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poetic ages of such pleasing license, as in the fabled reign of old Saturn; and this perhaps before the law might have some covert, but under such an undispensing covenant as Moses made with them, and not to tell us why and wherefore, indulgence cannot give quiet to the breast of an intelligent man. We must be resolved how the law can be pure and perspicuous, and yet throw a polluted skirt over these Eleusinian mysteries, that no man can utter what they mean, worse in this than the worst obscenities of heathen superstition; for their filthiness was hid, but the mystic reason thereof known to their sages. But this Jewish imputed filthiness was daily and open, but the reason of it is not known to our divines.
The true Sense how Moses suffered Divorce for Hardness of Heart.
WHAT may we do then to salve this seeming inconsistence? I must not dissemble that I am confident it can be done no other way than this;
Moses, Deuteronomy xxiv. 1, established a grave and prudent law, full of moral equity, full of due consideration towards nature that cannot be resisted, a law consenting with the laws of wisest men and civilest nations; that when a man hath married a wife, if it come to pass that he cannot love her by reason of some displeasing natural quality or unfitness in her, let him write her a bill of divorce. The intent of which law undoubtedly was this, that if any good and peaceable man should discover some helpless disagreement or dislike, either of mind or body, whereby he could not cheerfully perform the duty of a husband
without the perpetual dissembling of offence and disturbance to his spirit, rather than to live uncomfortably and unhappily both to himself and to his wife, rather than to continue undertaking a duty which he could not possibly discharge, he might dismiss her whom he could not tolerably, and so not conscionably retain. And this law the spirit of God by the mouth of Solomon, Proverbs xxx. 21, 23, testifies to be a good and a necessary law, by granting it that a hated woman," for so the Hebrew word signifies rather than 'odious,' though it come all to one, that ' a hated woman, when she is married, is a thing that the earth cannot bear.' What follows then but that the charitable law must remedy what nature cannot undergo? Now that many licentious and hardhearted men took hold of this law to cloak their bad purposes, is nothing strange to believe. And these were they, not for whom Moses made the law, God forbid! but whose hardness of heart, taking ill advantage by this law, he held it better to suffer as by accident, where it could not be detected, rather than good men should lose their just and lawful privilege of remedy. Christ, therefore, having to answer these tempting Pharisees, according as his custom was, not meaning to inform their proud ignorance what Moses did in the true intent of the law which they had ill cited, suppressing the true cause for which Moses gave it, and extending it to every slight matter, tells them their own, what Moses was forced to suffer by their abuse of his law.
The Words of the Institution how to be understood; and of our Saviour's Answer to his Disciples.
AND to entertain a little their overweening arrogance as best befitted, and to amaze them yet further, because they thought it no hard matter to fulfil the law, he draws them up to that unseparable institution which God ordained in the beginning before the fall, when man and woman were both perfect and could have no cause to separate; just as in the same chapter he stands not to contend with the arrogant young man, who boasted his observance of the whole law, whether he had indeed kept it or not, but screws him up higher to a task of that perfection, which no man is bound to imitate. And in like manner, that pattern of the first institution he set before the opinionative Pharisees, to dazzle them, and not to bind us. For this is a solid rule, that every command given with a reason, binds our obedience no otherwise than that reason holds. Of this sort was that command in Eden; 'Therefore shall a man cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh;' which we see is no absolute command, but with an inference, 'Therefore;' the reason then must be first considered, that our obedience be not misobedience.
The first is, for it is not single, because the wife is to the husband' flesh of his flesh,' as in the verse going before. But this reason cannot be sufficient of itself; for why then should he for his wife leave his father and mother, with whom he is far more flesh of flesh, and bone of bone,' as being made of their substance? And besides, it can be but a sorry and ignoble society of life, whose inseparable injunction
depends merely upon flesh and bones. Therefore we must look higher, since Christ himself recalls us to the beginning, and we shall find that the primitive reason of never divorcing, was that sacred and not vain promise of God to remedy man's loneliness by 'making him a meet help for him,' though not now in perfection, as at first, yet still in proportion as things now are. And this is repeated, verse 20, when all other creatures were fitly associated and brought to Adam, as if the Divine Power had been in some care and deep thought, because there was not yet to be found any help meet for man.' And can we so slightly depress the allwise purpose of a deliberating God, as if his consultation had produced no other good for man but to join him with an accidental companion of propagation, which his sudden word had already made for every beast? Nay, a far less good to man it will be found, if she must at all adventures be fastened upon him individually. And therefore even plain sense and equity, and, which is above them both, the all-interpreting voice of Charity herself cries loud that this primitive reason, this consulted promise of God to make a meet help,' is the only cause that gives authority to this command of not divorcing, to be a command. And it might be further added, that if the true definition of a wife were asked in good earnest, this clause of being a meet help,' would show itself so necessary and so essential in that demonstrative argument, that it might be logically concluded, therefore she who naturally and perpetually is no 'meet help,' can be no wife, which clearly takes away the difficulty of dismissing such a one.
'All men,' saith he, [Christ] cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given; he that is able
to receive it, let him receive it.' What saying is this, which is left to a man's choice to receive or not receive? What but the married life? Was our Saviour so mild and so favorable to the weakness of a single man, and is he turned on the sudden so rigorous and inexorable to the distresses and extremities of an ill wedded man? Did he so graciously give leave to change the better single life for the worse married life? Did he open so to us this hazardous and accidental door of marriage, to shut upon us like the gate of death, without retracting or returning, without permitting to change the worst, most insupportable, most unchristian mischance of marriage, for all the mischiefs and sorrows that can ensue, being an ordinance which was especially given as a cordial and exhilarating cup of solace, the better to bear our other crosses and afflictions? Questionless this was a hardheartedness of divorcing, worse than that in the Jews, which they say extorted the allowance from Moses, and is utterly dissonant from all the doctrines of our Saviour. After these considerations, therefore, to take a law out of paradise given in time of original perfection, and to take it barely, without those just and equal inferences and reasons which mainly establish it, nor so much as admitting those needful and safe allowances wherewith Moses himself interprets it to the fallen condition of man, argues nothing in us but rashness and contempt of those means that God left us in his pure and chaste law, without which it will not be possible for us to perform the strict imposition of this command; or if we strive beyond our strength, we shall strive to obey it otherwise than God commands it. And lamented experience daily teaches the bitter and vain fruits of this our presumption, forcing men in a thing wherein we are not able to judge either of their strength or of their sufferance;