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further, that the woman vows obedience. But to this the Church reminds her she is bound, and therefore requires a voluntary avowal from her own lips ; accompanied as it is to be, with all the solemnity of a vow heard and registered in heaven ; that she will not only “love her husband, comfort him, honour and keep him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all other, keep her only unto him, so long as they both shall live”—but that she “ will obey him and serve him.” This vow she makes, when pronouncing the irrevocable “I will."
But who sees not the wisdom of this ordering? Who perceives not, that it is at once the strongest possible guard against the evil of contention, which, in fallen creatures like ourselves, would be for ever at work, if parties were so equal that no obligation lay on either to yield to the other? The principle laid down in the word of God upon this point, enables both the man and the woman to avoid that struggling for the mastery, which is the bane of all social life, and which in married life embitters the sweetest
which a gracious Providence may proffer to us. Where contention is in families, there peace is forfeited, respectability hazarded, temper vitiated; virtues themselves there wither, for how can the spirit of peace flourish where discord rages?? But where a family are regulated according to God's ordinance, all such evils are avoided. The wife feels no degradation in submitting to the judgment and wishes of the husbandshe is but obeying a still higher authority. Even
1 A divided house, like a divided kingdom, cannot stand. said the Lord. Matt. xii. 25.
where much self-denial must be exercised in such obedience, rich is her secret reward, in the conscious
feeling that “she is doing God's will." Whilst the Ĉ husband is careful to exercise this delegated superiority,
as one who must give account thereof-knowing it is to be exercised gently, and with a view always the more to promote the honour of his heavenly Father, and the eternal as well as temporal welfare of wife and children committed to his care.
If thus the husband has added power, heavy indeed is his added responsibility; so heavy, that however sometimes a wife's obedience may bring severe trials of temper and patience and comfort to herself, the responsibility of a husband brings weightier cares still. The wife in her obedience must be right: God has so willed. The husband, in the extent to which he exercises his authority, may be wrong.
Happy they, who loving each other above the world, but loving God with a higher and holier affection still, each taking his word as their guide, and seeking his Spirit as their strength, find that they have the same wishes, the same hopes, the same view of duty, the same sources of enjoyment; or, if ever such variance of opinion occur, as must occasionally arise between any two minds, yet in their one great aim, as immortal beings-so to pass through things temporal that they lose not finally the things eternal—in that aim, all lower shades of difference fade away. There is no hesitation on the one side, in waving authority respecting matters of indifference on the other, no difficulty in yielding to it, when enforced.
In things of high import, their souls are one.
PLIGHTING THE TROTH.
The part of the service next following has a peculiarly affecting character. A father, or some near and dear friend, his representative, gives his daughter to the betrothed husband; transferring to him that unwearied watchful care, that tender protection, that support and comfort, which from her infancy had been his delight and his care. The past, with all its recollections of bright and happy years, rises up, and will force itself in contrast with future years, will mingle with feelings of unrestrained anxiety, as he hears the heart-stirring question—“Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?"-None but parents can feel in their full weight, the force of these words. The child, so long cherished under the wing of fondest love, is about to leave its shelter ; to enter upon new scenes; be engaged in new duties ; surrounded by new cares; and have another object than her parents, to promote whose best interests and happiness, her time and thoughts, her fears and her hopes, are now to be directed, and in whom her devoted love must henceforth centre. But what if thus between parent and child, companionship be gone? What if to a worldly eye the future seems one cloudy sky of cheerless and unbroken gloom ?-the word of God, which is ever our light and our joy, is seen here, like the rainbow token, then the brightest when all around is dark. The union of man and wife is according to God's holy ordinance; so this parting of parent and child is in obedience to God's command—and obedience to Him, must bring blessing. Father and mother must be forsaken, when this holy ordinance unites their children to still dearer companions in life's varied jonrney. Thus you feel the pain of this severing to be soothed; and the memory of past years, marked as it is by the good providence and grace of God, in having enabled you to supply your child with all things necessary, as well for the body as the soul ; training her up “in the way wherein she should go"the memory of these things confirms your faith and brightens your hope for the future. The great Being, who watched over her when blessed with the parent's care, will still watch over her with unslumbering eye, now blessed with a husband's love.
Such is naturally the sustaining effect of viewing this service, not merely as a civil, but also as a religious rite-a state, entered into as before God, as well as before man ; the contracting parties making themselves responsible to the Almighty Judge of all for a due fulfilment of their vows. They accordingly, in the most touching manner, before Almighty God and the congregation who may be assembled, plight their troth, either to other, by a declaration which the Church records most fully and affectingly, and in that noble spirit of truth and courage which is so eminently characteristic of Christian principle. Even in this joyous hour, however, the Church veils not the real nature of human life: she allows it to be full of changes and chances; whilst man, born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, is continually exposed to them '. The man and the woman therefore, each “ pledge to other their troth, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse ;” no change of circumstances to change their mutual love; their union being for mutual support in adversity, as for mutual comfort in prosperity '—“for richer for poorer ;” neither hus
1 The reader will find an explanatory note upon this subject
1 It is in a spirit of true wisdom that the Church warns the newly married, even in this their bright hour of joy, to remember what human life is—not only a state of continual change, but a state in which man is born to trouble. Consequently they will consider their state highly favoured, when intervals of ease are vouchsafed ; when the passing change is for the better, and the inheritor of trouble can for a time wave his inheritance. This just view of human life, whilst it prepares them to meet with faith and patience such trials as may await them, becomes at once a powerful and sustaining motive for cherishing, enduringly and with a deeper and holier feeling of responsibility to the God before whom they have vowed their vow, that mutual love, which is intended by a merciful Providence to strengthen, as cares assail it ; and be possessed as a treasure, the more prized as other possessions fail. Happen what will to those who hold this view of life, there is always comfort at home, which no earthly changes can take away. One there is, into whose faithful kind bosom the afflicted can pour all their sorrows, all their woes ; and fear no cold rejection of their appeal. Hearts, where sympathy thus reigns, and where love to each other is only less fervent than love to God, soon rise superior to outward circumstances. Poverty excites no murmur, and sickness no complaining. Even oppression ceases to pain, or contempt to wound. The holy vows, registered before heaven and kept before men, bring their own rich recompense of reward in a mutual love which, by God's grace, overcomes the world, its sorrows, and its pains. Nor can a nobler testimony be given to the power of this love, thus blessed of God, than when husband and wife, with perhaps fallen fortunes and hopeless as to this world's goods, meet the change “from richer to poorer, from better to worse," with a brave and unsubdued heart ; each to the other a friend, whose love many waters, even the waters of affliction, cannot quench : nay, whose love grows firmer as weighty sorrows press it, and brighter as clouds of misery darken round it. View them with their children, trained to the same elevated tone of feeling, then most perfect, when submitting to God's