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Puritans. In his middle years he was best pleased with the Independents and Anabaptists, as allowing of more liberty than others, and coming nearest, in his opinion, to the primitive practice. But in the latter part of his life he was not a professed member of any particular sect among Christians; he frequented none of their assemblies, nor made use of their peculiar rites in his family. Whether this proceeded from a dislike of their uncharitable and endless disputes, and that love of dominion, or inclination to persecution, which he said was a piece of popery, inseparable from all churches, or whether he thought one might be a good man without subscribing to any party, and that they had all in some things corrupted the institutions of Jesus Christ, I will by no means adventure to determine; for conjectures on such occasions are very uncertain, and I never met with any of his acquaintance who could be positive in assigning the true reasons of his conduct.'
Of this treatise, it is by all acknowledged, that it is written with a calm and conscientious desire for truth, like that of a man who had forgotten or dismissed the favourite animosities of his youth, and who had retired within himself, in the dignity of age, to employ the unimpaired energies of his intellect on the most important and awful subject of inquiry. The haughtiness of his temper, the fierceness of his scorn, the defiance of his manner, his severe and stoical pride, are no longer seen. He approaches the book of God with an humble and reverential feeling and with such a disposition of piety, united to so powerful an intellect, and such immense stores of learning, who would not have expected to have seen the star-bright form' of Truth appear from out the cloud? but wherever we look, the pride of man's heart is lowered, and the weakness of humanity displayed. With all his great qualifications for the removal of error, and the discovery of truth, he failed. His views appear too exalted, his creed too abstract and imaginative, for general use. The religion which he sought was one that was not to be attached to any particular church, to be grounded on any settled articles of belief, to be adorned with any external cere
monies, or to be illustrated by any stated forms of prayer. It was to dwell alone in its holy meditations, cloistered from public gaze, and secluded within the humbler sanctuary of the adoring heart. If the believer felt it to be his duty to attach himself to any particular church, that church was to be unconnected with the state. The ministers, if such were necessary, were to be unpensioned, perhaps unpaid by their congregations.66 The sacraments were to be administered, and the rites of burial and baptism performed, by private and laic hands. Instead of receiving instruction from the preacher, each individual, even the weakest, according to the measure of his gifts, might instruct and exhort his brethren. The opinions advanced in this work differ not only widely from those of the Church of England, but, I believe, from all the sectarian churches that exist. With regard to his theological tenets, the most remarkable are those which he avows on what is called the anthropopathy of God; attributing to 'God, a Spirit,' human passions, and a human form. If (he says) God habitually assigns to himself the members and forms of a man, why should we be afraid of attributing to him what he attributes to himself?' To which I presume the answer would be, that such expressions are used in the revelations of God's will, to make it intelligible to man;67 that the form of the revelation is accommodated to
66 See 'Considerations on removing Hirelings,' ed. Burnet, i. 169; it were to be wished the ministers were all tradesmen, &c. . . . . . On the different opinions held by the Sectaries on the subject, on the support of their ministers. See Warton's Milton, p. 348; and Todd's Milton, vol. v. p. 483.
67 In the Edinburgh Rev. No. cvii. Sept. 1831. In a note in their review of the State of Protestantism in Germany,' a passage is quoted from Jortin, "declaring that they who uphold the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity must be prepared to assert, 'that Jesus Christ is his own Father and his own Son.' The consequence will be so, whether they like it, or whether they like it not."-Be the words of Jortin what they may, and without any reference to his authority, I must beg the reviewer to consider that the words Father and Son are used in an analogous and figurative sense; and that the greatest caution is necessary not to connect with the terms Father and Son, when applied to the persons of the Holy Trinity, any ideas similar to those of human derivation.' Milton has guarded and qualified his language by the expression-'We do not say that God is in fashion like unto man in all his parts and members, but that (as far as we are concerned to know) he is of that form which he attributes to himself in the sacred writings.' p. 18.
the narrowness of man's understanding, and the limited circle of his knowledge; that it speaks to him through analogy, and that it is not designed to acquaint him absolutely with the nature of God.
He denies the eternal filiation of the Son, his self-existence, his co-equality, and co-essentiality with the Father. He believes. 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 the Father, and inferior to him; 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.68— Thus his Arian heresies are divulged: but he fully acknowledges the satisfaction and atonement made by the death of Christ, for the sins of men. The Holy Ghost he considers as inferior to the Father and the Son. Matter, he says, is imperishable and eternal, because it not only is from God, but out of God, 'Non solum a Deo, sed ex Deo.' Hence the body is immortal as the soul. His argument on the lawfulness of polygamy is singular indeed. What but the line which he adopted, of reasoning on the simple text and literal words of the Scriptures, could have prevented his acknowledging, that from a manner of life peculiar to the nations of the East, from the scantiness of population, from the safety and strength derived from the unison of large families, from the non-existence of civilized communities, from the patriarchal authority of the father of the family, and the acknowledged inferiority and dependence of the other members; from the advantage or necessity of increasing the numbers of mankind, permission was granted to "the gray fathers of the world," extending even to a connexion between brothers and sisters; which in later ages, in higher civilization, in the sweeter charities of life, in purer morals, with more refined ideas, more tender sympathies, and under a holier and more spiritual reli
68 See Dr. Sumner's Preface, p. xxxiv.
gion, could not be entertained without sinfulness, nor established without degradation and disorder ?69 That which was harmless in the Arabian deserts, or among Chaldean tents, could not be transplanted into the enlightened communities, the closer affinities, and the diversified relations of an advanced society. The divine laws were made suitable to the nature of humanity, which they were designed to amend; hence, in order to exalt it, they often bent to it; they stepped back, as it were, only to gain a stronger hold. But Milton should have remembered the early and imperious demands which God made for a purer and more personal religion through the voice of his prophets; and that the too easy divorces which the laws of Moses allowed to the Jews, were explained by our Saviour, as not forming a part of the perfect law, or holy will of God; but as an unwilling allowance to the hardness of their hearts.'
'The Pride of Reason70 (it has been very judiciously observed), though disclaimed by Milton 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.'-Caring nothing for institutions that were venerable, nor for opinions that were sacred, he not only disdains to wear the opprobrious shackles of authority, but even the decent vestments of custom.71 Safe in his own inflexible integrity, in the great purity of his
69 See Dr. Channing's remarks on this part of Milton's work, in his Remarks on the Character and Writings of Milton, p. 37.
70 v. Doctor Sumner's Preface, p. xxxv.
71 See T. Warton's Summary of Milton's Political Opinions, in Todd's Milton, vol. vi. p. 391. 'In point of doctrine they are calculated to annihilate the very foundations of our civil and religious establishment, as it now subsists. They are subversive of our legislature and our species of government. In condemning tyranny, he strikes at the bare existence of kings; in combating superstition, he strikes at all public religion. These discourses hold forth a system of politics at present as unconstitutional, and almost as obsolete, as the nonsense of passive obedience; and in this view he might just as well think of republishing the pernicious theories of the kingly bigot James, as of the republican usurper Oliver Cromwell.' This might have been spared. Milton's political speculations are not applicable to our times; and, as it has been justly said, his theological opinions would have been different, had he survived to read the works of Waterland and Bull; so, we may say, his political theories would have been more wise and moderate, had he lived in the days of Somers and of Locke.
heart, and singleness of purpose, what his conscience dictates, his courage proclaims. Impetuous, fearless, and uncompromising, he pushes on his inquiries, till they end in a defence of the death of the monarch, and the substitution of a visionary republic, in politics; in a denial of the eternal existence of the Son, in theology; and in the defence of a plurality of wives, in morals. Yet it must be remembered, that he lived in an age when men were busy pulling down and building up; a fermentation was spreading over the surface, and dissolving the materials of society. Old faith was gone; old institutions were crumbling away. Long, splendid vistas of ideal perfection opened before men's eyes, dazzling their senses and confounding their judgments.72 Gray-headed men, men grown old in the business of life, and in the pursuit of practical wisdom, yielded to the siren influence. It pervaded the senate, the city, and the camp. What wonder then, if the Poet, the visionary by his profession, the dreaming theorist, the man dwelling in ideal worlds and abstract notions, should be led astray?
Such are some of the singular opinions advanced in this curious and late-discovered document of Milton's faith.73 They serve to show us that its author is every where the same, the same severe and uncompromising investigator of truth, the same fearless and independent judge of its reality; in the honesty of his opinions uninfluenced, in the sanctity of his morals unblemished, in the fervour of his piety unquestioned. But there was, both in his political and religious opinions, a visionary attempt at perfection, a grasping after the ideal and the abstract, a lofty aspiration after the most exalted means, that, while
72 See the Areopagitica, p. 317, ed. Burnet. 'Behold now this vast city, &c. There be pens and heads there sitting by their studious lamps; musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and fealty, the approaching reformation; others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement,' &c.
73 It has been more than once remarked, that little mention is made of Milton by his contemporaries. His name does not occur in the pages of Clarendon. Thurloe speaks of him only as a blind old man, who wrote Latin letters. Sir W. Temple does not name him, and R. Baxter passes over him in silence. Whitelocke mentions him only once, and that casually.