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DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE
The ordinance of fabbath and marriage compared. Hy perbole no unfrequent figure in the gospel. Excess cured by contrary excefs. Chrift neither did nor could abrogate the law of divorce, but only reprieve the abufe thereof. HITHERTO the pofition undertaken has been declarTM ed, and proved by a law of God, that law proved to be moral, and unabolishable, for many reafons equal, honest, charitable, juft, annexed thereto. It follows now, that thofe places of fcripture, which have a feeming to revoke the prudence of Mofes, 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 Chrift are plainly against all divorce, “except in cafe of fornication?" to whom he whofe mind were to answer no more but this, "except alfo in cafe of charity," might fafely appeal to the more plain words of Chrift in defence of fo excepting. "Thou shalt do no manner of work," faith the commandment of the fabbath. Yes, faith Chrift, works of charity. And fhall we be more fevere in paraphrafing the confiderate and tender gofpel, than he was in expounding the rigid and peremptory law? What was ever in all appearance lefs made for man, and more for God alone, than the fabbath? yet when the good of man comes into the fcales, we hear that VOL. II.
voice of infinite goodness and benignity, that " fabbath was made for man, not man for fabbath." What thing ever was more made for man alone, and less for God, than marriage? And fhall we load it with a cruel and fenfelefs bondage utterly against both the good of man, and the glory of God? Let whofo will now liften, I want neither pall nor mitre, I ftay neither for ordination nor induction; but in the firm faith of a knowing christian, which is the best and trueft endowment of the keys, I pronounce, the man, who fhall bind fo cruelly a good and gracious ordinance of God, hath not in that the spirit of Christ. Yet that every text of fcripture feeming opposite may be attended with a due expofition, this other part enfues, and makes account to find no flender arguments for this affertion, out of thofe very feriptures, which are commonly urged against it.
First therefore let us remember, as a thing not to be denied, that all places of fcripture, wherein juft reafon of doubt arifes from the letter, are to be expounded by confidering upon what occafion every thing is fet down, and by comparing other texts. The occafion, which induced our Saviour to speak of divorce, was either to convince the extravagance of the pharifees in that point, or to give a fharp and vehement answer to a tempting question. And in fuch cafes, that we are not to repofe all upon the literal terms of fo many words, many inftances will teach us: wherein we may plainly discover how Christ meant not to be taken word for word, but like a wife physician, adminiftering one excess against another, to reduce us to a permifs; where they were too remifs, he faw it needful to feem moft fevere: in one place he cenfures an unchafte look to be adultery already committed; another time he paffes over actual adultery with lefs reproof than for an unchafte look; not fo heavily condemning fecret weakness, as open malice: fo here he may be justly thought to have given this rigid fentence against divorce, not to cut off all remedy from a good man, who finds himfelf confuming away in a difconfolate and uninjoined matrimony, but to lay a bridle upon the bold abuses of thofe overweening rabbies; which he could not more effectually do, than by a counterfway of
reftraint curbing their wild exorbitance almoft in the other extreme; as when we bow things the contrary way, to make them come to their natural ftraightnefs. And that this was the only intention of Chrift is moft evident, if we attend but to his own words and proteftation made in the fame 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 fhall fo teach.
But St. Luke, the verfe immediately foregoing that of divorce, inferts 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 muft needs confirm us, that whatever elfe in the political law of more special relation to the Jews might ceafe to us; yet that of thofe precepts concerning divorce, not one of them was repealed by the doctrine of Chrift, unless we have vowed not to believe his own cautious and immediate profeflion; for if these our Saviour's words inveigh againft all divorce, and condemn it as adultery, except it be for adultery, and be not rather understood against the abuse of thofe divorces permitted in the law, then is that law of Mofes, Deut. xxiv, 1, not only repealed and wholly annulled against the promise of Chrift, and his known profeffion not to meddle in matters judicial; but that which is more firange, the very fubftance and purpofe of that law is contradicted, and convinced both of injuftice and impurity, as having authorized and maintained legal adultery by ftatute. Mofes alfo cannot fcape to be guilty of unequal and unwife decrees, punithing one act of fecret adultery by death, and permitting a whole life of open adultery by law. And albeit lawyers write, that fome political edicts, though not approved, are yet allowed to the fcum of the people, and the neceflity of the times; thefe excufes have but a weak pulfe: for firft, we read, not that the fcoundrel people, but the choiceft, the wifeft, the holiest of that nation have frequently ufed thefe laws, or fuch as thefe, in the beft and holiest times. Secondly, be it yielded, that in matters not very bad or impure, a human lawgiver may flacken fomething of that which is VOL. II.
exactly good, to the difpofition of the people and the times: but if the perfect, the pure, the righteous law of God, (for fo are all his ftatutes and his judgments,) be found to have allowed fmoothly, without any certainreprehenfion, that which Chrift afterward declares to be adultery, how can we free this law from the horrible indictment of being both impure, unjuft, and fallacious?
How divorce was permitted for hardness of heart, cannot be understood by the common expofition. That the law cannot permit, much less enact a permission of fin.
NEITHER will it ferve to fay this was permitted for the hardness of their hearts, in that fenfe as it is ufually explained: for the law were then but a corrupt and erroneous schoolmafter, teaching us to dash against a vital maxim of religion, by doing foul evil in hope of fome certain good.
This only text is not to be matched again throughout the whole fcripture, whereby God in his perfect law fhould feem 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 fucceffive adultery, under a covenant of works, till the Meffiah, and then that indulgent permiffion to be strictly denied by a covenant of grace; befides, the incoherence of fuch 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 fcripture, against so many other rules and leading principles of religion, of juftice, 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 Mofes thus expounded; which opens him a way at will to dam up juftice, and not only to admit of any Romish or Auftrian difpenfes, but to enact a statute of that which he dares not feem to approve, even to legitimate vice, to make fin itself, the ever alien and vaffal fin, a free citizen of the common