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taking the true road to liberty, and might proceed with the utmost rectitude from these beginnings to deliver human life from all base subje&ion, if their discipline, drawing its fource from religion, proceeded to morals and political institutions; as I had been trained from my youth to the particular knowledge of what belonged to divine, and what to human jurisdiction; and as I thought I should deserve to forfeit the power of being useful to mankind, if I now failed to assist my country and the church, and so many brethren, who for the sake of the gospel were exposing themselves to peril, I refolved, though my thoughts had been pre-engaged by other designs, to transfer to this object all my talents and all my application : first, therefore, I wrote of reformation in England two books addreffed to a friend ; afterwards, when two bishops of eminence had asserted their cause against the leading ministers of the opposite party, as I conceived that I could argue, from a love of truth and a sense of christian duty, not less forcibly than my antagonists, (who contended for lucre and their own unjust dominion) I answered one of them in two books with the following titles, Of Prelatical Episcopacy, Of Church Government; and the other, first in Andmadversions upon the Remonstrants Defence
tendebant, ad hunc libris duobus, quorum unus De Episcopatu Prælatico, alter De Ratione Disciplinæ Ecclesiasticæ, inscribitur, ad illum fcriptis quibusdam animadversionibus, & mox Apologia respondi, et miniftris facundiam hominis, ut ferebatur ægre suf- . tinentibus, fuppetias tuli, & ab eo tempore fi quid poftea responderent, interfui.
against Smectymnuus, and secondly, in my Apology. As the ministers were thought hardly equal to their opponent in eloquence, I lent them my aid, and from that time, if they made any farther reply, I was a party concerned.”
I have inserted this paffage ar full length, because it gives us a clear insight into the motives of Mil. ton on his first engaging in controversy, and discovers the high opinion which he entertained, both of the christian purity and the argumentative powers of his own cultivated mind: the two bishops to whom he alludes were, Hall bishop of Norwich, famous as our first satirist, and the learned Usher, primate of Ireland. Hall published, in 1640, “ An humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parliament in Behalf of Episcopacy’-an answer to this appeared written by fix ministers, under the title of Smectymnuus, a word casually formed from the initial letters of their respective names. This little band of religious writers included Thomas Young, the beloved preceptor of Milton; fo that personal attachment conspired with public enthufiasm to make our author vehement in his reply, to the two bishops, who failed not to encounter the confederate antagonists of their order. He probably recollected the sufferings of his favourite instructor, when he exclaimed in his treatise of reformation, " What numbers of faithful and free born Englishmen and good christians have been constrained to forsake their dearest home, their friends and kindred, whom nothing but the wide ocean, or
the savage deserts of America, could hide and shelter from the fury of the bishops.”
However furious the persecution might be, which excited antipathy and abhorrence in Milton against the order of bishops, it must be confessed that he frequently speaks with that intemperance of zeal, which defeats its own purpose. There are some passages in his controversial writings, that mult be read with concern by his most passionate admirers ; yet even the gloom and severity of these are compensated by such occasional flashes of ardent fancy, of sound argument, and of sublime devotion, as may extort commendation even from readers who love not the author.
In his first Ecclesiastical Treatise of Reformation, he makes the following very folemn appeal to heaven on his integrity as a writer : " And here withal I “ invoke the immortal deity, revealer and judge of “ secrets, that wherever I have in this book plainly " and roundly, though worthily and truly, laid
open the faults and blemishes of fathers, martyrs, or christian emperors, or have otherways
inveighed against error and superstition with ve“ hement expressions, I have done it neither out of “ malice, nor list to speak evil, nor any vain glory, “ but of mere necessity, to vindicate the spotless “ truth from an ignominious bondage.”
Towards the close of this performance he gives a distant mysterious hint of his great and unsettled poetical designs, with a very striking mixture of moral, political, and religious enthusiasm.
" Then, amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of “ faints, fome one may, perhaps, be heard offering “ at high strains, in new and lofty measures, to fing « and celebrate thy divine mercies and marvellous
judgments in this land throughout all ages.”
In his subsequent work, on the Reason of Church Government, he gratifies us with a more enlarged view of his literary projects, not yet moulded into form, but, like the unarranged elements of creation, now floating at large in his capacious mind.
I transcribe the long passage alluded to, because it illustrates the mental character of Milton, with a mild energy, a folemn splendor of sentiment and expression peculiar to himself.
“ Time ferves not now, and, perhaps, I might “ feem too profuse to give any certain account of “ what the mind at home, in the spacious circuits " of her musing, hath liberty to propose to herself, " though of highest hope and hardest attempting ; " whether that epic form, whereof the two poems " of Homer, and those other two of Virgil and " Tafso, are a diffuse, and the book of Job a brief, “ model; or whether the rules of Aristotle herein
are strictly to be kept, or nature to be followed; " which in them that know art, and use judgment, “ is no transgression, but an enriching of art : and “ lastly, what king or knight, before the Conquest,
might be chosen, in whom to lay the pattern of a " christian hero. And as Tafso gave to a prince of
Italy his choice, whether he would command him “ to write of Godfrey's expedition against the in
fidels, Belisarius against the Goths, or Charle
“ main against the Lombards; if to the instinct of
nature, and the emboldening of art aught may bę " trusted, and that there be nothing adverse in our $6 so climate, or the fate of this age, it haply would be
no rashness, from an equal diligence and inclina. “ tion, to present the like offer in our antient « stories. Or whether those dramatic constituti.
ons, wherein Sophocles and Euripides reign, shall 66 be found more doctrinal and exemplary to a na. « tion-Or, if occasion shall lead, to imitate those " magnific odes and hymns, wherein Pindarus and “ Callimachus are in most things worthy. But “ those frequent songs throughout the law and pro. • phets, beyond all these, not in their divine argu“ ment alone, but in the very critical art of com.
. position, may be easily made appear over all the « kinds of lyric poesy to be incomparable. These “ abilities, wherefoever they be found, are the in
spired gift of God, rarely bestowed, but yet to “ fome (though most abuse) in every nation; and
are of power, besides the office of a pulpit, to in66 breed and cherish in a great people the seeds of “ virtue and public civility, to allay the perturba“ tions of the mind, and set the affections in right 6 tune; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the " throne and equipage of God's almightiness, and “ what he works, and what he suffers to be wrought 56 with high providence in his church; to sing 66 victorious agonies of martyrs and saints, the deeds " and triumphs of just and pious nations doing va“ liantly through faith against the enemies of “ Christ; to deplore the general relapses of king