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Lastly, it is most certain, that the Lord hath commanded us to obey the civil laws, every one of his own commonwealth, 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.
Ir is also manifest, that the law of Theodosius and Valentinian, which begins "Consensu," &c. touching divorce, and many other decrees of pious emperors agreeing herewith, are not contrary to the word of God; and therefore may be recalled into use by any Christian prince or commonwealth; nay, ought to be with due respect had to every nation for whatsoever is equal and just, that in every thing is to be sought and used 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 adulteress, a witch, a murderess; to have bought or sold to slavery any one free born; to have violated sepulchres, committed sacrilege, favoured thieves 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 theatres and sights, he forbidding; if she be privy with those that plot against the state, or if she deal falsely, or offer blows. And if the wife can prove her husband guilty of any those forenamed crimes, and frequent the company of lewd women in her sight; or if he beat her, she had the like liberty to quit herself; 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 conceived.
An exposition of those places wherein God declares the nature of holy wedlock.
Now to the end it may be seen, that this agrees with the divine law, the first institution of marriage is to be considered, and those texts in which God established the joining of male and female, and described the duties of them both. When God had determined to make woman, and give her as a wife to man, he spake thus, Gen. ii. 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 Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh."
To this first institution did Christ recall his own; when answering the Pharisees, he condemned the license of unlawful divorce. He taught therefore by his example, that we, according to this first institution, and what God hath spoken thereof, ought to determine what kind of covenant marriage is; how to be kept, and how far; and lastly, for what causes to be dissolved. To which decrees of God these also are to be joined 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 either's." 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 weakness of mind, or lastly, through incurable impotence of body, it cannot then be said, that the covenant of matrimony holds good between such; if we mean that covenant, which God instituted and called marriage, and that whereof only it must be understood that our Saviour said, "Those whom God hath joined, let no man separate."
And hence is concluded, that matrimony requires continual cohabitation and living together, unless the calling of God be otherwise evident; which union if the parties themselves disjoin, either by mutual consent, or one against the other's will depart, the marriage is then broken. Wherein the papists, as in other things, oppose themselves against God; while they separate for many causes from bed and board, and yet will have the bond of matrimony remain, as if this covenant could be other than the conjunction and communion not only of bed and board, but of all other loving and helpful duties. This we may see in these words; "I will make him a help meet for him; bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh for this cause shall he leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh." By which words who discerns not, that God requires 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 their judgment. Now the proper and ultimate end of marriage 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 marriage is the communicating of all duties, both divine and human, each to other with utmost benevolence and affection.
The properties of a true and Christian marriage more distinctly repeated.
By which definition we may know, that God esteems and reckons upon these four necessary properties to be in every true marriage. 1. That they should live together, unless the calling of God require otherwise for a time. 2. That they should love one another to the height of dearness, and that in the Lord, and in the communion of true religion. 3. That the husband bear himself as the head and preserver of his wife, instructing her to all godliness and integrity of life; that the wife also be to her husband a help, according to her place, especially furthering him in the true worship of God, and next in all the occasions of civil life. And 4. That they defraud hot each other of conjugal benevolence, as the apostle commands, 1 Cor. vii. Hence it follows, according to the sentence of God, which all Christians ought to be ruled by, that between those who, either through obstinacy, or helpless inability, 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. xxxvii., out of the civil law, dissolve matrimony in God's 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, it is 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 punished either by death, or deportation, or extreme infamy, which are directly opposite to the covenant of marriage. If they deserve death, as adultery and the like, doubtless 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 coupled with an infamous woman, nor an honest matron with an infamous man. The wise Roman princes had so great a regard to the equal honour of either wedded person, that they counted those marriages of no force, which were made between the one of good repute, and the other of evil note. How much more will all honest regard of Christian expedience and comeliness beseem and concern those who are set free and dignified in Christ, than it could the Roman senate, or their 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 offspring and family, the glory of the man, even as the man is the glory of Christ, should not be tainted with ignominy; as neither of them can avoid to be, having been justly appeached of those forenamed crimes; and therefore cannot be worthy to hold their place in a Christian family: yea, they themselves turn out themselves and dissolve that holy covenant. And they who are true brethern and sisters in the Lord are no more in bondage to such violators of marriage.
But here the patrons of wickedness and dissolvers of Christian discipline will object, that it is the part of man and wife to bear one another's cross, whether in calamity, or infamy, that they may gain each other, if not to a good name, yet to repentance and amendment. But they who thus object, seek the impunity of wickedness, and the favour of wicked men, not the duties of true charity; which prefers public honesty before private interest, and had rather the remedies of wholesome punishment appointed by God should be in use, than that by remissness the license of evil doing should increase. For if they who, by committing such offences, have made void the holy knot of marriage, be capable of repentance, they will be sooner moved when due punishment is executed on them, than when it is remitted.
We must ever beware, lest, in contriving what will be best for the soul's health of delinquents, we make ourselves wiser and discreeter than God. He that religiously weighs his oracles concerning marriage, cannot doubt that they who have committed the foresaid transgressions, have lost the right of matrimony, and are unworthy to hold their dignity in an honest and Christian family.
But if any husband or wife see such signs of repentance in their transgressor, as that they doubt not to regain them by continuing with them, and partaking of their miseries and attaintures, they may be left to their own
hopes, and their own mind; saving ever the right of church and commonwealth, that it receive no scandal by the neglect of due severity, and their children no harm by this invitation to license, 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 perceive who desires to determine of these things by the Scripture, that those causes of lawful divorce, which the most religious emperors Theodosius and Valentinian set forth in the forecited place, are according to the law of God, and the prime institution of marriage; and were still more and more straitened, as the church and state of the empire still more and more corrupted and degenerated. Therefore pious princes and commonwealths both may and ought establish them again, if they have a mind to restore the honour, sanctity, and religion of holy wedlock to their people, and disentangle many consciences from a miserable and perilous condition, to a chaste and honest life.
To those recited causes wherefore a wife might send a divorce to her husband, Justinian added four more, Constit. 117; and four more, for which a man might put away his wife. Three other causes were added in the Code "de repudiis, 1. Jubemus." All which causes are so clearly contrary to the first intent of marriage that they plainly dissolve it. I set them not down, being easy to be found in the body of the civil law.
It was permitted also by Christian emperors, that they who would divorce by mutual 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 emperors 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 been named, the Christian emperors laid no other punishment upon them, than that the husband wrongfully divorcing his wife should give back her dowry, and the use of that which was called " Donatio propter nuptias ;" or if there were no dowry nor no donation, that he should then 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 married should be compelled to remain so ever against their wills, was not exacted. Wherein those pious princes followed the law of God in Deut. xxiv. 1, and his express charge by the prophet Malachi, to dismiss from him the wife whom the hates. For God never meant in marriage to give to man a perpetual 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 showed out of 1 John iii. 15, "Whoso hateth his brother, is a murderer."
Whether the husband or wife deserted may marry to another. THE wife's desertion of her husband the Christian emperors plainly decreed to be a just cause of divorce, whenas they granted him the right thereof, 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, we 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 er, whenas he may, hath forfeited his right in her so forsaken. For the
Spirit of God speaks plainly, that both man and wife have such power over one another's 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 given to the Corinthians concerning a brother or sister deserted by a misbeliever. "If he depart, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases." In which words, who sees not the Holy Ghost openly pronounced, that the party without cause deserted, is not bound for another's wilful desertion, to abstain from narriage, if he have need thereof?
But some will say, that this is spoken of a misbeliever departing. But I beseech ye, doth not he reject the faith of Christ in his deeds, who rashly breaks the holy covenant of wedlock instituted by God? And besides this, the Holy Spirit does not make the misbelieving of him who departs, but the departing of him who disbelieves, to be the just cause of freedom to the brother or sister.
Since therefore it will be agreed among Christians, that they who depart from wedlock without just cause, do not only deny the faith of matrimony, but of Christ also, whatever they profess with their mouths; it is but reason to conclude, that the party deserted is not bound in case of causeless desertion, but that he may lawfully seek another onsort, if it be needful to him, toward a pure and blameless conversation.
The impotence of body, leprosy, madness, &c. are just causes of divorce.
Or this, because it was not disputed in the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, him that would know further, I commend to the Latin original.
That to grant divorce for all the causes which have been hitherto brought, disagrees not from the words of Christ, naming only the cause of adultery. Now we 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 whereof, we must ever remember this: That in the words of our Saviour there can be no contrariety: That his words and answers are not to be stretched beyond the question proposed: That our Saviour did not there purpose to treat of all the causes for which it might be lawful 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 Pharisees about divorce, and second marriage, and how far his answer doth extend.
First, no man who is not very contentious will deny, that the Pharisees asked our Lord whether it were lawful to put away such a wife, as was truly, and according to God's law, to be counted a wife; that is, such a one as would dwell with her husband, and both would and could perform the necessary duties of wedlock tolerably. But she who will not dwell with her husband is not put away by him, but goes of herself: and she who denies to be a meet help, or to be so hath made herself unfit by open misdemeanors, or through incurable impotencies cannot be able, is not by