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DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE
C H A P. I.
The ordinance of fabbath and marriage compared. Hy
perbole no unfrequent figure in the gospel. E.xcess cured by contrary excess. Chrift neither did nor could abrogate
the law of divorce, but only reprieve the abuse thereof. HITHERTO the position undertaken has been declar ed, and proved by a law of God, that law proved to be moral, and unabolishable, for many reasons equal, honest, charitable, just, annexed thereto. It follows now, that thofe places of fcripture, which have a seeming to revoke the prudence of Moses, or rather that merciful decree of God, be forthwith explained and reconciled. For what are all these reasonings worth, will fome reply, whenas the words of Christ are plainly against all divorce, " except in case of fornication?” to whom he whose mind were to answer no more but this, “except also in case of charity,” might safely appeal to the more plain words of Christ in defence of fo excepting. “Thou shalt do no manner of work,” saith the commandment of the fabbath. Yes, faith Christ, works of charity. And shall we be more severe in paraphrasing the considerate and tender gospel, than he was in expounding the rigid and peremptory law? What was ever in all appearanceless made for man, and more for God alone, than the fabbath? yet when the good of man comes into the scales, we hear that Vol. II.
voice of infinite goodness and benignity, that “ sabbath was made for man, not man for fabbath.” What thing ever was more made for man alone, and less for God, than marriage? And shall we load it with a cruel and senseless bondage utterly against both the good of man, and the glory of God? Let whoso will now listen, I want neither pall nor mitre, I stay neither for ordination nor induction; but in the firm faith of a knowing christian, which is the best and truest endowment of the keys, I pronounce, the man, who Thall bind fo cruelly a good and gracious ordinance of God, hath not in that the spirit of Christ. Yet that every text of feripture seeming opposite may be attended with a due expofition, this other part ensues, and makes account to find no flender arguments for this affertion, out of those very fcriptures, which are .commonly urged against it.
First therefore let us remember, as a thing not to be denied, that all places of fcripture, wherein just reason of doubt arises from the letter, are to be expounded by confidering upon what occasion every thing is fet down, and by comparing other texts. The occasion, which induced our Saviour to speak of divorce, was either to convince the extravagance of the pharisees in that point, or to give a sharp and vehement answer to a tempting question, And in such cases, that we are not to repose all upon the literal terms of so many words, many instances will teach us: wherein we may plainly discover how Chrift meant not to be taken word for word, but like a wise physician, administering one excess against another, to reduce us to a permiss; where they were too remiss, he saw it needful to seem most severe: in one place he censures an unchaste look to be adultery already committed; another time he passes over actual adultery with less reproof than for an unchaste look; not so heavily condemning secret weakness, as open malice: fo here he may be justly thought to have given this rigid sentence against divorce, not to cut off all remedy from a good man, who finds himself consuming away in a disconfolate and uninjoined matrimony, but to lay a bridle upon the bold abuses of those, overweening rabbies; which he could not more effectually do, than by a countersway of
restraint curbing their wild exorbitance almost in the other extreme; as when we bow things the contrary way, to make them come to their natural straightness. And that this was the only intention of Christ is most evident, if we attend but to his own words and protestation made in the same fermon, not many verses before he treats of divorcing, that he came not to abrogate from the law one jot or tittle,' and denounces against them that shall fo teach.
But St. Luke, the verse immediately foregoing that of divorce, inserts the fame caveat, as if the latter could not be understood without the former; and as a witness to produce against this our wilful mistake of abrogating, which must needs confirm us, that whatever else in the political law of more special relation to the Jews might cease to us; yet that of those precepts concerning divorce, not one of them was repealed by the doctrine of Christ, unless we have vowed not to believe his own cautious and immediate profeflion; for if these our Saviour's words inveigh against all divorce, and condemn it as adultery, except it be for adultery, and be not rather understood against the abuse of those divorces permitted in the law, then is that law of Moses, Deut. xxiv, 1, not only repealed and wholly annulled against the promise of Christ, and his known profeslion not to meddle in matters judicial; but that which is more firange, the very substance and purpose of that law is contradicted, and convinced both of injustice and impurity, as having authorized and maintained legal adultery bytiatute. Moses also cannot scape to be guilty of unequal and unwise decrees, punithing one act of fecret adultery by death, and permitting a whole life of open adultery by law. And albeit lawyers write, that some political edicts, though not approved, are yet allowed to the scum of the people, and the neceflity of the times; these excuses have but a weak pulse: for first, we read, not that the scoundrel people, but the choiceft, the wifeft, the holiest of that nation have frequently used these laws, or such as there, in the best and holiest times. Secondly, be it yielded, that in matters not very bad or impure, a human lawgiver may blacken fomething of that which is Vol. II.
exactly good, to the disposition of the people and the times: but if the perfect, the pure, the righteous law of God, (for so are all his statutes and his judgments,) be found to have allowed smoothly, without any certain : reprehension, that which Christ afterward declares to be adultery, how can we free this law from the horrible indictment of being both impure, unjust, and fallacious ?
How divorce was permitted for hardness of heart, cannot
be understood by the common exposition. That the law cannot permit, much less enact a permision of fin.
NEITHER will it serve to say this was permitted for the hardness of their hearts, in that sense as it is usually explained: for the law were then but a corrupt and erroneous schoolmaster, teaching us to dath against a vital maxim of religion, by doing foul evil in hope of some certain good.
This only text is not to be matched again throughout the whole scripture, whereby God in his perfect law Thould seem to have granted to the hard hearts of his holy people, under his own hand, a civil immunity and free charter to live and die in a long successive adultery, under a covenant of works, till the Messiah, and then that indulgent permission to be strictly denied by a covenant of grace; besides, the incoherence of such a doctrine cannot, must not be thus interpreted, to the raising of a paradox never known till then, only hanging by the twined thread of one doubtful scripture, against so many other rules and leading principles of religion, of justice, and purity of life. For what could be granted more either to the fear, or to the luft of any tyrant or politician, than this authority of Moses thus expounded; which opens him a way at will to dam up justice, and not only to admit of any Romish or Austrian dispenses, but to enact a statute of that which he dares not seem to approve, even to legitimate vice, to make sin itself, the ever alien and vassal fin, a free citizen of the common