Of Marriage and Divorce

Of Marriage and Divorce

Of Marriage, Adultery, and Divorce.

(The Gospel History, Section 117)

And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these words, he departed from Galilee, and came into the borders of Judæa and beyond Jordan: and great multitudes come together unto him again, and followed him; and he healed them there; and as he was wont he taught them again.

And there came unto him Pharisees, tempting him, and asked him, saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said, Have ye not read that he which made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh? So that they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery. The disciples say unto him, If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, but they to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb:and there are eunuchs, which were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, which made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. And in the house the disciples asked him again of this matter. And he said unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her: and if she herself shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committeth adultery.

Of Marriage and Divorce

(The Saviour of the World, Vol VII Book I Poem XV)

He that is perfect bethought Him of a state
Where men and women, still immaculate,
Might dwell together, heart and mind and flesh
Held close, compacted in the golden mesh
Of sweet life shared in common: further blest
By children who their parents’ love confessed:
O happy state, where every joy is doubled,
And each divided grief doth leave the pair untroubled!

But wilful man who increases not his bliss
Soon surfeits of the good connubial kiss:
‘She hath a temper—note her wilful mood!
What skill hath she in dressing to man’s good?
How bear her kinsfolk always to the fore?
Nay, this neglected house I’ll stand no more!’
So the man frets, his own dispute fulfilling
By many instances of wrongs heaped up, unwilling!

Straight goes he to the priests; ‘Pray, set me free!
The woman I so joyful wedded, she,
A thorn in my flesh, the misery of my days!’
Convinced, the priests: the suitor duly pays;
The man goes forth to wed another wife;
But what is that hath vanished from his life?
What sweetness breathed e’en through connubial strife?
No more doth Purity their days pervading
Make sanctuary for the pair, despite all foes invading.

“Behold, I make all new,” saith Christ, the Lord,
And straightway He to primal law restores,
“A man should cleave to his wife through every cause
Of controversy; wrath, domestic flaws:
In nothing saving a dishonoured bed
May he forswear the woman he hath wed!”
A blessed law, whereby man on probation
Let Peace at last emerge through year-long provocation!

These things spake Jesus as He journeyed up
Towards Jerusalem for the feast; and as He went
The people thronged about Him; heard His words
And brought their sick for instant healing. Sore,
And angered watched the Pharisees and priests:
“This Man sways all before Him! What of us?
Now, every beggar will divorce his bride
For any cause or muse; ’tis liberty
Seen to the folk as sweet stuff to a child;
Let’s test Him on the point; if He forbid,
Behold His following disperse as mist,
Vapours of night before the rising sun!”

St. Matthew xix. 1-12;
St. Mark x. 1-12