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TOUCHING THE LIKELIEST MEANS
REMOVE HIRELINGS OUT OF THE CHURCH
WHEREIN IS ALSO DISCOURSED
OF TITHES, CHURCH FEES, AND CHURCH-REVENUES ;
WHETHER ANY MAINTENANCE OF MINISTERS CAN BE SETTLED BY LAW.
[FIRST PUBLISHED 1659.]
EDITOR'S PRELIMINARY REMARKS. Few readers would perhaps expect the rare display of learning and logic which they will find in this treatise. Literature in Milton's days differed very much in character from the literature of our own. Authors would then seem to have thought it necessary to glance at least over all knowledge, and to be deeply versed in the particular subject of which they undertook to write; and the taste of the period often forced them upon investigations which we now look upon as peculiarly arid and unprofitable. However, that which relates to the wealth of the church and the payment of the clergy has still an interest for us all; for which reason it may be expected that this able and eloquent work will command some attention from our contemporaries. Fra Paolo Sarpi, in his “ Trattato dille materie Beneficiarie,” had gone over a part, at least, of the same ground, and put forward views a little less unpopular in Italy. Milton cared as little as the Venetian monk how his notions might be received by the public, provided they exercised the proper degree of influence over those who, as lawgivers, had to determine upon the matter under consideration. Selden had long before given great offence to the clergy, by his “ History of Tithes ;” so that Milton, whose views were still more extreme, could expect nothing but the roughest treatment; and he may be said to have met with it ever since : for his prose works are only now, after the lapse of two centuries, beginning to shake off the load of obloquy under which they have been undeservedly buried. That they will even yet have full justice done them, the taste of the present age forbids me to hope, though we are happily delivered from many of those prejudices, which, in the long interval between him and us, have contributed to keep them in obscurity. Dr. Symmons, with great candour and liberality, observes, “ To the politician who contemplates in this country the advantages of a church establishment, and sees its union with the most perfect toleration ; or to the philosopher who discovers in the weakness of human nature the necessity of present motives to awaken exertion and to stimulate attention ; the plan recommended by our author would appear to be visionary or pernicious ; and we should not hesitate to condemn it, if its practicability and its inoffensive consequence were not incontrovertibly established by the testimony of America. From Hudson's Bay, with the small interruption of Canada, to the Mississippi, this inmense continent beholds the religion of Jesus, unconnected with the patronage of government, subsisting in indepen dcnt, yet friendly communities, breathing that universal charity which constitutes its vital spirit, and offering, with its distinct yet blending tones, one grand combination of harmony to the ear of its Heavenly Father.”
TO THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENG
LAND, WITH THE DOMINIONS THEREOF.
OWING to your protection, supreme senate! this liberty of writing, which I have used these eighteen years on all occasions to assert the just rights and freedoms both of church and state, and so far approved, as to have been trusted with the representment and defence of your actions to all Christendom against an adversary of no mean repute; to whom should I address what I still publish on the same argument, but to you, whose magnanimous councils first opened and unbound the age from a double bondage under prelatical and regal tyranny; above our own hopes heartening us to look up at last, like men and Christians, from the slavish dejection, wherein from father to son we were bred up and taught; and thereby deserving of these nations, if they be not barbarously ingrateful, to be acknowledged, next under God, the authors and best patrons of religious and civil liberty, that ever these islands brought forth? The care and tuition of whose peace and safety, after a short but scandalous night of interruption, is now again, by a new dawning of God's miraculous providence among us, revolved upon your shoulders. And to whom more appertain these considerations, which I propound, than to yourselves, and the debate before you, though I trust of no difficulty, yet at present of great expectation, not whether ye will gratify, were it no more than so, but whether ye will hearken to the just petition of many thousands best affected both to religion and to this your return, or whether ye will satisfy, which you never can, the covetous pretences and demands of insatiable hirelings, whose disaffection ye well know both to yourselves and your resolutions ? That I, though among many others in this common concernment, interpose to your deliberations what my thoughts also are ; your own judgment and the success thereof hath given me the confidence: which requests but this, that if I have prosperously, God so favouring me, defended the public cause of this commonwealth to foreigners, ye would not think the reason and ability, whereon ye trusted once (and repent not) your whole reputation to the world, either grown less by more maturity and longer study, or less available in English than in another tongue, but that if it sufficed some years past to convince
and satisfy the unengaged of other nations in the justice of your doings, though then held paradoxal, it may as well suffice now against weaker opposition in matters, except here in England with a spirituality of men devoted to their temporal gain, of no controversy else among protestants. Neither do I doubt, seeing daily the acceptance which they find who in their petitions venture to bring advice also, and new models of a commonwealth, but that you will interpret it much more the duty of a Christian to offer what his conscience persuades him may be of moment to the freedom and better constituting of the church : since it is a deed of highest charity to help undeceive the people, and a work worthiest your authority, in all things else authors, assertors, and now recoverers of our liberty, to deliver us, the only people of all protestants left still undelivered, from the oppressions of a simonious decimating clergy, who shame not, against the judgment and practice of all other churches reformed, to maintain, though very weakly, their popish and oft refuted positions; not in a point of conscience wherein they might be blameless, but in a point of covetousness and unjust claim to other men's goods; a contention foul and odious in any man, but most of all in ministers of the gospel, in whom contention, though for their own right, scarce is allowable. Till which grievances be removed, and religion set free from the monopoly of hirelings, I dare affirm that no model whatsoever of a commonwealth will
prove successful or undisturbed ; and so persuaded, implore divine assistance on your pious counsels and proceedings to unanimity in this and all other truth.
The former treatise, which leads in this, began with two things ever found working much mischief to religion, force on the one sidc restraining, and hire on the other side corrupting, the teachers thereof. The latter of these is by much the more dangerous: for under force, though no thanks to the forcers, true religion ofttimes best thrives and flourishes; but the corruption of teachers, most commonly the effect of hire, is the of truth in them who are so corrupted. Of force not to be
used in matters of religion, I have already spoken; and so stated matters of conscience and religion in faith and divine worship, and so severed them froin blasphemy and heresy, the one being such properly as is despiteful, the other such as stands not to the rule of scripture, and so both of them not matters of religion, but rather against it, that to them who will yet use force, this only choice can be left, whether they will force them to believe, to whom it is not given from above, being not forced thereto by any principle of the gospel, which is now the only dispensation of God to all men; or whether being protestants, they will punish in those things wherein the protestant religion denies them to be judges, either in themselves infallible, or to the consciences of other men; or whether, lastly, they think fit to punish error, supposing they can be infallible that it is so, being not wilful but conscientious, and, according to the best light of him who errs, grounded on scripture: which kind of error all men religions, or but only reasonable, have thought worthier of pardon, and the growth thereof to be prevented by spiritual means and church discipline, not by civil laws and outward force, since it is God only who gives as well to believe aright, as to believe at all; and by those means, which lie ordained sufficiently in his chwch to the full execution of his divine purpose in the gospel. It remains now to speak of hire, the other evil so mischievous in religion: whereof I promised then to speak further, when I should find God disposing me, and opportunity inviting. Opportunity I find now inviting; and apprehend therein the concurrence of God disposing ; since the inaintenance of church ministers, a thing not properly belonging to the magistrate, and yet with such importunity called for, and expected from him, is at present under public debate. Wherein lest anything may happen to be determined and established prejudicial to the right and freedom of the church, or advantageous to such as may be found hirelings therein, it will be now most seasonable, and in these matters, wherein every Christian hath his free suffrage, no way misbecoming Christia“ meekness to offer freely, without disparagement to the wisesi, such advice as God shall incline him and enable him to propound : since heretofore in commonwealths of most fame for government, civil laws were not established till they haid been tirst for certain days published to the view of all