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liberate, mild assertion of the dearest right of human nature, that of free inquiry.
If I communicate the result of my inquiries to the world at large ; if, as God is my witness, it be with a friendly and benignant feeling towards mankind, that I readily give as wide a circulation as possible to what I esteem my best and richest possession, I hope to meet with a candid reception from all parties, and that none at least will take unjust offence, even though many things should be brought to light, which will at once be seen to differ from certain received opinions. I earnestly beseech all lovers of truth, not to cry out that the church is thrown into confusion by that freedom of discussion and inquiry, which is granted to the schools, and ought certainly to be refused to no believer, since we are ordered to prove all things, and since the daily progress of the light of truth is productive far less of disturbance to the church, than of illumination and edification.'—Vol. I. pp. 5, 6.
• It has also been my object to make it appear from the opinions I shall be found to have advanced, whether new or old, of how much consequence to the christian religion is the liberty, not only of winnowing and sifting every doctrine, but also of thinking and even writing respecting it, according to our individual faith and persuasion; an inference which will be stronger in proportion to the weight and importance of those opinions, or rather in proportion to the authority of scripture, on the abundant testimony of which they rest. Without this liberty there is neither religion nor gospel-force alone prevails,-by which it is disgraceful for the christian religion to be supported. Without this liberty we are still enslaved not indeed, as formerly, under the divine law, but, what is worst of all, under the law of man, or to speak more truly, under a barbarous tyranny.'Vol.l. pp. 7,8.
On that great subject, the character of God, Milton has given nothing particularly worthy of notice, except that he is more disposed than Christians in general, to conceive of the Supreme Being under the forms and affections of human nature.
If God habitually assign to himself the members and form of man, why should we be afraid of attributing to him what he attributes to himself, so long as what is imperfection and weakness, when viewed in reference to ourselves, be considered as most complete and excelle nt whenever it is imputed to God.”—Vol. I. p. 23.
Milton is not the first Christian, who has thought to render the Supreme Being more interesting by giving him human shape. We doubt the wisdom of this expedient. To spiritualize our conceptions of him, seems to us the true process for strengthening our intimacy with him ; for in this way only can we think of him as immediately present to our minds. As far as we give him a material form, we must assign to him a place, and that place will almost necessarily be a distant one, and thus we shall remove him from the soul which is his true temple. Besides, a definite form clashes with God's infinity, which is his supreme distinction, and on no account to be obscured; for strange as it may seem to those who know not their own nature, this incomprehensible attribute, is that, which above all things constitutes the correspondence or adaptation, if we may so speak, of God to the human mind.
In treating of God's Efficiency, Milton strenuously maintains human freedom, in opposition to the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination. He maintains, that God's decrees do not encroach on moral liberty; for our free agency is the very object decreed and predestined by the Creator. He maintains that some of the passages of scripture, which speak of election, are to be understood of an election to outward privileges, not to everlasting life; and that in other texts, which relate to the future state, the election spoken of is not an arbitrary choice of individuals, but of that class or description of persons, be it large or small, who shall comply with the prescribed terms of salvation; in other words, it is a conditional, not an absolute election, and such that every individual, if he will, may be included in it. Milton has so far told us truth. We wish we could add, that he had thrown new light on free agency. This great subject has indeed baffled as yet the deepest thinkers, and seems now to be consigned with other sublime topics, under the sweeping denomination of metaphysics, to general neglect. But let it not be given up in despair. The time is coming, when the human intellect is to strike into new fields, and to view itself, and its Creator, and the universe from new positions, and we trust that the darkness which has so long hung over our moral nature will be gradually dispersed. This attribute of free agency, through which an intelligent being is strictly and properly a cause, an agent, an originator, of moral good or moral evil, and not a mere machine, determined by outward influences or by a secret yet resistless efficiency of God, which virtually makes Him the author and only author of all human actions,--this moral freedom, which is the best image of the creative energy of the Deity, seems to us the noblest object of philosophical investigation. However questioned and darkened by a host of metaphysicians, it is recognised in the common consciousness of every human being. It is the ground of responsibility, the fountain of moral feeling. It is involved in all moral judgments and affections, and thus gives to social life its whole interest; whilst it is the chief tie between the soul and its
Creator. The fact, that philosophers have attempted to discard free agency from their explanations of moral phænomena, and to subject all human action to necessity, to mechanical causes, or other extraneous influences, is proof enough, that the science of the mind has as yet penetrated little beneath the surface, that the depths of the soul are still unexplored.
Milton naturally passes from his chapter on the Supreme Being to the consideration of those topics, which have always been connected with this part of theology; we mean the character of Jesus Christ, and the nature of the Holy Spirit. All our readers are probably aware that Milton has here declared himself an anti-trinitarian, and strenuously asserted the strict and proper unity of God. His chapter on · The Son of God? is the most elaborate one in the work. His “prefatory remarks' are highly interesting, as joining with a manly assertion of his right, an affectionate desire to conciliate the Christians from whom he differed.
'I cannot enter upon subjects of so much difficulty as the Son of God and the Holy Spirit, without again premising a few introductory words. If indeed I were a member of the church of Rome, which requires implicit obedience to its creed on all points of faith, I should have acquiesced from education or habit in its simple decree and authority, even though it denies that the doctrine of the trinity, as now received, is capable of being proved from any passage of Scripture. But since I enrol myself among the number of those who acknowledge the word of God alone as the rule of faith, and freely advance what appears to me much more clearly deducible from the Holy Scriptures than the commonly received opinion, I see no reason why any one who belongs to the same Protestant or Reformed Church, and professes to acknowledge the same rule of faith as myself, should take offence at my freedom, particularly as I impose my authority on no one, but merely propose what I think more worthy of belief than the creed in general acceptation. I only entreat that my readers will ponder and examine my statements in a spirit which desires to discover nothing but the truth, and with a mind free from prejudice. For without intending to oppose the authority of Scripture, which I consider inviolably sacred, I only take upon myself to refute human interpretations as often as the occasion requires, conformably to my right or rather to my duty as a man. If indeed those with whom I have to contend were able to produce direct attestation from heaven to the truth of the doctrine which they espouse, it would be nothing less than impiety to venture to raise, I do not say a clamour, but so much as a murmur against it. But inasmuch as they can lay claim to nothing more than human powers, assisted by that spiritual illumination which is common to all, it is not unreasonable that they should on their part allow the privileges of diligent research and free discussion to another inquirer, who is seeking truth through the same means and in the same way as themselves, and whose desire of benefiting mankind is equal to their own.'— Vol. I. pp. 103, 104, 105.
Milton teaches, that the Son of God is a distinct being from God, and inferior to him, that he existed before the world was made, that he is the first of the creation of God, and that afterwards, all other things were made by him, as the instrument or minister of his Father. He maintains, in agreement with Dr. Clarke, that the Holy Spirit is a person, an intelligent agent, but created and inferior to God. This opinion of Milton is the more remarkable, because he admits, that before the time of Christ, the Jews, though accustomed to the phrase, Holy Spirit, never attached to it the idea of personality, and that both in the Old and the New Testament, it is often used to express God himself or his power and agency. It is strange, that after these concessions, he could have found a difficulty in giving a figurative interpretation to the few passages in the New Testament, which speak of the Holy Spirit as a person.
We are unable within our limits to give a sketch of Milton's strong reasoning against the Supreme Divinity of Jesus Christ. We must, however, pause a moment to thank God that he has raised up this illustrious advocate of the long obscured doctrine of the Divine Unity. We can now bring forward the three greatest and noblest minds of modern times, and we may add of the christian era, as witnesses to that Great Truth, of which in an humbler and narrower sphere, we desire to be the defenders. Our Trinitarian adversaries are perpetually ringing in our ears the names of Fathers and Reformers. We take Milton, Locke and Newton, and place them in our front, and want no others to oppose to the whole array of great names on the opposite side. Before these intellectual suns, the stars of self-named orthodoxy hide their diminished heads.' To these eminent men, God communicated such unusual measures of light and mental energy, that their names spring up spontaneously, when we think or would speak of the greatness of our nature. Their theological opinions were the fruits of patient, profound, reverent study of the Scriptures. They came to this work, with minds not narrowed by a technical, professional education, but accustomed to broad views, to the widest range of thought. They were shackled by no party connexions. They were warped by no clerical ambition, and subdued by no clerical timidity. They came to this subject in the fulness of their strength, with free minds open to truth, and with unstained purity of life. They came to it, in an age, when the doctrine of the Trinity was instilled by education,
and upheld by the authority of the church, and by penal laws. And what did these great and good men, whose intellectual energy and love of truth have made them the chief benefactors of the human mind,—what, we ask, did they discover in the Scriptures ? a triple divinity? three infinite agents? three infinite objects of worship ? three persons, each of whom possesses his own distinct offices, and yet shares equally in the godhead with the rest ? No! Scripture joined with nature and with that secret voice in the heart, which even idolatry could not always stifle, and taught them to bow reverently before the One Infinite Father, and to ascribe to Him alone supreme, self-existent Divinity.-Our principal object in these remarks has been to show, that as far as great names are arguments, the cause of anti-trinitarianism, or of God's proper Unity, is supported by the strongest. But we owe it to truth to say, that we put little trust in these fashionable proofs. The chief use of great names in religious controversy is to balance and neutralize one another, that the unawed and unfettered mind may think and judge with a due self-reverence, and with a solemn sense of accountableness to God alone.
We have called Milton an anti-trinitarian. But we have no desire to identify him with any sect. His mind was too independent and universal to narrow itself to human creeds and parties. He is supposed to have separated himself in his last years from all the denominations around him; and were he now living, we are not sure that he would find one to which he would be strongly attracted. He would probably stand first among that class of Christians, more numerous than is supposed, and, we hope, increasing, who are too jealous of the rights of the mind, and too dissatisfied with the clashing systems of the age, to attach themselves closely to any party; in whom the present improved state of theology has created a consciousness of defect, rather than the triumph of acquisition; who, however partial to their own creed, cannot persuade themselves, that it is the ultimate attainment of the human mind, and that distant ages will repeat its articles as reverently as the Catholics do the decrees of Trent; who contend earnestly for free inquiry, not because all who inquire will think as they do, but because some at least may be expected to outstrip them, and to be guides to higher truth. With this nameless and spreading class, we have strong sympathies. We want new light, and care not whence it comes; we want reformers worthy of the name; and we should rejoice in such a manifestation of Christianity, as would throw all present systems into obscurity.
We come now to a topic, on which Milton will probably startle a majority of readers. He is totally opposed, as were