Marriage, if rightly conceived and faithfully maintained, is one of the most sacred of human relationships. Marriage was honored and blessed by Jesus. It is a true example of divine-human cooperation, perfecting a social structure "for the help and continuance of the human family" and "for the mutual assistance and comfort" of both man and woman that they may be "help-meets to each other in things temporal and spiritual." Marriage, therefore, "should be entered upon discreetly, soberly and in the fear of the Lord." It can never be truly accomplished merely by outward forms; rather, it requires the spiritual union of hearts, together with mutual pledges of continued love and loyalty, all under a sense of divine approval.
Never Marry But For Love
Never marry but for love; but see that thou lovest what is lovely.
He that minds a body and not a soul has not the better part of that relation, and will consequently want the noblest comfort of a married life.
Between a man and his wife nothing ought to rule but love .As love ought to bring them together, so it is the best way to keep them well together.
A husband and wife that love and value one another show heir children and servants that they should do so too. Others visibly lose their authority in their families by their contempt of one another; and teach their children to be unnatural by their own example.
Let not enjoyment lessen, but augment affection; it being the basest of passions to like when we have not, what we slight when we possess.
Here it is we ought to search out our pleasure, where the field is large and full of variety, and of an enduring nature; sickness, poverty, or disgrace being not able to shake it, because it is not under the moving influences of worldly contingencies.
Nothing can be more entire and without reserve; nothing more zealous, affectionate and sincere; nothing more contented and constant than such a couple, nor no greater temporal felicity than to be one of them.
William Penn: A collection of the works, 3rd ed., 1782, vol. 5, pp. 129-32. "Some fruits of solitude," printed 1693. Maxims 79, 95, 100, 101, 103, 81, 97, 99.
The Right to Choose
Single young adults, searching for a satisfying life style, need reassurance that their choices may be, and should be, made to suit their individual needs and not to conform to family expectations or societal pressures. Such pressures may push many into marriages for which they are not ready or not suited. Perhaps more people today have the courage to choose singleness and make a whole life. There have always been beautiful examples of this among Friends, and their lives shine.
Family Life Subcommittee of New England M. Committee on Ministry and Counsel: Living with oneself and others, 1978, p. 37
The Rewards of Unfolding Years
To become a husband and wife makes each of you responsible no longer for yourselves alone. It demands of each an increase, beyond all you now might think, of patience patience to bear the enlarged responsibilities, and to bear with the incapacities, the weaknesses, the human failings which you are each aware of in yourself and will discover in the other. For God has created no man or woman even nearly perfect. But we grow in both our virtue and our capacity to love by the testing, against the world and each other, of those weaknesses which by the grace of God we can convert into strengths; and by the finding of those strengths and beauties in each other which we hardly dared suspect were there. But these are the rewards of unfolding years; years, not weeks or months. The glory of a great marriage lies in the surprises which loving support, acceptance, and graceful forgiveness can bring forth.
R. B. Crowell: "Words at a Quaker wedding," Friends journal, November 1, 1974, pp. 560-61.
Reverent and Understanding Love
In looking forward to the lifelong comradeship of marriage, remember that happiness depends upon an understanding and imaginative love on both sides. Seek to be joined in a common discipleship of Jesus Christ, desiring that your union may be owned and blessed by him. Consider together the responsibilities of parenthood. Remember the help which you may draw from older and more experienced people including your parents. Ask God's guidance continually; and when difficulties arise remind yourselves of the value of prayer, of perseverance, and of a sense of humour.
London Y. M.: General advices, adopted 1964. See The Friend, London, vol. 122 (1964), p. 940 (7 August).
The True Enjoyment of Marriage
Job Scott writes to Eunice Anthony in 1780, shortly before their marriage:
Having felt thee abundantly near this evening, I am free to write what revives for thy perusal, hoping it may be useful towards our rightly stepping along through time together. First, dearly beloved, let me tell thee, that however short I may be of strict adherence to the Light of Life; yet it is my crown, my chief joy, to feel the holy harmonious influences and inshinings of the love of Jesus my Savior upon my soul; and I feel that without this I must be miserable indeed. I also believe that the true enjoyment of the marriage union consists eminently in both being engaged to draw near to the Lord, and act in his counsel; which I not only wish but in a good degree expect, may be our happy case. If it should, though we have as it were a dry morsel to partake of, as to the things of this life; yet we may joy in the Lord, and rejoice in the God of our salvation. Thou knowest I have no great things to invite thee to. May we, the remainder of our lives, earnestly press after resignation to the Lord's will, and above all things, strive to please him who only can give peace, in whatever circumstances we may be. Then, I trust, the guardian angel of his holy presence will encamp around us, and his everlasting arms be underneath to support.
Job Scott: Journal, 1797, pp. 74-5.
A Wealth of Tacit Commitment
I have casually referred to my second marriage in 1902, as though it were merely one event among the many events which came in succession. But it was very far from an "ordinary" happening. Every aspect of my life was touched and transformed by that initiation into a new and sacred fellowship. We promised in simple Quaker marriage custom to be "faithful and loving," but we little knew what a wealth of tacit commitments lay hidden under those three explicit words of promise. How little of life, especially of married life, can be pattern-stamped and groomed into line by explicit agreements in advance. Every crisis of life brings situations which could not be anticipated or planned for beforehand, and for which there could be no contractual arrangements. Every occasion of our lives has brought into play the unformulated and tacit commitments which only love can supply.
Rufus M. Jones: The trail of life in the middle years, 1934, pp. 86-7
Seek Timely Advice
We would counsel Friends to take timely advice in periods of difficulty. The early sharing of problems with sympathetic Friends or marriage counsellors can often bring release from misunderstandings and give positive help towards new joy together. Friends ought to be able to do this, but much will depend on the quality of our life together in the Society. If marriages among us fail, we are all part of that failure. We need to be more sensitive to each other's needs, knowing one another in the things which are material as in the things which are eternal.
Report of Marriage and Parenthood Committee. London Y. M. Proceedings, 1956, p. 102.
Demonstrate All We Stand For
Do we not have, in marriage, a powerful opportunity to demonstrate in one nuclear human relationship all we stand for, and all we seek to proclaim to the wider world?
David R. Mace: Marriage as vocation, 1969, p. 3.