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dage not of God's constraining, with a natureless constraint, (if his most righteous judgments may be our rule,) but laid upon us imperiously in the worst and weakest ages of knowledge, by a canonical tyranny of stupid and malicious monks? who having rashly vowed themselves to a single life, which they could not undergo, invented new fetters to throw on matrimony, that the world thereby waxing more dissolute, they also in a general looseness might sin with more favour. Next, there being yet among many such a strange iniquity and perverseness against all necessary divorce, while they will needs expound the words of our Saviour, not duly by comparing other places, as they must do in the resolving of a hundred other scriptures, but by persisting deafly in the abrupt and papistical way of a literal apprehension against the direct analogy of sense, reason, law, and gospel; it therefore may well seem more than time, to apply the sound and holy persuasions of this apostolic man to that part in us, which is not yet fully dispossessed of an error as absurd, as most that we deplore in our blindest adversaries; and to let his authority and unanswerable reasons be vulgarly known, that either his name, or the force of his doctrine, may work a wholesome effect. Lastly, I find it clear to be the author's intention, that this point of divorcement should be held and received as a most necessary and prime part of discipline in every Christian government. And therefore having reduced his model of reformation to fourteen 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 published this his book by Oporinus at Basil, (a city for learning and constancy in the true faith honourable among the first,) added a special note in the title, " that there the reader should find the doctrine of divorce handled so solidly, and so fully, as scarce the like in any writer of that age:" and with this particular commendation they doubted not to dedicate the book, as a most profitable and exquisite discourse, to Christian the IIId, a worthy and pious king of Denmark, as the author himself had done before to our Edward the VIth. 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 several places; touches it also upon the 7th to the Romans, and promises the same solution more largely upon the first 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 laws and practice both of God's chosen people, and the best primitive times. Wherein his faithfulness and powerful evidence prevailed so far with all the church of Strasburgh, that they published 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 city flourished, and excelled most, both in religion, learning, and government, under those first restorers of the gospel there, Zelius, Hedio, Capito, Fagius, and those who incomparably then governed the commonwealth, Ferrerus and Sturmius. If therefore God in the former age found out a servant, and by whom he had converted and reformed many a city, by him thought good to restore the most needful doctrine of divorce from rigorous and harmful mistakes on the right hand; it can be no strange thing, if in this age he stir up by whatsoever means whom it pleases him, to take in hand and maintain the same assertion. Certainly if it be in man's discerning to sever providence from chance, I could alege many instances, wherein there would appear cause to esteem of me no other than a passive instrument under some power and
counsel higher and better than can be human, working to a general good in the whole course of this matter. For that I owe no light or leading received 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 witness. When I had almost finished the first edition, I chanced to read in the notes of Hugo Grotius upon the 5th of Matthew, whom I straight understood inclining to reasonable terms in this controversy: and something he whispered rather than disputed about the law of charity, and the true end of wedlock. Glad therefore of such an able assistant, however at much distance, I resolved 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, and 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 style, which what it ails to be so soon distinguishable I cannot tell, was known by most men, and that some of the clergy began to inveigh and exclaim on what I was credibly informed they had not read; I took it then for my proper season, both to show them a name that could easily contemn such an indiscreet kind of censure, and to reinforce the question with a more accurate diligence: that if any of them would be so good as to leave railing, and to let us hear so much of his learning and Christian wisdom, as will be strictly demanded of him in his answering to this problem, care was had he should not spend his preparations against a nameless pamphlet. By this time I had learned that Paulus Fagius, one of the chief divines in Germany, sent for by Frederic the Palatine, to reform his dominion, and after that invited hither in King Edward's days, to be a professor of divinity in Cambridge, was of the same opinion touching divorce, which these men so lavishly traduced in me. What I found, I inserted where fittest place was, thinking sure they would respect so grave an author, at least to the moderating of their odious inferences. And having now perfected a second edition, I referred the judging thereof to your high and impartial sentence, honoured 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, than in that house of justice and true liberty, where ye sit in council. Nor doth the event hitherto, for some reasons which I shall not here deliver, fail me of what I conceived so highly. Nevertheless, being far otherwise dealt with by some, of whose profession and supposed knowledge I had better hope, and esteemed the deviser of a new and pernicious paradox; I felt no difference within me from that peace and firmness of mind, which is of nearest kin to patience and contentment: both for that I knew I had divulged a truth linked inseparably with the most fundamental rules of Christianity, to stand or fall together, and was not uninformed, that divers learned and judicious men testified their daily approbation of the book. Yet at length it hath pleased God, who had already given me satisfaction in myself, to afford me now a means whereby I may be fully justified also in the eyes of men.
When the book had been now the second time set forth well-nigh three months, as I best remember, I then first came to hear that Martin Bucer had written much concerning divorce: whom, earnestly turning over, I soon perceived, but not without amazement, in the same opinion, confirmed with the same reasons which in that published book, without the help or imitation
of any precedent writer, I had laboured 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 gratulate mine own mind with due acknowledgment of assistance from above, which led me, not as a learner, but as a collateral teacher, to a sympathy of judgment with no less a man than Martin Bucer. And he, if our things here below arrive him where he is, does not repent him to see that point of knowledge, which he first and with an unchecked freedom preached to those more knowing times of England, now found so necessary, though what he admonished were lost out of our memory; yet that God doth now again create the same doctrine in another unwritten table, and raises it up immediately out of his pure oracle to the convincement of a perverse 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 avouched to be most lawful, most necessary, and most Christian, without the least blemish to his good name, among all the worthy men of that age, and since, who testify so highly of him? If they dare, they must then set up an arrogance of their own against all those churches and saints who honoured him without this exception: if they dare not, how can they now make that licentious doctrine in another, which was never blamed or confuted in Bucer, or in Fagius? The truth is, there will be due to them for this their unadvised rashness the best donative that can be given them; I mean, a round reproof; now that where they thought to be most magisterial, they have displayed their own want, both of reading, and of judgment. First, to be so unacquainted in the writings of Bucer, which are so obvious and so useful in their own faculty; next, to be so caught in a prejudicating weakness, as to condemn that for lewd, which (whether they knew or not) these elect servants of Christ commended for lawful; and for new that which was taught by these almost the first and greatest authors of reformation, who were never taxed for so teaching; and dedicated without scruple to a royal pair of the first reforming kings in Christendom, and confessed in the public confession of a most orthodoxical church and state in Germany. This is also another fault which I must tell them; that they have stood now almost this whole year clamouring afar off, while the book hath been twice printed, twice brought up, and never once vouchsafed a friendly conference with the author, who would be glad and thankful to be shown an error, either by private dispute, or public answer, and could retract, as well as wise men before him; might also be worth their gaining, as one who heretofore hath done good service to the church by their own confession. Or if he be obstinate, their confutation would have rendered him without excuse, and reclaimed others of no mean parts, who incline to his opinion.
But now their work is more than doubled; and how they will hold up their heads against the sudden aspect of these two great and reverend saints, whom they have defamed, how they will make good the censuring of that, for a novelty of license, which Bucer constantly taught to be a pure and holy law of Christ's kingdom, let them advise. For against these my adversaries, who, before the examining of a propounded truth in a fit time of eformation, have had the conscience to oppose naught else but their blind reproaches and surmises, that a single innocence might not be oppressed and overborne by a crew of mouths, for the restoring of a law and doctrine falsely and unlearnedly reputed new and scandalous; God, that I may ever magnify and record this his goodness, hath unexpectedly raised up as it were
from the dead more than one famous light of the first reformation, to bear witness with me, and to do me honour in that very thing, wherein these men thought to have blotted me; and hath given them the proof of a capacity, which they despised, 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, than in the first reformation of England, that this question of divorce, as a main thing to be estored to just freedom, was written, and seriously commended to Edward the VIth, by a man called from another country to be the instructor of our nation; and now in this present renewing of the church and commonwealth, which we pray may be more lasting, that the same question should be again treated and presented to this parliament, by one enabled to use the same reasons without the least sight or knowledge of what was done before? It were no trespass, lords and commons! though something of less note were attributed to the ordering of a heavenly power; this question therefore of such prime concernment both to Christian and civil welfare, in such an extraordinary manner, not recovered, but plainly twice born to these latter ages, as from a divine hand I tender to your acceptance, and 'most considerate thoughts. Think not that God raised up in vain a man of greatest authority in the church, to tell a trivial and licentious tale in the ears of that good prince, and to bequeath it as his last will and testament, nay rather as the testament and royal law of Christ, to this nation; or that it should of itself, after so many years, as it were in a new field where it was never sown, grow up again as a vicious plant in the mind of another, who had spoke honestest things to the nation; though he knew not that what his youth then reasoned without a pattern had been heard already, and well allowed from the gravity and worth of Martin Bucer: till meeting with the envy of men ignorant in their own undertaken calling, God directed him to the forgotten writings of this faithful evangelist, to be his defence and warrant against the gross imputation of broaching license. Ye are now in the glorious way to high virtue, 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 perfectest reforming. Dare to be as great, as ample, and as eminent in the fair progress of your noble designs, as the full and goodly stature of truth and excellence itself; as unlimited by petty precedents and copies, as your unquestionable calling from Heaven gives ye power to be. What are all our public immunities and privileges worth, and how shall it be judged, that we fight for them with minds worthy to enjoy them, if we suffer ourselves in the mean while not to understand the most important freedom, that God and nature hath given 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 whereby good men in the best portion of their lives, and in that ordinance of God which entitles them from the beginning to most just and requisite contentments, are compelled to civil indignities, which by the law of Moses bad men were not compelled to? Be not bound about, and straitened ir. the spacious wisdom of your free spirits, by the scanty and unadequate 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 antiquity, but from the rudest and thickest barbarism of antichristian times.
But why do I anticipate the more acceptable and prevailing voice of learned Bucer himself, the pastor of nations? And O that I could set him living before ye in that doctrinal chair, where once the learnedest 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 do I forget that faithful associate of his labours, Paulus Fagius; for these their great names and merits, how precious soever, God hath now joined with me necessarily, in the good or evil report of this doctrine, which I leave with you. It was written to a religious king of this land; written earnestly as a main matter wherein this kingdom needed a reform, if it purposed to be the kingdon of Christ: written by him, who if any, since the days of Luther, merits to be counted the apostle of the church: whose unwearied pains and watching for our sakes, as they spent him quickly here among us, so did they, during the shortness of his life, incredibly promote the gospel throughout this realm. The authority, the learning, the godliness of this man consulted with, is able to outbalance all that the lightness of a vulgar opposition can bring to counterpoise. I leave him also as my complete surety and testimonial, if truth be not the best witness to itself, 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 than with reasons; yet certainly the worst of my detractors will not except against so good a bail of my integrity and judgment, as now appears for
They must else put in the fame of Bucer and of Fagius, as my accomplices and confederates into the same indictment; they must dig up the good name of these prime worthies, (if their names could be ever buried,) they must dig them up and brand them as the papists did their bodies; and those their pure unblamable spirits, which live not only in heaven, but in their writings, they must attaint with new attaintures, which no protestant ever before aspersed them with. Or if perhaps we 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 sued in a bill of license, to the scandal of our church; the brief result will be, that for the if their own works be not thought sufficient to defend them, their lives yet, who will be ready, in a fair and Christianly discussive way, to debate and sift this matter to the utmost ounce of learning 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 enough to qualify 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 than they can bring me, intermit the prosecution of those thoughts, which may render me best serviceable, either to this age, or, if it so happen, to posterity; following the fair path, which your illustrious exploits, honoured lords and commons! against the breast of tyranny have opened; and depending so on your happy successes in the hopes that I have conceived either of myself, 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. JOHN MILTON.