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A Lawful Marriage


For your husband is your Maker,
Whose name is the Lord of hosts;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the God of all the earth.

—Isaiah 54:5


And first, in all lawful marriages it is absolutely necessary, that the parties to be joined together in that holy and honourable estate are actually and legally freed from all pre-engagements whatsoever. ‘A woman is bound to her husband (saith the Apostle) so long as her husband liveth.’ The same law holds good in respect to the man. And so likewise, if either party be betrothed and promised, though not actually married to another, the marriage is not lawful, till that pre-engagement and promise be fairly and mutually dissolved.

Now, it is just thus between us and the Lord Jesus. For, we are all by nature born under and wedded to the law as a covenant of works. Hence it is that we are so fond of and artfully go about in order to establish a righteousness of our own. It is as natural for us to do this, as it is to breathe. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, even after the covenant of grace was revealed to them in that promise, ‘the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head’ reached out their hands and would again have taken hold of the tree of life, which they had forfeited, had not God driven them out of paradise and compelled them, as it were, to be saved by grace. And thus all their descendants naturally run to and want to be saved, partly at least, if not wholly, by their works. And even gracious souls, who are inwardly renewed, so far as the old man abides in them, find a strong propensity this way. Hence it is, that natural men are generally so fond of Arminian principles. ‘Do and live,’ is the native language of a proud, self-righteous heart.

But before we can say, ‘our Maker is our husband,’ we must be delivered from our old husband the law. We must renounce our own righteousness, our own doings and performances, in point of dependence whether in whole or part, as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. For thus speaks the Apostle Paul to the Romans, chapter 7:4, ‘Ye also are become dead to the law (as a covenant of works) by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him, who is raised from the dead.’ As he also speaketh in another place, ‘I have espoused you, as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ.’ This was the Apostle’s own case. Whilst he depended on his being a Hebrew of the Hebrews and thought himself secure, because, as to the outward observation of the law, he was blameless, he was an entire stranger to the divine life. But when he began to experience the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we find him, in his epistle to the Philippians, absolutely renouncing all his external privileges and all his Pharisaical righteousness. ‘Yes, doubtless and I count all things but loss, nay but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.’

And thus it must be with us ere we can say, ‘our Maker is our husband.’ Though we may not be wrought upon in that extraordinary way in which the Apostle was, yet we must be dead to the law, we must be espoused as chaste virgins to Jesus Christ and count all external privileges and our most splendid performances (as was before observed) only ‘as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.’

—George Whitefield, “Christ the Believer’s Husband” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:218–220.

Posted 2018·12·03 by David Kjos
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Posted in: George Whitefield · The Sermons of George Whitefield

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