Page:Tetrachordon - Milton (1645).djvu/59

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TETRACHORDON.

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lume, and shall content me heer to have shew'n breifly, that the great and almost only commandment of the Gospel, is to command nothing against the good of man, and much more no civil command, against his civil good. If we understand not this, we are but crackt cimbals, we do but tinckle, we know nothing, we doe nothing, all the sweat of our toilsomest obedience will but mock us. And what wee suffer superstitiously, returnes us no thankes. Thus med'cining our eyes, wee neede not doubt to see more into the meaning of these our Saviours words, then many who have gone before us.

[It hath beene said, whosoever shall put away his wife.] Our Saviour was by the doctors of his time suspected of intending to dissolve the law. In this chapter he wipes off this aspersion upon his accusers, and shewes how they were the law breakers. In every common wealth when it decayes, corruption makes two maine steps; first, when men cease to doe according to the inward and uncompell'd actions of vertue, caring only to live by the outward constraint of law, and turne the Simplicity of reall good, into the craft of seeming so by law. To this hypocritical honesty was Rome declin'd in that Age wherein Horace liv'd, and discover'd it to Quintius.

Whom doe we count a good man, whom but he
Who keeps the laws and statutes of the Senate,
Who judges in great suits and controversies,
Whose witnesse and opinion winnes the cause;
But his owne house, and the whole neighbourhood
Sees his foule inside through his whited skin.

The next declining is, when law becomes now too straight for the secular manners, and those too loose for the cincture of law. This brings in false and crooked interpretations to eeke out law, and invents the suttle encroachment of obscure traditions hard to be disprov'd. To both these descents the Pharises themselves were fall'n. Our Saviour therefore shews them both where they broke the law in not marking the divine intent thereof, but onely the letter, and where they deprav'd the letter also with sophisticall expositions. This law of divorse they had deprav'd both waies. First, by teaching that to give a bill of divorse was all the duty which that law requir'd, what ever the cause were. Next by running to divorse for any triviall, accidentall cause; whenas the law evidently stayes in the grave causes of naturall and immutable dislike. [It hath been said saith he, Christ doth not put any contempt or disesteeme upon the

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law