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dissolve the bond; and reason taught them that separation must frequently take place even before that period. No age or record, since the fall of man, gives a tradition of any other beginning in which it was not so.3 In the earliest ages of our faith, Abraham himself, the father of the faithful, put away his contentious and turbulent wife Hagar by the command of God, Gen. xxi. 10, 12, 14.
Christ himself, v. 9. permitted divorce for the cause of fornication; which could not have been, if those whom God had once joined in the bands of matrimony were never afterwards to be disunited. According to the idiom of the eastern languages, however, the word fornication signifies, not adultery only, but either what is called any unclean thing, or a defect in some particular which might justly be required in a wife, Deut. xxiv. 1. (as Selden was the first to prove by numerous testimonies in his Uxor Hebræa) or it signifies whatever is found to be irreconcileably at variance with love, or fidelity, or help, or society, that is, with the objects of the original institution ; as Selden proves, and as I have myself shewn in another
3 From the beginning, that is to say by the institution in Paradise, it was not intended that matrimony should dissolve for every trivial cause, as you Pharisees accustom. But that it was not thus suffered from the beginning ever since the race of men corrupted, and laws were made, he who will affirm must have found out other antiquities than are yet known. Besides, we must consider now, what can be so as from the beginning, not only what should be so. In the beginning, had men continued perfect, it had been just that all things should have remained, as they began to Adam and Eve, &c.' Tetrachordon. Prose Works, III. 389
4For the language of the Scripture signifies by fornication....not only the trespass of the body .... but signifies also any notable disobedience, or intractable carriage of the wife to the husband.' Tetrachordon, Prose Works, III. 395.
5 See Book III. Chaps. xxii. and xxviii. Selden is quoted again with approbation in the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. Let him hasten to be acquainted with that noble volume written by our learned Selden, Of the Law of Nature and of Nations, a work more useful and more worthy to be perused by whosoever studies to be a great man in wisdom, equity, and justice,' &c. Prose Works, III. 269. He calls him also, in the Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, the chief of learned men reported in this land.' II. 52. Again, in his Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano, referring to the treatise here quoted, he says, 'quid item de excepta solum fornicatione sentiendum sit, et meam aliorumque sententiam exprompsi, et clarissimus vir Seldenus noster, in Uxore Hebræa plus ninus biennio post edita, uberius demonstravit.' Symmons' ed. V. 234.
treatise from several texts of Scripture. For it would have been absurd, when the Pharisees asked, whether it was allowable to put away a wife for every cause, to answer, that it was not lawful except in case of adultery, when it was well known already to be not only lawful but necessary to put away an adulteress, and that not by divorce, but by death. Fornication, therefore, must be here understood in a much wider sense than that of simple adultery, as is clear from many passages of Scripture, and particularly from Judg. xix. 2. "his concubine played the whore against him;" not by committing adultery, for in that case she would not have dared to flee to her father's house, but by refractory behaviour towards her husband. Nor could St. Paul have allowed divorce in consequence of the departure of an unbeliever, unless this also were a species of fornication. It does not affect the question, that the case alluded to is that of a heathen; since whoever deserts her family "is worse than an infidel,” 1 Tim. v. 8. Nor could anything be more natural, or more agreeable to the original institution, than that the bond which had been formed by love, and the
6 This is the only direct reference to any of Milton's printed works which this treatise contains. The allusion is to a passage in Tetrachordon, where the author explains the text, saving for the cause of fornication. Prose Works, III. 394–398. It has been generally supposed that Milton's opinions on the subject of divorce were influenced by the well-known circumstances connected with his first marriage, and Warton says that he published Tetrachordon in consequence. Some probability seems to have been given to this conjecture by the passage quoted in the note 4, page 244. But though Milton's attention may have been first directed to this subject by his own domestic unhappiness, it is evident from the work now published, that his sentiments respecting divorce were deliberately conceived, and that the treatises which he printed during his life-time were not merely intended to serve a temporary purpose, in which he was personally interested.
7 Grotius shows also, that fornication is taken in Scripture for such a continual headstrong behaviour, as tends to plain contempt of the husband, and proves out of Judg. xix. 2. where the Levite's wife is said to have played the whore against him; which Josephus and the Septuagint, with the Chaldean, interpret only of stubbornness and rebellion against her husband..... Had it been whoredom, she would have chosen any other place to run to than her father's house, it being so infamous for a Hebrew woman to play the harlot, and so opprobrious to the parents. Fornication then in this place of the Judges is understood for stubborn disobedience against the husband, and not for adultery.' Doctrine, &c. III. 256. See 1 Cor. vii. 15.
hope of mutual assistance through life, and honourable motives, should be dissolved by hatred and implacable enmity, and disgraceful conduct on either side. For man, therefore, in his state of innocence in Paradise, previously to the entrance of sin into the world, God ordained that marriage should be indissoluble; after the fall, in compliance with the alteration of circumstances, and to prevent the innocent from being exposed to perpetual injury from the wicked, he permitted its dissolution: and this permission forms part of the law of nature and of Moses, and is not disallowed by Christ. Thus every covenant, when originally concluded, is intended to be perpetual and indissoluble, however soon it may be broken by the bad faith of one of the parties; nor has any good reason yet been given why marriage should differ in this respect from all other compacts; especially since the apostle has pronounced that "a brother or a sister is not under bondage," not merely in case of desertion, out in such cases, that is, in all cases that produce an unworthy bondage." 1 Cor. vii. 15. "a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God hath called us in peace, or to peace; " he has not therefore called us to the end that we should be harassed with constant discord and vexations; for the object of our call is peace and liberty, not marriage, much less perpetual discord and the slavish bondage of an unhappy union, which the apostle declares to be above all things unworthy of a free man and a Christian. It is not to be supposed that Christ would ex
9 St. Paul leaves us here the solution not of this case only, which little concerns us, but of such like cases, which may occur to us.' Tetrachordon. Prose Works, III. 412.
1 'Having declared his opinion in one case, he leaves a further liberty for Christian prudence to determine in cases of like importance, using words so plain as not to be shifted off, that a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases, adding also that God hath called us to peace in marriage. Now if it be plain that a Christian may be brought into unworthy bondage, and his religous peace not only interrupted now and then, but perpetually and finally hindered in wedlock, by misyoking with a diversity of nature as well as of religion, the reasons of St. Paul cannot be made special to that one case of infidelity, but are of equal moment to divorce wherever Christian liberty and peace are without fault equally obstructed.' Doctrine, &c. III. 259.
2 St Paul here warrants us to seek peace rather than to remain in bondage. If God hath called us to peace, why should not we follow him? why should we miserably stay in perpetual discord under a set vitude not required?' Tetrachordon, III. 411.
punge from the Mosaic law any enactment which could afford scope for the exercise of mercy towards the wretched and afflicted, or that his declaration on the present occasion was intended to have the force of a judicial decree, ordaining new and severer regulations on the subject; but that having exposed the abuses of the law, he proceeded after his usual manner to lay down a more perfect rule of conduct, disclaiming on this, as on all other occasions, the office of a judge, and inculcating truth by simple admonition, not by compulsory decrees. It is therefore a most flagrant error to convert a gospel precept into a civil statute, and enforce it by legal penalties.
It may perhaps be asked, if the disciples understood Christ. as promulgating nothing new or more severe than the existing law on the subject of divorce, how it happened that they were so little satisfied with his explanation, as to say, v. 10. "if the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry?" I answer, that it is no wonder if the disciples, who had imbibed the doctrines of their time, thought and felt like the Pharisees with regard to divorce; so that the declaration of our Lord, that it was not lawful to put away a wife for every cause, only having given her a writing of divorcement, must have appeared to them a new and hard saying.3
The whole argument may be summed up in brief as follows. It is universally admitted that marriage may lawfully be dissolved, if the prime end and form of the institu
3 But if it be thought that the disciples, offended at the rigour of Christ's answer, could yet obtain no mitigation of the former sentence pronounced to the Pharisees, it may be fully answered, that our Saviour continues the same reply to his disciples, as men leavened with the same customary license which the Pharisees maintained, and displeased at the removing of a traditional abuse, whereto they had so long not unwillingly been used.' Doctrine, &c. Prose Works, III. 236. Some may think, if this our Saviour's sentence be so fair, as not commanding aught that patience or nature cannot brook, why then did the disciples murmur and say, it is not good to marry? I answer, that the disciples had been longer bred up under the Pharisæan doctrine, than under that of Christ, and so no marvel though they yet retained the infection of loving old licentious customs; no marvel though they thought it hard they might not for any offence, that thoroughly angered them, divorce a wife, as well as put away a servant, since it was but giving her a bill, as they were taught.' Tetrachordon, III. 401.
tion be violated; which is generally alleged as the reason why Christ allowed divorce in cases of adultery only. But the prime end and form of marriage, as almost all acknowledge, is not the nuptial bed, but conjugal love, and mutual assistance through life; for that must be regarded as the prime end and form of a rite, which is alone specified in the original institution. Mention is there made of the pleasures of society, which are incompatible with the isolation consequent upon aversion, and of conjugal assistance, which is afforded by love alone; not of the nuptial bed, or of the production of offspring, which may take place even without love: from whence it is evident that conjugal affection is of more importance and higher excellence than the nuptial bed itself, and more worthy to be considered as the prime end and form of the institution. No one can surely be so base and sensual as to deny this. The very cause which renders the pollution of the marriage bed so heavy a calamity, is, that in its consequences it interrupts peace and affection; much more therefore must the perpetual interruption of peace and affection by mutual differences and unkindness be a sufficient reason for granting the liberty of divorce. And that it is such, Christ himself declares in the above passage; for it is certain, and has been proved already, that fornication signifies, not so much adultery, as the constant enmity, faithlessness, and disobedience of the wife, arising from the manifest and palpable alienation of the mind, rather than of the body. Not to mention, that the common, though false interpretation, by which adultery is made the sole ground of divorce, so far from vindicating the law, does in effect abrogate it; for it was ordained by the law of Moses, not that an adulteress should be put away, but that she should be brought to judgment, and punished with death."
4For although God in the first ordaining of marriage taught us to what end he did it, in words expressly implying the apt and cheerful conversation of man with woman, to comfort and refresh him against the evil of solitary life, not mentioning the purpose of generation till afterwards, as being but a secondary end in dignity, though not in necessity,' &c. Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. Prose Works, III. 181.
5 Thus much that the word fornication is to be understood as the language of Christ understands it, for a constant alienation and disaffection of mind, or for the continual practice of disobedience and crossness from the duties of love and peace.' Tetrachordon, III. 397.
And also that there was no need our Saviour should grant divorce for adultery, it being death by law, and law then in force.' Ibid. 396.