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2. We have here a charging of all the evil Confequences of this parting, upon the Husband that turns away the innocent Wife; he caufeth her to commit Adultery.
3. That notwithstanding the Strictness of the Bond of Marriage, the Covenant thereof is mutual, the Foundation of it being the Conjugal Fidelity. they promise to each other; and where that is broken, the Marriage may be diffolved.
4. That it is unlawful to marry the divorced Perfon, who, if innocent, ought to return to her Hufband; if guilty, is to be punished by the Deprivation of the further Benefit of Marriage while her Hufband lives.
I. I begin with the first, and most considerable Doctrine contained in the Words, which I fuppose will be enough for our Meditation at this time; namely, the Prohibition of the parting of Man and Wife; for it is no less than a Prohibition of putting away the Wife, to tell us that it cannot be done without fuch and fuch finful Confequences as here follow. In fpeaking to this difficult Doctrine concerning Divorces, I propose to do these three Things:
1. To offer fomething by way of Explication, for our clearer understanding of it.
2. To offer something by way of Argumentation for fhewing the Reasonableness of it.
3. To answer the chief Objections against it. 4. Lastly, if time will allow, I fhall draw fome Inferences and Corollories from it.
First then, For our better understanding of this difficult Doctrine, let us confider that our Saviour was not here treating of the Impediments of Marriage from the beginning, but only of the Diffo
tion of lawful Marriages; particularly he is here correcting the too great Liberty the Jewish Huf bands took, to put away their Wives for flight Causes. So that our Saviour meant not to intermeddle upon this Subject with other Things that are out of this Cafe; fuch as are many things that are brought as Objections against this Doctrine. For from this one Observation, it will follow; that all fuch Causes of Divorce are out of this Cafe, as would make Marriages null and unlawful from the beginning; fuch as marrying within the prohibited Degrees of Affinity, or Confanguinity, or Pre-contracts; or marrying with one that hath an Hufband or Wife alive. For the fole Cafe our Saviour had here under his Confideration, was that of lawful Husbands and Wives; that they ought not to part, unless the Foundation of the Marriage. Covenant be diffolved by Conjugal Infidelity. And for the fame Reafon we may account for the not excepting of divers other Cafes, befides thofe which would make Marriage void from the beginning; fuch as are all the Effects of fudden Paffion, which if it runs to fuch high Degrees, as that the Law will take hold of it, as Murder or Felony, fuch, a Perfon will be cut off from Human Society; and therefore there was no need to mention a liberty of Divorce in fuch a Cafe. But if the Paffions go not to fuch an height, as that the Law would take hold of them, there is Hopes as long as the Parties keep true to one another, that they may be reconciled; at least, it is better that under a great many Hardships and Inconveniencies, they should exercife the Duties of Patience and Self-Denial, than to open a Gap for the Dif folution of Marriage upon every Exorbitancy of
Humour and Paffion, which would have a great deal worse Effects, as fhall be fhewn by and by.
And further I dare not take upon me to determine, whether our Saviour allows of Divorce upon every single Lapse into the Crime here mentioned; or whether he means it only of the Habit of it. It seems by the Words, that there is no direct Command, but only a Permiffion of Divorce; for the Man is blamed here, if he flee to Divorce for other Causes; but it is not exprefly commanded to use it in this Cafe; which looks as if the thing were left very much to the Confideration of a wife Hufband, and the Circumstances of the Cafe, conftituting the Degrees of Guilt, and determining the Confequences, by a prudent or imprudent Ufe of Indulgence or Severity. So that upon the whole Matter, our Saviour feems to have determined as much in this Cafe as it was fit in Prudence to determine: namely, That the Liberty of Divorce for any lighter Caufe than the Marriage Infidelity, fhould be prohibited: But that even in that Case it should not be commanded, but left to the greater or leffer Aggravation of the Crime, from the various Circumstances of it; and the Confideration of the Confequences of Severity or Indulgence, to himself, and his Wife, and Children, and the World abroad. I fpeak thus cautiously on this difficult Subject, because, as far as I can perceive, there never was, nor is any pofitive Command for Divorce. Even among the Jews it was but a Permiffion, and that Permiffion our Saviour here limits and reftrains to the Breach of the Marriage Covenant; but ftill it is but a Permiffion, and not a Precept: And in the ufe of Permiffions, a great deal is left to Prudence
and Discretion, and the Variation of Circumftances, and the Confideration of Confequences.
2. Having thus opened and explained our Saviour's Doctrine of Divorce, I fhall need to fay the lefs in Vindication of it, as carrying it's Reafonableness along with it. But for our further Satisfaction in this Matter, I fhall lay before you fome Grounds and Reafons for both Parts of our SaI viour's Opinion, both that which cuts off the Permiffion of Divorce for all other Caufes, and that which allows it for this of the Breach of the Marriage Covenant.
(1.) To fome it may feem very hard, that for no other Fault but that of Adultery, a Man can put away his Wife. It is certain there are many other things, which make the married State very uneafy; fome long Sickneffes, and natural Infirmities, as they wear out the Patience of the fick Party, fo they prove often very uneasy to those that are about them, efpecially to the Husband or Wife, on whom the greatest part of the Care and Trouble is fuppofed to lie. Some Degrees of Impatience and Ill-humour, occafioned by the mutual Provocations given to each other, or the Difficulty of managing Children and Servants, and the many Troubles and Misfortunes attendingHuman Life, which do often exceed the Steadiness and Conftancy of our Minds, are apt to occafion Melancholy and Difcontent, and other more fierce and angry Paffions. All Waftefulness, Prodigality, Slothfulness, Drunkenness, Tale-bearing, Scolding, Slutti hnefs, and Negligence, and divers other Vices and Infirmities, are commonly attended with abundance of evil Confequences, that bring on Poverty, and other Troubles, which fret VOL. II. Peoples
Peoples Minds, and make them uneafy to themfelves, and all that are about them. In short, if fome Men had their Will, they would have it as cafy a thing to put away a Wife, as to turn out a Sojourner or Boarder, whenever they prove uncafy to them. But how unreasonable, and generally inconvenient fuch a Practice would prove, will eafily appear, among other, from the following Confiderations.
1. The great Ends of Marriage could never be attained, if Marriage were to be diffolved upon every flight Account. Let us confider a little what thofe Ends are, and whether they are generally attainable any other way than by making Marriage a mutual Contract for Life. (1.) As to the Procreation and Education of Children; could that be fo well minded, if their Mothers were to be turned off at Pleafure, and they left to the Care of any ftrange Woman, that would look upon. them as fo many Encumbrances upon the Estate, and fo many Rivals of her own Children? The World is very fenfible already of the great Trouble and Inconveniency attending those Families where there are feveral forts of Children, by divers Fathers and Mothers, which are but a few, occafioned by the natural Death of one of the Parents, and the furviving Parent marrying again, to what they would be, if every Humour, or common Infirmity, were judged a fufficient Caufe of Divorce, and of flying to another Marriage. (2.) As to the being a Remedy of Luft, which is another good End for the Inftitution of Matrimony; if Marriage were fuch an uncertain loose Thing, fubject to be diffolved upon every Humour and Caprice of the Parties, and new Wives as frequently