Chapter 22, “The Persons to be Married: Previous Marriages” (pp. 160-168)
It is important that a pastor determine whether those asking to marry are already married or in a legally binding engagement. Walther discusses the conditions in which an engagement would not be binding. Included are parental refusal, infidelity, and insanity, drunkenness, and criminality. Biblical betrothal is “as binding as a completed marriage” (p. 161). Walther cites from Gen. 29:21, Matt. 1:18-20, Deut. 22:22-23, and Hos. 4:13. He denies that the consummation constitutes marriage. “Rather the effective cause of marriage is a mutual consent” (p. 161). The work of the pastor and the ceremony is to make that consent public in a formal way before witnesses.
Citing Gerhard, on p. 162 Walther gives some reasons for a betrothal to be dissolved, observing they are more lenient than reasons to dissolve a marriage. Those living as man and wife while engaged are, due to the serious nature of the betrothal, not committing fornication but are acting deceitfully and are subject to church discipline. It is not an example of chastity.
Walther follows Gerhard on pp. 164-165 in discouraging marriage between an orthodox believer and one who is weak or unbelieving. He considers that a marriage between people of different religions is prohibited. In a case of the conversion of a polygamist all but the first wife should be dismissed. In cases of death of a spouse, it is best not to remarry too quickly due to an appearance of having changed affections earlier. In the case of divorce Walther advises (p. 167) that the guilty party should not be allowed to remarry quickly, especially if the innocent remains unmarried.