Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

David Dickson’s

Truth’s Victory Over Error

Chapter XXIIII.

Of Marriage and Divorce.


IS Marriage between one man and one woman?


Is it lawful for a man, to have more than one wife, or for a woman, to have more than one husband at the same time?

No.  Gen. 2.24; Matth. 19.5,6; Prov. 2.16,17

Well then, do not the Anabaptists, and Familists err, who maintain, that it is lawful for a Christian, not only to have more wives at the same time, but as many as he desires?


By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, the having of two wives, or many wives, is contrary to the first institution of Marriage, for the Lord gave to Adam one wife only; Gen. 2.24.  (2) Because, the Law of God forbids expressly Bigamy, or two wives; Lev. 18.18.  (3) Because, the Lord doth find fault sharply, with Polygamy, many wives; Mal. 2.14,15.  (4) Because, Christ says, he that puts away his wife (except in the case of Adultery) and marries another, committeth adultery; Matth. 19.9.  But if it were lawful to have at one time, more wives than one, he should not be guilty of adultery in marrying another, whether he put away the former wife or not.  (5) Because, Bigamy and Polygamy, take away the true peace of a wedded life, as is evident from the example of Jacob; Gen. 30.  And of Elkanah; 1 Sam. 1.6.  (6) Because, the invention of Bigamy, was the device of a wicked man Lamech, Gen. 4.19.

Quest. II. “Is it lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent?”

Yes. Heb. 13.4.  1 Tim. 4.3.  1 Cor. 7.36-38.  Gen. 24.57,58.

Well then, doth not the Popish-Church err, that forbids, and discharges marriage to their Church-men?


By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, marriage is honourable among all men, and the bed undefiled; Heb. 13.4.  (2) Because, the Apostle commands, for avoiding fornication, every man to have his own wife, and every woman to have her own husband; 1 Cor. 7.2.  (3) Because, the Apostle reckons up the forbidding of marriage, among the doctrines of devils, 1 Tim. 4.3.  (4) Because, a Bishop must be the husband of one wife; 1 Tim. 3.2,4; Titus 1.6.  (5) Because, the Apostle reckons over the qualifications which are required for Bishop’s wives; 1 Tim. 3.11.  (6) Because, it can be gathered from Scripture that some of the Apostles, and other Ministers of the Gospel, have been married persons.  Concerning Peter, the matter is evident: Matth. 8.14; Mark 1.30.  And we read that Philip the Evangelist had four daughters, all of them Prophetesses; Acts 21.9.  And says not the Apostle, have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other Apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas; 1 Cor. 9.5.

Quest. III. “Ought marriage to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden in the Word?”


Can incestuous marriages ever be made lawful, by any law of man, or consent of parties, so as these Persons, may live together, as man, and wife?

No.  1 Cor. 5.1.  Amos 2.7.  Mark 6.18.  Lev. 18.24-28.

Well then, doth not the Popish-Church err, that speaks in the decrees of the Council of Trent, after this manner:  If any man affirm, that these degrees only of Consanguinity or Affinity, which are set down in Leviticus, may hinder a contract of Marriage to be made, or may dissolve a marriage contract already made; and that the Church hath not power to dispense with some of these degrees (that is to say to permit incest) or may not make new Laws, and constitute (far) more forbidden degrees, than are expressed in Leviticus, let him be Anathema, and accursed?


By what reasons are they confuted?

Before this be done, take notice, that there are here two heads to be considered.

First, Whether or not we must stand to the forbidden degrees of Consanguinity and Affinity expressed in Leviticus?

Secondly, Whether, to these degrees set down as forbidden in Leviticus, new degrees may be added by the Church of Rome, which will render a marriage incestuous?

To which we answer, that it is not in the power of any creature to dispense (that is to say, to suffer that to be used, which is forbidden by the Law of God) with any of these Laws in Leviticus, which forbid incestuous marriages.

And next, we affirm, neither is it in the power of any creature, to add to these degrees forbidden in Leviticus, any other which are not forbidden,

(1) Because, such a power of dispensing, is not to be found in all the Scripture.  (2) Because, the Lord says expressly, what thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it, Deut. 12.32.  But the Lord himself hath made these Laws, and established these Marches so sure, that no Council, no Pope, no Creature, can either dispense with any of them, or add new ones to them.  See Leviticus 18.  (3) Because, these Laws are of common and perpetual right; and therefore cannot be dispensed with.  For the breach of them is reckoned up, amongst the abominations wherewith the Nations about polluted and defiled the land; Lev. 18.24,25,27.

Quest. IV. “Is it lawful to marry a second wife, after the first is dead?”


Is it lawful after divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead?

Yes.  Matth. 5.31,32.  Rom. 7.2,3.  Matth. 19.9.

Well then, do not the Novatians, the Puritans [Cathari] of old, truly so called: and the Tertullianists err, who absolutely condemned second marriages?


This absurd tenet is confuted from Rom. 7.2,3, and from 1 Cor. 7.39.

Do not likewise the Papists err, who deny that after divorce, second marriages are permitted to Christians?


But here by two distinctions they explain their mind.

First, They distinguish between Cohabitation, the Bed, and the Tie.

The first is, the dwelling together of man and woman, in one family.

The second is, the right of giving, and requiring due benevolence.

The third is that, whereby both are made one: whereby the one cannot but be the other’s while they are both living.

They distinguish next, between persons that are believers, and that are unbelievers.  If then both parties, or one of them be unbelievers, they grant that the marriage is valid, both as to Cohabitation, to the marriage bed; and to the Tie, or Bond.

But if both parties be Christians, they think that the marriage may be dissolved, as to bedding together, and Cohabitation, yet the Bond standeth sure, and abideth unloosable: especially if the marriage be contracted after Baptism: and therefore a second marriage after divorce is unlawful to any of them.

But this is easily confuted.

(1) Because, Christ permitted marriage after divorce; Matth. 5.31,32; Matth. 19.9.  Here Christ forbidding a man to put away his wife, and to marry another, in express words, excepts the case of Fornication.  Therefore he suffers a man to put away his wife in the case of Fornication, and to marry another.  (2) Because the Apostle says, but if the unbelieving depart, let him depart: for a brother, or sister, is not under bondage in such cases; 1 Cor. 7.15.  Therefore, if a brother or sister, when there is such a wilful and obstinate desertion, be not under bondage, then surely the Bond is dissolved: and all remedies being tried in vain, for bringing back the obstinate party, I doubt not, but the innocent party may marry another without blame.  If this be, then much more may the innocent party marry another, when a Divorce is obtained.

Quest. V. “Is nothing but Adultery, or such wilful desertion, as can no way be remedied, by the Church, or Civil Magistrate, a sufficient cause of dissolving the bond of Marriage?”

Nothing.  Matth. 19.8,9.  1 Cor. 7.15.  Matth. 19.6.

Well then, do not the Enthusiasts, and Familists err, who maintain, that it is free to a man, to put away his wife when he pleaseth?


By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, the God of Israel hateth putting away; Mal. 2.16.  (2) Because, whosoever putteth away his wife, except in case of Fornication, he causeth her to commit Adultery; Matth. 5.32.  (3) Because, the Apostle says, art thou bound to a wife, seek not to be loosed; 1 Cor. 7.27.

Do not likewise the Papists err, who maintain that there are other causes of divorce, than Adultery and wilful desertion?


They first tell us, that marriage contracted, but not consummated, may be dissolved; to wit, by a Monastick Vow of a perpetual single life.

They tell us secondly, that infidelity, and heresy are just causes of divorce.  So say the Anabaptists.

And thirdly, they tell us that murder committed upon the hope of getting such a Match, is a sufficient cause of divorce.

That coldness, perpetual impotency, and such like fancies are causes?

By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, Christ says, what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder, Matth. 19.6.  But marriage contracted, and ratified, though not consummated, is made by God: therefore it cannot be dissolved by man.  Niether ought any man once married, to turn a Monk; for a single life is only fit for those, that have the gift of Continency; for God commands them, that have it not, to marry; 1 Cor. 7.9.  (2) Neither can infidelity, or heresy, be a ground of divorce, as is clear from 1 Cor. 7.12,13.  If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman that hath an husband, that believeth not, if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.