Perspective—The 1880 Evening Light Reformation
Here we continue the subject of human limitations resulting in errors taught by leading brethren in the Evening Light reformation.
From the booklet Marriage and Divorce, by D. S. Warner, we quote:
Must All Unscriptural Marriages Be Dissolved?
Thus far we have plain positive commands and Bible teaching, and therefore may speak with authority. But if we turn to the Word for directions what to say to those who have more than one living companion, we find no clear command given as to what they shall do.
[Daniel S. Warner; Marriage and Divorce]
To the contrary, the Word does give us clear instruction, which we will soon see. But let us examine the teaching further:
But does not the perfect law of the Lord give us some general principle, or some ruling on similar cases from which we can infer the mind of God in this matter? Let us see. We know that where men have done contrary to the word of God ignorantly, after learning the fact, they are required to undo, and make right in all cases where it is possible to do so, when they come to a knowledge of the truth. But can men and women entirely undo the act of marriage? Can they cast off that bond of natural conjugal affection that has united their hearts?
We think not, except it be by some unkind, and unjust conduct by which that love might be killed. And surely God would not require that. Again, if they have brought forth offspring, their union is still more irrevocable. We know that the practice of any sin cannot find pardon without its discontinuance. But knowing that God locates sin in the motives of the heart and will, it is very doubtful that God holds a person as living in actual adultery when married to a second living companion, if that relation was entered into in all good conscience, sincerely supposing he or she had a perfect right to do so.
This last statement directly contradicts the Word of God. “So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” (Romans 7:3) This emphatic statement from the Word of God has nothing to do with motive. It describes a reality and labels it. Adultery is the state of being unlawfully married to another companion while the husband (or wife) is living. Adultery is adultery, regardless of intent or motive.
“For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18) It is not lawful, regardless of motive. It is not lawful—period. Ignorance does not make it lawful. Ignorance will only enable one to escape having the sin imputed to them until light comes. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21) “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.” (John 15:22)
The question is not whether a man and a woman can entirely undo the act of marriage. The question is whether a man and a woman can abide in an unscriptural and unlawful relationship with God’s approval and acceptance. Brother Warner admits, “We know that the practice of any sin cannot find pardon without its discontinuance.” Amen. It must be discontinued. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18) “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:7-9)
I have before me some discussion about the issue of divorce and remarriage in the Evening Light Reformation of 1880:
Below is a short review and link to a booklet published by D. S. Warner (1842-1895) on Marriage and Divorce and a letter by the Church of God Gospel Trumpet (est. 1881) ministers that was issued during a ministers assemble at the General Camp Meeting at Moundsville, WV, June 1901.
These two documents show the position of the Church of God Gospel Trumpet (which became what is known as the Church of God Anderson) on the issue of whether a person needs to leave a marriage which the Bible deems as adultery if they got into that marriage not knowing it was adultery….
“Must They Separate?”—This letter from the ministers assembled in General Camp Meeting at Moundsville, WV, June 1901 concerning the issue of divorce and remarriage that was published in the Gospel Trumpet (est. 1880).
The letter shows a change in position by the ministers of the Church of God Gospel Trumpet from what D. S. Warner taught. In this letter they not only were allowing couples to stay in adulterous marriage but they were forbidding them to leave them and holding that leaving an adulterous marriage was unscriptural. This was a step further than D. S. Warner’s position in his booklet “Marriage and Divorce” where he left it up to the couple whether they stayed together or separated….
“Marriage and Divorce”—In this booklet D. S. Warner taught that there is no Bible command to separate two people who are married when either of the couple had a living spouse from a previous lawful marriage. This was only in the cases where the couple had got into the second marriage, not knowing the Bible taught that second marriages were adultery when you had a living spouse from a previous lawful marriage.
Warner held the position that it was up to the couple to decide if they should stay together and that no one had any Bible basics to require them to separate.
This makes the Church of God Gospel Trumpet an adultery group (a church group that allows members in good standing to marry into or stay in an adulterous marriage) from its beginning of 1880. This raises serious questions about the Church of God Restoration and their claim to be the one true visible church and their attempts to date the restoring of God’s church back to 1880 through the work of D. S. Warner when the group they are claiming was the start of the restoring of the church was an adultery group.
A brother once stated, “We carry within us the seeds of our destruction.” This is very true, and it was just as true of early, primitive Christianity as it is true of recent events and right now. Without constant correction from the Holy Ghost, any of us go astray.
We read in the Bible, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)
This is just as true of what we are writing as it as ever been of anyone else. God has so ordained that the fire will try the soundness of what we teach and believe. The fire will reveal whether the teaching is gold, silver, or precious stones. It will also reveal whether the teaching is wood, hay, or stubble. It means a great deal for what we believe and teach to be revealed by the fire as really true and worthy of human lives being built thereupon. And if the opposite is true, we may still receive mercy and be able to recover from the effects of error—we may still be saved, “yet so as by fire.”
It seems that God permits this testing, this sifting, to refine and purify His people. We tend to think He should go about this more straightforwardly, as we would do. But there is something about free will and the nature of our probation that causes God to hide Himself to a great extent and to mask truth in such a way that it separates the wheat from the tares. This is not done just to make things difficult for us. It is a test of our desire to do right that goes far beyond emotion and intellect.
Therefore we have admonition after admonition to watch, to wait, to pray. As one brother in the New Testament writings put it, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves.” (2 Cor 1:9) “We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Phlippians 3:3) “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) As the poet said,
“Had I the choosing of my pathway,
In blindness I should go astray,
And wander far away in darkness,
Nor reach that land of endless day.”*
All men, even the most spiritual, even the brethren of the New Testament, do not know how to direct their steps and must listen and wait upon the Spirit of God to avoid errors that look perfectly plausible and right to them. Our Lord Himself, “who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:7) Such was the handicap of the flesh, that He did not rely on His divinity or the purity of His heart, but “Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God.” (Hebrews 9:14) In this, our Lord left us an example, a perfect example, of how to lean upon that same Spirit to help us through. Jesus Christ was enabled of the Father by the Spirit to offer a perfect atonement for us, and we can be enabled by Him to fulfil our vastly lesser vocation unto Him. And part of this is that we are allowed of God to make mistakes and to leave apparent openings, that those who will not fully allow God to have His way “wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16) Those who do humbly follow God are enabled to avoid these openings, and with the avoidance comes a peculiar conviction of humility—a great fear of God.
One brother was reading of the doings of brethren back in the 1880 Evening Light Reformation, and his study brought him to despair. “Lord,” he prayed, “if these brethren, with all their light and power with God, came to grief and went astray, what chance is there for me?” He testified that God answered him. “I dealt with every one of those brethren,” was the reply.
Brother Warner was deeply impressed with this thought: If God does not require (indeed, forbids) marriages to be abandoned in which one of the spouses is a believer and the other is not, then why should a marriage which is entered into in good faith, especially one manifesting some evidence of divine blessing, be dissolved. And how can we require such a thing?
In this thought, the brother missed the distinction between lawful and unlawful that applies, regardless of intent, and God allowed him to make that mistake and to publish it. If there is any question remaining in your mind, dear reader, about whether God means what He says and expects us to take it with the utmost seriousness, we would direct you to the story of the son of Moses in Exodus 4:24-26. God had directed Moses to circumcise his children, and Moses had not done so. As Moses and his family traveled to Egypt to deal with Pharoah, God met this uncircumcised son of Moses in an inn. God “sought to kill him,” and Moses knew that the only hope that God would not kill the boy lay in immediately circumcising him. So he had his wife circumcise the boy with “a sharp stone” at that point, although this was highly offensive to her. However, the act of obedience of Moses to God saved the boy’s life.
Reader, if God regards marriage to a second companion while the first is yet alive as adultery, you may be sure that He means what He says, and that He most assuredly brings the penalty for adultery on all who knowingly violate His command (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
It is manifestly human to ask “Why?” “Why, O Lord?” And with this, we find the same question appearing when we read what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-7)
The natural, human reaction to such a revelation as “the mystery of iniquity doth already work” is to get stirred to say, “Over my dead body!” “No way!” “What we have means too much to let such a thing happen!” And to follow up that reaction with great energy and zeal to stamp out, expose, purge out any such tendencies in the camp, so to speak. This is what motivated Peter in Matthew 16:22, and Jesus exposed the roots of his zeal, “Thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
If we reverence the ways of God above our own ways, then we are brought face to face with “only He who now letteth will let.” God actually allowed the seeds of that awful monstrosity, that terrible imposter, the organization of men headed by the man of sin, to work in the midst of His work—“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” And yes, it was working. It was producing something abominable among all who would give it place. It was producing apostasy and compromise, corruption and error, even as Christianity was triumphing over Paganism, even as the martyrs were giving their lives and sealing their testimony with their blood (Revelation 12:11).
It is possible (and there are many who do) to smear Christianity with the excesses of the great whore, confusing one with the other. This is not so far-fetched as may be imagined. A little reading of the church fathers of the first and second centuries is sad indeed. “The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while.” (Isaiah 63:18)
It is not fair to imagine that everyone in the Evening Light Reformation held the views that Brother Warner published in this booklet, Marriage and Divorce. It is accurate to believe that others did hold those views, and it is a historical fact that others went farther than he did. A meeting of fifty ministers in 1901 was by no means the end of it. Look at it today.
But to state that the entire movement of people back then was “an adultery group (a church group that allows members in good standing to marry into or stay in an adulterous marriage) from its beginning of 1880” is not fair. It is not fair to say that, anymore than it is fair to say that the entire early Morning church was in the condition of the Catholic Church from shortly after the apostles were martyred. It would be inaccurate to state that the apostles of the New Testament were a circumcision body and required all Gentile converts to be circumcised. It would also be inaccurate to state that this same body of people required that no one eat meat that had been offered to idols.
The very fact that fifty ministers met together on the subject speaks in itself. And fifty was a small number of the active ministry at the time. But we do not have to estimate percentages and prevailing trends and all that. No matter how many or how few hold to truth in any given age of time, the Word of God is an unbending rod of iron that remains the same. Whether men leave it or fail to get a hold of it, the truth continues, led by Jesus, inspired by the Holy Ghost, and anchored securely in heaven.
If you are inclined to look to men, you will find your faith injured and your vision dimmed by what “He who letteth” is letting. All such looking is sinking sand. If you had lived in the time of the writing of the New Testament, you would have been caught by many of the same errors and mistakes that plagued humanity then, and you would have been sidetracked from what cannot be shaken.
Truly, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) God is not pleased with men following men. He said of the New Covenant—the New Testament: “And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:11) “These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1 John 2:26-27) God knew that man was much prone to hero worship, so He took special care to put in the Bible that “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are.” (James 5:17) It is not that we have no place in helping each other; rather it is that we must not abide in each other—that is, we must live from God, rather than live from each other.
It is a fact that human nature exalts others, “having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.” (Jude 16) Anyone that God uses prominently becomes a focal point of other men’s carnality, both at the time of the man’s pilgrimage and especially later, after the man is gone from earth. The entire story of the brother or sister so used becomes blurred—legendary and fabled—in the eyes of those who so exalt him. This mythical version of the man is used as guidance by those who are led by this, rather than being led by the Holy Ghost. In mercy to us, God causes the fallibility of brethren—genuine, solid brethren—to be manifested to give us pause and to rebuke and correct us in thinking of each other “above that which is written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6) This is what happened with Peter (who is actually exalted to be the first “pope” in the minds of many). God allows us to see him through Galatians 2:11-14. It is a humbling thing to see a man of God, clearly and powerfully used of God, allowed of God to make such a mistake publicly and to be reproved publicly by another man of God who had a history of having persecuted and made havoc of the church of God before he was saved.
About two generations ago, a minister was asked in a young people’s meeting whether two who were engaged to be married should ever kiss before the wedding vows were taken. She wanted to give as comprehensive an answer as possible and to allow all permissible room that was consistent with holy living and spiritually safe. She hesitated and said, “Well, maybe if they were going to be parted for a long time.” She had in a mind a very chaste kiss under such circumstances. But other brethren knew how human nature would take and bend that liberty to the extent that great mischief would result. They had her publicly reverse what she said.
“If we cannot trust Brother Warner, who can we trust?” Such a question should not even be asked. It should be so plain to each of us that we should trust and abide in God only. Let us take to heart what Brother Paul said of the ministry in 1 Corinthians 4:6. Please note that it is possible to think of each other above that which is written. “Well, then, how should we regard each other?” Let us look for God in each other and follow Him, and Him alone. As one said it, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) That is, only to the extent that I follow Christ. In other words, watch for Christ in me and follow Him as He is revealed. Christ is safe wherever He is found—follow Him however He is manifested.
If you are doing right things because some man teaches these right things, you will likely do wrong things if this same teacher teaches wrong things. You are not to do right things because man teaches these things, but because God has written these right things in your heart. If you are not doing them from a righteous principle in your heart, you are not living saintly. Can you not understand this?…
Too many are trying to live what someone else teaches instead of getting the truth in the heart. Did you not know that you can get nothing from heaven except there be a heart conviction by the spirit for the thing desired? You want to be saved because you do not want to go to hell; you want to be healed because you don’t want to be sick; you want your daily bread because you don’t want to go hungry—but there is no heart conviction for the things you are desiring. You pray with your lips, but there is no mighty pleading of the Holy Spirit in you, and you get nothing from heaven to your life. You may think that I am severe. I am telling you truth because I love you.
Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) You are to hear more than the preacher’s voice, but there are those who are hearing no more. You are to listen for the voice of Jesus in the voice of the preacher, and if you cannot hear it, do not follow. You have heaven to gain for yourself. You have your own life to live. Do not look around and compare yourself with someone else. Look to heaven and live to please God. He will tell you how to live. His Spirit will write it in your heart.
No two lambs bleat just alike. Jesus knows each sheep by its own particular bleat. No life will ever be just like yours, because there never was anyone just like you. It takes your own individual life to complete the all-glorious temple of God. Seek the God of heaven to teach your heart how to live. You can live the life God wants you to live, but you cannot live the life of another. There are some variations in every life. It is the law of heaven. Get your eyes off of others. Jesus says, “What is that to thee? follow thou me.” (John 21:22)
When people follow other people instead of God, it does not end well. Many follow blindly, and the words of our Lord come true in their case, “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14) Now this ditch is a terrible affair. It is a chilling fact: when I doubt truth because I trusted someone whom I esteemed a safe guide, and then they are revealed to have feet of clay, then the same doubts I have about the soundness of what I was taught will apply to all aspects of truth. In other words, if I doubt the validity of the 1880 Evening Light Reformation because Brother Warner is revealed to be a fallible human being, then what will I say to the canonization (what is authorized and what is not authorized) of the scriptures? God has a sifting, establishing process to prove out all truth that is manifested to man, and part of this process is to shake off all who do not get a hold of it as they should. The same process settles, strengthens, and establishes those who learn to keep their eyes on God. God is BIGGER than the earthen vessels He uses. God is bigger than the human beings involved. He is bigger than the opposition, too, and knows how to use the enemies of the truth to establish the truth—indeed, some of true Christianity’s greatest testimonies are those given by her foes. Behold! “Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isaiah 28:16)
Once faith begins to unravel, there is no stopping place in the process. To get established again, there must be a thorough going to the bottom—a thorough dealing with all foundational issues—a thorough putting of things completely right. And this takes a consecration to pay the price, to adjust everything and bring into conformity every thought to the obedience of Christ. A single doubt has vast potential for damage—catastrophic and disastrous results that will result in the soul’s eternal undoing. We must get to solid ground. We must get to Christ and His way of thinking and doing. All other is sinking sand. Therefore, it does not matter who writes or speaks. What does matter? Is it according to the Word of God? How does it stand the fire that proves? Will it do to live by and die by? Will it do at the final judgment bar of Christ?
But now we want to go a little farther into this matter, and ask the question: Why does God deal with us in this way? Why does the Almighty allow mistakes of this magnitude to take place? What has God shown us about His way of working that will help us in confronting and making sense of the questions—even the hard questions—that are raised by such statements and publications?
“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God has designed a presentation of truth that defies the orderly, methodical logic of men. The doctrines of truth cannot be reduced to a catechism, a creed, or a body of rules that can be taught and received by those who are not born from above. Any attempt to do so somehow changes the essential nature of truth in people. Somehow that is the result of reversing “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” (John 7:17) One of the abiding evils in the professed Christian world is the indoctrination of people who have not a heart to do His will. The doing of His will (from a regenerated heart) is the necessary requirement to know of the doctrine, and when it is learned any other way, the understanding is slanted incorrectly and inaccurately. The Spirit of God (the Comforter) is given to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). If we are guided by something else, even the very finest of man at his best state, then we will end up with something less than all truth.
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are…. That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29,31)
In the subject which Brother Warner was addressing, what he wrote makes perfect sense from the standpoint of motive. No consideration is given to that standard of truth which is beyond motive. God could have checked him. He could have given the brother misgivings to the extent that we would never have seen it published. We have no reason to believe that the brother’s motive was impure in any way. What if an ex-thief had asked him, “I did not know it was wrong to steal, and I have spent a lifetime of theft. Do I need to make restitution and confess my misdeeds to the law, possibly resulting in imprisonment, etc., especially since I did not know it was wrong?” We feel certain that Brother Warner would have held before such a person the standard of truth that lies beyond motive. We must obey the standard of truth revealed by God regardless of our motive at the outset; we must walk in the light of God as that light is revealed to us.
There is more than Brother Warner involved in this. There are other ministers that would and did make more of this unscriptural liberty than the brother who wrote those words. In due time, the matter would prove out. It would prove what was really right and what was not to those who really trembled at the Word of God. Listen. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (1 Corinthians 3:19) “But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isaiah 28:13) Note that the Word of the Lord itself was their undoing—it snared them, broke them, and took them. What is simply a weakness in outlook in one brother becomes something more serious in another who has a little different heart. And God allows these conditions to exist. “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” What happens when the wise are taken in this way? What is the outcome? “They shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.” (2 Timothy 3:9) Yea, “but wisdom is justified of her children.” (Matthew 11:19) These things leave a trail; they have long-term results; the results of what we believe and the actions we base upon what we believe have offspring and tell a story that becomes clearer through successive generations.
I want to emphasize again that God has designed the involvement of human beings in His work. We have the sublime honor of being used of God as crude earthen vessels. Here is the Word of God on this thought: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) Notice the infinitesimal size of our importance. How great is the importance of the excellency of the power of God which is “not of us”! That is, whatever God does, whatever God says, is everything; and we are right and worthy only as it fits and harmonizes with whatever God wills to do. Our humanity is misleading; it can easily slant our understanding until we are unbalanced, although our motive may be clear and right. Therefore, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) This is just as true of Brother Warner’s thoughts about divorce, adultery, restitution for the broken vows that have resulted in adultery, and recovery from adultery as it is true of everything else. None of us are exempt from the Word of God. The written testimony of the Word of God is given to perfect us and thoroughly furnish us unto all good works in this area, as in all others. All scripture is given for this reason. We needed something to steady us. We need the reproof and the correction. In the end, the question is and will always be: Is it according to the Word of God, or is it not?
But is it possible to live so close to God that we make no mistakes? To answer in the affirmative is the same as saying that one can live so close to God as to no longer need correction and reproof. “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” (Proverbs 6:23) In Hebrews 12:8, we read about chastisement, of which “all are partakers.” Is it possible to live so close to God that we never need any chastisement? The scripture says, “No.” It is noteworthy that God delays His correction in some cases. He does not always correct immediately. Our heart may be set to do right. With David, we may say, “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults…. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12,14) God sees this motive and He sees the error, the secret fault. It is worth considering that Brother Warner wrote that booklet about marriage and divorce shortly before his death. It is fair to say that he may have reconsidered some of what he said if he had lived longer.
God allowed Matthew to insert the clause, “except it be for fornication,” in Matthew 19:9. What a great deal of justification for divorce has been built upon this clause! Yet when rightly divided, the omission of the clause in Mark 10:11 sheds much light on this clause. Matthew was addressing a Jewish audience, whereas Mark was writing to largely non-Jewish recipients. The Jewish audience understood the word fornication as applying to the formal betrothal period preceding marriage (such as with Joseph and Mary), and that such a contract could lawfully be dissolved before marriage. Whereas the non-Jewish audience had no such custom, therefore Mark did not mention it. Thus the infinite wisdom that inspired the scriptures is manifested. Everything is covered, not because the brethren thus used were not human, but because God did not allow mistakes in the preserved record and this is observable and proved over centuries of time in the lives of countless children of God. Thus the infallibility of the inspired scriptures has been established. They are safe to follow. They will do to live by and to die by. But in all other writings, God has allowed men to make mistakes, and these mistakes are also proven by the aftermath.
At this point, the words of Brother Titus, also moved by the Holy Ghost, stand before us with awesome weight and authority. “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine… in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” (Titus 2:7-8) People have seized on the status quo of slavery in the New Testament to justify slavery, yet the brethren of the New Testament scriptures did not uphold it, justify it, or commend it. Nor does the New Testament agitate for its abolishment, nor was its abolition a priority for the Spirit of God at that time in human history. God gave grace for slaves and slave owners to dwell together in humility and unity, yet the entire nature of salvation and the standard of holiness of the New Testament completely undermines and subverts the idea of one man owning another. Yet statements of the New Testament can be seized upon as justification of slavery, while other statements can be seized upon as radical condemnation—not to be tolerated. We feel greatly burdened to repeat to you the warning of the Bible: “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” If you are attempting to wade through these matters without the guidance and comfort of the Holy Ghost, you will find that God has made it a snare unto you. “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Timothy 4:16)