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ST. PAUL’S EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS -
OF MARRIAGE AND CELIBACY
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A preacher of the Gospel, being regularly called, ought, above all things,. first, to purify himself before he teaches others. Is he able, with a good conscience, to remain unmarried? let him so remain; but if he cannot abstain living chastely, then let him take a wife; God has made that plaster for that sore. It is written in the first book of Moses, concerning matrimony: God created a man and a woman, and blessed them. Now, although this sentence was chiefly spoken of human creatures, yet we may apply it to all the creatures of the world — to the fowls of the air, the fish in the waters, and the beasts of the field, wherein we find a male and a female consorting together, engendering and increasing. In all these, God has placed before our eyes the state of matrimony. We have its image, also, even in the trees and earth. Between husband and wife there should be no question as to meum and tuum . All things should be in common between them, without any distinction or means of distinguishing. St. Augustine said, finely: A marriage without children is the world without the sun. Maternity is a glorious thing, since all mankind have been conceived, born, and nourished of women. All human laws should encourage the multiplication of families. The world regards not, nor comprehends the works of God. Who can sufficiently admire the state of conjugal union, which God has instituted, and founded, and whence all human creatures, yea, all states proceed.
Where were we, if it existed not? But neither God’s ordinance, nor the gracious presence of children, the fruit of matrimony, moves the ungodly world, which beholds only the temporal difficulties and troubles of matrimony, but sees not the great treasure that is hid therein. We were all born of woman — emperors, kings, princes, yea, Christ himself, the Son of God, did not disdain to be born of a virgin. Let the contemners and rejecters of matrimony go hang, the Anabaptists and Adamites, who recognize not marriage, but live all together like animals and the papists, who reject married life, and yet have strumpets; if they must needs contemn matrimony, let them be consistent, and keep no concubines. The state of matrimony is the chief in the world after religion; but people shun it because of its inconveniences, like one who, running out of the rain, falls into the river. We ought herein to have more regard to God’s command and ordinance, for the sake of the generation, and the bringing up of children, than to our untoward humors and cogitations; and. further, we should consider that it is a physic against sin and unchastity. None, indeed, should be compelled to marry; the matter should be left to each man’s conscience, for bride-love may not be forced. God has said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone,’ and St. Paul compares the Church to spouse, or bride and a bridegroom. But let us ever take heed that, in marrying, we esteem neither money nor wealth, great descent, nobility, nor lasciviousness. He who intends to marry, should consider these points following: 1. God’s command. 2. The Lord Christ’s confirmation thereof. 3. The gift or present of Christ,4. The first blessing. 5. The promise that is made thereunto. 6. The communion and fellowship. 7. The examples of the holy patriarchs 8. The temporal laws and ordinances,9. The precious benediction and blessing. 10. The examples of the wicked 11. The threatening of St. Paul. 12. The natural rights. 13. The nature and kind of the creation. 14. The practice of faith and hope. The Lord has never changed the rules he imposed on marriage, but in the case of the conception of his Son Jesus Christ. The Turks, however, are of opinion that ‘tis no uncommon thing for a virgin to bear a child. I would by no means introduce this belief into my family. Dr. Forsteimius asked, whether a man, whose wife, guilty of adultery, has run away from him, might marry another, while the former wife yet lived, without the offense of adultery? Luther answered: St. Paul says: ‘If the unbelieving depart, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God hath called us to peace.’ Here St. Paul plainly permits the other marriage. Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than the women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children. Marrying cannot be without women, nor can the world subsist without them. To marry is physic against incontinence. A woman is, or at least should be, a friendly, courteous, and merry companion in life, whence they are named, by the Holy Ghost, house-honors, the honor and ornament of the house, and inclined to tenderness, for thereunto are they chiefly created, to bear children, and be the pleasure, joy, and solace of their husbands. Dr. Luther said one day to his wife: You make me do what you will; you have full sovereignty here, and I award you, with all my heart, the command in all household matters, reserving my rights in other points.
Never any good came out of female domination. God created Adam master and lord of living creatures, but Eve spoilt all, when she persuaded him to set himself above God’s will. ‘Tis you women, with your tricks and artifices, that lead men into error. On what pretense can man have interdicted marriage, which is a law of nature? ‘Tis as though we were forbidden to eat, to drink, to sleep. That which God has ordained and regulated, is no longer a matter of the human will, which we may adopt or reject with impunity. ‘Tis the most certain sign of God’s enmity to Popedom., that he has allowed it to assail the conjugal union of the sexes. There is no greater plague in this life than a morose and unchaste wife.
Solomon says, that to be married to a woman one dislikes, is the worst of calamities. When I began to discern the impiety and tyranny of celibacy, distrusting my own judgment, I called upon Dr. Jerome Schurff, and asked him to point out to me, in the decretals, some assigned reasons for imposing this tyranny upon the consciences of priests. I had not then the same feeling with regard to monks, who had made a vow on the subject. The doctor gave me no distinct answer, vaguely saying, that the pope compelled no one to assume the priesthood, so he left me as much in doubt and difficulty as before. It was mentioned at table that a book had just been published, setting forth the apology of bigamy: the doctor for a while remained silent, and seemed plunged in grave reverie. At length he said: ‘I have often wondered at the king of Arabia having seven hundred wives.’ Some one observed: ‘Sir doctor, what say you to Solomon, who had three hundred wives, or queens, and seven hundred concubines? The text, moreover, adding, that the number of young girls at his court had not been reckoned up.’ The doctor replied: “Tis to be kept in mind that the list of queens in Scripture comprehends the royal family of David, who were supported by his son.
The elector of Saxony has a great number of ladies at his court, princesses, noble damsels, women of honor, maids of honor, women of the bedchamber, and what not; but it does not follow that these are all his wives. As to Solomon’s having entertained all these women as his wives, ‘tis out of the question, impracticable.’ Some one asked, did Solomon perform penitence? Luther replied: ‘No, but the Scripture tells us, “He slept with his fathers,” wherefore I conclude he was admitted to beatitude, such being the meaning of that expression, which is not employed with reference to Absalom. Scotus has formally damned Solomon.’ ‘Tis a grand thing for a married pair to live in perfect union, but the devil rarely permits this. When they are apart, they cannot endure the separation, and when they are together, they cannot endure the always seeing one another. ‘Tis as the poet says: Nec tecum vivere possum , nec sine te . Married people must assiduously pray against these assaults of the devil. I have seen marriages where, at first, husband and wife seemed as though they would eat one another up; in six months they have separated in mutual disgust. ‘Tis the devil inspires this evanescent ardor, in order to divert the parties from prayer. We must hold no relations with those who seek to set up houses of evil resort. We must resolutely repress the devil, instead of encouraging him.
They who would restore the bagnios are not Christians, but pagans, knowing not God. The Lord has said he will punish debauchery, and assuredly he will also punish those who foster and authorize it. It may be said, if we have not public establishments of the kind, the result will be fearful disorder in families. I answer that God, of his grace, has instituted a remedy, marriage. I hold that the example of public license in this respect is calculated to draw women and girls into vice. We must in no way tolerate, or even wink at, ought that is contrary to the will of God: fiat justitia et pereat mundus . Both the Old and the New Testament attribute eminence and honor to the married state. Abraham had three wives; Jesus Christ was present at a marriage ceremony, and performed his first miracle there. St. Paul, himself a widower, enjoins bishops to marry, and predicts that the injunction of celibacy will cause much evil; St. Peter had a son-in-law, and consequently must have been himself married; St. James, our Savior’s brother, and indeed all the apostles, except. St. John, were married men; Spiridiron, bishop of Cyprus, was a married man, and so was bishop Hilary, of whom we have a letter, addressed to his daughter, telling her he knows a rich man, meaning Christ, who, if she remains pious and good, will give her a fine robe, adorned with gold. There are two sorts of adultery; spiritual adultery, committed only in sight of God, when one desires the husband or wife of another; and bodily adultery, when the offense is actually committed, a crime most odious, but little regarded by the world, a crime at once against God, against society, and against one’s family. I am persuaded that if God had not ordained marriage, but had left men to associate with the first women they met, they themselves would very speedily have become tired of this disorderly course, and have prayed for marriage, since ‘tis the very prohibition to do wrong which most excites to wrong. The ancients said: Nitimur in vetitum , semper cupirnusque negata . Quod licet ingraturn est , quod non licet acrius urit . Dr. Luther said, in reference to those who write satirical attacks upon women, that such will not go unpunished. If the author be one of high rank, rest assured he is not really of noble origin, but a surreptitious intruder into the family. What defects women have, we must check them for in private, gently by word of mouth, for woman is a frail vessel. The doctor then turned round and said let us talk of something else. Mention was made of a young girl who, to avoid violence offered her by a nobleman, threw herself from the window, and was killed. It was asked, was she responsible for her death? Doctor Luther said: No: she felt that this step formed her only chance of safety, it being: not her life she sought to save, but her chastity. There was at Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, a schoolmaster, a pious and learned man, whose heart was fervently inclined to theology, and who had preached several times with great applause. He was called to the dignity of deacon, but his wife, a violent, fierce woman, would not consent to his accepting the charge, saying, she would not be the wife of a minister.
It became a question, what was the poor man to do? which was he to renounce, his preachership, or his wife? Luther, at first, said jocosely: ‘Oh, if he has married, as you tell me, a widow, he must needs obey her.’ But, after awhile, he resumed, severely: ‘The wife is bound to follow her husband, not the husband his wife. This must be an ill woman, nay, the devil incarnate, to be ashamed of a charge with which our Lord and his apostles were invested. If she were my wife, I should shortly say to her: “Wilt thou follow me, aye or no? Reply forthwith,” and if she replied: No:
I would leave her, and take another wife.’ He who has an old, spiteful, quarrelsome, sickly wife, may fairly reckon himself in purgatory. It was asked, does he who, by her own consent, carries off a girl he loves, commit a sin or offense, since volenti non fit injuria . Dr. Luther replied:
The injury is done, not to her who gives her consent, but to her parents, who, against their will, are deprived of their daughter: ‘Tis therefore a robbery, and as such, justly visited of the imperial law with severe, punishment. The Roman Antichrist, however, in his decretals, excuses this crime. The polygamy of the patriarchs, Gideon, David, Solomon, etc., was a matter of necessity, not of libertinism. The Jews were constrained to have several wives, from the necessity of the promise, and of consanguinity.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob received from God the promise that he would multiply their seed as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea. The Jews, having their attention constantly directed to this promise, to accomplish it were fain to take several wives each. The necessity of consanguinity was this, that when a man was elected judge or king, all his poor female relations crowded about him, and he had to take them as wives or concubines. Concubinage was lawful among the Jews, and was, indeed, a mode of aiding distressed relatives, widows and orphans, to whom it secured food and raiment. It was a burdensome imposition rather than an agreeable relaxation. Solomon’s wives, most of them, were probably no more to him than my nieces, Magdalen and Elizabeth, are to me, who have remained under my roof virgins, as when they came here. When the emperor Sigismund convoked a council at Constance, the cardinals would not hear of any reform and said: We will have to Schismam . The emperor rejoined: What, know ye not Priscian? You should say, Schisma , not Schismam . But the cardinals replied: We are above all rules and laws, and care not a rush for Priscian. Jephtha made a foolish and a superstitious vow; so that after he had got the victory, he had to slay his own daughter. It had been well if, at that time, some godly man had been present, and had said unto him — Jephtha! thou shouldst not slay thy daughter, for the sake of thy rash and foolish vow; thou must understand the law of vows according to equity, and not so precisely according to the word, for thou didst not mean it so. Thus, the godly young man, Jonathan, was released from the vow he had made to his father, king Saul, and was delivered from death. The reason why Jephtha’s daughter bewailed her virginity two months, was, that she died without children, which among the Jews was held a great calamity; as we see in Hannah, Samuel’s mother. And, indeed, ‘tis an irksome thing to honest married people, to be barren; children are the best pledges and bonds of matrimony. They are the best wool of the sheep. The lawyers and canonists are of the opinion, that the substance of matrimony is the consent of the bride and bridegroom, and that the privilege and power of the parents is but an accidental thing, without which matrimony may well be accomplished, and that we ought not to resist or hinder the substance, for the sake of the accidents. And ‘tis quite true that consent is the substance and ground of matrimony, for where no love or consent is, there must needs be an unhappy marriage. And further, when such children are punished, thinking thereby to affright them, we shall nothing prevail, for youth in this matter will not desist through temporal punishment. When one in Popedom is godfather or mother to another’s child, this relationship bars marriage between those persons. Now, this is altogether ridiculous, or rather ‘tis one of the pope’s money-nets. Marriages made for the sake of wealth, are commonly accursed; rich women, for the most part, are haughty, cross, and negligent, and waste more than they bring. There are two causes of divorce: first, adultery; but first, Christians ought to labor and to use diligent persuasions to reconcile the married pair; sharply, withal, reproving the guilty person. The second cause is much like; when one runs away from the other, and after returning runs away again. Such have commonly their mates in other places, and richly deserve to be punished. I advise in every thing that ministers interfere not in matrimonial questions. First, bemuse we have enough to do in our own office; secondly, because these affairs concern not the Church, but are temporal things, pertaining to temporal magistrates; thirdly, because such cases are in a manner innumerable; they are very high, broad and deep, and produce many great offenses, which may tend to the shame and dishonor of the Gospel. Moreover, we are therein ill dealt with; they draw us into the business, and then, if the issue is evil, the blame is altogether laid upon us.
Therefore, we will leave them to the lawyers and magistrates. Ministers ought only to advise and counsel the consciences, out of God’s Word, when need requires. In the synod of Leipzig, the lawyers concluded, that secret marriages should be punished with banishment, and the parties be disinherited.
Whereupon I sent them word, I would not allow thereof; it were too gross.
Yet I hold it fitting, that they who secretly contract themselves, ought sharply to be reproved; yea, also, in some measure punished. Master John Holstein asked, when two contract themselves, verbis de futuro , as when I say, I will marry thee, is this to be understood of the time to come, or no? Luther said: those words ought to be understood of the present time; for this word (Volo ) I will, signifies a present will. All bargains, contracts, and promises are to be understood as of the present time; as when a fellow says to a maid: When I come again, which will be, God willing, two years hence, I will marry thee. These words are to be understood of the present time, and when he comes again, he must marry her; and it is not in his power, in the interval, to alter his mind. The hair is the finest ornament women have. Of old, virgins used to wear it loose, except when they were in mourning. I like women to let their hair fall down their back; ‘tis a most agreeable sight. The reproduction of mankind is a great marvel and mystery. Had God consulted me in the matter, I should have advised him to continue the generation of the species by fashioning them of clay, in the way Adam was fashioned; as I should have counseled him also, to let the sun remain always suspended over the earth, like a great lamp, maintaining perpetual light and heat. The celibacy of spiritual persons began in the time of Cyprian, who lived two hundred and fifty years after the birth of Christ; so that this superstition has continued thirteen hundred years. St. Ambrose and others believed not that they were human creatures, like other people. St. Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg, related a fearful thing that befell at Rome.
Pope Gregory, who confirmed celibacy, ordered a fish-pond at Rome, hard by a convent of nuns, to be cleared out. The water being let off, there were found at the bottom, more thank six thousand skulls of children, that had been cast into the pond and drowned. Such were the fruits of enforced celibacy. Hereupon Pope Gregory abolished celibacy, but the popes who succeeded him, re-established it.
In our own time, there was in Austria, at Nieuberg, a convent of nuns, who, by reason of their licentious doings, were removed from it, and placed elsewhere, and their convent filled with Franciscans. These monks, wishing to enlarge the building, foundations were dug, and in excavating there were found twelve great pots, in each of which was the carcass of an infant. How much better to let these people marry, than, by prohibition thereof, to cause the murder of so many innocent creatures.
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