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answer no more but this, except also in case of charity,' might safely appeal to the more plain words of Christ in defence of so excepting. Thou shalt do no manner of work,' saith the commandment of the sabbath. Yes, saith Christ, works of charity. And shall we be more severe in paraphrasing the considerate and tender gospel, than he was in expounding the rigid and peremptory law? What was ever in all appearance less made for man, and more for God alone, than the sabbath ? Yet when the good of man comes into the scales, we hear that voice of infinite goodness and benignity, that sabbath was made for man, not man for sabbath.' What thing ever was more made for man alone and less for God than marriage ? And shall we load it with a cruel and senseless bondage utterly against both the good of man, and the glory of God ? Let whoso will, now listen, I want neither pall nor mitre, I stay neither for ordination nor induction ; but in the firm faith of a knowing Christian, which is the best and truest endowment of the keys, I pronounce, the man who shall bind sp cruelly a good and gracious ordinance of God, hath not in that the spirit of Christ. Yet that every text of scripture seeming opposite may be attended with a due exposition, this other part ensues, and makes account to find no slender arguments for this assertion, out of those very scriptures which are commonly urged against it.
First, therefore, let us remember, as a thing not to be denied, that all places of scripture wherein just reason of doubt arises from the letter, are to be expounded by considering upon what occasion every thing is set down, and by comparing other texts. The occasion which induced our Saviour to speak of divorce, was either to convince the extravagance of the Pharisees in that point, or to give a sharp and ve
hement answer to a tempting question. And in such cases, that we are not to reposé all upon the literal terms of so many words, many instances will teach us, wherein we may plainly discover how Christ meant, not to be taken word for word, but like a wise physician, administering one excess against another, to reduce us to a permiss. Where they were too remiss, he saw it needful to seem most severe. In one place he censures an unchaste look to be adultery already committed ; another time he passes over actual adultery with less reproof than for an unchaste look, not so heavily condemning secret weakness, as open malice. So here he may be justly thought to have given this rigid sentence against divorce, not to cut off all remedy from a good man who finds himself consuming away in a disconsolate and uninjoined matrimony, but to lay a bridle upon the bold abuses of those overweening Rabbies; which he could not more effectually do, than by a countersway of restraint curbing their wild exorbitance almost in the other extreme, as when we bow things the contrary way to make them come to their natural straightness. And that this was the only intention of Christ is most evident, if we attend but to his own words and protestation made in the same sermon, not many verses before he treats of divorcing, that he came not to abrogate from the law one jot or tittle,' and denounces against them that shall so teach.
That to allow Sin by Law, is against the Nature of Law, the End
of the Lawgiver, an: the Good of the People. Impossible therefore in the Law of God.
But let us yet further examine upon
what consideration a law of license could be thus given to a holy people for the hardness of heart.
If it were such a cursed act of Pilate, a subordinate judge to Cæsar, overswayed by those hard hearts with much ado to suffer one transgression of law but once, what is it then with less ado to publish a law of transgression for many ages? Did God for this come down and cover the mount of Sinai with his glory, uttering in thunder those his sacred ordinances out of the bottomless treasures of his wisdom and infinite pureness, to patch up an ulcerous and rotten commonwealth with strict and stern injunctions, to wash the skin and garments for every unclean touch, and such easy permission given to pollute the soul with adulteries by public authority, without disgrace or question ? No, it had been better that man had never known law or matrimony, than that such foul iniquity should be fastened upon the Holy One of Israel, the judge of all the earth, and such a piece of folly as Belzebub would not commit, to divide against himself, and prevent his own ends; or if he, to compass more certain mischief, might yield perhaps to feign some good deed, yet that God should enact a license of certain evil for uncertain good against his own glory and pureness, is abominable to conceive.
If it be affirmed that God, as being Lord, may do
what he will ; yet we must know that God hath not two wills, but one will, much less two contrary. If he once willed adultery should be sinful and to be punished with death, all his omnipotence will not allow him to will the allowance that his holiest people might, as it were by his own antinomy or counterstatute, live unreproved in the same fact as he himself esteemed it, according to common explainers. The hidden ways of his providence we adore and search not; but the law is his revealed will, his complete, his evident and certain will; herein he appears to us as it were in human shape, enters into covenant with us, swears to keep it, binds himself like a just lawgiver to his own prescriptions, gives himself to be understood by men, judges and is judged, measures and is commensurate to right reason, cannot require less of us in one cantle of his law than in another; his legal justice cannot be so fickle and so variable, sometimes like a devouring fire, and by and by connivent in the embers, or, if I may so say, oscitant and supine. The vigor of his law could no more remit, than the hallowed fire
his altar could be let go out.
* * The Solution of Rivetus, that God dispensed by some unknown
Way, ought not to satisfy a Christian Mind.
Rivetus, a diligent and learned writer, having well weighed what hath been written by those founders of dispense, and finding the small agreement among them, would fain work himself aloof these rocks and quick
sands, and thinks it best to conclude that God certainly did dispense, but by some way to us unknown, and so to leave it. But to this I oppose, that a Christian by no means ought to rest himself in such an ignorance, whereby so many absurdities will straight reflect both against the purity, justice, and wisdom of God, the end also both of law and gospel, and the comparison of them both together. God indeed in some ways
of his providence is high and secret, past finding out; but in the delivery and execution of his law, especially in the managing of a duty so daily and so familiar as this whereof we reason, hath plain enough revealed himself, and requires the observance thereof not otherwise than to the law of nature and equity imprinted in us seems correspondent. And he hath taught us to love and to extol his laws, not only as they are his, but as they are just and good to every wise and sober understanding. Therefore Abraham, even to the face of God himself, seemed to doubt of divine justice, if it should swerve from the irradiation wherewith it had enlightened the mind of man, and bound itself to observe its own rule; Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked ? that be far from thee; shall not the judge of the earth do right?' thereby declaring, that God had created a righteousness in right itself, against which he cannot do. So David, Psalm cxix. • The testimonies which thou hast cominanded are righteous and very faithful ; thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it;' not only then for the author's sake, but for its own purity. He is faithful,' saith St Paul, "he cannot deny himself;' that is, .cannot deny his own promises, cannot but be true to his own rules. He often pleads with men the uprightness of his ways by their own principles. How should we imitate him else, to be perfect as he is perfect, if at pleasure he can dispense with golden