Imágenes de páginas

the praise and the heroic song of all posterity. Merit this, but seek only virtue, not to extend your limits--for what needs to win a fading triumphant laurel out of the tears of wretched men ? -but to settle the pure worship of God in his church, and justice in the state. Then shall the hardest difficulties smooth out themselves before ye; envy shall sink to Hell,* craft and malice be confounded, whether it be homebred mischief or outlandish cunning: yea, other nations will then covet to serve ye; for lordship and victory are but the pages of justice and virtue. Commit securely to true wisdom the vanquishing and uncasing of craft and subtlety, which are but her two runagates.† Join your invincible might to do worthy and godlike deeds; and then he that seeks to break your union--a cleaving curse be his inheritance to all generations.

He then urges speed in carrying out the necessary reformation, and having answered the objections against haste, and going into extremes, etc., he concludes the treatise with the following address to the Deity:

Thou therefore that sittest in light and glory unapproachable, Parent of angels and men! next, thee I implore, omnipotent King, Redeemer of that lost remnant whose nature thou didst assume, ineffable and everlasting Love! and thou the third subsistence of divine infinitude, illumining Spirit, the joy and solace of created things ! one tripersonal Godhead ! look upon this thy poor and almost spent and expiring Church ; leave her not thus a prey to these importunate wolves, that wait and think long till they devour thy tender flock, these wild boars that have broke into thy vineyard and left the prints of their polluting hoofs on the souls of thy servants. Oh! let them not bring about their damned designs that stand now at the entrance of the bottomless pit, expecting the watch word to open and let out those dreadful locusts and scorpions, to reinvolve us in that pitchy cloud of infernal darkness, where we shall never more see the sun of thy

* “ Invidia infelix Furias amnemque severum

Cocyti metuet," etc.–Virg. Geor. iii. 37. † i.e. runaway servants. Uncasing refers to the stripping servants of their liveries.

I i.e. bring back Popery and ecclesiastic domination.

truth again, never hope for the cheerful dawn, never more hear the bird of morning sing. Be moved with pity at the afflicted state of this our shaken monarchy, that now lies labouring under her throes, and struggling against the grudges of more dreadful calamities.

O thou that, after the impetuous rage of five bloody inundations, and the succeeding sword of intestine war, soaking the land in her own gore, didst pity the sad and ceaseless revolution of our swift and thick-coming sorrows; when we were quite breathless, of thy free grace didst motion peace and terms of covenant with us; and having first well-nigh freed us from Antichristian thraldom,* didst build up this Britannic empire to a glorious and enviable height, with all her daughter-islands about her-stay [maintain] us in this felicity ; let not the obstinacy of our half-obedience and will-worship bring forth that viper of sedition that for these fourscore years hath been breeding to eat through the entrails of our peace, but let her cast her abortive spawn without the danger of this travailing realm; that we may still remember in our solemn thanksgivings how for us the Northern Ocean, even to the frozen Thule, was scattered with the proud shipwrecks of the Spanish Armada, and the very maw of Hell ransacked and made to give up her concealed destruction ere she could vent it in that horrible and damned blast.

Oh! how much more glorious will those former deliverances appear,

when we shall know them not only to have saved us from greatest miseries past, but to have reserved us for greater happiness to come! Hitherto thou hast bút freed us, and that not fully, from the unjust and tyrannous claim of thy foes--now unite us entirely and appropriate us to thyself, tie us everlastingly in willing homage to the prerogative of thy eternal throne.

And now we know, O thou our most certain hope and defence, that thine enemies have been consulting all the sorcerers of the Great Whore, and have joined their plots with that sad intelligencing tyrants that mischiefs the world with his mines of Ophir, and lies thirsting to revenge his naval ruins that have larded our

* He would seem to allude to the invasions of England by the Romans, Saxons, Danes (twice), and Normans, and the War of the Roses, followed by the partial reformation under Henry VIII.

t i.e. the Gunpowder Plot.
| The King of Spain. Sad is grave, serious.


But let them all take counsel together, and let it come to nought; let them decree and thou cancel it; let them gather themselves and be scattered ; let them embattle themselves and be broken ; let them embattle and be broken, for thou art with us.

Then, amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of saints, some one may perhaps be heard offering at high strains, in new and lofty measure to sing and celebrate thy divine mercies and marvellous judgements in this land throughout all ages ;* whereby this great and warlike nation, instructed and inured to the fervent and continual practice of truth and righteousness, and casting far from her the

rags of her whole vices, may press on hard to that high and happy emulation to be found the soberest, wisest, and most Christian people at that day, when thou, the eternal and shortlyexpected King, shalt open the clouds to judge the several kingdoms of the world, and distributing national honours and rewards to religious and just commonwealths, shalt put an end to all earthly tyrannies, proclaiming thy universal and mild monarchy through heaven and earth ; where they undoubtedly that, by their labours, counsels and prayers, have been earnest for the common good of religion and their country, shall receive, above the inferior orders of the blessed, the regal additions of principalities, legions, and thrones into their glorious titles, and in supereminence of beatific vision, progressing the dateless and irrevoluble circle of eternity, shall clasp inseparable hands with joy and bliss in overmeasure for ever.t

But they contrary, that, by the impairing and diminution of the true faith, the distresses and servitude of their country, aspire to high dignity, rule, and promotion here, after a shameful end in this life—which God grant them !—shall be thrown down eternally into the darkest and deepest gulf of hell, where, under the despiteful control, the trample and spurn of all the other damned,—that, in the anguish of their torture, shall have no other ease than to exercise a raving and bestial tyranny over them as their slaves and negroes,—they shall remain in that plight for ever, the basest, the lowermost, the most dejected, most underfoot, and downtrodden vassals of perdition.

* Alluding to his meditated poem on a British theme.

om Here we have Milton's ideas, at that time, of the Millennium or reign of Christ.


Episcopacy, he observes, is either of divine or of human constitution. If of the latter, it may be changed like everything else; if asserted to be of the former, the proofs must be fetched from Scripture alone, as it alone is of divine authority. But in the New Testament no difference whatever is made between Bishop and Presbyter.

Yet, to verify that which St. Paul foretold of succeeding times, when men began to have itching ears, then, not contented with the plentiful and wholesome fountains of the Gospel, they began after their own lusts to heap to themselves teachers and—as if the Divine Scripture wanted a supplement, and were to be eked out—they cannot think any doubt resolved, and any doctrine confirmed, unless they run to that indigested heap and fry of authors which they call Antiquity. Whatsoever Time or the heedless hand of blind Chance hath drawn down in her huge drag-net, whether fish or sea-weeds, shells or shrubs, unpicked, unchosen, these are the Fathers.

Milton then examines the testimony of the Fathers, as produced by Usher and Hall. He first shows that that of Leontius, bishop of Magnesia, is of no value whatever; on which occasion he speaks very slightingly of the ancient Councils, hinting, that the members of them may have been no better than those of modern Convocations ; but that at all events their canons, acts, etc. have often been falsified. He quotes Eusebius to show, that in his time it was quite a matter of uncertainty who were left bishops of the churches by the Apostles; and from Justin Martyr he shows that the term II poestùs might be used of any presbyter. Of the Epistles that go under the name of Ignatius, five, he says, are certainly spuricus, and the remainder are so largely interpolated that it is impossible to say what is genuine. As to Irenæus, who is brought to prove that Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna, because he had both seen and heard him, it is replied that he was only a boy at the time, and therefore hardly competent to judge. He was besides, as is shown by several instances—such as his putting implicit faith in the assertions of Papias—a man of such a shallow wit, that his judgement and critical skill are of little account. There is no proof that Tertullian made any distinction between Bishop and Presbyter. But

suppose he 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.

He that thinks it the part of a well-learned man to have read diligently the ancient stories of the Church, and to be no stranger to the volumes of the Fathers, shall have all judicious men consenting with him. Not hereby to control and newfangle the Scripture, God forbid ! but to mark how corruption and apostasy crept in by degrees, and to gather up wherever we find the remaining sparks of original truth wherewith to stop the mouths of our adversaries, and to bridle them with their own curb, who willingly pass by that which is orthodoxical in them, and studiously cull out that which is commentitious and best for their turns, not weighing the Fathers in the balance of Scripture, but Scripture in the balance of the Fathers. If we therefore, making first the Gospel our rule and oracle, shall take the good which we light on in the Fathers, and set it to oppose the evil which other men seek from them, in this way of skirmish we shall easily master all superstition and false doctrine. But if we turn this our discreet and wary usage of them into a blind devotion toward them and whatsoever we find written in them, we both forsake our own grounds and reasons which led us at first to part from Rome,—that is to hold to the Scriptures against all Antiquity; we remove our cause into our adversaries' own court, and take up there those cast prin

« AnteriorContinuar »