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affirm, is to that unanimous covenant a reproach. Yet it is as sure that many such, not of their own desire, but by the persuasion of friends, or not knowing themselves, do often enter into wedlock, where, finding the difference at length between the duties of a married life and the gifts of a single life, what unfitness of mind, what wearisomeness, scruples, and doubts to an incredible offence and displeasure are like to follow between, may be soon imagined ; whom thus to shut up, and immure, and shut up together, the one with a mischosen mate, the other in a mistaken calling, is not a course that christian wisdom and tenderness ought to use.
As for the custom that some parents and guardians have of forcing marriages, it will be better to say nothing of such a savage inhumanity, but only thus ; that the law which gives not all freedom of divorce to any creature endued with reason so assassinated, is next in cruelty.
The ninth Reason ; because Marriage is not a mere carnal Coition,
but a human Society; where that cannot reasonably be had, there can be no true Matrimony. Marriage compared with all other Covenants and Vows warrantably broken for the good of Man. Marriage the Papist's Sacrament, and unfit Marriage the Protestant's Idol.
NINTHLY; I suppose it will be allowed us that marriage is a human society, and that all human society must proceed from the mind rather than the body, else it would be but a kind of animal or beastish meeting. If the mind therefore cannot have that due company by marriage that it may reasonably and humanly desire, that marriage can be no human society, but
a certain formality, or gilding over of little better than a brutish congress,
and in very wisdom and pureness to be dissolved.
But marriage is more than human, the covenant of God,' Proverbs ii. 17; therefore man cannot dissolve it. I answer, if it be more than human, so much the more it argues the chief society thereof to be in
, the soul rather than in the body, and the greatest breach thereof to be unfitness of mind rather than defect of body; for the body can have least affinity in a covenant more than human, so that the reason of dissolving holds good the rather. Again, I answer that the sabbath is a higher institution, a command of the first table, for the breach whereof God hath far more and oftener testified his anger, than for divorces, which from Moses to Malachi he never took displeasure at, nor then neither if we mark the text; and yet as oft as the good of man is concerned, he not only permits, but commands to break the sabbath. What covenant more contracted with God, and less in man's power, than the vow which hath once passed his lips ? Yet if it be found rash, if offensive, 'if unfruitful either to God's glory or the good of man, our doctrine forces not error and unwillingness irksomely to keep it, but counsels wisdom and better thoughts boldly to break it. Therefore to enjoin the indissoluble keeping of a marriage, found unfit against the good of man both soul and body, as hath been evidenced, is to make an idol of marriage, to advance it above the worship of God and the good of man, to make it a transcendent command, above both the second and first table, which is a most prodigious doctrine.
Next, whereas they cite out of the Proverbs, that it is the covenant of God, and therefore more than human, that consequence is manifestly false ; for so the covenant which Zedekiah made with the infidel king of Babel, is called the covenant of God, Ezekiel xvii. 19, which would be strange to hear counted more than a human covenant. So every covenant between man and man, bound by oath, may be called the covenant of God, because God therein is attested. So of marriage he is the author and the witness; yet hence will not follow any divine astriction more than what is subordinate to the glory of God, and the main good of either party. For as the glory of God and their esteemed fitness one for the other, was the motive which led them both at first to think without other revelation that God had joined then together, so when it shall be found by their apparent unfitness, that their continuing to be man and wife is against the glory of God and their mutual happiness, it may assure them that God never joined them, who hath revealed his gracious will, not to set the ordinance above the man for whom it was ordained, not to canonize marriage either as a tyranness or a goddess over the enfranchised life and soul of man; for wherein can God delight, wherein be worshipped, wherein be glorified by the forcible continuing of an improper and ill yoking couple ? He that loved not to see the disparity of several cattle at the plough, cannot be pleased with vast unmeetness in marriage.
Where can be the peace
and love which must invite God to such a house? May it not be feared that the not divorcing of such a helpless disagreement, will be the divorcing of God finally from such a place?
But it is a trial of our patience, say they. I grant it; but which of Job's afflictions were sent him with
; that law, that he might not use means to remove any of them if he could ? And what if it subvert our patience and our faith too? Who shall answer for the perishing of all those souls, perishing by stubborn expositions of particular and inferior precepts against the
general and supreme rule of charity? They dare not affirm that marriage is either a sacrament or a mystery, though all those sacred things give place to man; and yet they invest it with such an awful sanctity, and give it such adamantine chains to bind with, as if it were to be worshipped like some Indian deity, when it can confer no blessing upon us,
but works more and more to our misery. To such teachers the saying of St Peter at the council of Jerusalem will do well to be applied ; Why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the necks of' christian men, which neither the Jews, God's ancient people, nor we are able to bear,' and nothing but unwary expounding hath brought up
DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE
The Ordinance of Sabbath and Marriage compared. Hy perbole no
unfrequent Figure in the Gospel. Excess cured by contrary Excess. Christ neither did nor could abrogate the Law of Divorce, but only Reprieve the Abuse thereof.
HITHERTO the position undertaken hath been declared, and proved by a law of God, that law proved to be moral, and unabolishable, for many reasons equal, honest, charitable, just, annexed thereto. It follows now, that those places of scripture which have a seeming to revoke the prudence of Moses, or rather that merciful decree of God, be forthwith explained and reconciled. For what are all these reasonings worth, will some reply, whenas the words of Christ are plainly against all divorce, except in case of fornication ?" To whom he whose mind were to