Friday, April 12, 2013

The Best Advice on Marriage and Love (Mainly From the Puritans)

His Love; His Choice

First, he must choose his love, and then he must love his choice.

Henry Smith (Puritan), A Preparitive to Marriage and two other sermons

A Strong Bond

The depth of the marriage relationship is seen in the fact that a man is commanded to leave the bond between himself and his parents, but never to leave the bond established between himself and his wife.

O. Palmer Robertson, The Genesis of Sex, pp. 3-4

Musical Instruments

[Husband and Wife] may joyfully give due benevolence one to the other; as two musical instruments rightly fitted do make a most pleasant and sweet harmony in a well tuned consort.
Anonymous Puritan, The Office of Christian Parents, p.155-56

The Difference

The desire of love is to give. The desire of lust is to get.
Ed Cole

Romance in Its Place

Romance is believed to be ‘the thing’ which ties a marriage together, and it is further thought that young people understand the dynamics of romance far better than their elders. Now the emotional and attachment we have for one another is a gift from God. But romance has the same function as the curtains of a house – it cannot serve as the concrete poured for the foundation. What establishes the foundation for any godly marriage is covenantal faithfulness… with the whole heart a man should ask what the Bible requires of him in his treatment of his wife. A wife must as the same concerning the treatment of her husband. When Christians enter into marriage this way, they are blessed with wonderful marriages. Not surprisingly, an obedient man and wife have strong emotional and romantic attachments to one another. But when romance is the foundation, the house does not take very long at all before it starts to crumble.

Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage, p.23

‘Then Love Her!’

“A man who had served as an elder in the church for a number of years informed his young pastor that he was divorcing his wife. The minister asked the reason. ‘I don’t love her anymore,’ was the response. ‘Then love her!’ retorted the minister. The man looked puzzled. ‘But I don’t love her,’ he replied. ‘Then LOVE HER! Scripture says, “Husbands, love your wives.” So love her.’ The point of the young minister was well taken. Love is not merely a matter of emotions, of fickle feelings that come and go. Love is also a matter of the will, the intellect, and the doing of deeds of love… As a husband, you are to love the person who is your wife, and no other.”

O. Palmer Robertson, The Genesis of Sex, p.18

A Romanticized Idea of Love

A romanticized idea of love can seriously mislead men and women alike. Futhermore, the perfecting of love must await the God-ordained process that makes the two into one after marriage. Nothing else can substitute for this long term-merging of body and soul in committed love. As with Isaac and Rebekah, it is often the case that the romance of love ‘follows the union rather than prompts it.’

C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p.83

How a Father Should View His Daughter

Sandy M’Kethe looked at his daughter’s pleading eyes. Like her mother, she grew all the more attractive when love for others animated her delicate features. She was like a red rose, subtle and intricate in beauty, compelling and evocative in her purity, and like a rose - so easily destroyed.

Douglas Bond, The King’s Arrow, pp.104-105

Adam’s First Impression of Eve

“Man-like, but different sex, so lovely fair
That what seemed fair in all the world seemed now
Mean, or in her summed up, in her contained
And in her looks, which from that time infused
Sweetness into my heart, unfelt before,
And into all things from her air inspired
The spirit of love and amorous delight”
“Grace was in all her steps, heav’n in her eye,
In every gesture dignity and love.”
John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 8, lines 471-78, 488-89

The Good Wife’s Third Eye

Learn to see [your husband] through new eyes. True love has three eyes. One eye is dim, dim to his faults. A second eye sees him as the world does. This is an important perspective. Sometimes you must help him see the way the world sees him… A third eye sees him as no one else sees him, appreciates him as no one else appreciates him. Keep this eye sharply focused and you will observe many things to appreciate. Every wonderful wife has a third eye.

Helen Andelin, Fascinating Womanhood, p.62

The Beauty of Marriage

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts.


Only Love God More

“[A husband’s love] must be the most dear, intimate, precious and entire that heart can have toward a creature; none but the love of God…is above it, none but the love of ourselves is fellow to it, all the love of others is inferior to it.”

John Wing, The Crown Conjugal

Two Sweet Friends

Husbands and wives should be as two sweet friends, bred under one constellation, tempered by an influence from heaven whereof neither can give any reason, save mercy and providence first made them so, and then made their match; saying, see God hath determined us out of this vast world each for other.

Daniel Rogers, Matrimonial Honor


“Look not for perfection in your relation, God reserves that for another state where marriage is not needed.”
Thomas Thatcher (Puritan)

“[Remember] you marry a child of Adam.”
John Oxenbridge (Puritan), Boston Sermons

In God and Grace

All married persons must above all things love, respect and cherish grace one in another: ground not thy love upon beauty, riches, portion, youth, or such failing foundation: but pitch it first in God and grace, and it will take hold.

Thomas Taylor (Puritan), A Good Husband and a Good Wife

Marriage: A Delightful Society

There is no society more near, more entire, more needful, more kindly, more delightful, more comfortable, more constant, more continual, than the society of man and wife, the main root, source, and original of all other societies.

The Gift of a Companion and Helper in Life

It is a mercy to have a faithful friend that loveth you entirely…to whom you may open your mind and communicate your affairs… And it is a mercy to have so near a friend to be a helper to your soul and…to stir up in you the grace of God.

Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory

Put Piety on the Top of Your ‘List’
Let piety be the first mover of thine affection, the prime and principle consideration in this greatest affair…

Robert Bolton, General Directions for a Comfortable Walking with God

The Puritan Ethic of Marriage

The Puritan ethic of marriage was first to look not for a partner whom you do love passionately at this moment but rather for one whom you can love steadily as your best friend for life, then to proceed with God’s help to do just that.

J.I. Packer, Foreword to Worldly Saints – The Puritans As They Really Were

A Husband’s Dreams

The man whose heart is endeared to the woman he loves…dreams of her in the night, hath her in his eye and apprehension when he awakes, museth on her as he sits at the table, walks with her when he travels… She lies in his bosom, and his heart trusts in her, which forceth all to confess that the stream of his affection, like a mighty current, runs with full tide and strength.

Thomas Hooker The Application of Redemption, and A Comment upon Christ’s Last Prayer

Masculine Love for a Wife

God…places a man in a relationship with a woman so that she will grow spiritually within the safe confines of his loving care. This is masculine love, as defined by God: to nurture and to protect. Men are to show a protective and nurturing concern for women that equals (or surpasses) their instinctive concern for their own bodies. As Christian men do this, the women in their lives will shine with spiritual beauty that is precious to God… This means that men are to pay attention to their wives: to get to know them, to notice their vulnerabilities, to become aware of what cares and anxieties are burdening their hearts, and then to make those cares their own. A husband is to minister to his wife, helping her to bear sadness and burdens and also sharing her hopes and joys.

Richard D. Phillips and Sharon L. Phillips, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts

Honor Her as a Godly Man Should

A godly man looks upon his wife…as much more than a means to his own ends. She is not there just to give him pleasure, either physically or emotionally. He is to ascribe value to her as a person and to see her as a fitting recipient of his ministry… The fact is that women are in a position of vulnerability with respect to men. They are generally more emotionally vulnerable because God has created them with feminine tenderness. Furthermore, in her obedience to God a Christian wife places herself into the hands of her husband. She becomes dependant on him, especially when she bears his children. Instead of resenting the care that must be taken with a woman’s heart, a Christian man should value her all the more. Her vulnerability is part of her beauty; she is of great value to him precisely because God has fitted her to bring out the best of his godly masculinity.

Richard D. Phillips and Sharon L. Phillips, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts

What He Needs

Moreover, the woman was given to the man not for his whims but for his character. A woman does not find her fulfillment by supplanting a man in his God-given role of exercising lordship in the creation. Rather, she elevates a man in true masculinity… In a perfect paradise not touched by sin, God’s people delighted in his design. Helper was not a position for Eve to fight, function for her to fulfill. It is God’s design, bearing his fingerprints for his glory and our good, a design we tamper with at our peril. As the man delighted in the woman, so also she delighted in her calling and fully embraced it… The result of God’s design was perfect companionship. Adam and Eve where like two sides of the one coin. She really was exactly what he needed, a suitable helper. People talk about a dog being ‘man’s best friend’. But a dog cannot share a man’s dreams, cannot knell beside him in prayer, cannot exhort and encourage him with God’s Word, and cannot inspire in him the self-sacrificing love that makes him godly. The same might be said of male friendships. Too many Christian men rely on their male relationships for spiritual support, when what they most need is a godly woman. A woman was made to fit with a man: to match his strength with her resilience, to minister to his heart with the power given to her by God. Only a woman is a suitable helper for a man.

Richard D. Phillips and Sharon L. Phillips, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts

Love, Respect and Cherish Grace in One Another

All married persons must above all things love, respect and cherish grace in one another.
Thomas Taylor

The Woman as the Heart

Though the man be as the head, yet is the woman as the heart.

William Gouge

The Harm of The Dating Culture

More harm comes to many of us through dating than in any other way. According to the world, dating is a way for singles to enjoy the comforts and pleasures of the opposite sex. If marriage is in the picture at all, then dating is a tryout for a potential partner. The idea is to start living as if you were married and see how things go. If one isn’t finding fulfillment in the other person, then you can simply break up and move on. It’s not much different from finding the right pair of shoes. At least you can have some fun along the way, or so it goes. The problem is that the heart doesn’t work that way. The intimacy of romance – both physical and emotional intimacy – is one that binds two people tightly together. If we don’t treat our own and others’ hearts carefully, there will be a lot of pain and bleeding. A broken heart is no small matter, as so many of us know from experience. This is the cause of untold pain in our world today, and Christians need to respond to affairs of the heart with respect, with care, and with the wisdom that God is able to give.

Richard D. Phillips & Sharon L. Phillips, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts

Teach Her How to Create a Safe Distance

Christian girls need to be taught how to ‘create distance’ with casual acquaintances…Mild flirtatiousness can be pleasant and appear to be non-threatening in group situations, but it is extremely unwise. In social settings with various acquaintances, a young woman needs to know how to be warm, friendly and distant. This demeanor is something which she should learn from her father and mother.

Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage – Biblical Courtship in the Modern World

Fathers Set the Example

When the Bible says wives are to honor their husbands, it is also telling virgin daughters what they should be preparing to do. Fathers need to set up a pattern of loving their wives so that their sons can be trained in how to love a woman, and daughters can know what is reasonable to expect from a godly man.

Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage – Biblical Courtship in the Modern World

In Looking for a Wife

If thou art a man of holiness, thou must look more for a portion of grace in thy wife, than a portion of gold with a wife; thou must look more after righteousness than riches; more after piety than money; more after the inheritance she hath in heaven, than the inheritance she hath on earth; more at her being new born, than at her being high born.”
Thomas Brooks

Seek to Protect Her

When Adam was away, Eve was made a prey.

Henry Smith (Puritan), A Preparative to Marriage and Two Other Sermons


Look not for better within than thou seest without, for every one seemeth better than she is; if the face be vanity, the heart is pride.
Henry Smith, A Preparitive to Marriage 

A Godly Spouse

"Let thy choice be in the Lord…1 Cor. Vii. 39. Let piety be the first mover of thine affection, the prime and principle consideration in this greatest affair… Religion or the fear of God, as it is generally the foundation of all human felicity, so must it specially be accounted the ground of all comfort and bliss, which man and wife desire to find in the enjoying of each other.”

Robert Bolton, General Directions for a Comfortable Walking with God

Men Initiate, Women Respond

Men are created and called to initiate, and women are created and called to respond… Women hate one thing more than having to initiate themselves, and that is when no one initiates… young Christian men often abdicate in this way. They want to find out what the women’s response would be if they initiated – without actually having to take the risk of initiation. Once the man knows that the women would respond positively, then he initiates. This is the cowards option… the women is being conned into taking the initiative. Having to deal with the girl’s father prevents all this. This means that a man who is initiating in a relationship must take quite a risk in talking to her father… He initiates, and, if she has received her father’s blessing, she responds.

Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage – Biblical Courtship in the Modern World

The Destructiveness of Modern Dating

The modern dating system does not train young people to form a relationship. It trains them to form a series of relationships, and further trains them to harden themselves to the break-up of all but the current one. At the very least, this system is as much a preparation for divorce as it is for marriage… Further, the modern recreational dating system encourages emotional attachments apart from the protections of a covenant fence… Moreover, the modern dating system also leaves the father of the young girl almost entirely out of the picture. The father, who ought to be protecting his daughter’s sexual purity, sends her off into the dark with some highly interested young man, and then does what he thinks is his job, which is to worry… And he should worry, because the modern dating system expects a certain amount of physical involvement… We somehow think a godly Christian is one who can pre-heat the oven without cooking the roast.

Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage – Biblical Courtship in the Modern World

Daughters Protected

The beauty of biblical courtship is that it never leaves women unprotected.

Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage - Biblical Courtship in the Modern World

Two Become One

As God by creation made two of one, so again by marriage He made one of two.

Thomas Adams

Mutual Duties

A mutual duty between spouses is the provident care of one another’s souls. If a believing husband, or wife, is married to an unbeliever, they ought to use all the means they can to win the other. And if either of you shall be a means of the conversion of the other, how entirely will it knit your affections one to another. If both husband and wife are in a state of grace, they should be watchful one over the other, as to prevent sin in one another, so to redress it the best way they can when either of them are fallen into sin, by seasonable admonition, yes, and correction also. Here the husband and wife should more respect the mutual good of one another, than fear the giving of offence. And it is likewise a special duty incumbent upon husband and wife to help the growth of grace in each other, as by a frequent conferring together of good things, especially of what they hear in the public ministry of the word, so likewise in constant performing of family duties, especially prayer.

Thomas Gouge, Works (Found in Day by Day with the English Puritans)


I shall always endeavour to make choice of such a woman for my spouse, who hath first made choice of Christ as a spouse for herself; that none may be made one flesh with me, who is not made one spirit with Christ my Saviour. For I look upon the image of Christ as the best mark of beauty I can behold in her, and the grace of God as the best portion I can receive with her. These are excellencies, which, though not visible to our carnal eyes, are nevertheless agreeable to a spiritual heart; and such as all wise and good men cannot choose but be enamoured with. For my own part, they seem to me such necessary qualifications, that my heart trembles at the thoughts of ever having a wife without them.

Bishop Beveridge, ‘Resolutions’ (Quoted in A Commentary on Proverbs by Charles Bridges)

On Choice Of Spouse

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. 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 command the affections to act accordingly.

In order that matrimonial society may prove comfortable, it is requisite 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.

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 respects 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 (puts them at) odds…

…look not for better within than thou seest without.

Henry Smith  A Preparative to Marriage and Two Other Sermons 

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