Matins to-day featured the start of St Paul's advice on marriage in I Corinthians vii - which rather reminds me of Mr Punch's advice to a young man about to get married: "Don't!"
St Paul, as all men know, was himself a bachelor (vii, 8), thought it good if the unmarried remained so (ibid.), and wrote "I would that you all were as I am myself" (I Cor. vii, 7), without denying that each person has different gifts from the Lord (ibid.; cf. vii, 17). The Apostle is remarkably straightforward in his earthy advice, however: "for fear of fornication" marriage is advisable (vii, 2), since if one have not self-control, "it is better to marry than to burn" (vii, 9)!
(One wonders, it must be said, whether one lacking self-control, then marrying, would not fall straight into adultery or the like - since whether married or not, every Christian must live chastely according to his state in life, and acquire the virtue needful thereto. That is why it is silly for folk to claim that if priests could marry there would be no scandals of priests committing immorality: everyone knows that married men commit immorality too, and to imagine that being married somehow alleviates the spur to sin is to be a bit simple-minded. What St Paul asserts is that if one's gift from God is to be called to the vocation of marriage, not heeding that call would endanger one by tempting one to partake of the use of marriage without actually getting married.)
Still, "on account of the present distress" (the bad state of this miserable and naughty world as it runs through this the last age before the Judgement), for "the time is short" (vii, 29), and "the world as we see it is passing away" (vii, 31), he gives his own well-advised opinion (vii, 25), stating "I think that I also have the spirit of God" (vii, 40), that "it is good for a man to remain as he is" (vii, 26) and answers his own question thus: "Art thou free from a wife? Do not seek a wife." (vii,26) And why? "I would have you free from care." For what specific reason? "He who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please God." (vii, 32) In other words, the married man must needs deal with secular affairs and serve his wife (vii, 33), and so is necessarily distracted or divided, whereas in giving his counsel to the unmarried St Paul adds "Now this I say for your benefit, not to hold you in check, but to promote what is proper, and to make it possible for you to pray to the Lord without distraction" (vii, 35).
I myself am a bachelor (so far!) and feel at present no great inclination to marry (though one never knows when the proverbial Little Miss Right may come by, hence I leave my options open, albeit I have resisted praying to St Raphael to assist me in such pursuits) - certainly I feel on the positive side the truth of what the Apostle says, that being without the responsibilities incumbent upon a husband and father I can spare more time for prayer and focus upon the Lord, though God knows how lukewarm I am in this respect, and how much in need of really striving to seek God with an undivided heart.
(Those married and unmarried may spot in all this the usual half-humorous self-assertions that all men make about their self-sufficiency - before they come to seek to marry...)