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when an individual unites himself to a particular church, it is requisite that he should enter into a solemn covenant with God and the church to conduct himself in all respects, both towards the one and the other, so as to promote his own edification, and that of his brethren.'* Again, speaking of the penitential meditations and vows of Charles at Holmby, Milton says, in the same treatise which has been already quoted, 'It is not hard for any man who hath a Bible in his hands, to borrow good words and holy sayings in abundance ; but to make them his own, is a work of grace only from above.'t A sentiment precisely similar occurs in this work, but not the most covert allusion is added which can recal to the mind of the reader the charge of insincerity formerly advanced against the unfortunate monarch in nearly the same language. He is equally cautious where he argues that marriage is only a civil contract, an opinion acted upon by his party during the Interregnum. In vol. II.
323. a favourable opportunity presented itself for inveighing against Archbishop Laud's consecration of churches, at that time one of the favourite topics of abuse among the Puritanical party, and probably alluded to in Paradise Lost :
God attributes to place
But neither in this place, nor in his remarks on the sanctification of the Sabbath, another of the controverted subjects of his day, and not avoided by the author in his political writings (see Eiconoclastes, II. 405.) is a single expression employed which can expose him to the charge of substituting the language of the polemic for that of the divine, or of forgetting the calmness befitting the character of an inquirer after religious truth, to indulge in a second triumph over a political adversary.
* II, 202.
+ Prose Works, III. 69.
Many doubts hitherto entertained respecting the real opinions of Milton on certain subjects are removed by the present treatise, to which, as originally intended for a posthumous work, no suspicion of insincerity can attach. Of all the charges indeed which private or political prejudice has created against the author, that of being a “time-server,' according to the reproach of Warburton, seems to have been the least deserved. The honesty of his sentiments is sufficiently vindicated by the boldness with which he uniformly expressed them in times when freedom of speech was more than ordinarily dangerous, as well as by his consistent exposure of what he conceived to be erroneous, whether advocated by his own friends or by his opponents. Thus on discovering that new presbyter was but old priest writ large,' he resisted the encroachments of the presbyterians, as resolutely as he had before contributed to overthrow prelacy; and, if it were necessary, his political independence might be no less successfully vindicated by adducing the spirited language which he addressed to Cromwell in the zenith of his power. He has however been charged with concealing his opinions on a subject of no less importance than Popery, and even of entertaining a secret inclination in its favour. This imputation, considering the multifariousness of Milton's writings, may perhaps have received same colour from the silence which he generally observes with regard to the doctrines of the Church of Rome, althongh incidental phrases, sufficiently indicative of the soundness of his Protestant principles, sometimes occur. See particularly his · Treatise on true Religion, in which he recommends the study of the Bible to all classes of men, as the best preservative against Popery. His reason for not entering upon the subject more at large is assigned in the preface to the present work, and it is simply this, that the cause of Protestantism appeared to be so firmly established as to stand in no, need of his services. He professed to employ his pen, as we learn from his own testimony, only where, in his judgement, the good of his country or the interests of religion required it. Acting on this principle, he undertook successively to oppose episcopacy, to advocate the cause of liberty, of education, and of a free press. But perceiving, as he tells us, that the strong holds of the reformed religion were sufficiently fortified, as far as they were exposed to danger from the Papists, he directed his attention to more neglected subjects, and exerted his talents in the defence of civil or of religious liberty.f Encouraged perhaps by this comparative silence, and pre
suming on the supposed absence of additional written evidence to falsify his statement, Titus Oates did not scruple to accuse Milton of being a member of a Popish Club.
• The Popish lord is not forgotten, or unknown, who brought a petition to the late regicides and usurpers, signed by about five hundred principal Papists in England ; wherein was promised, upon condition of a toleration of the Popish religion here by law, their joint resolution to abjure and exclude the family of the Stuarts for ever from their undoubted right to the Crown. Who more disheartened the loyalty and patience of your best subjects than their confident scribblers, White and others? And MILTON was a known frequenter of a Popish club.' See the Address or Dedication to the King prefixed to “A true Narrative of the Horrid Plot, &c. of the Popish party against the life of his Sacred Majesty, &c. By Titus Oates, D. D. folio, Lond. 1679. This charge was subsequently copied into · A History of all the Popish Plots, &c. from the first year of Elizabeth to this present year 1684, by Thos. Long, Prebendary of Exeter,' who says, p. 93. • Milton was by very many suspected to be a Papist; and if Dr. Oates may be believed, was a known frequenter of the Popish Club, though he were Cromwell's Secretary.' The evidence furnished by the present publication will show how improbable it is that Milton, who, even within the precincts of the Papal dominions, had been at so little pains to moderate his zeal for the reformed religion, as to be exposed to insult and personal danger in consequence of his known principles, should have consented to sit at the same secret council-board with his alleged confederates. See particularly vol. I. p. 321, on the marriage of priests; p. 429, on purgatory ; vol. II. p. 128, &c. on transubstantiation; p. 136, on the sacrifice of the mass; p. 138, &c. on the five Papistical sacraments; p. 146, on the authority of the Roman pontiffs ; p. 177, on traditions ; p. 195, on councils.
On the subject of Divorce, the line of argument pursued in this treatise coincides with the well-known opinions which Milton has elsewhere so zealously advocated. To his heterodoxy on this point must now be added, what hitherto has been unsuspected, his belief in the lawfulness of polygamy, to which he appears to have been led by the difficulty he found in reconciling the commonly received opinion with the practice of the patriarchs. It seems however no less easy to conceive that the Supreme Lawgiver might dispense with his own laws in the early ages of the world, for the sake of multiplying the population in a quicker ratio, than that marriages between brothers and sisters might be then permitted on account of the paucity of inhabitants on the face of the earth. Yet the existence of the latter practice in the primeval ages has never been alleged as a sufficient authority for the intermarriage of so near relations, now that the reason for the original permission has ceased to operate.
Doubts have always been entertained as to the real sentiments of Milton respecting the second person