« AnteriorContinuar »
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. Millon, p. xxiii. 4to. London, 1753.
- 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 eg 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 kingdoms and states from justice and God's true worship. Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime, in virtue amiable or grave, whatsocver hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that which is called fortune from without, or the wily subtleties and refluxes of man's thoughts from within ; all these things with a solid and treatable smoothness to paint out and describe; teaching over the whole book of sanctity and virtue, through all the instances of example, with such delight, to those especially of soft and delicious temper, who will not so much as look upon truth herself unless they see her elegantly dressed, that whereas the paths of honesty and good life appear now rugged and difficult, though they be indeed easy and pleasant, they will then appear to all men both easy and pleasant, though they were rugged and difficult indeed.'*
* Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano. Prose Works, V. 216.
To these quotations another of a different kind may be not improperly added, as well on account of the eloquence of the passage, as in proof that the author's opinions respecting the Trinity were at one time different from those which are disclosed in the present treatise. Which way to get out, or which way to end I know not, unless I turn mine eyes, and with your help lift up my hands, to that eternal and propitious throne, where nothing is readier than grace and refuge to the distresses of mortal suppliants: and it were a shame to leave these serious thoughts less piously than the heathen were wont to conclude their
* Prose Works, I. 120.
graver discourses. 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 print of their polluting hoofs on the souls of thy servants. O let them not bring about their damned designs, that stand now at the entrance of the bottomless pit, expecting the watchword to open and let out those ureadful locusts and scorpions, to reinvolve us in that pitchy cloud of infernal darkness, where we shall never more see the sun of thy truth again, never hope for the chearful dawn, never more hear the bird of morning sing."*
There is much reason for regretting that the prose works of Milton, where, in the midst of much that is coarse and intemperate, passages of such redeeming beauty occur, should be in the hands of so few readers, considering the advantage which might be derived
* Of Reformation in England. Prose Works, I. 56. See indeed the entire context of this and the preceding quotation. Compare also the eloquent conclusion of the fourth section of Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence, I. 181—184.