Marriage and Children

“God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise”

The world has generally found it strange and difficult to talk about marriage without also talking about children. In 1594 Edmund Spenser, the famous poet, married Elizabeth Boyle. For their wedding he wrote her a magnificent poem called the Epithalamion. In it he praises marriage, dotes on his bride, and narrates their whole wedding day as he anticipates it. Toward the end of the poem he prays, “Therefore to us be favorable now; And since of women’s labours thou hast charge, And generation goodly dost enlarge, Encline thy will t’effect our wishfull vow, And the chaste womb inform with timely seed, That may our comfort breed.” When Spenser thought of his wedding night, he quite naturally imagined (and prayed) that his wife would become pregnant. When Spenser thought of marriage, he naturally thought of children.

In Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, written around 1610, a man named Ferdinand has fallen in love with a girl named Miranda, and Miranda’s father, Prospero, is warning Ferdinand to remain chaste until they’re married. Prospero says, “But if thou dost break her virgin-knot before all sanctimonious ceremonies may with full and holy rite be ministered, no sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall to make this contract grow; but barren hate, sour-eyed disdain, and discord shall bestrew the union of your bed with weeds so loathly that you shall hate it both.” Ferdinand promises that, “As I hope for quiet days, fair issue, and long life,” he will not let temptation “melt mine honor into lust to take away the edge of that day’s celebration” (The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1).

Notice that, when speaking of marriage, Prospero spoke of “sweet aspersion [dew from heaven]…to make this contract grow,” meaning God’s blessing of children. Likewise, in his response Ferdinand said that part of his reason for remaining chaste before marriage was in hope for “fair issue.” When both men think of marriage, they think of children.

These are but two from a whole host of literary examples that illustrate the point. And there are so many who associate marriage and children because, well, isn’t it obvious?, and also because so many have been influenced by God’s words to Adam and Eve when he joined them in marriage: “And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’” (Gen. 1:28). Thus it still says to this day in our marriage rite, “God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise” (Lutheran Service Book, pg. 275).

If this all seems obvious, good. It should be obvious that the baby-making act leads to babies. “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Gen. 4:1). The world has caused great mischief by trying to separate the baby-making act from marriage and the baby-making act from babies. The world would instead associate the baby-making act with personal pleasure and defy the old children’s rhyme, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” Man might as well try separating heat from fire and associate cold with it instead.

It is important that our children learn to think rightly about marriage and children. A right understanding of God’s arrangement will keep them from sexual immorality and will prepare them for happy marriages. They will not think of the opposite sex as some tool for personal pleasure, but as a blessed, God-ordained complement to their own sex, and will seek a spouse. They will think of children when they think of marriage, and they will understand the seriousness of wedded life with all its delights and duties. It is strange and difficult to tear children out of marriage. God grant our children to think it strange also.

In Christ,
Pastor Richard

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