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on this most painful and humiliating subject, as has been mentioned, he dedicated “To the Parliament of England, with the Assembly of Divines at Westminster.” He thus commences his appeal: “ If it were seriously askt, (and it would be no untimely question, renowned Parliament, select Assembly,) who, of all teachers and masters that ever have taught, hath drawn most disciples after him, both in religion and manners, it might not be untruly answered—Custom. Though Virtue be commended for the most persuasive in her theory, and Conscience, as the plain demonstration of the spirit, finds most evincing; yet, whether it be the secret of divine will, or the original blindness we are born in, so it happens, for the most part, that Custom still is silently received for the best instructor. You it concerns chiefly, worthies in Parliament, on whom, as on our deliverers, all our grievances and cares, by the merits of your eminence and fortitude are devolved; me it concerns next, having, with much labour and faithful diligence, first found out, or at least, with a fearless and communicative candour, first publisht, to the manifest good of Christendom, that which, calling to mind every thing mortal and immortal, I believe unfainedly to be true. Let not other men think their conscience bound to search continually after truth, to pray for enlightenings from above, to publish what they think they have
so attained, and debar me from conceiving myself tied by the same duties."
Having asserted that the inviolability of marriage had no other law but custom, he then states, in few words, the arguments of his opponents, founded
upon the practice of divorces having been permitted by Moses, though not sanctioned by the law of God. “This,” he says, " is the common doctrine, that adulterous and injurious divorces were not connived only, but, with eye open, outlaw'd of old for hardness of heart. But that opinion, I trust, by this following argument hath been well read, will be left for one of the mysteries of an indigent Antichrist to farm out incest by, and those his other tributary pollutions. 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 permit and command. • Let all your things be done in charity,' saith St. Paul; and his Master saith, she is the fulfilling of the law;' yet now a civil, an indifferent, a somewhat dissuaded law of marriage must be forc't upon us to fulfil, not only without charity, but against her. No place in heaven or earth, except hell, where charity may not enter; yet marriage, the ordinance of our solace and contentment, the remedy of our loneliness, will not admit now of either charity or mercy to come in, and mediate or pacifie the fierceness of this gentle or
dinance, the unremedied lowliness of this remedy. Advise ye well, supreme senate, if charity be thus excluded and expulst, how ye will defend the untainted honor of your own actions and proceedings. Whatever else ye can enact, will scarce concern a third part of the British name; but the benefit and good of this your magnanimous example, will easily spread far beyond the banks of Tweed, and the Norman isles. It would not be the first or the second time, since our ancient Druides, by whom this island was the cathedral of philosophy in France, left off their pagan rites, that England hath had this honour vouchsaft from heav'n, to give reformation to the world. Who was it but our English Constantine, that baptized the Roman Empire? Who was it but the Northumbrian Willibrode and Winfride, of Devon, with their followers, were the first apostles of Germany? Who but Alcuim and Wicklif, our countrymen, opened the eyes of Europe, the one in arts, the other in religion? Let not England forget her precedence of teaching nations how to live. For me, as far as my part leads me, I have already the greatest gain of assurance and inward satisfaction, to have done in this, nothing unworthy of an honest life, and studies well employed. With that event, among the wise and right-understanding of men I am secure: but how among the drove of custom and prejudice this
will be relisht-by such whose capacity, since their youth run ahead into the easie creek of a system or a medulla, sails there at will, under the blown phisiognomy of their unlaboured rudiments for them, whatever their taste will be, I have also surety sufficient, from the entire league there hath always been between formal ignorance and grave obstinacy.
“I seek not to seduce the simple and illiterate; my errand is to find out the choicest and the learnedest, who have this high gift of wisdom, to answer solidly, or to be convinc't. I crave it from the piety, the learning, and the prudence, which is housed in this place. It might, perhaps, have been more fitly written in another tongue; and I had done so, but that the esteem I have for my country's judgment, and the love I bear to my native language, to serve it first with what I endeavour, made me speak it thus, ere I assay the verdict of outlandish readers. And perhaps also here I might have ended nameless, but that the address of these lines, chiefly to the Parliament of England, might have seemed ungrateful, not to acknowledge by whose religious care, unwearied watchfulness, courageous and heroick resolutions, I enjoy the peace and studious leisure to remain, the Honourer and Attendant of their noble worth and virtues, --John Milton.”
In the preface he thus fairly states his de
sign:—“This therefore shall be the task and period of this discourse,—to prove, first, that other reasons of divorce, besides adultery, were, by the law of Moses, and are yet to be allowed by the christian magistrate, as a piece of justice; and that the words of Christ are not hereby contraried. Next, that to prohibit absolutely any divorce whatsoever, except those which Moses excepted, is against the reason of the law. Not that license and levity, and an unconsented breach of faith should herein be countenanc't; but that some conscionable and tender pitty might be had of those, who have, unwarily, and in a thing which they have never practised before, made themselves the bondmen of a luckless and helpless matrimony. This only is desired of them, who are minded to judge hardly of thus maintaining, that they would be still, and hear all out, nor think it equal to answer deliberate reason with sudden heat and noise; remembering this, that many truths, now of renowned esteem and credit, had their birth and beginning once from singular and private thoughts; while the most of men were otherwise possest, and had the fate, at first, to be generally exploded, and exclaimed on by many violent opposers.”
In the first chapter he lays down this position : “That indisposition, unfitness, or contrariety of mind, arising from a cause in nature unchange