ne of the most commonly-asked questions I get about Spurgeon is from readers who want to know his position on divorce. In deference to Victorian sensibilities, Spurgeon had little to say on the subject, and when he brought it up, it was usually only to decry the evil effects of divorce in families, in society, and across the generations. He rightly deplored divorce and never encouraged it.
That fact has led some to think he believed divorce was never justifiable and that divorced persons were never permitted to remarry. But that was not his position.
Spurgeon held to the same view on divorce as the Westminster Confession. It's the classic view held by most Reformed theologians. In other words, Spurgeon believed remarriage after divorce is permitted in rare cases. When a divorce occurs because one partner is guilty of egregious marital infidelity, for example, the innocent partner may be permitted to remarry.
Again, Spurgeon abhorred divorce and always pointed out that it is a fruit of sin, but he had compassion on the innocent party in a marriage where one partner was faithful and the other an adulterer. In the exposition accompanying his sermon "The First Beatitude" (vol. 55), Spurgeon said:
31, 32. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto to you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
This time our King quotes and condemns a permissive enactment of the Jewish State. Men were wont to bid their wives "begone," and a hasty word was thought sufficient as an act of divorce. Moses insisted upon "a writing of divorcement," that angry passions might have time to cool and that the separation, if it must come, might be performed with deliberation and legal formality. The requirement of a writing was to a certain degree a check upon an evil habit, which was so engrained in the people that to refuse it altogether would have been useless, and would only have created another crime. The law of Moses went as far as it could practically be enforced; it was because of the hardness of their hearts that divorce was tolerated; it was never approved.
But our Lord is more heroic in his legislation. He forbids divorce except for the one crime of infidelity to the marriage-vow. She who commits adultery does by that act and deed in effect sunder the marriage-bond, and it ought then to be formally recognised by the State as being sundered; but for nothing else should a man be divorced from his wife. Marriage is for life, and cannot be loosed, except by the one great crime which severs its bond, whichever of the two is guilty of it. Our Lord would never have tolerated the wicked laws of certain of the American States, which allow married men and women to separate on the merest pretext. A woman divorced for any cause but adultery, and marrying again, is committing adultery before God, whatever the laws of man may call it. This is very plain and positive; and thus a sanctity is given to marriage which human legislation ought not to violate. Let us not be among those who take up novel ideas of wedlock, and seek to deform the marriage laws under the pretense of reforming them. Our Lord knows better than our modern social reformers. We had better let the laws of God alone, for we shall never discover any better.
Those last three sentences are of course very relevant to the current controversy regarding legal unions between homosexual partners. Spurgeon might never imagined that society would condone such a thing, but he clearly would have been horrified by it.