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the people; but that if those ages had favoured episcopacy, we should not be much concerned, since the best times were extensively infected with error, the best men of those times foully tainted, and the best writings of those men dangerously adulterated. These propositions he labours to prove at large, and thus concludes: “But I trust they for whom God hath reserved the honour of reforming this church, will easily perceive their adversary's drift in thus calling for antiquity. They fear the plain field of the Scriptures; the chase is too hot; they seek the dark, the bushy, the tangled forest; they would imbosk; they feel themselves struck in the transparent streams of Divine truth; they would plunge and tumble, and think to lie hid in the foul weeds and muddy waters where no plummet can reach the bottom. But let them beat themselves like whales, and spend their oil till they be dragged ashore: though wherefore should ministers give them so much line for shifts and delays? Wherefore should they not urge only the Gospel, and hold it ever in their faces, like a mirror of diamond, till it dazzle and pierce their misty eyeballs, maintaining the honour of its absolute sufficiency and supremacy inviolable?” In the second book, he continues his discourses of prelatical episcopacy, and displays the political aspect of the system, which he shows to be always opposed to liberty. He deduces its history from its remotest origin, and proves that, “in England particularly, it is so far from being, as commonly alleged, the only form of church discipline agreeable to monarchy, that the mortallest diseases and convulsions of the government did ever proceed from the craft of the prelates, or were occasioned by their pride.” Having thus indicated the general scope of this treatise, I shall endeavour to bring the reader better acquainted with it, by selecting a few passages which best convey an impression of Milton's controversial powers and style, which most clearly develop his ecclesiastical principles, and which are best calculated to attach to the prose writings of Milton a
greater amount of attention than they have ever as yet received. He naturally commences with the first grand defection from the simplicity of the Christian religion—the papal apostacy; and after lamenting its fraud of “deceivable traditions, its beggary of old cast rudiments, and its sensual idolatry,” he adds, “Attributing purity or impurity to things indifferent, that they might bring the inward acts of the spirit to the outward and customary eye-service of the body, as if they could make God earthly and fleshly, because they could not make themselves heavenly and spiritual; they began to draw down all the Divine intercourse betwixt God and the soul, yea, the very shape of God himself, into an exterior and bodily form, urgently pretending a necessity and obligement of joining the body in a formal reverence and worship circumscribed; they hallowed it, they fumed it, they sprinkled it, they bedecked it, not in robes of pure innocency, but of pure linen, with other deformed and fantastic dresses, in palls and mitres, gold, and gewgaws fetched from Aaron's old wardrobe, or the flamen's vestry: then was the priest set to con his motions and his postures, his liturgies and his lurries, till the soul, by this means of overbodying herself, given up justly to fleshly delights, bated her wing apace downward: and finding the ease she had from her visible and sensuous colleague, the body, in performance of religious duties, her pinions now broken, and flagging, shifted off from herself the labour of high soaring any more, forgot her heavenly flight, and left the dull and droiling carcase to plod on in the old road, and drudging trade of outward conformity.” From these general considerations, Milton descends to the two great particulars and the erroneous views which have most distracted the church ever since his day, viz., the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and the relation which its pretended priesthood sustains towards them. This point he dismisses with brevity, but in terms pregnant
with instruction to the present generation. " Then was baptism changed into a kind of exorcism, and water, sanctified by Christ's institute, thought little enough to wash off the original spot, without the scratch or cross impression of a priest's forefinger: and that feast of free grace and adoption to which Christ invited his disciples to sit as brethren, and co-heirs of the happy covenant, which at that table was to be sealed to them, even that feast of love and heavenlyadmitted fellowship, the seal of filial grace, became the subject of horror, and glouting adoration, pageanted about like a dreadful idol ; which sometimes deceives well-meaning men, and beguiles them of their reward, by their voluntary humility: which, indeed, is fleshly pride, preferring a foolish sacrifice, and the rudiments of the world, as St. Paul to the Colossians explaineth, before a savoury obedience to Christ's example.”
From the shadow of these mournful considerations Milton emerges with an evident sense of elation and relief to celebrate the glorious, though partial, revival of religious truth which had been witnessed by the age immediately preceding his own. “But to dwell no longer in characterizing the depravities of the church, and how they sprung and how they took increase; when I recall to mind at last, after so many dark ages, wherein the huge overshadowing train of error had almost swept all the stars out of the firmament of the church; how the bright and blissful Reformation (by divine power) struck through the black and settled night of ignorance and anti-christian tyranny, methinks a sovereign and reviving joy must needs rush into the bosom of him that reads or hears; and the sweet odour of the returning gospel imbathe his soul with the fragrancy of heaven. Then was the sacred Bible sought out of the dusty corners where profane falsehood and neglect had thrown it, the schools opened, divine and human learning raked out of the embers of forgotten tongues, the princes and cities trooping apace to the new-erected banner of salvation; the martyrs, with the
irresistible might of weakness, shaking the powers of darkness, and scorning the fiery rage of the old red dragon."
From hence he descends, as has been seen from the foregoing analysis, to the grand obstacles of the Reformation; and after noticing the conduct of Henry VIII. as a mere struggle for an unhallowed supremacy, and the political obstructions which impeded the great work in the reign of Edward VI., he continues, with reference to the bishops of that age:-“It was not episcopacy that wrought in them the heavenly fortitude of martyrdom, as little is it that martyrdom can make good episcopacy; but it was episcopacy that led the good and holy men, through the temptation of the enemy, and the snare of this present world, to many blameworthy and opprobrious actions. And it is still episcopacy that before all our eyes worsens and slugs the most learned and seeming religious of our ministers, who no sooner advanced to it, but, like a seething pot set to cool, sensibly exhale and reek out the greatest part of that zeal and those gifts which were formerly in them, settling in a skinny congealment of ease and sloth at the top: and if they keep their learning by some potent sway of nature, it is a rare chance; but their devotion most commonly comes to that queazy temper of lukewarmness, that gives a vomit to God himself.
“But why do we suffer mis-shapen and enormous prelatism as we do, thus to blanch and varnish her deformities with the fair colours, as before of martyrdom, so now of episcopacy? They are not bishops, God and all good men know they are not, that have filled this land with late confusion and violence; but a tyrannical crew and corporation of impostors, that have blinded and abused the world so long under that name. He that, enabled with gifts from God, and the lawful and primitive choice of the church assembled, in convenient number, faithfully from that time forward feeds his parochial flock, has his co-equal and compresbyterial power to ordain ministers and deacons by public prayer and vote of Christ's congregation, in like sort as he himself was ordained, and is a true apostolic bishop. But when he steps up into the chair of pontifical pride, and changes a moderate and exemplary house for a misgoverned and haughty palace, spiritual dignity for carnal precedence, and secular high office and employment for the high negotiations of his heavenly embassage, then he degrades, then he unbishops himself; he that makes him bishop, makes him no bishop.”
Milton next comments on a subject to which recent events have given a special interest,—the revision of the liturgy, a task committed to a number of moderate Divines, properly so called, as he intimates, being “neither hot nor cold,” the result of which, under such a queen Elizabeth) and at such a time, was naturally but the reproduction of “the sour crudities of yesterday's popery." The locus poenitentiæ thus afforded to those of the clergy who were still imbued with the spirit of popery, while for obvious reasons they refused allegiance to its power, did not escape the simple-minded sagacity of Milton. It is remarkable, however, that this capital defect in the constitution of the Anglican church, has to a great extent been smothered and concealed by its members, until these latter days when the increased strength of non-conformity on the one hand, and the leavening influence of religion on a portion of the clergy, has excited an opposition which has openly revealed it. After proving from ancient church history the rightful authority of the christian laity in the appointment of their bishops or pastors, and pointing out the mischiefs occasioned in the first instance by the acts of Constantine in linking the Christian church with the State, and by the spirit of Constantine, in so far as it has influenced every succeeding generation, he thus mournfully applies his remarks to the persecutions which in his own day rankly germinated from this root of bitterness.
“O, Sir, if we could but see the shape of our dear mother England as poets are wont to give a personal form to what they please, how would she appear, think ye, but in a