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De captivitate ecclesiae. Praeludium Martini Lutheri

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De captivitate ecclesiae. Praeludium Martini Lutheri



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Datum12.03.2017
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IV Confirmation


5.1 I wonder what could have possessed them to make a sacrament of confirmation out of the laying on of hands, (Mark 16:18; Acts 6:6, Acts 8:17, Acts 19:6) which Christ employed when He blessed young children, (Mark 10:16) and the apostles when they imparted the Holy Spirit, ordained elders and cured the sick, as the Apostle writes to Timothy, "Lay hands suddenly on no man." (1 Timothy 5:22) Why have they not also turned the sacrament of the bread into confirmation? For it is written in Acts 9:19, "And when he had taken meat he was strengthened," and in Psalm 104:15, "And that bread may cheer man's heart." Confirmation would thus include three sacraments – the bread, ordination, and confirmation itself. But if everything the apostles did is a sacrament, why have they not rather made preaching a sacrament?

5.2 I do not say this because I condemn the seven sacraments, but because I deny that they can be proved from the Scriptures. Would to God we had in the Church such a laying on of hands as there was in apostolic times, whether we called it confirmation or healing! But there is nothing left of it now but what we ourselves have invented to adorn the office of the bishops, that they may have at least something to do in the Church. For after they relinquished to their inferiors those arduous sacraments together with the Word, as being too common for themselves – since, forsooth, whatever the divine Majesty has instituted has to be despised of men – it was no more than right that we should discover something easy and not too burdensome for such delicate and great heroes to do, and should by no means entrust it to the lower clergy as something common – for whatever human wisdom has decreed has to be held

in honor among men! Therefore, as are the priests, so let their ministry and duty be. For a bishop who does not preach the Gospel or care for souls, what is he but an idol in the world, having but the name and appearance of a bishop? (1 Corinthians 8:4) But we seek, instead of this, sacraments that have been divinely instituted, among which we see no reason for numbering confirmation. For, in order that there be a sacrament, there is required above all things a word of divine promise, whereby faith, may be trained. But we read nowhere that Christ ever gave a promise concerning confirmation, although He laid hands on many and included the laying on of hands among the signs in Mark 16:18 "They shall lay their hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Yet no one referred this to a sacrament, nor can this be done.

5.3 Hence it is sufficient to regard confirmation as a certain churchly rite or sacramental ceremony, similar to other ceremonies, such as the blessing of holy water and the like. For if every other creature is sanctified by the word and by prayer, (1 Timothy 4:4 f.) why should not much rather man be sanctified by the same means? Still, these things cannot be called sacraments of faith, because there is no divine promise connected with them, neither do they save; but sacraments do save those who believe the divine promise.


V Marriage


6.1 Not only is marriage regarded as a sacrament without the least warrant of Scripture, but the very traditions which extol it as a sacrament have turned it into a farce. Let me explain.

6.2 We said that there is in every sacrament a word of divine promise, to be believed by whoever receives the sign, and that the sign alone cannot be a sacrament. Now we read nowhere that the man who marries a wife receives any grace of God. no, there is not even a divinely instituted sign in marriage, or nowhere do we read that marriage was instituted by God to be a sign of anything. To be sure, whatever takes place in a visible manner may be regarded as a type or figure of something invisible; but types and figures are not sacraments in the sense in which we use this term.

6.3 Furthermore, since marriage existed from the beginning of the world and is still found among unbelievers, it cannot possibly be called a sacrament of the New Law and the exclusive possession of the Church. The marriages of the ancients were no less sacred than are ours, nor are those of unbelievers less true marriages than those of believers, and yet they are not regarded, as sacraments. Besides, there are even among believers married folk who are wicked and worse than any heathen; why should marriage be called a sacrament in their case and not among the heathen? Or are we going to rant so foolishly of baptism and the Church as to hold that marriage is a sacrament only in the Church, just as some make the mad claim that temporal power exists only in the Church? That is childish and foolish talk, by which we expose our ignorance and our arrogance to the ridicule of unbelievers.

6.4 But they will say: The Apostle writes in Ephesians 5:31, "They shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament." Surely you are not going to contradict so plain a statement of the Apostle! I reply: This argument, like the others, betrays great shallowness and a negligent and thoughtless reading of Scripture. Nowhere in Holy Scripture is this word sacrament employed in the meaning to which we are accustomed; it has an entirely different meaning. For wherever it occurs it signifies not the sign of a sacred thing, but a sacred, secret, hidden thing. Thus Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:1, "Let a man so account of us as the ministers of Christ, and dispensers of the mysteries – i.e., sacraments – of God." Where we have the word sacrament the Greek text reads mystery, which word our version sometimes translates and sometimes retains in its Greek form. Thus our verse reads in the Greek: "They Shall be two in one flesh; this is a great mystery." (Ephesians 5:31 f.) This explains how they came to find a sacrament of the New Law here – a thing they would never have done if they had read the word "mystery", as it is in the Greek.

6.5 Thus Christ Himself is called a sacrament in 1 Timothy 3:16, "And evidently great is the sacrament – i.e., mystery – of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared to angels, has been preached to the Gentiles, is believed, by the world, is taken up in glory." Why have they not drawn out of this passage an eighth sacrament of the New Law, since they have the clear authority of Paul? But if they restrained themselves here, where they had a most excellent opportunity to unearth a new sacrament, why are they so wanton in the former passage? It was their ignorance, forsooth, of both words and things; they clung to the mere sound of the words, no, to their own fancies. For, having once arbitrarily taken the word sacrament to mean a sign, they immediately, without thought or scruple, made a sign of it every time they came upon it in the Sacred Scriptures. Such new meanings of words and such human customs they have also elsewhere dragged into Holy Writ, and conformed it to their dreams, making anything out of any passage whatsoever. Thus they continually chatter nonsense about the terms: good and evil works, sin, grace, righteousness, virtue, and well-nigh every one of the fundamental words and things. For they employ them all after their own arbitrary judgment, learned from the writings of men, to the detriment both of the truth of God and of our salvation.

6.6 Therefore, sacrament, or mystery, in Paul's writings, is that wisdom of the Spirit, hidden in a mystery, as he says in 1 Corinthians 2, which is Christ, Who is for this very reason not known to the princes of this world, wherefore they also crucified Him, and Who still is to them foolishness, an offense, a stone of stumbling, and a sign which is spoken against. (1 Corinthians 1:23; Romans 9:33; Luke 2:34; 1 Corinthians 1:23 f., 1 Corinthians 4:1) The preachers he calls dispensers of these mysteries because they preach Christ, the power and the wisdom of God, yet so that one cannot receive this unless one believe. Therefore, a sacrament is a mystery, or secret thing, which is set forth in words and is received by the faith of the heart. Such a sacrament is spoken of in the verse before us – "They shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament" (Ephesians 5:31 f.) – which they understand as spoken of marriage, while Paul wrote these words of Christ and the Church, and clearly explained his meaning by adding, "But I speak in Christ and in the Church." Yes, how well they agree with Paul! He declares he is setting forth a great sacrament in Christ and the Church, but they set it forth in a man and a woman! If such wantonness be permitted in the Sacred Scriptures, it is small wonder if one find there anything one please, even a hundred sacraments.

6.7 Christ and the Church are, therefore, a mystery, that is, a great and secret thing, which it was possible and proper to represent by marriage as by a certain outward allegory, but that was no reason for their calling marriage a sacrament. The heavens are a type of the apostles, as Psalm 19:1 declares; the sun is a type of Christ; the waters, of the peoples; but that does not make those things sacraments, for in every case there are lacking both the divine institution and the divine promise, which constitute a sacrament.

6.8 Hence Paul, in Ephesians 5, following his own mind, applies to Christ these words in Genesis 2 about marriage, or else, following the general view, he teaches that the spiritual marriage of Christ is also contained therein, saying: "As Christ cherisheth the Church: because we are members, of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament; I speak in Christ and in the Church." You see, he would have the whole passage apply to Christ, and is at pains to admonish the reader to find the sacrament in Christ and the Church, and not in marriage.

6.9 Therefore we grant that marriage is a type of Christ and the Church, and a sacrament, yet not divinely instituted but invented by men in the Church, carried away by their ignorance both of the word and of the thing. Which ignorance, since it does not conflict with the faith, is to be charitably borne with, just as many other practices of human weakness and ignorance are borne with in the Church, so long as they do not conflict with the faith and with the Word of God. But we are now dealing with the certainty and purity of the faith and the Scriptures; so that our faith be not exposed to ridicule, when after affirming that a certain thing is contained in the Sacred Scriptures and in the articles of our faith, we are refuted and shown that it is not contained therein, and, being found ignorant of our own affairs, become a stumbling block to our opponents and to the weak; no, that we destroy not the authority of the Holy Scriptures. For those things which have been delivered to us by God in the Sacred Scriptures must be sharply distinguished from those that have been invented by men in the Church, it matters not how eminent they be for saintliness and scholarship.

6.10 Thus far concerning marriage itself.

6.11 But what shall we say of the wicked laws of men by which this divinely ordained manner of life is ensnared and tossed back and forth? Good God! it is dreadful, to contemplate the audacity of the Roman despots, who want only tear marriages asunder and again force them together. I ask you, is mankind given over to the wantonness of these men, for them to mock and in every way abuse and make of them whatever they please, for filthy lucre's sake?

6.12 There is circulating far and wide and enjoying a great reputation, a book whose contents have been poured together out of the cesspool of all human traditions, and whose title is, "The Angelic Sum," though it ought rather to be "The More than Devilish Sum." Among endless other monstrosities, which are supposed to instruct the confessors, while they most mischievously confuse them, there are enumerated in this book eighteen hindrances to marriage. you will examine these with the just and unprejudiced eye of faith, you will see that they belong to those things which the Apostle foretold: "There shall be those that give heed to spirits of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, forbidding to marry." ( 1 Timothy 4:1 ff.) What is forbidding to marry if it is not this – to invent all those hindrances and set those snares, in order to prevent men from marrying or, if they be married, to annul their marriage? Who gave this power to men? Granted that they were holy men and impelled by godly zeal, why should another's holiness disturb my liberty? why should another's zeal take me captive? Let whoever will, be a saint and a zealot, and to his heart's content; only let him not bring harm upon another, and let him not rob me of my liberty!

6.13 Yet I am glad that those shameful laws have at length attained to their full measure of glory, which is this: the Romanists of our day have through them become merchants. What is it they sell? The shame of men and women – merchandise, forsooth, most worthy of such merchants grown altogether filthy and obscene through greed and godlessness. For there is nowadays no hindrance that may not be legalised upon the intercession of mammon, so that these laws of men seem to have sprung into existence for the sole purpose of serving those grasping and robbing Nimrods as snares for taking money and as nets for catching souls, and in order that that "abomination" might stand "in the holy place," (Matthew 24:15) the Church of God, and openly sell to men the shame of either sex, or as the Scriptures say, "shame and nakedness," (Leviticus 18:6) of which they had previously robbed them by means of their laws. O worthy trade for our pontiffs to ply, instead of the ministry of the Gospel, which in their greed and pride they despise, being delivered up to a reprobate sense with utter shame and infamy. (Romans 1:28)

6.14 But what shall I say or do? If I enter into details, the treatise will grow to inordinate length, for everything is in such dire confusion one does not know where to begin, whither to go on, or where to leave off. I know that no state is well governed by means of laws. If the magistrate be wise, he will rule more prosperously by natural bent than by laws. If he be not wise, he will but further the evil by means of laws; for he will not know what use to make of the laws nor how to adapt them to the individual case. More stress ought, therefore, to be laid, in civil affairs, on putting good and wise men in office than on making laws; for such men will themselves be the very best laws, and will judge every variety of case with lively justice. And if there be knowledge of the divine law combined with natural wisdom, then written laws will be entirely superfluous and harmful. Above all, love needs no laws whatever.

6.15 Nevertheless I will say and do what I can. I admonish and pray all priests and brethren, when they encounter any hindrance from which the pope can grant dispensation and which is not expressly contained in the Scriptures, by all means to confirm any marriage that may have been contracted in any way contrary to the ecclesiastical or pontifical laws. But let them arm themselves with the divine law, which says, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6) For the joining together of a man and a woman is of divine law and is binding, however it may conflict with the laws of men; the laws of men must give way before it without hesitation. For if a man leaves father and mother and cleaves to his wife, how much more will he tread underfoot the silly and wicked laws of men, in order to cleave to his wife! And if pope, bishop or official annul any marriage because it was contracted contrary to the laws of men, he is antichrist, he does violence to nature, and is guilty of lese-majesty toward God, because this word stands – "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6)

6.16 Besides this, no man had the right to frame such laws, and Christ has granted to Christians a liberty which is above all laws of men, especially where a law of God conflicts with them. Thus it is said in Mark 2, "The Son of man is lord also of the Sabbath," and, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27)Moreover, such laws were condemned beforehand by Paul, when he foretold that there would be men forbidding to marry. (1 Timothy 4:3) Here, therefore, those cruel hindrances arising from affinity, spiritual or legal relationship, and consanguinity must give way, so far as the Scriptures permit, in which the second degree of consanguinity alone is prohibited. Thus it is written in Leviticus 18, in which chapter there are twelve persons a man is prohibited from marrying; namely, his mother, his mother-in-law, his full sister, his half-sister by either parent, his granddaughter, his father's or mother's sister, his daughter-in-law, his brother's wife, his wife's sister, his stepdaughter, and his uncle's wife. Here only the first degree of affinity and the second degree of consanguinity are forbidden; yet not without exception, as will appear on closer examination, for the brother's or sister's daughter, or the niece, is not included in the prohibition, although she is in the second degree. Therefore, if a marriage has been contracted outside of these degrees, it should by no means be annulled on account of the laws of men, since it is nowhere written in the Bible that any other degrees were prohibited by God. Marriage itself, as of divine institution, is incomparably superior to any laws; so that marriage should not. be annulled for the sake of the laws, rather should the laws be broken for the sake of marriage.

6.17 That nonsense about conpaternities, conmaternities, confraternities, consororities, and confilieties must therefore be altogether abolished, when a marriage has been contracted. What was it but the superstition of men that invented those spiritual relationships? If one may not marry the person one has baptised or stood sponsor for, what right has any Christian to marry any other Christian? Is the relationship that grows out of the external rite, or the sign, of the sacrament more intimate that that which grows out of the blessing of the sacrament itself? Is not a Christian man brother to a Christian woman, and is not she his sister? Is not a baptised man the spiritual brother of a baptised woman? How foolish we are! If a man instruct his wife in the Gospel and in faith in Christ and thus become truly her father in Christ, would it not be right for her to remain his wife? Would not Paul have had the right to marry a maiden out of the Corinthian congregation, of whom he boasts that he has begotten them all in Christ? (1 Corinthians 4:15) See, thus has Christian liberty been suppressed through the blindness of human superstition.

6.18 There is even less in the legal relationship, and yet they have set it above the divine right of marriage. Nor would I recognize that hindrance which they term "disparity of religion," and which forbids one to marry any unbaptised person, even on condition that she become converted to the faith. Who made this prohibition? God or man? Who gave to men the power to prohibit such a marriage? The spirits, forsooth, that speak lies in hypocrisy, as Paul says. (1 Timothy 4:1) Of them it must be said: "The wicked have told me fables; but not as your law." (Psalm 119:85) The heathen Patricius married the Christian Monica, the mother of St. Augustine; why should not the same be permitted nowadays? The same stupid, no, wicked cruelty is seen in "the hindrance of crime," – as when a man has married a woman with whom he had lived in adultery, or when he plotted to bring about the death of a woman's husband in order to be able to wed the widow. I pray you, from this comes this cruelty of man toward man, which even God never demanded? Do they pretend not to know that Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, was wed by David, a most saintly man, after the double crime of adultery and murder? If the divine law did this, what do these despotic men to their fellowservants?

6.19 Another hindrance is that which they call "the hindrance of a tie," – when a man is bound by being befaithfulnessed to another woman. Here they decide that, if he has had carnal knowledge of the second, the betrothal with the first becomes null and void. This I do not understand at all I hold that he who has befaithfulnessed himself to one woman belongs no longer to himself, and because of this fact, by the prohibition of the divine law, he belongs to the first, though he has not known her, even if he has known the second. For it was not in his power to give the latter what was no longer his own; he deceived her and actually committed adultery. But they regard the matter differently because they pay more heed to the carnal union than to the divine command, according to which the man, having pledged his faithfulness to the first, is bound to keep it for ever. For whoever would give anything must give of that which is his own. And God forbids a man to overreach or circumvent his brother in any matter. (1 Thessalonians 4:6) This prohibition must be kept, over and above all the traditions of all men. Therefore, the man in the above case cannot with a good conscience live in marriage with the second woman, and this hindrance should be completely overthrown. For if a monastic vow make a man to be no longer his own, why does not a promise, of betrothal given and received do the same? – since this is one of the precepts and fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), (Ephesians 5:9) while a monastic vow is of human invention. And if a wife may claim her husband despite the fact that he has taken a monastic vow, why may not a bride claim her betrothed, even though he has known another? But we said above that he who has pledged his faithfulness to a maiden ought not to take a monastic vow, but is in duty bound to keep faith with her, which faith he cannot break for any tradition of men, because it is commanded by God. Much more should the man here keep faith with his first bride, since he could not pledge his faithfulness to a second save with a lying heart, and therefore did not really pledge it, but deceived her, his neighbor, against God's command. Therefore, the "hindrance of error" enters in here, by which his marriage to the second woman is rendered null and void.

6.20 The "hindrance of ordination" also is a lying invention of men, especially since they rant that even a contracted marriage is annulled by it. Thus they constantly exalt their traditions above the commands of God. I do not indeed sit in judgment on the present state of the priestly order, but I observe that Paul charges a bishop to be the husband of one wife; (1 Timothy 3:2) hence no marriage of deacon, priest, bishop or any other order can be annulled – although it is true that Paul knew nothing of this species of priests, and of the orders that we have today. Perish those cursed human traditions, which have crept into the Church only to multiply perils, sins and evils! There exists, therefore, between a priest and his wife a true and indissoluble marriage, approved by the divine commandment. But what if wicked men in sheer despotism prohibit or annul it? So be it! Let it be wrong among men; it is nevertheless right before God, Whose command has to take precedence if it conficts with the commands of men.

6.21 An equally lying invention is that "hindrance of public decency," by which contracted marriages are annulled. I am incensed at that barefaced wickedness which is so ready to put asunder what God has joined together that one may well scent antichrist in it, for it opposes all that Christ has done and taught. What earthly reason is there for holding that no relative of a deceased husband, even to the fourth degree, may marry the latter's widow? That is not a judgment of public decency, but ignorance of public decency. Why was not this judgment of public decency found among the people of Israel, who were endowed with the best laws, the laws of God? (Deuteronomy 25:5) On the contrary, the next of kin was even compelled by the law of God to marry the widow of his relative. Must the people of Christian liberty be burdened with severer laws than the people of legal bondage? But, to make an end of these figments, rather than hindrances – thus far there seem to me to be no hindrances that may justly annul a contracted marriage save these: impotence of the husband, ignorance of a previously contracted marriage, and a vow of chastity. Still, concerning the last, I am to this. day so far from certain that I do not know at what age such a vow is to be regarded as binding; as I also said above in discussing the sacrament of baptism. Thus you may learn, from this one question of marriage, how wretchedly and desperately all the activities of the Church have been confused, hindered, ensnared, and subjected to danger through the pestilent, ignorant and wicked traditions of men, so that there is no hope of betterment unless, we abolish at one stroke all the laws of all men, restore the Gospel of liberty, and by it judge and rule all things. Amen.

6.22 We have to speak, then, of sexual impotence, that we may the more readily advise the souls that are in peril. But first I wish to state that what I have said of hindrances is intended to apply after a marriage has been contracted; no marriage should be annulled by any such hindrance. But as to marriages which are to be contracted, I would briefly repeat what I said above. Under the stress of youthful passion or of any other necessity for which the pope grants dispensation, any brother may grant a dispensation to another or even to himself, and following that counsel snatch his wife out of the power of the tyrannical laws as best he can. For with what right am I deprived of my liberty by another's superstition and ignorance? If the pope grants a dispensation, for money, why should not I, for my soul's salvation, grant a dispensation to myself or to my brother? Does the pope set up laws? Let him set them up for himself, and keep hands off my liberty; else I will take it by stealth!

6.23 Now let us discuss the matter of impotence.

6.24 Take the following case. A woman, wed to an impotent man, is unable to prove her husband's impotence before court, or perhaps she is unwilling to do so with the mass of evidence and all the notoriety which the law demands; yet she is desirous of having children or is unable to remain continent. Now suppose I had counseled her to demand a divorce from her husband in order to marry another, satisfied that her own and her husband's conscience and their experience were ample testimony of his impotence; but the husband refused his consent to this. Then suppose I should further counsel her, with the consent of the man (who is not really her husband, but merely a dweller under the same roof with her), to give herself to another, say her husband's brother, but to keep this marriage secret and to ascribe the children to the so-called putative father. The question is: Is such a woman in a saved state? I answer, Certainly. Because in this case the error and ignorance of the man's impotence are a hindrance to the marriage; the tyranny of the laws permits no divorce; the woman is free through the divine law, and cannot be compelled to remain, continent. Therefore the man ought to yield her this right, and let another man have her as wife whom he has only in outward appearance.

6.25 Moreover, if the man will not give his consent, or agree to this division – rather than allow the woman to burn or to commit adultery, I should counsel her to contract a marriage with another and flee to distant parts unknown. What other counsel could be given to one constantly in danger from lust? Now I know that some are troubled by the fact that then the children of this secret marriage are not the rightful heirs of their putative father. But if it was done with the consent of the husband, then the children will be the rightful heirs. If, however, it was done without his knowledge or against his will, then let unbiased Christian reason, no, let Christian charity, decide which of the two has done the greater injury to the other. The wife alienates the inheritance, but the husband has deceived his wife and is completely defrauding her of her body and her life. Is not the sin of the man who wastes his wife's body and life a greater sin than that of the woman who merely alienates the temporal goods of her husband? Let him, therefore, agree to a divorce, or else be satisfied with strange heirs; for by his own fault he deceived the innocence of a maiden and defrauded her of the proper use of her body, besides giving her a wellnigh irresistible opportunity to commit adultery. Let both be weighed in the same scales. Certainly, by every right, deceit should fall back on the deceiver, and whoever has done an injury must make it good. What is the difference between such a husband and the man who holds another's wife captive together with her husband? Is not such a tyrant compelled to support wife and children and husband, or else to set them free? Why should not the same hold here? Therefore I maintain that the man should be compelled either to submit to a divorce or to support the other man's child as his heir. Doubtless this would be the judgment of charity. In that case, the impotent man, who is not really the husband, should support the heirs of his wife in the same spirit in which he would at great cost wait on his wife if she fell sick or suffered some other ill; for it is by his fault and not by his wife's that she suffers this ill. This have I set forth to the best of my ability, for the strengthening of anxious consciences, being desirous to bring my afflicted brethren in this captivity what little comfort I can.

6.26 As to divorce, it is still a moot question whether it be allowable. For my part I so greatly detest divorce that I should prefer bigamy to it, but whether it be allowable, I do not venture to decide. Christ Himself, the Chief Pastor, says in Matthew 5:32, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, Matthew excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her commit adultery; and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery." Christ, then, permits divorce, but for the cause of fornication only. The pope must, therefore, be in error whenever he grants a divorce for any other cause, and no one should feel safe who has obtained a dispensation by this temerity (not authority) of the pope. Yet it is a still greater wonder to me, why they compel a man to remain, unmarried after bring separated from his wife, and why they will not permit him to remarry. For if Christ pennies divorce for the cause, of fornication and compels no one to remain unmarried, and if Paul would rather have one marry than burn, (1 Corinthians 7:9) then He certainly seems to permit a man to marry another woman in the stead of the one who has been put away. Would to God this matter were thoroughly threshed out and derided, so that counsel might be given in the infinite perils of those who, without any fault of their own, are nowadays compelled to remain unmarried, that is, of those whose wives or husbands have run away and deserted them, to come back perhaps after ten years, perhaps never. This matter troubles and distresses me; I meet cases of it every day, whether it happen by the special malice of Satan or because of our neglect of the word of God.

6.27 I, indeed, who, alone against all, can decide nothing in this matter, would yet greatly desire at least the passage in 1 Corinthians 7 to be applied here – "But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases." Here the Apostle gives permission to put away the unbeliever who departs and to set the believing spouse free to marry again. Why should not the same hold true when a believer – that is, a believer in name, but in truth as much an unbeliever as the one Paul speaks of – deserts his wife, especially if he never intends to return? I certainly can see no difference between the two. But I believe that if in the Apostle's day an unbelieving deserter had returned and had become a believer or had promised to live again with his believing wife, he would not have been taken back, but he too would have been given the right to marry again. Nevertheless, in these matters I decide nothing, as I have said, although there is nothing I would rather see decided, since nothing at present more grievously perplexes me and many more with me. I would have nothing decided here on the mere authority of the pope or the bishops; but if two learned and pious men agreed in the name of Christ (Matthew 18:19 f.) and published their opinion in the spirit of Christ, I should prefer their judgment even to such councils as are nowadays assembled, famous only for numbers and authority, not for scholarship and saintliness. Herewith I hang up my harp, until another and a better man shall take up this matter with me. (Psalm 137:2).

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