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give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” “And I say unto you whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her that is put away, doth commit adultery.” Christ's remarks here on the dissolution of the marriage tie express two things :
First: The toleration of Moses on the subject ; the license he granted in consequence of the hardness of the heart; see Exodus xxxiii. 3, 34 ; Deut. ix. 6, 31, 27; Isa. xlviii. 4; Ezek. ii. 4; Acts vii. 51 ; and :
Secondly : The justifiable ground of divorce. Milton, who regarded “fornication” here as expressive of any conduct as would be equally as offensive to either man or wife will not appear to be very far out of the way, when you consider what the marriage tie really is. What is it? Is it mere natural sympathy, that which has respect to the outward and external character ? Or, is it moral esteem, that which has respect to the inner being and spiritual attributes ? It is neither separately ; it is both combined. Conjugal love is a compound of both. It is sinful, it is hazardous, alas! it is common to enter into this relationship by the mere impulse of natural sympathy. When this element exists alone, the affection is fickle, turbulent, and confused; but when associated in due proportion with moral esteem, love is firm, calm, and harmonious; storms may be without, but they will never reach the inner shore, they produce no ripple upon the deep and ever-rolling stream of domestic bliss. When alone, the connubial tie becomes a felt fetter, the home a prison, the only bond of union civil law; but, when combined with the other, the tie is no chain ; it is mightier than adamant, but finer than the finest web, too weak to fetter, but too strong to break. When alone, it is mortal, death dissolves the union and removes the parties far and for ever apart; but when com
bined with moral esteem, it constitutes a principle of unity more durable than that which binds planets to their centre, it will survive the grave and flourish in the eternal hereafter. If moral esteem be thus such an indispensable element in domestic blessedness on both sides, to promote it requires the promotion of excellence, virtue is its vital air; and let me remind you that the way to cultivate moral excellence is to believe the doctrine, cherish the spirit, and obey the precepts of Christ. The conclusion therefore is, that personal Christianity is essential to the welfare and design of conjugal life. It sanctifies, prospers, and immortalizes human friendship. This fact gives a moral splendor to the bridal day of Christians; they enter upon this the most intimate and endearing of relationships in the possession of an intelligent and vigorous Christianity. The power that unites their hearts together is composed of an indestructible element that issues from the Cross; an element that is to bind all holy souls in harmony for ever.
While I cannot better explain the question of divorce amongst the ancient Jews, than by quoting a very clear statement on the subject from Dr. Jahn's Biblical Antiquities as below,* I can only see the possibility of an essential dissolution, when the mutual moral esteem is departed. As
* “ As the ancient Hebrews paid a stipulated price for the privilege of marrying, they seemed to consider it the natural consequence of making a payment of that kind that they should be at liberty to exercise a very arbitrary power over their wives, and to renounce or divorce them whenever they chose. This state of things, as Moses himself very clearly saw, was not equitable as respected the woman, and was very often injurious to both parties. Finding himself, however, unable to overrule feelings and practices of very ancient standing, he merely annexed to the original institution of marriage a very serious admonition to this effect-viz., that it would be less criminal for a man to desert his father and mother than, without adequate cause, to desert his wife. Gen. ii. 14, compared with Mic. ii. 9, and Malachi, ii. 11–14. He also laid a restriction upon the power of the husband as far as this, that he would not permit him to repudiate the wife without giving her a bill of divorce. He further enacted, in reference to this subject, that the husband might receive the repu
soon as ever mutual love has quitted the breast of the wedded pair, there is a real divorce, whether the civil magistrate will ratify it or not. Marriage is a union, not of bodies, or of purses, but of souls. Whenever souls separate by mutual antipathies, there is a real divorce."
IV. THE OPTIONAL FORMATION OF THE MARRIAGE TIE. The disciples, hearing these words of Christ, which bore so strongly against divorce, said unto him: “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” As if they said, if the bond be so indissoluble as this, it is such a hazardous thing, that we had better not venture on marriage at all ; we may be caught in an inextricable snare, which may make us miserable all the days of our lives. To this our Saviour replies, “ All men cannot receive this saying" (v. 11, 12). I cannot better express the meaning of these two verses diated wife back, in case she had not in the meanwhile been married to another person ; but if she had been thus married, she could never afterwards become the wife of her first husband :-a law which the faith due to the second husband clearly required. Deuteronomy, xxiv. 1-4; compare Jer. iii. 1, and Matt. i. 19; xix. 8.
The inquiry, “What should be considered an adequate cause of divorce ? ” was left by Moses to be determined by the husband himself. He had liberty to divorce her if he saw in her the nakedness of a thing,-i e., anything displeasing or improper , as may be learnt by comparing the same expression in Deut. xxiii. 14, 15 ; anything so much at war with propriety, and a source of so much dissatisfaction, as to be, in the estimation of the husband, sufficient ground for separation. These expressions, however, were sharply contested as to their meaning in the later times of the Jewish nation. The school of Hillel contended that the husband might lawfully put away the wife for any cause, even the smallest. The mistake committed by the school of Hillel in taking this ground was, that they confounded moral and civil law. It is true as far as the Mosaic statute or the civil law was concerned, the husband had a right thus to do ; but it is equally clear that the ground of legal separation must have been, not a trivial, but a prominent and important one, when it is considered that he was bound to consult the rights of the woman, and was amenable to his conscience and his God. The school of Shammai explained the phrase, NAKEDNESS OF A THING, to mean actual adul. tery. This interpretation of the phrase gives to the law a moral aspect, than by the paraphrase of Doddridge, who says : “But he said to them, all men cannot receive this saying of yours, that it is not expedient to marry ; but only they to whom it is given, as a peculiar gift to conquer those inclinations towards that state which God, for wise reasons, has wrought into the common constitution of human nature. For there . are some eunuchs who are born so from their mother's womb, and whose natural temper and inclination is in this respect peculiar ; and there are some eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men's wickedness, who drive on that scandalous traffic which the luxury and effeminacy of the eastern world has rendered common. And there are some eunuchs who have, as it were, made themselves eunuchs on account of the kingdom of heaven ; that is, who, by a resolute guard on their appetites and passions, have conquered the propensities of nature, that, being free from the incumbrances of marand assigns a reason, as the ground of divorce, of the truest moral nature. But the truth is, that the phrase, in itself considered, will not bear this interpretation ; and the law beyond question, was đesigned to be merely a civil, and not a moral one. Jesus, who did not so much explain as fill up the deficiencies of the Mosaic institutes, agreed with the school of Shammai as far as this, that the ground of divorce should be one of a moral nature, but he does not appear to have agreed with them in their opinion in respect to the Mosaic statute. On the contrary, he denied the equity, the moral correctness of that statute; and, in justification of Moses, maintained that he suffered it to be sanctioned by his authority only in consequence of the hardness of the people's hearts. Matthew v. 31, 32; xix. 1–9; Mark x. 2-12; Luke xvi. 18. Wives, who were considered the property of their husbands, did not enjoy by the Mosaic statutes a reciprocal right, and were not at liberty to dissolve the matrimonial alliance by giving a bill of divorce to that effect. In the later periods however, of the Jewish state, the Jewish matrons—the more powerful of them at least-appear to have imbibed the spirit of the ladies of Rome, and to have exercised in their own behalf the same power that was granted by the Mosaic law to their husbands. Josephus Antiq. xv. 7-10; Mark, vi, 17—29 ; x. 12. In case the wife felt herself injured and aggrieved, we may infer, from the fact of the concubine's possessing that right, who had previously been a maid-servant, that the wife also possessed the right of obtaining a bill of divorce from a judge. Exod. xxi. 10.”
riage, and devoting themselves to a life of more sublime devotion, they might promote the interest of my gospel. Compare 1 Cor. vii. 7, 37. He therefore, on the whole, that finds he is able to receive this saying, let him receive it, or let him that is in his own conscience, persuaded that he can glorify God, most by a single life, choose it. Others may, and ought to marry, but let none lightly rush into that state, on the supposition that the bond of it may be broken through at pleasure.” From this it would seem that man is not bound to marry. Heaven has left it an optional matter.*
Germs of Thought.
SUBJECT : Simeon ;-his Moral History.
“And behold there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple : and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word : for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people: a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”—Luke ii. 25—32.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Sixty-third. NOWHERE else can we find any information concerning Simeon. The text is an epitome of his life. It is a miniature portrait. There are four things here recorded concerning him worthy of note. His personal character, His public spirit, His divine tuition, and His happy end.
* A considerable portion of this article is a reprint from the Marriage Ceremony in the Biblical Liturgy.