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1 Corinthians 7:10-17

10. And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

10. Coniugibus denuntio, non ego, sed Dominus: Uxor a marito ne discedat.

11. But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

11. Quodsi discesserit, maneat innupta, aut viro reconcilietur: et vir uxorem ne dimittat.

12. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

12. Reliquis ego dico, non Dominus: Si quis frater uxorem habet infidelem, et ipsa consentit cum eo habitare, ne dimittat eam:

13. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

13. Et mulier si maritum habet infidelem, et ipse consentit cum ea habitare, ne relinquat eum.

14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

14. Sanctificatus est enim vir infidelis in uxore: et sanctificata est uxor incredula in viro: alioque liberi vestri immundi essent: nunc autem sancti sunt.

15. But 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.

15. Quod si infidelis discedit, discedat: non enim subiectus est servituti frater ant soror in talibus, in pace autem vocavit nos Deus.

16. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

16. Quid enim scis, mulier, an maritum servatura sis? ant quid scis, O vir, an uxorem sis servaturus?

17. But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

17. Nisi unusquisque ut ei gratiam divisit Dominns, sic ambulet: et sic in Ecclesiis omnibus praecipio.


10. To the married I command. He now treats of another condition of marriage — its being an indissoluble tie. Accordingly, he condemns all those divorces that were of daily occurrence among the heathens, and were not punished among the Jews by the law of Moses. Let not, says he, the husband put away his wife, and let not the wife depart from her husband. Why? Because they are joined together by an indissoluble bond. It is surprising, however, that he does not make an exception, at least in case of adultery; for it is not likely that he designed to curtail in anything the doctrine of Christ. To me it appears clear, that the reason why he has made no mention of this 399399     “Il n’a pas voulu toucher ce poinct;” — “He has not chosen to touch upon this point.” is, that as he is discoursing of these things only in passing, he chose rather to send back the Corinthians to the Lord’s permission or prohibition, than to go over everything in detail. For when persons intend to teach anything in short compass, they content themselves with a general statement. Exceptions are reserved for a minuter and more extended and particular discussion.

But as to what he subjoins — not I, but the Lord — he intimates by this correction, that what he teaches here is taken from the law of God. For other things that he taught he had also from the revelation of the Spirit; but he declares that God is the author of this, in respect of its being expressly taken from the law of God. If you inquire as to the particular passage, you will nowhere find it in so many words; but as Moses in the beginning testifies, that the connection between a husband and wife is so sacred, that for the sake of it

a man ought to leave his father and mother. (Genesis 2:24.)

It is easy to gather from this, how inviolable a connection it is. For by right of nature a son is bound to his father and mother, and cannot shake off that yoke. As the connection of marriage is preferred to that bond, much less ought it to be dissolved.

11. But if she depart That this is not to be understood of those who have been put away for adultery, is evident from the punishment that followed in that case; for it was a capital crime even by the Roman laws, and almost by the common law of nations. But as husbands frequently divorced their wives, either because their manners were not congenial, or because their personal appearance did not please them, or because of some offense; 400400     “Pource qu’elles n’estoyent assez belles, ou pour quelque autre despit ou desplaisir;” — “Because they were not handsome enough, or on the ground of some other offense or dislike.” and as wives, too, sometimes deserted their husbands on account of their cruelty, or excessively harsh and dishonorable treatment, he says that marriage is not dissolved by divorces or dissensions of that nature. For it is an agreement that is consecrated by the name of God, which does not stand or fall according to the inclination of men, so as to be made void whenever we may choose. The sum is this: other contracts, as they depend on the mere inclination of men, are in like manner dissolved by that same inclination; but those who are connected by marriage are no longer free, so as to be at liberty, if they change their mind, to break in pieces the pledge, 401401     The phrase used by our Authorfrangant tesseram — (break the pledge) contains an allusion to the custom among the Romans of having, on occasion of a league of hospitality being formed, a tally (tessera) or piece of wood cut into two parts, of which each party kept one. If either of the parties acted inconsistently with the engagement, he was saidconfregisse resseraphto have broken the pledge. See Plaut. Cist. 2. 1:27. — Ed. (as the expression is,) and go each of them elsewhere in quest of a new connection. For if the rights of nature cannot be dissolved, much less can this, which, as we have said already, is preferred before the principal tie of nature.

But as to his commanding the wife, who is separated from her husband, to remain unmarried, he does not mean by this that separation is allowable, nor does he give permission to the wife to live apart from her husband; but if she has been expelled from the house, or has been put away, she must not think that even in that case she is set free from his power; for it is not in the power of a husband to dissolve marriage. He does not therefore give permission here to wives to withdraw, of their own accord, from their husbands, or to live away from their husband’s establishment, as if they were in a state of widowhood; but declares, that even those who are not received by their husbands, continue to be bound, so that they cannot take other husbands.

But what if a wife is wanton, or otherwise incontinent? Would it not be inhuman to refuse her the remedy, when, constantly burning with desire? I answer, that when we are prompted by the infirmity of our flesh, we must have recourse to the remedy; after which it is the Lord’s part to bridle and restrain our affections by his Spirit, though matters should not succeed according to our desire. For if a wife should fall into a protracted illness, the husband would, nevertheless, not be justified in going to seek another wife. In like manner, if a husband should, after marriage, begin to labor under some distemper, it would not be allowable for his wife to change her condition of life. The sum is this — God having prescribed lawful marriage as a remedy for our incontinency, let us make use of it, that we may not, by tempting him, pay the penalty of our rashness. Having discharged this duty, let us hope that he will give us aid should matters go contrary to our expectations.

12. To the rest I say By the rest he means those who are exceptions, so that the law, common to others, is not applicable to them; for an unequal marriage is on a different footing, when married persons differ among themselves in respect of religion; Now this question he solves in two clauses. The first is, that the believing party ought not to withdraw from the unbelieving party, and ought not to seek divorce, unless she is put away. The second is, that if an unbeliever put away his wife on account of religion, a brother or a sister is, by such rejection, freed from the bond of marriage. But why is it that Paul speaks of himself as the author of these regulations, while they appear to be somewhat at variance with what he had, a little before, brought forward, as from the Lord? He does not mean that they are from himself in such a way as not to be derived from the Spirit of God; but, as there was nowhere in the law or in the Prophets any definite or explicit statement on this subject, he anticipates in this way the calumnies of the wicked, in claiming as his own what he was about to state. At the same time, lest all this should be despised as the offspring of man’s brain, we shall find him afterwards declaring, that his statement are not the contrivances of his own understanding. There is, however, nothing inconsistent with what goes before; for as the obligation and sanctity of the marriage engagement depend upon God, what connection can a pious woman any longer maintain with an unbelieving husband, after she has been driven away through hatred of God?

14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified He obviates an objection, which might occasion anxiety to believers. The relationship of marriage is singularly close, so that the wife is the half of the man — so that they two are one flesh — (1 Corinthians 6:16) — so that the husband is the head of the wife; (Ephesians 5:23;) and she is her husband’s partner in everything; hence it seems impossible that a believing husband should live with an ungodly wife, or the converse of this, without being polluted by so close a connection. Paul therefore declares here, that marriage is, nevertheless, sacred and pure, and that we must not be apprehensive of contagion, as if the wife would contaminate the husband. Let us, however, bear in mind, that he speaks here not of contracting marriages, but of maintaining those that have been already contracted; for where the matter under consideration is, whether one should marry an unbelieving wife, or whether one should marry an unbelieving husband, then that exhortation is in point —

Be not yoked with unbelievers, for there is no agreement between Christ and Belial. (2 Corinthians 6:14.)

But he that is already bound has no longer liberty of choice; hence the advice given is different.

While this sanctification is taken in various senses, I refer it simply to marriage, in this sense — It might seem (judging from appearance) as if a believing wife contracted infection from an unbelieving husband, so as to make the connection unlawful; but it is otherwise, for the piety of the one has more effect in sanctifying marriage than the impiety of the other in polluting it. Hence a believer may, with a pure conscience, live with an unbeliever, for in respect of the use and intercourse of the marriage bed, and of life generally, he is sanctified, so as not to infect the believing party with his impurity. Meanwhile this sanctification is of no benefit to the unbelieving party; it only serves thus far, that the believing party is not contaminated by intercourse with him, and marriage itself is not profaned.

But from this a question arises — “If the faith of a husband or wife who is a Christian sanctifies marriage, it follows that all marriages of ungodly persons are impure, and differ nothing from fornication.” I answer, that to the ungodly all things are impure, (Titus 1:15,) because they pollute by their impurity even the best and choicest of God’s creatures. Hence it is that they pollute marriage itself, because they do not acknowledge God as its Author, and therefore they are not capable of true sanctification, and by an evil conscience abuse marriage. It is a mistake, however, to conclude from this that it differs nothing from fornication; for, however impure it is to them, it is nevertheless pure in itself, inasmuch as it is appointed by God, serves to maintain decency among men, and restrains irregular desires; and hence it is for these purposes approved by God, like other parts of political order. We must always, therefore, distinguish between the nature of a thing and the abuse of it.

Else were your children It is an argument taken from the effect — “If your marriage were impure, then the children that are the fruit of it would be impure; but they are holy; hence the marriage also is holy. As, then, the ungodliness of one of the parents does not hinder the children that are born from being holy, so neither does it hinder the marriage from being pure.” Some grammarians explain this passage as referring to a civil sanctity, in respect of the children being reckoned legitimate, but in this respect the condition of unbelievers is in no degree worse. That exposition, therefore, cannot stand. Besides, it is certain that Paul designed here to remove scruples of conscience, lest any one should think (as I have said) that he had contracted defilement. The passage, then, is a remarkable one, and drawn from the depths of theology; for it teaches, that the children of the pious are set apart from others by a sort of exclusive privilege, so as to be reckoned holy in the Church.

But how will this statement correspond with what he teaches elsewhere — that we are all by nature children of wrath; (Ephesians 2:3;) or with the statement of David — Behold I was conceived in sin, etc. (Psalms 51:5.) I answer, that there is a universal propagation of sin and damnation throughout the seed of Adam, and all, therefore, to a man, are included in this curse, whether they are the offspring of believers or of the ungodly; for it is not as regenerated by the Spirit, that believers beget children after the flesh. The natural condition, therefore, of all is alike, so that they are liable equally to sin and to eternal death. As to the Apostle’s assigning here a peculiar privilege to the children of believers, this flows from the blessing of the covenant, by the intervention of which the curse of nature is removed; and those who were by nature unholy are consecrated to God by grace. Hence Paul argues, in his Epistle to the Romans, (Romans 11:16,) that the whole of Abraham’s posterity are holy, because God had made a covenant of life with him — If the root be holy, says he, then the branches are holy also. And God calls all that were descended from Israel his sons’ now that the partition is broken down, the same covenant of salvation that was entered into with the seed of Abraham 402402     “Auec Abraham, et auec la semence;” — “With Abraham and with his seed.” is communicated to us. But if the children of believers are exempted from the common lot of mankind, so as to be set apart to the Lord, why should we keep them back from the sign? If the Lord admits them into the Church by his word, why should we refuse them the sign? In what respects the offspring of the pious are holy, while many of them become degenerate, you will find explained in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the Epistle to the Romans; and I have handled this point there.

15. But if an unbeliever depart. This is the second department of his statement, in which he sets at liberty a believing husband, who is prepared to dwell with an unbelieving wife, but is rejected by her, and in like manner a woman who is, without any fault on her part, repudiated by her husband; for in that case the unbelieving party makes a divorce with God rather than with his or her partner. There is, therefore, in this case a special reason, inasmuch as the first and chief bond is not merely loosed, but even utterly broken through. While some are of opinion that we are at this day situated in a much similar way with Papists, 403403     “Que nous auons auiourd’huy semblable cause de nous departir d’avec les Papistes;” — “That we have at this day similar ground of separation from Papists.” we ought to consider wisely what difference there is between the two cases, that we may not attempt anything rashly.

In peace. Here, too, interpreters differ; for some take it in this way — “We are called in peace: let us therefore avoid all ground and occasion of quarrels.” I take it in a more simple way: “Let us, so far as we can, cultivate peace with all, to which we have been called. We must not, therefore, rashly separate from unbelievers, unless they first make a divorce. God, therefore, has called us in peace to this end, that we might cultivate peace with all, by acting properly towards every one.” This, then, belongs to the former department of his statement — that

believers ought to remain with unbelievers, if they are pleased, etc., (1 Corinthians 7:12 and 13,)

because a desire for divorce is at variance with our profession.

16. For what knowest thou, O woman? Those who are of opinion that this observation is a confirmation of the second department of his statement, expound it thus. “An uncertain hope ought not to detain thee,” etc. But, in my opinion, the exhortation is taken from the advantage to be derived; for it is a great and distinguished blessing if a wife gain (1 Corinthians 9:19) her husband. Now, unbelievers are not in so hopeless a condition but that they may be brought to believe. They are dead, it is true, but God can even raise the dead. So long, therefore, as there remains any hope of doing good, and the pious wife knows not but that she may by her holy conversation (1 Peter 3:1) bring back her husband into the way, 404404     “Au bon chemin;” — “Into the good way.” she ought to try every means before leaving him; for so long as a man’s salvation is doubtful, it becomes us to be prepared rather to hope the best.

As to his saying, however, that a husband may be saved by his wife, the expression, it is true, is not strictly accurate, as he ascribes to man what belongs to God; but there is no absurdity in it. For as God acts efficaciously by his instruments which he makes use of, he does, in a manner, communicate his power to them, or, at least, he connects it with their service in such a manner, that what he does he speaks of as being done by them, and hence, too, he sometimes ascribes to them the honor which is due to himself alone. Let us, however, bear in mind, that we have nothing in our power, except in so far as we are directed by him as instruments.

17. Unless every one, according as God has dispensed his grace, etc. Such is the literal meaning: only I have in my rendering made use of the nominative, 405405     “Our Author refers to the word ἑκαστος, (every one,) which occurs in the first clause of the verse in the dative case, and in the second clause in the accusative, and in both instances rendered by him in the nominative — unusquisque (every one.) — Ed in order that the connection may be more easy and natural. The meaning is: “What, then, is to be done, unless 406406     The particles which occur in the original, ἐι μὴ, (unless,) might in this passage, and in several other instances in the New Testament, (as well as in classical writers,) be rendered only They correspond to the Hebrew particles אם-לא. See Genesis 24:38. — Ed that every one walk according to the grace given to him, and according to his calling? Let every one, therefore, labor for this, and use his endeavor, that he may do good to his neighbors, and, more especially, when he ought to be excited to it by the particular duty of his calling.” He mentions two things — the calling, and the measure of grace These he desires us to look to in deliberating as to this matter; as it ought to be no small stimulus to us to duty, that God condescends to make us ministers of his grace for the salvation of our brethren; while the calling, on the other hand, should hold us, as it were, under God’s yoke, even where an individual feels his situation to be an unpleasant one.

And so in all the Churches. I am of opinion that he added this, with the view of obviating the calumnies of some who boasted that he assumed more authority over the Corinthians than he ventured to do over others. At the same time he might have also another end in view — that this doctrine might have the more weight, when the Corinthians understood that it was already published in all the Churches. For we embrace the more readily what we understand that we have in common with all the pious. The Corinthians, on the other hand, would have felt it hateful to be bound more closely than others.

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