Views on Marriage
Key Thought: "Marriages are, indeed, in general, under the divine permission; but it is not every marriage that is made in heaven."
Ideas Respecting Marriage
Although with regard to marriage I am inexperienced, and have no particular insight or revelation respecting it, yet at your request, I will attempt briefly to state to you my sentiments and opinion on the subject, according to the Holy Scriptures.
Speaking generally, the expression of Paul (1 Cor. vii. 38.) decides the matter. “He that marrieth, sinneth not, but doeth well; but he that remaineth single doeth better." This is the appearance the subject presents, when in other respects the balances are equal.
But there may be various cases and circumstances, such as those mentioned in 1 Cor. vii. 2—9, and 1 Tim. v. 14, in which the case is reversed, and when it must be said, “It is better to marry." For that which is better, does not solely and principally depend on the external state. A humble soldier of the cross, in the married state, is better in the sight of God, than the proud, who in the single state, do not preserve their bodies in sanctity and honor. (1 Thess. iv. 4.)
After being expelled from paradise, we must be content with an almost animal body of humiliation, (Phil. iii. 21,) till our celestial robes are prepared, (2 Cor. v. 2—5.) and consent to animal labor, eating, drinking, sleeping, &c, the use of which is seldom altogether blameless; and the present mode of procreation participates still more of wretchedness and corruption; otherwise, the law of circumcision would not have been instituted, nor should we have been conceived and born in sin; however, it cannot now be otherwise.
Health is certainly better than sickness, and perfection than imperfection; but as we are destitute of both, we must not be presumptuous, but adore the kind and long-suffering condescension of God, who bears with and overlooks our infirmity, nay, even uses it as a remedy to lead us gradually, by its means, to greater perfection. Medicine is a gift of God, and it is good to use it; but he that uses it unseasonably and profusely, is injured by it; and it is still better if we do not require it.
In consequence of the fall, we are fallen from an angelic paradisaical state, into an impure animal condition of body and mind. Our great Restorer purposes leading us back again, with advantage, into the glory we have lost—not in the way we should suppose, nor by a single leap, but through needful trials, humiliations, and mortifications; until, by degrees, from brutes we become men, from men, saints, and from saints, we again become angels.
No one has reason to boast of the inheritance he has received from Adam: however, one person has this particular disposition and viciousness of body or mind, and another that, which are not all to be removed in the same way, and by one particular remedy, although the general cure of the soul is needful for and the same to each and to all.
Nor have all those, who are in a state of grace, the same measure of light, faith, and power, or the same particular election and destiny. That which causes one person much disturbance, confusion, and detriment, does no injury to, and is easily and peaceably endured by another. In such cases, who will give any other general rule than this? “Let every one examine his vocation and faith in the light of God, and continue in that whereto the Lord hath called him," (1 Cor. vii. 17, 20. 24.) but let him not judge another. And with this condition, that every one examine his vocation in the light of God, the Holy Spirit certainly leaves the soul, that is in a state of grace, at liberty to choose that which each considers to be the most serviceable for himself, and the most pleasing to God, either to remain single or to marry.
When the Apostle says (1 Cor. vii. 7.) "Everyone hath his peculiar gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that:" he probably does not refer to natural gifts, as though one, whose disposition did not, as it were, impart chastity to him, must of necessity marry; but he meant to say, “There are those, who trust, with the help of God, to be able to abide in the single state, with the Lord. He that can receive it, let him receive it." (Matt. xix. 12.) But as I well know, that every one cannot receive this word, but that many a one, who perhaps in other things manifests his faith and fidelity, supposes that it is not proper for him; let such a one therefore marry in God's name—“he sinneth not."
Of the three kinds of eunuchs, mentioned by our Lord in Matt. xix. 12 I know not whether the two first can be reckoned among the chaste; but those, “who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake," may truly be called chaste. They were not born so, nor was it a consequence of their natural disposition; grace, and a noble impulse of faith animated them to this chaste conflict. (Wisdom of Sol. iv. 2.)
The marriage state itself is very different according to the state of the persons who enter into it. “To the pure, all things are pure; but to the unbelieving, nothing is pure; for even their minds and consciences are defiled." (Titus, i. 15.) Marriages are, indeed, in general, under the divine permission; but it is not every marriage that is made in heaven. A truly holy marriage state, as all are called now-a-days, is perhaps very rare; yet there is a difference amongst them. In the mutual love and fidelity of two hearts, which are really united in the Lord, there is indeed something good and beautiful, in this pilgrimage state; and in itself, it is not displeasing to God, but a sacred mystery.
Married Christians must, however, be aware, that their state is under the divine forbearance; (1 Cor. vii. 28.) that accompanying afflictions are necessary for their preservation and purification; and lastly, that it is a state, which does not accompany them into the next world, but terminates with the present. (Matt. xxii. 30.)
Advice to Person Having Doubts and Scruples Respecting Marriage.
Dearly beloved friend and sister in Christ,
You have requested me to write to you something respecting the subject you mentioned to me. I must confess that I do not willingly speak of matters of this kind; but since you wish it, and because I would not have you continue longer in a state of disturbance, and in reflections which can only cause injury and hindrance to the soul, I will briefly and in simplicity disclose my sentiments to you respecting it, as far as God permits.
It is generally speaking, undoubtedly true, what Paul says, (1 Cor. vii. 1.) "That it is not good for a Christian man to touch a woman," and therefore it is good for a person in the single state to continue so. (Verses 8. 26.) Yea, and that he who continueth thus, doeth better, and is more blessed; as is expressly said, in verses 38 and 40. But all do not receive this word; and besides, “he that marrieth, sinneth not," as the same apostle says again, verse 28. It may also be the case, through the providence of God, or by reason of inward and outward causes and circumstances, that it may be said of the individual with truth, "It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis, ii. 18.)
In short, the single state, in itself, does not make us acceptable in the sight of God; but he that remains single, to the end that he may cleave to God more unobstructedly, and be holy, both in body and spirit, pleases God. (See Isa. lvi. 4, 5. Wis. iii. 13, 14. iv. 12.) He that marrieth, doth not sin on that account. But he that marries and turns away his inmost love, delight, consolation, and joy from God, and fixes it, whether in a greater or less degree, on the creature, sinneth, and shall suffer loss.
It is therefore necessary, first of all, that in this matter, you thoroughly resign your will to God, and leave to him alone the choice, and afterwards impartially and frequently pray, and entreat the prayers of others, that you may be led and guided in it, according to his good pleasure, so as to please him in all things; and then further, that you consider and examine, with a tranquil mind, and in the presence of God, what is the best and most useful for you, both as to body and soul. And after having done this once or twice, decide in yourself alone, in the name of God, and with the sole intent of pleasing him, how you will act in this matter, seeing that your mind has been long enough disturbed by it. If it then appear to you, that it is not pleasing to God, nor serviceable and profitable to yourself, give the individual an entire refusal, and think no more of it. If, on the contrary, it seem to you to be acceptable to God, and useful and needful to body and soul, be silent, and refer it, the sooner the better, to your parents, and hear what they say to it, for if they will by no means consent to it, you are not at liberty, either by divine or human laws. O how well it would be, if you could expect all this with a tranquil and retired heart, and in resignation, after the example of Isaac! (Gen. xxiv. 62, 63.) May God give you grace to enable you to do so!
With respect to us, to whom you have made it known, we are unable absolutely to tell you the will of God in the matter; but in our minds, we find nothing particular against it. But it is not at all proper, that you should inwardly disturb and distress yourself so much as I have some presentiment you do. Only resign your will entirely to the Lord, and he will do all things well.
But that which is the most important of all, on which the most depends, and which also requires the most exertion and grace, is still to be mentioned; and that is, that should it take place, you must be careful above all things, that the first and greatest command of God remain uninfringed upon—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind." The centre of your heart must be a temple and habitation of God. Beware of becoming an idolater, or of admitting images into the innermost sanctuary, which is the case, when we inordinately and too ardently cleave with our affections to the creature. “Possessing as though we possessed not," is the short, but difficult rule of the apostle Paul. (1 Cor. vii. 39.)
Now, therefore, whatever may be the results, keep this saying firmly and unshakenly with the help of God—that your heart and inmost love belong wholly, undividedly, and eternally to God alone, and remain devoted to him. Regard him, as I do, as your only treasure, comfort, support, and salvation, and you shall experience peace and blessedness, wherever, and in whatever state you may be, both now and for ever. Amen!—Life and Character of Gerhard Tersteegen