To reconcile Christ and Moses on divorce (Matthew, chapter xix and Deuteronomy, chapter xxiv), and to prove that the Scriptures in fact sanction divorce for incompatibility, Milton needed a decisive principle of hermeneutics. He discovered “the Rule of Charity.” This rule—the hermeneutical corollary of the Gospel doctrine of charity—became Milton's “loadstarre” of exegesis, enabling him to resolve doctrinal ambiguities by seeking the interpretation most charitable toward mankind. While Milton might have derived the Rule of Charity from Augustine, from Augustinian tradition, or from Erasmus or Hugo Grotius, it is likely that he discovered his key to Scripture in 1641—42, when he applied Ramistic method to exegesis. He observed that doctrinal charity becomes the “supreme axiom” in the method of Scripture, or the art of divinity. Hence, by the axiom of charity, a literal, merciless interpretation of Christ's words on divorce would invert the Law and the Gospel and violate the divine dialectics of Scripture. Milton's confidence in his divorce argument was bolstered by his perception of divine method behind “the all-interpreting voice of Charity.”

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