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Wedding Address.*

* The following was spoken at the marriage of Mr. Wolf Steppacher, of Pontotoc, Mississippi, to Miss Caroline Meyers, of this city, by request of Mr. Marcus Cauffman, the uncle of the bride. This custom, of holding addresses at the wedding ceremony, is very common in Germany, and it was at the request of Mr. C. that we for the first time spoke on such a ceremony. We give it to our readers, who are not familiar with this custom, as a simple piece of advice, on an occasion which doubtless all unmarried people will be glad to enjoy, sooner or later.

Beloved Friends,—

You are about to enter into the state of marriage, in which each of you assumes new relations both to each other and society, <<80>>which are to endure during all your life, as long as the Lord of spirits permits you to dwell on earth. Hitherto both of you were free to choose another mate from the rest of the world; but henceforth you vow to be to each other friends in joy and in sorrow, and to travel the round of earthly existence hand in hand, and heart linked to heart. Think, therefore, well of the nature of the engagement which you are going to assume, and do not esteem lightly the weight of the obligation which will rest upon you from this moment. I shall not admonish you to love one another; since it is for this very reason that you cherish the kindest mutual affection, that you have invoked the aid of our holy religion to bless your union in the assembly of Israelites, who like yourselves avow love and fealty to the sole God who rules all in heaven and earth.

Reflect, then, that it is before the Searcher of hearts you avow fidelity to each other, to be true and faithful on all occasions, and to bear together the trials which will in the course of nature assail even the happiest. Imagine not that the joy of this hour will last for ever; think not that the vigour of youth will always impart strength to your limbs; or that sickness and sorrow will never reach you. To expect this, would be to suppose that the common lot of mankind is not to be yours; and sure I am, that you have told this already to yourselves in the recesses of your soul, though perhaps your lips have not given utterance to your apprehensions.

But, even in the ordinary calm and in the highest prosperity which our existence is capable of, there are constant occasions for the exercise of domestic virtues, which when observed will render the married state one of happiness, but which neglected will envelope it with the clouds of sorrow. The husband must consult his wife’s wishes, she must obey his directions in the government of the family; he must be indulgent, she yielding; he should counsel with mildness and moderation, she acquiesce in all his opinions even if she occasionally fancies that her views are the best, and look upon him in all things as the one she ought to obey, excepting only when it regards the higher obligation which she owes to her God, in which no husband’s injunctions can be an excuse for transgressing the requirements of <<81>>religion.

In short, husband and wife must not only be loving and affectionate when strangers are there to observe them, but in the retirement also of their domestic fireside, when no eye save that of the All-seeing is upon them, should they be like one soul dwelling in two bodies. God created our first mother that she should be a help suitable to her spouse whose existence preceded hers in the order of creation; and thus her daughters should seek their highest happiness in the marriage state by helping their husbands in all things; by assisting them with advice; by assuaging them with a pleasant reception on their return home from the cares which business or harassing occupations so often inflict, and to be to them an unwavering friend, though all the rest of mankind should forsake them.

Reflect, also, that it is not merely to gratify the feelings of love which now animate you both, that you have a right to invoke the name of the Lord to hallow your union. For if this were all, the civil law of the land could declare you man and wife no less than the servant of your faith. But such a marriage, you justly think, would lack the sanction of religion,—religion, the soother of our sorrows, and the only source whence the pleasures of life derive their highest value. You then wish to be united not as mere citizens of the commonwealth but as followers of the Law of Moses, and you, bridegroom, are going to espouse this your bride after the ancestral manner by means of a golden ring in the presence of Jewish witnesses, according to the law of Moses and Israel, not alone the written word of the Bible, but also the institutions of our people, under which we have always administered the precepts which the Scriptures contain. As a son, therefore, of Israel you claim this daughter of Jacob as your chosen wife, and as such she accepts from your hand. the token of union, by which she pledges herself to be yours, and yours only, in feeling no less than in person, till death severs the link which now is to make you one.

Do you understand, both of you, the importance of this public declaration? Perhaps you do; still bear with me a little while, whilst I endeavour to illustrate it in your presence, and I trust that you will respond to it inwardly with a sincere affirmation. You stand, <<82>>then, now in the presence of God to make a covenant with one another, to love and cherish each other mutually, to bear together whatever mishaps or pleasures may be decreed to you, and to contribute all that is possible to promote each other's happiness.

But you avow this as Israelites, in the name of God, whose aid you hope for, to guide you aright and securely in the perilous and slippery path of life, and without whose blessing all your striving would be in vain. Know then, that to obtain this last, you must deserve his love and approbation by a thorough religious conduct. Our wise men teach us “that three obtain a forgiveness of their sins: a gentile who embraces our religion, a person who is raised to a high dignity, and a man who espouses a wife.”

Hence has sprung the good old custom for the parties to fast on their nuptial day, in order to make it a day of atonement and serious reflection and repentance for themselves. But a day of forgiveness of sin it only can be when, as the annual period of atonement, the wrong is sincerely repented of, and a resolution is adopted to sin no more. No man passes through the active turmoil of life without transgression; the best, therefore, has a necessity of being forgiven, and must humble himself before God to entreat a remission of iniquity. If, however, a new life is commenced with the day of marriage; if it is really the beginning of a renewed love of God in our hearts, we may justly regard it as a means of reconciliation with our heavenly Father, whom in the wantonness of youthful feeling we may have often forgotten in the hours of our joys or neglected in not seeking his aid when darkness rested on our souls. Resolve, then, to let your future days be distinguished by an active love of the Creator sad a sincere endeavour to observe his precepts.

Should your union be blessed with children, regard them not as exclusively your own; but as pledges entrusted to you by the Supreme for you to watch over, to see that they grow up in his fear and his service. Instill early into their minds that as Jews you were born, that as Jews you were married, and that as such you devote them to the same faith for which our nation has laboured so long, has suffered so much. Speak yourselves of the <<83>>pleasant concerns of everlasting life in their presence; and show them, by a careful heeding of all your duties, that the religion of God is the highest good in your estimation. In this manner alone can your future offspring “rise up and call you happy,” to use the words of the philosopher King of Israel, and thus only can you accomplish the obligation you assume in being united according to the law of Moses and Israel.

In whatever situation you may be, remember that you are of the children of Jacob; wherever your future walk may be, honour your religion by a uniform holy life, and a bold avowal of, its principles. It has all the sources of consolation which man requires in his earthly existence; it refers all to God, who is ever near us to aid and assist us in all times of trouble and affliction; and never for a moment think to hide your faith as something to be ashamed of, from the eyes of strangers. Should your brothers in hope be assailed, defend them; should they be ill-used, protect them; should they require assistance, aid them; should they be misguided, instruct them; and do in your own persons whatever is required to magnify the name of God, and increase the respect which the world at large will ultimately feel for our heaven-born law.

As regards your conduct towards each other, I need say but little, for this has, without question, been long since impressed on your mind. But I may still exhort you, bridegroom, to cherish an unbroken attachment for your chosen companion, in the words of the Bible, יהי מקורך ברוך ושמח מאשת נעוריך “Let thy fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.” (Prov. v. 18.) Her honour should be your honour, and never in thought even be for a moment unfaithful to her, who should be the joy and ornament of your house. There may be dark moments which may overshadow the peace of your domestic circle; but if this should ever unfortunately be, fly to your God for aid to assist you in the trial, and light will again chase away the darkness, and the brilliance of renewed affection will again illumine your dwelling.

And you, beloved bride, reflect well that שקר החן והבל היופי אשה יראת ה׳ היא תתהלל “Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; the <<84>>woman only that feareth the Lord will be praised.” (Prov. xxxi. 30.) The heyday of youth will pass away, ere many years will have elapsed, and approaching age will rob your cheek of its bloom, and your eye of its lustre. What will then chain to you the husband who is no longer the ardent lover? Nothing but the cheerfulness of the mature matron, the God-fearing wife, who labours in all “the walks of the house,” to make his life happy, and to render easy for him the toils and hardships inseparable from our mortal state.

If you both act thus towards God, your fellow-men and your­selves, you may joyously look forward to the future,—all is well, all will be well; this earth may then fade away from your sight, but reunited will you stand before the mercy-seat of the Lord to receive your reward; and in the mean time your days will glide along in tranquillity, whether you are wealthy or of narrow means, for peace will dwell in your hearts, and God’s blessing will surround you. That this may be your lot is my sincere prayer; and now let us pronounce the blessings before this congregation by which you may be united in that bond which God has ordained for his children as the happiest lot on earth.

April 2, 5611.