It’s 2017, and so we should remember that there were several, not just one or two, important facets of the project of Reformation undertaken in the sixteenth century. One of these was to exalt the estate of marriage as a high and holy one, and not simply an option for second-class Christians who can’t control themselves. This exaltation runs in parallel with the distinctively Protestant idea of vocation, i.e. the idea that all lawful callings are holy and worthy before God.
Why, in the original Protestant way of thinking, was marriage instituted? John Cotton (1658-1710), in his “A Meet Help, or, A Wedding Sermon,” preached in 1694, gives us some assistance. In his exposition of Genesis 2.18 (“it is not good that the man should be alone”), he says the following:
Quest. 2. In what respect it is not good that the man should be alone?
Sol. 1. In that it doth not answer the end in man’s Creation. As,
The propagation of mankind; had man been or continued alone, how should mankind in a natural way, and regularly have been propagated? and should every man now do so, what would become of the whole world in one Age? God could indeed have Created at first such a number of men as he did of Angels, but it was God’s pleasure to make of one blood, all Nations of men to dwell on all the face of the Earth. Acts 17.26. and in order to the obtaining of that end, it was not good that man should be alone.
His gathering a Church out of mankind, that was God’s end we see, in that it is done, but that could not have been, had mankind not extended beyond one individual.
The Glory of his Mercy and Justice in Sending his Son in the Flesh, born of a woman which would never have been, had the man been alone, or had there been no woman; In these respects it don’t [sic] answer God’s end in man’s Creation, and therefore is not good that the man should be alone.
A few remarks:
More on this sermon, perhaps, in a future post.
E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.
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