The Church and the Sacraments, Views During the Third Period (750-1517 A.D.), The Seven Sacraments, Matrimony (continued)

In our preceding article we quoted at length from The History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff, setting forth the dreadful decree of the Romish Church, with all its accompanying horrors, which not only forbade the clergy, etc., to be married but also annulled the marriages in existence. On the one hand that Church does not hesitate to champion and defend the sanctity and permanence of the marriage bond, declaring that even adultery cannot break the bond of marriage; on the other hand this same Church did not hesitate to annul and declare void hundreds and thousands of existing marriages, marriages which had occurred before the face of the living God. We now wish to continue our discussion of this seventh sacrament of Rome. 

Before we proceed I would make a comment on what I wrote in my article of Dec. 15, 1959. I refer to the following statement : “But in spite of the fact that the state of marriage is a bond which remains in effect ‘until death doth us part,’ Rome did not hesitate to issue a decree which annulled all marriages which involved the clergy, in order to set forth its doctrine of celibacy.” The reader will notice the words which appear in quotation marks in this quotation. This was done intentionally because the undersigned did not know whether these words also appear in the marriage form as in effect in the Roman Catholic Church. However, we have since learned that these words do appear in the Roman Catholic marriage form. And yet the Romish church did not hesitate to set aside thousands of marriages. The words: “until death doth us part,” evidently did not apply in all these hundreds and thousands of cases. And Rome surely also violated this word of Scripture: “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” Rome, we know, did not hesitate to “put asunder.” 

First, I wish to call attention to Rome’s version of Eph. 5:32 as its translation of this text appears in the decrees of the Council of Trent. This translation as appearing in these decrees reads:”This is a great sacrament, but I speak in Christ and in the Church.” This is not a correct translation. We do not read literally: “but I speak in Christ and in the Church,” but “I speak with respect to Christ and with respect to the Church.” Hence, what we read in Eph. 5:32 is not a sacrament that is in the Church, but something that refers to Christ and to the Church. 

Secondly, it must be very evident that Eph. 5:32 does not speak of a sacrament. It is simply a fact that the word, “sacrament,” does not appear in this Scripture. Now we all know, I am sure, that the word, “sacrament,” appears nowhere in Holy Writ. There are other words, besides the word “sacrament,” which do not appear in Scripture and which are nevertheless used extensively among us, such as: trinity, providence, attributes. The word, “sacrament,” is not a Scriptural expression either. Rome regards the sacraments as means of grace in themselves, apart from the Word, and also that these means of grace are such only as inseparably connected with the clergy. The word which appears in Eph. 5:32, translated by Rome as “sacrament,” is the word: mystery. It is undoubtedly true that the early Church (I mean “early” here as referring to its New Testament infancy) used the word, “mystery,” in connection with the sacraments because of their mysterious and bidden character. However, it is also true that that early Church also used the word, “mystery,” in connection with various doctrines and ordinances of the Church. Now Rome retained this word, “mystery,” in connection with the sacraments, and maintains therefore that Paul is speaking of a sacrament in Eph. 5:32. This, however, is obviously untenable. In the first place, the apostle is not speaking here exclusively of the state of marriage, but he writes that he speaks with reference to Christ and the Church. We read literally, do we not: “This is a great mystery: but I speak with respect to Christ and the Church.” And, secondly, we do not read of a sacrament here but of a mystery. Now the same word also appears in I .Tim. 3:16, where we read: “Great is the mystery of godliness.” Not even Rome would have the boldness to assert that the manifestation of God in the flesh is a sacrament in the ecclesiastical sense and meaning of the term. 

Finally, we would insert here a brief observation in connection with Eph. 5:32Eph. 5:25 and 32 are quoted by Rome in support of its contention that matrimony is a sacrament. These verses read as follows: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it: This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” It is clear that verse 32 is Rome’s sole proof for its contention. And this, we have already observed, is no proof. Fact is, even Roman Catholic authorities will concede that Rome lacks Scriptural proof for its view of the seven sacraments. On the other hand, we understand, Rome does not need any proof from Scripture. Statements from the holy Fathers, the Councils, and the traditions of the universal Church are placed by Rome on a par with Holy Writ. What, then, is the great mystery which the apostle mentions in this text of Eph. 5? The word, “mystery,” refers to that which is hidden, which lies beyond all human life and understanding. Without entering into a detailed discussion of this entire passage, Eph. 5:22-33, we must bear two thoughts in mind. On the one hand, the apostle is speaking here of the wonderful relation between Christ and His Church, of the wonderful love of Christ for and to His Church. Christ loved His Church, the Church did not love Him: Christ sought His Church, the Church did not seek Him. And Christ loved His Church, even to the extent of giving Himself for it into the fearful death of the cross, and this He did in order that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, in order that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. And, on the other hand, the apostle is speaking in these verses in Eph. 5 of the state of marriage, the relation between a man and his wife. And it is also evident that the apostle views these relationships in the light of one another. Hence, what else is this great mystery than exactly this relationship between an earthly marriage on the one hand, and the marriage relationship between Christ and His Church on the other hand? This is surely a great mystery, a “hidden thing,” which could never enter into the heart and mind of man but must needs be revealed to us by the living God. 

THE TIME OF THE REFORMATION 

VIEWS ON THE CHURCH 

Until now we have called attention to the history of doctrine, as in connection with the doctrine of the Church and the Sacraments during the first three periods. We have now come to the time of the Reformation. And the plan to call attention, in the first place, to the history of doctrine as concerning the Church. 

The main principles of the Reformation.

The Reformation is unquestionably the greatest movement, the most important single event in the history of the Church of God in the New Dispensation. It is very clearly not to be identified with or put into the same class as the movement which is known in history as the Renaissance and which occurred especially in the fifteenth century. According to the literal meaning of the word, the Renaissance was a rebirth. Although it is true that men as Wycliff in England and John Huss of Bohemia were imbued with the spirit of the Reformation, they must be regarded as forerunners of this great movement, and the beginning of this tremendous movement is generally regarded as occurring in the year 1517, when Martin Luther nailed the ninety-five theses to the church door at Wittenberg. And the beginning of the Renaissance is placed in the year 1453, when Constantinople was captured by the Turks. The fall of Constantinople led many Greek scholars to flee to the West and seek an asylum in Italy. These movements are not to be identified. The Reformation was surely not the product of the Renaissance although it is undoubtedly true that the kilter served the former even as all things must and always do work for the good of God’s cause in the midst of the world. It is not difficult to understand that the invention of the printing press, for example, also served the spreading of the gospel, although the inventors of this machine did not purpose at all the gospel of the living God. The distinction between them may be stated as follows: the Renaissance was a rebirth purely in the natural sense of the word; the Reformation was a rebirth in the spiritual sense of the word. The Renaissance was a rebirth and revival of natural art and learning; the Reformation was other-worldly, from above, a spiritual awakening within the heart of man, the product of God’s wonderful and irresistible grace. It is true that the Renaissance was in violent conflict with and in opposition to Rome as Roman Catholicism shackled the hearts and minds of men and demanded that men bow in all matters before the Church of Rome. However, it is just as true that this movement also was in violent opposition to and in conflict with the Word of God, and that it exalted Human Reason as the sole Criterion of all doctrine and walk. Rome advocated the Church as the sole Criterion of all doctrine and walk; the Reformation bowed exclusively before the Word of the living God; the Renaissance bowed before Human Reason as the sole determining Criterion of all conduct and walk and doctrine. 

It was the year 1517, and the date was Oct. 31. The day after, Nov. 1, was All Saints’ Day. This was a holy day of the Church; a day when the relics in the churches were solemnly displayed also in the church at Wittenberg. Luther was in violent disagreement with the scandalous traffic in indulgences; the sale of the forgiveness of sins. On Oct. 31 he posted his objections to this nefarious activity in the form of ninety-five theses which he nailed to the church door of Wittenberg. In this way he made public his view about indulgences. This was a common practice in those days. The door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg served as a university bulletin board. In posting these theses Luther invited any doctor of theology to debate with him publicly on the subject of indulgences. This bold act on the part of the German Reformer was surely the spark that ignited the Reformation. It was an act for which the bold and fearless and intrepid German monk had been prepared by the living God. The timid and fearful John Calvin, timid and fearful by nature, was not the man who would have committed this act. The main principles of the Reformation are usually considered to be two, namely the formal and the material principle. Let us look at these two principles, the Lord willing, in our following article.