72. The Solemnization of Marriage

  1. Marriage is a divine institution though not a sacrament, nor peculiar to the Church of Christ. It is proper that every commonwealth, for the good of society, make laws to regulate marriage, which all citizens are bound to obey insofar as they do not transgress the laws of God.[1]
  2. Christians should marry in the Lord; therefore it is appropriate that their marriage be solemnized by a lawful minister, that special instruction be given them, and suitable prayers offered, when they enter into this relation.
  3. During the solemnization of the marriage, the three Scriptural purposes of marriage as described by the Westminster Confession of Faith shall be stated: “Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.” Additionally, the man is required to vow to love and cherish the woman, and the woman is required to vow to love, cherish, and obey the man.
  4. Marriage is to be a lifelong, monogamous union between one man and one woman,[2] in accordance with the Word of God.
  5. The parties should be of such years of discretion as to be capable of making their own choice; and if they be under age, or live with their parents, the consent of the parents or others, under whose care they are, should be previously obtained, and well proven to the minister before he proceeds to solemnize the marriage.
  6. Parents should neither compel their children to marry contrary to their will, nor deny their consent without just and significant reasons.
  7. Marriage and the welfare of civil society cannot be separated. The happiness of families and the credit of Christianity are deeply interested in it. Therefore, the intent to marry should be sufficiently published for objections to the marriage to be registered in a timely way, and for them to be adjudicated.[3] Ministers should be careful that they obey the laws of the community to the extent that those laws do not transgress the laws of God as declared by the Constitution of Evangel Presbytery; and that they not destroy the peace and comfort of families, ministers should be assured that, with respect to the parties applying to them, no just objections lie against their marriage.

  1. Acts 5:29.
  2. For the intended meaning of the words “man” and “woman,” please refer to BCO 28, particularly section 7.
  3. This requirement is based upon the ancient practice of “publishing the banns.” In Calvin’s Geneva, for example, it was required that the minister publish the banns—that is, announce to the congregation the intent of a couple to marry—for the three Sundays preceding the wedding. This announcement allowed those who objected to the wedding to explain their reasons to the minister. It also taught the congregation about the public and solemn nature of the wedding ceremony. For more on Calvin’s practice, see John Witte Jr. and Robert M. Kingdon, Courtship, Engagement, and Marriage, vol. 1 of Sex, Marriage, and Family Life in John Calvin’s Geneva (Eerdmans, 2005).

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