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offered. I feared that my mind might become stationary by lingering round my own writings. I never doubted, that if anything in these were worthy to live, it would survive all assaults, and I was not anxious to uphold for a moment, what was doomed by its want of vital energy, to pass away. There is one charge, to which, it may be thought, that I ought to have replied,—the charge of misrepresenting the opinions of my opponents. When I considered, however, that in so doing, I should involve myself in personal controversy, the worst of all controversies, I thought myself bound to refrain. Had I entered on this discussion, I must have spoken with great freedom, and should have caused great exasperation. I must have set down as a grave moral offence, the disingenuousness so common at the present day, which, under pretence of maintaining old opinions, so disguises and discolours them, that they can with difficulty be recognised. I must have thrown back the charge of misrepresentation, and shown how unfairly I was reproached with ascribing to my adversaries, opinions which I supposed them to reject, and which I only affirmed to be necessarily involved in their acknowledged doctrines. I must have met the quotations from their standard authors, which were arrayed against me, by showing, that these were examples of the self contradiction, or inconsistency, which is inseparable from error. What kind of a controversy would have grown out of such a reply, can easily be conjectured. I certainly did not think, that, by provoking it, I should aid the cause of good morals or good manners, of piety or peace. That I have never been unjust to those who differ from me, I dare not say; for in this particular, better men than myself often err. Perhaps, too, I ought to apprehend, that I have sometimes wanted due deference to the feelings of those, whose opinions I have called in question; for I have been loudly reproached with the want of Christian tenderness. I can only say, and here I speak confidently, that I have written nothing in anger, or unkindness; and that I now retain the strong language which has given offence, only because it seems to me to be demanded by the greatness of the truths which I defend, and of the errors which I oppose. It is due to myself to say, that the controversial character of a part of this volume is to be ascribed, not to the love of disputation, but to the circumstances in which I was called to write. It was my lot to enter on public life at a time when this part of the country was visited, by what I esteem one of its sorest scourges; I mean, by a revival of the spirit of intolerance and persecution. I saw the commencement of those systematic efforts, which have been since developed, for fastening on the community a particular creed. Opinions, which I thought true and purifying, were not only assailed as errors, but branded as crimes. Then began, what seems to me one of the gross immoralities of our times, the practice of aspersing the characters of exemplary men, on the ground of differences of opinion as to the most mysterious articles of faith. Then began those assaults on freedom of thought and speech, which, had they succeeded, would have left us only the name of religious liberty. Then it grew perilous to search the Scriptures for ourselves, and to speak freely according to the convictions of our own minds. I saw that penalties, as serious in this country as fine and imprisonment, were, if possible, to be attached to the profession of liberal views of Christianity, the penalties of general hatred and scorn; and that a degrading uniformity of opinion was to be imposed, by the severest persecution which the spirit of the age would allow. At such a period, I dared not be silent. To oppose what I deemed error was to me a secondary consideration. My first duty, as I believed, was, to maintain practically and resolutely the rights of the human mind; to live and to suffer, if to suffer were necessary, for that intellectual and religious liberty, which I prize incomparably more than my civil rights. I felt myself called, not merely to plead in general for freedom of thought and speech, but, what was more important and trying, to assert this freedom by action. I should have felt myself disloyal to truth and freedom, had I confined myself to vague commonplaces about our rights, and forborne to bearmy testimony expressly and specially to proscribed and persecuted opinions. The times required that a voice of strength and courage should be lifted up, and I rejoice, that I was found among those by whom it was uttered and sent far and wide. The timid, sensitive, diffident, and doubting, needed this voice; and without it, would have been overborne by the clamour of intolerance. If in any respect I have rendered a service to humanity and religion, which may deserve to be remembered, when I shall be taken away, it is in this. I believe, that had not the spirit of religious tyranny been met, as it was, by unyielding opposition in this region, it would have fastened an iron yoke on the necks of this people. The cause of religious freedom owes its present strength to nothing so much as to the constancy and resolution of its friends in this quarter. Here its chief battle has been fought, and not fought in vain. The spirit of intolerance is not indeed crushed; but its tones are subdued, and its menaces impotent, compared with what they would have been, had it prospered in its efforts here. The remarks now offered, have been intended to meet the objection which may be made to this volume, of being too controversial. Other objections may be urged against it. Very possibly it may seem to want perfect consistency. I have long been conscious, that we are more in danger of being enslaved to our own opinions, especially to such as we have expressed and defended, than to those of any other person; and I have accordingly desired to write without any reference to my previous publications, or without any anxiety to accommodate my present
to my past views. In treatises, prepared in this spirit and at distant intervals, some incongruity of thought or feeling can hardly fail to occur.
By some, an opposite objection may be urged, that the volume has too much repetition. This could not well be avoided in articles written on similar topics or occasions; written, too, without any reference to each other, and in the expectation that each would be read by many, into whose hands the others would not probably fall. I must add, that my interest in certain great truths, has made me anxious to avail myself of every opportunity to enforce them; nor do I feel as if they were urged more frequently than their importance demands.
I ought not to close this Preface, without expressing my obligation to two of my most valued friends, the Rev. Dr. Tuckerman of Boston, and Professor Norton of Cambridge, without whose solicitations and encouragements, I might have wanted confidence, under the lassitude of feeble health, to attempt the little which I have done for the cause of religion and freedom.
I will only add, that whilst I attach no great value to these articles, I still should not have submitted to the labour of partially revising them, did I not believe, that they set forth some great truths, which, if carried out and enforced by more gifted minds, may do much for human improvement. If, by anything which I have written, I may be an instrument of directing such minds more seriously to the claims and true greatness of our nature, I shall be most grateful to God. This subject deserves and will sooner or later engage the profoundest meditations of wise and good men. I have done for it what I could; but when I think of its grandeur and importance, I earnestly desire and anticipate for it more worthy advocates. In truth, I shall see with no emotion but joy these fugitive productions forgotten and lost in the superior brightness of writings consecrated to the work of awakening in the human soul a consciousness of its divine and immortal powers.
W. E. C.
Boston, April, 1830
A TREArise ox Christias DocTRINE, compiled from the Holy Scriptures alone. By John Miltos. Translated from the Original by Charles R. Sumner, M. A. Librarian and Historiographer to His Majesty, and Prebendiary of Canterbury. From the London Edition. Poston, 1825, 2 vols. 8vo.
THE discovery of a work of Milton, unknown to his own times, is an important event in literary history. The consideration, that we of this age are the first readers of this Treatise, naturally heightens our interest in it; for we seem in this way to be brought nearer to the author, and to sustain the same relation which his contemporaries bore to his writings. The work opens with a salutation, which, from any other man, might be chargeable with inflation; but which we feel to be the natural and appropriate expression of the spirit of Milton. Endowed with gifts of the soul, which have been imparted to few of our race, and conscious of having consecrated them through life to God and mankind, he rose without effort or affectation to the style of an Apostle :-John MILTON, to ALL THE CHURCHEs of CIIRIST, AND To ALL who PROFESS THE CHRISTIAN FAITH THROUGHOUT THE world, PEACE, AND THE RECOGNITION OF THE TRUTH, AND ETERNAI, SALVATION Is GoD THE FATHER, AND IN our LoRD JESUS CHRIST.” Our ears are the first to hear this benediction, and it seems not so much to be borne to us from a distant age, as to come immediately from the sainted spirit by which it was indited.
Without meaning to disparage the “Treatise on Christian Doctrine,” we may say that it owes very much of the attention which it has excited, to the fame of its author. We value it chiefly as showing us the mind of Milton on that subject, which, above all others, presses upon men of thought and sensibility. We want to know in what conclusions such a man rested after a life of extensive and profound research, of magnanimous efforts for freedom and his country, and of communion with the most gifted minds of his own and former times. The book derives its chief interest from its author, and accordingly there seems to be a propriety in introducing our remarks upon it with some notice of the character of Milton. We are not sure that we could have abstained from this subject, even if we had not been able to offer so good an apology for attempting it. The intellectual and moral qualities of a great man are attractions not easily withstood, and we can hardly serve others or ourselves more, than by recalling to him the attention which is scattered among inferior topics.
In speaking of the intellectual qualities of Milton, we may begin with observing, that the very splendour of his poetic fame has tended to obscure or conceal the extent of his mind, and the variety of its energies and attainments. To many he seems only a poet, when in truth he was a profound scholar, a man of vast compass of thought, imbued thoroughly with all ancient and modern learning, and able to master, to mould, to impregnate with his own intellectual power, his great and various acquisitions. He had not learned the superficial doctrine of a later day, that poetry flourishes most in an uncultivated soil, and that imagination shapes its brightest visions from the mists of a superstitious age; and he had no dread of accumulating knowledge, lest it should oppress and smother his genius. He was conscious of that within him, which could quicken all knowledge, and wield it with ease and might; which could give freshness to old truths and harmony to discordant thoughts; which could bind together, by living ties and mysterious affinities, the most remote discoveries, and rear fabrics of glory and beauty from the rude materials which other minds had collected. Milton had that universality which marks the highest order of intellect. Though accustomed almost from infancy to drink at the fountains of classical literature, he had nothing of the pedantry and fastidiousness which disdain all other draughts. His healthy mind delighted in genius, on whatever soil, or in whateverage, it burst forth and poured out its fulness. He understood too well the rights, and dignity, and pride of creative imagination, to lay on it the laws of the Greek or Roman school. Parnassus was not to him the only holy ground of genius. He felt that poetry was as a universal presence. Great minds were everywhere his kindred. He felt the enchantment of Oriental fiction, surrendered himself to the strange creations of “Araby the Blest,” and delighted still more in the romantic spirit of chivalry, and in the tales of wonder in which it was embodied. Accordingly his poetry reminds us of the ocean, which adds to its own boundlessness contributions from all regions under heaven. Nor was it only in the department of imagination, that his acquisitions were vast. He travelled over the whole field of knowlege, as far as it had then been explored. His various philological attainments were used to put him in possession of the wisdom stored in all countries, where the intellect had been cultivated. The natural philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, history, theology, and political science of his own and former times, were familiar to him. Never was there a more unconfined mind; and we would cite Milton as a practical example of the benefits of that universal culture of intellect, which forms one distinction of our times, but which some dread as unfriendly to original thought. Let such remember that mind is in its own nature diffusive. Its object is the universe, which is strictly one, or bound together by infinite connexions and correspondences; and accordingly its natural progress is from one to another field of thought; and wherever original power, creative genius exists, the mind, far from being distracted or oppressed by the variety of its acquisitions, will see more and more common bearings and hidden and beautiful analogies in all the objects of knowledge, will see mutual light shed from truth to truth, and will compel,