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and views which he maintained on ecclesiastical subjects. These, indeed, formed the staple of his intellectual history. A considerable portion of his prose writings is devoted to the maintenance of these principles ; while, even in those treatises which are purely political, we incessantly find the evidence, not only of his nonconformity to the episcopalian system in general, but especially of his deep-seated aversion to the alliance of any system of belief and worship with the more coarse, unspiritual, and heterogeneous powers of the state.
It was the lot of Milton to flourish in an era of transition ; and it is remarkable, though by no means unaccountable, that such times, throughout the history of the world, have produced the men who have most powerfully influenced the destinies of their own age and all succeeding generations. It was amidst the stormiest periods of Grecian history that we find those historians, orators, statesmen, and generals, who at once rescued their age and their memory from oblivion; and it was amidst the transitions of the Roman commonwealth and empire that those minds were nurtured, who, in all the highest pursuits allotted to man, illustrated - their age and their species together, and whose writings have nurtured the youth, and attracted the universal admiration of all succeeding times. Almost within our own recollection the overthrow of political and spiritual despotism in France was heralded and attended by minds such as that nation had not been wont to gaze at and applaud, nor the sounder portion of the civilized world to weigh and estimate.
Times, in many respects similar, witnessed the birth and history of John MILTON. The revival of letters by the invention of the art of printing had previously communicated an unexampled impulse to the human mind. religion had heretofore gathered its spoils and consolidated its empire amidst a darkness only broken by occasional rays of art, and occasional luminaries of learning. With what
a cold obliqueness these fell upon the popular mind, let the history of the middle ages testify. In spite of the wild or affected fantasies of the day, it becomes thinking men to designate these as the dark ages. That their institutions preserved to us the treasures of ancient literature, is, indeed, true ; but they preserved them in a coffer of which few ecclesiastics kept the keys, and fewer still used them, save for the purpose of drawing forth and perpetuating monastic rubbish.
This darkness, and the delusions which it harboured, had in this country been partly dispelled by the Reformation. I say partially ; for few readers need be told that in England the principles of the Reformation were but imperfectly carried out. Commenced under a monarch who was one of the basest and most unprincipled of mankind, it was carried on by two parties of whom it is difficult to say which was the more unfavourable to the interests of religion and freedom—the one being solely interested in obtaining the largest measure of secular spoil, and the other in securing the greatest number of the people to aggrandize the power and state of a new but homogeneous hierarchy. The Reformation was a compromise between these parties, and those who desired to restore to the church its primitive purity and simplicity of faith and worship; but the construction of the scheme indicates far more of Jesuitical subtlety than of the Christian manliness of the great reformers. The scheme of the Anglican church propitiated the Protestants by presenting the Scriptures, and adopting various formularies of public worship, in the vernacular language; by abjuring the infallibility of the pope, the adoration of the Virgin, the invocation of saints and angels, the sacrifice of the mass, and the doctrine of meritorious works. But its authors retained and re-established so much of the essence of popery as well-nigh nullified the abjurations. Admitting a priesthood and an altar, they implied a sacrifice; they invested that priesthood with imaginary gifts
descending by direct transmission from the apostles, and through this figment found their way to the doctrine of sacramental efficacy. If they denied the infallibility of the pope, they transferred it to the church,* and added to it the still more baneful dogma of the ecclesiastical supremacy of the monarch. While they abjured the mass they so stated the doctrine of the Eucharist, as to admit of its being wrested (as is commonly done in the present day) to the notion of a perpetual oblation. Their Prayer-book was little else than an English translation of the Romish liturgy and offices, teaching men to invoke and commemorate the saints to whom they had ceased to pray, and to continue the vain repetitions and still vainer material observances which
had ever substituted for the “reasonable service” of the human mind.
The observation of Lord Russell, with regard to the scheme of Henry VIII., requires but little modification to make it applicable to every subsequent period :—“The religion established by Henry,” he remarks, “ was so far from being the reformed church of Luther, or of Calvin, that he prided himself in maintaining the Roman Catholic faith, after he had shaken off the supremacy of the pope. His ordinances, indeed, vibrated for a short time between the old and the new religion, as he listened more to Cranmer or to Gardiner; but the law of the six articles, which contains the creed he finally imposed on his people, maintains and confirms all the leading articles of the Roman belief.”
It might be supposed that a church embodying, though in a diluted form, the tenets of the popish religion, but without the prestige of its authority or antiquity, usurping the gorgeous edifices of the Catholic church, but for a worship which was shorn of the splendour which corresponded to them, contained within itself the seeds of rapid dissolution. And, doubtless, its destruction would have been speedy and complete had not its authors moored it safely to the state,
* Article XX: “ The Church hath power to decree rites and cere monies, and authority in controversies of faith."
so that its abolition might involve the perils of a political revolution. This arrangement not only contributed to the solidity of the ecclesiastical despotism, but supplied it with an ample armoury for the subjugation and punishment of all dissentients. It was at the period when Archbishop Laud and his associates, armed with these terrible powers, and “breathing threatenings and slaughter," were devastating the Christian church in this country, that JOHN MILTON was raised up by the providence of God to defend and revive "expiring Liberty."
BIRTH AND PARENTAGE OF MILTON-NOTICE OF HIS FATHER-EARLY
EDUCATION AND HABITS OF THE SON-HIS EARLIEST EXTANT POEM
ENTERS THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE-HIS POEMS AND EXERCISES
JOHN MILTON was born at his father's house, in Bread Street, Cheapside, on the 9th of December, 1608. His father appears, in some respects, to have been worthy to have his name perpetuated by such a son; for, while prosecuting his studies at the University of Oxford, he became convinced of the anti-christian character of the popish religion, and embraced the protestant faith at the sacrifice of his paternal inheritance and his immediate prospects. Having abruptly quitted the University upon this change of his fortunes, he commenced practice in London as a scrivener; and, while procuring the means of giving a high education to his son, he found leisure for the pursuit of various studies, and especially that of music, in which he seems to have attained considerable excellence. This accomplishment his son rated so highly, that he associated it with his own poetic genius and fame, in a Latin poem, subsequently addressed to his father, distinguished as much for its filial piety as for that classic latinity in which Milton has but few rivals in modern times. The passage referred to has been thus translated.