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that puts away his wife on this one authentic ground, is so perfectly free from the conjugal bond, that he may lawfully marry some other woman, and some other man marry that divorced adulterous wife. The words in Matthew, * he then adds, with distinctness and yet with caution, are favourable to the affirmation, that it is lawful in that one excepted case, to marry again.
The nature of a Divorce among the Jews, was the rescinding of the conjugal bonds; the same supposition obtained, both among them and the Romans, that persons, duly divorced, might marry again. Of the Jewish divorced wife, it is expressly said, in Deuteronomy,t she may marry another; and then the form of Divorce, in the Misna, (Title, Gittin, or Ghettin,) was, “ Behold, thou art free, and at liberty to marry whom thou wilt,” cuivis nubere liceat ; and no change being noticed by Christ, in the circumstances attendant on this Divorce, he considers it fair to infer the continuance of this liberty. He states, however, with great candour, the objections of those who side with the opinions of several Councils among the Roman Catholic churches, citing, particularly, the apostolical canons, 48 ; the
Council of Arles, A. D. 314, can. 10; and one of the Milavitan Council, A. D. 402, at which St. Augustine was present, where the doubts entertained with respect to this liberty, occasioned those scrupulous cautions which afterwards ripened that decree in the Ecclesiastical Constitution of 1597, (the wholesomeness of which it is not meant to impeach,) which enacts, that when Divorces are pronounced, “ Monitio et prohibitio fiat ut a partibus ab invicem segregatis caste vivatur, nec ad alteras nuptias alterutrâ vivente convoletur.”
But, after all, these observations do not affect the main question. The difference between the two opposing sentiments seems capable of an explanation by reference to the fact not long before alluded to, that the Jews possessed the power of Divorce themselves ; whereas, with us, it is vested in judicial authority ; that authority, of a two-fold character, in the former and inferior of which the judicial declaration of the status of the parties is made, accompanied by the caution against re-marriage, until the superior authority, on a further investigation of the case, might grant a dispensing power for that re-marriage; a liberty which never could, in a professedly christian country, be for a moment tolerated, unless it were admitted that the Founder of the christian laws himself allowed of such a measure. . Thus unanimous are the most approved of the expositors on this interesting and important subject. They have been stated thus at length, because considerable variations of sentiment have prevailed respecting it with some individuals of no ordinary powers, particularly one of the Bishops of Rochester, in a speech, delivered in the House of Peers, on the case of Lord Northampton. But it is trusted, that the answers which these citations afford, sufficiently establish all the positions which have been advanced under the head of the Essay; and the view now taken of the laws of the New Testament, cannot be either more comprehensively stated, or more strongly sustained, than in the language of His Grace the present Archbishop of Canterbury, in the concise but forcible speech delivered by him, in the same House, in the year 1820.
- If it be asked,” said his Grace," whether a dissolution of the marriage contract is sanctioned by the word of God, I am bound to say, that Divorce a vinculo matrimonii is consistent with that word. There is an express declaration to that effect in the words of our Saviour. It is true, Divorce is not talked of,
either in the canons of the Established Church, or in the common law of the land. And why? Because marriage lies at the very foundation of civil society, and, therefore, it has been the anxious wish of all countries to protect it, by every means in their power, from dissolution. Yet instances of Divorce have occurred in this country, not only subsequently to the Reformation, but antecedently to that period. And in the Mosaic law, there is also mention made of Divorce, though I am aware, that some commentators say it was for general purposes, and others, for special. The words of our Saviour, however, are explicit on the subject ; for they state, that where a dissolution of marriage takes place from any other cause than Adultery, such dissolution may be followed by the party so dissolving it, causing the other party to commit Adultery. I admit,” added his Grace, “ that the passages in Matthew are not in Mark nor in Luke: but in Matthew the exception is given, and Mark and Luke have the general institution, without the exception. Now I conceive that the passages in which the exception is omitted, ought to be measured by the passage in which it is expressed ; for, it is impossible to believe that that was not intended, which was expressed, though that which was not actually expressed, might yet be intended.* The result therefore is, in my opinion, that the Scriptures have left a special case excepted, for which a Divorce may be obtained.”+
• It is observable, that St. Luke himself suppresses the exception in each case ; thus evidently understanding it tacitly in both; for he cannot be supposed to have opposed the statement of his Master's doctrine, as delivered by St. Matthew, the admission of the exception in the one clause ; and, therefore, he makes the two cases perfectly parallel, and proves, that the reservation belongs equally to each section of the passage : and thus St. Matthew himself is to be understood, in stating the sin of a second marriage in the woman, to arise from the circumstance of her being put away for a less cause than fornication. “Whoso doeth this, causeth her to commit Adultery." Here her second marriage was adulterous, precisely because her first offence was not fornication, and her prior marriage was still good.
+ In these sentiments the Bishops of London, of Landaff, and others of the Episcopal Bench fully concurred. The former expressed himself, as “entertaining no doubt whatever of the power of dissolving the matrimonial bond.” The latter stated, that, “ according to the law of the land, he knew no other cause of Divorce, than Adultery; and no other punishment of Adultery than Divorce. As to the Christian law, it certainly provides that dissolution of marriage may take place in any case of Adultery, for there is no qualifying clause in our Saviour's injunction.”