Page images

did that which without all question was most grateful to God, who has been pleased to reserve the jurisdiction and power over the conscience to himself alone, so there is no doubt, but that they had a due consideration of their subjects also, whom they found stout and most faithful in war, and always obedient in peace. And as your royal serenity in other things most laudably follows the footsteps of your immortal ancestors, so we again and again beseech your royal highness not to swerve from the path wherein they trod in this particular; but that you would vouchsafe to abrogate both this edict, and whatsoever else may be decreed to the disturbance of your subjects upon the account of the reformed religion; that you would ratify to them their conceded privileges and pristine liberty, and command their losses to be repaired, and that an end be put to their oppressions. Which if your royal highness shall be pleased to see performed, you will do a thing most acceptable to God, revive and comfort the miserable in dire calamity, and most highly oblige all your neighbours, that profess the reformed religion; but more especially ourselves, who shall be bound to look upon your clemency and benignity toward your subjects as the fruit of our earnest solicitation. Which will both engage us to a reciprocal return to all good offices, and lay the solid foundations not only of establishing, but increasing, alliance and friendship between this republic and your dominions. Nor do we less promise this to ourselves from your justice and moderation; to which we beseech Almighty God to incline your mind and thoughts. And so we cordially implore just Heaven to bestow upon your highness and your people the blessings of peace and truth, and prosperous success in all your affairs. “Whitehall, May—, 1655.” The mingled wisdom and tact exhibited in this communication need not be pointed out to any one who considers the relative position of the two governments. It was quickly - * Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 249–251.

followed by similar letters addressed to the principal European powers; some of which demonstrate, that this tenderness of sympathy and moderation of manner did not lack the support of the stern resolution of Cromwell, and the magnanimity and decision of the Secretary of State. To the Prince of Transylvania he writes, “After fame had reported to us your egregious merits and labours, undertaken in behalf of the Christian republic, when you were pleased that all these things, and what you have further in your thoughts to do in the defence and for promoting the Christian interest, should be in friendly manner imparted to us by letters from yourself, this afforded us a more plentiful occasion of joy and satisfaction, to hear that God, in those remoter regions, had raised up to himself so potent and renowned a minister of his glory and providence: and that this great minister of heaven, so famed for his courage and success, should be desirous to associate with us in the common defence of the Protestant religion, at this time wickedly assailed by words and deeds. Nor is it to be questioned but that God, who has infused into us both, though separated by such a spacious interval of many climates, the same desires and thoughts of defending the orthodox religion, will be our instructor and author of the ways and means whereby we may be assistant and useful to ourselves and the rest of the reformed cities; provided we watch all opportunities, that God shall put into our hands, and be not wanting to lay hold of them. In the mean time we cannot without an extreme and penetrating sorrow forbear putting your highness in mind how unmercifully the Duke of Savoy has persecuted his own subjects, professing the orthodox faith, in certain valleys, at the feet of the Alps.” After detailing as he does, in all his letters on this subject, the sufferings of the persecuted Waldenses, he adds,“These things, as they have already been related to your highness, so we readily assure ourselves that so much cruelty * Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 25l.

cannot but be grievously displeasing to your ears, and that you will not be wanting to afford your aid and succour to those miserable wretches, if there be any that survive so many slaughters and calamities. For our parts we have written to the Duke of Savoy, beseeching him to remove his incensed anger from his subjects; as also to the King of France, that he would vouchsafe to do the same; and, lastly, to the princes of the reformed religion, to the end they might understand our sentiments concerning so fell and savage a piece of cruelty. Which, though first begun upon those poor and helpless people, however threatens all that profess the same religion, and therefore imposes upon all a greater necessity of providing for themselves in general, and consulting the common safety; which is the course that we shall always follow, as God shall be pleased to direct us.” His appeal to Gustavus of Sweden is in a bolder tone:– “Now there is nobody can be ignorant that the kings of the Swedes have always joined with the reformed, carrying their victorious arms into Germany in defence of the Protestants without distinction. Therefore we make it our chief request, and that in a more especial manner to your majesty, that you would solicit the Duke of Savoy by letters; and, by interposing your intermediating authority, endeavour to avert the horrid cruelty of this edict, if possible, from people no less innocent than religious. For we think it superfluous to admonish your majesty whither these rigorous beginnings tend, and what they threaten to all the Protestants in general. But if he rather choose to listen to his anger, than to our joint entreaties and intercessions; if there be any tie, any charity or communion of religion to be believed and worshipped, upon consultations duly first communicated to your majesty, and the chief of the Protestant princes, some other course is to be speedily taken, that such a numerous multitude of our innocent brethren may not * Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 252.

miserably perish for want of succour and assistance. Which, in regard we make no question but that it is your majesty's opinion and determination, there can be nothing in our opinion more prudently resolved, than to join our reputation, authority, counsels, forces, and whatever else is needful, with all the speed that may be, in pursuance of so pious a design. In the mean time, we beseech Almighty God to bless your majesty.” Without any direct denunciation of war, he adopts a similar tone towards other states. His letter to Holland closes with the following words:–“We are ready to take such other course and counsels with yourselves, in common with the rest of our reformed friends and confederates, as may be most necessary for the preservation of just and good men, upon the brink of inevitable ruin; and to make the duke himself sensible that we can no longer neglect the heavy oppressions and calamities of our orthodox brethren.”f To the Protestant cantons of Switzerland he says, referring to the duke, “But if his mind be obstinately bent to other determinations, we are ready to communicate our consultations with yours, by what most prevalent means to relieve and re-establish most innocent men, and our most dearly beloved brethren in Christ, tormented and overlaid with so many wrongs and oppressions, and preserve them from inevitable and undeserved ruin. Of whose welfare and safety, as I am assured, that you, according to your wonted piety, are most cordially tender; so, for our own parts, we cannot but in our opinion prefer their preservation before our most important interests, even the safeguard of our own life.”f Of the King of France he especially requests, “that you will afford a secure sanctuary and shelter within your kingdom to all those miserable exiles that shall fly to your majesty for protection, and that you will not give permission to any of your subjects to assist the Duke of Savoy to their prejudice.” * Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 253. + Ibid. p. 255. i Ibid. p. 256. To Frederick III., King of Denmark, he proposes cooperation in a more active resistance. And to the Senate of Geneva, as being nearest to the scene of persecution, he transmits two thousand pounds, not from the national revenue, but wisely raised by voluntary subscription, to be distributed by them, for the immediate relief of the sufferers.

It has been already observed, that the inner and more private feelings of Milton's mind found their expression in his sonnets. One of these is devoted to the sufferings of these persecuted Christians, and affords a further indication of the deep sympathy he felt in their wrongs.


“Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughter'd saints, whose bones

Lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold;
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worship'd stocks and stones,

Forget not: in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold .
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese that roll'd
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans

The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To Heaven. Their martyr'd blood and ashes sow
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway

The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundred fold; who having learn'd thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe."

These tender and generous sentiments, justify the love which mingles with our admiration of this incomparable man. His political writings, less applicable to days of con- . stitutional rule and popular freedom, may be regarded indeed as models of eloquent composition, but in other respects comparatively as historic curiosities. His ecclesiastical writings will be coeval with the Christianity which they illustrate; and his letters of state will grow in esteem with the growth of Britain in freedom and moral elevation, and will ever be looked back upon as contributing no insignificant rays to the effulgence that halos this precious

« PreviousContinue »