Articles

Marriage and Divorce

Chapter 24
Westminster Confession of Faith of 1649

 

1. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh.." (Genesis 2:24)
- For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matt. 19:5-6)
- "Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God." (Proverbs 2:17)


2. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife: "The Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (Genesis 2:18)

Marriage was ordained for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed: "Did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth." (Mal. 2:15)

Marriage was ordained for preventing uncleanness: 'Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. But if they cannot contain, let them marry. for it is better to marry than to bum." (1 Corinthians 72:9)

3. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry who are able with judgment to give their consent: "Marriage is honourable m all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." (Hebrews 114) -"Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." (1 Timothy 4:3)
- "But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not; let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage, doeth better." (1 Corinthians 7:36-38)
-'And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth. And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, 1 will go." (Genesis 24:57-58)


Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord: The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only m the Lord." (1 Cor. 7:3 ) 9)

Therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damns le heresies: 'And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us." (Genesis 34:14)
- 'And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods." (Exodus 34:16)
- 'Neither shah thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods; so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly." (Deuteronomy 7:34)
- "It came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his fhther." (1 Kings IL4) -1 contended with thorn, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?" (Nehemiah 13:25-27)
- "Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the Lord of hosts." ( Malachi 2:11-12)
- "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14)


4. Marriage ought not to he within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden in the word: "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife." (Leviticus chapter 18; 1 Corinthians 5: 1)
- "That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name." (Amos 2:7)


Incestuous marriages cannot ever be made lawful by any law of man, or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife: "John had said unto Herod, It Is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife." (Mark 6:18) - "Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you. And the land is defiled: therefore I do Visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you (for all these abominations have the men of the land done which were before you, and the land is defiled;) That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you." (Leviticus 18:24-28)

The man may not marry any of his wife's kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own, nor the woman of her husband's kindred nearer in blood than of her own. "Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister; for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their inquity. And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife, he hath uncovered his uncle's nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. And if a man shall take his brother's Wife, it is an unclean thing; he hath uncovered his brothees nakedness: they shall be childless." (Leviticus 20:19-2 1)

5. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract: "The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him III a dream, saying., Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." (Matthew 1: 18-20)

In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue for a divorce: "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let-him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." (Matthew 5:31-32)

After the divorce, it is lawful for the innocent party to marry another, as if the offending party were dead: "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 which is put away doth commit adultery. " (Matthew 19:9) - "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth: but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man." (Romans 7:2-3)

6. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments, unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient to dissolving the bond of marriage: "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." (Matthew 19:8-9) - "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace." (I Corinthians 7:15) - "They are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6)


In the dissolving of the bond of marriage a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed, and the persons concerned in it are not to be left to their own wills and discretion in their own case: "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her; then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)


Religion was first hatched in families, and there the devil seeketh to crush it. The families of the Patriarchs were all the Churches God had in the world for the time; and therefore, (I suppose) when Cain went out from Adam's family, he is said to go out from the face of the Lord. Now, the devil knoweth that this is a blow at the root, and a ready way to prevent the succession of Churches: if he can subvert families, other societies and communities will not long flourish and subsist with any power of vigour ... (Thomas Manton's Epistle to the Reader, W.C. of Faith)


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