Marriage

W. John Murray
The Astor Lectures
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1917, 8th ed.

“Thus at their shady lodge arrived, both stood,
Both turned, and under op’n sky ador’d
The God that made both sky, air, earth, and heaven,
Which they beheld; the moon’s resplendent globe
And starry pole: ‘Thou also mad’st the night,
Maker Omnipotent, and thou the day,
Which we in our appointed work employ’d
Have finished, happy in our mutual help
And mutual love, the crown of all our bliss,
Ordain’d by thee, and this delicious place,
For us too large, where thy abundance wants
Partakers, and uncropt falls to the ground.
But thou has promised from us two a race
To fill the earth, who shall with us extol
Thy goodness infinite, both when we wake,
And when we seek, as now, thy gift of sleep.’
This said unanimous, …into their inmost bower
Handed they went; and eased the putting off
These troublesome disguises which we wear,
Straight side by side were laid; nor turned, I ween,
Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites
Mysterious of connubial love refused;
Whatever hypocrites austerely talk
Of purity, and place, and innocence,
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all.
Our maker bids increase; who bids abstain
But our destroyer, foe to God and man?
Hail, wedded love, mysterious law, true source
Of human offspring, sole propriety
In Paradise of all things common else.”

—Milton (Paradise Lost, Bk. IV).

[206] On one occasion while Jesus was preaching the gospel in the temple at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the scribes, “sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying, ‘Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?’ But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, ‘Why tempt ye me? Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it?’ They answered and said, ‘Caesar’s.’ And he said unto them, ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s and unto God the things which be God’s.’”

Marriage is the superscription of Caesar written upon an ordinance of God. It partakes, therefore, of a dual nature. As an ordinance of God it represents the coalition of soul interests in [207] behalf of the welfare of the universe. As such it is the highest expression of love, for it is, as was the love of Dante for Beatrice, a phase of love so pure that the highest happiness it seeks is to serve the needs of its beloved. As a human ordinance, wedlock is the least understood institution of modern times; therefore it is undoubtedly the most desecrated of the ordinances sanctioned by man. In the present state of the world’s spiritual ignorance it falls little short of being a labyrinth in whose intricate meanderings many brave explorers lose their way.

Matrimony preceded man-made law, but by a strange perversion of justice, it has come to depend entirely upon these laws for its legitimate existence. Paul has said: “And the commandment which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death–for the law made nothing perfect.” As a legal institution, marriage is an imperfect ordinance. Nevertheless it must continue to bear Caesar’s superscription until such time as humanity no longer will need “corrosive laws” and “parchment bonds” to support its tottering integrity. Through science, or suffering, humanity will eventually be delivered from the law, “and will serve in newness of Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” But until the dawn of that long awaited day, marriage will be in subjection to human laws, for reasons which are so obvious that “silence is more considerate than speech.” The “law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly [208] and for sinners, but we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully, for what the law cannot do, in that it is weak” we may do by the higher law of righteousness.

The “graceful incapacity” of the average girl welded to the “caprice of egotistical manhood” seldom results in happiness, but as long as men and women are self-deluded into the belief that the law has a right to unite them, regardless of conflicting personalities, they are obliged to endow the law with sufficient power to annul their bonds, if it is necessary to their happiness. Indiscriminate marriages must breed divorces, the least vital of the promiscuous evils that spring from unwise marriages.

The greatest calamity that follows in the train of an ill-assorted union is the misery into which the offspring of this alliance is mercilessly plunged. The child’s misery is not mitigated by the fact that his birth was authorized by marriage, or legalized by creative instinct, nor does he care whether or not his parents are separated by a “legal” divorce or by the wanton desertion of one or the other parent. These victims are concerned with the fact that they are deprived of their divine rights by an indiscriminate law and that they have no redress. Children are the ones who should be authorized to compel all parents to provide for and maintain comfortably their unfortunate offspring.

The marriage that God has sanctioned is the “vowed transition of temporary into untiring [209] service and of fitful into eternal love.” This is the spiritual union which does not need the seal of man’s approval. Companionship is essential to happiness. Either sex is dependent upon the other for completion. Man’s intellectuality needs the insight of woman’s intuition to supply the wings for its upward flight above the shoals of spiritual barrenness into “the Truth in which all intellect finds rest”; as Dante has said, “intellect never appeases its longings until it is illumined by the Truth.” Woman by reason of her intuition is nearer to the perception of Truth than man, but the latter by reason of the greater possibilities afforded him, is the average woman’s superior, intellectually. The union of the noble intellect, with pure intuition, begets the blest existence that keeps “itself within the will divine,” and,

“Love unfettered in this court sufficeth
To follow the eternal Providence.”

Woman, who by nature is less independent than man, has urgent necessity of man’s protection as well as of his gentle guidance. The highest form of companionship is found in marriage. In fact a happy union is a very splendid friendship which finds its fulfillment, as in the case of Boaz and Ruth, in a God-given conception (Ruth 4:13) that gave to the world the great King David. As there is a celestial trinity there is also an earthly three in one, in the [210] union of wisdom and love which results in the expression of the fidelity and innocence found only in little children. It is in this gathering of “two or three” that Christ is found. This is the union that is blest by God, from which:

“Breathes forth a love that all the world
Below is greedy to learn tidings of.”

Such a marriage may be likened to suns “resolving in fluent and rebounding curves which only recede from each other in order to return again with renewed swiftness, and which together blend their rays into the glory of one double star.”

This is the union that man may not put asunder. The magic wand that transforms marriage from a matter of convenience, to a divine institution, is the love that is faithful unto death in seeking its own in another’s good; a love that nourishes itself by what it gives, and not by what it takes. But such a love is the fruit of the Spirit, which ripens in the union of mental and spiritual equals. It is never present at the “welding together of ephemeral sense attractions.”

The wisdom of the response which Jesus made to the spies foiled the purpose of the chief priests and scribes, and so the Sadducees, who denied the possibility of the resurrection, went to him saying:

[211] “Master, Moses wrote unto us, that if any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage. Neither can they die any more.”

The Sadducees’ question directly referred to marriage as the superscription of Caesar. The Master answered their question on its own basis, which was that of marriages such as constitute the majority of worldly unions, into which neither common sense nor wisdom–the foundation and corner-stone of every wise partnership–enter.

The fact that Jesus did not marry does not constitute an argument against matrimony. He was a public man, without private interests. In the dedication of his life to the public welfare, he had consecrated his time to the salvation of [212] mankind. Not even Jesus could serve two masters; therefore, as was his custom, he sacrificed domestic happiness for the universal salvation of the multitudes. The Master never married, but by his unfeigned love for the sister of his friend, an affection characterized by the chastest purity, he demonstrated for others the possibility of the sublimely pure, ideal relationship, the best foundation upon which to build the true marriage. No child bore his name, and yet every flower-like face of childhood that, with upturned head gazed into the Master’s kindly eyes, understood the magic of the universal Fatherhood which Jesus represented; and of which he assumed the universal responsibilities while yet denying himself its individual happiness. Churchianity, perhaps unconsciously, has hidden the humanity of Jesus in the traditional trappings of ecclesiastical mysticism, but the humanity of the Son of man “bound up with love together in one volume, through the universe in leaves is scattered.”

There is no excuse, and there should be no license for marriage until the contracting parties thoroughly understand and are willing and able to assume the mutual obligations growing out of the most sacred relationship in the universe. The time for men and women to analyze their capacity to love and to suffer for each other, is before marriage. For suffering is the price of love, and it is necessary to the purification of love. A mother’s love is purified in the [213] furnace of afflictionbefore she presses her babe to her breast. A wife’s love, on the contrary, is purified after she has come into the possession of her heart’s desire, but the true woman will not refuse to keep her compact simply because she has not been obliged to keep it in advance. If man takes his nuptial vows in jest, ‘tis well that without end he should lament,

“Who for the love of things that do not last,
Eternally despoils himself of Love.”

Those who are not educated up to a high standard of love before marriage will find it difficult to rise to love’s demands afterwards, and as long as society lionizes the licentiate, and weds virtue to vice, women will sow to the wind and their offspring will reap the whirlwind.

The license that society has granted to the lover will be difficult for the wife to revoke. The most conspicuous cause for marital wrecks is that which is known as shattered moral obligations. Most of these disasters would be forestalled if the wife would substitute tact for spleen. No man will desert his wife for a lesser relation. Anyone who does is merely in the state of moral development where he passes for a man, and the wise wife will ignore the apparent disloyalty and thereby put it to an ignominious death. As long as society admits of sex in sin and establishes two paces for the children of men, the latter are to be pitied rather [214] than blamed for their wholesale disregard of moral decency. When women demand more of men beforemarriage they will find less opportunity for complaint afterwards. In the present state of the world’s spiritual development, both men and women are victims of false social systems whereby “every day the Christ is bought and sold.” To marry under existing conditions demands abnormal mutual sacrifices on the part of both man and woman.

The weakest link in a woman’s chain of existence is her childish jealousy, and it is an element that must be ruled out of successful marriage compacts. In the home suspicion colors everything with the somber hue of its black shadow and closes the door on happiness. In the nation it is a breeder of warfare which is nothing short of wholesale slaughter, massacre and wanton rapine–legalized! Selfishness is at the root of all jealousy and the home is no place for selfishness. “Woman is endowed by divinity to be the protecting genius of man’s infancy, the charm of his youth, and the support and counsel of his maturity”; by reason of this she is the route by which man finds his way to his own soul! Wives and mothers, rise and overthrow the demon of jealousy, and, profiting by the mistakes of past generations, meet the necessity of educating the fathers of the coming race morally and spiritually by the potency of Christly example. Raise the standard of virtue to accord with spiritual requirements, for in no other way [215] can your sons and daughters come into their rightful inheritance, which is to become the parents of the spiritually-minded.

The union of virtue with vice would result in the transformation of vice, if virtue were more wisely loving and less exacting. If love would magnify the God-given intelligence that is dormant in every living creature and minimize the ignorance that conceals it, it would make the crooked paths of superstition that “pleasure lurks in sin” straight. True Love would lift marriage from the mire of “legalized lust,” and enthrone it in the heaven of Purity. Such love would smooth the rough places of doubt that linger in man’s mind concerning the spiritual status of feminine love, and man would be redeemed in spite of himself.

All material institutions are erected upon a tottering foundation. Marriage as an exactment is no exception to the rule, for it is largely erected upon superstition and ignorance. The fanaticism that would feign to believe that it is within man’s domain to unite that which God has not joined, vice and virtue, and the ignorance which supports this fallacy by mistaking codes, all too often devised by the worst passions of men for divine law, need to be educated out of themselves by women. In the higher order of spiritual intelligence there will be no taxation without representation. It is the union of wisdom with omnipotent love which will open “thoroughfares ‘twixt heaven and earth,” [216] and it will express itself in the diffusion of “its virtue multiplied among the stars.” Churchianity cannot take the place of Christianity, which is the incorporation of the Christ principle in our daily life. Church as an institution, “striving for appearances, doth make its own inventions”–and the Evangel holds its peace.

“One sayeth that the moon did backward turn
In the Passion of Christ, and interpose herself
So that the sunlight reached not down below;
Florence has not so many Lapi and Bindi
As fables such as these, that every year
Are shouted from the pulpit back and forth,
In such wise that the lambs, who do not know,
Come back from pasture fed upon the wind;
And not to see the harm doth not excuse them.
Christ did not to his first disciples say,
‘Go forth, and to the world preach idle tales,’
But unto them a true foundation gave;
. . . . . . . . . .
Now men go forth with jests and drolleries
To preach, and if but well the people laugh
The hood puffs out, and nothing more is asked.
But in the cowl there nestles such a bird,
That, if the common people were to see it,
They would perceive what pardons they confide in,
For which so great on earth has grown the folly,
That, without proof of any testimony
To each indulgence they would flock together.”

[217] By these practices Churchianity becomes the most powerful and by no means the least harmful of the superstitions that shade enlightenment, and “if the Intelligence that keeps the stars in motion is not maimed” the coming centuries will displace Churchianity with Christianity. In the matter of marriage, church plays a baneful part in the superstition that it is possible by a Divine decree to join together that which Wisdom has left asunder. When the spirit of Christ takes the place of church in the union of spiritually enlightened souls, then and not till then in marriage will

“Many jewels be found so fair and precious
They cannot be transplanted from the realm.”

But this can come about, as have all great reforms, only by individual enlightenment and the crucifixion of personal desires, on the white cross of universal need. By knowledge of his divine birthright man’s confidence in his spiritual inheritance will dilate,

“As the sun does the rose, when it becomes
As far unfolded as it hath the power”

and “in his eternity outside of time” God will fill the measure with divine accomplishments. The immortal Poet beheld the Rose of Humanity in [218] Paradise, “which under the rays of Christ is blossoming,”

“There is the Rose, in which the Word Divine
Becomes incarnate; there the lilies are
By whose perfume the good way was discovered.”

Every petal of this rose represents individual humanity resting in divine universality, individuality in union with universality. The humanity of mankind is the mirror in which the divinity of God is reflected, and God has joined the humanity of man to His own divinity “by the sole act of His eternal love.” That which God has joined Churchianity would put asunder, and that which God has not joined it would hold indissolubly together.

The soul of every brute and every plant “by its potential temperament attracts the ray and motion of the whole light of Divinity,” and thus all creation is one in Christ Jesus. In the poetical comparison of the ivy and the oak, sight has been lost of the vine’s suffocating embrace of the stalwart tree. If the clinging ivy is left to itself it causes the decay of the royal oak. In the application of this aspect of nature to marriage it suffices to say that mutual independence is necessary to the soul’s spiritual development. Feminine despotism has no more place in marriage than has tyrannical autocracy or hypochondriacal affection. The “Tyranny of Tears,” [219] is no more commendable than “The Tyranny of Threats.”

To paint a masterpiece the artist requires all the glaring colors spread on his palette. Even so marriage requires all the tints of love, but, like the colors on the palette, the vivid tints must be blended by wisdom and intelligence before the picture may be painted. When women learn to devote themselves to the soul interests of their husbands, they will rise above petty jealousies and meaningless trivialities and prove themselves helpmates of men. The home is a good man’s blessed trinity, and therefore it needs must become a consecrated hermitage, “wont to be dedicated to worship only,” of the real, the good, and the true. Man does but need to apprehend the Truth in order to direct his feet toward it, and the good wife is his best spiritual guide into the paths of peace. By reason of his inherent divinity man is consecrated to the good.

“’Tis sin alone which doth disfranchise him
And render him unlike the Good Supreme.
. . . . . . . . . .
But infinite Goodness hath such ample arms
That it receives whatever turns to it.”

When a man’s needs expand beyond the reach of his mother, he seeks a wife. The intuition of [220] the woman must divine that what the man needs is the unique combination of a wife and mother, or the wisdom of spiritual motherhood blended with the exalted love of rich womanhood. To meet his need, a wife must divest her mind of selfishness and use the same tact and gentle forbearance with her husband’s idiosyncrasies that wisdom would suggest in the case of a sick child.

The wife must always bear in mind that in the hand-to-hand struggle for existence a man’s soul is exposed to the contagion of vice, while his heart is bared to the wounds of business corruption. A woman must distill from her own soul the anodyne, and form in her heart the spiritual ointment which is to heal the wounds of the man with whom she has cast her lot. And these remedies must be applied so gently that the patient will not be conscious of their application. The office of the wife is to be Mother, Instructor, and Soul Physician all in one, but God has graciously fitted her to fill this responsible post. It only requires that she rise to her divine calling. Children of God arise, and

“Run to the mountain to strip off the slough,
That lets not God be manifest to you…
The heavens are calling you, and wheel around you,
Displaying to you their eternal beauties,
And still your eye is looking on the ground.”

[221] In marriage “no sophist’s subtlety would there find place” if men and women realized the importance of honesty in their partnership, for any compact into which dishonesty enters is morally annulled. Marriage should illuminate love instead of concealing it, and it would if the same modesty and constancy characterized the more profound relationship that waits upon an ideal wooing. After marriage, both husband and wife should rise to the ideal standard that is required to establish a noble parentage in order that their progeny may not have reason to weep for their parents’ crimes of omission or commission. The formation of a new race is requisite for the redemption of the world. Let the knowledge of this universal need penetrate the mind and heart of such men and women as contemplate the blending of their highest interests in a hallowed union, and these are they who will be prepared to assume and maintain their divine responsibility towards God and the universe, the propagation of a more spiritual race. Jesus turned the colorless water of personal existence into the rich wine of a spiritual unity. This is symbolic of the true marriage. In the presence of adversity it is well to remember that it is the rod of discipline that prepares humanity for the staff of spiritual comfort. Sorrow is the sepulchre of false trust and material hopes.

“Who never ate his bread in sorrow
Who never spent the midnight oil
Weeping and waiting for the morrow
He knows not you, you heavenly powers.”

[222] From the ashes of burned-out sorrow come forth divine enterprises which, by the spirit of God, have illuminated the world with the effulgence of their brightness. The resurrection was wrought in a tomb by a Man who would have been alone in the dark had not the spirit of God illuminated his sepulchre.

Marriage is a trinity in unity ordained by God and it is the only legal institution that bears the seal of Divine approval. Hence in the holy state of the spiritual union of souls dedicated to the service of humanity,

“All suspicion needs must be abandoned,
All cowardice must needs be here extinct.”

Marriage is the sanctuary set apart for the propagation of gods through love, which is the vestment of spiritual union, and

“As long as the festivity of Paradise shall be,
So long our love
Shall radiate round about us
Such a vesture.”

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