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“ leave railing, and to let us hear so much of his learning « and christian wisdom, as will be strichly demanded of him “ in his answering to this problem, care was had he should

not spend his preparations against a nameless pam« phlet."

These expressions display the frankness and fortitude of a noble mind, perfectly conscious of its own integrity, in discussing a very delicate point, that materially affects the comfort of human life. This integrity he had indeed protested very solemnly in his former Address to the Parliament, where, after asserting that the subject concerned them chiefly as redressers of grievances, he proceeds thus, ' “ Me it con“ cerns next, having, with much labour and faithful diligence, “ first found out, or at least with a fearless communicative “ candour first published, to the manifest good of christense dom, that which, calling to witness every thing mortal " and immortal, I believe unfeignedly to be true.” The folemnity of this protestation, confirmed as it was by the singular regularity of his morals, and the sincerity of his zeal as a christian, could not secure him from censures of every kind, which, vehement as they were, hecu, despised. His ideas were derided by libertines, «nd calumniated by hypocrites and bigots; but, fu perion'to ridicule and to flander, he proceeded resolutely in what he thought his duty, by shewing how completely his doctrine was confonant, in his own opinion, to that gospel, which he had scdulously made not only the favourite study, but the constant guide of his life. With this view he published, in 1645) his Tetrachordon, expositions upon the four chief places of


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fcripture, which speak of marriage. He introduces this work by a third Address to the Parliament, and, speaking of their justice and candour in disdaining to think of persecuting him for his doctrine, according to the instigation of his enemies, he expresses his gratitude in the following animated terms : “ For which uprightness and incorrupt re“ fusal of what ye were incensed to, lords and commons

(though it were done to justice, not to me, and was a “ peculiar demonstration how far your ways are different " from the rash vulgar) besides those allegiances of oath “ and duty, which are my public debt to your public la“ bours, I have yet a store of gratitude laid up, which can

not be exhausted, and such thanks, perhaps, they may live “ to be, as shall more than whisper to the next ages.” This sentence is remarkable in various points of view, but chiefly as it shews us that the peculiar eagerness and energy with which Milton, at a future period, defended the parliament, originated not only in his passionate attachment to freedom, but in his ardent sense of personal gratitude to the legislature of his country. He was, however, too magnanimous to wish for shelter under any authority, without vindicating his innocence and the merit of his cause ; he therefore says to the parliament, in speaking of an antagonist who, in their presence, had traduced him from the pulpit, “ I shall take “ licence by the right of nature, and that liberty wherein “ I was born, to defend myself publicly against a printed

calumny, and do willingly appeal to those judges to whom I am accused.”



The preacher had represented the doctrine of divorce as ą wicked book, for allowing other causes of divorce than Christ and his Apoftleş mentioned, and the parliament as finners for not punishing its authors.

This induces Milton to exclaim with devotional spirit, which seems predominant in his mind upon every occasion, “ First, lords and commons, I pray to that God, before “ whom ye then were prostrate, fo to forgive ye those « omissions and trespasses, which, ye desire most should find " forgiveness, as I shall soon fhew to the world how easily

ye absolve yourselves of that, which this man, calls your " sin, and is indeed your wisdom and nobleness, whereof to " this day ye have done well not to repent.”

The scope of Milton, in his doctrine of divorce, is thus explained by, himself : “ This shall be the task and period “ of this discourse to prove, first, that other reasons of di

vorce besides adultery were by the law of Moses, and are

yet to be allowed by the Christian magistrate, as a piece " of justice, and that the words of Christ are not hereby "f: contraried; next that, to prohibit absolutely any. divorce “ whatsoever, except those which Moses excepted, is against " the reason.of law."

This doctrine he first delivered as the refult of his own diligent study of the scripture. He afterwards found and declared it consonant to what many eminent divines of the reformed church, particularly. Martin Bucer and Erasmus, had maintained ; lastly, to grace his opinions with the highest human support, he asserts, “ they were fanctioned * by the whole assembled authority of England, both church

« and state, and in those times which are on record for the

purest and sincerest that ever shone yet on the Reforma« tion of this land, the time of Edward the Sixth. That

worthy prince, having utterly abolished the canon law

out of his dominions, as his father did before him, ap“ pointed by full vote of parliament, a committee of two " and thirty chosen men, divines and lawyers, of whom “ Cranmer the archbishop, Peter Martyr, and Walter Had“ don, not without the assistance of Sir John Cheek, the

king's tutor, a man at that time accounted the learnedeftof “ Englishmen, and for piety not inferior, were the chief to " frame anew fome ecclefiaftical laws, that might be instead ss of what was abrogated. The work with great diligence

was finished, and with as great approbation of that re«s forming age was received, and had been doubtless, as the “ learned preface thereof teftifics, ekablished by ad of par“ liament, had not the good king's death fo foon ensuing “arrested the farther growth of religion also from that “ feason to this. Those laws, thus founded on the menio“ rable wisdoni and piety of that religious parliament and

fynod, allow divorce and fecond marriage not only for

adultery and desertion, but for any capital enmity of plot “ laid against the other's life, and likewise for evil and fierce "usage. Nay, the twelftli chapter of that title, by plain

consequence declares, that lefser contentions; if they be

perpetual, may obtairi- divorce, which is all one really “ with the pofition by me held in the former treatise pub“ lished on this argument; herein only differing, that there " the cause of perpetual ftrife was put;, for example, in the

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unchangeable discord of some natures; but in these laws, “ intended us by the best of our ancestors, the effect of “ continual strife is determined no unjust plea of divorce, " whether the cause be natural or wilful.”

The author exults so much in this authority, that he concludes with the following expressions of confidence and triumph :

“ Henceforth let them, who condemn the affertion of this “ book for new and licentious, be forry, left, while they “ think to be of the graver sort, and take on them to be “ teachers, they expose themselves rather to be pledged up “ and down by men who intimately know them, to the “ discovery and contempt of their ignorance and presump« tion.”

I have dwelt the longer on this subject, because it occupied so deeply the mind and heart of Milton. In these treatises the energy of his language is very striking; it forcibly proves how keenly, he felt the anguish of connubial infelicity, and how ardently he laboured to remove from himself and others that “ secret affliction” (to use one of his own expressive phrases) “ of an unconscionable size to hu

man strength.”

He argues, indeed, for what the majority of modern legiflators and divines have thought inconsistent with sound morality and true religion ; but they who deem his arguments inconclusive, may yet admire the powers and the probity of the advocate. His view of the question is as extensive and liberal as his intention was pure and benevolent : if a few words of our Saviour, in their literal sense, are


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