« AnteriorContinuar »
that imputation he disclaims in all his writings, and grounds himself largely upon Scripture only.
It cannot be denied that the authors or late revivers of all these sects or opinions were learned, worthy, zealous, and religious men, as appears by their lives written; and the same of their many eminent and learned followers, perfect and powerful in the Scriptures, holy and unblamable in their lives. And it cannot be imagined that God would desert such painful and zealous labourers in his Church, and oftentimes great sufferers for their conscience, to damnable errors and a reprobate sense, who had so often implored the assistance of his Spirit; but rather, having made no man infallible, that he hath pardoned their errors, and accepts their pious endeavours, sincerely searching all things, according to the rule of Scripture, with such direction and guidance as they can obtain of God by prayer. What Protestant then, who himself maintains the same principles and disavows all implicit faith, would persecute, and not rather charitably tolerate, such men as these, unless he mean to abjure the principles of his own religion ? If it be asked how far they should be tolerated, I answer, Doubtless equally, as being all Protestants,—that is, on all occasions to give an account of their faith, either by arguing, preaching in their several assemblies, public writing, and the freedom of printing. For if the French and Polonian Protestants enjoy all this liberty among Papists, much more may a Protestant justly expect it among Protestants; and yet sometimes here among us the one persecutes the other upon every slight pretence.
As to the heresy of Popery, considering it as a union of political and ecclesiastical usurpation, he “submits it to the consideration of all magistrates, who are best able to provide for their own and the public safety,” whether it should be tolerated or not, hinting his own opinion that it should not. But viewing it solely in a religious light, as a system of idolatry, he is decided that it should not be tolerated, either publicly or privately. He argues as usual from the Old Testament, and relies on the Second Commandment, though, as we have seen, he held
the Decalogue to have been abolished along with the rest of the Law.
Some years ago such an opinion as this would have been received with scorn or incredulity; but we have lived to see Popery display herself in her true form as the unrelenting foe of truth and liberty. It is however not on account of her idolatry (which is comparatively a venial offence) that Popery is to be abhorred and dreaded, but for her cruel, persecuting spirit. If we look through all the religions of ancient and modern Asia and Europe, Zoroasterism, Brahminism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, etc., we nowhere find any system so sanguinary as that of the Church of Rome; even the political persecutions of the Roman emperors were trifling in comparison with hers; and her spirit is unchanged and unchangeable, -her clergy are as willing to employ persecution now as in the days of St. Dominic. But her impotence is our security; the spirit of the age is against her, and she struggles, and ever will struggle, in vain, to recover her former power. The educated classes are everywhere opposed to her pretensions, and therefore she may with safety be tolerated. She will also always have votaries and make proselytes, for weak, trifling minds will be caught with her gaudy, theatric ceremonies ; the feeble worshipers of antiquity and authority will submit to her pretensions; and, as Milton observes,
There is no man so wicked but at times his conscience will wring him with thoughts of another world, and the peril of his soul. The trouble and melancholy which he conceives of true repentance and amendment he endures not, but inclines rather to some carnal superstition, which may pacify and lull his conscience with some more pleasing doctrine. None more ready and officious to offer herself than the Romish, and opens wide her office with all her faculties to receive him : easy confession, easy absolution, pardons, indulgences, masses for him both quick and dead, Agnus Deis, and the like. And he, instead of "working out his salvation with fear and trembling," straight thinks in his heart-like another kind of fool than he in the Psalms—to bribe God as a corrupt judge, and by his proctor, some priest or friar, to buy out his peace with money, which he cannot with his repentance.
In politics, Milton was a sincere republican, but his ideal of a republic was far more of an aristocratic than a democratic form.* To monarchy in itself he had no violent objection, and had he seen it as it has appeared in this country since the Revolution, he would probably have acquiesced in it with cheerfulness. But when he looked back on the courts and governments of the two first Stuarts, and turned his view on the actual court of France, he could anticipate nothing but evil from a return to that form of government, and he could discern in Europe no better model than that of the United Provinces, which, with modifications, he recommended to the people of England, in his treatise on “The ready and easy way to establish a Free Commonwealth, and the
* Milton, we may be sure, would ascribe to our Lord no sentiments but what he regarded as true and just. He makes him express himself as follows in Paradise Regained :
“And what the people but a herd confused,
A miscellaneous rabble, who extol
excellence thereof,” which he published on the eve of the Restoration.
In this treatise he sums up, and not without somewhat of the spirit of a prophet, the ill results of a return to the ancient line of princes. Having noticed Christ's rebuke of the ambition of the sons of Zebedee, and asserting that it was of civil government only that he spoke, he proceeds as follows :-
And what government comes nearer to this precept of Christ than a free commonwealth ? wherein they who are the greatest are perpetual servants and drudges to the public at their own cost and charges; neglect their own affairs, yet are not elevated above their brethren ; live soberly in their families, walk the streets as other men, may be spoken to freely, familiarly, friendly,
, without adoration. Whereas a king must be adored like a demigod, with a dissolute and haughty court about him, of vast expense and luxury; masks and revels, to the debauching of our prime gentry, both male and female, not in their pastimes only, but in earnest, by the loose employments of court-service, which will be then thought honourable. There will be a queen of no less charge-in most likelihood outlandish and a Papist---besides a queen-mother already, together with both their courts and numerous train : then a royal issue, and erelong severally their sumptuous courts; to the multiplying of a servile crew, not of servants only, but of nobility and gentry, bred up then to the hopes, not of public but of court-offices, to be stewards, chamberlains, ushers, grooms even of the close-stool: and the lower their minds, debased with court-opinions contrary to all virtue and reformation, the haughtier will be their pride and profuseness. We may well remember this not -long since at home, nor need but look at present into the French court, where enticements and preferments daily draw away and pervert the Protestant nobility.
As to the burden of expense, to our cost we shall soon know it, for any good to us deserving to be termed no better than the vast and lavish price of our subjection and their debauchery, which we are now so greedily cheapening, and would so fain be paying most inconsiderately to a single person, who, for anything wherein the public really needs him, will have little else to do but