The existence of the divorce evil, particularly in our “democratic” country (democratic also in a spiritual sense of the word), need not be established. It is an indisputable fact. In some circles divorce is almost as common as marriage. And it can be obtained on almost any conceivable ground. This fact as such need not be discussed at length in this brief article. Reno, Nevada, is fully as notorious as are Crown Point or Valparaiso in Indiana.
However, we would emphasize the evil inseparably connected with this divorce situation. Firstly, what is principally the divorce? What constitutes its sin? Before we discuss any evil results let us discuss the evil itself. Principally, the divorce is a godless denial of the divine institution of marriage. A holy marriage purposes the glory of God and the development of His covenant. It acknowledges the Scriptural truth that man may not part asunder what God hath joined together. This Scriptural axiom must be understood not only in the sense that the Lord brings a young man and a young lady together. It means more. The marriage between two persons (we refer now to a holy marriage) is a work of God. The Lord hath joined them. Fact is, a happily married couple are adapted to each other. This adaptation is not only physical but also psychical (as pertaining to the soul). Not any Christian young man can be the husband of any Christian young lady. The mutual affection between them is rooted in a wonderful adaptation to each other. And this adaptation is a matter of divine creation. Hence, it is true of a God-fearing marriage that the Lord hath joined together. A true marriage must and shall certainly acknowledge this fact. Besides, God hath created man, male and female, with the obvious purpose of the bringing forth of children. And it is surely the calling of matrimony to bring forth children and instruct them in the fear of God’s name. The development of God’s covenant must therefore be uppermost in our hearts and minds. The divorce is certainly a repudiation of this divine institution of marriage. It simply denies its divine character and purpose. It recognizes marriage merely as a means unto the satisfying of carnal lusts and desires. Man would use the Lord’s own institution for his own sake. This is, of course, the evil of divorce.
Secondly, the immediate result of the divorce is the disruption of the family unit and, inseparably connected with this, the crushing of all sense of authority and responsibility as far as the children are concerned. The casting adrift of the children by either one or both parents will always remain one of the tragedies of any divorce action. And this must invariably lead to the destruction of all sense of authority and responsibility. Fact is, the parent is the divinely appointed person to exercise authority over the child. This lies in the very nature of the case. No one knows the child better than its parent. Besides, we receive our children from God. Hence, the root of all authority is the home, and the fifth commandment which deals with authority is addressed to the children and, by implication, also to the parents. If then the parent shuns this calling, engages in a divorce action, thereby repudiates his responsibility to govern his child, the inexorable result must be the disregard and ridicule of all authority and obedience.
Thirdly, inasmuch as the divorce is the wicked denial of the divine institution of marriage, it must wreak havoc with mankind. Of course, also from the spiritual viewpoint of the development of God’s covenant, the divorce is disastrous, because in its sphere the development of God’s covenant does not take place. The Lord does not exercise covenant-fellowship with an adulterous generation. But, it is also disastrous for mankind and society in general. Adultery and fornication, the uncontrolled satisfying of the lusts and passions of the flesh work destruction also upon the body. This needs no further elucidation. And who will foresee and determine the havoc which it must wreak on society!
Already the attempt has been made to nullify even the necessity of obtaining a divorce. We undoubtedly remember that not long ago companionship marriages were advocated, permitting one man to have three “wives,” finally choosing that one who most appealed to him. Why then not discard the entire institution of matrimony? What now takes place secretly and is regarded as transgression must take place openly, before every eye, without being viewed as transgression of the law. The inevitable consequence of this will be that marriage as such will no longer exist. Government then shall take all children under its protection. And the result must be the extinction of the independent family unit and that men and women will exist as animals, doing things which are unheard of even in the animal world. Abolish the restraint which the divine law of matrimony now places upon the passions and lusts of men, and they will reveal themselves in all their unbounded passion for the lusts of the flesh. This was true, ages ago, in the Roman empire. We need but be reminded of the apostle’s words in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans. And is it not true in Germany today that men and women are urged to bring forth children without regard for the institution of marriage, and that the government assumes control of their training and instruction? Disregard and abolish also this law of God, and who is able to describe the chaos which must inevitably follow?
What may we safely assume to be the root of this evil of the divorce? What is the spiritual principle which dictates this unbridled godless course of action? We should bear in mind that two streams of thought are in violent conflict here with each other. Oh the one hand we recognize the maintaining of the Scriptural principle that what God hath joined together man may not part asunder. On the other hand we have those who advocate free love, who would view marriage as a contract which can be made or broken as man himself sees fit to do so. It is well that we understand this correctly. We perceive here the spirit of the gospel over against the spirit of revolution. And when we speak of revolution we refer to revolution in the profound, fundamental sense of the word as over against God. On the one hand we have the people of the living God, who acknowledge the sovereignty of Jehovah also as it determines the relationship of marriage. They profess the principle that the Lord hath joined together, that God joins man and wife together for the purpose of the glory of His name and the development of His covenant, and who would therefore subject their natural adaptation to each other to the service of God and the glory of His name and covenant. This undoubtedly characterizes a marriage which is concluded in the fear of God’s name, irrespective of that other Scriptural truth that our marriage must serve as a picture of God’s covenant relationship with His people in Christ Jesus. It would maintain the cardinal truth that of God and through God and unto God are all things, that we are creatures and therefore servants whose sole calling it is to be witnesses and the party of the living God. Directly opposed to this principle is the law of sin. Sin is fundamentally rebellion against Jehovah. It is man’s willful refusal to acknowledge any other authority and sovereignty than his own. It refuses to be servant and would be lord. It refuses to be engaged exclusively in the obedience of the will of God, and purposes to seek self and the satisfying of his own carnal lusts and desires. And the natural man applies this godless principle also to the relationship of matrimony. He rejects that God has joined together. He would have all things revolve about the free-will of man. He will take as his wife whom he pleases. He will marry her exclusively for his own sake, merely to satisfy himself. And the result will be that, having married her for his own sake, he imagines it to be his privilege also to reject her if such action be convenient for him. His own will, we note, is for him the sole determining factor. This is the root, the basic principle of the divorce evil.
However, we would also point to evils which are present in the church of God, and which in principle are not to be distinguished from this evil so common in the midst of the world. To be sure, the divorce as such cannot be regarded as a threatening danger within our own churches. The principle that man may not part asunder what God has joined together is surely observed and maintained among us. Yet it behooves us, in the midst of the adulterous world wherein we have a name and place, not to adopt an attitude of smug complacency and self-satisfaction. Let us who are of the day walk as children of the light also in connection with this phase of our Christian calling. Besides, there are evils to which also we are continually exposed and against which we must ever be on our guard. The godless principle that marriage is concluded not for the sake of God’s name and His covenant but to satisfy ourselves in some form or another is, I fear, in greater or smaller degree, also present in the church of God. And, surely, we are not immune to it.
There is, for example, the danger which our present national defense program presents to us. It cannot be amiss at this point to be reminded of the statement of a certain judge in our land who predicted that our present mobilization would result in a tremendous increase in divorces. Young men decide to marry with the avowed intention of escaping the draft. Their marriage was therefore hasty and superficial. The result will be that they will rid themselves of this bond as hastily and as superficially as it was concluded. Let us not fall into the same error. If it be the will of God that we be drafted, let us believe that God will also keep us in camp. Never may we use the Lord’s own institution merely as a means unto our own end.
There is still another evil to which I would call attention, which, I believe, follows in principle the pattern of the world. It will happen that young married couples place their own earthly needs and luxuries above the development of God’s covenant. Covenant young men and young women enter then into matrimony. The understanding has been reached, however, that they shall not have children for some time. It is advisable, so they conclude, that they first “get ahead” in this world. The young lady as well as the young man continue to work. They have no intention of setting up a home. They draw up a list of the things they presume to need and must first obtain. Quickly, however, the “needs” on this list are replaced by luxuries. Furniture and a Frigidaire should be secured first—of course, the newest and most modern. Then they set their hearts on a car and possibly a home. And in the meantime the cause of God’s covenant and church must wait. Children involve us in expense. Also in a decided curtailment of our own personal likes and enjoyments. Would it not be advisable and spiritually more honest to remain single rather than enter into the state of marriage before God and then proceed to nullify its true significance? Doing so, it surely cannot be said of us that we preserve the sanctity and purpose of the marriage vow, that we consider the development of God’s covenant our solemn obligation before God. Are we then not drifting along with the tide which is continually growing stronger round about us? And should we not rather struggle against this ever increasing menace and not become entangled in the divorce evil to which we all in principle are exposed?
How can we successfully combat this evil? Firstly, we can be preserved from this menace only by the blood and Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sanctity of the marriage bond can dominate our heart and life only through grace. Only then, when we have learned to sacrifice ourselves, to view ourselves as servants of God, have therefore learned to bow the knee before the living God out of whom and through whom and unto Whom are all things, is it possible to fight against our own lusts and desires and subject them to Him whom to know is life everlasting. And, in connection with this, we must bear in mind that the strength to continue in this struggle is ours only through fervent prayer. From God alone must be our expectation.
Secondly, let us apply this true principle of the marriage bond to our own family life. This implies that we shall bring up our children in the fear of God’s name, train them in an atmosphere where the spiritual development of God’s covenant is predominant. And, although we cannot make one child of God by instructing him in the knowledge of the Lord, we have His promise that He will operate with His Spirit where His name is reverenced. The Lord will then establish His covenant with our children. And instructing them in these things, in the measure of course that they come to years of discretion, also they will view these matters as through the grace of God and assume the marriage vow in humble trust and dependence upon the living God. Thus our covenant seed will be preserved, God’s covenant will be established, and God’s name will be glorified.