Imatges de pÓgina
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TREATISES ON

MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE.

THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE RESTORED; TO THE GOOD OF BOTH SEXES, FROM THE BONDAGE OF CANON LAW AND OTHER MISTAKES, TO THE TRUE MEANING OF SCRIPTURE, ETC.

THE JUDGMENT OF MARTIN BUCER CONCERNING DIVORCE; WRITTEN TO EDWARD THE SIXTH.

TETRARCHORDON: EXPOSITIONS OF THE FOUR CHIEF PLACES IN SCRIPTURE WHICH TREAT OF MARRIAGE, OR NULLITIES IN MARRIAGE, ETC.

COLASTERION: A REPLY TO A NAMELESS ANSWER AGAINST THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE, ETC.

[THE painful circumstances of Milton's first marriage have been spoken of in the Introductory Memoir. It was an ill-assorted union, which could hardly fail to be productive of unhappiness to both parties. Deserted by his wife, who refused to return to him, he found himself left "with nothing belonging to matrimony but its chain." In one of the numerous autobiographical notices which are to be found in his writings, he leads us to infer, what indeed is sufficiently probable in itself, that it was this circumstance which drew his attention to the question of divorce. He says:

"I explained my sentiments, not only on the solemnization of marriage, but its dissolution, if circumstances rendered it necessary; and I drew my arguments from the divine law which Christ did not abolish, or publish another more grievous than that of Moses. I stated my own opinions and those of others, concerning the exclusive exceptions of fornication, which our illustrious Seldon has since, in his Hebrew Wife, more copiously discussed: for that man in vain makes a vaunt of liberty in the Senate or the Forum, who languishes under the vilest servitude to an inferior at home. On this subject, therefore, I published some books, which were more particularly necessary at that time when man and wife

DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE.

89

were often the most inveterate foes; when the man often staid to take care of his children at home, whilst the mother of the family was seen in the camp of the enemy, threatening death and destruction to her husband."

The violent disruption of social ties caused by the bloody strifes then raging, in which the husband was to be found in one camp and the wife with her family in the other, could scarcely fail to awaken doubts in many minds as to the indissoluble character of the marriage bond. The student of history must have observed the tendency to demand increased facilities for divorce in all revolutionary epochs. There is another allusion in the extract just given, which throws further light upon the conclusion to which Milton came in considering this question. He speaks of the wife as "an inferior," -a phrase not introduced by him without meaning. It cannot be doubted that his domestic unhappiness was in some measure due to his erroneous estimate of the right position of woman, whether as wife or daughter. The lines in Paradise Lost will suggest themselves to every reader, where Eve addresses Adam:

"What thou bidd'st

Unargued I obey; so God ordains:

God is thy law,-thou mine."

:

Again in the remonstrance addressed to Adam, in Book X. :

"Was she made thy guide,

Superior, or but equal, that to her

Thou did'st resign thy manhood and the place

Wherein God set thee above her, made of thee
And for thee, whose perfection far excelled

Hers in all real dignity?"

See also Book XI., lines 291, 634, 636; and the familiar passage in Samson Agonistes:

"Therefore God's universal law

Gave to the man despotic power
Over his female, in due awe;

Nor from that right to part an hour,

Smile she or lour."

These suggestions are offered, not with any desire of justifying Milton's doctrines on marriage and divorce, but simply with a view of explaining how he came to hold them.

The general principle which he lays down, and upon which he bases all his arguments, is that the design and end of marriage is to effect spiritual as well as bodily conjunction; that, therefore, "indisposition, unfitness, or contrariety of mind, arising from a cause in nature unchangeable, hindering, and ever likely to hinder, the benefits of

conjugal society, which are solace and peace, is a sufficient reason for divorce, especially if there be no children, and that there be mutual consent." If, then, mutual love and fellowship be a chief end in the marriage covenant, it is argued that where this is wanting on either side, the conditions of the covenant are violated, and the covenant itself may be terminated. The matrimonial compact is twofold,—corporeal and spiritual. It is admitted on all sides that a violation of the corporeal part, as in adultery, affords a sufficient reason for divorce. It is argued by Milton that the spiritual part of the compact is yet more vital and essential, and that, therefore, à fortiori, divorce may justly follow upon proved incompatibility of temper. "What God hath joined let no man put asunder.' But here the Christian prudence lies,-to consider what God hath joined. Shall we say that God hath joined error, fraud, unfitness, wrath, contention, perpetual loneliness, perpetual discord? Whatever lust, or wine, or witchcraft, threat or enticement, avarice or ambition, have joined together, faithful with unfaithful, Christian with anti-Christian, hate with hate, or hate with love;-shall we say this is God's joining?" He therefore calls upon the parliament so to amend the law of divorce as to include want of affection, or mutual unsuitableness of disposition, among the reasons for which it might be granted. The first treatise On the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, discusses the whole question with wonderful acuteness and subtlety of reasoning, and may be said "nearly to exhaust the philosophy and learning of the subject." Immediately on its publication he was assailed with fierce denunciation and invective. The Westminster Assembly of Divines, then sitting, caused him to be summoned to answer for his heresies before the House of Lords. He complained both in prose and verse that those who differed from him endeavoured to put him down by clamour or by authority, instead of replying to his arguments.

"I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs,
By the known rules of ancient liberty;
When straight a barbarous noise environs me,
Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs.

But this is got by casting pearls to hogs
That bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,
And still revolt when truth would set them free;
License they mean when they cry--Liberty!

For who loves that, must first be wise and good."

Milton was not a man to be readily silenced, and he replied to the threats and clamour with which he was assailed, by his Tetrarchordon,*

* A word compounded from the Greek, meaning a fourfold cord.

SUPERSTITION THE ENEMY OF PEACE.

91

or Exposition of the Four Chief Places in Scripture which treat of Nullities in Marriage; and by an extract from Bucer's Kingdom of God, entitled The Judgment of the Famous Martin Bucer, touching Divorce. He likewise quotes Paulus Fagius, Peter Martyr, Erasmus Grotius, and many others, who wholly or in part agreed with him in his theory of marriage and divorce. His mode of interpreting Scripture may be gathered from an eloquent passage in the first of the treatises, in which he says: "There is scarcely any one saying in the Gospel but must be read with limitations and distinctions, to be rightly understood; for Christ gives no full comments or continuous discourses, but speaks oft in monosyllables, like a master scattering the heavenly grain of his doctrine, like pearls, here and there, which require a skilful and laborious gatherer, who must compare the words he finds with other precepts, with the end of every ordinance, and with the general analogy of evangelic doctrine." The passages which he endeavours to expound in a sense favourable to his doctrine, are Gen. i. 27, 28, compared with Gen. ii. 18, 23, 24, Deut. xxiv. 1, 2; Matt. v. 31, 32, compared with Matt. xix. 3–11, 1 Cor. vii. 10–16.

About a year afterwards he published his Colasterion;+ a Reply to a Nameless Answer against the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce: with the motto prefixed from Prov. xxvi. 5,—Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. The "nameless" author to whom he replied thus roughly was no other than Caryll, the voluminous commentator on the Book of Job. With this somewhat abusive pamphlet Milton's part in the controversy terminated.]

SUPERSTITION, THE FOE ALIKE OF LIBERTY AND OF TRUE
OBEDIENCE.

He who wisely would restrain the reasonable soul of man within due bounds, must first himself know perfectly how far the territory and dominion extends of just and honest liberty. As little must he offer to bind that which God hath loosened, as to loosen that which He hath bound. The ignorance and mistake of this high point hath heaped up one huge half of all the misery that hath been since Adam. In the Gospel we shall read of a supercilious crew of masters

* Bucer's book on the Kingdom of God was addressed to Edward VI. It has been suspected that his sentiments in favour of freedom of divorce were influenced by remembering the young king's parentage.

+ A Greek word, signifying a scourging or castigation.

whose holiness, or rather whose evil eye, grieving that God should be so facil to man, was to set straiter limits to obedience than God hath set, to enslave the dignity of man, to put a garrison upon his neck of empty and over-dignified precepts and we shall read our Saviour never more grieved and troubled, than to meet with such a peevish madness among men against their own freedom. How can we expect Him to be less offended with us, when much of the same folly shall be found yet remaining where it least ought, to the perishing of thousands? The greatest burden in the world is superstition, not only of ceremonies in the church, but of imaginary and scarecrow sins at home. What greater weakening, what more subtle stratagem against our Christian warfare, when besides the gross body of real transgressions to encounter, we shall be terrified by a vain and shadowy menacing of faults that are not? When things indifferent shall be set to overfront us under the banners of sin, what wonder if we be routed, and, by this art of our adversary, fall into the subjection of worst and deadliest offences? The superstition of the Papist is, "touch not, taste not," when God bids both; and ours is, "part not, separate not," when God and charity both permits and commands. "Let all your things be done with charity," saith St. Paul; and his. Master saith, "She is the fulfilling of the law."

MAN THE SOURCE OF HIS OWN MISERIES.

Many men, whether it be their fate or fond opinion, easily persuade themselves if God would but be pleased a while to withdraw His just punishments from us, and to restrain what power either the devil or any earthly enemy hath to work us woe, that then man's nature would find immediate rest and releasement from all evils. But verily they who think so, if they be such as have a mind large enough to take into their thoughts a general survey of human things, would soon prove themselves in that opinion far deceived. For though it were granted us by divine indulgence to be

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