ELDER J. W. McClanahan, of West Virginia, asks our views on divorce. We know of no better way to comply with his request than to turn to the Bible and cite I what it says upon this subject. What the Bible says should be final and satisfactory with every Old School Baptist. first, then, we turn to the Mosaic law, and in Deut. xxiv. 1, 2, we find this; “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor 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.” Thus we see that the Jews under the Mosaic law were allowed to divorce their wives and were allowed to marry again, also, divorce could be granted for any or “some uncleanness.” There were no restrictions as to just what this uncleanness might be. We cite this in the law of Moses, not because it is of special importance to the church now, because the church is not under law, but under grace, therefore not bound by the law of Moses at all, but we call attention to what the law says on divorce to contrast it with what Jesus said, to which we now turn. In Matthew v. 31, 32, the words of Jesus are, “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.” Here Jesus negatives the commandment of Moses as cited in the beginning of our article, and says that a wife shall not be put away by her husband, that is, divorced, except on the one ground of fornication. To put her away for any other cause is adultery, or to marry one so put away is adultery. Again, in Matt. xix. 8, 9, Jesus says, “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 whose marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Here Jesus in addition to what he has said in Matthew, fifth chapter, adds that if the man who puts away his wife marries another, he, too, commits adultery, as well as the man who marries the woman put away. Now, further, in Mark x. 11, 12, Jesus says, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” Again, in . Luke xvi. 18: “Whosoever putteth away his wife and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery.” These words of Jesus are conclusive, and settle the matter as to the proper attitude of his church respecting divorce. Jesus is head of the church, and the only lawgiver in Zion. While Moses allowed divorce and the remarriage of divorced persons, Jesus contradicts all that, as he did so many other things in the law, and for the church of Jesus Christ there is no choice left her as to which is right to pursue: the commandment of Moses or the law of Christ. We say the church has no choice in this matter, for she is not under law, but under grace, and is bound to abide by the law of her King, Jesus. To do other than this, and to take Moses’ word as our authority in church matters, is to “fall from grace” and to recede to the weak and beggarly elements from which we have been redeemed. The words of Jesus are clear and plain and admit of but one construction, that is, a man may for the cause of fornication put away his wife, or divorce her, but neither of them can marry again during the lifetime of the other or they commit adultery. Should any brother or sister in the church be divorced from their wife or husband for fornication, that is all right, but should either of them, or both, marry again, they cannot be retained in church fellowship, for they have committed adultery, and the rule is: “Not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” – 1 Cor. v. 11.
We have simply given the commandment of Jesus and of his apostle Paul upon this subject. We have no views of our own other than what Jesus says. His words are final and right in all matters pertaining to the doctrine and practice of the church. If any are disposed to quarrel with what we have said here, they cannot be satisfied with what Jesus said, for we have simply repeated what he said. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 7.
April 1, 1916