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The unceremonious manner in which MILTON has treated the episcopal bench will probably be disliked by some readers, as unnecessarily severe, and extremely uncourteous. Let such persons, however, recollect the unconstitutional and persecuting practices of Laud and some of his brethren in the Star-chamber, and their servile compliances in supporting arbitrary power in Charles I., and they may perhaps be inclined to moderate their censures, if not to change their opinion,
As to the determined efforts of Milton to prevail with the Parliament to abolish tithes, and to leave the established clergy to depend for support upon the voluntary contributions of their respective parishoners, his reason. ing has a better prospect of being regarded at the present than at any former period since his treatises were published. It may probably too give weight to his re. commendations, that his remarks applied to Presbyterian, and not to Episcopal “ hirelings.” His objection was to the system of tithes, because he considered it directly opa posed to the genius of Christianity, and as being injurious to the spiritual interests of the nation.
An earnest desire that the religious and political sentiments of Milton should be justly appreciated, led the writer to undertake this work; and also that his Chris. tian integrity, manifested under all the changes through which he passed from 1640 to 1674, on account of the extraordinary revolutions of that period, should be held
up as an example worthy of universal imitation. It will however be found, that the veneration which he enter. tains for the character of MILTON, has not led him to overlook his faults, nor to palliate his errors.
Another reason which prevailed with the writer was, that the Lives of Milton have usually been so large and expensive, that they have been placed out of the reach of the generality of readers; he therefore hopes that a small volume, comprising every thing of importance respecting this noble-minded and gigantic man, will not be unacceptable nor unprofitable to the bulk of his countrymen.
The writer cannot anticipate that the sentiments stated in his work will be universally acceptable; but if they be approved by that large body of Britons who contend for liberty as their birth-right, and especially by Protestant Dissenters, it is as much as he can expect. It is a little singular, that no writer of the latter class has ever published the life of this early and powerful defender of their principles, notwithstanding it is to his powerful ad. vocacy that they are indebted, more than to any other writer, for all the civil and religious privileges which they now enjoy. From his Memoirs having been written by Churchmen, who must have necessarily disapproved of his opinions, it is not wonderful that he should have been charged with employing “coarse and intemperate,” “rude and insulting language.” Let the reader how. ever recollect the period at which his treatises were written, when polemics where not remarkably nice in their selection of epithets; and let him consider too the extreme importance of the subjects of which they treatthe welfare of the church of Christ, and the deliverance of the nation from civil and religious tyranny—and he may probably be inclined to judge more favourably of the strong and caustic terms which he has sometimes employed for the purpose of satirizing and exposing gross impositions and oppressive corruptions. His blunt and biting style exposed him to great opposition and reproach; but he evidently indulged self-gratulation, from the reflection that he had always accustomed him. self to what he called “this just ond honest manner of speaking.” The following beautiful description of Truth is a specimen :
In his “Areopagitica,” published 1644, he says : “Truth, indeed, came once into the world with her Divine Master, and was a perfect shape, most glorious to look upon ; but when he ascended, and his apostles after him were laid asleep then strait arose a wicked race of Deceivers,who,as that story goes of that wicked Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear imitating the careful search which Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down, gathering up every limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and Commons, nor ever shall do till her Master's second coming. He shall bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection,”
In the “ Animadversions upon Johnson's Life of Mil. TON" in the Appendix, there will be found a degree of se. verity merited, the writer thinks, by an author who suffered his ultra-toryism and bigotry so to blind his under. standing as to use his pen for distorting the features of a character which he was incapable of delineating. The writer would not have considered these remarks to have been required so long after the death of the calumniator, had not the obnoxious work formed part of that standard publication, “ The Lives of the British Poets.” The amiable poet, Cowper, has justly designated Johnson's Life of Milton as “unmerciful treatment."* Again, “In the last leaf of Murphy's Essay,” says Hayley, “on the Life and Genius of Johnson, he wrote the following most deliberate censure : "Let all that is said against Milton in the conclusion of this book pass undisputed, and Johnson's is a most malignant life of Milton.'”+
The writer has also taken the liberty to copy into the
* Sketch of the Life of Cowper, prefixed to his posthumous poems. p xxxiii.
† Latin and Italian Poems of Milton, translated by Cowper, Preface and Notes by W. Hayley, Esq.
Appendix, from the Rev. Mr. Todd's “ Account of Mil. TON,” &c. published in 1828, the Extracts from the Coun. cil Book while MILTON was Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and which will throw considerable light upon several events connected with his history.
Imploring the blessing of the Great Head of the Church to rest upon this humble effort to subserve His glory, by causing it to promote the cause of truth and righteousness, the writer, with much respect, dedicates it to the rising generation in Britain ; earnestly praying they may prove themselves a superior race to their most distinguished progenitors, whether of genuine patriots, unsophisticated Protestants, or real Christians, and thus contribute towards promoting the prosperity of their country in its highest and most essential interests—a country respecting which in many respects, it might be said, as it is of ancient Israel, “THE LORD HATH NOT DEALT SO WITH ANY PEOPLE.”
1, Devonshire Street, Queen Square,
Dec. 21st, 1832.