Two Shall Become One

The Biblical Standard for Finding a Marriage Partner


by JAMES AND NANCY MOLINE

 

In the first institution of marriage, when there was no father to give consent, then our Heavenly Father gave His consent: God supplied the place of the father, and brought His daughter unto her husband, and ever since, the father after the same manner, hath offered his daughter unto the husband...a man hath the disposition of his own substance, so he hath the disposition of his own children..."

"Marriage hath need of many counselors, and dost thou count [her] father too many...which is like the foreman of thy instructors? Mark what kind of youth they be, which have such haste, that they dare not stay for their parents advice, they are such as hunt for nothing but beauty...therefore honor thy parents in this, as thou wouldest that thy children should honor thee."

Yes, the above came from long ago, but here we were living in 1995 with two older daughters and one young son. After following the commands of Jeremiah 6:16, we had become convinced that the ways of the old reformed and puritan saints carried great weight of truth Biblically. We had sought out the old ways, the old paths and were desiring to "walk ye therein". The question before us was; just how to walk in those ways that seemed so contrary to everything that we had learned.

Courtship was a term that we had not fully understood, nor comprehended. We knew that dating was not for our children, but we knew little of what would be pleasing to God. As we searched and studied we found that there was much more to all of this then we first had thought. The whole understanding of courtship was founded on the true understanding of the human heart and its responsibilities before God. One must have a converted heart, they must be pious. A Christian must only choose one that is pious as a spouse, this we understood. But, there was far more beneath the surface of this seemingly minor issue. This would be one of the greatest lessons, trials, and blessings of our life.

We will try in this short letter to share with you some of the treasures that have come our way and how they affected the courtship of our daughter, Jennifer. Here are some of the quotes that helped us see God’s plan in choosing a spouse. They are taken from "Of Domestical Duties" by Wm. Gouge 1622 and "A Preparative to Marriage and Two Other Sermons" 1591 by Henry Smith.

"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 respecteth 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 makes odds...so they which are like strive not, but they which are unlike, as fire and water...therefore a godly man in our time thanked the Lord that He had not only given him a godly wife, but a fit wife: for he said not that she was the wisest, nor the holiest, nor the humblest, nor the modestest wife in the world, but the fittest wife in the world, which every man should think when the knot is tied, or else so often as he seeth a better, he will wish that his choice were to make again. As he did thank God for sending him the fit wife, so the unmarried should pray God to send them a fit wife: for if they be not like, they will not like."

"This fitness is commended by the Holy Ghost in two words: one is in the 2nd of Genesis and the other is in the 2nd Corinthians 6:14 and that in Genesis is meet: God saith I will make a help meet for him, showing, that a wife cannot help well unless she be meet....they are couples so they may be called pairs, that is like as a pair of gloves, so man and wife should be like, because they are a pair of friends. If thou be learned, choose one that loveth knowledge; if thou be martial, choose one that loveth prowess: if thou must live by thy labour, choose one that loveth husbandry: for unless her mind stand with thy vocation, thou shalt neither enjoy thy wife, nor thy calling. That other word is yoke that Paul saith, be not unequally yoked. If marriage be a yoke, then they which draw in it must be fit, like two oxen which draw the yoke together, or else all the burden will lie upon one. Therefore they are called yoke fellows too, to show that they which draw this yoke must be fellows...so he which will have godly children must choose a godly wife: for like mother (saith Ezekiel) like daughter."

"There be certain signs of this fitness, and godliness, both in the man and the woman...thou must mark five things...which are like the pulses that show whether we be well or ill. The first mark is the report...a good man commonly hath a good name, because a good name is one of the blessings which God promiseth to good men...but a good name is not to be praised from the wicked...that is, when evil men speak well of you, because this is a sign that you are of the world. The next sign is the look...that one saith well, a modest man dwells at the sign of a modest countenance, and an honest woman dwelleth at the sign of an honest face...to show how a modest countenance, and womanly shamefacedness do commend a chaste wife...modesty should be learned before marriage, which is the dowry that God addeth to her portion. The third sign is her speech or her silence...he should be the teacher and she the hearer...by the speech we might know what aboundeth in the heart...as the echo answereth but one word for many which are spoken to her; so a maid's answer should be a word, as though she hold her breath. The fourth sign is the apparel...a modest woman is known by her sober attire...look not for better within than thou seest without...if the face be vanity, the heart is pride-he which biddeth thee abstain from the show of evil, would have thee to abstain from those wives which have the shows of evil: for it is hard to come in the fashion and not be in the abuse-and therefore Paul saith, fashion not yourselves like unto the world: as though the fashions of men did declare of what side they are. The fifth sign is the company: for birds of a feather will fly together...therefore choose such a companion of thy life as hath chosen company like thee before. When these rules are observed, they may join together and say, as Laban and Bethuel said, this cometh of the Lord, therefore we will not speak against it...how happy are those in whom faith, and love, and godliness are married together, before they marry themselves. For none of these martial, and cloudy, and whining marriages can say that godliness was invited to their bridal; and therefore the blessings which are promised to godliness do fly from them."

"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 (that is directed by the will of God). 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 commanded 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. It is very meet that the husband should be somewhat elder than his wife, because he is an head, a governour, a protector of his wife (after seeing the suitability and direction of God). Mutual love and good liking of each other is as glue. If at first there be a good liking mutually and thoroughly settled in both their hearts of one another, love is like to continue in them forever, as things which are well glued, and settled, before they be shaken up and down, will never be severed asunder: but if they be joined together without glue, or shaken while the glue is moist, they cannot remain firm.

Contrary is the adulterous and brutish practice of such as so soon as they cast their eye on any whom they like never advise or consult about a right and due proceeding unto marriage, but instantly with all the eagerness and speed they can, like brute beasts seek to have their desire and lust satisfied. Their practice (of the old world) was this, that they took them wives of all that they chose: that is, they rashly and suddenly married whomsoever they liked, without any consideration of their condition (fitness)."

Here we found ourselves believing thus: That God would have our children only marry those that were truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness and showed great evidences of a converted heart. That their must be a fitness between the two of them that could be tested and found to be so. These were the things that courtship would discover. So, we set our foundation and direction to be thus: anyone interested would have to be found pious and determined to be fit, first by us as the father and mother and then permission would be given for the courtship to commence. This courtship would be the time when the heart would be directed by the will through the fitness to bring forth the fruit of a mutual love. This is where our trials began as parents. We understood the principles behind this, but how to walk in this was a new and difficult thing for us. But, as you will see, God poured out his grace and mercy upon us abundantly.

Our family planned a move to the state of Texas in the fall of 1993. As part of the journey we stopped for the Lord’s Day in Des Moines, Iowa to fellowship with a very special church there. We had become members, even though it was located 4 hours from us and wanted to have one last Lord’s Day with our pastor and friends. It was during this stopover that the "letter" was delivered. "The letter" that every father expects to come someday, but when it does come it is quite a surprise. It was from a young man from North Carolina that we had never met. He had heard our name a few years before while visiting with someone that we also knew in another state. Then again that spring, while attending a reformed conference where our Pastor also was attending, our name came up again. It was a letter of intent. The young man was asking for permission to get to know Jennifer with the intent of marriage as the end. Here we were in the middle of a move, faced with great new responsibilities, and now one of the greatest situations of our life was coming upon us also. Jennifer knew nothing of the letter. This was part of our protection for her, as parents. It was something that we had all previously discussed and felt that until a young man was seen as fit and a possible spouse for her, it would be wiser if she were not given possibly false hopes.

Some time went by before any correspondence was sent off to this inquiring young man. A post card was sent off telling of the move and the future intention of corresponding. Three months would lapse before the "30 questions" letter was sent. That is what our response to him has now been termed by our family. We sat, hour after hour, prayerfully putting on paper some of the major questions that a father would ask of a man coming with the intent of marriage to his daughter. You see, in our years of parenting we just expected that when a young man would come for one of our daughters, we would already know him. It never occurred to us, that a total stranger would inquire. This made the questions seem more and more important and some time would also need to be spent personally. But, the 30 questions would be the beginning, and off they finally went. We knew that just the intensity of the questions may be enough to scare off anyone not really serious about following after the ways of God. We also knew that with the many changes in our families beliefs that it would take a Puritan to fulfill all of our expectations. Many doubts ran through our minds as we realized that the reality of finding someone that we felt would be good for our daughter’s soul and believe the same way that we did was in the world's eyes very small.

Again, quite some time went by before we heard any response to our letter. Then one day a very thick Federal Express letter package arrived. There it was, the 16 page response to our 30 questions. Now, it might be a help to you to understand our living conditions at this time. We had been living in a 31 ft. Airstream travel trailer since shortly after our move to Texas, due to Nancy’s environmental illness. We had gutted the insides and specially built it for us. It was the first time in her whole life that she had a home that did not make her ill. We all felt very blessed with our new home, but for parents in the middle of something this important, living in 31 ft. with our three children made it a little more difficult to conduct the proceedings of the courtship privately. However, it was kept a secret. The Federal Express package made an interesting date night at the local restaurant. We read every word with fear and trembling of heart. Great anticipation as well as great caution filled every ounce of our hearts. To make it even more exciting, the cover page was a letter explaining that the young man was flying to the Dallas area (close to where we were at the time) the next day for a week or so to visit his brother, and he requested a meeting. My, oh my, as we read the letter it didn’t give us much time to soak in all that he said before we had to prepare for his arrival. You see, we had moved, and so the Federal Express package had lost a day in delivery.

In his plane came, and over came a delightful young man attired in a suit, carrying a gift for my wife. We spent quite some time at a local restaurant that day, and several to follow during that week. His beginning statements to us were very gracious and kind. He told us that his intent was for Jennifer’s best interest and that if we saw anything in him or any kind of unfitness between them we should feel free to give him a no answer to his request to get to know her. After about 20 hours of intense conversation it became quite evident that this was not the one for our dear Jennifer. Oh, this was a very hard decision, as we like him quite well and found him to be a very gracious young man. We had learned that fitness is quite important, and we could see that there would be the possibility of difficulty in that area. We voiced that to him and said our good-byes. As we finished our conversations, he mentioned that there was yet another young man in his church that he felt might be quite fit with the foundational beliefs of our family. He asked permission to give him our name and address. We gave it gladly.

Upon arrival at home that evening, we felt it now time to tell Jennifer of the business of the past week. Even though this was not the man for her, we felt it would be an encouragement to her to know that someone had been sent by the Lord for the purpose of preparing our family for the day when the right one would come. When we explained the situation, she cried with such excitement and joy over what God had done. We also realized that our younger daughter had accidently seen the first letter that had come and kept it to herself all those months. God had brought blessing after blessing to us from this situation.

It was yet another few months before another letter arrived voicing interest in our precious Jennifer. This time she was aware of the correspondence. This time she helped revise the "30 questions". Since the first young man had come and we were given the opportunity to spend as much time with him as we did, we felt it important to add several questions to our list. Again, we knew that the letter had the potential of sending this young man away from the intenseness of the content, but we trusted that God would bring forth His spouse in His right timing for our daughters.

This time, after quite some time, an audio tape arrived with a short letter. Steven had chosen to answer the "30 questions" on audio tape. This delighted us. We could hear his answers from the heart. Again, date night was chosen and by this time we were living in a beautiful campground about 60 miles west of Houston. There were recreational buildings that were open, so we chose one of them as our place for date night. The girls served us supper, while we listened to the tape. A very humble young man, with a heart to serve our Great and Mighty God, covered each and every question with exactness and thoroughness, sincerity and humility. We were greatly encouraged. Within a few days a phone call was made to invite him for a visit. He was not sure of his timing with his job and time off, but he would contact us when it was possible. It was not too long before he called with arrangements to come and meet Jennifer’s father and mother. He knew that upon meeting us that there was the possibility that he would not be meeting Jennifer. The other young man was a good friend of his and had already experienced that disappointment. Steven was coming...our family was in full excitement over this event. Not only was our family thinking that he was a potential suitor, but he was a fellow brethren with many of the same foundational beliefs as we had. And he was coming all the way from North Carolina. This time it was different as all were involved, and it took on quite a different flavor.

The day arrived, and Jennifer, Patti and Jonathan stayed at home preparing for a potential guest for supper, but not quite sure of his arrival. For Jennifer, she had mixed feelings, some desiring him to be brought home, and some hoping that he would not be brought home. This was a new experience for her now, as a woman. This time, off the plane came a young man wearing a baseball hat and clothing similar to what I most often wear. As he stepped towards us, he waved and smiled as if we were his very dear friends. This was to shortly become very true. Steven was found to be sincere, forthright, humble and of a contrite heart. It only took a short time for us to see that this was truly a man of God. With almost every sentence, a like mindedness to our Jennifer became evident. When lunch at the restaurant was over, Nancy called Jennifer. She told her to prepare for a guest for supper. Jennifer cried. There was great excitment in our home that day as the girls prepared for this special one coming. This had never occurred before and wrought many searchings of the heart before God.

As we drove up and introduced Steven to our Jennifer, his gentleness overcame her nervousness quite quickly. After supper and the next morning, you could see a friendship beginning to build. Steven had stayed in the guest room that night, and it had given us the opportunity to inquire of Jennifer. This is one of the greatest joys of a parent's heart to see the woman immerging from their little girl. She had thoughts that couldn’t even be put into words. She also knew that criteria for a fitness and was searching this young man inside and out with her new criteria.

By Saturday evening, every topic that was brought up, every question asking "what do you think about... or what is your opinion about..." turned out to be like minded. Steven’s brother in law had even told Steven that what he needed was a puritan, that he had set his standards too high for this day and age. We too had thought that maybe we had set our standards too high for reality, but here we were sitting before a man that exceeded them all. The ground for our being pleased with Steven was his contriteness of heart, sincerity, and humility. On Saturday evening we all sang Psalms, as is our custom and delight. Jennifer has been very blessed by God with a beautiful voice. As we all began to sing, it became evident that Steven too had such a gift. Even in this, there seemed such a fitness. We could not have provided so much fitness as was becoming evident between them, even if we had tried our very best. It was evident that God had wrought a good work here.

By Monday, when Steven prepared to leave, all knew that something good had been brought about. The next question was what was the next step. Steven asked for permission to pursue the fitness between them by beginning correspondence with Jennifer. Jennifer was then asked if she desired such. She gave her permission readily. Steven had requested that he be taken to the airport privately without any of the children, including Jennifer, so the good-byes were made at home. On the way to the airport, questions spilled out, thoughts filled the hearts, the future dawned with great anticipation. As we said good-bye to Steven, it was with newness of heart. God had brought Steven, and we all knew it. A great thanksgiving for the work that God was bringing filled our beings. Joy abundantly came to our souls. It was not just Steven that brought this joy, it was the reality that God had answered the prayers of many years from the lips of such lowly parents. We had walked down many wrong paths, thinking they were the ways of God. We had made many, many mistakes in the raising of our children, and here before us was His mercy evident in bringing us such a blessing instead of that which we deserved. God had shown himself forth strong when we had rebelled, murmured and grumbled so towards him. It was nothing that we had done, no good thing....no, not one, that had caused God to bring forth Steven. It was completely His mercy and grace.

In the months to follow, many, many long distance phone calls were received, many visits from Steven attended upon and the love that was based on piety and fitness came forth. There were many walks at Coushatte (the campground where we lived). They knew that to be chaperoned was important, so they never were alone. Even at Coushatte, where many retired people lived, they were always watched by some caring grandparent type friend, trying to keep up with the courtship. It was the talk of the campground. Their hearts soon became knit together. In November, Steven came to ask for Jennifer’s hand in marriage. After the permission was cheerfully granted, he took Jennifer to the bench by the pond and proposed to her. She very willingly accepted.

Here is where we thought we were to begin resting, but we found the contrary to be true. As we continued to study, we found that instead of our thinking that at marriage the cutting of the apron strings occurred and the birds left the nest to entirely be on their own, there were great responsibilities that a parent had to their children, and children had to their parents even after marriage. "Of Domestical Duties" by Wm. Gouge was a great help to us in understanding our new role. He pointed out that it is Biblically a loosening of the reigns with our children. We are to help them where they need help and assistance. They are a talent given to us by God until death parts us. We have the responsibility of watching over them our whole lives. We are to train them to walk with God, and when we see that they need help, we are to give it. Zipporah’s father in going to Moses was one of the examples. This gave us again, new perspectives. Our goal in all of our duties towards them was to fit them for a holy walk with God. As they walked more and more in His ways, more and more of the reigns would be loosened.

Steven was living in North Carolina, and it had been assumed that Jennifer would just move there. As we looked at the situation with new eyes, we began to see that it may be more fit for them to live in the Dallas area. Steven’s parent would then be about 4 hours in one direction, and we would be about 4 hours in the other. There was a good church there, and so we made the suggestion to him. After consideration, all parties thought this a fit and right thing to do. Steven went job searching and found a very good one quite readily. He then searched for their new home and also was blessed with a nice home in the country. A date for the wedding was set for April 29th, 1995.

Again, we began looking at what type of a wedding would be pleasing to God. The vanities of the world were not be the Christian’s choice. We soon realized that what we had thought quite appropriate for a wedding years ago, were not the modest, meek, and sober minded things that would please God. As we took each aspect of the wedding through an intense search, we settled on a quaint modest service and modest, sober minded attire. We realized that the focal point of the service must be the Glory of God and nothing other. The bride's attire, the church's decorations, the music...all these things that normally called attention to themselves were not to be a part of our puritan wedding. We desired simple and modest, with the view totally on God and His goodness. Psalms were chosen to be sung acapella. Jennifer’s dress followed the criteria of the puritans...something to be worn again and very practical.

Oh, we were not desiring to follow the puritans for themselves, as we are not to follow any man, so, as we found their principles we sought the Biblical foundation for them. This greatly helped us in making our decision.

Jennifer and Steven were joined in the union of marriage on April 29, 1995 in a quaint little country church, followed by a reception at Coushatte. At the reception they sang to each other of their commitment to God and their life together as man and wife. And after they left for their honeymoon, as we cleaned up the recreation hall, our hearts knew of the greatness of God in joining the two of these souls together. We were doing as parents are supposed to do, we were following our duty of providing for our children. We had just seen them fly from the nest, to go off on their first flight from home. They would be back. That is what God has ordained. They would come to us again to seek His counsel. They would come to us again to bless us as our offspring. They would come to us again for further loosening of the reigns. This is God’s holy way.

 

Young Women Stepping Heavenward
PO Box 1992, Van Alstyne, Texas 75495