« AnteriorContinuar »
the Trinity. Newton indeed is assiduous in praising his theological views, although he once so far qualifies his assertion, as to content himself with pronouncing that Milton is generally truly orthodox.' Warton however has acknowledged the justice of Mr. Calton's remark on a memorable passage in Paradise Regained, (I. 161–167.) that not a word is there said of the Son of God, but what a Socinian, or at least an Arian, would allow. The truth is, that whoever takes the trouble of comparing with each other the passages referred to in the note below, will find real and important contradictions in the language of Milton on this subject.* That these contradictions should exist, will cease to appear extraordinary after a perusal of the chapter · On the Son of God' in the ensuing pages.
It is there asserted that the Son existed in the beginning, and was the first of the whole creation ; by whose delegated power all things were made in heaven and earth ; begotten, not by natural necessity, but by the decree of the Father, within the limits of time ; endued with the divine nature and substance, but distinct from and inferior to the Father; one with the Father in love and unanimity of will, and receiving every thing, in his filial as well as in his mediatorial character, from the Father's gift. This summary will be sufficient to show that the opinions of Milton were in reality nearly Arian, ascribing to the Son as high a share of divinity as was compatible with the denial of his selfexistence and eternal generation, but not admitting his co-equality and co-essentiality with the Father. That he entertained different views at other periods of his life, is evident from several expressions scattered through his works. The following stanza occurs in the ode on the morning of Christ's Nativity, written, according to Warton, as a college exercise at the age
* Paradise Lost, III. 62-64. 138—140. 305-307. 350. 384_415. V. 603-605. 719, 720. VI. 676-884. X. 63-67. 85, 86. 225, 226.
That glorious form, that light unsufferable,
A few years afterwards he wrote thus in his first controversial work : • Witness the Arians and Pelagians, which were slain by the heathen for Christ's sake, yet we take both these for no true friends of Christ."* In the same tract he speaks of the hard measure dealt out to the faithful and invincible Athanasius ; and in the treatise · On Prelatical Episcopacy,' published shortly afterwards, he holds the following important language : ·Suppose Tertullian had made an imparity where none was originally ; should he move us that goes about to prove an imparity between God the Father and God the Son ?.....Believe him now for a faithful relater of tradition, whom you see such
* Of Reformation in England. Prose Works, L. 7.
ån unfaithful expounder of the Scripture.'* Whether Milton wonld have ceased to hold the doctrines espoused by him in his earlier years, had he lived subsequently to the times of Bishop Bull and of Waterland, it is now useless to conjecture. The pride of reason, though disclaimed by him with remarkable, and probably with sincere earnestness, formed a principal ingredient in his character, and would have presented, under any circumstances, a formidable obstacle to the reception of the true faith. But we may be permitted to regret that the mighty mind of Milton, in its conscientious, though mistaken search after truth, had not an opportunity of examining those masterly refutations of the Arian scheme, for which Christianity is indebted to the labours of those distinguished ornaments of the English Church.
With respect to the cardinal doctrine of the atonement, the opinions of Milton are expressed throughout in the strongest and most unqualified manner. No attentive reader of Paradise Lost can have failed to remark, that the poem is constructed on the fundamental principle that the sacrifice of Christ was strictly vicarious ; that not only was man redeemed, but a real price,life for life,' was paid for his redemption. The same system will be found fully and unequivocally maintained in this treatise ; and much as it is to be regretted that it cannot be said, in the author's own words elsewhere, of the Son of God as delineated in the following pages, that
* Prose Works, I. 72.
in him all his Father shone Substantially expressid,
yet the translator rejoices in being able to state that the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ is so scripturally and unambiguously enforced, as to leave, on that point, nothing to be desired.
Milton's sentiments respecting the divine decrees are as clear, and perhaps as satisfactory, as can be expected on a subject in which it is wisest and safest to confess with the cautious Locke our inability to reconcile the universal prescience of God with the free agency of man, though we be as fully persuaded of both doctrines, as of any truths we most firmly
His views may be thus summarily stated ; that every thing is foreknown by God, though not decreed absolutely. He argues that the Deity, having in his power to confer or withhold the liberty of the will, showed his sovereignty in conceding it to man, as effectually as he could have done in depriving him of it; that he therefore created him a free agent, foreseeing the use which he would make of his liberty, and shaping his decrees accordingly, inasmuch as the issue of events, though uncertain as regards man, by reason of the freedom of the human will, is perfectly known to God, by reason of the divine prescience. This is, on the onc hand, in direct opposition to the doctrine of the Socinians, that there can be no certain foreknowledge of future contingencies ; and on the other, to that of the Supralapsarians, that the Deity is the causal source of human actions, and consequently that the decrees of God are antecedent to his prescience. In treating of the latter topic, Milton justly protests against the use of a phraseology when speaking of the Deity, which properly applies to finite beings alone.
There are other subjects, and particularly that of the Holy Spirit, to which the translator had wished to have adverted, had he not been warned, by the length to which the preceding observations have already extended, to abstain from further comment. He cannot however conclude these preliminary remarks, without acknowledging his obligations to W. S. Walker, Esq. Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who has not only discharged the greater part of the laborious office of correcting the press, but whose valuable suggestions during the progress of the work have contributed to remove some of its imperfections.