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some one may perhaps be heard offering at high strains, in new and lofty measures to sing, and celebrate thy divine mercies, and marvellous judgments in this land throughout all ages.'
In 1641, Hall, Bishop of Norwich, a learned, witty, and eloquent writer, at the request of Laud, published 'An Humble Remonstrance in favour of Episcopacy.' Five ministers, under the title of Smectymnus44 (a word formed from the first letters of their names), wrote an answer, of which the learned and venerable Archbishop Usher45 published a confutation, called “The Apostolical Institution of Episcopacy: to this confutation Milton replied in his Treatise of Prelatical Episcopacy. The point at issue was the divine or human origin of Episcopacy, as a peculiar order in the church, invested with spiritual rights and powers, distinct in kind, and preëminent in degree. He added to this reply another performance, called 'The Reason of Church Government* urged against Prelacy. Bishop Hall published a defence of the Humble Remonstrance, well written and closely argued; and Milton wrote animadversions upon it. These treatises were published in the year 1641. It was in his Reason of Church Government that he discovered, as Johnson observes, his high opinion of his own powers, and promised to undertake something that may be of service and honour to his country. This (he said) was not to be obtained but by devout prayer to the Eternal Spirit, that can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and send out his Seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases. To this must be added select reading, steady observation, and insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs; till which
44 Stephen Marshall, Edward Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurstow; the 'W' in whose name must be pronounced ‘U,' to form the word.
45 Usher, Gataker, and Reynolds, were the three Protestant divines in England, who had the greatest reputation on the continent for their learning; see Calomies’ Mél. Curieux. p. 834. Their three rivals abroad, among the Protestants, for erudition, were Blondel, Petitus, and Bochart.
* See Symmons's Life, p. 234.
in some measure be compassed, I refuse not to sustain this expectation. From a promise like this (says his biographer) at once fervid, pious, and rational, might be expected the Paradise Lost.'
In 1642 he closed the controversy which I have mentioned, by an apology for Smectymnus, in answer to the confutation of his animadversions, written, as he supposed, by Bishop Hall or his son. His friendship for Young* probably led him into the field of controversy ; for he owns that he 'was not disposed to this manner of writing, wherein knowing myself inferior to myself, led by the genial power of nature to another task, I have the use, as I may account it, but of my left hand.' Weapons (says one of his biographers) more effectual than pens were now drawn against the church; and exposed by the injudicious conduct of some of its prelates, it fell under the assault. ment and reason could have prevailed, the result would have been different. The learning of Usher, and the wit of Hall, certainly preponderated in the contest, and they seem to have been felt not only by the Smectymnan divines, but by Milton himself. If the church at this crisis could have been upheld by the ability of her sons, it would have been supported by those admirable prelates; but numbers, exasperation and enthusiasm were against them.'46
The main purpose which Milton had in view in these different publications, was to alter the Episcopal form of the church, and to assimilate it to the simpler, and, as he deemed, the apostolical model of the reformed churches in other countries; to join with them in exactness of discipline, as we do in purity of doctrine. But as, in these churches, the Presbyterian discipline was united to a republican form of government, he therefore attempts to prove that the existence of the hierarchy adds nothing to the security or the proper splendour of the throne; that the
* Toland says of his 'Reason for Church Government,''the eloquence is masculine, the method is natural, the sentiments are free, and the whole (God knows) appears to have very different force from what the nonconformist divines wrote in those days, or since that time, on the same subject.' v. Life, p. 31.
48 See Symmons's Life of Milton, p. 240.
fall of Prelacy could not shake the least fringe that borders the royal canopy. He denies the apostolical institution of bishops, and, as he argues for the greatest degree of honest liberty in religion, as in other institutions, he urges that Prelacy is the natural agent and minister of tyranny. He advocates the sweetest and mildest manner of paternal discipline, the independent ministry of each congregation ; and he wishes the Angel of the Gospel to ride on his way, doing his proper business, conquering the high thoughts and proud reasonings of the flesh. *As long as the church (he says), in true imitation of Christ, can be content to ride upon an ass, carrying herself and her government along in a mean and simple guise, she may be, as she is, a lion of the tribe of Judah, and in her humility all men will, with loud hosannahs, confess her greatness. When his oppo
' nents urged the learning of the University and the clergy, he said, 'that God will not suffer true learning to be wanting, when true grace and obedience to him abounds; for if he give us to know him aright, and to practise this our knowledge in right established discipline, how much more will he replenish us with all abilities in tongues and arts, that may conduce to his glory and our good. He can stir up rich fathers to bestow exquisite education on their children, and to dedicate them to the service of the Gospel. He can make the sons of nobles his ministers, and princes to be his Nazarites.'
That Milton engaged in the heat and dust of these great controversial questions, from motives of conscience, and with intentions upright and pure, no one can reasonably doubt; but they were alien from his elegant and learned pursuits; they were scarcely congenial to his age; and himself, as well as his brethren whom he defended, were infinitely inferior to Bishop Hall in theological learning and in controversial skill; that learned prelate's victory over Smectymnus was complete.
Milton's father47 came now to reside in his son's house. Philips says of him; 'the old gentleman lived wholly retired to
47 Till the taking of Reading, in April, 1643, by the Earl of Essex, he had lived there, in the house of his son Christopher.
his rest and devotion, without the least trouble imaginable. At Whitsuntide, in 1643, in his thirty-fifth year, Milton married Mary, the daughter of Mr. Powell, a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire. After an absence of little more than a month, he brought his bride to town with him, and hoped, as Johnson observes, to enjoy the advantages of a conjugal life ;48 but spare diet, and hard study, and a house full of pupils, did not suit the young and gay daughter of a Cavalier. She had been brought up in very different society; so, having lived for a month a philosophic life, after having been used at home to a great house, 49 and much company and joviality, her friends, possibly by her own desire, made earnest suit to have her company the remaining part of the summer, which was granted upon a promise of her return at Michaelmas. When Michaelmas came, the lady had no inclination to quit the hospitality and delights of her father's mansion for the austerer habits and seclusion of the Poet's study. Aubrey says, 'no company came to her, and she often heard her nephew cry and be beaten.' Milton sent repeated letters to her, which were all unanswered ; and a messenger, who was despatched to urge her return, was dismissed with contempt. A resistance so pertinacious and illegal as this, must have rested on some grounds that were at least imagined favourable to the conduct of the wife. We must, therefore, refer to the unsettled situation of the kingdom, by which the authority of the laws was weakened, and obedience imperfectly enforced; and we must recollect, that at the time when she refused to return to her husband's roof, the king, with all his forces, was quartered in the neighbouring city of Oxford ; that her family was of
48 Toland gives four conjectures on this subject. 1. Whether it was that this young woman, accustomed to a large and jovial family, could not live in a philosophical retirement; 2. or that she was not satisfied with the person of her husband ; 3. or, lastly, that because all her relations were addicted to the royal interest, his democratical principles were disagreeable to her humour ; 4. nor is it impossible that the father repented of this match, upon the prospect of some success on the king's side, who then had his head quarters at Oxford. See Life, p. 52.
49 T. Warton had a MS. inventory of Mr. Powell's goods; and he says, by the number, order, and furniture of the rooms, he appears to have lived as a country gentleman, in a very extensive and liberal style of house keeping.' v. Todd's Life, p. 176. 50 Of Mr. Caryll, Toland says, (p. 60), 'in his voluminous and senseless commentaries, he did more injury to the memory of Job, than the devil and the Sabeans could inflict torments on him in his life time.
course surrounded with the gay and licentious adherents of the monarch, the carousing Cavaliers; that living in the camp of the enemy,' she must have been in the daily habit of hearing hatred, scorn, and contempt, uttered against the party whose sentiments were so strongly adopted by her husband; that a prospect of success now dawned upon the fortunes of the king; and, looking at the apparent interests of the family, considering her wavering or alienated affections, and interpreting fairly the language of Philips, we may presume that had the side of the royalists been victorious, the marriage with the Puritan husband would have been cancelled or concealed.
Milton, whose mind was never given to half-measures, resolved immediately to repudiate her on the ground of disobedience; and to support the propriety and lawfulness of his conduct, he published, in 1644, The doctrine and discipline of divorce, the judgment of Master Bucer concerning Divorce :' the next year he printed his Tetrachordon, or expositions on the four chief places of scripture which treat on marriage. His last tract • Colasterion' was an answer to a pamphlet recommended by Mr. Joseph Caryll,50 the author of a commentary on Job, and a Presbyterian divine: the author was anonymous; but Milton calls him a serving-man both by nature and function, an idiot by breeding, and a solicitor by presumption.'
In this treatise Dr. Symmons thinks that Milton has made out a strong case, and fights with arguments not easily to be repelled; and Mr. Godwin says, 'that the books on divorce are written with the most entire knowledge of the subject, and with a clearness and strength of argument that it would be difficult to excel;' and it must be remembered that Selden wrote his ' Uxor Hebraica,' on the same side of the question. Without entering into the intricacies of so great an argument, I shall content myself with saying, that all the ingenuity of Milton, and the learning of Selden, are of no avail against the acknowledged