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frivolous canon may reverse the infallible judgment of Moses and his great director. Or if it be the reformed writers, whose doctrine persuades this rather, their reasons I dare affirm are all silenced, unless it be only this. Paræus, on the Corinthians, would prove, that hardness of heart in divorce is no more now to be permitted, but to be amerced with fine and imprisonment. I am not willing to discover the forgettings of reverend men, yet here I must: what article or clause of the whole new covenant can Paræus bring, to exasperate the
judicial law upon any infirmity under the gospel? I say infirmity, for if it were the high hand of sin, the law as little would have endured it as the gospel; it would not stretch to the dividing of an inheritance; it refused to condemn adultery, not that these things should not be done at law, but to shew that the gospel hath not the least influence upon judicial courts, much less to make them sharper and more heavy, least of all to arraign before a temporal judge that which the law without summons acquitted. “ But,” saith he, “ the law was the time of youth, under violent affections; the gospel in us is mature age, and ought to subdue affections." True, and so ought the law too, if they be found inordinate, and not merely natural and blameless. Next I distinguish, that the time of the law is compared to youth and pupilage in respect of the ceremonial part, which led the Jews as children through corporal and garish rudiments, until the fulness of time should reveal to them the higher lessons of faith and redemption. This is not meant of the moral part; therein it soberly concerned them not to be babies, but to be men in good earnest : the sad and awful majesty of that law was not to be jested with: to bring a bearded nonage with lascivious dispensations before that throne, had been a lewd affront, as it is now a gross mistake. But what discipline is this, Palæus, to nourish violent affections in youth, by cockering and wanton indulgencies, and to chastise them in mature age with a boyish rod of correction ? How much more coherent is it to scripture, that the law, as a strict schoolmaster, should have punished every trespass without indulgence so baneful to youth, and that the gospel should now correct that by admonition and reproof only, in free and mature age, which was punished with stripes in the childhood and bondage of the law? What, therefore, it allowed then so fairly, much less is
to be whipped now, especially in penal courts : and if it ought now to trouble the conscience, why did that angry accuser and condemner law reprieve it? So then, neither from Moses nor from Christ hath the magistrate any authority to proceed against it. But what, shail then the disposal of that power return again to the master of a family? Wherefore not, since God there put it, and the presumptuous canon thence bereft it? This only must be provided, that the ancient manner be observed in the presence of the minister and other grave selected elders, who after they shall have admonished and pressed upon him the words of our Saviour, and he shall have protested in the faith of the eternal gospel, and the hope he has of happy resurrection, that otherwise than thus he cannot do, and thinks himself and this his case not contained in that prohibition of divorce which Christ pronounced, the matter not being of malice, but of nature, and so not capable of reconciling; to constrain him further were to unchristian him, to unman him, to throw the mountain of Sinai upon him, with the weight of the whole law to boot, flat against the liberty and essence of the gospel; and yet nothing available either to the sanctity of marriage, the good of husband, wife, or children, nothing profitable either to church or commonwealth, but hurtful and pernicious in all these respects. But this will bring in confusion: yet these cautious mistrusters might consider, that what they thus object lights not upon this book, but upon that which I engage against them, the book of God and Moses, with all the wisdom and providence which had forecast the worst of confusion that could succeed, and yet thought fit of such a permission. But let them be of good cheer, it wrought so little disorder among the Jews, that from Moses till after the captivity, not one of the prophets thought it worth the rebuking; for that of Malachi well looked into will appear to be not against divorcing, but rather against keeping strange concubines, to the vexation of their Hebrew wives. If, therefore, we Christians may be thought as good and tractable as the Jews were, (and certainly the prohibitors of divorce presume us to be better,) then less confusion is to be feared for this among us than was among them. If we be worse, or but as bad, which lamentable examples confirm we are, then have we more, or at least as much, need of this permitted law, as they to whom God there
66 Be not
fore gave it (as they say) under a harsher covenant. Let not, therefore, the frailty of man go on thus inventing needless troubles to itself, to groan under the false imagination of a strictness never imposed from above ; enjoining that for duty which is an impossible and vain supererogating. righteous overmuch," is the counsel of Ecclesiastes; “ why shouldst thou destroy thyself?”. Let us not be thus overcurious to strain at atoms, and yet to stop every vent and cranny of permissive liberty, lest nature, wanting those needful pores and breathing-places, which God hath not debarred our weakness, either suddenly break out into some wide rupture of open vice and frantic heresy, or else inwardly fester with repining and blasphemous thoughts, under an unreasonable and fruitless rigour of unwarranted law. Against which evils nothing can more beseem the religion of the church, or the wisdom of the state, than to consider timely and provide. And in so doing let them not doubt but they shall vindicate the misreputed honour of God and his great lawgiver, by suffering him to give his own laws according to the condition of man's nature best known to him, without the unsufferable imputation of dispensing legally with many ages of ratified adultery. They shall recover the misattended words of Christ to the sincerity of their true sense from manifold contradictions, and shall open them with the key of charity. Many helpless Christians they shall raise from the depth of sadness and distress, utterly unfitted as they are to serve God or man: many they shall reclaim from obscure and giddy sects, many regain from dissolute and brutish licence, many from desperate hardness, if ever that were justly pleaded. They shall set free many daughters of Israel not wanting much of her sad plight whom “Satan had bound eighteen years.” Man they shall restore to his just dignity and prerogative in nature, preferring the soul's free peace before the promiscuous draining of a carnal rage. Marriage, from a perilous hazard and snare, they shall reduce to be a more certain haven and retirement of happy society; when they shall judge according to God and Moses, and how not then according to Christ,) when they shall judge it more wisdom and goodness to break that covenant seemingly, and keep it really, than by compulsion of law to keep it seemingly, and by compulsion of blameless nature to break it really, at least if it were ever truly
joined. The vigour of discipline they may then turn with better success upon the prostitute looseness of the times, when men, finding in themselves the infirmities of former ages, shall not be constrained above the gift of God in them to unprofitable and impossible observances, never required from the civilest, the wisest, the holiest nations, whose other excellencies in moral virtue they never yet could equal. Last of all, to those whose mind is still to maintain textual restrictions, whereof the bare sound cannot consist sometimes with humanity, much less with charity; I would ever answer, by putting them in remembrance of a command above all commands, which they seem to have forgot, and who spake it: in comparison whereof, this which they so exalt is but a petty and subordinate precept. “Let them go," therefore, with whom I am loath to couple them, yet they will needs run into the same blindness with the pharisees ; “ let them go therefore," and consider well what this lesson means, “ I will have mercy and not sacrifice :" for on that “ saying all the law and prophets depend ;” much more the gospel, whose end and excellence is mercy and peace. Or if they cannot learn that, how will they hear this? which yet I shall not doubt to leave with them as a conclusion, that God the Son hath put all other things under his own feet, but his commandments he hath left all under the feet of charity.
WRITTEN TO EDWARD THE SIXTH, IN HIS SECOND BOOK OF THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST: AND NOW ENGLISHED. WHEREIN A LATE BOOK, RESTORING THE “DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE,” IS HERE CONFIRMED AND JUSTIFIED BY THE AUTHORITY OP MARTIN BUCER.
TO THE PARLIAMENT OF ENGLAND,
John iii. 10, “ Art thou a teacher of Israel, and knowest not these things ?”
PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY.
TESTIMONIES OF THE HIGH APPROBATION WHICH
LEARNED MEN HAVE GIVEN OF MARTIN BUCER.
Simon Grinæus, 1533. Among all the Germans, I give the palm to Bucer, for excellence in the scriptures. Melancthon in human learning is wonderous fluent; but greater knowledge in the scripture I attribute to Bucer, and speak it unfeignedly.
John Calvin, 1539. Martin Bucer, a most faithful doctor of the church of Christ, besides his rare learning, and copious knowledge of many things, besides his clearness of wit, much reading, and other many and various virtues, wherein he is almost by none now living excelled, hath few equals, and excels most; hath this praise peculiar to himself, that none in this age hath used exacter diligence in the exposition of scripture.
And a little beneath. Bucer is more large than to be read by overbusied men ; and too high to be easily understood by unattentive men, and of a low capacity.
Sir John Cheek, Tutor to King Edward VI. 1551. We have lost our master, than whom the world scarce held a greater, whether we consider his knowledge of true religion, or his integrity and innocence of life, or his incessant study of holy things, or his matchless labour of promoting piety, or his authority and amplitude of teaching, or whatever else was praiseworthy and glorious in him.-Script. Anglican.