Page:Tetrachordon - Milton (1645).djvu/41

This page needs to be proofread.

TETRACHORDON.

25

perceav, that God blames not heer the Jews for putting away thir wives, but for keeping strange Concubines, to the profaning of Juda's holines, and the vexation of thir Hebrew wives, v. 11. and 14. Judah hath maried the daughter of a strange God: And exhorts them rather to put thir wives away whom they hate, as the Law permitted, then to keep them under such affronts. And it is receiv'd that this Profet liv'd in those times of Ezra and Nehemiah (nay by som is thought to bee Ezra himself) when the people were forc't by these two Worthies to put their strange wives away. So that what the story of those times, and the plain context of the 11 verse, from whence this rebuke begins, can give us to conjecture of the obscure and curt Ebraisms that follow, this Profet does not forbid putting away, but forbids keeping, and commands putting away according to Gods Law, which is the plainest interpreter both of what God will, and what he can best suffer. Thus much evinces that God there commanded divorce by Malachi, and this confirmes that he commands it also heer by Moses.

I may the less doubt to mention by the way an Author, though counted Apocryphal, yet of no small account for piety and wisdom, the Author of Ecclesiasticus. Which Book begun by the Grand-father of that Jesus who is call'd the Son of Sirach, might have bin writt'n in part, not much after the time when Malachi livd; if wee compute by the Reigne of Ptolemæus Euergetes. It professes to explain the Law and the Profets; and yet exhorts us to divorce for incurable causes, and to cut off from the flesh those whom it there describes, Ecclesiastic. 25. 26. Which doubtles that wise and ancient Writer would never have advis'd, had either Malachi so lately forbidd'n it, or the Law by a full precept not left it lawful. But I urge not this for want of better prooff; our Saviour himself allows divorce to be a command, Mark 10. 3.5. Neither doe they weak'n this assertion, who say it was only a sufferance, as shall be prov'd at large in that place of Matthew. But suppose it were not a writt'n Law, they never can deny it was a custom, and so effect nothing. For the same reasons that induce them why it should not bee a Law, will strait'n them as hard why it should bee allow'd a custom. All custom is either evil or not evil; if it be evil, this is the very end of Lawgiving, to abolish evil customs by wholsom Laws; unless wee imagine Moses weaker then every negligent and startling Politician. If

E

it