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to sustain a learned ministry by means of an expensive university education.
The treatise concludes with the following bold and nervous passage :
Heretofore, in the first evangelical times, (and it were happy for Christendom if it were so again,) ministers of the gospel were by nothing else distinguished from other Christians, but by their spiritual knowledge and sanctity of life, for which the church elected them to be her teachers and overseers, though not thereby to separate them from whatever calling she then found them following besides; as the example of St. Paul declares, and the first times of Christianity. When once they affected to be called a clergy, and became, as it were, a peculiar tribe of Levites, a party, a distinct order in the commonwealth, bred up for divines in babbling schools, and fed at the public cost, good for nothing else but' what was good for nothing, they soon grow idle: that idleness, with fulness of bread, begat pride and perpetual contention with their feeders, the despised laity, through all ages ever since; to the perverting of religion, and the disturbance of all Christendom. And we may confidently conclude, it never will be otherwise while they are thus upheld undepending on the church, on which alone they anciently depended, and are by the magistrate publicly maintained, a numerous faction of indigent persons, crept for the most part out of extreme want and bad nurture, claiming by divine right and freehold the tenth of our estates, to monopolize the ministry as their peculiar, which is free and open to all able Christians, elected by any church. Under this pretence, exempt from all other employment, and enriching themselves on the public, they last of all prove common incendiaries, and exalt their horns against the magistrate himself that maintains them, as the priest of Rome did soon after against his benefactor the emperor, and the presbyters of late in Scotland. Of which hireling crew, together with all the mischiefs, dissensions, troubles, wars merely of their
kindling, Christendom might soon rid herself and be happy if Christians would but know their own dignity, their liberty, their adoption, and let it not be wondered if I say, their spiritual priesthood, whereby they have all equally access to any ministerial function, whenever called by their own abilities, and the church, though they never came near commencement or university. But while protestants, to avoid the due labour of understanding their own religion, are content to lodge it in the breast, or rather in the books of a clergyman, and to take it thence by scraps and mammocks, as he dispenses it in his Sundays' dole, they will be always learning and never knowing; always infants : always either his vassals, as lay papists are to their priests; or at odds with him, as reformed principles give them some right to be not wholly comformable; whence infinite disturbances in the state, as they do, must needs follow. Thus much I had to say; and, I suppose, what may be enough to them who are not avariciously bent otherwise, touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings out of the Church ; than which nothing can more conduce to truth, to peace, and all happiness, both in church and state. If I be not heard nor believed, the event will bear me witness to have spoken truth; and I in the meanwhile have borne my witness, not out of season, to the church and to my country.”
Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 40, 41.
EFFECTS OF POLITICAL REVOLUTIONS_FICKLENESS OF THE ARMY
MILTON PUBLISHES HIS TRACTS UPON THE COMMONWEALTH-ANALYSIS
OF THESE TREATISES-RESTORATION OF CHARLES II.-MILTON IS
SECRETED BY HIS FRIENDS-PASSING OF THE ACT OF OBLIVION.
All history instructs us, and political philosophy is at no loss to account for the fact, that revolutions commenced in deliberation, and carried out by the pacific force of public opinion, subside after temporary turmoil, and precipitate their elements, which crystallize into the regular forms of constitutional government: while those which are engendered and conducted by the brute force of arms, issue appropriately in a military despotism. This is either rendered temporary, by the energies of civilization and public virtue, or, failing those only resources, all that is pure and precious in human society perishes for an extended period, under its inorganic and torpifying pressure. The latter was the sad alternative which was witnessed in England in the year 1660. The army had virtually dissolved one parliament, and re-constituted another, and this also owed its extinction to the same unconstitutional influence. The very theory of a standing army is embarrassed with a dilemma, which is not the less deserving of attention because it is not glaringly obvious. If ill disciplined, it is inefficacious for any purposes save those of feverish irritation, and plethoric expenditure ; if highly disciplined, it is the mechanical engine of a few minds who may constitute it a despotic imperium in imperio.
Towards the close of the year 1659, Milton saw those gathering clouds which were destined for a time to eclipse, and for a much longer period to obscure, the pure light of constitutional freedom ; and in the near prospect of the reestablishment of the Stuart dynasty, and, consequently, of the principles of Divine right and passive obedience, both civil and spiritual, and that with an activity intensified by temporary suppression, he published three tracts on the political position of his country, though evidently with the fullest recognition of the personal peril which such a measure must involve. The first of these is entitled, “ A Letter to a Friend, concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth.” The second and third were addressed to General Monk, and entitled, “ The Present Means and Brief Delineation of a Free Commonwealth,” and “ The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth." These are so similar in design and spirit, that they may be treated here as a single and continuous treatise.
After lamenting the fickleness of the army, he thus proceeds to appeal to them, and to state the principles on which alone the liberties of the country could be maintained :
“ How grievous will it then be! how infamous to the true religion which we profess! how dishonourable to the name of God, that his fear and the power of his knowledge in an army professing to be his, should not work that obedience, that fidelity to their supreme magistrates, that levied them and paid them ; when the light of nature, the laws of human society, covenants and contracts, yea common shame, works in other armies, amongst the worst of them! Which will undoubtedly pull down the heavy judgments of God among us, who cannot but avenge these hypocrisies, violations of truth and holiness; if they be indeed so as they yet seem. For neither do I speak this in reproach to the army, but as jealous of their honour, inciting them to manifest and publish with all speed, some better
cause of these their late actions, than hath hitherto appeared, and to find out the Achan amongst them, whose close ambition in all likelihood abuses their honest natures against their meaning to these disorders ; their readiest way to bring in again the common enemy, and with him the destruction of true religion, and civil liberty.
“But, because our evils are now grown more dangerous and extreme, than to be remedied by complaints, it concerns us now to find out what remedies may be likeliest to save us from approaching ruin. Being now in anarchy, without a counselling and governing power; and the army, I suppose, finding themselves insufficient to discharge at once both military and civil affairs, the first thing to be found out with all speed, without which no commonwealth can subsist, must be a senate, or general council of state, in whom must be the power, first to preserve the public peace ; next, the commerce with foreign nations ; and lastly, to raise monies for the management of these affairs: this must either be the parliament re-admitted to sit, or a council of state allowed of by the army, since they only now have the power. The terms to be stood on are, liberty of conscience to all professing Scripture to be the rule of their faith and worship: and the abjuration of a single person.”
Milton next details his views of the best means of constituting a parliament and council of state, so as to supersede the institutions of monarchy and the House of Lords, and thus appeals again to the self-respect of his co
"After our liberty and religion thus prosperously fought for, gained, and many years possessed, except in those unhappy interruptions, which God hath removed ; now that nothing remains, but in all reason the certain hopes of a speedy and immediate settlement for ever in a firm and free commonwealth, for this extolled and magnified nation, regardless both of honour won, or deliverances
* Prose Works, vol. iii. p. 405.