« AnteriorContinuar »
In the following year, 1645, Milton published two other tracts on Divorce; the one entitled “ Tetrachordon,” which was an exposition of the four passages of Scripture* which are supposed most distinctly to affirm the views which Milton opposed; and the other, “ Colasterion,” † a severe reply to an anonymous antagonist. This latter tract closed the controversy. Of the sincerity with which Milton held his opinions on marriage and divorce no one can entertain a doubt, any more than of the astonishing ability and learning with which he supported them. On the vexed question itself there ever have been, and probably ever will be, differences of opinion among virtuous men, which it is not part of the design of these pages to attempt to reconcile. stove, sent him £20 to procure one. In return for this attention he wrote the work entitled “Of the Kingdom of Christ,” for the King's own use. Bucer died at Cambridge early in the year 1550, and was buried in St. Mary's with great honour; but five years after, when inquisitors were sent by Mary to Cambridge, his remains were exhumed, and ignominiously burned in the Market-place.
* These are, Gen. i 27, 28; Deut. xxiv. 1, 2; Matt. v. 31, 32, and I Cor. vii. 13, 16.
+ The Greek word for a castigation.
STATE OF RELIGIOUS PARTIES IN ENGLAND-PERSECUTIONS BY LAUD
AND THE COURTS OF HIGH COMMISSION AND STAR CHAMBERPER-
WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY-THE SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT
BEFORE detailing the effects produced by the publication of the Treatises on Divorce, and the bearing they had upon Milton's subsequent career, it is necessary to notice the state of parties, and especially of ecclesiastical parties, at this period. While the secularity and corruption of the clergy had brought the Anglican church into contempt, the tyrannical cruelty of the bishops had excited against it the bitterest feelings of hostility. An attempt was made by the House of Commons, in the first parliament of Charles I., which met June 18, 1625, to abridge the causes of this odium, by restoring those of the clergy who had been silenced as Puritans, and moderating non-residences, pluralities, and commendams. This effort was rendered abortive by the abrupt dissolution of Parliament, after an existence of less than two months. Two years afterwards, this spirit of dissatisfaction was greatly increased by the publication of a Sermon, at the special command of the king, under the title of“ Religion and Allegiance,” by Dr. Manwaring. In this discourse the preacher maintained, " That the
king is not bound to observe the laws of the realm, concerning the subjects' rights and liberties; but that his royal will and command, in imposing loans and taxes, without common consent, in parliament, doth oblige the subjects' conscience upon pain of eternal damnation.” The Commons, in their indignation, indicated how little they understood the principles of true liberty, by visiting the offender with a sentence, a fine, imprisonment, and suspension, and the breach between the king and his Parliament was much widened by his not only releasing and pardoning his parasite, but by rewarding him with the gift of a living in Essex, in addition to that of St. Giles's in the Fields, which he already held. Meanwhile the power and malignity of Laud increased together; and the absolute devastation committed by the two unconstitutional courts—those of the High Commission and the Star Chamber—rivalled the atrocities of the Popish Inquisition. Multitudes of Dissenters were driven to emigrate to what were then the wilds of the North American continent, many of whom perished there by famine. Numerous petitions were now presented for the abolition of the obnoxious courts, and of episcopacy itself, which was scarcely less detested. The second expedition against the Scotch, popularly called the bishops' war, in 1640, met with the ill success which it deserved; it was closed by the humiliating treaty of Rippon, and the 3rd of November in that year witnessed the memorable meeting of the Long Parliament. In this, the petitions setting forth the corruptions and praying for the abolition of the episcopacy, were redoubled. One of these was signed by fifteen thousand citizens of London, and another, known as the ministers' petition, signed by seven hundred clergymen. These were met by counter petitions, procured by the influence of the aristocracy and the bishops, to which no fewer than one hundred thousand names are said to have been attached. A resolution passed the House of Commons, “That the legislative and judicial power of bishops in the House of Peers, in parliament, is a great hinderance to the discharge of their spiritual functions, prejudicial to the commonwealth, and fit to be taken away by bill.” On the following day a similar vote was passed respecting their being in the commission of the peace, or having any judicial power in the Star Chamber, or in any civil court, and, on the 26th of the same month, their employment as privy councillors, or in any other temporal offices, was also condemned.”" On this resolution a bill was founded, the object of which was to exclude the bishops from the legislature, and to disqualify them from all administrative offices of a similar kind. After encountering a strong opposition in the House of Lords, it was met by four resolutions, the purpose of which was, to exclude the clergy from the Star Chamber, the Privy Council, and other secular offices, but to continue to them their privilege of sitting in the Upper House; the Commons objected to this exception, and the bill was ultimately lost. A second and more sweeping measure was within a few days brought under the consideration of the House of Commons; it contemplated no less than “the utter abolishing and taking away of all archbishops, bishops, their chancellors and commissaries; deans, deans and chapters; archdeacons, prebendaries, chanters, canons, and all other their under officers.” Political events, however, interposed delays, which led to the abandonment of this measure, though the spirit by which it was dictated remained unimpaired. Next followed an impeachment, in the name of the Commons, of thirteen of the bishops, for having made and promulgated, in the convocation of 1640, divers canons, hostile “to the King's prerogative, to the fundamental laws and statutes of the realm, to the rights of Parliament, and to the property and liberty of the subject.” But here again
the supporters of episcopacy adopted the victorious policy of delay, and at once balked and exasperated the resolves of the people. Meanwhile the controversial writings of Milton, which have already been noticed, had produced a marked effect upon the parliament and the country; and in so far as they argumentatively demolished episcopacy, they had been hailed with delight by the Presbyterians, both Scotch and English, whose repugnance to that form of church government had been confirmed and intensified, in the one case by the outrages which had been committed on a religion intertwined with the deepest sentiments of nationality; and in the other, by those almost vindictive feelings which persecution engenders, and which piety itself has seldom prevailed to control. Unhappily for the cause of religious freedom in this and, perhaps, in every subsequent age, the bitter aversion of the Presbyterians to episcopacy was unconnected with any enlarged love of religious freedom, and extended with sectarian acrimony to Christians of every communion but their own. The prevalent sentiments of that denomination shall be described in the language of Dr. Price; and in quoting it, I take the opportunity of saying that his history of Protestant Nonconformity, by its great research, its judicious discrimination, the enlightened views which it exhibits, and the expansive candour and catholicity of sentiment which pervades it, commends itself as by far the most valuable work we possess in this department of ecclesiastical literature. “The Scotch,” the Doctor observes, “were bigotedly devoted to the Presbyterian form of ecclesiastical government. It had been erected on the ruins of Popery by Knox, the most fearless and masculine of modern reformers, and had been endeared to the nation by the fearful struggle which they made on its behalf. What James had contemplated, Charles commissioned Laud to achieve; and the disciples of Presbytery groaned beneath