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To enter into a preliminary discussion of the doctrines or opinions contained in the present volume, seems, properly speaking, to be no necessary part of the Translator's duty. After stating, therefore, in the first place, the circumstances under which the original manuscript was discovered, and the reasons for considering it as the long lost theological work of Milton, it will be sufficient to subjoin, as briefly as possible, a few remarks chiefly relating to certain peculiarities in the following treatise, by which it is distinguished from the author's other compositions.
From information communicated by Robert Lemon, sen. Esq. Deputy Keeper of His Majesty's State Papers, who has lately completed from the documents under his care an entire series of the Order-Books of the Council of State during the Interregnum, it appears that Milton retired from active official employment as Secretary for Foreign Languages, about the middle of the year 1655. The following entry occurs under the date of April 17 in that
"The Councell resumed the debate upon the report made from the Committee of the Councell to whom it was referred
to consider of the establishment of the Councell's contingencies.
“Ordered. . . . That the former yearly Salary of Mr. JOHN MILTON, of Two Hundred Eighty-Eight Pounds, &c., formerly charged on the Councell's contingencies, be reduced to One Hundred and Fiftie Pounds per annum, and paid to him, during his life, out of His Highness' Exchequer."
This sum must have been intended as a retiring pension in consideration of past services, as it is evident from another entry, under the same date, that a successor was already appointed, at a reduced salary, to discharge the duties of the situation which Milton had previously occupied.
"For the Fee of Mr. Phillip Medows,
£200 0 0"
From this time it is presumed that Milton ceased to be employed in public business, as his name does not again occur in the Books of the Council of State, which continue in uninterrupted succession till the 2d of September 1658, the day preceding the death of Cromwell.*
*The Orders of the Council of State during the Interregnum, brought to light and arranged by the industry of Mr. Lemon, form one of the most interesting series of documents relative to English History at present in existence. They contain the daily transactions of the executive government in England from 1648-9 to September 1658, and are particularly valuable from the period of the dissolution of the Long Parliament in 1653, to the death of Cromwell in September 1658; as during the greater part of that time the Council of State, under the Protector, combined both the executive and legislative functions of government, and as these books are the authentic, but hitherto unknown records of their daily proceedings. It is greatly to be desired that the attention of the Record Commissioners should be drawn to