« PreviousContinue »
and orders of men, for the gospel makes no difference from the magistrate himself to the meanest artificer, if God evidently favour him with spiritual gifts, as he can easily, and oft hath done, while those bachelor divines and doctors of the tippet have been passed by. Heretofore in the first evangelic times, (and it were happy for Christendom if it were so again,) ministers of the gospel were by nothing else distinguished from other Christians, but by their spiritual knowledge and sanctity of life, for which the church elected them to be her teachers and overseers, though not thereby to separate them from whatever calling she then found them following besides; as the example of St. Paul declares, and the first times of Christianity. When once they affected to be called a clergy, and became, as it were, a peculiar tribe of Levites, a party, a distinct order in the commonwealth, bred up for divines in babbling schools, and fed at the public cost, good for nothing else but what was good for nothing, they soon grew idle : that idleness, with fulness of bread, begat pride and perpetual contention with their feeders, the despised laity, through all ages ever since; to the perverting of religion, and the disturbance of all Christendom. And we may confidently conclude, it never will be otherwise while they are thus upheld undepending on the church, on which alone they anciently depended, and are by the magistrate publicly maintained, a numerous faction of indigent persons, crept for the most part out of extreme want and bad nurture, claiming by divine right and freehold the tenth of our estates, to monopolize the ministry as their peculiar, which is free and open to all able Christians, elected by any church. Under this pretence, exempt from all other employment, and enriching themselves on the public, they last of all prove common incendiaries, and exalt their horns against the magistrate himself that maintains them, as the priest of Rome did soon after against his benefactor the emperor, and the presbyters of late in Scotland. Of which hireling crew, together with all the mischiefs, dissensions, troubles, wars merely of their kindling, Christendom might soon rid herself and be happy, if Christians would but know their own dignity, their liberty, their adoption, and let it not be wondered if I say, their spiritual priesthood, whereby they have all equally ac cess to any ministerial function, whenever called by their
own abilities, and the church, though they never came near commencement or university. But while protestants, to avoid the due labour of understanding their own religion, are content to lodge it in the breast, or rather in the books, of a clergyman, and to take it thence by scraps and mammocks, as he dispenses it in his Sunday's dole, they will be always learning and never knowing; always infants; always either his vassals, as lay papists are to their priests; or at odds with him, as reformed principles give them some light to be not wholly conformable; whence infinite disturbances in the state, as they do, must needs follow. Thus much I had to say; and, I suppose, what may be enough to them who are not avariciously bent otherwise, touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings out of the church ; than which nothing can more conduce to truth, to peace and all happiness, both in church and state. If I be not heard nor believed, the event will bear nie witness to have spoken truth: and I in the mean while have borne my witness, not out of season, to the church and to my country,
REMONSTRANT'S DEFENCE AGAINST SMECTYMNUUS.'
[FIRST PUBLISHED 1641.]
EDITOR'S PRELIMINARY REMARKS.
In this treatise Milton holds a close colloquy with the Remonstrant, setting down his words, and then replying to them in the form of a dialogue. Unfortunately, however, the work of his adversary obstinately refused to conform itself to artistic treatment. It is heavy, dull, and hypocritical, smooth and unobjectionable enough in the expression, but being altogether based upon forms and precedents, has no animation or vitality in it. Milton, altogether in earnest and using his puritanical liberty to the utmost, shatters to atoms the feeble logic opposed to him. It is unnecessary now, at this distance of time, to profess an entire conformity with his ideas; but most persons of independent minds, who have preserved their consciences free and unshackled, will generally recognise the force and truth of Milton's arguments, and admire the skill and vehemence with which they are wielded.
ALTHOUGH it be a certain truth, that they who undertake a religious cause need not care to be men-pleasers; yet because the satisfaction of tender and mild consciences is far different from that which is called men-pleasing, to satisfy such, I shall address myself in few words to give notice beforehand of something in this book, which to some men perhaps may seem offensive, that when I have rendered a lawful reason of what is done, I may trust to have saved the labour of defending or excusing hereafter. We all know that in private or personal injuries, yea, in public sufferings for the cause of Christ, his rule and example teaches us to be so far from a readiness to speak evil, as not to answer the reviler in his language, though never so much provoked: yet in the detecting and convincing of any notorious enemy to truth and his country's peace, especially that is conceited to have a voluble and smart fluence of tongue, and in the vain confidence of that, and out of a more tenacious cling to worldly respects, stands up for all the rest to justify a long usurpation and convicted pseudepiscopy of prelates, with all their ceremonies,
liturgies, and tyrannies, which God and man are now ready to explode and hiss out of the land ; I suppose, and more than suppose, it will be nothing disagreeing from Christian meekness to handle such a one in a rougher accent, and to send home his haughtiness well bespurted with his own holy water. Nor to do thus are we unautoritied either from the moral precept of Solomon, to answer him thereafter that prides him in his folly ; nor from the example of Christ, and all his followers in all ages, who, in the refuting of those that resisted sound doctrine, and by subtile dissimulations corrupted the minds of men, have wrought up their zealous souls into such vehemencies, as nothing could be more killingly spoken : for who can be a greater enemy to mankind, who a more dangerous deceiver, than he who, defending a traditional corruption, uses no common arts, but with a wily stratagem of yielding to the time a greater part of his cause, seeming to forego all that man's invention hath done therein, and driven from much of his hold in scripture; yet leaving it hanging by a twined thread, not from divine command, but from apostolical prudence or assent; as if he had the surety of some rolling trench, creeps up by this mean to his relinquished fortress of divine authority again, and still hovering between the confines of that which he dares not be openly, and that which he will not be sincerely, trains on the easy Christian insensibly within the close ambushment of worst errors, and with a sly shuffle of counterfeit principles, chopping and changing till he have gleaned all the good ones out of their minds, leaves them at last, after a slight resemblance of sweeping and garnishing, under the sevenfold possession of a desperate stupidity? And, therefore, they that love the souls of men, which is the dearest love, and stirs up the noblest jealousy, when they meet with such collusion, cannot be blamed though they be transported with the zeal of truth to a well-heated fervency; especially, seeing they which thus offend against the souls of their brethren, do it with delight to their great gain, ease, and advancement in this world ; but they that seek to discover and oppose their false trade of deceiving, do it not without a sad and unwilling anger, not without many hazards; but without all private and personal spleen, and without any thought of earthly reward, whenas this very course they take stops their hopes of ascending above a lowly and unenviable pitch in this
life. And although in the serious uncasing of a grand imposture, (for, to deal plainly with you, readers, prelaty is no better,) there be mixed here and there such a grim laughter, as may appear at the same time in an austere visage, it cannot be taxed of levity or insolence: for even this vein of laughing (as I could produce out of grave authors) hath ofttimes a strong and sinewy force in teaching and confuting; nor can there be a more proper object of indignation and scorn together, than a false prophet taken in the greatest, dearest, and most dangerous cheat, the cheat of souls : in the disclosing whereof, if it be harmful to be angry, and withal to cast a lowering smile, when the properest object calls for both, it will be long enough ere any be able to say, why those two most rational faculties of human intellect, anger and laughter, were first seated in the breast of man. Thus much, readers, in favour of the softer spirited Christian ; for other exceptioners there was no thought taken. Only if it be asked, why this close and succinct manner of coping with the adversary was rather chosen, this was the reason chiefly, that the ingenuous reader, without further amusing himself in the labyrinth of controversial antiquity, may come to the sprediest way to see the truth vindicated, and sophistry taken short at the first false bound. Next, that the Remonstrant himself, as oft as he pleases to be frolic, and brave it with others, may find no gain of money, and may learn not to insult in so bad a cause. But now he begins.
REMONSTRANT. My single Remonstrance is encountered with a plural adversary.
Answer. Did not your single Remonstrance bring along with it a hot scent of your more than singular affection to spiritual pluralities, your singleness would be less suspected with all good Christians than it is.
Remonst. Their names, persons, qualities, numbers, I care not to know.
Answ. Their names are known to the all-knowing Power above; and in the meanwhile, doubtless, they reck not whether you or your nomenclator know them or not.