Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Martin Bucer on Divorce

I will be posting from a document called,

    WRITTEN To EDWARD the Sixth, in his Second Book
    of the Kingdom of CHRIST.
    And now English'd.

    Wherein a late Book, restoring the
    Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, is
    here confirm'd and justify'd by the
    Authority of MARTIN BUCER.

    To the Parlament of England.
I will be taking excerpts just to give an idea of what is in the document.


Of lawful Divorce, what the ancient Churches have

Now we shall speak about that dissolving of
Matrimony which may be approv'd in the sight of
God, if any grievous necessity require. In which
thing the Roman Antichrists have knit many a
pernicious entanglement to distressed Consciences:
for that they might here also exalt themselves above
God, as if they would be wiser and chaster than God
himself, is, for no cause, honest or necessary, will
they permit a final Divorce; in the mean while,
Whoredoms and Adulteries, and worse things than
these, not only tolerating in themselves and others,
but cherishing and throwing Men headlong into
these evils. For although they also disjoin married
persons from Board and Bed, that is, from all
conjugal Society and Communion, and this not only
for Adultery, but for ill Usage, and matrimonial
Duties deny'd; yet they forbid those thus parted, to
join in Wedloc with others, but, as I said before, any
dishonest associating they permit. And they
pronouce the Bond of Marriage to remain between
those whom they have thus separated. As if the
Bond of Marriage, God so teaching and pronouncing,
were not such a league as binds the married couple
to all society of life, and communion in divine and
human things; and so associated keeps them.
Something indeed out of the later Fathers they may
pretend for this their Tyranny, especially out of
Austin and some others, who were much taken with
a preposterous admiration of single life; yet though
these Fathers, from the words of Christ not rightly
understood, taught that it was unlawful to marry
again, while the former Wife liv'd, whatever cause
there had bind either of Desertion or Divorce; yet if
we mark the custom of the Church, and the common
judgment which both in this time and afterward
prevail'd, we shall perceive that neither these
Fathers did ever cast out of the Church any one for
marrying after a Divorce, approv'd by the Imperial

Nor only the first Christian Emperors, but the
latter also, even to Justinian, and after him, did
grant for certain causes approv'd by Judges, to make
a true Divorce; which made and confirm'd by Law, it
might be lawful to marry again: which if it could not
have bin done without displeasing Christ and his
Church, surely it would not have bin granted by
Christian Emperors, nor had the Fathers then wink'd
at those doings in the Emperors. Hence ye may see
that Jerom also, though zealous of single life more
than enough, and such a condemner of second
Marriage, though after the death of either party, yet
forc'd by plain equity, defended Fabiola, a noble
Matron of Rome, who having refus'd her Husband for
just Causes, was married to another. For that the
sending of a Divorce to her Husband was not blame-
worthy, he affirms, because the Man was heinously
vitious; and that if an adulterous Wife may be
discarded, an adulterous Husband is not to be kept.
But that she married again, while yet her Husband
was alive; he defends in that the Apostle hath said,
It is better to marry than to burn; and that young
widows should marry, for such was Fabiola, and
could not remain in Widow-hood.

But some one will object that Jerome there adds,
Neither did she know the vigour of the Gospel,
wherin all cause of marrying is debarr'd from
Women, while their Husbands live; and again, while
she avoided many wounds of Satan, she receiv'd one
ere she was aware. But let the equal Reader mind
also what went before; Because, saith he, soon after
the beginning, there is a rock and storm of
slanderers opposed against her, I will not praise her
converted, unless I first absolve her guilty. For why
does he call them slanderers who accus'd Fabiola of
marrying again, if he did not judge it a matter of
Christian Equity and Charity, to pass by and pardon
that fact, though in his own opinion he held it a
fault? And what can this mean? I will not praise
her, unless I first absolve her. For how could he
absolve her, but by proving that Fabiola, neither in
rejecting her vitious Husband, nor in marrying
another, had committed such a sin, as could be
justly condemned? Nay, he proves both by evident
reason, and clear testimonies of Scripture, that she
avoided Sin.

This also is hence understood, that Jerome by the
vigour of the Gospel, meant that height and
perfection of our Saviour's precept, which might be
remitted to those that burn; for he adds, But if she
be accused in that she remained not unmarried, I
shall confess the fault, so I may relate the necessity.
If then he acknowledg'd a necessity, as he did,
because she was yound, and could not live in
Widowhood, certainly he could not impute her
second Marriage to her much blame: but when he
excuses her out of the Word of God, does he not
openly declare his thoughts, that the second
Marriage of Fabiola was permitted her by the Holy
Ghost himself, for the necessity which he suffer'd,
and to shun the danger of Fornication, though she
went somewhat aside from the vigour of the Gospel?
But if any urge that Fabiola did public penance for
her second Marriage, which was not imposed but for
great faults; 'tis answer'd, she was not enjoin'd to
this penance, but did it of her own accord, and not
till after her second Husband's death. As in the time
of Cyprian, we read that many were wont to do
voluntary penance for small faults, which were not
liable to excommunication.

1 comment:

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