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These then are the chief features in the doctrines, promulgated by the Saviour of men, on the subjects of Adultery and Divorce.
We proceed to remark, now, on the sentiments of the Apostles, and the Fathers of the Christian Church, at least, as far as they can be collected from such records as have descended to us.
All the Apostles are strong in their condemnation of the crime of Adultery. They say nothing, however, of the secular and temporal consequences of it. On these we shall have occasion to comment presently ; but they all concur in denouncing the future judgments and wrath of God against “ the seed of the adulterer and the whore.” St. Paul's Epistles, however, contain a few remarks more to the point of the present Essay. They are to be found in those written to the Church of Corinth, and appear to have been drawn from him as replies to certain questions, which, on this subject, like many more on other matters, were proposed for the solution of his experienced and enlightened casuistry. The chief passages alluded to, are the 4th and 10th to the 14th verses of the 7th chapter of the 1st
Epistle.* The fourth verse is a very strong declaration of the power and authority, which, in marriage, are reciprocally conferred by the wife and the husband over each other's persons. The words are these: “ The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband : and likewise the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” This also confirms the explanation of an identity of rights possessed by each party in reference to the other; and, when compared with the Saviour's law, restricting the liberty of Divorce, and the dissolution of this sacred contract to an act which, depriving one of the parties of this right, would vitiate the obligation on the other side, it exhibits the beauty and reasonableness of the law with great effect.
The Apostle then proceeds to comment on the law of Divorce itself: “ Unto the married, I command, yet not I, but the Lord: Let not the wife depart" (xwpio Orval, be separated, i. e. by Divorce voluntarily obtained by herself,) “ from her husband.” Here, again, is a recognition of the sacredness of the obligation, and a prohibition conclusive against separation on frivolous pretences. “ But, and if she depart,” (sav de xos xwpoon; i. e. but
even if she be separated, or divorced by him ; “ let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife ;” (or, I also command the husband not to put away his wife ; xai avepa yuvaixa de aQieval.) This passage of the Apostle's writings has been thought by some to clash with the permission of re-marriage, as afforded by Christ, and to sanction the opinion of the perpetuity of the rite as entertained by the Romanists. But the opinions of the disciple and his Master are perfectly reconcileable. Indeed, the Apostle expressly states it is his Lord's command that he is expounding. Christ gives the liberty of a second marriage after Divorce for Adultery. St. Paul states, that the liberty is withheld from such as separate for inferior causes. It is obviously not of Adultery that he is writing. It is of a separation begun on the part of the woman for offences short of Adultery; and in such cases she is properly admonished to be temperate in her conduct. The Apostle had observed that frivolous pretences for separation were frequent among both Jews and Gentiles, and he takes occasion to remark, that as they did not justify the separation, so neither did they dissolve the bond of marriage, and therefore any re-marriage would be Adultery
against a previous contract as yet undissolved. It is this he reprehends. The wife must not leave her husband : or, if she had left him, she must not marry again. She should rather make every sacrifice to effect a reconciliation and a return. The same duties devolved on the husband. The exception, however, is necessarily implied of that breach of the nuptial contract which has been last considered; for,
that the Apostle is not speaking of Adultery, · is clear from the close of the passage; “ Let
not the husband put away his wife.” Now, it was well known, that the husband was permitted to do this for Adultery; and the Apostle would hardly contradict his Master : yet, he says, the husband must not dismiss her. We must clearly, therefore, apply the restriction, as St. Paul intended it, to other and less causes than that of Adultery. Another circumstance, deserving of notice, is, that the Apostle is writing, not to Jews, but to Gentiles ; to the Corinthians just recovering from the laxities of Paganism, some of whose licentious liberties on these subjects have been noticed in the second division of the Essay; and this may further account for the strength with which he expresses his admonition against the rash abandonment of either party for trivial causes, and a subsequent and spontaneous re-marriage.
The Apostle then states one more case; it is that of a marriage between a christian convert and an unbeliever ;-a case not contemplated by the statement of Christ ; and for this obvious reason, no such case existed ; and therefore the Apostle's expression is, “ to the rest,” that is, to others, whose cases were not included in the former consideration; to such, " I command, not the Lord.”
A contract between persons of such opposite principles and sentiments must have occasioned the sorest inconveniences; and all such connexions were greatly to be deprecated ; but it is to the case as already existing, that the Apostle's remark applies. It was from a predominance of an apprehension that the mixture with Gentile families might violate the purity of Christianity, or tend to throw the married believer back again to the pollutions of Paganism, that the first converts looked upon their marriage as actually dissolved if one of the parties still remained in infidelity. The case was submitted to St. Paul; and, with the most cautious deliberation, he states his opinion on the matter, declaring it to be only his own, although as agreeable, as he could collect it, to the divine will. His first object is to check these precipitate Divorces. “ If any brother” (that is, a Christian) “ hath