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to the church, are there to stand at the altar, the man on the right hand, and the woman on the left; which position is expressly so ordered in the Latin and Greek churches. But among the Jews, the woman stands on the right hand of her intended husband, in allusion to that place of the Psalms, "At thy right hand did stand the queen in a vesture of gold," &c.* Yet, since the right hand is the most honourable place, it is in all Christian churches assigned to the man, as being the head of the wife. And since matrimony has been throughout the whole world reputed a religious act, it is very fit that it should have a peculiar office for its performance. The Greek church has three several offices; one at the espousals, another at the actual marriage, which is called the coronation, and the third office is for those who are married a second time. In England the marriage rite is composed with peculiar judgment and piety, and all along instructs those who are to be joined by it in the several parts of their duty; and as it may be interesting to many, I will here add a brief description.

To prevent the vain and loose mirth too frequent at such solemnities, the office of matrimony begins with a grave and awful preface, which represents the sacred action to which the parties are preparing themselves, to be of so divine an original, of so high a nature, and of such infinite importance to all mankind, that they are not only vain and imprudent, but even impious and void of shame, who will not lay aside all levity and indecoruin, and be serious and composed on so just and solemn an occasion. And to prevent any misfortune, into which the two parties might either inconsiderately or rashly run by this marriage, the minister charges all who are present, "if they know any just cause or impediment why they may not be lawfully joined together, they do now disclose it," before the holy bond be tied, since afterwards they cannot be heard to the benefit of either party. But though others are at first charged to discover all known impediments, as being most likely to reveal them, yet the minister before he proceeds to the solemnization, charges the parties themselves, as being most concerned, to reveal them, as they shall answer at the great day of judgment; since if there shall appear any just objection against their marriage afterwards, they must necessarily either live in a state of perpetual sin, or be separated by an eternal divorce. The impediments which they are so solemnly charged to reveal, are those already enumerated.

If the congregation present allege none of these impediments, and none be confessed by the parties themselves, the officiating minister proceeds to the solemnization of the marriage; which being a formal compact, the mutual consent of the parties is first asked, because their consent is so essential, that the marriage is not good without it. For this reason Rebekah's friends asked her consent before giving her to Isaac.f + Gen. xxiv. 58.

*Psalm xlv. 10.

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The man must first promise to love his wife as God expressly commands,* which stands in the first place, because if he has this true affection for his wife, he will perform towards her all other duties with ease and delight. It being no burden to render good offices to those whom we sincerely love. Secondly, That he will comfort her, which God also requires,† where the husband is enjoined to cherish his wife, that is, to support her under all those infirmities and sorrows to which her tender sex is liable. Thirdly, That he will honour her, which is also directly commanded. Although the wife is the weaker vessel, yet she must

not be despised for those infirmities which God, for good and wise - purposes, has annexed to her constitution. She should rather be respected for her usefulness, and her ready desire to add to her husband's comfort. Fourthly, He must keep her in sickness and in health, which, according to St Paul, is to nourish,§ or to afford her all necessaries in every condition. And lastly, he must be faithful to her bed, and forsaking all others, keep himself only to her so long as they both shall live, which corresponds with the words of prophets and apostles.|| This excellent sentence is placed in the marriage office to prevent those three mischievous destroyers of marriage, adultery, polygamy, and divorce.

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And in the firmest kind of matrimony among the ancient Romans, the parties mutually asked each others' consent, which being so important and universal a custom, was for that reason adopted into the office for matrimony in all Christian countries; with this only difference, that the priest asks the question, that so the declaration may be the more solemn, as being made in God's presence, and to his deputed minister. And that the parties may the better know what they are about to promise, the priest enumerates the duties which in God's word they are commanded to perform, viz.

There is no difference in the duties, nor consequently in the terms of the covenant between the man and his wife; only that the wife is obliged to obey and serve her husband, a duty frequently commanded by God himself in the New Testament. Besides, the rules of society make it necessary, for equality breeds contention. It is therefore necessary that one of the parties should be superior, otherwise there would be a perpetual strife for dominion. Wherefore the laws of God, and the wisdom of all nations, have given the superiority to the husband. Amongst the ancient Romans, the law obliged the wife to be subject to her husband, and call him lord. They had a peculiar magistrate to take care that the husbands did not abuse this power, but that they ruled over their wives with

* Eph. v. 25.

+ 1 Pet. iii. 7.

Il Mal. ii. 15, 16. 1 Cor. vii. 10.

Eph. v. 22, 24. Colos, iii. 18. Tit. ii. 5. 1 Pet iii, 1, 5.

† ver. 29.

Eph. v. 29.

of them.

gentleness and tenderness. Consequently women not only may, but it is their bounden duty to pay all that obedience which the gospel requires In Britain at least, they have no reason to complain with Medea," that they are sold for slaves with their own money;' ."* because in the obedience required of them in the gospel there is really no slavery. It ought to spring from their love to their husbands, and be paid in respect of the dignity of the nobler sex, and in requital for that protection which the weaker vessel both needs and enjoys in the holy estate of matrimony; but above all, it ought to proceed from the love and fear of God, who has enjoined it. In this observance the obedient wife finds it to be her interest as well as her duty, because she thereby gains so much more love and respect from her husband, that he cannot deny her any lawful and reasonable request. It is not only an impious contempt of divine authority, but egregious pride and folly, for any woman to refuse either to promise or to pay to her husband this generous obedience, which is her great privilege, if she has wisdom to understand, or skill to manage it right.

The two parties having given their consent to have each other, and promised to the minister that they will each observe those sacred laws of matrimony which God hath ordained, they proceed directly to the mutual stipulation or covenant, which is introduced with two very significant ceremonies. First, the father or friends giving the woman in marriage. The antiquity of such rite is evident from the phrase so often used in Scripture, of giving a daughter to wife; and its universality appears from its being used both by heathens and Christians in all ages. The reason for its use seems to be, 1st, Because the weaker sex is always supposed to be under the tuition of a father or guardian, whose consent is necessary to make the act valid. 2d, This declares that the parents and friends agree to this marriage, and that the father doth emancipate his daughter, and make her free to engage in her own name. 3d, This shows that the woman does not seek a husband, but is given to one by her friends, and follows their commands, rather than her own inclinations. Among the nuptial rites of the ancient Romans, the bride was taken by a sort 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 the English ceremony of giving away, was very suitable to the modesty of the female sex.

The other ceremony is the joining of hands, which naturally signifies contracting friendship and the making of covenants, and has been univer sally used among heathens, Jews, and Christians, in the sacred covenant of marriage. The father delivers up his daughter to the priest, as it were

* Eurip. in Medea.


into God's disposal; and he again, in God's presence, joins their right hands. Our right hand being generally used in plighting our faith to any person. Having thus delivered them into each other's hands and power,' the minister causes them to make this mutual stipulation or engagement, than which nothing can be more strict or solemn. When in the former part of the ceremony he asked the parties their consent, they in the future tense promised to take each other in marriage. That was no more than espousals, which in former times was a different office entirely from that of matrimony, and might be done some weeks or even months before. But as men of loose morals were frequently apt to cast off their spouses before the completion of marriage, both the espousals and marriage were put into one office: only in the espousals the parties say, I will take, &c.; whereas in the marriage they say, I do take, &c. Each party first naming themselves, to show that it is their own voluntary act, and then specifying the other they have chosen, and declaring before Almighty God, that they do "take each other for husband and wife," and that in the nature of the firmest settlements, " to have and hold." These are words of such importance, that no conveyance of an estate can be made without them, and therefore they ought not to be omitted in this solemn act, because the man and woman are now to put themselves into the power and possession of each other so that after this stipulation, in the solemn language of scripture," 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."† And to take away all exceptions that might be pretended for divorce, they solemnly promise to each other "from this day forward," during the whole term of their lives: and that whether they " prove better or worse," in respect of their mind or manners; or "richer or poorer," in respect of their estate; or whether they be "healthy or sickly," in respect of their body and withal they promise to pay those duties to each other, which has been already shown are necessary and indispensable. And for the confirmation of this solemn vow and engagement, they "plight their troth" to each other; that is, they lay their truth to pledge, and in God's presence engage their honesty and fidelity for their performance of it.


But besides the invisible pledge of our truth, the man is also to give a visible pledge, viz. a ring. It was in ancient times a seal by which all orders were signed, and all choice things secured. Its delivery was a sign that the party to whom it was given, was admitted into the nearest friendship and highest trust. Hence it became a token of love, and was used in matrimony, not only among the Jews and Gentiles, but among the Christians also in the primitive and purest times, who gave their spouses

* 1 Cor. vii. 4.

+ Ibid.

Gen, xxviii. 18.-Esth. iii. 10, 12.-Marc, vi, 15.-Gen. xli. 42.-Luke xv. 22.


a ring at the time of marriage, to declare them worthy of the government
of their family; and in consequence rings have been ever since used in mar-
riage in all civilized countries. The ring's signification may be considered
two ways: 1. By way of allusion; 2. By way of institution. The first
sort of remarks, are those which are its more remote significations; viz. As
to its matter, which is gold; the purest, the noblest, and the most durable
of all metals, to intimate the generous, sincere, and unceasing affection
which ought to subsist between married persons. 2. Its form, being round,
is the most perfect of all figures, and the most proper to imply union, and
that conjugal love which must never have an end. And 3. it is placed on
the fourth finger of the left hand, which the pagan Romans, among
it was customary, usually denominated the ring-finger. The ancients
generally affirmed their belief that a considerable vein ran from the heart
to this finger; which for that reason ought, they said, to bear the pledge
of love. And although Dr Brown, in his "Vulgar Errors," will not
admit this, yet the connexion of this finger with the heart has been main-
tained by very eminent authors, both ancient and modern, both Gentiles
and Christians, physicians and divines. However the dispute may be
settled, the moral ought to be retained, that by this ring the husband
expresses the dearest love to his wife, which ought to reach her heart,
and engage her warmest affection in return. But these are merely
allegorical significations: the church has nobler intentions in this insti-
tution. Accordingly the ring is intended ❝ to be a token and pledge of the
covenant made between them," as is manifest from the words spoken at its
delivery, and from the words of the prayer following. For it was customary
in all covenants to appoint some durable thing to commemorate it; such as
Laban's heap;* Joshua's stone pillar; † and the money given in bargains
as earnest or pledge. Hence the ring in marriage, which is a visible and
lasting token of a solemn covenant, the sight of which ought to remind
the parties of their mutual promises and vows.

Before the ring is placed on the woman's finger, the husband gives it
to the minister, who returns it to him, to be bestowed upon his wife.
Hereby intimating that it is our duty to offer up all that we have to God
in the first place, as the true proprietor, before we use them ourselves,
and to receive them as from his hand to be employed towards his glory.
When the husband delivers the ring to his wife, he addresses himself to her,
and declares audibly, with this ring I thee wed; that is, this is a pledge
of that covenant of matrimony which I now make with thee.
body I thee worship-whereby he acknowledges that he owes her respect
or worship-and with all my worldly goods I thee endow, in the

With my

* Gen. xxxi. 62.

Josh. xxiv. 26, 27.

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