Imágenes de páginas

with all the heavens, i. e. the entire fabrick of the world, it would not follow that the Spirit is omnipresent.” Further, though in one place of Paradise Lost (viii. 122 seq.) he notices the Copernican system, and hints the possibility of its truth, yet this was only in accordance with a practice of his, of which we shall speak when we come to treat of that poem; and the system which is employed as the true one all through it is the Ptolemaic. Finally, the book on astronomy which Milton read with his pupils was Sacro Bosco, De Sphæra, with the Commentary of the Jesuit Clavius, in which, as we will show, is to be found every idea and every expression on the subject which occurs in that poem. In truth, with Milton's thraldom to the letter of Scripture, he could not hold any other system. He probably would have said, with Luther, of Copernicus, “ This silly fellow wants to upset the old established astronomy; but according to Scripture, Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth." Still we are not to think the less of Milton from not being in advance of most men of genius of his time. Bacon rejected the Copernican system, , and Sir Thomas Brown spoke of it with contempt. It is however rather remarkable that Sir William Davenant has adopted it in his poem of Gondibert; its first introduction, we believe, into the realm of the Muses :

“ Man's pride, grown to religion, he abates

By moving our loved earth, which we think fix'd,
Think all to it and it to none relates,

With others' motions scorn to have it mix’d;
As if it were great and stately to stand still

Whilst other orbs dance on, or else think all
Those vast bright globes, to show God's needless skill,

Were made but to attend our little ball.”—ii. 5, 19.
In astrology also Milton seems to have shared the

The only pas

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

weakness of those two celebrated men. sage however that we have found in his prose works looking that way, is the following

is the following in the treatise on Divorce :-“But what might be the cause, whether each one's allotted genius or proper star, or whether the supernal influence of schemes and angular aspects, or this elemental crasis here below,—whether all these, jointly or singly, meeting friendly or unfriendly in either party, I dare not, with the men I am likely to clash, appear so much a philosopher as to conjecture.” In Paradise Lost we meet

« All heaven And happy constellations on that hour

Shed their selectest influence.”-vii. 511.

“To the blank moon
Her office they prescribed ; to the other five
Their planetary motions and aspects,
In sextile, square, and trine, and opposite,
Of noxious efficacy, and when to join
In synod unbenign; and taught the fix'd
Their influence malignant when to shower,
Which of them rising with the sun, or falling,

Should prove tempestuous.”—X. 656.
In Paradise Regained, Satan says to our Lord,-

Now contrary, if I read aught in heaven,
Or heaven write aught of fate, by what the stars
Voluminous, or single characters,
In their conjunctions met, give me to spell,
Sorrows and labours, opposition, hate
Attend thee, scorns, reproaches, injuries,
Violence and stripes, and lastly cruel death.
A kingdom they portend thee, but what kingdom,
Real or allegoric, I discern not,
Nor when; eternal sure, as without end,
Without beginning; for no date prefix'd
Directs me, in the starry rubric set.-iv. 379.

The treatise which he wrote on the subject proves Milton's acquaintance with logic; and the books which he read with his pupils, such as Pitiscus' Trigonometry, show that he had made considerable progress in mathematics. For geography he seems to have had a peculiar predilection. In short, he does not seem to have been ignorant of any of the sciences known at the time. He was probably also well versed in the intricacies of metaphysics. From what we have seen of his views in the Christian Doctrine, and from one remarkable place in Paradise Lost (v. 404 seq.), it seems quite clear that he held the opinion designated by the dreaded name of materialism. But this need inspire no alarm; the whole is a question of words only. We know not what matter is, we know not what spirit is; we in fact only know our own sensations and ideas; and we believe it would be no difficult matter to show that Bishop Berkeley and the Hindú professors of the Vedanta philosophy differ in words only from the grossest materialist, their ideas being of necessity identical.


In the year 1673, the year before that of his death, Milton published a treatise on True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and what best Means may be used against the Growth of Popery.

Heresy he here defines to be “a religion taken up and believed from the traditions of men, and additions to the Word of God.” Hence it follows that Popery is the only or the greatest heresy in Christendom. The term Roman Catholic is, he says, “a mere contradiction, one of the Pope's bulls, as if he should say, universal particular, or catholic schismatic.” He refuses to apply the term heresy to any portion of the Protestant church, though it may have fallen into schism, i.e. division, and therefore consist of sects.

Schism is a rent or division in the Church when it comes to the separating of congregations; and may also happen to a true church as well as to a false ; yet, in the true, needs not tend to the breaking of communion, if they can agree in the right administration of that wherein they communicate, keeping their other opinions to themselves, not being destructive to faith. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two sects, yet both met together in their common worship of God at Jerusalem. But here the Papist will angrily demand, What! are Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Socinians, no heretics? I answer, all these may have some errors, but are no heretics. Heresy is in the will and choice professedly against Scripture; error is against the will in misunderstanding


the Scripture, after all sincere endeavours to understand it rightly: hence it was said well by one of the ancients, “Err I may, but a heretic I will not be.” It is a human frailty to err, and no man is infallible here on earth. But so long as all these profess to set the Word of God only before them as the rule of faith and obedience, and use all diligence and sincerity of heart, by reading, by learning, by study, by prayer, for illumination of the Holy Spirit, to understand the rule and obey it,—they have done what man can do; God will assuredly pardon them, as he did the friends of Job, good and pious men, though much mistaken, as there it appears, in some points of doctrine.

But some will say, With Christians it is otherwise, whom God hath promised by his Spirit to teach all things. True, all things necessary to salvation. But the hottest disputes among Protestants, calmly and charitably inquired into, will be found less than such. The Lutheran holds consubstantiation,* an error indeed, but not mortal. The Calvinist is taxed with predestination, and to make God the author of sin, not with any dishonourable thought of God, but it may be over-zealously asserting his absolute power, not without plea of Scripture. The Anabaptist is accused of denying infants their right to baptism; again, they say they deny nothing but what Scripture denies them. The Arian and Socinian are charged to dispute against the Trinity; they affirm to believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to Scripture and the Apostolic Creed. As for terms of trinity, triniunity, co-essentiality, tripersonality, and the like, they reject them as scholastic notions, not to be found in Scripture, which, by a general Protestant maxim, is plain and perspicuous abundantly to explain its own meaning in the properest words belonging to so high a matter and so necessary to be known; a mystery indeed in their sophistic subtleties, but in Scripture a plain doctrine. Their other opinions are of less moment. They dispute the satisfaction of Christ, or rather the word satisfaction, as not Scriptural, but they acknowledge him both God and their Saviour. The Arminian, lastly, is condemned for setting up free-will against free-grace, but

* As Milton was probably aware that consubstantiation and transubstantiation only differ in the first syllable, and in reality signify the same, we may perhaps infer that he would have tolerated the latter if it had been, like the former, a mere dogma, and not connected with idolatrous worship.

« AnteriorContinuar »