Page:Tetrachordon - Milton (1645).djvu/81

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[And I say unto you.] That this restrictive denouncement of Christ contradicts and refutes that permissive precept of Moses, common expositors themselves disclaime: and that it does not traverse from the closet of conscience to the courts of civil or canon law, with any Christian rightly commenc't, requires not long evincing. If Christ then did not heer check permissive Moses, nor did reduce matrimony to the beginning more then all other things, as the reason of mans condition could beare, we would know precisely what it was which he did, and what the end was of his declaring thus austerely against divorce. For this is a confesst oracle in law, that he who lookes not at the intention of a precept, the more superstitious he is of the letter, the more he misinterprets. Was it to shame Moses? that had beene monstrous: or all those purest Ages of Israel, to whom the permission was granted? that were as incredible. Or was it that he who came to abrogate the burden of law, not the equity, should put this yoke upon a blamelesse person, to league himselfe in chaines with a begirting mischeif, not to separat till death? hee who taught us that no man puts a peece of new cloth upon an old garment, nor new wine into old bottles, that he should sow this patch of strictnes upon the old apparel of our frailty, to make a rent more incurable, when as in all other amendments his doctrine still charges, that regard be had to the garment, and to the vessel, what it can endure; this were an irregular and single peece of rigour, not onely sounding disproportion to the whole Gospel, but outstretching the most rigorous nervs of law and rigor it selfe. No other end therefore can be left imaginable of this excessive restraint, but to bridle those erroneous and licentious postillers the Pharises; not by telling them what may bee done in necessity, but what censure they deserve who divorce abusively, which their Tetrarch had done. And as the offence was in one extreme, so the rebuke, to bring more efficaciously to a rectitude and mediocrity, stands not in the middle way of duty, but in the other extreme. Which art of powerfull reclaiming, wisest men have also taught in their ethical precepts and gnomologies; resembling it, as when wee bend a crooked wand the contrary way; not that it should stand so bent, but that the overbending might reduce it to a straitnesse by its own reluctance. And as the Physician cures him who hath tak'n down poyson, not by the middling temper of nourishment, but by the other extreme of antidote, so Christ administers heer a sharpe & corrosive sentence against a foul and putrid licence; not to eate into the flesh, but into the sore. And knowing that our divines through all their comments make