Page images

have in divine and human history; and by the same desperate boldness detect themselves to be egregious liars and impostors, seeking to abuse the multitude with a show of that gravity and learning, which never was their portion. Had their knowledge been equal to the knowledge of any stupid monk or abbot, they would have known at least, though ignorant of all things else, the life and acts of him, who first instituted their order: but these blockish presbyters of Clandeboy know not that John Knox, who was the first founder of presbytery in Scotland, taught professedly the doctrine of deposing and of killing kings. And thus while they deny that any such rule can be found, the rule is found in their own country, given them by their own first presbyterian institutor; and they themselves, like irregular friars walking contrary to the rule of their own foundation, deserve for so gross an ignorance and transgression to be disciplined upon their own stools. Or had their reading in history been any, which by this we may be confident is none at all, or their malice not heightened to a blind rage, they never would so rashly have thrown the dice to a palpable discovery of their ignorance and want of shame. But wherefore spend we two such precious things as time and reason upon priests, the most prodigal misspenders of time, and the scarcest owners of reasons? It is sufficient we have published our defences, given reasons, given examples of our justice done; books also have been written to the same purpose for men to look on that will; that no nation under heaven but in one age or other hath done the like. The difference only is, which rather seems to us matter of glory, that they for the most part have without form of law done the deed by a kind of martial justice, we by the deliberate and well-weighed sentence of a legal judi


But they tell us, "it was against the interest and protestation of the kingdom of Scotland." And did exceeding well to join those two together: here by informing us what credit or regard need be given in England to a Scots protestation, ushered in by a Scots interest: certainly no more than we see is given in Scotland to an English declaration, declaring the interest of England. If then our interest move not them, why should theirs move us? If they say, we are not all England; we reply, they are not all Scotland: nay, were the last year so inconsiderable a part of Scotland, as were beholden to this which they now term the sectarian army, to defend and rescue them at the charges of England, from a stronger party of their own countrymen, in whose esteem they were no better than sectarians themselves. But they add, "it was against the former declarations of both kingdoms," to seize, or proceed against the king. We are certain, that no such declarations of both kingdoms, as derive not their full force from the sense and meaning of the covenant, can be produced.

And if they plead against the covenant, "to preserve and defend his person:" we ask them briefly, whether they take the covenant to be absolute or conditional? If absolute, then suppose the king to have committed all prodigious crimes and impieties against God, or nature, or whole nations, he must nevertheless be sacred from all violent touch. Which absurd opinion, how it can live in any man's reason, either natural or rectified, we much marvel: since God declared his anger as impetuous for the saving of King Benhadad, though surrendering himself at mercy, as for the killing of Naboth. If it be conditional, in the preservation and defence of religion, and the people's liberty, then certainly to take away his life, being dangerous, and pernicious to both these, was no more a breach of the covenant, than for the same reason at Edinburgh to behead Gordon the marquis of Huntley. By the same covenant we made vow to assist and defend all

those, that should enter with us into this league: not absolutely, but in the maintenance and pursuing thereof. If therefore no man else was ever so mad, as to claim from hence an impunity from all justice, why should any for the king, whose life, by other articles of the same covenant, was forfeit? Nay, if common sense had not led us to such a clear interpretation, the Scots commissioners themselves might boast to have been our first teachers: who, when they drew to the malignance which brought forth that perfidious last year's irruption against all the bands of covenant or Christian neighbourhood, making their hollow plea the defence of his majesty's person, they were constrained by their own guiltiness to leave out that following morsel that would have choked them, "the preservation and defence of true religion and our liberties." And questionless in the preservation of these we are bound as well, both by the covenant and before the covenant, to preserve and defend the person of any private man, as the person and authority of any inferior magistrate: so that this article, objected with such vehemence against us, contains not an exception of the king's person, and authority, to do by privilege what wickedness he list, and be defended as some fancy, but an express testification of our loyalty; and the plain words without wresting will bear as much, that we had no thoughts against his person, or just power, provided they might consist with the preservation and defence of true religion and our liberties. But to these how hazardous his life was, will be needless to repeat so often. It may suffice, that while he was in custody, where we expected his repentance, his remorse at last, and compassion of all the innocent blood shed already, and hereafter likely to be shed, for his mere wilfulness, he made no other use of our continual forbearance, our humblest petitions and obtestations at his feet, but to sit contriving and fomenting new plots against us, and, as his own phrase was, "playing his own game" upon the miseries of his people: of which we desire no other view at present than these articles of peace with the rebels, and the rare game likely to ensue from such a cast of his cards. And then let men reflect a little upon the slanders and reviles of these wretched priests, and judge what modesty, what truth, what conscience, what any thing fit for ministers, or we might say reasonable men, can harbour in them. For what they began in shamelessness and malice, they conclude in frenzy; throwing out a sudden rhapsody of proverbs quite from the purpose; and with as much comeliness as when Saul prophesied. For casting off, as he did his garments, all modesty and meekness, wherewith the language of ministers ought to be clothed, especially to their supreme magistrate, they talk at random of "servants raging, servants riding, and wonder how the earth can bear them." Either these men imagine themselves to be marvellously high set and exalted in the chair of Belfast, to vouchsafe the parliament of England no better style than servants, or else their high notion, which we rather believe, falls as low as court-parasitism; supposing all men to be servants but the king. And then all their pains taken to seem so wise in proverbing serve but to conclude them downright slaves: and the edge of their own proverb falls reverse upon themselves. For as "delight is not seemly for fools," much less high words to come from base minds. What they are for ministers, or how they crept into the fold, whether at the window, or through the wall, or who set them there so haughty in the pontifical see of Belfast, we know not. But this we rather have cause to wonder, if the earth can bear this insufferable insolency of upstarts, who, from a ground which is not their own, dare send such defiance to the Sovereign magistracy of England, by whose authority and in whose right they inhabit there. By their actions we might rather judge them to be a

generation of Highland thieves and redshanks, who being neighbourly admitted, not as the Saxons by merit of their warfare against our enemies, but by the courtesy of England, to hold possessions in our province, a country better than their own, have, with worse faith than those heathen, proved ingrateful and treacherous guests to their best friends and entertainers. And let them take heed, lest while their silence as to these matters might have kept them blameless and secure under those proceedings which they so feared to partake in, that these their treasonous attempts and practices have not involved them in a far worse guilt of rebellion; and (notwithstanding that fair dehortatory from joining with malignants) in the appearance of a co-interest and partaking with the Irish rebels: against whom, though by themselves pronounced to be the enemies of God, they go not out to battle, as they ought, but rather by these their doings assist and become associates!











Morpheus, on thy dewy wing

Such fair auspicious visions bring,

As sooth'd great MILTON's injur'd age,
When in prophetic dreams he saw

The tribes unborn, with pious awe,

Imbibe each virtue from his heavenly page.-DR. AXENSIDE.


WHEN the last impression of Milton's prose works was committed to my care, I executed that trust with the greatest fidelity. Not satisfied with. printing from any copy at hand, as editors are generally wont, my affection and zeal for the author induced me to compare every sentence, line by line, with the original edition of each treatise that I was able to obtain. Hence, errors innumerable of the former impression were corrected: besides what improvements were added from the author's second edition of the

Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, which Mr. Toland had either not seen, or had neglected to commit to the press.*

After I had endeavoured to do this justice to my favourite author, the last summer I discovered a second edition of his Eikonoklastes, with many large and curious additions, printed in the year 1650, which edition had escaped the notice both of Mr. Toland and myself.

In communicating this discovery to a few friends, I found that this edition was not unknown to some others, though from low and base motives secreted from the public. But I, who from my soul love liberty, and for that reason openly and boldly assert its principles at all times, resolved that the public should no longer be withheld from the possession of such a


I therefore now give a new impression of this work, with the additions and improvements made by the author; and I deem it a singular felicity, to be the instrument of restoring to my country so many excellent lines long lost, and in danger of being for ever lost,-of a writer who is a lasting honour to our language and nation;-and of a work, wherein the principles of tyranny are confuted and overthrown, and all the arts and cunning of a great tyrant and his adherents detected and laid open.

The love of liberty is a public affection, of which those men must be altogether void, that can suppress or smother any thing written in its defence, and tending to serve its glorious cause. What signify professions, when the actions are opposite and contradictory? Could any high-churchman, any partizan of Charles I., have acted a worse, or a different part, than some pretended friends of liberty have done in this instance? Many high-church priests and doctors have laid out considerable sums to destroy the prose works of Milton, and have purchased copies of his particular writings for the infernal pleasure of consuming them. This practice, however detestable, was yet consistent with principle. But no apology can be made for men that espouse a cause, and at the same time conceal aught belonging to its support. Such men may tell us that they love liberty, but I tell them that they love their bellies, their ease, their pleasures, their profits, in the first place. A man that will not hazard all for liberty, is unworthy to be named among its votaries, unworthy to participate its blessings.

Many circumstances at present loudly call upon us to exert ourselves. Venality and corruption have well-nigh extinguished all principles of liberty. The bad books also, that this age hath produced, have ruined our youth. The novels and romances, which are eagerly purchased and read, emasculate the mind, and banish every thing grave and manly. One remedy for these evils is, to revive the reading of our old writers, of which we have

*Mr. Toland first collected and published the author's prose works in 3 vols. folio, 1697 or 1698: for which all lovers of liberty owe grateful praise to his name; but through hurry, or perhaps not having seen the different copies, he printed from the first edition of some tracts, which the author had afterwards published with considerable additions.

In 1738 Milton's prose works were again published in 2 vols. folio; of which impression all I shall say is, that, no person being employed to inspect the press, the printer took the liberty to alter what he did not understand, and thereby defaced the author, and marred the beauty of many passages.

†This hath been practised with such zeal by many of that cursed tribe, that it is a wonder there are any copies left. John Swale, a bookseller of Leeds in Yorkshire, an honest man, though of high-church, told me that he could have more money for burning Milton's Defence of Liberty and the People of England, than I would give for the purchase of it. Some priests in that neighbourhood used to meet once a year, and after they were well warmed with strong beer, they sacrificed to the flames the author's Defensio pro Populo Anglicano, as also this treatise against the EIKON. I have it in my power to produce more instances of the like sacerdotal spirit, with which in some future publication I may entertain the world

good store, and the study whereof would fortify our youth against the blandishments of pleasure and the arts of corruption.

Milton in particular ought to be read and studied by all our young gentlemen as an oracle. He was a great and noble genius, perhaps the greatest that ever appeared among men; and his learning was equal to his genius. He had the highest sense of liberty, glorious thoughts, with a strong and nervous style. His works are full of wisdom, a treasure of knowledge. In them the divine, the statesman, the historian, the philologist, may be all instructed and entertained. It is to be lamented, that his divine writings are so little known. Very few are acquainted with them, many have never heard of them. The same is true with respect to another great writer contemporary with Milton, and an advocate for the same glorious cause; I mean Algernon Sydney, whose Discourses on Government are the most precious legacy to these nations.

All antiquity cannot show two writers equal to these. They were both great masters of reason, both great masters of expression. They had the strongest thoughts, and the boldest images, and are the best models that can be followed. The style of Sydney is always clear and flowing, strong and masculine. The great Milton has a style of his own, one fit to express the astonishing sublimity of his thoughts, the mighty vigour of his spirit, and that copia of invention, that redundancy of imagination, which no writer before or since hath equalled. In some places, it is confessed, that his periods are too long, which renders him intricate, if not altogether unintelligible to vulgar readers; but these places are not many. In the book before us his style is for the most part free and easy, and it abounds both in eloquence, and wit, and argument. I am of opinion, that the style of this work is the best and most perfect of all his prose writings. Other men have commended the style of his History as matchless and incomparable, whose malice could not see or would not acknowledge the excellency of his other works. It is no secret whence their aversion to Milton proceeds; and whence their caution of naming him as any other writer than a poet. Milton combated superstition and tyranny of every form, and in every degree. Against them he employed his mighty strength, and, like a battering ram, beat down all before him. But notwithstanding these mean arts, either to hide or disparage him, a little time will make him better known; and the more he is known, the more he will be admired. His works are not like the fugitive short-lived things of this age, few of which survive their authors: they are substantial, durable, eternal writings; which will never die, never perish, whilst reason, truth and liberty have a being in these nations.

Thus much I thought proper to say on occasion of this publication, wherein I have no resentment to gratify, no private interest to serve: all my aim is to strengthen and support that good old cause, which in my youth I embraced, and the principles whereof I will assert and maintain whilst I live.

The following letter to Milton, being very curious, and no where published perfect and entire, may be fitly preserved in this place.

A Letter from Mr. Wall to John Milton, Esquire.

SIR, I received yours the day after you wrote, and do humbly thank you, that you are pleased to honour me with your letters. I confess I have (even in my privacy in the country) oft had thoughts of you, and that with much respect, for your friendliness to truth in your early years. and in bad

« PreviousContinue »