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RETURNING to England from his travels on the continent, Milton found the whole nation agitated by what has been called Charles the First's episcopal war against the Scots, the direct tendency of which was to render the Government and the Church of England unpopular. In the Parliament, likewise, a feeling unfavourable to episcopacy was springing up; for, as Milton phrases it, “ they had begun to humble the pride of the bishops." He saw the public approaching his own views of government, both in Church and State ; and to advance the "good cause" took up the defence of Presbytery, as more consistent, in his opinion, with those popular political institutions which it was his earnest desire to see established. Of his conduct and motives he has himself supplied the history in the Second Defence of the People of England; and, since no one can hope to better them, we shall give in his own words the origin of his controversial writings, of which the Account of his own Studies forms a part. “When the liberty of speech was no longer subject to control, all mouths began to be opened against the bishops, some complaining of the vices of the individuals, others of those of the order. They said it was unjust that they alone should differ from the model of other reformed churches; that the government of the church should be according to the pattern of other churches, and particularly the word of God. This awakened all my attention and my zeal. I saw that a way was opening for the establishment of real liberty ; that the foundation was laying for the deliverance of man from the yoke of slavery and superstition; that the principles of religion which were the first objects of our care, would exert a salutary influence on the manners and constitution of the republic; and as I had from my youth studied the distinction between religious and civil rights, I perceived that if I ever wished to be of use, I ought at least not to be wanting to my country, to the church, and so many of my fellow-christians, in a crisis of so much danger; I therefore determined to relinquish the other pursuits in which I was engaged, and to transfer the whole force of my talents and my industry to this one important object. I accordingly wrote two books to a friend concerning the reformation of the church of England. Afterwards, when two bishops of superior distinction, vindicated their privileges against some principal ministers, I thought that on these topics, to the consideration of which I was led solely by my love of truth, and my reverence for Christianity, I should not probably write worse than those who were contending only for their own emolument and usurpations. I therefore answered the one in two books, of which the first is inscribed Concerning Prelatical Episcopacy, and the other concerning the Mode of Ecclesiastical Government; and I replied to the other in some Animadversions, and soon afterwards in an Apology. On this occasion it was supposed that I brought a timely succour to the ministers, who were hardly a match for the eloquence of their opponents; and from that time I was actively employed in refuting any answers that appeared.”
HIS OWN STUDIES.'
1. How happy were it for this frail, and, as it may be called, mortal life of man, (since all earthly things which have the name of good and convenient in our daily use are withal so cumbersome and full of trouble,) if knowledge, yet which is the best and lightsomest possession of the mind, were, as the common saying is, no burden; and that what it wanted of being a load to any part of the body, it did not with a heavy advantage overlay upon the spirit! For not to speak of that knowledge that rests in the contemplation of natural causes and dimensions, which must needs be a lower wisdom, as the object is low, certain it is, that he who hath obtained in more than the scantiest measure to know any thing distinctly of God,
(1) In order to present the reader with something like a complete view of Milton's ideas of Poetry, as well as of his reasons for quitting the study of it to engage for a while in Controversy, we here introduce the Preface to the second book of Church Government; which, in reality, is a separate piece, or has but little necessary connexion with any thing preceding or following it in the work to which it belongs.
and of his true worship, and what is infallibly good and happy in the state of man's life, what in itself evil and miserable, though vulgarly not so esteemed; he that hath obtained to know this, the only high valuable wisdom indeed, remembering also that God, even to a strictness, requires the improvement of these his entrusted gifts, cannot but sustain a sorer burden of mind, and more pressing, than any supportable toil or weight which the body can labour under, how and in what manner he shall dispose and employ those sums of knowledge and illumination which God hath sent him into this world to trade with.
2. And that which aggravates the burden more, is, that, having received amongst his allotted parcels, certain precious truths, of such an orient lustre as no diamond can equal; which nevertheless he has in charge to put off at any cheap rate, yea, for nothing to them that will; the great merchants of this world, fearing that this course would soon discover and disgrace the false glitter of their deceitful wares, wherewith they abuse the people, like poor Indians, with beads and glasses, practise by all means how they may suppress the vending of such rarities, and at such a cheapness as would undo them, and turn their trash upon their hands. Therefore by gratifying the corrupt desires of men in fleshly doctrines, they stir them up to persecute with hatred and contempt all those that seek to bear themselves uprightly in this their spiritual factory: which they foreseeing, though they cannot but testify of truth, and the excellency of that heavenly
traffic which they bring, against what opposition or danger soever, yet needs must it sit heavily upon their spirits, that, being in God's prime intention, and their own, selected heralds of peace, and dispensers of treasure inestimable, without price to them that have no peace, they find in the discharge of their commission, that they are made the greatest variance and offence, a very sword and fire both in house and city over the whole earth. This is that which the sad prophet Jeremiah laments : • Wo is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me, a man of strife and contention !'
3. And although divine inspiration must certainly have been sweet to those ancient prophets, yet the irksomeness of that truth which they brought was so unpleasant unto them, that everywhere they call it a burden. Yea, that mysterious book of revelation, which the great evangelist was bid to eat, as it had been some eye-brightening electuary of knowledge and foresight, though it were sweet in his mouth, and in the learning, it was bitter in his belly, bitter in the denouncing. Nor was this hid from the wise poet Sophocles, who in that place of his tragedy, where Tiresias is called to resolve king Edipus in a matter which he knew would be grievous, brings him. in bemoaning his lot, that he knew more than other men. For surely to every good and peaceable man, it must in nature needs be a hateful thing to be the displeaser and molester of thousands; much better would it like him doubtless to be the messenger of gladness and contentment, which is his chief intended busi