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nignant feeling towards mankind, that I readily give as wide a circulation as possible to what I esteem my best and richest possession, I hope to meet with a candid reception from al parties, and that none at least will take unjust offence, even though many things should be brought to light which will at once be seen to differ from certain received opinions. I earnestly beseech all lovers of truth, not to cry out that the Church is thrown into confusion by that freedom of discussion and inquiry which is granted to the schools, and ought_certainly to be refused to no believer, since we are ordered "to prove all things," and since the daily progress of the light of truth is productive far less of disturbance to the Church, than of illumination and edification. Nor do I see how the Church can be more disturbed by the investigation of truth, than were the Gentiles by the first promulgation of the gospel; since so far from recommending or imposing anything on my own authority, it is my particular advice that every one should suspend his opinion on whatever points he may not feel himself fully satisfied, till the evidence of Scripture prevail, and persuade his reason into assent and faith. Concealment is not my object; it is to the learned that I address myself, or if it be thought that the learned are not the best umpires and judges of such things, I should at least wish to submit my opi nions to men of a mature and manly understanding, possessing a thorough knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel; on whose judgements I should rely with far more confidence, than on those of novices in these matters. And whereas the greater part
3 I would be heard only, if it might be, by the elegant and learned reader, to whom principally for a while I shall beg leave I may address myself.' - Reason of Church Government. Prose Works, II. 476. 'I seek not to seduce the simple and illiterate; my errand is to find out
of those who have written most largely on these subjects have been wont to fill whole pages with explanations of their own opinions, thrusting into the margin the texts in support of their doctrine with a summary reference to the chapter and verse, I have chosen, on the contrary, to fill my pages even to redundance with quotations from Scripture, that so as little space as possible might be left for my own words, even when they arise from the context of revelation itself.
It has also been my object to make it appear from the opinions I shall be found to have advanced, whether new or old, of how much consequence to the Christian religion is the liberty not only of winnowing and sifting every doctrine,* but also of thinking and even writing respecting it, according to our individual faith and persuasion; an inference which will
the choicest and the learnedest, who have this high gift of wisdom to answer solidly, or to be convinced.' Address to the Parliament of England, prefixed to The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. III. 179.
4 Sad it is to think how that doctrine of the Gospel, planted by teachers divinely inspired, and by them winnowed and sifted from the chaff of over dated ceremonies,' &c. Of Reformation in England. Prose Works, II. 364.
5 For me, I have determined to lay up as the best treasure and solace of a good old age, if God vouchsafe it me, the honest liberty of free speech from my youth, where I shall think it available in so dear a concernment as the Church's good.' The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, II. 475. 'To Protestants, therefore, whose common rule and touchstone is the Scripture, nothing can with more conscience, more equity, nothing more Protestantly can be permitted, than a free and lawful debate at all times by writing, conference, or disputation of what opinion soever, disputable by Scripture; concluding that no man in religion is properly a heretic at this day, but he who maintains traditions or opinions not probable by Scripture, who for aught I know is the Papist only; he the only heretic who counts all heretics but himself. Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes. Prose Works, II. 528.
be stronger in proportion to the weight and importance of those opinions, or rather in proportion to the authority of Scripture, on the abundant testimony of which they rest. Without this liberty there is neither religion nor gospel-force alone prevails, by which it is disgraceful for the Christian. religion to be supported. Without this liberty we are still enslaved, not indeed, as formerly, under the divine law, but, what is worst of all, under the law of man, or to speak more truly, under a barbarous tyranny. But I do not expect from candid and judicious readers a conduct so unworthy of them,that like certain unjust and foolish men, they should stamp with the invidious name of heretic or heresy whatever appears to them to differ from the received opinions, without trying the doctrine by a comparison with Scripture testimonies."
6 Milton probably alludes to the numerous censures directed against him, after the publication of his treatises on Divorce. An ample notice of these attacks will be found in Todd's Account of the Life and Writings, &c. One of Milton's opponents, Herbert Palmer, B.D., in a sermon before the Parliament at Westminster, endeavoured to excite his audience to brand the author of the new opinions with some heavy mark of their displeasure. His address to them was as follows:- If any plead conscience for the lawfulness of polygamy, (or for divorce for other causes than Christ and his apostles mention; of which a wicked booke is abroad and uncensured, though deserving to be burnt, whose author hath been so impudent as to set his name to it, and dedicate it to yourselves), or for liberty to marry incestuously, will you grant a toleration for all this?' See the beginning of Tetrachordon, where an allusion is made to this discourse, and the eleventh and twelfth Sonnets, on the detraction which followed certain of the author's writings.
7. But we shall not carry it thus; another Greek apparition stands in our way, Heresy and Heretic; in like manner also railed at to the people as in a tongue unknown..... In apostolic time, therefore, ere the Scripture was written, heresy was a doctrine maintained against the doctrine by them delivered; which in these times can be no otherwise defined than a doctrine maintained against e light, which we now only have, of the
According to their notions, to have branded any one at random with this opprobrious mark, is to have refuted hin without any trouble, by a single word. By the simple imputation of the name of heretic, they think that they have despatched their man at one blow. To men of this kind I answer, thai in the time of the apostles, ere the New Testament was written, whenever the charge of heresy was applied as a term of reproach, that alone was considered as heresy which was at variance with their doctrine orally delivered, and that those only were looked upon as heretics, who according to Rom. xvi. 17, 18. " caused divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine" of the apostles.... "serving not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly." By parity of reasoning therefore, since the compilation of the New Testament, I maintain that nothing but what is in contradiction to it can properly be called heresy.
For my own part, I adhere to the Holy Scriptures alone—I follow no other heresy or sect. I had not even read any of the works of heretics, so called, when the mistakes of those who are reckoned for orthodox, and their incautious handling of
Scripture.' Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes. Prose Works, II. 527. And again, in The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. As for those terrible names of sectaries and schismatics, which ye have got together, we know your manner of fight, when the quiver of your arguments, which is ever thin, and weakly stored, after the first brunt is quite empty, your course is to betake ye to your other quiver of slander, wherein lies your best archery. And whom you could not move by sophistical arguing, them you think to confute by scandalous misnaming; thereby inciting the blinder sort of people to mislike and deride sound doctrine and good Christianity, under two or three vile and hateful terms.' II. 464.
84 Yea, those that are reckoned for orthodox, began to make sad and shameful rents in the Church about the trivial celebration of feasts,' &c. Of Reformation in England. Prose Works, II. 379.
Scripture first taught me to agree with their cpponents whenever those opponents agreed with Scripture. If this be heresy, I confess with St. Paul, Acts xxiv, 14. " that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets"-to which I add, whatever is written in the New Testament. Any other judges or paramount interpreters of the Christian belief, together with all impiicit faith, as it is called, I, in common with the whole Protestant Church, refuse to recognise.1
For the rest, brethren, cultivate truth with brotherly love. Judge of my present undertaking according to the admonishing of the Spirit of God-and neither adopt my sentiments nor reject them, unless every doubt has been removed from: your belief by the clear testimony of revelation. Finally, live in the faith of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Farewell 2
1 'With good and religious reason, therefore, all Protestant Churches with one consent, and particularly the Church of England in her thirtynine Articles, Art. 6th, 19th, 20th, 21st, and elsewhere, maintain these two points, as the main principles of true religion; that the rule of true religion is the word of God only; and that this faith ought not to be an implicit faith, that is to believe, though as the Church believes, against or without express authority of Scripture.' Of True Religion, &c. Prose Works, II. 510. And again, in the same treatise-'This is the direct way to bring in that papistical implicit faith, which we all disclaim.' Ibid. 517.
2 To this preface are subjoined in the original the initials I. M. Symmons states that on the first publication of Lycidas, the author was indicated in the same manner.