The orthodox Christian theology of Hadley Robinson

The Ceremony of Marriage

translated by Hadley Robinson from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer

Why a Translation is Needed

If brevity is the essence of wit then clarity is the essence of understanding.  The 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is a monument to the richness and beauty of the English language and to sound Biblical theology.  Nonetheless, many will find that word use and sentence construction in the BCP can be both awkward and obscure for speakers of American English in the 21st century.  This is, of course, no fault of the authors of the BCP.  Language undergoes gradual change over many centuries and revision is sometimes necessary for solely linguistic reasons.  This writer has also made minor changes with respect to the banns that may be useful.  Public notices, such as the banns, are more appropriately the venue of the newspaper (either of paper or electronic) rather than just the church bulletin.  The greatest care has been taken to not introduce doctrinal changes in the text but to preserve the intent of the original authors of the 1662 edition of the BCP.  If the reader would benefit from some notes on the Biblical institution of marriage, go here.

Why the 1662 edition of the BCP?

The 1662 English edition is free of the doctrinal changes that entered the American edition during the rebellion of the late 18th century.

Unfortunately, heterodoxy, including the rejection of the authority and inspiration of the Bible, was already well established in the western Church by the early 20th century.  This is particularly evident in the 1928 editions (both UK and US)  which, among other things, demonstrated unbiblical changes to the solemnization of marriage.  The 1928 revisers and their defenders would argue that they were merely removing archaic customs but this was not what they were really doing. Religious humanism and egalitarianism of the 16th century have greatly affected the theology of the Protestant Church.

As time went by, these heathen worldviews increasingly permeated the thinking of churchmen who modified core Christian doctrines that had been established for thousands of years, particularly doctrines concerning the nature of man and the relationship of the man and the woman.  The Protestant penchant for dissolving the marriage covenant and making men and women equal in every way have become some of the dark legacies of the Reformation. Accordingly, heathen notions came to be reflected in the vows required of the woman in the Solemnization of Matrimony found in later editions of the BCP.  Early editions required an oath of obedience to her husband.  This is left out in later editions beginning with the edition of 1928.  However, Scripture commands wives to obey their husbands (Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-2; Genesis 2, 3:16; Eph. 5:22ff).  The example of all faithful women, Sarah, is commended for calling her husband "lord".

It is a specious argument to object to the command in Titus 2:5, for example, on the grounds that this makes a wife a mere slave. Nor is it some non-applicable relic of the Roman and Greek period.  These objections reveal a weak understanding of the especial nature of the wife's relationship to her husband according to Scripture.

The fact remains that she is permanently related to her husband with a closeness greater than that of a son and his father or, more importantly, than a sister (the meaning of the Hebrew words for "unite" and "one flesh" in Genesis 2:24). A sister is not a slave.  The husband is to hold fast to his wife in undivided loyalty under all conditions, even when his wife is adulterous.  His love for her is to be no less than that of Christ for the Israel of God, the Church.

If we are to regard the commands above for the wife as mere custom, what about the command for children to obey their parents given in Eph. 6:1?  Are they also archaic customs not applicable for today?  (The general disorder observed among youth everywhere including those in the Church would suggest that it is perceived in this way.)

But, like the Church, wives are often rebellious to their husbands.  Why, then, are we surprised by the behavior of the one or the other?  If Sarah called her husband "lord" what objection can there be to doing the same today (1 Pet. 3:6)?  Should the Church call Jesus "lord?"  One can only hope.  Americans largely chaff at obedience to anything, so we should not be encouraged as to any of this.

Rebellious women in the time of the Reformation bristled just as much at obeying their husbands as they do now.  What has changed since the Creation?  That women are allowed to participate in civil and Christian government independent of the desire and will of their husbands is yet further proof of the tidal wave of egalitarianism that has swept through the culture – Christian and heathen. During the current cultural crisis, a godly Christian woman should dutifully express the desire of her husband at the polls and so double his influence.

Orthodox Christian theologians of the late 19th century objected to universal suffrage for this reason.  Prof. Charles Hodge of Princeton Seminary discussed the issue but his words are now largely considered mad ravings.  But he was correct as to the results.  American culture is careening into the dustbin of history with increasing speed:  Homosexual "marriage", rampant fornication and general immorality, abortion, divorce, out of wedlock pregnancy, and welfare dependency are commonly accepted.  There is no end in site to this social holocaust.  Nonetheless, it would be hyperbole to suggest that our demise is largely a resultant of feminism.  The current crisis must have its primary origins in Hell and the Devil. 

As a result of this widespread collapse, is it any wonder that the true Church is all but gone in Europe and is shrinking in the United States?  Why should He have more mercy on us than on the inhabitants of Constantinople during their last days?  What will the men of Sodom say at the Judgment as they cry out for mercy based on what they knew?

Men have always invented legal fictions to bypass the commands of Scripture (e.g. Hosea 8:12).  One devised during the Reformation period can be found in chapter 24 of the Westminster Confession.  Adulterous wives or husbands are considered as "dead."  Naturally, if a man's wife is "dead", then the marriage bond is broken per Romans 7 and he is free to marry another.  But the Church has not always had this corrupt view.  Twenty five of the Early Church Fathers and two Church Councils declared that remarriage after divorce is always adulterous - a virtually unanimous opinion by those whose first language was NT Greek and whose culture was close to that of the New Testament period.  Most Protestants, like the Mormons, consider the Church to be functionally non-existent until Martin Luther or John Calvin appeared on the scene.  This is an arrogant and baseless assumption.

Never in our history has the Church's influence been less than now.  It is easy to see why:  She has become like the people that she lives among.  As with ancient Israel, her Lord has abandoned her to her lovers just as the Prophets repeatedly warned would happen.

The similarity of heathen and church practice is particularly evident concerning what constitutes marriage and what are the roles of the man and the woman.  But few seriously consider the first three chapters of Genesis these days and why, in particular, God created the woman in the first place.  She is to be her man's critical helper, not his partner.  The man is the glory of Christ but the woman is the glory of the man (1Cor. 11:7).  This was established at the Creation, not in Roman times and is sound – but often abandoned – Biblical doctrine here in the West.

Christian Ceremony of Marriage

Translated by Hadley Robinson from the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer

The Banns – When the Marriage announcement is published by the church, it shall be in the following form: This is the announcement of Marriage between N. of—, and N. of—.  If anyone knows of some cause or obstacle why these two persons should not be married, please contact:  N. minister of—; address.  (This announcement should be published in a newspaper of record in the home town of the persons intending to marry at least three times not less than ninety days prior to the ceremony.)

At the day and time appointed for Marriage ceremony, the persons to be married shall come into the Church with their friends and neighbors: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest or Pastor shall say,

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and before this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Marriage; which is an honorable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocent state, signifying to us the mystical union that is between Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and blessed with his presence, and where he performed his first miracle, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended by the Apostle Paul to be honorable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like mere animals that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Marriage was ordained.

First, It was ordained for the bearing of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name. Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that those persons who do not have the gift of being single might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body. Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can show any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever be silent.

And also, speaking to the persons that shall be married, he shall say,

I REQUIRE and charge you both, as you will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why you may not be lawfully joined together in Marriage, you do now confess it. For be well assured, that so many as are joined together otherwise than allowed by God's Word are not joined together by God; neither is their Marriage lawful.

At which day of Marriage, if any man do allege and declare any impediment, why they may not be joined together in Matrimony, by God's law, or the laws of this Land; he will be bound to prove his allegation (and also be subject to the severest penalties if he does not prove them): then the ceremony must be deferred, until such time as the truth be investigated and determined.

If no impediment be alleged, then shall the Priest or Pastor say to the Man,

WILL you have this woman to be your wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep yourself only for her, so long as you both shall live?

The Man shall answer, I will. Then shall the Priest or Pastor say to the Woman,

WILL you have this man to be your husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Marriage? Will you obey him, and serve him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep yourself only for him, so long as you both shall live?

The Woman shall answer, I will. Then shall the Minister say,

Who gives this woman to be married to this man?

Then shall they exchange their vows, one to the 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 follows.

I N. take you N. to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death separates us, according to God's holy law.

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,

I N. take you N. to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, until death separates us, according to God's holy law.

Then shall they again loose their hands; and the Man shall give to the Woman a Ring, laying the same upon a tray, the Bible, or what is customary. And the Priest, taking the Ring, shall give it to 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,

WITH this ring I marry you, with my body I honor you, and share with you all of my worldly goods: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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,

Let us pray.

ETERNAL God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life: Send your blessing upon these servants of yours, this man and this woman, whom we bless in your Name; that, as Isaac and Rebekah lived faithfully together, so this husband and wife  may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant made between them, (where this Ring given and received is a token and pledge,) and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to your laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then shall the Priest or Pastor join their right hands together, and say,

Those whom God has joined together let no man separate.

Then shall the Minister say to the people.

AS N. and N. have both consented to be married, and have declared the same before God and these witnesses, and have exchanged vows, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a Ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they are Husband and Wife, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And the Minister shall add this Blessing.

GOD the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favor look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual blessing and grace, that you may so live together in this life, and that in the world to come you may have eternal life. Amen.

Then the Minister, going to the Lord's Table, shall recite this Psalm (Psalm 128).

Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem, and may you live to see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.

Or this Psalm (Psalm 67).

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.

The Psalm ended, and the Man and the Woman kneeling before the Lord's Table, the Priest or Pastor standing at the Table, and turning his face towards them, shall say,

Lord, have mercy upon us. Answer. Christ, have mercy upon us. Minister. Lord, have mercy upon us. OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil. Amen. Minister. O Lord, save your servants; Answer. Who put their trust in you. Minister. O Lord, send them help from your holy place; Answer. And evermore defend them. Minister. Be to them a tower of strength, Answer. From the presence of their enemy. Minister. O Lord, hear our prayer. Answer. And hear our plea.

Minister.

GOD of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, bless these servants of yours, and sow the seed of eternal life in their hearts; that whatsoever in your holy Word they shall profitably learn, they may surely fulfill the same. Look, O Lord, mercifully upon them from heaven, and bless them. And as you did send your blessing upon Abraham and Sarah, to their great comfort, so surely send your blessing upon these servants or yours; that they obeying your Will, and always being safely under your protection, may abide in your love to the end of their lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The following Prayer shall be omitted where the Woman is past child-bearing.

MERCIFUL Lord, and heavenly Father, by whose gracious gift mankind is increased: We pray that you help, with your blessing, this husband and wife, that they may both be fruitful in bearing children, and also live together so long in godly love and honesty, that they may see their children brought up in a virtuous and Christian manner, to your praise and honor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

GOD, who by your mighty power has made all things from nothing; who also (after other things were set in order) did appoint, that out of man (created in your image) woman should also be made; and, binding them together, taught that it should never be lawful to separate those whom you by Marriage have made one: O God, who has made holy the state of Marriage to be such an excellent mystery, that in it is signified and represented as the spiritual marriage and unity between Christ and his Church: Look mercifully upon these servants of yours, that both this man may love his wife, according to your Word, (as Christ did love his bride the Church, who gave himself for her, loving and cherishing her even as his own flesh,) and also that this woman may be loving and amiable, faithful and obedient to her husband; and in all quietness, sobriety, and peace, be a follower of the holy and godly women before her. O Lord, bless them both, and grant them to inherit your everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then shall the Priest or Pastor say,

ALMIGHTY God, who at the beginning did create our first parents, Adam and Eve, and did sanctify and join them together in marriage; Pour upon you the riches of his grace, sanctify and bless you, that you may please him both in body and soul, and live together in holy love to the end of your lives. Amen.

After which, if there be no Sermon detailing the duties of Man and Wife, the Minister shall read the following.

ALL you who are married, or who intend to take the holy estate of Marriage upon you, listen to what the holy Scripture says concerning the duty of husbands towards their wives, and wives towards their husbands.

The Apostle Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, the fifth Chapter, gives this commandment to all married men; Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself. Hear also what Peter, the Apostle of Christ, who was himself a married man, says to those who are married; Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. So far, you have heard the duty of the husband toward his wife. Now likewise, you wives, hear and learn your duties toward your husbands, even as it is plainly set forth in holy Scripture.

The Apostle Paul, in the above Letter to the Ephesians, teaches this; Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. And again he says, the wife must respect her husband.

And in his Letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul gives you this short lesson; Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. The Apostle Peter also clearly instructs married women; Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

It is convenient that the newly married couple should receive the holy Communion at the time of their Marriage, or at the first opportunity after their Marriage.

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