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clergy, that they, the bridegroom and bride, were married at a specified time in the house of prayer, and that the record should be preserved in the archives of the Church. It requires some subtlety to dispute so plain a testimony ; a testimony as plain as a modern register of marriage, and implying in the place, the witnesses and the registry a sacred act. The same form is not required where there is a dowry; and a more simple form of contract is allowed to the lowest class of the people, which at the time was so degraded, that vo particular rule for the celebration of their marriages could be expected from the imperial legislators. In respect of the highest class there is the testimony, not of legal provisions, but of historical narrative, that their marriages were usually celebrated by the clergy. John, the patriarch of Constantinople, gave the crowns, and administered the sacred rites, at the marriage of the emperor Mauricius to Constantina; (A.D. 580.) as was usual in the case of those who held the pure and uncorrupted faith. His successor, Cyriacus, also married Theodosius, the son of the emperor Mauricius, to the daughter of Germanus, a patrician; and in the following century his successor, Sergius, married the emperor Heraclius to Eudoxia.
In the sixth and seventh centuries flourished Isidore of Seville, who labours under the imputation of forging the Decretal Epistles and other writings, to which he ascribes a primitive name and authority. On the supposition of the fact, that these writings
dis ouinbes. Theophyl. Simocet. Hist. I. i. c. 10. Ux. Eb. I. ii. c. 24. Comber, Office of Matr.
were forged by Isidore, they will be at least allowed to describe the practice of his age, and of that immediately preceding, or the fraud would have been instantly and directly exposed. In the Epistle which bears the name of Evaristus P, bishop of Rome, (A.D. 97.) it is prescribed among other requisites of marriage, As we have received by tradition from the fathers and the holy apostles, and their successors, there is no lawful marriage, unless the bride at the proper time, be sacerdotally blessed, as is the custom, with prayers and oblations by the priest, and attended and accompanied by the paranymphs, as is the custom ; otherwise it is not a marriage, but adultery and concubinage, and rather whoredom and fornication than lawful matrimony. This Epistle is recited in various writings of the ninth century; and upon its authority Evaristus has sometimes the reputation of being the first to pronounce the marriage incestuous which the priest was not present to consecrate, of requiring marriages to be publicly and lawfully made, and of interdicting cohabitation before the sacerdotal benediction. But the same or similar rules are found in the decrees of the pope Soter, and of the first council of Carthage, which have been already recited, and with the spirit of which, the letter of Evaristus exactly coincides. The Decretal Epistle of Callistus 1.9 also affirms, that there is no Jawful marriage, without the deed of dower and the benediction of the priest. If these are indeed the inventions of Isidore, they are valuable testimonies of the practice of the sixth century: if they are the
P Apud Gerhard.
9 Us. Ebr. l. ii. c. 29.
writings of an earlier age, they confirm the evidence of the sacerdotal benediction of marriage. Isidore himself, in his authentic writings, does not scruple to assert the tradition of this practice from the very original institution of marriage: That persons are blessed by the priest in the union of marriage, he says, was done by God, in the very first union of man ; for thus it is written: God made man; in the image of God made he him ; male and female made he them; and blessed them, saying, Increase and multiply. This is now done in the Church, after the example of what was then done in paradise. He afterwards speaks of the use of bridemaids and veils during the ceremony, of the benediction, of chaplets, and the use of the ring; and makes the three nuptial benefits to consist of issue, fidelity, and the sacrament; understanding under the latter term, the indissolubility of the union, and the apostolical representation of the mysterious unity of Christ with his Church'. It is of importance to add, that Isidore probably adverts to the words of Augustin, concerning the nuptial tables, which he calls, the sacerdotal tables ; and from a collation of the passages, it is reasonable to infer, that Augustin understood by the nuptial tables, not any civil instruments between man and wife, but the office of matrimony in use among Christians, celebrated by the priest, and contained in the ecclesiastical tables. Such a form is extant in the Sacramentary of Saint Gregory, which professes to have been written in the seventh cen
tury, and which, as there is just reason for believing, was compiled from offices of a more ancient date. It was in this century also, that Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, (A.D. 680.) ordered how the bride and bridegroom should be blessed; viz. that they should receive benediction from the priest, with prayers and oblations".
In the eighth century, Egbert*, Archbishop of York, (A. D. 740.) published the decree of the fourth council of Carthage, concerning marriage ; and at this period, and at the instance of the kings, Pepin and Charlemagne, Hittorpius judges the Ordo Romanus to have been compiled, which contains an express and excellent formulary for blessing the bride'.
In the ninth century, Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, (A. D. 860.) and with him all the bishops of France and Germany, in a letter addressed to the emperor, condemn the opinion, that marriage might proceed from impious concubinage; and, adverting to the divine benediction on the first marriage, they declare, In imitation of that marriage, the holy Church has anciently, solemnly, and reverently, taken care of those who are in the Church, as in the paradise of God, and are to be joined together in marriage, uniting them with the divine benediction and the celebration of mass : and this honourable and reli. gious union, commencing under the authority of God, and confirmed by his benediction, has been preserved in a just order, even by natural law, and
'Comber, Off. of Matr. Introduct. u Ux. Ebr. l. ii. c. 28. * Ibid.
See Appendix, No. III. y See Appendix, No. III.
among the Gentiles, who have not received the law, and possess not the knowledge of God. It was about the same period, that Pope Nicolas, in his Epistle addressed to the Bulgarians, distinctly describes the Romish forms of espousals and of marriage. Of the latter he says, The bride and bridegroom enter the Church of the Lord with the oblations, which they should offer unto God, by the hand of the priest; and thus they receive the benediction and the celestial veil. It was in this century also that the laws of Charlemagne and Lewis the Pious, not only ordained the use of the sacred benediction, but required that the very form of the contract should be made in the Church, under the administration of a presbyter. In conformity with this law, Ethelwolf, king of England, was married to Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald; and the practice thus, according to Selden, received into the Western empire, was spread abroad in the neigh'bouring states”.
The tenth century produced the constitution of Leo the Philosopher, requiring the same religious ceremonies to be observed in marriage as in adoption : As antiquity was negligent of the ceremonies of adoption, it appears also to have been negligent of the perfect constitution of marriage, and to have suffered it to be contracted without the benediction now received. The reason of this dispensation may have been known to the ancients ; but it does not become us to be so negligent, since, by the divine grace, affairs are now directed to a more honourable
2 Ux. Ebr. l. ii. c. 29.