Birth Control Quotes From Yesteryear

When our pastor gets disgusted with this or that modern behavior in the church or culture he often preaches from the pulpit that “You didn’t see anyone doing this or that 50 or 100 years ago!”  That inspired me to go on a quest to find out the answer to this question:  What have church leaders throughout history said about birth control?  It surprised and pleased me greatly to find the many quotes listed below.

I think it is sage advice from my pastor to listen to these words of wisdom from these pastors, preachers, leaders, churches, and even governments of the past.  They were speaking from outside and before our current immoral and ungodly culture that we are so familiar with and desensitized to because we are living in the midst of it.

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Charles Provan, 1989

“…we have found not one orthodox theologian to defend Birth Control before the 1900’s NOT ONE! On the other hand, we have found that many highly regarded Protestant theologians were enthusiastically opposed to it, all the way back to the very beginning of the Reformation …those in favor of Birth Control will find no one in the orthodox Protestant camp for the first four centuries to ally themselves with.”

Teunis Oldenburger, 1934

“There is no other exegesis of Scripture possible but to place contraception in the same category with prostitution, free love, homosexuality, coitus interruptus…and all other forms of unnatural coition that are indulged in simply for the purpose of play, against which both the laws of the land and those of the Church have with varying severity been enforced, beginning with Onan in Chapter 38 of Genesis and extending to our own day among all civilized countries. Birth Control is cursed of God as a sex crime, and, in the one case of which we have record, in Gen. 38 was punished with death.”

M. H. Sexton,  1922

“Had the Pilgrim fathers and mothers disregarded the multiplication precept hurled from the eternal throne, at the dawn of man, into an unpeopled world, who would have thrown the tea of the oppressor into the ocean of liberty, who would have fought the colonial battles”

“Let our own national and state governments make haste to war perpetually on every enemy of offspring, whether in the form of doctors, diseases, deceits, devices, devils, or disciples of Sappho, remembering that no nation, yet, has long endured under the spell of sexual wile-weaving. The weasel-souled women, who dole canned technique for fencing the ovarian fields against fertility, peddle scandal itch and seminal germicides on the theory that God, at last, has heard the cries of the poor mother in travail, should be cantoned by the government and condemned as Herodian descendants, uterus burglars and vampires of the innocent.”

Theodore Roosevelt, 1906

26th U.S. President

“When home ties are loosened, when men and women cease to regard a worthy family life, with all its duties fully performed and all its responsibilities lived up to, as the best life worth living, then evil days for the commonwealth are at hand. There are regions in our land, and classes of our population, where the birth rate has sunk below the death rate. Surely it should need no demonstration to show that willful sterility is, from the standpoint of the human race, the one sin for which the national penalty is national death, race death–a sin for which there is no atonement.”

“Finally, even more important than ability to work, even more important than ability to fight at need, is it to remember that chief of blessings for any nations is that it shall leave its seed to inherit the land. It was the crown of blessings in Biblical times and it is the crown of blessings now. The greatest of all curses is the curse of sterility, and the severest of all condemnations should be that visited upon willful sterility.” (link)

C. S. Lewis, 1898-1963

“As regards contraceptives, there is a paradoxical, negative sense in which all possible future generations are the patients or subjects of a power wielded by those already alive. By contraception simply, they are denied existence; by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurring voice, made to be what one generation, for its own reasons, may choose to prefer. From this point of view, what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.”

Walter Arthur Maier, 1893-1950

“To pass over other objections to birth control, -objections so weighty that these sections of the Federal Penal Code make [disseminating birth control information or devices] a criminal offense…-we come to the basic objection, which, if all other argumentation were swept aside, would be a complete denunciation. We refer to the evident indictment of birth control contained in the statements of Scripture…”

Herbert Carl Leupold, 1892-1972

“In Onan’s act “there was palpably involved the sin of complete perversion of the purpose of marriage, that divine institution. What he did is described as ‘taking preventative measures.’ The original says: ‘he destroyed (i.e., the semen) to the ground.’ From him the extreme sexual perversion called onanism has its name. The case is revolting enough. But plain speech in this case serves as a healthy warning.”

Reformed Presybterian Church, 1888

“We believe that uncleanness, in all its polluting and debasing forms, is increasing. We fear that many, who are members of the Church, employ means to prevent offspring, using the marriage bed to gratify their lusts, destroying their own lives, and bringing on themselves the wrath of a holy God.”

Theodore F. K. Laetsch, 1877-1962

“Arguments Against Birth Control

1. It is sinful:

A. It is willfully seting aside God’s will and command, Gen. 1:28; I Tim. 5:14; 2:15; Gen. 38:9, 10.

B. It is despising His promises and is depriving onesself of a blessing, Ps. 127 and 128….

C. It is usurping for onesself an exclusive privilege of God, that of giving or withholding children, Ps. 127:3; Gen. 29:31-30:6; 30:22; 33:5; 16:2; 20:18; Lev. 20:20-21; Job 42:12-13; Luke 1:58; I Sam. 1:10-11.

D. Birth control by the means of anticonceptuals, coitus interruptus, etc. is ruthlessly interfering with God’s method of creating a living being. Hufeland, one of the most noted physicians of Germany, 1762-1836, says, ‘The first question undoubtedly is, “When does life begin?” There can be no doubt that the act of copulation is to be regarded as the beginning of the existance of the future being and that the very first, even though invisible, germ of his being has the developed man… A human being is being murdered in his incipiency. I am not going to answer sophistic, even Jesuitic, cavils. I appeal to sane reason and to the pure, unspoiled moral feeling of every man… The product presupposes producing, and if it is wrong to kill the product, then it goes without saying that it is wrong to render futile the act whereby it is being produced, for thereby is its first beginning.’ ….This is undoubtedly the Scriptural view. Cf. Ps. 139:13-16; Job 10:8-11, especially v. 10 (the act of copulation described).

E. Marriage degenerates from a holy estate to mere gratification of carnal lust, Heb. 13:4; I Thess. 4:4.

2. It undermines the State. It is race suicide. Even the two-children system will rapidly lead to extermination of a people, for 10 per cent of all marriages are naturally childless, and unmarried people do not contribute to the growth of a nation, while the two-children system replaces only the parents…hence a decrease in population, and the nation will die out. At least four children to a family to prevent this dying out, five children to bring about an increase in population.

3. It undermines the home. Parents become selfish, incompatible. Children idolized, pampered, egotistic, self-important, undesirable citizens in many instances. A Supreme Court Justice is quoted as saying: ‘It is my conclusion that childless homes are responsible for the almost complete absence of real home-life. I cannot help but reach the conclusion that, if our women had children, there would be more happiness and fewer divorces. Presence of children attracts the husband to his home and keeps the mothers from the gossiping neighbors and bridge parties. Absence of children promotes discord. Their presence makes for harmony.'”

C. F. Vent, 1876

“But there is a practice so universal that it may well be termed a national vice, so common that it is unblushingly acknowledged by its perpetrators, for the commission of which the husband is even eulogized by his wife, and applauded by her friends, a vice which is the scourge and desolation of marriage; it is the crime of Onan…”

John H. C. Fritz, 1874-1953

“Two things a pastor should impress upon married people: 1. that God would bless their marriage with children; 2. that God holds parents responsible for the Christian training of their children. A husband and wife should according to God’s will become the father and the mother of children. One of God’s purposes of marriage is the propagation of the human race… The one-, two-, or three-children family system is contrary to the Scriptures; for man has no right arbitrarily or definitely to limit the number of his offspring (birth control), especially not if done with artificial or unnatural means… Child-bearing is both a natural and healthful process, while any interference with natural functions is injurious.”

G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936

“I despise Birth-Control because it is a weak and wobbly and cowardly thing….my contempt boils over into bad behavior when I hear the common suggestion that a birth is avoided because people want to be ‘free’ to go to the cinema or buy a gramophone or loud-speaker. What makes me want to walk over such people like doormats is that they use the word ‘free.’ By every act of that sort they chain themselves to the most servile and mechanical system yet tolerated by men….Now a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect….He is also a much more beautiful, wonderful, amusing and astonishing thing than any of the stale stories or jingling jazz tunes turned out by the machines.”

United States, 1873

Revised Statutes of the 43rd Congress SEC. 2491. “All persons are prohibited from importing into the United States, from any foreign country… any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception…”

Christopher Wordsworth, 1807-1887

Quoting A. Lapide: “The Hebrews and the Christians agree that Er committed the same kind of effeminate sin and retraction as Onan, which is contrary to the nature of procreation and marriage, for it destroys the fetus…and is called detestable.”

Johann Peter Lange, 1802-1884

“Onan’s sin, a deadly wickedness, an example to be held in abhorrence, as condemnatory, not only of secret sins of self-pollution, but also of all similiar offences in sexual relations, and even in marriage itself. Unchastity in general is a homicidal waste of the generative powers, a demonic bestiality, an outrage to ancestors, to posterity, and to one’s own life. It is a crime against the image of God, and a degradation below the animal. Onan’s offence, moreover, as committed in marriage, was a most unnatural wickedness, and a grievous wrong. The sin named after him is destructive as a pestilence that walketh in darkness, destroying directly both the body and soul of the young.”

J. Heinrich Richter, 1799-1847

“Onan’s behavior was punished by God with death because it happened contrary to the purpose of marriage and out of devilish jealousy and was also murder. Such silent sins always draw down the wrath of God. But even such atrocious sinners, of whom the world is now full, can still receive grace in the blood of Christ, if they come to Him in repentence…”

Adam Clarke, 1762–1832

“To many God gives children in place of temporal good. To many others he gives houses, lands, and thousands of gold and silver, and with them the womb that beareth not; and these are their inheritance. The poor man has from God a number of children, without lands or money; these are his inheritance; and God shows himself their father, feeding and supporting them by a chain of miraculous providences. Where is the poor man who would give up his six children with the prospect of having more, for the thousands or millions of him who is the centre of his own existance, and has neither root nor branches but his forlorn, solitary self upon the face of the earth? Let the fruitful family, however poor, lay this to heart: ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.’ And he who gave them will feed them; for it is a fact, and the maxim formed on it has never failed, ‘Whenever God sends mouths, he sends meat.’ ‘Murmur not,’ said an Arab to his friend, ‘because thy family is large; know that it is for their sakes that God feeds thee.”

John Wesley, 1703-1791

“Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet to the great abuse of his own body, of the wife he had married, and the memory of his brother that was gone, he refused to raise up seed unto his brother. Those sins that dishonour the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile actions…”

Cotton Mather, 1663–1728

“It is time for me to tell you that the crime against which I warn you is that self-pollution which, from the name of the only person that stands forever stigmatized for it in our Holy bible, bears the name of ONANISM.”

Matthew Henry, 1662–1714

“Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet, to the great abuse of his own body, of the wife that he had married, and of the memory of his brother that was gone, he refused to raise up seed unto his brother, as he was in duty bound. This was so much the worse because the Messiah was to descend from Judah, and, had he not been guilty of this wickedness, he might have had the honour of being one of his ancestors…”

John Ley, 1657

“…there is a seminal vital virtue, which perishes if the seed be spilled; and by doing this to hinder the begetting of a living child, is the first degree of murder that can be committed, and the next unto it is the marring of conception, when it is made, and causing of abortion: now such acts are noted in the scripture as horrible crimes, because, otherwise many might commit them, and not know the evil of them: it is conceived, that his brother Er before, was his brother in evil thus far, that both of them satisfied their sensuality against the order of nature, and therefore the Lord cut them off both alike with sudden vengeance; which may be for terror…to those who, in marriage, care not for the increase of children, (which is the principle used of the conjugal estate) but for the satisfying of their concupiscence.”

Matthew Poole, 1624-1679

Onan’s “sin itself…is…particularly described by the Holy Ghost, that men might be instructed concerning the nature and the great evil of this sin of self-pollution, which is such that it brought upon the actor of it the extraordinary vengeance of God, and which is condemned not only by Scripture but even by the light of nature and the judgement of heathens who have expressly censured it as a great sin, and as a kind of murder…. Whereby we may sufficiently understand how wicked and abominable a practice this is amongst Christians, and in the light of the gospel which lays greater and stricter obligations upon us to purity and severely forbids all pollution both of flesh and spirit.”

Synod of Dort, 1618

“[Onan’s act] was even as much as if he had, in a manner, pulled forth the fruit out of the mother’s womb and destroyed it.”

Friedrich W. J. Schroder, 1617-1696

“Onan’s sin a murder.”

Abraham Calovius, 1612-1686

“That [Onan] must have been a willful, desperate fellow, for this is always a shameful sin, yet much more atrocious than a case of incest or adultery: we call it a sin of the effeminate, indeed, even a sin of Sodomy. He was completely enflamed with evil envy and jealousy, and that is why he would not permit himself to be forced to bear this simple service. Therefore, it is quite right for God to kill him.”

George Hughes, 1603-1667

“Destruction of future seed” was one of “Onan’s horrid crimes.”

Conrad Dannhauer, 1603-1666

“Although, I say, this sin [destruction of seed] is considered insignificant, indeed, a speck of dust, in the eyes of the world and of the whole of Babylon, it is still in the holy and chaste eyes of God an exceedingly abhorrent and shameful atrocity, more offensive than common whoredom and adultery; because it is more monstrous and runs contrary to nature and God’s order. This sin is really an advance murder of that which could have been born of it. Indeed, such filthy persons thereby offer a Molech-sacrifice to the god of the whorish spirit, as the heathen in previous times sacrificed their seed to the idol Molech.”

Joseph Caryl, 1602-1673

“Hence note, ’tis one of the greatest outward blessings to have a family full of dutiful children. To have many children is the next blessing to much grace. To have many children about us is better than to have much wealth about us. To have store of these olive plants (as the Psalmist calls them) round about our table is better than to have store of oil and wine upon our table. We know the worth of dead, or rather, lifeless treasures, but who knows the worth of living treasures?…But though all things are of God, yet all things are not alike of him: children are more of God than houses or lands.”

Geneva Bible Notes, 1599

“Because God’s favor appears in no outward thing more than in the increase of children, he promises to enrich the faithful with this gift.”

William Gouge, 1575–1653

“To deny this duty being justly required, is to deny a due debt, and to give Satan great advantage. The punishment inflicted on Onan (Gen. 38:9,10) shows how great a wrong this is. From that punishment the Hebrews gather that this sin is a kind of murder. It is so much the more heinous when hatred, stoutness, niceness, fear of having too many children, or any other like respects, are the cause thereof.”

Andre Rivet, 1573-1651

“…those who, by the same forbidden lust or violent abortions of offspring, destroy it before it is born, are like wicked Onan and involve themselves in the same type of crime and sin…. For although every sin is evil and displeases God, they are still not all expressly said to be the same, so that some are more to be detested. That is even shown by the most immediate punishment, that God did not permit him to live any longer who deprived a generation of life and killed off the fetus in its own seed.”

Henry Ainsworth, 1571-1622

[Speaking of Onan] “An unkind, and most unnatural [act]; to spill the seed, which by God’s blessing should serve for the propagation of mankind.”

Andrew Willet, 1562-1621

“[Onan’s sin was] against the order of nature, using the act of generation for pleasure only, and not for generation; it was against God, whose institution he brake; against his wife, whom he defrauded of the fruit of her womb; against himself, in preventing his issue; against mankind, which should have been increased and propagated… this sin of envy [was] against his brother, to whom he should have raised seed.”

David Paraeus, 1548-1586

“Detestable was the deed of Onan, who in sexual intercourse preferred to waste his seed rather than procreate children, lest he raise up offspring for his brother…. This was not only wicked jealousy for his brother but also savage cruelty, which God considered on the same level as parricide [the murder of parents]. For what is it to waste the seed other than to kill the foetus and the human being that is to be born from it? Because of this, he was justly killed by God, by a sudden blow, it seems, or by a fatal disease.”

Lukas Osiander, 1534-1604

“[Onan’s act] was an abhorrent thing and worse than adultery. Such an evil deed strives against nature, and those who do it will not possess the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). The holier marriage is, the less will those remain unpunished who live in it in a wicked and unfitting way so that, in addition to it, they practice their private acts of villainy.”

John Calvin, 1509-1564

“It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is double horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born. This wickedness is now as severely as is possible condemned by the Spirit, through Moses, that Onan, as it were, through a violent and untimely birth, tore away the seed of his brother out the womb, and as cruel as shamefully has thrown on the earth. Moreover he thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime.”

Wolfgang Musculus, 1497-1563

“Let all those be absolutely terrified by [Onan’s] example… This type of person couples in various and unspeakable ways so as not to get the woman pregnant: and if she should get pregnant, somehow the foetus in her either in the womb or at birth is killed. Woe, woe on these lewd women — woe, I say, on the prostitutes of the Sodomites, among whom no one is expected to be procreated. and what they do most wickedly is displeasing in the eyes of the Lord.”

Martin Luther, 1483-1546

“…when the world was still in a better state, barrenness was considered a sign of wrath; but childbirth was considered a sign of grace. Because of the abuses of lust, however, this remnant of divine blessing gradually began to be obscured even among the Jews, just as today you could find many greedy men who regard numerous offspring as a punishment. Saintly mothers, however, have always regarded this gift–when they were prolific–as a great honor, just as, conversely, they have regarded barrenness as a sign of wrath and as a reproach.”

“…fertility was regarded as an extraordinary blessing and special gift of God, as is clear from Deuteronomy 28:4, where Moses numbers fertility among the blessings. ‘There will not be a barren woman among you,’ he says (cf. Ex. 23:26). We do not regard this so highly today. Although we like and desire it in cattle, yet in the human race there are few who regard a woman’s fertility as a blessing. Indeed, there are many who have an aversion for it and regard sterility as a special blessing. Surely this is also contrary to nature. Much less is it pious and saintly. For this affection has been implanted by God in man’s naure, so that it desires its increase and multiplication. Accordingly, it is inhuman and godless to have a loathing for offspring. Thus someone recently called his wife a sow, since she gave birth rather often. The good for nothing and impure fellow! The saintly fathers did not feel like this at all, for they acknowledged a fruitful wife as a special blessing of God and, on the other hand, regarded sterility as a curse. And this judgement flowed from the Word of God in Gen. 1:28, where He said: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ From this they understood that children are a gift of God.”

” Today you find many people who do not want to have children. Moreover, this callousness and inhuman attitude, which is worse than barbarous, is met with chiefly among the nobility and princes, who often refrain from marriage for this one single reason, that they might have no offspring. It is even more disgraceful that you find princes who allow themselves to be forced not to marry, for fear that the members of their house would increase beyond a definite limit. Surely such men deserve that their memory be blotted out from the land of the living. Who is there who would not detest these swinish monsters? But these facts, too, serve to emphasize original sin. Otherwise we would marvel at procreation as the greatest work of God, and as a most outstanding gift we would honor it with the praises it deserves.”

Caesarius of Arles, 468-542

“Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty…”

Augustine, 354-430

“For although propagation of offspring is not the motive of the [particular] intercourse, there is still no attempt to prevent such propagation, either by wrong desire or evil appliance. They who resort to these, although called by the name of spouses, are really not such; they retain no vestige of true matrimony, but pretend the honourable designation as a cloak for criminal conduct…. Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or; if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness….”

John Chrysostom, 347-407

“[I]n truth, all men know that they who are under the power of this disease [covetousness] are wearied even of their father’s old age; and that which is sweet, and universally desirable, the having of children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome. Many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless, and have mutilated nature, not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live.”

“Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit? Where there are medicines of sterility? Where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well. Do you see that from drunkenness comes fornication, from fornication adultery, from adultery murder? Indeed, it is something worse than murder and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you contemn the gift of God, and fight with His laws? What is a curse, do you seek as though it were a blessing?”

Jerome, 340-420

“They drink potions to ensure sterility and are guilty of murdering a human being not yet conceived.”

Hippolytus, 170–235

“Reputed believers began to resort to drugs for producing Sterility and to gird themselves round, so as to expel what was conceived on account of their not wanting to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time.”

Paul, 62

“Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

Jesus Christ, 33

“Whoso shall receive one such little child in My Name receiveth Me.”

Malachi, 420 BC

“And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.”

Hezekiah, 739-687 BC

“Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.”

Solomon, 970-931 BC

“…Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward… Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…”

Chronicles, 1000 BC

“All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him, for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.”

Moses, 1405 BC

“He that is wounded in the stones, or has his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.”

“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body…

Laban and Bethuel, 1672 BC

“And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.”

God, 4004-2347 BC

“Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth…”

“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth.”

“And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.”

 

Sources:

Some quotes above are from the Bible, a few from various web pages, but most of the quotes above are from Church History and Birth Control by Valerie’s Living Books; I mostly just added missing dates and then reverse sorted them by date.  She quotes her sources saying: “Some of these were quoted in The Bible and Birth Control by Charles D. Provan (Zimmer Books, 1989), some I found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, and others in my own home library.”

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