MATT. 5. 31, 32.
31. It hath been said, whosoever put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.
32. But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, &c.
MATT. 19. 3, 4, &c.
3. And the Pharises also came unto him, tempting him, &c.
It hath beene said. ] What hitherto hath beene spoke upon the law of God touching Matrimony or divorce, he who will deny to have bin argu'd according to reason, and all equity of Scripture, I cannot edifie how, or by what rule of proportion that mans vertue calculates, what his elements are, nor what his analytics. Confidently to those who have read good bookes, and to those whose reason is not an illiterate booke to themselves I appeale, whether they would not confesse all this to bee the commentary of truth and justice, were it not for these recited words of our Saviour. And if they take not backe that which they thus grant, nothing sooner might perswade them that Christ heer teaches no new precept, and nothing sooner might direct them to finde his meaning, then to compare and measure it by the rules of nature and eternall righteousnes, which no writt'n law extinguishes, and the Gospel least of all. For what can be more opposite and disparaging to the cov'nant of love, of freedom, & of our manhood in grace, then to bee made the yoaking pedagogue of new severities, the scribe of syllables and rigid letters, not only greevous to the best of men, but different and strange from the light of reason in them, save only as they are fain to stretch & distort their apprehensions for feare of displeasing the verbal straightnesse of a text, which our owne servil feare gives us not the leisure to understand aright. If the law of Christ shall be writt'n in our hearts, as was promis'd to the Gospel, Jer. 31, how can this in the vulgar and superficiall sense be a law of Christ, so farre from being writt'n in our hearts, that it injures and disallowes not onely the free dictates of nature and morall law, but of charity also and religion in our hearts. Our Saviours doctrine is, that the end, and the fulfilling of every command is charity; no faith without it, no truth without it, no worship, no workes pleasing to God but as they partake of charity. He himselfe sets us an example, breaking the solemnest and the strictest ordinance of religious rest, and justify'd the breaking, not to cure a dying man, but such whose cure might without danger have beene deferr'd. And wherefore needes must the sick mans bed be carried home on that day by his appointment, and why were the Disciples who could not forbeare on that day to pluck the corne, so industriously defended, but to shew us that if he preferr'd the slightest occasions of mans good before the observing of highest and severest ordinances, hee gave us much more easie leave to breake the intolerable yoake of a never well joyn'd wedlocke for the removing of our heaviest afflictions. Therefore it is that the most of evangelick precepts are given us in proverbiall formes, to drive us from the letter, though we love ever to be sticking there. For no other cause did Christ assure us that whatsoever things wee binde, or slacken on earth, are so in heaven, but to signifie that the christian arbitrement of charity is supreme decider of all controversie, and supreme resolver of all Scripture; not as the Pope determines for his owne tyrany, but as the Church ought to determine for its owne true liberty. Hence Eusebius not far from the beginning of his History, compares the state of Christians to that of Noah and the Patriarkes before the law. And this indeede was the reason, why Apostolick tradition in the antient Church was counted nigh equall to the writt'n word, though it carried them at length awry, for want of considering that tradition was not left to bee impos'd as law, but to be a patterne of that Christian prudence, and liberty which holy men by right assum'd of old; which truth was so evident, that it found entrance even into the Councell of Trent, when the point of tradition came to be discust. And Marinaro a learned Carmelite for approaching too neere the true cause that gave esteeme to tradition, that is to say, the difference betweene the Old and New Testament, the one punctually prescribing writt'n law, the other guiding by the inward spirit, was reprehended by Cardinall Poole as one that had spoken more worthy a German Colloquie, then a generall councell. I omit many instances, many proofes and arguments of this kind, which alone would compile a just volume, and shall content me heer to have shew'n breifly, that the great and almost only commandment of the Gospel, is to command nothing against the good of man, and much more no civil command, against his civil good. If we understand not this, we are but crackt cimbals, we do but tinckle, we know nothing, we doe nothing, all the sweat of our toilsomest obedience will but mock us. And what wee suffer superstitiously, returnes us no thankes. Thus med'cining our eyes, wee neede not doubt to see more into the meaning of these our Saviours words, then many who have gone before us.
[It hath beene said, whosoever shall put away his wife. ] Our Saviour was by the doctors of his time suspected of intending to dissolve the law. In this chapter he wipes off this aspersion upon his accusers, and shewes how they were the law breakers. In every common wealth when it decayes, corruption makes two maine steps; first, when men cease to doe according to the inward and uncompell'd actions of vertue, caring only to live by the outward constraint of law, and turne the Simplicity of reall good, into the craft of seeming so by law. To this hypocritical honesty was Rome declin'd in that Age wherein Horace liv'd, and discover'd it to Quintius.
Whom doe we count a good man, whom but he
Who keeps the laws and statutes of the Senate,
Who judges in great suits and controversies,
Whose witnesse and opinion winnes the cause;
But his owne house, and the whole neighbourhood
Sees his foule inside through his whited skin.
The next declining is, when law becomes now too straight for the secular manners, and those too loose for the cincture of law. This brings in false and crooked interpretations to eeke out law, and invents the suttle encroachment of obscure traditions hard to be disprov'd. To both these descents the Pharises themselves were fall'n. Our Saviour therefore shews them both where they broke the law in not marking the divine intent thereof, but onely the letter, and where they deprav'd the letter also with sophisticall expositions. This law of divorse they had deprav'd both waies. First, by teaching that to give a bill of divorse was all the duty which that law requir'd, what ever the cause were. Next by running to divorse for any triviall, accidentall cause; whenas the law evidently stayes in the grave causes of naturall and immutable dislike. [It hath been said saith he, Christ doth not put any contempt or disesteeme upon the law of Moses, by citing it so briefly; for in the same manner God himselfe cites a law of greatest caution, Jer. 3. They say if a man put away his wife, shall he returne to her againe, &c. Nor doth he more abolish it then the law of swearing, cited next with the same brevity, and more appearance of contradicting. For divorce hath an exception left it, but we are charg'd there, as absolutely as words can charge us, not to sweare at all: yet who denies the lawfullness of an oath, though here it be in no case permitted? And what shall become of his solemne protestation not to abolish one law, or one tittle of any law, especially of those which he mentions in this chapter. And that hee meant more particularly the not abolishing of Mosaic divorse, is beyond all cavill manifest in Luke 16. 17, 18. where this clause against abrogating is inserted immediately before the sentence against divorse, as if it were call'd thither on purpose to defend the equity of this particular law against the foreseene rashnesse of common textuaries, who abolish lawes, as the rable demolish images, in the zeale of their hammers oft violating the Sepulchers of good men, like Pentheus in the tragedies, they see that for Thebes which is not, and take that for superstition, as these men in the heate of their annulling perceive not how they abolish right, and equall, and justice under the appearance of judicial. And yet are confessing all the while, that these sayings of Christ stand not in contradiction to the law of Moses, but to the false doctrine of the Pharises rais'd from thence; that the law of God is perfect, not liable to additions or diminutions, & Paræus accuses the Jesuit Maldonatus of greatest falsity for limiting the perfection of that law only to the rudenes of the Jewes. He adds that the law promiseth life to the performers thereof; therefore needs not perfecter precepts, then such as bring to life; that if the corrections of Christ stand opposite, not to the corruptions of the Pharises, but to the law it selfe of God, the heresie of Manes would follow, one God of the old Testament, and another of the New. That Christ saith not here, except your righteousnesse exceede the righteousnesse of Moses law, but of the Scribes and Pharises. That all this may be true, whether is common sense flown asquint, if we can maintaine that Christ forbid the Mosaic divorse utterly, and yet abolisht not the law that permits it? For if the conscience onely were checkt, and the law not repeal'd, what meanes the fanatic boldnesse of this age, that dares tutor Christ to be more strict then he thought fit? ye shall have the evasion, it was a judiciall law. What could infancy and slumber have invented more childish? judiciall or not judiciall, it was one of those lawes expresly which he forewarn'd us with protestation, that his mind was not to abrogate: and if we marke the stearage of his words, what course they hold, wee may perceive that what he protested not to disolve (that he might faithfully & not deceitfully remove a suspition from himselfe) was principally concerning the judiciall law; for of that sort are all these here which he vindicates; except the last. Of the Ceremonial law he told them true, that nothing of it should passe untill all were fulfill'd. Of the morall law he knew the Pharises did not suspect he meant to nullifie that : for so doing would soone have undone his authority, and advanc'd theirs. Of the judiciall law therefore cheifly this Apologie was meant: For how is that fulfill'd longer then the common equity thereof remaines in force? And how is this our Saviours defence of himselfe, not made fallacious, if the Pharises chiefe feare be, least he should abolish the judiciall law, and he to satisfie them, protests his good intention to the Moral law. It is the generall grant of Divines that what in the Judicial law is not meerely judaicall, but reaches to human equity in common, was never in the thought of being abrogated. If our Saviour tooke away ought of law, it was the burthensome of it, not the ease of burden, it was the bondage, not the liberty of any divine law, that he remov'd: this he often profest to be the end of his comming. But what if the law of divorce be a morall law, as most certainly it is fundamentally, and hath been so prov'd in the reasons thereof. For though the giving of a bill may be judiciall, yet the act of divorce is altogether conversant in good and evill, and so absolutely moral. So farr as it is good, it never can be abolisht, being morall; and so far as it is simply evil, it never could be judiciall, as hath been shewen at large in the Doctrine of divorce, and will be reassum'd anon. Whence one of these two necessities follow, that either it was never establisht, or never abolisht. Thus much may be enough to have said on this place. The following verse will be better unfolded in the 19. Chapter, where it meets us againe, after a large debatement on the question, between our Saviour and his adversaries.
MAT. 19. 3, 4, &c.
V. 3. And the Pharises came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him.
[Tempting him. ] The manner of these men comming to our Saviour, not to learne, but to tempt him, may give us to expect that their answer will bee such as is fittest for them, not so much a teaching, as an intangling. No man, though never so willing or so well enabl'd to instruct, but if he discerne his willingnesse and candor made use of to intrapp him, will suddainly draw in himselfe, and laying aside the facil vein of perspicuity, will know his time to utter clouds and riddles; If he be not lesse wise then that noted Fish, when as hee should bee not unwiser then the Serpent. Our Saviour at no time exprest any great desire to teach the obstinate and unteachable Pharises; but when they came to tempt him, then least of all. As now about the liberty of divorce, so another time about the punishment of adultery they came to sound him, and what saisfaction got they from his answer, either to themselves or to us, that might direct a law under the Gospel, new from that of Moses, unlesse we draw his absolution of adultery into an edict. So about the tribute, who is there can picke out a full solution, what and when we must give to Cæsar, that which is Cæsars, and all be Cæsars which hath his image, wee must either new stamp our Coine, or we may goe new stamp our Foreheads with the superscription of slaves in stead of freemen. Besides it is a generall precept, not only of Christ, but of all other Sages, not to instruct the unworthy and the conceited who love tradition more then truth, but to perplex and stumble them purposely with contriv'd obscurities. No wonder then if they who would determine of divorce by this place, have ever found it difficult, and unsatisfying through all the ages of the Church, as Austine himselfe and other great writers confesse. Lastly, it is manifest to be the principal scope of our Saviour, both here, and in the 5. of Mat. to convince the Pharises of what they being evill did licentiously, not to explaine what others being good and blamelesse men might be permitted to doe in case of extremity. Neither was it seasonable to talke of honest and conscientious liberty among them who had abused legall and civil liberty to uncivil licence. We doe not say to a servant what we say to a sonne; nor was it expedient to preach freedome to those who had transgrest in wantonnesse. When we rebuke a Prodigal, we admonish him of thrift, not of magnificence, or bounty. And to school a proud man we labour to make him humble, not magnanimous. So Christ to retort these arrogant inquisitors their own, tooke the course to lay their hautinesse under a severity which they deserv'd; not to acquaint them, or to make them judges either of the just mans right and privilege or of the afflicted mans necessity. And if wee may have leave to conjecture, there is a likelyhood offer'd us by Tertullian in his 4. against Marcion, whereby it may seeme very probable that the Pharises had a private drift of malice against our Saviours life in proposing this question, and our Saviour had a peculiar aim in the rigor of his answer, both to let them know the freedome of his spirit, and the sharpnesse of his discerning. This I must now shew, saith Tertullian, Whence our Lord deduc'd this sentence, and which way he directed it, whereby it will more fully appear that he intended not to dissolve Moses. And thereupon tells us that the vehemence of this our Saviours speech was cheifly darted against Herod and Herodias. The story is out of Josephus: Herod had beene a long time married to the daughter of Aretas King of Petra, til hapning on his jorney towards Rome to be entertain'd at his brother Philips house, he cast his eye unlawfully and unguestlike upon Herodias there, the wife of Philip, but daughter to Aristobulus their common brother, and durst make words of marrying her his Neece from his brothers bed. She assented upon agreement he should expell his former wife. All was accomplisht, and by the Baptist rebuk't with the loss of his head. Though doubtlesse that staid not the various discourses of men upon the fact, which while the Herodian flatterers, and not a few perhaps among the Pharises endevour'd to defend by wresting the law, it might be a meanes to bring the question of divorce into a hot agitation among the people, how farre Moses gave allowance. The Pharises therefore knowing our Saviour to be a friend of John the Baptist, and no doubt but having heard much of his Sermon in the Mount, wherein he spake rigidly against the licence of divorce, they put him this question both in hope to find him a contradicter of Moses, and a condemner of Herod; so to insnare him within compasse of the same accusation which had ended his friend; and our Saviour so orders his answer, as that they might perceive Herod and his Adultresse only not nam'd; so lively it concern'd them both what he spake. No wonder then if the sentence of our Saviour sounded stricter then his custome was; which his conscious attempters doubtlesse apprehended sooner then his other auditors. Thus much we gaine from hence to informe us, that what Christ intends to speake here of divorce, will be rather the forbidding of what we may not doe herein passionately and abusively, as Herod and Herodias did, then the discussing of what herein we may doe reasonably and necessarily.
[Is it lawfull for a man to put away his wife ] It might be render'd more exactly from the Greeke, to loosen or to set free; which though it seeme to have milder signification then the two Hebrew words commonly us'd for divorce, yet Interpreters have noted, that the Greeke also is read in the Septuagint, for an act which is not without constraint. As when Achish drove from his presence David counterfeting madnesse. Psal. 34. the Greeke word is the same with this here, to put away. And Erasmus quotes Hilary rendering it by an expression, not so soft. Whence may be doubted, whether the Pharises did not state this question in the strict right of the man, not tarrying for the wives consent. And if our Saviour answer directly according to what was askt in the tearm of putting away, it may be questionable, whether the rigor of his sentence did not forbid only such putting away as is without mutuall consent, in a violent and harsh manner, or without any reason but will, as the Tetrarch did. Which might be the cause that those Christian Emperours fear'd not in their constitutions to dissolve mariage by mutuall consent; In that our Saviour seemes here, as the case is most likely, not to condemne all divorce, but all injury and violence in divorce. But no injury can be done to them, who seeke it, as the Ethics of Aristotle sufficiently prove. True it is, that an unjust thing may be done to one though willing, and so may justly be forbid'n: But divorce being in it selfe no unjust or evill thing, but only as it is joyn'd with injury, or lust, injury it cannot be at law, if consent be, and Aristotle erre not. And lust it may as frequently not be, while charity hath the judging of so many private greevances in a misfortun'd Wedlock, which may pard'nably seeke a redemption. But whether it be or not, the law cannot discerne, or examine lust, so long as it walkes from one lawfull terme to another, from divorce to marriage both in themselves indifferent. For if the law cannot take hold to punish many actions apparently covetous, ambitious, ingratefull, proud, how can it forbid and punish that for lust, which is but only surmis'd so, and can no more be certainly prov'd in the divorcing now, then before in the marrying. Whence if divorce be no unjust thing, but through lust, a cause not discernable by law, as law is wont to discerne in other cases, and can be no injury where consent is, there can be nothing in the equity of law, why divorce by consent may not be lawfull: leaving secrecies to conscience, the thing which our Saviour here aimes to rectifie, not to revoke the statutes of Moses. In the meane while the word To put away, being in the Greeke to loosen or disolve, utterly takes away that vaine papisticall distinction of divorce from bed, and divorce from bond, evincing plainly that both Christ and the Pharises meane here that divorce which finally disolves the bond and frees both parties to a second marriage.
[For every cause. ] This the Pharises held, that for every cause they might divorce, for every accidentall cause, and quarrell or difference that might happ'n. So both Josephus and Philo, men who liv'd in the same age, explain; and the Syriac translater, whose antiquity is thought parallel to the Evangelists themselves, reads it conformably upon any occasion or pretence. Divines also generally agree that thus the Pharises meant. Cameron a late writer much applauded, commenting this place not undiligently, affirmes that the Greeke preposition κατα translated unusually (For) hath a force in it implying the suddennesse of those Pharisaic divorces; and that their question was to this effect, whether for any cause whatever it chanc'd to be, straight as it rose, the divorce might be lawfull. This he freely gives what ever mov'd him, and I as freely take, nor can deny his observation to be acute & learned. If therfore we insist upon the word of putting away, that it imports a constraint without consent, as might be insisted, and may enjoy what Cameron bestowes on us, that for every cause is to be understood, according as any cause may happen, with a relation to the speedinesse of those divorces and that Herodian act especially, as is already brought us, the sentence of our Saviour wil appeare nothing so strict a prohibition as hath beene long conceiv'd, forbidding only to divorce for casuall & temporary causes, that may be soon ended, or soone remedied; & likewise forbidding to divorce rashly, & on the sudden heate, except it be for adultery. If these qualifications may be admitted, as partly we offer them, partly are offer'd them by some of their own opinion, and that where nothing is repugnant why they should not bee admitted, nothing can wrest them from us, the severe sentence of our Saviour will straight unbend the seeming frowne into that gentlenesse and compassion which was so abundant in all his actions, his office and his doctrine, from all which otherwise it stands off at no meane distance.
Vers. 4. And he answered and said unto them, have ye not read that he which made them at the beginning, made them Male and Female?
Vers. 5. And said, for this cause shall a man leave Father and Mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twaine shall be one flesh?
Vers. 6. Wherefore they are no more twaine but one flesh, What therefore God hath joyned together, let no man put asunder.
[4. and 5. Made them Male and Female, And said, for this cause, &c. ] We see it here undeniably, that the law which our Saviour cites to prove that divorce was forbidd'n, is not an absolute and tyrannicall command without reason, as now adaies wee make it little better, but is grounded upon some rationall cause not difficult to be apprehended, being in a matter which equally concernes the meanest and the plainest sort of persons in a houshold life. Our next way then will be to inquire if there bee not more reasons then one, and if there be, whether this be the best and cheifest. That we shall finde by turning to the first institution, to which Christ referrs our owne reading; He himselfe having to deale with treacherous assailants, useth brevity, and lighting on the first place in Genesis that mentions any thing tending to Marriage in the first chapter, joynes it immediately to the 24. verse of the 2 chapter, omitting all the prime words between, which create the institution, and containe the noblest and purest ends of Matrimony, without which attain'd, that conjunction hath nothing in it above what is common to us with beasts. So likewise beneath in this very chapter, to the young man who came not tempting him, but to learne of him, asking him which commandments he should keepe, he neither repeates the first table, nor all the second, nor that in order which he repeates. If heere then being tempted, hee desire to bee the shorter, and the darker in his conference, and omitt to cite that from the second of Genesis, which all Divines confesse is a commentary to what he cites out of the first, the making them Male and Female: what are we to doe, but to search the institution our selves; and we shall finde there his owne authority giving other manner of reasons why such firme union is to bee in matrimony, without which reasons their being male and female can be no cause of joyning them unseparably: for if it be, then no Adultery can sever. Therefore the prohibition of divorce depends not upon this reason heere exprest to the Pharises, but upon the plainer & more eminent causes omitted heere and referr'd to the institution; which causes not being found in a particular and casuall Matrimony, this sensitive and materious cause alone can no more hinder a divorce against those higher and more human reasons urging it, then it can alone without them to warrant a copulation, but leaves arbitrary to those who in their chance of marriage finde not why divorce is forbidd them, but why it is permitted them; and finde both here and in Genesis, that the forbidding is not absolute, but according to the reasons there taught us, not here. And that our Saviour taught them no better, but uses the most vulgar, most animal and corporal argument to convince them, is first to shew us, that as through their licentious divorces they made no more of mariage then, as if to marry, were no more then to be male and female, so hee goes no higher in his confutation; deeming them unworthy to be talkt with in a higher straine, but to bee ty'd in marriage by the meere material cause thereof, since their owne licence testify'd that nothing matrimonial was in their thought but to be male and female. Next, it might be don to discover the brute ignorance of these carnall Doctors, who taking on them to dispute of marriage and divorce, were put to silence with such a slender opposition as this, and outed from their hold with scarce one quarter of an argument. That we may beleeve this, his entertainment of the young man soon after may perswade us. Whom, though he came to preach eternall life by faith only, he dismisses with a salvation taught him by workes only. On which place Paræus notes, That this man was to be convinc'd by a false perswasion; and that Christ is wont otherwise to answer hypocrites, otherwise those that are docible. Much rather then may we thinke that in handling these tempters, he forgot not so to frame his prudent ambiguities and concealements, as was to the troubling of those peremtory disputants most wholsome. When therefore we would know what right there may be, in ill accidents, to divorce, wee must repaire thither where God professes to teach his servants by the prime institution, and not where we see him intending to dazle sophisters: Wee must not reade he made them Male and Female, & not understand he made them more intendedly a meet helpe to remove the evill of being alone. We must take both these together, and then we may inferre compleatly as from the whole cause why a man shall cleave to his wife, and they twaine shall be one flesh: but if the full and cheife cause why we may not divorce, be wanting heer, this place may skirmish with the rabbies while it will, but to the true christian it prohibits nothing beyond the full reason of it's own prohibiting, which is best knowne by the institution.
Vers. 6. [Wherefore they are no more twaine, but one flesh.] This is true in the generall right of marriage, but not in the chance medley of every particular match. For if they who were once undoubtedly one flesh, yet become twain by adultery, then sure they who were never one flesh rightly, never helps meete for each other according to the plain prescript of God, may with lesse adoe then a volume be concluded still twaine. And so long as we account a Magistrate no Magistrate, if there be but a flaw in his election, why should we not much rather count a Matrimony no Matrimony, if it cannot be in any reasonable manner according to the words of Gods institution?
[What therefore God hath joyned, let no man put asunder. ] But heare the christian prudence lies to consider what God hath joyn'd; shall wee say that God hath joyn'd error, fraud, unfitnesse, wrath, contention, perpetuall lonelinesse, perpetuall discord; what ever lust, or wine, or witchery, threate, or inticement, avarice or ambition hath joyn'd together, faithfull with unfaithfull, christian with antichristian, hate with hate, or hate with love, shall we say this is Gods joyning?
[Let not man put a sunder. ] That is to say, what God hath joyn'd; for if it be, as how oft we see it may be, not of Gods joyning, and his law tells us he joynes not unmachable things, but hates to joyne them, as an abominable confusion, then the divine law of Moses puts them asunder, his owne divine will in the institution puts them asunder, as oft as the reasons be not extant, for which God ordain'd their joyning. Man only puts asunder when his inordinate desires, his passion, his violence, his injury makes the breach: not when the utter want of that which lawfully was the end of his joyning, when wrongs and extremities and unsupportable greevances compell him to disjoyne: when such as Herod & the pharises divorce beside law, or against law, then only man separates, and to such only this prohibition belongs. In a word, if it be unlawful for man to put asunder that which God hath joyn'd, let man take heede it be not detestable to joyne that by compulsion which God hath put asunder.
Vers. 7. They say unto him, why did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
Vers. 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardnesse of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
[Moses because of the hardnesse of your hearts suffered you.] Hence the Divinity now current argues that this judiciall Moses is abolisht. But suppose it were so, though it hath bin prov'd otherwise, the firmenesse of such right to divorce as here pleads is fetcht from the prime institution, does not stand or fall with the judiciall Jew, but is as morall as what is moralest. Yet as I have shewn positively that this law cannot bee abrogated, both by the words of our Saviour pronouncing the contrary, and by that unabolishable equity which it convaies to us, so I shall now bring to view those appearances of strength which are levied from this text to maintaine the most grosse and massy paradox that ever did violence to reason and religion, bred only under the shadow of these words, to all other piety or philosophy strange and insolent, that God by act of law drew out a line of adultery almost two thousand yeares long: although to detect the prodigy of this surmise, the former booke set forth on this argument hath already beene copious. I shall not repeate much, though I might borrow of mine own; but shall endeavour to adde something either yet untoucht, or not largely anough explain'd. First it shal be manifest that the common exposition cannot possibly consist with christian doctrine: next, a truer meaning of this our Saviours reply shall be left in the roome. The receiv'd exposition is, that God though not approving did enact a law to permit adultery by divorcement simply unlawfull. And this conceit they feede with fond supposals that have not the least footing in Scripture: As that the Jews learnt this custome of divorce in Egypt, and therefore God would not unteach it them till Christ came, but let it stick as a notorious botch of deformity in the midst of his most perfect and severe law. And yet he saith, Levit. the 18th, after the doings of Egypt ye shall not do. Another while they invent a slander (as what thing more bold then teaching Ignorance when he shifts to hide his nakednes) that the Jews were naturally to their wives the cruellest men in the world; would poison, braine, and doe I know not what, if they might not divorce. Certain, if it were a fault heavily punisht, to bring an evill report upon the land which God gave, what is it to raise a groundles calumny against the people which God made choice of? But that this bold interpretament, how commonly so ever sided with, cannot stand a minute with any competent reverence to God or his law, or his people, nor with any other maxim of religion, or good manners, might bee prov'd through all the heads and Topics of argumentation: but I shall willingly bee as concise as possible. First the law, not onely the moral, but the judicial given by Moses is just and pure; for such is God who gave it. Hearken O Israel, saith Moses, Deut. 4. unto the statutes and the judgements which I teach you, to doe them, that ye may live, &c. ye shall not adde unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keepe the commandements of the Lord your God which I command you. And onward in the chapter, Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgements, even as the Lord my God commanded me. Keepe therefore and doe them, for this is your wisedom and your understanding. For what nation hath God so nigh unto them, and what nation hath statutes and judgements so righteous as all this law which I set before ye this day. Is it imaginable there should bee among these a law which God allow'd not, a law giving permissions laxative to unmarry a wife and marry a lust, a law to suffer a kind of tribunall adultery? Many other scriptures might be brought to assert the purity of this judicial law, and many I have alledg'd before; this law therefore is pure and just. But if it permit, if it teach, if it defend that which is both unjust and impure, as by the common doctrine it doth, what thinke we? The three generall doctrines of Justinians law, are To live in honesty, To hurt no man, To give every one his due. Shall the Roman civil law observe these three things, as the onely end of law, and shall a statute be found in the civil law of God, enacted simply and totally against all these three precepts of nature and morality?
Secondly, the gifts of God are all perfet, and certainely the law is of all his other gifts one of the perfetest. But if it give that outwardly which it takes away really, & give that seemingly, which, if a man take it, wraps him into sinne and damns him, what gift of an enemy can be more dangerous and destroying then this.
Thirdly, Moses every where commends his lawes, preferrs them before all of other nations, and warrants them to be the way of Life and Safety to all that walke therein, Levit. 18. But if they containe statutes which God approves not, and traine men unweeting to committ injustice and adultery, under the shelter of law, if those things bee sin, and death sins wages, what is this law but the snare of death?
Fourthly, the statutes and judgements of the Lord, which without exception are often told us to be such, as doing wee may live by them, are doubtles to be counted the rule of knowledge and of conscience. For I had not known lust, saith the Apostle, but by the law. But if the law come downe from the state of her incorruptible majesty to grant lust his boon, palpably it darkns and confounds both knowledge and conscience; it goes against the common office of all goodnes and freindlinesse, wich is at lest to counsel and admonish; it subverts the rules of all sober education; and is it selfe a most negligent and debaushing tutor.
Fiftly, if the law permit a thing unlawfull, it permitts that which else where it hath forbid; so that hereby it contradicts it selfe, and transgresses it selfe. But if the law become a transgressor, it stands guilty to it selfe, and how then shall it save another; it makes a confederacy with sin, how then can it justly condemne a sinner? And thus reducing it selfe to the state of neither saving nor condemning, it wil not faile to expire solemnly ridiculous.
Sixtly, The Prophets in Scripture declare severely against the decreeing of that which is unjust, Psal. 94. 20. Isaiah the 10th. But it was done, they say, for hardnesse of heart: To which objection the Apostles rule, not to doe evill that good may come thereby, gives an invincible repuls; and here especially, where it cannot be shewn how any good came by doing this evil, how rather more evil did not hereon abound; for the giving way to hardnesse of heart hard'ns the more, and adds more to the number. God to an evil and adulterous generation would not grant a signe; much lesse would he for their hardnesse of heart pollute his law with adulterous permission. Yea, but to permitt evil, is not to doe evil. Yes, it is in a most eminent manner to doe evil: where else are all our grave and faithfull sayings, that he whose office is to forbid and forbids not, bids, exhorts, encourages. Why hath God denounc't his anger against parents, maisters, freinds, magistrates neglectfull of forbidding what they ought, if law, the common father, maister, friend, and perpetuall magistrate shall not onely not forbidd, but enact, exhibit, and uphold with countnance and protection, a deede every way dishonest, what ever the pretence be. If it were of those inward vices, which the law cannot by outward constraint remedy, but leaves to conscience and perswasion, it had bin guiltlesse in being silent: but to write a decree of that which can be no way lawfull, and might with ease be hinder'd, makes law by the doome of law it selfe accessory in the highest degree.
Seventhly, it makes God the direct author of sin: For although he bee not made the authour of what he silently permitts in his providence, yet in his law, the image of his will, when in plaine expression he constitutes and ordaines a fact utterly unlawfull, what wants hee to authorize it, and what wants that to be the author?
Eightly, to establish by law a thing wholy unlawfull and dishonest, is an affirmation was never heard of before in any law, reason, philosophy, or religion, till it was rais'd by inconsiderat glossists from the mistake of this text. And though the Civilians have bin contented to chew this opinion, after the canon had subdu'd them, yet they never could bring example or authority either from divine writt, or human learning, or human practice in any nation, or well-form'd republick, but only from the customary abuse of this text. Usually they allege the Epistle of Cicero to Atticus; wherein Cato is blam'd for giving sentence to the scumme of Romulus, as if he were in Plato's common wealth. Cato would have call'd some great one into judgement for bribery, Cicero as the time stood, advis'd against it. Cato, not to endammage the public treasury, would not grant to the Roman Knights, that the Asian taxes might be farm'd them at a lesse rate. Cicero wisht it granted. Nothing in all this will bee like the establishing of a law to sinne: here are no lawes made, here onely the execution of law is crav'd might be suspended: between which and our question is a broad difference. And what if human law givers have confest they could not frame their lawes to that perfection which they desir'd, we heare of no such confession from Moses concerning the lawes of God, but rather all praise and high testimony of perfection given them. And although mans nature cannot beare exactest lawes, yet still within the confines of good it may and must, so long as lesse good is far anough from altogether evil. As for what they instance of usury, let them first prove usury to be wholly unlawfull, as the law allowes it; which learned Men as numerous on the other side will deny them. Or if it be altogether unlawfull, why is it tolerated more then divorce? he who said divorse not, said also, lend hoping for nothing againe, Luk. 6. 35. But then they put in, that trade could not stand. And so to serve the commodity of insatiable trading, usury shall be permitted, but divorce, the onely meanes oft times to right the innocent, & outrageously wrong'd, shall be utterly forbid. This is egregious doctrine, and for which one day charity will much thanke them. Beza not finding how to salve this perplexity, and Cameron since him, would secure us; although the latter confesses that to permit a wicked thing by law, is a wickednesse which God abhorrs; yet to limit sin, and prescribe it a certaine measure, is good. First this evasion will not helpe heere; for this law bounded no man; he might put away whatever found not favour in his eyes. And how could it forbid to divorce, whom it could not forbidd to dislike, or command to love. If these be the limits of law to restraine sinne, who so lame a sinner but may hoppe over them more easily then over those Romulean circumscriptions, not as Remus did with hard succes, but with all indemnity. Such a limiting as this were not worth the mischeif that accompanies it. This law therefore not bounding the supposed sinne, by permitting enlarges it, gives it enfranchisement. And never greater confusion, then when law and sin more their land markes, mixe their territories, and correspond, have intercourse and traffic together. When law contracts a kindred and hospitality with transgression, becomes the godfather of sinne and names it Lawfull; when sin revels and gossips within the arcenal of law, plaies, and dandles the artillery of justice that should be bent against her, this is a faire limitation indeede. Besides it is an absurdity to say that law can measure sin, or moderate sin; sin is not in a predicament to be measur'd and modify'd, but is alwaies an excesse. The least sinne that is, exceeds the measure of the largest law that can bee good; and is as boundlesse as that vacuity beyond the world. If once it square to the measure of Law, it ceases to be an excesse, and consequently ceases to be a sinne; or else law conforming it selfe to the obliquity of sin, betraies it selfe to be not strait, but crooked, and so immediatly no law. And the improper conceit of moderating sin by law, will appeare, if wee can imagin any lawgiver so senselesse as to decree that so farre a man may steale, and thus farre bee drunk, that moderately he may cozen, and moderately committ adultery. To the same extent it would be as pithily absurd to publish that a man may moderately divorce, if to doe that be intirely naught. But to end this moot, the law of Moses is manifest to fixe no limit therein at all, or such at lest as impeaches the fraudulent abuser no more then if it were not set; only requires the dismissive writing without other caution, leaves that to the inner man, and the barre of conscience. But it stopt other sins. This is as vaine as the rest, and dangerously uncertain: the contrary to be fear'd rather, that one sin admitted courteously by law, open'd the gate to another. However evil must not be don for good. And it were a fall to be lamented, and indignity unspeakable, if law should becom tributary to sin her slave, and forc't to yeild up into his hands her awfull minister Punishment, should buy out her peace with sinne for sinne, paying as it were her so many Philistian foreskins to the proud demand of Transgression. But suppose it any way possible to limit sinne, to put a girdle about that Chaos, suppose it also good; yet if to permitt sin by Law bee an abomination in the eyes of God, as Cameron acknowledges, the evil of permitting will eate out the good of limiting. For though sin be not limited, there can but evil come out of evil; but if it be pemitted & decreed lawfull by divine law, of force then sin must proceed from the infinit Good, which is a dreadfull thought. But if the restraining of sinne by this permission beeing good, as this author testifies, be more good then the permission of more sin by the restraint of divorce, and that God waighing both these like two ingots in the perfet scales of his justice and providence found them so, and others coming without authority from God, shall change this counterpoise, and judge it better to let sin multiply by setting a judicial restraint upon divorce, which Christ never set; then to limit sin by this permission, as God himselfe thought best to permitt it, it will behoove them to consult betimes whether these their ballances be not fals and abominable; and this their limiting that which God loosen'd, and their loosning the sinnes that he limited, which they confesse was good to doe: and were it possible to doe by law, doubtlesse it would be most morally good; and they so beleeving, as we heare they do, and yet abolishing a law so good and moral, the limiter of sin, what are they else but contrary to themselves? For they can never bring us to that time wherein it will not be good to limit sinne, and they can never limit it better then so as God prescrib'd in his law.
Others conceav it a more defensible retirement to say this permission to divorce sinfully for hardnesse of heart was a dispensation. But surely they either know not, or attend not to what a dispensation means. A dispensation is for no long time, is particular to som persons, rather then generall to a whole people; alwaies hath charity the end, is granted to necessities and infirmities, not to obstinat lust. This permission is another creature, hath all those evils and absurdities following the name of a dispensation, as when it was nam'd a law; and is the very antarctic pole against charity, nothing more advers, ensnaring and ruining those that trust in it, or use it; so leud and criminous as never durst enter into the head of any Politician, Jew, or Proselyte, till they became the apt Schollers of this canonistic exposition. Ought in it, that can allude in the lest manner to charity, or goodnes, belongs with more full right to the christian under grace and liberty, then to the Jew under law and bondage. To Jewish ignorance it could not be dispenc't, without a horrid imputation laid upon the law, to dispence fouly, in stead of teaching fairly; like that dispensation that first polluted Christendom with idolatry, permitting to lay men images in stead of bookes and preaching. Sloth or malice in the law would they have this calld? But what ignorance can be pretended for the Jewes, who had all the same precepts about mariage, that we now: for Christ refers all to the institution. It was as reasonable for them to know then as for us now, and concern'd them alike: for wherein hath the gospel alter'd the nature of matrimony? All these considerations, or many of them, have bin furder amplify'd in the doctrine of divorce. And what Rivetus and Paræus hath objected, or giv'n over as past cure hath been there discusst. Whereby it may be plain anough to men of eyes, that the vulgar exposition of a permittance by law to an entire sin, what ever the colour may be, is an opinion both ungodly, unpolitic, unvertuous, and void of all honesty & civil sense. It appertaines therefore to every zealous Christian both for the honour of Gods law & the vindication of our Saviours words, that such an irreligious depravement no longer may be sooth'd and flatter'd through custome, but with all diligence and speed solidly refuted, and in the room a better explanation giv'n; which is now our next endeavour.
[Moses suffer'd you to put away, &c. ] Not commanded you, saies the common observer, and therefore car'd not how soon it were abolisht, being but suffer'd; heerin declaring his annotation to be slight & nothing law prudent. For in this place commanded and suffer'd are interchangeably us'd in the same sense both by our Saviour and the Pharises. Our Saviour who heer saith, Moses suffer'd you, in the 10th of Marke saith, Moses wrote you this command. And the Pharisees who heer say, Moses commanded, and would mainly have it a command, in that place of Marke say Moses suffer'd, which had made against them in their own mouthes, if the word of suffering had weakn'd the command. So that suffer'd and commanded is heer taken for the same thing on both sides of the controversy: as Cameron also and others on this place acknowledge. And Lawyers know that all the precepts of law are devided into obligatorie and permissive, containing either what we must doe, or what wee may doe; and of this latter sort are as many precepts as of the former, and all as lawfull. Tutelage, an ordainment then which nothing more just, being for the defence of Orfanes, the Institutes of Justinian, say is given and permitted by the civil law: and to parents it is permitted to choose and appoint by will the guardians of their children. What more equall, and yet the civil law calls this permission. So likewise to manumise, to adopt, to make a will, and to be made an heire is call'd permission by law. Marriage it selfe, and this which is already granted, to divorce for adultery, obliges no man, is but a permission by law, is but suffer'd. By this we may see how weakly it hath bin thought that all divorce is utterly unlawfull, because the law is said to suffer it: whenas to suffer is but the legall phrase denoting what by law a man may doe or not doe.
[Because of the hardnesse of your hearts ] Hence they argue that therefore he allowd it not; and therefore it must be abolisht. But the contrary to this will sooner follow, that because he suffer'd it for a cause, therefore in relation to that cause he allow'd it. Next, if he in his wisedome, and in the midst of his severity allow'd it for hardnesse of heart, it can be nothing better then arrogance and presumption to take stricter courses against hardnes of heart, then God ever set an example, and that under the Gospel which warrants them to no judicial act of compulsion in this matter, much lesse to be more severe against hardnes of extremity, then God thought good to bee against hardnes of heart. He suffer'd it, rather then worse inconveniences; these men wiser as they make themselves, will suffer the worst and hainousest inconveniences to follow, rather then they will suffer what God suffer'd. Although they can know when they please, that Christ spake only to the conscience, did not judge on the civil bench, but alwaies disavow'd it. What can be more contrary to the waies of God then these their doings. If they bee such enemies to hardnes of heart, although this groundlesse rigor proclaims it to be in themselves, they may yet learne, or consider that hardnesse of heart hath a twofould acceptation in the Gospel. One, when it is in a good man taken for infirmity, and imperfection, which was in all the Apostles, whose weaknesse only, not utter want of beleef is call'd hardnes of heart, Marke 16. partly for this hardnesse of heart, the imperfection and decay of man from original righteousnesse, it was that God suffer'd not divorce onely, but all that which by Civilians is term'd the secondary law of nature and of nations. He suffer'd his owne people to wast and spoyle and slay by warre, to lead captives, to be som maisters, som servants, som to be princes, others to be subjects, he suffer'd propriety to divide all things by severall possession trade and commerce, not with out usury; in his comon wealth some to bee undeservedly rich, others to bee undeservingly poore. All which till hardnesse of heart came in, was most unjust; whenas prime Nature made us all equall, made us equall coheirs by common right and dominion over all creatures. In the same manner, and for the same cause he suffer'd divorce as well as mariage, our imperfet and degenerat condition of necessity requiring this law among the rest, as a remedy against intolerable wrong and servitude above the patience of man to beare. Nor was it giv'n only because our infirmity, or if it must be so call'd, hardnesse of heart could not endure all things, but because the hardnes of anothers heart might not inflict all things upon an innocent person, whom far other ends brought into a league of love and not of bondage and indignity. If therefore we abolish divorce as only suffer'd for hardnes of heart, we may as well abolish the whole law of nations, as only sufferd for the same cause; it being shewn us by Saint Paul I Cor. 6. that the very seeking of a mans right by law, and at the hands of a worldly magistrat, is not without the hardnesse of our hearts. For why doe ye not rather take wrong, saith he, why suffer ye not rather your selves to be defrauded? If nothing now must be suffer'd for hardnes of heart, I say the very prosecution of our right by way of civil justice can no more bee suffer'd among Christians, for the hardnes of heart wherwith most men persue it. And that would next remove all our judiciall lawes, and this restraint of divorce also in the number; which would more then halfe end the controversy. But if it be plaine that the whole juridical law and civil power is only suffer'd under the Gospel, for the hardnes of our hearts, then wherefore should not that which Moses suffer'd, be suffer'd still by the same reason?
In a second signification hardnes of heart is tak'n for a stubborne resolution to doe evil. And that God ever makes any law purposely to such, I deny; for he voutsafes not to enter cov'nant with them, but as they fortune to be mixt with good men, and passe undiscover'd; much lesse that he should decree an unlawfull thing only to serve their licentiousnes. But that God suffers this reprobate hardnes of heart I affirm, not only in this law of divorce, but throughout all his best and purest commandements. He commands all to worship in singlenes of heart according to all his Ordinances; and yet suffers the wicked man to performe all the rites of religion hypocritically and in the hardnes of his heart. He gives us generall statutes & privileges in all civil matters, just & good of themselves, yet suffers unworthiest men, to use them, & by them to prosecute their own right, or any colour of right, though for the most part maliciously, covetously, rigorously, revengefully. He allow'd by law the discreet father and husband to forbidd, if he thought fit, the religious vows of his wife or daughter: Num. 30. and in the same law suffer'd the hard heartednes of impious and covetous fathers or husbands abusing this law to forbidd their wives or daughters in their offrings and devotions of greatest zeal. If then God suffer hardnes of heart equally in the best laws as in this of divorce, there can be no reason that for this cause this law should be abolisht. But other lawes, they object, may be well us'd, this never. How often shall I answer both from the institution of mariage, and from other general rules in Scripture, that this law of divorce hath many wise and charitable ends besides the being suffer'd for hardnes of heart; which is indeed no end, but an accident happning through the whole law; which gives to good men right, and to bad men who abuse right under false pretences, gives only sufferance. Now although Christ express no other reasons here, but only what was suffer'd, it nothing followes that this law had no other reason to be permitted but for hardnes of heart. The Scripture seldome or never in one place sets down all the reasons of what it grants or commands, especially when it talks to enemies and tempters. St. Paul permitting mariage, I Cor. 7. seems to permit even that also for hardnes of heart only, lest we should run into fornication; yet no intelligent man thence concludes mariage allow'd in the Gospel only to avoid an evill, because no other end is there exprest. Thus Moses of necessity suffer'd many to put away their wives for hardnesse of heart; but enacted the law of divorce doubtles for other good causes, not for this only sufferance. He permitted not divorce by law as an evil, for that was impossible to divine law, but permitted by accident the evil of them who divorc't against the lawes intention undiscoverably This also may be thought not improbably, that Christ stirr'd up in his spirit against these tempting Pharises, answer'd them in a certain forme of indignation usual among good authors; wherby the question, or the truth is not directly answer'd, but som thing which is fitter for them, who aske, to heare. So in the ecclesiastical stories, one demanding how God imploy'd himself before the world was made, had answer; that he was making hel for curious questioners. Another (and Libanius the Sophist as I remember) asking in derision som Christian, what the Carpenter, meaning our Saviour, was doing, now that Julian so prevail'd, had it return'd him, that the Carpenter was making a coffin for the Apostat. So Christ being demanded maliciously why Moses made the law of divorce, answers them in a vehement scheme, not telling them the cause why he made it, but what was fittest to be told them, that for the hardnes of their hearts he suffer'd them to abuse it. And all beit Mark say not he suffer'd you, but to you he wrote this precept; Mark may be warrantably expounded by Mathew the larger. And whether he suffer'd, or gave precept, being all one as was heard, it changes not the trope of indignation, fittest account for such askers. Next for the hardnes of your hearts to you he wrote this precept, inferrs not therfore for this cause only he wrote it, as was parallell'd by other Scriptures. Lastly, It may be worth the observing, that Christ speaking to the Pharises does not say in general that for hardnes of heart he gave this precept, but you he suffer'd, & to you he gave this precept for your hardnes of heart. It cannot be easily thought that Christ heer included all the children of Israel under the person of these tempting Pharises but that he conceals wherefore he gave the better sort of them this law, and expresses by saying emphatically To you how he gave it to the worser, such as the Pharises best represented, that is to say for the hardnes of your hearts: as indeed to wicked man and hardn'd hearts he gives the whole law and the Gospel also, to hard'n them the more. Thus many waies it may orthodoxally be understood how God or Moses suffer'd such as the demanders were, to divorce for hardnes of heart. Whereas the vulgar expositor beset with contradictions and absurdities round, and resolving at any peril to make an exposition of it, as there is nothing more violent and boistrous then a reverend ignorance in fear to be convicted, rushes brutely and impetuously against all the principles both of nature, piety, and moral goodnes; and in the fury of his literal expounding overturns them all.
[But from the beginning it was not so.] Not how from the beginning doe they suppose, that men might not divorce at all, not necessarily, not deliberatly, except for adultery, but that som law, like canon law, presently attacht them both before and after the flood, till stricter Moses came, and with law brought licence into the world? that were a fancy indeed to smile at. Undoubtedly as to point of judiciall law, divorce was more permissive from the beginning before Moses then under Moses. But from the beginning, that is to say, by the institution in Paradice it was not intended that matrimony should dissolve for every trivial cause, as you Pharises accustome. But that it was not thus suffer'd from the beginning ever since the race of men corrupted, & laws were made, he who will affirme, must have found out other antiquities then are yet known. Besides, we must consider now, what can be so as from the beginning, not only what should be so. In the beginning, had men continu'd perfet, it had bin just that all things should have remain'd, as they began to Adam & Eve. But after that the sons of men grew violent & injurious, it alter'd the lore of justice, and put the goverment of things into a new frame. While man and woman were both perfet each to other, there needed no divorce; but when they both degenerated to imperfection, & oft times grew to be an intolerable evil each to other, then law more justly did permitt the alienating of that evil which mistake made proper, then it did the appropriating of that good which Nature at first made common. For if the absence of outward good be not so bad as the presence of close evil, & that propriety, whether by cov'nant or possession, be but the attainment of some outward good, it is more natural & righteous that the law should sever us from an intimat evil, then appropriate any outward good to us from the community of nature. The Gospel indeed tending ever to that which is perfetest, aim'd at the restorement of all things, as they were in the beginning. And therefore all things were in common to those primitive Christians in the Acts, which Ananias & Sapphira dearly felt. That custome also continu'd more or less till the time of Justin Martyr, as may be read in his 2nd Apology, which might be writt after that act of communion perhaps some 40. yeares above a hunder'd. But who will be the man that shall introduce this kind of common wealth, as christianity now goes? If then mariage must be as in the beginning, the persons that marry must be such as then were, the institution must make good, in som tolerable sort, what it promises toeeither party. If not, it is but madnes to drag this one ordinance back to the beginning, and draw down all other to the present necessity, and condition farre from the beginning, even to the tolerating of extortions and oppressions. Christ only told us that from the beginning it was not so; that is to say, not so as the Pharises manur'd the busines; did not command us that it should be forcibly so again in all points, as at the beginning; or so at least in our intentions and desires, but so in execution, as reason, and present nature can bear. Although we are not to seek, that the institution it selfe from the first beginning was never but conditional, as all cov'nants are: because thus and thus, therefore so and so; if not thus, then not so. Then moreover was perfetest to fulfil each law in it selfe; now is perfetest in this estate of things, to ask of charity how much law may be fulfill'd: els the fulfilling, oft times is the greatest breaking. If any therefore demand, which is now most perfection, to ease an extremity by divorce, or to enrage and fester it by the greevous observance of a miserable wedloc, I am not destitute to say which is most perfection (although som who beleev they thinke favourably of divorce, esteem it only venial to infirmity) Him I hold more in the way to perfection who forgoes an unfit, ungodly, & discordant wedloc, to live according to peace & love, and Gods institution in a fitter chois, then he who debarrs himself the happy experience of all godly, which is peaceful conversatiõ in his family, to live a contentious, and unchristian life not to be avoided, in temptations not to be liv'd in, only for the fals keeping of a most unreal nullity, a mariage that hath no affinity with Gods intention, a daring phantasm, a meer toy of terror awing weak senses, to the lamentable superstition of ruining themselves; the remedy wherof God in his law voutsafes us. Which not to dare use, he warranting, is not our perfection, is our infirmity, our little faith, our timorous and low conceit of charity: and in them who force us, it is their masking pride and vanity, to seem holier & more circumspect then God. So far is it that we need impute to him infirmity, who thus divorces: since the rule of perfection is not so much that which was don in the beginning, as that which now is nearest to the rule of charity. This is the greatest, the perfetest, the highest commandment.
V. 9. And I say unto you, who so shall put away his wife, except it be for Fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and who so marrieth her which is put away, doth commit adultery.
[And I say unto you.] That this restrictive denouncement of Christ contradicts and refutes that permissive precept of Moses, common expositors themselves disclaime: and that it does not traverse from the closet of conscience to the courts of civil or canon law, with any Christian rightly commenc't, requires not long evincing. If Christ then did not heer check permissive Moses, nor did reduce matrimony to the beginning more then all other things, as the reason of mans condition could beare, we would know precisely what it was which he did, and what the end was of his declaring thus austerely against divorce. For this is a confesst oracle in law, that he who lookes not at the intention of a precept, the more superstitious he is of the letter, the more he misinterprets. Was it to shame Moses? that had beene monstrous: or all those purest Ages of Israel, to whom the permission was granted? that were as incredible. Or was it that he who came to abrogate the burden of law, not the equity, should put this yoke upon a blamelesse person, to league himselfe in chaines with a begirting mischeif, not to separat till death? hee who taught us that no man puts a peece of new cloth upon an old garment, nor new wine into old bottles, that he should sow this patch of strictnes upon the old apparel of our frailty, to make a rent more incurable, when as in all other amendments his doctrine still charges, that regard be had to the garment, and to the vessel, what it can endure; this were an irregular and single peece of rigour, not onely sounding disproportion to the whole Gospel, but outstretching the most rigorous nervs of law and rigor it selfe. No other end therefore can be left imaginable of this excessive restraint, but to bridle those erroneous and licentious postillers the Pharises; not by telling them what may bee done in necessity, but what censure they deserve who divorce abusively, which their Tetrarch had done. And as the offence was in one extreme, so the rebuke, to bring more efficaciously to a rectitude and mediocrity, stands not in the middle way of duty, but in the other extreme. Which art of powerfull reclaiming, wisest men have also taught in their ethical precepts and gnomologies; resembling it, as when wee bend a crooked wand the contrary way; not that it should stand so bent, but that the overbending might reduce it to a straitnesse by its own reluctance. And as the Physician cures him who hath tak'n down poyson, not by the middling temper of nourishment, but by the other extreme of antidote, so Christ administers heer a sharpe & corrosive sentence against a foul and putrid licence; not to eate into the flesh, but into the sore. And knowing that our divines through all their comments make no scruple, where they please, to soften the high and vehement speeches of our Saviour, which they call hyperbolies, why in this one text should they be such crabbed masorites of the Letter, as not to mollifie a transcendence of literal rigidity, which they confesse to find often elsewhere in his manner of delivery, but must make their exposition heer such an obdurat Cyclops, to have but one eye for this text, and that onely open to cruelty and enthralment, such as no divine, or human law before ever heard of. No, let the foppish canonist with his fardel of matrimonial cases goe and be vendible where men bee so unhappy as to cheap'n him; the words of Christ shall be asserted from such elementall notaries, and resolv'd by the now-only lawgiving mouth of charity; which may be done undoubtedly by understanding them as followes.
[Whosoever shall put away his wife.] That is to say, shall so put away as the propounders of this question, the Pharisees were wont to doe and covertly defended Herod for so doing; whom to rebuke, our Saviour heer mainely intends, and not to determine all the cases of divorce, as appeares by Saint Paul. Whosoever shall put away, either violently without mutuall consent for urgent reasons, or conspiringly by plot of lust, or cunning malice, shall put away for any sudden mood, or contingency of disagreement, which is not daily practice, but may blow soone over, and be reconcil'd, except it bee fornication; whosoever shall put away rashly, as his choler prompts him, without due time of deliberating, and thinke his conscience discharg'd ony by the bill of divorce giv'n, and the outward law satisfi'd; whosoever lastly shall put away his wife, that is a wife indeede, & not in name only, such a one who both can and is willing to bee a meet helpe toward the cheif ends of mariage both civil, and sanctify'd, except fornication be the cause, that man, or that pair, committ adultery. Not he who puts away by mutuall consent, with all the considerations and respects of humanity and gentlenesse, without malicious or lustfull drift. Not he who after sober and coole experience, and long debate within himself puts away whom though he cannot love or suffer as a wife, with that sincere affection that marriage requires, yet loves at lest with that civility and goodnesse, as not to keepe her under a neglected and unwelcom residence, where nothing can be hearty, and not beeing, it must needs bee both unjoyous and injurious to any perceaving person so detain'd, and more injurious, then to be freely, and upon good termes dismist. Nor doth hee put away adulterously who complaines of causes rooted in immutable nature, utter unfitnesse, utter disconformity, not concileable, because not to be amended without a miracle. Nor hee who puts away an unquenshable vexation from his bosom, and flies an evil then which a greater cannot befall human society. Nor hee who puts away with the full suffrage and applause of his conscience, not relying on the writt'n bill of law, but claiming by faith and fulnes of perswasion the rights and promises of Gods institution, of which hee finds himselfe in a mistak'n wedlock defrauded. Doubtlesse this man hath baile anough to bee no adulterer giving divorce for these causes.
[His Wife. ] This word is not to be idle here, a meere word without a sense, much less a fallacious word signifying contrary to what it pretends; but faithfully signifies a wife, that is, a comfortable helpe and society, as God instituted; does not signify deceitfully under this name, an intolerable adversary, not a helplesse, unaffectionate and sullen masse whose very company represents the visible and exactest figure of lonelines it selfe. Such an associate he who puts away, divorces not a wife, but disjoyns a nullity which God never joyn'd, if she be neither willing, nor to her proper and requisite duties sufficient, as the words of God institute her. And this also is Bucers explication of this place.
[Except it bee for fornication, or saving for the cause of fornication, as Matt. 5th. ] This declares what kind of causes our Saviour meant; fornication being no natural and perpetual cause, but only accidental and temporary; therefore shewes that head of causes from whence it is excepted, to bee meant of the same sort. For exceptions are not logically deduc't from a divers kind, as to say who so puts away for any naturall cause except fornication, the exception would want salt. And if they understand it, who so for any cause what ever, they cast themselves; granting divorce for frigidity a naturall cause of their own allowing, though not heer exprest, and for desertion without infidelity when as he who marries, as they allow him for a desertion, deserts as well as is deserted, and finally puts away, for another cause besides adultery. It will with all due reason therefore be thus better understood, who so puts away for any accidental and temporary causes, except one of them, which is fornication. Thus this exception finds out the causes from whence it is excepted, to be of the same kind, that is casuall, not continuall.
[Saving for the cause of fornication.] The New Testament, though it be said originally writt in Greeke, yet hath nothing neer so many Atticisms as Hebraisms, & Syriacisms which was the Majesty of God, not filing the tongue of Scripture to a Gentilish Idiom, but in a princely manner offering to them as to Gentiles and Foreiners grace and mercy, though not in forein words, yet in a forein stile that might induce them to the fountaines; and though their calling were high and happy, yet still to acknowledge Gods ancient people their betters, and that language the Metropolitan language. He therefore who thinks to Scholiaze upon the Gospel, though Greek, according to his Greek Analogies, and hath not bin Auditor to the oriental dialects, shall want in the heat of his Analysis no accommodation to stumble. In this place, as the 5th of Matth. reads it, Saving for the cause of fornication, the Greek, such as it is, sounds it except for the word, report, speech, or proportion of fornication. In which regard with other inducements, many ancient and learned writers have understood this exception as comprehending any fault equivalent and proportional to fornication. But truth is, the Evangelist heer Hebraizes, taking word or speech for cause or matter in the common eastern phrase, meaning perhaps no more then if he had said for fornication, as in this 19th chapter. And yet the word is found in the 5th of Exodus also signifying Proportion; where the Israelites are commanded to doe their tasks, The matter of each day in his day. A task we know is a proportion of work not doing the same thing absolutely every day, but so much. Whereby it may be doubtfull yet, whether heer be not excepted not only fornication it self, but other causes equipollent, and proportional to fornication. Which very word also to understand rightly, wee must of necessity have recours again to the Ebrew. For in the Greek and Latin sense by fornication is meant the common prostitution of body for sale. So that they who are so exact for the letter, shall be dealt with by the Lexicon, and the Etymologicon too if they please, and must be bound to forbidd divorce for adultery also, untill it come to open whoredom and trade, like that for which Claudius divorc't Messalina. Since therfore they take not heer the word fornication in the common significance, for an open exercise in the stews, but grant divorce for one single act of privatest adultery, notwithstanding that the word speakes a public and notorious frequency of fact, not without price, we may reason with as good leav, and as little straining to the text, that our Saviour on set purpose chose this word Fornication, improperly appli'd to the lapse of adultery, that we might not think our selvs bound from all divorce, except when that fault hath bin actually committed. For the language of Scripture signifies by fornication (and others beside St. Austin so expounded it) not only the trespas of body nor perhaps that between maried persons, unlesse in a degree or quality as shameles as the Bordello, but signifies also any notable disobedience, or intractable cariage of the wife to the husband, as Judg. the 19. 2. Whereof at large in the Doctrin of Divorce, l. 2. c. 18. Secondly signifies the apparent alienation of mind not to idolatry, (which may seeme to answer the act of adultery) but farre on this side, to any point of will worship, though to the true God; some times it notes the love of earthly things, or worldly pleasures though in a right beleever, some times the least suspicion of unwitting idolatry. As Num. 15. 39. willfull disobedience to any the least of Gods commandements is call'd fornication, Psal. 73. 26, 27. A distrust only in God, and withdrawing from that neernes of zeal and confidence which ought to be, is call'd fornication. We may be sure it could not import thus much less then Idolatry in the borrow'd metaphor between God and man, unless it signifi'd as much less then adultery in the ordinary acceptation between man and wife. Adde also that there was no need our Saviour should grant divorce for adultery, it being death by law, and law then in force. Which was the cause why Joseph sought to put away his betrothed wife privately, least he should make her an example of capitall punishment, as lernedest expounders affirm, Herod being a great zelot of the Mosaic law, and the Pharises great maisters of the text, as the woman tak'n in adultery doubtless had cause to fear. Or if they can prove it was neglected, which they cannot doe, why did our Saviour shape his answer to the corruption of that age, and not rather tell them of their neglect? If they say he came not to meddle with their judicatures, much less then was it in his thought to make them new ones, or that divorce should be judicially restrain'd in a stricter manner by these his words, more then adultery judicially acquitted by those his words to the adultres. His sentence doth no more by law forbidd divorce heer, then by law it doth absolve adultery there. To them therefore, who have drawn this yoke upon Christians from his words thus wrested, nothing remaines but the guilt of a presumption and perversenes, which will be hard for them to answer. Thus much that the word fornication is to be understood as the language of Christ understands it, or for a constant alienation and disaffection of mind, or for the continual practice of disobedience and crossnes from the duties of love and peace, that is in summ, when to be a tolerable wife is either naturally not in their power, or obstinatly not in their will, and this opinion also is St. Austins, least it should hap to be suspected of novelty. Yet grant the thing heer meant were only adultery, the reason of things will afford more to our assertion, then did the reason of words. For why is divorce unlawfull but only for adultery? because, say they, that crime only breaks the matrimony. But this, I reply, the institution it selfe gainsaies: for that which is most contrary to the words and meaning of the institution, that most breaks the matrimony; but a perpetuall unmeetnes and unwillingnesse to all the duties of helpe, of love and tranquillity is most contrary to the words and meaning of the institution; that therefore much more breaks matrimony then the act of adultery though repeated. For this, as it is not felt, nor troubles him who perceaves it not, so beeing perceav'd, may be soon repented, soon amended, soon, if it can be pardon'd, may be redeem'd wth the more ardent love and duty in her who hath the pardon. But this naturall unmeetnes both cannot be unknown long, and ever after cannot be amended, if it be natural, and will not, if it be farre gon obstinat. So that wanting ought in the instant to be as great a breach as adultery, it gains it in the perpetuity to be greater. Next adultery does not exclude her other fitnes, her other pleasingnes; she may be otherwise both loving and prevalent, as many adultresses be; but in this general unfitnes or alienation she can be nothing to him that can please. In adultery nothing is given from the husband, which he misses, or enjoyes the less, as it may be suttly giv'n: but this unfitnes defrauds him of the whole contentment which is sought in wedloc. And what benefit to him, though nothing be giv'n by the stealth of adultery to another, if that which there is to give, whether it be solace, or society, be not such as may justly content him? and so not only deprives him of what it should give him, but gives him sorrow and affliction, which it did not ow him. Besides is adultery the greatest breach of matrimony in respect of the offence to God, or of the injury to man? if in the former, then other sins may offend God more, and sooner cause him to disunite his servant from being one flesh with such an offender. If in respect of the latter, other injuries are demonstrated therein more heavy to mans nature then the iterated act of adultery. God therefore in his wisedom would not so dispose his remedies, as to provide them for the less injuries, and not allow them for the greater. Thus is won both from the word fornication, & the reason of adultery, that the exception of divorce is not limitted to that act, but enlarg'd to the causes above specify'd.
[And who so marieth her which is put away doth committ adultery. By this clause alone, if by nothing els, we may assure us, that Christ intended not to deliver heer the whole doctrin of divorce, but only to condemn abuses. Otherwise to marry after desertion, which the Apostle, and the reformed Churches at this day permitt, is heer forbid, as adultery. Be she never so wrongfully deserted, or put away, as the law then suffer'd, if thus forsak'n and expulst, she accept the refuge and protection of any honester man who would love her better, and give her self in mariage to him, by what the letter guides us, it shall be present adultery to them both. This is either harsh and cruel, or all the Churches teaching as they doe the contrary, are loos and remiss; besides that the Apostle himselfe stands deeply fin'd in a contradiction against our Saviour. What shall we make of this? what rather the common interpreter can make of it, for they be his own markets, let him now trie; let him trie which way he can wind in his Vertumnian distinctions and evasions, if his canonical gabardine of text and letter do not now sit too close about him, and pinch his activity; which if I erre not, hath heer hamper'd it selfe in a springe fitt for those who put their confidence in Alphabets. Spanheim a writer of Evangelic doubts comes now and confesses that our Saviours words are to be limited beyond the limitation there exprest and excepted beyond their own exception, as not speaking of what happn'd rarely, but what most commonly. Is it so rare Spanheim, to be deserted, or was it then so rare to put away injuriously, that a person so hatefully expell'd, should to the heaping of more injury be turn'd like an infectious thing out of all maried fruition upon pain of adultery, as not considerable to the brevity of this halfe sentence? Of what then speakes our Saviour? of that collusion, saith he, which was then most frequent among the Jews of changing wives and husbands, through inconstancy and unchast desires. Colluders your selves, as violent to this law of God by your unmercifull binding, as the Pharises by their unbounded loosning! Have thousands of Christian souls perisht as to this life, and God knows what hath betided their consciences, for want of this healing explanation, and is it now at last obscurely drawn forth, only to cure a scratch, and leave the main wound spouting? Who so ever putteth away his wife except for fornication committeth adultery; That shall be spoke of all ages, and all men, though never so justly otherwise mov'd to divorce: in the very next breath, And who so marieth her which is put away committeth adultery, the men are new and miraculous, they tell you now you are to limit it to that age, when it was in fashion to chop matrimonies; and must be meant of him who puts away with his wives consent through the lightnes, and leudnes of them both. But what rule of Logic, or indeed of reason is our commission to understand the Antecedent one way and the Consequent another; for in that habitude this whole vers may be consider'd: or at least to take the parts of a copulat axiom, both absolutely affirmative, and to say the first is absolutely true, the other not, but must bee limited to a certain time and custome; which is no less then to say they are both false. For in this compound axiom, be the parts never so many, if one of them doe but falter, & be not equally absolute and generall, the rest are all fals. If therefore, that he who marries her which is put away committs adultery, be not generally true, neither is it generally true that he committs adultery who puts away for other cause then fornication. And if the marrying her which is put away must be understood limited, which they cannot but yeild it must, with the same limitation must be understood the putting away. Thus doth the common exposition confound it selfe, and justify this which is heer brought; that our Saviour as well in the first part of this sentence as in the second, prohibited onely such divorses as the Jewes then made through malice or through plotted licence, not those which are for necessary and just causes; where charity and wisedom disjoyns, that which not God, but Error and Disastre joyn'd.
And there is yet to this our exposition, a stronger siding freind, then any can be an adversary, unlesse Saint Paul be doubted, who repeating a command concerning divorce, I Cor. 7. which is agreed by writers to be the same with this of our Saviour, and appointing that the wife remaine unmaried, or be reconcil'd to her husband, leavs it infallible that our Saviour spake cheifly against putting away for casual and choleric disagreements, or any other cause which may with human patience and wisedom be reconcil'd; not hereby meaning to hale and dash together the irreconcilable aversations of nature, nor to tie up a faultlesse person like a parricide, as it were into one sack with an enemy, to be his causelesse tormenter and executioner the length of a long life. Lastly, let this sentence of Christ bee understood how it will, yet that it was never intended for a judicial law, to be inforc'd by the Magistrat, besides that the office of our Saviour had no such purpose in the Gospel, this latter part of the sentence may assure us, And who so marrieth her which is put away committs adultery. Shall the exception for adultery belong to this clause or not? if not, it would be strange, that he who marries a woman really divorc't for adultery, as Christ permitted should becom an adulter by marrying one who is now no other mans wife, himself being also free, who might by this meanes reclaim her from common whordome. And if the exception must belong hither, then it followes that he who marries an adultresse divorc'd commits no adultry; which would soone discover to us what an absurd and sensles peece of injustice this would be, to make a civil statute of, in penal courts: whereby the adultresse put away may marry another safely, and without a crime to him that marries her: but the innocent and wrongfully divorc'd shall not marry again without the guilt of adultery both to her selfe and to her second husband. This saying of Christ therefore cannot be made a temporal law, were it but for this reason. Nor is it easie to say what coherence there is at all in it from the letter, to any perfet sense not obnoxious to som absurdity, and seems much lesse agreeable to whatever els of the Gospel is left us written; doubtles by our Saviour spok'n in that fiercenes and abstruse intricacy, first to amuse his tempters, and admonish in general the abusers of that Mosaic law; next to let Herod know a second knower of his unlawfull act, though the Baptist were beheaded; last that his Disciples and all good men might learne to expound him in this place, as in all other his precepts, not by the written letter, but by that unerring paraphrase of Christian Love and Charity, which is the summe of all commands, and the perfection.
Vers. 10. His Disciples say unto him, if the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
This verse I adde, to leave no objection behind unanswer'd: for some may thinke, if this our Saviours sentence be so faire, as not commanding ought that patience or nature cannot brook, why then did the Disciples murmur and say, it is not good to marry. I answer that the Disciples had bin longer bred up under the Pharisæan doctrin, then under that of Christ, and so no marvel though they yet retain'd the infection of loving old licentious customs; no marvel though they thought it hard they might not for any offence that throughly anger'd them, divorce a wife, as well as put away a servant; since it was but giving her a bill, as they were taught. Secondly, it was no unwonted thing with them not to understand our Saviour in matters farre easier. So that bee it granted their conceit of this text was the same which is now commonly conceiv'd, according to the usuall rate of their capacity then, it will not hurt a better interpretation. But why did not Christ seeing their error informe them? for good cause; it was his profest method not to teach them all things at all times, but each thing in due place and season. Christ said, Luke 22. that hee who had not sword should sell his garment and buy one: the Disciples tooke it in a manifest wrong sense, yet our Saviour did not there informe them better. He told them it was easier for a Camell to go through a needles eye, then a rich man in at heav'n gate. They were amaz'd exceedingly: he explain'd himselfe to meane of those who trust in riches, Mark 10. They were amaz'd then out of measure, for so Marke relates it; as if his explaining had increas'd their amazement, in such a plaine case, and which concern'd so neerely their calling to be inform'd in. Good reason therefore, if Christ at that time did not stand amplifying, to the thick prejudice and tradition wherein they were, this question of more difficulty, and lesse concernment to any perhaps of them in particular. Yet did he not omitt to sow within them the seeds of a sufficient determining, agen the time that his promis'd spirit should bring all things to their memory. Hee had declar'd in their hearing not long before, how distant hee was from abolishing the law it selfe of divorce; hee had referr'd them to the institution; and after all this, gives them a set answer, from which they might collect what was cleer anough, that all men cannot receive all sayings, verse 11. If such regard bee had to each mans receiving of mariage or single life, what can arise, that the same christian regard should not bee had in most necessary divorce? All which instructed both them and us, that it beseem'd his Disciples to learne the deciding of this question, which hath nothing new in it, first by the institution, then by the generall grounds of religion, not by a particular saying here or there, temper'd and level'd only to an incident occasion, the riddance of a tempting assault. For what can this bee but weake and shallow apprehension, to forsake the standard principles of institution, faith, & charity; then to be blanke & various at every occurrence in Scripture, and in a cold Spasm of scruple, to reare peculiar doctrines upon the place; that shall bid the gray autority of most unchangeable and sovran rules to stand by & be contradicted. Thus to this Evangelic precept of famous difficulty, which for these many ages weakly understood, and violently put in practice, hath made a shambles rather then an ordinance of matrimony, I am firme a truer exposition cannot be given. If this or that argument heer us'd, please not every one, there is no scarcity of arguments, any halfe of them will suffice. Or should they all faile, as Truth it selfe can faile as soon, I should content me with the institution alone to wage this controversie, and not distrust to evince. If any need it not, the happier; yet Christians ought to study earnestly what may be anothers need. But if, as mortall mischances are, som hap to need it, let them be sure they abuse not, and give God his thanks, who hath reviv'd this remedy, not too late for them, and scowr'd off an inveterat misexposition from the Gospel: a work not to perish by the vaine breath or doome of this age. Our next industry shall bee, under the same guidance, to try with what fidelity that remaining passage in the Epistles touching this matter, hath bin commented.