« PreviousContinue »
the law of God to be esteemed a wife; as hath been shown both from the first institution, and other places of Scripture. Neither certainly would the Pharisees propound a question concerning such an unconjugal wife; for their depravation of the law had brought them to that pass, as to think a man had right to put away his wife for any cause, though never so slight. Since, therefore, it is manifest, that Christ answered the Pharisees concerning a fit and meet wife according to the law of God, whom he forbid to divorce for any cause but fornication; who sees not that it is a wickedness so to wrest and extend that answer of his, as if it forbad to divorce her who hath already forsaken, or hath lost the place and dignity of a wife, by deserved infamy, or hath undertaken to be that which she hath not natural ability to be?
This truth is so powerful, that it hath moved the papists to grant their kind of divorce for other causes besides adultery, as for ill usage, and the not performing of conjugal duty; and to separate from bed and board for these causes, which is as much divorce as they grant for adultery.
But some perhaps will object, that though it be yielded that our Lord granted divorce not only for adultery, yet it is not certain that he permitted marriage after divorce, unless for that only cause. I answer, first, that the sentence of divorce and second marriage is one and the same. So that when the right of divorce is evinced to belong not only to the cause of for nication, the power of second marriage is also proved to be not limited to that cause only; and that most evidently whenas the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. vii. so frees the deserted party from bondage, as that he may not only send a just divorce in case of desertion, but may seek another marriage.
Lastly, seeing God will not that any should live in danger of fornication and utter ruin for the default of another, and hath commanded the husband to send away with a bill of divorce her whom he could not love; it is impossible that the charge of adultery should belong to him who for lawful causes divorces and marries, or to her who marries after she hath been unjustly rejected, or to him who receives her without all fraud to the former wedlock. For this were a horrid blasphemy against God, so to interpret his words, as to make him dissent from himself; for who sees not a flat contradiction in this, to enthral blameless men and women to miseries and injuries, under a false and soothing title of marriage, and yet to declare by his apostle, that a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases? No less do these two things conflict with themselves, to enforce the innocent and faultless to endure the pain and misery of another's perverseness, or else to live in unavoidable temptation; and to affirm elsewhere that he lays on no man the burden of another man's sin, nor doth constrain any man to the endangering of his soul.
That to those also who are justly divorced, second marriage ought to be per
THIS, although it will be proved, yet because it concerns only the offender, I leave him to search out his own charter, himself, in the author.
That some persons are so ordained to marriage, as that they cannot obtain the gift of continence, no not by earnest prayer; and that therein every one is to be left to his own judgment and conscience, and not to have c burden laid upon him by any other.
The words of the apostle concerning the praise of single life unfolded. THESE two chapters not so immediately debating the right of divorce, I choose rather not to insert.
The conclusion of this treatise.
THESE things, most renowned king, I have brought together, both to explain for what causes the unhappy, but sometimes most necessary help of divorce ought to be granted, according to God's word, by princes and rulers; as also to explain how the words of Christ do consent with such a grant. I have been large indeed both in handling those oracles of God, and in laying down those certain principles, which he who will know what the mind of God is in this matter, must ever think on and remember. But if we consider what mist and obscurity hath been poured out by Antichrist upon this question, and how deep this pernicious contempt of wedlock, and admiration of single life, even in those who are not called thereto, hath sunk into many men's persuasions; I fear lest all that hath been said be hardly enough to persuade such, that they would cease at length to make themselves wiser and holier than God himself, in being so severe to grant lawful marriage, and so easy to connive at all, not only whoredoms but deflowerings and adulteries: whenas, among the people of God, no whoredom was to be tolerated.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to destroy the works of Satan, sent down his Spirit upon all Christians, and principally upon Christian governors both in church and commonwealth, (for of the clear judgment of your royal majesty I nothing doubt, revolving the Scripture so often as ye do,) that they may acknowledge how much they provoke the anger of God against us, whenas all kind of unchastity is tolerated, fornications and adulteries winked at; but holy and honourable wedlock is oft withheld by the mere persuasion of Antichrist, from such as without this remedy cannot preserve themselves from damnation! For none who hath but a spark of honesty will deny, that princes and states ought to use diligence toward the maintaining of pure and honest life among all men, without which all justice, all fear of God, and true religion decays.
And who knows not, that chastity and pureness of life can never be restored, or continued in the commonwealth, unless it be first established in private houses, from whence the whole breed of men is to come forth? To effect this, no wise man can doubt, that it is necessary for princes and magistrates first with severity to punish whoredom and adultery; next to see that marriages be lawfully contracted, and in the Lord; then that they be faithfully kept; and lastly, when that unhappiness urges, that they be lawfully dissolved, and other marriage granted, according as the law of God, and of nature, and the constitutions of pious princes have decreed ; as I have shown both by evident authorities of Scripture, together with the writings of the ancient fathers, and other testimonies. Only the Lord grant that we may learn to prefer his ever just and saving word, before the comments of Antichrist, too deeply rooted in many, and the false blasphemous exposition of our Saviour's words. Amen.
THUS far Martin Bucer: whom, where I might without injury to either part of the cause, I deny not to have epitomized; in the rest observing a well-warranted rule, not to give an inventory of so many words, but to weigh their force. I could have added that eloquent and right Christian discourse, written by Erasmus on this argument, not disagreeing in effect from Bucer. But this, I hope, will be enough to excuse me with the mere Englishman, to be no forger of new and loose opinions. Others may read him in his own phrase on the first to the Corinthians, and ease me whọ never could delight in long citations, much less in whole traductions; whether it be natural disposition or education in me, or that my mother bore me a speaker of what God made mine own, and not a translator. There be others also whom I could reckon up, of no mean account in the church, (and Peter Martyr among the first,) who are more than half our own in this controversy. But this is a providence not to be slighted, that as Bucer wrote this tractate of divorce in England and for England, so Erasmus professes he begun here among us the same subject, especially out of compassion, for the need he saw this nation had of some charitable redress herein; and seriously exhorts others to use their best industry in the clearing of this point, wherein custom hath a greater sway than verity, That, therefore, which came into the mind of these two admired strangers to do for England, and in a touch of highest prudence, which they took to be not yet recovered from monastic superstition, if I a native am found to have done for mine own country, altogether suitably and conformably to their so large and clear understanding, yet without the least help of theirs; I suppose that henceforward among conscionable and judicious persons it will no more be thought to my discredit, or at all to this nation's dishonour. And if these their books the one shall be printed often with best allowance in most religious cities, the other with express authority of Leo the Tenth, a pope, shall, for the propagating of truth, be published and republished, though against the received opinion of that church, and mine containing but the same thing, shall in a time of reformation, a time of free speaking, free writing, not find a permission to the press; I refer me to wisest men, whether truth be suffered to be truth, or liberty to be liberty, now among us, and be not again in danger of new fetters and captivity after all our hopes and labours lost: and whether learning be not (which our enemies too prophetically feared) in the way to be trodden down again by ignorance. Whereof while time is, out of the faith owing to God and my country, I bid this kingdom beware; and doubt not but God who hath dignified this parliament already to so many glorious degrees, will also give them (which is a singular blessing) to inform themselves rightly in the midst of an unprincipled age, and to prevent this working mystery of ignorance and ecclesiastical thraldom, which under new shapes and disguises begins afresh to grow upon us.
UPON THE FOUR CHIEF PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE WHICH TREAT OF MARRIAGE, OR NULLITIES IN MARRIAGE.
ON GEN. i 27, 28, COMPARED AND EXPLAINED BY GEN. ii. 18, 23, 24. DEUT. xxiv. 1. 2. MATT. v. 31, 32, WITH MATT. xix. FROM VER. 3 TO 11. 1 COR. vii. FROM VER. 10 TO 16.
WHEREIN THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE, AS WAS LATELY PUBLISHED, IS CONFIRMED BY EXPLANATION OF SCRIPTURE, BY TESTIMONY OF ANCIENT FATHERS, OF CIVIL LAWS IN THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH, OF FAMOUSEST REFORMED DIVINES; AND LASTLY, BY AN INTENDED ACT of the PARLIAMENT AND CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN THE LAST YEAR OF EDWARD
Σκαιοῖσι καινὰ προσφέρων σοφὰ
Δόξεις ἀχρεῖορ, κοὺ σοφὸς πεφυκέναι.
Τῶν δ ̓ αὖ δοκούντων εἰδέναι τί ποικίλου,
Κρείσσων νομισθεὶς ἐν πόλει, λυπρὸς φανῇ. Euripid. Medea.
TO THE PARLIAMENT.
THAT which I knew to be the part of a good magistrate, aiming at true liberty through the right information of religious and civil life, and that which I saw, and was partaker of, your solemn vows and covenants, parliament of England! your actions also manifestly tending to exalt the truth, and to depress the tyranny of error and ill custom, with more constancy and prowess than ever yet any, since that parliament which put the first sceptre of this kingdom into his hand whom God and extraordinary virtue made their monarch; were the causes that moved me, one else not placing much in the eminence of a dedication, to present your high notice with a discourse, conscious to itself of nothing more than of diligence, and firm affection to the public good. And that ye took it so as wise and impartial men, obtaining so great power and dignity, are wont to accept, in matters both doubtful and important, what they think offered them well meant, and from a rational ability, I had no less than to persuade me. And on that persuasion am returned, as to a famous and free port, myself also bound by more than a maritime law, to expose as freely what fraughtage I conceive to bring of no trifles. For although it be generally known, how and by whom ye have been instigated to a hard censure of that former book, entitled, "The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce," an opinion held by some of the best among reformed writers without scandal or confutement, though now thought new and dangerous by some of our severe Gnostics, whose little reading and less meditating, holds ever with hardest obstinacy that which it took up with easiest credulity; I do not find yet that aught, for the furious incitements which have been used, hath issued by your appointment, that might give the least interruption or disrepute either to the author, or to the book. Which he who will be better advised than to call your neglect or connivance at a
thing imagined so perilous, can attribute it to nothing more justly, than to the deep and quiet stream of your direct and calm deliberations, that gave not way either to the fervent rashness or the immaterial gravity of those who ceased not to exasperate without cause. For which uprightness and incorrupt refusal of what ye were incensed to, lords and commons! (though it were done to justice, not to me, and was a peculiar demonstration how far your ways are different from the rash vulgar,) besides those allegiances of oath and duty, which are my public debt to your public labours, I have yet a store of gratitude laid up, which cannot be exhausted; and such thanks perhaps they may live to be, as shall more than whisper to the ext ages. Yet that the author may be known to ground himself upon his own inno cence, and the merit of his cause, not upon the favour of a diversion or a delay to any just censure, but wishes rather he might see those mis uptractors at any fair meeting, as learned debatements are privileged a que treedom under equal moderators; I shall here briefly single one of them, (because he hath obliged me to it,) who, I persuade me, having scarce read the book, nor knowing him who writ it, or at least feigning the latter, hath not forborn to scandalize him, unconferred with, unadmonished, undealt with by any pastorly or brotherly convincement, in the most open and invective manner, and at the most bitter opportunity that drift or set design could have invented. And this, when as the canon law, though commonly most favouring the boldness of their priests, punishes the naming or traducing of any person in the pulpit, was by him made no scruple. If I shall therefore take license by the right of nature, and that liberty wherein I was born, to defend myself publicly against a printed calumny, and do willingly appeal to those judges to whom I am accused, it can be no immoderate or unallowable course of seeking so just and needful reparations. Which I had done long since, had not those employments, which are now visible, deferred me. It was preached before ye, lords and commons! in August last, upon a special day of humiliation, that "there was a wicked book abroad," and ye were taxed of sin that it was yet "uncensured, the book deserving to be burnt;" and "impudence" also was charged upon the author, who durst "set his name to it, and dedicate it to yourselves!" First, lords and commons! I pray to that God, before whom ye then were prostrate, so to forgive ye those omissions and trespasses, which ye desire most should find forgiveness, as I shall soon show to the world how easily ye absolve yourselves of that which this man calls your sin, and is indeed your wisdom, and your nobleness, whereof to this day ye have done well not to repent. He terms it "a wicked book," and why but "for allowing other causes of divorce, than Christ and his apostles mention ?" and with the same censure condemns of wickedness not only Martin Bucer, that elect instrument of reformation, highly honoured, and had in reverence by Edward the Sixth, and his whole parliament, whom also I had published in English by a good providence, about a week before this calumnious digression was preached; so that if he knew not Bucer then, as he ought to have known, he might at least have known him some months after, ere the sermon came in print; wherein notwithstanding he persists in his former sentence, and condemns again of wickedness, either ignorantly or wilfully, not only Martin Bucer, and all the choicest and holiest of our reformers, but the whole parliament and church of England in those best and purest times of Edward the Sixth. All which I shall prove with good evidence, at the end of these explanations. And then let it be judged and seriously considered with what hope the affairs of our religion are committed to one among others, who hath now only left him which of the twain he will choose, whether this shall be his palpable ignorance, or the same wickedness of his