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The Solemnization of Marriage.
me monwealth ; yet, because such as marry are to marry in the Lord, and have special need of instruction, direction, and exhortation, from the word of God, at their entering into such a new condition, and of the blessing of God upon them therein, we judge it expedient that marriage be solemnized by a lawful minister of the word, that he may accordingly counsel them, and pray for a blessing upon them.
Marriage is to be betwixt one man and one woman only; and they, such as are not within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity prohibited by the word of God; and the parties are to be of years of discretion, fit to make their own choice, or, upon good grounds, to give their mutual consent.
Before the solemnizing of marriage between any persons, their purpose of marriage shall be published by the minister three several sabbath-days, in the congregation, at the place or places of their most usual and constant abode, respectively: And of this publication the minister who is to join them in marriage shall have sufficient testimony, before he proceed to solemnize the marriage.
Before that publication of such their purpose, (if the parties be under age) the consent of the parents, or others under whose power they are, (in case the parents be dead,) is to be made known to the church officers of that con. gregation, to recorded.
The like is to be observed in the proceedings of all others, although of age, whose parents are living, for their first marriage.
And, in after marriages of either of those parties, they shall be exhorted not to contract marriage without first acquainting their parents with it, (if with conveniency it may be done,) endeavouring to obtain their consent.
Parents ought not to force their children to marry without their free consent, nor deny their own consent without just cause.
After the purpose or contract of marriage hath been thus published, the marriage is not to be long deferred. Therefore the minister, having had convenient warning, and nothing being objected to hinder it, is publickly to solemnize it in the place appointed by authority for publick worship, before a competent number of credible witnesses, at some convenient hour of the day, at any time of the year, except on a day of publick humiliation. And we advise that it be not on the Lord's day.
And because all relations are sanctified by the word and prayer, the minister is to pray for a blessing upon them, to this effect:
“ Acknowledging our sins, whereby we have made ourselves less than the “ least of all the mercies of God, and provoked him to embitter all our com• forts; earnestly, in the name of Christ, to entreat the Lord (whose presence
and favour is the happiness of every condition, and sweetens every rela“ tion) to be their portion, and to own and accept them in Christ, who are
now to be joined in the honourable estate of marriage, the covenant of “ their God: and that, as he hath brought them together by his providence, “ he would sanctify them by his Spirit, giving them a new frame of heart fit “ for their new estate; enriching them with all graces whereby they may
perform the duties, enjoy the comforts, undergo the cares, and resist the temptations which accompany that condition, as becometh Christians.".
The prayer being ended, it is convenient that the minister do briefly declaro unto them, out of the scripture,
“The institution, use, and ends of marriage, with the conjugal duties, " which, in all faithfulness, they are to perform each to other; exhorting " them to study the holy word of God, that they may learn to live by faith, " and to be content in the midst of all marriage cares and troubles, sancti"fying God's name, in a thankful, sober, and holy use of all conjugal com“forts; praying much with and for one another; watching over and provoking “ each other to love and good works; and to live together as the heirs of the After solemn charging of the persons to be married, before the great God, who searcheth all hearts, and to whom they must give a strict account at the last day, that if either of them know any cause, by precontract or otherwise, why they may not lawfully proceed to marriage, that they now discover it; the minister (if no impediment be acknowledged) shall cause first the man to take the woman by the right hand, saying these words:
grace of life."
I N. do take thee N. to be my married wife, and do, in the presence of God, and before this congregation, promise and covenant to be a loving and
faithful husband unto thee, until Ġod shall separate us by death.
Then the woman shall take the man by the right hand, and say these words:
I N. do take thee N. to be my married husband, and I do, in the presence of God, and before this congregation, promise and covenant to be a loving, faithful, and obedient wife unto thee, until God shall separate us by death.
Then, without any further ceremony, the minister shall, in the face of the congregation, pronounce them to be husband and wife, according to God's ordinance; and so conclude the action with prayer to this effect:
" That the Lord would be pleased to accompany his own ordinance with " his blessing, beseeching him to enrich the persons now married, as with “other pledges of his love, so particularly with the comforts and fruits of marriage, to the praise of his abundant mercy, in and through Christ
A register is to be carefully kept, wherein the names of the parties so married, with the time of their marriage, are forthwith to be fairly recorded in a book provided for that purpose, for the perusal of all whom it may con
Concerning Visitation of the Sick.
charge in publick, but privately; and particularly to admonish, exhort, reprove, and comfort them,
upon all seasonable occasions, so far as his time, strength, and personal safety will permit.
He is to admonish them, in time of health, to prepare for death; and, for that purpose, they are often to confer with their minister about the estate of their souls; and, in times of sickness, to desire his advice and help, timely and seasonably, before their strength and understanding fail them.
Times of sickness and affliction are special opportunities put into his hand by God to minister a word in season to weary souls: because then the consciences of men are or should be more awakened to bethink themselves of their spiritual estate for eternity; and Satan also takes advantage then to load them more with sore and heavy temptations: therefore the minister, being sent for, and repairing to the sick, is to apply himself, with all tenderness and love to administer some spiritual good to his soul, to this effect.
He may, from the consideration of the present sickness, instruct him out of scripture, that diseases come not by chance, or by distempers of body only, but by the wise and orderly guidance of the good hand of God to every particular person smitten by them. And that, whether it be laid upon him out of displeasure for sin, for his correction and amendment, or for trial and exercise of his graces, or for other special and excellent ends, all his sufferings shall turn to his profit, and work together for his good, if he sincerely labour to make a sanctified use of God's visitation, neither despising his chastening, nor waxing weary of his correction.
If he suspect him of ignorance, he shall examine him in the principles of religion, especially touching repentance and faith; and, as he seeth cause, instruct him in the nature, use, excellency, and necessity of those graces; as also touching the covenant of grace; and Christ the Son of God, the Mediator of it; and concerning remission of sins by faith in him.
He shall exhort the sick person to examine himself, to search and try his former ways, and his estate towards God.
And if the sick person shall declare any scruple, doubt, or temptation that are upon him, instructions and resolutions shall be given to satisfy and settle him.
If it appear that he hath not a due sense of his sins, endeavours ought to be used to convince him of his sins, of the guilt and desert of them; of the filth and pollution which the soul contracts by them; and of the curse of the law, and wrath of God, due to them; that he may be truly affected with and humbled for them: and withal maké known the danger of deferring repentance, and of neglecting salvation at any time offered; to awaken his conscience, and rouse him up out of a stupid and secure condition, to apprehend the justice
and wrath of God, before whom none can stand, but he that, lost in himself, layeth hold upon Christ by faith.
If he hath endeavoured to walk in the ways of holiness, and to serve God in uprightness, although not without many failings and infirmities; or, if his spirit be broken with the sense of sin, or cast down through want of the sense of God's favour; then it will be fit to raise him up, by setting before him the freeness and fulness of God's grace, the sufficiency of righteousness in Christ, the gracious offers in the gospel, that all who repent, and believe with all their heart in God's mercy through Christ, renouncing their own righteousness, shall have life and salvation in him. It may be also useful to shew him, that death hath in it no spiritual evil to be feared by those that are in Christ, because sin, the sting
of death, is taken away by Christ, who hath delivered all that are his from the bondage of the fear of death, triumphed over the grave, given us victory, is himself entered into glory to prepare a place for his people : so that neither life nor death shall be able to separate them from God's love in Christ, in whom such are sure, though now they must be laid in the dust, to obtain a joyful and glorious resurrection to eternal life.
Advice also may be given, as to beware of an ill-grounded persuasion on mercy, or on the goodness of his condition for heaven, so to disclaim all merit in himself, and to cast himself wholly upon God for mercy, in the sole merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, who hath engaged himself never to cast off them who in truth and sincerity come unto him.. Care also must be taken, that the sick person be not cast down into despair, by such a severe representation of the wrath of God due to him for his sins, as is not mollified by a sensible propounding of Christ and his merit for a door of hope to every penitent believer.
When the sick person is best composed, may be least disturbed, and other necessary offices about him least hindered, the minister, if desired, shall pray with him, and for him, to this effect:
Confessing and bewailing of sin original and actual; the miserable con“ dition of all by nature, as being children of wrath, and under the curse ; “ acknowledging that all diseases, sicknesses, death, and hell itself, are the
proper issues and effects thereof; imploring God's mercy for the sick person, through the blood of Christ; beseeching that God would open bis eyes, “ discover unto him his sins, cause him to see himself lost in himself, make " known to him the cause why God smiteth him, reveal Jesus Christ to his " soul for righteousness and life, give unto him his Holy Spirit, to create and
strengthen faith to lay hold upon Christ, to work in him comfortable evi. "dences of his love, to arm him against temptations, to take off his heart " from the world, to sanctify his present visitation, to furnish him with
patience and strength to bear it, and to give him perseverance in faith to " the end.
* That, if God shall please to add to his days, he would vouchsafe to bless and sanctify all means of his recovery; to remove the disease, renew his " strength, and enable him to walk worthy of God, by a faithful remem
brance, and diligent observing of such vows and promises of holiness and “ obedience, as men are apt to make in times of sickness, that he may glo.
rify God in the remaining part of his life.
“And, if God have determined to finish his days by the present visitation, “ he may find such evidence of the pardon of all his sins, of his interest in Christ, and eternal life by Christ, as may cause his inward man to be re
newed, while his outward man decayeth; that he may behold death with. “out fear, cast himself wholly upon Christ without doubting, desire to be
dissolved and to be with Christ, and so receive the end of his faith, the “salvation of his soul, through the only merits and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, our alone Saviour and all-sufficient Redeemer."
The minister shall admonish him also (as there shall be cause) to set his house in order, thereby to prevent inconveniences; to take care for payment of his debts, and to make restitution or satisfaction where he hath done any wrong; to be reconciled to those with whom he hath been at variance, and fully to forgive all men their trespasses against him, as he expects forgiveness at the hand of God.
Lastly, The minister may improve the present occasion to exhort those about the sick person to consider their own mortality, to return to the Lord, and make peace with him; in health to prepare for sickness, death, and judgment; and all the days of their appointed time so to wait until their change come, that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, they may appear with him in glory.
Concerning Burial of the Dead. WB THEN any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of
burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for publick burial, and there immediately interred, without any ceremony.
And because the custom of kneeling down, and praying by or towards the dead corpse, and other such usages, in the place where it lies before it be carried to burial, are superstitious; and for that praying, reading, and sing. ing, both in going to and at the grave, have been grossly abused, are no way beneficial to the dead, and have proved many ways hurtful to the living; therefore let all such things be laid aside.
Howeit, we judge it very convenient, that the Christian friends, which accompany the dead body to the place appointed for publick burial, do apply themselves to meditations and conferences suitable to the occasion; and that the minister, as upon other occasions, so at this time, if he be present, may put them in remembrance of their duty.
That this shall not extend to deny any civil respects or deferences at the burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased, while be was living
Concerning Publick Solemn Fasting. THEN some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon tions notoriously deserved; as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained, publick solemn fasting (which is to continue the whole day) is a duty that God expecteth from that nation or people.
A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint,) but also from all worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights, and such like, (although at other times lawful,) rich apparel, ornaments, and such like, during the fast; and much more from whatever is in the nature or use scandalous and offensive, as gaudish attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which we recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to reprove, as at other times, so especially at a fast, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.
Before the publick meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.
So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in publick reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty: but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect:
Giving glory to the great Majesty of God, the Creator, Preserver, and supreme Ruler of all the world, the better to affect us thereby with an
holy reverence and awe of him; acknowledging his manifold, great, and “ tender mercies, especially to the church and nation, the more effectually, " to soften and abase our hearts before him; humbly confessing of sins of “ all sorts, with their several aggravations; justifying God's righteous judg
ments, as being far less than our sins do deserve; yet humbly and earnestly “ imploring his mercy and grace for ourselves, the church and nation, for
our king, and all in authority, and for all others for whom we are bound " to pray, (according as the present exigent requireth,) with more special “ importunity and enlargement than at other times; applying by faith the
promises and goodness of God for pardon, help, and deliverance from the “ evils felt, feared, or deserved; and for obtaining the blessings which we “ need and expect; together with a giving up of ourselves wholly and for
ever unto the Lord.'
In all these, the ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, ought so to speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and their people may be much affected, and even melted thereby, especially with sorrow for their sins; that it may be indeed a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul.
Special choice is to be made of such scriptures to be read, and of such texts for preaching, as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance: insisting most on those particulars which each minister's observation and experience tells him are most conducing to the edification and reformation of that congregation to which he preacheth. Before the close of the publick
duties, the minister is, in his own and the people's name, to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord's, with professed purpose and resolution to reform whatever is amiss among them, and more particularly such sins as they have been more remarkably guilty of; and to draw near 'unto God, and to walk more closely and faithfully with him in new obedience, than ever before.
He is also to admonish the people, with all importunity, that the work of that day doth not end with the public duties of it, but that they are so to improve the remainder of the day, and of their whole life, in reinforcing upon themselves and their families in private all those godly affections and resolutions which they professed in publick, as that they
may be settled in their hearts for ever, and themselves may more sensibly find that God hath smelt a sweet savour in Christ from their performances, and is pacified towards them, by answers of grace, in pardoning of sin, in removing of judgments, in averting or preventing of plagues, and in conferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people, by Jesus Christ.
Besides solemn and general fasts enjoined by authority, wo judge that, at other times, congregations may keep days of fasting, as divine providence shall administer unto them special occasion; and also that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they do belong is to meet for fasting, or other publick duties of worship.
Concerning the Observation of Days of Publick Thanksgiving. W! THEN any such day is to be kept, let potice be given of it, and of the
occasion thereof, some convenient time before, that the people may the
better prepare themselves thereunto.
The day being come, and the congregation (after private preparations) being assembled, the minister is to begin with a word of exhortation, to stir up the people to the duty for which they are met, and with a short prayer