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midst of our best intentions, and to support our incident extremities by that authentic precept of sovereign charity, whose grand commission is to do and to dispose over all the ordinances of God to man, that love and truth may advance each other to everlasting. While we, literally superstitious, through customary faintness of heart, not venturing to pierce with our free thoughts into the full latitude of nature and religion, abandon ourselves to serve under the tyranny of usurped opinions ; suffering those ordinances which were allotted to our solace and reviving, to trample over us, and hale us into a multitude of sorrows, which God never meant And where he sets us in a fair allowance of


with honest liberty and prudence to our guard, we never leave subtilizing and casuisting till we have straitened and pared that liberal path into a razor's edge to walk on; between a precipice of unnecessary mischief on either side, and starting at every false alarm, we do not know which way to set a foot forward with manly confidence and Christian resolution, through the confused ringing in our ears of panic scruples and amazements."*

He concludes the treatise with the following passage :“ Let not, therefore, the frailty of man go on thus inventing needless troubles to itself, to groan under the false imagination of a strictness never imposed from above; enjoining that for duty which is an impossible and vain supererogating. • Be not righteous overmuch,' is the counsel of Ecclesiastes; "why shouldst thou destroy thyself?' Let us not be thus over-curious to strain at atoms, and yet to stop every vent and cranny of permissive liberty, lest nature, wanting those needful pores and breathing-places, which God hath not debarred our weakness, either suddenly break out into some wide rupture of open vice and frantic heresy, or else inwardly fester with repining and blasphemous thoughts, under an unreasonable and fruitless rigour of unwarranted law. Against which evils nothing can more * Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 262, 263.


beseem the religion of the church, or the wisdom of the state, than to consider timely and provide. And in so doing let them not doubt but they shall vindicate the misreputed honour of God and his great Lawgiver, by suffering him to give his own laws according to the condition of man's nature best known to him, without the unsufferable imputation of dispensing legally with many ages of ratified adultery. They shall recover the misattended words of Christ to the sincerity of their true sense from manifold contradictions, and shall open them with the key of charity. Many helpless Christians they shall raise from the depths of sadness and distress, utterly unfitted as they are to serve God or man: many they shall reclaim from obscure and giddy sects, many regain from dissolute and brutish licence, many from desperate hardness, if ever they were justly pleaded. They shall set free many daughters of Israel not wanting much of her sad plight whom “Satan had bound eighteen years.' Man they shall restore to his just dignity and prerogative in nature, preferring the soul's free peace before the promiscuous draining of a carnal rage. Marriage, from a perilous hazard and snare, they shall reduce to be a more certain haven and retirement of happy society ; when they shall judge according to God and Moses, (and how not then according to Christ,) when they shall judge it more wisdom and goodness to break that covenant seemingly, and keep it really, than by compulsion of law to keep it seemingly, and by compulsion of blameless nature to break it really, at least if it were ever truly joined. The vigour of discipline they may then turn with better success upon the prostitute looseness of the times, when men, finding in themselves the infirmities of former ages, shall be constrained above the gift of God in them to unprofitable and impossible observances, never required from the civilest, the wisest, the holiest nations, whose other excellencies in moral virtue they never yet could equal. Last of all, to those whose mind is still to maintain textual restrictions, whereof the bare sound cannot consist sometimes with humanity, much less with charity ; I would ever answer by putting them in remembrance of a command above all commands, which they seem to have forgot, and who spake it: in comparison whereof, this which they so exalt is but a petty and subordinate precept. "Let them go,' therefore, with whom I am loathe to couple them, yet they will needs run into the same blindness with the pharisees ; 'let them go therefore,' and consider well what this lesson means, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice :' for on that ó saying all the law and prophets depend;' much more the gospel, whose end and excellence is



peace, Or if they cannot learn that, how will they hear this ? which yet I shall not doubt to leave with them as a conclusion, that God the Son hath put all other things under his own feet, but his commandments he hath left all under the feet of charity.'

Shortly after the publication of this treatise, Milton followed it with another, which was also addressed to the Parliament, and entitled, “ The Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce." This consists of an analysis and translation of Bucer's Second Book “Of the Kingdom of Christ,” addressed to Edward VI., to which Milton prefixes the testimonies of Calvin, Beza, and other eminent men to Bucer's learning and piety, and especially to his diligence in the exposition of Scripture.t

* Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 272, 278.

+ Bucer was born near Strasburg, in 1491, and educated at Heidel. berg, having entered the order of St. Dominick. The change of opinion which determined the tenor of his life was occasioned by reading some writings of Erasmus and Luther, and he adopted the views of the latter in 1521, in accordance with which he taught divinity for twenty years at Strasburg. At the Diet of Augsburg, he vehemently opposed the system of doctrine called the interim, invi. diously drawn up by Charles V. for the temporary regulation of reli gious faith in Germany, until a free General Council could be held. This course exposed him to so much difficulty and danger that he accepted an invitation from Cranmer to settle in England, where he was appointed to teach theology at Cambridge. King Edward the Sixth having heard that Bucer's health suffered for want of a German * These are, Gen. i 27, 28; Deut. xxiv. 1, 2; Matt. v. 31, 32, and 1 Cor. vii. 13, 16.

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

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.

+ The Greek word for a castigation.

own use.





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 abor. tive 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

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