Matt. 5:31,32 (Part 4)

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Now that the Scripture counsels marriage, and allows no release from the union, is expressly contained in the law, “Do not put away your wife, except for the cause of fornication;” and it regards as fornication, the marriage of those separated while the other is alive. Not to deck and adorn herself beyond what is becoming, renders a wife free of suspicion, while she devotes herself diligently to prayers and supplications; avoiding frequent departures from the house, and shutting herself up as far as possible from the view of all not related to her, and deeming care of the home as more valuable than gossiping.

“He that takes a woman that has been put away,” it is said, “commits adultery; and if one puts away his wife, he makes her an adulteress,” that is, compels her to commit adultery. And not only is he who puts her away guilty of this, but he who takes her, by giving to the woman the opportunity of sinning; for had he not taken her, she would return to her husband. The Stromata, 2.379.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Our view is that we welcome as blessed the state of abstinence from marriage in those to whom this has been granted by God. We admire monogamy and the high standing of single marriage, holding that we ought to share suffering with another and “bear one another's burdens,” lest anyone who thinks he stands securely should himself fall. It is of second marriage that the apostle says, “If you burn, marry.” On Marriage.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Is it not possible to remain continent even in the married state and not to seek to “put asunder what God has joined together.” For such is the teaching of those who divide the yoke of marriage, by reason of whom the Christian name is blasphemed. If it is the view of these people who themselves owe their existence to sexual relations that such relations are impure, must not they be impure? But I hold that even the seed of the sanctified is holy.

In us it is not only the spirit which ought to be sanctified, but also our behavior, manner of life, and our body. What does the apostle Paul mean when he says that the wife is sanctified by the husband and the husband by the wife? And what is the meaning of the Lord's words to those who asked concerning divorce whether it is lawful to put away one's wife as Moses commanded? “Because of the hardness of your hearts,” he says, “Moses wrote this; but have you not read that God said to the first man, You two shall be one flesh? Therefore he who divorces his wife except for fornication makes her an adulteress.” On Marriage.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Concerning the words, “Not all can receive this saying. There are some eunuchs who were born so, and some who were made eunuchs by men, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven; let him receive it who can receive it,” they do not realize the context. After his word about divorce some asked him whether, if that is the position in relation to woman, it is better not to marry; and it was then that the Lord said: “Not all can receive this saying, but those to whom it is granted.” What the questioners wanted to know was whether, when a man's wife has been condemned for fornication, it is allowable for him to marry another. . . .

Therefore there is nothing meritorious about abstinence from marriage unless it arises from love to God. At any rate the blessed Paul says of those who revile marriage: “In the last times some shall depart from the faith, turning to spirits of error and doctrines inspired by demons, forbidding to marry and commanding abstinence from food.” And again he says: “Let no one disqualify you by demanding self-imposed ascetic practices and severe treatment of the body.” And the same writer has this also: “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be separated from her? Are you free from any wife? Do not seek to find one.” And again: “Let every man have his own wife lest Satan tempt you.” On Marriage.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: But it is the same man and Lord who makes the old new, by no longer allowing several marriages (for at that time God required it when men had to increase and multiply), and by teaching single marriage for the sake of begetting children and looking after domestic affairs, for which purpose woman was given as a “helpmeet.” And if from sympathy the apostle allows a man a second marriage because he cannot control himself and burns with passion, he also does not commit any sin according to the Old Testament (for it was not forbidden by the law), but he does not fulfill the heightened perfection of the gospel ethic. But he gains heavenly glory for himself if he remains as he is, and keeps undefiled the marriage yoke broken by death, and willingly accepts God's purpose for him, by which he has become free from distraction for the service of the Lord. . . .

How then can marriage be a state only intended for ancient times and an invention of the law, and marriage on Christian principles of a different nature, if we hold that the Old and the New Testaments proclaim the same God? “For what God has joined together no man may ever put asunder” for any good reason; if the Father commanded this, so much the more also will the Son keep it. On Marriage.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: But to put to shame and to discourage those inclined to contract a second marriage the apostle appropriately uses strong language and says at once: “Every other sin is external to the body, but he who commits fornication sins against his own body.”

But if anyone dares to call marriage fornication, he again falls into blasphemy against the law and the Lord. For as covetousness is called fornication because it is opposed to contentment with what one possesses, and as idolatry is an abandonment of the one God to embrace many gods, so fornication is apostasy from single marriage to several. On Marriage.

TERTULLIAN: Now, if any limitation is set to marrying—such as the spiritual rule, which prescribes but one marriage under the Christian obedience, maintained by the authority of the Paraclete—it will be His prerogative to fix the limit Who had once been diffuse in His permission; His to gather, Who once scattered; His to cut down the tree, Who planted it; His to reap the harvest, Who sowed the seed; His to declare, “It remains that they who have wives be as though they had none,” Who once said, “Be fruitful, and multiply;” His the end to Whom belonged the beginning. Nevertheless, the tree is not cut down as if it deserved blame; nor is the corn reaped, as if it were to be condemned,—but simply because their time is come. So likewise the state of matrimony does not require the hook and scythe of sanctity, as if it were evil; but as being ripe for its discharge, and in readiness for that sanctity which will in the long run bring it a plenteous crop by its reaping. For this leads me to remark of Marcion’s god, that in reproaching marriage as an evil and unchaste thing, he is really prejudicing the cause of that very sanctity which he seems to serve. Against Marcion, 3.294.

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