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.—St. Matthew xix., 5, 6.
So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well:
but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.—1 Cor. vii., 38.
THE theme upon which we have this evening to speak is undoubtedly of the very highest importance, and ought to have the fullest and deepest regard from all who respect religion. It has been one of the unhappy consequences at all times of a decaying religion that it has led to a decay in the esteem of men for marriage. It is recorded in the history of early Rome, that in the centuries of her pristine virtues she held marriage sacred. During her first 500 years there was no public offense against the laws of marriage. Only as she declined in this respect did she sink into weakness, and into all that is impure and bad. Christianity in her early centuries held simply and sacredly the doctrine of our first text. But when she began to decay, after the third century, marriage became with her a sort of secondary state of being, a kind of subordinate condition of life, permitted and sanctioned, but celibacy was the highest form of Christian virtue. This latter notion was sometimes connected with what the Apostle is supposed to have taught in the words of oar second text, that although giving in marriage is good, yet that not giving in marriage is better. Allow me to ask you this evening to give the best attention you can to both sides of this important subject. Notice the commencement of our first text, FOR THIS CAUSE, shall a man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife. For what cause? Why, because, as the Lord has just previously stated, God in creation has made man, male and female.
FOR THIS CAUSE. IT IS THE DIVINE INTENTION. It is the glorious purpose of the Divine Being from first to last in creation. For this cause, that man and woman might be in all respects united in heavenly union. It is the Creator’s will and purpose as evinced throughout His creation. Can there be a holier sanction? In marriage there is an image, of the Creator Himself, for He is love and wisdom in infinite union. There is an image of Him in all things that He has made, and it must be so. In the very circumstance of the relation between maker and work there is always an image in the object made, of the excellencies or otherwise of the person who makes it. An ignorant workman makes bad work, a superior workman makes superior work. Always when you properly know and understand the work, you will be able to know and understand the workman. It is of necessity that there must be an image of the Creator in all things–and this image is in all things double. In the Creator there are these two infinite things–infinite love and infinite wisdom. If there had not been infinite love there would have been no energy in the Creator, no desire, no purpose, no motive, especially no motive that could have produced so grand a universe as that which surrounds us in all its greatness, and in all its wilderness. There must be in the Creator the infinite purpose to bless others out Himself, for this is the nature of love. Love is the desire to give to others the highest degree of satisfaction out of ourselves. And unless there had been this infinitely in the Creator, He never would have made this glorious universe out of Himself. In Himself there must have been infinite happiness, infinite enjoyment, and infinite possession of all things, because all things that are, or have been, have been produced out of Him. There can never be any happiness experienced out of Him, but which has first been in Him, and is poured forth out of His fullness. And, so in Himself He must have been infinitely blessed, there was nothing to add to Him, nothing from which to obtain new selfish gratification, nothing of which He was deficient, for if He had lacked anything, the Being that possessed it and who could impart it to His insufficiency and imperfection, would have been the original creator.
It is evident therefore that in the Divine Creator Himself there must have been infinite energy resulting from love to bless; and therefore He has created others out of Himself that He might bless them. And, just think for a moment, how vast, how indefinitely vast, is the glorious out-birth of this infinite love. We are told that there could be numbered thousands of apparently fixed stars, even in what appears to be only a very small space in the sky. Thousands of fixed stars, and these are known to be suns. If we multiply their number by the space they occupy, they become millions of millions of suns. And if it be true, as there is every reason to believe, that comets are merely bodies given off from the sun in the form of gas, that afterwards become condensed into worlds, God, by this mode, is still creating millions upon millions more. And why? Because the capacity of His desire to bless others is infinite, and therefore can never be filled up–God is love. The unutterable myriads of glorious beings that He has formed in all these worlds are such that we may well say– All thought is lost and reason drowned In this immense survey: We cannot fathom the profound, Nor trace Jehovah’s way. But this we can trace, that vast and infinite as is His glorious love, even so vast and infinite is also His wondrous wisdom. In the beginning was the Word. While there are love and infinite energy to create worlds, and suns, and systems, there is also wisdom to ordain, to regulate, and arrange. Wisdom contrives all the wonders of Divine order and beauty, so that the glorious universe is stable in all its parts. While these moving worlds and moving suns, as it is now clearly known they all are, are in motion, there is no confusion. All creation is one vast field of infinite order. All the wondrous bodies are in motion round a vast central point, like a central sun, which represents Him who is the Sun of all things. The Lord God our Savior is the glorious light of eternity. All is wisely arranged, all is wonderfully perfect, all is beautiful in order and harmony. Not only is this vast whole sustained, but it is sustained so that according to the very highest mathematical minds, which have applied themselves to the astonishing problem and have solved it, the result of the profoundest calculations is, that every motion of every known power and force in the universe tends to stability only, none to destruction.
If a planetary body approaches a little nearer to the sun at one time than at another, that very power which has brought it a little nearer makes it move a little faster, and that increased rapidity takes it back again to the distance it came from in continuing its journey; and so the whole goes on with perfect order, harmony, and variety; harmony in every little variation, stability in all things. me may not only from devotion but from intelligence say, All thy works, O Lord, praise thee, all thy works are done in truth. Well, then, this is the result. In the Lord Himself there is an infinite union of love and wisdom. He is as loving as He is wise. He is infinite in His understanding as He is infinite in His goodness. Therefore out of this two-fold perfection as is expressed in a variety of ways in the Sacred Volume, there conies this, that every child of man may say, The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear. The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? The Lord is not light only, He is light and salvation. The Lord is not love only, but He is wisdom equal to His love. Such, then, is the glorious essence of the Divinity. Such is the Divine presented to the minds eye from Scripture. Our God, our Creator and Savior, is infinite love and wisdom, in all perfect union. In all creation there is this image of Him, an image of His love and wisdom. Let us take a few illustrations. One of the most beautiful thoughts that I am aware of in connection with science, is this, that a vast number of the great stars which we discern at night are double stars. Although for hundreds, and even thousands of years, they were supposed to be single lights, they are now known by an accurate observation through our improved instruments to be double lights, and the colors of the two are different but complementary to each. other. One star is of one colored light, the other is of another colored light, the two colors always being such as will blend, as blue and yellow make green to the eye of the observer. They are never discordant or repulsive colors, whatever the one wants the other has. The light blends together and forms only one stream of radiance. Here is an image of the Creator, in this first presentation of His Divine Majesty.
When we come to the center of our own system, the sun, you know that the streams which flow from him are always two-fold, light and heat. The light is occasionally divided from the heat. We are now, in this season of winter, feeling the effect of this division, which arises from the oblique position in which the portion of the earth we inhabit is to the sun. We, at present, get more light than heat, and, consequently the earth ceases to be productive or to present her ordinarily beautiful appearance. There are comparative coldness and barrenness. But, if not that there is anything of this in the influences from the sun; those influences are the same as ever, are poured out the same as ever. Always from this grand object in the center of our system the same effulgence comes. Light and heat are poured out, beautifying and fertilizing the whole creation. We receive it one-sidedly, and have winter barrenness. As we come round to other parts of our orbit and receive as much heat as we do light, the blessed radiance multiplies the flowers, covers the earth with grasses, brings out the leaves of the trees, makes them bloom and bear and give forth a plentiful harvest. Then we receive these gracious gifts, as God, through the sun, presents them. Here, again, there is presented the resemblance of the Creator in the union of two things into one. We know that as we come down into the Church on earth there is the same Divine tendency presented everywhere. Just as it is with the earth in winter, so when men get into a wintry state, do they come into the same sort of one-sided reception of Divine things in the Church. When men accept truth alone instead of opening heart and mind to the Lord, who, like a Divine Sun, sends out His love and wisdom, always united, they become cold. The Lord presents these Divine gifts ever through His Holy Spirit as one; but when men become carnal and cold, they receive the light only. They may be willing enough to talk about religion, to talk about having faith in religion, but in such case it is just as it is with the earth; such a religion is a barren thing. Where there is no charity, people walk about chilling and condemning one another, rather than warming, cheering, and blessing one another. They are in a wintry state. When they are brought into a true condition of religion then they receive the Lord’s love and wisdom together.
The moment they see the truth, they love it ; they hold it in their best affections, and carry it out. They feel warm and happy, everything becomes like a little paradise to them. Then, there is that fullness of religion, of which our Lord Himself speaks when He says, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one towards another. He that loveth me keepeth my commandments, and I will come to him, and make my abode with him. What a glorious condition of things that is, when man has not only ideas about the Lord, but the Lord Himself,the Divine love and wisdom entering into his heart and blessing it, He abiding in us, and we abiding in Him. Then is religion in its power, its worth, and its grandeur. In the Church, then, just as in the world, the Lord presents this image of Himself; two Divine things blended together making a third. In material and in mental creation it is the same: all is union, all is marriage. FOR THIS CAUSE God made them male and female, and therefore shall a man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife. In the subordinate spheres of nature it is ever the same. There are two things, which, to be complete, need each other. In the animal kingdom it is so. The botanist also will tell us that either on the same plant, or else by different plants, there are presented the same resemblances of male and female, and there must be a union of these two before there is any fresh seed or fruit. It is just the same with minerals. There are warm metals and the cold metals, the white ones and the red ones, gold and silver, iron and copper, and so on all the way down. All material substances are solvable into gases, and metals. Gases with their round fluidity, metals with their sharpness and hardness. Here you have again represented the gentleness of the female, and the sharpness and firmness of the male. Take man himself. Each single human being is twofold. We have the two hemispheres of the brain; in the chest, the heart and lungs; the two sides, the right and the left; the two arms, the two hands, two feet, everything is thus two-fold, complementary to each other. Not two of the same sort of things, but two things which are varied yet essential to help one another. They combine together and make a grander whole than could be made by any other conceivable character of creation.
THIS CAUSE the Lord made man, male and female, and therefore shall a man leave father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh. In minds this duality exists as well as in bodies. There is the double condition of heart and mind in the soul; the heart of man is created to receive the Divine love, and the mind of man or his intellectual part, to receive the Divine wisdom. The results of these are exhibited is all the affections which are connected with the will, and all the ideas that are connected with the understanding. When these are united by regeneration, and in the practice of a noble life, then is a true man or true woman formed. But there is this peculiar diversity of character to be noticed in each; everything connected with man, as separated from woman, is more intellectual than affectionate. In woman, everything from the inmost soul to tender. A man must be intellectual and strong in all things, or he causes to be a man. A woman who aims at keenness and hundreds of character like a man, does not become a more perfect being, but a woman spoiled. The real work of a man, is to develop in himself there principles which constitute true manliness of character. He ought to use his reflective powers to that he may perceive everything in relation to truth, so that he can be help and strength, a guide and a blessing to that lovelier portion of the creation which feels a yearning towards him, and which desires to be strengthened by his strength. No man that is not manly is respected by his fellow men or by the gentler six. There is nothing that a true woman desires more than that the person whom she loves she can also esteem for being a true man. She desires to feel that her husband is the wisest man, in her little world at least. No woman is satisfied if this is not the case; she years, she hopes, she longs and prays for this. She shows in these yearnings that the Creator has placed in her the disposition to be a true woman, and the help of a true man. If a woman tries to be a man, forgetting feminine delicacy, and endeavoring to intrude herself into that province of life, where thought, strength, and masculine investigation are required she does become a better being. She may unsex herself to some extent, but she does not become a man thereby. She only becomes a spoiled wreck of the noblest vase for holding the Divine love below, a gentle loving woman.
Woman was created that the Divine love might be in its sweetest and most graceful form; that she might overflow with pure, and heavenly feeling, making an atmosphere of softness, gentleness, and blessing around her. The Creator made her woman that she should have such a sphere of holy purity about her that it might hallow her home, hallow her walk, be always a stimulant to her husband to become a truer and nobler being. God made them a male and a female. We have sometimes endeavored to explain, and we can never do it too much, that beautiful law of the Divine Mercy which permits His love and wisdom to be presented in these two separate forms, and in unequal proportions, not both equally in one being. If all the graces of womanhood, and all the powers of manhood had been presented in one being instead of two, there would have been the greatest possible tendency in that being to become a self-idolater. All the admiration which a good man feels for a good woman he would then have felt for himself. The admiration which a good woman feels for a good man would have been also felt for himself, and thus he would have grown in selfishness instead of growing in humanity and disinterestedness. As creation is, all the graces of the Divine love, presented in the form of a loving woman, draw her husband out of himself, lead him to become more unselfish, to adore in her all the gentleness, beauty, sweetness, and attractiveness, which the Divine Mercy has bestowed on her. On the other hand, as a good wife enjoys her husbands noble qualities she is drawn out of herself. She is thus led to thing of her husband as great, good, noble, strong, and thus to bless the Lord for him. For this cause, are they made male and female. And, therefore, because these two streams of Divine life are separated, but yet desiring to come together; because these two streams of Divine life in different hearts and souls are complementary, yearning to have their deficiencies supplied by the graces the other possesses, and form thus a fuller image of the Divine perfection, a more glorious likeness of the Supreme Good, becoming thus the center of a little heaven in their circle of life, imaging the great heaven, of which the Divine love and wisdom are the center; therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh.
The conjunction of two persons in true marriage is an ever-increasing union. They become, by the cares and duties of life, daily more and more united. Hence, the Lord says, therefore they shall he no more twain but one flesh. The union of two souls commences in its first incipiency when they first become acquainted with each other. They feel the mutual attraction stronger as they become more fully known to each other. When they publicly pledge themselves to mutual succor, under the sanction of religion their union is still more deeply strengthened. But the marriage union should go on through life becoming perfected and completed its days and years pass on. So it is with those whom God has joined together. The only unions that can endure are those which are joined together by God; where God’s wisdom in the man is united to God’s love in the woman, and where there is a constant removal from each other of everything that tends to disturb their harmony, their peace, their purity, and to retard their progress towards the kingdom of heaven. Whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. But, now, let us consider what the Apostle teaches in our second text. It has by some been the occasion of very anxious perplexity, and in others of very strange perversions of the Divine law upon which we have been discoursing. The words, Therefore he that giveth her in marriage doeth well, and he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better, do not allude to being married, or not being married, at all. So far as the persons themselves are concerned, it is not that he that marrieth doeth well, and he that does not marry doeth better. The question relates to the duty of a father with respect to his daughter, in the times of which the Apostle was speaking. These times are adverted to in the twenty-sixth verse, where St. Paul says, It is good for the present distress, for a man so to be, and then he begins to give this counsel in verse thirty-four. Marriage in the Jewish Church was esteemed so sublime a representation of God’s love and mercy, that it was considered a disgrace equal almost to the prostitution of a daughter, not to let her get married. One of the greatest calamities of the worst times, spoken of in the Scriptures, was where it is said, that in consequence of their wretched sins their maidens were not given in marriage.
For this cause, was the constant law that acted upon all true churches, that there ought to be a union, a united state, a representation of the Lord in heaven on earth, presented by human beings getting married. Yet always on true principles, always God joining them together, not passion, nor wealth, nor the admiration of the outward appearance, but the virtues in each other leading them to feel and see that their souls when conjoined are united by God. Because the apostle Paul is speaking of the sad and terrible persecutions that Christianity was receiving at that time, he states that his words had relation to that present time, when Christian men had to flee from city to city, when they had scarcely a safe home for a week or a month, when they had in tribulation and in anguish to suffer as he himself was suffering, he says, that at this time, and under the present circumstances, it is far better that we should withhold ourselves from any steady and fixed occupation or continuing city; only for a little time however. In the present distress I deem it good for it so to be, that a man who has a daughter to be married, and who strongly wishes that she should be married, yet until these sad times pass, should let her wait. If, however, they cannot wait, let them marry. If they marry, there is no sin; but for the PRESENT DISTRESS, and for the present time, I judge that they had better not. This is all the counsel of the Apostle. To understand it a little better allow me to draw your attention to what he himself says in this same epistle, and in 2 Cor. iv., 11, 12, For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. He says, in this present distress, it is good for us that we have no continuing city. While we have to flee about in this way it is good for us not to be married, or to give our daughters in marriage.
In the same way, chap. xi. 23, and following verses, he says, Are they not ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. While Christians had to suffer persecutions of this kind, one can easily understand that for the present distress it is good that marriage should not be contracted. If we look a little at the outward concerns of the Church, as they are presented in secular history, we shall see still more fully how completely this advice was given for the present distress. The present distress might not continue for more than two or three years; for persecution was not continuous. But from time to time, during the first two hundred years of Christianity, such advice was needful.
In the year 53, that is to say, about twenty years after Christianity began to be preached, there is a notice of Christianity in the writings of Tacitus, who speaks of the Emperor Claudius banishing a set of Jews, (for Jews and Christians were at first in the Roman empire mixed up together, and Christians were regarded in those days as only a set of Jews,) in consequence of their making disturbances; instigated he says, by one Chrestus. In the year 54, there is a still more marked account in the annals of the celebrated historian, Suetonius, where, in the 15th Book, he tells of the Emperor Nero, who in the diabolical madness of his depraved heart, not only perpetrated almost every manner of sensual and brutal outrage, but this extraordinary one of setting fire to his own capital, the great city of Rome. He then, as a very refinement of villainy issued a decree charging the fire upon the Christians, and ordering them to be put to death in every form, for the crime he had himself perpetrated. The Roman historian of the time, says, a great multitude were in this way destroyed. Some were crucified, others sewn up in the skins of wild beasts and exposed to be torn to pieces by dogs; others, again, had their garments filled with pitch and then set on fire to illuminate the public gardens at night. In the year 110 there is a much more detailed account of Christian persecution given in a letter of the celebrated philosopher Pliny, who was made Governor of Bithynia and Pontus, viz., that part of Asia Minor just opposite Constantinople, on the shore of the Black Sea.
This was about 70 years after Christianity began, and yet, he informs us, it had so spread that in this very distant portion of the empire, that is nearly a thousand miles from Jerusalem, there were many Christians in the cities, in the towns, and also, he says, in the country places around. He says that he wished to find out the real truth of the allegations that were made respecting the Christians, and for the following purpose which will enable us practically to see the necessity of this caution against encouraging marriage in these severe times of persecution. Pliny says, I applied the torture to two female slaves, who held the office of deaconesses in the Christian community, for the purpose of extorting from them the truth. You perceive the Christians were chiefly persecuted in the persons of their daughters, or their wives. While they could not be got to submit to the writs and decrees of the barbarians among whom they lived, in their own persons, if possible they were to be reached through their wives and daughters. And here is the case put by one of the best man in old Rome, this was the mode on which he proceeded. He says, All that I could learn was that the Christians met on a certain stated day (Sunday) before it was light, and addressed themselves to Christ as God, binding themselves by a solemn oath never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery; never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up. After which, it was their custom to separate, and then re-assemble to eat in common, a harmless meal. So that here you have an account of the state of things, and of the peculiar necessity for this kind of caution in relation to entering into marriage, while the bitterness of such a time continued.
For two hundred years after Christianity began, history tells of many female martyrs. The story of their suffering presents many a beautiful trait, exhibiting the Christian faith combined with Christian tenderness and feeling. Such then, was the condition of the Church at that time, and such the reason why, though marriage in general was good, at that time, of the present distress, it was better that they should abstain from it. Allow me, then, to direct your attention, in closing these remarks, to the great law that evidently pervades all the Divine works, and which in human beings takes the exalted form of true conjugial affection. It joins those together who are mutually disposed to adore their Lord, and to honor the graces He gives in each other; the only true motive, the only principle that ought to introduce immortal souls into this grandest of all unions, the union of marriage. It is from the Divine Being that the graces of both are derived, and when these yearnings of mutually harmonized natures for a more complete union of heart and mind lead them to come together, they are led by God. That especial and peculiar preference of heart to heart, and soul to soul, arises from what God has sent forth. He is present in the two, bringing them together. When this is done, then the sublimest act which can be effected upon earth is done. What is there in earths gaudiest gatherings to be compared to a happy home? But, as a preliminary of the happy home there must be hearts confiding in each other on true principles. There is no possibility of there being an atmosphere of happiness without them.
There must be inward truth, inward love, inward confidence, inward desire of each to promote the highest bliss of the other. Not the man seeking how much of selfish advantage he can get in the bargain of a nuptial scheme, not the woman seeking how much of selfish advantage she can get, but each heart seeking to bless the other. They must strive for mutual help to pray together, to praise together, to offer up their worship like the mingled flames of ancient altars, ascending and combining together. This is what makes the golden atmosphere. Such is true happiness. Out of blessed homes so formed will rise properly trained children, manly sons and daughters, helpers for the advancement of all that is good. Happiness will grow while partners of this class live a life only inferior to the life of angels, and add to the number of the blessed in heaven. Schools, cities, all the vast uses of multiplied life; commerce, everything that tends to unite man to man, spring out of the marriage circle. And, hence, he who strikes at this, he who before marriage taints this sacred communion of sentiments, hearts, and feelings, commits the very worst of all crimes. That which depraves the soul is the worst of all robberies, worst of all murders. When the Church has returned to her pristine wisdom, power, and purity, many of those crimes that so sadly defile human society will utterly cease, as something inconceivable, abominable. Children will be prepared to form happy unions. These circles of happiness, will make this world more and more like the glorious world on high, a married land.
Everything in union, harmony, beauty, and blessing; the words of Divine promise will be realized, The Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Scripture Paradoxes -Their True Explanation (1868)