« PreviousContinue »
of a help, goes on describing another self, a second self, a very self itself. Yet now there is nothing in the life of man, through our misconstruction, made more uncertain, more hazardous and full of chance, than this divine blessing, with such favourable significance here conferred upon us; which, if we do but err in our choice, the most unblamable error that can be, err but one minute, one moment after those mighty syllables pronounced, which take upon them to join heaven and hell together, unpardonably till death pardon; this divine blessing that looked but now with such a human smile upon us, and spoke such gentle reason, straight vanishes like a fair sky, and brings on such a scene of cloud and tempest, as turns all to shipwreck without haven or shore, but to a ransomless captivity.
""Cleave to a wife"-but let her be a wife, let her be a meet help, a solace; not a nothing, not an adversary, not a desertrice. Can any law or command be so unreasonable as to make men cleave to calamity, to ruin, to perdition? In like manner here, "They shall be one flesh"; but what Such was his own wife at this present time.
MARRIAGE A LOTTERY.
is it must make them one flesh, but likeness, but fitness of mind and disposition, which may breed the spirit of concord and union between them? If that be not in the nature of either, and that there has been a remediless mistake, as vain we go about to compel them into one flesh as if we undertook to weave a garment of dry sand.
'That I, therefore, among others (for who sings not Hylas ?), may give as well as take matter to be judged on, it will be looked I should produce another definition than these which have not stood the trial; for if we can attain in this our controversy to define exactly what marriage is, we shall soon learn when there is a nullity thereof, and when a divorce. Definition consists only of causes constituting the essence of a thing. Thus, then, I suppose that marriage by the natural and plain order of God's institution in the text (GEN. ii. 18, 23, 24) may be more demonstratively and essentially defined: “A divine institution, joining man and woman in a love fitly disposed to the helps and comforts of domestic life."
'But God (I solemnly attest him!) withheld from my knowledge the consenting judgment of these
men so late,'-the numerous authorities he had just adduced,—until they could not be my instructors, but only my unexpected witnesses to partial men, that in this work I had not given the worst experiment of an industry joined with integrity, and the free utterance, though of an unpopular truth.'1
‘After many rumours of confutations and convictions, forthcoming against the "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce," it was my hap at length, lighting on a certain parcel of queries, that seek and find not, to find not seeking, a jolly slander, called "Divorce at Pleasure." I stood awhile and wondered, what we might do to a man's heart, or what anatomy use, to find in it sincerity. Whenas one above others, who hath suffered much and long in the defence of truth, shall after all this give her cause to leave him so destitute and so vacant of her defence, as to yield his mouth to be the common road of truth and falsehood, and such falsehood as is joined with a rash and heedless calumny of his neighbour. For what book hath he ever met with maintaining either in the title or in the whole Tetrachordon,' Works, vol. iii. p. 334.
HIS OWN SINCERITY.
pursuance," Divorce at Pleasure"? It is true, that to divorce upon extreme necessity, when through the perverseness, or the apparent unfitness of either, the continuance can be to both no good at all, but an intolerable injury and temptation to the wronged and defrauded; to divorce then, there is a book that writes it lawful. But as I was waiting,
when these light-armed refuters would have done pelting at their three lines uttered with a sage delivery of no reason, but an impotent and worse than Bonner-like censure to burn that which provokes them to a fair dispute; at length a book was brought to my hands, entitled, " An Answer to the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce." Gladly I received it, and very attentively composed myself to read; hoping that now some good man had vouchsafed the pains to instruct me better than I could yet learn out of all the volumes which for this purpose I had visited. Only this I marvelled, and other men have since, whenas I, in a subject so new to this age, and so hazardous to please, concealed not my name, why this author, defending that part which is so creeded by the people, would conceal his. But ere I could enter three leaves
into the pamphlet, my satisfaction came in abundantly, that it could be nothing why he durst not name himself, but the guilt of his own wretchedness.' Milton then proceeds to act on the principle of his motto, Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.' We shall not, however, follow him, as there is nothing further autobiographical in this treatise except this sentence, I had rather, since the life of man is likened to a scene,' (he evidently means by Shakspeare), 'that all my entrances and exits might mix with such persons only whose worth erects them and their actions to a grave and tragic deportment, and not to have to do with clowns and vices.'1
'With a lively pleasure do I read your anxious inquiries about my health since I left Florence; which imperious circumstances compelled me to quit against my inclination, but which was and is most dear to me. I appeal to the tomb of Damon' (i.e. of his dear friend Charles Diodati, whom we must carefully distinguish from the Charles Diodati to whom he is here writing), which I shall ever cherish and revere; his death occasioned the most
1 'Colasterion,' Works, vol. iii. p. 434.