in the Canons and edicts compar'd by Photius the Patriarch, with the avertiments of Balsamon, and Matthaeus Monachus thereon.
But long before those dayes Leo the Son of Basilius Macedo reigning about the yeare 886. and for his excellent wisdome surnam'd the Philosopher, constituted that in the case of madnesse the husband might divorce after three yeares, the wife after 5. Constitut. Leon. 111. 112. this declares how hee expounded our Saviour, and deriv'd his reasons from the institution, which in his preface with great eloquence are set downe; whereof a passage or two may give som proofe, though better not divided from the rest. There is not, saith he, a thing more necessary to preserve mankind, then the helpe giv'n him from his own rib; both God and nature so teaching us: which being so, it was requisite that the providence of law, or if any other care be to the good of man, should teach and ordaine those things which are to the helpe and comfort of maried persons, and confirme the end of mariage purpos'd in the beginning, not those things which afflict and bring perpetuall misery to them. Then answers the objection that they are one flesh; if Matrimony had held so as God ordain'd it, he were wicked that would dissolve it. But if we respect this in matrimony, that it be contracted to the good of both, how shall he, who for some great evil feard, perswades not to marry though contracted, nor perswade to unmarry, if after marriage a calamity befall? should we bid beware least any fall into an evil, and leave him helplesse who by humane error is fall'n therein? This were as if we should use remedies to prevent a disease, but let the sick die without remedy. The rest will be worth reading in the author.
And thus we have the judgement first of primitive fathers; next of the imperial law not disallow'd by the universal Church in ages of her best authority; and lastly of the whole Greeke Church and civil state, incorporating their Canons and edicts together, that divorce was lawfull for other causes equivalent to adultery, contain'd under the word fornication. So that the exposition of our saviours sentence heer alleg'd hath all these ancient and great asserters, is therefore neither new nor licentious, as some now would perswade the commonalty; although it be neerer truth that nothing is more new then those teachers themselves, & nothing more licentious then some known to be, whose hypocrisie yet shames not to take offence at this doctrine for licence; when as indeed they feare it would remove licence, and leave them but few companions.