This intimates but what our Saviour taught before,
that divorce is not rashly to be made, but
reconcilement to be persuaded and endeavord, as
oft as the cause can have to doe with reconcilement,
& is not under the dominion of blameless nature;
which may have reason to depart though seldomest
and last from charitable love, yet somtimes from
friendly, and familiar, and somthing oftner from
conjugal love, which requires not only moral, but
natural causes to the making and maintayning; and
may be warrantably excus'd to retire from the
deception of what it justly seeks, and the ill requitals
which unjustly it finds. For Nature hath her Zodiac
also, keeps her great annual circuit over human
things as truly as the Sun and Planets in the
firmament; hath her anomalies, hath her obliquities
in ascensions and declinations, accesses and recesses,
as blamelesly as they in heaven. And sitting in her
planetary Orb with two rains in each hand, one
strait, the other loos, tempers the cours of minds
as well as bodies to several conjunctions and
oppositions, friendly, or unfriendly aspects,
consenting oftest with reason, but never contrary.
This in the effect no man of meanest reach but daily
sees; and though to every one it appeare not in the
cause, yet to a cleare capacity, well nurtur'd with
good reading and observation, it cannot but be plaine
and visible. Other exposition therfore then hath
bin given to former places that give light to these
two summary verses, will not be needfull: save onely
that these precepts are meant to those maried who
differ not in religion.
[But to the rest speak I, not the Lord; if any brother hath a wife that beleeveth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
Now follows what is to be done, if the persons wedded be of a different faith. The common beleef is, that a christian is heer commanded not to divorce, if the infidel please to stay, though it be but to vexe, or to deride, or to deduce the christian. This doctrin will be the easie worke of a refutation. The other opinion is, that a christian is here conditionally permitted to hold wedloc with a misbeleever only upon hopes limited by christian prudence, which without much difficulty shall be defended. That this heer spoken by Paul, not by the Lord cannot be a command, these reasons avouch. First the law of Moses, Exod. 34. 16. Deut. 7. 3. 6. interpreted by Ezra, and Nehemiah two infallible authors, commands to divorce an infidel not for the feare onely of a ceremonious defilement, but of an irreligious seducement, fear'd both in respect of the beleever himselfe, and of his children in danger to bee perverted by the misbeleeving parent. Nehem. 13. 24. 26. and Peter Martyr thought this a convincing reason. If therfore the legal pollution vanishing have abrogated the ceremony of this law, so that a christian may be permitted to retaine an infidel without uncleannes, yet the moral reason of divorcing stands to eternity, which neither Apostle nor Angel from heaven can countermand. All that they reply to this, is their human warrant, that God will preserve us in our obedience of this command against the danger of seducement. And so undoudtedly he will, if we understand his commands aright; if we turne not this evangelic permission into a legal, and yet illegal command; if we turn not hope into bondage, the charitable and free hope of gaining another, into the forc't and servile temptation of losing our selves; but more of this beneath. Thus these words of Paul by common doctrin made a command, are made a contradiction to the moral law.
Secondly, not the law only, but the Gospel from the law, and from it selfe requires even in the same chapter, where divorce between them of one religion is so narrowly forbidd, rather then our christian love should come into danger of backsliding, to forsake all relations how neer so ever, and the wife expresly, with promise of a high reward, Mat. 19. And he who hates not father or mother, wife, or children hindering his christian cours, much more, if they despise or assault it, cannot be a Disciple, Luke 14. How can the Apostle then command us, to love and continue in that matrimony, which our Saviour bids us hate, and forsake? They can as soon teach our faculty of respiration to contract and to dilate it selfe at once, to breath and to fetch breath in the same instant, as teach our minds how to doe such contrary acts as these, towards the same object, and as they must be done in the same moment. For either the hatred of her religion, & her hatred to our religion will work powerfully against the love of her society, or the love of that will by degrees flatter out all our zealous hatred and forsaking and soone ensnare us to unchristianly compliances.
Thirdly, In marriage there ought not only to be a civil love, but such a love as Christ loves his Church; but where the religion is contrary without hope of conversion, there can be no love, no faith, no peaceful society, (they of the other opinion confess it) nay there ought not to be, furder then in expectation of gaining a soul; when that ceases, we know God hath put enmity between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the Serpent. Neither should we love them that hate the Lord, as the Prophet told Jehosaphat. 2 Chron. 19. And this Apostle himselfe in another place warns us that we be not unequally yokt with Infidels 2 Cor. 6. for that there can be no fellowship, no communion, no concord between such. Outward commerce and civil intercours cannot perhaps be avoided; but true friendship and familiarity there can be none. How vainly therfore, not to say how impiously would the most inward and dear alliance of mariage or continuance in mariage be commanded, where true friendship is confest impossible. For say they, wee are forbidd heer to marry with an infidel, not bid to divorce. But to rob the words thus of their full sense will not be allow'd them: it is not said, enter not into yoke, but be not unequally yokd; which plainly forbids the thing in present act, as well as in purpose; and his manifest conclusion is, not only that we should not touch, but that having toucht, we should come out from among them, and be separat; with the promise of a blessing thereupon that God will receave us, will be our father, and we his sons and daughters. v. 17. 18. Why we should stay with an Infidel after the expence of all our hopes, can be but for a civil relation; but why we should depart from a seducer, setting aside the misconstruction of this place, is from a religious necessity of departing. The wors cause therfore of staying (if it be any cause at all, for civil government forces it not) must not overtop the religious cause of separating, executed with such an urgent zeal, & such a prostrate humiliation by Ezra and Nehemiah. What God hates to joyn, certainly he cannot love should continue joyn'd: it being all one in matter of ill consequence, to marry, or to continue maried with an Infidel, save only so long as we wait willingly, and with a safe hope. St. Paul therefore citing heer a command of the Lord Almighty, for so he terms it, that we should separate, cannot have bound us with that which he calls his own whether command or counsel that we should not separate.
Which is the fourth reason, for he himselfe takes care least we should mistake him, [But to the rest speak I not the Lord. ] If the Lord spake not, then man spake it and man hath no Lordship to command the conscience: yet modern interpreters will have it a command maugre St. Paul himselfe, they will make him a Prophet like Caiaphas to speak the word of the Lord not thinking, nay denying to think; though he disavow to have receav'd it from the Lord, his word shall not be tak'n, though an Apostle, he shall be born down in his own Epistle, by a race of expositors who presume to know from whom he spake, better than he himselfe. Paul deposes that the Lord speaks not this, they, that the Lord speaks it: can this be less then to brave him with a full fac't contradiction? Certainly to such a violence as this, for I cannot call it an expounding, what a man should answer I know not, unless that if it be their pleasure next to put a gag into the Apostles mouth, they are already furnisht with a commodious audacity toward the attempt. Beza would seem to shun the contradictory, by telling us that the Lord spake it not in person, as he did the former precept. But how many other doctrines doth St. Paul deliver which the Lord spake not in person, and yet never uses this preamble but in things indifferent? So long as we receave him for a messenger of God, for him to stand sorting sentences what the Lord spake in person, and what he, not the Lord in person, would be but a chill trifling, and his readers might catch an ague the while. But if we shall supply the grammatical Ellipsis regularly, and as we must in the sam tense, all will be then cleer, for we cannot supply it thus, to the rest I speak; the Lord spake not, but I speak, the Lord speaks not. If then the Lord neither spake in person, nor speaks it now, the Apostle testifying both, it follows duely, that this can be no command. Forsooth the fear is, least this not being a command, would prove an evangelic counsel, & so make way for supererogations. As if the Apostle could not speak his mind in things indifferent, as he doth in fowr or five several places of this chapter with the like preface of not commanding, but that the doubted inconvenience of supererogating must needs rush in. And how adds it to the word of the Lord, (for this also they object) when as the Apostle by his christian prudence guids us in the liberty which God hath left us to, without command? could not the spirit of God instruct us by him what was free, as well as what was not? But what need I more, when Cameron an ingenuous writer, and in high esteem, solidly confutes the surmise of a command heer, and among other words hath these. That when Paul speaks as an Apostle, he uses this forme, The Lord saith, not I, v. 10. but as a privat man he saith, I speak, not the Lord. And thus also all the prime fathers Austin, Jerom, and the rest understood this place.
Fifthly, The very stating of the question declares this to be no command; If any brother hath an unbeleeving wife, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. For the Greek word suneudokei does not imply only her being pleas'd to stay, but his being pleas'd to let her stay; it must be a consent of them both. Nor can the force of this word be render'd less, without either much negligence or iniquity of him that otherwise tranlates it. And thus the Greek Church also and their Synods understood it, who best knew what their own language meant, as appears by Matthaeus Monachus an author set forth by Leunclavius, and of antiquity perhaps not inferior to Balsamon who writes upon the canons of the Apostles: this Author in his chap. that mariage is not to be made with heretics, thus recites the second canon of the 6. Synod: As to the Corinthians Paul determins, If the beleeving wife choos to live with the unbeleeving husband, or the beleeving husband with the unbeleeving wife. Mark saith he, how the Apostle heer condescends, if the beleever please to dwell with the unbeleever; so that if he please not, out of doubt the mariage is dissolv'd. And I am perswaded it was so in the beginning, and thus preach't. And therupon gives an example of one, who though not deserted, yet by the decree of Theodotus the Patriarch divorc't an unbeleeving wife. What therefore depends in the plain state of this question on the consent and well liking of them both, must not be a command. Lay next the latter end of the 11. v, to the twelf (for wherfore else is Logic taught us) in a discreet axiom, as it can be no other by the phrase, The Lord saith, let not the husband put away his wife, But I say let him not put away a misbeleeving wife; this sounds as if by the judgment of Paul, a man might put away any wife but the misbeleeving; or els the parts are not discrete, or dissentanie, for both conclude not putting away, and consequently in such a form the proposition is ridiculous. Of necessity therfore the former part of this sentence must be conceav'd, as understood, and silently granted, that although the Lord command to divorce an infidel, yet I, not the Lord command you? No, but give my judgment, that for som evangelic reasons a christian may be permitted not to divorce her. Thus while we reduce the brevity of St. Paul to a plainer sense, by the needful supply of that which was granted between him and the Corinthians, the very logic of his speech extracts him confessing that the Lords command lay in a seeming contrariety to this his counsel: and that he meant not to thrust out a command of the Lord by a new one of his own, as one nail drives another, but to release us from the rigor of it, by the right of the Gospel, so farre forth as a charitable cause leads us on in the hope of winning another soul without the peril of loosing our own. For this is the glory of the Gospel to teach us that the end of the commandment is charity, 1 Tim. 1. not the drudging out a poore and worthlesse duty forc't from us by the taxe, and taile of so many letters. This doctrine therfore can bee no command, but it must contradict the moral law, the Gospel, and the Apostle himselfe both else where, and heere also eevn in the act of speaking.
If then it be no command, it must remain to be a permission, and that not absolute, for so it would be still contrary to the law, but with such a caution as breaks not the law, but as the manner of the Gospel is, fulfils it through charity. The law had two reasons, the one was ceremonial, the pollution that all Gentiles were to the Jewes; this the vision of Peter had abolisht, Acts 10. and clens'd all creatures to the use of a Christian. The Corinthians understood not this, but fear'd lest dwelling in matrimony with an unbeleever, they were defil'd. The Apostle discusses that scruple with an Evangelic reason, shewing them that although God heretofore under the law, not intending the conversion of the Gentiles, except some special ones, held them as polluted things to the Jew, yet now purposing to call them in, he hath purify'd them from that legal uncleannesse wherin they stood, to use and to be us'd in a pure manner.
For saith he, The unbeleeving husband is sanctifi'd by the wife, and the unbeleeving wife, is sanctifi'd by the husband, else were your children uncleane; but now they are holy. That is, they are sanctify'd to you, from that legal impurity which you so feare; and are brought into a neer capacity to be holy, if they beleeve, and to have free accesse to holy things. In the mean time, as being Gods creatures, a christian hath power to use them according to their proper use; in as much as now, all things to the pure are become pure. In this legal respect therfore ye need not doubt to continue in marriage with an unbeleever. Thus others also expound this place and Cameron especially. This reason warrants us onely what wee may doe without feare of pollution, does not binde us that we must. But the other reason of the law to divorce an infidel was moral, the avoiding of enticement from the true faith. This cannot shrink; but remains in as full force as ever, to save the actuall christian from the snare of a misbeleever. Yet if a Christian full of grace and spiritual gifts finding the misbeleever not frowardly affected, feares not a seducing, but hopes rather a gaining, who sees not that this morall reason is not violated by not divorcing, which the law commanded to doe, but better fulfill'd by the excellence of the Gospel working through charity. For neither the faithfull is seduc'd, and the unfaithfull is either sav'd, or with all discharge of love, and evangelic duty sought to be sav'd. But contrary-wise if the infirme Christian shall bee commanded here against his minde, against his hope, and against his strength, to dwell with all the scandals, the houshold persecutions, or alluring temptations of an infidel, how is not the Gospel by this made harsher then the law, and more yoaking? Therefore the Apostle ere he deliver this other reason why wee need not in all hast put away an infidel, his mind misgiving him least he should seem to be the imposer of a new command, staies not for method, but with an abrupt speed inserts the declaration of their liberty in this matter.
But if the unbeleeving depart, let him depart; a
brother or a sister is not under bondage in such
cases: but God hath called us to peace.
[But if the unbeleeving depart. ] This cannot be restrain'd to locall departure only; for who knows not that an offensive society is worse then a forsaking. If his purpose of cohabitation be to endanger the life, or the conscience, Beza himselfe is halfe perswaded, that this may purchase to the faithfull person the same freedome that a desertion may; and so Gerard and others whom he cites. If therefore he depart in affection, if hee depart from giving hope of his conversion; if he disturb, or scoffe at religion, seduce, or tempt, if he rage, doubtlesse not the weake only, but the strong may leave him; if not for fear, yet for the dignities sake of religion, which cannot be liable to all base affronts, meerely for the worshiping of a civil mariage. I take therefore departing to bee as large as the negative of being well pleas'd: that is, if he be not pleas'd for the present to live lovingly, quietly, inoffensively, so as may give good hope; which appeares well by that which followes.
[A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. ] If Saint Paul provide seriously against the bondage of a christian, it is not the only bondage to live unmaried for a deserting infidel, but to endure his presence intolerably, to beare indignities against his religion in words or deedes, to be wearied with seducements, to have idolatries and superstitions ever before his eyes, to be tormented with impure and prophane conversation, this must needs be bondage to a christian; is this left all unprovided for, without remedy, or freedom granted? undoubtedly no, for, the Apostle leavs it furder to be consider'd with prudence, what bondage a brother or sister is not under, not onely in this case, but as hee speaks himselfe plurally, in such cases.
[But God hath called us to peace. ] To peace, not to bondage, not to brabbles and contentions with him who is not pleas'd to live peaceably, as mariage and christianity requires. And where strife arises from a cause hopelesse to be allayd, what better way to peace then by separating that which is ill joyn'd. It is not divorce, that first breaks the peace of a family, as som fondly comment on this place, but it is peace already brok'n, which, when other cures fail, can only be restor'd to the faultles person by a necessary divorce. And Saint Paul heer warrants us to seeke peace, rather then to remain in bondage. If God hath call'd us to peace, why should we not follow him, why should we miserably stay in perpetual discord under a servitude not requir'd?
[For what knowest thou O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband, &c. ] St. Paul having thus clear'd himselfe, not to goe about the mining or our christian liberty, not to cast a snare upon us, which to doe hee so much hated, returnes now to the second reason of that law, to put away an infidel for feare of seducement, which hee does not heer contradict with a command now to venture that; but if neither the infirmity of the Christian, nor the strength of the unbeleever be fear'd, but hopes appearing that he may be won, he judges it no breaking of that law, though the beleever be permitted to forbeare divorce, and can abide, without the peril of seducement, to offer the charity of a salvation to wife or husband, which is the fulfilling, not the transgressing of that law; and well worth the undertaking with much hazard and patience. For what knowest thou whether thou shalt save thy wife, that is, till all meanes convenient and possible with discretion and probability, as human things are, have bin us'd. For Christ himselfe sends not our hope on pilgrimage to the worlds end; but sets it bounds, beyond which we need not wait on a brother, much lesse on an infidell. If after such a time we may count a professing Christian no better than a heathen, after less time perhaps we may cease to hope of a heathen, that hee will turne Christian. Otherwise, to binde us harder then the law, and tell us wee are not under bondage, is meere mockery. If till the unbeleever please to part, we may not stirre from the house of our bondage, then certain this our liberty is not grounded in the purchas of Christ, but in the pleasure of a miscreant. What knowes the loyal husband whether he may not save the adultresse, he is not therfore bound to receive her. What knowes the wife but shee may reclaim her husband who hath deserted her? yet the reformed Churches doe not enjoyn her to wait longer then after the contempt of an Ecclesiastical Summons. Beza himselfe heer befriends us with a remarkable speech, what could be firmly constituted in human matters if under pretence of expecting grace from above, it should be never lawfull for us to seeke our right. And yet in other cases not lesse reasonable to obtain a most just and needfull remedy by divorce he turnes the innocent party to a taske of prayers beyond the multitude of beads and rosaries, to beg the gift of chastity in recompence of an injurious mariage. But the Apostle is evident anough, we are not under bondage, trusting that he writes to those who are not ignorant what bondage is, to let supercilious determiners cheat them of their freedome. God hath call'd us to peace, and so doubtlesse hath left in our hands how to obtaine it seasonably; if it be not our own choise to sit ever like novices wretchedly servile.
Thus much the Apostle in this question between Christian and Pagan, to us now of little use; yet supposing it written for our instruction as it may be rightly apply'd, I doubt not but that the difference between a true beleever and a heretic, or any one truely religious either deserted or seeking divorce from any one groslly erroneous or profane may be referr'd hither. For St. Paul leaves us heer the solution not of this case only, which little concernes us, but of such like cases, which may occurr to us. For where the reasons directly square, who can forbid why the verdict should not be the same? But this the common writers allow us not. And yet from this text which in plaine words gives liberty to none unlesse deserted by an infidel, they collect the same freedom though the desertion bee not for religion, which, as I conceive, they neede not doe; but may without straining reduce it to the cause of fornication. For first they confesse that desertion is seldome without a just suspition of adultery: next it is a breach of mariage in the same kind, and in some sort worse: for adultery though it give to another, yet it bereaves not al; but the deserter wholly denies all right, and makes one flesh twain, which is counted the absolutest breach of matrimony, and causes the other, as much as in him lies, to commit sin, by being so left. Neverthelesse those reasons which they bring of establishing by this place the like liberty from any desertion, are faire and solid: and if the thing be lawfull, and can be prov'd so, more waies then one, so much the safer. Their arguments I shall heer recite, and that they may not come idle, shall use them to make good the like freedome to divorce for other causes; and that we are no more under bondage to any hainous default against the main ends of matrimony, then to a desertion: First they allege that to Tim.1. 5. 8. If any provide not for those of his own house, hee hath deny'd the faith, and is worse then an Infidel. But a deserter, say they, can have no care of them who are most his owne, therefore the deserted party is not lesse to bee righted against such a one then against an infidel. With the same evidence I argue, that man or wife who hates in wedloc, is pereptually unsociable, unpeacefull, or unduteous, either not being able, or not willing to performe what the maine ends of mariage demand in helpe and solace, cannot bee said to care for who shou'd bee dearest in the house; therefore is worse then an infidel in both regards, either in undertaking a duty which he cannot performe, to the undeserved and unspeakable injury of the other party so defrauded and betrai'd, or not performing what he hath undertaken, whenas he may or might have, to the perjury of himselfe, more irreligious then heathenisme. The blamelesse person therfore hath as good a plea to sue out his delivery from this bondage, as from the desertion of an infidel. Since most writers cannot but grant that desertion is not only a local absence, but an intolerable society; or if they grant it not, the reasons of Saint Paul grant it, with as much leave as they grant to enlarge a particular freedom from paganisme, into a general freedom from any desertion. Secondly, they reason from the likenes of either fact, the same losse redounds to the deserted by a christian, as by an infidel, the same peril of temptation. And I in like manner affirme, that if honest and free persons may be allow'd to know what is most to their owne losse, the same losse and discontent, but worse disquiet with continuall misery and temptation resides in the company, or better call'd the persecution of an unfit, or an unpeaceable consort, then by his desertion. For then the deserted may enjoy himselfe at least. And he who deserts is more favourable to the party whom his presence afflicts, then that importunat thing which is and will be ever conversant before the eyes a loyal and individual vexation. As for those who still rudely urge it no loss to mariage, no desertion, so long as the flesh is present and offers a benevolence that hates, or is justly hated, I am not of that vulgar and low perswasion, to thinke such forc'd embracements as these worth the honour, or the humanity of mariage, but farre beneath the soul of a rational and freeborne Man. Thirdly they say, it is not the infidelity of the deserter, but the desertion of the infidel from which the Apostle gives this freedom; and I joyne that the Apostle could as little require our subjection to an unfit and injurious bondage present, as to an infidel absent. To free us from that which is an evil by being distant, and not from that which is an inmate, and in the bosome evil, argues an improvident and careles deliverer. And thus all occasions, which way so ever they turn are not unofficious to administer somthing which may conduce to explain, or to defend the assertion of this book touching divorce. I complain of nothing, but that it is indeed too copious to be the matter of a dispute, or a defence, rather to be yeelded, as in the best ages, a thing of common reason, not of controversie. What have I left to say? I fear to be more elaborat in such perspicuity as this; lest I should seem not to teach, but to upbraid the dulnes of an age; not to commun with reason in men, but to deplore the loss of reason from among men: this only, and not the want of more to say, is the limit of my discours.
Who among the fathers have interpreted the words of Christ concerning divorce, as is heer interpreted; and what the civil law of Christian Emperors in the primitive Church determind.
Although testimony be in Logic an argument
rightly call'd inartificial, & doth not solidly fetch
the truth by multiplicity of Authors, nor argue a
thing false by the few that hold so; yet seeing most
men from their youth so accustom, as not to scanne
reason, nor cleerly to apprehend it, but to trust for
that the names and numbers of such, as have got,
and many times undeservedly, the reputation among
them to know much, and because there is a vulgar
also of teachers, who are as blindly by whom they
fancy led, as they lead the people, it will not be amiss
for them who had rather list themselves under this
weaker sort, and follow authorities, to take notice
that this opinion which I bring, hath bin favour'd,
and by som of those affirm'd, who in their time
were able to carry what they taught, had they urg'd
it, through all Christendom; or to have left it such a
credit with all good men, as they who could not
bouldly use the opinion, would have fear'd to censure
it. But since by his appointment on whom the times
and seasons wait, every point of doctrin is not fatall
to be throughly sifted out in every age, it will be
anough for me to find, that the thoughts of wisest
heads heertofore, and hearts no less reverenc't for
devotion have tended this way, and contributed
their lot in some good measure towards this which
hath bin heer attain'd. Others of them and modern
especially, have bin as full in the assertion, though
not so full in the reason; so that either in this
regard, or in the former, I shall be manifest in a
middle fortune to meet the praise or dispraise of
beeing somthing first. But I deferr not what I undertooke to shew, that in
the Church both primitive and reformed, the words
of Christ have been understood to grant divorce for
other causes then adultery; and that the word
fornication in mariage hath a larger sense then that
Justin Martyr in his first Apology writtin within 50. yeares after St. John dy'd, relates a story which Eusebius transcribes, that a certain matron of Rome, the wife of a vitious husband, her selfe also formerly vitious, but converted to the faith, and persuading the same to her husband, at lest the amendment of his wicked life, upon his not yielding to her daily entreaties and persuasions in this behalf, procur'd by law to be divorc't from him. This was neither for adultery, nor desertion, but as the relation saies, Esteeming it an ungodly thing to be the consort of bed with him, who against the law of nature and of right sought out voluptuous waies. Suppose he endeavour'd som unnaturall abuse, as the Greek admitts that meaning, it cannot yet be call'd adultery; it therfore could be thought worthy of divorce no otherwise then as equivalent, or wors; and other vices will appear in other respects as much divorsive. Next tis said her friends advis'd her to stay a while; and what reason gave they? not because they held unlawfull what she purpos'd, but because they thought she might longer yet hope his repentance. She obey'd, till the man going to Alexandria, and from thence reported to grow still more impenitent, not for any adultery or desertion, wherof neither can be gather'd, but, saith the Martyr, and speaks it like one approving, lest she should be partaker of his unrighteous and ungodly deeds, remaining in wedloc, the communion of bed and board with such a person, she left him by a lawfull divorce. This cannot but give us the judgment of the Church in those pure and next to Apostolic times. For how els could the woman have been permitted, or heer not reprehended; and if a wife might then doe this without reprooff, a husband certainly might no less, if not more.
Tertullian in the same Age, writing his 4. book against Marcion witnesses that Christ by his answer to the Pharises protected the constitution of Moses as his own, and directed the institution of the creator, for I alter not his Carthaginian phrase; he excus'd rather then destroi'd the constitution of Moses; I say he forbidd conditionally, if any one therefore put away, that he may marry another: so that if he prohibited conditionally, then not wholly; and what he forbadd not wholly, he permitted otherwise, where the cause ceases for which he prohibited: that is when a man makes it not the cause of his putting away, meerly that he may marry again. Christ teaches not contrary to Moses, the justice of divorce hath Christ the asserter: he would not have mariage separat, nor kept with ignominy, permitting then a divorce; and guesses that this vehemence of our Saviours sentence was chiefly bent against Herod, as was cited before. Which leavs it evident how Tertullian interpreted this prohibition of our Saviour: for wheras the text is, Whosoever putteth away and marieth another, wherfore should Tertullian explain it, Whosoever putteth away that he may marry another, but to signify this opinion that our Saviour did not forbidd divorce from an unworthy yoke, but forbidd the malice or the lust of a needless change and chiefly those plotted divorces then in use.
Origen in the next century testifies to have known certain who had the government of Churches in his time, who permitted som to marry, while yet their former husbands liv'd, and excuses the deed, as don not without cause, though without Scripture, which confirms that cause not to be adultery; for how then was it against Scripture that they maried again. And a little beneath, for I cite his 7. homily on Matthew, saith he, To endure faults wors then adultery and fornication, seems a thing unreasonable, and disputes therfore that Christ did not speak by way of precept, but as it were expounding. By which and the like speeches Origen declares his mind farre from thinking that our Saviour confin'd all the causes of divorce to actual adultery.
Lactantius of the age that succeeded speaking of this matter in the 6. of his institutions, hath these words. But lest any think he may circumscribe divine precepts, let this be added, that all misinterpreting, and occasion of fraud, or death may be remov'd, he commits adultery who marries the divorc't wife, and, besides the crime of adultery, divorces a wife that he may marry another. To divorce and marry another, and to divorce that he may marry another, are two different things; and imply that Lanctantius thought not this place the forbidding of all necessary divorce, but such only as proceeded from the wanton desire of a future chois, not from the burden of a present affliction.
About this time the Councel of Eliberis in Spain decreed the husband excommunicat, If he kept his wife being an adulteress; but if he left her, he might after ten yeares be receav'd into communion, if he retain'd her any while in his house after the adultery known. The councel of Neocaesarea in the year 314. decreed, that if the wife of any Laic were convicted of adultery, that man could not be admitted into the ministery: if after ordination it were committed, he was to divorce her; if not, he could not hold his ministery. The councel of Nantes condemn'd in 7. yeares penance the husband that would reconcile with an adulteress. But how proves this that other causes may divorce? It proves thus; there can be but two causes why these councels enjoyn'd so strictly the divorcing of an adultress, either as an offender against God, or against the husband; in the latter respect they could not impose on him to divorce; for every man is the master of his own forgivenes; who shal hinder him to pardon the injuries don against himself? It follows therfore that the divorce of an adultress was commanded by these three councels, as it was a sin against God; and by all consequence they could not but beleeve that other sins as hainous might with equal justice be the ground of a divorce.
Basil in his 73. rule, as Chamier numbers it, thus determins, that divorce ought not to be, unlesse for adultery, or the hindrance to a godly life. What doth this but proclaime aloud more causes of divorce then adultery, if by other sins besides this, in wife or husband, the godlines of the better person may be certainly hinder'd, and endanger'd.
Epiphanius no less ancient, writing against Heretics, & therefore should himself be orthodoxal above others, acquaints us in his second book, Tom. 1, not that his private persuasion was, but that the whole Church in his time generally thought other causes of divorce lawful besides adultery, as comprehended under that name; If, saith he, a divorce happ'n for any cause either fornication, or adultery, or any hainous fault, the word of God blames not either the man or wife marrying again, nor cutts them off from the congregation, or from life, but beares with the infirmity; not that he may keep both wives, but that leaving the former he may be lawfully joyn'd to the latter, the holy word, and the holy Church of God commiserates this man, especially, if he be otherwise of good conversation, and live according to Gods law. This place is cleerer then exposition, and needs no comment.
Ambrose on the 16. of Luke, teaches that all wedloc is not Gods joyning and to the 19. of Pro. That a wife is prepard of the Lord, as the old latin translates it, he answers that the septuagint renders it, a wife is fitted by the Lord, and temper'd to a kind of harmony; and where that harmony is there God joyns; where it is not, there dissention reigns, which is not from God, for God is love. This he brings to prove the marrying of Christian with Gentile to be no mariage, and consequently divorc't without sin: but he who sees not this argument now plainly it serves to divorce any untunable, or unattonable matrimony, sees little. On the 1 to the Cor, 7, he grants a woman may leave her husband not for only fornication, but for Apostacy, and inverting nature, though not marry again; but the man may: heer are causes of divorce assign'd other then adultery. And going on he affirms, that the cause of God is greater then the cause of matrimony; that the reverence of wedloc is not due to him who hates the author therof; that no matrimony is firm without devotion to God; that dishonour don to God acquitts the other being deserted from the bond of matrimony; that the faith of marriage is not to be kept with such. If these contorted sentences be ought worth, it is not the desertion that breaks what is broken, but the impiety; and who then may not for that cause better divorce, then tarry to be deserted? or these grave sayings of St. Ambrose are but knacks.
Jerom on the 19. of Matthew explains, that for the cause of fornication, or the suspicion therof a man may freely divorce. What can breed that suspicion, but sundry faults leading that way? by Jeroms consent therfore divorce is free not only for actual adultery, but for any cause that may encline a wise man to the just suspicion therof.
Austin also must be remeber'd among those who hold that this instance of fornication gives equal inference to other faults equally hateful, for which to divorce: & therfore in his books to Pollentius he disputes that infidelity, as being a greater sin then adultery, ought so much the rather cause a divorce. And on the Sermon in the Mount, under the name of fornication will have idolatry, or any harmfull superstition contain'd, which are not thought to disturb matrimony so directly as som other obstinacies and dissaffections, more against the daily duties of that cov'nant, & in the eastern tongues not unfrequently call'd fornication, as hath bin shew'n. Hence is understood, saith he, that not only for bodily fornication, but for that which draws the mind from Gods law, and fouly corrupts it, a man may without fault put away his wife, and a wife her husband, because the Lord excepts the cause of fornication, which fornication we are constrain'd to interpret in a general sense. And in the first book of his retractations chap. 16. he retracts not this his opinion, but commends it to serious consideration; and explains that he counted not there all sin to be fornication, but the more detestable sort of sins. The cause of fornication therefore is not in this discours newly interpreted to signify other faults infringing the duties of wedloc, besides adultery.
Lastly the councel of Agatha in the year 506. can. 25. decreed, that if lay men who divorc't without some great fault, or giving no probable cause, therfore divorc't, that they might marry som unlawful person, or some other mans, if before the provinciall Bishops were made acquainted, or judgement past, they presum'd this, excommunication was the penalty. Whence it followes, that if the cause of divorce were som great offence, or that they gave probable causes for what they did, and did not therefore divorce that they might presume with som unlawfull person, or what was another mans, the censure of Church in those daies did not touch them.
Thus having alledg'd anough to shew after what manner the primitive Church for above 500. yeares understood our Saviours words touching divorce, I shall now with a labour less disperst, and sooner dispatcht, bring under view what the civil law of those times constituted about this matter: I say the civil law, which is the honour of every true Civilian to stand for, rather then to count that for law, which the pontificiall Canon had enthrall'd them to, and in stead of interpreting a generous and elegant law, made them the drudges of a blockish Rubric.
Theodosius and Valentinian, pious Emperors both, ordain'd that as by consent lawfull mariages were made, so by consent, but not without the bill of divorce, they might be dissolv'd; and to dissolve was the more difficult, onely in favour of the children. We see the wisdome and piety of that age one of the purest and learnedest since Christ, conceav'd no hindrance in the words of our Saviour, but that a divorce mutually consented, might bee suffer'd by the law, especially if there were no children, or if there were, carefull provision was made. And further saith that law (supposing there wanted the consent of either,) wee designe the causes of divorce by this most wholesom law; for as we forbid the dissolving of mariage without just cause, so we desire that a husband or a wife distrest by som advers necessity, should be freed, though by an unhappy, yet a necessary releefe. What dramm of wisdome or religion (for Charity is truest Religion) could there be in that knowing age, which is not virtually summ'd up in this most just law? As for those other Christian Emperours, from Constantine the first of them, finding the Roman law in this point so answerable to the Mosaic, it might bee the likeliest cause why they alter'd nothing to restraint' but if ought, rather to liberty, for the helpe and consideration of the weaker sexe, according as the Gospel seems to make the wife more equal to her husband in these conjugal respects then the law of Moses doth. Therefore if a man were absent from his wife foure yeares, and in that space not heard of, though gon to warre in the service of the Empire, she might divorce, and marry another by the edict of Constantine to Dalmatius, Co. l. 5. tit. 17. And this was an age of the Church both antient, and cry'd up still for the most flourishing in knowledge and pious government since the Apostles. But to returne to this law of Theodosius, with this observation by the way, that still as the Church corrupted, as the Clergie grew more ignorant, and yet more usurping on the Magistrate, who also now declin'd, so still divorce grew more restrain'd; though certainly if better times permitted the thing that worse times restrain'd, it would not weakly argue that the permission was better, and the restraint worse. This law therefore of Theodosius wiser in this then the most of his successors, though not wiser then God and Moses, reduc't the causes of divorce to a certain number which by the judiciall law of God, and all recorded humanitie, were left before to the brest of each husband, provided that the dismisse was not without reasonable conditions to the wife. But this was a restraint not yet come to extreames. For besides adultery and that not only actual, but suspected by many signes there set down, any fault equally punishable with adultery, or equally infamous might bee the cause of a divorce. Which informes us how the wisest of those ages understood that place in the Gospel, whereby, not the pilfering of a benevolence was consider'd as the main and only breach of wedloc, as is now thought, but the breach of love and peace, a more holy union then that of the flesh; and the dignity of an honest person was regarded, not to bee held in bondage with one whose ignominy was infectious. To this purpose was constituted Cod. l. 5. tit. 17. and Authent. collat. 4. tit. 1. Novell. 22. where Justinian added three causes more. In the 117. Novell. most of the same causes are allow'd, but the liberty of divorcing by consent is repeal'd: but by whom? by Justinian, not a wiser, not a more religious emperor then either of the former, but noted by judicious writers for his fickle head in making and unmaking lawes; and how Procopius a good historian, and a counselor of state then living deciphers him in his other actions, I willingly omitt. Nor was the Church then in better case, but had the corruption of a 100. declining yeares swept on it, when the statute of consent was call'd in; which as I said, gives us every way more reason to suspect this restraint, more then that liberty: which therfore in the reign of Justin the succeeding Emperor was recall'd, Novel. 140. & establisht with a preface more wise & christianly then for those times, declaring the necessity to restore that Theodosian law, if no other meanes of reconcilement could be found. And by whom this law was abrogated, or how long after, I doe not finde; but that those other causes remain'd in force as long as the Greek empire subsisted, and were assented to by that Church, is to bee read in the Canons and edicts compar'd by Photius the Patriarch, with the avertiments of Balsamon, and Matthaeus Monachus thereon.
But long before those dayes Leo the Son of Basilius Macedo reigning about the yeare 886. and for his excellent wisdome surnam'd the Philosopher, constituted that in the case of madnesse the husband might divorce after three yeares, the wife after 5. Constitut. Leon. 111. 112. this declares how hee expounded our Saviour, and deriv'd his reasons from the institution, which in his preface with great eloquence are set downe; wherof a passage or two may give some proofe, though better not divided from the rest. There is not, saith he, a thing more necessary to preserve mankind, then the helpe giv'n him from his own rib; both God and nature so teaching us: which being so, it was requisite that the providence of law, or if any other care be to the good of man, should teach and ordaine those things which are to the helpe and comfort of maried persons, and confirme the end of mariage purpos'd in the beginning, not those things which afflict and bring perpetuall misery to them. Then answers the objection that they are one flesh; if Matrimony had held so as God ordain'd it, he were wicked that would dissolve it. But if we respect this in matrimony, that it be contracted to the good of both, how shall he, who for some great evil feard, perswades not to marry though contracted, nor perswade to unmarry, if after marriage a calamity befall? Should we bid beware least any fall into an evil, and leave him helplesse who by humane error is fall'n therein? This were as if we should use remedies to prevent a disease, but let the sick die without remedy. The rest will be worth reading in the author.
And thus we have the judgement first of primitive fathers; next of the imperial law not disallow'd by the universal Church in ages of her best authority; and lastly of the whole Greeke Church and civil state, incorporating their Canons and edicts together, that divorce was lawfull for other causes equivalent to adultery, contain'd under the word fornication. So that the exposition of our saviours sentences heer alleg'd hath all these ancient and great asserters, is therefore neither new nor licentious, as some now would perswade the commonalty; although it be neerer truth that nothing is more new then those teachers themselves, & nothing more licentious then some known to be, whose hypocrisie yet shames not to take offence at this doctrine for licence; when as indeed they feare it would remove licence, and leave them but few companions.
That the Popes Canon law incroaching upon civil Magistracy abolisht all divorce eevn for adultery. What the reformed Divines have recover'd; and that the famousest of them have taught according to the assertion of this booke.
But in these western parts of the empire it will appeare almost unquestionable that the cited law of Theodosius and Valentinian stood in force untill the blindest and corruptest times of Popedom displac't it. For that the volumes of Justinian never came into Italy, or beyond Illiricum, is the opinion of good Antiquaries. And that only manuscript thereof found in Apulia by Lotharius the Saxon, and giv'n to the states of Pisa for their aid at sea against the Normans of Sicily, was receav'd as a rarity not to bee matcht. And although the Gothes, and after them the Lombards and Franks who over-run the most of Europ except this Island, (unlesse wee make our Saxons and Normans a limm of them) brought in their owne customes, yet that they follow'd the Roman laws in their contracts and mariages, Agathias the historian is alleg'd. And other testimonies relate that Alaricus & Theodoric their Kings writ their statutes out of this Theodosian Code which hath the recited law of Divorce. Neverthelesse while the Monarchs of Christendome were yet barbarous, and but halfe Christian, the Popes tooke this advantage of their weake superstition, to raise a corpulent law out of the canons and decretals of audacious preists; and presum'd also to set this in the front; That the constitutions of princes are not above the constitutions of clergy, but beneath them. Using this very instance of divorce as the first prop of their tyranny; by a false consequence drawn from a passage of Ambrose upon Luke where hee saith, though Mans law grant it, yet Gods law prohibits it. Whence Gregory the Pope writing to Theoctista, inferrs that Ecclesiasticall Courts cannot be dissolv'd by the Magistrate. A faire conclusion from a double error. First in saying that the divine law prohibited divorce, for what will hee make of Moses; next supposing that it did, how will it follow, that what ever Christ forbids in his Evangelic precepts, should be hal'd into a judicial constraint against the patterne of a divine law: Certainely the Gospel came not to enact such compulsions. In the meane while wee may note heere that the restraint of divorce was one of the first faire seeming pleas which the Pope had, to step into secular authority, and with his Antichristian rigor to abolish the permissive law of Christian princes conforming to a sacred lawgiver. Which if we consider, this papal and unjust restriction of divorce need not be so deere to us, since the plausible restraining of that, was in a manner the first loosning of Antichrist; and as it were the substance of his eldest horn. Nor doe we less remarkably ow the first meanes of his fall heer in England to the contemning of that restraint by Henry 8. whose divorce he oppos'd. Yet was not that rigour executed anciently in spiritual Courts untill Alexander the third, who trod upon the neck of Frederic Barbarossa the Emperor, and summond our Henry 2. into Normandy about the death of Becket. He it was, that the worthy author may be known, who first actually repeal'd the imperial law of divorce, and decreed this tyranous decree, that matrimony for no cause should be disolv'd, though for many causes it might separate; as may be seen decret. Gregor. l. 4. tit. 19. and in other places of the Canonicall Tomes. The main good of which invention, wherein it consists, who can tell? but that it hath one vertue incomparable, to fill all christendom with whordomes, and adulteries beyond the art of Balaams or of divells. Yet neither can these, though so perverse, but acknowledge that the words of Christ under the name of fornication allow putting away for other causes then adultery both from bed and bord, but not from the bond; their only reason is, because mariage they beleeve to bee a Sacrament. But our Divines who would seem long since to have renounc't that reason, have so forgot themselves, as yet to hold the absurdity, which but for that reason, unlesse there be some mystery of Satan in it, perhaps the Papist would not hold. Tis true, we grant divorce for actual & prov'd adultery, and not for lesse then many tedious and unreparable yeares of desertion, wherein a man shall loose all his hope of posterity, which great and holy men have bewail'd, ere he can be righted; and then perhaps on the confines of his old age, when all is not worth the while. But grant this were seasonably don; what are these two cases to many other, which afflict the state of marriage as bad, and yet find no redresse? What hath the soule of man deserv'd, if it be in the way of salvation, that it should be mortgag'd thus, and may not redeem it selfe according to conscience out of the hands of such ignorant and slothful teachers as these, who are neither able nor mindful to give due tendance to that pretious cure which they rashly undertake; nor have in them the noble goodnesse to consider these distresses and accidents of mans life; but are bent rather to fill their mouthes with Tithe and oblation. Yet if they can learne to follow, as well as they can seeke to be follow'd, I shall direct them to a faire number of renowned men, worthy to be their leaders, who will commend to them a doctrin in this point wiser then their own; and if they bee not-impatient, it will be the same doctrin which this treatis hath defended.
Wicklif that Englishman honor'd of God to be the first preacher of a general reformation to all Europe, was not in this thing better taught of God, then to teach among his chiefest recoveries of truth, that divorce is lawfull to the christian for many other causes equall to adultery. This book indeed through the poverty of our Libraries I am forc't to cite from Arnisaeus of Halberstad on the right of mariage, who cites it from Corasius of Toulouse c. 4. Cent. Sct. and he from Wicklef. l. 4. Dial. c. 21. So much the sorrier, for that I never lookt into author cited by his adversary upon this occasion, but found him more conducible to the question, then his quotation render'd him.
Next, Luther, how great a servant of God, in his book of conjugal life quoted by Gerard out of the Dutch, allowes divorce for the obstinate denial of conjugal duty; and that a man may send away a proud Vasthi, and marry an Esther in her stead. It seemes, if this example shall not be impertinent, that Luther meant not onely the refusall of benevolence, but a stubborn denial of any main conjugal duty; or if he did not, it will be evinc't from what he allowes. For out of question, with men that are not barbarous, love and peace, and fitnesse, will be yeelded as essential to mariage, as corporal benevolence. Though I give my body to be burnt, saith Saint Paul, and have not charity, it profits me nothing. So though the body prostitute itselfe to whom the mind affords no other love or peace, but constant malice and vexation, can this bodily benevolence deserv to be call'd a mariage between Christians and rationall creatures.
Melanchton, the third great luminary of reformation in his book concerning marriage, grants divorce for cruell usage, and danger of life, urging the authority of that Theodosian law, which he esteemes written with the grave deliberation of godly men; and that they who reject this law, and thinke it disagreeing from the Gospel, understand not the difference of law and Gospel; that the Magistrat ought not only to defend life, but to succour the weake conscience, lest broke with greif and indignation it reliquish praier, and turn to som unlawful thing What if this heavy plight of despaire arise from other discontents in wedloc which may goe to the soule of a good man more then the danger of his life, or cruel using, which a Man cannot bee liable to, suppose it be ingratefull usage, suppose it be perpetuall spight and disobedience, suppose a hatred, shall not the Magistrat free him from this disquiet which interrupts his prayers, and disturbs the cours of his service to God and his Country all as much, and brings him such a misery, as that he more desires to leave his life then feares to loose it? Shall not this equally concerne the office of civil protection, and much more the charity of a true Church to remedy?
Erasmus who for learning was the wonder of his age, both in his notes on Matthew, and on the first to the Corinthians in a large and eloquent discourse, and in his answer to Phimostomus a Papist, maintaines (and no protestant then living contradicted him) that the words of Christ comprehend many other causes of divorce under the name of fornication.
Bucer, whom our famous Dr. Rainolds was wont to preferr before Calvin, in his comment on Matthew, and in his second booke of the Kingdome of Christ, treats of divorce at large to the same effect, as is written in the doctrine and discipline of divorce lately publisht, and the translation is exant: whom lest I should be thought to have wrested to mine own purpose, take something more out of his 49. Chap. which I then for brevity omitted. It will be the duty of pious princes, and all who govern Church, or commonwealth, if any, whether husband or wife, shall affirme their want of such who either will, or can tolerably performe the necessary duties of maried life, to grant that they may seeke them such, and marry them; if they make it appeare that such they have not. This book he wrote heer in England, where he liv'd the greatest admir'd man; and this hee dedicated to Edward the sixth.
Fagius rankt among the famous divines of Germany, whom Frederic, at that time the Palatine sent for to be the reformer of his Dominion, and whom afterwards England sought to, and obtain'd of him to come and teach her, differs not in this opinion from Bucer, as his notes on the Chaldey paraphrast well testify.
The whole Church of Strasburgh in her most flourishing time,when Zellius, Hedio, Capito, and other great Divines taught there, and those two renouned magistrates Farrerus and Sturmius govern'd that common wealth and Academy to the admiration of all Germany, hath thus in the 21. Article. We teach that if according to the word of God, yea or against it, divorces happen, to doe according to Gods word, Deut. 24. 1. Mat. 19. 1 Cor. 7. and the observation of the primitive Church, and the Christian constitution of pious Caesars.
Peter Martyr seems in word our easy adversary, but is in deed for us: toward which though it be somthing when he saith of this opinion, that it is not wicked, and can hardly be refuted, this which followes is much more; I speak not heer, saith he, of natural impediments which may so happ'n, that the matrimony can no longer hold: but adding, that he often wonder'd, how the antient and most christian Emperors establisht those lawes of divorce, and neither Ambrose, who had such influence upon the lawes of Theodosius, nor any of those holy fathers found fault, nor any of the Churches, why the Magistrats of this day should be so loth to constitute the same. Perhaps they feare an inundation of divorces, which is not likely, whenas we reade not either among the Ebrews, Greeks, or Romans, that they were much frequent where they were most permitted. If they judge christian men, worse then Jewes or Pagans, they both injure that name, and by this reason will bee constrain'd to grant divorces the rather; because it was permitted as a remedy of evil, for who would remove the medicin, while the disease is yet so rife? This being read both in his common places, & on the first to the Corinthians, with what we shall relate more of him yet ere the end, sets him absolutely on this side. Not to insist that in both these, & other places of his commentaries hee grants divorce not onely for desertion, but for the seducement and scandalous demeanour of a heretical consort.
Musculus a divine of no obscure fame distinguishes betweene the religious and the civil determination of divorce; and leaving the civil wholly to the lawyers, pronounces a conscionable divorce for impotence not only natural, but accidental, if it be durable. His equity it seems, can enlarge the words of Christ to one cause more then adultery; why may not the reason of another man as wise, enlarge them to another cause.
Gualter of Zuric, a well-known judicious commentator in his Homilies on Matthew, allows divorce for Leprosie, or any other cause which renders unfit for wedloc, and calls this rather a nullity of mariage then a divorce, and who, that is not himselfe a meer body, can restrain all the unfitnes of mariage only to a corporeal defect.
Hemingius an Author highly esteem'd, and his works printed at Geneva, writing of divorce, confesses that lerned men vary in this question, some granting three causes therof, some five, others many more; he himselfe gives us sixe, adultery, desertion, inability, error, evill usage, and impiety, using argument that Christ under one special containes the whole kind, & under the name & example of fornication he includes other causes equipollent. This discours he wrote at the request of many who had the judging of these causes in Denmark and Norway, who by all likelyhood follow'd his advice.
Hunnius a Doctor of Wittenberg, well known in Divinity & other arts, on the 19. of Matt. affirmes that the exception of fornication exprest by our Saviour excludes not other causes equalling adultery, or destructive to the substantials of matrimony; but was oppos'd to the custom of the Jewes who made divorce for every light cause.
Felix Bidenbachius an eminent Divine in the Dutchy of Wirtemberg affirmes that the obstinat refusal of conjugal due is a lawful cause of divorce, and gives an instance that the consistory of that state so judg'd.
Gerard cites Harbardus, an author not unknown, and Arnisaeus cites Wigandus, both yeelding divorce in case of cruel usage; and another author who testifies to have seen in a dukedom of Germany mariages disjoynd for some implacable enmities arising.
Beza one of the strictest against divorce, denies it not for danger of life from a Heretic, or importunat solicitation to doe ought against religion: and counts it all one whether the heretic desert, or would stay upon intolerable conditions. But this decision well examin'd will be found of no solidity. For Beza would be askt why, if God so strictly exact our stay in any kind of wedlock, wee had not better stay and hazard a murdering for Religion at the hand of a wife, or husband, as he and others enjoyn us to stay and venture it for all other causes but that? and why a mans life is not as well and warrantably sav'd by divorcing from an orthodox murderer, as a heretical? Againe, if desertion be confest by him to consist not only in the forsaking, but in the unsufferable conditions of staying, a man may as well deduce the lawfulnesse of divorcing from any deserter, by finding it lawful to divorce from a deserting infidel. For this is plaine, if Saint Pauls permission to divorce an infidel deserter, inferre it lawfull for any malicious desertion, then doth Beza's definition of a deserter transferr it selfe with like facility from the cause of religion to the cause of malice, and proves it as good to divorce from him who intolerably stayes as from him who purposely departs; and leaves it as lawfull to depart from him who urgently requires a wicked thing, though professing the same religion, as from him who urges a heathenish or superstitious compliance in a different faith. For if there be such necessity of our abiding, wee ought rather to abide the utmost for religion then for any other cause; seeing both the cause of our stay is pretended our religion to mariage, and the cause of our suffering is suppos'd our constant mariage to religion. Beza therfore by his owne definition of a deserter justifies a divorce from any wicked or intolerable conditions rather in the same religion then in a different.
Aretius a famous Divine of Bern approves many causes of divorce in his Problemes, and adds that the lawes and consistories of Swizzerland approve them also. As first, adultery, and that not actual only, but intentional, alleging Matthew the fifth, Whosoever looketh to lust, hath committed adultery already in his heart. Wherby saith he, our Saviour shewes that the breach of matrimony may be not only by outward act, but by the heart and desire; when that hath once possest, it renders the conversation intolerable, and commonly the fact followes. Other causes to the number of 9. or 10. consenting in most with the imperial lawes, may bee read in the author himselfe, who averrs them to be grave and weighty. All these are men of name in Divinity' and to these if need were, might be added more. Nor have the Civilians bin all so blinded by the Canon, as not to avouch the justice of those old permissions touching divorce.
Alciat of Milan, a Man of extraordinary wisdome and learning, in the sixt book of his Parerga, defends those imperial lawes, not repugnant to the Gospel, as the Church then interpreted. For saith hee, the antients understood him separat by man, whom passions and corrupt affections divorc't, not, if the provincial Bishops first heard the matter, and judg'd, as the councel of Agatha declares; and on some part of the Code hee names Isidorus Hispalensis, the first computer of Canons, to be in the same minde. And in the former place gives his opinion that divorce might be more lawfully permitted then usury.
Corasius recorded by Helvicus among the famous Lawyers hath been already cited of the same judgement.
Wesembechius a much nam'd Civilian in his comment on this law defends it, and affirms that our Saviour excluded not other faults equall to adultery; and that the word fornication signifies larger among the Hebrewes then with us, comprehending every fault which alienates from him to whom obedience is due, and that the primitive Church interpreted so.
Grotius yet living, and of prime note among learned men retires plainly from the Canon to the antient civility, yea to the Mosaic law, as being most just and undecevable. On the fifth of Matt. he saith, that Christ made no civil lawes, but taught us how to use law: that the law sent not a husband to the Judge about this matter of divorce, but left him to his owne conscience; that Christ therfore cannot be thought to send him; that adultery may be judg'd by a vehement suspicion; that the exception of adultery seems an example of other like offences; proves it from the manner of speech, the maxims of law, the reason of charity, and common equity.
These authorities without long search I had to produce, all excellent men, som of them such as many ages had brought forth none greater: almost the meanest of them might deserve to obtain credit in a singularity; what might not then all of them joyn'd in an opinion so consonant to reason? For although som speak of this cause, others of that, why divorce may be, yet all agreeing in the necessary enlargement of that textual straitnes, leave the matter to equity, not to literal bondage, and so the opinion closes. Nor could I have wanted more testimonies, had the cause needed a more sollicitous enquiry. But herein the satisfaction of others hath bin studied, not the gaining of more assurance to mine own perswasion: although authorities contributing reason withall, bee a good confirmation and a welcom. But God, I solemnly attest him, withheld from my knowledge the consenting judgement of these men so late, untill they could not bee my instructers, but only my unexpected witnesses to partial men, that in this work I had not given the worst experiment of an industry joyn'd with integrity and the free utterance though of an unpopular truth. Which yet to the people of England may, if God so please, prove a memorable informing; certainly a benefit which was intended them long since by men of highest repute for wisedome & piety Bucer & Erasmus. Only this one autority more, whether in place or out of place, I am not to omitt; which if any can think a small one, I must bee patient it is no smaller then the whole assembl'd autority of England both Church and State; and in those times which are on record for the purest and sincerest that ever shon yet on the reformation of this Iland, the time of Edward the 6th. That worthy Prince having utterly abolisht the Canon Law out of his Dominions, as his Father did before him, appointed by full vote of Parlament, a Committy of two and thirty chosen men, Divines and Lawyers, of whom Cranmer the Archbishop, Peter Martyr, and Walter Haddon, (not without the assistance of Sir John Cheeke the Kings Tutor, a man at that time counted the learnedest of Englishmen, & for piety not inferior) were the chief, to frame anew som Ecclesiastical Laws, that might be instead of what was abrogated. The work with great diligence was finisht, and with as great approbation of that reforming age was receav'd; and had bin doubtlesse, as the learned Preface therof testifies, establisht by Act of Parlament, had not the good Kings death so soon ensuing, arrested the furder growth of Religion also, from that season to this. Those laws, thus founded on the memorable wisedome and piety of that religious Parlament and Synod, allow divorce and second mariage not only for adultery or desertion, but for any captial enmity or plot laid against the others life, and likewise for evil and fierce usage: nay the 12. Chap. of that title by plaine consequence declares, that lesser contentions, if they be perpetual, may obtaine divorce: which is all one really with the position by me held in the former treatise publisht on this argument, herein only differing that there the cause of perpetual strife was put for example in the unchangeable discord of som natures; but in these lawes intended us by the best of our ancestors, the effect of continual strife is determin'd no unjust plea of divorce, whether the cause be naturall or wilfull. Wherby the warinesse and deliberation from which that discourse proceeded, will appeare, & that God hath aided us to make no bad conclusion of this point; seeing the opinion which of late hath undergon ill censures among the vulgar, hath now prov'd to have don no violence to Scripture, unlesse all these famous Authors alledg'd have done the like; nor hath affirm'd ought more then what indeed the most nominated Fathers of the Church both ancient and modern are unexpectedly found affirming, the lawes of Gods peculiar people, & of primitive Christendom found to have practis'd, reformed Churches and states to have imitated, and especially the most pious Church-times of this Kingdom to have fram'd and publisht, and, but for sad hindrances in the sudden change of religion, had enacted by Parlament. Hence forth let them who condemn the assertion of this book for new and licentious, be sorry; lest, while they think to be of the graver sort, and take on them to be teachers, they expose themselves rather to be pledg'd up and down by men who intimatly know them, to the discovery and contempt of their ignorance and presumption.