Marriage

Marriage is founded on the fact that God created man, male and female (Matt. 19:44And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, (Matthew 19:4); Mark 10:66But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. (Mark 10:6)). It was not founded merely on the requirements of man’s nature, but on the will of God, in regard to the creation of man, and His will in regard to man’s replenishing the earth with his race (Gen. 1:27-2827So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:27‑28)). There was also another thing in regard to it, where we enter into the purposes of God, before the foundation of the world, that His Son should have a Bride; and the actual creation of the man and wife was the glorious figure and type of this marvelous event that was coming, that God’s Son, who was the Heir, and to be the real Lord of the creation was to have a partner with Himself in His glorious dominion, and that His Bride, the Church (see Eph. 5: 31-32). We see this beautifully figured in Gen. 2:18-2418And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 21And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:18‑24): ver. 18, God’s thought and purpose; ver. 19, 20, creation and Christ’s manhood coming in meanwhile; ver. 21, Christ’s death and hiding away in the glory, during which time the Bride is being formed and gathered out; ver. 23, 24, The final marriage taking place after this present dispensation.
But to return. God saw that it was not good that man should be alone, He therefore made him a helpmeet. The woman was formed out of Adam, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, therefore was she called Woman! Her original place was that of an helpmeet, a companion with Adam in his dominion over the lower creation. He held the first place, the man was not of the woman, but the woman of the man (1 Cor. 11:88For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. (1 Corinthians 11:8)), neither was he created for the woman, but the woman for the man (ver. 9). But it was not till after the fall that she fell into the place of utter subjection, and that her husband ruled over her (Gen. 3:1616Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16)).
Marriage is the highest natural relationship there is. The original institution of God was, that He made Adam and Eve male and female; therefore shall a man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Thus before there were fathers and mothers and children, here were the man and his wife joined together.
Adam’s word (Gen. 2:23, 2423And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:23‑24)) gives the human sanction to God’s institution, and he speaks God’s word, Therefore (because man was created male and female, and God hath joined them together) shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh. Thus God’s original institution was monogamy, or for a man to have one wife; God Himself joined them together, and Adam owned God’s government by his words.
After the fall the governmental punishment fell upon the woman to have painful travail in childbirth, and to be in subjection to her husband, yet with the joyful promise given in the future, that the Messiah, who was to be born of the woman, should bruise the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15, 1615And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:15‑16)).
In Gen. 4, we have the first departure from God’s original institution. Cain, the murderer of Abel, having gone forth from the presence of the Lord, with his wife, bears a son who builds a city; one of his descendants, Lamech, marries two wives. Polygamy thus begins. But in connection with it, increased lawlessness and murders. In Gen. 6 there is still further degeneracy; the sons of God of Seth’s line (who had kept distinct from Cain’s descendants up to this time), married the daughters of men, most likely of Cain’s line, taking to them wives whom they chose. It was not only the evil intermingling of the family of God with that of men, but man’s choice of his wife taking the place of God’s will in the matter. They took unto them wives whom they chose. 
The result of this brought on a crisis in God’s dealings with men. Increased violence and corruption succeeded, and the judgment of the deluge followed. Alas, what are we then to expect, in some countries of to-day, where God is more than ever disowned, and marriage laws are on the loosest basis, men marrying whom they like, and dissolving the marriage tie almost when they like! Is not this one of the sad signs of the times, and of the sure speedy approach of Christ in judgment?
Noah and his sons seem to have set a good example, in having each but one wife (Gen. 7:7-137And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. 8Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, 9There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. 10And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. 11In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; (Genesis 7:7‑13)), but wickedness spread rapidly after the flood, and polygamy seems to have been common in Abraham’s day, when we find that he — God’s man of the day — had more than one wife; Jacob also. Marriage at that time was sanctioned with near relatives, which was forbidden afterwards by the law. On account of the religious necessity of the seed of God being kept separate from the heathen nations, God allowed this (see Gen. 24:3, 4; 28:1, 2; 26:34, 353And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: 4But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. (Genesis 24:3‑4)
1And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. 2Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother. (Genesis 28:1‑2)
34And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: 35Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah. (Genesis 26:34‑35)
); and it was not till the time of Moses that there were prohibitions made to being married to near relations. Amram’s marriage with Jochebed, his aunt, might seem to go contrary to this thought, but the thing had not yet been forbidden as evil, and so God was forbearing with the thing till the law was given. Fornication and adultery even at this early day were considered sins, as we see in the case of Dinah, Reuben and Joseph (Gen. 34:7; 35:22; 39:97And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done. (Genesis 34:7)
22And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: (Genesis 35:22)
9There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? (Genesis 39:9)
), as a breach against God’s original institution.
After the law was instituted, special laws were instituted as to marriage; adultery and fornication were distinctly forbidden. Polygamy was still allowed as we see from Deut. 21:15-1715If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: 16Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: 17But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. (Deuteronomy 21:15‑17). Marriage with those near of kin was also forbidden, and a list in Lev. 18:6-206None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord. 7The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 8The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness. 9The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. 10The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. 11The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 12Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman. 13Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman. 14Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt. 15Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 16Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness. 17Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness. 18Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time. 19Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness. 20Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbor's wife, to defile thyself with her. (Leviticus 18:6‑20), and 20:11-21, is given of the relationships forbidden in marriage {“prohibited degrees”}. I give the scriptural list: —
A father with a daughter; A son with a mother;
A step-son with a step-mother;
A brother with a sister — whether on the father’s side or mother’s side;
whether born at home or abroad.
A grand-father with a grand-daughter; A son with a step-sister;
A nephew with an aunt on the father’s side (a father’s sister);
A nephew with an aunt on the mother’s side (a mother’s sister); A nephew with a father’s brother’s wife;
An uncle with his niece;
A father-in-law with his daughter-in-law; A brother-in-law with his sister-in-law;
A husband with his wife’s mother (mother-in-law), Deut. 27:2323Cursed be he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27:23); A husband with his wife’s daughter (step-daughter);
A husband with his wife’s grand-daughter (step-grand-daughter); Finally, between a brother and his wife’s sister during her life-time.
Jacob and Rachel and Leah serve us as an example of a marriage of this kind.
The general prohibition is against marriages betwixt those near of kin, literally “flesh of his flesh.” There is no prohibition, for instance, of marriages between a grandson and grandmother, etc., but godly souls would judge that the spirit of the word of God was against any marriages betwixt those near of kin, though the letter of the Word might not forbid them.
Marriage with a brother’s wife was forbidden, except in the case of the husband dying childless; then there was a special law for the brother to marry his deceased brother’s wife, to raise up seed unto his brother. We see a case of this kind first in Gen. 38:88And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. (Genesis 38:8), where Judah bid his son Onan marry his deceased brother’s wife, to raise up seed to his brother, which was hindered, by his son committing the awful sin of self-abuse, and in consequence being slain by the Lord. False modesty might say, keep this back, but experience has taught me such a thing needs exposing, as a thing, I believe, most common amongst boys in schools, it having confronted me in the first school I was at. The Levitical law confirmed this exceptional allowance of marriages with a brother’s wife to preserve the Israelite’s name from being put out of Israel (see Deut. 25:5-105If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. 6And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. 7And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. 8Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; 9Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house. 10And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed. (Deuteronomy 25:5‑10))
{Levirate marriage}. It is on this general ground, that though there is no prohibition against marriage with a deceased wife’s sister, I should say that the general spirit of the Word was against it, and when the laws of a country are against such marriages, and where the persons about to be married have to swear, or say that there is no lawful impediment against such marriages, they commit a distinct sin in doing so, which would bring them under the governmental judgment of the Lord, unless confessed and owned.
Marriages with Canaanites were absolutely forbidden an Israelite (Ex. 34:1616And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. (Exodus 34:16); Deut. 7:3-113Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. 4For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. 5But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. 6For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 10And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. 11Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them. (Deuteronomy 7:3‑11)). Marriages with Ammonites and Moabites had the ban put upon them, of not being allowed to enter the congregation of Jehovah till the tenth generation. In the case of an Edomite or Egyptian, the children could enter the congregation of Jehovah in the third generation. In the case of Mahlon marrying Ruth the Moabitess, she got into the line of blessing through her marriage with Boaz, who became the kinsman to raise up seed to his deceased kinsman’s house (see Ruth). The general prohibition to marry with the heathen around them was evidently to keep them a holy people unto Jehovah, and to keep them from the sin of idolatry. This was pressed on them again in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (see Ezra 9; Neh. 13:1-31On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever; 2Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude. (Nehemiah 13:1‑3)).
In the case of marriage betwixt two of different races amongst the Gentiles, there is no prohibition in scripture. Moses married an Ethiopian, and God sanctioned it as a thing of the past, done before he took his stand as a leader of God’s people, and stood for him against his objectors; but wisdom, remembering God’s governmental dealing in dividing men into nations, after the tower of Babel, might advise not; but there is no prohibition. In the case where the laws of a country forbid it, such as a marriage between a white and a black, a Christian would submit to the powers that be, for the Lord’s sake, though as a Christian he has perfect liberty; or else leave the country for another where the laws give such liberty.
Polygamy was allowed under the Jewish law, as we see in Deut. 21:15-1715If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: 16Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: 17But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. (Deuteronomy 21:15‑17). Divorce was also allowed for minor things than that of fornication (cp. Deut. 24:1-41When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. 3And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 24:1‑4) with Matt. 19:7-87They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. (Matthew 19:7‑8)). The husband could give the wife a bill of divorcement and send her away; she might in such a case, after being sent out of the house, marry again; but if her latter husband hated her, and gave her a bill of divorcement, and sent her away, or if he died, she might not be married again to her former husband.
In contrast with this are the principles of the kingdom of heaven, which the Lord introduced, during His life on the earth. In answer to the Pharisees who asked Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? He answered, Have ye not read that He that made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they two shall be one flesh. The Lord goes back to the terms of God’s original institution: He says, Therefore they are no longer two but one flesh; and concludes with the injunction; What God therefore hath joined together, let no man put asunder. The Pharisees then brought up Moses’ law, and asked why He allowed wives to be put away, after giving them a writing of divorcement. He said to them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, gave you this precept, but at the beginning it was not so. Whosoever, therefore, shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her which is put away, committeth adultery. Only, therefore, for one cause was divorce sanctioned, and that for the sin of fornication. Marriage was also forbidden with a divorced woman (Matt. 5:32; 19:3-932But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:32)
3The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. (Matthew 19:3‑9)
), and polygamy set aside.
Now this gives great light as to how far we ought to follow human laws on the subject of marriage. If they sanction sin, and divorce for anything less than fornication, the Christian and the Assembly are not to own such acts, as of God, though the divorce is legal. It was legal for a Jew to put away his wife for less causes than fornication, but the Lord’s authority comes in, and pronounces such acts to be sin, and as causing the woman to commit fornication. However, a Christian is bound to submit himself to the powers that be, and whenever the laws of the land are not subversive of the authority of the Lord, they are to be obeyed. The magistrates are God’s ministers to dispense justice (Rom. 13:11Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1), etc.).
As Adam’s word gave the civil sanction to the original institution of marriage, so it is now. God owns the civil sanction of the laws of the land to His institution, though not to subvert it. The Assembly stands, I believe, as God’s witness in the matter on His behalf, and represents Him as the One who really joins the man and woman together! Whatsoever therefore, as ruled by the Word of God, it binds on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever it shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Rome has perverted this power to exalt herself, and to act contrary to the Word of God, but the truth of God remains, and the Word of God must ever have a higher authority than the laws of men.
Now if this was all it would be an absolute sin to despise God’s ordinances, and not to marry; and, indeed, wherever human regulations have come in, they have always been subversive of moral order, witness the disgraceful state of the convents and nunneries in the middle ages (which were often mere brothels for the priests who had taken the vows of celibacy). We cannot, my reader, despise God’s institution of marriage without suffering or running into sin!
Notwithstanding this, however, Christianity has introduced a heavenly life, which, when communicated to the believer, lifts him above the actual necessity of marrying; only even here there needs a special gift of faith to lay hold of the power. It is the life of the heavenly Christ introduced into the believer by the Spirit of God. The believer, therefore, is not only a forgiven and justified man, through believing on Christ who died for his sins and rose for his justification, but, being accounted righteous, and having the life of the risen ascended Christ breathed into him, he has died to sin, and is alive to God in a new condition; he is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwells in him. He is therefore privileged to go forth in the power of this new life, to manifest nothing but Christ, holding the flesh that remains in him as dead by the power of Christ’s death.
Now Christ went through this scene unmarried: He now is clearly above this scene of nature. So we, having Himself as our life, and that life communicated by the Holy Ghost, have power given us to walk like Him. Nevertheless, all have not this particular gift (1 Cor. 7:77For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. (1 Corinthians 7:7)).
This is why the apostle says, in 1 Cor. 7:1-101Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 3Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. 6But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. 7For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 8I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. 10And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: (1 Corinthians 7:1‑10), that it is good for a man not to touch a woman, nevertheless to avoid fornication, if a man cannot contain, let every man have his own wife! He says again, I would that all were even as myself; but every one hath his proper gift of God. The apostle’s advice, then, to the unmarried, and to the widows, was, it is good for them if they abide unmarried, but if they cannot contain, it is better to marry than to burn with lust.
In regard to the married, the wife was not to depart from her husband; if she did, she was to remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. In the case of marriage with heathens, before conversion, if the unbelieving wife was pleased to dwell with her husband, he was not to put her away; and if a woman had a husband who did not believe, and he was pleased to dwell with her, she was not to leave him. The unbelieving husband was sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband, else were the children unclean, but now are they holy. They are set apart for the privileges of Christianity, just like Hebrew children circumcised had the privileges of Judaism. But if the unbelieving husband or wife departed, let them depart. In such a case there was no bondage. Besides, there was the question of the salvation of the unbelieving husband or wife, which was to be considered (1 Cor. 7:10-1710And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 12But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 16For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? 17But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. (1 Corinthians 7:10‑17)).
Those that were married, likewise, would have trouble in the flesh, particularly in times of necessity or persecution. There was a danger, too, of being occupied with worldly things, and of pleasing the wife rather than the Lord (1 Cor. 7:26-2826I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. 27Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 28But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. (1 Corinthians 7:26‑28)). The apostle gives full liberty; if the young unmarried woman remained unmarried, it was good, she did not sin. Later on in the Epistles (1 Tim. 5:1414I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. (1 Timothy 5:14)) he advises young widows to marry. In either case, man or woman, if they judged it a reproach to their virginity to remain unmarried, it was no sin, let them marry. But if a man stands steadfast in his heart, not having necessity, and has power over his own will, to keep his state of virginity, he does better. He therefore that marries does well. He that does not marry does better.
A wife was bound by the law to her husband as long as he lived. If her husband died, she was free to marry again, only in the Lord. Unequal yokes of all sorts, whether in marriage, business partnerships, or, above all, in matters of worship and God’s house, were strictly forbidden (see 2 Cor. 6:14-1614Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6:14‑16)). The general thought then is, that the original order of creation is owned, as to marriage, now that Christianity is introduced; only put on the ground of redemption. Still, beyond and above this, a heavenly life has been brought into the world, and has risen out of death, and above all this scene of nature. This blessed heavenly life — the life of God in Christ — is communicated to the believer by the Holy Ghost, who is its power and energy. This is able to lift the believing man above the requirements of nature. The teaching of the apostle Paul (in 1 Cor. 7) is founded on this. Marriage is honorable to all, and the bed undefiled (Heb. 13:44Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)). It is in no way to be despised; nevertheless, it is good if a man has power to live above the necessity.
In the case of marriage, the will of God is the supreme matter. Is the wife or husband given me by the Lord’s will, or is it my own choice? In the case of the person sought being unconverted, the path is plain: marriage is only sanctioned in the Lord. But the will of the Lord goes beyond this: is the Christian I marry the partner God would have me take, or is he or she the object of my own will or choice? The future path in happiness or misery of the married must greatly depend on this. May the Lord increasingly be glorified in his saints by His will being sought in these matters!
The honorable place that marriage has in the thoughts of God, is that in Eph. 5:22, 2322Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. (Ephesians 5:22‑23), it is put as an illustration of the union existing between Christ the Head of the Church and His Bride. Christ holds a double relationship towards His Church: 1st, He is the Head; 2nd, He is the Savior of the body. As the Church, then, is subject to Christ, so should wives be to their own husbands.
The pattern for husbands, as to love, is the Christ’s love to the Assembly. He loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. Blessed example for husbands! There is first the giving up Himself in love for His Bride, then the daily care of her, setting her apart and cleansing her by the Word, then the final object of doing so. If such a pattern as this was followed, what blessed households should we have! The Word of God would characterize such households. We should not come into houses and find everything turned upside down, no family prayers, wives perhaps ruling the house, the children unsubject, the husband distracted. Thank God for what He has wrought in many families; but is there not room for a vast improvement in the households of many Christians? Is not Abraham’s example to be studied, as the first example we have of family religion in olden days; wherever he went, his household altar of worship was set up, and the Almighty God, his God, was called on.
But not only is the love of husbands towards their wives measured by the standard of the Christ’s love to the Church, but by that of man’s love to themselves. We love and cherish our own bodies; no man hated his own flesh, so likewise as the man and wife are one flesh, so a man should love his own wife. But even this is connected with the thought of Christ’s love to the Church; the Church is His body, we are members of His body, of His flesh, of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery, but Paul spake concerning Christ and the Church. Oh, how marriage is sanctified by being brought into connection with such a mystery!
And, beloved reader, where this truth is owned and acted on (viz., Christ owned as Head of His body, and His Church one with Him by the Holy Ghost), is not this the place where Christ manifests His presence in the midst of the Assembly? The Assembly is Christ’s body. Redemption having been accomplished, and the Christ having taken His seat at the right hand of God, the Holy Ghost has been sent down, baptizing all believers into one body, and building them together to be God’s habitation. Ought not Christians, then, to be gathered on this simple ground, bearing witness to the Christ, who is thus forming and gathering out the Church to be His bride, when He takes the kingdom on His return. When thus gathered they have the power and presence of the Lord in the midst, to bind and loose {Matt. 18:15-2015Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:15‑20)}. Ought not such a position to be owned by Christians seeking the marriage relationship? Ought they not to seek the Assembly’s prayers on their future married life?
I would just add a word, that obedience is the part of the child, just as submission to the husband is the part of the wife, and love that of the husband. But it is obedience in the Lord, thus showing that all these relationships are put on redemption ground. It is not merely because the fifth commandment said so, though that has its governmental blessing. Obedience flows out from the new place into which Christian children are put, as well as their parents. By baptism into Christ they are put externally on Christian ground; this of course applies to all children of professing Christian parents, whether converted or not.
There is a governmental blessing attached to married couples, continuing in faith, and holiness and sobriety as to the woman in child-birth (1 Tim. 2:1515Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Timothy 2:15)). Supposing a wife had an unbelieving husband, who would not obey the Word (1 Pet. 3:1-61Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. (1 Peter 3:1‑6)), the Word shows a way how he might be won without the Word, by the general deportment of the wife, whilst the husband beheld her chaste conversation coupled with fear. Dress, or plaiting of the hair, was not the way to win them; the hidden man of the heart, in that which was not corruptible; the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which was in the sight of God of so great a price; this was what would leave its mark. The example of Sarah with Abraham is brought forward in connection with this, who called him lord. Peter likewise exhorts the husbands to dwell with their wives, according to knowledge, giving them honor, as unto the weaker vessels, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that their prayers be not hindered. Thus prayer and the Word are evidently to mark the relationship going on between husband and wife.
The examples of Noah and his family saved, figuratively, through the baptism of the deluge (Gen. 7:l — cp. with 1 Pet. 3:2020Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:20)), and that of the Israelitish households, each being sheltered by the blood of the lamb, and thus set apart from the Egyptian households, have a voice to us to-day as to the position of privilege and blessing Christian parents have, in connection with their children, in separation from the world (Ex. 12). Moses insisted on the wives and children of the Israelites taking the three days’ journey into the wilderness, through the Red Sea, as well as the men, when Pharaoh wanted to keep the former behind (Ex. 10:8-10; 158And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the Lord your God: but who are they that shall go? 9And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the Lord. 10And he said unto them, Let the Lord be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. (Exodus 10:8‑10)). Abraham and Joshua are likewise fine examples of parents taking their proper places in regard to their children, and bringing them up for the Lord; as Joshua said, As for me and my house we will serve the Lord (Gen. 18:17-1917And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. (Genesis 18:17‑19); Josh. 24:1515And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)). Abraham had his family altar of worship in Canaan wherever he went!
On the other hand, we have sad examples of the evils of polygamy, as seen in Jacob’s family, and David’s, and Solomon’s. Sad examples of the evil of unequal yokes, in Judah’s family (Gen. 37), and later on in Jehoshaphat’s family (2 Chron. 18:1; 19:1-3; 21:1-61Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab. (2 Chronicles 18:1)
1And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem. 2And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord. 3Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God. (2 Chronicles 19:1‑3)
1Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead. 2And he had brethren the sons of Jehoshaphat, Azariah, and Jehiel, and Zechariah, and Azariah, and Michael, and Shephatiah: all these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. 3And their father gave them great gifts of silver, and of gold, and of precious things, with fenced cities in Judah: but the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn. 4Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers also of the princes of Israel. 5Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 6And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord. (2 Chronicles 21:1‑6)
); also in the cases of Mahlon and Chilion, the sons of Naomi (see Ruth 1).
May the Lord use this little paper to give a ray of light on this important subject of marriage. More important as the spirit of lawlessness increases, especially so in lands where the law allows divorce for the slightest occasions. The consequence is that all true scriptural government, whether in the nation or family, is turned upside down.
I send this paper out, not as exhausting this subject, but as believing in its importance specially for my younger brethren and fellow-labourers, and not being without encouragement in the sense that the Lord led me to write it, and of having His approval. In days of increasing corruption it is important to have God’s principles of truth before us, so that we who are His may be kept from the downward stream of lawlessness and corruption that are setting in on every side.