Page images

parent is defective in his intellectuals: or, where the child lives in remotis, out of the compass of intelligence: or, where the parent, being arerse from the true religion, denies his consent to match with any but those of his own strain ; or shall, upon other by-occasions, wilfully stand upon so unreasonable terms, that neither friends nor authority can overrule him. But, where these or the like preponderating exceptions do not intervene, the child cannot without sin balk the parent's consent to his choice in marriage.

But, though such marriages, without or against consent, be not lawfully made; yet, being once made, they are valid. The Civil Law*, out of the grounds of policy, goes herein too far, which sentenceth those marriages void, which are made without the consent of parents or guardians. But, as matrimony hath something in it of vature; something, of civility; something, of divinity, as instituted by God, and by him to be regulated : so, sure this last interest ought to oversway the other two. The marriage, therefore, thus made, being, though faulty, yet true; is, doubtless, after consummation indissoluble. The party's repentance and the parent's sorrow, may have leisure to afflict them; no power, to relieve them.


Il'hether marriage lawfully made, may admit of any cause of divorce,

save only for the violation of the marriage-bed, by fornication or

adultery. Our Saviour hath so punctually decided the case, in his Divine Sermon upon

the Mount, that I cannot but wonder at the boldness of any man, who calls himself a Christian, that dares raise a question, after so full and clear a determination from the mouth of Truth itself. Whosoever, saith he, shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery; Matt. 5. 32.

Yet I find this, so evident an assertion, checked by two sorts of adversaries: the one, certain wild Novellists, who admit of very slight causes of separation; the other, Romish Doctors, who plead for some other main and important additions to this liberty of divoire.

I have heard too much of, and once saw a licentious pamphlet thrown abroad in these lawless times, in the defence and encouragement of divorces (not to be sued out ; that solemnity needed not ; but) to be arbitrarily given by the disliking husband, to his displeasing and unquiet wife; upon this ground, principally, That marriage was instituted for the help and comfort of man where therefore the match proves such, as that the wife doth but pull down a side; and, by her innate peevishness, and either sullen or

* Matrimonia esse irrita, fc. Instit. de Nuptiis, et ff. de Jure Nuptiarum. Ita et Evarist. in Constit. edita Anno C. 100.

pettish and froward disposition, brings rather discomfort to her husband; the end of marriage being hereby frustrate, why should it not, saith he, be in the husband's power, after some unprevailing means of reclamation attempted, to procure his own peace, by casting off this clog; and to provide for his own peace and contentment, in a fitter match?

Woe is me! to what a pass is the world come, that a Christian, pretending to reformation, should dare to tender so loose a project to the public! I must seriously profess, when I first did cast my eye upon the front of the book, I supposed some great wit meant to try his skill in the maintenance of this so wild and improbable a paradox: but, ere I could have run over some of those too-wellpenned pages,

I found the author was in earnest; and meant seriously to contribute this piece of good counsel, in way of reformation, to the wise and seasonable ear of superiors.

I cannot but blush for our age, wherein so bold a motion hath been, amongst others, adınitted to the light. What will all the Christian Churches through the world, to whose notice those lines shall coine, think of our woeful degeneration in these deplored times, that so uncouth a design should be set on foot amongst us? Or, how can they construe it other than a direct contradiction to our Saviour's sentence, in maintaining that practice, which he expressly professeth to oppose ?

For, what was the Jewish guise here checked by our Saviour, but a voluntary repudiation of a lawful wife upon the terms of dislike, other than fornication?

Their inis-interpretation of the Law alluded unto, argues no less. The Law alluded unto is that of Deuteronomy, where God says, I'hen a man hath taken a wife, and hath been her husband; and it shall be, that she find not grace in his eyes, because he hath found in her matter of nakedness *; he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and send her away; Deut. xxiv. 1 : whereupon he infers, with an Ego dico, I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for fornication, causeth her to commit adultery. The matter of nakedness therefore, for which the Jews were then wont to divorce their wives, and offended in so divorcing them, was any other displeasing quality, besides the breach of wedlock through bodily uncleanness; for which only had they dismissed their wives, our Saviour had neither faulted their gloss nor their practice.

So as herein Christ, the Giver of the Law, decides one of those great controversies, which were agitated between the emulous schools of Sammai and Hillel: determining, on Sammai's side, that for no other nakedness but that of adultery it was lawful to divorce a wife; and flatly condemning, by the like answer, that Tãoav aitiav, (Matt. xix. 3.1 every cause of repudiation then ordinarily received, as it was by the Pharisee purposely propounded unto him.

Answerable whereunto is that of the Prophet Malachi, who, in our just reading, hath so fully decided the cause, as if it had been

צרות דבר *

expressly referred to his umpirage. The Lord, saith he, halh been winess between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant ; Mal. ii. 14. Lo, the wife of thy covenant, therefore too surely settled to be turned off upon every slight occasion, What! was thy covenant to take her for thy wife, till thoa sbouldst dislike her? What were this, but to mock God and the world? Thy covenant implies no less than firmitude and perpetuity. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth : For the Lord, the God of Israel

, saith, that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of Hosts : therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously ; vv. 15, 16. What is this treachery, which the Prophet cries out against thas vehemently, thrice over with a breath, but pretended and unjust suggestions against a lawful wife, for her undue divorce ? and what is that violence, but the injurious execution of those suggestions ? upon which unsufficient grounds, the Lord professes to hate putting away.

Yea, how apparently contrary is this practice, to the very original institution of marriage itself! He, that made it in paradise, ordained thus : Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh; Gen. ii. 24. Lo, before ever there was father, or mother, or son in the world, God hath appointed, that the bonds betwist husband and wife shall be more strait and indissoluble, than betwixt the parent and child; and can any man be so unreasonable, as to defend it lawful, upon some unkind usages or thwartness of disposition, for a parent to abandon and forsake his child, or the son to cast off his parent? much less, therefore, may it be thus betwixt a husband and wife. They two are one flesh. Behold here an union of God's making : a man's body is not more his own, than his wife's body is his : and will a man be content to part easily with a piece of himself? Or, can we think that God will endure an union made by himself to be slightly dissolved? Or, how is this bodily matrimony a lively image of the spiritual marriage betwixt Christ and his Church (who hath said, I will betroth thee unto me for ever : yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies; Hos. ii. 19.) if, upon small occasions, it may be subject to utter dissolution.

Yea, what speak I of divinity ? Even modest heathens would hiss this libertinism off the stage. Amongst the rest, what a fool was Socrates! The oracle, belike, called him the wisést man of his time; but what a fool was he, to endure the unquiet clack of bis Xantippe with such cool patience, if he might have quit himself of the trouble with a sudden act of her dismission? Or, what use was there of those delegates of Athens, and the Harmosyni of Lacedæmon, for the piecing up of these domestic breaches betwist husband and wife, if the imperious husband had power to right himself by turning the scold out of doors ?

Lastly, what silly counsel was that, which the Jewish Rabbi gare to his client, matched with a shrew; “The bone, that is fallen to thy lot, that do thou gnaw upon;" if it were altogther free for him, to leave that bone, and take another!

But I have dwelt too long on so gross a subject.

There may yet seem some better colour for the plea of the Ro. mish Doctors, which admit infidelity and heresy into the rank of those causes,

which may warrant a divorce. But herein the ambiguity of the word, if heed be not taken, may deceive you. The Hebrew Text, to which our Saviour alludes, uses a word, which signifies excision, or cutting off* ; the Greek, a departing away, or putting off + : the Latin, Dirortium, in his true sense is not so heinous as either of the other, signifying rather a turning aside ; but, in our ordinary acception, amounts to no less than both. But what unjust difference they make betwixt final separation and dissolution, we shall find in our next discourse.

Onwards, that such separation may not be made of man and wife, lawfully joined together, for heresy or misbelief; we need no other conviction, than that peremptory and clear determination of our Saviour, which we have formerly insisted on : for, though his words on the Mount were in the way of doctrinal assertion; yet, afterwards, the same words were used by him, in way of a satisfactory answer to the Pharisees' question concerning causes of divorce; professedly resolving, that there could be no allowable ground of such separation, except fornication.

What words can be more plain? It is but a shift, to say, as the Cardinal doth, that our Saviour here meant only to express the proper cause of the separation of married persons, which is the breach of marriage faith: as having no occasion to speak of those general grounds, which reach to the just sundering of all human societies; such as heresy and infidelity, which are enough to unglue all natural and civil relations betwixt father and son, master and servant, husband and wife: for it is clear, that neither question nor answer were bounded with any particularities. The Pharisee asks, Whether for every cause ? Our Saviour answers, For no cause but fornication.

And it is spoken beside the book, that child or servant should or may forsake parent or master, in case of heresy or infidelity. St. Paul teacheth other doctrine : Let as many servants as are under the yoke (of bondage) count their infidel) masters worthy of all honour' ; i Tim. vi. 1 : not worthy, therefore, of desertion and disclamation. And, if the servants may not shake off the bonds of duty, much less may the son break or file off the bonds of nature. And, as for the matrimonial knot, how too sure it is, to be loosed by infidelity itself, let the Apostle speak : If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away; i Cor. vii. 12. And the woman, which hath a husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him ; v. 13.

* Deut. xxiv. 1. non

1 βιβλίου αποφασία.

And if even Infidelity have not power to disoblige the wife or husband, much less Heresy.

In this pretended case, therefore, to separate from board and bed, is no better than a presumptuous insolence. It is the peremptory charge of Christ, What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder ; Matt. xix. 6. In all lawful marriages, it is God, that joins the hands and hearts of the married : how dare man, then, undo the work of God, upon devices of his own? Had the Lord ever said, “ If thy wife be a wilful misbeliever, rid thy hands of her;" this separation were just : but, now that his charge is clean contrary, what an impious sauciness is it, to disjoin those, whom God hath united !

As, therefore, it is not in the power of any third person, upon any whatsoever pretence, violently to break the sacred bond of marriage: so neither may the husband or wife enthral each other, by a wilful desertion; whether upon pretext of religion, or any se cular occasion. In which case, what is to be done must come under a further disquisition. Certainly, it was never the intention of the holy and wise God, by virtue of that which was ordained for man's comfort and remedy of sin, to bind him to a remediless misery : which must necessarily fall out, if, upon the departure of an unbelieving or heretical yokefellow, the relict party must be tied up to a perpetual necessity of either containing, if he can; or, if he cannot, of burning. The wise Doctor of the Gentiles well foresaw the dangerous inconvenience, that must needs hereupon ensue; and hath given order for prevention, accordingly. But, if the unbelieving depart, let him depart : a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases; but God hath called us to peace ; 1 Cor. vii. 15. Not, that it is free for a man or woman so forsaken, to carve him or herself of redress : what an infinite confusion would follow upon such licentiousness! but that, after long and patient expectation, and all probable means used for the reduction of the party deserting, recourse be had, as to the last refuge, to public Ecclesiastical Authority, which is the fittest to manage these matrimonial affairs : in whose power it may be, either, by grave admonitions and just censures, to bring back the offender to his duty; or, upon his continuing contempt, to set a day for the publication of the just freedom of the forsaken: wherein they shall do no other, than execute that apostolic sentence, for exemption from an unjust bondage, and providing for a just peace.


Whether, after a lawful divorce for adultery, the innocent party indy

marry again.

ALTHOUGH matrimony be not, according to the Romish tenet, one of those Sacraments, which imprint an indelible character in the

« PreviousContinue »