Matrimony or Marriage

Matrimony Or Marriage as A SACRAMENT. The Church of Rome regards the act of matrimony not only as a religious contract, but also as a sacrament. We need hardly step aside to explain the meaning of the word sacrament, but it may be proper here to say that the Romanists hold seven sacraments as established by the Council of Trent, teaching also that "each sacrament confers grace peculiar to itself, so that it has the special effect of conferring grace subservient to that end." This distinction is called by the divines "sacramental grace." SEE SACRAMENT. The clergy of the Church of England of High-Church tendency incline to hold a like view on this point, but there is certainly nothing in the XXXIX Articles to warrant any such interpretation of the marriage-contract. The Roman view of marriage is based by the school men on the expression of Paul in writing to the Ephesians (Eph 5:32), τὸ μνστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν, or, as it runs in the Vulgate, "Sacramentum hoc magnum est." "Thus viewed, the external part or sign, the 'pars sensibilis' is the expression of a mutual consent involving, as is necessary in all sacramental ordinances, a real present intention; and the inward part or gift is the grace which unites the hearts, or, according to another view, the grace to resist concupiscence, sometimes entirely, judging by St. Thomas Aquinas's remark that carnal intercourse is not a necessary part of marriage, because there was none in Paradise." The following more general considerations are also urged from Scripture in favor of the sacramental theory: "the union between the husband and wife is spoken of as analogous to the union between Christ and the Church. The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church; therefore, as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything (Eph 5:23-24). Now if this figure has any meaning it must be this, that the external sign of alliance between bride and bridegroom signify that there should henceforth exist between them a union as holy, as close, and as indissoluble as that between Christ and the Church, a union which could not be maintained without a special gift from God. That such a gift exists is made evident by Paul, who says, while drawing a comparison between marriage and celibacy, 'Every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner and another after that' (1Co 7:7); and what would the gift be which is alluded to in the case of married persons but the grace which unites their hearts, and enables them to be fitting emblems of Christ and the Church? Again, the presence of our Lord at the marriage in Cana of Galilee (Joh 2:1-11) is sometimes referred to as having elevated the ceremony into the dignity of a sacrament" (Blunt, Dict. of Theol. s.v.).

Those who regard marriage as a sacrament are not themselves agreed as to what is the essential part of matrimony constituting it a sacrament. The prevailing opinion we take to be that the essential part, as well as the efficient cause, is the consent of the two parties, which must be expressed in words as the "pars sensibilis" of the sacrament, and must imply a real present, and not a future consent. There are others who would make the words of the priest the essential element whereby the marriage union is created, "Ego vos in matrimonium conjungo," etc.; in the English office, "Those whom God has joined together let no man put asunder," followed by the declaration of complete union, "I pronounce that they be man and wife together, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." If the previous consent had made the two persons man and wife, these words on the priest's lips would seem to be, strictly speaking, superfluous. From primitive times it has been the custom to acquaint the Church beforehand with an intended marriage, which is evident from the passages above quoted. The object was to prevent unlawful marriage; not that the Church claimed any absolute power to grant or refuse leave to marry, but that in case a person was about to marry a Jew, or a heathen, or a heretic, or one within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity, etc., the marriage might be prevented, or at, least not obtain the sanction of the Church. The earliest allusion to the necessity of such notice in England is contained in the eleventh canon of the Synod of Westminster (A.D. 1200), which enacts that no marriage shall be contracted without banns thrice published in church (Johnson, Canons, 2:91). SEE BANN. The existing law of the Church of England is expressed in the sixty-second canon: "No minister, upon pain of suspension 'per triennium ipso facto,' shall celebrate matrimony between any persons without a faculty or license granted by some of the persons in these our constitutions expressed, except the banns of matrimony have been first published three several Sundays or holy-days in the time of divine service in the parish churches and chapels where the said parties dwell, according to the book of Common Prayer." The only substitute for banns recognized by the Church of England is an ordinary or special license. The power of granting the former has belonged to English bishops from a very early date, being confirmed to them by 25 Henry VIII, c. 21. The right to grant special licenses, which are free from all restrictions as to time or place, was originally a privilege of the archbishop of Canterbury, as "legatus natus." The ritual of the Church of Rome teaches that "the end of the sacrament of marriage is that man and wife may mutually help and comfort each other, in order that they may spend this life in a holy manner, and thereby gain a blessed immortality; and to contribute to the edification of the Church by the lawful procreation of children, and by the care of procuring them a spiritual regeneration, and an education suitable to it. Every person, before entering into wedlock, is required to beseech God to join him with such a person as he may work out his salvation with, and examine whether or no the person he has fixed his affections on has the fear of God before her eyes; is prudent, discreet, and able to take care of a family." The Council of Trent, at its twenty-fourth session, held Nov. 11 1563, legislated upon the subject of matrimony in twelve canons, as follows:

"Canon 1. Whoever shall affirm that matrimony is not truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of the evangelical law, instituted by Christ our Lord, but that it is a human invention, introduced into the Church, and does not confer grace: let him be accursed.

"2. Whoever shall affirm that Christians may have more wives than one, and that this is prohibited by no divine law; let hill be accursed.

"3. Whoever shall affirm that only those degrees of consanguinity or affinity which are mentioned in the book of Leviticus can hinder or disannul the marriage contract; and that the Church has no power to dispense with some of them, or to constitute additional hinderances or reasons for disannulling the contract; let him be accursed.

"4. Whoever shall affirm that the Church cannot constitute any impediments, with power to disamnnul matrimony, or that in constituting them she has erred; let him be accursed.

"5. Whoever shall affirm that the marriage-bond may be dissolved by heresy, or mutual dislike, or voluntary absence from the husband or wife; let him be accursed.

"6. Whoever shall affirm that a marriage solemnized but not consummated is not disannulled if one of the parties enters into a religious order; let him be accursed.

"7. Whoever shall affirm that the Church has erred in teaching, according to the evangelical and apostolic doctrine, that the marriage-bond cannot be dissolved by the adultery of one of the parties, and that neither of them, not even the innocent party, who has given no occasion for the adultery, can contract another marriage while the other party lives; and that the husband who puts away his adulterous wife, and marries another, commits adultery, and also the wife who puts away her adulterous husband, and marries another (whoever shall affirm that the Church has erred in maintaining these sentiments); let him be accursed.

"8. Whoever shall affirm that the Church has erred in decreeing that fir various reasons married persons may be separated, as far as regards actual cohabitation, either for a certain or an uncertain time; let him be accursed.

"9. Whoever shall affirm that persons in holy orders, or regulars, who have made a solemn profession of chastity, may contract marriage, and that the contract is valid, notwithstanding any ecclesiastical law or vow; and that to maintain the contrary is nothing less than to condemn marriage; and that all persons may marry who feel that, though they should make a vow of chastity; they have not the gift thereof; let him be accursed; for God does not deny his gifts to those who ask aright, neither does he stiffer us to be tempted above that we are able.

"10. Whoever shall affirm that the conjugal state is to be preferred to a life of virginity, of celibacy, and that it is not better and more conducive to happiness to remain in virginity, or celibacy, than to be married; let him be accursed.

"11. Whoever shall affirm that to prohibit the solemnization of marriage at certain seasons of the year is a tyrannical superstition, borrowed from the superstition of the pagans; or shall condemn the benedictions and other ceremonies used by the Church at those times; let him be accursed.

"12. Whoever shall affirm that matrimonial causes do not belong to the ecclesiastical judges; let him be accursed."

Marriage as a Sacrament unbiblical. —

1. In many most important points respecting marriage, Protestants and Roman Catholics agree; yet, when the Church of Rome advances matrimony to a sacrament instituted by Christ, and endows it with sacramental qualities, there are several points of considerable importance to Christianity in which Protestant and Romanist must disagree. The latter asserts that matrimony as a sacrament was instituted by Christ, and confers grace, and supports this dogma by quoting Eph 5:32: "This is a great μυστήριον; but I speak in Christ and in the Church," where the Douay translation renders by sacrament the word μυστήριον, which we Protestants prefer to translate mystery. "Or, indeed, if we render the word 'sacrament,' still they have no advantage, inasmuch as the original word μυστήριον, 'mystery,' which they read 'sacrament,' is employed on other subjects as 'mystery of godliness' (1Ti 3:16), 'a mystery, Babylon the great' (Re 17:5). Papists must know that there is no force in their argument. The text, as found in their version, can only influence the minds of ignorant persons, who know not the Scriptures. The apostle does not say that marriage is a mystery, for he speaks concerning Christ and the Church. It is acknowledged that marriage is instituted of God, and is a sign of a holy thing, yet it is no sacrament; the Sabbath was ordained of God, and signified the rest in Christ (Heb 4:8), yet it was no sacrament. All significant and mystic signs are not necessarily sacraments" (Elliott, Romanism, p. 428). "Romanists," says the same able polemic whom we have just had occasion to cite, "further quote the following passage to support their doctrine: 'She shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and love' (1Ti 2:15), inferring that the grace of sanctification is given to the parties married. To this we answer:

(1.) We deny that any sacraments give or confer grace; they are only means or instruments of its communication.

(2.) It is allowed that God does give to pious married persons grace to live in piety and holiness; but it is unnecessary to constitute marriage into a sacrament for this purpose.

(3.) Those who are not married may possess the sanctifying grace of God, which is sufficient to preserve all in a state of inward as well as outward holiness."

2. That marriage is no sacrament of the Gospel, speaking of such an institution in its proper scriptural acceptation, may be proved by the following arguments:

(1.) Matrimony was instituted in Paradise long before sin had entered, therefore it cannot be a sacrament of the Gospel; marriage is observed among infidels and wicked persons, who are incapable of receiving worthily the sacraments of the Church.

(2.) Papists are inconsistent with themselves in calling marriage a profanation of orders; some with consummate effrontery assert that to live in a state of concubinage is more tolerable for a priest than to marry. Can they really believe marriage to be a sacrament, which they contemn as vile and polluted? Pope Siricius applied the words of St. Paul, "They that are in the flesh cannot please God," in favor of the celibacy of the clergy — thus proving that this pope, in common with many other pontiffs, knew but little of scriptural interpretation, seeing the reference is plainly to deep human depravity and wickedness, but not to the marriage state.

(3.) In every sacrament there must be an external sensible sign as the matter, and an appropriate order of words as the form; but in matrimony there is neither, therefore it is no sacrament.

(4.) Again, none but pious persons can be partakers of the sacraments of the Church; but piety is not a necessary condition of marriage, therefore marriage is not a sacrament. The conditions of confession and absolution. which are sometimes enjoined in the Church of Rome, cannot be pleaded as teaching that piety is required of those who are to be married; for confession and absolution are no proper concomitants of true piety, seeing the greatest part of those who confess and receive absolution are no otherwise religious than as members of the Church of Rome, and membership in that community is rather a presumption against, than in favor of true religion. It does not alter the case to introduce the distinctions which have been made by their theologians, namely, that marriage is often a civil or natural contract, and not a sacrament. This distinction is founded on mere technicalities, and not on any scriptural authority, either direct or inferential.

3. It is necessary, as they acknowledge, that a sacrament should be instituted by Christ; but matrimony was not instituted by him. therefore, according to their own rule, it is no sacrament. It is in vain for them to say that Christ instituted the sacrament of marriage, when they are unable to produce the words of institution, or to adduce a single circumstance connected with its institution. It is true, the Council of Trent most positively, in their first canon, affirm that Christ did institute the sacrament of matrimony; but then neither chapter nor verse is given to prove the fact. Indeed, so divided among themselves are they respecting the time in which Christ converted matrimony into a sacrament, that the most discordant opinions exist. Let the Roman Catholic Dens speak on the subject: "Some," says he, "say that it was instituted when Christ was present at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, which he is said to honor with his presence and bless it (John 2); according to others, when Christ, revoking matrimony to its primeval unity and indissolubleness, rejecting the bill of divorce, said, 'What Gohatath joined together, let not man put asunder' (Matthew 19); but others refer its institution to the time of the forty days between the resurrection and ascension, during which Christ often taught his apostles concerning the kingdom of God, or his Church; others say the time is uncertain." Thus the institution of marriage as a sacrament cannot be discovered by their ablest divines. The Council of Trent is unable to find the place where Christ established it; the Roman Catechism adroitly evades this point, and leaves the matter in the same uncertainty as it found it. We therefore hesitate not to affirm that, although marriage was originally instituted by Almighty God, recognised by Christ, and its duties explained and enforced by the apostles, nevertheless its institution as a sacrament cannot be found in any part of the New Testament. See, besides, Elliott's Delineation of Romanism, ch. 16; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines (see Index, vol. 2); Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lexikon, art. Ehe; Herzog, Real-Encyklopädie, art. Ehe. SEE CELIBACY; SEE DISPENSATION; SEE DIVORCE; SEE MARRIAGE; SEE SACRAMENT.

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