Deut. XXIV. 1, 2.
I. When a man hath taken a Wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her, then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
2. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.

That which is the only discommodity of speaking in a clear matter, the abundance of argument that presses to be utter'd, and the suspense of judgment what to choose, and how in the multitude of reason to be not tedious, is the greatest difficulty which I expect here to meet with. Yet much hath bin said formerly concerning this Law in the Doctrine of Divorce. Wherof I shall repeat no more than what is necessary. Two things are here doubted: First, and that but of late, whether this be a Law or no; next, what this reason of uncleanness might mean, for which the Law is granted. That it is a plain Law no man ever question'd, till Vatablus within these hundred years profess'd Hebrew at Paris, a man of no Religion, as Beza deciphers him. Yet some there be who follow him, not only against the current of all Antiquity both Jewish and Christian, but the evidence of Scripture also, Malach. 2. 16. Let him who hateth put away, saith the Lord God of Israel. Altho' this place also hath bin tamper'd with, as if it were to be thus render'd, The Lord God saith, that he hateth putting away. But this new interpretation rests only in the Authority of Junius; for neither Calvin, nor Vatablus himself, nor any other known Divine so interpreted before. And they of best note who have translated the Scripture since, and Diodati for one, follow not his reading. And perhaps they might reject it, if for nothing else, for these two Reasons: First, it introduces in a new manner the person of God speaking less Majestic than he is ever wont: When God speaks by his Prophet, he ever speaks in the first person, therby signifying his Majesty and Omnipresence. He would have said, I hate puttting away, saith the Lord; and not sent word by Malachi in a sudden fallen stile, The Lord God saith that he hateth putting away: that were the phrase to shrink the glorious Omnipresence of God speaking, into a kind of circumscriptive absence. And were as if a Herald in the Achievement of a King, should commit the indecorum to set his helmet sideways and close, not full-faced and open in the posture of direction and command. We cannot think therfore that this last Prophet would thus in a new fashion absent the person of God from his own words, as if he came not along with them. For it would also be wide from the proper scope of his place: he that reads attentively will soon perceive, that God blames not here the Jews for putting away their wives, but for keeping strange Concubines, to the profaning of Judah's holiness, and the vexation of their Hebrew wives, v. 11, and 14. Judah hath married the daughter of a strange God: And exhorts them rather to put their wives away whom they hate, as the Law permitted, than to keep them under such affronts. And it is receiv'd that this Prophet liv'd in those times of Ezra and Nehemiah (nay by some is thought to be Ezra himself) when the People were forc'd by these two Worthies to put their strange wives away. So that what the story of those times, and the plain context of the 11 verse, from whence this rebuke begins, can give us to conjecture of the obscure and curt Ebraisms that follow, this Prophet does not forbid putting away, but forbids keeping, and commands putting away according to God's Law, which is the plainest Interpreter both of what God will, and what he can best suffer. Thus much evinces that God there commanded Divorce by Malachi, and this confirms that he commands it also here by Moses.
I may the less doubt to mention by the way an Author, tho' counted Apocryphal, yet of no small account for Piety and Wisdom, the Author of Ecclesiasticus. Which Book, begun by the Grand- father of that Jesus who is call'd the Son of Sirach, might have bin written in part, not much after the time when Malachi liv'd; if we compute by the Reign of Ptolemaeus Euergetes. It professes to explain the Law and the Prophets; and yet exhorts us to Divorce for incurable causes, and to cut off from the flesh those whom it there describes, Ecclesiastic. 25. 26. Which doubtless that wise and ancient Writer would never have advis'd, had either Malachi so lately forbidden it, or the Law by a full precept not left it lawful. But I urge not this for want of better proof; our Saviour himself allows Divorce to be a command, Mark 10. 3, 5. Neither do they weaken this assertion, who say it was only a sufferance, as shall be prov'd at large in that place of Mark. But suppose it were not a written Law, they never can deny it was a custom, and so effect nothing. For the same reasons that induce them why it should not be a Law, will straiten them as hard why it should be allow'd a custom. All custom is either evil or not evil; if it be evil, this is the very end of Lawgiving, to abolish evil customs by wholesom Laws; unless we imagine Moses weaker than every negligent and startling Politician. If it be, as they make this of Divorce to be, a custom against nature, against justice, against charity, now, upon this most impure custom tolerated, could the God of pureness erect a nice and precise Law, that the Wife married after Divorce could not return to her former Husband, as being defiled? What was all this following niceness worth, built upon the lewd foundation of a wicked thing allow'd? In few words then, this custom of Divorce either was allowable or not allowable; if not allowable, how could it be allow'd? if it were allowable, all who understand Law will consent, that a tolerated custom hath the force of a Law, and is indeed no other but an unwritten Law, as Justinian calls it, and is as prevalent as any written statute. So that their shift of turning this Law into a custom wheels about, and gives the onset upon their own flanks; not disproving, but concluding it to be the more firm Law, because it was without controversy a granted custom; as clear in the reason of common life, as those given rules wheron Euclides builds his propositions.
Thus being every way a Law of God, who can without blasphemy doubt it to be a just and pure Law? Moses continually disavows the giving them any statute, or judgment, but what he learnt of God; of whom also in his Song he saith, Deut. 32. He is the rock, his work is perfect, all his ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. And David testifies, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. Not partly right and partly wrong, much less wrong altogether, as Divines of now-a-days dare censure them. Moses again, of that people to whom he gave this Law, saith, Deut. 14. Ye are the children of the Lord your God, the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people to himself above all the nations upon the earth, that thou shouldest keep all his Commandments, and be high in praise, in name, and in honour, holy to the Lord, Chap. 26. And in the fourth, Behold I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, keep therfore and do them. For this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of Nations that shall hear all these Statutes, and say, surely this great Nation is a wise and understanding people. For what Nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh to them? and what Nation that hath Statutes and Judgments so righteous as all this Law which I set before you this day? Thus whether we look at the purity and justice of God himself, the jealousy of his honour among other Nations, the holiness and moral perfection which he intended by his Law to teach this people, we cannot possibly think how he could indure to let them slug and grow inveterately wicked, under base allowances, and whole adulterous lives by dispensation. They might not eat, they might not touch an unclean thing; to what hypocrisy then were they train'd up, if by prescription of the same Law, they might be unjust, they might be adulterous for term of life? forbid to soil their garments with a coy imaginary pollution, but not forbid, but countenanced and animated by Law to soil their Souls with deepest defilements. What more unlike to God, what more like that God should hate, than that his Law should be so curious to wash vessels, and vestures, and so careless to leave unwash'd, unregarded, so foul a scab of Egypt in their Souls? what would we more? the Statutes of the Lord are all pure and just: and if all, then this of Divorce.
Because he hath found some uncleanness in her. ] That we may not esteem this Law to be a meer authorizing of licence, as the Pharisees took it, Moses adds the reason, for some uncleanness found. Some hertofore have bin so ignorant, as to have thought, that this uncleanness means Adultery. But Erasmus, who for having writ an excellent Treatise of Divorce, was wrote against by some burly standard Divine perhaps of Cullen, or of Louvain, who calls himself Phimostomus, shews learnedly out of the Fathers, with other Testimonies and Reasons, that uncleanness is not here so understood; defends his former work, though new to that age, and perhaps counted licentious, and fears not to ingage all his fame on the Argument. Afterward, when Expositors began to understand the Hebrew Text, which they had not done of many ages before, they translated word for word not uncleanness, but the nakedness of any thing; and considering that nakedness is usually referr'd in Scripture to the mind as well as to the body, they constantly expound it any defect, annoyance, or ill quality in nature, which to be join'd with, makes life tedious, and such company worse than solitude. So that here will be no cause to vary from the general consent of exposition, which gives us freely that God permitted divorce, for whatever was unalterably distastful, whether in body or mind. But with this admonishment, that if the Roman Law, especially in contracts and dowries, left many things to equity with these cautions, ex fide bona, quod equius melius erit, ut inter bonos bene agitur, we will not grudge to think that God intended not licence here to every humour, but to such remediless grievances as might move a good and honest and faithful man then to divorce, when it can no more be peace or comfort to either of them continuing thus join'd. And although it could not be avoided, but that Men of hard hearts would abuse this liberty, yet doubtless it was intended, as all other privileges in Law are, to good men principally, to bad only by accident. Also that the Sin was not in the permission, nor simply in the action of Divorce (for then the permitting also had bin sin) but only in the abuse. But that this Law should, as it were, be wrung from God and Moses, only to serve the hardheartedness, and the lust of injurious men, how remote it is from all sense, and law, and honesty, and therfore surely from the meaning of Christ, shall abundantly be manifest in due order.
Now although Moses needed not to add other reason of this Law than that one there exprest, yet to these ages wherin Canons, and Scotisms, and Lumbard Laws, have dull'd, and almost obliterated the lively Sculpture of ancient reason, and humanity, it will be requisit to heap reason upon reason, and all little enough to vindicate the whiteness and the innocence of this divine Law, from the calumny it finds at this day, of being a door to licence and confusion. Whenas indeed there is not a judicial point in all Moses, consisting of more true equity, high wisdom, and god-like pity than this Law; not derogating, but preserving the honour and peace of Marriage, and exactly agreeing with the sense and mind of that institution of Genesis.
For first, if Marriage be but an ordain'd relation, as it seems not more, it cannot take place above the prime dictates of nature; and if it be of natural right, yet it must yield to that which is more natural, and before it by eldership and precedence in nature. Now it is not natural that Hugh marries Beatrice, or Thomas Rebecca, being only a civil contract, and full of many chances; but that these men seek them meet helps, that only is natural, and that they espouse them such, that only is Marriage. But if they find them neither fit helps nor tolerable society, what thing more natural, more original and first in nature than to depart from that which is irksom, grievous, actively hateful, and injurious even to hostility, especially in a conjugal respect, wherin antipathies are invincible, and where the forc'd abiding of the one can be no true good, no real comfort to the other? For if he find no contentment from the other, how can he return it from himself? or no acceptance, how can he mutually accept? What more equal, more pious than to untie a civil knot for a natural enmity held by violence from parting, to dissolve an accidental conjunction of this or that Man and Woman, for the most natural and most necessary disagreement of meet from unmeet, guilty from guiltless, contrary from contrary? It being certain that the mystical and blessed unity of Marriage can be no way more unhallow'd and profan'd, than by the forcible uniting of such disunions and separations. Which if we see oftimes they cannot join or piece up to a common friendship, or to a willing conversation in the same house, how should they possibly agree to the most familiar and united amity of Wedloc? Abraham and Lot, though dear friends and brethren in a strange Country, chose rather to part asunder, than to infect their friendship with the strife of their servants: Paul and Barnabas, join'd together by the Holy Ghost to a spiritual work, thought it better to separate when once they grew at variance. If these great Saints, join'd by Nature, Friendship, Religion, high Providence, and Revelation, could not so govern a casual difference, a sudden passion, but must in wisdom divide from the outward duties of a Friendship, or a Colleagueship in the same family, or in the same journey, lest it should grow to a worse division; can any thing be more absurd and barbarous, than that they whom only Error, Casualty, Art, or Plot, hath joined, should be compell'd, not against a sudden passion, but against the permanent and radical discords of Nature, to the most intimate and incorporating duties of Love and Imbracement, therin only rational and human, as they are free and voluntary; being else an abject and servile yoke, scarce not brutish? And that there is in man such a peculiar sway of liking or disliking in the affairs of Matrimony, is evidently seen before Marriage among those who can be friendly, can respect each other, yet to marry each other would not for any perswasion. If then this unfitness and disparity be not till after Marriage discover'd, through many Causes, and Colours, and Concealments, that may overshadow; undoubtedly it will produce the same effects, and perhaps with more vehemence, that such a mistaken pair would give the world to be unmarried again. And their condition Solomon to the plain justification of Divorce expresses, Prov. 30. 21, 23. where he tells us of his own accord, that a hated, or a hateful Woman, when she is married, is a thing for which the earth is disquieted, and cannot bear it: thus giving divine testimony to this divine Law, which bids us nothing more than is the first and most innocent lesson of Nature, to turn away peaceably from what afflicts, and hazards our destruction; especially when our staying can do no good, and is expos'd to all evil.
Secondly, It is unjust that any Ordinance, ordain'd to the good and comfort of Man, where that end is missing, without his fault, should be forc'd upon him to an unsufferable misery and discomfort, if not commonly ruin. All Ordinances are establisht in their end; the end of Law is the vertue, is the righteousness of Law: and therfore him we count an ill Expounder who urges Law against the intention therof. The general end of every Ordinance, of every severest, every divinest, even of Sabbath, is the good of Man; yea his temporal good not excluded. But Marriage is one of the benignest ordinances of God to man, wherof both the general and particular end is the peace and contentment of man's mind, as the institution declares. Contentment of body they grant, which if it be defrauded, the plea of frigidity shall divorce: But here lies the fathomless absurdity, that granting this for bodily defect, they will not grant it for any defect of the mind, any violation of religious or civil society. Whenas, if the argument of Christ be firm against the ruler of the Synagogue, Luke 13. Thou hypocrite, doth not each of you on the Sabbath-day loosen his Ox or his Ass from the stall, and lead him to watering, and should not I unbind a daughter of Abraham from this bond of Satan? It stands as good here; ye have regard in Marriage to the grievance of body, should you not regard more the grievances of the mind, seeing the Soul as much excels the body, as the outward man excels the Ass, and more? for that animal is yet a living creature, perfect in itself; but the body without the Soul is a meer senseless trunk. No ordinance therfore given particularly to the good both spiritual and temporal of man, can be urged upon him to his mischief: and if they yield this to the unworthier part, the body, whereabout are they in their principles, that they yield it not to the more worthy the mind of a good man?
Thirdly, As no Ordinance, so no Covenant, no not between God and Man, much less between Man and Man, being, as all are, intended to the good of both Parties, can hold to the deluding or making miserable of them both. For Equity is understood in every Covenant, even between enemies, tho' the terms be not exprest. If Equity therfore made it, Extremity may dissolve it. But Marriage, they use to say, is the Covenant of God. Undoubted: and so in any Covenant frequently called in Scripture, wherin God is call'd to witness: The Covenant of Friendship between David and Jonathan, is call'd the Covenant of the Lord, 1 Sam. 20. The Covenant of Zedekiah with the King of Babel, a Covenant to be doubted whether lawful or no, yet in respect of God invok'd therto is call'd the Oath, and the Covenant of God, Ezek. 17. Marriage also is call'd the Covenant of God, Prov. 2. 17. Why, but as before, because God is the witness therof, Mal. 2. 14. So that this denomination adds nothing to the Covenant of Marriage, above any other civil and solemn contract: nor is it more indissoluble for this reason than any other against the end of its own Ordination; nor is any Vow or Oath to God exacted with such a rigour, where superstition reigns not. For look how much divine the Covenant is, so much the more equal, so much the more to be expected that every Article therof should be fairly made good; no false dealing, or unperforming should be thrust upon men without redress, if the covenant be so divine. But Faith, they say, must be kept in Covenant, tho' to our damage. I answer, that only holds true, where the other side performs; which failing, he is no longer bound. Again, this is true, when the keeping of Faith can be of any use or benefit to the other. But in Marriage, a league of Love and Willingness, if Faith be not willingly kept, it scarce is worth the keeping; nor can be any delight to a generous mind, with whom it is forcibly kept: and the question still supposes the one brought to an impossibility of keeping it as he ought, by the other's default; and to keep it formally, not only with a thousand shifts and dissimulations, but with open anguish, perpetual sadness and disturbance, no willingness, no cheerfulness, no contentment, cannot be any good to a mind not basely poor and shallow, with whom the contract of Love is so kept. A Covenant therfore brought to that pass, is on the unfaulty side without injury dissolv'd.
Fourthly, The Law is not to neglect men under greatest sufferances, but to see Covenants of greatest moment faithfullest perform'd. And what injury comparable to that sustain'd in a frustrate and false-dealing Marriage, to lose, for another's fault against him, the best portion of his temporal comforts, and of his spiritual too, as it may fall out? It was the Law, that for man's good and quiet, reduc'd things to propriety, which were at first in common; how much more Law-like were it to assist Nature in disappropriating that evil which by continuing proper becomes destructive? But he might have bewar'd. So he might in any other Covenant, wherin the Law does not constrain Error to so dear a forfeit. And yet in these matters wherin the wisest are apt to err, all the wariness that can be, ofttimes nothing avails. But the Law can compel the offending party to be more duteous. Yes, if all these kind of offences were fit in public to be complain'd on, or being compell'd were any satisfaction to a mate not sottish, or malicious. And these injuries work so vehemently, that if the Law remedy them not, by separating the cause when no way else will pacify, the person not reliev'd betakes him either to such disorderly courses, or to such a dull dejection as renders him either infamous, or useless to the service of God and his Country. Fifthly, The Law is to tender the liberty and the human dignity of them that live under the Law, whether it be the man's right above the woman, or the woman's just appeal against wrong and servitude. But the duties of Marriage contain in them a duty of Benevolence, which to do by compulsion against the Soul, where there can be neither peace, nor joy, nor love, but an enthralment to one who either cannot, or will not be mutual in the godliest and the civilest ends of that society, is the ignoblest, and the lowest slavery that a human shape can be put to. This Law therfore justly and piously provides against such an unmanly task of bondage as this. The Civil Law, tho' it favour'd the setting free of a slave, yet if he prov'd ungrateful to his Patron, reduc'd him to a servile condition. If that Law did well to reduce from liberty to bondage for an ingratitude not the greatest, much more became it the Law of God to enact the restorement of a free- born man from an unpurpos'd, and unworthy bondage, to a rightful liberty, for the most unnatural fraud and ingratitude that can be committed against him. And if the Civilian Emperor in his title of Donations, permit the giver to recall his gift from him who proves unthankful towards him; yea, tho' he had subscrib'd, and sign'd in the deed of the gift, not to recall it, though for this very cause of ingratitude; with much more equity doth Moses permit here the giver to recall no petty gift, but the gift of himself from one who most injuriously and deceitfully uses him against the main ends and condition of his giving himself, exprest in God's institution.
Sixthly, Altho' there be nothing in the plain words of this Law, that seems to regard the afflictions of a Wife, how great soever; yet Expositors determine, and doubtless determine rightly, that God was not uncompassionate of them also in the framing of this Law. For should the rescript of Antoninus in the Civil Law give release to servants flying for refuge to the Emperor's statue, by giving leave to change their cruel Masters; and should God, who in his Law also is good to injur'd servants, by granting them their freedom in divers cases, not consider the wrongs and miseries of a wife, which is no servant? Tho' herin the counter-sense of our Divines, to me, I must confess seems admirable; who teach that God gave this as a merciful Law, not for Man whom he here names, and to whom by name he gives this power; but for the Wife, whom he names not, and to whom by name he gives no power at all. For certainly if Man be liable to injuries in Marriage, as well as Woman, and Man be the worthier Person, it were a preposterous Law to respect only the less worthy; her whom God made for Marriage, and not him at all for whom Marriage was made.
Seventhly, The Law of Marriage gives place to the power of parents: for we hold, that consent of Parents not had, may break the Wedloc, tho' else accomplisht. It gives place to masterly Power, for the Master might take away from an Hebrew servant which he gave him, Exod. 21. If it be answer'd, that the Marriage of Servants is no Matrimony: 'tis reply'd, That this in the ancient Roman Law is true, not in the Mosaic. If it be added, she was a Stranger, not an Hebrew, therfore easily divorc'd; it will be answer'd, That Strangers not being Canaanites, and they also being Converts, might be lawfully married, as Rahab was. And her conversion is here suppos'd; for an Hebrew master could not lawfully give an Heathen wife to an Hebrew servant. However, the divorcing of an Israelitish woman was as easy by the Law, as the divorcing of a Stranger, and almost in the same words permitted, Deut. 24. and Deut. 21. Lastly, it gives place to the right of War, for a captive Woman lawfully marry'd, and afterwards not belov'd, might be dismiss'd, only without ransom, Deut. 21. If Marriage be dissolv'd by so many exterior powers, not superior, as we think, why may not the power of Marriage it self, for its own peace and honour, dissolve it self, where the persons wedded be free persons? Why may not a greater and more natural power complaining dissolve Marriage? For the ends why Matrimony was ordain'd, are certainly and by all Logic above all the Ordinance it self; why may not that dissolve Marriage, without which that institution hath no force at all? For the prime ends of Marriage, are the whole strength and validity therof, without which Matrimony is like an Idol, nothing in the world. But those former allowances were all for hardness of heart. Be that granted, until we come where to understand it better: if the Law suffer thus far the obstinacy of a bad man, is it not more righteous here, to do willingly what is but equal, to remove in season the extremities of a good man?
Eighthly, If a man had deflowr'd a Virgin, or brought an ill name on his Wife that she came not a Virgin to him, he was amerc'd in certain shekels of Silver, and bound never to divorce her all his days, Deut. 22. which shews that the Law gave no liberty to divorce, where the injury was palpable; and that the absolute forbidding to divorce, was in part the punishment of a deflowerer, and a defamer. Yet not so but that the wife questionless might depart when she pleases. Otherwise this course had not so much righted her, as delivered her up to more spight and cruel usage. This Law therfore doth justly distinguish the privilege of an honest and blameless man in the matter of divorce from the punishment of a notorious offender.
Ninthly, Suppose it should be imputed to a man that he was too rash in his choice, and why he took not better heed, let him now smart, and bear his folly as he may; altho' the Law of God, that terrible Law, do not thus upbraid the infirmities and unwilling mistakes of man in his integrity: But suppose these and the like proud aggravations of some stern hypocrite, more merciless in his mercies, than any literal Law in the vigour of severity, must be patiently heard; yet all Law, and God's Law especially grants every-where to error easy remitments, even where the utmost penalty exacted were no undoing. With great reason therfore and mercy doth it here not torment an error, if it be so, with the indurance of a whole life lost to all houshold comfort and society, a punishment of too vast and huge dimension for an error, and the more unreasonable for that the like objection may be oppos'd against the plea of divorcing for Adultery; he might have lookt better before to her breeding under religious parents: why did he not more diligently inquire into her manners, into what company she kept? every glance of her eye, every step of her gait would have prophesy'd adultery, if the quick scent of these discerners had been took along; they had the divination to have foretold you all this, as they have now the divinity to punish an error inhumanly. As good reason to be content, and forc'd to be content with your Adulteress, if these objecters might be the judges of human frailty. But God, more mild and good to man, than man to his brother, in all this liberty given to divorcement, mentions not a word of our past errors and mistakes, if any were, which these men objecting from their own inventions, prosecute with all violence and iniquity. For if the one be to look so narrowly what he takes, at the peril of ever keeping, why should not the other be made as wary what is promis'd, by the peril of losing? for without those promises the treaty of Marriage had not proceeded. Why should his own error bind him, rather than the other's fraud acquit him? Let the buyer beware, saith the old Law-beaten termer. Belike then there is no more honesty, nor ingenuity in the bargain of a Wedloc, than in the buying of a Colt: We must it seems drive it on as craftily with those whose affinity we seek, as if they were a pack of sale-men and complotters. But the deceiver deceives himself in the unprosperous Marriage, and therin is sufficiently punisht. I answer, that the most of those who deceive, are such as either understand not, or value not the true purposes of Marriage; they have the prey they seek, not the punishment: yet say it prove to them some cross, it is not equal that error and fraud should be linkt in the same degree of forfeiture, but rather that error should be acquitted, and fraud bereav'd his morsel, if the mistake were not on both sides; for then on both sides the acquitment will be reasonable, if the bondage be intolerable; which this Law graciously determines, not unmindful of the wife, as was granted willingly to the common Expositors, tho' beyond the letter of this Law, yet not beyond the spirit of charity.
Tenthly, Marriage is a solemn thing, some say a holy, the resemblance of Christ and his Church? and so indeed it is where the persons are truly religious; and we know all sacred things not perform'd sincerely as they ought, are no way acceptable to God in their outward formality. And that wherin it differs from personal duties, if they be not truly done, the fault is in our selves; but Marriage to be a true and pious Marriage is not in the single power of any person; the essence wherof, as of all other Covenants, is in relation to another, the making and maintaining causes therof are all mutual, and must be a communion of spiritual and temporal comforts. If then either of them cannot, or obstinately will not be answerable in these duties, so as that the other can have no peaceful living, or endure the want of what he justly seeks, and sees no hope, then strait from that dwelling love, which is the soul of Wedloc, takes his flight, leaving only some cold performances of civil and common respects; but the true bond of Marriage, if there were ever any there, is already burst like a rotten thread. Then follows dissimulation, suspicion, false colours, false pretences and worse than these, disturbance, annoyance, vexation, sorrow, temptation even in the faultless person, weary of himself, and of all actions public or domestic; then comes disorder, neglect, hatred, and perpetual strife, all these the enemies of Holiness and Christianity, and every one persisted in, a remediless violation of Matrimony. Therfore God who hates all feigning and formality, where there should be all faith and sincereness, and abhors the inevitable discord, where there should be greater concord, when thro' another's default, faith and concord cannot be, counts it neither just to punish the innocent with the Transgressor, nor holy, nor honourable for the sanctity of Marriage, that should be the union of peace and love to be made the commitment, and close fight of enmity and hate. And therfore doth in this Law, what best agrees with his goodness, loosning a sacred thing to peace and charity, rather than binding it to hatred and contention; loosning only the outward and formal tie of that which is already inwardly and really broken, or else was really never join'd.
Eleventhly, One of the chief matrimonial ends is said to seek a holy seed; but where an unfit Marriage administers continual cause of hatred and distemper, there, as was heard before, cannot choose but much unholiness abide. Nothing more unhallows a man, more unprepares him to the service of God in any duty, than a habit of wrath and perturbation, arising from the importunity of troublous causes never absent. And where the houshold stands in this plight, what love can there be to the unfortunate issue, what care of their breeding, which is of main conducement to their being holy? God therfore knowing how unhappy it would be for children to be born in such a family, gives this Law either as a prevention, that being an unhappy pair, they should not add to tbe unhappy parents, or else as a remedy that if there be children, while they are fewest, they may follow either parent, as shall be agreed, or judg'd, from the house of hatred and discord to place of more holy and peaceable education.
Twelfthly, All Law is available to some good end, but the final prohibition of Divorce avails to no good end, causing only the endless aggravation of evil, and therfore this permission of divorce was given to the Jews by the wisdom and fatherly providence of God; who knew that Law cannot command love, without which Matrimony hath no true being, no good, no solace, nothing of God's instituting, nothing but so sordid and so low, as to be disdain'd of any generous person. Law cannot inable natural inability either of body, or mind, which gives the grievance; it cannot make equal those inequalities, it cannot make fit those unfitnesses; and where there is malice more than defect of nature, it cannot hinder ten thousand injuries, and bitter actions of despight, too suttle and too unapparent for Law to deal with. And while it seeks to remedy more outward wrongs, it exposes the injur'd person to other more inward and more cutting. All these evils unavoidably will redound upon the children, if any be, and upon the whole family. It degenerates and disorders the best spirits, leaves them to unsettled imaginations, and degraded hopes, careless of themselves, their housholds and their friends, unactive to all public service, dead to the Commonwealth; wherin they are by one mishap, and no willing trespass of theirs, outlaw'd from all the benefits and comforts of married life and posterity. It confers as little to the honour and inviolable keeping of Matirmony, but sooner stirs up temptations and occasions to secret adulteries and unchaste roving. But it maintains public honesty. Public folly rather; who shall judge of public honesty? The Law of God and of ancientest Christians, and all Civil Nations, or the illegitimate Law of Monks and Canonists, the most malevolent, most unexperienc'd, most incompetent Judges of Matrimony?
These reasons, and many more that might be alleg'd, afford us plainly to perceive, both what good cause this Law had to do for good men in mischances, and what necessity it had to suffer accidentally the hard-heartedness of bad men, which could not certainly discover, or discovering, could not subdue, no nor endeavour to restrain without multiplying sorrow to them, for whom all was indeavour'd. The guiltless therfore were not depriv'd their needful redresses, and the hard hearts of others unchastisable in those judicial Courts, were so remitted there, as bound over to the higher Session of Conscience.
Notwithstanding all this, there is a loud exception against this Law of God, nor can the holy Author save his Law from this exception, that it opens a door to all licence and confusion. But this is the rudest, I was almost saying the most graceless objection, and with the least reverence to God and Moses, that could be devis'd: This is to cite God before man's Tribunal, to arrogate a wisdom and holiness above him. Did not God then foresee what event of licence or confusion could follow? Did not he know how to ponder these abuses with more prevailing respects, in the most even ballance of his justice and pureness, till these correctors came up to shew him better? The Law is, if it stir up sin any way, to stir it up by forbidding, as one contrary excites another, Rom. 7. but if it once come to provoke sin, by granting licence to sin, according to Laws that have no other honest end, but only to permit the fulfilling of obstinate lust, how is God not made the contradicter of himself? No man denies that best things may be abus'd: but it is a Rule resulting from many pregnant expeeriences, that what doth most harm in the abusing, us'd rightly doth most good. And such a good to take away from honest men, for being abus'd by such as abuse all things, is the greatest abuse of all. That the whole Law is no further useful, than as a man uses it lawfully, S. Paul teaches 1 Tim. 1. And that Christian liberty may be us'd for an occasion to the flesh, the same Apostle confesses, Gal. 5. yet thinks not of removing it for that, but bids us rather stand fast in the liberty wherwith Christ hath freed us, and not be held again in the yoke of bondage. The very permission which Christ gave to Divorce for Adultery, may be foully abus'd, by any whose hardness of heart can either feign Adultery, or dares commit, that he may divorce. And for this cause the Pope, and hitherto the Church of England, forbid all divorce from the bond of Marriage, tho' for openest Adultery. If then it be righteous to hinder for the fear of abuse, that which God's Law, notwithstanding that caution, hath warranted to be done, doth not our righteousness come short of Antichrist? or do we not rather herein conform our selves to his unrighteousness in this undue and unwise fear? For God regards more to relieve by this Law the just complaints of good men, than to curb the licence of wicked men, to the crushing withal, and the overwhelming of his afflicted servants. He loves more that his Law should look with pity upon the difficulties of his own, than with rigor upon the boundless riots of them who serve another Master, and hinder'd here by the strictness, will break another way to worse enormities. If this Law therfore have any good reasons for which God gave it, and no intention of giving scope to lewdness, but as abuse by accident comes in with every good Law, and every good thing, it cannot be wisdom in us, while we can content us with God's wisdom, nor can be purity, if his purity will suffice us, to except against this Law, as if it foster'd licence. But if they affirm this Law had no other end, but to permit obdurat lust, because it would be obdurat, making the Law of God intentionally to proclaim and enact Sin lawful, as if the will of God were become sinful, or Sin stronger than his direct and law-giving will, the men would be admonish'd to look well to it, that while they are so eager to shut the door against licence, they do open a worse door to blasphemy. And yet they shall be here further shewn their iniquity; what more foul common sin among us than drunkenness? And who can be ignorant, that if the importation of Wine, and the use of all strong drink, were forbid, it would both clean rid the possibility of committing that odious vice, and men might afterwards live happily and healthfully without the use of those intoxicating liquors. Yet who is there the severest of them all, that ever propounded to lose his Sack, his Ale, toward the certain abolishing of so great a Sin? Who is there of them, the holiest, that less loves his rich canary at meals, tho' it be fetcht from places that hazard the Religion of them who fetch it, and tho' it make his Neighbour drunk out of the same Tun? While they forbid not therfore the use of that liquid Merchandize, which forbidden would utterly remove a most loathsome sin, and not impair either the health or the refreshment of mankind, supply'd many other ways; why do they forbid a Law of God, the forbidding wherof brings into excessive bondage oftimes the best of men, and betters not the worse? He to remove a national vice, will not pardon his cups, nor think it concerns him to forbear the quaffing of that outlandish Grape, in his unnecessary fulness, tho' other men abuse it never so much; nor is he so abstemious as to intercede with the Magistrate that all matter of drunkenness be banish'd the Commonwealth; and yet for the fear of a less inconvenience unpardonably requires of his brethren, in their extreme necessity, to debar themselves the use of God's permissive Law, tho' it might be their saving, and no man's indangering the more. Thus this peremptory strictness we may discern of what sort it is, how unequal and how unjust.
But it will breed confusion. What confusion it would breed, God himself took the care to prevent in the fourth verse of this Chapter, that the divorc'd being married to another, might not return to her former husband. And Justinian's Law counsels the same in his Title of Nuptials. And what confusion else can there be in separation, to separate upon extreme urgency, the religious from the irreligious, the fit from the unfit, the willing from the wilful, the abus'd from the abuser? Such a separation is quite contrary to confusion. But to bind and mix together holy with atheist, heavenly with hellish, fitness with unfitness, light with darkness, antipathy with antipathy, the injur'd with the injurer, and force them into the most inward nearness of a detested union, this doubtless is the most horrid, the most unnatural mixture, the greatest confusion that can be confus'd.
Thus by this plain and Christian Talmud, vindicating the Law of God from irreverent and unwary expostions, I trust, where it shall meet with intelligible perusers, some stay at least of men's thoughts will be obtain'd, to consider these many prudent and righteous ends of this divorcing permission: That it may have, for the great Author's sake, hereafter some competent allowance to be counted a little purer than the prerogative of a legal and public ribaldry, granted to that holy seed. So that from hence, we shall hope to find the way still more open to the reconciling of those places which treat this matter in the Gospel. And thither now without interruption the course of method brings us.