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foundation for the remark of Hayley, that Milton
wrote with the indignant enthusiasm of a man resenting the injuries of those who are most entitled to his love and veneration. The ardour of his affections conspired with the warmth of his fancy to inspire him with that puritanical zeal which blazes so intensely in his controversial productions.'* Thus it was that, like Clarke, though on different grounds, he was biassed against the authority of the church, and predisposed by the political constitution of his mind to such unbounded freedom as can hardly consist, as has been truly said, with any established system of faith whatever.f His love of Christian liberty began indeed to manifest itself at a very early period of his life, for though destined to the church from his childhood, he refused to enter it from a religious scruple, thinking that he who took orders must subscribe slave.'
There were, however, other circumstances of a different nature, which in some degree counterbalanced these defects. His epic poems afford sufficient evidence not only of extensive biblical knowledge, but of singular judgement in availing himself of the language of Scripture itself, without addition or alteration, in particular parts of his subject. There is no topic to which he recurs more frequently or with more apparent satisfaction than to the serious turn of
* Hayley's Life of Milton, p. 66.
| Bp. Van Mildert's Review of Waterland's Life and Writings. Works, 1.,48.
his carly studies. In his Apology for Smectymnuus he speaks of the wearisome labours and studious watchings wherein he had spent and tired out almost a whole youth.'* Again . care was ever had of me with my earliest capacity, not to be negligently trained up in the precepts of Christian religiou.' In his treatise on education he mentions his · many studious and contemplative years altogether spent in the search of religious and civil knowledge,' to which allusion is again made with much feeling in the Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano.f He was a proficient in the Hebrew tongue, which he strongly recommends should be gained 6 at a set hour,' that the Scriptures may be read in their own original.?! His own knowledge of this language was probably acquired in his early youth, for in a letter to Young, written in 1625, he thanks him for his acceptable present of a Hebrew Bible ; · Biblia Hebræa, pergratum sane munus tuum, jampridem accepi.'s Aubrey and others, who obtained their information from his widow, have related that as long as he lived it was his custom to begin the day with hearing a portion of the Hebrew Scriptures, which a person was employed to read to him; and during every period of his life his Sundays were wholly devoted to theology. The importance which he attached to these pursuits is further confirmed by what Birch relates of the system pursued by him with his pupils. “The Sunday's work for his pupils was for the most part to read a
V. 199, 230, 233.
* Prose Works, I. 208.
+ Ibid. I. 225, 274.
Chapter of the Greek Testament, and hear his exposition of it. The next work after this was to write from his dictation some part of a system of divinity which he collected from the most eminent writers upon that subject, as Amesius, Wollebius, &c.'* Some account of the treatises to which he is said to have been indebted for this compilation, will be found in vol. II. p. 328.
Nourished with these studies, and imbued with a salutary abhorrence of indolence and licentious excess, the ordinary failings of youth, Milton's mind acquired from his earliest years that reverential and devotional cast which is perceptible in all his writings. In the sonnet written on attaining his three and twentieth year he unfolds the principle on which he acted.
.... Be it less or more, or soon or slow,
To that same lot, however mean or high,
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
The pious language in which, at a later period of his life, he speaks of his blindness, is not more affecting as a display of the mental consolations whereby he was supported under his personal infirmities, than it is characteristic of his religious feelings.
* Account of the Life and Writings of Mr. J. Milton, p. xxiii. 4to. London, 1753.
acti mei con."
Sic denique habento, me sortis meæ neque pigere neque pænitere ; immotum atque fixum in sententia perstare ; Deum iratum neque sentire neque habere ; immo maximis in rebus clementiam ejus et benignitatem erga me paternam experiri atque agnoscere; in hoc præsertim, quod solante ipso atque animum confirmante in ejus divina voluntate acquiescam ; quid is largitus mihi sit quam quid negaverit sæpius cogitans : postremo nolle me cum suo quovis rectissime facto facti mei conscientiam permutare, aut recordationem ejus gratam mihi semper atque tranquillam deponere. Ad cæcitatem denique quod attinet, malle me, si necesse est, meam, quam vel suam, More, vel tuam. Vestra imis sensibus immersa, ne quid sani videatis aut solidi, mentem obcæcat: mea, quam objicitis, colorem tantummodo rebus et superficiem demit; quod verum ac stabile in iis est contemplationi mentis non adimit. Quam multa deinde sunt quæ videre nollem ; quam multa quæ possem, libens non videre; quam pauca reliqua sunt quæ videre cupiam! Sed neque ego cæcis, afflictis, mærentibus, imbecillis, tametsi vos id miserum ducitis, aggregari me discrucior; quandoquidem spes est eo me propius ad misericordiam summi Patris atque tutelam pertinere. Est quoddam per imbecillitatem, præeunte apostolo, ad maximas vires iter : sim ego debilissimus, dummodo in mea debilitate immortalis ille et melior vigor eo se efficacius exerat; dummodo in meis tenebris divini vultus lumen eo clarius eluceat: tum enim infirmissimus ero simul et validissimus, cæcus eodem tempore et perspicacissimus; hac possim ego infirmitate con
summari, hac perfici, possim in hac obscuritate sic ego irradiari. Et sane haud ultima Dei cura cæci sumus; qui nos, quo minus quicquam aliud præter ipsum cernere valemus, eo clementius atque benignius respicere dignatur. Væ qui illudit nos, væ qui lædit, execratione publica devovendo : nos ab injuriis hominum non modo incolumes, sed pene sacros divina lex reddidit, divinus favor ; nec tam oculorum hebetudine, quam cælestium alarum umbra has nobis fecisse tenebras videtur, factas illustrare rursus interiore ac longe præstabiliore lumine haud raro solet."*
Again, in the second book of The Reason of Church Government, a passage occurs of singular beauty, which shows how devotedly the author was attached to the illustration of sacred subjects, whether in works of imagination, or of pure reasoning. These abilities, wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God rarely bestowed, but yet to some (though most abuse) in every nation ; and are of power, beside the office of a pulpit, to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and public civility, to allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affections in right tune ; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the throne and equipage of God's almightiness, and what he works, and what he suffers to be wrought with high providence in his church; to sing victorious agonies of martyrs and saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious nations doing valiantly through faith against the enemies of Christ; to deplore the general relapses of
* Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano. Prose Works, V. 215.