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God, and as held by themselves as “not necessary to salvation, but only enjoined them by tradition.”
“The next means,” he says, “to hinder the growth of Popery will be, to read duly and diligently the Holy Scriptures, which, as St. Paul saith to Timothy, who had known them from a child, “are able to make wise unto salvation.’ And to the whole church of Colossi: ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you plentifully, with all wisdom,’ Col. iii. 16. The Papal Antichristian church permits not her laity to read the Bible in their own tongue: our church, on the contrary, hath proposed it to all men, and to this end translated it into English, with profitable notes on what is met with obscure, though what is most necessary to be known be still plainest; that all sorts and degrees of men, not understanding the original, may read it in their mother tongue. Neither let the countryman, the tradesman, the lawyer, the physician, the statesman, excuse himself by his much busi- . ness from the studious reading thereof.”"
The treatise concludes with a powerful enforcement of the position, that “The last means to avoid Popery is, to annend our lives. It is a general complaint, that this nation, of late years, is grown more numerously and excessively vicious than heretofore; pride, luxury, drunkenness, whoredom, cursing, swearing, bold and open atheism, everywhere abounding: where these grow, no wonder if Popery also grow apace. There is no man so wicked but sometimes his conscience will wring him with thoughts of another world, and the peril of his soul; the trouble and melancholy, which he conceives of true repentance and amendment, he endures not, but inclines rather to some carnal superstition, which may pacify and lull his conscience with some more pleasing doctrine. None more ready and officious to offer herself than the Romish, and opens wide her office, with all her faculties, to receive him; easy confession, easy absolution, pardons, indulgences, masses for him both quick and dead,
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 516. R
Agnus Deis, relics, and the like: and he, instead of ‘working out his salvation with fear and trembling, straight thinks in his heart (like another kind of fool than he in the Psalms,) to bribe God as a corrupt judge; and by his proctor, some priest, or friar, to buy out his peace with money, which he cannot with his repentance. . . . Let us, therefore, using this last means, last here spoken of, but first to be done, amend our lives with all speed; lest through impenitency we run into that stupidity which we now seek all means so warily to avoid, the worst of superstitions, and the heaviest of all God's judgments— Popery.” In concluding these notices of Milton's writings, it is necessary to gather up one or two minor publications. About the time of his last marriage, he published a short treatise, entitled “Accidence commenced Grammar,” which is no otherwise remarkable than as exhibiting a mighty mind condescending to the humblest spheres of useful exertion. In the same year he published a manuscript of Sir Walter Raleigh, with the title of “Aphorisms of State.” In 1672 we find him again devoting his pen to the interests of education, in a treatise inscribed, “Artis Logicae plenior institutio ad Petri Rami methodum concinnata.” That is, a scheme of logic digested on the plan of Ramus (a Frenchman, whose vernacular name was De la Ramee). In addition to these works, two were published posthumously. The first of these was given to the world about eight years after the death of Milton, and is entitled, “The Brief History of Moscovia, and of other less-known Countries lying eastward of Russia, as far as Cathay.” The second requires a more particular notice. In the year 1823, Mr. Lemon, the Deputy-Keeper of State Papers, discovered, in his researches in the old State Paper Office at Whitehall, a packet wrapped in what proved to be proof-sheets of the “Elzevir Horace; ” this * Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 518, 519.
was inclosed in a cover directed to Mr. Skinner, merchant, the same Cyriac Skinner to whom Milton addressed his sonnet on his blindness. The packet was found to contain the State Letters of Milton, and a manuscript entitled, “Idea Theologiae,” of Milton's authorship, of which there exists abundant evidence, both external and internal. It constitutes a complete body of divinity, consisting of two books: the first “On the Knowledge of God,” and the second “On the Service of God:” the former divided into thirty-three, and the latter into seventeen, chapters. The translation and editing of this manuscript was confided by George IV. to Mr. Sumner, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, by whom it was published in 1825. A few sentences from the most important chapters must suffice to indicate the theological views of Milton at the closing period of his life. On the Divine Nature he says:—“Our safest way is to form in our minds such a conception of God as shall correspond with his own delineation and representation of himself in the sacred writings. For it is on this very account that he has lowered himself to our level, lest in our flights above the reach of human understanding, and beyond the written word of Scripture, we should be tempted to indulge in vague cogitations and subtleties.” In the chapter, “On the Divine Decrees,” he says, “It is to be understood that God decreed nothing absolutely, which he left in the power of free agents: a doctrine which is shown by the whole canon of Scripture. . . .
God had determined from all eternity, that man should so
far be a free agent, that it remained with himself to decide whether he would stand or fall. . . . God of his wisdom determined to create men and angels reasonable beings and therefore free agents.” And in the chapter on Predestination: “Without searching deeper into this subject, let us be contented with only knowing, that God, out of his infinite mercy and grace in Christ, has predestinated to salvation all who should believe.” On the Nature and Work of Christ, he says: “This point appears certain, notwithstanding the arguments of some of the moderns to the contrary, that the Son existed in the beginning, under the name of the logos or word, and was the first of the whole creation, by whom afterwards all other things were made both in heaven and earth.” And again : “The mediatorial office of Christ is that whereby, at the special appointment of God the Father, he voluntarily performed, and continues to perform, on behalf of man, whatever is requisite for obtaining reconciliation with God, and eternal salvation. . . . The exaltation of Christ is that by which, having triumphed over death, and laid aside the form of a servant, he was exalted by God the Father to a state of immortality and of the highest glory, partly by his own merits, partly by the gift of the Father, for the benefit of mankind; wherefore he rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God.” Again: “As Christ emptied himself in both his natures, so both participate in his exaltation; his Godhead, by its restoration and manifestation ; his manhood, by an accession of glory.” And again: “The satisfaction of Christ is the complete reparation made by him, in his twofold capacity of God and Man, by the fulfilment of the law and payment of the required price for all mankind.” Dr. Johnson, whose injustice to the memory of Milton has been so frequently noticed, nowhere betrays a more total want of sympathy with his character, than in his remarks on his religious habits. “He did not associate himself,” says the Doctor, “with any denomination of Protestants; we know rather what he was not, than what he was. He was not of the Church of Rome; he was not of the Church of England. “To be of no church, is dangerous. Religion, of which the rewards are distant, and which is animated only by
faith and hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind, unless it be invigorated and reimpressed by external ordinances, by stated calls to worship, and the salutary influence of example. Milton, who appears to have had full conviction of the truth of Christianity, and to have regarded the Holy Scriptures with the profoundest veneration, to have been untainted by any heretical peculiarity of opinion, and to have lived in a confirmed belief of the immediate and occasional agency of Providence, yet grew old without any visible worship. In the distribution of his hours, there was no hour of prayer, either solitary or with his household; omitting public prayers, he omitted all.” " Than these bold statements, nothing can be imagined more absurdly gratuitous. The assertion that Milton omitted periodical religious observances in his family, though not improbable, is altogether unauthorized; while the assertion that he neglected the duty of prayer, is, even on Johnson's showing of Milton's character, so inconsistent, and so utterly unfounded withal, as to be absolutely ridiculous. It can hardly be imagined that the consideration of what posterity might think of his religious character ever crossed the mind of Milton. Still we find in the work before us a passage throwing some light on this matter, which deserves consideration:— “‘Although, he says, “it is the duty of believers to join themselves, if possible, to a church duly constituted (Heb. v. 25), yet such as cannot do this conveniently, or with full satisfaction of conscience, are not to be considered as excluded from the blessing bestowed by God on the churches.’t This is an important passage, Dr. Sumner says, “because it discloses Milton's real views upon a point on which his opinions have been represented in a more unfavourable light than they seem to have deserved.” Bishop Newton remarks, * Johnson's Lives of the Poets, vol. i. pp. 215, 216. + Idea Theologiae, B. i. ch. 29.