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life will be spared to the parents, for training them up
in the fear and nurture of the Lord ; remembering, that though they are by nature fallen creatures, grace restores them; and that when christianly and virtuously brought up to the praise and honour of their heavenly Father, theirs is the privilege of a covenanted inheritance in the kingdom of heaven. And the married life, which may hopefully look to be so favoured of Him, who is the great Creator of all things and all men, is when husband and wife live, according to the simple but expressive words of the prayer, “ in godly love and honesty;" true to each other ; loving each other above all the world ; but each agreeing with the other, that they are to love their God above all.
THE PRAYER FOR GRACE TO LIVE ACCORDING
to God's LAWS,
“ O God !
through Jesus Christ our Lord.” IN what better manner could the Church lead the minds of the newly-married to a just and right view of their duty to God and to each other, than by again reminding them that marriage is a divine institution, and therefore not to be slightly regarded, as though it were a mere civil contract. It was originally of God; it has ever had his blessing, and whilst his own solemn dedication of man and wife to each other in Paradise, invests it with a sacred defence, which a vain philosophy may hold nought, but which will for ever be the noblest bulwark for social order; so his reiteration of that solemn dedication, when he was God manifest in the flesh; and his further warnings against an infringement of it; remain for ever the surest safeguard for the
preservation of all those sweet charities of social life, which, springing from a pure unmixed lineage, spread themselves through all the various channels of relationship, and bind men together in the sacred bond of family and kindred'. Still further to show both the sanctity of marriage and its blessedness, its honour and high favour in the sight of God, we are reminded that by the state of matrimony is significantly represented the spiritual marriage and unity, which is betwixt Christ and his Church and who shall sever that bond? who with impunity entice the soul from its love and allegiance to the spiritual Bridegroom? “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ?" asks the Apostle. Let us reply with him, “Neither death nor life?!” As then no power of circumstances, no fears or hopes of the world, are to separate us from our union with Christ, so no consideration can avail to separate husband and wife, or “put asunder those whom God by matrimony hath made one." The comparison is carried on very beautifully, and forms the ground of striking and impressive instruction. The married persons are exhorted not only to take heed to the
1 Matt. xix. 6. Our blessed Lord, after referring the taunting Pharisees to the Word of God, which they professed to believe, and which with sufficient clearness indicated the indissoluble nature of the marriage bond—“ Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh*"--draws the inevitably just conclusion, “what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” See page 371.
2 Rom. viii. 35. 38. The whole magnificent passage is well worthy a close and attentive consideration. Few Scriptures are better calculated to wing the soul upward with thoughts worthy of an immortal being at the footstool of his God.
* Gen. ii, 24.
66 that a
words of counsel delivered to them by Christ and his Church, but humbly to imitate severally the example set by each, and so regulate their conduct to each other. “ Greater love hath no man than this,” saith St. Paul,
man lay down his life for his friend ;" yet Christ, the spiritual Bridegroom, did lay down his life for the Church, and gave himself for it. Hence we pray that this man may love his wife, “according to God's word; as Christ, his spouse, the Church.” If, however, such be the devotedness of affection justly required on the part of the man towards his wife, and he be bound thereto, as well by the word as by the example of Christ; the wife will on her part take counsel from the word and example of the Church, the spouse of Christ ; and how devotedly the Church recognises in Him her guide and counsellor, her strength and comfort, every act and word are in plain and glorious evidence. Hers therefore is the aim, so well becoming one following such example, in all her ways and doings to strive to do honour to her husband, promote his welfare, and secure his comfort. The character by which she may frame herself to this excellency, is admirably pourtrayed in the words of this prayer. We pray God “ mercifully to look upon her,” “ that she may be loving and amiable, faithful and obedient to her husband ”—for “to obey” she hath solemnly vowed
and,” further, “in all quietness, sobriety, and peace, be a follower of holy and godly matrons." How instructive is this practical application of the compa- rison, so often drawn by our blessed Lord, in reference to this ordinance! The prayer concludes with imploring the Divine blessing upon both the man and
the woman, and bearing on the thoughts high above all which this world can bring, either of sorrow or of joy, fixes their hopes upon the glories of that eternal inheritance, which awaiteth the righteous, rich or poor, lowly or great, in the kingdom of their Father. The words are themselves such as the feeling heart loves to linger upon; nor, I think, were they ever pronounced by the minister or heard by the congregation, without exciting feelings of deep and hallowed interest, as affecting as they are salutary. What their inheritance in this world may eventually be, no human wisdom can foresee, and no worldly present advantages can determine. It may be peace and prosperity; it may be
be trouble and misery; but if God be their friend and their stay, they may hold fast an inheritance, which shall never fail: and for that, on their behalf, we thus affectionately and hopefully pray -“0 Lord ! bless them both, and grant them to inherit thy everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
THE CLOSING BENEDICTION.
As, throughout this service, the Church, resting her view of the marriage-state upon the authority of God, and the express declaration of Christ, presents it to the reverent notice of the congregation as a solemn religious ordinance, so the closing blessing confirms the mind in this view of it, and is admirably calculated to leave upon the hearts of the newly-married, an impression not less instructive than comforting. They understand why they may hopefully look that God would “pour upon them the riches of his grace" -the ordinance is now, as it was from the beginning, of his appointment,--and shall he not bless his own? They feel likewise the wisdom of gaining his favour, which is better than life; for without his help, vain is the help of man: without his grace, vain are man's best counsels; vain are man's highest resolves ; vain are man's most ardent hopes. But if He sanctify and bless, then all those holy thoughts, all those good resolutions, all that faith and trust, which have now filled the soul as it approached to the throne of grace, may be so strengthened and confirmed, that husband and wife, by mutual love and mutual forbearance towards each other, and by knowing no other striving than who shall best serve and honour their God, “may please him both in body and soul;" and finding their own best comfort, each in seeking to promote the comfort of the other, “ may live together in holy love unto their lives' end."
THE EXHORTATION. Still further to show that she speaks with no authority, other than that with which the word of God invests her, and which she is commanded to assert; to show also that the sanctity with which she invests this ordinance is enjoined by that word,—the Church, in proceeding to address the congregation on the new duties which attach to the new state of life upon which the married persons have now entered, adduces apostolic sanction for all the precepts and all the counsel she has given to those who, in vowing to each other, have vowed unto God. “ Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone,” she has proved, in the prayers and supplications, in the injunctions and