DDD—“To the Parlament of England, with the Assembly” (930-34)

ENGL 513

Dr. Fike


Question at Issue:  What is wrong with England’s divorce laws, and what should be done to fix them?


Purpose:  To argue for reformation of England’s divorce laws.  Milton sets out the purpose of DDD on page 933, left top.


Conclusion:  The current divorce law is flawed because it compromises Charity.  See quotation from 932, right (over).



·         Moses’s divorce law is the right one, and it has been buried “under the rubbish of Canonical ignorance” (931). 

·         It is ridiculous to set stricter laws than God has imposed (932, left bottom).

·         The purpose of marriage is “the apt and cheerfull conversation of man with woman” (935).



·         Positive:  Truth, Reformation, charity, liberty, “Christian warfare,” and “Christian warfare” (932, right top).

·         Negative:  Error, Custom, ignorance, superstition, Prejudice


Point of view:  Milton’s:  liberal and intellectual.  He has studied the issue thoroughly.  He favors the positive concepts over the negative ones.  And he is writing not for “the simple and illiterate” but for “the learnedest, who have this high gift of wisdom to answer solidly, or to be convinc’d” (934, top left).


Information:  Moses allowed divorce “for hardnesse of heart” (932).  Christ advocated charity.



·         Divorce for hardness of heart would have positive effects:  peace, love, lessened prostitution and adultery.  See quotation from 933, left (over). 

·         Members of Parliament will be considered “defenders of Charity” if they support Milton’s proposed reform (933, top right).



·         Those who do not support Milton’s proposal and agree with his arguments are Pharisees.  See quotation from 933, right (over). 

·         Changing the law is a necessary adjunct to the Reformation.






Page 933, left top:  The purpose of DDD:


Let this therefore be new examin’d, this tenure and free-hold of mankind, this native and domestick Charter giv’n us by a greater Lord then that Saxon king the Confesor.  Let the statutes of God be turn’d over, be scann’d a new, and consider’d; not . . . by the narrow intellectuals and quotationists and common placers, but . . . by men of what liberall profession soever. . . .


Page 932, right:  Current divorce law goes contrary to charity.


The superstition of the Papist is, touch not, taste not, when God bids both: and ours is, part not, separate not, when God and charity both permits and commands.  Let all things be done with charity, saith St. Paul: and his Master saith, Shee is the fulfilling of the Law.  Yet now a civil and indifferent, a somtime diswaded Law of mariage , must be forc’t upon us to fulfill, not onely without charity but against her. No place in Heav’n or Earth, except Hell, where charity may not enter: yet marriage the Ordinance of our solace and contentments, the remedy of our loneliness will not admit now either of charity or mercy to come in and mediate or pacifie the fierceness of this gentle Ordinance, the unremedied loneliness of this remedy.


Page 933, left:  Changing the divorce law will have positive effects.


Doubt not, worthy Senators, to vindicate the sacred honour and judgment of Moses your predecessor, from the shallow commenting of Scholasticks and Cannonists.  Doubt not after him to reach out to your steddy hands to the misinform’d and wearied life of man; to [restore] this his lost  heritage, into the houshold state; wherwith be sure that peace and love the best subsistence of a Christian family will return home from whence they are now banish; places of prostitution wil be lesse haunted, the neighbours bed less attempted, the yoke of prudent and manly discipline will be generally submitted to, sober and well order’d living will soon spring up in the common-wealth.


Page 933, right:  Anyone who disagrees with Milton is a Pharisee.


Yet when I remember the little that our Saviour could prevail about this doctrine of Charity against the crabbed textuists of his time, I make no wonder, but rest confident that who so preferrs either Matrimony, or other Ordinance before the good man and the plain exigence of Charity, let him professe Papist, or Protestant, or what he will, he is no better than a Pharise, And understands not the Gospel: whom as a misinterpreter of Christ I aopenly protest against. . . .