« AnteriorContinuar »
beseem the religion of the church, or the wisdom of the state, than to consider timely and provide. And in so doing let them not doubt but they shall vindicate the misreputed honour of God and his great Lawgiver, by suffering him to give his own laws according to the condition of man's nature best known to him, without the unsufferable imputation of dispensing legally with many ages of ratified adultery. They shall recover the misattended words of Christ to the sincerity of their true sense from manifold contradictions, and shall open them with the key of charity. Many helpless Christians they shall raise from the depths of sadness and distress, utterly unfitted as they are to serve God or man: many they shall reclaim from obscure and giddy sects, many regain from dissolute and brutish licence, many from desperate hardness, if ever they were justly pleaded. They shall set free many daughters of Israel not wanting much of her sad plight whom “Satan had bound eighteen years. Man they shall restore to his just dignity and prerogative in nature, preferring the soul's free peace before the promiscuous draining of a carnal rage. Marriage, from a perilous hazard and snare, they shall reduce to be a more certain haven and retirement of happy society ; when they shall judge according to God and Moses, (and how not then according to Christ,) when they shall judge it more wisdom and goodness to break that covenant seemingly, and keep it really, than by compulsion of law to keep it seemingly, and by compulsion of blameless nature to break it really, at least if it were ever truly joined. The vigour of discipline they may then turn with better success upon the prostitute looseness of the times, when men, finding in themselves the infirmities of former ages, shall be constrained above the gift of God in them to unprofitable and impossible observances, never required from the civilest, the wisest, the holiest nations, whose other excellencies in moral virtue they never yet could equal. Last of all, to those whose mind is still to maintain textual restrictions, whereof the
bare sound cannot consist sometimes with humanity, much less with charity ; I would ever answer by putting them in remembrance of a command above all commands, which they seem to have forgot, and who spake it: in comparison whereof, this which they so exalt is but a petty and subordinate precept.
• Let them go,' therefore, with whom I am loathe to couple them, yet they will needs run into the same blindness with the pharisees ; let them go therefore,' and consider well what this lesson means, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice :' for on that saying all the law and prophets depend ;' much more the gospel, whose end and excellence is mercy and peace. Or if they cannot learn that, how will they hear this ? which yet I shall not doubt to leave with them as a conclusion, that God the Son hath put all other things under his own feet, but his commandments he hath left all under the feet of charity.”
Shortly after the publication of this treatise, Milton followed it with another, which was also addressed to the Parliament, and entitled, “ The Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce.” This consists of an analysis and translation of Bucer's Second Book “Of the Kingdom of Christ,” addressed to Edward VI., to which Milton prefixes the testimonies of Calvin, Beza, and other eminent men to Bucer's learning and piety, and especially to his diligence in the exposition of Scripture.†
* Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 272, 273.
+ Bucer was born near Strasburg, in 1491, and educated at Heidelberg, having entered the order of St. Dominick. The change of opinion which determined the tenor of his life was occasioned by reading some writings of Erasmus and Luther, and he adopted the views of the latter in 1521, in accordance with which he taught divinity for twenty years at Strasburg. At the Diet of Augsburg, he vehemently opposed the system of doctrine called the interim, invi. diously drawn up by Charles V. for the temporary regulation of reli gious faith in Germany, until a free General Council could be held. This course exposed him to so much difficulty and danger that he accepted an invitation from Cranmer to settle in England, where he was appointed to teach theology at Cambridge. King Edward the Sixth having heard that Bucer's health suffered for want of a German
In the following year, 1645, Milton published two other tracts on Divorce; the one entitled “ Tetrachordon,” which was an exposition of the four passages of Scripture* which are supposed most distinctly to affirm the views which Milton opposed; and the other, “ Colasterion,” † a severe reply to an anonymous antagonist. This latter tract closed the controversy. Of the sincerity with which Milton held his opinions on marriage and divorce no one can entertain a doubt, any more than of the astonishing ability and learning with which he supported them. On the vexed question itself there ever have been, and probably ever will be, differences of opinion among virtuous men, which it is not part of the design of these pages to attempt to reconcile.
stove, sent him £20 to procure one. In return for this attention he wrote the work entitled “ Of the Kingdom of Christ,” for the King's
Bucer died at Cambridge early in the year 1550, and was buried in St. Mary's with great honour; but five years after, when inquisitors were sent by Mary to Cambridge, his remains were exhumed, and ignominiously burned in the Market-place.
* These are, Gen. i 27, 28; Deut. xxiv. 1, 2; Matt. v. 31, 32, and 1. Cor. vii. 13, 16.
+ The Greek word for a castigation.
STATE OF RELIGIOUS PARTIES IN ENGLAND-PERSECUTIONS BY LAUD
AND THE COURTS OF HIGH COMMISSION AND STAR CHAMBER-PER-
BEFORE detailing the effects produced by the publication of the Treatises on Divorce, and the bearing they had upon Milton's subsequent career, it is necessary to notice the state of parties, and especially of ecclesiastical parties, at this period. While the secularity and corruption of the clergy had brought the Anglican church into contempt, the tyrannical cruelty of the bishops had excited against it the bitterest feelings of hostility. An attempt was made by the House of Commons, in the first parliament of Charles I., which met June 18, 1625, to abridge the causes of this odium, by restoring those of the clergy who had been silenced as Puritans, and moderating non-residences, pluralities, and commendams. This effort was rendered abortive by the abrupt dissolution of Parliament, after an existence of less than two months. Two
afterwards, this spirit of dissatisfaction was greatly increased by the publication of a Sermon, at the special command of the king, under the title of “ Religion and Allegiance,” by Dr. Manwaring. In this discourse the preacher maintained, " That the
king is not bound to observe the laws of the realm, concerning the subjects' rights and liberties; but that his royal will and command, in imposing loans and taxes, without common consent, in parliament, doth oblige the subjects' conscience upon pain of eternal damnation.” The Commons, in their indignation, indicated how little they understood the principles of true liberty, by visiting the offender with a sentence, a fine, imprisonment, and suspension, and the breach between the king and his Parliament was much widened by his not only releasing and pardoning his parasite, but by rewarding him with the gift of a living in Essex, in addition to that of St. Giles's in the Fields, which he already held.
Meanwhile the power and malignity of Laud increased together; and the absolute devastation committed by the two unconstitutional courts—those of the High Commission and the Star Chamber-rivalled the atrocities of the Popish Inquisition. Multitudes of Dissenters were driven to emigrate to what were then the wilds of the North American continent, many of whom perished there by famine. Numerous petitions were now presented for the abolition of the obnoxious courts, and of episcopacy itself, which was scarcely less detested. The second expedition against the Scotch, popularly called the bishops' war, in 1640, met with the ill success which it deserved; it was closed by the humiliating treaty of Rippon, and the 3rd of November in that year witnessed the memorable meeting of the Long Parliament. In this, the petitions setting forth the corruptions and praying for the abolition of the episcopacy, were redoubled. One of these was signed by fifteen thousand citizens of London, and another, known as the ministers' petition, signed by seven hundred clergymen. These were met by counter petitions, procured by the influence of the aristocracy and the bishops, to which no fewer than one hundred thousand names are said to have been attached. A resolution passed the House of Commons, “That the legislative