Omnis qui dimittit uxorem & ducit alteram, moechari minime dubitetur.
Every man who putteth away his wife and marryeth another, should not be doubted, but that he is an adulteror. ( ¶. 11 )
—Concerning Adulterous Marriages / De Adulterinis Coniugiis
Non liceat mulieri nubere alteri, nisi mortuo viro ; si ante viri mortem nupserit, rea est.
Let it not be lawful for a woman to marry again, unless her husband be dead ; if she marry before the death of her husband, she is guilty of adultery. ( ¶. 43 )
—On the Sermon on the Mount / De Sermone Domini in Monte
De Adulterinis Coniugiis, ad Pollentium. Concerning Adulterous Marriages.Written around year 419. of our Lord.
The first Booke.
well-beloved brother Pollentius, you entreated of me, by way of consultation, to write on several points. First, you inquire about these words from the Apostle : To those already in marriage, I command, ( not I, but the Lord, ) that a wife do not depart from her husband ; but if she doth depart, to remain unmarried or else be reconciled back to her husband. And the husband is not to put away his wife in a similar manner. Parsing these words, you ask whether the prohibition on second marriage referreth only to those who divorced a spouse that was innocent of adultery. Or is it as I wrote many years ago upon our Saviour’s sermon on the mountain in saint Matthew’s gospel, that the second marriage be prohibited even for those whose spouses committed adultery ; namely that any and every kind of second marriage be prohibited.Chap. 1. 1. Cor. 7.
¶ On Divorce and Separation.
You accept that a woman who hath a husband innocent of adultery, and separateth from him, ought not to marry again. Yet you forget to ask whether she be allowed to separate in the first place. These be your words : the command to remain unmarried after a divorce only taketh away the liberty for a remarriage ; not the liberty of separation. If this be true, then the women who become drawn to the vows of celibacy and continence need not inquire the consent of their husbands, but may straight forth separate and depart at their will. You would only apply the Apostle’s prohibition to those who seek a separation and divorce in order to procure a second conjugal union ; not to women who adopted continence. Such women ( in your mind ), if they would simply forsake all conjugal relations, and reject the bond of marriage, they could abandon their husbands lawfully, even without any crime of adultery on his part. And men likewise ( for there is a like form in them both ), if they chose celibacy and continence, you would allow them to forsake their wives without their consent, and abandon marriage altogether.
For then ( as you think ), if the divorce be on account of fornication and adultery, they may seek new marriages ; absent of adultery, you argue that the wife either ought not leave her husband, or if she doth leave, to remain without marriage altogether. Therefore, absent of adultery, you would allow the husband and the wife to take one of three options : either not to depart from one another ; or if either spouse doth separate, for both to remain continent ; or unable to remain continent, to forbear coupling with other people, and return to their former husband or wife again.
But where doth this leave the Apostle’s wish that neither party in marriage should withhold or delay their carnal debt, not even for a time, not even for weighty reasons like applying oneself more fervently & diligently to prayer ? These be the words of the Apostle, and I ask how you might possibly salvage them : To avoid fornication, let every husband have his wife, & every wife have her husband. And let the husband pay his debt to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife hath not power of her body but the husband, & likewise the husband hath not power of his body but the wife. How shall this be true if the one party doth not desire to have conjugal relations, but the other be unable to live in celibacy ? If the wife can indeed so reject the husband as to abandon all marriage altogether, then the husband truly hath no power over the wife’s body. And the same likewise, goeth for the wife and the husband in reverse.Chap. 2. 1. Cor. 7.
Moreover, see this verse : Excepting the cases of fornication, anyone who putteth away his wife, maketh her an adulteress. How shall this be understood, other than a prohibition for any man from separating with his wife ( unless she committeth adultery )? Even the explanation is provided : in separating from his innocent wife, he maketh her an adulteress. Though she were not the one to put him away, but was put away herself ( a victim of his actions ), yet if she marryeth again she shall be an adulteress.Math. 5.
Therefore, on account of this great harm which he may cause her, the man is prohibited from putting away his wife for any reason. The only exception is if she had committed adultery, in which case he doth not make her an adulteress, but putteth away one who is an adulteress already. And if he sayeth, I do not have a complaint of fornication against my wife ; yet I wish to separate nevertheless, to live in celibacy and continence, shall we call this lawful ? Who that understandeth the will of the Lord dare allow this ? The Lord hath taught that the wife be not put away, not even for a man who would dearly wish to live in solitude and have complete and continent chastity.Chap. 3.
Let us return to the words of the Apostle with which I opened this treatise : To them who are already in marriage, I command ( and not I but the Lord ), that the wife ought not to depart from her husband ; and if she doth depart, to remain unmarried. You would read in the latter clause the freedom to separate. But let us consult with the Apostle, and ask as if he were present : Why did’st thou, O Apostle, instruct that the woman who leaveth her husband should remain unmarried ? Is it lawful or not for her to separate and divorce from her husband ? If if it be unlawful, then why do’st Thou provide instructions for what to do after a divorce ( such as not marrying again )? But if it be lawful, then some principle will make it lawful ; but no such principle will ever be found, despite the searching ; the only exception being what our Saviour had provided, namely her husband’s fornication. Thus how else can the command for remaining unmarried after a divorce be understood, than by seeing behind it the only lawful reason for separations, namely spousal adultery ? In this we see a reproof of your opinion that spouses be permitted to separate even where no fornication or adultery had taken place. Comparing your opinion to the Scriptures, I think that you can perceive how much this your understanding is contrary to God’s bond of marriage.1. Cor. 7.
Let us open this point a little more plainly, and as it were set the thing before our eyes. Consider the case where the honour of a continent and celibate life beginneth to entice the wife. She separateth from her husband, and beginneth to live in celibacy ; yet while she for her part will live chastely, her husband shall be made an adulterer when he, not having embraced continence himself, will seek out other women. What shall we say to her, but what the Church teacheth in a wholesome doctrine : pay thy debt to thy husband, lest while thou seekest how to be more honoured in continency, he doth discover how to be damned. ( And the same would apply in reverse. ) We shall remind her, Thou hast not power of thy body but he, just as he hath not power of his body but thou. Do not defraud one another of conjugal duties, except by common consent.Chap. 4.
When we have said these & other things that pertain to this purpose, would it satisfy for the woman to bring in your exception, that continence and celibacy prove enough grounds for a divorce ? Suppose she spoke to us using your opinion : I am obedient to the Apostle who saith for the wife not to depart from her husband, but if she do depart, to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. Behold, I have gone from my husband, and while I will not be reconciled, yet I will not seek further marriages. The Apostle doth not say for the woman to stay unmarried she be reconciled to her husband. He saith : . Let her do either this or that. He hath permitted one of the two to be chosen, & doth not compel to choose the one. I have chosen to remain unmarried, and so fulfill the commandment. If I do marry again, then correct me, blame me, reject me, and use what severity you will.
What can I say to this woman, but this : thou dost not understand the Apostle well. His command to remain unmarried doth not apply to every woman who imagines to depart from her husband ; but only to the woman who separateth lawfully, for the one unmentioned cause ( because so known ), namely adultery. God our master, when he spake against the putting away of a wife, provided an exception only on the grounds of fornication. He also gave us to understand that the like form was also to be kept in the husband ; not only hath the wife no power of her body but the man, but he too hath not power of his body but the wife. Therefore when thou cannot accuse thy husband of fornication, what excuse will thou provide for your departure from the man, from whom it be unlawful to depart at all ?Chap. 5.
When this woman shall hear these things of us, her response could be thus : it is true she separated, but look how she remaineth unmarried precisely in obedience to the Apostle’s teaching, as her husband had not committed adultery. Had he done so, she would be permitted not only to depart from him, but to even pursue a second marriage.
Yet we know she will not say this, seeing that you are ashamed to give such a license to women. For you write : if a husband put away his adulterous wife and marry again, only she shall have the blame. But if a wife put away her adulterous husband and marry again, not only he but the wife also shall have the blame. For which your saying, you gave the following reason : if she were permitted to remarry, rumors would fly that her divorce were but an excuse to indulge her lusts of coupling with another man, even were he alike to the man she separated from. People fall very easily into rumors and whispers. If her second husband would be adulterous she would abandon him away for a third ; greater and greater would spread the rumors of her appetite for countless men. Thus you conclude & say : These things being thus entreated and discussed, the woman must tolerate her original husband despite his adultery ; or else, to remain unmarried.Chap. 6.
You have given a good counsel to women : even were they permitted to marry a second husband following the adultery of the first, they still should not do it for the shame, but rather tolerate their adulterous husbands, lest they acquire a reputation, of wanting to fornicate with many men. This will prove quite a problem, as the new men around the woman will not have the character of the husband she left behind, drawn to her in their vices. Seeing therefore that we say that it is unlawful for a woman who flees an adulterous husband to marry another ; and you say that it is lawful, but not expedient : then without a doubt you and I agree that the woman who separateth from her adulterous husband ought not to marry again.
Yet here is the difference. For us, a woman may lawfully separate from an adulterous husband, although not for any future remarriage ; but absent his fornication, she may not separate from him in the first place. For you, the woman hath the liberty of separation regardless of whether her husband committed adultery ( although in neither case so as to marry again ). And this is the difference between us : you permit for the wife a free and easy divorce, whether her husband were guilty of fornication or not.Chap. 7.
The blessed Apostle, or rather God himself through the Apostle, doth not permit for the woman to ever separate from a husband who is innocent of any fornication. Even were they to separate on account of his guilt, she remaineth forbidden to marry again, by this scripture : if she separates, let her remain unmarried. And yet it is also written, if she doth not live continently, let her marry, which permitteth the woman the first entry into the state of matrimony, abandoning her virginity. Therefore, if she chooseth to marry, she cannot be compelled to maintain her virginity ; but just as this incontinence may not be damnable, so upon separating from her husband she is to return to her original state of chastity, in order that her separation may not return her into sin.1. Cor. 7.
Yet the saying of the Apostle ( if she separates, let her remain unmarried, ) leaveth room for a misunderstanding, where any woman wishing to live in continence and celibacy will imagine that she may lawfully leave without the consent of her husband. This ought not to be permitted, given the understanding that it only refers to the one lawful separation, namely, her husband’s adultery. If we teach otherwise, then we will trouble christen marriages by the allure of the vows of celibacy, and compel the miserable husbands, abandoned by their wives, into adultery. And so likewise for wives and their husbands in return.Chap. 8. Math. 19. 1. Cor. 7.
¶ Adultery as Grounds for Re-Marriage.
You ask : why did Christ add the exception of fornication, not contenting himself with saying that simply anyone who putteth away his wife & marrieth another committeth adultery ? One reason is that he would bring attention to the greater fault : who can deny that it is more guilt to divorce and remarry from an innocent wife, than one who committed adultery ? Not that every kind of separation and re-marriage ceaseth to be adultery, but rather, that it be a lesser guilt in case of the wife’s adultery, and a greater guilt in case of her innocence. Saint James the Apostle saith in a similar fashion, To him that knoweth to do well and doeth it not, it is a sin. If a man were ignorant of how to choose rightly, is it a sin if he therefore chose wrongly ? Perhaps, but certainly less than when knowledge aboundeth. In this fashion, the husband’s second marriage is still therefore a sin ( and an adultery of its own ), even when precipitated by his wife’s initial adultery.Chap. 9. James. 4.
Put the two cases side by side : to know what is good and omit doing it be a very serious sin ; to divorce a wife innocent of adultery, and to proceed to re-marry, be a similarly serious and grave sin. But just as we cannot say that the man who doth not know, doth not sin ( there being sins of ignorance ), so we cannot allow the presence of wife’s adultery to pardon the husband’s remarriage ; a second marriage shall still remain an adultery on his part, even if precipitated by his wife’s fornication, albeit less. We call an adulterer the man who forsaketh his wife & marrieth another when fornication be absent, and yet we do not defend the man when her fornication be present. Although one be more than the other, yet we know the men in both circumstances to be adulterers.
If saint Mathew the Evangelist maketh this hard to understand, mentioning the heavier kind of adulterer while omitting the lighter : did not the other Evangelists clearly ascribe adultery to both kinds ? For in saint Mark’s gospel it is thus written, whosoever putteth away his wife, and marryeth another, committeth adultery upon her : and if the wife putteth away her husband and be married to another, she committeth adultery. And in saint Luke’s gospel it sayeth thus, Every man that putteth away his wife, and marryeth another, is an adulterer, and he that marrieth her that is put away of her husband, is an adulterer. How can we say that one man putting away his wife & marrying another, is an adulteror, but another doing the same thing is no adulteror, seeing the gospel saith, every man is an adulteror that doth it. If a second marriage maketh one an adulterer, then it is adultery, with or without his wife’s initial fornication.Mark. 10. Luke. 16. 18.
You say that in my old Commentary on S. Mathew’s gospel, I omitted the phrase [ and marryeth another ], when speaking of the verse. I wrote the words as I found them in my manuscript copy of the Lord’s sermon upon the mountain. The various copies of the Gospel may express the same sense in different words, yet they do not differ from their common meaning. Some copies say, Whosoever putteth away, other have, every man that putteth away. Some have, except the cause of fornication, others, beside the cause of fornication, and yet others, but for the cause of fornication. Likewise, some have, he that marryeth her who is loosed from her husband is an adulterer : other have, he that marrieth her that is dismissed or put away of her husband is an adulterer. I suppose you can see that it maketh no matter for one & the same sentence. This last sentence, he that marryeth her that is put from her husband, is an adulterer, is absent from many copies, both in Greek and in Latin, yet it may be assumed there from a prior passage ( He maketh her to commit adultery ). How can she that is put away be made an adulteress except he that shall marry her be made an adulterer ?Chap. 10.
But let us return to the original text of Scripture, which led you to think that the husband who put away his wife for fornication, and married again, committed no adultery. The words on this in the gospel are indeed obscure and darkly put, and I do not marvel if the reader doth struggle at the understanding of them. They be absent from the sermon upon the Mount, and I had not entreated of them in my Commentaries upon the sermon on the Mount, which first moved you to write to me. Saint Mathew writeth that Christ spake those words not at the Mount, but when he was asked by the Pharisees on on the lawfulness of frivolously divorcing from one’s wife. Let us consider these words again in detail : Whosoever putteth away his wife but for fornication, [ nisi ob fornicationem ] ( or beside the cause of fornication [ praeter causam fornicationis ] in the greek text ), and marrieth another, commiteth adultery.Chap. 11. Math. 19.
First, let us not jump to the conclusion that the presence of the wife’s fornication shall erase the husband’s ensuing adultery. And let us consult the gospel of other Evangelists who writ on this matter. If not everything that pertaineth to this matter be written by S. Mathew, yet a portion may be so written that the whole may be understood within it. Furthermore, S. Mark and saint Luke make it more plain, describing the full whole, so that the full sentence may appear. Therefore, without doubting that what is read in S. Mathew be true, whosoever putteth away his wife for the cause of fornication, and marrieth another, is an adulterer : we still inquire whether the wife’s fornication shall dispel the husband’s ensuing adultery ; or whether every man who putteth away his wife and marryeth another be an adulteror ; even when the wife were guilty of fornication.
The answer we seek be found straight in saint Mark’s gospel. Why do ye need to ask further ? The words in that gospel are : Whosoever putteth away his wife & marryeth another committeth adultery. Shall it not also be said to us by S. Luke’s gospel ? And yet you still doubt. The words in that gospel are, Every man that putteth away his wife and marryeth another, is an adulterer. As it is not lawful to say the Evangelists do not agree upon a single sense and a single understanding, it is clear that they spake of the same thing in varying words. We must understand that it pleased saint Mathew to mention a partial point, but imply the whole case, remaining of the same mind with the other writers of the Gospel : that every man who putteth away his wife and marryeth another, should not be doubted, but that he is an adulterer.Mark. 10. Luke. 16. 18. Chap. 12. Luke. 16. 18.
¶ On Divorce from Non-Christians.
Next, let us look at these words from the Apostle : But to the rest, speak I, not the Lord : If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. He said this, methinks, simply for exhortation & admonishment, since by God’s law a christened spouse may indeed forsake the infidel spouse ; it was not the Lord but the Apostle who forbiddeth it to be done.Chap. 13. 1. Cor. 7.
What the Lord forbiddeth, may not be done at all ; but the Apostle from his own authority exhorteth and admonisheth the parties who received the faith not to use their license of forsaking the infidel parties ; he doth this so that there may be an occasion to win many to the faith. It is important to distinguish this. You would interpret the Apostle’s words as making it simply unlawful but this is imprecise, for lawfulness cometh from the Lord, and here the Lord doth not forbid it. We can allow it as lawful according to the Lord, but not expedient as according to the Apostle, who guideth us on what is inexpedient, even when lawful. For what knowest thou, O wife ( he saith ), whether thou shalt save thy husband : or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife ? And prior to this he saith : The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the brother who is Christian. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. In words like this the Apostle exhorteth a Christian to strive after attaining his wife and children in Christ. He forbiddeth the faithful from putting away infidel spouses not for the sake of the marriage bond, but for acquiring Christ.1. Cor. 16. 1. Cor. 14.
There exist many choices which must be made not under the yoke of God’s law, but in the freedom of charity : and those things will be most approved unto God, which when obligation doth not impel us to adhere to them, yet our love impels us to adhere to them nevertheless. It was for this reason that, in a preceding passage, the Lord himself revealed that although not obligated to pay tribute to the State, he nevertheless paid it anyway ; lest it scandalize those whom he was guiding to eternal life. And truly doth the Apostle bear witness to this teaching, when he saith : When I was free from all men, I made myself a slave to everyone, so that I might win many.Chap. 14. Math. 17. 1. Cor. 9. 19.
The Apostle expoundeth this point at length. Just above, he writeth : Have we not power to take our meat and drink ? Have we not license to lead about with us a woman a sister as the other Apostles and the Lord’s brethren & Peter ? Have only I and Barnabas no power thus to do ? Who doth ever go on warfare at his own wages and charges ? who ever doth plant a vineyard and eat not of its fruit ? who is a shepherd and taketh not of the milk of ye flock ? And right after, he saith : If others have this power over you, should I not have it instead ? Yet I have not used this power, but endure all things, lest I give any stop to the gospel of Christ. And then he addeth, What reward shall I have, that in my preaching I make the gospel to be at no cost or charge to the receiver, and do not abuse my power ? It is then that he addeth what I cited above : When I was free from all men, I made myself the servant of all, that I might win many.1. Cor. 9. 4. 1. Cor. 9. 12. 1. Cor. 9. 18.
In another passage S. Paul saith : All things are lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of any thing. The meat is for the belly, & the belly is for the meat, but God shall cause to cease both the meat and the belly. Likewise in another passage : All things be lawful, but not all things be expedient ; all things be lawful, but not all things do edify. Let no man seek his own, but what is another’s. To explain his meaning, he saith, Whatsoever is sold in the market, eat of it, asking & searching nothing for conscience sake. And yet, contrarywise, he saith : I will not eat flesh for evermore, lest I should offend my brother. And likewise : All things be clean, but a thing be evil to a man who eateth in offense.1. Cor. 6. 12. 1. Cor. 10. 22. 1. Cor. 10. 25. 1. Cor. 8. 13. Rom. 14. 20.
What doth he mean, all things be lawful, if not this : all things be clean ? And what is it to say, not all things be expedient, if not this : it is evil to that man who eateth offensively ? Thus he showeth that things which be lawful, that is to say, prohibited by no commandment of the Lord, ought still to be decided expediently, not by the appointment of duty, but by the counsel of charity. These gifts of charity were bestowed upon the wounded man who was brought, by the mercifulness of the Samaritan, to the Inn to be cured and made whole. They be called not commandments and yet are admonished by the Lord to still be done and offered, if we understand them to be voluntary and not forced.Luke. 10.
Choices which are lawful but inexpedient may be described as, this being good, but that being better. It is written, He that giveth his virgin to marriage doth well, and he that doth not give his virgin to marriage doth better ; both be lawful ; sometimes the one and sometimes the other be more expedient. To the women not sworn to continence, it is expedient to marry ; it is lawful, as well as expedient. But to women who have sworn to continence, it is neither lawful nor expedient. In sum, to a Christian wife who is married, it may be lawful to divorce from an infidel husband, and yet is not expedient. While to remain with him will be both lawful and expedient ( for if it were not lawful it could not be expedient ). A thing cannot be expedient if it is not lawful ; but it may be lawful and yet not expedient. For that reason not all lawful things be expedient, but all unlawful things be not expedient. Everyone who is redeemed by the bloud of Christ, is either a man or a woman : but not everyone that is a man or a woman is redeemed by the bloud of Christ. Even so everything that is unlawful is not expedient, but not everything that is not expedient is also unlawful, and there be lawful things which may still be not expedient, as we have learned from the Apostle’s testimony.Chap. 15. 1. Cor. 7. 38.
It is hard to define by a universal rule the difference between what is simply inexpedient ( yet lawful ), and what is inexpedient because it is unlawful. Someone will soon say that as everything which is inexpedient is a sin, and as every sin is unlawful, therefore everything which is inexpedient is also unlawful. Yet where will this leave the things which the Apostle saith are lawful but not expedient ? Wherefore, because we may not doubt that what the Apostle said is true, and we dare not allow for any sins to be lawful : we must affirm that something which is inexpedient, if it were lawful it would be no sin, and yet should still not be done, because it is inexpedient. But if it be thought absurd for something which is inexpedient to be permitted, and doing it not to be a sin, we must understand that it is called an absurdity by a custom of speech. In speech we may say that irrational beasts ought to be beaten when they fault or sin ; but to sin pertaineth only to a creature with a reasonable election of free-will, which among mortal living creatures is given to none but to man. It is one thing when we speak properly, and another thing when we borrow words either by abusing of them, or else by translation from other things.Chap. 16.
Let us labor ( if we may ) to elaborate this distinction between that which is lawful yet inexpedient, and that which is unlawful and therefore inexpedient. To my mind, things permitted by God’s righteousness, and yet offensive to men, ought to be avoided ; they are lawful and yet not expedient, lest by doing them we repel and prevent the people we offend from salvation. In contrast, things forbidden by God’s righteousness are simply unlawful, and therefore not expedient, be they never so praised and pleasant to those to whose knowledge they be brought. In that case, only the unlawful things remain prohibited ; and yet the lawful but inexpedient things are also to be avoided, not by the bond of divine law but by the free benevolence of man’s discretion.Chap. 17.
If it were outright unlawful to put away an infidel husband or wife, the Lord would have forbidden it to be done, and the Apostle forbidding it would not have said, I say, not the Lord. If a separation from the wife for her fornication be permitted, how much more ought she be abhorred for the fornication of her mind, that is to say her absence of faith, of which it is written : They that make themselves far from thee, shall perish. Thou hast destroyed every one who hath departed from thee by fornication.1. Cor. 7. Psal. 72.
And yet, while a separation from an infidel is lawful, yet it is not expedient, lest the husbands, abandoned and offended by their wives, should come to abhor the doctrines of salvation ; and so get deeper & deeper in their lack of faith, to their own damnation. The Apostle here is an intercessor, and by admonishment forbiddeth that which is lawful and yet not expedient.Chap. 18.
Christen men and women be not forbidden by the Lord to separate from infidel wives and husbands ; nor are they commanded. Were they commanded, then there would be no place left for the additional words from the Apostle ; a good servant doth not go against the words of his Master.
The Lord did once command for the infidel wives to be put away ; he issued it by Esdras the prophet, and it was done. The Israelites, all that then had any wives, departed from the wives that were foreigners borne of another stock ; those who seduced and led the men to strange gods, not those won & brought to the true God by their husbands. For as yet the great grace of our saviour did not shine, & the multitude of that people did gape and look for the temporal promises of the old testament. The people saw that those worshipping false gods abounded in many worldly goods ; they were seduced by these enticements, and the whisperings of their wives. First they were afraid to offend those false gods, and afterward were induced to worship them. On account of this, the Lord commanded by the holy man Moses, that no man should marry a wife being a stranger-born. The men married such wives against the Lord’s commandment, and by his commandment, by good right, did they put them away.1. Esdr. 10. Deut. 7.
But when the gospel began to be preached to the Gentiles, it found one Gentile married to another, where if both the parties did not receive the faith, an infidel consented to dwell with the other who was christened. In such cases, the christian should neither be prohibited from putting away the infidel, nor commanded to keep. She ought not to be prohibited, because justice permitteth her to separate from a fornicator, & an infidel man hath in his heart the greater fornication : nor his chastity with his wife can be called true, because whatsoever is not of faith is sin. And yet the christians should not be commanded to separate from infidels either ; they were both married as Gentiles, which is not against the commandment of the Lord.Rom. 14.
Seeing then the Lord neither forbiddeth nor commandeth the christian to separate from the infidel, the counsel not to separate cometh from the Apostle, having the holy ghost, in whom he is able to give fruitful and faithful counsel. Contrast this with the time when he had said of the woman whose husband was dead, she shall be more happy, if she remain so, after my counsel ; but lest anyone scorn this not as God’s counsel but merely man’s, he added : I think verily that I have the spirit of God. We must understand that the things which be not commanded of the Lord, yet fruitfully counseled by his servant, be counseled by the inspiration of the same Lord. God forbid for a Catholike man to say that when the holy ghost doth counsel, the Lord doth not counsel : seeing that the holy ghost is also Lord, & the works of the Trinity be inseparable. In another place, saying, concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord, but give counsel, he avoided the impression that his counsel had not come from the Lord, adding : As having obtained mercy of the Lord to be a faithful counselor. Therefore by God he giveth a faithful counsel, in the spirit of whom he saith, I think that I also have ye spirit of God.1. Cor. 7. 40. 1. Cor. 7. 25.
Notwithstanding this, the commandment of the Lord is one thing, and the faithful counsel of the servant according to the merciful gift of charity, inspired & given to him by the Lord, is another. With the commandment of the Lord, to act contrary is unlawful ; with a charitable counsel it is lawful, and may be partly expedient, and partly not expedient.
A lawful action, permitted by God, may be expedient when it preventeth no one from salvation, and yet to act contrary to it may likewise be both lawful & expedient. One instance is to marry and embrace marriage, which is good, but less than continence. The honesty of marriage relieveth the infirmity of the flesh ever prone to falling to base temptations ; it stoppeth no man from salvation, even if it would be more expedient for a virgin to take S. Paul’s encouragement toward continence.
However, a lawful act may also be inexpedient, when the use of that liberty and power causeth an impediment of another’s salvation. The divorcing of the christian from an infidel is of this sort. It is not in itself unjust, and thus the Lord doth not forbid it by the commandment of the law ; yet the Apostle doth forbid it by the counsel of charity, because it becometh an impediment to the infidel’s salvation ; not only for that they be perniciously offended, but also when they join themselves into other marriages ( their christen wives still being alive ), there will be much difficulty to loose and pull them from such adulterous marriages.
In such cases, what is lawful becometh inexpedient. We cannot say : if she separateth from the infidel, she doth well, and if she separateth not, she doth better : as if that were the same as to enter a marriage to be doing well, and not entering a marriage to be doing better. In the latter case both be lawful, and man is commanded to neither option by God ; both options also be expedient, the one less, ye other more, wherefore every man make take what is more expedient for him. But in the question of divorcing from an infidel, both options may be lawful, and yet inexpedient. On the decision to marry, it may be said : this choice is acceptable, but that choice is done better, because both be expedient ; the one less, the other more. But on divorcing from the infidel party, it may not be said that a divorce is acceptable, and no divorce is better ; instead we are taught : let him not put away ; for although it be lawful, yet it is not expedient. What is lawful and expedient will always be better than what is lawful and not expedient.Chap. 19. Chap. 20. 1. Cor. 7. 12. 1. Cor. 4. 14. Gala. 5. 2.
¶ On Marriage to Non-Christians.
In your opinion, a matter is unlawful when the Apostle forbiddeth it, even if the Lord doth not, just as if the Lord forbade it himself. The Apostle saying, I say, not the lord, was speaking unto christians who had been married to infidels ; yet you see it as a command not to marry those of a different religion. Ye even brought in the testimony of the Lord : Thou shalt not take a wife to thy son the daughters born of strangers, lest she lead him after her gods, and his soul perish ; and added the words of the Apostle : A woman is bounden so long as her husband liveth. But if her husband be dead, she is free to marry whom she will, only in the lord, to which you added, to a christian. You went on to say, This is therefore the commandment of the Lord, in the old testament as well as in the new, that no parties should remain coupled in marriage except they be of one religion & faith.Chap. 21. 1. Cor. 7. Deut. 7. 1. Cor. 7.
Then if this be the Lord’s commandment both in the old testament and the new, and if the Lord command it an the Apostle teach it, that no marriage remain coupled but of one religion and faith : why then doth the Apostle command, not only counseleth but also commandeth, that in a marriage of infidels, the husband or wife who receiveth the faith should not divorce from the infidel ? By your own words you show evidently enough that the two are different matters. In the Deuteronomy passage we deal with those who are yet to be married ; as the Lord biddeth, so ye Apostle teacheth, and thus both testaments command. But who can deny that here we deal with a different matter, not of those who are yet to be married, but of those who are married already. They were both of one infidelity when they were married, but when the gospel came, the man or the wife received the faith without the other. Then if this be a different matter, why doth not the Apostle command as strongly as in other places, where he spoke so boldly : Will you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me ? And yet Christ remaineth sovereign, as before.2. Cor. 13.
Let me tarry on this point, and declare it a little better. Imagine there be two married persons, both infidels when they were married : in no way do they fall under the Lord’s commandment, or the Apostle’s doctrine, or the precept of the old and new testament, whereby a Christian is forbidden to join in marriage with an infidel. They be man and wife, both outside the faith, remaining such as they were before having married ; behold, the preacher of the gospel cometh, and one of them receiveth the faith, while the other consenteth to dwell with the Christian. Doth the Lord command, or not command, for the Christian to put away the infidel ? If you say he commandeth, the Apostle opposeth you : I say, not the Lord. If you say he doth not command it, I ask you to explain why. Imagining that he prohibited them from marriage in the first place be inadmissable ; as I showed with your scriptures cited above, those verses from Deuteronomy prohibit a faithful and an infidel from pursuing a marriage ; they speak nothing of a couple which be married already.
If therefore you cannot explain why the Lord should permit for the faithful to put away the infidel ( even if the Apostle forbiddeth it ), then consider whether I was correct all along. What the Lord saith may not be transgressed by any means, that is to say, what He so commandeth or forbiddeth, it is unlawful at all to do otherwise. On the other hand what he permitteth to the liberty of man’s free will, either to do or not to do lawfully : therein he giveth room to the guidance of his servants, that they should advise what they see expedient. Let this be foremost and specially kept : nothing should be done what is forbidden by the Lord ; but what is permitted, although no longer forbidden may then be done by what is expedient, and especially what is more expedient.
What the Lord forbiddeth as the Lord, not by the advice of a counselor but by the commandment of a ruler, it is unlawful to do, & therefore is never expedient. The Lord commandeth a woman not to separate from her husband ; but if she go away, to remain unmarried or else to be reconciled to her husband. She is bounden to the law as long as her husband is alive, and during his life she shall be called an adulteress if with another husband.
Any man who divorceth his wife & marryeth another, commiteth adultery. These constitutions of the Lord must be observed without any breach or retraction. The righteousness of God willeth them, whether men will permit them or not, and it cannot be said for them to be suppressed lest they offend men, or or by practical expediency that they stop men from salvation in Christ. For what christian man dare say, that he will allow his wife to commit adultery, or become an adulteror himself, lest he offend men or to win people to Christ ?Chap. 22.
Consider a scenario where a wife committeth adultery, and the Christen man separateth from her, on account of her fornication. It may come to pass that he be tempted with a woman who hath not yet received the faith, and she may even promise to become a christian if he marry her. Say his prior marriage restraineth him, and he refuseth her, to which suppose that she will reply as follows : the Lord said that whoever put away his wife, apart from fornication, and married another were an adulterer. But if your wife were guilty of fornication, then your bond is severed ; you may marry another without committing adultery. She will cite a darkly put verse in S. Mathew, where the whole be implied but only a part of the case be stated. And yet the matter is set forth more plainly in the other gospels, where the whole case is expressed more generally. We read the following in S. Mark : whosoever putteth away his wife & marrieth another committeth adultery. And in S. Luke : Every man that putteth away his wife and marrieth another committeth adultery. They do not say that some do commit adultery, and others do not ; but every man, without exception, who putteth away his wife and marrieth another committeth adultery.Math. 5. 32. Mark. 10. 11. Luke. 16. 18.
Suppose the christian sayeth all this to the temptress, explaining that while it may be lawful for him separate from his wife ( for fornication ); yet nowhere doth it permit him to marry another. What if the temptress answereth with this : if it be a sin, yet commit it to win a woman’s soul to Christ, dead by her lack of faith in God, but ready to be made a christian if she be married to thee ? What else can the Christian respond with, but that if he do it, he cannot escape the condemnation of the Apostle : Some people report that we say, let us do evil so that good may come ; may such people be damned. How can she be a true christian woman, if she shall live in adultery with him who married her ? Adultery is not to be committed, even should the man marry her for the intent of making her a christian.Chap. 23. Rom. 3. 8.
As to the man who maketh a vow to live in perpetual continence, he especially may in no way sin by pretending that he might marry a woman who promiseth to become a Christian. To a man who vows to something, what is lawful before making the vows may not be lawful afterward. Such cases are a man who vows not to seek marriage, but to profess perpetual virginity instead ; or a man who voweth a continent life after his divorce, once both parties be loosed from the bond of marriage. Or one who enters continence by the mutual consent of his wife, both releasing their carnal debt in mutual chastity ( since continence is not lawful for the man to vow without the wife, nor for the wife without the man ). These and such other vows may not be broken by some new circumstance, if they were given unconditionally. We must understand what the Lord commanded, where it is read, vow & perform your vows to your lord God. The Apostle saith of the women who vowed continence but afterward married, that they had damnation, because they made void their first faith and promise. Therefore nothing is expedient what is unlawful, & nothing is lawful what the lord forbiddeth.Chap. 24. Psal. 76. 11. 1. Tim. 5.
As for those things not restrained by a commandment of the Lord, but left in the power & liberty of man : Let us hear and obey the Apostle’s admonishment and counsel ( in the holy Ghost ), either to take up the things which be better and expedient, or to beware and avoid the things which be inexpedient. On the one side let the Apostle be heard, saying : I have no precept of the Lord ; but give counsel. And, I say, not the Lord. On the other side where the hearer chooseth the better, let these words of the Apostle be manifest : He who is loosed from a wife, let him not seek another wife ; but, if he doth take a wife, he sinneth not. And also, let not a virgin not marry, for he who doth give her to marriage doth well, but he who doth not, doth better. And also, the woman who after her husband’s death hath in her liberty to marry whom she will, shall be more happy if she remain in the Lord. ( Which may be taken two ways, either remaining a christian, or marrying a christian.)Chap. 25. 1. Cor. 7. 1. Cor. 7. 25. 1. Cor. 7. 12. 1. Cor. 7. 38. 1. Cor. 7. 39.
In the era of the revealing of the new testament, I do not remember ever unambiguously seeing, either in the gospel or in the Apostles writings, whether the Lord prohibited or permitted christians to be married to infidels. The most blessed man Cyprian had no doubt of its prohibition, not leaving it among the small & light crimes but calling it a prostitution of the members of Christ with infidels and Gentiles. Yet because those who are already married be a different question, these words from Apostle be more applicable : if any brother have an infidel wife, and if she consenteth to dwell with him, let her not be put away : and if any woman have an infidel for her husband and if he consenteth to dwell with her, let him not be put away. And let him also be heard saying, that although it is lawful to be done, because the Lord did not forbid it : yet let it not be done, because it is not expedient. For the Apostle ( as I have showed before ) most plainly teacheth that not all things be expedient, even when lawful.Cyprianus lib. de lapsis. 1. Cor. 7. 12. 1. Cor. 10. 23. Mark. 10. 11. Luke. 16. 18.
¶ Baptism at the Point of Death.
As for the other question which you thought good to consult and ask of my mind, I would have put it in another letter if my opinion differed much from yours. But seeing that our minds be as one on this point, it will not be necessary to dispute it at much length.Chap. 26.
They who as yet be unchristened and still learning the catechism, if they be so oppressed by sickness that although they yet live, they are unable to ask of baptism for themselves, or to answer those who interrogate their faith : their will in Christ’s faith, if manifestly known, may profit them so, that they may be baptised in the manner of infants or children, whose will doth not yet appear. And yet we may not therefore condemn those who be on this point more fearful than we think they ought to be, lest we would seem to dismiss the talent committed to our fellow servant. For in such matters we must consider what the Apostle saith : Every one of us shall give account for himself, and therefore let us no more judge one another.Rom. 14. 12.
There be those who think that we must observe here the saying of Lord, Do not give a holy thing to dogs, nor cast precious stones before hogs. Rehearsing these our Saviour’s words, they dare not baptize a man who cannot answer for himself, lest perhaps he may have a contrary will ; and yet we cannot say this of an infant, in whom there is, as yet, no will or reason at all. It is not only incredible, for this man who is as yet unchristened and learning his catechism, to not be baptised at the end of his life ; but also if his will and consent were unknown, it is better to give baptism if he doth not consent, than to deny it when he doth. Without clarity of whether he would accept or refuse it, it is more credible that he would ask ( if he could, ) to receive the Sacrament, without which he believed he ought not to depart from his body.Rom. 14. Mat. 7. 6.
If the Lord, saying to give not a holy thing to dogs, would have meant what these men read into it, he would have never given the Sacrament to Judas his betrayer, which the other apostles received worthily but he utterly unworthily, even to his destruction and without any fault of the giver. No, we must believe that in that verse, the Lord referreth to unclean hearts, and doth declare by his saying, that unclean hearts do not bear the light of spiritual understanding. If the preacher putteth into men’s heads the doctrine they ought to hear, and yet they do not take it rightly : because it offendeth them, they bite & rend it by reprehending it, or else they tread it under foot by condemning it. Did not the blessed Apostle say that he gave milk and not strong meat to those who were born again, but still only children in Christ ? All because they as yet could not fully grasp it. And if even the Lord said to his elect Apostles, I have many things still to say to you, but you cannot bear them now, how much less can the unclean minds of wicked men perform everything spoken of the heavenly and incorporeal light ?Chap. 27. 1. Cor. 3. 2. John. 16. 12.
To make an end of my disputation in the same matter it began in, I reckon that we should admit to baptism the unchristened learners of our faith. What’s more, those who be coupled and living in adulterous marriages, although forbidden from baptism when in good health and persisting in their adultery, yet if they be on the deathbed, and penitent, and unable to answer for themselves : I say they should be baptized that their sin may be washed away, with all the rest, by the laver of regeneration. For who can know whether they still purposed to retain, or not, the adulterous pleasure and provocation of the flesh, even to the point of baptism ? Of course, should they reco-Chap. 28.
ver their health from that desperation, and live: either they will amend their life in their new Christian state, obeying what they will be taught ; or if they will persist to mock and condemn the teaching, it shall be done to them as to any wicked Christian. Regardless, that which is the cause of Baptism, is the same whi- ch causeth reconciliation, if the peril of death doth chance to prevent the penitent. Our mother, the church, ought not to will them to depart from this life without a pledge of their peace.
¶ The second Booke.
answer to what you asked of me before, Christen brother Pollentius, I have written no small volume, concerning those who have their own wives or husbands alive, and yet be coupled and married unto someone else. When it became known that I was writing my reply, you added certain other questions to your volume, desiring my answer to your new points as well. Just as I was enlarging my original response, to make but one book of mine answers, suddenly my work was published at the request of our brethren, unaware of me adding further unto it. For which reason I am compelled to publish these additional answers to you in a second and separate book. The additions which you injected into your work were not appended cleanly at the end, but inserted and interspersed throughout your text wherever it pleased you. I will answer, therefore in order.Chap. 1.
¶ Adultery as Grounds for Re-Marriage.
The first of your points whereunto I must give answer is this. You return back to this text from the Apostle : To those already in marriage, I command, ( not I, but the Lord, ) that a wife do not depart from her husband ; but if she doth depart, to remain unmarried or else be reconciled back to her husband. To you, the words if she doth depart are not meant to only apply to cases of adultery ( the only permissible cases for departure and divorce ) ; instead, you say those words permit a wife to depart for any reason, so long as she then remaineth unmarried, for a potential reconciliation with her husband. Moreover, if he be guilty of fornication, then in your view the wife need not stay unmarried at all ; nor should she be taken as breaking the commandment, if she be afterward found to be married.Chap. 2. 1. Cor. 7. 10.
The same you would have be observed from the husband, that he do not separate from his wife except for fornication ; but if he doth separate, to remain without a second marriage, to make possible a reconciliation with his wife, lest by refusing such reconciliation he might compel her into another marriage, and thus into adultery. But if he be separated and divorced from his wife on account of her fornication, then ( you say, ) he is bounden by no commandment to live unmarried ; and that he committeth no adultery, if she being alive, he doth marry another. This you establish from the verse of the Apostle S. Paul, the woman is bounden so long as her husband liveth, but if her husband be dead, she is delivered from that bond, to marry whom she will ; which you would have us to understand, that if the husband commit adultery, he should be taken for dead, making it therefore lawful for both of them, as after death, to become married to someone else.1. Cor. 7. 39.
Now having considered your perspective, I ask upon you in return : doth marrying a woman who is delivered from the bond of matrimony result in adultery ? I imagine that you will say it doth not. And yet we know, that, a woman who ( while her husband liveth ) be married to another man, shall be called an adulteress, because, the wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth. If their marital bond were dissolved, then she should be free to marry again, even with her husband still living. But if she be bounden so long as her husband liveth : then by no means may she be called free from the marital bond, except upon his death. If the bond between the man and the wife gets loosed and broken by the death of either party, and if ( as you claim ) adultery should be counted as death : then whensoever she shall commit adultery, we must consider her to be delivered from the bonds of marriage. Then she becometh no longer bounden to her husband, and if any man do marry her, he shall be no adulterour.Chap. 3. Rom. 7. 3. 1. Cor. 7. 39.
But mark what a great absurdity it is, that because the man marryeth an adulteress, he therefore is no adulterour. And ( what is more monstrous ) she herself, having committed adultery, would not be called an adulteress ; after her new marriage she would not remain another man’s adulterous wife, but become her new husband’s wife, naturally and simply. If we permit for the bond of matrimony to be broken by adultery, then after a second marriage the woman shall not be an adulteress with an adulteror, but simply a wife with her husband.Chap. 4. 1. Cor. 7. 39. Rom. 7. 3.
¶ The Bond of Matrimony is Indissoluble.
If we follow the wholesome doctrine & teaching, the woman is bounden to her husband for so long as he liveth. She be joined to the man for so long as he remaineth alive. If he should depart from life, she becometh freed from her husband’s law ; but with him being yet alive, should she join with another man, her title shall be that of an adulteress. May these words of the Apostle be frequently repeated, often taught, and always be taken as true, pertinent, reasonable, and wholesome. No woman may take up a second husband, unless the first one had deceased, after which point she ceaseth to be the first man’s wife, and shall no longer be considered as fornicating. While it may be allowed to separate on account of adultery, yet the bond of matrimony remaineth, despite the adulterous party ; even on account of fornication.Rom. 7. 3.
A man who while under the sacrament of regeneration is excommunicated on account of a crime, is not cut off from that sacrament, even should he never reconcile unto God. Just so the covenant of matrimony remains, even should the wife be dismissed on account of fornication ; she is not cut off from the matrimonial bond, even should she never be reconciled to her husband. This bond of matrimony eventually will indeed cease, but only upon the husband’s death ; unlike the sacrament of regeneration, which doth not cease even upon excommunication, and should the guilty party never reconcile ( because God for his part will never die ). Therefore, if we wish to be of the Apostle’s mind on the matter of matrimony, we must never allow an adulterous man to be counted as dead, making it lawful for his wife to marry again. Although adultery indeed be death, not of the body but of the soul ( which is worse ), yet the Apostle, in saying, if her husband be dead, she may marry whom she will, addressed the physical death in particular ; the departure of a man out of his physical body.Chap. 5.
And on the contrary, if we allow the bond of matrimony to be dissolved by adultery, then followeth the absurdity spoken of before : if the wife should be loosed from the marital bond by her fornication, then she is free to marry ; and therefore ( what idiocy ) by marrying a second time she shall be no adulteress, despite adultery being the method for how she departed from her former husband in the first place. All this is so far from being reasonable, that any man, I speak nothing of Christians, will see the basic flaw in it.
And therefore, the woman truly is bounden so long as her husband liveth ( so long as he remaineth in his body, I hasten to add for your sake ). And the man, her husband, is bounden to her in exactly the same manner, so long as she liveth ( in her physical body ). For which reason if she be an adulteress, and he put her away, let him not marry another woman, lest he himself doth commit what he had blamed in his wife. Likewise if the woman put him away for his adultery, let her not couple herself to another, for she is bounden so long as he liveth. Nor is she delivered from the law of her husband as to cease being an adulteress, if she be with another man.Chap. 6. Deut. 24. 4. Jer. 3. 1. 2. King. 3. 14. John. 8. 11.
¶ On Reconciliation After Adultery.
But the mind of faithless men abhorreth this. There are some so weak in their faith or rather at war with faith, that they scratch out the Lord’s pardon of the woman taken in adultery from their books, in such fear that it giveth their wives liberty to sin without punishment. They conclude that the words of pardon, sin no more hereafter, give a license for sinning ; or that such woman ought not to be healed by God the Physician by the remission of her sin, lest the husband become jealous ( despite being sick himself ). These men who are displeased with this pardon of the Lord are unchaste themselves ; it is not chastity that maketh them so rigid and severe. Rather, they be of that type of men to whom the Lord said, whoever of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone. At least the men in the scriptures, accused by their conscience, departed and ceased to assault Christ and chase the adulteress. But our men, while sick themselves yet reprehend the Physician, and are cruel against women who commit adultery while being frequent adulterours themselves. If they were present then, and Christ not merely said, he who is without sin ( for who is without sin ? ), but more fully, he who is without this sin, let him cast the first stone : then perhaps they would see the great mercy of God which spared them, who while being adulterours yet were permitted to remain alive. Then perhaps they would not grieve for the adulterous woman being spared.Chap. 7. John. 8. 7.
When such men are told what I have told you, they do not lessen their severity but become even more furious, raging at the very truth itself and answering, We are only men. Shall the dignity of our manhood sustain this injury, and shall we be compared to women in receiving punishment if we commit fornication ourselves ? As though their manhood doth not require an even greater restraint of unlawful desires and lusts, on account of their strength and manliness : as though they ought not therefore to be even greater examples of this virtue to their wives, because they be men : as though they ought not therefore to be less overcome with filthy pleasure, because they be men : as though they ought not therefore even less to serve the wantonness of the flesh, because they be men.Chap. 8.
And yet they get angry on hearing that adulterous men receive the same punishment as adulterous women, or if we say that they ought to be punished even more grievously. It is their role to exceed women in virtue and rule them by example, for I implore Christian men to faithfully hear it be said : the man is the head of the woman. If they agree to be the leaders, then they accept the women to be their companions ; they must beware not to live in a manner which they will fear to be adopted by their wives.Ephes. 5. 23.
Men who are displeased for the same form of chastity to be kept between man and wife, often choose rather to be under the laws of the world, than of Christ. The civil laws of our world seem not to bind men with the same bonds of chastity, that they bind women. And yet let them read what the Emperor Antonius, ( who was no Christian ), ordered concerning this matter, not permitting the husband to accuse the wife of adultery if he had not given her an example of chastity himself. In his edict, both should be condemned if their contention shall prove them to have been both unchaste alike. The Emperor’s words written to Gregorianus, are these. My letters, saith he, shall not prejudice to either side. If the fault for the dissolving of the marriage lieth in you, and if your wife Eupasia did marry according to the Julian law, then my judgment will not condemn her for adultery, unless it shall be proven to have been committed. The judges shall have the authority to inquire, whether you living chastely, have been the author for her to live likewise well and chastely, or no ? For it seemeth to me very unright, that the man should require chastity of his wife, which he himself will not perform. This will either condemn the man and make a verdict for their mutual recompense of both their crimes ; or else dismiss your case altogether.Vide Ulpian 3. lib. 13. de Adult.
If we admire such pronouncements and the beautiful justice delivered in the Earthly City, then how much more chastity will be required of men in the Heavenly City and the fellowship of angels. And yet in their proud and licentious boasting about their exploits, are they not made even worse and even more unworthy ?
Therefore let the men not abhor Christ’s forgiveness to the adulterous woman. I would have them realize their own peril, and groaning from the same sickness, to flee with devout prayers to their Saviour. Let them confess that what they read with the adulterous woman is in fact the medicine they themselves desperately require. Let them receive the medicine for their adulteries, and cease to commit any more. Let them praise the patience of God in them, to do penance, to receive pardon, and to amend their views on the punishment for women and immunity for themselves.Chap. 9.
¶ Mandatory Continence After Divorce.
But behold, some will still refuse to take back their adulterous wife. And no one compelleth it. Perhaps some law of this world, after the manner of the Earthy City, would even forbid such reconciliation, ignorant of the remission and abolition of sins that exist by the holy bloud of Christ. Then let the separated husband and wife adopt continence ; this no earthly law can forbid. Let them simply not marry anyone, and no new adulteries to be committed. So what if the once adulterous and now sanctified wife remain separate from her husband ? It only pertaineth that they avoid entering new marriages which have the appearance of lawful matrimony but in truth prove to be adulteries ; the woman is bounden so long as her husband liveth, just as the man is bounden so long as his wife liveth. This binding maketh it impossible for them to join with others without it being adulterous copulation. Should each of them marry another, from the two married persons shall be made four adulterers.1. Cor. 7. 39. Mar. 10. 11. Luk. 16. 18.
¶ Objection : Hardship of Continence.
You answer me that to live continently is given only to a few, and therefore those who cannot reconcile with their wives, and are forced into continence, at length will burn with lust. Unable to act on their impulse, and fearing for their soul, they will pronounce Christ’s law not to be merciful and gentle, but beastly and cruel.Chap. 10.
O my brother ; how frequently do those who live incontinently complain about Christ’s law as cruel and inhumane. We ought not to pervert & change the gospel of Christ on the behalf of such people. You are moved by their complaints, when they separate from an adulterous wife, but are barred from another marriage ; they bewail that living continently is given only to a few, insisting that they should be led to it by encouragement, not compelled to it by law. You profess that the incontinence of most men has a just cause for complaint. Yet, consider how many different kinds of incontinent men will follow this path to error, if we allow their complaints to be heard, and thereby permit the adulteries to take place. What if these men have a wife caught with a long and incurable sickness of the body, preventing carnal copulation ? What if a captivity or some other violence separate the man from his wife, knowing she alive & yet unable to enjoy her : shall we admit his incontinent complaint, and permit adultery then ?
If we admit the complaints of the incontinent, how will we defend the Lord’s statement against divorce, and that Moses only permitted it only for the hardness of people’s hearts ? Will not his teaching on divorce displease the husbands whose wives happen to be contentious, or injurious, or proud, or prudish, women they would rather quickly dismiss ? Now because the incontinent habits of these men abhor the law of Christ, therefore Christ’s law must needs change to suit their wishes.
Suppose a husband were to put away his wife, not for her adultery but for desire to live in celibacy ; but she being incontinent fell into temptation, and for that cause he gave her a libel of divorce. I ask this : shall she not be an adulteror in marrying again ? To deny it is to go against the Lord, whose words be these : whosoever putteth away his wife except the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery. Behold : the woman was put away ( not out of her own choice) ; and because to live continently is given only to a few, she yielded to incontinence and took a new husband. Thus an adulteress married an adulterour. Both be guilty, and both are to be condemned : she who marrieth while her husband is still living, and he who marrieth a wife that still hath a husband. Should we call Christ’s law unmerciful, since it maketh her guilty of so great a crime, being punished for her husband’s choice to separate, without any adultery on her part ? To live continently is given only to a few, and thus by putting her away her husband compelled her to seek an adulterous marriage.Matth. 5. 32.
Why do we not here say that he should be counted as dead, whereby in wrongfully separating from her, he was the first to break the bond of matrimony ? You would consider him equal to the man who committed adultery but did not separate from his wife. Both, for you, would have broken the bond of matrimony. But I say that the bond remaineth in them both, and by it the woman is bounden for so long as her husband liveth, be he an adulterour or living in continence, and that therefore the woman which is put away and marrieth again will commit adultery. Likewise, he who marrieth her becometh an adulteror himself, whether her husband that put her away be an adulteror or living in continence, because the woman is bounden so long as her husband liveth.Matth. 5. 32.
¶ Objection : Barrenness. ( Purposes of Marriage. )
Now let us look at some other points, which you added in another place in your book, and would have me to make answer to them. You cite an example, filled with pity, of a man compelled to part from his barren wife and lie with an adulteress, not from a desire of fornication, but at least from a wish of begetting children. Is it not lawful, you ask, for his wife to be put away in order to marry someone else ? This could have been allowed, were it not adultery to enter into such a marriage while his wife be yet alive ; but since it indeed be adultery ( as we have taught above ), then what can the excuse of begetting children add to the question ? We may not therefore permit and give a license to such a heinous crime ; and it is forbidden for a man to fear dying without issue of children, more than striving for a life in the hereafter. Adulterers be not allowed to live in the hereafter, and upon their death must needs be condemned to the eternity of a second death.Chap. 11.
This excuse of children moveth men to not only divorce the adulterous women but even the most innocent and chaste women as well, if perchance they be barren ; which doth not please you I imagine. If there be no excuse for adultery in pursuit of sacred continence, see how much less is it excused for the sake of begetting children.
Marriage was intended by the Apostle to relieve the infirmity of incontinence, when he saith, if she be lacking in continence, let her marry ; he did not say, if she be lacking in children, then let her marry. The generation of children is a reward when she changeth her incontinent life for marriage ; incontinency is a vice, while marriage is not, and by this good the other is made but a passing evil. Marriage hath been instituted by God for the generation of mankind, and our fathers were married for this reason, namely for generation, and so as to not join with women unlawfully. In that era there was an acute imperative for procreation, which hath lessened now ; as it is written, there is a time to embrace ( which truly was then ), and a time to abstain from embracing, which is now. Of which time the Apostle saith : But this I say, brethren, the time is short : it remaineth, that they who have wives be as though they had none. Whereupon at this time it is very well and aptly said, he who can take continence, let him take ; and she who cannot live in continence, let her marry. Continence, then, precedeth the duty of matrimony in the generation of children : but at length the bond of marriage relieveth the vice of incontinence. From them who cannot live continently cometh the generation of children, not by the dishonesty of fornications, but by the honesty of marriages.Chap. 12. 1. Cor. 7. 9. Eccle. 3. 5. 1. Cor. 7. 29. Matth. 19. 12.
Why then doth the Apostle not say, if she be lacking in children, then let her marry ? Because in this era of abstaining from embracing, it is not absolutely necessarily for everyone to beget children. But then why doth he say, if she be lacking in continence, let her marry ? Truly so as to prevent her, through her incontinency, from committing fornication. If she can live continently, let her neither marry nor bring forth children, but if she cannot, then let her lawfully marry ( lest she bring forth children unlawfully, or far worse, carnally copulate but bring forth no children at all ).1. Cor. 7. 9.
This what I mentioned last, the use of carnal copulation while preventing the generation of children, be sometimes employed even by those lawfully married as well. And yet a man lieth with his lawful wife unlawfully & dishonestly, where the conceiving of a child is prevented. Onan the son of Judas did this, & God killed him for it.Gen. 38. 9.
Therefore, the generation of children is the first & natural cause of marriage, & for that cause they who marry by reason of incontinence, ought not so restrain their itch as to banish the resulting glory of marriage, namely, children. The Apostle spake, I would wish that the younger widows marry, bring forth children, be housewives, & give no occasion for slander to the Enemy. For some are already turned back after Satan. His saying, I would have the younger to marry, was to help them avoid the fall of incontinence. Yet, lest marriage were only seen as a relief for the infirmity of concupiscence, and its true and proper good were neglected, he added : and to bring forth children, and to be housewives. And yet those who choose a life of continence, choose something even better than the goodness of marriage ( that is, the generation of children ). Thus if continence may be more a good than the goodness of marriage, how much more ought it to be kept to avoid adultery. When the Apostle had said, if she live incontinently, let her marry : for it is better to be married than to burn, he had not said, it is better to commit adultery than burn.1. Tim 5. 14. 1. Cor. 7. 9.
To those who fear to be reconciled to their adulterous wives or husbands, there is nothing whereunto we may exhort more, than to keep continency. The woman is bounden so long as her ( adulterous or chaste ) husband liveth, and she committeth adultery if she marry another : and a man is bounden so long as his ( adulterous or chaste ) wife liveth, and commiteth adultery if he marry another. This bond is not dissolved if the wife separate from the man and become chaste in her body ; much less it is dissolved if she commit adultery and be not separate at all.Chap. 13.
Nothing dissolveth this bond, but the death of the man or the wife ; not the falling into adultery, but the departing of the body. Wherefore if a wife depart from her adulterous husband and will not reconcile with him again, let her remain unmarried : and if a man put away his adulterous wife, and will not receive her again, no not after her repentance and penance, then let him keep continence. Although he hath not the will to chose the better good, yet at least he has the duty to avoid the worse evil.
I would also exhort the husband to continence if the wife were taken with a long and incurable sickness ; or if she were bodily separated, and in a place where her husband could not have access.
Last of all, I would also exhort the husband to continence if the wife became disposed and willing to live in celibacy ( even if it were against the discipline, as not done by mutual consent ). For I think no Christian would deny the title of adulterour to such a man who took up carnal company with another woman, even considering his wife’s long sickness, or long absence, or a pursuit of celibacy. Such a man putting away his adulterous wife, will live with his new adulteress, as an adulterour himself ; every man that putteth away his wife and marrieth another, commiteth adultery.Luke. 16. 18.
¶ Objection : Cruel Severity.
You present another challenge to the indissolubility of marriage : if a man were to discover his wife to be adulterous, and were prohibited to marry again during her lifetime, he could be compelled ( you say ) to punish such a wife mercilessly, even to the point of death. And going about to amplify this cruelty, you say, it doth not seem to me ( most loving father ), to be a godly sense, to exclude gentleness and pity from our consideration. You would allow, I imagine, that if he were permitted to marry again, he would find reasons to spare his adulterous wife ; but if a second marriage were forbidden, suddenly any reasons to spare her disappear. On the contrary, I answer that such a man ought not delay in showing mercy to his sinful wife, and should even volunteer to do so ; perhaps then he might even obtain mercy for his own sins.Chap. 14.
And for the men who divorce adulterous wives in pursuit of a holy continence, this show of mercy is even more incumbent ; in their labour for holiness they must demonstrate even greater mercy than others, to beg God’s help in preserving their chastity, and not revenge the violation and breach of chastity in their wives. Let us have that word of the Lord especially to be called to memory : he that is without sin let him cast a first stone ; not he who is without that sin, since we speak of men who are already chaste, but he who is without all sin ; which if they say they be, they deceive themselves and truth is not in them.John. 8. 7. 1. John. 1.
If these men do not deceive themselves, and truth be in them, they shall not allow themselves any cruel or bloudy severity. Knowing that they be not without sin themselves, they will forgive so that they in turn might be forgiven, and mercy and pity will not be denied to them. However, should they forgive out of lust rather than a loving pity, that is in pursuit of another wife to marry, then to such men all mercy and pity will be utterly denied.
How much better, honester and worthier is the Christian man’s profession, to spare the life of an adulterous wife ? It is written : forgive thy neighbor’s unrighteosness, & then at thy prayer thy sins shall be loosed. One man beareth hatred against another, but doth he seek pardon from the Lord ? He sheweth no mercy to another who is like himself : yet doth he still ask forgiveness for his own sins ? If he who is but flesh will nourish hatred, who will intreat for pardon of his sins ? As it saith in the Gospel : Forgive and it shall be forgiven to you, so that we may say, forgive us our debts as we forgive them who be debtors to us. And as the Apostle saith, render to no man evil for evil. By these and such like sayings ( if there be any holy scripture ), when a man’s mind is provoked to vengeance, because he is a Christian, his wrath will be mitigated.Ecclesiasticus. 28. 2. Luke. 6. 37. Matt. 6. 12. Rom. 12. 17.
How much worse is it to speak in the pattern that you provide : forgive your adulterous wives & seek not their bloud, because all the sorrow you took for their naughty living, shall be erased by the comfort of new wives which you shall take for yourselves. You might rightly desire to take them out of their lives, if their life were a barrier to your second marriage, but it is lawful to provide for yourselves a second wife while keeping alive the first one ; why should you desire to kill them ? If we say thus, do you not see how much this logic goeth against the pattern of a Christian life ? It is utterly false that they are permitted to do what is forbidden, to couple with another woman if their adulterous wives still be alive. And if they spare their wives for this reason, they shall not do so from pity & Godliness, but so as to have free liberty to marry again.Chap. 15.
Last of all, I ask of you, whether it be lawful for a Christian husband, by the old law of God or the law of the Romans, to either cast away his wife or to kill her outright ? Even were it lawful, it still were better to refrain from her lawful punishment, and your unlawful second marriage. If a husband remaineth implacable and insisteth on doing the one or the other, it is better to do what God’s law permits, that the adulteress be punished, than to do what is unlawful, that she being alive, he commit adultery. But if we add that it is never lawful for a Christian man to kill his adulterous wife, but only to put her away : who will be so crazed as give this advice : do what is unlawful, that it may be lawful for you to do what is unlawful. When by Christ’s law it is unlawful both to kill the adulteress, and to marry another she being alive : the husband must abstain from both, and not pick out one unlawful thing instead of another. If he will needs do what is unlawful, let him then commit adultery, and not murder, and rather to marry another, his wife being alive, than to shed human bloud. If both be cruel wickedness, he ought not to do the one for the other, but to avoid both.
Here I see what might be raised as an objection : if a man putteth away his adulterous wife and marrieth again, for so long as his first wife liveth, he will remain a perpetual adulterour. He will be barred from admittance to baptism, nor will he be able to be reconciled to the church by any means. But if he killeth his adulterous wife, the ensuing washing and purging of Baptism would allow him to move past his sin ; and thus, once he is Christened, he will become whole by repentance and reconciliation.
Shall this perverse scenario make us alter the Divine Law, and allow it to be no adultery for a man to marry a second wife while his first wife still lived ? Add to this another adulteror here, namely the second man who married that divorced wife ; even you make no doubt of admitting that as adultery. When all these categories of men see themselves forbidden from Baptism, or barred from repentance and penance if Christians, what can we answer them ? They cannot correct their offense. Nor can they divorce ( yet again ) the woman they now married. If one of such men could simply kill his wife’s prior husband, that his sin could be washed by baptism, or if already Christian, loosed by repentance and penance ; his adultery would disappear, the woman being void of her husband’s law after his death. His sin being now only in the past, he could make satisfaction through repentance and penance, or to be Baptised and have it washed away by regeneration.Chap. 16.
Is Christ’s law therefore to be accused of compelling murder, when even a marriage to an innocent divorced woman it calleth adultery ? Let us consider this matter carefully. For you, a second marriage after a divorce is either an adultery if the divorce came from an innocent wife, or perfectly allowed if the divorce came on account of her infidelity. But for us these considerations are irrelevant : any kind of second marriage, while the former wife remaineth alive, will be seen as adultery. Thus a husband may ( indeed ) be induced to kill an unfaithful wife, in order to open the way for a second marriage, which, you write, banisheth all gentleness & pity, and doth not seem to me, most loving father, to be a godly sense. But your alternative is worse. Many people will disagree with your calling it adultery for a divorced but innocent woman to seek a second husband. They will angrily protest that your reasoning will induce these second husbands to commit murders, and by all trains and slanders they can, to lie in wait for the first husbands of their innocent wives. They may even by some true crimes to attack and kill those men, to the end that they may finally attain a true marriage, which when they were alive was but adultery. Will not these angry people say to you, this doth not seem to me, most loving brother, to be a godly sense, not just banishing gentleness & pity, but also encouraging great malignity & wickedness. My case is far more light and tolerable, that the righteous husbands should kill their adulterous wives, than is your case, that the guilty adulterours should kill their wives former husbands.
Doth it please you to have us abandon the defense of our Lord’s intent and teaching, to please men’s egoes and most vain envy ? Should we avert our eyes, when a woman divorced without any fornication entereth a second marriage ? Should we forbear to call it adultery, fearing that it will compel her new man, the adulterour, to kill her former husband, by his death trying to turn his adultery into marriage ? I know it doth not please you that Christ’s law, true and wholesome, should be called hard & unmerciful, when vain and puffed up men are involved.
¶ Objection : Forced Adultery.
Let us consider your opinion that it be no adultery to divorce a wife guilty of infidelity, and to marry a second time. If you were right, will not men exploit it, and compel into adultery the wives they already cannot bear for some other reason ? Having done so, and therefore ( according to you ) dissolving the bond of matrimony by their wife’s fornication, they would become able to marry once again. But in actuality, for this crime of compelling their wives into adultery, and for avoiding punishment by the shortcut of Baptism, or the medicine of Repentance and Penance, they shall be denied both the grace and the medicine, for so long as they shall persist.Chap. 17.
Some clever person might claim that if a woman were truly chaste, she would never be pressured into adultery ; and yet we return to the Lord’s own words : every man who putteth away his wife, except for fornication, maketh her to commit adultery. A most chaste wife during her marriage could still be compelled, by a divorce, into incontinence with other men ; which is to commit adultery. Even had she not fallen from chastity, yet he, for as much as pertaineth to him, put her in that risk, and God will impute that sin to him. But everyone knoweth how few there be who live so chastely with their husbands, that after having been put from them, do not seek for others. Far more, after never so chaste a marriage, upon divorce will couple with other men without delay.Math. 5. 33. Luke. 17. 18.
¶ Cheerful Exhortation for Continence.
Some, having considered this treatise, may say what was once said to the Lord : if such be the state of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry. To whom what should we say back, except what the Lord had answered : Not all men can receive this teaching, but only they to whom the gift is given. For there be some eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb ; and there be some eunuchs which were made so by men ; and there be some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that is able to receive this teaching, let him receive it. Therefore he who is able, let him receive this teaching, intended not for all but only those who receive this gift by the secret just mercy of God.Chap. 18. Matth. 19. 10.
Those who possess this gift of celibacy, and make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, often fall into one of several categories : some who be innocent, never having known of any carnal copulation ; some who had known of it lawfully, in the bond of matrimony ; and some both lawfully and unlawfully, along with their wife also having other women, and partaking of all kinds of sin. These latter married folk who geld themselves for the kingdom of heaven, enter into continent life through either their wife’s consent, or following her death.
But some are forced into this celibacy by divorce, endeavoring to avoid the adultery of a second marriage. They make this sacrifice not for the goal of becoming brighter & purer in heaven, but that otherwise they cannot get into heaven at all. Those willingly taking up celibacy from a desire for greater good, may get to heaven even in the chastity of marriage, although in less rewards, but yet still within the kingdom of heaven. But they who take up celibacy out of fear of becoming adulterours, ( their former wife still living, ) should take more care for their salvation. They may still end in heaven, but if they submit to fornication and be found missing from the kingdom of heaven, where shall they end, but in that place wherein they shall not be saved.
It is them that I address, men who struggle with continence on the verge of adultery, wondering how they will persevere upon their wives falling sick, or becoming consumed by perpetual disease, or being absent and unreachable, or unlawfully refraining from carnal company altogether. If they wish to know how to persevere, I answer thus : let them do the same as if their wives had committed adultery, divorce themselves from their wives company, and eschew any carnal contact. There being an equal form of matrimony in husbands as in the wives, just as the wife who couples with another man, her husband still living, be called adulteress, so a man who couples with another woman, his wife still living, be called an adulterour. And likewise, although the man who divorceth from an innocent wife & marrieth again committeth a most grievous sin, yet nevertheless, every man who forsaketh his wife and marrieth the another, commiteth adultery.Chap. 19. Rom. 7. 3. Luke. 17. 18.
Let not the burden of continence fear them : it shall be a light burden, if it be Christ’s ; and it shall be Christ’s if faith be present, which obtaineth from Christ the commander, the grace of performing the commandment. Let it not move them, that their celibate life seemeth to be forced and not of their own choosing : even those who had chosen continence of their own volition now have a certain necessity pressing them into it, as they cannot cease without incurring damnation ; they who were driven unto it by necessity, shall make it voluntary if they trust, not in themselves, but in him from whom every good thing cometh.
Some climb up the tower of continence seeking greater glory, that they might attain a greater reward ; others fly unto it for the care of their final salvation, lest they should perish and be condemned. I exhort any man in this state to keep to his constancy, and walk even to the last end in it. Let them be fervent in study and desire, and suppliant in prayer ; those seeking the heavenly reward cannot take their eyes off their salvation, and beware they do not fall from their chosen discipline.
Let those continent by necessity not despair of greater glory, if they joyously persist and continue in the state that necessity hath brought them unto. For it is possible and may come to pass, by God’s fear and exhortation converting and replenishing him, that man’s affection may be changed unto the better : and that such men should vow to live most constantly to their lives end without marriage, without any carnal copulation, or experience of filthy and unclean pleasure. Although the dissolution of marriage by death giveth occasion to marry again, yet if they made their vow of continence, let them keep it courageously, shutting off any escape by their openly and freely made vow. What was begun by necessity should be perfected by charity ; to such a result a truly adequate reward shall be given, much as to them who by vow continence by the mutual consent with their wives, or those who while unmarried choose continent life for the greater good.
But if men only profess continence temporarily, intending to marry other women after their wives decease, truly although they take up a continent life, yet it cannot count for more than just a chaste marriage. To live continently with this intent, albeit sufficient to avoid adulteries, attains them little of the reward of a continence that is freely and permanently adopted.
Remember that I speak these things to both the men and the women ; but especially to the men, who think themselves to be superiours to women. They must not merely equal the women in their fortitude but surpass them, if their wives are to follow them as their heads. God’s law forbiddeth adultery, and if the excuse of carnal infirmity be allowed, then many will take on countless occasions of sin & destruction, under the pretense of feigned lawfulness and impunity. Women also have a flesh no less than the men, yet men allow no incontinence unto them, as they had a special privilege to it merely from their manhood. May God forbid for anything to add to the man’s honour as the better kind, if it will also diminish the chaste honesty in them ; may He shall provide that honor shall justly be due to virtue, and not to vice.Chap. 20.
Men require such a great chastity of women having the same flesh as they, that despite very long absences they would still have them spend the heat of their youth undefiled with any adulterous company. Very many most chaste women, specially in Syria, spend their youth honestly, their husbands being occupied abroad with gains of merchandise, leaving their wives very young, and scarcely at last returning again as old men. By this fact the men demonstrate that long continence is not an impossible feat, although they allege for themselves that they cannot do it. If the infirmity of man could do it, much less could the weaker kind of women.
Those who see male superiority to be a license for sin, them we put in fear, lest by the means of adulterous marriages they might perish for ever more. And we are wont to set before them the examples of those of the clergy who took up continence, often taken against their wills, which when they have taken it, perform it by God’s help even to the due end of their lives. Therefore we say to the laymen, what if the violence of circumstances force you in the same manner, would you not chastely keep your duty, compelled to purchase strength from the Lord, which you never thought of before ?
But, say they, honour doth comfort them much ; and we answer again, let fear temper and bridle you even more. For if some of God’s ministers take on this continence laid before them, hoping that they shall more brightly shine in the inheritance of Christ, how much more ought you, threatened by adulteries, to live continently, with the alternative of not just shining less in the ki-
ngdom of God, but even burning more in the fire of hell. These and such like thoughts, what we can, we say unto them who depart from their wi- ves, or put them away for adultery, but needs to marry another, and when they are forbid, they allege to us the infirmity of their flesh.
Now this booke is to be ended, and God is to be prayed, that either He would not suffer such men to be tem- pted by the separation of their wives : or else ma- ke the fear of their salvation which is in danger, may be an occasion of greater or more appro- ved chastity.
Here endeth the second Booke.