Maintaining Marriage in Honor Before God and Men
“Recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.”—2 Cor. 4:2.
1. (a) As respects his marriage, what should be a Christian’s concern? (b) What questions might arise as to the regulations of the civil authorities regarding marriage? (Mark 12:17)
FOR God’s congregated people to stay within his favor, it is vital that marriage be held in honor among them. (Heb. 13:4) Each individual married Christian should show serious concern that his or her marriage is honorable in the sight of both God and men. In this connection the question arises, To what extent do human authorities, including political governments and civil authorities, enter the picture? Does the validity of a marriage depend entirely upon its recognition by civil authorities and does their validation determine how Jehovah God, the Author of marriage, views the union?
2. What legal formalities regarding marriage did God’s law to Israel not require?
2 In the preceding article we have seen that marriage among people of Hebrew Scripture times was at first a family or tribal affair. When the nation of Israel was formed, God gave them his law, which contained numerous provisions concerning marriage, including prohibitions of incestuous relationships, regulations governing marital duties and similar provisions. (Leviticus, chaps. 18 and 20) There was, however, no requirement that a document or license be obtained from the priesthood in order for a couple to marry, nor that a priestly representative be present at the marriage to validate it. Nor was such the case as regards representatives of the Israelite government. Rather, as long as God’s law was adhered to, the marriage was accepted as valid and honorable within the particular community where the wedded ones lived.
3. Did Israel’s coming under the domination of foreign powers affect the way in which marriage and divorce were handled?
3 In course of time, the nation of Israel came under the domination of foreign powers—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. To what extent did this affect the marriage arrangements among the Israelites? From what information history provides, it appears that they continued much as before, this being permitted by the nations dominating them. Though a subject people, it appears that questions or even disputes, such as those involving divorce actions, were handled chiefly by the Jewish elders and their judicial courts. Obviously, however, if an Israelite took a marriage case to the courts of the dominant nation he could expect them to judge the case on the basis of their own laws relative to marriage.
4. When registration of marriages was first introduced, what purpose did it serve?
4 It is thought that in later Bible times marriages came to be registered, though there seems to be no clear evidence of this. At any rate, it appears that any registering of the marriage came into the picture only after the marriage had been effected. The civil government thus acted as a record-keeper of the fact of the marriage rather than as a judge of the morality of the marriage.
5. (a) What was the situation about licensing marriages in the early centuries of the Christian congregation? (b) When did the civil authorities begin to concern themselves with marriage and marital relationships?
5 What was the situation in the early centuries of the Christian congregation? As in Israel, it seems to have continued largely as a family affair. And, as back in Eden and as among the Israelites (and, in fact, most peoples of that time), there was no requirement that some religious or civil authority license the marriage or be present to make it a valid and honorable one.a Civil authorities do not seem to have concerned themselves with marriage or marital relationships until such time as one or both of the parties might come to them for legal solution of problems or disputes. They would at such time either acknowledge or deny the validity of the marriage, depending upon its conformity to their laws. (Roman law, for example, did not recognize marriages between brothers and sisters.)
6. (a) What primarily governed marriage relationships in the Christian congregation? (b) Should the views of the community in which Christians live ever have a bearing on what they do about their marriages?
6 Conformity to God’s law, nevertheless, was necessary if the marriage was to be viewed as honorable within the Christian congregation. Thus, when the apostle Paul heard from the Corinthian congregation that “a wife a certain man has of his father,” he did not hesitate to condemn this as “fornication.” He also showed that the congregation was to be concerned about the standards of the community where they lived, for he pointed out that “even among the nations” such a thing was not being done.—1 Cor. 5:1, 2.
7, 8. (a) Why does the Christian congregation rightly take an interest in the marriages contracted by its members? (b) What does history reveal in this regard about early Christians?
7 The Christian congregation viewed itself as an ‘association of brothers’ made up of fellow members of “God’s household,” the term “household” here having the sense of a family household, as a comparison of such texts as Matthew 10:12, 35, 36; Acts 16:30-34; 1 Timothy 3:4, 5; 5:4, 8 indicates. So, like a family the congregation would rightly take an interest in marriages contracted by its members.
8 Commenting on the viewpoint of early Christians, Hastings’ Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics (Vol. VIII, page 435) states: “Marriage is, in the first place, an affair of the family. In the earliest period the Christian congregation regarded itself as a spiritual family, and the life and concerns of every member of the congregation were of intimate interest to the whole body. . . . The testimony of the [church] Fathers, from the middle of the 3rd century onwards, shows that what we should now describe as civil marriages were not unknown, perhaps were not uncommon, but at the same time were strongly discountenanced by the Church.”
9. (a) What conclusion can we draw from the Scriptures and history about civil validation of marriage? (b) Upon what did the honorableness of marriage depend?
9 Thus, what evidence is available in the Scriptures and in history indicates that in early times civil marriage or civil validation of marriage did not play a very prominent part. It does not seem to have been a great issue as regards the honorableness of a marriage from the Christian point of view. Apparently the honorableness of a marriage depended most directly upon its acceptance by the Christian congregation as conforming to divine standards, with consideration also being given to attitudes and standards of people in the community where the Christians lived. Like the apostle Paul, Christians would seek to be “recommending [themselves] to every human conscience in the sight of God,” and try to “keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God” by ‘doing all things for God’s glory.’—2 Cor. 4:2; 1 Cor. 10:31, 32.
10, 11. (a) How is it that the civil authorities eventually became involved with marriage and its validation? (b) What view regarding the validity of marriage prevails in strongly Protestant lands?
10 However, it is a fact that, in more recent times and in many parts of the earth, the relationship of the civil authorities to marriage and its validation has taken on greater prominence. Rightly, Christians must take this fact into account in seeking to keep their marriages “honorable among all.” (Heb. 13:4) In weighing the matter, it is of value to consider how this changed attitude has come about. The Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics says (page 437; italics ours): “From the civil side marriage is regarded as a legal contract which must be regulated for practical purposes by the State. From the Christian point of view, marriage is a holy estate which the Church may claim to regulate in the highest interests of religion and morality. Experience shows that there must ever be a possibility of conflict between the two jurisdictions, and that, consequently, difficulties in practice may often result. . . . It is in the modern period, since the [Protestant] Reformation, that the question of the two jurisdictions and the proper relations of the one to the other has come into prominence. . . .”b
11 It therefore appears that the validation of marriage by civil authorities has become more of an issue in modern times than was true at any past time in history. At least in strongly Protestant lands the trend has been more and more to view the validity of marriage (and consequently of divorce) as resting almost entirely with the decision of civil authorities. The role of the congregation with regard to the validity of marriage (and divorce) has consequently waned in the eyes of many.
DETERMINING THE VALIDITY OF MARRIAGE
12. Since the civil authority has become involved with marriage and its validation, what questions does this raise for the servant of God?
12 Faced with such circumstances, what should the Christian do? He certainly cannot ignore the existing state of affairs if he desires his marriage to be honorable “among all.” He cannot ‘turn back the clock’ to the days when civil authorities were not viewed as an important factor in the validation of marriage. However, these questions arise: Is the decision of civil authorities to be viewed as absolute in determining whether a marriage is valid—either at its beginning or when it perhaps ends through divorce? To what extent is God affected by their decision?
13. Why cannot the view of the civil authority regarding marriage be regarded as absolute? (Acts 5:29)
13 In effect, do the civil authorities have the final word as to whether God accepts or rejects the validity of a marriage (or of a divorce)? We can see that if this were so there could be considerable inconsistency as to what is required to gain God’s blessing in marriage. Why? Because the views of civil authorities differ widely from place to place, often being at complete odds with one another and, more importantly, at times being in contradiction of the standards contained in the Bible.
14. What is the Biblical view of polygamy despite any legal recognition that it may be given in some lands?
14 In some lands, for example, polygamy is legally approved and each wife of a polygamist is viewed as legal and as having the same standing as any other of his wives. Christ Jesus and the inspired apostle Paul, however, showed that God’s standard is for a man to have only one wife.—Matt. 19:4, 5; 1 Cor. 7:2; 1 Tim. 3:2.
15. How do man’s laws about divorce in some lands differ from God’s law?
15 Also, some countries allow a person to divorce his mate on any number of grounds, at times for the slightest of reasons. Others, by contrast, do not recognize a person’s right to divorce his or her mate even on grounds of sexual infidelity and thus be free to remarry. The Bible, on the other hand, says that there is only one valid ground for divorce, namely, fornication, and it shows that those divorcing for such reason do become free to remarry. (Matt. 5:32; 19:3-9) Thus in some cases what the State approves, God disapproves, and in others what the State disallows, God allows.
16 The evidence, then, points to the fact that the civil state’s position in determining the validity of marriage (or divorce) is only relative, while that of God is absolute. To obtain a balanced view of the relative authority of the State (designated as “Caesar” in the Bible) in this matter, it is of benefit to consider just what interest civil governments have in the field of marriage, what they are particularly concerned with, and in what way the Christian can come under obligation toward them in this field.
CAESAR’S INTEREST IN MARRIAGE
17, 18. When it comes to marriage, what has been the chief concern of the civil authorities, and why?
17 Are civil governments chiefly concerned with moral and religious issues regarding marriage or is their concern related principally to another aspect? We may recall that the earlier-quoted encyclopedia stated that, from the civil side, “marriage is regarded as a legal contract which must be regulated for practical purposes by the State.” This is borne out by the history of governmental legislation relative to marriage and divorce. That history shows that the concern of civil governments has been motivated by their involvement in such matters as inheritance and property rights, particularly when a dissolution of the marriage “contract” (by divorce or death) brings these rights into question. Confirming this as true today, the Encyclopædia Britannica (Macropædia, 1976, Vol. 7, pages 166, 167) says:
“The law . . . is concerned mainly with the rights and duties of husband and wife and parent and child, particularly in questions of financial support.” “In most countries today . . . the legal documentation of a marriage is mainly a registration of the event. So basically, in the legal sense, a marriage is the implied creation of certain rights or obligations such as maintenance, marital property and succession rights, and the custody of legitimate minor children.”
18 “Caesar” (the political state) has therefore concerned himself with marriage primarily because such legal issues have been brought to his courts for judicial settlement, not because of concern over the religious or moral aspects of marriage. He has also shown concern over the prevention of the spread of disease, particularly venereal disease, and of weakening genetic effects (as among children born to close blood relatives), this again being for “practical purposes.” That is why we find that even antireligious, atheistic governments have legal requirements for granting recognition of a marriage as valid.
19. In view of Jesus’ counsel to ‘pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar,’ what question might be raised about marriage and divorce?
19 What, then, of Jesus’ instructions to ‘pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar’? In seeking to be obedient to this command, is the Christian congregation called upon to take Caesar’s view of a marriage union or a divorce as the final, decisive, binding factor as to its validity and morality?—Matt. 22:21.
20. (a) What prompted Jesus’ statement about ‘paying back Caesar’s things to Caesar’? (b) To what extent does this principle have a bearing on a Christian’s marriage?
20 First, it should be noted that the issue provoking Jesus’ words was regarding taxation. Caesar provides many services and deserves to be ‘paid back’ for these. (Matt. 22:17-21) Caesar, however, is not the source of the right to marry. This actually comes from God, the Originator of marriage. (Gen. 1:27, 28; 2:18, 22-24; 9:1; compare 1 Timothy 4:1-3.) Hence, Caesar’s position in this field is not as the final arbiter as to what is morally right and wrong in marriage (or divorce). What Caesar can provide is legal recognition and accompanying protection of marital rights in his court systems. The Christian who wants his marriage to be “honorable among all” rightly desires such provisions to protect the rights and interests of his family. To obtain such recognition and rights he should properly ‘pay back to Caesar’ for these by complying with Caesar’s regulations for receiving them. This may include such things as license fees, the conforming to certain medical examinations, or similar requirements.
21. How should Caesar’s authority in marriage affect a Christian, and why?
21 Such repayment to Caesar for the advantages his legal recognition provides does not mean, however, that the Christian loses sight of the fact that Caesar’s authority in marriage is only relative. God is not bound by Caesar’s decisions and may disapprove where Caesar approves, or accept where Caesar rejects. The Christian should rightly give conscientious consideration to Caesar’s marriage and divorce provisions but will always give greatest consideration to the Supreme Authority, Jehovah God. (Acts 4:19; Rom. 13:1, 5) This will assure God’s approval and blessing.
22, 23. Why should a Christian seek legal recognition for his marriage?
22 Thus the Christian appreciates that, even though Caesar’s rulings of themselves are not what finally determines the validity of his marriage in God’s eyes, this does not thereby exempt him from the Scriptural injunction: “Let marriage be honorable among all.” (Heb. 13:4) He is obligated to do conscientiously whatever is within his power to see that his marriage is accorded such honor by all. True, in some lands where a certain race or religion predominates, marriage to anyone not of the predominant race or religion might never be viewed with popular approval. Nevertheless, the Christian should seek whatever legal recognition is possible for him so as to avoid exposing his marriage to adverse criticism or a lowering of it in the estimation of others. (2 Cor. 6:3; 1 Pet. 2:12, 15, 16; 3:16) He wants his marriage to bring honor to the Author of marriage.
23 Those who wish to become baptized members of the Christian congregation, and who do not have legal recognition of their marital union, should properly be expected to do all that they can to obtain such recognition and registration of their marriage. This will serve to remove any possible doubts as to the honorableness of their union in the eyes of people generally. But is this possible in all cases and, if not, what can be done about it?
WHERE CAESAR’S RECOGNITION IS UNAVAILABLE
24. What problem might confront a man in a land that makes no allowance for divorce?
24 Understanding the relative nature of Caesar’s authority regarding marriage is here helpful. Take, for example, those areas where, either because of the dominance of some religion or for other reasons, the law does not allow for any divorce, not even on the Scriptural grounds of “fornication” (por·neiʹa). A man whose wife proved unfaithful to him might have left her and thereafter formed a union with another mate, by whom he may even have a family. He may then learn the truth of God’s Word and, in obedience to that Word, desire to be baptized as a disciple of God’s Son. Because the national law does not agree with God’s law regarding divorce and remarriage, he cannot obtain a divorce and legalize his present union. What can he do?
25. How might a man who is divorced in God’s eyes but who cannot get legal recognition for this in his own land establish that he is not living in adultery?
25 If his circumstances permit, he might go to a neighboring land that does grant divorce and obtain such there and then remarry under the laws of that land. This might serve to add some honor to his union, although upon returning to his homeland the marriage might not be recognized by the “Caesar” ruling there. If he cannot reasonably do this, he should get a legal separation from his estranged, legal mate, or whatever the local law makes possible. Thereafter he should make a written statement to the local congregation pledging faithfulness to his present mate and declaring his agreement to obtain a legal marriage certificate if the estranged legal wife should die or if other circumstances should make possible the obtaining of such registration. If his present mate likewise seeks baptism, she would also make such a signed statement.
26. What can a person do if lack of interest on the part of the civil authorities makes it impossible for him to get legal recognition for his marriage?
26 In one South American country, although the law provides for annulment of marriage in cases of bigamy, applications for such annulment are often simply ignored by “Caesar.” Consider, then, a man who, while already having a legal living wife, separates from her and marries another woman and falsely obtains a legal certification, thereby becoming bigamous. If, upon learning Bible truth, he seeks baptism, he may find that his efforts to straighten out the legal situation regarding his current marriage are frustrated by the lack of interest on the part of the civil authorities. If unable to do anything to elevate in honor his present union through Caesar’s courts or authorities, how could he proceed? He could sign a similar declaration pledging faithfulness and file this with the congregation. Then he could be accepted for baptism, as could his mate by doing the same.
27. Does baptism have to be postponed by one whose marital status could not be given any legal recognition until the passing of up to ten years? Why, or why not?
27 In a certain west African country, it may take up to ten years to obtain a divorce. Would a person desirous of being baptized, but needing a divorce so as to establish legally his or her present marital union, be obliged to postpone baptism for such a period of years? It does not seem proper that the lack of Caesar’s legal recognition should block him from showing his faith in the sin-atoning power of Christ’s sacrifice by taking the vital step of baptism and thus gaining the privilege of an approved relationship with God. (Compare the apostle’s statement at Acts 11:17 as to humans’ inability to “hinder” God in his approving of persons.) Bible examples indicate that unnecessary delay in taking the step of baptism is not advisable. (Acts 2:37-41; 8:34-38; 16:30-34; 22:16) Having initiated the legal process of divorce, such person would then provide the congregation with a statement pledging faithfulness, thereby establishing his determination to maintain his current union in honor while he continues to follow through on his efforts to gain as well the legal recognition that Caesar provides,
28. When legal recognition for an existing marital relationship depends upon getting a divorce that cannot be obtained in the country of one’s residence, does this mean that the couple would have to separate if they desire to be baptized?
28 Persons may move to another country and while there they may learn the truth and wish to be baptized. In order to obtain legal recognition of their existing marital relationship, they may need first to obtain a divorce from a previous mate. It may be that the country to which they have moved has provisions for divorce but such provisions may not be available to them as foreigners. For example, many persons from other European countries have moved into Germany seeking employment. While Germany has provisions for divorce, these provisions do not embrace most noncitizens. In such cases, also, the individuals desiring to be baptized and seeking to establish the honorableness and permanence of their existing marital relationship would sign a declaration pledging faithfulness.
29. How might a Christian establish his Scriptural freedom to remarry in lands that make no provision for divorce?
29 These same principles would apply for a baptized Christian who finds that “Caesar’s” laws would not grant him legal recognition in his exercise of God-given rights regarding divorce and remarriage. For example, in countries that do not recognize the God-given right to divorce an adulterous mate and remarry, an individual whose mate proves unfaithful (and from whom he therefore chooses to separate, not forgiving her) should submit the clear evidence of this infidelity to the elders of the congregation. Then, if at some future time he (or she) were to decide to take another mate, this could be done in an honorable way, the parties to the marriage signing statements pledging faithfulness and the determination to gain legal recognition whenever such should become feasible.
30. How should the congregation view a declaration of faithfulness in lands where a Scriptural union, under certain circumstances, will not be given legal recognition?
30 The signing of such a written statement pledging faithfulness is viewed by the congregation as a putting of oneself on record before God and man that the signer will be just as faithful to his or her existing marital relationship as he or she would be if the union were one validated by civil authorities. Such declaration is viewed as no less binding than one made before a marriage officer representing a “Caesar” government of the world. In reality, it is not the particular kind of document made but the fact that the individual makes the declaration before God that gives it its greatest weight and solemnity.
31, 32. What are some basic points that a declaration of faithfulness might include, and what should be done with it?
31 How might such a declaration be worded? It could contain a statement such as the following:
“I, ......., do here declare that I have accepted .......... as my mate in marital relationship; that I have done all within my ability to obtain legal recognition of this relationship by the proper public authorities and that it is because of having been unable to do so that I therefore make this declaration pledging faithfulness in this marital relationship. I recognize this relationship as a binding tie before Jehovah God and before all persons, to be held to and honored in full accord with the principles of God’s Word. I will continue to seek the means to obtain legal recognition of this relationship by the civil authorities and if at any future time a change in circumstances makes this possible I promise to legalize this union.
“Signed this .......... day of ........., 19..... Witnesses to my signing: .....................................”
32 As indicated above, this declaration should be signed by the one making the declaration and also by two others as witnesses, and the date should be noted thereon. It is advisable for copies of the statement pledging faithfulness to be kept by each of the persons involved and by the congregation with which they are associated, and one copy should be sent to the Branch office of the Watch Tower Society in that area. It would also be beneficial for an announcement to be made to the congregation that such a declaration has been made so that all will be aware of the conscientious steps that are being taken to uphold the honorableness of the marriage relationship.
33. What responsibility must the individual bear personally in connection with a declaration of faithfulness?
33 Where the person is unable to gain “Caesar’s” recognition but takes the proper steps to establish his marriage with the congregation, he must realize that whatever consequences result to him as far as the world outside is concerned are his sole responsibility and must be faced by him. For example, if some legal issue, involving property or inheritance rights, arises due to an earlier marriage union, the individual cannot claim “Caesar’s” judicial protection as regards his new, unrecognized union.
KEEPING BASIC PRINCIPLES CLEAR
34. Regarding marriage and divorce, what is the final written authority for the Christian?
34 From country to country, marriage and divorce legislation presents a multitude of different angles and aspects. Rather than becoming entangled in a confusion of technicalities, the Christian, or the one desiring to become a disciple of God’s Son, can be guided by basic Scriptural principles that hold true in all cases.
35. What is the Scriptural view of concubinage and incest?
35 God’s view is of first concern. So, first of all the person must consider whether that one’s present relationship, or the relationship into which he or she contemplates entering, is one that could meet with God’s approval or whether, in itself, it violates the standards of God’s Word. Take, for example, the situation where a man lives with a wife but also spends time living with another woman as a concubine. As long as such a state of concubinage prevails, the relationship of the second woman can never be harmonized with Christian principles, nor could any declaration on the part of the woman or the man make it do so. The only right course is cessation of the relationship. Similarly with an incestuous relationship with a member of one’s immediate family, or a homosexual relationship or other such situation condemned by God’s Word. (Matt. 19:5, 6; 1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Cor. 5:1) It is not the lack of any legal validation that makes such relationships unacceptable; they are in themselves unscriptural and, hence, immoral. Hence, a person involved in such a situation could not make any kind of ‘declaration of faithfulness,’ since it would have no merit in God’s eyes.
36. What is required of a person who, before learning the truth, did not show proper regard for the marriage arrangement?
36 If the relationship is such that it can have God’s approval, then a second principle to consider is that one should do all one can to establish the honorableness of one’s marital union in the eyes of all. (Heb. 13:4) A person seeking baptism may be one who, in the past, separated from a legal mate and, without having obtained a divorce, entered into a marital relationship with another person. Considerable time may have passed, and perhaps children have resulted. So, upon learning the truth the person cannot reasonably be expected to go back to his first mate and thus try to refashion his life according to his previous circumstances. But now, in ‘desisting from sins,’ he must determine that his life henceforth will be lived according to God’s will.—1 Pet. 4:1-3; compare 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.
37. What steps may a person have to take to get legal recognition for an existing marital arrangement?
37 What then? If divorce is possible, then such step should now be taken so that, having obtained the divorce (on whatever legal grounds may be available), the present union can receive civil validation as a recognized marriage. These same things would be true of the person who, before learning the truth, has become guilty of bigamy. He should take the necessary steps to have the matter resolved legally (as by annulment and/or divorce) so that he or she may now be recognized as the legal mate of only one person.
38. How can a person show that he desires an honorable marriage even though he is not in a position to get legal recognition for a union that is acceptable in the sight of God?
38 Finally, if the marital relationship is not one out of harmony with the principles of God’s Word, and if one has done all that can reasonably be done to have it recognized by civil authorities and has been blocked in doing so, then a declaration pledging faithfulness can be signed. In some cases, as has been noted, the extreme slowness of official action may make the accomplishing of legal steps a matter of many, many years of effort. Or it may be that the costs represent a crushingly heavy burden that the individual would need years to be able to meet. In such cases the declaration pledging faithfulness will provide the congregation with the basis for viewing the existing marriage as honorable, while the individual continues conscientiously to work out the legal aspects to the best of his ability. A fact worth noting is that in many communities, and even in entire countries, the people themselves give little importance to the legal factors involved in marriage and are far more affected by what they actually see as evidence of a faithful marriage union. Nevertheless, even here the Christian should sincerely endeavor to take whatever steps are available, or that open up for him, to establish the honorableness of his union beyond question.
39. What confidence may Christians have when they seek to keep marriage honorable?
39 By keeping in mind the basic principles presented, the Christian should be able to approach the matter in a balanced way, neither underestimating nor overestimating the validation offered by the political state. He (or she) should always give primary concern to God’s view of the union. Along with this, every effort should be made to set a fine example of faithfulness and devotion to one’s mate, thus keeping the marriage “honorable among all.” Such course will bring God’s blessing and result to the honor and praise of the Author of marriage, Jehovah God.—1 Cor. 10:31-33.
a In Roman Law, the “sole necessary condition for marriage” was “the consent of the parties” with no preliminary license, ceremony or other validation required. (The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, pp. 198, 199) Thus, if a man proposed marriage to a woman and she consented, this was all that was legally required to make a marriage effective.
b As reference works show, the Roman Catholic Church eventually claimed for itself the exclusive right to legislate regarding marriage, bringing forth its own regulations and restrictions and holding that civil authorities must be bound by these. The Protestant Reformers swung very much in the other direction and placed marriage almost entirely in the hands of the civil authorities. In England, Scotland and Ireland the civil ceremony was introduced in 1653 to free the Church from secular affairs. A French law of 1792 made the civil ceremony obligatory upon all citizens on the principle that “the citizen belongs to the state, irrespective of religion.” (The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, pp. 199, 200)