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While the king had been a prisoner, and preparations were making for his trial, the Presbyterians of Sion College were very clamorous with the parliament that no harm might be done to his royal person, as such a proceeding would be a violation of the solemn league and covenant, &c. Their complaints too, after the execution of the king, were very loud.
The following is the statement of Neale, the historian of the Puritans, in reference to this period:-
“The parliament tried several methods to reconcile the Presbyterians to the present administration. Persons were appointed to treat with them, and assure them of the protection of the government, and of the full enjoyment of their ecclesiastical preferments according to law; when this would not do, an order was published, that ministers in their pulpits should not meddle with
state affairs. After this the famous Mr. Milton was appointed to write for the government, who rallied the seditious preachers with his satirical pen in a most severe manner !"'*
The circumstance of Milton having employed his pen against those whom he formerly united with in writing against the prelates, has subjected him to the charge of tergiversation. Let it be recollected, however, that Milton wrote against erroneous principles, and finding the Presbyterians enemies to a full toleration in religion, he opposed them on that account as much as he had before opposed the prelates on the same account.
* It would seem from this statement that MILTON was hired to write against the Presbyterians: this, however, is not the fact, as the work referred to was written before the death of the king in 1648. Another edition, with alterations, was published 1650. Neale had only seen the last edition. I have copied extracts from both.
The following statement from his Second Defence of the People of England, published in 1652, explains the above statement.-"Neither did I write any thing respecting it, (the royal jurisdiction,) till the king, fully proclaimed an enemy by the senate, and overcome in arms, was brought captive to his trial and condemned to suffer death. When, indeed, some of the Presbyierian leaders, lately the most inveterately hostile to Charles, but now irritated by the prevalence of the Independents in the nation and in the senate, and stung with resentment, not of the facts, but of their own want of power to commit it, exclaimed against the sentence of the Parlia
The work referred to, was entitled, “ The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through all ages, for any who have the power, to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked King, and after due conviction, to depose and put him to death, if the ordinary magistrate have neglected or denyed to do it. And that they who of late so much blame deposing, are the men that did it themselves."
It thus commences: “If men within themselves would be governed by reason, and not generally ment upon the king, and raised what commotion they could by daring to assert, that the doctrine of the Protestant divines, and of all the reformed churches, was strong in reprobation of this severity to kings; then, at length, I conceived it to be my duty publickly to oppose so much obvious and palpable falsehood. Neither did I then direct my arguments or persuasions personally against Charles, but by the testimony of many of the most eminent divines, I proved what course of conduct might lawfully be pursued towards tyrants in general; and with the zeal almost of a preacher, I attacked the strange ignorance, or the wonderful impudence of those men, who had lately amused us with the promises of better things. This work was not published till after the death of the king, and was written rather to tranquillize the minds of men, than to discuss any part of the question respecting Charles, a question the decision of which belonged to the magistrate, and not to me, and which had now received its final determination.”
It was published in February 1648-9. The king had been beheaded on the 30th of January.
give up their understanding to a double tyrannie, of custom from without, and blind affection from within, they would discern better what it is to favour and uphold the tyrant of a nation. But being slaves within doores, no wonder that they strive so much to have the public state conformably governed to the inward vitious rule, by which they govern themselves.”
“ As for mercy, if it be to a tyrant, under which name they themselves have cited him so oft in the hearing of God, of angels, and the holy church assembled, and there charged him with the spilling of more innocent blood by farre, than ever Nero did. Undoubtedly, the mercy which they pretend is the mercy of wicked men; and their mercies, we read, are cruelties, hazarding the welfare of a whole nation, to have saved one whom they have so oft named Agag, and villifying the blood of many Jonathans that have saved Israel, insisting, with much niceness, of the unnecessarie clause in their covenant, wherein the fear of change, and the absurd contradiction of a flattering hostilitie hath hampered them, but not scrupling to give away for compliments to an implacable revenge the heads of many Christians more.
“But who in particular is a tyrant,* cannot
* This particular charge, he says, “and the sufficient
be determined in a general discourse,* otherwise than by supposition. But this I dare own, as part of my faith, that if such an one there be, by whose commission whole massacres have been committed on his faithfull subjects, his provinces offered to pawn or alienation as the hire of those whom he had solicited to come in and destroy whole cities and countries; be he King, or Tyrant, or Emperour, the sword of justice is above him, in whose hand soever is found sufficient power to avenge the effusion, and so great a deluge of innocent blood.”
He quotes the speech of Trajan, the worthy emperor, to one whom he made general of the Prætorian forces, “ Take this drawn sword,” said be,“ to use for me if I reign well, if not, to use against me!”
The following is the description which he gives
proof of it, must determine that, which I leave to magistrates, at least to the uprighter sort of them, and of the people, though in number less by many in whom faction hath prevailed above the law of nature and right reason, to judge as they find cause."
* “Published now the second time with some additions, and many testimonies also added of the best and learnedest among Protestant divines, asserting the position of this book. The author, J. M.
“London, printed by Matthew Simmons, next door to the Gillion in Aldersgate Street, 1650."