The great theologian John Owen (1616-1683)
The purpose of the discourse laid out – The major points therein established – The sundry benefits of marriage discussed – The vices thereby abstained from much derided
Bearing in mind that the covenant of marriage is not to be entered into, as the Scriptures tell us, unadvisedly or lightly, but rather with all reverence, according to the sundry commandments given for the mutual benefit of all persons, yet which can bind no man but that he take upon himself the yoke, I submit the following discourse for your due consideration, with the exceptional proofs thereunto belonging, wherein you might be made aware of my intentions in this regard.
First, that it be for the furtherance of that mutual joy of which all married persons must partake.
Second, that it might affect the greater help and comfort of the same, wherein they may thereby experience both prosperity and adversity with no decrease of faith.
Third, that it might be for the increase of that procreation which was established by God upon his first covenant with man, for the compassing of which end such persons ought to be joined together in holy matrimony.
Now follow my expansions upon those points heretofore stated.
1. The mutual joy which is spoken of by means of allegory in the Canticles, the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church spoken of by Saint Paul in his discourse to the Ephesians, the many covenantal benefits made efficacious to those who take part – such things we must not deny.
(1.) That he who possesses a happy wife doth, as spake some philosopher, possess also a happy life.
(2.) That troubles paired be not troubles squared, for they shall not cross the threshold of such as make the Lord their God, or if they do, they are but the trials of a moment sent to make us noble, and for the furtherance of that mortification of the flesh that is incumbent upon all believers.
2. I am hereby advised to “get on with it”, and shall as such make haste to finish, neglecting this point. God forgive me.
3. That man exists still in a state of carnal lust we must certainly acknowledge, and that the occasions therein for deeds of the flesh are rampant, it would not behoove us to deny. We must therefore set ourselves unto the following aims.
(1.) That, as the apostle writes, “It is better to marry than burn,” and thus the gift of marriage is granted to all believing men, that they might flee from the prospect of fornication and lend due reverence to the wife to whom they be predestined.
(2.) That paradise be not lost upon entering into matrimony, but rather regained, according to that covenant made at the first, having escaped the snares of the devil, by which he seeks to pull us into the bonds of iniquity, we embrace rather the bonds of marriage, for the furtherance of our sanctification.
(3.) And as someone hast said with regard to procreation, it is the ready means by which we grow the Church of Jesus Christ, and knowing as we do how the odds be stacked against the gospel truth in this present age, we must find our strength in numbers and make of thee a second Eve and mother of all the living.
We await now such sundry answers as you see fit to grant to us, that we may be hereby directed to a course that will be for the mutual satisfaction of both parties.
(And here was her reply…)
My dearest John,
I scarcely understand this letter you have sent to me. Indeed, I scarcely understand half the things you say, be they ever so exalted. Nevertheless, if it is marriage you seek, I shall submit myself to this yoke, as you so artfully call it, if you will but promise me three things upon pain of your eternal soul. First, that you should never speak Latin in my presence again. Second, that you should on one occasion per week pry yourself from your books long enough to change a nappy. Third, that you should find some means of sustenance beyond your tomes, for such things as you write are more fit for the shelves of Duke Humfrey’s library than the hands of the common man, and if they be our only source of sustenance, shall be the making of our eternal poverty. This is my reply. May heaven help me.
– Mary Rooke