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he cannot do, and thinks himself and this his case not contained in that prohibition of divorce which Christ pronounced, the matter not being of malice, but of nature, and so not capable of reconciling; to constrain him further were to unchristian him, to unman him, to throw the mountain of Sinai upon him, with the weight of the whole law to boot, flat against the liberty and essence of the gospel; and yet nothing available either to the sanctity of marriage, the good of husband, wife, or children; nothing profitable either to church or commonwealth, but hurtful and pernicious in all these respects. But this will bring in confusion: yet these cautious mistrusters might consider, that what they thus object lights not upon this book, but upon that which I engage against them, the book of God and Moses, with all the wisdom and providence which had forecast the worst of confusion that could succeed, and yet thought fit of such a permission. But let them be of good cheer, it wrought so little disorder among the Jews, that from Moses till after the captivity, not one of the prophets thought it worth the rebuking, for that of Malachi well looked into will appear to be not against divorcing, but rather against keeping strange concubines, to the vexation of their Hebrew wives. If therefore we Christians may be thought as good and tractable as the Jews were, (and certainly the prohibitors of divorce presume us to be better,) then less confusion is to be feared for this among us than was among them. If we be worse, or but as bad, which lamentable examples confirm we are, then have we more, or at least as much, need of this permitted law, as they to whom God therefore gave it (as they say) under a harsher covenant. Let not therefore the frailty of man go on thus inventing needless troubles to itself, to groan under the false imagination of a strictness never imposed from above; enjoining that for duty, which is an impossible and vain supererogating. "Be not righteous overmuch," is the counsel of Ecclesiastes; "why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Let us not be thus overcurious to strain at atoms, and yet to stop every vent and cranny of permissive liberty, lest nature wanting those needful pores and breathing-places, which God hath not debarred our weakness, either suddenly break out into some wide rupture of open vice and frantic heresy, or else inwardly fester with repining and blasphemous thoughts, under an unreasonable and fruitless rigour of unwarranted law. Against which evils nothing can more beseem the religion of the church, or the wisdom of the state, than to consider timely and provide. And in so doing let them not doubt but they shall vindicate the misreputed honour of God and his great lawgiver, by suffering him to give his own laws according to the condition. of man's nature best known to him, without the unsufferable imputation of dispensing legally with many ages of ratified adultery. They shall recover the misattended words of Christ to the sincerity of their true sense from manifold contradictions, and shall open them with the key of charity. Many helpless Christians they shall arise from the depth of sadness and distress, utterly unfitted as they are to serve God or man: many they shall reclaim from obscure and giddy sects, many regain from dissolute and brutish license, many from desperate hardness, if ever that were justly pleaded. They shall set free many daughters of Israel not wanting much of her sad plight whom "Satan had bound eighteen years." Man they shall restore to his just dignity and prerogative in nature, preferring the soul's free peace before the promiscuous draining of a carnal rage. Marriage, from a peril ous hazard and snare, they shall reduce to be a more certain haven and retirement of happy society; when they shall judge according to God and Moses, (and how not then according to Christ,) when they shall judge it more wisdom and goodness to break that covenant seemingly, and keep it
really, than by compulsion of law to keep it seemingly, and by compulsion of blameless nature to break it really, at least if it were ever truly joined. The vigour of discipline they may then turn with better success upon the prostitute looseness of the times, when men, finding in themselves the infirmities of former ages, shall not be constrained above the gift of God in them to unprofitable and impossible observances, never required from the civilest, the wisest, the holiest nations, whose other excellences in moral virtue they never yet could equal. Last of all, to those whose mind is still to maintain textual restrictions, whereof the bare sound cannot consist sometimes with humanity, much less with charity; I would ever answer, by putting them in remembrance of a command above all commands, which they seem to have forgot, and who spake it: in comparison whereof, this which they so exalt is but a petty and subordinate precept. "Let them go" therefore with whom I am loth to couple them, yet they will needs run into the same blindness with the Pharisees; "let them go therefore," and consider well what this lesson means, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice;" for on that "saying all the law and prophets depend," much more the gospel, whose end and excellence is mercy and peace. Or if they cannot learn that, how will they hear this? which yet I shall not doubt to leave with them as a conclusion, That God the Son hath put all other things under his own feet, but his commandments he hath left all under the feet of charity.
JUDGMENT OF MARTIN BUCER CONCERNING DIVORCE.
WRITTEN TO EDWARD THE SIXTH, IN HIS SECOND BOOK OF THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST; AND NOW ENGLISHED: WHEREIN A LATE BOOK, RESTORING THE “DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE,' IS HERE CONFIRMED AND JUSTIFIED BY THE AUTHORITY OF MARTIN BUCER.
TO THE PARLIAMENT OF ENGLAND.
John iii. 10. "Art thou a teacher of Israel, and knowest not these things?"
TESTIMONIES OF THE HIGH APPROBATION WHICH LEARNED MEN HAVE GIVEN OF MARTIN BUCER.
Simon Grinaus, 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 faithful doctor of the church of Christ, besides his rare learning, and copious knowledge of many things, besides his clearness of wit, much reading, and other many and various virtues, wherein he is almost by none now living excelled, hath few equals, and excels most,
hath this praise peculiar to himself, that none in this age hath used exacte diligence in the exposition of Scripture.
And a little beneath.
Bucer is more large than to be read by overbusied men, and too high to be easily understood by unattentive men, and of a low capacity.
Sir John Cheek, Tutor to King Edward VI.—1551.
We have lost our master, than 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 whatever else was praise-worthy and glorious in him. Script. Anglican. pag. 864.
John Sturmius of Strasburgh.
No man can be ignorant what a great and constant opinion and estination of Bucer there is in Italy, France, and England. Whence the saying of Quintilian hath oft come to my mind, that he hath well profited in eloquence whom Cicero pleases. The same say I of Bucer, that he hath made no small progress in divinity, whom Bucer pleases; for in his volumes, which he wrote very many, there is the plain impression to be discerned of many great virtues, of diligence, of charity, of truth, of acuteness, of judgment, of learning. Wherein he hath a certain proper kind of writing, whereby 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 perceived how learnedly he separates probable reasons from necessary, how forcibly he confirms what he has to prove, how subtilely he refutes, not with sharpness but with truth.
Theodore Beza, on the Portraiture of M. Bucer.
This is that countenance of Bucer, the mirror of mildness tempered with gravity; to whom the city of Strasburgh owes the reformation of her church. Whose singular learning, and eminent zeal, joined 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 entertained by Edward the VIth, he was for two years chief professor of divinity in Cambridge, with greatest frequency and applause of all learned and pious men until his death, 1551. Beza Icones.
Mr. Fox's Book of Martyrs, Vol. iii. p. 763.
Bucer, what by writing, but chiefly by reading and preaching openly, wherein, being painful in the word of God, he never spared himself, nor regarded 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 and sincere doctrine. A most certain token whereof may be his sumptuous burial at Cambridge, solemnized with so great an assistance of all the university, that it was not possible to devise more to the setting out and amplifying of the same.
Dr. Pern, the Popish Vice-chancellor of Cambridge, his adversary. Cardinal Pool, about the fourth year of Queen Mary, intending to reduce the university of Cambridge to popery again, thought no way so effectual, as to cause the bones of Martin Bucer and Paulus Fagius, which had been VOL. I.
four years in the grave, to be taken up and burnt openly with their books, as knowing that those two worthy men had been of greatest moment to the reformation of that place from popery, and had left such powerful seeds of their doctrine behind them, as would never die, unless the men themselves were digged up, and openly condemned for heretics by the university itself. This was put in execution, and Doctor Pern, vice-chancellor, 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 immediately after his sermon, or somewhat before, as the Book of Martyrs for a truth relates, vol. iii. p. 770, the said Doctor Pern smiting himself on the breast, and in manner weeping, wished with all his heart, that God would grant his soul might then presently depart, and remain with Bucer's; for he knew his life was such, that if any man's soul were worthy of heaven, he thought Bucer's in special to be most worthy. Histor. de Combust. Buceri et Fagii.
Acworth, the University-orator.
Soon after that Queen Elizabeth came to the crown, this condemnation of Bucer and Fagius by the cardinal and his doctors was solemnly repealed by the university; and the memory of those two famous men celebrated in an oration by Acworth, the University-orator, which is yet extant in the Book of Martyrs, vol. iii. p. 773, and in Latin, Scripta Anglican. p. 936.
Nicholas Carre, a learned man; Walter Haddon, master of the requests to Queen Elizabeth; Matthew Parker, afterwards primate of England; with other eminent men, in their funeral orations and sermons, express abundantly how great a man Martin Bucer was; what an incredible loss England sustained in his death; and that with him died the hope of a perfect reformation for that age. Ibid.
Jacobus Verheiden of Grave, in his eulogies 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 faithful man, the church of Christ sustained 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 loss befel the church of God in the death of Bucer, as oft as I call to mind, I feel my heart almost rent asunder."
Peter Martyr Epist. to Conradus Hubertus.
He is dead, who hath overcome in many battles of the Lord. God lent us for a time this our father, and our teacher, never enough praised. Death hath divided me from a most unanimous friend, one truly according to mine own heart. My mind is overpressed with grief, insomuch that I have not power to write more. I bid thee in Christ farewell, and wish thou mayst be able to bear the loss of Bucer better than I can bear it.
Testimonies given by learned men to Paulus Fagius, who held the same opinion with Martin Bucer concerning divorce.
Paulus Fagius, born in the Palatinate, became most skilful in the Hebrew tongue. Being called to the ministry at Isna, he published many ancient and profitable Hebrew books, being aided in the expenses by a senator of that city, as Origen sometime was by a certain rich man called
Ambrosius. At length invited to Strasburgh, he there famously discharged the office of a teacher; until the same persecution drove him and Bucer into England, where he was preferred to a professor's place in Cambridge, and soon after died. Beza Icones.
Melchior Adamus writes his life among the famous German divines. Sleidan and Huanus mention him with honour in their history: and Verheiden in his eulogies.
TO THE PARLIAMENT.
THE Book which, among other great and high points of reformation, contains as a principal part thereof, this treatise here presented, supreme court of parliament! was, by the famous author Martin Bucer, dedicated to Edward the VI.: whose incomparable youth doubtless had brought forth to the church of England such a glorious manhood, had his life reached 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 reserved no less perhaps than the just half of such a sacred work to be accomplished 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 judgment and review 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 bestimitated ancestors, reverenced and admired. Nor was he wanting to a recompense 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 wished 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 commonwealth; but otherwise he feared, 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 witness, who heard them, and inserted by Thuanus into his grave and serious history; so ought they to be chiefly considered by that nation, for whose sake they were uttered, and more especially by that general council, which represents the body of that nation. If therefore the book, or this part thereof, for necessary causes be now revived and recommended to the use of this undisciplined age; it hence appears, that these reasons have not erred in the choice of a fit patronage for a discourse of such importance. But why the whole tractate is not here brought entire, but this matter of divorcement selected in particular, to prevent the full speed of some misinterpreter, 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 commonwealth, if Ezra and Nehemiah did not misreform, is like a building, to begin orderly from the foundation thereof, which is marriage and the family, to set right first whatever is amiss therein How can there else grow up a race of warrantable men, while the house and home that breeds them is troubled and disquieted under a bon
*Nicol. Car. de obitu Buceri.