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vorce except it be for adultery. To the understanding whereof, we must ever remember this: That in the words of our Saviour there can be no contrariety : That his words and answers are not to be stretched beyond the question proposed : That our Saviour did not there purpose to treat of all the causes for which it might be lawful to divorce and marry again; for then that in the Corinthians of marrying again without guilt of adultery could not be added: That it is not good for that man to be alone, who hath not the special gift from above: That it is good for every such one to be married, that he may shun fornication.
With regard to these principles, let us see what our Lord answered to the tempting pharisees about divorce and second marriage, and how far his answer doth extend.
First, no man who is not very contentious will deny, that the pharisees asked our Lord whether it were lawful to put away such a wife, as was truly, and according to God's law, to be counted a wife; that is, such a one as would dwell with her husband, and both would and could perform the necessary duties of wedlock tolerably. But she who will not dwell with her husband is not put away by him, but goes of herself: and she who denies to be a meet help, or to be so hath made herself unfit by open misdemeanors, or through incurable impotencies cannot be able, is not by the law of God to be esteemed a wife; as hath been shewn both from the first institution, and other places of scripture. Neither certainly would the pharisees propound a question concerning such an unconjugal wife; for their depravation of the law had brought them to that pass, as to think a man had right to put away his wife for any cause, though never so slight. Since therefore it is manifest, that Christ answered the pharisees concerning a fit and meet wife according to the law of God, whom he forbade to divorce for any cause but fornication ; who sees not that it is a wickedness so to wrest and extend that answer of his, as if it forbade to divorce her who hath already forsaken, or hath lost the place and dignity of a wife, by deserved infamy, or hath undertaken to be that which she hath not natural ability to be?
This truth is so powerful, that it hath moved the papists to grant their kind of divorce for other causes besides adulteryas for ill usage, and the not performing of conjugal duty;
and to separate from bed and board for these causes, which is as much divorce as they grant for adultery.
But some perhaps will object, that though it be yielded that our Lord granted divorce not only for adultery, yet it is not certain, that he permitted marriage after divorce, unless for that only cause.
I answer, first, that the sentence of divorce and second marriage is one and the same. So that when the right of divorce is evinced to belong not only to the cause of fornication, the power of second marriage is also proved to be not limited to that cause only; and that most evidently whenas the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. vii., so frees the deserted party from bondage, as that he may not only send a just divorce in case of desertion, but may seek another marriage.
Lastly, seeing God will not that any should live in danger of fornication and utter ruin for the default of another, and hath commanded the husband to send away with a bill of divorce her whom he could not love; it is impossible that the charge of adultery should belong to him who for lawful causes divorces and marries, or to her who marries after she hath been unjustly rejected, or to him who receives her without all fraud to the former wedlock. For this were a horrid blasphemy against God, so to interpret his words, as to make him dissent from himself; for who sees not a flat contradiction in this, to enthral blameless men and women to miseries and injuries, under a false and soothing title of marriage, and yet to declare by his apostle, that a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases ? No less do these two things conflict with themselves, to enforce the innocent and faultless to endure the pain and misery of another's perverseness, or else to live in unavoidable temptation; and to affirm elsewhere that he lays on no man the burden of another man's sin, nor doth constrain any man to the endangering of his soul.
CHAPTER XLIV. That to those also who are justly divorced, second Marriage
ought to be permitted. This although it be well proved, yet because it concerns only the offender, I leave him to search out his own charter himself in the author.
CHAPTER XLV. That some Persons are so ordained to Marriage, as that
they cannot obtain the Gift of Continence, no, not by earnest Prayer ; and that therein every one is to be left to his own Judgment and Conscience, and not to have a Burden laid
ироп him by any other.
CHAPTER XLVI. The Words of the Apostle concerning the Praise of single
Life unfolded. THESE two chapters not so immediately debating the right of divorce, I choose rather not to insert.
The Conclusion of this Treatise. THESE things, most renowned king, I have brought together, both to explain for what causes the unhappy but sometimes most necessary help of divorce ought to be granted, according to God's word, by princes and rulers; as also to explain how the words of Christ do consent with such a grant. I have been large indeed both in handling those oracles of God, and in laying down those certain principles, which he who will know what the mind of God is in this matter, must ever think on and remember. But if we consider what mist and obscurity hath been poured out by antichrist upon this question, and how deep this pernicious contempt of wedlock, and admiration of single life, even in those who are not called thereto, hath sunk into many men's persuasions; I fear lest all that hath been said be hardly enough to persuade such, that they would cease at length to make themselves wiser and holier than God himself, in being so severe to grant lawful marriage, and so easy to connive at all, not only whoredoms but deflowerings and adulteries : whenas, among the people of God, no whoredom was to be tolerated.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to destroy the works of Satan, send down his Spirit upon all Christians, and principally upon
Christian governors, both in church and commonwealth, (for of the clear judgment of your royal majesty I nothing doubt, revolving the scripture so often as ye do,) that they may acknowledge how much they provoke the
anger of God against us, whenas all kind of unchastity is tolerated, fornications and adulteries winked at; but holy and honourable wedlock is oft withheld by the mere persuasion of antichrist, from such as without this remedy cannot preserve themselves from damnation ? For none who hath but a spark of honesty will deny, that princes and states ought to use diligence toward the maintaining of pure and honest life among
men, without which all justice, all fear of God, and true religion decays.
And who knows not, that chastity and pureness of life can never be restored, or continued in the commonwealth, unless it be first established in private houses, from whence the whole breed of men is to come forth? To effect this, no wise man can doubt, that it is necessary for princes and magistrates, first, with severity to punish whoredom and adultery; next, to see that marriages be lawfully contracted, and in the Lord; then, that they be faithfully kept; and lastly, when that unhappiness urges, that they be lawfully dissolved, and other marriage granted, according as the law of God, and of nature, and the constitutions of pious princes have decreed; as I have shewn both by evident authorities of scripture, together with the writings of the ancient fathers, and other testimonies. Only the Lord grant that we may learn to prefer his ever just and saving word, before the comments of antichrist, too deeply rooted in many, and the false and blasphemous exposition of our Saviour's words. Amen.
A POSTSCRIPT. Thus far Martin Bucer: whom, where I might without injury to either part of the cause, I deny not to have epitomized; in the rest cbserving a well-warranted rule, not to give an inventory of so many words, but to weigh their force. I could have added that eloquent and right Christian discourse, written by Erasmus on this argument, not disagreeing in effect from Bucer. But this, I hope, will be enough to excuse me with the mere Englishman, to be no forger of new and loose opinions. Others may read him in his own phrase on the First to the Corinthians, and ease me who never could delight in long citations, much less in whole traductions; whether it be natural disposition or education in
me, or that my mother bore me a speaker of what God made mine own, and not a translator. There be others also whom I could reckon up, of no mean account in the church, (and Peter Martyr among the first,) who are more than half our own in this controversy. But this is a providence not to be slighted, that as Bucer wrote this tractate of divorce in England and for England, so Erasmus professes he begun here among us the same subject, especially out of compassion, for the need he saw this nation had of some charitable redress herein; and seriously exhorts others to use their best industry in the clearing of this point, wherein custom hath a greater sway than verity.
That therefore which came into the mind of these two admired strangers to do for England, and in a touch of highest prudence, which they took to be not yet recovered from monastic superstition, if I a native am found to have done for mine own country, altogether suitably and conformably to their so large and clear understanding, yet without the least help of theirs; I suppose that henceforward among conscionable and judicious persons it will no more be thought to my discredit, or at all to this nation's dishonour. And if these their books the one shall be printed often with best allowance in most religious cities, the other with express authority of Leo the Tenth, a pope, shall, for the propagating of truth, be published and republished, though against the received opinion of that church, and mine containing but the same thing, shall in a time of reformation, a time of free speaking, free writing, not find a permission to the press; I refer me to wisest men, whether truth be suffered to be truth, or liberty to be liberty, now among us, and be not again in danger of new fetters and captivity after all our hopes and labours lost: and whether learning be not (which our enemies too prophetically feared) in the way to be trodden down again by ignorance. Whereof while time is, out of the faith owing to God and my country, I bid this kingdom beware; and doubt not but God who hath dignified this parliament already to so many glorious degrees, will also give them (which is a singular blessing) to inform themselves rightly in the midst of an unprincipled age, and to prevent this working mystery of igno rance and ecclesiastical thraldom, which under new shapes and disguiscs begins afresh to grow upon us.