Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

refute this adversary of yours yourselves, which I do not see any other means of your affecting, than by a constant endeavour to outdo all men's bad words by your own good deeds. When you laboured under more forts of oppression than one, you betook yourselves to God for refuge, and he was graciously pleased to hear your most earnest prayer and defires. He has gloriously delivered you, the first of nations, from the two greatest mischiefs of this life, and most pernicious to virtue, tyranny and superstition ; he has endued you with greatness of mind to be the first of mankind, who after having conquered their own king, and having had him delivered into their hands, have not scrupled to condemn him judicially, and pursuant to that sentence of condemnation, to put him to death. After the performing to glorious an action as this, you ought to do pothing that is mean and little, not so much as to think of, much less to do any thing but what is great and fublime. Which to attain to, this is your only way; as you have subdued your enemies in the field, so to make appear, that unarmed, and in the highest outward peace and tranquillity, you of all mankind are best able to subdue ambition, avarice, the love of riches, and can best avoid the corruptions that prosperity is apt to introduce, (which generally subdue and triumph over other nations,) to show as great justice, temperance, and moderation in the maintaining your liberty, as you have shown courage in freeing yourfelves from flavery. These are the only arguments, by which you will be able to evince, that you are not such persons as this fellow reprekents you, Traitors, Robbers, Murderers, Parricides, Madmen ; that you did not put your king to death out of any ambitious defign, or a desire of invading the rights of others, not out of any leditious principles or finifter ends ; that it was not an act of fury or madness; but that it was wholly out of love to your liberty, your religion, to justice, virtue, and your country, that you punished a tyrant. But if it should fall out otherwise (which God forbid) if as you have been valiant in war, you should grow debauched in peace, you that have had such visible demonstrations of the goodness of God to

yourselves, yourselves, and his wrath against your enemies; and that you should not have learned by fo eminent, fo remarkable an example before your eyes, to fear God; and work righteousness; for my part, I shall easily grant and confess (for I cannot deny it) whatever ill men may speak or think of you, to be very true. And you will find in a little time, that God's dilpleasure against you will be greater than it has been againt your adversaries, greater than his grace and favour has been to yourselves, which you have had larger experience of, than any other nation under Heaven.

TRE ATIS E

Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes;

SHOWING,

That it is not lawful for any Power on Earth to

compcl in Matters of Religion.*

To the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England,

with the Dominions thereof. I Have prepared, Supreme Council ! against the muchI expected time of your fitting, this treatise; which, though to all christian magistrates equally belonging, and therefore to have been written in the common language of Christendom, natural duty and affection hath contined, and dedicated first to my own nation; and in a feason wherein the timely reading thereof, to the easier accomplishment of your great work, may save you much labour and interruption : of two parts usually proposed, civil and ecclefiaftical, recommending civil only to your proper care, ecclefiaftical to them only from whom it takes both that name and nature. Yet not for this cause only do I require or trust to find acceptance, but in a twofold respect besides : first, as bringing clear 'evidence of scripture and protestant maxims to the parliament of England, who in all their late acts, upon occasion, have professed to affert only the true protestant christian religion, as it is contained in the holy scriptures : next, in regard that your power being but for a time, and having in yourselves a christian liberty of your own, which at one time or other may be oppreffed, thereof truly sensible, it will concern you

* First printed 1659.

while you are in power, fo to regard other men's consciences, as you would your own should be regarded in the power of others; and to consider that any law against conscience is alike in force against any conscience, and so may one way or other justly redound upon yourselves. One advantage I make no doubt of, that I shall write to many eminent persons of your number, already perfect and resolved in this important article of christianity. Some of whom I remember to have heard often for feveral years, at a council next in authority to your own, so well joining religion with civil prudence, and yet fó well distinguishing the different power of either; and this not only voting, but frequently reasoning why it should be fo, that if any there present had been before of an opinion contrary, he might doubtless have departed thence a convert in that point, and have confessed, that then both commonwealth and religion will at length, if ever, fourish in Christendom, when either they who govern discern between civil and religious, or they only who fo discern fhall be admitted to govern. Till then, nothing but troubles, perfecutions, commotions can be expected; the inward decay of true religion among ourselves, and the utter overthrow at last by a common enemy. Of civil liberty I have written heretofore by the appointment, and not without the approbation of civil power : of christian liberty I write now, which others long since having done with all freedom under heathen emperors, I should do wrong to fufpect, that I now fall with less under christian governors, and such especially as profess openly their defence of christian liberty; although I write this, not otherwise appointed or induced, than by an inward persuasion of the christian duty, which I may usefully discharge herein to the common lord and master of us all, and the certain hope of his approbation, first and chiefest to be fought : in the hand of whose providence I remain, praying all success and good event on your public councils, to the defence of true religion and our civil rights.

John Milton.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

TWO things there be, which have been ever found working much mischief to the Church of God, and the advancement of truth; force on one side reftraining, and hire on the other side corrupting the teachers thereof. Few ages have been fince the ascension of our Saviour, wherein the one of these two, or both together, have not prevailed. It can be at no time, therefore, unfeasonable to speak of these things; since by them the church is, . either in continual detriment and oppression, or in continual danger. The former shall be at this time my argument; the latter as I thall find God difpofing me, and opportunity inviting. What I argue, shall be drawn from the Scripture only; and therein from true fundamental principles of the gospel, to all knowing christians undeniable. And if the governors of this cominonwealth, since the rooting out of prelates, have made least use of force in religion, and most have favoured christian liberty of any in this island before them since the first preaching of the gospel, for which we are not to forget our thanks to God, and their due praise; they may, I doubt not, in this treatise, find that which not only will confirm them to defend still the christian liberty which we enjoy, but will incite them also to enlarge it, if in aught they yet straiten it. To them who perhaps hereafter, leis experienced in religion, may come to govern or give us laws, this or other such, if they please, may be a timely instruction: however, to the truth it will be at all times no unneedful testimony, at least some discharge of that general duty, which no chriftian, but according to what he hath received, knows is required of him, if he have aught more conducing to the advancement of religion, than what is usually endeavoured, freely to impart it.

It will require no great labour of exposition, to unfold what is here meant by matters of religion ; being

in religion, if they th it will

as

« VorigeDoorgaan »