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 som uncleannes 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 goe and be another mans wife.
That which is the only discommodity of speaking in a cleer matter, the abundance of argument that presses to bee utter'd, and the suspence of judgment what to choose, and how in the multitude of reason to be not tedious, is the greatest difficulty which I expect heer to meet with. Yet much hath bin said formerly concerning this Law in the Doctrine of Divorce; Wherof I shall repeat no more then what is necessary. Two things are heer doubted: First, and that but of late, whether this bee a Law or no; next what this reason of uncleannes might mean for which the Law is granted; That it is a plain Law no man ever question'd, till Vatablus within these hunder'd years profess'd Hebrew at Paris, a man of no Religion, as Beza deciphers him. Yet som 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. Although this place also hath bin tamper'd with, as if it were to be thus render'd, The Lord God saith, that hee hateth putting away. But this new interpretation rests only in the autority 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 els, for these two reasons: First, it introduces in a new manner the person of God speaking less Majestic then he is ever wont; When God speaks by his Profet, he ever speaks in the first person, thereby signifying his Majesty and omni-presence. Hee would have said, I hate puttting away, saith the Lord; and not sent word by Malachi in a sudden falln stile, The Lord God saith that hee 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 Acheivement of a King, should commit the indecorum to set his helmet side-waies and close, not full fac't and open in the posture of direction and command. Wee cannot think therfore that this last Profet 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 this place: hee that reads attentively will soon perceav, that God blames not heer the Jews for putting away thir wives, but for keeping strange Concubines, to the profaning of Juda's holines, and the vexation of thir Hebrew wives, v. 11 and 14. Judah hath maried the daughter of a strange God: And exhorts them rather to put thir wives away whom they hate, as the Law permitted, then 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 som is thought to bee Ezra himself) when the people were forc't 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 Profet does not forbid putting away, but forbids keeping, and commands putting away according to Gods 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 confirmes that he commands it also here by Moses.
I may the less doubt to mention by the way an Author, though 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 writt'n in part, not much after the time when Malachi livd; if wee compute by the Reigne of Ptolemaeus Euergetes. It professes to explain the Law and the Profets; 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 doubtles that wise and ancient Writer would never have advis'd, had either Malachi so lately forbidd'n it, or the Law by a full precept not left it lawful. But I urge not this for want of better prooff; our Saviour himself allows divorce to be a command, Mark 10.3.5. Neither doe they weak'n this assertion, who say it was only a sufferance, as shall be prov'd at large in that place of Matthew. But suppose it were not a writt'n Law, they never can deny it was a custom, and so effect nothing. For the same reasons that induce them why it should not bee a Law, will strait'n them as hard why it should bee 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 wholsom Laws; unless wee imagine Moses weaker then 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 purenes erect a nice and precise Law, that the wife marryed after Divorce could not return to her former Husband, as beeing defiled? What was all this following nicenes worth, built upon the leud 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 unwritt'n Law, as Justinian calls it, and is as prevalent as any writt'n statute. So that thir shift of turning this Law into a custom wheels about, and gives the onset upon thir own flanks; not disproving, but concluding it to be the more firm Law, because it was without controversy a granted custom; as cleer in the reason of common life, as those giv'n rules wheron Euclides builds his propositions.
Thus beeing 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 judgement, but what hee learnt of God; of whom also in his Song hee saith, 32. Hee is the rock, his work is perfect, all his waies are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is hee. And David testifies, the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. Not partly right and partly wrong, much less wrong altogether, as Divines of now adaies dare censure them. Moses again, of that people to whom hee gave this Law, saith, 14. Yee are the childern of the Lord your God, the Lord hath chosen thee to bee a peculiar people to himself above all the nations upon the earth, that thou shouldst keep all his Commandements, 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 judgements, even as the Lord my God commanded mee, keep therfore and doe 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 ther so great, who hath God so nigh to them? and what Nation that hath Statutes and Judgements so righteous as all this Law which I set before you this day? Thus whether wee look at the purity and justice of God himself, the jealousy of his honour among other Nations, the holines and moral perfection which hee intended by his Law to teach this people, wee cannot possibly think how heecould indure to let them slugg & grow inveteratly wicked, under base allowances, & 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 soile their garments with a coy imaginary pollution, but not forbid, but countenanc't and animated by Law to soile thir soules with deepest defilements. What more unlike to God, what more like that God should hate, then that his Law should be so curious to wash vessels, and vestures, and so careles to leav unwasht, unregarded, so foul a scab of Egypt in thir Soules? what would wee more? the Statutes of the Lord are all pure and just: and if all, then this of Divorce.
Becausehee hath found some uncleannes in her. ] That wee may not esteem this law to bee a meer authorizing of licence, as the Pharises took it, Moses adds the reason, for some uncleannes found. Som heertofore have bin so ignorant, as to have thought, that this uncleannes means adultery. But Erasmus, who for having writ an excellent Treatise of Divorce, was wrote against by som 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 uncleannes is not heer 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 uncleannes, but the nakednes of any thing; and considering that nakednes is usually referr'd in Scripture to the minde as well as to the body, they constantly expound it any defect, annoyance, or ill quality in nature, which to bee joyn'd with, makes life tedious, and such company wors then solitude. So that heer will bee no cause to vary from the generall 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 fidè bonâ, quod æquius melius erit, ut inter bonos bene agier, wee will not grudge to think that God intended not licence heer to every humour, but to such remediles greevances as might move a good and honest and faithfull man then to divorce, when it can no more bee peace or comfort to either of them continuing thus joyn'd. And although it could not be avoided, but that Men of hard hearts would abuse this liberty, yet doubtles 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, bee wrung from God and Moses, only to serve the hardheartednes, 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 adde other reason of this Law then 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 vindicat the whitenes and the innocence of this divine Law, from the calumny it findes at this day, of beeing a dore 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 pitty then this Law; not derogating, but preserving the honour and peace of Mariage, and exactly agreeing with the sense and mind of that institution in Genesis.
For first, if Mariage be but an ordain'd relation, as it seems not more, it cannot take place above the prime dictats of nature; and if it bee of natural right, yet it must yeeld 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, beeing only a civill 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 mariage. But if they find them neither fit helps nor tolerable society, what thing more natural, more original and first in nature then to depart from that which is irksom, greevous, actively hateful, and injurious eevn to hostility, especially in a conjugal respect, wherin antipathies are invincible, and wher the forc't abiding of the one can bee no true good, no real comfort to the other? For ifhee find no contentment from the other, how can he return it from himself? or no acceptance, how can hee mutually accept? what more equal, more pious then to untie a civil knot for a natural enmity held by violence from parting, to dissolv an accidental conjunction of this or that man & woman, for the most natural and most necessary disagreement of meet from unmeet, guilty from guiltles, contrary from contrary? It beeing certain that the mystical and blessed unity of mariage can bee no way more unhallow'd and profan'd, then by the forcible uniting of such disunions and separations. Which if wee see oftimes they cannot joyn or peece 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 wedlock? Abraham and Lot, though dear friends and brethren in a strange Country, chose rather to part asunder, then to infect thir friendship with the strife of their servants: Paul and Barnabas, joyn'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, joyn'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 Collegueship in the same family, or in the same journey, lest it should grow to a wors division; can any thing bee more absurd and barbarous, then that they whom only Error, Casualty, Art, or Plot, hath joyned, should be compell'd, not against a sudden passion, but against the permanent and radical discords of Nature, to the most intimat and incorporating duties of love and imbracement, therin only rational and human, as they are free and voluntary; beeing else an abject and servile yoke, scars 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 mariage among those who can be freindly, can respect each other, yet to marry each other would not for any perswasion. If then this unfitnes and disparity bee not till after mariage 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 mistakn pair would give the world to bee unmarried again. And thir condition Solomon to the plain justification of Divorce expresses, Prov. 30. 21. 23. where hee tells us of his own accord, that a hated, or a hatefull woman, when shee 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 then 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 doe 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't 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 vertu, is the righteousnes of Law: and therfore him wee count an ill Expounder who urges Law against the intention therof. The general end of every Ordinance, of every severest, every divinest, eevn 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 mans mind, as the institution declares. Contentment of body they grant, which if it bee defrauded, the plea of frigidity shall divorce: But heer lies the fadomles 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 bee firm against the ruler of the Synagogue, Luk. 13. Thou hypocrite, doth not each of you on the Sabbath-day loos'n his Oxe or his Asse 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 heer, yee have regard in mariage to the greevance of body, should you not regard more the greevances of the mind, seeing the Soul as much excells the body, as the outward man excells the Ass, and more; for that animal is yet a living creature, perfet in it self; but the body without the Soul is a meer senseles trunke. No Ordinance therfore givn particularly to the good both spiritual and temporal of man, can bee urg'd upon him to his mischeif: and if they yeeld this to the unworthier part, the body, wherabout are they in thir principles, that they yeeld it not to the more worthy the mind of a good man?
Thirdly, As no Ordinance, so no Covnant, no not between God and Man, much less between Man and Man, beeing 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 Covnant, eevn between enemies, though the terms bee not exprest. If equity therfore made it, extremity may dissolv it. But Mariage, they use to say, is the Covnant of God. Undoubted: and so in any covnant frequently call'd in Scripture, wherin God is call'd to witnes: the covnant of freindship between David and Jonathan, is call'd the Covnant of God of the Lord, 1 Sam. 20. The covnant of Zedechiah with the King of Babel, a Covnant to bee doubted whether lawfull or no, yet in respect of God invok't thereto is call'd the Oath, and the Covnant of God, Ezech. 17. Mariage also is call'd the Covnant of God, Prov. 2. 17. Why, but as before, because God is the witnes therof, Malach. 2.14. So that this denomination adds nothing to the Covnant of Mariage, above any other civil and solemn contract: nor is it more indissoluble for this reason then any other against the end of its own Ordination; nor is any Vow or Oath to God exacted with such a rigour, where superstition reignes not. For look how much divine the Covnant is, so much the more equal; So much the more to bee expected that every Article therof should bee fairly made good, no fals dealing, or unperforming should bee thrust upon men without redress, if the covnant bee so divine. But faith they say must bee kept in Covnant, though to our dammage. I answer, that only holds true, where the other side performs; which failing, hee is no longer bound. Again, this is true, when the keeping of faith can bee of any use or benefit to the other. But in Mariage a league of love and willingnes, if faith bee not willingly kept, it scars is worth the keeping; nor can bee any delight to a generous minde, with whom it is forcibly kept: and the question still supposes the one brought to an impossibility of keeping it as hee ought, by the others default; and to keep it formally, not only with a thousand shifts and dissimulations, but with open anguish, perpetual sadnes and disturbance, no willingnes, no cheerfulnes, no contentment, cannot bee any good to a minde not basely poor and shallow, with whom the contract of love is so kept. A Covnant therfore brought to that passe, 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 Mariage, 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 hee
might have bewar'd. So hee 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 bee more duteous. Yes, if all
these kind of offences were fit in public to bee
complain'd on, or beeing 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 bee the man's right above the woman, or
the woman's just appeal against wrong and
servitude. But the duties of Mariage contain in
them a duty of Benevolence, which to doe by
compulsion against the Soul, where there can bee
neither peace, nor joy, nor love, but an enthralment
to one who either cannot, or will not bee mutual in
the godliest and the civilest ends of that society, is
the ignoblest, and the lowest slavery that a human
shape can bee put to. This Law therfore justly and
piously provides against such an unmanly task of
bondage as this. The Civil Law, though it favour'd the
setting free of a slave, yet if hee 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 bee 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, though hee
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, Although there bee nothing in the plain words of this Law, that seems to regard the afflictions of a Wife, how great soever; yet Expositors determine, and doubtles 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? though 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 hee here names, and to whom by name hee gives this power; but for the Wife, whom hee names not, and to whom by name hee gives no power at all. For certainly if Man bee liable to injuries in Mariage, as well as Woman, and Man bee the worthier Person, it were a preposterous Law to respect only the less worthy; her whom God made for Mariage, and not him at all for whom Mariage was made.
Seventhly, The Law of Mariage gives place to the power of parents: for wee hold, that consent of Parents not had, may break the Wedloc, though else accomplisht. It gives place to masterly Power, for the Master might take away from an Hebrew servant which hee gave him, Exod. 21. If it bee answer'd, that the Mariage of Servants is no Matrimony: 'tis reply'd, That this in the ancient Roman Law is true, not in the Mosaic. If it bee added, she was a Stranger, not an Hebrew, therfore easily divorc'd; it will bee answer'd, That Strangers not beeing Canaanites, and they also beeing Converts, might bee 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 bee dismiss'd, only without ransom, Deut. 21. If Mariage bee dissolv'd by so many exterior powers, not superior, as wee think, why may not the power of Mariage it self, for its own peace and honour, dissolve it self, where the persons wedded bee free persons? Why may not a greater and more natural power complaining dissolve Mariage? 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 Mariage, without which that institution hath no force at all? For the prime ends of Mariage, 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. bee that granted, until wee 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 doe 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, hee 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 bee imputed to a man that hee was too rash in his choice, and why hee took not better heed, let him now smart, and bear his folly as hee may; although the Law of God, that terrible Law, doe 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, then 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 bee 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 bee oppos'd against the plea of divorcing for Adultery; hee might have lookt better before to her breeding under religious parents: why did hee 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 bee content, and forc'd to bee content with your Adulteress, if these objecters might bee the judges of human frailty. But God, more mild and good to man, then 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 bee to look so narrowly what hee takes, at the peril of ever keeping, why should not the other bee made as wary what is promis'd, by the peril of losing? for without those promises the treaty of Mariage had not proceeded. Why should his own error bind him, rather then 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, then in the buying of a Colt: Wee must it seems drive it on as craftily with those whose affinity wee seek, as if they were a pack of sale-men and complotters. But the deceiver deceives himself in the unprosperous Mariage, 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 Mariage; 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 bee linkt in the same degree of forfeiture, but rather that error should bee acquitted, and fraud bereav'd his morsel, if the mistake were not on both sides; for then on both sides the acquitment will bee reasonable, if the bondage bee intolerable; which this Law graciously determines, not unmindful of the wife, as was granted willingly to the common Expositors, though beyond the letter of this Law, yet not beyond the spirit of charity.
Tenthly, Mariage 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 wee 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 bee not truly done, the fault is in our selves; but Mariage to bee a true and pious Mariage 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 hee 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 Mariage, if there were ever any there, is already burst like a rotten thread. Then follows dissimulation, suspicion, false colours, false pretences and worse then 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 bee 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 Mariage, that should be the union of peace and love to bee 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 then 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 joyn'd.
Eleventhly, One of the chief matrimonial ends is said to seek a holy seed; but where an unfit Mariage 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, then 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 bee to the unfortunate issue, what care of their breeding, which is of main conducement to their beeing holy? God therfore knowing how unhappy it would bee for children to bee born in such a family, gives this Law either as a prevention, that beeing an unhappy pair, they should not add to tbe unhappy parents, or else as a remedy that if there bee children, while they are fewest, they may follow either parent, as shall bee 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 beeing, no good, no solace, nothing of God's instituting, nothing but so sordid and so low, as to bee 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 then 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 bee alleg'd, afford us plainly to perceive, both what good cause this Law had to doe 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 hee 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 bee 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 beeing abus'd by such as abuse all things, is the greatest abuse of all. That the whole Law is no further useful, then as a man uses it lawfully, S. Paul teaches 1 Tim. 1. And that Christian liberty may bee 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 bee foully abus'd, by any whose hardness of heart can either feign Adultery, or dares commit, that hee may divorce. And for this cause the Pope, and hitherto the Church of England, forbid all divorce from the bond of Mariage, though for openest Adultery. If then it bee righteous to hinder for the fear of abuse, that which God's Law, notwithstanding that caution, hath warranted to bee done, doth not our righteousness come short of Antichrist? or doe wee 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, then to curb the licence of wicked men, to the crushing withal, and the overwhelming of his afflicted servants. hee loves more that his Law should look with pity upon the difficulties of his own, then 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 bee 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 bee 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 then his direct and law-giving will, the men would bee admonish'd to look well to it, that while they are so eager to shut the door against licence, they doe open a worse door to blasphemy. And yet they shall bee here further shewn their iniquity; what more foul common sin among us then drunkenness? And who can bee 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, though it bee fetcht from places that hazard the Religion of them who fetch it, and though it make his Neighbour drunk out of the same Tun? While they forbid not therfore the use of that liquid Merchandize, which forbidd'n would utterly remove a most loathsome sin, and not impair either the health or the refreshment of mankind, supply'd many other ways; why doe they forbid a Law of God, the forbidding wherof brings into excessive bondage oftimes the best of men, and betters not the worse? Hee 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, though other men abuse it never so much; nor is he so abstemious as to intercede with the Magistrate that all matter of drunkenness bee 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, though it might bee their saving, and no man's indangering the more. Thus this peremptory strictness wee 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 beeing 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 beein 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 unfitnes, 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 doubtles is the most horrid, the most unnatural mixture, the greatest confusion that can beeconfus'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 beeobtain'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 bee counted a little purer then the prerogative of a legal and public ribaldry, granted to that holy seed. So that from hence, wee 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.