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ELDER BEEBE: – Will you please give your views through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES on 1 Corinthians vii. 14, particularly on the last two clauses?

Yours in hope of eternal life,
Frankford, Ohio, April 20, 1874.

The text on which our views are solicited reads thus: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were you children unclean; but now are they holy.” The sanctification of a husband by his wife, and of the wife by her husband, refers to the consecration of each to the other by the law of marriage, in and by which the twain become one flesh, each being legally set apart in this relation of husband or wife, the obligation mutually resting on both husband and wife to forsake all others in the marriage relation, and to cleave to each other until separated by death. The husband may be a Pagan, a Jew or an unbeliever, but his religion or infidelity cannot annul or impair the relationship, it is sacred, and must be kept inviolate; or, the wife may be an unbeliever, or of a different religion from that of her husband, but as the relationship of husband and wife is a fleshly relationship, it can no more be affected by their religious faith than the relation of parent and child, or of brother and sister can be affected by what they may believe or practice religiously.

This view of the perpetuity of the marriage obligation is confirmed by the context: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband. But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” Also in verse thirty-nine: “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 in the Lord,” or only according to the law of the Lord. This shows the sacredness and perpetuity of the relation. The husband and wife may live apart from each other by mutual consent for a season, or as long as they live, if they can live more happily apart, which is undoubtedly sometimes the ease, but neither the consent of the parties nor any divorcement can give either the right to marry to another party while the other is living. So much for the sacredness of the marriage covenant, by which each is sanctified, or legally set apart to the other. Read also Romans vii. 1-3: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband as 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.” “Else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” If children are born of adultery, then are they unclean, illegitimate or bastards. The sacredness of the marriage consecration affects the legitimacy of the children. The uncleanness of the children does not relate to any distinction between even bastards and children, as fallen sinners against God, or the depravity of their fleshly nature, but it relates to their being born out of wedlock, and therefore not legally known as children of heirs. “But now are they holy.” Holiness here simply means lawful, legitimate, perfect in relationship, as being born in wedlock. In their earthly nature, and as sinners against God, or as transgressors of the law of God, they are as unholy as all others of their race. Things under the law were ceremonially holy when legally sanctified or set apart to a consecrated use, and things are legally holy when strictly in conformity to law, and in this case it is very clear that the apostle applies the word “holy” as meaning lawful, and perfect in the relation of children, and in contrast with what they would be if their parents were not sanctified by the consecration of a lawful marriage.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N.Y.,
June 15, 1871

Republished – Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 14.
July 15, 1916.