Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE

JUDGMENT OF MARTIN BUCER TOUCHING DIVORCE:

TAKEN OUT OF THE SECOND BOOK ENTITLED "OF THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST ; WRITTEN BY MARTIN BUCER TO EDWARD THE SIXTH, KING OF ENGLAND.

CHAPTER XV.

That the

That the popes have

The seventh law of the sanctifying and ordering of marriage.
ordering of marriage belongs to the civil power.
evaded by fraud and force the ordering of marriage.

BESIDES these things, Christ our king, and his churches, require from your sacred majesty, that you would take upon you the just care of marriages. For it is unspeakable how many good consciences are hereby entangled, afflicted, and in danger, because there are no just laws, no speedy way constituted according to God's 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 necessity dissolve marriage, are not only to be taught by the doctrine and discipline of the church, but also are to be acquitted, aided, and compelled by laws and judicature of the commonwealth. Which thing pious emperors acknowledging, and therein framing themselves to the law of nations, gave laws both of contracting and preserving, and also where an unhappy need required, of divorcing marriages. As may be seen in the code of Justinian, the 5th book, from the beginning through twenty-four titles. And in the authentic of Justinian the 22d, and some others.

But the Antichrists of Rome, to get the imperial power into their own hands, first by fraudulent persuasion, afterwards by force, drew to them selves the whole authority of determining and judging as well in matrimonial causes, as in most other matters. Therefore it hath been long believed, that the care and government thereof doth not belong to the civil magistrate. Yet where the gospel of Christ is received, the laws of Antichrist should be rejected. If therefore kings and governors take not this care, by the power of law and justice, to provide that marriages be piously contracted, religiously kept, and lawfully dissolved, if need require, who sees not what confusion and trouble is brought upon this holy society; and what a rack is prepared, even 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 commonwealth, that marriages, according to the will of Christ, be made, maintained, and not without just cause dissolved, who understands not? For unless that first and holiest society of man and woman be purely constituted, that household discipline may be upheld by them according to God's law, how can we expect a race of good men? Let your majesty therefore know, that this is your duty, and in the first place, to reassume to yourself the just ordering of matrimony, and by firm laws to establish and defend the religion of this VOL. I. X

34

first and divine society among men, as all wise lawgivers of old, and Christian emperors, have carefully done.

The two next chapters, because they chiefly 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 than any other.

CHAPTER XVII., towards the end.

I CONFESS that we, being 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 wholesome, than those which God himself gave, who is eternal wisdom and goodness, I see not why Christians, in things which no less appertain to them, ought not to follow the laws of God, rather than of any men. We are not to use circumcision, sacrifice, and those bodily washings prescribed to the Jews; yet by these things we may rightly learn, with what purity and devotion both baptism and the Lord's supper should be administered and received. How much more is it our duty to observe diligently what the Lord hath commanded, and taught by the examples of his people concerning marriage, whereof we have the use no less than they! And because this same worthy author hath another passage to this purpose, in his comment upon Matthew, chap. v. 19, I here insert it from p. 46. Since we have need of civil laws, and the power of punishing, it will be wisest not to contemn those given by Moses; but seriously rather to consider what the meaning of God was in them, what he chiefly required, and how much it might be to the good of every nation, if they would borrow thence their manner of governing the commonwealth; yet freely all things and with the Spirit of Christ. For what Solon, or Plato, or Aristotle, what lawyers or Cæars could make better laws than God? And it is no light argument, that many magistrates at this day do not enough acknowledge the kingdom of Christ, though they would seem most Christian, in that they govern their states by laws so diverse from those of Moses.

The 18th chapter I only mention as determining a thing not here in question, that marriage 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 mollified by admonitions, entreaties, and persuasions, first of their friends 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 mind of their parents be detained from marriage longer than is meet, or forced to an unworthy match: in which case the Roman laws also provided. C. de Nupt. 1. 11, 13, 26.

CHAPTER XIX.

Whether it may be permitted to revoke the promise of marriage.

HERE ariseth another question concerning contracts, when they ought to be unchangeable? for religious emperors decreed, that the contract was not indissoluble, until the spouse were brought home, and the solemnities performed. They thought it a thing unworthy of divine and human equity, and the due consideration of man's infirmity in deliberating and determining, when space is given to renounce other contracts of much less moment, which are not yet confirmed before the magistrate, to deny that to the most weighty contract of marriage, which requires the greatest care and consul

tation. Yet lest such a covenant should be broken for no just cause, and to the injury of that person to whom marriage was promised, they decreed a fine, that he who denied marriage to whom he had promised, and for some cause not approved by the judges, should pay the double of that pledge which was given at making sure, or as much as the judge should pronounce might satisfy the damage, or the hinderance of either party. It being 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 than the duty of pious princes, to give men the same liberty of unpromising in these cases, as pious emperors granted: especially where there is only a promise, and not carnal knowledge. And as there is no true marriage 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 their 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 whatever he knows to be any where piously and justly constituted, and to be honest, just, and well-pleasing to his people. But why in God's law and the examples of his saints nothing hereof is read, no marvel; 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 enough 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 marriage de præsenti, as they call it, should be indissoluble, and because it should be a prince's care, that matrimony be so joined, as God ordained; which is, that every one should love his wife with such a love as Adam expressed to Eve: so as we may hope, that they who marry may become one flesh, and one also in the Lord.

CHAPTER XX.

Concerns only the celebration of marriage.

CHAPTER XXI.

The means of preserving marriage holy and pure.

Now since there ought not to be less care, that marriage be religiously kept, than that it be piously and deliberately contracted, it will be meet, that to every church be ordained certain grave and godly men, who may have this care upon them, to observe whether the husband bear himself wisely toward the wife, loving, and 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 godliness, so to every other use of life. And if they shall 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 wickedness, let it be admonished them in time. And if their authority be contemned, let the names of such contemners be brought to the magistrate, who may use punishment to compel such violators of marriage 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 therein obeying, are to be punished as adulterers, according to the law of Justinian, Authent. 117. For if holy wedlock, the fountain

and seminary of good subjects, be not vigilantly preserved from all blots and disturbances, what can be hoped, as I said before, of the springing up of good men, and a right reformation of the commonwealth? We know it is not enough for Christians to abstain from foul deeds, but from the appearance and suspicion thereof.

CHAPTER XXII.

Of lawful divorce, what the ancient churches have thought.

Now we shall speak about that dissolving of matrimony, which may be approved in the sight of God, if any grievous necessity require. In which thing the Roman antichrist have knit many a pernicious entanglement to distressed consciences; for that they might here also exalt themselves above God, as if they would be wiser and chaster than God himself is; for not cause, honest or necessary, will they permit a final divorce: in the mean while, whoredoms and adulteries, and worse things than these, not only tolerating in themselves and others, but cherishing and throwing men headlong into these evils. For although they also disjoin married persons from board and bed, that is, from all conjugal society and communion, and this not only for adultery, but for ill usage, and matrimonial duties denied ; yet they forbid those thus parted, to join in wedlock with others: but, as I said before, any dishonest associating they permit. And they pronounce the bond of marriage to remain between those whom they have thus separated. As if the bond of marriage, God so teaching and pronouncing, were not such a league as binds the married couple to all society of life, and communion in divine and human things; and so associated keeps them. Something indeed out of the later fathers they may pretend for this their tyranny, especially out of Austria and some others, who were much taken with a preposterous admiration of single life; yet though these fathers, from the words of Christ not rightly understood, taught that it was unlawful to marry again, while the former wife lived, whatever cause there had been either of desertion or divorce; yet if we mark the custom of the church, and the common judgment which both in their times and afterward prevailed, we shall perceive, that neither these fathers did ever cast out of the church any one for marrying after a divorce, approved by the imperial laws.

Nor only the first Christian emperors, but the latter also, even to Justinian and after him, did grant for certain causes approved by judges, to make a true divorce; which made and confirmed by law, it might be lawful to marry again; which if it could not have been done without displeasing Christ and his church, surely it would not have been granted by Christian emperors, nor had the fathers then winked at those doings in the emperors. Hence ye may see that Jerome also, though zealous of single life more than enough, and such a condemner of second marriage, though after the death of either party, yet, forced by plain equity, defended Fabiola, a noble matron of Rome, who, having refused her husband for just causes, was married to another. For that the sending of a divorce to her husband was not blameworthy, he affirms because the man was heinously vicious; and that if an adulterer's wife may be discarded, an adulterous husband is not tc be kept. But that she married 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 young widows should marry, for such was Fabiola, and could not remain in widowhood.

But some one will object, that Jerome there adds, "Neither did she

know the vigour of the gospel, wherein all cause of marrying is debarred from women, while their husbands live; and again, while she avoided. many wounds of Satan, she received one ere she was aware." But let the equal reader mind also what went before; "Because," saith he, soon after the beginning, "there is a rock and storm of slanderers opposed before her, I will not praise her converted, unless I first absolve her guilty." For why does he call them slanderers, who accused Fabiola of marrying again, if he did not judge it a matter of Christian equity and charity, to pass 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, unless I first absolve her?" For how could he absolve her, but by proving that Fabiola, neither in rejecting her vicious husband, nor in marrying another, had committed such a sin, as could be justly condemned? Nay, he proves both by evident reason, and clear testimonies of Scripture, that she avoided sin.

This is also hence understood, that Jerome by the vigour of the gospel, meant that height and perfection of our Saviour's precept, which might be remitted to those that burn; for he adds, "But if she be accused in that she remained not unmarried, I shall confess the fault, so I may relate the necessity." If then he acknowledged a necessity, as he did, because she was young, and could not live in widowhood, certainly he could not impute. her second marriage 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 marriage of Fabiola was permitted her by the Holy Ghost himself, for the necessity which he suffered, and to shun the danger of fornication, though she went somewhat aside from the vigour of the gospel? But if any urge, that Fabiola did public penance for her second marriage, which was not imposed but for great faults; it is answered, she was not enjoined to this penance, but did it of her own accord, " and not till after her second husband's death." As in the time of Cyprian, we read that many were wont to do voluntary penance for small faults, which were not liable to excommunication.

CHAPTER XXIII.

That marriage was granted by the ancient fathers, even after the vow of single life.

I omit his testimonies out of Cyprian, Gellasius, Epiphanes. contented only to relate what he thence collects to the present purpose.

SOME will say, perhaps, wherefore all this concerning marriage after vow of single life, whenas the question was of marriage after divorce? For this reason, that they whom it so much moves, because some of the fathers thought marriage after any kind of divorce to be condemned of our Saviour, may see that this conclusion follows not. The fathers thought all marriage after divorce, to be forbidden of our Saviour, therefore they thought such marriage was not to be tolerated in a Christian. For the same fathers judged it forbidden to marry after vow; yet such marriages they neither dissolved nor excommunicated: for these words of our Saviour, and of the Holy Ghost, stood in their way; "All cannot receive this saying, but they to whom it is given. Every one hath his proper gift from God, one after this manner, another after that. It is better to marry than to burn. I will that younger widows marry;" and the like.

So there are many canons and laws extant, whereby priests, if they mar ried, were removed from their office; yet is it not read that their marriage was dissolved, as the papists now-a-days do, or that they were excommu

« PreviousContinue »