In our previous article on this subject, we wrote primarily of the events of the life of the covenant youth which lead up to the state of marriage, or, the time of courtship. Three thoughts we expressed as “guiding principles” which, if heeded, would contribute to the assurance that one in the pre-marital state would find happiness and blessing. We stated that the courtship of covenant youth must, in distinction from the world’s increasing immorality, be characterized by chastity. A second thought was that in this courtship there must be spiritual compatibility. Spiritually mixed relationships conceive and bring forth misery and apostasy whereas “two that are agreed” walk together harmoniously in love. Our final thought was that whereas “the Lord brings to every man his wife” we must learn submission to His choice. We must not seek one who answers to the qualities of our carnal lusts but one who according to God’s standard is fully qualified as a life companion to assist us in the higher service of God. Along these lines our courtship will be fruitful unto a truly christian and richly blessed marriage.
In our present article we will continue these thoughts and this time consider especially the “institution of marriage” itself. One has no right to enter a relationship such as this without an understanding of what is involved and, consequently, we shall try to elicit from the Word of God a few “guiding thoughts” which we hope may prove helpful to a better Christian life in the marriage sphere.
Our first thought in this connection is that marriage is an institution of God. John Calvin wrote in his Institutes, “Marriage, as an institution is not only originated by God’s authority but is also sanctified by His blessing.” As Christians, it is salutary to be mindful of this important fact and that especially if our courtship is attaining maturity. The world ignores and disregards this truth and by and large considers marriage as a human agency by which man may legally procure the deepest satisfaction of his carnal nature. As a result such marriage is not enacted and perpetuated according to the ordinances of God and, therefore, cannot be blessed. “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked” (Prov. 3:33). As covenant youth we are not to emulate this worldly way and seek marriage as a means unto self-satisfaction but bear consciously in mind the divine phase of this institution and enter it with the intent and purpose of making divine satisfaction. That is done when the ordinances and laws regulating life in this institution as they are set forth for us in the Word of God are properly and faithfully kept. Then “He blesseth the habitation of the just” (Prov. 3:33).
When covenant children enter this holy state, it is not only the relatives and friends of those to be married that are interested in the affair, but just as much and perhaps more so is the church concerned. She realizes that God, through covenant marriages, continues his church and in the families of believers bestows his blessings. Hence, our second thought is that “marriage ought to be performed by the church.” By this we do not mean that the “minister alone performs the ceremony in the church” as is the customary practice in many of our circles, but rather that the church, through its offices, the consistory, attend to the marriage of her children (see Article 70 of our Church Order). At such a marriage the Word of God is appropriately preached and the church, institutionally convoked, offers her prayers for the blessing of God upon the marriage that is being solemnized. Such a beginning is “in the Lord.” There are many, I think, who, because we have traditionally discarded this good practice of our fathers, are even averse to it today. They prefer the gaudy show of modern wedding to the simplicity of that which our fathers wisely prescribed. I would, therefore, encourage those who oppose “church weddings” to express openly their principle objections but at the same time may our consistories and parents further enlighten our youth regarding these matters and discourage the practice of “a wedding in the church” and cultivate the desire for simple, spiritual “church weddings.” This is an institution of God and primarily “the consistories shall attend to it….”
Our third and final thought has to do with the duties, privileges, purposes, and briefly, the relationships of the marriage state. Marriage is not a state that God commands us to enter, neither does he prohibit us from doing so, but it is left to the choice of the individual. Hence, those who choose entrance also willingly assume the duties. The husband affirms that he shall love his wife, lead her with discretion, instruct, comfort and protect her and labor faithfully to provide for the needs of his family . The wife, likewise, promises love, honor, reverence and obedience unto her husband in the sphere of all lawful things. These duties ought to be understood before the marriage bond is confirmed.
Then there are privileges in this new relationship which, if exercised in accord with the command of God, result in the blessed realization of the divinely instituted purposes of marriage. Man and wife, exercising marital cohabitation, experience the fellowship of two creatures whom God has not made separate but has created that they should be one. “It is not good that man should be alone…. I will make an help-meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). Man and wife, who are created physically and spiritually the counterparts of each other, complete one another’s life and joy. It is not good that one should be alone but that they should be together in the Lord. That is the fellowship of marriage.
In such a normal union the beginning of the home is made. For marriage also has its purpose in procreation and the establishing of the home. The christian home is the blessed fruit of the Christian marriage. The broken home, orphaned children and pitied vagabonds are the results of worldly union. As we sow we shall reap. The sowing era is “courtship” and the reaping time is “in the married state.” Our aim must always be the realization of fruits unto God manifest in a model Christian home. Many are the forces to combat in the striving toward that goal. Evil lurks on every side. Marriage is contracted for selfish purposes. There is a mad striving after “houses, beautiful furnishings, modern conveniences, automobiles, etc.” which, in our day, require years of combined labor of husband and wife. The children of the Lord are not wanted…at least for a time…and the “home” is not established. The goal of the Christian marriage is not attained and the true blessing of marriage is lost. As we approach the end of the ages, we must not expect this to improve but CHRISTIANS…young men and young women… “watch and pray that ye fall not into temptation.” Build your hopes, also in marriage, not in the things of this world but in the things of God.
That is Christian living!