The Midlands Association on Mixed Marriage

At the second General Meeting [so they called association gatherings] of the Midlands Association, held on June 26, 1655, the marriage of believers with unbelievers was discussed as the first item of business. This is a good example of how early Baptist associations wrestled with and resolved doctrinal and ethical problems. The following entry is found in the records:

The churches now associated are desired to take these things into consideration and to signify by thire messengers at thire next meeting how far they close with the same and what they judg expedient to be farther considered and done for the glory of God and the good of his people.
Touching marriage. 1. Whether it be not utterly and manifestly unlawfull for a churchmember to marry one who cannot be duly looked upon to be a true believer in Christ considering: 1 Cor. 7.39; 9.5; 1 Peter 3.7.
. . . The churches are humbly pressed to seeke the Lord for right information of the thinge, there being present need of the same and that they would signify theyre judgement touching itt also att the next meeting.

At the third General Meeting, held October 24, 1655, the messengers of the churches responded. Here is the record in the minutes:

The conclusions of the messengers of the churches uppon some of the quereys at the last meeting that were sente to the churches:
. . . whether a believer sinneth in marrying any other but a believer considering 1 Cor. 7.39. It is answered affirmatively: they sinne if they marry any other.

In this case, the association asked the churches to consider the question and give their opinion. The result was a unanimous agreement, or as B.R. White comments in a footnote “It is clear from the Tewksbury Churchbook that their response to the quer(y) about marriage with those not looked upon as ‘true’ believers  . . . (was) firmly negative.”