because marriage is not of the nature of a civil contract, but God is a party and hath a special hand in it, and whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder, or separate again without his consent. (Mt. 19:6)”
Cases of Conscience Practically Resolved Containing a Decision of the Principal Cases of Conscience of Daily Concernment & Continual Use Amongst Men: Very Necessary for their Information & Direction in These Evil Times (London, 1654), 4th Decade, Case 2, ‘Whether Marriage Lawfully made may Admit of any Cause of Divorce, save only for the Violation of the Marriage Bed, by Fornication or Adultery?’, p. 303
“Lo, before ever there was father or mother or son in the world, God has appointed that the bonds betwixt husband and wife shall be more strait and indissoluble than betwixt the parent and child; and can any man be so unreasonable as to defend it lawful upon some unkind usages or thwartness of disposition, for a parent to abandon and forsake his child; or the son to cast off his parent? Much less therefore may it
be thus betwixt an husband and wife: They two are one flesh.
Behold here an union of God’s making: A man’s body is not more his own than his wife’s body is his: And will a man be
content to part easily with a piece of himself? Or can we think that God will endure an union made by Himself to be slightly dissolved? Or how is this bodily matrimony a lively image of the spiritual marriage betwixt Christ and his Church (who has said, ‘I will betroth thee unto me forever; Yea I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies,’ Hos. 2:19), if upon small occasions it may be subject to utter dissolution?
Yea, what speak I of divinity? Even modest heathens would hiss this Libertinism off the stage…” – pp. 303-4
Is a Threat on One’s Life Grounds for Divorce?
Lex Rex… (1644; Edin., 1843)
“There is no necessity that the reserve [withholding of certain powers] be expressed in the covenant between king and people [as the Erastian, divine-right of kings advocates maintained], more than in contract of marriage between a husband and a wife; beside her jointure, you should set down this clause in the contract, that if the husband attempt to kill the wife, or the wife the husband, in that case it shall be lawful to either of them to part company.”
“The wife is obliged to bed and board with her husband, but not if she fear lie [lying] will kill her in the bed.”
On the Question of Whether the Guilty Party in a Divorce may Remarry
French Reformed Churches – Ch. 9, p. 65, Section 22 of the 2nd National Synod at Paris 1565
A Committee of the Church of Scotland – ‘Animadversions upon the Book of Canons Obtruded upon the Church of Scotland’ (1638) in Gordon, History of Scots Affairs, vol. 2, bk. 3, ch. 55, p. 90
The Book of Canons (1636) was the Episcopal form for the ordination of ‘clergy’ that was sought to be imposed on Scotland with the Book of Common Prayer (1637).
“Third, It [the Book of Canons] forbids marriage to the innocent party divorced; contrary to Mt. 5:32, and Mt. 19:9, which the reformed churches maintain against the council of Trent, session xxiv, canon vii, who have such doctrine as our bishops.”
Commentary on Malachi 2:16
“Here, however, where God compares polygamy with divorce, he says that polygamy is the worse and more detestable crime; for the husband impurely connects himself with another woman, and then, not only deals unfaithfully with his wife to whom he is bound, but also forcibly detains her: thus his crime is doubled. For if he replies and says that he keeps the wife to whom he is bound, he is yet an adulterer as to the second wife: thus he blends, as they say, holy with profane things; and then to adultery and lasciviousness he adds cruelty, for he holds under his authority a miserable woman, who would prefer death to such a condition; for we know what power jealousy has over women. And when any one introduces a harlot, how can a lawful wife bear such an indignity without being miserably tormented?”
Voet, Gisbert – Section 3, 4th Problem, ‘Whether the joining of hands in the sign of a contract and the entrance of marriage is a divine, sacred or religious ceremony? I respond: None of them.’, p. 471 in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1 (Amsterdam, 1663-1676), Pt 1, Bk. 2, ‘Of Ecclesiastical Things, or Acts & Exercises’, Tract 1, ‘Of Formularies, or Liturgies & Rituals’, ch. 8. ‘Questions on Some Rituals in Particular: on the Laying on of Hands, the [Holy] Kiss, Abstinence from Things Strangled & Blood, the Marriage Rite, Anointing, Shaking the Feet of Dust, Love Feasts, the Rite of Covenanting & of the Washing of Feet.’