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Mr. Worsley on the Marriage Ceremony.
be asked, how happens it that these has been obtained in the most gentle two classes enjoy this high privilege, and gratifying manner, in a manner while other classes equaliy respectable highly honourable to the feelings and do not? And is there any justice in the liberality of our houses of parlia. granting so partial a favor ? To the ment. The penal laws against cer. first question it can only be replied, tain religious opinions and professions it has happened, because these two are no longer a disgrace to our Statute large bodies of men have stood up Book: that which was an offence to a firmly for their rights, and would not respectable and valuable body of the submit to any of the ceremonies of the subjects of these realms has been reestablished church ; and because go- moved, without the safety of the State vernment men were aware that if being even supposed to bé endangered. these people were to be compelled to Now, whatever opinion may be enviolate their consciences, in order to tertained of the Test and Corporation legalize their marriages, they must in Acis, of the merit of which I am not evitably lose the whole body of thon, now going to inquire; the question of and all the advantages of a political the Marriage Ceremony stands exactly and social nature which are derived to on the sanje ground as that of the penal this country by their residing withira 'Jaws. To ibe Government of this it. It is much to be regretted that country it cannot be a matter of the this act was suffered to pass with so smallest consequence in what way courteous a silence on the part of the Dissenters form their marriage conOther Dissenters, in which no pro- tract; nor can they wish the established vision was made for them.
clergy to be engaged in the celebration For what possible reason can be of thut rite which unites a man to a assigned, why two classes of dissen woman until death, any inore than in tients from ihe established church that which unites an infant to the should follow the dictates of conscience Christian Church, or which con. in so high a civil concern, however signs a human being to the land of respectable
we must acknowledge them forgetfulness. We are allowed to bury to be, while to us it is forbidden? our dead and to baptise our children, What possible reason, except on the ard our registers of such acts are reground of a religious scruplo ? 'and ceived as legal documents, why may that religious scruples equally strong we not also marry our young peuple by do exist in the minds of other Dis such rite as we shall approve, and give senters will appear in our subsequent our legal certificate of such a mars remarks ; while if the Quakers and riage ? the Jews are coinpetent to make re Great objections are made against gişters of their marriage contracts, and the marriage ceremony itself as it is in case of need to prove the validity of performed in our churches, because, such engagements, the other dissenters although in point of fact it is a civil are equally qualified, and may do it contract, it has been inade by the laws with as much safety to the state and to of our land a religious rite,-thus comthe public at large.
pletely changing its character and deWhen the District Meetings of the sign, for no other purpose than to united Dissenters took place in the make it a source of wea th to the estaba year 1789 in all parts of England, lished clergy; for admitting that there there were three objects in their view : is a propriety in a public arowal of a To obtain the repeal of the Test and marriage contract in the society of Corporation Acts, which was their religious professors to which the parties principal object; to obtain the repeal belong, according to the practice of of the penal laws relative to religious both Jews and Quakers in this country, professions, and to get an emendation yet we have the greatest ground of of the Marriage Act. It was thought complaint to our legislature of the expedient, in consequence of circum- service itself we are compelled to go stances which then occurred, to drop through when entering into wedded life. the design of those meetings. Bui, In the very exordium of that service so much is the spirit of the times im we are struck with the following abproved, and so much are the minds surdity—“that matrimony is a honourof the men of talent and authority in able state, instituted by God in the our country enlightened since that tiine of man's innocency, signifying period, that the sccond of these objects unto us the mystical union that is bes
Mr. Worsley on the Marriage Ceremony.
211 twixt Christ and his Church.” This, of them. Yet in our service, while to say the least of it, is a most delicate the man covenants “to love, comfort, refinement upon the other mysteries honour and keep" the woinan, she, with which Christianity has been is required to do more, "to obey and loaded, and by which it has been well to serve the man." Is there any nigh borne down; and truly nothing marked difference in the original forbut the very love of mystery could mation of the two classes of the huhave led the compilers of our Liturgy man species to justify a partiality of to compare the union of the person of this kind? Or has it not happened a man and that of a woman with the that the law owes its birth to this cirunion of Christ and his Church. Here cumstance, that the male part of the one cannot say what one would, to species have been, viva voce, the expose the absurdity of such a compa- framers of human laws? Some years rison. We must be content with re- ago a Liturgy was used in an English inarking, that mystery has been the Church on the Continent in which great source of wealth to the priest- many marriages were celebrated; in hood of old times and all times, and that Church ihe man and the woman that a more profitable mystery has not were required to enter into the same been devised than that which mixed solemn promise and engagement witha up the purest pleasures of life with the respect to each other, " to love, cominterests of the Christian priesthood. fori, honour and keep in sickness
Next follow the three causes for and in health, and forsaking all which matrimony is said to have been other," &c. Your readers will judge, ordained.
both male and female, whether that There is a manifest indecency in Church or the Church of Engthe first cause, which certainly need land was the more just in its re. not be stated in the Christian assembly quirements. If, however, for a supposed to be present, and which, moment we wave the consideration of especially when the couple appear at right to make such a statute, it may be the altar with their hoary locks, can allowed to the sceptical by-stander to excite no other than a smile.
ask, what is the good of it? is it not The second appears to cast a slur in most cases obliging an intelligent upon the very * honourable state" creature of God to make a solemn vow itself as though it had been ordained, which she does not mean to ful61? not as an act of pure benignity to the Let the Dunmow Aitch of bacon mainvirtuous man, and good inember of tain the argument. society, but as a covert into which the The charın which follows in the rogue may fly to escape au unavoidable marriage service is one of the most crime.
entertaining things one can well conThe third is the only cause which ceive of; for as we are not on these can with propriety be assigned in a occasions in a humour to be horrified public company for entering the mar at any thing, we can scarcely keep ried state, and if it be necessary to our lips in a posture sufficiently steady offer any apology at all for the aci, of to articulate the magical words With which there may be a doubt, this is a this ring 1 thee wed, with iny body I sufficient one.
thee worship, and with all my worldly Although the solemn charge which goods I thee endow.” I must suppose follows these causes of matrimony, ihat with most people these words are cannot on its own account be objected a mere abracadabra. They have alagainst, yet to the virtuous couple it is ways reminded me of the jan-vanperfectly needless, while the violators tin-tan-tire-rare-litter-air-van of decency and of rectitude will disre- - fain--weil, of which, when I was a gard it.
boy, I remember to have heard that I koow not whether I may venture these sounds were, under certain cirto object against the queries which cumstances, calculated to produce a follow “wilt thou have this woman, most surprising effect. A venerable &c." “ wilt thou have this man, &c.” Divine of the last age was accustomed which are addressed by the priest, first to say of the words of this charm, that to the man and then to the woman, the man who repeats them is guilty of on the ground that, as they meet on three of the greatest crimes which the equal ierms, the same olemn engage Bible koows---" with this ring I thee ment should be entered into by both wed;" that is witchcraft-with my
J. F. on the Marriage Ceremony. body I thee worship;" that is idolatry that they can scarcely even see that two
with all all my worldly goods I and two make four; joking is at an thee endow;" that is a lie. As a end, the countenance resumes its soproof however of the weakness of hu- briety, and for a moment we are even inan nature, or perhaps still more of induced to doubt whether' we ought the strength of human passions, we not to turn from an altar on which we are also told of the venerable Seer, that are compelled to sacrifice erery best he had been guilty of this three-fold feeling, every pious devotional thought. crime three several times.
Can it be, Sir, that under any other We know so little of the lives of circumstances than those in which Abraham and Sarah, or those of Isaac advantage is taken of our weakness, and Rebecca, that there is more than we should consent thus to abandon a doubt of the propriety of introducing our religious principles, and act in them into the marriage ceremony; while direct opposition to our most serious We feel a persuasion that they would convictions. be better left out; for in truth they These thoughts will for the most offer a facility of scoffing and banter part appear just to dissenters of all to those who are disposed to turn a classes, and it is desirable they should serious and a solemn compact into a unite to obtain parliamentary relief; jest.
but to Unitarians it most clearly be These are objections, Sir, to the longs to consider this subject seriously, marriage ceremony of the Church of and to act upon it with firmness; nor England, which, it is presumed, are can we doubt that their number, their felt by serious thinking men of all respectability, and the disposition sociecies of Christians, as well in the which is manifest in the best circles to Church as out of it. Surely the great indulge their religious views and acbody of the people would be pleased cominodate the laws to their prejudices, with being rid of so much nonsense will insure to them the right and prialtogether.
vilege of every rational creature of God But the most serieus objection a in a natural or in a social state. mongst that class of religious professor
ISRAEL WORSLEY. by whom these pages will be read, is, the name in which this engagement Newport, Isle of Wight, Fel. 7, 1816. is entered into, “in the name of the Sir,
(. Ghost." We are obliged to make a re.' ligious rite of what numbers can regard the Repository, of the question; how in no other point of view than as a far it is proper for Unitarians to be civil compact; we are obliged to go to married at Church, and has called a church' to celebrate this rite from upon them to apply for legislative perwbich we carefully and conscientiqusly mission to marry among themselves, withhold ourselves on every other occa as is the case with the society of sion, and we are obliged to contract an Friends and the Jews. I perfectly agree alliance in a name, which either con with D. E. that it is extremely imveys no idea whatever to the mind, proper to oblige Unitarians to go to or which we conceive to be an insult church for this, or any other occasion; upon common sense, and an offence to because to the common objections to ihe One Living and True God whoin the Church, which all Dissenters we worship. This, this, is the se- have, they have the additional one arisverest cut of all. The folly of some ing from their different view of Chrisparts of this service, and the indecency tian doctrine. And consequently no of other parts of it, we inight perchance Unitarian can fairly join in the serupon such an occasion be inclined to vice. It is true they may stand quite tolerate by a laugh of scorn; but when unconcerned while the Priest is perwe come io use a name which we con- forming, his duty; they may be quite ceive to be the foulest spot on the fair inattentive, as far as devotion is conface of Christianity, the great stumb- cerned, to the ceremony, as we may ling block of its professors, and the witness the ceremonies of the Roman terror which excludes fron its pale Catholics in conducting their worship thousands and tens of thousands of se- and this I know has been done, at rius persons, or which involves in such least, in one instance. But still, as I very a dreadful wist those who do epier, much dislike having to do with reli
Father and of the Sou and of the Holy Y 22.5 has invited the discussion in
J. F. on the Marriage Ceremony.
gious services, utiless the heart and a religious obligation, this might be mind are thoroughly disposed to enter well, but as it is notoriously not so into these services with purity and spi- entered into, it appears to me to be a rit. I must say, I think, to conse- shameful farce of things holy, to put crate marriages at Church is a profana- such questions ; more especially as the tion of the holy religion which as young people or the by-standers are Christians we profess. I object to it not told what it is that God's word for all Christians, not merely for Uni- allows or forbids thereupon. And tarian Christians. I object to it, Sir, if they were told, would it in any probecause it is lugging in religion with bability have any effect? Mr. Editor, a matter which has nothing to do with the discussion of the subject of marreligion, and which belongs to the riage is almost sure to give rise to some civil magistrate, and not to the priest. droll ideas; and I feel that in handling It may be said in answer to this, that it I may be thought fanciful; but I marriage is a divine institution, and must say there are two things omitted that nothing can be so proper as to in the cautions given to young persons enter into it, with minds imbued with on this head which appear, to me at a spirit of devotion, and to ask upon least, essentially to be avoided in mara the act, the blessing of heaven. That riage, provided it is expected that the niarriage is a Divine institution I readi- Divine blessing will attend it. First ly grant. It has always appeared to me then, I say, I think property, or con
But the contract between the sideration of property, should never be parties marrying, on the notification the basis of the marriage contract. I of this contract, is a matter of civil do not mean that a wife with forty concern. And so it is regarded in this thousand pounds may not be more country. D. E. jastly remarks, that convenient for many purposes than a the remedy for the breach of this con wife with only one; but I do mean tract is to be sought for in our courts that he who marries the woman with of law ; for in this view the ecclesias- forty thousand pounds, while he really tical court may be considered : but if in his heart and judgment prefers the we except this court, which regards wonian with only one, is a complete only minor transgressions, or at least violator of the institution of marriage. in a minor way-the remark is just. For if, as appears both from the Old And it is observable that the marriage and New Testament, to be the case, contract has been varied by different the man and wife are to be as dear to people. This any one may satisfy him- each other as though they were one self of, by going no further than to flesh, does not he thwart the design, Calmet's account of it among the Jews, and go contrary to the spirit of the in-who mentions a disagreement as to stitution who marries, what, in rethe ceremonies to subsist between Bux- spect to his feelings of regard, is no. torf, Selden, and Leo of Modena. thing but a statue of gold? It cannot The marriage therefore as a divine in- be said that those enter into the benign stitution is one thing; the contract be- spirit of this institution, who make it tween the parties quite another. It a matter of traffic, or political regulamay however still be said, if the in- tion. But further, those persons viostitution be divine, is it not right to late the marriage institution, who enkeep up the idea of its being so, by ter into it, having previously, thereto celebrating the contract within the sa- been connected with any other man
cred walls used for the purposes of or woman, such man or woman being devotion? Is it not right then to ask, still alive. If I can read my Bible as is done by the present ceremony, rightly, marriage is the connection and as if in the more immediate pre- between the sexes : and the first consence of the Almighty, whether the nection in the eye of heaven) forms parties are aware that there is any iin- the man and wise. I consider those pediment why they may not be law- to be, in the estimation of heaven, fully joined together in matrimony; adulterers and adulteresses, who take and to assure them that “ so many as 'a wife or a husband at church, unless are coupled together otherwise, than all those with whom they have been God's word doth allow, are not joined previously connected are dead. Some together by God, neither is their ma- of your readers, Sir, will smile at this trinony lawfula" To which I reply, remark, and say, " who then will be provided marriage were entered iirto as saved ?" To this question, which nced
Bethnal Green Bille Association. not be answered, I shall only say, I since scen it posted up in many parts hope, for the sake of my fellow.chris- of the parish, and to-day another adtians at large, that my views are wrong. vertisement intended as a defence of If, however, I am right, what hy- the Rector, I send you copies of both. pocrisy, what profanation is it for our The first will shew in what terms marriage ceremonies to be performed the meeting was advertized, which the in Church! It would be more in cha- Reverend Gentleman was, it seems, racter for ninety-nine couples out of apprehensive might“ convert so sacred the hundred to be joined by the hang- an edifice" as his “ freehold-the man rather than the priest. We talk church, into a bear garden." The much of Christianity having abolished other exhibits an authentic exposition polygamy. I am no friend to the prac- of his a great lenity and forbearance," tice; but of one thing I am certain, towards one of his parishioners, who that it has lio where so strongly pro- did not understand, as is evident, the hibited polygamy as it has forbidden paper he signed, and three others fornication : and when I look through whose confessions relate only to the the Jewish religion, and see how well alleged libel, and who may not be very female virtue was protected, I cannot competent judges, and especially under believe that under the Christian sys- the dread of an impending prosecution, tem, those will be regarded with the how far the large hand-bill contains savour of the Universal Parent, with any libel against the Rector, unless it whatever pomp their marriages may be his own letter. have been solemnized, to whom we Prosecutions are however, I under. owe the necessity of Penitentiary stand, going on against at least eight houses, Magdalen hospitals, &c. &c. of the Rector's other parishioners, in,
From these observations, you will cluding the author of the imagined observe, Sir, that the devotional spirit libel, all of whom refuse to make any which some people think so proper similar acknowledgement, or to sign for persons to possess who are about their names to any such paper. I forto enter into holy matrimony, and bear making any observations on their which they also think the present mode confession which the Rector has been of solennizing it has a tendency to authorized “to insert in one or more promote, I think should be felt before ofthe daily papers, or to publish in any marriage is thought of at all. And other way which he may think adthe man who only feels devotionally visable," than on a few plain matters in this matter just when the priest is of fact. I would in the first place going to tie him by a knot which observe, that to claim the right of cannot be undone for life, has the opposing the circulation of the Holy same sort of bastard devotion as the Scriptures in the manner the Rector's culprit feels, in the apprehension of letter to the Churchwardens proposes, encountering on the inorrow the hang- and to which the said hand-bill refers, man's ncose.
is not to attempt opposing their circuIf these imperfect hints, Mr. Editor, lation cntirely, or in any other manshould provoke a discussion, which, ner. Nor is it to charge him with conducted with as much modesty as attempting to prevent the circulathe subject will admit of, shall tend tion" of those writings amongst his pato make the institution of marriage rishioners altogether, but only through more rightly understood, more devo- the medium of the Bible Society, tionally sought after, and more reli- which is well known to distribute giously observed, I shall be satisfied them without the Prayer-Book. My in having brought it before the notice introductory observations, which were of your readers. At all events I shall published long before I had any know. be happy to see success attend the ex- lcdge, or even suspicion that such a ertions and project of your correspond- prosecution was thought of, will evince ent D.E.
J. F. that this was my impression of the ex
tent of the Rector's objection to the Sir, Hackney, Feb. 16, 1816. circulation of the Scriptures by the WHEN I sent you the article, Bethnal Green Bible Association,
inserted Vol. x. p. 741, I had which surely his letter warrants, and not seen the advertisement of an in- he will not deny. One of his parishtended Bible Meeting in Bethnal ioners has since confessed that he has Green Church, which called forth the frequently calumniated, unjustly opRector's extraordinary letter. Having posed, and wilfully misrepresented his