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of the parties must appear personally before the Superintendent Registrar, to make oath or solemn affirmation that the party believes that there is not any impediment of kindred or alliance, or any other lawful hindrance to the proposed marriage. If either of the parties be under the age of twenty-one years, it must be further sworn or affirmed that the consent which the law requires has been obtained thereto.* M. A. sect. 11.
Those who wish to marry by Licence may do so after the notice has been given seven days, in the other case twenty-one days must elapse before the celebration.
4. Wherever marriages are solemnized it must be with open doors, and between the hours of 8 and 12 in the forenoun, in the presence of the Registrar of Marriage for the district, and of two or more credible witnesses. M. A. sect. 20.
5. The fees connected with marriage are as follows: To the Superintendent Registrar for notice of marriage, one shilling. For his Certificate of notice, one shilling. For Licence, besides the stamps, £3. To the Registrar attending a marriage without Licence, five shillings. When by Licence, ten shillings. The above fees relate alone to the civil Registration, no fees being appointed to be paid for the religious part of the service. M. A. sect. 22.
BAPTISMS. The Registration of Baptisms for the purpose of securing legal evidence of the birth and parentage of the child, will not now be necessary. The Registration Act provides, that the Registrar is to inform himself carefully of every birth within his district, and to register the same without fee, upon the notice of the father or mother, within forty-two days of the same. And in case of the death, illness, absence, or inability of the parents, then the occupier of the house or tenement in which the birth has taken place, or any other person, may give the required information verbally, or in writing. The Registrar is to record the birth, name, and sex of the child, the name and surname of the father, the name and surname of the mother, the trade or profession of the father, and the date of the entry into the Registration Book.
The Act also provides other modes of registration,t should the period of fortytwo days elapse before the entry is made, but it may be fairly hoped that every intelligent father, having the temporal interest of his child in view, will take the earliest opportunity to secure this complete and legal record of the birth and parentage of his offspring, especially as it will be made at the expense of the country.
The ordinance of infant baptism is now therefore, no longer necessary to protect the civil interests of the child ; but will be observed as an institution of Christ, and practised on religious grounds alone.
Thus, Christian brethren, by these measures of a liberal Government and an enlightened Parliament, two of the most important and interesting duties of life may be henceforth performed, according to the convictions of the parties engaged, without any of those legal dangers which have too often forced a reluctant conformity to rites against which the judgment and the heart were opposed,
The questions which naturally arise in our new position are, how may we best employ the improved state of the laws, to increase the solemnity and impression of these duties, and to secure that more perfect Registration which the Legislature anticipates thereby ?
* The consent of the Father is required, if living; if not, one of the guardians; if no guardian, the mother, if she be still a widow; otherwise a guardian appointed by the Court of Chancery.
+ A birth cannot be registered more than six weeks after the birth of the child, without payment of 7s. 60.; nor can it be registered ut all more than six months after the day of the birth. All persons, therefore, should have the births of their children registered without delay.
According to the existing laws, marriages may now be solemnized not only in the Church of England, but as a civil rite at the office of the Superintendent Registrar, and with a religious service at such dissenting places of worship as may be licensed for that purpose.
After Protestant Dissenters have complained to Parliament of the grievance which the old marriage laws inflicted, by compelling them to conform to religious rites which they not only felt to be objectionable in themselves, but peculiarly irksome as imposed by a church to which they do not belong, and performed by a clergy with many of whom in their official character they have but little sympathy; after the Dissenters have declared these things before the face of the country, it may be reasonably supposed, that none true to their principles will now voluntarily conform to a service borrowed from the Romish ritual, and containing but too many proofs of its corrupt original.
On the other hand, while it is a matter of satisfaction that marriage is now acknowledged to be, so far as the State is concerned, exclusively a civil contract, and that the Legislature ought not to violate the consciences of the people by imposing a questionable religious forin, in order to their possesssion of a natural right; still it is to be hoped that those persons who feel it their duty to sanctify the ordinary engagements of life with the word of God and prayer, will not enter upon this peculiar and permanent relation without appealing to the Holy Scriptures for direction, and humbly imploring the blessing of the Most High upon their solemn contract. On such an occasion to whom can they look to conduct the service with greater propriety, than to their own chosen pastors ?
The ministerial instructions and fervent prayers of those beloved men, edify and comfort their minds in the house of God and at the family altar. Surely they who administer the baptismal water, and break to their people the sacramental bread inay be intrusted with such a service; a service in which no doubt their pastoral sympathies will be strongly excited, and their practical knowledge of human nature eminently displayed. Let Congregational Dissenters then be true to their principles and their professions in this matter, and invite the services of their own ministers on the happy occasion; and then, to use the words of an able advocate of this course," the religious celebration of marriage will Lecome not an empty form, an unmeaning ceremony, a solemn mockery, but a proper act of worship, a voluntary and reasonable service ; and thus the name of God will be rescued from dishonour, and religion from contempt."*
The ordinance of BAPTISM by these enactments is now rescued from the desecrating influence of secular requirements. Happily for our churches, it was never regarded as a superstitious charm that can regenerate the soul; but there is reason to fear that it has been sometimes observed as the means of a civil registration, rather than an institute of divine authority. This temptation is now removed for ever, as the record of baptism henceforth will in no case stand in the place of the national registration now required.
Disciple, then, your chilldren by baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Seal them with the sign of that blessed covenant which promises, “ I will be a God to thee and to thy seed after thee." Let not the utility of this ordinance be questioned ; He who instituted it, will make it a blessing. Thrice happy is that parent who, realizing the significancy and spirit of this ordinance, can plead for the blessings of which it is the sign, and look forward with faith and hope to that glorious day when he shall exclaim, “ Behold, I, and the children whom God bath given me.”
These, Christian brethren, are some of the objects at which we have aimed in our recent appeals to the Legislature of our beloved country, and for which we are reviled as “ Political Dissenters." Would to God the politics of our
opponents tended to the same results—the separation of the precious from the
John BLACKBURN, )
SUGGESTIONS RELATING TO THE MARRIAGE AND REGISTRATION ACTS; Addressed to the Pastors and Deacons of the Congregational Churches in
England and Wales. DEAR BRETHREN, At the late Assembly of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, the new Acts of Parliament relating to Marriage and Registration were brought under discussion, and the ministers and delegates then present resolved themselves into a Committee, that they might freely consider their various provisions.
As the brethren concurred in opinion on the several questions which were successively brought under deliberation, minutes were made, and the duty of embodying the remarks and suggestions in one paper, for the information of our church officers throughout the kingdom, was confided to the Committee.
We therefore now present to you, in this brief address, the remarks which were suggested at the Annual Assembly; suggested, we say, because that body did not assume the right, but disclaimed and censured the weakness and the folly of attempting to issue orders, as by authority, to regulate the proceedings of their brethren.
MARRIAGES. The Marriage Act, Section 18, requires that the place of worship to be licensed shall be a separate building, certified according to law as a place of religious worship, and statedly used for that purpose during one year at least before the registration is required.
A Trustee or Proprietor of such place of worship must deliver to the Superintendent Registrar of the district a certificate, signed in two parts by twenty or more householders, reciting the preceding facts, and requesting that the place may be registered for the solemnization of marriages.
It is therefore suggested, that the Trustees of such place of worship should immediately ascertain whether it has been duly certified according to law as a place of religious worship. If the copy of such certification cannot be produced, it is recommended that they obtain a new registration of it without delay.
2. The Marriage Act permits, Section 17, the Superintendent Registrar of Births and Deaths to appoint a person, subject to the approval of the Guardians, to act as Registrar of Marriages.
As it is presumed, from the language of this Section, that this discretionary power was given to the Superintendent Registrar that he may appoint such a person as will be agreeable to each congregation, it is recommended that where the appointment is not already made, application be made to the Superintendent Registrar, who has received instructions from the Registrar General, to consult the feelings of the Dissenters in the appointment.
3. As the minister is required to sign in the marriage register book the entry of every marriage solemnized by or before bim, Section 23d, it is suggested as a
cautionary measure, that before the parties proceed to the act of marriage, he satisfy himself that the person in attendance is the Registrar of Marriages for the district, and that he inspect the licence or certificate, to ascertain that the place of worship is the place therein specified, and that the parties present are therein described, and that not more than three calendar months have elapsed since the entry of the notice of marriage.
4. As the Act appoints that the Registrar of Marriage shall witness its solemnization, but does not require him to take any part in the service, it is suggested that the minister himself should conduct the whole, and the brethren agreed that the following order might be advantageously observed.
The service should commence with the reading of portions of Scripture relating to marriage, &c.
A short statement of the honourable nature and solemn obligations of the contract should then be delivered, accompanied by an impressive charge to confess any lawful impediment to the union.
Each party should then be called upon by the minister to make in succession the following declaration : “I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, A. B., may not be joined in matrimony to C.D."
The man should then be directed with his right hand to take the woman by her right hand, and say after the minister,
“ I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, A. B., do take thee, C. D., to be my lawful wedded wife.”
The woman should then be required to repeat the declaration thus :
“I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, C. D., do take thee, A. B. to be my lawful wedded husband."
The Act of Parliament does not prescribe the giving of a ring, but if the husband intend to do so, it is suggested that the man should give it “as & token," and that the woman accept it “ as a pledge" of conjugal fidelity and love.
There should follow a short exhortation on the duties of the marriage state, à prayer to God for his blessing on the union, and a benediction should close the service.
5. The Marriage Act requires fees only for the civil registration, which is highly approved, as the establishment of fees for religious services is thought to be alike unscriptural and injurious. It is therefore recommended to our brethren, not to establish any fixed payment for their attendance at marriages, but to leave it to the liberality of the people. Christianity knows nothing but free will offerings.
BAPTISMS. The Registration Act will supersede the necessity of any other record of the birth of the child, besides that which it provides. It may, however, be expedient that a Church register of baptisms be kept, in which the name and parentage of the child may be entered. It might also be useful if at Baptism each pastor would make it a point to inquire whether the birth of the child had been legally registered, and if not, to urge the necessity of immediately attending to that duty.
BURIALS. The Registration Act requires, Section 27, that the Registrar of Births and Deaths shall give a certificate of the death of the party to be buried to the undertaker, who shall deliver it to the minister, who attends the funeral. If no burial certificate shall be so delivered, the minister must forthwith give notice of the omission to the Registrar. If such notice shall not be given within seven days after the funeral, the minister is liable to forfeit a sum not exceeding £10.
These, dear Brethren, are the facts and suggestions which we are instructed to bring before you, and we feel persuaded that you will be anxious so to administer these services, that all things may be done “ decently and in order," and for the edification of the parties engaged.
That that end may be secured by all the acts of legislature concerning us, is the sincere prayer of, Dear Brethren, yours, in the name of the Committee,
J. BLACKBURN, )
J. WONINER, .)
*.* The subscribers to this Magazine are reminded that we printed at length the two Acts for Marriage and Registration, with some introductory remarks, in our Supplement for 1836. MEMORIAL OF THE CONGREGATIONAL BOARD ON THE REGIUM
DONUM. In pursuance of the Resolutions of the Board, and by the appointment of the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a deputation, consisting of the Rev. Dr. Reed, Wycliffe Chapel, Mile End; the Rev. Thomas Morell, Theological Tutor of Coward College, and the Rev. J. Blackburn, of Claremont Chapel, Pentonville, waited upon him at Downing Street, on Saturday, June 10, with the following Memorial, which he received and read with urbane attention. After a lengthened explanation of his views upon the subject, Mr. Rice promised to communicate to the House of Commons the sentiments expressed in the Memorial, but at the same time distinctly intimated that Government are not prepared to withhold the Grant while dissenting ministers are found willing to receive it! To the Right Honourable THOMAS Spring Rice, Chancellor of his Majesty's
its Vicinity, Sheweth-That your Memorialists, constituting a body of dissenting ministers, in number exceeding one hundred, and being the Pastors of Congregational Churches, or Professors in Dissenting Colleges in or near the Metropolis, cannot but feel the deepest interest in everything affecting the honour and welfare of the entire body of Protestant Dissenters.
Under this influence your Memorialists have long entertained a decided conviction that the continued reception of the Regium Donum, or Parliamentary Grant to poor Dissenting Ministers, is undesirable, and after repeated discussions, a resolution to this effect was recorded in their Minutes, January 7th, 1834.
The judgment of your Memorialists, then deliberately expressed, has been strengthened and matured by extended enquiry and the progress of events, They distinctly disclaim the slightest imputation on the integrity of the distributors of the Grant, towards whom, personally, they entertain the highest feelings of respect; but your Memorialists conscientiously believe that the reception of such Grant is utterly inconsistent with the principles of congregational and other dissenting churches, that its operation is highly injurious to the interests of Dissenters, and that its continuance is unnecessary for the support of those ministers for whom it is designed, since they feel assured that such aid will be adequately supplied from other sources.
Your Memorialists assume no authority as the representatives of any other body, but they entertain the strongest confidence that they express the almost unanimous sentiment and desire of Protestant Dissenters, while they pray that such Grant may not be proposed to Parliament by his Majesty's Government after the present year. Signed on behalf of the Board of Congregational Ministers,
Arthur Tidman, Secretary. Congregational Library, Finsbury,
June 8, 1837.