Page images

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 dissolved.

4. That it is unlawful to marry the divorced Person, who, if innocent, ought to return to her Husband; if guilty, is to be punished by the Deprivation of the further Benefit of Marriage while her Husband lives.

I. I begin with the first, and most considerable Doctrine contained in the Words, which I suppose 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 such and such sinful Con. sequences as here follow. In speaking to this difficult Doctrine concerning Divorces, I propose to do these three Things:

1. To offer something by way of Explication, for our clearer understanding of it.

2. To offer something by way of Argumentation for shewing the Reasonableness of it.

3. To answer the chief Objections against it.

4. Lastly, if time will allow, I shall draw some Inferences and Corollories from it. First then, For our better understanding of this

. difficult Doctrine, let us consider that our Saviour was not here treating of the Impediments of Marriage from the beginning, but only of the Diffotion 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 Case ; such 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 ; such 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 sole Case our Saviour had here under his Consideration, was that of lawful Husbands and Wives ; that they ought not to part, unless the Foundation of the Marriage Covenant be dissolved by Conjugal Infidelity. And for the fame Reason we may account for the not excepting of divers other Cases, besides those which would make Marriage void from the beginning; such as are all the Effects of sudden Paffion, which if it runs to such high Degrees, as, that the Law will take hold of it, as Murder or Felony, such, a Person will be cut off from Human Society; and therefore there was no need to mention a liberty of Divorce in such a Case. But if the Passions go not to such 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 exercise the Duties of Patience and Self-Denial, than to open a Gap for the Difsolution of Marriage upon every Exorbitancy of


Humour and Passion, which would have a great deal worse Effects, as shall be shewn 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 Permission 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 case; whịch looks as if the thing were left very much to the Consideration of a wise Husband, and the Circumstances of the Cafe, constituting the Degrees of Guilt, and determining the Consequences, by a prudent or imprudent Use of Indulgence or Severity. So that upon the whole Matter, our Saviour seems to have determined as much in this Case as it was fit in Prudence to determine : namely, That the Liberty of Divorce for any lighter Cause than the Marriage Infidelity, should be prohibited : But that even in that Case it should not be commanded, but left to the greater or lesser Aggravation of the Crime, from the various Circumstances of it; and the Confideration of the Consequences of Severity or Indulgence, to himself, and his Wife, and Children, and the World abroad. I speak thus cautiously on this difficult Subject, because, as far as I can perceive, there never was, nor is any positive Command for Divorce. Even among the Fews it was but a Permission, and that Permission our Saviour here limits and restrains to the Breach of the Marriage Covenant; but still it is but a Permission, and not a Precept : And in the use of Permiflions, a great deal is left to Prudence


[ocr errors]

and Discretion, and the Variation of Circumstances, and the Consideration of Consequences.

2. Having thus opened and explained our Saviour's Doctrine of Divorce, I shall need to say the less in Vindication of it, as carrying it's Reasonableness along with it. But for our further Satisfaction in this Matter, I shall lay before you

fome Grounds and Reasons for both parts of our Saviour's Opinion, both that which cuts off the Permission of Divorce for all other Causes, and that which allows it for this of the Breach of the Marriage Covenant.

(1.) To some it may seem 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 uneasy ; some long Sicknesses, and natural Infirmities, as they wear out the Patience of the fick Party, so they prove often very uneasy to those that are about them, especially to the Husband or Wife, on whom the greatest part of the Care and Trouble is supposed to lie. Some Degrees of Impatience and Ill-humour, occasioned 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 Constancy of our Minds, are apt to occasion Melancholy and Discontent, and other more fierce and angry Passions. All Wastefulness, Prodigality, Slothfulness, Drunkenness, Tale-bearing, . Scolding, Sluttishness, and Negligence, and divers other Vices and Infirmities, are commonly attended with abundance of evil Consequences, that bring on Poverty, and other Troubles, which fret VOL. II.



any other

Peoples Minds, and make them uneasy to themselves, and all that are about them. In short, if fome Men had their Will, they would have it as casy a thing to put away a Wife, as to turn out a Sojourner or Boarder, whenever they prove uneasy to them. But how unreasonable, and generally inconvenient such a Practice would prove, will easily appear, among other, from the following Confiderations.

1. The great Ends of Marriage could never be attained, if Marriage were to be dissolved upon every slight Account. Let us consider a little what those Ends are, and whether they are generally attainable


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 Pleasure, and they left to the Care of any strange Woman, that would look upon them as so many Encumbrances upon the Estate, and so many Rivals of her own Children? The World is very fensible already of the great Trouble and Inconveniency attending those Families where there are several sorts of Children, by divers Fathers and Mothers, which are but a few, occasioned by the natural Death of one of the Parents, and the surviving Parent marrying again, to what they would be, if every Humour, or common Infirmity, were judged a sufficient Cause of Divorce, and of flying to another Marriage. (2.) As to the being a Remedy of Lust, which is another good End for the Institution of Matrimony; if Marriage were such an uncertain loose Thing, fubject to be dissolved upon every Humour and Caprice of the Parties, and new Wives as fre


« PreviousContinue »