on 1-corinthians 7 :14
The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife - Or rather, is to be reputed as sanctified on account of his wife; she being a Christian woman, and he, though a heathen, being by marriage one flesh with her: her sanctity, as far as it refers to outward things, may be considered as imputed to him so as to render their connection not unlawful. The case is the same when the wife is a heathen and the husband a Christian. The word sanctification here is to be applied much more to the Christian state than to any moral change in the persons; for ἁγιοι, saints, is a common term for Christians - those who were baptized into the faith of Christ; and as its corresponding term קדושים kedoshim signified all the Jews who were in the covenant of God by circumcision, the heathens in question were considered to be in this holy state by means of their connection with those who were by their Christian profession saints.
Else were your children unclean - If this kind of relative sanctification were not allowed, the children of these persons could not be received into the Christian Church, nor enjoy any rights, or privileges as Christians; but the Church of God never scrupled to admit such children as members, just as well as she did those who had sprung from parents both of whom were Christians.
The Jews considered a child as born out of holiness whose parents were not proselytes at the time of the birth, though afterwards they became proselytes. On the other hand, they considered the children of heathens born in holiness, provided the parents became proselytes before the birth. All the children of the heathens were reputed unclean by the Jews; and all their own children holy. - See Dr. Lightfoot. This shows clearly what the apostle's meaning is.
If we consider the apostle as speaking of the children of heathens, we shall get a remarkable comment on this passage from Tertullian, who, in his treatise De Carne Christi, chaps. 37, 39, gives us a melancholy account of the height to which superstition and idolatry had arrived in his time among the Romans. "A child," says he, "from its very conception, was dedicated to the idols and demons they worshipped. While pregnant, the mother had her body swathed round with bandages, prepared with idolatrous rites. The embryo they conceived to be under the inspection of the goddess Alemona, who nourished it in the womb. Nona and Decima took care that it should be born in the ninth or tenth month. Partula adjusted every thing relative to the labor; and Lucina ushered it into the light. During the week preceding the birth a table was spread for Juno; and on the last day certain persons were called together to mark the moment on which the Parcae, or Fates, had fixed its destiny. The first step the child set on the earth was consecrated to the goddess Statina; and, finally, some of the hair was cut off, or the whole head shaven, and the hair offered to some god or goddess through some public or private motive of devotion." He adds that "no child among the heathens was born in a state of purity; and it is not to be wondered at," says he, "that demons possess them from their youth, seeing they were thus early dedicated to their service." In reference to this, he thinks, St. Paul speaks in the verse before us: The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife - else were your children unclean; but now are they holy; i.e. "As the parents were converted to the Christian faith, the child comes into the world without these impure and unhallowed rites; and is from its infancy consecrated to the true God."
on 1-corinthians 7 :14
For the unbelieving husband - The husband that is not a Christian; who still remains a pagan, or an impenitent man. The apostle here states reasons why a separation should not take place when there was a difference of religion between the husband and the wife. The first is, that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife. And the object of this statement seems to be, to meet an objection which might exist in the mind, and which might, perhaps, be urged by some. "Shall I not be polluted by such a connection? Shall I not be defiled, in the eye of God, by living in a close union with a pagan, a sinner, an enemy of God, and an opposer of the gospel?" This objection was natural, and is, doubtless, often felt. To this the apostle replies, "No; the contrary may he true. The connection produces a species of sanctification, or diffuses a kind of holiness over the unbelieving party by the believing party, so far as to render their children holy, and therefore it is improper to seek for a separation."
Is sanctified - ἡγίασται hēgiastai. There has been a great variety of opinions in regard to the sense of this word. It does not comport with my design to state these opinions. The usual meaning of the word is, to make holy; to set apart to a sacred use; to consecrate, etc; see the note at John 17:17. But the expression cannot mean here:
(1) That the unbelieving husband would become holy, or be a Christian, "by the mere fact" of a connection "with" a Christian, for this would be to do violence to the words, and would be contrary to facts everywhere; nor,
(2) That the unbelieving husband had been sanctified by the Christian wife (Whitby), for this would not be true in all cases; nor,
(3) That the unbelieving husband would gradually become more favorably inclined to Christianity, by observing its effects on the wife (according to Semler); for, though this might be true, yet the apostle was speaking of something then, and which rendered their children at that time holy; nor,
(4) That the unbelieving husband might more easily be sanctified, or become a Christian, by being connected with a Christian wife (according to Rosenmuller and Schleusner), because he is speaking of something in the connection which made the children holy; and because the word ἁγιάζω hagiazō is not used in this sense elsewhere. But it is a good rule of interpretation, that the words which are used in any place are to be limited in their signification by the connection; and all that we are required to understand here is, that the unbelieving husband was sanctified "in regard to the subject under discussion;" that is, in regard to the question whether it was proper for them to live together, or whether they should be separated or not. And the sense may be, "They are by the marriage tie one flesh. They are indissolubly united by the ordinance of God. As they are one by his appointment, as they have received his sanction to the marriage union, and as one of them is holy, so the other is to be regarded as sanctified, or made so holy by the divine sanction to the union, that it is proper for them to live together in the marriage relation." And in proof of this, Paul says if it were not so, if the connection was to he regarded as impure and abominable, then their children were to be esteemed as illegitimate and unclean. But now they were not so regarded, and could not so be; and hence, it followed that they might lawfully continue together. So Calvin, Beza, and Doddridge interpret the expression.
Else were your children unclean - (ἀκάθαρτα akatharta). Impure; the opposite of what is meant by holy. Here observe:
(1) That this is a reason why the parents, one of whom was a Christian and the other not, should not be separated; and,
(2) The reason is founded on the fact, that if they were separated, the offspring of such a union must be regarded as illegitimate, or unholy; and,
(3) It must be improper to separate in such a way, and for such a reason, because even they did not believe, and could not believe, that their children were defiled, and polluted, and subject to the shame and disgrace attending illegitimate children.
This passage has often been interpreted, and is often adduced to prove that children are "federally holy," and that they are entitled to the privilege of baptism on the ground of the faith of one of the parents. But against this interpretation there are insuperable objections:
(1) The phrase "federally holy" is unintelligible, and conveys no idea to the great mass of people. It occurs no where in the Scriptures, and what can be meant by it?
(2) it does not accord with the scope and design of the argument. There is not one word about baptism here; not one allusion to it; nor does the argument in the remotest degree hear upon it. The question was not whether children should be baptized, but it was whether there should be a separation between man and wife, where the one was a Christian and the other not. Paul states, that if such a separation should take place, it would imply that the marriage was improper; and of course the children must be regarded as unclean. But how would the supposition that they were federally holy, and the proper subjects of baptism, bear on this? Would it not be equally true that it was proper to baptize the children whether the parents were separated or not? Is it not a doctrine among Pedobaptists everywhere, that the children are entitled to baptism upon the faith of either of the parents, and that that doctrine is not affected by the question here agitated by Paul? Whether it was proper for them to live together or not, was it not equally true that the child of a believing parent was to be baptized? But,
(3) The supposition that this means that the children would be regarded as illegitimate if such a separation should take place, is one that accords with the whole scope and design of the argument. "When one party is a Christian and the other not shall there be a separation?" This was the question. "No," says Paul; if there is such a separation, it must be because the marriage is improper; because it would be wrong to live together in such circumstances. What would follow from this? Why, that all the children that have been born since the one party became a Christian, must be regarded as having been born while a connection existed that was improper, and unChristian, and unlawful, and of course they must be regarded as illegitimate. But, says he, you do not believe this yourselves. It follows, therefore, that the connection, even according to your own views, is proper.
on 1-corinthians 7 :14
7:14 For the unbelieving husband hath, in many instances, been sanctified by the wife - Else your children would have been brought up heathens; whereas now they are Christians. As if he had said, Ye see the proof of it before your eyes.