Volume 2 of Thomas Manton’s collected works contains “A Wedding Sermon” based upon Genesis 2:22. Manton notes especially that God brought the woman to the man, “And brought her unto the man.”
From this he concludes,
“That marriages are then holily entered into,
when the parties take one another out of God’s hands.”
This doctrine presents a problem, for we do not receive a spouse as Adam received his. God does not create a spouse and visibly bring such a one to us. How then can we be said to receive our spouse from God? He answers the question by two points:
I. For the first, they take one another out of God’s hands two ways.
1. First, we must seek to glorify God in choosing a spouse. If in all things we must seek God’s glory, we must especially do so when it comes to marriage:
A man’s chief end should be discovered in all his actions, as it must guide me in my meat, and drink, and recreations, and the ordinary refreshments of the natural life, or else I do not act as a Christian. So much more in my most important and serious affairs, such as marriage is, and upon which my content and welfare so much dependeth. Certainly, he that would take God’s blessing along with him, should make choice, in God’s family, of one with whom he may converse as an heir with him of the grace of life.
2. Second, we may be said to take our spouse from God’s hand when we see our spouse as an action of God’s providence. Now all things are matters of God’s providence; however, God does claim a greater and more immediate interest in marriage, Prov. 19:14, ‘Riches and honours are an inheritance from our fathers; but a good wife is from the Lord.’
A wife that is a wife indeed—one that deserveth that name—he that findeth her, it is a chance to him, but an ordered thing by God. He hath not only experience of God’s care, but his goodness and free grace to him in that particular. Well, then, God must be owned, sought, glorified, in this particular. The husband, in the catalogue and inventory of his mercies, must not forget to bless God for this, and the wife for the husband. The Lord was gracious in providing for me a good companion; I obtained favour from the Lord. God is concerned in this whole affair, he brought the woman to the man; he giveth the portion, which is not so much the dowry given by the parents, which is little worth, unless his blessing be added with it, as all the graces and abilities by which all married persons are made helpful one to another.
II. Why is this so necessary a duty?
1. We must give God glory for the comfort of the marriage:
A. It will be a great engagement upon us to give God all the glory of the comfort we have in such a relation, when you do more sensibly and explicitly take one another out of God’s hands.
B. It is the way to lose our comforts, when we do not own and acknowledge God’s hand in them. We are drowned in sense, inured and accustomed to second causes, so that God’s hand is invisible and little regarded, we know it not, or heed it not. Now that we may look up and own the first cause, and give him his due honour, it is good to have explicit and actual thoughts in the receiving of our mercies, so as to take them out of God’s hand; to draw aside the veil and covering of the creature, that you may remember the giver.
2. We must use our relations for God’s glory.
A. That we may carry ourselves more holily in our relations, it is good to see God’s hand in them. Every relation is a new talent [from the parable of Matthew 25] wherewith God intrusteth us to trade for his glory; and to that end we must make conscience to use it.
B. The Christian religion maketh a man conscientiously careful and tender of his duty to man, not from a natural principle, or from our own ease, peace and credit, but from the conscience of our duty to God.
C. God puts us into relations to see how we will glorify him in them; there is something more required of you than as single Christians. God that puts a man into the ministry, requireth that he should honour him, not only as a Christian, but as a minister. …God will have honour by you as a wife, or as a husband; you have a new opportunity to make religion amiable, that the unbelieving world may see how profitable the heavenly life is to human society.
3. That we may more patiently bear the crosses incident to this state of life if God call us to them
A. The married life hath its comforts, and also its encumbrances and sorrows.
B. Now it will sweeten all our crosses incident to this condition, when we remember we did not rashly enter into it by our own choice, but were led by the fair directure and fair invitation of God’s providence; we need not much be troubled at what overtaketh us in the way of our duty, and the relations to which we are called. That hand that sent the trouble will sanctify it, or he will overrule things so that they shall work for our good. If God call us into this estate, he will support us in it.
C. We tempt God when we venture upon a state of life which he hath not called us to, and have not his warrant; but when it is not good for us to be alone, and the Lord sends an helpmate for us, he will not forsake us.
4. Seek God’s help by prayer.
A. We may with the more confidence apply ourselves to God, and depend on him for a blessing upon a wife of God’s choosing, or a husband of God’s choosing. We have access to the throne of grace with more hope, because we have given up ourselves to his direction: Prov. 3:6, ‘In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’
B. It is a blessed thing to be under God’s conduct, to be led on or led off by so wise, and powerful, and all-sufficient a guide; for such he delights to do them good, and taketh pleasure in his resolutions to prosper them. Sometimes they shall have a taste of the evils of the world, but they shall not be ruined by them. They may fall, but they shall not be dashed in pieces; it is an allusion to a vessel that gets a knock, but is not broken by the fall.
5. All temporal things are subject to God’s determination.
A. we will be better able to bear losses when we understand God’s right, “ All temporal things, we receive them from God, upon this condition, to yield them up to God again, when he calls for them.”
B. We make a snare for ourselves, and receive them not in a right notion, if we do not receive them as mortal and perishing comforts, which God may demand at pleasure, and so keep the soul loose, and in a posture of submission, if God should cross us and disappoint us in them. Thus must we use all outward comforts with that weanedness and moderation as to children, estates, and all temporal blessings, &c., that will become a sense of the frailty that is in them, and the wheelings and turnings of an uncertain world.
USE 1: Seek God by earnest prayer.
1. Seek God’s leave (permission):
A.God is the absolute Lord of all things, both in heaven and earth, and whatsoever is possessed by any creature is by his indulgence.
B. All that we have or use is God’s, who reserveth the property of all to himself. In distributing to the creatures, he never intended to divest himself of his right;
C. Every one of us must get a grant of God of all that he hath; the Lord he possesseth the house that we dwell in, the clothes we wear, the food we eat; and so, in the use of all other comforts, we must have a license from God, and take his leave. God is said to have given David the wives that he had into his bosom.
2. Seek God’s wisdom, Proverbs 3:5.
A. Therefore we ought chiefly, and first of all, to consult with God, and seek his direction, for he seeth the heart, and foreseeth events. We can only look upon what is present, and there upon the outward appearance. Therefore God can best direct us in our choice, he knoweth the fittest matches and consorts for every one;
B. Man would fain work out his happiness like a spider, climb up by a thread of his own spinning. But alas! all our devices and fine contrivances are gone with the turn of a besom. He that will be his own carver, seldom carveth out a good portion to himself. They intrench upon God’s prerogative, and take the work out of his hands; and therefore no wonder if their wisdom be turned into folly.
3. Ask his blessing.
A. We ask his blessing. God doth not only foresee the event, but order it; by his wisdom he foreseeth it, and by his powerful providence he bringeth it to pass. Therefore God, that hath the disposal of all events, when our direction is over, is to be sought unto for a blessing; for every comfort cometh the sooner when it is sought in prayer; and whatever God’s purposes be, that is our duty:
B. Married persons do need, and therefore should seek, Christ’s presence to their marriage, that he would vouchsafe his presence and countenance. Be sure to invite him, and take him along with you, that he may strengthen you by his grace, and dispose all providences about you for your comfort. He puts the greatest honour upon the marriage when he doth enable you to carry yourselves graciously in that relation, and to God’s glory; and he hath the power of all providences put into his hand, as well as all grace.
USE 2: Some Advice.
1. Let not God be a loser [by your marriage].
A. Don’t make marriage an idol. “God must not have an image of jealousy set up; he must still be owned as the chiefest good. A wife is the delight of the eyes, but not the idol of the heart.”
B. Don’t let marriage distract you from pilgrimage. “No; your comforts by the way in your pilgrimage must not hinder your delight in your comforts at home and in your country; this would be like a great heir in travel that should guzzle in an alehouse, and never think of returning to his inheritance.”
C. God must be more important than even our marriage. “The bond of religion is above all bonds; all bonds between husband and wife, father and children, end in death, but the bond of Christ is eternal: your children will not lose by your faithfulness to God.”
2. Let God be a gainer [by your marriage].
A. By your daily praises, and blessing God for his providence, that hath brought you into this relation: ‘I obtained favour from the Lord.’
B. Aim that your marriage be a picture of the perfect marriage of Christ and his church. Ephesians 5:25-30.
C. .] By being mutual helps to one another in the best things, by the advancement of piety and godliness. The love of Christ doth not only enforce the husband’s duty as an argument, but points forth the right manner of it as a pattern. Christ’s love is sanctifying love: so should theirs be, such a love as showeth itself by sincere and real endeavours to bring about one another’s spiritual and eternal good. Love one another, ‘as heirs together of the grace of life,’ 1 Peter 3:7.