Apparent Love in a Covenant for Life
by Rev. Robert S. Jungé
". . . and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days." (Deuteronomy 22: 19)
The sacred treasure of true married happiness, that reaching up of man and wife together to the Lord, is hardly considered in our day. "The affections according to which matrimony is commonly contracted in the world are external." (CL 274) Frequently marriage vows are pronounced to increase wealth or station, or to seek honor or position. In addition, man's heart is filled with various allurements and delights of the body, leaving no room for consideration of internal affections. Frequently the highest ideals considered are superficial similarities and companionship.
In these circumstances, seeking only treasures on earth in their marriage, it is small wonder that so many find disillusionment. What are their goals? What do they seek? How, indeed, can such things be satisfied? How many, like the man spoken of in the Jewish law, "take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her"? (Deuteronomy 22: 13) Not that this hatred necessarily burns immediately, for every married couple who enter of order into marriage are given a treasure of marital delights. The honeymoon state is a blessing of hope, a promise of what might be, if man can be true to that promise.
But the Divine Providence works in secret ways. Sometimes it leads us through inexpressible states of affection; at other times it leads through the permission of evil, that man may learn to overcome self-love. Every home knows these changes of state, even where the marriage was contracted with an external goal in mind. In times of stress, the hells would cast doubts upon our hopes and loves. They would have us question every choice in our lives. Men may even come to question their choice in marriage. Yet we should remember the Lord's leading even through the immature and self-centered stages of life. If man so wills, doubt can be supplanted by the keen insight of perception; temptation can be followed by peace. Of internal disagreements we read, for example, that "some conscientious persons may labor under the idea that disagreements of minds between themselves and the consort, and thence internal alienations, are their own fault, and are imputed, and on account of this grieve in heart: but because internal disagreements are not in their power to help, it is sufficient for them, by means of apparent loves and favors, to quiet the uneasiness which may arise from conscience; thence also friendship may return, in which, on the part of one, conjugial love lies hid, although not on the part of the other." (CL 271)
Nevertheless, it is true that our age often wakes up to internal and external disillusionment in its marriages, just as in so many other things of life, because it forgets that the Lord's kingdom is not of this world. The Jews, for example, disputed about the laws of divorce because they were blinded to any eternal values in marriage. In such states, where eternal goals seem remote, we, too, need the strength of a clear law to sustain us during doubts and temptations. So from earliest times the Lord's law has been clear. Marriage is to be a covenant for life. Not only have the externally minded been held in order by this law, but people in simple good states of reformation have been sustained by it throughout the ages.
The Jewish law clearly prescribed this covenant for life if the wife was truly a virgin and her husband's accusations against her were unfounded. He was not allowed to put her away simply because he was tired of her or because his eyes had fallen on another. The law said of the virgin bride: "She shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days." (Deuteronomy 22: 19) The Word of God in the New Testament also clearly prescribes a marriage covenant for life. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19: 16) In the Lord's own words in Matthew we read: "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery"; (Matthew 5: 32) and in another place in the Gospel it is added that he himself commits adultery. (Matthew 19: 9) The Writings, a rational revelation, indicate specific exceptions as "legitimate causes of divorce." They say: "By divorce is meant the abolition of the conjugial covenant and thence complete separation, and entire liberty after that to take another wife. The only cause of this total separation or divorce is scortation.. . . To the same cause belong also manifest obscenities, which dissolve modesty, and fill and infest the house with infamous shamelessness in which the whole mind is dissolved. Add to these malicious desertion which involves scortation and causes the wife to commit adultery and thus to be put away." (CL 468)
Yet despite these exceptions the Writings also clearly state the general law that it is from Divine, from rational, and from civil law that marriage is to be to the end of life. (CL 276 Cf. CL 255) This must be our basic moral standard, for the Writings also refer to enormities and the destruction of society which come when wives are put away before death at the pleasure of their husbands. (CL 276) The very marrow of society is rotting when mankind forgets that even external marriage is a covenant for life. According to defect or loss of conjugial love man approaches the nature of a beast. (CL 230)
Now to modern society these are harsh teachings. It is certainly true that we cannot condemn those who do not understand or acknowledge the implications of their actions. Ours is not to sit in judgment over others unjustly, nor is it to cast stones at those whom we consider to be found in adultery. The implications we must draw from any teaching in the Writings are not so much for others as for ourselves. We live in an age in which the rational and moral law of society is not a bulwark to support the Divine law, but has become instead a lukewarm, indifferent attitude which the true man will spew out of his mouth. We live in that age, and it affects our every action, our every attitude. The vision of conjugial love and happiness must be rationally strong in our hearts if it is to stand before the allurements and disorders which our society refuses to condemn.
We must do all that is in our power to preserve the true marriage sphere, lest the disorders which are rampant in the world around us enter our own society and even bend the pliable habits of our children. Divorce and exceptions to the covenant for life can become so familiar to us that we eventually fail to be shocked and saddened by them. We would be neglectful indeed if we did not press forward to see the truth; if we simply glossed over evils - ours and others - with excuses of ignorance; refusing to admit the full impact of truth on our own lives and on our marriages. The law of the Lord seems harsh. It seems to leave nothing but a martyr's role for those who find deep incompatibility or states of disillusionment in their marriages. Yet it is not so.
In our age, when there is so much talk of incompatibility, it is well to reflect on the simple teaching of the doctrine, that "almost all in the natural world can be conjoined as to external affections." (CL 272) These external affections that simulate internal things and consociate the married partners are inclinations from the world in the minds of both. "There is implanted in each [partner] from the first covenant of marriage," we are taught, "a certain community which, though they disagree in natural minds or dispositions, yet remains inseated, as community of possessions, and with many a community of uses, and of the various necessities of the household, and thence community also of the thoughts, and of certain secrets. There is community also of the bed, and community also in the love of infants, besides others, which likewise are inscribed upon their minds because upon the conjugial covenant. From these especially come the external affections that resemble internal ones." (CL 277) These orderly external affections are experienced by almost all.
Now why is it so important that we know what these external affections are that simulate internal affections? It is because, for the sake of order, matrimony in the world is to endure to the end of life. "This is stated, that there may be presented more manifestly to the reason, the necessity, the utility, and the truth, that where there is not genuine love it is yet to be feigned, or to have it appear as if it were." (CL 276) If the institution of marriage is to be preserved, a striving for external harmony is necessary, and the Writings lead the way in showing how that harmony may be achieved.
When cold enters a marriage, the message is the same; be it a marriage in which conjugial love is developing or one that is wandering on a shaky course. Whether it be a marriage of two who are in internals, of one in internals and the other in externals, or of both in externals, love is still to be feigned and order maintained. Working within the things that he and his partner have in common, man is to maintain an appearance of a true and orderly home. These simulations are entirely different from hypocritical simulations because they are for the sake of uses and goods. Indeed such self-compelled external order is laudable, because these appearances of love are both useful and necessary to preserve the marriage covenant and also preserve a sense of order for society and for the young. Similitudes which bring couples closer together can be cultivated. They are not just hereditary likes and dislikes about which nothing can be done. (CL 227e) There is great power for change and accommodation where married partners look together to the Lord.
With a spiritual man, these appearances of love savor of justice and judgment. He does not see them as estranged from his internal affections, but as coupled with them. The doctrine teaches that he "looks to amendment as an end, and if this does not follow he looks to accommodation for the sake of order in the house, for the sake of mutual help, for the sake of the care of infants, for the sake of peace and quietness." (CL 280)
With the evil, many selfish motives lead to the use of hypocritical simulations, even if they consider only their reputation or their supposed good name outside of the house; (CL 281, 282) but with the good there is always the hope of amendment or reconciliation. This is fostered by feigned love and affection. (CL 282) Even if this hope of amendment seems, at times, beyond our grasp, we have the promise of Divine revelation that not only are we doing what is just and right, but we will be given affections and delights which will simulate true marriage loves, or, perhaps, that love itself. So in either case, to compel ourselves to have an orderly external of marriage is the road, the only road, to marital happiness.
This feigning of love may seem artificial for a time; but with the good it is but a particular application of the law of self-compulsion, a form of genuine charity. Throughout life we must learn to comply with the Lord's order, even though as yet we do not love it. Reformation itself consists in actions which we perform for one reason alone, because we feel that we must because the Lord so commands. Yet there is a promise that eventually we will learn to love doing these things. Marriages, too, must pass through states of reformation.
Yet, again, some say that feigning seems contrary to that full confidence, that height of inmost sharing and communication, which we seek. But should we seek to share our disorderly lusts of evil with those we love? If being oneself in one's own home means ultimating our evils before our partner and family, it can never be called internal communication.
Our partners will surely see many of our disorderly states, not because we will it, but because we cannot fully control them. We are all of us born into tendencies to evils of every kind. Yet, above all, the hope is that we will be forgiven by our partners even unto seventy times seven. We depend upon their confidence in our efforts to serve the Lord.
How do we speak to those we love? Truth alone is harsh and unyielding, but true and full communication is always qualified by gentleness and mercy. Do we speak to our partners from use, with the stabilizing effect of confidence in our hearts; or do we speak from a desire to judge and hurt from a shifting love of dominion upon which nothing can be built?
Our loves should reach out through word and deed even to share the secrets of the community of our lives. But our inner states are hidden. Our true states are shared by an internal way because they are not consciously known to us. We may do damage more than we know in trying to shun supposed hypocrisy by telling how we assume we really feel when we really do not know. It is much better that man should assume a representative conjugial friendship, (CL 283) and pray to the Lord that one day its simulations may reflect the loves of his inmost soul.
But it is so easy for man to admit wandering lust into his heart. It is so easy to become impatient, and to forget that the struggle for conjugial love is indeed a struggle to overcome ourselves. It is an effort to become more than just devoted to our partners; it is a struggle to love them more than ourselves. Some may have found no partner; some may be married to other than their eternal partner; others may have found their eternal companion. Yet the struggle for heavenly marriage remains essentially the same: the struggle to overcome self-love, to cast out the love of the world - to preserve the thought of the eternal in marriage to which the Divine Providence looks most particularly. (CL 229)
We read: "Those who are in love truly conjugial regard what is eternal because there is eternity in that love; and its eternity is from this, because that love with the wife, and wisdom with the husband, increase to eternity, and in the increasing or progression consorts enter more and more deeply into the blessedness of heaven, which their wisdom and the love of it at the same time store up in themselves; wherefore, if the idea of eternity should be rooted out, or from any accident escape from their minds, it would be as if they were cast down from heaven. . . . The like is in marriages upon earth; consorts there, while they love each other tenderly, think of what is eternal concerning the marriage covenant, and nothing at all concerning its end by death; and if they do think concerning this, they grieve, yet are comforted with hope from the thought of its continuation after their decease." (CL 215)
Feigning, if we must, that we possess something we only long for, yet always striving for the goal that our marriage covenant will actually be not just for this life, but will endure to all eternity: this is the goal set before us by Divine revelation. This is the purpose directing the full forces of the Divine Providence: "What therefore God bath joined together, let not man put asunder."
-New Church Life 966;86:97-102