Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LIX.: of marriage. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER LIX.: of marriage. - John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1 
The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 1.
Part of: The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols.
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God hath ordained marriage, amongst other good means, for the benefit of man's natural and spiritual life, in an individual society, as the lawyers speak, between one man and one woman: and hath blessed it alone with this prerogative, that by it, in lawful order, our kind should be preserved, and posterity propagated. And though the Lord has sometimes suffered, and that almost unreproved by the prophets, other bodily conjunctions, than between the proper husband and wife, and altogether unpunished by the magistrate: and withal showed the effect of his powerful providence, as still he doth, so far, as for the procreating of children, in that disorder: yet did he never approve of any other, or exempt the same from guilt of sin, in the court of conscience; and seldom from manifest signs of his displeasure; as experience, and the Scriptures teach.
Not only heathen poets, which were more tolerable, but also wanton Christians, have nick-named women, necessary evils;* but with as much shame to men, as wrong to women, and to God's singular ordinance withal. When the Lord amongst all the good creatures which he had made, could find none fit and good enough for the man; he made the woman of a rib of him, and for a help unto him, Gen. ii. 20, 21; neither is she, since the creation, more degenerated than he, from the primitive goodness. Besides, if the woman be a necessary evil, how evil is the man, for whom she is necessary!
Some have said, and that, in their own and others' judgment, both wittily and devoutly, that marriage fills the earth, and virginity heaven: but others have better answered, How should heaven be full, if the earth were empty? I add, that, because Christ hath said, that the children of the regeneration neither marry wives, nor are married, but are like the angels in heaven, Matt. xxii. 8.; many, whilst they would, by preposterous imitation, become like the angels in heaven, have in truth become liker the devils in hell: for they also neither marry wives, nor are married. But this is, indeed, the very dregs of Popery, to place special piety in things either evil, or indifferent, at the best; as is abstinence from marriage, and the marriage bed; which is no more a virtue, than abstinence from wine, or other pleasing natural things. Both marriage and wine are of God, and good in themselves; either of them may in their abuse, prejudice the natural or spiritual life: neither of them is unlawful, no not for them which simply need them not: which also not to need, argues bodily strength in the one, but a kind of weakness in the other.
The ancient heathen used to place Mercury by Venus, to show what need the affections of marriage have of the rule of reason and wisdom, to order them.* Neither, in truth, is there anything wherein persons more need and less use reason, and true discretion, than in their marriage choice: in which the most are unreasonably transported by one affection or other. And if he moralized well, who made this a reason, why God cast Adam into a heavy sleep, whilst he prepared and made him a wife of one of his ribs, Gen. ii. 21; that the affections ought to sleep about this work, and the reason to wake; how do they miss, whose manner is to have their affections only waking, or working in this business, whilst their reason, and conscience also, are fast asleep ! I have always thought, that good men crossed with ill wives, or good wives with ill husbands, are ordinarily least to be pitied of any others in misery; considering how wilfully, and presumptuously, for the most part, they tempt God in their choice. I add, herewithal, that there is no one particular, in which men and women betray, whether their hearts be set upon worldly riches and honours, or sensual pleasures, on the one side; or, on the other side, upon the nourishing and promoting of virtue and godliness, both in themselves and their posterity, than in their choice this way. When the sons of God take for wives the daughters of men, giants are born, Gen. vi. 2; and all monstrous confusion followeth, first in the family, and after in church and commonwealth. But when the sons of God take the daughters of God to wives, and the daughters of God are taken by the sons of God, there is an equal yoke, for the persons themselves to draw in with comfort, and the right course taken for the leaving of a holy seed behind them.
Some marry by their eye, as did those sons of God formerly mentioned, and, therein, follow favour, which is deceitful, and beauty which is a vain thing, Prov. xxxi. 30; others by their fingers, as minding what the woman is worth, in the world's sense:* others by the ear, as specially respecting their wives' title, and high birth; and so, many times, get themselves so many lords and masters over them, as she hath friends. But they that specially respect virtue and godliness, which being attended by the other handmaids, as Esther by her seven maids, Esther ii. 9, is the more beautiful and desirable, they marry not only the daughters of such or such men, but the daughters of God himself. A woman that feareth the Lord, she shall so be praised, Prov. xxxi. 30; and the man so blessed, that marrieth her.
We say, in wiving and thriving take counsel of all the world, and so men had need. But in this business affection so far overrules reason in the most, as they could willingly make their choice without the counsel of their nearest and wisest friends. Herein, therefore, friends should be officious and forth-putting, and that both in love of their friends, and for their own sakes also; who, so oft as their friend marries, make an adventure, and the same full of danger, whether they shall not wholly or in a great measure, lose their friend, which is often seen. Herein, parents specially must both preserve the right which God and nature hath given them, and do the duty which the one and the other hath laid upon them; as accounting their children theirs, most of all other things, whom if they this way bestow conveniently and in due time, they provide well both for them and themselves: for them, in preventing two dangerous evils, uncleanness and unfit matching: for themselves, according to the saying of Democritus, that he who gets a good husband to his daughter, finds another son: as he loseth his daughter, that gets an ill one.
The virtue of the wife is the husband's ornament, so is the husband's the wife's, much more. And therefore Philon's wife, being demanded why she alone went so plainly apparelled, made answer, that her husband's virtues were ornament sufficient for her.* If her practice were a rule, and that husbands' virtues were to be measured by their wives' homeliness in attire; either fewer husbands would be thought virtuous than are, or more wives found soberly apparelled than are.
After goodness, fitness in marriage is most to be re garded: and that so much that, as for a pair of gloves or yoke of oxen, two alike, though meaner, both of them are fitter and better for use, than if the one were more excellent; so in this marriage pair and yoke, the woman best qualified is not always the best wife for every man; nor every man the best qualified, the fittest husband for every woman: but two more alike, though both meaner, sort better usually. And according to this, Pittacus, being demanded by a friend what kind of wife he should marry, answered: one fit for him.† Fitness of years is requisite, that an old head be not set upon young shoulders; nor the contrary, which is worse: fitness in estate, lest the excelling person despise the other, or draw him to a course above his reach: fitness for course of life and disposition unto it, the dislike whereof, in either by other, breeds many discontentments. Lastly, agreement of affection and inclination, what may be, to all good persons and things. Only, it is good, if the one be too fiery hot and suddenly moved, that the other can cast on the more cold water of forbearance. But now, seeing there is seldom or never found such conformity between man and wife, but that differences will arise and be seen, and so the one must give way, and apply unto the other; this, God and nature layeth upon the woman, rather than upon the man; although the man should not too much look for it, nor use all his authority, ordinarily at least, which none but fools will do. Gen. iii. 16; 1 Cor. xi. 3—7, xiv. 34; 1 Tim. ii. 11; Esther i. 20—22. As the glass, saith one, though never so rich of gold and pearl, if it represent not the face of him that looks into it, is not to be regarded; so neither is the wife, how well endowed soever otherwise, except she frame, and compose herself, what may be, unto her husband, in conformity of manners.
Many common graces and good things are requisite both for husband and wife: but more especially the Lord requires in the man love and wisdom; and in the woman subjection. Eph. v. 22—25. The love of the husband to his wife must be like Christ's to his church; holy for quality, and great for quantity, both intensively and extensively. Her person, and whatsoever is good in her he must love fervently; mending or bearing, if not intolerable, what is amiss: by the former of which two he makes her the better, and himself by the latter.* And if her failings and faults be great, he by being inured to bear them patiently, is the fitter to converse quietly and patiently with other perverse persons abroad; as Socrates said, he was, by bearing the daily home-brawlings of Xanthippe. Neither sufficeth it, that the husband walk with his wife as a man of love, but before her also as a man of understanding, 1 Pet. iii. 7; which God hath therefore afforded him, and means of obtaining it, above the woman, that he might guide and go before her, as a fellow heir of eternal life with him. It is monstrous, if the head stand where the feet should be: and double pity, when a Nabal and Abigail are matched together. Yea, experience teacheth how inconvenient it is, if the woman have but a little more understanding, (though he be not wholly without,) than her husband hath.
In the wife is specially required a reverend subjection in all lawful things to her husband. Eph. v. 22, &c. Lawful, I mean, for her to obey in, yea though not lawful for him to require of her. He ought to give honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, 1 Pet. iii. 7: but now, if he pass the bounds of wisdom and kindness; yet must not she shake off the bond of submission, but must bear patiently the burden, which God hath laid upon the daughters of Eve. The woman in innocency was to be subject to the man: but this should have been without all wrong on his part, or grief on hers. But she being first in transgression, 1 Tim. ii. 14, hath brought herself under another subjection, and the same to her, grievous; and in regard of her husband, often unjust; but in regard of God, always most just; who hath ordained that her desire should be subject to her husband, Gen. iii. 16, who by her seduction became subject to sin. And, albeit, many proud women think it a matter of scorn and disgrace, thus to humble themselves to God and their husbands; and even glory in the contrary: yet therein they but glory in their shame, and in their husbands' shame also. And whilst they refuse a cross, choose a sin of rebellion, both against God and their husbands: which shall not escape unpunished from God; though many fond husbands nourish them therein, and by pampering and puffing them up by delicate fare, costly apparel and idleness, teach them to despise both them, themselves, and all others.
Marriage hath divers ends that make it convenient; and one, that makes it necessary, for the most; which is the preventing of that most foul and filthy sin of adultery. And this brand it deserves in special manner; seeing, he who coupleth himself with an harlot becomes one body with her, 6 Cor. vi. 16: which cannot be said of him that consorts with a thief or murderer or drunkard in their sins: as also, for that such an one sins against his own body. Not that he sins not against his own soul too; or that all others sinning, sin not against both body and soul; but in regard of that special blot and blemish wherewith this sin stains the body; which never after can be wiped off, though the guilt of the sin may by repentance. “He that committeth adultery lacketh understanding; getteth a wound, and dishonour, and his reproach shall not be wiped away,” saith Solomon. Prov. vi. 32.
As marriage is a medicine against uncleanness; so adultery is the disease of marriage, and divorce the medicine of adultery; though not properly for the curing of the guilty, but for the easing of the innocent: which remedy he may, but is not simply bound to use, as some are the former. Some have said, that he who conceals the faults of his wife this way, becomes a patron of her filthiness:* but this is rightly restrained by others to certain cases. The divorce for adultery both under and before the law was to be made by the magistrate's sword. Gen. xxxviii. 24; Lev. xx. 10. Where that is not drawn, the innocent may use this remedy against the peccant, as directly violating the marriage bond; which other sins, though greater otherwise, do not. In other cases, divorce, though much used amongst the Jews, was never approved by the Lord in the court of heaven, as no sin, but permitted only in civil courts, without bodily punishment, Matt. xix. 6—9; and only the giving of the bill commanded, and that for the advantage of the divorced, and to testify, that the husband had so freed the wife, as he might not require her after returning unto him, though he would.* This permission unto the Jews being only for the hardness of their hearts, may justly by the magistrate be denied to Christians, whose hearts should be more softened by the blood of Christ.†
As a man may surfeit at his own table or be drunken with his own drink; so may he play the adulterer with his own wife.‡ both by inordinate affection and action. For howsoever the marriage bed cover much inordinateness this way: yet must modesty be observed by the married,§ lest the bed which is honourable, and undefiled, Heb. xiii. 4, in its right use, become by abuse hateful, and filthy in God's sight. It hath been, by some well observed, that divers of the patriarchs conversed with many wives, whom they took out of a singular desire of a plentiful progeny, more chastely, than many others did and do with their one.