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Throughout the writings of Milton, we have seen his complete familiarity and intense sympathy with classical literature, producing two characteristic results:—the one, the infusion of beautiful, but exotic, and, in many cases, recondite illustration; the other, the interpolation into his style of that which, in the view of mere nationality, must be regarded as a corrupt element. It has been remarked of the “Paradise Regained,” that its style “is much less encumbered with allusions to abstruse learning, than the ‘Paradise Lost. Different critics assign different reasons for this. It is probable that the poet was influenced by regard to the simple language of the New Testament: in previous parts of the Bible, there is much more of poetical ornament and figurative richness.”

The defect of the “Samson Agonistes” is not one of style, but of structure. It is framed on the model of the Greek drama, which, if not incompatible with our language, is certainly uncongenial with the national literature and the popular taste. The great masters of the British drama, both prior and subsequent to the days of Milton, do not admit to the vicinity of their imperial throne the rivalry of classic antiquity. As the “Paradise Regained." admitted of the development of some of Milton's political and religious opinions, so among the more individual delineations of the “Samson,” we find some passages in which it is impossible not to perceive a reference to the author's personal and domestic condition. Of this the following is an obvious example:—

“I, dark in light, exposed
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong,
Within doors or without, still as a fool,
In power of others, never in my own;
Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon |
Irrevocably dark, total eclipse,
Without all hope of day!” -

Like every other work of Milton, the “Samson Agonistes” abounds with noble sentiments, and with passages of great poetic force and beauty; but a character of tame inefficacy attaches to every dramatic composition which is not adapted to the stage. In this instance, too, the irregularity of the ode interferes with the measured and progressive movement of the tragic muse; and, as a dramatic composition, the just decision of the literary world has pronounced it a failure,

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IN 1673, Milton, impressed with alarm at the rapid increase of Popery, and regarding its re-establishment in Fngland as involving a retrogression from a pure and free religion, to superstition, infidelity, and spiritual despotism, put forth a tract entitled “Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and what Best Means may be used against the growth of Popery.” A few selections from this treatise will indicate the course of his argument: “True religion,” he lays down at the outset, “is the true worship and service of God, learned and believed from the Word of God only. . . . With good and religious reason, therefore, all Protestant churches, with one consent, and particularly the Church of England, in her Thirty-nine Articles (Article 6th, 19th, 20th, 21st, and elsewhere), maintain these two points, as the main principles of true religion—that the rule of true religion is the Word of God only; and that their faith ought not to be an implicit faith, that is, to believe, though as the church believes, against or without express authority of Scripture. And if all Protestants, as universally as they hold these two principles, so attentively and religiously would observe them, they would avoid and cut off many debates and contentions, schisms and persecutions, which too oft have been among them, and more firmly unite against the common adversary. For hence it directly follows, that no true Protestant can persecute, or not tolerate, his fellow-Protestant, though dissenting from him in some opinions, but he must flatly deny and renounce these two his own main principles, whereon true religion is founded; while he compels his brother from that which he believes as the manifest word of God, to an implicit faith (which he himself condemns), to the endangering of his brother's soul, whether by rash belief or outward conformity: for ‘whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” “I will now as briefly show what is false religion, or heresy, which will be done as easily; for of contraries the definitions must needs be contrary. Heresy, therefore, is a religion taken up and believed from the traditions of men, and additions to the Word of God. . . . Schism is a rent or division in the church, when it comes to the separating of congregations; and may also happen to a true church, as well as to a false; yet in the true needs not tend to the breaking of communion, if they can agree in the right administration of that wherein they communicate, keeping their other opinions to themselves, not being destructive to faith. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two sects, yet both met together in their common worship of God at Jerusalem. But here the Papist will angrily demand, What! are Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Socinians, Arminians, no heretics? I answer, All these may have some errors, but are no heretics. Heresy is in the will and choice professedly against Scripture; error is against the will, in misunderstanding the Scripture after all sincere endeavours to understand it rightly: hence it was said well by one of the ancients, ‘Err I may, but heretic I will not be.’ It is a human frailty to err, and no man is infallible here on earth. But so long as all these profess to set the Word of God only before them as the rule of faith and obedience; and use all diligence and sincerity of heart, by reading, by learning, by study, by prayer for illumination of the Holy Spirit, to understand the rule and obey it, they have done what man can do: God will assuredly pardon them, as he did the friends of Job; good and pious men, though much mistaken, as there it appears, in some points of doctrine.” Referring next to the intolerance of the Papists, he says:— “But he is wont to say, he enjoins only things indifferent. Let them be so still; who gave him authority to change their nature by enjoining them? If by his own principles, as is proved, he ought to tolerate controverted points of doctrine not slightly grounded on Scripture, much more ought he not impose things indifferent without Scripture. In religion nothing is indifferent; but if it come once to be imposed, is either a command or a prohibition, and so consequently an addition to the Word of God, which he professes to disallow. Besides, how unequal, how uncharitable must it needs be, to impose that which his conscience cannot urge him to impose, upon him whose conscience forbids him to obey ! What can it be but love of contention for things not necessary to be done, to molest the conscience of his brother, who holds them necessary to be not done P”f Milton next comes to the question whether Popery should or should not be tolerated by a Christian government, and in this sole instance appears to have been swayed, at this period of his life, rather by an absorbing love of the truth, than by confidence in its self-sustaining power. He certainly condemns and deprecates the infliction of pains and penalties on Roman Catholics for what can properly be called the exercise of their religion; but he considers that their political tenets place them without the boundary of toleration, and that their idolatrous use of images, &c., should be repressed as a public offence against Almighty * Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 510, 511. + Ibid. p. 513.

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