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Men, whose life, learning, faith, and pure intent,
That so the parliament
and succour our just fears
* Thomas Edwards, minister, a pamphleteering opponent of Milton; whose plan of independency he assailed with shallow invectives.
† Perhaps Henderson, or Baillie, or Galaspie, Scotch divines : the former of whom appears as "a loving friend,” in Rutherford's Redivivus; and the latter was one of the ecclesiastical commissioners at Westminster.
While the king had been a prisoner, and preparations were making for his trial, the Presbyterians of Sion Col. lege were very clamorous with the parliament that no harm might be done to his royal person, as such a pro. ceeding 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. Per. sons were appointed to treat with them, and assure them of the protection of the government, and of the full en. joyment 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 ap. pointed to write for the government, who rallied the seditious preachers with his satirical pen in a most severe manner !"*
* 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
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 be. fore opposed the prelates on the same account.
The work referred to, was entitled, “ The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, proving that it is lawful, and hath been 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
captive to his trial and condemned to suffer death. When, indeed, some of the Presbyterian 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 Parliament 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 promise of better things. This work was not published till after the death of the king, and was written rather to tranquilize 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.
be governed by reason, and not generally give up their understanding to a double tyrannie, of custom from with. out, 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 conform. ably 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 wel. fare 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 be deter. mined in general discourse, totherwise than by supposition.
* This particular charge, he says, "and the sufficient 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."
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 of. fered to pawn or alienation as the hire of those whom he had solicited to come in and destroy whole cities and coun. tries ; be he King, or Tyrant, or Emperour, the sword of justice is above him, in whose hand soever is found suffi. cient 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 he, “to use for me if I reign well, if not, to use against me !"
The following is the description which he gives of the Presbyterians after they had obtained the chief power in church and state :
“ As for the party called Presbyterian," he says, "of whom I believe many to be good and faithful Christians, though misled by some of turbulent spirit, I wish them earnestly and calmly notto fall off from their first principles, nor to affect rigor and superiority over men not under them; not to condemn unforcible things in religion espe. cially, which, if not voluntary becomes a sin; nor to assist the clamour and malicious drifts of those whom they themselves have judged to be the worst of men, the obdurate enemies of God and his church; nor to dart against the actions of their brethren, for want of other argument than those wrested laws and Scriptures, thrown by pre. lates and malignants against their own sides, which, though they hurt not otherwise, are taken up by them to the condemnation of their own doings, give scandal to all men, and discover in themselves either extreme passion or apostacy. Let them not oppress their best friends and associates, who molest them not at all, infringe not