Quotes on Courtship
In the first institution of marriage, when there was no father to give consent, then our Heavenly Father gave His consent: God supplied the place of the father, and brought His daughter unto her husband, and ever since, the father after the same manner, hath offered his daughter unto the husband...a man hath the disposition of his own substance, so he hath the disposition of his own children...therefore in Matthew 24:30 the wife is said to be bestowed in marriage, which signifieth, that some did give her beside herself...it is a sweet wedding, when the father and the mother bring a blessing to the feast, and a heavy union which is cursed the first day that it is knit. Marriage hath need of many counsellers, and dost thou count [her] father too many...which is like the foreman of thy instructors? Mark what kind of youth they be, which have such hast, that they dare not stay for their parents advice, they are such as hunt for nothing but beauty...therefore honor thy parents in this, as thou wouldest that thy children should honor thee.
In choosing a spouse there should not be a romantic passion, but a rational love, in which the affections are commanded by the will under the guidance of the reason (that is directed by the will of God). When affections keep their proper sphere, a lover does not display that divine or diabolical madness admired in the cults of romantic love; instead reason should choose the object of love and then commanded affections to act accordingly.
In order that matrimonial society may prove comfortable, it is requesite that there should be some equality (suitability) betwixt the parties that are married in age, estate, condition, and piety. The parity which is of greatest consequence betwixt parties to be married, is in piety. It is very meet that the husband should be somewhat elder than his wife, because he is an head, a governour, a protector of his wife. (after seeing the suitablility and direction of God) Mutual love and good liking of each other is as glue. If at first there be a good liking mutually and thoroughly settled in in both their hearts of one another, love is like to continue in them forever, as things which are well glued, and settled, before they be shaken up and down, will never be severed assunder: but if they be joined together without glue, or shaken while the glue is moist, they cannot remain firm.
Contrary is the adulterous and brutish practice of such as so soon as they cast their eye on any whom they like never advise or consult about a right and due proceeding unto marriage, but instantly with all the eagerness and speed they can, like brute beasts seek to have their desire and lust satisfied. Their practice (of the old world) was this, that they took them wives of all that they chose: that is, they rashly and suddenly married whomsoever they liked, without any consideration of their condition (fitness).
Again, the Holy Ghost gives thee two rules, godliness and fitness: godliness, because our spouse must be like Christ's spouse, that is, graced with gifts and embroidered with virtues, as if we did marry holiness herself, as God respecteth the heart, so we must respect the heart, because that must love, and not the face. It is not enough to be virtuous, but to be suitable,...we see many times even the godly couples to jar when they are married, because there is some unfitness between them which makes odds...so they which are like strive not, but they which are unlike, as fire and water...therefore a godly man in our time thanked the Lord that He had not only given him a godly wife, but a fit wife: for he said not that she was the wisest, nor the holiest, nor the humblest, nor the modestest wife in the world, but the fittest wife in the world, which every man should think when the knot is tied, or else so often as he seeth a better, he will wish that his choice were to make again. As he did thank God for sending him the fit wife, so the unmarried should pray God to send them a fit wife: for if they be not like, they will not like.
This fitness is commended by the Holy Ghost in two words: one is in the 2nd of Genesis and the other is in the 2nd Corinthians 6:14 and that in Genesis is meet: God saith I will make a help meet for him, showing, that a wife cannot help well unless she be meet....they are couples so they may be called pairs, that is like as a pair of gloves, so man and wife should be like, because they are a pair of friends. If thou be learned, choose one that loveth knowledge; if thou be martiall, choose one that loveth prowesse: if thou must live by thy labour, choose one that loveth husbandry: for unless her mind stand with thy vocation, thou shalt neither enjoy thy wife, nor thy calling. That other word is yoke that Paul saith, be not unequally yoked. If marriage be a yoke, then they which draw in it must be fit, like two oxen which draw the yoke together, or else all the burden will lie upon one. Therefore they are called yoke fellows too, to show that they which draw this yoke must be fellows...so he which will have godly children must choose a godly wife: for like mother (saith Ezekiel) like daughter.
There be certain signs of this fitness, and godliness, both in the man and the woman...thou must mark five things...which are like the pulses that show whether we be well or ill. The first mark is the report...a good man comonly hath a good name, because a good name is one of the blessings which God promiseth to good men...but a good name is not to be praised from the wicked...that is, when evil men speak well of you, because this is a sign that you are of the world. The next sign is the look...that one saith well, a modest man dwells at the sign of a modest countence, and an honest woman dwelleth at the sign of an honest face...to show how a modest countence, and womanly shamefacedness do commend a chaste wife...modesty should be learned before marriage, which is the dowry that God addeth to her portion. The third sign is her speach or her silence...he should be the teacher and she the hearer...by the speach we might know what aboundeth in the heart...as the echo answereth but one word for many which are spoken to her; so a maids answer should be a word, as though she hold her breath. The fourth sign is the apparel...a modest woman is known by her sober attire...look not for better within than thou seest without...if the face be vanity, the heart is pride-he which biddeth thee abstain from the show of evil, would have thee to abstain from those wives which have the shows of evil: for it is hard to come in the fasion and not be in the abuse-and therefore Paul saith, fashion not yourselves like unto the world: as though the fashions of men did declare of what side they are. The fifth sign is the company: for birds of a feather will fly together...therefore choose such a companion of thy life as hath chosen company like thee before. When these rules are observed, they may join together and say, as Laban and Bethuel said, this cometh of the Lord, therefore we will not speak against it...how happy are those in whom faith, and love, and godliness are married together, before they marry themselves. For none of these martial, and cloudy, and whining marriages can say that godliness was invited to their bridal; and therefore the blessings which are promised to godliness do fly from them.
The above quotes were taken from:
A Preparative to Marriage and Two Other Sermons 1591 by Henry Smith and
Of Domestical Duties 1622 by Wm. Gouge.
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