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by the incredible frequency of trading Just and uncontrolled adulteries. Yet men whose creed is custom, I doubt not, will be still endeavouring to hide the sloth of their own timorous capacities with this pretext, that for all this it is better to endure with patience and silence this affliction which God hath sent. And I agree it is true, if this be exhorted and not enjoinedy but withal it will be wisely done to be as sure as ma ; be, that what man's iniquity hath laid on, be not imputed to God's sending, lest under the color of an affected patience, we detain ourselves at the gulf's mouth of many hideous temptations, not to be withstood without proper gifts, which, as Perkins well notes, God gives not ordinarily, no, not to most earnest prayers. Therefore we pray, 'Lead us not into temptation;' a vain prayer, if having led ourselves thither, we love to stay in that perilous condition.
God sends remedies as well as evils, under which he who lies and groans that may lawfully acquit himself, is accessory to his own ruin; nor will it excuse him though he suffer through a sluggish fearfulness to search thoroughly what is lawful, for fear of disquieting the secure falsity of an old opinion. Who doubts not but that it may be piously said, to him who would dismiss his frigidity, 'Bear your trial, take it as if God would have
live this life of continence?' If he exhort this, I hear him as an angel, though he speak without warrant; but if he would compel me, I know him for Satan. To him who divorces an adulteress, piety might say, "Pardon her; you may show much mercy, you may win a soul.' Yet the law both of God and man leaves it freely to him; for God loves not to
n plough out the heart of our endeavours with overhard and sad tasks. God delights not to make a drudge of virtue, whose actions must be all elective and unconstrained. Forced virtue is as a bolt overshot ; it
goes neither forward nor backward, and does no good as it stands.
Seeing therefore that neither scripture nor reason hath laid this unjust austerity upon divorce, we may resolve that nothing else hath wrought it but that letterbound servility of the canon doctors, supposing marriage to be a sacrament, and out of the art they have to lay unnecessary burdens upon all men, to make a fair show in the fleshly observance of matrimony, though peace and love, with all other conjugal respects, fare never so ill. And indeed the papists, who are the strictest forbidders of divorce, are the easiest libertines to admit of grossest uncleanness; as if they had a design, by making wedlock a supportless yoke, to violate it most, under color of preserving it most inviolable ; and withal delighting, as their mystery is, to make men the daylaborers of their own afflictions, as if there were such a scarcity of miseries from abroad, that we should be made to melt our choicest home blessings, and coin them into crosses, for want whereby to hold commerce with patience. If any therefore who shall hap to read this discourse, hath been, through misadventure, ill engaged in this contracted evil here complained of, and finds the fits and workings of a high impatience frequently upon him, of all those wild words which men in misery think to ease themselves by uttering, let him not open his lips against the providence of Heaven, or tax the ways of God and his divine truth; for they are equal, easy, and not burdensome; nor do they ever cross the just and reasonable desires of men, nor involve this our portion of mortal life into a necessity of sadness and malecontent, by laws commanding over the unreducible antipathies of nature, sooner or later found, but allow us to remedy and shake off those evils into which human error hath led us through the midst of our best intentions, and to support our incident extremities by that authentic precept of sovereign charity, whose grand commission is to do and to dispose over all the ordinances of God to man, that love and truth may advance each other to everlasting; while we, literally superstitious, through customary faintness of heart, not venturing to pierce with our free thoughts into the full latitude of nature and religion, abandon ourselves to serve under the tyranny of usurped opinions, suffering those ordinances which were allotted to our solace and reviving, to trample over us, and hale us into a multitude of sorrows, which God never meant us. And where he sets us in a fair allowance of way, with honest liberty and prudence to our guard, we never leave subtilizing and casuisting till we have straightened and pared that liberal path into a razor's edge to walk on, between a precipice of unnecessary mischief on either side, and starting at every false alarm, we do not know which way to set a foot forward with manly confidence and christian resolution, through the confused ringing in our ears of panic scruples and amazements.
That the Matter of Divorce is not to be tried by Law, but by Con
science, as many other Sins are. **
ANOTHER act of papal encroachment it was, to pluck the power and arbitrement of divorce from the master of the family, into whose hands God and the law of all nations had put it, and Christ so left it, preaching only to the conscience, and not authorizing a judicial court to toss about and divulge the unaccountable and secret reason of disaffection between man and wife, as a thing most improperly answerable to any such kind of trial. But the popes of Rome, perceiving the great revenue and high authority it would give then even over princes, to have the judging and deciding of such a main consequence in the life of man as was divorce, wrought so upon the superstition of those ages as to divest them of that right which God from the beginning had entrusted to the husband; by which means they subjected that ancient and naturally domestic prerogative to an external and unbefitting judicature. For although differences in divorce about dowries, jointures, and the like, besides the pupishing of adultery, ought not to pass without referring, if need be, to the magistrate, yet that the absolute and final hindering of divorce cannot belong to any civil or earthly power, against the will and consens of both parties, or of the husband alone, some reasont will be here urged as shall not need to decline the touch.
First, because ofttimes the causes of seeking divorce reside so deeply in the radical and innocent affections of nature, as is not within the diocess of law to tamper with. Other relations may aptly enough be held together by a civil and virtuous love. But the duties of man and wife are such as are chiefly conversant in that love, which is most ancient and merely natural, whose two prime statutes are, to join itself to that which is good, and acceptable, and friendly ; and to turn aside and depart from what is disagreeable, displeasing, and unlike. Of the two, this latter is the strongest, and most equal to be regarded; for although a man may often be unjust in seeking that which he loves, yet he can never be unjust or blameable in retiring from his endless trouble and distaste, whenas his tarrying can redound to no true content on either side. Hate is of all things the mightiest divider, nay, is division itself. To couple Hatred, therefore, though Wedlock try all her golden links, and borrow to her aid all the iron manacles and fetters of law, it does but seek to twist a rope of sand, which was a task they say that posed the devil; and that sluggish fiend in hell, Ocnus, whom the poems tell of, brought his idle cordage to as good effect, which never served to bind with, but to feed the ass that stood at his elbow. And that the restrictive law against divorce attains as little to bind any thing truly in a disjointed marriage, or to keep it bound, but serves only to feed the ignorance and definitive impertinence of a doltish canon, were no absurd allusion.
To hinder therefore those deep and serious regresses of nature in a reasonable soul, parting from that mistaken help which he justly seeks in a person created for him, recollecting himself from an unmeet help which was never meant, and to detain him by compulsion in such an unpredestined misery as this, is in diameter against both nature and institution. But to interpose a jurisdictive power over the inward and irremediable disposition of man, to command love and sympathy, to forbid dislike against the guiltless instinct of nature, is not within the province of any law to reach, and were indeed an uncommodious rudeness, not a just power; for that law may bandy with nature, and traverse her sage motions, was an error in Callicles, the rhetorician, whom Socrates from high principles confutes in Plato's Gorgias. If therefore divorce may be so natural, and that law and nature are not to go contrary, then to forbid divorce compulsively, is not only against nature, but against law.
Next, it must be remembered that all law is for some good that may be frequently attained without