A Type Of The Marriage Of Christ: John Gill On Marriage -- By: Matthew D. Haste

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:2 (Jul 2014)
Article: A Type Of The Marriage Of Christ: John Gill On Marriage
Author: Matthew D. Haste

A Type Of The Marriage Of Christ: John Gill On Marriage

Matt Haste

“My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly—which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness…. And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection.”

—Rev. William Collins, proposing to Miss Elizabeth Bennet1

This memorable scene in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice provides a window into some of the complicated issues surrounding marriage in early modern England. Mr. Collins, a pompous clergyman perpetually unaware of himself, proposes to the young Elizabeth Bennet, providing her with both a list of reasons why he wishes to marry and an apology for why the arrangement is desirable for her. Elizabeth is unimpressed by his practicality and can barely contain her laughter, even though such a marriage would be financially advantageous. In the end, Mr. Collins moves on swiftly, becoming engaged to Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte, within the week. Charlotte is no more attracted to the Reverend than her friend, but, she concedes, “I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only for a comfortable home.”2 Such was the diversity of the times. Some, like the opportunistic Charlotte and the bumbling Mr. Collins, viewed marriage as

mostly a practical arrangement, primarily aimed at settling property from one generation to the next. Others shared the more idealistic notions of Elizabeth, holding out hope for “a union that [would be] to the advantage of both” husband and wife.3 While notions of authority and structure continued to give shape to domestic relationships, affection between the spouses was a point of emphasis, something even Mr. Collins felt obliged to acknowledge. In the midst of it all, legal developments and the growth of society continued to alter the landscape within and around the institution of marriage.4

In such a context, one might wonder how the church responded. Surely, there were greater sources of wisdom on the subject than the likes of the Reverend Collins. But what did they say and how did they address the issues of their day? In the end, did the church call ...

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