« PreviousContinue »
of darkness, according to the wise man, (Eccle. xi. 8.) are allotted to us all, mine, which by the singular favour of the Deity, are divided between leisure and study, and are recruited by the conversation and intercourse of my friends, are more agreeable than those deadly shades of which Solomon is speaking. But if, as it is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God," (Matt. iv. 4.) why should not each of us likewise acquiesce in the reflection, that he derives not the benefit of his sight from his eyes alone, but from the guidance and providence of the same Supreme Being? Whilst he looks out and provides for me as he does, and leads me about as it were with his hand through the paths of life, I willingly surrender my own faculty of vision in conformity to his good pleasure and with a heart as strong and as stedfast as if I were a Lynceus, I bid you, my Philarus, farewell!"
It may perhaps be thought by some, that MILTON need not have noticed such contemptible charges. But what despicable pigmies must those have been, who compelled him to talk as vain and worthless fools do, who have nothing in view but selfish ends, by the vanity of their self-commendations: so PAUL, who was cast in a similar mould, (and to whom I consider
MILTON stands next of uninspired men,) said to the ungrateful Corinthians :-"6 "I say again, let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly in this confidence of boasting."-2 Cor. xi. 16, 17.
The following beautiful Sonnet will put a suitable conclusion to this painful subject of a good man having probably "been made the song of the drunkard," on account of the affliction with which it had pleased God to visit him:
TO CYRIAC SKINNER.
CYRIAC, this three years' day these eyes, though clear,
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot;
Against Heaven's hand or 'will, nor bate a jot
Of which all Europe rings from side to side.
This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask Content though blind, had I no better guide."
ALEXANDER MORUS took the field again, and published what he called "Fides Publica," and
MILTON replied, in a work entitled, "Defencio pro," or a defence of himself, and so completely baffled his opponent, that he prudently quitted the field, and MILTON was proclaimed, by general consent, the People's Champion and Conqueror : an honour this, greater than what many monarchs have obtained even from their sycophants and parasites-more valuable, more permanent!
It appears that MILTON was now advanced from his office to the Council, to be Latin Secretary to that most extraordinary man, OLIVER CROMWELL for whose statue I venture to bespeak a niche among the illustrious dead in Westminster Abbey: not doubting, from recent events, but the time will come, when the governors of the nation will be so sensible of the obligations of Britain to that illustrious ruler and his noble compatriots, as, maugre the mean power of ignorance and prejudice, will decree him a monumental inscription in the sepulchres of our kings.
OLIVER CROMWELL was now declared the chief magistrate, under the title, not of king, which he was strongly solicited to accept, but of Lord Protector. He was installed into this high office, with great solemnity and magnificence, on the 16th day of December, 1654; and MILTON, all republican as he was, fell in with that arrangement, and acknowledged that title, because "he confidently hoped," says Toland, "that Cromwell would employ his power and trust to extinguish the numerous factions in the State, and to settle such a perfect form of a free government, wherein no single person should enjoy any power above or beside the laws!" There can be no doubt but MILTON's chief reason was his knowledge of the Protector's principles in regard to liberty of conscience in religion; that he would establish equal rights in religion, as well as in politics; and as he had delivered the nation from civil
tyranny, so he would protect all persons, professing regard for, and being subject to the laws, whatever their religious sentiments might be, from the oppression of the dominant religious sect: and compel the Presbyterians, now they were in power, to grant that protection to other sects, which they themselves had pleaded for when writhing as Puritans under the lash of the Prelates.
The following expressive Sonnet will give the just character of the LORD PROTECTOR: at least, what were the sentiments of the honest MILTON respecting him, after he had gained the Sovereign power :
"CROMWELL, our chief of men, who through a croud Not of war only, but distractions rude,
Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough'd,
And Worcester's laureate wreath. Yet much remains
*The Protector was an enemy to persecution. Among the capital articles on which his government was founded, was this: "That such as profess faith in God by Jesus Christ, though they differ in judgment from the doctrine, worship, or discipline, publicly held forth, shall not be restrained