Page images

feeks to part, is one who highly honours the married life and would not ftain it: and the reafons which now move him to divorce, are equal to the beft of those that could firft warrant him to marry; for, as was plainly fhown, both the hate which now diverts him, and the loneliness which leads him ftill powerfully to feek a fit help, hath not the leaft grain of a fin in it, if he be worthy to understand himself.


The third reafon of this law, because without it, he who has happened where he finds nothing but remedilefs offences and difcontents, is in more and greater temptations than ever before.

THIRDLY; Yet it is next to be feared, if he must be

ftill bound without reason by a deaf rigour, that when he perceives the juft expectance of his mind defeated, he will begin even against law to caft about where he may find his fatisfaction more complete, unless he be a thing heroically virtuous; and that are not the common lump of men, for whom chiefly the laws ought to be made; though not to their fins, yet to their unfinning weakneffes, it being above their strength to endure the lonely eftate, which while they fhunned they are fallen into. And yet there follows upon this a worfe temptation: for if he be such as hath spent his youth unblameably, and laid up his chiefeft earthly comforts in the enjoyments of a contented marriage, nor did neglect that furtherance which was to be obtained therein by conftant prayers; when he fhall find himself bound faft to an uncomplying discord of nature, or, as it oft happens, to an image of earth and phlegm, with whom he looked to be the copartner of a sweet and gladfome fociety, and fees withal that his bondage is now inevitable; though he be almost the strongest chriftian, he will be ready to despair in virtue, and mutiny against divine providence: and this doubtlefs is the reafon of thofe lapfes, and that melancholy defpair, which we fee in many wedded perfons, though they understand it not, or pretend other causes, because they know no remedy, and is of extreme danger: therefore when human frailty furcharged is at fuch

fuch a lofs, charity ought to venture much, and use bold phyfic, left an overtoffed faith endanger to fhipwreck.


The fourth reafon of this law, that God regards love and peace in the family, more than a compulfive performance of marriage, which is more brake by a grievous continuance, than by a needful divorce.


FOURTHLY, Marriage is a covenant, the very being

whereof confifts not in a forced cohabitation, and counterfeit performance of duties, but in unfeigned love and peace and of matrimonial love, no doubt but that was chiefly meant, which by the ancient fages was thus parabled; that Love, if he be not twin born, yet hath a brother wondrous like him, called Anteros; whom while he feeks all about, his chance is to meet with many falfe and feigning defires, that wander fingly up and down in his likeness: by them in their borrowed garb, Love, though not wholly blind, as poets wrong him, yet having but one eye, as being born an archer aiming, and that eye not the quickeft in this dark region here below, which is not Love's proper sphere, partly out of the fimplicity and credulity which is native to him, often deceived, embraces and conforts him with these obvious and fuborned ftriplings, as if they were his mother's own fons; for fo he thinks them, while they fubtilly keep themselves moft on his blind fide. But after a while, as his manner is, when foaring up into the high tower of his Apogæum, above the fhadow of the earth, he darts out the direct rays of his then moft piercing eyefight upon the impoftures, and trim difguifes, that were used with him, and difcerns that this is not his genuine brother as he imagined; he has no longer the power to hold fellowship with fuch a perfonated mate: for ftraight his arrows lofe their golden heads, and shed their purple feathers, his filken braids untwine, and slip their knots, and that original and fiery virtue given him by fate all on a fudden goes out, and leaves him undeified and defpoiled of all his force; till finding Anteros at laft, he kindles and repairs the almoft faded ammuA a 3 nition

nition of his deity by the reflection of a coequal and homogeneal fire. Thus mine author fung it to me: and by the leave of thofe who would be counted the only grave ones, this is no mere amatorious novel (though to be wife and skilful in these matters, men heretofore of greateft name in virtue have efteemed it one of the highest arcs, that human contemplation circling upwards can make from the globy fea whereon fhe ftands:) but this is a deep and ferious verity, fhowing us that love in marriage cannot live nor fubfift unless it be mutual; and where love cannot be, there can be left of wedlock nothing but the empty husk of an outfide matrimony, as undelightful and unpleafing to God as any other kind of hypocrify. So far is his command from tying men to the obfervance of duties which there is no help for, but they must be diffembled. If Solomon's advice be not overfrolic, " live joyfully," faith he, "with the wife whom thou loveft, all thy days, for that is thy portion." How then, where we find it impoffible to rejoice or to love, can we obey this precept? How miferably do we defraud ourselves of that comfortable portion, which God gives us, by ftriving vainly to glue an errour together, which God and nature will not join, adding but more vexation and violence to that blissful fociety by our importunate fuperftition, that will not hearken to St. Paul, 1 Cor. vii, who, fpeaking of marriage and divorce, determines plain enough in general, that God therein "hath called us to peace, and not to bondage." Yea, God himself commands in his law more than once, and by his Prophet Malachi, as Calvin and the best tranflations read, that "he who hates, let him divorce," that is, he who cannot love. Hence it is that the rabbins, and Maimonides famous among the rest in a book of his fet forth by Buxtorfius tells us, that "divorce was permitted by Mofes to preferve peace in marriage, and quiet in the family." Surely the Jews had their faving peace about them as well as we, yet care was taken that this wholefome provifion for household peace fhould also be allowed them: and muft this be denied to chriftians? O perverseness! that the law fhould be made more provident of peacemaking than the gofpel! that the


[ocr errors]

gospel fhould be put to beg a moft neceffary help of mercy from the law, but muft not have it; and that to grind in the mill of an undelighted and fervile copulation, must be the only forced work of a chriftian marriage, ofttimes with fuch a yokefellow, from whom both love and peace, both nature and religion mourns to be feparated. I cannot therefore be fo diffident, as not fecurely to conclude, that he who can receive nothing of the most important helps in marriage, being thereby difinabled to return that duty which is his, with a clear and hearty countenance, and thus continues to grieve whom he would not, and is no lefs grieved; that man ought even for love's fake and peace to move divorce upon good and liberal conditions to the divorced. And it is a lefs breach of wedlock to part with wife and quiet confent betimes, than ftill to foil and prophane that mystery of joy and union with a polluting fadnefs and perpetual distemper: for it is not the outward continuing of marriage that keeps whole that covenant, but whatsoever does moft according to peace and love, whether in marriage or in divorce, he it is that breaks marraige leaft; it being so often written, that "Love only is the fulfilling of every commandment.”



The fifth reason, that nothing more kinders and difturbs the whole life of a chriftian, than a matrimony found to be incurably unfit, and doth the fame in effect that an idolatrous match.


IFTHLY, AS thofe priests of old were not to be long in forrow, or if they were, they could not rightly execute their function; fo every true chriftian in a higher order of priesthood is a perfon dedicate to joy and peace, offering himself a lively facrifice of praife and thanksgiving, and there is no chriftian duty that is not to be seasoned and set off with cheerifhnefs; which in a thousand outward and intermitting croffes may yet be done well, as in this vale of tears: but in fuch a bofom affliction as this, crushing the very foundation of his inmost nature, when he shall be forced to love against a poffibility, and to use a diffimulation againft his foul in the perpetual A a 4


and ceaseless duties of a hufband; doubtlefs his whole duty of ferving God muft needs be blurred and tainted with a fad unpreparedness and dejection of spirit wherein God has no delight. Who fees not therefore how much more chriftianity it would be to break by divorce, that which is more broken by undue and forcible keeping, rather than "to cover the altar of the Lord with continual tears, fo that he regardeth not the offering any more," rather than that the whole worship of a christian man's life fhould languish and fade away beneath the weight of an immeafurable grief and difcouragement? And because fome think the children of a fecond matrimony fucceeding a divorce would not be a holy feed, it hindered not the Jews from being fo; and why should we not think them more holy than the offspring of a former illtwisted wedlock, begotten only out of a beftial neceffity, without any true love or contentment, or joy to their parents? So that in some sense we may call them the "children of wrath" and anguifh, which will as little conduce to their fanctifying, as if they had been baftards: for nothing more than difturbance of mind fufpends us from approaching to God; fuch a disturbance especially, as both affaults our faith and truft in God's providence, and ends, if there be not a miracle of virtue on either fide, not only in bitterness and wrath, the canker of devotion, but in a defperate and vicious careleffness, when he fees himself, without fault of his, trained by a deceitful bait into a fuare of mifery, betrayed by an alluring ordinance, and then made the thrall of heavinefs and discomfort by an undivorcing law of God, as he erroneoufly thinks, but of man's iniquity, as the truth is: for that God prefers the free and cheerful worship of a chriftian, before the grievance and exacted obfervance of an unhappy marriage, befides that the general maxims of religion affure us, will be more manifeft by drawing a parallel argument from the ground of divorcing an idolatrefs, which was, left he should alienate his heart from the true worship of God: and what difference is there whether fhe pervert him to fuperftition by her enticing forcery, or difenable him in the whole fervice of God through the difturbance of her unhelpful and unfit fociety; and fo drive

« PreviousContinue »