by A. W. Pink
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” —Hebrews 13:4.
As God hath knit the bones and sinews together for the strengthening of our bodies, so He has ordained the joining of man and woman together in wedlock for the strengthening of their lives, for “two are better than one” (Ecc 4:9). Therefore, when God made the woman for the man, He said, “I will make him a help meet for him” (Gen 2:18), showing that man is advantaged by having a wife. That such does not actually prove to be the case in all instances is, for the most part at least, to be attributed unto departure from the Divine precepts thereon. As this is a subject of such vital moment, we deem it expedient to present a fairly comprehensive outline of the teaching of Holy Writ upon it, especially for the benefit of our young readers, though we trust we shall be enabled to include that which will be helpful to older ones too.
It is perhaps a trite remark, yet nonetheless weighty for having been uttered so often, that with the one exception of personal conversion, marriage is the most momentous of all earthly events in the life of a man or woman. It forms a bond of union that binds them until death. It brings them into such intimate relations that they must either sweeten or embitter each other’s existence. It entails circumstances and consequences that are not less far reaching than the endless ages of eternity. How essential it is then that we should have the blessing of Heaven upon such a solemn yet precious undertaking; and in order to this, how absolutely necessary it is that we be subject to God and to His Word thereon. Far, far better to remain single unto the end of our days, than to enter into the marriage state without the Divine benediction upon it.
The records of history and the facts of observation bear abundant testimony to the truth of that remark. Even those who look no further than the temporal happiness of individuals and the welfare of existing society are not insensible to the great importance of our domestic relations, which the strongest affections of nature secure, and which even our wants and weaknesses cement. We can form no conception of social virtue or felicity, yea, no conception of human society itself, which has not its foundation in the family. No matter how excellent the constitution and laws of a country may be, or how vast its resources and prosperity, there is no sure basis for social order or public as well as private virtue, until it be laid in the wise regulation of its families.
After all, a nation is but the aggregate of its families, and unless there be good husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, there cannot possibly be good citizens. Therefore, the present decay of home life and family discipline threaten the stability of our nation today far more severely than does any foreign hostility.
But the Scriptural view of the relative duties of the members of a Christian household portrays the prevailing effects in a most alarming manner, as being dishonoring to God, disastrous to the spiritual condition of the churches, and as raising up a most serious obstacle in the way of evangelical progress. Sad beyond words is it to see that professing Christians are themselves largely responsible for the lowering of marital standards, the general disregard of domestic relations, and the rapid disappearance of family discipline.
As, then, marriage is the basis of the home or family, it is incumbent on the writer to summon his readers to a serious and prayerful consideration of the revealed will of God on this vital theme. Though we can hardly hope to arrest the awful disease that is now eating out the very vitals of our nation, yet if God is pleased to bless this article to a few individuals, our labor will not be in vain. We will begin by pointing out the excellency of wedlock: “Marriage is honourable,” says our text, and it is so first of all because God Himself has placed special honor upon it. All other ordinances or institutions (except the Sabbath) were appointed of God by the medium of men or angels (Act 7:35), but marriage was ordained immediately by the Lord Himself—no man or angel brought the first wife to her husband (Gen 2:19).
Thus, marriage had more Divine honor put upon it than had all the other Divine institutions because it was directly solemnized by God Himself. Again, this was the first ordinance God instituted, yea, the first thing He did after man and woman were created, and that, while they were still in their unfallen state. Moreover, the place where their marriage occurred shows the honorableness of this institution: whereas all other institutions (save the Sabbath) were instituted outside of paradise, marriage was solemnized in Eden itself!—intimating how happy they are that marry in the Lord.
“God’s crowning creative act was the making of woman. At the close of each creative day, it is formally recorded that God saw what He had made, that it was good (Gen 1:31). But when Adam was made, it is explicitly recorded that God saw it was not good that the man should be alone (Gen 2:18). As to man, the creative work lacked completeness, until, as all animals and even plants had their mates, there should be found for Adam also a help, meet for him—his counterpart and companion. Not until this want was met did God see the work of the last creative day also to be good. “This is the first great Scripture lesson on family life, and it should be well learned…The Divine institution of marriage teaches that the ideal state of both man and woman is not in separation but in union, that each is meant and fitted for the other. God’s ideal is such union, based on a pure and holy love, enduring for life, exclusive of all rivalry or other partnership, and incapable of alienation or unfaithfulness because it is a union in the Lord—a holy wedlock of soul and spirit in mutual sympathy and affection.”
As God the Father honored the institution of marriage, so also did God the Son. First, by His being “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). Second, by His miracles, for the first supernatural sign that He wrought was at the marriage of Cana in Galilee (Joh 2:8), where He turned the water into wine, thereby intimating that if Christ be present at your wedding (i.e., if you “marry in the Lord”) your life shall be a joyous or blessed one. Third, by His parables, for He compared the kingdom of God unto a marriage (Mat 22:2) and holiness to a “wedding garment” (Mat 22:11). So also in His teaching: when the Pharisees sought to ensnare Him on the subject of divorce, He set His imprimatur on the original constitution, adding “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mat 19:4–6).
The institution of marriage has been still further honored by the Holy Spirit: For He has used it10 as a figure of the union which exists between Christ and the church: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31, 32). The relation, which obtains between the Redeemer and the redeemed, is likened again and again unto that which exists between a wedded man and woman: Christ is the “Husband” (Isa 54:5), the church is the “Wife” (Rev 21:9). “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you” (Jer 3:14). Thus, each person of the blessed Trinity has set His seal upon the honorableness of the marriage state. There is no doubt that in true marriage, each party helps the other equally; and in view of what has been pointed out above, any who venture to hold or teach any other doctrine or philosophy join issue with the Most High. This does not lay down a hard and fast rule that every man and woman is obliged to enter into matrimony: there may be good and wise reasons for abiding alone [and] adequate motives for remaining in the single state—physical and moral, domestic and social.
Nevertheless, a single life should be regarded as…exceptional, rather than ideal. Any teaching that leads men and women to think of the marriage bond as the sign of bondage and the sacrifice of all independence [or] to construe wifehood and motherhood as drudgery11 and interference with woman’s higher destiny, any public sentiment [that cultivates] celibacy as more desirable and honorable or [that substitutes] anything else for marriage and home not only invades God’s ordinance, but opens the door to nameless crimes and threatens the very foundations of society.
NOW IT IS CLEAR THAT MARRIAGE MUST HAVE PARTICULAR REASONS FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF IT.
Three are given in Scripture: First, for the propagation of children: This is its obvious and normal purpose. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen 1:27)—not both males or both females, but one male and one female. To make the design of this unmistakably plain, God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (1:28). For this reason, marriage is called “matrimony,” which signifies motherage because it results in virgins becoming mothers. Therefore, it is desirable that marriage be entered into at an early age, before the prime of life be passed: twice in Scripture we read of “the wife of thy youth” (Pro 5:18; Mal 2:15). We have pointed out that the propagation of children is the “normal” end of marriage; yet there are special seasons of acute “distress” when 1 Corinthians 7:29 holds good.
Second, marriage is designed as a preventive of immorality: “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1Co 7:2). If any were exempted, it might be supposed that kings would be given dispensation because of the lack of a successor to the throne should his wife be barren; yet the king is expressly forbidden a plurality of wives (Deu 17:17), showing that the endangering of a monarchy is not sufficient to countervail14 the sin of adultery. For this cause, a whore is termed a “strange woman”