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“ to do so was my choice, and to have done thus 56 was my chance,” as he expresses himself in the conclufion of one of his controversial pieces. All who have written any accounts of his life agree, that he was affable and instructive in conversation, of an equal and chearful temper; and yet I can easily believe, that he had a sufficient sense of his own merits, and contempt enough for his adversaries.
His merits indeed were fingular; for he was a man not only of wonderful genius, but of immense learning and erudition; not only an incomparable poet, but a great mathematician, logician, historian, and divine. He was a master not only of the Greek and Latin, but likewise of the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac, as well as of the modern languages, Italian, French, and Spanish. He was particularly skilled in the Italian, which he always preferred to the French language, as all the men of letters did at that time in England; and he not only wrote elegantly in it, but is highly commended for his writings by the most learned of the Italians themselves, and especially by the members of that celebrated academy called della Crusca, which was established at Florence for the refining and perfecting of the Tuscan language. He had read almost all authors, and improved by all, even by romances, of which he had been fond in his younger years; and as the bee can extract honey out of weeds, so (to use his own words in his Apology for Smectymnuus) “ those books, which to many others have been the “ fuel of wantonness and loose living, proved to “ him so many incitements to the love and ob“ servation of 'virtue.” His favorite author after
the Holy Scriptures was Homer. Homer he could
raise and adorn his character. He had a quick apa prehension, a sublime imagination, a strong memory, a piercing judgment, a wit always ready, and facetious or grave as the occasion required : and I know not whether the loss of his light did not add vigor to the faculties of his mind. He at least thought so, and often comforted himself with that reflection...
But his great parts and learning have scarcely gained him more admirers, than his political principles have raised him enemies. And yet the darling paffion of his foul was the love of liberty; this was his constant aim and end, however he might be mistaken in the means. He was indeed very zealous in what was called the good old cause, and with his fpirit and his resolution it is somewhat wonderful, that he never ventured his person in the civil war; but tho’ he was not in arms, he was not unactive, and thought, I suppose, that he could be of more fervice to the cause by his pen than by his sword. He was a thorough republican, and in this he thought like a Greek or Roman, as he was very conversant with their writings. And one day Sir Robert Howard, who was a friend to Milton as well as to the liberties of his country, and was one of his constant visitors to the last, inquired of him how he came to side with the republicans. Milton answered among other reasons, because theirs was the most frugal government, for the trappings of a monarchy might set up an ordinary commonwealth. But then his attachment to Cromwell must be condemned, as being neither consistent with his republican principles, nor with his love of liberty.
And I know no other way of accounting for his conduct, but by presuming (as I think we may reasonably presume) that he was far from entirely approving of Cromwell's proceedings, but confidered him as the only person who could rescue the nation from the tyranny of the Presbyterians, who he saw were erecting a worse dominion of their own upon the ruins of prelatical episcopacy; and of all things he dreaded fpiritual Navery, and therefore closed with Cromwell and the Independents, as he expected under them greater liberty of confcience. And tho' he served Cromwell
nwell, yet it must be said for him, that he served a great master, and served him ably, and was not wanting from time to time in giving him excellent good advice, especially in his second Defense: and so little being fàid of him in all Secretary Thurloe's state-papers, it appears that he had no great share in the secrets and intrigues of government; what he dispatched was little more than matters of necessary form, letters and answers to foreign states; and he may be juftified for acting in such a station, upon the same principle as Sir Matthew Hale for holding a Judge's commission under the usurper : and in the latter part of his life he frequently expressed to his friends his entire satisfaction of mind, that he had constantly employed his strength and faculties in the defense of liberty, and in opposition to slavery.
In matters of religion too he has given as great offense, or even greater, than by his political principles. But still let not the infidel glory: no such man was ever of that party. He had the advantage of a pious education, and ever expressed the Vol. I.
profoundest reverence of the Deity in his words and actions, was both a Christian and a Protestant, and studied and admired the Holy Scriptures above all other books whatsoever ; and in all his writings he plainly showeth a religious turn of mind, as well in verse as in prose, as well in his works of an earlier date as in those of later composition. When he wrote the Doctrin and Disciplin of Divorce, he appears to have been a Calvinist; but afterwards he entertained a more favorable opinion of Arminius. Some have inclined to believe, that he was an Arian; but there are more express passages in his works to overthrow this opinion, than any there are to confirm it. For in the conclusion of his treatise of Reformation he thus folemnly invokes the Trinity; “ Thou therefore that fittest in light and glory “ unapproachable, Parent of Angels and Men! “ next thee I implore Omnipotent King, Re“ deemer of that lost remnant whose nature thou “ didst affume, ineffable and everlasting Love!
And thou the third subsistence of divine infini" tude, illumining Spirit, the joy and fòlace of “ created things ! one Tri-personal Godhead! look “ upon this thy poor, and almost spent and ex“ piring Church &c.” And in his tract of Prelatical Episcopacy he endevors to prove the fpurioufness of some epistles attributed to Ignatius, because they contained in them heresies, one of which heresies is, that “ he condemns them for ministers of “ Satan, who fay that Christ is God above all." And a little after in the same tract he objects to the authority of Tertullian, because he went about to prove an imparity between God the Father, and
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