Marriage with the Unbeliever
34.—That marriage with an unbeliever is lawful. (Doctrines to Be Rejected)
"The passage in 2 Cor., 6:14, 'Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,' does not seem to refer directly to marriage. Indirectly, however, it does. It is an injunction not to be slighted, and indicates a general principle, which it would be well for all the faithful to observe, in all the relations of life. But marriage establishes the most intimate fellowship between the subjects thereof; if, therefore, it would be wrong for a Christian man to yoke himself with an atheistic and blaspheming Jew or Pagan in secular affairs, how much more reprehensible would it be for him to yoke himself with an atheistic, blasphemous, or fashionable and silly woman of the world. This would be an unequal yoking of an intensely immoral character- a touching of the unclean, that would in the judgment, probably, bring upon the believer the reprehension of the Lord Almighty. It would be a yoking very dangerous to experiment upon. Indeed, I doubt if any man truly enlightened, and earnestly de devoted to the truth, could, by any possibility, be induced to subject himself to the defilement and intolerable nuisance of companionship with an ignorant, idolatrous, superstitious, and blasphemous antichristian woman. Such a union could hardly be termed that of Christ and Belial; for, surely, Christ could not be in the man who would permit such a yoke to come upon his neck." (John Thomas, The Christadelphian, 1866, p. 95)
"An unfortunate disagreement on a question of duty at present impairs the unity heretofore existing among the brethren in Edinburgh, and prevents a few from continuing to act on the apostolic injunction of assembling with the rest on the first day. The matter of difference is what is known as 'the marriage question.' The majority hold the conviction that intermarriage with unbelievers is contrary to the law of Christ, as delivered through the apostles, and, therefore, a thing to be reprobated and repudiated by every community professing to be founded on apostolic tradition. The others think it is an inexpedient and unwise thing, but claim perfect liberty of individual action in the matter. The issue is direct and tangible, and unfortunately seems to be mutually taken with a tenacity that forbids the hope of compromise. This is much to be regretted, as they are cordially united in their apprehensions of the truth in its doctrinal aspects. The question which divides them is, doubtless, an important one. Marriage affects every interest of man and woman more closely than any other act or relation of life. It is the closest union that can subsist between two human beings, so close as to justify the ancient, short, well-worn, but pithy, description of the two so united—'one flesh.' It is scarcely conceivable, in view of this, that a man or woman who have surrendered themselves to Christ, could faithfully or harmlessly make themselves one with a stranger, whose tastes, affections, and schemes of life, must necessarily be alien to those of a faithful son or daughter of the Almighty. Can it be the will of God that such a thing should happen? that believer and unbeliever should be so unequally yoked? that Christ and Belial should come into such incongruous alliance? Common sense should determine the question. But if more than common sense is wanted, we have only to quote the exhortations of Paul (1 Cor. 6:15, 16; 2 Cor., 6:14), and especially his limitation of the widow’s liberty, who desires re-marriage—'She is at liberty to be married to whom she will only in the Lord.'—(1 Cor., 7:39.) The infraction of this liberty has been in all times, from the days before the flood (Gen. 6:2), and notably in the history of Israel, a fruitful source of corruption and departure from God. No influence is more potent for good or evil than the power of the sexes upon each other. It is, therefore, reasonable that it should be the subject of divine regulation. The Jews were strictly prohibited from intermarrying with the heathen, from a fear that their hearts would be drawn away after other gods, and there is no less danger of intermarriage drawing aside a son or daughter of the Almighty from their allegiance now. God’s children—those men and women who 'come out from among' the worldly rabble, and give themselves to Christ by the truth, are 'holy to the Lord'—'set apart for himself'—and it, therefore, stands to reason to suppose that God would hold them under a special obligation to be faithful in the matter of marriage, by limiting their alliances to those who are pledged to the service of God. There is no doubt that it is according to apostolic tradition that this kind of faithfulness should be observed, and there is less doubt that it is imperative in every community professing submission to the truth, as apostolically delivered, to put themselves in subjection to apostolic precept and sentiment, on this and every matter, and to demand this subjection on the part of all seeking their fellowship. This is the attitude of the meeting as now constituted, and though it creates a difficulty for the present, it will, undoubtedly, operate healthily in the long run. It remains an open question how those should be dealt with who go beyond Christ’s liberty in the matter. Acknowledgment of offence would condone the act, but an offender extenuating himself on the plea of the legitimacy of intermarriage, puts himself outside of that agreement which is essential to a walking together in the Word of Christ." (Robert Roberts, The Christadelphian, 1866, p. 249)
"We had a large and pleasant tea meeting on Monday, May 18th. Brethren and sisters were present from Bromsgrove, Dudley, Great Bridge, Leamington, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Walsall and London. The subject to which the speeches were directed was the question of whether there ought to be marriage between believers and unbelievers. On this question there was absolute unanimity in the negative sense. We may publish the substance of the remarks made in another part of the Christadelphian." (Robert Roberts, The Christadelphian, 1891, p. 234)
"OUGHT BELIEVERS TO MARRY UNBELIEVERS? THE SUBSTANCE OF SEVERAL SPEECHES
THIS was the subject of several addresses at the tea meeting held in the Temperance Hall, on Whit-Monday, May 18th.—Brother Roberts (who presided) said there was a general impression to the effect that the objection to marriage with the unbeliever was founded on the expression of Paul’s in 1 Cor. 7:39, that widows were at liberty to marry again 'only in the Lord.' It would be found on investigation that this was a mistake. Paul’s expression taken in its special connection was certainly a strong indication; but the objection to mixed marriages stood on a much broader ground. It was involved in the broad principle that the consecration required by Christ at the hands of his people was so complete as to exclude friendship with the present world. It was put negatively as well as positively. 'Ye are not of the world,' 'Come out from among them.' 'The friendship of the world is enmity with God.' The restriction was disagreeable and inconvenient, but could not be evaded by such as were resolved to be obedient. This larger rule covered the question of marriage: for the greater always included the less. An unbeliever was a part of the world, understanding by the 'world' those whose affections were not set on things above, but on things that are upon the earth only. How could a believer of the scriptural type—(one whose affections were set on things above—on God, Christ, their law, the inheritance, &c.—the whole economy of divine things and principles as distinguished from merely natural things)—take the world into the closest of friendship in husband or wife, without being disobedient, and without being polluted?—Coming to definite indications on the subject, the mind of God had in all generations of mankind been expressed adversely to intermarriage with unbelievers. Mention is made of such marriages before the flood. 'The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair: and they took them wives of all they chose.' A deluge of pitiless waters swept away the result. When God afterwards chose a nation for Himself, the law He gave them was very specific on this point: 'Thou shalt not make marriages with them.' The 'reason annexed' was a moral one. 'They will turn away thy heart from following me.' israel disobeyed this law as they disobeyed the other laws. Judgment and captivity was the result. When they came back from Babylon, one of the first things they did was to go astray in this matter and make marriages with the people of the land: in connection with which we have the picture of Ezra casting himself down before God in an agony of shame, confessing their sin and imploring mercy. The severe remedy of putting away the strange wives followed.—Coming on to ecclesial times, we have the same law of separation enjoined. 'Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers.' Though marriage is not mentioned in this command, its application to marriage cannot be denied if it is admitted to apply to any kind of yoking: forit cannot be that the apostolic interdict should apply to unimportant yokings and not apply to an important one. No yoking is so important to man or woman as marriage. A man is more influenced by his wife than by any human being, and a wife by her husband: it is inevitable. 'He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools shall fall.' This applies to all degrees of association, but most powerfully of all to the closest—surely. The Bible view of marriage is that the parties are 'one flesh'—which is according to experience. How then could man or woman, aiming to be holy to God both in body and spirit, safely or innocently make themselves one flesh with another that was not so? The apostolic allusions always contemplated husband and wife as both being 'in the Lord.' Peter advises personal harmony that 'their prayers be not hindered.' There could be no question of this sort if one of them were an unbeliever. He speaks of them as 'heirs together of the grace of life.'—It is urged by some as an objection that Paul in 1 Cor. 7. permits a brother or sister to remain with unbelieving wife or husband. In truth, this permission bears the very opposite significance. It was in answer to a question on the subject, propounded to Paul by the Corinthians in writing (as the first verse shows). The question was, what are believers to do who, becoming enlightened after marriage, find themselves in association with unbelieving wife or husband. Now, had Paul’s teaching admitted of mixed marriages, how could such a question as this have arisen? The very fact that the Corinthians found it necessary to ask Paul’s guidance in such circumstances is a proof that they recognised that the right thing for believers was to be married to believers only. The answer is, they were to remain together if agreeable. But husband or wife being dead, 'they were at liberty to be married to whom they will, only in the Lord' (verse 39.) Thus common sense and Scripture unite in pointing out the right line of action. Some are disposed to get away from Paul’s judgment in the matter on the score that he had 'received no commandment' on the subject, but spoke 'by permission,' and gave his judgment as 'one who had received mercy of the Lord to be faithful.' A little reflection ought to save them from this mistake. Do they think the Lord would have 'permitted' Paul to give a wrong judgment in the case? Paul refers to 'faithfulness' as the inspiring motive of his advice: this shows that his judgment was something more than the expression of an opinion; it was the faithful exercise of a prerogative, the weight of which he seeks to bring to bear in the concluding remark, 'and I think that I have the Spirit of God.' Here is a man steps forward and says, 'I have the spirit of God. God permits me, as a faithful man, to give this judgment on the matter you ask me about.' Is it possible that enlightenment fully awake could hesitate to submit implicitly to such a judgment?—Brother Rollason (Nuneaton) thought Solomon’s case was enough to show the folly of marriage with unbelieving wives. Although he received more wisdom than all men, he did not lead his wives right, but they led him wrong. As Nehemiah said (Neh. 13:26), 'Did not Solomon, King of Israel, sin by these things: yet among many nations was there no king like him who was beloved of his God, and God made him King over all Israel, nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.'—Brother Hands (Nuneaton) thought the command was sufficient to 'Come out from among, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing' (2 Cor. 6:17). An unbelieving man or woman was one not cleansed from sin by the obedience of the truth, and was therefore, scripturally speaking, part of 'the unclean thing' which we were commanded to touch not. It was a great help to have a godly wife or husband; and therefore the command to have only such was good as well as binding.—Brother Mosley (Great Bridge) considered there was guidance on the subject in the very first reference to woman in the Bible: 'It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make an help meet for him.' It was usual to read the words 'help meet' as if they were one—'an helpmeet.' But they were two—an help meet—that is, an help suitable for him. The question then would be, was an unbelieving wife an help suitable for a man striving to do the will of God? On this there could not be two opinions. In all the cases he had known, cases where the law of God had been disregarded, nothing but evil had come of it. One case he had distinctly before his mind in which the brother had seen and confessed the great mistake he had made. As for those who strove to get away from or to weaken, Paul’s advice in the matter, he understood there was a peculiar force in the words of Paul translated, 'and I think I have the Spirit of God.' He was informed that the sense was as if Paul had said 'And I think I ought to know.' They must all allow that Paul, having the guidance of the Spirit, and sent forth by Christ as an instructor of the brethren, was one who ought to know, and that their duty was to submit to his judgment, not forgetting what Christ said concerning the Apostles: 'He that heareth you heareth me.'—Brother Jakeman (Dudley) had known about six cases of disobedience in the matter: and in every one of them the result had been evil. Instead of brethren bringing unbelieving wives into the truth, unbelieving wives had taken brethren away. He thought Christ’s words to the ecclesia at Pergamos had something to do with the matter: 'I have a few things against thee because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel.' It would be found that the stumbling block in question was intermarriage with the Moabites. Balaam could not bring a curse on Israel, but he suggested to Balak that a good way of getting God to curse them was to induce the Israelites to inter-marry with the Moabites. The trap was successful, and many thousand of Israel were slain because of the transgression—the plague being stayed only by the extreme action of Phinehas. The readings of the day had something to do with the question. In 1 Thess. 4:7 Paul told the brethren they were called to holiness: how could a man or woman be holy in making themselves one with a person in a state of unholiness? Is. 8:20, also said if any man spake not according to the law and the testimony, it was because there was no light in them. If this was to be said about speaking, much more about acting.—Brother J. Deakin (Tamworth) thought the question was settled by the answer which must be given to the enquiry of one of the prophets: 'How can two walk together except they be agreed?' A believer and an unbeliever united in marriage must pull in two opposite ways.—Brother W. Deakin (Tamworth) referred to the marriage of the Lamb as bearing on the subject. We were told there was preparation for this marriage: 'The Bride hath made herself ready: to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white.' This was the righteousness of the saints. So that if they would take Christ for example, they would marry only in the Lord.—Brother John Todd (Birmingham), strongly supporting the scriptural view, spoke also against the idea of marrying in hope of the unbelieving partner accepting the truth afterwards. Let the obedience of the truth be first.—Brother J. J. Powell (Acock’s Green) related the particulars of a case in which a sister, under promise of marriage to an unbeliever, had bravely adhered to the right course with the best results afterwards.—Brother C. C. Walker (Birmingham) confirmed the arguments of previous speaker by referring to the case of Eve as illustrating a wife’s influence over her hus band: to Abraham’s solicitude as to Isaac’s marriage as showing the scruples of the father of the faithful: to Abigail and Jezebel as showing the good and bad results of the two kinds of matrimonial alliance: to the marriage law for the mortal priests in the age to come as indicating the old care on the subject, and so on. He said that when the truth came to him, he was unmarried; and he should as soon have thought of committing suicide as of marrying out of Christ. It was indeed a moral suicide for a man to do such a thing. Some thought the stringency of the Bible marriage law was weakened for believers by the fact that Christ had taken the law out of the way: but, as pointed out by another brother, the spirit of the law remained for believers although the letter of it had been nailed to the cross. Paul plainly said (Rom. 8:3–6) that the object of what had been accomplished in Christ was 'that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in those who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.' Thus he said, 'love was the fulfilling of the law,' because love would lead a man to abstain from what the law forbade and to do what the law enjoined. So it might be said that holiness to the Lord would lead a man to refrain from making marriages with those who had no affinity for that state." (Robert Roberts, The Christadelphian, 1891, p. 263)
MARRIAGE is a Divine institution. This proposition is laid down by Moses, and attested by Christ. 'From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh' (Mark 10:6–8). To teach otherwise is to depart from the faith (2 Tim. 4:1–3). Certain ones have forbidden to marry, and have sought to establish their doctrine upon some statements of Paul. But Paul could scarcely be charged with forbidding marriage, when he said of young women—'I will, therefore, that the younger women marry' (1 Tim. 4:14). Of widows — 'She is at liberty to be married to whom she will' (1 Cor. 7:39). And of men and women in general — 'Let marriage be had in honour among all' (Heb. 13:4, r.v.); 'Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband' (1 Cor. 7:2); 'If thou marry thou hast not sinned' (1 Cor. 7:28). It is true that Paul did not forbid celibacy, but encouraged it. He did so, however, with a rider, similar in effect to that given by Christ when discoursing upon the same topic—'All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given' (Matt. 19:11; 1 Cor., 7:9). Paul’s view of marriage was this: It is a privilege for all; expedient for some; compulsory for none. The regulating principle to be the leading of a godly life. The desire of the apostle was that the Lord might be served without distraction. He tells us that, in some cases, this may be best done by remaining single ('It is good for them if they abide even as I'), but adds that it would not be so with all—'Every man hath his proper gift of God' (1 Cor. 7:7). If we can best serve God in the married state, then we are to marry. If we can best serve Him in the single state, then we are to keep single. Whichever state we choose, we are to make a means to an end — serving Christ. According to Paul’s counsel in another place—'Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.'—'This I speak for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction' (1 Cor. 7:35).
If the object of our existence is to yield to the glory of God, and marriage is to be subservient to this object, it is reasonable to assume that our liberty in the matter of marriage has been circumscribed—that we are only permitted to contract marriage with one who would help us to conform to God’s requirements. This conclusion is bourne out by the reason given in Genesis for the creation of Eve. She was created that she might be a help-mate for Adam. Adam was made to be a mental and moral reflection of the Diety; and his companion was intended to help him in this. Had it been otherwise, it would not have been necessary for Eve to have been mentally constituted in the same way as Adam. The dog, the horse, the ox, the camel, can each be styled man’s help, but neither of them could be styled a help-meet for him. Neither could a wife be styled a help-meet for her husband, if she helped him only in temporal matters, and opposed and hindered him in the things which concern his duty towards God. But we are not left to speculate or infer upon this question. God has very plainly instructed His children upon it in all ages.
The value of a true spiritual help-meet was well understood by Abraham, for he made his servant most solemnly swear that he would not take a wife for Isaac from among the Canaanites. That Abraham knew God’s mind upon the subject of marriage also comes out in the conviction that he gave expression to that God would send His angel to prosper the servant’s errand.
Further evidence as to the knowledge possessed in patriarchal times is shown in Esau’s marriages. He took to wife certain daughters of Heth, of whom it is recorded that they were a grief of mind to his parents. Rebekah, fearing lest Jacob should follow Esau’s example, said to Isaac—'I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth. If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me' (Gen. 27:43). Whereupon Isaac called Jacob and charged him saying—'Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.'
Coming down to the time of the law, the passages upon the subject are numerous. Just one or two by way of illustration. With much solemn exhortation, Moses said to the Israelites—'Neither shalt thou make marriages with them (the surrounding nations); thy daughters thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son' (Deut. 7:3). Thus God laid it down that no Israelite was to unite himself to one outside his own nation. There were no exceptions made by Him in favor of aliens whose religion might take a less objectionable form. The line of demarcation was clearly drawn, and was not to be crossed. The reason for prohibiting alien alliances was given in a two-fold way—1. 'They will turn away thy son from following me' (ver. 4)—2. 'Thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God' (ver. 6). God knew that mingling with the heathen would soon break down the barriers which He had erected, and let in a flood of corruption. God’s estimate of alien marriages was that they were the most potential of all influences in drawing away the heart from Himself (Exod. 34:12–16). The faithful among Israel reciprocated God’s mind. Accordingly we find Joshua, in his dying charge, reiterating the command in regard to alien marriages and warning the Israelities of the unhappy consequences that would inevitably accrue from disobedience (Jos. 23:11–16). Ezra also, when the commandment was broken by the Israelites, manifested deep grief, and confessed before God the enormity of the sin.
Marriage under the new testament dispensation is subject to the same conditions as it was under the Mosaic. God’s children are not allowed to marry out of the faith. With the Gentile as with the Jew, the influence of an unbelieving partner is adverse to wholehearted service to God. Separateness from the world cannot exist where alien unions are indulged in. Let us examine the New Testament conditions.
'She is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord' (1 Cor. 7:39). This statement alone is sufficient to prove the unlawfulness of alien marriages. 'Only in the Lord' is equivalent to the phrase 'In Christ,' and can only be applied to those who have rendered an apostolic obedience to truth (Rom. 16:11, 7; Gal. 1:22; 3:27). Paul, truly, is dealing with the question of widows, but to confine the application of his words to widows, would not be exercising common sense or fairness. Paul had already coupled widows and the unmarried together in verse 8, showing that what applies to the one concerning marriage applies to the other also.
The chapter from which the above quotation is made (1 Cor. 7) contains one or two confirmatory points. As we have seen, Paul advised the brethren, when practicable, to remain single, that Christ might be served without distraction. Is it likely that the apostle would have given this extreme counsel, and at the same time have countenanced the disastrousness of alien alliances? Again, if the unlawfulness of alien alliances was not recognised by the early churches, why should the Corinthians have asked Paul whether those who were married to unbelievers should continue to live with them? That the Old Testament teaching was known and endorsed may be gathered from the fewness of the passages which deal with the subject in the apostolic writings. But even if there were not one passage, the general tenor of the New Testament teaching, coupled with the definite teaching of the Old Testament, would be sufficient to indicate our duty.
'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers' (2 Cor. 6:14). The principle here laid down unquestionably applies to marriage. Of all yokings, marriage is the closest and most binding, it is for life. It may be contended that as the yoking Paul refers to is an endorsement of and co-operation in evil, marriage with an alien cannot fall within his prohibition. But this view overlooks the object of marriage, which is not the mere living for self-gratification, but that husband and wife may assist one another in walking, worthy of God, and showing forth His honour and glory. In this God-given object of marriage it is impossible for a believer to be equally yoked with an unbeliever—the two cannot walk harmoniously.
Oneness of mind between husband and wife is an essential element in a true conception of marriage. Oneness of mind is the only aspect of marriage that God employs when using it as a figure. God designates Himself the husband of Israel, because He had chosen them to mentally and morally reflect His name and glory. When Israel failed in this purpose, God disowned them. Christ designates himself the bridegroom in relation to His people. But He will be no bridegroom to those who possess not His mind.
To look now at the general teaching of the New Testament as bearing upon this subject. Can we say that we are in harmony with it in placing ourselves under the marital influence of one who refuses to submit to the law of God? By so marrying are we not voluntarily weighting ourselves, in opposition to the Scripture. 'Lay aside every weight' (Heb. 13:1)? Are we not, in view of the many sad precedents, endangering our salvation, in opposition to the Scripture. 'Make your calling and election sure' (2 Pet. 1:10)? In adopting so unwise a course, are we not failing to manifest fear and trembling in the working out of our salvation, in opposition to the Scripture. 'Work out your salvation with fear and trembling' (Phil. 2:12)?
A brother cannot always be on the alert to his wife’s influence, and when wedded to an alien, instead of receiving help and strength from her, in his weaker moments he is liable to fall a ready prey to the temptations which she is sure to present to pursue a path which is smooth and easy to the flesh. And supposing he marry with the intention of always keeping his partner’s influence at bay, what a prospect of life-long warfare, where peace and harmony should prevail! This reasoning applies with equal force to a sister.
Let us ponder the following obligations which the truth has laid upon us, and ask ourselves whether an alien companion will help us the better to fulfil them:—'Earnestly contend for the faith' (Jude 3); Abound in the work of the Lord (Col. 1:10); 'Redeem the time' (Ephes. 5:16); 'Go on unto perfection' (Heb 6:1); 'Distribute to the neccessity of the saints, and be given to hospitality' (Rom. 13:13). What alien could sympathise with and assist in the uphill contention for the truth? Or take part in the private and continued application to the word which is necessary to the growth of the new man? Or encourage and aid when those grave doctrinal issues arise, which sooner or later are the experience of every ecclesia? What solace could such an one give in connection with the self-sacrifice which the claims and work of the truth require? What interest could an alien be expected to take in spending money for the truth, or showing kindness to its poor and humble followers? In view of the unfavourable reply which must be given to each of these questions, we are not dutiful to Christ, or jealous for His cause, in joining onrselves to an alien.
It must be admitted that the truth’s claims upon a brother are likely to try the temper of an unenlightened woman. And supposing the alien wife retaliates by opposing the husband to the utmost? The truth has no power to check her, inasmuch as she does not acknowledge its authority. The brother is powerless to enfore his will by Scripture means, and he may not enforce it by unscriptural means. Let the thoughtless picture the situation. 'A prudent man forseeth the evil, and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.' What right-minded brother is there who has lived with an unbeliever who would willingly repeat his experience? And could such an one say that his operations in the truth had not been fettered?
There is another serious item to be considered in relation to the question. Married life, in the ordinary course, is blessed with children. How difficult will it be for the children to be trained in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, when one of the parents is an unbeliever. Let the brother who contemplates giving his children an unbeliever for a mother think of the mother’s influence in forming the mind of the children. Let him remember that from early morning until late at night they will be entirely in her hands. And what an experience for the children! One parent teaching one thing, and the other trying to circumvent this by teaching that which is directly opposite. Let the sister who premeditates disobedience also think whether the husband may not one day exercise his authority in forbidding the children to take part in the truth or its concerns. (Robert Roberts, The Christadelphian, 1892, p. 6-7)
Here is a bit of 'learning' through which we get from this as from many other parts of scripture: it is our duty to decline religious co-operation with those who are not in full submission to the way of the Lord. Above all, we ought not in marriage to be 'unequally yolked with the unbeliever.' Any other line of conduct is not only displeasing to the Lord, but most hurtful to those who pursue it. From the days of the flood down to the corruptions of the captivity in the times of Ezra, the scriptural narrative affords many illustrations of the evil that comes from 'the sons of God' marrying 'the daughters of men.' It is our duty to marry 'only in the Lord,' that in the fusion of two lives, equally dedicated to wisdom, there may be mutual help in the way of holiness, and family life based on the fear of the Lord and submission to his word. (Robert Roberts, The Christadelphian, 1894, p. 459)
MARRYING THE UNBELIEVER
A faithful brother, of many years’ standing, writes a letter, from which the following are extracts:—
'You have learned, no doubt, of the division on the question of marriage with the alien; not how we were to deal with the brother or sister marrying the alien, but the question, ‘Do the Scriptures forbid it?’ Circumstances caused a certain brother to change his mind on the subject, and he finally came out and said that ‘Believers were at liberty to marry unbelievers, and that there was no law against it.’ This leaven worked in the ecclesia for about two years at the end of which a brother, formerly a presiding brother, married an alien. Then it turns out that two others in the ecclesia are engaged to aliens. On August 20th, 1896, a brother, in his lecture gave a Scriptural warning against believers marrying unbelievers, to which the four presiding brethren took exception, and declared the subject should never be spoken on again. Then we learned, for the first time, how many were being led astray by the teaching. A few faithful ones decided it best to call a halt, and get the mind of the meeting. We had an ecclesial meeting, and found the four presiding brethren and a score of others were setting the commandment aside. We could not be a party to it. We would advise the kindest t eatment to a brother or sister weak enough to break this commandment, but to be counted among those that defiantly set aside the teaching of Scripture from Genesis to Revelations, we could not do it. So that about half of the ecclesia withdrew from the four presiding brethren and all who endorsed their position. This is the position of the two meetings at present. We have refrained from having anything published, as we hoped a union might be effected, but the breach widens. Much has been made of the letter written by Dr. Thomas in May, 1866. If readers, after perusing that letter, would read page 106 in Elpis Israel, it would prove a good antidote to any doubt that letter might create. Jesus says, ‘As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man.’ They were ‘marrying and giving in marriage.’ Why does he mention marriage? We read that before the flood, the sons of God took them wives of all they choose: that is, they married and were given in marriage, unlawfully, which was the foundation of the apostacy that brought the flood upon the earth.
'I wish you would publish something that would tend to strengthen the faith of weak ones on this subject, and to counteract the wave of disobedience that will surely follow in the wake of what has been published by the Advocate in January and the teaching of prominent brethren here.'
Remarks.—There is a combination of commonsense and Scripture authority on the side of the right view of this question that we have always found decisive with minds susceptible to spiritual impression. The common-sense of the thing is self-manifest, provided the status of a believer is Scripturally recognised. By this status, an obedient believer is one who has given himself or herself to God—in affection, in principle in loyalty, in relation, and in ownership, and in destiny—only waiting for the present to pass away that their true character may be manifest. Such are regarded not only with a loving, but with a jealous eye by God, who is a jealous God, and by Him who has purchased them from themselves for Himself as a peculiar people. He, therefore, not only demands their heart and service and praise, but He objects to their giving these to any other. He asks them to reckon that they do not belong to the people around, and forbids them to be united with them, saying 'What fellowship hath light with darkness? What concord hath Christ with Belial?’ He says to them, 'Ye are not of this world,' 'Be not conformed to this world,' 'The friendship of the world is enmity with God,' 'Be not unequally yoked with the unbeliever.'
Now, a man cannot, and must not in this mortal state go out of the world; but there are various ways of adjusting himself to it while he must be in it. The convenient way, no doubt, is to be friends with it; to unite with it, to recognise no hindrances, and to run with it in all its ways: but how is such a way to be reconciled with the precepts which tell us we are not to be of it: not to make friends with it: not to be yoked with it? The other way is to adjust ourselves to it as Christ adjusted himself to it: while in it, he stood not on its ground: testified of it that the works thereof were evil: and made friends only of those who 'did the will of the Father,' even as the Psalmist had foreshadowed of him: 'I am a companion to all them that love thy righteous precepts.'
Now, if there is a relation of life to which these considerations apply with more force than others, it is to marriage: for in marriage a man gives himself to the perpetual companionship of the woman he marries, and undertakes a perpetual duty of friendship, and subjects himself to her perpetual influence. Now, if this woman is a worlding—a woman who loves the present world, a woman who has no faith in God, no knowledge of His law, no interest in His purpose, and no idea of consecrating her life to God, where is the man? He has violated every principle of the calling to which the Gospel has called him in making himself one with the world in the person of his wife. He has put his will which ought to be untrammelled in the service of God, under mortgage to an enemy of God: for a man cannot act independently of the will of his wife. And he has placed himself in a position of great danger in having taken to his bosom an influence whose tendency will be to continually draw him away from God, even if it do not expressly oppose every endeavour he makes in the direction of godliness. And, then, look at his children: it is his duty to bring them up in subjection to divine principles: how can he do so if their mother is in opposition to those principles? He has sacrificed his power to perform his duty by marrying an unbeliever.
A man must have a poor sense of the obligations associated with the truth who cannot see that such a marriage is a violation of every principle of loyalty to Christ, quite apart from any question of express prohibition. But the express prohibitions are not wanting. It is admitted that the widow of 1 Cor. 7:39, was at liberty to marry again 'only in the Lord.' Is not this enough? Is there one law for widows and another for spinsters? Is there one law for sisters and another for brethren? Why should a widow in particular be restricted in her matrimonial selections and all others at perfect liberty of 'marriage with the alien'? The suggestion is childish. The reason why a widow should marry 'only in the Lord' is a reason why every friend of Christ should do nothing else. 'Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?' 'Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of 'those that are not Christ’s?' 'for two, saith he, shall be one flesh' (1 Cor. 6:15). Though Paul here was arguing against fornication, his remarks have application to union with those who, not being his, belong to the harlot community. 'Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers. . . . Come out from them and be ye separate' (2 Cor. 6:14–19). This is express prohibition enough; for it cannot be maintained that Paul would forbid an unimportant unequal yoking and allow an important one. The commandment of the law on which the interdict is founded is itself eloquent of the meaning: 'Thou shalt not plough (or put in one yoke) a horse and an ass together.' Two creatures of unequal step cannot work advantageously together. The yoke must be for two of a sort. Paul deduces liberty of maintenance for preachers from the command not to muzzle the ox (1 Cor. 9:9). We may, therefore, easily follow him in drawing an interdict of alliance between believer and unbeliever in all matters of fellow-workmanship, and therefore in marriage, which is the highest co-operation of all.
Israel were forbidden to make marriages with the Canaanites (Deut. 7:3): and Bible history is one (18), daughter of brother Wheatly; May 29th, long illustration of the evil effects of disobedience in this matter (Gen. 6:2: Jude 3:6: 1 Kings 11:4: 2 Chron. 11:23: Nehemiah 13:23–27). It is no answer to cite the marriage of Joseph with the daughter of an Egyptian priest: or of Moses with an Ethiopian woman, or any similar case, because we do not know enough of such cases to know whether they were not outside the prohibition by reason of special mental qualification. The unknown should never be placed against the known. What we do know is that marriage with the alien is forbidden: that disobedience has always been disastrous: and that the interdict is based on the foundations of solid common-sense. In such a state of the case, it is disloyalty to trifle with the subject in the way referred to in the foregoing communication. To draw a distinction between God’s law and God’s 'loving advice' is not characteristic of spiritual health. We sympathise utterly with the brethren who refuse to be compromised in the corruption that appears to be setting in.—Ed. (Robert Roberts, The Christadelphian, 1894, p. 459)
Brother Jones also takes occasion to refer to the remarks on marriage with the unbeliever that appeared in the Christadelphian for September last. He says: 'I sympathise with those remarks. Like a gangrene, this evil is eating the spirituality out of many ecclesias. It is a ‘root of bitterness’ that springs up again and again after the offending brother or sister has returned to fellowship on acknowledging their offence. I know it can only be grief to a brother in your position to have those cases of disobedience reported so often. I feel a kind of pity for the Roman Catholic priest, whose mind must be little better than a common cess-pool, by what he hears in the Confession continually. But for the brother or sister who loves Christ and reverences his commands, to hear of such cases so often is distressing, knowing it only means more trouble and sorrow to the ecclesias to which the offenders belong; but, what will the end be? We are often exhorted to ‘present our bodies a living sacrifice,’ but what can such language mean to those who are hankering after ‘strange flesh’ while professing subjection to the law of God?' (The Christadelphian, 1898, p. i)
F. W.—A brother would not be 'justified in engaging himself to a Christian young lady who is looking into the truth,' unless she had actually come to a decision in its favour, and made up her mind to yield the necessary submission in baptism. Your question presupposes that you recognise marriage with the unbeliever to be unlawful. If so, you must recognise promise as equally unlawful, for the promise of a son of God is binding. Wait till she decides. 'Looking into the truth' as a rule leads to its acceptance, but it is not certain, and where would you be if after you had given your promise, she should decide against the truth? In a false and embarrassing position that would create difficulties for yourself and everybody else. (Robert Roberts, The Christadelphian, 1898, p. i)