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Chapter XIV.—Even If the Permission Had Been Given by St. Paul in the Sense Which the Psychics Allege, It Was Merely Like the Mosaic Permission of Divorce—A Condescension to Human Hard-Heartedness.

Now, if the apostle had even absolutely permitted marriage when one’s partner has been lost subsequently to (conversion to) the faith, he would have done (it), just as (he did) the other (actions) which he did adversely to the (strict) letter of his own rule, to suit the circumstances of the times:  circumcising Timotheus673673    Acts xvi. 3; see Gal. iii. iv. on account of “supposititious false brethren;” and leading certain “shaven men” into the temple674674    Comp. Acts xxi. 20–26. on account of the observant watchfulness of the Jews—he who chastises the Galatians when they desire to live in (observance of) the law.675675    See Gal. iii. iv.  But so did circumstances require him to “become all things to all, in order to gain all;”676676    See 1 Cor. ix. 22. “travailing in birth with them until Christ should be formed in them;”677677    Gal. iv. 19. and “cherishing, as it were a nurse,” the little ones of faith, by teaching them some things “by way of indulgence, not by way of command”—for it is one thing to indulge, another to bid—permitting a temporary licence of re-marriage on account of the “weakness of the flesh,” just as Moses of divorcing on account of “the hardness of the heart.”

And here, accordingly, we will render the supplement of this (his) meaning.  For if Christ abrogated what Moses enjoined, because “from the beginning (it) was not so;” and (if)—this being so—Christ will not therefore be reputed to have come from some other Power; why may not the Paraclete, too, have abrogated an indulgence which Paul granted—because second marriage withal “was not from the beginning”—without deserving on this account to be regarded with suspicion, as if he were an alien spirit, provided only that the superinduction be worthy of God and of Christ?  If it was worthy of God and of Christ to check “hard-heartedness” when the time (for its indulgence) was 71fully expired, why should it not be more worthy both of God and of Christ to shake off “infirmity of the flesh” when “the time” is already more “wound up?”  If it is just that marriage be not severed, it is, of course, honourable too that it be not iterated.  In short, in the estimation of the world, each is accounted a mark of good discipline:  one under the name of concord; one, of modesty.  “Hardness of heart” reigned till Christ’s time; let “infirmity of the flesh” (be content to) have reigned till the time of the Paraclete.  The New Law abrogated divorce—it had (somewhat) to abrogate; the New Prophecy (abrogates) second marriage, (which is) no less a divorce of the former (marriage).  But the “hardness of heart” yielded to Christ more readily than the “infirmity of the flesh.”  The latter claims Paul in its own support more than the former Moses; if, indeed, it is claiming him in its support when it catches at his indulgence, (but) refuses his prescript—eluding his more deliberate opinions and his constant “wills,” not suffering us to render to the apostle the (obedience) which he “prefers.”

And how long will this most shameless “infirmity” persevere in waging a war of extermination against the “better things?”  The time for its indulgence was (the interval) until the Paraclete began His operations, to whose coming were deferred by the Lord (the things) which in His day “could not be endured;” which it is now no longer competent for any one to be unable to endure, seeing that He through whom the power of enduring is granted is not wanting.  How long shall we allege “the flesh,” because the Lord said, “the flesh is weak?”678678    Matt. xxvi. 41.  But He has withal premised that “the Spirit is prompt,” in order that the Spirit may vanquish the flesh—that the weak may yield to the stronger.  For again He says, “Let him who is able to receive, receive (it);”679679    Matt. xix. 12. that is, let him who is not able go his way.  That rich man did go his way who had not “received” the precept of dividing his substance to the needy, and was abandoned by the Lord to his own opinion.680680    See Matt. xix. 16–26; Mark x. 17–27; Luke xviii. 18–27.  Nor will “harshness” be on this account imputed to Christ, the ground of the vicious action of each individual free-will.  “Behold,” saith He, “I have set before thee good and evil.”681681    See Deut. xxx. 1, 15, 19, and xi. 26.  See, too, de Ex. Cast., c. ii.  Choose that which is good:  if you cannot, because you will not—for that you can if you will He has shown, because He has proposed each to your free-will—you ought to depart from Him whose will you do not.

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