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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 overdated 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."
• 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 the 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 him 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, that 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.
8 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 opponents 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 implicit faith, as it is called, I, in common with the whole Protestant Church, refuse to recognise.'
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.
A POSTHUMOUS TREATISE
THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE,
COMPILED FROM THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ALONE;
IN TWO BOOKS:
CHAP. I.-OF THE DEFINITION OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE,
AND THE SEVERAL PARTS THEREOF.
THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE is that DIVINE REVELATION disclosed in various ages by CHRIST (though he was not known under that name in the beginning) concerning the nature and worship of the Deity, for the promotion of the glory of God, and the salvation of mankind.
It is not unreasonable to assume that Christians believe in the Scriptures whence this doctrine is derived-but the authority of those Scriptures will be examined in the proper place.
CHRIST. Matt. xi. 27. "Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." John i. 4. "in him was life, and the life was the light of men." v. 9. "that was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." 1 Pet. iii. 19. "by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.'
Under the name of CHRIST are also comprehended MOSES