The Judgement of Martin Bucer Concerning Divorce
Writt'n to Edward the sixt, in his
second Book of the Kingdom of Christ.
And now Englisht.
Testimonies of the high approbation Which learned men have given of Martin Bucer.
Simon Grynæus, 1533.
AMong all the Germans, I give the palm to Bucer, for excellence in the Scriptures. Melancthon in human learning is wondrous fluent; but greater knowledge in the Scripture I attribute to Bucer, and speak it unfeignedly.
John Calvin, 1539.
Martin Bucer a most faithfull Doctor of the Church of Christ, besides his rare learning, & copious knowledge of many things, besides his cleerness of wit, much reading, and other many and various vertues, wherein he is almost by none now living excell'd, hath few equalls, and excells most, hath this praise peculiar to himself, that none in this age hath us'd exacter diligence in the exposition of Scripture.
And a little beneath.
Bucer is more large then to be read by over-busied men, and too high to be easily understood by unattentive men, and of a low capacitie.
Sir John Cheek, Tutor to K. Edw. the sixth. 1551.
Wee have lost our Master, then whom the world scarce held a greater, whether we consider his knowledge of true Religion, or his integrity and innocence of life, or his incessant study of holy things, or his matchless labour of promoting piety, or his authority and amplitude of teaching, or what ever els was praise-worthy and glorious in him. Script. Anglicana pag. 864.
John Sturmius of Strasborrow.
No man can be ignorant what a great and constant opinion and estimation of Bucer there is in Italy, France, and England. Whence the saying of Quintilian hath oft come to my minde, that he hath well profited in Eloquence whom Cicero pleases. The same say I of Bucer, that he hath made no small progress in Divinitie, whom Bucer pleases; for in his Volumes, which he wrote very many, there is the plain impression to be discern'd of many great vertues, of diligence, of charitie, of truth, of acutenes, of judgment, of learning. Wherin he hath a certain proper kind of writing, wherby he doth not only teach the Reader, but affects him with the sweetness of his sentences, and with the manner of his arguing, which is so teaching, and so logical, that it may be perceiv'd how learnedly he separates probable reasons from necessary, how forcibly he confirms what he has to prove, how suttly he refutes, not with sharpnes but with truth.
Theodore Beza, on the portraiture of M. Bucer.
This is that countnance of Bucer, the mirror of mildnes tempered with gravitie; to whom the Citie of Strasburgh owes the reformation of her Church. Whose singular learning, and eminent zeal, joyn'd with excellent wisdom, both his learned books and public disputations in the general diets of the Empire shall witness to all ages. Him the German persecution drove into England; where honourably entertain'd by Edward the sixt, he was for two years chief professor of Divinity in Cambridge, with greatest frequency and applause of all learned and pious men untill his death, 1551. Bezæ Icones.
MrFox book of Martyrs, Vol. 3. p. 763.
Bucer what by writing, but chiefly by reading and preaching openly, wherin, being painfull in the word of GOD, he never spar'd himself, nor regarded his health, brought all men into such an admiration of him, that neither his friends could sufficiently praise him, nor his enemies in any point find fault with his singular life, & sincere doctrine. A most certain tok'n wherof may be his sumptuous burial at Cambridge, solemniz d with so great an assistance of all the Universitie, that it was not possible to devise more to the setting out and amplifying of the same.
Dr Pern, the Popish Vicechancelour of Cambridge, his adversary.
Cardinal Pool about the fourth year of Queen Mary, intending to reduce the Universitie of Cambridge to Popery again, thought no way so effectuall, as to cause the bones of Martin Bucer and Paulus Fagius, which had been foure years in the grave, to be tak'n up and burnt openly with thir Books, as knowing that those two worthy men had bin of greatest moment to the reformation of that place from Popery, and had left such powerfull seeds of their doctrine behind them, as would never die, unless the men themselves were diggd up, and openly condemn'd for heretics by the Universitie it self. This was put in execution, and Doctor Pern, Vicechancelor, appointed to preach against Bucer. Who among other things laid to his charge the opinions which he held of the marriage of Priests, of divorcement, and of usury. But immediatly after his Sermon, or somwhat before, as the Book of Martyrs for a truth relates, Vol. 3. p. 770. The said Doctor Pern smiting himself on the breast, and in manner weeping, wisht with all his heart, that God would grant his soul might then presently depart, and remain with Bucers; for he knew his life was such, that if any mans soul were worthy of heaven, he thought Bucers in special to be most worthy, Histor. de Combust. Buceri, & Fagii.
Acworth the Universitie Orator.
Soon after, that Queen Elizabeth came to the crown, this condemnation of Bucer and Fagius by the Cardinal and his Doctors was solemnly repeal'd by the Universitie; and the memory of those two famous men celebrated in an Oration by Acworth, the Universitie Orator, which is yet extant in the Book of Martyrs, Vol. 3. p. 773. and in Latin, Scripta Anglic. p. 936.
Nicolas Carre, a learned man, Walter Haddon, Maister of the Requests to Queen Elizabeth, Matthew Parker, afterwards Primate of England, with other eminent men, in their funeral Orations and Sermons expresse abundantly how great a man Martin Bucer was, what an incredible losse England sustain'd in his death; and that with him dy'd the hope of a perfet reformation for that age. Ibid.
Jacobus Verheiden of Grave, in his Elogies of famous Divines.
Though the name of Martin Luther be famous, yet thou Martin Bucer, for piety, learning, labour, care, vigilance, and writing, are not to be held inferior to Luther. Bucer was a singular instrument of God, so was Luther. By the death of this most learned and most faithfull man, the Church of Christ sustaind a heavy loss, as Calvin witnesseth; and they who are studious of Calvin are not ignorant how much he ascribes to Bucer; for thus he writes in a letter to Viretus: What a manifold losse befell the Church of God in the death of Bucer, as oft as I call to minde, I feel my heart almost rent asunder.
Peter Martyr Epist. to Conradus Hubertus.
He is dead, who hath overcome in many battells of the Lord. God lent us for a time this our Father, and our Teacher, never enough prais'd. Death hath divided me from a most unanimous friend, one truly according to mine own heart. My mind is overpresst with grief, insomuch that I have not power to write more. I bid thee in Christ farewell, and wish thou maist be able to beare the losse of Bucer better then I can beare it.
Testimonies giv'n by learned men to Paulus Fagius, who held the same opinion with Martin Bucer concerning Divorce.
Paulus Fagius born in the Palatinate, became most skilfull in the Hebrew tongue. Beeing called to the Ministery at Isna, he publisht many ancient and profitable Hebrew Books, being aided in the expenses by a Senator of that Citie, as Origen somtime was by a certain rich man call'd Ambrosius. At length invited to Strasburgh, he there famously discharg'd the office of a Teacher; until the same persecution drove him and Bucer into England, where he was preferr'd to a Professors place in Cambridge, and soon after died.
Melchior Adamus writes his life among the famous German Divines.
To the Parlament.
THE Book which, among other great and high points of reformation, contains as a principall part thereof, this treatise here presented, Supreme Court of Parlament, was by the famous Author Martin Bucer, dedicated to Edward the sixt: whose incomparable youth doubtless had brought forth to the Church of England such a glorious manhood, had his life reacht it, as would have left in the affairs of religion, nothing without an excellent pattern for us now to follow. But since the secret purpose of divine appointment hath reserv'd no lesse perhaps then the just half of such a sacred work to be accomplisht in this age, and principally, as we trust, by your successful wisdom and authority, religious Lords and Commons, what wonder if I seek no other, to whose exactest judgement, and revieu I may commend these last and worthiest labours of this renowned teacher: whom living, all the pious nobility of those reforming times, your truest and best imitated ancestors, reverenc't and admir'd. Nor was he wanting to a recompence as great as was himself; when both at many times before, and especially among his last sighs and prayers, testifying his dear and fatherly affection to the Church and Realm of England, he sincerely wisht in the hearing of many devout men, that what he had in his last book written to King Edward concerning discipline might have place in this Kingdom. His hope was then, that no calamity, no confusion, or deformity would happen to the Common-wealth; but otherwise he fear'd, lest in the midst of all this ardency to know God, yet by the neglect of discipline, our good endeavours would not succeed. These remarkable words of so godly and so eminent a man at his death, as they are related by a sufficient and well known witnes, who heard them; and inserted by Thuanus into his grave and serious history, so ought they to be chiefly consider'd by that nation for whose sake they were utter'd, and more especially by that general Counsel, which represents the body of that nation. If therfore the book, or this part therof, for necessary causes, be now reviv'd and recommended to the use of this undisciplin'd age, it hence appears that these reasons have not err'd in the choyce of a fit patronage, for a discourse of such importance. But why the whole tractat is not heer brought entire, but this matter of divorcement selected in particular, to prevent the full speed of some mis-interpreter, I hasten to disclose. First, it will be soon manifest to them who know what wise men should know, that the constitution and reformation of a common-wealth, if Ezra and Nehemiah did not mis-reform, is, like a building, to begin orderly from the foundation therof, which is mariage and the family, to set right first what ever is amisse therein. How can there els grow up a race of warrantable men, while the house and home that breeds them, is troubl'd and disquieted under a bondage not of Gods constraining with a natureles constraint (if his most righteous judgements may be our rule) but laid upon us imperiously in the worst and weakest ages of knowledge, by a canonicall tyranny of stupid and malicious Monks: who having rashly vow'd themselves to a single life, which they could not undergoe, invented new fetters to throw on matrimony, that the world thereby waxing more dissolute, they also in a general loosnes might sin with more favor. Next, there being yet among many, such a strange iniquity and perversenes against all necessary divorce, while they will needs expound the words of our Saviour not duly by comparing other places, as they must doe in the resolving of a hunder'd other Scriptures, but by persisting deafely in the abrupt and Papistical way of a literal apprehension against the direct analogy of sense, reason, law, and Gospel, it therfore may well seem more then time, to apply the sound and holy persuasions of this Apostolic man, to that part in us, which is not yet fully dispossesst of an error as absurd, as most that we deplore in our blindest adversaries; and to let his autority and unanswerable reasons be vulgarly known, that either his name, or the force of his doctrine, may work a wholsome effect. Lastly, I find it cleer to be the authors intention, that this point of divorcement should be held and receav'd as a most necessary and prime part of discipline in every Christian government. And therfore having reduc't his model of reformation to 14 heads, he bestows almost as much time about this one point of divorce, as about all the rest; which also was the judgment of his heirs and learned friends in Germany, best acquainted with his meaning; who first publishing this his book by Oporinus at Basil (a Citie for learning and constancie in the true faith honorable among the first) added a special note in the title, that there the reader should finde the doctrine of divorce handl'd so solidly, and so fully, as scars the like in any Writer of that age: and with this particular commendation they doubted not to dedicate the book, as a most profitable & exquisit discours, to Christian the 3d, a worthy & pious King of Denmark, as the author himself had done before to our Edward the sixt. Yet did not Bucer in that volume only declare what his constant opinion was herein, but also in his comment upon Matthew, written at Strasburgh divers years before, he treats distinctly and copiously the same argument in three severall places; touches it also upon the 7. to the Romans, & promises the same solution more largely upon the I. to the Corinthians, omitting no occasion to weed out this last and deepest mischief of the Canon law, sown into the opinions of modern men, against the lawes and practice both of Gods chosen people, and the best primitive times. Wherin his faithfulnes and powerful evidence prevail'd so farre with all the church of Strasburgh, that they publisht this doctrine of divorce, as an article of their confession, after they had taught so eight and twenty years, through all those times, when that Citie flourisht, and excell'd most, both in religion, learning, and goverment, under those first restorers of the Gospel there, Zelius, Hedio, Capito, Fagius, and those who incomparably then govern'd the Common-wealth, Ferrerus and Sturmius. If therefore God in the former age found out a servant, and by whom he had converted and reform'd many a citie, by him thought good to restore the most needfull doctrine of divorce from rigorous and harmfull mistakes on the right hand, it can be no strange thing, if in this age he stirre up by whatsoever means whom it pleases him, to take in hand & maintain the same assertion. Certainly if it be in mans discerning to sever providence from chance, I could allege many instances, wherin there would appear cause to esteem of me no other then a passive instrument under some power and counsel higher and better than can be human, working to a general good in the whole cours of this matter. For that I ow no light, or leading receav'd from any man in the discovery of this truth, what time I first undertook it in the doctrine and discipline of divorce, and had only the infallible grounds of Scripture to be my guide, he who tries the inmost heart, and saw with what severe industry and examination of myself I set down every period, will be my witnes. When I had almost finisht the first edition, I chanc't to read in the notes of Hugo Grotius upon the 5. of Matth. whom I strait understood inclining to reasonable terms in this controversie: and somthing he whisper'd rather then disputed about the law of charity, and the true end of wedlock. Glad therfore of such an able assistant, how ever at much distance, I resolv'd at length to put off into this wild and calumnious world. For God, it seems, intended to prove me, whether I durst alone take up a rightful cause against a world of disesteem, & found I durst. My name I did not publish, as not willing it should sway the reader either for me or against me. But when I was told, that the stile, which what it ailes to be so soon distinguishable, I cannot tell, was known by most men, and that some of the Clergie began to inveigh and exclaim on what I was credibly inform'd they had not read, I took it then for my proper season both to shew them a name that could easily contemn such an indiscreet kind of censure, and to reinforce the question with a more accurat diligence: that if any of them would be so good as to leav rayling, and to let us hear so much of his lerning and Christian wisdom, as will be strictly demanded of him in his answering to this probleme, care was had he should not spend his preparations against a nameles pamphlet. By this time I had lernt that Paulus Fagius, one of the chief divines in Germany, sent for by Frederic the Palatine, to reforme his dominion, and after that invited hither in King Edwards dayes to be a Professor of Divinity in Cambridge, was of the same opinion touching divorce, which these men so lavishly traduc't in me. What I found, I inserted where fittest place was, thinking sure they would respect so grave an author, at lest to the moderating of their odious inferences. And having now perfected a second edition, I referr'd the judging therof to your high and impartial sentence, honour'd Lords and Commons! For I was confident, if any thing generous, any thing noble, and above the multitude, were left yet in the spirit of England; it could be no where sooner found, and no where sooner understood, then in that house of justice and true liberty, where ye sit in counsel. Nor doth the event hitherto, for some reasons which I shall not heer deliver, faile me of what I conceiv'd so highly. Nevertheless, being farre otherwise dealt with by some, of whose profession and supposed knowledge I had better hope, and esteem'd the deviser of a new and pernicious paradox, I felt no difference within me from that peace & firmnes of minde, which is of nearest kin to patience and contentment: both for that I knew I had divulg'd a truth linkt inseparably with the most fundamental rules of Christianity, to stand or fall together, and was not un-inform'd that divers lerned and judicious men testify'd their daily approbation of the book. Yet at length it hath pleas'd God, who had already giv'n me satisfaction in myself, to afford me now a means wherby I may be fully justify'd also in the eyes of men. When the book had bin now the second time set forth well-nigh three months, as I best remember, I then first came to hear that Martin Bucer had writt'n much concerning divorce: whom earnestly turning over, I soon perceav'd, but not without amazement, in the same opinion, confirm'd with the same reasons which in that publisht book, without the help or imitation of any precedent Writer, I had labour'd out, and laid together. Not but that there is some difference in the handling, in the order, and the number of arguments, but still agreeing in the same conclusion. So as I may justly gratulat mine own mind with due acknowledgment of assistance from above, which led me, not as a lerner, but as a collateral teacher, to a sympathy of judgement with no lesse a man than Martin Bucer. And he, if our things heer below arrive him where he is, does not repent him to see that point of knowledge which he first, and with an uncheckt freedom preacht to those more knowing times of England, now found so necessary, though what he admonisht were lost out of our memory; yet that God doth now again create the same doctrin in another unwritt'n table, and raises it up immediatly out of his pure oracle to the convincement of a pervers age, eager in the reformation of names and ceremonies, but in realities as traditional and as ignorant as their forefathers. I would ask now the foremost of my profound accusers, whether they dare affirm that to be licentious, new and dangerous, which Martin Bucer so often, and so urgently avoucht to be most lawfull, most necessary, and most Christian, without the lest blemish to his good name, among all the worthy men of that age, and since, who testifie so highly of him? If they dare, they must then set up an arrogance of their own against all those Churches and Saints who honour'd him without this exception: If they dare not, how can they now make that licentious doctrin in another, which was never blam'd or confuted in Bucer, or in Fagius? The truth is, there will be due to them for this their unadvised rashnes, the best donative that can be giv'n them, I mean, a round reproof; now that where they thought to be most Magisterial, they have display'd their own want, both of reading, and of judgement. First, to be so unacquainted in the writings of Bucer, which are so obvious and so usefull in their own faculty; next, to be so caught in a prejudicating weaknes, as to condemn that for lewd, which (whether they knew or not) these elect servants of Christ commended for lawfull; and for new that which was taught by these almost the first and greatest authors of reformation, who were never taxt for so teaching; and dedicated without scruple to a royall pair of the first reforming Kings in Christendom, and confest in the public confession of a most orthodoxall Church & state in Germany. This is also another fault which I must tell them; that they have stood now almost this whole year clamouring a farre off, while the book hath bin twice printed, twice brought up, & never once vouchsaft a friendly conference with the author, who would be glad and thankfull to be shewn an error, either by privat dispute, or public answer, and could retract, as well as wise men before him; might also be worth the gaining, as one who heertofore, hath done good service to the Church by their own confession. Or if he be obstinat, their confutation would have render'd him without excuse, and reclam'd others of no mean parts, who incline to his opinion. But now their work is more then doubl'd; and how they will hold up their heads against the sudden aspect of these two great and reverend Saints whom they have defam'd, how they will make good the censuring of that for a novelty of licence, which Bucer constantly taught to be a pure and holy law of Christs kingdom, let them advise. For against these my adversaries, who before the examining of a propounded truth in a fit time of reformation, have had the conscience to oppose naught else but their blind reproaches and surmises, that a single innocence might not be opprest and overborn by a crew of mouths, for the restoring of a law and doctrin falsely and unlernedly reputed new and scandalous, God, that I may ever magnifie and record this his goodnes, hath unexpectedly rais'd up as it were from the dead, more then one famous light of the first reformation to bear witnes with me, and to doe me honour in that very thing, wherin these men thought to have blotted me: And hath giv'n them the proof of a capacity which they despis'd, running equal, and authentic with some of their chiefest masters unthought of, and in a point of sagest moment. However, if we know at all when to ascribe the occurrences of this life to the work of a special providence, as nothing is more usual in the talk of good men, what can be more like to a special providence of God, then in the first reformation of England, that this question of divorce, as a main thing to be restor'd to just freedom, was writt'n, and seriously commended to Edward the sixt, by a man call'd from another Countrey to be the instructer of our nation, and now in this present renewing of the Church and Common-wealth, which we pray may be more lasting, that the same question should be again treated and presented to this Parlament, by one enabl'd to use the same reasons without the lest sight or knowledge of what was done before. It were no trespass, Lords and Commons, though something of lesse note were attributed to the ordering of a heavnly power; this question therfore of such prime concernment both to Christian and civil welfare, in such an extraordinary manner, not recover'd, but plainly twise born to these latter ages, as from a divine hand I tender to your acceptance, and most considerate thoughts. Think not that God rais'd up in vain a man of greatest autority in the Church, to tell a trivial and licentious tale in the eares of that good Prince, and to bequeath it as his last will and testament, nay rather as the testament and royall law of Christ to this Nation; or that it should of it self, after so many yeares, as it were in a new feild where it was never sow'n, grow up again as a vitious plant in the minde of another, who had spoke honestest things to the Nation; though he knew not that what his youth then reason'd without a pattern had bin heard already, and well allow'd from the gravity and worth of Martin Bucer: till meeting with the envy of men ignorant in thir own undertak'n calling, God directed him to the forgott'n Writings of this faithfull Evangelist, to be his defense and warrant against the gross imputation of broaching licence. Ye are now in the glorious way to high vertu, and matchless deeds, trusted with a most inestimable trust, the asserting of our just liberties. Ye have a nation that expects now, and from mighty sufferings aspires to be the example of all Christendom to a perfetest reforming. Dare to be as great, as ample, and as eminent in the fair progress of your noble designes, as the full and goodly stature of truth and excellence it self; as unlimited by petty presidents and copies, as your unquestionable calling from heaven givs ye power to be. What are all our public immunities and privileges worth, and how shall it be judg'd that we fight for them with minds worthy to enjoy them, if wee suffer our selvs in the mean while not to understand the most important freedom, that God and Nature hath givn us in the family; which no wise Nation ever wanted, till the Popery and superstition of some former ages attempted to remove and alter divine and most prudent Laws for human and most imprudent Canons: wherby good men in the best portion of thir lives, and in that ordinance of God which entitles them from the beginning to most just and requisite contentments, are compell'd to civil indignities, which by the law of Moses bad men were not compell'd to. Be not bound about, and straitn'd in the spatious wisdom of your free Spirits, by the scanty and unadequat and inconsistent principles of such as condemn others for adhering to traditions, and are themselves the prostrate worshippers of Custom; and of such a tradition as they can deduce from no antiquitie, but from the rudest, and thickest barbarism of Antichristian times. But why doe I anticipate the more acceptable, and prevailing voice of lerned Bucer himself, the pastor of Nations? And O that I could set him living before ye in that doctoral chair, where once the lernedest of England thought it no disparagement to sit at his feet! He would be such a pilot, and such a father to ye, as ye would soon find the difference of his hand and skill upon the helm of reformation. Nor doe I forget that faithfull associate of his labours, Paulus Fagius; for these thir great names and merits, how pretious so ever, God hath now joyn'd with me necessarily, in the good or evil report of this doctrin which I leav with you. It was writt'n to a religious King of this land; writt'n earnestly as a main matter wherin this kingdom needed a reform, if it purpos'd to be the kingdom of Christ: Writt'n by him, who if any since the daies of Luther, merits to be counted the Apostle of our Church; whose unwearied pains and watching for our sakes, as they spent him quickly heer among us, so did they, during the shortnes of his life, incredibly promote the Gospel throughout this Realm. The autority, the lerning, the godliness of this man consulted with, is able to out-ballance all that the lightnes of a vulgar opposition can bring to counterpoise. I leav him also as my complete suretie and testimonial, if Truth be not the best witnes to it self, that what I formerly presented to your reading on this subject, was good, and just, and honest, not licentious. Not that I have now more confidence by the addition of these great Authors to my party; for what I wrote was not my opinion, but my knowledge; even then when I could trace no footstep in the way I went: nor that I think to win upon your apprehensions with numbers and with names, rather then with reasons; yet certainly the worst of my detractors will not except against so good a baile of my integritie and judgement, as now appeares for me. They must els put in the fame of Bucer and of Fagius, as my accomplices and confederats into the same endightment; they must dig up the good name of these prime worthies (if thir names could be ever buried) they must dig them up and brand them as the Papists did thir bodies; and those thir pure unblamable spirits, which live not only in heaven, but in thir writings, they must attaint with new attaintures, which no Protestant ever before aspers't them with. Or if perhaps wee may obtain to get our appeachment new drawn a Writ of Error, not of Libertinism, that those two principal readers of reformation may not now come to be su'd in a bill of licence, to the scandal of our Church; the brief result will be, that for the error, if their own works be not thought sufficient to defend them, there livs yet, who will be ready, in a fair and christianly discussive way, to debate and sift this matter to the utmost ounce of lerning and religion, in him that shall lay it as an error, either upon Martin Bucer, or any other of his opinion. If this be not anough to qualifie my traducers, and that they think it more for the wisdom of their virulence, not to recant the injuries they have bespoke me, I shall not for much more disturbance then they can bring me, intermitt the prosecution of those thoughts which may render me best serviceable, either to this age, or, if it so happ'n, to posteritie; following the fair path, which your illustrious exploits, Honourd Lords and Commons, against the brest of tyrany have open'd; and depending so on your happy successes in the hopes that I have conceiv'd either of my self, or of the Nation, as must needs conclude me one who most affectionately wishes and awaits the prosperous issue of your noble and valorous counsels.
THE JUDGEMENT OF MARTIN BUCER TOUCHING DIVORCE.
Taken out of the second Book entitl'd Of the kingdom of Christ writt'n by Martin Bucer to Edward the 6th K. of England.
The 7th Law of the sanctifying and ordering of mariage.
BEsides these things, Christ our King, and his Churches require from your sacred Majesty, that you would take upon you the just care of mariages. For it is unspeakable, how many good consciences are heerby entangl'd, afflicted, and in danger, because there are no just laws, no speedy way constituted, according to Gods Word, touching this holy society and fountain of mankind. For seeing matrimony is a civil thing, men, that they may rightly contract, inviolably keep, and not without extreme necessitie dissolv mariage, are not only to be taught by the doctrine and discipline of the Church, but also are to be acquitted, aided, and compell'd by laws and judicature of the Common-wealth. Which thing pious Emperours acknowledging, and therin framing themselvs to the law of Nations, gave laws both of contracting and preserving, and also where an unhappy need requir'd, of divorcing mariages. As may be seen in the Code of Justinian the 5 Book, from the beginning through 24 titles. And in the Authentic of Justinian the 22, and some others.
But the Antichrists of Rome, to get the imperial power into thir own hands, first by fraudulent persuasion, afterwards by force drew to themselvs the whole autority of determining and judging as well in matrimonial causes, as in most other matters. Therfore it hath bin long believ'd, that the care and government therof doth not belong to the civil Magistrate. Yet where the Gospel of Christ is receav'd, the laws of Antichirst should be rejected. If therfore Kings and Governours take not this care, by the power of Law and Justice to provide that mariages be piously contracted, religiously kept, and lawfully dissolv'd, if need require, who sees not what confusion and trouble is brought upon this holy society; and what a rack is prepar'd, evn for many of the best consciences, while they have no certain laws to follow, no justice to implore, if any intolerable thing happen. And how much it concerns the honour and safety of the Common-wealth, that mariages, according to the will of Christ, be made, maintain'd, and not without just cause dissolv'd, who understands not? for unlesse that first and holiest Society of man and Woman be purely constituted, that houshold discipline may be upheld by them according to Gods law, how can wee expect a race of good men. Let your Majesty therfore know that this is your duty, and in the first place, to reassume to your self the just ordering of matrimony, and by firm laws to establish and defend the religion of this first and divine societie among men, as all wise law-givers of old, and Christian Emperours have carefully don.
The two next Chapters because they cheifly treat about the degrees of Consanguinity and affinity, I omit; only setting down a passage or two concerning the judicial laws of Moses, how fit they be for Christians to imitate rather then any other.
Chap. XVII. toward the end.
I Confesse that wee beeing free in Christ are not bound to the civil Laws of Moses in every circumstance, yet seeing no Laws can be more honest, just, and wholsome, then those which God himself gave, who is eternal wisdom & goodnes, I see not why Christians, in things which no lesse appertain to them, ought not to follow the laws of God, rather then of any men. Wee are not to use circumcision, sacrifice, and those bodily washings prescrib'd to the Jews; yet by these things wee may rightly learn, with what purity and devotion both Baptism and the Lords Supper should be administerd and receav'd. How much more is it our duty to observ diligently what the Lord hath commanded, and taught by the examples of his people concerning mariage; wherof wee have the use no less then they.
And because this same worthy Author hath another passage to this purpose in his Comment upon Matthew, Chap. 5. 19. I heer insert it from p. 46.
Since wee have need of civil laws and the power of punishing, it will be wisest not to contemn those giv'n by Moses; but seriously rather to consider what the meaning of God was in them, what he cheifly requir'd, and how much it might be to the good of every Nation, if they would borrow thence thir manner of governing the Common-wealth; yet freely all things and with the Spirit of Christ. For what Solon, or Plato, or Aristotle, what Lawyers or Cæsars could make better Laws then God? And it is no light argument, that many Magistrates at this day doe not anough acknowledge the kingdom of Christ, though they would seem most Christian, in that they govern thir States by laws so divers from those of Moses.
The 18 Chap. I only mention as determining a thing not heer in question, that mariage without consent of parents ought not to be held good; yet with this qualification fit to be known.
That if parents admit not the honest desires of their children, but shall persist to abuse the power they have over them, they are to be mollifi'd by admonitions, entreaties, and persuasions, first of thir freinds and kindred, next of the Church-Elders. Whom if still the hard parents refuse to hear, then ought the Magistrate to interpose his power: lest any by the evil minde of their parents be detain'd from mariage longer then is meet, or forc't to an unworthy match: in which case the Roman laws also provided. C. de nupt. l. 11. 13. 26.
Whether it may be permitted to revoke the promise of mariage.
HEer ariseth another question concerning Contracts, when they ought to be unchangeable; for religious Emperours decree'd that the contract was not indossoluble, until the spouse were brought home, and the solemnities perform'd. They thought it a thing unworthy of divine and human equitie, and the due consideration of mans infirmitie in deliberating and determining, when space is giv'n to renounce other contracts of much lesse moment, which are not yet confirm'd before the Magistrate, to deny that to the most waighty contract of marriage, which requires the greatest care and consultation. Yet lest such a covenant should be brok'n for no just cause, and to the injury of that person to whom mariage was promis'd, they decreed a fine, that he who deni'd mariage to whom he had promis'd, and for some cause not approv'd by the Judges, should pay the double of that pledge which was giv'n at making sure, or as much as the Judge should pronounce might satisfie the dammage or the hinderance of either partie. It beeing most certain, that ofttimes after contract, just and honest causes of departing from promise, come to be known and found out, it cannot be other then the duty of pious Princes, to give men the same liberty of unpromising in these cases, as pious Emperours granted: especially where there is only a promise, and not carnal knowledge. And as there is no true mariage between them, who agree not in true consent of mind, so it will be the part of godly Magistrates to procure that no matrimony be among thir Subjects, but what is knit with love and consent. And though your Majesty be not bound to the imperial laws, yet it is the duty of a Christian King to embrace and follow what ever he knows to be any where piously and justly constituted, and to be honest, just, and well-pleasing to his people. But why in Gods law and the examples of his Saints nothing heerof is read, no marvell, seeing his ancient people had power, yea a precept, that whoso could not bend his mind to the true love of his wife, should give her a bill of divorce, and send her from him, though after carnal knowledge and long dwelling together. This is anough to authorize a godly Prince in that indulgence which he gives to the changing of a Contract; both because it is certainly the invention of Antichrist, that the promise of mariage de præsenti as they call it, should be indissoluble, and because it should be a Princes care that matrimony be so joyn'd, as God ordain'd; which is, that every one should love his wife with such a love as Adam exprest to Eve: So as wee may hope that they who marry may become one flesh, and one also in the Lord.
Concerns only the celebration of mariage.
The means of preserving mariage holy and pure.
NOw since there ought not to be lesse care that mariage be religiously kept, then that it be piously and deliberately contracted, it will be meet that to every Church be ordan'd certain grave and godly men, who may have this care upon them, to observ whether the husband bear himself wisely toward the wife, loving, & inciting her to all piety, and the other duties of this life; and whether the wife be subject to her husband, and study to be truly a meet help to him, as first to all godlines so to every other use of life. And if they shal find each to other failing of their duty, or the one long absent from the other without just and urgent cause, or giving suspicion of irreligious and impure life, or of living in manifest wickednes, let it be admonisht them in time. And if thir autority be contemn'd, let the names of such contemners be brought to the Magistrate, who may use punishment to compell such violaters of mariage to their duty, that they may abstain from all probable suspicion of transgressing; and if they admit of suspected company, the Magistrate is to forbid them; whom they not therin obeying, are to be punisht as adulterers, according to the law of Justinian, Authent 117. For if holy wedlock the Fountain and Seminary of good subjects, be not vigilantly preserv'd from all blots and disturbances, what can be hop'd, as I said before, of the springing up of good men, and a right reformation of the Common-wealth. We know it is not anough for Christians to abstain from foul deeds, but from the appearance and suspicion therof.
Of lawfull divorce, what the ancient Churches have thought.
NOw we shall speak about that dissolving of matrimony which may be approv'd in the sight of God, if any greevous necessity require. In which thing the Roman Antichrists have knit many a pernicious entanglement to distressed consciences: for that they might heer also exalt themselvs above God, as if they would be wiser and chaster then God himself is, for no cause, honest or necessary, will they permit a finall divorce; in the mean while, whordoms and adulteries, and worse things then these, not only tolerating in themselvs and others, but cherishing and throwing men headlong into these evils. For although they also dis-joyn married persons from board and bed, that is, from all conjugall society and communion, and this not only for adultery, but for ill usage, and matrimoniall duties deni'd, yet they forbid those thus parted, to joyn in wedlock with others, but, as I said before, any dishonest associating they permit. And they pronouce the bond of mariage to remain between those whom they have thus separat. As if the bond of mariage, God so teaching and pronouncing, were not such a league as bindes the maried couple to all society of life, and communion in divine & humane things; and so associated keeps them. Somthing indeed out of the latter Fathers they may pretend for this thir tyranny, especially out of Austine and some others, who were much tak'n wth a preposterous admiration of single life; yet though these Fathers, from the words of Christ not rightly understood, taught that it was unlawfull to marry again, while the former wife liv'd, whatever cause ther had bin either of desertion or divorce, yet if we mark the custom of the Church, and the common judgement which both in their times and afterward prevail'd, we shall perceave that neither these Fathers did ever cast out of the Church any one for marrying after a divorce, approv'd by the Imperiall laws.
Nor only the first Christian Emperours, but the later also, ev'n to Justinian, and after him, did grant for certain causes approv'd by Judges, to make a true divorse; which made and confirm'd by law, it might be lawfull to marry again: which if it could not have bin done without displeasing Christ and his Church, surely it would not have been granted by Christian Emperours, nor had the Fathers then winkt at those doings in the Emperours. Hence ye may see that Jerom also, though zealous of single life more then anough, and such a condemner of second mariage though after the death of either party, yet forc't by plain equity, defended Fabiola, a noble Matron of Rome, who having refus'd her husband for just causes, was married to another. For that the sending of a divorce to her husband was not blame-worthy, he affirms, because the man was hainously vitious, and that if an adulterous wife may be discarded, an adulterous husband is not to be kept. But that she maried again, while yet her husband was alive, he defends in that the Apostle hath said, It is better to marry than to burn; and that yong widows should mary, for such was Fabiola, and could not remain in widowhood.
But some one will object that Jerom there addes, Neither did she know the vigor of the Gospel, wherin all cause of marrying is debarr'd from women, while thir husbands live, and again, while she avoided many wounds of Satan, she receav'd one ere she was aware. But let the equall Reader minde also what went before; Because, saith he soon after the beginning, there is a rock and storm of slanderers oppos'd against her, I will not praise her converted, unlesse I first absolve her guilty. For why does he call them slanderers who accus'd Fabiola of marying again, if he did not judge it a matter of Christian equity and charity, to passe by and pardon that fact, though in his own opinion he held it a fault. And what can this mean? I will not praise her, unlesse I first absolv her. For how could he absolv her, but by proving that Fabiola neither in rejecting her vitious husband, nor in marying another, had committed such a sin, as could be justly condem'd. Nay, he proves both by evident reason, and cleer testimonies of Scripture, that she avoided sin.
This also is hence understood, that Jerom by the vigor of the Gospel, meant that height and perfection of our Saviours precept, which might be remitted to those that burn; for he addes, But if she be accus'd in that she remain'd not unmarried, I shall confesse the fault, so I may relate the necessity. If then he acknowledg'd a necessity, as he did, because she was young, and could not live in Widowhood, certainly he could not impute her second mariage to her much blame: but when he excuses her out of the word of God, does he not openly declare his thoughts, that the second mariage of Fabiola was permitted her by the holy Ghost himself, for the necessity which he suffer'd, and to shun the danger of fornication, though she went somwhat aside from the vigor of the Gospel. But if any urge that Fabiola did public penance for her second mariage, which was not impos'd but for great faults. T'is answer'd, she was not enjoyn'd to this pennance, but did it of her own accord, and not till after her second husbands death. As in the time of Cyprian, we read that many were wont to doe voluntary penance for small faults, which were not liable to excommunication.
That Mariage was granted by the ancient Fathers, ev'n after the vow of single life.
I omit his testimonies out of Cyprian, Gelasius, Epiphanius, contented only to relate what he thence collects to the present purpose.
SOme will say perhaps, wherfore all this concerning mariage after vow of single life, when as the question was of mariage after divorse? For this reason, that they whom it so much moves, because some of the Fathers thought mariage after any kind of divorce, to be condemn'd of our Saviour, may see that this conclusion follows not. The Fathers thought all mariage after divorce to be forbidd'n of our Saviour, therfore they thought such mariage was not to be tolerated in a Christian. For the same Fathers judg'd it forbidd'n to marry after vow; yet such mariages they neither dissolv'd nor excommunicated. For these words of our Saviour, and of the holy Ghost, stood in their way; All cannot receav this saying, but they to whom it is giv'n. Every one hath his proper gift from God, one after this manner, another after that. It is better to marry then to burn. I will that younger Widows marry; and the like.
So there are many Canons, and Laws extant, wherby Priests, if they maried, were remov'd from their office, yet is it not read that their mariage was dissolv'd, as the Papists now-a-dayes doe, or that they were excommunicated, nay expressly they might communicate as Lay men. If the consideration of human infirmitie, and those testimonies of divine Scripture which grant mariage to every one that wants it, persuaded those Fathers to bear themselvs so humanly toward them who had maried with breach of vow to God, as they beleev'd, and with divorce of that mariage wherin they were in a manner joyn'd to God; who doubts but that the same Fathers held the like humanitie was to be afforded to those who after divorce & faith broken with men, as they thought, enter'd into second mariage: for among such are also found no lesse weak, and no lesse burning.
Who of the ancient Fathers granted marriage after divorce.
THis is cleer both by what hath bin said, and by that which Origen relates of certain Bishops in his time, Homil. 7. in Matth. I know some, saith he, which are over Churches, who without Scripture have permitted the wife to mary while her former husband liv'd. And did this against Scripture, which saith, The wife is bound to her husband so long as he lives, and she shall be call'd an adulteresse, if, her husband living, she take another man, yet did they not permit this without cause, perhaps for the infirmitie of such as had not continence, they permitted evill to avoid worse. Ye see Origen and the Doctors of his age, not without all cause, permitted women after divorce to marry, though their former husbands were living: yet writes that they permitted against Scripture. But what cause could they have to doe so, unlesse they thought our Saviour in his precepts of divorce, had so forbid'n, as willing to remit such perfection to his weaker ones, cast into danger of worse faults.
The same thought Leo, Bishop of Rome, Ep. 85. to the African Bishops of Mauritania Cæsariensis, wherin complaining of a certain Priest, who divorcing his wife, or being divorc't by her, as other copies have it, had maried another, neither dissolvs the matrimony, nor excommunicates him, only unpriests him. The Fathers therfore as wee see, did not simply and wholly condemn mariage after divorce.
But as for me, this remitting of our Saviours precepts, which these ancients allow to the infirm in marrying after vow and divorce, I can in no ways admit; for what so ever plainly consents not with the commandment, cannot, I am certain, be permitted, or suffer'd in any Christian: for heav'n and earth shall passe away, but not a tittle from the commands of God among them who expect life eternal. Let us therfore consider, and waigh the words of our Lord concerning mariage, and divorce, which he pronounc't both by himself, and by his Apostle, and let us compare them with other Oracles of God; for whatsoever is contrary to these, I shall not persuade the least tolerating therof. But if it can be taught to agree with the Word of God, yea to be commanded that most men may have permission giv'n to them to divorce and marry again, I must preferre the autority of Gods Word before the opinion of Fathers and Doctors, as they themselvs teach.
The words of our Lord, and of the holy Ghost by the Apostle Paul concerning Divorce are explain'd.
BUt the words of our Lord and of the holy Ghost, out of which Austin, and some others of the Fathers think it concluded that our Saviour forbids mariage after any divorce are these, Mat. 5. 31, 32. It hath bin said &c. And Mat. 19. 7. They say unto him, why did Moses then command &c. And Mark the 10th, and Luke the 16. Rom. 7. 1, 2, 3. 1 Cor. 7. 10, 11. Hence therfore they conclude that all mariage after divorce is call'd adultery; which to commit beeing no ways to be tolerated in any Christian, they think it follows that second mariage is in no case to be permitted either to the divorcer, or to the divorsed.
But that it may be more fully and plainly perceav'd what force is in this kind of reasoning, it will be the best cours to lay down certain grounds wherof no Christian can doubt the truth. First it is a wickednes to suspect that our Saviour branded that for adultery, which himself in his own Law which he came to fulfill, and not to dissolv, did not only permit, but also command; for by him the only Mediator was the whole law of God giv'n. But that by this Law of God, mariage was permitted after any divorce, is certain by Deut. 24.1.
That God in his Law did not only grant, but also command divorce to certain men.
DEut. 24. 1. When a man hath taken a wife, &c. But in Mala. 2. 15, 16. is read the Lords command to put her away whom a man hates, in these words: Take heed to your spirit, and let none deal injuriously against the wife of his youth. If he hate, let him put away, saith the Lord God of Israel. And he shall hide thy violence with his garment, that marries her divorc't by thee, saith the Lord of hosts; But take heed to your spirit, and doe no injury. By these testimonies of the divine law, wee see that the Lord did not only permit, but also expresly and earnestly commanded his people, by whom he would that all holiness and faith of mariage covnant should be observ'd, that he who could not induce his minde to love his wife with a true conjugal love, might dismisse her that shee might marry to another.
That what the Lord permitted and commanded to his ancient people concerning divorce, belongs also to Christians.
NOw what the Lord permitted to his first-borne people, that certainly he could not forbid to his own among the Gentils, whom he made coheires and into one body with his people, nor could he ever permit, much lesse command ought that was not good for them, at least so us'd as he commanded. For beeing God, he is not chang'd as man. Which thing who seriously considers, how can he imagine that God would make that wicked to them that beleeve, and serv him under grace, which he granted and commanded to them that serv'd him under the Law. When as the same causes require the same permission. And who that knows but humane matters, and loves the truth, will deny that many mariages hang as ill together now, as ever they did among the Jews? So that such mariages are liker to torments then true mariages. As therfore the Lord doth always succour and help the oppressed, so he would ever have it provided for injur'd husbands and wives, that under pretence of the mariage-bond, they be not sold to perpetual vexations, instead of the loving and comfortable mariage-duties. And lastly, as God doth always detest hypocrisie and fraud, so neither doth he approve, that among his people, that should be counted mariage, wherin none of those duties remain, wherby the league of wedlock is chiefly preserv'd. What inconsiderat neglect then of Gods law is this, that I may not call it worse, to hold that Christ our Lord would not grant the same remedies both of divorce and second mariage to the weak, or to the evil, if they will needs have it so, but especially to the innocent and wronged; when as the same urgent causes remain, as before, when the discipline of the church and Magistrate hath tri'd what may be tri'd.
That our Lord Christ intended not to make new Laws of mariage and divorce, or of any civil matters.
IT is agreed by all who determine of the Kingdom, and offices of Christ by the holy Scriptures, as all godly men ought to doe, that our Saviour upon earth took not on him either to give new laws in civil affairs, or to change the old. But it is certain that matrimony and divorce are civil things. Which the Christian Emperours knowing, gave conjugal laws; and reserv'd the administration of them to thir own Courts; which no true ancient Bishop ever condemn'd.
Our Savour came to preach repentance, and remission; seeing therfore those who put away thir wives without any just cause, were not toucht with conscience of the sin, through misunderstanding of the law, he recall'd them to a right interpretation, and taught that the woman in the beginning was so joyn'd to the man, that there should be a perpetual union both in body and spirit: where this is not, the matrimony is already broke, before there be yet any divorce made, or second mariage.
That it is wicked to strain the words of Christ beyond their purpose.
This is his third Axiom,wherof there needs no explication heer.
That all places of Scripture about the same thing are to be joyn'd, and compar'd,
to avoid Contradictions.
This he domonstrates at large out of sundry places in the Gospel; and principally by that precept against swearing, which compar'd with many places of the Law and Prophets, is a flat contradiction of them all, if we follow superstitiously the letter. Then having repeated briefly his foure Axioms, he thus proceeds.
These things thus preadmonisht, let us enquire what the undoubted meaning is of our Saviours words; and enquire according to the rule which is observ'd by all learned and good men in their expositions; that praying first to God, who is the only opener of our hearts, wee may first with fear and reverence consider well the words of our Saviour touching this question. Next, that wee may compare them with all other places of Scripture, treating of this matter, to see how they consent with our Saviours words, and those of his Apostle.
This Chapter disputes against Austin and the Papists, who deny second mariage ev'n to them who divorce in case of adultery, which because it is not controverted among true Protestants, but that the innocent person is easily allow'd to marry, I spare the translating.
That a manifest adulteresse ought to be divorc't, and cannot lawfully be retain'd in mariage
by any true Christian.
This though he prove sufficiently, yet I let passe, because this question was not handl'd in the Doctrine and discipline of divorce; to which book I bring so much of this Treatise as runs parallel.
That adultery is to be punisht by Death.
This Chapter also I omitt for the reason last alledg'd.
That it is lawfull for a wife to leav an adulterer, and to marry another husband.
This is generally granted, and therfore excuses me the writing out.
Places in the Writings of the Apostle Paul touching divorce explain'd.
LEt us consider the answer of the Lord giv'n by the Apostle severally. Concerning the first which is Rom. 7. 1. Know yee not brethren, for I speak to them that know the law, &c. Ver. 2. The woman is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth. Heer it is certain that the holy Ghost had no purpose to determine ought of mariage, or divorce, but only to bring an example from the common and ordinary law of wedlock, to shew that as no covnant holds either party beeing dead, so now that wee are not bound to the law, but to Christ our Lord, seeing that through him wee are dead to sin, and to the law; and so joyn'd to Christ that wee may bring forth fruit in him from a willing godlines, and not by the compulsion of law, wherby our sins are more excited, and become more violent. What therfore the holy Spirit heer speaks of matrimony, cannot be extended beyond the general rule.
Besides it is manifest, that the Apostle did allege the law of wedlock, as it was deliver'd to the Jews; for, saith he, I speak to them that know the law. They knew no law of God but that by Moses, which plainly grants divorce for several reasons. It cannot therfore be said that the Apostle cited this generall example out of the law, to abolish the several exceptions of that law, which God himself granted by giving autority to divorce.
Next when the Apostle brings an example out of Gods law concerning man and wife, it must be necessary that wee understand such for man and wife, as are so indeed according to the same law of God; that is, who are so dispos'd as that they are both willing and able to perform the necessary duties of mariage; not those who under a false title of mariage, keep themselves mutually bound to injuries and disgraces; for such twain are nothing lesse then lawfull man and wife.
The like answer is to be giv'n to all the other places both of the Gospel and the Apostle, that what ever exception may be prov'd out of Gods law, be not excluded from those places. For the Spirit of God doth not condemn things formerly granted, and allow'd, where there is like cause and reason. Hence Ambrose, upon that place, 1 Cor. 7. 15. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases; thus expounds; The reverence of mariage is not due to him who abhors the author of mariage; nor is that mariage ratify'd which is without devotion to God: he sins not therfore who is put away for Gods cause, though he joyn himself to another. For the dishonor of the Creator dissolves the right of matrimony to him who is deserted, that he be not accus'd, though marrying to another. The faith of wedlock is not to be kept with him who departs, that he might not hear the God of Christians to be the author of wedlock. For if Ezra caus'd the misbeleeving wives and husbands to be divorc't, that God might be appeas'd, and not offended, though they took others of thir own faith, how much more shall it be free, if the mis-beleever depart, to marry one of our own Religion. For this is not to be counted matrimony which is against the law of God.
Two things are heer to be observ'd toward the following discourse, which truth it self, and the force of Gods word hath drawn from this holy man. For those words are very large, Matrimony is not ratify'd, without devotion to God. And the dishonour of the Creator dissolvs the right of matrimony. For devotion is farre off, and dishonor is done to God by all who persist in any wickednes and hainous crime.
That although it seem in the Gospel, as if our Saviour granted divorce only for adultery, yet in very deed he granted it for other causes also.
NOw is to be dealt with this question, Whether it be lawful to divorce and marry again for other causes besides adultery, since our Saviour exprest that only. To this question, if we retain our principles already laid, and must acknowledge it to be a cursed blasphemy, if we say that the words of God doe contradict one another, of necessity we must confesse that our Lord did grant divorce, and mariage after that, for other causes besides adultery, notwithstanding what he said in Matthew. For first, they who consider but only that place, 1 Cor. 7 which treats of beleevers and misbeleevers matcht together, must of force confesse, that our Lord granted just divorce, and second mariage in the cause of desertion, which is other then the cause of fornication. And if there be one other cause found lawfull, then is it most true that divorce was granted not only for fornication.
Next, it cannot be doubted, as I shew'd before, by them to whom it is giv'n to know God and his judgements out of his own word, but that, what means of peace and safety God ever granted and ordain'd to his elected people, the same he grants and ordains to men of all ages who have equally need of the same remedies. And who, that is but a knowing man, dares say there be not husbands and wives now to be found in such a hardnesse of heart, that they will not perform either conjugal affection, or any requisit duty therof, though it be most deserv'd at thir hands.
Neither can any one deferre to confesse, but that God whose property it is to judge the cause of them that suffer injury, hath provided for innocent and honest persons wedded, how they might free themselvs by lawfull means of divorce, from the bondage and iniquity of those who are falsly term'd thir husbands or thir wives. This is cleer out of Deut. 24. 1. Malach. 2. Matth. 19. 1 Cor. 7. and out of those principles which the Scripture every where teaches, That God changes not his minde, dissents not from himself, is no accepter of persons; but allows the same remedies to all men opprest with the same necessities and infirmities; yea, requires that wee should use them. This he will easily perceave, who considers these things in the Spirit of the Lord.
Lastly, it is most certain, that the Lord hath commanded us to obey the civil laws every one of his own Common-wealth, if they be not against the laws of God.
For what causes divorce is permitted by the civil Law ex l. consensu Codic. de repudiis.
It is also manifest that the Law of Theodosius and Valentinian, which begins Consensu &c. touching divorce, and many other Decrees of pious Emperours agreeing heerwith, are not contrary to the word of God. And therfore may be recall'd into use by any Christian Prince or Common-wealth, nay, ought to be with due respect had to every nation. For whatsoever is equall and just, that in every thing is to be sought and us'd by Christians. Hence it is plain that divorce is granted by divine approbation, both to husbands and to wives, if either party can convict the other of these following offences before the Magistrate.
If the husband can prove the wife to be an adulteresse, a witch, a murdresse, to have bought or sold to slavery any one free born, to have violated sepulchers, committed sacrilege, favor'd theevs and robbers, desirous of feasting with strangers, the husband not knowing, or not willing, if she lodge forth without a just and probable cause, or frequent theaters and sights, he forbidding, if she be privie with those that plot against the State, or if she deale falsly, or offer blows. And if the wife can prove her husband guilty of any those fore-named crimes, and frequent the company of lewd women in her sight; or if he beat her, she had the like liberty to quit herselfe; with this difference, that the man after divorce might forthwith marry again; the woman not till a year after, lest she might chance to have conceav'd.
An exposition of those places wherein God declares the nature of holy wedlock.
NOw to the end it may seem that this agrees with the divine law, the first institution of mariage is to be consider'd, and those texts in which God establisht the joyning of male and female, and describ'd the duties of them both. When God had determin'd to make woman, and give her as a wife to man, he spake thus, Gen. 2. 18. It is not good for man to be alone, I will make him a help meet for him. And Adam said, but in the spirit of God, v. 23. 24. This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. Therfore shall a man leav his father and mother, and shall cleav to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.
To this first institution did Christ recall his own; when answering the Pharises, he condemn'd the licence of unlawfull divorce. He taught therfore by his example, that we, according to this first institution, and what God hath spok'n therof, ought to determin what kind of covnant mariage is, how to be kept, and how farre; and lastly, for what causes to be dissolv'd. To which decrees of God these also are to be joyn'd, which the holy Ghost hath taught by his Apostle, that neither the husband nor the wife hath power of their own body, but mutually each of eithers. That the husband shall love the wife as his own body, yea as Christ loves his Church, and that the wife ought to be subject to her husband, as the Church is to Christ.
By these things the nature of holy wedlock is certainly known; whereof if only one be wanting in both or either party, and that either by obstinate malevolence, or too deep inbred weaknes of minde, or lastly, through incurable impotence of body, it cannot then be said that the covnant of matrimony holds good between such; if we mean that covnant which God instituted and call'd Mariage, and that wherof only it must be understood that our Saviour said, Those whom God hath joyn'd, let no man separate.
And hence is concluded, that matrimony requires continuall cohabitation and living together, unlesse the calling of God be otherwise evident; which union if the parties themselves dis-joyn either by mutuall consent, or one against the others will depart, the marriage is then brok'n. Wherein the Papists, as in other things, oppose themselvs against God; while they separate for many causes from bed and board, & yet will have the bond of matrimony remain, as if this covnant could be other then the conjunction and communion not only of bed & board, but of all other loving and helpfull duties. This we may see in these words; I will make him a help meet for him; bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh; for this cause shall he leav father and mother, and cleav to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh. By which words who discerns not, that God requries of them both so to live together, and to be united not only in body but in mind also, with such an affection as none may be dearer and more ardent among all the relations of mankind, nor of more efficacy to the mutual offices of love and loyalty. They must communicate and consent in all things both divine and human, which have any moment to well and happy living. The wife must honour and obey her husband, as the Church honours and obeys Christ her head. The husband must love and cherish his wife, as Christ his Church. Thus they must be to each other, if they will be true man and wife in the sight of God, whom certainly the Churches ought to follow in thir judgement. Now the proper and ultimate end of mariage is not copulation, or children, for then there was not true matrimony between Joseph and Mary the mother of Christ, nor between many holy persons more; but the full and proper and main end of mariage, is the communicating of all duties, both divine and humane, each to other, with utmost benevolence and affection.
The properties of a true and Christian mariage, more distinctly repeated.
BY which definition wee may know that God esteems and reckons upon these foure necessary properties to be in every true mariage. 1. That they should live together, unlesse the calling of God require otherwise for a time. 2. That they should love one another to the height of dearnes, and that in the Lord, and in the communion of true Religion. 3. That the husband beare himself as the head and preserver of his wife, instructing her to all godlines and integritie of life; that the wife also be to her husband a help, according to her place, especially furdering him in the true worship of God, and next in all the occasions of civil life. And 4. That they defraud not each other of conjugal benevolence, as the Apostle commands, 1 Cor. 7. Hence it follows according to the sentence of God, which all Christians ought to be rul'd by, that between those who either through obstinacy, or helpless inabilitie, cannot or will not perform these repeated duties, between those there can be no true matrimony, nor ought they to be counted man and wife.
Whether those crimes recited Chap. 37. out of the civil law dissolv matrimony in Gods account.
NOw if a husband or wife be found guilty of any of those crimes, which by the law consensu are made causes of divorce, tis manifest that such a man cannot be the head, and preserver of his wife, nor such a woman be a meet help to her husband, as the divine law in true wedlock requires; for these faults are punisht either by death, or deportation, or extream infamy, which are directly opposite to the covnant of mariage. If they deserve death, as adultery and the like, doubtles God would not that any should live in wedlock with them whom he would not have to live at all. Or if it be not death, but the incurring of notorious infamy, certain it is neither just, nor expedient, nor meet, that an honest man should be coupl'd with an infamous woman, nor an honest matron with an infamous man. The wise Roman Princes had so great regard to the equal honour of either wedded person, that they counted those mariages of no force which were made between the one of good repute, and the other of evill note. How much more will all honest regard of Christian expedience and comlines beseem & concern those who are set free and dignify'd in Christ, then it cou'd the Roman Senate, or thir sons, for whom that Law was provided.
And this all godly men will soon apprehend, that he who ought to be the head and preserver not only of his wife, but also of his children and family, as Christ is of his Church, had need be one of honest name: so likewise the wife which is to be the meet help of an honest and good man, the mother of an honest off-spring and family, the glory of the man, ev'n as the man is the glory of Christ, should not be tainted with ignominy; as neither of them can avoid to be, having bin justly appeacht of those forenamed crimes; and therfore cannot be worthy to hold thir place in a Christian family: yea they themselvs turn out themselvs and dissolv that holy covnant. And they who are true brethren and sisters in the Lord, are no more in bondage to such violaters of mariage.
But heer the Patrons of wickednes and dissolvers of Christian discipline will object, that it is the part of man and wife to bear one anothers crosse, whether in calamitie, or infamy, that they might gain each other, if not to a good name, yet to repentance and amendment. But they who thus object, seek the impunity of wickednes, and the favour of wicked men, not the duties of true charity; which preferrs public honesty before private interest, and had rather the remedies of wholsom punishment appointed by God should be in use, then that by remisness, the licence of evil doing should encrease. For if they who by committing such offences, have made void the holy knott of mariage, be capable of repentance, they will be sooner mov'd when due punishment is executed on them, then when it is remitted.
We must ever beware, lest, in contriving what will be best for the souls health of delinquents, wee make ourselvs wiser and discreeter then God. He that religiously waighs his oracles concerning mariage, cannot doubt that they who have committed the foresaid transgressions, have lost the right of matrimony, and are unworthy to hold thir dignity in an honest and Christian family.
But if any husband or wife see such signes of repentance in thir transgressor, as that they doubt not to regain them by continuing with them, and partaking of thir miseries and attaintures, they may be left to thir own hopes, and thir own mind, saving ever the right of Church and Common-wealth, that it receav no scandal by the neglect of due severity, and thir children no harm by this invitation to licence, and want of good education.
From all these considerations, if they be thought on, as in the presence of God, and out of his Word, any one may perceav, who desires to determine of these things by the Scripture, that those causes of lawfull divorce, which the most religious Emperours Theodosius and Valentinian set forth in the forecited place, are according to the law of God, and the prime institution of mariage. And were still more and more straitn'd, as the Church and State of the Empire still more and more corrupted and degenerated. Therfore pious Princes & Common-wealths both may and ought establish them again, if they have a mind to restore the honour, sanctitie, and religion of holy wedlock to thir people, and dis-intangle many consciences from a miserable and perilous condition, to a chaste and honest life.
To those recited causes wherfore a wife might send a divorce to her husband, Justinian added foure more, Constit. 117. And foure more, for which a man might put away his wife. Three other causes were added in the Code de repudiis, l. Jubemus. All which causes are so cleerly contrary to the first intent of mariage, that they plainly dissolv it. I set them not down beeing easie to be found in the body of the civil Law.
It was permitted also by Christian Emperours, that they who would divorce by mutuall consent, might without impediment. Or if there were any difficulty at all in it, the law expresses the reason, that it was only in favour of the children, so that if there were none, the law of those godly Emperours made no other difficulty of a divorce by consent. Or if any were minded without consent of the other to divorce, and without those causes which have bin nam'd, the Christian Emperours laid no other punishment upon them, then that the husband wrongfully divorcing his wife should give back her dowry, and the use of that which was call'd Donatio propter nuptias; or if there were no dowry nor no donation, that he should them give her the fourth part of his goods. The like penalty was inflicted on the wife departing without just cause. But that they who were once maried should be compell'd to remain so ever against thir wills, was not exacted. Wherin those pious Princes follow'd the Law of God in Deut. 24. 1. and his expresse charge by the Profet Malachy to dismisse from him the wife whom he hates. For God never meant in mariage to give to man a perpetuall torment, instead of a meet help. Neither can God approve that to the violation of this holy league (which is violated as soon as true affection ceases and is lost,) should be added murder, which is already committed by either of them who resolvedly hates the other, as I shew'd out of 1 John 15. Who so hateth his brother is a murderer.
Whether the husband or wife deserted may marry to another.
THe wives desertion of her husband, the Christian Emperours plainly decreed to be a just cause of divorce, when as they granted him the right therof, if she had but lain out one night against his will without probable cause. But of the man deserting his wife they did not so determine: Yet if we look into the Word of God, wee shall find, that he who though but for a year without just cause forsakes his wife, and neither provides for her maintenance, nor signifies his purpose of returning, and good will towards her, when as he may, hath forfeited his right in her so forsak'n. For the Spirit of God speaks plainly, that both man and wife have such power over one anothers person, as that they cannot deprive each other of living together, but by consent and for a time.
Hither may be added, that the holy Spirit grants desertion to be a cause of divorce, in those answers giv'n to the Corinthians concerning a brother or sister deserted by a mis-beleever. If he depart, let him depart, a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. In which words, who sees not that the holy Ghost openly pronounc't, that the party without cause deserted, is not bound for anothers wilfull desertion, to abstain from mariage, if he have need therof.
But some will say, that this is spok'n of a mis-beleever departing. But I beseech yee, doth not he reject the faith of Christ in his deeds, who rashly breaks the holy covnant of wedlock instituted by God? And besides this, the holy Spirit does not make the mis-beleeving of him who departs, but the departing of him who mis-beleevs to be the just cause of freedom to the brother or sister.
Since therfore it will be agreed among Christians, that they who depart from wedlock without just cause, doe not only deny the faith of matrimony, but of Christ also, what ever they professe with thir mouths, it is but reason to conclude, that the party deserted is not bound in case of causlesse desertion, but that he may lawfully seek another consort, if it be needfull to him toward a pure and blameles conversation.
That impotence of body, leprosie, madnes, &c. are just causes of divorce.
OF this, because it was not disputed in the doctrine and discipline of divorce, him that would know furder, I commend to the Latin original.
That to grant divorce for all the causes which have bin hitherto brought, disagrees not from the words of Christ, naming only the cause of adultery.
NOw wee must see how these things can stand with the words of our Saviour, who seems directly to forbid all divorce except it be for adultery. To the understanding wherof, wee must ever remember this: That in the words of our Saviour there can be no contrarietie. That his words and answers are not to be stretcht beyond the question propos'd. That our Saviour did not there purpose to treat of all the causes for which it might be lawfull to divorce and marry again; for then that in the Corinthians of marrying again without guilt of adultery could not be added. That it is not good for that man to be alone, who hath not the special gift from above. That it is good for every such one to be married, that he may shun fornication.
With regard to these principles, let us see what our Lord answered to the tempting Pharises about divorce, and second mariage, and how farre his answer doth extend.
First, No man who is not very contentious, will deny that the Pharises askt our Lord whether it were lawfull to put away such a wife, as was truly, and according to Gods law, to be counted a wife; that is, such a one as would dwell with her husband, and both would & could perform the necessary duties of wedlock tolerably. But shee who will not dwell with her husband, is not put away by him, but goes of her self: and shee who denies to be a meet help, or to be so, hath made her self unfit by open misdemeanours, or through incurable impotencies cannot be able, is not by the Law of God to be esteem'd a wife; as hath bin shewn both from the first institution, and other places of Scripture. Neither certainly would the Pharises propound a question concerning such an unconjugall wife; for thir depravation of the law had brought them to that passe, as to think a man had right to put away his wife for any cause, though never so slight. Since therfore it is manifest that Christ answer'd the Pharises concerning a fit and meet wife according to the law of God, whom he forbid to divorce for any cause but fornication. Who sees not that it is a wickednes so to wrest and extend that answer of his, as if it forbad to divorce her who hath already forsak'n, or hath lost the place and dignitie of a wife by deserved infamy, or hath undertak'n to be that which she hath not naturall ability to be.
This truth is so powerfull that it hath mov'd the Papists to grant their kind of divorce for other causes besides adultery, as for ill usage, and the not performing of conjugal dutie; and to separate from bed and board for these causes, which is as much divorce, as they grant for adultery.
But some perhaps will object, that though it be yeilded that our Lord granted divorce not only for adultery, yet it is not certain that he permitted mariage after divorce, unlesse for that only cause. I answer, first, that the sentence of divorce, and second mariage, is one and the same. So that when the right of divorce is evinc't to belong not only to the cause of fornication, the power of second mariage is also prov'd to be not limited to that cause only; and that most evidently, when as the holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 7. so frees the deserted party from bondage, as that he may not only send a just divorce in case of desertion, but may seek another marriage.
Lastly, Seeing God will not that any should live in danger of fornication and utter ruine for the default of another, and hath commanded the husband to send away with a bill of divorce her whom he could not love, it is impossible that the charge of adultery should belong to him who for lawfull causes divorces and marries, or to her who marries after she hath bin unjustly rejected, or to him who receavs her without all fraud to the former wedlock. For this were a horrid blasphemy against God, so to interpret his words, as to make him dissent from himself; for who sees not a flat contradiction in this, to enthrall blameles men and women to miseries and injuries, under a false and soothing title of mariage, and yet to declare by his Apostle that a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. No lesse doe these two things conflict with themselvs, to enforce the innocent and faultles to endure the pain and misery of anothers perversnes, or els to live in unavoidable temptation; and to affirm elswhere that he lays on no man the burden of another mans sin, nor doth constrain any man to the endangering of his soul.
That to those also who are justly divorc't, second mariage ought to be permitted.
This although it be well prov'd, yet because it concerns only the offender, I leav him to search out his own charter himself in the Author.
That some persons are so ordain'd to mariage, as that they cannot obtain the gift of continence, no not by earnest prayer, and that therin every one is to be left to his own judgement and conscience, and not to have a burden laid upon him by any other.
The words of the Apostle concerning the praise of single life unfolded.
These two Chapters not so immediatly debating the right of divorce, I chose rather not to insert.
The Conclusion of this Treatise.
THese things, most renowned King, I have brought together, both to explain for what causes the unhappy, but sometimes most necessary help of divorce ought to be granted, according to Gods Word, by Princes and Rulers: as also to explain how the words of Christ doe consent with such a grant. I have bin large indeed both in handling those Oracles of God, and in laying down those certain principles, which he who will know what the mind of God is in this matter, must ever think on and remember. But if wee consider what mist and obscuritie hath bin powrd out by Antichrist upon this question, and how deep this pernicious contempt of wedlock, and admiration of single life, ev'n in those who are not call'd therto, hath sunk into many mens persuasions, I fear lest all that hath bin said, be hardly anough to persuade such that they would cease at length to make themselvs wiser & holier than God himself, in beeing so severe to grant lawfull mariage, and so easie to connive at all, not only whordoms, but deflowrings and adulteries. When as among the people of God, no whordom was to be tolerated.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to destroy the works of Satan, send down his Spirit upon all Christians, and principally upon Christian Governours both in Church and Common-wealth (for of the cleer judgement of your royall Majesty I nothing doubt, revolving the Scripture so often as yee doe) that they may acknowledge how much they provoke the anger of God against us, when as all kind of unchastity is tolerated, fornications and adulteries winkt at: But holy and honourable wedlock is oft withheld by the meer persuasion of Antichrist, from such as without this remedy, cannot preserve themselves from damnation! For none who hath but a spark of honesty will deny that Princes and States ought to use diligence toward the maintaining of pure and honest life among all men, without which all justice, all fear of God, and true religion decayes.
And who knows not that chastity and purenes of life can never be restor'd, or continu'd in the Common-wealth, unlesse it be first establisht in private houses, from whence the whole breed of men is to come forth. To effect this, no wise man can doubt that it is necessary for Princes and Magistrates first with severity to punish whordom and adultery; next to see that mariages be lawfully contracted, and in the Lord; then that they be faithfully kept; and lastly, when that unhappines urges, that they be lawfully dissolv'd, and other mariage granted, according as the law of God, and of nature, and Constitutions of pious Princes have decreed; as I have shewn both by evident authorities of Scripture, together with the writings of the ancient Fathers, and other testimonies. Only the Lord grant that we may learn to preferre his ever just and saving Word, before the Comments of Antichrist, too deeply rooted in many, and the false and blasphemous Exposition of our Saviours words. Amen.
THus farre Martin Bucer; Whom where I might without injury to either part of the cause, I deny not to have epitomiz'd: in the rest observing a well-warranted rule, not to give an Inventory of so many words, but to weigh thir force. I could have added that eloquent and right Christian discours, writt'n by Erasmus on this Argument, not disagreeing in effect from Bucer. But this, I hope, will be anough to excuse me with the meer Englishman, to be no forger of new and loose opinions. Others may read him in his own phrase on the first to the Corinthians, and ease me who never could delight in long citations, much lesse in whole traductions; Whether it be natural disposition or education in me, or that my mother bore me a speaker of what God made mine own, and not a translator. There be others also whom I could reck'n up, of no mean account in the Church (and Peter Martyr among the first) who are more then half our own in this controversy. But this is a providence not to be slighted, that as Bucer wrote this tractat of divorce in England and for England, so Erasmus professes he begun heer among us the same subject, especially out of compassion, for the need he saw this Nation had of some charitable redresse heerin; and seriously exhorts others to use thir best industry in the cleering of this point, wherin custom hath a greater sway than verity. That therfore which came into the minde of these two admired strangers to doe for England, and in a touch of highest prudence which they took to be not yet recover'd from monastic superstition, if I a native am found to have don for mine own Country, altogether sutably and conformly to their so large and cleer understanding, yet without the lest help of theirs, I suppose that hence-forward among conscionable and judicious persons, it will no more be thought to my discredit, or at all to this Nations dishonor. And if these thir books, the one shall be printed often with best allowance in most religious Cities, the other with express autority of Leo the tenth a Pope, shall for the propagating of truth be publisht and republisht, though against the receav'd opinion of that Church, and mine containing but the same thing, shall in a time of reformation, a time of free speaking, free writing, not find a permission to the Presse, I referre me to wisest men, whether truth be suffer'd to be truth, or liberty to be liberty now among us, and be not again in danger of new fetters and captivity after all our hopes and labours lost: and whether learning be not (which our enemies too profetically fear'd) in the way to be trodd'n down again by ignorance. Wherof while time is, out of the faith owing to God and my Country, I bid this Kingdom beware: and doubt not but God who hath dignify'd this Parlament already to so many glorious degrees, will also give them (which is a singular blessing) to inform themselvs rightly in the midst of an unprincipl'd age; and to prevent this working mystery of ignorance and ecclesiastical thraldom, which under new shapes and disguises begins afresh to grow upon us.