Milton, in his tract The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, identifies three related biblical purposes for marriage. These are:
Of these three reasons the first purpose is, according to Milton the highest, purest and most excellent reason (Milton DDD 192-196). The second and third find their rightful orientation and context within the first. It is thus possible to have a happy and fulfilling marriage in the absence of the second (children) but also in the absence of the third (penetrative sexual intercourse) or even in the absence of both. But it is not possible to have a happy or fulfilling marriage in the absence of the first. Nor is sexual intercourse at the heart of what it means to be of 'one flesh' (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5).
It is not the joining of bodies in copulation which is at the heart of the marriage covenant nor does sexual intercourse, on its own, remove loneliness. On the contrary..........'it is no blessing but a torment, nay a base and brutish condition to be one flesh, unless where a nature can in some measure fix a unity of Disposition' (Milton DDD:247).
For Milton, those who affirm that physical adultery is the most serious breach of the marriage covenant are, by so doing,
"affirming copulation to be the highest purpose of marriage which is a gross and boorish opinion for.....there is a certain scale of duties, there is a certain Hierarchy of upper and lower commands, which for want of studying in right order, all the world is in confusion. (Milton DDD 196)
"Marriage is a Covenant, the very being whereof consists not in a forced cohabitation, and counterfeit performance of duties, but in unfeigned love and peace........Love in marriage cannot live nor subsist unless it be mutual; and where love cannot be, there can be left of Wedlock nothing, as undelightful and unpleasing to God, as any other kind of hypocrisy". (Milton DDD 185-186)
Copyright Bill Gordon (2004) used with permission.
This page, "http://www.abxn.org/.html", is offered to God as on-going work. Comments, queries welcome.
Part of his www.abxn.org pages, that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective. Written on the Amiga with Protext.
Created 25 June 2004. Last updated: 20 July 2018 Sadly I had not uploaded this; today I did so.