Clergyman’s Address to Married Persons at the Altar
The following address on marriage is found as a supplement in numerous Bibles from the 1800’s, the earliest being found in an 1801 Bible published by Matthew Carey.
The duties between man and wife are various and important. They suppose the union not of persons only, but also and principally of affections. It is not joining of hands, but also of hearts, which constitutes marriage in the sight of God. This alone brings and preserves the sexes together, and both sanctifies and perfects this most solemn and sacred connection. But where this is wanting, the mere cohabitation of man and woman, in spite of all the ceremonies in the world, is nothing better than a legal prostitution. The office says, and with great propriety, that, so many as are coupled together otherwise than God’s word doth allow, are not joined together of God, neither is the matrimony lawful.
See, then, that no motives of interest or convenience deceive you into a notion that you love one another while you do not. It is not the bare form of vowing in the most solemn manner at the altar, that can possibly give a sanction to falsehood, or render innocent such mercenary lies.
Trifle not, I charge you, in this awful instance, with the God of Nature, truth, your own hearts, and your own comfort! Surely of all kinds and degrees of prostitution, that which screens itself under cover of the law, is the most criminal; and she who gives her hand to the man whom she does not in fact prefer to the whole world, is almost as worthless to all intents and purposes as a common prostitute. God never winks at the violation of nature, nor suffers it to take place with impunity. But this must be the case in every marriage where mutual attachment is wanting. And that family is uniformly cursed with the most substantial wretchedness, where there subsists no love between the heads of it.
You, who are the husband, must treat your wife with delicacy and discretion. Nothing in nature is so endearing, sowinning, so captivating, as tenderness; nothing creates aversion so soon, so strong, so inveterate, as rudeness, indifference, or disrespect. She is the weaker vessel, and depend on you for protection and comfort, in all her difficulties. For your sake she has left her friends, her connections, and all the world, and should she meet with a tyrant instead of a lover, she may repent of this day as long as she lives. Never incense or insult her; and as you wish to keep your own temper and peace, ruffle not her’s: for crossness and asperity, especially when they settle into moroseness and ill-nature, are the qualities of a savage, not of a Christian. Never, on any pretence whatever, squander that in dress, drinking, or dissipation, which you should lay by for the benefit of your family. By all the laws of God and man, of justice and love, they have an exclusive claim on whatever you can earn; and every unnecessary indulgence which you give apart from them, is at their expence and injury. Consult your wife, especially on all cases of difficulty; ‘tis her interest as well as duty, to give you the best advice she can. Never keep her ignorant of your circumstances: this has been the undoing of millions of families. The wife who deserves the name, will never fail to economize, when she knows that her partner’s circumstances require it. Be not much uneasy though the world should sometimes think she has her full share of influence. Women of good sense seldom abuse their husband’s confidence. And you will see few happy families in which the wife is either a slave or a cypher.
Mutual happiness is your mutual object; yield therefore to one another. Be ye equally yoked, is the command of God; let neither seek basely to throw an undue weight on the other’s shoulders. Suffer no interference from any quarter whatever to interrupt your harmony: you are connected for life. – Nothing can separate your fate in this world; O let nothing divide your affections. Regard each other with the fullest confidence; the least spark of suspicion from either, must forever blast the comfort of both. There can be no harmony where there is no faith.
A wife should not only love her husband, but on every occasion shew him all the attention in her power. Study by every means to make his home comfortable and inviting. Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also, and a man’s preference, as well as his heart, will always be there most, where he has most pleasure. And I’ll venture to assert it as a fact incontestable, that he who finds his home a paradise, will seldom stroll into the wilderness of this world. While on the other hand, a scolding wife and a hot house have driven many a wretched husband to a tavern, where cards, women, and wine have sealed his own and the destruction of his family.
In a word, be habitually loving and kind to one another. Have no separate secrets, nor allow yourselves any airs of mystery: but open your whole hearts to each other. Conceal as much as possible one another’s foibles, and cultivate habits of affability, forbearance, and good nature. Never be sullen, or in a pet with each other, especially in the presence of strangers. And, to say all in all, love and live together as the heirs of glory; and may the richest blessings of Almighty God be your mutual portion in this world and the next.