A. The solemnization of matrimony.] Τhe all solemn leagues, and federal pacts, even ethnic theology hath always interested and engaged religion: upon this account, amongst them they were no less solemnly firmed by oaths?, than by seals affixed ; and were made between one king, aud one commonwealth and another ; the counterparts were usually deposited in the temples of their gods. What contract, what confederacy can be imagined more noble, more sacrosanct, than that between man and wife? Other leagues are the products of reason of state, self, and earthly interest. That which constitutes this, is a congenial disposition, and harmony of hearts: wherein nature’s grand intention of specifical propagation is limited, knit, and restrained to one, by an indissoluble tie of love.
But what can be said more in honour of it than this? that though it be not a Sacrament in the most proper sense, it is yet made by the Apostle the relative parallel of that μέγα μυστήριον, “ great mystery,” Ephes. v. 32, and superlative Sacrament of Christ’s union with His Church. If then this ordinance be a league so supereminent; if all purposes of high consequence are to be blessed by the word of God and prayer; how can they answer it at the bar of reason, which did proscribe from matrimony (the paramount of all earthly concernments) divine invocation, and sacerdotal benediction ; without which never was any initiation into that honourable state thought duly performed? Upon this very account, the place where it was celebrated amongst the Jews was styled beth-hillulah, “the house of praise;’’ and amongst the heathen there were προτέλειαι εὐχαὶ, “ prayers preparatory to marriage.” The very score it was upon which our Saviour was bidden to the marriage in Cana, if Epiphanius deceives us not: πῶς οὐκ ἔσται τίμιος ὁ γάμος, ὁπότε κέκληται ὁ Σ᾽ ωτὴρ ἵνα εὐλογήσῃ γάμον ; “ how honourable is wedlock, when our Saviour was invited to a marriage-feast to bless the married couple?” And as He did really bless marriage διὰ τῆς ἀποκυήσεως, “ with a fruitful womb,” as the same father conceiveth ; so did He all nuptials to come, by honouring with His presence, and shewing His first of miracles in Cana of Galilee at a wedding-feast. This opinion of Epiphanius will be the more passable, if it be considered, that blessing, being one of the choicest ministerial acts, was always dispensed by the chief of ministers, or persons of the most eminent note for sanctity. So Melchisedech, the priest of the most high God, blessed Abraham, Gen. xiv. 19. Upon the same account the typified Melchisedech, Christ, was desired to bless little children, Matt. xix. 18, as the famous Grotius supposed.
And upon the same account, in the primitive times, the bishop, and, if present, none but he, was to bless the people in public assemblies: who, as he was for that very cause principal in the administration of matrimonial benediction, so was he also most concerned in the approbation, πρέπει τοῖς γαμοῦσι καὶ ταῖς γωμουμέναις, μετὰ γνώμης τοῦ ἐπισκόπον τὴν ἕνωσιν ποιεῖσθαι, saith Ignatius, “it is fit that the married couple betroth themselves with the advice of a bishop.” So a virgin in Tertullian is said, petere maritum ab episcopo, “to ask a husband of the bishop.” Indeed as the condition of the times then was, it could not in prudence be otherwise. The inconveniences of an unequal yoke, or marrying of a Christian with an infidel, were innumerable ; the society and conversation could not be so mutual between them ; the Christian woman could not keep those correspondences which were of the interest of her religion; and possibly the secret meetings, which with much ado were then contrived, might thereby be betrayed, or unhappily discovered, to the ruin and destruction of the professors of Christianity.
Seeing then no avoidance, the solemnization of this ordinance must be granted to have been performed by such a consecration ; it is also next in order to be supposed, that in this consecration set forms were used, considering withal that they were assigned to undergraduate concernments ; and considering that such forms are still extant some, and others are presumable to have been so by collateral implication. Under the law, in the story of Ruth, two forms occur. First, “The Lord grant thee rest in the house of thy husband,” ch. i. 9, and iii. 1. Secondly, all the people and elders said, “ The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house, like Rachel and like Lea, which two did build the house of Israel; and do thou worthily in Ephrata, and be famous in Bethlehem, and let thy house be like the house of Pharez, (whom Tamar bare unto Judah,) of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman,” ch. iv. 11, 12. The people and elders could not certainly conspire so exactly in every syllable of this benediction, had it not been a known and usual form amongst them. Under the Gospel, in the primitive times I mean, told we are that such forms were, though not what they were. In the council of Milevis, decreed it is, ut preces, vel orationes seu misse, que probate fuerint in concilio, sive prefationes, sive commendationes, sive manuum impositiones, ab omnibus celebrentur ; “ that those forms of prayers or masses, be they prefaces, or offices for interments, or of imposition of hands, which have been allowed of by the council, shall be celebrated by all.” Where imposition of hands must undoubtedly denote all sacerdotal benediction; whether in ordaining of priests, or in absolving of penitents, or in confirming of persons new baptized, or in the solemnization of matrimony, or whatever else was performed, that ceremony applied.
I. Rubric I. Banns, what the word signifies. Why, and how often to be published. BEFORE any can be lawfully married together, the Banns are directed to be published in the Church, i.e. public proclamation (for so the word signifies) must be made to the congregation, concerning the design of the parties that intend to come together. This care of the Church to prevent clandestine marriage is, as far as we can find, as old as Christianity itself. For Tertullian tells us, that in his time all marriages were accounted clandestine, that were not published beforehand in the Church, and were in danger of being judged adultery and fornication. And by several ancient constitutions of our own Church, it was ordered, that none should be married before notice should be given of it in the public congregation on three several Sundays or holydays. And so it was also ordered by the rubric prefixed to the form of Solemnization of Matrimony in the book of Common Prayer, viz. that the banns of all that are to be married together be published in the church three several Sundays or holy-days, in time of divine service; unto which was added at the last review, immediately before the sentences for the offertory; but it is ordered by a late act of parliament,* that all banns of matrimony shall be published upon three Sundays preceding the solemnization of marriage, immediately after the second Lesson.
§.2. The poverty of the parties, or their not being settled in the place where they are asked, no reason for prohibiting the banns. The design of the Church in publishing these banns, is to be satisfied whether there be any just cause or impediment why the parties, so asked, should not be joined together in matrimony. What are allowed for lawful impediments, I shall have occasion to shew in the next section. In the mean while I shall here observe, that the Curate is not to stop his proceeding, because any peevish or pragmatical person, without just reason or authority, pretends to forbid him; as is the case sometimes, when the church-wardens, or other officers of the parish, presume to forbid the publication of the banns because the parties are poor, and so like to create a charge to the parish; or because the man is not perhaps an inhabitant, according to the laws made for the settlement of the poor. But poverty is no more an impediment of marriage than wealth; and the kingdom can as little subsist without the poor, as it can without the rich. And as to the pretence of the man’s not being an inhabitant of the parish, it is certain, that by the canon law a traveller is a parishioner of every church he comes to. The Minister where he is, is to visit him if sick, to perform the offices to him while living, and to bury him when dead: and no other Clergyman can regularly perform any divine office to such a person, so long as he continues within the said parish. In short, he is a parishioner in all respects, except that he is not liable to be kept by the parish, if he falls into poverty. Nor does the bidding of banns alter his condition in that respect: for in that, it is not considered where the person has a legal settlement, but where he dwells or lives at present. And the spiritual courts acted by this rule (if by any) when they grant, ed a licence to a man to be married, that had not been four and twenty hours within their jurisdiction; and write him in the licence, seaman of that port or parish where he landed last, or where perhaps he lodged the night before.
§.3. The penalty of a Minister who marries without license or banns. The penalty incurred for marrying any persons (without a faculty or licence) before the banns have been thus duly published, is, by the canons of our Church, declared to be suspension for three years. Nor is there any exemption allowed to any churches or chapels, under colour of any peculiar liberty or privilege. The prohibition is the same in one place as in another. Marry where they will, the canons inflict the same penalty upon the Minister; who, by an act of parliament made in the tenth year of queen Anne, shall, besides his suspension, forfeit one hundred pounds for every offence; or if he be a prisoner in any private gaol, he shall be removed to the county gaol, charged in execution with the aforesaid penalty, and with all the causes of his former imprisonment. And whatever gaoler shall permit such marriages to be solemnized in his prison, shall, for every such offence, forfeit also the sum of one hundred pounds. And by the Act 26 George II. before mentioned, the person who shall solemnize matrimony in any other place than a church or public chapel, or without publication of banns, or licence, is deemed guilty of felony, and is to be transported for fourteen years, and the marriage declared to be null and void.
§.4. Marriage at no time prohibited. The ecclesiastical courts would have us to believe, that a licence is necessary, even after the banns have been duly published, to empower us to marry during such times as are said to be prohibited; and this they found upon an old popish canon law, which they pretend was established among other popish canons and decretals, by a statute 25 Henry VIII. But now it is certain that the times prohibited by the pope’s canon law are not the same that are pretended to be prohibited here in England; or if they were, the statute declares, that the popish canons and decretals are of force only so far forth as they have been received by sufferance, consent, or custom. Now there is no canon nor custom of this realm, that prohibits marriages to be solemnized at any time: but on the contrary, our rubric, which is confirmed by act of parliament, (and which is therefore as much a law of this realm as any can be,) requires no more than that the banns be published in the church three several Sundays in the time of divine service; and then, if no impediment be alleged, gives the parties, so asked, leave to be married, without so much as intimating that they must wait till marriage comes in. As to the authority of Lyndwood and some other such pleas offered by the gentlemen of the spiritual courts, the reader, that desires further satisfaction, may consult two learned authors upon this point, who plainly enough shew, that the chief motive of their insisting upon licences as necessary within these pretended prohibited times, is because marrying by banns is a hinderance to their fees.
Though not devent at some seasons. It is true indeed, it hath been an ancient custom of the primitive Church to prohibit persons from entering upon their nuptials in solemn times, which are set apart for fasting and prayer, and other exercises of extraordinary devotion. Thus the Council of Laodicea forbids all marriages in the time of Lent, and several other canons add other times, in which matrimony was not to be solemnized: which seems to be grounded upon the command of God, the counsel of Saint Paul, and the practice of the sober part of mankind. For even those who have wives ought, at such times, to be as those who have none; and therefore those who have none ought not then to change their condition. Besides, there is so great a contrariety between the seriousness that ought to attend the days of solemn religion, and the mirth that is expected at a marriage-feast, that it is not convenient they should meet together, lest we either violate religion, or disoblige our friends. This consideration so far prevailed even with the ancient Romans, that they would not permit those days that were dedicated to acts of religion, to be hindered or violated by nuptial celebrations. And Christians, one would think, should not be less observers of decency, than infidels or heathens. For which reason it would not be amiss, I humbly presume, if a prohibition was made, that no persons should be married during the more solemn seasons, either by licence or banns. But to prohibit marriage by banns, and admit of it by licence, seems not to be calculated for the increase of religion, but purely for the sake of enhancing the fees.
II. Rubric 2. The marriage to be solemnized in one of the churches where the banns were published. If the persons that are to be married dwell in diverse parishes, the banns must be asked in both parishes, and the Curate of the one parish is not to solemnize matrimony betwixt them, without a certificate of the banns being thrice asked from the Curate of the other parish. This seems to suppose what both the ancient and modem canons enjoin, viz. that marriage shall always be solemnized in the church or chapel where one of the parties dwelleth. And by our own canons, whatever Minister marries them any where else, incurs the same penalty as for a clandestine marriage. Nor is even a licence allowed to dispense with him for doing it. And the late act for preventing clandestine marriages expressly requires, that, in all cases where banns have been published, the marriage be solemnized in one of the churches where such publication had been made, and in no other place whatsoever; and that no licence shall be granted to solemnize any marriage in any other church than that which belongeth to the pariah, within which one of the parties to be married hath dwelt for four weeks immediately preceding. Formerly it was a custom, that marriage should be performed in no other church but that to which the woman belonged as a parishioner: and the ecclesiastical law allowed a fee due to the Curate of that church, whether she was married there or not; which was generally reserved for him in the words of the licence: but those words have been omitted in licences granted since the Act 26 George II took place, which gives no preference to the woman’s parish.
The canonical hours of celebrating of matrimony. FOR better security against clandestine marriages, the Church orders that all marriages be celebrated in the day-time: for those that mean honourably need not fly the light. By the sixty-second canon they are ordered to be performed in time of divine service; but that practice is now almost, by universal consent, laid aside and discontinued: and the rubric only mentions the day and time appointed, which the aforesaid canon expressly requires to be between the hours of eight and twelve in the forenoon: and though even a licence be granted, these hours are not dispensed with; * for it is supposed that persons will be serious in the morning. And indeed formerly it for it is supposed that persons will be serious in the morning. And indeed formerly it was required that the bridegroom and bride should be fasting when they made their matrimonial vow; by which means they were secured from being made incapable by drink, of acting decently and discreetly in so weighty an affair.
§.2. In what part of the church the marriage is to be solemnized. At the day and time appointed, the persons to be married are directed to come into the body of the church. The custom formerly was for the couple, who were to enter upon this holy state, to be placed at the church-door, where the Priest was used to join their hands, and perform the greatest part of the matrimonial office. It was here the husband endowed his wife with the portion or dowry before contracted for, which was therefore called Dos ad ostium ecclesicæ, The dowry at the church-door. But at the Reformation the rubric was altered, and the whole office ordered to be performed within the church, where the congregation might afford more witnesses of the fact.
And since God himself doth join those that are lawfully married, certainly the house of God is the fittest place wherein to make this religious covenant. And therefore, by the ancient canons of this Church, the celebration of matrimony in taverns, or other unhallowed places, is expressly forbidden: and the office is commanded to be performed in the church, not only to prevent all clandestine marriages, but also that the sacredness of the place may strike the greater reverence into the minds of the married couple, while they remember they make this holy vow in the place of God’s peculiar presence.
§.3. Who to be present at the solemnization. Paranymphs, or Bridemen, their antiquity. The persons to be married (saith the rubric) are to come into the church with their friends and neighbours, i.e. their relations and acquaintance, who ought to attend on this solemnity, to testify their consent to it, and to join with the minister in prayers for a blessing on it. Though it may not be improbable, but that by the friends here mentioned may be understood such as the ancients used to call paranymphs, or bridemen: some traces of which custom we find to be as old as the days of Samson, whose wife is said to have been delivered to his companion, who in the Septuagint version is called Νυμφαγωγὸς, or brideman. And that bridemen were in use among the Jews in our Saviour’s time, is clear from St. John 3:29. From the Jews the custom was received by the Christians, who used it at first rather as a civil custom, and something that added to the solemnity of the occasion, than as a religious rite; though it was afterwards countenanced so far as to be made a necessary part of the sacred solemnity. An account of this custom as it prevailed here in the time of king Henry VIII. may be seen in Polydore Virgil. Some remains of it are still left among us; but as to countenancing or discountenancing it, our Church has left it (as in itself) a thing indifferent.
§.4. The position of the two parties. The remaining part of this rubric (which was added to the foregoing part at the Restoration) is concerning the position of the parties, whom it orders to stand, the man on the right hand, and the woman on the left, i.e. the man on the right hand of the woman, and the woman on the left hand of the man, as it is worded in the Salisbury Manual. The reason that is there given for it is a very weak one, viz. because the rib out of which the woman was formed was taken out of the left side of Adam. The true reason to be sure is, because the right hand is the most honourable place; which is therefore both by the Latin and Greek, and all Christian Churches, assigned to the man, as being the head of the wife. The Jews are the only persons that I ever heard acted otherwise, who place the woman on the right hand of her husband, in allusion to that expression in the forty-fifth Psalm, At thy right hand did stand the queen in a vesture of gold, &c.
First the Banns of all that are to be married together must be published in the Church three several Sundays, during the time of Morning Service, or of Evening Service, (if there be no Morning Service,) immediately after the second Lesson; the Curate saying after the accustomed manner, "I publish the Banns of Marriage between M. of — and N. of —. If any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first [second, or third] time of asking."
And if the persons that are to be married dwell in divers Parishes, the Banns must be asked in both Parishes; and the Curate of the one Parish shall not solemnize Matrimony betwixt them, without a Certificate of the Banns being thrice asked, from the Curate of the other Parish.
B. At the day appointed, &c.] The appointment of the day is left to the election of the persons to be married, provided it be not from Advent Sunday until eight days after the Epiphany; from Septuagesima Sunday until eight days after Easter; from Rogation Sunday until Trinity Sunday: these times being prohibited. By what authority? Not by the Common Prayer, not by the calendar, not by any homily, not by any article, not by any canon of our Church since the Reformation. And therefore if there be any popery, as is pretended by Mr. Prynne, in this restraint, our reformed Church is not to bear the blame. By what law then? By a canon certainly, and of some general council of this nation; for else all manuals, and Lindwood, our famous canonist, would not have agreed so punctually in all the days prefixed. True it is this canon is not, to my reading, extant; but before the Reformation it was undoubtedly. And this is the reason why our prohibition exceeds that of the council of Trent, in the last clause, viz., from Rogation Sunday until Trinity Sunday, that council being confirmed by Pius IV. far up into the state of reformation. But were not former : canons all made null upon our Reformation? No, in the statute 25 Hen. VIII. chap. 19, it is expressly provided, “that such canons as were made before that act, which be not contrariant, nor repugnant to the king’s prerogative, the laws, statutes, and customs of the realm, should be still used and executed, as they were before the making of the acti.”
Now of these canons, this I take it was one; but whereas it is charged with popery, I confess I apprehend not where that popery is resident. Is it as the restraint relates to times of solemn humiliation? Then the fathers of the council of Laodicea, a council to which popery is post-dated above three hundred years, stands guilty of popery as well as we, for that council interdicted marriages for the whole time of Lent, as hath been shewed before. Nay more, the Directory itself is guilty of popery too, for this excepts from this ordinance days of public humiliation. Is it as it relates to festivals? Mr. Prynne indeed saith!, “marriage is a festival and joyful thing, and so most seasonable and suitable for festival and joyful times and seasons.” But the Directory ‘says nay, and therefore interdicts the celebration of it upon all holy-days of the year, in these words; “And we advise that marriage be not solemnized on the Lord’s day;” and the Lord’s day is the only festival enjoined by that Directory. The result of all is this, that the assembly of divines are, in Mr. Prynne’s judgment, as guilty of popery in these particulars as Dr. Cozens.
C. Shall come into the body of the church, &c.] The former mode was this; the couple who were to enter that holy state were placed at the church door, where the priest did both join their hands, and despatch the greatest part of the matrimonial office. There, by the ancient law of this land, the husband, or his parents, were to endow the woman, his intended wife, with the portion of land precontracted for, provided it exceeded not a third of his estate, which was therefore called, dos ad ostium ecclesia, “ dower assigned at the church door.” And though this usage was laid aside long before the Reformation, yet did the rubric relating to it remain long after in some churches of this kingdom; for in the manual after the usage of York, after these words, “with this ring I wed thee, and with this gold and silver I honour thee, and with this gift I honour thee;” presently is subjoined, “the priest shall ask the dowry of the woman.” But this custom expiring so long ago, our Reformers discreetly ordered this whole office to be performed within the church, where the fuller congregation might afford more numerous witnesses of the fact.
The preface, or general exhortation. TO prevent the vain and loose mirth which is too frequent at these solemnities, the office is begun with a grave and awful preface, which represents the action we are about, to be of so divine an original, of so high a nature, and of such infinite concernment to all mankind, that they are not only vain and imprudent, but even void of shame, who will not lay aside their levity, and be composed upon so serious and solemn an occasion. And to prevent any misfortune which the two parties might rashly or perhaps inconsiderately run into by means of their marriage, the Minister charges the congregation, If they know any just cause why they may not he lawfully joined together, that they do now declare it, before this holy bond be tied, since afterwards their discovering of it will tend perhaps more to the prejudice than to the relief of the parties.
At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,
FIrst, holy Church instructs us in the ends of Matrimony, which are three.
Then the Priest requires the parties to be married, by the terror of the dreadful judgment day, to declare, if they know any impediment, why they may not be lawfully married? which is as much care and caution as can be used by those that are not able to discern the secrets of the heart.
II. The charge. But though others are first called upon to discover the impediments (if any such be known) as being most likely to reveal them; yet the parties themselves are charged, in the next place, as being most concerned, to declare them. Since, should there afterwards appear any just impediment to their marriage, they must either necessarily live together in a perpetual sin, or be separated for ever by an eternal divorce. Besides which, by a provincial canon of our Church under archbishop Stratford, in the year 1342, (the sixteenth of Edward III) if the parties that marry are conscious of any impediment, they incur excommunication ipso facto.
III. The impediments to matrimony. The impediments which they are solemnly charged to reveal, are those, I suppose, which are specified in the hundred and second canon of our Church; viz. 1. a preceeding marriage or contract, or any controversy or suit depending upon the same; 2. consanguinity or affinity: and, 3. want of the consent of their parents or guardians.
1. A preceding marriage or contract. The first is a preceeding marriage or contract: for God made but one wife for Adam, and rather connived at polygamy in after-ages than allowed it Under the Gospel dispensation it is absolutely forbidden. And this, I think, on one side, is generally allowed. Nobody contends that the same woman may have plurality of husbands, and the New Testament is expressly against it: but then we have libertines enough (though libertines, by the way, that often think one wife too many) who pretend that there is no prohibition against several; and yet the New Testament, if we duly attend to it, is as full and as clear against this as the former. Our Saviour himself has expressly declared, that whosoever shall put away his wife, and shall marry another, committeth adultery. If then it be adultery for a man to marry a second woman, after he has put away the first, would it be ever the less adultery to marry a second whilst he retains the first? Again, when St. Paul enjoins every man, for the avoiding fornication, to have his own wife, or (as the words ought to be translated) a wife of his own, he also enjoins that every woman have her own husband, or (as these words ought also to be rendered) a husband peculiar to herself. * So that polygamy is no more allowed to the husband than to the wife. And therefore if either of the parties that offer themselves to be married have a husband or wife living, this latter marriage is null and void, and they live in as manifest adultery as they would have done, though they had not been joined. Nay, if either of them be but contracted to another, the impediment is the same. For though such a contract be not properly marriage, yet it is so effective and binding, that unless they voluntarily release each other, it is adultery for either of them to marry any body else. Hence by the Levitical law it was death for any one to defile another man’s spouse; and the holy Virgin is called Joseph’s wife, though she was only contracted to him. Upon this account, marriages that have been made after any such contract have always been judged null and void. In our own land indeed, in king Henry the Eighth’s time, an Act of Parliament was made, that marriages, when solemnized and afterwards consummated, should stand good notwithstanding any former precontract that had not been consummated. But this was only done to gratify the king; and therefore, as soon as king Edward VI succeeded him, the aforesaid Act was repealed, and the ecclesiastical judges were again empowered to give sentence in favour of such precontract, and to require that matrimony should be solemnized and consummated between the persons so contracted, notwithstanding that one of them might have been actually married to, and have had issue by, another person. But it hath been again enacted by statute 26 George II, that for the future no suit shall be had in any ecclesiastical court to compel a celebration of marriage in facie ecclesicæ, by reason of any contract of matrimony whatsoever.
§.2. 2. Consanguinity or affinity. What degrees are expressly forbid. And what, by parity of reason implied. The second impediment, which the canon specifies, is consanguinity or affinity, i.e. when the parties are related to each other within the degrees prohibited as to marriage by the laws of God, and expressed in a table drawn up by Archbishop Parker, and set forth by authority in the year of our Lord 1563. This table is now very frequently printed at the end of Common Prayer Books, and therefore I need not enumerate the degrees within which marriage is forbid. But however, it may not be amiss to observe, that several degrees are expressed in the table, which are not mentioned particularly in the eighteenth of Leviticus, which is the place upon which the table is founded. But then they may be inferred from it by parity of reason. For that passage in Leviticus only mentions those relations evidently ana expressly, which may help us to discover the like differences and degrees. So that for the right understanding of the eighteenth of Leviticus, and to bring it to an agreement with the table in our Common Prayer Books, we must observe two particular rules for our direction: viz. 1. That the same prohibitions that are made to one sex are undoubtedly understood and implied as to the other; and, 2. That a man and his wife are accounted one flesh: (so that whoever is related to one of them by means of consanguinity is in the same degree related to the other by means of affinity: insomuch that the husband is so much forbid to marry with his wife’s relations, and the wife with her husband’s, within the degrees prohibited, as either of them are to marry with their own.) Thus, for instance; though marrying a wife’s sister be not expressly forbid in the eighteenth of Leviticus, yet by parity of reason it is virtually implied. For when God there commands that a man shall not marry his brother’s wife, which is the same as forbidding the woman to be married to her husband’s brother: it follows of course, that a man is also forbid to marry his wife’s sister. For between one man and two sisters, and one woman and two brothers, is the same analogy and proportion. Accordingly, this was always forbid under severe penalties by the primitive Church, and has been declared unlawful by our own. Thus again, though we are not forbid in terms to marry the daughter of a wife’s sister; yet, by the like parity of reason, the same is implied in the prohibition of marrying one’s father’s brother’s wife, which is the same as to forbid the being married to a husband’s brother’s son. For between a man and his wife’s niece is the same relation as between a woman and her husband’s nephew; and therefore these also have been declared incapable of marrying by our courts of judicature. And if this be granted, it can much less be doubted, whether the like rule, from parity of reason, doth not forbid the uncle to marry his niece; which, though not expressly forbidden, is to be sure virtually prohibited in the precept that forbids the nephew to marry his aunt. Nor is it of any moment to allege, that the first is a more favourable case, because the natural superiority is preserved; since the parity of degree (which is the proper rule of judging) is the very same in both.
The case the same in unlawful conjunctions, as lawful marriages. Nor do these rules hold only in lawful marriages, but are equally binding in unlawful conjunctions: for by the same law that a man may not marry his father’s wife, he ought not to take his father’s concubine: and as the woman may not be married to her daughter’s husband, so neither may she be married to one by whom her daughter has been abused. Nor are bastard children any more at liberty to marry within the degrees of the Levitical law, than those that are legitimate. In this case legitimacy or illegitimacy makes no difference; for if it did, a mother might marry her bastard son, which is shocking to think of.
The reasons of prohibition. Such marriages why called incestuous. The reasons why these prohibitions are made are easily to be accounted for: for, first, the marriage of parents or grandfathers with their children or grandchildren (setting aside the disproportion in time of age) is directly repugnant to the order of nature, which hath assigned several duties and offices essential to each relation, that would thereby be inverted and overthrown. To which we may add the inconsistency, absurdity, and monstrousness of the relations to be begotten, if such prohibition were not absolute and unlimited. Much the same may be said in the next place, as to the marriage of uncles and aunts with their nephews and nieces. And, lastly, as to the marriage of brothers with sisters; the natural familiarities between equal relations, so suitable in years and temper, would produce intolerable effects in those who always converse together, if they were not prohibited matrimonial union. Upon these accounts, even among heathens, these marriages were accounted unlawful and forbidden, and were condemned under the name and title of incest, which signifies an inauspicious conjunction, made sine cesto Veneris, without the cest or girdle of Venus. For that goddess being not supposed to be present at such unchaste and dishonest marriages, the bride was not bound with her girdle as was usual, and therefore the marriage was called incestuous. And by the ninety. sixth canon of our own Church, such marriages are also to be judged incestuous and unlawful, and consequently are to be dissolved as void from the beginning, and the parties so married are to be separated by course of Law.
No cousins prohibited marriage. From an observation of the above-mentioned passage in Scripture, as well as from the table at the end of our Common Prayer Books, we may perceive that it is only a vulgar mistake, which some have entertained, that second cousins may not marry, though first cousins may; it plainly appearing that no cousins whatsoever, whether in the first, or second, or third descent, are prohibited marriage, either by the laws of God or of the land. The more ancient prohibition indeed of the Canon Law was to the seventh generation: and the same was formerly the law of the Church of England, as appears by the canons of two different Councils. But in the fourth Council of Lateran, which was held A.D. 1215, the prohibition was reduced to the fourth degree, as appears not only by a statute in the thirty-second of Henry VIII, but also by the frequent dispensations for the fourth degree, (and no further,) which we meet with in our ecclesiastical records, as granted by special authority from Rome. But now this was only for the increase and augmentation of the Pope’s revenue, who always took care to be well paid for his licence or dispensation. And therefore, at the Reformation, when we got free from our bondage and subjection to him, no marriages were prohibited but within the third degree, which are expressly prohibited by the laws of God, as well as by the dictates of right reason, and which therefore no power or authority can dispense with. But now none that we call cousins are within the third degree of kindred; even first cousins, or cousin-germans, are four removes distant. For to know their relation we must reckon through the grandfather, the common parent, from whence both parties are descended. Now reckoning thus between the children of two brothers, or of two sisters, or of a brother and sister, we must necessarily measure four degrees. For from a man to his fether or mother is one degree; to his grandfather two; then down to his uncle or aunt three; and, lastly, to the daughter of his uncle or aunt, who is his cousin-german, four. This is exemplified in the margin, where A is the grandfather, B and C the children, and D and E the grandchildren or first cousins, who are disposed to marry. Now from D to B is one remove, to A a second, to C a third, and to E a fourth. And I have already observed, that there is no instance in the eighteenth of Leviticus of any prohibition in the fourth degree. It is to be noted indeed, as Archbishop Parker tells us, that marriages in the direct line, i.e. between children and their grandfathers, though ever so distant, are prohibited and forbid. For a father has a paternal right over ten generations, could he live to see them in a direct line, (his old age requiring respect and reverence, as often increased as the name of father comes between him and them.) And so uncles and aunts, since they are quasi parentes, in the place of fathers and mothers, must have the greater respect, by how much the name of uncle and aunt comes between them and their nephews and nieces. So that it would seem more absurd for a great uncle to marry his niece, than for an immediate uncle to marry his. Though we are told, that where the case in the spiritual court was, that one had married the wife of his great uncle, (which, by the foregoing rule, that makes the case the same in affinity as consanguinity, is as near a relation as a great aunt by blood,) it was declared hot to be within the Levitical degrees, and therefore a prohibition was granted to the process.
§.3. 3. Want of Parents' or Guardians' consent. The third impediment to the solemnization of marriage between the parties that offer themselves, is the want of the consent of their parents or guardians. But this by the hundredth canon seems only to be an impediment, when the persons to be married are under the age of twenty-one years complete, whom, by the sixty-second canon, no Minister is to marry, whether by banns or licence, before their parents or governors have signified their consent, though persons in widowhood are by the hundred and fourth canon particularly excepted. The holy Scriptures, in several instances, inform us of this paternal right. And the usual phrases of giving a daughter in marriage, and taking a wife to a son, plainly imply, that the consent of the parents is necessary in the marriage of their children. If we inquire into the practice of the heathens, we shall find them so severe upon the violation of this right, as to declare the marriage to be null, and the children to be bastards. And the ancient canon-law of the Greek Church accounts all children that marry without their parents’ consent, whilst they are under their power, to be no better than fornicators. The Church of England hath ever taken all imaginable care beforehand to prevent such marriages, by requiring the oaths of sufficient witnesses, in case of a licence, that such consent was obtained; and by the Act 26 George II it is declared that all marriages solemnized by licence, where either of the parties, not being a widower or widow, shall be under the age of twenty-one years, which shall be had without die consent of parents or guardians, shall be absolutely null and void. And where there is no licence, the Church orders the publication of the banns, as has already been shewed, that so the parents may have notice and time to forbid it; and now finally charges the parties themselves, in the most serious and solemn manner that is possible, that they confess it is an impediment, if they want their superiors’ consent.
IV. Rubric after the charge. If any of the impediments above mentioned are alleged, and the person that declares it will be bound and sufficient sureties with him to the parties, or else put in a caution (to the full value of such charges as the persons to be married do thereby sustain) to prove his allegation; then the solemnization must be deferred until such time as the truth be tried. But if no impediment be alleged, the Curate is to proceed in manner and form as the next section will declare.
The Priest shall say, "Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace." And also, speaking unto the persons that shall be married, he shall say,
At which day of Marriage, if any man do allege and declare any impediment, why they may not be coupled together in Matrimony, by God's law, or the laws of this Realm; and will be bound, and sufficient sureties with him, to the parties; or else put in a caution (to the full value of such charges as the persons to be married do thereby sustain) to prove his allegation: then the solemnization must be deferred, until such time as the truth be tried.
Then follows the Contract in the future tense, whereby these persons mutually promise to the Priest, Gods Minister, before the Congregation, to enter into that holy state of Wedlock, and strictly to keep those sacred laws of marriage which Almighty God hath ordained. This is that, as I conceive, which S. August. de Gen. ad lit. l. 11. c. 4. calls Votorum solennitatem, [the solemnities of vows and promises,], which was in his time and formerly an usual ceremony of marriage: And of very good use is this solemnity; for by this have the persons bound themselves to their duty, by all the obligations that a sacred solemn vow or promise can lay upon the soul.
D. Wilt thou have this woman, &c.] This, with its parallel place, admits of a two-fold construction. First, it is an enquiry into the voluntary and unconstrained consent of both parties, for ὁσάκις γάμος ἔννομος γίνεται, ἀνωγκαία ἐστὶ καὶ ἡ συναίνεσις τῶν μελλόντων συζευγθῆναι, κἂν ὑπεξούσιοι ὦσι, κἀν αὐτεξούσιοι, “ whensoever marriage is performed as it ought to be, of necessity the consent of the parties to be joined must be had, be they free, or under the power of others.” So Rebecca’s mother and brother demanded her consent, Gen. xxiv. 58. Secondly, it is a pattern of the ancient form of espousals, which regularly did antecede the nuptials. After these espousals the woman, in some places, presently cohabited with the man, as did Rebecca, but continued untouched until the marriage day. Sponsalia, “espousals,” they were called; a spondendo, “from promising ;” nam moris fuit veteribus stipulari et spondere sibi uxores futuras, “for it was the manner anciently for men to stipulate and contract a promise of the wives they were to marry.” So also the canonists ; Ρμνηστεία, ἐπαγγελία τῶν μελλόντων γάμων, “espousals are the promises of future marriages.” And though these espousals were but promises, being made in the future tense, “I will take,” yet did they anciently so far oblige, as neither part could, the consent of the other obligee not first obtained, recede from that promise without the undergoing a severe penalty.
I. The asking their mutual consent. THE solemnization of matrimony being a formal compact, it is requisite, in the first place, that the mutual consent of the parties be asked, which is so essentially necessary, that the marriage is not good without it. And therefore we find that Rebekah’s friends asked her consent before they sent her away to Isaac. And in the firmest kind of marriage among the Romans, which they called coemption, the parties themselves mutually asked this of each other. This therefore being so momentous a custom, is for that reason taken into the Christian offices: only among Christians the question is proposed by the Priest, that so the declaration may be the more solemn, as being made in the immediate presence of God, and to his deputed Minister.
Then the Priest asks [Who gives this woman to be married to this man?] This was the old custome, that the Bride should be given by the Father or friend, Aug. de Gen. ad lit. 11. c. 41. to which S. Paul may be thought to allude, 2 Cor. 11. 2. I have espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. And Psal. 45. 13. The Queen the Spouse, shall be brought to the King. The reason of this saith Learned Mr. Hooker l. 5. Eccl. Pol. Sect. 73. was, That in ancient times all women which had not Husbands or Fathers to govern them, had their Tutors, without whose authority, there was no act, which they did warrantable; and for this cause they were in marriage delivered unto their husbands by others. Which custom retained, hath still this use, that it puts women in mind of a duty, whereto the very imbecillity of their sex doth bind them, namely, to be always directed and guided by others. Whether this were the very cause of this custom, I will not determine, nor what else was: but whatsoever was the first cause of it, this is certain, that it is a decent custom. For it cannot be thought fit, that a woman, whose chiefest ornament is modesty and shamefacedness, should offer her self before the Congregation to marriage to any person, but should rather be led by the hand of another, and given by him.
If no impediment be alleged, then shall the Curate say unto the Man,
The man therefore is asked, Whether he will have this woman to his wedded wife; and the woman, Whether she will have this man to her wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy state of matrimony. And that they may the better know what are the conditions of this state, the Minister enumerates the duties which each of them by this covenant will be bound to perform.
§.2. The husband's duty. The man, for instance, is obliged, in the first place, to love his wife, which is the principal duty required by St. Paul, and is here mentioned first, because if the man hath this affection, he will perform with delight all the other duties; it being no burden to do good offices to those whom we heartily and sincerely love. 2. He must comfort her, which is the same that St. Paul expresses by cherishing, and implies here, that the husband must support his wife under all the infirmities and sorrows, to which the tenderness of her sex often makes her liable. 3. He is to honour her, which is also directly commanded by St. Peter: for though the wife, as he says, be the weaker vessel, yet she must not be despised, for those unavoidable weaknesses which God has been pleased to annex to her constitution, but rather respected for her usefulness to the man’s comfortable being.* 4. He must keep her in sickness and health, which in St Paul’s phrase is to nourish, or to afford her all necessaries in every condition. Lastly, he must consent to be faithful to her, and forsaking all others keep himself only to her so long as they both shall live; which is added to prevent those three mischievous and fatal destroyers of marriage, adultery, polygamy, and divorce.
The Man shall answer, "I will."
Then shall the Priest say unto the Woman,
§.3. The wife's duty. There is no difference in the duties, nor consequently in the terms of the covenant between a man and his wife; except that the woman is obliged to obey and serve her husband. Nor is this a difference of our own devising, but is expressly ordered by God himself, who, in those places of Scripture where he enjoins husbands to love their wives, commands the wives to be subject and obedient to their husbands. The rules also of society make it necessary; for equality, saith St. Chrysostom, breeds contention, and one of the two must be superior, or else both would strive perpetually for the dominion. Wherefore the laws of God, and the wisdom of all nations, hath given the superiority to the husband. Among the Romans, the wife was obliged by law to be subject to her husband, and to call him lord; but then they had a peculiar magistrate to take care that the men did not abuse this power, but that they should rule over their wives with gentleness and tenderness. Wherefore women may and ought to pay all that obedience which the Gospel requires of them: nor have they any reason (especially with us) to complain with Medea, that they are sold for slaves with their own money, because there is really no slavery in obedience which springs from love, and is paid in respect to the nobler sex, and in requital for that protection which the weaker sex both needs and enjoys in the state of matrimony. So that it is not only an impious contempt of divine authority, but egregious pride and folly, for any woman to refuse either to promise or pay this obedience; which is her chief advantage, if she hath wisdom to understand, or skill to manage it right.
The Woman shall answer, "I will."
E. Who giveth this woman, &c.] This custom of giving the woman to the man hath been universal, always done by the father, or, in want of him, by the next of kin, or some other friend who representeth the father’s person. Whence is that constant form of speech, so frequent in Holy Scripture, of parents giving their daughters in marriage. So Hermione answered Orestes, νυμφευμάτων μέν τῶν ἐμῶν πατὴρ ἐμὸς Μερίμναν ἕξει, κ᾿ οὐκ ἐμὸν κρίνειν ταδὲ, “of my nuptials my father hath the sole governance, of such things I take no cognizance.” So St. Paul is very express; “ He that giveth his daughter in marriage doth well,” 1 Cor. vii. 38. This was done upon three considerations especially; first, as a recognition of parental authority in their disposal. Secondly, as a submission of that weaker sex to the direction and guidance of the stronger. Lastly, as an argument of maiden modesty, for, non est virginalis pudoris eligere maritum, “it sorteth not with the bashfulness of a virgin to choose her husband.”
§.4. The answer of the parties. The whole matter being thus proposed to each party, they should each of them seriously weigh and consider it. And if they like this state of life, and the duties annexed to it; if they neither of them have any objection against the person of the other, but are persuaded they can each of them love the other, and that for ever, in all conditions of life; let each of them answer as the Church directs them, I will; which are the proper words that oblige in compacts, but which can never lay a more solemn obligation than when they are pronounced upon this occasion. For if we start back after speaking them here, we shall have as many witnesses of the falsehood, as there are persons present at the solemnity, viz. God and his angels, the Minister and the congregation: and therefore in regard to so venerable an assembly, let them here be pronounced with all deliberate gravity, and for ever made good with all possible sincerity.
§.5. Espousals, what they were formerly. And how supplied now. This solemn declaration of the parties’ consent seems to be the remains of the old form of Espousals, which was different and distinct from the office of Marriage, and which was often performed some weeks, or months, or perhaps years before; and, as Florentinus defines them, were no more than the promise of future marriage; which however they thought was not proper to be left to be made in private, as a mere civil contract; and therefore they ordered tnat it should be solemnly made in the presence of a Minister, who should use prayers and blessings suitable to the occasion. And hence it is that, in the Greek Church, there are to be seen to this day two different offices, viz. the one of Espousals, and the other of Marriage. But it oftentimes happening that the deferring the marriage caused the parties espoused to break their engagement, Leo Philosophus, an emperor of the East, commanded by an edict, that the Espousals and Marriage should be both performed on the same day. Some attempts indeed were made by Alexius Comnenus to restore the old custom of having some time intervene between them. But it does not appear that he succeeded in his attempts; for Goar tells us, (and the present Greek rubric hints as much,) that the usual custom of the modern Greeks is to use both offices at the same time. And it is probable that in the West, as well as in the East, the custom of celebrating the Espousals and Nuptials at the same time did long obtain, and at last occasion both offices to be united in one. So that this declaration is the remains of the ancient office of the Espousals, and the following stipulation the Marriage properly so called. Accordingly the declaration is made in the future tense, by which Espousals used to be made; whereas the stipulation runs in the present tense, which is necessary to make and confirm a marriage. Besides, the declaration is made without any ceremony, simply and directly like the ancient Espousals; whereas the mutual stipulation is accompanied with divers significant rites, such as the delivering the woman into the hands of the man, joining their hands, and the like, which are the known and proper ceremonies of marriage. And indeed that the declaration is not properly a circumstance of the marriage, is plain from the Minister’s asking, after it is made. Who giveth the woman to be married to the man? For that evidently implies that she is even yet in the power of another, and consequently that she is still to be married to the man.
I. The solemnization of the marriage. The father or friend to give the woman. THE two parties having now declared their consent to take each other for husband and wife, and having solemnly engaged that they will each of them observe the duties which God has annexed to that state; they proceed, in the next place, to the immediate celebration of the Marriage itself, which is introduced with a very ancient and significant ceremony; I mean, the father’s or friend’s giving the woman in marriage. The antiquity of which rite is evident from the phrase so often used in Scripture, of giving a daughter to wife: and the universality of it appears from its being used both by heathens and Christians in all ages. The foundation of the practice seems to be a care of the female sex, who are always supposed to be under the tuition of a father or guardian, whose consent is necessary to make their acts valid. And therefore before the Minister proceeds to the Marriage, he asks, Who gives the woman to be married to the man? Which shews too, by the way, that the woman does not seek a husband, but is given to one by her parents or friends, whose commands in this affair she seems rather to follow than her own inclinations. For which cause, among the nuptial rites of the old Romans, the bride was to be taken by a kind of violence from her mother’s knees; and when she came to her husband’s house, she was not to go in willingly, but was to be carried in by force; which, like this ceremony of ours, very well suited with the modesty of her sex.
§.2. And the minister to receive her. But besides this, there is a further meaning intended by the Church: for it is to be observed, that the woman is to be given not to the man but to the Minister; for the rubric orders, that the Minister shall receive her at her father’s or friend’s hands; which signifies, to be sure, that the father resigns her up to God, and that it is God who, by his Priest, now gives her in marriage, and who provides a wife for the man, as he did at first for Adam.
Then shall the Minister say,
F. The minister receiving the woman, &c.] The admirable both wisdom and piety of our Church! What I said but now of the fathers giving the woman to the man, dictum nollem, “I must now recant ;” to speak properly, the woman, according to this rule of our Church, is not given by man to man, but by man to God, that is, to His minister, who is deputed by Him to receive her; and by the same minister God bestoweth her upon the man; so that to the demand, “ Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?” the answer is ready, “God.” The same God who gave Eve to Adam in paradise ; He who was the first νυμφαγωγὸς, who led the first bride, doth by this order of our Church lead all who are conformable to it, yea, who will conform to the primitive institution. And as is the practice, so is the reason the same, viz., to instruct us to a sursum corda, to lift up our both hearts and eyes thither, “whence every good and perfect gift proceedeth,” especially this noble donative, “a good wife,” which, Solomon saith, “is from the Lord.”
G. By the right hand.] The right hand, saith Servius, was dedicated by Numa Pompilius to faith; en dextra fidesquet, “here is my right hand, and with that my faith;” so the poet: the orator alike; dextre fidei testes esse eibanke, “right hands were wont to be the great evidences of fidelity.”
II. Joining of right hands an ancient ceremony. Accordingly the Minister, who has now the disposal of her, delivers her into the possession of the man, as he afterwards does the man into the possession of the woman, by causing each of them to take the other by the right hand. The joining of hands naturally signifies contracting a friendship, and making a covenant: and the right hand especially was esteemed so sacred, that Cicero calls it the witness of our faith; and therefore the joining of these being used in all covenants, no wonder it should be observed in the solemn one of marriage. Accordingly we find it has been used, upon this occasion, by Heathens, Jews, and Christians in all ages.
III. The mutual stipulation. The Minister therefore having thus joined their right hands, causes them, in the next place, to give their troth, by a mutual stipulation. And as our lawyers tell us, that in a deed of conveyance four things are necessary, viz. 1. The Premises, containing the names of the person, and of the thing to be conveyed; 2. The Habendum and Tenendum; 3. The Limitations; and, 4. The Seeding: so here the compact seems to be drawn up exactly answerable to these four rules. For, first, each party name themselves, and specifying the other, as the individual person whom they have chose, declare the end for which they take, viz. to be wedded husband and wife. Secondly, The manner of taking is expressed in those ancient words, to have and to hold, which are words (saith Littleton) of such importance, that no conveyance can be made without them: and therefore they ought not to be omitted here, because the man and the woman are now to put themselves into the power and possession of each other: insomuch that after this stipulation the wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and likewise the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Thirdly, the time of entering upon, and the time of enjoying, the possession conveyed, is here expressly declared. It is to begin immediately from the nuptial day, and to continue during their mutual lives. From this day forward — till death us do part. And lest any inconveniences appearing afterwards should be alleged for the breaking this sacred contract, here is added a protestation, that the obligation shall continue in full force, notwithstanding any future unexpected changes. They are to have and to hold for better for worse, in respect of their mind and manners; for richer for poorer, in respect of their estate; and whether in sickness or in health, in respect of their body. Now all these are added to prevent the scandalous liberties of divorce, which was practised upon every trifling occasion among Jews and Romans: insomuch that one of their rabbles had impiously affirmed it to be sufficient for divorce, if another woman was better liked by the man. But this being so contrary to the nature of marriage, it is necessary it should be removed from all Christian societies: which cannot be more effectually done than by a particular recital at the time of marriage, of all the cases which may be pretended as the causes of a future dislike. And to prevent any objection, I suppose, that might afterwards be imagined &om either party’s declining in their comeliness or beauty, the York Manual, that was used in the northern parts of England before the Reformation, had an addition of the words, for fairer for fouler, (for it must be observed, that this mutual stipulation was always in English amongst our English papists, even when all the office besides was in Latin,) which Mr. Selden translates, sive pulchrior fueris, sive inventistior: i.e. whether thou shalt be more or less handsome or comely. In all these conditions the engagement is the same, viz. the man is to love and to cherish his wife, and the woman to love, cherish, and to obey her husband; i.e. each of them must have the same regard for the other, and pay those duties which I have already shewed to be necessary and indispensable, whatsoever accidental varieties may happen. In the old Salisbury Manual, (that was used in the southern parts of England in the times of popery, as I have observed the York Manual was in the northern,) instead of the woman’s stipulating to love, cherish, and to obey her husband, she engaged to be bonair and buxum in bedde and at borde: and so in the York Manual the Minister, in asking the woman’s consent, instead of demanding of her, whether she would serve and obey her husband, asked her, whether she would be buxum to him. From whence we may observe, that whatever meaning those words have been perverted to since, they originally signified no more than to be meek and obedient. Accordingly, meek and obedient are added in the margin of the Manual, to explain them; and so they are interpreted in the Saxon dictionaries, agreeably to which they are translated by Mr. Selden, Ero officiosa ac obediens. But to return to our present form: the next particular is the rule by which the compact is made, viz. according to God’s holy ordinance. The words before the Reformation were, if holy Church it woll ordaine, i.e. I suppose, if there be no ecclesiastical law to the contrary. But I think the modern words are better: which may either be referred to every part of the present stipulation, so as to imply that all the branches thereof are agreeable to the divine institution; or else they may be peculiarly applied to the two last clauses, that each of the parties will love and cherish, &c. the other till death part them; which, I have shewed, is according to the ordinance of God. Lastly, here is the ratification of all the former particulars in the ancient form, and thereto I plight, (as the man says;) or, (as the woman,) I give thee my troth: i.e. for the performance of all that has been said, each of them lays their faith or truth to pledge: as much as if they had said, If I perform not the covenant I have made, let me forfeit my credit, and never be counted just, or honest, or faithful more.
Then shall they give their troth to each other in this manner.
The Minister, receiving the Woman at her father's or friend's hands, shall cause the Man with his right hand to take the Woman by her right hand, and to say after him as followeth.
Then shall they loose their hands; and the Woman, with her right hand taking the Man by his right hand, shall likewise say after the Minister,
After the marriage it self [The man puts a Ring upon the womans finger.] The Ring hath been alwayes used as an especial pledge of faith and fidelity. Nothing more fit to serve as a token of our purposed endless continuance in that which we never ought to revoke; and therefore fitly used in marriage, which is a contract not to be dissolved but by death. Aurum nulla nor at praeter uno digito, quem sponsus oppigner asset pronubo annulo. No woman was permitted to wear gold, save only upon one finger, which the husband had fastned to himself with a wedding Ring. This he puts upon the fourth finger of the left hand, because there is a vein that goes from thence to the heart; by which is signified that the love should be hearty: say some Rituals.
Then follows [With my body I thee worship, &c.]
For the better understanding of this phrase, we must know that anciently there were two sorts of wives; One whereof was called the primary or lawful wife; the other was called the half wife or Concubine. The difference betwixt these two, was only in the differing purpose of the man, betaking himself to the one or the other: If his purpose was only fellowship, there grew to the woman by this means no worship at all; but rather the contrary. In professing that his intent was to add by his person, honour and worship unto hers, he took her plainly and clearly to be his Wife, not his Concubine. This is it which the Civil Law doth mean, when it makes a Wife to differ from a Concubine in dignity. The worship that grew unto her, being taken with declaration of this intent, was, that her children became by this means free and legitimate, heirs to their father: Gen. 25. 5, 6. her self was made a mother over his family: Lastly, she received such advancement of state, as things annexed to his person might augment her with. Yea, a right of participation was thereby given her both in him, and even in all things which were his; and therefore he saies not only [With my body I thee worship,] but also, with all my worldly goods; thee endow. The former branch having granted the principal, the later granteth that which is annexed thereto, Hooker Eccl. Pol. l. 5. Sect. 73.
The Jews anciently used the same phrase [Godwin Jew. Customs.] Be unto me a wife, and I according to the word of God, will worship, honour and maintain thee, according to the manner of husbands amongst the Iews, who worship, honour and maintain their wives. And that no man quarrel at this harmless phrase, let him take notice, that to worship here signifies, to make worshipful or honourable, as you may see, 1 Sam. 2. 30. For where our last Translation reads it, Him that honours me, I will honour; in the old Translation, which our Common-Prayer book uses, it is, Him that worships me, I will worship; that is, I will make worshipful, for that way only can God be said to worship man.
H. The man shall give unto the woman a ring.] The giving of the ring may seem here to be misplaced, for anciently it did rather belong to the contract than to the perficient and ultimate act of marriage; for the old mode of espousals, as of all other contracts, was by subarrhation, or giving of earnest betwixt the parties contracting, by which consideration and assumpsit, each party was obliged to all the particulars of the bargain ; this arrha, or pledge, in sponsal leagues, was from the man to the woman aring. This is evident by what is cited out of Hostiensis; annulo suo subarravit me dominus meus ; “my husband, when he espoused me, betrothed himself to me by this ring.” Conformably Tertullian; aurum nullum norat preter unico digito, quem sponsus oppignorasset pronubo annulo ; “in those days no woman was acquainted with more gold than what she wore upon one finger in a ring, wherewith her husband plighted his troth to her when he espoused her.” Now though according to the ancient manner the ring were more proper at the espousals, yet considering that the espousals and marriages are united in the office of our Church, and made as one continued act, the ring is pertinently enough disposed here.
But here incidentally two questions encounter me, neither of which I may decline. First, why is not the subarrhation, the giving of earnest, reciprocal and mutual? Why doth not the woman give somewhat to the man by way of ἀντίδοσις and exchange, as he the ring to her? To which Mr. Selden lends me this answer: that this is a relic of that very ancient custom whereby the man was wont to buy the woman, laying down as the price of her a certain piece of money, which piece of money might be supplied by any other thing equivalent to it; and therefore when the use of the ring was introduced, solemn enquiry was made whether or not it did answer the value of that money, without which the marriage proceeded not. Though this answer may seem to some very retrograde and far fetched, yet may it pass for default of a better.
Secondly, it is enquired, why a ring rather than any other thing is given in marriage? The general account which ritualists render us, is to signify the continuity of affection, and that true love hath no termination: but Clemens Alexandrinus assigneth another reason far more probable; εἰς τὸ ἀποσημαίνεσθαι τὰ οἴκοι φυλακῆς ἄξια, διὰ τὴν ἐπιμέλιαν τῆς οἰκουρίας ; “to seal up within doors such things as being more precious required strict custody, the woman having the chief charge of household affairs.” Whereby it not only appeareth that anciently these rings were, as well as others, formed with impressions, but that they served as instead of keys; which probably might be the reason why Solon enacted by law, δακτυλιογλύφῳ μὴ ἐξεῖναι σφραγῖδα φυλάττειν τοῦ πραθέντος δακτυλίου, “that an engraver should not keep by him the impression of any seal-ring he sold;” because, I conceive, else he might cut another by it, to the prejudice of the first buyer.
I. Laying the same upon the book.] The judgment of learned Bucer is much in favour of this order: admodum commodus hic ritus esse videtur, quod annulus, et cetera dona, quibus sponsus sponsam ornare vult, prius in librum sacrorum deponuntur, et a ministro sponso rursus traduntur tribuenda ab eo sponse ; significans, oportere nos nostra omnia priusquam illis utamur offerre Deo, cujus sunt, et consecrare, et illa tanquam ex ipsius manu accipere ad illius gloriam usurpanda: “this is a very becoming rite, that the ring and other gifts” (for his censure was upon the first liturgy) “ wherewith the husband intends to adorn his bride, are first laid upon the book, then delivered back by the minister to the man, to be bestowed upon the woman, intimating that it is our duty to offer up all is ours to God, as to the true proprietary, before we use them ourselves, and to receive them as from His hand, to be employed towards His glory.”
K. Shall put it upon the fourth finger of the woman’s left hand.] Why election is made of this hand, the left, and of this finger of that hand, the fourth, rather than any other, the rubric of the sponsal order in the Romish Church (and ritualists from thence) assigneth this reason, guia in illo digito est quedam vena procedens usque ad cor, “because from that finger there is a vein which leadeth to the heart.” But seeing that Church hath not yet pretended to an infallibility in anatomy, as well as in faith, we may be the bolder to question the truth of this assertion, and the rather, because the learned and most ingenious enquirer into vulgar errors¢ hath evidently demonstrated the vanity of this fiction, and that in truth no one finger hath any vein differing, in either number or origination, from another. And that Macrobius’s opinion is most probable, viz., that it was disposed there upon principle of frugality, the better to preserve it from attrition or wearing; to which I may add, to secure it also from slipping off, being guarded on every side with others.
IV. The ring the remains of the old coemption. But besides the invisible pledge of our fidelity, the man is also obliged to deliver a visible pledge: which the rubric directs shall be a ring: which, by the first Common Prayer Book of king Edward VI, was to be accompanied with other tokens of spousage, as gold or silver. This lets us into the meaning and design of the ring, and intimates it to be the remains of an ancient custom, whereby it was usual for the man to purchase the woman, laying down for the price of her a certain sum of money, or else performing certain articles or conditions, which the father of the damsel would accept of as an equivalent. Among the Romans this was called coemption or purchasing, and was accounted the firmest kind of marriage which they had; and from them was delivered down amongst the western Christians, by whom the custom is still preserved in the ring; which is given as a pledge, or in part of payment of the dowry that the woman is to be entitled to by the marriage; and by the acceptance of which the woman, at the same time, declares herself content, and in return espouses or makes over herself to the man. Accordingly in the old Manual for the use of Salisbury, before the Minister proceeds to the marriage, he is directed to ask the woman’s dowry, viz. the tokens of spousage: and by these tokens of spousage are to be understood rings, or money, or some other things to be given to the woman by the man; which said giving is called subarratian, (i.e. wedding or covenanting,) especially when it is done by the giving of a ring.
Why a ring rather than any thing else. The reason why a ring was pitched upon for the pledge, rather than any thing else, I suppose, was, because anciently the ring was a seal, by which all orders were signed, and thines of value secured; and therefore the delivery of it was a sign that the person, to whom it was given, was admitted into the highest friendship and trust. For which reason it was adopted as a ceremony in marriage, to denote that the wife, in consideration of her being espoused to the man, was admitted as a sharer in her husband’s counsels, and a joint partner in his honour and estate: and therefore we find that not only the ring, but the keys also were in former times delivered to her at the marriage. That the ring was in use amongst the old Homans, we have several undoubted testimonies. And that the use of it was not owing to any superstition amongst them, we have the authority of Tertullian, a very ancient Father of the Christian Church.
Why a gold one. What intimated by its roundness. Pliny indeed tells us, that in his time the Romans used an iron ring, without any jewel: but Tertullian hints, that in the former ages it was a ring of gold; which being the nobler and purer metal, and continning longer uncorrupted, was thought to intimate the generous, sincere, and durable affection which ought to be between the married parties. As to the form of it, being round (which was the most perfect of all figures, and was used by the ancients as the hieroglyphic of eternity) was understood to imply, that the conjugal love should never have an end.
An ancient universal rite. But these seem only allegorical significations; the use of it, we have seen, was instituted at first to imply something more; viz. that the woman, in consideration of a certain dowry contracted for by the man, of which the ring is delivered as an earnest and pledge, espouses and makes over herself to him as his wife. With this signification it has been used by Christians in all ages, and all parts of the Church: and for the same intent it is prescribed by our own, as is evident from the words which are spoken at the delivery of it, and from the prayer which follows immediately after; where the giving and receiving it is called a token and pledge of the vow and covenant betwixt them made. The same is practised by the modem Jews, who it is not likely would have taken up the custom in imitation of the Christians, and who therefore probably received it from their forefathers. Good reason therefore had our judicious reformers to retain a rite so ancient and universal, and which even Bucer himself (who, one would think, was as scrupulous as any man need to be) thought fit to approve of as decent and proper.
§.2. Why laid upon the book. before the ring may be given to the woman, the man must lay it upon the book, with the accustomed duty to the Priest and Clerk. And the Priest taking the ring shall deliver it unto the man, intimating, to be sure, that it is our duty to offer up all we have to God as the true proprietor, before we use them ourselves; and to receive them as from his hand, to be employed towards his glory.
§.3. Why put upon the fourth finger of the woman's left hand. When the man espouses his wife with it, he is to put it upon the fourth finger of her left hand. The reason of this, the rubric of the Salisbury Manual says, is because from thence there proceeds a particular vein to the heart. This indeed is now contradicted by experience: but several eminent authors, as well Gentiles as Christians, as well physicians as divines, were formerly of this opinion; and therefore they thought this finger the properest to bear this pledge of love, that from thence it might be conveyed, as it were, to the heart. However, the moral may safely be retained, viz. that the husband hereby expresses the dearest love to his spouse, which ought to reach her heart, and engage her affections to him again. If we should add the other reason of placing the ring upon this finger, viz. its being the least active finger of the hand least used, upon which therefore the ring may be always in view, and yet least subject to be worn out; this also may teach us, that the two parties should carefully cherish each other’s love, that so it may endure and last for ever.
Then shall they again loose their hands; and the Man shall give unto the Woman a Ring, laying the same upon the book with the accustomed duty to the Priest and Clerk. And the Priest, taking the Ring, shall deliver it unto the Man, to put it upon the fourth finger of the Woman's left hand. And the Man holding the Ring there, and taught by the Priest, shall say,
L. With my body I thee worship.] A great question it is what may be the true import of these words, and what expedient will be found to free them from the terrible idolatry imputed to them by people who worship nothing more than the idols of their own imaginations. The best way to interpret them, in my slender judgment, is to consider that the languages and phrases of elder times differed from this of ours so vastly, as innumerable words have quite lost their native and primary significations, and require new dictionaries, or new intellectuals, to understand them. In certain prayers at the end of King Henry the Eighth’s Primer, (from whence those at the end of our psalter are extracted,) amongst other very odd expressions, take this for one, “my five wits” (i. e. senses) “have I foully mis-spent'.” How innocent was in those days the word knave; which later times have animated with a mind so various from the former, as to apply it now to such as the early translation of the Bible hath done would look like an odious blasphemy. Thousands of instances might be produced, as, the Ballad of Ballads, for the Canticles; “they have thrils and stink not,’ &c., would the emolument pay the freight. The inference from all this is, that seeing words are not now in the mind they were, this of ‘ worship” must not be bound to abide what sense our curious and subtile ones shall award it; if therefore, as we use it now, it denoteth an address of special honour, either divine or civil, to that wherein we acknowledge an excellency above us, it doth not therefore follow that the first contrivers of this form so meant it.
I rather think they aimed at nothing, either more or less, but that of the Apostle’s, 1 Cor. vii. 4, “the husband had not power over his own body, but the wife ;’ which is as much as to say, that he resigneth up all the power and jurisdiction he hath over his own body to his wife, so as it shall be entirely at her devotion; and this I conceive is evident by the syntax and frame of this grant, or deed of gift, whose design being to impart and communicate to the wife those great proprieties of his person and estate, (all that social league can decently desire,) the investiture is made in such formal words as may best specify and denote what he intends to pass: to this end, when he saith, with his body he doth her worship, that is, bow to her, he thereby signifieth the submitting and yielding of it up to her alone dispose: and when he saith he doth endow her with all his worldly goods, he thereby instateth her in an usufructuary right in his worldly fortune, that is, such a right as (the man indemnified) provideth her of alimony, and all accommodations suitable to her degree. As for the words “this gold and silver I give thee,” in all likelihood they were left out because some men had none to give?. Which omission not withstanding, the ancient custom is almost generally observed in the northern parts of this kingdom to this day.
§.4. The words explained. With this ring I thee wed; The man holding the ring therefore upon this finger, being taught by the Priest, and speaking to his wife, he assures her, that this is a visible pledge that he now takes her to his wedded wife: With this ring I thee wed, or make a covenant with thee, (for so the word signifies,) that all the rights and privileges of a lawful wife do from this instant belong to thee. After these words, in the first book of king Edward VI followed, This gold and silver I thee give; at the repeating of which words it was customary to give the woman a purse of money, as livery and seisin of their estate: but this was left out of the second book, probably because it was more than some people could perform. Besides, by what has been said, it appears that the design of it is fully enough answered by the delivery of the ring.
With my body I thee worship; The man therefore having wedded her with the ring, in the next words proceeds to assign over the rights accruing to her thereby. The first of these is honour, and therefore he immediately adds, With my body I thee worship; i.e. with my body I thee honour: for so the word signifies in this place; and so Mr. Selden, and before him Martin Bucer, who lived at the time when our Liturgy was compiled, have translated it. The design of it is to express that the woman, by virtue of this marriage, has a share in all the titles and honours which are due or belong to the person of her husband. It is true the modem sense of the word is somewhat different: for which reason I find that at the review of our Liturgy, after the restoration of king Charles II, worship was promised to be changed for honour. How the alteration came to be omitted I cannot discover: but so long as the old word is explained in the sense that I have given of it, one would think no objection could be urged against the using it.
And with all my worldly good I thee endow. But to proceed: the second right accruing to the wife by virtue of her marriage is maintenance; and therefore the husband adds in the next place, With all my worldly goods I thee endow. And those that retain the old custom of giving the woman gold and silver, take the opportunity of these words to deliver to her a purse. But I have shewed that formerly other words were provided for the doing of this: and the design of the words I am now speaking of is not so much to invest the woman with a right to all her husband’s goods, as to declare that by marriage she has acquired such right. For from the very instant of their making the mutual stipulation, the woman has a right to sue for a maintenance during the life of her husband, should he be so brutish as to deny it; and after his decease, is entitled to a third, or perhaps a larger share (according to the laws of the place where she lives) in all her husband’s goods and chattels, and may further demand what the law calls her quarentine, which is lodging and maintenance in his best mansion-house for forty days after his death.
Nor is this either a new or an unreasonable privilege; for it was a law of Romulus, the first king of the Romans, that the wedded wife who was married to a man according to the sacred laws, was to have all that he had in common with himself. And the same is affirmed long after by Cicero, viz. that they ought to have one house, and all things common. For this reason the Roman laws would not allow of donations to be made between a man and his wife, because they were to enjoy their estates in common; which community of goods they also expressed by offering the wife fire and water at her first coming into her husband’s house, and by that usual expression, Ubi tu Caius, ego Caia, Where you are master, I am mistress. Nor did this only continue during his life: for the laws of Rome appointed the wife to be the sole heir, when her husband died without issue; and if he left children, she was at least to have a child’s part, and to be reckoned as a daughter. Only it is to be noted, that during the husband’s life, the wife has no power to alienate or dispose of any thing without her husband’s consent, but only to enjoy and use it as there is occasion. The same privileges undoubtedly belong to the wives of Christians; and indeed reason determines very strongly on their side. The woman assigns all that she is possessed of to her husband at the marriage; and what less can the man do in return of such kindness, and in compensation for what he enjoys by her, than invest her with the enjoyment of what is his? Even the barbarous Gauls were used to give as much out of their own estates as they received in portion with their wives, and out of those two sums to make provision for the woman, if she survived the man. And surely Christians should not come behind the heathens in such reasonable duties, it being unjust and unworthy to suffer any person to sustain damage by their kindness, where we are able to requite them.
In the name of the Father, &c. But to conclude: the last part of these words, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen, are a solemn confirmation of the engagement here made, being an invocation of the sacred Trinity as witness to this compact, who will therefore undoubtedly revenge the perjury on those who break it.
After the Priest hath prayed for grace and Gods assistence, for the married persons, to enable them to keep their solemn vow and contract...
V. The prayer. And now the covenant being finished, it is very requisite we should desire a blessing on it; for even the heathens looked upon their marriage-covenant as inauspicious, if it were not accompanied with a sacrifice. And therefore Christians sure can do no less than call upon the divine Majesty upon the like occasion. For this reason, the man leaving the ring upon the fourth finger of the woman’s left hand, and both of them kneeling down, the Minister begs for them the blessing of God, that they may always perform and keep the covenant which they have now been making.
Then the Man leaving the Ring upon the fourth finger of the Woman's left hand, they shall both kneel down; and the Minister shall say,
... then does he as it were seal that bond and contract, by which they have mutually tied themselves, with Gods seal, viz. Those whom God hath joyned together, let no man put asunder.
The persons having consented together in wedlock, and witnessed the same before God and the Church, and plighted their troth each to other, and declared the same by giving and taking of a Ring, and joyning of hands; and the Priest having sealed and ratified all, as it were, with Gods seal, which no man must break, he pronounces them man and wife, in the Name of the Father, Son, and holy Ghost. Which Proclamation, or pronouncing of the married persons to be man and wife, thus in the Church by the Priest, was one of those laws and rites of marriage, which the Church received of the Apostles. Euar. ep. ad Epis. Aphric. Anno 110.
VI. The ratification. And as it was an ancient custom among the Romans, and other heathens, for masters to ratify the marriages of their servants; so, since we profess to be the servants of God, it is necessary that he should confirm our contract. To which end the Priest, who is his representative, joining the right hands of the married persons together, declares, in the words of our blessed Lord, that they are joined by God, and that therefore no human power can separate them: those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.
VII. The publication. And now the holy covenant being firmly made, it ought to be duly published and proclaimed: and therefore the Minister, in the next place, speaking unto the people, and recapitulating all that has been done between them, makes proclamation that the marriage is legal and valid, and pronounces that they be man and wife together, in the name, and by the authority, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Then shall the Priest join their right hands together, and say,
Then shall the Minister speak unto the people, saying, "Forasmuch as N. and N. have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a Ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be Man and Wife together, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Then the Priest blesses them solemnly according to the old rules, Conc. Carth. 4. c. 13. Of the efficacy of which blessings hath been said formerly.
M. And the minister shall add this blessing.] This blessing should regularly be pronounced, the rite of imposition of hands applied, so was the ancient mode. Clemens Alexandrinus, reproving such women as wore false hair, demands, τίνι ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἐπιτίθησι χεῖρα; τίνα εὐλογήσει; οὐ τὴν γυναῖκα τὴν κεκοσμημένην ἀλλὰ τὰς ἀλλοτρίας τρίχας'; whom shall the presbyter in that case lay his hands? Whom shall he bless? not the woman in the peruke, but another’s head of hair.”
VIII. The blessing. With a blessing from whom, this part of the office is in the next place concluded. For the covenant being made by the authority of God, the institution being his, the method his, and he being the author, witness, and ratifier of this contract; what could be added more properly at the conclusion, than a solemn benediction from that holy, blessed, and undivided Trinity, who is so many ways engaged to bless it?
And the Minister shall add this Blessing.
After this follows the 128 Psalm which was the Epithalamium or marriage-song used by the Jews at Nuptials, says Muscul. in loc.
Why go to the Lord's Table. THE marriage-covenant being now completed, the Minister and clerks (of whom I have taken occasion to speak before) are to go to the Lord’s table. For by all the Common Prayer Books till the last review, the new-married persons were obliged to receive the holy Communion the same day of their marriage. Our present rubric indeed does not insist upon this; for what reason it does not, I shall shew by and by. But it still declares it is convenient they should do so; and therefore, that they may not omit it for want of being reminded, they are ordered to accompany the Minister and the clerks to the Lords table.
§.2. A psalm, why to be said whilst going to the Lord's Table. And whilst they are going, either the Minister or clerks are to say or sing a proper psalm, which was appointed, I suppose, instead of the introit, which, I have already shewed, was a psalm some way or other proper to the day, and said or sung whilst the Priest was going to the altar.
§.3. How proper to the solemnity. And it is certain that psalms are very fit to attend a marriage solemnity, which was ever reputed a time of joy, and generally attended with songs and music. Solomon’s spouse was brought to him with joy and gladness; and in the nuptials of the Gentiles, nothing was more usual than minstrels and musical instruments, songs to Hymen, Epithalamiums, and Fescennine verses. But these being expressions of a looser mirth than becometh Christians, the Church hath hallowed our joy, by choosing holy psalms for the exercise and expression of it, in obedience to the precept of the Apostle St. James, who, when we are merry, bids us sing psalms.
§.4. Psalm 128. There are two appointed in this place for variety: but the first is generally used, as being more proper for the occasion, being thought by some to have been drawn up for an Epithalamium or marriage song, and for that reason taken into the marriage office by all Christians in the world.
Then the Minister or Clerks, going to the Lord's Table, shall say or sing this Psalm following.
§.5. The other is proper to be used sometimes, when the age of the parties perhaps, not giving a prospect of the blessings mentioned in the foregoing psalm, renders that not so suitable to the occasion.
Or this Psalm.
I. The Lord's Prayer and responses. THE Minister being got into the choir, and the man and the woman kneeling before the Lord’s table, the Priest, before he proceeds to the office for the Communion, (which I have already hinted was the design of their coming hither,) offers up some further prayers and supplications for a blessing upon the parties. These are introduced with the ancient form, Lord have mercy upon us, ...
The Psalm ended, and the Man and the Woman kneeling before the Lord's Table, the Priest standing at the Table, and turning his face towards them, shall say,
... And being thus prepared, we proceed to some supplications chosen out of the Psalms, and put into the form of versicles and responses, that all the company may shew their love and affection to their friends, by publicly joining in these short petitions for them.
II. The three prayers. After these follow three prayers to be used by the Minister alone; the first being a prayer for spiritual blessings;* the second for the temporal blessing of children, which is the chief end of marriage, and which is the blessing that God pronounced at first to Adam and Eve, and which all mankind hath ever since wished to new-married persons, † and which is therefore always to be asked at the solemnization of a marriage, except the advanced age of the persons makes our prayers unlikely to prevail, in which case our rubric has therefore ordered it to be omitted. The last prayer is made for the accomplishing of those duties which are aptly signified and implied by marriage.
This Prayer next following shall be omitted, where the Woman is past child-bearing.
III. The blessing. Last of all there is added a blessing, the words of which have an evident respect to the prayer immediately foregoing; which was offered up upon such excellent grounds, and with so very great a probability of success, that the Priest may boldly venture to pronounce and insure it to the parties, if they are but duly prepared to receive it.
Then shall the Priest say,
Then pious and devout prayers for the married persons, and lastly the COMMUNION. Such religious solemnities as these, or some of these, were used by the Jews at marriages: For, their rites and ceremonies of their marriage were publickly performed with blessings and thanksgivings; whence the house was called the House of Praise, and their marriage song Hillulim, praises; the Bridegrooms intimate friends sung the marriage-song, who are called children of the Bride-chamber, S. Matth. 9. 15. [Godwin of Jews mar.]
The Primitive Christians had all these which we have. The persons to be married were contracted by the Priest, the marriage was solemnly pronounced in the Church, the married couple were blessed by the Priest, prayers and thanksgivings were used, and the holy Communion administred to them. And these religious rites, the Church received from the Apostles, saies Euarist. Ep. ad Epis. Aphr. And doubtless highly Christian and useful these solemnities are: For first, they beget and nourish in the minds of men, a reverend esteem of this holy mystery, Ephes. 5. 32. and draw them to a greater conscience of wedlock, and to esteem the bond thereof, a thing which cannot without impiety be dissolved. Then, are they great helps to the performance of those duties which God Almighty hath required in married persons; which are so many, and those so weighty, that whosoever duly considers them, and makes a conscience of performing them, must think it needful to make use of all those means of grace, which God Almighty hath appointed. For if we duly consider the great love and charity that this holy state requires, even to the laying down of life, Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, Ephes. 5. 25. of the weighty charge of the education of children, which if well performed procures a blessing, and an advantage to salvation, 1 Tim. 2. 15. She shall be saved in child-bearing, if they continue in faith and charity, &c. so if it be carelesly perform'd, it procures a most heavy curse, 1 Sam. 2. 29, 31. &c. Or lastly, the chastity and holiness necessary to that state of marriage, heightned now up to the representation of the mystical union of Christ with his Church, Eph. 5. 32. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church; to which holy conjunction, our marriage and all our works and affections in the same, should correspond and be conformable. I say, if we consider all these duly, can we think we may spare any of those divine helps to performance; whether they be vows and holy promises to bind us, or our Fathers and Mothers, Gods and the Churches blessings, or holy prayers for Gods assistance; or lastly, the holy Communion that great strengthener of the soul? If mens vices and licentiousness have made this holy service seem unseasonable at this time, reason would that they should labour to reform their lives, and study to be capable of this holy service, and not that the Church should take off her command for the receiving of the holy Communion for their unspeakable good. For would men observe Gods and the Churches commands, and enter into this holy state; not like beasts or heathens at the best, but like Christians with these religious solemnities, the happiness would be greater than can easily be exprest. I know not which way I should be able to shew the happiness of that wedlock, the knot whereof the Church doth fasten and the Sacrament of the Church confirm, saith Tertul. l. 2. ad Uxor.
N. Must receive the Communion.] And reason good, if then solemnity be, as it ought to be, a love-feast. Such was the primitive custom, appeareth by Tertullian, unde sufficiam ad enarrandam felicitatem ejus matrimonii, quod conciliat Ecclesia, et confirmat oblatio ? “how shall I be able to declare the happiness of that marriage, whose knot the Church doth tie, and the blessed Eucharist doth confirm?” Whence the order of marriage benediction, whereof the Communion bare its part, is called in Novella Leonis 112, συναρμοστικὴ τελετὴ, “the connubial initiation.” In order to this Communion I conceive it is that the office is restrained to the forenoon, which in ancient times was performed in the evening, for which service, lights and torches were part of the solemnity, as learned Grotius hath noted. Confess I do, that between the customary excess of riot and licentious dissoluteness, frequently attending nuptial solemnities, and this most dreadful mystery, there seems to be impar congressus, “a misbecoming greeting,” that they are of very different complexions, and suit not well together. Yet why should the Church in her most solemn and decent establishment, give place to, or be justled out by accessary abuses? Why not rather the abuses themselves reformed, so far as they stand separate from the rules of sobriety and religion ? Such I am certain was the discipline of the ancient fathers. Οὐ δεῖ χριστιανοὺς εἰς γάμους ἀπερχομένους Bardifew ἤ ὀρχεῖσθαι, ἀλλὰ σεμνῶς δειπνεῖν, ἢ ἀριστᾶν, ὡς πρέπει χριστιανοῖς: “it is not fit that Christians at weddings should use balls and dancing, but to dine or sup temperately as becometh Christians.”
The Communion Service to begin here. IN all the old Common Prayer Books (i.e. till the last review) the rubric before this Exhortation was worded thus:
Then [shall begin the Communion, And*] after the Gospel shall be said a Sermon, wherein ordinarily (so oft as there is any marriage) the office of a man and wife shall be declared, according to holy Scripture; or, if there be no Sermon, the Minister shall read this that followeth.
Why the rubric was altered, shall be shewn in the next section. In the mean while I shall observe, that if the married persons are disposed to communicate, the office for the Communion must still begin immediately after the forementioned blessing. And after the Gospel and Nicene Creed, if there be no Sermon declaring the duties of man and wife, the Exhortation here appointed is to be read instead of it.
§.2. The design of the Exhortation. For the married persons having mutually engaged to live together according to God’s holy ordinance, i.e. according to those laws which he has ordained in his word; it is very necessary they should hear and know what those laws are which they have engaged to perform. It was God’s own command, that the kings of Israel should have a copy of the law delivered to them at their coronation; and there is the same reason to give this abstract to those that have taken upon themselves the state of matrimony. For which reason, instead of the Epistle and Gospel used in the offices of the Greek and Roman Churches, here is a full collection of the duties of both parties, drawn from the Epistles of two great Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, in imitation of the practice of the primitive Church, which, always after the celebration of a marriage, exhorted the parties to keep their matrimonial vow inviolate.
How this rubric was worded formerly. AT the end of the whole office is added a rubric, declaring, that it is convenient that the new-married persons should receive the holy Communion at the lime of their marriage, or at the first opportunity after their marriage. In all the former Common Prayer Books this rubric was more positive, fixing and appointing the day of marriage for the time of communicating. The new-married persons, the same day of their marriage, must receive the holy Communion. And it was upon this account, as I have already observed, that the latter part of the office was ordered to be performed at the Lord’s table, and that the Communion should be begun immediately after the blessing.
The occasion of the alteration was an exception that was made against this rubric by the Dissenting Ministers, at the Conference at the Savoy. They objected, that “this either enforced all such, as were unfit for the Sacrament, to forbear marriage, contrary to Scripture, which approves the marriage of all men; or else compelled all that should marry to come to the Lord’s table, though never so unprepared. And for this reason, they desired the rubrics relating to the Communion might be omitted; and the rather, because that marriagefestivals are too often accompanied with such divertisements, as are unsuitable to those Christian duties, which ought to be before, and follow after, the receiving of that holy Sacrament.” To this the Episcopal Ministers answered, “That this rubric enforced none to forbear marriage, but presumed (as well it might) that all persons marriageable ought to be also fit to receive the holy Sacrament. And marriage being so solemn a covenant of God, they that undertook it in the fear of God, would not stick to seal it by receiving the holy Communion, and accordingly prepare themselves for it; and therefore it would have been more Christian to have desired that those licentious festivities might be suppressed, and the Communion more generally used by those that married, of which the happiness would be greater than could easily be expressed.” For which they quote that passage in Tertullian, Unde sufficiam ad enarrandam felicitatem ejus Matrimonii, quod Ecclesia conciliate et conformat Oblatio?
This was an answer which the Presbyterians knew not how to get over; and therefore, as usual, they only return an unmannerly reply. However, to oblige them, the rubric is altered, and persons are not now expressly required to communicate at their marriage, but only reminded that it is convenient so to do.
The advantage of communicating on the day of marriage. But no serious person surely will think the Communion less proper or requisite, because the Church has left it more to their discretion. As to the objection of these Puritans, that “marriage-festivals are too often accompanied with such divertisements as are unsuitable to the Sacrament;” a sober man would be apt to think, that this should rather be a reason why the Sacrament should be joined to this office, viz. that the reverence of this holy institution might banish those vain and wicked revels from Christian marriages. And certainly since one must be spared, it is much better to part with a licentious custom, than a religious duty. The passage of Tertullian, cited above, shews what opinion the primitive Church had of a marriage so decently solemnized; and no office, I believe, but the Geneva Order, ever forbad, nor no Christians, I believe, but the English Puritans, ever found fault with, the administering of the Eucharist upon the wedding-day: and neither of these, I dare say, will influence the good dispositions of considerate men. The sober and serious will still believe, that when this holy Sacrament attends the Nuptials, the office will be esteemed more sacred and venerable, the persons will act more considerately and gravely, and the marriage-vow receive new strength from its being confirmed by so solemn an engagement.
After which, if there be no Sermon detailing the duties of Man and Wife, the Minister shall read as followeth.
It is convenient that the new-married persons should receive the holy Communion at the time of their Marriage, or at the first opportunity after their Marriage.