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THE

CHRISTIAN REMEMBRANCER.

JANUARY, 1838.

REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.

Art. I.-1. A Tract on Marriage, with especial reference to the Workhouse

and Dissenting New Marriage Act. (Extracted fromThe Churchman," for April, 1837.) By the Rev. M. A. GATHERCOLE, Curate of Cleasby, near Darlington. London: Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper,

Paternoster Row. 1837. Pp. 21. 2. Three Sermons on Marriage, with reference to its Divine Appoint

ment. By WillIAM J. E. BernETT, M.A., Minister of Portman Chapel, and Curate of All Souls, St. Marylebone. Delivered in the Month of June, 1837. London: W. J. Cleaver, Baker Street.

1837. Pp. 59. From the outrageous absurdities of the New Marriage Act, it is abundantly evident that the wise-heads who framed it will very soon have the satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, should they remain in office, of revising or repealing it; unless perhaps they be saved the shame of acknowledging the impracticability of their handiwork, and the trouble of amending it, by the fact of its becoming, what, in all probability, they themselves intended it to become-a dead letter. The increased expenses, and the inconceivable bother which it entails upon those who might be inclined to conjugate—we will not desecrate the word marryunder its sanctions, will be amply sufficient to provide a sinecure to registrars and superintendent registrars in this important branch of the workhouse establishment; and in spite of tender consciences, we have little doubt that, as soon as the novelty of the affair has worn off, matters will be managed very much in the old way. It would therefore be a needless waste of time and patience, and eke of pen and paper, to wade through the impossible provisions of this most mischievous statute ; since its pernicious intentions must be frustrated by the folly wherewith its knavery

VOL. XX. NO. I.

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is intermixed ; and the fearful consequences with which it is pregnant in design, in a moral and religious point of view, have been so fully portrayed in Dr. Croly's admirable Sermon, published some months since, that any further exposition of them may perhaps appear superfluous. In a matter, however, of such grave consideration, we feel it an imperative duty to record our protest against this sacrilegious attempt upon the domestic peace, as well as upon the christian holiness, of our sons and daughters ; and in an age of legislation, when a sacrifice to Baal, or even to Moloch, may be expected to have the sanction of an Act of Parliament, to set up our ensign—"As for ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD."

Not only are the people of Britain professing Christians, but sure we are that a very large proportion of our countrymen have a depth and sincerity of religious feeling; and there are few indeed, even of the humblest class, who would not shrink with horror from the idea of marriage without the sanction of religion. Parents, who feel as parents, would never risk the happiness of a child upon the security of a bargain made before a registrar in his counting-house; a brother would never sacrifice the sister of his early love to a man who would dare to seek her upon such terms; nor would a woman, who had any respect for herself, be satisfied without some surer pledge of a husband's fidelity. Of this the Dissenters themselves were fully sensible ; for no sooner did they think themselves secure of carrying the point, for which they had entered into an unholy league with papists and infidels, than they

Form of Solemnization of Matrimony," which they have in some degree modelled according to the order of Service in the Church of England!! The fact is, that all the hue and cry which has been made about forcing the conscience of those who dissent from the Church, by making them marry according to her forms, was nothing else than a factious scheme of opposition to the Establishment, which her enemies are endeavouring, by a combination of treachery and violence, to overthrow. We are persuaded that the thinking and respectable part of the Dissenters were, and are, perfectly content to let things remain as they were; and we know of a surety that those who were loudest in demanding the Bill, are entirely dissatisfied with it, now that they have got it. Their object was to trample upon the members of the Church of England ; and having merely obtained the privilege of contracting away their own daughters in the committee-room of a poor-house, without the power of forcing others to forsake the altar of their God, we shall soon have the clamour raised again, with all the bitterness of disappointed malice.

That marriage is essentially a religious bond and contract, none but a professed infidel can venture to deny. To set aside its sacred obligations, is to set aside not only the implied sanctions, but the positive

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injunctions of the Bible. It is not simply that the divine institution of "holy wedlock," as the Dissenters themselves call it, is recorded with peculiar solemnity, and in a manner which marks the connexion between man and wife, as closer even than that of a parent and his child; but our blessed Saviour, with reference to the primeval institution, has uttered the emphatic warning, which is still employed in the Church, “What GOD hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Jehovah himself was the priest who solemnized the first marriage ; and his appointed ministers alone can stand in his place to bless the vows of his faithful people. The prophet Malachi (ii, 14) says expressly, that THE LORD " is a witness between a man and the wife of his youth.What is it then short of the most rebellious blasphemy to these persons here present to witness” in his stead ?

Solomon also says, that an adulteress "forgetteth the covenant of her God," (Prov. ii. 17;) but the only covenant which our New Marriage Act acknowledges, is the covenant of the superintendent-registrar. It is with reference to the sacred seal which the Almighty affixes to this covenant, that the friend or father of the bride does not give her directly to the husband, but places her hand in that of the priest. The priest then gives her, in God's name, to the man ; and they pledge their mutual troth, by the giving and receiving of a ring, " in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Nor are these holy offices new in the Church. They are ot heavy burdens which the Church of England has laid upon the tender consciences of modern schismatics; but they have prevailed from the first days of primitive Christianity to the present. Mr. Gathercole's little pamphlet contains several quotations from the early Fathers in proof of the usage ; but it will be sufficient for our purpose to adduce the following authorities. Ignatius, a contemporary of the Apostles, thus writes to the venerable Polycarp, the friend and disciple of St. John: It is expedient that the bridegroom and bride be joined by the Bishop's concurrence, that the marriage be according to the Lord." Tertullian, in his second book, ad Uxorem, says, that Christian marriages were sealed by the blessing of the Church. In the African council of Bishops, held in the year A.D. 398, it was decreed— That the parents and attendants of the bridegroom and bride should bring them to be blessed by the priest; nor was it esteemed a lawful marriage without this blessing. There would be no difficulty in multiplying citations to the same purpose, to any extent; but we shall merely add an old Saxon canon, made at a council held in Winchester, A. D. 1076; according to which it was declared to be no less than “prostituting a man's daughter to give her in marriage without the blessing of the priest ;" such, we are sure, would be the feeling of every right-minded parent of the present day.

Verily it is enough to rouse the indignation of the mcekest Christian,

that the cherished institutions of our holy faith, the sacred bonds of our domestic peace, should be set aside as "unholy things," at the outcry raised by the atheist and the blasphemer; and if Mr. Gathercole has denounced the unrighteous Act, its framers and abettors, in the strong language of severe vituperation, he has done no more than give vent to the feelings of every sincere member of the Church of God. At the same time we could have wished that a term, which savours of invective, had not here and there escaped him, in the heat of a fervent zeal for the honour of the sanctuary; not because the designations in question do not justly characterize the parties to whom they are applied, but because they are sure to be alleged by the enemy as indications of a bitter spirit. Moses himself, with all his meekness, might well be provoked at the unblushing effrontery with which conscience is urged as a plea for the daring avowal that men “ will not have God to rule over them;" but it is better, as far as possible, to guard against “ lying impostors," than to call them so. A lying imposture, however, it certainly is, which would persuade us that our sons and daughters may, with safety either to their religion or their happiness, be contracted away in a workhouse or a counting-house, under a pledge to live together as husband and wife just so long as it may prove agreeable. This, it cannot be too strongly urged, is the real view of the case. There is not a word in the Act which bears upon the nature or duration of the contract; which can, therefore, like any other contract, be rescinded at any time with the consent of the contracting parties. We do not mean to imply that any such a result was actually contemplated by our sapient legislators; but it is the natural property of every civil contract whatsoever ; and no provision has been made to distinguish the bargain for a wife from any other bargain. The point is thus stated in a plain unvarnished manner by Mr. Gathercole :

The words to be used by all persons who marry according to this dissenting marriage-law are these :~"I call upon these persons here present to witness that 1, A. B. do take thee, C. D. to be my luwful wedded wife(or husbund). These are the only words by which the man and the woman become married to each other. 'And a more unchristian and truly heathenish way of marrying, could not bave been schemed. Indeed, it is worse than heathenish; for it is a Goddenying and atheistical piece of business altogether. Even almost all the heathens always regarded marriage as a religious and very solemn ritc; and religiously offered sacrifices to their gods, calling upon them to witness, sanction, and bless their marriage. But considering that the poor heathens are ignorant of the nature and perfections of the true God, and that they pay reverence to what they consider to be their gods, this dissenting new way of marrying is worse than heathenish; for it is purely atheistical. God is not acknowledged in the matter; nor is he called upon to witness the sincerity or fidelity of the persons making the agreement; nor to sanction, or prosper, or bless them in it, or after it. It is just what the infidel, atheistical, and other Disseuters wanted to make it- a mere civil contract ;" a mere worldly bargain, and no better at all than the bargain a man makes for a cow, or a sheep, or a hog, in a public market. It seems to be hardly as solid and good a bargain as a may makes with a servant, when he bires one; for be then always agrees for a certain specified time, and gives the servant a shilling, as a pledge, and earnest, and confirmation of the civil contract” between them: but in this dissenting way of marrying there is no time specified, nor is there any ring, or any thing else given as a confirmation or pledge of the bargain. When a man takes an apprentice, be is regularly bound to hiin by "indenture;" the time, and all the conditions and particulars of the “civil contract" are cautiously and particularly specified therein, and each party agrees, in the presence of a witness or witnesses, to abide by such “civil contract," and to observe its conditions; and all this is done much more formally and carefully than the contracts of the newfashioned dissenting marriages, if marriages indeed they can be called. In sbort, by this atheistical new marriage-law, the sacred rite of marriage is so utterly degraded, that none but unbelievers, and atheists, and other persons of low, mean, and depraved minds, will ever disgrace themselves by being married in such a barbarian and atheistical way.”—Pp. 6, 7.

And again :

But let us again quote the words which each of the persons about to be married says to the other :-" I call upon these persons here present, to witness that I, A. B. do take thee C. D. to be my lawful wedded wife" (or husband). The mere saying these words to each other constitutes marriage according to this law. But what security does it give either to the man or to the woman? Provided they agree between themselves to separate within a fortnight after, what is there in these words to hinder them ? and what promise will they break ? Why just none at all. And if the man should see fit to turn the woman out of doors and take another; or if he should see good to take another into the house while the first is there, and have two wives at once, what should hinder him? This form does not make him promise that he will not do so; and, therefore, should he do so, he breaks no vow or promise. If marriage be only a “ civil contract,” or agreement, or bargain, and has nothing of a religious nature about it, as the Dissenters contend, then in all reason, why may not a man, if he likes, marry ten wives as well as one; for if he can only make a bargain with them, and get them to agree to be his wives, what business can any body have with either bim or them! And if a man can agree with another man to exchange wives with him, and the women be agreeable and “civilin the matter, what is the reason that he may not do so? If a man make a bargain or enter into a “ civil contractor agreement, for twenty cows, nobody ever objects to his doing so; and if marriage be only a bargain of the same sort, that is to say, only a “civil contract,” then, why may not a man also make a bargain with, or for, halfa-score wives? We contend that he may do so in strict accordance with this heathenish new marriage-law. For in the above form of marriage, the man does not promise that he will keep only to the one woman that he then takes, nor does he promise that he will keep to her till death, or for any length of time at all; he is, therefore, under no obligation either to have only one wife at a time, or to keep to one till death, or even till the week's end. And the case is the same also with the woman. If marriage be only a “ civil contract" or common bargain, then those who make it can break it just when they like, and without any sin whatever. And in the time of the great dissenting rebellion, when the Disseuters made marriage a “ civil contract,John Milton and some others of them argued in the very same way, and very consistently so too. And no doubt the matter will immediately be argued so again.-Pp. 13, 14.

It may be thought that the case is here over-stated; but in truth it is not. The Act, as it now stands, seems even to be a direct legalization of what are called Smithfield bargains. If a woman agrees to annul the contract which she has made before the registrar, what is there to prevent a man from throwing a halter round her neck, taking her to

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