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from whence must flow the acts of peace and love, *** though it be found never so deficient and unable to perform the best duty of marriage in a cheerful and agreeable conversation, shall be thought good enough, however flat and melancholious it be, and must serve, though to the eternal disturbance and languishing of him that complains? Yet wisdom and charity, weighing God's own institution, would think that the pining of a sad spirit wedded to loneliness, should deserve to be freed, as well as the impatience of a sensual desire so providently relieved. It is read to us in the liturgy, that we must not marry to satisfy the fleshly appetite, like brute beasts, that have no understanding;' but the canon so runs as if it dreamed of no other matter than such an appetite, to be satisfied. For if it happen that nature hath stopped or extinguished the veins of sensuality, that marriage is annulled; but though all the faculties of the understanding and conversing part, after trial appear to be so ill and so aversely met through nature's unalterable working, as that neither peace, nor any sociable contentment can follow, it is as nothing; the contract shall stand as firm as ever, betide what will. What is this but secretly to instruct us, that however many grave reasons are pretended to the married life, yet that nothing indeed is thought worth regard therein, but the prescribed satisfaction of an irrational heat? which cannot be but ignominious to the state of marriage, dishonorable to the undervalued soul of man, and even to christian doctrine itself, while it seems more moved at the disappointing of an impetuous nerve, than at the ingenuous grievance of a mind unreasonably yoked, and to place more of marriage in the channel of concupiscence, than in the pure influence of peace and love, whereof the soul's lawful contentment is the only fountain.
But some are ready to object, that the disposition ought seriously to be considered before. But let them know again, that for all the wariness can be used, it may yet befall a discreet man to be mistaken in his choice, and we have plenty of examples. The soberest and best governed men are least practised in these affairs; and who knows not that the bashful muteness of a virgin may ofttimes hide all the unliveliness and natural sloth which is really unfit for conversation ; nor is there that freedom of access granted or presumed, as may suffice to a perfect discerning till too late; and where any indisposition is suspected, what more usual than the persuasion of friends, that acquaintance as it increases will amend all? And lastly, it is not strange though many who have spent their youth chastely, are in some things not so quicksighted, while they haste too eagerly to light the nuptial torch; nor is it therefore that for a modest error a man should forfeit so great a happiness, and no charitable means to release him, since they who have lived most loosely by reason of their bold accustoming, prove most successful in their matches, because their wild affections, unsettling at will, have been as so many divorces to teach them experience; whenas the sober man, honoring the appearance of modesty, and hoping well of every social virtue under that veil, may easily chance to meet ** with a mind to all due conversation inaccessible, and to all the more estimable and superior purposes of matrimony useless and almost lifeless; and what a solace, what a fit help such a consort would be through the whole life of a man, is less pain to conjecture than to have experience.
The second Reason of this Law, because without it, Marriage, as it happens oft, is not a Remedy of that which it promises, as any rational Creature would expect. That Marriage, if we pattern from the Beginning, as our Saviour bids, was not properly the Remedy of Lust, but the Fulfilling of Conjugal Love and Helpful
AND that we may further see what a violent, cruel thing it is to force the continuing of those together whom God and nature in the gentlest end of marriage never joined, divers evils and extremities that follow upon such a compulsion, shall here be set in view. Of evils, the first and greatest is, that hereby a most absurd and rash imputation is fixed upon God and his holy.laws, of conniving and dispensing with open and common adultery among his chosen people; a thing which the rankest politician would think it shame and disworship that his laws should countenance. How and in what manner that comes to pass, I shall reserve till the course of method brings on the unfolding of many scriptures. Next, the law and gospel are hereby made liable to more than one contradiction, which I refer also thither. Lastly, the supreme dictate of charity is hereby many ways neglected and violated, which I shall forthwith address to prove.
First, we know St Paul saith, 'It is better to marry than to burn.' Marriage therefore was given as a remedy of that trouble; but what might this burning mean? Certainly not the mere motion of carnal lust, not the mere goad of a sensitive desire; God does not principally take care for such cattle. What is it then but that desire which God put into Adam in paradise, before he knew the sin of incontinence that desire which God saw it was not good that man should be left alone to burn in, the desire and longing
to put off an unkindly solitariness by uniting another body, but not without a fit soul, to his, in the cheerful society of wedlock? which, if it were so needful before the fall, when man was much more perfect in himself, how much more is it needful now against all the sorrows and casualties of this life, to have an intimate and speaking help, a ready and reviving associate in marriage? whereof who misses, by chancing on a mute and spiritless mate, remains more alone than before, and in a burning less to be contained than that which is fleshly, and more to be considered, as being more deeply rooted, even in the faultless innocence of nature. As for that other burning, which is but as it were the venom of a lusty and overabounding concoction, strict life and labor, with the abatement of a full diet, may keep that low and obedient enough; but this pure and more inbred desire of joining to itself in conjugal fellowship a fit conversing soul, which desire is properly called love, 'is stronger than death,' as the spouse of Christ thought; 'many waters cannot quench it, neither can the floods drown it.'
This is that rational burning which marriage is to remedy, not to be allayed with fasting, nor with any penance to be subdued; which how can he assuage, who by mishap hath met the most unmeet and unsuitable mind? Who hath the power to struggle with an intelligible flame, not in paradise to be resisted, become now more ardent by being failed of what in reason it looked for, and even then most unquenched, when the importunity of a provender burning is well enough appeased, and yet the soul hath obtained nothing of what it justly desires? Certainly such a one forbidden to divorce, is in effect forbidden to marry, and compelled to greater difficulties than in a single life. For if there be not a more humane burning
which marriage must satisfy, or else may be dissolved, than that of copulation, marriage cannot be honorable for the meet reducing and terminating lust between two, seeing many beasts, in voluntary and chosen couples, live together as unadulterously, and are as truly married in that respect.
But all ingenuous men will see that the dignity and blessing of marriage is placed rather in the mutual enjoyment of that which the wanting soul needfully seeks, than of that which the plenteous body would joyfully give away. Hence it is that Plato in his festival discourse brings in Socrates relating what he feigned to have learned from the prophetess Diotima, how Love was the son of Penury, begot of Plenty in the garden of Jupiter; which divinely sorts with that which in effect Moses tells us, that Love was the son of Loneliness, begot in paradise by that sociable and helpful aptitude which God implanted between man and woman towards each other. The same also is that burning mentioned by St Paul, whereof marriage ought to be the remedy; the flesh hath other mutual and easy curbs which are in the power of any temperate man. When therefore this original and sinless Penury or Loneliness of the soul cannot lay itself down by the side of such a meek and acceptable union as God ordained in marriage, at least in some proportion, it cannot conceive and bring forth Love, but remains utterly unmarried under a formal wedlock, and still burns in the proper meaning of St Paul. Then enters Hate, not that hate that sins, but that which only is natural dissatisfaction, and the turning aside from a mistaken object. If that mistake have done injury, it fails not to dismiss with recompense; for to retain still, and not be able to love, is to heap up more injury. Thence this wise and pious law of dismission now defended took beginning.