Dead Men Know Best: The Wisdom and Wit of the Puritans (and other dead men) on Marriage. Part 2: William Secker

Two gold wedding rings with gold heart.
The wedding rings of covenant marriage in Christ.

Our very alive but dead man of the moment is William Secker, seventeenth century divine. In 1658, he gave the following wedding sermon in London (see link below). It is the deepest, most analytical and poetic scriptural treatise on marriage I’ve ever read. This sermon is full of wonderful analogies and metaphorical language that makes beautiful sense. Here is some background on Secker and this wedding sermon from Wikisource :

“SECKER, WILLIAM (d. 1681?), divine, preached at Tewkesbury and afterwards at All-Hallows, London Wall. He may have been the William Secker who was appointed rector of Leigh, Essex, on 30 Aug. 1667, and died there before November 1681 (Newcourt, Repert. Eccles. ii. 384).

Secker’s sermon on ‘A Wedding Ring fit for the Finger, or the Salve of Divinity on the Sore of Humanity, laid open at a Wedding in St. Edmunds’ (?Edmonton), London, 1658, 12mo, was very popular, and was often reprinted (cf. edits. at Glasgow, 1850, 12mo; New York, 1854, 16mo). It was translated into Welsh, ‘Y Fodrwy Briodas,’ Brecon, 1775 (two editions), and as ‘Y Cristion rhagorol,’ Bala, 1880, 8vo. Secker also dedicated to Sir Edward and Lady Frances Barkham of Tottenham, who had befriended him, a volume of sermons entitled ‘The Nonsuch Professor’ (London, 1660, 8vo). This was republished (Leeds, 1803, 12mo; London, 1891), and was edited, with ‘The Wedding Ring,’ by Matthew Wilks, London, 1867, 12mo; it was several times reprinted in America.”

Note that it was reprinted in America several times. We should reprint it again. I doubt anyone in America would care to sit through such a lengthy sermon at a wedding today. How unfortunate. Thankfully, it can be found online at Grace Gems, with the link provided in the title below. It prints out to fourteen luscious pages. Married couples: print a copy and keep it under your pillow.

The Wedding Ring

“The Salve of Divinity – on the Sore of Humanity”

Here are some of my favorite parts of this message:

The subtitle: “The Salve of Divinity on the Sore of Humanity”.  What is a salve? Wikipedia says it’s a medical ointment used to soothe the surface of the body. Free Merriam Webster dictionary says it’s a a remedial or soothing influence or agency. Dictionary.com says it’s a a medicinal ointment for healing or relieving wounds and sores. The wedding ring, or marriage itself is the salve provided by God for the sore of man’s solitary condition. Secker starts with Genesis 2:18 – It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. God provides the cure – marriage. If only every man and woman thought marriage was a remedy, a blessing, a gift of God. Nowadays we hear how men feel trapped in marriage and women feel stifled. Marriage was intended to be a healing balm and both spouses a help for one another, as we saw previously in William Gouge’s work.

This dead man speaks much wisdom in the following quotes:

“Human misery is to divine mercy, as a black foil to a sparkling diamond, or as a sable cloud to the sunbeams.”Blue Diamond

“Marriage is like water, to quench the sparks of lust’s fire.”

“Husband and wife should be as two milk cows – which were coupled together to carry the ark of God. Or as the two Cheribim, which looked upon one another, and both upon the mercy-seat.”

“The wife is often to the husband, as the ivy is to the oak – which draws away his vital sap from him.”

“Husband and wife should be like two candles burning together, which make the house more lightsome; or like two fragrant flowers bound up in one bouquet, which augments its redolence; or like two well-tuned instruments, which sounding together, make the more melodious music.”

“How many women are there, who are not laboring bees – but idle drones! They take up a room in the hive – but bring no honey to it! They are moths to their husband’s estates, spending when they should be sparing! As the man’s part is to provide industriously, so the woman’s part is to preserve discreetly!”

The last portion of this sermon is instruction to men on how to choose a wife. Here are some great quotes from this section (my comments in italics):

Wedding still life with brid's jewellery“Choose such a one that will be subject to your dominion. Take heed of yoking yourselves with untamed heifers.”    How would that first sentence sit with feminism? Hmmm. And untamed heifers cracked me up.

“Marriage is just like a sea voyage; he who enters into this ship must look to meet with storms and tempests!” Yes, indeed.

“Choose such a one as may be serviceable to your salvation. A man may think he has a saint – when he has a devil! Take heed of a harlot who is false to your bed; and of a hypocrite who is false to your God.”

Great wisdom. Another dead man has spoken. Take heed and listen!

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