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though we owe parents a limited obedience still, yet at full age the child is more at his own dispose than he was before. Nature hath given us a hint of her intention in the instinct of brutes, who are all taught to protect, and lead, and provide for their young ones, while the young are insufficient for themselves; but when they are grown to self-sufficiency, they drive them away or neglect them. If a wise son that hath a wife and many children, and great affairs to manage in the world, should be bound to as absolute obedience to his aged parents, as he was in his childhood, it would ruin their affairs, and parents' government would pull down that in their old age, which they built up in their middle age.
. And to the second question I answer, that, 1. Children that pretend to unconquerable lust or love, must do all they can to subdue such inordinate affections, and bring their lusts to stoop to reason and their parents' wills. And if they do their best, there are either none, or not one of many hundreds, but may maintain their chastity together with their obedience. 2. And if any say, 'I have done my best, and yet 'am under a necessity of marriage ; and am I not then bound to marry though my parents forbid me? I answer, it is not to be believed: either you have not done your best, or else you are not under a necessity. And your urgency being your own fault (seeing you should subdue it), God still obligeth you both to subdue your vice, and to obey your parents. 3. But if there should be any one that hath such an incredible) necessity of marriage, he is to procure some others to solicit his parents for their consent, and if he cannot obtain it, some say, it is his duty to marry without it: I should rather say that it is 'minus malum,' the lesser evil:' and that having cast himself into some necessity of sinning, it is still his duty to avoid both, and to choose neither; but it is the smaller sin to choose to disobey his parents, rather than to live in the flames of lust and the filth of unchastity. And some divines say, that in such a case a son should appeal to the magistrate, as a superior authority above the father. But others think, 1. That this leaveth it as difficult to resolve what he shall do, if the magistrate also consent not: and 2. That it doth but resolve one difficulty by a greater : it being very doubtful whether in domestic cases the authority of the parent or the magistrate be the greater.
3. The same answer serveth as to the third Question, when parents forbid you to marry the persons that you are most fond of. For such fondness (whether you call it lust or love) as will not stoop to reason and your parents' wills, is inordinate and sinful. And therefore the thing that God bindeth you to, is by his appointed means to subdue it, and to obey : but if you cannot, the accidents and probable consequents must tell you which is the lesser evil.
Quest. • But what if the child have promised marriage, and the parents be against it?' Answ. If the child was under the parents' government, and short of years of discretion also, the promise is void for want of capacity. And if the child was at age, yet the promise was a sinful promise, as to the promising act, and also as to the thing promised during the parents' dissent. If the 'actus promittendi' only had been sinful ('the promise making') the promise might nevertheless oblige (unless it were null as well as sinful). But the materia promissa' being sinful (“the matter promised') to marry while parents do dissent, such a child is bound to forbear the fulfilling of that promise till the parents do consent or die. And yet he is bound from marrying any other (unless he be disobliged by the person that he made the promise to), because he knoweth not but his parents may consent hereafter; and whenever they consent or die, the promise then is obligatory, and must be performed.
The third Chapter of Numbers enableth parents to disoblige a daughter that is in their house, from a vow made to God, so be it they disavow it at the first hearing. Hence there are two doubts arise : 1. Whether this power extend not to the disobliging of a promise or contract of matrimony? 2. Whether it extend not to a son as well as a daughter. And most expositors are for the affirmative of both cases. But I have shewed before that it is upon uncertain grounds. 1. It is uncertain whether God, who would thus give up his own right in case of vowing, will also give away the right of others without their consent in case of promises or contracts. And 2. It is uncertain whether this be not an indulgence only of the weaker sex, seeing many words in the text seem plainly to intimate so much. And it is dangerous upon our own presumptions to stretch God's laws to
every thing we imagine there is the same reason for: seeing our imaginations may so easily be deceived: and God could have expressed such particulars if he would : and therefore (when there is not clear ground for our inferences in the text) it is but to say, 'Thus and thus God should have said,' when we cannot say, “Thus he hath said.' We must not make laws under pretence of expounding them : whatsoever God commandeth thee, take heed that thou do it: thou shalt add nothing thereto, nor take aught therefrome.
Quest. If the question therefore be not of the sinfulness, but the nullity of such promises of children, because of the dissent of parents, for my part I am not able to prove any such nullity. It is said, that they are not sui juris,' 'their own,' and therefore their promises are null. But if they have attained to years, and use of discretion, they are naturally so far 'sui juris' as to be capable of disposing even of their souls, and therefore of their fidelity. They can oblige themselves to God or man: though they are not so far 'sui juris' as to be ungoverned. For so no child, no subject, no man is 'sui juris ;' seeing all are under the government of God. And yet if a man promise to do a thing sinful, it is not a nullity, but a sin : not no promise, but a sinful promise. A nullity is when the “ actus promittendi' is reputative nullus, vel non actus. And when no promise is made, then none can be broken.
Quest. But if the question be only how far such promises must be kept? I answer, by summing up what I have said: 1. If the child had not the use of reason, the want of natural capacity, proveth the promise null: here'ignorantis non est consensus.' 2. If he was at
and use of reason, then 1. If the promising act only was sinful (as before I said of vows,) the promise must be both repented of, and kept. It must be repented of because it was a sin: it must be kept because it was a real promise, and the matter lawful. 2. If the promising act was not only a sin, but a nullity (by any other reason) then it is no obligation. 3. If not only the promising act be sin, but also the matter promised (as is marrying without parents' consent), then it must be repented of, and not performed until it become
e Deut. xi. 32.
lawful ; because an oath or promise cannot bind a man to violate the laws of God.
Quest. But what if the parties be actually married without the parents' consent? Must they live together, or be separated?' Ansy. 1. If marriage be consummated per carnalem concubitum,' by the carnal knowledge of each other,' I see no reason to imagine that parents can dissolve it, or prohibit their cohabitation. For the marriage, for aught I ever saw, is not proved a nullity, but only a sin, and their 'concubitus’ is not fornication: and parents cannot forbid husband and wife to live together; and in marriage they do (really though sinfully) forsake father and mother and cleave to each other, and so are now from under their government, though not disobliged from all obedience. 2. But if marriage be only by verbal conjunction, divines are disagreed what is to be done : some think that it is no perfect marriage 'ante concubitum,' and also that their conjunction hath but the nature of a promise (to be faithful to each other as husband and wife): and therefore the matter promised is unlawful till parents consent, and so not to be done. But I rather think, as most do, that it hath all that is essential to marriage 'ante concubitum ;' and that this marriage is more than a promise of fidelity' de futuro,' even an actual delivery of themselves to one another de præsenti' also : and that the thing promised in marriage is lawful: for though it be a sin to marry without parents? consent, yet when that is past, it is lawful for married
persons to come together though parents consent not: and therefore that such marriage is valid, and to be continued though it was sinfully made.
3. A third sort that are not called of God to marry, are they that have absolutely vowed not to marry : such may not marry, unless Providence disoblige them, by making it become an indispensable duty: and I can remember but two ways by which this may be done. 1. In case there be any of so strong lust, as no other lawful means but marriage can suffice to maintain their chastity ; to such, marriage is as great a duty as to eat or drink, or cover one's nakedness, or to hinder another from uncleanness, or lying, or stealing, or the like. And if you should make a vow
that you will never eat or drink, or that you will go naked, or that you will never hinder any one from uncleanness, lying, or stealing, it is unlawful to fulfil this vow. But all the doubt is, whether there be any such persons that cannot overcome, or restrain their lust by any other lawful means ? I suppose it is possible there may be such : but I believe it is not one of an hundred: if they will but practise the directions before given, Part i. Chap. viii. Part v. Tit. 1. and 2. I suppose their lust may be restrained: and if that prevail not, the help of a physician may. And if that prevail not, some think the help of a surgeon may be lawful, to keep a vow, in case it be not an apparent hazard of life. For Christ seemeth to allow of it, in mentioning it without reproof, Matt. xix. 12. if that text be to be understood of castration : but most expositors think it is meant only of a confirmed resolution of chastity. And ordinarily other means may make this needless. And if it be either needless or perilous it is unlawful without doubt.
2. The second way by which God may dispense with a vow of chastity is, by making the marriage of a person become of
apparent necessity to the public safety. And I am able to discern but one instance that will reach the case ; and that is, if a king have vowed chastity, and in case he marry not, his next heir being a professed enemy of Christianity, the religion, safety and happiness of the whole nation are apparently in danger to be overthrown. I think the case of such a king is like the case of a father that had vowed never to provide food or raiment for his children. Or as if Ahab had vowed that no well should be digged in the land ; and when the drought cometh, it is become necessary to the saving of the people's lives. Or as if the ship-master should vow that the ship shall not be pumped ; which when it leaketh doth become necessary to save their lives. In these cases God disobligeth you from your vow by a mutation of the matter; and a pastor may dispense with it declaratively. But for the pope or any mortal man to pretend to more, is impiety and deceit.
Quest. "May the aged marry that are frigid, impotent, and uncapable of procreation ? Answ. Yes, God hath not forbidden them: and there are other lawful ends of mar