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Chapter III.—Of Indulgence and Pure Volition.  The Question Illustrated.521521    From 1 Cor. vii.

For what things are manifest we all know; and in what sense these very things are manifest must be thoroughly examined.  For, albeit some things seem to savour of “the will of God,” seeing that they are allowed by Him, it does not forthwith follow that everything which is permitted proceeds out of the mere and absolute will of him who permits.  Indulgence is the source of all permission.  And albeit indulgence is not independent of volition, still, inasmuch as it has its cause in him to whom the indulgence is granted, it comes (as it were) from unwilling volition, having experienced a producing cause of itself which constrains volition.  See what is the nature of a volition of which some second party is the cause.  There is, again, a second species of pure volition to be considered.  God wills us to do some acts pleasing to522522    Or, “decreed by.” Himself, in which it is not indulgence which patronizes, but discipline which lords it.  If, however, He has given a preference over these to some other acts—(acts), of course, which He more wills—is there a doubt that the acts which we are to pursue are those which He more wills; since those which He less wills (because He wills others more) are to be similarly regarded as if He did not will them?  For, by showing what He more wills, He has effaced the lesser volition by the greater.  And in as far as He has proposed each (volition) to your knowledge, in so far has He defined it to be your duty to pursue that which He has declared that He more wills.  Then, if the object of His declaring has been that you may pursue that which He more wills; doubtless, unless you do so, you savour of contrariety to His volition, by savouring of contrariety to His superior volition; and you rather offend than merit reward, by doing what He wills indeed, and rejecting what He more wills.  Partly, you sin; partly, if you sin not, still you deserve no reward.  Moreover, is not even the unwillingness to deserve reward a sin?

If, therefore, second marriage finds the source of its allowance in that “will of God” which is 52called indulgence, we shall deny that that which has indulgence for its cause is volition pure; if in that to which some other—that, namely, which regards continence as more desirable—is preferred as superior, we shall have learned (by what has been argued above), that the not-superior is rescinded by the superior.  Suffer me to have touched upon these considerations, in order that I may now follow the course of the apostle’s words.  But, in the first place, I shall not be thought irreligious if I remark on what he himself professes; (namely), that he has introduced all indulgence in regard to marriage from his own (judgment)—that is, from human sense, not from divine prescript.  For, withal, when he has laid down the definitive rule with reference to “the widowed and the unwedded,” that they are to “marry if they cannot contain,” because “better it is to marry than to burn,”523523    1 Cor. vii. 8, 9. he turns round to the other class, and says:  “But to the wedded I make official declaration—not indeed I, but the Lord.”  Thus he shows, by the transfer of his own personality to the Lord, that what he had said above he had pronounced not in the Lord’s person, but in his own:  “Better it is to marry than to burn.”  Now, although that expression pertain to such as are “apprehendedby the faith in an unwedded or widowed condition, still, inasmuch as all cling to it with a view to licence in the way of marrying, I should wish to give a thorough treatment to the inquiry what kind of good he is pointing out which is “better than” a penalty; which cannot seem good but by comparison with something very bad; so that the reason why “marrying” is good, is that “burning” is worse.  “Good” is worthy of the name if it continue to keep that name without comparison, I say not with evil, but even with some second good; so that, even if it is compared to some other good, and is by some other cast into the shade, it do nevertheless remain in possession of the name “good.”  If, however, it is the nature of an evil which is the means which compels the predicating “good,” it is not so much “good” as a species of inferior evil, which by being obscured by a superior evil is driven to the name of good.  Take away, in short, the condition of comparison, so as not to say, “Better it is to marry than to burn;” and I question whether you will have the hardihood to say, “Better it is to marry,” not adding what that is which is better.  Therefore what is not better, of course is not good either; inasmuch as you have taken away and removed the condition of comparison, which, while it makes the thing “better,” so compels it to be regarded as “good.”  “Better it is to marry than to burn” is to be understood in the same way as, “Better it is to lack one eye than two:”  if, however, you withdraw from the comparison, it will not be “better” to have one eye, inasmuch as it is not “good” either.  Let none therefore catch at a defence (of marriage) from this paragraph, which properly refers to “the unmarried and widows,” for whom no (matrimonial) conjunction is yet reckoned:  although I hope I have shown that even such must understand the nature of the permission.


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