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the authors of Greece and Rome, than with those of his own country, and seems to be formed without sufficient attention to the genius of his native tongue. This observation will apply, with very diminished force, to some of his succeeding compositions: but in all of them there is an occasional recurrence of foreign idioms and of a classic inversion of phrase, not properly admissible in a language in which prepositions supply the place and office of inflexions."
It cannot be denied that there is much justice in this observation; and it is probable that the very partial and select popularity which Milton's prose writings have enjoyed, is mainly traceable to this feature in his style. Still it must neither be attributed to affectation, nor to a defect of nicety of perception and taste. It must be recollected that the Latin language and literature were as familiar to Milton as his own; that through life he adopted that language in much of his private and all his public correspondence, as well as in the composition of those of his works for which he desired a European notoriety; and that the natural consequence of this was an unconscious appropriation of its forms similar to that which every one who has sojourned long in a foreign country must have observed in himself. Upon the argument of this controversy, Dr. Symmons's remarks are not quite so correct : “ The point at issue between these polemics was the divine or the human origin of episcopacy, as a peculiar order in the church, distinct in kind and pre-eminent in degree. That an officer with the title of Episcopus, or Overseer, (corrupted first by our ancestors into bigcop, and afterwards softened into bishop,) had existed in the church from its first construction by the apostles, was a fact which could not be denied: but while this officer was asserted by one party to have been nothing more than the president of the elders, he was affirmed by the other to have been elevated above these elders or presbyters by essential privileges, by a separate as well as by a superior jurisdiction."
A perusal of the opening passage of the treatise on Prelatical Episcopacy, will show where the Doctor's misconception lies. “Episcopacy,” says Milton, * " as it is taken for an order in the church above a presbyter, or, as we commonly name him, the minister of a congregation, is either of divine constitution or of human. If only of human, we have the same human privilege that all men have ever had since Adam, being born free, and in the mistress island of all the British, to retain this episcopacy, or to remove it, consulting with our own occasions and conveniences, and for the prevention of our own dangers and disquiets, in what best manner we can devise, without running at a loss, as we must needs in those stale and useless records of either uncertain or unsound antiquity; which, if we hold fast to the grounds of the reformed church, can neither skill of us, nor we of it, so oft as it would lead us to the broken reed of tradition. If it be of Divine constitution, to satisfy us fully in that, the Scripture only is able, it being the only book left us of Divine authority, not in anything more Divine than in the all-sufficiency it hath to furnish us, as with all other spiritual knowledge, so with this in particular-- setting out to us a perfect man of God, accomplished to all the good works of his charge: through all which book can be nowhere, either by plain text or solid reasoning, found any difference between a bishop and a presbyter, save that they be two names to signify the same order.”
The Treatise, “ Of Prelatical Episcopacy,” is throughout a close tissue of argumentation, but little relieved by those sudden gleams and fervid flashes of eloquence which throw lustre over his other productions. In his reasoning, he closely follows the track of his opponents, exposing the fallacious traditions by which prelacy is supported, through “ the indigested heap and fry of authors which they call antiquity.” He clearly shows, first, the small amount of credit to be attached to those writers to whom his antagonists were accus
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 421.
tomed to appeal. “I will not stand to argue,” he says, “as yet with fair allowance I might, that we may as justly suspect there were some bad and slippery men in that council, as we know there are wont to be in our convocations; nor shall I need to plead at this time, that nothing hath been more attempted, nor with more subtlety brought about, both anciently by other heretics, and modernly by papists, than to falsify the editions of the councils, of which we have none but from our adversaries' hands, whence canons, acts, and whole spurious councils are thrust upon us; and hard it would be to prove in all, which are legitimate, against the lawful rejection of an urgent and free disputer. But this I purpose not to take advantage of; for what avails it to wrangle about the corrupt editions of councils, whenas we know that many years ere this time, which was almost five hundred years after Christ, the councils themselves were foully corrupted with ungodly prelatism, and so far plunged into worldly ambition as that it stood them upon long ere this to uphold their now well-tested hierarchy by what fair pretext soever they could, in like manner as they had now learned to defend many other gross corruptions by as ancient and supposed authentic tradition as episcopący? And what hope can we have of this whole council to warrant us a matter, four hundred years at least above their time, concerning the distinction of bishop and presbyter, whenas we find them such blind judges of things before their eyes, in their decrees of precedency between bishop and bishop, acknowledging Rome for the apostolic throne, and Peter, in that see, for the rock, the basis, and the foundation of the Catholic church and faith, contrary to the interpretation of more ancient fathers ? "*
He next shows, by successive references to Ignatius, Polycarp, Polycrates, Irenæus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, that their testimonies were inconsistent with each other, and utterly insufficient to establish the facts for which
* Prose Works, vol. ü. p. 423.
they are adduced. After demolishing the authority of Ignatius, he dismisses him with the following passage :-“Had God ever intended that we should have sought any part of useful instruction from Ignatius, doubtless he would not have so ill-provided for our knowledge, as to send him to our hands in this broken and disjointed plight; and if he intended no such thing, we do injuriously in thinking to taste better the pure evangelic manna, by seasoning our mouths with the tainted scraps and fragments of an unknown table; and searching among the verminous and polluted rags dropped overworn from the toiling shoulders of time, with these deformedly to quilt and interlace the entire, the spotless, and undecaying robe of truth, the daughter, not of time, but of Heaven, only bred up here below in Christian hearts, between two grave and holy nurses, the doctrine and discipline of the gospel."*
In estimating the value of Tertullian's evidence, he says : “ We grant them bishops, we grant them worthy men, we grant them placed in several churches by the apostle; we grant that Irenæus and Tertullian affirm this; but that they were placed in a superior order above the presbytery, show from all these words why we should grant. It is not enough to say the apostle left this man bishop in Rome, and that other in Ephesus; but to show when they altered their own decree set down by St. Paul, and made all the presbyters underlings to one bishop. But suppose Tertullian had made an imparity where none was originally, should he move us, that goes about to prove an imparity between God the Father and God the Son, as these words import in his book against Praxeas ? — The Father is the whole substance, but the Son a derivation, and portion of the whole, as he himself professes, “Because the Father is greater than me.' Believe him now for a faithful relater of tradition, whom you see such an unfaithful expounder of the Scripture. Besides, in his time, all allowable tradition was now lost. For
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 428.
this same author, whom you bring to testify the ordination of Clement to the bishopric of Rome by Peter, testifies also, in the beginning of his treatise concerning chastity, that the Bishop of Rome did then use to send forth his edicts by the name of Pontifex Maximus, and Episcopus Episcoporum, Chief Priest, and Bishop of Bishops: for shame then do not urge that authority to keep up a bishop, that will necessarily engage you to set up a pope."*
The treatise concludes with the following animated rebuke of those who would “set up their ephod and teraphim of antiquity against the brightness and perfection of the gospel :”—“Lastly, I do not know, it being undeniable that there are but two ecclesiastical orders (bishops and deacons) mentioned in the gospel, how it can be less than impiety to make a demur at that which is there so perspicuous, confronting and paralleling the sacred verity of St. Paul with the offals and sweepings of antiquity. Christ has pronounced that no tittle of his word shall fall to the ground: and if one jot be alterable, it is as possible that all should perish; and this shall be our righteousness, our ample warrant, and strong assurance, both now and at the last day, never to be ashamed of, against all the heaped names of angels and martyrs, councils and fathers, urged upon us, if we have given ourselves up to be taught by the pure and living precept of God's word only; which, without more additions, nay, with a forbidding of them, hath within itself the promise of eternal life, the end of all our wearisome labours and all our sustaining hopes." +
“ The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy” is a more extended treatise, and far more richly characterised by the genius of Milton than that on “Prelatical Episcopacy.” Itcommences with some general considerations on church government, among which we find the following
* Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 422, 423.
+ Ibid. vol. ii. p. 437.