MATTH. V. 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.

MATTH. XIX. 3, 4, &c.
3. And the Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, &c.

It hath been said. ] What hitherto hath been spoke upon the Law of God touching Matrimony or Divorce, he who will deny to have been argu'd according to reason and all equity of Scripture, I cannot edify how, or by what rule of proportion that man's virtue calculate, what his elements are, nor what his analytics. Confidently to those who have read good books, and to those whose reason is not an illiterate book to themselves, I appeal, whether they would not confess all this to be the commentary of truth and justice, were it not for these recited words of our Saviour. And if they take not back that which they thus grant, nothing sooner might persuade them that Christ here teaches no new precept, and nothing sooner might direct them to find his meaning, than to compare and measure it by the rules of nature and eternal righteousness, which no written Law extinguishes, and the Gospel least of all. For what can be more opposite and disparaging to the covenant of love, of freedom, and of our manhood in grace, than to be made the yoking pedagogue of new severities, the scribe of syllables and rigid letters, not only grievous to the best of men, but different and strange from the light of reason in them, save only as they are fain to stretch and distort their apprehensions for fear of displeasing the verbal straitness of a text, which our own servile fear gives us not the leisure to understand aright? If the Law of Christ shall be written in our hearts, as was promis'd to the Gospel, Jer. 31. how can this in the vulgar and superficial sense be a Law of Christ, so far from being written in our hearts, that it injures and disallows not only the free dictates of Nature and moral Law, but of Charity also and Religion in our heart? Our Saviour's doctrine is, that the end, and the fulfilling of every command is charity; no faith without it, no truth without it, no worship, no works pleasing to God but as they partake of charity. He himself sets us an example, breaking the solemnest and strictest ordinance of religious rest, and justify'd the breaking, not to cure a dying man, but such whose cure might without danger have been deferr'd. And wherfore needs must the sick man's bed be carried home on that day by his appointment? And why were the Disciples, who could not forbear on that day to pluck the corn, so industriously defended, but to shew us that if he preferr'd the slightest occasions of Man's good before the observing highest and severest ordinances, he gave us much more easy leave to break the intolerable yoke of a never well-join'd Wedloc for the removing of our heaviest afflictions? Therfore it is that the most evangelic precepts are given us in proverbial forms, to drive us from the letter, tho' we love ever to be sticking there. For no other cause did Christ assure us that whatsoever things we bind, or slacken on earth, are so in heaven, but to signify that the christian arbitrement of charity is supreme decider of all controversy, and supreme resolver of all Scripture; not as the Pope determines for his own tyranny, but as the Church ought to determine for its own true liberty. Hence Eusebius, not far from the beginning of his History, compares the state of Christians to that of Noah and the Patriarchs before the Law. And this indeed was the reason why Apostolic tradition in the ancient Church was counted nigh equal to the written word, tho' it carried them at length awry, for want of considering that tradition was not left to be impos'd as Law, but to be a pattern 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 Council of Trent, when the point of Tradition came to be discust. And Marinaro, a learned Carmelite, for approaching too near the true cause that gave esteem to Tradition, that is to say, the difference between the Old and New Testament, the one punctually prescribing written Law, the other guiding by the inward Spirit, was reprehended by Cardinal Pool as one that had spoken more worthy a German Colloquy, than a General Council. I omit many instances, many proofs and arguments of this kind, which alone would compile a just volume, and shall content me here to have shewn briefly 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 tinkle, we know nothing, we do nothing, all the sweat of our toilsomest obedience will but mock us. And what we suffer superstitiously, returns us no thanks. Thus med'cining our eyes, we need not doubt to see more into the meaning of these our Saviour's words, than many who have gone before us.
It hath been 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 shews, how they were the Law- breakers. In every Commonwealth, when it decays, corruption makes two main steps; first, when men cease to do according to the inward and uncompell'd actions of Virtue, caring only to live by the outward constraint of Law, and turn the simplicity of real good into the craft of seeming so by Law. To this hypocritical honesty was Rome declin'd in that Age wherin Horace liv'd, and discover'd it to Quintius. Whom do 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 witness and opinion wins the cause?
But his own house, and the whole neighbourhood
Sees his foul inside through his whited skin.
The next declining is, when Law becomes now too strait for the secular Manners, and those too loose for the cincture of Law. This brings in false and crooked interpretations to eke out Law, and invents the suttle encroachment of obscure Traditions hard to be disprov'd. To both these descents the Pharisees themselves were fallen. Our Saviour therfore shews them both where they broke the Law, in not marking the divine Intent therof, but only the Letter; and where they depraved the Letter also with sophistical Expositions. This Law of Divorce they had deprav'd both ways: first, by teaching that to give a Bill of Divorce was all the duty which that Law requir'd, whatever the cause were; next by running to Divorce for any trivial, accidental cause; whenas the Law evidently stays in the grave causes of natural and immutable dislike. It hath been said, saith he. Christ doth not put any contempt or disesteem upon the Law of Moses, by citing it so briefly; for in the same manner God himself cites a Law of greatest caution, Jer. 3. They say if a man put away his Wife, shall he return to her again? &c. Nor doth he more abolish it than 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 swear at all:yet who denies the awfulness of an Oath, tho' here it be in no case permitted? And what shall become of his solemn Protestation not to abolish one Law, or one tittle of any Law, especially of those which he mentions in this Chapter? And that he meant more particularly the not abolishing of Mosaic Divorce, is beyond all cavil manifest in Luke 16. 17, 18. where this Clause against abrogating is inserted immediately before the sentence against Divorce, as if it were call'd thither on purpose to defend the equity of this particular Law against the foreseen rashness of common Textuaries, who abolish Laws, as the Rabble demolish Images, in the zeal 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 heat of their annulling perceive not how they abolish Right, and Equal, 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 Pharisees rais'd from thence; that the Law of God is perfect, not liable to additions or diminutions: and Paraeus accuses the Jesuit Maldonatus of greatest falsity for limiting the perfection of that Law only to the rudeness of the Jews. He adds, That the Law promiseth life to the performers therof, therfore needs not perfecter precepts than such as bring to life; that if the corrections of Christ stand opposite, not to the corruptious of the Pharisees, but to the Law it self of God, the heresy of Manes would follow, one God of the Old Testament, and another of the New. That Christ saith not here, Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of Moses Law, but if the Scribes and Pharisees. That all this may be true: whether is common sense flown asquint, if we can maintain that Christ forbid the Mosaic Divorce utterly, and yet abolish'd not the Law that permits it? For if the Conscience only were checkt, and the Law not repeal'd, what means the Fanatic boldness of this Age, that dares tutor Christ to be more strict than he thought fit? Ye shall have the evasion, it was a judicial Law. What could infancy and slumber have invented more childish? Judicial or not judicial, it was one of those Laws expresly which he forewarn'd us with protestation, that his mind was, not to abrogate: and if we mark the steerage of his words, what course they hold, we may perceive that what he protested not to dissolve (that he might faithfully and not deceitfully remove a suspicion from himself) was principally concerning the judicial 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 pass until all were fulfill'd. Of the Moral Law he knew the Pharisees did not suspect he meant to nullify that : for so doing would soon have undone his authority, and advanced theirs. Of the judicial Law therfore chiefly this Apology was meant: For how is that fulfill'd longer than the common equity therof remains in force? And how is this our Saviour's defence of himself not made fallacious, if the Pharisee's chief fear be lest he should abolish the judicial Law, and he to satisfy them, protests his good intention to the Moral Law? It is the general grant of Divines that what in the Judicial Law is not meerly judicial, but reaches to human equity in common, was never in the thought of being abrogated. If our Saviour took away aught of the 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 coming. But what if the Law of Divorce be a Moral Law, as most certainly it is fundamentally, and hath been so prov'd in the reasons therof? For tho' the giving of a Bill may be judicial, yet the act of Divorce is altogether conversant in good and evil, and so absolutely moral. So far as it is good, it never can be abolisht, being moral; and so far as it is simply evil, it never could be judicial, as hath been shewn 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 19th Chapter, where it meets us again, after a large debatement on the Question between our Saviour and his Adversaries.

Mat. XIX. 3, 4, &c.
V. 3. And the Pharisees came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him.

Tempting him. ] The manner of these men coming to our Saviour, not to learn, but to tempt him, may give us to expect that their Answer will be such as is fittest for them; not so much a teaching, as an intangling. No man, though never so willing or so well enabled to instruct, but if he discern his willingness and candor made use of to intrap him, will suddenly draw in himself, and laying aside the facil vein of perspicuity, will know his time to utter Clouds and Riddles; if he be not less wise than that noted Fish, whenas he should be not unwiser than the Serpent. Our Saviour at no time exprest any great desire, to teach the obstinate and unteachable Pharisees; 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, unless we draw his absolution of Adultery into an Edict? So about the Tribute, who is there can pick out a full Solution, what and when we must give to Caesar, that which is CÊsar's, and all be Caesar's which hath his Image, we must either new stamp our Coin, or we may go new stamp our foreheads with the superscription of Slaves instead of Freemen. Besides, it is a general Precept not only of Christ, but of all other Sages, not to instruct the unworthy and the conceited, who love Tradition more than Truth, but to perplex and stumble them purposely with contrived 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 Austin himself and other great Writers confess. Lastly, it is manifest to be the principal scope of our Saviour, both here, and in the 5th of Matthew, to convince the Pharisees of what they being evil did licentiously, not to explain what others being good and blameless men might be permitted to do in case of extremity. Neither was it reasonable to talk of honest and conscientious liberty among them, who had abused legal and civil liberty to uncivil licence. We do not say to a Servant what we say to a Son; nor was it expedient to preach Freedom to those who had transgressed in wantonness. 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, took the course to lay their Haughtiness under a severity which they deserv'd; not to acquaint them, or to make them Judges either of the just man's Right and Privilege, or of the afflicted man's Necessity. And if we may have leave to conjecture, there is a likelihood offer'd us by Tertullian in his 4th against Marcion, wherby it may seem very probable that the Pharisees had a private drift of Malice against our Saviour's life in proposing this Question; and our Saviour had a peculiar aim in the rigor of his answer, both to let them know the freedom of his spirit, and the sharpness of his discerning. This I must now shew, saith Tertullian, whence our Lord deduced this sentence, and which way he directed it, wherby it will more fully appear that he intended not to dissolve Moses. And thereupon tells us, that the vehemence of this our Saviour's speech was chiefly darted against Herod and Herodias. The Story is out of Josephus; Herod had been a long time married to the Daughter of Aretas King of Petra, till happening on his journey toward Rome to be entertain'd at his brother Philip's house, he cast his eye unlawfully and unguestlike upon Herodias there, the wife of Philip, but Daughter of Aristobulus their common Brother, and durst make words of marrying her his Niece from his Brother's bed. She assented, upon agreement he should expel his former Wife. All was accomplish'd, and by the Baptist rebuk'd with the loss of his head. Though doubtless that stay'd not the various discourses of men upon the fact, which while the Herodian flatterers, and not a few perhaps among the Pharisees, endeavour'd to defend by wresting the Law, it might be a means to bring the Question of Divorce into a hot agitation among the People, how far Moses gave allowance. The Pharisees therfore knowing our Saviour to be a friend of John the Baptist, and no doubt but having heard much of his Sermon in the mount, wherin 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 compass of the same accusation which had ended his friend; and our Saviour so orders his Answer, as that they might perceive Herod and his Adulteress, 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 than his custom was; which his conscious attempters doubtless apprehended sooner than his other Auditors. Thus much we gain from hence to inform us, that what Christ intends to speak here of Divorce, will be rather the forbidding of what we may not do herein passionately and abusively, as Herod and Herodias did, than the discussing of what herein we may do reasonably and necessarily.
Is it lawful for a man to put away his Wife? ] It might be rendered more exactly from the Greek, to loosen or to set free; which tho' it seem to have milder signification than the two Hebrew words commonly us'd for divorce, yet interpreters hav enoted, that the Greek also is read in the Septuagint, for an act which is not without constraint. As when Achish drove from the presence David, counterfeiting madness. Psal. 34. the Greek 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 Pharisees did not state this question in the strict right of the man, not tarrying for the wife's consent. And if our Saviour answer directy according to what was askt in the term of putting away, it will be questionable, whether the rigor of his sentence did not forbid only such putting away as is without mutual 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 Emperors fear'd not in their constitutions to dissolve Marriage by mutual consent; in that our Saviour seems here, as the case is most likely, not to condemn all divorce, but all injury and violence in divorce. But no injury can be done to them, who seek it, as the Ethics of Aristotle sufficiently prove. True it is, that an unjust thing may be done to one tho' willing, and so may justly be forbidden: But divorce being in itself no unjust or evil thing, but only as it is join'd with injury, or lust; injury it cannot be at law, if consent be, and Aristotle err not. And lust it may as frequently not be, while charity hath the judging of so many private grievances in a misfortun'd Wedloc, which may pardonably seek a redemption. But whether it be or not, the Law cannot discern, nor examine lust, so long as it walks from one lawful term to another, from Divorce to Marriage, both in themselves indifferent. For if the Law cannot take hold to punish many actions apparently covetous, ambitious, ingrateful, 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, than 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 discern 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 lawful: leaving secrecies to conscience, the thing which our Saviour here aims to rectify, not to revoke the statutes of Moses. In the mean while the word to put away, being in the Greek to loosen or dissolve, utterly takes away that vain papistical distinction of divorce from bed, and divorce from bond, evincing plainly, that Christ and the Pharisees mean here that divorce which finally dissolves the bond, and frees both parties to a second Marriage.
For every cause. ] This the Pharisees held, that for every cause they might divorce, for every accidental cause, and quarrel of difference that might happen. So both Josephus and Philo, men who liv'd in the same age, explain; and the Syriac translator, whose antiquity is thought parallel to the Evangelists themselves, reads it conformably upon any occasion or pretence. Divines also generally agree that thus the Pharisees meant. Cameron a late Writer, much applauded commenting this place not undiligently, affirms that the Greek preposition kaòa translated unusually (for) hath a force in it implying the suddenness of those Pharisaic divorces; and that their queston was to this effect, whether for any cause whatever it chanced to be, straight as it rose, the divorce might be lawful. This he freely gives, whatever mov'd him, and I as freely take, nor can deny his observation to be acute and learn'd. 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 bestows on us, that for every cause is to be understood, according as any cause may happen, with a relation to the speediness of those divorces, and that Herodian act especially, as is already brought us, the sentence of our Saviour will appear nothing so strict a prohibition as hath been long conceiv'd, forbidding only to divorce for casual and temporary causes, that may be soon ended, or soon remedied; and likewise forbidding to divorce rashly, and on the sudden heat, except it be for adultery. If these qualifications may be admitted, as partly we offer them, partly are offered them by some of their own opinion, and that where nothing is repugnant, why they should not be admitted, nothing can wrest them from us, the severe sentence of our Saviour will straight unbend the seeming frown into that gentleness and compassion which was so abundant in all his actions, his office and his doctrine, from all which otherwise it stands off at no mean distance.

Ver. 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?
Ver. 5. And said, for this cause shall a man leave Father and Mother, and shall cleave to his Wife, and they twain shall be one flesh.
Ver. 6. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh: What therfore God hath joined 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 forbidden, is not an absolute and tyrannical command without reason, as now-a-days we make it little better, but is grounded upon some rational cause not difficult to be apprehended, being in a matter which equally concerns the meanest and the plainest sort of persons in a houshold life. Our next way then will be to enquire if there be not more reasons than one; and if there be, whether this be the best and chiefest. That we shall find by turning to the first institution, to which Christ refers our own reading: He himself having to deal with treacherous assailants, useth brevity, and lighting on the first place in Genesis that mentions any thing tending to Marriage in the first chapter, joins it immediately to the 24th verse of the 2d chapter, omitting all the prime words between, which create the institution, and contain 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 learn of him, asking him which commandments he should keep; he neither repeats the first Table, nor all the second, nor that in order which he repeats. If here then being tempted, he desire to be the sorter, and the darker in his Conference, and omit to cite that from the second of Genesis, which all Divines confess is a Commentary to what he cites out of the first, the making them Male and Female: what are we to do, but to search the institution our selves? And we shall find there his own authority, giving other manner of reasons why such firm union is to be in Matrimony; without which reasons, their being male and female can be no cause of joining them unseparably: for if it be, then no Adultery can sever. Therfore the prohibition of Divorce depends not upon this reason here exprest to the Pharisees, but upon the plainer and more eminent causes omitted here, and referr'd to the institution; which causes not being found in a particular and casual Matrimony, this sensitive and materious cause alone can no more hinder a divorce against those higher and more human reasons urging it, than it can alone without them to warrant a copulation, but leaves arbitrary to those who in their chance of Marriage find not why Divorce is forbid them, but why it is permitted them; and find 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 thro' their licentious Divorces they made no more of Marriage than, as if to marry were no more than to be male and female, so he goes no higher in his confutation, deeming them unworthy to be talk'd with in a higher strain, but to be ty'd in Marriage by the meer material cause therof, since their own licence testify'd that nothing matrimonial was in their thought, but to be male and female. Next, it might be done to discover the brute ignorance of these carnal 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 believe this, his entertainment of the young man soon after may persuade us. Whom, tho' he came to preach eternal life by faith only, he dismisses with a salvation taught him by his words only. On which place ParÊus notes, That this man was to be convinc'd by a false persuasion; and that Christ is wont otherwise to answer hypocrites, otherwise those that are docible. Much rather then may we think that in handling these tempters he forgot not so to frame his prudent ambiguities and concealments, as was to the troubling of those peremptory disputants most wholesome. When therfore we would know what right there may be, in ill accidents, to divorce, we must repair thither where God professes to teach his Servants by the prime institution, and not where we see him intending to dazzle Sophisters: we must not read, he made them Male and Female, and not understand he made them more intendedly a meet help to remove the evil of being alone. We must take both these together, and then we may infer compleatly, as from the whole cause, why a man shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh: but if the full and chief cause why we may not divorce be wanting here, this place may skirmish with the Rabbies while it will, but to the true Christian it prohibits nothing beyond the full reason of its own prohibiting, which is best known by the institution.
Ver. 6. Wherfore they are no more twain, but one flesh. ] This is true in the general 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 meet for each other according to the plain prescript of God, may with less ado than a volume be concluded still twain. 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 God's institution?
What therfore God hath joined, let no man put asunder. ] but here the Christian prudence lies to consider what God hath join'd; shall we say that God hath join'd error, fraud, unfitness, wrath, contention, perpetual loneliness, perpetual discord; whatever lust, or wine, or witchery, threat, or inticement, avarice, or ambition hath joined together, faithful with unfaithful, Christian with Antichristian, hate with hate, or hate with love, shall we say this is God's joining?
Let no man put asunder. ] That is to say, what God hath join'd; for if it be, as how oft we see it may be, not of God's joining, and his Law tells us he joins not unmatchable things, but hates to join them, as an abominable confusion, then the divine law of Moses puts them asunder, his own divine will in the institution puts them asunder, as oft as the reasons be not extant, for which God ordain'd their joining. 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 joining, when wrongs and extremities and unsupportable grievances compel him to disjoin: when such as Herod and the Pharisees 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 join'd, let man take heed it be not detestable to join that by compulsion which God hath put asunder.

Ver. 7. They say unto him, Why did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
Ver. 8. He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffer'd you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so.

Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffer'd you. Hence the Divinity now current argues that this judicial Moses is abolish'd. But suppose it were so, tho' it hath been prov'd otherwise, the firmness of such right to divorce as here pleads is fetch'd from the prime institution, does not stand or fall with the judicial Jew, but is as moral as what is moralest. Yet as I have shewn positively that this law cannot be abrogated, both by the words of our Saviour pronouncing the contrary, and by that unabolishable equity which it conveys to us; so I shall now bring to view those appearances of strength which are levied from this text to maintain the most gross 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 years long: altho' to detect the prodigy of this surmise, the former book set forth on this argument hath already been copious. I shall not repeat much, tho' I might borrow of mine own; but shall endeavour to add something either yet untouch'd, or not largely enough explain'd. First, it shall be manifest that the common exposition cannot possibly consist with christian doctrine: next, a truer meaning of this our Saviour's reply shall be left in the room. The receiv'd exposition is, that God, tho' not approving, did enact a law to permit adultery by divorcement simply unlawful. And this conceit they feed with fond supposals that have not the least footing in Scripture: As that the Jews learnt this custom of divorce in Egypt, and therfore 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 than teaching Ignorance when he shifts to hide his nakedness?) that the Jews were naturally to their wives the cruellest men in the world; would poison, brain, and do I know not what if they might not divorce. Certain, if it were a fault heavily punish'd, to bring an evil report upon the land which God gave, what is it to raise a groundless calumny against the people which God made choice of? But that this bold interpretament, how commonly soever 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 be prov'd thro' all the heads and the Topics of argumentation; but I shall willingly be as concise as possible. First the Law, not only 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 judgments which I teach you, to do them, that ye may live, &c. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. And onward in this chapter, Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me. Keep therfore and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding. For what nation hath God so nigh unto them, and what nation hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law which I set before ye this day? Is it imaginable there should be 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 tribunal adultery? Many other Scriptures might be brought to assert the purity of this judicial Law, and many I have alledg'd before; this law therfore 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 think we? The three general doctrines of Justinian's 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 only 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 perfect, and certainly the Law is of all his other gifts one of the perfectest. But if it give that outwardly which it takes away really, and give that seemingly, which, if a man take it, wraps him into sin and damns him; what gift of an enemy can be more dangerous and destroying than this?
Thirdly, Moses every-where commends his Laws, prefers them before all of other Nations, and warrants them to be the way of Life and Safety to all that walk therin, Levit. 18. But if they contain Statutes which God approves not, and train men unweeting to commit injustice and adultery under the shelter of Law; if those things be sin, and death sin's wages, what is this Law but the snare of death?
Fourthly, The Statutes and Judgments of the Lord, which, without exception, are often told us to be such, as doing we may live by them, are doubtless 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 down from the state of her incorruptible Majesty to grant lust his boon, palpably it darkens and confounds both knowledge and conscience; it goes against the common office of all goodness and friendliness, which is at least to counsel and admonish; it subverts the rules of all sober education, and is itself a most negligent and debauching Tutor.
Fifthly, If the Law permits a thing unlawful, it permits that which else-where it hath forbid; so that hereby it contradicts it self, and transgresses it self. But if the Law become a transgressor, it stands guilty to itself, and how then shall it save another? It makes a confederacy with sin, how then can it justly condemn a sinner? And thus reducing it self to the state of neither saving nor condemning, it wil not fail to expire solemnly ridiculous.
Sixthly, 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 hardness of heart: To which objection the Apostle's rule, not to do evil that good may come therby, gives an invincible repulse: 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 hardness of heart hardens the more, and adds more to the number. God to an evil and adulterous generation would not grant a sign; much less would he for their hardness of heart pollute his Law with adulterous permission. Yea, but to permit evil, is not to do evil. Yes, it is in a most eminent manner to do evil: where else are all our grave and faithful sayings, that he whose office is to forbid and forbids not, bids, exhorts, encourages? Why hath God denounc'd his anger against Parents, Masters, Friends, Magistrates neglectful of forbidding what they ought, if Law, the common Father, Master, Friend, and perpetual Magistrate shall not only forbid, but enact, exhibit, and uphold with countenance and protection, a deed every way dishonest, whatever the pretence be. If it were of those inward vices, which the Law cannot by outward constraint remedy, but leaves to conscience and persuasion, it had been guiltless in being silent: but to write a Decree of that which can be no way lawful, and might with ease be hinder'd, makes Law by the doom of Law it self accessory in the highest degree.
Seventhly, It makes God the direct Author of Sin: For altho' he be not made the Author of what he silently permits in his Providence, yet in his Law, the image of his Will, when in plain expression he constitutes and ordains a fact utterly unlawful; what wants he to authorize it, and what wants that to be the author?
Eighthly, To establish by Law a thing wholly unlawful and dishonest, is an affirmation was never heard of before in any Law, Reason, Philosophy, or Religion, till it was rais'd by inconsiderate Glossists from the mistake of this Text. And tho' the Civilians have been contented to chew this opinion, after the Canon had subdu'd them, yet they never could bring example or authority either from divine Writ, or human Learning, or human Practice in any Nation, or well-form'd Republic, but only from the customary abuse of this text. Usually they allege the Epistle of Cicero to Atticus; wherin Cato is blam'd for giving sentence to the scum of Romulus, as if he were in Plato's Commonwealth. Cato could have call'd some great one into judgment for Bribery; Cicero, as the time stood, advis'd against it. Cato, not to endamage the public Treasury, would not grant to the Roman Knights, that the Asian Taxes might be farm'd them at a less rate. Cicero wish'd it granted. Nothing in all this will be like the establishing of a Law to sin: Here are no Laws made, here only the execution of Law is crav'd might be suspended: between which and our question is a broad difference. And what if human Lawgivers have confest they could not frame their Laws to that Perfection which they desir'd? We hear of no such confession from Moses concerning the Laws of God, but rather all praise and high testimony of perfection given them. And altho' man's nature cannot bear exactest Laws, yet still within the confines of good it may and must, so long as less good is far enough from altogether evil. As for what they instance of Usury, let them first prove Usury to be wholly unlawful, as the Law allows it; which learned Men as numerous on the other side will deny them. Or if it be altogether unlawful, why is it tolerated more than Divorce? He who said, Divorce not, said also, Lend, hoping for nothing again, Luk. 6. 35. But then they put it, that Trade could not stand, and so to serve the commodity of insatiable trading, Usury shall be permitted; but Divorce, the only means oftimes to right the innocent and outragiously wrong'd, shall be utterly forbid. This is egregious doctrine, and for which one day Charity will much thank 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 wickedness which God abhors; yet to limit sin, and prescribe it a certain measure, is good. First, this evasion will not help here; 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 forbid to dislike, or command to love? If these be the limits of Law to restrain sin, who so lame a sinner but may hop over them more easily than over those Romulean circumscriptions, not as Remus did with hard success, but with all indemnity? Such a limiting as this were not worth the mischief that accompanies it. This Law therfore not bounding the supposed sin, by permitting enlarges it, gives it enfranchisement. And never greater confusion, than when Law and Sin more their Landmarks, mix their Territories, and correspond, have intercourse and traffic together. When Law contracts a kindred and hospitality with Transgression, becomes the godfather of Sin, and names it lawful; when sin revels, and gossips within the Arsenal of Law, plays and dandles the Artillery of Justice that should be bent against her, this is a fair limitation indeed. 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 always an excess. The least sin that is, exceeds the measure of the largest Law that can be good; and is as boundless as that vacuity beyond the world. If once it square to the measure of Law, it ceases to be an excess, and consequently ceases to be a sin; or else Law conforming itself to the obliquity of sin, betrays itself to be not streight, but crooked, and so immediately no Law. And the improper conceit of moderating sin by Law, will appear, if we can imagine any Law-giver so sensless as to decree that so far a man may steal, and thus far be drunk, that moderately he may couzen, and moderately commit adultery. To the same extent it would be as pithily absurd to publish that a man may moderately divorce, if to do that be intirely naught. But to end this moot, the Law of Moses is manifest to fix no limit therin at all, or such at least as impeaches the fraudulent abuser no more than if it were not set; only requires the dismissive writing without other caution, leaves that to the inner man, and the bar of Conscience. But it stopt other sins. This is as vain as the rest, and dangerously uncertain: the contrary to be fear'd rather, that one sin admitted courteously by Law, open't the gate to another. However, evil must not be done for good. And it were a fall to be lamented, and indignity unspeakable, if Law should become tributary to sin her slave, and forc'd to yield up into his hands her awful Minister, Punishment, should but out her peace with sin for sin, paying as it were her so many Philistian foreskins to the proud demand of Transgression. But suppose it any way possible to limit Sin, to put a girdle about that Chaos, suppose it also good; yet if to permit sin by Law be an abomination in the eyes of God, as Cameron acknowledges, the evil of permitting will eat out the good of limiting. For though sin be not limited, there can but evil come out of evil; but if it be pemitted and decreed lawfully by divine Law, of force then sin must proceed from the infinite good, which is a dreadul thought. But if the restraining of sin by this permission being good, as this author testifies, be more good than the permission of more sin by the restraint of Divorce, and that God weighing both these like two ingots, in the perfect scales of his Justice and Providence, found them so, and others coming without authority from God, shall change this counterpoise, andjudge 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 himself thought best to permit it, it will behove them to consult betimes whether these their ballances be not false and abominable; and this their limiting that which God loosen'd, and their loosening the sins that he limited, which they confess was good to do: and were it possible to do by Law, doubtless it would be most morally good; and they so believing, as we hear 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 wherin it will not be good to limit sin, and they can never limit it better than so as God prescribed in his Law.
Others conceive it a more defencible retirement to say this permission to divorce sinfully for hardness 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 some persons, rather than general to whole people; always hath Charity the end, is granted to necessities and infirmities, not to obstinate 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 adverse, 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 Scholars of this Canonistic Exposition. Aught in it, that can allude in the least manner to Charity, or Goodness, belongs with more full right to the Christian under Grace and Liberty, than to the Jew under Law and Bondage. To Jewish ignorance it could not be dispensed, without a horrid imputation laid upon the Law, to dispense foully, instead of teaching fairly; like that dispensation that first polluted Christendom with Idolatry, permitting to laymen Images instead of Books and Preaching. Sloth or malice in the Law would they have this call'd? But what ignorance can be pretended of the Jews, who had all the same Precepts about Marriage, 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 wherin hath the Gospel alter'd the nature of Matrimony? All these considerations, or many of them, have been further amplify'd in the Doctrine of Divorce. And what Rivetus and Paraeus have objected, or given over as past cure, hath been there discuss'd. Wherby it may be plain enough to men of eyes, that the vulgar exposition of a permittance by Law to an entire sin, whatever the colour may be, is an opinion both ungodly, unpolitic, unvirtuous, and void of all honesty and civil sense. It appertains therfore to every zealous Christian both for the honour of God's Laws, and the vindication of our Saviour's Words, that such an irreligious depravement no longer may be sooth'd and flatter'd through custom, but with all diligence and speed solidly refuted, and in the room a better explanation given; which is now our next endeavour.
Moses suffered you to put away, &c. ] Not commanded you, says the common observer, and therfore car'd not how soon it were abolish'd, being but suffer'd; herein declaring his annotation to be slight, and nothing law-prudent. For in this place commanded and suffer'd are interchangably us'd in the same sense both by our Saviour and the Pharisees. Our Saviour, who here saith, Moses suffer'd you, in the 10th of Mark saith, Moses wrote you this Command. And the Pharisees who here say, Moses commanded, and would mainly have it a command, in that place of Mark say Moses suffer'd, which had made against them in their own mouths, if the word of suffering had weaken'd the command. So that suffer'd and commanded is here 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 divided into obligatory and permissive, containing either what we must do, or what we may do; and of this latter sort are as many precepts as of the former, and all as lawful. Tutelage, an ordainment than which nothing more just, being for the defence of Orphans, 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 equal, and yet the Civil Law calls this permission. So likewise to manumise, to adopt, to make a Will, and to be made an Heir, is called permission by the Law. Marriage itself, 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 been thought that all Divorce is utterly unlawful because the Law is said to suffer it: whenas to suffer is but the legal phrase denoting what by Law a Man may do or not do.
Because of the hardness of your hearts. ] Hence they argue that therfore he allow'd it not; and therfore it must be abolisht. But the contrary to this will sooner follow, that because he suffer'd it for a cause, therfore in relation to that cause he allow'd it. Next, if he in his wisdom, and in the midst of his severity allow'd it for hardness of neart, it can be nothing better thn arrogance and presumption to take stricter courses against hardness of heart, than God ever set an example; and that under the Gospel, which warrants them to no judicial act of compulsion in this matter, much less to be more severe against hardness of extremity, than God thought good to be against hardness of heart. He suffer'd it, rather than worse inconveniences; these men wiser, as they make themselves, will suffer the worst and heinousest inconveniences to follow, rather than they will suffer what God suffer'd. Altho' they can know when they please, that Christ spake only to the Conscience, did not judge on the civil bench, but always disavow'd it. What can be more contrary to the ways of God than these their doings? If they be such enemies to hardness of heart, altho' this groundless rigor proclaims it to be in themselves, they may yet learn, or consider that hardness of heart hath a twofold acceptation in the Gospel. One, when it is in a good man taken for infirmity, and imperfection, which was in all the Apostles, whose weakenss only, not utter want of belief, is call'd hardness of heart, Mark 16. Partly for this hardness of heart, the imperfection and decay of man from original righteousness, it was that God suffer'd not Divorce only, but all that which by Civilians is term'd the secondary Law of Nature and of Nations. He suffer'd his own People to waste and spoil and slay by War, to lead captives, to be some masters, some servants, some to be Princes, others to be Subjects; he suffered propriety to divide all things by several possession, trade and commerce, not without usury; in his commonwealth some to be undeservedly rich, others to be undeservedly poor. All which till hardness of heart came in, was most unjust; whenas prime Nature made us all equal, made us equal 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 Marriage, our imperfect and degenerate condition of necessity requiring this Law among the rest, as a remedy against intolerable wrong and servitude above the patience of man to bear. Nor was it given only because our infirmity, or if it must be so call'd, hardness of heart could not endure all things; but because the hardness of another's 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 therfore we abolish Divorce as only suffer'd for hardness of heart, we may as well abolish the whole Law of Nations, as only suffer'd for the same cause, it being shewn us by S. Paul, 1 Cor. 6. that the very seeking of a man's right by Law, and at the hands of a worldly Magistrate, is not without the hardness of our hearts. For why do 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 hardness of heart, I say the very prosecution of our right by way of civil Justice can no more be suffer'd among Christians, for the hardness of heart wherwith most men pursue it. And that would next remove all our judicial Laws, and this restraint of Divorce also in the number; which would more than half end the controversy. But if it be plain that the whole juridical Law and Civil Power is only suffer'd under the Gospel, for the hardness of our hearts, then wherfore should not that which Moses suffer'd, be suffer'd still by the same reason?
In a second signification hardness of heart is taken for a stubborn resolution to do evil. And that God ever makes any Law purposely to such, I deny; for he vouchsafes not to enter Covenant with them, but as they fortune to be mixt with good men, and pass undiscover'd; much less that he should decree an unlawful thing only to serve their licentiousness. But that God suffers this reprobate hardness of heart I affirm, not only in this law of Divorce, but throughout all his best and purest Commandments. He commands all to worship in singleness of heart according to all his Ordinances; and yet suffers the wicked man to perform all the rites of Religion hypocritically, and in the hardness of his heart. He gives us general statutes and privileges in all civil matters, just and good of themselves, yet suffers unworthiest men to use them, and by them to prosecute their own right, or any colour of right, tho' for the most part maliciously, covetously, rigorously, revengefully. He allow'd by law the discreet Father and Husband to forbid, if he thought fit, the religious vows of his wife or daughter, Numb. 30. and in the same law suffer'd the hard- heartedness of impious and covetous fathers or husbands abusing this law to forbid their wives or daughters in their offerings and devotions of greatest zeal. If then God suffer hardness 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 abolish'd. But other Laws, they object, may be well us'd, this never. How often shall I answer both from the institution of Marriage, and from other general rules in Scripture, that this Law of Divorce hath many wise and charitable ends besides the being suffer'd for hardness of heart; which is indeed no end, but an accident hapning 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 follows that this Law had no other reason to be permitted but for hardness of heart. The Scripture seldom 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 Marriage, 1 Cor. 7. seems to permit even that also for hardness of heart only, lest we should run into fornication; yet no intelligent man thence concludes Marriage allow'd in the Gospel only to avoid an evil, because no other end is there exprest. Thus Moses of necessity suffer'd many to put away their wives for hardness of heart; but enacted the Law of Divorce doubtless for other good cause, 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'd against the Law's intention undiscoverably. This also may be thought not improbable, that Christ, stirr'd up in his spirit against these tempting Pharisees, answer'd them in a certain form of indignation usual among good authors; wherby the question, or the truth is not directly answer'd, but something which is fitter for them, who ask, to hear. So in the Ecclesiastical stories, one demanding how God imploy'd himself before the world was made? had answer, that he was making hell for curious questioners. Another (and Libanius the Sophist, as I remember) asking in derision some 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 Apostate. 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 hardness of their hearts he suffer'd them to abuse it. And albeit Mark say not he suffer'd you, but to you he wrote this precept; Mark may be warrantably expounded by Matthew 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 hardness of your hearts, to you he wrote this precept, infers not therfore for this cause only he wrote it, as was parallell'd by other Scirptures. Lastly, It may be worth the observing, that Christ speaking to the Pharisees, does not say in general that for hardness of heart he gave this precept, but you he suffer'd, and to you he gave this precept for your hardness of heart. It cannot be easily thought that Christ here included all the children of Israel under the person of these tempting Pharisees, but that he conceals; wherfore he gave the better sort of them this Law, and expresses by saying emphatically To you how he gave it to the worse, such as the Pharisees best represented, that is to say, for the hardness of your hearts: as indeed to wicked man and hardned hearts he gives the whole Law and the Gospel also, to harden them the more. Thus many ways it may orthodoxally be understood how God or Moses suffer'd such as the demanders were, to divorce for hardness of heart. Wheras 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 than a reverend ignorance in fear to be convicted, rushes brutely and impetuously against all the principles both of Nature, Piety, and moral Goodness; and in the fury of his literal expounding overturns them all.
But from the beginning it was not so. ] Not how from the beginning? Do they suppose that men might not divorce at all, not necessarily, not deliberately, except for Adultery, but that some 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 judicial Law, Divorce was more permissive from the beginning before Moses than under Moses. But from the beginning, that is to say, by the institution in Paradise, it was not intended that Matrimony should dissolve for every trivial cause, as you Pharisees accustom. But that it was not thus suffer'd from the beginning ever since the race of men corrupted and Laws were made, he who will affirm, must have found out other antiquities than 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 perfect, it had been just that all things should have remain'd, as they began to Adam and Eve. But after that the Sons of Men grew violent and injurious, it alter'd the lore of justice, and put the government of things into a new frame. While man and woman were both perfect each to other, there needed no Divorce; but when they both degenerated to imperfection, and oft-times grew to be an intolerable evil each to other, then Law more justly did permit the alienating of that evil which mistake made proper, than 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, and that propriety, whether by covenant or possession, be but the attainment of some outward good, it is more natural and righteous that the Law should sever us from an intimate evil, than appropriate any outward good to us from the Community of nature. The Gospel indeed tending ever to that which is perfectest, aim'd at the restorement of all things as they were in the beginning, and therfore all things were in common to those primitive Christians in the Acts, which Ananias and Sapphira dearly felt. That custom also continu'd more or less till the time of Justin Martyr, as may be read in his second Apology, which might be writ after that act of communion perhaps some forty years above a hundred. But who will be the man that shall introduce this kind of Commonwealth, as Christianity now goes? If then Marriage must be as in the beginning, the persons that marry must be such as then were; the institution must make good, in some tolerable sort, what it promises to either party. If not, it is but madness to drag this one Ordinance back to the beginning, and draw down all other to the present necessity and condition, far 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 Pharisees manur'd the business; 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 self from the first beginning was never but conditional, as all Covenants are: because thus and thus, therfore so and so; if not thus, then not so. Then moreover was perfectest to fulfil each Law in it self; now is perfectest in this estate of things, to ask of charity how much law may be fulfill'd: else the fulfilling oft-times is the greatest breaking. If any therfore demand, which is now most perfection, to ease an extremity by Divorce, or to enrage and fester it by the grievous observance of a miserable Wedloc, I am not destitute to say which is most perfection, (although some who believe they think favourably of Divorce, esteem it only venial to infirmity.) Him I hold more in the way to perfection who forgoes an unfit, ungodly, and discordant Wedloc, to live according to peace and love, and God's institution in a fitter choice, than he who debars himself the happy experience of all godly, which is peaceful conversation 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 false keeping of a most unreal nullity, a Marriage that hath no affinity with God's intention, a daring phantasm, a meer toy of terror awing weak sense, to the lamentable superstition of ruining themselves; the remedy wherof God in his Law vouchsafes 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 and more circumspect than 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 done in the beginning, as that which now is nearest to the rule of charity. This is the greatest, the perfectest, the highest commandment.

Ver. 9. And I say unto you, Whoso shall put away his wife, except it be for Fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso 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 disclaim: and that it does not traverse from the Closet of Conscience to the Courts of Civil or Canon Law, with any Christian rightly commenc'd, requires not long evincing. If Christ then did not here check permissive Moses, nor did reduce Matrimony to the beginning more than all other things, as the reason of man's condition could bear, 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 confest Oracle in Law, that he who looks 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 been 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 blameless person, to league himself in chains with a begirting mischief, not to separate till death? He who taught us that no man puts a piece of new cloth upon an ond garment, nor new wine into old bottles, that he should sew this patch of strictness upon the old apparel of our frailty, to make a rent more incurable, whenas in all other amendments his doctrine still charges, that regard be had to the garment, and to the vessel, what it can endue; this were an irregular and single piece of rigour, not only sounding disproportion to the whole Gospel, but outstretching the most rigorous nerves of Law and Rigour it self. No other end therfore can be left imaginable of this excessive restraint, but to bridle those erroneous and licentious postillers the Pharisees; not by telling them what may be 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 powerful reclaiming, wisest men have also taught in their ethical Precepts and Gnomologies, resembling it, as when we bend a crooked wand the contrary way; not that it should stand so bent, but that the overbending might reduce it to a straitness by its own reluctance. And as the Physician cures him who hath taken down poison, not by the middling temper of nourishment, but by the other extreme of Antidote, so Christ administers here a sharp and corrosive sentence against a foul and putrid licence; not to eat 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 Hyperboles; why in this one Text should they be such crabbed Masorites of the letter, as not to mollify a transcendance of literal rigidity, which they confess to find often elsewhere in his manner of delivery, but must make their exposition here such an obdurate Cyclops, to have but one eye for this Text, and that only 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, go and be vendible where men be so unhappy as to cheapen him: the words of Christ shall be asserted from such elemental Notaries, and resolv'd by the now-only lawgiving mouth of charity; which may be done undoubtedly by understanding them as follows.
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 do, and covertly defended Herod for so doing; whom to rebuke, our Saviour here mainly intends, and not to determine all the cases of Divorce, as appears by St. Paul. Whosoever shall put away, either violently without mutual 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 soon over, and be reconcil'd, except it be Fornication; whosoever shall put away rashly, as his choler prompts him, without due time of deliberating, and think his Conscience dischar'd ony by the bill of Divorce given, and the outward Law satisfy'd; whosoever, lastly, shall put away his Wife, that is a Wife indeed, and not in name only, such a one who both can and is willing to be a meet help toward the chief ends of Marriage both civil and sanctify'd, except fornication be the cause, that Man, or that Pair, commit Adultery. Not he who puts away by mutual consent, with all the considerations and respects of humanity and gentleness, without malicious or lustful drift. Not he who after sober and cool 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 least with that civility and goodness, as not to keep her under a neglected and unwelcome residence, where nothing can be hearty, and not being, it must needs be both unjoyous, and injurious to any perceiving person so detain'd, and more injurious than to be freely, and upon good terms dismist. Nor doth he put away adulterously who complains of causes rooted in immutable nature, utter unfitness, utter disconformity, not conciliable, because not to be amended without a miracle. Nor he who puts away an unquenchable vexation from his bosom, and flies an evil than which a greater cannot befall human society. Nor he who puts away with the full suffrage and applause of his conscience, not relying on the written bill of Law, but claiming by faith and fulness of perswasion the rights and promises of God's institution, of which he finds himself in a mistaken wedloc defrauded. Doubtless this man hath bail enough to be no Adulterer, giving Divorce for these causes.
His Wife. ] This word is not to be idle here, a meer word without a sense, much less a fallacious word signifying contrary to what it pretends; but faithfully signifies a Wife, that is, a comfortable help and society, as God instituted; does not signify deceitfully under this name, an intolerable adversary, not a helpless, unaffectionate and sullen mass, whose very company represents the visible and exactest figure of loneliness it self. Such an associate he who puts away, divorces not a wife, but disjoins a nullity which God never join'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 Bucer's explication of this place.
Except it be for fornication, or saving for the cause of fornication, as Matt. 5. ] This declares what kind of causes our Saviour meant; fornication being no natural and perpetual cause, but only accidental and temporary; therfore shews that head of causes from whence it is excepted, to be meant of the same sort. For exceptions are not logically deduc'd from a divers kind, as to say whoso puts away for any natural cause except Fornication, the exception would want salt. And if they understand it, whoso for any cause whatever, they cast themselves; granting Divorce for frigidity a natural cause of their own allowing, though not here exprest, and for desertion without infidelity, whenas he who marries, as they allow him for desertion, deserts as well as is deserted, and finally puts away for another cause besides Adultery. It will with all due reason therfore be thus better understood, whoso 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 casual, not continual.
Saving for the cause of fornication. ] The New Testament, though it be said originally writ in Greek, yet hath nothing near so many Atticisms as Hebraisms, and Syriacisms, which was the Majesty of God, not fitting the tongue of Scripture to a Gentilish Idiom, but in a princely manner offering to them as to Gentiles and Foreigners grace and mercy, though not in foreign words, yet in a foreign stile that might induce them to the fountains; and though their calling were high and happy, yet still to acknowledge God's ancient people their betters, and that language the Metropolitan language. He therfore who thinks to Scholiaze upon the Gospel, though Greek, according to his Greek Analogies, and hath not been 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 here Hebraizes, taking word or speech for cause or matter in the common Eastern phrase, meaning perhaps no more than 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 do 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. Wherby it may be doubtful yet, whether here be not excepted not only fornication it self, but other causes equipollent, and proportional to fornication. Which very word also to understand rightly, we must of necessity have recourse again to the Hebrew. 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 forbid divorce for adultery also, until it come to open whoredom and trade, like that for which Claudius divorc'd Messalina. Since therfore they take not here 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 speaks a public and notorious frequency of fact, not without price; we may reason with as good leave, and as little straining to the text, that our Saviour on set purpose chose this word Fornication, improperly apply'd to the lapse of Adultery, that we might not think our selves bound from all Divorce, except when that fault hath been actually committed. For the language of Scripture signifies by fornication (and others besides St. Austin so expounded it) not only the trespass of Body, nor perhaps that between married persons, unless in a degree or quality as shameless as the Bordello; but signifies also any notable disobedience, or intractable carriage of the Wife to the Husband, as Judg. 19. 2. wherof at large in the Doctrine of Divorce, l. 2. c. 18. Secondly, signifiest the apparent alienation of mind not to Idolatry, (which may seem to answer the act of Adultery) but far on this side, to any point of will-worship, though to the true God; sometimes it notes the love of earthly things, or worldly pleasures, though in a right Believer, sometimes the least suspicion of unwitting Idolatry. As Numb. 15. 39. wilful disobedience to any the least of God's Commandment is call'd fornication, Psal. 73. 26, 27. A distrust only in God, and withdrawing from that nearness of zeal and confidence which ought to be , is call'd fornication. We may be sure it could not import thus much less than Idolatry in the borrow'd metaphor between God and Man, unless it signify'd as much less than Adultery in the ordinary acceptation between Man and Wife. Add 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, lest he should make her an example of captial punishment, as learnedest Expounders affirm, Herod being a great zealot of the Mosaic Law, and the Pharisees great masters of the Text, as the woman taken in Adultery doubtless had cause to fear. Or if they can prove it was neglected, which they cannot do, 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 than Adultery judicially acquitted by those his words to the Adultress. His sentence doth no more by Law forbid Divorce here, than by Law it doth absolve Adultery there. To them therfore who have drawn this yoke upon Christians from his words thus wrested, nothing remains but the guilt of a presumption and perverseness, 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, for a constant alienation and disaffection of mind, or for the continual practice of disobedience and crossness from the duties of love and peace; that is in sum, when to be a tolerable Wife is either naturally not in their power, or obstinately not in their will: and this Opinion also is St. Austin's, lest it should hap to be suspected of novelty. Yet grant the thing here meant were only Adultery, the reason of things will afford more to our assertion, than did the reason of words. For why is Divorce unlawful but only for Adultery? because, say they, that crime only breaks the Matrimony. But this, I reply, the Institution it self gainsays: for that which is most contrary to the words and meaning of the Institution, that most breaks the Matrimony; but a perpetual unmeetness and unwillingness to all the duties of Help, of Love, and Tranquillity, is most contrary to the words and meaning of the Institution; that therfore much more breaks Matrimony than the act of Adultery, though repeated. For this, as it is not felt, nor troubles him who perceives it not, so being perceiv'd, may be soon repented, soon amended, soon, if it can be pardon'd, may be redeem'd with the more ardent love and duty in her who hath the pardon. But this natural unmeetness both cannot be unknown long, and ever after cannot be amended, if it be natural, and will not, if it be far gone obstinate. So that wanting aught 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 fitness, her other pleasingness; she may be otherwise both loving and prevalent, as many Adulteresses be; but in this general unfitness or alienation she can be nothing to him that can please. In Adultery nothing is given from the Husband, which he misses, or enjoys the less, as it may be suttly given: but this unfitness defrauds him of the whole contentment which is sought in Wedloc. And what benefit to him, though nothing be given 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 owe 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 therin more heavy to man's nature than the iterated act of Adultery. God therfore, in his wisdom, 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, and the reason of Adultery, that the exception of Divorce is not limited to that act, but enlarg'd to the causes above specify'd.
And whoso marrieth her which is put away, doth commit adultery. ] By this Clause alone, if by nothing else,we may assure us, that Christ intended not to deliver here the whole doctrine of Divorce, but only to condemn abuses. Otherwise to marry after Desertion, which the Apostle, and the reformed Churches at this day permit, is here forbid, as Adultery. Be she never so wrongfully deserted, or put away, as the Law then suffer'd, if thus forsaken and expulst, she accept the refuge and protection of any honester man who would love her better and give her self in Marriage 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 do the contrary, are loose and remiss; besides that the Apostle himself 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 try; let him try 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 err not, hath here hamper'd it self in a spring fit for those who put their confidence in Alphabets. Spanheim a writer of Evangelic Doubts, comes now and confesses that our Saviour's words are to be limited beyond the limitation there exprest, and excepted beyond their own exception, as not speaking of what happen'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 Marriage-fruition upon pain of Adultery, as not considerable to the brevity of this half sentence? Of what then speaks our Saviour? of that collusion, saith he, which was then most frequent among the Jews of changing wives and husbands, through inconstancy and unchaste desires. Colluders your selves, as violent to this Law of God by your unmerciful binding, as the Pharisees by their unbounded loosening! Have thousands of Christian souls perish'd as to this life, and God knows what hath betided their Consciences, for want of this healing explantion; and is it now at last obscurely drawn forth, only to cure a scratch, and leave the main wound spouting? Whosoever 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 whoso marrieth 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 wife's consent through the lightness and leudness of them both. By 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 verse may be considered: or at least first is absolutely true, the other not, but must be limited to a certain time and custom; which is no less than to say they are both false? For in this compound axiom, be the parts never so many, if one of them do but falter, and be not equally absolute and general, the rest are all false. If therfore that he who marries her which is put away commits adultery, be not generally true, neither is it generally true that he commits 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 yield it must, with the same limitation must be understood the putting away. Thus doth the common exposition confound it self, and justify this which is here brought; that our Saviour as well in the first part of this sentence as in the second, prohibited only such Divorces as the Jews then made through malice or through plotted licence, not those which are for necessary and just causes; where charity and wisdom disjoins, that which not God, but Error and Disaster join'd.
And there is yet to this our exposition, a stronger siding friend, than any can be an adversary, unless St. Paul be doubted, who repeating a command concerning Divorce, 1 Cor. 7. which is agreed by Writers to be the same with this of our Saviour, and appointing that the wife remain unmarried, or be reconcil'd to her husband, leaves it infallible that our Saviour spake chiefly against putting away for casual and choleric disagreements, or any other cause which may with human patience and wisdom be reconcil'd; not hereby meaning to hale and dash together the irreconcileable aversations of nature, nor to tie up a faultless person like a Parricide, as it were into one sack with an enemy, to be his causeless tormenter and executioner the length of a long life. Lastly, let this sentence of Christ be understood how it will, yet that it was never intended for a judicial Law, to be inforc'd by the Magistrate, besides that the office of our Saviour had no such purpose in the Gospel, this latter part of the sentence may assure us, And whoso marrieth her who is put away, commits 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'd for Adultery, as Christ permitted, should become an Adulterer by marrying one who is now no other man's Wife, himself being also free, who might by this means reclaim her from common Whoredom. And if the exception must belong hither, then it follows that he who marries an Adultress divorc'd commits no Adultery; which would soon discover to us what an absurd and sensless piece of injustice this would be to make a civil Statute of in penal Courts: wherby the Adultress 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 self and to her second husband. This saying of Christ therfore cannot be made a temporal Law, were it but for this reason. Nor is it easy to say what coherence there is at all in it from the letter, to any perfect sense not obnoxious to some absurdity, and seems much less agreeable to whatever else of the Gospel is left us written; doubtless by our Saviour spoken in that fierceness 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 unlawful act, though the Baptist were beheaded; last, that his Disciples and all good men might learn 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 sum of all commands, and the perfection.

Ver. 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 add, to leave no objection behind unanswer'd: for some may think, if this our Saviour's sentence be so fair, as not commanding aught 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 been longer bred up under the Pharisaean Doctrine, than 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 far easier. So that be it granted their conceit of this text was the same which is now commonly conceiv'd, according to the usual rate of their capacity then, it will not hurt a better interpretation. But why did not Christ, seeing their error, inform 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 he who had not sword should sell his garment and buy one: the Disciples took it in a manifest wrong sense, yet our Saviour did not there inform them better. He told them it was easier for a Camel to go through a needle's eye, than a rich man in at heaven-gate. They were amaz'd exceedingly: he explain'd himself to mean of those who trust in riches, Mark 10. They were amazed than out of measure, for so Mark relates it; as if his explaining had increas'd their amazement in such a plain case, and which concern'd so nearly their calling to be inform'd in. Good reason therfore, if Christ at that time did not stand amplifying, to the thick prejudice and tradition wherin they were, this question of more difficulty, and less concernment to any perhaps of them in particular. Yet did he not omit to sow within them the seeds of a sufficient determining, against the time that his promis'd Spirit should bring all things to their memory. He had declar'd in their hearing not long before, how distant he was from abolishing the Law it self of Divorce; he had referr'd them to the institution; and after all this, gives them a set answer, from which they might collect what was clear enough, that all men cannot receive all sayings, ver. 11. If such regard be had to each man's receiving of Marriage or single life, what can arise that the same christian regard should not be had in most necessary Divorce? All which instructed both them and us, that it beseem'd his Disciples to learn the deciding of this question, which hath nothing new in it, first by the institution, then by the general grounds of Religion, not by a particular saying here or there, temper'd and levell'd only to an incident occasion, the riddance of a tempting assault. For what can this be but weak and shallow apprehension, to forsake the standard principles of institution, faith, and charity; then to be blank and various at every occurrence in Scripture, and in a cold Spasm of scruple, to rear peculiar doctrines upon the place, that shall bid the gray authority of most unchangable and sovereign Rules to stand by and 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 than an ordinance of Matrimony, I am firm a truer exposition cannot be given. If this or that argument here us'd, please not every one, there is no scarcity of arguments, any half of them will suffice. Or should they all fail, as Truth it self can fail as soon, I should content me with the institution alone to wage this controversy, and not distrust to evince. If any need it not, the happier; yet Christians ought to study earnestly what may be another's need. But if, as mortal mischances are, some 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 scower'd off an inveterate misexposition from the Gospel: a work not to perish by the vain breath or doom of this age. Our next industry shall be, under the same guidance, to try with what fidelity that remaining passage in the Epistles touching this matter, hath been commented.