The Scriptural View of Divorce
Matthew 19:1-12
And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee…

I hold that there is only one cause for which a man can lawfully be DIVORCED FROM HIS WIFE, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES; THAT IS, ADULTERY.

I. LET US TURN TO THE SCRIPTURES IN PROOF OF THIS VIEW. "What God hath joined together let not man put asunder." God thought it not good for man to be alone: so He made him an helpmeet. Had it been better for a man to have more than one wife, God would doubtless have made two. But in our Saviour's time women had multiplied; but He did not change the original law. The relation of man and wife is nearer than that of parent and offspring. "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother," etc. Where is the nation or man who shall assume authority to put apart these thus joined together save for the one cause? "And I say unto you, whoso shall put away his wife," etc. St. Paul says, "The woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth."

II. THE VIEWS OF SOME OF THE LEADING WRITERS IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Dr. A. Clarke, in his Commentary, has the following: "It does not appear that there is any other case in which Jesus Christ admits of divorce" (Matthew 5:32). On Matthew 19:9, "The decision of our Lord must be very unpleasant to these men; the reason why they wished to put away their wives was, that they might take others whom they liked better; but our Lord here declares that they could not be remarried while the divorced person was alive; and that those who did marry during the life of the divorced person were adulterers." "In this discourse our Lord shows that marriage, except in one case, is indissoluble, and should be so.

1. By Divine institution (ver. 4).

2. By express commandment (ver. 5).

3. Because the married couple become one and the same person (ver. 6).

4. By the example of the first pair (ver. 8). And

5. Because of the evil consequent on separation (ver. 9).Watson's "Theo. Institutes," vol. 2., p. 543, has the following: "The foundation of the marriage union is the will of God that the human race should increase and multiply, but only through a chaste and restricted conjunction of one man and one woman, united by their free vows in a bond made by the Divine law indissoluble, except by death or by adultery." Dr. Wayland, in his "Elements of Moral Science," says: "In the act of marriage, two persons, under the most solemn circumstances, are thus united, and they enter into a mutual contract thus to live in respect to each other. This relation, having been established by God, the contract thus entered into has all the solemnity of an oath. Hence, he who violates it, is guilty of a twofold crime: first, the violation of the law of chastity, and second, of the law of veracity — veracity pledged under the most solemn circumstances.

1. The contract is for life, and is dissoluble for one cause only: the cause of adultery." Referring to the text, he says: "We are here taught that marriage, being an institution of God, is subject to His laws alone, and not to the laws of man. Hence, the civil law is binding upon the conscience only, in so far as it corresponds to the law of God." Matthew Henry's testimony is, "Christ allows of divorce in cases of adultery; he disallows it in all others." Olshausen says: "This union is to be considered indissoluble, one which man cannot, and only God can dissolve, and in which the Omniscient does really dissever only in cases of adultery." Such are the opinions of some of the most learned and pious Biblical scholars.


1. The Jews. I quote from Dr. Adam Clarke's Commentary, Matthew 19:3. "At this time there were two famous divinity and philosophical schools among the Jews, that of Shammai, and that of Hillel. On the question of divorce, the school of Shammai maintained that a man could not legally put away his wife, except for adultery. The school of Hillel taught that a man might put away his wife for a multitude of other causes: and when she did not find grace in his sight, that is, when he saw any other woman that pleased him better." Rabbi Akiba said: "If any man saw a woman handsomer than his own wife, he might put his wife away; because it is said in the law, 'If she find not favour in his eyes'" (Deuteronomy 24:1). " Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, in his Life, tells us, with the utmost coolness and indifference, About this time I put away my wife, who had borne me three children:, not being pleased with her manners." These cases are enough to show to what a scandalous and criminal excess this matter was carried among the Jews.

2. Then we inquire, How is it with us in America? I find that divorces are wry common, some for one cause and some for another. So that the question, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" is far from being foreign, but really is applicable to us, and a question of the greatest importance. For, for almost any little thing that springs up between man and wife. a divorce is applied for, and is obtained. From the Standard, a Baptist paper, I took the following: "Those whose attention is not directed to the subject of divorce, will be surprised at the number of applications in the courts of our large cities and centres of population to have the bonds of marriage dissolved. In Indianapolis, in 1866, there were 822 marriages, and 210 applications for divorce, which is more than one to four of the whole number of marriages. In Chicago, the same year, there were 4,182 marriages, and 330 applications for divorce, being nearly one to every thirteen marriages. In both these cases the number seeking divorce is alarming. But the unenviable and disgraceful distance in which Indianapolis leads Chicago in this warfare on marriage, is to be attributed to the peculiarly lax legislation of Indiana, which, for years, has been notorious on the subject of divorce." "The various courts of Chicago granted bills of divorce in 1865 to the number of 274; in 1566, the number was 209; in 1867, 311; making the whole number of divorces granted in three years, 794. Is not this appalling? But since 1868, Chicago has registered as high as 730 applications in a single year, representing families containing about 3,500 souls, and the most of which are poor women." The Christian Statesman says that the number of divorces in eight years, in four States, viz., Vermont, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Connecticut, have been 5,831. And in the year 1877, in Maine, there were 500 divorces. Brethren and fellow-citizens, I believe that our lawmakers are to blame for allowing such laws to exist as they do, and not bringing the law of divorce in these United States to the Scriptural standard. Look at our statutes of Minnesota, and see the looseness of this matter. In the General Statutes of Minnesota, page 407, sec. 6, we find the following: "A divorce from the bonds of matrimony may be adjudged and decreed by the district court on suit brought in the county where parties, or either of them, reside, for either of the following causes: 1st, adultery; 2nd, impotency; 3rd, cruel and inhuman treatment; 4th, when either party, subsequent to the marriage, has been sentenced to imprisonment in the State Prison; 5th, wilful desertion of one party by the other for the term of three years next preceding the filing of the complaint; 6th, habitual drunkenness for the space of one year, immediately preceding the filing of the complaint." Here, then, are six causes in our State statutes for which a man or woman may put away wife or husband. The first is according to Scripture; the others are unscriptural. What latitude is here given for divorces! I remark, further, that the peace of the churches is endangered by this ungodly practice of divorce. All Christian people and all true philanthropists must awake to their duty. Politicians have made these laws, and by them public sentiment has been educated.

(A Cressey, in American Homiletic Review.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

WEB: It happened when Jesus had finished these words, he departed from Galilee, and came into the borders of Judea beyond the Jordan.

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